Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Here be unicorns. И музика и филми, вдъхновени от човешките ни книги. И всичко, дето ви е на сърце, ама не може да се побере в ^такива^ тесни теми...

Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby Кал » Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:33 pm

Покрай рецензията на Христо Блажев за „Моралният пейзаж“ се присетих за нещо, което ме мъчи отдавна:

Кал wrote:Стана ми любопитно – Харис занимава ли се с проблема за фундаменталното ни желание да открием една-единствена система, която обяснява света – целия свят? И всички последващи (дори неосъзнати) „филтрирания“ на онези наблюдения, които застрашават целостта на търсената система?

(Сам по себе си, това е своего рода „религиозен“ процес: той продължава с пълни сили, въпреки липсата на рационални доказателства, че такава „всеобясняваща“ система е възможна, или дори приложима за друг освен обясняващите и тяхната конкретна общност. Това последното пък е проблемът за универсалността на мисленето – има ли негови общи принципи за всички култури по Земята? Според едно изследване на Асен Сираков, „Трите кита“, вероятно няма... Уви, не съм попадал на други наистина мулти-културни анализи, които да включват, да речем, японци, индийци, китайци и африканци в собствените им среди – общи особености на мисленето/познавателните им процеси. Ще се радвам, ако някой ми препоръча.)

Изключително интересно ми е и дали изводите в „Мисленето“ на Канеман ще повлияят на впечатленията ти от „Моралният пейзаж“ – в частност, частите за илюзията за кохерентни повествования и за social pundits и техните обобщения.
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инфорамционно разтоварване

Postby отсъстващ » Tue Jul 09, 2013 4:58 pm

Първо, веднага ме напира да ви споделя линкове към книги стара моя болест, която пак се проявява. За това ви давам линк към портален сайт към хостнати поне на 6 места всяка книга -http://libgen.org/. Има МНОГО книги.

Относно универсалността на културните приципи книгата - Software of the mind на Хофстеде е универсално приета с 6 или 7 черти по, които могат да се изследват и определят култури. Един от учениците му, българин има две книги на български http://www.helikon.bg/author/%D0%9C%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%B0%D0%B8%D0%BB%20%D0%9C%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2_12321/ .Едната съм я чел, отделя внимание на българите.

Тази книга - софтуера на ума (има я на бъгарски) е един от най почитаните текстове. Друг е Riding the Waves of Culture by Fons Trompenaars (Author) , Charles Hampden-Turner (Author) .

Това беше леко информационно разтоварване, но по темата,за културата ми е трудно да приказвам много абстрактно.

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Re: Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby отсъстващ » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:59 pm

Сетих, се за още една книга. Увлекателна е. За разликата между западното и източното мислене.
The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0743255356

Много ми допада контекстното мислене на азиатците.
Скоро бях на японска изложба, нещата правени със стари техники, модерни. Не знам, аз ли не съм виждал добро изкуство на живо, но бях зашеметен. Някои от нещата бяха от изложбата на чуждестранно изкуство в София.

Кал, всички книги, за които писах са резултат на дългогодишни изследвания.

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Re: Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby Кал » Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:41 pm

Прегледах каквото успях да намеря за трите текста (единия дори може да го изровя директно). И трите ми звучат тясно за това, което ме интересува – но ако се опитам да дефинирам откъде идва теснотата, първо ще трябва да проуча какви изследвания въобще са възможни за толкова широки области като „култура“ и „мислене“... :/

Покрай четенето обаче попаднах на този сайт:

World Values Survey

И мисля да си поиграя с възможностите за онлайн анализ на данните... :D

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Re: Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby отсъстващ » Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:19 pm

Хм, да "култура" и "мислене" са доста широки понятия. Дори да оставим това, че дори сред учените няма съгласие за обхвата им. Ти си знаеш какво имаш в предвид и най-добре можеш да откриеш това, което търсиш.
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Re: Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby Кал » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:35 am

Georgi wrote:Сетих, се за още една книга. Увлекателна е. За разликата между западното и източното мислене.
The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0743255356


Сърдечно благодаря за тази препоръка. Вчера довърших книгата – ето отзива ми:

For much of my life, I've been a bridge: trying to connect people into communities and communities into networks, helping our world hold together. I was born with/grew into a dislike for arguments (of the quarrel variety) and an affinity for transforming conflicts. Often, I've felt uneasy with the values of my own country or other parts of the West I've been to.

This book helped me understand why.

