Originally Posted By: tsuwm
and yet, you dasn't answer your own question?!

heh, for you magister, ok....

I think there seemed a fair consensus of responses around the basic idea that culture is an expression of group thought and endeavour – all the actions of the tribe that are learned, assimilated, handed down (whatever the demographic boundary of the group we happen to be thinking about, as Jackie implies).

I’m not totally convinced by the clade concept, not so much because it doesn’t give a good description of the outcomes in many cases but more because it seems to look through the wrong end of the lens: it implies a coherent reaching for some ulterior objective, yet clade membership could know nothing of such boundaries. If I am not clear there, what I mean is it is like the misinterpretation of Darwinian logic that suggests creatures somehow evolve towards some higher state, whereas what actually happens is variation, culled by exposure.

I note that Fong’s apparently facetious remark typically wears his learning lightly: yes, the way the bugs in the milk affect their environment and create certain visible outputs does tell us quite a bit about cultural normative influences, I think.

I like nuncle’s suggested nuance that it’s implicitly bound up with “caring for” something – this points me to the key point for my interest in culture, that it cannot be value neutral. Whilst we might tend to broad agreement that culture is a bit like the observable output of other life forms, it seems important to me that we are a reflective animal; that we don’t merely leave a blind cultural path like some sort of snail trail, but also have an important capacity to consider, choose, rationalise, communicate, and behave in socially co-operative ways that are vital components of the culture we create around us and leave to the generations that come after us.

To give another analogy, when a woman creates a piece of pottery for certain practical purposes we can see the product as a cultural artefact; but with how much richer meaning does that piece of pottery become endowed when it has accumulated several generations of iteration and elaboration, subjected each time to comparison, praise, study, copy, and so on? It seems to me that these processes over time lead to a higher form of cultural production, a more deeply meaningful reflection of what it is to be human – and thus (whether it’s a pot, a fabric, a picture, a piece of wrought metal, a song or a fragment of poetry) we come to produce aspects of culture that we recognise as ‘art’ rather than merely value-neutral articles of craft. Sure, all are aspects of culture: but not all, I think, are equal.

Who imparts or arbitrates the value scale is a whole nother thang…

That’s my not formally reasoned nor highly polished take on it so far anyway, and I will be interested to hear anything else all-y’all come up with, including if you like the broadcasts.