chapter  2
27 Pages

Some Reflections on Cultural Determinism and Relativism with Special Reference to Emotion and Reason

ByMelford E. Spiro

Cultural and noncultural propositions differ in two important dimensions. First, cultural propositions are traditional, that is, they are developed in the historical experience of social groups, and as a social heritage, they are acquired by social actors through various processes of social transmission rather than constructed by them from their private experience. Second, cultural propositions are encoded in collective, rather than private, signs. Emotionally driven cultural frames are sometimes not only obsessional but also magical, and all the more irrational. Cultural acquisition begins in childhood, and children acquire culture from persons who are their “significant others,” that is, persons—usually parents or parent surrogates—with whom they have a powerful emotional involvement, both positive and negative. That cultural systems display a wide range of variability in their cultural frames is of course an empirical generalization that anthropology has documented both richly and abundantly.