Lesson 20  Humanity and Culture

 

    Man’s place in Nature is an unusual one, different from the one allotted to animals.  In a global vision such as Aristotle’s, there is not clear dividing-line between man and nature.  The elements such as earth, fire or air have their specific nature; so too does man and this nature is characterised by reason.  As is always the case, man’s nature must go through its own development, from a virtual state (potential) to an actual state. 

    On the contrary, the mechanistic representation of Nature separates man from nature.  Therefore, the idea of a “human nature” like the nature of a plant or an animal is a problem.  Man is not, Sartre explains, something to be used or left to moulder.  Man seems to be left to his own devices in nature, and his task appears to be to shape the humanity nature could not shape through his own culture.  So our problem becomes understanding just how this happens.  In other words: what does it mean to say that man is a cultural being?

A.  Little Man

 

 

    What would man be were we to deprive him of his relation to a culture?  To answer this question it is enough to examine what happens to a human being who has been severed from society and left to himself in the wilderness.  This is the case of wolf children

Culture, as we understand it here, is the set of meaningful productions of an organised human society, implying language, customs, traditions, courtesy, life-style and behaviour, such as you find in any given society.  We live within a culture, we are as accustomed to it as a fish to its water, and for this reason it seems normal to us that our culture would be natural.

    Consequently we tend to think of the wolf-man as something akin to contemporary man set in the wilderness.  We have seen many movies representing savage man as one living alone in the jungle, like Hollywood’s Tarzan: a well-shaven hero, made-up with slicked hair, a well-bred man speaking the English of the educated!  Similarly cartoons represent animals as human, too human in fact.  Look at these characters taken from our man-made world and dressed up as rabbits, cats, lions and so on.  This representation of wild life does not correspond to anything real, it is mythical.   The West sustains the myth of the natural man, one that expresses our nostalgia for a life in nature.  One must beware the temptation to project elements taken from contemporary man onto a “savage” who is nothing more than a product of our imagination.  This projection is anthropomorphic when it is applied to nature, and it is this projection which maintains the mythical fantasy of a natural man.  This fantasy has little to do with uncivilised human beings such as have occasionally been found. 

    The few children who have been found living on their own in nature have behaved in rather a non-human manner.  For instance the wild child Victor was found at the age of six in the Aveyron by some hunters from the village.  He had been living like a young animal in the woods.  He only emitted raucous sounds, he constantly sought to escape, he was indifferent to bad smells and to hygiene in general, and he did not recognise his own image in a mirror.    He would walk round the mirror to see what was hidden behind it.  He was a kind of wild animal. He did not seem to exhibit any of the “human” characteristics: articulate speech, social behaviour, self-referral knowledge, even an upright posture.  Was this normal? 

    When confronted with so academic a case, and according to the representation of nature serving as starting point, one can adopt one of two possible extreme positions:

1)  start with the principle that there exists an innate human nature, endowed with language and sociability etc.. and confront this idea of nature with this or that case.  Since the wild child does not appear to possess the traits that characterise human nature, one will conclude that it is deficient since it ought to have them, since they are innate.  Dr Pinel, the first psychiatrist to examine Victor, assumed this was the case.  By his behaviour, Victor seemed much like the congenital fools psychiatry tries to treat.  Pinel concluded that this child must be an idiot from birth and that he would have been abandoned by his parents for this reason.

2)  or start with the principle that there really isn’t any innate human nature to speak of; rather the elements of human nature are acquired from the contact with others.  If Victor is deprived of sociability, language, self-referral knowledge, it is not because he is a fool, but because he has not learned them and this because he has never been in contact with his likes in a society.  This is the point of view of the second psychiatrist, Dr Itard.

 

   He was proven right when the child progressed through his attentive care.  Victor was able to learn to speak, read and even write a few words.  However he never totally adapted.  It seems that there are elements of education that must be taught at a very early stage and that it is difficult to learn later.  If the traits proper to mankind had been innate in the same way as instincts are innate in the animal, then the child would have possessed them.  Given that he can learn the elements of humanity in a social context, we must conclude that one is not really born human, one becomes it.  The wild child was an animal not that much smarter than other animals.  He could only become human when part of a human society.

