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The Science 

of Culture 


B)> Leslie A. White ^. 


This edition is published by arrangement with 
Farrar, Straus and Cudahy 

Copyright © 1949 by Leslie A. White 

Tenth Printing 






PREF ACE xvii 


Introduction 2 

I. Science is Sciencing 3 
II. The Symbol: the Origin and Basis of Human 

Behavior 22 

III. On the Use of Tools by Primates 40 

IV. Mind is Minding 49 
V. The Expansion of the Scope of Science 55 


Introduction 120 
VI. Culturological vs. Psychological Interpretations of 

Human Behavior 121 

VII. Cultural Determinants of Mind 146 

VIII. Genius: Its Causes and Incidence 190 

IX. Ikhnaton: The Great Man vs. the Culture Process 233 

X. The Locus of Mathematical Reality 282 

XI. The Definition and Prohibition of Incest 303 

XII. Man's Control over Civilization: An Anthropocentric 

Illusion 330 


Introduction 362 

XIII. Energy and the Evolution of Culture 363 




XIV. The Science of Culture 397 

Chapter References 4^ 

BibHography '^^5 

Index 4^ 


The author wishes to thank the following publishers for per- 
mission to quote from their publications: 

Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., for excerpts from Ralph Linton, 
The Study oi Man, New York, 1936. 

Cambridge University Press (England), for excerpts from G. 
H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology, Cambridge, 1941. 

Geo. E. G. Catlin, for excerpts from Emile Durkheim, The 
Rules oi Sociologies] Method, University of Chicago Press, 1938. 

The University of Chicago Press, for excerpts from The Nature 
of the World and Man, H. H. Newman, ed., Chicago, 1926; Marc 
Ruffer, Studies in the Palaeopathology of Egypt, R. L. Woodie, 
ed., Chicago, 1921; and from Geo. Steindorff and K. C. Seele, 
When Egypt Ruled the East, Chicago, 1942. 

Thomas Y. Crowell Co., for excerpts from Clark Wissler, Man 
and Culture, New York, 1923. 

Crown Publishers, for excerpts from A. Einstein, The World As 
I See It, copyright 1934 by Covici-Friede, New York, 

Doubleday and Co., Inc., for excerpts from Helen Keller, The 
Story of My Life, New York, 1903. 

Eyre and Spottiswoode, Ltd., for excerpts from Arthur Weigall^ 
The Life and Times of Akhnaton, London, 1923. 



Harper and Brothers, for an excerpt from Thomas Wolfe, You 
Can't Go Home Again, copyright The Sun Dial Press, 1942, New 

Henrj- Holt and Co., Inc., for an excerpt from John Dewey, 
ReconstTuction in Philosophy, New York, 1920; and from Clark 
Wissler, An Introduction to Social Anthropology, New York, 1929. 

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., for excerpts from A. A. Moret, The Nile 
and Egyptian Civilization, New York, 1927. 

McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., for excerpts from Wm. I. Thomas, 
Piimitive Behavior, New York, 1937; and from Recent Social 
Trends, New York, 1933. 

The Macmillan Co., for excerpts from E. A. Hooton, Up From 
the Ape, New York, 1931; F. H. Giddings, Principles of Sociology, 
New York, 1896; A. M. Schlesinger, New Viewpoints in American 
History, New York, 1922. 

W. W. Norton and Co., Inc., for an excerpt from Erwin 
Schrodinger, Science and the Human Temperament, New York, 


The Science Press, for excerpts from H. Poincare, Foundations 
oi Science, New York and Garrison, 1913. 

Charles Scribner's Sons, for excerpts from James H. Breasted, 
A History of Egypt, revised edition. New York, 1909. 

Simon and Schuster, Inc., for an excerpt from Living Philoso- 
phies, New York, 1931. 

Stechert-Hafner, Inc., for excerpts from E. T. Bell, The Queen 
of the Sciences, Baltimore, 1931. 

The Viking Press, Inc., for excerpts from Wm. F. Ogburn, 
Social Change, New York, 1922. 


Oome time ago Mr. Arthur Orrmont, formerly a student 
at the University of Michigan, now on the editorial staff of 
Farrar, Straus and Company, suggested that certain articles 
of mine that have appeared in various journals might well be re- 
printed in a single volume. This book has grown out of his 
suggestion. The previously published articles that reappear here 
in more or less modified form are as follows: 

1. "Science is Sciencing," (Philosophy of Science, Vol. 5, 
pp. 369-389, 1938). 

2. "Mind is Minding," (The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 48, 
pp. 169-171, 1939). 

3. "The Symbol: The Origin and Basis of Human Behavior," 
(Philosophy of Science, Vol. 7, pp. 451-463, 1940). 

4. "On the Use of Tools by Primates," (Journal of Com- 
parative Psychology, Vol. 34, pp. 369-374, 1942). 

5. "The Expansion of the Scope of Science," (Journal of the 
Washington Academy of Sciences, Vol. 37, pp. 181-210, 1947). 

6. "The Locus of Mathematical Reality: An Anthropological 
Footnote," (Philosophy of Science, Vol. 14, pp. 289-303, 1947)- 

7. "Culturological vs. Psychological Interpretations of Human 
Behavior," (American Sociological Review, Vol. 12, pp. 686-698, 


8. "Man's Control over Civilization: An Anthropocentric Il- 
lusion," (The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 66, pp. 235-247, 1948). 



9. "Ikhnaton: The Great Man vs. the Culture Process," 
(Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 68, pp. 91-114, 

10. "The Definition and Prohibition of Incest," (American 
Anthropologist, Vol. 50, pp. 416-435, 1948). 

"Education: America's Magic," which appeared in School and 
Society (Vol. 61, pp. 353-354, 1945) has been incorporated in the 
chapter "Man's Control over Civilization: An Anthropocentric 
Illusion." Material from "Atomic Energy: An Anthropological 
Appraisal" and "Energy and the Development of Civilization" 
has been incorporated in the chapter "Energy and the Evolution 
of Culture." "Atomic Energy: An Anthropological Appraisal" 
was read before the annual meeting of the American Anthro- 
pological Association in Philadelphia on December 28, 1945. It 
was never published in a journal * but was printed in its entirety 
or large part in some newspapers, including: The Baltimore Sun, 
December 29, 1945; The Milwaukee Journal, January 10, 1946; 
and The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, January 13, 1946. "Energy and 
the Development of Civilization" was a radio address delivered 
over the Columbia Broadcasting System in New York City on 
February 16, 1947, on a program sponsored by the United States 
Rubber Company. It was subsequently published with a series of 

* The curious reader will find interesting comment on this talk by Dr. 
E. U. Condon, Director, National Bureau of Standards, in an address to the 
winners of a science scholarship contest in Science News Letter, March 16, 
1946; Science, April 5, 1946; and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of 
Chicago, March 15, 1946. Dr. Condon, in effect, advises the young men and 
women to have nothing to do with prophets of "fatalism" (i.e., determinism 
in human affairs) such as I. He quotes the Holy Scriptures, and concludes 
with an inspiring passage from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 

See, also, a reply to Dr. Condon by M. F. Ashley Montagu in Science, 
May 3, 1946, in which he tells of a resolution, proposed by himself, seconded 
by Margaret Mead, and adopted by the American Anthropological Association, 
pledging anthropologists to work with other scientists to make "appropriate 
social inventions" to "guard against the dangers . . . inherent in atomic use." 
No report on progress toward such inventions has appeared as yet. 


talks on science in The Scientists Speak, Warren Weaver, editor 
(New York, 1947). It was also reprinted by Technocracy Digest, 
May, 1947, and The Great Lakes Technocrat, May-June, 1947. 

I am grateful to the editors of the journals in which my articles 
originally appeared for their kind permission to reprint them here. 

Two of the articles republished here were reprinted some time 
ago in ETC., a Review of General Semantics: "The Symbol" 
(Vol. 1, pp. 229-237, 1944), and "Mind is Minding" (Vol. 1, 
pp. 86-88, 1943-44). 'The Symbol" was rewritten at the request 
of Dr. Wm. S. Knickerbocker and published in Twentieth 
Century English, which he edited (New York, 1946). 

A number of the articles republished in this volume evoked 
comment when they originally appeared. "Mind is Minding" 
brought forth a harsh criticism from Professor Jared Sparkes 
Moore (Scientific Monthly, Vol. 50, p. 365, 1940) to which I 
replied briefly {ihid., pp. 365-66). "The Expansion of the Scope 
of Science" was reviewed at length in a sympathetic article by 
Professor A. L. Kroeber, "White's View of Culture" (American 
Anthropologist, Vol. 50, pp. 405-415, 1948). It was reviewed 
briefly in Man, by Professor J. L. Myres (Vol. 48, p. 11, January, 
1948). And it received brief comment in Science (Vol. 106, p. 84, 
1947) from Mr. Alden A. Potter. 

"Man's Control over Civilization" drew a reply entitled 
"Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos" from Harold H. Steinour in 
Scientific Monthly (Vol. 66, pp. 447-48, 1948). Mr. Steinour 
argues that it would be a good thing to believe that the human 
will is free even though it were not. He believes, however, that 
it is, at least to a degree. And "Ikhnaton" moved a distinguished 
Egyptologist, Professor Wm. F. Edgerton, to criticize me severely 
for venturing "to oppose the opinions of competent scholars" 
although I am unable to read inscriptions in the Egyptian 
language (Journal of the American Oriental Society, December, 


To the above list of articles I have added the following chapters, 
written expressly for this volume: "Cultural Determinants of 
Mind;" "Genius: Its Causes and Incidence;" "Energy and the 
Evolution of Culture;" "The Science of Culture." 

"Energy and the Evolution of Culture" was written in its 
entirety for this volume although based upon the thesis of an 
earlier article by the same title published in the American Anthro- 
pologist, Vol. 45, pp. 335-356, 1943. Material from "Cultural 
Determinants of Mind" was used for a paper, "The Individual 
and the Culture Process," presented in the symposium on 
"Human Individuality" at the Centennial meeting of the Ameri- 
can Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, 
D. C, on September 14, 1948. An abstract of this paper appeared 
in Science, Vol. 108, pp. 585-86, Nov. 26, 1948. 

Since each of the articles reprinted here was originally written 
to stand on its own feet and by itself, there is some duplication 
and overlapping among them when all are placed together. Thus, 
a number of them contain a definition, or a characterization, of 
culture as an order of phenomena; or, a description of the science 
of culture and how it will operate. In preparing these articles for 
republication I have tried to reduce duplication and overlapping 
among them to a minimum, but perhaps too much still remains. 
We hope the reader will keep in mind the fact that, with a few 
exceptions, each chapter was originally an independent article 
and will be correspondingly indulgent. We might add, however, 
that some repetition is often very desirable, especially when a 
relatively novel theme— such as the science of culture— is being 

The articles as originally published have undergone revision in 
other respects also. We have added new material in some places 
and have cut out passages in others. In some instances we have 
transferred material from one article to another. The extent to 
which the original articles have undergone alteration varies; some 


have changed considerably, others very httle. In every case, how- 
ever, the premises and point of view, as well as much of the 
formulation and presentation, of the original articles have re- 
mained substantially the same. 

I am greatly indebted to many persons for sympathetic interest,, 
encouragement and assistance tendered me in the labors repre- 
sented by the material in the present volume, written during a 
period of more than a decade. No expression of thanks of which 
I am capable could encompass the magnitude of my obligation 
nor adequately convey my sense of gratitude. Nor can I name here 
all of those who have, in one way or another, contributed to the 
pages that follow. I would like, however, to mention a few to 
whom I am especially indebted, I have received much inspiration 
and encouragement from a warm friendship of many years with 
Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes. My colleague, Professor Volney H. Jones, 
has kindly and patiently read almost all of my manuscripts for 
over a decade and I have profited greatly from his wise and sym- 
pathetic counsel. Professor R. L. Wilder, of the Department of 
Mathematics, University of Michigan, kindly read "The Locus of 
Mathematical Reality" in manuscript and offered many helpful 

I believe, however, that my greatest obligation is to the many 
students in my courses during the last fifteen years upon whom I 
have, so to speak, "tried out" the ideas set forth in this book. 
They are too numerous to mention here singly and by name. I 
hope, therefore, that they will accept this simple statement of 
my gratitude and affection, both for their interest and construc- 
tive criticism and for their patience and forbearance. 

In planning the arrangement of this volume, Mr. John Farrar 
and his son, Curtis Farrar, have assisted with valuable suggestions. 

My wife has helped enormously in the preparation of the manu- 
script, not to mention the years of encouragement and loyal 
support during which time the articles were conceived and written. 



I cannot find words to express the full sense of my obligation 

to her. ^ ,_. 

Leslie A. White 

Universit)' of Michigan 
Ann Arbor, Michigan 



rulture became differentiated as soon as it appeared. Ever 
since the earliest days of human history local groups of 
people have been distinguished from one another by dif- 
ferences in speech, custom, belief, and costume, in so far as any 
was worn. We may believe, also, that man has always been aware 
of those differences that set his own group apart from others. 
Thus we might say that, in a sense, mankind has always been 
culture conscious. And, ever since the time of Herodotus at 
least there have been attempts to account for cultural variations 
among mankind. Some thinkers accounted for cultural differences 
in terms of environmental influence; one kind of habitat would 
produce one type of culture, another habitat a different type. 
Others were inclined to attribute cultural variation to innate 
mental or temperamental differences. In comparatively recent 
times the new sciences of sociology and social psychology worked 
out general principles of a science of social behavior, but these 
were assumed to be common to all mankind and so could not 
account for cultural differences among tribes and nations. Social 
interaction is a universal process; conflict, co-operation, accom- 
modation, the four wishes, etc., are worldwide; they might account 
for cultural uniformities, but not differences. True, these sciences 
did not address themselves to the problem of cultural variation; 
they were limited almost entirely to the framework of one culture. 
Western civilization. But when one turned to the question of 


xviii PREFACE 

cultural differences among peoples, it was found that sociology 
and social psychology had virtually nothing to offer. 

Apart from theories of environmental determinism which con- 
sidered merely the relationship between habitat and culture, all 
t\pes of interpretation prior to the emergence of anthropology 
as a science thought of man and culture together; no one con- 
sidered culture apart from its human carriers. With the advance 
of science, however, came a recognition of culture as a distinct 
class of events, as a distinct order of phenomena. It was seen 
that culture is not merely a reflex response to habitat, nor a simple 
and direct manifestation of "human nature." It came to be 
realized that culture is a continuum, a stream of events, that 
flows freely down through time from one generation to another 
and laterally from one race or habitat to another. One came 
eventually to understand that the determinants of culture lie 
within the stream of culture itself; that a language, custom, belief, 
tool or ceremony, is the product of antecedent and concomitant 
cultural elements and processes. In short, it was discovered that 
culture may be considered, from the standpoint of scientific 
analysis and interpretation, as a thing sui generis, as a class of 
events and processes that behaves in terms of its own principles 
and laws and which consequently can be explained only in terms 
of its own elements and processes. Culture may thus be con- 
sidered as a self-contained, self-determined process; one that can 
be explained only in terms of itself. 

This profound discovery and advance in science was the lot of 
anthropology: it was the anthropologists, as Kroeber has said, 
who "discovered culture." In contrast with the sister sciences of 
social psychology and sociology, the- new science of anthropology 
found itself in the very midst of cultural differences; concern with 
such things was in fact a large part of its objective. It was in a 
position to note that, in many instances at least, marked cultural 
variation is associated with a uniformity of human physical type. 
Thus, among North American Indian tribes who were of a highly 


uniform physical type, there was nevertheless a great variety of 
cultural types. A biological constant could not account for a 
cultural variable. The anthropologist was able to see also that, 
whereas a certain type of habitat would condition the form and 
content of a culture, it did not determine them. An arctic climate, 
for example, did not necessarily mean tailored fur clothing and 
snug dwellings. As a matter of fact, a great variety of cultures are 
compatible with any given type of environment, as a comparative 
survey of regions or the archeological record of a single area over 
a long period of time will show. Thus anthropologists were able 
to free themselves from the old interpretative biases— that culture 
was determined by habitat or by "human nature"— and to discover 
the culturological determination of culture. 

The great English anthropologist, E. B. Tylor, seems to have 
been the first clearly to grasp this new conception. In the first 
chapter of his great work. Primitive Culture (1871 ), he formulated 
in succinct fashion the culturological point of view and outlined 
the scope of the science of culture. Tylor was followed by Durk- 
heim, Kroeber, Lowie, Wissler, and many others in the develop- 
ment of this new science. But progress has not been steady and 
continuous. Of late there has been a falling away from the culturo- 
logical point of view and objectives. Instead of interpretation of 
culture as such, many American anthropologists in recent years 
have turned to the overt reactions of human organisms and to the 
deep subconscious forces that underlie these reactions. Thus, many 
men and women anthropologists, who are by training and tradition 
best qualified to study culture, have abandoned it for adventures 
in psychology or psychiatry for which they have had little or no 
technical training and with but little equipment save a ready 
intuition. They have sold their culturological birthright for a mess 
of psychiatric pottage. 

And who is to study culture if not the anthropologists, particu- 
larly the culturologists? We have witnessed a definite regression in 
anthropology in America in recent years. But it will not last. 


Sooner or later the advance in science begun with Tylor will be 
resumed. As Kroeber has indicated in a recent article, fashions 
and fads come and go in science, but underneath the currents and 
eddies on the surface is the deep strong flow of scientific progress. 
"Personalit}'," says Kroeber, "is the slogan of the moment . . . De- 
vices like 'ink-blot tests' have some of the outward qualities of a 
gadget . . . [and] as a nation we love gadgets ... In a decade or 
two Rohrschachs may have been displaced as stimuli of fashion 
response by their successor of the day." 

In the chapters that follow we treat the Science of Culture in 
its several aspects: the origin and nature of culture, the emergence 
of the scientific interpretation of culture and an historical sketch 
of this new venture, the fundamental distinction between psy- 
cholog}^ and culturolog}^, and, finally, a few demonstrations of the 
point of view and techniques of culturological interpretation. 



e preface our treatise on the Science of Culture with an 
essay on science in general, "Science is Sciencing." Science 
is not a body of data; it is a technique of interpretation. And 
this technique is as applicable to cultural phenomena as to any 
other class. The science of culture, or the science of psychology, 
is not as mature as astronomy or physics; neither is it nearly as 
old. But it is fallacious or chauvinistic to assert that "physics is a 
science, but psychology or culturology is not." One can science in 
any sector of experience. 

In "The Symbol" we lay bare the mechanism that has brought 
culture, as a new and distinct order of phenomena, into being. We 
discover culture as a new field of scientific exploration and inter- 
pretation. "On the Use of Tools by Primates" attempts to show 
why man has a continuous, cumulative, and progressive material 
culture whereas the anthropoid apes, who are able to make tools 
and who use them with great skill and versatility, do not. The 
answer is, again, the Symbol. "Mind is Minding" breaks with the 
old-fashioned view which regarded mind as a thing, as an entity, 
and sees it merely as a process of reacting to external stimuli. This 
helps to clarify the relationship between man as organism and the 
extrasomatic cultural tradition to which he reacts as he does to 
his natural habitat. 

In "The Expansion of the Scope of Science," we trace the 
course of the conquest of science of ever more and more of the 
terrain of human experience, first of the heavenly bodies in as- 
tronomv, then terrestrial physical phenomena, then the various 
sectors of biological phenomena, and, finally, the realm of culture. 
In tracing the course of the advance and progress of science we 
come face to face with its predecessor and rival: the philosophy 
of anthropomorphism, anthropocentrism, and Free Will. As sub- 
sequent chapters will bring out clearly and emphatically, this is 
the philosophy that science has had to contend every inch of the 
way. And it is this age-old and primitive philosophy that we still 
have to oppose until it is at last eradicated, root and branch. 



"Science is a kind of human behavior." 


•cience is not merely a collection of facts and formulas. It 
is pre-eminently a way of dealing with experience. The word 
may be appropriately used as a verb: one sciences, i.e., deals 
with experience according to certain assumptions and with certain 
techniques. Science is one of two basic ways of dealing with 
experience. The other is art. And this word, too, may appropriately 
be used as a verb; one may art as well as science. The purpose of 
science and art is one: to render experience intelligible, i.e., to 
assist man to adjust himself to his environment in order that he 
may live. But although working toward the same goal, science 
and art approach it from opposite directions. Science deals with 
particulars in terms of universals: Uncle Tom disappears in the 
mass of Negro slaves. Art deals with universals in terms of par- 
ticulars: the whole gamut of Negro slavery confronts us in the 
person of Uncle Tom. Art and science thus grasp a common 
experience, or reality, by opposite but inseparable poles. 

To use the word science as a noun is not, however, without 
justification. The words chemistry, physiology, history, sociology, 
etc., are both legitimate and useful. As categories they are de- 
rived from two sources. On the one hand, they reflect analytical 
distinctions which may be made within the field of reality: 
erosion, respiration, hysteria, voting, etc., are phases or segments 



of experience which find their reflections in the categories geol- 
og\^ physiology-, psychology, and political science, respectively. 
On the other hand, division of labor in society, essential in 
modern times, also finds its reflection in the same, or similar, 
categories. This is a fact often ignored. Psychology is a category 
that is a reflection of the division of society into disparate occu- 
pational groups just as truly as it is an expression of analytical 
distinctions which may be made in experience ("subject matter") 
itself. "Psychology is what ps)rcho]ogists (i.e., a guild of workers 
bearing the label 'psychologist') do," is as valid a definirion as 
"psycholog}^ is the study of mind, or behavior." The one is an 
expression of social reality; the other derives from the nature of 
the subject matter of the study. 

This dual nature of the categories becomes manifest in the re- 
current protest against the partition of science into "watertight" 
compartments, in the impossibility of telling whether a given 
study is historical, sociological, or psychological. Does the story of 
John Brown's "insurrection" belong to psychology, sociology, 
economics, political science, or history? Obviously and equally to 
each. Nor can the distinction between inanimate, biologic and 
cultural withstand the categorizing process which is implicit in 
the division of labor in society. When Harlow Shapley studies the 
responses of ants to varying quantities of heat reaching them from 
the sun,^ is he an astronomer or an entomologist? Obviously, he 
is contributing to an understanding of insects as well as stars; this 
thermodynamic process has both entomologic and astronomic 
aspects. Dr. A. E. Douglass, an astronomer at the University of 
Arizona, has, by working out a correlation between rainfall and 
growth of trees in the Southwest, provided archeologists with the 
most precise technique for dating prehistoric remains unaccom- 
panied by written records that has yet been devised.^ In this case 
an "astronomer" has become an archeologist via climatology and 

1 References are grouped by chapters and appear on pp. 416-424. 


botany. Conventionally, however, "an astronomer" is any mem- 
ber of a certain group, formal or informal, of scientific workers 
produced by the social division of labor, even though he may con- 
tribute to an understanding of insects, the growth of forests, and 
the sequence of Indian cultures, as well as to our knowledge of 
heavenly bodies. Logically, astronomy is the scientific interpreta- 
tion of the behavior of celestial bodies regardless of the profes- 
sional label borne by the one who makes it. 

The custom of viewing "science" as a vast terrain divided into 
a number of "fields" each tilled by its own appropriately named 
guild has a certain justification in utility and convenience. But it 
tends to obscure the nature of science as a way of interpreting 
reality and to spread confusion in the ranks of scientists and lay- 
men alike. The use of the word science as a noun not only leads 
to jurisdictional disputes— does the study of juvenile delinquency 
belong to sociology or to psychology, the study of fossils to 
geology or to biology?— but to such questions as, is history a science? 
is sociology a science? There is a tendency to identify "science" 
with some of its techniques. For example, one can perform ex- 
periments in chemistry and make accurate predictions in astron- 
omy. Chemistry and astronomy are "sciences." Experimentation 
is exceedingly limited in sociology and predictions in history are 
seldom more than guesses. Therefore, the tendency is to say, 
"history and sociology are not sciences." Despite the fact that 
much of geology is more historical than certain studies of human 
culture, there is a willingness to call the one "a science" but to 
deny this status to the other. 

Then a distinction is made between the physical sciences 
(frequently called by the flattering term "the exact sciences") and 
the "social sciences." Implicit in this distinction is the assumption 
that a fundamental difference obtains between the nature of 
physical reality and human social reality. This assumption leads 
to, if indeed it does not include by implication, the further as- 


sumption that the data of human society, being essentially differ- 
ent from the data of physics ("the exact sciences"), are really not 
susceptible to scientific treatment, hence the social sciences are 
really not sciences at all; * they are not and cannot be "scientific." 
The same observations are made, although with less emphasis, 
with reference to biology: "Biology is less scientific than physics, 
but more scientific than sociology." These assumptions are not 
only confusing; they are unwarranted. The basic assumptions and 
techniques which comprise the scientific way of interpreting 
reality are applicable equally to all of its phases, to the human- 
social, or cultural, as well as to the biological and the physical. 
This means that we must cease viewing science as an entity which 
is divisible into a number of qualitatively different parts: some 
wholly scientific (the "exact sciences"), some quasi-scientific, and 
some only pseudo-scientific. We must cease identifying science 
with one or another of its techniques, such as experimentation. 
We must, in short, view science as a way of behaving, as a way of 
interpreting reality, rather than as an entity in itself, as a segment 
of that reality. 

Science distinguishes living, sentient beings on the one hand, 
and an external world independent of sentient organisms on the 
other.** Reality in this context consists of the organisms' inter- 
action with the external world. As such it may be regarded as a 
one or as a many. It may be thought of as the totality of the inter- 
action, or experience, of the organism; or, it may be analyzed into 
its component parts. On the perceptual level reality is analyzed 
into sense impressions— odors, tastes, colors, sounds, etc. On the 
conceptual level it is analyzed with symbolic instruments— words, 
mathematical symbols, etc. Matter, energy, time, space, motion, 
etc., are conceptual devices with which we analyze reality and in 

*"...! think that social science is like a '\^'elsh rabbit — not really a rab- 
bit at all." E. A. Hooton, in Apes, Men, and Morons, p. 62. 

** "The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is 
the basis of all natural science." Einstein, 1934, p. 60. 


terms of which we make our adjustments to it. Matter, energy, 
time, motion, and so on, are not therefore discrete entities, but 
aspects or phases of a common reality. We may also analyze the 
totality of reality, insofar as we can experience it, into equivalent 
component parts, or "units," which we may call events. Experience 
is therefore conceived by us on the one hand as a one, as a totality, 
and on the other as an infinite number of parts, or events. 

"Whole and parts" means relationships. "Relationship," too, 
is another conceptual device, a symbolic instrument, with the aid 
of which we render experience intelligible to a degree, and by 
means of which we effect our adjustments to our environment. 
Events are related to each other. But how? 

"Every event that happens in the world is determined by the 
space-co-ordinates x, y, z and the time-co-ordinate t," ^ The 
fundamental relationship, or "interval," between events is one of 
space-time. Whereas formerly space and time were thought of as 
properties of the external world independent of each other, they 
are now seen to be merely aspects of the basic and primary prop- 
erty, space-time. To quote Minkowski: "The views of space and 
time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of 
experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radi- 
cal. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to 
fade into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two 
will preserve an independent reality." * Thus reality confronts us, 
in modern thought, as a four-dimensional continuum; the process 
of reality in which events are manifested is a temporal-spatial (or 
temporal-formal) one. 

Thus the primary and fundamental relationship between events 
is temporal-formal. But by purely logical analysis, we may distin- 
guish the temporal aspect of the process from the spatial; although 
inseparable in actuality, we may occupy ourselves with either to 
the exclusion of the other. Thus we may distinguish three kinds 
of processes, one primary, the temporal-formal, and two secondary 


and derivative, the temporal on the one hand and the spatial, or 
formal, on the other. In the first category we would deal with 
events as being related to one another by space-time intervals. In 
the other two we would in the one consider the interval (or rela- 
tionship) in its temporal aspect only; and in the other the interval 
would be dealt with in its spatial, or formal, aspect alone. 

Scicncing must adapt itself to the structure of reality; its tools 
must be so shaped and its techniques so ordered as to grasp reality 
effectively and render it intelligible to us. This means, therefore, 
that we shall have three ways of sciencing: one which grasps the 
space-time property of reality in its entirety, and two subsidiary 
and derivative ways, each of which deals with one of the two as- 
pects of this property, viz., space and time. All of "science" or 
sciencing will be found to be assignable to one or another of these 
three categories; there is no way of sciencing apart from these 

"History" is that way of sciencing in which events are dealt 
with in terms of their temporal relationships alone. Each event is 
unique. The one thing that history never does is to repeat itself: 
Lincoln is assassinated only once. To be sure, the events them- 
selves that constitute history are related to one another in ways 
other than temporal. This must of necessity be true since all kinds 
of relationships are equally attributes of a common reality. But in 
"histor)'-ing" we arbitrarily select for our consideration the con- 
nective tissue of time, and just as arbitrarily ignore the relation- 
ship of space.* 

This process of reducing concrete experience to artificial abstrac- 
tions, or, to put it more precisely, the act of substituting concepts, 
"free inventions of the human intellect" (to borrow Einstein's 

* To be sure, those who bear the label "historian" concern themselves with 
relationships other than temporal: they wish to know where Lincoln was 
assassinated as well as when. "The temporal process" would probably be a 
better term for our purpose here than "history." 


phrase), for the concrete experiences of the senses,^ is not only- 
unavoidable, it is the very essence of sciencing. 

"History," or the temporal aspect of experience, is co-extensive 
with reality; it is a property common to the inanimate, biological, 
and cultural orders of phenomena. Stars, the solar system, the 
earth, rivers, lead, granite, plants and animals, species and indi- 
viduals, customs and institutions, each have their respective his- 
tories. Astronomy, physics, geology, biology, psychology, sociology, 
and anthropology are therefore, in part at least, historical "sci- 
ences." There is no antagonism nor even distinction between 
history and science: history is simply one way of sciencing whether 
it be in geology or sociology. If we refuse to accept this conclusion 
we are forced to its alternative: "An astronomer is a scientist when 
he deals with a non-temporal, repetitive process, but when 
he concerns himself with a chronological sequence of events (the 
history of the solar system, e.g. ) he is no longer a scientist." 

Events are related to each other spatially, and we may deal with 
reality in terms of spatial, or formal, relationships, ignoring the 
aspect time. 

Spatial relationships between events may be regarded as either 
constant or variable. Events, or material objects, whose mutual 
spatial relationships are regarded as constant, constitute a structure. 
This property is characteristic of all phases of reality. In the inani- 
mate, biologic and cultural levels it manifests itself in such forms 
as atoms, molecules, stars, constellations, planets, orbits, strata, 
the elements; in skeletons, bones, muscles, organs, bodies, limbs; 
in families, clans, societies, grammars, constitutions. When the 
spatial relationships uniting a number of events, or material ob- 
jects, are regarded as variable, then we speak of function. This 
property likewise manifests itself on all levels of reality in atomic, 
molecular, meteorological, astronomic behavior; in physiological 
and psychological processes; and on the supra-biological level, in 
cultural processes. Thus the physicist, chemist, astronomer, geolo- 
gist, zoologist, botanist, physiologist, psychologist, sociologist. 


linguist, cultural anthropologist, etc., are all concerned with the 
spatial or fomial * (non-temporal) aspect of reality, in its struc- 
tural or functional aspects, or both. 

We come now to the third kind of relationship, or process: the 
temporal-spatial. This is like the two preceding processes, but 
different from each. As we have already noted, all three kinds of 
relationships are always intrinsic in any series of actual events, in 
any phase of reality. The temporal process (or "history") is a 
selective arrangement of events according to the principle time. 
Spatial relationships, though actually existent in these events, are 
disregarded: in the history of thought it is immaterial whether 
Newton cogitates under an apple tree or in his bath. Similarly, 
when dealing with spatial relationships, i.e., with structure and 
function, the time relationships which are inseparable from these 
events in objective reality are here divorced by logical analysis: 
the stmcture of the crystal, the rusting of iron, respiration, 
cowardice, secret societies, may be studied without reference to 
clocks or calendars. 

But in the temporal-spatial process both temporal and spatial 
relationships are simultaneously significant. And it is not a case of 
time and space— "up from the South at break of day . . . and 
Sheridan twenty miles away." The conventional historian wishes 
to know not only that Napoleon fought battles, but where he 
fought them. The zoologist and the ethnologist are interested in 
the distribution of species and culture traits as well as their history. 
These are examples of a simultaneous interest in both temporal 
and spatial relationships. But they are not examples of temporal- 
spatial relationships. Hydrogen + oxygen = hydrogen -|- oxygen; 
t + s = t + s. But hydrogen x oxygen =: water (H2O); t x s = ts. 
The temporal-spatial process is not, then, equivalent to a space 

* Structure and function are not confined to the realm of metric space. 
Structure or form is a characteristic of such non-spatial systems as language, 
music, kinship systems, social organization, poetry, and so on. 


and time organization of phenomena; it is not the sum of these 
factors but their product. 

It is of interest to note in passing that in many instances in 
which both temporal and spatial relations are involved, one 
is significant only in terms of the other. Thus the thickness of 
a geologic stratum measured in feet indicates its age measured in 
years. Similarly, the distribution of a plant or animal species may 
indicate its age: the wider the distribution the greater the age. 
And, using the same principle, the anthropologist has been able, 
in many instances, to reconstruct the history of a tool, myth, 
custom, or institution by inference from its geographic distribu- 
tion.® And, of course, our clocks measure time by a repetitive 
movement of a mechanism through space. 

But the temporal-formal process is more than a concern with 
temporal and formal relationships taken either alone or each in 
terms of the other. It is one in which both time and space, or 
form, are significant, a process in which both are integrated into 
a single, undifferentiated event. 

The temporal-formal process is an evolutionary, or develop- 
mental process. It is distinguished from the temporal process on 
the one hand and the formal process on the other. Like the others, 
this process is inherent in all experience and is manifest in all 
realms of reality, inanimate, biological, and cultural. Thus we have 
stellar and cosmic evolution, biological evolution and cultural 
evolution. This process differs from the temporal and formal proc- 
esses in that in the evolutionary process, time and space are both 
integrally involved, they are fused, inseparable. Evolution is 
temporal-alteration-of-forms. A comparison of these three processes 
will make each one more distinct. 

The temporal process is non-repetitive. In the sequence or 
process that is temporal (and temporal only), each event is 
unique; it occurs only once. Tlie Rocky Mountains are formed 
only once, there is only one Wiirm glaciation, each raindrop is 
unique, each movement of every living creature is distinguished 


from every other movement,* John Brown is executed only once, 
each meeting of the women's sewing circle is a unique event. The 
spatial, or functional, process, being non-temporal, is repetitive; 
mountain systems may be formed repeatedly, ice-age may follow 
ice-age, raindrops fall again and again, water freezes, ice thaws and 
water freezes again, metal may be melted and remelted, monkeys 
sneeze, men die, insurrectionists are executed, prices rise and fall 
and rise again, societies and clubs are organized in every age. The 
evolutionary process, being in part temporal in character, is also 
non-repetitive;** a reptile becomes a mammal only once; radium 
decomposes only once; stars "die" only once.*** Growth is also a 

* It may be. Actually they usually are not, for the reason that such distinc- 
tions except in rare instances — such as the real or imagined kick of Mrs. 
O'Lean's cow that started the great Chicago fire, or the honking of the geese 
who "saved Rome" — have no significance for us as ordinary human beings. 
But for a philosophy of science the sneeze of an anonymous monkey in the 
depths of a jungle is as significant as illustrating the uniqueness of each event 
in a temporal series as is the birth of Christ or the death of Caesar. 

** Actually, this may depend upon one's point of view, or more accurately, 
upon the temporal scope of one's vision. To us, the cosmic process seems to 
be evolutionary in character: the universe is expanding (it may be assumed), 
or matter is being transmuted into energy. The process seems to be temporal- 
formal in character: non-repetitive and irreversible. But this appearance may 
be an illusion due to the temporal limits of our observation. Were the period 
longer, sufficiently longer, the cosmic process might reveal itself as a repetitive 
one: an era of contraction might follow expansion, and so on, in an endless 
series of pulsations; matter may be transmuted into energy and re-congealed 
into matter, an endless vibration of a cosmic pendulum. So, to a creature that, 
compared with us, had an infinitcsimally brief span of observation, the repeti- 
ti\'e and rhythmic character of respiration or the heart beat or the rusting of 
iron would appear to be evolutionary in character, for seeing only a minute 
part of the process, neither the beginning nor the end, he would observe only 
a temporal alteration of form, and might declare it to be a non-repetitive 
process. And he would be correct too, for the process which he observes is 
non-repetitivc just as the dying star and the decomposing radium represent 
non-repetiti\e processes to us. Thus, whether a process be labelled repetitive 
or e\olutionary depends upon the unit of measurement. Any repetitive process 
is made up of a sequence of events which in themselves are non-repetitive. 
Conversely, any repetitive process is but a segment of a larger one which is 
cvolutionarv in character. 

*** One must not confuse duplication with lepetition: there may be transi- 
tions from reptile to mammal in many different phyla. These are duplications, 
not repetitions. 


temporal-spatial process; the term, however, is usually applied to 
individuals rather than to classes. Growth is a non-repetitive 
process: one is a child only once— second childhood is always a 

Even at the cost of repetition, it might be well, for the sake 
of clarity, to re-emphasize the nature of the distinctions just made. 
Actually, each event has a four-dimensional character and has its 
place in a four-dimensional, space-time continuum. Thus the rain- 
drop is an event in the process of cosmic evolution, and we may 
view it as such. But we may also view it in other contexts: in a 
purely temporal context, or in a wholly non-temporal context (in 
which we consider only the alteration in spatial relationships be- 
tween the raindrop, the earth, the clouds, etc.). These contexts 
are, of course, devices of our own making. They are arbitrarily 
selected points of view from which we regard and consider reality; 
they are the forms, the channels, so to speak, within which we 

The formal process is reversible as well as repetitive. Water 
freezes, ice thaws; iron rusts, iron oxide decomposes; hay becomes 
beef; beef may become hay again; revolt and reaction are cyclical 
and opposite processes in society; prices rise and fall, etc. But the 
temporal order of events remains immutable; it cannot be reversed. 
Only in Through the Looking Glass do Queens scream before 
they prick their fingers, or Alices pass the cake before they cut 
it. The evolutionary process, being temporal as well as formal, is 
likewise irreversible. The stars do not reabsorb energy once ema- 
nated, mammals do not return to reptilianism, the days when 
knighthood was in flower can never return, "make me a child 
again just for tonight" is an impossible request. 

The historic process and the evolutionary process are alike in 
being temporal in character, i.e., non-repetitive and irreversible. 
But, whereas the historic process is merely temporal, the evolu- 
tionary process is formal as well: it is a temporal-sequence-of-forms. 
Historically Eli Whitney and the invention of the cotton gin are 


inseparable events in a chronological sequence. But had Whitney 
died in his cradle the evolutionary process expressed in technology 
would have produced a machine for ginning cotton. Similarly, 
although Lincoln is bound historically to the emancipation of 
slaves and Darwin to the formulation of certain biological prin- 
ciples, the processes of politico-economic evolution would have 
achic\ed the one without Lincoln just as evolution of thought 
\\ould have produced the other without Darwin. The invention 
of the calculus, which took place almost simultaneously, and inde- 
pendently, in the activities of Newton and Leibnitz, was the logi- 
cal expression of a developmental process, i.e., it was the emer- 
gence of a new mathematical form from previous forms. Just as 
the invention of the calculus was not dependent upon either New- 
ton or Leibnitz alone, so it was not necessarily dependent upon 
them both; it would have occurred eventually if both Newton 
and Leibnitz had died in infancy. The development of mathe- 
matics, like the development of technology or medicine, is an 
evolutionary process:* new forms grow out of preceding forms. 
But in whose person and labors a new form is to appear, and when 
and where it is to appear is a matter that belongs to the context 
history alone. From the point of view of the evolutionary process 
every histoncal event is an accident and in a sense unpredictable. 
We may predict that a cure for cancer will be found, but to pre- 
dict who will make the discovery and when is impossible. That 
the nations of Europe will be embroiled again in a great war in 
the not distant future is as safe a prediction as one could make; 
the development of technological, economic, political, and military 
forces makes another war inevitable. But who will strike the spark 
that will set oif the conflagration, and when and where— what 
archduke or official will be shot, when, where, and by whom— it 
is utterly impossible to say. The passing of a star, drawing out from 
the sun a gigantic filament from which the planets of our solar 

* Einstein and Infcld have called their recent book The Evolution of 
Physics, not the History of Physics, it is significant to note. 


system were formed, if a fact, is an historic fact; the process is an 
historic process in which specific and severally unique events take 
place in a purely temporal context. But this is quite a different 
process from that of cosmic or galactic evolution as exemplified, 
for instance, by the equi-partition of energy, or the transmutation 
of matter into energy, the dying of a star. Similarly, in the biologic 
realm, the narrative of the specific wanderings over the face of 
the earth, the struggles, intermixture, vicissitudes, etc., of the 
various species and races of man is quite a different story from the 
account of the evolutionary development. 

So far, we have spoken of the inorganic, organic, and superor- 
ganic realms, or levels, of reality as if these distinctions could be 
taken for granted. For the sake of completeness and clarity, how- 
ever, a few words on this subject are desirable. 

The distinctions between these levels, or strata, of reality are 
valid, and are fundamental for science. The phenomena of these 
three levels do not differ from each other in that one is composed 
of one kind of basic substance, another of a different kind. They 
differ in the manner in which their component parts are organ- 
ized into patterns or forms, respectively. Basically all reality may 
be assumed to be made up of a common stuff; differences in 
various manifestations of realit\' are due to differences in the forms 
in which reality confronts us. There are classes, or kinds, of forms 
amid the infinite range of specific variation. Physical, biological, 
and cultural are labels for three qualitatively different and scientifi- 
cally significant classes of forms of reality. 

The physical category is composed of non-living phenomena or 
systems; the biological, of living organisms. The cultural category, 
or order, of phenomena is made up of events that are dependent 
upon a faculty peculiar to the human species, namely, the ability 
to use symbols. These events are the ideas, beliefs, languages, 
tools, utensils, customs, sentiments, and institutions that make up 
the civilization— or culture, to use the anthropological term— of 
any people, regardless of time, place, or degree of development. 


Culture is passed down from one generation to another, or, it may 
be borrowed freely by one tribe from another. Its elements inter- 
act with one another in accordance with principles of their own. 
Culture thus constitutes a supra-biological, or extra-somatic, class 
of events, a process suf generis. We shall analyze this order of 
phenomena at some length in the following chapter on The Sym- 

Even a casual inspection of our three categories reveals the fact 
that biological and cultural phenomena are but particular kinds 
of organization of events in the inanimate, and the biological and 
physical categories, respectively. Thus, a plant or an animal is but 
a peculiar form of organization of carbon, oxygen, calcium, etc. 
Likewise a cultural phenomenon is but a manifestation of biologi- 
cal (human beings) and inanimate phenomena organized in a 
special manner. Thus events on tlie biologic level (for levels, or 
strata, are what these categories are in reality) can be dealt with 
in terms of inanimate phenomena: a plant or animal is so much 
carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen; it has weight, will fall as a rock, may 
be frozen, transformed by fire, and so on. Similarly, a cultural 
event— a man taking a Christian oath of office— may be dealt with 
in terms of his gestures, vocal and manual, and these, in turn, to- 
gether with the book upon which the oath is taken, can be treated 
in terms of acoustics, mechanics, physical and chemical properties 
of the Bible, and so on. 

But the fact that the phenomena of one category (except of 
course the first, the inanimate) can be "reduced" to the one, or 
ones, below it does not destroy the categories themselves, nor even 
minimize their distinctness. Meteors, bullets, pterodactyls, birds, 
squirrels, fish, bats, bees, and airplanes "fly" through the air. A 
physicist could deal with each as a material body, in terms of mass, 
momentum, acceleration, atmospheric resistance, and so on. Con- 
sidered merely as material bodies the fact that some are animate, 
others inanimate, is of course irrelevant. But merely because this 
distinction is not significant to the physicist does not mean that 


it is not meaningful in other sectors of science. On the contrary, 
organizations of events cannot be fully understood unless they are 
interpreted upon the level of their organization. It is a fact, of 
course, that bees, bullets, and bats are composed of atoms and 
molecules, and this fact is not without significance. But we cannot 
appreciate the difference between bees and bullets on the one 
hand or between bees and bats on the other on the basis of physi- 
cal organization alone. Living organisms constitute a distinct order 
of material systems and they must be interpreted as such. Cultural 
systems are composed of psycho-physical events, but we cannot 
comprehend such a thing as taking an oath of ofEce and distin- 
guish it from use of a formula to make beer merely by knowing 
that each is made up of neuro-sensory-muscular reactions and that 
these in turn are composed of molecular and atomic particles and 
processes. However illuminating it may be to reduce systems of 
one level to the events of the level below it— and this is unques- 
tionably valuable— each order of events, each kind of system, must 
be comprehended on its own level also. / 

Thus we see that we have three qualitatively distinct levels or 
strata of phenomena: the cultural, which is characterized by the 
symbol; the biological, characterized by the cell; and the physical, 
characterized by the atom, proton, electron, wave, or whatever 
other unit, or units, the physicist decides upon. 

There are, however, instances in which our ends are not served 
by maintaining the distinctions between these three levels. We 
may wish to inquire into the relationship between one level and 
another. Inquiries of this sort are, needless to say, as legitimate and 
potentially profitable as any other. Thus bio-chemistry inquires 
into the relationship between the inanimate and the living. Similar 
inquiries are directed to the relationship between the biological 
and cultural levels. Take the Oedipus complex of psychoanalysis, 
for example. A boy's love for his mother, hatred or hostility toward 
his father, is of course a reaction of his organism. But these atti- 
tudes are functions of the culture in which he was born, also. His 


culture not only channels the expression of these emotions but 
plays a part in their evocation as well. The attitude of a boy toward 
his parents will not be the same in a patriarchal society as in one 
matrilincally organized, or in one that recognizes both lines of 
descent equally. Thus the Oedipus or Elcctra complex, as well as 
all other examples of human behavior— i.e., human behavior as 
distinguished from non-human, or sub-human, behavior; there is 
nothing peculiarly human about a sneeze, e.g.— are made up of 
elements drawn from two different categories: the biological and 
the cultural. The formula for human behavior is: Human organism 
X Cultural stimuli -^ Human behavior. 

Studies of soil erosion may inquire into the relationship between 
such things as farming or grazing methods, the lumber industry, 
prices of building materials, and reforestation; the quantity and 
frequency of rainfall, natural and artificial drainage structures; 
winds, and legislation. The search for a material that will destroy 
plant or animal pests may involve relationships between all three 
levels: the price of commodities, the biological organisms and the 
chemicals capable of killing them. 

Here again, whether we deal with reality in terms of distinct 
categories, or levels, of phenomena, or in terms of relationships 
between them, depends upon our purposes and ends. Both ap- 
proaches are equally legitimate and potentially profitable. 

In summary, we see that we have two classifications of reality 
which cut across each other at right angles: the one has to do with 
structure (the atom, the cell, the symbol), the other has to do 
with process (temporal, formal, and temporal-formal). This gives 
us nine categories in which all reality and all manners of sciencing 
may be logically and consistently divided as indicated in the 
diagram on the opposite page. 

On the inanimate level we have cosmic and galactic histories 
(such as they are or may be), the history of our solar system, the 
history of the earth or of a continent, a mountain chain, a river, 
or even a snowflake, encompassed within the purely temporal con- 



text. In the formal-functional context we have the non-temporal 
and repetitive, structural and functional aspects of astronomy, 
geology, chemistry, and physics. And in the primary category, the 
temporal-formal one, of which the other two are but aspects, we 
have cosmic, galactic, stellar,'^ and solar evolution, and the de- 
composition of radio-active substances. 


Spatial- Temporal 



"History," Culture 
History, or His- 
tory of Civiliza- 

Cultural Evolution 

Non - temporal, re- 
petitive, cultural- 
ly determined 
processes in hu- 
man society 


Racial history of 

History of animal 

and plant species, 


Biological evolution 
Growth of individ- 

Non - temporal, re- 
petitive processes 
in organic behav- 
ior: intra-organis- 
mal (physiology), 
extra - organismal 


History of solar 
system, of the 
earth, a conti- 
nent, mountain 
system, river, 
drop of water, a 
grain of sand 

Cosmic, solar, stel- 
lar, galactic evolu- 

Disintegration of 
radio-active sub- 

Non - temporal, re- 
petitive processes 
in physics, chem- 
istry, astronomy 

On the biologic level, in the purely temporal context, we have 
the histories of plants and animals, of genera, species, and indi- 
viduals, both human and non-human. Our greatest concern in this 
category is, perhaps, with human beings: we are intensely inter- 
ested in the problems of the origin, diffusion, extinction, inter- 
mixture of various species and races of mankind. But a like interest 
in plants and sub-human animals is not insignificant. In the 
formal-functional category we have studies of morphology and 
function; the non-temporal, repetitive aspects of anatomy, physi- 
ology, and psychology belong here. And, in the temporal-formal 


category, we have evolution of biologic forms in general, of genera, 
species, varieties in particular. The growth of an individual also 
comes within this category. 

Biography, the history of a human individual, should, in most 
instances, be regarded as dealing with both the biologic and the 
cultural levels since our interest in a human individual is seldom, 
if ever, divorced from the culture in which he has his human be- 
ing. Similarly with significant individuals in the sub-human animal 
or plant world: the cow that started the Chicago fire, the goose 
that saved Rome, the wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, Man 
o' War, the hemlock that killed Socrates, each is significant only 
because it enters the context of human cultural history. 

On the cultural level we have culture history; a consideration of 
nations, reigns, tribes, institutions, tools, ideas, beliefs, etc., in 
the temporal context. In the formal-functional context, we have 
the studies of "social morphology" in sociology, cultural anthro- 
pology', and the other "social sciences." The so-called Functionalist 
schools of cultural anthropology— Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski 
and their respective students and co-workers— and the "Chicago 
school" of sociolog}', as exemplified by Robert E. Park and E. W. 
Burgess and their students, belong here. In the basic category, 
that of evolution of culture, we have at present virtually nothing. 
After a vigorous and bitter struggle the philosophy of evolution 
conquered on the biological field, but, after a few brief advances 
it has been routed from the cultural level. A few giants like Her- 
bert Spencer, E. B. Tylor, and Lewis H. Morgan, in the "boom" 
days of evolutionism in the second half of the nineteenth century 
were able to occupy the cultural field for a time. But the anti- 
evolutionists regained the field and have held it successfully since 
the turn of the century. To be sure both Morgan and Spencer 
committed errors in the use of their philosophy, but a mistake 
made in the use of a tool does not render the tool worthless. But 
cultural anthropologists— and many sociologists— have repudiated 
the philosophy of evolutionism along with the errors of some evo- 


lutionists: they have poured the baby out with the bath. But the 
victory of the anti-evolutionists on the cultural level is only tempo- 
rary. As social science matures, the basic concept of science and 
philosophy, that reality is temporal-formal in character, will win 
its way on the cultural level as it has upon the biologic and inani- 
mate levels. 

It will be noted, of course, that the conventional names for "the 
sciences" do not readily fit our system of categories. But this is 
quite understandable: the terms physics, zoology, sociology, etc., 
have come into use as science has grown, and this growth has 
been more or less accidental. The concepts time and space existed 
long before it was discovered that time and space are but aspects 
of a third thing for which there is no more adequate a name than 
space-time. But the fact that the names of "the sciences" do not 
correspond to our nine categories in no way invalidates the cate- 
gories. The maturity of science in any field can be rather accu- 
rately gauged by its vocabulary: as "a science" matures it develops 
its own terminology. This has taken place extensively in the physi- 
cal and the biological sciences. And such words as instinct, 
intelligence, race, society, are now being found so difficult to use 
that it is likely they will give way soon to a more effective ter- 

For the scientific worker such terms as psychology, botany, 
chemistiy, etc., will no doubt continue to be useful and satis- 
factory except in so far as further division of labor and specializa- 
tion should make new terms necessary. But for the thinker, for 
the philosopher of science, new technical terms are needed. I shall 
not presume to supply names for our nine categories. But, since 
they represent a realistic and logical analysis of the field, it seems 
likely that as these categories obtrude themselves more and more 
into systematic thinking, they will eventually receive names. 



The Oriain and Basis of Human Behavior 

"In the Word was the Beginning . . . the beginning of Man and of 

1 n July, 1939, a celebration was held at Leland Stanford 

University to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of 

the discovery that the cell is the basic unit of all living tissue. 

Today we are beginning to realize and to appreciate the fact that 

the symbol is the basic unit of all human behavior and civilization. 

All human behavior originates in the use of symbols. It was the 

symbol which transformed our anthropoid ancestors into men 

and made them human. All civilizations have been generated, and 

are perpetuated, only by the use of symbols. It is the symbol which 

transforms an infant of Homo sapiens into a human being; deaf 

mutes who grow up without the use of symbols are not human 

beings. All human behavior consists of, or is dependent upon, the 

use of symbols. Human behavior is symbolic behavior; symbolic 

behavior is human behavior. The symbol is the universe of 



The great Danvin declared in The Descent of Man that 
"there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher 



mammals in their mental faculties," that the difference between 
them consists "solely in his [man's] almost infinitely larger power 
of associating together the most diversified sounds and ideas . . . 
the m_ental powers of higher animals do not differ in kind, though 
greatly in degree, from the corresponding powers of man" (Chs. 
3, 18; emphasis ours). 

This view of comparative mentality is held by many scholars 
today. Thus, F. H. Hankins, a prominent sociologist, states that 
"in spite of his large brain, it cannot be said that man has any 
mental traits that are peculiar to him ... All of these human su- 
periorities are merely relative or differences of degree." Professor 
Ralph Linton, an anthropologist, writes in The Study of Man: 
*'The differences between men and animals in all these [behavior] 
respects are enormous, but they seem to be differences in quantity 
rather than in quality." "Human and animal behavior can be 
shown to have so much in common," Linton observes, "that the 
gap [between them] ceases to be of great importance." Dr. Alex- 
ander Goldenweiser, likewise an anthropologist, believes that "In 
point of sheer psychology, mind as such, man is after all no more 
than a talented animal" and that "the difference between the 
mentality here displayed [by a horse and a chimpanzee] and that 
of man is merely one of degree." ^ 

That there are numerous and impressive similarities between the 
behavior of man and that of ape is fairly obvious; it is quite pos- 
sible that chimpanzees and gorillas in zoos have noted and appre- 
ciated them. Fairly apparent, too, are man's behavioral similarities 
to many other kinds of animals. Almost as obvious, but not easy to 
define, is a difference in behavior which distinguishes man from 
all other living creatures. I say 'obvious' because it is quite ap- 
parent to the common man that the non-human animals wdth 
which he is familiar do not and cannot enter, and participate in, 
the world in which he, as a human being, lives. It is impossible 
for a dog, horse, bird, or even an ape, to have any understanding 
of the meaning of the sign of the cross to a Christian, or of the 


fact that black (white among the Chinese) is the color of mourn- 
ing. No chimpanzee or laboratory rat can appreciate the difference 
between Holy water and distilled water, or grasp the meaning of 
Tuesday, 3, or sin. No animal save man can distinguish a cousin 
from an uncle, or a cross cousin from a parallel cousin. Only man 
can commit the crime of incest or adultery; only he can remember 
the Sabbath and keep it Holy. It is not, as we well know, that the 
lower animals can do these things but to a lesser degree than our- 
selves; they cannot perform these acts of appreciation and dis- 
tinction at all. It is, as Descartes said long ago, "not only that the 
brutes have less Reason than man, but that they have none at 
all." 2 

But when the scholar attempts to define the mental difference 
between man and other animals he sometimes encounters diffi- 
culties which he cannot surmount and, therefore, ends up by 
saying that the difference is merely one of degree: man has a bigger 
mind, "larger power of association," wider range of activities, etc. 
We have a good example of this in the distinguished physiologist, 
Anton J. Carlson. After taking note of "man's present achieve- 
ments in science, in the arts (including oratory), in political and 
social institutions," and noting "at the same time the apparent 
paucity of such behavior in other animals," he, as a common man 
"is tempted to conclude that in these capacities, at least, man has 
a qualitative superiority over other mammals." But, since, as a 
scientist. Professor Carlson cannot define this qualitative differ- 
ence between man and other animals, since as a physiologist he 
cannot explain it, he refuses to admit it— ". . . the physiologist 
does not accept the great development of articulate speech in man 
as something qualitatively new; . . ." —and suggests helplessly that 
some day we may find some new "building stone," an "additional 
lipoid, phosphatid, or potassium ion," in the human brain which 
will explain it, and concludes by saying that the difference be- 
tween the mind of man and that of non-man is "probably only 
one of degree." ^ 


THE symbol" 25 

The thesis that we shall advance and defend here is that there 
is a fundamental difference between the mind of man and the 
mind of non-man. This difference is one of kind, not one of de- 
gree. And the gap between the two types is of the greatest im- 1] 
portance— at least to the science of comparative behavior. Man 
uses symbols; no other creature does. An organism has the ability 
to symbol or it does not; there are no intermediate stages. 


A symbol may be defined as a thing the value or meaning of 
which is bestowed upon it by those who use it. I say 'thing' be- 
cause a symbol may have any kind of physical form; it may have 
the form of a material object, a color, a sound, an odor, a motion 
of an object, a taste. 

The meaning, or value, of a symbol is in no instance derived 
from or determined by properties intrinsic in its physical form: the 
color appropriate to mourning may be yellow, green, or any other 
color; purple need not be the color of royalty; among the Manchu 
rulers of China it was yellow. The meaning of the word "see" is 
not intrinsic in its phonetic (or pictorial) properties. "Biting one's 
thumb at" * someone might mean anything. The meanings of sym- 
bols are derived from and determined by the organisms who use 
them; meaning is bestowed by human organisms upon physical 
things or events which thereupon become symbols. Symbols "have 
their signification," to use John Locke's phrase, "from the arbi- 
trary imposition of men." * 

All symbols must have a physical form otherwise they could not 
enter our experience. This statement is valid regardless of our 
theory of experiencing. Even the exponents of "Extra-Sensory 
Perception" who have challenged Locke's dictum that "the knowl- 
edge of the existence of any other thing [besides ourselves and 
God] we can have only by sensation," ^ have been obliged to work 

* "Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?" — Romeo and Jnliet, Act I, Sc. i. 


with physical rather than ethereal forms. But the meaning of a 
symbol cannot be discovered by mere sensory examination of its 
physical form. One cannot tell by looking at an x in an algebraic 
equation what it stands for; one cannot ascertain with the ears 
alone the symbolic value of the phonetic compound si; one cannot 
tell merely by weighing a pig how much gold he will exchange 
for; one cannot tell from the wave length of a color whether it 
stands for courage or cowardice, "stop" or "go"; nor can one dis- 
cover the spirit in a fetish by any amount of physical or chemical 
examination. The meaning of a symbol can be grasped only by 
non-sensory, symbolic means. 

The nature of symbolic experience may be easily illustrated. 
When the Spaniards first encountered the Aztecs, neither oould 
speak the language of the other. How could the Indians discover 
the meaning of santo, or the significance of the crucifix? How 
could the Spaniards learn the meaning of calli, or appreciate 
Tlaloc? These meanings and values could not be communicated 
by sensory experience of physical properties alone. The finest ears 
will not tell you whether santo means "holy" or "hungry." The 
keenest senses cannot capture the value of holy water. Yet, as we 
all know, the Spaniards and the Aztecs did discover each other's 
meanings and appreciate each other's values. But not with sensory 
means. Each was able to enter the world of the other only by 
virtue of a faculty for which we have no better name than symhoh 

But a thing which in one context is a symbol is, in another con- 
text, not a symbol but a sign. Thus, a word is a symbol only when 
one is concerned with the distinction between its meaning and its 
physical form. This distinction must be made when one bestows 
value upon a sound-combination or when a previously bestowed 
value is discovered for the first time; it may be made at other 
times for certain purposes. But after value has been bestowed 
upon, or discovered in, a word, its meaning becomes identified, in 
use, with its physical form. The word then functions as a sign, 

5'y'^^ou v^ S^linU 


rather than as a symbol. Its meaning is then grasped with the 

We define a sign as a physical thing or event whose function is 
to indicate some other thing or event. The meaning of a sign may 
be inherent in its physical form and its context, as in the case of 
the height of a column of mercury in a thermometer as an indica- 
tion of temperature, or the return of robins in the spring. Or, the 
meaning of a sign may be merely identified with its physical form 
as in the case of a hurricane signal or a quarantine flag. But in 
either case, the meaning of the sign may be ascertained by sensory 
means. The fact that a thing may be both a symbol (in one con- 
text) and a sign (in another context) has led to confusion and 

Thus Darwin says: "That which distinguishes man from the 
lower animals is not the understanding of articulate sounds, for 
as everyone knows, dogs understand many words and sentences," 
(Ch. Ill, The Descent of Man). 

It is perfectly true, of course, that dogs, apes, horses, birds, and 
perhaps creatures even lower in the evolutionary scale, can be 
taught to respond in a specific way to a vocal command. Little 
Gua, the infant chimpanzee in the Kelloggs' experiment, was, for 
a time, "considerably superior to the child in responding to human 
words." ^ But it does not follow that no difference exists between 
the meaning of "words and sentences" to a man and to an ape or 
dog. Words are both signs and symbols to man; they are merely 
signs to a dog. Let us analyze the situation of vocal stimulus and 

A dog may be taught to roll over at the command "Roll over!'* 
A man may be taught to stop at the command "Halt!" The fact 
that a dog can be taught to roll over in Chinese, or that he can be 
taught to "go fetch" at the command "roll over" (and, of course, 
the same is true for a man) shows that there is no necessary and 
invariable relationship between a particular sound combination 
and a specific reaction to it. The dog or the man can be taught 


to respond in a certain manner to any arbitrarily selected combi- 
nation of sounds, for example, a group of nonsense syllables, 
coined for the occasion. On the other hand, any one of a great 
number and variety of responses may become evocable by a given 
stimulus. I'hus, so far as the origin of the relationship between 
vocal stimulus and response is concerned, the nature of the rela- 
tionship, i.e., the meaning of the stimulus, is not determined by 
properties intrinsic in the stimulus. 

But, once the relationship has been established between vocal 
stimulus and response, the meaning of the stimulus becomes 
identified with the sounds; it is then as if the meaning were intrin- 
sic in the sounds themselves. Thus, 'halt' does not have the same 
meaning as 'hilt' or 'malt,' and these stimuli are distinguished from 
one another with the auditory mechanism. A dog may be con- 
ditioned to respond in a certain way to a sound of a given wave 
length. Sufficiently alter the pitch of the sound and the response 
will cease to be forthcoming. The meaning of the stimulus has 
become identified with its physical form; its value is appreciated 
with the senses. 

Thus in sign behavior we see that in establishing a relationship 
between a stimulus and a response the properties intrinsic in the 
stimulus do not determine the nature of the response. But, after 
the relationship has been established the meaning of the stimulus 
is as if it were inherent in its physical form. It does not make any 
difference what phonetic combination we select to evoke the re- 
sponse of terminating self-locomotion. We may teach a dog, horse, 
or man to stop at any vocal command we care to choose or devise. 
But once the relationship has been established between sound and 
response, the meaning of the stimulus becomes identified with its 
physical form and is, therefore, perceivable with the senses. 

So far we have discovered no difference between the dog and 
the man; they appear to be exactly alike. And so they are as far 
as we have gone. But we have not told the whole story yet. No 
difference between dog and man is discoverable so far as learning 


to respond appropriately to a vocal stimulus is concerned. But we 
must not let an impressive similarity conceal an important differ- 
ence. A porpoise is not yet a fish. 

The man differs from the dog— and all other creatures— in that 
he can and does phy an active role in determining what value the 
vocal stimulus is to have, and the dog cannot. The dog does not 
and cannot play an active part in determining the value of the 
vocal stimulus. Whether he is to roll over or go fetch at a given 
stimulus, or whether the stimulus for roll over be one combination 
of sounds or another is a matter in which the dog has nothing 
whatever to "say." He plays a purely passive role and can do 
nothing else. He learns the meaning of a vocal command just as 
his salivary glands may learn to respond to the sound of a bell. But 
man plays an active role and thus becomes a creator: let x equal 
three pounds of coal and it does equal three pounds of coal; let 
removal of the hat in a house of worship indicate respect and it 
becomes so. This creative faculty, that of freely, actively, and arbi- 
trarily bestowing value upon things, is one of the most common- 
place as well as the most important characteristic of man. Children 
employ it freely in their play: "Let's pretend that this rock is a 

The difference between the behavior of man and other animals 
then, is that the lower animals may receive new values, may ac- 
quire new meanings, but they cannot create and bestow them. 
Only man can do this. To use a crude analogy, lower animals are 
like a person who has only the receiving apparatus for wireless 
messages: he can receive messages but cannot send them. Man can 
do both. And this difference is one of kind, not of degree: a crea- 
ture can either "arbitrarily impose signification," can either create 
and bestow values, or he cannot. There are no intermediate 
stages. This difference may appear slight, but, as a carpenter once 
told William James in discussing differences between men, "It's 
very important." All human existence depends upon it and it 


The confusion regarding the nature of words and their signifi- 
cance to men and the lower animals is not hard to understand. 
It arises, first of all, from a failure to distinguish between the two 
quite different contexts in which words function. The statements, 
"The meaning of a word cannot be grasped with the senses," and 
"The meaning of a word can be grasped with the senses," though 
contradictory, are nevertheless equally true. In the symbol context 
the meaning cannot be perceived with the senses; in the sign con- 
text it can. This is confusing enough. But the situation has been 
made worse by using the words 'symbol' and 'sign' to label, not 
the different contexts, but one and the same thing; the word. Thus 
a word is a symbol and a sign, two different things. It is like saying 
that a vase is a doU and a kana— tw^o different things— because it 
may function in two contexts, esthetic and commercial. 


That man is unique among animal species with respect to 
mental abilities, that a fundamental difference of kind— not of 
degree— separates man from all other animals is a fact that has 
long been appreciated, despite Darwin's pronouncement to the 
contrary. Long ago, in his Discouise on Method, Descartes pointed 
out that "there are no men so dull and stupid ... as to be incapa- 
ble of joining together different words ... on the other hand, there 
is no other animal, however perfect . . . which can do the like," 
John Locke, too, saw clearly that "the power of abstracting is not 
at all in them [i.e., beasts], and that the having of general ideas 
is that which puts a perfect distinction between man and brutes, 
and is an excellency which the faculties of brutes do by no means 
attain to . . . they have no use of words or any other general 
signs." ^ The great British anthropologist, E. B. Tylor, remarked 
upon "the mental gulf that divides the lowest savage from the 
highest ape ... A young child can understand what is not proved 
to have entered the mind of the cleverest dog, elephant, or ape." ^ 

y I Jr^ it/> ^^r\i 


And, of course, there are many today who recognize the "mental 
gulf" between man and other species. 

Thus, for over a century we have had, side by side, two traditions 
in comparative psychology. One has declared that man does not 
differ from other animals in mental abilities except in degree. The 
other has seen clearly that man is unique in at least one respect, 
that he possesses an ability that no other animal has. The difficulty 
of defining this difference adequately has kept this question open 
until the present day. The distinction between sign behavior and 
symbol behavior as drawn here may, we hope, contribute to a 
solution of this problem once and for all. 


Very little indeed is known of the organic basis of the sym- 
bolic faculty: we know next to nothing of the neurology of 
"symbolling." And very few scientists— anatomists, neurologists or 
physical anthropologists— appear to be interested in the subject. 
Some, in fact, seem to be unaware of the existence of such a prob- 
lem. The duty and task of giving an account of the neural basis of 
symbolling does not, however, fall within the province of the 
sociologist or the cultural anthropologist. On the contrary, he 
should scrupulously exclude it as irrelevant to his problems and 
interests; to introduce it would bring only confusion. It is enough 
for the sociologist or cultural anthropologist to take the ability to 
use symbols, possessed by man alone, as given. The use to which 
he puts this fact is in no way affected by his, or even the anato- 
mist's, inability to describe the symbolic process in neurological 
terms. However, it is well for the social scientist to be acquainted 
with the little that neurologists and anatomists do know about the 
structural basis of symbolling. We, therefore, review briefly the 
chief relevant facts here. 

The anatomist has not been able to discover why men can use 
symbols and apes cannot. So far as is known the only difference 
between the brain of man and the brain of an ape is a quantitative 


one: ". . . man has no new kinds of brain cells or brain cell con- 
nections," as A. J. Carlson has remarked. Nor does man, as dis- 
tinguished from other animals, possess a specialized "symbol- 
mechanism." The so-called speech areas of the brain should not 
be identified with symbolling. The notion that symbolling is 
identified with, or dependent upon, the ability to utter articulate 
sounds is not uncommon. Thus, L. L. Bernard lists as "the fourth 
great organic asset of man ... his vocal apparatus, . . . character- 
istic of him alone." But this is an erroneous conception. The great 
apes have the mechanism necessary for the production of articulate 
sounds. "It seemingly is well established," write R. M. and A. W. 
Yerkes in The Great Apes, "that the motor mechanism of voice 
in this ape [chimpanzee] is adequate not only to the production 
of a considerable variety of sounds, but also to definite articula- 
tions similar to those of man." And the physical anthropologist, 
E. A. Hooton, asserts that "all of the anthropoid apes are vocally 
and muscularly equipped so that they could have an articulate 
language if they possessed the requisite intelligence." Furthermore, 
as Descartes and Locke pointed out long ago, there are birds who 
do actually utter articulate sounds, who duplicate the sounds of 
human speech, but who of course are quite incapable of symbol- 
ling. The "speech areas" of the brain are merely areas associated 
with the muscles of the tongue, with the larynx, etc. But, as we 
know, symbolling is not at all confined to the use of these organs. 
One may symbol with any part of the body that he can move at 

To be sure, the symbolic faculty was brought into existence by 
the natural processes of organic evolution. And we may reasonably 
believe that the focal point, if not the locus, of this facultv is in 
the brain, especially the forebrain. Man's brain is much larger than 
that of an ape, both absolutely and relatively. Tlie brain of the 
average adult human male is about 1500 c.c. in size; brains of 
gorillas seldom exceed 500 c.c. Relatively, the human brain weighs 
about i/5oth of the entire body weight, while that of a gorilla 


varies from i/i5oth to i/20oth part of that weight.^'^ And the 
forebrain especially is large in man as compared with ape. Now 
in many situations we know that quantitative changes give rise to 
qualitative differences. Water is transformed into steam by addi- 
tional quantities of heat. Additional power and speed lift the 
taxiing airplane from the ground and transform terrestrial locomo- 
tion into flight. The difference between wood alcohol and grain 
alcohol is a qualitative expression of a quantitative difference in 
the proportions of carbon and hydrogen. Thus a marked growth 
in size of the brain in man may have brought forth a new kind 
of function. 


All culture (civilization) depends upon the symbol. It was 
the exercise of the symbolic faculty that brought culture into ex- 
istence and it is the use of symbols that makes the perpetuation 
of culture possible. Without the symbol there would be no cul- 
ture, and man would be merely an animal, not a human being. 

Articulate speech is the most important form of symbolic ex- 
pression. Remove speech from culture and what would remain? 
Let us see. 

Without articulate speech we would have no human social or- 
ganization. Families we might have, but this form of organization 
is not peculiar to man; it is not per se, human. But we would have 
no prohibitions of incest, no rules prescribing exogamy and en- 
dogamy, polygamy or monogamy. How could marriage with a 
cross cousin be prescribed, marriage with a parallel cousin pro- 
scribed, without articulate speech? How could rules which prohibit 
plural mates possessed simultaneously but permit them if pos- 
sessed one at a time, exist without speech? 

Without speech we would have no political, economic, ecclesi- 
astic, or military organization; no codes of etiquette or ethics; no 
laws; no science, theology, or literature; no games or music, except 
on an ape level. Rituals and ceremonial paraphernalia would be 


meaningless without articulate speech. Indeed, without articulate 
speech we would be all but toolless: we would have only the oc- 
casional and insignificant use of the tool such as we find today 
among the higher apes, for it was articulate speech that trans- 
formed the non-progressive tool-using of the ape into the 
progressive, cumulative tool-using of man, the human being. 

In short, without symbolic communication in some form, we 
would have no culture. "In the Word was the beginning" of cul- 
ture—and its perpetuation also. 

To be sure, with all his culture man is still an animal and strives 
for the same ends that all other living creatures strive for: the 
preservation of the individual and the perpetuation of the race. 
In concrete terms these ends are food, shelter from the elements, 
defense from enemies, health, and offspring. The fact that man 
strives for these ends just as all other animals do has, no doubt, 
led many to declare that there is "no fundamental difference be- 
tween the behavior of man and of other creatures." But man does 
differ, not in ends but in means. Man's means are cultural means: 
culture is simply the human animal's way of living. And, since 
these means, culture, are dependent upon a faculty possessed by 
man alone, the ability to use symbols, the difference between the 
behavior of man and of all other creatures is not merely great, but 
basic and fundamental. 


The behavior of man is of two distinct kinds: symbolic and 
non-symbolic. Man yawns, stretches, coughs, scratches himself, 
cries out in pain, shrinks with fear, "bristles" with anger, and so 
on. Non-symbolic behavior of this sort is not peculiar to man; he 
shares it not only with the other primates but with many other 
animal species as well. But man communicates with his fellows 
with articulate speech, uses amulets, confesses sins, makes laws, 
observes codes of etiquette, explains his dreams, classifies his rela- 
tives in designated categories, and so on. This kind of behavior 


is unique; only man is capable of it; it is peculiar to man because 
it consists of, or is dependent upon, the use of symbols. The non- 
symbolic behavior of Homo sapiens is the behavior of man the 
animal; the symbolic behavior is that of man the human being. 
It is the symbol which has transformed man from a mere animal 
to a human animal. 

Because human behavior is symbol behavior and since the be- 
havior of infra-human species is non-symbolic, it follovi^s that we 
can learn nothing about human behavior from observations upon 
or experiments with the lower animals. Experiments with rats and 
apes have indeed been illuminating. They have thrown much light 
upon mechanisms and processes of behavior among mammals or 
the higher vertebrates. But they have contributed nothing to an 
understanding of human behavior because the symbol mechanism 
and all of its consequences are totally lacking among the lower 
species. And as for neuroses in rats, it is of course interesting to 
know that rats can be made neurotic. But science probably had a 
better understanding of psychopathic behavior among human be- 
ings before neuroses were produced experimentally in rats than 
they now have of the neuroses of the rats. Our understanding of 
human neuroses has helped us to understand those of rats; we 
have, as a matter of fact, interpreted the latter in terms of human 
pathology. But I cannot see where the neurotic laboratory rats 
have served to deepen or enlarge our understanding of human be- 

As it was the symbol that made mankind human, so it is with 
each member of the species. A baby is not a human being until he 
begins to symbol. Until the infant begins to talk there is nothing 
to distinguish his behavior qualitatively from that of a very young 
ape, as The Ape and the Child showed. As a matter of fact, one 
of the impressive results of this fascinating experiment by Professor 
and Mrs. Kellogg was the demonstration of how ape-like an infant 
of Homo sapiens is before he begins to talk. The baby boy ac- 
quired exceptional proficiency in climbing in association with the 


littie chimpanzee, and even acquired her "food bark"! The Kel- 
loggs speak of how the httle ape became "humanized" during her 
sojourn in their home. But what the experiment demonstrated so 
conclusively was the ape's utter inability to learn to talk or even to 
make any progress in this direction— in short, her inability to be- 
come "humanized" at all. 

The infant of the species Homo sapiens becomes human only 
when and as he exercises his symbol faculty. Only through articu- 
late speech— not necessarily vocal— can he enter the world of hu- 
man beings and take part in their affairs. The questions asked 
earlier may be repeated now. How could a growing child know 
and appreciate such things as social organization, ethics, etiquette, 
ritual, science, religion, art and games without symbolic communi- 
cation? The answer is of course that he could know nothing of 
these things and have no appreciation of them at all. 

The question of "wolf children" is relevant here. A belief in 
instances in which human children have been reared by wolves or 
other animals has flourished ever since the myth of Romulus and 
Remus— and long before that time. Despite the fact that accounts 
of "wolf children" have been shown repeatedly to be erroneous or 
unsupported by adequate evidence ever since Blumenbach dis- 
covered that "Wild Peter" was merely a half-witted boy ejected 
from his home at the instance of a newly acquired stepmother, 
this deplorable folk-tale still flourishes in certain "scientific" circles 
today. But the use to which these lupine wards and "feral men" 
are put by some sociologists and psychologists is a good one, 
namely, to show that a member of the species Homo sapiens who 
lives is a world without symbols is not a human being but a brute. 
To paraphrase Voltaire, one might say that if wolf children did 
not exist "social science" would have to invent them. 

Children who have been cut off from human intercourse for 
years by blindness and deafness but who have eventually effected 
communication with their fellows on a symbolic level are ex- 
ceedingly illuminating. The ease of Helen Keller is exceptionally 


instructive, although those of Laura Bridgman, Marie Heurtin, 
and others ^^ are very valuable also. 

Helen Keller was rendered blind and deaf at a very early age 
by illness. She grew up as a child without symbolic contact with 
anyone. Descriptions of her at the age of seven, the time at which 
her teacher, Miss Sullivan, came to her home, disclose no human 
attributes of Helen's behavior at all. She was a headstrong, un- 
disciplined and unruly little animal.^^ 

Within a day or so after her arrival at the Keller home, Miss 
Sullivan taught Helen her first word, spelling it into her hand. But 
this word was merely a sign, not a symbol. A week later Helen 
knew several words but, as Miss Sullivan reports, she had "no idea 
how to use them or that everything has a name." Within three 
weeks Helen knew eighteen nouns and three verbs. But she was 
still on the level of signs; she still had no notion "that everything 
has a name." 

Helen confused the word signs for "mug" and "water" because, 
apparently, both were associated with drinking. Miss Sullivan 
made a few attempts to clear up this confusion but without suc- 
cess. One morning, however, about a month after Miss Sullivan's 
arrival, the two went out to the pump in the garden. What hap- 
pened then is best told in their own words: 

I made Helen hold her mug under the spout while I pumped. 
As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled 
V-a-t-e-r' into Helen's free hand. The word coming so close 
upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand seemed 
to startle her. She dropped the mug and stood as one trans- 
fixed, A new light came into her face. She spelled 'water' 
several times. Then she dropped on the ground and asked for 
its name and pointed to the pump and the trellis, and sud- 
denly turning round she asked for my name ... In a few hours 
she had added thirty new words to her vocabulary. 

But these words were now more than mere signs as they are to 
a dog and as they had been to Helen up to then. They were sym- 


boh. Helen had at last grasped and turned the key that admitted 
her for the first time to a new universe: the world of human be- 
ings. Helen describes this marvellous experience herself: 

We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the 
fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some- 
one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under 
the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled 
into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood 
still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. 
Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something for- 
gotten— a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery 
of language was revealed to me. I knew then that 'w-a-t-e-r' 
meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my 
hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, 
joy, set it free! 

Helen was transformed on the instant by this experience. Miss 
Sullivan had managed to touch Helen's symbol mechanism and 
set it in motion. Helen, on her part, grasped the external world 
with this mechanism that had lain dormant and inert all these 
years, sealed in dark and silent isolation by eyes that could not see 
and ears that heard not. But now she had crossed the boundary 
and entered a new land. Henceforth her progress would be rapid. 

"I left the well-house," Helen reports, "eager to learn. Every- 
thing had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. 
As we returned to the house ever}' object which I touched seemed 
to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the 
strange new sight that had come to me." 

Helen became humanized rapidly. "I see an improvement in 
Helen from day to day," Miss Sullivan wrote in her diary, "almost 
horn hour to hour. Everything must have a name now . . . She 
drops the signs and pantomime she used before as soon as she has 
words to supply their place . . . We notice her face grows more 
expressive each day . . ." 


A more eloquent and convincing account of the significance of 
symbols and of the great gulf between the human mind and that 
of minds without symbols could hardly be imagined. 


SummaTy. The natural processes of biologic evolution 
brought into existence in man, and man alone, a new and distinc- 
tive ability: the ability to use symbols. The most important form 
of symbolic expression is articulate speech. Articulate speech 
means communication of ideas; communication means preserva- 
tion — tradition— and preservation means accumulation and pro- 
gress. The emergence of the faculty of symbolling has resulted in 
the genesis of a new order of phenomena: an extra-somatic, 
cultural, order. All civilizations are born of, and are perpetuated 
by, the use of symbols. A culture, or civilization, is but a particular 
kind of form which the biologic, life-perpetuating activities of a 
particular animal, man, assume. 

Human behavior is symbolic behavior; if it is not symbolic, it 
is not human. The infant of the genus Homo becomes a human 
being only as he is introduced into and participates in that order 
of phenomena which is culture. And the key to this world and the 
means of participation in it is— the symbol. 



"Tools X Symbols = Culture." 

IVl an has often been characterized as "the tool-using ani- 
mal," the implication being that no other animal uses tools. 
Benjamin Franklin went farther, it is said,* and defined 
man as the tool-malcing animal. A century later, when everyone 
was discussing Darwinism, many learned men were willing to ad- 
mit that other animals might use tools, but insisted that man alone 
was able to make them. The Duke of Argyll, for example, argued 
in his Primeval Man that a great "gulf," a "whole immeasurable 
distance," ^ lay between man and the brutes with respect to tools. 
He admitted that some of the lower animals use tools, but he in- 
sisted that "in no case whatever do they ever use an implement 
made by themselves." Edward Clodd also insisted that if man 
"is not the only tool-user, he is the only tool-maker among the 
Primates." ^ Danvin, unwilling to go farther than the evidence of 
his day would permit, wisely left the question open. Today, thanks 
particularly to the observations and experiments made among 
chimpanzees by Wolfgang Kohler and reported in his fascinating 
book. The Mentality of Apes, we know that apes can and do make 
tools. The evidence on this point is accepted as conclusive by such 

* Anthologies of quotations and authors without number credit Franklin with 
this definition. The writer has not had time to plough through his Collected 
Works, but considerable research has failed to discover this statement in 
Franklin's writings. Someone asked for the reference in Notes and Queries 
years ago (Vol. 8, 1913), but received no answer, apparently. Did Franklin 
really say this, or is it merely scholars' folklore? 



students of primates as R. W. Yerkes, E. A. Hooton, T. C. 
Schnierla, and A. L. Kroeber. However, we still find some reluc- 
tance to admit anthropoids to the category of tool-makers. Thus, 
the British anthropologist, Grahame Clark, in his recent From 
Savagery to Civilization, asserts that "the understanding use of 
tools and their purposive devising is a characteristic of man alone" 
(p. 7). And Wilhelm Schmidt, the leader of the so-called Kultur- 
kreis school of anthropology, is unwilling to admit that the lower 
primates are able even to use "real tools," let alone make them.^ 

Scientific studies of apes during recent decades have disclosed a 
skill and a versatility in the use of tools that is quite remarkable. 
They readily employ sticks as levers; they build structures of boxes; 
use sticks in digging; and otherwise employ a great variety of ma- 
terials as tools. More noteworthy still, apes (chimpanzees) have 
shown themselves capable of inventing— by a process of under- 
standing and insight— tools, and of accomplishing their manufac- 
ture in instances that required the artificial shaping of materials. 
Sultan, one of the chimpanzees observed by Kohler, combined 
two sticks by inserting the end of one into the hollow end of the 
other, thus making a tool long enough to obtain food hitherto out 
of reach. "That the combined sticks were perceived and used as 
a true tool and not used simply by accident," writes the compara- 
tive psychologist Schnierla, "was indicated by the fact that when 
the sticks became separated, the animal straightway reconnected 
them in a manner that suggested an understanding of their func- 
tion together." * He even contrived to put three sticks together 
in this manner. Once when the one stick was too large to be in- 
serted into the hollow end of the other. Sultan chewed it down 
until it would fit. Chimpanzees readily build structures of boxes 
and crates, sometimes four or five storeys high, in order to obtain 
food originally suspended out of reach. They demonstrate in this 
way their ability to modify and to rearrange their environment, 
to relate one thing to another and to an objective in terms of their 
physical properties, which is the essence of the tool-process. 


The question naturally arises, therefore, why do not apes have 
a culture, at least a material culture? Why is it that tool-using 
among apes is not a cumulative and progressive phenomenon as 
it is among mankind? 

The limitations upon the use of tools by apes are not imposed, 
it appears, by anatomical or sensory shortcomings. The senses of 
apes, with the exception of the sense of statics, are quite as keen 
and as suitable for wielding material objects as are those of men. 
Nor are apes limited to coarse and crude implements, or to those 
requiring brute strength rather than delicacy. They can handle 
string and straws with skill; they are able deftly to remove slivers 
from their hands and feet. One chimpanzee under observation 
readily learned to thread a needle. Little Gua, the baby chimpan- 
zee in the Kelloggs' experiment, learned to eat with a spoon more 
readily than did the child who was trained with her. She was more 
skillful and effective, too, in her solution of the "suspended cookie 
test," and in obtaining food by means of a hoe. Thus it appears 
that the limitations upon the use of tools among apes are not 
physical in character. As Professor E. A. Hooton has expressed it: 

. . . observation of the anthropoid apes does not make it seem 
probable that their tool-using abilities are strictly limited by the 
conformation of their hands or arms, in spite of the relative 
coarseness of these members, resulting, no doubt, from the loco- 
motor and suspensory uses to which they are put ... I do 
not believe that the anthropoid apes are manually incapable 
of most of the ordinary movements in which man employs 
his hands.^ 

Professor R. H. Lowie has suggested that the reason for the lack 
of culture among apes lies in their inability to transmit their tool 
knowledge and experience from one to another by imitation. "If 
his neighbors imitated him," says Professor Lowie, speaking of 
the chimpanzee who invents and uses a tool, "if he taught them 
his trick and they all passed it on to their offspring, chimpanzees 


would be on the highroad to culture. But they do nothing of the 
sort." ® Professor Lowie seems to be misinformed concerning apes. 
According to such authorities as R. M. and A, W. Yerkes, "the 
chimpanzee commonly and with great facility imitates acts." ^ 
Numerous examples of communication of experience by imitation 
are to be found also in W. Kohler's The Mentality of Apes. Apes, 
it would appear, really do ape. As E. B. Tylor long ago observed, 
"the faculty of learning by imitation comes out in the apes in an 
almost human way." ^ Thus the reason for their lack of a material 
culture cannot lie in this direction. 

It can hardly be argued that apes have no material culture be- 
cause they have no need for one, or because they could derive no 
advantage or benefit from it. In the first place we must note that 
levers, hammers, digging sticks, poking sticks, missiles, etc., are 
actually used to practical advantage by apes. Why would not spears 
and daggers be useful to them in self-protection? Would not bags 
be useful to carry or store food or other things? To turn from the 
practical and utilitarian to the esthetic and recreational, and, 
noting the fondness of chimpanzees for games, dancing, and per- 
sonal adornment, would not drums, rattles, necklaces, gorgets, and 
a hundred other similar things bring endless joy and satisfaction 
to the simian heart? Indeed, the ape could use and enjoy a culture 
quite as well as his human cousin. 

Why, then, do apes lack a material culture? It is due to his 
"lack of brains," or "lack of intelligence," according to Professor 
Hooton.^ This, in our opinion, is quite correct. But it is not a 
sufEcient answer. Merely to say "lack of brains" tells us very little 
about the difference between the use of tools by man and ape. 

The essential difference between apes and men with regard to 
use of tools is not, as we have seen, that man is more skillful, 
versatile, or even inventive. As a matter of fact, the inventive 
ability of man is frequently over-rated. The archeological record of 
cultural development makes it clear that until relatively recent 
times inventions were decidedly infrequent; thousands of years 


might elapse between the appearance of an awl and the invention 
of the needle— although all one had to do to effect this advance 
was to drill a hole in the blunt end of the awl. The invention of 
the steamboat is often regarded as a great achievement and indeed 
it was. Yet is consisted merely of combining already existing tools— 
an engine and a boat— of putting one and one together. Chim- 
panzees are able to do this. Nor does the difference between man 
and ape lie in an ability to imitate, to communicate tool-expe- 
rience from one to another, for, as we have noted, apes freely 
do this. The fundamental difference consists in the fact that the 
use of tools among men is a cumulative and progressive process 
whereas among apes it is neither. This is not to say that an indi- 
vidual ape does not make progress in his use of tools nor that he 
cannot increase his repertory of tool behavior. What we are say- 
ing is that apes as species make no progress in tool-using; one 
generation is no further advanced than its predecessor. With 
man, of course, it is the reverse: each generation may build upon 
and add to the tools and techniques of its predecessors. It is 
precisely this process of accumulation and progress in technology 
that has lifted man from the level of the brute and carried him 
through savager}' and barbarism to civilization. 

But our question is still unanswered: Why does this difference 
between man and ape exist? 

Tool-using among men is a different kind of activity, fundamen- 
tally and qualitatively different in a psychological sense, from tool- 
using among apes. Among apes the use of tools is a conceptual 
process as well as a neuro-sensory-muscular one. By conceptual we 
mean the formation by the ape of a configuration of behavior in 
which he, a tool, and the thing upon which the tool is to be used 
are functionally related to one another. The ape is able to solve 
his problem by means of insight and understanding, and to effect 
the solution implicitly before he executes it overtly. This is what 
we mean by conceptual. In the human species, the tool process is 
also conceptual and neuro-sensory-muscular in character. But it is 


more than this; it is symbolic as well. Human beings express their 
concepts in symbolic form. Thus they not only have tools and 
concepts of tools, but they have and use words of tools— axe, knife, 
hammer, etc. It was the introduction of symbols, word-formed 
symbols, into the tool process that transformed anthropoid tool- 
behavioT into human tool-behavior. 

We must distinguish two aspects of the tool-using process, the 
intra-organismal and the extra-organismal, the subjective and the 
overt or explicit. On the one hand we have the animal's sensory 
perception of tools and other material objects in the external 
world and his bodily reactions to them. On the other hand, are 
the inner, neural processes of imagination and insight in which 
patterns of behavior to be executed overtly are formed. In short, 
we have the inner, mental aspect of tool-using and the outer, 
motor aspect. 

A significant characteristic of ape tool-behavior is that it is a 
discontinuous psychological process. In its overt, motor aspect 
the discontinuity of tool-experience is, of course, a necessity; one 
cannot be engaged in wielding tools all the time. But in the ape, 
tool-experience is discontinuous on the subjective side as well as 
upon the objective. "Out of sight out of mind" fairly well char- 
acterizes the ape's mentality. Kohler observes that the "disap- 
pearance of a sick (or dying) animal [chimpanzee] has little effect 
on the rest, so long as he is taken out of sight." ^° There is some 
foresight and some hindsight in the ape. But the characteristic 
feature of their mental life is the "extremely narrow limits" of 
the temporal world in which they live; this, according to Kohler, 
is "the chief difference . . . between anthropoids and even the 
most primitive human beings." ^^ The ape lives in a small world. 
Spatially it is confined to the range of his senses; temporally it is 
limited to the moment, with perhaps an occasional dawn of antici- 
pation and a twilight of reminiscence. Thus, tool-experience in 
the ape is a series of disconnected episodes. He wields a tool then 
lays it down. When he is confronted by a "tool situation" he sizes 


up the situation, formulates a plan, puts it into execution, solves 
his problem, and that is the end of it. On the inner, subjective 
side, the ape's tool-experience is limited to the external and overt 
experience. Tool-using among apes is thus a discontinuous_psycho- 
logical process subjectively as well as objectively;.. 

With man, tool-experience is quite different. Overtly, tool- 
using is a discontinuous process as, of course, it must be. But 
subjectively, tool-experience in man is continuous and enduring. 

Man differs from the apes, and indeed all other living creatures 
so far as we know, in that he is capable of symbolic behavior. 
With words man creates a new world, a world of ideas and philos- 
A^ ophies. In this world man lives just as truly as in the physical 
world of his senses. Indeed, man feels that the essential quality 
of his existence consists in his occupancy of this world of symbols 
and ideas— or, as he sometimes calls it, the world of the mind or 
spirit. This world of ideas comes to have a continuity and a per- 
manence that the external world of the senses can never have. 
It is not made up of the present only, but of a past and a future as 
well. Temporally it is not a succession of disconnected episodes, 
but a continuum extending to infinity in both directions, from 
eternity to eternity. As John Dewey has aptly expressed it: 

Man differs from the lower animals because he preserves his 
past experiences . . . With the animals, an experience perishes 
as it happens, and each new doing or suffering stands alone. 
But man lives in a world where each occurrence is charged with 
echoes and reminiscences of what has gone before, where each 
event is a reminder of other things. Hence he lives not, like 
the beasts of the field, in a world of merely physical things but 
in a world of signs and symbols.^^ 

This inner world of ideas in which man dwells seems more real 
to him than the outer world of the senses. We have a classic 
example of this in the philosophy of idealism: ideas come first; 
they are the real things; they endure forever; material objects and 
sensory experiences are merely imperfect and ephemeral manifesta- 


tions of the Ideas.* We have essentially the same idea, though 
perhaps in a more primitive, and also more graphic, form in the 
Christian conception of the Word: "In the beginning was the 
Word." The Word is also creative: from the spoken word the 
world came into being. The Word also became flesh (John, I, 
14). Thus, in man's naive philosophies, ideas and words come first. 
They are "more real" than the things of the senses. They are 
enduring and eternal. 

It is in such a world as this that man knows and wields tools. 
To him a tool is not merely a material object, or even a sensory 
image as it may be to an ape. It is also an idea. It is a part of that 
timeless inner world in which man lives. It is not something 
that exists for the moment only: it functions in the living past 
and is projected into the unborn future. The tool in man's mind, 
like Plato's ideas in the mind of God, is eternal. Hence tool- 
experience for man is more than a series of disconnected episodes, 
of grasping and using tools and laying them down again. These 
overt acts are merely occasional expressions of an ideational expe- 
rience within him that is continuous and unbroken. 

