Fibonacci series -- and Culture

ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com ScottH9999 at SPAMaol.com
Sat Feb 17 11:47:01 MST 2001


Hi Andrew, and everyone--

You say: "The idea that Europeans were more rational than other cultures is
absurd."
I doubt if anyone on this list would disagree with that, or at least would
disagree with what I think you meant by that. But nevertheless the statement
made me think a bit.

OF COURSE human beings from all cultures have the same native intelligence
and the same capacity for rationality. But does this mean that all CULTURES
are equally "rational"? Actually, during the time period under discussion, I
think it is fairly safe to say that the culture of the Arab world was more
advanced in many respects than that of Europe--and especially more advanced
in its level of mathematical and scientific learning. Since that was so, it
seems fair to say that the culture of the Arab world at that time was indeed
superior to, and "more rational", than that of Europe. Later on, with the
more rapid development of technology and science in Europe, you could
reasonably say that European CULTURE was, for a time anyway, "more rational"
than that of the rest of the world.

It is a fact of history that at various times some cultures are more
technologically, scientifically, and socially advanced than others. And if we
are going to talk about the "rationality" of cultures at all, it would seem
quite reasonable to say that some cultures are therefore more rational than
others. Doing so should only mean that the prevailing world views,
understanding of the world, and such, which typify a culture, are more
rational than those which typify another culture.

I realize that in today's "postmodernist" intellectual climate what I say
here is anathema. All cultures, and indeed all world views, all theories and
even all ideas, are considered by many today to be on a par, or "equally
valid".

But consider American society and culture. Its capabilities in science and
technology are overall equal to or superior to any other country (to a
considerable degree because of foreign-born scientists who have come here).
But this science and rational approach to investigation is mostly limited to
the scientific and technical communities. The dominant ideas among the masses
are very far from being scientific and rational. The people in the U.S. are
more religious, and irrational many other ways too, than that of any other
advanced capitalist country. I therefore have no qualms whatsoever in saying
that today American culture, or at least American MASS CULTURE, is far less
rational than that of Europe, for example.

We may also reasonably hope that any future socialist society will be far
more rational (in quite a number of ways) than any capitalist society. If it
is not, we Marxists will have failed miserably.

                                              *   *   *

You also say:

>  What we see is that European rationality has a limiting effect on
>  creativity, such as the restricted tonal range of the piano.

This is, I think, somewhat unreasonable. Most musical instruments--by their
very design--restrict the tonal range of the music that can be produced, or
at least make it much easier to produce some tones than others. Instruments
are of course generally designed to play the notes appropriate to the musical
scale dominant in that culture. It is not "irrational" to do this, nor a bad
reflection on European or any other culture that this is done. All musical
scales restrict the possibilities of tonal sequences--that is what they are
for. The restriction of possibilities (in one or more ways) is necessary for
all musical styles and standards. If there is no restriction of possibilities
there is no music--only noise.

As with music, so with culture. ALL CULTURES restrict cultural possibilites.
That is their whole essence.

--Scott Harrison


In a message dated 2/17/01 7:42:14 AM Pacific Standard Time, austina at uwgb.edu
writes:

>
>  From the golden mean one can produce a spiral which follows precisely the
>  spiral of the compartments in the shell of a nautilus. The sequence tracks
>  the reproduction of rabbits and the spiral of pine cones. The series has
>  harmonic properties. There's more. The point is that the sequence is an
>  abstraction from nature that was likely discovered by many people operating
>  in symbolic cultures with a mathematical character.
>
>  The idea that Europeans were more rational than other cultures is absurd.
>  What we see is that European rationality has a limiting effect on
>  creativity, such as the restricted tonal range of the piano.
>
>  Andrew Austin
>  Green Bay, WI





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