The Mutual Emergence of Language, Mind, and Society

Avi Lifschitz

in Language and Enlightenment

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199661664
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191751653 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

The Mutual Emergence of Language, Mind, and Society

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This chapter surveys the emergence of the cognitive and social aspects of language as a central intellectual problem from the late 17th century onwards. Having rediscovered an ancient naturalistic account of the emergence of language, the theory elaborated by Epicurus and Lucretius, contemporaries made cautious attempts to merge it with the biblical narrative. This synthesis usually included the postulation of long ages of barbarism and bestiality after the Deluge, and the downgrading of the status of Adam's allegedly perfect language. However, the revival of the Epicurean history of language and civilisation involved serious difficulties. The most challenging problem was the assumed transition from natural sounds to artificial, man-made words. The incommensurability between these two categories persistently haunted Enlightenment thinkers across Europe.

Keywords: language; Adam; Epicureanism; Lucretius; deluge; nature; artifice; sensualism; representation; epistemology; etienne bonnot de condillac; Jean Jacques Rousseau

Chapter.  10112 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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