Thus the difference between ape and man: In the ape, tool- 
experience is a series of discrete episodes; the inner experience 
begins and ends with the overt act. In man, tool-experience is a 
continuum. Though the overt expression of this experience is dis- 
connected and episodic, the inner experience is an uninterrupted 
flow. And it is the symbol, the word-formed idea, that makes this 
continuity of experience possible. 

When Professor Lowie endeavors to account for the ape's lack 
of culture by the inability to imitate, and hence to transmit and 
perpetuate tool-experience, he is really on the right track even 
though his premise is wrong. For what he is getting at is con- 

* Plato thought of these ideas as "laid up in the mind of God" rather than 
originating and functioning in the minds of men. But it is not uncommon 
for man to mistake himself for God; even great philosophers are guilty of this 
cnor occasionally. 


tinuity of experience. Similarly, Professor A. L. Kroeber in dis- 
cussing "the inventive but cultureless ape/' suggests that "perhaps 
the thing which essentially makes culture is precisely those trans- 
missive and preservative elements, those relational or binding 
factors, which social scientists have indeed occupied themselves 
with, but have been inclined to regard as after all of secondary 
importance in comparison with the dynamic phenjomenon of 
invention." ^^ 

Culture without continuity of experience is, of course, im- 
possible. But what sort of continuity of experience is prerequisite 
to culture? It is not the continuity which comes from the com- 
munication of experience by imitation, for we find this among 
apes. Clearly, it is continuity on the subjective side rather than 
on the objective, or overt, that is essential. As we have shown, it 
is the symbol, particularly in word form, which provides this 
element of continuity in the tool-experience of man. And, finally, 
it is this factor of continuity in man's tool-experience that has 
made accumulation and progress, in short, a material culture, 
K possible. 

Ta '■'^"-'^ 


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ft- l-t^^ rl v\ 

, I ./ . ^ 

/... ^ 




"We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words 
were taken for what they are, signs of our ideas only, and not for things 
in themselves." — Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 

J. he problem of the relation between body and mind has 
occupied philosophers and scientists since the dawn of 
thought, and to many it appears no nearer a solution now 
than then. It has been named the central problem of all philos- 
ophy, fundamental alike in the theory of knowledge, in ethics and 
in religion. Not less fundamental, however, is it for psychology 
and for physical science . . ." 

These are the opening words of the article "Body and Mind" in 
the Encyclopedia oi Religion and Ethics by James Lewis 
Mclntyre, Anderson lecturer in comparative psychology to the 
University of Aberdeen. Hundreds of books and thousands of 
lectures and articles have been devoted to the "mind-body" prob- 
lem. How is it possible for the body to have a mind? How can the 
mind have a body? Which is the reality, the body or the mind? 
How are body and mind articulated with each other? These are 
some of the questions which have plagued mankind for many a 
century. And "to many they appear no nearer to solution now 
than then." 

Why has the "solution" not been reached? Where is the 



It is the thesis of this essay that the "solution" has not been 
reached because the problem is a false one, somewhat like the 
paradoxes of Zeno. The difficulty is one of verbal origin; it is of 
our own making. By rewording the problem, the "problem" dis- 
appears: use the word mind as a verb instead of a noun and no 
"problem, fundamental either to the theory of knowledge, ethics, 
psycholog)-, science" or to anything else, remains. Mind is mind- 
ing; it is the behaving, reacting, of a living organism as a whole, as 
a unit. 

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, a people was concerned 
with the problem of Golshok. No one knew exactly what Golshok 
was, but everyone agreed that he (she or it) was very important 
and that their existence and welfare depended in large measure 
upon Golshok. Many of the best minds among this people devoted 
their lives to the study of Golshok. Their lucubrations were re- 
corded and their pronouncements carried great weight. It was 
decreed that all social life was to be conducted in accordance with 
the principles of Golshok as set forth by the wise men. Of course 
it was necessary to put people to death occasionally because of 
their failure to comply with these principles. This was usually 
done by burning them alive. This went on for centuries. But not 
all people were content. Some were bent upon discovering just 
what Golshok really was — if anything. But they never got any 
farther than words, save for an occasional burning of a rebel. 

Finally some one broke a way out of the impasse. He declared 
in plain language that the whole Golshok business, from start to 
finish, was nothing but "words, words, words," that the wise men 
had been chasing their tails for centuries, with "the solution no 
nearer now than then." He declared, moreover, that if people 
would conduct their lives upon human principles instead of Gol- 
shok principles they would be much better off. 

Of course the wise men had him burned to death and his ashes 
scattered to the four winds. But they were too late. The secret 


was out. The common people went around saying, "There ain't 
no Golshok." And they hved happily ever after. 

And so it has been with "Mind." "Mind" is a noun. A noun is 
a name of something. Therefore there must be something in the 
cosmos that is mind.* A person has a mind; it is possible for him 
to "lose" it. Thus "mind," an entity, a "thing-in-itself," was 
created and projected into the cosmos. Then people set about 
trying to find it as they have been searching for Truth, the Good, 
and Beauty, these many weary years. One might as well search the 
cosmos for V'l- Philosophic tail chasing, nothing more. 

Living organisms may be distinguished from non-living systems. 
The former appropriate materials from their environments and 
incorporate them into their own structures. They capture free 
energy from the external world and utilize it to maintain, extend, 
and multiply themselves. They eat, grow, and reproduce; and 
they have cellular structure. We may distinguish two classes of 
motions, or reactions, of living organisms, intra-organismic and 
extra-organismic. In the former class we have the relationships of 
part to part and of part to whole. In the latter, we have the 
relationship of the organism as a whole to the external world. It 
is the reactions of the organism as a whole, as a coherent unit, to 
the external world that we may call mind, or minding. 

This commits us to such statements as "an oyster has a mind." 
Similarly, a paramecium, a radish, a lichen, etc., "have minds." It 

* We have a parallel situation in the history of physical theory. "The un- 
known man who invented the word heat," says Henri Poincar^ in The Value 
of Science, "devoted many generations to error. Heat has been treated as a 
substance simply because it was designated by a substantive [noun]." Sub- 
stances have weight. But when it was finally discovered that a body weighed 
no more when hot, i.e., when it "contained much heat," than when cold, i.e., 
contained little heat, the logical conclusion that heat is not a substance was 
not drawn. On the contrary, so much at the mercy of words is man that he 
continued to think of heat as a substance, but he concluded that there must 
be weightless substances. It took a long time to realize that heat is not a thing 
but a doing. 


may sound ridiculous to say that a radish "has a mind." But it 
does not sound ridiculous at all to say that a radish minds, i.e., 
reacts as a living organism to its external world. So much are we 
at the mercy of words that even so slight a change as one from 
noun-use to verb-use makes the whole world look different. Mind, 
or minding, is thus co-extcnsive with life. It is the extra-organismal 
aspect of that class of motions peculiar to material systems of 
cellular structure.* 

To return to our starting point: what is mind? How can a mind 
have a body? The solution: mind is minding, the reacting of an 
organism as a whole, as a coherent unit (as distinguished from 
the reacting of parts of the organism with reference to other 
parts). Mind is a function of the body. The "organ" of the mind 
is the entire organism functioning as a unit. Mind is to body as 
cutting is to a knife.** 

But Alexander merely cut the Gordian knot; he did not untie 
it. Neither have we "solved" the mind-body problem, for in the 
form in which it has plagued the reflecting portion of mankind, 
it is insoluble. But we have disposed of it. We have not proved, 
nor can it be proved, that there is no cosmic entity, mind, which 
has an existence independent of bodies. We have not proved that 
the "fundamental reality" is not mind, of which bodies are but 

* The Dictionary of Psychology, H. C. Warren, ed., defines mind as "the 
sum total of those activities of an organism by means of which it responds as 
an integrated, dynamic system to external forces." 

** Since the above was written, I have learned that a Chinese philosopher. 
Fan Chen, of the fifth century A.D., said the same thing and in almost the 
same words: "The body is the material basis of the spirit, and the spirit is 
only the functioning of the body. The spirit is to the body what sharpness 
is to a sharp knife. We have never known the existence of sharpness after 
destruction of the knife. How can we admit the survival of the spirit when 
the body is gone?" Quoted by Hu Shih in the symposium Living Philoso- 
phies, (New York, 1931), pp. 243-44. 

Aristotle, too, "rejected any attempt to make the soul a thing or entity." 
Instead he treated it as a "function of the organism," as "a class of motions," 
(Brett, 1929) p. 707. 


material expressions. So far as I know, there is no convincing 
proof for the non-existence of Santa Claus. Mankind progresses, 
often, not by disproving propositions but by outgrowing them. 

The "Mind-Body" problem is of one piece with the Vitalism- 
Mechanism controversy. No one has ever "disproved" the theory 
of Vitalism, but scientists, and many philosophers, are agreed 
that the time has come when it should be ignored as obsolete, 
outgrown and, above all, sterile. It is not that the philosophy of 
Mechanism is True (with a capital T) and that of Vitalism False. 
It is that Mechanism has been fruitful, productive; Vitalism 
barren and sterile. Vitalism as "a view is exactly opposite to 
those which have led to all the scientific piogTcss that has been 
made," declares Professor H. H. Newman.^ Biologists have "clung 
to the materialistic or mechanistic explanation of life, simply be- 
cause it was the only way in which progress could be made" ^ 
(emphases ours), declares the distinguished paleobiologist. Pro- 
fessor Ermine C. Case, As T. H. Huxley long ago made clear, 

In itself it is of little moment whether we express the phenom- 
ena of matter in terms of spirit, or the phenomena of spirit in 
terms of matter; matter may be regarded as a form of thought, 
thought may be regarded as a property of matter . . . But with 
a view to the progress of science, the materialistic terminology 
is in every way to be preferred. For it connects thought with 
the other phenomena of the universe . . . whereas the spirit- 
ualistic terminology is utterly barren, and leads to nothing but 
obscurity and confusion of ideas. ^ 

Thus the importance of terminology. Words are the channels 
as well as the tools of thought. Some lead us into blind alleys; 
others, to fertile fields. And so, while we have not "proved" that 
mind is not some cosmic entity, or proved that it is not the "real 
reality," we have shown that this view is barren and sterile at its 
best and confusing and paralyzing at its worst. The opposite view, 


that mind is minding, or behavior, that mind is a function of the 
body, releases us from the verbal bondage of a sterile and a paralyz- 
ing metaphysics, and sets us free to sow and reap m a field that 
will bear fruit. 



"Anyone who is acquainted with the history of science will admit that 
its progress has, in all ages, meant, and now more than ever means, 
the extension of the province of what we call matter and causation, 
and the concomitant gradual banishment from all regions of human 
thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity . . ." — T. H. Huxley, 
The Physical Basis of Lite. 


hen we survey the history of science we see at a glance 
that progress has not been equal and uniform on all fronts. 
Advance has been more rapid in some quarters than in 
others. Greater progress has been made in astronomy and physics 
than in biology; physiology is more advanced, as a science, than 
psychology; and psychology is older and more mature than soci- 
ology. The birth of each science cannot be neatly marked with a 
precise date, of course; there has been overlapping, and growth 
has been simultaneous among many, if not all, of them. Never- 
theless, it is clear that some sciences are older and more mature 
than others. Since there is a close correspondence between the age 
of a science and its degree of development, we may treat these 
two factors as one. We may thus arrange the sciences in a scale 
in the order of their respective ages and degrees of maturity. 

Generalizing broadly, we may say that the physical sciences 
appeared earlier and have developed farther than the biological 
sciences; the biological sciences took form earlier and have 
developed farther than the social sciences. The question naturally 




Cultural Anthropology 


Social Psychology 






arises: why has this been so? Why do we find this order, both 
with regard to time and to degree of development, in the history 
of science? 

One of the most noteworthy attempts to answer this question is 
that of Auguste Comte. In his Positive Philosophy, Comte sets 
forth and explains the "hierarchy of the sciences." His arrange- 
ment is essentially the same as ours. He distinguishes, in order, 
"Five fundamental Sciences . . . Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, 
Physiolog}', and finally Social Physics [i.e., Sociology]" (p. 46). 
But, instead of grouping the sciences into three categories, as we 
have done, he divides them into two: "inorganic physics," which 
includes astronomy, physics and chemistry; and "organic physics," 
which embraces physiology and sociology (pp. 44-45). Although 
he does not distinguish "psychology" from "physiology," Comte 
deals with psychological phenomena in Book V: Biology. 

Herbert Spencer, also, concerned himself with the development 
of science and with the classification, or order, of the sciences. In 
1854, in an essay "On the Genesis of Science," he attacked 
Comte's theory of the sequence of the sciences. Spencer declares 
that "throughout the whole course of their evolution there has 
been a continuous consensus of the sciences," (p. 143). He says: 

The conception of a serial arrangement of the sciences is a 
vicious one . . . the sciences cannot be rightly placed in any 
linear order whatever . . . There is no "true filiation of the 


sciences." The whole hypothesis is fundamentally false (p. 144; 
see, also, pp. 190-193). 

I am not sure that I fully understand Spencer's argument. 
Throughout this essay he exhibits science as the accumulating 
product of a many-sided psychological process. But with the pos- 
sible exception of an allusion to "social science" in ancient times, 
he does not show, nor does he attempt to show, that the physical 
sciences have not matured earlier than the biological sciences, and 
these in turn earlier than the social sciences. 

A decade later in "The Classification of the Sciences" (1864), 
Spencer again returns to the subject, and again opposes Comte's 
hierarchy. But he ends up with an order essentially like Comte's. 
Lester F. Ward noted the similarity of Comte and Spencer at this 
point in his Dynamic Sociology. When, however, he repeated the 
observation in "The Place of Sociology among the Sciences," he 
received a sharp letter from Spencer who again insists upon his 
distinctness from Comte. Ward made effective reply to Spencer 
and published both letters in Pure Sociology. Ward again points 
out that despite his vigorous opposition to Comte, Spencer adopts 
the Comtean order of the sciences. In "The Filiation of the 
Sciences," a paper read before the Philosophical Society of Wash- 
ington in 1896, Ward exhibited the two systems, Comte's and 
Spencer's, in parallel columns for comparison. They are funda- 
mentally alike. 

It would probably be unfair to say that Spencer's opposition to 
Comte's hierarchy was due wholly to a jealous claim to inde- 
pendence and originality on Spencer's part, although it is difficult 
to escape the conclusion that jealousy played a part in the con- 
troversy. It does appear that Spencer viewed the problem from a 
somewhat different angle than Comte, that he started from a 
slightly different premise. But he ends up with much the same 
conclusion nevertheless, and it is hard not to believe that it was 
willful stubbornness on Spencer's part that kept him from recog- 


nizing his similarity to Comte as well as pointing out such dif- 
ferences as did exist. 

We find, then, that both Comte and Spencer present the 
sciences in essentially the same order, the physical sciences coming 
first, the biological sciences next, and finally the social sciences. 
Spencer points out that physical phenomena must precede bio- 
logical phenomena— that there nmst be atoms and molecules 
before we can have living cells and organisms— and that social 
systems must rest upon a biological basis. But he does not explain 
why scientific interpretation of physical phenomena should pre- 
cede interpretation of biological events, or why interpretation of 
biological forms should come before interpretation of social phe- 
nomena. Auguste Comte, however, does precisely this. He explains 
the order of development of the sciences. Let us turn now to his 

Comte's conception of the hierarchy of the sciences differs 
somewhat from ours. He does not begin with the events of history, 
with dates and sequences, and with varying degrees of develop- 
ment among the sciences, and then proceed to consider what 
interpretation might be given to these facts. Rather, he begins 
with the nature of the sciences, as he conceives it, and with what 
he assumes to be their necessary logical relationships one to an- 
other. The "hierarchy" of the sciences is arrived at by deduction. 
It is a "rational order" to Comte (p. 43). He observes, however, 
that his "classification agrees in the main, with the history of 
science; the more general and simple sciences actually occurring 
first and advancing best in human history, and being followed by 
the more complex and restricted," (p. 43y. Thus, the general 
picture of the development of the sciences/ as seen by Comte is 
essentially the same as ours; the physical sciences appeared earlier 
and have developed farther than the biological sciences, as the 
latter have developed earlier and progressed farther than the social 

Comte explains this chronological order and these varying 


degrees of development in this way: The physical sciences deal 
with more simple and universal phenomena than the biological 
sciences; the biological sciences deal with more universal and 
simple phenomena than the social sciences. Since biological phe- 
nomena are made up of chemical and physical events, a science 
of biology cannot come into being until the sciences of chemistry 
and physics have been developed. Similarly, since social phe- 
nomena consist of, or are the expressions of, psychological 
responses, and these in turn rest upon physiological processes, a 
science of sociology cannot be achieved until the underlying 
sciences of psychology and physiology have been developed. He 

. . . every science is [rooted] in the one which precedes it . . . 
(p. 398) ... no science can be effectually pursued without the 
preparation of a competent knowledge of the anterior sciences 
on which it depends (p. 48). We must begin then with the 
study of the most general or simple phenomena, going on 
successively to the more particular or complex. This must be 
the most methodical way, for this order of generality or sim- 
plicity fixes the degree of facility in the study of phenomena, 
while it determines the necessary connection of the sciences by 
the successive dependence of their phenomena (p. 44). 

We seem to have here three closely related propositions: first, 
that sciences higher in the hierarchy deal with more "complex" 
phenomena than sciences lower in the scale; secondly, that dif- 
ferences in degree of complexity have determined the order of 
emergence and degree of maturity of the sciences; and thirdly, 
that one cannot "effectually pursue" a science "without the 
preparation of a competent knowledge of the anterior sciences on 
which it depends." We believe that these propositions are either 
unsound or definitely misleading. Let us examine them in turn. 

In one sense, psychological phenomena may be regarded as 
more complex than those of physiology, as physiological events, 
in turn, may be considered more complex than chemical and 



physical events. By "complex" in these contexts we would mean 
"possessing more classes, or kinds, of factors." Thus, a psycho- 
logical event, such as perceiving, approaching and grasping food, 
can, by logical analysis, be reduced to physiological, chemical, 
dnd physical processes: smelling or seeing the food and the various 
physiological responses which find overt expression in approach- 
ing and seizing it; and the physiological processes may be broken 
down into chemical reactions and physical events. In this sense, 
the phenomena of one science may be said to be more "complex" 
than those of another. And in this sense, also, one may say that 
one science "rests upon" another. 

While the foregoing is perfectly true logically and philosophi- 
cally, it is beside the point scientifically. From the standpoint of 
the scientist, there is only one class of phenomena to be con- 
sidered in any given situation. Even in biochemistry, which might 
appear to include two classes of phenomena, we really have only 
one class; the possibility of referring biochemical events to 
chemistry on the one hand and to biology on the other in no 
way negates the integrity of biochemical events as biochemical 
phenomena. Let us illustrate the distinctness of levels of phe- 
nomena and the integrity of the class of events corresponding to 
each level with an example: 

I give my broker an order to buy one hundred shares of stock. 
He telegraphs the order to the exchange in New York, a seller is 
found and the transaction completed. We may distinguish many 
classes of phenomena involved in this transaction taken as a 
whole and in its entire extent and depth. First there are the 
psychological motives for buying and selling: desire, anticipation 
of gain, fear of loss, excitement of risk-taking, etc. Underneath 
are physiological processes: the condition of my thyroid, my 
digestion, etc. And we can analyze the physiological processes 
into chemical reactions. Atomic motion, electrical tensions and 
discharges in my nervous system, and so on, give us a class of 
physical factors. But, for an understanding of the transfer of 


the stock as an event oi huying-and-seUing, as a social event, the 
scientist need not and does not concern himself with all of these 
kinds, or levels, of processes at all. The scientist never grapples 
with ail of the interrelated phenomena that confront him in a 
given situation. To do so would be to embrace the cosmos every 
time a sparrow falls. This is undesirable as well as impossible. The 
scientist must always abstract a certain segment of reality, a 
certain class of phenomena, from all others, and deal with it as if 
it existed by itself, independent of the rest.* 

Similarly the physiologist abstracts certain processes from the 
totality of reality and regards them as a closed system. Thus, 
the argument that the sciences higher in the hierarchy are more 
complex— i.e., consist of more classes of phenomena— than those 
on lower levels is irrelevant from the standpoint of science, 
since the scientist deals with only one class at a time anyway. 
Socio-psychological phenomena, such as the purchase-and-sale of 
stock, may be treated as a single, homogeneous, class of events 
despite the fact that physiological, chemical, electrical, and phys- 
ical processes underlie it. In this respect psychology does not 
differ from physics. 

Sociologists and cultural anthropologists are accustomed to 
account for the meagerness of their accomplishments, as compared 
with physicists or physiologists, by declaring that the phenomena 
with which they deal are so much more complex than the phe- 
nomena confronting the physicist or biologist.** They seldom 
explain what they mean by "complexity," and more rarely do they 
attempt to prove that complexity of phenomena must mean 
meagerness of scientific achievement. They merely assume, in the 
first place, that everyone knows what is meant by complexity, and, 

* "In all scientific procedure we begin by marking out a certain region or 
subject as the field of our investigations. To this we must confine our atten- 
tion, leaving the rest of the universe out of account till we have completed 
the investigation in which we are engaged," Clerk Maxwell, (1892), p. 11. 

** "The facts of society are far more complex than those of physics, hence 
no laws have hitherto been discovered," Lowie, (1940), p. 384. 


in the second place, they assume without argument that com- 
plexity means difEculty. Wc regard their reasoning as unsound. 
Social phenomena arc no more complex in the sense of "difficult 
to treat scientifically" than physical or physiological phenomena. 
The social scientist's plea of "complexity" is usually an attempt, 
unconscious no doubt, to conceal his helplessness. The difference 
lies not in complexity of phenomena but in knowing what youi 
problem is and how to attack it. The physicist knows what his 
problem is and how to go about solving it; the social scientist 
does not. And the reason for this is that the point of view and 
the techniques of science have been growing and maturing in the 
physical domain for centuries, whereas they were introduced into 
the social realm only yesterday. A science cannot be built in a 
year like a skyscraper. Indeed, it cannot be built at all; it must 
grow, and this requires time. 

We have already seen that the purchase-and-sale of stock is a 
ver)' simple affair; it is no more complex than an apple falling 
to the ground. And, what is more, we probably know more about 
stock markets than we do about gravitation. A war between two 
nations is really a very simple thing at bottom: two nations, A 
and B, want the same thing— a fertile river valley, an oil field, 
a foreign market, a seaport— and both are determined to have 
it. This is no more complex than the rusting of iron or the freez- 
ing of water. As a matter of fact, it may be simpler than the 
formation of ice or a snowflake. And it appears to be much 
simpler— simple in the sense of ease of scientific explanation — 
than matricide, masochism, or dementia praecox, events upon a 
lower level (psychological) than a war between nations (socio- 
logical level). We understand symbol behavior (e.g., articulate 
speech) much better on the psychological level than upon the 
lower level of neurology. We know more about the psychology of 
jealousy than its physiology. We understand the physiology 
of intoxication better than its chemistry, and the chemistry of 
the glands better than their physics. 


As a matter of fact, one could make a good case for the exact 
opposite of the proposition that social scientists sometimes use to 
rationalize their shortcomings, and say that the complexity of 
phenomena and the difficulty of scientific interpretation increase 
rather than decrease as we descend the scale of the sciences. What 
is simpler than the purchase-and-sale of a share of stock? And 
what is more complex than a ray of light? Two hundred and 
sixteen years have passed since the great Newton died and we 
do not know how to describe light yet. One might well argue 
that as we approach "ultimate reality" in physics the complexity 
of phenomena increases and the difficulties of scientific explana- 
tion become greater. 

Complexity is a quality of a phenomenon, not a measure of its 
size. An atom is as complex as a pebble, a cell as complex as a 
cow. Nor is complexity a function of the level on which the phe- 
nomena are found except in the sense of resolving a class of 
events into sub-classes as we have already noted. Complexity and 
smiplicity obtain on all levels alike. So much for the concept 
of "complexity." 

The third proposition, namely, Comte's contention that one 
cannot "effectually pursue a science" until he has a "competent 
knowledge of the anterior sciences," has been taken care of fairly 
well in our treatment of the first two propositions. Who would 
wish to argue that one cannot explain a transaction on the stock 
exchange until he had mastered physics and chemistry— or even 
the rudiments of those sciences? As we have previously pointed 
out, we often understand a phenomenon better on a higher level 
than upon a lower. Doris is jealous of Jane; Tom hates his father. 
We understand these events quite well psychologically; we know 
almost nothing about them on the physiological level. And, so 
far as we can see, anything that the physiologist might tell us 
would add little if anything to our understanding. And is the 
"chemistry," or "physics," of jealousy more than a metaphor? 


We would reject, therefore, Comte's contention that prepara- 
tion in sciences lower in the hierarchy must precede effective work 
in sciences higher in the scale. Since we have rejected Comte's 
premise that varying degrees of complexity have determined the 
order of filiation of the sciences, and since we admit differences 
in complexity only in so far as this term refers to the number- of 
kinds of phenomena into which a situation can be analyzed, 
we have, in effect, rejected Comte's rationalization of his hier- 
archy almost in toto. In place of Comte's explanation of the order 
in which the various sciences have emerged and matured, we 
venture to propose the following theory. 

Every living organism strives to evaluate the various items in its 
environment, to discover which are beneficial, which injurious, 
so that advantage may be derived from the one and injury from 
the latter avoided. In addition to the sensory means employed in 
this evaluating process by other animals, man employs verbal 
symbols. He not only translates the evaluations of his senses into 
words— "fire is hot," "thorns are sharp"— but he posits relational 
values between one thing and another. Thus he declares that the 
hoot of the owl presages death, a falling star means good luck, 
etc. In this manner, man creates a philosophy, a body of ideas 
and beliefs expressed in verbal form, which he employs as a means 
of adjustment to the world he lives in. 

From our standpoint of analysis and classification, there have 
been, and logically can be, only two major types of philosophy: 
one in which the external world is interpreted in terms of the 
human ego; the other in which it is explained in terms of itself. 
In the first type, man unconsciously projects himself into the ex- 
ternal world, describing and interpreting it in terms of his own 
psychic processes. The whole world is thus made alive and peopled 
with spirits who feel and behave as men do. They have desires 
like men, show preferences for certain foods and drink; they are 
susceptible to jealousy and flattery; they fight and make love. One 



spirit makes the earth, another brings rain, a third sends game or 
brings forth crops. The gods favor or oppose certain types of eco- 
nomic and pohtical systems, and aid the armies of their chosen 
nations. Thus man creates the world in his own image. This is 
the philosophy of supernaturalism : of animism and anthropo- 

In the second type of philosophy, the phenomena of nature are 
explained in terms of themselves, in terms of the events of nature. 
Thus, rain falls because other meteorologic phenomena precede 
and accompany rainfall; a fossil is merely a link in a chain of 
paleontologic events. Explanation in this type of philosophy con- 
sists of a recitation of relevant events; scientific explanation is thus 
condensed description. This is the philosophy of naturalism. 

Between these two major types, in the process of development 
of philosophy, lies an intermediate, or transitional type, which 
Comte has called "metaphysical." This may be illustrated by such 
statements as "fossils were produced by stone-making forces;" 
"opium puts one to sleep because of its dormative powers," "cattle 
graze together because of a gregarious instinct." * This kind of 
interpretation partakes of both of the major types of philosophy. 
It eschews animism, and points to the external world for its ex- 
planations. Tlius it says that fossils are produced by stone-making 
forces— i.e., by natural phenomena that exist and function in the 
realm of nature— not by gods with minds like ours. But, the 
explanatory device, "stone-making forces," is merely a part of our 
selves, a verbal formula created ad hoCy and projected into the 
external world. Functionally, it is like the concept "spirit," and 

* We occasionally find this kind of explanatory device used in cultural 
anthropology even today. Thus, Lowie says that "owing to the separatism of 
the natives, no large population was ever anciently brought under a common 
head" in Polynesia, (1940, p. 293). RadclifFe-Brown says that certain insti- 
tutions "are the results of the action of sociological principles," (1930-31, 
p. 429). Franz Boas finds certain cultural phenomena "due to a classificatory 
tendency," (1940, p. 323). Herskovits tells us that "the essential democracy 
of the Plains Indian life . . . inhibited the development of economically 
privileged classes . . ." (1940, p. 393). 


hence has affinity with the anthropomorphic philosophy of 

In the beginning of human history, man's philosophies were 
wholly animistic; he diffused his psyche throughout the cosmos; 
he confused the self with the not-self at almost every point.* As 
culture advanced philosophy grew and matured. Little by little 
the animistic philosophy was outgrown and the naturalistic 
philosophy developed. But progress in philosophic interpretation 
was not uniform in all fields of experience, it was greater in some 
sectors than others. The distinction between the self and the not- 
self— i.e., explanation of natural phenomena in terms of natural 
events rather than in terms of the human ego disguised as gods 
and spirits— was made first in the realm of celestial phenomena. 
This was followed by the distinction in the field of terrestrial 
physical phenomena. Then it was made in the biological field- 
in anatomical, physiological, and psychological phenomena, and in 
that order. The distinction between the self and the not-self was 
achieved in astronomy and physics before it was made in physiol- 
ogy and psychology because it was easier of accomplishment in 
the former than in the latter. And it was easier because the phe- 
nomena of astronomy and physics are more remote and less 
significant as determinants of human behavior than are the 
processes of physiology and psychology. 

Man gradually learned, through ages of observation and 
experience, that all things do not affect his life equally. Some 
things are immediate and exert a powerful influence upon him; 
others are remote and affect his life but little. It is significant to 

* "To the Omaha nothing is without life: the rock Hves, so do the cloud, 
the tree, the animal. He projects his own consciousness upon all things, and 
ascribes to them experiences and characteristics with which he is familiar; 
there is to him something in common between all creatures and all natural 
forms, . . . this something he conceives of as akin to his own conscious 
being," Alice C. Fletcher, "Wakonda," in Handbook of American Indians, 
Part 2, (Bulletin 30, Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1910). 


note that systematic observation of the stars was begun under the 
behef that they exert a powerful influence upon man's daily life. 
Vestiges of this belief are still preserved in the names of the days 
of the week: Sun's day, Saturn's day, etc. And enough of this 
ancient belief still flourishes to make astrology a profitable busi- 
ness enterprise even today. "^ 

But as mankind accumulated experience and compared one 
thing with another, he discovered that stars exert less influence 
upon his life than such terrestrial phenomena as those of climate, 
topography, flora and fauna. At the same time, systematic observa- 
tion of planets and stars revealed regularities and an order that 
fostered description in terms of natural law rather than divine ca- 
price. Thus astronomy was lost to animism, won for naturalism.** 

As observation was continued and experience accumulated, it 
was discovered that, intimate as man is with his habitat, and in- 
fluential as it is upon his life, there is yet another class of 
determinants of behavior even more immediate and significant: 
the human body. The man, the ox, the snake, and the bird all 
dwell in the same environmental setting, but they behave very 
differently. The deer is swift, the squirrel climbs trees, the bird 
flies, because they have different kinds of bodily structure. An 
appreciation of this fact was the dawn of the science of anatomy. 

Anatomy developed before physiology, not because the structure 
of the body is "simpler" than its functioning, but because it is 
easier to distinguish between one's self (one's ^go) and one's 
arms and legs than between one's self and one' s glandular 
processes. The body, unsophisticated man feels, is but a shell, the 
house in which the true self dwells. The ego and the body, he 

* According to Timt Magazine for March 25, 1946, p. 23, there were 
25,000 practicing astrologers in the United States at that time; the five leading 
astrological periodicals had a combined circulation of nearly one million; and 
one of the leading astrological manuals sold at least 1,000,000 copies of its 
1945 issue for $1 per copy. 

** See Henri Poincare's fine essay on astronomy, the mother of science, in 
T\it Value oi Science, Ch. VI. 


feels, are two different things.* The self that he regards in "self- 
respect" is in no way affected by the amputation of a limb. One 
may lose both legs, his teeth, and even his eyes, but his "self" 
remains untouched and unscathed.** But when glands flow hot in 
anger or in love, naive man does not distinguish them from his 
ego; he identifies the process with himself. 

Similarly, the science of physiology matures before psychology: 
it is easier to distinguish between the self and the not-self when 
dealing with physiological processes than with mental phenomena. 
We observe that a hungry man behaves one way, a well-filled 
man another. The effects of work and rest are obvious. Disposition 
is influenced by digestion. Profound changes in behavior can be 
effected by drugs and liquor. But, unsophisticated man feels, 
there is a point beyond which outside forces cannot go, boundaries 
which they cannot cross. Deep within him, naive man believes, 
is a citadel that is impregnable, a sanctuary inviolable. Here he 
lives— his real self, his essential character, his very soul. The 
"human spirit" or Will is free, he thinks, subject to no laws 
natural or physical. He sees himself as subject only; he is unable 
to regard the self as an object, as an event in the world of nature. 
The distinction between self and not-self at this point lies beyond 
his grasp and comprehension. 

It was a great day for science when man became able to look 
upon mental processes as so many events in a world of nature, 
when, to use William James' apt phrase, minds could be studied 
"as objects, in a world of other objects." The distinction between 
subject and object was made. But the fight for naturalism has not 

* It is not merely "unsophisticated man" who is sure that "mind" and 
"body" arc two different things. Descartes, certainly one of the greatest minds 
of modern times, maintains that "it is certain that I, [that is, "my mind, by 
which I am what I am"], is entirely and truly distinct from my body, and 
may exist without it," Meditations, No. VI. 

** ". . . and although the whole mind seems to be united to the whole 
body, yet, when a foot, an arm, or any other part is cut off, I am conscious 
that nothing has been taken from my mind," idem. 


been wholly won yet. Mental life is still called "the human spirit" 
in many circles, and the soul and mind still walk hand in hand 
in psychologies, sociologies, and anthropologies even today. 

Thus we find the reason for the order in which the sciences 
have made their appearance and the extent to which they have 
matured to consist, not in varying degrees of universality or com- 
plexity, but in the varying ability of mankind to distinguish be- 
tween the self and the not-self in various sectors of experience. 
This distinction is made most easily when one deals with phe- 
nomena which play an insignificant role as determinants of human 
behavior. Conversely, it is difficult to distinguish between the 
self and the not-self where phenomena are intimate and powerful 
determinants. The human race has discovered which are the 
powerful determinants and which the insignificant through 
experience; there was no a priori way of knowing. 

The heavenly bodies, being more remote and less significant as 
determinants of human behavior than the winds, rain, frost, and 
terrain, the science of astronomy appears earlier and matures 
faster than terrestrial physics, geology and geography. Anatomical 
determinants being more remote and less influential than physio- 
logical processes, the science of anatomy precedes physiology. 
Physiology comes before psychology for the same reason. We 
may conclude our argument by formulating the following law of 
development: Science emerges first and matures fastest in fields 
where the determinants of human behavior are weakest and most 
remote; conversely, science appears latest and matures slowest in 
those portions of our experience where the most intimate and 
powerful determinants of our behavior are found. 

Auguste Comte recognizes this law when he observes: 
It is worthy of remark in this place that the most general and 
simple phenomena are the furthest removed from Man's 
ordinary sphere, and must [it would be better to say "can," 
L.A.W.] thereby be studied in a calmer and more rational frame 
of mind than those in which he is more nearly implicated; and 


this constitutes a new ground for the corresponding sciences 
being developed more rapidly (p. 44). 

In explaining the "hierarchy of the sciences," however, Comte 
speaks of this "new ground" merely incidentally and in passing, 
while the argument based upon "the universal and the simple as 
opposed to the special and complex" is emphasized again and 
again. But in other portions of Positive Philosophy, Comte takes 
pains to point out repeatedly that the obstacles which oppose the 
growth of social science are the theological and metaphysical 
philosophies which must be driven from the field of social phe- 
nomena before a genuine social science can be achieved. Although 
we reject Comte's own explanation of the order of filiation of the 
sciences, we could, and indeed have, applied his theory of 
the three stages in the development of philosophy to the solution 
of this problem. What we have done, in effect, is to show that 
the "theological" (supernaturalistic) philosophy has been dis- 
lodged and driven first, and to the greatest extent, from inter- 
pretations of physical phenomena, next from biological studies, 
and last and to the least extent from explanations of human 
behavior. And, with the rejection of the theological philosophy 
and the decline of the metaphysical, there has been a growth and 
spread, pari passu, of the naturalistic, scientific philosophy. Thus, 
what we observe is a trend in philosophy from the theological 
through the metaphysical to the positivistic— from the super- 
naturalistic to the naturalistic, or scientific— sweeping across the 
field of experience from the physical through the biological to 
the social. Comte had all of the materials for this explanation of 
his hierarchy, and indeed, it is implicit in the Positive Philosophy. 
But so concerned is he with another rationalization that the true 
solution is all but obscured entirely. 

We may illustrate the development and the sequence of the 
sciences in the accompanying diagram. In the center of the circle 
is man, surrounded by events which influence his behavior in 



varying degrees, some intimate, some remote. From this point 
of view, the advance of science has been more in the nature of 
expansion of scope than of growth or development. The cosmos 
hes everywhere about man. Science, a particular way of dealing 







with experience, appeared first in interpretations of a particular 
portion of our field of experience, namely, in astronomy, where 
phenomena are most remote and insignificant as determinants of 
human behavior. From there its techniques have spread and ex- 
tended to other segments of experience. As science advances and 
expands, the anthropomorphic philosophy of animism recedes and 


contracts; as the concepts of natural law and determinism gain 
ground, the philosophy of free will retreats. The logical con- 
clusion is, of course, to have the whole field of human experience 
embraced by the philosophy of science rather than that of 
animism. It is interesting, in this connection, to recall the words 
of the eminent Polish sociologist, Ludwig Gumplowicz, written 
many years ago: 

Modern natural science has successfully demonstrated that even 
the 'human mind' is subject to physical laws . . . But in the 
domain of social phenomena unchangeable natural laws have 
not been completely demonstrated. Between 'mental' phe- 
nomena subject to the laws of matter and the social world 
strode the conception of human freedom to distract and 
confuse. It seemed to order and control social relations accord- 
ing to its own choice. In the domain of mental phenomena . . . 
monistic natural science has in part demonstrated the un- 
conditioned sway of natural laws . . . Dualism [i.e., law vs. free 
will], driven from this domain, has retired to the domain oi 
social phenomena, whence it must he dislodged,^ (emphasis 

We find the same view expressed by the great French social 
scientist, Emile Durkheim, in The Rules of Sociological Method: 

Since the law of causality has been verified in the other realms 
of nature, and since it has progressively extended its authority 
from the physicochemical world to the biological, and from the 
latter to the psychological, we are justified in claiming that it is 
equally true of the social world; and it is possible to add today 
that the researches undertaken on the basis of this postulate 
tend to confirm it (p. 141). There was a time when sentiments 
relating to the things of the physical world opposed with equal 
energy the establishment of the physical sciences, because they, 
too, had a religious or moral character. We believe, therefore, 
that this prejudice, pursued from one science to the next, will 
finally disappear also from its last retreat, sociology, leaving a 
free field for the true scientific endeavor (p. 34). 


According to Comte, Spencer, and others since their day, 
sociology is the last link in the logical chain of science, the final 
stage of its development. In terms of our theory, this would 
mean that when astronomical, geological, physical, chemical, 
anatomical, physiological, and psychological determinants of hu- 
man behavior had been dealt with there would remain but one 
more class of determinants: the sociological. But are we willing to 
accept this conclusion? Is this classification adequate and final? 
We do not believe it is. On the contrary, we find it inadequate 
and immature. There is still another class of determinants of 
human behavior that lie outside and beyond the scope of psychol- 
ogy and, for the most part, sociology. These are the traditional 
customs, institutions, tools, philosophies, languages, etc., which 
we call, collectively, culture. Cultural phenomena are super-, or 
supra-, psychological determinants of human behavior. They are 
super-psychological in the sense that it is beyond the scope of 
psychology to account for them. Psychology cannot explain, e.g., 
why one people has clans (behaves "clanwise") while another 
does not; why one people eats with knives and forks, another with 
chopsticks; why a people prohibits marriage between parallel 
cousins but requires marriage between cross cousins; why a tribe 
practices polyandry, observes the mother-in-law taboo, forms 
plurals by affixation, uses money, etc. Culture as culture can be 
explained only in terms of culture. But let us return to the history 
of science and observe its expansion beyond the horizons of 
individual psychology. 

For a long time, and until recent decades, psychology was 
individual psychology. The anatomical and physiological psychol- 
ogists had, of necessity, to take the individual as their province. 
The same was true of the introspectionists and associationists. In 
the early years, the subject matter of psychology was "mind," 
and the mind was something that "went on" in the individual 
organism. It was to be studied in terms of anatomical structure 


and physiological processes, and by direct observation through 
intros^DCction. In any event, psychology was the study of mind, 
and the mind was an individualistic phenomenon. 

But as the scientific study of man's behavior advanced, it came 
to be recognized that there are important determinants of 
behavior lying outside and beyond the individual which, how- 
ever, profoundly influence his conduct. With the appreciation of 
this fact, science undertook to grapple with these super-individual 
determinants and to bring them within the scope of scientific 

Professional psychologists were, however, slow to appreciate the 
significance of super-individual determinants of human behavior. 
Consequently science organized its forces under another banner, 
so to speak, to undertake this necessary task. This new movement 
was Sociology.* Sociology came into being as an organized attempt 
of science to deal with super-individual determinants of behavior. 
These determinants were social in nature. Consequently, sociol- 
ogy became the science of society. Early sociologists distinguished 
their science from psychology on the ground that the latter was 
limited to the individual whereas theirs was devoted to the group. 
As F. H. Giddings put it: 

. . . psychology [is] the study of the . . . individual mind . . . ; 
sociology . . . the investigation of the more special and complex 
phenomena of minds in association with one another . . . 
Psychology is the science of the association of ideas. Sociology 
is the science of the association of minds.^ 

Psychology bestirred itself meanwhile and gradually extended its 
scope to include super-individual determinants. William James 
displayed a fine appreciation of social factors in behavior in the 

* "Precisely because the currents of thought ran too exclusively to analysis 
and explanations in terms of the single human being, Sociology arose as a 
discipline for the study of the collective life of man. In the early years it was 
considered as properly beginning at the point where Psychologj^ left off," 
E. E. Eubank, The Concepts of Sociology, (1932), p. 90. 


chapter "The Consciousness of Self" in his Principles of Psychoh 
ogy (1890). In 1904, at the Congress of Arts and Sciences at St. 
Louis, James McKeen Cattell stated that he was "not convinced 
that psychology should be limited to the study of consciousness 
as such." And at the same Congress, J. M. Baldwin predicted that 
"the psychology of the future will be social to the core." In 1908, 
William McDougall published his Social Psychology. This was the 
first work bearing this title written by a psychologist. It so hap- 
pened that E. A. Ross's Social Psychology, the first work bearing 
this title by a sociologist, was published in the same year.^ 

Although psychology was able to expand its horizons sufficiently 
to take cognizance of group factors in behavior, it still remained 
anchored to the individual as the object of its studies. Thus G. F. 
Stout and C. A. Mace, in their article "Psychology" in the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica (14th ed.), declare that psychology is 
the "science of individual experience." And other psychologists 
even maintain that social psychology is after all a study of the 
individual. Thus F. H. Allport defines social psychology as "the 
science which studies the behavior of the individual" in so far as 
his behavior is related to that of other individuals. "Psychology in 
all its branches," he argues, "is a science of the individual." 
Similarly, Professor Margaret Floy Washburn declares that "all 
psychology deals with individuals." Social psychology, she says, 
is "that branch of psychology which deals with the mind as it is 
affected by and manifested in relations with other minds." To 
R. H. Gault, social psychology is but "an aspect of the psychol- 
ogy of the individual." Thus psychology was able to reach out and 
at least take cognizance of social factors in behavior. But it was so 
firmly anchored to the individual as its object of study that it 
was unable to free itself and envisage a psychological system com- 
posed of many individuals instead of only one, a social organism 
as well as a biological one. This field was left therefore pretty 
much to the sociologists.* 

Sociology embarked upon its career with high hopes and 


enthusiasm. Psychology had long devoted itself to the individual 
aspect of human behavior. Now sociology was to deal with the 
group aspect. Give sociology time to mature, many thought, and 
the science of human behavior would be complete, for with the 
individual and collective aspects of behavior taken care of, what 
else was there? To many sociologists of the late 1890's and early 
1900's it appeared, as it had to Comte many decades earlier, that 
at last the "hierarchy" of the sciences was complete, that sociology 
was to be the crown or capstone of the great edifice that was 
science. But these hopes and aspirations have not been realized. 
Sociology has not become the head of an impressive hierarchy of 
sciences. On the contrary, many scholars, both within sociology 
and outside, raise the question. Is sociology' a science at all? What- 
ever accomplishments sociology does have to its credit, it cer- 
tainly has failed to fulfill the hopes and expectations of Comte 
and subsequent generations of sociologists. The reasons, we 
believe, are as follows: 

Beyond the horizon of individual psychology lie not only super- 
individual psychological determinants of behavior, but super- 
psychological determinants as well. Sociology devoted itself to the 
interpretation of super-individual (i.e., social) psychological deter- 
minants of behavior, and in so doing became social psychology. 
But, with few and relatively insignificant exceptions, it failed to 
distinguish and to recognize super-psychological (i.e., cultural) 
determinants, and thus failed to complete the science of human 
behavior by becoming a science of culture (i.e., culturology). In 
short, sociology merely rounded out the science of psychology by 
making it the study of the collective aspect of behavior as well as 
of the individual aspect. But it failed to create or become a science 
of culture and thus left the science of human behavior incom- 
plete. Another science beyond the horizon of sociology still re- 
mained to be realized, namely the science of culture (culturology). 
Before proceeding further let us see precisely what this class of 
super-psychological (cultural) determinants of behavior consists 


of, and what the nature and scope of a science of culture would 

We may illustrate with the following example: a number of 
Navaho Indians were spending the night in a large house near 
their reservation when a party of other Navahos approached. 
Word of their approach was passed through the house whereupon 
a number of men quickly left by the back door and windows: 
their mothers-in-law were in the approaching group and they 
must not meet them face to face. How is their behavior to be 

Clearly there is a psychological reason for their behavior, and 
there are both individual and social aspects to their response. 
Each individual was influenced by his own organism and the 
experiences which it had undergone. And each individual was in- 
fluenced by his fellow Navahos. The psychologist can properly 
deal with both aspects, the individual and the social, of this phe- 
nomenon. He can inquire into their feelings, ideas, and so on, and 
throw much light upon the matter. But there is a point beyond 
which the psychologist cannot go: He cannot explain why the 
Navahos observe the mother-in-law taboo whereas their close 
neighbors, the Hopi, do not. No amount of psychologizing will 
explain why one tribe has this custom while another does not. 
The psychologist does not always realize this. Sometimes he de- 
clares that the institution exists because the people think and 
feel and act in a certain way; that the institution is merely the 
crystallization of certain psychological processes. He fails to realize 
that it is the other way around: the people feel, think and act the 
way they do because they possess— or, more accurately, are 
possessed by— a certain custom. Manifestly, the psychologist can- 
not explain why the Indian organism in the Navaho tribe behaves 
in such a way as to produce the mother-in-law taboo while the 
Indian organism in the Hopi tribe does not behave in that 


If, therefore, psychology cannot explain why one tribe has a 
certain custom while another people does not, what science can? 
The answer is, the Science of Culture. A custom or institution is 
the product of the action and interaction of other customs and 
institutions. The mother-in-law taboo would have to be explained 
in terms of other customs— those of marriage, residence, sexual 
division of labor, mode of subsistence, and so on. Customs and in- 
stitutions—culture traits in general— constitute a distinct class of 
phenomena. As such, it may be treated as a closed system. Culture 
is a thing sui generis; culture as culture can be explained only in 
terms of culture.* Let us illustrate with a few other examples. 

Psychology cannot explain why the language of one people is 
agglutinative while that of another is inflective. This linguistic dif- 
ference must be explained in terms of language, not in terms of 
mental processes or emotional states. Likewise, the psychologist 
cannot explain why a people practices polygyny rather than 
polyandry or monogamy; why it resorts to legal trial rather than 
to ordeals or covert black magic in the case of personal injury; 
or why it fights over money and debts instead of practicing com- 

Thus we see that over and above the individual and social 
psychological factor in human behavior, there is another factor 
which is not psychological at all. It is super-psychological or cul- 
tural. In addition to the individual organic component in human 
behavior and over and above the social factor which comes from 
the interaction of individuals, there is the influence of the tradi- 
tional customs, institutions, tools, philosophies, etc. These 
things,** these culture traits, have an existence prior to the birth 
of any person living. They exist outside the human organism; they 

* "Culture is a thing sui generis which can be explained only in terms of 
itself," (Lowie, 1917), p. 66. 

** Dnrkheim calls "social facts" (i.e., culture traits) things (choses). "The 
proposition which states that social facts are to be treated as things," he says, 
lies "at the very basis of our method," (1938 p. xliii). 


act upon him from the outside as meteorologic forces do.* Culture 
can be transferred freely, without migration, from one people to 
another. The culture of any people at any given time is the 
product of antecedent cultural forces, and consequently is to be 
explained only in cultural terms. The English language of New 
England in 1949 is to be explained in terms of antecedent linguis- 
tic processes and events, just as the automobile, paper currency, 
courts of law, Mormonism, relativity, and jazz music are to be ex- 
plained in terms of their respective cultural antecedents. 

We see, then, that in addition to the psychological factor, indi- 
vidual and social, in human behavior there is an important supra- 
psychological factor. The importance of this factor has only re- 
cently come to be recognized and appreciated. Everything that we 
do as human beings, individually and collectively, is profoundly 
influenced by our culture. Our food habits, marital customs, ideas 
of right and wrong, canons of beauty, mortuary practices, our 
philosophies and religions, in short, the whole gamut of our lives, 
is culturally determined. And, far from explaining our culture in 
terms of the way we think, feel and act, we can explain much of 
our thought, feelings and behavior in terms of our culture. 

This is not to say that there is no further function for psychol- 
ogy in the modern science of human behavior. It will be noted 
above that we have said that "much," not "all," of our behavior 
can be explained culturally. There is still a place for psychology, 
of course. But its scope is not as extensive as was formerly sup- 
posed. The day of facile psychological explanations of customs and 
institutions is done. In the future, culture will have to be ex- 
plained culturologically. But within any given cultural situation 
the operation of the psychological factors will still have to be ob- 
served and interpreted. For example, given Navaho culture, how 

* "Collective tendencies [i.e., culture traits] have an existence of their own; 
they are forces as real as cosmic forces . . . they also act upon the individual 
from the outside . . .," translated from Durkheim, Le Suicide, p. 348. 



will Indian organisms behave? In short, we can hold the cultural 
factor constant while we study the variable psychological factor. 

Returning again to the history of science, we note that sociology 
was the new form taken by science in the extension of its scope 
to embrace super-individual determinants of behavior. Sociology 
became, for the most part, social psychology, and socml psychology 
is of course psychology, just as ripe plums are plums, or honest 
men, men. But in going beyond the scope of individual deter- 
minants, sociology encountered super-psychological (cultural) 
determinants as well as super-individual psychological factors. But 
instead of dealing with cultural determinants upon their own 
level, i.e., culturologically, sociology brought them down to the 
socio-psychological level and attempted to interpret them in terms 
of "social process," or "interaction." Sociologists failed for the 
most part to realize that there is no such thing as social inter- 
action among human beings as human beings (i.e., as organisms 
behaving in terms of symbols) that is not culturally determined. 
To say that social interaction produces matrilineal clans here, 
patrilineal clans there does not make sense. To say that one kind 
of process of interaction produces matrilineal, another kind of 
process patrilineal, clans is to put the cart before the horse. It is 
the type of clan, the culture trait, that determines the form of 
social interaction; matrilineal clans will produce one type of inter- 
action, patrilineal clans another. And clans, as culture traits, 
cannot be accounted for in terms of individual psychological 
processes— hopes, desires, fears, etc.— or in terms of an abstract 
process of social interaction but in terms of other culture traits, 
such as customary division of labor between the sexes, which in 
turn is closely related to the mode of subsistence and the circum- 
stances and means of defense against enemies; such as rules of 
marriage, place of residence of the married couple, and so on. 
And so it is with social interaction everywhere in human society. 
Whether it be in the family, clan or lineage, household or neigh- 
borhood, guild, lodge, church, market place or what not, the 


concrete processes of interaction that actually obtain in any given 
case have been determined, i.e., given form and content, by the 
culture that possesses the people, the culture that existed before 
they were born and into which they were introduced at birth, 
and which has given form and content to their behavior since that 
time. The attempt of sociologists to explain culture in terms of 
"social process" or "interaction" failed as of course it must. A 
sociological interpretation of culture does not and cannot give a 
scientific account of the origin and function of customs and in- 
stitutions; it merely conceals their supra-psychological, supra- 
sociological nature. Thus we see that when science created sociol- 
ogy in its march of expansion, it rounded out the science of 
psychology, but failed to achieve a science of culture. Let us 
examine more fully the preceding propositions in turn. 

The behavior of every living organism presents two aspects: 
inner and outer.* There are processes and relationships which take 
place vdthin the organism; these we may call intra-organismal. 
Then there are reactions and relationships between the organism 
and the external world; these may be designated extra-organismal. 
We may define physiology as the scientific observation and inter- 
pretation of intra-organismal processes and relationships; psychol- 
ogy, as the study of the extra-organismal aspect of behavior.** Now 
extra-organismal behavior presents two aspects, individual and 
collective, and consequently can be studied from these two stand- 
points. In other words, we can have individual psychology and 
social psychology. But both are, of course, psychology— the scien- 
tific observation and interpretation of extra-organismal reactions. 
There is no such thing as an individual apart from the group, and 

* "All relations or actions between one part of ... [a material system] and 
another are called Internal relations or actions. Those between the whole or 
any part of the system, and bodies not included in the system, are called 
External relations or actions," Clerk Maxwell, (1892), p. 11-12. 

** Herbert Spencer, too, distinguished physiology from psychology in terms 
of "internal relations" and "external relations," "The Classification of the 
Sciences," Table III. 


no collectivity indqjcndent of individuals. Individual and society 
are but two poles of the same phenomenon: extra-organismal re- 
actions of biological organisms. 

When sociology took form as a distinct discipline it v^as dedi- 
cated, as we have seen, to the study of the collective aspect of 
behavior. It thus became social psychology. Because the psychol- 
ogy of that day was individualistic in character and outlook, the 
infant sociology took pains to distinguish itself from that science. 

Professor F. W. Blackmar, as chairman of the session on Soci- 
ology at the St. Louis Congress of Arts and Sciences, protested 
against having sociology classified with the "mental sciences" on 
the program for the meeting. Notwithstanding all this, numerous 
sociologists have testified that the subject matter of sociology is 
"mental phenomena" and that sociology is, for the most part, 
social psychology. Thus Lester Ward speaks of "that collective 
psychology which constitutes so nearly the whole of sociology." 
Giddings declares that "society [is to be regarded] as a mode of 
mental activity . . . social life ... is a phenomenon of the mind 
. . . common mental activity . . ." Accordingly, he regards soci- 
ology as "a psychological science." Hobhouse says that "funda- 
mentally society is a psychological structure." American soci- 
ologists came to recognize that "social life is essentially psychical," 
according to Gottfried Salomon. At the St. Louis Congress of 
Arts and Sciences, C. A. Ellwood, speaking as chairman of the 
section on social psychology, refers to this science as "this most 
important part of sociology." Albion W. Small once defined soci- 
ology as "the science of the social process," but he also states that 
the interpretation of the social process is "social psychology." 
Thus, sociology and social psychology appear to be one and the 
same. To Giddings "societal psychology is substantially the same 
thing as sociology." And quite recently L. L. Bernard has de- 
clared that "modern sociology becomes largely social psychology," " 

Thus sociology turns out to be social psychology, and social 
psychology is psychology, according to the testimony of sociolo- 


gists as well as by our own definitions, E. A, Ross, the first 
sociologist to write a book entitled Social Psychology, defined 
social psychology as a subdivision of "general psychology." And 
more recently R. M. Maclver observes that "social psychology is 
a branch of psychology." We note therefore that in so far as 
sociology is the study of social interaction, social process, etc., it 
is merely a psychological science. But what of the study of super- 
psychological determinants of behavior? Where does sociology 
stand with reference to interpretation of cultural phenomena? " 

Sociology was a quarter of a century old, if not more, before 
the concept of culture entered into its thinking to any appreciable 
"extent. By degrees, however, the concept of culture— or, at least, 
the term— has become more common, and even popular. But, with 
few and relatively insignificant exceptions, sociologists have not 
been able to rise to a culturological point of view; they have 
not been able to envisage a science of culture as distinct from a 
science of society. 

To most sociologists culture is merely behavior, a particular 
kind of behavior, perhaps, but the reactions and interactions of 
human organisms, nevertheless. Thus Kimball Young says that 
"culture consists of . . . learned behavior patterns." To Read Bain, 
"culture is all behavior mediated by social symbols ... all culture 
patterns are resident in the organisms of persons." Ogburn and 
Nimkoff say that culture is "behavior transmitted by learning." 
Ellwood defines culture as "behavior patterns socially acquired and 
socially transmitted by means of symbols." ^ 

There is also a tendency among sociologists to regard culture 
as merely a by-product of social interaction. Thus, E. R. Groves 
states that "culture is a product of human association." Kimball 
Young thinks of culture as "a precipitate of man's social life." * 

To many sociologists, "cultural" has become merely another 
word for "social," Robert S. Lynd, for example, speaks of "the 
individual in our culture," "leaders of the culture," etc. As Jessie 
Bernard shrewdly observed many years ago, " 'culture' bids well 


to supersede 'society' and 'cultural/ 'social/ in the sociologist's 
vocabulary." ^ 

The inability of sociologists to conceive of culture as a supra- 
psychological order, distinct from the process of "social inter- 
action/' is well exemplified by the eminent German sociologist, 
Georg Simmel. When one considers, he says, "the development 
and character of language, morals, church, law, political and social 
organization," the conception that they constitute "a structure of 
independent reality, which leads its life after peculiar laws and 
by virtue of peculiar forces, independent of all its individual com- 
ponents" seems "inevitable." Simmel is here face to face with 
culture. Its independence of individuals is so plain that it compels 
recognition by itself. That culture has an existence of its own 
which is determined by its own laws, is also so plain as to make 
the conception "inevitable." Yet, so mired in individualistic 
psychology is Simmel, and so blinded by an obsolete metaphysics, 
that he cannot accept the conclusion to which his observations 
and reasoning "inevitably" lead him. "It is certain," he stubbornly 
maintains, "that in the last analysis only individuals exist." Even 
society exists only "in mental attitudes or psychological occur- 
rences within the minds of individuals." And culture, apart from 
material things, consists of "spiritual structures . . . [which] have 
their existence only in personal minds. Every attempt to think of 
them outside of persons is a mysticism . , /' ^<> 

The conception of a science of culture held by many American 
sociologists is expressed by Dorothy P. Gary in her essay "The 
Developing Study of Culture:" "A science of culture will be built 
up only when the analysis of culture is approached from the 
standpoint that culture itself is a social process growing out of 
and consisting of collective human behavior." " In other words, 
a science of culture will be realized only when it becomes a science 
of social process, of collective behavior, rather than a science of 
culture. Th. Abel considers the question of a science of culture 
in his essay, "Is a Cultural Sociology Possible?" and comes to the 


conclusion that it is not. To Abel, sociology is the study of 
"inter-human behavior" of which culture is but an aspect. 

There have been, to be sure, sociologists who have a fine ap- 
preciation of the role of culture in human behavior. Professor C. 
A. Ellwood, for example, declares that "it is impossible to under- 
stand human society without understanding human culture; for 
the social behavior of man ... is dominated by the culture of his 
group." But he, too, thinks of culture as human (organic) 
behavior rather than as a class of supra-psychologic, superorganic, 
phenomena. To Ellwood, "all culture is a product of the human 
mind [which means that] back of all historical interpretation, 
therefore, must be the method of psychological analysis . . . the 
development of culture is essentially a learning process," William 
F. Ogburn took a culturological point of view, to a certain extent 
at least, in his Social Change. But, as we have just seen, he and 
his collaborator, Nimkoff, think of culture as human behavior. 
Malcolm M. Willey is another sociologist who has done much 
to bring his science to an appreciation of culture. He has gone 
so far as to declare that "the study of culture — the processes of 
its origin and its growth, its spread and its perpetuation— con- 
stitutes the study of sociology." But in an earlier article written by 
Willey and Melville J. Herskovits (an anthropologist), we are 
told that "it must not be assumed, of course, that culture is a 
metaphysical entity which operates of itself. It is, rather, a generic 
term that covers an amazing number of types of behavior." ^^ 

Thus we see that sociologists think of culture as behavior, as 
social process or interaction, as a factor in human behavior, or as 
a by-product of human behavior. But they seldom, if ever, rise 
to the level of viewing culture as a distinct and separate class of 
supra-psychological, supra-social phenomena; as a process sui 
generis with its own laws. In short, they cannot rise above a science 
of society and envisage a science of culture. This is not, however, 
surprising. Being sociologists, they are by definition and tradition 
devoted to the study of society, of social interaction. It is not 


surprising, therefore, to find that when they are confronted with 
culture they translate it into the only language they know: the 
idiom of social interaction. There is not a single sociologist that 
we know of (Durkheim excepted) who has a clear conception of 
what a science of culture would be and who has devoted himself 
to the advancement of such a science. 

A few sociologists have, however, been sufficiently exposed to 
the culturological point of view to be disturbed by it. Professor 
R. M. Maclver is concerned with the "disturbing effect" which 
"the impact of anthropology" has had upon sociology: the "cul- 
tural approach," he says, "leaves sociology without a focus." Pro- 
fessor Robert S. Lynd issues a clear warning against the error of 
"viewing culture as a self-contained force, operating by inner 
laws of its own." He lists "four distinct advantages" which may be 
gained from treating culture as human behavior instead of as 
culture ("basically impersonal things"). Culture, he argues, does 
not "enamel its fingernails, or vote, or believe in capitalism, but 
people do." L. L. Bernard, too, argues against a science of culture, 
denying that culture is a thing suf generis. He likewise thinks of 
culture as "the impact of an intelligent organism . . . upon its 
environment," in other words, as the reactions of the human 
organism. ^^ 

Thus, among sociologists we find a recognition of cultural phe- 
nomena and an appreciation of the role of culture in human 
behavior. But we find virtually no conception of a science of 
culture among them, no appreciation of the fact that cultural 
phenomena constitute a separate and distinct order; that cultural 
elements act and react upon each other according to laws of their 
own; that culture as such can be explained only in terms of cul- 
ture; that culture not only can be studied apart from the psycho- 
logical reactions of human organisms, apart from "social inter- 
action," but that it must be so studied; in fine, that a special 
science is required to study and interpret this special class of 
phenomena, and that this science is not a science of psychology. 


individual or social, or a science of society or "social interaction," 
but a supra-psychological science of culture: culturology. 

With the creation of Sociology the boundaries of science were 
extended to embrace super-individual determinants of behavior. 
But, being but a science of group behavior, of collective psycho- 
logical determinants, Sociology was unable to grasp and interpret 
super-psychological determinants. Science was, therefore, obliged 
once again to advance its frontiers by creating a new science. This 
time it was culturology. 

It was the anthropologists who, as Professor A. L. Kroeber has 
observed, "discovered culture," ^* and it has been within the 
province of anthropology that the science of culture has had most 
of its growth. The eminent British anthropologist, Edward 
Burnett Tylor, was the first person, so far as we know, to formulate 
in an explicit and self-conscious manner, the point of view, the 
purpose, principles and scope, of a science of culture. He was the 
first, too, so far as we know, to use the phrase "science of cul- 
ture:" it was the title of Chapter I of Primitive Culture (1871). 
We do not mean to assert that Tylor was the first to take a cul- 
turological point of view or to produce a culturological work; 
there were, of course, others before Tylor who did this to a greater 
or lesser extent. But so far as we are aware, Tylor was the first to 
define and describe the new science. 

To begin with, Tylor gave us what has probably been the most 
satisfactory definition of culture that we have ever had until re^ 
cently. "Culture," he says in the opening words of Primitive Cul- 
ture, "is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, 
morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits ac- 
quired by man as a member of society." Secondly, Tylor makes it 
clear that this new science will take as its object of study, not 
human behavior, nor social process or interaction, but culture 
traits themselves as a separate and distinct class of phenomena. 
The study "not of tribes and nations, but the condition of knowl- 


edge, religion, art, custom, and the like among them" is the task 
he sets for his science. He proposes first to classify culture traits 
into categories such as weapons, myths, rites, social customs, etc., 
and then to "make out their distribution in geography and history 
and the relations which exist among them." It is the relations 
between culture traits, relations historic, geographic, and func- 
tional, that Tylor is concerned with, not relations between human 
beings (i.e., "social interaction")." 

The next noteworthy attempt to establish a science of culture 
was that of Emile Durkheim.* In a great deal of his work, but 
especially in The Rules oi Sociological Method— above all in the 
Preface to the second edition of this work— Durkheim endeavored 
to formulate the premises and principles of culturology. His 
phraseology was unfortunate, however, since it rather effectively 
concealed his true thought.** In the first place he calls his science 
"sociology" rather than a "science of culture" as Tylor did, and he 
lacks the terminology to distinguish between the social and the 
cultural. He designates the class of traditional super-psychologic 
symbolic phenomena which we call "culture" by such terms as 
"collective consciousness," which has not only obscured his 
thought but has brought upon him the charge of mysticism. But 
to one who can reach his thought and meaning through the 
facade of inappropriate terminology, it will be quite apparent that 
Durkheim is talking about culture rather than "society" or "social 
interaction," and that he is trying to establish a science of culture. 

* Having previously stated that the founding of the science of culture was 
primarily the work of anthropology the question arises. Was not Durkheim a 
sociologist? It is of course a fact that Durkheim called his science "sociology." 
But it is also true that its nature and content was very different from the 
works of most sociologists. As Bernard has put it, "the Durkheim school gen- 
erally has been closer to anthrop>ology than to sociology," (article "Social 
Psychology," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, p. 154). 

** See the opening words of Durkheim 's Preface to the second edition of 
The Rules for his own statement about how he was misunderstood by his 


Durkheim is speaking of culture when he says: 

. . . collective ways of acting or thinking have a reality outside 
the individuals who, at every moment of time, conform to it. 
These ways of thinking and acting exist in their own right. 
Collective representations are the result of an immense co- 
operation, which stretches out not only into space but into time 
as well; to make them, a multitude of minds have associated, 
united and combined their ideas and sentiments; for them, long 
generations have accumulated their experience and knowledge.^* 

Durkheim leaves no doubt that he is concerned with what 
anthropologists such as Tylor, Kroeber and Lowie have called 
culture even though he uses the term "society." "It is not true," 
he says, "that society is composed of individuals only; it also in- 
cludes material objects which play an essential role in the com- 
mon life," (emphasis ours). Among these material objects he lists 
"houses, buildings of all kinds which, once constructed, become 
autonomous realities, independent of individuals . . . lines of com- 
munication and transportation, . . . instruments and machines 
used in industry . . ." ^^ 

That Durkheim is interested in the behavior of culture traits 
rather than the behavior of human organisms ("social inter- 
action") is made clear by the following: 

We need to investigate, by comparison of mythical themes, 
popular legends, traditions, and languages, the manner in which 
social representations [i.e., culture traits] adhere to and repel 
one another, how they fuse or separate from one another.^® 

Since culture is to be studied with reference to the ways in 
which traits act and react upon one another— "adhere to and 
repel one another"— it follows that culture is to be explained in 
terms of culture: 

Society [i.e., culture] is a reality sui generis; it has its own pecul- 
iar characteristics . . . The determining cause of a social fact 
[culture trait] should be sought among the social facts [culture 


traits] preceding it . . . We must seek the explanation of social 
life [culture] in the nature of society [culture] itself.^^ 

A few sociologists have been able to see that Durlcheim is talk- 
ing about culture traits and their behavior rather than human 
organisms and their interactions, but most of his successors have 
either tried to reduce his culturology to the social psychology of 
interaction or have dismissed it as "mysticism." Despite misunder- 
standing, however, Durkheim's influence has been considerable, 
and he will eventually come to be recognized as one of the 
founders of the science of culture. 

In the works of Tylor and Durkheim the science of culture got 
off to a good start in the nineteenth century. But progress in this 
field has been rather meager in recent decades. A considerable 
amount of work of a culturological nature has been produced by 
American and European anthropologists. But little advance in the 
development of the theory of such a science has been made. 
There has, in fact, been considerable opposition to the cultur- 
ological point of view, and numerous signs point to regression 
from the level attained by Tylor and Durkheim. 

Professor A. L. Kroeber has undertaken to formulate the philos- 
ophy of a science of culture on several occasions, notably in the 
following essays: "The Superorganic," "The Possibility of a Social 
Psychology," "On the Principle of Order in Civilization as Exem- 
plified by Changes in Fashion," "Sub-Human Cultural Begin- 
nings," "So-Called Social Science," and, finally in his recent huge 
work. Configurations oi Culture Growth. Like Comte, Kroeber 
is concerned with the "hierarchy of the sciences." He distinguishes 
cultural phenomena from psychological phenomena. "Civiliza- 
tion," he says, "is not mental action but a body or stream of 
mental exercise." He distinguishes the psychological from the cul- 
tural in the instance of Darwin's formulation of the theory of 
natural selection: the "reactions in Darwin's nervous system at the 
moment when the thought of natural selection flashed upon him," 


are contrasted with "the relation of doctrines such as that of 
natural selection to other concepts and social [cultural] phe- 
nomena." In short, Kroeber envisages a science which would con- 
cern itself, not with psychological events, but with the actions and 
reactions of superorganic (cultural) phenomena.^" In speaking of 
the reaction of one concept on another, Kroeber is thinking as 
Durkheim was when he spoke of the way in which "social repre- 
sentations [culture traits] adhere to and repel one another, how 
they fuse or separate from one another." 

Culture, as a class of supra-psychic— or superorganic, to use 
Kroeber's term— phenomena constitutes a distinct order of reality, 
in Kroeber's conception. "The superorganic or super-psychic . . . 
that we call civilization [culture] appears to have an existence, an 
order, and a causality as objective and as determinable as those of 
the sub-psychic or inorganic," he says. He also thinks of culture 
as a "closed system of phenomena," which means that "the first 
explanation of cultural phenomena must be in cultural terms," ^^ 

Professor Kroeber is not able to hold consistently to the culture- 
logical point of view, however. He appears to think that 
culturological explanations can be only historical; "Anthropology 
belongs in the group of the historical sciences," he says. General- 
izations dealing with non-temporal aspects of cultural phenomena 
would, he reasons, belong to psychology, as is indicated by the 
title of one of his essays, "The Possibility of a Social Psychology." 
He is not quite able to conceive of scientific laws of culture itself. 
Instead, he speaks of laws which underlie culture, and these are 
"the laws of psychology." ^- 

Kroeber has pointed out in "The Possibility of a Social Psychol- 
ogy" "the fatal defect" of the term "sociology": its failure to 
distinguish the cultural from the social. But he does little to 
remedy this shortcoming, since in the same essay where the defect 
of "sociology" is exposed, he suggests that the science of cul- 
ture be called "cultural mechanics," "social psychology," and even 
^'sociology." If only he could have crystallized his thought in a 



new term: "culturology"! In a later essay, he does use the phrase 
"science of culture," however. And he displays a keen under- 
standing of the direction that science is taking when he observes: 
"It does look as if the future science would be more concerned 
with culture than with society." " 

Professor Robert H. Lowie gives us a clear expression of the 
culturological point of view in his various writings. To him, culture 
constitutes a distinct class of supra-psychological phenomena 
which requires a special science for its interpretation. "During the 
last hundred years," he writes, "it has become increasingly clear 
that culture . . . represents ... a distinct domain. We have [in 
culture] a thing sui generis that demands for its investigation a 
distinct science." This distinct science is to be a "science of cul- 
ture," as he calls it in a recent essay. The science of culture is to 
be distinguished sharply from a science of mental phenomena: 
"We cannot reduce cultural to psychological phenomena . . . 
Culture . . . can be explained only in terms of itself." Like Durk- 
heim and Kroeber, Lowie sees that culture traits as such act and 
react upon each other: "culture thus appears as a closed system." 
It is therefore the business of the ethnologist [culturologist] to 
show how one cultural element is determined by, or influences, 
other culture traits. He shows, for example, how a type of kin- 
ship terminology is determined by rules of marriage and descent.^* 

Clark Wissler, likewise an anthropologist, takes the culturologi- 
cal point of view in much of his work. He regards the "culture 
concept [as] one of the most recent and important achievements 
in anthropological research." He distinguishes psychology, the 
scientific explanation of the way people behave, from anthro- 
pology, the study of the way culture traits, or cultures, behave. 
In fact, he advocates the study of "culture as independent of 
human beings." Like Tylor, Wissler states that the task of the 
anthropologist is to "describe and classify these inventions [cul- 
ture traits], to study their distribution over the earth, and above 
all the gross outlines of their history." Wissler is interested in the 


evolution of culture, the history of specific traits and complexes, 
and in relationships obtaining between traits. "All cultures," he 
maintains, "follow out their careers according to discoverable 
laws," and it is the anthropologist's business to discover and to 
formulate these laws.^' 

Wissler does not, however, fully appreciate the extent to which 
the culturological point of view can be applied. Instead of trying 
to explain such traits as the couvade and incest prohibitions in 
terms of the interaction of other culture traits, he turns them over 
to the psychologist.^® He would thus restrict the science of cul- 
ture to an unwarranted and unfortunate degree, and deprive it of 
much opportunity for achievement. But this blind spot does not 
lessen the merit of his culturological work in other areas of inter- 

Wissler's insight and understanding concerning the expansion 
of the scope of science and of the direction which this expansion 
is taking are shown in the following passage: 

Thus, it was an easy step from the realization of the individual 
to the conception of society . . . Such a consciousness of our- 
selves functioning as a group is coincident with the rise of 
sociology . . . and whereas a century or more ago men were 
thinking in terms of the individual, they came during the 
last half century to see themselves in society. It is then a curious 
fact that for a long time man was so intent upon his individual- 
ism, he failed to sense the existence of society, and that to 
such a thing as culture was totally blind. But we have seen how 
our people are just becoming conscious of the existence of 
culture ... So while we have attained social consciousness . . . 
into culture consciousness we are just now groping our way.'^ 

Professor G. P. Murdock has a fine exposition of the culturologi- 
cal point of view in his essay, "The Science of Culture." Dr. Bern- 
hard J. Stern also touches upon it in an illuminating manner in 
his article, "Concerning the Distinction between the Social and 
the Cultural." It would be interesting to note expressions of the 


culturological point of view in the works of other men if sufficient 
space were at our disposal. But we have cited enough to show that 
some progress in the direction of a science of culture has been 
made since the days of Tylor and Durkheim. 

But the new science has encountered considerable opposition as 
well as support. The extension of the point of view of science to 
the realm of human institutions has aroused the opposition and 
resentment of champions of the older philosophy of free will. As 
Durkheim has expressed it: 

The same antagonism breaks out each time a new science is 
founded ... on more than one point, the natural sciences them- 
selves found an obstacle in faith. But it is especially when man 
became an object of science that the resistance became fierce. 
The believer, indeed, cannot but find repugnant the idea that 
man is to be studied as a natural being, analogous to others, 
and moral facts as facts of nature. It is well known how these 
collective sentiments, under the different forms they have taken, 
have hindered the development of psychology and sociology 

Opposition to a science of culture is not confined to non- 
scientists, however. We have already noted the opposition of cer- 
tain sociologists, and there is considerable opposition to culturol- 
ogy among anthropologists themselves. 

Kroeber's early attempt, in "The Superorganic" (1917), to 
formulate the culturological point of view and to advocate a 
science of culture was met with speedy and spirited opposition. 
Edward Sapir, in a skillfully argued essay entitled "Do We Need 
a Super-Organic?" tried to show that no such concept, and conse- 
quently no special science, was needed. Alexander Goldenweiser,. 
also in a reply to Kroeber's essay "The Superorganic," likewise 
opposed a super-psychological science of culture. "The life of cul- 
ture," he argues elsewhere, "belongs to the psychological level. 
It is in the minds of men in society . . . The historian, the an- 
thropologist, are students of life. Life is psychology." ^* 


It seems likely that Franz Boas had Kroeber in mind when he 
wrote, "It seems hardly necessary to consider culture a mystic 
entity that exists outside the society of its individual carriers and 
that moves by its own force." Like Lynd, Boas would insist that 
"cultures do not enamel their fingernails but that people do." 
Ruth Benedict, too, can see nothing but mysticism in Kroeber's 
attempt to formulate a science of culture as a class of phenomena 
sui generis. She speaks of those who "have often expressed them- 
selves in mystical phraseology . . . like Kroeber they have called 
in a force he calls the superorganic to account for the cultural pro- 
cess." Being unable to understand or to appreciate a science of 
supra-psychological phenomena, Boas and Benedict simply brand 
the idea "mystical" and reject it. The inability of Boas to rise above 
the level of psychological interpretation and to grasp a culturo- 
logical point of view is clearly set forth in a significant passage by 
Benedict. "It has never been sufficiently realized," she writes, "how 
consistently throughout his life Boas defined the task of ethnology 
as the study of 'man's mental life,' 'fundamental psychic attitudes 
of cultural groups,' 'man's subjective worlds/ " ^° 

Father Wilhelm Schmidt defines ethnology as "a science of the 
mind." ^^ 

The reaction against the culturological point of view in Ameri- 
can anthropology in recent years has gone so far as to receive the 
following summary expression in the words of David Bidney: "The 
tendency to hypostatize culture and to conceive it as a transcen- 
dental, super-organic, or super-psychic force . . . the assumption 
that culture is a force that may make and develop itself" is one of 
the major "cultural fallacies" of our day. It is the "culturalistic 
fallacy," to be specific, he tells us.^^ Dr. Bidney fails to ap- 
preciate the direction that science has been taking for more than 
a century, that it has been moving upward from the individual 
psychologic level to the social psychologic, and from there to the 
super-psychologic, or culturologic, level. He feels only the impact 


of the current reaction against this trend and consequently does no 
more than serve as the passive medium of its expression. 

Many anthropologists are still unable to rise above the level of a 
sociological, or socio-psychological, conception of human behavior. 
Thus Radcliffe-Brown ridicules the notion that two cultures can 
react upon each other, or that a culture can exert an influence, or 
produce an effect, upon an individual human being. Culture, to 
Radcliffe-Brown, is merely "an abstraction," and he finds it "fan- 
tastic to imagine . . . two abstractions coming into contact and 
by an act of generation producing a third abstraction." The idea 
that a culture can "act upon an individual" is, to Radcliffe-Brown, 
"as absurd as to hold a quadratic equation capable of committing 
a murder." In theoretical outlook Radcliffe-Brown is merely a 
sociologist; he is incapable of envisaging a science of culture.* 
He asks: "Is a science of culture possible? Boas says it is not. I 
agree. You cannot have a science of culture." But, he says, a sci- 
ence of societies is possible and this is the proper goal of the 
social anthropologist.^^ 

Radcliffe-Brown confuses the issue very effectively by calling cul- 
ture an abstraction. Words are culture traits. Why call them ab- 
stractions any more than the bark of a dog or the quack of a duck? 
The fact that words have a symbolic significance as well as auditory 
and physical properties does not make them "abstractions," any 
more than the sexual significance of the mating call of frogs makes 
this an abstraction. Polygynous households are culture traits. But 
why call one husband and three wives an abstraction any more 
than one atomic nucleus and three electrons? Why should social 
or ceremonial forms be called abstractions any more than cellular 
or molecular forms? A wild horse is not an abstraction. Why call 

* It is an interesting and noteworthy fact, however, that although RadcHffe- 
Brown has not been able to appreciate the concept of a science of culture 
and hence has repudiated and rejected such a concept, he has employed it 
effectively in some of his work. His "Social Organization of Australian Tribes" 
is a good example of a culturological interpretation of super-psychological 


a domesticated horse (a culture trait) one? Culture traits are very 
real things:* objects, acts, forms, sentiments and ideas which 
can be and are experienced as real things. There is no more reason 
for calling them abstractions than anything else in our experience. 
As for culture's ability to "act upon an individual," it is remark- 
able to find a man who is so often identified with Durlcheim 
arguing this question in the negative. It was one of Durkheim's 
chief theses that culture traits have an existence prior to and inde- 
pendent of the individual human organism, and that these traits 
impinge upon man from the outside and profoundly affect his 
behavior. And it is, of course, obvious that this is the case. From 
birth— and even before— culture traits in the form of ideas, senti- 
ments, acts, and material objects act upon the human organism 
and cause it to behave in this way and that. And it is not as 
"absurd" as Radcliffe-Brown would have us think to "hold a 
quadratic equation [i.e., an idea or set of ideas] capable of com- 
mitting a murder," A culture trait in the form of an idea may so 
stimulate the human organism as to cause it to kill another human 
being. This is in fact a very common thing in cases of witchcraft, 
the killing of one or both of twins at birth, and many other cul- 
tural situations. A culture trait in the form of a sentiment-charged 
idea will cause a Japanese general to disembowel himself in atone- 
ment for disgrace or failure, or an occidental officer to blow out his 
brains with a pistol. It would, of course, be silly to argue that it 
was the person, the human organism, that actually does the killing 
in the examples just cited. Of course it was the human being. But 
—and this is the point at issue in a scientific analysis of behavior- 
it was the culture trait, not the human being, that was the determi- 
nant of the behavior, and hence was the cause, scientifically speak- 
ing, of the homicides. The human organism does not kill witches 
or commit hara-kiri because of any inherent property or tendency. 

* Recall Durkheim's emphasis upon the prof>osition that social facts arc 
things (choses). This proposition was "at the very basis of . . . [his] method," 
(The Rules, p. xliii). 


As a matter of fact, self-destruction runs counter to powerful 
and deep-seated organic tendencies. But, under the powerful stim- 
ulation of cultural traits, acting upon the organism from the out- 
side, the human being can be brought to homicide or hara-kiri. 
These acts are the organic responses to cultural stimuli, and in 
scientific phraseology, it is quite proper to say that the culture 
traits are the causes, the killings the results. If different cultural 
stimuli are applied, different results will be forthcoming. Thus, 
we see that far from being absurd to think of a "quadratic equa- 
tion, i.e., a culture trait in the form of an idea-sentiment, commit- 
ting a murder," or a suicide, it is realistic and scientifically valid to 
think in precisely this way.* 

Professor A. Irving Hallowell, too, emphasizes a point of view 
which would rule out a supra-psychologic science of culture. After 
quoting with approval Sidney's characterization of the culturologi- 
cal point of view as a fallacy, he says: 

Although anthropologists often speak of the "movements" of 
culture or the "meeting" of cultural traits or complexes, this 
manner of speaking must be understood as an economical mode 
of abstract speech. In a literal sense cultures never have met 
nor will ever meet. What is meant is that peoples meet and 
that, as a result of the processes of social interaction, accultura- 
tion—modifications in the mode of life of one or both peoples 
—may take place. Individuals are the dynamic centers of this 
process of interaction ... it is hard to see how culture— an 
abstract summation of the mode of life of a people— can exert 
an influence except as it is a definable constituent of the 

* We do not assert that the culturological point of view is nowhere implicit 
in Radcliffe-Brown's work. It is. As we have already noted, it permeates his 
fine study, "The Social Organization of Australian Tribes." When he dis- 
tinguishes "social anthropology" from psychology in "The Methods of Eth- 
nology and Social Anthropology," p. 133, he gives expression to the culturo- 
logical point of view. What we have claimed here is that Radcliffe-Brown 
has explicitly and specifically opposed the theory of a science of culture. This 
is demonstrated by his own utterances. The fact that he not infrequently docs 
culturology in no way invalidates this charge. Even scientists sometimes fail 
to square their behavior with their articulate theory. 


activities of human individuals in interaction with each other. 
In the last analysis it is individuals who respond to and influence 
one another,^* (emphasis ours). 

We see here only the social psychologist, with, however, a 
marked individualistic bias. Hallowell thinks of culture only as 
the reactions of biological organisms. The interaction of culture 
traits as such seems utterly unrealistic to him. Hence he resolutely 
turns his back upon a science of culture. 

Oi course culture traits could do nothing were it not for human 
beings; they could not even exist. And who, we might ask, has ever 
thought otherwise? Certainly not Tylor, Durkheim, Kroeber, 
Lowie, Wissler, or any other culturologist that we know of. But 
it is a false realism to argue that culture traits do not react upon 
each other immediately and directly. A hoe is a culture trait. It 
acts directly upon and influences other culture traits such as divi- 
sion of labor between the sexes, customs of residence, food habits, 
religious beliefs and ceremonies, and so on. The introduction of 
the automobile in modern American culture directly affected many 
other culture traits: harness and carriage manufacture, the steel 
and rubber industries, road building, urban development, road 
houses and tourist camps, consolidated schools, etc. To be sure, 
these cultural events could not have taken place had it not been 
for human organisms. But is our account of the influence of the 
automobile upon other culture traits made any more realistic by 
introducing these organisms into it? Not one whit. The develop- 
ment of the symphony or non-Euclidean geometry could not have 
taken place without the respiratory and digestive processes of com- 
posers and mathematicians. But to inject these physiologic proc- 
esses into a scientific explanation of these cultural processes would 
not add a single thing to our understanding of them. On the con- 
trary, it would only confuse because of their irrelevance. Thus we 
see that, although culture traits have no existence, and hence can 
do nothing without the agency of human beings, we can treat 


them scientifically as if they had an independent existence. In fact, 
as we have shown, the problem of the direct and immediate influ- 
ence of one trait upon another can be solved most effectively by 
eliminating the human organism from our consideration entirely. 
Far from being unrealistic— or fantastic or absurd, in the words of 
Radcliffe-Brown— it is a common procedure in science. The physi- 
cist may treat falling bodies as if they fell in a perfect vacuum; or 
imagine an airplane passing without friction through the atmos- 
phere. But no physicist is so naive as to protest that such things 
simply don't occur; it goes without saying that they do not. Every 
physicist knows that the most effective— if not the only— way to 
arrive at the formulas and propositions necessary to explain physi- 
cal phenomena is to substitute ideal situations for real ones.* The 
only way, for example, to arrive at a law of falling bodies is to 
imagine them falling through a perfect vacuum— a situation that 
does not and cannot exist on this earth. 

Similarly the culturologist knows full well that culture traits 
do not go walking about like disembodied souls interacting with 
each other. But he realizes that he can explain cultural phenomena 
as cultural phenomena only when he treats them as ii they had a 
life of their own, quite apart from the glands, nerves, muscles, etc., 
of human organisms. The remarkable thing about this argument 
is not that it is revolutionary, but that it should be necessary to 
defend it. It is neither revolutionary nor novel. As a matter of fact, 
scholars in many fields have been making culturological studies for 
decades. We have had studies of Indo-European and other lan- 
guages on a purely linguistic, i.e., non-biological, level. We have 
had studies of the evolution of currency, the effect of telescopes 
upon theological beliefs; the influence of the industrial revolution 

* Physics, says the distinguished physicist, Max Planck, "substitutes a new 
world in place of that given to us by the senses. . . . The other world is the 
so-called physical world image; it is merely an intellectual structure. To a 
certain extent it is arbitrary. It is a kind of model or idealization created in 
order to avoid the inaccuracy inherent in every measurement and to facilitate 
exact definition," The Philosophy oi Fhysics, (New York, 1936), p. 53. 


upon political institutions; the development of Greek tragedy, non- 
Euclidean geometry, Gothic architecture, and parliamentary gov- 
ernment; the relationship between taxi dance halls and prostitu- 
tion, delicatessens and the divorce rate; money spent on medical 
schools and death rates for contagious diseases, etc., etc. All of 
these are culturological problems and their solutions are culturo- 
logical. Need one insist that none of these situations could exist 
were it not for human organisms? It is obvious of course that they 
could not. But it is equally obvious that the introduction of 
human organisms into a consideration of these problems is not 
only not necessary, it is irrelevant and confusing. It is only the 
traditional habit of thinking anthropomorphically which still clings 
to "social science" that keeps one from seeing that in the man- 
culture system, it is the cultural, rather than the organic, factor 
that is the determinant of the events within this system. 

We see then that the culturological point of view, procedure and 
objective are not new. Actually, scholars in philology, musicology, 
philosophy, mathematics, political science, economics, literature, 
art, have been making culturological studies for years. Our argu- 
ment in support of a science of culture is necessary now only be- 
cause the theoretical position taken today by many psychologists, 
sociologists and anthropologists opposes this new science so 

■^Tje reaction against the culturological point of view has gone 
even farther than has been indicated above. Proceeding from the 
view that culture is "an abstraction," some anthropologists have 
argued that it is intangible and imperceptible and end up by ques- 
tioning the very existence and reality of culture itself. Thus Ralph 
Linton observes: 

Any investigator of culture is at once confronted with the 
problem of its reality. Do cultures actually exist, . . . ? Culture 
... is intangible and cannot be directly apprehended even by 
individuals who participate in it ... If it [culture] can be said 
to exist at all . . ." 


Herskovits regards culture as "intangible," but grants to culture 
patterns "the reality of any abstraction," ^^ whatever this may 
mean. Thus culture is made virtually to disappear. And obviously 
if culture does not exist there can be no science of culture. 

Vigorous opposition to a science of culture comes from Earnest 
Albert Hooton. Whereas anthropologists like Boas, Goldenvi^eiser, 
Sapir and others have essentially a psychological point of view, 
Professor Hooton's outlook is on a still lower level: the biological. 
To him the study of culture is but a branch of biology. "Since 
man's behavior," he argues, "is a function of his organism ... it 
is within the province of the physical anthropologist to survey also 
the cultural and psychological symptoms of the well-being or ill- 
being of the human animal." Just as Lynd deplores the "artificial" 
separation of culture from people, so does Hooton bewail the 
attempt to disjoint culture from the blood, bone, and muscle of 
the human organism. "My only quarrel with the ethnologist and 
with the social anthropologist," he says, "is that they willfully 
abstract social phenomena and divorce man's activities as a social 
animal from man himself. [He deplores] the old way of consider- 
ing social institutions completely apart from the human animals 
which produce them, as if the former lived, died, propagated and 
evolved independently, like parasites upon their human hosts." 
Professor Hooton can see what culturologists are trying to do, but 
being unable to appreciate anything beyond the horizon of biol- 
ogy, he regards their objective as a great mistake. "We have been 
misled," he bemoans, "into the imbecilic assumption that culture, 
an inanimate thing consisting of humanly manipulated matter and 
disembodied ideas, evolves by itself ever onward and upward, and 
that all man has to do is to grease the wheels and ride." Hooton 
has even gone so far, in his anti-culturological attitude, as to sug- 
gest that "it is possibly more profitable for the sociologist and the 
social anthropologist to study monkeys [who are, of course, culture- 
less, L.A.W.] than savages." Needless to say, Professor Hooton's 
unfortunate attitude toward a science of culture in no way de- 


tracts from the excellence of his contributions in other fields.^' 

Professor C. W. M. Hart, too, deplores the separation of the 
cultural (or the social, for that matter) from the biological.^^ 

Thus we see that although some progress has been made in the 
direction of realizing a science of culture in recent decades, there 
is also considerable opposition to it. Some, like Boas, are simply 
not able to grasp the concept of a special science devoted to a 
distinct and independent class of super-psychological determinants 
of behavior. Others, like Lynd and Hooton, see what culturologists 
are trying to do, but are convinced that they are on the wrong— 
a dangerously wrong— track. 

As a matter of fact, anthropology has actually regressed in recent 
years from the levels attained by Tylor and Durkheim in the nine- 
teenth century. We have, of course, an objective criterion and 
measure of advance and regression in the expansion of the scope of 
science. We may view the stages of this expansion as a series of 
strata, one laid upon another, the older strata on the bottom, the 
newer on top. Thus at one time we see the science of the behavior 
of man on the anatomical and physiological level. Subsequently 
science has advanced to the individual psychological level, then to 
the socio-psychological, and finally to the culturological, level. 
Thus by referring the point of view and objectives of anthropology 
at any given time to this developmental series, we can gauge its 
condition of advancement or regression. 

Measured by this yardstick, anthropology has regressed consider- 
ably, especially since 1930.^® Science attained the culturological 
level in anthropology. This is anthropology's distinctive achieve- 
ment and mission: to formulate and develop a science of culture. 
Tylor and Durkheim formulated such a science. Kroeber, Lowie, 
Wissler, and others have carried it forward. But many students 
bearing the professional label of "anthropologist" have been un- 
able to ascend to the culturological level and to grasp the concept 
of a supra-psychological science of cultural phenomena. Being 
unable to do this, they have opposed the culturological point of 


view. We have already seen how Boas, Sapir, Goldenweiser and 
Benedict opposed it. Culture, Goldenweiser argues, "belongs to 
the psychological level. It is in the minds of men." Sapir, apart 
from linguistics, was primarily a psychologist. We get some notion 
of how far the anthropology of today is from the culturological 
position of former years from the following statement by one of 
our younger anthropologists, Dr. John Gillin: 

One of the greatest recent advances [in anthropological theory] 
is the realization by anthropologists that culture is a psycho- 
logical phenomenon.''" 

It is rather ironical that the article in which this observation 
appears should have been entitled "Some Unfinished Business of 
Cultural Anthropology." The "unfinished business" is, of course, 
the development of a science of culture. The realization that cul- 
ture is a "psychological phenomenon" is not an advance but a 
regression to a lower level in the development of science. 

