RELATIVITY AND CULTURE

Chapter 3: Culture

 

Culture is an essential feature of human life. It has been somewhat overlooked in the past, however, because of the focus that has placed upon the biological basis of human behavior. Another reason is the multitude of definitions of ‘culture’ that exist and misdirect the reader from the central essence of the term. A cursory reading of the literature illustrates how diverse the meanings of ‘culture’ have been published. For example, it is defined as “the arts”, “a way of life”, “sophisticated customs”, “man-made material objects”, “the ethos of a group”, and “learned patterns of behavior”. It is no wonder that culture gets no respect or is treated as an epiphenomenon atop a physical foundation. I believe culture is as fundamental to the existence of humans as are genes and I hope to make this as clear as possible in what follows.  

To properly explore the importance of culture and see why the human species could not exist without it, requires a concise definition of the term. The classic definition, published in the nineteenth century by Sir Edward Tylor (1871), is “… that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Three major characteristics: (a) symbolic, (b) social, and (c) systemic are the central features of Tylor’s definition. These remain essential aspects of culture but, to be useful today, the definition requires updating. To do this, the meaning of ‘culture’ in what follows is “A system of symbolic information shared by members of a social group.”[1] 

A System of Symbolic Information

Symbolic information, like genetic information is transmitted over generations, affects perception, and influences behavior. But the two are significantly different. Genetic information, contained in genes, primarily involves the physical aspects of human perception and behavior. Genes are material parts of chromosomes retained by individuals and transmitted over the generations via sexual intercourse. In contrast, culture is symbolic remembered by individuals and transmitted from generation to generation primarily through language. Without sufficient communication between individuals of different generations, cultures disappear. Testifying to the necessity of communication for cultural continuity is the many times symbolic information has disappeared. Vanished construction techniques are one example. Ancient technology allowed people long ago to construct massive monuments, temples, pyramids, and walls using stone blocks weighing tons. The technologies they used have been lost leaving a mystery today about how they were able to erect these structures without the mechanical advantage provided by modern machinery. Another example is the loss of ancient seafaring technology. Thousands of years ago, sailors crossed  the seas to distant destinations without modern navigational equipment. Without sextants, clocks, radio, radar, satellite communication, etc. they were able to sail hundreds of miles to an island no taller than the tallest palm tree and no more than a few square miles in area. They used their senses and knowledge of the seas, winds, clouds, and stars. This feat is now becoming impossible since there are very few knowledgeable navigators left to pass on the traditional technology to future generations.

            The world of sailing can also serve to illustrate the central importance culture plays in human behavior. Sailboats are raced in countries around the world and sailors even compete in races that circumnavigate the globe. Boats range in size from small dinghies with a single sail that children race to large maxi-yachts with numerous sails and crew members. No matter what the size or variety of the boats, sailors require both physical and cultural skills. It takes strength, agility, perceptual acuity, experience, and knowledge to be successful racing sailboats. 

Winds and currents move sailboats and to become a successful racer requires learning how these factors affect boat speed. In a small boat with only one crew, the skipper must learn to recognize a gust of wind and adjust their body, the sails, and the direction of the boat to avoid capsizing and to maximize the speed of the vessel. Of course, the wind is not visible making it difficult for neophyte sailors to react in time to the changing conditions and avoid unwanted consequences. To make the best of a gust of wind, a sailor must learn how to read the signs created by the wind upon the surface of the water and also upon a sail. Normally, a neophyte and an experienced sailor both have the physical and mental capabilities to perceive the wind patterns but the latter has learned to interpret the information correctly and react accordingly. Like learning a language, one must learn to separate the background noise from the essential features of speech, recognize the patterns in the sounds, interpret the meaning, and react to subconsciously in conversations. The wind and waves provide information that the experienced sailor learns and can react to subconsciously to sail  boat effectively. A slight flutter along the front edge of the sail while sailing upwind, for example, will be recognized by the experienced sailor as having been caused by a shift in the wind causing the sailor to react by either moving the sail closer to the center of the boat, moving the rudder, or shifting their body to make the flutter disappear. This increases the efficiency of the sail and allows the boat’s speed to be maintained or increased. The neophyte sailor may not even recognize the flutter but the practiced sailor performs an entire series of actions that are undertaken without conscious awareness. Thinking about what needs to be done seriously slows down a sailboat.

