Ziarek, Krzysztof. Language after Heidegger

By Backman, Jussi | The Review of Metaphysics, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Ziarek, Krzysztof. Language after Heidegger


Backman, Jussi, The Review of Metaphysics


ZIAREK, Krzysztof. Language after Heidegger. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013. xvi + 243 pp. Cloth, $45.00--Ziarek's Language after Heidegger is a valuable new contribution to the relatively limited scholarship on Heidegger's thinking of language. While previous studies on the topic have tended to concentrate on Being and Time (1927) and the texts from the 1950s compiled in On the Way to Language, Ziarek's work focuses on the relevant writings of the "middle" Heidegger of the 1930s and 1940s, some of which--for instance, volumes 71 and 74 of Heidegger's Gesamtausgabe--have been published only in recent years. It thus casts new light on the development of Heidegger's perspective on language during this period. Instead of looking simply at Heidegger's account of language, Ziarek's specific strategy is to flesh out the gradually deepening linguistic character of Heidegger's thinking, the dynamic of which becomes increasingly attentive to and interlaced with that of concrete language in its materiality and historicity. It is this progressive coming to terms with the fundamentally language-embedded nature of human receptivity to meaningfulness that, from the mid-1980s onward, informs the famously performative and experimental nature of Heidegger's later discourse. For the later Heidegger, Ziarek emphasizes, words (Worte) as the essential linguistic elements no longer function as mere referential symbolic or signifying terms (Worter) denoting determinate portions of reality (beings), but rather enact the process of the linguistic articulation of (meaningful) being as such. "Words" constitute the "preverbal" dimension of language that precedes reference and signification in the narrow sense and "by giving being to beings ... makes room for signification and signs." Heideggerian language thus has an essentially poietic, that is, constitutive and not merely expressive, function: "Language for Heidegger enacts thinking and does not simply determine or convey it."

Accordingly, as its title indicates, the book is not simply or primarily a study of language in Heidegger, but it is also an attempt to formulate an outlook inspired by the later Heidegger's preparatory suggestions, an approach to language after Heidegger. In spite of the clear kinship between Heidegger's and Derrida's explorations of the materiality, context sensitivity, and differential structure of discourse, Ziarek insists that the post-Heideggerian look at language he is outlining must be distinguished from poststructuralist approaches, that is, ones that take their cue from Saussure's analysis of signs. While ostensibly belonging within the compass of the so-called linguistic turn in twentieth-century thought, which "examines the way in which language constrains and influences what thought can conceive," Heidegger's approach, Ziarek argues, is distinguished by its emphatic break with the general anthropocentric and epistemological perspective of linguistic philosophy. Heidegger locates language not simply in human beings and their faculties, but in the event (Ereignis) of being (in the post-metaphysical sense as "beyng," Seyri) that reciprocally involves human receptivity to meaningfulness as well as a dynamic of meaning constitution beyond human control. …

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