Claude Levi-Strauss Reconsidered: Cognitive Science, Epistemology, and the (Not So Savage) Algebraic Mind

Robert E. Haskell, Cognitive Semiotics, 2008, 3, 65-90.

Abstract: Reconsidering Levi-Strauss’ work – on the eve of his 100th year of life – that the structure of cognition is algebraic and analogical as indicated by his analysis of preliterate myths, along with a brief review and analysis of mathematics and cognition, structuralism, and epistemology, the paper suggests that critics of his work (a) were only partially correct, (b) approached his material from an inappropriate epistemology, and (c) while, in application his structural method is problematic, (d) being a pioneer his value is to have posited a novel conceptualization that merits further research. Finally, (e) based on related findings, it is suggested that his notion of an algebraic/analogical mind, which allowed him to illustrate a novel mathematical framework in his structuralist project, can be modeled and tested.