Lucien Levy-Bruhl

by Jean Cazeneuve




CHAPTER ONE - The Philosophy of L. L. B.

utilitarianism had a strong tendency to result in the same moral rules as the gospel.  Hence,metamorals can only build theories on existing customs without being able to influence them. Finally, moral theory rests on to false assumptions.  On the one hand it supposes in effect that human nature is always and everywhere the same, whereas it varies according to civilization.

On the other hand, it reasons as if moral conscience were a harmonious whole.  When in fact it harbors contradictions, amalgamating precepts deriving from different sources.


Having discredited moral theories, L. L. B. Lee is the foundation for the positive signs of morals which bought to replace them.

This science, like physics, bought to stick to purely object of facts, and to look for their laws instead of trying to interpret them.  To look at what is, not what ought to be.


L. L. B. was a rationalist and perhaps he always wanted-the better to isolate rational thought in all its purity-to see how everything in mankind's intellectual behavior which seemed to deviate from this ideal could be explained sociologically.


The read translations of ancient Chinese philosophers and was amazed to find the text incomprehensible.  That's why he began to wonder if they were not modes of thought which were impenetrable to each other.


II. The theory of primative mentality

L. L. B. opposes the so-called animist school for whom the functions of the mind by the same everywhere, but are simply used in the wrong way by primative people.

On the contrary, according to L. L. B., the differences fundamental, not fortuitous: primative people's cannot reason badly, but they think differently from us.



He hoped to create "collective representations".  By that is meant discerning the ways of grasping reality, to the members of the given social group.  Although such collective representations do not exist apart from individuals, they are imposed on the latter and cannot be explained by purely individual psychology.


Characteristic of primative people's is that they are mystical.

This does not mean that they obey logic other than our own, because the two mentalities are not totally unintelligible to each other.  It is not para-logical or anti-logical it is pre-logical.

In calling it prelogical key witness to say that it does not tie itself down, as are thought does, to the avoidance of contradictions before all else.


Their principal is called the "law of participation."  By virtue of this law, things can be the same time themselves and something else.


Usually the logical and prelogical coexist.


Primative man is far less able than we are too abstract and generalize.  Things can not easily be isolated from the means to which they are attached.  For example, numbers are rather forms of qualitative distinction, and this brings about some peculiarities in their language.  Their vocabulary is very rich and copious ink is it is so I'm abstract, and this makes the role of memory more important.


It is not that primative man is only after occult powers.  This would be poor reasoning not different reasoning.


There are mystical causality is not grasped by reasoning that is intuitive through the pre- connections which exist.


Primative man has a sense of his personal existence, but he does not possess a clear idea of self.  Furthermore he does not separate the individual from the species to which it belongs.  In mind and the self is not confined within the boundaries of the body but extends to what L. L. B. calls the appurtenance (for example, hair, footprints and clothing).

We must think about this when we translated words like soul, double, shadow, reflection.


If primitive people stagnate in this manner of thinking, it is because the mystical nature of their mentality makes it impervious to experience, that is to say in sensitive to the contradictions which objectively observe facts would seem to present to their beliefs.


The advance of civilization will never be able to make the mystical mentality disappear completely.

L. L. B. does not think the treaty logical is a non rational stage; he does not subscribe to a doctorate of two mutually exclusive mentalities.


III. Primative mentality and affectivity

certainly the "savage" has concepts, but they are less systemized than ours.  The knowledge of primative people is not classified rationally-it is unpackaged.  Items of knowledge are juxtaposed, the field stays open to mystical Cree connections, and contradictions have little hope of being rejected.


Some primative man can distinguish broadly between the natural and the supernatural worlds.  But often his experience abruptly jumps from one to the other.  The supernatural is not isolated from the natural world.  It is for this reason that nothing is absurd to him since nothing is incompatible with the data of experience.


If the prelogical is explained by the mystical, it must now be added that the mystical results from the predominance of affectivity in experience.


Emotion and sentiment give primative man in knowledge of reality other than that given to him by purely object of experience.  He has "affective categories".


