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Cultura International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology

Volume 4, Issue 2, 2007

Fernando Cipriani
Pages 37-49

Un Dibattito Socioantropoplogico nel Settecento. Il Mito del Buon Selvaggio

A socioanthropological debate in the 17th Century. The Myth of the Good Savage. The myth of the Good Savage was born and developed especially in the 17th century, but it already had its ethnological bases in the geographical discoveries of the 15th century and in the colonial conquests. The French Enlightenment questions about the Occidental civilization and the moral principles that were the bases of the colonial expansions of the European powers. The cultural debate, extended by the anthropological science, was directed to the attempt to knowledge the submissive populations who became the colonial populations. Any kind of reduction of the social debate to the superiority of the Occidental human being is progressively surpassed by the comparison of two worlds, initially opposed and than more and more close to one another: the civilization world and the primitive one. In Voltaire’s stories the moment of the overtaking of the natural state, specific to the savage, is more important, through one necessary acculturation, while in the autobiographic and traveling stories, under the impulse of the ethnical similarities reminded by Rousseau and by the anthropological philosophers, is asserted the equality of people’s rights. In this way the natural condition is „sweetened” by the knowledge of the nature and of its laws, which is inspired from the recognition of the equality between social condition and birth. To fallow the laws of nature means to surpass the social conventions and to give back to the civilized man the naturalness of his own feelings, the innocence and the purity of his customs. In the rational way, to fallow the laws of the nature means the reconciliation between Rousseau’s principles and Voltaire’s ones. In this way the paradoxes of the civilized world and the ones of the primitive world are eliminated through the integration of the two in one united concept.

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