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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 5 The Triumph of Ratio: “The Question Concerning Technology”


Chapter 5

The Triumph of Ratio: “The Question Concerning Technology”

Causa efficiens: Being En-framed

In “The Essence of Language” (“Das Wesen der Sprache”), Heidegger argued that the thinking of language will necessarily involve a journey that will take us away from conventional ways of conceptualising the relationship between language and the world. At the end of this journey, we will enter what he describes as a “region” (Gegend), “so called because it gives its realm and free reign to what thinking is given to think. Thinking abides in that region, as it walks the ways of that region” (GA 12: 168).

Not all thinking, however, takes this journey. The scientific mind, in particular, moves along a quite different path, one that is determined by ratiocination and calculation, where thinking is a mechanical means of gaining knowledge, and language simply a medium for information: the calculating ordering of saying is its goal and measure, its sole task the “computation of sufficient reason” (180). Here, not only is it impossible to grasp language: it is impossible to hear it at all. Science, by committing itself to its own particular way of viewing the world, to its own method of understanding, has, in fact, chosen not to see what language offers. Yet science in itself is driven by an even greater power, over which it exerts little control. As Heidegger explains, “the furious pace with which the sciences are swept along today – they themselves do...

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