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The "Dialogue on Language," between Heidegger and a Japanese friend, together with the four lectures that follow, present Heidegger's central ideas on the origin, nature, and significance of language. These essays reveal how one of the most profound philosophers of our century relates ...
The "Dialogue on Language," between Heidegger and a Japanese friend, together with the four lectures that follow, present Heidegger's central ideas on the origin, nature, and significance of language. These essays reveal how one of the most profound philosophers of our century relates language to his earlier and continuing preoccupation with the nature of Being and himan being.
One the Way to Language enable readers to understand how central language became to Heidegger's analysis of the nature of Being. On the Way to Language demonstrates that an interest in the meaning of language is one of the strongest bonds between analytic philosophy and Heidegger. It is an ideal source for studying his sustained interest in the problems and possibilities of human language and brilliantly underscores the originality and range of his thinking.
One of this century's most important philosophers confronts the philosopical problems of language.
between a Japanese and an Inquirer
Japanese: You know Count Shuzo Kuki. He studied with you for a number of years.
Inquirer: Count Kuki has a lasting place in my memory.
J: He died too early. His teacher Nishida wrote his epitaph--for over a year he worked on this supreme tribute to his pupil.
I: I am happy to have photographs of Kuki's grave and of the grove in which it lies.
J: Yes, I know the temple garden in Kyoto. Many of my friends often join me to visit the tomb there. The garden was established toward the end of the twelfth century by the priest Honen, on the eastern hill of what was then the Imperial city of Kyoto, as a place for reflection and deep meditation.
I: And so, that temple grove remains the fitting place for him who died early.
J: All his reflection was devoted to what the Japanese call Iki.
I: In my dialogues with Kuki, I never had more than a distantinkling of what that word says.
J: Later, after his return from Europe, Count Kuki gave lectures in Kyoto on the aesthetics of Japanese art and poetry. These lectures have come out as a book. In the book, he attempts to consider the nature of Japanese art with the help of European aesthetics.
I: But in such an attempt, may we turn to aesthetics?
J: Why not?
I: The name "aesthetics" and what it names grow out of European thinking, out of philosophy. Consequently, aesthetic consideration must ultimately remain alien to Eastasian thinking.
J: You are right, no doubt. Yet we Japanese have to callon aesthetics to aid us.
I: With what?
J: Aesthetics furnishes us with the concepts to grasp what is of concern to us as art and poetry.
I: Do you need concepts?
J: Presumably yes, because since the encounter with European thinking, there has come to light a certain incapacity in our language.
I: In what way?
J: It lacks the delimiting power to represent objects related in an unequivocal order above and below each other.
I: Do you seriously regard this incapacity as a deficiency ofyour language?
J: Considering that the encounter of the Eastasian with the European world has become inescapable, your question certainly calls for searching reflection.
I: Here you are touching on a controversial question which I often discussed with Count Kuki -- the question whether it is necessary and rightful for Eastasians to chase after the European conceptual systems.
J: In the face of modern technicalization and industrialization of every continent, there would seem to be no escape any longer.
I: You speak cautiously, you say ". . . would seem. . ."
J: Indeed. For the possibility still always remains that, seen from the point of view of our Eastasian existence, the technical world which sweeps us along must confine itself to surface matters, and . . . that . . .
I: ... that for this reason a true encounter with European existence is still not taking place, in spite of all assimilations and intermixtures.
J: Perhaps cannot take place.
I: Can we assert this so unconditionally?
J: I would be the last to venture it, else I should not have come to Germany. But I have a constant sense of danger which Count Kuki, too, could obviously not overcome.
I: What danger are you thinking of?
J: That we will let ourselves be led astray by the wealth of concepts which the spirit of the European languages has in store, and will look down upon what claims our existence, as on something that is vague and amorphous.
I: Yet a far greater danger threatens. It concerns both of us; itis all the more menacing just by being more inconspicuous.
I: The danger is threatening from a region where we do not suspect it, and which is yet precisely the region where we would have to experience it.
J: You have, then, experienced it already; otherwise you could not point it out.
I: I am far from having experienced the danger to its full extent, but I have sensed it-in my dialogues with Count Kuki.
J: Did you speak with him about it?
I: No. The danger arose from the dialogues themselves, in thatthey were dialogues.
J: I do not understand what you mean.
I: Our dialogues were not formal, scholarly discussions. Whenever that sort of thing seemed to be taking place, as in the seminars, Count Kuki remained silent. The dialogues of which I am thinking came about at my house, like a spontaneous game. Count Kuki occasionally brought his wife along who then wore festive Japanese garments. They made the Eastasian world more luminously present, and the danger of our dialogues became more clearly visible.
J: I still do not understand what you mean.
I: The danger of our dialogues was hidden in language itself, not in what we discussed, nor in the way in which we tried to do so.
J: But Count Kuki had uncommonly good command of German, and of French and English, did he not?
I: Of course. He could say in European languages whatever was under discussion. But we were discussing Iki; and here it was I to whom the spirit of the Japanese language remained closed-as it is to this day.The languages of the dialogue shifted everything into European.
I: Yet the dialogue tried to say the essential nature of East-asian art and poetry.
J: Now I am beginning to understand better where you smell the danger. The language of the dialogue constantly destroyed the possibility of saying what the dialogue was about.
I: Some time ago I called language, clumsily enough, the house of Being. If man by virtue of his language dwells within the claim and call of Being, then we Europeans presumably dwell in an entirely different house than Eastasian man.
J: Assuming that the languages of the two are not merely different but are other in nature, and radically so.