Primative man does not need an intellectual act in order to recognize this special tonality when the Affective category of the supernatural comes into play.


In Greek and Latin mythologies deities are clearly individualized.  But, among primative people is, representations of the supernatural or very vague.


The number one affective category is the fear of the unusual.

This fear results in the search for a deference with large numbers of remedies and Amulets.

Primative man are capable of distinguishing between training and waking life, but they do not place the former outside reality as we normally do.


In their mythology is not organized like ours.  They are incoherent and scattered, but they have a homogeneity of tone and uniformity of emotion.


Myth is situated in a special time; it is' meta historical'.  Ancestors brought in and out.  Some ancestors are in a time they cannot affect us some are.


Some myths and help explained what is, but that is not their primary function.  They reflect the supernatural and have a value which is transcendental and life-giving.

Supernatural reality comes to them not as knowledge that through experience of an aspect of character that blends into a complex of representative elements.


Symbolism, properly speaking, does not yet exist.  There is a unity and duality side-by-side.  Thus the totem is not a symbol for the tribe as Durheim believes.


We go from pre-religion to folklore when cultural heroes become beyond the pale of interaction.





from now on, we can no longer represent the whole of humanity, from the psychological and moral point of view as similar.

And we need to analyze the variety which is open to observation.  Since this change is and is in tangible is harder than research on the physical world.  Therefore we must scrupulously never stray from the objective method.


D'Alembert created possible physics.  For example, rain is caused by thermometers dropping.  There is a danger of introducing our own states of mind under those we are trying to research.  To protect ourselves we must use the sociological method.



one-man distinguish between ethics in more and in peace.  And between theory and practice and ethics.  He assumed practice always came from theory.  This is an assumption.  And perhaps a projection of our own mentality and a confusion of cause with the fact.


Science has changed the physical world to our own advantage, and there's no reason to believe they can do the same to the social world.  Experience shows us the practical ethics evolved.

So how can we decide if conservation is rational.



a given type of society, which has its own institutions and customs, will necessarily have its own mentality as well.  The deduction is a hard one.  We must guard against our own mental habits in reading into other societies.  Realize people do not reason or reflect like us.

This way we can abandon the notion that primative people are rudimentary forms of us.  On the contrary, it is normal where practiced.



our terminology is not necessarily applicable to denote a primative states of mind.  For example, "collective representations" assumes an understanding of the meaning of the word" representations". 


We see you representations as intellectual.  Primative mentality is to undifferentiated for it to be possible to consider the ideas or images of objects by themselves independent of emotions and passions.


Primitive peoples use initiation rites.  Thus such representations are acquired by the individual and circumstances likely to make the deepest impression on their feelings.  These rites often involve tortures that put the nervous to the severest tests.  Therefore it would be difficult to exaggerate the intensity of the emotional force of these representations.  The object is not simply an idea or image.


Ideas and concepts also imply a logical nature to us.  But these representations are real to the primative and real objects are not presented in logical order.



the minds of primative people are not simply passive and ready to receive impressions.  They have many collective representations.  They are attentive to mystical connections.  They always imply a "participation" between the beans or the objects linked in a collective representation.  This is the "law of participation".


Objects received and in net mystical forces, properties, qualities and actions which are felled outside of themselves, without dens ceasing to be where they are.


The us the opposition between one and many, the same and another etc., does not impose the necessity to affirm one of the terms and one denies the other.  The thing in and of itself as separate is only of secondary interest.


Thus some tribes say that they are aquatic animals, others parrots.  State actually understand that they are parrots.  It is not been named a give themselves, nor is it some kinship which they claim.  What they wish to convey an essential identity.  That they are at the same time they human beings and parrots.


All societies of totemic form admit of collective representations of the same type.


The regularity of seasons are associated with carrying out of certain ceremonies by special people.  What we call the natural relations of causality between events passed unnoticed, or have only minimal importance.  Mystical participations are the most important.


In representations and they are mystical.  In connections, pre logical.

But these are two aspects of one fundamental mentality, not two distinct characteristics.


