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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 4 What Thinking Is Given to Think: On the Way to Language


Chapter 4

What Thinking Is Given to Think: On the Way to Language

Meeting Language: On the Path and in its Region

In his essay “The Essence of Language” (“Das Wesen der Sprache”), Heidegger voices the following conjecture: “assuming that the moving spirit that holds the world’s four regions in the single nearness of their face-to-face encounter rests in Saying [Sage], then only Saying confers what we call by the tiny word ‘is’, which it then echoes. Saying releases the ‘is’ into lighted freedom, and thereby into the security of its thinkability” (GA 12: 203). These were sentiments that looked back to Heidegger’s treatment of “logos” within the originary thinking of the Pre-Socratics in Parmenides and in his Heraclitus lectures, but they also signalled a major “Turning” in his philosophy that took place in the 1940s, when Heidegger came increasingly to focus on the relationship between thinking and language, that “founding of Being through words, only through which things acquire their radiance”, and which he found most fully in poetry, where there “first comes into the open all that which we are” (GA 4: 41 and 43).

“The Essence of Language” was the first of a series of essays that Heidegger published in 1959. in a collection called On the Way to Language (Unterwegs zur Sprache). The volume also included two studies of the poetry of Georg Trakl, “Language” (“Die Sprache”) and “Language in the Poem” (“Die Sprache im Gedicht”), as well...

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