Among the brighter insights were:

- why I say 'I' so much--and often still feel disconnected from others: the independent and interdependent mindsets

- why so many people around me try to control the(ir) world, or believe they know much more about it than I'd ever dare claim: the analytic and holistic approaches

- why simple explanations of human (inter)actions leave me staring at the background, straining to see more

Another highly recommended read.

Also, I'm looking for recommendations about other studies that compare world cultures and thinking paradigms. I'm especially interested in inclusive research: for instance, bringing in African cultures, or discussing the differences between Indian, Chinese and Japanese perceptions.

За всички, които решат да четат - особено препоръчвам:

- The Ancient Chinese and Harmony: pp. 5-8

- Essence or Evanescense? Philosophy in Greece and China: pp. 8-20

- Contradiction or Connection? Science and Mathematics in Greece and China: pp. 20-28

- Living Together vs. Doing It Alone: pp. 47-55

- Independence vs. Interdependence: pp. 55-68

- Chinese vs. Japanese: starting at the bottom of p. 71 to p. 73

- Awase and Erabi: Style of Conflict and Negotiation: pp. 73-76

- Perceiving the World: pp. 86-96

- Controlling the World: pp. 96-102

- "The Bad Seed" or "The Other Boys Made Him Do It"?: pp. 111-123

- Avoiding the Fundamental Attribution Error: pp. 123-127

- Building Causal Models: pp. 127-130

- Avoiding Hindsight: pp. 130-135

- Is the World Made Up of Nouns or Verbs?: pp. 137-163

- Logic vs. Experience: pp. 167-173

- Either/Or vs. Both/And: pp. 173-185

- !!! And If the Nature of Thought Is Not Everywhere the Same?: pp. 191-217

- Convergence?: pp. 224-229
Last edited by Кал on Fri May 15, 2020 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: махам външен линк

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Re: Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby Кал » Sat Oct 26, 2013 1:19 am

Още една препоръка (от Петър Канев):

Clifford Geertz

Особено The Interpretation of Cultures. Ще я потърся и ще споделя впечатления.

Ако някой (Жоро?) помогне в търсенето – ще съм благодарен.
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Re: Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby Кал » Sun Oct 07, 2018 1:09 pm

Покрай моите изследвания на телевизионните сериали *ахъм* установих следната фундаментална културологична разлика:

Корейците примират за шеги, свързани с всевъзможните физиологични процеси (примери: Modern Farmer – раз, два, три), но принципно не смеят да обсъждат тялото, камо ли да го разголват. (Дали е под влияние на християнството?)

Японците се бъзикат с всевъзможните анатомични части (пример: 5-и епизод на Trick, от 3-ата минута), но тоалетен хумор досега при тях не съм видял.

Слочаенос?
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Re: Изследвания за мисленето: универсални?

Postby Кал » Sat Sep 04, 2021 12:49 pm

My review of The Interpretation of Cultures:

TL;DR: Nothing (worth talking about) is simple or straightforward.

***

This is probably the hardest book I've ever finished reading. And that after two false starts, when I realized I didn't understand enough of it, so I left it for "when I get smarter."

Does that mean I've gotten smarter?

Self-teasing aside, this is a book worth rereading. The first pass gave me an overview of Geertz's ideas. I still didn't understand many of them, or not as fully as I'd have liked to, but now at least I know where to go when I want to go deeper.

The following notes should hopefully steer me:

~ NB: It was Gilbert Ryle who introduced the concept of "thick description."

~ Geertz's view of cultural analysis perfectly captures my perennial sense that I'm "not quite there" when it comes to grasping any topic or field of knowledge--and I will never be:
Nor have I ever gotten anywhere near to the bottom of anything I have ever written about, either in the essays below or elsewhere. Cultural analysis is intrinsically incomplete. And, worse than that, the more deeply it goes the less complete it is. It is a strange science whose most telling assertions are its most tremulously based, in which to get somewhere with the matter at hand is to intensify the suspicion, both your own and that of others, that you are not quite getting it right.


~ A friend of mine has invested a lot of effort into looking for universal values: the common ground that can lay the foundation of a new unifying manifesto, which will supersede the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Much as I admire his goal, I've been struggling with the feeling that it is somehow unattainable; that we can't really find values that both 1) apply to everyone; and 2) are not trivial or too vague. (And this feeling pains me greatly, given my belief in our infinite possibilities. Don't they include the ability to attain anything?)

