Chapter

The Questing Animal

Robert M. Torrance

in The Spiritual Quest

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 1994 | ISBN: 9780520081321
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520920163 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520081321.003.0004
The Questing Animal

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This chapter's analysis of language brings back consideration of society as the matrix both of communal experience in religion and of the individual quest that can never leave this primal model and source far behind. Ferdinand de Saussure's conception of langue as a superpersonal, passively registered “collective inertia” immune to individual variation closely accords with Émile Durkheim's exaltation of society as a transcendent entity to which its submissive constituents pay homage. No elementary religious form could work more pervasively toward the summum bonum of maintaining social stasis than the supremely autonomous language system postulated by Saussure, as absolute in its dictates as any divinity. This dialectic of fixity and movement, structure and process, characterizes not only life in general, but its extensions in human consciousness, language, and society.

Keywords: language; society; religion; Ferdinand de Saussure; conception; langue; Émile Durkheim; fixity; movement

Chapter.  3383 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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