The Cultural Techniques of Anthropological Difference
Viewed from the perspective of cultural techniques the anthropological of the philosophers is an effect of the problematic distinction between different species of talking animals (parlêtres). If, as Aristotle decreed, man is an animal endowed with the gift of speech, then throughout the histories of philosophy, pedagogy, and literature this particular animal will be trailed by a host of other speaking animals (such as woodpeckers and parrots) that it has to be distinguished from—despite or because of the fact that their excluded gift of speech is always already marked as part of humanity. The chapter first discusses the theory of parrots and other talking birds in Pliny the Elder, Dante, the medieval jurists Baldus and Bartholus, and Descartes, and focuses then on the theory of the origin of language in Herder. Herder (as a philosopher) places animal sounds at the starting point of humanity’s collective entry into language, but (as a pedagogue) seeks to banish them from the beginning of individual language acquisition. Flaubert finally revokes the difference between bird speech and human language by introducing the idea that nothing can be said or written that has not been said or written before, thereby exchanging his role as author with that of secretary or parrot.
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