In Chapter 2, "The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man," Geertz offered me some justification of that nagging feeling:
(...) Dr. Johnson saw Shakespeare's genius to lie in the fact that "his characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world; by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can operate upon but small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions." (...)

The trouble with this kind of view (...) is that the image of a constant human nature independent of time, place, and circumstance, of studies and professions, transient fashions and temporary opinions, may be an illusion, that what man is may be so entangled with where he is, who he is, and what he believes that it is inseparable from them. It is precisely the consideration of such a possibility that led to the rise of the concept of culture and the decline of the uniformitarian view of man. Whatever else modern anthropology asserts (...) it is firm in the conviction that men unmodified by the customs of particular places do not in fact exist, have never existed, and most important, could not in the very nature of the case exist.

And:
The reason the first of these requirements--that the proposed universals be substantial ones and not empty or near-empty categories--has not been met is that it cannot be. There is a logical conflict between asserting that, say, "religion ," "marriage," or "property" are empirical universals and giving them very much in the way of specific content, for to say that they are empirical universals is to say that they have the same content, and to say they have the same content is to fly in the face of the undeniable fact that they do not. If one defines religion generally and indeterminately--as man's most fundamental orientation to reality, for example--then one cannot at the same time assign to that orientation a highly circumstantial content; for clearly what composes the most fundamental orientation to reality among the transported Aztecs, lifting pulsing hearts torn live from the chests of human sacrifices toward the heavens, is not what comprises it among the stolid Zuni, dancing their great mass supplications to the benevolent gods of rain. The obsessive ritualism and unbuttoned polytheism of the Hindus express a rather different view of what the "really real" is really like from the uncompromising monotheism and austere legalism of Sunni Islam. Even if one does try to get down to less abstract levels and assert, as Kluckhohn did, that a concept of the afterlife is universal, or as Malinowski did, that a sense of Providence is universal, the same contradiction haunts one. To make the generalization about an afterlife stand up alike for the Confucians and the Calvinists, the Zen Buddhists and the Tibetan Buddhists, one has to define it in most general terms, indeed--so general, in fact, that whatever force it seems to have virtually evaporates.

So ... how do we bring humankind (and indeed, all life) together?

~ "Religion as a Cultural System" contains an important point about the threefold function of religions: to allay our fears about our intellectual capacity to comprehend the world (the problem of meaning/meaningfulness); about our ability to justify or understand our emotional experiences (the problem of suffering); and about the validity of our moral judgements (the problem of evil).

~ What do you call this?
The types of action characteristic of the [Javanese] wajang also are three: there are the "talking" episodes in which two groups of opposed nobles confront one another and discuss (the dalang imitates all the voices) the issues between them; there are the fighting episodes, in which diplomacy having failed, the two groups of nobles fight (the dalang knocks the puppets together and kicks a clapper with his foot to symbolize the sounds of war); and there are the slapstick comic scenes, in which the clowns mock the nobles, each other, and, if the dalang is clever, members of the audience or the local powers-that-be. Generally, the three sorts of episodes are differentially distributed over the course of the evening. The declamatory scenes are mostly toward the beginning, the comic ones toward the middle, and the war toward the end. From nine until midnight, the political leaders of the various kingdoms confront one another and state the framework of the story--a wajang hero wishes to marry the daughter of a neighboring king, a subjugated country wants its freedom, or whatever. From midnight until three o'clock or so difficulties of some sort set in--someone else is bidding for the daughter's hand, the imperialist country refuses freedom to its colony. And, finally, these difficulties are resolved in the last section, ending at dawn, inevitably, by a war in which the heroes triumph--an action followed by a brief celebration of the accomplished marriage or the achieved freedom.

I call it binge watching. ;)

~ More about the wajang:
For example, each of the three older Pendawas are commonly held to display a different sort of emotional-moral dilemma, centering around one or another of the central Javanese virtues. Yudistira, the eldest, is too compassionate. He is unable to rule his country effectively because when someone asks him for his land, his wealth, his food, he simply gives it out of pity, leaving himself powerless, poor, or starving. His enemies continually take advantage of his mercifulness to deceive him and to escape his justice. Bima, on the other hand, is single-minded, steadfast. Once he forms an intention, he follows it out straight to its conclusion; he doesn't look aside, doesn't turn off or idle along the way--he "goes north." As a result, he is often rash, and blunders into difficulties he could as well have avoided. Arjuna, the third brother, is perfectly just. His goodness comes from the fact that he opposes evil, that he shelters people from injustice, that he is coolly courageous in fighting for the right. But he lacks a sense of mercy, of sympathy for wrongdoers. He applies a divine moral code to human activity, and so he is often cold, cruel, or brutal in the name of justice. The resolution of these three dilemmas of virtue is the same: mystical insight. With a genuine comprehension of the realities of the human situation, a true perception of the ultimate rasa, comes the ability to combine Yudistira's compassion, Bima's will to action, and Arjuna's sense of justice into a truly moral outlook, an outlook which brings an emotional detachment and an inner peace in the midst of the world of flux, yet permits and demands a struggle for order and justice within such a world. And it is such a unification that the unshakable solidarity among the Pendawas in the play, continually rescuing one another from the defects of their virtues, clearly demonstrates.