Sailing downwind in a small boat in moderate to heavy winds often leads to an inexperienced crew being capsized. A gust of wind can suddenly cause the boat to heel several degrees or force the sail from one side of the boat to the other. In either case, to compensate for the change and keep the boat upright, the sailor must quickly shift their body weight, adjust the sail, or both. If the sailor’s response is too slow, the result will be the boat suddenly changing direction and capsizing, putting the sailor in the water. The sailor’s response should be to immediately, without having to think about it, make the proper adjustments to the changed conditions. Done properly, it will allow the sailor to take advantage of the increased power. This is the result achieved by a sailor once the appropriate culture has been internalized and the sailor has the physical ability to take advantage of it. 

Analogous to the genetic code in biology, the computer program in information technology, and syntax in linguistics, cultures contain a set of instructions for organizing information, deducing conclusions, and guiding behavior. This makes possible predictable individual actions, appropriate behavior between members of a social group, and normal interaction with the physical environment. By providing rules for behavior and symbolic guides for interpreting the world, furthermore, culture makes human social life and interaction with the physical world meaningful.    

Shared by Members of a Social Group

Sharing cultures enables members of a group to predict each other’s behavior, communicate with each other, share a social bond, establish a common identity, and interact successfully. But, it should be noted, individuals sharing a culture does not mean the loss of their individuality. The differences between individuals as well the uniqueness of subgroups in societies need to be recognized as well as their common identity and sharing of cultures. Individuality, however, has been ignored due to a large degree becauise of the influence of a classic anthropological publication, Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture (1934). It has been one of the most widely read and highly influential discussions about culture. Its basic thesis is that culture is “a consistent pattern of thought and action” much like the distinct personality of an individual. The Plains Indians are thus characterized in the book as being an orderly and restrained people having an “Apollonian” culture. In contrast, the Plains Indians are said to live life with abandon and wildness and are characterized as having a “Dionysian” culture. The characterization of a society with a single word or simple phrase gave ’culture’ a wholistic taint that has been widely accepted in the popular imagination and has affected the scientific analysis of human social behavior.

Characterizing a society with a single word is counterproductive. It is necessary to pay attention to the complexity of life and to recognize that individuals in a group are physically, emotionally, and culturally unique. Scientific analysis of human societies needs to start with the assumption that each social group consists of unique individuals. Then, the task of the scientist is to determine why individuals have the same responses in similar environments. In the answer to this question lies the key to understanding social behavior and to making accurate predictions about the future direction of a society.

Stereotypes are used during wartime to demonize an enemy and endow one’s own group with a sense of superiority. They motivate people to act aggressively against an enemy and to justify their behavior. One can easily understand why they are used but, if one is to understand the full range of human behavior, it is essential to avoid stereotypes and recognize them as privileged frames of reference. In every society, members are unique with individual physical experiences and a variety of cultures that guide the individual’s thoughts and actions. As people mature, they learn a number of cultures, organize them, and apply each appropriately. A person may learn a dialect or a second language and when to use it, for example. As most people realize today, if one learns a street language as well as the “proper” language in a country, it is important to use them in their appropriate settings. Otherwise, one’s chances of being taken seriously, being understood, or getting a desirable position are seriously lessened when street language is used in an incorrect setting.

Each language and dialect possesses a unique structure, uses distinct rules, and has different effects upon perception and behavior. Failure to use the appropriate one in a specific environment can easily lead to misunderstanding, discomfort, or even ridicule. The result can even be dangerous. Ordinarily, a mature individual has learned to use the appropriate culture in a specific environment and to shift cultures when the environment changes. When communicating with the pastor in a church or a drinking buddy in a bar, for example, the use of one’s language will differs just as it changes when one moves from a bowling alley to a wedding, or from the world of business deals to the world of diplomatic politics. The adult who only uses one culture for all situations or is confused about which one to use in a specific situation is likely to have a mental problem.

 A meaningful life requires the individual to learn to locate one’s self in their physical, psychological, and social spaces and to organize their cultures to behave appropriately. People develop a unique complex of cultures which enables them to act appropriately in different environments and at different times. Even in the smallest groups, individuals have distinct cultural complexes since each member has had unique personal experiences and learned diverse cultural information from different individuals and groups in their society. Even identical twins have different complexes constructed from their unique experiences. Individuals interact with their environments from slightly different perspectives and this will affect, however slightly, their complex of cultures. In hunting-gathering societies, for example, adult females receive information from others in age, sex, familial, or interest groups concerning foraging, pregnancy, child birth, and socialization that is unknown or ignored by males. Males, at the same time, will possess technological hunting knowledge and navigational information unknown, or simply ignored by women. The medical and religious specialists within the group will possess specific information about history, healing and rituals. In some societies, children even use their own language.

