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CONTENTS
EDITORIAL NOTE • • • • • • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
IEVY-BRUHL'S 'r!iEORY OF PRIMITIVE riJENTALITY
Professor E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Institute of Social
Anthropology, Oxford. 39
UNDERSTANDING IN PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Allan Hanson. Assistant Professor,i'h;Universi:l;y of
Kansas
61
A DEFENCE OF WINCH
Paul Heelas, Institute of Social Oxford.
71
REPLY TO HEELAS
Arran Hanson 78
ARE "PRIMITIVES" NECESSARY?
Wendy James, Institute of Social Anthropology, Oxford. 82
THE ''FREE COMPETITION OF THOUGHTtI - A CRITIQUE
Mike Maguire, Institute of Social Anthropology ,Oxford. 84
THE GENESIS OF SCIENTIFIC RACISM
Andrew Lyons, Institute of Social Anthropology, Oxford. 91
BOOK REVIEWS: Mary Douglas by S. Milburn
Ernest Gellner:by Mary Douglas 101
NOTES:,rilm for 'the Revelation of Society, by David Seddon. '102
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.---...... EDITORIAL NOTE
..: - );.f:·/;\;·'::
The for this co'llection of i _. 'hropology has come ""
from the graduate students of the Sub-Faculty If Anthropology at
Oxford: in particular from those of the Inst±tute of Social Anthropology
. and the Department of Ethnology:. Papers given at.graduate seminars
l
and preliminary ideas arising from work for the Diplomas and higher
degrees
l
very often merit wider circulation and discussion
l
without
necessarily being ready for formal in professional
There is a need for some intermediate form of exchange. The Oxford
University Anthropological Society agreed to act as pUblisher for
this venture and has established a Journal Sub-Committee for the
purpose. The Editors are grateful to the Radcliffe-Brown Memorial
Fund for a subsidy to help with the initial cost.
It is hoped to produce at least one issue per term. Articles will
be welcomed from Diploma, B.Litt. and D. Phil. students in social and
other branches of anthropology, and from people in related disciplines
interested in social Letters, comments, reviews, and
similar material, as well as contributions from tutors, will also be
welcome. It is hoped that these essays in anthropology will prOVide a
focus for the discussion of work being done at Oxford. It will make
it easier for research students to avoid any tendency to become
isolated. and for Diploma students to enter into discussion across
tutorial boundaries. For the present, it is preferred that the main
emphasis should be upon analytical discussion rather than on
description or ethnography.
Professor E. Eavns-Pritchard is retiring at the end of this term after
a distinguished period of 24 years as Professor at the Institute of Social
in Oxford. '. He has ldndly to re-publish his impoJ'tant.
essay on l!Levy Bruhl's Theory of Prirnitive Me#:taiity", and the extra cost
of this has been met by subscription from students and staff who wish
to express their gratitude to E...P. for his help and inspiration over the
years.
x x x x x
There are still a number of copies of Vol. r. No.1. available
and if anyone would like to purchase some would they please write to
the editors, enclosing 3/- per copy (to cover post and packing).
FORMAT
Papers should be as short as is necessary to get point over.
As a general rulel they should not exceed 4,000 words, but a wide
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papers should be submitted following the conventions for citations,
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should be addressed to the Editors at the Oxford University Institute
of Social Anthropology, 51 Banbury Road, Oxford.
-39­
,
.LEVY-BRUHL' 3 THEORY OF PRIMITIVEMENTALI'lY *
L
This essay is a continuation of my paper on "The Intellectuallst 1
.(Enclish) Interpretation of Magic" in the last number of our Bulletin.
In that paper I gave an account, and made a critical analysis of the
theories of Tylor and Frazer about primitive thought, especially thought
relating to magical practices.- These theories were severely criticised
from two camps. Marett and a number of subsequent writers attacked
them for paying attention exclusively to the cognitive processes of
primitive thought and neglecting the affective states which give rise
to them. Durkheim and his 3chool attaoked them for trying to explain
orimitive thought in terms of individual psychology and totally
its social character. On its critical side Levy-Bruhl's
theory of primitive mentality is similar to that of the Annee
Sociologigue group of writers but on its constructive a
character of i ts and has had wide enough' influence to merit
seoarate treatment. .
• I
In France and Germany LBvy-Bruhl's have been extensively
examined and critioised and it is difficult to understand Why they have
met with so great neglect and derision among English anthropologists.
Their reception is perhaps partly due to the key expressions used by
Levy-Bruhl in his writings, such as "prelogique", "representations
collectives", "mystique", "participations", and so forth. Doubtless
it is also due in part to the uncritical in which IevnJ-Bruhl
handled his material which' was often of a poor quality in any case.
But responsibility must be shared by his critics who made little effort
to grasp the ideas which lay behind the cumbrous terminology in which
they were frequently expressed and who were far too easily contented to
pick holes1n the detail of his arguments without mastering his main
thesis. Too often they merely repeated his views under the impression
that they were refuting them. In this essay Levy-Bruhl's main thesis
is examined. and is tested in its application to the facts of magic.
Its application to other departments of social life, e.g. language
and systems of numeration. is not considered.
Like Durkheim defines sooial facts by their generality,
by their transmission from generation to generation, and by their
compulsive character. The English SChool make the mistake of trying
to explain social facts by processes of individual thought, and, worse
still, by analogy with' their .own patterns of thought which are the
produot of different environmental oonditions from those which have
moulded the minds which they seek to understand.
"Les 'explications r de I' ecole anthropologique angla1se.. n' etant
Jamais que restenttouJoursaffectees d'un coefficient
de doute, variable selo11 les cas. Elles 'prennent pour accorde que les
voies qui nous paraissent, a nous, conduire naturellement acertaines
" , "
croyances et a certaines pratiques, sont precisement celles par ou
ont passe les membres des societes ou se manifestentces croyances
et ces pratiques.· Rien de plus hasardeux que ce postulat, qui ne se
verifierait peut-etre pas einq fois sur cent".} .
The mental content ·of the ind1vidual is derived from, and explained
by, the collective representations of his society. An explanation of
the social content of thought in terms of individual psychology is '
disastrous. How oan we understand belief in spirits merely by saying,
as Tylor does, that they arise from an intellectual need to account for
phenomena? Why should there be a need to explain the phenomena of
dreams when this need makes itself so little felt about other phenomena?
Rather should we try to explain such notions as belief in spirits by .
stressing the fact that they are collective notions and are imposed on
the individual from without and, therefore, are a product in his mind
* Extract from the Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts, Vol. II, Part I.
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of faith and not of reason.
Levy-Bruhl then develops his own point of view. Collective
representations explain individual thought and these collective
representations are functioIlS "of. institutions # so that we may suppose
as social structures vari the collective 'representations wIll show
concomitant variations.
illes series de faits sociaux sont solidaires les unes ('}s autres#
et elles se conditionnent reciproquement. Un tYPe de societe delini#
qUi a ses institutions et ses moeurs propres, aura dono aussi#
necessairement# sa mentalite propre. A des types sociaux differents
oorrespondront des mentalites differentes# d'autant plus que les
institutions et les moeurs memes ne sont au fond qu'un certain aspect
des representations collectives# que ces representations# pour ainsi
dire# considerees objectivement. On se trouve ainsi conduit a concevoir que
l'etude comparative des differents types de societes humaines ne se "
separe pas de l'etude comparative des representations collectives et des
liaisons de ces representations qUi dominent dans ces societies".4
Nevertheless it may be said at the outset that Levy-Bruhl in his works
does not attempt to correlate the beliefs which he describes with the
social structures of the peoples among whom they have been recorded. He
makes no effort to prove the determinist assumption set forth in the
above quotation nor to explain why we find similar beliefs in two
societies with qUite different structures. He contents himself with
the broad generalization that all primitive peoples present uniform "
patterns of thought when contrasted with ourselves.
We are logically orientated# or; as one might say# scientifically
orientated# in our thought. Normal+y we seek the causes of phenomena
in natural processes and even when we face a phenomenon whioh we cannot
account for scientifically we assume that it appears mysterious to us
only because our knowledge is as yet to explain it. While
to primitive minds there is only one world in which causation is normally
attributed to mystical influences, even those among us who accept theological
teachings distinbruish a world subject to sensory impressions from a
spiritual world which is invisible and intangible. We either believe
entirely in natural laws or if we admit mystical influences we do not
think that they interfere in the workings of an ordered universe.
"Ainsi# la nature au milieu de laquelle nouS vivona est# pour
a1nsi dire. intellectualisee d'avance. Elle est ordre et raison#
comme l'esprit qui la pens&; et qui s'y mente Notre activite quotidienne,
jusque dans ses'plus humbles details# implique une tranquille et parfaite
confiance dans l'invariabilitedes lois naturelles".5
Primitive peoples on the other hand are mystically orientated in
their thought# that is to"say their thought is orientated towards the
supernatural. They normally seek the causes qfphenomena in supernatural
processes and they refer'any new or unusUal occurrence"to one or other of
their supernatural categories.
"Bien d1f(erente (from oUrs) est 1' attitude de l' esprit du primitif•
Ia nature au milieu de laquelle il vit se a lui sous un tout
autre aspect. Tous les objets et toUS" les ;tres ysont imp1iques dana
un reseau de participations et d'exclusions mystiques: c'est elles qui
en font la contexture et l' ordre. C' est donc elles qui s' imposeront
d'abord a son attention et qUi. seules, le retiendront. S'il est
interesse par un phenomene# s'il ne se borne pas-a le percevoir# pour
ainsi dire passivement et sans reagir# i1 songera aussitot'# comme par
une sorte de reflexe mental, a uge pUissance occulte et invisible d9nt ce
phenomene est la manifestation".
leVy-Bruhl asks why primitive peoples do not inquire into causal
connections which are not self-eVident. In his opinion it is useless to
reply that it is because they do not take the trouble to inqUire into
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them for we are th' the further question, why they do not take this
trouble. The correct answer is that savages are prevented from pursuing
enquiries into the workings of nature by their collective representations.
These formalised patterns of thought, feeling, and behaviour, inhibit
any cognitive, affective, motor, activities whioh conflict with them.
For example, when a savage is killed by a buffalo, he'often enough refers
the occurrence to 5upernaturalcauses, normally to the action of witch­
craft. In his sooiety death is' due to witchcraft and witchcraft is
proved by death. There is obviously no opening for a purely scientific
explanation of how death has occurred for it is social
doctrines. This does not mean that· the savage is incapable of rational
observation. He is' well aware that the dead man was killed by a buffalo
but he believes that the buffalo' would not have killed him unless
supernatural foroeshad also operated.
ritvy-Bruhl's point of view is perhaps best set forth by giving a
couple of examples from his works of the type of thought which he
oharacterises as primitive and prelogical. Thus he quotes Miss
Kingsley about the belief of West African Negroes that they will suatain
an injury if they lost their shadows. Miss Kingsley writes:­
"It strikes one as strange to see men who have been walking, say,
thrOUgh forest or grassland, on a blazing hot morning quite happily, on
arrival at a piece of clear ground or a village square, most carefully
go round it, not and you will soon notice that they only do this
at noontime, and learn that they fear losing their shadow. I asked
some Bakwire I once came who partioularly careful in this
matter, Why they were not anxious about losing their shadows when night
,came down and they disappeared in the surrounding darkness, and was
told that was alright; because at night all·shadows lay down in the
shadow of the Great God, and so got stronger. Had, I not seen, how
strong and how long a shadow, be it of man or trr or of the great
mountain itself, was in the early morning time?"
It is evident from Miss Kingsley's account tha't the West African
idea of a shadow is qUite different from ours and that, indeed, it
exoludes ours since a man cannot both hold our idea of a shadow as a
negation of light and at the same time believe that a man so partioipates
in his shadow that,if he cannot See it he has lost it ,and will beoome
ill in oonsequence. The seoond example, from New GUinea, illustrates
in the Sattle manner the incompatibility of our View of the universe with
that held by savages:­
"A man returning from hunting or fishing is disappointed at his
empty game-bag, or canoe, and turns over in his mind how to disoover who
would be likely to have bawitched his nets. He perhaps raises his eyes an
-and sees a member of a neighbouring friendly village on his way to pay
a visit. It at once ooours to him that this man is the sorcerer and
watching his opportunity, he suddenly attaoks him 'and kills him".s
Responsibility for failure, is- known beforehand and the socially
determined' cause excl.udes any endeavour to discover the natural cause of
absenoeof fish or game or inabi1.1ty to catch them.
From many hundreds of examples of the kind ,Just cited emerge the
'two propositiona which together form Levy-Bruhl' s thesis: that there
are two distinct types of thought,9 mystical thought and logical thought;
and. that of these two types of thought the mystical type is charaoteristic
of primitive sooieties and the logioal type is characteristic of
oivilized sooieties. These two propositions are stated Qy Levy-Bruhl
in his Herbert Spenoer Lecture as fol.lows:­
"1. II existe une 'mentalite primitive', caracterisee par son
orientation mystique, par un certain membre d'habitudes mentales, et
speoialement par la loi de participation, qui y coexiste avec les
prinoipes logiques. Elle est remarquablement constante dans les
societas d1tes inferieures.
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2. Elle se dlstingue nettement de la notre, mals elle n'en est
pas separee par une sorte de fosse. Au contrairel dans les societes
les plus 'civilisees on en apercoit sans peine des traces et plus que
'
des traces. Dans nos campagnes
l
et jusquedans nos grandes villes l on
n'aurait pas achercherloin pour rencontrer des gens qui pensent l sentent,
et meme agissent commedes primitifs. Peut-etre faut-il aller plus
loin encore, et reconnaftre que dans tout esprit humain
l
quel qu'en
soit Ie d.eveloppement intellectuell subsiste un fond de
mentalite primitive ••• lila
As often happens when an author has to sif'tagreat I)'laSS of material
of uneven range and qualitYI Levy-Bruhl has sometimes handled his
material carelessly and he has been much criticised on this scorel the
works contra Levy-Bruhl being by this time almost as numerous as his own.
Insofar as these works
ll
are more than mere criticism of detail, they aim
'at proving that savages have a body of practical knowledge; that they
think logioally and are capable of sustained interest and effort; that
the mystical thOUght we find in primitive societies can be paralleled in
our own; and that many of the ideas regarded by Levy-Bruhl as mystical
may not be so lacking in objective foundations as he imagines. In my
opinion most of this criticism is very ineffective, disproving what no­
one holds to be proved. It seldom touches Levy-Bruhl's main propositions.
His theory of primitive mentality may distort savage thought but it would
seem better to correct the distortion than to dismiss the theory
completely.
I 'shall not repeat here all the charges which have been brought
against Levy-Bruhl· but shall draw attention only to the more serious
methodological deficiencies of his work. These obvious deficiencies
are as follows: firstlyI he makes savage thought far more mystical than
it is; secondlyI he makes civilised thought far more rational than it
is; third!YI he treats. all sagage cultures as though they were uniform
and writes of civilised cultures without regard to their historical
development.
(1) Levy-Bruhl relies on biased accounts of primitive mentality.
Most of his facts are taken from missionary and travel reports and he
uses uncritically inferences of untrained observers. We have to bear
in mind that these observers were dominated by the representations
collectives of their own culture which often prevented them from seeinG
the admirable logic of savage critics, thereby attributing to savages
impermeability to experience which in some matters might with greater
justice be ascribed to themselves. Whom is one to accuse of 'prelogical
mentality', the South African missionaries or the Negroes of whom they
record that "they only believe what they see" and that "in the midst of
the laughter and applause of the populace I the heathen enquirer is heard
saying 'Can the God of the' white men be \'Tith our eyes •••••••••••
and if Morimo (God) is absolutely invisible how can a reasonable being
worship a hidden ,thiJ?g?' ..
. Who, in this instance disp],ays "a de9ided dis-taste for, reasoning?".
These Negroes belieyed in their ,own invisible beings' butoonsidered
ridiculous the invisible beings of the missionaries. The m1ssionaries
l
on their side
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' believed' in the invisible beings of their own culture
but rejected with scorn the invisible beings of the Negroes who
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they
concluded, were impermeable to experience. Both missionaries and Negroes
alike were dominated by the collective representations of their cultures.
Both were alike oritical when their thought was not determined by social
doctrines.
It is also necessary to bear in mind, when assessing the value of
reports on savage custom and beliefl that Europeans are inclined to
record the peculiar in savage cultures rather than the commonplace.
Missionaries
l
moreoverI naturally show a keener interest in ideas
expressed by savages about the supernatural than in their more mundane
thoughts and activities I and consequently they have stressed religious
and magical belief to the disadvantage of other aspects of social life.
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Levy-Bruhl's thesis is weakened not only by uoeritical use of
authorities, but also by the comparative method which he us<;d in company
with most writers of the period. In my criticism of I have
already shown wherein lies the weakneSS of this method•. Social'facts
are.described adequately only in terms of their interrelations with other
social facts and in compilations like the works of Frazer and ulvy-Bruhl
they from their network of inter-connectionS and in
isolation and therefore shorn of much of their meaning. Nevertheless
we ought not to exaggerate the distortion due to the Comparative Method
and we must remember that when an author describes sooial life 'from
a single angle it is not encumbent on him to describe all the social
characters of eaoh fact. He expects a margin of error but hopes that
it will be minimised by the vast. number of phenomena taken into
consideration.
! '.. .
The tendency of Levy..Bruhl's authorities to record mystical practices
rather than familiar and empirioal ocoupations, and the method he
employed which allowed him to select from hundreds of societies customs
with·mystioal beliefs without describing from the same
societies the many which depend upon observation and
experiment, have unduly distorted savage mentality. OUt of a' vast.
number of social facts observers have tended to select facts· of the
mystioal type rather than of other types and in Ikvy-Bruhl' s· writings
a secondary selection has taken plaoe through which only facts of a
mystical type have been recorded, the final result of this double
selection being a picture of savages almost oontinually and exclusively
conscious of mystical forces.. He presents us with a caricature of
primitive mentality.
Most specialists who are also fieldworkers are agreed that primitive
are predominantly interested in practioal economic pursuits;
gardening, hunting, fishing, care of their oattle, and the manufacture of
weapons, utensils, and ornaments, and in their social contacts; the life
of household and family and kin, relations with friends and neighbours,
with superiors and. inferiors, dances and feasts, legal disputes, feuds
and warfare. Behaviour of a mystical type in the main is restricted to
certain situations in social life. Moreover it is generally linked up
with practical activities in such a way that to describe it by itself,
as Levy-Bruhl has done, deprives it of the meaning it derives from its
social and its cultural accretions.
(2) compares the savage With 'us' and. contrasts 'our!
mentality with savage mentality. "The discursive operations of thought,
of reasoning and reflection" are to 'us' "the natural and almost
oontinuous oooupation of the human mind". '\'/e' live in an intellectualised
world and have be.nished the supernatural to a vague indefinite horizon
where it never obscures the landscape of natural order and uniformity.
But who are f we '? Are, we students of science or unlettered men,'
bourgeoisie or remotely sItuated peasants? can we group
together Russian peasants, English miners, German shopkeepers, French
and Italian priests; and oontrast their logical thought.
with the mystical thought of Zulu warriors, Melanesian fishermen,
Bedouin nomads, and Chinese peasantS? Is 'the thought of European
peasants so scientifically orientated and. the thought or" Negro peasants
so mystically orientated that we can speak of two mentalities,
mentality and primitive mentality? .
. /
. . It is a defioiency in levy-Bruhl' s writings that whilst insisting on
.' 'the difference between primitive mentality and civilised mentality
and. devoting several volumes to a minute description of the former, he
entirely neglects to describe the latter with equal care.
tells us about the mentality of ·our culture:­
"D'autre part, en ce qui concerne lamentalitfJ propre a. notre
societe, qui doit me servir simplement de terme de comparaison, je la
considererai comme assez bien definie par les travaux des
logioiens et psychologues, anciens et modernes, sans preJuger de ce .
qu'une analyse sooiologique ulterieure pourra modifier dans les resultats
obtenus par eux jusqu'a. present".
13
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But; whilst he tells us what missionaries, traders,
officers, and explorers, say about savage thought, he does not inform us
what philosophers, logicians, and psychologists, ancient and modern, say
about civilised thought. This procedure is inadmissible.' Clearly it
is necessary to describe the collective representations of Englishmen
and Frenchmen with the same impartiality and minuteness with which
anthropologists describe the' collective representations of Polynesians,
Melanesians, and the aborigines of Central and Northern Australia, if we
are to make a comparison between the two. Moreover, in describing the
thought of Europeans it is desirable to distinguish between social and
occupational strata.
If had stated that when he spoke of civilised mentality
he referred to the type of thought found among the better educated classes
of Europe in the twentieth century he would have exposed himself less to
the criticism that it is possible to produce a parallel belief among
European peasants to almost every belief instanced by him as typical of
primitive mentality. This criticism would then have been irrelevant
because such beliefs are regarded as superstitious by the educated
classes. Levy-Bruhl admits that there are many evidences of primitive
mentality in civilised countries, even among people, so that my
criticism of Frazer for comparing the European scientist with the savage
magician instead of comparing ritual with scientific behaviour in the
same culture. either savage or civilised, is also pertinent to Levy­
Bruhl r s writings. To this point I return later.
(3) Like many other writers u{vy-Bruhl treats all peoples whom we
regard as savages or barbarians as though they were culturally uniform.
If patterns of thought are functions of institutions, as he himself
asserts, we might reasonably demand that a classification of institutior.a.l
types should precede a study' of ideational types. There are grave
objections to illustrating primitive mentality by taking examples from
Polynesians, Africans, Chinese, and North American Indians and treating
these examples as of eqUivalent significance, for even in contrast with
European culture the cultures of these peoples present little uniformity.
In the same way he writes of European culture in vague terms as though it
also were uniform. I,have already mentioned his failure to distingUish
between social and occupational strata. Also Europeans peoples have
not an identical culture. But from this point of view the most damag:j.ng
criticism of Levy-Bruhl is that he makes no effort to distinguish
prevalent modes of thought in Europe at different historical periods.
Mystical and scientific thought can best be compared, as suggested above,
as normative ideational types in the same society, or their historical
development in relation to one another can be traced over a long period
of history in a single culture. I.e-;ty-Bruhl argues that mystical
thought is distinctive of primitive cultures and scientific thought is
distinctive 'of civilised cultures. If this is correct then it'ought
to be possible to show how we who at the present civilised
changed our collective representations on our emergePce from barbarism.
Do the English of the 12th century'exemplify civilised mentality or
primitive mentality? , This question is not only relevant but it is
imperative that we should know LeVy-Bruhl's anSwer to it if we are to,
consent to his views. But he neglects the issue.
If we are to regard English thought in the early Middle Ages as
and it is difficult to see how we can avoid doing so when
such peoples as the Chinese furnish Levy-Bruhl with many of his examples
of primitive mentality, then it is desirable to trace the history of
the development of scientific thought in England and to investigate the,
sociological conditions that have allowed its emergence and"growth.
Moreover, if an author compares civilised with primitive mentality and
illustrates these from the cultures of different peoples, one expects
a clear definition of 'civilisation' and 'primitiveness' so that one may
test his theory historically.
The criticisms of Levy-Bruhl's theories which I have already
mentioned, and I have by no means exhausted the objections to his views,
are so obvious and so forcible that only books of exceptional brilliance
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and originality could have survived them. Yet each year fresh polemics
appear to contest his writings and pay tribute to their I
suggest that the reason for his writings, in spite of their methodological
deficiencies, still exercising a powerful influence on anthropological
thought is due to the facts that he perceived a scientific problem of ,
cardinal importance and that he approached this problem along soOiological
lines of contentiDg himself' witl;1 the, usual psychological platitudes.
We must not, therefore, dismiss his writings with contempt, as many
anthropologists do, but must try to discover what in them will stand
the test of criticism and may at same, time be considered an original
contribution to science. , We can best Undertake this task by asking
ourselves the following questionS: (a) Are primitive modes of thought
So different from modes of thought current among educated. Europeans that
the need arises to define wherein the difference lies and to explain it?
(b) What does Levy-Bruhl mean when he says that primitive thought is
'prelogical
t
? (c) What does he mean by tcollective representations'?
(d) What does he mean by 'mystical'? (e) What does he mean by
participations'?
(a) In his writings levy-Bruhl cites the observations of dozens
of educated Europeans on primitive custom and belief and shows that 'they
frequently found savage ideas incompatible with their way of thinking.
MaDy of these Europeans observers who had ,long experience of
savages and were of the highest integrity. Thus no one knew the Maori
better than Elsdon Best who wrote of them:
tiThe mentality of the Maori ,is of an intensely mystical nature ••••
•••••We hear of many singular theories about Maori beliefs and Maori
thought, but the truth is that we do not understand either, and, what
is more, we never shall. We shall never know the inwardness of the
native mind. For that would mean retracing our steps for many
centuries, back into the dim past, far back to the time when we also
'possessed the mind of man. And the gates have long closed
on that hidden rOad".l '
Miss Kingsley is recognised to have been an incomparable observer
of the life of the West African Negro of whom she wrote:
"The African mind naturally approaches all things from a spiritual
point of view •••••• things happen because of the action of spirit upon
spirit". 15
However, in order to meet the possible objeotion that these
Europeans were not trained anthropologists and were unused to striotly
scientific methods of investigation, I will quote passages from the .
recent writings of three anthropologists who have had Wide fieldwork
experience as further evidence that this incompatibility between savage
and civilised modes of thought really and was not imagined by
Levy-Bruhl. Prof. and Mrs. Seligmariwrlteofthe tribes. of the Pagan
Sudan,:' , ',. .. .
"On this subject (of magic) the black man and the white regard.
each other with amazement; each considers the behaviour of the other.
incomprehensible, totally unrelated to everyday exgerience, and entirely
disregarding the known laws of cause and effect".1
Mr. Fortune writes of the Dobuans:
"Behind this ritual idiom there stands a most rigid and never­
questioned dogma, learnt by every child in infancy, and forCed home by
countless instances of everyday usage based upon it and. meaningless
Without it or in its despite. This dogma., in general, is that effects
are secured by incantation, and that without incantation such effects
oannot come to pass ••••• In brief, there is no natural theory of yam
growth, of the powers of canoe lashings of fish nets" of gift exchange
in strange plaoes overseas, of disease and death, of wind and rain, of
- 46 ­
love between man and woman. All these things oannot possibly exist in
their own right. All are supernatural]; oreated by the ritual of
inoantation with the help of the appropriate technologioal lJ:cooesses in
agrioulture
l
canoe makingl fishing preparation, and with the help of more
mundane wooing in overseas gift exchange and in love-makingl but without
any suoh extra work in making wind. and rain
l
disease and death or in
their counteracting (apart only from the practice of bleeding the patient
in some oaSes of illness). This latter of unaided incantation
expresses truly the attitude of the native towards incantation throughout.
It is the really important factor in producing an effeot" .17
(b) These modes of thought which appear so true to the savage and
so absurd to the European Levy-Bruhl calls By' prelogioal'
he appears to mean something quite different to what many of his oritios
attribute to him. He asserts simply that primitive beliefs when tested
by the rules of thought laid down by logioians are found to contravene
these rules. This does not mean that savages are incapable of thinking
aoherentlyI a proposition whioh LeV1T-Bruhl would be the last to
but it means that if we examine patterns of belief in savage cultures
we shall find they often run counter to a scientific view of the universe
and Qontain
l
moreoverI what a logioian would oall inherent contradiotiQns.
Man;i of r.evy-Bruhl's oritics seem to imagine that he implies oerebral
inferiority when he speaks of savages as prelogioal -and think that if
they can show that savages perform oognitive prooesses of a more
elaborate type than mere peroeption of sensations they will have
contraverted him.
Of oriticisms of this type he writes:
"Mais beaucoup d'entre elles proviennent d'un ma.lentendul et
s'adressent a une tt.leorie dont personnel je pense
l
ne voudrait prendre
la responsabilite
l
et selon laquelle il y aurait deux espeoes d'esprits
humains: les uns
l
les notres
l
pensant confOrniement aux principes de la
logique
l
et les autres
l
les esprits des primitifs
l
d'ou oes principes
seraient absents. Mais
l
qui pourrait soutenir serieusement une pareille
these?' Comment mettre en doute un seul instant I que la struoture
fondamentale de l'esprit ne soit partout la meme. Ceux en qui elle
serait autre ne seraient plus des honnnes
l
de meme que nous n'appelerions
pas non plus de ce nom des etres quine presenteraient pas la meme
structure anatomique et lesmemes fonctions physiologiques que nous".18
Far from suggesting'that the savage is intellectually inferior to
civilised man
l
Levy-Bruhl admits that primitive peoples show great
intelligenoe when their interest is stimulated and tl>at their children
show themselves as capable of learning as the ohildren of civilised
peoples. Indeed his problem 'is why peoples who show such great
intelligence support beliefs whioh are so obviously absurd. In view
of the opinions so often attributed to Levy-Bruhl
l
I may quote a single
passage selected from many like in his works:
"Ce, Ii' est Ras inoapac i t'e 'ou impUissanceI ,puisque ceux memes' qui
nous font connaitre cette disposition de primitive ajoutent
expreSS$ment qu'il se trouve la 'des esprits aussi capables des Sciences
que Ie sont ceux des Europeens' I puisque nous voyons les enfants
'australlens
l
melanesiens
l
etc'
l
apprendre aussi ais6ment que les enfants
franqais ou anglais ce que Ie missionnaire leur enseigne. Ce n'est
pas non plUS la consequence d' une torpeur intelleotuelle profondeI d' un
et comme d'un sommeil invincibleI oar ces primitifs
a qUi la moindre pensee abstraite semble un effort insupportableI et qui
ne paraissent pas se soucier de raisonner jamais
l
se montrent
l
,au o.ontraire..
penetrants I Judicieuxl adroits
l
habiles
l
subtils meme
l
quand un objet.
les interesse, et surtout des qU'il s'agit d'atteindre une qu'ils
desirent ardemment".19
In spite of such olear statements Levy-Bruhl has, often been acoused
of denying to savages the oapaoity of making observations and inferences.
To take a single example frOin among his critics; . my friend Mr. Driberg
attributes to Levy-Bruhl the thesis that the savage" is "incapable of
reasoning logioallYI that he 1'SI to use the technical term
l
prelogical".20
Mr. Driberg is easily able to refute a thesis so obviously absurd yetI
'-".,
-4.'7--- "
--...-......
though he is unaware of it, he brings the fullwe!ght of .Deat
African experienoe not against, but in support of"
contentions. Mr. Driberg asks what it is which differentiates one
cUlture from another and answers that it is lithe categories or
assumptions on which belief is based
ll
, and. he gives an example to explain
what he means by categories or assumptionss
IIWhy" for instance,,' should a man be afraid to tell a stranger his
name? Why should he believe that it would prejudice his life to do so?
BecauSe names have an intimate connection with'his personality, and
knowledge of his name would give the stranger a magical power over him".2l
Driberg irt above quotations merely calls categories or
assumptions what Levy-Bruhl calls representations collectives and speaks
of intimate connection where speaks of participation mystique.
The sense is the same; only the words differ. Levy-Bruhl might have'
written Mr. Driberg's conclusion:
"But between them (savage cultures) and. our more developed
cultures there is no bridge, because Without our more scientific
knowledge they oannot share our oivilisation 'or' adjust their outlook to
ours. They approaoh the manifestations of our oulture through categories
which are not able to cope with them".
22
. '
I have chosen passages from Mr. Driberg's book, because they sum up
ooncisely the usual forms of criticism direoted against Levy-Bruhl.
This fOnD of criticism is by no means peculiar to Mr. Driberg.
2
3
, I have quoted at length from the writings of Levy-Bruhl and his
critics to show to what oonfusion the use of a word like 'prelogique'
can lead. ' It is 'a pity that Levy-Bruhl did not use the expression
'unscient.ifio' or even 'uncritical' for many of his readers 'are
apparently ignorant that when a philosQl)her speaks of 'logic' he
a scientific discipline and translate the word
into some such phrase as 'ability to think clearly'. L6'vy-Bruhl is
himself mainly responsible for the which had led his
oritios to judge him so harshly since he makes a clear statement
of what he means by I prelogique' In his latest discussion of the
subject he says that. ·by 'prelogique' he does not mean:
"que les des primitifs etrangers aux
10giquesJ conceptLon dont l'absurdit.e eolate au moment merne ou on la
pe vent dirs, n1
appliqu.e a la mentalite primitive. signifie simplement
qu'elle ne s'astreint pas avant tout" oomme la a eViter la
contradiotion. Ella n'a pas les memes exigences logiques toujours
presentes. C'e qui anos'yeux est impossible ou absurde. elle l'aClmet.tra
parfois sans y voil' de difficulte".
25
Those who disoover philosophical subtle.ties in the above quotation
may find it and other passages of the same sort easier to underst.and if.
they will remember that by 'log1oal'Levy-Bruhl means 'conforming to the
syst.em of logic which regulates modern soience I and that by I thought t
he means 't.he social content at thought which forms part of the cult.ural
heritage which a man acquires from the communit.y into which he is born'.
Unless these two points are grasped Levy-Bruhl's theories will appear
nonsensical. The first point tarms the SUbject of the present seotion
and the second point the SUbject of section (c). .
I conclude that when Levy-Bruhl says primitive thought is prelogical
he does not mean it is chaotic. being devoid of all order and system.
It would t.hen not be thought at. all. One may say that. thought is
'logical' in the sense inwhioh this term is employed in everyday
speech but not logical in the sense in which a modern logician would use
the term" or t.hat thought may have a logic whioh is not the of
science. Hence a patt.ern of thought may be deduoed from false premises
and for this reason must be regarded as unscientific thought. Levy-Bruhl
- 48 ­
uses the word 'logical' in this sense of 'scientific' and for a clearer
presentation of his views I prefer to substitute 'unscientific' for
'prelogical'.
As Levy-Bruhl has seen, primitive thought is eminently coherent,
perhaps over-coherent. One mystical idea follows another in the: same
way as one scientific idea in our own society engenders another. Beliefs
are co-ordinated with other beliefs and with behaviour into an organised
system. Hence it happens that when an anthropologist has resided for
many months among a savage people he can forseehow they will speak and
act in any given situation. I have tested this fact again and again
in Central Africa where I found that my questions to the peoples among
whom I carried out ethnological research became more and
more formalities since I was able to supply the answers to my questions
before I asked them. often in almost the identical phraseology in'which
the replies were afterwards For once we have understood wherein
lie the interests of a primitive people we can easily guess the direction
which their thinking will it presents the same
characters as our own thinking.
(c) Besides misunderstanding what meant by 'prelogical'
his critics have also misrepresented the meaning he attaches to the word
'thought' • According to them Levy-Bruhl contends that savages think '
illogically whereas I understand him to say that savage thought is mainly
unscientific and also mystical. In my opinion he refers to the content
of thoUght while in their view he is speaking of the psycho-physical
functions of thought.
2
7 The one is mainly a social fact while the other
is an individual physiological process. To say that a person thinks
scientifically is like saying that his heart beats and his blood
circulates scientifically. Levy-Bruhl on the contrary is speaking of
patterns or modes of thought which.. after eliminating individual
variations. are the sarne among all members of a primitive community and
are what we call their beliefs. These modes or patterns of thought are
transmitted from generation to generation either by organised teaching
or more usually by participation in their ritual expression. as in
initiation ceremonies. etc. Every individual is compelled to adopt
these beliefs by pressure of social circumstances.
These 'patterns of thought' are the 'representations collectives'
of LeVy-Bruhl's writings. A collective representation is an ideational
pattern. which may be assooiated with emotional states. and which is
generally expressed not only by Language but also by ritual action.
When Levy-Bruhl says that representation is collective he means that it
is a socially determined mode of thought and is therefore common to all
members of a society or of social segment. It will be readily under­
stood that these 'collective or 'patterns of thought'
or 'like ideas' are 'collective' or 'patterns' or' 'like' because they are
functions of institutions. that is to saY. they are constantly associated
with uniform modes of behaviour.
-If the mystical thought of a savage is ,socially determined so also
is the scientific thought of a civilised person.,,' any ,
evaluation between the savage's capacity for 'logical thinking' and the
civilised man's.oapacity for 'logical thinking' iS,irrelevant to the
question at issue which is whether patterns of thought are oriehtated
mystically in primitive societies and orientated scientifically in
civilised societies. As a matter of fact Levy-Bruhl does introduce
notions of value so that there is no need for his critics to defend the
savage so vigourously since no-one attacks him.
The fact that we attribute rain to meteorological causes alone
while savages believe that Gods or ghosts or magic can influence the
rainfall is no evidence that our brains function differently from their
brains. It does not show that we 'think more logically' than savages.
at least not if this expression suggests some kind of hereditary psychic
superiority. It is no sign of superior intelligence on my part that I
attribute rain to causes. I did not come to this conclusion
myself by observation and inference and have.. in fact. little
- 49
of the meteorological processes that lead to rain. I merely accept
what everybody else in my sooiety accepts, namely that rain is due to
natural causes. This particular idea formed part of my culture long
before I was born into it and little more was required of me than
sufficient linguistic ability to learn it. Likewise a savage who
, ' ,I
believes that under suitable, natural and ritual conditions the rainfall
can be influenced by use of appropriate magic is not ort aocount of this
belief' to be considered of'inferior intelligence. He did not build up
this belief from his own observations and inferences but adopted it in
the same way as he adopted the- rest of his cultural heritage. namely, by
born into it. He and I are ,both' thinking in patterns of thought
provided for us by the societies 1n which we live,.
l' .•
It would be absurd to say that $avage is thinking :'mystically
and that we a+'e thinking scientificallY' about rainfall. In either case
like mental prooesses are involved mor,eover, the content of thought
is similarly derived. But we' can say that the sooial oontent of our
thought about rainfall is scientific, is in accord with objective facts,
whereas the social oontent of savage thought is unscientific sinoe it is
not in accord with reality and may also be mystical where it assumes the
existence of supra-sensible forces. lIlhat we are asked to accept is that
a man who is born into a community of savages acquires as a consequence
notions about reality whioh differ remarkably from the notions he would
have aoquired had he been born into a community of civilised people. and
that the difference between these two sets of notions lies partlr in the
degree of scientific accuracy they express and partly in the importance
they attach to mystical causation.
(d) We have seen that !ivy-Bruhl commonly speaks about savage
thought as 'mystique'. This is another term which has done much to
alienate English anthropologists from his theories. Yet he means no
more by this term than is meant by English writers when they speak of
be.lief in the supernatural which they often divide into magic, religion,
and mythology. It must be remembered, however, that in Levy-Bruhl's
view there is no 'natural' to the savage and therefore no 'supernatural' .28
Hence we may say that mystical beliefs are what we would call beliefs in
supernatural beings and forces or the endowment of natural objects with
supernatural powers and relations with manldnd and each other, but that
to the savage, who has no notion of the natural as distinot from the
supernatural. these beings and forces and powers and relations are
merely supra.-sensible. In his own words:
"J'emploierai oe teme, faute d'un Meilleur, non pas par allusion au
, ,mystioisme religieux de nos sooietes, qui est quelque chose d'assez
different, mais dans le sens etroitement defini au I mystique' se d1t de
la croya-nce ades forces, ades ades actions imperceptibles
aux sens, et oependant reelles". 9
In his disoussionof the way in which mystioal doctrines oombine
with the most elementary sensations informing savage peroeptions, Levy­
Bruhl embarks upon psychological'speculatlons which are irrelevant to
his main argument. Aocordingto Levy-Bruhl as soon as savage's
sensations beoome conscious perceptions they are combined with the
colleotive representations which they evoke. As far as the sensory
processes of perception are concerned the savage sees an object as we
see it but when gives oonscious attention to it the colleotive representa­
tion of the object has already intruded to dominate the image of its
purely objective properties. For colleotive representations form integral
parts of perception and the savage cannot perceive objeots apart from
their oollective representations. The savage perceives the collective
representation in the object. Hence a savage does not perceive a
shadow and then apply to it the doctrine of his society according to
which it is one of his souls. When he is oonsoious of his shadow he
perceives his soul. ,Levy-Bruhl's view can be best understood if we
say that 'belief' only arises late in the development of human thought
when perception and representation have already fallen apart. We can
then say that a person 'perceives' his shadow and 'believes' it to be
his soul. The quest;11i1n of belief does not arise among sliL'\(sges,
.,.".... "'I.• tt t
- 50 ­
the shadow is the belief and the savage cannQt be oonsoious of his
shadow without being oonscious of the belief. In the same way a savage
does not perceive a leopard and believe that it is his totem-brother.
He does' not perceive a leopard at all as we'perceive it but he peroeives
his totem-brother. We see the physical qualities of the leopard and our
perception of it in the higher oognitive processes is limited to these
physical qualities but in savage oonsciousness these same physical
qualities become merely a part of the mystical representation implied
by the word I tbtem' and are in fact subordinated to it.
The following passages from Les fonctions mentales will show that
I have done Levy-Bruhl an injustiaeInmy·-aoo."iyS'lS···of his theory of
mystical peroeption.
"En d'autres termes. °la realite ouse meuvent les primitifs est
elle-meme mystique. Pas un etre. pas un objet. pas un phEmomene naturel
n'est dans leurs representations collectives oe qulil nous parait etre
Ii nous. Presque tout oe que nous y voyons leur echappe. au leur est
indifterent. En revanche. ils y voient beaucoup de chases dont nous
ne nous doutons pas" .30
"Quel que soit l'objet qui se presente. a eux, il implique des
proprietes mystiques qui en sont inseparables. et l'esprit. du primitif
ne les en separe pas. en effet. quand il Ie par90it. Pour lUi. il
pas de fait proprement physique. au sens que nous donnons a oe mot" .)1
In committing himself to the statement that primitives do not
distinguish between the supra-sensible world and the sensible world and
that the former is just as real. to them as the latter owing to
inability to perceive objeots apart from their mystical values. Isvy­
Bruhl has, in my. opinion. not been careful enpugh to define his terms.
It is diffioult to state his point of view because one is not certain
how one ought to interpret such expressions as 'distinguish'. 'real'.
and 'peroeption'. Nevertheless I will attempt to explain his point of
view as I Understand it. :uavy-Bruhl is in danger of the accusation
that he does preoisely what he obJects to others doing. namely. using
psychologioal terms where they do not apply. We may leave to the
psychologists to determine to what extent perception is influenced by
emotional states and by sooially standardised representations, Thought
beoomes data for the sociologist as soon as. and only when. it is
expressed in speech and action. We cannot.know what people think in
any other way than by listening to what they say and observing what they
do. Once thought is expressed in words it is sooialised. Hence what
. applies to savage perception in this respect applies also to civilised
peroeption. If the savage expresses in speech and aotion the mystical
qualities of an object so also does oivilised man express in speech and
action stereotyped representations of objects which. thoughmystlcal
properties may not be attributed to them. are none the less social or
colleotive representations. The very fact that an object is named
shows its social indication.
As James;, Rignano32 and others, have shdwn, any sound. or sight may
reaoh the brain of a person without entering into his oonsoiousness. 'We
may say that he 'hears'or 'sees' it but does not lnotioe' it. In a
stream of sense impressions only a few beoome consc"ious' impressions and
these are selected on aooount of their greater A man's
interests are the seleotive agents and these are to a great eJttent
socially determined for it is generaUy the value attaohed to an obJeot
by all members of a social group tha\ c;lireots the attention of an
individual towards it. ' .
It is. therefore.' a mistake to say that. savages peroeive mystioally
or that 'their perception is mystical. On the other hand we may say that
savages pay attention to phenomena on aQc.ount of the mystioal properties
with whioh their sooiety has endowed thelll. and that often their interest·
in phenomena is mainly. even exclusively. que, to these mystic properties.
It is a mistake to say that savages percei'll8;.- a plant mystioe.lly or that
thei%' perception of it is mystioal, butJlle Ii" y that
- 51 ­
peroeption of, in the sense of noticing, or paying attention to, or being
interested in, a plant is due to its mystical properties.
In emphasizing that attention is largely determined by collective
representations and that it is they which control selective interests,
has stressed a sociological fact of the greatest importance.
It is evident that the Bakwiri, mentioned by Miss Kingsley, pay attention
to their shadows because in their society shadows have a mystical
significance. Educated Europeans, on the other hand, do not notice
their shadows unless influenced to do so by desire to disoover the points
of the compass "Ir by some aesthetic interest. It is not so much that
perception of a shadow causes the belief to enter into consciousness but
it is rather the belief which oaUSes the savage to pay attention to his
shadow. It is the belief which translates purely psychological
sensations into conscious images. ,A.shadow is seen by us in the sense
that we"'z,eoeive "a visual sensation of it but 'we may not oonsoiously
perceive it since we are not'interested in shado\'ls. In the same way,
when a savage sees a beast or a bird or a tree he pays attention to
them beoause they are totems 'or spirits or possess magioal potency.
We may also pay attention to them but, if we do so, it is for a
different reason. Our interests in phenomena are not the same as
savage interests in them because our collective representations differ
widely from theirs.
A restatement of rS"vy-Bruhl
l
s main oontentions about the mystical
thought of savages is contained in the two following propositions both
of appear to me to be acceptable:
(1) Attention to phenomena depends upon affective choice and this
selective interest is oontrolled to a very large extent by the values
given to phenomena by sooiety lind these values are expressed in patterns
and behaviour (collective representations) •
."-.
-.....
(2)' Since patterns of thought and behaviour differ widely between
savages and edUCated Europeans their selective interests also differ
Widely and, therefore, the degree ot: attention they pay to phenomena. and
the reasons for their attention are also different.
(e) When ..Bruh1 speaks of mystiaal participations he means that'
things are often connected in savage thought so that what affects one is
believed also to affect the others, not obJeotively but by a mystical
,.I
action. (The savage, however, does not distinguish between obJeotive
aotion and mystical action). Savages, indeed, are often more concerned
about these mystical relations 'between things than about their obJective
,relations. This mystical dependence of one thing on another, ',usually
a reoiprocaldependence between man and something in nature, is best
Several good illustrations of mystical partici­
pation have already been quoted in this paper. Thus the Bakwiri might
be said to participate in their shadows so that what affects their
shadows likewise affects them. Hence were a man to lost his shadow it
would be a calamity. We have seen also that savages often participate
in their names so that if you can discover a mants name you will have
not only it but its owner also in your power. Among many savage
peoples it is necessary for the parents of an unborn child to observe a
whole series of taboos because it is thought that what happens to the
tather and mother during this period will affect also their child. This
participation between child and parents may continue after birth as
among the Boro;;os of Brazil where if the ohild is ill the father drinks
the medicine.:.7 In our analysis of Frazer's theory of magic we were
. examining a typical form of mystical participation under the title of
Sympathetic Magic in which things are held to influence one another in
a ritual situation in virtue of their or contiguity.
These participations form a network in which the savage lives.
The sum total of his participations .are his social personality. There
is a mystical partioipation between a man and the land on which he dwells,
between a tribe and its chief, between a man and his totem, between a
- 52 ­
man and his kin, and so on,
L{vy-Bruhl's exposition of mystical participation is abundantly
defined by the examples which he cites in his books and does not stand
in need of explanatory comment. What I have said in the preceding
seotion of this essay in criticism of his conception of 'mystical'
applies equally to his conception of 'participation'.
This paper attempts to be explanatory rather than critical and any
adequate criticism of conception of primitive thought wou+d
involve a detailed analysis based_ on my own and other ethnological
researches too lengthy for the present communication. In this essay I
will do little more than enumerate headings under which criticism can be
arranged.
It is not in fact true that the whole of nature and social life is
permeated with mystical beliefs. In the greater part of his social
contacts and in his exploitation of nature the savage acts and speaks in
an empirical manner without attributing to persons and things supernatural
powers. An impression is erroneously gained that everything in which
savages are interested has always a mystical value for them by presenting
a composite and hypothetical primitive culture, as L§vy-Bruhl has done,
consisting of a selection of customs from many different oultures.
Since it is possible to find among some tribe a belief which attributes
mystical significance to almost every phenomenon one may, by selecting
examples from a great number of tribes show that in primitive mentality
every phenomenon is regarded as a repository of mystical power.
It may be said that in societies where we find such amorphous and
ubiquitous notions as those of the witchcraft---sorcery type or those
of the mana-wakanda type almost any object may on occasions be assooiated
with mystical thought. It is, therefore, necessary to investigate
the situations in social life which evoke patterns of mystical thOUght
towards objects whioh at other times evoke no such ideas.
It is probable that when a savage pays attention to objects which
have for him an exclusively mystical value, a pattern of mystical thought
is easily evoked since his sole interest in these objects is in their
mystical powers. There are many· plants in the bush which have no
utilitarian value but which, insofar as they are used by man, are used for
ritual purposes alone. Such also are the objects which are fashioned
to be used as ritual implements and have no other functions, the bull­
roarer, the decorated Jaw-bone of a dead king,' oracular rubbing-boards,
and so forth.
But even when objects are essentially ritual obJeots I have observed
that savage attention is directed towards them on occasions by interests
qUite other than interest in their sacredness. I suppose that all field­
workers have been struck by the casual manner in which savages frequently
speak of and even handle sacred objects. I have often noticed Azande
lean their spears up against, or hang baskets on" the shrines they build
for the spirits of their ancestors in the centre'of their homesteads,
and as far as it is possible to Judge from their behaviour" they have no
other interest in the shrine than-as a convenient post or peg. At
religious oeremonies their attitude is very different. Among the
Ingassana of the Tabi hills God is the sun and on occasions they pray to
it but" as far as I could Judge, in ordinary situations they looked upon
the sun very muoh as I did, as a convenient means of telling the time,
as the cause of intense heat at midday, and Soon. If one were not
present at some religious ceremony on a special occasion, one would remain
ignorant that the sun is God. Mystical thought is a function of
partiCUlar situations.
I think that Levy-Bruhl made a serious error in failing to under­
stand this point. His error is understandable because he was not really
comparing what savages think with what Europeans think but the systemat­
ized ideology of savage cultures with the content of individual minds in
Europe. His authorities had collected all the information they could
..
- 53 ­
get about the mystical beliefs held by a community of savages about some
phenomenon and pieced them together into a co-ordinated ideological /'
structure. These beliefs. like the myths which Europeans also reoord,.-/'
may have been collected over a long period of time and from dozens pi
informants. The resulting pattern of belief may be a fiction sipae it
may never be actually present in a manI s conSciousness at any t;iJtie and
may not even be known to him in its entirety. This fact would have
emerged if records of everything a savage does and says throughout a
single day were recorded for then we would be able to compare our own
thoughts more adequately with the real thoughts of savages instead of
with an abstraotion pieced together from persistent enquiries conducted
in an atmosphere quite unlike that of the savage's ordinary milieu and
in which it is the European who evokes the beliefs by his questions
rather than the objects with which they are assooiated. It would also
have emerged had Levy-Bruhl attempted to contrast the formalised beliefs
of Europe with those of savages. had he. for instance. attempted to .
contrast the formal doctrine of Christianity with the formal doctrines
of savage religions. What he has done. in fact. is to take the
formalised doctrines of savage religions as though they were identical
with the actual mental experience of individuals. It is easy to see·
that it would never do to regard as identical the thoughts of a Christian
with Christian thought. Moreover. primitive thought as pieoed together
in this manner by European observers is full of contradictions which
do not arise in real because the bits of belief are evoked in
different situations.
./ .
Moreover. these same observers upon whom Levy-Bruhl relied often
neglected to inform their readers whether objects associated with
mystical do not also in other contexts in which they
have no mystical values. So Ievy-Bruhl considered. and. as I· believe.
incorrectly considered. that the sensations produced by an object and
the mystical doctrines associated with it were interdependent to suoh
an extent that the object would not be perceived by savages if it were
not evoked by mystical interests and that the elementary sensations
produced in consciol,lSness by its objective properties are ineVitably
and always blended with collective representations of a mystical kind.
We have already notioed that this error is likewise to be found in
Frazer's writings on magic where he suggests that the mystical relation­
ship between objects which are similar or have once been in contact with
one another is invariable. He does not see that they are assooiated
only in particular situations. r.tv observations on this point may.
therefore. be compared With those I made on the gold-Jaundioe association
of Greek peasants in the last number of our bulletin. But in
Bruhl's writings the error goes muoh deeper and obscures his lengthy
discussion of mystical participations. He will not admit that when
the elementary sensations produced by the sight of an object reach
consciousness any other images can be evoked to oombine with them in
perception those of its mystical qualities even if these qualities
are irrelevant to a particular :ntuation. It would appear from his
_,thesis that if the object is to be perceived at all these images cannot
be exclUded.
That different ideas are evoked by objects in different situations
can be shown in other ways. It can be shown that· many of the most
sacred objects of primitive cult only become sacred when man deliberately
endows them with mystic powers which they did not possess before. Thus
the fetish and idol are repositaries of mystical foroe because man after
having made them infuses this f'orce into them by ritual.. As we have
already seen magic is always man-made. It is the rite itself which
gives virtue to and often only for the duration of the
rite. .
Or again it can be shown that mystical notions about nature are
part of culture and. therefore. have to be acquired by every individual.
They are learnt slOWly throughout the years. Hence there are periods
in the life history of every individual ...then mystic notions oannot be
evoked in perceptions to complete elementary sensations because the
mystic notions are unknown to the person who experiences the sensations.
Also many objects have a mystical value for some members of a society
but not for others. A plant has mystical value for the person who
.. 54 ..
knows its ritual uses but riot for those \'lho ignorant of them. An animal
has a totemio relationship with members of a single clan while members
of other olans· eat it with relish.
From man;y points of view. therefore, it would be easy to demonstrate
that the interests whioh savages have in obJects are not always of a
mystical type; that often they are entirely utilitarian and empirical;
and that the same objects may at different times or in different
situations evoke different ideas. Savage thought has not the fixed
inevitable construotion that gives it.
/
The very contradictions which according to Levy-Bruhl characterise
prelogical and distinguish it from our thought. are to be
aocounted for by the fact that a single elementary sensation may evoke
in different situations different images in An object may
be perceived in different ways aocording to different affective interests.
interests which in their turn are evoked by different situations.
Hence it comes about that a savage can be both himself and a bird, that
a shadow can be both a shadow and a soul, that a plant can be both a
plant· and a magioal substance, and so on. As suggested above. the
contradiction only becomes glaring when European observers try to piece
together ideas evoked in different into a consistent ideological
structure. .
When a particular situation evokes one set of ideas other ideas are
inhibited. especially if they contradict those evoked, at any rate as far
as speeoh action are concerned. But it is a mistake to suppose
that because· a savage attributes some happening to a mystical cause that
he does not also observe the natural cause even if no particular attention
is paid to it in formalised belief and traditional behaviour. Thus I
have ample evidence from my own researoh in Central Africa that while
death is attributed to witchcraft people are not obliVious to the natural
cause of death whether it be the spear of an enemy. the claws or horns
of a beast, or disease. They fully recognise these causes but they are
socially irrelevant. Their irrelevancy arises from thesooial action
which follows death, namely vengeance. It is evident that of the natural
and mystical causes of death the mystical cause is usually the only one
which allows any intervention (exoept when a man is murdered by a fellow­
tribesman) and when it is a social rule that death must be avenged it is
clearly the only cause towards which social action oan be directed.
The other cause whilst perfectly well known to the people is socially
irrelevant and, therefore, excluded as far as the' persons directly
. involved (the kin) are con(lerned though it' may be more readily admitted
by others. The same' mixture of sound knowledge with mystical notions
is found in primitive ideas of causation in procreation, in disease. etc.
As I· intend to deal with this subJ!,!ct. in. a forthcoming publication, I
will not discuss it further here.34 I may add, however, that the .
selective interest which directs attention to one oause rather than to
another, to the mystioal cause than to the natural one. may be derived
from an individual and psyohological situation, e.g. sometimes a savage
attributes his misfortune to witchcraft while his neighbours attribute
it to incompetence or to some other cause.
Patterns of thought of a mystioal kind are never exclusively
mystical. They are never fantastic for they are bound by limits imposed
by psychological and biological requirements. At the core of mystical
thought we find recognition of natural causation and other scientific
observations which lie, as it were, dormant,. known yet socially inhibited
because they are irrelevant to the particular situation which evokes the
pattern of thought or because they contradict it. If this were not the
case it would be diffioult to understand how scientific thought could
ever have emerged. Since it is the case, it is easy to understand how
social change involving reorientation of interests has directed attention
to elements in a chain of causation or to the objective properties of
things which had hitherto been known but socially unemphasised.
We may now shortly the theories of. and: of Tylor
and Frazer in relation to eaoh other. If the theories of Frazer and
- 55 -
Tylor about magic have concentrated too exclusively on some, qualities of
magioalritual but have neglected other qualities of equal, if not
greater importance, this dis,tortion should be evident when we compare
them \'lith the writings of I..evy-Bruhl whose focus of interest was qUite
different.
I
Tylor, Frazer and Levy-Bruhl, are in agreement that magical practices
are typical of primitive societies and tend to disappear and to be
regarded as superstitions in societies of higher cultural development.
This is most strikingly seen if \'le compare, as te'vy-Bruhl has done,
the thought of savage cultures with 'ideas current among educated Europeans
of the 20th century.'
is totally uninterested in distinctions drawn by scholars
between magic and religion and therefore his theories do not bear upon'
the lengthy arguments devoted by Frazer and so many other writers to
devising ritual categories.
35
L§vY-Bruhl seeks to understand the
characteristics of mystical thought and to define these qualities and
to compare them with the qualities of scientific thought. Since magic
and religion, as separated by Frazer, have, from the point of view of '
Levy-Bruhl's investigation, the same mystical character, there is no need
to maintain this particular distinction, nor, indeed, any distinction"
between them. The sharp division which Frazer has insisted on ,in The
Golden Bough must appear quite arbitrary, and even futile, to !ilvy-Bruhl.
But it is in their analyses of the ideology of magic that the English
and French Schools are at greatest variance. To Tylor and Frazer the
savage believes in magic because he reasons incorrectly from his perception
of similarities and contiguities. Tb Levy-Bruhl the savage'reasons
incorrectly because he believes in Now there can be no doubt that
if we study the manner in which any individual acquires a magical belief
in a savage society we shall have to admit the accuracy of Levy-Bruhl's
contention. An individual does not note similarities between objects
and. then come to the conclusion that in consequence of these similarities
the objects are mystically connected. He simply learns the pattern of
thought in which this mystical connection is socially established.
Nevertheless. Levy-Bruhl has not paid sufficient regard to the fact that
oollective representations have an intellectual structure and indeed must
have for mnemonic rsasons. Unless there is a mutual dependence between
ideas we speak of thought at all. Thought requires, in order to
be thought, notions of similarity and contiguity. For when we speak of
thought we mean ooherent thought and without these notions magic would be
chaotic and could not possibly persist. Tylor and Frazer have shown us
the intellectual character of magic. r,e'vy-Bruhl has shown us its sooial
character.' ,
woking at magic from this point of view of its ideational or
intellectual structure, Tylor and Frazer felt that tqey were called upon
to account for savages not observing that magical rites do not achieve
the end they aim at achieving. Since savages reason, observe similari­
ties and contiguities,-anq. make even V incorreot ones, from
their observations how is it that they do not apply these intellectual
powers to discovering whether magic really produces 'the resuits it is
supposed to produce. This was the problem that confronted Tylor and
(
Frazer and in their attempts to solve it they did not sufficiently
appreciate the difference between ratiocination and. scientific reasoning,
between intellectual operations and logic. Men may reason brilliantly
in defence of the most absurd theses; their arguments may. display
great intellectual ability and yet be illogical. To prove this we need
not go further than the writings of our metaphysicians. The intellect­
ual operations of the mind are subordinated to affective interests and.
are above all subservient to collective representations. We know what
happens to people whose intellectual operations lead them to conclusions
which contradiot social doctrines. Levy-Bruhl therefore saw no need
to ask why savages do not ob3erve haw baseless are'their beliefs and
why they do not pay attention to the oontradiotions they embody, for in
his opinion savages are inextricably enmeshed in a network of mystical
- 56 ­
part.ic1patlons· and CQ!IlP1e-tely dominated 'by ooJ.l.. representations.
There is no room for doubt or scepticism. There is not even need to avoid
oontradiotions.
But a representation is not acceptable to the mind merely
it is oolleotive. It must also accord with individual
and if it does not do so then the representation must contain an explana­
tion of its failure to do so. Uo doubt in purely transoendental thought
contradiotipns do not matter, as theology amply illustrates. but thought
which directs experience must not contradict it. A pattern of thought
which decrees that a man may put his hand in the fire with immunity has
little chance of persisting. lIBgical thought whioh claims that a man who
eats certain medicines will never die or that agriculture and hunting can
be carried on by magical procedure alone will not prove acoeptable to
individual minds in·any society. Even mystioal thought is conditioned
by experienoe and this is the reason for many secondary elaborations of
doctrine whioh acoount for discrepancies, failures. contradiotions. an4
so on, for mystioal thought must. like scientific thought, be intelleotu­
ally consistent, even if it is not logically consistent. The scientific
and mystical notions that are so often found side by side in a pattern
of thought must be harmonised either by situational selection or by some
explanatory link. Tylor1s brilliant analysis of the factors which keep
mystical thought in touch with reality or which explain its failure to
do so is therefore needed to oomplete desoription of
representations.
To sum up: My exposition of theories has been a task
of great diffioulty. His vlritings are extensive and his thought often
tortuous. So vague are many of the terms· he uses and so inconstant is
the meaning he attaohes to them that I have sometimes had to select.
between several possible interpretations. It may even be charged
against me that I have given a sense to his words which others might fail
to derive from them. I would answer that a book gains its value not only
from the ideas which an author puts into it but also from the ideas to
which it gives rise in the mind of the reader. In order to grasp Levy­
Bruhl t s views I have had to reformulate them in my own language.
. /
Contrary to the Judgment of most English anthropologists I find 1.J:,vy­
Bruhl t s writings a great stimulus to formulation of new problems and I
consider the influence he has had not only on anthropological theory but
also in direoting the attention of fieldworkers to a new set of problems
to have been most· fruitful. For when in disagreement with his opinions
we must acknowledse that they are not the usual faoile explanatipns of
anthropologists which obstruct all thought by their futility and
finality and turn out to be no mar-ethan a restatement in other terms of
the problem to be solved. u!vy-Bruhl does not, in faot. attempt to
explain mystical thought. . He is content to show its characters of
generality and oompulsion or, in other· words, to demonstrate that indivi­
duals aot and speak in ways that are socially determiped. In stressing
the social character of patterns of thought he.has performed a great
serv;lce to social anthropology and in to understand magic we
have to by recognising the social charaoter of its thought. This
is obvious as soon as·1t is stated. but it has first to be stated .and then
it, becomes obvious.
Besides emphasizing the sooial charaoter· of thought Levy-Bruhl has
tried to olassif.1 types of thought and to show that their interrelations
with one another and with behaviour can be studied. It is true that his
two oategories of soientific and mystical are defined in the rough and
without. precise analysis ·and that he takes no account of thought which
lies outside both categories. The innnense scope of his work and the
voluminousaata which he handled made this inevitable and it is left for
other students to enquire with more detailed analysis into the gradations
and blend.1ngs of thought-types and their variations as. functions of
different situations, if indeed. it is found desirable upon oloser
scrutiny to maintain his olassification.
Perhaps most important contribution to sociology is to
- 57 ­
have shown that ignorance, like knowledge, is often socially determined
and that primitive thOUght is unScientific because it is mystical and not
mystical because of an inherent incapacity to reason logically. He
demonstrates that the images which are evoked to combine with elementary
sensations to complete perception are evoked by selective interests which
in their turn are directed by collective representations towards the
qualities of things rather than to their objective qualities.
Moreover, contrary to the usual opinion, L6'vy-Btuhl t s .writings show
clearly how primitive mystical thought is organized into a coherent system
with a logic of its own. . He recognises the eXistential value of mystical
thought. No primitive society is able to maintain its 'equilibrium with­
out the mystical beliefs which link together its activities by ideological
bonds. Thus. for example. the belief that witchcraft is the cause of
death has existential value in a society in whioh the kinship group is
also a blood-revenge group.
Beyond. this he does not" and. indeed cannot go, for the method of
comparative analysis that he employed imposes effective limits to deeper
research. By comparing savage thought with civilised thought
Bruhl was able to disclose certain general correlations between the degree
of technological development and the development of soientific thought.
But at this point he was unable to make any further progress as is shotim
clearly in his later writings which oarry his researches'into the nature
of thought no further. than his earliest \'l!'itings.
A programme of research which will lead us to a more oomprehensive
and exact knowledge of mystical thought. indeed of all types of thought.
must await a later communication.
Professor E.E. Evans-l'ritabard.
References
1. liThe Intellectualist (English) Interpretation of Magio".
of the Faoulty of Arts. vol. 1" Part 2. 1933.
2. LBvy-Bruhl's theory of-primitive mentality is complete in his first
volume on the subject. Les Fonctions Mentales dans les Societes
1st ed. 1910. An authorised translation of this book
intO 'English by A. Clare was published under the title of
How gt.tives Think (LoI".Q.on, 1926). All references in this paper'
are 9th (Paris. ' 1928)· under the letters F.M. The
page number of the English translation is given in braokets. e.g.
F.M." 86-87 (E.T•• 84-85). His later publications repeat the
argument of Fonotions Mentales and adduce v91uminous evidences
in support of them. The first'is Mentalite 1st ed•• 1922.
1922. An authorised translation of this book has also'appeared
in Enslish under the title of Primitive (London. 1923h
Lilian A. Clare again being the translator. All references are
'.
to the 2nd ed. (Paris. 1922) and under the letters M.P. No
reference is made to the pages of the English translation since
this is inaocessible at the time of writing. Levy-Bruhl' s two
later works are L' Arne Primitive (Paris. 1927) and Is Surnaturel
et la Nature dans la Mental1te Primitive (Paris 1931). . They have
'been very 11ttle used in this essay whire they are referred to as
A.P. and Le Surnaturel. A conois-a summary of Ievy-Bruhl's view
on primitiva thOUght is contained in his Herbert Spencer Lecture
delivered in Oltford and published under the title of IJ!...Mentalite
Primitive 1931). n1is is referred to as H.S.L.
3. F.M•• p. 13 (E.T•• 23) •.
- 58 ­
4. p. 19 (E.T., pp. 27-28) •.
5.
6. M.P., pp. 17-18.
7. Mary Kingsley ''lest African Studies, p.176, quoted in F.M.,
p. 50 (ES., p. 54) •.
8. GUise, Wangela River, New Guinea, J.A.I., p. quoted
in F.M., p. 73 (E.T., p. 73).
Types of thought must not be confused with types of mind classified
by some writers as "synthetio" and "ana1ytio", "intUitive" and
. "logical", "extravert
1t
and "intravert",. "romantic" and "classic",
and so on.
10. p. 26.
li. The most ambitious critical work on the so-called theory of
pre10gisme is Olivier LeroyI s Ia Raison primitive, Essa! de'
de la theorie de Pre1ogisme, Paris, 1927. Besides
other writings mentioned in this paper I may mention the critical
but laudatory summary of s theories in Dr. Go1denweiser's,
Early civilization, 1921, and the not unfriendly criticism
oontained in G. Van Leeuw's, Ia Structure de 1a Mentalite
de Ia Revue d'h1stoire et de
re1igieuse, 1928. The best account of Levy-Bruhl's theories is
by Davy in the 4th part, pp. 193-305, of his Sociologues d'hier et
Paris, 1931. See also: Durkheim, Annee sociologique,
t.XII, p. d.nd Les formes elementaires de la vie religieuse,
IS'· pp. 336-342; Mauss, de
...J923; Raoul.Allier, Les non-oivillSes et nallS, 1928.
D. Essertier et Savants' du I.a.
Sooiologle, Paris, 1930.
12. !'fissions E!v:4!eliques,XXIII, 1848, p. 82 (Schrump). Quoted in
M.P., pp. 3 •
13. F.M., p. 21 (E.T., 29-30).
14. Elsdon Best, Maori Medical Lore, Journal of the'Polynesian
Society, XIII, p. 219 (1904)•. Quoted in F.M., p. 69 (E.T., p. 70).
15. Miss Kingsley, '\fest African StUdies, p. 330. Quoted in F.M..
p. 65 (E.T., p. f)7). . '.'
16. Pagan Tribes of the Milotic Sudan, by C.G. and B.Z. Seligman, 1932,
p•. 25. - .'
Soroerers of Dobu, by R.F. pp. 97:.J)8.
H.S.L. pp. 1a-li•.
M.P., p. 12.
20. ':['he Savage as he Really is, by-J.H. Driberg, london, 1929, p. 4.
21. The Savage as'he is, by J.H. pp. 12-13.
22. p. 18.
Prof. Malinowski writes "Professor' Levy-Briml tells us, to put it in
a primitive man has no sober moods at that he
is hopelessly and completely immersed in a mystical frame of mind.
InCapable at dispassionate and consistent devoid of
the power of hainpered by 'a decided aversion towards
,
I
I
I
,
I
- 59 ­
reasoning', he is unable to drat'/' any benefit from experience, to
construct or coinprehend even the most elementary laws of nature",
etc. (Magic SCience and Religion, published in Scienoe,·Religion
and Reality, 1925, p. 28). other authorities could be quoted to
the-same--etfect. .
24. Or, perhaps, one ought to say that this is what he may mean for
philosophers give to the word many different meanings (see
Lalande, Vocabulaire technique at critique de la Philosophie,
art. "IDgique). It is a great therefore, that levy-Bruhl
introduces the term Without stating precisely the meaning he
attaches to it. In this paper I distinguish between scientific
logic which is the technique of the sciences and which tests not
only inferences and the interdependence between ideas but also the
validity'of premises, and logic which" in n6 way concerns itself
with the validity of premises but only with the coherent structure
of thought.
25. H.S.L., p. 21.
26. It is essential to understand that thought which is totally
unscientific and even which contradicts experience may yet be
entirely coherent in that there is a reoiprocal dependence between
its ideas. Thus I may instance the writings of mediaeval divines
and political controversialists as examples of mystical thought
which far from being chaotic suffers from a too rigid application of
syllogistic rules. Also the thought of many insane persons
(monomaniacs, paranoiacs) presents a perfectly organised system
of interdependent ideas. Perhaps the only thouc;ht that we can
class as incoherent is that of certain types of insanity (mania
and Dementia Praecox) and that of dreams but even in these cases
it is probably more correct to say that the principle of coherence
is unknown to us. Has not Freud shown how very logical and
coherent our dreams can be?
27. As a matter of fact Levy-Bruhl is hardly consistent in his usage of
words like 'esprit' and 'mentalite' for he sometimes suggests the
psyohological process of thinking and at other times the social
content of thought. It is largely his own fault that his opinions
are misrepresented.
28. "L'homme superstitieux, souvent aussi l'homme religieux de notre
societe, croit adeux ordres de realites, les unes visibles
et tangibles, soumises aux lois necessaires du mouvement, les
autres invisibles, impalpables, lspirituelles
l
, formant comme une
sphere mystique qui enveloppe les premieres. Mais, pour la
mentalite des societes inferieures, il n'y a pas ainsi deux mondes
au contact l'un de l'autre, distincts et solidaires, se penetrant
plus ou moins llun 11 autre. Il nly en a qu 'un. Toute realite
est mystique comme toute action, et par consequent aussi toute
perception". F.M.. p. 67 (E.T., p. 68).
29. F.M., p. 30 (E.T., p. 38).
30. F.M., pp. 30-31 (E.T., p. 38).
31. F.M., pp. 37-38 (E.T., p. 43).
32. William James, principles of psychology, 1901. Eugenio
Rignano, The psychology of reasoning, English translation, 1923.
33. K. von Den Steinen, U eden Naturvolkern Zentralbrasiliens,
pp. 289-294. Quoted in F.M., p. 300 (E.T., p. 259 •
34. I may, however, refer to papers in which I have given special
attention to these problems: "Witchcraft (mangu) among the Azande",
Sudan Notes and Records, 1929; "Heredity and Gestation as the
Azande see them", 1932; "Zande Therapeutics" in Essays
Eesented to C. G. Seligman to appear this year.
- 6() ­
35. See what he has to say on this point; F.r··,." pp. 341-345 (E.T.,
pp. 293-296).
36. LeVy-Bruhl" it is only fair to say" realises that mystical thought
is bound to coinoide" at any rate to some extent, with experience
for pragmatic reasons. Thus he writes "Toutefois" meme pour cette
mentalite (primitive mentality), les representations relatives aux
morts" et les prat1ques qui sly rattachent" se distinguent par un
caractere prelogique plus marque. S1 mystiques que soient les
autres representat10ns collectives" relatives'aux donnees des sens"
s1 mystiques que so1ent aussi les pratiques qui s'yrapportent
(ohasse" pecha" guerI'e" maladie" divination,' etc.)" encore faut-il"
pour que 18. fin desiree soit atteinte" pour que l'ennemi soit vainou,
Ie gibier pris ••••• , que les'representations ooincident en quelques
points essentiels avec la realite obJeotive" et que les pratiques
soient, a un certain motVent" effectivement adaptees aux fins
poursuivies. Par Ia se trouve garant1 un minimum d'ordre,
d'objectivite, et de coherence dans ces representations". F.M., pp.
354-355 (E.T." p. 303).
_ 61 _
UNDERSTANDING IN PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
.,
This paper is concerned with how we can understand other philosophies.
My method is first to offer an analysis of an aspeot of African thought.
Then I shall use that analysis as a vehicle for discussing some
theoretical and methodological problems in the study of other thought
systems. especially problems raised by Peter Winch.
I
A puzzling feature of African thought is that general propositions
seem seldom to be evaluated in the light of contrary empirical eVidence.
If events do not proceed according to expectations stemming from general
beliefs. Afrioans do not on this basis question the validity of those
beUefs. Instead. they produce Itsecondary elaborations" (Horton 1967:
167~ ) : rationalizations accounting for the divergence between events
and expectations in particular circumstances while leaving the general
belief or ass4mption which produced the expectation intact.
Horton (1967)· treats this phenomenon as a general characteristic
of African traditional thought. To list a few examples. Dinka do not
ponder the efficacy of sacrifice in general becaus,e particular sacrifices
are not followed by the deSired events. One explanation for failure is
that DiVinity refused to respond to that particular sacrifice. Another
is that the specific Power responsible for the difficulty which the
sacrifice aimed to remove was wrongly identified. rendering the sacrifice
ineffective because misdirected (Lienhardt 1961: 291). This character­
istic of African thought is copiously dooumented for the'Azande. That
a man admits he maybe a Witch although he does not act with malicious
irttent nor in concert with other witches does not shake his belief that
witches do act in these ways. It only leads him to conclude that he is
nqt an ordinary witoh (Evans-Pritchard 1937: 119-20). If a witch­
dootor fails in his cure the explanation maybe that this particular
witchdoctor is a fraud. but never that witchdoctors in general have no
power (Evans-Pritohard 1937: 19'). Failure of oracles may be attribu­
ted to causes, like corruption of the poison by Witchcraft or mere hunger
of the termites rather than attendance to the questions put to them;
the poesibility that oracles in general are futile is never raised (Evans..
Prito'hard 1937: 337-41).
~ question. then. is: Why do Africans refrain from questioning
their g ~ l beliefs in the light '01' contrary evidence? Speaking
speaificaJiy of the Az8.ncle. Evans;'Pritchard argues that they do not do
so bt3cause their thought is a closed system which accounts for its own
failures. '
Azande see as well as we that the failure of their oracle
to prophesy truly calls for explanation, but so entangled
are they in mystical notions that they must make use of'
them to account for the failure. The contradiction
between experience and one mystical notion is explained
by reference' to another mystical notion (Evans-Pritchard
1937: 339). '
Again,
The failure of any rite is accounted for in advance by a
variety of mystical notions - e.g. Witchcraft. soroery.
and taboo., Hence the perception of' error in one mysti­
oal notion in a particular situation merely proves the
correctness of another and equally mystical notion '(Evans­
Pritchard. 1937: 476).
- 6z ­
In his book on the Azande Evans-Pritchard takes the position that
Zande notions apout Witchcraft, magic and oracles are Itmystical
lr
, that
they are not in accord with objective reality as this is apprehended
by the observations and logic of scientific thought (1937: 12, 476-78,
494). Winch criticizes this approach. maintaining that concepts of
reality are themselves given in language and culture, and therefore that
no culture-free concept of objective reality can exist. We thus have
the options of viewing another system of thought in terms of our concepts
of reality or in terms of its own concepts of reality. Winch insists on
the latter course, and for that reason finds Evans-Pritchard's later
analysis of Nuer religion (1956) preferable to his treatment of Zande
thought (Winch 1964: 3W-15).
Much of the next section will be devoted to a critique of Winch's
ideas. Here, however, I wish to point out what strikes me as an
advantage in the approach he advocates. If we do evaluate another
philosophy, it is likely that we will find a great deal of error in the
alien philosophy. We may then be led to wonder how that philosophy can
persist when much of it is wrong, and our analysis may bean attempt to
answer this question.
l
Consider Robin Horton's answer to the question
raised in this paper. He argues that traditional African thought
systems admit no alternatives to their basic theories and postulates.
The African either believes that the world is ordered as his received
philosophy fiays it is, or he must believe that the world is not ordered
at all. Therefore, the African does not question his basic assumptions
in the light of contrary evidence because of his anxiety that, were those
assumptions found false, he would be driven to. the psychologically
unsettling conclusion that the' world is chaotic (Horton 1967t 167-69).
One may read Horton's analysis as taking it for granted that to
assess general beliefs gccording to empirical experience is a natural or
proper epistemological procedure for all men, and that Africans would
employ it if only their lack of alternative theories did not prevent them
from doing so with psychological security. Adopting Winch's prescript­
ion of viewing a philosophy in its own terms, one's attention would be
directed to precisely those things which Horton appears to take for
granted. Instead of wondering how the failure to assess general
beliefs in the light of contrary evidence can persist in African thought,
one would ask what it is about African ontology and epistemology which
renders it unnecessary or irrational within that system of thought to
evaluate beliefs in this way. The analysis I offer attempts to answer
this question.
I think we will be in the best position to understand why Africans
do not evaluate their general beliefs in the light of empirical evidence
if we first consider Why we of the West often do evaluate our beliefs
in this way. My point can be made most cleariY' on the basis of that
part of Western thought in which this mode of evaluation is most
rigorously developed, so this brief disoussion of the West will be.
limited to natural science. In science, the procedure of evaluating
beliefs (or assumptions or theories) according to empirical evidence is
the experimental method. This method rests, I think, on two basic
postulates of Western metaphysics - postUlates seen perhaps most clearly
in CompteanPositive philosophy. The first is that empirical events are
subject to unseen principles or laws; the second is that these principles
or laws operate with mechanical regularity. In our epistemology, the
first postUlate leads us to think that empirical events are relevant to
our knowledge of the unseen principles or laws.
The second postulate assures us that empirical events are a reliable
means of evaluating our assumptions or theories about those principles
or laws. The postulate that the laws of nature operate with mechanical
regularity is essential to the. experimental method.. It assures us that
variables can be controlled in an experiment: that some iaws will not
operate, or at least will not operate in an unpredictable fashion, in
the experiment. And this assurance in turn is necessary if we are to
think that the result of an experiment is due to the particular law
- 63 ­
whose operation that experiment was desisnedto reveal. Unless these,
oriteria are met, it is irrational to think that the experimental-method
could· be utilized tQ evaluate our theories about any law of nature.
With oertain modifioations, our first Western postulate - that
empirioal events are subject to unseen prinoiples'or laws - would appear
to be valid also for Afrioah metaphysics. The word "law" is espeoially
inappropriate for Afrioan thought. Let us adopt Father Tempels' wording
and rephrase the postulate'to read "empirical events are sUbJeot to
unseen foroes or powers". Among these foroes or powers are what have
been termed, Spirit and refractions of Spirit' for the Nuer, (Evans-Pritchard
1956), Divinity and divinities for the Dinka (Uenhardt 1961), ghosts, and
witohoraft for the Anuak (Lienhardt 1962),. witohoraft, oracles, and magic
for the Azande (Evans-Pritcbard 1937), the Supreme Being, and ancestors,
men, and literally all being for the Baluba (Tempels 1945). ,certainly
there are many differenoes between these concepts, but they are not
important for the very general point I wish to make: that all of these
things, in the African view, are forces whioh may influence events in
the world.
But oomparing African _thou/Ylt with our second Western postulate we
find a sharp differenoe. Africans do not think that these forces act
with mechanioal regularity, Many ,of them are thought to have volition,
. as is seen in the Dinka idea that Divinity mayor may no,t respond to a
partioular sacrifice (Lienhardt 1961: 291). In Baluba philosophy the
forces are intimately interconnected so that the operation of one force
depends on a great many others. On a particular occasion a given force
may remain inactive or may act in 801 ofa number. of ways and with any
of a: number of results, depending on the disposition of a multitude of
variables (other forces) on that occasion (Tempels '1945: 40-1, 57, 87-89).
Zande oracles (Evans-Pritchard 1937) revealolearly the idea' of the
irregular aotion of foroes, and show how Africans use this concept in a
positive way., The Azancle administer poison to a fowl, asking the poison
to kill the fowl if a certain statement (e.g. a prediotion e,>f the future
or the oause of an illness or death) is true. Then they ask the oracle
to confirm its answer by sparing a second fowl if the first one died, or
_by killing the second. if the first survived. Essentially this is an
experiment, run tWice, with the aim of confirming a "hypothesis" - that
hypothesis being the prediotion or other statement put to the oracle.
The interesting thing is that the Azande accept the hypothesis, as proven
or disproven' only if the experiment has different results eaoh time it
is run - if one fowl dies and, the other survives. This procedure is '
completely unintelligible in Western scientific thought, Where an
experiment is valid for oonfirming or disproving a hypothesis only if
the result is the ~ each time the experiment is run.
, 'l'lie Azande think that the poison laoks pOtency in itself, that the
potenc,y emerges only when a question is put j;o the oracle (Evans-Pritchard
1937: '315). It' thus appears that the Azande oonoeive of the poison
oracle much as the Baluba conceive of medicinal plants. Their curing
power does not operate automatically; it mayor may not act depending on
the state of a number of forces external to the plants themselves
, ~ , (Tempels 1945: 62-}). For the zande poison oracle, the main external
foroe which stimulates the poison to kill or to spare is the truth or
falsity of the "hypothesisII put to it. Here is a case where Afrioans
utilize their conception of the irregularity of the forces of nature to
regulate their lives. They oonstruct an experimental situation where
a foroe is asked to aot irregularly (killing one fowl, sparing another)
and they endow the particular form of irregularity (which fowl was
killed, and which spared?) with meaning. And, of oO'UrSe, given their
assumption that the forces of nature do act irregularly and under .the
influence of many other forces, if an apparently valid oracular prediction
fails to materialize, it is logical to suppose that some other foroe,
such as witchcraft, influenced the oracle.
It may appear that the thought I have attributed to Afrioans is not
- 64 ­
fundamentally different from Western science. r have suggested
for the forces of nature are not thought to act regularly
because the action of any force is influenced by many other forces. But
this could be taken to mean simply that Africans consider a great many
variables to impinge upon and that what I have called their concep­
tion of the irregular action of the forces of nature is nothing more than
their recognition that they do not fully understand all the variables
affecting any particular event. From. this point of view one might
attribute to them the ideas that the forces of nature do act with mechanical
regularity and that they could predict the events resulting from their
operation if only they coiii'd"Control all the variables. In this view the
Africans emerge as possessing a scientific mentality but without enough
knowledge to take it very far.
The problem with this position is given our idea that the laws
of nature operate with mechanical when we talk about "controlling
variables" we mean the ability to predict if and how variables will act
in particular circumstances. Such prediction I impossible in
African thought. The variables we are discussing are the forces of
and most of them (the Supreme nature etc.)
have volition. the African has no way of predicting if they
will act in a particular situation. Neither are they conceived with the
functional specificity that characterizes variables in the Western view.
There are many for which a witch or malevolent ghost
can do mischief. even if the African conception of variables
(forces) would allow them to predict that certain variables will act in a
particular that conception renders it impossible to predict
how they will act. I maintain that the postulate that the
fOrces of nature do not operate with mechanical regularity is validly
attributable to Afrioan thought.
2
Their ontological charaoter
(especially volition and functional diffuseness) is incompatible with
any idea of regularity of action.
My answer to the of why Africans do not question their
general beliefs on the basis of contrary evidence should now be clear.
General beliefs or assumptions can be evaluated in terms of empirical
experience only if one is certain that the experience is relevant to the
that no other factors oontributed to the course of the
experience beyond those embodied in the belief or assumption. The
variables affecting the experience must be controlled. But the
African postulate that the forces of nature do not operate in a
mechanically regular way means that in their view the variables
affecting experience cannot be controlled. They rationally
attribute a given event to a given force because they cannot be certain
if that force in fact operated on that· occasion. Nor can they be
certain if (and if how) the outcome was affected by the action of
other forces. I suggest that Africans do not question their
general beliefs -in the light of contrary evidence· thin their
system of this is not rational. From their metaphysical point
of view such evaluation cannot. be a reliable epistemological
II
Having offered the preceding analysis of an aspect of African thought,
I should now like to view that analysis as data against which we may
consider some problems in the study of other philosophies.
Peter Winch would have us understand another culture or historical
period in its own terms. As I understand his reasoning in its relevance
to a people's thought and behaviour intelligible only
in terms of the concepts of reality held by that people. These concepts
of reality are given in language and in the "form of lifel' in general.
Since languages and "forms of life" concepts of reality and the
resulting modes of apprehending meaning in ideas and behaviour also vary.
since there can be no· concepts apart from a language and a
"form of there is no common denominator in terms of which differ­
ent conoepts of reality and modes of intelligibility can be understood.
- 95 ­
Each "form of 11fe"l with its language
l
phllosophyl and system of social
relations is a self-contained entity which can be understood only in its
own terms (Winch 19581 see especially pp. 11-151 22.231 40-441 121-133).
I must confess uncertainty as to exactly how far Winch wishes to
press the point that a culture must be understood in its own terms. The
train of logic summarized above and many' of his remarks (e.g. 1958:
129-32) imply that we'''llIU,S't strive, to approachI as closely as possibleI
the goal of understanding as the native understands. But MacIntyre
(19(7) interprets Winch as arguing that understanding from within is
just a starting point for analysis I and Wincht s statement (1964: 319)
that lithe sort of understanding we seek requires that we see the Zande
categol"J in relation to our own already understood categories" lends
credence to this point. Whichever Winch espouses
l
he has not to,my
knowledge given close consideration to the problems involved in under­
standing another culture in its own terms. These are the problems
which I propose to discuss here.
My analysis of why Africans do not question their general beliefs on
the basis of contrary evidence may appear to qualify as an example of
understanding another culture in its own terms. There was no
evaluation of the validity of African concepts from a Western point of
'view. Nor was African thought referred to as a "closed system" or as
"lacking alternatives"l and both of these characterizations imply an
external perspective. Instead
l
the analysis considered the problem
in terms of concepts of, reality attributed to the Africans I and
concluded that within these concepts such a uDde of evaluating beliefs
would not be rational. Yet I do not claim that this analysis provides
of African thought in its own terms; still less do I
claim that in thinking through the conclusions' of this analysis we are
thinking like Africans think. I doubt that either of these claims
is true
l
for a number of reasons.
First
l
since concepts of reality and intelligibility are imbedded
in language and a "form of life" I understanding a philosophy in its own
terms presupposes knOWledge of the language and culture.
Hence the analysis offered above ,is disqualified at the outset
l
for I
know no African languageI have never studied first-hand an African
societyI am in no Sense an Africanist and have never even been to Africa.
noubtless an anthropologist with all these qualifications could devise
analysis of our problem superior to the one I have offered. But
'one wonders if even his analysis would represent understanding of
African philosophy in its own terms. Would not the fact that he of
necessity learned that philosophy in terms of his own culture's
philosophy while the natives learned it from infancy mean that he must
understand it differently than they do? And are there any criteria
l
beyond intuition
l
by which he could know that he understands it as the
natives do? Even if he could gain SU'C'h understandingI and could know
he has itl surely it is incommunicable to anyone who lacks the language
and first-hand contact I since when he tries ',to explain it in another
language and according to different concepts of reality it is clearly
not being treated in its own terms.
SecondlYI if we are to Understand another philosophy entirely in
its- own terms
l
we should be limited to thinking only about those
problems which arise within that philosophy. This would bar us from
askingl among many othersI the question raised in this paper. If it
does not occur to the African to question his general beliefs on the
basis of contrary-evidenoe-.---it -- is,diffioult to imagine him wrestling
with the problem of he does not. Clearly the. question emerges
when African thought is viewed from the perspective of Western thought.
We of the West often do question our general beliefs in this mannerI
and it is preoisely the-differenoe we perceive between ourselves and
Africans which leads' us to ask this question and to be interested in its
answer.
3
Moreover
l
our analysis concerns not all of Afrioan thought
but a class of it: the class manifested in cases where general beliefs
are not questioned on the basis of contrary evidence. But I have
just argued that the observation that general beliefs are not questioned
in this way stems from Western thought rather than African thought.
- g() ­
Were we viewing African thought in its own terms
l
we would not be
justified in thinking that those cases form a class at all. There
would probably be no conunon charaot.eristic which relates them and
sets them off from other aspects of thOUght; certainly not the
characteristic we have recognized. Thus even before it gets startedI
at the point of framing the the analysis offered here cannot
be a study of African thought in its own terms.
Furthermorel a comparative perspective has chaPaoterized my entire
I found it easiest to think about whi'Africans do not
their assumptions on the basis of empirical evidence by
thtnking first about why Western scientists do. 1'ItY analysis proceeded
from a pair of postulates which I think are attributable to African
philosophyl but these postulates were introduced and discussed in
contrast with their opposite numbers from the West. The same method
of contrasts was followed in the discussion of how experiments could
be and variables controlled in terms of the Western and African
post
1
1lates. The very concepts "experiment" and "variable"I crucial to
my a1'1alysis
l
were of course derived from Western rather than African
thought. Considering all this
l
the analysis I have offered must be
very remote from understanding African philosophy in its own terms.
The most important reason I have for why my analysis does not
reveal African philosophy in its own terms is that the epistemological
structure of that analysis itself is Western rather than African.
MY aim was to explain Why Africans do not evaluate their general
beliefs according to contrary -evidenoe
l
and my meth()d of explanation was
to posit two postulates of African philosophy and
l
by reasoning from
those postulates I to argue that it is not rational within African
philosophy to evaluate general beliefs in this way. This method itself
stems from Western philosophy. It is based on the first Western
postulate I offered that empirical events are subject to unseen
principles or laws. In this case the "empirical events" are observa­
tions that Africans do not evaluate their general beliefs according to
contrary evidence. The "unseen principles or laws" are the two
postulates I posited for African philosophy. In Western thought the
epistemological correlate to the postulate that empirical events are
subject to unseen principles or laws is that empirical events are
intelligible in terms of those principles or laws. By explaining
African thought in terms of my two postulates of African philosophyI my
analysis has followed this directive of epistemology; it is
Western rather than African in structure. - .
Moreover
l
the notion of intelligibility which underlies my analysis
is Western and not African. When I conceived of analyZing our problem
in terms of the two postulates I have posited for African philosophyl
I evaluated those postUlates by asking "Do they work?" In carrying
out this evaluation I Juxtaposed the postUlates against various
particular cases where Africans do not question their general beliefs
in terms of contrary evidenceI and determined whether each of those
cases could be understood in terms of the postulates. In such an
evaluation
l
each case which can be so understood oonstitutes "proof"
or supporting evidence for the postulates I while cases which could not
be understood in terms of the postulates would disprove them and
therefore would necessitate revision or dismissal of the postulates.
Furthermore
l
I think a critic would evaluate my analysis and its
postulates of Afrioan philosophy in precisely the same way. Although
not attaining the rigor found in natural science
l
this mode of
evaluation is essentially the experimental method. It stems from the
second Western postulate mentioned earlier: that unseen principles or
laws act with mechanical regularity. In my analysis the postulates of
African philosophy represent "unseen principles or laws" 'of African
thought. It is rational for us to insist that they render eve!::
relevant case intelligible only if we first assume that those
principles or laws operate with mechanical regularity. Therefore l the
way in which both I and a critic whether or not my analysis makes
the African thought in question intelligible is a Western way, And
especially insofar as way experimental thinkingI it
.. 67 ..
is !lOt an African way. For it will be recalled that the very problem
we set out to explain is why Africans do not evaluate general beliefs
on the basis of contrary eVidence, i.e., why db Africans not think
experimentally? Since both I and a critic understand my analysis and
the African thought it treats aaaording to notions of intelligibility
quite alien to African thought, it clearly cannot be said that this
analysis provides understanding of African thought in its own terms.
And I think that this point holds with equal force for any analysis we
make of another philosophy.
To sum up. when we seek to .understand. another system of thought, not
one but two philosophies are in 'play. There is of course native
philosophy, since it, is the natives who do the thinking we wish to
understand. But our own philosophy is intrinsically involved as well,
since it is we who do the understanding. Understanding itself varies
among cultures. Northrop has devoted a great deal of hard thought to
this point (1946, 1960, 1964), and a few differences between Western and
African epistemologies (such as the role of experimental thinking in
understanding) have been discussed in this paper.' (See also TempeIs
1945 for a discussion of African epistemology.) ,When we understand.
another philosophy, then, we understand it to what properly
constitutes understanding for us. Very likely this would not qualify as
understanding from the native point of View, nor would the native's "
understanding of his own philosophy count as proper understanding forus.
5
Therefore, I think it is extremely unlikely - if not impossible .. that we
could ever understand another philosophy in its own terms. This would
require, operating entirely within the metaphysical and epistemological
concepts and procedures of that philosophy, while I maintain that another
philosophy, like everything else in the universe, can be intelligible to
us only in terms of our own metaphysics and. epistemology"
/-(Curiously, my reasoning here is very close to that of Winch, and
yet we end up at opposite poles. I agree with his point that a people's
ideas and behavior are intelligible only in terms of their concepts of
reality. But I think that the logic requires another step: since we
are people too, another CUlture's concepts of reality are intelligible
to us only in terms of our own concepts of reality.)1
From this point of view, any analysis we make must have an "as if"
quality about it. I do not mean to suggest in this paper, for example,
that Afrioans subscribe either consciously, unconsciously, implicitly or
in any other way to the postulates that empirical events are SUbject to
unseen forces, and that these forces do not aot With meohanical
regularity. I do suggest, however, that oertain puzzling aspects of
African thought become intelligible to us if we regard the Africans
as if they subsoribed to these postulates. This is similar to the
procedures of natural science. Horton has pOinted out that scientific
theories are often constructed on the model of familiar phenomena, as for
example the planetary theory of the atom (Horton 1964:98. 1967:67-8).
Now the thoughtful scientist would not say that atoms really are
constructed like the solar system, but only that a number of things about
atoms become intelligible to us when we view them as if they were (see
Northrop 1946: 194).
This leads to my final point. Winch argues that understanding in
social science is different from understanding in natural science, and
that therefore social scientists should not attempt to operate like
natural scientists (1958:1-2, 127-28, 132-33). His main points seem
to be that intelligibility in naturalsc1ence 'depends on theory. that
natural phenomena can meaningfully be said to be related only in terms
of the theory which posits that relationship. One cannot understand
the relationship without first understanding the theory. In contrast,
social phenomena are intelligible only in terms of the language and
culture in whioh they exist. Their relationships must be underst90d
from within. Therefore one cannot understand social theories or laws
without a prior understanding of the social situations to which they
apply (Winch 1958: 133-36). . ,
--""-'- ..""'-_._--_........... _- ..
- 68 ­
The burden of this paper has been that we cannot understand social
situations (other than those 1n which we participate as thoughtful
natives) frour-1d-thin.r----.In--my--view, we understand them very much as
Winch describes understanding in natural science. Winch argues that
in natural science understanding of a theory preoedes understanding of
the phenomena explained by that theory, while social phenomena must be
understood 1n themselves before we can understand theories purporting
to explain them. But consider once again the analysis of African
thought offered in this paper. We began with a characteristic of
African thought which was unintelligible to us. We explained it in
terms of a theory: two postulates and certain deductions from them.
Contra Winch, I do not think that one need understand the elements of
African thought this theory to explain before one can understand
the theory. (Indeed, I do not think he can understand those elements
- of thought apart !!:.2!!!. the theory. or some other theory). To be sure,
I devised_ the theory while puzzling over those aspects of African thought.
just as a natural scientist builds theory not in a vacuum but with
reference to problems. But I see no reason why someone else of the
West could not grasp the postulates I advanced for African thought and
my reasoning from them, even if he had never heard of Dinka sacrifice
or zande oracles or the rest of it. .
Another facet of Winch's point is that in natural science connections
between phenomena are intelligible only in terms of theory. while
connections between social are given in the social situation
in which those phenomena exist. But our analysis advanoed a connection
between the African practice of not questioning general beliefs on the
basis of contrary evidence and Zande thought with reference to the normal
and prOper operation of oraoles (see pp. 5-6 above). Again contra
Winch. I submit that this connection is not "given" in the social
situation. Rather, as Winch says with reference to intelligibility in
natural science, "It is only !a terms 2!. 2 theory that one can speak
of the events being thus 'connectedi ••• ; the only way to grasp the
connection is to learn the theory" (1958: 134. Winch's emphasis).
Finally, I have argued that we do not understand other cultures
in their own terms, but according to what for us constitutes proper
understanding. This mode of understanding itself is a theory - a
theory of knowledge or an epistemology. I do not think our analyses
of social phenomena are likely to be intelligible to anyone who does
not have a prior familiarity with that epistemology. Within our
epistemology, which Northrop (1964) has termed "logical realism",
puzzling observable phenomena are made intelligible by viewing them as
if they conform to invariable principles or laws which we devise and
label "theories". We then Judge a theory experimentally: by
determining whether other observable phenomena which fall within the
domain of the theory also behave as if they conform to the principles
or laws it AlthOUgh there are olearly differences in rigor
of experimentation, I submit that this means of understanding character­
izes the social sciences as much as the natural scienoes.
F. Allan Hanson.
References
1.' MacIntyrs explicitly advocates this procedure.
2. It is probably qUite awkward to attribute to African philosophy
the negative postulate that the forces of nattire do not act with
mechanical regUlarity. The more elegant way would be to say that
the postUlate that the forces of nature aot with meohanioal
': ,
.. l .. . ._'i:''-_. __ ..
- 69 ­
regularity cannot be attributed to African philosophy. However I
beg leave to continue with the former formulation, as this seems
to give me something more tangible to work with as I construct my
analysis and (in Section II) as I analyse.:that analysis.
3. It may be protested that I have phrased the question ethnocentri­
cally, and that it could properly ·beaskedwithin the context of
African philosophy in the neutral form "What·· is the relation
between general propositions and particular events?" I agree
that the question is better stated in this form, as the analysis
above demonstrates. I maintain the point that we are led to
ask' even this question because the relation seems different for
Africans than it does for ·us. When a Z2ndetells us that his
foot is cut because he struck it on a rock we do not spin theories
of Z2nde causation. It is only when he begins' to speculate over
what witchcraft Caused his foot to strike the rock that we become
interested. I submit that no matter how. carefully and neutrally
we frame our questions and pursue our investigations, we always
conceive of those questions and investigations from the perspective
of our own thought. It is "difficult to imagine how we could do
otherwise.
4. . One might argue that since my first African postulate (that
empirical events are'subJect to unseen powers or forces) is
similar to the first Western postulate, the method of explanation
adopted in my analysis may not be totally alien to African thought.
On the basis of what has been said thus far I agree with this,
although quite striAing divergences will appear in a moment. At
any rate, I would maintain that the method of analysis derives
from Western rather than African philosophy, and that any
similarity to a possible African method of analysis is due to
coincidental resemblances between the two philosophies, not to
the possibility that I have been able to analyze African thought
in its own terms.
5. This is not to say that we cannot understand what for the native
constitutes proper understanding. We can and should study native
epistemology. But our understanding of native epistemology
will not be the same as the native's understanding of it. To be
intelligible to us it must be cast in the concepts of Western
epistemology, not native epistemology.
Bibliography
Evans-Pritchard, E.E.. , 1937, Wit.chcrat't.. .
Azand-e. OXford: Clarendon Press.
OXford: Clarendon Press.
Horton, Robin, 1964, Ritual man in Africa. A.t'tica 34: 85-1Qll..
1967, African traditional thought and Western soience.
------ 37: 50-71, 155-187•

