Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lingusitic Determinism and Disappearing Books

Well...the summer sun has briefly triumphed over what may be the wettest (thus far) July for a while and I think I shall venture out to visit some of the nearby second-hand book shops. It is, I admit, a great weakness of mine but as far as I am aware, morally neutral. I will probably come back with a couple of musty paperbacks and if I'm really lucky an International Critical Commentary to add to my growing collection. It's funny how when you are not actively seeking a particular book they seem to be widely available, but when that book is your goal it disappears from view! So it is with Umberto Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum' which I want to read again, having had my appetite stimulated for 'that sort of thing' by the marvellous short stories of Jorge Luis Borges. What an incredible writer Borges was! I can't believe I haven't come across his work before. (if anyone has any recommendations along similar lines they would be more than welcome) So I am seeking the 'Pendulum', but am quite open to other tempting purchases.
Reading Stephen Pinker's 'The Stuff of Thought' the other day, I was stopped in my tracks by the theory of Linguistic Determinism - roughly the idea that language forms concept rather than vice versa. It is a staggering thought that we may be formed by that which we can formulate and articulate in words , that people are blank slates onto which their lexus imposes notion. I imagine that it is a highly contraversial theory, smacking of elitism etc. I have read no further as yet: I don't think Pinker subscribes to LD - no doubt I shall find out as I read on, but the concept was so arresting that, as I have said before, I had to put the book down and ponder what I had just read.

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