facis de necessitate virtute .




BRICOLAGE (Something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available [French, from bricole, trifle, from Old French, catapult, from Italian briccola, of Germanic origin.] (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition);  in French, the bricoleur is a handyman who does his chores with materials at hand.)

Claude Levi-Strauss used this term (in The Savage Mind, 1962) to characterize mythical thought as opposed to scientific thought.  (Where mythical thought relies upon materials and tools at hand and deals mainly in signs, scientific thought seeks to go beyond the immediate constraints of the situation and deals in concepts; L-S implies that signs are discovered while the open possibilities of concepts leads to invention.)

Francois Jacob uses this term to characterize his perception of evolution: assembling, constructing what is needed out of whatever elements are available.  Patricia Churchland agrees: nature works with what’s available 


BRICOLAGE was identified in EVOLUTION notes as a prominent–maybe the prominent–phenomenon we observe in the process of evolution  Almost any trait can be the “raw material” for an adaptive variation — “bricolage” is the term for “using whatever is available” to “solve a problem.”  In the spirit of the television drama character, McGyver, the ways in which common materials can be used is often surprising. 


Bricolage ( facis de necessitate virtute ) Claude Levi-Strauss “Mythical thought is therefore a kind of intellectual ‘bricolage.’ … Like ‘bricolage’ on the technical plane, mythical reflection can reach brilliant unforeseen results on the intellectual plane. … The ‘bricoleur’ is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks. … The rules of his game are always to make do with ‘whatever is at hand.’” Levi-Strauss’s work was enormously important in Paris during the 1940s and ‘50s, and he inspired artists such as Picasso and Braque.

“Psychologists such as James Hillman use the word to illuminate how the soul works:  ‘Let us imagine the dream-work to be an activity, less of a censor than of a bricoleur. … The dream bricoleur is a handyman, who takes the bits of junk left over from the day and potters around with them.’” I think he is right for the wrong reasons: the dream takes almost random) but very limited bursts of activity from the always on-going activity of the frontal cortex during REM and forges them into a more-or-less coherent narrative. [see notes on DREAMS]

From: Cousineau, Phil. Wordcatcher; Viva Editions. Kindle Edition. 


Can exploring the genetic basis of language can help us understand human evolution?  “Broca’s Area, a region of the brain that has long been thought to play an essential role in language, may have evolved from neural areas in ancestral species that were used for temporal sequencing or motor control.” [more]



*“everything comes from something” — really a shorthand for “everything we can understand (=about which we are competent to have confident beliefs)” comes from “something we can understand .”   As organisms with an umwelt — limited, species-typical competencies for detecting phenomena in the world or for making sense of what we can detect, there are some phenomena about which we are necessarily / constitutionally unable to understand.  Such phenomena beyond our understanding is traditionally relegated to the status of what Augustine would term, “miracles.”