Claude Levi-Strauss—Summation

Tapping Into The Panhuman Mainstream Of Objective Thought

For Levi-Strauss man is engaged in a society that is not just a simple
reflection of the mind’s universal internal categories, man is engaged in a
society which is a determining agent in itself, a determining agent arising out
of the unconscious laws of semiological systems. The mind, according to this
view, is a thing among things, arising from the same laws that produce culture
and societal relationships. This idea becomes more clear if you consider a
famous passage from the introduction to The Raw and the Cooked, (where
Levi-Strauss… defended himself against the criticism that his interpretations
of South American myth may tell more about the interpreter’s thinking than about
that of the Indians):

“For, if the final goal of anthropology is to contribute to a better knowledge
of objective thought and its mechanisms, it comes to the same thing in the end
if, in this book, the thought of South American Indians takes shape under the
action of mine, or mine under the action of theirs.

“Here Levi-Strauss assumes that it is possible to by-pass the problems of
social and cultural analysis that are central to anthropology and to tap
directly into the panhuman mainstream of objective thought.” [David
Maybury-Lewis, Wilson Quarterly, 12:82-95]

Is it any wonder that critics of structuralism respond that structuralism is
not humanism because it takes away, or refuses to grant, man any status in the
world? Levi-Strauss’s anthropology and philosophy cannot, in my opinion, escape
the bite of this criticism. In the psychology of Jean Piaget we encounter
another variety of structuralism which attempts to analyze the structural
origins of mind from a less fixed point of view. It is now to Piaget’s
structuralism that we turn.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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