Mental and the Material

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* Book: The Mental and the Material. Maurice Godelier.



Tim Ingold:

"Maurice Godelier introduces his book The mental and the material with a fact and a hypothesis (1986: 1). The fact is that, alone among animals, human beings ‘produce society in order to live’. By this he means that the designs and purposes of human action upon the environment – action that yields a return in the form of the wherewithal for subsistence – have their source in the domain of social relations, a domain of mental realities that stands over and above the sheer materiality of nature. Through their creative action upon the natural environment, Godelier claims, human beings bring about changes not only in their relations with that environment but also in those relations among themselves that are constitutive of society. And this leads to the hypothesis, namely that it is precisely because they transform nature that human beings have a History. Of course it is possible to argue that other animal and plant species also have histories of a kind, but these are not histories that they have produced for themselves, but are rather the outcomes of an evolutionary process of variation under natural selection. Human beings, by contrast, are not only made by history, they also play their part in helping to make it. Theirs, if you will, is History with a capital ‘H’ (Godelier 1989: 63). "