The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy

Joseph L. Henderson

Cultural Attitudes in Psychological Perspective

Inner City Books, Toronto, 1984, 72-78


HHC: Henderson proposes four basic cultural attitudes: social, religious, aesthetic and philosophic.   I reproduce his summary discussion of all four which includes his assessment of a ‘scientific’ attitude.


Discussion of the Cultural Attitudes

Anyone who has understood and accepted my description of the four attitudes, and can support my thesis that a psychological attitude may also find its place among them, will require no further discussion.  However, I am mindful of the difficulties some people had in accepting these postulates when I first presented them in 1962. [78]  They asked: What cultural forms besides mine had been proposed by other students of culture?  Why had I chosen these four attitudes and why only four?  Why not include a scientific attitude?  What relevance, if any, did I think the four attitudes had to Jung’s four functions of the personality?  What historical origin did I ascribe for the appearance of four cultural attitudes?  I propose to answer these questions briefly in the order I have listed them.

I have found valuable support outside my own psychological discipline among certain friends and colleagues who liked my exposition of the attitudes and felt no need to intellectualize it.  A similar type of acknowledgment came from certain writings which fell into my hands at the right time to encourage me.  The best of these was Irwin Edman’s Four Ways of Philosophy, which he presents in four chapters entitled “Logical Faith,” “Social Criticism,” “Mystical Insight,” and “Nature Understood.”  I found here many points of likeness to my cultural attitudes; specifically, logical .faith corresponds to my philosophic attitude, social criticism to the social attitude, mystical insight to the religious attitude and nature understood to the aesthetic attitude.

I found a similar way of viewing culture among French anthropologists, as described by Claude Lévi-Strauss in his beautifully worded essay, “The Scope of Anthropology.”  The French anthropologists rescued anthropology from Durkheim’s reduction “of all culture to one total social fact,” [79] just as Jung rescued psychoanalysis from a similar reductive interpretation of culture based on the sexual theory of neurosis established by Freud.  Lévi-Strauss describes this new attempt to rehabilitate a differentiated picture of culture:

Now, this analysis in depth was to permit Mauss, without contradicting Durkheim... to reestablish bridges - which at times had


been imprudently destroyed - between his concern and the other sciences of man: history, since the ethnographer deals in the particular, and also biology and psychology... Too often since Durkheim - and even more among some of those who believe themselves to be liberated from his doctrinal grip - sociology had seemed like the product of a raid hastily carried out at the expense of history, psychology, linguistics, economics, law, and ethnography.  To the booty of this pillage, sociology was content to add its own labels; whatever problem was permitted to it could be assured of receiving a prefabricated “sociological” solution… Social facts do not reduce themselves to scattered fragments.  They are lived by men, and subjective consciousness is as much a form of their reality as their objective characteristics. [80]

A social attitude is beautifully characterized in Mauss’s affirmation that what is essential in society:

is that movement of all, the living aspect, the fleeting instant in which society becomes, or in which men become, through feeling, conscious of themselves and of their situation vis-a-vis others. [81]

Contrary to the sturdy, pragmatic assertions of sociologists, any attempt to pin down this “living aspect” of social reality, writes Lévi-Strauss:

will remain largely illusory: we shall never know if the other fellow whom we cannot, after all, become, fashions from the elements of his social existence a synthesis which can exactly correspond to that which we have worked out. [82]

As Lévi-Strauss indicates, we may use other cultural attitudes to form those symbolic bridges which are necessary for communication, one of which is an aesthetic attitude.  This has led the anthropologists to create a science of semiology, which, in the sense that Ferdinand de Saussure employed it, includes language, myth, “the oral and gestural signs of which ritual is composed, marriage rules, kinship systems, and certain terms and conditions of economic exchange.” [83]  This all depends upon aesthetic apperception and in studying these behavior patterns the anthropologist himself acquires on the one hand an aesthetic detachment from the culture he studies, and on the other a special kind of empathy with it.  In the first case, the field worker views the primitive society he has come to study as a symbol of something which is predetermined by his own Western education, and he tends to see this image as part of a universal pattern, without antecedents but maintaining a


mysterious correspondence to other forms in other places, regardless of diffusions of custom or evolutionary change.

