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Название: The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)
Авторы: S.Atran, D. Medin
This is an excellent, accessible summary of the thorough and extremely important research done by Scott Atran, Douglas Medin, and their associates over the last many years. They have studied the ways people classify things, and have compared the Anglo-Americans of the Midwestern US with the Menomini people of Wisconsin and the Itza' Maya of Guatemala. Of course, the Menomini and Itza' know more about local plants and animals than urban Americans do, but even in comparison with outdoor and rural Americans there are key differences: the indigenous people have a more religious or spiritual association with nonhuman lives, a deeper sense of ecological relationships, and a more comprehensive view of how humans can and do interact with those other lives.
Nonanthropologists will probably be astonished at the depth and sophistication of Menomini and Maya knowledge of ecology, and at the similarity of their categories of plants and animals to those of modern international science. People do recognize natural relationships, though classification is also influenced by utility and culture. The book's discussion of this is state-of-the-art, and advances our understanding of it. The finding is devastating to those who think classification is purely a cultural construction without feedback from reality. Yes, classifications are culturally constructed, but cultures construct knowledge for use, not to play head games, and the more a classification is culturally constructed, the better it balances biological fact and human use-values. A culture that classified strychnine as perfect food would not last long.
This book pleads for more attention to teaching children (by implication, especially modern urban children) much more about the nonhuman world, and doing it by actual exposure and immersion and interaction, as the indigenous cultures do, rather than by memorizing stray facts for a standardized test.
Notable in this book is the clear English, and the well-told, circumstantial stories of field work and experience. This will make the book far more useful to the many teachers, nature lovers, and environmental scientists who will profit greatly from reading it. What a contrast with the dismal postmodern books I've been reading lately (many call themselves "political ecology") — they are just the reverse, hiding banal and obvious truths under a squid-ink cloud of ridiculous pseudointellectual jargon.
My one feeble complaint about the present book is about usage. "Folkbiology" bothers me; the Menomini and Itza' systems are the full scientific systems of those cultures, not comparable to the "folk" as opposed to "sophisticated" or "educated" systems of the Anglo-Americans. "Folk," to me, has a bit of an edge, as in "folk music" vs Mozart. Also the authors follow a dubious trend of respelling Yucatec as "Yukatek" when referring to the people called in English the "Yucatec Maya." Yucatec is a Spanish word, not an indigenous one, and the Maya don't use it about themselves (they use "yucateco/a" to refer to anyone from the Yucatan Peninsula, whether Maya or not). Respelling Spanish is no fair.