More recently Professor M. J. Herskovits tells us that "the ulti- 
mate reality of culture is psychological." * 

Not only has anthropology regressed to the psychological level; 
it has tended to go even below the collective psychological level 
and come to rest upon the level of individual psychology. "An 
analysis of culture," Goldenweiser argues, "if fully carried out, 
leads back to the individual mind." To Boas the "working of cul- 
ture" meant "the life of the individual as controlled by culture and 
the effect of the individual upon culture. The causal conditions of 
cultural happenings lie always in the interaction between indi- 
vidual and society." "It is always the individual that really thinks 
and acts and dreams and revolts," Sapir maintained. Sapir's "ap- 

* "Tlie Processes of Cultural Change," p. 163. Why one should locate the 
"ultimate reality" of culture in psychological processes is not clear. If one 
reduces culture to the psychological level why not reduce psychological events 
to the physiological level, and these to the anatomical and these in turn to 
the chemical and physical levels — if one is concerned with ultimates. 


proach to the problem was always through the individual," accord- 
ing to Ruth Benedict. Hallowell asserts that "in the last analysis 
it is individuals who respond to and influence one another." 
Linton takes the position that "culture . . . exists only in the 
minds of the individuals who compose a society. It derives all its 
qualities from their personalities and the interaction of these 
personalities." *^ 

In line with this emphasis upon the individual, we note that the 
most popular trend in American anthropology today is the study 
of personality. "Depth psychology," ink-blot tests, psychiatry, etc., 
are almost de rigueur these days for the up-to-date anthropolo- 
gist. Thus we see that much of anthropology today has regressed 
to a level even below that of most sociologists and some social 
psychologists. And in some of Hooton's work, anthropological 
theory has regressed even lower and has reached the biological 
level. His interpretation of social disorders in terms of inferior 
germ plasm and his advocacy of social reform through biological 
purges are expressions of this point of view.*^ 

In a recent work, Kroeber has once again given expression to the 
culturological point of view: "I am convinced that, the phenome- 
non being cultural, the explanation must first of all be made in 
cultural terms . . . psychological explanations have not got any- 
one very far in reducing the phenomena of history to order, and 
I shall not fall back on them." *^ But in these days of personality 
studies and ink-blot tests, Kroeber stands almost alone. How is 
anthropology's regression from culturology to psychology and psy- 
chiatry to be explained? 

Long ago Tylor remarked upon the repugnance with which 
otherwise enlightened persons will regard a science of culture. "To 
many educated minds," he wrote, "there seems something pre- 
sumptuous and repulsive in the view that the history of mankind 
is part and parcel of the history of nature, that our thoughts, wills, 
and actions accord with laws as definite as those which govern the 


motion of waves, the combination of acids and bases, and the 
growth of plants and animals." ** 

Durkheim, too, noted that the old anthropocentric philosophy 
of free will, which still dominates our thinking about man and his 
behavior, generates vigorous opposition to a science of culture. 
He wrote: 

Numerous survivals of the anthropocentric bias still remain 
and . . . here as elsewhere, they bar the way to science. It dis- 
pleases man to renounce the unlimited power over the social 
order he has so long attributed to himself; and on the other 
hand, it seems to him that, if collective forces really exist, he 
is necessarily obliged to submit to them without being able to 
modify them. This makes him inclined to deny their existence. 
In vain have repeated experiences taught him that this omnipo- 
tence, the illusion of which he complacently entertains, has 
always been a cause of weakness in him; that his power over 
things really began only when he recognized that they have a 
nature of their own, and resigned himself to learning this nature 
from them. Rejected by all other sciences, this deplorable prej- 
udice stubbornly maintains itself in sociology [culturology]. 
Nothing is more urgent than to liberate our science from it, 
and this is the principal purpose of our efforts.*^ 

And more recently A. L. Kroeber has observed that a science of 
culture will have to win its way against the older philosophy of 
human free will: 

Our minds instinctively resist the first shock of the recognition 
of a thing [cultural determinism] so intimately woven into us 
and yet so far above and so utterly uncontrollable by our wills. 
We feel driven to deny its reality, to deny even the validity of 
dealing with it as an entity; just as men at large have long and 
bitterly resented admitting the existence of purely automatic 
forces and system in the realm that underlies and carries and 
makes possible the existence of our personalities: the realm of 


These quotations do not merely distinguish between "social" 
science and "natural" science. They also distinguish between the 
philosophy of determinism and the philosophy of free will that 
still permeates much of the thinking of today.* Social science had 
won its way to the philosophy of determinism in the anthropology 
of the i88o's and '90's: "If law is anywhere it is everywhere/' said 

We find that anthropology has regressed at this point, too. 
We have exponents of free will in anthropology today, and this 
philosophy seems to be growing in strength and adherents. Dr. 
Margaret Mead believes that "man should democratically take 
control of his own destiny and build himself a world that is fit 
to live in." " Much of her book, And Keep Your Powder Dry, 
is permeated with the philosophy of Free Will. Dr. John R. 
Swanton closes his essay "Are Wars Inevitable?" with the assur- 
ance that "all that is needed [to terminate warfare] is the will to 
do so." Ralph Linton espouses the philosophy of free will and 
the theory of social change through education in his lecture to 
teachers entitled "Potential Contributions of Cultural Anthro- 
pology to Teacher Education." "I believe," he says, "that there 
are none of our current problems which cannot be solved if people 
will put their minds to them and it is the educator's task to make 
them willing and able to do this (p. 9) ... If the educator can 
establish a particular value system in his pupils he can control 
the future of his society, not in detail but in gross. By the feeling 

* On this point Alfred North Whitehead makes the following penetrating 
observation: "A scientific realism, based on mechanism, is conjoined with an 
unwavering belief in the world of men and of the higher animals as being 
composed of self-determining organisms. This radical inconsistency at the basis 
of modern thought accounts for much that is half-hearted and wavering in 
our civilization. It would be going too far to say that it distracts thought. It 
enfeebles it, by reason of the inconsistency lurking in the background," 
{Science and the Modern World, p. 94, emphasis ours). 

Much of anthropological thought is enfeebled — not to say crippled — today 
by a belief in man as a "self-determining organism" as the following quota- 
tions will show. 


which he estabhshes toward war, or toward unhmited accumula- 
tion of wealth, or toward social justice he can deflect culture 
change in desirable or undesirable directions (p. 16) ... A 
society that genuinely believes in social justice can get social 
justice and the educator can do more than anyone else to estab- 
lish this bchcf (p. 17) . . •" 

Professor Linton makes the control of culture change seem 
very simple. Teachers, guided of course by a little coaching from 
the cultural anthropologist, will direct the course of social change 
as the)' please, "in desirable or undesirable directions," simply by 
establishing the proper "value systems" in their pupils and insur- 
ing the proper "feeling" toward social problems so that when 
they grow up they will be "willing and able to put their minds to 
these problems" and by so doing solve them. This view is faintly 
reminiscent of what the clergy have been telling us for centuries: 
"If we will but purpose in our hearts . . ." Or, as politicians, 
columnists, and rhetoricians put it: "If the democracies (peace- 
loving nations, the churches, the women, etc., etc.) of the world 
would only take a firm stand against war . . ." To which one 
might add: "If New England had a sub-tropical climate they 
could grow grapefruit," or "if frogs grew fur the world might be 
made safe for chinchillas." 

But the crassest expression of the doctrine of Free Will that 
we have seen recently is to be found in a recent article in the 
American Anthropologist: "The Concept of Cultural Crisis." 
Here we are told by Dr. David Bidney that "man, under God,* 
controls his own cultural destiny and is free to choose and realize 
the ends he would achieve," (p. 541). With the re-introduction 

* We believe that it is not at all facetious — above all for an anthropologist 
— to inquire of Dr. Bidney, "Whose God?" The God of the Christians or 
the God of the Jews? Of the Catholics or of the Protestants? The God of 
Mary Baker Eddv, Madame Blavatsky, or of Pius IX? Of Gandhi or of 
Winston Churchill? Of William Jennings Bryan or of Robert Andrews Milli- 
kan — not to mention the Gods of millions upon millions of Mohammedans, 
Hindus, Buddhists and others. 


of God into ethnological theory, Bidney sets a new low in the 
present trend toward regression.* 

We have, however, merely exhibited the opposition to a science 
of culture and demonstrated the occurrence of regression; we have 
not explained it. To undertake such an explanation would require 
another essay, but we might suggest here that the regression we 
are witnessing in social science in general and in cultural anthro- 
pology in particular is but one aspect of a reactionary tendency 
that pervades Western civilization today. The nineteenth cen- 
tury was one of expansion and growth of our social system as well 
as our technology; it was an era of progress. With the end of the 
period of colonization of backward lands and peoples in Asia and 
Africa, and the disappearance of the frontier in America, our 
social system reached the limits of its capacity for growth. Mass 
unemployment, over-production and glutted markets, relieved 
only by periodic World Wars, are the indexes of this condition. 
An obsolete social system is striving to maintain itself against 
technological imperatives for change. Although there have been 
some gains— the destruction of the feudal houses of Romanoff, 
Hapsburg and Hohenzollern— the status quo has had, on the 
whole, the better of it in the struggle. The powers victorious in 
the war just ended are dedicated to the status quo ante bellum, 
to the preservation of the old system of capitalism, empire and 
imperialism. Our whole life is pervaded, therefore, by reactionary 

* Kroeber charitably grants Bidney his God, remarking that he does not 
see why he should be concerned with the use of God, by Bidney or Toynbee, 
in their interpretations of culture "until it is evident that their attitude affects 
the results of their studies" (1948, p. 413). But how could it be otherwise 
than to affect their interpretations? And do we not already know what this 
effect will be? The use of "God" as an explanatory device is hardly original 
with Bidney and Toynbee. Have we not had centuries and centuries of this 
kind of interpretation? And has not the development of science been, to a 
very great extent, an attempt to outgrow and get away from such sterile and 
mystical concepts as "God" as explanatory devices? 

It is worth pointing out as a relevant fact in this connection that Bidney 
was not trained in anthropology but in philosophy, where, presumably, there 
is still a place and a use for "God" as an explanatory concept. 


purposes and ideals and to a great extent dominated by them. 
The victors of World War II will probably effect a continuation 
of this political and philosophic atmosphere for some time to 

It is therefore not surprising to discover reactionary and re- 
gressive tendencies in present-day anthropology.* It is both anti- 
evolutionist and anti-culturological. The outlook for the immed- 
iate future is not bright. But all science is still young and cultur- 
ology is the youngest member of the family. Nor has social evolu- 
tion reached the end of its rope. Culture is but a million years old 
and we have some twenty million years ahead of us— unless, of 
course, the techniques of destruction develop to the point of 
extermination. The way of life that "we fought to maintain" will 
eventually be discarded and forgotten. And with the advance of 
cultural and social evolution will go advance in philosophy and 
science. A science of culture will come eventually. Meanwhile, 
those who know what course the evolution of culture has taken 
in the past will know how best to serve the cause of science in 
the future. 

Summary: Man is an animal, and like all other living beings 
he strives to live: to adapt himself to his habitat, to exercise some 
control over his environment so that life can be made secure and 
his kind perpetuated. Man has the same means of adjustment 
and control that other animals have: neuro-sensory-muscular- 
glandular, etc. But in addition to these purely animal means, he 
has a technique that is peculiarly human: articulate speech. With 
language man constructs philosophies in which the whole cosmos 
is evaluated and interpreted. In terms of these philosophies, man 

* Note carefully that it is certain tendencies in ethnological theory that we 
characterize as reactionary and regressive. This characterization docs not in any 
sense assert or imply that the men and women who bear the professional 
label "anthropologist" and who are primarily concerned with psychological or 
psychiatric studies are themselves reactionary. It is the trend in theory, not 
the human personnel, that we are concerned with here. 


effects his adjustment to and control over his environment. The 
function of philosophy is at bottom a biological one. 

The first philosophies of mankind were animistic, supernatural 
istic and anthropomorphic. The external world was explained, not 
in terms of its own properties but in terms of human psychological 
.forces, in terms of spiritual beings with minds like our own. 
This primitive type of philosophy, although emotionally satisfying, 
was, of course, ineffective practically, as a means of understanding 
and controlling the external world. 

Gradually, after hundreds of thousands of years, a new type of 
philosophy was developed. It interpreted the external world in 
terms of its own properties instead of terms of wish and will pro- 
jected from the human mind. Free will and caprice gave way to 
determinism and natural law. But this transition in point of view 
was not effected throughout the whole range of philosophy at 
once. On the contrary it began in certain areas of experience and 
spread from there to others. It got a foothold first in the study 
of the heavens and spread from there to other physical phe- 
nomena. Then it invaded the realm of biological phenomena, 
conquering first the anatomical, next the physiological, and finally 
the psychological levels. From the psychology of the individual, 
the new interpretation was extended to the psychology of society. 
And always, as the new naturalistic philosophy of science ad- 
vanced, it pushed out and displaced the old philosophy of free 

The order in which the various realms of nature were invaded 
and subdued by the new philosophy was determined by the 
following law: Scientific interpretation will appear Erst and grow 
fastest in those areas where the determinants of human behavior 
are the weakest and least significant. Since the primitive philos- 
ophy rested upon a projection of the human psyche into the 
external world, upon a confusion of the self with the not-self, 
the new philosophy would begin first and flourish best where the 
identification of the self with the external world was weakest. 


namely, in relation to the heavenly bodies and other inanimate 
objects. Biological phenomena were next brought within the 
scope of the new interpretation, and eventually social behavior. 

But sociology, the science of society, was not the end of the 
road of science as Comte and many others supposed. There was 
one more class of determinants of human behavior to be dealt 
with, the most intimate and powerful of all: culture. Just as 
psychologists found it difficult to envisage a collective psychology 
beyond an individualistic one, so have sociologists found it hard 
to envisage a science of culture beyond the horizon of "social 
interaction." But science cannot and will not stop in its onward 
march, in its movement of expansion, until it has fulfilled its 
potentialities to the utmost, and this means until it has embraced 
and subdued the whole realm of human experience. 

The science of culture is the next item of business on the agenda 
of science. Many of our "best minds" still talk as if the fate of 
civilization lay in the hands of man, to be wrecked or saved as 
he chooses of his own free will. Many are still prattling about 
how "we" are going to construct the post-war world, nursing, in 
Durkheim's phrase, the illusion of omnipotence. There is, as 
Tylor, Durkheim, Kroeber and a few others have pointed out, 
a powerful and sometimes bitter antagonism to the view that 
it is not "we" who control our culture but that our culture con- 
trols us. And our culture grows and changes according to its own 
laws. As we outgrow our primitive and infantile notion of mastery 
and set about to learn the nature of the culture in which we live, 
we will have a less flattering conception of ourselves, perhaps, 
but a greater capacity for rational and effective living. 

And so today, we witness one of the most critical and dramatic 
episodes in the long and exciting history of science. Advancing 
over the charred bones of hapless astronomers, put to death in 
a frantic attempt to stem the tide of the new philosophy, science 
has gone on to new conquests. After a bitter battle over Dar- 
winism, science has securely held the field of biology. Psychology 


has at last made it possible to regard "minds" as objects, and 
sociology has illuminated the laws of social interaction. It now 
remains to discover the principles of a million years of culture 
growth and to formulate the laws of this development. When this 
has been done, science will have captured the last remaining 
stronghold of the old philosophy; it will have reached its final 

P.S. As these pages were going to press I made a discovery too 
important to pass by without mention here, namely, two signifi- 
cant essays by a distinguished German chemist and Nobel laureate, 
Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932), entitled "The System of the Sci- 
ences," and "Principles of the Theory of Education," addresses 
prepared for the inauguration of Rice Institute of Houston, Texas, 
and published in English translation in the Rice Institute Pam- 
phlet, Vol. II, No. 3, November, 1915. 

In "The System of the Sciences," Ostwald classifies the several 
sciences on a logical basis, arranging them in an order determined 
by the degree of generality or particularity of their basic concepts. 
All sciences are classified into three groups: (1) the sciences of 
order— logic and various forms of mathematics; ( 2 ) the energetical 
sciences— mechanics, physics, and chemistry; and (3) the bio- 
logical sciences which he subdivides into physiology, psychology, 
and culturology. The sciences of order are the simplest as well as 
the most general in the application of their concepts; the biological 
sciences are the most complex as well as the most particular. 

The logical arrangement of the sciences represents also their 
order of development, according to Ostwald. We "cannot fail," 
he says, "to recognize that an absolutely definite sequence can be 
shown in which the various scientific disciplines have appeared 
and have developed into their first florescence . . . the simplest 
arose and were developed first," and "in proportion as the re- 
liability of the human mind in mental operations was developed, 


the more complicated and diversified fields of experience were 
gradually submitted to science" (pp. 118, 120). 

Ostwald's ''hierarchy" of the sciences is thus like those of 
Comte and Spencer in all fundamental respects, and his theory 
of the sequence of development is much the same as theirs: the 
physical sciences were developed before the biological sciences 
because they were simpler; the sociological, or culturological, sci- 
ences were developed last because they are the most complex. 
Like Comte, Ostwald says that "a sure mastery of at least the 
fundamental principles of all the sciences ... is therefore a neces- 
sary presupposition for the scientific mastery of culturological 
problems" (p. 169). 

We still prefer our own interpretation of the sequence in which 
the various sciences have developed. The simplicity-complexity 
factor is not irrelevant, but it is secondary in importance, we 
believe, to the varying roles that physical, physiological, psycho- 
logical, and cultural phenomena play in the determination of 
human behavior. A fellow human being who is attracted by a 
smile, repelled by a scowl, is logically complex, i.e., analyzable into 
physiological, anatomical, chemical, and physical events. But 
experientially we feel the events of human cultural behavior to be 
as simple as physical phenomena, to consist of stimulus and re- 
sponse, attraction and repulsion. 

One wonders what Ostwald's phrase "in proportion as the re- 
liability of the human mind in mental operations was developed" 
might mean? Does he mean that the native mental ability of man 
increased? This can hardly have been appreciable within a period 
of time as brief as the history of science. If he means that man's 
techniques of interpretation of experience were improved, might 
this not well be that he learned to distinguish the self from the 
not-self in a series of sectors of experience? 

It is significant to note in Ostwald's essay on pedagogy that the 
human mind is not "naturally attracted" first to physical phe- 
nomena, then to biological. On the contrary, he finds that "it is 


much easier ... to awaken an interest in animals and plants than 
in minerals and physical experiments . . , zoology and botany 
can be taught with success at an age when systematic physics or 
chemistry could not be taught . . ," (pp. 204-05). Ostwald speaks 
of this as "a certain antithesis," a "seeming contradiction," and 
accounts for it by noting that plants and animals resemble man 
more closely than do inanimate phenomena. Thus the anthropo- 
morphic, anthropocentric factor insinuates itself into Ostwald's 
discussion after all. Man is interested in himself and things like 
himself; but, for this very reason, is less able to understand them 
than things and events more remote because of the greater difS- 
culty of disengaging himself, his ego, from the external world in 
the case of things close to, and like, himself. 

At the top of "the pyramid of the sciences," Ostwald places— 
culturology, the science of civilization or culture, the science that 
has as its subject matter "those facts and relationships which have 
developed in man, in contradistinction to all other animals, and 
which form that which we specifically call human civilization" 
(p. 167). This science, he says, "is usually designated by the im- 
proper name of scx:io]ogy" (p. 167). And here Ostwald, a chemist, 
demonstrates that he has seen clearly what virtually no soci- 
ologist has been able to grasp, namely, that it is culture as an 
extra-somatic tradition that is significant here— not social process 
or interaction; and what many a cultural anthropologist has failed 
to realize, namely, that it is a specific kind of behavior— symbolic 
—that is significant rather than how many individuals exhibit 
this kind of behavior. Let us deal with each of these points in 

To the sociologist the social process, social interaction, is the 
be all and end all of human behavior; he cannot escape from 
the confines of this concept. He cannot grasp the idea of an 
external, extra-somatic class of things called culture that determine 
the social process itself as well as the behavior of individual hu- 
man beings. He can only translate culture into the coinage and 


currency of social process; culture thus becomes a mere aspect or 
a by-product of social interaction. 

But Ostwald is far shrewder and wiser than this. He sees clearly 
that it is not social process but civilization or culture that is the 
distinctive characteristic of the human species. The term soci- 
olog)' has been used, he says, to designate the science peculiar to 
man because of 

the fact that man, . . . even in the very early stages of his 
development, has unquestionably been a social being, so that, 
for much the greater part, specifically human culture has shown 
itself to be the culture of groups of people living together 
socially and busying themselves in common. This special nature 
of human culture, however, is relatively a secondary phe- 
nomenon; and it is, moreover, not entirely general, for certain 
cultural performances have been, and can in the future be, ac- 
complished by a single individual. Thus, socializing mankind is 
an important phenomenon in this field; indeed, it is one of the 
most important, but not the most chaiacteiistic and universal 
one. I proposed, therefore, a long while ago to call the field in 
question the science of civilization, or culturology (Kulturol- 
ogie) (p. 167). 

It is culture, not society, that is the distinctive feature of man. 
Therefore, the scientific study of this feature should be called 
cuJtnroIogy rather than sociology. 

Many cultural anthropologists take the position that an act 
limited to a single individual cannot properly be called culture, 
but when more than one person is involved it may be so called. 
Thus, the number of expressions or manifestations of an event is 
regarded as a distinctive feature of culture. Ostwald exposes this 
fallacy also. It is not the number of manifestations of an event 
that determines its cultural character; it is the quality of the event. 
Ostwald says that the event must be peculiar to man "in contra- 
distinction to all other animals." This quality is, to use our own 
terminology, the symbol. Thus, an event is cultural because it 


occurs in a context dependent upon symbolling, not upon how 
many human organisms produce it. As Ostwald observes, "Certain 
cultural performances have been, and can in the future be, accom- 
plished by a single individual" (p. 167). If there were only a 
single atom of copper in the cosmos it would still be copper. 
Likewise, if there were only one expression of symbolling, it would 
still be cultural. 

It is a bit discouraging to discover that a chemist has been able 
to see certain things in the sciences of man more clearly a third 
of a century ago than many sociologists and anthropologists can 
today. But it is gratifying indeed to discover, outside the anthro- 
pological tradition of Tylor, Durkheim and others, such a dis- 
tinguished and substantial champion of the science of culture, 
and one who calls it by its proper name: culturology. 




uman behavior is a compound made up of two quite 
different elements: a biological— neuro-sensory-muscular- 
glandular-etcetera— factor, and a supra-biological, extra- 
somatic cultural factor. But, in interpretations of human behavior 
these two factors have been fused and confused for decades or 
even ages. And they still are. It is still common to regard culture 
as a simple and direct expression of "human nature" or to explain 
it in terms of psychological mechanisms such as frustration, re- 
jection of the father, or the traumatic experiences of bottle feed- 
ing in infancy. On the other hand, there is a very general failure 
to recognize the operation of cultural determinants of mind. We 
try to make clear the fundamental distinction between mind and 
culture, between psychology and culturology. 

In this connection we examine the role of the Great Man in 
human affairs both generally and analytically in "Genius: Its 
Causes and Incidence," and specifically and illustratively in 

"The Locus of Mathematical Reality" and "The Definition 
and Prohibition of Incest" provide demonstrations of the tech- 
nique of culturological interpretation of two major sectors of 
human experience, the intellectual and the social. 

Finally, "Man's Control over Civilization" critically examines 
a conspicuous expression of the primitive, but still popular and 
respectable, philosophy of anthropocentrism. The illusion of Free 
Will and Omnipotence still hangs like a pall over much of our 
attempt to define the relationship between Man and the Culture 
Process and to evaluate his role in it. 



"Social facts are not simply the development of psychic facts; the latter 
are in large part merely the continuation of the former inside people's 
minds. This proposition is extremely important, for the opposite point 
of view inclines the sociologist at every instant to take the cause for 
the effect and vice versa. For example, if, as often happens, one sees in 
the organization of the family the logically necessary expression of 
human sentiments inherent in every mind, the true order of facts is 
reversed. On the contrary, it is the social organization of the relation- 
ships of kinship which has determined the respective sentiments of 
parents and children . . . Every time that a social phenomenon is 
directly explained by a psychological phenomenon, we may be sure that 
the explanation is false." — Emile Durkheim.i 

±1 uman behavior is not as simple as it seems. It is not a 
single homogeneous substance like copper or gold, but a 
compound like water or table salt. Human behavior is made 
up of two separate and distinct elements, the one biological, the 
other cultural. This is not obvious, however, any more than 
the fact that water is composed of two distinct elements, oxygen 
and hydrogen, is apparent to the observer. On the contrary, hu- 
man behavior appears to be a simple, homogeneous stuff, just as 
water does. It is only through analysis of one kind or another 
that we can discover the true structure and composition of human 
behavior or of chemical compounds. And it is only through such 
knowledge that we can come to an understanding of either. 



Human behavior constitutes a class of events and as such is 
distinguished from other classes, or kinds, of behavior such as 
simian, reptilian, plant, cellular, atomic, molecular, stellar, galactic, 
etc. Human behavior is confined to the genus Homo but it is not 
co-extensive with man's actions and reactions: human behavior 
and man-animal behavior are not synonymous. As we have already 
seen, only that portion of man's behavior which consists of or 
depends upon symbolling may properly be called human; the 
(^ rest is merely animal behavior. 

We have already seen also that the human species has, by the 
exercise of the symbol faculty, brought a class of phenomena 
into existence that is, in a real sense, supra-biological or extra- 
somatic. These are the languages, beliefs, customs, tools, dwell- 
ings, works of art, etc., that collectively we call culture. They are 
supra-biological in the sense that they are transmitted by the 
mechanisms of social heredity; they are extra-somatic in the sense 
that they have an existence independent of any individual organ- 
ism and act upon it from the outside just as meteorologic forces 
do. Every individual of the human species is born into a cultural 
environment as well as a natural one. And the culture into which 
he is born embraces him and conditions his behavior. 

We see then that any given specimen of human behavior is 
made up of two distinct factors proceeding from separate and 
independent sources. On the one hand is the organism, composed 
of bones, muscles, nerves, glands, and sense organs. This organism 
is a single coherent unit, a system, with definite properties of its 
own. On the other hand is the cultural tradition into which the 
organism is born. There is, of course, no necessary relation be- 
tween the infant organism and the particular type of culture into 
which it is born. It could have been born into one cultural tra- 
dition as well as another, into Tibetan as well as American or 
Eskimoan culture. But, from the standpoint of subsequent behav- 
ior, ever)'thing depends upon the type of culture into which the 
baby is introduced by birth. If he is born into one culture he will 


think, feel and act in one way; if into another, his behavior will 
be correspondingly different. Human behavior is, therefore, al- 
ways and everywhere, made up of these two ingredients: the 
dynamic organization of nerves, glands, muscles and sense organs 
that is man, and the extra-somatic cultural tradition. 

Culture has been produced by man and consequently bears a 
close relationship to him as a genus or species. As a system cul- 
ture is adapted to man rather than to apes, ants, or elephants. 
Conversely, if man's organism were not what it is, his culture 
would be different. As Clarence Day has shown in his deceptively 
profound little book, This Simian World, a civilization built by 
super-ants or super-cows would be very different from the culture 
of super-simians. There is then a close relationship between man 
and culture. But the relationship is general rather than specific. 
This or that culture cannot be explained by appealing to man's 
structure or nature, however varied we may conceive it. Culture 
may be regarded as a thing sui generis, with a life of its own and 
its own laws. But we shall return to this later. 

Given a certain type of organism, a certain type of behavior 
will follow. But in the human species this type is very broad and 
contains infinite variation within itself. The relationship between 
man and culture seems close only when we contrast man with 
other animals. The picture is quite otherwise when we confine 
our observations to the human species. Within this category, 
what relationship can we discover between organism and type of 
culture? The answer is "None",— none, that is, of a functional 
nature; there are only chance, historical associations. There is, for 
example, no functional relationship between racial or physical 
type and language or dialect. Negroes may speak Bantu, French, 
or Chinese. The same will hold true of any other aspect of culture, 
whether it be form of family, ethics, music, or economics. 

The human species is of course varied, not uniform. There are 
tall peoples and short peoples; round heads and long heads; black, 
yellow, and white skins; straight, wavy, and kinky hair; thick lips, 


long noses, blue eyes, "slant" eyes, relatively large livers, and 
so on. It mav be assumed that functional variation accompanies 
structural variation. Thus it is reasonable to suppose that there 
are some innate psychological differences among the various races 
of mankind. But one must not be misled by appearances. The 
differences among races which are most easily observed are con- 
fined to superficial physical features such as color of skin, color 
and shape of hair, size of lip, shape of nose, and so on. In basic 
features, such as the nervous, glandular, and muscular systems, 
blood, bones, and sense organs, they are impressively uniform. 
From a biological standpoint, the differences among men appear 
to be insignificant indeed when compared with their similarities. 
From the standpoint of human behavior, too, all evidence points 
to an utter insignificance of biological factors as compared with 
culture in any consideration of behavior variations.* As a matter 
of fact, it cannot be shown that any variation of human behavior 
is due to variation of a biological nature. In other words, in the 
whole range and scope of human behavior, differences of custom 
or tradition can nowhere be correlated in a functional sense with 
differences of physical structure. 

In a consideration of the differences of behavior between 
peoples, therefore, we may regard man as a constant, culture as 
a variable. This is to say that the differences in behavior that 
we observe between Chinese and Russians, between Eskimos and 
Hottentots, Mongoloid and Caucasoid, savage and civilized man, 
are due to their respective cultures rather than to biological — 
anatomical, physiological, or psychological— differences between 
them. The whole matter of interpretation of human behavior is 
thus put in quite a different light from the one in which it is fre- 
quently viewed. Instead of explaining cultural differences among 
peoples by saying that one is energetic, vivacious, Dionysian, and 

* We are speaking here, as elsewhere in this chapter, of human behavior 
in the mass, in terms of societies, tribes or nations, not of individual or- 


creative, whereas another is phlegmatic, taciturn, unimaginative 
and prosaic, we now see that the differences of behavior of various 
peoples are due to the differences among the cultural traditions 
that stimulate them respectively. Thus we explain the behavior of 
peoples in terms of their cultures; but we do not and cannot ex- 
plain their cultures in terms of the respective "psychologies" of 
the peoples. The specific "psychologies" are psychosomatic ex- 
pressions of the cultures, not their causes. The cultures must be 
explained in terms of culture; culturologically rather than psycho- 

Psychological explanations are however still prevalent and 
popular, among social scientists as well as among laymen. Thus, 
in a discussion of exogamy, the English anthropologist, B. Selig- 
man, says: "It is obvious that if there is any general law under- 
lying all marriage prohibitions it must be founded on human 
emotions and reactions." ^ Hitler's "rapid rise to power, the spread 
of his ideas to other countries, and the fanatical devotion to him 
of thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children in 
one of the most progressive and intelligent nations of the world 
—all this shows," says Raymond Dexter Havens, Caroline 
Donovan Professor of English Literature at Johns Hopkins 
University, "how deep is the craving for authority, for certitude, 
for intellectual and moral security. And not in Germany alone 
but in all of us. Which means that when the war is won in Ger- 
many and Japan it must still be carried on in America, and in our 
own hearts , . ." ^ David Lilienthal, chairman of the U. S. Atomic 
Energy Commission, is quoted by Time Magazine as saying that 
"What goes on in people's minds— and in their hearts— is more 
important in determining the fateful future than what goes on 
in laboratories and production centers" (February 16, 1948, p. 
24), And the English ethnologist, the late W. H. R. Rivers, said: 
"To me, as to most students of the subject, the final aim of the 
study of society is the explanation of social behavior in terms of 
psychology." * 


In addition to these general explanations of cultural phe- 
nomena in psychological terms, we have numerous psychological 
interpretations of specific institutions and of particular socio- 
cultural phenomena. Thus, the institution of private property is 
often "explained"— and justified— by arguing that it is simply 
human nature. There is a natural desire, it is said, to own your 
own home, your own fields and herds, and to possess the products 
of your own labor. If it were not for private property, the argu- 
ment continues, there would be no incentive to effort and con- 
sequently no progress. 

Plausible as this theory may sound, it is not in accord with 
ethnographic fact. There are many societies in which there is no 
private property in the resources of nature at all; on the contrary, 
they are free and accessible to all members of the society. Customs 
of hospitality, exchange of gifts, ease of borrowing, and so on, 
make private property in food, clothing, tools, and ornaments 
little more than a fiction. Communism has been the dominant 
note in man's economic life for by far the greater part of human 
history so far. But this, too, is no more an expression of human 
nature than is feudalism or capitalism. Peoples do not have com- 
munal or private systems of property because they want them or 
because it is human nature to prefer one to the other. In a very 
realistic sense they do not "have them" at all; rather, it is the cul- 
tures which possess the people who have been born into them. 
Attitudes, sentiments, and behavior toward property are deter- 
mined by the type of economic system into which one is born. 

Similar observations may be made concerning competition, 
rivalry, and leadership. The basic principle of the socio-economic 
life of many peoples is mutual aid. It is doubtful if primitive 
groups could have held their own in difficult situations and with 
crude tools, weapons, and techniques if their social life had not 
been based upon this principle. The individual hunter was obliged 
by custom to share his kill with others. Indeed, in some instances 
he received the smallest portion of all. Prestige, social approval. 


moral codes provided the incentive. And he in turn was entitled 
to a portion of the kill of other hunters. Tlie produce of the field 
or herds must likewise be shared. 

The leader is often a necessary and an honored person, but not 
always. Among our Pueblo Indians, a "leader" is likely to be 
regarded as an obnoxious person, and may, in extreme cases, be 
done away with on a charge of sorcery. The ideal Pueblo Indian 
is not the go-getter, the leader, but a quiet unobtrusive person 
who does not provoke community discord. And psychologists who 
have sought to subject Pueblo Indian children to competitive 
tests have found that their project failed when the children 
learned the purpose of the tests. Far from trying to outdo the 
others so that they might come home triumphant to admiring 
parents, the children carefully refrained from doing their best 
lest they humiliate or embarrass their fellows, and in so doing 
bring odium upon themselves. 

The institution of slavery has often been interpreted as the 
outcome of man's inherent tendencies to commit aggressions 
upon others— of "man's inhumanity to man." An eminent psy- 
chologist, Wm. McDougall, once went so far as to postulate a 
high degree of an instinct of submission among African peoples 
to account for the prevalence of Negro chattel slavery. We know, 
however, that the institution of slavery has not been universal by 
any means. As a matter of fact, it did not make its appearance 
until relatively recent times— since the beginning of the Neo- 
lithic at least; the hundreds of thousands of years of human 
history that went before had no slavery. And many peoples of 
the modern world have had no slaves. Are we to assume that the 
instinct of aggression— or of submission— was not sufficiently 
developed during the early eras of human history, or among some 
of the peoples of recent times, to find overt expression in a traffic 
in human chattels? 

If the origin of the institution of slavery has been interpreted 
psychologically, so has its extinction. A growing consciousness of 


human rights, an appreciation of the essential dignity of man 
(whatever that is), or the rising spirit of Christianity have all 
been invoked to explain the decline of this institution. One 
scholar, writing in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, has 
asserted that "the movement against slavery . . , was largely the 
result of the rising spirit of democracy, etc." ^ By the same token, 
the institution came into being as a consequence of the rising 
spirit of slavery. Obviously, psychological and spiritual interpreta- 
tions do not tell us very much actually. Why have aggressive— 
or submissive— tendencies resulted in a certain type of social in- 
stitution among some peoples but not among others? Why has 
the spirit of democracy asserted itself at one time, the spirit of 
slavery at another? 

A culturological explanation of slavery makes the institution 
readily intelligible. Slavery as an institution will exist and endure 
only when the master can derive profit and advantage by exploit- 
ing the slave. This is possible only when a family group is able to 
produce considerably more than it requires for its continued 
existence. The efficiency of production is of course determined by 
the degree of technological development. Slavery did not exist 
during the hundreds of thousands of years before Neolithic times 
because culture had not developed sufficiently to make it possible 
for a producer to be more than self-supporting. There certainly 
would be no point— even if it were possible— in one tribe of 
savages enslaving another if the latter required all that they were 
able to produce in order to subsist. Consequently, we find no 
slavery in early periods of human history, nor, in the modern 
world, among peoples on low levels of technological development. 
But when in the course of cultural evolution the productivity of 
human labor was sufficiently increased by technological progress 
so as to make exploitation profitable and advantageous, the in- 
stitution of slavery came into being. Correspondingly, when cul- 
ture—particularly the technological culture— had reached a certain 
point where it could no longer be operated efficiently by a human 


chattel, then the institution of slavery became extinct. Slavery 
died out, not because someone discovered the essential dignity of 
man, or because of a rising spirit of Christianity or Democracy, 
but because, as Lewis H. Morgan put it long ago, a freeman is a 
better "property-making machine" than a slave.^ Modern indus- 
trial technologies could not be operated by ignorant, illiterate 
human chattels. Also, the slave owner suffered a handicap which 
does not affect the employer of free labor: the slave owner had to 
feed and care for his slaves whether he made money out of them 
or not; he had a substantial investment in them and he must 
safeguard this investment. The employer of free labor, however, 
is under no such obligation to his employees. If his profits 
diminish he can lay off some workers; if they cease, he can close 
up his establishment entirely without assuming responsibility for 
his employees; they can shift for themselves— go hungry, go on 
public relief, or resort to begging or to theft. Thus, at a certain 
stage of cultural development, slavery comes into being as a con- 
sequence of the resources and imperatives of the cultural system. 
At a subsequent and higher stage of cultural development, the 
institution becomes extinct because it is no longer compatible 
with the resources and exigencies of the socio-cultural system. 

War is a tremendously impressive expression of human behavior 
that is often "explained" psychologically. In addition to the Great 
Men who make wars at their own sweet will, we find more 
generalized psychological explanations. According to Time Maga- 
zine (Aug. 23, 1948), a UN-sponsored International Congress on 
Mental Health, attended by "2,000 of the world's foremost psy- 
chiatrists and psychologists," gave forth such interpretations of 
the cause of war as the following: Wars are caused by a sense of 
guilt which causes you to do something violent, which in turn 
creates a sense of guilt. Thus the repetition of wars is explained 
as well as their origin. Another psychologist attributed wars to 
restraint upon sexual impulses which causes frustration which 
causes people to become aggressive. Still another thought that 


people have been made aggressive and violent by corporeal 
punishment during childhood. 

Professor Gordon W. Allport, a psychologist at Harvard, quotes 
with approval a passage from the preamble of the charter of 
UNESCO: "Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the 
minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." ' 
Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen expresses the same view in only 
slightly different words: "World wars are nothing but projections 
of the conflicts waged inside our own souls, for nothing happens 
in the world that does not first happen inside a soul." ® "A burst 
of military enthusiasm and a line of able rulers enabled Egypt to 
assume for several centuries an imperial position," ^ according to 
an eminent orientalist, the late James H. Breasted. The common 
people were, however, "a. naturally peaceful people," and con- 
sequently Egypt was not able to retain her position of pre- 
eminence. War has no "rational cause," said Franz Boas; it is due 
to a "mental attitude," the "emotional value of an idea." ^° An- 
other anthropologist, Ralph Linton, finds that the Plains Indians 
did not fight for hunting grounds or other tangible advantages, 
but rather because they were "warlike." * To Ruth Benedict 
". . . it is a commonplace that men like war . . . Over and over 
men have proved that they prefer war with all its suffering." ^^ 
William James tells us, in "The Moral Equivalent of War," that 
"modern man inherits all the innate pugnacity and all the love 
of glory of his ancestors . . . Our ancestors have bred pugnacity 

* "Superficially it might appear that the roving life of a Plains Indian tribe 
and the frequent contacts with other groups which this entailed would be 
likely to focus interest on war, but it need not have done so if the Plains 
Indians in general had not been warlike. After all, there was enough food 
and other natural resources in the Plains to take care of a much larger popu- 
lation than the area supported, and these tribes were not driven into war by 
economic needs," The Study oi Man, p. 461. 

Professor Lowie, too, thinks that the Plains Indians fought "just for fun": 
the "Plains Indians fought not for territorial aggrandizement nor for the vic- 
tor's spoils, but above all because fighting was a game worth while because 
of the social recognition it brought when played according to the rules/' 
Primitive Society, p. 3156. 


into our bone and marrow, and thousands of years of peace won't 
breed it out of us . . . The miUtary instincts and ideals are as 
strong as ever." And the layman sums up his estimate of the 
future: "You can't do away with war; it's just human nature." 

But is man by nature so pugnacious and militant? Compared 
with other animal orders, the Carnivores for example, the Pri- 
mates are a rather timid lot. The "innate pugnacity" of which 
James speaks is often conspicuously lacking in the human species. 
Warfare is virtually non-existent among many primitive tribes. 
And in many instances where fighting does take place, the con- 
testants do not meet each other face to face and slug it out man 
to man so that their "military instincts and ideals" can be exer- 
cised to the full. Instead, they resort to ambush, killing their 
victims before they have a chance to defend themselves. To 
slaughter helpless sleeping victims is quite sufficient to feed the 
"love of glory" of most peoples. And when free and open conflict 
does take place among primitive peoples, their pugnacity is often 
more vocal than military— as is usually the case among the lower 
primates. Often the fight ends when the first blood is drawn. 
And in modern nations pugnacity has been "bred so weakly in 
our bones and marrow" that every nation has to resort to con- 
scription. And despite such stinging epithets as "draft dodger," 
the number of men who prefer the degradation of prison to the 
glory of war is considerable. Thus it would appear that the lust 
for fighting and killing is not over-riding in primates in general 
or in man in particular. 

But even if it were, it would tell us very little about war, 
why it is fought and when, with whom and over what. To 
attempt to explain war by appeal to an innate pugnacity would 
be like explaining Egyptian, Gothic, and Mayan architecture by 
citing the physical properties of stone; or like explaining the indus- 
trial revolution by invoking an inventive tendency in the human 
mind. A culturological interpretation of war will, however, tell 
us something of significance. Wars are fought between societies. 


between sociocultural systems, between tribes and nations. It is 
the culture of any given situation that determines whether war- 
fare shall be engaged in or not, and if so how, with whom and 
for what. In some cultural settings, warfare is non-existent; the 
mode of life as culturally defined has no place for it. In other 
situations there is only occasional skirmishing between tribes. 
Where rich hunting or fishing grounds are at stake, we can expect 
militar}^ contests. The same holds true for grazing lands and for 
fertile valleys when culture has reached the level of animal hus- 
bandr\^ and agriculture. It may sound absurd and superfluous to 
say that peoples will not fight over grazing lands, fertile valleys, 
coal and iron deposits, foreign markets, oil reserves and uranium 
mines until culture has advanced to such levels of development as 
domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, steam and internal 
combustion engines, world trade, and uranium piles. But if one 
listens to those who talk about man's "innate pugnacity" he might 
easily get the impression that this was sufficient to account for 

Warfare is a struggle between social organisms, not individuals. 
Its explanation is therefore social or cultural, not psychological. 
We could never understand why the United States entered World 
War II— or any other war— by an inquiry into the psychological 
motives of men and women. One man wanted to quit his dis- 
tasteful job as bank clerk, another wanted adventure, a third 
sought release from an unbearable domestic situation, another 
wanted to see what the women of France, Samoa, or China are 
like, another wanted to wear a uniform, another fought for God, 
for Country, and the New Deal, and so on. Of course, most men 
went to war because they were obliged to— or accept the degra- 
dation of imprisonment or worse. To picture the multitudes of 
docile serfs and peasants of ancient Egypt, pre-Columbian Peru, 
China, or Czarist Russia going to war because of an ''innate 
pugnacity and a love of glory" (James), or as Benedict says be- 


cause "men like war" is grotesque. They were forced to go, driven 
to the slaughter hke sheep. And if any were animated by "the 
love of glory" it came to them from propagandists, not from their 
innermost selves. 

Again, supposing we grant merely for the sake of argument an 
innate pugnacity to men: Whom will they fight? If a poll had 
been taken among Americans in 1939 to discover the objects of 
their hostility, it is likely that England would have received more 
votes than any other nation with the possible exception of Russia. 
Yet we entered the war on the side of these two nations. When 
Russia was fighting "gallant little Finland" in 1939-40 our pug- 
nacious instincts were leveled squarely at the Kremlin. The non- 
aggression pact between Russia and Germany in 1939 aroused our 
indignation and anger. But after the Germans invaded Russia in 
1941, the orientation of our instincts changed. We then found in 
Soviet Russia a stout champion of democracy. 

Psychological explanations are not only irrelevant here, they 
are pathetic. The psychological orientations were the result of the 
intercourse of nations, not the cause. The lust for blood and glory 
was at low ebb in the military camps in the United States in 
November, 1941. An international event at Pearl Harbor trans- 
formed a listless, disgruntled mass of conscripts into a spirited 
fighting force. It would make more sense to say that it is war that 
breeds the martial spirit than to argue that pugnacious instincts 
cause wars. 

To be sure, there would be no wars if there were no people- 
human organisms with their hungers and fears, hopes and inertia 
—to fight them. But to explain warfare in terms of psychology is 
illusion. War is a cultural phenomenon, and we can not only ex- 
plain it in cultural terms, but we can account for the presence or 
absence of the pugnacious "instinct," the love of glory, or the 
loathing of slaughter, in cultural terms also. World peace will 
come, if it ever does, not because we shall have bred out the 


pugnacious instinct, or sublimated it in mass athletic contests,* 
but because cultural development, social evolution, will have 
reached the ultimate conclusion of the age-old process of merging 
smaller social groups into larger ones, eventually forming a single 
political organization that will embrace the entire planet and the 
whole human race. 

I'he phenomenon of race prejudice and inter-racial antagonisms 
is frequently regarded and explained as primarily a psychological 
phenomenon. Since the phenomenon is manifested in acts and 
attitudes of individual human organisms it is frequently taken for 
granted that the problem of race prejudice and inter-racial antag- 
onisms is psychological from the standpoint of scientific explana- 
tion, and psychiatric from the point of view of therapy. 
Psychoanalysis has come for\\'ard with interpretations such as 
these: The Jew is identified with the law-giving, super-ego form- 
ing father, and also wdth the unrepentant parricide. The hated 
Jew is not really a person but a myth: he is "castrated" and 
feminine and yet exceedingly dangerous and over-sexed, a symbol 
at once of the id and of the super-ego. The Negro, according to 
one psychoanalytic interpretation, represents the nocturnal, sexual 
father, whom the son wishes to castrate— hence the castrative 
aspects of lynching. Anti-Negro man-hunts resemble the hunting 
of animals in groups, both phenomena being derived from the 
banding together of the sons against the primal father. 

These observations may or may not adequately characterize the 
experience of an individual psyche who is participating in the 
sociocultural process of racial antagonisms. But even if they do 
realistically describe the individual experience, they do not ex- 
plain the social phenomenon at all. It is ail too frequently assumed 
that a sociocultural phenomenon has been explained when one 

* Even as recently as the summer of 1948, more than one psychologist 
solemnly suggested that international athletic contests, such as the Olympic 
games then in progress, might serve to prevent wars by working off aggressive 
tendencies in a peaceful manner. 


has isolated and defined the psychological experiences of an indi- 
vidual within that sociocultural context. Thus, it is said, men may 
identify the Negro with the father, their rival, and then proceed 
to give these inner feelings overt expression in acts and attitudes 
of hostility toward the Negro. 

What these attempts at psychological interpretations fail to 
do, of course, is to explain why it is that the Negro represents 
the nocturnal father in some societies but not in others; why 
antagonisms are directed primarily toward one minority group 
rather than another; why racial antagonisms are lacking altogether 
in some situations. The fallacy of psychological interpretations of 
sociocultural phenomena consists in the assumption that the sub- 
jective psychological experience correlated with the institution 
has brought the institution into existence. It is as if one discovered 
—or came to believe— that riding in an airplane was the realiza- 
tion of sexually motivated dreams of flying; or that flying in air- 
planes gave one a sense of power and mastery, and concluded 
therefore that the airplane, as an element of culture, had been 
explained by citing sexual dreams and a will to power. We do not 
deny or minimize the subjective psychological experiences of the 
individual at all— although we would like to see some of the 
psychoanalytic interpretations supported with a little more veri- 
fication. These experiences are of course real. But, we would 
argue, they are functions of sociocultural situations; not the causes 
of them. Individual psychological experience has been evoked by 
the social phenomenon of race antagonism just as the thrill of 
power and mastery is evoked by the airplane; it is not the sub- 
jective experience that produces the antagonism or the airplane. 

There are non-psychoanalytic psychological interpretations of 
racial antagonisms, also. The "frustration-aggression" hypothesis 
has been called upon to explain inter-racial conflicts. A people 
is frustrated and becomes aggressive as a consequence, choosing 
perhaps a minority group upon which to vent the aggressive im- 
pulse. But here again, the great variety and range of inter-racial 


conflicts and antagonisms is not illuminated very much by merely 
pronouncing the magic couplet "frustration and aggression." 

One of the weakest of psychological explanations of race preju- 
dice with which we are acquainted is that given once by the 
late Franz Boas. The prejudice, he said, ". . . is founded essen- 
tially ... on the tendency of the human mind to merge the 
individual in the class to which he belongs, and to ascribe to him 
all the characteristics of his class." ^^ Just how the tendency of 
the human mind to identify an individual with "the class to which 
he belongs" produces racial prejudice and antagonism is not quite 
clear although Boas assures us that it "is not difficult to under- 
stand" in the light of this tendency of the human mind. 

Psychological interpretations of race prejudice and inter-racial 
antagonisms are misleading and unsound because these problems 
are sociological and cultural rather than psychological. As we 
have pointed out, a description of subjective psychological expe- 
rience correlated with an institution does not constitute an ex- 
planation of the institution. The experience of the ego is a 
function of the institution, not its cause. And, the institution 
must be explained culturologically. 

We do not wish to undertake an exhaustive culturological inter- 
pretation of race prejudice at this point. We would suggest, how- 
ever, that if investigation and analysis were carried out along the 
following lines one would come to a much deeper and more 
realistic explanation of this phenomenon than any amount of 
psychological or psychoanalytic inquiry can produce: Race preju- 
dice and racial antagonisms are likely to appear in sociocultural 
situations in which ( i ) one group is competing with another for 
the possession of desirable lands (e.g., the American Indian 
frontier), for jobs or other economic advantages; (2) where a 
minority group endeavors to preserve its own integrity as a socio- 
cultural group within a larger population; where it resists the 
effort of the larger society to assimilate it in an attempt to achieve 


a high degree of integration. Minority groups which attempt thus 
to maintain their own integrity, not only on the cultural plane 
but also by means of endogamy, are opposing the attempts of the 
larger society to achieve integration through assimilation, and are 
likely consequently to become the object of hostility and ag- 
gression from the larger society— which incidentally tends to 
reinforce the efforts of the minority group to maintain its integrity, 
and so on in a vicious circle. (3) Hostility toward a foreign power 
or toward a minority group within a society is often an effective 
means of unifying a nation. In times of national emergency or 
crisis, therefore, a nation may attempt to achieve inner unity and 
solidarity by fomenting hostility toward a foreign power— an old 
trick— or against a minority group within its gates— also an 
old trick. 

We turn now from culturological problems that have been 
commonly attacked with psychological techniques to one that has 
seldom been so approached, namely, the question of matrilineal 
and patrilineal lineages or clans. Offhand, we cannot cite any 
attempts to explain these sociocultural phenomena in psycho- 
logical terms, to say, for example, that one people had matrilineal 
clans because of identification with the mother imago, whereas 
another people were organized into exogamous patrilineal lineages 
because of narcissistic impulses or what not. Such psychological 
interpretations would however be no more misplaced than those 
we have just cited. Why would one people identify itself with the 
mother, another with the father? This is precisely the question at 
issue; the psychological interpretation merely raises the question, 
it does not answer it. The paucity or absence of psychological in- 
terpretations of unilateral organization is probably due however to 
lack of interest in clans rather than a realization of the irrelevance 
of psychological interpretation. 

Our argument concerning the relationship of man the organism 
to his extra-somatic cultural environment may be summarized 
somewhat as follows: The musical behavior of peoples— the 


Viennese of 1798, the black folk of Harlem, 1940, the English 
before 1066, the Italians at the time of Palestrina, the Nigerians, 
, Bantus, Chinese, Pueblo Indians, and Yakuts— varies. How are 
' these variations to be explained? Certainly not in terms of bio- 
logical differences. Everything that we know about comparative 
anatomy and physiolog}^ will lend no support whatever to a belief 
that Chinese music has one form and style because of certain 
biological characters of the Chinese whereas the peculiar bio- 
logical traits of the Bantus, Indians, or Negroes produce their 
respective musical types. On the contrary, our knowledge of neuro- 
sensorj^-muscular systems supports the proposition that man may 
be considered a biological constant so far as his human (symbolic) 
behavior is concerned. We observe that musical styles vary within 
a society during the course of time without discovering any cor- 
relative biological variation whatever. And of course the musical 
style of one people may be adopted by another: Swing Low, Sweet 
Chniiot did not originate in Dahomey or Cameroon. Thus we see 
that we cannot explain these variations of musical behavior, which 
we may represent by Mi, Mo, M3, M4 . . . Mn, in terms of the 
human organism, O. Variables cannot be explained in terms of a 

How then can these differences in musical behavior be ac- 
counted for? They are to be explained in terms of different musical 
traditions or cultures, Ci, C2, C3, C4 . . . On. Let us set forth our 
argument in a series of formulas. 





— »M2 


— >M3 



O stands for the human organism; Mi, M2, M3, M4 for dif- 
ferent types of musical behavior, i.e., neuro-sensory-muscular re- 


actions of the human organism; and Ci, C2, C3, C4, for types of 
musical culture. The musical behavior in any particular instance 
is, of course, a compound made up of two distinct elements, the 
actions of nerves, glands, muscles, sense organs, etc., of man on 
the one hand (O), and the external, extra-somatic cultural tradi- 
tion (C) on the other. Since, however, the human organism 
appears as a constant factor in all of our equations we may 
eliminate it entirely from a consideration of variations of behavior. 
Thus we strike out the O and rewrite our equations thus: 

Ci >Mi 

C, > M3 

Cs >M, 

C, > M4 

As the musical cultural tradition varies, so will the musical 
behavior vary. The behavior is simply the response of the organism 
to a particular set of cultural stimuli. M is a function of C. 

What is true of musical behavior is true also of linguistic 
behavior, or monetary, mathematical, architectural, philosophic, 
religious— in short, of any kind of human behavior. We come then 
to the following formula: human behavior is the response of the 
organism man to a class of external, extra-somatic, symbolic stimuli 
which we call culture. Variations of human behavior are func- 
tions of a cultural variable, not of a biological constant. Human 
behavior as we find it amongst the various peoples of the world is 
to be explained therefore in terms of their respective cultures 
rather than by appeal to "human nature" or psychological 

If human behavior is to be explained in terms of culture, how 
are we to account for culture? 

Culture is an organization of phenomena— acts (patterns of 
behavior), objects (tools; things made with tools), ideas (belief. 


knowledge), and sentiments (attitudes, "values" ) —that is depend- 
ent upon the use of symbols. Culture began when man as an 
articulate, symbol-using primate, began. Because of its symbolic 
character, which has its most important expression in articulate 
speech, culture is easily and readily transmitted from one human 
organism to another. Since its elements are readily transmitted 
culture becomes a continuum; it flows down through the ages 
from one generation to another and laterally from one people to 
another. The culture process is also cumulative; new elements 
enter the stream from time to time and swell the total. The cul- 
ture process is progressive in the sense that it moves toward 
greater control over the forces of nature, toward greater security 
of life for man. Culture is, therefore, a symbolic, continuous, 
cumulative, and progressive process. 

All of this means that culture has, in a very real sense, an 
extra-somatic character. Although made possible only by the or- 
ganisms of human beings, once in existence and under way it has 
a life of its own. Its behavior is determined by its own laws, not 
by the laws of human organisms. The culture process is to be 
explained in terms of the science of culture, of culturology, not 
in terms of psychology. Let us illustrate these propositions with 
a simple example. 

A symbolic language would, of course, have no existence were 
it not for human organisms. But once the linguistic process gets 
under way it proceeds along its own lines, in terms of its own 
principles and in accordance with its own laws. The linguistic 
process is composed of phonetic elements. These interact with 
one another forming various kinds of combinations and patterns 
— phonetic, syntactic, grammatical, lexical, etc. The language ac- 
quires form and structure and uniformities of behavior. In other 
words, it develops certain principles upon which it rests and in 
terms of which it functions. 

Now this language has an extra-somatic, non-biological, non- 
psychological character. It had an existence prior to the birth of 


any individual speaking it; it comes to each person from the out- 
side. It seizes upon the human organism at birth and equips it 
with specific hnguistic patterns of behavior. Languages are trans- 
mitted from one generation or one people to another just as tools 
or ornaments are. The study of language is, therefore, philology, 
not biology or psychology. Although human organisms are pre- 
requisite to the linguistic process they do not form a part of it 
as such, and are therefore irrelevant to the study and interpreta- 
tion of it. We find no reference to nerves, glands, and sense 
organs in a manual on English grammar; no hopes, fears, desires, 
instincts or reflexes in a treatise on the Indo-European languages. 
Language may be treated as a closed system, as a process sui 
generis. Philology is a subdivision of culturology, not of biology 
or psychology. 

What is true of language will hold for every other logically 
distinguishable portion of the culture process— technological, 
social, ideological— and for human culture as a whole. Culture 
is a continuum of interacting elements (traits), and this process 
of interaction has its own principles and its own laws. To intro- 
duce the human organism into a consideration of cultural varia- 
tions is therefore not only irrelevant but wrong; it involves a 
premise that is false. Culture must be explained in terms of cul- 
ture. Thus, paradoxical though it may seem, "the proper study 
of mankind" turns out to be not Man, after all, but Culture. 
The most realistic and scientifically adequate interpretation of 
culture is one that proceeds as if human beings did not exist.* 

This is really not as radical or as novel as it may seem at first 
glance. As we have noted in a preceding chapter, scholars have 
been making culturological studies for decades, studies in which 
institutions, philosophies, or technologies are treated as classes 

* "Hence it is both possible and permissible to study the history of a 
folkway, or the evolution of culture in general, without reference to indi- 
viduals or their organic and ni-ntal characteristics," (Geo. P. Murdock, "The 
Science of Culture," p. 206). 


of extra-somatic, non-biological phenomena. Thus, in addition 
to philological investigations we have studies of the evolution of 
currency, geometry, architecture, astronomy, the plow, parlia- 
mentary government, the clan, jurisprudence, etc. We have such 
studies as the effect of the automobile upon the family, the divorce 
rate, mating customs, the small town country schools, the rubber 
industry, the blacksmith's trade, street-sweeping, tourist camps, 
national parks, etc.; or the influence of telescopes and microscopes 
upon religious and medical beliefs, etc. Culturology as a practical 
art of interpretation is therefore not new or revolutionary by any 

Nor is a formulation of the philosophy of the science of culture 
a recent achievement. As we have already seen, it was well ex- 
pressed as early as 1871 in the first chapter of E. B. Tylor's 
Primitive Culture, significantly entitled, by the way, 'The Science 
of Culture." It was made explicit in much of Durkheim's writings, 
particularly Les Rdghs de la Methode Sociologique (1895). And 
it has been developed in American anthropology by A. L. Kroeber, 
R. H. Lowie, Clark Wissler, George P. Murdock, and others. 

Despite the respectable age of this point of view and notwith- 
standing the fact that it is the basis upon which countless culturo- 
logical studies have already been made in philology, economics, 
sociology, history, and anthropology, it is still ignored or opposed 
in many quarters. As we noted in a previous chapter, many psy- 
chologists and sociologists hold to a point of view that either 
obscures the science of culture or actually and specifically opposes 
it. And, despite the fact that it was, as Kroeber has remarked,^^ 
the anthropologists who "discovered culture" and recognized it 
as a distinct class of phenomena, as a separate order of reality, 
there are many anthropologists who have been quite unable to 
grasp clearly the conception of a supra-psychological, supra-socio- 
logical science of culture and so have opposed it with more or less 

Opposition to the science of culture expresses itself variously, 


but one theme runs fairly consistently through most if not all of 
it. This is the objection that it is not culture but people who do 
things. Again to quote Lynd's pointed and apt phrase, "Culture 
does not enamel its fingernails, vote, or believe in capitalism but 
people do." This observation is no doubt meant to express scien- 
tific realism as well as common sense. Anyone can see for himself 
that it is human beings that mark ballots and drop them into 
a box. 

"Realism" of this sort is simply pathetic. As a matter of fact, it 
is not realism at all but anthropocentrism, an inability to interpret 
a chain of events except in terms of man as the prime mover. 
Oi course it is people who enamel their fingernails; of course 
culture is not a disembodied soul going its way of its own sweet 
will; to he sure, it is people who wind clocks, manufacture auto- 
mobiles, build skyscrapers. But the question is not the simple 
one of who does what from the layman's point of view. The 
question is. How are the events that the layman observes to he 
explained from the scientist's point oi view? The layman sees 
one people drinking cow's milk, avoiding mothers-in-law, practic- 
ing polygyny and inhumation, and forming plurals by affixation. 
He notes that another group loathes milk, associates freely with 
mothers-in-law, practices monogamy and cremation, and forms 
plurals by reduplication. Now the question is not "Who drinks 
the milk— the people or the culture?" The culturologist knows 
who does the drinking quite as well as his "realistic" opponents. 
The question is, "Why does one people prize milk as a nutritious 
and tasty beverage while another regards it with loathing?" 

To the culturologist the reasoning that says that one people 
drinks milk because "they like it," another does not because 
"they loathe it," is senseless; it explains nothing at all. Why does 
one people like, another loathe, milk? This is what we want to 
know. And the psychologist cannot give us the answer. Nor can 
he tell us why a people does or does not avoid mothers-in-law, 
practice monogamy, inhumation, the couvade, or circumcision; 


use chopsticks, forks, the pentatonic scale, hats, or microscopes; 
form plurals by affixation— or any of the other thousands of cus- 
toms known to ethnography. 

The culturologist explains the behavior of a people by point- 
ing out that it is merely the response of a particular type of 
primate organism to a particular set of stimuli. And he explains 
culture along the lines indicated earlier in this chapter. Thus, 
while the culturologist is quite willing to admit that it is people 
who "enamel their fingernails" or drink milk, he desires to point 
out that whether they do or not is determined not by them- 
selves but by their culture. Scientific explanation is a quest for 
determinants, for cause and effect relationships, for distinctions 
between constants and variables, distinctions between dependent 
and independent variables. The culturologist is well aware that 
culture does not and cannot exist without human beings. Need 
it be said that there could be no plural forms of nouns, no geome- 
try, no dynamos, no pinochle, if there were no human beings? 
And certainly there could be no mother-in-law taboos if there 
were no women! But, as the culturologist demonstrates, culture 
may be treated as if it had a life of its own, quite apart from 
human organisms, just as the physicist may treat a falling body 
as a there were no atmospheric friction. The behavior of peoples 
is explained as their response to their respective cultures. It is 
not mystical at all to treat culture as if it were independent of 
human beings, as Boas, Benedict and others have claimed, any 
more than it is mystical for the physicist to treat falling bodies as 
if there were no friction. It is simply the application of the point 
of view and the techniques of science, long familiar in physics, to 
the realm of culture. 

It should not be necessary to point out that the thesis here 
set forth is not in any sense a criticism, much less a belittling, of 
psychology. The position of this science is as honorable as it is se- 
cure. What we have done is to distinguish between psychological 
and culturological interpretations of behavior and^ further, to dem- 


onstrate that certain problems are to be solved with culturo- 
logical rather than with psychological techniques. Since human 
behavior is composed of two kinds of ingredients, the biological, or 
psychological, and the extra-somatic cultural, there are two corres- 
ponding classes of problems. In the one, we hold the biological 
factor constant while we study the cultural variable; in the other 
class we hold the cultural factor constant and study the reactions 
of human organisms to it. The existence of the institution of trial 
by jury, for example, cannot be accounted for psychologically; 
the explanation must be culturological. But to understand the 
function of this institution in the lives of men we must study 
their psychological reactions to it. One and the same set of events 
may therefore be referred to either context, the psychological or 
the culturological. Psychology and culturology deal therefore with 
biological and extra-somatic aspects respectively of one and the 
same set of events. Both sciences are essential to a comprehensive 
interpretation of human behavior. It is necessary, however, in order 
to avoid confusion, to know and respect the proper boundaries 
of each. 



"When I fulfil my obligations as brother, husband, or citizen, when I 
execute my contracts, I perform duties which are defined, externally to 
myself and my acts, in law and in custom. Even if they conform to my 
own sentiments and I feel their reality subjectively, such reality is still 
objective, for I did not create them; I merely inherited them through my 
education. . . , Similarly, the church-member finds the beliefs and 
practices of his religious life ready-made at birth; their existence prior to 
his own implies their existence outside of himself. . . . Here, then, are 
ways of acting, thinking, and feeling that present the noteworthy prop- 
erty of existing outside the individual consciousness. 

"These types of conduct or thought are not only external to the in- 
dividual but are, moreover, endowed with coercive power, by virtue of 
which they impose themselves upon him, independent of his individual 
will . . ." — Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method. 


uman behavior is, as we have just seen, a compound of 
two separate and distinct kind of elements: psychosomatic 
and cultural. On the one hand we have a certain type of 
primate organism, man; on the other, a traditional organization of 
tools, ideas, beliefs, customs, attitudes, etc., that we call culture. 
The behavior of man as a human being— as distinguished from 
his non-symbolic, primate behavior— is an expression of the inter- 
action of the human organism and the extra-somatic cultural 
tradition. Human behavior is, therefore, a function of culture as 
well as of a biological organism. In the preceding chapter we 
examined the relationship between man and culture at some 
length. We endeavored to show that psychological interpretations 
of cultures— of institutions, customs, attitudes, etc.— which have 



been, and still are, so popular, are unsound; that cultures cannot 
be explained psychologically but only culturologically. In the 
present chapter we shall continue our inquiry into the relationship 
between man and culture, but this time our focus will be upon the 
human organism rather than upon the external cultural tradition. 
If we cannot explain cultures psychologically, and, if human be- 
havior is a product of culture as well as of nerves, glands, muscles, 
sense organs, etc., perhaps some of the phenomena commonly 
regarded as psychological are actually culturally determined. If, 
on the one hand, there has been a widespread tendency to regard 
cultures as psychologically determined, perhaps there has been a 
corresponding failure to recognize cultural determinants of mind. 
The point of view and habit of thought that sees in a custom or 
institution merely the expression of an innate desire, need or 
ability, is likely also to think of the "mind" of man as something 
innate in his organism, biologically determined. Just as culture is 
naively thought to be a simple and direct expression of "human 
nature," so is the "human mind" thought to be a simple and 
direct expression of the neuro-sensory-glandular-etcetera organiza- 
tion of man. 

This view is, however, an illusion. Just as scientific analysis 
discovers a non-anthropomorphic, culturological determination of 
culture, and demonstrates the irrelevance of psychological explana- 
tions of cultures, so does it find that many of the elements or 
attributes of "the human mind" are not to be explained in terms 
of the action of nerves, brains, glands, sense organs, etc., but in 
terms of culture. This does not mean that the reactions of the 
human organism to cultural elements in the external world are 
not "psychological" or "mental"; they are. It simply means that 
in the minding of man as a human being there are non-psycho- 
somatic, i.e., extra-somatic cultural, determinants. The "human 
mind" is the reacting of the human organism to external stimuli; 
mind is minding here as elsewhere. But this reacting, this mind- 
ing, varies. The Hottentot mind, or minding, is not the same 


as Eskimo, or English, minding. The "human mind"-hun?an 
minding— is obviously a variable. And its variations are functions 
of variations of the cultural factor rather than of the psycho- 
somatic factor, which may be regarded as a constant, l^he whole 
concept of "the human mind" is thus thrown into a new light 
and perspective. 

In other animal species, the "mind" is a function of the bodily 
structure, of a particular organization of nerves, glands, sense 
organs, muscles, etc. Thus the mind of the gorilla differs from that 
of the chimpanzee; the mind of a bear differs from that of a 
cat or a squirrel. In each case, the minds are functions of their 
respective bodily structures, differences of mind are correlated 
with differences of bodily structure. In the case of the human 
species, however, this is not the case. The mind (minding) of the 
Chinese is not like the mind of the Sicilians or the Hopi Indians. 
But here the differences of mind are not due to differences of 
bodily structure for, from the standpoint of the human behavior 
of races or other groups, this may be considered as a constant. 
Differences of mind among different ethnic groups of human 
beings are due to differences of cultural tradition. Thus we have 
a radical and fundamental difference between the determination 
of mental variation among sub-human species and mental varia- 
tion within the human species. For the sub-human species the 
formula is: Vm = f (Vb)— variations of mind are functions of 
variations of bodily structure. For the human species the formula 
is: Vn, = f (Vc)— variations of human minding are functions of 
the extra-somatic tradition called culture. 

In the realm of human behavior we are concerned of course 
with organisms: organizations of bones, muscles, glands, nerves, 
sense organs, and so on. And these organisms react to external 
stimuli, cultural as well as otherwise. The human mind is still 
the reacting of the human organism. But we now see that the 
specific content of the human mind in any particular expression — 
speaking here of peoples rather than of individuals— is determined 


by the extra-somatic factor of culture rather than by the neuro- 
logic, sensory, glandular, muscular, etc., constitution of the human 
organism. In other words, the Chinese mind, the French, Zulu, 
'or Comanche mind, as a particular organization of human be- j 
havior, is explainable in cultural terms, not biological. 

In the category "the human mind," therefore, in the minding 
of human beings, we discover cultural determinants as well as 
psychosomatic factors. And, furthermore, we learn that in an 
explanation of differences among types of the human mind, such 
as Eskimo, Zulu, or English, it is the cultural determinant that 
is significant, not the psychosomatic. A comparative, ethnographic 
survey of the human mind leads to a realization that many of its 
attributes are not due to an inborn "human nature" at all, as 
was formerly supposed, but to differences of external cultural 

One of the most popular formulas of interpretation of human 
behavior is that of "human nature." People behave as they do, 
have the institutions, beliefs, attitudes, games, etc., that surround 
them, because "it is human nature." And, incidentally, most 
people— however much they may be willing to admit their ignor- 
ance in other respects— usually feel that they "understand human 
nature." The human mind and organism are so constituted, ac- 
cording to this view, as to make certain kinds of response simply 
and directly forthcoming. One has only to know human nature 
to understand society and culture and to predict their course of 
development. The fallacy or illusion here is, of course, that what 
one takes for "human nature" is not natural at all but cultural. 
The tendencies, emphases, and content that one sees in the overt 
behavior of human beings are often not due to innate biological 
determination— though such determinations do of course exist- 
but to the stimulation of external cultural elements. Much of 
what is commonly called "human nature" is merely culture 
thrown against a screen of nerves, glands, sense organs, muscles, 
etc. We have a particularly fine example of this illusion, this mis- 


taking of culture for nature, in a passage from Thomas Wolfe's 
You Can't Go Home Again:* 

For what is man? 

First, a child, unable to support itself on its rubbery legs, 
befouled with its excrement, that howls and laughs by turns, 
cries for the moon but hushes when it gets its mother's teat; 
a sleeper, cater, guzzler, howler, laugher, idiot, and a chewer of 
its toe; a little tender thing all blubbered with its spit, a reacher 
into fires, a beloved fool. 

After that, a boy, hoarse and loud before his companions, 
but afraid of the dark; will beat the weaker and avoid the 
stronger; worships strength and savagery, loves tales of wai 
and murder, and violence done to others; joins gangs and hates 
to be alone; makes heroes out of soldiers, sailors, prize fighters, 
football players, cowboys, gunmen, and detectives; would 
rather die than not out-try and out-dare his companions, wants 
to beat them and always to win, shows his muscle and demands 
that it be felt, boasts of his victories and will never own defeat 

Then the youth: goes after girls, is foul behind their backs 
among the drugstore boys, hints at a hundred seductions, but 
gets pimples on his face; begins to think about his clothes, be- 
comes a fop, greases his hair, smokes cigarettes with a dissipated 
air, reads novels, and writes poetry on the sly. He sees the world 
now as a pair of legs and breasts; he knows hate, love, and 
jealousy; he is cowardly and foolish, he cannot endure to be 
alone; he lives in a crowd, thinks with the crowd, is afraid to be 
marked off from his fellows by an eccentricity. He joins clubs 
and is afraid of ridicule; he is bored and unhappy and wretched 
most of the time. Tliere is a great cavity in him, he is dull. 

Then the man: he is busy, he is full of plans and reasons, he 
has work. He gets children, buys and sells small packets of 
everlasting earth, intrigues against his rivals, is exultant when he 
cheats them. He wastes his little three score years and ten in 

* New York. The Sun Dial Press, pp. 432-37. Quoted by permission of 
Harper and Brother*;. 


spendthrift and inglorious living; from his cradle to his grave 
he scarcely sees the sun or moon or stars; he is unconscious of 
the immortal sea and earth; he talks of the future and he wastes 
it as it comes. If he is lucky, he saves money. At the end his 
fat purse buys him flunkeys to carry him where his shanks no 
longer can; he consumes rich food and golden wine that his 
wretched stomach has no hunger for; his weary and lifeless 
eyes look out upon the scenery of strange lands for which in 
youth his heart was panting. Then the slow death, prolonged by 
costly doctors, and finally the graduate undertakers, the per- 
fumed carrion, the suave ushers with palms outspread to left- 
wards, the fast motor hearses, and the earth again. 

To many, no doubt, Wolfe's characterization of man is both 
true and apt. This is what man really is, they feel. Others, perhaps, 
would disagree and say, "No, man is not as Wolfe depicts him; 
he is this sort of being." Each view may seem plausible; each can 
be supported with evidence. And, however much Wolfe's char- 
acterization of man may differ from that of another, both may 
agree that the method oi interpretation is sound. You place 
man before you; you study him, analyze him, and then report 
your findings. Plausible and reasonable as this may seem, it is 
but an illusion. The Wolfes are not describing Man at all, but 

This is not quibbling in any way. The distinction is real, pro- 
found, and important. What Wolfe describes as Man is merely 
the way the human organism responds to a certain set of cultural 
stimuli. In another kind of culture the organism would respond 
quite differently. His characterization of man would certainly not 
be applicable to the Zuni Pueblo Indians nor to the Pygmies of 
the Congo, the aborigines of Australia, or the peasant folk of 
Mexico. And, as a matter of fact, he all but says that it is not 
man's "real nature" that he is describing. Does he not suggest at 
least that man is a being who could "see the sun, moon and stars 
and be conscious of the immortal sea and earth" were it not for 


the culture which holds him in its grip and compels him to waste 
his precious life selling real estate, cheating rivals? Wolfe is de- 
scribing a culture in terms of its effects upon the human organism. 

But v^hat difference does it make, one might ask, whether 
"human nature" or "culture" is the cause so long as man actually 
performs the acts and must suffer their consequences? What dif- 
ference does it make whether a gangster murders a cashier and 
robs a bank because he was born and reared in a certain type 
of culture or because he was "by nature" murderous, vicious, and 
rapacious? The cashier is dead in either case, the money gone, 
and the police are hot on the gangster's trail. True enough; things 
are what they are. But it makes all the difference in the world 
whether the man did the killing and the robbing because it is 
human nature to do so, or whether his behavior was determined 
by the type of culture, the kind of social system, he happened to 
be living in. All the difference, that is, to the scientist who wishes 
to provide an adequate explanation of the behavior. And a great 
deal of difference to the layman, too, because of the implications 
inherent in the two alternatives: cultures may change— they are 
constantly changing in fact; but human nature, biologically de- 
fined, is virtually constant— it has undergone no appreciable 
change in the last 30,000 years at least. 

Wolfe's description of man is a philosophy of behavior, an 
explanatory device. It is based on certain premises. It may be 
supported by much evidence, but the premises are wrong for 
all that, and much confusion and error flow inevitably from them. 

Let us consider a few areas of behavior. Take food habits for 
example. Man is one but his tastes vary enormously. A food 
loathed by one people may be a delicacy to another. Many Chinese 
cannot bear the thought of eating cheese, whereas most Eu- 
ropeans are very fond of it, and the choicest cheeses are often 
those with an odor of putrefaction or ordure. Neither do the 
Chinese like milk— even Grade A. Some tribes will not eat chicken 
or eggs. Others will eat eggs but prefer rotten eggs to fresh ones. 


The choicest porterhouse steak has no charms for the Hindu, 
nor baked ham or pork chops for the Jew. We have an aversion for 
worms and insects as food but many peoples eat them as dehcacies. 
The Navajos will not eat fish. We will not eat dogs. The eating of 
human flesh is regarded with extreme revulsion by some peoples; 
to others it is the feast supreme. It would be hard indeed to name 
an edible substance that is regarded everywhere as food. The 
aversions and loathings likewise vary. What then can we attribute 
to "human nature?" Virtually nothing. What a people likes or 
loathes is not determined by the innate attractions and repulsions 
of the human organism. On the contrary, the preferences and 
aversions are produced within the human organism by a culture 
acting upon it from the outside. Why cultures vary in this respect 
is another matter; we shall turn to it later on. 

Is it human nature to kiss a loved one? If it were, then the 
practice would be universal. But it is not. There are peoples who 
do not kiss at all. Some rub noses. Others merely sniff the back 
of the neck of children. And in some societies a parent or elder 
relative will spit in the face of a child; saliva is here regarded as 
a magical substance and this act is therefore a sort of blessing. 
Among some peoples adult males kiss each other. I once witnessed 
greetings between men in one of the isolated valleys of the Cau- 
casus mountains. They kissed each other fervently, pushing aside 
a thick growth of whiskers to reach the lips. Other peoples re- 
gard kissing among adult males as unmanly. Where does human 
nature enter this picture? It does not enter at all. The attitude 
toward kissing as well as its practice is not determined by innate 
desires of the human organism. If this were so, kissing behavior 
would be uniform throughout the world as the organism is uni- 
form. But this is not the case. Behavior varies because cultures 
differ. You will do, or taboo, what your culture calls for. 

Human behavior varies widely at other points. Sexual jealousy 
is so powerful and so poignant in some societies that to doubt 
that it is a simple and direct expression of human nature might 


seem almost absurd. It is "just natural" for a lover to be jealous 
of a rival. If a man kills the "seducer" of his wife, a jury of his 
peers may let him go scot free; it was only natural that he should 
do this, they observe. Yet, we find societies, like the Eskimo, 
where wives are loaned to guests as a part of hospitality. And Dr. 
Margaret Mead reports that the Samoans simply cannot under- 
stand jealousy among lovers, and find our sentiments in this 
respect incredible or preposterous. 

In some groups premarital sexual intercourse is not only per- 
mitted to girls but the practice forms an integral part of the 
routine of courtship. Out of these intimacies come an acquaint- 
ance, a sympathy, and an understanding that make for an endur- 
ing marriage. In other groups, brides may be subjected to chastity 
tests and killed if they fail to pass them. The unmarried mother 
is stigmatized in some societies, taken for granted in others. At- 
titude toward homosexuality varies likewise; in some groups it is 
a mark of shame and degradation, in others it is recognized and 
accepted. Some societies recognize and give status to a third, or 
intermediate, sex— the berdache, transvestite— in addition to man 
and woman. A man must avoid his mother-in-law assiduously in 
some societies; he must not speak to her or allow himself in her 
presence. In other tribes, a man must have no social intercourse 
with his sister. Some peoples regard polygamy with aversion, even 
horror. To marry one's deceased wife's unmarried sister is a crime 
in some societies, a sacred obligation in others.* In none of these 

*".... in modern England . . . marriage with a deceased wife's sister 
became equivalent to incest and the thought of such marriage was defined as 
'psychic incest.' . . . Around the year 1850, when Lord Russell's bill for the 
repeal of the law against such marriages was being debated, countless sermons 
were preached and thousands of pamphlets and letters were printed protesting 
against repeal: 

"'It would be difEcult (says Lccky) to overstate the extravagance of 
language employed. . . . One gentleman (Lord Hatherley), who had been 
Lord Chancellor of England, more than once declared that if marriage with a 
deceased wife's sister ever became legal "the decadence of England was in- 
evitable," and that for his part he would rather see 300,000 Frenchmen 


instances can we explain custom or institution in terms of the 
innate desires, sentiments, and aversions of the people concerned. 
It is not one set of sentiments and desires that produces monog- 
amy here, another set polygamy there. It is the other way around; 
it is the institution that determines the sentiments and behavior. 
If you are born into a polygamous culture you will think, feel 
and behave polygamously. If, however, you are born into a Puritan 
New England culture you will look upon polygamy with marked 

There are still other aspects or expressions of the human mind 
that were once thought to be determined by innate psycho- 
biological factors but which we now recognize as being largely 
determined by culture. Take the Oedipus complex for example. 
It was once thought that a boy's hostility toward his father and 
his love for his mother were simply expressions of his biological 
nature. But, as Malinowski and others have shown, these atti- 
tudes vary with type of family organization. In some societies the 
husband is not the head of the family, the disciplinarian. It is the 
mother's brother who takes this role, and the father is merely 
the kindly, indulgent friend and companion. The attitude of boys 
toward father and mother are not the same here as in the patri- 
archal household known to Freud. Polygynous and polyandrous 
households produce other orientations of attitude. In some cul- 
tures it is the sister rather than the mother who becomes the 
primary object of incestuous desire. The definition of incest, and 
consequently one's attitude toward sexual union with cross or 
parallel, first or second, cousins, varies with the culture as we 
shall see later on. 

landed on the British coasts,' " (Wm. I. Thomas, Primitive Behavior, pp. 

Contrast this with the command, in Deuteronomy (XXV: 5-12) that a 
man shall marry his deceased brother's wife. Should he refuse, the woman 
shall disgrace him publicly, taking off his sandal "in the presence of the elders 
. . . and spit in his face." Note, also, that Onan was killed by the Lord for 
avoiding his duty to his deceased brother's widow (Genesis XXXVIII: 6-n). 


One's conscience is often thought to be the most intimate, 
personal and private characteristic of one's ego. Here if anywhere 
one ought to find something that is wholly one's own, a private 
and unique possession. To an ordinary individual the conscience 
seems to be a mechanism, an inborn ability, to distinguish between 
right and wrong, just as he possesses a mechanism for distinguish- 
ing up from down, the vertical from the horizontal. Except, per- 
haps, that conscience seems deeper within one, a more intimate 
part of one's make-up, than semi-circular canals. After all, these 
canals are merely a mechanical device, whereas a conscience is an 
integral part of one's self, one's ego. Yet, for all the conviction 
that immediate experience carries, we can still be tricked by 
illusion. And this is exactly what has happened in the present 
instance. Our sense of balance, our distinction between up and 
down, is indeed a private faculty; it is built into our psychosomatic 
structure and has no origin or significance apart from it. But our 
conscience has a sociocultural origin; it is the operation of supra- 
individual cultural forces upon the individual organism. Con- 
science is merely our experience and our awareness of the opera- 
tion of certain sociocultural forces upon us. Right and wrong are 
matters of sociocultural genesis; they are originated by social 
systems, not by individual biological organisms. Behavior that is 
injurious, or thought to be harmful, to the general welfare is 
wrong; behavior that promotes the general welfare is good. The 
desires inherent in an individual organism are exercised to serve 
its own interests. Society, in order to protect itself from the 
demands of the individual as well as to serve its own interests, 
must influence or control the behavior of its component mem- 
bers. It must encourage good behavior and discourage the bad. 
It does this by first defining the good and the bad specifically, and 
secondly, by identifying each good or had with a powerful emo- 
tion, positive or negative, so that the individual is motivated to 
perform good deeds and to refrain from committing bad ones. So 
effective is this socio-psychologic mechanism that society not only 


succeeds in enlisting individuals in the cause of general welfare 
but actually causes them to work against their own interests- 
even to the point of sacrificing their own lives for others or for 
the general welfare. A part of the effectiveness of this social 
mechanism consists in the illusion that surrounds it: the individual 
is made to feel that it is he who is making the decision and taking 
the proper action, and, moreover, that he is perfectly "free" in 
making his decisions and in choosing courses of action. Actually, 
of course, this still small voice of conscience is but the voice of 
the tribe or group speaking to him from within. "What is called 
conscience," says Radcliffe-Brown, "is . . . the reflex in the indi- 
vidual of the sanctions of the society." ^ The human organism lives 
and moves within an ethical magnetic field, so to speak. Certain 
social forces, culturally defined, impinge upon the organism and 
move it this way and that, toward the good, away from the bad. 
The organism experiences these forces though he may mistake 
their source. He calls this experience conscience. His behavior is 
analogous to a pilotless aircraft controlled by radio. The plane is 
directed this way and that by impulses external to it. These im- 
pulses are received by a mechanism and are then transmitted to 
motors, rudders, etc. This receiving and behavior-controlling mech- 
anism is analogous to conscience. 

That conscience is a cultural variable rather than a psychoso- 
matic constant is made apparent of course by a consideration of 
the great variation of definition of rights and wrongs among the 
various cultures of the world. What is right in one culture may 
be wrong in another. This follows from the fact that an act that 
will promote the general welfare in one set of circumstances may 
injure it in another. Thus we find great variety of ethical definition 
and conduct in the face of a common and uniform human 
organism, and must conclude therefore that the determination 
of right and wrong is social and cultural rather than individual 
and psychological. But the interpretation of conscience, rather 
than custom and mores, in terms of social and cultural forces 


serves to demonstrate once more that the individual is what his 
culture makes him. He is the utensil; the culture supplies the 
contents. Conscience is the instrument, the vehicle, of ethical 
conduct, not the cause. It is well, here as elsewhere, to distinguish 
cart from horse. 

The unconscious also is a concept that may be defined culturo- 
logically as well as psychologically. Considered from a psycho- 
logical point of view, "the unconscious" is the name given to a 
class of determinants of behavior inherent in the organism, or at 
least, having their locus in the organism as a consequence of the 
experiences it has undergone, of which the person is not aware 
or whose significance he does not appreciate. But there is also 
another class of determinants of human behavior of which the 
ordinary individual may be— and usually is— unaware, or at least 
has little or no appreciation of their significance. These are extra- 
somatic cultural determinants. In a general and broad sense, the 
whole realm of culture constitutes "an unconscious" for most 
laymen and for many social scientists as well. The concept of 
culture and an appreciation of its significance in the life of man 
lie beyond the ken of all but the most scientifically sophisticated. 
To those who believe that man makes his culture and controls its 
course of change, the field of cultural forces and determinants 
may be said to constitute an unconscious— an extra-somatic un- 

The unconscious character of the operation of culture in the 
lives of men can be demonstrated in many particular instances 
as well as in a general way. A moment ago we distinguished the 
unconscious factor in ethical behavior. The determinants of ethical 
behavior— why, for example, one should not play cards on Sunday 
—lie in the external cultural tradition. The individual, however, 
unaware of either the source or the purpose of the taboo, locates 
it in his inner self: his conscience is but the screen upon which 
the unconscious factors of society and culture project themselves. 

Incest is defined and prohibited in order to effect exogamous 


unions so that mutual aid may be fostered and, consequently, life 
made more secure for the members of society. But of the existence 
and significance of these cultural factors all but a few are un- 
conscious. To the individual, incest is simply a sin or crime that 
is inherently and absolutely wrong. 

Or, take the rules of etiquette: A man in a certain society is 
not permitted to wear earrings or to use lipstick. The purpose of 
these restrictions is to define classes of individuals within society: 
a man, woman, priest, etc., is an individual who behaves positively 
in a certain manner and who must refrain from certain kinds of 
acts. By means of these definitions, prescriptions, and prohibi- 
tions, each individual is made to conform to his class and the 
classes are thereby kept intact. Thus, order is achieved in society, 
order both structurally and functionally. And, to conduct its life 
efiFectively a society must have order. But the individual seldom 
has any appreciation of the source and purpose of these rules; 
he is apt to regard them, if he thinks about them at all, as natural 
and right, or as capricious and irrational. Another example of the 
cultural unconscious. 

The church is an organ of social control; it is a mechanism of 
integration and regulation. In this respect it has political functions 
just as does the State (see p. 242). It operates to preserve the 
integrity of society against disintegration from within and against 
aggression from without. It is thus an important factor in a 
nation's war machine; it mobilizes the citizenry to fight against 
foreign foes. It must also strive to harmonize conflicting class 
interests at home. This it does frequently by telling the poor and 
the oppressed to be patient, to be satisfied with their lot, not to 
resort to violence, etc.* In these ways the Church like the State 

* "Religion teaches the laboring man and the artisan to carry out honestly 
and fairly all equitable agreements freely entered into; never to injure the 
property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence 
in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder . . ." (Pope 
Leo XII's Encyclical on Condition of Labor, May 15, 1891, The O&cial 
Catholic Year Book Anno Domini, 1928), p. 540. 


exercises political functions that are essential to the life of the 
society. Yet how many members of a congregation or of the 
clergy have any awareness of this aspect of the rituals, parapher- 
nalia, theolog}^ and dogma that occupy them? 

The determinants of our form of the family lie so deep within 
our cultural unconscious that even social science has yet no 
adequate answer to the question why we prohibit polygamy (see 
p. 335). The Chinese, according to Kroeber, were long unaware 
that their language had tones. "This apparently simple and fun- 
damental discovery," he says, "was not made until two thousand 
years after they possessed writing, and a thousand after they had 
scholars." - And they might not have made it even then had not 
"the learning of Sanskrit for religious purposes . . . made them 
phonetically self-conscious." Like the rustic who had been talking 
prose all his life without realizing it, the peoples of the Western 
world, too, have long been unconscious of much of the structure 
and processes of Indo-European languages. 

Thus, in addition to the determinants of behavior that lie deep 
within the tissues of our own organisms, below the level of aware- 
ness, there is another class of determinants of which we are equally 
unconscious: forces and factors within the extra-somatic cultural 
tradition. The science of culture is endeavoring to discover, define 
and explain these unconscious cultural factors as psychoanalysis 
has undertaken to explore and make known the intra-organismal 
unconscious.* We may illustrate these two realms of the uncon- 
scious in the following diagram : 

* Kroeber has a fine appreciation of the unconscious character of cultural 
determinants of human behavior as the section "Unconscious Factors in Lan- 
guage and Culture" in his Anthropology (1923) makes clear. But despite 
certain examples which he cites and which show quite clearly that the locus 
of the unconscious is in the culture process, he locates it "in the mind." 
Thus he says: "It is difficult to say where the creative and imitative impulses 
of fashion come from; which, inasmuch as the impulses obviously reside some- 
where in human minds, means that they spring from the unconscious portions 
of the mind" (p. 127). 




Human behavior is a function of the biological organism on the 
one hand, and of the extra-somatic cultural tradition or process, 
on the other. The individual is more or less aware of some of the 
determinants of his behavior in each categorj^, the cultural and 
the biological. But of others he is quite unaw^are, or has no ade- 
quate appreciation of the role they play as determinants of his 
behavior. These are the realms of the unconscious: the biological 
and the cultural. 

The nature of the relationship between the mind of the indi- 
vidual human organism on the one hand and the external cultural 
tradition on the other may be illuminated by a critical examination 
of a certain thesis widely held in recent and current anthropo- 
logical circles in the United States. Briefly stated, this thesis 
asserts that man has created culture, that culture is the accumu- 
lated product of the creative acts of countless individuals, that the 
individual is the fons et oiigo of all cultural elements, and, finally, 
that the culture process is to be explained in terms of the indi- 

Thus Ralph Linton v^Tites: ". . . the individual . . . lies at the 
foundation of all social and cultural phenomena. Societies are 
organized groups of individuals, and cultures are, in the last 
analysis, nothing more than the organized and repetitive responses 
of a society's members. For this reason the individual is the logical 
starting point for any investigation of the larger configuration" * 


(emphasis ours). "If we had the knowledge and the patience to 
analyze a culture retrospectively," says Goldenweiser, "every ele- 
ment of it would be found to have had its beginning in the 
creative act of an individual mind. There is, of course, no other 
source for culture to come from ... An analysis oi culture, if 
fully carried out, leads back to the individual mind" * (emphasis 
ours), Edward Sapir asserts that the "currency [of "any cultural 
element"] in a single community is ... an instance of diffusion 
that has radiated out, at last analysis, from a single individual." • 
Ruth Benedict declares that "no civilization has in it any element 
which in the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual. 
Where else could any trait come from except from the behavior 
of a man, woman or a child?" ^ Clark Wissler said that "the in- 
ventive process resides in individual organisms; so far as we know, 
it is a function of the individual organism." ^ Linton asserts that 
"it is the individual who is responsible, in the last analysis, for all 
additions to culture"® (emphasis ours). Hallowell finds the con- 
ception of cultural influence unrealistic; "In the last analysis," 
he says, "it is individuals who respond to and influence one 
another."* Both Goldenweiser and Malinowski place the indi- 
vidual "at the beginning and the end" of the sociocultural pro- 
cess.^" And, finally, we cite Sapir's categorical dictum: "It is always 
the individual that really thinks and acts and dreams and re- 
volts." * " 

The import of the foregoing is clear. It is the individual who 
"is responsible" for culture change; it is the individual who really 
does things; every cultural element has its beginning in the creative 
act of an individual mind, etc., etc. It would appear from our 
quotations that their authors feel that they are expressing a fun- 
damental proposition and point of view. Nearly all of them use 
the phrase "in the last analysis" in setting forth their position. 
Their premises seem to appear to them so simple and so realistic 

• Wc recall at this point Georg Simmcl's emphatic assertion: "It is certain 
that in the last analysis only individuals exist/' (emphasis wun); see p. 84. 


as to be virtually axiomatic: "Every cultural element originates in 
the mind of an individual— of a man, woman, or child. Where else 
couid it come from?" Culture is pictured as a great structure built 
by countless individuals, much as a coral reef is produced by 
myriads of marine organisms during the course of time. And, as 
the coral reef is explained in terms of the activities of marine 
organisms, so culture may be explained by citing the "creative acts 
of the individual human mind." 

