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Continental Philosophy

Structuralists

Who was Ferdinand de Saussure?

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) was a Swiss structuralist whose lectures were published by students after his death as Course in General Linguistics (1916). A manuscript of his that was found in his house in 1996 emerged as Writings in General Linguistics (2002). Saussure’s most influential idea was that language can be understood as a formal system, apart from its actual production and understanding. As a formal system, the elements of language get their meanings from other elements, apart from references to anything outside of language. This insight of the self-contained nature of language and other symbolic systems proved to be a foundation for what across many disciplines, philosophy included, developed as “the linguistic turn.”



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