James Joyce vs the characteristica universalis

Who needs a perfect language? It’s already perfectly imperfect by Charlie Huenemann (Aeon)

The author piggybacks off Umberto Eco's The Search for a Perfect Language (1995), discussing the characteristica universalis projected by Leibniz and John Wilkins' attempted realization of the concept. (Note a reference new to me: Language, Mind and Nature (2007) by Rhodri Lewis.)

This is a story I've known since I was 14 years old many decades ago.

Huenemann moves on to a resurrection of this dream by Rudolf Carnap, a key figure of the logical positivists.  Huenemann thinks that Carnap slipped up in his dismissal of Heidegger as nonsense. Huenemann extols the creativity of language beyond the strict confines of logic, citing the examples of William Shakespeare, James Joyce and Maya Angelou.

This little article is unfortunately characteristic of the poorly conceived intellectual fluff that Aeon offers all too often. A better explanation--even a brief one--of the underlying assumptions of the projects of both Leibniz and Joyce would have been far more illuminating, as would the posited contrast between the attempt to squeeze all of cognition into formal logic and what the creative extensions of language actually accomplish. (And Maya Angelou, really?)

The Wikipedia article on characteristica universalis yields surprisingly rich information. See also my bibliographies....

Philosophical and Universal Languages, 1600-1800, and Related Themes: Selected Bibliography

... and ...

Leibniz & Ideology: Selected Bibliography

No comments: