Lesson 44 Patterns of culture 文化的模式

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First listen and then answer the following question.


What influences us from the moment of birth?

Custom has not commonly been regarded as a subject of any great moment. The inner workings of our own brains we feel to be uniquely worthy of investigation, but custom, we have a way of thinking, is behaviour at its most commonplace. As a matter of fact, it is the other way around. Traditional custom, taken the world over, is a mass of detailed behaviour more astonishing than what any one person can ever evolve in individual actions, no matter how aberrant. Yet that is a rather trivial aspect of the matter. The fact of first-rate importance is the predominant role that custom plays in experience and in belief, and the very great varieties it may manifest.

No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking. Even in his philosophical probings he cannot go behind these stereotypes; his very concepts of the true and the false will still have reference to his particular traditional customs. John Dewey has said in all seriousness that the part played by custom in shaping the behaviour of the individual, as against any way in which he can affect traditional custom, is as the proportion of the total vocabulary of his mother tongue against those words of his own baby talk that are taken up into the vernacular of his family. When one seriously studies the social orders that have had the opportunity to develop autonomously, the figure becomes no more than an exact and matter-of-fact observation. The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community. From the moment of his birth, the customs into which he is born shape his experience and behaviour. By the time he can talk, he is the little creature of his culture, and by the time he is grown and able to take part in its activities, its habits are his habits, its beliefs his beliefs, its impossibilities his impossibilities. Every child that is born into his group will share them with him, and no child born into one on the opposite side of the globe can ever achieve the thousandth part. There is no social problem it is more incumbent upon us to understand than this of the role of custom. Until we are intelligent as to its laws and varieties, the main complicating facts of human life must remain unintelligible.

The study of custom can be profitable only after certain preliminary propositions have been accepted, and some of these propositions have been violently opposed. In the first place, any scientific study requires that there be no preferential weighting of one or another of the items in the series it selects for its consideration. In all the less controversial fields, like the study of cacti or termites or the nature of nebulae, the necessary method of study is to group the relevant material and to take note of all possible variant forms and conditions. In this way, we have learned all that we know of the laws of astronomy, or of the habits of the social insects, let us say. It is only in the study of man himself that the major social sciences have substituted the study of one local variation, that of Western civilization.

Anthropology was by definition impossible, as long as these distinctions between ourselves and the primitive, ourselves and the barbarian, ourselves and the pagan, held sway over people's minds. It was necessary first to arrive at that degree of sophistication where we no longer set our own belief against ourneighbour's superstition. It was necessary to recognize that these institutions which are based on the same premises, let us say the supernatural, must be considered together, our own among the rest.

RUTH BENEDICT Patterns of Culture

New words and expressions生词和短语






cactus(1.27)/'k$kt+s/(复数 cacti/'k$ktai/)n.仙人掌












incumbent (1.21)/in'k)mb+nt/adj.义不容辞的,有责任的





proposition(1.25)/?pr%p+'ziM+n/ n. 主张

Notes on the text课文注释

1 The inner workings of our own brains,这一部分是feel的宾语,为了强调而把宾语提前了,to be uniquely worthy of investigation是宾语补足语。

2 the other way around,正好相反。

3 taken the world over, 是过去分词短语,作Traditional custom的定语, taken前省略了it is,意为:被全世界所接受的。

4 go behind these stereotypes,摆脱这些旧框框。

5 his very concepts,其中的very是形容词,用于加强语气。

6 have reference to,参照……,与……有关。

7 as against…is as…against…意为:与……相比较就如同……与……相比。

8 be taken up into,被接纳进。

9 first and foremost,首先。

10 the thousandth part,等于the thousandth part of the customs。

11 let us say, 譬如说。





Comprehension 理解

Answer these questions:

1 What do you understand by this statement: ‘No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes.’? (1.18)

2 How has the study of man differed from the study of less controversial subjects?

3 What criterion must the anthropologist accept before he can undertake the study of man objectively?

Vocabulary 词汇

Refer to the text to see how the following words have been used, then write sentences of your own using these words: moment (1.1); aberrant (1.5); predominant role (1.6); manifest (1.7); probings (1.9); vernacular (1.13); autonomously (1.14); incumbent (1.21); intelligent (1.22); unintelligible (1.23); preferential weighting (1.26); controversial (1.27); held sway (1.33).

