ABSTRACT. Franz Boas (1858–1942), the major founder of American anthropology, started his career by asking what the laws of human evolution are and how mankind transformed as it advanced through time in its adventure on Earth. One of the greatest dilemmas he encountered was the question of nature versus nurture (e.g. nature versus culture) and the interrelation between them (unilaterally creative-stimulative or destructive-inhibitive, or mutually co-creative / co-destructive). Franz Boas was among the first anthropologists to have had the courage and power to tackle and settle once and for all issues such as racism: for the latter and similar reasons, his books The mind of primitive man (1911) and Anthropology and modern life (1928) were burned in public autos-da-fé by the German Nazis in the 1930s. For many anthropological questions he found irresistible answers that hold their validity even today, that is why he can be considered to be among the scientists who best understood the nature of the human matrix. Hereby we propose a tour-de-force incursion through one of the most powerful systems of thought in the 20th century that marked off the beginning of American anthropology. From Boasian anthropology derive so many scientific ramifications that they defy a brief summary; we hereby propose a reconsideration of Boas’s legacy which enables us to reach at least a few answers to the questions constellating the human matrix. The human phenomenon is one of the most complex in the cosmos, and that is why its riddles claim our undivided attention. Nature and nurture work inextricably together in a system of embedded multiple layers functioning like a fine-tuned quantum clockwork mechanism whose enigma we may start to understand if we agree to move out of our own cognitive matrix (or field), out of our own social cocoon, in order to see in its vastness and majesty the puzzle of all puzzles: life in action with its thousand and one faces.

Key words: relationality; diffusionism; cognitive web/field; racism; book burning; language; cultural matrix; evolution; regression; adaptation; accumulation; plasticity

Stroe MA (2021) Franz Boas and the human matrix: the thousand and one faces of primitive and civilized man. Creativity 4(2): 3–155. doi:10.22381/C4220211

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University of Bucharest,
Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures,
English Department;
Bucharest, Romania

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