Baggage Check: Culture

Culture is quite relevant to cognitive science, because it, culture, is an effect, the manifestation of our cognitive abilities. Culture frames human life and cognitive activity which takes place in socio-cultural contexts. This project takes a cognitive perspective on culture, and a cultural perspective on cognition (Sperber & Hirschfield, 3, 1999). Culture and cognition, together, have built civilizations, pyramids, and great literary epics such as Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The Master Builder, Interpreter, and Administrative Assistant

Where culture is also suggests what it does - Victor de Munck

So what is culture? It seems like a simple question, but has been the source of frustration for over a century. Historically, culture moved from its position outside of humans to inside their minds. Yet many people commonly describe it as public not private. Nevertheless, culture is a private thing as well as public. It resides in the human mind and projects itself into the public world. This almighty force that exists in two spheres at once consists of “ “mental representations derived from personal experiences,” that provide meaning in various social contexts. Meaning, whether it is socially or privately constructed, does not exist beyond the human body. Mother Nature does not prune meaning in her garden, people do so. Meaning is created in response to personal and social experiences; it is interpreted and categorized by a cultural mind. Thus, the mental representations are cultural property that are “constructed out of cognitive structure[s] and content, emotional associations and an evaluative rating” (de Munck 24, 2001). It is deeply embedded in the human mind, which furthers the issue of sufficiently defining it.

However, meaning can provide a closer look at cognition, the mental and elusive chupacabra. Meaning has several characteristics; it is “constructed through the actions of unconscious and conscious mental processes.” Moreover, it is also a creative act that all humans are capable of producing, and “consists of modular domains hierarchically organized at different levels of abstraction” (de Munck 63, 2001). The levels of abstraction are based upon personal experience which is subject to cultural evaluation. The meaning also builds the point of view people perceive the world and its events with; this is why it is crucial that ethnographers identify the “self” in their fieldwork. The Western self is constructed through Western meaning; therefore, it often obscures an objective investigation of cultural meanings. To put it simply, culture produces mental goggles people wear that explain the world at large, society, and the self. Moreover, the validity in these explanations are not a topic for this discussion. Despite the differences between cultural meanings and systems, all children are molded to fit their social environment via language socialization. Language socialization will provide an informative outlet into the cultural mind throughout this expedition. The ethnographies' conversations will provide a window into what culture is and how it operates over space and time. Nevertheless, it is important to state that culture remains hard to pin down; it is becoming increasingly easier to state that it is not solely a public thing. Culture is a mental phenomena. Perhaps humans' close proximity to it creates the grueling task of properly defining it. In addition to this, it is possible that the close proximity also blinds people to it. The cultural theory produced here will slowly move to the surface once it is applied to ethnographic evidence. The ethnographies will partially demonstrate culture's mental position. Culture has also provided humans with a unique selective (evolutionary) advantage. It has removed humans' natural vulnerability and placed them at the apex of the animal kingdom through intelligence and memory.

Space Travel: Expeditions to Culture