Heidegger and the echo of language.

“Most often, and too often, we encounter what is spoken only as the residue of a speaking long past.”

—M. Heidegger

A name, in and with Heidegger, is too often a residue, a sound echoed. When we say “plate” or “dog” or “cider” it is always to a thing already named, already categorized timelessly ahead of time. A name has become already a thing and thereby when we say a thing we are carrying on, carrying forward, a tradition which is not necessarily ours. How then to name, to truly own something, not in the sense that we own as in to posses but own as in to appropriate—in the pure Heideggerian sense. We appropriate by making something our own, we seek to embody it with our own-ness.

Heidegger writes that everyday language, that is mortal speech, is a “forgotten and therefore used-up poem, from which there hardly resounds a call any longer.” What does the “cup” call to any longer, besides a base utility, a base, all too common form of  naming? Is this naming of “tree” any more dynamic, is it any more a call, or is it simply a quality, an averaging out of all its constituent elements.

In Georg Trakl’s poem, “A Winter’s Night” which Heidegger draws on in his essay “Language,” Heidegger points to base objects listed in the poem—table, bread, wine, window, snow—and defends them as pure calls, as having been rescued from the world of prosaic speech and returned, in a sense, to the original dynamic purity of the name. Heidegger writes that Trakl, having re-invested the words into the poem, has rescued them from the prosaic and returned them to the their dif-ference (and in this we must read dif-ference as the holding apart of two things, the separating powers.) He claims them to have been bidden by the pure language of the poem, and in bidding to have been brought into a “nearness,” a “presence” which is always absent in the mere mortal speaking of language.


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