On a cold night, “being in” warm clothes feels good—and that is the FUNCTION of warm clothes. On the other hand, “being in” water infested with sharks can make you uneasy, but this is not the FUNCTION of the water or the sharks.

“Being in” an aboriginal tribe tends to give people the things they need, but they didn’t make the tribe the way they make warm clothes, so the tribe can’t be said to have a function in the same sense that warm clothes have a function. On the other hand, if you get together with some of your friends to a create a tribal venture that will enable you to quit the rat race, then your venture can be said to have a function—you created it specifically to have that function. Members of aboriginal tribes don’t create those tribes, they inherit them.

ID: 651
updated: 17 Oct 2003