Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quote for the day

At a conference I attended earlier this year, a Lacanian from Norway told me with a dismissive little smirk (quote): "I don't buy the whole evolutionary psychology thing."

Of course she "bought" the whole mirror stage thing - just like I had done (silly me!) when I was younger (though said Lacanian was much more mature than I was then and the mother of several children - who apparently had all successfully mastered their mirror stage and the accompanying trauma).

I don't get it - what in the following quotes makes it so preposterous and provocative that it would deserve the scorn of the ignorant (for surely the Scandinavian Lacanian had never read any of the evolutionary psychology that she discounted so flippantly)?

… all normal human minds reliably develop a standard collection of reasoning and regulatory circuits that are functionally specialized and, frequently, domain-specific. These circuits organise the way we interpret our experiences, inject certain recurrent concepts and motivations into our mental life, and provide universal frames of meaning that allow us to understand the actions and intentions of others. Beneath the level of surface variability, all humans share certain views and assumptions about the nature of the world and human action by virtue of these human universal reasoning circuits.

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer

Sounds perfectly sane to me.

Maybe they don't have evolved rational capacities in Norway (or sanity, for that matter). That's what a national diet of liquorice and akvavit does to your brain. Which is why that woman and I would never be able to understand each other, but can only serve as one another's objects of desire/knowledge, caught in the self-constituting gaze of the distant/masterful anthropologist.

Why.Do.People.Think.That.Way?

2 comments:

mikeovswinton said...

If I might humbly suggest the following as a potential source of problems here. In your final comment you state inter alia; "which is why that woman and I would never be able to understand each other", whereas your evoluntionary psychologists suggest that "Beneath the level of surface variability, all humans share certain views about the nature of the world and human action etc etc."
In which case, you and your Lacanian fellow conferee should be able to understand each other. Isn't the devil here in the detail of "surface variability" - it seems to me that it might be an idea that is being asked to do rather a lot of work.

John Carter Wood said...

I think the question assumes that 'certain views' (i.e., a basic shared psychology) means 'agreeing on everything'. Which it doesn't. Otherwise, there's not really a contradiction.

And, if anything, it is the anti-biological/evolutionary theories that disconnect 'surface variability' from any kind of realistic and shared human basis.

Evolutionary psychologists are very comfortable with cultural change and difference. In fact, it's the focus of much of their work.

On other matters: if the Royal Mail cooperates to some extent, you should be receiving something from us in the post soonish....