Deprived of any form of culture man is not a man “in his natural state”; he is an animal.  Hence we can make a clear distinction between nature and culture, as shown in this table:

Nature

Culture

What is innate

What is acquired

The body

The mind

Bodily abilities such as the use of  human hands

Language, courtesy, mores, traditions, customs, social rules and so on.

Fundamental needs

Desires stemming from society

Hunger, thirst, sleep, sexuality

Ambition, recognition, power etc…

What is connected to biological evolution

What is connected to a cultural heritage

    Viewing this duality, we come to the conclusion that culture does it all, that it invents man.  Man is a kind of clay that society can mould to conform to its norm, the model human, the man society decides is the normal individual.  When learning to speak the child develops his ability to think, and to think along the lines of the society he has been raised in.   He learns customs, traditions, rituals of living, rules of conduct, the prevailing mores and the aesthetic norms of the world he lives in.  Teaching plays a considerable role, and this whether it is passive, founded on imitation, or active and creative.  It gives the child the elements that make him a fully fledged member of society.  It is said that a good instruction ensures the emergence of an individual who is well-adapted to society, a model citizen, one who respects laws, culture and traditions.

    However what happens then to all the diversity of humanity?  Why are men so different from one another?  It is true that our democratic aspiration is to make all men equal before the law and ensure that they all get the same education.  Nevertheless differences are a fact.  Even when given an identical education we remain very different.  We are not born with the same aptitudes, the same talents, because already at birth we are different from one another.  To believe that everything is “a matter of culture, of society, of learning, of conditioning, of reinforcement and mode of production” [1] is to ignore “all the diversity, all hereditary differences of an individual’s talents and aptitudes”.  It is laudable to posit an equality as of right of men to education, but in fact differences exist.  We all carry at least our hereditary luggage.  It is simplistic to believe that it is all just a question of education.  Learning does not start from scratch, but addresses an individual who comes with the cargo of his heredity.

    Yet we must not believe that we are all subjected to some sort of genetic fatality.  This would amount to believing that all our reactions are written in our genes and that neither environment nor education count for anything.  This would mean that a young girl would have no choice but to become a carbon-copy of her mother and the boy the carbon-copy of his father.  A human being is construed through his experience and education.  This is what the Aveyron wild child shows.

    It is in fact a middle position which appears most probable: “the genetic program is a first set of structures that enable the child to react to his environment, to identify regularities, memorise them and assemble them in novel combinations”.[2]    François Jacob[3] draws one consequence: contrarily to animals, man is not programmed to act; rather he is programmed to learn.  An animal is born equipped with a set of instincts commanding its behaviour: flee when hearing a noise, look for food etc… Man has fewer instinctive resources; his immense advantage is that he can always learn more, his ability to learn knows no limits.  And everything he learns forms him and makes him what he is.  A new-born child is not some sort of empty tape on which it would be enough to record a conditioning.  It carries within itself its own individual configuration, both mental and biological.  Any experience he has will add to his past and shape his culture.

B. Humanity and the Diversity of Cultures.

 

One problem is that the word “culture” has two very different meanings:

1)  in the singular, culture is the education that a human being receives and which makes him a knowledgeable man, a civilized man through the assimilation of a rich variety of physical, intellectual and artistic culture.

2)  culture is also used in the plural.  It then means an environment in which a human being is raised, one that varies from one region of the planet to another.  Take an example from the cinema: in the movie The Gods Must be Crazy we witness the encounter between the naked native in the Kalahari Desert in Australia and the westerner in suit (the god who flies in a strange metallic bird above the desert).  The Coca-Cola bottle thrown from the airplane will become a source of questions for the small desert tribe.  They don’t understand the strange kind of people that we are and regard the westerner as particularly uneducated (unable to interpret a trace in the desert, to survive thirst and so on.) Conversely, the westerner understands neither the language nor the life-style of these people, whence a series of misunderstandings in the film.

