Cobre em White (1949)

Many cultural anthropologists take the position that an act limited to a single individual cannot properly be called culture, but when more than one person is involved it may be so called. Thus, the number of expressions or manifestations of an event is regarded as a distinctive feature of culture. Ostwald exposes this fallacy also. It is not the number of manifestations of an event that determines its cultural character; it is the quality of the event. Ostwald says that the event must be peculiar to man “in contradistinction to all other animals.” This quality is, to use our own terminology, the symbol. Thus, an event is cultural because it [117] occurs in a context dependent upon symbolling, not upon how many human organisms produce it. As Ostwald observes, “Certain cultural performances have been, and can in the future be, accomplished by a single individual” (p. 167). If there were only a single atom of copper in the cosmos it would still be copper. Likewise, if there were only one expression of symbolling, it would still be cultural. (White 1949:116-7)

Thus, in this interactive process, axes are fitted with handles, eyes are put into awls and they become needles, clay is first sundried then fired; tempering material is added; the wheel is adapted to the ceramic art; certain customs become synthesized into the clan, trial by jury, primogeniture, or parliamentary government; in philosophy and science old concepts are synthesized into new formulations, the work of Galileo, Kepler and Brahe is synthesized into laws of motion and gravitation in the hands of Newton; coal, copper, etc., are introduced into the stream of culture. Discoveries may of course occur by chance, as in the case of the association of pitchblende and a photographic plate in the laboratory of Rontgen. But to be significant, the chance must have the proper soil, a suitable cultural context. (White 1949:204)

WHITE, Leslie. 1949. The science of culture: a study of man and civilization. New York: Grove Press.