My progress in Vietnamese is "impressive" only to those who do not speak the language. But your description of dreaming German jibes with my experience of dreaming in Vietnamese. Often, the dreams are actually about learning Vietnamese. When I was a freshman in college my roommate was fluent in Spanish: one weekend he had a Spanish-speaking friend visit & the second night I was dreaming in "Spanish" of which I knew maybe fifteen words. We should not overestimate the powers of the unconscious mind! Still, it's true that I have been in the throes of a love affair with Vietnamese. Who knows why? Such things are the province of the gods. I got lucky--I found a language-universe that made sense to me.

I like your analogy. Old Marx / young Marx ~ Old Wittgenstein / young Wittgenstein. There is self-critique, certainly, in both cases, & a certain change of perspective, but alienation, in the first case & ordinary language in the second remain as fundamental themes. We also have to distinguish between the use to which the Logical Positivists put Wittgenstein & W's own views. It does seem to me that W does reject the picture theory of language as well as the notion that human language can be reduced to a logical skeleton, which he had advance in the Tractatus. (Barrett relates this to W's philosophy of mathematics as a human practice.) At the same time, his fundamental concern remains the relationship between things & words--this is the fundamental concern of poets as well as philosophers. Wittgenstein, surely, must be ranked with Eliot & Pound as one of the founding fathers of Literary Modernism, with all the contradictions that entails.

I remember, age 19, crossing a footbridge on the University of Washington campus, from town toward the Henry Art Gallery, thinking: Are words & sentences things, or do they merely represent things? I was thinking particularly of poems. Is a poem something in the world that stands apart from the world somehow, a self-contained reflection on the world, or a record of perception. That, perhaps, is the question I have spent my life exploring & despite the fact that, then, I devoutly wanted the poem to be self-contained, I have tended since toward the view that language is so embedded in reality as to be indistinguishable from it--which does not so mush answer as deflect my original, youthful question.


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