Philosophy Of Language Essay, Research Paper
Man initially thought that language afforded him a better knowledge of things rather than merely a designation of things. However, this is based on an exact notion of things, and no exactness exists; identity can only be conceptual, for there is nothing in life that is identical. The mythology of language rests in this search for the exactness of things and the schematization of our world.
Language evolved simultaneously with consciousness, for we felt the need to communicate. Language fills this need, but it produces only a vague and shallow reflection of what we are thinking, for only small amounts of man’s thoughts are brought into consciousness. Our thoughts are captured and translated into the perspective of the herd, thus this herd rules our consciousness. Only the average in someone is expressed and becomes part of the herd, for we only know what is “useful” in terms of the herd. It becomes difficult for one to know oneself, for the thoughts of which we are tangibly conscious are only those that we can communicate, and such are only a vague mirror.
The attempt of science and tragic drama to schematize things eventually gives over to eruption of life and will that is in no way bounded. The laughter of the gods is a celebration of life for it is acknowledgment of life. Everything erupts in a celebration of whatever is, amor fatis, a celebration of fate. We have three metamorphoses of the spirit: camel, which bears the wisdom of the past, lion, which rejects past wisdom for her own idea, and child, the creative being. We must pass through these stages in order to become free of lessons that we have not taught our selves that hinder our creative and independent will. Reality is will.
Heidegger strives to understand and explain Being, which is separate and much grander than our being, but also inherently intertwined. The concepts explained here are from Letter on Humanism, Being and Time, and The Origin of the Work of Art. Being is the Being of our being, but it must be allowed to Be through us. Human beings are distinct because for us, Being is a question. A simple definition of space, such as a rock, is not Being. We have a relationship of care and concern with others in the world.
According to Heidegger, human being is a unique being in the world with others towards death; he calls this Dasein. He believes that there is an understanding and sensibility to Being and we must be open to all the possible multiple expressions of Being. Life is not about doing, but about being, for when one simply “be’s,” one becomes a vehicle for Being. Ek-sistence is the state in which the essence of man preserves the only source that determines him, and I think that the source determining him is Being. The authenticity of one’s existence depends not on action but on the recognition of the self-disclosing character of oneself: by not acting intentionally, one can truly ek-sist. In order to truly ek-sist, one must let things be and come to live; instead of acting or making, one must create a space in which one can understand something.
There is a difference between us speaking and Being speaking. “Language is the house of Being” (Basic Writings 217). Being is not predicated by Being, thus Being knows itself through the language of man only when man is passive. When actions, including language, are intentional, they lose their meaning and disappear into the contrived reality, and thus become chatter. When we speak through intended action we retard Being from exuding; thus passiveness is the trait that allows Being to speak through us. We act as the shepherd of Being, guarding Being with language. Being only knows itself through the language of man, thus Being does not really exist, but through man, it ek-sists. Language is a buffer between Being and us. Poetry tries to find a voice rather than just chatter. Chatter is inauthentic speech, it is the talk about rather than the expression of Being; we have fallen away from being and the life has fallen out of our language.
Language is used to allow communication along routes of unlimited accessibility of all things to all people, thus language is dictated in the public realm because it decides what is intelligible and what should be discarded.
Language needs a place where it still has meaning and life. In The Way to Language, Heidegger declares that language speaks, and language says something when it speaks. Language addresses people and things in the world, acknowledging them as matters of concern; it shows and points. By showing and pointing, language introduces a capacity for beings and things to come into their presence in the world. Our world then becomes “the realm in which we dwell as the mortals, those who are needed and are used for the speaking of language” (Basic Writings 423).
Thinking is of Being because it belongs to Being and listens to Being … “thinking is the thinking of Being” (Basic Writings 220). Through thinking, we see the truth of Being, and Being comes to language. However, Being is unthought because the thinking that reaches the truth of Being is only historical. “Assuming in the future that man will be able to think the truth of Being, he will think from ek-sistence. Man stands ek-sistingly in the destiny of Being” (Basic Writings 239). Man can only occur in his essence when he is claimed by Being. Only Being controls the introduction of Being into being, for man, through language, is only a shepherd of Being. Language is thus the home of man’s essence … I think that this language is laughter.
