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Beyond Pure ReasonFerdinand de Saussure's Philosophy of Language and Its Early Romantic Antecedents$
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Boris Gasparov

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157803

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157803.001.0001

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Fragmentation and Progressivity

Fragmentation and Progressivity

Saussure’s Semiotics in the Mirror of Early Romantic Epistemology

(p.87) Four Fragmentation and Progressivity
Beyond Pure Reason

Boris Gasparov

Columbia University Press

This chapter attempts to trace Saussure's intellectual roots. Exploring the philosophical ground from which his ideas emerged could lead to a reconfiguration of his entire intellectual landscape. In particular, it could help wrest Saussure from the utopian constructionism of the high modernism of the 1920s–1950s, while reaffirming, and casting a new light on, his connections with the epistemological revolution of early modernism (1890s–1900s) and its early Romantic antecedents. The chapter shows that certain aspects of the works of his great aunt Necker de Saussure, who died sixteen years before Saussure was born, occupy an intermediary position between early Romantic epistemology and Saussure's philosophy of language. This makes Necker de Saussure an important albeit hypothetical link between Saussure and early Romantic metaphysics. It also considers Novalis' extensive series of fragmentary notes now known as Fichte-Studien (1795–96), which addressed the epistemological dilemma exemplified by the sign in a strikingly similar fashion as Saussure. The Fichte-Studien offered a powerful critique of the subject-centered epistemological strategy, whose tenor showed intrinsic links to Saussure's critique of the monolithic vision of language.

Keywords:   Ferdinand de Saussure, intellectual roots, language, linguistics, constructionism, modernism, Novalis, Fichte-Studien, Necker de Saussure

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