And some vindication for all of us tricksters:
But what, finally, of Semar, in whom so many oppositions seem to meet--the figure who is both god and clown, man's guardian spirit and his servant, the most spiritually refined inwardly and the most rough-looking outwardly? Again one thinks of the chronicle plays and of, in this case, Falstaff. Like Falstaff, Semar is a symbolic father to the play's heroes. Like Falstaff, he is fat, funny, and worldly-wise; and, like Falstaff, he seems to provide in his vigorous amoralism a general criticism of the very values the drama affirms. Both figures, perhaps, provide a reminder that, despite overproud assertions to the contrary by religious fanatics and moral absolutists, no completely adequate and comprehensive human world view is possible, and behind all the pretense to absolute and ultimate knowledge, the sense for the irrationality of human life, for the fact that it is unlimitable, remains. Semar reminds the noble and refined Pendawas of their own humble, animal origins. He resists any attempt to turn human beings into gods and to end the world of natural contingency by a flight to the divine world of absolute order, a final stilling of the eternal psychological-metaphysical struggle.

(...) Not all people have, perhaps, so well developed a sense for the necessary note of irrationality in any world view, and thus for the essential insolubility of the problem of evil. But whether in the form of a trickster, a clown, a belief in witchcraft, or a concept of original sin, the presence of such a symbolic reminder of the hollowness of human pretensions to religious or moral infallibility is perhaps the surest sign of spiritual maturity.


~ The young Balinese discuss religion:
Then the discussion veered, as such discussions will, to the grounds of validity for religion as such. One man, somewhat Marxist-influenced, propounded social relativism: when in Rome do as the Romans do, a phrase he quoted in its Indonesian form. Religion is a human product. Man thought up God and then named him. Religion is useful and valuable, but it has no supernatural validity. One man's faith is another man's superstition. At bottom, everything comes down to mere custom.

This was greeted with universal disagreement, disapproval, and dismay. In response, the son of the village head offered a simple, nonra­tional belief position. Intellectual arguments are totally irrelevant. He knows in his heart that the gods exist. Faith is first, thought secondary. The truly religious person, such as himself, just knows that the gods truly come into the temples--he can feel their presence. Another man, more intellectually inclined, erected, more or less on the spot, a complex allegorical symbology to solve the problem. Tooth-filing symbolizes man becoming more like the gods and less like the animals, who have fangs. This rite means this, that that; this color stands for justice, that for courage, etc. What seems meaningless is full of hidden meaning, if only you have the key. A Balinese cabalist. Yet another man, more agnostic, though not a disbeliever, produced the golden mean for us. You can't really think about these things because they don't lie within human comprehension. We just don't know. The best policy is a conservative one--believe just about half of everything you hear. That way you won't go overboard.

If you replace 'Balinese' by any other nationality, does anything change? :)

~ The role of ideologies:
As metaphor extends language by broadening its semantic range, enabling it to express meanings it cannot or at least cannot yet express literally, so the head-on clash of literal meanings in ideology--the irony, the hyperbole, the overdrawn antithesis--provides novel symbolic frames against which to match the myriad "unfamiliar somethings" that, like a journey to a strange country, are produced by a transformation in political life. Whatever else ideologies may be--projections of unacknowledged fears, disguises for ulterior motives, phatic expressions of group solidarity--they are, most distinctively, maps of problematic social reality and matrices for the creation of collective conscience. Whether, in any particular case, the map is accurate or the conscience creditable is a separate question to which one can hardly give the same answer for Nazism and Zionism, for the nationalisms of McCarthy and of Churchill, for the defenders of segregation and its opponents.


