Thinking through Claude Lévi-Strauss @ Neuroanthropology

Here’s a link to a post at Neuroanthropology which should really have been included in the recent and 79th edition of Four Stone Hearth, which was somehow overlooked by me at the time. The linked essay was constructed by Greg Downey, in which he considers amongst much else, traditional structuralism, its origins and cycle of acknowledgement in academia, and how modern research into the brain and and its complex behind-the-scenes activities would seem to fly in the face of much structuralist thought.

As we see from this extract:

This is perhaps one of the first and simplest distinctions between structuralism, together with some forms of cognitive anthropology, and neuroanthropology. The belief that, underlying human expression is a simpler structure of thought, one that can be described as an oppositional framework of categories, is, in my opinion, not consistent with current neurosciences. Structuralist analysis assumes that, underlying surface complexity in myth, ritual, and even conscious thought, there must be a simpler generative matrix (this is also one of my issues with Pierre Bourdieu, and the reason that I think his thought is overly structuralist). Increasingly, neurosciences are leading us to the opposite conclusion, that conscious thought and overt expression are the thin surface of much more complex processes, a staggeringly Byzantine thinking organ embedded within a baroque organism upon which it depends for sensation, experience, subsistence, and even motivation to exist. Even the theorists of mental modularity, with which I disagree on many things, come into direct conflict with the stupendous simplification of mental processes required by structuralist analysis (for more, see Andy Clark & Michael Wheeler: Embodied cognition and cultural evolution).

If like me, you only have a vague acquaintance with the workings of the mind of Lévi-Strauss himself, be sure to check the rest of this most informative essay, as it provides a succinct introduction to what the man was about, his thoughts on the function of myth, plus a whole lot more, including plenty of outgoing links to further reading.

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