Culture Arises from Human Nature

Culture Arises from Human Nature

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In his book, Mirror for Man, Clyde Kluckhohn presents his views on the development of culture. Kluckhohn believes that culture develops out of a combination of human nature, human biology, and the laws of nature. There are vast differences in the habits of the different peoples of the world. An example could be the eating patterns of Americans compared with those of Europeans. Another could be the attitudes of American students compared with the attitudes of Asian students. At the same time, there are some characteristics which are present in all societies, such as peer pressure. In my opinion Clyde Kluckhohn is correct when he states that human behavior is affected by both human nature and human biology.

Kluckhohn gives several examples from his life experience illustrating how two cultures can have very different behavior patterns. During a recent trip to West Germany, I encountered a similar difference. I quickly discovered that the most striking difference between the eating habits of Americans and German was the way in which the knife and fork were used. In Germany most people eat with their fork in their left hand and their knife in their right hand. In addition the fork is almost always used upside down and the knife is used as a "pusher", much like Americans use bread. When I questioned a German friend about this difference I was surprised by her response. She explained that the "German" style of eating was the only "civilized" way and that the "American" style was "sloppy" and "Barbarian".

Another example of cultural differences could be the educational attitudes of Americans as opposed to those of many Asians. Many people in the United States are surprised and alarmed by the high test score and college admissions averages of Asian students in contrast to the falling averages of students of other ethnic backgrounds, including white. This discrepancy is directly related to cultural differences between American and many Asian nations. In most Asian cultures education is strongly encouraged and supported and has been for generations. On the other hand, in America education is often a low priority. Many American students look at school as a burden rather than a chance to gain knowledge. At the same time, many American parents reinforce this attitude because they were raised with a similar belief.

Kluckhohn is careful to point out that there are characteristics which are present in all cultures.

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These similarities are the result of human biology, rather than the result of training or "upbringing". An example would be the fact that all infants cry when they are hungry. This is a biological necessity because the human infant is totally dependant on its parents. Another example would be the concept of "peer pressure". Because humans are social creatures who need to live in groups, whether families, tribes, or nations, most people feel at some point a desire to conform to what is expected.

The different cultures of the human species vary in many ways, from eating habits to religion. At the same time their are many similarities in these diverse cultures. I have experienced these differences and similarities both first and second hand. Such experiences lead me to agree with Kluckhohn's view that culture arises out of human nature, and its forms are restricted by human biology and the laws of nature.

 
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