[1.] Many years ago when I was an undergraduate at the University of Washington, I sat at a small desk in front of a window overlooking some trees & wrote an essay for an anthropology course I was taking & in that essay I argued that the Kwakiutl Indians wrote "noun poetry." I then attempted to explain what that sort of poetry might be. I wish I still had the paper, but it has vanished somewhere along the line of my many movings. I recall that I suggested that there were also "verb poetries," but I can no longer remember what examples I put forth. I was careful, good cultural relativist that I was & remain, not to valorize one or the other sort of poetry. As I recall, I was attempting to show how one or the other sort of poetry might arise from environmental factors. The Kwakiutl had the good fortune to live in the Pacific Northwest, where the forests were full of game & the streams, rivers & ocean were full of fish. Clearly, their situation in the world affected their social structures & out of those social structures grew a poetry. A poetry of things. The visual art of the Northwest coast tribes is stunningly particular in the way it accumulates things & beings.

At first glance it would seem that Augustine's view of language bears some resemblance to my notion of "noun poetry," but I want to be very careful here. The Kwakiutl certainly had access to verbs & all the other parts of speech & gramatical structures that any language group employs. It is a famous maxim of modern anthropology that there are no primitive languages. So, while I agree that Wittgenstein is not using Augustine merely as a straw philosopher of language, we must account for what Wittgenstein means by the word primitive. Is he merely under the sway of 19th c. views of culture & language? I don't think so. By primitive I think Wittgenstein means something like "not fully conceived." Perhaps he should have written childlike instead of primitive? Childlike goes to the heart of the family metaphor Wittgenstein develops in PI, certainly. Intimacy & trust, yes.


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