Heidegger on Philosophy and Language

Philosophical Writings 35 (2):5-16 (2007)
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This paper attempts to explain why Heidegger's thought has evoked both positive and negative reactions of such an extreme nature by focussing on his answer to the central methodological question “What is Philosophy?” After briefly setting forth Heidegger‟s answer in terms of attunement to Being, the centrality to it of his view of language and by focussing on his relationship with the word "philosophy‟ and with the history of philosophy, the author shows how it has led Heidegger to construct his own work, itself linguistic, as a self-referential union of form and meaning. It is suggested that, from a Heideggerian perspective, this gives his work added argumentative force but, conversely, allows the critic no point of entry into his hermeneutical circle – hence the extreme reactions. This observation is then applied to address a related critical question; it is used to make sense of the apparent distinction, in Heidegger's work, between talking about attunement to Being and actually effecting such an attunement. The author argues that, for Heidegger, there is actually no distinction and that his apparent descriptions of attunement to Being at once describe and effect such an attunement. This union can therefore be conceived as one dimension of the intimacy, previously observed, between form and content and which is recognised to be a feature of Heidegger‟s work by both the acolyte and the critic.
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