Claude Levi-Strauss
Quotations


No contact with savage Indian tribes has ever daunted me more than the morning I spent with an old lady swathed in woolies who compared herself to a rotten herring encased in a block of ice.

The world began without man, and it will end without him.

Language is a form of human reason, which has its internal logic of which man knows nothing.

Since music is a language with some meaning at least for the immense majority of mankind, although only a tiny minority of people are capable of formulating a meaning in it, and since it is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man, a mystery that all the various disciplines come up against and which holds the key to their progress.

The musical emotion springs precisely from the fact that at each moment the composer withholds or adds more or less than the listener anticipates on the basis of a pattern that he thinks he can guess, but that he is incapable of wholly divining. . . . If the composer withholds more than we anticipate, we experience a delicious falling sensation; we feel we have been torn from a stable point on the musical ladder and thrust into the void. . . . When the composer withholds less, the opposite occurs: he forces us to perform gymnastic exercises more skillful than our own.

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in menís minds without their being aware of the fact.

Being human signifies, for each one of us, belonging to a class, a society, a country, a continent and a civilization; and for us European earth-dwellers, the adventure played out in the heart of the New World signifies in the first place that it was not our world and that we bear responsibility for the crime of its destruction.

Enthusiastic partisans of the idea of progress are in danger of failing to recognize . . . the immense riches accumulated by the human race. . . . By underrating the achievements of the past, they devalue all those which still remain to be accomplished.

Our system is the height of absurdity, since we treat the culprit both as a child, so as to have the right to punish him, and as an adult, in order to deny him consolation.

The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.

Just as the individual is not alone in the group, nor any one in society alone among the others, so man is not alone in the universe.

The only phenomenon with which writing has always been concomitant is the creation of cities and empires, that is the integration of large numbers of individuals into a political system, and their grading into castes or classes. .. It seems to have favored the exploitation of human beings rather than their enlightenment.



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