This view seems plausible enough: as a matter of fact, it appears 
to be virtually self-evident. Anyone can see for himself that it is 
man, human individuals, who chop down trees, build houses, pass 
laws, write sonnets, worship gods, etc. But we have become a bit 
wary of the self-evident and the obvious: anyone can see for him- 
self that it is the sun, not the earth, that moves. But, thanks 
to Copernicus, we now know better. 

Obvious and self-evident though the proposition that culture 
is made by individuals may appear to be, we must reject it as a 
means of explaining cultural processes or traditions. As a matter 
of fact, we regard it as an expression of the primitive and pre- 
scientific philosophy of anthropomorphism. Man has been ex- 
plaining the world he lives in by attributing its existence and 
nature to the action of some mind, his own or a god's, for ages on 
end. William James accounted for machines, instruments, and 
institutions by asserting that they "were flashes of genius in an 
individual head, of which the outer environment showed no 
sign." ^2 To Newton "this most beautiful cosmos could only pro- 
ceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and pow- 
erful Being." " To Plato, the material world was but the expres- 
sion of "ideas in the mind of God." "Let there be light," said 
Yahweh, "and there was light." In the mythology of ancient 
Egypt, everything came from the thinking and willing of the 
great artificer deity, Ptah.^* Among our preliterate Keresan Pueblo 
Indians, Tsityostinako, or Thought-Woman, brought things to 
pass by acts of thought and will.^* And today, in line with this 


ancient and primitive philosophic tradition, we are told that cul- 
ture has issued from the mind of man— of men, women, and chil- 
dren—and therefore if we are to understand culture and explain 
its content and course of change, we must do so in terms of the 

It is obvious, of course, that culture has emanated from the 
organisms of human beings: without the human species there 
would be no culture. We recognize also that a generic relationship 
obtains between culture as a whole and the human species in its, 
or their, entirety; the general character of culture is an expression 
of the biological properties of the human species. But, when it 
comes to an explanation of any particular culture— and all the 
cultures of the world are particular, specific cultures— or to an 
explanation of the process of culture change in general, a con- 
sideration of the human organism, either in its collective or indi- 
vidual aspects, is irrelevant. The culture process is not explain- 
able in terms of races, physical types, or of individual minds. It is 
to be explained in terms of culture itself. In short, the culture 
process is to be explained culturologically rather than biologically 
or psychologically. 

Thus we do not account for differences between Chinese and 
Swedish culture by appeal to the physical, somatological, and 
innate psychological differences between the Chinese and the 
Swedish peoples. We know of no differences between cultural 
traditions, no specific feature of the culture process, that can be 
explained in terms of innate biological properties, physical or 
mental. On the other hand, we can explain the human behavior 
of Chinese and Swedish peoples as biological organisms in terms 
of their respective cultures. 

The proposition just enunciated is generally accepted in the 
social sciences today. We no longer subscribe to racial explana- 
tions of culture. But the thesis that the sociocultural process is 
explainable in terms of individuals rests upon the same premise, 
namely, that biological factors are relevant to interpretations of 


the culture process. Thus, it is admitted that the biological factor 
is extraneous to an interpretation of the culture process when 
taken in its collective (i.e., racial) aspect, but, many scholars 
contend, it is not only relevant but fundamental when taken in 
its individual aspect. We regard this reasoning as unsound; a 
single individual organism is as irrelevant to an interpretation of 
the culture process as a group of individuals. 

It might be well at this point to draw a distinction between 
two fundamentally different propositions. The individual him- 
self is not irrelevant to the actual culture process. On the contrary, 
he is an integral and in one sense a fundamental part of it. Indi- 
viduals do indeed enamel their fingernails, vote, and believe in 
capitalism as Lynd has observed. But the individual is irrelevant 
to an explanation oi the culture process. We cannot explain the 
culture trait or process of enameling nails in terms of innate 
desire, will, or caprice. We can however explain the behavior of 
the individual in terms of the culture that embraces him. The 
individual, the average, typical individual of a group, may be re- 
garded as a constant so far as human, symbolic behavior is con- 
cerned. The typical Crow Indian organism may be regarded as 
biologically equivalent to the typical English, Zulu, or Eskimo 
organism so far as his capacities and inclinations for human be- 
havior are concerned. The alternative to this proposition is ac- 
ceptance of a racial determinant of human behavior and culture. 
In the process of interaction between the human organism on the 
one hand and the extra-somatic cultural tradition on the other, 
the cultural factor is the variable, the biological factor the con- 
stant; it is the cultural factor that determines the variations in 
the resulting behavior. The human behavior of the individual 
organism is therefore a function of his culture. The individual 
becomes then the locus of the culture process and the vehicle of 
its expression. Thus we arrive at a culturological conception of 
individuality to add to those of anatomy, physiology, and psy- 


Since the earliest days of human history every member of the 
human species has been introduced at birth into a cultural en- 
vironment of beliefs, customs, instruments, expressions of art, 
etc., as well as a natural habitat of climate, topography, flora and 
fauna. This cultural environment is a continuum, a tradition; it 
descends lineally from one generation to another, and it may 
diffuse laterally from one people to another. Culture is an 
elaborate mechanism whose function is to make life secure and 
continuous for groups of human beings. In order to perform these 
functions, culture must harness energy in one form or another 
and put it to work. Culture is, therefore, a thermodynamic sys- 
tem in a mechanical sense. Culture grows in all its aspects- 
ideological, sociological, and technological— when and as the 
amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, and 
as the means of expending this energy are improved. Culture is 
thus a dynamic system capable of growth. A cultural tradition 
is a stream of interacting cultural elements— of instruments, 
beliefs, customs, etc. In this interactive process, each element 
impinges upon others and is in turn acted upon by them. The 
process is a competitive one; instruments, customs, and beliefs 
may become obsolete and be eliminated from the stream: stone 
axes give way to metal ones; science replaces myth^nd magic; 
tribe and clan become obsolete at a certain stage of social evolu- 
tion and the state takes their place. New elements are incor- 
porated into the cultural stream from time to time: metals, the 
wheel, beliefs consequent upon the use of the microscope, etc., 
enter the cultural tradition at certain stages of its development. 
New combinations and syntheses of cultural elements — i.e., in- 
ventions and discoveries— are continually being formed in this 
interactive process: the invention of the steam engine, the "dis- 
covery" of the Periodic System of the elements, the formulation 
of the laws of thermodynamics, etc., are new combinations or 
syntheses of cultural elements. A cultural tradition is therefore 
a dynamic system (powered by natural forces which it harnesses) 


that behaves and grows in terms of its own principles and laws. 
It may therefore be explained on its own level, in culturological 
terms rather than with the concepts of psychology, biology, 
chemistry or physics. It may be regarded as a system sui generis. 

In relation to the process of culture change and growth the 
biological factor of man may be regarded as a constant and hence 
irrelevant to an explanation of the culture process. Relative to an 
explanation of the difference between the culture of the Swedes 
and that of the Chinese or Zulus, the biological factor— such 
things as skin, hair, or eye color, stature, innate abilities, etc. — 
may, as we have noted, be regarded as irrelevant. It is irrelevant 
also to an explanation of the differences between the culture of 
England in a.d. 1200 and that of a.d. 1900. We see, then, that to 
the problem of interpretation of the culture process, the biological 
factor of man is irrelevant. The culture process is explainable cul- 
turologically, not biologically or psychologically. 

Let us now consider the individual in relation to the culture 
process. As we have noted, every individual is born into a culture 
that existed prior to his birth. This culture seizes upon him at 
birth and as he grows and matures equips him with language, 
customs, beliefs, instruments, etc. In short, it is culture that pro- 
vides him with the form and content of his behavior as a human 
being. Thus, Crow Indian behavior is the response of the organ- 
ism Homo sapiens to a particular organization of stimuli that we 
call "Crow culture." Similarly, American, Eskimo, and Zulu be- 
haviors are the responses of the same kind of organism to other 
cultural traditions. The individual in each case is merely an or- 
ganization of cultural forces and elements that have impinged 
upon him from the outside and which find their overt expression 
through him. So conceived, the individual is but the expression of 
a supra-biological cultural tradition in somatic form. 

We turn now to the role of the individual in the process of 
culture growth, and specifically to the propositions that, "in the 
last analysis," it is the individual who "is responsible for all addi- 


tions to culture"; that "every culture element is to be traced back 
to the creative act of an individual mind"; that it is always the 
individual who really thinks, acts, dreams, and revolts; and that 
the individual is "the logical starting point for any investigation 
of the larger configurations" such as society and culture. 

To be sure culture is dependent upon the human species and 
could not exist without it. It is true also that the human species 
is composed of discrete physical entities that we call individuals. 
But the scholars that we have just quoted are doing more than to 
give utterance to these obvious and trite commonplaces. They are 
asserting that the individual is a prime mover, a determinant; 
that he is the cause, culture the effect; that it is the individual 
who "is responsible" for change in the culture process; and that, 
therefore, an explanation of "the larger configuration" of cul- 
ture must lie in a consideration of the individual. And it is this 
proposition that we reject— and reverse: it is the individual who 
is explained in terms of his culture, not the other way around. 

Let us consider inventions and discoveries, or any significant 
advance in the arts, science, or philosophy. To say that they are 
the achievements of certain individuals is merely to locate them, 
not to explain them. To say that the calculus was invented by 
Newton and Leibnitz is to identify these events historically or 
biographically but it does not explain them as events in a culture 
process. Why did these events take place when and where they 
did? We wish to know this too as well as what particular person 
made the invention or discovery. Merely to say "the individual" is 
no answer to this question. Nor is such a reply improved by limit- 
ing the individuals to persons of exceptional native ability. There 
were individuals of this category in the Middle Ages and in the 
Bronze Age and, in the time of Newton, they were sprinkled 
through the populations of Tibet, Bechuanaland, and the Andean 
Highlands. Why was not the calculus invented at other times and 
in other lands? 


An invention, discovery, or other significant cultural advance is 
an event in a culture process. It is a new combination or synthesis 
of elements in the interactive stream of culture. It is the out- 
come of antecedent and concomitant cultural forces and elements. 
The Laws of Motion, formulated by Newton, were the synthesis 
of cultural elements historically identified with the persons of 
Kepler, Brahe, Galileo, and others. The occurrence of their for- 
mulation took place where and when it did because the circum- 
stances of culture growth and history brought together the 
elements requisite to this synthesis at a particular time and place. 
We can trace the growth of these elements through time and 
place. Thus we explain the occurrence of this significant event 
culturologically. And, moreover, we explain the behavior of New- 
ton by showing that the formulation of these laws was the 
response of his organism to certain cultural stimuli. We know 
virtually nothing about his nervous system directly; we make in- 
ferences concerning it on the basis of the effect of cultural 
stimuli upon him. In short, we know his mentality only through 
his culture. But Newton was also much concerned with theology 
and Biblical interpretation, which again is explained by the fact 
that he was born into a powerful theological "gravitational field" 
as well as a scientific one and that he felt the "pull" of the one as 
he did the other. In another age or culture, Newton would have 
devoted himself to such things as designing fish traps, hepatoscopy, 
or the elaboration of a theory of totemism. But when a certain 
concatenation of cultural forces and elements occurs at a given 
time and place they will become synthesized in the neuro-sensory- 
muscular-etc, system of one individual or another. 

Nothing demonstrates more clearly the nature of the culture 
process and its expression in significant episodes of cultural ad- 
vance, and at the same time the irrelevance of the individual to 
an explanation of this process, than the phenomena of multiple 
and simultaneous, but independent, inventions and discoveries. 
Time after time, in the history of science, mathematics and tecb- 


nology, an important invention or discovery has been made by 
anywhere from two to ten persons simultaneously and inde- 
pendently.* To explain phenomena of this sort by invoking 
"coincidence," "fortuitous clusterings of genius," etc., as William 
James and others have done, is empty and sterile. A culturological 
interpretation, however, readily makes them intelligible: when 
growing and converging lines of cultural development reach a 
certain point, fusion and synthesis will take place. If culture is 
advancing on a wide front, these syntheses will find two or more 
independent and approximately simultaneous expressions. The in- 
vention or discovery is explained therefore in terms of a growing 
and interactive culture process; the individual inventors or dis- 

* The following instances of multiple, simultaneous but independent in- 
ventions or discoveries are taken from the list compiled by Wm. F. Ogburn 
and published in his Social Change, pp. 90-102. Examples could be multiplied 
almost indefinitely. 

Theory of planetary perturbations: Lagrange, 1808; Laplace, 1808. 

Discovery of planet Neptune: Adams, 1845; Leverrier, 1845. 

Discovery of sun spots: Galileo, 1611; Fabricus, 1611; Scheiner, 1611; and 
Harriott, 1611. 

First measurement of parallax of star: Bessel, 1838; Struve, 1838; Hender- 
son, 1838. 

Introduction of decimal point: Biirgi, 1592; Pitiscus, 1608-12; Kepler, 1616; 
and Napier, 1616-17. 

Discovery of oxygen: Scheele, 1774; Priestley, 1774. 

The Periodic Law: De Chancourtois, 1864, Newlands, 1864; Lothar Meyer, 
1864. Law of Periodicity: L. Meyer, 1869, Mendeleeff, i86g. 

Telescope: Lippershey, 1608; Delia Porta, 1558; Digges, 1571; Johannides, 
Metius, 1608; Drebbel, Fontana, Janssen, 1608; and Galileo, 1609. 

Law of Conservation of Energy: Mayer, 1843; Joule, 1847; Helmholz, 
1847; Colding, 1847; and Thomson, 1847. 

Telegraph: Henry, 1831; Morse, 1837; Cooke- Wheatstone, 1837; and Stein- 
heil, 1837. 

Cellular basis of both animal and vegetable tissue: claimed by Schwann, 
Henle, Turpin, Dumortier, Purkinje, Muller, and Valentin, all at about the 
same time: 1839. 

Solution of the problem of respiration: by Priestley, Scheele, Lavoisier, 
Spallanzani, and Davy, all in 1777. 

Sulphuric ether as an anaesthetic: Long, 1842; Robinson, 1846; Listen, 
1846; Morton, 1846; and Jackson, 1846. 

Self-exciting dynamo: claimed by Hjorth, 1866-67; Varley, 1866-67; 
Siemens, 1866-67; Wheatstone, 1866-67; Ladd, 1866; Wilde, 1863-67. 


coverers are merely the loci and the vehicles of expression of this 

To return now to Sapir's dictum that "it is always the indi- 
vidual who really thinks and acts and dreams and revolts." This 
statement does not merely distort the picture of human behavior; 
it inverts it. If he had said it is always the individual that sleeps 
and yawns and hears and breathes, we would offer no objection, 
for these activities are functions of individual organisms; there is 
no communal or group mechanism of yawning or breathing. But 
to say it is the individual who does such things as human think- 
ing, feeling and acting is misleading to say the least; it implies a 
premise that is unwarranted. An individual can independently "^ 
as an organism, yawn, sleep, and breathe.* But no one can think, 
act and feel as a human being as an independent, autonomous 
organism; he can do so only as a part of a sociocultural system. 
A question of technical terminology is involved here. It may be , 
argued that the words think, feel, dream, etc., are properly ap- ^-^q 
plicable to neuro-sensory-muscular-etcetera systems only. If this 
ruling be accepted, then it is true of course that it is always the 
individual organism that thinks, feels, and acts. But it was not to 
set forth this tautology that Sapir took such pains and emphasis 
of expression. It was his purpose to present the individual as a 
prime mover, as an initiator and determinant of a process. And 
it is this proposition that we reject. 

We may indeed say that thinking, feeling, and acting are / 
functions of individual biological organisms. There is no com- 
munal nervous system, no group brain, of course. But, human 
thinking, feeling, and acting cannot be accounted for in terms 

* Yawning, breathing, etc., although functions of an individual and auton- 
omous organism, may be modified, of course, by cultural forces. It is interest- 
ing to note that Sapir, who has insisted so vehemently upon the autonomy 
of the individual in thinking, feeling and acting, should have taken pains, in 
another connection, to point out that breathing may function within and be 
modified by a sociocultural process ("The Unconscious Patterning of Behavior 
in Society," in The Unconscious, E. S. Dummer, ed.. New York, 1927), 
pp. 117-18. 


of biological organisms, by saying that the individual does these 
things. Spitting, yawning, scratching, etc., are intelligible as func- 
tions of individual organisms. But believing in ghosts, dreaming 
of the Blessed Virgin, avoiding one's mother-in-law, scalping a 
vanquished foe, as events or processes, cannot be made mtelligible 
merely by saying that it is the individual who does these things. 
In human thinking, feeling, and acting the individual is merely 
responding to stimuli, to cultural elements. But we cannot explain 
the form and content of the response merely by citing the bio- 
logical organism that does the responding. Whether a person 
believes that a fever has been caused by bacteria or the violation 
of a taboo is a matter that is not made intelligible by invoking 
the individual organism who ''always does" the believing. The 
organism is the same in both cases. 

Thus we are left in the position where we have designated 
certain psycho-biological processes "thinking," "feeling," or "act- 
ing," but where we cannot explain these processes at all merely 
by considering them as individual phenomena. "It is always the 
individual who thinks, etc.," tells us, therefore, nothing of any 
significance. What does the individual think, and why does he 
think thus and so? This is what we want to know, and the con- 
ception of the individual as a prime mover, as an initiator or 
determinant of the culture process, as one who "is responsible" 
for all culture change, etc., will not give us the answer. On the 
contrary, it will effectively obscure or conceal it. 

The events or processes that we technically designate "think- 
ing, feeling, and acting" are, in so far as they are on the human, 
symbolic level, functions of sociocultural systems. They are, as 
a matter of fact, sociocultural processes. Note that we have said 
that these events and processes are functions of sociocultural sys- 
tems. We have not said that "thinking," "feeling," and "acting" 
are sociocultural processes. An event is what it is— an event. When 
we label an event "thinking" we refer it to a neurologic context 
and to that kind of context only. But the very same event that is 


called "thinking" and thus referred to a neurologic context may 
also be referred to another context, a sociocultural context. Thus, 
believing in witches or bacteria as the cause of an illness is an 
event or process that can be referred to a psychologic context or 
to a culturologic context; it may be considered as a function of a 
nervous system or of a sociocultural system. But, although it is 
perfectly true that we can have no belief in witches apart from 
a nervous system, we learn virtually nothing about such a belief 
as an event, act, or process from a consideration of its neurologic 

A belief in witches or bacteria as an event or process is to be 
explained in sociocultural terms rather than with neurologic con- 
cepts. The believing is the response of a human organism to a 
cultural stimulus. But what the organism believes is determined 
not by itself but by its culture. And the cultural element that 
serves as stimulus is not to be explained in terms of individual 
neurologic processes but in terms of other cultural elements and 
processes. Thus to say that believing in witches or bacteria is 
something that an individual does is either an empty tautology — 
"believing" being by definition an individual biological affair — 
or it implies a premise that is false, namely, that it is the indi- 
vidual who initiates and determines the belief. The individual had 
nothing to do with the origin of the belief; it was in the cultural 
tradition of his people before he was born. He did not originate 
it; it came to him from the outside. A belief in witches is the out- 
growth of antecedent ideas and beliefs that we can trace back to 
the Old Stone Age. The belief in bacteria also is a synthesis of 
cultural elements, of concepts, microscopes, etc. Thus, the specific 
act or process of believing that witches or bacteria cause illness 
has been determined not by an individual organism at all but by 
a sociocultural system. The event is something that the culture 
has done to the individual rather than the other way around. If 
it be argued that some time, somewhere, there must have been a 
single individual who was the first person in history to believe 


that illness is caused by bacteria rather than by witches, it must 
be pointed out that this event, too, is merely a synthesis of cul- 
tural elements that have come to the individual from his cir- 
cumambient cultural tradition. 

To take this view of the relationship between the individual 
and the culture process is not to regard the former, as an organism, 
as a purely passive thing. The individual does not receive cultural 
material from the outside in a purely passive way, like a cup into 
which coffee is poured, nor does it reflect this material like a 
perfect mirror does an image. The human organism is a dynamic 
system. It not only receives cultural elements from the outside, it 
acts upon them. It is by virtue of the action of the neuro-sensory- 
glandular-etcetera system upon cultural elements that they are 
made to act and react upon one another, to form new combina- 
tions and syntheses. We do not therefore minimize the dynamic 
nature of the individual as an active as well as a reactive organ- 
ism. We are merely saying that a consideration of the dynamic 
character of this organism does not help us to explain the form 
and content of its reactions and responses. The organism does the 
reacting, of course. But, in human behavior, the specific nature 
of its reactions is determined not by the organism but by cul- 
tural elements serving as stimuli. 

Neither does our point of view regard all individuals as alike. 
On the contrary, we recognize that no two individuals are 
identical biologically. Since human organisms are the mediums of 
expression of the culture process, it follows that variations of cul- 
tural expression will be produced by variations of individual 
biological structure. But not all variations of expression of the 
culture process are due to individual biological variation by any 
means. The culture process is itself inherently variable. No two 
cultural elements— no two axes or fetiches, no two expressions of 
sentiment or attitude— are identically alike either. Some of the 
variation of expression of the culture process is due therefore 
to variation of cultural stimuli. Furthermore, it is a striking and 


significant fact that, within a fairly uniform cultural environment, 
the most diverse physical types— the tall and the short, fat and 
thin, lazy and energetic, endomorphs and ectomorphs, etc.— react 
in a highly uniform manner in such respects as language and 
dialect, attitudes, beliefs, food habits, rituals of social intercourse, 
and so on. Thus a consideration of individual biological varia- 
tion only serves to make clearer and more emphatic the dominance 
of the cultural factor in the determination of human behavior. 

The conception of the individual as a prime mover, as a First 
Cause, as the initiator and determinant of the sociocultural 
process, finds free and full expression in one of our theories of 
government. The basic premise of democracy as a theory of 
government is that the people rule. That is, the citizenry as indi- 
viduals want certain things and oppose others; they reflect, weigh 
and consider and finally make a decision which they express at 
the polls. The men put into office by this process, having received 
the mandates of the electorate, set about to do the people's will. 
Thus, we have, according to this view, a cause and effect sequence 
from lowliest citizen to the highest executive. It is always the 
individual who votes, etc., to paraphrase Sapir. 

This picture of the political process is a gross distortion as 
was the general proposition about the individual always thinking, 
acting, and revolting. The theory of democracy as outlined above 
is a fiction, an illusion. And, of course, it is based upon the anthro- 
pocentric premise that it is man who, like God, says let there 
be this or that, and it is done. 

A democratic nation is a social organism. Its life is regulated 
by a mechanism of integration and control that is the State in 
its formal aspects and the "political machine" in its non-institu- 
tionalized or at least extra-legal aspect. This mechanism co- 
ordinates the various segments and processes of the body politic, 
and negotiates relations with other nations. The life of the nation 
is thus regulated and controlled by a relatively small segment. The 


electorate is permitted to say "yes" or "no" with reference to a 
number of candidates whom they have had no hand in choosing, 
and of whom, for the most part, they have never heard. The 
"choices" of the voters are and can be httle if anything more than 
responses to outside cultural stimulation— i.e., campaign propa- 
ganda and "news" selected and disseminated by agencies over. 
which "the people" have no control. To be sure, it is always the 
individual who drops his pasteboard in the ballot box or pulls 
the lever on the voting machine. But what can he do but respond 
to sociocultural influences that play upon him from the outside? 
The picture of free will and choice is an illusion.* Certain regions 
always go Democratic or Republican. In other regions, other 
political magnetic fields, the sociocultural forces vary and fluctu- 
ate, drawing a preponderance of voter iron filings toward one 
pole or another, or leaving them evenly divided between currents 
of equal intensity. It is "always the individual who votes" because 
voting, like thinking, is by definition a function of an individual 
organism. But one can come to no adequate understanding of the 
political governmental process by a consideration of the indi- 
vidual. We can, however, illuminate the behavior of the individual 
by interpreting it as an event in a sociocultural process. The.- 
voter reacts, responds to cultural stimuli which move him this 
way or that; he does not rule. The administration and control of 
the nation by the relatively small integrative and regulative 
mechanism is facilitated, however, by the popular illusion that the 

* Any response of the human organism is the resultant of countless ante- 
cedent and concomitant events that we may term "causes." The human 
organism is constantly organizing and synthesizing these causative factors on 
the one hand, and expressing the resultant behavior overtly on the other. 
When causative factors for and against a given course of action are evenly 
balanced, we call this "indecision": "I can't make up my mind whether to 
play golf or to mow the lawn." When one set of causative factors outweighs 
another, we call it "choice" or "decision": I decide to play golf. "Free will 
and choice" is merely the way in which we experience tliis preponderance of 
one factor or set of factors over another. Not realizing what lies back of this 
experience we can belieye that it is our own doing and hence call it choice 
and Free WilL 


people rule. As long as the electorate believes that it does the 
governing, i.e., as long as its members are unaware of the genesis 
of the social forces that impinge upon them individually from 
the outside, just so long will the actual governing mechanism 
have a freer hand. And, if misfortune overtakes the nation, the 
illusion of democracy lays the blame upon the people, which is 
also an advantage to the actual governing mechanism. 

To say, however, that this premise of democracy is an 
anthropocentric illusion is not to deny significance to the electoral 
process by any means. Illusions are as real as anything else and 
may be quite as significant. Voting is a process by means of which 
certain types of social organisms (nations) conduct their lives. 
Nations like individuals are occasionally confronted with the 
necessity of choosing between alternatives; shall it follow this 
course or that? Voting is a means of measuring the factors or 
forces relevant to the choice between alternative courses of action. 
The role of voting in the democratic body politic might be likened 
to the determination of a choice in an individual: shall he eat or 
sleep or follow some other course of action? A wise choice would 
depend upon an assessment of the needs and resources of the 
individual. So it is with nations: should a nation do this or that? 
A wise choice will depend upon a realistic appraisal of the weight 
and force of the various factors involved. The electoral process 
can be an attempt to weigh and to measure these factors. Or, an 
election may serve merely to measure the effect of the influence 
exerted by the government by means of propaganda upon the 
citizenry of the nation. In any event, an election is a measuring 
device, a yardstick or barometer. A majority vote indicates the 
preponderance of one factor, or set of factors, over another in a 
given situation. A tie vote indicates an equivalence of magnitude 
of these factors. It goes without saying that a nation that can 
make these measurements only at fixed times and intervals is 
unable to derive full advantage from the electoral process. It may 
be unable to make a measurement, take a reading, at a time when 


one is urgently needed. And on the other hand, it may be re- 
quired to go through the cumbersome and expensive ritual of 
taking a reading— holding a national election— when none is 

If democracies work under the illusion that the people rule, 
the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is probably an even greater 
illusion, assuming of course that a considerable number of people 
do actually take this formula at its face value. A dictatorship is 
a more highly integrated form of government than a democracy 
and consequently the political mechanism of integration and 
control is a smaller segment of the social organism than is the 
corresponding mechanism in a democracy. Hence, "the people" 
do even less ruling in a dictatorship than in a democracy. A dicta- 
torship without disguise may however be more responsive to 
popular will than the de hcto governing mechanism in a democ- 
racy, because in the former case, the dictator will obviously be 
held responsible for errors or shortcomings of the government; 
but if "the people rule" responsibility must rest ultimately upon 
them rather than upon the actual governing mechanism. But a 
"dictatorship of the proletariat" is a delusion. It, too, declares that 
"the people" rule; not all the people, but only a particular class 
—a "chosen people." The course of social evolution in recent 
years has shown how unrealistic this slogan is. "The dictatorship 
of the proletariat" is both a logical and a sociological contradic- 
tion of terms. 

"It is always the individual who really revolts" (Sapir). But 
to explain profound political or social change by pointing to a 
Revolutionist is as naive as it is futile. What produced the Revo- 
lutionist? One might as well "explain" a shotgun by pointing to 
the puff of smoke issuing from its muzzle. If great social con- 
vulsions were caused by revolutionists, and if a revolutionist is 
a psycho-biological phenomenon, then we ought to find them 


distributed uniformly throughout the human species in time and 
place like other biological events such as the birth of twins. But 
we do not; there are great areas and long periods of time when 
no revolutionists appear at all. 

In cultures that have attained a high degree of integration and 
a stable equilibrium such as those of many primitive peoples, we 
find no reformers or revolutionists at all. People are satisfied and 
desire only to continue life undisturbed. In cultures which con- 
tain disharmonious or conflicting elements, however, we find re- 
formers, revolutionists and reactionaries. The human organisms 
are the same in both cases. Revolutions are not the product of 
an inborn desire for radical change expressed in fiery declamations 
from the soap-box. A revolutionist is a human organism that is 
held and wielded by certain cultural elements and forces that are 
moving in the direction of profound change. Arkwright, Newton, 
Darwin, Jefferson, Lobachewsky, Lenin, Watt, were revolution- 
ists as well as those nameless men and women who served as the 
biological media for such cultural advances as agriculture, metal- 
lurgy, writing, and coinage. By the same token, a reactionary is a 
person held firmly in the "magnetic field" of cultural elements 
about to be vanquished or rendered obsolete in the competitive 
interaction of the culture process. And the reformer or "Liberal" 
is one who feels the pull of both sets of forces, those striving to 
preserve the obsolete, and those struggling to destroy the old 
in order to create the new. They deplore the evils of the old sys- 
tem and urge reforms. But, held fast by both sets of forces, 
they can neither relinquish the past nor give themselves up to 
revolutionary advance. They wish to keep the old system but 
without its inherent defects. They desire the new but without 
the trauma of birth. They lie becalmed midway between the poles 
of the magnet. They have neither a positive nor a negative 
charge; they are the human neutrons of the culture process. 

One might think that in dreaming, if anywhere, one might find 


an activity that "the individual always really does" in the Sapirean 
manner. Here as in thinking, dreaming is a word that labels a 
neuro-sensory-glandular-etcetera process; there is no group mechan- 
ism that dreams. But what the individual dreams is determined in 
part by his culture— and to a greater extent than is commonly 
supposed. As the scientific interpretation of dreams matures, more 
and more cultural determinants are disclosed: tensions arising 
from forms of social organization, the family and kinship groups, 
rivalries in quests of recognition and power, etc., all of which are 
culturally defined and vary from one cultural system to another. 
In some cultures visions become standardized. Among Plains 
tribes of North America the vision by means of which a youth 
acquired "power" was a stereotype: a spirit would appear to the 
youth, address him as "son," tell him that he had heard his pleas 
for help, that he was going to adopt and aid him, etc. Then the 
spirit would give the youth power to do something— to hunt, kill 
enemies in battle, control weather, or heal the sick— instruct him 
in a song, show him how to paint his face and how to make and 
use a medicine-bundle, impose a taboo upon him, and depart. 
Similarly saints and mystics of Europe used to have stereotyped 
dreams or visions of Christ or the Blessed Virgin. As Tylor once 
remarked, "The South African who believes in a God with a 
crooked leg sees him with a crooked leg in dreams and visions." 
There is indeed very little individuality in much of our dream and 
vision experience. Again to quote Tylor: "Want of originality 
seems one of the most remarkable features in the visions of 
mystics . . . When the devil with horns, hoofs and tail had once 
become a fixed image in the popular mind [i.e., in the cultural 
tradition], of course men saw him [in visions] in this conventional 
shape." ^® It is always the individual that does the dreaming — 
which merely defines the word in neurologic terms. But it is the 
culture that gives the dream much of its form and content as 
well as providing the initial stimulus in many instances. The 


event or process that we label "dreaming" is, like the events called 
"thinking," "feeling," and "acting," a function of a system in 
which the individual is but a component part: a sociocultural 

' Thus, the whole concept of the individual, the individual 
human organism, is profoundly altered by culturological inter- 
pretation. Instead of regarding the individual as a First Cause, 
as a prime mover, as the initiator and determinant of the culture 
process, as one who creates culture by acts of mind,* as one who 
is responsible for all additions to culture, etc., etc., we now see 
him as a component part, and a tiny and relatively insignificant 
part at that, of a vast sociocultural system that embraces in- 
numerable individuals at any one time and extends back into the 
remote past as well. We see culture as a vast continuum, a stream 
of cultural elements— of language, tools, utensils, beliefs, cus- 
toms, and attitudes— that flows down through time. Culture was 
of course brought into existence by man— by countless human 
individuals— and it could not continue without them. But, we do 
not need to consider man at all— as a species, race or individual 
—in an explanation of culture change. For purposes of scientific 
interpretation, the culture process may be regarded as a thing sui 
generis; culture is explainable in terms of culture. In this great 
sociocultural system, and from the standpoint of an interpreta- 
tion of this system, the individual is (i) a catalytic agent that 
makes the interactive culture process possible, and (2) a medium 
of expression of the culture process. 

* In a recent publication we find a fine example of this: "There is present 
in an Indian's mind the idea of a dance . . . This idea influences his body 
so that he behaves in a certain vvav. The result of this behavioral activity is 
the pattern of the dance . . ." (W. W. Taylor, A Study oi Archeology, 
Memoir 69, American Anthropological Association, 1948), pp. 101-102. The 
view that culture consists of "ideas in the mind" is still widely held in 
American ethnology today. 


The cultiirological conception of the individual does not and 
cannot deprive psychology of anything that properly belongs to 
it. The individual, as a biological organism, is a dynamic, active 
and reactive system and may be studied and interpreted as such. 
This is the business of the neuro-anatomist, the physiologist, the 
psychologist, etc., not of the student of culture. The fact that 
language may be interpreted philologically, or culture treated cul- 
turologically, in no way prevents one from interpreting biological 
organisms psychologically. 

The question at issue is, of course, how is culture to be inter- 
preted, psychologically or culturologically? The conception of the 
individual as the creator and determinant of the culture process 
offers a t}'pe of interpretation that we find unacceptable. It is 
anthropomorphic as well as irrelevantly psychologic. 

It is not, however, as if we were deploring a Ptolemy before 
Copernicus; we are, so to speak, deploring a continuation of the 
Ptolemaic tradition generations after Copernicus. The nature of 
the articulation of the individual human organism with the cul- 
ture process was recognized and pointed out decades ago by 
Adolph Bastian when he said that the individual "is nothing, at 
best an idiot; only through spoken intercourse in society does he 
become conscious of thought, is his nature realized. The thought 
of society, social thought, is the primary result and the thought 
of the individual is won by later analysis from it." ^'^ And the 
Polish sociologist, Gumplowicz, argued that "the great error of 
individualistic psychology is the supposition that man thinks . . . 
it is not man himself who thinks but his social community . . . 
he cannot think ought else than what the influences of his social 
environment concentrating upon his brain necessitate." ^* Emile 
Durkheim and his co-workers, too, showed clearly how, on the 
one hand, culture is an extra-somatic tradition that can be ex- 
plained in terms of its own interactive elements and processes and 
how. on the other hand, the individual organism is influenced. 


his behavior given form and content, by the action of the external 
culture upon him. And, in more recent times in America, the 
work of Wissler, Kroeber, Lowie, and others has continued the 
tradition of a culturological interpretation of culture. 

But anthropomorphism dies hard. The death is especially slow 
and difficult when anthropomorphism is mistaken for the soundest 
realism, as it is by those who actually see people, individual men 
and women, voting, enameling their fingernails, building ships, 
inventing machines, writing sonnets, composing symphonies, etc. 
"Where else," they ask, "could new cultural elements come from 
but from the creative act of some individual human mind— from 
a man, woman, or child?" 

A culturological conception of the individual is also a culturo- 
logical interpretation of mind, of human minding. We still retain 
the use of the words mind, thinking, feeling, etc., in their tradi- 
tional psychological sense: that is, they designate biologic— neuro- 
sensory-glandular-etcetera— processes. But we realize that we can- 
not by any means give a full account of these acts of human 
thinking and feeling in terms of individual organisms. The indi- 
vidual does the thinking and feeling— by definition. But, as we 
have previously noted, what he thinks and feels is determined not 
by himself but by the sociocultural system into which the accident 
of birth has placed him. A sociocultural system is a vast network 
of relations, of interactions of concept, tools, customs, beliefs, etc. 
Thus, a belief in witchcraft is an organization of beliefs and 
attitudes that has grown up in conjunction with activities of 
medicine, offense and defense, and subsistence, carried on by 
means of certain technologic tools and implements. The beliefs 
and attitudes of witchcraft find expression in turn in certain 
rituals and paraphernalia. The culture complex called ''witch- 
craft" is therefore something that is to be explained culturo- 
logically. It is found in some cultures but not in others. When it 


exists, it varies from one culture to another. The culture complex 
has to be explained, therefore, in terms of cultural elements and 
cultural processes. 

An individual, born into a sociocultural system that contains 
the complex called witchcmft, will behave in a certain way; he 
will think, feel, and act as his culture directs and prescribes. 
He will suspect certain persons of the black art and fear them; he 
will take certain precautions to safeguard himself from them; and 
he will occupy himself with the detection, punishment or eradica- 
tion of witches, all in a manner prescribed by his culture. What 
meaning could be attached to the assertion that "it is always the 
individual who believes in, fears, and contends with, witches?" 
Simply that the individual organism responds to certain cultural 
elements as external stimuli. But we are able to give an account 
of his believing, fearing, and contending, not by a consideration 
of the individual but of the organization of cultural elements, the 
cultural system, that determines his believing, fearing, etc. It 
would be more realistic to say that his thinking and feeling are 
things that the culture does to the individual than to say that 
they are things that he does. The individual's thinking, feeling, 
and behaving as a human being is merely his participation in a 
sociocultural process. His thinking, feeling and overt behavior are 
expressions of a system of culture, of a cultural process, through 
the medium of his organism. 

And so it is with the human mind as a whole. Minding is 
merely the individual biologic aspect of a sociocultural process. 
The minding in its form and content is determined by the culture. 
The individual mind is a function of the cultural system that 
embraces it. What it does, what it believes, thinks and feels, 
are determined not by the individual but by the circumambient 
culture. The individual human mind can be made intelligible 
only by a consideration of the culture of which it is but a reflex. 


But we cannot explain the culture in terms of the individual mind; 
cultural systems can only be explained in cultural terms. 

The problem of distinguishing determinants that confronts the 
student of human behavior is paralleled by a like problem in 
biology: does the determination of a multi-cellular system lie in 
the individual cells, or is the behavior of the individual cell a 
function of the organism, or system, as a whole? Many biologists 
argue that the system is determined by properties inherent in the 
individual cell, just as many students of human behavior insist 
that society and culture are determined by individuals. Thus, Alex- 
ander B. Novicoff quotes L. V. Heilbrun, An Outline oi General 
Physiology, pp. 3-4 (Philadelphia, 1943), to the effect that "the 
ultimate mechanism responsible for any form of vital activity 
lies inherent in an individual cell" (emphasis ours). But Novicoff, 
citing the work of Coghill, Lashley, Goldstein and others, argues 
that the behavior of the cell is determined by its position within 
the system. Thus, "if ectoderm cells which normally form belly 
skin were removed from a salamander embryo and transplanted 
over the mouth organizer of a frog embryo, they would develop 
into salamander structures— of the mouth; they would form teeth 
and not belly skin." ^® 

Similarly, would not everyone admit that a baby transplanted 
during its first year of life from a Swedish family and community 
to a Chinese cultural milieu would learn Chinese rather than 
Swedish? And would not this baby acquire his other patterns of 
behavior, sentiments, and attitudes from the sociocultural system 
to which he had been transplanted? What, indeed, could be 
plainer than the fact that the individual in his behavior as a hu- 
man being, as distinguished from mere primate or animal, is a 
function of the sociocultural system of which he is a part? * 

As we have already indicated by quotations from Bastian and 

* "Before Clerk Maxwell," Einstein writes, "people conceived of physical 
reality ... as material points. . . . After Maxwell they conceived physical 
reality as represented by continuous fields . . ." (1934, p- 65). Before, or 


Gumplowicz, many scholars of a generation or so ago clearly 
understood the relationship between the individual human organ- 
ism and culture. They realized full well that the individual mind 
—the minding of an individual organism— was a function of a 
sociocultural system. Some of them, therefore, like Gumplowicz, 
expressed this fact by saying that it is not the individual who 
thinks, feels, etc., but his society or culture. Others, like Durk- 
heim, spoke of a ''collective consciousness." Thus the concept of 
a "group mind" emerged and crystallized. This concept was 
criticized and rejected by those who could not free themselves 
from an anthropocentric point of view, and who could not under- 
stand cultural systems and their role as determinants of human 
behavior. How, they asked, can society think, feel, etc.; there is 
no collective sensorium, no group brain. Thus, a profound insight 
and a realistic understanding were defeated by inappropriate 
terminology: a psychological term— "group mind"— was used to 
designate a culturological process. What those of the "group 
mind" school meant, of course, was that "the form and content 
of an individual's mind is determined by his culture, that cul- 
tures express themselves through the media of individual or- 
ganisms." What they said, however, was "it is not the individual 
but the group who thinks." This was rejected not only as false 
psychologically but as mystical as well. 

Another defect of the "group mind" theorists was that they 
did not properly locate and define the supra-individual deter- 

outside of, the science of culture, we may say, students conceive of human 
cultural reality as a series of material points, i.e., individuals. After, or within, 
the science of culture, human reality is seen to consist of a network of socio- 
cultural relations, with the individual a function of the system as a whole. 
Karl Marx saw this clearly over a hundred years ago when he wrote, in the 
Sixth Thesis on Feuerbach: "The essence of man is no abstraction inherent 
in each separate individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of social lehtions" 
(emphasis ours). As the science of culture grows and extends its influence 
among students of human behavior, this view, this understanding, will become 


minant of minding. They located it in the group. Group and in- 
dividual are of course complementary terms; one can be interpreted 
in terms of the other. A group mind could therefore be reduced 
to a number of individual minds and, by so doing, the force and 
significance of "the group mind" concept would be lost. 

The "group mind" school was perfectly sound in its assertion 
that it is not the individual who determines the form and content 
of his minding. But, lacking the concept of culture, they erred in 
Jocating the supra-individual determinant in the group. It is not 
the group, but culture that is the determinant. And, unlike group, 
culture cannot be explained in terms of individuals. On the 
contrary, groups— their structures and processes— are functions of 
culture just as individual minds are in their form and content. 
Technically it is as wrong today to say that it is culture that 
thinks as it was formerly to say that it is the group that thinks. 
Thinking is the name of a neurologic process and none other. But 
the advance made in the scientific interpretation of human be- 
havior by the "group mind" school was real and important. Their 
error was not in going too far but in not going far enough. They 
saw clearly the inadequacy of an individual psychological inter- 
pretation. But science had not advanced far enough at that time 
to elevate them above the sociological level to that of culturology. 
Today, thanks to the expansion of the scope of science, we have 
the concept of culture. We appreciate the necessity of regarding 
culture as an autonomous process for the purpose of scientific 
interpretation. We realize that cultural systems can be explained 
only in terms of culturological principles and laws. And we under- 
stand the relationship between the human organism— either as a 
species, race, or individual— and culture. In view of this under- 
standing, the old-fashioned psychologistic, anthropomorphic 
interpretation of culture as something that is produced by 
"creative acts of the individual mind," that it is the individual 
who "is always responsible for additions to culture," that "it is 


always the individual who really thinks and acts," etc., is definitely 
out of place in modern ethnological theory. We more than suspect 
that this emphasis upon individualism has been outgrown in psy- 
chology, that social psychology of the present day would regard 
this conception of the individual as a creator of culture as being 
as unrealistic as we do. Its perpetuation in anthropological circles 
today is therefore to be deplored all the more. 

If a growing understanding of the relationship between man 
and culture means, on the one hand, a decline of the anthro- 
pocentric view of man as the creator of culture, it fosters, on the 
other hand, an appreciation of the role of culture in the minding 
of man. The human mind is no longer merely an individual bio- 
logical phenomenon. Nor is a "group mind" a proper definition 
of the situation. It is a question of individual organism on the 
one hand and an extra-somatic cultural tradition or system on 
the other. Whereas in the case of the lower animals, or in the 
non-symbolic, non-human behavior of Homo sapiens, the indi- 
vidual biological organism is significant as a determinant of the 
individual's behavior, in the case of human behavior, of the hu- 
man mind, the organism as such is not significant; it is not 
stature, skin color, cephalic index, cortical activity, or glandular 
secretion that determines whether a person will speak Chinese, 
believe in witches, have an aversion for milk, or regard cows as 
sacred. These things are determined by one's culture. An under- 
standing of the human mind, therefore, calls for an appreciation 
of the role of cultural factors as determinants of thinking, feel- 
ing and acting. The mind of the individual— the average, typical, 
normal individual— is as its own culture has made it. To under- 
stand the mind one must understand culture as well; human 
"mental processes" are but the psychosomatic form of expression 
of an extra-somatic culture process. The student of human mind- 
ing must therefore be culturologist as well as psychologist. To 
be sure, within a single and fairly uniform culture, the cultural 
factor may be regarded as approximately a constant. But, even 


here, it would be well, first of all, to be aware of this constant, 
and, secondly, to realize that it is cultural in nature and genesis, 
and that, from the standpoint of the individual organism, it is 
just as external and foreign to it as are the elements and 
processes of meteorology. 



"Geniuses are the indicators of the realization of coherent pattern 
growths of cultural value . . ." — A. L. Kroeber, Configurations of Cul- 
ture Growth. 

1 he significance of the genius in history has been discussed 
so many times in the last seventy-five years that one should 
not go over the vi'ell-trodden ground again without a special 
warrant for doing so. The expansion of the scope of science in 
general and the recent development of the science of culture 
in particular are here cited and offered as our excuse for embark- 
ing once again upon this perennial debate. 

Briefly stated, the problem is this: are epoch-making social and 
historical events to be explained in terms of men of genius, or are 
great men explainable in terms of social processes and historical 
trends? Or, do both, the great man and his social matrix, com- 
bine to produce the event or trend, and if so in what proportions? 

Most of those who have wrestled with this problem have 
championed either the great man or society as the motive force, 
as the cause, the other being regarded as the effect; few have been 
willing to give equal, or even approximately equal, weight to each 
factor. Let it be said at once that we have no intention of being 
"impartial" and of taking the latter course. We are convinced that 
the great man is best understood as an effect or manifestation 
rather than as a prime mover. And we believe we have a new 
technique for demonstrating this, or at least a refinement upon 



techniques employed for this purpose in the past. But before we 
introduce our technique, let us turn briefly to the history of this 

It has, of course, long been the fashion to interpret great events 
as the work of great men. From the time of the Pharaohs, rulers 
have boasted of their deeds and accomplishments, and before 
that, no doubt, tribal chieftains made similar claims. Bards and 
troubadors once sang of the exploits of heroes, and modern 
historians have tended to write in the same vein: History is a 
record of the deeds of Great Men, good and bad. When we turn 
from the political events of history to great works of art, new 
philosophies or religions, significant discoveries in science, and 
epoch-making inventions, we find the same type of interpretation: 
these advances and achievements are the work of geniuses, of men 
like Michelangelo, Kant, Beethoven, Newton, and Edison. 

In 1869 a distinguished British man of science, Francis Gal ton, 
F.R.S., gave formal and authoritative expression to the Great Man 
theory in his Hereditary Genius. Great events and great periods 
in history, he argued, are due to men of genius; the greater the 
period, the more numerous the men of genius. A man of true 
genius will assuredly come to the fore and make himself known 
and felt despite any opposition or handicap that social conditions 
may place in his way. Galton compares the United States with 
England to demonstrate this point. Class distinctions are less 
rigid in America, he reasons, and it is therefore easier for one to 
overcome the disadvantages of low social status there than in 
England. Yet, he says, there are no more men of genius per 
million in America than in England; on the contrary, there are 
less. Therefore, he concludes, we may assume that if genius is 
present it will assert itself and find expression and recognition.^ 

Galton carried his reasoning still further. Since the correlation 
between inborn ability and fame is so close, we can evaluate and 
compare races by counting the men of genius per thousand or 
million. Proceeding on this basis, Galton finds that the Athenians 


of the time of Pericles were two grades higher than the Enghsh, 
who in turn were two grades higher than the African Negro.^ 

The scientific prestige of Galton and the scholarly character of 
his work did much no doubt to confirm many in their belief not 
only that civilization has been the work of geniuses but that cer- 
tain races are more richly endowed than others. In short, Galton 
provided a simple, scholarly, "scientific"— it was supported with 
statistics!— and authoritative theory with which one could explain 
the histories of nations and the development of civilization. 

One of the first of modern scholars to challenge the Great Man 
theory was Herbert Spencer. In The Study of Sociology (1873) 
he offered a cogent argument against the interpretation of im- 
portant social events by invoking genius or Great Men. Before 
the Great Man can make society, he insisted, society must make 
him. Not only does Spencer indicate the nature and extent of 
society's influence upon every individual, great and small, he 
brands the Great Man theory as a form of anthropomorphism 
popular alike among savage tribes and civilized societies.^ 

William James took sharp and and vigorous issue with Spencer 
in an address, "Great Men, Great Thoughts and the Environ- 
ment," published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1880. Great events 
and epochs in history are the work of Great Men, he insists. A 
single important event may be produced by a single, or at most 
a few, geniuses. But for a great epoch many are required. "For 
a community to get vibrating through and through with active 
life," he says, "many geniuses coming together and in rapid suc- 
cession are required. This is why great epochs are so rare— why 
the sudden bloom of a Greece, an early Rome, a Renaissance, is 
such a mystery. Blow must follow blow so fast that no cooling can 
occur in the intervals. Then the mass of the nation grows incan- 
descent, and may continue to glow by pure inertia long after 
the originators of its internal movement have passed away. We 
often hear surprise expressed that in these high tides of human 
affairs not only the people should be filled with stronger life. 


but that individual geniuses should seem so exceptionally abund- 
ant. This mystery is just about as deep as the time-honored 
conundrum as to why great rivers flow by great towns." * 

James admits that the great man's environment may condition 
his behavior or affect the consequences of his behavior, but he 
denies emphatically that the social environment can produce him. 
"If anything is humanly certain," he insists, "it is that the great 
man's society, properly so called, does not make him before he 
can remake it." ^ 

This point of view so adroitly expressed by James is, of course, 
widely held today. Every great event is regarded as the work of 
one or a few outstanding individuals. The fate of a whole nation 
may rest in a single pair of hands. It was a common thing a few 
years ago to hear that World War II had been caused by one 
person, and since V-E day we have tried and hanged a number 
of men for having brought the war about. Nor is this view con- 
fined to the man in the street or even to statesmen in high places. 
Many scholars and men of science subscribe to it also. Thus a 
prominent American anthropologist, Edgar Lee Hewett, has re- 
cently attributed almost every great historical epoch, from Xerxes 
to Hitler, to the genius, pathologic or otherwise, of a single 
individual: all great "irruptions" of history have been "one man 
affairs," he says. E. A. Hooton speaks of "men like Hitler and 
Mussolini [who] impose their evil will upon stupid and suggestible 
masses." Lawrence K. Frank says that "as long as we are at the 
mercy of the warped, distorted personalities who seek power and 
prestige ... at whatever cost to others, we are helpless." The 
distinguished physicist, Robert A. Millikan, can see no way by 
which science can prevent the destruction of civilization by man's 
wickedness or folly: "I see no prospect," he says, "of our ever 
being able to turn some new type of ray upon a dictator filled 
with lust of power and conquest and thus transform him into a 
humanitarian." In a different context, Goldenweiser says that 
history "abounds in examples of periods of precipitated change 


due to the emergence of . . . dominant personalities." Franz 
Boas speaks of African "Negro rulers whose genius for organization 
has enabled them to establish flourishing empires." Clark Wissler 
supposes that "long ago . . . there arose a genius for empire 
building which set a pattern" that endured for thousands of years. 
And Ralph Linton more conservatively admits that the "indi- 
vidual is dominated and shaped by his social environment but he 
is not obliterated by it. Under favorable conditions," he says, "he 
can even change and mold it." ® A great man could therefore 
presumably work great change. 

Thus we have two opposing views. On the one hand, great 
events or great epochs of history, important advances in philos- 
ophy, art, and science, are interpreted as the handiwork of ex- 
ceptionally gifted persons. On the other, it is argued that the 
genius is conditioned by his social environment if not produced 
by it. Both views seem plausible and tenable. Each side is able 
to advance reasons and marshall evidence in support of its posi- 
tion. If, therefore, we are to extricate ourselves from this circular 
argument, we shall have either to rephrase the problem or apply 
new and better techniques to its solution. Let us see what can 
be done. 

Galton and James make the interpretation of history seem 
simple and easy: Great events and epochs are the work of men 
of genius; if an era is uneventful or mediocre it is because genius 
is lacking. Why has Sardinia fallen far below Sicily in greatness 
and distinction when "all the material advantages are in favor 
of Sardinia?" James asks. His ready answer: "Simply because no 
individuals were born there with patriotism and ability enough 
to inflame their countrymen with national pride, ambition, and 
a thirst for independent life." ^ 

But if great epochs are caused by geniuses, how are geniuses 
to be accounted for? James' answer to this question is hardly 
satisfying. He says in effect that we cannot explain their origin 
and incidence. "The causes of production of great men," he says. 


"lie in a sphere wholly inaccessible to the social philosopher. He 
must simply accept geniuses as data, just as Darwin accepts his 
spontaneous variations." It is the "invisible and unimaginable 
play of forces of growth within the nervous system which, ir- 
responsibly to the environment, makes the brain peculiarly apt 
to function in a certain way." And, just as an individual genius 
appears spontaneously, so do they cluster "fortuitously around a 
given epoch making it great" or they are "fortuitously absent 
from certain places and times." * 

This theory may seem plausible, especially since it comes from 
an eminent scientist and philosopher. But is it much better than 
the explanations astrology has to offer? One might say that the 
birth of individual geniuses and their clustering about certain 
historical epochs are governed by the stars. James' theory is of 
course superior to that of astrology both because it is less mystical 
and because it explains less. The astrologist really offers an 
explanation though a false one: human events are controlled by 
stars. But is James' answer, "chance," really an explanation? Or 
is it a device to conceal ignorance and helplessness, a declaration 
that there is and can be no better answer? Or is it an assertion 
that the phenomena in question are indeed statistical in nature? 
The scientist is not likely to be satisfied v^dth "chance" as an 
answer to his queries— unless, of course, he can see how he can 
deal with it statistically and thus relate chance to scientific law. 
James shows no interest in a statistical consideration of these 
phenomena; he is content to leave the matter on the basis of 
"an invisible and unimaginable play of forces," and upon spon- 
taneous and fortuitous events.* 

Galton does not rely so squarely upon sheer chance. Genius 
tends to be hereditary, he reasons, and therefore when a genius 

* A more recent writer resorts to the fortuitous appearance of genius to 
explain great historic events. The Reverend H. Harrington, writing in the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica ("Roman Catholic Church," 14th ed.), says that the 
Protestant revolt was "almost fortuitous. Genius defies all laws, and the great- 
est Protestant leader [Luther] had genius." 


appears it is because he has had exceptionally gifted forebears. 
Certain conditions cause an increase in the number or proportion 
of geniuses; others bring about a decrease. If Athens was once 
rich in geniuses it was because certain conditions brought it about; 
if she fell from her former high state, that, too, was due to certain 
circumstances. Galton thus does not content himself, as James 
does, with the assertion that presence or absence of genius at 
certain times and places is purely fortuitous. But his explanation 
of the rise and fall of Athens in terms of racial ability is not very 
convincing. As the distinguished sociologist, C. H. Cooley, pointed 
out long ago in a well reasoned criticism of Galton, "both the 
rise and the decline of the race are ascribed to the same cause, 
namely immigration. Certainly, then, some reason should be given 
for supposing that there was a radical change in the character of 
the immigration: but no such reason is given." ^ 

With regard to the relationship between exceptionally gifted 
persons and their environment, we have already noted that Galton 
believes that genius, like murder, will out, no matter what 
obstacles the environment may oppose. James admits that social 
environment may affect a genius, that it may help or hinder him. 
But, he insists, the significant factor in this environment is merely 
another genius or geniuses! "It is true," he writes, "that great 
public fermentations awaken and adopt many geniuses, who in 
more torpid times would have had no chance to work. But . . . 
there must be an exceptional concourse of genius about a time 
to make the fermentation begin at all." If, on the other hand, a 
social setting is not hospitable to a particular genius, it is because 
"some previous genius of a different strain has warped the com- 
munity away from the sphere of his possible effectiveness. After 
Voltaire, no Peter the Hermit." Thus, according to James, the 
thing that fosters or frustrates a man of genius is not simply an 
environment, but another, or other, geniuses. Whether, therefore, 
genius finds expression and bears fruit or remains unrecognized 
and unknown, the cause is always "genius." We thus have a 


ready and easy explanation of history and social movements: the 
presence or absence of genius. But, unfortunately, says }ames, 
we cannot predict genius; that is a matter of the "invisible and 
unimaginable play of forces within the nervous system." The 
utmost that sociology can ever predict, he argues, "is that if a 
genius of a certain sort show the way, society will be sure to 
follow." " Science is not likely to be satisfied with reasoning and 
conclusions such as these. 

We do not propose to go over the old familiar argument of indi- 
vidual vs. society; it is too much like the old conundrum about 
the priority of the egg or the chicken. Indeed, as we have seen, 
the Great Man vs. Society debate has been put in precisely this 
form, with Spencer contending that before the great man can 
affect society, society must make him, whereas James insists that 
the genius must come first. Obviously, some men are distinguished 
markedly from others, and their lives and deeds are especially 
significant. Obvious also is the influence of society upon excep- 
tionally gifted persons. A whole is made up of parts, and parts 
comprise a whole. If this were all there is to the Great Man vs. 
Society controversy we should have to leave it at that and say 
that each factor is a function of the other. But this is not all there 
is to this problem. The growth and expansion of science has 
brought forth a new science that has a great deal to say on this 
point, namely, culturology. Psychology presents the man of genius 
and demonstrates his effect upon society. Sociology shows how 
society conditions the life of the exceptionally gifted person. 
Culturology explains both the great man and society and the 
relationship between them. 

What is genius? The debate of decades has made it quite clear 
that he is not identical with a neuro-sensory-glandular-etc. system 
of exceptionally high quality. On the one hand, we do not know 
that every outstanding individual possesses an exceptionally fine 
neuro-sensory-glandular-etc. system. On the other hand, we do 


not know that undistinguished persons have only mediocre or 
inferior systems. We are not warranted, therefore, in equating 
"genius" with "superior organism": G = O, in which G represents 
the person of distinction, while O stands for his biologically 
superior organism. Nor may we use the equation O X S = G, 
in which O is a superior organism, S, the social environment, and 
G the resulting genius, because, as we have seen, it can be argued 
both that O is a function of S and that S is a function of O. We 
must write our equation thus: O X R = G. Here O will stand 
merely for an individual biological organism, not necessarily one 
of superior quality, G for genius, and R for a factor which we 
have yet to define. 

How do we recognize a genius? By his deeds, of course. But how 
can we know that he has an exceptionally fine neuro-sensory- 
glandular-etc. system? By his deeds, say Galton, James, et al. 
But to say this is to admit that his innate biological superiority 
is merely an inference based upon observation of his overt be- 
havior, and also to insist that the exceptional features of this 
behavior cannot be explained in any other way than by attributing 
them to superior brains, glands, etc. If one could demonstrate the 
biological superiority of the genius by direct examination of his 
nerves, glands, senses, etc., or by psychological tests that would 
rule out all factors not genetically acquired, instead of postulating 
it inferentially, then the case of the champions of genius as prime 
movers would receive substantial support. But this has never been 
done. This is not to say, of course, that one organism is as good 
as another, or that it is impossible to tell a biological silk purse 
from a sow's ear. All of the sciences of man will freely grant, if 
not insist upon, the biological inequality of individual human 
beings. Nor would anyone, I suppose, maintain that one cannot 
distinguish an idiot or imbecile from one of superior intelligence 
by observations of their behavior— at least in a high percentage 
of instances. But this is a far cry from the assertion that if a man 
plays a distinguished role in social life he must have superior 


germ plasm whereas if he is undistinguished he must have 
mediocre or inferior plasm. We are not content to derive our 
biology by inference, and, secondly, we can explain distinction iix 
other terms than superior nerves and glands. 

But to invoke "society" as Spencer and countless others since 
1872 have done to account for distinction is not enough. Society 
is but an organization of individuals, and so we have one person 
affecting another, the ordinary man jostling his brother while the 
genius fosters or discourages genius, as James has argued. Society 
and individual are simply two aspects, opposite but inseparable 
poles, of the same phenomenon; we can "explain" each one in 
terms of the other. Thus we go around in circles, chasing our tails, 
getting nowhere. 

The science of culture liberates us from this dilemma. It provides 
us with techniques with which we can explain both society and 
individual. The behavior of human beings, both individually 
and collectively, is determined by their biological make-up on the 
one hand, and by a body of extra-somatic phenomena called 

culture, on the other: O X C >B, in which O stands for the 

biological factor, C for the extra-somatic, supra-biological factor 
of culture, and B, the resultant behavior.* 

Individual human beings differ biologically from one another 
and differences in their behavior may legitimately be ascribed in 
part to their anatomical and physiological differences. Human 
beings vary as groups, too; one race, stock, or physical type, may 
be distinguished from another. But, so far as we know, none of 
the differences of behavior between peoples— races, tribes, nations 
—can be attributed to their biological differences. The biological 
factor may conceivably contribute something to the variation of 

* Both organism and culture — and consequently the behavior resulting from 
the interaction of these two factors — are of course affected by the natural en- 
vironment. But in the problem which confronts us now we are concerned 
only with the relationship between man and culture. The environmental factor 
may therefore legitimately be considered a constant and as such be omitted 
from our consideration. 


behavior, but this contribution is so small in comparison with the 
influence of the cultural factor that it may be regarded as negli- 
gible. In short, the differences of behavior from one people to 
another are culturally, not biologically, determined. In a considera- 
tion of behavioral differences among peoples therefore we may 
regard the biological factor as a constant and hence eliminate it 
from our calculations. We may, then, rewrite our formula for the 
behavior of any people with reference to the behavior of others 

as follows: C >B, culture produces, or determines, behavior; 

the behavior of a people is determined by its culture. Or, 
B = f{C): behavior is a function of culture. Variations in be- 
havior among peoples are functions of variations in culture: Vb = 
f(Vc). The relationship between the human biological factor in 
the mass and the extra-somatic cultural factor is thus made clear. 
Where then does society enter this picture? 

Why does one people have one form of society whereas another 
has a different form? The psychologist cannot account for this 
difference because, as we have just seen, the psycho-biological 
factor is a constant. "Social process," or "social interaction," the 
basic concept of the sociologist, is equally inadequate. Why does 
one tvpe of social process take place in one case whereas in another 
we find a different type of interaction? This is precisely the ques- 
tion at issue; "social process" is an effect, not a cause. What then 
is the cause? The answer is, of course, culture. 

Culture is, as we have seen repeatedly, a class of extra-somatic, 
supra-biological phenomena. They have an existence prior to the 
birth of every individual. They are external to him and act upon 
him from the outside. They are traditional; they are passed down 
from one generation to another, and they may be borrowed, later- 
ally, from one's contemporaries and neighbors. Culture consists 
of beliefs, customs, institutions, tools, utensils, etc., which lay 
hold of the organisms of Homo sapiens at birth and mold and 
shape them this way and that. A people has one form of social 
organization rather than another because as biological organisms 


they react and respond to different sets of cultural elements as 
stimuli. But how are we to explain culture? We need not resort 
to circular reasoning here. We do not explain culture in terms 
of "social process" and "social process" again in terms of culture, 
as the sociologist is wont to do. Nor do we explain individual 
personality in terms of culture and then turn around and explain 
culture in terms of personality, as many social psychologists and 
psychologically minded anthropologists do. We explain culture 
in terms of culture. 

To many, no doubt, this will seem like no explanation at all. 
In an earlier day it may have seemed empty to explain the be- 
havior of stars and planets in terms of stars and planets instead 
of the will and whim of spiritual beings. But the explanation of 
events in non-animistic and non-anthropomorphic terms is now 
well established in the physical and biological sciences. We still 
retain more than a vestige of anthropomorphism in the social 

To explain culture in terms of culture is merely to say 
that cultural elements act and react upon one another, form 
new syntheses, eliminate some elements as obsolete, and so on. 
Thus a change in the process of fomiing plurals is a linguistic 
phenomenon, not a psychological or sociological one. Matrilineal 
organization is a combination of certain cultural elements; patri- 
lineal organization, a synthesis of other elements. We discover the 
relationship between the manufacture of automobiles and the 
use of buggies directly, and so on. In short, culture may be inter- 
preted culturologically rather than sociologically or psychologically. 
More than that, there are many problems that can be solved only 
by culturological techniques, psychological and sociological inter- 
pretations being illusory or irrelevant. Let us now return to the 
problem of genius. 

We shall begin with a statement of premises: i. A genius will 
be defined as a person who is regarded as a genius; there is no 


point in saying that many a genius is born, lives and dies unrecog- 
nized. One may well say that many a person of very superior 
native endowment lives and dies without full realization of his 
potentialities and without achieving recognition or fame. But for 
purposes of our inquiry we will confine ourselves to persons who 
have been regarded as geniuses. 2. The distribution of native 
ability, from those of very low capacity on the one end of the 
curve to the exceptionally gifted on the other, has been uniform 
throughout time, at least within the species Homo sapiens. We 
have no reason for believing that more or less idiots or persons 
of exceptional ability were born per 100,000 in one age than 
another. 3. The average and range of native abilities among the 
various races of the world are at least approximately the same 
for all. Degree of cultural development is, of course, no index of 
native ability, and the testimony of comparative anatomy, physi- 
ology and psychology will support this proposition. Let us turn 
now to some of the specific problems of genius. 

Why do geniuses cluster about certain epochs of history instead 
of being uniformly distributed through time? James says that it 
is "fortuitous," pure chance. But the laws of probability tell us 
just the opposite. One cannot tell which woman will give birth 
to an exceptionally gifted child or to twins. But the laws of 
probability tell us how many pairs of twins we may expect in 
every 100,000 births, or per year in a given population, and we 
may assume that the number, or proportion, of idiots or babies 
of exceptional endowments born will likewise be definite and 
constant. It is precisely the factor of chance and probability that 
justifies our assumption of a uniform distribution of exceptionally 
gifted persons in a large population over a considerable period of 
time. How, then, can we explain the fact— for it is a fact— that 
geniuses are not distributed uniformly in time and place but do 
cluster about certain epochs and regions? 

A culturological interpretation makes this quite clear. Culture 
does not grow or change at uniform rates; there are periods of 


intense activity and periods of stagnation and even retrogression. 
A culture may exhibit little change or progress for a long period 
and then suddenly burst forth with vigorous activity and growth. 
An invention or discovery such as metallurgy, agriculture, the 
domestication of animals, the keystone arch, the alphabet, micro- 
scope, steam engine, etc., may inaugurate an era of rapid change 
and progress. 

But are not inventions the work of genius? The answer is of 
course "Yes," if by genius you mean "someone who makes a 
significant discovery or invention." But this is just reasoning in 
a circle. Merely because a person makes a great discovery or in- 
vention it does not follow that he is possessed of exceptionally 
great natural endowment, and much less does it mean that he is 
superior to all others who have no great achievement to their 
credit. Therefore, to appeal to "genius" to explain the invention 
or discovery is an empty redundancy since genius is here defined 
in terms of the event, and the appeal to exceptionally great native 
endowment is unwarranted or at least misleading. 

According to our premises we must assume that there were men 
in England in Neolithic times with as much natural ability as 
James Watt possessed. Yet no one would claim that such a man 
could have invented the steam engine. This is of course but a 
recognition of the fact that there is more to an invention or dis- 
covery than germ plasm or brain tissue, no matter how excellent 
they may be. An invention or discovery is a cultural, i.e., an extra- 
somatic, supra-biological, affair as well as a psychological act. An 
invention is a new synthesis of cultural elements.* In any cultural 
system there is constant interaction among its constituent ele- 
ments: culture traits. They act and react upon one another, chang- 
ing and modifying one another, forming new combinations and 
syntheses. Certain traits or elements become obsolete and are 

* ''An invention is not an accidental mutation of the germ plasm, but a 
new synthesis of the accumulated experience to which the inventor is heir by 
tradition only," (V. Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself, p. 19). 


eliminated from the stream. New elements are introduced from 
the outside from time to time. 

Thus, in this interactive process, axes are fitted with handles, 
eyes are put into awls and they become needles, clay is first sun- 
dried then fired; tempering material is added; the wheel is adapted 
to the ceramic art; certain customs become synthesized into the 
clan, trial by jur)', primogeniture, or parliamentary government; in 
philosophy and science old concepts are synthesized into new 
formulations, the work of Galileo, Kepler and Brahe is synthesized 
into laws of motion and gravitation in the hands of Newton; coal, 
copper, etc., are introduced into the stream of culture. Discoveries 
may of course occur by chance, as in the case of the association 
of pitchblende and a photographic plate in the laboratory of 
Rontgen. But to be significant, the chance must have the proper 
soil, a suitable cultural context. 

An invention or discovery is a synthesis of already existing cul- 
tural elements, or the assimilation of a new element into a 
cultural system. The invention of the steamboat is a good example 
of the former; the origin of metallurgy, of the latter. The steam 
engine was the outcome of an age-old process of cultural accumu- 
lation and synthesis. We can trace it back through many lines, 
mechanical, metallurgical, and ideological, to the Old Stone Age. 
The boat, too, is the outgrowth of an interactive and synthesizing 
culture process that we can trace back to antiquity. The invention 
of the steamboat was, therefore, simply a merging of these two 
streams of cultural development. With regard to the origin of 
agriculture, metallurgy, non-Euclidean geometry, the germ theory 
of disease, etc., each of these was the organized expression of an 
accumulation of cultural experience. Just as the discoveries of 
Pasteur would have been impossible in the time of Charlemagne, 
so was agriculture impossible in the days of Cro-Magnon. Every 
invention and discovery is but a synthesis of the cultural accumu- 
lations of the past with the experiences of the present. 

Two significant conclusions can now be drawn: (i) No inven- 


tion or discovery can take place until the accumulation of culture 
has provided the elements— the materials and ideas— necessary 
for the synthesis, and, (2) When the requisite materials have 
been made available by the process of cultural growth or diffusion, 
and given normal conditions of cultural interaction, the invention 
or discovery is bound to take place. 

The first of these propositions will probably be accepted more 
readily than the second. Almost everyone would admit that the 
steam engine could not have been invented in the Paleolithic 
Age. But many persons, resenting a determinism that they fear 
but do not understand, will demand, "How can you prove that 
someone else would have invented the steam engine, the cotton 
gin, etc., if Watt, Whitney, etc., had not done so?" Of course 
this cannot be proved, in one sense at least. Neither can one 
prove that it will rain in Detroit in the summer of 1973, or even 
that the sun will rise tomorrow. But we can adduce so much 
evidence in support of our claim as to make its validity seem 
virtually conclusive. Take for example the matter of multiple 
inventions and discoveries made simultaneously but independently. 
Kroeber discussed the significance of such phenomena in "The 
Superorganic" (1917). Five years later Ogburn and Thomas pub- 
lished a long list of simultaneous but independent inventions in 
an article significantly entitled "Are Inventions Inevitable?" Og- 
burn published this list later in Social Change. The evidence is 
voluminous and impressive. Time after time, two or more men, 
working quite independently, have made the same invention or 
discovery. In 1843, the Law of Conservation of Energy was formu- 
lated by Mayer. In 1847, it was formulated by four other men, 
Joule, Helmholz, Colding, and Thomson, working independ- 
ently of one another and, of course, Mayer. The discovery and 
recognition of the cellular basis of both animal and plant tissue 
was made (or claimed) by no less than seven men (Schwann, 
Henle, Turpin, Dumortier, Purkinje, Muller, and Valentin) and 
all in the same, or very approximately the same, year: 1839. 


Now the question is, Why in each of these instances did a 
number of men working independently make a notable scientific 
discovery or invention at almost exactly the same time? How are 
we to explain the fact that a great generalization like the Law of 
Conservation of Energ)- or a great discovery like the cellular basis 
of life, which had lain beyond the capabilities of everyone before 
this time, suddenly and almost overnight was achieved by not one 
individual or two, but by a whole handful? 

William James would say that these achievements were the 
work of genius and that the appearance of a man of genius is 
fortuitous. But if the appearance of a single genius is a chance 
occurrence, "the unlikeliness of the concourse of genius about a 
time is far greater." Yet we have many such "concourses": any- 
where from two to seven or more persons achieving independently 
the same important result. This places a heavy burden upon the 
theory of probability, a burden that is increased when we think 
of the ages of the men at the time of their noteworthy achieve- 
ment. Thus, in a single year a number of geniuses of v^dely 
varying ages all light their lamps at the same time! Even if we 
had no other explanation at all for this phenomenon than 
"chance" one wonders why anyone would want to dignify this 
feeble gesture by calling it a scientific explanation. 

Culturological theory provides a simple explanation of this re- 
markable "coincidence." The Law of Conservation of Energy was 
simply the synthesis of already existing concepts, each of which, 
in turn, was the outgrowth and synthesis of earlier experience. A 
synthesis of cultural elements requires two things: the elements in 
question and a process of interaction. Cultural interaction is always 
going on in any cultural system, although the rate of interaction 
may vary. A given synthesis cannot take place until the elements 
requisite for it are available, obviously. But, when the elements are 
present, the process of cultural interaction is bound to effect the 
synthesis. The situation is something like the chain reaction in 
Uranium 235. If the mass of metal is belov^^ a certain size a chain 


reaction is impossible. But when a certain size— the "critical size"— 
is reached, the chain reaction is inevitable. Prior to 1843-47, the 
elements requisite to the formulation of the Law of Conservation 
of Energy were not available. But, when they became available 
the interactive culture process made their synthesis so "inevitable" 
that it was achieved not once but five times.* 

The phenomena of multiple and simultaneous, but inde- 
pendent, inventions and discoveries thus have an important bear- 
ing upon the question of genius and the Great Man. As we have 
already noted, we are justified in assuming that the birth of men 
of exceptional ability is fairly uniform within a large population 
like that of Western Europe for example. To assume that there 
was no one in Europe with sufficient mental ability to formulate 
the Law of Conservation of Energy in 1823-27, or in 1833-37, 
but that in 1843 one such person appeared only to be followed 
by four more in 47, is to put a severe strain upon the laws of 
chance. The culturological interpretation, however, makes very 
modest assumptions. It assumes that the cultural elements re- 
quisite for the synthesis that is the Law of Conservation must be 
on hand and available otherwise the synthesis could not be made; 
no one however able or intelligent can build without materials. 
The culturologist assumes further that these materials did not 
suddenly spring into being out of nothing, but that they had 
antecedents, that they grew out of previous cultural situations. 
This, too, is a reasonable and modest assumption. We know of 
no instance in which something has come from nothing, in cul- 
tural systems or in those of any other kind; one thing grows out 
of another. In short, the culturologist merely assumes the exist- 
ence of a culture process, the existence of such things as languages, 
beliefs, tools, customs, etc., that constitute an extra-somatic, 
metabiological continuum, i.e., they are passed down from one 

* ". . . there is a good deal of evidence to indicate that the accumulation 
or giowth of culture reaches a stage where certain inventions if not inevitable 
are certainly to a high degree probable . . ." (Ogbum, Social Change, p. 343). 


generation to another by mechanisms of social heredity. The ele- 
ments of this process interact upon one another: tool upon tool, 
tool upon belief, belief upon custom, custom upon custom, etc. 
In this interactive process new combinations of elements are 
formed, new syntheses achieved. It goes without saying that a 
given synthesis cannot be achieved until the requisite elements 
for the synthesis are available: the steam engine could not have 
been invented in the Neolithic age. It is not quite so obvious, 
perhaps, that when the elements necessary for a given synthesis 
are present in a process of interaction that the synthesis will take 
place. The lay mind rebels at this notion of a deterministic process 
going on of itself, effecting inventions and discoveries automatic- 
ally, so to speak, and inevitably. Man still likes to think of himself 
as the image of One who could say, "Let there be light and there 
was light." Let there be a law of conservation of energy and 
there will be such a law. But the formulation of such a law must 
be man's doing, he fondly believes, not that of some impersonal 
culture process that not only determines its own course and con- 
tent but the behavior of man as well. 

But the evidence is against such a view, however flattering and 
consoling it may be. When the culture process has reached a point 
where an invention or discovery becomes possible, that invention 
or discovery becomes inevitable. This language may seem in- 
temperate and unwarranted, but this is only because we are not 
yet accustomed to thinking of the culture process in terms of 
natural law; we still think of it as operating to some extent at 
least in the realm of human free will. To say that an invention 
or discovery becomes inevitable at the same time that it becomes 
possible is merely a way of saying that it will happen when it will 
happen. It is significant to note that we do not recoil from or 
object to this point of view when we consider the weather. No 
one would argue that "it" could rain if the various factors and 
conditions necessary were not present and in conjunction. Neither 
would one want to argue that rain could fail to fall if all the 


factors necessary for precipitation were present and in conjunction. 
Nor would many be inclined to call this fatalism. We simply say 
that when certain conditions are present precipitation occurs; 
when these factors or conditions are not present precipitation 
does not take place. 

And so it is with inventions and discoveries: when certain fac- 
tors and conditions are present and in conjunction an invention 
or discovery takes place; when they are not present, the invention 
or discovery does not occur. Let us glance at more of the evidence. 

The discovery of sun spots was made independently by at least 
four men in a single year: by Galileo, Fabricus, Scheiner, and 
Harriott, in 1611, The parallax of a star was first measured by 
Bessel, Struve, and Henderson, working independently, in 1838. 
Oxygen was discovered independently by Scheele and Priestly in 
1774, The invention of the self-exciting dynamo was claimed by 
Hjorth, Varley, Siemens, Wheatstone, and Ladd in 1866-67, and 
by Wilde between 1863-67. The solution of the problem of respi- 
ration was made independently by Priestly, Scheele, Lavoisier, 
Spallanzani, and Davy, in a single year: 1777. Invention of the 
telescope and the thermometer each is claimed by eight or nine 
persons independently and at approximately the same time. ''Even 
the south pole, never before trodden by the foot of human beings, 
was at last reached twice in one summer" ^^ (Kroeber). The great 
work of Mendel in genetics lay unnoticed for many years. But 
when it was eventually re-discovered, it was done not by one man 
but by three— deVries, Correns, and Tschermak— and in a single 
year, 1900. One could go on indefinitely. When the growing, 
interactive culture process reaches a certain point, an invention or 
discovery takes place. 

The simultaneity of multiple inventions or discoveries is some- 
times striking and remarkable. Accusations of plagiarism are not 
infrequent; bitter rivalries are waged over priorities. "The right to 
the monopoly of the manufacture of the telephone," says Kroeber, 
"was long in litigation; the ultimate decision rested on an interval 


of hours between the recording of concurrent descriptions by 
Alexander Bell and Elisha Gray" ^- (emphasis ours). 

"But an invention or discover)^ could not occur without a person 
to make it, and that person must be a genius/' * we are told with 
some impatience or exasperation. Of course; an invention or dis- 
covery cannot take place without the activity of a human being. 
This goes without saying; culture does not and cannot exist with- 
out human beings. But, we add nothing to an explanation oi this 
culture process by including man in our calculations. Conjugations 
of verbs could not take place without human organisms, but do 
we need to introduce metabolism and respiration into philological 
science? Tractors would not have replaced horses on American 
farms unless man had been there to effect the change. But in 
a statement of the relationship between tractors and horses, the 
human organism may be— and should be— completely disregarded. 

But what about genius.^ Granting that inventions and discoveries 
are cultural events, does not a great event require a great man? 
Could an epoch-making invention or discovery take place without 
the action of a person of exceptional natural endowment? 

The culturologist, like the biologist, assumes that human or- 
ganisms vary both qualitatively and quantitatively. One person's 
feet, liver, brain, etc., may be larger or smaller than another's; 
one set of glands, nerves, or sense organs may function better, 
i.e., more efficiently or effectively, than another. In short, indi- 
vidual human beings differ in their natural endowments and 
abilities; some are superior to others. Of one thing we may be 
sure: all men are not equal. 

Now if superior, mediocre, and inferior minds are exposed 
equally and uniformly to the influence of a given cultural tradition, 
we must conclude that significant inventions and discoveries will 
be made by the superior, rather than by the average or inferior, 

* "Origination, when it is more than chance accident, is alwsys the product 
of a superior mind," (E. B. Router and C. W. Hart, Introduction to So- 
ciology, p. 221, New York, 1933, empliasis ours). 


minds. Just as lightning will seek the best conductor, so will the 
culture process effect its syntheses in the best brains available. 
But the best brains available are not necessarily the best brains 
extant in society. A given cultural tradition does not affect all 
brains in a given society equally. Illiteracy cuts off a portion of the 
population from certain cultural influences. In Newton's day the 
vast majority of Englishmen were illiterate; the great and vital 
traditions that kindled their flame in Newton lay beyond the 
horizon of most men. Had Newton been reared a swineherd 
instead of going to Cambridge, the law of gravitation would have 
been formulated by someone else. 

But does not the fact that the laws of motion and the calculus 
were synthesized in Newton's brain prove that he was a genius? 
At last we have come to the crucial point: are we to define a 
genius psychologically or culturologically? 

Is a genius a person of exceptional native endowment? * Or, 
is he an individual in whose neuro-sensory-glandular-etc. system 
an important synthesis of cultural events has taken place? 

To assume that a person who has made a significant achieve- 
ment has superior native ability is, as we have seen, merely an 
inference. Can we discover outstanding natural endowment apart 
from distinguished achievement? Our experience with intelligence 
tests gives us little assurance on this score. To be sure, we can 
grade persons in terms of intelligence quotients. But many a 
person with a high I.Q. lives and dies undistinguished by any 
notable achievement. Tests that endeavor to measure native 
ability unaffected by social or cultural influences are not likely 
to discover men and women who will go down in history as 
"geniuses." E. T. Bell tells us in Men of Mathematics that the 
great mathematical physicist, Henri Poincare, made such a poor 
showing on the Binet tests as to warrant the rating of imbecile.^' 

* W. B. Pillsbury and L. A. Pennington define a genius as "a person of 
very marked ability ... an I.Q. of 140 or above . . . less than one percent of 
the population . . ." {Handbook oi General Psychology, p. 327). 


To be sure, manv men in whom great cultural syntheses have 
taken place mav wdl have been organisms of exceptional natural 
endoN^-ment as well as the neural loci of the interaction of cultural 
elements. This is of course to be expected: if other factors are 
constant, the significant cultural synthesis will take place in a 
nervous s\-stem of superior qualit>-. But. of course, other factors are 
not constant. \\*e are therefore thrown back upon the culturo- 
logical definition of genius: A person in whose organism a signifi- 
cant s>-nthesis of cultural elements has occurred. He may have 
superior brains or he may not. He may have been a person of ver>- 
average natural endowment, but with superlative education and 
training or exceptional opportunit}-, or both. 

A consideration of manv significant inventions and discoveries 
does not lead to the conclusion that great abiht>-, native or ac- 
quired, is alwavs necessar)-. On the contrar;-, many seem to need 
onlv mediocre talents at best. WTiat intelligence was required to 
invent the steamboat? Is great intelligence required to put one 
and one— a boat and an engine— together? i\n ape can do this. 
James Watt is listed as a genius in many a treatise on this subject. 
It is even misleading to say that he '"invented" the steam engine. 
He merelv added a httle to the achievements of many other men 
—Hero (c. 150 b.c), Battista della Porta (i6ci), Edward Somer- 
set (1665), Thomas Saver}- (169S), Desgauliers, Papin, Nei^-- 
comen, Cawles% Smeaton, et al— before him. The cultural process 
was merelv carried further in the person of ^\"att as it has been 
in the organisms of many others since his day. Does it require 
much intelligence to discover satelHtes of Jupiter or sun spots 
when you have a telescope? Or bacteria and the cellular basis of 
life if vou have a microscope? .\ telescopic or microscopic lens is 
a piece of glass that changes the course of light passing through it. 
Glass is the product of an age-old culture process going back to the 
burning of brick in Eg\-pt and to sun-dried brick and daubing \s-itb 
mud before that. 


Isotopes — elements hanng the same atomic number, the same 
chemical properties, but different atomic weights— were discovered 
earlv in the present centun.-. In 1906, Bolb^-ood of Yale isolated 
an element, ionium, from pitchblende. It was exactly like thorium 
except in atomic weight. Three kinds of l^d, each with an atomic 
weight of its own, were found, y. J. Thomson found two kinds 
(weights ) of neon. Frederick Soddy and Kasimir Fajans (working 
independently, be it noted; advanced an h}-pothesis b)- which 
these different forms might be explained, Thomson and F. W. 
Aston in England and K. T. Bainbridge in the United States 
examined the whole series of elements in a search for isotopes. 
The%- found that manv elements ha\-e isotopes. The atomic weight 
of h- drogen— — S instead of i.c — indicated the existence of an 
isotope of this element but neither .\ston nor Bainbridge c-ould 
isolate it v.-ith the mass spectrometer. Harold C. Ure\' thought 
that separation might be effected by evaporation of Hquid hydro- 
gen. It was assumed that the light isotope would e\-aporate more 
freelv, lea\'ing a concentration of the hea\y form in the residue. 

As Professor Selig Hecht teUs the stor%- in his recent book, 
Explaim'ng the Atom, "Ure\- interested F. G. Brickweddie at the 
Bureau of Standards, who proceeded to make a gallon of hquid 
h\drogen. Bricb;\eddie then allowed the hquid to e\-aporate slowly 
until all but a gram (Ki of an ounce) of hquid hydrogen was 
left, which he shipped to Ure\-." \^'"ith this specimen and the 
mass spectrometer, Ure\- and G. M. Murphy isolated the hea^-y 
isotope, and "for this exciting discover^-." sa^'S Hecht, '"Urey.- v.-as 
a\^-arded the Nobel prize in 1934" "-' 

Xovi- we ha\ e no desire to minimize the importance of this dis- 
covei}- as a scientific achie\-ement. And we certainly do not M^ish to 
behttle Dr. Urea's nati\-e and inborn abilities. But, we would like 
to ask. \\*as intelligence of a high order required for this discovery? 
A\~hat precisely did it invohe? No new theory of atomic structure 
\^-as advanced; on the contran.-. Ure\" had the heritage of genera- 
tions of workeis at his disposal. Ure\- did not discoN-er isotopes; 



they had been found experimentally and explained theoretically 
bv others. Isotopes of many elements had been isolated and 
identified before Urey. Techniques of isolation had been de- 
veloped by Thomson, Aston, Bainbridge, and others. He did not 
invent the mass spectrometer; it is a descendant of the tube in- 
vented by Heinrich Geissler about 1862. He did not provide the 
liquid hydrogen or even manage its gradual evaporation. The idea 
that a light isotope would diffuse faster than a heavy one was not 
original; it had been tried out experimentally by Aston with posi- 
tive results. What then did Urey contribute? 

Again, let us repeat, we are not minimizing the inborn capa- 
cities of Dr. Urey. He may have a superlatively fine organization of 
ner\'es, glands, and sense organs. We have, however, implied that 
intelligence of a high order was not essential to the isolation of 
heavy hydrogen, and we now wish to make this implied conclu- 
sion explicit and unequivocal: it could have been achieved by a 
very ordinary intelligence. As a matter of fact, we believe that many 
a household problem— such as removing a stain from a dress or 
opening a recalcitrant jar of pickles— requires as much ingenuity, 
though perhaps not as much technical information— which is a 
matter of education, not native ability— as that required in the 
isolation of heavy hydrogen. Take a person of average intelligence, 
give him excellent technical training, put him in a well-equipped 
laboratory, and assuming some interest and enthusiasm on his 
part, how could he help but make some significant discovery? One 
cannot adventure very long with an electron microscope or a 
cyclotron without stumbling upon something new. And "stum- 
bling upon" very aptly characterizes many significant advances in 
science. The reason that superlatively great advances in science are 
fevv is not because "genius" is rare but because great syntheses 
must be built upon, or grow out of, a multitude of minor ones. 

There is another property or aspect of culture that has an im- 
portant and significant bearing upon the problem of genius, 


namely, pattern. Nowhere is culture a mere aggregation or ag- 
glomeration of traits; culture elements are always organized into 
systems. Every culture has a certain degree of integration, of unity; 
it rests upon a certain basis, and is organized along certain lines 
or principles. Thus, a culture may be organized around the hunt- 
ing of seal, reindeer breeding, the cultivation of rice, or manu- 
facturing and trade. Military activity also may be an important 
factor in the organization and life of a culture. Within any given 
cultural system a number of sub-systems, which we may call pat- 
terns, can be distinguished. Painting, music, mythology, philoso- 
phy or science, mechanics, industrial crafts, the medical arts, and I 
so on are such patterns. ' 

A culture pattern in this sense is a cluster of cultural elements, 
or traits, organized upon the basis of a certain premise and directed S^ 
by a certain principle of development. A pattern of painting or /^ 
bead-work may be based upon geometric forms or it may attempt 
to depict natural phenomena realistically. Or, symbolic representa- 
tion may be developed in a certain direction. The art of divination 
will rest upon a certain basic assumption and will develop in a 
certain direction. The mechanical and industrial arts, science, and 
philosophy, too, will be organized as patterns and will develop 
as such. 

Now a pattern, having a given premise, and certain principles of 
development, has specific potentialities and also inherent limita- 
tions. When these limits have been reached no further develop- 
ment is possible. To illustrate with a simple example: You are 
trying to draw a circle. When a perfect circle has been achieved ' 
you can go no further. Realistic representation of natural objects '^ 
in painting and sculpture cannot be developed beyond a certain 
point; and symbolic representation, too, seems to have its limits. 
The art of divination based upon the assumption that the future 
can be read in the liver may be developed considerably, as the 
little Babylonian clay models, with various sections marked off, 
indicate. But hepatoscopy has its limits. The development of 


geometry upon the basis of the axioms of Euclid had hmits that 
were inherent in the system or pattern. A certain musical pattern 
reached its culmination or fulfillment apparently in the works of 
Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Gothic art as a pattern was in- 
herently limited. Ptolemy carried the development of a certain 
t)'pe of astronomic system about as far as was possible. All cul- 
tural development takes place within organized forms, or patterns. 
Now, as Kroeber has pointed out repeatedly in Configurations o£ 
Culture Growth, when a pattern has reached the limits of its 
potentialities no further development is possible. The alternatives 
then are slavish repetition of old patterns or the revolutionary 
overthrow of the old and the formation of new patterns. In some 
instances, such as in ancient Egypt, we find monotonous and end- 
less repetition of old forms; or, we see a nation like the United 
States adopting architectural styles from ancient Greece or the 
Middle Ages. But the history of culture abounds, of course, in 
examples of the growth, culmination or fulfillment of patterns 
and of their replacement by new patterns. New, non-Euclidean 
systems of geometry are constructed. New forms emerge in the 
industrial and esthetic arts. New patterns are constructed on new 
premises in philosophy and science. 

This phenomenon of culture pattern has an important bearing 
upon the problem of genius. The development of a pattern is the 
labor of countless persons and of many generations or even 
centuries. But the pattern finds its culmination, its fulfillment, in 
the work of a few men— the Newtons, Darwins, Bachs, Beetho- 
vens, Kants, etc. Men working both before and after the time of 
fulfillment of the pattern have less, usually much less, chance of 
winning distinction. The men whose accident of birth has placed 
them somewhere along the slope of the pyramid of the developing 
pattern have no chance to win the sort of achievement and fame 
given to those whose births place them at the peak. A Bach or a 
Beethoven born a century or two earlier would have been a mere 
contributor to a pattern of development rather than the vehicle 


of its culmination. But a pattern of thought, long in the process 
of development, will receive its fulfillment in the lives and work 
of a few persons. 

Men and women who come after the culmination of a culture 
pattern also have little chance of winning distinction— except as 
wreckers of the old and perhaps as builders of the new. A pattern 
of growth in physical theory reached its culmination in the work 
of Newton. So finished and complete was this pattern at Newton's 
death that it held physicists and astronomers within its forms for 
over two hundred years. As Lagrange once remarked, Newton was 
not only the greatest genius that ever lived but the most fortunate 
as well, "for we cannot find more than once a system of the world 
to establish." ^^ To be born in the wake of Newton was to find 
one's self with no more worlds to conquer. 

It is plain, then, that culture patterns are significant deter- 
minants of genius. The culture process is not an even and uniform 
flow. There are initial stages of development, periods of steady 
growth, peaks of culmination, plateaus of continuity and repeti- 
tion, revolutionary upheavals and innovations, disruption, disinte- 
gration, and decline. Whether an individual of exceptional natural 
endowment achieves the distinction of genius or not depends 
therefore very much upon the accidental time of his birth. Should 
chance place him somewhere along the slope of a developing 
pattern his chances of distinction will be relatively slight. Or, if he 
should be born after the culmination has been reached and passed, 
his chances for distinguished achievement and fame would also 
be meager. But should he chance to be born at the time and place 
where streams of culture are converging and fusing into a final 
and complete synthesis, then his chances will be relatively great.* 

* Even so, there is apt to be room for but one genius only. It was Darwin, 
not Wallace, who won recognition and fame — became the capstone of the 
edifice — even though the latter had worked out the same theory and at the 
same time. 


To become a genius it is necessary to be born at precisely the 

right time. 

The cultural milieu into which an individual is thrust at birth 
also has much to do with the likelihood of his achieving recogni- 
tion as a genius. If he is born and reared in a frontier culture 
where life is hard and hazardous, where a keen eye and a quick 
trigger finger are prized, where hard drinking and harder fighting 
are manly virtues, and where a square dance to a squeaky fiddle 
is the highest form of art, he is not likely to achieve fame as a 
poet, composer, sculptor, philosopher, or scientist. He may possess 
superb natural endowment, he may excel all others in tracking a 
bear, roping a steer, or in "calling" a dance, but the accolade of 
"genius" is not accorded to primacy in these fields. Should, how- 
ever, an individual be born into a cultural milieu in which a rich 
and vigorous tradition of music, painting, science or philosophy 
flourished, he could readily become a genius if of exceptional 
natural ability, or a distinguished person if of a little more than 
average talent. As Cooley observed, in his critique of Galton, "it is 
as difficult for an American brought up in the western part of 
our countr}^ [in 1897] ^^ become a good painter as it is for a 
Parisian to become a good base-ball player, and for similar rea- 
sons." ^® The production and incidence of genius are thus seen to 
be functions of the cultural setting. Whether a genius is realized 
or not depends upon the soil and climate of the cultural habitat. 

We now come to another interesting point: namely, the rela- 
tionship between the rate of cultural advance and the factor of 
human ability. Here we have, on the one hand, a supra-biological 
process: the evolution of culture, a temporal-formal sequence of 
extra-somatic events. On the other, we have the neuro-sensory- 
muscular-glandular-etc. process. The culture process can, as we 
have seen, be studied, analyzed, and explained in terms of itself, 
independently of the human organism. This does not mean of 
course that man has "nothing to do" with the culture process; in 


one sense he has everything to do with it. It is man who brings 
culture into existence and makes its continuity possible. But it 
does not follow from this that we must reckon with the human 
organism in an analysis of culture change. To interpret the culture 
process without taking the human organism into account is 
merely to regard the biological factor in the man-culture equation 
as a constant. But, suppose the biological factor were not constant, 
how would its variations affect the culture process? Let us examine 
this problem in terms of the magnitude of abilities only, not their 
qualitative variations. 

Let us consider populations of 100,000,000 persons each. Let us 
assume also that ability is distributed normally rather than skewed. 
Then if all members of society are stimulated equally by their 
culture, the rate of cultural advance, through invention and dis- 
covery, will increase if (1) the average ability is increased, or (2) 
the range of ability is extended in the direction of superior minds, 
other factors remaining constant. In other words, if the biological 
factor of mental ability is increased, either by an elevation of the 
average or by an extension of the range, the rate of cultural ad- 
vance will increase. The acceleration will of course be greater if 
both average and range are increased instead of one only. This 
means that the probability of an invention or discovery taking 
place at a certain time will vary as the average or range of mental 
ability of the population varies, other factors remaining constant. 
Thus, in a given cultural situation a certain invention or discovery 
—a steam engine, the alphabet, the cellular basis of life— would be 
more likely to occur in a population with a high average of intel- 
ligence than a low one, in a society with a high "ceiling" than in 
one with a low one. 

We see then that a relationship can be established between the 
extra-somatic cultural tradition and the biological factor of mental 
ability which we can express thus: C X B = P, in which C stands 
for the cultural tradition, B for the biological factor of mental 
ability, and P for the probability of a certain invention or dis- 


covery taking place. The probability is increased if either C or B 
is increased while the other factor remains constant. But— and 
here is a very interesting point, and one not widely appreciated— 
in any actual historical situation, the factor of mental ability is 
virtually constant for a considerable period of time. The cultural 
factor, however, may, and in many cases will, not be a constant., 
In the cumulative, interactive stream of culture, the likelihood of 
a given invention or discovery increases day by day. With the 
accumulation of facts and the growth of theory, certain syntheses 
are bound to occur. Thus, if the mental ability requisite to a given 
invention or discovery is not present at a given time, the growth 
and advance of the culture process will bring the possibility of 
the neurological synthesis within the range of the capacities of 
the population eventually. This means that if men of great ability 
are not available, the advancing culture process will in time bring 
the possibility of a significant invention or discovery within the 
range of men with much less ability. Incidents of this sort have 
no doubt occurred many times in the past. We believe we are 
warranted, on the basis of our premises and analysis, in making 
the assertion that all of the great discoveries or inventions that 
have ever occurred could have been achieved v^athout one single 
"genius," i.e., without the aid of anyone above the present average 
of intelligence. In short, that our civilization could have been 
achieved by a race whose maximum intelligence was equivalent 
to our average. It would merely have taken longer, that is all, 
longer for the cultural process to reach the point where syntheses 
become possible to human nervous systems. 

Actually, however, we have good reasons for believing that the 
factor of mental ability has remained fairly constant throughout 
the last hundred thousand years or so. At any rate, we have no 
evidence of a significant increase in mental ability during this 

* There is some evidence, however, that would point to a decline in the 
level of intelligence in Western Europe during the Christian era. At least. 


Further consideration of our formula, C X B = P, will illu- 
minate other aspects of culture history also. As Morgan, Kroeber, 
Ogburn and others have repeatedly noted, significant inventions 
and discoveries were few and far between in the remote past. This 
was not due to a lack of persons of high mental ability but to a 
meagerness of cultural materials and resources. As the stream of 
culture grows through accumulation, assimilation and synthesis, 
the rate of cultural advance increases. Thus, inventions and dis- 
coveries were much more numerous and frequent in the great 
urban, metallurgical and literate cultures of 5,000 to 2,000 b.c. 
than in the period 90,000 to 87,000 B.C., and they are much more 
frequent today than in any earlier time. Since invention and dis- 
covery are functions of cultural milieus as well as of mental ability, 
it follows that men of exceptional intelligence were relatively 
more important and significant in the days of savagery than of 
civilization. Because the cultural resources were more meager, the 
difficulty of invention was greater. Thus, paradoxical though it may 
appear, the Old Stone Age might be called the Age of Genius, or 
Intelligence, rather than the present time because the role of 
native ability was relatively more important.* The foundations of 

Darwin and Lyell cite the large scale and long continued extermination of 
independent minds and courageous spirits by the Holy Inquisition, as evidence 
of deterioration. 

Speaking of the Inquisition Darwin wrote: "In Spain alone some of the 
best men — those who doubted and questioned, and without doubting there 
can be no progress — were eliminated during three centuries at the rate of a 
thousand a year. The evil which the CathoHc Church has thus effected is 
incalculable . . ."{The Descent of Man, Ch. III). Lyell observes that "the 
institutions of a country may be so framed that individuals possessing moder- 
ate or even inferior abilities may have the best chance of surviving. Thus the 
Holy Inquisition . . . may for centuries carefully select from the thinking 
part of the population all men of genius . . . and may doom them by thou- 
sands to destruction, so as effectually to lower the general standard of intelli- 
gence," (Principles of Geology, Vol. II, New York, 1883), p. 495. 

* The conclusion reached here is exactly opposite to a view widely held 
today, not only by laymen but by eminent anthropologists as well. Thus the 
late Edward Sapir wrote: "As the social units grow larger and larger, the 
probabilities of the occurrence of striking and influential personalities grow 
vastly. Hence it is that the determining influence of individuals is more 


civilization— the rudiments of meehanics, the ceramic, textile, and 
metallurgical arts, the origin of agriculture and the domestication 
of animals, the invention of the plow, the wheel, the calendar and 
the alphabet, etc., etc.— were laid by anonymous men and women. 
As civilization advances inventions and discoveries become easier 
to make.* 

If inventions and discoveries— in short, cultural advance— are 
to be explained in terms of an interactive cultural process, where 

easily demonstrated in the higher than in the lower levels of culture" (1919, 
p. 443). This view ignores the epoch-making inventions of remote times and 
tends to recognize only the known and named heroes of recent and literate 

It is interesting to note, however, that the early American anthropologist, 
Lewis H. Morgan, had a more realistic understanding of the developmental 
culture process. "Human progress, from first to last," he wrote, "has been in 
a ratio not rigorously but essentially geometrical. This is plain on the face 
of the facts; and it could not, theoretically, have occurred in any other way. 
Everi' item oi absolute knowledge gained became a factor in further acqui- 
sitions, until the present complexity of knowledge was attained. Consequently, 
while progress was slowest in time in the first period, and most rapid in the 
last, the relative amount may have been greatest in the first, when the 
achievements of either period are considered in their relations to the sum. It 
may be suggested, as not improbable of ultimate recognition, that the progress 
of mankind in the period of savagery, in its relations to the sum of human 
progress, was greater in degree than it was afterwards in the three sub-periods 
of barbarism; and that the progress made in the whole period of barbarism 
was, in like manner, greater in degree than it has been since in the entire 
period of civilization" (Ancient Society, p. 38). This was written, it should 
be noted, about 1875. 

* In northeastern South America the Indians cultivated manioc which in 
some regions was the staple article of diet. There are two kinds of manioc: 
bitter and sweet. The bitterness of the former is due to the presence of 
hydrocyanic acid, a deadly poison. In some regions, because of depradations 
of ants, only the bitter manioc can be grown. The Indians discovered a way 
to remove the poisonous element by leaching the meal ground from the roots. 
After the acid has been volatilized, dissolved and expressed, the meal is both 
edible and nutritious. How the aborigines discovered that this could be done 
and how they perfected this technique is a matter of wonder. Ignorant of 
chemistr}', knowing that initially the plant was deadly, and with minds full 
of magic, myth, and superstition, one wonders how they ever accomplished 
so difficult a feat. Perhaps if we had a complete record of the discovery it 
might, and probably would, seem simpler. Even so, we may, I think, regard 
it as one of the most difficult, though not of course the greatest, inventions 
in history. 


trait impinges upon trait, effecting modifications, new combina- 
tions and syntheses, then we ought to find instances of rapid 
cultural change and growth in localities or regions where a high 
degree of social and cultural interaction takes place. This is just 
what we do find. Culture change is more rapid in the center of 
culture areas than on the periphery, more rapid in urban than in 
rural areas. The rate of culture change is relatively slow in isolated 
regions. It is significant to note, both in the New and the Old 
Worlds, that the regions of most rapid culture growth were located 
on or near narrow land bridges connecting continental land 
masses: Mexico, Middle America, and the Andean highlands on 
the one hand, and the "Fertile Crescent"— Egypt and Mesopo- 
tamia—on the other. Thus we can establish a geographic, or topo- 
logical, determinant of innovation in the culture process: the rate 
of invention and discovery will tend to be high where the con- 
formation of the land and the distribution of its masses foster a 
high degree of social and cultural interaction. 

A few moments ago we were assuming, for the purpose of our 
discussion, that all members of a population were exposed equally 
to the same cultural influences. This situation tends to prevail on 
low levels of cultural development where stratification of society 
into classes does not exist. In advanced and socially stratified 
cultures, however, this is not the case. All Egyptians during the 
dynastic period were certainly not influenced equally by Egyptian 
culture. The majority were serfs, slaves, or laborers on public 
works. As such they lived in and were affected by a very different 
stratum of culture than the priests and rulers and their close 
associates. Similarly in England in the seventeenth century most' 
of the people were wholly illiterate and hence cut off from a large 
part of the cultural tradition accessible to Newton. And in the 
United States today although most of the population are literate, 
they are not directly and effectively stimulated by cultural elements 
in strata where significant inventions, discoveries and other ad- 


varices are made. We may therefore make the following generali- 
zations: (i) As culture advances, society becomes increasingly 
differentiated and stratified. (2) This means that a progressively 
diminishing portion of the population is embraced by the cultural 
tradition in which significant inventions and discoveries take 
place. (3) This small professional class contains only a portion of 
the exceptionally gifted individuals of society; others are engaged 
in non-professional occupations. (4) Consequently, significant 
inventions and discoveries are made by a progressively diminish- 
ing proportion of the exceptionally gifted individuals. In other 
words, as culture advances and society becomes more and more 
differentiated structurally and more specialized functionally, the 
fewer becomes the relative number of exceptionally gifted persons 
in whose systems significant cultural syntheses take place. Here, 
as before, we reach the conclusion that as culture advances, the 
role of exceptional ability diminishes in significance. 

The decrease in relative importance of the biological factor in 
the process of invention, discovery, and cultural advance may be 
demonstrated in still another quarter. Franklin made a notable 
achievement with meager and simple apparatus: a key and a kite. 
Nowadavs, colossal and costly equipment— a 200-inch telescope, 
a 100-ton cyclotron— is needed for research in many fields. But 
who shall use the giant machines of astronomy and physics? Is 
the man of exceptional natural endowment more likely to use 
them than one with less ability? Not unless he has had the re- 
quisite training; brains are not enough. And certainly the average 
individual can contribute more today with a cyclotron than a 
highly gifted person with only a kite and a key. In relationship to 
the kite and key, Franklin was more important than a person 
of the same natural endowment would be in relationship to the 
telescope at Mt. Palomar or to a giant cyclotron. As the techno 
logical factor increases in magnitude the importance oi the bio 
logical factor decreases relatively. 

The role of the gifted individual in cultural advance is diminish- 


ing in importance in still another sector. Research is rapidly 
becoming socialized, so to speak, or institutionalized. Of course, 
no one ever worked and achieved great things in actual isolation. 
Newton had the products of predecessors at his disposal and he 
used to exchange ideas with contemporaries, obtain measurements 
and other data from them. But today research is becoming more 
and more an organized co-operative enterprise. Great laboratories 
and research teams are replacing the individual entrepreneur in 
science and technology. The development of the atomic bomb- 
in which dozens of highly trained idea men and hundreds of 
skilled technicians co-operated— is of course a dramatic, but highly 
significant, indication of the trend of the times. The Great Man 
is becoming less and less significant; the community of scientific 
and technological workers more and more so. As the eminent 
German scientist, Wilhelm Ostwald, observed many years ago, 
"at present mankind is in a state of development in which progress 
depends much less upon the leadership of distinguished indi- 
viduals than upon the collective labor of all workers." ^' It is not 
the soloist that counts so much today— although public and press 
still have and feed an appetite for primadonnas— it is the whole 
symphonic orchestra. 

We are now in a position to draw some final conclusions: 
(i) Although we freely admit that individuals differ in their 
natural endowments, we have no reliable way of discovering or 
recognizing "geniuses" save through their achievements. We may 
be justified in believing that exceptional inborn ability lies back 
of the achievement of a Bach or a Newton. But it would be un- 
warranted to say that all men of lesser achievement were propor- 
tionally inferior in natural ability. On the other hand, we have 
good reason to believe that significant syntheses of culture traits 
may and do take place in organisms of unexceptional quality. 
Therefore, we must conclude that a psychological definition of 
"genius" is inferential and misleading. The culturological defini- 


tion is realistic: a genius is a human organism in which an im- 
portant synthesis of cultural elements has taken place. But the 
culturological definition does more than merely correspond with 
the facts more closely than does the psychological conception; it 
calls attention to the more significant of the two factors involved 
in great inventions and discoveries, namely, the biological and the 
cultural. The psychological conception of genius can say no more 
than that one organism is superior to another, even though it 
cannot tell reliably which is which in many instances. But the psy- 
chological interpretation cannot tell whether ihe superior organ- 
ism will actually achieve great things or die a "mute, inglorious 
Milton." The culturological interpretation however tells how, 
why and when a genius will appear; it makes clear what the ele- 
ments and processes are that produce a genius, and how it all 
comes about. It might be noted also that the culturologist knows 
quite as much about the neuroanatomy of genius as the psy- 
chologist does, namely, virtually nothing. 

Conclusion 2. In the operation of the man-culture process, the 
factor of innate mental ability may have, and probably has, in- 
creased since man acquired the faculty of articulate speech. It 
seems at least reasonable to suppose— although hardly a foregone 
conclusion— that Homo sapiens has a higher native intelligence 
than that possessed by Pithecanthropus eiectus. Thus in the man- 
culture equation over a period of a million years, we may assume 
some absolute increase in magnitude of the biological factor. 
But, during the last hundred, or even the last fifty thousand years, 
we have no evidence of an appreciable increase in mental ability. 
The great bulk of cultural development however has taken place 
during this time. Since a significant invention or discovery is a 
function of organism and culture, working together, the role of 
the former, and consequently of the exceptionally endowed indi- 
vidual, has diminished relative to the cultural factor as culture 
has developed and advanced. This is due not only to the increase 
in magnitude of the cultural factor, both absolutely and relatively. 


but also to the fact that differentiation of social structure, the 
formation of classes each with its own function, has cut off an 
increasing number of organisms of exceptional natural endow- 
ment from the possibility of important achievement: the illiterate 
peasant cannot invent the calculus no matter how excellent his 
cerebral cortex may be. 

Conclusion 3. The rate of occurrence of inventions and dis- 
coveries at any given time is determined not only by the propor- 
tion of exceptionally gifted men and women in the population 
but by the number of elements in the cultural continuum and the 
velocity of their interaction. But the acceleration in rate of culture 
growth noted at various periods in human culture history is to 
be explained, not by an increase in the general level of intelligence 
or by an increase in the proportion of highly gifted individuals, 
but in terms of an increase in the number of culture elements or 
an increase in the velocity of their interaction, or both. The greater 
the number of traits, or the greater the velocity of their inter- 
action, or both, the greater the number of cultural syntheses- 
inventions and discoveries— other factors remaining constant. 

Much of our discussion thus far has dealt with outstanding 
achievement in science, philosophy or the arts where success is 
dependent upon cultural materials at hand as well as upon native 
ability. But how is it with history and political events? Does not 
the Great Man turn the tide one way or another by sheer force 
of his personality? Would the history of Europe between 1798 
and 1815 have been what it was had it not been for Napoleon? 
Did not Julius Caesar change the whole course of European his- 
tory? Would not the administration of law in New Orleans have 
been different, asks Sapir, had it not been for a certain Corsican? 

We readily admit that Caesar, Napoleon and Ghengis Khan 
and many others have been significant factors * in the course of 

* We say "significant factors in the course of history" rather than use the 
common phrase "changed the course of history." The latter phrase is an- 


history. But we are not at all willing to accept the inferences that 
many people wish to draw from this premise. To grant that a 
certain individual has been outstanding in a sequence of his- 
torical events is, to many scholars, proof of his genius, his 
supreme ability, his force of character, his colossal greatness. His- 
tory is made by men, they reason, and great changes can be 
brought about only by men of enormous ability. This we do not 
grant. An imbecile can affect the course of history as readily and 
as profoundly as a genius. A half-wit tampers with a switch, or a 
drunken s\\itchman fails to close it; a train is wrecked, a prime 
minister on his way to a treaty conference is killed. The course of 
history is changed. Had Lenin and his colleagues been killed by 
a train wreck en route from Switzerland to Russia in 1917 the 
outcome of the Bolshevik revolution might have been profoundly 
different. Had Lincoln lived five years longer the Reconstruction 
in the South would probably have taken a different course. But 
it was the obscure actor, John Wilkes Booth, who "changed the 
course" of history. 

More than this: it need not be even a half-wit who deflects the 
course of history; any accident from any cause can accomplish this. 
A rat might infect a Tsar with typhus, a squirrel might short- 
circuit a power line, a pig derail a train, or a stroke of lightning 
down a plane. Had a certain Corsican girl not chanced to meet a 
swarthy swain at a village festival, the genetic combination that 
became Napoleon would not have taken place. And a thousand 
and one more circumstances of sheer chance occurred between his 
cradle and his coronation. One recalls the statement that had 
Cleopatra's nose been but a half-inch longer the whole course of 
Roman and Eg\q3tian history would have been different. And 

thropomorphic in outlook, and it assumes moreover a course of events which 
a man can change from the outside — if he be "great" enough. It docs not 
make sense to say that a thundershower "changes the course of the weather." 
The thundershower is an integral part of the meteorological process. Neither 
does the Great Man "change the course of history" from the outside; he is 
an integral part of it. 


Darwin tells us in his autobiographic sketch that Captain Fitz- 
Roy, who was "an ardent disciple" of the mystic and physiog- 
nomist J. K. Lavater, almost refused to allow Darwin to join the 
expedition of the Beagle because he did not like the shape of 
Darwin's nose! "He doubted," wrote Darwin, "whether any one 
with my nose could possess sufficient energy and determination 
for the voyage." Had Fitz-Roy's phrenology prevailed, the whole 
course of the history of science would have been different. As the 
nursery rhyme about the chain of events set in motion by the loss 
of a horseshoe nail makes clear, great consequences may flow from 
occurrences otherwise trivial and insignificant. To have affected 
the course of history is, therefore, no proof of genius or colossal 
ability. The half-wit whose blunder kills Caesar is as significant 
historically as Caesar himself. To be sure, the head of a great 
government or political movement may be a person of enormous 
natural ability; societies and social movements often select superior 
instruments to work with. But chance and circumstance often put 
a mediocrity in the seat of the mighty, just as chance and accident 
may throw him down or destroy him. 

The significance of the Great Man in history has been obscured 
by a failure to distinguish between history and evolution, or more 
precisely, between a temporal process and a temporal-formal 
process. As we have pointed out elsewhere,^^ many anthropologists 
are quite unable to make this simple distinction. The temporal 
process, or "history," is a chronological series of events each of 
which is unique. We separate these events, by conceptual analysis, 
from their matrix of the totality of events. The temporal-formal, 
or evolutionist, process is a series of events in which both time and 
form are equally significant: one form grows out of another in 

The temporal process is characterized by chance and is there- 
fore unpredictable to a high degree: no one, for example, could 
have predicted that Booth would kill Lincoln— or whether or not 
his pistol would have missed fire when he pulled the trigger. The 


temporal-formal process however is determinative: prediction is 
possible to a high degree. In the decomposition of a radioactive 
substance one stage determines the next and the course and rate 
of change can be predicted. In short, we can predict the course of 
evolution but not of history. 

The significance of the distinction between history and evolu- 
tion and its relevance to the Great Man in history is brought out 
nicely in the debate between Kroeber and Sapir on the "super- 
organic." ^^ Kroeber argues that had Darwin died in infancy the 
advance and course of development of biological theory would 
have been much the same as it has been. Sapir counters by ask- 
ing if the administration of law in New Orleans would have been 
the same today had it not been for Napoleon. Both disputants are 
wholly justified in their claims. Unfortunately, however, they are 
talking about two different things. One is dealing with a deter- 
ministic developmental process, the other with the fortuitous 
course of history. In the evolutionist process, the individual is, as 
Kroeber maintains and as the phenomena of multiple and simul- 
taneous but independent discoveries and inventions clearly demon- 
strate, relatively insignificant. But, in the succession of chance 
occurrences that is history, the individual may be enormously 
significant. But it does not follow at all that he is therefore a 
"genius" or a person of exceptional ability. The goose who saved 
Rome was more significant historically than many an emperor who 
ruled it. 

We have gone a long way since William James debated the 
question of genius with Herbert Spencer, John Fiske, and Grant 
Allen, The causes and incidence of genius no longer seem as mys- 
terious and unpredictable as they did to James and as they have 
to many others since his time. The science of culture, hardly 
begun in James' day, has been able to illuminate and render intel- 
ligible a whole area of human experience that lies beyond the 


horizon of the psychologist. The problem of genius is now fairly 
well understood. 

There is, as we have pointed out, no point in defining genius 
psychologically at least so far as culture history is concerned. 
Many a person of exceptional natural ability never achieves dis- 
tinction and fame. And, on the other hand, many men of 
distinguished achievement have been individuals of no more than 
high average or even mediocre native ability. To assume that 
significant achievement must mean high native ability is an un- 
warranted inference. 

Assuming that mental ability is distributed uniformly among 
mankind, throughout time, place, and race— and this assumption 
is supported by evidence from paleontology, neuroanatomy, and 
psychology— we may virtually rule out the biological, or psy- 
chological, factor in a consideration of the causes and incidence of 
genius, and work with the cultural factor alone. We would grant 
of course that other hctois being constant, the individual of 
superior natural endowment is more likely to achieve recognition 
as a genius than one of lesser ability. But other factors are not 
constant; they are so variable, in fact, that a favorably situated 
individual of meager ability may have much more chance of be- 
coming a "genius" than one of vastly superior native endowment 
but in a disadvantageous position culturally. All we can say then 
is that in the Jong run, not in any particular instance, the genius is 
more likely to be one of superior than of average native ability. 

A genius— one who achieves recognition as a genius— is a person 
in whom a significant synthesis of cultural elements has taken 
place. In other words, he is a function of his culture. If the num- 
ber of elements is small, the current slow, and streams isolated, 
geniuses will be few and far between. If the cultural tradition is 
rich and varied, the current quick and the rate of interaction rapid, 
geniuses will be frequent and abundant. Genius occurs readily at 
peaks of cultural development, rarely on the slopes or plateaus. 
One soil or climate will foster and bring forth genius, another 


will not. The "mystety" of why geniuses "seem so exceptionally 
abundant" in the "high tides of human affairs" is as James said 
"about as deep as the time honored conundrum as to why great 
rivers flow by great towns." He is quite right so far as the depth 
of the mystery is concerned but, unfortunately, he has put the 
cart before the horse— or the towns before the rivers. It is not 
the abundance of "geniuses" that produces "the high tides of 
human affairs" (i.e., periods of florescence in cultural develop- 
ment), but the other way around: it is the great periods of cul- 
tural development that find their flower and expression in men of 
genius. And the eras of great development are to be explained 
culturologically, not psychologically. 

And as for attributing "genius" to men who have "changed the 
course of history," we have seen that an idiot or a goose can ac- 
complish it just as well. It is not high or low levels of ability that 
is significant in such contexts; it is being strategically situated in a 
moving constellation of events. And the least of things or cir- 
cumstances may deflect its course. 

To explain culture history psychologically is of course to lean 
on mvstcH', to appeal to chance, to invoke "that invisible and un- 
imaginable play of forces within the nervous system," to account 
for significant events and eras. The "utmost the student of soci- 
ology can ever predict," says James, " is that if a genius . . . show 
the way, society will be sure to follow." The culturologist, how- 
ever, by working upon the supra-psychological, supra-sociological 
level of culture, by explaining culture in terms of culture, really 
makes it intelligible. And in explaining culture he explains the 
causes and incidence of genius as well. 



The Great Man vs. The Culture Process 

"Lawgivers, statesmen, religious leaders, discoverers, inventors, therefore 
only seem to shape civilization. The deep-seated, blind, and intricate 
forces that shape culture, also mold the so-called creative leaders of 
society as essentially as they mold the mass of humanity. Progress, so 
far as it can objectively be considered as such, is something that makes 
itself. We do not make it." — A. L. Kroeber.^ 



very living organism is confronted by a world external to 
itself. This external world is in a very real sense alien to the 
organism and is often inimical to it. One must come to 
terms with one's environment, however, in order to live, to survive. 
To adjust to environment is to control it to a degree, at least 
from the standpoint of the organism; adjustment is never wholly 
passive. Success in adjustment means survival, and survival means 
mastery, mastery of organism over external world. 

It is but a step from this position to the belief, in the human 
species, that the external world and the events that take place there 
are but the realization of ideas and emotions projected from the 
mind of God or of man. The ideas come first, they are the original 
seeds, the prime movers. As they are thrust forth from the mind 
they take form as stars and planets, animals and plants, tools and 
edifices, rituals and institutions. In the beginning was the Idea. 
And the Idea finds expression in the Word, and the Word be- 



comes not only flesh (John I, 14), but earth and sky and all 
creation. Let there be Light and there was light. The external 
world is but a projection of the mind of God. 

This view of the cosmos and reality is world-wide. In Egypt we 
find it expressed in the conception of the god Ptah. In his early 
davs Ptah was the patron of architects and craftsmen. But event- 
ually he became the supreme mind from which all things were 
derived: "The world and all that is in it existed as thought in his 
mind; and his thoughts, like his plans for buildings and works of 
art, needed but to be expressed in spoken words to take concrete 
fomi as material realities." ^ 

As it is with gods, so it is with men, according to the neuro- 
s\Tnbolic tropism of the race called folk-thought. As the gods 
create and move their worlds with thought and words, so do men 
shape theirs. With incantation and ritual, with verbal formula and 
acts, and sometimes merely by the concentration of mind and 
will, they can make the rain to fall, change the course of the sun 
in the heavens, heal the sick, smite their enemies, cause crops to 
grow, regulate their mode of life, and, at last, find their way 
safely to the Land of the Dead. 

But it is not only the external world, the world of nature, that 
falls thus under man's control. His own world, his society, his cul- 
ture, and his history are even more subject to his will, for are 
they not obviously made by him, and is it not plain that they 
are merely the expressions of his thought and wish? So runs the 
tropism of folk-thought. 

But all men are not equal, even on the level of primitive society. 
Some are better shamans than others; they have more "power." 
On higher cultural levels we find chiefs and priests; then kings 
and emperors, popes and potentates. The god Ptah in the persons 
of artists, scientists, lawgivers, rulers, generals, prophets, and in- 
ventors spews out new tools and devices, new codes and institu- 
tions, new ways of life. Cultural advance is but the work of a 
relatively few gifted individuals. And as culture advances, the 


exceptional person increases in stature; great cultures can be built 
only by Great Men. Like Yahweh who made the light merely by 
calling for it, the Great Men make society and history by exer- 
cising their inherent genius. Thus the verbal tropism. 


In Egypt in the fourteenth century before the Christian 
era some remarkable events took place. Monotheism came to the 
fore and waged war on the old polytheism. All gods were abolished 
save one, and he was made Lord of all. Temples were closed, 
their priests driven out, their lands and revenues confiscated. A 
new capital was built. The government was reorganized. A marked 
change in art occurred. The whole regime of Eg}'pt changed its 
aspect, and, it has been claimed, the events which took place 
then have profoundly affected our lives today. How did all this 
come about? What caused this upheaval that shook Eg}^t to its 
foundations and extended its influence even to us today? One of 
the answers has been: Ikhnaton. This genius, through his vision 
and insight, caught a glimpse of a new philosophy and a new way 
of life, and through sheer will and determination transformed the 
nation at his feet. At least, so we have been told. 

Needless to say, not all students of Eg}'ptian history have relied 
upon so simple an explanation. There are many, especially in 
recent years, who have a live appreciation of the significance of 
cultural forces in the historic process. We shall take note of their 
work later. 

Social science is frequently absolved from its sins of sterility 
and impotence by sympathetic friends who point out that the 
scientist in the social field does not have laboratories at his com- 
mand like the physicist and hence cannot be expected to pro- 
duce theories that can withstand the tests these techniques can 
administer. But this exoneration is fallacious and misleading. It is 
true of course that the social scientist does not have laboratories— 
like the physicist. But he does have laboratories in another, and in 


a vety real, sense. History and ethnography provide the social 
scientist with the equivalent of the laboratories of the physicist. 
How does the human organism respond to polyandry, to mothers- 
in-law, money, spectroscopes, holy water, governmental regulation 
, of prices; how will men live in desert, tundra, or jungle; what will 
be the effect of technological advance on social life and philos- 
ophy? Answers to these and thousands of similar questions may 
be obtained by studies of the infinitely varied circumstances and 
conditions under which man has lived on this planet during the 
last million years. If the social scientist could set up his experi- 
ments as the physicist or rat psychologist does, it would be difficult 
to imagine a requirement that has not been met by some tribe, 
some culture, at some time and place. The meager yield of social 
science is not due to lack of laboratories but rather from not 
knowing how to use the resources at its disposal. 

Ancient Egypt is an excellent laboratory in which the social 
scientist can test many theories. It was quite isolated, being cut 
off from its neighbors by deserts, mountains, and the sea. It was 
therefore relatively undisturbed by outside influence. We have a 
fairly good record, both archeologic and documentary, of history 
and cultural development of Egypt for tens of centuries. The 
land was richly endowed— as contrasted, let us say, with Australia 
—and so we can observe the growth of culture from a fairly 
primitive level to one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient 
world. Here we have laid out before us, on a stage of adequate 
size and against a background of millenia, a culture process at 
work. We can take note of the materials employed, the resources 
both natural and cultural. We can follow the changes one by one. 
We can trace the development step by step. We can see how one 
factor influenced others. We can count and evaluate. In short, we 
can do about all that a physical scientist can do in his laboratory 
—except repeat the experiment. We have, then, in Egypt a prov- 
ing ground in which to test many theories of social science. 

We may distinguish two main types of historical interpretations: 


the psychological and the culturological. Especially prominent in 
the psychological interpretation is the explanation of historic 
events in terms of the personalities of outstanding individuals, 
but it resorts also to the "temperaments" of peoples or races, and 
even to such things as "the spirit of the times." The culturological 
type of interpretation explains history in terms of cultural forces 
and processes, in terms of the behavior, not of the human psyche, 
but of technologies, institutions, and philosophies. Let us then 
go to our laboratory and use it to evaluate the theories which 
undertake to explain the great philosophic and political events 
that took place during the life of Ikhnaton. We shall examine first 
the psychological interpretation. 


The great religious and political revolution which gripped 
Egypt about 1380 b.c. has been pictured as the work of one man: 
Ikhnaton. "Until Ikhnaton," says Breasted, "the history of the 
world had been but the irresistible drift of tradition. All men had 
been but drops of water in the great current. Ikhnaton was the 
first individual in history." And, says Breasted, Ikhnaton accom- 
plished this revolution by imposing his own ideas, ideas born in 
his own mind, upon the external world: "Consciously and deh'ber- 
ately, by intellectual process he gained his position, and then 
placed himself squarely in the face of tradition and swept it 
aside" ^ (emphasis ours). 

But ideas alone were not enough; will power and energy were 
required too. Ikhnaton possessed these qualities also, we are told. 
"He possessed unlimited personal force of character." He "was 
fully convinced that he might entirely recast the world of religion, 
thought, art, and life by the invincible purpose he held . . . Every- 
thing bears the stamp of his individuality. The men about him 
must have been irresistibly swayed by his unbending will . . . The 
court officials blindly followed their young king, and to every 
word which he spoke they listened attentively." H. R. Hall in- 


terprets Egyptian history in terms of the waxing and waning of 
intelligence which reached its "acme under the supremely 
intelligent" Ikhnaton. "His reign was the earliest age of the rule 
of ideas, inespective of the condition and willingness of the 
people" (Breasted). The revolution of Ikhnaton "can only be 
ascribed to the individual genius of a very exceptional man" 
(Gardiner). Alexandre Moret asserts that "Amenophis IV 
[Ikhnaton] was the man who turned aside the natural course of 

events." * 

To E. A. Wallis Budge, Ikhnaton was "a. religious fanatic, in- 
tolerant, arrogant and obstinate, but earnest and sincere." No one, 
he says, "but a half-insane man would have been so blind to 
facts as to attempt to overthrow Amen and his worship." James 
Baikie saw him as a man with a "remorselessly clear mind," but 
exceedingly intolerant. "Seeing clearly," he writes, "that the uni- 
versality of his god meant monotheism, he saw also that with his 
rigid devotion to truth there could be no room for tolerance of 
the easy-going old cults of the other gods." In short, the great 
upheaval in Egypt was brought about by a man's passion for 
truth and his devotion to logic. Geo. Steindorff and K. C. Seele 
regard Ikhnaton as "probably the most fascinating personality who 
ever sat on the throne of the pharaohs." He had a "mystic?! 
temperament" and "an extraordinarily single-minded character. 
When once "embarked on a purpose he held to it with tenacity 
and carried it through unwaveringly with nothing short of fanati- 
cism." }. D. S. Pendlebury who rejects Breasted's view that 
Ikhnaton was "the first individual in history," regards him, never- 
theless, as an "extraordinary' character," the "first rebel . . . whom 
we know, the first man with ideas oi his own . . ." ^ (emphasis 

Ikhnaton revolutionized not only theology but art as well, we 
are told. The new era in painting and sculpture that is associated 
with his reign was initiated and directed by Ikhnaton himself: 
"It is evident that the artists of Ikhnaton's court were taught by 


him to make the chisel and the brush tell the story of what they 
actually saw." Breasted believes that the remarkable hymn to 
Aton "was probably written by the king himself." ^ 

So remarkable a person does Ikhnaton appear to some observers 
that they cannot believe him to be a normal man. "Ikhnaton 
pursued his aims with [such] fatuous blindness and feveri<3h 
fanaticism" that Breasted feels that "there is something hectic and 
abnormal in this extraordinary man, suggesting a mind which 
may even have been diseased." Weigall believes that Ikhnaton was 
an epileptic, subject to hallucinations.^ 

There is of course some evidence to support the theory that 
Ikhnaton was abnormal. In the art of the day, which is said to 
be characterized by naturalism and realism, he is not infrequently 
depicted as misshapen and abnormal. 

"The King preaches the return to nature, makes the artist work 
from the living model, and allows a plaster cast of his face to be 
taken (specimens have been found), to make sure that his fea- 
tures are correctly reproduced . . . The sculptors faithfully re- 
produce the prominent lower jaw and the long, bulging skull, even 
when these deformities have been further aggravated by disease." * 

In his later years, Ikhnaton is depicted, according to Moret, as 
"rounded and effeminate— a hermaphrodite figure, with prominent 
'jreasts, wide hips, and thighs too much curved, which makes one 
suspect a morbid nature, with some pathological flaw." ^ 

Some writers have attempted to account for the remarkable and 
unusual character of Ikhnaton in terms of race as well as of psy- 
chology; they have maintained that he was not a full-blooded 
Egyptian. Thus, Weigall reminds us that "it must always be re- 
membered that the king had much foreign blood in his veins." 
This helped him to stand out amongst the "superstitious 
Egyptians [who were] ever lacking in originality." Moret, too, 
comments on "the mixture of Aryan blood . . . further com- 
plicated by the Syrian descent of Tii" in Ikhnaton's racial back- 


Here, then, we have an explanation of Egyptian history for this 
period. A phenomenal person appears on the scene, a man with so 
much genius and power of will as to go beyond the boundaries of 
the normal, and by himself to transform the religion, social or- 
ganization, and the art of a great nation. Here we have a theory 
to be tested in our "laboratory." 


Before turning to our laboratory proper, namely, the culture 
history of Eg^-pt as we know it through archeological research and 
documentary studies, let us consider briefly what we know about 
the evolution of culture in general and the nature of societies 
like that of ancient Egypt in particular. 

Man began his career as an anthropoid who was just learning to 
talk. He was distinguished from all other animal species by the 
faculty of articulate speech. It was this faculty which transformed 
the discontinuous, non-accumulative, non-progressive process of 
tool-using among the anthropoids into a continuous, cumulative 
and progressive process in the human species. Articulate speech 
transformed, also, the social organization of this gifted primate, 
and by the inauguration of co-operation as a way of life and 
security, opened the door to virtually unlimited social evolution. 
And, finally, language and speech made it possible for man to ac- 
cumulate experience and knowledge in a form that made easy 
transmission and maximum use possible. 

As we have already seen, it was the ability to use symbols — of 
which articulate speech is the most important and characteristic 
form of expression— that made the origin and subsequent growth 
of culture possible. But symbols did not provide the motive power 
for cultural advance. This could only come from energy, energy 
in the sense in which the physicist uses this term. All life is a 
matter of energy transformations. Organisms enable themselves 
to live by capturing free energy from non-living systems and by 
incorporating it into their own living systems. Culture is man's 


peculiar means of harnessing energy and of putting it to work 
'in order to make human hfe secure. Culture grows and develops 
as ways of harnessing more energy per capita per year are found 
and as the means of making the expenditure of this energy more 
effective are improved. Animal husbandry, agriculture, water 
power, and the use of fuels in engines, together with countless 
inventions and improvements of tools and mechanical devices, 
mark the growth of culture as it is carried forward by technological 

The evolution of society is marked by two great stages: primitive 
or tribal, and civil or national. The tribe and clan are character- 
istics of primitive society (although the clan is by no means uni- 
versal); the political state characterizes civil society. Primitive 
society is based upon kinship ties; civil society upon property 
relationships and territorial distinctions. Primitive society was 
relatively homogeneous structurally; civil society, more diversified.* 

The transition from primitive to civil society was brought about 
by technological advance, specifically, by the development of agri- 
culture, supplemented— though not everywhere— by the domesti- 
cation of animals. The maturation of the agricultural arts 
produced the following chain of sequences: increased food supply, 
increase in population, increase in population density and in size 
of political groupings, diversion of human labor from food-pro- 
ducing to specialized arts and crafts, a new type of exchange and 
distribution of goods, money and markets, economic classes, and 
so on. 

The differentiation of structure, the specialization of function, 
of civil society required a special mechanism to co-ordinate the 

* See Lewis H. Morgan, Ancient Society, (New York, 1877), p. 6, for the 
classic statement of this thesis. Of this distinction A. R. Radchffe-Brown 
writes: "Indeed we may agree with Morgan that the passage from lower 
forms of civihzation to higher forms such as our own was essentially a passage 
from society based on kinship to the state based on political organization," 
"Some Problems of Bantu Sociology," (Bantu Studies, October, 1922), pp. 


various segments and classes of society and to integrate them into 
a coherent and effective whole. Such an integrative mechanism 
was produced. It was the "State-Church/' i.e., a mechanism having 
temporal and ecclesiastical aspects. 

The function of the state-church is to preserve the integrity of 
society against dissolution from within and against destruction 
from outside forces. In other words, this integrative mechanism 
must co-ordinate the various elements of society— occupational 
groups, social strata and classes— and relate them to one another 
harmoniously, on the one hand, and on the other, the life of the 
society must be made secure against the aggression of its neigh- 
bors. This integrative mechanism has a variety of forms. Church 
and state, priest and king, may be distinct or they may be one, 
structurally. And, of course, there are many degrees of overlapping 
or distinction. But everywhere in civil society— whether it be 
among the Maya or Inca of the New World, or in Mesopotamia, 
India, or China in the Old— we find this fundamental mechanism 
of co-ordination, integration, and regulation. And it always 
presents these two aspects: temporal and ecclesiastical. Thus we 
find it in ancient Egypt. 

But one further observation before we turn to the culture his- 
tory of Eg}'pt itself: In civil societies where the temporal and 
ecclesiastical aspects of the integrative mechanism are structurally 
distinct there is always rivalry, a rivalry which not infrequently be- 
comes a bitter struggle for power. This is not surprising, of course. 
Both church and state are engaged in the same tasks, both have 
the same function so far as the social organism is concerned, 
namely, integration, co-ordination, regulation. As Franklin D. 
Roosevelt once shrewdly observed: "That human agency which 
we call government is seeking through social and economic means 
the same goal which the churches are seeking through social and 
spiritual means." " The basis for rivalry is therefore plain. Each 
has its own "vested interest"; each tries to increase its power. The 
result is often a bitter struggle. We think offhand of the contest 


between Henry VIII of England and the Roman Church, and of 
the Church vs. State struggle throughout many centuries of Euro- 
pean history. We recall Thomas Jefferson's diatribes against the 
priests and churches and the efforts, not only to separate church 
from state in America, but to render the former powerless. We 
recall that Pius IX in his so-called Syllabus of Errors "claimed the 
complete independence of the Church from state control; up- 
held the necessity of a continuance of the temporal power of the 
Roman See." 

The position of the Roman Church on this issue has been well 
set forth by Reverend H. Harrington as follows: 

"Christendom is one society, and in that society the spiritual 
authority is paramount because of its greater dignity, and the far 
greater importance of its work. In any difEculties between spiritual 
and temporal rulers the spiritual must be the judges, for without 
treason to Christ they may not permit anything earthly however 
important to interfere with the work of salvation. If therefore 
the rulers of the church, even mistakenly, judge that this work is 
hampered by some temporal policy, loyal Christians must abide 
by the decision." ^^ 

There are numerous examples of political action taken by the 
church in direct opposition to the state. To mention but a few: 
Innocent III annulled the Magna Charta; Innocent X pronounced 
the Treaty of Westphalia null and void; Pius IX condemned the 
Austrian constitution of 1868; until 1904, Catholics in Italy were 
prohibited by the Church from taking part in any parliamentary 

In Mexico in recent years we have witnessed a bitter struggle 
between church and state. The issue has, of course, been couched 
in religious terms. But everyone who understands the situation 
knows that it is a question of who is to rule Mexico, the ultra- 
montane clerical politicians or the temporal, national political 

Finally, we may note the case of Russia. Under the Czars 


church and state worked hand in hand. The church held vast 
estates and other properties and received a grant of milhons of 
rubles from the state treasury every year. When the Bolsheviks 
came to power they at once stripped the church of its pohtical 
functions. It is significant to note that not until this v^as done 
was there any great outcry against "reh'gious persecution" in 
Russia. Under the Czars religious freedom hardly existed. There 
were periodic pogroms in which thousands of persons of an alien 
faith were done to death. Under the Soviets there was more 
religious freedom— freedom for all faiths, freedom to believe and 
to worship as one pleased— than there ever had been under the 
old regime. Why then the great outcry from the clergy— Catholic, 
Protestant, and Jewish alike? The answer is plain: the political 
functions of the church had been done away with and their sources 
of income virtually shut off.* The Bolsheviki had tried to abolish 
the ecclesiastical arm of the integrative mechanism of the new 
society. It is interesting to note, however, that the church has 
been brought back to Russia in recent years and established once 
again as an integrative mechanism. The church today is "the most 
powerful unifying thing in Soviet civil life," the Metropolitan 
Benjamin, titular head of the Russian Orthodox church in 
America, said recently while on his way to Moscow. It is interest- 
ing to note that "Godless, anti-religious, Marxist" Russia conforms 
to the pattern common to all nationalist states: the integrative 
mechanism, the central nervous system, has its spiritual, as well as 
its temporal, side. 


Let us turn now to the culture history of Egypt and trace 
the relationship between church and state, priest and king, 
through the centuries. 

* During a tour of Soviet Russia in 1929, I visited open churches of many 
faiths. But, as a member of the clergy once complained to me: "We can't 
iivc on Jcopeks!" 



In the Old Kingdom (2800-2250 b.c.) we find the state, the 
Pharaoh, playing the leading role. To quote Breasted: 

. , . there arose at the beginning of the nation's history a state 
form of religion, in which the Pharaoh played the supreme role. 
In theor}', therefore, it was he alone who worshipped the gods; 
in fact, however, he was of necessity represented in each of the 
many temples of the land by a high priest.^^ 

The various temples and their respective priesthoods were sup- 
ported by the produce from their endowments in land and by 
contributions from the royal revenues. It was the business of 
priests, in addition to their religious and ceremonial duties, to 
administer these lands and to collect revenue from them upon 
which they lived. 

A few centuries later, during the Middle Kingdom, or the 
Feudal Age, we find that although the temples had increased 
somewhat in size, "the official cult was not materially altered, and 
there was still no large class of priests." ^^ 

But the basis for a rise to power of the priesthoods had long 
existed in their possession of lands which were under their control 
and whose produce was appropriated by them. In addition to this 
they received frequent contributions from the royal treasury. The 
temples were, of course, not subject to taxation. They were, there- 
fore, in a favorable position to increase their wealth through 
accumulation and expansion, and to grow in political power as 
their wealth accumulated. 

Under the Empire, First Period (beginning with Ahmose I, 
who completed the expulsion of the Hyksos about 1546 B.C.), the 
priesthoods had grown to considerable power and affluence. Says 

As a natural consequence of the great wealth of the temples 
under the Empire, the priesthood becomes a profession, no 
longer merely an incidental office held by a layman, as in the 
Old and Middle Kingdoms. As the priests increase in numbers 


they gain more and more political power; while the growing 
wealth of the temples demands for its proper administration 
a veritable army of temple officials of all sorts, who were un- 
kno\\n to the old days of simplicity.^^ 

Not only were the temples becoming wealthier and the priest- 
hoods more powerful, they were becoming unified as well: 

Heretofore the priests of the various sanctuaries had never 
been united by any official ties, but existed only in individual 
and entirely separated communities without interrelation. All 
these priestly bodies were now united in a great sacerdotal or- 
ganization embracing the whole land. The head of the state 
temple at Thebes, the High Priest of Amon, was the supreme 
head of this greater body also and his power was thereby in- 
creased far beyond that of his older rivals . . .^^ 

Thus we find the priesthoods becoming wealthy, powerful, and 
organized. They are approaching the time when they will be able 
to threaten the supremacy of the Pharaoh himself, as we shall see. 

We get some notion of the growing political power of the 
priesthoods from an incident that occurred during the feud of the 
Thutmosids. During the declining years of Thutmose I, one of his 
sons, born to the King by an obscure concubine, Thutmose III, 
was put upon the throne "by a highly dramatic coup d'etat" of 
the priests of Amon and in the temple of that god. In the 
struggles for the throne which followed, between Thutmose III 
and his half-brother Thutmose II, and between Thutmose III and 
his half-sister wife, Hatshepsut, the priests played an important 
part. Originally Icept in the background by Thutmose III, 
Hatshepsut was eventually elevated to a position of supremacy by 
a group the most powerful member of which was Hapuseneb, who 
was both High Priest of Amon and vizier. "He thus united in his 
person all the power of the administrative government with that 
of the strong priestly party." " 

These events took place about a century before the time of 


Ikhnaton. During the reign of Amenhotep III, the father of Ikhna- 
ton, one of the High Priests of Amon, Ptahmose by name, was 
also one of the two grand viziers of the kingdom. Another held 
the ofEce of chief treasurer. During this reign also the priests of 
Amon acquired some, if not complete control over the gold pro- 
duced in the Sudan. In the use of spells used in mortuary rites 
(hike), the priests "were provided with a means of acquiring 
wealth and influence which they did not fail to utilize to the 
utmost." ^® 

Thus we observe the growing power of the priesthoods. They 
held the most important offices in the realm next to that of the 
king himself. To have been chief treasurer of the kingdom must 
have placed great power in the hands of the High Priests of Amon, 
a power that was augmented by control over the gold supply 
from the Sudanese mines. These priests could make and unmake 
kings. They had but one more step to take: to seize the throne 
for themselves. Breasted believes that Ikhnaton's father "had 
evidently made some attempt to shake off the priestly hand that 
lay so heavily on the sceptre, for he had succeeded Ptahmose by 
a vizier who was not a High Priest of Amon." And Peet feels 
that "it is not impossible that the increased power of the priest- 
hood . . . was a circumstance which precipitated, if it did not 
actually cause, the religious revolution of Ikhnaton." It was upon 
this stage that Amenhotep IV was thrust at birth.^^ 


Amenhotep IV was born about 1409 b.c, the son of 
Amenhotep III and his Queen Tiy. Estimates of his age at the 
time he ascended the throne as coregent with his father vary 
from nine to twenty-four years. For the first years of his reign, 
according to those who believe he ascended to the throne as a 
child, the affairs of state were managed by his mother. "To all 
intents and purposes, Ti ruled Egypt for several years after her 
husband's death," according to Wallis Budge, "and the boy king 


did for a time at least what his mother told him." Glanville also 
believes that "Tiy clearly controlled him to some extent until he 
left Thebes." Although Amenhotep III did not die until about 
the tenth year of Ikhnaton's reign, he was in bad health during 
this period and seems to have had little to do with the govern- 
ment. The fact that his name was chiselled out of inscriptions 
in the sixth year of Ikhnaton's reign would seem to support this 

Very early in the reign of Amenhotep IV the worship of a 
supreme god, Aton, was inaugurated. Aton was none other than 
the old sun-god, Re, in a new role. Other gods were tolerated for 
a while, but with the growing resentment of the priesthoods, 
particularly that of Amon, Amenhotep IV built a new city- 
capital, Akhetaten, for his god, changed his name to Ikhnaton,* 
closed the temples of the other gods, dispossessed the priesthoods, 
confiscated their lands and revenues, and set to work to establish 
his new regime, both religious and political. All this had taken 
place by the sixth year of his reign. 

Ikhnaton's reign was full of troubles as may well be imagined. 
Not only did he have a bitter struggle with powerful priesthoods 
on his hands, but by closing the temples he incurred the resent- 
ment and opposition of numerous other classes as well, such as 
tradesmen, artisans, actors, scribes, and even shepherds and 
peasants, who had a vested occupational interest in the old order. 
To be sure, the Heretic King had a group of loyal followers, 
whom he rewarded handsomely for their loyalty and support. 
Occupied as he was v^ath a revolution at home, Ikhnaton had little 
or no time for affairs abroad. As a consequence, revolts flared up 
among Eg\'pt's vassals in Asia, the Hittites in particular becoming 
defiant and aggressive. In the twelfth year of his reign, Ikhnaton's 

* Amenhotep, "Amon is satisfied" (Peet) gives way to Ikhnaton, "It is 
well with the Aten, or Disk" (Pendlebury, Peet), or "He Who is Beneficial 
to Aton" (Steindorff and Seele); the old god gives way to the new in this 
change of names. 


mother, Tiy, who resided in Thebes, visited Akhetaten, at which 
time she may have urged action against the revolting vassals and 
a moderation of policy at home, perhaps even a compromise with 
the priests of Aton. At any rate, we find Ikhnaton making a feeble 
gesture against the rebels abroad and initiating conciliatory meas- 
ures at home. Smenkhkara, the "beloved" of Ikhnaton and now 
coregent with him, was sent to Thebes to effect a reconciliation 
with the priests of Amon.^^ But dissension now broke out in the 
king's own household. Although Ikhnaton seems to have been 
willing to compromise, Nefertiti, his wife, was not. At any rate, 
she fell into disgrace, or was estranged from her husband, and 
retired with some powerful followers to the north end of the city 
where she built a palace for herself. The political structure was 
disintegrating at home and abroad, 

Ikhnaton died about 1369 b.c. at Akhetaten; Smenkhkara, the 
coregent, died at almost the same time in Thebes. Tutankhaten, a 
boy of nine, ascended the throne. By now the priestly party was 
growing rapidly in strength. The new king soon realized that he 
could stay on the throne only if he "came to terms with the sup- 
porters of the traditional faith," i.e., the priests. He was obliged 
to abandon his capital at Akhetaten and move his court to Thebes. 
He was compelled to abandon the heresy of Ikhnaton and to 
"acknowledge himself officially as an adherent of . . . Amun," 
Accordingly, he changed his name to Tutankhamun, "Beautiful 
in Life is Amun." In a manifesto he tells of his devotion to "his 
father Amun" and of his benefactions to his priests. He "made 
monuments for all the gods, fashioning their statues of pure 
d/am-gold, restoring their sanctuaries . . . providing them with 
perpetual endowments, investing them with divine offerings for 
the daily service, and supplying their provisions on earth." ^^ The 
triumph of the priests was virtually complete. 

Tutankhamun reigned but nine years and was followed by Eye, 
a member of Ikhnaton's court. He too lasted but a short time. 


Egypt was now in a state of anarchy. Even Thebes became a prey 
to plundering bands. Thus ended the Eighteenth Dynasty. 

Out of this chaos and confusion law and order eventually 
emerged organized around a man who had been an important 
figure in Egj^^tian government for years. This man was Harmhab. 
He had been commander in chief of the army under Ikhnaton 
and Tutankhamun, and as deputy of the king he had attained a 
position in the empire second only to the king himself. Despite 
this fact, however, Harmhab was never converted to the Aton 
religion. He did not go to Akhetaten with his king but remained 
in Memphis where he had his residence. "He remained loyal to 
the old gods especially to the patron divinity of his native city 
and to Amun," ^^ He was thus acceptable to the priests of Amon. 
With their backing and that of the army which was already under 
his control he ascended the throne. The ceremony of installation 
was in fact carried out by the priests of Amon themselves.^* Some 
wTiters assert that he legalized his new position by marrying the 
sister of Nefertiti, but Alexander Scharff says that it "is certain" 
that this was not the case, that this assumption was born of an 
error of translation.^^ i 

Having come into power with priestly backing it is not sur- 
prising to see Harmhab busying himself with the restoration begun 
by Tutankhamun. As a matter of fact, as soon as his government 
was in working order he set about energetically to restore the 
temples and their priesthoods to their former condition of wealth 
and power: 

He restored the temples from the pools of the Delta marshes to 
Nubia. He shaped all their images in number more than before, 
increasing the beauty in that which he made ... He raised up 
their temples; he fashioned a hundred images with all their 
bodies correct and with all splendid costly stones. He sought 
the precincts of the gods which were in the districts in this 
land; he furnished them as they had been since the time of 


the first beginning. He established for them daily offerings 
every day. All the vessels of their temples were wrought of 
silver and gold. He equipped them with priests and with ritual 
priests and with the choicest of the army. He transferred to 
them lands and cattle, supplied with all equipment.^^ 

Harmhab attempted to obliterate all traces of the era of heresy. 
He had the names of Ikhnaton, Tutankhamun, and Eye hacked 
from the monuments and his own put in their place. He con- 
sidered himself the direct successor to Amenhotep III, as if 
Ikhnaton and his followers had never existed. 

At Thebes, Harmhab razed the temple of Aton and used the 
materials to enlarge the temple of Amon. Aton's temple at Ak- 
hetaten was likewise despoiled to obtain building materials. Ikh- 
naton's "tomb was wrecked and its reliefs chiselled out; while the 
tombs of his nobles there were violated in the same way. Every 
effort was made to annihilate all trace of the reign of such a man; 
and when in legal procedure it was necessary to cite documents 
or enactments from his reign he was designated as 'that criminal 
of Akhetaton'." The prosperity and power of the priesthoods 
under Harmhab is well indicated by the words of Neferhotep, 
the priest of Amon: \ 

"How bountiful are the possessions of him who knows the gifts: 
of that god (Amon), the king of gods. Wise is he who knows him, 
favoured is he who serves him, there is protection for him who 
follows him." ^7 Neferhotep "was at the moment receiving the 
richest tokens of the king's favour." 

As Breasted observes, the triumph of Amon was now complete. 


We may now follow the course of the relationship between 
church and state in Egypt for a few more centuries. 

The Nineteenth Dynasty began with wars of reconquest in 
Asia, followed by campaigns in Israel and against the Libyans. 


With the death of Merenptah, son of Ramesses II, the land fell 
again into virtual anarchy from which it emerged in 1200 b.c. 
under Scthnakt, founder of the Twentieth Dynasty. Sethnakt 
came to the throne backed by the priesthoods, "these wealthiest 
and most powerful communities in Egypt." Ramesses III, Seth- 
nakt's successor, was completely in the grip of the priests. The 
temples, says Breasted, "were fast becoming a grave political and 
economic menace." But Ramesses could do naught else but pour 
the wealth of the royal house into the sacred coffers with the most 
lavish liberality.^^ 

We get a fair notion of the wealth and power of the priest- 
hoods of the time of Ramesses III (1198-1167 b.c.) from an 
inventory in the Papyrus Harris which covers almost all of the 
temples of Egypt: 

. . . they possessed over one hundred and seven thousand slaves; 
... in all likelihood one person in every fifty was a slave of 
some temple. The temples thus owned two percent of the 
population. In lands we find the sacred endovraients amount- 
ing to nearly three quarters of a million acres, that is, nearly 
one seventh, or over fourteen and a half percent of the cultiv- 
able land of the country . . . They owned nearly a half million 
head of . . . cattle; their combined fleets numbered eighty 
eight vessels, some fifty three workshops and shipyards . . . 
while in Syria, Kush and Egypt they owned in all one hundred 
and sixty nine towns. When we remember that all this vast 
property in a land of less than ten thousand square miles and 
some five or six million inhabitants was entirely exempt from 
taxation * it will be seen that the economic equilibrium of the 
state was endangered.^^ 

Among the priesthoods, that of the god of Amon stood out 
as by far the richest and most powerful of all. Their estates and 
re\'enues were second only to those of the king. "The political 

* This may be an overstatement; see Edgerton, 1947, p. 157. 


power wielded by a community of priests who controlled such 
vast wealth/' says Breasted, "was from now on a force which no 
Pharaoh could ignore. Without compromising with it and con- 
tinually conciliating it, no Pharaoh could have ruled long." ^° 

Sometimes the royal treasury stood empty while the temples 
were loaded down with wealth. We read of workmen during the 
reign of Ramesses III starving as they labored on some public 
works until in desperation they gather before the ofEce of their 
master demanding their rations of grain. "Thus while the poor in 
the employ of the state were starving at the door of an empty 
treasury, the store-houses of the gods were groaning with 
plenty." ^^ 

At the coronation of Ramesses IV, a "detailed list of all the 
benefactions conferred ... [by Ramesses III] on each and every 
large and small temple of the land" was published. "In this 
manner the new king contrived to confirm the clergy in their 
holdings of property and to gain their influential good will for 
his own reign ... As the authority of the state grew weaker 
. . . the power and prestige of Amun and his priesthood expanded 
proportionately. All important public and private affairs were 
regulated and decided either by the priesthood or by an oracle 
which operated ... in the imperial temple . . ." As Breasted 
puts it, "the state was rapidly moving toward a condition in which 
its chief function should be religious and sacerdotal, and the as- 
sumption of royal power by the High Priest of Amon but a very 
natural and easy transition." ^^ 

It was not long until this transition did indeed take place. In 
the reign of Ramesses XI, a man named Hrihor was appointed 
high priest of Amon at Karnak. Next he became viceroy of Nubia 
and commander in chief of the army. A little later he assumed the 
vizierate of Upper Egypt. He now "had united under his personal 
control all the highest spiritual, military, and civil functions of 
the state. It was but a single step more to put aside the impotent 
Ramesses XI and ascend the throne in his place. By this act of 


usurpation (1085 B.C.), the secular state of the pharaonic empire 
was ushered to its grave and an ecclesiastical state was erected in its 
place, in which the chief god of Thebes exercised the authority 
through the medium of his priesthood." ^^ The triumph of the 
priests was now complete. 


No matter how individualistic Ikhnaton might have been, 
no matter how enormous his intellect and indomitable his wdll, 
he had his setting in a great nation, in a rich and mature culture, 
and we may assume that it affected his life as he is supposed to 
have so profoundly changed the world about him. Let us, there- 
fore, turn to an examination of the relationship between Ikhnaton 
and the culture history of Egypt. 

It is plain at the outset that the events which mark the reign 
of Ikhnaton are not novel by any means. Far from it; they are 
merely part of a process that had been going on for centuries 
before Ikhnaton was bom, namely, the philosophic trend toward 
monotheism and the age-old rivalry between king and priest. 
Tliis culture process receives more emphatic and dramatic ex- 
pression during the lifetime of Ikhnaton, no doubt, but there 
is nothing original in it whatever. 

Religious philosophy in Eg}q3t had been moving in the direction 
of monotheism for centuries before Ikhnaton was born. We find 
in religious philosophy a reflection of the real world; the theology 
of a people will echo a dominant note in their terrestrial mode 
of life. A pastoral culture may find its image in a Good Shepherd 
and his flock; an era of cathedral building sees God as a Great 
Architect; an age of commerce finds Him with a ledger, jotting 
down moral debits and credits; emphasis upon the profit system 
and the high-pressure salesmanship that is required to make it 
function, picture Jesus as a super-salesman; * and, in an age of 

* See Bruce Barton, The Man Nobody Knows, wherein Jesus is pictured 
as "a joyous, ripping good fellow, the perfect image of a 'go-getter' from the 


science, God "is a god of law and order" (Millikan), a Great 
Scientist moving about in his cosmic laboratory, his experiments 
to perform.* 

In ancient Egypt, theological thinking was, as Breasted has 
so well said, "brought into close and sensitive relationship with 
political conditions," ^* In the very early period, there were 
numerous deities, many of which were local gods, or patrons of 
little kingdoms. As the political unification of Egypt progressed, 
a few of the greater gods emerged as national deities. As the nation 
became more and more integrated under the rule of a powerful 
single head, there was a tendency for one god to become supreme. 
The ascendancy of Re, the sun-god, became marked during the 
Fifth Dynasty and by the rise of the Twelfth Dynasty his su- 
premacy was unquestioned. Other priesthoods, 

. . . desirous of securing for their own, perhaps purely local 
deity, a share of the sun-god's glory, gradually discovered that 
their god was but a form and name of Re; and some of them 
went so far that their theologizing found practical expression 
in the god's name. Thus, for example, the priests of Sobk, a 
crocodile god, who had no connection with the sun-god in the 
beginning, now called him Sobk-Re. In like manner, Amon, 
hitherto an obscure local god of Thebes, who had attained some 
prominence by the political rise of the city, was from now on a 
solar god, and was commonly called by his priest Amon-Re. 
There were in this movement the beginnings of a tendency 
toward a pantheistic solar monotheism, which we shall yet trace 
to its remarkable culmination.^^ 

The concept of Maat was developed from the designation of 
personal qualities, or something practiced by individuals, to some- 

Jazztown Rotary Club," (Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, II, one 
vol. ed., New York, 1930), p. 729. 

* Cf. Living Philosophies (New York, 1931), p. 44. Millikan's god seems 
to bear a considerable likeness to a certain American Nobel prize-winner 


thing of national dimensions— a "spirit and method of a national 
guidance and control of human affairs . . . suffused with moral 
conviction. Tliere was thus created for the first time a realm of 
universal values, and in conceiving the divine ruler of such a realm 
the Egyptians were moving on the road towards monotheism." ^^ 

But the conception of a supreme deity whose rule extended to 
the farthest reaches of the earth and embraced all lands and 
peoples was impossible so long as Egypt's power remained con- 
fined to the Nile valley. In the Pyramid Age the sun-god ruled 
only Eg}q3t, and in the hymns of the day we find him standing 
guard at her frontiers, "where he builds the gates which restrain 
all outsiders from entering his inviolable domain." It is otherwise 
after Egypt's conquests abroad and the era of empire. Then the 
supreme god of Egypt became the Lord of the Universe. As 
Breasted has so succinctly put it: "Monotheism is but imperialism 
in religion." ^'' 

Thus we see that for centuries on end before the reign of 
Ikhnaton, religious philosophy in Egypt had been developing in 
the direction of monotheism as the political unification and im- 
perial expansion of Egypt proceeded. And, as we have already seen, 
the rivalry between church and state, between priest and king, was 
already old before Amenhotep IV was born. 

What then did Ikhnaton originate? The answer must be, 
"Virtually nothing." The trend toward monotheism was already 
there, and it was not until the latter years of his reign that Ikh- 
naton took the last logical step and attempted to abolish all other 
gods but Aton. As Breasted says, "this whole monotheistic move- 
ment is the culmination of the ancient recognition of a moral 
order by the Egyptian thinkers of the Pyramid Age and their 
creation of a realm of universal ethical values." Aton, the Disk 
god, was of sufficient importance during the reign of Ikhnaton's 
father to have a temple erected in his honor at Thebes. Even 
"the full name of the new deity, 'Re-Horus-of-the-Horizon who 
rejoices in his name of Shu who is the Disk' is to be ascribed not 


to Akhenaten but to his father or even to some earlier king." 
Indeed, the "most striking fact" pertaining to the various names 
of the new deity "is that they embody a distinct attempt at con- 
tinuity with the sun worship of past ages." The Hymn to Aton, 
which was composed by Ikhnaton himself, according to the belief 
of many authors (who, however, may know full well that the 
addresses of modern heads of state are frequently written by 
others), was remarkable but unoriginal, according to Peet. Two 
architects of Amenhotep III, he writes, had already dedicated a 
hymn to the sun-god which was "a. very close anticipation of Ikh- 
naton's hymn to the disk . . . ; the ideas . . . [expressed in the 
latter] are not at all new, nor indeed are the phrases in which these 
ideas are embodied." Nor was Ikhnaton the first to erase the names 
of his rivals from public monuments; this was done freely in the 
feud of the Thutmosids.^^ 

The struggle with the priesthoods was also acute when Ikhnaton 
ascended the throne. We have already seen that the priests of 
Amon held powerful offices under his father, Amenhotep III, 
threatening the security of the throne. And Breasted says of them: 
They were rich and powerful when Ikhnaton ascended the throne. 
"They had installed Thutmose III as king, and could they have 
supplanted with one of their own tools the young dreamer [Ikh- 
naton] who now held the throne they would of course have done 
so at the first opportunity." Moret, too, sees the drastic steps 
taken by Ikhnaton as an attempt to "break the power of the 
priests of Amon lest they should dethrone the kings." ^^ 

With the throne in danger of being captured by the priests, is 
it necessary to assume that it was a new philosophy germinating 
in the mind of an adolescent genius that precipitated the move 
against the priests and temples— especially when this philosophy 
was not new? Would it not be more reasonable to assume that 
it was a bold and drastic step taken by the temporal government 
in self-defense, in self-preservation? To close the temples and 
confiscate their lands and revenues would be a doubly effective 


political move: it would strengthen the throne at the same time 
that it weakened its rivals. It is significant to note that it was 
not a priesthood of the new god Aton who succeeded to the 
estates of Anion. Ikhnaton was himself the First Prophet of Aton, 
and as such assumed control of the vast wealth of his god. "This 
appropriation of the property of the temples," observes Moret, 
"shows us what lay beneath the religious revolution, the economic 
and political objects of the rupture." '^^ It was probably not the 
first time that struggles for terrestrial power were carried on in 
terms of celestial ideolog\'; it certainly has not been the last. The 
break between Ikhnaton and the priests was therefore but the 
culmination of centuries of rivalry and competition between 
palace and temple. With the growing power of the priests a 
drastic move was necessar\^ if the king was to retain his independ- 
ence. For the temporal government it was do or die. The maturing 
philosophy of monotheism provided an excellent pretext and a 
weapon. But it was merely the means employed; it was not the 

The position taken by some writers on this issue is rather 
curious. Thus, as we have already seen, Peet believes that "the 
increased power of the priesthood . . . was a circumstance which 
precipitated, if it did not actually cause, the religious revolution 
of Ikhnaton"*^ (emphasis ours). On the very next page, how- 
ever, he says that it is "only an inference" to explain the revolu- 
tion as a struggle between priests and king. Yet he accepts Ikh- 
naton's "peculiar genius"~about which we know absolutely noth- 
ing directly— as one of the causes of the revolution! In anothet 
essay, also, Peet discounts the political aspect of the revolution 
and portrays Ikhnaton as a theologian.'*- He explains the failure of 
Ikhnaton's revolution in terms of a conflict of philosophies rather 
than as a clash of political forces.*^ But why did the Aton religion 
fail? Why could it not win out over older beliefs? This is some- 
thing that Pcct's theory does not explain. Wallis Budge says that 
Ikhnaton failed "because his religion did not appeal to the tradi- 


tion and religious instincts and susceptibilities [whatever they are, 
L.A.W.] that already existed among the Egyptians." ** But is not' 
this begging the very question at issue? Why did Ikhnaton's 
religion fail to appeal to the Egyptians? To say that a theological 
revolution failed because the new creed could win no converts 
is merely to say that it failed. It is like saying that a fire went out 
because it quit burning. 

Thus we see that those who interpret the revolution of Iknaton's 
reign as a philosophical, or theological, affair account for political 
events in terms of rival philosophies, but they do not explain the 
philosophies. Our theory does both. It explains the struggle be- 
tween Ikhnaton and the priests in terms of the structure of civil 
societies and the function of the State-Church as an integrative 
and regulative mechanism. And it explains the philosophies as 
instruments used by priests and king in this struggle. The philos- 
ophy of Ikhnaton failed because the political and economic power 
of the priesthoods was greater than that of the Pharaoh's party. 

In this connection we may consider the close relationship be- 
tween Queen Hatshepsut and Senenmut. Steindorff and Seele 
wonder what it was that caused Hatshepsut to heap honors and 
favors upon this man. The "manner [in which] he forged the 
bonds which brought him in close relations with his royal mistress 
... is a closed page of history" *^ they say. We suggest that our 
theor)^ may be illuminating here also. Hatshepsut was not only a 
usurper, she was a woman and as such should not ascend the 
throne of god-men. Senenmut "had in early youth entered service 
in the temple of Amun at Karnak and before long had successively 
occupied a series of important posts." In short, he was an adroit 
and successful priestly politician and a powerful member of the 
priestly party. Hatshepsut needed help to seize and hold the 
throne. Senenmut brought to her side the aid of a powerful priest- 
hood. Hatshepsut richly rewarded him for his support. In the 
light of our theory, the relationship between them does not seem 
obscure at all but rather obvious. 


Priests and Icings serve their own respective interests— as 
everv' other class in society. When their interests diverge they fight 
each other, as in the case of Ikhnaton or Henry VIII. When, 
however, each can serve his own interest by helping the other, 
they will co-operate, as in the case of Hatshepsut and Senenmut. 


What part did Ikhnaton himself play in the stirring events 
of his reign? As we have already seen, numerous authors tell us 
that this young genius, virtually single-handed, initiated this rev- 
olution and carried it forward by his zeal and his indomitable 
will. But what is this but inference? What do we know directly 
about Ikhnaton's actions and what may be reasonably inferred 
from knoun facts? 

In the first place, if we take Elliot Smith's estimate of his age 
at the time of his death, based upon an examination of his sup- 
posed skeletal remains, Ikhnaton was but a boy of nine, or at 
the most thirteen, when he ascended the throne. The "revolution" 
would have been well under way, therefore, when he was fifteen 
or nineteen. It has seemed so incredible that a youth could have 
accomplished all this "despite the precocity of youth in the east," 
that, as Professor Peet has observed, "archaeologists one and all 
fought shy of accepting so great an improbability." ^^ They there- 
fore put pressure upon Elliot Smith to raise his estimate of Ikh- 
naton's age. He did increase it from twenty-six to thirty but "he 
was not prepared to go further" at that time. More recently, 
however, he has been persuaded that Ikhnaton suffered from 
Dystocia, "one of the principal symptoms of which is the failure 
of the bones to knit properly . . . ossification ceases to be a test 
of age." *^ The archeologists may now have Ikhnaton as old as 
they wish! 

The view that Ikhnaton must have been more than a boy 
during the early years of his reign because tremendously important 
events took place at that time is a curious one to take. Must 


the life of a great nation stand still, must history mark time, until 
boy kings grow up? It is rather generally admitted that Tutank- 
hamun was but a boy of nine when he ascended the throne. 
Newberry believes that Ay "must have been the dominating 
personality in Egypt's political affairs" at this time. Steindorff and 
Seele assume that the boy king was "completely under the control 
of Eye," and Pendlebury believes that Nefertiti's influence upon 
Tutankhamun must have kept him faithful to the new religion 
while she lived. If we can have a boy king, with actual rule by 
others, in the case of Tutankhamun, why not with Ikhnaton? 
In this connection we may recall that Louis XIII of France 
ascended the throne at the age of nine years, Louis XIV at only 
five. Peter the Great came to the throne when he was ten; 
Charles XII of Sweden, at the ripe old age of fifteen.*® 

In speaking of Hatshepsut, Breasted takes it for granted that 
a powerful group of nobles and officials supported her and worked 
with her as a means of serving their own interests. He points 
out that "the fortunes and probably the lives of these men were 
identified with the success and the dominance of Hatshepsut; they 
therefore took good care that her position should be main- 
tained." *^ This sounds reasonable and is in accord with every- 
thing we know about ruling cliques everywhere, from Julius 
Caesar to Hitler, Stalin, or Franklin Roosevelt. One man may be 
the titular head of the government. But without the aid and 
support of a powerful group of fellow politicians no one, be he 
king, pope, president, or dictator, can stay in office very long. 

There is evidence of such a group surrounding young Ikhnaton. 
Breasted remarks that, idealist and dreamer though he was, "Ikh- 
naton understood enough of the old policy of the Pharaohs to 
know that he must hold his party by practical rewards." Numerous 
reliefs show Ikhnaton rewarding his followers with gold and 
honors for their allegiance. Ramose, the Vizier, is shown "loaded 
with gifts by the Pharaohs, as though in reward for his allegiance." 
One relief shows Ikhnaton, his wife and daughter showering gold 


upon Meryra, who had become High Priest of Aton, "on some 
occasion when he had been particularly successful in collecting the 
yearly dues of the temple . . ." "Abundant are the rewards/' 
Meryra cries upon being installed as High Priest, "which the 
Aton knows to give when his heart is pleased." And another one 
of Ikhnaton's lieutenants says with disarming frankness: "How 
prosperous is he who hears thy teaching of life!" ^° 

All this sounds strangely familiar. To anyone who is familiar 
with the political machines of American cities and states, or to 
one who knows anything about the organization and conduct of 
ruling cliques anywhere in the world, with their community of 
interests and rewards for "faithful service" and support, this 
picture of ancient Egypt will present no mystery. Whether Ikh- 
naton was a dominant figure or only a figure-head is immaterial. 
In either case we have a dominant, ruling clique. They possess 
the power, they control the wealth, and they share the spoils. 
It is an old familiar pattern. Breasted and Weigall try to put a 
religious and philosophic complexion upon this tight little political 
machine that ruled and exploited Egypt, Weigall comments upon 
the rewards bestowed upon those who were intelligent enough 
to grasp the lofty concepts taught by Ikhnaton, and Breasted 
speaks of the "nucleus of men who really appreciated the ideal 
aspects of the king's teaching." But the anatomy of machine 
politics shows so clearly through its ideological vestments that 
both are obliged to admit that many of Ikhnaton's followers were 
probably more concerned with the very earthly desire for riches 
and honors than with a lofty view of the cosmos.^^ 


Every effort has been made to extoll the originality and 
uniqueness of Ikhnaton and to emphasize his importance as an 
individual in the culture history of Egypt. He is but a boy when 
he ascends the throne, and only an adolescent when the "revolu- 
tion" gets well under way. "Still, when one calls to mind the 


infant prodigies, the child preachers who stir an audience at an 
early age/' Weigall writes, "one may credit a boy of eighteen 
or nineteen with the planning of a new city" and the founding of 
a new religion. Weigall does not cite any specific examples of 
child prodigies; perhaps he was thinking of the boy Jesus teaching 
the elders. ^2 

Ikhnaton's anatomical and psychological peculiarities have been 
used to support the conception of him as a phenomenon among 
men. "His skull was misshapen/' Weigall tells us, "and he must 
have been subject to occasional epileptic fits." He thinks the king 
must have had hallucinations, also. Some great men have been 
epileptic— Mohammed and Napoleon, for example. Religious 
leaders often have hallucinations. If, therefore, Ikhnaton was an 
epileptic and had hallucinations, it would indicate that he was 
a most unusual phenomenon— at least so it was reasoned, ap- 

But what basis is there for Weigall's suppositions? Neither 
epilepsy nor hallucinations can be inferred from the sculptures 
and reliefs nor from the supposed mummy of Ikhnaton, and we 
know of no evidence of these traits from contemporary records. 

There is, however, some evidence that indicates or at least 
strongly suggests that Ikhnaton was pathological in some respects, 
but this evidence is confused, self-contradictory at points, and 
certainly inconclusive. 

The statues and reliefs, according to Moret, depict Ikhnaton 
as "a stripling of medium height, with slender bones and delicate 
modelling" at the time of his ascension to the throne. Later, 
however, he "became rounded and effeminate— a hermaphrodite 
figure with prominent breasts, wide hips and thighs too much 
curved, which makes one suspect a morbid nature, with some 
pathological flaw." Sir Marc A. Ruffer speaks of "the pathological 
obesity" of Ikhnaton, although his face, neck and legs were thin. 
"Where the king is represented distributing collars of gold," 
says this author, "his abdomen actually hangs over the edge of 


the balcony, a most realistic piece of portraiture." But in balcony 
scenes reproduced in Breasted's A History of Egypt (Fig. 139) 
and Moret, The Nile and Egyptian Civilization (Fig. 63), and 
in other works, he is shown as a very slender man indeed. Gar- 
diner says "the portraits represent him with ... a deformed 
emaciated body" (emphasis ours). Thus, the evidence of rep- 
resentations in art is inconsistent and inconclusive.^* 

When we turn to the mummy supposed by some to be that of 
Ikhnaton, we find the picture so confused and full of contradic- 
tions that we are inclined to give up in despair and conclude 
that for the present at least the evidence is insufficient to warrant 
a definitive verdict of any kind. Weigall says that "there can be 
no doubt that the mummy found in the tomb of Queen Tiy was 
that of Akhnaton." Elliot Smith, the British anatomist who ex- 
amined the skeletal remains believed that "we have the most posi- 
tive evidence that these bones are the remains of Khouniatonou 
[Ikhnaton]." Other scholars, however, have, on the basis of re- 
searches since the skeleton in question was found, come to deny 
or to doubt that the bones are those of Ikhnaton. Thus, Kurt 
Sethe is convinced that certain evidence "proves" that the body 
cannot have been that of the heretic king: "For us it is sufficient 
that the body cannot in any case be that of the king in whose 
coffin it found a resting place." A decade later, R. Engelbach 
expressed his conviction that the mummy was not that of Ikh- 
naton; he thinks it is the remains of Smenkhkara. Derry shares 
Engelbach's view in this matter. Peet has expressed his doubt. 
And Pendlebury says that "there is every reason to suppose that 
it is his [i.e., Smenkhkara's] skeleton, found in the cache of Queen 
Ty at Thebes, which has so long passed for that of Akhenaten." ^^ 

The age at time of death of the person whose skeleton is under 
consideration has been the subject of much debate, also. Elliot 
Smith originally estimated the age at death at twenty-four to 
twenty-six years. But, as we have seen, archeologists were very 
unvtdlling to accept this estimate since it would have made Ikh- 


naton but a boy when he became king and hence would have 
been too young to do all that he was supposed to have done. 
Under considerable pressure from the archeologists, Elliot Smith 
reconsidered. He came to the conclusion that the bones showed 
signs of "a. rare disorder, only recently recognized by physicians," 
known as Dystocia adiposo-genitalis. "One of the effects of this 
condition/' he says, "is to delay the process of the consolidation 
of the bones." Therefore, he concludes, the person in question 
may have been as old as thirty or even thirty-six at the time of 
his death. But, he cannot resist adding, the bones still appear to 
him to be those of a man who died in his early twenties! Professor 
Derry believes that the bones indicate an age of not more than 
twenty-three years. Regarding the pathology of the individual, 
there is flat contradiction as well as confusion. Elliot Smith, who 
was the first to examine the skeleton, was convinced that he had 
had hydrocephalus. A. R. Ferguson, Professor of Pathology in 
the Cairo School of Medicine, who also examined the cranium, 
declared, according to Elliot Smith, that "the signs of hydro- 
cephalus were unquestionable." Derry, who examined the cranium 
after further restoration of it, declared that "the conformation of 
the skull does not support the statement that the person to whom 
it belonged suffered from hydrocephalus ... It is indeed the very 
reverse of the shape produced by hydrocephalus," ^® (emphasis 

In view of the evidence and conflicting testimony, we believe 
we would be justified in drawing the following conclusions: i. 
We do not know whose skeleton was found; 2. Its age is some- 
what uncertain but probably not more than twenty-five years; 
and 3. The clinical diagnosis is inconclusive. 


Attempt has also been made to account for Ikhnaton's great- 
ness by claiming that he was of foreign extraction. Weigall says 
that "it must always be remembered that the king had much 


foreign blood in his veins." Ruffer suggests that "his pecuhar 
genius may have been due to the foreign blood in his veins." 
Numerous authors believe that Ikhnaton's mother, Tiy, was not 
an Eg}'ptian, although Breasted says that "there is not a particle 
of evidence to prove her of foreign birth, as is so often claimed." " 

Elliot Smith finds evidence of non-Egyptian ancestry in the 
facial skeleton. The differences between Ikhnaton and his father 
are "far more than individual differences, for they are racial. 
Amenothes Ill's face is cast in the Egyptian mould; but in the 
case of Kliouniatonou, the jaw is typically Armenoid, a fact most 
clearly demonstrated in the form of its ascending ramus." ^^ 

It would not be surprising at all if Ikhnaton should prove to 
have "foreign blood in his veins." We know that a number of 
Egyptian kings before Ikhnaton had wives from Asia. But what 
is the significance of this foreign blood or the Armenoid jaw so 
far as intelligence or character, monotheism or political reform, 
are concerned? The answer can only be: precisely nothing. 


How then are the striking events which took place in Egypt 
between 1375 and 1358 b.c. to be explained? We can choose be- 
tween two types of interpretation: the one is psychological and 
anthropomorphic; the other is culturological. What are their 
relative merits? 

We have already seen that what took place during Ikhnaton's 
reign was but a continuation and a culmination of cultural trends 
that had been going on for centuries before the "Heretic King" 
was born. Philosophic development toward monotheism was al- 
ready well advanced before Ikhnaton's birth. The rivalry between 
the throne and the temple, the struggle between priest and king 
for power, was already hoary with age in 1386 b.c. More than 
that, this sort of competition is a characteristic of all nations 
where the temporal and ecclesiastical aspects of the central in- 
tegrative mechanism are structurally differentiated. We observe 


these cultural trends continuing in Egypt for centuries after 
Ikhnaton's death. The attempt of the throne to eliminate the 
ecclesiastical component of the integrative mechanism failed, as 
fail it must; the ecclesiastic aspect of social integration and regu- 
lation has not yet been eliminated from any nation so far, as the 
re-establishment of the church in the Soviet Union makes em- 
phatically clear. The contest between church and state in Egypt 
continued after Ikhnaton's death with the priests growing in 
power as they had in the reigns before his time. The theology of 
monotheism collapsed for the time being but we can trace this 
current of thought in the centuries following Ikhnaton. In short, 
the stirring events of Ikhnaton's reign can be accounted for as 
a part of a great process of cultural change and development. And 
we can explain this process in terms of itself. It is composed of 
complexes and classes of cultural elements— philosophic, political, 
economic— which continually act and react upon one another, 
producing changes of all sorts, new combinations and syntheses, 
and new alignments. We can explain this culture process in 
ancient Egypt in exactly the same way that we can account for the 
changes brought about in American culture by the introduction 
of the automobile. We do not need to call upon great men or 
upon psychological forces to make them intelligible. 

What does the anthropomorphic, psychological— the Great Man 
—interpretation have to offer? 

In the first place, we must ask, What could a man, a human 
organism, of exceptional quality and ability have done in this 
or any situation except to respond to it— to work with the 
materials at hand, to try to cope with the problems confronting 
him; in short, to fit himself to the culture process that is his 
context? A man of superior neuro-sensory-glandular-muscular 
make-up might have made a better, i.e., more effective, response 
than one of inferior brains and physique, but the pattern of the 
response would have been substantially the same because it would 
have been determined by the same cultural situation. Further- 


more, the difference between tlie mentality of one man and 
another is sHght indeed when measured against the background 
of an age-old cultural process. So that even if Ikhnaton were an 
organism of exceptionally fine quality, this fact would not at all 
suffice to explain the events of his reign. 

But we do not know that Ikhnaton was an organism of superior 
quality. On the contrary, virtually all that we know about him 
indicates that he was a diseased and hence an inferior organism. 
Why, then, has historian after historian explained this period 
of Eg^'ptian history by pointing to the colossal genius of this 

The answer seems to be that, as we indicated at the outset, the 
old, primitive, anthropomorphic type of thinking that has been 
so popular for so many hundreds of thousands of years has not 
yet been outgrown. Science, and especially social science, is still 
too young to have made itself felt in historical interpretation to 
any great extent. And the science of culture is still so new as to 
make its proper designation, "culturology," sound outlandish. The 
pathetic thing about Great Man interpretations of history is that 
they leave the great man unexplained. It is like the medieval 
explanation of fossils: produced by "stone-making forces." 

What Breasted, Weigall, Moret and others have done is to 
create a personality for Ikhnaton and then to explain events in 
the culture process by citing various traits of this personality. The 
image of Ikhnaton is created by inference: great events took place 
during his reign, therefore a great mind and will must have 
brought them about; the struggle with the priesthoods was bitter 
and prolonged, therefore Ikhnaton was a man of determination 
and perseverance; a new era in art was inaugurated, therefore the 
young king was original and creative. He must have had "foreign 
olood in his veins" because his ideas were so novel. He must have 
been older than his supposed skeletal remains indicate because 
one so young could not have accomplished so much, and so on. 
We may cite a particularly striking example of this. Sir Marc A. 


Ruffer, who made a study of the paleopathology of ancient Egypt, 
and who consequently was intimately acquainted with the evi- 
dence indicating Ikhnaton's abnormality, nevertheless argues as 
follows : 

"... a monarch who founds a monotheistic religion in the 
teeth of the opposition of a most powerful priesthood, who builds 
a new town where he worships his god away from old associations 
and among congenial surroundings, who endows that new town 
with beautiful temples, who patronizes a new form of art, and 
who perhaps composed the magnificent hymn to Aton, cannot 
be considered as lacking in energy, or as a degenerate, or an 
effeminate person." ^^ Thus, certain facts indicating pathology 
are not permitted for a moment to interfere with a cherished illu- 
sion of historical interpretation. Surely the mastery of myth over 
realism could go no further. 

Sometimes these psychological interpretations contradict each 
other. Thus Sir Marc cites Ikhnaton's "pathological obesity" as a 
possible reason for the loss of Egypt's Asiatic empire. "The ex- 
treme corpulency of the king," he vvnrites, "may have been 
responsible for his politics. On account of his obesity he probably 
disliked physical exertion, and this may have been the reason why 
he persistently refused to lead his army to war when the outlying 
provinces were threatened." But when he surveys the great achieve- 
ments of the Eighteenth Dynasty, he is impressed with the 
"tireless energy" that characterized its rulers, Ikhnaton as well 
as Ahmose! *^° 

The fact is that we know very little indeed about Ikhnaton as 
a political figure and virtually nothing about his personality and 
character. It is usually said that Amenhotep III was Ikhnaton's 
father, but Newberry asserts that this is merely an assumption: 
"This is nowhere asserted on any Eg}'ptian inscription." Concern- 
ing the ancestry of other intimates of Ikhnaton— his wife, Nefer- 
titi, his "beloved" coregent Smenkhkara, and his son-in-law and 
successor, Tutankhamun— "nothing whatever is definitely known" 


(Newberry). His age at the time of his accession has been much 
debated and is still uncertain. Evidence concerning his health 
and physical condition is so varied as to be virtually worthless. 
We do not know why he became estranged from his wife. We 
do not know how he met his death, whether from natural causes 
or by violence. And, finally, we do not know where he was laid 
to rest. If, therefore, we do not have adequate information of this 
sort, data on Ikhnaton as a king, a political institution, how could 
we expect to have any reliable information pertaining to his per- 
sonality and character? Indeed, do we have any facts at all on 
this subject? ^^ 

That Ikhnaton actually lived is not questioned, and he must 
therefore have had a personality and a character. But these cannot 
be inferred or deduced from the political history of Egypt. There 
is sharp disagreement today concerning the personality and char- 
acter of the late Franklin D. Roosevelt, about whom we have a vast 
amount of factual data obtained by direct observation. The same 
might be said of Lenin, Hitler, Wilson, or any other outstanding 
political figure of recent times. What then can we hope to know 
or understand of this remote Egyptian king as a person? Yet 
students without number give us the most intimate and personal 
details about him, and they do it with confidence and assurance. 
Indeed, they give the impression of drawing upon the report of 
an exhaustive psychiatric analysis. 

The extent to which the personality and character of Ikhnaton 
have been created ad hoc by scholars to explain the facts of 
Egjptian culture history is sometimes remarkable. One gets the 
impression that Weigall could not have known his hero better 
had he been a member of Amenhotep Ill's household at the time 
of Ikhnaton's birth and had associated with him daily until his 
death. Weigall describes him as "... a quiet, studious boy, whose 
thoughts wandered in fair places, searching for that happiness 
which his physical condition had denied to him. His nature was 
gentle; his young heart overflowed with love. He delighted, it 


would seem, to walk in the gardens of the palace, to hear the 
birds singing, to watch the fish in the lake, to smell the flowers, 
to follow butterflies, to warm his small bones in the sunshine." ^^ 
Only where one knows so little can one write so much; the 
absence of facts gives the imagination free rein. 

Thus in the Great Man interpretation of history the known 
facts of the culture process are explained by the pseudo-facts of 
psychology, the known by the unknown. A worse error of reason- 
ing would be hard to find— within or outside the field of scholar- 


To be sure, not all students of Egypt have interpreted the 
history of Ikhnaton's reign in this anthropomorphic fashion; 
many have seen clearly that these political and theological events 
were the logical expression of a cultural historical process. As a 
matter of fact. Breasted himself describes and documents this 
process very well indeed as our quotations from his works show. 
But he seems to have given relatively little weight to cultural 
historical interpretation as compared with biographic and psy- 
chiatric explanation. Let us turn now briefly to those who have 
emphasized, or at least have called specific attention to, the 
process of culture history in their interpretations of Ikhnaton. 

*'Up to a few years ago," writes T. E. Peet, "it was customary 
to believe that this entire movement was a product of the brain 
of Ikhnaton . . . This we now know to be incorrect ... it [is] 
now necessary to see in the movement not merely the personal 
influence of an original genius, but also the inevitable product of 
the conditions of the time." ^^ 

James Baikie writes: "It is evident, therefore, that Atenism was 
not the sudden break with all the religious past of Egypt which 
it is often represented as being; . . . [it] had its roots deep in 
native soil, and could be traced as far back as you can trace any- 
thing in the history of the land." ^* 


John Pendlebury declares that Ikhnaton was not ''the first 
individual in history^ as has been claimed/' and points out that 
actually "we know less about him personally than about many of 
his predecessors." Also, he not only recognizes the antecedents of 
the new religion but suggests Minoan inspiration for the new 
art at Akhetaten which has so often been attributed to the genius 
of Ikhnaton himself. This "startling change ... in the spirit and 
outlook of Eg}TDtian art/' he says, "can only be attributed to a 
sudden intensification of Minoan influence/' occasioned by the 
destruction of Knosscs and the collapse of the Minoan empire. 
H. Frankfort believes that the art of Ikhnaton may have derived 
some inspiration from the works of the reign of Thutmosis.^^ 

We also find a live appreciation of the role of cultural forces 
in history in the writings of Steindorff and Seele, P. E. Newberry, 
S. R. K. Glanville, and others. Many of these students do, how- 
ever, as we have pointed out earlier, invoke the peculiar traits of 
Ikhnaton's personality as a means of accounting for the remark- 
able events of his reign. 


What we have said about Ikhnaton so far would apply to any 
great man who has been invoked to explain historical events. We 
now wish to turn to aspects of the scholars' image of the Heretic 
King that are peculiar to him. 

When Breasted, Weigall and others create a phenomenal person 
to explain remarkable historical events they are, as we have seen, 
following a tradition that has flourished since the Old Stone Age. 
But they had an added reason for their exaltation of Ikhnaton. 
This is to be found in the religious outlook of these authors. 

