Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Suppose we discovered that all the women in the Slobbovian culture exhibit a strong preference for blue-handled knives and red-handled forks. They would rather starve than eat with utensils of the wrong color. We’d be rightly puzzled, and eager to find an explanation. ‘Well,” these women tell us, “blue-handled knives are snazzier, you know. And just look at them: these red-handled forks are, well, just plain beautiful!” This should not satisfy us. Why do they say this? Their answers may make sense to them, and even to us, once we’ve managed to insert ourselves to some degree into their culture, but that is not the end of it. We want to know why there is a culture with such apparently arbitrary and unmotivated preferences. To us outsiders, the need for an answer stands out, even if the Slobbovians themselves think their answers are self-evident and quite satisfying. Similarly, we may think it is just obvious that laughter (as opposed to, say, scratching one’s ear or belching) is the appropriate response to humor. Why are some female shapes sexy and others not? Isn’t it obvious? Just look at them! But that is not the end of it. The universalities, regularities and trends in our responses to the world do indeed guarantee, trivially, that they are part of “human nature,” but that still leaves the question of why. Something must pay for these extravagant features. What? To answer, we need to adopt an evolutionary point of view, which encourages us to look at all aspects of..|
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