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The Writing of Aletheia

Martin Heidegger: In Language


Martin Travers

Martin Heidegger was engaged in a continual struggle to find words – new words, both descriptive and analytical – for his radical form of philosophy. This tendency can be traced from Being and Time, where he elaborated an entirely new vocabulary for his ontological enquiry; to Contributions to Philosophy, which saw him committed to a transformation of language; to later essays on poets such as Rilke and Trakl in On the Way to Language.

The Writing of Aletheia is the first study to appear in either English or German that provides a full account of Heidegger’s language and writing style. Focusing not only on his major philsophical works but also on his lectures, public talks and poetry, this book explores the complex textuality of Heidegger’s writing: the elaborate chains of wordplay and neologistic formations; the often oblique, circuitous and regressive exposition of his ideas; the infamous tautologies; the startling modification of grammatical rules and syntax; the idiosyncratic typography of his texts; the rhetorical devices, imagery and symbolism; and the tone and voice of his writing. All of these aspects betray not only his will to structure and his assertiveness but also his ongoing self-questioning and reflectiveness about the ultimate goal of his philosophical quest.

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Introduction. Language: Housing Being



Language: Housing Being

His philosophy is extremely obscure. One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot.

— Bertrand Russell, Wisdom of the West (New York, 1989)

“Every path of thought leads in a strange way, more or less perceptively, through language”, Heidegger tells us in his essay, “The Question Concerning Technology” (“Die Frage nach der Technik”) (GA 7: 7).1 We might be tempted to view this statement purely as a theoretical generalisation, a tenet in a lingustic philosophy describing how we engage with the world through language. But these same words also apply, and apply supremely, to Heidegger’s own philosophy and to his own way of philosophising. Language was not only at the conceptual centre of his work: it constituted the very medium through which that work was possible. From his early magnum opus, Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), in which he attempted to bring into view an ontological realm for which “not only most words were lacking but, above all, grammar” (GA 2: 52), to his next major work, the Contributions to Philosophy (from Ereignis) (Beiträge zur Philosophie (von Ereignis)), where he strove for a re-formation of language in order to push “into realms that are still closed off to us” (GA 65: 78), through to his later writings celebrating the transformative power of the word in the essays On the Way to Language (Unterwegs zur Sprache), where the discourse of philosophy moves both thematically and...

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