L1enhardt, Godfrey, 1961, DJJc..1,nity and. the religion '0 f
the Dinka. OXford: Clarendon Press.
1962, The situation of death: an aspect of Anuak
philosophy. 35:
74-85.
Macintyre, Alasdair, 1962, A mistake about causality in social science.
!!l second
series (Peter Iaslett and W. G. Runciman, eds.).
Olcford: Basil Blackwell.
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Macintyre, Alasdair, 1967, The Idea of Social Science. The
Aristotelian Society! Supplementary Volume 41:
95-114.
Northrop, F. S. C., 1946, The Meeting of East and West. New York:
Macmillan.
1960, Philosophical Anthropology and Practical
.politics. New York: Macmillan.
1964, Toward a deductively formulated and
operationally verifiable comparative cultural
anthropology. In Cross-cultural Understanding:
E istemolo in Anthro 010 (F.S.C. Northrop and
Helen H. Livingston, eds • New York: Harper and Row.
Tempels, R. P. Placide, 1945, La Philosophie Bantoue (traduit du
Neerlandais par A. RUbbens). Paris: Collection
Presence Afridaine.
Winch, Peter, 1958, The I d ~ a of a Social Science. London: Routledge
and K;;ga-;' Paul.
1964, Understanding a Primitive Society. American
Philosophical Quarterly 1: 307-324.
----
- 71 ­
A DEFENCE OF WINCH
"Everything is what it is and not another thing
ll
- (Butler).
Understanding, making intelligible, modes of discourse other than those
wi th which one is familiar (and so which do not have to be 'understood'
in quite such the same way) must somehowfaca this fact. This note
attempts to show that the course suggested by Hanson is not the best of
the alternatives. This does not mean that I altogether support the
Hinchian procedure, but that .
(i) Hanson's criticismof Winch do not stand if
(11) it is measured against what I take vlinch to be really saying.,
In other words, although Winch can perhaps to criticised as by, for
example, Nielsen (1967) and MacIntyre (Hick 1964), Hanson I s attempts are
at least partially invalidated by the fact that they are not properly
directed against Winch. Further, I attempt to show that the procedure
suggested by Hanson .lould have to face relatively severe criticism if it
is to stand in its present form.
Since I am limiting this d18cussion to toJinch and Hanson, I should
like to begin by briefly indicating the broader within which
this debate should be viewed. To suggest, that loS, how Winch can be
located wi thin a broader sphere of academic
If we say, following Hartin, that the notion 'God' may be used in
either of two ways (as a proper name referring to a particular baing or
as a descriptive term) then it can be shown that using it in both ways
at once leads to a contradiction. Hughes replies that this argument to
establish the contradictory nature of Christian belief is wrong, for God
is not thought of as a particular thing 'on the lips of believers.'
(Hughes 1962). Which then is the correct course for meta-theology'Z
To characterise religious belief in terms of the patterns of usage and
sensa within actual religious Or to apply such
organisational devices as proper names and descriptive phrases, when
these have been developed to expose the 'logic' ot discourse not of
'God' but of particular til!ings? When there is incommensurability
between our criteria of characterisation and the criteria, either
explicit or not, of judgment within other modes of discourse, then which
stands? Or can a meta-level of mutual relevance be established? "\vhich
of these programmes is preferable is perhaps the most important question
for meta-theology (even, mutatis mutandis, for all meta-theorising)"
(Hughes 1962).
Theologians and Philosophers of Religion have had to grapple with
this problem for what is at stake is the nature of balief in God: the
role of reason in religious understanding and in religion.
But anthropologists, in the main, appear to be more concerriad with
retaining, in a laZy fashion, the· absolute' and. immutable relevance of
those concepts and organisational devices belonging to their tradition.
But what is at stake is as important, at least for the atheist, as those
issues which Theologians'have written so much about (Gill 1966, Alston,
Hepburn 1963, Coburn 1963, loIacquame 1967, Ramsey 1959). That is, how
to best characterise and so understand other modes of discourse. So,
in following through the arguments advocated by Hinch and Hanson as to
how we can bast characterise other modes of thought (in such terms, for
example, as - incoherent, meaningless, instrumental,.axpressive,
paradoxical, mystical), it should be borne continually in mind that the
more . sophisticated arguments and organisational devices (such as,
non-assertive, intentional, factual,quasi-attitudinal etc.) have been
developed by Theologians and Philosophers of Religion. And that such
problems as whether religious language is autonomous, unique and so
independent of external, logical analysis (l.lcPherson 1955) or whether we
can treat religious language as though it ware empirical status (Ramsay 59)
- 72 ­
are of precisely the same variety that face Anthropologists in many of
the more interesting fields of their work.
Malinowsld., according to Leach (Encyclopaedia of the Social
Sciences, pp.339 - 334) "sought to evade the difficulties raised by
simple trait comparisons by blandly affirming that every social event is
uniquoly defined by its total context
lt
and that if this 'Wera
"all cross-cultural comparison would be futile". It seems to me that
Hanson is attributing a very similar view to vlinch (my emphasis):­
''\flinch would have us understand another culture in its own terms" for
"a people I s thought and behaviour are intelligible only in terms o:f the
concepts of reality held by that people". Such concepts of reality
vary from context to context, and since there are t!2 concepts
independent of their context, then various forms of life cannot be
equated and so mutually understood through the application of such
common denominators.
If this 'Were true, that Hinch was reallY saying that each fom of
life lIis a self-contained entity ",hich can be understood only in its own
terms" then Hanson "'ould be justified in continuing to assart that \-linch
is striving "to approach, as closely as possible, the goal of
understanding -as the native understands
ll
• TI.'lrS in turn 'Would involve
vlinch in the fatal, neo-Malinowsldan either/or situation which Hanson
suggests is the case for Hinch - ''we thus have the options of viewing
another system of thought in terms of our concepts of reality or in
terms of its" own concepts of reality," \-linch himself supposedly
insisting on the latter course. in his article, Hanson
makes this either/or all the more so - their tbought now comes to be
intelligible either "only in terms of their concepts of reality" (1) or
intelligible 1I0nly in terms of our concepts of reality. It (2)
From tbis basis Hanson proceeds to suggest that although
"Adopting Hinch's prescription of viewing a philosophy. in its ow.
terms", another logical step is necessary - for their concepts of
reali ty are "intelligible to' us 2n1Y: in terms of our ow. concepts of
reaLityD. It can-be".aaan. JiPat the phrases "in terms ofII, "in its own
terms
ll
and 'lonly''' are not used-very-consistently. At ana stage
Hanson is suggesting that we (a) follow "Hinch when this is position '(1)
and that (b) we- add position .(2). This is clearly logically.impossible;
the second step can only hold if it is taken that 'What we understand is
not in their OWn terms.
It would seem that the logic of understanding other modes of
discourse is indeed wonderous, and that "Hinch is even more mysterious.
Hanson's Olm position becomes even more confounded when we follow
through his adoption of "I-linch's prescription (an adoption, which,
significantly enough, does not involve the 'Word "only"). For, on
completion of his Hanson qualifies this stance _ liMy
analysis ••• may appear to quality as anex-amp1e or tmderstanding
another culture in its CMl terms" and then, most :\.mportantly "that the
analysis' considered the problem in terms of concepts of reality
attributed to the Africans", or again .'II do not claim that this a.na1ysis
provides underst,anding African thought in its Otom terms;" still less'
do I claim that in thinldhg through the conclusions of this analysis we
are thinking like Africans think". . .
Can Winch be refuted in this way? First though, the reasons
Hanson gives for the refutation of Winch which this last quotation
implies, might help us to" understand his train of thought. He makes
the following points "
\a) that understanding a philosophy in its own terms presupposes
an intimate lcrlowledge of their lanIDlage and culture. Since·
bis own analysis wGS made without sucb a knowledge, Hanson
suggests that their own terms need not be well known.
- 73 ­
b} that even if their terms were relatively 'Well Imow, they could
never be undara-tood as. the natives understand them,
c} and even if' such an understanding could be acquired, "when he
tries to explain it in another language' and according to
different concepts of reality it is clearly not being treated
in its atom tems
ll