            More than a hundred different children’s languages exist in the world. One example, Shintiri, is a children’s language found in the Comoro Islands. These islands are located in the western Indian Ocean and the languages of the inhabitants include several variants of Swahili. While living on one of the islands in the Comoros, my wife and I learned the language used by adults. We didn’t learn about the children’s language spoken there until our two young sons accompanied us on one of our return trips. They made friends with a group of children soon after we arrived and often left our living quarters to play with them. One day, we overheard our children speaking Shintiri to each other and wondered what they were speaking. We asked them about it and they informed us that their companions had taught them the “secret” language of the children. Eventually, we analyzed the children’s language and learned that it was a variant of the adults’ language and had a grammatical structure similar to Pig Latin.

            While cultures provide individuals with the ability to interact effectively with other members in their groups, they also provide social cohesiveness for a group. The uniqueness of the individual, on the other hand, creates stress points in societies that can lead to miscommunications, misconceptions, antagonisms, and fragmentation of any social unit including an entire society. Every human social unit exists in a state of tension between integration and disintegration and, while tension serves to promote initiative, exploration, and creativity within a group, it also poses a serious threat to social unity.

The threat of individuality to the unity of a group is well recognized in the military services. Unity is a highly desired end of disciplining a group of recruits and it takes considerable effort to get recruits in a unit to overcome their individual identities. By the use of extensive drilling techniques, discipline is instilled in the group and they can act in harmony and be willing to sacrifice themselves for the unit.

If tensions and internal conflicts increasingly occur in a society, the fragmentation and eventual disintegration of the society can be expected to occur. It will then disappear or be transformed into a new society by a social process described by Anthony F. C. Wallace (1956) as a revitalization movement.  A revitalization movement goes through a series of stages to create a workable society with sufficient routinization to maintain stability and allow for productive cultural activities. It begins with the emergence of a charismatic leader who has a new vision for the society and the ability to attract large numbers of followers. The leader brings a new vision for the society, gathers a group of followers who help formulate a new cultural pattern, and then it is disseminated widely among the general population. Eventually, the pattern is adapted to the needs and preferences of the general population and becomes normalized bringings a new period of stability to the society.

Every society risks disintegration. The probability of this occurring is related to a society’s degree of cultural complexity. The degree of complexity of a society is the inverse of the percentage of cultural information shared by randomly selected individuals in the society. The higher the percentage of individuals with shared cultural information, the lower the degree of complexity of the society. A culturally homogeneous society, will possess a low degree of cultural complexity. In contrast, a society with a large number of distinct cultural groups will have a high degree of complexity. In general, the more heterogeneous the society, the higher is its degree of complexity.

            Degrees of cultural complexity vary substantially between three types of societies: familial, tribal, and global. The familial type possesses the lowest degree of complexity. It is characterized by family groups with small populations. The primary relationship that defines a group is kinship ties and there is no overall political leader. The tribal type is characterized by family units organized into larger social units such as lineages, confederacies, kingdoms, nations, etc. These larger units normally possess an overall political structure under the jurisdiction of a religious or political leader such as a king, sultan, president, or pharaoh. The primary relationship that defines a group is political or religious with members sharing common myths, rituals, or legal contracts that define appropriate behavior. This type of complexity possesses a higher degree than the family type. The global type has the highest degree of complexity. It is characterized by groups sharing common interests beyond those defined by family and tribal ties. They are typically composed of social units without a formal, overall, leader. Instead, members construct oral or written agreements detailing appropriate behavior between members of the different units. One example of a global type was the complex of life in the ancient Greek city of Milos. The city was located at a crossroads of ancient trade routes in Asia Minor and, as early as the 6th century BCE, Milos was a vibrant commercial, scientific and philosophical center with its citizens living under a political organization consisting of public discussions and a parliamentary organization.

