Moleskine's Philology

Hand-crafted Notes on Language and the World It Fills.

Month: February, 2013

. . . and the “Philology” Part

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” In this statement, an excerpt from the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein captures his idea of lingusitic determinism: There can be no conception outside the bounds of available language, for words are the instruments of thought. He theorized—in a much more astute manner than in which I am about to express it—that only the ideas, perceptions, events with which we can attach lexical and syntactical units will become expressable and, more essentially, noticeable within our own minds.

In more recent times, this idea has propagated linguistic relativity, which argues that we perceive the world within the framework of our habitual language. Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher aptly captures this relativity of perception. In discussing the geographic language of the Guugu Yimithirr or the latent sexuality of Romance nouns, Deutscher is able to communicate that Jack’s worldview may differ from Jill’s simply by chance variation in their native tongues.

Of course, the purpose of this post was not to elucidate the connections between language and cognition; it was to explain the latter half of this blog’s name. Philology, by its most basic definition, is the love of learning and of literature. By its most technical definition, it is the study of literary texts, the establishment of their authenticity, and the determination of their meaning. Moleskine’s Philology will humbly attempt to marry these denotations.

In doing so, it is hoped that throught reading, analyzing, and commenting on the most treasured texts a wider and more accurate view of the world may be achieved. By experiencing the profundities of philosophy, history, and literature, we may grow to appreciate the language through which it is communicated, and then with that language better perceive our world and express our love and disappointment for it. If we wish to understand—even see—a greater universe than that which upholds our feet, we must do so through language, and a deep reverence for it.


The “Moleskine” Part . . .

Moleskine notebooks are often lauded as the notebooks of Picasso and Hemingway; I think them to be mine. As junctions for simplicity and creativity, these pocket-size, leather-bound, age-old notebooks have been the source and habitat of much of my thinking. I have five moleskines, each dedicated to its own subject: The first for general notes, quotes, observations, etc.; the second for literary notes and annotations; the third—and the only one with grid-style pages—for notes and diagrams on economics and capital markets; the fourth for Spanish; and the fifth for Latin.moleskine

There is a certain unity in the appearance of moleskines that mirrors the intellectual unity of their contents. Of course, the subjects are diverse: I choose to fill mine with notes on language and philosophy and financial interaction, but others may fill theirs with sketches or science experiments or musical scores. Yet this diversity stems from a single seed: creativity. Each notebook is meant to be the berth of the genesis and evolution of ideas, a place in which a fragile thought can be examined without breaking it or a wild dream can be pursued without taming it.

Such a forum for testing and probing new ideas is exactly what this age needs—a moleskine in which the world community can compound the creativity of each member with that of another. Although one, ponderous tome is impractical—an unfortunate fact, for pen and paper fit nicely with my idyllic tastes—an internet-based Petri dish for intellectual experimentation is relatively simple to forge, assuming experimenters would choose to participate. If Moleskine’s Philology had a goal, it would be to begin constructing the frame of our much-needed forum. Fortunately, inspiration is Moleskine’s guide; it is not meant to achieve a specific purpose—although it may become successful accidently.