According to Kimmel in Philosophy, Literature and Laughter: Notes on an Ontology of the Moment, laughter is the release of everything that once caused constraint and restraint. He is referring to a pure laughter, which is not prompted at others’ expense or contrived. It must be a spontaneous and uncontrollable reaction. Nietzsche claims that we need the “liberating abandon of laughter.” The laughter of the gods is existence in its essential and liberated form, for the gods are affirming and celebrating life. This type of laughter is based in the moment, and for a moment it consumes our existence, releasing us into freedom, for we are not in control.
Laughter is not only release but also an affirmation, for it has positive effects on the physical and mental well-being. “We thus attain a positive and negative definition for laughter analogous to Kant’s logical requirements of freedom from … and freedom for” (Kimmel). According to Kant, negative freedom is freedom from heteronomy while a positive freedom is self-assertion as a free causality, autonomy. We affirm life and death and our temporal relationship with the world; we have the capacity to laugh at even disaster, and by this we are free, by this we can affirm life.
Combining Nietzsche and Heidegger’s views of Being and consciousness with Kimmel’s view on laughter’s necessity in our existence, it becomes apparent that laughter is our purest language. Laughter is a discourse of Being which is not a project; it just occurs. Perhaps it is an example of authentic language … perhaps authentic language does not need to have words, for Nietzsche believes that when we use language to communicate we lose our true thoughts.
In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche speaks of the Dionysian mode of existence; he mentions art as an example of the Dionysian energy, for the Dionysian energy is the initial impulse of art. It is an intoxicated reality unhindered by culture and man’s consciousness of it, man is truly a part of nature. With laughter, man is in nature, laughter is a sound of nature, but it is overlooked because unnatural things usually prompt it. It is even more in nature than art for it is completely uncontrived and unintended. The theoretical man is dedicated to the search for truth rather than truth itself. Truth is in illusion, but the theoretical denies illusion as a key to reality and instead wants to destroy the energy of illusion. Laughter is an illusion in a way, for no one but the laugh-er knows what is truly funny, and often she does not even know. It is a code to the primordial nature within us.
If there are no words, reality cannot be superficial. When laughter is pure it is a connection between consciousness and unspoken thought because it is a pure reaction to a wordless thought. With laughter, everything disappears and at the same time everything materializes as what it truly is.
When one is consumed by laughter, everything she knows, feels and believes is sensible and complete. Laughter is an “affirmation of the moment,” our deliberate being dissolves in the true reality and consciousness of laughter, allowing our innate Being to exude. Kimmel says that the eternal may be understood as the absolute fullness of the moment itself … “it is less easy to decide, and perhaps as pointless to try to determine, what it is we are released into through laughter, other than into the moment, which complete in itself and however briefly, opens into eternity” (Kimmel). Laughter brings us into the convergence of reality and consciousness, a state that cannot be reached by either aspect alone; only in their synergy is the moment revealed through laughter.
Nietzsche believes that consciousness as we know it is based on communication, thus it is not true consciousness. This pseudo-consciousness fools us into the belief that we are in reality when we act. Yes, Heidegger believes that to simply be is to Be, but he also believes that Being only comes through passiveness as a vehicle for Being. People be but do not Be, thus Nietzsche’s argument for pseudo-/public-reality shows that people cannot really “Be” through passive being, as Heidegger hopes for humans. Heidegger claims that the public filters language, and thus it is not a true mode of Being. This will only change when we discover how think the truth of Being. If we can deem laughter a language, it is one that does not thwart Being. Perhaps in laughter we are in Heidegger’s ek-stasis, a state outside the notion as the self as being a thing, a moment in which we are in the time of the gods.
Laughter, when pure, is a connection between consciousness and thought. It is pure reaction to wordless thought, and it becomes true language, more submissive to Being than even poetry. Nietzsche’s explanation of language as a murky and shallow reflection of thought coincides with Heidegger’s disdain of human’s current capacity for true language as a corridor for Being. It is only when we ‘be,’ not act or will, that we can become a vehicle for Being; our thoughts can stimulate Beings and our language can house Being. However, this can only occur unintentionally and purely, as with laughter. Heidegger overlooks something in his claim that only in the future can man think through ek-sistence … man is always thinking, more specifically, man is always thinking through ek-sistence. It is only language that stymies this disrobing of ek-sistence.
Thus, laughter, as an uncontrollable and pure response to a thought, pierces a moment in time when consciousness and true reality converge. Laughter is the language of Being, the language of ek-sistence, and the language of thought. We must meet life with laughter, for then we can truly ek-sist.