Zwischen Biologie und Kultur

Ich habe mich in Gespräche mit anderen Psychologiestudenten schon öfter seltsam gefühlt, weil ich gegen das Neuropsycho-Fieber komplett immun zu sein scheine, das in unserer Disziplin ansonsten gerade grassiert. Ich finde neurobiologische Erkenntnisse grundsätzlich sehr interessant, aus einer philosopisch-grundlagenwissenschaftlichen Perspektive. Es geht ihnen meiner Meinung nach aber die praktische Relevanz großteils ab. Wobei diese Aussage an die ganz grundsätzliche Frage nach der relativen Bedeutung biologischer und kultureller Faktoren für unsere Existenz und unsere Eigenschaften rührt. In meiner Prüfungsliteratur für Kulturpsychologie fand ich dazu eine sehr schöne Ausführung, die aber natürlich nicht als neutrale Einschätzung zu lesen ist:

The solution to the issue of fundamentals lies in exposing a widely held and rather old-fashioned fallacy that the human sciences inherited form the nineteenth century, a view about the relation between biology and culture. In that version, culture was conceived as an „overlay“ on biologically determined human nature. The causes of human behavior were assumed to lie in that biological substrate. What I want to argue instead is that culture and the quest for meaning within culture are the proper causes of human action. The biological substrate, the so-called universals of human nature, is not a cause of action but, at most, a constraint upon it or a condition for it. The engine in the car does not „cause“ us to drive to the supermarket for the week’s shopping, any more than our biological reproductive system „causes“ us with very high odds to marry somebody from our own social class, ethnic group, and so on. Granted that without engine-powered cars we would not drive to supermarkets, nor perhaps would there be marriage in the absence of a reproductive system.

But „constraint“ puts the matter too negatively. For biologically imposed limits on human functioning are also challenges to cultural invention. The tool kit of any culture can be described as a set of prosthetic devices by which human beings can exceed or even redefine the „natural limits“ of human functioning. Human tools are precisely of this order – soft ones and hard ones alike. There is, for example, a constraining biological limit on immediate memory – George Miller’s famous „seven plus or minus two“. But we have constructed symbolic devices for exceeding that limit: coding systems like octal digits, mnemonic devices, language tricks. Recall that Miller’s main point in that landmark paper was that by conversion of input through such coding systems we, as enculturated human beings, are enabled to cope with seven chunks of information rather than with seven bits. Our knowledge, then, becomes enculturated knowledge, indefinable save in a culturally based system of notation. In the process, we have broken through the original bounds set by the so-called biology of memory. Biology constrains, but not forevermore. (S. 20f, Hervorhebungen im Original)

[…] What I want to argue in this book is that it is culture and the search for meaning that is the shaping hand, biology that is the constraint, and that, as we have seen, culture even has it in its power to loosen that constraint. (S. 23)

Und Bruner zeigt auch wie ich finde sehr schön auf, welche praktischen Implikationen diese Perspektive hat:

But lest this seem like a preface to a new optimism about humankind and its future, let me make one point clear before turning, as promised, to the issue of relativism. For all its generative inventiveness, human culture is not necessarily benign nor is it notably malleable in response to troubles. It is still customary, as in the fashion of ancient traditions, to lay the blame for the failings of human culture on „human nature“ – whether as instincts, as original sin, or whatever. Even Freud, with his shrewd eye for human folly, often fell into this trap, notably in his doctrine of instinct. But this is surely a convenient and self-assuaging form of apologetics. Can we really invoke our biological heritage to account, say, for the invasive bureaucratization of life in our times, with its resultant erosion of selfhood and compassion? To invoke biological devils or the „Old Ned“ is to dodge responsibility for what we ourselves have created. For all our power to construct symbolic cultures and to set in place the institutional forces needed for their execution, we do not seem very adept at steering our creations toward the ends we profess to desire. We do better to question our ingenuity in constructing and reconstructing communal ways of life than to invoke the failure of the human genome. Which is not to say that communal ways of life are easily changed, even in the absence of biological constraints, but only to focus attention where it belongs, not upon our biological limitations, but upon our cultural inventiveness. (S. 23f)

Diese Ausführungen verweisen neben der oben besprochenen Lesart noch auf zwei interessante Anknüpfungspunkte. Erstens liegt in der Behauptung von kulturellen Möglichkeiten, unsere Gesellschaft zu gestalten, die Frage nach unseren wahren Absichten – wenn wir nicht sehr erfolgreich sind, unsere Schöpfung dorthin zu steuern, wo wir vorgeben hin zu wollen, steuern wir vielleicht in Wahrheit ganz anders?

Zweitens verweist Bruner auf Ausführungen zum Relativismus und Konstruktivismus, und lustigerweise ist das auch das Thema, mit dem ich mich in nächster Zeit intensiver beschäftigen möchte…

Bruner, J. S. (1990). Acts of meaning. Harvard University Press. (deutsch: Bruner, J. S. (1997). Sinn, Kultur und Ich-Identität. Kulturpsychologie des Sinns. Heidelberg: Auer.)

Datum: Sonntag, 10. Mai 2009 14:09
Trackback: Trackback-URL Themengebiet: Deutsch

Feed zum Beitrag: RSS 2.0 Kommentare und Pings geschlossen.

Keine weiteren Kommentare möglich.