~ Geertz's wry humor enlivens the text. Two samples from "After the Revolution: The Fate of Nationalism in the New States":
Considering all that independence seemed to promise--popular rule, rapid economic growth, social equality, cultural regeneration, national greatness and, above all, an end to the ascendancy of the West--it is not surprising that its actual advent has been anticlimactic. It is not that nothing has happened, that a new era has not been entered. Rather, that era having been entered, it is necessary now to live in it rather than merely imagine it, and that is inevitably a deflating experience.


And as government shakes down into some reasonably recognizable institutional form--party oligarchy, presidential autocracy, military dictatorship, reconditioned monarchism, or, very partially in the best of cases, representative democracy--it becomes less and less easy to avoid confronting the fact that to make Italy is not to make Italians.


~ The analysis of various new states' strategies for coping with internal separatist tendencies (Chapter 10, "The Intergrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics") is fascinating; but Lebanon's situation is the most fascinating of all:
Lebanon may be--as Phillip Hitti has pointed out--not much larger than Yellowstone Park, but it is a good deal more astonishing. Although its population is almost entirely Arabic-speaking and shares a generally "Levantine" ethos, it is rigidly partitioned into seven major Moslem (Sunni, Shi'a, and Druze) and Christian (Maronites, Greek Or­thodox, Greek Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox) sects and about that many minor ones (Protestants, Jews, Armenian Catholics, and so on), a confessional heterogeneity that not only forms the principal public framework of individual self-identification, but is woven directly into the whole structure of the state. Seats in the parliament are allotted on a strictly sectarian basis according to demographic proportions that are fixed by law and that have remained essentially unchanged in the five elections held since independence. Paramount executive authority is not merely bisected, but trisected, with the president of the country conventionally a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni, and the chairman of parliament a Shi'i. Cabinet posts are carefully doled out on a confessional basis, and a similar balance is maintained in the civil service from ministry secretaries, district administrators, and diplomatic posts all the way down to rank-and-file clerical jobs. The judicial system is equally a maze of religious pluralism, with both the laws themselves and the courts applying them varying as to sect, final authority in personal law cases sometimes lying outside the boundaries of the country altogether. Arab province and Christian outpost, modern commercial entrepôt and last relic of the Ottoman millet system, Lebanon is almost as much an entente as a state.

The sort of politics this entente supports are equally wondrous. Political parties, though formally present, play as yet but a marginal role. The struggle for pelf and power pivots instead around strong local leaders, who tend to be either important absentee landlords or, in the freehold sections of the country, heads of large and prominent extended families. Each of these faction chiefs, whose following is bound to him in essentially traditional rather than ideological terms, then forms alliances with similar faction chiefs from other locally represented sects, yielding in the election campaign a Tammany Hall sort of "one Irishman, one Jew, one Italian" ticket-balancing.

This process is encouraged by the device of having the entire electorate in any one district vote in all the local races regardless of sect. Thus a Maronite voting in a district where there are also Sunni, Greek Orthodox, and Druze seats at stake chooses among the Sunni, Greek Orthodox, and Druze candidates as well as among his own--the Mar­onite ones--and vice versa. This, in turn, leads to the forming of composite lists through which the candidates in each sect attempt to link themselves with popular candidates in other sects so as to attract the necessary external votes. As lists are rarely split, because the possibility of a candidate making effective alliances rests on his ability to bring loyal voters with him (and because the average voter has little knowledge of candidates of other sects on which to base rational judgments of their worth, anyway), this means that although, for any given seat, Maronite competes against Maronite, or Sunni against Sunni, and so on, it is actually lists that are elected. The electoral process thus acts to align certain leaders from the various sects over against certain other such leaders in such a way that political ties tend to cross-cut sectarian ones. Members of different sects are driven into each other's arms in in­terconfessional coalitions; members of the same sect are driven apart into intraconfessional factions.

Such calculated forging (and breaking) of alliances between significant political personalities is not confined merely to campaign tactics, but extends over the whole of political life. Among the strongest leaders the same principles come into play with respect to the higher national offices; so that, in example, a leading Maronite who considers himself as a possible president will attempt to align himself in public life with a leading Sunni who is aiming for the premiership, and so on, both in order to gain Sunni support and to prevent his immediate Maronite rivals for the presidency from making so effective an alliance themselves. Similar patterns operate throughout the system, at every level and in every aspect of government.

