Savage Mind – Quotes

Levi-Strauss, C. (1966). Savage Mind (First Edition edition). London: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd.
  1. The use of more or less abstract terms is a function not of greater or less or intellectual capacity, but of differences in the interest – and their intensity and attention to detail – of particular social groups within the national society. p.2
  2. Every civilization tends to over estimate the objective orientation of its thought and this tendency is never absent. p.3
  3. Classifying, as opposed to not classify, as a value of its own, whatever for the classification may take. p.9
  4. Sacred objects therefore contribute to the maintenance of order and the universe by occupying the place is allocated to them. page 10
  5. One can go further and think of the righteous precision of magical thought and ritual practices as an expression of the unconscious apprehension of the truth of determinism, the mode in which scientific phenomena exist. Page 11
  6. The “structuring” has an intrinsic effectiveness of its own whatever the principles and methods which suggested it. p12
  7. Both science and magic however require the same sort of mental operations and they differ not so much in kind as in the different types of phenomena to which they are applied. Page 13
  8. Any classification is superior to chaos and even a classification at the level of sensible properties is a step toward rational ordering. Page 15
  9. And in our own time the “bricoleur” is still someone who works with his hands and uses devious means compared to those of a craftsman. The characteristic feature of mythical thought is that it expresses itself by means of a heterogeneous repertoire which, even if extensive, is never the less limited. It has to use this repertoire, however, whatever the task at hand because it has nothing else at its disposal. Mythological thought is therefore kind of intellectual ‘bricolage’, which explains the relation which can be perceived between the two. p17

  10. His universe of instruments is closed and the rules of his game are always to make do with “whatever is at hand”, that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and is also heterogeneous because what it contains bears no relation to the current project, or indeed to any particular project, but is the contingent results of all the occasions there have been to the renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or deconstructions. Page 17
  11. The engineer works by means of concepts and the ‘bricoleur’ by means of signs. Page 30
  12. The scientist creating events by means of structures and the ‘bricoleur’ creating structures by means of events. Page 22
  13. The painter is always mid–way between design and anecdote, and in his genius consists in uniting internal and external knowledge, a being and becoming, and producing with his brush an object which does not exist as such and which he is nevertheless able to create on his canvas. p25

  14. The aesthetic in emotion is the result of this union between the structural order and the order of events, which is brought about within a thing created by man and so also an effect by the observer who discovers the possibility of such a union through the work of art. Page 25
  15. In the case of works of art, the starting point is a set of one or more objects and one or more events which aesthetic creation unifies by revealing a common structure. Myths travel the same road but start on the other end. They use a structure to produce what is itself an object consisting of a set of events.Page 26
  16. If the difficulties of execution are entirely mastered, as is the case when it is entrusted to machines, the purpose can become more and more precise and specific and applied art is transformed into industrial art. Page 29
  17. There are relations of the same type between games and rights. All games are defined by a set of rules which and practice allow the saying of any number of matches. Ritual, which is also “played”, is on the other hand, like a favorite instance of the game, remembered from among the possible ones because it is the only one Which results in a particular type of equilibrium between the two sides.

  18. American mythology confirms, to win a game in symbolically to “kill” one’s opponent; this is depicted as are really happening in innumerable minutes. Page 32
  19. In the case of games this symmetry is therefore preordained and it is of a structural kind since it follows from the principle that the rules are the same for both sides. Asymmetry is engendered: it follows inevitably from the contingent nature of events, themselves due to intention, chance or talent. p33
  20. Like science the game produces events by means of a structure; and we can therefore understand why competitive game should flourish in our industrial societies. Rights and mitts, on the other hand, like the ‘bricoleur’, take to pieces and reconstruct sets of events and use them as so many indestructible pieces for structural patterns in which they serve alternately as ends or means. Page 33