It would appear from their discussion of Ikhnaton's role in 
philosophic evolution that Breasted and Weigall believe that 
there is a God, that there is only one God, and it would seem. 
He is an English-speaking, Protestant deity. They appear to as- 
sume also— their assumptions are implicit rather than explicit, 


as is so frequently the case in philosophic or scientific discussions, 
and the more basic the premise the more likely it is to remain 
unexplicit— that mankind as a whole has been moving slowly 
toward a realization that there is only one God and one true 
faith— the one taught by Jesus Christ. As culture advanced, man- 
kind came closer and closer to a recognition of the one true God 
and to sense the precepts that were eventually to be expounded 
by His Son. 

Now, for some reason which these authors do not make clear, 
God— the one and only God, our God, the English-speaking, 
Protestant God— decided to reveal himself to this Egyptian king 
about 1400 B.C. Ikhnaton caught the vision, was fired by it, 
and thereafter devoted his whole life, with passionate zeal, to an 
attempt to establish the true faith. But he failed. The people were 
not ready for it. Or, perhaps God miscalculated and revealed 
Himself too soon. But though this adventure in monotheism 
failed all was not lost. The precious truth had been let out and 
truth cannot and will not die. It was somehow communicated to 
the Hebrews who, after some centuries of incubation, were to 
bring it forth again in the person of Jesus Christ. 

Such is our theory about Breasted and Weigall. Let us now 
see what there is to support it. 

Weigall believes that Ikhnaton was "the first man to whom 
God revealed himself . . . For the first time in the history of 
man the real meaning of God, as we now understand it, had been 
comprehended." ^^ Osiris was but a mythological being. So were 
Ptah, Set, and Horus. Even Amon-Re was but a superstition. But 
the God who revealed himself to Ikhnaton was genuine; this time 
it was real. 

Ikhnaton was, according to Breasted, a "God-intoxicated man, 
whose mind responded with marvellous sensitiveness and discern- 
ment to the visible evidences of God about him. He was fairly 
ecstatic in his sense of the beauty of the eternal and universal 
light . . . While to the traditional Pharaoh the state god was 


only the triumphant conqueror, who crushed all peoples and 
drove them tribute-laden before the Pharaoh's chariot, Ikhnaton 
saw in him the beneficent father of all men. It was the first time 
in history that a discerning eye has caught this great universal 
truth," ®^ (emphasis ours). 

Ikhnaton devoted himself with "feverish fanaricism" to spread- 
ing the true faith, "fully convinced that he might enrirely recast 
the world of religion."''^ 

After Ikhnaton had caught the vision of the true God he be- 
came impatient with the paganism of his fellow countrymen: 

Boldly he looked to God as a child to its father; and having 
solved what he deemed to be the riddle of life, there was no 
place in his mind for aught but an open, fearless adoration of 
the creator . . . Akhnaton was the sworn enemy of the table- 
turners of his day, and the tricks of priestcraft . . . were 
anathema to his pure mind (Weigall).^^ 

With a revolution at home on his hands it is not surprising that 
the king did not have sufficient means to protect Egyptian pos- 
sessions abroad. But our authors have another explanation for 
Egypt's loss of empire at the close of the Eighteenth Dynasty. It 
was because ( i ) Ikhnaton was too engrossed in his new philosophy 
to concern himself with politics, and (2) like Christ, he was 
opposed to brute force: 

"Instead of gathering the army so sadly needed in Naharin, 
Amenhotcp IV immersed himself heart and soul in the thought of 
the time, and the philosophizing theology of the priests was of 
more importance to him than all the provinces of Asia ... It 
shows the astonishing leniency of Ikhnaton in a manner which 
would indicate that he was opposed to measures of force" 
(Breasted). So he sat "singing hymns to the Disk at Tell el- 
Amarna while the vast empire bequeathed to him by his fathers" 
went to pieces.^" 

Weigall tells us that Egypt lost her empire because it was against 
Ikhnaton's principles to fight. He "had the power to let loose upon 


Asia an army which would silence all insult but [he] did not find 
such a step consistent with his principles . . . Akhnaton definitely 
refused to do battle believing that a resort to arms was an offence 
to God . . . like that greater Teacher 1300 years later . . . the 
Pharaoh suffered a very Agony as he realized that his principles 
were leading him to the loss of all his dearest possessions." ^^ 

The image of Ikhnaton created by Breasted and Weigall bears 
a considerable likeness to that of Jesus Christ, as is no doubt proper 
to one whose mission is to bring the true faith to mankind. He was 
indeed "the first prophet of history . . . like Jesus ... a prophet 
both of nature and of human life" (Breasted)." 

Our authors see in Ikhnaton the first expression of the true 
faith that is now ours. "The faith of the patriarchs is the lineal 
ancestor of the Christian faith; but the creed of Akhnaton is its 
isolated prototype. One might believe that Almighty God had for 
a moment revealed himself to Egypt, and had been more clearly, 
though more momentarily, interpreted there than ever He was in 
Syria or Palestine before the time of Christ" ( Weigall ).^^ 

Both Breasted and Weigall call attention to similarities between 
Egyptian hymns to Aton and Psalms of the Hebrews. Breasted 
points out that about "a chapter and a half of the Book of Proverbs 
is largely drawn verbatim from the Wisdom of Amenemope; that 
is, the Hebrew version is practically a literal translation from the 
Egyptian." The "teachings of the Egyptian sages exerted a pro- 
found influence on Hebrew religious thinking and, having thus 
effected lodgment in Palestine, they had advanced through the 
first stage in their long transition from Egypt to us of the modern 
world." * 

* Breasted, The Dawn of Conscience, p. 22. Baikie admits that the re- 
semblance between the Egj'ptian hymn and the Hebrew Psalter 104 is "indeed 
sufficiently striking" but sees "no need to imagine that there was borrowing 
on the part of the later author" {The Amarna Age, p. 321). W. O. E. 
Oesterly, on the other hand, feels that the evidence of historical connection 
is "convincing" ("Egypt and Israel," pp. 244-45, in The Legacy of Egypt, 
S. R. K. Glanville, ed.). 


Thus Ikhnaton is not merely the Great Man who moves and 
shapes the culture history of Egypt; he becomes the instrument of 
Divine Purpose. Through him did God first reveal himself to man. 
But the time was not yet ripe; paganism and idolatry were still 
too strongly entrenched. So the revelation was handed on, perhaps 
from Joseph to Moses, down the ages until He who came to re- 
deem us all was born. 

Breasted was once enrolled in a Protestant theological school. 
It is probable that Weigall was a Protestant, also. It is of some 
interest, therefore, to note the way in which the Roman Catholic 
church regards this "God-intoxicated man." Plainly, they do not 
like him. "With the single exception of Amenhotep IV," says the 
Catholic Encyclopedia, "who allowed himself to be drawn into 
a scheme to reform the Egyptian religion, all its kings were wise 
and just rulers." ^* But, after all, no ecclesiastical hierarchy is 
likely to approve of a temporal ruler who closes temples, drives 
out priests, and confiscates their wealth. The other Pharaohs, 
however, those who, according to this Catholic authority were 
"great builders, and devoted their vast resources ... to the erec- 
tion of magnificent temples . . . which they richly endowed"— 
these rulers he finds were "wise and just." It will be noted, too, 
that this writer says that Ikhnaton "allowed himself to be drawn 
into" the scheme to reform Egyptian religion; in other words, that 
the movement against the priesthoods was a political device of 
temporal politicians to safeguard or enhance their power. Catholic 
scholars do not take much stock in the theory that God revealed 
himself first to an Egyptian. They scout the notion that Moses 
may have been influenced by the teachings of Ikhnaton: 

"Although Moses, learned as he was in the wisdom of the 
Eg\'ptians, may have been indebted to an Egyptian model for one 
or two external features in his organization of Divine worship, 
he was, thanks to the Divine inspiration, entirely original in the 
establishment of the Jewish priesthood, which is based on the 
unique idea of Jahweh's covenant with the Chosen People." ^^ 


The author of the article "Egypt" in the CathoHc Encyclopedia 
is much too sophisticated in the ways of politicians whether 
temporal or ecclesiastical to believe that it was Ikhnaton's super- 
natural vision and religious zeal that animated him, 'The effort 
of Amenhotep IV," he writes, "to introduce the cult of his only 
god, Aton, was perhaps not prompted exclusively by a religious 
ideal, as is generally supposed." He believes the long trend toward 
monotheism in Egypt "must have been encouraged by the Phar- 
aohs in their capacity rather of political than of religious rulers 
of the nation." ^^ 

Jewish scholars, too, reject the idea that Moses may have been 
influenced by Ikhnaton. They admit that the "concept of Divine 
Unity has appeared among other religious and philosophic groups," 
but insist that "Hebrew monotheism is unique." * 

If Ikhnaton was indeed the means of the first revelation of God 
to man, it was apparently, as we have suggested, the Protestant 
deity who made himself known. 


The drama of Ikhnaton and monotheism is excellent material 
for the artist as well as for the historian and scientist. Thomas 
Mann uses Joseph in Egypt as the vehicle for his message to a 
world sick and in turmoil. Amenhotep III, the father of Ikhnaton, 
was the pharaoh of Egypt during the earlier part of Joseph's life, 
according to Harry Slochower's interpretation of Mann's novel.^^ 
Potiphar, the eunuch husband of Mut, was allied with the growing 
Aton movement; Mut, with the party of Amon. The symbolism 

* Abraham Shusterman, "Monotheism," in The Universal Jewish Encyclo- 
pedia, Vol. VII (New York, 1942), p. 624. It will be recalled that James 
Baikie was unwilling to admit that Hebrew psalmists may have drawn upon 
Egyptian hymns. Now Baikie was a clergyman. Thus it would appear that all 
clerical scholars — Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish alike — are unwilling to 
admit any connection between their own religious faith and tradition and 
another; historical connections are not in keeping with divine revelation. Their 
bias, springing from vested interest, is of course understandable; but it in 
hardly conducive to sound scholarship. 


of Mut's longing for Joseph and her attempt to seduce him, 
Joseph's rejection of Mut and his subsequent fate, is intriguing 
but does not concern us here. Ikhnaton may have been the phar- 
aoh before \^•hom Joseph was brought after he had interpreted his 
fellow-prisoners' dreams. Mann does not identify him by name, 
but describes him as follows: 

Pharao is seventeen. This hypersensitive and tender youth, a 
searcher of God, like Joseph's forefathers, and enamoured of 
a dreamy religion of love, has ascended the throne during the 
time of Joseph's imprisonment. He is an anticipating, a pre- 
mature Christian, the mythical prototype of those, who are on 
the right way, but not the right ones for that way.^^ 

We can only conclude that this pharaoh was indeed Ikhnaton. 
Like Breasted and Weigall, Mann sees in him the instrument of 
God's revelation to man. But, because he "was not the right one 
for that way," it remained for the Jews to keep the vision alive 
until the coming of the Messiah, our Christ. 

Sigmund Freud, too, has been captured by the engrossing 
theme of Ikhnaton, Moses, and monotheism.^^ He assumes that 
Moses was an Egyptian— mose is an ending of many Egyptian 
proper names— and a devout follower of Ikhnaton. Frustrated in 
his desire and attempt to monotheize the Egyptians, Moses deter- 
mined to give the new theology to the Hebrews then in Egypt. 
In this way the philosophy of Ikhnaton was perpetuated. 


"Until Ikhnaton the history of the world had been but the 
irresistible drift of tradition. All men had been but drops of water 
in the great current" (Breasted). Now that our study is done we 
must conclude that history is still the irresistible flow of the stream 
of culture and that all men are but chips floating on that stream. 
Our inquiry has shown conclusively that the events of Ikhnaton's 
reign were but links in a chain that extended for centuries before 


and after his lifetime. The Hnks were more striking or emphatic 
no doubt, but Hnks, nevertheless. We can come to no other 
conclusion than that the general trend of events would have been 
the same had Ikhnaton been but a sack of sawdust. 

The Great Man theory of historical interpretation is, however, 
one of compelling power and appeal: 

A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Em- 
pire, Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave 
to his genius that he is confounded with virtue and the possible 
of a man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; 
as Monachism of the Hermit Antony; the Reformation, of 
Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, 
of Clarkson ... all history resolves itself very easily into the 
biography of a few stout and earnest persons (Emerson, Essay 
on Self Rehance). 

Thus wrote the man who provided the intelligentsia of America 
with the verbal reflexes called "thought" for so many years. The 
conception is still popular. History is "explained" by citing the 
Great Man. But how is the Great Man accounted for? He isn't. 
He is either taken for granted or is said to be inexplicable. "Genius 
defies all laws . . ." 

The Great Man theory is, of course, the quintessence of anthro- 
pomorphism. It pictures man, like God, a first cause, a prime 
mover: "Let there be light and there was light ... an institution 
is but the lengthened shadow of one man." Man ever creates 
himself in God's image. 

The Ikhnaton we meet in the sober studies of the scholars' pen 
is a sheer fictional character, no more real than Hamlet or Huckle- 
berry Finn. We know nothing about him as a person that is cer- 
tain and direct. And at every point where the Great Man theory 
conflicts with evidence, it is the evidence that must give way. If 
the ossification of bones indicates a man who died too young to 
have done what the Great Man did, a way must be found to 


delay the process of ossification. If an empire is lost, it is because 
the Great Man is morally opposed to the use of force; or he is too 
fat and lazy to lead his army. If a new city is built the Great Man 
becomes a dynamo of energ}'. This Ikhnaton is nothing but the 
composite personification of all the political, social, military and 
philosophic events of his day. As such he is no different from 
Whiriwind Old Man, invented by the Pueblo Indians to "ex- 
plain" the spirals of dust in the hot desert air, or the John Bull 
who determines British foreign policy. And so it is with all Great 
Men, whether it be a Paul Bunyan of the folk or a George Wash- 
ington of historians. 

It goes without saying that men differ in their talents and 
abilities. Some are silk purses biologically; others are sows' ears. 
But it takes more than superior brains and glands to make a 
Great Man. Perhaps we should say exceptional rather than 
superior, for some Great Men have been pathological in one 
respect or another. Mohammed, for example, is said to have been 
an epileptic. It takes, then, more than exceptional natural endow- 
ment to make a Great Man; a certain concatenation of cultural 
forces and historical circumstances is required also. No one can 
be a great actor without a play, a stage, and an audience. Con- 
versely, a man of mediocre talents may become Great if chance 
and circumstance place him at the focal point of a tremendously 
significant historical event. In the process of cultural development, 
a Great Man is but the neural medium through which an im- 
portant synthesis of culture elements takes place. Darwin, Newton, 
Beethoven, and Edison were men of this type. Tliey were the 
neurological loci of important cultural events. To be sure, they 
may have been superior organisms. But had they been reared as 
swineherds. Greatness would not have found them. In history, 
in political and social movements, the Great Man is that ana- 
tomical part of a social organism that functions as a directive, 
regulative or integrative mechanism. Ability— or epilepsy— or 
chance, or both together, may have put him in this position. The 


Great Man is an instrument employed by a nation or a movement 
in the exercise of its functions. Torn from his context, the Great 
Man— an exiled Napoleon, a Kaiser sawing wood, the mutilated 
corpse of Mussolini, a Big Name in a "War Crimes Trial"— is 
but an insignificant hunk of human flesh. 

The measure of a Great Man in the life of nations can be taken 
when we see how independent of him the behavior of a nation is. 
The behavior of the social organism that is Russia has remained 
constant for decades and even centuries: expansion toward the 
east, tropismatic gropings toward warm-water ports, penetration 
of the Balkans, Pan-Slavism. Whether a Czar or a Commissar sits 
in the driver's seat is immaterial; the great organism goes its own 
way unalterably. The same observations may be made in the case 
of Germany. Whether the Great Man be Wilhelm, Bismarck, or 
Hitler, the organism that was Germany followed a constant and 
uniform course: Drang nach Oesten, lebensraum, colonies, com- 
mercial rivalry. The reasons for this uniformity of national be- 
havior are of course plain: the land, the people who grow upon it, 
the resources of the land or its lack of them, its position with 
reference to other nations, the trade routes of the world, etc. 
These remain relatively constant and consequently the behavior 
of the social organism remains constant. Great Men and Ideol- 
ogies do more to obscure these fundamental facts than to explain 
them. The Great Man is the instrument, the Ideology, the ration- 
alization, of the social organism as it struggles for survival in the 
international jungle of nations. 



"He's [the Red King's] dreaming now," said Tweedledee: "and what 
do vou think he's dreaming about?" 

Alice said, "Nobody can guess that." 

"Why, about you.'" Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands trium- 
phantly. "And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose 
you'd be?" 

"Where I am now, of course," said Alice. 

"Not you!" Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. "You'd be no- 
where. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream!" 

"If that there King was to wake," added Tweedledum, "you'd go 
out — bang! — just like a candle." 

"I shouldn't!" Alice exclaimed indignantly. "Besides, if I'm only a 
sort of thing in his dream, what are you, I should like to know?" 

"Ditto," said Tweedledum. 

"Ditto, ditto!" cried Tweedledee. 

He shouted this so loud that Alice couldn't help saying "HushI 
You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise." 

"Well, it's no use your talking about waking him," said Tweedle- 
dum, "when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know 
very well you're not real." 

"I am real!" said Alice, and began to cry. 

"You won't make yourself a bit realler by crying," Tweedledee re- 
marked: "there's nothing to cry about." 

"If I wasn't real," Alice said — half laughing through her tears, it all 
seemed so ridiculous — "I shouldn't be able to cry." 

"I hope you don't suppose those are real tears?" Tweedledum inter- 
rupted in a tone of great contempt. 

Lewis Carroll — Through the Looking Glass 


o mathematical truths reside in the external world, there 
to be discovered by man, or are they man-made inventions? 
Does mathematical reality have an existence and a validity 



independent of the human species or is it merely a function of 
the human nervous system? 

Opinion has been and still is divided on this question. Mrs. 
Mary Somerville (1780-1872), an Englishwoman v^ho knew or 
corresponded with such men as Sir John Herschel, Laplace, Gay 
Lussac, W. Whewell, John Stuart Mill, Baron von Humboldt, 
Faraday, Cuvier, and De Candolle, and who was herself a 
scholar of distinction,* expressed a view widely held when she 

"Nothing has afforded me so convincing a proof of the unity 
of the Deity as these purely mental conceptions of numerical and 
mathematical science which have been by slow degrees vouch- 
safed to man, and are still granted in these latter times by the 
Differential Calculus, now superseded by the Higher Algebra, all 
of which must have existed in that sublimely omniscient Mind 
from eternity." ^ 

Lest it be thought that Mrs. Somerville was more theological 
than scientific in her outlook, let it be noted that she was de- 
nounced, by name and in public, from the pulpit by Dean Cock- 
burn of York Cathedral for her support of science.^ 

In America, Edward Everett (1794-1865), a distinguished 
scholar (the first American to win a doctorate at Gottingen), 
reflected the enlightened view of his day when he declared: 

"In the pure mathematics we contemplate absolute truths 
which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang 
together, and which will continue to exist there when the last of 
their radiant host shall have fallen from heaven." ^ 

In our own day, a prominent British mathematician, G. H. 
Hardy, has expressed the same view with, however, more tech- 
nicality than rhetorical flourish, in A Mathematician's Apology: 

* She wrote the following works, some of which went into several editions: 
The Mechanism oi the Heavens, 1831 (which was, it seems, a popularization 
of the Mecanique Celeste of Laplace); The Connection of the Physical Sci- 
ences, 1858; Molecular and Microscopic Science, 1869; Physical Geography, 



"I believe that mathematical reality lies outside us, and that 
our function is to discover or observe it, and that the theorems 
which we prove, and which we describe grandiloquently as our 
'creations' are simply our notes of our observations." * * 

Taking the opposite view we find the distinguished physicist, 
P. W. Bridgman, asserting that "it is the merest truism, evident 
at once to unsophisticated observation, that mathematics is a hu- 
man invention." ^ Edward Kasner and James Newman state that 
"we have overcome the notion that mathematical truths have an 
existence independent and apart from our own minds. It is even 
strange to us that such a notion could ever have existed." ^ 

From a psychological and anthropological point of view, this 
latter conception is the only one that is scientifically sound and 
valid. There is no more reason to believe that mathematical 
realities have an existence independent of the human mind than 
to believe that mythological realities can have their being apart 
from man. The square root of minus one is real. So were Wotan 
and Osiris. So are the gods and spirits that primitive peoples 
believe in today. The question at issue, however, is not. Are these 
things real?, but, Where is the locus of their reality? It is a mis- 
take to identify reality with the external world only. Nothing is 
more real than an hallucination. 

Our concern here, however, is not to establish one view of 
mathematical reality as sound, the other illusory. What we pro- 
pose to do is to present the phenomenon of mathematical be- 
havior in such a way as to make clear, on the one hand, why the 
belief in the independent existence of mathematical truths has 
seemed so plausible and convincing for so many centuries, and, 

* The mathematician is not, of course, the only one who is inclined to 
believe that his creations are discoveries of things in the external world. The 
theoretical physicist, too, entertains this belief. "To him who is a discoverer 
in this field," Einstein obsen'es, "the products of his imagination appear so 
necessary and natural that he regards them, and would like to have them 
regarded by others, not as creations of thought but as given realities," ("On 
the Method of Theoretical Physics," in The World as I See It, p. 30). 


on the other, to show that all of mathematics is nothing more 
than a particular kind of primate behavior. 

Many persons would unhesitatingly subscribe to the proposition 
that "mathematical reality must lie either within us, or outside 
us." Are these not the only possibilities? As Descartes once 
reasoned in discussing the existence of God, "it is impossible 
we can have the idea or representation of anything whatever, 
unless there be somewhere, either in us or out of us, an original 
which comprises, in reality . , ." ^ (emphasis ours). Yet, irresistible 
though this reasoning may appear to be, it is, in our present 
problem, fallacious or at least treacherously misleading. The fol- 
lowing propositions, though apparently precisely opposed to each 
other, are equally valid; one is as true as the other: i. "Mathe- 
matical truths have an existence and a validity independent of the 
human mind," and 2. "Mathematical truths have no existence or 
validity apart from the human mind." Actually, these propositions, 
phrased as they are, are misleading because the term "the human 
mind" is used in two different senses. In the first statement, "the 
human mind" refers to the individual organism; in the second, 
to the human species. Thus both propositions can be, and actually 
are, true. Mathematical truths exist in the cultural tradition into 
which the individual is born, and so enter his mind from the 
outside. But apart from cultural tradition, mathematical concepts 
have neither existence nor meaning, and of course, cultural tradi- 
tion has no existence apart from the human species. Mathematical 
realities thus have an existence independent of the individual 
mind, but are wholly dependent upon the mind of the species. 
Or, to put the matter in anthropological terminology: mathe- 
matics in its entirety, its "truths" and its "realities," is a part of 
human culture, nothing more. Every individual is born into a cul- 
ture which already existed and which is independent of him. 
Culture traits have an existence outside of the individual mind 
and independent of it. The individual obtains his culture by learn- 
ing the customs, beliefs, techniques of his group. But culture 


itself has, and can have, no existence apart from the human 
species. Mathematics, therefore— hke language, institutions, tools, 
the arts, etc.— is the cumulative product of ages of endeavor of the 
human species. 

The great French savant Emile Durkheim was one of the first 
to make this clear. He discussed it in the early pages of The Ele- 
mentars^ Forms of the Religious Life. And in The Rules of Soci- 
ological Method especially he set forth the nature of culture and 
its relationship to the human mind. Others, too, have of course 
discussed the relationship between man and culture, but Durk- 
heim's formulations are especially appropriate for our present dis- 
cussion and we shall call upon him to speak for us from time to 

Mathematics is, of course, a part of culture. Every people in- 
herits from its predecessors, or contemporary neighbors, along with 
ways of cooking, marrying, worshipping, etc., ways of counting, 
calculating, and whatever else mathematics does. Mathematics is, 
in fact, a form of behavior: the responses of a particular kind of 
primate organism to a set of stimuli. Whether a people counts by 
fives, tens, twelves or twenties; whether it has no words for 
cardinal numbers beyond 5, or possesses the most modern and 
highly developed mathematical conceptions, their mathematical 
behavior is determined by the mathematical culture which 
possesses them. 

We can see now how the belief that mathematical truths and 
realities lie outside the human mind arose and flourished. They 
do lie outside the mind of each individual organism. They enter 
the individual mind, as Durkheim says, from the outside. They 
impinge upon his organism, again to quote Durkheim, just as 
cosmic forces do. Any mathematician can see, by observing him- 
self as well as others, that this is so. Mathematics is not something 
that is secreted, like bile; it is something drunk, like wine. Hotten- 
tot boys grow up and behave, mathematically as well as otherwise, 
in obedience to and in conformity with the mathematical and 


other traits in their culture. EngHsh or American youths do the 
same in their respective cultures. There is not one iota of ana- 
tomical or psychological evidence to indicate that there are any 
significant innate, biological racial differences so far as mathe- 
matical or any other kind of human behavior is concerned. Had 
Newton been reared in Hottentot culture he would have calcu- 
lated like a Hottentot. Men like G. H. Hardy, who know, through 
their own experience as well as from the observation of others, 
that mathematical concepts enter their minds from the outside, 
conclude understandably— but erroneously— that they have their 
origin and locus in the external world, independent of man. 
Erroneous, because the alternative to "outside the human mind," 
the individual mind, that is, is not "the external world, inde- 
pendent of man," but culture, the body of traditional thought and 
behavior of the human species. 

Culture frequently plays tricks upon us and distorts our think- 
ing. We tend to find in culture direct expressions of "human 
nature" on the one hand and of the external world on the other. 
Thus each people is disposed to believe that its own customs and 
beliefs are direct and faithful expressions of man's nature. It is 
"human nature," they think, to practice monogamy, to be jealous 
of one's wife, to bury the dead, drink milk, to appear in public 
only when clad, to call your mother's brother's children "cousin," 
to enjoy exclusive right to the fruit of your toil, etc., if they 
happen to have these particular customs. But ethnography tells 
us that there is the widest divergence of custom among the peoples 
of the world: there are peoples who loathe milk, practice 
polyandry, lend wives as a mark of hospitality, regard inhumation 
with horror, appear in public without clothing and without shame, 
call their mother's brother's children "son" and "daughter," and 
who freely place all or the greater portion of the produce of their 
toil at the disposal of their fellows. There is no custom or belief 
that can be said to express "human" nature more than any other. 

Similarly it has been thought that certain conceptions of the 


external world were so simple and fundamental that they imme- 
diately and faithfully expressed its structure and nature. One is 
inclined to think that yellow, blue, and green are features of the 
external world which any normal person would distinguish until 
he learns that the Creek and Natchez Indians did not distinguish 
yellow from green; they had but one term for both. Similarly, 
the Choctaw, Tunica, the Keresan Pueblo Indians and many 
other peoples make no terminological distinction between blue 
and green. ^ 

The great Newton was deceived by his culture, too. He took it 
for granted that the concept of absolute space directly and imme- 
diately corresponded to something in the external world; space, 
he thought, is something that has an existence independent of 
the human mind, "I do not frame hypotheses," he said. But the 
concept space is a creation of the intellect, as are other concepts. 
To be sure, Newton himself did not create the hypothesis of 
absolute space. It came to him from the outside, as Durkheim 
properly puts it. But although it impinges upon the organism 
comme Jes ioTces cosmiques, it has a different source: it is not 
the cosmos but man's culture. 

For centuries it was thought that the theorems of Euclid were 
merely conceptual photographs, so to speak, of the external world; 
that they had a validity quite independent of the human mind; 
that there was something necessary and inevitable about them. 
The invention of non-Euclidean geometries by Lobatchewsky, 
Riemann and others has dispelled this view entirely. It is now 
clear that concepts such as space, straight line, plane, etc., are 
no more necessary and inevitable as a consequence of the struc- 
ture of the external world than are the concepts green and yellow 
—or the relationship term with which you designate your mother's 
brother, for that matter. 

To quote Einstein again: 

"We come now to the question: what is a priori certain or 
necessary, respectively in geometry (doctrine of space) or its 


foundations? Formerly we thought everything; nowadays we think 
—nothing, Aheady the distance-concept is logically arbitrary; 
there need be no things that correspond to it, even approxi- 
mately." ^° 

Kasner and Newman say that "non-Euclidean geometry is proof 
that mathematics ... is man's own handiwork, subject only to 
the limitations imposed by the laws of thought." ^^ 

Far from having an existence and a validity apart from the 
human species, all mathematical concepts are "free inventions of 
the human intellect," to use a phrase with which Einstein char- 
acterizes the concepts and fundamental principles of physics. But 
because mathematical and scientific concepts have always entered 
each individual mind from the outside, everyone until recently 
has concluded that they came from the external world instead of 
from man-made culture. But the concept of culture, as a scien- 
tific concept, is but a recent invention itself. 

The cultural nature of our scientific concepts and beliefs is 
clearly recognized by the Nobel prize winning physicist, Erwin 
Schrodinger, in the following passage: 

"Whence arises the v^ddespread belief that the behavior of 
molecules is determined by absolute causality, whence the con- 
viction that the contrary is unthinkable? Simply from the custoniy 
inherited through thousands of years, of thinking causally, which 
makes the idea of undetermined events, of absolute, primary 
casualness, seem complete nonsense, a logical absurdity," ^* 
(Schrodinger's emphases). 

Similarly, Henri Poincare asserts that the axioms of geometry 
are mere "conventions," i.e., customs: they "are neither synthetic 
a priori judgments nor experimental facts. They are conven- 
tions . . ." ^^ 

We turn now to another aspect of mathematics that is illu- 
minated by the concept of culture. Heinrich Hertz, the discoverer 
of wireless waves, once said: 

"One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical 


formulas have an independent existence and an intelligence of 
their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their 
discoverers [sic], that we get more out of them than was originally 
put into them." ^* 

Here again we encounter the notion that mathematical formulas 
have an existence "of their own," (i.e., independent of the human 
species), and that they are "discovered," rather than man-made. 
The concept of culture clarifies the entire situation. Mathematical 
formulas, like other aspects of culture, do have in a sense an 
"independent existence and intelligence of their own." The Eng- 
lish language has, in a sense, "an independent existence of its 
own." Not independent of the human species, of course, but inde- 
pendent of any individual or group of individuals, race or nation. 
It has, in a sense, an "intelligence of its own." That is, it behaves, 
grows and changes in accordance with principles which are in- 
herent in the language itself, not in the human mind. As man 
becomes self-conscious of language, and as the science of philology 
matures, the principles of linguistic behavior are discovered and 
its laws formulated. 

So it is with mathematical and scientific concepts. In a very 
real sense they have a life of their own. This life is the life of 
culture, of cultural tradition. As Durkheim expresses it: "Col- 
lective ways of acting and thinking have a reality outside the 
individuals who, at every moment of time, conform to it. These 
ways of thinking and acting exist in their own right." ^^ It would 
be quite possible to describe completely and adequately the evolu- 
tion of mathematics, physics, money, architecture, axes, plows, 
language, or any other aspect of culture without ever alluding 
to the human species or any portion of it. As a matter of fact, 
the most effective way to study culture scientifically is to proceed 
as if the human race did not exist. To be sure it is often con- 
iVenient to refer to the nation that first coined money or to the 
man who invented the calculus or the cotton gin. But it is not 
necessary, nor, strictly speaking, relevant. The phonetic shifts in 


Indo-European as summarized by Grimm's law have to do solely 
with linguistic phenomena, with sounds and their permutations, 
combinations and interactions. They can be dealt with adequately 
without any reference to the anatomical, physiological, or psy- 
chological characteristics of the primate organisms who produced 
them. And so it is with mathematics and physics. Concepts have 
a life of their own. Again to quote Durkheim, "when once born, 
[they] obey laws all their own. They attract each other, repel each 
other, unite, divide themselves and multiply . , ." ^^ Ideas, like 
other culture traits, interact with each other, forming new 
syntheses and combinations. Two or three ideas coming together 
may form a new concept or synthesis. The laws of motion asso- 
ciated with Newton were syntheses of concepts associated with 
Galileo, Kepler and others. Certain ideas of electrical phenomena 
grow from the "Faraday stage," so to speak, to those of Clerk 
Maxwell, H. Hertz, Marconi, and modern radar. "The applica- 
tion of Newton's mechanics to continuously distributed masses 
led," says Einstein, "inevitably to the discovery and application of 
partial differential equations, which in their turn first provided the 
language for the laws of the field-theory" (emphasis ours). The 
theory of relativity was, as Einstein observes, "no revolutionary 
act, but the natural continuation of a line that can be traced 
through centuries." More immediately, "the theory of Clerk 
Maxwell and Lorentz led inevitably to the special theory of 
relativity." ^^ Thus we see not only that any given thought-system 
is an outgrowth of previous experience, but that certain ideas 
lead inevitably to new concepts and new systems. Any tool, 
machine, belief, philosophy, custom or institution is but the 
outgrowth of previous culture traits. An understanding of the 
nature of culture makes clear, therefore, why Hertz felt that 
"mathematical formulas have an independent existence and an 
intelligence of their own." 

His feeling that "we get more out of them than was originally 
put into them," arises from the fact that in the interaction of 


culture traits new syntheses are formed which were not antici- 
pated by "their discoverers," or which contained impHcations 
that were not seen or appreciated until further growth made them 
more explicit. Sometimes novel features of a newly formed 
synthesis are not seen even by the person in whose nervous sys- 
tem the synthesis took place. Thus Jacques Hadamard tells us 
of many occasions in which he failed utterly to see things that 
"ought to have struck . . . [him] blind." He cites numerous in- 
stances in which he failed to see "obvious and immediate con- 
sequences of the ideas contained" in the work upon which he was 
engaged, leaving them to be "discovered" by others later.^^ 

The contradiction between the view held by Hertz, Hardy and 
others that mathematical truths are discovered rather than man- 
made is thus resolved by the concept of culture. They are both; 
they are discovered but they are also man-made. They are the 
product of the mind of the human species. But they are en- 
countered or discovered by each individual in the mathematical 
culture in which he grows up. The process of mathematical 
growth is, as we have pointed out, one of interaction of mathe- 
matical elements upon one another. This process requires, of 
course, a basis in the brains of men, just as a telephone conversa- 
tion requires wires, receivers, transmitters, etc. But we do not 
need to take the brains of men into account in an explanation of 
mathematical growth and invention any more than we have to 
take the telephone wires into consideration when we wish to ex- 
plain the conversation it carries. Proof of this lies in the fact 
of numerous inventions (or "discoveries") in mathematics made 
simultaneously by two or more persons working independently.* 

* The following data are taken from a long and varied list published in 
Social Change, by Wm. F. Ogburn (New York, 1923), pp. 90-102, in which 
simultaneous inventions and discoveries in the fields of chemistry, physics, 
biology, mechanical invention, etc., as well as in mathematics, are listed. 

Law of inverse squares: Newton, 1666; Halley, 1684. 

Introduction of decimal point: Pitiscus, 1608-12; Kepler, 1616; Napier, 


If these discoveries really were caused, or determined, by indi- 
vidual minds, we would have to explain them as coincidences. 
On the basis of the laws of chance these numerous and repeated 
coincidences would be nothing short of miraculous. But the 
culturological explanation makes the whole situation clear at 
once. The whole population of a certain region is embraced by 
a type of culture. Each individual is born into a pre-existing 
organization of beliefs, tools, customs and institutions. These 
culture traits shape and mould each person's life, give it content 
and direction. Mathematics is, of course, one of the streams in 
the total culture. It acts upon individuals in varying degree, and 
they respond according to their constitutions. Mathematics is 
the psychosomatic response to the mathematical culture. 

But we have already noted that within the body of mathe- 
matical culture there is action and reaction among the various 
elements. Concept reacts upon concept; ideas mix, fuse, form 
new syntheses. This process goes on throughout the whole extent 
of culture although more rapidly and intensively in some regions 
(usually the center) than in others (the periphery). When this 
process of interaction and development reaches a certain point, 
new syntheses * are formed of themselves. These syntheses are, 
to be sure, real events and have location in time and place. 
The places are of course the brains of men. Since the cultural 
process has been going on rather uniformly over a wide area and 

Logarithms: Burgi, 1620; Napier-Briggs, 1614. 

Calculus: Newton, 1671; Leibnitz, 1676. 

Principle of least squares: Gauss, i8og; Legendre, 1806. 

A treatment of vectors without the use of co-ordinate systems: Hamilton, 
1843; Grassman, 1843; and others, 1843. 

Contraction hypothesis: H. A. Lorentz, 1895; Fitzgerald, 1895. 

The double theta functions: Gopel, 1847; Rosenhain, 1847. 

Geometry with axiom contradictory to Euclid's parallel axiom: Lobat- 
chevsky, 1836-40; Bolyai, 1826-33; Gauss, 1829. 

The rectification of the semi-cubal parabola: Van Heuraet, 1659; Neil, 
1657; Fermat, 1657-59. 

The geometric law of duality: Oncelet, 1838; Gergone, 1838. 

* Hadamard entitles one chapter of his book "Discovery as a Synthesis." 


population, the new synthesis takes place simultaneously in a 
number of brains at once. Because we are habitually anthro- 
pocentric in our thinking we tend to say that these men made 
these discoveries. And in a sense, a biological sense, they did. 
But if we wish to explain the discovery as an event in the growth 
of mathematics we must rule the individual out completely. 
From this standpoint, the individual did not make the discovery 
at all. It was something that happened to him. He was merely 
the place where the lightning struck. A simultaneous "discovery" 
by three men working "independently" simply means that cul- 
tural-mathematical lightning can and does strike in more than 
one place at a time. In the process of cultural growth, through 
invention or discovery, the individual is merely the neural locus 
in which the advance occurs. Man's brain is merely a catalytic 
agent, so to speak, in the culture process. This process cannot 
exist independently of neural tissue, but the function of man's 
nervous system is merely to make possible the interactive process 
and to effect syntheses of cultural elements. 

To be sure individuals differ just as catalytic agents, lightning 
conductors or other media do. One person, one set of brains, 
may be a better medium for the growth of mathematical cul- 
ture than another. One man's nervous system may be a better 
catalyst for the culture process than that of another. The mathe- 
matical cultural process is therefore more likely to select one set 
of brains than another as its medium of expression. But it is 
easy to exaggerate the role of superior brains in cultural advance. 
It is not merely superiority of brains that counts. There must be a 
juxtaposition of brains with a specific cultural tradition. If the 
proper cultural elements are lacking, superior brains will be of 
no avail. There were brains as good as Newton's in England 
10,000 years before the birth of Christ, at the time of the Norman 
conquest, or any other period of English history. Everything 
that we know about fossil man, the prehistory of England, and 
the neuroanatomy of Homo sapiens will support this statement. 


There were brains as good as Newton's in aboriginal America or 
in Darkest Africa. But the calculus was not invented in these 
other times and places because the requisite cultural elements 
were lacking. Contrariwise, when the cultural elements are present, 
the discovery or invention becomes so inevitable that it takes 
place independently in two or three nervous systems at once. 
Had Newton been reared as a sheep herder, the mathematical 
culture of England would have found other brains in which to 
achieve its new synthesis. One man's brains may be better than 
another's, just as his hearing may be more acute or his feet 
larger. But just as a "brilliant" general is one whose armies are 
victorious, so a genius, mathematical or otherwise, is a person in 
whose nervous system an important cultural synthesis takes place; 
he is the neural locus of an epochal event in culture history. 

The nature of the culture process and its relation to the minds 
of men is well illustrated by the history of the theor}' of evolu- 
tion in biology. As is well known, this theory did not originate 
wdth Darwin. We find it in one form or another in the neural 
reactions of many others before Danvin was born: Buffon, 
Lamarck, Erasmus Darwin, and others. As a matter of fact, 
virtually all of the ideas which together we call Darwinism are to 
be found in the writings of J. C. Prichard, an English physician 
and anthropologist (1786-1848). These various concepts were 
interacting upon each other and upon current theological beliefs, 
competing, struggling, being modified, combined, resynthesized, 
etc., for decades. The time finally came, i.e., the stage of develop- 
ment was reached, where the theological system broke down and 
the rising tide of scientific interpretation inundated the land. 

Here again the new synthesis of concepts found expression 
simultaneously in the nervous systems of two men working inde- 
pendently of each other: A. R. Wallace and Charles Darwin. 
The event had to take place when it did. If Darwin had died in 
infancy, the culture process would have found another neural 
medium of expression. 


This illustration is especially interesting because we have a 
vivid account, in Darwin's own words, of the way in which the 
synthesis of ideas took place: 

"In October 1838," Darwin wrote in his autobiographic sketch, 
"that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, 
I happened to read for amusement 'Malthus on Population,' and 
being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which 
everyM'here goes on from long-continued observation of the habits 
of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these cir- 
cumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and 
unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be 
the fomiation of a new species. Here then J had at last got a 
theory by which to work . . ." (emphasis ours). 

This is an exceedingly interesting revelation. At the time he 
read Mai thus, Darwin's mind was filled with various ideas, (i.e., 
he had been moulded, shaped, animated and equipped by the 
cultural milieu into which he happened to have been born and 
reared— a significant aspect of which was independent means; 
had he been obliged to earn his living in a "counting house" we 
might have had "Hudsonism" today instead of Darwinism). 
These ideas reacted upon one another, competing, eliminating, 
strengthening, combining. Into this situation was introduced, hy 
chance, a peculiar combination of cultural elements (ideas) which 
bears the name of Malthus. Instantly a reaction took place, a new 
synthesis was formed— "here at last he had a theory by which 
to work." Darwin's nervous system was merely the place where 
these cultural elements came together and formed a new synthesis. 
It was something that happened to Darwin rather than something 
he did. 

This account of invention in the field of biology calls to mind 
the well-known incident of mathematical invention described so 
vividly by Henri Poincare. One evening, after working very hard 
on a problem but without success, he writes: 

". . . contrary to my custom, I drank black coffee and could 


not sleep. Ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs 
interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. By the 
next morning I had established the existence of a class of 
Fuchsian functions ... I had only to write out the results, 
which took but a few hours." ^^ 

Poincare further illustrates the process of culture change and 
growth in its subjective (i.e., neural) aspect by means of an 
imaginative analogy. He imagines mathematical ideas as being 
something like "the hooked atoms of Epicurus. During complete 
repose of the mind, these atoms are motionless, they are, so to 
speak, hooked to the wall." No combinations are formed. But in 
mental activity, even unconscious activity, certain of the atoms 
"are detached from the wall and put in motion. They flash in 
every direction through space . . . like the molecules of a gas 
. . . Then their mutual impacts may produce new combina- 
tions." ^° This is merely a description of the subjective aspect of 
the culture process which the anthropologist would describe ob- 
jectively (i.e., without reference to nervous systems). He would 
say that in cultural systems, traits of various kinds act and react 
upon one another, eliminating some, reinforcing others, forming 
new combinations and syntheses. The significant thing about 
the loci of inventions and discoveries from the anthropologist's 
standpoint is not quality of brains, but relative position within 
the culture area: inventions and discoveries are much more likely 
to take place at culture centers, at places where there is a great 
deal of cultural interaction, than on the periphery, in remote or 
isolated regions. 

The dominating influence of the external cultural tradition 
upon the individual mind is sometimes felt very distinctly, but 
it is seldom recognized for what it really is. Thus, Goethe declared 

"All productivity of the highest kind, every important con- 
ception, every discovery, every great thought which bears fruit, 
... is in no one's control, and is beyond every earthly power. 


Such things are to be regarded as unexpected gifts from above, 
as pure divine products." -^ 

The brothers Goncourt speak of "an unknown force, a superior 
will, a sort of compulsion to write, which commands the work 
and guides the pen; so much so that at times the book which 
comes forth from your hands seems not to have been born of 
yourself at all . . ." " And George Eliot declared that "in all 
her writings which she considered her best, there was a 'not 
herself which took possession of her and made her feel 'her own 
personality to be merely the instrument through which the 
spirit acted/ " ^^ 

To be sure, there is a "something outside one's self," a power, 
a force, that lays hold of one and compels him to do thus and so. 
But there is nothing mysterious or mystical about it. It is not 
something unearthly or divine as Goethe suggested. It is simply 
the great tradition of culture that holds each one of us in its 
powerful embrace. When, as if in a river, we are caught up in 
a current or rapids of culture change, or swept into the vortex 
of cultural synthesis, we can do naught but give ourselves wholly 
to it. Then indeed do we feel a spirit and a power within us that 
we know full well is not our own. But we know whence it comes 
and what its nature is. It is the great and cumulative stream of 
human culture, flowing down to us from its sources in antiquity, 
carrying us upon its bosom, nourishing and sustaining us, using, 
but yet preserving rather than consuming, us for the culture and 
the generations yet to come. 

If mathematical ideas enter the mind of the individual mathe- 
matician from the outside, from the stream of culture into which 
he was born and reared, the question arises, where did culture in 
general, and mathematical culture in particular, come from in 
the first place? How did it arise and acquire its content? 

It goes without saying, of course, that mathematics did not 
originate with Euclid and Pythagoras— or even with the thinkers 


of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Mathematics is a develop- 
ment of thought that had its beginning with the origin of man 
and culture a million years or so ago. To be sure, little progress 
was made during hundreds of thousands of years. Still, we find in 
mathematics today systems and concepts that were developed by 
primitive and preliterate peoples of the Stone Ages, survivals of 
which are to be found among savage tribes today. The system 
of counting by tens arose from using the fingers of both hands. 
The vigesimal system of the Maya astronomers grew out of the 
use of toes as well as fingers. To calculate is to count with calculi, 
pebbles. A straight line was a stretched linen cord, and so on. 

To be sure, the first mathematical ideas to exist were brought 
into being by the nervous systems of individual human beings.* 
They were, however, exceedingly simple and rudimentary. Had it 
not been for the human ability to give these ideas overt expression 
in symbolic form and to communicate them from one person to 
another so that new combinations would be formed, and these 
new syntheses passed on from one generation to another in a 
continuous process of interaction and accumulation, the human 
species would have made no mathematical progress beyond its 
initial stage. This statement is supported by our studies of anthro- 

* The question of the extent to which the form and content of mathe- 
matical thought are determined by the structure of the human mind, i.e., by 
the neuro-sensory-muscular-etcetera system of man, is interesting and relevant 
but one into which we shall not go at length here. Obviously the structure of 
the human organism conditions all of man's experience, mathematical and 
otherwise. With regard to such things as "inherent and necessary laws of 
thought," however, it may be remarked that normal children and many primi- 
tive peoples find nothing wrong with the notion that a body can be in two 
different places at the same time — not to mention the objection that is raised 
to the phrase "at the same time" by the theory of relativity; 3=1 in some 
philosophies; an animal need not be either a mammal, A, or a non-mammal, 
not-A; it may be a monotreme, like the duckbill who lays eggs reptilian 
fashion but who suckles its young; etc. Whatever the influence of the struc- 
ture and processes of the human organism upon the "laws of thought or 
logic" may be, it must, of course, find expression in one cultural form or an- 
other; any neurological imperative will therefore always be conditioned by 


poid apes. They are exceedingly intelligent and versatile. They 
have a fine appreciation of geometric forms, solve problems by 
imagination and insight, and possess not a little originality. But 
they cannot express their neuro-sensory-muscular concepts in 
overt symbolic form. They cannot communicate their ideas to one 
another except by gestures, i.e., by signs rather than symbols. 
Hence ideas cannot react upon one another within their nervous 
systems to produce nev^' syntheses. Nor can these ideas be trans- 
mitted from one generation to another in a cumulative manner. 
Consequently, one generation of apes begins where the preceding 
generation began. There is neither accumulation nor progress. 

Thanks to articulate speech, the human species fares better. 
Ideas are cast into symbolic form and given overt expression. 
Communication is thus made easy and versatile. Ideas now im- 
pinge upon nervous systems from the outside. These ideas react 
upon one another within these nervous systems. Some are 
eliminated; others strengthened. New combinations are formed, 
new syntheses achieved. These advances are in turn communicated 
to someone else, transmitted to the next generation. In a relatively 
short time, the accumulation of mathematical ideas has gone 
beyond the creative range of the individual human nervous sys- 
tem unaided hy cultural tiadition. From this time on, mathe- 
matical progress is made by the interaction of ideas already in 
existence rather than by the creation of new concepts by the 
human nervous system alone. Ages before writing was invented, 
individuals in all cultures were dependent upon the mathematical 
ideas present in their respective cultures. Thus, the mathematical 
behavior of an Apache Indian is the response that he makes to 
stimuli provided by the mathematical ideas in his culture. The 
same was true for Neanderthal man and the inhabitants of ancient 
Eg}q3t, Mesopotamia and Greece. It is true for individuals of 
modern nations today. 

Thus we see that mathematical ideas were produced originally 
by the human nervous system when man first became a human 


being a million years ago. These concepts were exceedingly rudi- 
mentary, and the human nen'ous system, unaided by culture, 
could never have gone beyond them regardless of hov^^ many 
generations lived and died. It was the formation of a cultural 
tradition that made progress possible. The communication of 
ideas from person to person, the transmission of concepts from 
one generation to another, placed in the minds of men (i.e., 
stimulated their nervous systems) ideas which through inter- 
action formed new syntheses which were passed on in turn to 

We return now, in conclusion, to some of the observations of 
G. H. Hardy, to show that his conception of mathematical 
reality and mathematical behavior is consistent with the theory 
of culture that we have presented here and is, in fact, explained 
by it. 

"I believe that mathematical reality lies outside us," ^^ he says. 
If by ''us" he means "us mathematicians individually," he is quite 
right. They do lie outside each one of us; they are a part of the 
culture into which we are born. Hardy feels that "in some sense, 
mathematical truth is part of objective reality," ^^ (emphasis 
ours). But he also distinguishes "mathematical reality" from 
"physical reality," and insists that "pure geometries are not pic- 
tures . . . [of] the spatio-temporal reality of the physical world." 
What then is the nature of mathematical reality? Hardy declares 
that "there is no sort of agreement . . . among either mathe- 
maticians or philosophers" ~^ on this point. Our interpretation 
provides the solution. Mathematics does have objective reality. 
And this reality, as Hardy insists, is not the reality of the physical 
world. But there is no mystery about it. Its reality is cultural: the 
sort of reality possessed by a code of etiquette, traffic regulations, 
the rules of baseball, the English language or rules of grammar. 

Thus we see that there is no mystery about mathematical 
reality. We need not search for mathematical "truths" in the 


divine mind or in the structure of the Universe. Mathematics 
is a kind of primate behavior as languages, musical systems and 
penal codes are. Mathematical concepts are man-made just as 
ethical values, traffic rules, and bird cages are man-made. But this 
does not invalidate the belief that mathematical propositions lie 
outside us and have an objective reality. They do lie outside us. 
They existed before we were born. As we grow up we find them 
in the world about us. But this objectivity exists only for the indi- 
^•idual. The locus of mathematical reality is cultural tradition, 
i.e., the continuum of symbolic behavior. This theory illuminates 
also the phenomenon of novelty and progress in mathematics. 
Ideas interact with one another in the nervous systems of men 
and thus form new syntheses. If the owners of these nervous 
systems are aware of what has taken place they call it invention 
as Hadamard does, or "creation," to use Poincare's term. If they 
do not understand what has happened, they call it a "discovery" 
and belie\'e they have found something in the external world. 
Mathematical concepts are independent of the individual mind 
but lie wholly within the mind of the species, i.e., culture. 
Mathematical invention and discover}^ are merelv two aspects of 
an event that takes place simultaneously in the cultural tradition 
and in one or more human nervous systems. Of these two factors, 
culture is the more significant; the determinants of mathematical 
evolution lie here. Tlie human nen'ous system is merely the 
catalyst that makes the cultural process possible. 



"Again and again in the world's history, savage tribes must have had 
plainly before their minds the simple practical alternative between 
marrying-out and being killed out . . ." — E. B. Tylor i 


he subject of incest has a strange fascination for man. 
He was preoccupied with it long before he developed the 
art of writing. We find incestuous episodes in the mythol- 
ogies of countless peoples. And in advanced cultures, from 
Sophocles to Eugene O'Neill, incest has been one of the most 
popular of all literary themes. Men seem never to tire of it but 
continue to find it ever fresh and absorbing. Incest must indeed 
be reckoned as one of man's major interests in life. 

Yet, despite this intense and perennial concern, it is a fact 
that incest is but little understood even today. Men of science 
have been obliged all too often to admit that they are baffled and 
to declare that it is too mysterious, too obscure, to yield to rational 
interpretation, at least for the present. 

One of the more common explanations of the universal pro- 
hibition of incest is that it is instinctive. Thus Robert H. Lowie 
once accepted "Hobhouse's view that the sentiment is in- 
stinctive." ^ To "explain" an element of behavior by saying that 
it is "instinctive" contributes little to our understanding of it as 
a rule. Sometimes it merely conceals our ignorance with a verbal 
curtain of pseudo-knowledge. To say that prohibitions against 
incest are "instinctive" is of course to declare that there is a 



natural, inborn and innate feeling of revulsion toward unions with 
close relatives. But if this were the case, why should societies 
enact strict laws to prevent them? Why should they legislate 
against something that everyone already wishes passionately to 
avoid? Do not, as a matter of fact, the stringent and worldwide 
prohibitions indicate a universal and powerful desire for sexual 
unions with one's relatives? Clinical evidence points in the same 
direction, "Freud has shown all but conclusively," writes Golden- 
weiser, "that incestuous tendencies represent one of the most 
deeply rooted impulses of the individual." ^ 

There are further objections to the instinct theory. Some 
societies regard marriage with a first cousin as incestuous while 
others do not. Are we to assume that the instinct varies from 
tribe to tribe? Certainly when we consider our own legal defini- 
tions of incest, which vary from state to state, to claim that a 
biological instinct can recognize state boundary lines is somewhat 
grotesque. In some societies it is incestuous to marry a parallel 
cousin (a child of your father's brother or your mother's sister) 
but it is permissible, and may even be mandatory, to marry a 
cross cousin (a child of your father's sister or your mother's 
brother). We cannot see how "instinct" can account for this, 
either; in fact, we cannot see how instinct can distinguish a cross 
cousin from a parallel cousin. It is usually incestuous to marry a 
clansman even though no genealogical connection whatever can 
be discovered with him, whereas marriage with a close relative in 
another clan may be permissible. Plainly, the instinct theory does 
not help us at all, and it is not easy to find a scientist to defend 
it today.* 

* In 1932, Professor Lowie abandoned the instinct theory of incest pro- 
hibitions. But he comes no closer to an explanation than to observe that "the 
aversion to incest is, therefore, best regarded as a primeval cultural adaptation" 
(Lowic, 1933) p. 67. In one of his most recent works. An Introduction to 
Cultural Anthiopohg}' (2nd ed., New York, 1940) he again discusses incest 
but goes no further than to suggest that "the horror of incest is not inborn, 
<hough it is doubtless a very ancient cultural feature" (p. 232). 


Another theory, championed generations ago by Lewis H. 
Morgan * and others, and not without defenders today, is that 
incest was defined and prohibited because inbreeding causes bio- 
logical degeneration. This theory is so plausible as to seem self- 
evident, but it is wrong for all that. In the first place, inbreeding 
as such does not cause degeneration; the testimony of biologists 
is conclusive on this point. To be sure, inbreeding intensifies the 
inheritance of traits, good or bad. If the offspring of a union of 
brother and sister are inferior it is because the parents were of 
inferior stock, not because they were brother and sister. But 
superior traits as well as inferior ones can be intensified by in- 
breeding, and plant and animal breeders frequently resort to this 
device to improve their strains. If the children of brother-sister or 
father-daughter unions in our own society are frequently feeble- 
minded or otherwise inferior it is because feeble-minded indi- 
viduals are more likely to break the powerful incest taboo than 
are normal men and women and hence more likely to beget 
degenerate offspring. But in societies where brother-sister mar- 
riages are permitted or required, at least within the ruling family, 
as in ancient Egypt, aboriginal Hawaii and Incaic Peru, we may 
find excellence. Cleopatra was the offspring of brother-sister mar- 
riages continued through several generations and she was "not 
only handsome, vigorous, intellectual, but also prolific ... as 
perfect a specimen of the human race as could be found in any 
age or class of society." ^ 

But there is still another objection to the degeneration theory as 
a means of accounting for the origin of prohibitions against incest. 
A number of competent ethnographers have claimed that certain 
tribes are quite ignorant of the nature of the biological process 
of reproduction, specifically, that they are unaware of the relation- 
ship between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Or, they may 
believe that coitus is prerequisite to pregnancy but not the cause 
of it.^ Malinowski, for example, claims that the Trobriand Is- 
landers denied that copulation has anything to do with pregnancy, 


not only among human beings but among the lower animals as 
well." This thesis of ignorance of the facts of life among primitive 
peoples has been challenged by other ethnologists, and I am not 
prepared to adjudicate the dispute. But it may be pointed out 
that such ignorance should not be ver)' surprising. Once a fact 
becomes well known there is a tendency to regard it as self-evident. 
But the relationship between coitus and pregnancy, a condition 
that would not be discovered until weeks or even a few months 
later, is anything but obvious. Furthermore, pregnancy does not 
always follow intercourse. And knowing primitive man's penchant 
for explaining so many things, the phenomena of life and death 
especially, in terms of supernatural forces or agents, we should 
not be surprised to find some tribes even today who do not under- 
stand the physiology of paternity. 

At any rate, there must have been a time at which such under- 
standing was not possessed by any members of the human race. 
We have no reason to believe that apes have any appreciation of 
these facts, and it must have taken man a long time to acquire 
it. There are reasons, however, as we shall show later on, for 
believing that incest taboos appeared in the very earliest stage 
of human social evolution, in all probability prior to an under- 
standing of paternity. The reason for the prohibition of inbreed- 
ing could not therefore have been a desire to prevent deterioration 
of stock if the connection between copulation and the birth of 
children w^ere not understood. 

This thesis receives additional support from a consideration of 
the kinship systems of primitive peoples. In these systems a per- 
son calls many of his collateral relatives "brother" and "sister," 
namely, his parallel cousins of several degrees for example, and the 
children of his mother's and father's parallel cousins, also of 
several degrees. Marriage between individuals who call each other 
"brother" and "sister" is strictly prohibited by the incest taboo, 
even though they be cousins of the third or fourth degree. But 
marriage with a first cross-cousin may be permitted and often 


is required. Now these people may not understand the biology 
of conception and pregnancy, but they know which woman bore 
each child. Thus we see that the marriage rules disregard the 
degree of biological relationship so far as preventing inbreeding is 
concerned; they may prohibit marriage with a fourth parallel 
cousin who is called "brother" or "sister," but permit or require 
marriage with a first cross-cousin who is called "cousin." Obviously, 
the kinship terms express sociological rather than biological re- 
lationships. Obvious also is the fact that the incest taboos follow 
the pattern of social ties rather than those of blood. 

But suppose that inbreeding did produce inferior offspring, are 
we to suppose that ignorant, magic-ridden savages could have 
established this correlation without rather refined statistical tech- 
niques? How could they have isolated the factor of inbreeding 
from numerous others such as genetics, nutrition, illnesses of 
mother and infant, etc., without some sort of medical criteria 
and measurements— even though crude— and v^ithout even the 
rudiments of statistics? 

Finally, if we should grant that inbreeding does produce de- 
generacy, and that primitive peoples were able to recognize this 
fact, why did they prohibit marriage with a parallel cousin while 
allowing or even requiring union with a cross-cousin? Both are 
equally close biologically. Or, why was marriage with a clansman 
prohibited even though the blood tie was so remote that it could 
not be established genealogically with the data available to 
memory, while marriage with a non-clansman was permitted even 
though he was a close blood relative? Obviously, the degeneracy 
theory is as weak as the instinct hypothesis although it may be 
more engaging intellectually. 

Sigmund Freud's theory is ingenious and appealing— in a dra- 
matic sort of way at least. Proceeding from Darwin's conjectures 
concerning the primal social state of man, based upon what was 
then known about anthropoid apes, and utilizing W. Robertson 
Smith's studies of totemism and sacrifice, Freud developed the 


following thesis: in the earliest stage of human society, people 
lived in small groups each of which was dominated by a powerful 
male, the Father. This individual monopolized all females in the 
group, daughters as well as mothers. As the young males grew up 
and became sexually mature, the father drove them away to keep 
them from sharing his females with him. 

"One day," says Freud in Totem and Tahoo, "the expelled 
brothers joined forces, slew and ate the father, and thus put an 
end to the father horde. Together they dared and accomplished 
what would have remained impossible for them singly." ^ But 
they did not divide their father's women among themselves as 
they had planned. Now that he was dead their hatred and ag- 
gressiveness disappeared, and their love and respect for him came 
to the fore. As a consequence, they determined to give him in 
death the submission and obedience they had refused in life. 
They made therefore a solemn pact to touch none of their father's 
women and to seek mates elsewhere. This pledge was passed on 
from one generation to the next: * You must have nothing to 
do with the women of your father's household, i.e., of your own 
group, but must seek other mates. In this way the incest taboo 
and the institution of exogamy came into being. This part of 
Totem and Taboo is great drama and not without value as an 
interpretation of powerful psychological forces, just as Hamlet 
is great drama in the same sense. But as ethnology, Freud's theory 
would still be inadequate even if this much were verifiable. It does 
not even attempt to account for the many and varied forms of 
incest prohibition. 

It is not our purpose here to survey and criticize all of the many 
theories that have been advanced in the past to account for the 

* In another work, Contributions to the Theory of Sex, Freud suggests, if 
he does not say so outright, that the incest taboo became incorporated into 
the germ plasm and was consequently transmitted by means of biological 
heredity: "The incest barrier probably belongs to the historical acquisitions of 
humanity and, like other moral taboos, it must be fixed in many individuals 
through organic heredity," (Freud, 1938) p. 617. 


definition and prohibition of incest. We may, however, briefly 
notice two others before we leave the subject, namely, those of 
E. Westermarck and Emile Durkheim. 

Westermarck's thesis that "the fundamental cause of the exoga- 
mous prohibitions seems to be the remarkable absence of erotic 
feelings between persons living very closely together from child- 
hood, leading to a positive feeling of aversion when the act is 
thought of," ^ is not in accord with the facts in the first place 
and would still be inadequate if it were. Propinquity does not 
annihilate sexual desire, and if it did there would be no need 
for stringent prohibitions. Secondly, incest taboos are frequently 
in force between persons not living in close association. 

Durkheim attempts to explain the prohibition of incest as a 
part of his general theory of totemism." The savage knew intui- 
tively, Durkheim reasoned, that blood is a vital fluid or principle. 
To shed the blood of one's own totemic group would be a great 
sin or crime. Since blood would be shed in the initial act of inter- 
course, a man must eschew all women of his own totem. Thus the 
taboo against incest and rules of exogamy came into being. This 
theory is wholly inadequate ethnologically. Taboos against incest 
are much more widespread than totemism; the former are uni- 
versal, the latter is far from being so. And the theory does not 
even attempt to explain the many diverse forms of the definition 
and prohibition of incest. 

In view of repeated attempts and as many failures to account 
for the origin of definitions of incest and of rules regulating its 
prohibition, is it any wonder that many scholars, surveying de- 
cades of fruitless theories, have become discouraged and have 
come to feel that the problem is still too difficult to yield to 
scientific interpretation? 

In the same work in which he presented his theory, but some 
pages earlier, Freud said: "Still, in the end, one is compelled to 
subscribe to Frazer's resigned statement, namely, that we do not 


know the origin of incest dread and do not even know how to 

" « 

guess at it. 

Professor Ralph Linton treats of the subject as follows: 

The causes which underlie such limitations on marriage, 
technically known as incest regulations, are very imperfectly 
understood. Since these regulations are of universal occur- 
rence, it seems safe to assume that their causes are every- 
where present, but biological factors can be ruled out at once. 
Close inbreeding is not necessarily injurious . . . Neither are 
purely social explanations of incest regulations altogether satis- 
facton^ since the forms which these regulations assume are 
extremely varied ... It seems possible that there are certain 
psychological factors involved, but these can hardly be strong 
enough or constant enough to account for the institutionaliza- 
tion of incest regulations . . . They have probably originated 
from a combination of all these factors . , .^^ 

In other words, somewhere in the man-culture situation lie 
the causes of incest regulations, but where they are and why and 
how they are exercised are matters too obscure for description or 

The late Alexander Goldenweiser, a prominent disciple of Franz 
Boas, never discovered the secret of the prohibition of incest. In 
Early Civih'zation he spoke of certain taboos that "are everywhere 
reinforced by the so-called 'horror of incest,' an emotional reaction 
of somewhat mysterious origin." Fifteen years later in Anthro- 
pology, his last major work, he could go no farther than to repeat 
these identical words.^^ 

The sociologists have little to offer. Kimball Young, for example, 
disavows instinct as the source of incest prohibitions, but he 

* Totem and Taboo, p. 217. Frazer's statement was: "Thus the ultimate 
origin of exogamy and with it the law of incest — since exogamy was devised 
to prevent incest — remains a problem nearly as dark as ever," {Totemism 
and Exogamy, Vol. I, p. 165). 


advances no further explanation than to assert that "the taboo is 
a rather constant and expected result arising from the very nature 
of the social interaction between parents and children and among 
the children themselves" i^— which is virtually equivalent to no 
explanation at all. 

Dr. Clark Wissler, one of the foremost anthropologists of our 
day, observes: 

". . . so far as we can see, the only facts sufficiently well estab- 
lished to serve as a starting point are that anti-incest responses of 
some kind are universal among mankind. As to why these are 
universal, we are no nearer a solution than before." ^* 

These are discouraging words indeed. "Anti-incest responses" 
help us no more than "an instinctive horror" of incest. But in the 
phrase "we are no nearer a solution [now] than before," we 
may find a clue to a way out of the dilemma. Perhaps these 
theorists have been on the wrong track. Science has found itself 
on the wrong track countless times during its relatively brief 
career so far. So many, in fact, that many of the important achieve- 
ments of science consist, not in the discovery of some new fact 
or principle, but in erecting signs which read "Blind alley. Do 
not enter!" Phrenology was one of these blind alleys. But until 
it has been explored, how can one know whether a passage is 
a blind alley or a corridor leading to a new world? Once it has 
been found to be a blind alley, however, other scientists need 
not and should not waste their time exploring it again. Perhaps 
we are confronted by blind alleys in the various theories of incest 
and exogamy that we have just surveyed. Wissler's admission 
that "we are no nearer a solution [now] than before" would lead 
us to think so. 

Fortunately we are not in the situation of a mariner who has 
lost his bearings and who must try to recover his true course. 
We do not need to seek a new path in the hope of finding an 


adequate solution of the problem of incest. The solution has 

. already been found, and that long ago. 

Confusion in this field of ethnological theory has been due to 
circumstances such as we have just described. Theorists who have 
sought biological or psychological explanations of incest taboos 
have been on the wrong track; they have only led us into blind 
alleys. Those who have sought a culturological explanation have 
succeeded fully and well. The culturological point of view is 
younger and less widely known than the psychological or even 
sociological. Although it was set forth simply and adequately by 
the great English anthropologist, E. B. Tylor, as early as 1871, in 
the first chapter of Primitive Culture— which was significantly 

, enough entitled 'The Science of Culture"— it has not become 
widely known or appreciated among social scientists, even among 
cultural anthropologists. There are some who recognize in the 
new science of culture only a mystical, fatalistic metaphysic that 
should be shunned like the Devil. So habituated to psychological 
interpretations are many students of human behavior that they 
are unable to rise to the level of culturological interpretation. 
Thus, Goldenweiser looked to psychology for ethnological salva- 
tion: "It seems hardly fair to doubt that psychoanalysis will 
ultimately furnish a satisfactory psychological interpretation of 
this 'horror of incest'." ^^ Professor Wm. F. Ogburn observes 

"Incest taboos and marriage regulations may be quite fully 
described historically and culturally, yet there is something de- 
cidedly strange about incest and about marriage prohibitions. 
One's curiosity is not satisfied by the cultural facts." * 

* Social Change, p. 175. What Professor Ogburn means apparently is that 
culturology cannot tell us all that we want to know about incest. This is true; 
psychology must be enlisted in the inquiry also. But one must insist upon a 
sharp and clear distinction between the psychological problem and cultur- 
ological problem. Psychology cannot account for the origin or the form of the 
.prohibitions; only culturology can do this. But for an understanding of the 
way the human primate organism behaves — thinks, feels, and acts — within, 
or with reference to, one of these cultural forms, we must go to psychology. 


And even men like Lowie and Wissler, who have done excellent 
•work along culturological lines in other areas, have relapsed to 
the psychological level when confronted with the problem of 
incest. Thus Lowie once declared that "it is not the function of 
the ethnologist but of the biologist and psychologist to explain 
I why man has so deep-rooted a horror of incest." ^'^ And Wissler 
is inclined to turn over all problems of cultural origins to the 
psychologist, leaving to the anthropologist the study of traits 
after they have been launched upon their cultural careers. ^^ 

The science of culture has, as we have already indicated, long 
ago given us an adequate explanation of incest prohibitions. We 
find it set forth simply and succinctly in an essay by E. B. Tylor 
published in 1888: "On a Method of Investigating the Develop- 
ment of Institutions, Applied to the Laws of Marriage and 
Descent." "Exogamy," he wrote, "enabling a growing tribe tol 
keep itself compact by constant unions between its spreading 
clans, enables it to overmatch any number of small intermarrying 
groups, isolated and helpless. Again and again in the world's 
history, savage tribes must have had plainly before their minds 
the simple practical alternative between marrying-out and being \ 
killed out" (p. 267). ,^^A 

The origin of incest taboos greatly antedates clan organization, 
but a sure clue to an understanding of incest prohibitions and 
exogamy is given by Tylor nevertheless: primitive people were 
confronted with a choice between "marrying-out and being killed 
out." The argument may be set forth as follows: 

Man, like all other animal species, is engaged in a struggle 
for existence. Co-operation, mutual aid, may become valuable 
means of carrying on this struggle at many points. A number of 
individuals working together can do many things more cfEciently 
and effectively than the same individuals working singly. And a 
co-operative group can do certain things that lone individuals can- 
not do at all. Mutual aid makes life more secure for both indi- 
vidual and group. One might expect, therefore, that in the struggle 


for security and survival every effort would be made to foster 
co-operation and to secure its benefits. 

Among the lower primates there is little co-operation. To be 
sure, in very simple operations one ape may co-ordinate his efforts 
with those of another. But their co-operation is limited and rudi- 
mentary because the means of communication are crude and 
limited; co-operation requires communication. Monkeys and apes 
can communicate with one another by means of signs— vocal 
utterances or gestures— but the range of ideas that can be com- 
municated in this way is very narrow indeed. Only articulate 
speech can make extensive and versatile exchange of ideas possible, 
and this is lacking among anthropoids. Such a simple form of 
co-operation as "you go around the house that way while I go 
around the other way, meeting you on the far side," is beyond the 
reach of the great apes. With the advent of articulate speech, 
however, the possibilities of communication became virtually un- 
limited. We can readily see its significance for social organization 
in general and for incest and exogamy in particular. 

One might get the impression from some psychologists, the 
Freudians especially, perhaps, that the incestuous wish is itself 
instinctive, that somehow a person "just naturally" focuses his 
sexual desires upon a relative rather than upon a non-relative, and, 
among relatives, upon the closer rather than the remoter degrees 
of consanguinity. This view is quite as unwarranted as the theory 
of an "instinctive horror" of incest; an inclination toward sexual 
union with close relatives is no more instinctive than the social 
regulations devised to prevent it. A child has sexual hunger as 
well as food hunger. And he fixes his sex hunger upon certain 
individuals as he does his food hunger upon certain edible sub- 
stances. He finds sexual satisfaction in persons close to him be- 
cause they are close to him, not because they are his relatives. 
To be sure, they may be close to him because they are his relatives, 
but that is another matter. As a consequence of proximity and 
satisfaction the child fixates his sexual desires upon his immediate 


associates, his parents and his sibhngs, just as he fixates his food 
hungers upon familiar foods that have given satisfaction. He thus 
comes to have definite orientations and firm attachments in the 
realm of sex as in the field of nutrition. There is thus no mystery 
about incestuous desire; it is merely the formation and fixation, 
of definite channels of experience and satisfaction. | 

We find therefore, even in sub-human primate families, a strong 
inclination toward inbreeding; one strives to obtain sexual satis- 
faction from a close associate. This tendency is carried over into 
human society. But here it is incompatible with the co-operative 
way of life that articulate speech makes possible. In the basic 
activities of subsistence, and defense against enemies, co-operation ' 
becomes important because life is made more secure thereby. \ 
Other factors being constant, the tribe that exploits most fully the 
possibilities of mutual aid will have the best chance to survive. 
In times of crisis, co-operation may become a matter of life or 
death. In providing food and maintaining an effective defense 
against foreign foes, co-operation becomes all-important. 

But would primordial man be obliged to construct a co-opera- 
tive organization for subsistence and defense from the very begin- 
ning, or could he build upon a foundation already in existence? 
In the evolutionary process, whether it be social or biological, we 
almost always find the new growing out of, or based upon, the 
old. And such was the case here; the new co-operative organization 
for food and defense was built upon a structure already present: 
the family. After all, virtually everyone belonged to one family 
or another, and the identification of the co-operative group with 
the sex-based family would mean that the benefits of mutual aid 
would be shared by all. When, therefore, certain species of an- 
thropoids acquired articulate speech and became human beings, a 
new element, an economic factor, was introduced into an institu- 
tion which had up to now rested solely upon sexual attraction 
between male and female. We are, of course, using the term 
economic in a rather broad sense here to include safety as well 


as subsistence. The human primate family had now become a 
corporation with nutritive and protective functions as well as 
sexual and incidentally reproductive functions. And life was made 
more secure as a consequence. 

But a regime of co-operation confined to the members of a 
family would be correspondingly limited in its benefits. If co- 
operation is advantageous within family groups, why not between 
families as well? The problem was now to extend the scope of 
mutual aid. 

In the primate order, as we have seen, the social relationships 
between mates, parents and children, and among siblings ante- 
dates articulate speech and co-operation. They are strong as well 
as primary. And, just as the earliest co-operative group was built 
upon these social ties, so would a subsequent extension of mutual 
aid have to reckon with them. At this point we run squarely 
agains.t the tendency to mate with an intimate associate. Co- 
operation between families cannot be established if parent marries 
child; and brother, sister. A way must be found to overcome this 
centripetal tendency with a centrifugal force. This way was found 
in the definition and prohibition of incest. If persons were for- 
bidden to marry their parents or siblings they would be compelled 
to marry into some other family group— or remain celibate, which 
is contrary to the nature of primates. The leap was taken; a way 
was found to unite families with one another, and social evolution 
as a human affair was launched upon its career. It would be 
difficult to exaggerate the significance of this step. Unless some 
way had been found to establish strong and enduring social ties 
between families, social evolution could have gone no farther on 
the human level than among the anthropoids. 
r With the definition and prohibition of incest, hmilies became 
I units in the co-operative process as well as individuals. Marriages 
1 came to be contracts first between families, later between even 
Llargcr groups. The individual lost much of his initiative in court- 
ship and choice of mates for it was now a group affair. Among 


many primitive peoples a youth may not even be acquainted with 
his bride before marriage; in some cases he may not even have seen 
her. Children may be betrothed in childhood or infancy— or even 
before they are born. To be sure, there are tribes where one can 
become acquainted or even intimate with his spouse before mar- 
riage, but the group character of the contract is there nevertheless. 
And in our own society today a marriage is still an alliance be- 
tween families to a very considerable extent. Many a man has 
expostulated, "But I am marrying her, not her family!" only to 
discover his lack of realism later. 

The widespread institutions of levirate and sororate are explain- 
able by this theory also. In the levirate a man marries the wife or 
wives of his deceased brother. When a man customarily marries 
the unwed sister of his deceased wife the practice is called sororate. 
In both cases the group character of marriage is manifest. Each 
group of consanguinei supplies a member of the other group with 
a spouse. If the spouse dies, the relatives of the deceased must 
supply another to take his or her place. The alliance between 
families is important and must be continued; even death cannot 
part them. 

The equally widespread institutions of bride-price and dowry 
likewise find their significance in the prohibition of incest to 
establish co-operation between family groups. The incest taboo 
necessitates marriage between family groups. But it cannot guar- 
antee a continuation of the mutual aid arrangement thus estab- 
lished. This is where bride-price and dowry come in: they are 
devices for making permanent the marriage tie that the prohi- 
bition of incest has established. When a family or a group of 
relatives has received articles of value as bride-price or dowry, they 
distribute them as a rule among their various members. Should 
the marriage tie be broken or dissolved, they may have to return 
the wealth received at the time of the marriage. This is almost 
certain to be the case if it can be shown that the spouse whose 
relatives were the recipients of the bride-price or dowry was at 


fault. It very often happens that the relatives are reluctant to 
return the wealth if indeed they still have it. If it has already been 
consumed they will have to dig into their own pockets. It may 
already be earmarked for the marriage of one of their own group. 
In any event, the return of dowry or bride-price would be an in- 
convenience or a deprivation. Consequently they are likely to take 
a keen interest in the marriage and to try to prevent their own 
relative from doing anything to disrupt it. 

. According to our theory the prohibition of incest has at bottom 
an economic motivation— not that primitive peoples were aware of 

I this motive, however, for they were not. Rules of exogamy origin- 
ated as crystallizations of processes of a social system rather than 

I as products of individual psyches. Inbreeding was prohibited and 
marriage between groups was made compulsory in order to obtain 
the maximum benefits of co-operation. If this theory be sound, 

' we should find marriage and the family in primitive society wear- 

j ing a definite economic aspect. This is, in fact, precisely what we 
do find. Let us turn for summary statements to two leading au- 
thorities in social anthropology. Professor Robert H. Lowie writes 
as follows: 

Marriage, as we cannot too often or too vehemently insist, is 
only to a limited extent based on sexual considerations. The 
primary motive, so far as the individual mates are concerned, 
is precisely the founding of a self-sufficient economic aggregate. 
A Kai [of New Guinea] does not marry because of desires he 
can readily gratify outside of wedlock without assuming any 
responsibilities; he marries because he needs a woman to make 
pots and to cook his meals, to manufacture nets and weed his 
plantations, in return for which he provides the household with 
game and fish and builds the dwelling.^^ 

And A. R. Radcliffe-Brown makes similar observations con- 
cerning the aborigines of Australia: 


The important function of the family is that it provides for the 
feeding and bringing up of the children. It is based on the co- 
operation of man and wife, the former providing the flesh food 
and the latter the vegetable food, so that quite apart from the 
question of children a man without a wife is in an unsatis- 
factory position since he has no one to supply him regularly 
with vegetable food, to provide his firewood, and so on. This 
economic aspect of the family is a most important one ... I 
believe that in the minds of the natives themselves this aspect 
of marriage, i.e., its relation to subsistence, is of greatly more 
importance than the fact that man and wife are sexual 
partners .^^ 

Turning to the colonial period in America we find the economic 
character of the family equally pronounced. According to Professor 
Wm. F. Ogburn: 

In colonial times in America the family was a very important 
economic organization. Not infrequently it produced sub- 
stantially all that it consumed, with the exception of such 
things as metal tools, utensils, salt and certain luxuries. The 
home was, in short, a factory. Civilization was based on a 
domestic system of production of which the family was the 

The economic power of the family produced certain corre- 
sponding social conditions. In marrying, a man sought not 
only a mate and companion but a business partner.* Husband 
and wife each had specialized skills and contributed definite 
services to the partnership. Children were regarded, as the laws 

* We recall Benjamin Franklin's account of his proposal to marry a girl 
providing her parents would give him "as much money with their daughter 
as would pay off my remaining debt for the printing-house." He even sug- 
gested that they "mortgage their house in the loan-office" if they did not 
have the cash on hand. The parents, however, thought the printing business 
a poor risk and declined to give both money and girl. "Therefore," says 
Frankhn, "I was forbidden the house, and the daughter shut up," (Auto- 
biography, Pocket Books, Inc., New York, 1940), p. 78. 


of the time showed, not only as objects of affection but as 
productive agents. The age of marriage, the birth rate and 
the attitude toward divorce were all affected by the fact that 
the home was an economic institution. Divorce or separation 
not only broke a personal relationship but a business one as 

And in our own society today, the economic basis of marriage 
and the family is made clear by suits for breach of promise and 
alienation of affections in which the law takes a very materialistic, 
even monetary, view of love and romance.* Suits for non-support, 
alimony, property settlements upon divorce, the financial obliga- 
tions between parents and children, and so on, exhibit further the 
economic function of the family. Marriage for many women today 
means a greater economic return for unskilled labor than could 
be obtained in any other occupation. 

It is interesting to note, in this connection, that Freud who, 
according to popular belief, "attributes everything to sex," never- 
theless declares that "the motivating force of human society is 
fundamentally economic." ^^ 

The notion that marriage is an institution brought into being 

to provide individuals with a means of satisfying their sex hunger 

i~is naive and anthropocentric. Marriage does provide an avenue of 

sexual exercise and satisfaction, to be sure. But it was not sexual de- 

. sire that produced the institution. Rather, it was the exigencies of 

* One court ruling observes that "the gist of the action for ahenation of 
affections is the loss of consortium. 'This is a property right growing out of 
the marriage relation' . . ." (Supreme Court of Connecticut, Case of Maggay 
vs. Nikitko, 1933), quoted by Anthony M. Turano, "The Racket of Stolen 
Love," (American Mercury, Vol. 33, p. 295, November, 1934). 

Another legal statement says that "the law generally takes the rather worldly 
view that marriage is a 'valuable' consideration; a thing not only possessing 
value, but one the value of which may be estimated in money, and there- 
fore, in a sense, marriage engagements are regarded as business transactions, 
entered into with a view, in part, at least, to pecuniary advantage," (Ruling 
Case Law, Vol. 4, p. 143), quoted by Anthony M. Turano, "Breach of 
Promise: Still a Racket," (American Mercury, Vol. 32, p. 40, May, 1934). 


a social system that was striving to make full use of its resources 
for co-operative endeavor. Marriage, as an institution, finds its 
explanation in terms of sociocultural process rather than individual 
psychology. In primitive society there was frequently ample means 
of sexual exercise outside of wedlock. And in our own society the 
great extent of prostitution, the high incidence of venereal disease 
as an index of promiscuity, as well as other evidence, show that 
the exercise of sexual functions is not confined to one's own 
spouse by any means. As a matter of fact, marriage very often 
restricts the scope of one's sexual activity. Indeed, monogamy 
ideally considered is the next thing to celibacy. 

Nor is love the basis of marriage and the family, however 
fondly this notion may be cherished. No culture could afford 
to use such a fickle and ephemeral sentiment as love as the basis 
of an important institution. Love is here today but it may be 
gone tomorrow. But economic needs are with us always. Absence 
of love is not sufficient grounds for divorce. Indeed, one may 
despise and loathe, hate and fear, one's mate and still be unable 
to obtain a divorce. Until very recently at least one state in the 
Union would grant no divorce at all. And certain religious faiths 
take the same position. Marriage and the family are society's first 
and fundamental way of making provision for the economic 
needs of the individual. And it was the definition and prohibition 
of incest that initiated his whole course of social development. 

But to return to the definitions and prohibitions themselves. 
These vary, as we saw at the outset, from culture to culture. The 
variations are to be explained in terms of the specific circumstances 
under which co-operation is to take place. One set of circumstances 
will require one definition of incest and one form of marriage; 
another set will require different customs. The habitat and the 
technological adjustment to it, the mode of subsistence, cir- 
cumstances of defense and offense, division of labor between the 
sexes, and degree of cultural development, are factors which con- 
dition the definition of incest and the formulation of rules to 


prohibit it. No people known to modern science customarily 
permits marriage between parent and child. Brother-sister marriage 
has been permitted in certain cultures such as those of ancient 
Egypt, Hawaii, and Peru under the Incas, but in each instance it 
was restricted to the ruling household. But this was not incest 
or "royal incest" as Lowie and Fortune call it respectively." Nor 
was it "sanctioned incest" to use Kimball Young's phrase." 
"Sanctioned incest" is of course a contradiction of terms; incest 
is by definition something criminal and prohibited. These mar- 
riages between siblings of royal families were not only not pro- 
hibited, they were required. They are examples of endogamy, as 
the prohibition of brother-sister marriages are examples of 
exogamy. Solidarity is a source of strength and effective action in 
society, as co-operation is a way of achieving security. And 
endogamy promotes solidarity as exogamy fosters size and strength 
of mutual aid groups. 

In view of the fact that a sure clue to the reason of the origin 
of prohibitions of incest was set forth by Tylor as early as 1888, 
it is rather remarkable that we should find anthropologists and 
sociologists today who juggle with "anti-incest responses" and 
who look to psychoanalysis for ultimate understanding. As a 
matter of fact, we find the reasons for exogamy set forth by Saint 
Augustine in The City oi God (Bk. XV), more than 1400 years 
before Tylor. 

"For it is very reasonable and just/' Augustine says, "that men, 
among whom concord is honorable and useful, should be bound 
together by various relationships, and that one man should not 
himself sustain many relationships, but that the various relation- 
ships should be distributed among several, and should thus serve 
to bind together the greatest number in the same social interests. 
'Father' and 'father-in-law' are the names of two relationships. 
When, therefore, a man has one person for his father, another for 
his father-in-law, friendship extends itself to a larger number." 


He comments upon the fact that Adam was both father and 
father-in-law to his sons and daughters: 

"So too Eve his wife was both mother and mother-in-law to 
her children . . . while had there been two women, one the 
mother, the other the mother-in-law, the family affection would 
have had a wider field. Then the sister herself by becoming a wife 
sustained in her single person two relationships which, had they 
been distributed among individuals, one being sister, and an- 
other being wife, the family tie would have embraced a greater 
number of persons." 

Saint Augustine does not, in these passages at least, make 
explicit the advantages in security of life which would accrue to 
the group as a consequence of exogamy. But he makes it quite 
clear that community of social interest and "greater numbers of 
persons" in the group are the reasons for the prohibition of incest. 

If an understanding of incest and exogamy is as old in social 
philosophy as Saint Augustine and as early in anthropological 
science as Tylor, why is it that the subject is still so obscure and 
so little understood among scholars today? We have already 
suggested the answer: a preference for psychological rather than 
culturological explanations. Anthropomorphism is an inveterate 
habit in human thought. To explain institutions in terms of psy- 
chology—of wish, desire, aversion, imagination, fear, etc.— has long 
been popular. Explanations of human behavior in terms of psy- 
chological determinants preceded therefore explanations in terms 
of cultural determinants. But culturological problems cannot be 
solved by psychology. Preoccupation with psychological explana- 
tions has not only kept many scholars from finding the answer; 
it has prevented them from recognizing the solution when it has 
been reached by the science of culture. The sociological explana- 
tion, such as Kimball Young's "social interaction," is no better. 
As a scientific explanation it is not only inadequate; it is empty 
and meaningless. The sociologist's fixation upon "social inter- 
action" keeps him, too, from appreciating a scientific interpreta- 


tion of culture as a distinct class of phenomena. Even men who 
have made notable contributions to culturology, such as Kroeber, 
Lowie, and Wissler, have failed to appreciate the full significance 
of Tylor's early discussion of exogamy. The following incident is 
remarkable and revealing. A. L. Kroeber and T. T. Waterman re- 
printed Tylor's essay, "On the Method of Investigating the 
Development of Institutions/' in their Source Book in Anthro- 
pology in 1920. But in a subsequent edition, they cut the article 
down apparently to conserve space, and omitted this highly 
significant passage! 

Important contributions to science are sometimes made "before 
their time," that is, before the general level of scientific advance 
has reached a point where widespread appreciation becomes pos- 
sible. There was really very little that was novel in the work of 
Darwin; most if not all of the ideas and facts had been presented 
before. But the broad frcnt of the cultural process of biologic 
thought had not advanced sufficiently prior to 1859 to make a 
general acceptance of this point of view possible. So it is with the 
problem of incest. An adequate explanation has been extant for 
decades. But, because the problem is a culturological one, and 
because the science of culture is still so young and so few scholars 
even today are able to grasp and appreciate its nature and scope, 
an understanding of incest and its prohibitions is still very 
limited. As culturology develops and matures, however, this 
understanding as well as that of a host of other supra-psychological 
problems will become commonplace. 

We do not wish to minimize the extent of this understanding 
today. Despite the ignorance and confusion of many scholars, 
there is a considerable number who do understand incest taboos. 
Thus Reo Fortune states that: 

"A separation of affinal relationship from consanguineous 
relationship assures a wider recognition of social obligation, . . . 
Any incestuous alliance between two persons within a single con- 


sanguineous group is in so far a withdrawal of their consanguineous 
group from the aUiance and so endangers the group's survival." ^* 

Malinowski, too, has illuminated the problem of incest taboos. 
Instead of emphasizing, however, the positive values that would 
accrue from alliances formed as a consequence of compulsory 
exogamy, he dwells upon the disruption and discord that the un~ ^ 
restricted exercise of sexual appetites would introduce into a small ( 
group of relatives or close associates. "The sexual impulse," he i 
writes, "is in general a very upsetting and socially disruptive 
force, [it] cannot enter into a previously existing sentiment with- 
out producing a revolutionary change in it. Sexual interest is 
therefore incompatible with any family relationship, whether 
parental or between brothers and sisters ... If erotic passion were 
allowed to invade the precincts of the home it would not merely 
establish jealousies and competitive elements and disorganize the 
family but it would also subvert the most fundamental bonds of 
kinship on which the further development of all social relations 
is based ... A society which allowed incest could not develop a 
stable family; it would therefore be deprived of the strongest 
foundations for kinship, and this in a primitive community would 
mean absence of social order." ^s 

B. Z. Seligman expresses somewhat similar views— as well as 
others that are less discerning. John Gillin has a fine statement on 
the origin and function of incest taboos tucked away in a footnote 
in a monograph on the Barama River Caribs. Raymond Firth 
presents an illuminating "sociological" analysis of the problem in 
We, the Tikopia. Wm. I. Thomas sees clearly the reasons for pro- 
hibitions of incest: "the horror of incest is thus plainly of social 
derivation." ^^ 

And Freud, apart from his drama of patricide, comes close to an 
understanding of incest taboos and exogamy. The "incest pro- 
hibition," he says, "had ... a strong practical foundation. Sexual 
need does not unite men; it separates them . . . Thus there was 
nothing left for the brothers [after they had killed their father], 


if they wanted to live together, but to erect the incest pro- 
hibition." -' In another work he observes that: 

"The observance of this [incest] barrier is above all a demand of 
cultural society, which must guard against the absorption by the 
family of those interests which it needs for the production of 
higher social units. Society, therefore, uses all means to loosen 
those family ties in every individual." ^s 

The cultural function, if not the genesis, of incest taboos and 
of rules of exogamy seems to be very clearly seen and appreciated 
here. It is interesting to note, too, that Freud holds substantially 
the same view of the relationship between restrictions upon sexual 
gratification and social evolution that has been set forth earlier in 
this essay. One of the principal themes of Civilization and Its Dis- 
contents is "the extent to which civilization is built up on re- 
nunciation of instinctual gratifications . . . This 'cultural 
privation' dominates the whole field of social relations between 
human beings." He sees that "the first result of culture was that 
a larger number of human beings could live together in common"; 
that "one of culture's principal endeavors is to cement men and 
women together in larger units." ^^ Thus, although he proceeds 
from different premises, Freud comes to essentially the same con- 
clusion as ours. 

There is, then, considerable understanding of incest and 
exogamy extant in the literature today. Yet, in a comparatively 
recent review of the whole problem a prominent anthropologist, 
John M. Cooper, has concluded that "the desire to multiply the 
social bonds [has] in all probability not been [an] important 
factor" in the origin of incest prohibitions. How far he is from 
an understanding of the problem is indicated by the two "chief 
factors" which he cites: "(a) sex callousness, resulting from early 
and intimate association . . . ; (b) the distinctly social purpose 
of preserving standards of sex decency within the family and kin- 
ship circle." ^° The first factor is contrary to fact; intimacy fosters 
incest rather than callousness. The second explains nothing at 


all: what are standards of sex decency, why do they vary from 
tribe to tribe, and why is it necessary to preserve them? 

The culturological theory of incest receives support from a com- 
parison of primitive cultures with our own. The crime of incest 
is punished with greater severity in primitive societies than in 
our own, as Freud, Fortune and others have observed. Among the 
former the penalty of death is quite common; in our society 
punishment seldom exceeds ten years imprisonment and is often 
much less. The reason for this difference is not far to seek. In 
primitive societies, personal and kinship ties between individuals 
and families were more important than they are in highly 
developed cultures. The small mutual aid group was a tremen- 
dously important social unit in the struggle for security. The very 
survival of the group depended to a considerable extent upon al- 
liances formed by exogamy. In advanced cultures the situation is 
different. Society is no longer based upon kinship ties, but upon 
property relationships and territorial distinctions. The political 
state has replaced the tribe and clan. Occupational groups and 
economic organization also become important bases of social life. 
The importance of exogamy is thus much diminished and the 
penalties for incest become less severe. It is not to be expected, 
however, that restrictions upon inbreeding will ever be removed 
entirely. Kinship is still an important, though relatively less im- 
portant, feature of our social organization and will probably 
remain so indefinitely. Rules of exogamy and endogamy will there- 
fore continue to be needed to regulate and order this aspect of 
our social life. 