As such coalitions are so opportunistically rather than ideologically put together, they frequently dissolve overnight, as seeming bosom companions suddenly fall out and mortal enemies unite amid a storm of accusations and counteraccusations of betrayal, corruption, incompetence, and ingratitude. The pattern is thus fundamentally an individualistic, even egoistic, one, despite its grounding in traditional religious, economic, and kinship groupings, with each would-be political power scheming to advance his career by a skillful manipulation of the system. Both places on tickets led by strong figures and votes themselves are bought (during the 1960 elections the amount of money in circulation rose three million Leb.); rivals are slandered and, on occasion, physically attacked; favoritism, nepotic or otherwise, is accepted procedure; and spoils are considered the normal reward of office. "There is no right in Lebanon," Ayoub's Mount Lebanon Druzes say, "there is only silver and the 'fix.' "

Yet out of all this low cunning has come not only the most democratic state in the Arab world, but the most prosperous; and one that has in addition been able--with one spectacular exception--to maintain its equilibrium under intense centrifugal pressures from two of the most radically opposed extrastate primordial yearnings extant: that of the Christians, especially the Maronites, to be part of Europe, and that of the Moslems, especially the Sunnis, to be part of pan-Arabia. The first of these motives finds expression mainly in a so-called isolationist view of Lebanon as a special and unique phenomenon among the Arab states, a "nice piece of mosaic," whose distinctiveness must be jealously conserved; the second takes the form of a call for reunion with Syria. And insofar as Lebanese politics escapes the merely personal and traditional and becomes involved with general ideas and issues, it is in these terms that it tends to polarize.

The one spectacular exception to the maintenance of equilibrium, the 1958 civil war and American intervention, was in great part precipitated by just this sort of atypical ideological polarization. On the one hand President Sham'un's unconstitutional attempt to succeed himself and, presumably, to align Lebanon more closely with the West in order to enhance Christian power against the rising tide of Nasserism, excited the ever-present Moslem fears of Christian domination; on the other, the sudden outburst of pan-Arab enthusiasm stimulated by the Iraqi revolution and Syria's turn toward Cairo led to the equally ever-present Christian fear of drowning in a Moslem sea. But the crisis--and the Americans--passed. Sham'un was, at least temporarily, discredited for "dividing the country." The pan-Arabist fever was, also at least temporarily, checked by a renewed conviction, even within Sunni circles, that the integrity of the Lebanese state must at all costs be preserved. Civil rule was quickly restored, and by 1960 a new election could be held peacefully enough, bringing back most of the old familiar faces to the old familiar stands.

It seems, therefore, that Lebanese politics, as they are now constituted, must remain personalistic, factional, opportunistic, and unprogrammatic if they are to work at all. Given the extreme confessional heterogeneity and the penetration of this heterogeneity throughout the entire organization of the state, any increase in ideologized party politics tends very quickly to lead to an unstable Christian-Mos­lem polarization over the pan-Arab issue and to the breakdown of the cross-sect links that in the course of normal political maneuvering divide the sects and unite, if somewhat precariously, the government. Machiavellian calculation and religious toleration are opposite sides of the same coin in Lebanon; in the short run, anyway, the alternative to "silver and 'the fix' " may very well be national dissolution.


~ The following observation (from Chapter 11, "The Politics of Meaning") applies to our 21st century as much as to the previous one:
There is (...) no simple progression from "traditional" to "modern," but a twisting, spasmodic, unmethodical movement which turns as often toward repossessing the emotions of the past as disowning them. (...)

This undeniable, commonly denied, fact--that whatever the curve of progress may be, it fits no graceful formula--disables any analysis of modernization which starts from the assumption that it consists of the replacement of the indigenous and obsolescent with the imported and up-to-date. Not just in Indonesia, but throughout the Third World--throughout the world--men are increasingly drawn to a double goal: to remain themselves and to keep pace, or more, with the twentieth century. A tense conjunction of cultural conservatism and political radical­ism is at the nerve of new state nationalism, and nowhere more conspicuously so than in Indonesia. What Abdullah says of the Minangkabau--that accommodating to the contemporary world has required "continuing revision of the meaning of modernization," involved "new attitudes toward tradition itself and [an unending] search for a suitable basis of modernization"--is said, in one manner or another, throughout each of the essays. What they reveal is not a linear advance from darkness to light, but a continuous redefinition of where "we" (peasants, lawyers, Christians, Javanese, Indonesians . . . ) have been, now are, and have yet to go--images of group history, character, evolution, and destiny that have only to emerge to be fought over.


