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On the Origin of Language

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ISBN-10: 0226730123

ISBN-13: 9780226730127

Edition: Reprint 

Authors: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Gottfried Herder, John H. Moran, Alexander Gode, Alexander Gode

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This volume combines Rousseau's essay on the origin of diverse languages with Herder's essay on the genesis of the faculty of speech. Rousseau's essay is important to semiotics and critical theory, as it plays a central role in Jacques Derrida's book Of Grammatology, and both essays are valuable historical and philosophical documents.
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Book details

Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 3/15/1986
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 186
Size: 5.50" wide x 8.00" long x 0.25" tall
Weight: 0.440
Language: English

Jean Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss philosopher and political theorist who lived much of his life in France. Many reference books describe him as French, but he generally added "Citizen of Geneva" whenever he signed his name. He presented his theory of education in Emile (1762), a novel, the first book to link the educational process to a scientific understanding of children; Rousseau is thus regarded as the precursor, if not the founder, of child psychology. "The greatest good is not authority, but liberty," he wrote, and in The Social Contract (1762) Rousseau moved from a study of the individual to an analysis of the relationship of the individual to the state: "The art of politics consists of making each citizen extremely dependent upon the polis in order to free him from dependence upon other citizens." This doctrine of sovereignty, the absolute supremacy of the state over its members, has led many to accuse Rousseau of opening the doors to despotism, collectivism, and totalitarianism. Others say that this is the opposite of Rousseau's intent, that the surrender of rights is only apparent, and that in the end individuals retain the rights that they appear to have given up. In effect, these Rousseau supporters say, the social contract is designed to secure or to restore to individuals in the state of civilization the equivalent of the rights they enjoyed in the state of nature. Rousseau was a passionate man who lived in passionate times, and he still stirs passion in those who write about him today.

1. On the Various Means of Communicating Our Thoughts 2. That the Invention of Speech Is Due Not to Need but Passion 3. That the First Language Had To Be Figurative 4. On the Distinctive Characteristics of the First Language and the Changes It Had to Undergo 5. On Script 6. Whether It is Likely that Homer Knew How to Write 7. On Modern Prosody 8. General and Local Differences in the Origin of Languages 9. Formation of the Southern Languages 10. Formation of the Languages of the North 11. Reflections on These Differences 12. The Origin of Music and Its Relations 13. On Melody 14. On Harmony 15. That Our Most Lively Sensations Frequently Are Produced by Moral Impressions 16. False Analogy between Colors and Sounds 17. An Error of Musicians Harmful to Their Art 18. That the Greek Musical System Had No Relation to Ours 19. How Music Has Degenerated 20. Relationship of Languages to Government