The Way Humans Think About The World Around Them

Submitted By Harriet_Grace
Words: 1034
Pages: 5

'The way humans think about the world around them is the result of the cultural and social influences upon them'

Humans have a strong need to classify the world around them, this is influenced by the lack of understanding some people hold of the world and wish to make clearer, mainly through social and cultural issues, in this essay I will delve into these said issues and attempt to bring about an understanding and solidarity to the reasons behind these results for 'the way humans think about the world around them'.

Classification is a process that is done universally by all societies and cultures in which people give/find meaning to what they don't understand, although all societies and cultures inhabit this process not all classify the same as the other; most societies exhibit diversity through their cultural influences so the actions of one culture/society may seem strange or irrational to other group, E.g. (Azande) Witchcraft, Evans-Pritchard studied the Azande peoples are their view on society and their culture, he found that they explained various misfortunes though the cause of witchcraft, he saw this as irrational when measured against science; he couldn't see things from their perspectives and had a rose-tinted view when studying the Azande culture, however he failed to recognise the similarities between witchcraft and science; both these are belief systems (Cosmologies) they both have people putting faith in a (witch) doctor.
Cultural influences, even though most anthropologists try to give meaning to culture, are only abstract reality conducted though social constructs put in place to give humans; meanings, understanding and rank in the world, culture directs human behaviour in that people follow what they learn/ have been taught much more than the instinct given. Structural anthropologists such like Durkheim and Mauss believe in external structures; a belief that society makes people ready for the external world found outside our consciousness and creates the way humans exist with one another, (they) supported the idea of universal classification and the diversities between different societies explaining how all peoples classify the same but through their similarities are diversities, e.g. dietary preferences, such like the ambition of some societies, i.e. China, to consume cats and dogs, whereas other societies would consider these particular animals as household pets, this indicates a binary diversity between these societies through a universal classification of cats and dogs, this was the conception that hidden in these diverse practises was a common logic.
Similarly was another structural anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss who supported this thesis though conducted a different approach from it, he believed in internal structures that resided in the heads of all humans, these internal structures were already there from birth and inputted from society, they shaped the behaviours, norms and values of the different cultures. Levi-Strauss was the first to develop structuralism, using it to understand things like kinship systems and myths. His view on binary oppositions where that of the way humans tended to divide the world up, E.g. nature/culture, he believed that these oppositions were exclusive, something could not be part of culture and nature at the same time, however this sometimes caused contradictions and myths were used to solve said contradictions. Furthermore Levi-Strauss neglects the importance of history in shaping culture and makes little attempt to explain the variety of human culture and therefore becomes Eurocentric in his explanations and results.
But are languages tools for expressing thoughts, or do they actually shape thoughts? Sapir and Whorf disagreed with Durkiem, Mauss and Levi-Strauss' thesis and instead implied that language created culture (reality), they saw the different cultures/societies as completely different things (no universal input), the two produced a hypothesis; 1)