~ The Balinese state structure described in Chapter 12, "Politics Past, Politics Present," is yet another example of the paradoxes and antinomies Geertz excels at exploring. It's also fascinating in itself; I've never heard of anything even remotely similar.

~ In Chapter 13, "The Cerebral Savage: On the Work of Claude Lévi-Strauss," I really can't tell if Geertz is being sympathetic or savage--erm, sorry, sarcastic. Can you?
The spiritual dimensions of Levi-Strauss' encounter with his object of study, what trafficking with savages has meant to him personally, are particularly easy to discover, for he has recorded them with figured eloquence in a work which, though it is very far from being a great anthropology book, or even an especially good one, is surely one of the finest books ever written by an anthropologist: Tristes Tropiques. Its design is in the form of the standard legend of the Heroic Quest--the precipitate departure from ancestral shores grown familiar, stultifying, and in some uncertain way menacing (a philosophy post at a provincial lycée in Le Brun's France); the journey into another, darker world, a magical realm full of surprises, tests, and revelations (the Brazilian jungles of the Cuduveo, Bororo, Nambikwara, and Tupi-Kawahib); and the return, resigned and exhausted, to ordinary existence ("farewell to savages, then, farewell to journeying") with a deepened knowledge of reality and the obligation to communicate what one has learned to those who, less adventurous, have stayed behind. The book is a combination autobiography, traveler's tale, philosophical treatise, ethnographic report, colonial history, and prophetic myth.


That Lévi-Strauss should have been able to transmute the romantic passion of Tristes Tropiques into the hypermodern intellectualism of La Pensée sauvage is surely a startling achievement. But there remain the questions one cannot help but ask. Is this transmutation science or alchemy? Is the "very simple transformation" which produced a general theory out of a personal disappointment real or a sleight of hand? Is it a genuine demolition of the walls which seem to separate mind from mind by showing that the walls are surface structures only, or is it an elaborately disguised evasion necessitated by a failure to breach them when they were directly encountered? Is Lévi-Strauss writing, as he seems to be claiming in the confident pages of La Pensée sauvage, a prolegomenon to all future anthropology? Or is he, like some uprooted neolithic intelligence cast away on a reservation, shuffling the debris of old traditions in a vain attempt to revivify a primitive faith whose moral beauty is still apparent but from which both relevance and credibility have long since departed?

... Yes, yes, of course: the true Geertzian answer is, "He is both. And more." :P

~ The following passage from Chapter 14, "Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali," inspired me for some esoteric rumination:
(...) the order of political and ecclesiastical authority in the society is hooked in with the general notion that social order reflects dimly, and ought to reflect clearly, metaphysical order; and, beyond that, that personal identity is to be defined not in terms of such superficial, because merely human, matters as age, sex, talent, temperament, or achievement--that is, biographically, but in terms of location in a general spiritual hierarchy--that is, typologically. Like all the other symbolic orders of person-definition, that stemming from public titles consists of a formulation, with respect to different social contexts, of an underlying assumption: it is not what a man is as a man (as we would phrase it) that matters, but where he fits in a set of cultural categories which not only do not change but, being transhuman, cannot.

And, here too, these categories ascend toward divinity (or with equal accuracy, descend from it), their power to submerge character and nullify time increasing as they go. Not only do the higher level public titles borne by human beings blend gradually into those borne by the gods, becoming at the apex identical with them, but at the level of the gods there is literally nothing left of identity but the title itself. All gods and goddesses are addressed and referred to either as Dewa (f. Dewi) or, for the higher ranking ones, Betara (f. Betari). In a few cases, these general appellations are followed by particularizing ones: Betara Guru, Dewi Sri, and so forth. But even such specifically named divinities are not conceived as possessing distinctive personalities: they are merely thought to be administratively responsible, so to speak, for regulating certain matters of cosmic significance: fertility, power, knowledge, death, and so on. In most cases, Balinese do not know, and do not want to know, which gods and goddesses are those worshipped in their various temples (there is always a pair, one male, one female), but merely call them "Dewa (Dewi) Pura Such-and-Such"--god (goddess) of tem­ple such-and-such. (...)

So, besides the ego-effacing movement toward the divine realm (a fairly universal element of spirituality), what else could this signify? How related is it to the notion of an astral hierarchy that maintains (or perhaps makes up) all of existence?

Other than that, I strongly recommend the whole chapter for its presentation of Balinese forms of address. They gave me a new perspective on interactions and interconnections within a society (plus this hilarious anecdote). Ditto for the cyclical structure of Balinese calendars; and the artistic, esthetic nature of their interpersonal relations.