d} That if' another philosopQy is to be understood entirely in its
own terms, then such useful questions as those posed by Hanson
could not be so asked,- and finally; perhaps most importantly,
e} that at least in terms of the analysis followed by Hanson,
African philosophy is not revealed !nits own terms. Instead,
the procedure must be in terms of our criteria: 'When we
understand another philosophy, we understand' it according to
what properly constitutes understanding for '1m.
In eacb of these arguments, Hanson is rejecting that view which
holds that other pb:11osophies should be' understood in their own tenns.
Thus be is contradicting his own adoption of and so is not adding
another logical ste:p(which we have seen is impossiblo, but 'Which
Hanson claims to do), but is developing an altogethor different
procedure. I do not disagree that this lIin terms of" procedure is not
valid, but it is precisely this procedure which Hanson himself makes
invalid by quote (l) when he implies that 'tiincb is saying in terms
of tbeir concopts.
Wbat then are \>1<3 to make of this'1 that Winch is apparently
both in favour 'With "in their own terms" and "in terms of our concepts".
This seems unlikely, for Hinch would be the first to realise that the
tvo phrases have different meanings (llin terms of" suggests that x is
always in terms of something else y, and so involves attributing
something to x Which is other, than x). Secondly, that Hanson's ow
analysis is both in terms of, and in their own terms, the former being
divided into either in terms of their concepts or in terms of ours.
Thirdly, tbat Uinch is characterised as being an arcb-fideist - one 'Ibo
sees a series of self-contained entities each of whicb are virtually
unintelligible outside their OW terms.'
I now want to attempt to show what vlinch is really saying, then to
return and suggest that Hanson's five specific criticisms are not only
based on logical confusionc also do not affect lolincb. In
exploring \linch's argument I hope
(i) to :indicate that Hinch is not an arcb-f1deist in stressing
the uaquen€sa of participant' understanding (Viz '!in tl'sir own
terms
ll
)
(ii) that this follows from Uinch's 'theory' of meaning aDd
(iii) that iUnch,whllst building a ''meta-theory'' on vhieh to
found cross-cultural intelligibility does not .
(1v) fall back into that science-centric view which appears to
dominate llacIntyra and,to a leaserextent, Hanson.
Ii!L his book (l958), Winch's basic point is that "tbe notion of a
society involves a scheme of concepts which is logically
incompatible with the kind of explanation offered in the natural
sciences" (p. 73). Why1 Because since the social scientist has to
"accept" (p.40) tbat "a man's social relations with his fellows are
panneated with his ideas about reality" (p.23), that "the very
categories of meaning etc. are dependent for their sense on
socbl interactions bet',leeh man" (p.44), then it follows (p.73) that the
- 74 ­
. meaning of social behaviour and ideas cannot be settled by experiment.
For example, whereas the· temperature at "later freezes can be
settled experimentally, such a procedure is not possible when what is
to be decided is how many grains. of wheat have to be added together
bofore one has a heapR (p.73). It follmlS' that insofar as the social
scientist is dealing with meanings, it. is misleading to follow the
scientific procedure of applying theories' which themselves establish
connections. Instead, since "all behaviour which is meaningful is
ipso-facto rule-governed" (p.52) our concepts of social phenomena or
act·s must be co-extensive with that of meaningf'ul acts and notions.
From'linowledge of whatit :isto follow a rule, analysis can proceed by
"examining the natura of the rules according to "lhich judgments of
identity are made" (p.S3) ,when "such jUdglilants are intelligible only
relativel.Y to a given mode of human behaviour governed by its ow.
rules II.' <3Un this sense sociological judgments cannot be made in
. abstract, so to be applied as theories, but depend on, are governed by,
the rules of wbat is being stUdied.
Since I am not hare criticising Hinch, I taka it for granted that
although it is perhaps· arguable that vJinch is incorrect in his apparent
rejection of scientific explanation (I use the word 'hpparent"for it
could be maintainod that all that vlinch is tbat such apparent
understanding does not involve scientific explanation), his basic
emphasis stands as valuable (MacPherson 1955, for example, shows how
useful the notion of meaning in terms of context usage is he
explains whY certain beliefs which were only a stumbling block to the
Jews became foolishness to the Greeks, to end as nonsense for the
logical positivists.) In the article Winch \-Irote in 1964, he
develops, without I think, contradicting much of what he had earlier
written, this basic framework into a form of'more direct relevance to
Anthropology. His' theory' of meaning is now more clearly presented ­
if we can loarn what it is to follow a rule (which in turn entails that
we know what it is not to follow the rule viz. that we can predict what
is involved by following the rule) and What the point of the rule is
(pp.3lS and 321) then we can claim to understand the sense of the
discourse. Thus the sociologists' judgments should replicate the
native criteria of coharence. I say coherence for 'on p.3l2 vlinch
writes that a partial, but important a1'J.swer to the question - what
criteria have we for saying that something is that
sense depends on there being a state of non-contradiction (Viz. that
only in such a case can it be said that rules are being followed).
Again, especially ot} this last point, Winch might be partially
mistaken, but the general thesis s·tands. It has much in common with
such a \vittgen tem position as expressed in answer
(Philosophical Investigations &381) to the question - 'Why do you call
that "red
l
"? 'I have learnt English'. It also bears similarities to
Evans-Pri tchard 's cOll)lllent that he could olaim to unP.erstand other
societies when he could predict what would happen in many social
situations.
What then Winch is saYing is that understanding should not be
equated with full participation, thus making
intelligibility all but impossible, but. that tihe social scientist
understands as an observor. It might therefore be claimed that this
means he is thus not 'fully' understanding. And such comments of
Hinch's as "The !zande hold beliefs tbat we cannot possibly share"
(p.307) or again are not seeking a state in which things appear to
us just as they do to members of another society, perhaps such a
state is unattainable anyway" (p.3l7), do. seem to .support this view.
But, as far as I can :see, what Hinch ·is maintaining, only means
that, to take one example, II beliove in God' has an infinite variety of
meanings to participants, infinite in that their' 'private' meanings
depend on individual idioSYnoracies etc., whereas understanding, as
Hinch soes it, is to expose the social logic and point-ness of these
phrasas; to malm explicit the ' grammar' of discourse; to equate
- 75 ­
meaning with use (1964p.3l6); to, as in the case of Philosophers of
Religion, "elucidate" (- make explicit that which is ioplicit) the
peculiar natures of· those forms of life called religion (1958 p.41).
Admittedly, it could still be maintained that this 'obS8r'I7Qt'
'theory' of meaning, which allows reporting back, cannot grasp all that
the participant shares - so vrincn elsel-Jhere writes "if the judgments of
identity of the sociologists of religion rest on criteria taken from
religion, then his relation to the performers of· religious activity
cannot be just of the observer to the obserwd
ll
and lithe sociologist of
religion must himself have religious feeling if he is to make
sense of the religious movement he is studyingll. But the underlined
words show that he is still ta11d.ng about the observer who attempts to
gain maximal fideism. In any case, it could be held that to grasp the
real nature of religious belief' is not really part of the sociologist's
job•
. What follows from this is that vlinch cannot be classed, as Nielson
1967 does, as one '''ho claims that in order to fully understand
religious disco.urse one must have a participant's understanding of a
. belief and acceptance nature. Instead, his 'the.ory' of meatiing
escapes such 'participant's relativism' and allows \-linch to do what
Hanson suggests he does not - fully face the problem of how "to bring
another society's conception of intelligibility (to them) into
(intelligible!) relation with our own conception of intelligibility
(to uS)lI (1964 p.31?). Or lito present an account of them that will
somehow sati.sfy the criteria of intelligibility demanded by the culture
to which he and his readers belong" (1964 p.307).
Where 'lIinch is a relativist is that such a sociological
interpretation as constituted by the discerned logic and 'point-of-Hess'
must involve "extending our conception of intelligibility as to· make it
possible for us to see wha.t intelligibility amounts to in the life of
the society we are investigating". vIe must extend our 'own' way of
looldng at things. - not impose our boundaries, classifications etc.
(p.3l8). . It is for this reason that Laach'< Encylopaedia of Social .
Sciances) argues along Hincbian lines to criticise amongst others,
Hurdoch's Procedure. (See also vrinch p.3l9). Thus, in a style
reminiscent of Waisu:an; Winch is suggesting that the of discerning
maximal commonality (relativism of this style does not stress
uniqUEJlesSl) might well involve a considerable rethinking aDd realignment
of our traditional categories. (Sae VIinch 1964 p.32J and 1958 p.S7 for
examples of what is involved.) Only in such a way can I science­
centricism' be avoided - HacIntyre, the logical positivists and Levy-
Bruhl can be included amongst those who have imposed ellen criteria
so obscuring those judgments that the sociologist should be making
(1964 p.320, 321). .
Returning to Hanson's five cl'iticism,s, bearing in mind that
understanding for Winch is equated witb the exposure of social logic in
terms 6£ relevant/rela.tive organisational devices within, or extendad
from, our culture, then
(i) Hanson's either/or formulation does not apply
(il) criticism (a) ianot relevant - for not only does it rest on
an· 'in. its own term!J' Winch, but Hinch's own analysis was
based on a of which !l2. himself did not
have deep knowledge.· And. in .FJnycase- all would agree, the
deeper the lmowledga the better.
(iii) Criticism (b) fares little better ... we have seen that Winch
says that such an understanding is impossible (for,. in the
same sense, I can claim that I can never 'lmow' what any
sentence 'means' for anyone else). .
- 76 ­
(iv) Criticism (0) is rendered of dubious value in that Hinch is
suggesting that although it is inevitable that different
concepts are involved, they should, if possible, only be
different in so far as translation itself is involved. He
. would not dispute that understand, it cannot be in
their terms; what matters is degree of fidiesm, which his
'theory' of meaning maximises.
(v) Point (d) is also misleading, for Winch would stress that we,
with our perspective (critical in this sense) should ask as
many questions as possible in order to discern which of our
many organisational devices are most relevant/relative to the
alien' mode of thought. Thus Hinch (1964 p.3l9) "lrites that
since "the onus is on us to extend our understanding" 'WEI must
seek a foothold". (p.3l0. Sea also p.320).
Finally, criticism (e) - the argument which is the king-pin of
Hanson's paper. Hanson suggests that within our dominant epistemology,
at least since Comte, "puzzling observablepce:nomena are made /
intelligible by viewing them they conform to invariable
principals or laws which we devise and label 'theories'. So, in order
to make intelligible other modes of discourse (and so their 'internal'
intelligibility) Hanson says that they must be treated ''as. if"'such
prin6ipals or laws· operate ,dthin them. This 'as if"application of the
theory in Hanson's own analysis. is claimed to refute· Winch in that
relationshipSare established as in the natural sciences, and that
intelligibility only follows 2n this establishment.
I do not think that because we cannot understand (and report back)
mere11fromwithin, that· (a) when as field workers, we
understand asa scientist does and (b) that organisational devices are
applied in such 'an experimental way. I do not think that Hanson could
possibly have done what he claims to have. - How, to meet the strong
objections raised by Winch in his "heap " analogy, does Hanson verify and
falsii"y (procedures of the essence of the experimental approach) his
theory? If he does not effect these operations, how can it be called a
theory'] Another objection (perhaps not so strong) - how can it be
applied unless something is first MacIntyre 1964p.118
shows that this argument can be used to refute Levy-Bruhl and the more
extrema logical positivists in their form of understanding religious
discourse. Finally, such comments as - ve understand other societies
''according to "lhat for us constitutes proper understanding" when this
mode of understanding is limited to the theories of logical realism, has
all the ear-marks of that arbitariness and a priorism that once
characterised such rigid theories of meaning as logieal positivism. A
narrotmess l<linch meets with."the notion of intelligibility is,
syetematically ambiguous".'· . ..
What· then has Hanson :rea.lJ.y' done?· Ana :how is it that he answers
his puzzles\?-ccessful:!:Y cine thinks, whilst ciaimi,pg: to folloW this .
course? I suggest that. he ,·ha:s appealedto,rested his analysis on) those
universal criteria of intelligibility on which Hinch, as· we have already
indicated, rests bis case. To repeat my point that I am not attempting
to put 1-1inch into a critical perspeotive, "1 do not ask how far
universal criter:iaavoid category mistakes. Perhaps, in fact, this is
Hinch's Achilles heel, for although he has attempted to develop a
meta,-level of organisational devices which are of Universal
applicability and so only articulate what is already there into
observer I am not sure "Ihether, for example, paradox's of
mystics (sentences whioh both have a use and are contradictor,r)
could successfully be handled by Hinch. But I do not think that to
ss::! - he is treating othermodes .. of discourse in an ·'as if' form, is to
refute Winoh on the grounds that his devices cannot .be spoken of, in
suoh terms, by the. participants. For the critoria of intelligibility
on whioh he rests his are implicit in all ('1) discourse, viz. they
- 77 ­
are necessary conditions for communication, and even tbough' they might
be conceptualised differently, they are, in a sense, universally the
same.
For example, Levi Strauss (1966p.10 il) sqs that we can "most
easily' begin to understand forms of thought which seem very strange to
us" by appealing to the fact that they are founded on tbis demand
for oi'der
ll
• Clarke (Hick p.136) writes "although there is no common
expressible formula for intelligibility among all man, there is at
least a common basic exigency of rationality in a wider sense". v.1inch,
besides making. similar assertions (including quoting R. Rhees to the
effect that language games are not self-contained) suggests that
universal intelligibility could also be based on such 'limiting
conceyts' as death, war, sex etc, and on the necessary real/unreal,
true/false conditions.
That theZ'El criteria are implicit (as if) in alien expression can
readily be demonstrated- Flatcher( See Levi strauss 1966 p.10) IIUl
sacred things must have their pla.ce" - native informant. Or can \ole,
for example, imagine myths which do not, in soma sense or another,
express existential 'limiting I notions? It is interesting in this
context to see how close l1inch is to such theologians as Bultmann,
theologians with a considerable vested interest in retaining I the .
meaning' but also in making it intelligible in terms of other rules of
intelligibility, other language games •
So, returning to Hanson's analysis, what he has really done is to
appeal to such criteria. Thus his answer involves only exposing what
is entailed by the rules of African beliefs. It does not SOem to Ilie
that he has appealed to any of the fullest expressions of logical
realism but only to logical realism, in the vary weak sense that it can
be said to be 2E!: particular oxpression of order (for tQe !zande can
predict [in his sound-sense sphere ]and many advanced physical
scientists no longer base intelligibility on such prediction). If
Hanson had appealed to the more sophisticated criteria of logical
realism, he could easily have ended up as l-1acIntyra does (See llineh
1964 p.320) and as it is, Hanson is led, UDllecessarily I feel, into a
position \-1here he has to say the. Zande thought is not of a pseudo­
scientific nature. .
Perhaps logical positivism is just around the corner. But as it
.' is, Hanson really only engages in the art of hindsight of relativism
., (why else would he adopt Father Tempel's formulation) .At all costs
a priorism's should not be applied to. what is essentially an art - a:-:.art
of argument, not of experiment .. lithe sociologists \olho misinterpret
alien cultures are like philosophers getting into difficulties· over the,
use of their own p.114). II '. .. .
v.lhether or not, for example, Hinch is correct that we cannot
criticise rules meaning (which we presumably
have already grasped in order to criticise them) is another
- .. a mat.ter which rests on thatmo;3t elusive of all orgmiisatiotUU
. devices -contradiction. But the notion of the 'science of
understandirtgl appears to rest' on tho weakest of grounds •.
- 78 ­
Alston, W. Religious Language, in, The EncyloPa.edia of Philosophy.
Coburn,R.C. 1963. A neglected use of Religious Language Mind.
Gill, J .H. March, 1966. Talk about Religious talk: various approaches
to tpe Nature of' RaligiousLanguage Scottish Journal of
TheologY.
Hepburn, R.I-I.. 1963. From vlorld to God Hind.
Hughes, G.E. August, 1962.'Hartin'a Religious Belief', Australasian
Journal of Philosophy vol.4Q, p.211-19.
Levi- Strauss. 1966. Savage Mind. Notice that Levi-Strauss speaks of
lithe unconscious apprehension of the truth of determinism.
Hanson argues against applying the \-lOrd unconscious.
NacIntyra, A. in Hick, J. (edit.) 1964. Faith and the Philosophers
Macmillan & Co. Ltd.
Macquame, J. 1967. God Talk.
McPherson, T. 1955. Religion as the Inexpressiblein Ne'W Essays in
Philosophical .Theology,. - edit. Flew, A.G.N. and
Haclntyra, A. C.
Nielsen, K. 1967, July. Uittgensteinian Fideism. Philosophy.
Ramsey, LT. 1959. :Paradox in Religion. Aristotelian Society
Winch, P. 1958. The Idea of a Social Science
____ 1964. Understanding a Primitive Society,
Volel, Number 4.
REPLY TO HEELAS
F. Allan Hanson
First let me counter a few statements in Heelas' critique. He lists as one
of my points "that understanding a philosphy in its own terms' presupposes an
intimate knowledge of their language and culture. Since his, own analysis was
made without such a knowledge, Hanson suggests that their terms need not be
well known". But this is by no means my suggestion. It is rather that since I
lack intimate first-hand acquaintance with African cultures, the analysiS I
offered cannot be expected to reveal African thought in its own terms. As for
his question of how my theory is to be verified or falsified, see the ninth
paragraph of Part, II and the paper t slast paragraph.
Reela,s also to the logic.of,the'paper, apparently thinking that I
do such confusing' or contradictory things as both adopting and' re jectingWinch,
and urging understand.?-ng of anothe'r philosophy only in its own termS and, also
only in our terms. I agree that my use of the word "only" was
lax, and I regret any obscurity this may have caused. I suggest·, however,
that what Heelas takes as logical confusion or contradiction is really the
progression of argument. In Part I some advantages which would from
understanding another philosophy in its own terms were mentioned, 'and I offered
what might appear to be this kind of analysis of an aspect of Afriqan thought.
Part II asked Whether the analysis of Part I really dpes provide understanding
of African thought in its own terms, and a series of arguments were offered that
it does not. Extending this ,one conclusion of the paper was that we cannot
expect to understand alien modes of thought in their own terms. Therefore
the reasoning of the paper ended with the unequivocal assertions that we
understand alien modes of thought in our terms, and that Winch (who in the
paper was taken as advocating that we understand them in their own terms)
is wrong.
- 79 ­
Probably-· Hee1.as. main objection is that- my paper misrepresents the
posi tion of lUnch. I agree' with Healas on this point, am grateful to
him for pointing out. my error and glad for this to recant.
I now agree with Heelas that Winch would have us "extend our 'own' "18.Y
of looking at things
ll
, or IIdevelop a meta-level of organis&.tional
devices which are of UDiversal applicabilityll rather than understand
native thought in its own terms. Hore will be said of l-linch,as I now
tmderstand him, in a moDiant.
By now the isstias at' stake in all this must be badly obscured, and
certainly I have added to the confUsion through my misrepresentation of
Winch. I tbink these issues, are important, so in the hope of
c1arif"ying them I shall attempt to set out the essence of what I
currently understand this whole discussion to be about.
It all begins with a train of thought which I here abstracting
from Nielsen, and which he says derives ultimately' from Wittgenstein
and/or his disciples (Nielsen 1967:192-193). For present purposes the
following points are enough: the meaning of wOl-ds is fotmd in their
usage in a given mode of discourse (religious mods of discourse,
scientific mode of etc.). A mode of discourse contains its
own concepts of reality, rationality and intelligibility. One should
therefore tmderstand tho meaning of a word in terms of the concepts of
rationality, reality and intelligibility of the mode of discourse in
that word is used, according to sucb concepts drawn from some
other mode of discourse. Finally, we must be contant simply with
identifying the ooncepts of rationalit,y, reality and intelligibilit,y of.
a mode of discourse. Since there simply are no other, nhigher-order
ll
concepts against which these ooncepts can be assessed, here the process
of understanding in terms of something' else must cease.
Now, assume that the words and their meanings which we wish to
understand belong to a mode of discourse in a language and culture other
than our own. Tile .reasoning summarized above might be t8kel1to.direct
us to identify the concepts of rationality,reality and intelligibility
intrinsic to that· alien mode of discourse and to understand the words
and meanings in question in terms of those concepts. I take this to
mean understanding the alien mode of discoursoin its own terms. The
argument in Part II of my paper was that "tIe do not and probably cannot
achieve that.. kiner oftmderstanding.· I still assert argument.
But that argument does not refute Winch, for he does not ask that
we tmde·rstand an alien mode of: discourse· in its own terms.' Let me try
to explain \-linch's position as I now understand it. Consider again the
last point of the ''\-Iittgansteinian
ll
reasoning summarized above"';' that
there are no IIhigber-order
ll
concepts in terms of which the concepts of
realit,y, rationality and intelligibility of a given mode of discourse
can be assessed. This may be taken to imply tbat each mode of
discourse is hermetioally sealed, that there is noway of relating one
mode of discourse to another. 'Nie1sen calls this the
IIcompartmentalization thesis" and he, attributes it to Whch (Nialsen'
1967:201, 2CJ7). Mistakenly, I think, for W:tnch writes (approvingly):
Mr. Rush Rhees points out that to try to account tor the ..
meaningf'u1ness of language solely' in terms of'isolated
language games is to omit the important fact· tbat wqs of
. speaking are not insulated from each other in mutually
exclusive systems of rules. Uhat can be said: in one
" context by tile use of a certain expression depends for
.its sense on the uses of that expression in other
contexts (different language games) (Uinch 1964:321).
So \-linch clearlyracognises that meanings in different modes' of
. discoursa can be related. And tllis holds even wbenthe modes ·of
discourse stem from different.languagEis and cultures: "certainly the sort
- 80 ­
of understanding we seek requires that we see the Zande category in
relation to our own already understood categories" (lUnch 1964:319).
But this relation is not to be achieved simply by fitting our
categories into theirs, nor theirs into ours.
vIe are not seeld.ng a state in which things will appear to us
just as they do to members of S another society , and
perhaps such a state is unattainable anyway. But we E:!
seeking a way of looking at things which goe s beyond our
previous way in that it has in some way taken account of and
incorporated the other way that members of S have of loold.ng
at things. Seriously to studiY' another way of life is
necessarily to extend our 'own-not simply to bring the other
way within the already eXisting boundaries of our own,
because the point about the latter in their present form, fs
that they ex hypothesi exclude tha.t other (Hinch 1964:317­
318, see also vlinch 1958:89-90).
So Winch to argue that ,.e should understand another
systemof·thought in terms of a mode of discourse or "way of looking
at things", an extension of ours which in-cQqlcrates native concepts of
rationali ty,realj.ty and' intelligibility as wel+ as our own.
I am.in far greater agreement with this position than with that
thought vrinch held when I \.roto my paper. However, I think his. IInew
ll
position (new to me 1) requires certain qualifications.' It be seen
that these stem from the same line of thinking as I worked out in
Part II of my paper.
Presumably the new, extended mode of discourse we construct for
understanding another culture, like any mode of discourse, has its own
concepts of reality, rationality and intelligibility. Consider just
its concept of intelligibility. Is this simply a given? Are there no
other concepts of intelligibility against which we can .assess it,
rendering it impossible for us to c:Diticize the way in which the
extended mode of discourse makes another culture intelligible? I do not
Imow how Hinch would answer this.
l
But 'olhen Winch tries to make Zande
magical rites intelligible by relating them to "a sense of the
significance of human life
ll
(1964:320-321), or when I try to make them
(and certain other aspects of African thought
intelligible in tarms of two metaphysical postulates, we shall propably
want to reserve the right of criticism. Therefore, whether or not
Winch would think we legitimately can criticize the intelligibility of a
mode of discourse advanced for understanding another culture, it seems
clear that we constantly S2. make such criticisms.· . And I think we make
them legitimately.
When we encounter alternative "ways of things" or modes
of discourse which provide different ways of making the same elements of
usage and patterned behavior intelligible, we often compare
them ;critically to determine which way of making these .things.
iJitelligible is preferable. He: could ·notdo ·this .if' eaqh niode 'of
discourse had its own primitive, unassailable concept of intelligibility,
for there would be no external' criteria in: terms of which to make a
judgment of preferability. BUt there obviously are such external
criteria 'and we do make use of them. One criterion is parsimony:
which of the alternative modes of discourse makes the phenomena in
question intelligible in the simplest and most economical way?
Furthermore, to repeat a point made in my paper, since it is we who make
judgments between different 'Jays -of looking at the' same things, I
submit that we do it in terms of own concepts of what constitutes
proper understanding or intelligibility, for example, in terms of a
logically realistic epistemology. I do not !mow how much .of this
vlinch "tol>u1d accept,' but I want to be clear on my own position. It is
that the concepts of intelligibility imbedded in an extended mode of
- 81 ­
discourse which we advance for understanding another culture are not
simply II givenII and beyond criticism-. They araultiinately subject to
concepts of intelligibilit,r.
I continue to disagree wi tn Winch that understanding in social
science is radically different from understanding in natural science.
My argument remains as set out in my paper, so Iiere I shall just
rephrase one part of it. For Hinch, in natural science a theory
Ilestablishes
u
connections between events: . "It is only in of the
theory that one can speak of the events being thus I connectedI ras '
opposed to a simple spatio-temporal connection) ; the only way to'
grasp the connection is to learn the theoryll (Hinch 1958:134, Hinch's
emphasis). Social phenomena, on the other hand, are related
internally. "Social relations fall into the same logical category as
do relations betwoen ideas", and "each system of ideas, its component
elements baing interrelated internally, has to be understood in and for
itself" (Hinch 1958:133). Sociological laws may be useful for
bringing out features which might otnerwise have baen ovarlooked, but
the nature oftha relations between the phenomena in question is in the
phenomena themselves, not in the la'lr' or theory (Hinch 1958:135-136).
Hinch says that we should ,understand other cultures in terms of an
extended mode of discourse or we:y of looking at things. As I have said
above, alternative ways of looldng at the same things can be advanced.
Om of the differences between such alternative ways is that they may
lead, us to see different kinds of connections be tween the things in
question. (Consider the various ways of looking at totemism, or at the
relation between Protestantism and capitalism.) Therefore it seems
claar that too connections we see between social phenomena are not
necessarily intrinsic to the phenomena themselves. As in natural
science, at least some of those connections are functions of our
theories or ways of looking at things.
To sum up, I agree with \linch that we should understand another
culture in terms of an extended mode of discourse or way of looking at
things.' But I think that such a mode of discourse is ultimately
subject to concepts of intelligibility which derive £rom our'own .
culture, and that this way of understanding is not fundamentally
different from that of natural scienc!3., .
References cited
Nielsen, Kai, 1967, Wi ttgenateinian Fideism. Philosophy' 42: 191-209.,
Winch, The IdeA of a Social Science, &
Kegan Paul. 1964, Understanding a primitive society. American
Philosophical Quarterly 1: 307-324.
- 82 ­
ARE "PRIlJ1ITIVES" NECESSARY?
There have been several recent attempts to draw anthropological
material into the wider discourse of comparative religion and
philosophy, and to formulate general terms of discussion in this field.
For example, Burridge (1969) uses "traditional" material to develop a
general framework for dealing with millenial movements; Turner (1969)
ranges from the Ndembu to Francis and Bob in his exploration
of the possibilities of liminality-, "oommunitas" and anti-structure as
general"terms of comparison; and Leach, in the Introduction to the
Cambridge volume of essays on "practical religion" (1968) states
explicitly his formula for the integration of tribal material with
comparative religion:
"At one time"anthropologists studied savages in
contrast to civilized men; we now find ourselves
stUdying the thought processes of practical,
ordinarY people as distinct from those of teohnioal
professionals. Among 'civilized' practioal
people the distinction between primitive and
sophisticated largely disappears ••• the "
similarities are more remarkable than the contrasts" •
••• "The kind of cross-linkae;e which th,is collection
establishes-between 'higher religions'
and so-Called 'primitive religions' marks a
fundamental step forward in the lttudy of comparative
religion". '
Whether or not one argrees with the partiCUlar methods ot these
authors, most people welcome their efforts to overcome the primitive/
modern diohotomy" and to break through the parochial boundaries of
anthropology•
It is, therefore. curious that in Mary Douglas' recent and highly
influential Purity and'Danser (1966)" a central chapter is devoted to a
re-instatement of the concept "primitive" in relation to systems of
thought (Ch. 5). Those who avoid the term are accused of "squeamishness"
and secret convictions of superiority. Mary Douglas maintains that
our diffiCUlty in understanding, for example, the notion of cosmic
pollution is due partly to our "long tradition of playing down the
difference between our own point of vantage and that of primitive
cultures. The very real differences between 'us' and 'them' are
made little of, and even the word 'primitive' is rarely used."
She concludes that we 'must attempt to phrase an objective. verifiable
distinction between the two types of culture. primitive and modern".
and proceeds to" do so in terms closely related to those of Levy-Bruhl.
She sees progress as "differentiation". and in relation to
the relevant differentiation is that "based Qn'the Kantian principle
that thought can only advance by freeing itself of its own subjective
conditions". The primitive world is therefore a pre-Copernican world. "
a subjective personal world in which the is turned 'in upon
man. and which lacks "self-awareness reaching for
objectivityll.She asks,,; "What is the obJecti6n to saying that a
personal. Undifferentiated world-view characterizes
a primitive culture?"
I will not attempt to give a full answer 'to this ethriocentric
question here. eXQept to suggest that it would include a rejection of
the holistic concept of "a culture". of the assumption that "modern
culture" is not in many ways personal aild anthropocentric. and of the
assumption that objectivity and,differentiation are not foUnd beyond the
industrial world; arid also a rejection of the accompanying theory
that in "primitive cultures" thought is socially determined: "The
primitive world-view has evolved as an appanage":of social institutions
••• it is produ¢ed indirectly". " ,
What I would like to suggest in this short note is that the rather
extreme position held in the fifth chapter of Purity and Danger is
an isolated statement. not only in relation to other contemporary
writiogs i,n social anthropology. but also in relation to the bulk of
Mary Douglas' own work. It is not even consistent with the main
argument of the book in which it appears. whioh is after, all an attempt
to eluoidate oertain universal principles of symbolic association. In
a recent article in New Society (1970a.) Dr. Douglas appears to undermine
her own defence of the "primitive":
"If it be accepted that tribal societies display as much
variety as in their religious propensities. the
reallY,interesting questionS arise ••• They. too.
will have had their protestant ethic. their shakers
and quakers and' anti-sacerdotal movements. They
will also have had their periods of scepticism
and secularism. Why not? 'A modern study of
comparative religion must do away eqUally with
the Y'.otlon of the global primitive and with the
notion of the fixity of tribal beliefs."
And in her latest book (l97Ob)i she claims to be concerned with
Ita formula for olassifying relations which oan be applied. equally
to the smallest band of hunters and gatherers as to the most industrial­
ised nations" (p. vi11) and compares the philosophical position of
Congo pygmies and Dutoh bishops (p. 49). She asserts that she has
"dared to compare Christian ritUal ''11th and primitive notions of
taboo." In Natural Svnbola Mary Douglas is explicitly attempting to
fC\rmulate a general framework for comparative stUdies: "If' we oannot
bring the argtunent back from pygmy to ourselves. there is Iittle
point 1n starting it at all" (p. 63). We are exhorted to "break
through the spiky. verbal hedges that arbitrarily insulate one set of
human experience from another set (theirs)."
How are we to reconcile this position with the earlier arguments
of Purity and Danger for the resurrection of "the primitive world"?
The social and political context of anthropology is ohanging; why
should it be necessary to reaffirm the oolonial boundaries of its
thought? Surely the best contemporary writing. inclUding some of
Mary Douglas' own. removes the necessity for the word "primitive".
whiohhas after all obscured more issues than it has clarified in
the history of our sUbJeot.
Wendy J8!lles.
, ' '
Bibl1ograp&
,1'
Burridge. K.O.L•• '1969. z;[ew Heaven. New Earth. OXford.
Douglas. M. 1966. Purity and Danger. Routledge and Kegan Paul. rondon.
'1970a. "Piety: Heathen and Mode't1l". New SocietZi
,12 Maroh 1970.
197Ob. Natural SymbolS. Barne and Rookliff: The Cresset
Press. IDndon.
!each. E.R. (Ed.). 1968. Dialectio in Practioal Religion, Cambridge.
Tqrner. .. 1969. The Ritual Process. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
London.
- 84 ­
THE IIFREE COMPETITI ON OF THOUGHT
II
- A CRITIQUE
, liThe truth of philosophy - what philosophy really is - is discovered
in politics. Philosophical ideas • views of the w:orld, of society, and
of man elaborated by philosophers • have' always been related in some way
to political issues and goals.
lIl
Henri lefebvre's challenging statement takes us beyond the scope of
most of what was written in the previous issue of this magazine. I
would agree with much that P. Heelas'has t9 say in his exposition of
the problems of "comprehendingll societies and IItranslatingll between
one oulture and another. However, only once does he touch upon what I
believe to be a of prime importance in the social scienoes
today. He writes:
"At least on 'certain issue'S, the anthropologist faces
a moral decision in deciding between basic theories
society. 112," '. , ,
And even this sentence is qualified:
III do not think that Such considerations ••• bear so
heavily today. II)
Here I am at odds with him, and more so with statements such as
the by Winch and Wittgenstein respectively:
"Philosophy is unconunitted enquiry."
"Philosophy leaves everything as it was. II
Winch takes the extreme position the uninvolved academic:
IIIt is not (philosophy's) business to' prizes
to science, religion or anything else.
1I
The implications of such a view are that scholarly writing becomes
another "game" • a sort of art for art's sake ··with no responsibility
to the rest of the world, and. of no more social relevance than a game '
of chess. Yet what must be questioned here is whether a subject of
such potentially explosive subject-matter as sociology or social
anthropology can abstract itself to this degree. Maybe archaeology
or botany can be safely left to the eccentric. and perhaps even a
professional philosopher can do little harm. But any theory of
society. and even the most innocent ethnography, contains elements that
may have a practical effect. outside the" urllversity walls either in
action or in ideology. This effect.· of course. may not be intended.
• ... .... 4.". -. .... . . . _.' .... .• . I ••• .'
let us now. take a few,examples., from •. and see
how two particular problems apply. .. them:t for conv'eriience
(a) moral and
",
One of the earliest "comparative Montesquieu, came
up against ethical problems in a si(J;'ik1ng manner. ijis main thesis is
a sort of ecological determinism.5 :-::I4rge" countries. hot clima:tes,the
existence of navigable rivers, the supply of domestic animals - all
these conditiop. what he calls the "esprit-general" ofa nation (e.g. hot
weather makes people' either'lazY-'or"exoltable. and thus unamenable to
demoeracyas a political system.). Fora religion or a form of social
organisation to take root, a certaln'''cara<;ltere'commun
ll
or "prinCipe"
is required (e.g. II point de noblesse. point de monarohie
ll
)
6
-i
This prinoiple. once established. rUles. and many times. Montesquieu
asserts that it is Virtually unchangeable: it comes from lila nature
des ohoses";
- 85 ..
"Des que Ie est donne et re9ue, c'est lui seul
qui gouverne."
And more important, he claims that we must in many cases ,accept the
status quo, even perfect it. For example, the Chinese being by nature
a lewd race, there is no point in attempting to introduce Christianity
with its emphasis on chastityl
However, his problem is that he oannot maintain this moral
relativity. Christianity for him is the 'true religion. Slavery is
repugnant to him, as is the Spanish Inquisition. He begins to retract.
His final position is an uneasy compromise. There are some regions,
he claims, where true morality (Christian, of course) can combat
physically-determined morality (e.g. in Ethiopia). Some races,
because of their "lachete", will always remain slaves, but in intermediate
cases, perhaps slow moral pressures can change the general spirit. His
final position on slavery is summed up iri the sentence:
"n faut borner la servitude a de certains ws •,,8
Thus, even in a man who was continually claiming a disinterested
scientific objectivity ("Je n'ai point tire mes principes de mes
prejuges, mais de la nature des choses"9), and who himself avoided any
political involvement, preferring his librar,y in Bordeaux to a position
of power (conferred by his we still find the inescapable need
to make (political, moral, 'practical) Judgments and reconnnenclations.
The same applies to the "phllosophes" who followed him - Diderot,
Voltaire, d'Holbaoh, Maupertuis, d'Alembert, Condorcet,'eto.
'In some waysJI luokily for them,' most did not live to see the
French Revolution, when to write meant to take sides. Many, in fact,
were either nobles or comfortably off, and ultimately, one could say,
they represented a leisured class playing with philosophy - there is
the famous story of Voltaire's dinner party, where he cautioned his
companions, "Ssh, not in front of the servants!" Nevertheless, this
secret society atmosphere - for philosophers only - had its advantages,
in that they had nearly a oentury in which to experiment fairly harm­
lessly. Views ranging from those of Montesquieu to those of de Sade
found expression, but had little innnediate effect on society.
The difference today, though, is that the "servants" do hear what
the philosophers say, and so do the politicians. With priVileged
isolation no longer the case, academics must now rethink their position
vis-a-vis the real world. To demonstrate this, let us take our seoond
example from a post-warsocial anthropologist/psychologist.
I refer here to Dr. Mannoni's book, "Ia. Psychologie15e la '
Colonisation" (first pUblished in 1948, translated in 1956, reprinted
in 1964). His theory is interesting and much of what he says about
colonials rings true. Yet I would condemn the book as ethnocentric,
(virtually raoialist), in tone,' and, worse, an excellent weapon for
interested parties in Madagascar.' To take, the first criticism first
(this is ,mr (s) moral and political implications'from p.l.):
The assumption underlying the whole theory Is' that western man
has escaped from the "pre-logioal" or "primitive" (the fact that he
puts these terms between quotation-marks does not remove the value­
judgement) and has entered the "maturity" of the "scientific spirit".
Phrases like "heroio attitUde", experimental spirit"JI"more advanced",
"oivilised", etc., abound, contrasted with "regressive", "infantile",
"primitiveI' , "fetishism", and so on. In a nutshell:
"The characteristics, of the scientific approach to
reality are in fact the same as those of
society and of the highlX-developed personaHtl. ill
His main regret is that colonials "revert" to a primitive father­
child relationship once in contact with an "un-scientific" people
- 86 ­
(here the Malagasies). He has the vague. idealistic hope that the
colonials. and ultimately the Malagasies. will be weaned to his sort of
liberal wisdom. Yet in 1964 he confesses:
..."The administrators. military and even
missionaries who dealt with praptical problems
of colonial life. adopted the in' order to
exploit it. and extracted from it methods and
gimmicks to use in the pursuit of their own ends ­
a development I might have forestalled had I
expected it."
12
I doubt it. The whole tenor of this book is ready-made for racist
propaganda. What hypocrisy to write. for example:
"It would'perhaps be better for the authorities to
remain in ignorance and for disinterested research
to continue" ..
1
3 (c.f. Voltaire?)
and then oontinue ·to·endorse·new editions of book!
It seems to me that Mannoni simply wishes to cover himself against
legitimate criticism. For instance. and I noticed this only by chance ­
the Introduction (p.34. 1964) emphasises that this is only a personal.
document:
"I" became preol,;oupied with my search for an understanding
of my own self ••• my study of"social.relationships
coincided with my research into my own personal
problems" ..
and yet .. 29 pages earlier. in a small footnote. we find:
"The end. of the Introduction from the bottom of page
33 to the bottom of page 34 has been reWl'itten for
the English edition. II
We can relate this to an admission. in the 1956 preface:
"I rashly employed certain theoretical concepts which
needed more careful handling than I realized at the
time. I must frankly admit that I am now disturbed
by the obvious weaknesses of the book in this
respect •••• On the whole. what I regret is not so
much these weaknesses in my book as the fact that
I have not produced a -much more personal study. It
Clearly. then. he has felt- guilty about the impact of his book.. yet
has not the courage to withdraw his main thesis. Instead he tries
weakly to proclaim that at the time he was indulging mainly in self­
This is nonsense. The book itself is .dogmatically
and "objectively" written. as if these psychological ,conditions are
given reality. This then is another very good of jmoral and
politi6al issue clouding. In his "y/ha:t; can done?"
he sounds libeI'al. but is virtually saying that the French have a duty
to remain. This is clear from sentences like:
"If the once-subject peoples were to revertt.o pol!tical
systems of which we disapproved. we should feel
uncomfortabl
14
responsible for letting this regression
take place. It . .
At the risk of a cliche. I would compare this to American
rationalisations for remaining in Vietnam.. the Dominican Republic.
Guatemala.. and so on.' 'Yet it"follows closely upon an insistence that
"all peoples. even the'most ignorant and backward. are capable of­
governing themselves. provided of course.. that they are left to choose
their own methods."
- 87 ­
Mannoni cannot have it all ways. He has an empirically-based
theory which he later claims is a "personal" and a jU.:>tification
of French presence mixed with a wish to see enlightened self-government.
"The he "denounced the book as an obfusoation".
in this case they are absolutely right.!
My third example is the most· modem. In two leading articles
in February the Sunday Times the views of Professor
Jensen of the University of California. These are based upon an
investigation of the relative I.Q.s of racial groups within the United
States, and the implications very that Indians
and Puerto Ricans have an inherited intelligence lower than that of the
average white ohild. To oover himself (I quote the SUnday Times
Bryan
"Jensen acknowledged that the eVidence upon which he
was working was not strong.' he did
that the possibility that the intelligence gap
derived from inheritanoe was 'worthy of further
consideration'.11
Silcock continues:
"And within days of. his paper was being
cited in law-eourts by white Southerners battling against
racial integration of the schools."
I hope no further comment is required here. I do not see how
Jensen can possibly escape the charge of playing his part in the
segregationalist cause.
Another example from Amerioa is a book called "Race and Reason"
published by the "Public Affairs Washington D.C. endorsed
by two le8.cl1ng Senators and a host of academics. It quite openly
argues that the Negro is lI uncivilisable" unlike is
absolutely sure of its "evidence
ll
• The preface proudly proclaims:
"There is logic and cornmon";sense in these pages: there
is also inescapable scientific validity."
My reason for quoting this is not to suggest that. such openly
expressed poison is but that the idea is by no means dead
that the social sciences can pr.oduce incontrovertible empirically-
based "scientific" theories on the old model of the natural sciences.
The high prestige of academic theories outside Universities I
much to do with this still alive within them. . Although
and others have challenged even chemistry and physics
as purely empirioal in the sense of eluoidations of a
given reality (" ••• When examining normal .••• we shall want
finally to describe that research as a strenuoUs and devoted attempt
to force ·.into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional
eduoation." in the social sciences the of Radcliffe­
remains. difficult to combat. B. V.
Street (last issue) discussed the way in which academic theories filter
(via popular etc.) into the general
oonciousness. (He is interested. chiefly in the II scientifio" myth
behind racial.stereotypesin the nineteenth century). It is also true
that the politicians take note of the reports prepared by
partioularly if accompanied by impressive statistics SUbstantiating
them.· An obvious example of this is the present concern with "immigrant
birth-rates". What is forgotten is that our books and essays are no
more than inspired guesses - "models" in the current terminology - and
no matt'er whether the original writer pays lip-servioe to this
(c.f. Mannoni's II personalII Jensen's IIweak evidence
ll
) or
whether he (like Montesquieu and Putnam) himself claims scientific
validity for his ideas. in the present climate of statistics-worship
the chances of more weight being put upon a work than it deserves are
very great.
- 88 ­
I use, 'then, Mannoni' s chapter heading: What can be dorie? First
of all, I believe we can do something about my problem (a) the moral
and political implications of a theory. The more
question all assumptions behind their own works, the better.
on f1 social cohesion
fl
, social change
fl
, "culture contact
ll
, might include
a clear statement of whether or not the II cohesion
ll
entails suffering,
whether the author approves of the direction the change is taking,
whether "contact
ll
is a euphemism, and so on. I am in favour of some
form of self analysis by the writer, and possibly of more personal
anecdotes in ethnographies. (If"for instance, the anthropologist
intervened in'native politics at all, he should us.) Again, other
writers should not hesitate to apoly II sociology of knowledge11 techniques
when criticising works. That is·to the use of certain
types of model and the employment of key words into a historical
framework, to see to which main theory it explicitly or implicitly
subscribes, and to bring out the social, ideological, and political
implications of that theory. Marxists, of course, have been doing
this for a longtime, although too often spoiling their credibility
by overgeneralisation and crude jargon. Liberal academics have been
late to see the importance of such study, and even then, tend to miss
the political point. In 1929, Clarence Irving lewis took at leaSt
some steps in this direction.
III suppose it must be admitted, in the last analysis,
that there can be no more fundamental fg<>und than the
pragmatic for a truth of any sort ..... II
••• IIAny set of basic concepts has vested interests in
the whole body of truth expressed in terms of them,
and the social practices based them. The
advantage of any change must be oonsiderable and,
fairly clear to overcome human inertia and the
. of old habits of thought.
1I1
7
However, he', like Kuhn
18
tends to think more in terms of academic
pragmatism in vacUo and the needs of IIknowledpie
ll
, rather than considering
the social and political theories-and interests involved. Although
no ,doubt some scholars are relatively unaffected by events outside the
university, it is·virtually impossible to avoid the influence of
dominant "schools
ll
, wl:lich,.,partic1l1arly in social studies, can hardly
help being concerned with what are generally seen as the main problems
of the time. Sociology delves into IIjuvenile delinquency" (already a
passe term - subsumed by IIdevianoe
ll
or "social conflict
ll
), II race
relations" (lIethnicity"?), lI education", IIbusiness management 11 and so on
- presented, as it were, by society (or, maybe, by a oertain group
ideology within that society) with an object of study, which it then
takes as real. The same applies, perhaps less obvious:g, to
anthropology, where IIkinshipll, II religion
ll
, and studies in lI equilibrium
ll
have given way to "social change
ll
• II pl ural societies
ll
, IIclassificationll,
and, of course, moves towards other disciplines.. The origins of the
first two concerns are fairly clear, and the last reflects the idea
(fact?) that II primitive
ll
societies are on the way out.' "Classification
ll
(Douglas, Needham, Beattie, leach, etc.) is more ,difficult to explain,
but no doubt an historical explanation could be- made :for-, 'the ,present
interest in this field.
1
9 ­
If it then be convincingly suggested to e.g. an.
lI
empiricist
ll
,collecting lI£acts
ll
on lI ethnicityll that "the reality he is dealing with
has been, defined for him by a certain, ,temporarily powerful ideology,
one can hope at least for are-questioning qf assumptions. This
may be the only effective way to attack certain American political
scientists.
20
who have persuaSive defenses, if questi<;med only within
their own terms. James E. Hansen. an American dialectician, puts this
succinctly:
"Inq\liry is value-laden, not only because it is one
of many possible inquiries into 'datal, but also
because it is grounded in specific historically­
generated needs ••• Since all science utilises
caeteris paribus experimentation, and since the
- 89 ­
particular experimentation conducted depends upon
the value-orientation of the experimenter, what was
once 'objeotive' may no longer b& taken as such
(e.g. witches, phlogiston, aether)••• H1story
determines faots, not facts history. "21
Does not this make nonsense of the unreal1sable ideal whioh
in a highly revealing phrase, calls the "free competition of thought,,?2
Surely the notion of free individuals competing in a free market of ideas
involves the same sort of errors and omissions as those made by the
proponents of the pure laissez-faire capitalism model!
So much for the theoretical implioations of individual works.
Finally, however, we have to consider how to deal with (b), what I
called "distortion processes". It is arguable how much effect academios
have upon, for example, the formation of officiar-1deoLOgies or the
formulation of policy, but we must still face the question: how is it
possible to avoid use being made of one's worit which utterly distorts
its original purpose? Mannoni could deplore' "a development I could
have forestalled had I expected it", but he does not tell us how.
Jensen finds himself quoted by segregationists. The original proponents
of the American Dream, the theoreticians Who influenced Robespierre, the
lovers of the German State, from Hegel to Spengler, - most would have
been horrified at the reality into which their'ideas were incorporated.
There are no doubt western writers on Nigeria, who have witnessed the
same sort of process. Or, on a different tack, what of the detailed
ethnography which provides excellent information in, say, a subsequent
war or an eager business enterprise? Several analyses of "primitive
economy", for example, have indicated precisely where an entrepreneur
could make a fortune (e.g. Barth on the Darfur, Epstein on the Tola! of
New Britain).23 Anthropological knowledge can be useful, too, for
proJeots such as "settling" nomads or l'ass1milating" rebellious groups.
I am not arguing the paranoid case for ceasing to write anything
in case "they" get hold of it! (although in sciences like genetics, this
is indeed the oonolusion that one or two men have been forced into )24.
In fact, anthropology may one day be in the reverse posltion, of being
denied access to information. Several ex-eolonial with a
perfectly Justified dislike for whLte anthropologists, have refused
entry visas to ethnographers - indicating that I am not alone in my
fears. Wh"t steps can we then take. to avoid such a situation? First,
we can enoourage a healthy mistrust of words like "pacification",
"integrat;1on","assimilation", "aid"" and "development" in general, as
well as a work as an anthropologist for any government,
without very careful thought. ',Secondly, there might be more' study
devoted to understanding the main ways in 'which academic pronouncements
influence ideas and events. The development of ideologies in general",
is an important subject which few but Marxists
25
have tackled (a
notable exoeption being Leach's Political Systems of, Highland Burma).
However. in the end I am sure that predictionoould not be acourate
beyond very general level. Ultimately I do not think there is much
one can do about misuse. exoept to denounce it as such. In fact. if
anthropologists fail to make their motives and allegiances (or lack of
allegiances) olear. it may not be long before so many countries will
be closed to them that they will have to either J01nthe professional
sociologists or return to the armchair and rework Malinowski.
E. M. W. Maguire.
- 90 ­
References:
1. H. :Lefebvre, ..§Qciolog.y of Marx; Allen lAne, The Penguin Press,
1968.
2. P. Heelas, "Meaning for Whom";
March, 1970.
3. Ibid.
4. P. Winch, The Idea of a Social Science; 1958.
5. 1748.
6. 111,11.
7. De la Politique, 1728.
8. XXY, VII.
9. preface.
10. Praeger, New York, 1956.
11. Mannoni; 1964, p. 195.
12. J;Ef.9-, preface to 2nd. edition.
13. p. 169.
14. p. 174.
15. T. Kuhn; of Scientific 1966, p. 5.
16. C. Irving I.ewis, Mind and the World-Order; New York, 1929., p. 266.
17. Ibid, p.,269.
18. Kuhn, .. oit., particularly pps. 147-50.
r,
20. e.g. Hook, Lipset, Bell, Bendix. Chomsky' exposes the evils of suoh
writers in his frightening book Power and. the New
21. James E. Hansen, ..
University of Buffalo,' offprint, 1969.
23. Barth'in A'.S.A.6-r· Epstein in Firth and. Yamey•.
... ..­ .. .
24. e.g. the Amerioan genetioist who recently announced that he was
giving up research: into the isolation of genes.. .
,"""" •• ... M •• ,
25. ·of. louis Althusser, For Marx; 1970:, or Ossowski, Class,
Routledge anef'kegan Paul, 1963.
19. As Althuser puts it, lithe meaning of a particular ideology depends
••• on its relation to the ideologioal field and on the
sooial roblems and social structure which sustain the ideolo
and. are reflected in it. Althuser s underlining. 2 Althuser•
.!!.9:t' Marx. (Allen Same, the Penguin Press, 1969, p. 62-3).
.. 91 ­
THE GENESIS OF SCIENTIFIC RACISM, INCLUDING
SOME THOUGHTS ON SCHOIARLY WORKS PRODUCED IN
THE YEARS 1714-1712
I
Many modern soholars believe t ~ t soientifio raoism is a discrete
historioal phenomenon, that its birth ocourred somewhere around the last
part of the eighteenth oentury, and that it became an important foroe
in the middle of the nineteenth oentury (See Banton, 1967, p. 12;
Poliakov, 1967, pp. 223-7; and Van den Berghe, 1967, pp. 11..18).
Margaret Hodgen has also remarked (1964, p. 213) that racialism was'
virtually non-existent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries:
'In setting out upon an analysis of the problem
of cultural diversity, as its solution was under­
taken by sixteenth and seventeenth century inqUiry,
it should be said at once that "oultural" divisions
were never assooiated with "raoial" divisions.
Any attempt to distinguish the "races" of mankind
on either anatomical, physiological, or cultural
grounds was relatively negligible. Racialism
in the familiar nineteenth and twentieth century
sense of the term was all but non-existent.'
But what was 'scientific racism?' Is there anything about
scientific racism that makes it· worthy of study for the sooiologist and
social historian?
I do not propose, myself, to give any definition of scientific
racism, because I have not, as yet, evolved or produced a perfect one.
I should' rather beg the reader to pomer upon the following definition
by Van den Berghe (1967, p. 11):
'Racism is any set of beliefs that organic, ,
genetioally transmitted differences (whether real
or imagined) between human groups are intrinsically
assooiated with the presence or the absence of
certain socially relevant abilities Or character­
istios, henoe that such"differences are a legitimate
basis of invidious distinctions between groups
socially defined as raoes.'
For my part, I would delete froni this definition the word 'invidious'
and insert at the end 'or varieties,' so that the last part of the
definition would read:
, •• ~ hence that suoh differences are a legitimate
basis of distinctions between groups sooially
defined as races or varieties.'
The sooiologist and the sooial historian must ask themselves
whether soientific racism has a distinctlveidentity" .. in other words,
whether ,or not it is· analytioally separable from.notionssuoh'as 'olass·,
'prejudice', or r ethnooentrism' • Seoondly" one must ask whether the
ooncept of soientifio racism is pertinent to the study of the history of
the sooial sciences and the politics of the last ~ o centuries. It
is useful to consider oertain approaches that have been made to the
problem of scientifioraoism. RegretfuJ.ly, orie has to state that most
of the afProaches whioh I now list are Simplistic, although none, bar
Benedict s, is absolutely incorrect.
- 92 ­
(1) Racism equals ethnocentrism. The supporters of this
argument clearly do not see scientific racism as a discrete social
phenomenon that has appeared during the last 200 years.
'''Racism.
1I
asserts Dr. Benedict. "is essentially
a pretentious way of saying that 'I' belong to
the BestPeoplei" The formula 'I belong to the
Elect' has a far longer history than .modern. '
racism. These are fighting ·words among the
simplest naked savages'" (Cox. 1948. p. 478.
quoting Benedict. Race Science and Politics.
1943. pp. 154-155):-- ,­
As Cox correctly remarks. 'Ethnocentrism is a social constant in
group association. hence it cannot explain variations in collective
behavior', (ibid.). Benedict's error proceeds from her failure to
develop a sOC:LOlogical approach. Identifying racism with ethnocentrism.
she defines both as a used by one ethnic group to Justify
persecution of another. She is engaged in a psychological investigation
of beliefs.
(2) approach. The historian of ideas is often more
interested in constants which survive changes in the social climate
than in the mere ephemera that are the social facts of any society at
a fixed point in history. Arthur u:>vejoy (1960) and C. Greene
(1959) are both more interested in the intellectual pedigree of ra.c.ist
ideas than in their social The social scientist is also
interested in the intellectual pedigree. but he is hardly willing to
ignore the social background.
(3 ) VUlijar Marxist approach. This approach can take two
forms (See Van den Berghe. 1967. p. 17). First of all. racism is an
epi-phenomenon of capitalism. an attempt to justify oolonialist
exploitation. Secondly. racism is a device employed by the ruling
class to apply in their treatment of the working classes the axiom
'divide !l impera' • Both of these statements correct. They both
describe social facts. but neither is a full explanation. One must
explain why scientific racism did not appear with the first discovery
and exploitation of non-European races. It is true that before the
appearance of scientific racism the myth of Ham's curse was occasion­
ally used as a Justification of racial exploitation. but one must add
a cautionary note:
'When 'the storY of Ham's curse did become
relatively common in the seventeenth century.
it was utilized almost entirely as an explanation
of oolor. rather than as Justification for Negro
slavery. and as such it was probably denied more
often than affirmed' (Jordan. -1968. pp. '18,-19).
, .
, For a hundred years colonialist and exploitatiop
existed without a suitable ideology. Even when an ideology apPeared,
it took eighty years before it was. popularly utilized. I shall
suggest later that the solutions to problem may in the
scientific debates and social conflicts of tJ1e eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries.
(4 ) Romanticist approach. . Theophile S1.mar (author of Etude
Critigue 1!. formation 1!. doctrine races, Brussels 1922""';-­
viewed raoismas a produot of romanticism. Romanticism endowed
nations and groups with a personality and a will.' Thus far. I think
Simar is not incorrect. ' However,' S1mar pays much attention to the
struggle between the bourgeoisie and aristooracy in sixteenth to
nineteenth century France in the f+rst one hundred pages of his study.
out of this struggle. aocording to Simar. came racism from romanticism.
In fact. racist ideas were formulated elsewhere earlier. A
- 93 ­
product of oolomal settlement, exploration, and exploitation, racism
was a model which proved eminently adaptable to the dynamics of class
. warfare 1n Europe.
A valid account of scientific racism must relate both to social baok­
ground and to scientific ideas, however difficult the task. Winthrop
Jordan's book, White over Black (1968), a remarkable scholarly achievement,
is the best
Scientific racism was a product of the Enlightenment era. Its origins
lie in that series of myths which were developed by the natural philosophers
of the eighteenth century to explain man's place in Nature. Certain off those
myths were employed by those who sought to defend the system of
which was based in mercantile capitalism, against the fury of the nascent
abolitionist movement. In its early years, scientific racism was a defensive
ideology, but myths" as social facts, have a power of their own, and in the
latter years of the nineteenth century, racial determinism assumed an
aggressive note.
II
Before commencing; my main account of raoism in the years 1774-75, I must
add a few words conoerning certain soientific notions. This brief account
is little more than a glossary. Detailed accounts of these ideas are given
py Greene and IDveJoy.The reader is also referred to Slotkin's sourcebook,
!!l Early Anthropol0fg (1965).
. . .
The discoveries of Gallileo, Copernicus, and Newton, and the philosophy
of Descartes, disturbed the peaceful world of Providence. 'Give me
and movement and I will remake the world,' said Descartes, the
first prophet of mechanistic Deism. John Ray, in his Wisdom 2!
Manifested !!l 2£., Creation, 1701, made a valiant attempt to defend
doctrine of final causes. The universe was seen as a perfect,
4nchanging, whole. In it existed every conceivable variety of thing. It
a plenum formarum, and nothing in its perfection was without purpose;
even the rocks and stones had their uses. In the twelfth century Peter
Abelard advanced the doctrine that IDveJoy calls 'the of sufficient
reason', and that doctrine remained in currency for five 'hundred years.
the doctrine was that everything was generated by some necessary' cause 'for
comes into being except there be some due cause a.nd reason anteQ6d.ent
it' (Abelard). Such perfection was the expression of the goodness of the
Crea.tor. One consequence of these doctrines was that speoies were seen to
Be eternal. To talk of fresh oreation or of extension would be to imply
inadequacy in the Creator's plans.
This complex of ideas was attacked and eroded by mechanism l:!oS the
century progressed. Later on, the new geology, paleontology,
and, finally, Darwinism, destroyed teleology, but it was a protracted
and Providence took long to surrender (See Gillispie, 1951). The
mechanists saw Gbd as somewhat distant; they believed in Gbd, if at all, as
a first oause, rather than in the do,ctr1ne of final' causes. Their leaders
included the 'wicked' Baron d'Holbach and the cowardly and charming Buffon,
who questioned revelation but recanted"at double speed when ordered so to do
by the Sorbo.nne (1751). ..
Throughout the eighteenth century meohariism arid final cause were engaged
ina perpetual tug of war. Many eighteenth century works are inconsistent
tn their adherence to either. Furthermore, in view of the social
pressures of the time, whether of Protestant conformism or of the Holy
Inquisition and its zealous allies, the modern reader has often to read
between the lines.
One idea often associated with the ideas of sufficient reason and
plenitude was the doctrine which is commonly known as the doctrine of the.
Great Chain of Being. At the turn of the eighteenth century it was
embellished by Isibniz and Spinoza. I.ater in the century it was
popularised by Pope in his Essay on Man (1732-1734) and by Charles Bonnet
in his Contemplation de la Naturel1763 and 1769). A oontinuous unbroken
- 94 ­
chain stretched from the smallest inanimate object, through all forms
of life, leading to man, culminating in the angels at the P€2,}- of
creation. There were no gaps in the chain, because the creator had
produced everything that could be produced. The chain was hierarchical,
stretching from highest to lowest. The doctrine of Grande Echelle
des Etres flourished during the last quarter of the eighteenth century
and deCITned during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, so
soon after it reached its peak.
The notion of the Great Chain of Being was not consistent with the
notion of, species, which was being developed by Unnaeusand the
systematizers of the eighteenth Unnaeus viewed species as
determinate bodies of morphologically similar beings. The classifica­
tion of species was seen as a natural one, although orders and genuses were
artificial concepts. Buffon (See odom, 1967, pp. lO-ll) found the idea
of determinate natural species inconsistent with the idea of continuity
in the Great Chain of Being.
'Nature proceeds by unknown graC:,tions, and consequently
does not yield totally to divisions:' 'Species fade
into species and often genus into genus by impreceptible
nuances.'
Later Buffonmodified his position and adopted his own notion of
species, which was based on the criterion of mutual fertility. If two
varieties of animal or plant prOduce fertile hybrids, they were of the
same species. Species were held to be distinct from varieties, which
were the subdivisions of species, often permanently distinct
morphologically in minor details, but interfertile. Varieties were
generally regarded as degenerations from the species prototype.
The notion of degeneration is crucial to the understanding of
eighteenth century taxonomy. Through some comprehension of the
taxonomy, one becomes awa.re that.accounts of degeneration into varieties
are not accounts of evolution of species, for such an error has
frequently been made.
III
MAN'S PlACE IN NATURE
In 1735 Unnaeus, in the first edition of his Systema Naturae,
classed man as part of the Class Quadrupaedia. Man was divided into
four varieties according to colour: European, American, Asiatic, and
African. Unnaeus 's work was significant in that the author not only
linked man to the animal creation but assigned him to a part of it. In
Unnaetis's tenth edition, 1758, his pupil, Hoppius, is believed to have
added the much-famed satyrs and Trogledytes, including Homo Sylvestris
orang-utang. The ignorance of Europe's best informed natUralist
indicates both the curiosity of the time alld the gaps in human knowledge •
. Reports from the coasts of Africa by voyagers and slave traders, and
. also from the' East Indies, and the opening' of America, had led to some
increase-in knowledge, in and in speculations concerning the
varieties of mankind and of human cultures. Diverse reports had
arrived concerning strange, man-like creatures. Some 'of these creatures
we can, with hind..sight, identify as chimpanzees, and
gorillas, but between 1760 and 1780, the evidence was sparse, the
olassifications unclear. In'pictures and illustrations that were
widely circulated" the manlike qualities of the anthropoid apes were
greatly exaggerated (See Greene, 1959" p. 188). One can, therefore,
forgive lord Monboddo for his theory Of the humanity of the orang-utang
(Monboddo, 1774).
Round these accounts and classifications were built new theories
concerning man's natural role. They were constricted, in the main, by
the need to conform to the Biblical account. Man was of one species
and of one origin. It was heresy to contradict the theory of
monogenesis. It was possible to say·that mankind had degenerated into
- 95 ­
several varieties; . it was not permissible to say that he wu.s originally
created as several Just a few sceptics,
and eccentrics dared to counter orthodoxy and advance a pol;a;enist
.
The monogenist theory of the eighteenth century was dominated by
environmentalism. This is well known to many as the doctrine advanced
in Montesquieu's L"Esprit wis. The physical and moral constitu-··
tion of the human species was affected by ,such factors as climate,
ecology, diet# and. mode of life. The role of climate was of peculiar
importance. Climate accounted for the oolour of the skin: the heat
of the sun aoted upon the skin, and caused it to darken. (Various
mechanisms were suggested as the reason for the darkening of the skin,
including the secretion of excess bile.) Climate also affected ..·.,,:,.;,
stature.. Diet and mode of life had a subsidiary effect upon
, , .....
and physique. The degenerations from the original type which were---,','·\
induced by the environment were gradual. Changes took place over
several generations, and the environmentalists were always hard put to
explain how they could have taken place in the short span of years
allowed by Biblical texts.
The multi-talented. George louis Comte de Super­
intendant of the Jardin du was a leading environmentallstand
monogenist. He believed that dark colour in the skin was produced
both by extreme cold and by extreme heat. However it was a
misfortune (See pp. 203-2<17). This view of Buffon's
was later (1787-1810) developed by Samuel Stanhope although like
most environmentalists, Buffon did not believe that those who possessed
'inferior' oultures were eternally damned. to servitude and savagery.
Buffon was a propagator of an aesthetio and used the climate
theory to support his aesthetic:
'The most temperate climate lies between the _
and 50th degree of and it produces the most
. handsome and beautiful men. It is from this climate
that the genuine colour of and of the various
degrees of ought to be derived. The two
extremes are equally remote from truth and from
beauty. The civilized situated Under
this zone, are Georgia, Ciroassia, the Ukraine,
Turkey .in Europe, the South of .
Italy, Switzerland, France, and the northern part of
Spain. The ,natives of these territories are the
,;,.
} ..
most handsome and most beautiful people in tne ."',
world'. (Buffon, 1791, pp. 20}-2<17).
In 1774 John (Who was no relation of a famous surgeon of
the period who was 'also called John prodUOed. his Dissertatio
Inapguralio: He defines species aocording to
'A olass of animals of' which the members procreate
with each other and tbe offspring of which also:
procreate other animals, whiohare either like
their class or afterwards become 50.'
In the main, Hunter's dissertation is an orthodox and unlnspll'ed
tract full of the oliches of the climate theory. At the end of his
treatise, however, he appends some interesting remarks (pp. 389-394)
concerning 'the varieties of mind'. He noted (p. 389) that 'the
. mental varieties seem equal to arld sometimes greater than the bodily
varieties of man'. Climate and custom interacting affected the
mental faculties, Just as they affected the physioal faculties. At
one point, Hunter nearly antioipates the cultural relativist position:
'Traveliers have exaggerated the 'mental varieties
far beyond the who have denied good qualities
to the inhabitants of other countries, because their
.
- 90 ­
mode of life, manner, and customs have been
excessively different from their own. They have
never that when the Tartar tames his
horse, or the Indian erects his wigwam, he exhibits
the same ingenuity which an European general does
in manoeuvering his army or Inigo Jones in
building a palace'.
In 1775, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach published the first edition of
De Generis Humani Varietate. This work was a brilliant defenoe of the
monogenist position. The human species had degenerated into disparate
varieties, of which he lists four:
(1) European and Asian west of Ganges
(2) Asian east. of Ganges and Australian
(3) African
(4 ( American, apart from the far north.
In his second edition (1781) Blumenbaoh was to distinguish between
the Malayan and Mongolian, acoordingly replacing his fourfold with
a fivefold classifioation. In this edition, also, he introduced a new
classificatory' term, Caucasian. Blumenbach, who classified mankind in
an order of its own, bimana, was no believer in the Great Chain of
Being. Man, devoid of instincts, was protected by the 'developing germ'
of reason, which was dependant upon society and education. He was
distinguished further by his unique and his erect position. Even
the fiercest nations of mankind possessed the power of speech. The
hymen and menstrual flux were also possibly unique (See Blumenbach,
1775, pp. 82-90). Unlike many of his contemporaries, 13lumenbach .
exhibited a healthy scepticism with regard to wild children, Albinos,
and men with tails (See Blumenbach, 1775, pp. 129-145).
In the year 1774, which saw the publication of Hunter's Dissertatio
Inaugural1s and the preparation of Blumenbach' s thesis, which was
completed the next year, two major polygenist works appeared, the one
by Henry Home, IDrd Kames, a Scottish Judge of Sessions, the other by
Edward IDng, a former Jamaioan jUdge and member of the Jamaican
plantocracy.
The two works were alike insofar as they criticised certain flaws
the environmentalist case. In other respects they were very
different. IDng's work antioipated the racial determinism of the
mid-nineteenth oentury. He seemed to care little for the Bible. Per
contra, Kames's work was guilty, self-conscious heresy. It looked
back to de I.a Peyrere's Praeadamitae (1655), not forward to Knox, Nott,
and Hunt. In his Sketches 2!. 2. History 2!!:!!m (1774, Vol. 1,
pp. 38-43), Kames notes that all evidence seems to indicate that the
Breator had originally produoed many pairs of the human race, that is
to say, separate human species. But Moses said otherwise. 'Though
we cannot doubt of the authority of Moses, yet his account of the
creation of man is.not a little puzzling, as it seems to contradict
every one of the facts DlElntioned above'. . An inspiration offered
itself: mankind, formerly of one species, had been diversified by
some great catastrophe, imposed by the Greator as punishment. This
catastrophe was the fall of the tower of Babel:
'Thus, had not men wildly attempted to build a
tower whose top might reach to heaven, all men would -,
not only have spoken the same language;, but would
have made the same progress toward maturity of
knowledge and ciVilization. That deplorable
event reversed all nature: by scattering men
over the face of all the earth, it deprived them
·of society, and rendered them savages. From that.
state of degeneracy, they ha're been emerging
gradually. Some nations, stimulated by their own
nature, or by their climate, have made a rapid
progress; some have proceeded more slowly, and
some continue savages ••• '
-
- 97 ­
In a somewhat more rational vein, Kames (Vol. I, p .. 5) criticized
Buffon's use of the fertili ty criterion in the definition of species.
Could Buffon explain the production of fertile hybrids by sheep and
goats? Elsewhere (pp. 10-14) he criticizes environmentalist theory,
and its main proponent in natural philosophy, 'There have
been four complete generations of Negroes in Pennsylvania without any
visible change of colOur••• "
'If the European oomplexion be proof against a
hot olimate for a thousand years, I pronounce that
it will never yield to climate. In the suburbs
of Coohin, a·town in Malabar, there is a colony of
industrious Jews of the same complexion as they
have in Europe. They pretend that they were
established there during the atrocity of Babylon:
it is unquestionable that they have been many
86es intha"t oountry'. . p. 13).
Although Kames was impelled by his conSideration of the physical
oharacter of the Negro to oonsider him a separate speoies, he viewed
the Negro's 'inferiority of understanding' as a product of environmental
deprivation:
'A·ma.n never ripens in Judgment nor in prudenoe
bUt by exercising these poWers. At home the
negroes have little oooasion to exercise either
of tthem: they live upon fruits and roots., whioh
grow without oulture; they need little clothing;
and they ereot houses without trouble or art.
Abroad, they are miserable slaves, having no
enoouragement to think or act'. (Ibid., pp. 31-32).
Kames's essentially benign polygenesis contrasts sharply with the
malign utterances of Jamaica I s historian, Edward long.
MERCANTIIE CAPITAUSM, SIAVERY, AND THE WORK OF EDWARD LONG
In retrospeot it seems inevitable and tidy that Edward Long's
History 2!. Jamaioa, a work that in so many ways foreshadowed and so
greatly influenoed later soientific racism, should have appeared when
it did (1774) and from so appr'opriate a source. Edward long had
recently come to EIlglaIld from Jamaica, where he had been a planter and
a Judge. His family prominent citizens of the island: .
'Also connected with Jamaioa were the longs.
Charles long, at his death, lett property in
Suffolk, a house in Bloomsbury, london, and
total property in Jamaioa comprising 14,000
acres. He enjoyed a verY great income, by
. far the largest of any Jamaioan proprietor
of that period, and wasacoordirigly entitled
to live in splendor. His grandson, a Jamaican
planter, wrote a w.el.1-known nistory of the
·island' • (Williams, 1944, .p. 89). .
.. Jamaica, the great sugar island· was the hub of the system of
mercantile capitalism which Britain dominated through her naval
strength and control of the Asiento. The slave trade made BritaiIi
'great I and the port o.f Liverpool burgeoned from its prof1't:s (See.
Williams, 1944, pp. 29-1(6). In the year 1771, 190 British ships
transported 47,000 slaves. Furthermore, 'The Importation into
Jamaica from 1700 to 1786 was 610,000, and it has been estimated that
the total import of slaves into all the British colonies between 1680
and 1786 was over two million'. p. 33).
I do not propose to enter lnto the controversyooncerning the
merits or evils of Anglo-Amerioan as compared with Latin Amerioan
slavery (summarized in Foner and Genovese, 1969). I think it would
- 98 ­
be generally agreed that Jamaica was one of the most if not
the most vicious. of the slave-owning colonies, having an advanced
plantation system. controlled by a powerful planter interest, many of
whom lived as rich, ostentatious absentees in Britain.
At the time long Wl;'ote his history, the island was still most
prosperous, but storm clouds were looming•. , The Liverpool traders were
beginning to lose money (Williams, 1944, p. 38). The abolitionists
under Granville Sharp were launching their first major attack. TWo
years earlier. they had obtained a decision from lord Mansfield, in the
course of which he had remarked that the case, which involved one James
Somersett. aslave who was about to be returned by his owner to Jamaica,
was one which was not 'allowed or approved by the Law of England.' The
decision in no way affected the slave trade. but it greatly perturbed
long (See long. 1772).
In the Introduction to his History of Jamaica, long defends the
institution of 'servitude' against its detraotors, particularly Messrs.
Sharp and 'Godwyn. 'Wherever circumstances make it inevitable.
"servitude" is a happy institution. provided only that the slave-owners
are truly free men'.
The gist of longi s argument concerning the Negro is contained in
some thirty pages of the second volume of his history (long. 1774, Vol.
II, Book III" Chap. 1 i pp. 351-379). First of all, he remarks that the
colour of the Negro skin is not affected by change of climate. He
remarks upon their 'covering of wool, like the bestial f1eeoe. instead
ot hair,' some bodily peculiarities, inclUding 'the large size
of the female nipples. as if adapted by nature to the pecu1iarconforma­
tions of their children's mouths', 'the black colour of the lice which
infest their bodies' (p. 352). and 'their bestial or fetid sme11'(p. 382).
The Negro, according to long. is not merely physically revolting, but
mentally much the inferior of the white man:
'In general, they are void of genius, and seem almost
incapable of making any progress in civility or science.
They have no plan or system of morality among them.
Their barbarity to their children debases their nature
even below that of brutes. They have no moral
sensations, no taste but for women, gormandizing and
drinking to excess" no wish but to be idle. 'Their
children, from the tenderest years, are suffereq to
deliver themselves up to all that nature' suggests
to them'. '
After such invective, Iong'sconc1usi'on (p. 356). is anti-climactic:
'When we reflect on the nature of these men. and
their dissimilarity to the rest of'mankind', must
we not conclude that' they are a different species
of the same ' ,
, "
Having established that the Negro is a long
decided that he must establish' th'e Negro t s place in" Naturf;l. He
expounds the doctrine of the Great Chain of Being and the :principle
of continuity. The Negro. according to long (PP. 356-370) occupies a
place in the chain between the orang and the rest of humanity. In
order to cover any gaps in the chain. long.. having dehumanized the
Negro, equips the orang with human attributes:
'For m;v own part, I conceive that probability favours
the opinion. that human organs were not given him
for nothing: that this raoe have some language by
which their meanil1g is cormnunicated••• nor for what
hitherto appears, do they seem at all inferior in
the intellectual faculties to many of .:the Negro
race, with some of whom, it is credible that they
have the 'most intimate.,connex1on and Qortsanguinity.
- 99 ­
The amorous intercourse between them may be frequent;
Negroes themselves bear testimony inter­
courses actually happen; and it is certain that both
races agree perfectly well iq lasciviousness of
disposition' •
It is interesting to note that the links of the Great Chain of
Being were stretched in similar fashion by the authors of Personal
Slavery Established 2 Suffrages 2! Custom Right Reason. Being
!. Aost'ler :E. Gloomy !!!! Visionary Reveries 2.f. 8ll. Fanatical
Writers 2!l that Subject. an anonymous work. which
appeared in in 1773 (the year before the publication of
Long's book). and which was. as its title implies. directed against the
abolitionist movement. MY attention was drawn to the latter work by
Winthrop Jordan. who remarked how apt a tool was the Great Chain of
Being for the scientific racist who sought to, defend slavery against
fresh a.ttacks:
f •••the popularity of the concept of the Chain in
the eighteenth century derived in large measure from
its capacity to universalize the principle of
hierarohy. It was no accident that the Chain of
Being should have been most popular at a time when
_the hiera.rchical arrangement of society was being
challenged. No' idea'. no matter how abstraot
or intricately structured. exists in isolation
from the society in which it flourishes' (1968. p. 228).
The concept of the Great Chain of Being disappeared in the first
quarter of the nineteenth century. But Long's ideas survived that
disappearance. His description of the peculiarities of the Negro. his
tenor of argument. is repeated in parrot fashion by many later racists.
including the American School. Knox and Hunt.
CONCWSIONS.
I have tried to do that most difficult of things. to describe the
genesis ofa myth. And scientific racism most certainly is a myth.
It offered a'resolution of two paradoxes in natural and moral
philosophy: the antithesis of the evident disparity bett'leen human
physiques and cultures of different peoples and the old belief in the
unity of the human species under God; and the paradox of Mankind.
newly peroeived to be part of the animal creation. yet thought to be
unique in its possession of a soul and the developed power of reason.
Further. it resolved from some the conflict between the doctrine of
Natural· Rights and the existence of slavery 1n a society of free men.
The pressures of the nascent abolitionist movement upon the defenders
of slavery may have acted as a oatalyst.
Once established. the myth of scientific racism grew at first
slowly. and flourished. creating a momentum of its own. It was
to affeot not Just an intelleotual elite.' but an administrative and a
literary elite. In the end it was to act as a corrupting agent upon
popular movements.
Andrew P. Iqona.
Biblioe;,raphy
Banton. Michael, Race Relati0nl:l.l wndon. 1967. Tavistook.
Benediot. Ruth. Soience ancl Politics. New York. 1943.
Van Den Berghe. Pierre L••.. and Racimu. New York. Wiley. 1967.
- 100 -
Blumenbach. Johann Friedrich (Tr. Bendyshe) •• De Oeneris Humani
Varietate. rat edit •• 1775 and 1776.
Published in 'The Anthropological
. of Johann etc••
Iondon: Publications of the Anthropological
Society of Iondon. Iondon. 1865.
Buffon. Histoire .. 3rd Edit .. (trans. Smellie). 1791.
Foner. Iaura and in .. A Reader in
Genouese. EV'eene D. Comparative New Jersey. Prentice
Hall. 1969. " . . ,.,
Greene. J .C.. The Qeath of Adam. Iowa 1959. Ne't'l York. New American
Library (Mentor). 1961.
Hodeen. Margaret. Early Anthropology in The Sixteenth and Seve:'1teenth
Phlladelphia; unIversityof"-­
Pennsylvania Press. 1964.
Hunter. John. Dissertatio Inauguralis. 1774. Published in 'The
A,nthropolol'!;ical Treatises of Johann Friedrich
Biume'nbach'::-::-; and the inaugural .. _- .
.- dissertatIOn of John Hunter M.D. t
Iondon: Publications of the Anthropological
Society of Iondon. 1865.
Jordan. Winthrop D•• WPl:te over Bla9Jt. Chapel Hill. 1968, Baltimore.
Kames. Henry Home. Iord Kames. ..f 1774.
de Ia Peyrere. Iaac. tae.. Amsterdam 1655.
Linnaeus. Carl Von Linne. Systema Naturae. 1st edit •• leyden. 1735.
loth" 1758.
Iong. Edward. History of Iondon. 1774.
Iovejoy. Arthur 0•• The Great Chain of Being. Cambridge. Mass. 1936.
"HarVardUnivers1ty Press.
Monboddo.. James Burnett. Iord Monboddo. .. o.::fe.
2nd edit.. Edinburgh. 1774.
Odom. Herbert H.. Generalizations on Race in Physical
5"8;'1961.-' pp-,- 5-19-.-' -.--------.
Poliakou. L•• Racism in Europe Article in Caste and Race. pp. 223-233.
IDndon. Churchill. '1967.
Pope. AleXander. Essay on, Man!. 1732-34.,
Simar. Theophile. Etude Critique sur la Formation de la Doctrine
.. --- 1922':'--- - .'" '...,.. ' .-
J .S•• in ?arly... IDndon. Methuen. 1965.
Williams.. Eric.. Capitalism and Chapel Hill.. 1944.
. -_...._-_...
- 101 ­
BOOK REVIE\oIS
NATURAL SYMBOLS - Barrie and Craessil (1970)
by Mary Douglas
Mary Douglas I new book Natural Symbols grew out of a series of lectures and.
some of the needling tone apparently necessary to rouse the slumbering anthro­
pologist has come through. From the evidence of this book it seems that a spirit
of unadventurousness is abroad and if she succeeds in defeatingit she is to be
congratulated. At the posing of questions, and it is reasonable to say that
practically every statement in the book is a challenge, Dr. Douglas is excellent.
Perhaps the sermonising on the Friday mass might have been less obvious but the·
emphasis on the eXtensions of the body is welcome. Although I have no des1:te to
criticise the more worked out ideas in the book. since I believe the reader will·
make up his own mind on the value of Bernstein's. codes and :the author's desire
to correlate conceptual and social organization I feel that the grid-group
notion ought not to be passed over because .it is symptomatic of a too common
reductionism. This matrix is an analytic model and by imposing a given voca­
bulary on the material it gives the impression that data drawn from differing
cultures are being discussed whereas it is the model which is discussed. For
a further example of this circularity consider .loan Lewis' views mentioned on p.83.
May we suggest· that the passing of structural-functionalism has left a feeling of
insecurity? But the abandonment of intellectual security ought to be a fact of
anthropological life. The Grid-group matrix does no justice to the complexities
of the material even when modified, see p. 143, and this is the more regrettable
as Purity and Danger was a remarkably good book just because Dr. Douglas' inside!
outside division was presented as a synthetic not analytic proposition.
S. Milburn.
SAINTS OF THE ATLAS - Weidenfeld 8c Nicholson:
by Ernest Gellner.
An election is a kind of holiness rat-race. Each leader puts lis party
forward as the more faithful to vows, more pious, more generous to the poor and
•the weak,· more defiant towards tyrants. In an English general election the role
of political saint is complicated by being combined with the other roles, military,
.financial and judicial. A leader clailll$ to be capable of authority in all spheres.
Gellner's study of Moroccan Berbers, with subtle political insight, shows a people
who have divided up the various polltical roles. A saint is entered in the sanetity
stakes, very rewarding in themselves, but quite different from the competition
between chiefs. Lay tribes provide chiefs; hereditary saintly tribes provide
official arbitrators. The lay tribes combine into groups which vote annually
for a single chief. Coalition theory will find· here a classical instance of.
polyarchy. Each tribe takes a turn to provide· the annual chief, but· while it is
offering a candidate for election, it may not vote. Chiefship rotates between
tribes and the victory always goes to the man whose reputation for nUllity ensures
the voting tribes that his own tribe will not benafit unduly during his term of
office. With this perfect formula for weak government, the fierce Berbers still
need a system of arbitration. Hence the role 'of hereditary saints, who are pledged
to pacifism and to Islam. Gellner shrewdly observes how- a member of the saintly
lineage rises to the heights of sanctity by playing his role of mouthpiece of God
more successfully than his fellow saints by birth. He must be laVishly generous and
$ow no concern for material wealth. He III\lst do it in such a '4y as to ensure a
rich and steady 1'low of weith into his house .. or he WiUhave nothing to
distribute to his clients. He watches at his window and runs out to welcome an
obviously properous traveller, leaving less well-heeled visitors to the hospitality
of his rtvals. The first law of sociology is: to him who hath shall be given.
This is a description of a generative cycle which sends some men up and up, with
every successful arbitration they perform guaranteeing that the next will. be taken
seriously and so be effective too. Other saints spiral downwards in public esteem.
Inevitably the saintly lineages multiply, but the demand for their services is fixed
by the pattern of disputes. Consequently. there is a trend to shed poor relations
by labelling them with seco.nd degree sanctity.For anthropologists this book illumi­
nates many problems of political and religious interest, far outside the scope of
Berber studies. It will also be significant for historians of many period of Europem
history. Who has not wondered in his school days about the apparent injustice of the
Anglo-Saxon oath taking procedures? Here the same system of:· proving innocence by
getting a larger number of co-swearers than your rival is shown to be full of politi­
cal td:;;dom and practical justice. Similarly fol' religious sociology - to understand
how miracles were attributed to particular shrines or saints we need to assimilate
this vital contribution to anthropology which is more than just a
Mary Dpuglas.
- 102 -
NarES
FIrM FOR THE REVEIATIONOF SOCIE'lY
An unknown but by all indications fairly large number of people in
social science departments in Great Britain are interested in the making
and use of sociological and ethnographic films. Until recently, however,
film-making and the use of film for educational purposes within the
social sciences has been a matter of individual enterprise, carried out
in relative Certain efforts are now being made to co-ordinate
and organise these activities, as well as to promote actual film-making
and to encourage discussion of the whole field of Ifilm for the revelation
of societyl. Whatever any one of us may feel about the kind of films
that should be made, and whatever personal contacts and abilities each
one of us may have, there 1s little doubt that the greater awareness of
the availability of resources and of the extent of present interests and
activities in sociologioal film making, that some sort of organized
exchange of information would produce, will result in the improvement
and expansion of such facilities as do exist and the film making
activities associated with
The Royal Anthropological Institute in London has established
.,
a Film Committee which is at present forming an ethnographic film library,
and hopes to be able, in the future, to promote the making of new films.
In March this year David Seddon organised a meeting of social scientists
and professional film makers under the slogan IFilm for the revelation
of societyI in order to place ethnographic film making in its wider
context.
Discussion at this meeting, held at the School of Qr:oiental and
African Studies, centred around the problem of distribution facilities.
It was noted that television was unsatisfactory in several ways (e.g.
the inevitable removal of film from the control of the film maker
responsible in order to edit for short programmes of popular appeal),
and that, in any case, it was not likely to prOVide an expanding field
of distribution. University cirCUits, on the other hand, already
developed in North America, seemed more promising, and the showing of
film for generally educative purposes in schools, colleges and such
institutions as the Voluntary Service Overseas was felt by some to be a
real possibility. Another major area of discussion concerned the need
for training and special eqUipment. The sooial scientists present
took film directing and producing to be a special oompetenoe that
reqUires extensive training; whereas at least one of the professional
film makers stressed that adequate films could be made with relatively
simple equipment and very little training. The meeting agreed that
further steps should be taken to oollect more information on these, and
other related, subjects; to sound out interest both in educational
and professional oircles, and to co-ordinate activities and discussion.
Since March 1970 David Seddon has been joined by Stephan
Feuohtwang.l also of the Anthropology and Sooiology Department of the
School of Qr:oiental and African Studies at the University of London,
in starting a neWSletter. It is. likely that the service provided
by this newsletter will be oontinued by' the Royal Anthropologioal
Institute Film 'Committee in 1971..The first issue appears in June and
contains a questionnaire, regarding the use made' of films, the existence
of proJeots involving film making, the presence of eqUipment
and of training facilities in the sooial science departments of all
British universities. The results of the questionnaire and any other
information gathered will appear in subsequent newsletters.
Contributions in the form of announcements, short articles, comments
and suggestions, as well as enquiries, are welcome and should be sent
to Film Newsletter, David Seddon and Stephan Feuchtwang, Department
of Anthropology and Sooiology, S.O.A.S., University of London, W.C.l:.
David Seddon.
CORRIGENDA - Page 3', footnote, should read Extract from the Bulletin
. of the Faculty of Arts, (Cairo), 1933, Vol. II, Part I.

