What is the meaning of ‘cultural understanding’ in the following sentence? What is ‘cultural understanding’? Is it public understanding? Is it an understanding that has cultural features?

The problem this book addresses is how the development of scientific and cultural understandings of extinction over the past two hundred years have influenced—and been shaped by—the way Western culture has understood the health and stability of its current society and its prospects for the future. (This book p5.)


1 Answer 1


An understanding is a particular way we understand the meaning of something. It's an opinion, judgement or outlook.

An example of scientific understanding of extinction would be Georges Cuvier's analysis of mammoth fossils, in which he concluded that the species must have become extinct since the remains were distinct from any known living species of elephant at that time.

An example of cultural understanding of extinction would be the great chain of being. "The extinction of a species was impossible under this belief, as it would create gaps or missing links in the chain and destroy the natural order." It reflects a widely held view, a collective belief, a religious concept in the society at that time. Note that religion is an important aspect of culture.


  • So it is the same as “shared beliefs in a culture”?
    – Sasan
    Apr 4, 2021 at 13:30
  • @Sasan yes, a set of beliefs within a group of somehow connected people (=society) Apr 4, 2021 at 13:54

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