Philosophers and Savages

Ter Ellingson

in The Myth of the Noble Savage

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780520222687
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520925922 | DOI:
Philosophers and Savages

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In the philosophical literature of the eighteenth century, we find that, just as in the ethnographic literature, Rousseau's work does not form a watershed dividing more negative from more positive views of the “savage.” If anything, the opposite is true. But both before and after Rousseau, philosophical attitudes are often more or less simply marked by indifference, neutrality, or ambivalence to the “savage,” and by often strangely unreflective convictions of the superiority of European life and thought. One example is provided by Giambattista Vico, whose New Science (1725) has been recognized by various historians of anthropology as influential in the development of anthropological thought. Meanwhile, for Diderot, nature as such plays only the most token role, as a backdrop to his Tahitian fantasy.

Keywords: philosophical literature; ethnography; anthropological thought; Giambattista Vico; Tahitian fantasy; Diderot

Chapter.  4550 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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