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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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Chapter 2 The Performative Text: Contributions to Philosophy (from Ereignis)


Chapter 2

The Performative Text: Contributions to Philosophy (from Ereignis)

Inceptual Thinking: The Leap into Be-ing

In his “Letter on Humanism” (“Brief über den Humanismus”, 1947), Heidegger looked back to Being and Time and judged it largely as a failure. In that work, he had remained within “the language of metaphysics”, simply explicating the conditions under which Being could be said to exist rather than allowing Being itself to manifest itself. Everything had been mediated by a need for systematic and categorical exactitude, almost in the fashion of Aristotle’s systems of classification, which had sought to find ever more precise inflexions for being-in-the-world. Such a methodology had been a mistake, because “all ‘contents’, ‘opinions’ and ‘itineraries’ within particulars must necessarily take us away from the heart of the matter” (GA 9: 328).1 It was, paradoxically perhaps, within the context of the history of philosophy, precisely the most original, the most radical quality of Being and Time, its de-structive moment, that was the problem. The attempt made there to locate “the essence of truth (in opposition to correctness in re-presenting and asserting) as the ground of Da-sein itself had to remain insufficient, for it had been carried out in the spirit of rejection and so always took its orientation from what had to be rejected” (GA 65: 351). In the final analysis, Being and Time had closed down rather than opened up avenues to Being.

What Heidegger was unable to find words...

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