Volume 2, Number 3 Summer, 1989
Editor : Dr. Charles Laughlin, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1S 5B6, Phone (819) 459-1121, E-mail email@example.com.
EDITORIAL: ON THE MEANING OF MIND AND BRAIN
I have just read a very thought-provoking paper by Anna Wierzbicka entitled "Ethnopsychology and Culture History" ( American Anthro-pologist 91:41-58, 1989). The paper presents a semantic analysis of the various meanings of "soul" and "mind" in Western and non-Western cultures. The author centers her discussion primarily on the Russian concept of dusa "soul" and compares it with the English words "soul" and "mind." She concludes (and this is the important point for our purposes!) that the word "mind" is not a label for a universal concept like I, you, someone, something, this, world, think, say, become, etc. Rather, it is an Anglo-Saxon folk category which has been reified in science and philosophy as an objective, empirical category. As such, the concept of "mind" has changed through time as English-speaking culture has changed, and manifests multiple meanings even in the same time frame. Thus, caution must be exercised in freely translating from one language to another, for the English "mind" is not exactly the same as the French ame , or the German Seele , or the Russian dusa .
Of course, Wierzbicka is making a linguistic argument concerned with cross-language translation, and as such draws mainly from literary sources. She misses the point that the concept of "mind," or any other folk category (e.g., mana, shaman, taboo , etc.) may take on more precise meaning when embedded in formal theory (eg., say in Popper and Eccles' attempt to relate mind and brain in their The Self and Its Brain ). Yet even in scientific theories such concepts as "person," "thought," "reason," "cognition," etc. may vary greatly with philosophical and cultural bias (see R.A. Shweder, "Anthropology's Romanitic Rebellion Against the Enlightenment, or There's More to Thinking Than Reason and Evidence," in R.A. Shweder and R.A. LeVine, eds., Culture Theory: Essays on Mind, Self, and Emotion . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984). But her point is very well taken, for we often use notions like "mind," "consciousness," "thought," "reason," "perception," "sensation," and the like without grounding these in either personal phenomenology or Euroamerican, English-speaking ethnopsychology.
This seems to be the gist of the argument in a recent book by Hilary Putnam entitled Representation and Reality (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988) in which the author takes off after Jerry Fodor and others in cognitive science who fail to see the "normative" origins of such scientific concepts as "mind," "intention," "meaning," etc.
And that got me thinking about our concept of "brain." For one thing, a major fallacy in most reductionist theories of the relation of mind to brain is thinking that although our understanding of "mind" may be partial or fuzzy, we know exactly what we mean by "brain," and our work with brain is complete and quite distinct. But this is far from being the case. In fact, "brain" is as much a cultur-ally loaded notion as is "mind." And as we all know, if we stop and ponder it, what we call "the brain" is the grandest mystery of them all. What we mean by "brain" changes in time as magically as does "mind." Remember when we thought that "brain," "endocrine system" and "immune system" were neat, distinct categories? Now we often speak of "neuroendocrinology" and "psychoneuroimmunology!" Remember when Alf Brodal took us all to task for forgetting our neuroanatomy when we produce our grand theories of the brain and its organization ("The 'Wiring Patterns' of the Brain: Neuroanatomical Experiences and Their Implications for General Views of the Organization of the Brain," in F.G. Worden et al., eds., The Neurosciences: Paths to Discovery . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1975)?
For another thing, has anybody ever done a cross-cultural study of folk concepts of "brain" and its relation to "mind," "soul," etc.? If not, somebody needs to lay the groundwork for an "ethno-neurology," or an "ethno-neurophysiology." Anyone need a good dissertation topic? A freebee from NNN .
Oh, as to our wine and cheese bash at the Triple-A meetings: that is still on, but we still do not know what day during the meetings Lee Blonder's symposium will be held. What-ever the date, we will have the get-together that evening in her hotel room. The meetings are Nov. 15-19 at the Washington Hilton. If you want to know the day of the symposium, call either Lee Blonder (new number: 606-223-2593) or me as time draws nigh. By the way, Warren TenHouten is joining the symposium as a discussant. I hope to see you all there!
