Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Polar Elements of Anthropology

There are TWO polar elements that make up Anthropology. These are the Organic evolution of Humans and the Second is the Superorganic (or Culture).

The First is the Organic pole that focuses on humans and their evolution as a species. It makes up the core of Paleoanthropology as carried out by archaeologist and paleontologist focused on early humans.

The Second is the Superorganic pole that focuses on the ideational or cultural domain of humans living in supraorganic or social groups. It makes up the broad areas of Social/Cultural anthropology and Linguistic Anthropology.

One must also remember that between the poles there comes a blending of elements. Physical anthropology, for example, ranges from the study of the similarities and differences in the physical body of individuals to the effects of physical reproduction (genes) on a supra-organic population. Linguistics, in the broader sense as semiotics, deals not only with the encoding of sound patterns, but also on the range of behavioral communication activities performed by individuals that melds into the superorganic (meanings) of cultures.

The former is existential in the sense that its evidence is physical and real in the form of archaeological sites, bones, tools, and features. The latter is ideational in the sense that it is expressed through language and behaviors. These are the ways that the members of the social unit express themselves and their meanings through their behavior and their works (technologies).

To ignore the former is to ignore the fact that humans are part of the natural evolution of life on the planet. To ignore the latter is to ignore the importance of culture as the mechanism through which humans have risen to the point of the dominant species on the planet. To ignore the middle ground is to ignore what has and will make us human.

The emergence of technology, or transorganic behavior, as the human method for solving survival problems and transmitting the solutions across generations is the link between the organic and superorganic poles. It is also the glue that holds us together as a self-aware and self-reflective species.

Updated version 8 14 2018

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