Long post ahead, sorry.
The first working-session of my Seminar took place last Friday. Actually it was the second meeting, but at the first gathering technical things had to be discussed, themes for papers had to be talked over and authors had to be found – all that technical sort of things.
My idea of this seminar is to start with the meaning of the word “culture”, look how it is used and what “cultures” we can face and finally look at some important theorists as Habermas, Eco and Foucault. It is a Pro-Seminar I know, it is meant for people in the first four semesters – but it is like in the artillery: Aim high!
I told them to read this text, but naturally … It is by WIlhelm Perpeet and deals with the meaning of the word “Kultur”; following the link you will find a pretty colourful “doc”.
For non-german readers it says in a nutshell that “culture” origins from the latin word colere, that means as much as to care for, to farm, and a lot of other things. It is used by Cicero in his disputationes tusculanae (Perpeet gives it as II, 5, but here it is II, 13). The important sentence is: Cultura autem animi philosophia est; philosophy is cultura animi, is “Pflege des Geistes” – tjaaaa: maintenance, care, “cultivation” of the mind, the intellect – I am not at home in the English language, sorry. Perpeet calls this part of the words meaning ergological – it has to do with work: No work, no culture. It does not grow on trees, we have to work on it.
The early christians added a moral sense to the spectrum of the meaning and Augustinus speaking about the cultura Christi was referring to God as a farmer.
Renaissance thinkers as Erasmus and Bacon still talked about a cultura animi and kept the image of farming dealing with mans dignity: Ripping out of the soul the weeds of vice with the help of the philosophy, the love to wisdom.
A new aspect was brought to the word with the enlightment. Perpeet refers to the great student of the law Samuel von Pufendorf, who lived in the 17th century. From this time on the word cultura is allowed to stand alone. Pufendorf uses the word to distinguish man from animal: uncultivated man, man without culture would fall back in a natural state of barbarism, in a life without obligation, bond, without society: “ohne Gesittung und Erziehung, ohne rechtliche Bindung”. So these thinkers ad a “soziative Bedeutung”, a social aspect to the word.
Herder, a philosopher one can unfortunately not ignore, in the end of the 18th century finally adds a historic dimension to the concept. From this time on culture is something that expresses itself – it is an “it”, an agens, something that does something.
The writer von Nostitz-Rieneck could 1888 complain about all this “culture of something”, the inane use of the word. 113 years later the german writer Eckhard Henscheid collected and summed up “Alle 756 Kulturen. Eine Bilanz” (Frankfurt am Main 2001). It is to be feared that the inflational use of culture will not stop, on the contrary.
A lively discussion started while and after me referring this text with some remarks – I had to listen, moderate a little, listen again and fill my gold-rimmed waterglass for three quarters of an hour: That is what I call a success! They are disussing, they think, they work on themselves, they form the university. Later I found them in the inner yard smoking and keeping on discussing – and I felt a little jealous. But it went away … Alte Säcke sollen nicht larmoyant sein.
Next week I will again talk the talk, this time about cultural philosophy, then we will hear papers: “The two cultures” by Snow; Sokal; “Leitkultur” (untranslatabel german nonsense); cultural heretage (the university is located in); cultural history; frater Humbertus de Bologna and Semiotics; Habermas; Foucault – um, that will be stark stuff. Last meeting exploring beer-culture “on top of the cellar” as the aboriginies say.
In the course of discussion we came about the issue of perception and I referred to the site about autism Amanda linked a few days ago. I put this on the “culture-blog” too and repeat it here.
Sorry for this long post. Now for some beer-culture …