Summary 摘要

Drawing your information from lines 1-21 (‘Custom has not … achieve the thousandth part.’), describe how our attitude to life is shaped by custom. Do not write more than 100 words. Use your own words as far as possible. Your answer should be in one paragraph.

Composition 作文

Write a composition of about 600 words on one of the following subjects:

1 Tradition and the individual.

2 How can the study of cultures different from our own lead to a better understanding of man's nature?

3 ‘There can be no absolute standards of right and wrong since our moral attitudes are conditioned by the society in which we live.’ Discuss.

Key structures 关键句型

Rewrite the sentences given below using the opening words and phrases provided. Do not refer to the passage until you have finished the exercise:

1 We have not commonly regarded custom as a subject of any great moment.

Custom ________ (1.1)

2 We feel that the inner working of our own brains are uniquely worthy of investigation.

The inner workings of our own brains we feel to_____ (11.1-2)

3 What he sees is edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking.

He sees ________(1.8)

4 From the moment of his birth his experience and behaviour are shaped by the customs into which he is born.

From the moment of his birth the customs_____ (1.17)

5 We had to arrive first at that degree of sophistication where we no longer set our own belief against our neighbour's superstition.

It was necessary ______ (11.33-35)

Special difficulties 难点

A Study the following pairs of words and then write sentences of your own to bring out the difference.

1 custom (1.1) ---- habit

Sending birthday cards is not a very old custom.

Overeating can easily become a bad habit.

2 aspect (1.5) ---- view

Why don't we consider the wider aspects of the problem?

There's an excellent view from my window.

3 proportion (1.12) ---- percentage

The amount of work to be done seems to expand in proportion to the amount of time available to do it.

The percentage of income taken in tax has stayed the same now for four years.

4 unintelligible (1.23) ---- unintelligent

The nurses found what he said unintelligible, but his wife could understand him well enough.

People with gross physical disabilities are not necessarily unintelligent as well.

5 controversial (1.27) ---- argumentative

Euthanasia, even voluntary euthanasia, must always be a controversial subject.

It's hard to teach someone who is habitually argumentative, because they are thinking of how to disgrace instead of paying attention.

B Write sentences using the following words differently from the way in which they have been used in the passage:

accommodation (1.16); creature (1.18); globe (1.21); intelligent (1.22).

Multiple choice questions 多项选择题

Choose the correct answers to the following questions.

Comprehension 理解

1 Our view of life and the world is largely the product of ______ .

a.the society we are born into

b.the inner workings of our own brains

c.individual development and preference

d.a mass of detail

2 According to the writer, the thoughts and ideas of an individual _____.

a.are minimal compared with the power of tradition

b.will often dominate the patterns and standards handed down in the community

c.shape his own beliefs and behaviour

d.are often completely unintelligible

3 According to the writer, it is unlikely that a child born into one culture _____.

a.will acquire the customs and traditions of another

b.will ever learn anything about a different culture

c.will be intelligible to a child of another culture

d.will ever travel to the opposite side of the globe

4 Anthropologists can only study human societies objectively if they _______.

a.regard all cultures as having equal value

b.distinguish between themselves and barbarians

c.believe in the supernatural

d.have a good understanding of Western civilization

Structure 句型

5 We feel the inner workings of our brain to be worth ___. (11.1-2)

a.to investigate


c.of investigation

d.for investigating

6 ______ is of first-rate importance is the predominant role of custom. (11.5-6)




d.The thing

7 ______ we are intelligent about its laws, human life will become intelligible. (11.22-23)



c.As if


8 ____we have learned all we know about the laws of astronomy. (1.29)

a.That's when

b.That's how

c.That's so

d.That's as if


9 He sees it ______ by a definite set of customs.(1.8)


b.cut down



10 The life-history of an individual is ___ an accommodation…(11.15-16)

a.in the first place


c.above all


11 The study of custom can be profitable only after certain _____propositions have been accepted. (11.24-25)





12 Scientific study requires that there be no _____ towards one side. (11.25-26)






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