In contrast to this kind of aesthetic apperception, with its detachment from the objects or persons of its study, we find those field workers who immerse themselves so thoroughly in the mythology and ritual of small societies that they almost become psychically identical with them.  This may lead certain enthusiasts into grotesque forms of aesthetic imitation.  Sometimes, however, it leads anthropologists to genuine initiatory experiences in the societies they have come to study, as we see in Carlos Castaneda’s account of his shamanic apprenticeship, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, and its excellent Jungian interpretation by Donald Williams. [84]  The value of this is found in a projective identification which, in the right circumstances, creates the mood for acquiring subjective insights which may correspond to objective facts.  At its best, it enables Lévi-Strauss to say:

Our science arrived at maturity the day that Western man began to see he would never understand himself as long as there was a single race or people on the surface of the earth that he treated as an object. [85]

Then, leaving the aesthetic attitude abruptly, he adds, “It was to spread humanism to all humanity.” [86]

Humanism, as I have come to understand it psychologically, comes from a special blend of religious and social attitudes.  As Christianity lost its hierarchical structure and became broadly socialized, from the time of the late Renaissance in Europe, religion became anthropocentric as well as theocentric.  Lévi-Strauss speaks of the

very exceptional emotion which the anthropologist experiences when he enters a house in which tradition, uninterrupted for four centuries, goes back to the reign of Francis I... especially how many ties link him with that age in which the New World was revealed to Europe by being laid open to ethnographical inquiry! [87]

He therefore deplores the fact that it has taken so long for anthropology to be recognized, but this is so because the heavy hand of colonialism prevented the men of earlier times from recognizing the authenticity of the primitive societies.  Only with the approach of the modern era in which we are still living was pure


anthropology born.  The first characteristic of this, as Lévi-Strauss rightly asserts, “is of a philosophical order”:

As Merleau-Ponty has written, each time the sociologist (but it is the anthropologist he is thinking of) returns to the living sources of his knowledge, to that which operates in him as a means of understanding the cultural formations most remote from himself, he is spontaneously indulging in philosophy... And, indeed, the field research with which every anthropological career begins is the mother and wet-nurse of doubt, the philosophical attitude par excellence.  The “anthropological doubt” does not only consist of knowing that one knows nothing, but of resolutely exposing what one thought one knew, and indeed one’s very own ignorance... I think it is by its more strictly philosophical method that anthropology is distinguished from sociology. [88]

Thus we see that Lévi-Strauss outlines a series of cultural attitudes for anthropology that neatly parallel my clinical observation that these same four attitudes are also basic in general culture: the social, religious, aesthetic and philosophic.

It sometimes seems that Jung’s four typological functions, taken separately, subtend the cultural attitudes.  In Psychological Types, he speaks of two kinds of intuition in an introvert: that which tends toward an aesthetic attitude, and that which inclines one toward a philosophic attitude. [89]  In other places, Jung seems to regard aestheticism as the product of the two “perceptive” functions, intuition and sensation, while the philosophic or social attitudes become identified with the two “rational” functions, thinking and feeling. [90]

In his later work, however, Jung disclaims any identity between cultural attitudes and psychological function.  In his writings, it becomes clear that intellectual understanding is not the exclusive property of the thinking function.  The perceptive functions, intuition or sensation, may provide an approach to art and to some extent may define the style in which an artist paints or writes or composes; but a true work of art, like the successful result of a scientific experiment, stands on its own feet regardless of the personal psychology of its creator or perceiver.

No matter how faithfully we develop the four functions or understand them in other people, they do not account for the existence of religious, philosophic, aesthetic or social values.  Hence


there is a remarkable difference between people of identical personality type and function if they are differently oriented to culture.  This suggests that a prerequisite for psychological maturity lies in attaining cultural maturity no less than in developing one’s personality in the context of an individual life situation.  But where the personality functions and the cultural attitudes do meet, they form very interesting combinations of what we may call “life-style,” as illustrated by Joan Evans in Taste and Temperament. [91]  I have also pointed out the relevance of Dr. Meiklejohn’s view of education as a means of providing such a “listing of cultural groupings” (above, p. 26) as would certainly bring the functions of personality into connection with a wide variety of cultural attitudes.

Nor should the cultural attitudes be confused with vocational ambitions.  It has sometimes been assumed that by culture I meant institutionalized cultural forms or the roles people play in expressing them.  Thus a social attitude was thought to be equivalent to that of a political reformer or social worker, an aesthetic attitude only embodied in an artist, a philosophical attitude found in a full professor of philosophy, while a religious attitude could be appropriately represented only by the devout member of a church or by a priest or theologian.  I use the term “attitude” in a sense that cannot be equated with vocational choices.  Any one of the four attitudes may be experienced by anyone, regardless of vocation or personality.  One comment that struck me as particularly apt, when I first began to notice cultural attitudes, was made to me in a personal conversation with the religious historian, Frederick Spiegelberg, in which he observed that clergymen, far from always being religious, may be drawn to their calling by aesthetic, philosophic or social interests.  One might strive to achieve equal development of all the attitudes; but I think this must be very rare, and possibly not even desirable.  The most culturally alive people I know regard themselves as incomplete and are eagerly learning and recombining new attitudes all their lives with all the limitations of time in this respect. (Ars longa, vita brevis.)

