Next stop: Durkheim & anthropology

In a previous blog All Roads Lead to Ferdinand, I discussed Saussure as an opening of a new paradigm in the human sciences. Today, up at bat is Emile Durkheim, one of the founding fathers of the French social anthropology, who had a revolutionary insight that complements Saussure’s in linguistics. Continue reading Next stop: Durkheim & anthropology

All roads lead to Ferdinand

This blog explores the radical insights of a Swiss linguist, Ferdinand Saussure, but first I will start with how linguistics changed from its early days as philology to a full-blown human science. By the 20th century, we (Americans) had become comfortable with the notion that man in general is to be defined by his language as opposed to the powers of the mind. Ideas can no longer exist in the mind without words, and nor can anyone reason without the aid of sentences. Man is the unique animal that employs a unique instrument to think with. However, such stipulations were taken further in the works of Saussure. Continue reading All roads lead to Ferdinand

A new philosophy of the human sciences

Several years ago, I was in deep discussions with a theologian about the base to superstructure model. He declared it to be no longer feasible after the age of information, where the Internet has reversed this model, and the base is no longer the foundation of the superstructure. Originally in the Marxist model, the base shaped the superstructure – both relations of production (where the capitalist takes advantage of the worker) and means of production (material required to produce – machines, factories, land, owned by capitalists) determine education, religion, family, media, politics. The superstructure in turn maintains and legitimates the base. However, the Internet actually inverts this model by changing the relations of production – the worker gains power and takes advantage of capitalists, and the means of production are disseminated via the internet. Now, this was a neat revamp of a classic model, but I took another look: perhaps this is not just a cute insight, but a crucial one that applies to the rest of the human sciences. Continue reading A new philosophy of the human sciences