Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||A fruit is the mature ovary of a plant. Its main biological function is to ensure the protection and dissemination of the seeds it encloses. In the case of fleshy fruits, dissemination is achieved by attracting animals who eat the fruit, digest the sweet softer flesh, and either regurgitate or excrete the harder seeds at some distance from the plant. Humans, however, have evolved, through artificial selection, plants that produce seedless fruits, such as bananas, Thomson grapes or Arrufatina clementines. Seedless grapes provide an arresting example of the more general issue I want to address in this chapter. Domesticated plants and animals have simultaneously biological, cultural, and artifactual functions. So do also human bodily traits used artifactually, for instance suntans. How should we describe these functions and their articulation? What are the biological and cultural functions of seedless grapes, or of suntans, and how do these functions interact? In trying to answer such questions, we are led to rethink the relationship between nature and culture, and to reappraise the notion of an artifact. The notion of an artifact commonly used in the social sciences, particularly in archeology and anthropology, is a family resemblance notion, useful for a first-pass description of various objects and for a vague characterization of scholarly, and in particular museographic interests. It should not be taken for granted that this notion could be defined precisely enough to serve a genuine theoretical purpose. When definitions are offered, they are based on prototypical cases. This is true of a dictionary definition such as Webster’s: ‘A usually simple object (as a tool or ornament) showing human workmanship or modification, as distinguished from a natural object.’ It is also true of a philosopher’s definition such as Risto Hilpinen’s in his entry on artifact in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: ‘An artifact may be defined as an object that has been intentionally made or produced for a certain purpose..|
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