Are We Homo sapiens Yet?
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We may appreciate the Enlightenment-era optimism about our intrinsic epistemological capacity, but when the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707 - 1778) coined the term Homo sapiens, this was not the Socratic mandate to know thyself. Instead our “knowledge” belonged to a com-plex classificatory tree, the smallest element of which was a species and its ‘varieties’. It was a revolution just as significant as Darwin’s theory of evolution some hundred years later. Linnaeus’ Man was not a creature of the Bible tortured by the perplexing duality of body and spirit, but an animal, one of the thousands, that populates the world. And yet, Homo sapi-ens had a special gift, for it alone sees that everything fits into a single, vast imperium. The argument was the perfect and perhaps somewhat frightening fusion of reason and empire.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture
Jarzombek, Mark. "Are We Homo sapiens Yet?" Thresholds, 42, (2014): 10-25 © 2014 Mark Jarzombek
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