RECENT THESIS: JOHN READ BAKER
The Emergence of Culture: A General Anthropological Approach to the Relationship Between the Individual and His External World is the doctoral dissertation of John Read Baker which was recently accepted at the Seminar fur Ethnologie of the Universitat Hamburg, West Germany. The author endeavors to extend culture theory in a manner which heeds both evolutionary theory and systems theoretical considerations. He begins by analyzing the psychic structure of the individual and his relationship to his environment (including his fellows). By defining culture as consisting of acquirable and mutable models for acting and by positing an inter-actionist view of the mind-brain relationship, the mind is seen as a higher-level agent which has evolved through time to provide interpretations (construct models) for understanding the information it is being provided by the brain.
Because the information upon which these models are based is the result of sensory intake and subsequent cognitive evaluation by the individual, it follows that these models are idio-syncratic; i.e., no two individuals will possess entirely equivalent models for interpreting events "out there" in the external world. Each person thus lives within her own unavoidably subjective personal universe , which is utilized when interacting with the general universe . The personal universe is kept upright by the verification the senses are constantly providing that the actions a person has just initiated as a result of using a particular model to interpret events "out there" have in fact led to the expected ends.
The author defines consciousness as an active principle of a mind that is interacting with a living brain. This leads to a discussion of two methods for changing this interaction, one induced by a practice initiated by the mind, Transcendental Meditation, and the other elicited by an exogenous agent affecting the brain and its substrate, LSD. This demonstrates manners in which learned models may be cut off from the possibility of their verification. When this occurs, a process similar (if not identical) to the intuitive process of creative problem solving may take place. This process enables acquired models which are based upon traumatic events, and that accordingly serve to protect the individual from dangers that may no longer be present, to be abreacted.
Since each person necessarily acquires idiosyncratic models for interpreting his world, and since the mind must resort to some kind of physical medium when it attempts communication - a medium which will be in turn the object of an idiosyncratic inter-pretation by another - culture change is a process which is implicit in every interchange between persons. This implies that the individual is the source of all cultural knowledge. Consciousness alteration, as a potential problem-solving device, further underscores the role of the individual in creating culture. Since all individuals are sources of culture, and therewith of potential solutions for the problems facing themselves and their groups, individual diversity is seen as a key to human survival - if we can develop the tolerance of diversity needed to ensure the un-prejudiced dissemination of new ideas.
PROFILE IN RESEARCH: WILLIAM H. CALVIN
William H. Calvin is a neurophysiologist who has done a lot of comparative neurobiology. He may even hold the world's record on single unit recordings from the widest variety of cell types, ranging from Aplysia, leech, frog, rat peripheral nerve and spinal motorneurons to cat motor cortex, plus a lot from awake human temporal lobe (he spent two decades on the faculty of a neurosurgery department). He has always been interested in theoretical modeling (cable properties of cells, circuits for receptive field properties, stochastic models of motoneuron firing, and currently some demo-raphy).
Via an interest in emergent properties of neural circuitry (what circuits can do that cells individually cannot; what many parallel circuits can do that single ones cannot), Calvin wandered into the hominid encephalization problem about ten years ago: Why that four-fold increase in brain size, and only during the ice ages? And why not in other animals? Paralleling this interest, he started writing trade books on brains and evolution. He operated on the principle that while there are some things you can't teach without prerequisites, there are a remarkable number of good stories within the neurosciences (and within evolutionary biology and anthropology as well) quite suitable for general audiences. As Calvin says, you just have to know a lot of stories, so that you can afford to discard three out of four! His first book was Inside the Brain (NAL, 1980; written with his neurosurgeon collaborator, George Ojemann) which follows an epileptic patient through a day of neurosurgery and cortical mapping, with flashbacks to reveal the basic science that preceded the human application.
He then wrote a series of short pieces on ethology, human neurology, neurobiology, and evolution that were published under the title The Throwing Madonna: Essays on the Brain (McGraw-Hill, 1983). It was something of a warm-up for the big book on evolution, The River that Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang to the Big Brain (Macmillan 1986; softcover 1987 by Sierra Club Books), which uses a river diary for a float trip through the bottom of the Grand Canyon to tell a number of stories prompted by the fossils, Anasazi ruins, and the geology of early earth that you see along the river banks. All of these books, though not intended for the purpose, have been widely used for texts in innovative undergraduate courses.
Calvin's recent research has focussed on the (typically frontal lobe) neural circuitry needed for planning ahead; while it's always handy, planning is a slow route for evolution compared to necessity. But plan-ahead circuitry is essential for the ballistic movements (hammering, clubbing, kicking, throwing) because the feedback loop is so slow that they're over-and-done by the time any correction can be made. So goal-and-feedback won't suffice. Throwing has an additional problem: it needs to reduce the jitter in the timing of projectile release. And that requires many parallel timing sequencers, all trying to do the same job. Hunting with projectiles has a big caloric and "new niche" payoff and a long growth curve; unlike most aspects of evolution, improving throwing is like a course that can be repeated for additional credit, ad infinitum. Fast tracks in evolution tend to pre-empt slow tracks. What has been so fascinating is that the same neural circuitry (many parallel sequencer tracks, rather like serial buffers) ganged into lockstep for precision throwing is, unganged to operate semi-independently, a nice what-shall-I-do-next planner (see his 1987 Nature paper). Indeed, given the overlap between sequencing hand-arm and sequencing oral-facial musculature (just think of those little kids screwing up their faces and tongues while practicing handwriting or threading needles), a ballistic movement sequencer ought to be secondarily useful for speech (at least, when not busy throwing something).
This reasoning has led him into a variety of interesting secondary uses for sequencing circuitry, as you can tell from the title of his forthcoming book, The Cerebral Symphony: Seashore Reflections on the Structure of Consciousness (to be published by Bantam in January, 1990). It's on behavioral choice in animals, and the elaborations by the human frontal lobe for simulating the future as one "gets set." It uses life at the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole as a setting. Book reviewers can request advance (i.e., Autumn 1989) copies from Leslie Meredith, Bantam Books, 25th floor, 666 Fifth Avenue, NYC, NY 10103.
And later in 1990, Bantam will also publish: A Brain for All Seasons: Climate and Intelligence from the Ice Age to the Greenhouse Era , which more explicitly focuses on the anthropological aspects of hominid evolution and how the hominids have been pumped by the frequent climate changes associated with life in the temperate zone; it considers the neoteny-like developmental changes and what might drive them, and ends with a consideration of computer simulations of the ocean-atmosphere system and how to prevent another shift in the Gulf Stream that might devastate Europe.
Calvin's hobby is archaeoastronomy, especially Anasazi; so far he has figured out more than a half-dozen simple ways (Stonehenge isn't necessary) to predict solar and lunar eclipses without geometric analysis or record-keeping. He suspects that these methods would have been valued by shamans for impressing an audience, or by fortune-tellers to suggest that they could predict more everyday matters as well. It strikes him as a way of backing into doing science without having intended to; so far, all methods are perfectly suitable for pre-agricultural societies, and so might extend back into the Pleistocene.
Calvin can be reached via the University of Washington, Biology NJ-15, Seattle WA 98195 USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Ph: (206) 328-1192. His papers include: "Fine Discrimination as an Emergent Property of Parallel Neural Circuits." Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 10:218.11 (1984); "The Great Encephalization: Throwing, Juvenilization, Developmental Slowing, and Maternal Mortality Roles in Prehuman Brain Enlargement." Human Ethology Newsletter , Sept. 1987; "Bootstrapping Thought: Is Consciousness a Darwinian Sidestep?" Whole Earth Review 55:22-28 (Summer 1987); "Of Fast Teeth and Big Heads." Nature 328:481 (1987); "The Brain as a Darwin Machine." Nature 330:33-34 (1987).
Title of an actual country-western tune: "I'd Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me Than a Frontal Lobotomy."
NEW BOOK ON MARUYAMA
Michael T. Caley and Daiyo Sawada are completing a book entitled Mindscapes: The Epistemologies of Magaroh Maruyama . It will be published by Gordon and Beach, Scientific Publishers sometime in 1990. The book will bring together the major works of Maruyama who over the last 25 years has made substantial contributions to a variety of fields in over 120 separate publications dealing with aesthetics, ethics, environmental studies, epistemology, systems theory, research paradigms, philosophy of science, economics, cultural anthropology, business administration, Asian studies, cybernetics, communication theory, mental health, urban planning, futures, and other matters. In a word, Maruyama is a "polymath" and as such is not classifiable in the ordinary way. It therefore seems appropriate and timely that his diverse and penetrating work be brought together in one volume and made available in a comprehensive yet critical form.
The authors have had extensive working contact with Maruyama since 1985. He has given his full personal support to the effort and has helped in selecting and abridging the papers to be included in the collection. Considerable editing has been done to each paper with the view to removing redundancies and bringing together treatments of the same idea occurring in one or more journal papers. The work is not simply an edited compilation of Maruyama's work. Each chapter features a "commentary" provided by a leading scholar in the field. Moreover, Maruyama has written new material that brings his thought up-to-date. He has also written an introduction which provides an insight into the way he views the book. The last chapter presents Maruyama's most recent thoughts and is presented here for the first time.
Questions about the book may be addressed to Michael Caley, 12926 112 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5M 2T6, Ph: (403) 453-1585.
ECV DATA DISKETTE AVAILABLE
I have received several requests from colleagues for a copy of the HOMPLOT files. These contain data bases for cranial capacities among hominids and ethnographic populations, along with other assorted odds and ends. The paleontological file is an updated version of one published in Current Anthropology in 1984. During the last five years there have been new specimens discovered, and extensive revisions of dating. The revisions are sufficient to significantly affect interpretations of brain size evolution. I have also included the empirical data on endocranial volume and head size (cranial module) among ethnic groups.
There are about a dozen publications known to me which have used these data bases for specific research questions. My colleague, Court Smith , and I have recently used the files to examine the correlation patterns between brain size and cultural variables. We find many more correlations than can be explained by chance. However, the same circumstance applies to anthropometric traits in general. It appears that subsistence patterns indirectly affect cranial capacity by affecting body size.
The primary purpose of the data bases is for statistically testing hypotheses. If provided to students, the data can be used for various projects and papers. I have also included files on climatic associations with ethnic groups, reflectometry reports, and body size associations with ABO and MN blood types.
I have transferred the mainframe files onto a diskette, and put menus and batch files on it for reading convenience. It is an MS-DOS floppy and includes a surface area calculator (for determining ECV relative to body size). If network members desire a copy, it can be sent. Budgets are tight. It would be helpful to enclose a self-addressed, postage paid (if out of the USA, please send US funds for postage) diskette mailer with a disk formatted to the DOS version desired. Changes and additions to the files suggested by network members would be appreciated. Address inquiries and suggestions to Kenneth L. Beals , Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University, Corvalis, OR, USA 97331, Ph: Office (503) 754-
4515, Home (503) 745-5030, E-mail: ANTHROP@ORSTATE.BITNET.
LIFE WITH MS
Bobby Webster has done a book entitled All of a Piece: A Life with Multiple Sclerosis (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). The book grew out of her own experience with MS. It is a discussion of the emotional and psychological consequences of learning one has a chronic disease and, more particularly, a neurological disease and the inevitable questions that raises about the location and boundaries of the self. It is also about chronic disease and acceptance in the context of American culture which, in her view, is shaped by a set of values which are very destructive to the whole experience of living with chronic disease and disability. She discusses the ways in which American cultural values promote denial and not only get in the way of any real acceptance, but call it into question. Any members wishing to contact Bobby should write Barbara D.
Webster, 21A, 11673 North Shore Drive, Reston, VA 22090, USA.
DUAL BRAIN, DEVELOPMENT AND EDUCATION
Warren TenHouten just published an interesting paper entitled "Application of Dual Brain Theory to Cross-Cultural Studies of Cognitive Development and Education" ( Sociological Perspectives 32(2):153-167, 1989). The abstract of the article is as follows: The cognitive structures of children from minority group, poor, rural, aboriginal, or otherwise socially disadvantaged backgrounds are hypothesized to be gestalt-synthetic in mode of thought and field-dependent in cognitive style; cognitive structures of children from dominant, majority, urban, nonaboriginal, or otherwise advantaged backgrounds, to be relatively logical-analytic and field-independent. These cognitive structures are shown by cerebral lateralization theory to have neurophysiological substrates. Individual hemisphericity, the tendency to rely on the resources of the right or left cerebral hemisphere, is interpreted on four distinct levels: performance hemisphericity, hemisphere activation, hemispheric preference (as personality structure), and cognitive style (lateral flexibility). An illustrative comparison of thinking processes of Australian Aborigines and Australian-born whites is developed using primary and secondary data.
ON NEANDERTAL'S PELVIS
Wenda Trevathan mentioned to me that it takes a long time to straighten out misconceptions in the literature. Case in point: the significance of Neandertal's pelvis. You may recall that Erik Trinkaus suggested the intriguing hypothesis that compared with Neandertal pelvic remains, modern human morphology indicates that "the uniquely human pattern of early development appeared relatively recently in human evolution" (see his "Neandertal Pubic Morphology and Gestational Length." Current Anthropology 25(4):509-514, 1984). He suggested that whereas Neandertal gestation was likely 12 months -- thus similar to earlier hominoids -- the modern human period of gestation marks a radical and rapid shift in evolution in favor of greater altriciality at birth.
Wenda took Trinkaus to task for his handling of the data in her book, Human Birth: An Evolutionary Perspective (Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1987, Pp. 227-8). A good place to check out the entire counterargument, including comments by Wenda and Trinkaus, is an article by Karen Rosenberg entitled "Functional Significance of Neandertal Pubic Length" ( Current Anthropology 29, 1988). It appears that Trinkaus has retracted his hypothesis, but it seems it may take years for the general public to realize it. Wenda says she has done prepublication reviews on two textbooks this year and both of them give major billing to the 12-month gestation length hypothesis.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
Michael Caley's contract with the University of Alberta ended in April and he is now among the ranks of the unemployed. There may be some contract opportunities with Alberta Education, or it may be off to selling shoes or something. If anybody in the network knows of a niche for a person with a background in science education, future's methodology, or science, technology and society, he would be interested in hearing from you (see announcement of his forthcoming book above; see his papers with D. Sawada on recursive complementarity in Cybernetica 29: 93-104, 263-275, 1986). His address is: 12926 112 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5M 2T6, Ph: (403) 453-1585.
John Baker (see article above) is just beginning his career in North America and, as yet, has no institutional affiliation. He would like to know if anyone could use a postdoctoral fellow (see his listing in the Directory ). Anyone with information should contact JOHN R. BAKER, Dr.Phil., 10151 Brookside Dr., Garden Grove, CA, USA 92640. Ph: (714) 539-8837.
Roland Fischer, Apdo. No. 54, 07190 Esporles, Mallorca, Spain.
Rima Laibow, 13 Summit Terrace, Dobbs' Ferry, NY 10522, USA, Ph: (914)693-8827.
Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, 804 Crystal Creek Drive, Austin, TX 78746, USA, Ph: (512)263-2212.
Liebman, J.M. and S.J. Cooper, eds. (1989) Neuropharmacological Basis of Reward . Oxford: Clarendon Press. [survey of what is known about reward and its biological substrate]
Easter, S.S., K.F. Barald and B.M. Carlson, eds. (1988) From Message To Mind: Directions in Developmental Neurobiology . Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates. [broad spectrum of approaches from molecular messages to mental structures; axonal pathfinding; cellular interaction; plasticity and selectivity of interconnections; sexual differentiation]
Dewart, Leslie (1989) Evolution and Consciousness: The Role of Speech in the Origin and Development of Human Nature . Toronto: University of Toronto Press. [Just when you thought folks had gotten the point about encephalization and evolution, along comes another book arguing that hominids only became conscious when they started to speak!]
Putnam, H. (1988) Representation and Reality . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [mind-brain identity theory]
Dobkin de Rios, M. and M. Winkelman, eds. (1989) Shamanism and Altered States of Consciousness . Special issue of the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 21(1). [various articles on shamanism; pharmacopoeia and trance states]
Bechtel, William (1988) Philosophy of Mind: An Overview for Cognitive Science . Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. [critique of mind-body problem; mind-brain identity theories; functionalism; intentionality]
Cohen, M.P. and P.P. Fos, eds. (1988) The Brain as an Endocrine Organ . New York: Springer-Verlag.
Bergland, Richard (1989) The Fabric of Mind . NY: Penguin.
MacLean, P.D. (19--) The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions . NY: Plenum (in press).
Eccles, John (1989) Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self . NY: Routledge, Chapman and Hall.