Anthropology of Mind Manifesto
by Alessandro Bertirotti
Translationby Roberta Bertirotti
Visiting professor of Cultural Anthropology and Anthropology of Mind
University of Genoa and Rome
The historical period that the world is living is really interesting, disturbing and, in many cases, stimulating too. We don’t refer to the terroristic problems that, besides to threaten the whole planet, constitutes perhaps the final expression of a tragic existence. On the contrary, we make reference to the constant and continuous (and progressive too) loss of an ancient and biologically important human feeling: the sense of belongings.
The individual cannot tolerate to live a secluded life, even though there are many persons having the sharp sensation to be alone. Our humanity, hidden but present in everyone, needs to communicate to what is apparently different from us, something else and sometimes even unreachable. Before the Internet event, which is a sort of a technological “noosfera” (knowledge sphere), every Individual could claim to be unique and original in their ways of thinking. We could also uphold that our microcosm can coincide to the more general macrocosm, till to come to believe it with a certain conviction. Nowadays, all that it isn’t possible anymore, because internet allows us (but I would dare to say it force us) a cognitive dimension which is necessarily anthropologic, that’s to say it is evolutive and globe-centric.
By the term brain we mean an exact part of the human body, in the same way when we talk about any another organ. The brain is located inside the skull from which the whole nervous system starts, both the central system and the peripheral one’s. All functions, or rather the actions made by the human organs, permit to live, even though we don’t directly see them, whereas we become almost always aware of the result of these functions. It is important to state a distinction between actions and physiological results when we want, as in our case, to base the theoretical paradigm of a new discipline. In fact, only if we deeply understand how much the results are a consequence of an action physiologically determined, we will be able to reason upon the cerebral action consequences, that’s to say about the mind. Following this point of view, the Anthropology of Mind, a discipline entering the more general neurosciences furrow, attends to the human mind evolution, understood as the totality of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic consequences of the cerebral actions. But if the discipline restrict itself to consider the mind the simple result of the cerebral functioning, it would be assimilable to a sort of an applied neurology. Indeed, the brain is an organ absolutely special, because its actions suffer continuous modifications regarding to the other human brain actions with whom it meets, and in relation to the external environment where the brain acts.
To cite something as an example, whilst the liver acts as a liver, apart from the fact that it lives in a different geography where it grown up, every time we “take” our brain somewhere else, even if its functionality doesn’t change according to the neurological point of view, its cognitive result of action is really different, because it is real linked to the external conditions where it arrives. Then, the brain is a highly reactive organ and its functionality depends on both the endogenous-physic factors and the exogenous-cultural ones. How can we define the contact of these two functionalities? By the term mind and mentality. In this way, the mentality becomes the combined and historical result of the cerebral actions that are inside the individual during the contact with the external environment, which is lived by other people’s personal stories and geographies that we name culture. This contact is so innate in our brain daily life that it is impossible to draw a clean demarcation line separating the individual cerebral function by the modification of this functionality, after a collision with other brains and environments. I mean that it isn’t possible to exactly locate where the other people’s mind begins and where own mind ends.
Our life find expression inside a mental continuum where we lose sight of our actions and their consequences to other people.
The Anthropology of Mind takes place in this prospect, and thanks to it it’s possible to study the forming, inside and outside the culture, of the so-called mentality, that we can in fact define as a result of actions and consequences that are shared by a group of Individuals inside an exact environment.