No Man Is An Island

I’ve often written that man is ultimately alone, that being alone is our nature. And then I happened to read Michel Serres’piece, Qu’est-ce que l’humain? He says that no less than a troop of chimps, who never stop grooming one another, men and women are always together, not grchimpsooming but probably talking with one another,and that this is our nature, to be with others and to talk. It’s not to be alone. MENTALK

I guess I would agree, Chimps like to be together and groom, we like no less to be together and talk.

Below, the words of Serre and his two co-authors, Pascal Picq and Jean-Didier Vincent, (with my English translation in the right hand column):

Selon la phrase célèbre de John Donne: “No man is an island.” L’homme n'”existe” pas s’il n’est pas avec d’autres. Mais ce qui est paradoxal, c’est que l’homme est aussi totalement singulier – ce qu’on appelle l’individuation, aussi bien du point de vue de son évolution génétique (génotype) que dans ce qu’il apparaît être (phénotype). L’homme est absolument et totalement un individu: le plus individualiste de tous les animaux, “un individu social extrême”. Aucun homme ne ressemble à un autre homme. Chez les invertébrés, il n’y a pas de différence entre les sujets. Ils sont pratiquement des clones des uns et des autres. Mais l’homme est véritablement – plus que les autres animaux – le produit de sa propre histoire. Donc, cet animal est un individu singulier, un individu singulier qui vit avec les autres.
According to the famous words of John Donne: “No man is an island.” Man does not “exist” if he is not with others. But what is paradoxical is that man is also totally unique – that which is called individuation, both from the standpoint of his genetic evolution (genotype) and from his outward appearance (phenotype). Man is absolutely and totally an individual: the most individualistic of all animals, “an extreme social individual.” No man is like any other man. Among invertebrates, there is no difference between them. They are practically clones of one another. But man is truly – more than the other animals – the product of his own history. Yes, this animal is a unique individual, but a unique individual who lives with others.


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