Levi-Strauss, the author of "the Savage Mind," preferred that the English translation be titled “Pansies for Thought” - I think that would’ve been a much more fun title – but noooo – social science is a serious discipline right? No time for pansies here.
What I love about Levi-Strauss is that he explicitly says that “civilized” societies are not better or more developed than “primitive” societies. So what we consider to be the “the savage mind” is really equal to “the civilized mind.”
Here are some quotes and notes from my favorite chapter in book, Chapter 9 - History and Dialectic
“language does not consist in the analytical reason of the old-style grammarians nor in the dialectical constituted by structural linguistics not in the constitutive dialectic of individual praxis facing the practice-inert, since all three presuppose it. Linguistics thus presents with a dialectical and totalizing entity but one outside (or beneath) consciousness and will. Language, an unreflecting totalization, is human reason which has its reasons of which man know nothing.” pg 252
“..this meaning is never the right one: superstructures are faulty acts, which have ‘made it’ socially. Hence, it is vain to go to historical consciousness for the truest meaning. What Sartre calls dialectical reason is only a reconstruction, by what he calls analytical reason, of hypothetical moves about which it is impossible to know—unless one should perform them without thinking them—whether they bear any relation at all to what he tells us about them, and which, if so, would be definable in terms of analytical reason alone. And so we end up in the paradox of a system which invokes the criterion of historical consciousness to distinguish the ‘primitive’ from the ‘civilized’ but—contrary to its claim, is itself ahistorical. It offers not a concrete image of history but an abstract schema of men making history of such a kind that it can manifest itself in the trend of their lives as a synchronic totality. Its position in relations to history is therefore the same as that of primitives ot the central past: in Sartre’s system, history plays exactly the part of a myth.” pf 254
“...Historical facts are no more given than any other” pg 257
“...history is therefore never history, but history-for. It is partial in the sense of being biased even when it claims not to be, for it inevitably remains partial –that is incomplete—and this is a form of partiality.” pg 258
“it is thus not only fallacious but contradictory to conceive of the historical process as a continuous development...”
“history is a discontinuous set composed of domains of history, each of which is defined by a characteristic frequency and by a differential coding of before and after.
On privileging civilized over primitive:
“the idea that the universe of primitives (or supposedly such) consists of principally in message is nothing new. But until recently a negative value was attributed to what was wrongly taken to be a distinctive characteristic, as though this difference between the universe of the primitives and our own contained the explanation of their mental and technological inferiority.” pg 267
“the false antimony between logical and prelogical mentality was surmounted at the same time. the savage mind is logical in the same sense and the same fashion as ours, thought as our own is only when it is applied to knowledge of a universe in which it recognizes physical and semantic properties simultaneously.”
Quotes on Dialectical Reason:
Argues that dialectical reason is in addition to analytical (Sartre call this transcendental materialist and aesthete), dialectical reason is “the necessary condition for it to venture to undertake the resolution of the human into the non-human.” pg 246
Argues the role of dialectical reason “is to put human sciences in possession of a reality with which it alone can furnish them, but the properly scientific work consists in decomposing and then recomposing on a different plane."
"It is imperative to account for dialectical reason by discovering the dialectic subject’s analytical reason. BUT dialectical reason alone cannot account for itself nor for analytical reason!" Pg 253
Quotes on How Bad Sartre:
“Sartre, who claims to found an anthropology, separates his own society from others.” pg 250
“by making analytical reason an anti-comprehension, Sartre often comes to refuse it any reality as an integral part of the object of comprehension. This paralogism is already apparent in his manner of invoking history, for one is hard to put to it to see whether it is meant to be the history of men make unconsciously, history of men consciously made by historians, the philosopher’s interpretation of the history of men or his interpretation of the history of historians, The difficulty becomes even greater, however, when Sartre endeavors to explain the life an thought of the present or past members not of his own society, but of exotic societies.” pf 251
“he concludes wrongly, that the relationship between native thought and his knowledge of it, is that of a constitutive to a constituted dialectic, and thus, but an unforeseen detour, he repeats all the illusions of theorists of primitive mentality on his own account” pg 251