 

    However far we look we shall never find a “man of nature”, only forms of culture in which men learn their particular model of humanity.  It is only recently that we have become aware of all this cultural diversity.  There is not one, but many humanities.  Those one calls “primitives” as opposed to civilised people like ourselves are just as much products of a culture as we are.  They are not nearer nature.  They have simply developed a cultural model which is different from ours.  Like all humans they exist on the cultural plane.

    This is the lesson we learn from contemporary ethnology, particularly the structural anthropology developed by Claude Lévi-Strauss.  It is astonishing to notice to what extent we do not accept cultural diversity.  Instinctively we take it that what is normal for us ought to be normal too for other humans.  We believe that our cultural norms are valid universally.  Hence whoever is culturally different is not only perceived as a stranger, but as barbaric.  Whoever is different than me, and has a different culture, is a stranger.  The stranger I consider inferior to myself is barbaric.  Ethnocentricity means to judge other cultures by the sole reference to one’s own, via a projection of value judgements.  Ethnocentricity is to collective consciousness what selfishness is to individual consciousness.  Let us take some examples.  For a westerner it is part of our cultural habits to eat with a fork.  We find it disgusting to put our hands in the food.  “It is vile, it is dirty, one should not do that”… meaning “these are uncivilised manners”.  They are not in our cultural habits and since our sole reference is usually our own habits we are shocked by mores, manners and so on that are very different from our own.  An Indian would immediately reply: “using a fork is vulgar and artificial, it is eliminating the sense of touch from the act of eating.  It is perfectly normal and healthy to touch food with one’s hands, this is what we do in India and we find your way of eating rather primitive.  Our art of living is more civilised but not in the eyes of your hygienist interpretation of how to eat.”

    We are scandalised to hear of Chinese eating cats and dogs.  For us there are pet animals, putting them on a plate is just out of the question.  The Chinese would reply that our manner of treating animals in the slaughterhouse is not particularly elevated.  And do we have any idea of what it represents for an animal to be force-fed in order to increase the size of its liver?  This shocks a lot of people and particularly those cultures that have a great respect for life (ie vegetarian cultures) who find most barbaric everything that the West subjects animals to.  Therefore we see that all cultural judgements are relative.

    A lesson must be drawn from this relativity.  Our life in a cosmopolitan culture has taught us tolerance with respect to other cultures and to look upon our judgements and our cultural barriers as relative.  We must learn to accept the diversity of man.  Lévi-Strauss adopts the position of cultural relativity:  no culture can think of itself as superior to another.  You can’t establish a hierarchy among cultures.  Like in a bunch of flowers, each flower contributes to the beauty of the whole, and this beauty is made of diversity.  Similarly, the diversity of human faces is a fact and must be accepted as such.  Lévi-Strauss also remarks that ethnocentricity is in fact as old as mankind.  It is rooted in egocentricity: favouring the self and what belongs to the self; it is a collective egocentricity.  The Ancient world “put everything that did not partake in Greek (later greco-roman) culture in one and the same basket: that of barbarity.  Later Western civilisation used the word savage in the same way”[4].   The barbaric man was the one who didn’t speak Greek; the word barbaric refers to an inarticulate shriek, similar to birdsong.  The savage man is the one who, contrarily to the civilised man who lives in a city, lives in the wood.  The serious consequence this dual way of thinking entails is a tendency to place people who are different outside humanity, at the level of animals.  And let us make this clear, this is not only the attitude of the so-called civilised man towards the primitive man, but it is always reciprocal.  “In the West Indies, some years after the discovery of America, at the time when the Spaniards sent committees to enquire into the problem of whether the natives did or did not have a soul, the latter immersed white prisoners in order to verify, through lengthy monitoring,  if their corpses were subject to putrefaction”[5], that is if one should regard them as human.  Lévi-Strauss concludes that “in denying humanity to those who appear as the most savage or barbaric, all one does is adopting one of their typical attitudes.  The barbaric man is first of all he who believes in barbarity.” 

