chapter  10
12 Pages

Whatever Happened to the Id?

ByMelford E. Spiro

There has been a strong tendency in structural and symbolic anthropology to assume that sex and aggression are of no concern to cultural symbol systems. Edmund Leach’s contention that the denial of physiological paternity in Australia and parts of Melanesia, or the denial of a human genitor to Jesus in parts of Christendom, are statements not about biological sex but about rules of descent. The dimension close/remote is a perfectly good dimension for describing attitudes, but there are at least three reasons for rejecting the assumption that this is the dimension along which the opposite-sex parents in the myths sustain the logical relation of binary opposition within each myth and that of identity across the myths. Since absence of anxiety and guilt implies an absence of cultural norms prohibiting aggressive behavior, in S. Freud’s view this myth could not possibly represent a transition from nature to culture, even if it were granted that it represents the origin of cooking.