It is not antilogical; no more is it alogical.  In calling it prelogical, I only want to say that unlike our thought, it does not have to abstain from contradiction.  It obeys Firstly the law of participation.


The simple statement of the general abstract term, such as man, animal, or organism, contains a large number of judgments which imply definite relationships between many concepts.  But the collective representations of primative people are not, like our concepts.



Indians of North America take great care in describing relations.

Ponka indians, trying to convey a man killed a rabbit as we would have him say that must say, "he, one, animate, standing, in the nominative case, purposely killed, by shooting an arrow, the rabbit, he , the one, animate sitting in the objective case."


Cherokee don't just have the vague "we"they have: "I and thou", "I and ye", "I and ye two, " "I and he, "I and they" , etc....  There are not less than 70 distinct forms.


We oppose the plural to the singular; a subject or object is either singular or plural..  This involves logical thought and its working stock.



The memory plays a more important part in the prelogical mentality than in our mental life.


Our store of social thought is transmitted condensed in a hierarchy of concepts which are coordinated with and subordinated to each other.  We thus only remember things that we have logically deduced are important.

In primitive societies all has endless significance. 


In simpler societies, it soaks in complex and voluminous collective representations.  It is thus transmitted almost solely by memory. 


A sign arouses in us the exercise of logic, and in the primitive man a complex and mystical recollection which governs his action. And this very memory has a special tonality which distinguishes it from ours.


And these prelogical sensations areen't compartmentalized. And there are memory is our very reliable and am very emotional.  It reconstructs the complex collective representations with great richness of detail.

Our thoughts come as sequels to the prior ones.  The thus our thoughts almost have a quality of conclusion at the end.


The preconnections, the preperceptions and the prerationalizations which take up so much room in the mentality of simpler societies involve no logical activity at all, and are simply entrusted to the memory.  Thus we must expect to see this memory highly developed among primitive peoples.


As in the "user illusion" there is a lot of exformation that goes with all information.



in the presence of something which interest, troubles, or frightens it, the mind of primitive man does not follow the same course as ours.


We have the permanent sense of intellectual security so well founded that we do not see how it could be shaken; for it even supposing the sudden appearance of a completely mysterious phenomenon we will be persuaded our ignorance is only temporary.  Sooner or later the cause will be discovered.


Nature for us is, therefore, intellectualized in advance.  Our daily activity, in this in its humblest details, involves a quiet and perfect confidence in the variability of natural laws.


Primitive man when interested by a phenomenon immediately (by mental reflex) thinks covenant called an invisible power which the phenomenon is a manifestation of.


No one does actions unless favorable omens appear.  The invisible world and an invisible world form one.  For my so oriented, there is no purely physical fact.


When we find the cause, the conditions, that is enough for us.  Our problems are not theirs, their problems are foreign to us.



with very rare exceptions, simpler societies have no history.  Their menace, so instructive in other ways, cannot take its place.

They hate everything that comes from the outside.  Like close systems they hate change.  Everything causes a risk of decomposition.

They seek to be the same as their great grandfather.



the opposition between matter and spirit seems almost natural to us.  For the primitive there is neither matter nor body which does not give for it some mystical forces which we would call spiritual.



all of us believe that we know exactly how our individual personality is formed, and where its boundaries come.  I and my feelings, my thoughts, my memories.  My head, my arms, my legs, my internal organs, etc.., are also me.  Everything else which I perceived is not me.  My individuality is thus grasp by my consciousness and circumscribed by the surface of my body, and I believe that that of my neighbor is exactly like mine.


Among primitive peoples also, each individual as grads to himself his states of consciousness, his limbs, and his organs.  Certain language is even express this fact by personal pronouns suffixed to the said Substantives which designate these parts of the individual.

But this suffixed and extends further, and it is applied also to the names of objects which are in intimate relationship with the individual.


Secretions and excretions, had anybody here, nails, tears, urine, instrument, Seaman, sweat are all I.

this explains the extreme care primitive societies often take for their left behinds.


He calls these left behinds, "appurtenances"


This extends to footprints, clothes, things he makes or owns and corpses.