   But what then is racism other than the direct extension of ethnocentricity? In history racism has mostly been a pseudo-scientific attempt to justify the superiority of one culture over another.  As long as we are unable to acknowledge cultural diversity and admit of this diversity as part of the unified whole that is humanity, or the family of mankind, we will continue to allow this prejudice to proliferate.  After all, it cannot be that difficult to accept cultural differences: just have a look at individual differences that are rather formidable.  Egocentricity finds moderation through the acceptance of others.  Ethnocentricity finds moderation in the acceptance of differences between cultures.  If we can make this step, we will find much richness in each culture.

    How then are nature and culture related?  “Everything that is universal in man pertains to nature and is characterised by spontaneity; and everything that compels on basis of a norm pertains to culture and is both relative and particular.”[6]  Nature, ethnologists explain, is first of all biological man: a human body everywhere endowed with the same potentialities.  Culture would develop in diversity: from language, customs, habits, institutions, beliefs and so on.  Levi-Strauss sees the link between them in one factor common to all human cultures, that of the prohibition of incest.  In all human societies we find rules, and these social rules all refer to one principal rule, that of the prohibition of incest.  Marriage between closely related people is forbidden, relations as regulated by the prohibition of marriage between next – of - kin.  From this point of view, it is when this fundamental rule is ignored that humanity crumbles because the fundamental taboos that structure society have then been abolished.  According to Lévi-Strauss the relation between nature and culture can be likened to a tree the roots of which would be stuck in a level that is nature, the trunk would be the prohibition of incest and the branches all the particular and relative human cultures. 

 

 

C.  The Passage from Nature to Culture

 

    If the passage from nature to culture means the apparition of social rules, this means that in fact man only became human once he belonged to society.  This problem can be approached from a different angle, that of a political analysis of the relation between nature and culture.  To say that we are cultural beings is also to say that we have emerged from nature to constitute the civil society that is ours.  Our admittance to culture coincides with our admittance to society.  In terms of political philosophy this amounts to the following question: to what extent can we say that man appears at the same time as political society?  The 18th Century philosophers answered this question by distinguishing between a state of nature, prior to the constitution of a political society, and a social state, which is the state in which a society has taken shape together with all its fundamental elements. 

    In the Social Contract Rousseau speaks of this opposition in the following terms:

“This passage from nature to the civil state produces rather a remarkable change in man, substituting in his conduct justice to instinct, and conferring to his actions the morality it previously lacked”.  To sum up, in the state of nature there was as yet no man, only an animal organised in an advantageous manner. The passage to society operates what could really be called a conversion which turns the human animal into a fully-fledged human being.  The savage was governed by elementary instincts, yet his life remained amoral, which means that he didn’t know right from wrong.  This did not make him cruel, since Rousseau perceived in him a primitive ability, that of compassion.  He was innocent yet sensitive to other’s suffering.  However compassion did not make him a moral being.  When entering society he discovered the duality of good and evil, and the values of human culture: the sense of justice, of duty, the use of reason, the meaning of relations with others: respect.

In the form of a table this gives:

 

 

State of Nature

Social State

Instinct

Justice

Amoral life

Morality

Physical impulses

Duty

Solitary state

Relation with others

Ruled by inclination

Rule by reason

« a stupid and narrow animal »

« an intelligent being and a man »

Appetite or needs

Rights

Physical possession

Property

Natural freedom

Civic liberty

 

 

 

    This opposition does not imply that man would be some kind of arbitrary invention, fashioned now by this culture, now by this other.  Rather Rousseau admits that man only develops in society what is already latent in human nature.  Human nature, as Rousseau understands it, comprises: perfectibility, a sense of self-preservation, freedom of choice, thinking, compassion.