In choosing and describing these four cultural attitudes I am well aware that I may be open to the criticism of being unwilling to subject my views to a rigorous scientific critique.  It has been suggested, for instance, as already mentioned, that I should have included a scientific attitude in my list.  I hope my previous exposition shows why I did not do so, and that, in keeping my


fourfold classification of attitudes as it is, I was not trying to burden analytical psychology with still another set of “four functions.”  Therefore, I repeat: So far as we know, the functions of the personality are, by definition, found to be psychologically constant whereas the cultures themselves are in a continual process of change and reformation.  Furthermore, I consider that a scientific attitude is not primary but is a hybrid combining two other attitudes, which it also increasingly shares with them: the philosophic and the aesthetic.  Two of the greatest originators of science, Aristotle and Descartes, were imbued with a philosophic attitude by which they sought to limit man’s subjectivity to a minimum in observing the nature of man or God.  A. similar kind of objectivity was made possible by the adoption of an aesthetic attitude allowing certain men to stand aside from life and from themselves, observing nature and man from a significant distance.  Starting from this aesthetic attitude they have, like Leonardo da Vinci, made remarkable discoveries of a scientific nature.

I do recognize, however, that there is something unique in any evolved scientific attitude, which is neither philosophic nor aesthetic but only itself, and it is precisely this sense of uniqueness that we also find in the psychological attitude which animates the heuristic method of our present study.  It may be that this method will reveal not only the existence of a psychological attitude but that of a scientific attitude of which the psychological is a part.  But certainly, because of their so very recent appearance in history, we cannot claim for science or psychology the same epistemological authenticity that we can demonstrate in the four basic cultural attitudes as they originated and grew out of history into their contemporary forms.  There is some evidence of their original unity in primitive societies that have resisted technological development.  Although absolutely pure cultures no longer exist, we can reconstruct many of the tribal chantways or dance-dramas from ceremonials still in use, where, far from the urban centers of civilization, they still maintain some of their original integrity.  If we were to attend a Navaho healing ceremonial, or a Bushman rain dance, an Australian initiation rite or an Eskimo hunting ritual, we would find that the meaning of the entire culture is evoked in each one.

Such ceremonies are religious because they invoke the presence of gods or demigods, mediated by a priest or medicine man.  The


rites are social because the physical health and social well-being of the individuals or the tribe are intimately bound up with them.  All the adults, and frequently the children, participate actively in the rites to ensure both their food supply and their spiritual welfare.  Everything has its place in the family groups of the food-gathering peoples, and in the totemic groups of the hunters, planters and herdsmen.  The rites are aesthetic by virtue of their performance of dances in costume, accompanied by music or drumming, and primitive people frequently leave records of this dance-drama, or pre-figure it in rock-drawings, carvings and in sand or pollen paintings of incomparable artistic merit.  Finally, they are philosophic in the sense that different strands of tribal lore are woven together to provide a rational explanation of the origin of the rites embodied in a creation myth.  This explains the cosmos, the evolution and present place of animals and men living within it together, according to theory.  I have tried to expose the continuing presence of cultural attitudes today in accordance with these probable origins.



78. Joseph L. Henderson, “The Archetype of Culture.”

79. Claude Levi-Strauss, “The Scope of Anthropology,” p. 11.

80. Ibid., pp. 13-16.

81. Ibid., p. 16.

82. Ibid.

83. Ibid., p. 17.


84. Williams, Border Crossings.

85. Lévi-Strauss, “Scope of Anthropology,” p. HENDERSON.

86. Ibid., p. HENDERSON.

87. Ibid., p. HENDERSON.

88. Ibid., p. 43.

89. Jung, Psychological Types, CW 6, pars. 661-662.

90. Ibid., pars. 577-671.

91. Joan Evans, Taste and Temperament, pp. 30-44.  Evans singles out two psychological functions which she calls quick and slow and sees them in a study of the visual arts, where each may display either an introverted or an extroverted style of composition.  The quick style, which has decorative, levitational and experimental features, suggests the function of intuition.  The slow style is earth-connected, contained, undramatic but totally real - in contrast to the imaginative flights of the quick style - and is therefore suggestive of the function of sensation.  She cleverly points out how easily we may recognize these patterns not only in the visual arts but in the way people dress and furnish their homes, and I have noticed them myself in preferences people show for similar styles in architecture and gardening.


The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy