ISJ April 2013: A new language for culture, identity and values
The reason for this article is that recent research in the areas of neurobiology, cognitive science and related disciplines has provided understandings about culture in terms of process rather than content. With our new conceptualisation of how we think, rather than merely what we think, it is possible to speak of the process in dynamic rather than structural ways, reflecting more usefully how these factors relate to human behaviour. To do this we need to use new words.
Words give us mental images with which we can exchange ideas, expressed in terms that are shared. When new conceptualisations are made they can only be presented using existing words; but in fact these words, taken from our previous experience in a variety of fields, come with many conflicting and confusing associations. As Wittgenstein (1922) wrote: ‘whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent.’ ‘Culture’, ‘Identity’ and ‘Values’ are now muddied with ambiguities.