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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Wednesday November 1, 2006

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 8:24 AM

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Clifford Geertz 

Professor Emeritus,
Institute for Advanced Study

Savage Logic

"Savage logic works like a kaleidoscope whose chips can fall into a variety of patterns while remaining unchanged in quantity, form, or color. The number of patterns producible in this way may be large if the chips are numerous and varied enough, but it is not infinite. The patterns consist in the disposition of the chips vis-a-vis one another (that is, they are a function of the relationships among the chips rather than their individual properties considered separately). And their range of possible transformations is strictly determined by the construction of the kaleidoscope, the inner law which governs its operation. And so it is too with savage thought. Both anecdotal and geometric, it builds coherent structures out of 'the odds and ends left over from psychological or historical process.'

These odds and ends, the chips of the kaleidoscope, are images drawn from myth, ritual, magic, and empirical lore. (How, precisely, they have come into being in the first place is one of the points on which Levi-Strauss is not too explicit, referring to them vaguely as the 'residue of events… fossil remains of the history of an individual or a society.') Such images are inevitably embodied in larger structures– in myths, ceremonies, folk taxonomies, and so on– for, as in a kaleidoscope, one always sees the chips distributed in some pattern, however ill-formed or irregular. But, as in a kaleidoscope, they are detachable from these structures and arrangeable into different ones of a similar sort. Quoting Franz Boas that 'it would seem that mythological worlds have been built up, only to be shattered again, and that new worlds were built from the fragments,' Levi-Strauss generalizes this permutational view of thinking to savage thought in general."

— Clifford Geertz, "The Cerebral Savage: the Structural Anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss," in Encounter, Vol. 28 No. 4 (April 1967), pp. 25-32.

Today's New York Times
reports that
Geertz died on Monday,
October 30, 2006.

Related material:

Kaleidoscope Puzzle,

Being Pascal Sauvage,

and Up the River:
 

 

 
The Necessity For Story

by Frederick Zackel

While it's a story that's never been written, a suggested title– Indiana Jones Sails Up The River Of Death–

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shows how readily we as individuals or we as a culture can automatically visualize a basic story motif. We may each see the particular elements of the story differently, but almost instantaneously we catch its drift.

The hero sails up the river of death to discover what lies within his own heart: i.e., how much moral and physical strength he has.

Indiana Jones sails up the River of Death.

We are following Indiana Jones up the River of Death. We're going to visit with Colonel Kurtz. (You may not want to get off the boat.)

No, I am not mixing up metaphors.

These are the Story.

 

Amen.

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