In the various interpretations, both sound and unsound, of the 
definition and prohibition of incest we have a neat example of a 
contrast between psychological explanations on the one hand and 
culturological explanations on the other. The problem simply 
does not yield to psychological solution. On the contrary, the 
evidence, both clinical and ethnographic, indicates that the desire 


to form sexual unions with an intimate associate is both powerful 
and widespread. Indeed, Freud opines that "the prohibition 
against incestuous object-choice [was] perhaps the most maim- 
ing wound ever inflicted ... on the erotic life of man." ^^ Psy- 
cholog}' discloses an "incestuous wish" therefore, not a motive for 
its prevention. The problem yields very readily, however, to cul- 
turological interpretation. Man, as an animal species, lives in 
groups as well as individually. Relationships between individuals 
in the human species are determined by the culture of the group 
—that is, by the ideas, sentiments, tools, techniques, and be- 
havior patterns, that are dependent upon the use of symbols and 
which are handed down from one generation to another by means 
of this same faculty. These culture traits constitute a continuum, 
a stream of interacting elements. In this interacting process, new 
combinations and syntheses are formed, some traits become 
obsolete and drop out of the stream, some new ones enter it. The 
stream of culture thus flows, changes, grows and develops in 
accordance with laws of its own. Human behavior is but the re- 
actions of the organism man to this stream of culture. Human 
behavior— in the mass, or of a typical member of a group— is there- 
fore culturally determined. A people has an aversion to drinking 
cow's milk, avoids mothers-in-law, believes that exercise pro- 
motes health, practices divination or vaccination, eats roasted 
worms or grasshoppers, etc., because their culture contains trait- 
stimuli that evoke such responses. These traits cannot be ac- 
counted for psychologically. 

And so it is with the definition and prohibition of incest. From 
psychology we learn that the human animal tends to unite sexually 
with someone close to him. The institution of exogamy is not 
only not explained by citing this tendency; it is contrary to it. 
But when we turn to the cultures that determine the relations 
between members of a group and regulate their social intercourse 
we readily find the reason for the definition of incest and the 
origin of exogamy. The struggle for existence is as vigorous in 


the human species as elsewhere. Life is made more secure, for 
group as well as individual, by co-operation. Articulate speech 
makes co-operation possible, extensive, and varied in human 
society. Incest was defined and exogamous rules were formulated 
in order to make co-operation compulsory and extensive, to the 
end that life be made more secure. These institutions were created 
by social systems, not by neuro-sensory-muscular-glandular sys- 
tems. They were syntheses of culture elements formed within the 
interactive stream of culture traits. Variations of definition and 
prohibition of incest are due to the great variety of situations. In 
one situation, in one organization of culture traits— technological, 
social, philosophic, etc.— we will find one type of definition of 
incest and one set of rules of exogamy; in a different situation 
we find another definition and other rules. Incest and exogamy are 
thus defined in terms of the mode of life of a people— by the 
mode of subsistence, the means and circumstances of offense and 
defense, the means of communication and transportation, customs 
of residence, knowledge, techniques of thought, etc. And the 
mode of life, in all its aspects, technological, sociological, and 
philosophical, is culturally determined. 


An Anthropocentric Illusion 

". . . numerous survivals of the anthropocentric bias still remain and 
here [in sociology], as elsewhere, they bar the way to science. It dis- 
pleases man to renounce the unlimited power over the social order he 
has so long attributed to himself; and on the other hand, it seems to 
him that, if collective forces really exist, he is necessarily obliged to 
submit to them without being able to modify them. This makes him 
inclined to deny their existence. In vain have repeated experiences 
taught him that this omnipotence, the illusion of which he com- 
placently entertains, has always been a cause of weakness in him; that 
his power over things really began only when he recognized that they 
have a nature of their own, and resigned himself to learning this nature 
from them. Rejected by all other sciences, this deplorable prejudice 
stubbornly maintains itself in sociology. Nothing is more urgent than to 
liberate our science from it, and this is the principal purpose of our 
efforts," — Emile Durkheim i 
". . . it appears like a grandiose dream to think of controlling according 

to the will of man the course of social evolution . . ." — Wm. F. Og- 

burn 2 

-Ihe belief that man controls his civilization is widespread 
and deeply rooted. Customs and institutions, tools and ma- 
chines, science, art, and philosophy are but man's creations 
and are therefore here only to do his bidding. It lies within man's 
power, therefore, to chart his course as he pleases, to mold 
civilization to his desires and needs. At least so he fondly believes. 
Thus we find a distinguished British scientist, the late Sir 
James Jeans, assuring us that: 



We no longer believe that human destiny is a plaything for 
spirits, good and evil, or for the machinations of the Devil. 
There is nothing to prevent our making the earth a paradise 
again— except ourselves. The scientific age has dawned, and we 
recognize that man himself is the master of his fate, the captain 
of his soul. He controls the course of his ship, and so, of course, 
is free to navigate it into fair waters or foul, or even to run it 
on the rocks. ^ 

Mr. Stanley Field, President of the Field Museum (now the 
Chicago Natural History Museum), appeals to anthropologists in 
espousing Free Will: 

But if we listen to the anthropologists, who can scientifically 
demonstrate that it is not color of skin, or type of hair or 
features, or difference of religion, that creates problems between 
peoples, but factors for which man is responsible and which he 
can control or change if he will, then we shall at least come 
within sight of that better world which we now realize we must 
achieve if we are not finally to perish as victims of our own 

Professor Lewis G. Westgate, in an article in Scientific Monthly, 
tells us that man can "take the problem of his future in hand and 
solve it": 

The mind that can weigh the infinitely distant stars . . . track 
down the minute carriers of disease . . . dig the Panama Canal 
. . . can solve its social problems when and if it decides to do 

It would thus seem that the salvation of an earlier era has be- 
come the social reconstruction of today: we can achieve it if we 
will; if we fail it is because of our "perversity." 

Father Wilhelm Schmidt, the leader of the Kulturkreis school 
of ethnology, and his disciples in America believe firmly in free 


will; indeed, it appears to be one of their cardinal principles .« And 
even V. Gordon Childe, whose work is for the most part infused 
with the spirit of scientific materialism and determinism, says, in 
a book significantly entitled Man Makes Himseli, that "changes 
in culture ... can be initiated, controlled, or delayed by the con- 
scious and deliberate choice of their human authors and 
executors." ^ 

When, however, we look for examples of man's control over 
culture we begin first to wonder, then to doubt. We will not 
begin our inquiry by asking if two World Wars in one generation 
are evidence of planning or perversity, or whether Germany and 
Japan were crushed and Soviet Russia made dominant in Eurasia 
in accordance with a farsighted plan or as a result of blindness 
and folly. We will start with something much more modest. 
During the last century we have witnessed attempts to control 
tiny and relatively insignificant segments of our culture, such as 
spelling, the calendar, the system of weights and measures, to 
name but a few. There have been repeated and heroic attempts 
to simplify spelling and make it more rational, to devise a more 
rational calendar, and to adopt an ordered system of weights and 
measures instead of the cumbersome, illogical agglomeration of 
folk measurements we now use. But what successes can we point 
to? Reform in spelling has been negligible. We have succeeded 
to a considerable extent but not wholly in eliminating the u from 
such words as honor. But to do away with silent letters, such as 
the b in Iamb, is too big a mountain for us to move. And such 
spellings-and-pronunciations as rough, cough, dough, and through 
are much too strong to yield to our puny efforts. It usually takes a 
great political and social upheaval to effect a significant change in 
spelling or a calendrical system as the French and Bolshevik 
revolutions have made clear. And as for the metric system, it has 
found a place among the little band of esoterics in science, but 
yards, ounces, rods, pints, and furlongs still serve— awkwardly and 
inefficiently— the layman. 


We begin to wonder. If we are not able to perform such tiny 
and insignificant feats as eliminating the b from Iamb, or modify- 
ing our calendar system, how can we hope to construct a new 
social order on a worldwide scale? 

Let us look about us further. Men and women are forever 
contending with fashions. Man perennially rebels against his 
attire. It is often uncomfortable, injurious to the health at times, 
and, some men think, the ordinary costume is unesthetic, the 
formal attire ridiculous. But what can he do? He must wear his 
coat and tie no matter how hot the weather. He is not permitted 
to wear pink or blue shoes. And as for "evening clothes"— he must 
submit to them or stay home. Man's vaunted control over civiliza- 
tion is not particularly conspicuous in this sector. 

But if man is helpless, woman is an abject slave, in the grip of 
fashion. She must submit to any change, no matter how fantastic 
or ugly. To be sure, she may not realize that the new designs are 
fantastic and ugly at the time; "the latest style" can becloud a 
woman's judgment. But one has only to browse through an album 
of old snapshots to realize that beauty, grace, and charm do not 
dominate the course of fashion. 

And as for women's skirts! First they are short; then they are 
long. A distinguished anthropologist. Professor A. L. Kroeber of 
the University of California, has made a very interesting and 
revealing study of the dimensions of women's dresses over a con- 
siderable period of time. He found that "the basic dimensions of 
modern European feminine dress alternate with fair regularity 
between maxima and minima which in most cases average about 
fifty years apart so that the full-wave length of their periodicity 
is around a century." ^ The rhythms are regular and uniform. 
Women have nothing to say about it. Even the designers and 
creators must conform to the curve of change. We find no control 
by man— or woman— here, only an inexorable and impersonal 
trend. When a maximum point on the curve is reached, the trend 
is reversed and skirts lengthen or shorten as the case may be, 


Women are helpless; they can do nothing but follow the trend. 
When the curve ascends they must shorten their dresses; when it 
descends, they must lengthen them. It may seem remarkable that 
a great class of citizens who cannot even control the dimensions 
of their own skirts will ne\ertheless organize themselves into clubs, 
to administer the affairs of the world. We shall return to this 
point later. 

Few men would undertake to repair an automobile or a radio 
without some understanding of its mechanism. We tend more 
and more nowadays to leave medicine and surgery to those who 
know how. Knowledge and skill are required even to make good 
pies or home brew. But in matters of society and culture everyone 
feels qualified to analyze, diagnose, and prescribe. It is one of the 
premises of democracy that not only do the people rule, but they 
have the requisite knowledge and understanding to do it 
effectively. In matters political, one man's view is as good as 

When, however, we examine the knowledge and understand^ 
ing with which the affairs of the nation are administered we begin 
again to wonder. Wc find the most august authorities espousing 
different and even contradictory views on such subjects as in- 
flation, the function of labor leaders, the divorce rate, the 
popularity of crooners, and so on. This is a picture of the anarchy 
of ignorance, not of wisdom. 

When we turn from matters of national proportions, such as 
the cause of inflation, to lesser problems we are not always re- 
assured. Does capital punishment diminish the number of mur- 
ders? Does the use of alcohol affect the divorce rate? Why do 
people keep dogs? They are noisy, dirty, unhealthful, useless, and 
expensive. To say that they are kept because people like them is 
merely to phrase the problem in a different form. Why don't they 
"like" raccoons? They are cute, cleanly in their habits, and very 


The fact is, we don't really know very much about the civiliza- 
tion we live in. Let us take one of the simplest and most ele- 
mentary questions imaginable: Why does our society prohibit 
polygamy? Other societies permit plural mates, and Western 
Europe once did, also. But now we feel very strongly about it. 
We will put a man in a prison for years if he takes unto himself 
more than one wife at one time. His wives may be perfectly satis- 
fied with the arrangement and he may have injured no one. Yet 
we put him in gaol.* Why? Why not have one more wife and 
one less schoolmarm? 

There are, to be sure, ready answers to these questions: 
polygamy is "wrong," "immoral," "undemocratic," etc. But 
practices are not prohibited because they are "wrong"; they are 
wrong because they have been prohibited. It is not wrong to buy 
and sell whiskey now; it was while the Eighteenth Amendment 
was on the books. And as for democracy and equality, we permit 
a man to have two yachts if he can afford them, why not two 

I know of no really adequate answer to this question in such 
literature of social science as I am acquainted with. As a matter 
of fact, the question is very seldom raised. I have looked for it 
in a great number of treatises on sociology and anthropology 
written during the last quarter century without finding it. Some 
social scientists of the latter half of the nineteenth century tried 
to explain the prohibition of polygamy but we cannot accept 
their conclusions. 

The fact is we are ignorant. We do not know the solution to 
such an elementary problem as singular or plural mates. And in 

* We recall a recent instance in which a man was sent to the penitentiary 
for marrying some twelve women without ever bothering with the ritual of 
divorce. Had he been less honorable or chivalrous and lived with each woman 
without the formality of marriage, his "crime" would have been much less. 
This man served society well in a municipal railway system. His numerous 
wives pressed no complaint. Why did society feel it necessary to incarcerate 


our day, we have not reached the point of asking such questions, 
to say nothing of answering them. As Archibald McLeish has 
said, "We know all the answers, but we have not yet asked the 
questions." Over a half-century ago the great French savant, Emile 
Durkheim, commented upon the immaturity of social science as 

In the present state of the science we really do not even know 
what are the principal social institutions, such as the state, or 
the family; what is the right of property or contract . . . We are 
almost completely ignorant of the factors on which they depend 
. . . ; we are scarcely beginning to shed even a glimmer of light 
on some of these points. Yet one has only to glance through 
the works on sociology to see how rare is the appreciation of 
this ignorance and these difficulties.* 

Despite the progress that has been made since The Rules was 
written, this statement has a certain relevance today. If the 
science of society and civilization is still so immature as to be 
unable to solve such tiny and elementary problems as the pro- 
hibition of polygamy, where are the knowledge and understand- 
ing requisite to planning a new social system, to constructing a 
new world order? One would not expect a savage craftsman, whose 
best tools are made of chipped flint, to design and build a loco- 

Let us have a look at this civilization man thinks he controls. 
The first thing we notice is its antiquity. There is no part of it, 
whether it be technology, institutions, science or philosophy, that 
does not have its roots in the remote past. The lens of the new 
200-inch telescope, for example, is made of glass. Glass emerged 
from the manufacture of faience in ancient Egypt, which in turn 
originated apparently as a by-product of burning bricks and 
pottery, which followed the use of sun-dried brick, and, earlier. 


mud daubs of Neolithic or even Paleolithic huts. The United Na- 
tions can be traced back to primitive tribal councils and beyond. 
Modern mathematics goes back to counting on one's fingers, and 
so on. Culture is as old as man himself. It had its beginnings a 
million odd years ago when man first started to use articulate 
speech, and it has continued and developed to the present day. 
Culture is a continuous, cumulative, and progressive affair. 

Everyone— every individual, every generation, every group— has, 
since the very earliest period of human history, been born into a 
culture, a civilization, of some sort. It might be simple, crude 
and meager, or it might be highly developed. But all cultures, 
whatever their respective degrees of development, have tech- 
nologies (tools, machines), social systems (customs, institutions), 
beliefs (lore, philosophy, science) and forms of art. This means 
that when a baby is born into a cultural milieu, he will be in- 
fluenced by it. As a matter of fact, his culture will determine 
how he will think, feel, and act. It will determine what language 
he will speak, what clothes, if any, he will wear, what gods he 
will believe in, how he will marry, select and prepare his foods, 
treat the sick, and dispose of the dead. What else could one do 
but react to the culture that surrounds him from birth to death? 
No people makes its own culture; it inherits it ready-made from 
its ancestors or borrows it from its neighbors. 

It is easy enough for man to believe that he has made his cul- 
ture, each generation contributing its share, and that it is he who 
controls and directs its course through the ages. Does he not chip 
the arrowheads and stone-axes, build carts and dynamoes, coin 
money and spend it, elect presidents and depose kings, compose 
symphonies and carve statues, worship gods and wage war? But 
one cannot always rely upon the obvious. It was once obvious 
that the earth remained stationary while the sun moved; anyone 
could see that for himself. We are now approaching a point in 
modern thought where we are beginning to suspect that it is not 
man who controls culture but the other way around. The feat of 


Copernicus in dispelling the geocentric illusion over four hundred 
years ago is being duplicated in our day by the culturologist who 
is dissipating the anthropocentric illusion that man controls his 

Although it is man who chips arrowheads, composes sym- 
phonies, etc., we cannot explain culture merely by saying that 
"man produced it." There is not a single question that we would 
want to ask about culture that can be answered by saying "Man 
did thus and so." We want to know why culture developed as it 
did; why it assumed a great variety of forms while preserving at 
the same time a certain uniformity, why the rate of cultural 
change has accelerated. Wc want to know why some cultures have 
money and slaves while others do not; why some have trial by 
jury, others ordeal by magic; why some have kings, others chiefs 
or presidents; why some use milk, others loathe it; why some 
pcnnit, others prohibit, polygamy. To explain all these things by 
saying, "Man wanted them that way" is of course absurd. A device 
that explains everything explains nothing. 

Before we go very far we discover that we must disregard man 
entirely in our efforts to explain cultural growth and cultural 
differences— in short, culture or civilization as a whole. Man may 
be regarded as a constant so far as cultural change is concerned. 
Man is one species and, despite differences of skin, eye, and hair 
color, shape of head, lips, and nose, stature, etc., which after all 
are superficial, he is highly uniform in such fundamental features 
as brain, bone, muscle, glands, and sense organs. And he has 
undergone no appreciable evolutionary change during the last 
50,000 years at least. We may, therefore, regard man as a constant 
both with regard to the races extant today, and with regard to 
his ancestors during the last tens of thousands of years. Man has 
a certain structure and certain functions; he has certain desires and 
needs. Tlicse are related to culture, of course, but only in a 
general, not a specific, way. We may say that culture as a whole 
serves the needs of man as a species. But this does not and cannot 


help us at all when we try to account for the variations of specific 
cultures. You cannot explain variables by appeal to a constant. 
You cannot explain the vast range of cultural variation by invok- 
ing man, a biological constant. In England in a.d. 1500 there was 
one type of culture; in Japan, another. Neither culture can be ex- 
plained in terms of the physical type associated with it. Culture 
underwent change in England between a.d. 1500 and 1900, as it 
did in Japan. But these changes cannot be explained by pointing 
to the inhabitants in each case; they did not change. Plainly, we 
cannot explain cultures in terms of Man. 

Nor can cultural differences be explained in terms of environ- 
ment. Quite apart from the difficulty of accounting for differences 
in musical styles, forms of writing, codes of etiquette, rules of 
marriage, mortuary rites, etc., in terms of environment, we soon 
discover that even economic, industrial, and social systems cannot 
be so explained. The environment of Central Europe so far as 
climate, flora, fauna, topography, and mineral resources are con- 
cerned has remained constant for centuries. The culture of the 
region, however, has varied enormously. Here again we see the 
fallacy of explaining the variable by appeal to a constant. 

If, then, we cannot explain cultures in terms of race or physical 
type, or in terms of psychological processes, and if appeal to 
environment is equally futile, how are they to be accounted for 
and made intelligible to us? 

There seems to be only one answer left and that is fairly plain 
—after- one becomes used to it, at least. Cultures must be ex- 
plained in terms of culture. As we have already noted, culture is 
a continuum. Each trait or organization of traits, each stage of 
development, grows out of an earlier cultural situation. The steam 
engine can be traced back to the origins of metallurgy and fire. 
International cartels have grown out of all the processes of ex- 
change and distribution since the Old Stone Age and before. Our 
science, philosophy, religion, and art have developed out of earlier 
forms. Culture is a vast stream of tools, utensils, customs, beliefs 


that are constantly interacting with each other, creating new com- 
binations and syntheses. New elements are added constantly to the 
stream; obsolete traits drop out. The culture of today is but 
the cross-section of this stream at the present moment, the 
resultant of the age-old process of interaction, selection, rejection, 
and accumulation that has preceded us. And the culture of to- 
morrow will be but the culture of today plus one more day's 
growth. The numerical coefficient of today's culture may be said 
to be 365,000,000 (i.e., a million years of days); that of tomorrow: 
365,000,000 + 1. The culture of the present was determined by 
the past and the culture of the future will be but a continuation 
of the trend of the present. Thus, in a very real sense culture makes 
itseU. At least, if one wishes to explain culture scientifically, he 
must proceed as if culture made itself, as ii man had nothing to do 
with the determination of its course or content. Man must be 
there, of course, to make the existence of the culture process pos- 
sible. But the nature and behavior of the process itself is self- 
determined. It rests upon its own principles; it is governed by its 
own laws. 

Thus, culture makes man what he is and at the same time 
makes itself. An Eskimo, Bantu, Tibetan, Swede, or American is 
what he is, thinks, feels, and acts as he does, because his culture 
influences— "stimulates"— him in such a way as to evoke these 
responses. The Eskimo or American has had no part in pro- 
ducing the culture into which he was thrust at birth. It was al- 
ready there; he could not escape it; he could do nothing but react 
to it, and that on its own terms. The English language, the 
Christian religion, our political institutions, our mills, mines, 
factories, railroads, telephones, armies, navies, race tracks, dance 
halls, and all the other thousands of things that comprise our 
civilization are here in existence today. They have weight, mass, 
and momentum. They cannot be made to disappear by waving a 
wand, nor can their structure and behavior be altered by an act 
of will. We must come to terms with them as we find them today. 


x\nd they will be tomorrow what their trend of development in 
the past dictates. We can only trot along with them, hoping to 
keep up. 

Man has long cherished the illusion of omnipotence. It is 
flattering and comforting to his ego. In days gone by, man has 
believed that he could control the weather; countless primitive 
peoples have had rituals for making rain, stilling high winds, or 
averting storms. Many have had ceremonies by means of which 
the course of the sun in the heavens could be "controlled." 
With the advance of science, however, man's faith in his omnipo- 
tence has diminished. But he still believes that he can control 
his civilization. 

The philosophy of science— of cause and effect relationships, 
of determinism— has been firmly established in the study of physi- 
cal phenomena. It is well entrenched in the biological field, also. 
Psychology may have demonstrated the operation of the principle 
of cause and effect, of determinism, in mental processes, and may 
have dispelled the notion of free will for the individual. But social 
science is still so immature as to permit one to find refuge in a 
collective free will. As Professor A. L. Kroeber has recently 
observed : 

I suspect that the resistance [to the thesis of cultural determin- 
ism] goes "back to the common and deeply implanted assump- 
tion that our wills are free. As this assumption has had to yield 
ground elsewhere, it has taken refuge in the collective, social, 
and historical sphere. Since the chemists, physiologists, and 
psychologists have unlimbered their artillery, the personal free- 
dom of the will is thankless terrain to maintain. Culture they 
have not yet attacked; so that becomes a refuge. Whatever the 
degree to which we have ceased to assert being free agents as 
individuals, in the social realm we can still claim to shape our 
destinies. The theologian is piping pretty small, but the social 
reformer very loud. We are renouncing the kingdom of heaven. 



but going to establish a near-millenium on earth. Our personal 
wills may be determined, but by collectivizing them we can still 
have social freedom.^" 

Primitive man could believe that he could control the weather 
only because he was ignorant; he knew virtually nothing of 
meteorolog)'. And today, it is only our profound and compre- 
hensive ignorance of the nature of culture that makes it possible 
for us to believe that we direct and control it. As man's knowl- 
edge and understanding grew in meteorology, his illusion of power 
and control dissipated. And as our understanding of culture in- 
creases, our illusion of control will languish and disappear. As 
Durkheim once observed, "as far as social facts are concerned, we 
still have the mentality of primitives." " 

Needless to say, this is not the view taken by many today who 
look to science for our salvation. Far from expecting belief in 
our ability to control to diminish with the advance of social 
science, many people expect just the reverse. It has become the 
fashion these days to declare that if only our social sciences were 
as advanced as the physical sciences, then we could control our 
culture as we now control the physical forces of nature. The fol- 
lowing quotation from a letter published in Science recently is a 
conservative statement of this point of view: 

For if, by employing the scientific method, men can come to 
understand and control the atom, there is reasonable likelihood 
that they can in the same way learn to understand and control 
human group behavior .... It is quite within reasonable prob- 
ability that social science can provide these techniques [i.e., 
for "keeping the peace"] if it is given anything like the amount 
of support afforded to physical science in developing the atomic 

In similar vein Professor Gordon W. Allport of Harvard 
observes that "the United States spent two billion dollars on the 


invention of the atomic bomb" and asks "What is there absurd 
in spending an equivalent sum, if necessary, on the discovery of 
means for its control?" ^^ 

The premise underlying this view is unsound. It assumes that 
wars are caused, or at least made possible, by ignorance and the 
lack of social control that goes with ignorance. It assumes that, 
given understanding through generous grants of funds to social 
scientists, wars could be prevented— the "peace could be kept." 
The lack of understanding and realism displayed here is pathetic. 
The instinct of self-preservation of a society that subsidized atom 
bomb inventors rather than social scientists holding views such 
as these is a sure one. Wars are not caused by ignorance, nor 
can "the peace be kept" by the findings of social scientists. Wars 
are struggles between social organisms— called nations— for sur- 
vival, struggles for the possession and use of the resources of the 
earth, for fe'rtile fields; coal, oil, and iron deposits; for uranium 
mines; for seaports and waterways; for markets and trade routes; 
for military bases. No amount of understanding will alter or 
remove the basis of this stmggle, any more than an understanding 
of the ocean's tides will diminish or terminate their flow. 

But the fallacy of assuming that we can increase and perfect 
our control over civilization through social science is even more 
egregious than we have indicated. To call upon science, the 
essence of which is" acceptance of the principles of cause and effect 
and determinism, to support a philosophy of Free Will, is fairly 
close to the height of absurdity. Verily, Science has become the 
modern magic! The belief that man can work his will upon nature 
and man alike ii only he had the light formulas once flourished 
in primitive society as magic. It is still with us today, but we now 
call it Science. 

No amount of development of the social sciences would increase 
or perfect man's control over civilization by one iota. In the 
man-culture system, man is the dependent, culture the inde- 


pendent, variable. What man thinlcs, feels, and does is determined 
by his culture. And culture behaves in accordance with its own 
laws. A mature development of social science would only make 
this fact clear. 

The philosophy of Free Will and omnipotence is rampant in 
the field of education (see p. 107). "Educators," high school 
principals, commencement orators, and others never seem to tire 
of telling the world that its salvation lies in education. An eminent 
anthropologist, the late Clark Wissler, looking at our civilization 
as he would at other cultures of mankind— of the Blackfoot 
Indians, the Bantu tribes of Africa, or the aborigines of Australia 
—finds that a faith in education and its efficacy to cure all ills is 
a characteristic trait of our culture. "The fact is," he says, "that 
we seek to solve every difficulty by education. . . , No matter what 
it may be, the combating of disease, the inauguration of a new 
public service, the appreciation of art, dress reform, or anything 
of that kind, we look to education to make it universal and 
popular." Our faith in education has, in fact, become our religion, 
as Dr. Wissler sees it: 

"Our culture is characterized by an overruling belief in some- 
thing we call education— a kind of mechanism to propitiate the 
intent of nature in the manifestation of culture. Our implicit 
faith that this formula, or method, will cause this purpose to be 
more happily fulfilled, is our real religion." ^* 

Dr. Wissler compares our education formula with the magical 
formulas of primitive tribes: 

We often find among peoples we choose to call less civilized, a 
class of men whom we designate as shamans, medicine men, 
conjurors, etc. . . . Where such men flourish they are called 
upon whenever the course of events goes wrong, sickness, 
famine, love, war, no matter what the nature of the trouble 
may be, and they always proceed in one way: i.e., recite or 
demonstrate a formula of some kind. They may sing it, they 


may dance it, or they may merely act it out— no matter, the 
idea is that if you go through with the correct formula the 
forces of nature will right the wrong. ... In every culture 
formulae are used to propitiate nature in whatever form of gods 
or powers she is conceived, and . . . cultures differ not in this, 
for so far they are all alike, but as to the kinds of formulae into 
which they put their faith. Our great formula for bringing 
about the realization of our leading ideals is education. . . . 
It is a kind of grand over-formula by which we hope to perpet- 
uate and perfect our culture . . ." 

The faith of primitive man in his formulas and rituals, his 
medicine men and conjurors, was not shaken by a perpetual 
repetition of the ills they were supposed to prevent or cure. Lack 
of success did not prove to him that his formulas and rituals were 
inefficacious; it only convinced him that he needed more and 
better magic. And we who look to education for our "salvation" 
are not shaken in our faith by the spectacle of tragedy piled upon 
disaster. What we need, we say, is more education. 

To primitive man, magic was a means, available to mankind, 
to exert influence upon the external world and so to shape it to 
his needs and desires. We think of education as an instrument 
with which we can transform society and mould it to our will. 
But education is not a force or instrument outside of society, but 
a process within it. It is", so to speak, a physiologic process of the j 
social organism. Education is a means employed by society in ' 
carrying on its own activities, in striving for its own objectives. 
Thus, during peacetime, society educates for peace, but when the 
nation is at war, it educates for war. In times of peace, munitions- 
makers are "Merchants of Death"; in wartime, "Victory is Their 
Business." In peacetime. He is the Prince of Peace, but when war 
comes it's "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." It is not 
people who control their culture through education; it is rather 
the other way around: education, formal and informal, is the > 


process of bringing each new generation under the control of a 
system of culture. It is unrealistic in the extreme, therefore, to 
think of education reforming society from the outside. No one 
has stated the relationship between education and society better 
than the great French social scientist, Emile Durkheim: 

But this is to attribute to education a power which it does not 
possess. It is only the image, the reflection of society. Education 
imitates society and reproduces it in abridged form, but it does 
not create it. Education is healthy when the nation itself is in 
a healthy state, but, not having the power of self modification, 
it becomes corrupted when the nation decays. If the moral 
milieu as it is experienced by the teachers themselves is corrupt, 
they cannot fail to be affected by it; how then can they impress 
upon those whom they train an outlook that differs from the 
one that they have received? Each generation is brought up by 
the previous generation and it is necessary therefore to reform 
the latter if it is to improve the one which follows it. We go 
around in circles. At long intervals it may well happen that 
someone may come along whose ideas and aspirations are in 
advance of those of his contemporaries, but the moral con- 
stitution of a people is not made over by these isolated indi- 
\ viduals. No doubt it pleases us to believe that one eloquent 
voice is sufficient to transform the social fabric as if by magic, 
but, here as elsewhere, something is not produced from noth- 
ing. The strongest wills cannot create out of nothing forces 
which do not exist, and failures in experience always come to 
dispel these easy illusions. Besides, even though a pedagogical 
system could succeed by an incomprehensible miracle in estab- 
lishing itself in antagonism to the social system, it would have 
no effect by reason of this very antagonism. If the collective 
organization (society) is maintained from which the moral 
state that one wishes to combat is derived, then the child can- 
not fail to be influenced by it from the moment he comes into 
contact with it. The artificial milieu of the school can only 
protect him for a time and then but feebly. In proportion as 


the real world takes greater hold of him, it will destroy the work 
of the educator. Thus education cannot reform itself unless 
society itself is reformed. And in order to do that we must go 
to the causes of the malady from which it suffers.^^ 

The position taken here will of course be vigorously denied and 
opposed. People do not give up their illusions easily. As A. L. 
Kroeber has put it: 

Our minds instinctively resist the first shock of the recognition 
of a thing [cultural determinism] so intimately woven into us 
and yet so far above and so uncontrollable by our wills. We feel 
driven to deny its reality, to deny even the validity of dealing 
with it as an entity; just as men at large have long and bitterly 
resented admitting the existence of purely automatic forces 
and system in the realm that underlies and carries and makes 
possible the existence of our personalities: the realm of 

A common reaction— verbal reflex— to the theory of cultural 
determinism is to brand it "fatalistic" or "defeatist." Long ago 
William James branded as "the most pernicious and immoral of 
fatalisms" the philosophy of "the contemporary sociological 
school" that espoused "general laws and predetermined tenden- 
cies," and "denied the vital importance of individual initiative" 
and Free Will ("I believe in free-will myself," he says).^^ And 
today another student of philosophy. Dr. David Bidney, writing 
in the American Anthropologist, has repeatedly called the deter- 
ministic point of view of culturology "fatalistic." The choice of 
words is significant. Why is it that when one employs the prin- 
ciple of cause and effect in the realm of physical and chemical 
phenomena no one cries "fatalism," but the instant one applies 
it to human cultural phenomena this accusation leaps forth? 
Why is it that an admission of our inability to control the weather 


brings forth no charge of "defeatism"' whereas this reproach is 
promptly levelled against anyone who recognizes man's inability 
to control the course of civilization? 

The reason is fairly plain. "Fatalism" implies Free Will; 
"defeatism," omnipotence. When atoms, cells, or tissues behave 
in accordance with their nature and properties no one calls it 
fatalistic because no one expects freedom of choice and action 
of them. But when one asserts that cultural phenomena have a 
nature of their own and consequently must behave in terms of 
their nature, the response is not an acceptance of the principle 
of cause and effect but a charge of "fatalism." "To many edu- 
cated minds/' the great English anthropologist, E. B. Tylor, 
wrote many years ago, "there seems something presumptuous and 
repulsive in the view that the history of mankind is part and 
parcel of the history of nature, that our thoughts, wills, 
and actions accord with laws as definite as those which govern the 
motion of the waves, the combination of acids and bases, and 
the growth of plants ... If law is anywhere it is everywhere." " 
We have combined "a scientific realism, based on mechanism," 
says Alfred North Whitehead, with "an unwavering belief in the 
world of men and of the higher animals as being composed of 
self-determining organisms" ^^ (emphasis ours). He feels that this 
"radical inconsistency" is responsible for "much that is half- 
hearted and wavering in our civilization. It . . . enfeebles . . . 
[thought] by reason of the inconsistency lurking in the back- 

Implicit in the charge of "fatalism" and "defeatism" is the 
further notion of refutation. To brand a view "fatalistic" is, to 
many minds, to call it false as well. "Cultural determinism is 
fatalistic and therefore false," is about the way the reasoning 
would go if it were made explicit. "How can determmism pos- 
sibly exist?" is the question that is imphed but unspoken. "Deter- 
minism is unthinkable." And so it is to one possessed by 2 


philosophy of free will.* We find this point of view rather well 
expressed by Lawrence K. Frank in a recent article, "What is 
Social Order?" 

Perhaps the major obstacle we face today, therefore, is this 
essentially defeatist tradition expressed in the various con- 
ceptions of social order described earlier, as above and beyond 
all human control ... In this situation, therefore, we can and 
we must find the courage to view social order as that which 
must be achieved by man himself.^^ 

Of course man can "find the courage" to view social order as 
something "that must be achieved by himself." It does not take 
courage to do this, however; what is required is ignorance and 
hope. "Must find the courage," "must be achieved by man him- 
self," is hardly the language of science. It is, rather, exhortation 
and rhetoric— of a type with which we have long been familiar: 
"if we will but purpose in our hearts . . ." 

No doubt the first to question man's control over the weather, 
the first to claim that the winds will blow, the rain and snow 
fall, the seasons come and go, in accordance with their own nature 
rather than in obedience to man's wish and will expressed in spell 
and ritual, were accused of "fatalism" and "defeatism," if, indeed, 
they were not dealt with more harshly. But, in time, we have 
come to accept our impotence in this regard and to become re- 
conciled to it. If it be argued that man cannot control the 
weather because that is a part of the external world whereas 

* Note that we have said possessed by, rather than "believes in." Philoso- 
phies possess, hold, animate, guide and direct the articulate, protoplasmic 
mechanisms that are men. Whether a man — an average man, typical of his 
group — "believes in" Christ or Buddha, Genesis or Geology, Determinism or 
Free Will, is not a matter of his own choosing. His philosophy is merely the 
response of his neuro-sensory-muscular-glandular system to the streams of 
cultural stimuli impinging upon him from the outside. What is called "phi- 
losophizing" is merely the interaction of these cultural elements within his 
organism. His "choice" of philosophic beliefs is merely a neurological expres- 
sion of the superior strength of some of these extra-somatic cultural forces. 


culture, being man-made, is subject to his control, it must be 
pointed out that the exact opposite is the case. It is precisely in 
the realm of the external world that man's control is possible. He 
can harness the energies of rivers, fuels, and atoms because he, as 
one of the forces of nature, lies outside their respective systems 
and can therefore act upon them. But man, as an animal organ- 
ism, as a species, lies within the man-culture system, and there he 
is the dependent, not the independent, variable; his behavior is 
merely the function of his culture, not its determinant. Both 
theoretically and practically, therefore, it is possible for man to 
exert more control over the weather than over culture, for he 
can exert some control over the former even now and he may in- 
crease this control in the future. But he exerts no control what- 
ever over his culture and theoretically there is no possibility of 
his ever doing so. 

The usual reactions to this manifesto of cultural determinism 
are as unwarranted as are the assumptions of Free Will, from 
which, of course, these responses flow. After expostulating on the 
theme of "fatalism" and "defeatism" the conventional protest 
goes on to demand, "What is the use then of our efforts? Why 
should we try to do anything to improve our lot if we have no 
control over our culture? Why not just sit back and let the 
evolutionary process take care of everything? Of what use could 
a science of culture possibly be to us if control lies beyond our 
grasp? What good is an understanding of culture if there is noth- 
ing we can do about it?" 

These questions are naive and betray a lack of understanding 
of what the cultural determinist— the culturologist— is trying to 
say. The determinist does not assert that man is irrelevant to the 
culture process. He knows full well that the contrary is the case; 
that man is an absolute prerequisite to it, that without man there 
could be no culture. He realizes very clearly the essential role 
that man plays in the systen?. that is man-and-culture. What the 


culturologist contends is that in this system the human organism 
is not the determinant; that the behavior of the culture process 
cannot be explained in terms of this organism but only in terms 
of the culture itself; that the growth and changes among the 
Indo-European languages, for example, cannot be accounted for 
in terms of man's nerves, muscles, senses, or organs of speech; 
or in terms of his hopes, needs, fears, or imagination. Language 
must be explained in terms of language. 

But to turn to some of the specific questions with which dis- 
satisfaction with the philosophy of determinism is expressed. In 
the first place, we cannot "just sit back" and let the evolutionary 
process take care of all our problems. While we live we are con- 
fronted by our culture and we must come to terms with it. Even 
just sitting back, incubating a case of dementia praecox, is "doing 
something about it." So is committing suicide; as a matter of fact, 
suicide rates for various societies provide excellent indexes of 
cultural determinism. In some societies the rate is high; in others 
suicide is virtually non-existent. This is not because suicide deter- 
minants are more abundant in the chromosomes of some popula- 
tions than of others. It is due to the fact that the cultural 
determinants vary: hara-kiri is something that a culture does to 
an organism that, of its own nature, tends to persevere in that 
form of motion we call "Life." It is obvious that we cannot avoid 
reacting to our culture. 

To assume that the process of cultural evolution will take care 
of everything without effort on our part is of course absurd, and 
constitutes no part of the determinist's philosophy. Of course we 
must exert ourselves while we live; we cannot do otherwise. But 
the question is not "Who does the work, ourselves or cultural 
evolution?" It is obvious that the energy is expended by or 
through human beings. The question is. What determines the 
nature, the form and content of this expression of energy in the 
culture process, the human organism or the extra-somatic culture? 
The answer is of course fairly obvious— after a small amount of 


reflection. Let us consider two groups of human organisms, A 
and B. Group A raises taro, catches fish, carver wood, makes no 
pottery, speaks a Polynesian language, has chiefs but no currency, 
is non-literate, drinks kava, is greatly concerned with genealogy, 
and so on. Group B mines coal and iron, talks Welsh, imports 
its food from the outside, uses money, is literate, drinks ale, etc. 
Now the question is. Why does each group behave as it does? 
Is it that one group of organisms possesses traits or character- 
istics—genes, instincts, or psychological tendencies— that cause 
them to drink kava rather than ale? This is, of course, ridiculous; 
the one group of organisms is fundamentally like the other bio- 
logically. It is obvious that each group of organisms behaves as 
it does because each is reacting to a particular set of cultural 
stimuli. It is obvious also that a consideration of the human 
organism is totally irrelevant to the question. Why is one group 
stimulated by one set of stimuli rather than by another? This is 
a cultural historical question, not a biological or psychological 
one. So, one is not so silly as to say, "Why should we mine coal 
or catch fish? Let our culture do it." The question is not who 
mines the coal, but what is the determinant of this behavior? 
And, the culturologist points out the obvious: the culture is the 

The reaction of many sincere, altruistic and conscientious 
people, upon being told that it is not they who control their 
culture and direct its course, is "Why then should we try to do 
good, to better our lot and that of mankind?" We have answered 
this question in part already. In the first place one cannot avoid 
\ trying to do something. As long as one accepts life and is willing 
to continue with it he must exert himself. "Trying" is merely 
the name we give to the effort exerted in the process of living. 
To strive for this or that, therefore, is inseparable from our lives. 
But what one strives for and how his effort is expressed is de- 
termined by his culture. For example, the goal of one people 
may be eternal life in heaven for which their terrestrial existence 


is but a preparation. The goal of another might be the good Hfe 
*'here below." One group may deny the reality of sickness; another 
may admit its existence and try to combat it. One group may 
use charms and incantations; another, clinics and laboratories. 
Whatever the goal and whatever the means employed to reach it, 
is a matter determined by the culture of the group. 

But, it should be pointed out with emphasis, this is not a 
philosophy of defeatism or hopelessness by any means. Least of 
all does it declare that one's efforts do not count. The fact that 
one's efforts to stamp out tuberculosis are culturally determined 
in no way minimizes the effort or the result. A life saved is a life 
saved. A letter written to a congressman has an effect, too, no 
matter what kind or how much. A resolution on world affairs 
passed by a woman's club has a real function in society, although 
it may be a very different one from that imagined by the good 
ladies. The question we raise is not one of the value of effort 
or whether effort has consequences. Human effort is just as real 
as anything in the realm of the geologist. And effort is followed 
by consequences just as effect follows cause in physics or geology. 
Living human beings cannot help but exert themselves, and every- 
thing they do counts for something in one way or another. Far 
from wishing to deny or ignore this, we wish to emphasize it. 
But this is not the question raised by the culturologist, the cul- 
tural determinist. What he claims is, not that it is futile to try 
because what one does counts for nought, but that what one 
does, how he does it, and the end and purpose for which it is 
done is culturally determined, is determined by the culture of the 
group rather than by the free will of the individual or of the 
group. More than that, what a person or group desires is de- 
termined or at least defined by the culture, not by them. What 
constitutes the "good life" for any people is always culturally 

From the cultural determinist's point of view, human beings 
are merely the instruments through which cultures express them- 



selves. A physician, saving lives each day, is an instrument through 
which certain cultural forces express themselves; if they were not 
there, or if they were different, the organism in question would 
not be practicing medicine or he would practice it in a different 
way. The gangster, evangelist, revolutionist, reformer, policeman, 
impoverished beggar, wealthy parasite, teacher, soldier, and sha- 
man are likewise instruments of cultural action and expression; 
each is a type of primate organism grasped and wielded by a 
certain set of culture traits. It is only the inveterate habit of 
thinking anthropocentrically that makes this point of view seem 
strange or ridiculous. 

But, granting that what we do counts even though it is cul- 
turally determined, of what use is it to develop a science of culture 
if we cannot control civilization or direct its course? We have a 
science of pathology in order to combat disease, sciences of physics 
and chemistry to control the external world. But if we do not 
control our culture and cannot ever hope to control it, of what 
use would a science of culture be? We might begin our reply 
to this question by asking, of what value is it to know the 
temperature of a star a million light years away? Questions such 
as these betray a limited understanding of science. Science is not 
primarily a matter of control in the sense of harnessing rivers 
with hydroelectric plants or constructing uranium piles. Science 
is a means of adjustment; control is but one aspect of adjustment. 
Man finds himself in a universe to which he must adjust if he 
is to continue to live in it. Mythology and science are means of 
adjustment; they are interpretations of the world in terms of 
which man behaves. There is, of course, a vast difference in terms 
of adjustment between a philosophy that interprets stars as a 
flock of snow birds lost in the sky, and one that measures their 
masses, distances, dimensions, and temperatures. This difference 
is a very practical one, too, in terms of the contribution that each 
philosophy makes to the security of life. 

Our ancestors once thought they could control the weather as 


contemporary savages still do. They finally outgrew this illusion, 
even going so far as to outgrov^ calling the new view "fatalistic" 
and "defeatist." But we do not think a knowledge and an under- 
standing of weather and climate useless. On the contrary, we are 
devoting more time and money to meteorology now than ever 
before. Here again we see the situation in terms of adjustment 
rather than contwh We may not be able to control the weather 
but adjust to it we must. And knowledge and understanding make 
for more effective and satisfying adjustments. It would be ad- 
vantageous if we couJd control the weather. But if we cannot, 
then weather prediction is the next best thing. And for prediction 
we must have knowledge and understanding. 

So it is with culture. We cannot control its course but we can 
learn to predict it. As a matter of fact, we make predictions all 
the time and many of them are quite accurate: wheat production, 
traffic fatalities, freight car loadings, births, exhaustion of oil 
reserves, and many other matters are already within the reach 
of limited but nevertheless valuable prediction. If our ability to 
predict were greatly increased by the development and matura- 
tion of a science of culture the possibilities of a rational, effective, 
and humane adjustment between man and culture and between 
one cultural segment and another would be increased accordingly. 
If, for example, a science of culture could demonstrate that the 
trend of social evolution is toward larger political groupings, then 
the chances of making the futile attempt to restore or maintain 
the independence of small nations would be lessened. If the 
trend of cultural evolution is away from private property and free 
enterprise why strive to perpetuate them? If it could be shown 
that international wars will continue as long as independent, 
sovereign nations exist, then certain delusions now popular would 
find less nourishment and support. The fact is that culture has 
been evolving as an unconscious, blind, bloody, brutal, tropis- 
matic process so far. It has not yet reached the point where 
intelligence, self-consciousness, and understanding are very con- 


spicuous. Our ignorance is still deep-rooted and widespread. We 
do not understand even some of the most elementary things— the 
prohibition of polygamy for example. In short, we are so ignorant 
that we can still believe that it is we who make our culture and 
control its course. 

This ignorance is not surprising however. It has not been very 
long since we gave up burning witches, cudgelling hysterics to 
drive out demons, and other savage practices. Even in technology, 
which tends to outstrip the social and ideological sectors, we have 
surpassed the savage at two points— fire-making and the use of 
the bow and arrow— only within the last century or two. Chemical 
matches are but a little more than a century old and the bow and 
arrow was used in bison hunting on the American plains in pref- 
erence to the best firearms available at the time within the last 
hundred years. It is only yesterday, culturologically speaking, that 
a small portion of mankind began to emerge from a condition of 
savagery. For most of his career thus far man has subsisted wholly 
upon wild foods; less than two per cent of human history, as a 
matter of fact, has elapsed since the origin of agriculture. Other 
significant indexes: some 0.7 per cent of culture history since the 
beginning of metallurgy, 0.35% since the first alphabet, 0.033% 
since Galileo, 0.009% since the publication of Darwin's The 
Origin of Species, and only 0.002% since William Jennings Bryan 
and the Scopes trial. A mature, urbane, and rational civilization 
is not to be achieved in a mere million years from the anthropoid 

It should be made clear that if an adequate understanding 
should come about as a consequence of a science of culture it 
would not have been "us" who achieved it but our culture. In 
the interaction of elements in the culture process, those traits less 
effective in providing adequate adjustment in terms of under- 
standing and control are gradually relinquished and replaced by 
more effective traits. Thus, bronze axes replace stone axes, ikons 
and spells give way to laboratories and clinics, and finally, a science 


of human culture begins to challenge the primitive philosophy of 
omnipotence and Free Will. The new science will of course have 
to prove its superiority over the older view just as astronomy, 
chemistry, and medicine have in other sectors of experience. The 
success of science— the philosophy of materialism, of cause and 
effect, of determinism— in the physical and biological sectors of 
experience encourages us greatly in the belief that this point of 
view and these techniques of interpretation will prove effective 
in the social sphere also. 

Our role in this process is a modest one. Neither as groups 
nor as individuals do we have a choice of roles or of fates. Swedes 
are born into their culture just as Zulus, Tibetans, and Yankees 
are born into theirs. And each individual is thrust by birth into 
some particular place in the "magnetic field" of his culture, there 
to be molded by the particular organization of cultural influences 
that play upon him. Thus he may have the belief that typhoid 
exists only in the mind, or is caused by witches or bacilli, thrust 
upon him— or "into his mind." He may be endowed with a belief 
in personal immortality, the efficacy of prayer, or the Periodic 
Law of Mindeleyev. He may be inspired to preach the only true 
faith to the heathen in distant lands, or to wear out his life in a 
genetics laboratory, or to believe that "only saps work." To be 
sure, the response of the human organism to cultural stimulation 
will vary with the quality of the organism. Some will be silk 
purses; others, sows' ears. The order in which an organism under- 
goes experiences is important, too; the influence of events a, b, c, 
will not be the same as a, c, b. An experience will have one effect 
at fifteen; quite another at fifty. There is room, therefore, for 
almost infinite variety of permutation and combination in the 
experience of individual organisms. 

Man discovers his place in the cosmos slowly and accepts it 
with extreme reluctance. Time was when his solid earth was 
planted in the center, the sun and stars spread upon the vault of 
heaven, and men and gods together acted out the drama of life 


and death. It was all so compact, so familiar, so secure. Then it 
was that man, like God, could cry "Let there be light" and there 
was light. Like God, too, man was "omnipotent," if, however, 
to a lesser degree. With his magic formulas, his spells, prayers, 
charms, and rituals, mighty man could control the weather, the 
seasons, and even enlist the gods in the service of man. Now it 
is different. Man finds himself but one of innumerable animal 
species crawling about on an insignificant planetary speck, fight- 
ing, feeding, breeding, dying. Once the child of God, he now 
find himself an ex-ape. But he has acquired a new faculty, one 
unknown among all other species: articulate speech. As a con- 
sequence of this, a new way of life has been developed: culture. 
But this culture, this mass of extra-somatic tools, institutions 
and philosophies, has a life and laws of its own. Man is just 
beginning to understand this. 

Man is wholly at the mercy of external forces, astronomic 
and geologic. As a matter of fact, it is rather disconcerting to 
think of how narrow is the margin within which man lives. 
Change the temperature, velocity, amount of water, or atmos- 
phere of the earth but a little and life would cease. It is a curious, 
and from a cosmic viewpoint, momentary, concatenation of cir- 
cumstances that has made life possible. Man did long rebel against 
his dependence upon these outside forces; to be wholly at their 
mercy was unendurable. As a matter of fact, man has employed 
his precious and unique gift of speech more to deny the facts of 
his existence than to improve upon them. But a certain portion 
of the human race has come at last to accept our dependence 
upon nature and to try to make the most of it. 

And so it is with culture. Belief in our omnipotence has, as 
Durkheim says, always been a source of weakness to us. But we are 
now discovering the true nature of culture and we can in time 
reconcile ourselves to this extra-somatic order as we have to the 
astronomic, geologic, and meteorologic orders. To give up magic 
and mythology which promised much but yielded nothing— noth- 


ing but the soothing comfort of illusion— was a painful experience. 
But to receive and accept a science and a technology which 
promises less but achieves a great deal is to reach a goal most 
men are loathe to lose. We may believe that knowledge and 
understanding of culture will make for a more satisfactory life 
just as these traits have been of value in physics and biology. 
To be sure, understanding culture will not, as we have argued 
here, alter its course or change the "fate" that it has in store for 
us, any more than understanding the weather or the tides will 
change them. But as long as man remains an inquiring primate he 
will crave understanding. And a growing Science of Culture will 
provide him with it. 



1 n the preceding chapters we have dealt with various aspects 
of the culture process. We now encompass it in its entirety. 
The development of human culture as a whole is here in- 
terpreted upon the culturological level. And, in addition to further 
demonstration, we provide, in this Part, a dynamic interpretation 
of culture growth in terms of its most fundamental factor, namely, 
energy. Cultures are dynamic systems; they require energy for their 
activation. The history of civilization is the story of the control 
over the forces of nature by cultural means. But the story of 
energy control may provide the epitaph of civilization, also. In 
its infancy or youth, culture achieved control over fire. Plants and 
animals were brought within the orbit of cultural control in 
Neolithic times through the arts of agriculture and animal hus- 
bandry. Coal and oil and water power were harnessed, and culture 
became of age. And now culture has succeeded in penetrating to 
the core of matter itself and has learned how to create energy, 
even as the Sun, our Father in Heaven, has created it since the 
dawn of time. And this advance may possibly be the last. In the 
S}Tnbolism of an ancient m)i:h, it may indeed be hazardous to 
eat of the fruit of every tree in the garden. The mastery of ter- 
restrial fire was tolerable, but to create energy by the transforma- 
tion of matter is to play with celestial fire. Whether it can be 
done with impunity remains to be seen. The new Prometheus may 
also be the executioner. 





"The degree of civilization of any epoch, people, or group of peoples, 
is measured by ability to utilize energy for human advancement or 
needs . . ." — George Grant MacCurdy, Human Origins ^ 
"... the history of civilization becomes the history of man's advanc- 
ing control over energy . . ." — Wilhelm Ostwald, The Modern Theory 
of Energetics ^ 


aving examined the culture process in a number of its 
aspects, we now turn to a consideration of it as a whole. 
As we have already seen, "culture" is the name of a distinct 
order, or class, of phenomena, namely, those things and events 
that are dependent upon the exercise of a mental ability, peculiar 
to the human species, that we have termed "symbolling." To be 
more specific, culture consists of material objects— tools, utensils, 
ornaments, amulets, etc.— acts, beliefs, and attitudes that function 
in contexts characterized by symbolling. It is an elaborate mecha- 
nism, an organization of exosomatic ways and means employed 
by a particular animal species, man, in the struggle for existence 
and survival. 

One of the significant attributes of culture is its transmissibility 
by non-biological means. Culture in all its aspects, material, social, 
and ideological, is easily and readily transmitted from one indi- 
vidual, one generation, one age, one people, or one region, to 
another by social mechanisms. Culture is, so to speak, a form of 
social heredity. We thus view culture as a continuum, a supra- 



biological, extra-somatic order of things and events, that flows 
down through time from one age to the next. 

We have seen also, in preceding chapters, that since culture 
constitutes a distinct order of phenomena, it can be described and 
interpreted in terms of principles and laws of its own. Cultural 
elements act and react upon one another in their own way. We 
can discover the principles of behavior of various sub-classes of 
cultural elements and of cultural systems as a whole; and we can 
formulate the laws of cultural phenomena and systems. 

We now propose to sketch the evolution of culture from its 
beginning upon an anthropoid level to the present time. We may 
regard the human race— man— as a one. We may likewise think 
of all of the various cultures, or cultural traditions, as constituting 
a single entity: the culture of mankind. We may, therefore, ad- 
dress ourselves to the task of tracing the course of the develop- 
ment of this culture from its source to the present day. 

Let us return for a moment to a further consideration of the 
structure and function of the organization of things and processes, 
the system, that we call culture. Culture is an organized, integrated 
system. But we may distinguish subdivisions within, or aspects 
of, this system. For our purpose, we shall distinguish three sub- 
systems of culture, namely, technological, sociological, and ideo- 
logical systems. The technological system is composed of the 
material, mechanical, physical, and chemical instruments, together 
with the techniques of their use, by means of which man, as an 
animal species, is articulated with his natural habitat. Here we find 
the tools of production, the means of subsistence, the materials 
of shelter, the instruments of offense and defense. The sociological 
system is made up of interpersonal relations expressed in patterns 
of behavior, collective as well as individual. In this category we 
find social, kinship, economic, ethical, political, military, ecclesi- 
astical, occupational and professional, recreational, etc., systems. 
The ideological system is composed of ideas, beliefs, knowledge, 
exjpressed in articulate speech or other symbolic form. Mythologies 


and theologies, legend, literature, philosophy, science, folk wis- 
dom and common sense knowledge, make up this category. 

These three categories comprise the system of culture as a 
whole. They are, of course, \ interrelated; ] each reacts upon the 
others and is affected by them in turn. But the influence of this 
mutual interaction is not equal in all directions. The roles played 
by the several sub-systems in the culture process as a whole are 
not equal by any means. The primary role is played by the tech- 
nological system. This is, of course, as we would expect it to be; 
it could not be otherwise. Man as an animal species, and conse- 
qu ently c ulture as a whole, is dependent upon the material, 
mechanical means of adjustment to the natural environment. Man 
must have food. He must be protected from the elements. And 
he must defend himself from his enemies. These three things he 
' must do if he is to continue to live, and these objectives are 
attained only by technological means. The technological system 
is therefore both primary and basic in importance; all human life 
and culture rest and depend upon it. 

Social systems are in a very real sense secondary and subsidiary 
to technological systems. In fact a social system may be defined 
realistically as the organized effort of human beings in the use 
of the instruments of subsistence, offense and defense, and protec- 
tion. A social system is a function of a technological system. A 
ship, says Childe, "and the tools employed in its production 
symbolize a whole economic system." The technology is the in- 
dependent variable, the social system the dependent variable. 
Social systems are therefore determined by systems of technology; 
as the latter change, so do the former. "The bronze axe which 
replaces . . . [the stone axe]," again to quote Childe, "is not 
only a superior implement, it also presupposes a more complex 
economic and social structure." ^ 

Ideological, or philosophical, systems are organizations of beliefs 
in which human experience finds its interpretation. But experience 


and interpretations thereof are powerfully conditioned by tech- 
nologies. There is a type of philosophy proper to every type of 
technology. The interpretation of a system of experience in which 
a coup de poing is a characteristic feature will, as it must, reflect 
this kind of experience. It would not be improper to speak of a 
coup de poiiig type of philosophy as well as of technology. A 
pastoral, agricultural, metallurgical, industrial, or military tech- 
nology will each find its corresponding expression in philosophy. 
One type of technology will find expression in the philosophy of 
totemism, another in astrology or quantum mechanics. 

But experience of the external world is not felt and interpreted 
merely at the point of technological articulation; it is filtered 
through the prism of social systems also. The qualities and features 
of social, political, ecclesiastical, economic, military, etc., systems 
are therefore reflected in philosophies. 

We may view a cultural system as a series of three horizontal 
strata: the technological layer on the bottom, the philosophical 
on the top, the sociological stratum in between. These positions 
express their respective roles in the culture process. The techno- 
logical system is basic and primary. Social systems are functions of 
technologies; and philosophies express technological forces and re- 
flect social systems. The technological factor is therefore the deter- 
minant of a cultural system as a whole. It determines the form of 
social systems, and technology and society together determine 
the content and orientation of philosophy. This is not to say, 
of course, that social systems do not condition the operation of 
technologies, or that social and technological systems are not 
affected by philosophies. They do and are. But to condition is 
one thing; to determine, quite another. 

We are now in possession of a key to an understanding of the 
growth and development of culture: technology. A human being is 
a material body; the species, a material system. The planet earth 
is a material body; the cosmos, a material system. Technology 


is the mechanical means of articulation of these two material 
systems, man and cosmos. But these systems are dynamic, not 
static; energy as well as matter is involved. Everything— the cosmos, 
man, culture— may be described in terms of matter and energy. 

The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that the cosmos as 
a whole is breaking down structurally and running down dy- 
namically; matter is becoming less organized and energy more 
uniformly diffused. But in a tiny sector of the cosmos, namely 
in living material systems, the direction of the cosmic process 
is reversed: matter becomes more highly organized and energy 
more concentrated. Life is a building up process. But in order to 
run counter to the cosmic current, biological organisms must 
draw upon free energy in non-living systems, capture it and put it 
to work in the maintenance of the vital process. All life is a 
struggle for free energy. Biological evolution is simply an expres- 
sion of the thermodynamic process that moves in a direction 
opposite to that specified for the cosmos as a whole by the Second 
Law. It is a movement toward greater organization, greater dif- 
ferentiation of structure, increased specialization of function, 
higher levels of integration, and greater degrees of energy con- 
centration. ^^^ 

From a zoological standpoint, culture is but a means of carrying \ 
on the life process of a particular species. Homo sapiens. It is a I 
mechanism for providing man with subsistence, protection, olfense / 
and defense, social regulation, cosmic adjustment, and recreation. 
But to serve these needs of man energy is required. It becomes 
the primary function of culture, therefore, to harness and control 
energy so that it may be put to work in man's service. Culture 
thus confronts us as an elaborate thermodynamic, mechanical 
system. By means of technological instruments energy is harnessed 
and put to work. Social and philosophic systems are both adjuncts 
and expressions of this technologic process. The functioning of 
culture as a whole therefore rests upon and is determined by the 


amount of energy harnessed and by the way in which it is put 
to work.* 

But "the way in which it is put to work" introduces another 
factor besides energy. Energy by itself is meaningless. To be 
significant in cultural systems, energy must be harnessed, directed, 
and controlled. This is of course accomplished by technological 
means, by means of tools of one kind or another. The efficiency 
of technological means varies; some are better than others. The 
amount of food, clothing, or other goods produced by the ex- 
penditure of a given amount of energy will be proportional to 
the efficiency of the technological means with which the energy 
is put to work, other factors remaining constant. 

We may therefore distinguish three factors in any cultural 
situation or system: (i) the amount of energy harnessed per 
capita per year; (2) the efficiency of the technological means with 
which energy is harnessed and put to work; and, (3) the magni- 
tude of human need-serving goods and services produced. Assum- 
ing the factor of habitat to be a constant, the degree of cultural 
development, measured in terms of amount of human need- 
serving goods and services produced per capita, is determined by 
the amount of energy harnessed per capita and by the efficiency 
of the technological means with which it is put to work. We may 
express this concisely and succinctly with the following formula: 
E X T > C, in which C represents the degree of cultural de- 
velopment, E the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year, 
and T, the quality or efficiency of the tools employed in the 
expenditure of the energy. We can now formulate the basic law 
of cultural evolution: Other factors remaining constant, culture 
evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year 
is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means oi put- 

* The functioning of any particular culture will of course be conditioned 
by local environmental conditions. But in a consideration of culture as a 
whole, we may average all environments together to form a constant factor 
which may be excluded from our formula of cultural development. 



ting the energy to work is increased. Both factors may increase 
simultaneously of course. We may now sketch the history of 
cultural development from this standpoint. 

If culture is a mechanism for harnessing energy, it must find 
this energy somewhere; it must lay hold of natural forces in some 
form or other if they are to be put to work in the service of 
man's needs. The first source of energy exploited by the earliest 
cultural systems was, of course, the energy of the human organism 
itself. The original cultures were activated by human energy and 
by this source and form alone. The amount of power that an 
average adult man can generate is small, about %oth of one 
horsepower. When women and children, the sick, aged, and feeble 
are considered, the average power resources of the earliest cultural 
systems might be reckoned at about K»oth horsepower per capita. 
Since the degree of cultural development— the amount of human 
need-serving goods and services produced per capita— is propor- 
tional to the amount of energy harnessed and put to work per 
capita per year, other factors remaining constant, these earliest 
cultures of mankind, dependent as they were upon the meager 
energy resources of the human body, were simple, meager, and 
crude, as indeed they had to be. No cultural system, activated by 
human energy alone, can develop very far. Some progress can of 
course be made by increasing the efficiency of the technological 
means of putting energy to work, but there is a limit to the extent 
of cultural advance on this basis. We can form a realistic picture 
of cultural development within the limits of human energy re- 
sources by looking at such modern cultures as those of the Tas- 
manians, Fuegians, or Andamanese; or the Paleolithic cultures of 

If culture is to advance beyond the limits of maximum tech- 
nological efficiency and the energy resources of the human body, 
it must devise new ways to harness additional amounts of energy 
by tapping natural resources in some new form. In some pre- 
literate cultural systems, fire, wind or water was exploited as a 


source of energy, but only occasionally and to a very insignificant 
extent. The conquest of fire was a very early cultural achievement, 
but it was not until the invention of a practical steam engine 
that fire became important as a form of energy. Fire was im- 
portant in early cultures in cooking, providing warmth, frighten- 
ing wild beasts, and as a symbol, but not as a form of energy. 
In more advanced cultures, fire was important or essential in 
the ceramic and metallurgical arts, but here also it is not function- 
ing as a form of energy: i.e., we cannot equate, or substitute, 
muscle power for fire in any of these contexts. There is one 
context, however, in which fire functions as energy in some 
primitive cultures: in hollowing out tree trunks in the manu- 
facture of dugout canoes. Here fire is substituted for muscle 
power. And there may be a few more similar uses of fire. 
But, all in all, prior to the invention of the steam engine in 
modern times, cultural systems made very little use of fire as a 
form and source of energy which could be substituted for human 
muscle power. 

Primitive peoples could float freight down a flowing stream, 
but until the invention of the water wheel shortly before the 
beginning of the Christian era, there was no other way in which 
moving water could be used as a source of energy for culture 
building. Wind was not employed as a source of energy until 
comparatively recent times, and it never has been an important 
source of power. 

Thus, we see that fire, water and wind were utilized as sources 
of energy only to a very limited and insignificant extent during 
the first hundreds of thousands of years of culture history. But 
there is still another source of energy that was available to primi- 
tive man, and eventually we find his cultural systems harnessing 
it: the energy of plants and animals. 

Plants are, of course, forms and magnitudes of energy. Energy 
from the sun is captured by the process of photosynthesis and 
stored up in the form of plant tissue. All animal life is dependent, 


in the last analysis, upon this solar energy stored up in plants. All 
life, therefore, is dependent upon photosynthesis. 

The first men subsisted upon plants and animals as, of course, 
their pre-human ancestors did before them. The earliest culture 
systems developed techniques of hunting, fishing, trapping, col- 
lecting, gathering, etc., as means of exploiting the plant and animal 
resources of nature. But merely appropriating natural resources 
is one thing; harnessing and controlling them is quite another. 
After some 985,000 years of cultural development, certain plants 
were brought under the control of domestication and cultivation^ 
and various animal species were brought under control through 
domestication. The energy resources for culture building were 
greatly increased as a consequence of this increase in control over 
the forces of nature. The yield of plant food and other useful 
plant materials per unit of human labor was greatly increased by 
the substitution of plant cultivation for wild plant gathering. 
Improved strains were developed through selective breeding. Cul- 
tivation, fertilization and irrigation served to increase the yield 
per unit of human energy, or labor. Among the plants brought 
under cultivation, the cereals have been especially important. 
Tylor has called them "the great moving power of civilization." 
All of the great civilizations of antiquity were brought into being 
by the cultivation of cereals; no great culture has ever been 
achieved independently of the cultivation of cereals. 

The domestication of animals, too, increased the energy re- 
sources for culture building as a consequence of the increase in 
control over these forms of energy. Their yield in food and other 
useful animal products per unit of human labor was greatly in- 
creased by the substitution of domestication for hunting. In a 
hunting economy animals had to be killed before they could be 
used, and when they were consumed more had to be found and 
killed. By means of domestication a people could subsist upon 
its herds and flocks without diminishing their numbers at all; 
they could even be increased. Animals, like plants, were improved 


through selective breeding, and, in addition to supplying milk, 
meat, wool, and hides, some species could be used as motive 
power, either to carry burdens or to draw plows or vehicles. The 
domestication of animals thus greatly increased the amount of 
energy under cultural control and available for culture building. 

A great advance in cultural development would be expected, 
therefore, as a consequence of the great increase in the amount 
of energy harnessed and controlled per capita per year by means 
of the agricultural and pastoral arts. And this is exactly what took 
place. The archeological record bears out our theory fully at this 
point. In a few thousand years after the inauguration of the arts 
of domestication and cultivation, the great civilizations of an- 
tiquit}', of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and, in the New 
World, in Mexico, Middle America, and the Andean Highlands, 
came quickly into being. After hundreds of thousands of years of 
relatively slow and meager development during the Old Stone 
Ages, culture suddenly shot forward under the impetus of aug- 
mented energy resources achieved by agriculture and animal hus- 
bandry. Great cities, nations, and empires took the place of 
villages, tribes, and confederacies as a consequence of the Agri- 
cultural Revolution. Rapid progress was made, especially in the 
Old World, in all of the arts— industrial, esthetic and intellectual. 
Great engineering projects were undertaken and executed; huge 
architectural edifices erected. The ceramic, textile and metal- 
lurgical arts expanded and flourished. Astronomy, writing, and 
mathematics were developed. Beginnings were made in a rational 
science of medicine. Impressive works of art were produced, in 
relief, sculpture, and even in painting. Development and progress 
took place in all aspects of culture. 

But culture did not advance continuously and indefinitely as 
a consequence of increased energy resources won by the tech- 
niques of agriculture and animal husbandry. After a period of 
rapid growth, the upward curve of progress levelled off onto a 
plateau. The peaks of cultural development in Egypt, Mesopo- 


tamia, India, and China were reached prior to looo b.c, in some 
cases considerably earher, and from that time until the beginning 
of the Fuel Age, about a.d. 1800, no culture of the Old World 
surpassed, in any profound and comprehensive way, the highest 
levels achieved in the Bronze Age. This is not to say, of course, 
that there was no progress at all from 1,000 b.c. to a.d. 1789. 
There were innovations here and there and many refinements of 
already existing traits. But, taking cultures as wholes, and measur- 
ing them by such yardsticks as size of political unit, size of city, 
magnitude of architectural edifices and engineering works, density 
of population, production and accumulation of wealth, etc., the 
cultures of Europe between the disintegration of the Roman 
Empire and the rise of the Power Age were in general inferior 
to those of the ancient oriental civilizations. The reason why 
cultures did not continue indefinitely to advance under the im- 
petus of an agricultural and stockraising technology is a matter 
that we shall consider presently. 

It appears then that culture had developed about as far as it 
could on an agricultural and animal husbandry basis before the 
^be ginning of the Christian era, at least in the Old World; the 
New World lagged somewhat behind. And it is reasonable to 
suppose that culture never would have exceeded the peaks al- 
ready achieved by this time had not some way been devised to 
harness additional amounts of energy per capita per year by tapping 
the forces of nature in a new form. A way was found, however, 
to do this: energy in the form of coal, and, later, oil and gas, 
was harnessed by means of steam and internal combustion engines. 
By tapping the vast deposits of coal, oil and natural gas, a tre- 
mendous increase in the amount of energy available for culture 
building was quickly effected. The consequences of the Fuel 
Revolution were in general much like those of the Agricultural 
Revolution: an increase in population, larger political units, bigger 
cities, an accumulation of wealth, a rapid development of the arts 


and sciences, in short, a rapid and extensive advance of culture as 
a whole. 

But, again, after a very rapid rise, the curve of cultural develop- 
ment began to show some signs of levelling off. We do not wish 
to intimate that culture had already gone as far as it could on a 
Fuel basis, for we do not believe it had; we merely believe that 
we can detect signs of a slowing down of the advance. But before 
the question of how far cultural development could advance on 
a Fuel-Agricultural-Animal-Husbandry-Human-Energy basis could 
become anything like a matter of immediate concern, a tre- 
mendously significant technological event took place: the energy 
resources of atomic nuclei were harnessed. For the first time in 
culture history energy in a form other than solar had been 
harnessed. No cultural advance has as yet been effected by the 
utilization of this new form of energy as a source of industrial 
power. And before it becomes significant in this respect, another 
fateful question will have to be met and answered, namely, the 
consequences of the use of atomic energy in warfare. 
( Thus we trace the development of culture from anthropoid 
levels to the present time as a consequence of periodic increases in 
(the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year effected by 
Itapping new sources of power. There is, however, another tech- 
nological factor involved which we have merely mentioned in- 
cidentally so far; we must now consider it more fully, namely^ 
the role of tools in the culture process. 

Energy is of course neither created nor annihilated, at least 
not within cultural systems; it is merely transformed. It is harnessed 
and it is put to work or expended. But this requires tools and 
machines. The amount of energy harnessed may, and the amount 
of human need-serving goods produced per unit of energy does, 
depend upon the efficiency of the tools employed. So far, we have 
been holding the tool factor constant and varying the energy 
factor. We now hold the energy factor constant and vary that 
of tools. We get, then, the following generalization: the degree of 


cultural development varies diiecily as the efficiency of the tools . 
employed, other factors remaining constant. If, for example, one 
is engaged in chopping wood, the amount chopped per unit of 
energy expended will vary with the efficiency of the axe; the 
amount will increase with the improvement of axes from the Old i 
Stone Age, through the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages up to ; 
the finest axe of alloyed steel of the present day. And so it is 
with other instrumental means, such as saws, looms, plows, 
harnesses, wheeled vehicles, boats, etc. Cultural advance is ef-, 
fected, therefore, by an improvement of tools as well as by in- 
creases in the amount of energy harnessed. 

But the efficiency of a tool cannot be increased indefinitely; 
there is a point beyond which improvement of any given tool 
is impossible. Thus, a canoe paddle can be too long or too short, 
too narrow or too wide, too heavy or too light, etc. We may 
therefore both imagine and realize a canoe paddle of such size 
and shape as to make any alteration of either result in a decrease 
of efficiency. Similarly, we may improve bows and arrows, hoes, 
plows, saws, etc., up to but not beyond a certain point. Perfection, 
as a practical matter, is either reached or at least closely approxi- 
mated. No significant improvement has been made in violins in 
decades. The steam locomotive has apparently come close to 
its limits of size and speed. To be sure, improvements may be 
continued for a time by the use of new materials or alloys and 
by the application of new mechanical principles. But even so, 
the improvement of any tool or machine approaches closely, if 
it does not reach, a limit. We cannot expect locomotives or ocean 
liners a mile long; they would fall apart of their own weight. 

In the culture process therefore, we find that progress and 
development are effected by the improvement of the mechanical 
means with which energy is harnessed and put to work as well as 
by increasing the amounts of energy employed. But this does not 
mean that the tool and energy factors are of equal weight and 
significance. The energy factor is the primary and basic one; it 


is the prime mover, the active agent. Tools are merely the means 
that serve this power. The energy factor may be increased indefi- 
nitely; the efficiency of the tool only within limits. With a given 
amount of energy, cultural development can progress only so 
far: to the limits of the efficiency of the tools. When these limits 
have been reached, no further increases in efficiency can make up 
for a lack of increase in amount of energy harnessed. But in- 
creases in the amount of energy harnessed result in technological 
Drogress all along the line, in the invention of new tools and in 
the improvement of old ones should further improvement be 
possible. We see, therefore, that important though the tool factor 
may be, it is merely secondary to the primary and basic factor 
of energy. And, since increases of energy foster improvement of 
tools, one may say that it is energy that, at bottom, carries the 
culture process onward and upward. The general statement that, 
the environmental factor being constant, the degree of cultural 
development is proportional to the amount of energy harnessed 
per capita per year is therefore sound and illuminating. 

We turn now to a consideration of social systems in the process 
of cultural development. A social system is, as we have seen it 
must be, closely related to its underlying technological system. 
If a people are nomadic hunters— i.e., use certain technological 
instruments in certain ways in order to obtain food, furs, hides, 
and other need-serving materials— they will have one type of social 
system. If they lead a sedentary life, feeding upon rich beds of 
shellfish, or if they are pastoralists or intensive agriculturalists, or 
maritime traders, or industrialists, etc., they will have other types 
of social systems. The process of military offense and defense and 
the technological means with which it is exercised also acts as a 
determinant of social organization, sometimes a very powerful 
one. Thus we see that the social system of a people is at bottom 
determined by the use of the technological means of subsistence 
and of oflfense and defense. Those social institutions not directly 


related to the technology are related indirectly; they serve to co- 
ordinate the various sectors of society with one another and to 
integrate them into a coherent whole. 

The social systems of primitive peoples vary tremendously in 
detail because the specific circumstances of natural habitat and 
technology vary. But all social systems resting upon a human 
energy (i.e., pre-pastoral, pre-agricultural ) basis belong to a com- 
mon type. They are all relatively small and manifest a minimum 
of structural differentiation and specialization of function. We 
find no highly developed societies upon the primitive foundation 
of a technology powered by human energy alone. 

The societies of pastoralists and agriculturalists in the early 
stages of these technological developments are likewise relatively 
simple, undifferentiated systems. As a matter of fact we may char- 
acterize all human social systems up to a certain point in the 
development of the agricultural, or farming-and-animal-husbandry, 
technology as primitive society: tribes based upon kinship ties, 
free access to the resources of nature for all, relatively little social 
differentiation and specialization, and a high degree of social 
equality. When, however, a certain point in the development of 
agriculture was reached, a profound change in social systems took 
place. This was the social aspect of the Agricultural Revolution. 
Let us trace the course of this social revolution in its main out- 
lines at least. 

Agriculture and animal husbandry are means of producing more 
food and other useful materials per unit of human energy than 
ca-n be obtained by hunting, fishing, or gathering. When agri- 
culture is combined with stock raising the energy resources for 
culture building are of course greater than when the cultivation 
of plants alone is practiced. Not only do flocks and herds supply 
meat, milk, wool or hides, but their muscle power may be used 
to carry burdens, draw plows and carts, etc. All of the great 
civilizations of the Old World grew up on the basis of agriculture 
and animal husbandry. Since, however, it is the cultivation of 


cereals that is the basic factor in the new agriculture-and-animal- 
husbandry technology, we may for the sake of brevity speak of 
"the social consequences of a developing agricultural technology." 

As the agricultural arts developed and matured, as plants were 
improved through selective breeding, as new techniques of cul- 
tivation, irrigation, drainage, rotation of crops, fertilization, etc., 
were introduced and improved, the amount of food produced in- 
creased. As the food supply was enlarged the population increased. 
Small tribes grew into large tribes and these into nations and 
empires; villages grew into towns and towns into cities. 

Not only was more food produced by agricultural techniques 
than by hunting, fishing, and gathering, but more food per capita, 
more per unit of human labor expended. And, as the agricultural 
arts developed, the productivity of human labor in this field in- 
creased. It gradually became possible for a portion of the popula- 
tion to produce food for all. This meant that a portion of the 
population could be diverted from agriculture and turned into 
other channels, such as the industrial and esthetic arts. As the agri- 
cultural technology advanced, more and more of the population 
could thus be withdrawn from the fields and put to work at other 
tasks and occupations. Society thus became divided along occupa- 
tional lines, differentiated structurally and specialized functionally. 
This led to further social developments as we shall see in a 

The mere increase in population had important consequences in 
another direction also. Tribes and clans were organized upon a 
basis of kinship ties; social relations were largely exercised in this 
form. Tliis mechanism worked very well as long as the social 
units were relatively small; a clan or tribe could be effective as a 
mechanism of social organization and intercourse as long as its 
members were not exceedingly numerous, as long as social relations 
could be personal. But when, under the impetus of a developing 
agricultural technology and an increasing food supply, clan and 
tribal units grew to huge size, they tended to fall apart of their 


own weight. Primitive society tended therefore to disintegrate as a 
consequence of sheer increase of numbers. A new type of social 
organization was therefore required if chaos was to be averted. 
This new organization was found in the State. This was another 
consequence of the Agricultural Revolution. 

The developing agricultural technology brought about a pro- 
found change in economic organization, also. In tribal society 
production, exchange, and consumption of wealth took place upon 
a personal, kinship basis; the economic organization was virtually 
identified with the kinship system. This type of economic or- 
ganization worked well in a small society with a minimum of 
division of labor and with little differentiation of social structure 
along occupational lines. But as society became extensively dif- 
ferentiated, as a consequence of the increase in productivity of 
human labor in agriculture, a new type of economic system was 
required; a way of relating classes economically to one another 
must be devised. This can be done either in a feudal or a mone- 
tar}'-market system. In either case, however, we have a system in 
which property relations form the basis of social relations rathei 
than the reverse, as was the case in tribal, kinship, society. 

On preliterate cultural levels there was of course some fighting 
between tribal groups. Competition for favored hunting and fish- 
ing grounds or other natural resources, vengeance for real or 
fancied (e.g., magical) injuries, led to a certain amount of inter- 
tribal conflict. But the factors necessary for large scale and sys- 
tematic and sustained warfare w^ere lacking. These were supplied, 
however, as a consequence of the Agricultural Revolution. A high 
degree of development of the agricultural, metallurgical, ceramic, 
and other arts resulted in the production and accumulation of vast 
amounts of wealth. A rich nation's possessions together with the 
natural and human resources that made the wealth possible would 
constitute a rich prize to any people who could conquer it. War- 
fare became a profitable occupation. Thus we find, especially in 
Mesopotamia, a condition of almost chronic warfare: nations con- 


tending with one another for. rich, fertile river valleys, the treasures 
of palace and temple, one nation conquering and looting another, 
new empires rising upon the ruins of old. 

The social consequences of systematic and chroijic warfare are 
significant: the formation of a professional military class, which 
in collaboration with political rulers and sometimes even 
autonomously, may become a powerful political force; the reduc- 
tion of peoples of conquered nations to the status of slavery or 
serfdom; and the subordination of the masses at home to the im- 
peratives of prolonged military conflict. Thus warfare tended 
powerfully to divide society into two major social classes: a 
relatively small ruling group who organized and directed the 
campaigns and to whom the overwhelming proportion of the 
wealth taken as booty went, and a large class who provided 
the "sinews of war"— the peasants, serfs, the common soldiers, 
etc. There was often but little difference between the lot of the 
masses at home and that of the masses of the vanquished nation 
after conquest and subjugation had been accomplished. 

Warfare was not, however, the only means, or social process, 
that operated to divide societies of the post-Agricultural Revolu- 
tionary era into a small, wealthy, powerful, ruling class on the one 
hand, and a large class of peasants, serfs, or slaves on the other. 
The peaceful process of commerce, and especially the use of 
money, operated also to bring about the same end. Trade and 
commerce are means of concentrating wealth. In this competitive 
process the big merchants grew at the expense of the small ones. 
Wealth tended to gravitate into a few hands. Money lending is a 
particularly rapid and effective means of making the poor poorer 
and the wealthy richer. When interest rates range from say thirty 
to one hundred percent or even more, as they did in ancient 
times, the small borrowers rapidly sink into economic bondage to 
the money-lenders. It was not at all uncommon in Greece be- 
fore the reforms of Solon or Kleisthenes for a small farmer to sell , 
his children into slavery in order to pay merely the interest on his 


loan, let alone the principal. Taxes levied by the ruling class 
through the mechanism of the state and exorbitant rents levied 
upon small tenants by large landlords also tended to reduce the 
masses to a condition of economic bondage and impotence. 

Thus we see that the social, political and economic effects of 
the technological revolution in agriculture were: the dissolution 
of the old social system of primitive society, the obsolescence of 
tribe and clan; the division of society into various occupational 
groups— guilds of artisans and craftsmen; the division of society 
horizontally into two major classes: a small, powerful, wealthy, 
ruling class and a large class, governed and exploited by the 
ruling class and held in bondage in one form or another by them. 
Civil society based upon property relations took the place of 
primitive society based upon kinship; the State replaced tribe and 
clan. The technological revolution in agriculture precipitated and 
carried through a revolution in the social, political, and economic 
sectors of culture. As the amount of energy harnessed and put to 
work per capita per year was increased by the development of the 
agricultural technology, society became more and more differen- 
tiated structurally and increasingly specialized functionally. Con- 
comitant with this trend was the emergence of a special social 
mechanism of co-ordination of functions and correlation of struc- 
tures, a mechanism of integration and regulation. This political 
mechanism had two aspects, secular and ecclesiastic, sometimes 
closely related, sometimes distinct, but always present. We call 
this special mechanism of co-ordination, integration and regulation 
the State-Church. The evolution of civil society from the early 
metallurgical era to the present day, passing through a variety 
of forms of the state and class relations, is a story that we shall 
turn to presently. At this point we wish to return to a matter 
touched upon earlier. 

If culture evolves when and as the amount of energy harnessed 
per capita per year increases, why did not culture continue to 
advance indefinitely as a consequence of the technological revolu- 


tion in agriculture? As we have already seen, it did not. On the 
contrar}', after attaining certain levels it ceased to advance and 
thereafter continued on a plateau until a new and powerful 
impetus came from the Fuel Revolution. Yet, agriculture as a 
technological process, as a mechanism of harnessing solar energy, 
was not developed to its technological limits by any means; it 
has not even yet reached those limits or even approached them 
very closely according to agronomists. Why, then, did techno- 
logical progress in agriculture eventually slow down and virtually 
stop after so rapid a rise? 

The answer seems to lie in the relationship between socio- 
economic system and technological system established by the 
Agricultural Revolution. As we have noted, every social system 
rests upon and is determined by a technological system. But every 
technological system functions within a social system and is there- 
fore conditioned by it. The social system created by the Agri- 
cultural Revolution affected the technological process so as 
eventually to "contain it" and to bring further progress in culture 
as a whole virtually to a standstill. This is how it was done. 

The social system of civil society was, as we have seen, divided 
into a ruling class and an exploited class. The latter produced the 
wealth; the former appropriated so large a portion of it as to leave 
the latter with but minimum means of subsistence. No advantage 
would accrue to the producing class if they enlarged their pro- 
duction through increased efficiency; the increment would only be 
appropriated by the ruling class. On the other hand, the ruling 
class were not likely to resort to a long range plan to improve 
the techniques of agricultural production. If they needed more 
than they were obtaining at the moment the need was immediate 
and a long range plan would have been of no use. They would 
therefore resort to greater exactions from the producing class. But 
in many, if not most, instances, it would seem, the ruling class 
had ample for their needs. As a matter of fact, a great deal of 
evidence indicates that one of the problems they had to contend 


with was that of overproduction rather than of insufEciency. 
Thus we see, especially in Eg\'pt but also in Mesopotamia and 
elsewhere, the ruling class engaging in "conspicuous waste and con- 
sumption" and that on a grand scale. Palaces and temples were 
loaded with wealth and vast treasures were deposited with the 
dead in tombs. In addition to this, great public works programs- 
pyramids, monuments, temples, tombs and palaces— were con- 
tinually being built. It would appear that the ruling class was 
frequently confronted with the problem of over-production and 
the threat of technological unemployment or a surplus of popula- 
tion among the lower classes. Their great public works programs, 
the wholesale disposition of wealth in mortuary customs, etc., 
enabled them to solve both these problems with one stroke. Thus 
the social system tended to act as a damper on further increase in / 
technological progress once a certain stage of development had 
been reached. In addition to the factors mentioned above, Childe 
has pointed out that the social system operated not only to con- 
centrate wealth in the hands of the ruling minority but effectively 
prevented the fruits of technological progress from being dis- 
tributed among the masses of the population. There was, con- 
sequently, no chance for the technology of production to expand 
quantitatively or to improve qualitatively. 

We see, then, that the new agricultural technology resulted in a 
tremendous growth of culture in its initial stages. But in effecting 
this advance a social system was created that eventually curbed and 
contained the technological system in such a way as to bring 
progress virtually to a stop, despite the fact that the technological 
limits of agricultural development had not been even closely ap- 
proximated. We may reasonably conclude, therefore, that human 
culture would never have gone substantially beyond the peaks 
achieved prior to the beginning of the Christian era had not the 
amount of energy harnessed per capita per year been considerably 
enlarged by tapping the forces of nature in a new form. 


The Fuel Revolution was the culmination and synthesis of a 
number of streams of cultural elements that had been in progress 
of development for some time just as the Agricultural Revolution 
was the organized florescence of trends of earlier ages. And, like 
its predecessor, the Fuel Revolution brought about great social, 
political and economic changes as a consequence of greatly aug- 
menting the energy resources for culture building by harnessing 
solar energy in a new form, this time in coal, oil and natural gas. 

As in the case of the Agricultural Revolution, the new fuel 
technology resulted in a great increase in population. The popula^ 
tion of Europe prior to the Coal Age grew only from 100,000,000 
in 1650 to 187,000,000 in 1800. From 1800 to 1900, however, it 
increased to over 400,000,000. The population of England, to cite 
the country in which the Industrial Revolution got under way 
and in which it developed to a very great extent, increased 50 per- 
cent between 1700 and 1800. But during the nineteenth century, 
it increased 260 percent. In the two centuries prior to 1850, the 
populatio nof Japan increased but 41 percent. In the fifty years 
following 1872— about the time industrialization began— however, 
the population increased over 80 percent. Urban development was 
powerfully stimulated and acceleiated by the new technology as 
it had been by the developing agricultural technology in the 
Bronze Age. The European feudal system— a rural, aristocratic, 
agricultural production for use economy— was rendered obsolete 
and replaced by an urban, parliamentary, industrial, production- 
for-sale-at-a-profit economy. Social structure became ever more 
differentiated and functions more specialized. The productivity of 
human labor increased as technology advanced. Farm populations 
decreased relatively and in some instances absolutely. 

Changes occurred in the class structure of society also. The 
basic dichotomy— a minority ruling class and the majority of the 
population in a position of subordination and exploitation— re- 
mained, but the composition of these classes underwent radical 
change. Industrial lords and financial barons replaced the landed 


aristocracy of feudalism as the dominant element in the ruling 
class, and an urban, industrial proletariat took the place of serfs, 
peasants, or slaves as the basic element in the subordinate class. 
Industrial strife took the place of peasant revolts and uprisings 
of slaves and serfs of earlier days. And, in a new form, the State- 
Church functioned as a co-ordinative and regulative mechanism 
to maintain the integrity of society by containing these class 
antagonisms and by mobilizing the resources of society for offense 
and defense. 

We may pause at this point to take note of an interesting 
feature of the process of cultural evolution: as culture evolves the 
rate oi growth is accelerated. As we have already seen, the rate of 
growth in late Neolithic and early Bronze times was much greater 
than in the Paleolithic and Eolithic Ages, The Agricultural 
Revolution required but a few thousand years to run its course. 
But the Fuel Revolution is only a century and a half or two 
centuries old at most, and already greater changes have been 
effected by it perhaps than by all earlier ages put together. The 
change is so rapid and we are so much in the midst of it that it 
is difficult to grasp the situation and to realize the profound and 
radical nature of the revolution, social and political as well as 
technological, through which we are passing. Twenty-seven years 
ago in New Viewpoints in American History, Professor A. M. 
Schlesinger compared the culture of the United States of Lincoln's 
day with that of Benjamin Franklin's on the one hand, and with 
the culture of 1922 on the other. He remarked that the daily 
life with which Lincoln was familiar was in most respects like 
that known to George Washington and Franklin. But our culture 
in 1922 would have been strange and bewildering to Lincoln had 
he returned to the American scene: 

Buildings more than three or four stories high would be new. 
The plate-glass show windows of the stores, the electric street- 
lighting, the moving-picture theaters, the electric elevators in 


the buildings and especially the big department stores would be 
things in his day unknown. The smooth-paved streets and 
cement sidewalks would be new to him. The fast-moving elec- 
tric street-cars and motor vehicles would fill him with wonder. 
Even a boy on a bicycle would be a curiosity. Entering the 
White House, someone would have to explain to him such 
commonplaces of modern life as sanitary plumbing, steam heat- 
ing, friction matches, telephones, electric lights, the Victrola, 
and even the fountain pen. In Lincoln's day, plumbing was in 
its beginnings, coal-oil lamps and gas-jets were coming into 
use, and the steel pen had only recently superseded the quill 
pen. The steel rail, the steel bridge, high-powered locomotives, 
refrigerator cars, artificial ice, the cream separator, the tv^dne 
binder, the caterpillar tractor, money orders, the parcels post, 
rural free delivery, the cable, the wireless, gasoline engines, re- 
peating rifles, dynamite, submarines, airplanes— these and 
hundreds of other inventions now in common use were all alike 

But consider the changes that have taken place— in transporta- 
tion, medicine, communication, and in technology in general— 
since Schlesinger wrote in 1922! In warfare perhaps better than in 
other areas of our culture, is the dizzying rate of technological 
progress made dramatically apparent. The technology of the first 
World War looks quaint today, and some of the weapons and 
techniques introduced for the first time in World War II are 
already obsolete. One hardly dares to picture the next great mili- 
tary conflict; novelties already unveiled and others only intimated 
suggest all too vividly the distance that technological progress has 
gone since the days of Pearl Harbor. And behind the scenes in 
the theater of Mars are the great research laboratories and prov- 
ing grounds, working under forced draft to develop and perfect 
new tools and techniques in all phases of our technology. The 
rate of cultural advance is now greater than ever before. "Our 
life," wrotQ the distinguished physicist, Arthur Holly Compton in 


1940, "differs from that of two generations ago more than Ameri- 
can life of that day differed from the civihzed hfe at the dawn of 
written history." * And, since Compton wrote these words, a 
profound and awful revolution— perhaps the most significant in all 
human history— has taken place: the harnessing of atomic energy. 
But, even as in the case of the Agricultural Revolution and its 
aftermath, so in the Power Age the social system created by the 
new fuel technology came eventually to act as a brake upon further 
cultural advance. The price and profit system stimulated produc- 
tion and technological progress as long as the output could find 
a market. But, like the socio-economic system of the Bronze Age, 
the new commercialism of the Fuel era had its inherent limita- 
tions. No industrial nation had or could have purchasing power 
sufficient to keep and absorb its own output; the very basis of the 
industrial profit system was an excess in value of product over 
the cost of production in terms of wages paid to the industrial 
workers. Export of surplus was therefore essential; "we must export 
or die" is a cry of desperation heard from more than one nation 
in recent years. For a time new markets could be found abroad. 
But as the output of industrial nations increased with advances in 
technology, and as non-European nations such as Japan became 
industrialized and hence competitors for foreign markets, the 
international profit system began to bog down. The world market 
diminished as the industrial output increased. When goods could 
no longer be sold profitably abroad, production w^as curtailed at 
home. Entrepreneurs are disinclined to produce goods that cannot 
be sold at a profit. Factories, mills and mines were closed. Millions 
of workers were thrown out of employment. Surplus goods were 
destroyed, agricultural production reduced. The awful plague of 
overproduction and unemployment, "star\'ation in the midst of 
plenty," settled upon the land. The social system was strangling 
the great technological machine of industry and paralyzing the 
body politic as a whole. The alternatives were stagnation and 
death or war and revolution. If the social system were able to 


contain the Fuel technology and the commercial rivalries and class 
conflicts engendered by it, society would become stabilized in a 
more or less stagnant form of industrial feudalism. Should, how- 
ever, the forces inherent in the new technology be able to 
surmount and overcome the restrictions of the price and parlia- 
mentary system, then culture could advance toward higher levels. 
There is evidence aplenty that culture, powered by the mighty 
forces of Fuel technology, is embarking upon the latter course. 
The first phase of the second great Cultural Revolution— the 
Industrial Revolution— has run its course and we are now entered 
upon the second phase, that of social, political and economic 
revolution. And, as in the past, war is proving to be an effective 
means of profound political change. The system of free and 
individual enterprise in business and commerce is now virtually 
extinct. The gold standard is merely a memory of an era that is 
closed. The parliamentary system of government, a device designed 
to permit the greatest freedom for the growth of industrial and 
financial enterprise, is practically obsolete also. Private right is no 
longer significant chiefly as a means of freedom for growth as it 
was in the early days of commercialism. It now leads toward com- 
petitive rivalry, internecine strife, chaos, and paralysis. Concen- 
trations of power without public responsibility among those who 
own or control vast wealth, or in the ranks of organized labor, are 
no longer compatible with the degree of unity, integrity and 
strength that a nation must have if it is to compete successfully 
with its rivals in the international arena. The exigencies of na- 
tional survival require the subordination of private right to general 
welfare, of part to whole. In short, the State, as the integrative and 
regulative mechanism of civil society, is destined to acquire ever 
greater power and to wield more and more control. Social evolu- 
tion is moving inexorably toward higher levels of integration, 
toward greater concentrations of political power and control. 
' On the international level, too, an interesting trend of social 
evolution can be discerned: movement toward ever larger and 



larger political units. The Agricultural technology replaced villages 
with cities, tribes with nations and empires. The modern Fuel 
technology also is working toward larger political groupings, fewer 
concentrations of political power. The relatively recent trend 
toward amalgamation can be seen in the unification of Germany 
and Italy in the nineteenth century. The Treaty of Versailles 
attempted, with the "Balkanization of Europe," to oppose the 
age-old trend of social evolution by breaking the continent up into 
little pieces. One of the conspicuous and significant aspects of the 
Second World War in its initial phase was a movement toward 
the unification of Europe. A half-dozen or so World Powers 
engaged in the First World War; only two great powers emerged 
from the second. The competition for power narrows as con- 
testants are eliminated. The logical conclusion is, however, not 
simply the domination of the world by a single nation— this would 
be but a transitional stage— but a single political organization that 
will embrace the entire planet and the whole human race. Toward 
such a denouement is our mighty Power technology rapidly 
moving us. 

