Thursday, March 14, 2013

There is a terrifying moment in Rousseau’s ‘Essay on the Origin of Languages’ when Rousseau tells the story, with the pieties of Enlightenment in his sights, of the human animal first coming across itself and deciding on a name:

"A primitive man, on meeting other men, will first have experienced fright. His fear will make him see these men as larger and stronger than himself; he will give them the name giants. After many experiences, he will discover that the supposed giants are neither larger nor stronger than himself, and that their stature did not correspond to the idea he had originally linked to the word ‘giant’. He will then invent another name that he has in common with them, such as, for example, the word man, and will retain the word ‘giant’ for the false object that impressed him while he was being deluded." MORE of T.J. Clark's Lucky Hunter-Gatherers here.