~ When was the last time I said "fascinating"? Well, "Notes on the Balinese Cockfight," the final chapter in this collection, is fascinating.

This is how it starts:
Early in April of 1958, my wife and I arrived, malarial and diffident, in a Balinese village we intended, as anthropologists, to study. A small place, about five hundred people, and relatively remote, it was its own world. We were intruders, professional ones, and the villagers dealt with us as Balinese seem always to deal with people not part of their life who yet press themselves upon them: as though we were not there. For them, and to a degree for ourselves, we were nonpersons, specters, invisible men.

We moved into an extended family compound (that had been arranged before through the provincial government) belonging to one of the four major factions in village life. But except for our landlord and the village chief, whose cousin and brother-in-law he was, everyone ignored us in a way only a Balinese can do. As we wandered around, uncertain, wistful, eager to please, people seemed to look right through us with a gaze focused several yards behind us on some more actual stone or tree. Almost nobody greeted us; but nobody scowled or said anything unpleasant to us either, which would have been almost as satisfactory. If we ventured to approach someone (something one is powerfully inhibited from doing in such an atmosphere), he moved, negligently but definitely, away. If, seated or leaning against a wall, we had him trapped, he said nothing at all, or mumbled what for the Balinese is the ultimate nonword--"yes."

(...) In the midst of the third [cockfighting] match, with hundreds of people, including, still transparent, myself and my wife, fused into a single body around the ring, a superorganism in the literal sense, a truck full of policemen armed with machine guns roared up. Amid great screeching cries of "pulisi! pulisi!" from the crowd, the policemen jumped out, and, springing into the center of the ring, began to swing their guns around like gangsters in a motion picture, though not going so far as actually to fire them. The superorganism came instantly apart as its components scattered in all directions. People raced down the road, disappeared headfirst over walls, scrambled under platforms, folded themselves behind wicker screens, scuttled up coconut trees. Cocks armed with steel spurs sharp enough to cut off a finger or run a hole through a foot were running wildly around. Everything was dust and panic.

On the established anthropological principle, "When in Rome," my wife and I decided, only slightly less instantaneously than everyone else, that the thing to do was run too. We ran down the main village street, northward, away from where we were living, for we were on that side of the ring. About halfway down another fugitive ducked suddenly into a compound--his own, it turned out--and we, seeing nothing ahead of us but rice fields, open country, and a very high volcano, followed him. As the three of us came tumbling into the courtyard, his wife, who had apparently been through this sort of thing before, whipped out a table, a tablecloth, three chairs, and three cups of tea, and we all, without any explicit communication whatsoever, sat down, commenced to sip tea, and sought to compose ourselves.

A few moments later, one of the policemen marched importantly into the yard, looking for the village chief. (The chief had not only been at the fight, he had arranged it. When the truck drove up he ran to the river, stripped off his sarong, and plunged in so he could say, when at length they found him sitting there pouring water over his head, that he had been away bathing when the whole affair had occurred and was ignorant of it. They did not believe him and fined him three hundred rupiah, which the village raised collectively.) Seeing me and my wife, "White Men," there in the yard, the policeman performed a classic double take. When he found his voice again he asked, approximately, what in the devil did we think we were doing there. Our host of five minutes leaped instantly to our defense, producing an impassioned description of who and what we were, so detailed and so accurate that it was my turn, having barely communicated with a living human being save my landlord and the village chief for more than a week, to be astonished. We had a perfect right to be there, he said, looking the Ja­vanese upstart in the eye. We were American professors; the government had cleared us; we were there to study culture; we were going to write a book to tell Americans about Bali. And we had all been there drinking tea and talking about cultural matters all afternoon and did not know anything about any cockfight. Moreover, we had not seen the village chief all day; he must have gone to town. The policeman retreated in rather total disarray. (...)


This is where it saunters by:
To anyone who has been in Bali any length of time, the deep psychological identification of Balinese men with their cocks is unmistakable. The double entendre here is deliberate. It works in exactly the same way in Balinese as it does in English, even to producing the same tired jokes, strained puns, and uninventive obscenities. Bateson and Mead have even suggested that, in line with the Balinese conception of the body as a set of separately animated parts, cocks are viewed as detachable, self-operating penises, ambulant genitals with a life of their own.


And then it goes deeper. ;)

(It also uses the simplest/liveliest language, compared to the rest. Was it written by a younger Geertz?)
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