But a new and ominous element has recently entered the pic- 
ture: nuclear atomic energy for military purposes. Here again the 
significance of this new factor derives from the fact that a new 
source of energy has been harnessed and in awful form. Once 
more we are upon the threshold of a technological revolution. 
But the consequences of this new technological advance may 
possibly differ radically from those of the Agricultural and the 
Fuel Revolutions. New technologies in the past have rendered old 
social systems obsolete but they have replaced them with new 
systems. The new nuclear technology however threatens to destroy 
civilization itself, or at least to cripple it to such an extent that it 
might require a century, a thousand, or ten thousand, years to 
regain its present status. At least this is what eminent scientists 
and military men tell us; as laymen we are in a child's world of 
ignorance, with almost all the significant facts kept beyond our 


reach. The destruction of a few score of centers of science and 
industry in Europe and the United States would just about do for 
Western civihzation and, authorities assure us that this is well 
within the realm of possibility, not to say probability. The hope 
of the future therefore, and the salvation of mankind and civiliza- 
tion would seem to lie in the emergence from the next war of a 
victor— not merely a survivor— and one with sufficient power and 
resources to organize the whole planet and the entire human 
species within a single social system. 

We have thus presented a sketch of the evolution of the culture 
of mankind from the horizon of our prehuman forebears to the 
present time. It is a fascinating story of adventure and progress; 
of a species lifting itself up by its cultural bootstraps from the 
status of a mere animal to a radically new way of life, a way 
destined to win mastery over most other species and to exert a 
powerful and extensive control over the natural habitat. The origin 
of culture elevated the evolutionary process to a new plane. No 
longer was it necessary for the human animal to acquire new 
powers and techniques through the slow process of biological 
change; he now had an extra-somatic mechanism of adjustment 
and control that could grow freely of itself. Moreover, advances in 
one stream of cultural development could diffuse readily to other 
traditions so that all might share in the progress of each. Thus 
the story of man becomes an account of his culture. 

Technology is the hero of our piece. This is a world of rocks 
and rivers, sticks and steel, of sun, air and starlight, of galaxies, 
atoms and molecules. Man is but a particular kind of material 
body who must do certain things to maintain his status in a 
cosmic material system. The means of adjustment and control, of 
security and survival, are of course technological. Culture thus 
becomes primarily a mechanism for harnessing energy and of 
putting it to work in the service of man, and, secondarily, of 
channelling and regulating his behavior not directly concerned 


with subsistence and offense and defense. Social systems are 
therefore determined by technological systems, and philosophies 
and the arts express experience as it is defined by technology and 
refracted by social systems. Cultural systems like those of the bio- 
logical level are capable of growth. That is, the power to capture 
any energy is also the ability to harness more and still more of it. 
Thus cultural systems, like biological organisms, develop, multiply, 
and extend themselves. The sun is the prime mover; culture, a 
thermodynamic system operated by it. At least, solar energy has 
activated all cultural systems of history up to now, and it will 
continue to do so after terrestrial supplies of fissionable fuels have 
been exhausted— if civilization should survive and reach this 
point. But technology is still the leading character in our play, 
even though it may turn out to be a villain instead of the hero. 
Technology builds but it may also destroy. The belief and faith 
that civilization, won at such great cost in pain and labor, simply 
cannot go down in destruction because such an end would be too 
monstrous and senseless, is but a naive and anthropocentric 
whimper. The cosmos does little know nor will it long remember 
what man has done here on this tiny planet. The eventual extinc- 
tion of the human race— for come it will sometime— will not be 
the first time that a species has died out. Nor will it be an event 
of very great terrestrial significance. 

But man may survive the coming holocaust of radioactivity even 
though his culture is tumbled to the level of Neolithic times, 
only to begin the long climb over again, this time perhaps by a 
somewhat different route; culture too may be able to profit from 
experience. But culture may not destroy or even critically wound 
itself with its new powers. Destruction is no more inevitable than 
salvation. Great though the devastation may— and will— be in the 
next test of strength in the international arena, the creative 
powers of the new technology may be sufficiently great to rise up 
from the ruins and to enclose the whole world in a single political 


embrace. Then and only then will the curse of war be lifted and 
the way made free and open for a fuller and richer life. 

Our sketch of the evolution of culture is, it will be noted, 
wholly culturological. It does not resort to race, physical type, 
intelligence, a moral sense, the dignity of man, the spirit of 
progress or democracy, the individual— genius or otherwise— the 
rejection of the father, consciousness of kind, a set of instincts or 
"drives," social interaction, a basic personality structure, toilet 
training in infancy, or breast vs. bottle feeding and weaning, to 
account for the behavior and growth of this great extra-somatic 
tradition. We explain it in terms of culture itself. A thunder- 
shower or a tornado is explained in terms of antecedent and con- 
comitant meteorological events; a clan or a constitution is likewise 
accounted for by citing its cultural antecedents and concomitants. 

Culture is, as we have pointed out repeatedly, a stream of inter- 
acting elements; one trait reacts upon others and is affected by 
them in return. Some elements become obsolete and are elimin- 
ated from the stream; new elements are incorporated into it. 
New permutations, combinations, and syntheses are continually 
being formed. Whether we deal with a restricted portion of the 
cultural continuum such as the evolution of mathematics or the 
genealogy of the steam engine, or whether we encompass culture 
in its entirety, the principle of interpretation is the same: cul- 
ture grows out of culture. In our sketch of the evolution of culture 
as a whole we deal with large categories: technology, social sys- 
tems, and philosophies. We break technology down into energy 
and tool factors. We observe the action of each class of elements, 
their impact upon others, the effect of technology upon social 
systems, and the influence of economic and political institutions 
upon agriculture and steam-driven factories. We note the role 
that war as a culture process has played in the course of political 
change. And, finally, we see the fate of civilization delicately 


balanced in a scales to be tipped this way or that, we know not 
how, by the modern miracles of nuclear technology. 

Culturology is the newest venture of science. After centuries of 
cultivation in the fields of astronomy, physics, and chemistry; 
after scores of years of tillage in physiology and psychology, 
science has at last turned to the most immediate and powerful 
determinant of man's human behavior: his culture. After re- 
peated trials and as many failures it was discovered that culture 
cannot be explained psychologically; such interpretations are 
merely anthropomorphisms in scientific clothing. The explanation 
of culture is and must be culturological. The science of culture is 
young but full of promise. It is destined to do great things— if only 
the subject of its study will continue its age-old course: onward 
and upward. 




"During the last hundred years, it has become increasingly clear that 
culture . . . represents ... a distinct domain . . . that demands for 
its investigation a distinct science . . ." — R. H. Lowie, Cultural 
Anthropology; a Science 

"TTiese specifically human peculiarities which differentiate the race of 
the homo sapiens from all other species of animals is comprehended in 
the name culture; therefore the science of specifically human activities 
may be most suitably called culturology . . ." — Wilhelm Ostwald, 
Principles oi the Theory oi Education 


'very living organism must effect a certain minimum 
adjustment to its environment in order to live and to repro- 
duce its kind. "Understanding" is the name we give to one 
aspect of this process of adjustment. We do not as a rule use 
this term in speaking of the lower forms of life, such as plants 
for example. But plants do the same kind of thing— and, if any- 
thing, more surely— that human beings do in contexts to which 
we apply the word "understanding." Scientific observations and 
experiments on apes make it quite clear that their behavior 
possesses qualities that we can only call "insight" and "under- 
standing"; and it is more than likely that other sub-human mam- 
mals share these attributes also. But it is in the human species and 
here alone that we find understanding as a process of adjust- 
ment carried on by symbolic means. In the symbol the process of 
biological evolution attained a metasensory mechanism of adjust- 
ment. All sub-human species must effect their adjustments in 
terms of meanings grasped and interpreted with the senses. But 



man can go beyond the reach of sense impressions; he can grasp 
and interpret his world with symhoh. Thanks to this abihty, he 
may acquire understandings and effect adjustments on a higher 
level than any other animal. His' understandings may be incom- 
parably richer than those of the highest apes, and he can share 
them readily with his fellows. Thus a new type of understanding 
and adjustment has come into existence in the zoological world. 

The use of the neuro-sensory-symbolic faculty in the process 
of adjustment finds expression in verbal formulas that we may 
call beliefs. The sum total of beliefs of a people we term their 
philosophy. A philosophy, therefore, is an elaborate mechanism 
by means of which a certain kind of animal, man, adjusts him- 
self to the earth beneath him and to the cosmos around him. 
A philosophy is of course closely related to other aspects of the 
cultural system of which it is itself a part: to technology, to social 
organization, and to forms of art. But our concern here is with 
philosophy as such, as a technique of interpretation, as a way of 
rendering the world intelligible so that articulation with this 
world can be effected to the greatest advantage to man. 

Philosophy, like culture as a whole, has grown and developed 
through all the ages that have elapsed since man began to symbol. 
Philosophy is an instrument devised and used for a purpose. In 
this respect it is exactly like an axe. One philosophy may be 
better— a better instrument of interpretation and adjustment — 
than another, just as one axe may be a better chopping instru- 
ment than another. There has been a progressive development of 
philosophies just as there has been development and progress 
of axes or of culture as a whole. The preceding chapters under- 
take to tell, or at least to exhibit, some of the story of this 

The first men interpreted things and events in terms of their 
own psyches. They were not aware of their standpoint of inter- 
pretation, however; on the contrary, they insisted emphatically 
that the minds to which the events of their experience were at- 


tributed were not their own, but those of spirits, of gods or 
demons. They were, however, merely the projection of the human 
ego into the external world. Thus the whole cosmos, the entire 
range of experience, was interpreted as the expression of mind 
and spirit, of desire, will and purpose. This was the philosophy 
of animism and supernaturalism, but above all, of anthro- 

It took time for the human primate to acquire skill and com- 
petence in the use of his newly acquired faculty, the symbol. 
Hundreds of thousands of years elapsed before any advance was 
made beyond the original— and self-deceptive— premise that the 
cosmos was and could be only the expression of an ego like 
man's. In his philosophies primordial man simply created the 
world in his own image. Nor have we outgrown this point of 
view even today as the prevalence, vigor and respectability of 
theologies clearly show. 

But after eons of explaining the world of things and events 
in terms of the desires, wills and plans of supernatural beings, 
an advance was made to a new level, a new set of premises. 
Instead of invoking spirits and minds to account for events, 
entities, essences, principles, etc., were called upon. Instead of 
saying, for example, that fossils were fashioned by a god, it was 
now said that they were formed by "stone-making forces," or that 
they were "the congelation of lapidific juices." This type of ex- 
planation, empty and senseless as it may seem today, was never- 
theless a great advance over the animistic, supernaturalistic 
interpretation that had prevailed before. The answers of super- 
naturalism were complete and final: God did it; it was God's 
will, and that was that; there was nothing left to say. Actually, 
of course, these answers told one nothing; they were as empty as 
they were final. And, worst of all, they shut the door to anything 
better; what else could one ask or learn after being told that an 
event was but an act of God? The metaphysical— to use Comte's 
term— type of interpretation at least freed one from the bondage 


of anthropomorphism. If fossils were formed by "stone-making 
forces," one was, by impHcation, invited to inquire into the nature 
of such forces and thus come into direct contact with the real 
world— instead of one's own image reflected therein— and to 
learn something about it as a consequence. The metaphysical 
explanations though empty in themselves were nevertheless pro- 
gressive; they opened the way to something better: science. 

We have not yet outgrown the metaphysical type of inter- 
pretation even in social science. We still find events explained in 
terms of "the separatism of the natives," "tendencies of the hu- 
man mind," "the principle of the equivalence of brothers," "the 
essential democracy of the Plains tribes," etc. (see p. 65). But 
we are making progress. 

If one accepted the invitation implicit in the metaphysical type 
of explanation, if, in an endeavor to find out what "stone-making 
forces" really are, one "went to nature, took the facts into one's 
own hands, and saw for himself" (Agassiz), he would stand a 
good chance of achieving the point of view and the techniques 
of science. At any rate, this is a type of interpretation that grew 
out of and eventually superseded metaphysical explanations. 
Things and events were no longer explained in terms of the pur- 
pose or plan of spirits, nor yet as caused by principles or essences; 
they were explained in terms of other things and events. Thus, an 
earthquake is not merely an expression of divine wrath, an act of 
punishment for our sins; nor is it merely the expression of a 
"principle of vulcanism." It is a geologic event that is to be ex- 
plained in terms of other geologic events. 

In science the human primate has come at last to a realistic 
and effective grasp upon the external world to which he must 
adjust if he is to survive. As an explanatory device, animistic, 
anthropomorphic and supematuralistic philosophies were worse 
than worthless, for false knowledge is often worse than none at 
all. One has only to think of all the men and women who have 
been put to death as witches and heretics to get some notion of 


the magnitude of the disadvantages imposed by this type of 
philosophy. To be sure, primitive philosophies had other func- 
tions than explanatory; they sustained man with illusions, they 
provided him with courage, comfort, consolation, and confidence, 
all of which had a biological survival value. But as explanatory 
techniques, primitive philosophies were a total loss. 

Metaphysical philosophies did not really explain the external 
world either, but they paved the way for a realistic and effective 
interpretation in the point of view and with the intellectual tech- 
niques that we call "science." A profile of modern philosophy dis- 
closes its genealogy as well as its structure and composition: a 
new, vigorous and growing component of science; an old, primitive 
supernaturalism, strong in certain sectors but declining as its field 
contracts and its nourishment dwindles; a rather lush growth of 
anthropomorphism and free will in certain sectors, but this, too, 
giving way to a more virile flora; and odds and ends of meta- 
physical reasoning here and there. 

If philosophy is a mechanism of adjustment of the human 
animal to his cosmic setting, then man is at the bottom of philo- 
sophic concern. As we pointed out in our chapter on "The 
Expansion of the Scope of Science," we can trace the history and 
the growth of science from the standpoint of determinants of 
human behavior. Astrology was an attempt to appraise the role 
of heavenly bodies in human affairs and to predict the course of 
human events as determined by the stars. The philosophy of 
science found its first expression in astronomy because the 
heavenly bodies, being the least significant of determinants of 
human behavior, could be dislodged most easily from the anthro- 
pomorphic tradition in which self was confused with not-self. 
The point of view and the techniques of science, once established 
in the sector of the celestial, began to spread to other areas. The 
course of expansion of the scope of science was determined by 
this law: science will advance and develop in inverse ratio to the 


significance of phenomena as determinants of human behavior. 
Tenestrial physics and mechanics followed astronomy. The physi- 
cal sciences took form before the biological because physical 
phenomena are less significant as determinants of human behavior 
than are biological phenomena. Within the biological realm, 
anatomy develops first, then physiology and psychology. The point 
upon which these three sciences focused was the individual 
organism. But it came eventually to be realized that there is a 
class of phenomena outside and beyond the individual that is 
nevertheless powerful and significant in the determination of his 
behavior. Sociology and social psychology were the organizations 
of scientific techniques to grapple with this class of meta-indi- 
vidual determinants. In the organization of these sciences it was 
assumed that the categories of determinants of human behavior 
had now been exhausted. Astronomy and terrestrial physics would 
take care of the inanimate determinants; anatomy, physiology, 
and psychology would encompass the individual determinants; 
and sociology, the science of society, would deal with the supra- 
individual determinants: what other determinants were there to 
be reckoned with? 

As we have already shown, the assumption of the founders of 
sociology was far from adequate. True enough, a man behaves 
differently in the company of his fellows than when alone, just 
as roosters, dogs, ducks, and apes do. A sociology of man— or ape, 
rat, dog, or duck— is in order, therefore, in addition to a psy- 
chology. But to go no further would be to overlook a fundamental 
difference between man and all other species. A monkey, dog, or 
rat, as we have just noted, behaves differently when in the com- 
pany of his fellows than when alone. We distinguish therefore 
individual and social aspects of this individual's behavior. We can 
go farther and recognize a social system of behavior in which the 
system as such is the focus of attention and interpretation. Thus 
we distinguish both individual and social systems. But— and here 


we come to the fundamental difference between man as a human 
being and all other species— whether we consider rat, dog, or ape 
behavior in its individual or its social aspects, whether we regard 
it in the form of individual systems or social systems, the deter- 
minant is the biological organism. We find one type of social 
system or behavior in one species of animal, another type in an- 
other species; ducks will have one type of social system or be- 
havior, eagles another; lions one type, bison another; sharks one 
kind, herring another, etc. Among the lower species, social sys- 
tems are functions oi their respective biological organisms: 
S = f(0). But in the human species, on the level of symbolic 
behavior, this is not the case. Human behavior, either in its 
average individual or its social aspects, is nowhere a function of 
the organism. Human behavior does not vary as the organism 
varies; it varies with the extra-somatic factor of culture. Human 
behavior is a function oi culture: B = i{C). As the culture varies 
so will the behavior. 

Thus it is not society, or the group, that constitutes the last of 
a series of categories of determinants of human behavior. Among 
the lower species, the group is properly regarded as a deter- 
minant of the behavior of any one of its members. But in the 
human species, the group is itself determined by the cultural 
tradition: whether we find a guild of artisans, a clan, a polyandrous 
household, or an order of knights in a human society will depend 
upon its culture. The discovery of this class of determinants and 
the isolation, in logical analysis, of these extra-somatic cultural 
determinants from the biological — in their group aspect as well as 
individual — has been one of the most significant advances in 
science in recent times. This assertion will no doubt strike some 
as extravagant. We are so accustomed to being regaled with 
accounts of the marvels of modern science— meaning physics, 
chemistry, and medicine— and so used to disparagements of social 
science, that to claim that the achievement of the concept of cul- 


ture is one of the most significant advances in modern science may 
well seem preposterous to some. We have no desire whatever to 
minimize the significance of recent advances in physics, chemistry, 
genetics, or medicine. Some of them, such as quantum mechanics 
in physics and genetics in biology, may quite properly be called 
revolutionary. But such advances have taken place in fields that 
have been cultivated by science for generations or even centuries. 
But with the achievement of the concept of culture a whole new 
field was opened to science. The lack of significant achievement 
so far in the new science of culture is therefore not an indica- 
tion of extravagance of claim on our part. The very newness of 
our science, the fact that this new sector of experience was dis- 
covered, isolated and defined only yesterday, in itself means that 
there has not yet been time for much accomplishment. It is the 
discovery of a new world that is so significant, not the relative 
magnitude or value of achievements won so far in this new 
world. We are so impressed with the achievements of physics 
and astronomy that it is hard for some to believe that the lowly 
"social" sciences can ever match them. This point of view is of 
course understandable in a day when science can map the dis- 
tribution of galaxies in the cosmos and measure the mass and 
temperature of stars a million of light years away, whereas in an- 
other field, science has no adequate answer to the question of 
the prohibition of polygamy in certain societies. But the lot and 
destiny of man on this planet embrace more than measuring 
galaxies, splitting atoms, or discovering a new wonder drug. The 
socio-political-economic systems— in short, the cultures— within 
which the human species lives and breathes and propagates have 
much to do with the future of Man. We are just beginning to 
realize this. And we may look forward to a time when the scien- 
tific comprehension of such cultural processes as polygamy and 
inflation will be considered quite as significant as the measure- 
ment of distant stars, the splitting of atoms, or the synthesis of 


organic compounds. The "discovery" of culture may one day 
rank in importance in the history of science with the hehocentric 
theory of Copernicus or the discovery of the cellular basis of all 
hving forms. 

This is not to say, as v^^e have tried to make clear earlier, that 
man is going to win control over the course of cultural develop- 
ment through a scientific comprehension of its structure and 
processes, any more than we have won control over the sun or 
distant galaxies by coming to a considerable understanding of 
them. Understanding, scientific understanding, is itsdi a cultural 
process. The growth of science is a culture process just as the 
development of a musical style, a type of architecture, or forms 
of corporate organization in business are culture processes. The 
development of understanding in astronomy, in medicine, and in 
culturology alike will make possible a more realistic and effective 
adjustment of the human species to the earth and cosmos. 

Profound advances in science make their way slowly. It took 
many years for mankind, even the educated stratum of society, 
to accept the heliocentric theory of the solar system and to 
exploit the resources of this point of view. It took considerable 
time also for the idea of the biological evolution of man to win 
its way against older conceptions. The discovery and exploration 
of the unconscious by psychoanalysis met with hostility and 
resistance. It is not particularly surprising, therefore, to discover 
that the present advance of science into the new field of culture 
is meeting with considerable resistance and opposition. 

We discover a common basis for all of these resistances and 
oppositions to the advances of science. Scientific interpretation *s 
non-anthropomorphic, non-anthropocentric. Opposition to the 
theories of Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin proceeded from an 
anthropomorphic and anthropocentric as well as a supernatural- 
istic conception of man and the cosmos: man was the chief work 


of the Creator of all; he w^s created in God's image; the world 
was made for him; it was motionless and in the center of the uni- 
verse; everything revolved about the earth; everything was inter- 
preted in terms of man. Scientific interpretation is deterministic, 
and as such evokes the hostility of all who are activated or directed 
by a philosophy of Free Will. 

The social sciences of man have been purged of super- 
naturalism to a very great degree— but not wholly as the existence 
and respectability of the anthropological school of Father Wil- 
helm Schmidt, to mention but one example, proves. But they are 
still anthropomorphically and anthropocentrically oriented to a 
very high degree. They are furthermore animated by the philos- 
ophy of Free Will to a considerable extent. Opposition to the 
science of culture is thus readily understood. An anthropocentric 
point of view cannot, of course, tolerate the thesis that it is 
culture, not man, that determines the form and content of hu- 
man behavior. The philosophy of Free Will cannot accept a 
theory of cultural determinism. To many sociologists and cul- 
tural anthropologists the notion that culture constitutes a distinct 
order of phenomena, that it behaves in accordance with its own 
principles and laws, and is, therefore, explainable only in cul- 
turological terms, is a "mystical metaphysics." 

Those who oppose the culturological point of view feel how- 
ever that their position is thoroughly realistic. It is so plain, so 
obvious, to them that culture could not exist without man, and 
that it is people, real flesh and blood human beings — not a 
reified entity called "culture"— who do things; anyone can see 
this for himself. 

As we have previously tried to make clear, one cannot always 
rely in science upon the "self-evident" features of common sense 
observation and reasoning. Of course culture could not exist with- 
out human beings. Obviously men cast votes, drink or loathe 
milk, speak English or some other language, believe in witches or 


other causative agents, build ships, make war, play pinochle, etc. 
The anti-culturologists confuse the existence of things with a 
scientific interpretation of things. To say that a man loathes or 
prizes milk as a beverage is merely to recognize an event, not to 
explain it. The culturologist knows full well that it is man, a 
human organism— and not "a rarefied or reified entity called 
'culture' "—that drinks the milk or rejects it as loathsome. But he 
knows also that observation of an event is not the same thing as 
an explanation thereof. Why does the man prize or loathe the 
milk, believe in witches or bacteria, etc.? The culturologist explains 
the behavior of the human organism in terms of external, extra- 
somatic cultural elements that function as stimuli to evoke the 
response and give it its form and content. And the culturologist 
knows also that the culture process is explainable in terms of itself; 
the human organism, collectively and individually, is irrelevant— 
not to the culture process itself— but to an explanation of the cul- 
ture process. We need not consider the neuro-sensory-muscular- 
glandular-etcetera organization that is man in interpretations of 
such things as clans, codes of law, grammars, philosophies, etc. 

From the standpoint of an explanation of human behavior, we 
proceed as though culture had a life of its own, even as if it had 
an existence of its own independently of the human species. 
"This is not mysticism" as Lowie observed long ago, "but sound 
scientific method"; a procedure, we might add, that is taken for 
granted in the more mature fields of science such as physics. The 
law of falling bodies treats them as if they pass through a perfect 
vacuum. Physicists frequently attack and solve problems by con- 
sidering vehicles that move without friction. In my physics text- 
book I read: "A rigid body is one whose shape is not altered by 
any forces that are applied to it." But the next sentence goes on 
to say: "Such a body is only an ideal conception, for rigid bodies 
do not exist" A person with the philosophic outlook of our anti- 
culturologists would find these physicists "unrealistic," too. They 


would reject the law of falling bodies because it describes .' 
event that never actually occurs.* They would dismiss^ 
vehicles as "mystical" and reject rigid bodies as "abstractions." 
The point of view of the anti-culturologist simply cannot realize 
that it is precisely because he works in this way that the physicist 
is able to achieve significant results. It is precisely because the law 
of falling bodies does not describe any particular event that it 
has universal significance and validity. "The paradox is now fully 
established/' says Whitehead, "that the utmost abstractions are 
the true weapon with which to control our thought of concrete 
fact." ' 

The culturologist proceeds along the same lines, with the same 
outlook and the same techniques of interpretation, as the physicist. 
Cultures can no more exist without men than vehicles can move 
without friction. But one may regard culture as if it were inde- 
pendent of man just as the physicist may consider vehicles as if 
they were independent of friction, or deals with bodies as if they 
actually were rigid. These are effective techniques of interpreta- 
tion. The realism of those to whom the sun obviously moves 
around the earth, for whom falling bodies must pass through an 
atmosphere, for whom frictionless vehicles and rigid bodies do 
not exist; the realism of those who insist that it is people not 

* We have, in a recent work by R. H. Lowie, a good example of the con- 
fusion of thought that results from a failure to understand one of the ele- 
mentary techniques of science due to this attitude of pseudo-realism. In a 
consideration of laws of cultural evolution he says that "there are bound to 
be so many 'deviations from uniformity . . . produced by special causes [quot- 
ing Lewis H. Morgan]' that a law, if operative, could hardly be discovered by 
human reason" (Social Organization, p. 53). The significance of Newton's 
work finds no appreciation here. No two bodies fall alike; the "deviations 
from uniformity" are as numerous as the falling bodies themselves. Yet the 
human mind was quite able to discover a principle common to all particular 
events and to express it in the form of a thoroughly adequate scientific law. 

Of course, a law of cultural evolution would describe no actual series of 
events any more than the law of Newton describes any particular falling body. 
But infinite variety of particulars does not preclude universals; on the contrary, 
particulars imply and presuppose universaJs. How quaint then to expect a sci- 
entific law, a statement of the universal, to describe this and that particular. 


ire who vote, speak English, enamel their nails, loathe milk, 
etc., is a pathetic form of pseudo-realism that has no place in 

"During the last hundred years," writes Lowie, "it has become 
increasingly clear that culture . . . [is] a distinct domain . . , that 
demands for its investigation a distinct science." ^ But what are 
we to call our new science? We have taken much pains to demon- 
strate the fundamental difference between a science of culture and 
the sciences of psychology and sociology; these terms are there- 
fore quite unsuitable. 'Anthropology' also is unsuitable for many 
reasons. The term is used to designate so many things as to be 
almost meaningless. It includes Physical Anthropology, which in 
turn embraces human paleontology, comparative morphology of 
primates, human genetics, physiology and psychology, etc. Cul- 
tural anthropology is variously conceived as psychology, psycho- 
analysis, psychiatry, sociology, applied anthropology, history, and 
so on. It would not be facetious at all to define anthropology as 
the activity that a person, bearing the professional label "anthro- 
pologist," engages in. As a matter of fact, the late Franz Boas once 
suggested that "the whole group of anthropological phenomena 
may be evanescent, that they may be at bottom biological and 
psychological problems, and that the whole field of anthropology 
belongs either to the one or to the other of these sciences." Thus, 
Boas not only failed to recognize a science of culture but even 
suggested that anthropology itself "will become more and more 
a method that may be applied by a great number of sciences, rather 
than a science by itself." ^ The term "anthropology" is therefore 
quite unsuited to our purpose. 

But is not the answer to our problem obvious? Does not the 
solution lie right before our eyes? What else could one call a 
science of culture but culturology? If a science of mammals is 
mammalogy, of music, musicology, of bacteria, bacteriology, etc., 
why should not a science of culture be culturology? Our reasoning 


seems perfectly legitimate and proper, our conclusion sensible and 
sound. Yet, so conservative, timid, or indifferent are many of the 
workers in the sciences of man that so radical and revolutionary 
an innovation as a new suffix for an old familiar word seems pre- 
tentious, absurd, or objectionable in some other way. We recall 
the objections that were raised to Spencer's use of the term "soci- 
ology." As he tells us in the introduction to his Principles of 
Sociology, his friends tried to dissuade him from using the word 
on the ground that it was a "barbarism." Similarly today, some 
scholars find that culturology grates harshly upon their ears. Thus, 
V. Gordon Childe writes that "the prejudices engendered by 
Literae Humanioies are too strong to allow [him] to adopt White's 
term 'culturology'." * Similarly J. L. Myres, in a review of "The 
Expansion of the Scope of Science," calls "culturology" a "bar- 
barous name." ° 

It appears that those who condemned Spencer's use of "soci- 
ology" as a "barbarism" did so on etymological grounds: it is 
derived from both Latin and Greek. This, it seems, is enough to 
make a purist's flesh crawl. But, for better or for worse, the trends 
and processes of living languages have little regard for such sen- 
sibilities. The Anglo-American language readily absorbs words 
from foreign languages— taboo, shaman, coyote, tobacco— and 
creates new words ("kodak") or new forms ("trust-buster") rather 
easily. Nor does it hesitate to resort to hybridizations and other 
improvisations upon occasion, such as numerology, thermocouple, 
thermopile, automobile, etc., as well as sociology. "Television" is 
one of the most recent offspring of linguistic miscegenation. Al- 
though Professor Childe does not like "culturology" he remarks 
that "such hybrids seem to accord with the general tendency of 
linguistic progress." H. L. Mencken, the distinguished authority 
on the American language, finds "culturology" a "rather clumsy 
word, but nevertheless logical," and he feels that we have "estab- 
lished the fact that it ought to be used." * We feel as did Spencer 


that "the convenience and suggestiveness of our symbols are of 
more importance than the legitimacy of their derivation." 

We may call attention, in this connection, to the fact that the 
departments of anthropology at the University of Chicago and at 
the Chicago Natural History Museum have been using the term 
"museology" for some time to designate the art of museum or- 
ganization, equipment, and management. If "-ology" is interpreted 
in the sense of "science of," then museology is a misnomer, for 
"museum science" is no more a science than "library science," 
"military science," or "domestic science" are sciences; they are 
arts, not sciences. If "museology" can become respectable, why not 
"culturology," for which there is more justification on etymological 

The concept of a science of culture is, as the preceding pages 
have made clear, an old one; it goes back at least to Tylor's first 
chapter of Pnmitive Culture in 1871. The term "culturology" has 
been used relatively very little, but it was employed in the exact 
and specific sense in which we use it, over a third of a century 
ago, and today it is being used on at least three continents. 

In his address, "The System of the Sciences," delivered in 1915 
(see p. 116), the distinguished German chemist and Nobel prize 
winner, Wilhelm Ostwald, said "I proposed, therefore, a long 
while ago [emphasis ours] to call the field in question the science 
of civilization or culturology (Kulturologie)." ^ We have not been 
able as yet to discover this earlier use, or uses, of this term by him. 

Fourteen years after the publication of Ostwald's "The System 
of the Sciences," Read Bain, a sociologist, speaks of "culturology" 
in a chapter written for Trends in American Sociology, edited by 
Geo. A. Lundberg and others.^ The sense in which he used the 
term is not wholly clear, however; he seems to equate "culturology" 
with sociology in one place and with human ecology in another. 
He also speaks of the "close kinship between social psychology 
and culturology." I first used "culturology" in print in 1939, I 
believe, in "A Problem in Kinship Terminology," ^ although I had 


employed it in my courses for years prior to this time. Dr. Cheng 
Che-Yu subtitled his Oriental and Occidental Cultures Con- 
trasted, published in Berkeley in 1943, "An Introduction to Cul- 
turology." He has written me that he had previously used not 
only "culturology," but "culturosophy," in publications in Chinese. 
Professor Huang Wen Shan, of the Institute of Anthropology, 
National Sun Yat Sen University, Canton, has published a num- 
ber of articles on culturology in Chinese, and he has informed 
me that he has a book on culturology now in progress. I have re- 
cently seen an advertisement for a book entitled Epitome de Cul- 
turologia, by }. Imbelloni, published in Buenos Aires. And, of 
course, there may be other instances that have not come to my 

The Chinese language is apparently more congenial to such 
innovations as "culturology" than is English. ''Culturology" in 
Chinese is wen wha (culture) hsueh (science of). Both words are 
common Chinese terms and their combination seems not to 
grate upon the ears of Chinese scholars or to wound their sen- 

But the objections to "culturology" are not wholly philologic by 
any means. Linguistic objections come readily to the surface; but 
deep down underneath lie views and values that will oppose the 
adoption and use of this term even more strongly than will the 
classicist nourished in the Literae Humaniores. "Culturology" 
specifies a sector of reality and defines a science. In so doing it 
trespasses upon the prior claims of psychology and sociology. It 
does more than trespass, of course; it expropriates as well. Tliat is, 
it makes it clear that the solution of certain scientific problems 
does not properly lie within the provinces of psychology and soci- 
ology as previously supposed, but belong to— i.e., can be solved 
only by— a science of culture. Psychologists and sociologists alike 
are loath to admit that there are problems pertaining to the be- 
havior of man that lie outside their domains; and they arA 


inclined to resent and oppose an upstart science that claims them 
for itself. 

But most of all, perhaps, culturology repudiates and rejects a 
philosophy that has been dear to the hearts of men for ages, and 
still inspires and nourishes many a social scientist as well as lay- 
man. This is the ancient and still respectable philosophy of 
anthropocentrism and Free Will. "What nonsense to say that 
culture does this or that! What is culture but an abstraction? It 
is not culture that does things; it is people, real flesh and blood 
human beings. It is always the individual who really thinks, and 
feels, and acts. Anyone can see this for himself! How absurd then 
to talk of a science of culture; what a distortion of reality!" As 
the preceding pages have shown, this view is all too prevalent 
and vigorous in American anthropology today, 

Culturology means determinism, also. The principle of cause 
and effect operates in the realm of cultural phenomena as it does 
everywhere else in our experience of the cosmos. Any given cul- 
tural situation has been determined by other cultural events. If 
certain cultural factors are operative, a certain result will eventuate. 
Contrariwise, certain cultural consummations cannot be realized, 
however devoutly they may be wished, unless the factors requisite 
to the consummation are present and operative. This is self- 
evident in meteorology and geology, but in the interpretation of 
human behavior it is still called "fatalism" and "defeatism"; or, 
it is regarded as immoral-and-therefore-false. 

The sweet soothing illusion of omnipotence still finds a ready 
market and a great demand. We can lay hold of our own destiny 
and shape it as we will. "Mankind under God controls his own 
cultural destiny and is free to choose and realize the ends . . /' 
Educators can control the culture process by "establishing cer- 
tain value systems in his pupils." Psychologists will "study scien- 
tifically the sources of , . . [war] in men's minds and scientifically 
remove them," Social scientists will perfect formulas for con- 
trolling cultural forces and the mastery of our destiny if only the 


federal government will give them anything like the financial sup- 
port given the makers of the atomic bomb, etc., etc. Science, it 
appears, is to become the handmaiden of a species of modern 
magic; the social scientist, to assume the role of a super-shaman. 
It is against the weight and force of this passion of free will, 
this premise of anthropocentrism, that a science of culture must 
make its way.^° 

But these non-linguistic objections to "culturology" serve also 
effectively to emphasize the need for a special term with which to 
designate our new science and to reveal the peculiar fitness of 
"culturology" for this purpose. The "distinct domain" that is cul- 
ture "demands for its investigation a distinct science," as Lowie 
has argued for over two decades. Durkheim, too, saw the "need to 
formulate entirely new concepts . . , [and to express them] in an 
appropriate terminoJogy." We think and work in science only by 
means of concepts made explicit in symbolic form. To think 
effectively, to make fundamental distinctions, without which 
science is impossible, we must have precision tools, exact con- 

"Psychology" labels a distinct class of phenomena : the reactions 
of organisms to external stimuli. But it does not distinguish cul-. 
tural phenomena from non-cultural, and the interpretation of the 
interaction of extra-somatic elements in the culture process lies 
beyond its proper boundaries. "Sociology," too, suffers from the 
"fatal defect" of failure to distinguish the cultural from the social, 
as Ostwald and Kroeber pointed out long ago. It assimilates cul- 
ture to its basic concept of interaction, making culture an aspect, 
or a by-product, of the social process of interaction whereas the 
structures and processes of human society are functions of culture. 
As a matter of fact, we have in "sociology" a good example of 
the confusion of thought that flows from the use of an ambiguous 
and equivocal terminology.^^ 

The term "anthropology" has been used to designate so many 
different kinds of activities— measuring crania, excavating pot- 


sherds, observing ceremonies, studying clans, psychoanalyzing 
natives, psychoanalyzing whole civilizations, tracing histories of 
arts and crafts— that it could not well be restricted now to the 
specific and particular task of interpreting the culture process and 
that alone. "Cultural anthropology" also has been used to 
designate a great variety of kinds of interpretation. And "social 
anthropology" is virtually indistinguishable from "sociology." 

With the expansion of the scope of science, a class of phe- 
nomena was distinguished from the psychological and the social. 
It was named "culture" by those who discovered and isolated it. 
The analysis and interpretation of this distinct class of events has 
been called the science oi culture by numerous anthropologists— 
Kroeber, Lowie, Murdock, and others— since Tylor first coined 
the phrase in 1871. 

And what is a science of culture but culturology? With this 
term we shall make it plain, to even the least discerning mind, 
that the extra-somatic continuum of symbol-borne events is not 
the same thing at all as a class of reactions of human organisms 
considered individually or collectively; that the interaction of 
cultural elements is not the same thing as the reactions, or inter- 
action, of human organisms. We may seem to exaggerate when 
we claim that a change in terminology can and will produce a 
profound change in thinking and point of view. But, as Poincare 
pointed out, until the distinction between "heat" and "tempera- 
ture" was made clear, it was impossible to think effectively of 
thermal phenomena. "The true discoverer," says Poincare, "will 
not be the workman who has patiently built up some of these com- 
binations, but the man who has brought out their relations . . . 
The invention of a new word will often he sufficient to bring out 
the relation, and the word will be creative." ^^ This is, of course, 
the significance of "culturology": it brings out the relation between 
the human organism, on the one hand, and the extra-somatic 
tradition that is culture on the other. It is creative; it establishes 
and defines a new science. 



1. Shapley, 1920, 1924. 

2. Douglass, 1929. 

3. Einstein, 1929, p. 107. 

4. Minkowski, p. 75. 

5. Einstein, 1936, p. 350 ff.; 1934, p. 33. 

6. Kroeber, 1931. 

7. J. Jeans et ah, 1931a; Russell, 1929. 


1. Hankins, pp. 56, 327; Linton, 1936, pp. 79, 68, 60; Goldenweiser, 
1937, p. 39. 

2. Descartes, p. 189. 

3. Carlson, pp. 477-79. 

4. Locke, Book III, Ch. 9. 

5. ibid.. Book IV, Ch. 11. 
- 6. Kellogg, p. 289. 

7. Locke, Book II, Chs. 11, 10. 

8. Tylor, 1881, pp. 54, 123. 

9. Carlson, p, 477; Bernard, L. L., 1927a, p. 399; Yerkes, p. 301; Hooton, 
1931, p. 167. 

10. Hooton, 1931, p. 153. 

11. Cf. Thomas, pp. 50-54, 776-777. 

12. Keller, 23-24, 303-317, passim. 


1. Argyll, p. 147. 

2. Clodd, p. 217. 

3. Schmidt, 1934, p. 41. 

4. Schnierla, 1948. 

5. Hooton, 1931, pp. 138-39. 

6. Lowie, 1929, p. 5. 

7. Yerkes, p. 347. 

8. Tylor, 1881, p. 51. 

9. Hooton, 1931, pp. 139, 136. 

10. Kohler, p. 295. 

11. ibid., p. 277. 



12. Dewey, p. i. 

13. Kroeber, 1928, p. 340. 


1. Newman, p. 164. 

2. Case, p. 3. 

3. Huxley, p. 35. 


1. Gumplowicz, p. 74. 

2. Giddings, 1896, pp. 24, 25. 

3. Cattell, p. 597; Baldwin, p. 621. 

4. Allport, F. H., pp. 12, 4; Washburn, 1946; Gault, 1927. 

5. Blackmar, p. 786; Ward, 1903, p. 59; Giddings, 1906, pp. 788, 794 
and 1896, Preface; Hobhouse, p. 130; Salomon, p. 140; Ellwood, 1906, p. 
859; Small, pp. 35, 622; Giddings, 1932, p. 402; Bernard, L. L., 1927b, 
p. 348. 

6. Ross, p. 869; Maclver, 1937, p. vii. 

7. Young, 1934, p. 19; Bain, 1942, p. 87 and 1929, p. 110; Ogburn and 
NimkoflF, p. 63; Ellwood, 1944, p. 6. 

8. Groves, p. 23; Groves and Moore, pp. 13-14; Young, 1942, p. 36. 

9. Lynd, pp. 72, 186 et passim; Bernard, J., p. 68. 

10. Simmel, p. 665; Spykman, p. 27. 

11. Gary, p. 182. 

12. Ellwood, 1944, pp. 6, 14, 13; Willey, p. 208; Willey and Herskovits, 
p. 191. 

13. Maclver, 1930, p. 181 and 1934, p. 243; Lynd, pp. 22, 27; Bernard, 
L. L., 1942, p. 800. 

14. Kroeber, 1936, pp. 331, 333. 

15. Tylor, 1871, pp. 5, 8. 

16. Durkheim, 1938, p. Ivi and 1915, p. 16. 

17. Durkheim, 1897, p. 354. 

18. Durkheim, 1938, p. li. 

19. Durkheim, 1915, p. 16 and 1938, pp. 110, 102. 

20. Kroeber, 1917, pp. 192, 206. 

21. Kroeber, 1919, p. 263 and 1928, p. 325. 

22. Kroeber, 1923, p. 325. 

23. Kroeber, 1936, pp. 338, 337. 

24. Lowie, 1917, pp. 17, 66, 95 and 1936, pp. 301, 307. 

25. Wissler, 1923, pp. 99, 247, 363 and 1927, pp. 75, 87. 

26. Wissler, 1927, pp. 62-63, 73' ^4- 

27. Wissler, 1923, pp. 333-334. 

28. Durkheim, 1933, pp. 285-286. 

29. Goldenweiser, 1927, pp. 85, 86. 

30. Boas, 1928, p. 235; Benedict, 1934, p. 251 and 1943, p. 31. 


31. Schmidt, 1939, p. 7. 

32. Bidney, 1944, p- 42. 

33. Radcliffe-Brown, 1940, pp. 10-11 and 1937, pp. 21, 71. 

34. Hallowell, pp. 175, 174. 

35. Linton, 1936, pp. 288-89, 363. 

36. Herskovits, 1945, pp- 150, 158. 

37. Hooton, 1937, pp. 272, 223; 1939, p. 370 and 1943a, p. 5. 

38. Hart, 1938. 

39. Meggers, pp. 195-97. 

40. Gillin, 1939, p. 45. 

41. Goldenweiser, 1933, p. 59; Boas, 1936, p. 137 and 1932, p. 612; Sapir, 
1917, p. 442; Benedict, 1939, p. 467; Hallowell, p. 174; Linton, 1936, p. 464. 

42. See, especially, 1937, pp. 16, 154, 269-70, 294-95, 

43. Kroeber, 1944, pp. vii, 763. 

44. Tylor, 1871, p. 2. 

45. Durkheim, 1938, p. Iviii. 

46. Kroeber, 1919, p. 263. 

47. Mead, p. 13. 


1. Durkheim, 1893, p. 390; 1938, p. 104. 

2. Seligman, p. 238. 

3. Havens, pp. 21-22. 

4. Rivers, p. 2. 

5. Williams, p. 83. 

6. Morgan, p. 505. 

7. Allport, G. W., p. 22. 

8. Sheen, 1948. 

9. Breasted, 1909, pp. 516, 449. 

10. Boas, 1945, p. 101. 

11. Benedict, 1942, p. 763. 

12. Boas, 1945, pp. 77-78. 

13. Kroeber, 1936, pp. 331, 333. 


1. Durkheim, 1938, pp. 1-2; Radcliffe-Brown, 1934, p. 531. 

2. Kroeber, 1944, p. 224. 

3. Linton, 1945, p. 5. 

4. Goldenweiser, 1933, p. 59. 

5. Sapir, 1916, p. 43. 

6. Benedict, 1934, p. 253. 

7. Wissler, 1927, p. 87. 

8. Linton, 1938, p. 248. 

9. Hallowell, p. 174. 


10. Goldenweiser, 1935, p. 75; Malinowski, 1939, p. 964. 

11. Sapir, 1917, p. 442. 

12. James, 1880. 

13. Newton, p. 544. 

14. Breasted, 1909, p. 357. 

15. White, L. A., 1942, p. 82. 

16. Tylor, 1871, pp. 306-07. 

17. quoted by Gumplowicz, p. 45, 

18. Gumplowicz, pp. 156-57. 

19. NovicoflF, pp. 2 10-2 n. 

CHAPTER 8. GENIUS: Its Causes and Incidence 

1. Galton, p. 40. 

2. Galton, p. 342. 

3. Spencer, 1873, p. 28 ff. 

4. James, 1880, p. 453. 

5. ibid., p. 449. 

6. Hewett, p. 140; Hooton, 1943b, p. 4; Frank, p. 476; Millikan, p. 214; 
Goldenweiser, 1922, p. 26; Boas, 1945, p. 76; Wissler, 1923, p. 331; Linton^, 
1936, p. 95. 

7. James, 1880, p. 453. 

8. ibid., pp. 445, 457, 453. 

9. Cooley, p. 346. 

10. James, 1880, p. 454. 

11. Kroeber, 1917, p. 200. 

12. idem. 

13. Bell, 1937, p. 532. 

14. Hecht, pp. 98-99. 

15. Quoted in Shapley, 1943, p. 147. 

16. Cooley, pp. 352-53. 

17. Ostwald, 1910, p. 185. 

18. White, L. A., 1945. 

19. Kroeber, 1917; Sapir, 1917. 

CHAPTER 9. IKHNATON: The Great Man Vs. the 
Culture Process 

1. Kroeber, 1944, p. 839; 1923, p. 133. 

2. Breasted, 1909, p. 357. 

3. Breasted, 1912, p. 339. 

4. Breasted, 1909, p. 362; 1912, p. 342; 1929, p. 78; Weigall, p. 68; 
Hall, p. 58; Breasted, 1912, p. 342; Gardiner, p. 858; Moret, 1912, p. 45, 

5. Budge, pp. 106, 77-78; Baikie, p. 315; Steindorff and Seele, pp. 201,. 
80; Pendlebury, p. xiv. 

6. Breasted, 1929, pp. 79, 78. 

7. Breasted, 1929, p. 80; Weigall, pp. 46, 51, 91. 


8. Moret, 1927, p. 441. 

9. Moret, 1927, p. 319. 

10. Weigall, pp. 6g, 70; Moret, 1927, p. 319. 

11. Roosevelt, p. 114. 

12. Harrington, p. 413. 

13. Breasted, 1909, p. 62. 

14. ibid., p. 171. 

15. ibid., p. 247. 

16. idem. 

17. Breasted, 1909, p. 272. 

18. Glanville, p. 135; Feet, 1926, pp. 202-03. 

19. Breasted, 1909, p. 362; Peet, 1926, pp. 202-03. 

20. Budge, p. 76; Glanville, p. 124; Steindorff and Seele, pp. 77-80. 

21. Steindorff and Seele, p. 221; Glanville, pp. 134-36. 

22. Steindorff and Seele, pp. 223-26. 

23. ihid., p. 242. 

24. Baikie, pp. 426-27. 

25. Scharff, p. 144. 

26. Breasted, 1909, p. 401. 

27. ibid., pp. 402, 403. 

28. ihid., pp. 475, 489, 490. 

29. ibid., pp. 491-92. 

30. ibid., p. 494. 

31. ibid., p. 496; Steindorff and Seele, p. 254. 

32. Steindorff and Seele, pp. 256, 269; Breasted, 1909, pp. 506-07. 

33. Steindorff and Seele, p. 270; cf. Edgerton, p. 153, who alludes to a 
tiew and different interpretation of Hrihor's role in this political drama. 

34. Breasted, 1909, p. 359. 

35. ibid., pp. 170-71. 

36. Breasted, 1933, p. 145. 

37. Breasted, 1912, pp. 312, 315. 

38. Breasted, 1933, p. 296; Peet, "Akhenaten, Ty, etc.," pp. 93, 96-97, 
102; Peet, 1926, p. 205. 

39. Breasted, 1909, p. 362; Moret, 1912, p. 45. 

40. Moret, 1927, p. 324. 

41. Peet, 1926, p. 203. 

42. Peet, "Akhenaten, Ty, etc." 

43. Peet, 1926, p. 207. 

44. Budge, p. 152. 

45. ibid., p. 41. 

46. Peet, "Akhenaten, Ty, etc.," p. 86; see, also, Derry, p. 115, and Engel- 
bach, p. 99. 

47. Peet, "Akhenaten, Ty, etc.," p. 86. 

48. Newberry, p. 51; Steindorff and Seele, p. 223; Pendlebury, p. 29. 

49. Breasted, 1909, p. 272. 

50. Breasted, 1909, pp. 367, 399; Weigall, pp. 71, 144, 139. 

51. Weigall, p. 71; Breasted, 1909, p. 369. 


52. Weigall, p. 98. 

53. ibid., pp. 46, 51, 91. 

54. Moret, 1927, p. 319; Ruffer, pp. 168, 170, 336; Gardiner, p. 858. 

55. Weigall, p. xvii; Smith, 1912, pp. 51, 54; Sethe, pp. 127-28; Engel- 
bach, 1931; Derry, 1931; Peet, "Akhenaten, Ty, etc."; Pendlebury, p. 9. 

56. Smith, 1923, p. 84; 1912, pp. 54-55; Derry, p. 117, 

57. Weigall, p. 69; Ruffer, p. 332; Breasted, 1909, p, 329. 

58. Smith, 1912, p. 55. 

59. Ruffer, pp. 332-333. 

60. Ruffer, pp. 170, 333. 

61. Newberry, pp. 51, 50; Steindorff and Seele, p. 222. 

62. Weigall, p. 52. 

63. Peet, 1926, p. 205. 

64. Baikie, pp. 304, 311, 313-14. 

65. Pendlebury, pp. xiv, 7, 148, 126; Frankfort, p. 29. 

66. Weigall, p. io6. 

67. Breasted, 1912, p. 334; 1909, p. 377. 

68. Breasted, 1929, p. 80; 1912, p. 342. 

69. Weigall, p. 175. 

70. Breasted, 1909, pp. 356, 385; Peet, "Akhenaten," pp. 106-07. 

71. Weigall, pp. 196, 202, 207. 

72. Breasted, 1909, p. 377; 1933, p. 296. 

73. Weigall, p. 101. 

74. Hyvernat, p. 339. 

75. Pohle, p. 410. 

76. Hyvernat, p. 345. 

77. Slochower, p. 46. 

78. Mann, 1942, p. 13. 

79. Freud, 1939. 


1. Somerville, pp. 140-41. 

2. Somerville, p. 375; White, A. D., I, p. 225, ftn. 

3. Quoted by Bell, 1931, p. 20. 

4. Hardy, 1941, pp. 63-64. 

5. Bridgman, p. 60. 

6. Kasner and Newman, p. 359. 

7. Descartes, Pt. I, Sec. XVIII, p. 308. 

8. N. Altshiller-Court refers to Durkheim's treatment of this point in 
"Geometry and Experience," (Scientific Monthly, January, 1945). 

9. White, L. A., 1943. 

10. Einstein, 1929. 

11. Kasner and Newman, p. 359. 

12. Schrodinger, p. 143. 

13. "On the Nature of Axioms," in Science and Hypothesis, Poincar^, 


14. Quoted by Bell, 1937, p. 16. 

15. Durkheim, 1938, p. Ivi. 

16. Durkheim, 1915, p. 424; see, also, 1938, p. li. 

17. Einstein, 1934, pp- 58, 69, 57. 

18. Hadamard, p. 50. 

19 "Mathematical Creation," in Science and Method, in Poincar^, 1913, 

20. ibid., p. 393. 

21. Quoted by Leuba, p. 240. 

22. Goncourt, p. 98. 

23. Leuba, p. 241. 

24. Hardy, 1941, p. 63. 

25. Hardy, 1929, p. 4. 

26. Hardy, 1941, pp. 62-63, 65. 


1. Tylor, 1888, p. 267. 

2. Lowie, 1920, p. 15. 

3. Goldenweiser, 1937, p. 303. 

4. Morgan, pp. 69, 378, 424. 

5. Mahaffy, p. 1. 

6. Cf. Montagu for discussion of this point as well as for extensive bibli- 

7. Malinowski, 1929a, pp. 153 ff., 3, 171. 

8. Freud, 1931, p. 247. 

9. Westermarck, table of contents for Chapter XX, 

10. Durkheim, 1898, p. 50 ff. 

11. Linton, 1936, pp. 125-26. 

12. Goldenweiser, 1922, p. 242; 1937, p. 303. 

13. Young, 1942, p. 406. 

14. Wissler, 1929, p. 145. 

15. Goldenweiser, 1922, p. 242; 1937, p. 303. 

16. Lowie, 1920, p. 15. 

17. Wissler, 1927. 

18. Lowie, 1920, pp. 65-66. 

19. Radcliffe-Brown, 1930, p. 435. 

20. Ogburn, 1933, pp. 661-62. 

21. Freud, 1920, p. 269. 

22. Lowie, 1940, p. 233; Fortune, 1932, p. 622. 

23. Young, 1942, p. 406. 

24. Fortune, p. 620. 

25. Malinowski, 1931, p. 630; 1929b, p. 407. 

26. Scligman, pp. 243-44, ^47, 268-69; Gillin, 1936, p. 93; Firth, p. 324 
ct seq.; Thomas, p. 197. 

27. Freud, 1931, pp. 250-51. 


28. Freud, "Contributions to the Theory of Sex," in 1938, pp. 616-17. 

29. Freud, 1930, pp. 63, 68, 72. 

30. Cooper, p. 20. 

31. Freud, 1930, p. 74. 


1. Durkheim, 1938, p. Iviii. 

2. Ogburn, 1922, p. 346. 

3. Jeans, 1931b, p. 109. 

4. Field, p. 9. 

5. Westgate, p. 165. 

6. Schmidt, 1939, p. 8; Sieber and Mueller, pp. 119-120. 

7. Childe, 1936, p. 19. 

8. Kroeber and Richardson, p. 148; Kroeber, 1919. 

9. Durkheim, 1938, p. xlvi. 

10. Kroeber and Richardson, p. 152. 

11. Durkheim, 1915, p. 27. 

12. Bassett, pp. 25-26. 

13. G. W. Allport, p. 23. 

14. Wissler, 1923, p. 8. 

15. ibid., pp. 8-10. 

16. Durkheim, 1897, pp. 427-28. 

17. Kroeber, 1919, p. 263. 

18. James, 1890, p. 2439; 1880, p. 442. 

19. Tylor, 1871, pp. 2, 24. 

20. Whitehead, p. 94. 

21. Frank, p. 475. 



1. MacCurdy, II, p. 134; Ostwald, 1907, p. 511. 

2. Childe, 1936, pp. 7, 9. 

3. Schlesinger, pp. 247-48. 

4. Compton, p. 576. 


1. Lowie, 1936, p. 301 and 1917, p. 17; Ostwald, 1915b, p. 192; White- 
head, p. 48. 

2. Lowie, 1936, p. 301; 1917, p. 17. 

3. Boas, 1908, pp. 7, 10. 

4. Childe, 1946, p. 251. 

5. Myres, p. 11. 

6. Mencken, personal communication. 

7. Ostwald, 1915a, p. 167; see, also, pp. 168-69; 1915b, pp. 192-94, 205. 

8. Bain, 1929, pp. 108, 110-11. 


9. White, L. A., 1939, p. 571 • . ^ ... ... . 

10. Bidney, 1946, p. 541; Linton, 1941, pp. 9, 16-17; G. W. Allport, 

p 22. 

' 11. Lowie, 1917, p. 17; 1936, PP- 301' 307; Durkheim, 1938, p. 37. 

12. Ostwald, 1915a, p. 167; 1915b, p. 192; Kroeber, 1918, p. 641. 

13. Poincar6, 1913, p. 371. 


The following abbreviations are used for those serial publications, handbooks, 
and encyclopedias that are cited two or more times. 

AA American Anthropologist 

AAA-M American Anthropological Association, Memoirs 

AJS American Journal of Sociology 

AM Atlantic Monthly 

AS Annales du Service des Antiquites de L'figypte 

CE Catholic Encyclopedia 

EB Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed. 

ESS Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 

JEA Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 

JRAI Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 

P-CAS Proceedings, Congress of Arts and Sciences, St. Louis, 1904, 

Vol. 5, Boston, igo6. 

P-MA Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters 

S Science 

SF Social Forces 

SM Scientific Monthly 

SWJ Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 

Abel, Th. 

1929. "Is a Cultural Sociology Possible?" (AJS 35:739-52). 
Allport, F. H. 

1924. Social Psychology. Boston. 
Allport, G. W. 

1947. "Guide Lines for Research in International Cooperation," (Journal 
of Social Issues, 3:21-37). 
Argyll, Duke of 

1872. Primeval Man. New York. 
Baikie, James 

1926. The Amarna Age. London. 
Bain, Read 

1929. "Trends in American Sociological Theory," (in Trends in American 
Sociology, G. A. Lundberg, et al., eds.. New York). 

1942. "A Definition of Culture," (Sociology and Social Research, 27: 
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1906. "The History of Psychology," (P-CAS). 



Bassett, Raymond E. 

1946. Letter to Editor, (S, 103:25-26). 
Bell, E. T. 

1931. The Queen of the Sciences. Baltimore. 
1937. Men of Mathematics. New York. 

Benedict, Ruth 

1934. Patterns of Culture. New York. 

1939. "Edward Sapir," (AA 41:465-468). 

1942. "Primitive Freedom," (AM, 169:756-763). 

1943. "Franz Boas as an Ethnologist," (in Franz Boas, 1858-1942, by 
A. L. Kroeber et a/., AAAM 61). 

Bernard, Jessie 

1929. "History and Prospects of Sociology," (in Trends in American Soci- 
ology, G. A. Lundberg et aJ, eds. New York). 
Bernard, L. L. 

ig27a. "The Psychological Foundations of Society," (in An Introduction 

to Sociology, J. Davis and H. E. Barnes, eds., Boston). 
1927b. "Sociology and Psychology," (in The Social Sciences and their In- 
terrelations, Wm. F. Ogburn and Alexander Goldenweiser, eds. New 
1942. Introduction to Sociology. New York. 
Bidney, David 

1944. "On the Concept of Culture and Some Cultural Fallacies," (AA 46: 

1946. "The Concept of Cultural Crisis," (AA 48:534-552), 
Boas, Franz 

1908. "Anthropology," (in Columbia University Lectures in Science, Phi- 
losophy and Art. New York ) . 

1928. Anthropology and Modern Life. New York. 

1932. "Aims of Anthropological Research," (S, 76:605-613). 

1936. "History and Science in Anthropology: a Reply," (AA 38:137-141). 

1940. Race, Language and Culture. New York. 

1945. Race and Democratic Society. New York. 
Breasted, }. H. 

1909. A History of Egypt, revised edition. New York. 

1912. The Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt. New 

1929. "Ikhnaton," (EB). 

1933. The Dawn of Conscience. New York. 
Brett, G. S. 

1929. "History of Psychology," (EB). 
Bridgman, P. W. 

1927. The Logic of Modern Physics. New York. 
Budge, E. A. Wallis 

1923. Tutankhamen, Amenism, etc. London. 
Carlson, Anton J. 

1926. "The Dynamics of Living Processes," (in TTie Nature of the World 
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Case, E. C. 

1934. "The Modern Biologist's Attitude Toward the Problem of Life," 
(The Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review, 40:1-12) 
Cattell, J. McK. 

1906. "Conceptions and Methods of Psychology," (P-CAS) 
Childe, V. Gordon 

1936. Man Makes Himself. London. 

1946. "Archeology and Anthropology," (SWJ 2:243-251). 
Clark, Grahame 

1946. From Savagery to Civilization. London. 
Clodd, Edw. 

1888. The Story of Creation. London. 
Compton, A. H. 

1940. "Science Shaping American Culture," (Proceedings, American Phi- 
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Comte, Auguste 

no date. Positive Philosophy, translated by Harriet Martineau, one volume 
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Cooley, C. H. 

1897. "Genius, Fame, and the Comparison of Races," (Annals, American 
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Cooper, John M. 

1932. "Incest Prohibitions in Primitive Culture," (Primitive Man, 5: 

Derry, D. E. 

1931. "Note on the Skeleton Hitherto Believed to be that of King 
Akhenaten," (AS, 31:115-119). 
Descartes, R. 

1901. Discourse on Method (in The Method, Meditations and Philosophy, 
translated and edited by John Veitch. New York). 
Dewey, John 

1920. Reconstruction in Philosophy. New York. 
Douglass, A. E. 

1929. "The Secret of the Talkative Tree Rings," (National Geographic 
Magazine, 56:737-770). 
Durklieim, Emile 1803. La Division du Travail. Paris. 

1897. Le Suicide. Paris. 

1898. "La Prohibition de L'Inceste et ses Origincs," (L'Ann6e Sociolo- 
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1915. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, translated by J. W. 
Swain. London. 

1933. The Division of Labor in Society, translated by George Simpson. 
New York. 

1938. The Rules of Sociological Method, translated by S. A. Solvay and 
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Einstein, A. 

1929. "Space-Time," (EB). 
1024. The World as I See It. New York. 

1936. "Physics and Reahty," (Journal of the Franklin Institute, 221: 
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1906. Remarks (P-CAS). 

1944. "Culture and Human Society," (SF, 23:6-15). 

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1931. "The So-Called Coffin of Akhenaten, (AS, 31:98-114). 

Field, Stanley _ ^^ ^^ ^^ , . 

1943. "Fifty Years of Progress," (Field Museum News, Vol. 14). 
Firth, Raymond 

1936. We, the Tikopia. New York. 
Fortune, Reo 

1932. "Incest," (ESS). 
Frank, L. K. 

1944. "What is Social Order?" (AJS, 49:470-477). 

Frankfort, H. ,„,.,« 

1929. "The Affinities of the Mural Painting of El-Amarneh, (m The 
Mural Painting of El-Amarneh, H. Frankfort, ed., London). 

Freud, S. 

1920. General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. New York. 

1930. Civilization and its Discontents. New York. 

1931. Totem and Taboo, New Republic ed. New York. 

1938. The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, A. A. Brill, ed. (Modem 
Library ed. New York). 

1939. Moses and Monotheism. New York. 
Galton, Francis 

1869. Hereditary Genius. London. 
Gardiner, Alan H. 

1917. "Philosophy, Egyptian," (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, James 
Hastings, ed. Edinburgh and New York). 
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1927. "Recent Developments in Psychology Contributory to Social Ex- 
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1896. The Principles of Sociology (1921 printing. New York). 
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1932. Civilization and Society. New York. 
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;i936. The Barama River Caribs of British Guiana, (Papers, Peabody 
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i939."Some Unfinished Business of Cultural Anthropology," (Ohio Arche- 
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1929. "Amenophis and his Successors in the XVIIIth Dynasty," (in The 
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1917. "The Autonomy of the Social," (AA, 19:447-449). 
1922. Early Civilization. New York. 

1927. "Anthropology and Psychology," (in The Social Sciences and Their 
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1933. History, Psychology and Culture. New York. 
1935. "Why I Am Not a Marxist," (Modern Monthly, 9:71-76). 
1937. Anthropology. New York. 
Goncourt, Journals 

1937. L. Galantine, ed. Garden City, New York. 
Groves, E. R. 

1928. Introduction to Sociology. New York. 
Groves, E. R. and Moore, H. E. 

1940. Introduction to Sociology. New York. 
Gumplowicz, Ludwig 

1899. Outlines of Sociology. Translated by F. W. Moore. Philadelphia. 
Hadamard, Jacques 

1945. The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field. Princeton. 
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1929. "Egypt, Religion," (EB). 
Hallowell, A. Irving 

1945. "Sociopsychological Aspects of Acculturation," (in The Science of 
Man in the World Crisis, Ralph Linton, ed. New York). 
Hankins, F. H. 

1928. An Introduction to the Study of Society. New York. 
Hardy, G. H. 

1929. "Mathematical Proof," (Mind, 38:1-25). 

1941. A Mathematician's Apology. Cambridge, England. 
Harrington, H. 

1929. "Roman Catholic Church" (in part; EB). 
Hart, C. W. M. 

1938. "Social Evolution and Modern Anthropology" (in Essays in Politi- 
cal Economy, H. A. Innis, ed. Toronto). 

Havens, R. D. 

1944. "The Burden of Incertitude," (University of Rochester). 
Hecht, Selig 

1947. Explaining the Atom. New York. 
Herskovits, M. J. 

1940. The Economic Life of Primitive Peoples. New York. 

1945. "The Processes of Cultural Change," (in The Science of Man in 
the World Crisis, Ralph Linton, ed. New York). 

Hewett, Edgar L. 

1942. "From Culture to Civilization," (El Palacio, 49:133-142). 


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1924. Social Development. London. 
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1937. Apes, Men and Morons. New York. 

1939. Crime and the Man. Cambridge. 

1943a. "Why We Study Apes and Monkeys," (Fauna, 5:2-6). 

1943b. "Morons into What?" (Woman's Home Companion, 70:4, 96). 
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1870. The Physical Basis of Life. New Haven. 
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1940. Mathematics and the Imagination. New York. 
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1903. The Story of My Life. New York. 
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1933. The Ape and the Child. New York. 
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1926. The Mentality of Apes. New York and London. 
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1917. "The Superorganic," (AA, 19:163-213). 

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1925. The Psychology of Religious Mysticism. London. 


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1936. The Study of Man. New York. 

1938. "The Present Status of Anthropology," (S, 87:241-248). 

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1945. The Cultural Background of Personality. New York. 
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1894. An Essay Concerning the Human Understanding. London. 
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1917. Culture and Ethnology. New York. 
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1929. Are We Civilized? New York. 

1933. "The Family as a Social Unit," (P-MA, 18:53-69). 

1936. "Cultural Anthropology: a Science," (AJS, 42:301-320). 
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1939. Knowledge for What? Princeton. 
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1933. Human Origins, 2 vols. New York. 
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1930. "The Trend to Internationalism," (ESS, Vol. 1). 

1934. "Sociology," (ESS). 

1937. Society: A Textbook of Sociology. New York. 
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1915. "Cleopatra VI," (JEA, 2:1-4). 
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1929a. The Sexual Life of Savages. London. 
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1931. "Culture," (ESS). 

1939. "The Group and Individual in Functional Analysis," (AJS, 44:938- 
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1942. "The Theme of the Joseph Novels." Washington, 
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1892. Matter and Motion. New York. 
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1943. Introduction to Is Germany Incurable? by R. M. Brickner. Phil- 

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1946. "Recent Trends in American Ethnology," (AA, 48:176-214). 
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1939. "Science and the World Tomorrow," (SM, 49:210-214). 
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1923. "Space and Time," (in The Principles of Relativity, H. Lorentz et 
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1937. "Physiological Paternity in Australia," (AA, 39:175-183). 


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1912. Kings and Gods of Egypt. London and New York. 
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1877. Ancient Society. New York. 
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1932. "The Science of Culture," (AA, 34:200-215). 

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1948. Review of White, "The Expansion of the Scope of Science, ' (Man, 

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1932. '"King Ay, the Successor of Tutankhamun," (JEA, 18:50-52), 
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1926. "The Nature and Origin of Life," (in The Nature of the World 
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1934. Principia Mathematica, F. Cajori, ed. Berkeley. 
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1922. Social Change. New York. 

1933. "The Family," (in Recent Social Trends in the United States, one 
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1937. "The Nature of a Theoretical Natural Science of Society," (Univer- 
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1940. "On Social Structure," (JRAI, "70:1-12). 
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1934. Public Addresses. Compiled by M. W. Hunt. Los Angeles. 
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1939. "Stellar Evolution." (EB). 
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1934. "Social Organism," (ESS). 
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1929. "Haremhab," (in The Great Ones of Ancient Egypt, W. Brunton 
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1922. New Viewpoints in American History. New York. 
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1934. "Primitive Man," (in European Civilization, Ed. Eyre, ed. London). 
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1948. "Psychology, Comparative," (EB). 
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1935. Science and the Human Temperament. New York. 
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1929. "Incest and Descent: Their Influence on Social Organization," 
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1937. Primitive Behavior. New York. 
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1923. Tlie Life and Times of Akhnaton. London. 
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1921. The History of Human Marriage, 3 vols. London. 
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1943. "Man's Long Story," (SM, 57:155-165). 


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1896. A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 
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1939. "A Problem in Kinship Terminology," (AA, 41:566-573), 

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1933. Science and the Modern World. Cambridge, England. 
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1934. "Slavery, Modern," (ESS). 
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1923. Man and Culture. New York. 

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1929. The Great Apes. New Haven. 
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1934. An Introductory Sociology. New York, 

1942. Sociology, a Study of Society and Culture. New York, 


Abel, Th., 84-85, 425 
Allport,F. H.,75,425 
Allport, G. W., 130, 342-43, 425 
Argyll, Duke of, 40, 425 
Aristotle, 52 
Augustine, Saint, 322-23 

Baikie, James, 238, 271, 425 

Bain, Read, 83, 411, 425 

Baldwin, J. M., 75, 425 

Barnes, Harry E., xv 

Bassett, Raymond E., 342, 426 

Bastian, Ad., 182 

Bell, E. T., 211, 426 

Benedict, Ruth, 95, 130-31, 162, 

Bernard, Jessie, 83, 426 
Bernard, L. L., 32, 82, 86, 426 
Bidney, David, 95, 108-09, 347, 

Blackmar, F. W., 82 
Boas, P., 65, 95, 104, 136, 194, 

409, 426 
Breasted, J. H., 130, 237, 238, 

239, 245, 247, 251, 253, 255, 

256, 257, 261, 266, 273, 274, 

275, 426 
Brett, G. S., 52, 426 
Bridgman, P. W., 284, 426 
Budge, E. A. Wallis, 238, 247, 

258-59, 426 
Burgess, E. W., 20 

Carlson, A. J., 24, 32, 426 
Carroll, Lewis, 282 

Case, E. C, 53, 427 

Cattell, J. McK., 75, 427 

Cheng Che-Yu, 412 

Childe, V. Gordon, 203, 332, 365, 

410, 427 
Clark, Grahame, 41, 427 
Clodd, Edw., 40, 427 
Compton, A. H., 386-87, 427 
Comte, Auguste, 56, 59, 69-70, 

Condon, E. U., xii 
Cooley, C. H., 196, 218, 427 
Cooper, John M., 326, 427 

Darwin, Charles, 14, 27, 40, 229, 

Day, Clarence, 123 
Derry, D. E., 264, 265, 427 
Descartes, R., 30, 68, 285, 427 
Dewey, John, 46, 427 
Douglass, A. E., 4, 427 
Durkheim, Emile, xix, 72, 78, 79, 

88-90, 97, 106, 121, 146, 286, 

290, 291, 309, 330, 336, 342, 
346, 414, 427 

Edgerton, Wm. F., xiii, 252, 427 
Einstein, A., 6, 185, 284, 288-89, 

291, 428 
Eliot, George, 298 
Ellwood, C. A., 82, 83, 85, 428 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 279 
Engelbach, R., 264, 428 



Eubank, E. E., 74 
Everett, Edw., 283 

Fan Chen, 52 ftn. 
Farrar, Curtis, xv 
Farrar, John, xv 
Field, Stanley, 331, 428 
Firth, Raymond, 325, 428 
Fletcher, Alice C, 66 
Fortune, Reo, 324-25, 428 
Frank, L. K., 193, 349, 428 
Frankfort, H., 272, 428 
Franklin, Benjamin, 40, 319 
Freud, S., 277-78, 307-08, 309-10, 
320, 325-26, 328, 428 

Galton, F., 191-92, 428 
Gardiner, Alan H., 238, 264, 428 
Gary, Dorothy P., 84, 428 
Gault, R. H., 75, 428 
Giddings, F. H., 74, 82, 428 
Gillin, John, 104, 325, 428-29 
Glanville, S. R. K., 248, 429 
Goethe, J. W. von, 297-98 
Goldenweiser, Alex., 23, 94, 104, 

162, 193-94, 310, 312, 429 
Goncourt, the brothers, 298, 429 
Groves, E. R., 83, 429 
Gumplowicz, Ludwig, 72, 182, 


Hadamard, J., 292, 429 
Hall, H. R., 237, 429 
Hallowell, A. I., 98-99, 105, 162, 

Hankins, F. H., 23, 429 
Hardy, G. H., 283-84, 301, 429 
Harrington, Rev. H., 195, 243, 

Hart, C. W. M., 103, 429 
Havens, Raymond D., 125, 429 
Hecht, Selig, 213, 429 
Herskovits, M. J., 65, 85, 104, 



Hertz, H., 289-90, 291 
Hewett, E. L., 193, 429 
Hobhouse, L. T., 82, 430 
Hooton, E. A., 6, 32, 41, 42, 43, 

105, 193,430 
Huang Wen Shan, 412 
Huxley, T. H., 53, 55, 430 
Hyvernat, Henry, 430 

Imbelloni, J., 412 

James, Wm., 29, 68, 74-75, 131, 
163, 192-93, 194, 196-97, 347, 

Jeans, Sir James, 330-31, 430 

Jones, Volney H., xv 

Kasner, Edw., 284, 289, 430 
Keller, Helen, 36-39, 430 
Kellogg, W. N. and L. A., 27, 

35-36, 430 
Knickerbocker, Wm. S., xiii 
Kohler, W., 40, 45, 430 
Kroeber, A. L., xiii, xviii, xix, xx, 

41, 48, 87, 90-92, 105, 106, 

109, 160, 190, 230, 233, 333, 

341, 347, 430 

Lagrange, J. L., 217 

Leibnitz, G. W., 14 

Leo XII, Pope, 159 

Leuba, J. H., 422, 430 

Lilienthal, David, 125 

Linton, Ralph, 23, 105, 107-08, 
130, 161, 162, 194, 310, 431 

Locke, John, 25, 30, 49, 431 

Lowie, R. H., xix, 42, 47, 61, 65, 
78, 92-93, 130, 303, 304, 318, 
397, 407, 408, 409, 414, 431 

Lyell, Ch., 221 

Lynd, Robt. S., 83, 86, 431 

MacCurdy, Geo. G., 363, 431 
McDougall, Wm., 75 


Maclver, R. M., 83, 86, 431 
McLeish, Arch., 336 
Mace, C. A., 75 
Mahaffy, J. P., 431 
Malinowski, B., 20, 162, 325, 431 
Mann, Thomas, 277-78, 431 
Marx, Karl, 186 
Maxwell, J. Clerk, 61, 81, 431 
Mead, Margaret, xii, 107, 431 
Meggers, Betty J., 431 
Mencken, H. L., 410 
Millikan, R. A., 193, 431 
Minkowski, H., 7, 431 
Montagu, M. F. Ashley, xii, 431 
Moore, H. E., 83, 429 
Moore, Jared Sparkes, xiii 
Moret, Alex., 238, 239, 257, 258, 

263, 432 

Morgan, Lewis H., 20, 129, 241, 

305, 432 
Murdock, G. P., 93, 141, 432 
Myres, J. L., xiii, 410, 432 

Newberry, P. E., 261, 432 
Newman, H. H., 53, 432 
Newman, James, 284, 289, 430 
Newton, Isaac, 14, 163, 217, 288, 

Nimkoff, Meyer F., 83, 85, 432 
Novicoff, Alex. B., 185, 432 

Ogburn, Wm. F., 83, 85, 207, 

Orrmont, Arthur, xi 
Ostwald, Wilhelm, 113-17, 225, 


Park, Robert E., 20 

Peet, T. E., 247, 258, 260, 271, 

Pendlebury, }. D. S., 238, 261, 

264, 272, 432 
Pennington, L. A., 211 
Pillsbury, W. B., 211 


Planck, Max, 100 

Plato, 47 

Pohle, Joseph, 432 

Poincare, H., 51, 67, 211, 289, 

296-97, 415, 432 
Potter, Alden A., xiii 

Radcliffe-Brown, A. R., 20, 65, 
96-98, 157, 241, 318-19, 432-33 
Reuter, E. B., 210 
Rivers, W. H. R., 126, 433 
Roosevelt, F. D., 242, 433 
Ross, E. A., 75, 83, 433 
Ruffer, Sir Marc, 263, 266, 269, 

Russell, H. N., 433 

Salomon, G., 82, 433 

Sapir, E., 94, 104-05, 162, 171, 

230, 433 
Scharff, Alex, 250, 433 
Schlesinger, A. M., 385, 435 
Schmidt, Father Wm., 41, 95, 

Schnierla, T. C., 41, 433 
Sehrodinger, E., 289, 433 
Seele, K. C, 238, 261, 434 
Seligman, B., 125, 325, 433 
Sethe, Kurt, 264, 433 
Shapley, Harlow, 4, 433 
Sheen, Mns. Fulton J., 130, 434 
Simmel, G., 84, 162, 434 
Slochower, Harry, 277, 434 
Small, Albion W., 82, 434 
Smith, G. Elliot, 260, 264, 265, 

266, 434 
Somerville, Mary, 283, 434 
Spencer, Herbert, 20, 56-58, 81, 

192, 410, 434 
Spykman, N. J., 434 
Steindorff, G., 238, 261, 434 
Steinour, Harold H., xiii 
Stern, B. J., 93, 434 
Stout, G. F., 75 
Swan ton, John R., 107, 434 


Taylor, W.W., 181 
Thomas, Wm. I., 325, 434 
Tylor, E. B., xix, xx, 20, 30, 43, 

87-90, 105-06, 107, 180, 303, 
313, 348, 371,434 

Urey, H., 213-14 

Ward, Lester F., 57, 82, 434 
Warren, H. C, 52 
Washburn, M. F., 75, 434 
Watt, James, 212 
Weaver, Warren, xiii 
Weigall, A., 239, 263, 264, 265, 
270, 273, 274, 275, 434 


Westermarck, Edw., 309, 434 
Westgate, Lewis G., 331, 434 
White, A. D., 435 
White, Leshe A., 435 
Whitehead, A. N., 107, 348, 408, 

Wilder, R. L., xv 

Willey, M. M., 85, 435 

Williams, Mary W., 418, 435 

Wissler, Clark, xix, 92-93, 162, 

194, 311, 344, 435 

Wolfe, Thomas, 150-51 

Yerkes, R. M. and A. W., 32, 41, 

43' 435 
Young, Kimball, 83, 310-11, 435 


Agricultural Revolution, 372 
Agriculture, a means of harnessing 

energy, 371; and population in- 
crease, 378 
Animism, 66 
Anthropocentrism, 177, 338, 357- 

58, 406 
Anthropology, and psychiatry, 

105; regression of, 1035., 110; 

scope of, 409, 41 5 
Anthropomorphism, 65, 106, 183, 

234, 406, 413 
Apes, imitation among, 42-43; lack 

culture, 42; mentality of, 23, 43, 

45, 212; size of brain, 32-33; 

and speech, 32, 35-36; use of 

tools, 4iff. 
Art, nature of, 3 
Astronomy, 4-5 
Atomic energy, 389 

Brain, size and weight of, 32-33 
Bride-price, 317 

Cereals and cultural development, 

Chance, and the course of history, 

228-29; ^"^ genius, 202 
Church, political functions of, 

1 59-60, 242-44; vs. state, 242- 

44, 258, 266-67 
Class structure, 380, 382-83, 384- 

Complexity of phenomena, 61-63 
Conscience, nature of, 156-58 

Co-operation, and social evolu- 
tion, 313-16; among lower pri- 
mates, 314 

Culture, an "abstraction," 96; an- 
atomy of, 364; belief in man's 
control over, 234, 33off.; de- 
fined by Tylor, 87; depends 
upon symbolling, 15, 33; a dis- 
tinct class of phenomena, 73, 
92, 397, 409; evolution of, 221, 
241, 364flF., 390-93; explained in 
terms of culture, 92, 100, 105, 
167, 181, 201, 339, 351, 392; 
felt as "outside force," 297-98; 
has a life of its own, 358, 407; 
importance of concept of, 403- 
05; "intangible," 101-02; inter- 
pretations of, xvii-xix, 84; nature 
of, 15-16, 140, 240-41; a "psy- 
chological" phenomenon, 104- 
05; rate of growth of, 385; rate 
of growth and mental ability, 
218-22; reality of questioned, 
101; science of, see "Science of 

Culture pattern and achievement, 

Culture process, 166, 181, 328; 
and individual, i6iff., 183-84; 
and inventions, 168-70, 292 

Culture, and cereals, 371; and 
dreams, 179-81; and energy, 
166, 363ff.; and environment, 
339; and genius, 215-18; and 
human behavior, 79, 287, 328, < 



337' 3 5 ^'5^' ^"<^ human nature, 
287; and the individual, 161, 
183, 369; and physical type, 
124, 138, 164, 167; and race, 
124, 138, 164, 167 
Cultural determinism, 208, 341, 

347' 348 . 
C?iltural evolution, basic law or, 

368, 374-75; and improvement 

of tools, 375; opposition to, 20 
Cultural trends, prediction of, 355 
Culturology, and sociology, 80-86; 

the word, 116, 409-12, 415; see 

"Science of culture" 

Darwinism, a synthesis, 295-96 

Democracy, theory of, 178 

Determinants of human behavior, 

Determinism, in culture process, 
208, 341, 347, 348; in cultur- 
ology, 413; in science, 406 

Dictatorship of proletariat, 178 

Discoveries; see Inventions and 

Division of labor, 378 

Divorce, 321 

Dogs, why kept, 334 

Domestication of animals, a means 
of harnessing energy, 371 

Dowry, 317 

Dreams and culture, 179-81 

Economic factor, in marriage and 

family, 315-21 
Education, and culture process, 

346-47; and magic, 344-45 
Egyptian priesthoods, power of, 

246-47, 253; wealth of, 245-46, 

Endogamy, 322 
Energy, and culture, 363ff.; forms 

of harnessed by culture: humam 

organism, 369, fire, wind and 


water, 370, plants and animals, 
370, fuels, 373, atomic nucleus, 

Etiquette, 1 59 

Evolution vs. history, 229-30 
Evolutionary process, loff. 
Exogamy, 318, 322, 327 

Family, in colonial America, 319- 
20; economic basis of, 318-21; 
in primitive society, 318-19 

Fashions in dress, tyranny of, 

Fatalism and science of culture, 

347-48, 413 

Fire, role of, in cultural develop- 
ment, 370 

Food habits, 153 

Free Will, 107-08, 112, 331-32, 
341, 344, 347, 406, 413 

Fuel Revolution, 373 

Genius, igofi.; chance occurrence 
of, 202; and cultural milieu, 
218; and culture pattern, 215- 
17; and intelligence, 210-14; 
and invention, 210; nature of, 
197-98; and neurological locus, 
226, 231 
Geometry, non-Euclidean, 288 
God, in ethnological theory, 108- 
09, 413; as explanatory device, 


Golshok, 50 

Great Man, i92flF.; and culture, 
234; and history, 227ff.; inter- 
pretation of history, 271, 279-81 

"Group mind," 186-87 

History, nature of, 8-9; vs. evolu- 
tion, 229-30 

Human behavior, determinants of, 
66ff., 77-79, 147; determined by 
culture, 79, 200, 287, 328, 337, 


351-52; nature of, 18, 121-23, 

Human nature, 126, 131, i49ff.; 

and culture, 287 
Human vs. non-human behavior, 

34-36, 171 . ^ . . 

Human organism, locus ot culture 

process, 226, 231, 293 

Idealism, philosophy of, 46, 233 
Ideas, syntheses of, 291, 293, 297 
Ikhnaton, age of, 260, 264; al- 
leged foreign blood, 239, 266; 
art under, 238-39; Catholic view 
of, 276-77; death of, 249; Freud 
on, 278; God reveals himself to, 
273; our ignorance concerning, 
269-70; innovations of, 256; in- 
strument of Divine Purpose, 
276; Jewish view of, 277; loses 
Asiatic empire, 269, 274-75; 
Mann on, 277-78; and Moses, 
276-78; supposed mummy of, 
264; pathology of, 239, 263, 
265; alleged personal character- 
istics, 237-39; vs. the priests, 
248, 257-58, 266; reign of, 235; 
resembles Jesus, 263, 274-75; 
rewards his followers, 261-62; 
revolution of, interpreted, 258- 

Inbreeding, 305-07; among lower 

primates, 315 
Incest, 158-59, 303!?.; instinct 

theory of, 304; and physical de- 
terioration, 305-07 
Incest taboos, interpreted by: 

Cooper, 326; Durkheim, 309; 

Firth, 325; Fortune, 324-25; 

Freud, 307-08, 325-26, 328; Gil- 

lin, 325; Goldenweiser, 310; 

Linton, 310; Lowie, 303-04; 

Malinowski, 325; Morgan, 305; 

Ogbum, 312; Saint Augustine, 


322-23; Seligman, 325; Thomas, 
325; Tylor, 313; Westermarck, 
309; Wissler, 311; Young, 310- 

Individual, and culture process, 
i6iff., 183-84, 295, 369; a cata- 
lytic agent, 181, 294; differences, 
174, 199, 294; the instrument 
of culture forces, 298; a neural 
locus of events, 226, 231, 296; 
the originator of culture, i6iff.; 
as prime mover, i6iff., 175, 
181; vs. social achievement, 225 

Inquisition and mental ability, 221 

Intra-, extra-organismal contexts, 
51, 81 

Inventions and discoveries, as cul- 
tural syntheses, 168-70, 203-04, 
292; inevitability of, 205-09; 
made simultaneously but inde- 
pendently, 169-70, 205-07, 209- 
11, 292-93; and social stratifica- 
tion, 223-24; and technology, 

Kinship, 241, 327, 377, 381; so- 
ciological vs. biological, 307 
Kissing, 153 

Language, and the science of cul- 
ture, 141; and sensory experi- 
ence, 288 

Law, of cultural evolution, 368, 
374-75; of development of phi- 
losophy, 69, 111; everywhere, 

Laws of thought, 299 ftn. 

Levirate, 317 

Liberals, 179 

Living vs. non-living systems, 51 

Love, marriage and the family, 321 

Man, behavior of, 34; a constant, 
culture a variable, 200, 226, 294, 



338-39; man's control over cul- 
ture, belief in, 234, 342-43; man 
and culture, 96-101, 123, 138- 
39, 164, 167; man's place in cos- 
mos, 357-58 

Marriage, brother-sister, 305, 322; 
with cousins, 306-07; economic 
aspect of, 315-21; group aspect 
of, 317; and love, 321 

Mathematics, growth of, 292, 298- 
301; origin of, 299; and culture, 
285-86, 293 

Mathematical concepts, locus of, 
283, 301-02 

Mental ability, and the course of 
history, 226; and cultural 
achievement, 221; and the In- 
quisition, 221; and rate of cul- 
ture growth, 218-22; and tech- 
nology, 224-25 

Metaphysical interpretations, 65, 

Mind, minding, 495.; and bodily 
structure, 148; of man vs. sub- 
man, 23ff., 35-36, 44-45; and 
race, 148-49 

Mind-body problem, 491?. 

Monotheism in Egypt, 254-56 

"Mysticism" and tlie science of 
culture, 88, 95, 407 

Natural law and human affairs, 72, 

Naturalism, 65 

Oedipus complex, 155 
Omnipotence, illusion of, 341, 413 

Paternity, biological, ignorance of, 

Personality studies, 105 
Philosophy, development of, 399; 

as explanatory device, 64, 398; 

law of development of, 69; two 

major types, 64; a mechanism of 
adjustment, 401; and technol- 
ogy, 366 
Physical type and culture, 124, 

138, 164, 167 
Physiology defined, 81 
Polygamy, prohibition of, 335 
Population, increase of, 378, 384 
Prediction of culture change, 355 
Primitive society vs. civil society, 

241, 377, 381 
Profit system, 387 
Projection of self into external 

world, 84, 86 
Psychology, defined, 4, 81; growth 
of, 73-74; and the individual, 75 
Psychological vs. culturological in- 
terpretations, 77-79, 105, 12lff., 
236-37, 266ff., 312, 412 

Race and culture, 124, 138, 164 
Race prejudice, explanations of, 

Rats, neuroses of, 35 
Realism, pseudo-, 143, 183, 406 
Reality, locus of, 284 
Revolutionists, 178-79 

Savagery, recent emergence from, 


Science, blind alleys of, 311; ex- 
pansion of scope of, 55ff-, 71, 
401-02; a means of adjustment, 
354; the modern magic, 343; na- 
ture of, 3ff.; and reality, 8 

Science of culture, and anthropo- 
morphism, 134-38; begun by: 
Durkheim, 88, Tylor, 87; fur- 
thered by: Kroeber, 90, Lowie, 
92, Wissler, 93; a demonstra- 
tion of, 392; and determinism, 
413; nature of, 99-101, 140-42, 
397; opposed by: Benedict, 95, 
L. L. Bernard, 86, Bidney, 95, 


Boas, 95, Goldenweiser, 94, 
Hallowell, 98, Hart, 103, Hoo- 
ton, 102, Lynd, 86, Radcliffe- 
Brown, 96-98, Sapir, 94; oppo- 
sition to, 86, 94ff., 105-06, 143, 
406; origin of, xix, 76, 87, 142, 
404; a rival of other sciences, 

Sciences, classification of, 18-19, 
56; and complexity, 59-63; 
"hierarchy" of, 56ff., 70, 114; 
levels of, 15, 19, 56; sequence of 
development of, 551?., 63 

Scientific interpretation, nature of, 

Self and not-self, 64-69 

Signs vs. symbols, 26ff., 300 

Slavery, explanations of, 128-29 

Social evolution, present trends in, 

Social organism, 132, 175, 281 

Social psychology, 75, 82 

Social science, immaturity of, 336; 
"laboratories" of, 236 

Social stratification, 380, 382; and 
inventions, 223-24 

Social systems and technology, 
365, 376-85 _ 

Society, evolution of, 241 

Sociology, beginnings of, 74; and 
concept of culture, 80-81, 83- 
86; and social psychology, 76, 82 

Sororate, 317 

Space-time, 7 

Speech, articulate, and culture, 3 3- 
34, 240, 300, 314 

State-church, the, 242, 381, 385 

Supernaturalism, 65 

Syllabus of Errors, 243 


Symbol, 22ff.; and culture, 15, 46; 

and the tool -process, 45ff. 
Symbols, significance of, 398 
Symbolling, neural basis of, 31-33 

Technology, key to understanding 
of culture, 366; and mental abil- 
ity, 224-25; and population in- 
crease, 378, 384; role of in cul- 
ture process, 390-93; and phi- 
losophy, 366; and social systems, 
365, 376-85 _ 

Thermodynamics and culture, 166, 

Thermodynamics, Second Law of, 
and life and culture, 367 

Tools, efficiency of in cultural de- 
velopment, 375; and symbols, 
45ff.; use of, 406?.; use of by 
apes, 4iff. 

Unconscious, somatic and cultural, 

Vitalism-mechanism, 53 
Voting, 176-77 

War, causes of, 343; explanations 

of, 129-34 
Warfare, and social evolution, 380; 

yesterday and tomorrow, 386 
Western civilization, present 

trends, 109-10; threatened with 

destruction, 389-90 
Wind, water, as sources of energy, 

"Wolf children," 36 
Words, meaning of, 27-30, 37-38; 

and thought, 51 ftn., 53, 414 




This b< 


i AP 

,,. APR 1 


OCT 2 


Los Angeles 

This book is DUE on the last date stamped below. 

ORION SEP 21 '89 
LD/URL ^"^ 

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