nice quote: Auden on language

Was thumbing through Brain Cantwell Smith’s “On the Origin of Objects1, and came across the following quote:

One notices, if one will trust one’s eyes, the shadow cast by language upon truth.
Auden, “Kairos & Logos

This reminded me of my own ponderings as a school child (I can still hear the clank of china as I was washing cups in the church at the time!) as to whether I would be able to think more freely if I knew more languages and thus had more words and concepts, or whether, on the contrary, my mind would be most clear if I knew no language and was thus free of the conceptual straitjacket of English vocabulary. Of course all shades of Sapir-Whorf (although I didn’t know the term at the time), and now I hold a somewhere in-between view – language shapes thought but does not totally contain it2.  Is that the moderation of maturity, or compromise of age?

  1. Trying to decide whether to start it again, as Luke Church, who I met at the PPIG meeting in September, told me it was worthwhile persevering with even though somewhat oddly written![back]
  2. I discuss this a bit in my transarticulation essay and paths and patches book chapter.[back]