Thursday, March 26, 2009
According to E.O. Wilson, the love of other life forms is a deeply ingrained human trait, perhaps even a survival adaptation. He calls it "biophilia," If this be trueand I think it isperhaps we should also recognize a deep human need and affection for wildness as manifested in other creatures, persons, or places. Call it "therophilia," something we discover by starting from home.Id., p. 221:
The word "therophilia," meaning "love of wildness," derives from the Greek therion, "wild animal," as in "theriomorph," "theropod," "uintathere"; the Greek shares the same Indo-European root with Latin ferus, "wild animal," from which we get "ferocious," "ferity," and "fierce," and the Old English wilde and wildeor, from which, of course, we get "wilderness." It cannot be mere coincidence that the woodchopper Thoreau describes in Walden was named Alex Therien.Two quibbles:
1. Therophilia doesn't come from Greek thērion (θηρίον) but from Greek thēr (θήρ). In Greek, thērion is the diminutive of thēr. Theriophilia would be the word derived from thērion.
2. It is mere coincidence that the woodchopper Thoreau describes (but does not name) in Walden was Alex Therien. The French name is unrelated to Greek thērion.
Compare theriophily (love of beasts), apparently coined by George Boas in The Happy Beast in French Thought of the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1933; rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1966), and not uncommon in academic writing, e.g., J.E. Gill, "Theriophily in Antiquity: A Supplementary Account," Journal of the History of Ideas 30 (1969) 401-412, and Saara Lilja, "Theriophily in Homer," Arctos 8 (1974) 71-78.
In ancient Greek, thērophilia (θηροφιλία) and thēriophilia (θηριοφιλία) don't occur, but philothēria (φιλοθηρία = love of hunting) and philothēros (φιλόθηρος = fond of hunting) do.
Related post: Wilderness.