    In the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among Men he takes as metaphor a statue immersed in the ocean and which time would have covered with sea-shells to the point that the original form would no longer be visible.  Inside social man we still have the image of natural man, that is man as nature created him.  It is the action of time – history- that helps one understand the passage from nature to society. Hence we may ask precisely when man, in his originally crude condition, confronted to the hardship of having to adapt to nature, “marked in the progress of things the moment when, violence giving place to rights, nature was subjected to the law”.  Rousseau does not try to tell an historical tale, or the story of prehistoric times, the portrait of primitive man, such as the Neanderthal.  It is just a logical reconstruction, a genealogical essay allowing one to distinguish what in man is due to nature and what man himself had added with time by constituting society.  One must not take Rousseau’s analysis as it stands.  Against the opinions of the writers of his day, Rousseau wants to show that one must not project contemporary man into some kind of primitive jungle in order to understand primitive man.  Against Locke Rousseau admits that in the natural state man was not sociable.  In addition morality, the development of reason, presuppose society and therefore cannot be prior to it.  Man in the natural state had no notion of good and evil, lived in rather isolated a way and his intelligence only served him to adapt.  Contrarily to Locke and Pufendorf, Rousseau admits that primitive man could not have had any sense of property; all he could have known would have been a momentary possession of something.  Also, if Hobbes saw nature as a state of perpetual war of all against all, Rousseau replies that he has projected today’s man on primitive man.  In the absence of society primitive man is rather shy an animal, apprehensive, robust yet not vary daring.  He is tender rather than violent.  The idea of war is a social concept that supposes property; it is meaningless in a state in which man is not even rooted in a place, in the natural state.

    We don’t want to carry to the natural state the ideas we take from society; we want to recognise what follows the emergence of society and in what way it radically transformed the face of mankind.  Man did not wilfully leave the state of nature.  An external necessity must have compelled him.  If we live surrounded by an abundance of fruit, a warm climate, we are locked into idleness. It is the natural catastrophes that will have disrupted the balance between habitat and needs.  Man could have remained without History and without culture in this “mankind’s happy infancy” during which Nature provided for all his needs.  Primitive man is by essence solitary, idle and independent.  He only perceives what he needs.  He has no awareness of being a man, nor of genuinely belonging to a social group.  Language, family, the development of reason, society and its institutions, work, property, morality etc… none of this is natural and can only have emerged within society.

    However, if natural man is in a position of inferiority with respect to other animals, he has one strength. He is perfectible.  He is able to take advantage of what he learns, to better it and to transmit it.  Natural man, when pushed by more difficult living conditions, will benefit from the discovery of metallurgy.  As soon as agriculture emerged, so too did property and with it the division of labour, a political structure and the possibility of war to protect what had been so laboriously acquired.  Let us therefore underline the difference between natural man and social man: “the original man gradually fades away, and all society gives the wise man to see is an artificial compound man and fake passions.”  In society man becomes artificial.  The bourgeois is all artifice because he has lost the spontaneity and frankness of natural man.  He has learnt to conceal, hypocrisy and inconsistency.  The natural goodness present in man has been hidden beneath a mask of caution and dissimulation.  In society man has learnt to pretend.  Because in society everybody judges of himself through the eyes of others, everybody wants to give a flattering opinion of himself.  Appearance becomes more important than being.  Social man, judging himself with respect to others, begets envy, artificially multiply desires beyond his ability to satisfy them.  Rousseau’s analysis is critical: our culture disguises our lies, our hypocrisy; it masks the social man’s absence of authenticity.

    This is why Rousseau can say that entering society could have been a blessing had it not often made man fall beneath the level at which he set out.  In other words, the passage from the state of nature to the social state is a progress on one condition only: that man’s virtue be preserved.  There is therefore only one solution: a genuine conversion of civil man, when he decides to assume in society his status of citizen.  This means that he must abandon the prerogatives of natural liberty in order to fully assume the civil liberty that the State confers to him.  Hence it matters above all to give man a true education that will make him a citizen.  This means recovering man’s authenticity through his education, meaning to reintroduce nature into culture.  Emile will be a “savage among men”.