- i

­

.---...... EDITORIAL NOTE _. 'hropology has come "" from the graduate students of the Sub-Faculty If Anthropology at Oxford: in particular from those of the Inst±tute of Social Anthropology . and the Department of Ethnology:. Papers given at.graduate seminars l and preliminary ideas arising from work for the Diplomas and higher degrees l very often merit wider circulation and discussion l without necessarily being ready for formal ~ublication in professional journal~. There is a need for some intermediate form of exchange. The Oxford University Anthropological Society l~s agreed to act as pUblisher for this venture and has established a Journal Sub-Committee for the purpose. The Editors are grateful to the Radcliffe-Brown Memorial Fund for a subsidy to help with the initial cost. It is hoped to produce at least one issue per term. Articles will
be welcomed from Diploma, B.Litt. and D. Phil. students in social and
other branches of anthropology, and from people in related disciplines
interested in social an~hropology. Letters, comments, reviews, and
similar material, as well as contributions from tutors, will also be
welcome. It is hoped that these essays in anthropology will prOVide a
focus for the discussion of work being done at Oxford. It will make
it easier for research students to avoid any tendency to become
isolated. and for Diploma students to enter into discussion across
tutorial boundaries. For the present, it is preferred that the main
emphasis should be upon analytical discussion rather than on
description or ethnography.
Professor E. Eavns-Pritchard is retiring at the end of this term after a distinguished period of 24 years as Professor at the Institute of Social Anthropo~gq in Oxford. '. He has ldndly ',¥J.owe~';~:' to re-publish his impoJ'tant. essay on l!Levy Bruhl's Theory of Prirni tive Me#:taiity", and the extra cost of this has been met by subscription from thoS~ students and staff who wish to express their gratitude to E... P. for his help and inspiration over the years.
x
The :i~ea for this co'llection of es~ys i
!:~..:
-

);.f:·/;\;·'::

x

x

x

x

There are still a number of copies of Vol. r. No.1. available
and if anyone would like to purchase some would they please write to
the editors, enclosing 3/- per copy (to cover post and packing).