All must be guarded.



we see ourselves as one.  If we were not one we would no longer be an individual, we would be composed of many.

The primitive is in many including His appurtenances, (incuding his double, image, and reflection}.

Is reflection includes his name,and namessake ancestor.


Sometimes the individual is to distinct beings: man and alligator (awake and asleep).  People get busted for things done far always from them and don't complain. In his eyes and the duality does not impede the fundamentally unity of the individual.


People are never sure the dead will not return.  Some people have been killed by a sorcerer but still live in the tribe (ie they are officially dead, but not really (in our minds))



the primitives experience is poorer and yet richer than ours.  And they spend so much time in the spirit world it is as real to them as our OneWorld is to us.  Thus the word" experience" is a strange one.  Our meaning is confined to things that "really happened."


Our notion of experience is also more cognitive and then demoted.  Sounds colors smells don't make it into our cognitive experiences.


In many primitives survive an unfavorable climates.  They have managed to make marvelous use of the lessons of experience.  Nevertheless, it is not only as a source of useful knowledge that their experience matters to them.



our traditional languages, grammars, philosophy, psychology and logic have accustomed to us to consider generality as pertaining only two ideas.  We are Aristotelian.


But other mentality is essentially emotional.  Things to them and to the home and from the them and are not known as facts but felt as facts.


Categories should not be taken either in the Kantian sense.  f

The fear category, the hmn strange feeling category. 


Primitive men tell us, “we do not know about invisible powers, we believe.”  Fear is often the basis.  We do not believe, we fear.


Emotional basis of dogma.



Primitive man’s attention is always on the alert. He is on the look-out for the unusual.


Anything t that happens regularly doesn’t require any cause.  Or at least there needn’t be any trouble about it.  What happens only occasionally, must have a cause!


Amongst the Dinka, no event, no matter how small, doesn’t have a religious cause and require sacrifice.  An unusually large pumpkin caused a goat sacrifice.


When airplanes first appeared 50 bulls were slaughtered.



Primitive myths that we have available are fragmentary and incomplete.  Only a small number of folks in the tribe possess a wide knowledge of them.  This knowledge is the priveledge of old men who are married and have children. 


Some know the middle, some the end, few the whole thing.

Further the myths rarely for wholes.  They are independent of and indifferent to each other.  The mythology may be very rich but not have an underlying unifying thread.  Look how threadbare the old testament is.  A bunch of stories loosely put together.  Previously they weren’t.


18th and 19th century peoples looked for origins and order in myths to match their own.  But in the case of Australia or New Guinea or others they gave up. 


One informant on different occasions may give two different versions of the origin of fire or the beginning of the human race (genesis).  The Andamanese see each story as independent and do not consciously compare one with another.


Gods sometimes appear in human form and sometimes in other forms.  They change with ease. A cat who is also a man becomes a great lord without ceasing to be a cat, a pumpkin is turned into a coach and a rat into a coachman.


Why did we cease to believe in such stories a long time ago.  He says “without doubt, the reason for it lies, at least partly, in the rational character of the civilization which classical antiquity established and bequeathed to us.

However, history shows that this mental foundation is far from common.  It has been established in only a few societies, and has cost them centuries of effort.


Herein lies the reason for the charm which draws us towards folk tales.  As soon as we listen, this constraint is suspended.  We abandon rationality.  We suspend the rational function, but know we must go back .



We barely conceive of worship without more or less clearly defined and personalized deities.  For them the deities are semi-physical realities that need directing.  They aren’t personalized into individual beings. 


In ceremonies imitating buffalo, they make the buffalo generally willing to be killed.  They are not a game!!


Frequently these rituals have no particular end in mind.  By repeating what ancestors have done, one shares their essence.

Ancestors are also brought back in such rituals.


Represent means “make present again, or make

 what has disappeared, reappear.  They don’t just imitate these folks, they become them.


To wear a mask then is no game.  It is one of the weightiest things a person can do.  It is to bring the invisible world into the visible.



It is not a logic other than our own.  That is, we still have mystical and prelogical elements in our thought.