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René Descartes

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(1596-1650)

Descartes and LeibnizEdit

Many great philosophers have taken stances on the topic of universal languages. Derrida, Descartes, Leibniz, Rousseau, Saussure have all commented upon it. Descartes did so in a letter to a friend about his concerns of the Leibnizian project. Leibniz, fascinated with the Chinese script, proposed to create a universal language with the Asian characteristics as a model. From the letter Descartes writes it does not sound like he was aware of the full scope of the project. He mentions learning primitive words of all languages and having a large dictionary of all words of all languages to decipher the text. Leibniz, however, did not want to create a language of text, but rather a language of graphics that could be learned in a matter of a few weeks instead of a lifetime like the Chinese script. Descartes passes the project off as a cumbersome burden suitable only for revelations and mysteries that “no-one who had anything better to do would take the trouble.” He concludes the matter before adding the disclaimer that he might be wrong with, “I do not see that all this has much use.” It might be important to note that Descartes and Leibniz were rivals.

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