Sahlins Anthropology

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Sahlins made a highly profound statement in an earlier portion of the book “in the void left in our understanding of ourselves by biology lays the whole of anthropology.” Now we are left to seek the validity of this statement. In Sahlins text The Use and Abuse of Sociobiology, he argues that certain elements of human nature and civilization cannot be reduced to biological principles; moreover the importance of anthropology as a science is its significant contribution to understanding the variety and unity of human cultures. While I agree with Sahlins, I find that his argument is lacking in evidence and leads the reader to come to conclusions that do not agree with the purpose of his writing.
In the first part of Sahlins text, the inadequacies
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Because culture is not a tangible concept like biology, it makes proving his hypothesis laborious. Sahlins argument could be further supplemented by more examples and theories in the independent nature of culture. Christina Toren presents the idea that humans are literally historical (or cultural). She even denotes our knowledge of biology to history which I find to be a compelling statement. I also find Sahlin’s complete discard for biology to be somewhat problematic, in that it presents more unanswered questions; namely “if biology does not contribute to culture, then how did culture arise?” Sahlins states that “biology is completely unable to specify the cultural properties of human behavior or their variation from one group to another.”, while Wilson said “any Durkheimian notion of the independent existence and persistence of the social fact is a lapse into mysticism. Social organization is rather, and nothing more than, the behavioral outcome of the interaction of organisms having biologically fixed inclinations.” Sahlins seems to clearly mean that in humans, biological issues are strictly subordinate to cultural issues. Sahlins proclaimed “I am making no more claim for culture relative to biology than biology would assert relative to physics and chemistry” (pg. 63). Sahlins fails to give an origin to culture, thus leading the reader to believe that …show more content…
Toren suggests that looking at these two entities as a whole can supply a better understanding of the world around us. While it is true that who we are today physically would not be possible without the initial development of biological evolution, what has propelled us into today’s modernity is due to cultural advancements. These cultural advancements have lead us to develop what could be seen as biological issues. However, diseases like cancer, diabetes, and various other illnesses could likely be the cause of technological advancements and change in diet; both of which stem from cultural evolutions. Furthermore, it is clear that human beings have a very diverse and complex culture; and while other animals have developed cultures as well, their cultures are not advanced enough to allow them to create complex societies, complete with art, architecture, and language and writing. Our culture has allowed us to advance far beyond our biological and physical limitations. Humans rely mostly on social and cultural perceptions of behavior day to day, this is not true for other animals that rely on innate

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