A different global type of complexity began in the Indian Ocean over 5000 years ago. Like the population of Milos, there were individuals possessing common economic and political interests engaged in commercial enterprises. The major difference was the Indian Ocean’s global economy was based on long distance maritime trade. People of various nationalities, religions, and family ties participated in a global economy through networks of seafaring merchants who met at trading centers located from Eastern Africa to the Far East. An African trade language. Communication between people of distinct cultures was carried out by traders who spoke two or more languages and could use the appropriate one for the marketplace in which they were doing business. Swahili was also used as a trading language in the western Indian Ocean and traders from many parts of the littoral used that as a common language for business. Regulations were established by their mutual interests and trade was successfully conducted over a wide area of the globe without a military or police force maintaining order or protecting the traders from potential pirates or invaders. While land empires from time to time interfered with parts of the trade, the system continued to operate for centuries until the appearance of Western pirates, merchants, and politicians in the late 15th century.

The familial type of complexity has existed since the origin of humans with the tribal type becoming dominant through the present with the formation of larger social units from tribes to nations. Today, the rapid spreading of global wide communication, transportation, and business interests is increasing the number of societies involved in global complexity. Much has been published about the rise of tribal societies and civilizations while the transformations from higher to lower degrees of complexity has not received the same amount of attention. Numerous civilizations have collapsed over the centuries and it would serve us well to understand this process of social change and the underlying factors involved. Contemporary research on Mayan civilization promises to provide a better understanding of the factors involved. But most factors considered have been physical: environmental change, warfare, disease, collapse of trade routes, volcanic eruptions, etc. and the devolution of cultural complexity into tribal units has not been paid much attention as a major factor of change. If we are to understand the threat to the collapse of present civilizations, it is necessary to have a fuller understanding of the process of the change from higher to lower cultural complexity. The many changes in technology, physical environments, communication, etc. that have occurred in recent times require fresh thinking about the factors involved. Greater numbers of people than ever before will be affected by the collapse of social organizations and it will occur more frequently and rapidly than ever before. We can also expect collapses to occur with greater mass violence than ever before. Understanding the factors involved is an essential step for achieving any success in averting global disaster. At least, the movement from global to tribal cultural complexity taking place today in the United States and other countries around the world needs to be taken into consideration and analyzed in detail to predict what will happen in the future.

               The number of societies with the highest degrees of cultural complexity has increased substantially since the beginning of modern times. This increase has been accompanied by a substantial increase in the number of major conflicts. This increase is to be expected since groups with lower degrees of complexity tend to have more predictable behavior between individuals and a greater contentment by members of their way of life producing lower chances of social fragmentation and violence. That is not to say that tensions or conflicts between individuals in a society with a low degree of complexity do not exist. Even In the smallest, isolated groups with their lower population densities, greater availability of resources, and higher levels of integration, differences exist between individuals producing miscommunication, apprehension, and conflict. These can often overcome the shared symbolic information, emotional ties, trust, and rational behavior induced by common cultures. The result is periods of discontent and violence.

              Violence has occurred between individuals, family groups, tribes, and larger organizations throughout history. But the frequency of violence has increased significantly in modern times. This increase is not simply due to increased population density and decreasing access to basic needs but also to increased social tensions as individuals retreat from intergroup interaction and find comfort within their myths and rituals treated as privileged frames of reference. Maintaining frames of reference with absolute certainty leaves little opportunity for intercultural communication and the rational resolution of potential conflicts. As societies become more heterogenous, the greater the likelihood of tensions increasing, individuals becoming more committed to their beliefs, opportunities for meaningful communication between combatants diminishing, and the probability of conflict resolution decreasing. The ultimate end is grave violence and a restoration of society at great cost. The remains of numerous past civilizations have left clear evidence of the process. With the rapid innovations occurring in technology, particularly in weaponry, there is a growing threat of the devastation of all human societies. Until humans recognize the problems involved in this process and solve them, there will be little chance that the species will survive.

At both ends of the spectrum, from societies with the lowest degree of complexity to those with the highest, there is a need to overlook individual differences and respect the beliefs and behavior of others to achieve productive interaction. But clear differences exist between global and other societies in the way this end is achieved. In global societies, genealogical relationships between members have less significance than contracts and formal political organizations have less significance than mutual agreements. Furthermore, individuals in different social groups of a global society communicate with a trade language or a common shared language, maintain respect for multilingual individuals, use regulations created by mutual agreements, and have an overall high degree of tolerance for the cultural and physical differences between each other. This is in sharp contrast to social groups where there is emphasis upon cultural conformity. In this case, groups in a society will maintain homogeneity by social pressure, legal means, or force. If this is overemphasized to a point where respect for others is ignored, the society risks disintegration into subgroups with violence between them. The ultimate result is the destruction of the civilization. All civilizations have this tension between group conformity and intergroup respect for differences. It is a fluid situation and only a question of when and for how long one or the other will become dominant in a society.   

