Paths Towards a Naturalistic Approach of Culture

Clément Fabrice
Kaufmann Laurence
Language of the article : English
DOI: 10.3406/intel.2007.1275
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For a long time, social and cognitive scientists followed their own course, not really wondering what their academic neighbors were working on. The origin of this mutual indifference has been well laid out by Dilthey’s distinction between the Naturwissenschaften (natural sciences) built upon the discoveries of explanatory physical mechanisms, and the Geisteswissenschaften (cultural sciences) driven by the hermeneutic comprehension of sociohistorical phenomena (Dilthey, 1883; Havelange, 1998). This division of scientific labor is still apparent within the disciplinary organization of the academic world, with every sub-discipline struggling to reach one of the essential aims of science: the cumulative growth of knowledge. Incompatible paradigms thus tend to develop in parallel their own theories and evidence, judging other approaches or related fields as being a priori irrelevant. Most of the time, this theoretical and methodological incompatibility results from conflicting anthropological views, which tend to go from one extreme to the other: the human mind is either seen as a “blank slate”, molded by the boundless force of contingent historical cultural systems in which it is immersed, or, on the contrary, as a set of universal, prewired abilities that allows it to make sense of its environment, mostly all by itself (Pinker, 2002). Recently, new insights into this everlasting opposition have been given by some neurobiologists, philosophers and psychologists. To them, pitting nature against culture as two opposite forces between which human species are tossed back and forth, escaping from biology to be better enslaved by culture and conversely, is pointless (Dennett, 2003; Lenclud, 2003; Valsiner, this issue).

Pour citer cet article :

Clément Fabrice, Kaufmann Laurence (2007/2-3). Paths Towards a Naturalistic Approach of Culture. In Clément Fabrice & Kaufmann Laurence (Eds), Culture and Society : Some Viewpoints of Cognitive Scientists, Intellectica, 46-47, (pp.7-24), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2007.1275.