- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (February 24, 1982)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060638591
- ISBN-13: 978-0060638597
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On the Way to Language 1st Edition
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To not understand something of what a great philosopher says, therefore, is not only to be deprived of insight and understanding, but, because insight and understanding determine the range of human perception and activity, it is to be deprived of the depth and breadth of awareness achievable by humans as they live life. If we are lucky a wise parent, grandparent, uncle, friend or teacher opens us up to the complex nature of human awareness. If we are not so lucky we remain ineluctably bound to the particular orientation to reality we acquired in our early years. Our perspectives are fettered.
This book, On the Way to Language, by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), is a collection of essays on the complex nature in which humans find themselves because of our being in language. That humans can find or lose themselves in language is it seems to me, indisputable: Humans no longer greet the world only with an immediate reaction to their sense experiences; we interpret our sense experience within the socio-cultural ideas we have acquired in language.
As the title implies, what Heidegger is doing here is trying to find a path of thinking that helps us to 1) to uncover and unfold what language is as we live in it, 2) to recognize how it is that language lives in us, and 3) to realize what the effects this ongoing relationship has upon we humans as we live now not only in the biologically conditions of our being, but also in the language-mediated conditions of our being.
In doing this Heidegger is asking, exploring, and seeking to explain language and humans being in language philosophically; this is not an issue of linguistic science, a breaking down of the form and structure of language as morphemes, phonemes, and various other facts about language. Heidegger does not want to speak about language—to make language an object that we can objectively comprehend—but rather, he wants to have us recognize that we speak from language, from “out of language.” When we speak, language shows itself. Language is speaking, speaking is language and humans are beings in language. Language is not a tool we use.
What, he asks, makes up the being of language? He answers: the being of language is in being in its presence and use by humans! Language is in its saying, we encounter language in an act of speaking. Thus, language appears as a human activity, and is a verb, not a noun.
Quick, take a look back on what you just read. If you can grasp the living reality of this language/human relationship your comprehension of yourself and your relationship to the being of language, is broadened. Herein the wisdom of philosopher and the poet: “The word is the mouth’s flower.” I’ll leave this sentence unanalyzed so that you can seek to engage yourself in the dialogue in which the philosopher is engaged.
The “crux of our reflection on language”, Heidegger suggests, can be found in the questions: What is the experience of language as Saying? “What does ‘to speak’ mean?” How do we experience the written and vocal character of language? Asking and seeking to answer such questions is the activity of thinking philosophically. When we ask these questions we are, the philosopher says, “Underway in our modes of Saying.”
Here, ultimately, in the word “underway” the issue of philosophy is illustrated. What does he mean by the word “underway”? He means that we have extracted ourselves out of the stuckness of our everyday perceptions and entered into the journey that the reality of humans being in language has given us the possibility of experiencing. The philosopher is trying to bring us into the dialogue that lets us experience this reality.
Reading this book takes effort, but in the awareness one achieves along the way, the reader is insightfully rewarded.
This book was first published in 1959. The dialogue is “between a Japanese and an Inquirer.” [The Inquirer is Heidegger.] This ‘hitherto unpublished text originated in 1953/54, on the occasion of a visit by Professor Tezuka of the Imperial University, Tokyo.” (Pg. 199)
In this dialogue, Heidegger states, “The fundamental flaw of the book ‘Being and Time’ is perhaps that I ventured forth too far too early.” (Pg. 7) He explains about his use of the term ‘Hermeneutics,’ “The answer is given in the Introduction to ‘Being and Time’ (Section 7C). But I will gladly add a few remarks, to dispel the illusion that that the use of the term is accidental… The term ‘hermeneutics’ was familiar to me from my theological studies. At that time, I was particularly agitated over the question of the relation between the word of Holy Scripture and theological-speculative thinking… Without this theological background I should never have come upon the path of thinking.” (Pg. 9-10)
He says, “Thirst for knowledge and greed for explanations never lead to a thinking inquiry. Curiosity is always the concealed arrogance of a self-consciousness that banks on a self-invented RATIO and its rationality. The will to know does not WILL to abide in hope before what is worthy of thought.” (Pg. 13)
The Japanese stated, “we in Japan understood at once your lecture ‘What is Metaphysics?’ when it became available to us in 1930 through a translation … We marvel to this day how the Europeans could lapse into interpreting as nihilistic the nothingness of which you speak in that lecture. To us, emptiness is the loftiest name for what you mean to say with the word ‘Being.’” (Pg. 19)
In the lecture ‘The Nature of Language,’ Heidegger explains, “At the close of a lecture called ‘The Question of Technology’ … I said, ‘Questioning is the piety of thinking.’ ‘Piety’ is meant here in the ancient sense: obedient, or submissive, and in this case submitting to what thinking has to think about.” (Pg. 72)
He observes, “Neither the ‘is’ nor the word attain to thinghood, to Being, nor does the relation between ‘is’ and the word, the word whose task it is to give an ‘is’ in each given sentence… What, then, does the poetic experience with the word show as our thinking pursues it? It points to something thought-provoking and memorable with which thinking has been changed from the beginning, even though in a veiled manner. It shows what is there and yet ‘is’ not… If our thinking does justice to the matter, then we may never say of the word that it is, but rather that it gives---not in the sense that words are given by an ‘it,’ but that the word itself gives. The word itself is the giver. What does it give? To go by the poetic experience and by the most ancient tradition of thinking, the word gives Being. Our thinking, then, would have to seek the word, the giver which itself is never given, is this ‘there is that which gives.’” (Pg. 87-88)
He concludes this lecture, “Language, Saying of the world’s fourfold, is no longer only such that we speaking human beings are related to it in the sense of a nexus existing between man and language. Language is, as world-moving Saying, the relation of all relations. It relates, maintains, proffers, and enriches the face-to-face encounter of the world’s regions, holds and keeps them, in that it holds itself---Saying---in reserve. Reserving itself in this way, as Saying of the world’s fourfold, language concerns us, us who as mortals belong within this fourfold world, us who can speak only as we respond to language.” (Pg. 107)
In ‘The Way to Language,’ he notes, “We are not capable of seeing the nature of language in the round because we, who can only say something by saying it after Saying, belong ourselves within Saying. The monologue character of the nature of language finds its structure in the disclosing design of Saying. That design does not and cannot coincide with the monologue of which Novalis is thinking, because Novalis understands language dialectically, in terms of subjectivity, that is, within the horizon of absolute idealism. But language is monologue. This now says two things: it is language ALONE which speaks authentically; and, language speaks LONESOMELY.” (Pg. 133-134)
This book will be of keen interest to those studying Heidegger, and the development of his thought.