FORMAT Papers should be as short as is necessary to get point over.
As a general rule l they should not exceed 4,000 words, but a wide
range of shorter contributions will be welcome. For future issues,
papers should be submitted following the conventions for citations,
notes, and references used in the ASA monographs. Communications
should be addressed to the Editors at the Oxford University Institute
of Social Anthropology, 51 Banbury Road, Oxford.

-39­

, .LEVY-BRUHL' 3 THEORY OF PRIMITIVEMENTALI'lY
L

*

This essay is a continuation of my paper on "The Intellectuallst 1 .(Enclish) Interpretation of Magic" in the last number of our Bulletin. In that paper I gave an account, and made a critical analysis of the theories of Tylor and Frazer about primitive thought, especially thought relating to magical practices.- These theories were severely criticised from two camps. Marett and a number of subsequent writers attacked them for paying attention exclusively to the cognitive processes of primitive thought and neglecting the affective states which give rise to them. Durkheim and his 3chool attaoked them for trying to explain orimitive thought in terms of individual psychology and totally ~eglecting its social character. On its critical side Levy-Bruhl's theory of primitive mentality is similar to that of the Annee Sociologigue group of writers but on its constructive si~'has a character of i ts ow~ and has had wide enough' influence to merit seoarate treatment. .
• I

In France and Germany LBvy-Bruhl's ~iews have been extensively examined and critioised and it is difficult to understand Why they have met with so great neglect and derision among English anthropologists. Their reception is perhaps partly due to the key expressions used by Levy-Bruhl in his writings, such as "prelogique", "representations collectives", "mystique", "participations", and so forth. Doubtless it is also due in part to the uncritical manne~ in which IevnJ-Bruhl handled his material which' was often of a poor quality in any case. But responsibility must be shared by his critics who made little effort to grasp the ideas which lay behind the cumbrous terminology in which they were frequently expressed and who were far too easily contented to pick holes1n the detail of his arguments without mastering his main thesis. Too often they merely repeated his views under the impression that they were refuting them. In this essay Levy-Bruhl's main thesis is examined. and is tested in its application to the facts of magic. Its application to other departments of social life, e.g. language and systems of numeration. is not considered. Like Durkheim Levy-~ defines sooial facts by their generality, by their transmission from generation to generation, and by their compulsive character. The English SChool make the mistake of trying to explain social facts by processes of individual thought, and, worse still, by analogy with' their .own patterns of thought which are the produot of different environmental oonditions from those which have moulded the minds which they seek to understand. "Les 'explications r de I' ecole anthropologique angla1se.. n' etant Jamais que vraisemblables~ restenttouJoursaffectees d'un coefficient de doute, variable selo11 les cas. Elles 'prennent pour accorde que les voies qui nous paraissent, nous, conduire naturellement certaines , ~ " croyances et a" certaines pratiques, sont precisement celles par ou ont passe les membres des societes ou se manifestentces croyances et ces pratiques.· Rien de plus hasardeux que ce postulat, qui ne se verifierait peut-etre pas einq fois sur cent".} .

a

a

The mental content ·of the ind1vidual is derived from, and explained by, the collective representations of his society. An explanation of the social content of thought in terms of individual psychology is ' disastrous. How oan we understand belief in spirits merely by saying, as Tylor does, that they arise from an intellectual need to account for phenomena? Why should there be a need to explain the phenomena of dreams when this need makes itself so little felt about other phenomena? Rather should we try to explain such notions as belief in spirits by . stressing the fact that they are collective notions and are imposed on the individual from without and, therefore, are a product in his mind

*

Extract from the Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts, Vol. II, Part I.

In his opinion it is useless to reply that it is because they do not take the trouble to inqUire into . We either believe entirely in natural laws or if we admit mystical influences we do not think that they interfere in the workings of an ordered universe. Un tYPe de societe delini# qUi a ses institutions et ses moeurs propres. Elle est ordre et raison# comme l'esprit qui la pens&. C' est donc elles qui s' imposeront d'abord son attention et qUi. They normally seek the causes qfphenomena in supernatural processes and they refer'any new or unusUal occurrence"to one or other of their supernatural categories. We are logically orientated# or. le retiendront. Ia nature au milieu de laquelle il vit se present~ a lui sous un tout "Bien d1f(erente (from oUrs) est 1 ' attitude de l' esprit du primitif• autre aspect. He makes no effort to prove the determinist assumption set forth in the above quotation nor to explain why we find similar beliefs in two societies with qUite different structures. y a leVy-Bruhl asks why primitive peoples do not inquire into causal connections which are not self-eVident. illes series de faits sociaux sont solidaires les unes ('}s autres# et elles se conditionnent reciproquement.40 ­ of faith and not of reason. While to primitive minds there is only one world in which causation is normally attributed to mystical influences. A des types sociaux differents oorrespondront des mentalites differentes# d'autant plus que les institutions et les moeurs memes ne sont au fond qu'un certain aspect des representations collectives# que ces representations# pour ainsi dire# considerees objectivement. institutions # so that we may suppose as social structures vari the collective 'representations wIll show concomitant variations. intellectualisee d'avance. as one might say# scientifically orientated# in our thought. et qui s'y mente Notre activite quotidienne. "Ainsi# la nature au milieu de laquelle nouS vivona est# pour a1nsi dire. Normal+y we seek the causes of phenomena in natural processes and even when we face a phenomenon whioh we cannot account for scientifically we assume that it appears mysterious to us only because our knowledge is as yet insuffici~nt to explain it. seules. even those among us who accept theological teachings distinbruish a world subject to sensory impressions from a spiritual world which is invisible and intangible.. S'il est interesse par un phenomene# s'il ne se borne pas-a le percevoir# pour ainsi dire passivement et sans reagir# i1 songera aussitot'# comme par une sorte de reflexe mental. aura dono aussi# necessairement# sa mentalite propre.tres sont imp1iques dana un reseau de participations et d'exclusions mystiques: c'est elles qui en font la contexture et l' ordre.4 a Nevertheless it may be said at the outset that Levy-Bruhl in his works does not attempt to correlate the beliefs which he describes with the social structures of the peoples among whom they have been recorded. On se trouve ainsi conduit concevoir que l'etude comparative des differents types de societes humaines ne se " separe pas de l'etude comparative des representations collectives et des liaisons de ces representations qUi dominent dans ces societies". Levy-Bruhl then develops his own point of view. a uge pUissance occulte et invisible d9nt ce phenomene est la manifestation". jusque dans ses'plus humbles details# implique une tranquille et parfaite confiance dans l'invariabilitedes lois naturelles".5 Primitive peoples on the other hand are mystically orientated in their thought# that is to"say their thought is orientated towards the supernatural. Collective representations explain individual thought and these collective representations are functioIlS "of. Tous les objets et toUS" les . He contents himself with the broad generalization that all primitive peoples present uniform " patterns of thought when contrasted with ourselves.

he suddenly attaoks him 'and kills him". These two propositions are stated Qy Levy-Bruhl in his Herbert Spenoer Lecture as fol. Thus he quotes Miss Kingsley about the belief of West African Negroes that they will suatain an injury i f they lost their shadows. feeling. Had. thrOUgh forest or grassland.known beforehand and the socially determined' cause excl. watching his opportunity. The correct answer is that savages are prevented from pursuing enquiries into the workings of nature by their collective representations.Just cited emerge the 'two propositiona which together form Levy-Bruhl' s thesis: that there are two distinct types of thought. I asked some Bakwire I once came ac~oss who we~e partioularly careful in this matter. illustrates in the Sattle manner the incompatibility of our View of the universe with that held by savages:­ "A man returning from hunting or fishing is disappointed at his empty game-bag.came down and they disappeared in the surrounding darkness. or canoe. These formalised patterns of thought.if he cannot See it he has lost it . when a savage is killed by a buffalo. par un certain membre d'habitudes mentales. how strong and how long a shadow. II existe une 'mentalite primitive'. normally to the action of witch­ craft. inhibit any cognitive.udes any endeavour to discover the natural cause of absenoeof fish or game or inabi1. and so got stronger. Why they were not anxious about losing their shadows when night . I not seen. and behaviour. on a blazing hot morning quite happily.lows:­ "1. be it of man or trr or of the great mountain itself.1ty to catch them.9 mystical thought and logical thought.41 ­ them for we are left~'with' the further question. et speoialement par la loi de participation. o~ motor. not ac~oss. is. This does not mean that· the savage is incapable of rational observation. He perhaps raises his eyes an -and sees a member of a neighbouring friendly village on his way to pay It at once ooours to him that this man is the sorcerer and a visit. ritvy-Bruhl's point of view is perhaps best set forth by giving a couple of examples from his works of the type of thought which he oharacterises as primitive and prelogical. Miss Kingsley writes:­ "It strikes one as strange to see men who have been walking. it exoludes ours since a man cannot both hold our idea of a shadow as a negation of light and at the same time believe that a man so partioipates in his shadow that. For example. from New GUinea. because at night all·shadows lay down in the shadow of the Great God. most carefully go round it. affective. that of these two types of thought the mystical type is charaoteristic of primitive sooieties and the logioal type is characteristic of oivilized sooieties. and learn that they fear losing their shadow. He is' well aware that the dead man was killed by a buffalo but he believes that the buffalo' would not have killed him unless supernatural foroeshad also operated. In his sooiety death is' due to witchcraft and witchcraft is proved by death. Elle est remarquablement constante dans les societas d1tes inferieures. he'often enough refers the occurrence to 5upernaturalcauses. qui y coexiste avec les prinoipes logiques. indeed. was in the early morning time?" It is evident from Miss Kingsley's account tha't the West African idea of a shadow is qUite different from ours and that. and. say. caracterisee par son orientation mystique. .s Responsibility for failure. and you will soon notice that they only do this at noontime. on arrival at a piece of clear ground or a village square. why they do not take this trouble.and will beoome ill in oonsequence. and turns over in his mind how to disoover who would be likely to have bawitched his nets. and was told that was alright. From many hundreds of examples of the kind .. activities whioh conflict with them. The seoond example. There is obviously no opening for a purely scientific explanation of how death has occurred for it is a~cluded ~J social doctrines.

Both were alike oritical when their thought was not determined by social doctrines. . Whom is one to accuse of 'prelogical mentality'. These obvious deficiencies are as follows: firstly I he makes savage thought far more mystical than it is. l It is also necessary to bear in mind. et reconnaftre que dans tout esprit humain l quel qu'en soit Ie d. We have to bear in mind that these observers were dominated by the representations collectives of their own culture which often prevented them from seeinG the admirable logic of savage critics. third!YI he treats. It seldom touches Levy-Bruhl's main propositions.ays "a de9ided dis-taste for. These Negroes belieyed in their . all sagage cultures as though they were uniform and writes of civilised cultures without regard to their historical development. In my opinion most of this criticism is very ineffective. Missionaries l moreover I naturally show a keener interest in ideas expressed by savages about the supernatural than in their more mundane thoughts and activities I and consequently they have stressed religious and magical belief to the disadvantage of other aspects of social life. in this instance disp]. Dans nos campagnes l et jusquedans nos grandes villes l on n'aurait pas chercherloin pour rencontrer des gens qui pensent l sentent. His theory of primitive mentality may distort savage thought but it would seem better to correct the distortion than to dismiss the theory completely. they aim 'at proving that savages have a body of practical knowledge. were impermeable to experience. disproving what no­ one holds to be proved. Peut-etre faut-il aller plus loin encore. Most of his facts are taken from missionary and travel reports and he uses uncritically inferences of untrained observers. reasoning?". Who. when assessing the value of reports on savage custom and belief l that Europeans are inclined to record the peculiar in savage cultures rather than the commonplace.own invisible beings' butoonsidered ridiculous the invisible beings of the missionaries.eveloppement intellectuell subsiste un fond indBr~cinable de mentalite primitive ••• lila a As often happens when an author has to sif'tagreat I)'laSS of material of uneven range and qualitYI Levy-Bruhl has sometimes handled his material carelessly and he has been much criticised on this score l the works contra Levy-Bruhl being by this time almost as numerous as his own. et meme agissent commedes primitifs. . I (1) Levy-Bruhl relies on biased accounts of primitive mentality. The m1ssionaries l on their side l ' believed' in the invisible beings of their own culture but rejected with scorn the invisible beings of the Negroes who they concluded. that they think logioally and are capable of sustained interest and effort..42 ­ 2.thiJ?g?' "~ . I 'shall not repeat here all the charges which have been brought against Levy-Bruhl· but shall draw attention only to the more serious methodological deficiencies of his work. Au contraire l dans les societes les plus 'civilisees ' on en apercoit sans peine des traces et plus que des traces. that the mystical thOUght we find in primitive societies can be paralleled in our own. mals elle n'en est pas separee par une sorte de fosse. Insofar as these worksll are more than mere criticism of detail. the South African missionaries or the Negroes of whom they record that "they only believe what they see" and that "in the midst of the laughter and applause of the populace I the heathen enquirer is heard saying 'Can the God of the' white men be se~n \'Ti th our eyes ••••••••••• and if Morimo (God) is absolutely invisible how can a reasonable being worship a hidden . Both missionaries and Negroes alike were dominated by the collective representations of their cultures. Elle se dlstingue nettement de la notre. thereby attributing to savages impermeability to experience which in some matters might with greater justice be ascribed to themselves. and that many of the ideas regarded by Levy-Bruhl as mystical may not be so lacking in objective foundations as he imagines. secondly he makes civilised thought far more rational than it is.

legal disputes. care of their oattle. and the method he employed which allowed him to select from hundreds of societies customs ~QQiated with·mystioal beliefs without describing from the same societies the many activI~les which depend upon observation and experiment. with the mystical thought of Zulu warriors. and the manufacture of weapons. and ornaments. number of social facts observers have tended to select facts· of the mystioal type rather than of other types and in Ikvy-Bruhl' s· writings a secondary selection has taken plaoe through which only facts of a mystical type have been recorded. '\'/e' live in an intellectualised world and have be. and oontrast their logical thought. Social'facts are. with superiors and. Nevertheless we ought not to exaggerate the distortion due to the Comparative Method and we must remember that when an author describes sooial life 'from a single angle it is not encumbent on him to describe all the social characters of eaoh fact. the thought or" Negro peasants so mystically orientated that we can speak of two mentalities. 13 .described adequately only in terms of their interrelations with other social facts and in compilations like the works of Frazer and ulvy-Bruhl they ~e·torn from their network of inter-connectionS and presen~ed in isolation and therefore shorn of much of their meaning. but also by the comparative method which he us<. notre societe. hunting. utensils. The tendency of Levy.. as Levy-Bruhl has done.. and Italian priests. (2) ~vy-Bruh1 compares the savage With 'us' and. feuds and warfare. English miners. je la considererai comme assez bien definie par les travaux des philosoph~s. relations with friends and neighbours. . logioiens et psychologues. 43 ­ Levy-Bruhl's thesis is weakened not only by uoeritical use of authorities.d company with most writers of the period.' . .. ~vy-Bruhl tells us about the mentality of ·our culture:­ "D'autre part. contrasts 'our! mentality with savage mentality. But who are f we '? Are. number of phenomena taken into consideration. fishing. inferiors. Bedouin nomads. German shopkeepers. devoting several volumes to a minute description of the former. "The discursive operations of thought. dances and feasts. sans preJuger de ce . Moreover it is generally linked up with practical activities in such a way that to describe it by itself. of reasoning and reflection" are to 'us' "the natural and almost oontinuous oooupation of the human mind". have unduly distorted savage mentality. . / . and Chinese peasantS? Is 'the thought of European peasants so scientifically orientated and. present". he entirely neglects to describe the latter with equal care. qu'une analyse sooiologique ulterieure pourra modifier dans les resultats obtenus par eux jusqu'a. we students of science or unlettered men. He presents us with a caricature of primitive mentality. the final result of this double selection being a picture of savages almost oontinually and exclusively conscious of mystical forces. in ! ' .' urbani~ed bourgeoisie or remotely sItuated peasants? can we group together Russian peasants. OUt of a' vast. the life of household and family and kin.. Most specialists who are also fieldworkers are agreed that primitive p~oples are predominantly interested in practioal economic pursuits. Melanesian fishermen. French politici~. en ce qui concerne lamentalitfJ propre a. civilis~ mentality and primitive mentality? . In my criticism of ~~azer I have already shown wherein lies the weakneSS of this method• . and in their social contacts. It is a defioiency in levy-Bruhl' s writings that whilst insisting on 'the difference between primitive mentality and civilised mentality and.nished the supernatural to a vague indefinite horizon where it never obscures the landscape of natural order and uniformity. He expects a margin of error but hopes that it will be minimised by the vast. gardening. Behaviour of a mystical type in the main is restricted to certain situations in social life. qui doit me servir simplement de terme de comparaison.Bruhl's authorities to record mystical practices rather than familiar and empirioal ocoupations. . deprives it of the meaning it derives from its social sl~uation and its cultural accretions. anciens et modernes.

and I have by no means exhausted the objections to his views. as suggested above. If patterns of thought are functions of institutions. and explorers. Melanesians. ancient and modern. if we are to make a comparison between the two. But he neglects the issue. 44 ­ But. then it is desirable to trace the history of the development of scientific thought in England and to investigate the. and psychologists. Pr~logique. whilst he tells us what missionaries. he does not inform us what philosophers. There are grave objections to illustrating primitive mentality by taking examples from Polynesians. even among educat~d people. and the aborigines of Central and Northern Australia. and North American Indians and treating these examples as of eqUivalent significance. But from this point of view the most damag:j. This question is not only relevant but it is imperative that we should know LeVy-Bruhl's anSwer to it if we are to.e-.. say about savage thought. so that my criticism of Frazer for comparing the European scientist with the savage magician instead of comparing ritual with scientific behaviour in the same culture. as normative ideational types in the same society. This procedure is inadmissible.a. Africans. one expects a clear definition of 'civilisation' and 'primitiveness' so that one may test his theory historically. In the same way he writes of European culture in vague terms as though it also were uniform. are so obvious and so forcible that only books of exceptional brilliance . Mystical and scientific thought can best be compared. for even in contrast with European culture the cultures of these peoples present little uniformity.ty-Bruhl argues that mystical thought is distinctive of primitive cultures and scientific thought is distinctive 'of civilised cultures. Moreover.have already mentioned his failure to distingUish between social and occupational strata. in describing the thought of Europeans it is desirable to distinguish between social and occupational strata. If this is correct then it'ought to be possible to show how we who at the present tim~ ar~ civilised changed our collective representations on our emergePce from barbarism.. I. This criticism would then have been irrelevant because such beliefs are regarded as superstitious by the educated classes. If ~VY-BrUh1 had stated that when he spoke of civilised mentality he referred to the type of thought found among the better educated classes of Europe in the twentieth century he would have exposed himself less to the criticism that it is possible to produce a parallel belief among European peasants to almost every belief instanced by him as typical of primitive mentality. traders. (3) Like many other writers u{vy-Bruhl treats all peoples whom we regard as savages or barbarians as though they were culturally uniform. either savage or civilised. Levy-Bruhl admits that there are many evidences of primitive mentality in civilised countries. say about civilised thought. Do the English of the 12th century'exemplify civilised mentality or primitive mentality? . If we are to regard English thought in the early Middle Ages as and it is difficult to see how we can avoid doing so when such peoples as the Chinese furnish Levy-Bruhl with many of his examples of primitive mentality.l types should precede a study' of ideational types.' Clearly it is necessary to describe the collective representations of Englishmen and Frenchmen with the same impartiality and minuteness with which anthropologists describe the' collective representations of Polynesians. pol~tical officers. if an author compares civilised with primitive mentality and illustrates these from the cultures of different peoples. or their historical development in relation to one another can be traced over a long period of history in a single culture. Also Europeans peoples have not an identical culture. Chinese. I.ng criticism of Levy-Bruhl is that he makes no effort to distinguish betw~en prevalent modes of thought in Europe at different historical periods. is also pertinent to Levy­ Bruhl r s writings. Moreover. logicians. sociological conditions that have allowed its emergence and"growth. as he himself asserts. we might reasonably demand that a classification of institutior. The criticisms of Levy-Bruhl's theories which I have already mentioned. consent to his views. To this point I return later.

lity. Yet each year fresh polemics appear to contest his writings and pay tribute to their vi~d. of wind and rain.45 ­ and originality could have survived them. we never shall. "On this subject (of magic) the black man and the white regard. as many anthropologists do. usual psychological platitudes. Thus no one knew the Maori better than Elsdon Best who wrote of them: tiThe mentality of the Maori . . each other with amazement. far back to the time when we also 'possessed the mind of ~rimitive man. cardinal importance and that he approached this problem along soOiological lines inste~ of contentiDg himself' witl. Prof. We must not. therefore. dismiss his writings with contempt.:' . of disease and death. of . but the truth is that we do not understand either. and that without incantation such effects oannot come to pass ••••• In brief. Europeans that the need arises to define wherein the difference lies and to explain it? (b) What does Levy-Bruhl mean when he says that primitive thought is 'prelogical t ? (c) What does he mean by tcollective representations'? (d) What does he mean by 'mystical'? (e) What does he mean by participations'? (a) In his writings levy-Bruhl cites the observations of dozens of educated Europeans on primitive custom and belief and shows that 'they frequently found savage ideas incompatible with their way of thinking. what is more. This dogma...long experience of savages and were of the highest integrity. meaningless Without it or in its despite. Fortune writes of the Dobuans: "Behind this ritual idiom there stands a most rigid and never­ questioned dogma. I suggest that the reason for his writings. and forCed home by countless instances of everyday usage based upon it and. Seligmariwrlteofthe tribes. in general. there is no natural theory of yam growth. but must try to discover what in them will stand the test of criticism and may at th~ same. and Mrs.. in order to meet the possible objeotion that these Europeans were not trained anthropologists and were unused to striotly scientific methods of investigation. still exercising a powerful influence on anthropological thought is due to the facts that he perceived a scientific problem of .l ' Miss Kingsley is recognised to have been an incomparable observer of the life of the West African Negro of whom she wrote: "The African mind naturally approaches all things from a spiritual point of view •••••• things happen because of the action of spirit upon spirit". of the powers of canoe lashings of fish nets" of gift exchange in strange plaoes overseas. MaDy of these Europeans ~lere observers who had . 15 However. . We can best Undertake this task by asking ourselves the following questionS: (a) Are primitive modes of thought So different from modes of thought current among educated. '. incomprehensible. and entirely disregarding the known laws of cause and effect". totally unrelated to everyday exgerience. For that would mean retracing our steps for many centuries. of the Pagan Sudan. learnt by every child in infancy. and. in spite of their methodological deficiencies. And the gates have long closed on that hidden rOad". back into the dim past. is that effects are secured by incantation. time be considered an original contribution to science. recent writings of three anthropologists who have had Wide fieldwork experience as further evidence that this incompatibility between savage and civilised modes of thought really ~ists and was not imagined by Levy-Bruhl. .1 Mr. I will quote passages from the .1 the..is of an intensely mystical nature •••• •••••We hear of many singular theories about Maori beliefs and Maori thought. each considers the behaviour of the other. We shall never know the inwardness of the native mind.

17 (b) These modes of thought which appear so true to the savage and so absurd to the European Levy-Bruhl calls 'prelo~ical'. . and rain l disease and death or in their counteracting (apart only from the practice of bleeding the patient in some oaSes of illness). Driberg attributes to Levy-Bruhl the thesis that the savage" is "incapable of reasoning logioallYI that he 1'SI to use the technical term l prelogical". Ceux en qui elle serait autre ne seraient plus des honnnes l de meme que nous n'appelerions pas non plus de ce nom des etres quine presenteraient pas la meme structure anatomique et lesmemes fonctions physiologiques que nous". penetrants I Judicieux l adroits l habiles l subtils meme l quand un objet.18 a Far from suggesting'that the savage is intellectually inferior to civilised man l Levy-Bruhl admits that primitive peoples show great intelligenoe when their interest is stimulated and tl>at their children show themselves as capable of learning as the ohildren of civilised peoples. a Of oriticisms of this type he writes: "Mais beaucoup d'entre elles proviennent d'un ma.46 ­ love between man and woman. et surtout des qU'il s'agit d'atteindre une qu'ils desirent ardemment".. This does not mean that savages are incapable of thinking oherentlyI a proposition whioh LeV1T-Bruhl would be the last to defend~ but it means that if we examine patterns of belief in savage cultures we shall find they often run counter to a scientific view of the universe and Qontain l moreoverI what a logioian would oall inherent contradiotiQns.. and with the help of more mundane wooing in overseas gift exchange and in love-makingl but without any suoh extra work in making wind.ontraire.leorie dont personnel je pense l ne voudrait prendre la responsabilite l et selon laquelle il y aurait deux espeoes d'esprits humains: les uns l les notres l pensant confOrniement aux principes de la logique l et les autres l les esprits des primitifs l d'ou oes principes seraient absents. Mais l qui pourrait soutenir serieusement une pareille these?' Comment mettre en doute un seul instant I que la struoture fondamentale de l'esprit ne soit partout la meme. This latter tJ~e of unaided incantation expresses truly the attitude of the native towards incantation throughout. often been acoused of denying to savages the oapaoity of making observations and inferences. To take a single example frOin among his critics. Ii' est Ras inoapac i t'e 'ou impUissance I . By' prelogioal' he appears to mean something quite different to what many of his oritios attribute to him. Ce n'est pas non plUS la consequence d' une torpeur intelleotuelle profonde I d' un ~ngourdissement et comme d'un sommeil invincible I oar ces m~mes primitifs a qUi la moindre pensee abstraite semble un effort insupportableI et qui ne paraissent pas se soucier de raisonner jamais l se montrent l . Driberg is easily able to refute a thesis so obviously absurd yetI . Indeed his problem 'is why peoples who show such great intelligence support beliefs whioh are so obviously absurd.19 In spite of such olear statements Levy-Bruhl has.lentendu l et s'adressent une tt. All these things oannot possibly exist in their own right.au o. In view of the opinions so often attributed to Levy-Bruhl l I may quote a single passage selected from many like p~sages in his works: "Ce. He asserts simply that primitive beliefs when tested by the rules of thought laid down by logioians are found to contravene these rules. oreated by the ritual of inoantation with the help of the appropriate technologioal lJ:cooesses in agrioulture l canoe makingl fishing preparation.puisque ceux memes' qui nous font connaitre cette disposition de la~entalit6 primitive ajoutent expreSS$ment qu'il se trouve la 'des esprits aussi capables des Sciences que Ie sont ceux des Europeens' I puisque nous voyons les enfants 'australlens l melanesiens l etc' l apprendre aussi ais6ment que les enfants franqais ou anglais ce que Ie missionnaire leur enseigne. les interesse. my friend Mr.i of r. All are supernatural]. Man.evy-Bruhl's oritics seem to imagine that he implies oerebral inferiority when he speaks of savages as prelogioal -and think that if they can show that savages perform oognitive prooesses of a more elaborate type than mere peroeption of sensations they will have contraverted him. It is the really important factor in producing an effeot" .20 Mr.

Levy-Bruhl might have' written Mr. Mr. he brings the fullwe!ght of h~ . One may say that. This fOnD of criticism is by no means peculiar to Mr. Hence a patt." '-".evy--. but in support of" I.tra parfois sans y voil' de difficulte". appliqu..ern of thought may be deduoed from false premises and for this reason must be regarded as unscientific thought.C?~_. I conclude that when Levy-Bruhl says primitive thought is prelogical he does not mean it is chaotic.. Levy-Bruhl .hat thought may have a logic whioh is not the lo~ic of science. he gives an example to explain what he means by categories or assumptionss IIWhy" for instance. --. all. Driberg asks what it is which differentiates one cUlture from another and answers that it is lithe categories or assumptions on which belief is based ll . they will remember that by 'log1oal'Levy-Bruhl means 'conforming to the syst.-4. our more developed cultures there is no bridge.e a la mentalite primitive.1.' should a man be afraid to tell a stranger his name? Why should he believe that it would prejudice his life to do so? BecauSe names have an intimate connection with'his personality... Driberg. The first point tarms the SUbject of the present seotion and the second point the SUbject of section (c).. only the words differ.e eolate au moment merne ou on la fo~e. Driberg's conclusion: "But between them (savage cultures) and. ' irt I have chosen passages from Mr.em of logic which regulates modern soience I and that by I thought t he means 't. I have quoted at length from the writings of Levy-Bruhl and his critics to show to what oonfusion the use of a word like 'prelogique' can lead.~)! pe vent dirs. thought is 'logical' in the sense inwhioh this term is employed in everyday speech but not logical in the sense in which a modern logician would use the term" or t. signifie simplement qu'elle ne s'astreint pas avant tout" oomme la n~tre:. and knowledge of his name would give the stranger a magical power over him"..Deat African experienoe not against. The sense is the same.s des primitifs soi~nt etrangers aux ~rinc~pes 10giquesJ conceptLon dont l'absurdit.tg. because they sum up ooncisely the usual forms of criticism direoted against Levy-Bruhl.hen not be thought at. and. ~lo.. It would t. .le.~1 n1 @.Bruhll~ contentions. elle l'aClmet.ties in the above quotation may find it and other passages of the same sort easier to underst. C'e qui nos'yeux est impossible ou absurde..y into which he is born'. Unless these two points are grasped Levy-Bruhl's theories will appear nonsensical. 23 . ' It is 'a pity that Levy-Bruhl did not use the expression 'unscient. Ella n'a pas les memes exigences logiques toujours presentes.g1J1. eViter la contradiotion.9.?giq~e. L6'vy-Bruhl is himself mainly responsible for the misund~standing which had led his oritios to judge him so harshly since he nO~ere makes a clear statement of what he means by I prelogique ' ~ In his latest discussion of the subject he says that. because Without our more scientific knowledge they oannot share our oivilisation 'or' adjust their outlook to ours.ural heritage which a man acquires from the communit. 22 . though he is unaware of it. being devoid of all order and system..and if..he social content at thought which forms part of the cult.- .ifio' or even 'uncritical' for many of his readers 'are apparently ignorant that when a philosQl)her speaks of 'logic' he mea~ a scientific discipline and technique2~-whereastheytranslate the word into some such phrase as 'ability to think clearly'. ~!. ·by 'prelogique' he does not mean: "que les esp~t. They approaoh the manifestations of our oulture through categories which are not able to cope with them".2l Mr~ Driberg th~ above quotations merely calls categories or assumptions what Levy-Bruhl calls representations collectives and speaks of intimate connection where ~vy-Bruhl speaks of participation mystique. Driberg's book. 25 a a Those who disoover philosophical subtle.'7--. rre1-2s.

As Levy-Bruhl has seen. In my opinion he refers to the content of thoUght while in their view he is speaking of the psycho-physical functions of thought. primitive thought is eminently coherent. A collective representation is an ideational pattern. after eliminating individual variations. (c) Besides misunderstanding what ~vY-Bruhl meant by 'prelogical' his critics have also misrepresented the meaning he attaches to the word 'thought' • According to them Levy-Bruhl contends that savages think ' illogically whereas I understand him to say that savage thought is mainly unscientific and also mystical. they are constantly associated with uniform modes of behaviour.. perhaps over-coherent. in fact. It does not show that we 'think more logically' than savages. evaluation between the savage's capacity for 'logical thinking' and the civilised man's. Hence it happens that when an anthropologist has resided for many months among a savage people he can forseehow they will speak and act in any given situation. One mystical idea follows another in the: same way as one scientific idea in our own society engenders another. Levy-Bruhl on the contrary is speaking of patterns or modes of thought which. are the sarne among all members of a primitive community and are what we call their beliefs.oapacity for 'logical thinking' iS.irrelevant to the question at issue which is whether patterns of thought are oriehtated mystically in primitive societies and orientated scientifically in civilised societies. Every individual is compelled to adopt these beliefs by pressure of social circumstances. These modes or patterns of thought are transmitted from generation to generation either by organised teaching or more usually by participation in their ritual expression..~or it presents the same intel~ectual characters as our own thinking..' Ther~fore. The fact that we attribute rain to meteorological causes alone while savages believe that Gods or ghosts or magic can influence the rainfall is no evidence that our brains function differently from their brains. I did not come to this conclusion myself by observation and inference and have. any . and which is generally expressed not only by Language but also by ritual action. at least not if this expression suggests some kind of hereditary psychic superiority. 27 The one is mainly a social fact while the other is an individual physiological process. that is to saY.. as in initiation ceremonies. often in almost the identical phraseology in'which the replies were afterwards given~ For once we have understood wherein lie the interests of a primitive people we can easily guess the direction which their thinking will take. To say that a person thinks scientifically is like saying that his heart beats and his blood circulates scientifically. As a matter of fact Levy-Bruhl does no~ introduce notions of value so that there is no need for his critics to defend the savage so vigourously since no-one attacks him. These 'patterns of thought' are the 'representations collectives' of LeVy-Bruhl's writings.socially determined so also is the scientific thought of a civilised person. etc. little ~owledge .48 ­ uses the word 'logical' in this sense of 'scientific' and for a clearer presentation of his views I prefer to substitute 'unscientific' for 'prelogical'. It is no sign of superior intelligence on my part that I attribute rain to physic~ causes. -If the mystical thought of a savage is . which may be assooiated with emotional states. I have tested this fact again and again in Central Africa where I found that my questions to the peoples among whom I carried out ethnological research even~lly became more and more formalities since I was able to supply the answers to my questions before I asked them. Beliefs are co-ordinated with other beliefs and with behaviour into an organised system.. When Levy-Bruhl says that ~ representation is collective he means that it is a socially determined mode of thought and is therefore common to all members of a society or of ~ social segment. It will be readily under­ stood that these 'collective representati~ns' or 'patterns of thought' or 'like ideas' are 'collective' or 'patterns' or' 'like' because they are functions of institutions.

these beings and forces and powers and relations are merely supra. The savage perceives the collective representation in the object. I merely accept what everybody else in my sooiety accepts. mais dans le sens etroitement defini au I mystique' se d1t de la croya-nce des forces. . natural and ritual conditions the rainfall can be influenced by use of appropriate magic is not ort aocount of this belief' to be considered of'inferior intelligence. lIlhat we are asked to accept is that a man who is born into a community of savages acquires as a consequence notions about reality whioh differ remarkably from the notions he would have aoquired had he been born into a community of civilised people. As far as the sensory processes of perception are concerned the savage sees an object as we see it but when gives oonscious attention to it the colleotive representa­ tion of the object has already intruded to dominate the image of its purely objective properties. whereas the social oontent of savage thought is unscientific sinoe it is not in accord with reality and may also be mystical where it assumes the existence of supra-sensible forces.. des ~nfluences. religion. Aocordingto Levy-Bruhl as soon as savage's sensations beoome conscious perceptions they are combined with the colleotive representations which they evoke. This is another term which has done much to alienate English anthropologists from his theories. et oependant reelles". l' .• It would be absurd to say that th~ $avage is thinking :'mystically and that we a+'e thinking scientificallY' about rainfall. It must be remembered. that in Levy-Bruhl's view there is no 'natural' to the savage and therefore no 'supernatural' . I believes that under suitable. . He and I are . the content of thought is similarly derived. ' .lief in the supernatural which they often divide into magic.. But we' can say that the sooial oontent of our thought about rainfall is scientific.• . by ~'ing born into it.both' thinking in patterns of thought provided for us by the societies 1n which we live. When he is oonsoious of his shadow he perceives his soul. Likewise a savage who . is in accord with objective facts. faute d'un Meilleur.11i1n of belief does not arise among sliL'\(sges. but that to the savage.49 ~ of the meteorological processes that lead to rain. Hence a savage does not perceive a shadow and then apply to it the doctrine of his society according to which it is one of his souls. who has no notion of the natural as distinot from the supernatural. He did not build up this belief from his own observations and inferences but adopted it in the same way as he adopted the. For colleotive representations form integral parts of perception and the savage cannot perceive objeots apart from their oollective representations.. In either case like mental prooesses are involved and~ mor. The quest.28 Hence we may say that mystical beliefs are what we would call beliefs in supernatural beings and forces or the endowment of natural objects with supernatural powers and relations with manldnd and each other.Levy-Bruhl's view can be best understood if we say that 'belief' only arises late in the development of human thought when perception and representation have already fallen apart. namely that rain is due to natural causes.eover.mystioisme religieux de nos sooietes. qui est quelque chose d'assez different. however. and that the difference between these two sets of notions lies partlr in the degree of scientific accuracy they express and partly in the importance they attach to mystical causation. " ' I.-sensible.. (d) We have seen that !ivy-Bruhl commonly speaks about savage thought as 'mystique'. 9 a a a In his disoussionof the way in which mystioal doctrines oombine with the most elementary sensations informing savage peroeptions. be~li\Wge t tt . and mythology.". Yet he means no more by this term than is meant by English writers when they speak of be.. In his own words: "J'emploierai oe teme. This particular idea formed part of my culture long before I was born into it and little more was required of me than sufficient linguistic ability to learn it.. des actions imperceptibles aux sens.rest of his cultural heritage.. Levy­ Bruhl embarks upon psychological'speculatlons which are irrelevant to his main argument. namely. We can then say that a person 'perceives' his shadow and 'believes' it to be his soul. non pas par allusion au .

He does' not perceive a leopard at all as we'perceive it but he peroeives his totem-brother. pas un objet.. et l'esprit. que. using psychologioal terms where they do not apply. savages peroeive mystioally or that 'their perception is mystical. Hence what . If the savage expresses in speech and aotion the mystical qualities of an object so also does oivilised man express in speech and action stereotyped representations of objects which. It is. We may leave to the psychologists to determine to what extent perception is influenced by emotional states and by sooially standardised representations.50 ­ the shadow is the belief and the savage cannQt be oonsoious of his shadow without being oonscious of the belief.ount of the mystioal properties with whioh their sooiety has endowed thelll. to these mystic properties. The very fact that an object is named shows its social indication. du primitif ne les en separe pas. ils y voient beaucoup de chases dont nous ne nous doutons pas" . and 'peroeption'. Nevertheless I will attempt to explain his point of view as I Understand it. Isvy­ Bruhl has. En revanche.. Thought beoomes data for the sociologist as soon as. Pour lUi. We see the physical qualities of the leopard and our perception of it in the higher oognitive processes is limited to these physical qualities but in savage oonsciousness these same physical qualities become merely a part of the mystical representation implied by the word I tbtem' and are in fact subordinated to it. and that often their interest· in phenomena is mainly. A man's interests are the seleotive agents and these are to a great eJttent socially determined for it is generaUy the value attaohed to an obJeot by all members of a social group tha\ c.. a eux.30 "Quel que soit l'objet qui se presente. pas un phEmomene naturel n'est dans leurs representations collectives oe qulil nous parait etre Ii nous. have shdwn.lly or that thei%' perception of it is mystioal. It is a mistake to say that savages percei'll8. As James. il implique des proprietes mystiques qui en sont inseparables. Once thought is expressed in words it is sooialised. thoughmystlcal properties may not be attributed to them. Pas un etre. in my. ' . any sound.lireots the attention of an individual towards it. Rignano32 and others. It is diffioult to state his point of view because one is not certain how one ought to interpret such expressions as 'distinguish'. or sight may reaoh the brain of a person without entering into his oonsoiousness.' a mistake to say that. Presque tout oe que nous y voyons leur echappe. "En d'autres termes.a plant mystioe. :uavy-Bruhl is in danger of the accusation that he does preoisely what he obJects to others doing.. In a stream of sense impressions only a few beoome consc"ious' impressions and these are selected on aooount of their greater affeotiV1~y. not been careful enpugh to define his terms.)1 In committing himself to the statement that primitives do not distinguish between the supra-sensible world and the sensible world and that the former is just as real. We cannot."iyS'lS···of his theory of mystical peroeption. butJlle Ii" y that asavage~s' . On the other hand we may say that savages pay attention to phenomena on aQc. opinion. 'We may say that he 'hears'or 'sees' it but does not lnotioe' it. and only when. it is expressed in speech and action. applies to savage perception in this respect applies also to civilised peroeption. il nl~ ~ pas de fait proprement physique. In the same way a savage does not perceive a leopard and believe that it is his totem-brother. quand il Ie par90it. au sens que nous donnons a oe mot" . The following passages from Les fonctions mentales will show that I have ~ot done Levy-Bruhl an injustiae Inmy·-aoo. 'real'. therefore.know what people think in any other way than by listening to what they say and observing what they do. are none the less social or colleotive representations. even exclusively. en effet. namely. au leur est indifterent. to them as the latter owing to th~ir inability to perceive objeots apart from their mystical values. °la realite ouse meuvent les primitifs est elle-meme mystique.

It is not so much that perception of a shadow causes the belief to enter into consciousness but it is rather the belief which oaUSes the savage to pay attention to his shadow. or paying attention to.A. This participation between child and parents may continue after birth as among the Boro. if we do so. Educated Europeans. therefore. We may also pay attention to them but. This mystical dependence of one thing on another.os of Brazil where if the ohild is ill the father drinks the medicine. It is the belief which translates purely psychological sensations into conscious images. mentioned by Miss Kingsley. A restatement of rS"vy-Bruhl l s main oontentions about the mystical thought of savages is contained in the two following propositions both of ~hioh appear to me to be acceptable: (1) Attention to phenomena depends upon affective choice and this selective interest is oontrolled to a very large extent by the values given to phenomena by sooiety lind these values are expressed in patterns o~.. Several good illustrations of mystical partici­ pation have already been quoted in this paper. in the sense of noticing. (2)' Since patterns of thought and behaviour differ widely between savages and edUCated Europeans their selective interests also differ Widely and.7 In our analysis of Frazer's theory of magic we were . do not notice their shadows unless influenced to do so by desire to disoover the points of the compass "Ir by some aesthetic interest.thought and behaviour (collective representations) • . .. In emphasizing that attention is largely determined by collective representations and that it is they which control selective interests. Our interests in phenomena are not the same as savage interests in them because our collective representations differ widely from theirs. Among many savage peoples it is necessary for the parents of an unborn child to observe a whole series of taboos because it is thought that what happens to the tather and mother during this period will affect also their child.I . (The savage. examining a typical form of mystical participation under the title of Sympathetic Magic in which things are held to influence one another in a ritual situation in virtue of their similar~ty or contiguity. .. it is for a different reason. are often more concerned about these mystical relations 'between things than about their obJective . however.. between a man and his totem.are his social personality. Savages.Bruh1 speaks of mystiaal participations he means that' things are often connected in savage thought so that what affects one is believed also to affect the others.usually a reoiprocaldependence between man and something in nature. pay attention to their shadows because in their society shadows have a mystical significance.51 ­ peroeption of. when a savage sees a beast or a bird or a tree he pays attention to them beoause they are totems 'or spirits or possess magioal potency. on the other hand. (e) When ~y . between a . Thus the Bakwiri might be said to participate in their shadows so that what affects their shadows likewise affects them. Hence were a man to lost his shadow it would be a calamity. We have seen also that savages often participate in their names so that if you can discover a mants name you will have not only it but its owner also in your power. There is a mystical partioipation between a man and the land on which he dwells.relations. the degree ot: attention they pay to phenomena.shadow is seen by us in the sense that we"'z.eoeive "a visual sensation of it but 'we may not oonsoiously perceive it since we are not'interested in shado\'ls. In the same way. '. not obJeotively but by a mystical action. These participations form a network in which the savage lives. indeed. between a tribe and its chief. does not distinguish between obJeotive aotion and mystical action). ~vy-~ has stressed a sociological fact of the greatest importance.:."-. a plant is due to its mystical properties... The sum total of his participations . or being interested in.. is best explained'by~examples. -. It is evident that the Bakwiri. and the reasons for their attention are also different.