 

 

 

D.      Culture, the Fruit of Education.

 

 

    This takes us back to the problem of education.  To what extent is man the fruit of an education?  If culture means anything, it is not just a form of social conditioning that man would receive at birth; culture is culture only insofar as it is able to make man cultured and civilised.  Taken in this sense the word culture cannot be limited to its ethnological interpretation, but must have a universal meaning.  That of Culture.  Education is what forms culture.  Before one used to call this the humanities or humaniora in Latin.  Culture’s task is to form a citizen of the world.

    The problem is that man’s nature includes his freedom.  And freedom supposes a margin in which there is a certain vagueness, where things have not yet been determined, where there is some choice.  It cannot be understood as a nature in the sense that an animal has its nature.   The nature of the apple pip pushes it to become an apple-tree, and this to breed again and again what it stems from, the apple.  The development of the plant follows a logic that leaves no place to the unforeseen, or to choice.  On the contrary man, because he is free, co-shapes his own existence.  For this reason Sartre denies the reality of human nature: man is free, his existence is the fruit of his own improvisation because of his absolute freedom.  He makes himself and is therefore totally responsible for what he is.

     In Kantian terms, man may well have a nature in his own way, but this nature is a paradox since it consists in being free.  Man owes to himself to deal with the dispositions nature has deposited within him in order to bring both the individual and mankind to maturity.  When man falls back into violence, he falls even lower than the animal that is ruled by nature only.  Man must therefore learn to make use of his own freedom.  That man once socialised has a culture is thus the result of human nature.  History must enable the seed sown in each man to fructify.  There is no duality between nature and culture.  The progress of culture accomplishes the progress of nature.  Nature’s aim in creating man was to prepare him to freedom.  True culture is not there to inculcate some arbitrary form that would be alien to him.  It teaches him to form himself.  It allows the expression of the Self within the self.  There is no natural void culture would have to fill.  Man is not a purely artificial being.  Culture can do no more than reveal and develop the potential present in each of us.  In a way the master does not invent man, he helps him to form himself.  In the same way the doctor does not create health, he does not invent something that did not exist before called “health”.  The doctor does not cure the sick man, he helps nature to cure him.  He helps the man to cure himself.  Medical practice produces nothing, it is limited to enable the recovery of an equilibrium.  Nature does the essential thing.  Similarly education should allow man to grow in his own nature.  It reaches its goal insofar as it contributes to developing human nature.  Its goal has never been to lock up any man in a social straightjacket of arbitrary rules.  Its true sense lies in the development of each and everyone’s natural dispositions. 

    The difficulty involved in educating a human being comes from the difficult crossing from animality to civilisation.  For the animal the dice are cast, instinct has already given him all he needs.  For man there is no education without a work on himself.  Man has received from nature a disposition to use his reason.  His body possesses the incarnation of his freedom.  Yet he is also confronted with his own animality, he is subjected to “animal inclinations”, as Kant says in the Pedagogical Treatise.  We live, die and reproduce like animals.  Our natural inclinations sometimes weigh heavily in the balance of our life with respect to our spiritual vocation.  To civilise means to polish our nature and one civilises the inclinations by mastering them.  In this sense barbarity – not ethnological but moral and spiritual – is our return to the rule of the instincts.  The barbaric man is non mastered animality.  It is in this sense that man must get out of nature and rise to manhood.  In Kant’s words it is: “ a special sort of duty, not of men to men, but of mankind to itself”.

