On the Way to Language

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On the Way to Language (GA 12). Translated by Peter D. Hertz, NewYork, Harper & Row, 1971.


In The Nature of Language is comprised of three lectures delivered in Freiburg. In the third lecture Heidegger says we can experience death because we can speak about it.

Mortals are they who can experience death as death. Animals cannot do so. But animals cannot speak either. The essential relation between death and language flashes up before us, but remains still unthought.

P. 107

Heidegger says that Saying is moved by Ereignis/Appropriation:

The moving force in Showing of Saying is Owning. It is what brings all present and absent beings each into their own, from where they show themselves in what they are, and where the abide according to their kind. This owning which brings them there, and which moves Saying and Showing in its showing we call Appropriation. It yields the opening of the clearing in which present beings can persist and from which absent beings can depart while keeping their persistence in the withdrawal. What Appropriation yields through Saying is never the effect of a cause, not the consequence of an antecedent. The yielding owning, the Appropriation, confers more than any effectuation, making or founding. What is yielding is Appropriation itself--and nothing else.* That Appropriation, seen as it is shown by Saying, cannot be represented either as an occurrence or a happening--it can only be experienced as the abiding gift yielded by Saying. There is nothing else from which the Appropriation itself can be derived, even less in whose terms it can be explained. The appropriating event is not the outcome (result) of something else, but the giving yield whose giving reach alone is what gives us such things as "there is," a "there is" of which even Being itself stands in need to come into its own as presence.**

Appropriation assembles the design of Saying and unfolds it into the structure of manifold showing. It is itself the most inconspicuous of inconspicuous phenomena, the simplest of simplicities, the nearest of the near, and the farthest of the far in which we mortals spend our lives.

We can give a name to the appropriation that prevails in Saying: it--Appropriation--appropriates or owns.

* See my Identity and Difference, pp. 37 ff.

** See my Being and Time, p. 255.

P. 127-128

An alternative translation is provided here.

Later in the same essay Heidegger calls for a new language with relations that are not references.

In order to pursue in thought the being of language and to say of it what is its own, a transformation of language is needed which we can neither compel nor invent. This transformation does not result from the procurement of newly formed words and phrases. It touches on our relation to language, which is determined by destiny: whether and in what way the nature of language, as the arch-tidings of Appropriation, will retain us in Appropriation. For that appropriating, holding, self-retaining is the relation of all relations. Thus our saying--always an answering--remains forever relational. Relation is thought of here always in terms of the appropriation, and no longer conceived in the form of a mere reference. Our relation to language defines itself in terms of the mode in which we, who are needed in the usage of language, belong to the Appropriation.

P. 135-136

Ereignis is not just another law, it is the law.

Appropriation is the law because it gathers mortals into the appropriateness of their nature and there holds them.

P. 136-137

"The Nature of Language" was a text in the 2016 Institute for Hermeneutic Phenomenology.


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Created 2006/04/17
Last updated 2023/10/23