52 ­ man and his kin. consisting of a selection of customs from many different oultures. I suppose that all field­ workers have been struck by the casual manner in which savages frequently speak of and even handle sacred objects. are used for ritual purposes alone. His authorities had collected all the information they could . . and so on.' oracular rubbing-boards. In the greater part of his social contacts and in his exploitation of nature the savage acts and speaks in an empirical manner without attributing to persons and things supernatural powers. as a convenient means of telling the time. in ordinary situations they looked upon the sun very muoh as I did. insofar as they are used by man. It is. L{vy-Bruhl's exposition of mystical participation is abundantly defined by the examples which he cites in his books and does not stand in need of explanatory comment. and so forth. His error is understandable because he was not really comparing what savages think with what Europeans think but the systemat­ ized ideology of savage cultures with the content of individual minds in Europe. therefore. and Soon. a pattern of mystical thought is easily evoked since his sole interest in these objects is in their mystical powers. or hang baskets on" the shrines they build for the spirits of their ancestors in the centre'of their homesteads. There are many· plants in the bush which have no utilitarian value but which. It is probable that when a savage pays attention to objects which have for him an exclusively mystical value. I think that Levy-Bruhl made a serious error in failing to under­ stand this point. as the cause of intense heat at midday. What I have said in the preceding seotion of this essay in criticism of his conception of 'mystical' applies equally to his conception of 'participation'. But even when objects are essentially ritual obJeots I have observed that savage attention is directed towards them on occasions by interests qUite other than interest in their sacredness. and as far as it is possible to Judge from their behaviour" they have no other interest in the shrine than-as a convenient post or peg. necessary to investigate the situations in social life which evoke patterns of mystical thOUght towards objects whioh at other times evoke no such ideas. Since it is possible to find among some tribe a belief which attributes mystical significance to almost every phenomenon one may. by selecting examples from a great number of tribes show that in primitive mentality every phenomenon is regarded as a repository of mystical power. Mystical thought is a function of partiCUlar situations. At religious oeremonies their attitude is very different. It may be said that in societies where we find such amorphous and ubiquitous notions as those of the witchcraft---sorcery type or those of the mana-wakanda type almost any object may on occasions be assooiated with mystical thought. as L§vy-Bruhl has done. Among the Ingassana of the Tabi hills God is the sun and on occasions they pray to it but" as far as I could Judge. It is not in fact true that the whole of nature and social life is permeated with mystical beliefs. the decorated Jaw-bone of a dead king. Such also are the objects which are fashioned to be used as ritual implements and have no other functions. one would remain ignorant that the sun is God. In this essay I will do little more than enumerate headings under which criticism can be arranged.. If one were not present at some religious ceremony on a special occasion. An impression is erroneously gained that everything in which savages are interested has always a mystical value for them by presenting a composite and hypothetical primitive culture. I have often noticed Azande lean their spears up against. This paper attempts to be explanatory rather than critical and any adequate criticism of ~VY-Bruhl's conception of primitive thought wou+d involve a detailed analysis based_ on my own and other ethnological researches too lengthy for the present communication. the bull­ roarer.

lSness by its objective properties are ineVitably and always blended with collective representations of a mystical kind. As we have already seen magic is always man-made. It is easy to see· that it would never do to regard as identical the thoughts of a Christian with Christian thought. He will not admit that when the elementary sensations produced by the sight of an object reach consciousness any other images can be evoked to oombine with them in perception ~. So Ievy-Bruhl considered. It is the rite itself which gives virtue to ~ia mediQ~ and often only for the duration of the rite. have to be acquired by every individual.tv observations on this point may. It would appear from his _. Or again it can be shown that mystical notions about nature are part of culture and. those of its mystical qualities even if these qualities are irrelevant to a particular :ntuation. That different ideas are evoked by objects in different situations can be shown in other ways. This fact would have emerged if records of everything a savage does and says throughout a single day were recorded for then we would be able to compare our own thoughts more adequately with the real thoughts of savages instead of with an abstraotion pieced together from persistent enquiries conducted in an atmosphere quite unlike that of the savage's ordinary milieu and in which it is the European who evokes the beliefs by his questions rather than the objects with which they are assooiated. . Moreover. attempted to .53 ­ get about the mystical beliefs held by a community of savages about some phenomenon and pieced them together into a co-ordinated ideological /' structure. Moreover. for instance. What he has done.. But in ~vy­ Bruhl's writings the error goes muoh deeper and obscures his lengthy discussion of mystical participations. Hence there are periods in the life history of every individual . had he. .thesis that if the object is to be perceived at all these images cannot be exclUded. primitive thought as pieoed together in this manner by European observers is full of contradictions which do not arise in real ~ife because the bits of belief are evoked in different situations. therefore. It would also have emerged had Levy-Bruhl attempted to contrast the formalised beliefs of Europe with those of savages. A plant has mystical value for the person who . like the myths which Europeans also reoord. Thus the fetish and idol are repositaries of mystical foroe because man after having made them infuses this f'orce into them by ritual. is to take the formalised doctrines of savage religions as though they were identical with the actual mental experience of individuals. in fact. r. It can be shown that· many of the most sacred objects of primitive cult only become sacred when man deliberately endows them with mystic powers which they did not possess before. these same observers upon whom Levy-Bruhl relied often neglected to inform their readers whether objects associated with mystical t~ought do not also f1~ure in other contexts in which they have no mystical values.. and.. The resulting pattern of belief may be a fiction sipae it may never be actually present in a man I s conSciousness at any t.then mystic notions oannot be evoked in perceptions to complete elementary sensations because the mystic notions are unknown to the person who experiences the sensations. These beliefs. therefore.. be compared With those I made on the gold-Jaundioe association of Greek peasants in the last number of our bulletin.iJtie and may not even be known to him in its entirety. We have already notioed that this error is likewise to be found in Frazer's writings on magic where he suggests that the mystical relation­ ship between objects which are similar or have once been in contact with one another is invariable. contrast the formal doctrine of Christianity with the formal doctrines of savage religions. that the sensations produced by an object and the mystical doctrines associated with it were interdependent to suoh an extent that the object would not be perceived by savages if it were not evoked by mystical interests and that the elementary sensations produced in consciol. Also many objects have a mystical value for some members of a society but not for others. He does not see that they are assooiated only in particular situations. They are learnt slOWly throughout the years. incorrectly considered.-/' may have been collected over a long period of time and from dozens pi informants.. as I· believe./ .

34 I may add. etc. They fully recognise these causes but they are socially irrelevant.. If this were not the case it would be diffioult to understand how scientific thought could ever have emerged.y points of view. especially if they contradict those evoked. that a plant can be both a plant· and a magioal substance. that often they are entirely utilitarian and empirical. Savage thought has not the fixed inevitable construotion that ~vy-Bruhl gives it. / When a particular situation evokes one set of ideas other ideas are inhibited. As I· intend to deal with this subJ!. the claws or horns of a beast. namely vengeance. The same' mixture of sound knowledge with mystical notions is found in primitive ideas of causation in procreation. however. are to be aocounted for by the fact that a single elementary sensation may evoke in different situations different images in percep~ion. sometimes a savage attributes his misfortune to witchcraft while his neighbours attribute it to incompetence or to some other cause. Thus I have ample evidence from my own researoh in Central Africa that while death is attributed to witchcraft people are not obliVious to the natural cause of death whether it be the spear of an enemy. . But it is a mistake to suppose that because· a savage attributes some happening to a mystical cause that he does not also observe the natural cause even if no particular attention is paid to it in formalised belief and traditional behaviour. that the . may be derived from an individual and psyohological situation. 54 . They are never fantastic for they are bound by limits imposed by psychological and biological requirements. An animal has a totemio relationship with members of a single clan while members of other olans· eat it with relish. If the theories of Frazer and . the contradiction only becomes glaring when European observers try to piece together ideas evoked in different s~tuations into a consistent ideological structure. or disease.g. in disease. known yet socially inhibited because they are irrelevant to the particular situation which evokes the pattern of thought or because they contradict it. at any rate as far as speeoh a~ action are concerned. Patterns of thought of a mystioal kind are never exclusively mystical. Their irrelevancy arises from thesooial action which follows death.. a forthcoming publication. ~vy-Bruhl and: of Tylor and Frazer in relation to eaoh other. e. selective interest which directs attention to one oause rather than to another. The other cause whilst perfectly well known to the people is socially irrelevant and. to the mystioal cause than to the natural one. involved (the kin) are con(lerned though it' may be more readily admitted by others. therefore. in. I will not discuss it further here. and that the same objects may at different times or in different situations evoke different ideas. Since it is the case. interests which in their turn are evoked by different situations. It is evident that of the natural and mystical causes of death the mystical cause is usually the only one which allows any intervention (exoept when a man is murdered by a fellow­ tribesman) and when it is a social rule that death must be avenged it is clearly the only cause towards which social action oan be directed. therefore.. that a shadow can be both a shadow and a soul.!ct. it is easy to understand how social change involving reorientation of interests has directed attention to elements in a chain of causation or to the objective properties of things which had hitherto been known but socially unemphasised.. As suggested above. We may now consid~r shortly the theories of. From man. Hence it comes about that a savage can be both himself and a bird. excluded as far as the' persons directly . The very contradictions which according to Levy-Bruhl characterise prelogical thO~lt and distinguish it from our thought. as it were. dormant. At the core of mystical thought we find recognition of natural causation and other scientific observations which lie. it would be easy to demonstrate that the interests whioh savages have in obJects are not always of a mystical type. An object may be perceived in different ways aocording to different affective interests. knows its ritual uses but riot for those \'lho ignorant of them. and so on.

in The Golden Bough must appear quite arbitrary. The sharp division which Frazer has insisted on . Tylor and Frazer have shown us the intellectual character of magic. Men may reason brilliantly in defence of the most absurd theses. make inferences~ even V incorreot ones. Since savages reason. display great intellectual ability and yet be illogical. Levy-Bruhl has not paid sufficient regard to the fact that oollective representations have an intellectual structure and indeed must have for mnemonic rsasons. Tb Levy-Bruhl the savage'reasons incorrectly because he believes in magi~. Unless there is a mutual dependence between ideas we ca~ot speak of thought at all. Tylor and Frazer felt that tqey were called upon to account for savages not observing that magical rites do not achieve the end they aim at achieving.' ~vy-Bruhl is totally uninterested in distinctions drawn by scholars between magic and religion and therefore his theories do not bear upon' the lengthy arguments devoted by Frazer and so many other writers to devising ritual categories. scientific reasoning. ( woking at magic from this point of view of its ideational or intellectual structure. nor. This was the problem that confronted Tylor and Frazer and in their attempts to solve it they did not sufficiently appreciate the difference between ratiocination and. Since magic and religion. as te'vy-Bruhl has done. I Tylor. Nevertheless. Thought requires.-anq.55 Tylor about magic have concentrated too exclusively on some. from their observations how is it that they do not apply these intellectual powers to discovering whether magic really produces 'the resuits it is supposed to produce.' . He simply learns the pattern of thought in which this mystical connection is socially established. as separated by Frazer. We know what happens to people whose intellectual operations lead them to conclusions which contradiot social doctrines. then come to the conclusion that in consequence of these similarities the objects are mystically connected.tortion should be evident when we compare them \'lith the writings of I. for in his opinion savages are inextricably enmeshed in a network of mystical . qualities of magioalritual but have neglected other qualities of equal. and French Schools are at greatest variance. in order to be thought. the same mystical character. there is no need to maintain this particular distinction. r. observe similari­ ties and contiguities. An individual does not note similarities between objects and. and even futile. notions of similarity and contiguity. Frazer and Levy-Bruhl. 35 L§vY-Bruhl seeks to understand the characteristics of mystical thought and to define these qualities and to compare them with the qualities of scientific thought. are above all subservient to collective representations. from the point of view of ' Levy-Bruhl's investigation. to !ilvy-Bruhl. indeed.. To prove this we need not go further than the writings of our metaphysicians. The intellect­ ual operations of the mind are subordinated to affective interests and. their arguments may. Levy-Bruhl therefore saw no need to ask why savages do not ob3erve haw baseless are'their beliefs and why they do not pay attention to the oontradiotions they embody. any distinction" between them.evy-Bruhl whose focus of interest was qUite different. the thought of savage cultures with 'ideas current among educated Europeans of the 20th century. But it is in their analyses of the ideology of magic that the English To Tylor and Frazer the savage believes in magic because he reasons incorrectly from his perception of similarities and contiguities.. this dis. if not greater importance. For when we speak of thought we mean ooherent thought and without these notions magic would be chaotic and could not possibly persist. This is most strikingly seen if \'le compare. between intellectual operations and logic. Now there can be no doubt that if we study the manner in which any individual acquires a magical belief in a savage society we shall have to admit the accuracy of Levy-Bruhl's contention.e'vy-Bruhl has shown us its sooial character. have. are in agreement that magical practices are typical of primitive societies and tend to disappear and to be regarded as superstitions in societies of higher cultural development.

as theology amply illustrates.J:. .1ngs of thought-types and their variations as. failures. The innnense scope of his work and the voluminousaata which he handled made this inevitable and it is left for other students to enquire with more detailed analysis into the gradations and blend. functions of different situations. if indeed. like scientific thought.. but it has first to be stated .lce to social anthropology and in oUretfort~ to understand magic we have to st~ by recognising the social charaoter of its thought. Even mystioal thought is conditioned by experienoe and this is the reason for many secondary elaborations of doctrine whioh acoount for discrepancies. A pattern of thought which decrees that a man may put his hand in the fire with immunity has little chance of persisting. in faot. Perhaps LS~-Bruhlts most important contribution to sociology is to . To sum up: My exposition of :U. It is true that his two oategories of soientific and mystical are defined in the rough and without. In stressing the social character of patterns of thought he.and then it.vy­ Bruhl ts writings a great stimulus to formulation of new problems and I consider the influence he has had not only on anthropological theory but also in direoting the attention of fieldworkers to a new set of problems to have been most· fruitful. It may even be charged against me that I have given a sense to his words which others might fail to derive from them. He is content to show its characters of generality and oompulsion or.1 types of thought and to show that their interrelations with one another and with behaviour can be studied. for mystioal thought must. u!vy-Bruhl does not. but thought which directs experience must not contradict it. be intelleotu­ ally consistent. For when in disagreement with his opinions we must acknowledse that they are not the usual faoile explanatipns of soc~al anthropologists which obstruct all thought by their futility and finality and turn out to be no mar-ethan a restatement in other terms of the problem to be solved.has performed a great serv. There is not even need to avoid oontradiotions. / Contrary to the Judgment of most English anthropologists I find 1. Besides emphasizing the sooial charaoter· of thought Levy-Bruhl has tried to olassif. Uo doubt in purely transoendental thought contradiotipns do not matter. This is obvious as soon as·1t is stated.56 ­ part. to demonstrate that indivi­ duals aot and speak in ways that are socially determiped. between several possible interpretations. in other· words. lIBgical thought whioh claims that a man who eats certain medicines will never die or that agriculture and hunting can be carried on by magical procedure alone will not prove acoeptable to individual minds in·any society.l.ic1patlons· and CQ!IlP1e-tely dominated 'by ooJ.~-Bruhlls theories has been a task of great diffioulty. His vlritings are extensive and his thought often tortuous.. an4 so on. attempt to explain mystical thought. precise analysis ·and that he takes no account of thought which lies outside both categories.1i1~ representations. contradiotions. So vague are many of the terms· he uses and so inconstant is the meaning he attaohes to them that I have sometimes had to select. There is no room for doubt or scepticism. It must also accord with individual experienc~b and if it does not do so then the representation must contain an explana­ tion of its failure to do so. The scientific and mystical notions that are so often found side by side in a pattern of thought must be harmonised either by situational selection or by some explanatory link. In order to grasp Levy­ Bruhl t s views I have had to reformulate them in my own language. . becomes obvious. it is found desirable upon oloser scrutiny to maintain his olassification. I would answer that a book gains its value not only from the ideas which an author puts into it but also from the ideas to which it gives rise in the mind of the reader. Tylor1s brilliant analysis of the factors which keep mystical thought in touch with reality or which explain its failure to do so is therefore needed to oomplete ~vy-Bruhlls desoription of colle~tive representations. even if it is not logically consistent. But a representation is not acceptable to the mind merely beca~se it is oolleotive.

L. indeed of all types of thought. 3.tives Think (LoI". n1is is referred to as H.P. 2. The first'is ~ Mentalite Primitive~ 1st ed•• 1922. 1st ed. A programme of research which will lead us to a more oomprehensive and exact knowledge of mystical thought. ' 1928)· under the letters F. He recognises the eXistential value of mystical thought.M. indeed cannot go.g.Mentalite Primitive (~ford. vol. L6'vy-Btuhl t s . 1927) and Is Surnaturel et la Nature dans la Mental1te Primitive (Paris 1931). Les Fonctions Mentales dans les Societes Inf~ieures. All references in this paper' are t~'the 9th ed~ (Paris. Moreover.T•• 23) •. A conois-a summary of Ievy-Bruhl's view on primitiva thOUght is contained in his Herbert Spencer Lecture delivered in Oltford and published under the title of IJ!.on. and Le Surnaturel. like knowledge. of the Faoulty of Arts. References 1. . 1926). 1922) and under the letters M.. An authorised translation of this book intO 'English by ~lian A. than his earliest \'l!'itings.E. An authorised translation of this book has also'appeared in Enslish under the title of Primitive Mentali~ (London. contrary to the usual opinion.S. is often socially determined and that primitive thOUght is unScientific because it is mystical and not mystical because of an inherent incapacity to reason logically.writings show clearly how primitive mystical thought is organized into a coherent system with a logic of its own. the belief that witchcraft is the cause of death has existential value in a society in whioh the kinship group is also a blood-revenge group. 1933. Bulleti~ '. 1931). 13 (E.. Clare again being the translator. By comparing savage thought with civilised thought ~vy­ Bruhl was able to disclose certain general correlations between the degree of technological development and the development of soientific thought. 1922.P. His later publications repeat the argument of ~s Fonotions Mentales and adduce v91uminous evidences in support of them. for example. They have 'been very 11ttle used in this essay whire they are referred to as A." 86-87 (E. . 1923h Lilian A. But at this point he was unable to make any further progress as is shotim clearly in his later writings which oarry his researches'into the nature of thought no further. Thus. 1910. No reference is made to the pages of the English translation since this is inaocessible at the time of writing. Levy-Bruhl' s two later works are L' Arne Primitive (Paris. He demonstrates that the images which are evoked to combine with elementary sensations to complete perception are evoked by selective interests which in their turn are directed by collective representations towards the mys~ical qualities of things rather than to their objective qualities. F. All references are to the 2nd ed.T•• 84-85). Evans-l'ritabard.M. Clare was published under the title of How gt. this he does not" and. liThe Intellectualist (English) Interpretation of Magio". . Professor E.Q.57 ­ have shown that ignorance. F.. must await a later communication. e. No primitive society is able to maintain its 'equilibrium with­ out the mystical beliefs which link together its activities by ideological bonds. 1" Part 2. (Paris. The page number of the English translation is given in braokets.M•• p. for the method of comparative analysis that he employed imposes effective limits to deeper research. LBvy-Bruhl's theory of-primitive mentality is complete in his first volume on the subject. Beyond.

p•. 20. I . M.. pp. 69 (E. F. and B. Driberg.H. Paris.I. Quoted in F. Paris. 54) •. of his Sociologues d'hier et ~'auJourd'hui. and so on. 50 (ES. Essertier ~hilosophes et Savants' fran~l!lis du JQ('sieo~~. Mauss.. Journal of the'Polynesian Society. p.. 336-342. 1932. "romantic" and "classic".. p. 193-305. p.. I. p.' Soroerers of Dobu. . Raoul. Malinowski writes "Professor' Levy-Briml tells us. 21. in F. I I .T. Les non-oivillSes et nallS. Maori Medical Lore. The most ambitious critical work on the so-called theory of pre10gisme is Olivier Leroy I s Ia Raison primitive. 22. pp. 8.T. D. 13. InCapable at dispassionate and consistent observation~ devoid of the power of abstraction~ hainpered by 'a decided aversion towards I . H. 1929~ pp. p. 12. The Savage as'he Idem~ R~ally is. See also: Durkheim.M. 25. H. 14.M. 1921. 4. pp.S. "extravert1t and "intravert". f)7). Mary Kingsley ~ ''lest African Studies. Van Leeuw's. 219 (1904)•. p. 82 (Schrump).J)8. Quoted in F. XIII. 330. 26.XXIII.M.. p. ':['he Savage as he Really is. New Guinea. Paris. 18. Essa! de' ~efutation de la theorie de Pre1ogisme. J. pp. 21 (E.1U~t~n~Ll. 5. Besides other writings mentioned in this paper I may mention the critical but laudatory summary of ~vy-Bruh1's theories in Dr.."logical"..~ p.. Quoted in pp.. t.nd Les formes elementaires de la vie religieuse.M. Ia Structure de 1a Mentalite pr~~~tive. Wangela River. 73 (E. p. 27-28) •. 70).P. 3 • F. p. 2l2~ quoted Types of thought must not be confused with types of mind classified by some writers as "synthetio" and "ana1ytio". and the not unfriendly criticism oontained in G.T. IS'· .L..176. 1928.. pp.A. xxviii~ p..P..~. 35~ d.XII. Sooiologle. 15. Miss Kingsley.!. 17-18. M.S. p. by J. p.T.a. quoted in F. Annee sociologique. 12-13. p. 1930. p.LSocie~_~. . p.. pp. 1927.M. p. 29-30).P. 1931. 97:. by C. FortUne~1932~ 12.M. Go1denweiser's.' Pagan Tribes of the Milotic Sudan. "intUitive" and . !'fissions E!v:4!eli ques.58 ­ 4.Allier. 1848. Elsdon Best. 73)..Z. Prof.G. p.. 1929. Driberg~IDndon.)J::an~Jse de ~1).!. extra~t de Ia Revue d'h1stoire et de philosophi~ re1igieuse. 10.J923. li.F. to put it in a nutshe11~that primitive man has no sober moods at a11~ that he is hopelessly and completely immersed in a mystical frame of mind. 16. p. M. The best account of Levy-Bruhl's theories is by Davy in the 4th part. 1928. 7.T..H. '\fest African StUdies. Seligman. 6.ilosOP~.~ p. by-J. 65 (E.L. 1a-li•. GUise. 19 (E. by R. '.. Early civilization. :Ell. london.

29. Or. and logic which" in n6 way concerns itself with the validity of premises but only with the coherent structure of thought. paranoiacs) presents a perfectly organised system of interdependent ideas. F. Toute realite est mystique comme toute action.M.. "Heredity and Gestation as the Azande see them". he is unable to drat'/' any benefit from experience.ht that we can class as incoherent is that of certain types of insanity (mania and Dementia Praecox) and that of dreams but even in these cases it is probably more correct to say that the principle of coherence is unknown to us. impalpables.·Religion and Reality.M. ~e principles of psychology. H. 1901. F. Thus I may instance the writings of mediaeval divines and political controversialists as examples of mystical thought which far from being chaotic suffers from a too rigid application of syllogistic rules. 28. les autres invisibles. It is essential to understand that thought which is totally unscientific and even which contradicts experience may yet be entirely coherent in that there is a reoiprocal dependence between its ideas. 30 (E.M. p. therefore. p.S. F. p. 30. K.T.. 37-38 (E.. 30-31 (E.. "IDgique). 32. Sociolo~. I may. pp. 38). The psychology of reasoning. U eden Naturvolkern Zentralbrasiliens. formant comme une sphere mystique qui enveloppe les premieres. von Den Steinen.L. 1923. refer to papers in which I have given special attention to these problems: "Witchcraft (mangu) among the Azande". les unes visibles et tangibles.. Has not Freud shown how very logical and coherent our dreams can be? 27. (Magic SCience and Religion. etc.T. Mais. pp. . il n'y a pas ainsi deux mondes au contact l'un de l'autre. "L'homme superstitieux. In this paper I distinguish between scientific logic which is the technique of the sciences and which tests not only inferences and the interdependence between ideas but also the validity'of premises. art. 289-294. 21. 259 • 34. that levy-Bruhl introduces the term Without stating precisely the meaning he attaches to it.. to construct or coinprehend even the most elementary laws of nature".. . G. Il nly en a qu 'un. Eugenio Rignano.T. It is largely his own fault that his opinions are misrepresented. p. 1932. other authorities could be quoted to the-same--etfect. p. 1929. 43).M. 33. pp. pour la mentalite des societes inferieures. perhaps. It is a great pi~y. soumises aux lois necessaires du mouvement. F. p. Seligman to appear this year. 28). Perhaps the only thouc. published in Scienoe. one ought to say that this is what he may mean for philosophers give to the word many different meanings (see Lalande. et par consequent aussi toute perception". 31. Quoted in F. 68). English translation. se penetrant plus ou moins llun 11 autre. 1925. however. 67 (E. As a matter of fact Levy-Bruhl is hardly consistent in his usage of words like 'esprit' and 'mentalite' for he sometimes suggests the psyohological process of thinking and at other times the social content of thought. Also the thought of many insane persons (monomaniacs. "Zande Therapeutics" in Essays Eesented to C. souvent aussi l'homme religieux de notre societe. 26. 24.59 ­ reasoning'. 300 (E. p. p. distincts et solidaires.M... p.T..T.. lspirituelles l . Vocabulaire technique at critique de la Philosophie. 38).. 25. croit a deux ordres de realites. Sudan Notes and Records. p. William James.

- 6() ­

35. 36.

See what he has to say on this point; pp. 293-296).

F.r··,."

pp. 341-345 (E.T.,

LeVy-Bruhl" it is only fair to say" realises that mystical thought
is bound to coinoide" at any rate to some extent, with experience for pragmatic reasons. Thus he writes "Toutefois" meme pour cette mentalite (primitive mentality), les representations relatives aux morts" et les prat1ques qui sly rattachent" se distinguent par un caractere prelogique plus marque. S1 mystiques que soient les autres representat10ns collectives" relatives'aux donnees des sens" s1 mystiques que so1ent aussi les pratiques qui s'yrapportent (ohasse" pecha" guerI'e" maladie" divination,' etc.)" encore faut-il" pour que 18. fin desiree soit atteinte" pour que l'ennemi soit vainou, Ie gibier pris ••••• , que les'representations ooincident en quelques points essentiels avec la realite obJeotive" et que les pratiques soient, un certain motVent" effectivement adaptees aux fins poursuivies. Par Ia se trouve garant1 un minimum d'ordre, d'objectivite, et de coherence dans ces representations". F.M., pp. 354-355 (E.T." p. 303).

a

_ 61 _

.,

UNDERSTANDING IN PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

This paper is concerned with how we can understand other philosophies.
My method is first to offer an analysis of an aspeot of African thought.

Then I shall use that analysis as a vehicle for discussing some theoretical and methodological problems in the study of other thought systems. especially problems raised by Peter Winch.
I

A puzzling feature of African thought is that general propositions seem seldom to be evaluated in the light of contrary empirical eVidence. If events do not proceed according to expectations stemming from general beliefs. Afrioans do not on this basis question the validity of those beUefs. Instead. they produce Itsecondary elaborations" (Horton 1967: 167 ~) : rationalizations accounting for the divergence between events and expectations in particular circumstances while leaving the general belief or ass4mption which produced the expectation intact. Horton (1967)· treats this phenomenon as a general characteristic of African traditional thought. To list a few examples. Dinka do not ponder the efficacy of sacrifice in general becaus,e particular sacrifices are not followed by the deSired events. One explanation for failure is that DiVinity refused to respond to that particular sacrifice. Another is that the specific Power responsible for the difficulty which the sacrifice aimed to remove was wrongly identified. rendering the sacrifice ineffective because misdirected (Lienhardt 1961: 291). This character­ istic of African thought is copiously dooumented for the'Azande. That a man admits he maybe a Witch although he does not act with malicious irttent nor in concert with other witches does not shake his belief that witches do act in these ways. It only leads him to conclude that he is nqt an ordinary witoh (Evans-Pritchard 1937: 119-20). If a witch­ dootor fails in his cure the explanation maybe that this particular witchdoctor is a fraud. but never that witchdoctors in general have no power (Evans-Pritohard 1937: 19'). Failure of oracles may be attribu­ ted to causes, like corruption of the poison by Witchcraft or mere hunger of the termites rather than attendance to the questions put to them; the poesibility that oracles in general are futile is never raised (Evans.. Prito'hard 1937: 337-41).
~ question. then. is: Why do Africans refrain from questioning their g~l beliefs in the light '01' contrary evidence? Speaking speaificaJiy of the Az8.ncle. Evans;'Pritchard argues that they do not do so bt3cause their thought is a closed system which accounts for its own failures. '

Azande see as well as we that the failure of their oracle
to prophesy truly calls for explanation, but so entangled
are they in mystical notions that they must make use of'
them to account for the failure. The contradiction
between experience and one mystical notion is explained
by reference' to another mystical notion (Evans-Pritchard
1937: 339). '
Again, The failure of any rite is accounted for in advance by a
variety of mystical notions - e.g. Witchcraft. soroery.
and taboo., Hence the perception of' error in one mysti­
oal notion in a particular situation merely proves the
correctness of another and equally mystical notion '(Evans­
Pritchard. 1937: 476).

- 6z ­
In his book on the Azande Evans-Pritchard takes the position that Zande notions apout Witchcraft, magic and oracles are Itmystical lr , that they are not in accord with objective reality as this is apprehended by the observations and logic of scientific thought (1937: 12, 476-78, 494). Winch criticizes this approach. maintaining that concepts of reality are themselves given in language and culture, and therefore that no culture-free concept of objective reality can exist. We thus have the options of viewing another system of thought in terms of our concepts of reality or in terms of its own concepts of reality. Winch insists on the latter course, and for that reason finds Evans-Pritchard's later analysis of Nuer religion (1956) preferable to his treatment of Zande thought (Winch 1964: 3W-15). Much of the next section will be devoted to a critique of Winch's ideas. Here, however, I wish to point out what strikes me as an advantage in the approach he advocates. If we do evaluate another philosophy, it is likely that we will find a great deal of error in the alien philosophy. We may then be led to wonder how that philosophy can persist when much of it is wrong, and our analysis may bean attempt to answer this question. l Consider Robin Horton's answer to the question raised in this paper. He argues that traditional African thought systems admit no alternatives to their basic theories and postulates. The African either believes that the world is ordered as his received philosophy fiays it is, or he must believe that the world is not ordered at all. Therefore, the African does not question his basic assumptions in the light of contrary evidence because of his anxiety that, were those assumptions found false, he would be driven to. the psychologically unsettling conclusion that the' world is chaotic (Horton 1967 t 167-69). One may read Horton's analysis as taking it for granted that to assess general beliefs gccording to empirical experience is a natural or proper epistemological procedure for all men, and that Africans would employ it if only their lack of alternative theories did not prevent them from doing so with psychological security. Adopting Winch's prescript­ ion of viewing a philosophy in its own terms, one's attention would be directed to precisely those things which Horton appears to take for granted. Instead of wondering how the failure to assess general beliefs in the light of contrary evidence can persist in African thought, one would ask what it is about African ontology and epistemology which renders it unnecessary or irrational within that system of thought to evaluate beliefs in this way. The analysis I offer attempts to answer this question. I think we will be in the best position to understand why Africans do not evaluate their general beliefs in the light of empirical evidence if we first consider Why we of the West often do evaluate our beliefs in this way. My point can be made most cleariY' on the basis of that part of Western thought in which this mode of evaluation is most rigorously developed, so this brief disoussion of the West will be. limited to natural science. In science, the procedure of evaluating beliefs (or assumptions or theories) according to empirical evidence is the experimental method. This method rests, I think, on two basic postulates of Western metaphysics - postUlates seen perhaps most clearly in CompteanPositive philosophy. The first is that empirical events are subject to unseen principles or laws; the second is that these principles or laws operate with mechanical regularity. In our epistemology, the first postUlate leads us to think that empirical events are relevant to our knowledge of the unseen principles or laws. The second postulate assures us that empirical events are a reliable means of evaluating our assumptions or theories about those principles or laws. The postulate that the laws of nature operate with mechanical regularity is essential to the. experimental method.. It assures us that variables can be controlled in an experiment: that some iaws will not operate, or at least will not operate in an unpredictable fashion, in the experiment. And this assurance in turn is necessary if we are to think that the result of an experiment is due to the particular law

and witohoraft for the Anuak (Lienhardt 1962). (Evans-Pritchard 1956). Let us adopt Father Tempels' wording and rephrase the postulate'to read "empirical events are sUbJeot to unseen foroes or powers". if an apparently valid oracular prediction fails to materialize. Here is a case where Afrioans utilize their conception of the irregularity of the forces of nature to regulate their lives. it is logical to suppose that some other foroe. i f the first survived. as proven or disproven' only if the experiment has different results eaoh time it is run . . oriteria are met. and magic for the Azande (Evans-Pritcbard 1937).g.>f the future or the oause of an illness or death) is true. Spirit and refractions of Spirit' for the Nuer. Their curing power does not operate automatically. and literally all being for the Baluba (Tempels 1945). The interesting thing is that the Azande accept the hypothesis. influenced the oracle..that empirioal events are subject to unseen prinoiples'or laws . . The word "law" is espeoially inappropriate for Afrioan thought. Then they ask the oracle to confirm its answer by sparing a second fowl if the first one died. asking the poison to kill the fowl i f a certain statement (e.t respond to a partioular sacrifice (Lienhardt 1961: 291). and which spared?) with meaning. sparing another) and they endow the particular form of irregularity (which fowl was killed. or _ by killing the second.~.i f one fowl dies and. They oonstruct an experimental situation where a foroe is asked to aot irregularly (killing one fowl. For the zande poison oracle. the main external foroe which stimulates the poison to kill or to spare is the truth or falsity of the "hypothesis II put to it. depending on the disposition of a multitude of variables (other forces) on that occasion (Tempels '1945: 40-1. In Baluba philosophy the forces are intimately interconnected so that the operation of one force depends on a great many others. Essentially this is an experiment.that hypothesis being the prediotion or other statement put to the oracle. But oomparing African _ thou/Ylt with our second Western postulate we find a sharp differenoe. such as witchcraft. witohoraft.would appear to be valid also for Afrioah metaphysics. 87-89). run tWice. but they are not important for the very general point I wish to make: that all of these things. Where an experiment is valid for oonfirming or disproving a hypothesis only if the result is the ~ each time the experiment is run. Many . This procedure is ' completely unintelligible in Western scientific thought.. given their assumption that the forces of nature do act irregularly and under . oracles.. ghosts. It' thus appears that the Azande oonoeive of the poison oracle much as the Baluba conceive of medicinal plants. our first Western postulate .y emerges only when a question is put j. On a particular occasion a given force may remain inactive or may act in 801 ofa number. Divinity and divinities for the Dinka (Uenhardt 1961). It may appear that the thought I have attributed to Afrioans is not .certainly there are many differenoes between these concepts. and ancestors. Among these foroes or powers are what have been termed. 57. with the aim of confirming a "hypothesis" . the Supreme Being.the influence of many other forces. a prediotion e. Zande oracles (Evans-Pritchard 1937) revealolearly the idea' of the irregular aotion of foroes. the other survives. as is seen in the Dinka idea that Divinity mayor may no. . . of oO'UrSe. 'l'lie Azande think that the poison laoks pOtency in itself. With oertain modifioations. it mayor may not act depending on the state of a number of forces external to the plants themselves (Tempels 1945: 62-}).63 ­ whose operation that experiment was desisnedto reveal. The Azancle administer poison to a fowl. Africans do not think that these forces act with mechanioal regularity. and show how Africans use this concept in a positive way.o the oracle (Evans-Pritchard 1937: '315). that the potenc. in the African view. And. Unless these. men. are forces whioh may influence events in the world.of them are thought to have volition. it is irrational to think that the experimental-method could· be utilized tQ evaluate our theories about any law of nature. of ways and with any of a: number of results.

r have suggested that~ for Africans~ the forces of nature are not thought to act regularly because the action of any force is influenced by many other forces. But this could be taken to mean simply that Africans consider a great many variables to impinge upon events~ and that what I have called their concep­ tion of the irregular action of the forces of nature is nothing more than their recognition that they do not fully understand all the variables affecting any particular event. But the African postulate that the forces of nature do not operate in a mechanically regular way means that in their view the variables affecting experience cannot be controlled.64 ­ fundamentally different from Western science. My answer to the quee~1on of why Africans do not question their general beliefs on the basis of contrary evidence should now be clear. 2 Their ontological charaoter (especially volition and functional diffuseness) is incompatible with any idea of pred1ctable~ mechani~l regularity of action. These concepts of reality are given in language and in the "form of lifel' in general. The variables we are discussing are the forces of nature~ and most of them (the Supreme Being~ nature sprites~ witches~ ghosts~ etc. Since languages and "forms of life" vary~ concepts of reality and the resulting modes of apprehending meaning in ideas and behaviour also vary. Peter Winch would have us understand another culture or historical period in its own terms. . Such prediction is~ I think~ impossible in African thought. Further~ since there can be no· concepts apart from a language and a "form of life"~ there is no common denominator in terms of which differ­ ent conoepts of reality and modes of intelligibility can be understood. The variables affecting the experience must be controlled. Therefore~ the African has no way of predicting if they will act in a particular situation. Therefore~ I suggest that Africans do not question their general beliefs -in the light of contrary evidence· because~ ~ithin their system of thought~ this is not rational. Neither are they conceived with the functional specificity that characterizes variables in the Western view. be a reliable epistemological procedure~ II Having offered the preceding analysis of an aspect of African thought. Therefore~ I maintain that the postulate that the fOrces of nature do not operate with mechanical regularity is validly attributable to Afrioan thought. They canno~ rationally attribute a given event to a given force because they cannot be certain if that force in fact operated on that· occasion. From. General beliefs or assumptions can be evaluated in terms of empirical experience only if one is certain that the experience is relevant to the assumption~ that no other factors oontributed to the course of the experience beyond those embodied in the belief or assumption. The problem with this position is that~ given our idea that the laws of nature operate with mechanical regularity~ when we talk about "controlling variables" we mean the ability to predict if and how variables will act in particular circumstances. As I understand his reasoning in its relevance to anthropology~ a people's thought and behaviour a~e intelligible only in terms of the concepts of reality held by that people. From their metaphysical point of view such evaluation cannot.. Therefore~ even if the African conception of variables (forces) would allow them to predict that certain variables will act in a particular situation~ that conception renders it impossible to predict how they will act.) have volition. this point of view one might attribute to them the ideas that the forces of nature do act with mechanical regularity and that they could predict the events resulting from their operation if only they coiii'd"Control all the variables. I should now like to view that analysis as data against which we may consider some problems in the study of other philosophies. There are many ways~ for example~in which a witch or malevolent ghost can do mischief. In this view the Africans emerge as possessing a scientific mentality but without enough knowledge to take it very far. Nor can they be certain if (and if so~ how) the outcome was affected by the action of other forces.

diffioult to imagine him wrestling with the problem of ~ he does not. The train of logic summarized above and many' of his remarks (e. This would bar us from askingl among many others I the question raised in this paper. Clearly the.95 ­ Each "form of 11fe"l with its language l phllosophyl and system of social relations is a self-contained entity which can be understood only in its own terms (Winch 1958 1 see especially pp. But I have just argued that the observation that general beliefs are not questioned in this way stems from Western thought rather than African thought. 11-151 22. There was no evaluation of the validity of African concepts from a Western point of 'view.my knowledge given close consideration to the problems involved in under­ standing another culture in its own terms. These are the problems which I propose to discuss here.. reality attributed to the Africans I and concluded that within these concepts such a uDde of evaluating beliefs would not be rational. Nor was African thought referred to as a "closed system" or as "lacking alternatives"l and both of these characterizations imply an external perspective. First l since concepts of reality and intelligibility are imbedded in language and a "form of life" I understanding a philosophy in its own terms presupposes int1m8:t~ knOWledge of the language and culture. 3 Moreover l our analysis concerns not all of Afrioan thought but a class of it: the class manifested in cases where general beliefs are not questioned on the basis of contrary evidence.S't strive. SecondlYI if we are to Understand another philosophy entirely in its. My analysis of why Africans do not question their general beliefs on the basis of contrary evidence may appear to qualify as an example of understanding another culture in its own terms. still less do I claim that in thinking through the conclusions' of this analysis we are thinking like Africans think.to explain it in another language and according to different concepts of reality it is clearly not being treated in its own terms. Hence the analysis offered above . Yet I do not claim that this analysis provides unders~anding of African thought in its own terms. Instead l the analysis considered the problem in terms of concepts of. We of the West often do question our general beliefs in this manner I and it is preoisely the-differenoe we perceive between ourselves and Africans which leads' us to ask this question and to be interested in its answer.is disqualified at the outset l for I know no African language I have never studied first-hand an African society I am in no Sense an Africanist and have never even been to Africa. Whichever Winch espouses l he has not to. I must confess uncertainty as to exactly how far Winch wishes to press the point that a culture must be understood in its own terms. If it does not occur to the African to question his general beliefs on the basis of contrary -evidenoe-. But 'one wonders if even his analysis would represent understanding of African philosophy in its own terms. . to approach I as closely as possible I the goal of understanding as the native understands. question emerges when African thought is viewed from the perspective of Western thought. I doubt that either of these claims is true l for a number of reasons.231 40-44 1 121-133). 1958: 129-32) imply that we'''llIU. noubtless an anthropologist with all these qualifications could devise ~n analysis of our problem superior to the one I have offered.---it .is. But MacIntyre (19(7) interprets Winch as arguing that understanding from within is just a starting point for analysis I and Winch t s statement (1964: 319) that lithe sort of understanding we seek requires that we see the Zande categol"J in relation to our own already understood categories" lends credence to this point.g. Would not the fact that he of necessity learned that philosophy in terms of his own culture's philosophy while the natives learned i t from infancy mean that he must understand it differently than they do? And are there any criteria l beyond intuition l by which he could know that he understands it as the natives do? Even i f he could gain SU'C'h understanding I and could know he has itl surely it is incommunicable to anyone who lacks the language and first-hand contact I since when he tries '.own terms l we should be limited to thinking only about those problems which arise within that philosophy.

It is based on the first Western postulate I offered ~ that empirical events are subject to unseen principles or laws. Considering all this l the analysis I have offered must be very remote from understanding African philosophy in its own terms. In Western thought the epistemological correlate to the postulate that empirical events are subject to unseen principles or laws is that empirical events are intelligible in terms of those principles or laws. And especially insofar as t~is way inco~rates experimental thinking I it . It stems from the second Western postulate mentioned earlier: that unseen principles or laws act with mechanical regularity. it is Western rather than African in structure. 1 The most important reason I have for why my analysis does not reveal African philosophy in its own terms is that the epistemological structure of that analysis itself is Western rather than African. In such an evaluation l each case which can be so understood oonstitutes "proof" or supporting evidence for the postulates I while cases which could not be understood in terms of the postulates would disprove them and therefore would necessitate revision or dismissal of the postulates. Furthermore l a comparative perspective has chaPaoterized my entire I found it easiest to think about whi'Africans do not eval~'"te their assumptions on the basis of empirical evidence by thtnking first about why Western scientists do.eristic which relates them and sets them off from other aspects of thOUght. In my analysis the postulates of African philosophy represent "unseen principles or laws" 'of African thought. Furthermore l I think a critic would evaluate my analysis and its postulates of Afrioan philosophy in precisely the same way. 1'ItY analysis proceeded from a pair of postulates which I think are attributable to African philosophyl but these postulates were introduced and discussed in contrast with their opposite numbers from the West. By explaining African thought in terms of my two postulates of African philosophy I my analysis has followed this directive of W~stern epistemology. It is rational for us to insist that they render eve!:: relevant case intelligible only if we first assume that those principles or laws operate with mechanical regularity. Moreover l the notion of intelligibility which underlies my analysis is Western and not African. The same method of contrasts was followed in the discussion of how experiments could be r~n and variables controlled in terms of the Western and African post 1lates. There would probably be no conunon charaot. Therefore l the way in which both I and a critic ju~e whether or not my analysis makes the African thought in question intelligible is a Western way. MY aim was to explain Why Africans do not evaluate their general beliefs according to contrary -evidenoe l and my meth()d of explanation was to posit two postulates of African philosophy and l by reasoning from those postulates I to argue that it is not rational within African philosophy to evaluate general beliefs in this way. This method itself stems from Western philosophy. Although not attaining the rigor found in natural science l this mode of evaluation is essentially the experimental method. certainly not the characteristic we have recognized. The "unseen principles or laws" are the two postulates I posited for African philosophy. The very concepts "experiment" and "variable" I crucial to my a1'1alysis l were of course derived from Western rather than African thought. analJ~is. In this case the "empirical events" are observa­ tions that Africans do not evaluate their general beliefs according to contrary evidence. Thus even before it gets started I at the point of framing the problem~ the analysis offered here cannot be a study of African thought in its own terms. When I conceived of analyZing our problem in terms of the two postulates I have posited for African philosophyl I evaluated those postUlates by asking "Do they work?" In carrying out this evaluation I Juxtaposed the postUlates against various particular cases where Africans do not question their general beliefs in terms of contrary evidence I and determined whether each of those cases could be understood in terms of the postulates. -.g() ­ Were we viewing African thought in its own terms l we would not be justified in thinking that those cases form a class at all..

as for example the planetary theory of the atom (Horton 1964:98. not one but two philosophies are in 'play. I agree with his point that a people's ideas and behavior are intelligible only in terms of their concepts of reality. Winch argues that understanding in social science is different from understanding in natural science. since it is we who do the understanding."'-~~-~. This leads to my final point. I think it is extremely unlikely .e. In contrast. any analysis we make must have an "as if" quality about it.~~' --~--~-~---. that Afrioans subscribe either consciously. however. 67 . This is similar to the procedures of natural science. And I think that this point holds with equal force for any analysis we make of another philosophy. But I think that the logic requires another step: since we are people too. another CUlture's concepts of reality are intelligible to us only in terms of our own concepts of reality. epistemology" /-(Curiously. Northrop has devoted a great deal of hard thought to this point (1946.. There is of course native philosophy. 1960.. can be intelligible to us only in terms of our own metaphysics and. operating entirely within the metaphysical and epistemological concepts and procedures of that philosophy. For it will be recalled that the very problem we set out to explain is why Africans do not evaluate general beliefs on the basis of contrary eVidence. unconsciously. 127-28.) 1 From this point of view.. 1964). This would require.. Horton has pOinted out that scientific theories are often constructed on the model of familiar phenomena. another system of thought. that natural phenomena can meaningfully be said to be related only in terms of the theory which posits that relationship. we understand it acco~ng to what properly constitutes understanding for us. my reasoning here is very close to that of Winch. social phenomena are intelligible only in terms of the language and culture in whioh they exist..""'-_. why db Africans not think experimentally? Since both I and a critic understand my analysis and the African thought it treats aaaording to notions of intelligibility quite alien to African thought. Very likely this would not qualify as understanding from the native point of View. I do not mean to suggest in this paper.. i.. --""-'- . . Now the thoughtful scientist would not say that atoms really are constructed like the solar system.. 1967:67-8). implicitly or in any other way to the postulates that empirical events are SUbject to unseen forces. But our own philosophy is intrinsically involved as well. then.. To sum up. is !lOt an African way. 132-33). and that these forces do not aot With meohanical regularity. Therefore one cannot understand social theories or laws without a prior understanding of the social situations to which they apply (Winch 1958: 133-36).if not impossible .. Understanding itself varies among cultures.When we understand.. while I maintain that another philosophy. it clearly cannot be said that this analysis provides understanding of African thought in its own terms. and a few differences between Western and African epistemologies (such as the role of experimental thinking in understanding) have been discussed in this paper. His main points seem to be that intelligibility in naturalsc1ence 'depends on theory. 5 Therefore. for example.._--_.. and yet we end up at opposite poles. _. but only that a number of things about atoms become intelligible to us when we view them as if they were (see Northrop 1946: 194).. One cannot understand the relationship without first understanding the theory.) . since it.. nor would the native's " understanding of his own philosophy count as proper understanding forus.~. that oertain puzzling aspects of African thought become intelligible to us i f we regard the Africans as if they subsoribed to these postulates. when we seek to . like everything else in the universe. and that therefore social scientists should not attempt to operate like natural scientists (1958:1-2...' (See also TempeIs 1945 for a discussion of African epistemology. . is the natives who do the thinking we wish to understand. Their relationships must be underst90d from within...understand. . ---. I do suggest. another philosophy. that we could ever understand another philosophy in its own terms.

l .a theory of knowledge or an epistemology. as Winch says with reference to intelligibility in natural science. while connections between social pheno~ena are given in the social situation in which those phenomena exist. We explained it in terms of a theory: two postulates and certain deductions from them. __ . Finally. the theory. .. But consider once again the analysis of African thought offered in this paper.' MacIntyrs (1962:6i~3) explicitly advocates this procedure. I do not think our analyses of social phenomena are likely to be intelligible to anyone who does not have a prior familiarity with that epistemology. but according to what for us constitutes proper understanding. ': . we understand them very much as Winch describes understanding in natural science. I submit that this means of understanding character­ izes the social sciences as much as the natural scienoes. .r----. Rather. Within our epistemology. Allan Hanson. Another facet of Winch's point is that in natural science connections between phenomena are intelligible only in terms of theory. To be sure. "It is only !a terms 2!. (Indeed. 2 theory that one can speak of the events being thus 'connected i ••• .. I submit that this connection is not "given" in the social situation.of thought apart !!:. Contra Winch. But our analysis advanoed a connection between the African practice of not questioning general beliefs on the basis of contrary evidence and Zande thought with reference to the normal and prOper operation of oraoles (see pp. while social phenomena must be understood 1n themselves before we can understand theories purporting to explain them. just as a natural scientist builds theory not in a vacuum but with reference to problems. We began with a characteristic of African thought which was unintelligible to us.68 ­ The burden of this paper has been that we cannot understand social situations (other than those 1n which we participate as thoughtful natives) frour-1d-thin. 5-6 above).In--my--view. . . puzzling observable phenomena are made intelligible by viewing them as if they conform to invariable principles or laws which we devise and label "theories".2!!!. I do not think that one need understand the elements of African thought this theory p~orts to explain before one can understand the theory. the only way to grasp the connection is to learn the theory" (1958: 134. even if he had never heard of Dinka sacrifice or zande oracles or the rest of it. We then Judge a theory experimentally: by determining whether other observable phenomena which fall within the domain of the theory also behave as if they conform to the principles or laws it ~stulates. But I see no reason why someone else of the West could not grasp the postulates I advanced for African thought and my reasoning from them. It is probably qUite awkward to attribute to African philosophy the negative postulate that the forces of nattire do not act with mechanical regUlarity. I devised_ the theory while puzzling over those aspects of African thought. ~ References 1. . Winch's emphasis). AlthOUgh there are olearly differences in rigor of experimentation. Again contra Winch._'i:''-_. I have argued that we do not understand other cultures in their own terms. Winch argues that in natural science understanding of a theory preoedes understanding of the phenomena explained by that theory. The more elegant way would be to say that the postUlate that the forces of nature aot with meohanioal 2.. I do not think he can understand those elements . or some other theory). F. This mode of understanding itself is a theory . which Northrop (1964) has termed "logical realism".

