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Lévi-Strauss: What Disappears on Death

What disappears with the death of a personality is a synthesis of ideas and modes of behaviour as exclusive and irreplaceable as the one a floral species develops out of simple chemical substances common to all species. When the loss of someone dear to us…moves us, we suffer much the same sense of irreparable privation that we should experience were Rosa centifola to become extinct and its scent to disappear for ever. From this point of view it seems not untrue to say that some modes of classing, arbitrarily isolated under the title of totemism, are universally employed: among ourselves this ‘totemism’ has merely been humanized. Everything takes place as if in our civilization every individual’s own personality were his totem: it is the signifier of his signified being.

Savage Mind, p. 214

Via Savage Minds

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