Inicio > Psicología marxista > «A Cultural-Historial View of Human Nature» Michael Cole and Karl Levitin

«A Cultural-Historial View of Human Nature» Michael Cole and Karl Levitin

105d84e4d01d7858a73c1a0d44bef6deFor more than 20 years the authors have been seeking to understand and extend an approach to human nature that takes as its starting point the mediation of human experience through culture as a way to supersede the long-standing dichotomy betwen «natura» and «nurture» which continues to bedevil the human sciences. A crucial point of intersection in our respective inquiries was the Soviet psychologist, Alexander Luria, one of the originators of cultural-historical psychology in what was the USSR. Although currently remembered largely for pioneering the discipline of neuropsychology, which might make it appear that culture was perhaps peripheral to his theory of brain fuctioning, Luria was steadfast in his insistence that «in order to explain the highly complex forms of human consciousness one must go beyond the human organism» to include the the «external conditions of life» particularly human beings’ life society (Luria 1981,25). In effect, Luria arged, the circuits of the brain are completed trough the culturally organized environment, a position perfectly in line which current neuroscientific thinking (Edelman 1992).

In Keeping the bi-national authorship of this chapter and its focus on cultural-mediational processes, we want to highlight the strong affinities between Lurias’s view and the approach adopted by the American anthropologist, Clifford Geertz. In a widely quoted article, Geertz examined the mounting evidence that the human body, and most especially the human brain, has undergone a long (perhaps 3 million year) co-evolution with the basic ability to create and use artifacts. Consequently, he argued,

man’s nervous system does not merely enable him to acquire culture, it positively demands that he do so if it is going to function al all. Rather than culture acting only to supplement, develop, and extend organically based capacities logically and genetically prior to it, it would seem to be ingredient to those capacities themselves. A cultureless human being would probably turn out to be not at intrinsically talented, though unfulfilled ape, but a wholly mindless and consequently unworkable monstrosity (1973,68).

In the pages to follow we want to illustrate the power of Luria and Geertz’s common vision using examples drawn from both russian and american research traditions. It is our belief that a judicios combining of two national traditions provides rich resources for the development of a comprehensive, bio-social-cultural approach to human nature. Central to both traditions is the belief that human nature cannot be reduced to the socio-cultural environment to biology. Rather, each views human beings as hybrids of the cultural, the phylogenetic, and the ontogenetic. Each of the expamples we provide explores a diferent aspect that hybridity.

A Cultural-Historial View of Human Nature


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