Structuralism and the subject

Structuralism, defended by Claude Lévi-Strauss, challenges the way philosophy approaches the subject.

The structuralist thought puts at the base of all the facts an arrangement of elements, which put in relation, form an autonomous whole.

Applied to the man, structuralism reframes and blurs him in the denser and more important landscape of the nature.

In The naked Man, Claude Lévi-Strauss writes:

Structuralism reintegrates man into nature and (…) allows us to disregard the subject – an unbearable spoiled child who has occupied the philosophical scene for too long, and prevented any serious work by demanding exclusive attention.

Claude Lévi-Strauss,The Naked Man, 1971.

Lévi-Strauss denounces here the obsession for the subject on the part of philosphists and humans in general. It is in particular the case since the work and the discoveries of Rene Descartes, who put forward the reality of the self as “thinking thing“in 1641.

Explanations of the Discourse of Method – Descartes

He also denounces those philosophers who are willing to do anything to safeguard the subject, as a mysterious being and higher than the rest of the living beings by their nature, as Kant does. Thus perhaps Kant is referred to by Lévi-Strauss among others when he affirms:“they prefer a subject without rationality to a rationality without subject.”(The Naked Man, 1971).

Finally, structuralism carries a fatal blow to the notion of man such as it was advanced until then. And Claude Lévi-Strauss allows himself these words inThe Wild Thoughtin 1962:

The human sciences do not aim to constitute man, but to dissolve him.

The “I” – a philosophical analysis