~p. On the basis of what has been said thus far I agree with this. .Q~ 37: 50-71. At any rate. 1962. 1961. !!l PWJ. OXford: Clarendon Press. . 155-187• '0 L1enhardt..c. Runciman.chcrat't. But our understanding of native epistemology will not be the same as the native's understanding of it. E.andsoc+~_1!. ~PJ~~ience. Wit.l!.t'tica 34: 85-1Qll.x4_. not to the possibility that I have been able to analyze African thought in its own terms. not native epistemology. A.. It may be protested that I have phrased the question ethnocentri­ cally. empirical events are'subJect to unseen powers or forces) is similar to the first Western postulate. G. It is "difficult to imagine how we could do otherwise. Godfrey. However I beg leave to continue with the former formulation. as the analysis above demonstrates.Jmd... Macintyre. an aspect of Anuak ~Ql2.nity and. the religion the Dinka.RQlitic. I would maintain that the method of analysis derives from Western rather than African philosophy. Robin. and that any similarity to a possible African method of analysis is due to coincidental resemblances between the two philosophies. I submit that no matter how.). . One might argue that since my first African postulate (that 5. When a Z2ndetells us that his foot is cut because he struck it on a rock we do not spin theories of Z2nde causation. A mistake about causality in social science. 1937.. AM. although quite striAing divergences will appear in a moment. f 1962. the method of explanation adopted in my analysis may not be totally alien to African thought. as this seems to give me something more tangible to work with as I construct my analysis and (in Section II) as I analyse.:that analysis. The situation of death: philosophy. Bibliography Evans-Pritchard. We can and should study native epistemology.E.ara. eds. DJJc. ------ 1967. 1964. This is not to say that we cannot understand what for the native constitutes proper understanding.JIl~g1(Lamongthe Azand-e. carefully and neutrally we frame our questions and pursue our investigations.Q. It is only when he begins' to speculate over what witchcraft Caused his foot to strike the rock that we become interested. 4.­ Clarendon Press.69 ­ regularity cannot be attributed to African philosophy. we always conceive of those questions and investigations from the perspective of our own thought. and that it could properly ·beaskedwithin the context of African philosophy in the neutral form "What·· is the relation between general propositions and particular events?" I agree that the question is better stated in this form.1. African traditional thought and Western soience. Olcford: Basil Blackwell. OXford: Horton. Ritual man in Africa. To be intelligible to us it must be cast in the concepts of Western epistemology. OXford: Clarendon Press.. . second series (Peter Iaslett and W.les. Alasdair..l.Q1Q!Q. . Bu~ I maintain the point that we are led to ask' even this question because the relation seems different for Africans than it does for ·us... 3..~~~:bY 35: 74-85.

The Aristotelian Society! Supplementary Volume 41: 95-114. The and K.. Winch. Paris: Collection Presence Afridaine.S. Alasdair. American Philosophical Quarterly 1: 307-324. Toward a deductively formulated and operationally verifiable comparative cultural anthropology. London: Routledge 1964. 1958. Philosophical Anthropology and Practical . The Meeting of East and West.ga-.-70. 1964. The Idea of Social Science. 1967. New York: 1960. Placide. 1946. . F. In Cross-cultural Understanding: E istemolo in Anthro 010 (F. 1945. C.. La Philosophie Bantoue (traduit du Neerlandais par A. Livingston. Understanding a Primitive Society.politics. Northrop and Helen H. RUbbens). Tempels.. Peter.C. New York: Macmillan.' Id~a of a Social Science. P. R. Paul. Northrop. eds • New York: Harper and Row. Macintyre. Macmillan.. S.

how Winch can be located wi thin a broader sphere of academic en~eavour. in following through the arguments advocated by Hinch and Hanson as to how we can bast characterise other modes of thought (in such terms. for God is not thought of as a particular thing 'on the lips of believers. at least for the atheist. unique and so independent of external. in the main. Ramsey 1959).incoherent.71 ­ A DEFENCE OF WINCH "Everything is what it is and not another thing ll . immutable relevance of those concepts and organisational devices belonging to their tradition. But anthropologists. Further. for all meta-theorising)" (Hughes 1962). If we say. making intelligible. Which then is the correct course for meta-theology'Z To characterise religious belief in terms of the patterns of usage and sensa within actual religious discourse~ Or to apply such organisational devices as proper names and descriptive phrases.. So. (i) Hanson's criticism of Winch do not stand if (11) it is measured against what I take vlinch to be really saying. as . in a laZy fashion. of judgment within other modes of discourse. that loS. non-assertive.quasi-attitudinal etc. paradoxical. as those issues which Theologians'have written so much about (Gill 1966. In other words. modes of discourse other than those wi th which one is familiar (and so which do not have to be 'understood' in quite such the same way) must somehowfaca this fact. factual. mystical). it should be borne continually in mind that the more .. for example. Nielsen (1967) and MacIntyre (Hick 1964). Hepburn 1963.. This note attempts to show that the course suggested by Hanson is not the best of the alternatives. I should like to begin by briefly indicating the broader p~rspective within which this debate should be viewed. Since I am limiting this d18cussion to toJinch and Hanson.axpressive. how to best characterise and so understand other modes of discourse. That is. To suggest. logical analysis (l. Understanding. the· absolute' and. mutatis mutandis. Hanson I s attempts are at least partially invalidated by the fact that they are not properly directed against Winch.' (Hughes 1962). that the notion 'God' may be used in either of two ways (as a proper name referring to a particular baing or as a descriptive term) then it can be shown that using it in both ways at once leads to a contradiction. following Hartin.lcPherson 1955) or whether we can treat religious language as though it ware empirical status (Ramsay 59) .lould have to face relatively severe criticism i f it is to stand in its present form. when these have been developed to expose the 'logic' ot discourse not of 'God' but of particular til!ings? When there is incommensurability between our criteria of characterisation and the criteria. And that such problems as whether religious language is autonomous. but that . intentional. instrumental. Alston.(Butler). I attempt to show that the procedure suggested by Hanson .) have been developed by Theologians and Philosophers of Religion. then which stands? Or can a meta-level of mutual relevance be established? "\vhich of these programmes is preferable is perhaps the most important question for meta-theology (even. Hughes replies that this argument to establish the contradictory nature of Christian belief is wrong. This does not mean that I altogether support the Hinchian procedure. loIacquame 1967. appear to be more concerriad with retaining. for example. although Winch can perhaps to criticised as by. Coburn 1963. either explicit or not. But what is at stake is as important. meaningless. ---- Theologians and Philosophers of Religion have had to grapple with this problem for what is at stake is the nature of balief in God: the role of reason in religious understanding and in unders~anding religion. sophisticated arguments and organisational devices (such as.

. the goal of understanding -as the native understands ll • TI. Hanson's Olm position becomes even more confounded when we follow through his adoption of "I-linch's prescription (an adoption. At ana stage Hanson is suggesting that we (a) follow "Hinch when this is position '(1) and that (b) we.hich can be understood only in its own terms" then Hanson "'ould be justified in continuing to assart that \-linch is c1earl~l striving "to approach. It can-be".334) "sought to evade the difficulties raised by simple trait comparisons by blandly affirming that every social event is uniquoly defined by its total context lt and that i f this 'Wera ~hecase "all cross-cultural comparison would be futile". Such concepts of reality vary from context to context. or again . might help us to" understand his train of thought. El~ewhere in his article. If this 'Were true. Since· bis own analysis wGS made without sucb a knowledge.'II do not claim that this a.aaan. as closely as possible. terms". "in its own terms ll and 'lonly''' are not used-very-consistently.their tbought now comes to be intelligible either "only in terms of their concepts of reality" (1) or intelligible 1I0nly in terms of our concepts of reality. the second step can only hold if it is taken that 'What we understand is not ~ in their OWn terms.. that Hinch was reallY saying that each fom of life lIis a self-contained entity ". significantly enough. pp. another logical step is necessary . and that "Hinch is even more mysterious. concepts of reaLityD.(2).''we thus have the options of viewing another system of thought in terms of our concepts of reality or in terms of its" own concepts of reality. Hanson suggests that their own terms need not be well known.339 .72 ­ are of precisely the same variety that face Anthropologists in many of the more interesting fields of their work. He makes the following points " \a) that understanding a philosophy in its own terms presupposes an intimate lcrlowledge of their lanIDlage and culture. Can Winch be refuted in this way? First though." \-linch himself supposedly insisting on the latter course.mportantly "that the analysis' considered the problem in terms of concepts of reality attributed to the Africans". does not involve the 'Word "only").impossible. Hanson qualifies this stance _ liMy analysis ••• may appear to quality as anex-amp1e or tmderstanding another culture in its CMl terms" and then. JiPat the phrases "in terms of II. It seems to me that Hanson is attributing a very similar view to vlinch (my emphasis):­ ''\flinch would have us understand another culture in its own terms" for "a people I s thought and behaviour are intelligible only in terms o:f the concepts of reality held by that people". which.'lrS in turn 'Would involve vlinch in the fatal. then various forms of life cannot be equated and so mutually understood through the application of such common denominators.anding ~f African thought in its Otom terms. . This is clearly logically. the reasons Hanson gives for the refutation of Winch which this last quotation implies. Malinowsld. For. neo-Malinowsldan either/or situation which Hanson suggests is the case for Hinch . It (2) From tbis basis Hanson proceeds to suggest that although "Adopting Hinch's prescription of viewing a philosophy. in its ow. and since there are t!2 concepts independent of their context.for their concepts of reali ty are "intelligible to' us 2n1Y: in terms of our ow.na1ysis provides underst.add position . on completion of his ~rsis. It would seem that the logic of understanding other modes of discourse is indeed wonderous. Hanson makes this either/or all the more so . according to Leach (Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences. ." still less' do I claim that in thinldhg through the conclusions of this analysis we are thinking like Africans think". most :\..

that "the very categories of meaning etc. c} and even if' such an understanding could be acquired. Instead.. Thirdly. but it is precisely this procedure which Hanson himself makes invalid by quote (l) when he implies that 'tiincb is saying ~ in terms of tbeir concopts. Why1 Because since the social scientist has to "accept" (p.44).73) that the buma. African philosophy is not revealed !nits own terms. the natives understand them.40) tbat "a man's social relations with his fellows are panneated with his ideas about reality" (p. then such useful questions as those posed by Hanson could not be so asked.23).to a leaserextent.whllst building a ''meta-theory'' on vhieh to found cross-cultural intelligibility does not .~t also do not affect lolincb. that Hanson's ow analysis is both in terms of. (1v) fall back into that science-centric view which appears to dominate llacIntyra and.and finally. perhaps most importantly. Secondly. Ii!L his book (l958). the procedure must be in terms of our criteria: 'When we understand another philosophy. e} that at least in terms of the analysis followed by Hanson.. Hanson. are lo~ically dependent for their sense on socbl interactions bet'. Hanson is rejecting that view which holds that other pb:11osophies should be' understood in their own tenns. then to return and suggest that Hanson's five specific criticisms are not only based on logical confusionc .73 ­ b} that even if their terms were relatively 'Well Imow. In eacb of these arguments. but 'Which Hanson claims to do). This seems unlikely. then it follows (p. than x). and so involves attributing something to x Which is other. we understand' it according to what properly constitutes understanding for '1m. they could never be undara-tood as. the former being divided into either in terms of their concepts or in terms of ours. but is developing an altogethor different procedure. Thus be is contradicting his own adoption of ~Jinch and so is not adding another logical ste:p(which we have seen is impossiblo. Winch's basic point is that "tbe notion of a society involves a scheme of concepts which is logically incompatible with the kind of explanation offered in the natural sciences" (p. for Hinch would be the first to realise that the tvo phrases have different meanings (llin terms of" suggests that x is always in terms of something else y. Wbat then are \>1<3 to make of this'1 ~'irst that Winch is apparently both in favour 'With "in their own terms" and "in terms of our concepts". I do not disagree that this lIin terms of" procedure is not valid. In exploring \linch's argument I hope (i) to :indicate that Hinch is not an arcb-f1deist in stressing the uaquen€ s a of participant' understanding (Viz '!in tl'sir own terms ll ) (ii) that this follows from Uinch's 'theory' of meaning aDd (iii) that iUnch.leeh man" (p. 73). "when he tries to explain it in another language' and according to different concepts of reality it is clearly not being treated in its atom tems ll • d} That if' another philosopQy is to be understood entirely in its own terms.' I now want to attempt to show what vlinch is really saying.one 'Ibo sees a series of self-contained entities each of whicb are virtually unintelligible outside their OW terms. and in their own terms.~ . tbat Uinch is characterised as being an arcb-fideist .

are governed by.3lS and 321) then we can claim to understand the sense of the discourse. shows how useful the notion of meaning in terms of context usage is .. His' theory' of meaning is now more clearly presented ­ if we can loarn what it is to follow a rule (which in turn entails that we know what it is not to follow the rule viz. as far as I can :see.erstand other societies when he could predict what would happen in many social situations. meaning of social behaviour and ideas cannot be settled by experiment. II beliove in God' has an infinite variety of meanings to participants. only means that. so to be applied as theories.3l2 vlinch writes that a partial. ~ It might therefore be claimed that this means he is thus not 'fully' understanding. whereas the· temperature at .3l7).74 ­ .S3) . to end as nonsense for the logical positivists. it. seem to . I taka it for granted that although it is perhaps· arguable that vJinch is incorrect in his apparent rejection of scientific explanation (I use the word 'hpparent"for it could be maintainod that all that vlinch iss~g is tbat such apparent understanding does not involve scientific explanation).) In the article Winch \-Irote in 1964.Y to a given mode of human behaviour governed by its ow.307) or again '~~e are not seeking a state in which things appear to us just as they do to members of another society. such a procedure is not possible when what is to be decided is how many grains. but the general thesis s·tands. without I think. for example. is to expose the social logic and point-ness of these phrasas. since "all behaviour which is meaningful is ipso-facto rule-governed" (p. ~ perhaps such a state is unattainable anyway" (p. to malm explicit the ' grammar' of discourse. analysis can proceed by "examining the natura of the rules according to "lhich judgments of identity are made" (p. Again. that we can predict what is involved by following the rule) and What the point of the rule is (pp.73). It has much in common with such a \vittgen tem position as expressed in Vlittgen~in's answer (Philosophical Investigations &381) to the question . abstract.support this view. From'linowledge of whatit :isto follow a rule. infinite in that their' 'private' meanings depend on individual idioSYnoracies etc. It also bears similarities to Evans-Pritchard 's cOll)lllent that he could olaim to unP. but depend on.52) our concepts of social phenomena or act·s must be co-extensive with that of meaningf'ul acts and notions.when "such jUdglilants are intelligible only relativel. Instead. Winch might be partially mistaken. as Hinch soes it.swer to the question . the rules of wbat is being stUdied. For example. contradicting much of what he had earlier written. he develops.'Why do you call that "red l "? 'I have learnt English'.~hich "later freezes can be settled experimentally. that tihe social scientist understands as an observor. especially ot} this last point. Thus the sociologists' judgments should replicate the native criteria of coharence. this basic framework into a form of'more direct relevance to Anthropology. rules II. that only in such a case can it be said that rules are being followed). his basic emphasis stands as valuable (MacPherson 1955. but important a1'J.what criteria have we for saying that something m~ms sense~ is that sense depends on there being a state of non-contradiction (Viz. do. whereas understanding. And such comments of Hinch's as "The !zande hold beliefs tbat we cannot possibly share" (p. But. I say coherence for 'on p. What then Winch is saYing is that understanding should not be equated with full participation. to take one example.~han he explains whY certain beliefs which were only a stumbling block to the Jews became foolishness to the Greeks. of wheat have to be added together bofore one has a heapR (p. thus making ~ss-cultural intelligibility all but impossible. is misleading to follow the scientific procedure of applying theories' which themselves establish connections. but. Since I am not hare criticising Hinch. to equate .' <3 Un this sense sociological judgments cannot be made in .. It follmlS' that insofar as the social scientist is dealing with meanings. what Hinch ·is maintaining.

it could be held that to grasp the real nature of religious belief' is not really part of the sociologist's job • . Hurdoch's Procedure.not impose our boundaries.HacIntyre.t intelligibility amounts to in the life of the society we are investigating"..· And. Returning to Hanson's five cl'iticism. "elucidate" (. But the underlined words show that he is still ta11d.3l6). as Nielson 1967 does. in . but Hinch's own based on a brilliaritethno~apby' of which !l2. It is for this reason that Laach'< Encylopaedia of Social .so vrincn elsel-Jhere writes "if the judgments of identity of the sociologists of religion rest on criteria taken from religion. escapes such 'participant's relativism' and allows \-linch to do what Hanson suggests he does not . Thus.S7 for examples of what is involved. as in the case of Philosophers of Religion. then (i) Hanson's either/or formulation does not apply (il) criticism (a) ianot relevant .32J and 1958 p. or extendad from. classifications etc.tive organisational devices within. . I can claim that I can never 'lmow' what any sentence 'means' for anyone else). 321). have deep knowledge. Or lito present an account of them that will somehow sati. bearing in mind that understanding for Winch is equated witb the exposure of social logic in terms 6£ relevant/rela. the logical positivists and LevyBruhl can be included amongst those who have imposed ellen criteria so obscuring those judgments that the sociologist should be making (1964 p.urse one must have a participant's understanding of a Instead. .. In any case. cannot grasp all that the participant shares .make explicit that which is ioplicit) the peculiar natures of· those forms of life called religion (1958 p.for not only an· 'in. belief and acceptance nature. (Sae VIinch 1964 p. we have seen that Winch says that such an understanding is impossible (for.320.307).fully face the problem of how "to bring another society's conception of intelligibility (to them) into (intelligible!) relation with our own conception of intelligibility (to uS)lI (1964 p.. . Where 'lIinch is a relativist is that such a sociological interpretation as constituted by the discerned logic and 'point-of-Hess' must involve "extending our conception of intelligibility as to· make it possible for us to see wha.75 ­ meaning with use (1964p.sfy the criteria of intelligibility demanded by the culture to which he and his readers belong" ~ (1964 p.41). Winch is suggesting that the ~t of discerning maximal commonality (relativism of this style does not stress uniqUEJlesSl) might well involve a considerable rethinking aDd realignment of our traditional categories. . in the same sense. which allows reporting back. to. as one '''ho claims that in order to fully understand religious disco. in a style reminiscent of Waisu:an. then his relation to the performers of· religious activity cannot be just of the observer to the obserwd ll and lithe sociologist of religion must himself have ~ religious feeling if he is to make sense of the religious movement he is studyingll. it could still be maintained that this 'obS8r'I7Qt' 'theory' of meaning. the (iii) Criticism (b) fares little better . vIe must extend our 'own' way of looldng at things.ng about the observer who attempts to gain maximal fideism. .3l9). its own term!J' Winch.3l8). (p. Sciances) argues along Hincbian lines to criticise amongst others. our culture. does it rest on analysis was himself did not would agree. Admittedly.ory' of meatiing . (See also vrinch p.31?).all deeper the lmowledga the better.FJnycase. his 'the. What follows from this is that vlinch cannot be classed.) Only in such a way can I science­ centricism' be avoided .s..

what matters is degree of fidiesm. A narrotmess l<linch meets with.'· .·ha:s appealed to..ve understand other societies ''according to "lhat for us constitutes proper understanding" when this mode of understanding is limited to the theories of logical realism. ~he paradox's of mystics (sentences whioh both have a use and are contradictor. syetematically ambiguous". I do not think that Hanson could possibly have done what he claims to have. viz.3l9) "lrites that since "the onus is on us to extend our understanding" 'WEI must seek a foothold". (v) Point (d) is also misleading. To repeat my point that I am not attempting to put 1-1inch into a critical perspeotive. Sea also p. But I do not think that to ss::! .r) could successfully be handled by Hinch. . this is Hinch's Achilles heel.the argument which is the king-pin of Hanson's paper. participants. (p.How. Thus Hinch (1964 p. rests bis case. has all the ear-marks of that arbitariness and a priorism that once characterised such rigid theories of meaning as logieal positivism. Perhaps. So. as field workers.how can it be applied unless something is first understood~ MacIntyre 1964p. they should.he is treating othermodes .dthin them. whilst ciaimi.118 shows that this argument can be used to refute Levy-Bruhl and the more extrema logical positivists in their form of understanding religious discourse."the notion of intelligibility is.of discourse in an ·'as if' form. how can it be called a theory'] Another objection (perhaps not so strong) . in order to make intelligible other modes of discourse (and so their 'internal' intelligibility) Hanson says that they must be treated ''as. that· (a) when . for example. such comments as . would not dispute that aince~ understand. . only be different in so far as translation itself is involved. Hanson suggests that within our dominant epistemology. This 'as if"application of the theory in Hanson's own analysis. they his . for Winch would stress that we. it cannot be in their terms. Finally. "puzzling observablepce:nomena are made / intelligible by viewing them ~ they conform to invariable principals or laws which we devise and label 'theories'. by the. for although he has attempted to develop a meta.pg: to folloW this . criticism (e) . which his 'theory' of meaning maximises. What· then has Hanson :rea. I do not think that because we cannot understand (and report back) mere11fromwithin.be spoken of. if"'such prin6ipals or laws· operate . and that intelligibility only follows 2n this establishment. in fact. He .rested his analysis on) those universal criteria of intelligibility on which Hinch.lJ. as· we have already indicated. "1 do not ask how far ~linch's universal criter:iaavoid category mistakes. is claimed to refute· Winch in that relationshipSare established as in the natural sciences. in suoh terms. i f possible. at least since Comte.. with our perspective (critical in this sense) should ask as many questions as possible in order to discern which of our many organisational devices are most relevant/relative to the alien' mode of thought.3l0. he .76 ­ (iv) Criticism (0) is rendered of dubious value in that Hinch is suggesting that although it is inevitable that different concepts are involved. to meet the strong objections raised by Winch in his "heap " analogy. we understand asa scientist does and (b) that organisational devices are applied in such 'an experimental way.320). Finally. course? I suggest that..~aparticipate.y' done?· Ana :how is it that he answers puzzles\?-ccessful:!:Y cine thinks. is to refute Winoh on the grounds that his devices cannot . does Hanson verify and falsii"y (procedures of the essence of the experimental approach) his theory? If he does not effect these operations. For the critoria of intelligibility on whioh he rests his cas~ are implicit in all ('1) discourse.-level of organisational devices which are of Universal applicability and so only articulate what is already there into observer lan~age. I am not sure "Ihether.

they are. For example.a:-:. It does not SOem to Ilie that he has appealed to any of the fullest expressions of logical realism but only to logical realism.concapts(~958 p.114). there is at least a common basic exigency of rationality in a wider sense". . That theZ'El criteria are implicit (as if) in alien expression can readily be demonstrated. and on the necessary real/unreal.3t elusive of all orgmiisatiotUU . Rhees to the effect that language games are not self-contained) suggests that universal intelligibility could also be based on such 'limiting conceyts' as death. meaning' but also in making it intelligible in terms of other rules of intelligibility. (why else would he adopt Father Tempel's formulation) .art of argument. besides making.77 ­ are necessary conditions for communication. not of experiment . If Hanson had appealed to the more sophisticated criteria of logical realism. UDllecessarily I feel.Flatcher( See Levi strauss 1966 p.. devices -contradiction. II ' .. what he has really done is to appeal to such criteria.. true/false conditions. he could easily have ended up as l-1acIntyra does (See llineh 1964 p. v. v. Thus his answer involves only exposing what is entailed by the rules of African beliefs. theologians with a considerable vested interest in retaining I the . universally the same. what is essentially an art . But as it is. .1inch..10 il) sqs that we can "most easily' begin to understand forms of thought which seem very strange to us" by appealing to the fact that they are ~ founded on tbis demand for oi'der ll • Clarke (Hick p. in the vary weak sense that it can be said to be 2E!: particular oxpression of order (for tQe !zande can predict [in his sound-sense sphere ]and many advanced physical scientists no longer base intelligibility on such prediction). Levi Strauss (1966p.320) and as it is.. in a sense.136) writes "although there is no common expressible formula for intelligibility among all man. into a position \-1here he has to say the. . Zande thought is not of a pseudo­ scientific nature. But the notion of the 'science of understandirtgl appears to rest' on tho weakest of grounds •. .ter which rests on thatmo. Or can \ole. for example. a mat.lhether or not. lithe sociologists \olho misinterpret alien cultures are like philosophers getting into difficulties· over the. in soma sense or another. Hanson is led. Hanson really only engages in the art of hindsight of relativism . express existential 'limiting I notions? It is interesting in this context to see how close l1inch is to such theologians as Bultmann.native informant.10) IIUl sacred things must have their pla. Hinch is correct that we cannot criticise ~en rules withoutknc~heirmeaning (which we presumably have already grasped in order to criticise them) inj~stice is another ~tter .ce" . for example.. returning to Hanson's analysis.' Perhaps logical positivism is just around the corner. other language games • So. use of their own . imagine myths which do not. sex etc. similar assertions (including quoting R. war. . A t all costs a priorism's should not be applied to. and even tbough' they might be conceptualised differently.

. see the ninth paragraph of Part. Levi. A. Macmillan & Co.1'. W. p.211-19. 1967. NacIntyra. In Part I some advantages which would a~crue from understanding another philosophy in its own terms were mentioned. K.Strauss.edia of Philosophy. in.R.the'paper. in Hick. the analysiS I offered cannot be expected to reveal African thought in its own terms.s also bbje~ts' to the logic. Philosophy. 1958.78 ­ Alston.l1ical ~~~~~ Volel. and urging understand. however. July. Uittgensteinian Fideism. that what Heelas takes as logical confusion or contradiction is really the progression of argument.G.) 1964. A. Nielsen. Understanding a Primitive Society. own analysis was made without such a knowledge. Savage Mind. also only in our terms. G. . God Talk. C. LT. J.one conclusion of the paper was that we cannot expect to understand alien modes of thought in their own terms.Theology. and Haclntyra. Coburn. and a series of arguments were offered that it does not. 1962.'lQ§.I-I.edit. Part II asked Whether the analysis of Part I really dpes provide understanding of African thought in its own terms. Flew. Allan Hanson First let me counter a few statements in Heelas' critique. _A.!OOr~lm. Since his. 1963. Hughes. The EncyloPa. T. Aristotelian Society Winch. 1955.4Q.E. . Reela. Faith and the Philosophers McPherson. (edit. August. Number 4. March. :Paradox in Religion. He lists as one of my points "that understanding a philosphy in its own terms' presupposes an intimate knowledge of their language and culture. Ramsey. The Idea of a Social Science _ _ _ _ 1964. 1966. 1959. A neglected use of Religious Language Mind. I suggest·. P. Ltd. Hepburn. 'and I offered what might appear to be this kind of analysis of an aspect of Afriqan thought. But this is by no means my suggestion. Macquame. Hanson suggests that their ~own terms need not be well known". Extending this . Hanson argues against applying the \-lOrd unconscious.Qp.?-ng of anothe'r philosophy only in its own termS and. Gill. 1966. I agree that my use of the word "only" was o~casiopally lax. As for his question of how my theory is to be verified or falsified.h. It is rather that since I lack intimate first-hand acquaintance with African cultures. Australasian Journal of Philosophy vol. II and the paper t slast paragraph.of.N. R. Notice that Levi-Strauss speaks of lithe unconscious apprehension of the truth of determinism. A..C. Religious Language. J . Therefore the reasoning of the paper ended with the unequivocal assertions that we understand alien modes of thought in our terms. Religion as the Inexpressiblein Ne'W Essays in Philosophical . and that Winch (who in the paper was taken as advocating that we understand them in their own terms) is wrong.. J. From vlorld to God Hind. 1963.'Hartin'a Religious Belief'. 1967. and I regret any obscurity this may have caused. apparently thinking that I do such confusing' or contradictory things as both adopting and' re jectingWinch. REPLY TO HEELAS F. Talk about Religious talk: various approaches to tpe Nature of' RaligiousLanguage Scottish Journal of TheologY.H.

y. meaningf'u1ness of language solely' in terms of'isolated language games is to omit the important fact· tbat wqs of . rationality and intelligibility of a given mode of discourse can be assessed.y.direct us to identify the concepts of rationality. So \-linch clearlyracognises that meanings in different modes' of .' Let me try to explain \-linch's position as I now understand it. discoursa can be related. By now the is stia s at' stake in all this must be badly obscured. One should therefore tmderstand tho meaning of a word in terms of the concepts of rationality.languagEis and cultures: "certainly the sort . I take this to mean understanding the alien mode of discoursoin its own terms. ~ according to sucb concepts drawn from some other mode of discourse. assume that the words and their meanings which we wish to understand belong to a mode of discourse in a language and culture other than our own. a mode of discourse.. 2CJ7). reality and intelligibility of the mode of discourse in \~bich that word is used. reality and intelligibilit. Mistakenly. This may be taken to imply tbat each mode of discourse is hermetioally sealed. I agree' with Healas on this point. so in the hope of c1arif"ying them I shall attempt to set out the essence of what I currently understand this whole discussion to be about.).· I still assert ~hat argument. Uhat can be said: in one " context by tile ~ use of a certain expression depends for . Rush Rhees points out that to try to account tor the . in a moDiant. I tbink these issues.Y of looking at things ll . that there is noway of relating one mode of discourse to another. 'Nie1sen calls this the IIcompartmentalization thesis" and he. I now agree with Heelas that Winch would have us "extend our 'own' "18. Finally. scientific mode of discourse~: etc. am grateful to him for pointing out.. and certainly I have added to the confUsion through my misrepresentation of Winch.tional devices which are of UDiversal applicabilityll rather than understand native thought in its own terms. or IIdevelop a meta-level of organis&. here the process of understanding in terms of something' else must cease. Tile .as. rationality and intelligibility. Hore will be said of l-linch. nhigher-order ll concepts against which these ooncepts can be assessed. are important. for W:tnch writes (approvingly): Mr. attributes it to Whch (Nialsen' 1967:201. The argument in Part II of my paper was that "tIe do not and probably cannot achieve that. my error and glad for this ~pportunit.its sense on the uses of that expression in other contexts (different language games) (Uinch 1964:321). and which he says derives ultimately' from Wittgenstein and/or his disciples (Nielsen 1967:192-193). main objection is that.79 ­ Probably-· Hee1. Since there simply are no other.reality and intelligibility intrinsic to that· alien mode of discourse and to understand the words and meanings in question in terms of those concepts.y of. Consider again the last point of the ''\-Iittgansteinian ll reasoning summarized above"'. But that argument does not refute Winch. for he does not ask that we tmde·rstand an alien mode of: discourse· in its own terms. we must be contant simply with identifying the ooncepts of rationalit.my paper misrepresents the position of lUnch. It all begins with a train of thought which I ~ here abstracting from Nielsen. I think.' that there are no IIhigber-order ll concepts in terms of which the concepts of realit. For present purposes the following points are enough: the meaning of wOl-ds is fotmd in their usage in a given mode of discourse (religious mods of discourse.reasoning summarized above might be t8kel1to. kiner oftmderstanding. speaking are not insulated from each other in mutually exclusive systems of rules. Now.as I now tmderstand him. And tllis holds even wbenthe modes ·of discourse stem from different.y to recant. A mode of discourse contains its own concepts of reality.

to repeat a point made in my paper.ng a state in which things will appear just as they do to members of S another society . Therefore. It is that the concepts of intelligibility imbedded in an extended mode of .assess it.of this vlinch "tol>u1d accept. Consider just its concept of intelligibility. it seems clear that we constantly S2. see also vlinch 1958:89-90). I think his.ng at things. But this relation is not to be achieved simply by fitting our categories into theirs. IInew ll position (new to me 1) requires certain qualifications. has its own concepts of reality. I do not !mow how much .80 ­ of understanding we seek requires that we see the Zande category in relation to our own already understood categories" (lUnch 1964:319).· . Seriously to studiY' another way of life is necessarily to extend our 'own-not simply to bring the other way within the already eXisting boundaries of our own.if' eaqh niode 'of discourse had its own primitive. because the point about the latter in their present form. unassailable concept of intelligibility. One criterion is parsimony: which of the alternative modes of discourse makes the phenomena in question intelligible in the simplest and most economical way? Furthermore. However. fs that they ex hypothesi exclude tha.' It ~Ji1l be seen that these stem from the same line of thinking as I worked out in Part II of my paper. And I think we make them legitimately. iJitelligible is preferable. we shall propably want to reserve the right of criticism. So .e should understand another systemof·thought in terms of a ~ mode of discourse or "way of looking at things".t·~cN1mderstand Winch to argue that .in far greater agreement with this position than with that ~ thought vrinch held when I \. Presumably the new. vIe are not seeld.critically to determine which way of making these . rendering it impossible for us to c:Diticize the way in which the extended mode of discourse makes another culture intelligible? I do not Imow how Hinch would answer this.. like any mode of discourse.DU:') intelligible in tarms of two metaphysical postulates. we often compare them . Is this simply a given? Are there no other concepts of intelligibility against which we can .' but I want to be clear on my own position. and to us perhaps such a state is unattainable anyway.ty and' intelligibility as wel+ as our own. l But 'olhen Winch tries to make Zande magical rites intelligible by relating them to "a sense of the significance of human life ll (1964:320-321).t other (Hinch 1964:317­ 318. But we E:! seeking a way of looking at things which goe s beyond our previous way in that i t has in some way taken account of and incorporated the other way that members of S have of loold. rationality and intelligibility. criteria 'and we do make use of them. I am. for example. When we encounter alternative "ways of loo~gat things" or modes of discourse which provide different ways of making the same elements of lang~ge usage and patterned behavior intelligible. nor theirs into ours.realj. for there would be no external' criteria in: terms of which to make a BUt there obviously are such external judgment of preferability. or when I try to make them (and certain other aspects of African thought and·~b6tuer. in terms of a logically realistic epistemology. whether or not Winch would think we legitimately can criticize the intelligibility of a mode of discourse advanced for understanding another culture.things.. make such criticisms.roto my paper. extended mode of discourse we construct for understanding another culture. I submit that we do it in terms of ~ own concepts of what constitutes proper understanding or intelligibility. He: could ·notdo ·this .t. an extension of ours which in-cQqlcrates native concepts of rationali ty . since it is we who make judgments between different 'Jays -of looking at the' same things.

"It is only in ~ of the theory that one can speak of the events being thus I connected I ras ' opposed to a simple spatio-temporal connection) . . As I have said above. London~Routledge & Kegan Paul.81 ­ discourse which we advance for understanding another culture are not simply II given II and beyond criticism-.. My argument remains as set out in my paper. not in the la'lr' or theory (Hinch 1958:135-136). Kai. and that this way of understanding is not fundamentally different from that of natural scienc!3. They araultiinately subject to ~ ~ concepts of intelligibilit.1958. Hinch's emphasis).) Therefore it seems claar that too connections we see between social phenomena are not necessarily intrinsic to the phenomena themselves.. Winch.understand other cultures in terms of an extended mode of discourse or we:y of looking at things. Understanding a primitive society. References cited Nielsen. Hinch says that we should .. so Iiere I shall just rephrase one part of it. Wittgenateinian Fideism. To sum up. but the nature oftha relations between the phenomena in question is in the phenomena themselves. the only way to' grasp the connection is to learn the theoryll (Hinch 1958:134. For Hinch. American Philosophical Quarterly 1: 307-324. at least some of those connections are functions of our theories or ways of looking at things. As in natural science. Pete~. or at the relation between Protestantism and capitalism. Om of the differences between such alternative ways is that they may lead. are related internally. culture. "Social relations fall into the same logical category as do relations betwoen ideas". us to see different kinds of connections be tween the things in question. its component elements baing interrelated internally. in natural science a theory Ile stablishes u connections between events: . I agree with \linch that we should understand another culture in terms of an extended mode of discourse or way of looking at things. (Consider the various ways of looking at totemism. The IdeA of a Social Science. and "each system of ideas. Sociological laws may be useful for bringing out features which might otnerwise have baen ovarlooked. I continue to disagree wi tn Winch that understanding in social science is radically different from understanding in natural science. has to be understood in and for itself" (Hinch 1958:133).r. on the other hand. Social phenomena. . 1967. alternative ways of looldng at the same things can be advanced. Philosophy' 42: 191-209. 1964.' But I think that such a mode of discourse is ultimately subject to concepts of intelligibility which derive £rom our'own .

in the Introduction to the Cambridge volume of essays on "practical religion" (1968) states explicitly his formula for the integration of tribal material with comparative religion: "At one time"anthropologists studied savages in contrast to civilized men. For example. and proceeds to" do so in terms closely related to those of Levy-Bruhl. we now find ourselves stUdying the thought processes of practical. verifiable distinction between the two types of culture. The very real differences between 'us' and 'them' are made little of. primitive and modern". 5). and Leach. for example. Turner (1969) ranges from the Ndembu to St~ Francis and Bob ~Jlan in his exploration of the possibilities of liminality-. "oommunitas" and anti-structure as general"terms of comparison. and even the word 'primitive' is rarely used. eXQept to suggest that it would include a rejection of the holistic concept of "a culture". .She asks. " . ordinarY people as distinct from those of teohnioal professionals. the notion of cosmic pollution is due partly to our "long tradition of playing down the difference between our own point of vantage and that of primitive cultures. "What is the obJecti6n to saying that a personal. She sees progress as "differentiation". therefore. Mary Douglas maintains that our diffiCUlty in understanding.. of the assumption that "modern culture" is not in many ways personal aild anthropocentric. arid also a rejection of the accompanying theory that in "primitive cultures" thought is socially determined: "The primitive world-view ~~'. and which lacks "self-awareness andconsc~ous reaching for objectivityll. most people welcome their efforts to overcome the primitive/ modern diohotomy" and to break through the parochial boundaries of anthropology• It is... Those who avoid the term are accused of "squeamishness" and secret convictions of superiority. and in relation to tho~t.differentiation are not foUnd beyond the industrial world. Among 'civilized' practioal people the distinction between primitive and sophisticated largely disappears ••• the " similarities are more remarkable than the contrasts" • ••• "The kind of cross-linkae. The primitive world is therefore a pre-Copernican world.82 ­ ARE "PRIlJ1ITIVES" NECESSARY? There have been several recent attempts to draw anthropological material into the wider discourse of comparative religion and philosophy.' has evolved as an appanage":of social institutions ••• it is produ¢ed indirectly". " a subjective personal world in which the univers~ is turned 'in upon man. curious that in Mary Douglas' recent and highly influential Purity and'Danser (1966)" a central chapter is devoted to a re-instatement of the concept "primitive" in relation to systems of thought (Ch. Burridge (1969) uses "traditional" material to develop a general framework for dealing with millenial movements. and of the assumption that objectivity and. anthropocentric~ Undifferentiated world-view characterizes a primitive culture?" I will not attempt to give a full answer 'to this ethriocentric question here.is collection establishes-between so~alled 'higher religions' and so-Called 'primitive religions' marks a fundamental step forward in the lttudy of comparative religion".e which th. and to formulate general terms of discussion in this field. the relevant differentiation is that "based Qn'the Kantian principle that thought can only advance by freeing itself of its own subjective conditions". ' Whether or not one argrees with the partiCUlar methods ot these authors." She concludes that we 'must attempt to phrase an objective.

[ew Heaven. They will also have had their periods of scepticism and secularism. The Ritual Process. . z. removes the necessity for the word "primitive".L•• '1969. all an attempt to eluoidate oertain universal principles of symbolic association. . Barne and Rookliff: Press. whiohhas after all obscured more issues than it has clarified in the history of our sUbJeot. (Ed. Tqrner.R. Routledge and Kegan Paul. equally to the smallest band of hunters and gatherers as to the most industrial­ ised nations" (p. She asserts that she has "dared to compare Christian ritUal ''11th ma~ic and primitive notions of taboo. New SocietZi . inclUding some of Mary Douglas' own. Douglas appears to undermine her own defence of the "primitive": "If it be accepted that tribal societies display as much variety as ~e in their religious propensities. will have had their protestant ethic. the reallY. Wendy J8!lles. 1966. Why not? 'A modern study of comparative religion must do away eqUally with the Y'. Routledge and Kegan Paul. V.1' OXford. K. M.O. rondon. whioh is after. Purity and Danger. E. New Earth. vi11) and compares the philosophical position of Congo pygmies and Dutoh bishops (p. but also in relation to the bulk of Mary Douglas' own work. Dialectio in Practioal Religion. 63). verbal hedges that arbitrarily insulate one set of human experience (our~) from another set (theirs). why should it be necessary to reaffirm the oolonial boundaries of its thought? Surely the best contemporary writing. The Cresset 1968.otlon of the global primitive and with the notion of the fixity of tribal beliefs. 1969.What I would like to suggest in this short note is that the rather extreme position held in the fifth chapter of Purity and Danger is an isolated statement. ' ' Bibl1ograp& Burridge. too." And in her latest book (l97Ob)i she claims to be concerned with Ita formula for olassifying relations which oan be applied.n social anthropology. We are exhorted to "break through the spiky.). Natural SymbolS." In Natural Svnbola Mary Douglas is explicitly attempting to fC\rmulate a general framework for comparative stUdies: "If' we oannot bring the argtunent back from pygmy to ourselves. 197Ob. London. In a recent article in New Society (1970a. "Piety: Heathen and Mode't1l". Blackw~il: . Cambridge.." How are we to reconcile this position with the earlier arguments of Purity and Danger for the resurrection of "the primitive world"? The social and political context of anthropology is ohanging. 49). !each.12 Maroh 1970. It is not even consistent with the main argument of the book in which it appears. there is I ittle point 1n starting it at all" (p. their shakers and quakers and' anti-sacerdotal movements.interesting questionS arise ••• They. '1970a. not only in relation to other contemporary writiogs i.':~. Douglas.) Dr. IDndon.

and (~). But any theory of society. of no more social relevance than a game ' of chess.ltere'communll or "prinCipe" is required (e.~. IIpoint de noblesse. Montesquieu. rUles."l~b~1"·them:t for conv'eriience . came up against ethical problems in a si(J.pe~iods •.d prizes to science.". .' let us now. II Winch takes the extreme position ~f the uninvolved academic: IIIt is not (philosophy's) business to' a~~'. Fora religion or a form of social organisation to take root.. Maybe archaeology or botany can be safely left to the eccentric. hot weather makes people' either'lazY-'or"exoltable. ""'r"sruil1. -. the supply of domestic animals . and more so with statements such as by Winch and Wittgenstein respectively: "Philosophy is unconunitted enquiry. religion or anything else. lIl Henri lefebvre's challenging statement takes us beyond the scope of most of what was written in the previous issue of this magazine." "Philosophy leaves everything as it was. This effect.).. of society." '. I ••• . . This prinoiple. and perhaps even a professional philosopher can do little harm.g..the existence of navigable rivers. .. and see how two particular problems apply. . II) the followi~ Here I am at odds with him.what philosophy really is . only once does he touch upon what I believe to be a ~uestion of prime importance in the social scienoes today...g. (a) moral ~~d pol.84 ­ THE IIFREE COMPETITI ON OF THOUGHT II . take a few.' t. Heelas'has t9 say in his exposition of the problems of "comprehendingll societies and IItranslatingll between one oulture and another. hot clima:tes. ijis main thesis is a sort of ecological determinism. .. 1I The implications of such a view are that scholarly writing becomes another "game" • a sort of art for art's sake ··with no responsibility to the rest of the world. ~_". the anthropologist faces a moral decision in deciding between basic theories of~and society. He writes: "At least on 'certain issue'S.~~cal.. and many times. However. Montesquieu asserts that it is Virtually unchangeable: it comes from lila nature des ohoses". .A CRITIQUE ... and even the most innocent ethnography.'ik1ng manner. _.5 :-::I4rge" countries. Philosophical ideas • views of the w:orld. 112. from diffe~ent. outside the" urllversity walls either in action or in ideology. and thus unamenable to demoeracyas a political system. One of the earliest "comparative ~soci~logists".. And even this sentence is qualified: III do not think that Such considerations ••• bear so heavily today. once established.• . 4. . a certaln'''cara<.. .. disto~ionprocesses. and. point de monarohie ll )6 -i ". I would agree with much that P. ..all these conditiop. Yet what must be questioned here is whether a subject of such potentially explosive subject-matter as sociology or social anthropology can abstract itself to this degree. contains elements that may have a practical effect.· of course.1mpl1cat:!-ons.. liThe truth of philosophy . may not be intended. .examples. what he calls the "esprit-general" ofa nation (e.is discovered in politics.. • . and of man elaborated by philosophers • have' always been related in some way to political issues and goals.

translated in 1956. though. of course) can combat physically-determined morality (e. the Chinese being by nature a lewd race. not in front of the servants!" Nevertheless. I refer here to Dr. reprinted in 1964). one could say. even in a man who was continually claiming a disinterested scientific objectivity ("Je n'ai point tire mes principes de mes prejuges. the first criticism first (this is . To demonstrate this.had its advantages.): The assumption underlying the whole theory Is' that western man has escaped from the "pre-logioal" or "primitive" (the fact that he puts these terms between quotation-marks does not remove the value­ judgement) and has entered the "maturity" of the "scientific spirit". is that the "servants" do hear what the philosophers say. "infantile". "oivilised".8 Thus.l. "Des que Ie to~ est donne et re9ue. etc. For example. His theory is interesting and much of what he says about colonials rings true.' most did not live to see the French Revolution. where true morality (Christian. Phrases like "heroio attitUde". Some races.there is the famous story of Voltaire's dinner party. as is the Spanish Inquisition.for philosophers only . there is no point in attempting to introduce Christianity with its emphasis on chastityl However. and so do the politicians. "primitive I'. Slavery is repugnant to him. Maupertuis. he claims that we must in many cases . academics must now rethink their position vis-a-vis the real world. but had little innnediate effect on society.accept the status quo. in fact. d'Alembert. an excellent weapon for interested parties in Madagascar. moral. and ultimately. worse. in Ethiopia). d'Holbaoh. Psychologie15e la ' Colonisation" (first pUblished in 1948.y in Bordeaux to a position of power (conferred by his t~tle). and so on. With priVileged isolation no longer the case.'eto. "Ia. ill His main regret is that colonials "revert" to a primitive father­ child relationship once in contact with an "un-scientific" people . In a nutshell: "The characteristics.' To take. He begins to retract..mr (s) moral and political implications'from p.' and.85 . even perfect it. and who himself avoided any political involvement. "Ssh.. perhaps slow moral pressures can change the general spirit. in tone. let us take our seoond example from a post-warsocial anthropologist/psychologist.. were either nobles or comfortably off. his problem is that he oannot maintain this moral relativity. Christianity for him is the 'true religion. Views ranging from those of Montesquieu to those of de Sade found expression.. we still find the inescapable need to make (political. The difference today. they represented a leisured class playing with philosophy . "fetishism". but in intermediate cases. abound. His final position is an uneasy compromise. mais de la nature des choses"9)." And more important. in that they had nearly a oentury in which to experiment fairly harm­ lessly. Condorcet. this secret society atmosphere . 'In some waysJI luokily for them. Many.Diderot. will always remain slaves. Yet I would condemn the book as ethnocentric. 'practical) Judgments and reconnnenclations. where he cautioned his companions. Voltaire. c'est lui seul qui gouverne. O~ Mannoni's book.g. (virtually raoialist).of the scientific approach to reality are in fact the same as those of democrati~ society and of the highlX-developed personaHtl. he claims. because of their "lachete". preferring his librar. The same applies to the "phllosophes" who followed him . contrasted with "regressive". There are some regions. when to write meant to take sides. His final position on slavery is summed up iri the sentence: "n faut borner la servitude a de certains w s • . experimental spirit"JI"more advanced".

.. will be weaned to his sort of liberal wisdom.conditions are given reality. 1964) emphasises that this is only a personal. I would compare this to American rationalisations for remaining in Vietnam. and I noticed this only by chance ­ the Introduction (p.. 14 At the risk of a cliche.f. military offic~rs and even missionaries who dealt with praptical problems of colonial life.. in the 1956 preface: "I rashly employed certain theoretical concepts which needed more careful handling than I realized at the time. idealistic hope that the colonials. He has the vague. What hypocrisy to write. It Clearly. 29 pages earlier. we should feel uncomfortabl responsible for letting this regression take place.. Guatemala.relationships coincided with my research into my own personal problems" . This is clear from sentences like: "If the once-subject peoples were to revertt. and extracted from it methods and gimmicks to use in the pursuit of their own ends ­ a development I might have forestalled had I expected it.. adopted the boo~ in' order to exploit it. what I regret is not so much these weaknesses in my book as the fact that I have not produced a -much more personal study..guilty about the impact of his book. we find: "The end. The whole tenor of this book is ready-made for racist propaganda. yet has not the courage to withdraw his main thesis.. but is virtually saying that the French have a duty to remain."12 I doubt it.oupied with my search for an understanding of my own self ••• my study of"social. In his chapt~~. II We can relate this to an admission. and ultimately the Malagasies. Voltaire?) and then oontinue ·to·endorse·new editions of this'big'~sel1it1g book! It seems to me that Mannoni simply wishes to cover himself against legitimate criticism.' 'Yet it"follows closely upon an insistence that "all peoples. are capable of­ governing themselves.86 ­ (here the Malagasies).. provided of course. It . and yet . and so on. then. This then is another very good exampl~ of jmoral and politi6al issue clouding. he has felt. in a small footnote. the Dominican Republic. even the'most ignorant and backward. for example: "It would'perhaps be better for the authorities to remain in ignorance and for disinterested research to continue" ."The administrators. of the Introduction from the bottom of page 33 to the bottom of page 34 has been reWl'itten for the English edition. Yet in 1964 he confesses: .34. can b~ done?" he sounds libeI'al.. document: "I" became preol. I must frankly admit that I am now disturbed by the obvious weaknesses of the book in this respect •••• On the whole.. Instead he tries weakly to proclaim that at the time he was indulging mainly in self­ exam1natio~ This is nonsense. The book itself is . that they are left to choose their own methods. For instance.~eaded "y /ha:t. as if these psychological .dogmatically and "objectively" written." . 13 (c.o pol!tical systems of which we disapproved. .

