Characters

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 254

The Savage Mind by cultural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss is not a work that has "characters," as would be found in a work of fiction, but it is rather a work that develops important "characteristics." These characteristics are used to convey Lévi-Strauss's main argument that the way societies, both "primitive" and modern, acquire and order knowledge is decidedly similar.

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The thought we call primitive is founded on this demand for order. This is equally true of all thought but it is through the properties common to all thought that we can most easily begin to understand forms of thought which seem very strange to us.

The trajectory of all thought, he argues, depends upon two key structures, magic and science, which develop along parallel paths:

Seen in this way, the first difference between magic and science is therefore that magic postulates a complete and all-embracing determinism. Science, on the other hand, is based on a distinction between levels: only some of these admit forms of determinism; on others the same forms of determinism are held not to apply.

"Magic" enables the forest to be seen, while "science" provides the distinction of the various species of trees; that is one way to understand these characteristics. The Savage Mind offers other factors that go into the universal impulse of organization and classification, but if we are speaking of these characteristics as "characters" on which the primary action depends, then the dual forces of magic and science are the most important players for Claude Lévi-Strauss.

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