    For this reason Kant admits that discipline is necessary during a stage prior to autonomy.  If nature takes care of the animal, it leaves it to man to take care of himself.  However “since man is not able to do so at the beginning, and that he enters the world a savage, he needs the assistance of others. Mankind must through its own endeavours and little by little extract from itself all the natural qualities that pertain to humanity”.  The savage state refers here to the crude inclinations that are to be found in man and that threaten to bring him back to moral barbarity.  Further down Kant says: “discipline is purely negative since it restricts itself to rid man of his savagery.  Instruction is on the contrary the positive aspect of education.”  While “savagery is independence with respect to all laws, discipline on the other hand subjects man to the laws of humanity.”

    Let us make a comparison.  When one plants a young tree, in the very beginning, one lets it grow unrestrainedly.  Then, during a second phase, one plants a stake beside it so that it will grow straight and finally, in a third phase, when the tree has grown and is stands firmly on the ground, one removes the stake.  Similarly a very young child must be free to make its own first experiences in the world.  Once the sense of the ego has been formed the emerging personality needs a limit in front of in order to construe itself.  The teenager asserts himself through opposing the adult; he needs an external authority that will play the part of the stake.          Finally, as the teenager matures, becomes adult, he finds support in himself and the stake is no longer necessary.  Further maintaining him in tutelage would be infantilising.  The adolescent must now take his own responsibilities.  The uneducated man’s lack of culture is not the same thing as the savage man’s lack of discipline.  Kant explains that it is always possible to make up for a lack of culture, but it is much more difficult to correct a lack of discipline.  It is a little like a tree that had grown bent, that one could no longer straighten.  Yet both are (negative and positive) components of education.  An educated man is one who stands upright within himself, needing no external support, whose discipline is natural.  It is also a man who has received instruction and whose reason has been formed.  Above all it is a free man, because freedom does not consist in the rejection of worldly constraints, but in the positive capacity to assume and transform the world here and now.  Freedom is something one learns and learning to use one’s freedom is first of all ridding oneself of savagery and manifest in oneself one’s most human sides.  In one sense instruction is not enough if it is only an exercise in memory with no connection to life.  The cultivated man, in the highest sense of this word, is the man who has been polished, refined from the acquaintance with a culture of the mind, a vast and deep knowledge, a aesthetic culture, a man who has become aware of his responsibility in the natural and human world, who has grown a wisdom of life.  This is why the educated man is more than just an instructed man, meaning one who has merely recorded learning in his memory.  It is a man who has taken human nature to perfection within himself.  Kant remarks that “ the secret of the perfection of human nature lies in the problem of its education”.  If we can give future generations an education capable of rising them to the responsibility and dignity of humanity, we shall not have worked in vain: “this shows us the perspective of the future happiness of the human species”.  Once we are able to form citizens of the world, we shall have attained the perfection and the ideal of education.

 

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    Man is a cultural being for many fundamental reasons: because when deprived of all contact with his kin, he cannot develop humanity within himself.  One learns to become a man, one is not born one.  Man is a cultural being because as a matter of fact his is formed by a cultural environment, by a culture that gives his judgement its first norms.  However there are many models of humanity and all of them relative.  Each culture proposes a model man.  Man is a cultural being in the sense that he blossoms as a man inside a political environment that he has construed and that gives him the rights to which he pretends and makes him a citizen.  Finally, man is a cultural being meaning that he can access a higher level of himself through the refinement of his education.

    Humanity is accomplished through his education.  A true culture does not inculcate arbitrary and alien forms.  Hence we should not equate all forms and call them culture.

    Beware however that we have not yet tried to define the essence of man.  When saying that he is a cultural being we have not fully answered the question: what is man?  What we have shown is how we should understand expressions like “natural man”, “primitive man” or “savage”, and we have seen the necessary link between humanity and education.


 

[1] See Lucien Malson Wolf Children and the Problem of Human Nature.  Also the film by François Truffaut The Wolf Child

[2] François Jacob in Le Monde Feb 1979 Sexuality and Human Diversity

[3] French geneticist.  Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 1965.

[4] Lévi-Strauss Race and History

[5] Ibid

[6] Lévi-Strauss Elementary Structures of Kinship