Mannoni's II personal II examination~ Jensen's IIweak evidence ll ) or whether he (like Montesquieu and Putnam) himself claims scientific validity for his ideas. It quite openly argues that the Negro is lI unc ivilisable" ~ and~ unlike Jensen~ is absolutely sure of its "evidence ll • The preface proudly proclaims: "There is logic and cornmon".87 ­ Mannoni cannot have it all ways. chiefly in the II sc ientifio" myth behind racial.examin~d the views of Professor Jensen of the University of California.cl1ng Senators and a host of academics. Another example from Amerioa is a book called "Race and Reason" published by the "Public Affairs Pressll~ Washington D.f. The high prestige of academic theories outside Universities haS'~ I th1nk~ much to do with this belief~ still alive within them. V.! My third example is the most· modem. It is also true that the politicians take note of the reports prepared by scholars~ partioularly if accompanied by impressive statistics SUbstantiating them." ~ in the social sciences the ~raditlon of Comte~ Radcliffe­ Bro"m~ Merton~ Parsons~etc. "The Comrnun1sts~" he laments~ "denounced the book as an obfusoation". publication~ his paper was being cited in law-eourts by white Southerners battling against racial integration of the schools. .:>tification of French presence mixed with a wish to see enlightened self-government. He has an empirically-based theory which he later claims is a "personal" document~ and a jU. Although Kuhn~ Heisenberg~ and others have challenged even chemistry and physics as purely empirioal sciences~ in the sense of eluoidations of a given reality (" ••• When examining normal soience~ ." I hope no further comment is required here.oduce incontrovertible empiricallybased "scientific" theories on the old model of the natural sciences..~ remains. difficult to combat. What is forgotten is that our books and essays are no more than inspired guesses .sense in these pages: is also inescapable scientific validity.••• we shall want finally to describe that research as a strenuoUs and devoted attempt to force na~e ·.C. In two leading articles in February this'year~ the Sunday Times ." there My reason for quoting this is not to suggest that.s of racial groups within the United States.) into the general oonciousness.' "Jensen acknowledged that the eVidence upon which he Nev~rtheless~ he did s~y that the possibility that the intelligence gap derived from inheritanoe was 'worthy of further consideration'. . And~ in this case ~ they are absolutely right."models" in the current terminology . To oover himself (I quote the SUnday Times writer~ Bryan Silco~k): was working was not strong. Street (last issue) discussed the way in which academic theories filter (via popular works~ fiction~ newspapers~ etc. and the implications are~ very strorigly~ that Negroes~ Indians and Puerto Ricans have an inherited intelligence lower than that of the average white ohild. (196l)~ endorsed by two le8. I do not see how Jensen can possibly escape the charge of playing his part in the segregationalist cause. in the present climate of statistics-worship the chances of more weight being put upon a work than it deserves are very great.11 Silcock continues: "And within days of. such openly expressed poison is widespread~ but that the idea is by no means dead that the social sciences can pr. B. (He is interested.· An obvious example of this is the present concern with "immigrant birth-rates".into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional eduoation. These are based upon an investigation of the relative I.and no matt'er whether the original writer pays lip-servioe to this (c.stereotypesin the nineteenth century).Q.

to anthropology. but no doubt an historical explanation could be.difficult to explain. as it were. and political implications of that theory.med only within their own terms. Needham. of course. Beattie. other writers should not hesitate to apoly IIsociology of knowledge 11 techniques when criticising works. Liberal academics have been late to see the importance of such study. In 1929. which it then takes as real. 'then.partic1l1arly in social studies. might include a clear statement of whether or not the IIcohesion ll entails suffering. II ••• IIAny set of basic concepts has vested interests in the whole body of truth expressed in terms of them. The same applies.~ on f1 soc ial cohesionfl .) is more . to see to which main theory it explicitly or implicitly subscribes. Hansen. in the last analysis. where IIkinshi p ll.88 ­ I use. leach. and even then.collecting lI£acts ll on lI ethnicityll that "the reality he is dealing with has been. and so on.present interest in this field.presented. 19 ­ If it then be convincingly suggested to e..doubt some scholars are relatively unaffected by events outside the university. The origins of the first two concerns are fairly clear. social change fl .:~3 question all assumptions behind their own works. IIrace relations" (lI e thnicity "?). like Kuhn18 tends to think more in terms of academic pragmatism in vacUo and the needs of IIknowledpie ll . IIbusiness management 11 and so on . the anthropologist intervened in'native politics at all.i':'-·J.g. II re ligionll .made :for-. and since the . That is·to say~'to'put the use of certain types of model and the employment of key words into a historical framework. III suppose it must be admitted. maybe. by society (or. I believe we can do something about my problem (a) the moral and political implications of a theory. and studies in lIequilibrium ll have given way to "social change ll • IIpl ura l societies ll . puts this succinctly: "Inq\liry is value-laden. (If"for instance.. Boof. that there can be no more fundamental fg<>und than the pragmatic for a truth of any sort . have been doing this for a longtime. The more individual\. rather than considering the social and political theories-and interests involved. I am in favour of some form of self analysis by the writer.temporarily powerful ideology. .. IIclassificationll. "culture contact ll . Clarence Irving lewis took at leaSt some steps in this direction. although too often spoiling their credibility by overgeneralisation and crude jargon. Marxists.subsumed by IIdevianoe ll or "social conflict ll ).) Again. by a oertain group ideology within that society) with an object of study. etc. whether "contact ll is a euphemism. lI empiricist ll . 20 who have persuaSive defenses. Sociology delves into IIjuvenile delinquency" (already a passe term . The advantage of any change must be oonsiderable and. defined for him by a certain. presti~e of old habits of thought. ideological. it is·virtually impossible to avoid the influence of dominant "schools ll . one can hope at least for are-questioning qf hi~ assumptions. James E. This may be the only effective way to attack certain American political scientists... tend to miss the political point. wl:lich. fairly clear to overcome human inertia and the .. perhaps less obvious:g. of course. 1I17 However.' "Classificationll (Douglas. he should ~ell us. 'the . he'. and the last reflects the idea (fact?) that IIprimitive ll societies are on the way out. not only because it is one of many possible inquiries into 'datal. the better. if questi<. and possibly of more personal anecdotes in ethnographies. but also because it is grounded in specific historically­ generated needs ••• Since all science utilises caeteris paribus experimentation. lI education". an. can hardly help being concerned with what are generally seen as the main problems of the time. whether the author approves of the direction the change is taking. an American dialectician.. Although no . and the social practices based o~ them. and. moves towards other disciplines.. and to bring out the social. Mannoni' s chapter heading: What can be dorie? First of all.

if anthropologists fail to make their motives and allegiances (or lack of allegiances) olear. it may not be long before so many countries will be closed to them that they will have to either J01nthe professional sociologists or return to the armchair and rework Malinowski.1on". however.23 Anthropological knowledge can be useful. E. what of the detailed ethnography which provides excellent information in.?2 Surely the notion of free individuals competing in a free market of ideas involves the same sort of errors and omissions as those made by the proponents of the pure laissez-faire capitalism model! So much for the theoretical implioations of individual works. phlogiston. have refused entry visas to ethnographers . Jensen finds himself quoted by segregationists. without very careful thought. we can enoourage a healthy mistrust of words like "pacification". what I called "distortion processes". Or. the lovers of the German State. It is arguable how much effect academios have upon. for example. Wh"t steps can we then take. The original proponents of the American Dream. what was once 'objeotive' may no longer b& taken as such (e. W. Maguire. "integrat. too. as well as a rel~ctanceto work as an anthropologist for any government. However. the theoreticians Who influenced Robespierre. anthropology may one day be in the reverse posltion. have indicated precisely where an entrepreneur could make a fortune (e. Ultimately I do not think there is much one can do about misuse. Finally. Highland Burma).. for example.g. is an important subject which few but Marxists 25 have tackled (a notable exoeption being Leach's Political Systems of.most would have been horrified at the reality into which their'ideas were incorporated. in the end I am sure that predictionoould not be acourate beyond very general level. "aid"" and "development" in general. from Hegel to Spengler. a subsequent war or an eager business enterprise? Several analyses of "primitive economy". The development of ideologies in general". . aether) ••• H1story determines faots. with a perfectly Justified dislike for whLte anthropologists.Secondly. '. In fact. calls the "free competition of thought. there might be more' study devoted to understanding the main ways in 'which academic pronouncements influence ideas and events. but we must still face the question: how is it possible to avoid use being made of one's worit which utterly distorts its original purpose? Mannoni could deplore' "a development I could have forestalled had I expected it". Epstein on the Tola! of New Britain). "21 Does not this make nonsense of the unreal1sable ideal whioh Popper~ in a highly revealing phrase.. not facts history. on a different tack. . Several ex-eolonial coun~ies. exoept to denounce it as such. In fact. this is indeed the oonolusion that one or two men have been forced into )24. for proJeots such as "settling" nomads or l'ass1milating" rebellious groups. to avoid such a situation? First. of being denied access to information. witches."assimilation". who have witnessed the same sort of process. we have to consider how to deal with (b).g. the formation of officiar-1deoLOgies or the formulation of policy. I am not arguing the paranoid case for ceasing to write anything in case "they" get hold of it! (although in sciences like genetics. but he does not tell us how. say. Barth on the Darfur.indicating that I am not alone in my fears. M. There are no doubt western writers on Nigeria.89 ­ particular experimentation conducted depends upon the value-orientation of the experimenter.

the Penguin Press. e. _. ~~_~ature T. ..!.'ins". 10. 111.. 8.Ef. Althuser s underlining. "Meaning for Whom". Kuhn. De la Politique.S. 1966. ~o~~nal 9.5'~d. 1968.!-. .~~the Socia. edition._~. The Idea of a Social Science.§Qciolog. 11. 20. (Allen Same.. P.. Class. 12.~~. James E. 15.!!. New York. Allen lAne. Th~_ . .S.YcOiiCiousn~~~} Routledge anef'kegan Paul. Hansen. A:. 1969. I. Ib~ci. Chomsky' exposes the evils of suoh writers in his frightening book "~~ri~an Power and. . 24.~!'l.~c~:. particularly pps..J:9. s. . are reflected in i t .9-.269. . Ibid. 18. Kuhn. p.~~_ t\. XXY.~p.. Yamey•. 1728. The Penguin Press. VII.~. J. p.J:!?:i.9:t' Marx. 147-50.90 ­ References: 1. louis Althusser.g. p.J:'l~1. 2 Althuser• .:Espr~!-ci~. 19. 1748.1!~2ru. Lipset. oit. H.:J.' offprint. 17. 1929. 7.t]L~~~~_~! P. lithe meaning of a particular ideology depends ••• on its relation to the ideologioal field and on the sooial roblems and social structure which sustain the ideolo and. 5.gi~al March.g.A. New York..~cal C~~.~_o.... of Scientific Revol1. Ibid.. the Amerioan genetioist who recently announced that he was giving up research: into the isolation of genes. preface to 2nd. Mind and the World-Order. Str. 1964. Bendix. 13. .. 1963. 5. Bell. University of Buffalo. 1970._ ­ e. I~~~.~. 2.~o~~!!. 16.~i. p.. 14.rg1?().6-r· Epstein in Firth and. 21.~que of. 195. :Lefebvre. Mannoni. 3.~_li~.. Heelas. 6.y of Marx. 1970:. . or Ossowski. Irving I. 1956. r. . 62-3). As Althuser puts it. .:~tur:'2:.!. 25. .11..ewis. 174. preface. 4. 169. .. 266. Winch. . p. 23. Praeger.. ·of. 1958. For Marx..a. Hook. the New ~!:l:d. C. M •• . Barth'in A'. 9. p. p.J?~a:I. 1969."""" •• .

myself.' But what was 'scientific racism?' Is there anything about scientific racism that makes it· worthy of study for the sooiologist and social historian? I do not propose.ly.. to give any definition of scientific racism. It is useful to consider oertain approaches that have been made to the problem of scientifioraoism. as its solution was under­ taken by sixteenth and seventeenth century inqUiry. 223-7. it should be said at once that "oultural" divisions were never assooiated with "raoial" divisions. 11. although none. p. henoe that such"differences are a legitimate basis of invidious distinctions between groups socially defined as raoes.in other words. I would delete froni this definition the word 'invidious' and insert at the end 'or varieties. pp.' For my part.18). .. or cultural grounds was relatively negligible. as yet. 11): 'Racism is any set of beliefs that organic. bar Benedict s. 1967. pp. Poliakov. . genetioally transmitted differences (whether real or imagined) between human groups are intrinsically assooiated with the presence or the absence of certain socially relevant abilities Or character­ istios. 213) that racialism was' virtually non-existent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: 'In setting out upon an analysis of the problem of cultural diversity. 1967. INCLUDING SOME THOUGHTS ON SCHOIARLY WORKS PRODUCED IN THE YEARS 1714-1712 I Many modern soholars believe t~t soientifio raoism is a discrete historioal phenomenon. and Van den Berghe. orie has to state that most of the afProaches whioh I now list are Simplistic. Racialism in the familiar nineteenth and twentieth century sense of the term was all but non-existent. p..' The sooiologist and the sooial historian must ask themselves whether soientific racism has a distinctlveidentity" . and that it became an important foroe in the middle of the nineteenth oentury (See Banton. because I have not.. Any attempt to distinguish the "races" of mankind on either anatomical.' so that the last part of the definition would read: . I should' rather beg the reader to pomer upon the following definition by Van den Berghe (1967. or r ethnooentrism' • Seoondly" one must ask whether the ooncept of soientifio racism is pertinent to the study of the history of the sooial sciences and the politics of the last ~o centuries. evolved or produced a perfect one. p. •• ~ hence that suoh differences are a legitimate basis of distinctions between groups sooially defined as races or varieties. 12. 91 ­ THE GENESIS OF SCIENTIFIC RACISM. that its birth ocourred somewhere around the last part of the eighteenth oentury. Margaret Hodgen has also remarked (1964. physiological. 'prejudice'. whether . 1967. RegretfuJ.or not it is· analytioally separable from.notionssuoh'as 'olass·. is absolutely incorrect.

' However. formation ~ 1!. Romanticism endowed nations and groups with a personality and a will. '''Racism. '18. (ibid. pp. The historian of ideas is often more interested in constants which survive changes in the social climate than in the mere ephemera that are the social facts of any society at a fixed point in history. 154-155):-. A . 1I asserts Dr. Arthur u:>vejoy (1960) and J~ C. (2) . First of all.-­ viewed raoismas a produot of romanticism. This approach can take two forms (See Van den Berghe. doctrine ~ races. Identifying racism with ethnocentrism. Even when an ideology apPeared. Benedict's error proceeds from her failure to develop a sOC:LOlogical approach.. but one must add a cautionary note: 'When 'the storY of Ham's curse did become relatively common in the seventeenth century. .~Idealist approach. ' racism.ist ideas than in their social background~ The social scientist is also interested in the intellectual pedigree. Secondly. aocording to Simar.' Thus far. Theophile S1. 'Ethnocentrism is a social constant in group association. she defines both as a ~ used by one ethnic group to Justify persecution of another. It is true that before the appearance of scientific racism the myth of Ham's curse was occasion­ ally used as a Justification of racial exploitation. popularly utilized. They both describe social facts.modern. 1967. quoting Benedict. came racism from romanticism. 1948. p. I shall suggest later that the solutions to ~his problem may ~~~' in the scientific debates and social conflicts of tJ1e eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. . it was utilized almost entirely as an explanation of oolor. an attempt to justify oolonialist exploitation. Greene (1959) are both more interested in the intellectual pedigree of ra. 478. racist ideas were formulated elsewhere earlier.' S1mar pays much attention to the struggle between the bourgeoisie and aristooracy in sixteenth to nineteenth century France in the f+rst one hundred pages of his study. but neither is a full explanation.-19). racism is a device employed by the ruling class to apply in their treatment of the working classes the axiom 'divide !l impera' • Both of these statements ar~ correct. 17). . pp.c. rather than as Justification for Negro slavery. One must explain why scientific racism did not appear with the first discovery and exploitation of non-European races. Benedict. Race Science and Politics. out of this struggle. She is engaged in a psychological investigation of beliefs. it took eighty years before it was. and as such it was probably denied more often than affirmed' (Jordan. I think Simar is not incorrect. p. (4 ) ~ Romanticist approach.). Brussels 1922""'. hence it cannot explain variations in collective behavior'. These are fighting ·words among the simplest naked savages'" (Cox. The supporters of this argument clearly do not see scientific racism as a discrete social phenomenon that has appeared during the last 200 years.92 ­ (1) Racism equals ethnocentrism. . "is essentially a pretentious way of saying that 'I' belong to the BestPeoplei" The formula 'I belong to the Elect' has a far longer history than .mar (author of Etude Critigue ~ 1!.­ As Cox correctly remarks. racism is an epi-phenomenon of capitalism. but he is hardly willing to ignore the social background. In fact. -1968. (3 ) ~ VUlijar Marxist approach. 1943. For a hundred years colonialist debaseme~t and exploitatiop existed without a suitable ideology.

A valid account of scientific racism must relate both to social baok­ ground and to scientific ideas. finally. The discoveries of Gallileo. I must add a few words conoerning certain soientific notions. Copernicus. and in the latter years of the nineteenth century. 1951). In it existed every conceivable variety of thing. warfare 1n Europe. The universe was seen as a perfect.nne (1751). even the rocks and stones had their uses. and. destroyed teleology.93 ­ product of oolomal settlement. The mechanists saw Gbd as somewhat distant. . exploration. rather than in the do. the first prophet of mechanistic Deism. paleontology. they believed in Gbd. Great Chain of Being. One consequence of these doctrines was that speoies were seen to Be eternal. whole. against the fury of the nascent abolitionist movement. the modern reader has often to read between the lines.' said Descartes. a remarkable scholarly achievement.The reader is also referred to Slotkin's sourcebook.ent ~o it' (Abelard). but myths" as social facts. and nothing in its perfection was without purpose. II Before commencing. Later on. White over Black (1968). in his Wisdom 2! ~ Manifested !!l ~ ~ 2£. if at all.ater in the century it was popularised by Pope in his Essay on Man (1732-1734) and by Charles Bonnet in his Contemplation de la Naturel1763 and 1769). I. Winthrop Jordan's book. which was based in mercantile capitalism. and Providence took long to surrender (See Gillispie. In the twelfth century Peter Abelard advanced the doctrine that IDveJoy calls 'the d6~trine of sufficient reason'. scientific racism was a defensive ideology. ~ighteenth Throughout the eighteenth century meohariism arid final cause were engaged ina perpetual tug of war. whether of Protestant conformism or of the Holy Inquisition and its zealous allies. made a valiant attempt to defend ~he doctrine of final causes. Such perfection was the expression of the goodness of the Crea. 4nchanging.ctr1ne of final' causes. disturbed the peaceful world of Providence.. At the turn of the eighteenth century it was embellished by Isibniz and Spinoza. It ~s a plenum formarum. is the best att~sO'far:-Scientific racism was a product of the Enlightenment era. as a first oause. in view of the social pressures of the time. racism was a model which proved eminently adaptable to the dynamics of class . the new geology. Darwinism. . Many eighteenth century works are inconsistent tn their adherence to either. 1701. (1965).tor. Creation. 'Give me ~xtension and movement and I will remake the world.nd reason anteQ6d. . One idea often associated with the ideas of sufficient reason and plenitude was the doctrine which is commonly known as the doctrine of the. but it was a protracted ~attle. the doctrine was that everything was generated by some necessary' cause 'for ~othing comes into being except there be some due cause a. and that doctrine remained in currency for five 'hundred years. John Ray. Certain off those myths were employed by those who sought to defend the system of slaver~'?. have a power of their own. Its origins lie in that series of myths which were developed by the natural philosophers of the eighteenth century to explain man's place in Nature. Detailed accounts of these ideas are given py Greene and IDveJoy. To talk of fresh oreation or of extension would be to imply inadequacy in the Creator's plans. racial determinism assumed an aggressive note. A oontinuous unbroken . This brief account is little more than a glossary. however difficult the task. Furthermore. and Newton. . In its early years. This complex of ideas was attacked and eroded by mechanism l:!oS the century progressed. Their leaders included the 'wicked' Baron d'Holbach and the cowardly and charming Buffon. and exploitation. ~eadings !!l Early Anthropol0fg.. my main account of raoism in the years 1774-75. who questioned revelation but recanted"at double speed when ordered so to do by the Sorbo. and the philosophy of Descartes.

Varieties were generally regarded as degenerations from the species prototype. Man was divided into four varieties according to colour: European. including Homo Sylvestris orang-utang. Hoppius. 188). In'pictures and illustrations that were widely circulated" the manlike qualities of the anthropoid apes were greatly exaggerated (See Greene. and African. The classifica­ tion of species was seen as a natural one.' Later Buffonmodified his position and adopted his own notion of species. in ~rrors" and in speculations concerning the varieties of mankind and of human cultures. which was based on the criterion of mutual fertility. stretching from highest to lowest. leading to man. 1967. Asiatic. often permanently distinct morphologically in minor details. by the need to conform to the Biblical account. The chain was hierarchical. species. 1774). and gorillas. The notion of degeneration is crucial to the understanding of eighteenth century taxonomy. and the opening' of America.of creation. It was possible to say·that mankind had degenerated into . The doctrine of ~ Grande Echelle des Etres flourished during the last quarter of the eighteenth century and deCITned during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The notion of the Great Chain of Being was not consistent with the notion of. the olassifications unclear. and . through all forms of life.sight. they were of the same species. so soon after it reached its peak. Reports from the coasts of Africa by voyagers and slave traders. Man was of one species and of one origin. They were constricted. although orders and genuses were artificial concepts. in the first edition of his Systema Naturae. and consequently 'Species fade does not yield totally to divisions:' into species and often genus into genus by impreceptible nuances. had led to some increase-in knowledge. but between 1760 and 1780. Diverse reports had arrived concerning strange.accounts of degeneration into varieties are not accounts of evolution of species. American. The ignorance of Europe's best informed natUralist indicates both the curiosity of the time alld the gaps in human knowledge • .tions. pp. therefore.94 ­ chain stretched from the smallest inanimate object. is believed to have added the much-famed satyrs and Trogledytes. for such an error has frequently been made. Through some comprehension of the taxonomy. the evidence was sparse. culminating in the angels at the P€ 2 . Some 'of these creatures we can. 1959" p. Buffon (See odom. in the main. lO-ll) found the idea of determinate natural species inconsistent with the idea of continuity in the Great Chain of Being. also from the' East Indies. orang-ut~s. Round these accounts and classifications were built new theories concerning man's natural role. Species were held to be distinct from varieties.re that. 1758. classed man as part of the Class Quadrupaedia. with hind. There were no gaps in the chain. man-like creatures.. because the creator had produced everything that could be produced. his pupil. III MAN'S PlACE IN NATURE In 1735 Unnaeus. one becomes awa.. forgive lord Monboddo for his theory Of the humanity of the orang-utang (Monboddo.}. In Unnaetis's tenth edition. which was being developed by Unnaeusand the systematizers of the eighteenth century~ Unnaeus viewed species as determinate bodies of morphologically similar beings. but interfertile. identify as chimpanzees. It was heresy to contradict the theory of monogenesis. 'Nature proceeds by unknown graC:. If two varieties of animal or plant prOduce fertile hybrids. Unnaeus 's work was significant in that the author not only linked man to the animal creation but assigned him to a part of it. which were the subdivisions of species. One can.

it was not permissible to say that he wu. 203-2<17). including the secretion of excess bile.natives of these territories are the most handsome and most beautiful people in tne world'.. Ciroassia. He believed that dark colour in the skin was produced both by extreme cold and by extreme heat. The role of climate was of peculiar importance. In 1774 John Hunter~ (Who was no relation of a famous surgeon of the period who was 'also called John Hunter)~ prodUOed. The two extremes are equally remote from truth and from beauty..such factors as climate. ecology. are Georgia. Just as they affected the physioal faculties. . Buffon did not believe that those who possessed 'inferior' oultures were eternally damned.in Europe.'. . stature. and caused it to darken.. Changes took place over several generations."'.. George louis ~clerc~ Comte de Buffon~ Super­ intendant of the Jardin du Roi~ was a leading environmentallstand monogenist. and the northern part of Spain..enist arg~em.. mental varieties seem equal to arld sometimes greater than the bodily varieties of man'. and the environmentalists were always hard put to explain how they could have taken place in the short span of years allowed by Biblical texts.' In the main. At one point. It is from this climate that the genuine colour of mankind~ and of the various degrees of beauty~ ought to be derived.. The physical and moral constitu-·· tion of the human species was affected by .. . whiohare either like their class or afterwards become 50... and physique. At the end of his treatise.95 ­ several varieties. Switzerland. Hunter's dissertation is an orthodox and unlnspll'ed tract full of the oliches of the climate theory. Climate accounted for the oolour of the skin: the heat of the sun aoted upon the skin.. However produced~ it was a misfortune (See Buffon~ l79l~ pp. . The civilized oountries~ situated Under this zone. fanatics~ and eccentrics dared to counter orthodoxy and advance a pol. . Climate and custom interacting affected the mental faculties. he appends some interesting remarks (pp. ~. The multi-talented.) Climate also affected . Hungary~ the South of Oermany~ . He noted (p. his Dissertatio Inapguralio: He defines species aocording to thefertilitycriterion~ 'A olass of animals of' which the members procreate with each other and tbe offspring of which also: procreate other animals. The . This view of Buffon's was later (1787-1810) developed by Samuel Stanhope Smith~ although like most environmentalists.. . Turkey . Just a few sceptics. handsome and beautiful men. France. The monogenist theory of the eighteenth century was dominated by environmentalism. (Various mechanisms were suggested as the reason for the darkening of the skin. because their } . (Buffon. to servitude and savagery.s originally created as several distinct~. 1791. 389) that 'the . This is well known to many as the doctrine advanced in Montesquieu's L"Esprit ~ wis. pp. Hunter nearly antioipates the cultural relativist position: 'Traveliers have exaggerated the 'mental varieties far beyond the truth~ who have denied good qualities to the inhabitants of other countries. Italy. however. Diet and mode of life had a subsidiary effect upon colo~?~~re .'·\ induced by the environment were gradual. . 20}-2<17).. 389-394) concerning 'the varieties of mind'. mode of life. . The degenerations from the original type which were---. Buffon was a propagator of an aesthetio racism~ and used the climate theory to support his aesthetic: 'The most temperate climate lies between the ~Oth _ and 50th degree of latitude~ and it produces the most . the Ukraine..·.:..a.. diet# and.

a Peyrere's Praeadamitae (1655). that is to say. the other by Edward IDng. acoordingly replacing his fourfold with a fivefold classifioation. he exhibits the same ingenuity which an European general does in manoeuvering his army or Inigo Jones in building a palace'. but would have made the same progress toward maturity of knowledge and ciVilization. also. The hymen and menstrual flux were also possibly unique (See Blumenbach. But Moses said otherwise. In the year 1774. From that. Per contra. apart from the far north. had been diversified by some great catastrophe. Kames's work was guilty. 2. a former Jamaioan jUdge and member of the Jamaican plantocracy. 1775. He seemed to care little for the Bible. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach published the first edition of De Generis Humani Varietate. This catastrophe was the fall of the tower of Babel: ~. In his Sketches 2!. which was dependant upon society and education. imposed by the Greator as punishment. some have proceeded more slowly. That deplorable event reversed all nature: by scattering men over the face of all the earth. stimulated by their own nature. An inspiration offered itself: mankind. bimana. formerly of one species. In this edition. was protected by the 'developing germ' of reason. It looked back to de I. In 1775. not forward to Knox. and customs have been excessively different from their own. Blumenbach. pp. was no believer in the Great Chain of Being. Albinos. they ha're been emerging gradually. and Hunt. - . self-conscious heresy. Kames notes that all evidence seems to indicate that the Breator had originally produoed many pairs of the human race. IDrd Kames. (3) (4 ( In his second edition (1781) Blumenbaoh was to distinguish between the Malayan and Mongolian. as it seems to contradict every one of the facts DlElntioned above'. 82-90). 1775. He was distinguished further by his unique b~ain and his erect position. In other respects they were very different. had not men wildly attempted to build a tower whose top might reach to heaven. manner. exhibited a healthy scepticism with regard to wild children. 129-145). 13lumenbach . of which he lists four: (1) (2) European and Asian west of Ganges Asian east. This work was a brilliant defenoe of the monogenist position.. Vol. and some continue savages ••• ' (Ibid~) -. pp. and rendered them savages. a Scottish Judge of Sessions. 38-43). 'Though we cannot doubt of the authority of Moses. 1."l 'Thus. all men would not only have spoken the same language. which saw the publication of Hunter's Dissertatio Inaugural1s and the preparation of Blumenbach' s thesis. Unlike many of his contemporaries. History 2!!:!!m (1774. The human species had degenerated into disparate varieties.90 ­ mode of life. state of degeneracy. Nott. Caucasian. They have never considered~ that when the Tartar tames his horse. The two works were alike insofar as they criticised certain flaws the environmentalist case. which was completed the next year. and men with tails (See Blumenbach. devoid of instincts. Man. yet his account of the creation of man is.. two major polygenist works appeared. or the Indian erects his wigwam. or by their climate. the one by Henry Home. IDng's work antioipated the racial determinism of the mid-nineteenth oentury. . it deprived them ·of society. he introduced a new classificatory' term. who classified mankind in an order of its own. Some nations.not a little puzzling. separate human species. pp. Even the fiercest nations of mankind possessed the power of speech. of Ganges and Australian African American. have made a rapid progress.

should have appeared when it did (1774) and from so appr'opriate a source. MERCANTIIE CAPITAUSM. and its main proponent in natural philosophy. 31-32).1-known nistory of the ·island' • (Williams. a Jamaican planter. Edward long had recently come to EIlglaIld from Jamaica.. wrote a w. Jamaica. I think it would . Jamaioa. they are miserable slaves.000 acres. (~. 1944. SIAVERY. where he had been a planter and a Judge.. 89). a work that in so many ways foreshadowed and so greatly influenoed later soientific racism. I do not propose to enter lnto the controversyooncerning the merits or evils of Anglo-Amerioan as compared with Latin Amerioan slavery (summarized in Foner and Genovese. and they ereot houses without trouble or art. and it has been estimated that the total import of slaves into all the British colonies between 1680 and 1786 was over two million'.f Liverpool burgeoned from its prof1't:s (See. Edward long. Charles long. . he viewed the Negro's 'inferiority of understanding' as a product of environmental deprivation: 'A·ma. Buffon~ 'There have been four complete generations of Negroes in Pennsylvania without any visible change of colOur••• " 'If the European oomplexion be proof against a hot olimate for a thousand years. a·town in Malabar.000 slaves. 190 British ships transported 47. 'Also connected with Jamaioa were the longs. and total property in Jamaioa comprising 14.. whioh grow without oulture. p. . They pretend that they were established there during the atrocity of Babylon: it is unquestionable that they have been many 86es in tha"t oountry'. In the suburbs of Coohin. 33). 1969).el. Could Buffon explain the production of fertile hybrids by sheep and goats? Elsewhere (pp. In the year 1771. there is a colony of industrious Jews of the same complexion as they have in Europe. 'The Importation into Jamaica from 1700 to 1786 was 610. they need little clothing.. 29-1(6). Although Kames was impelled by his conSideration of the physical oharacter of the Negro to oonsider him a separate speoies. Kames's essentially benign polygenesis contrasts sharply with the malign utterances of Jamaica I s historian..n never ripens in Judgment nor in prudenoe bUt by exercising these poWers. lett property in Suffolk. Furthermore. having no enoouragement to think or act'. 13). pp. I. at his death. 5) criticized Buffon's use of the fertili ty criterion in the definition of species. Abroad. Kames (Vol. (~..p. The slave trade made BritaiIi 'great I and the port o. I pronounce that it will never yield to climate. His grandson.. london. He enjoyed a verY great income. pp. 1944. a house in Bloomsbury. by . At home the negroes have little oooasion to exercise either of tthem: they live upon fruits and roots. (Ibid. His family w~re prominent citizens of the island: . the great sugar island· was the hub of the system of mercantile capitalism which Britain dominated through her naval strength and control of the Asiento. and wasacoordirigly entitled to live in splendor. . 10-14) he criticizes environmentalist theory. p .000. AND RACIS~1: THE WORK OF EDWARD LONG In retrospeot it seems inevitable and tidy that Edward Long's History 2!. Williams.97 ­ In a somewhat more rational vein. . far the largest of any Jamaioan proprietor of that period. p.

356). and 'their bestial or fetid sme11'(p. The Negro.l.' The decision in no way affected the slave trade. They have no plan or system of morality among them. Sharp and 'Godwyn. according to long (PP.connex1on and Qortsanguinity. provided only that the slave-owners are truly free men'. long.v own part. a In the Introduction to his History of Jamaica. long defends the institution of 'servitude' against its detraotors.:the Negro race. equips the orang with human attributes: 'For m. 1772). they had obtained a decision from lord Mansfield. but it greatly perturbed long (See long. but storm clouds were looming •. The gist of long i s argument concerning the Negro is contained in some thirty pages of the second volume of his history (long. do they seem at all inferior in the intellectual faculties to many of . Having established that the Negro a di~tinct s~9ies. is not merely physically revolting. The abolitionists under Granville Sharp were launching their first major attack. 382). He expounds the doctrine of the Great Chain of Being and the :principle of continuity. 1774.'ote his history. ostentatious absentees in Britain. the island was still most prosperous. that human organs were not given him for nothing: that this raoe have some language by which their meanil1g is cormnunicated••• nor for what hitherto appears. must we not conclude that' they are a different species of the same g~nus?' ' . At the time long Wl. long decided that he must establish' th'e Negro t s place in" Naturf.98 ­ be generally agreed that Jamaica was one of the most VJ. 38). in the course of which he had remarked that the case. of the slave-owning colonies.'"l11~. having dehumanized the Negro. 1944. are suffereq to deliver themselves up to all that nature' suggests to them'. it is credible that they have the 'most intimate.. II.. Vol. Book III" Chap. . instead ot hair. from the tenderest years. In order to cover any gaps in the chain.C:!. is " . as if adapted by nature to the pecu1iarconforma­ tions of their children's mouths'. is anti-climactic: 'When we reflect on the nature of these men. which involved one James Somersett. I conceive that probability favours the opinion. and their dissimilarity to the rest of'mankind'. 'Their children. with some of whom. ' After such invective. slave who was about to be returned by his owner to Jamaica. but mentally much the inferior of the white man: 'In general. Iong'sconc1usi'on (p. if not the most vicious. Their barbarity to their children debases their nature even below that of brutes. controlled by a powerful planter interest. The Liverpool traders were beginning to lose money (Williams. many of whom lived as rich. inclUding 'the gener~l large size of the female nipples. p. They have no moral sensations. no taste but for women. was one which was not 'allowed or approved by the Law of England. The Negro.. He remarks upon their 'covering of wool. they are void of genius.' some bodily peculiarities. like the bestial f1eeoe. . 352). First of all. and seem almost incapable of making any progress in civility or science. 351-379). having an advanced plantation system. according to long. he remarks that the colour of the Negro skin is not affected by change of climate. 'the black colour of the lice which infest their bodies' (p. 'Wherever circumstances make it inevitable. gormandizing and drinking to excess" no wish but to be idle. 1 i pp. 356-370) occupies a place in the chain between the orang and the rest of humanity. particularly Messrs. "servitude" is a happy institution. TWo years earlier.

Tavistook. ~ Fanatical ~Enthusiastical Writers 2!l that Subject. which appeared in Pt~ladelphia in 1773 (the year before the publication of Long's book). The pressures of the nascent abolitionist movement upon the defenders of slavery may have acted as a oatalyst.. defend slavery against fresh a. and th~n flourished. no matter how abstraot or intricately structured. ~ Gloomy !!!! Visionary Reveries 2. exists in isolation from the society in which it flourishes' (1968. . and it is certain that both races agree perfectly well iq lasciviousness of disposition' • It is interesting to note that the links of the Great Chain of Being were stretched in similar fashion by the authors of Personal Slavery Established ~ 2 Suffrages 2! Custom ~ Right Reason. Michael. New York. Race Relati0nl:l. Biblioe. ~oe Soience ancl Politics. it resolved from some the conflict between the doctrine of Natural· Rights and the existence of slavery 1n a society of free men. yet thought to be unique in its possession of a soul and the developed power of reason. But Long's ideas survived that disappearance.l wndon.rchical arrangement of society was being challenged. CONCWSIONS. 1967. an Andrew P.. including the American School.raphy Banton. Negroes themselves bear testimony tha~such inter­ courses actually happen. His description of the peculiarities of the Negro. creating a momentum of its own. an anonymous work. 1943. is repeated in parrot fashion by many later racists. ~ Aost'ler :E. It was no accident that the Chain of Being should have been most popular at a time when _the hiera. and which was.99 ­ The amorous intercourse between them may be frequent. the myth of scientific racism grew at first slowly. to describe the genesis ofa myth. Once established. The concept of the Great Chain of Being disappeared in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.' but administrative and a literary elite. Being !. p.ttacks: f ••• the popularity of the concept of the Chain in the eighteenth century derived in large measure from its capacity to universalize the principle of hierarohy. Further. 228). MY attention was drawn to the latter work by Winthrop Jordan. In the end it was to act as a corrupting agent upon popular movements. Knox and Hunt. Iqona. as its title implies. 8ll. New York. It offered a'resolution of two paradoxes in natural and moral philosophy: the antithesis of the evident disparity bett'leen human physiques and cultures of different peoples and the old belief in the unity of the human species under God. newly peroeived to be part of the animal creation..~ce and Racimu. And scientific racism most certainly is a myth. I have tried to do that most difficult of things.f. who remarked how apt a tool was the Great Chain of Being for the scientific racist who sought to. Ruth. his tenor of argument. Van Den Berghe. Pierre L••. 1967. No' idea'. Wiley. and the paradox of Mankind. It was to affeot not Just an intelleotual elite. directed against the abolitionist movement. Benediot.

Iord Kames.9f I. 1774.. . The Qeath of Adam.ical Treatises of Johann Friedrich Biume'nbach'::-::-..~ .. S)~very.o. John.100 - Blumenbach. New Jersey.--------. 1968. Methuen. Monboddo.cjLBlumeI}ba£h. Iondon.£~9. J . 223-233. --- --aes~~.. Buffon. Cambridge.@:! Williams . "HarVardUnivers1ty Press. Smellie)... 1758. Linnaeus.. Prentice Hall. de Ia Peyrere... Jordan.. etc •• Iondon: Publications of the Anthropological Society of Iondon.. L::>~. J . Carl Von Linne.. Iord Monboddo.!'l~~2. _. Amsterdam 1655. Arthur 0•• The Great Chain of Being. .. Greene.. Poliakou.'" '. 1865.'1961. ~e~da.~~_d: A Reader in Comparative !listC~T.l~. . Q!_~~.~~! 2nd edit. Odom. Iaac. Iaura and Genouese. Henry Home. 1732-34. .-' -. Capitalism and .D.. '1967. 1st edit •• leyden. 1735. Iovejoy. Published in 'The Anthropological Tr'r~!... and the inaugural .gr~~s. pp. Ne't'l York. Bendyshe) •• De Oeneris Humani Varietate.. Iong. AleXander.f t~e H1sto~2f. . Etude Critique sur la Formation de la Doctrine o. Edward.. Generalizations on Race in NinetE:~:"'t:l-century Physical Antijrop6io~~~tsis 5"8.. L•• Racism in Europe Article in Caste and Race. 1969~ Kames. Essay on.ceritU~ Phlladelphia. Theophile.C. §. Margaret. Man!...5-19-. 1944. Iowa 1959. rat edit •• 1775 and 1776. James Burnett. t Iondon: Publications of the Anthropological Society of Iondon.nd-lr. Winthrop D•• WPl:te over Bla9Jt. S!t.!~yery in ·~.aJ:1..~~'sels. Churchill. Chapel Hill. " ..J'I?.A~P.g. Dissertatio Inauguralis. Hodeen.-' pp-. History of J~~ca.. Early Anthropology in The Sixteenth and Seve:'1teenth . Johann Friedrich (Tr. 1961. Chapel Hill.::fe. 1791. 1774. Histoire Naturell~ 3rd Edit . 1774. New American Library (Mentor). Herbert H. Eric. Mass. _e. 1965....nthropolol'!. -_ _-_ IDndon. .'.dissertatIOn of John Hunter M.. . Published in 'The A. Baltimore. EV'eene D. (trans. loth" edft'~'~--Stookholm. unIversityof"-­ Pennsylvania Press. Systema Naturae. Iondon. Foner... Pope. Simar. 1774....mitae..S •• ~ng~ in ?arly.~.- Slotk~. 1969. 1922':'--.don. of Johann Fr:l~~:i. 1936. Hunter. 1865. IDndon... Edinburgh. 1964. .

see p. Although I have no des1:te to criticise the more worked out ideas in the book. Gellner's study of Moroccan Berbers. From the evidence of this book it seems that a spirit of unadventurousness is abroad and if she succeeds in defeatingit she is to be congratulated. with every successful arbitration they perform guaranteeing that the next will. there is a trend to shed poor relations by labelling them with seco. This is a description of a generative cycle which sends some men up and up. He must be laVishly generous and $ow no concern for material wealth.83.financial and judicial. Each leader puts lis party forward as the more faithful to vows. but the demand for their services is fixed by the pattern of disputes.loan Lewis' views mentioned on p. Milburn.. Similarly fol' religious sociology .Weidenfeld 8c Nicholson: by Ernest Gellner. In an English general election the role of political saint is complicated by being combined with the other roles. At the posing of questions. The first law of sociology is: to him who hath shall be given. May we suggest· that the passing of structural-functionalism has left a feeling of insecurity? But the abandonment of intellectual security ought to be a fact of anthropological life. Lay tribes provide chiefs. .nd degree sanctity. The lay tribes combine into groups which vote annually for a single chief. and it is reasonable to say that practically every statement in the book is a challenge. more generous to the poor and •the weak.. or he WiUhave nothing to distribute to his clients. who are pledged to pacifism and to Islam. Who has not wondered in his school days about the apparent injustice of the Anglo-Saxon oath taking procedures? Here the same system of:· proving innocence by getting a larger number of co-swearers than your rival is shown to be full of politi­ cal td:. very rewarding in themselves. 143. Gellner shrewdly observes how. Dr. Mary Dpuglas. Perhaps the sermonising on the Friday mass might have been less obvious but the· emphasis on the eXtensions of the body is welcome. Consequently. Hence the role 'of hereditary saints. Coalition theory will find· here a classical instance of. Douglas is excellent. Chiefship rotates between tribes and the victory always goes to the man whose reputation for nUllity ensures the voting tribes that his own tribe will not benafit unduly during his term of office. S.For anthropologists this book illumi­ nates many problems of political and religious interest. be taken seriously and so be effective too.to understand how miracles were attributed to particular shrines or saints we need to assimilate this vital contribution to anthropology which is more than just a trilJa]:amo~ograph. This matrix is an analytic model and by imposing a given voca­ bulary on the material it gives the impression that data drawn from differing cultures are being discussed whereas it is the model which is discussed.a member of the saintly lineage rises to the heights of sanctity by playing his role of mouthpiece of God more successfully than his fellow saints by birth. but quite different from the competition between chiefs. with subtle political insight. but· while it is offering a candidate for election. hereditary saintly tribes provide official arbitrators. it may not vote. some of the needling tone apparently necessary to rouse the slumbering anthro­ pologist has come through. With this perfect formula for weak government.. For a further example of this circularity consider . codes and :the author's desire to correlate conceptual and social organization I feel that the grid-group notion ought not to be passed over because . and this is the more regrettable as Purity and Danger was a remarkably good book just because Dr. A saint is entered in the sanetity stakes. It will also be significant for historians of many period of Europem history. shows a people who have divided up the various polltical roles. The Grid-group matrix does no justice to the complexities of the material even when modified. . He III\lst do it in such a '4y as to ensure a rich and steady 1'low of weith into his house . Other saints spiral downwards in public esteem. polyarchy. far outside the scope of Berber studies. Each tribe takes a turn to provide· the annual chief.it is symptomatic of a too common reductionism. Inevitably the saintly lineages multiply. SAINTS OF THE ATLAS . A leader clailll$ to be capable of authority in all spheres. He watches at his window and runs out to welcome an obviously properous traveller. the fierce Berbers still need a system of arbitration. Douglas' inside! outside division was presented as a synthetic not analytic proposition. An election is a kind of holiness rat-race.dom and practical justice.Barrie and Craessil (1970) by Mary Douglas Mary Douglas I new book Natural Symbols grew out of a series of lectures and.· more defiant towards tyrants. leaving less well-heeled visitors to the hospitality of his rtvals. more pious.101 ­ BOOK REVIE\oIS NATURAL SYMBOLS . military. since I believe the reader will· make up his own mind on the value of Bernstein's.

David Seddon and Stephan Feuchtwang. (Cairo). that some sort of organized exchange of information would produce. and that. should read Extract from the Bulletin .g. Until recently. the inevitable removal of film from the control of the film maker responsible in order to edit for short programmes of popular appeal). it was not likely to prOVide an expanding field of distribution.. comments and suggestions.. It is.C. film-making and the use of film for educational purposes wi thin the social sciences has been a matter of individual enterprise.S. The meeting agreed that further steps should be taken to oollect more information on these. to sound out interest both in educational and professional oircles. and the showing of film for generally educative purposes in schools. and hopes to be able. will result in the improvement and expansion of such facilities as do exist and the film making activities associated with the~ The Royal Anthropological Institute in London has established a Film Committee which is at present forming an ethnographic film library. however. subjects.O.Page 3'. on the other hand. carried out in relative isolatio~ Certain efforts are now being made to co-ordinate and organise these activities. likely that the service provided by this newsletter will be oontinued by' the Royal Anthropologioal Institute Film 'Committee in 1971. in starting a neWSletter. S. . In March this year David Seddon organised a meeting of social scientists and professional film makers under the slogan IFilm for the revelation of society I in order to place ethnographic film making in its wider context. University cirCUits. are welcome and should be sent to Film Newsletter. David Seddon.l:. short articles. and whatever personal contacts and abilities each one of us may have. Department of Anthropology and Sooiology. Whatever any one of us may feel about the kind of films that should be made. . Contributions in the form of announcements. CORRIGENDA .l also of the Anthropology and Sooiology Department of the School of Qr:oiental and African Studies at the University of London. in any case. regarding the use made' of films. in the future. Vol. the existence of proJeots involving film making.. seemed more promising. already developed in North America. of the Faculty of Arts. the presence of ~ohn1cal eqUipment and of training facilities in the sooial science departments of all British universities.NarES . to promote the making of new films. footnote. and other related. The sooial scientists present took film directing and producing to be a special oompetenoe that reqUires extensive training. Another major area of discussion concerned the need for training and special eqUipment. held at the School of Qr:oiental and African Studies.A. there 1s little doubt that the greater awareness of the availability of resources and of the extent of present interests and activities in sociologioal film making. W. 1933. Part I. It was noted that television was unsatisfactory in several ways (e. as well as enquiries. Discussion at this meeting. II. colleges and such institutions as the Voluntary Service Overseas was felt by some to be a real possibility. centred around the problem of distribution facilities. University of London. whereas at least one of the professional film makers stressed that adequate films could be made with relatively simple equipment and very little training. as well as to promote actual film-making and to encourage discussion of the whole field of Ifilm for the revelation of societyl. Since March 1970 David Seddon has been joined by Stephan Feuohtwang.The first issue appears in June and contains a questionnaire. and to co-ordinate activities and discussion.102 - FIrM FOR THE REVEIATIONOF SOCIE'lY An unknown but by all indications fairly large number of people in social science departments in Great Britain are interested in the making and use of sociological and ethnographic films. The results of the questionnaire and any other information gathered will appear in subsequent newsletters.