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The Analytical Language of John Wilkins
September 21, 2003 3:04 PM   Subscribe

The Analytical Language of John Wilkins - the Decimal System post below reminded me of this exquisite essay by Jorge Luis Borges. Famous for its appearance in Michel Foucault's The Order of Things, the essay describes an attempt to create a non-arbitrary language. For fans of Borges' work, this is absolutely classic.
posted by Hjorth (9 comments total)

 
This belongs in the category of "things which remind me of the work of Kurt Gödal."
posted by wobh at 3:59 PM on September 21, 2003


The original

IMO, Borges was a great stylist, and something is definitely lost in the translation given here. They translate "dama" as "dame", for chrissakes, instead of "lady", etc.
posted by signal at 5:18 PM on September 21, 2003


My personal favorite Borges story (thus far; I'm still working through his Collected Fictions) is "The Library of Babel," which describes an infinite library made up of books with every possible combination of letters and symbols. Fascinating. I applaud him. Thanks, Hjorth.
posted by The Michael The at 5:21 PM on September 21, 2003


Anyone interested in this needs to read Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language, which discusses Wilkins at length as well as others with similar ideas.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:53 PM on September 21, 2003


For the more philosophically inclined, I recommend Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein, which deals with the theme of a "perfect language" somewhat critically. Here's a blog dealing with it, some excerpts, an introductory lecture on the idea of language-games and a collection of Wittgenstein resources.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:15 PM on September 21, 2003


Wilkins will feature as a character in a forthcoming novel...
posted by misteraitch at 11:29 PM on September 21, 2003


The Michael The: Don't miss "The Lottery in Babylon".
posted by signal at 7:44 AM on September 22, 2003


The Michael The: If you like Borges' reflections on infinity (which, in my opinion, represent JLB at his most pertinent) I strongly recommend The Aleph
posted by Hjorth at 10:21 AM on September 22, 2003


something is definitely lost in the translation given here.
I agree wholeheartedly, that was a terrible translation. Thanks for the link, signal.
posted by nomis at 7:37 PM on September 22, 2003


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