Families, lineages, and clans are units of social organization with members tracing their relationships to a common ancestor (historical or symbolic). Family identity is established through these kinship ties and maintained by traditional myths and rituals. Tribes have a higher degree of complexity, being made up of families and their cultural information focused upon a common identity and behavior established through common language, myths, and rituals. Tribe members share the same language, trace their genealogies to a common ancestor, share similar physical characteristics, learn the same myths, participate in the same rituals, and are symbolically represented by a totem. Nations have a still higher degree of complexity with social units sharing cultural information focused upon a political structure with a set of written laws and headed by a president or a royal figure. A nation is basically a collection of tribes under a political organization with codes and regulations supported by a police force and defended by a military organization.

One of the outstanding developments in social history has been the increasing cultural complexity of human social groups. The familial type of complexity was characteristic of the earliest human societies. Today, there are few societies existing solely with this degree of complexity. In these societies, every adult speaks the same language, is familiar with the myths central to the society and there is the high probability that any two adult members of the same gender chosen at random will share a large percentage of cultural information. The more complex societies, in contrast, have larger populations, more internal groups, and possess more specialized cultural information distributed among the population. In these societies, two individuals selected at random will not share as high a percentage of the same information. For example, a citizen of a nation may belong to a variety of social organizations such as a family, church, business corporation, labor union, fan club, military organization, sport team, political party, theatre company, etc. Each of these groups will possess unique cultural information and the likelihood is relatively small of finding two randomly selected individuals in the overall society with the same cultural information. It is even possible to find two individuals who share almost no cultural information. In the United States, for example, a Spanish speaking rancher in southern Texas may not share much cultural information with a French speaking farmer in northern Maine nor with an English speaking broker in Chicago. 

Two factors ensure that individuals and groups remain unique: (a) variation in the set of cultures learned and used by an individual and (b) the interplay of a culture with the unique physical makeup of an individual. Social networks in any group differ among adults since different individuals learn different subsets of the total information available within a society. There are differences based upon gender, age, status, interests, and physical characteristics and, even though a culture may be learned by all the members of a subset of a group, not all subsets in the group will possess the same cultures. A simple example are two English speaking individuals belonging to different sport groups. They may share the culture of their language but one may be a sailing member of a yacht club while the other is an active member of a bowling team. The two are unique culturally with significant differences between their areas of knowledge and their activities. To consider only their language in characterizing them, is to stereotype the group.

It is important to avoid stereotypes when analyzing the role of culture in human social life. A stereotype is a gross characterization of a group that ignores the uniqueness of individuals and the complexities of cultures in any social group. A stereotype caricatures the individuals in a group with a single word, idea, or concept and is, at best, misleading. Even in familial groups, individuals possess more than one culture and individuals in a more complex group learn several cultures. The more complex a group, the more culturally heterogeneous it is and the greater the probability that no two individuals in a group will share the same set of cultures. Stereotypes ignore that cultures are not equally distributed among individuals in any society and caricature a society often by singling out one culture. During a lifetime, an individual can be expected to belong to several minor social groups with each one providing unique ideas, perceptions, and guides for behavior. Religious, linguistic, medical, and technical information concerning tools, weapons, food preparation, etc. always have an uneven distribution among societal members. Thus, there is little or no probability that all individuals in a society will possess the same set of cultures. 

A stereotype caricatures a society by singling out a single feature and ignoring the fact that cultures in the society are not equally distributed among individuals. During a lifetime, an individual can be expected to belong to several social groups with each one providing unique ideas, perceptions, and guides for behavior. Religious, linguistic, medical, and technical information concerning tools, weapons, food preparation, etc. always have an uneven distribution among societal members. Furthermore, when two or more individuals do share one set of cultures, they may differ in the level of emotional commitment to them. Some people become extremely committed to a culture and would rather give up their lives than deviate from its ideas, values, or guides. Others are less committed and may question or even disregard the myths or commandments of a culture. There is a tendency for individuals in less complex groups to be more emotionally committed to their cultural myths and rituals than those in more complex groups. This is especially true of people who treat their cultures as absolutes and subsequently suppress freedom of choice.

In a scientific study of the impact of a culture upon a population, it is important to clearly delineate the culture and the population. Linguistic analyses in the past that tried to determine the impact of language upon perception and behavior have taken too broad a sample to be effective. It is not French, or Swahili, or Japanese, etc. in general that the effect of language upon perception and behavior will appear. It is in the use of a specific culture upon a restricted population that the relationship will appear. Above, I illustrated how the culture of sailboat racing acts as a frame of reference impacting the perception and behavior of racing sailors. It is one case in which it is possible to clearly see the impact of culture upon humans.

Throughout human history families have been the social group passing basic cultural information between generations. As a group of relatively small, local units usually related by kinship ties, they transfer a primary language, a social identity and a religious outlook. Larger groups, such as a tribe, consist of families combined into conglomerates with a common identity provided by direct or supposed genealogical ties, a common boundary, or by an overall political organization. A nation state can be considered a conglomerate of tribes with an overall political organization and a particular totem such as a flag. Global trading communities consist of individuals and families from widespread geographical areas that share common economic interests and activities. They interact beyond the confines of a geographical boundary, an individual religion, or an overall political organization.

A functioning society is one in which its social units and their cultures are successfully organized resulting in predictable individual behavior, a high degree of satisfaction of lifestyles by individuals, peaceful social interactions, and an ordered social life. With increased complexity comes an increase in the number of individuals having difficulty in coherently organizing the cultures they possess and maintaining coherent interactions with other individuals. This produces increased individual stress, antisocial behavior, and the probability of social instability. The more complex the group, the greater the potential for social chaos.

  With increased complexity, there is also an increased probability that individuals will learn cultures that are incompatible. That is, the thought and action required by a culture cannot be undertaken at the same time as the thought or action required by another culture because the result may be an unwanted reaction such as confusion, anger, injury, or death. It then becomes essential for the individual to correctly identify the proper environment in which to utilize a specific culture. For example, a person who speaks two different languages must also learn the appropriate situation in which to use each one. An artist, who is also a mathematician, must recognize whether the person he or she is about to engage in conversation is knowledgeable about art or math and interested to talk about one or the other or both. To achieve successful communication between two individuals in this situation, the use of the common language is required and they must signal each other the preferred use of one or other of the languages. Otherwise, adequate communication between the two will be extremely difficult and fraught with the possibility of misunderstandings. If both individuals share more than one language, they may shift between them and may use one for a special subject and others for different special subjects. The languages used will depend upon which language the speakers consider more appropriate for the subject at hand. For example, in a multilingual family where the father knows French and the mother Spanish their child will learn both languages and avoid miscommunicating by also learning the appropriate times to use each one. The child gains from the richness of two linguistic cultures.

When an individual does not use the appropriate behavior for a given situation, the results can be embarrassment, miscommunication, and interpersonal conflict. Guidelines are needed for one to selecting the appropriate behavior for a given social situation. Cultures provide these guidelines essential for social order at all levels of complexity. In today’s global environments, guidelines for appropriate behavior are especially required to avoid intercultural misunderstanding and achieve less stress. To achieve these goals, there is a growing need for multicultural translators. In today’s world, there is an increasing need to facilitate intercultural communication and prevent misunderstandings, fear, enmity¸ and conflicts. Cultural translators can help achieve successful global economies, productive multinational communication, and a peaceful world.

‘Culture’ as a system of symbolic information shared by a group of individuals is learned and maintained through social symbolic interaction, affects all aspects of human life, and is found at all levels of social complexity. Without culture, meaningful human activity cannot exist. One of the major obstacles in the past standing in the way of achieving an adequate understanding of behavior has been the assumption that culture was a superficial layer resting upon “human nature”; a core of physical factors that were the “real” basis of human behavior. This bias in western social science placed a huge impediment in the attempts to understand human social behavior. On the other hand, the reaction to this unbalanced position in modern social science has been to overemphasize mental factors and downplay the involvement of physical factors in human social behavior. This may be understandable in view of the past overemphasis on biological factors in human life but the achievement of an appropriate and productive theory for understanding the human condition requires moving beyond insisting upon either one of these extreme positions. They are complimentary; both approaches need to be considered to attain an understanding of the human condition. I will discuss this in greater detail in Chapter Five.

Dr. Martin Ottenheimer, PhD

Version: 12/8/2017
Continue to Chapter 4



[1] This is a modification of a definition published by Goodenough (1964:36).