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Wittgenstein's view of Heidegger's "way to language"

Wittgenstein's view of Heidegger's "way to language"

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Published by shawn
An assessment of On The Way to Language via Wittgenstein.
An assessment of On The Way to Language via Wittgenstein.

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Published by: shawn on Oct 17, 2008
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05/09/2014

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Would Wittgenstein approve of Heidegger’s “Way to Language”?Written by: critical (on scribd.com)April 1996
The meaning of terms beyond our normal language games is just as far as weneed to go. To think there is a need to go beyond these simple practicalunderstandings that we gain is a false assumption. Going beyond our understandingsderived from everyday life experience is simply just wrong-headed thinking. In doingotherwise we are enmeshed in problems that exist because of a missunderstanding agrammatical error. The essence of language; that place we cannot go. To seek outthe essence of language is a theoretical journey. The goal is just as theoretical asthe journey and just as insubstantial as a ghost.Wittgenstein would be very much in agreement with the spirit of Heidegger's'Way' as it involves a journey that takes place through language itself. Heidegger's'Way' does not treat language as a thing that can be studied objectively, it is a partof our everyday lives it is indeed a part of our very selves and thus we can neverseparate ourselves from it to study it as an object.'Essence' from the Houghton Mifflin Canadian Dictionary: 1. The quality orqualities of a thing that give it its identity; the intrinsic or indispensable propertiesof a thing: "Government and Law, in their very essence, consist of restrictions onfreedom" (Betrand Russell). A politically loaded definition to say the least. Yet, adefinition which beautifully delimits the theoretical underpinnings of the word inquestion. The essence of language is what H hopes to uncover in his Way-making oflanguage, but he does not ask the question that might readily come to W's mind fromthe beginning -- how is the essence of language an important question at all?Essence as a means of grappling with a thing or idea is an attempt to reduceobservations about that thing to a simple readily understandable model. We use theterm 'essence' to help us understand what is most salient or most important about a
 
given object or group of things. Thus the essence becomes a model that can beplayed with and observed in motion (so to speak). This model allows us to test ideasand make further observations that would not have been possible because of theimmensity or complexity of the thing being studied. This reduction of a thing to itsessence is something we do all of the time everyday and as such we do not thinkabout it as a process of simplification for the purposes of observation. We think ofthis process not at all. One of the hints of the reality of this is that we now findourselves in a way of life of language games that uses essence as an everyday word, aword we use without question as a means of analyzing the world around us.To divine the essence of something is to fabricate a theory about that thingbased on whatever we consider to be the most relevant features of its identity or itsmost salient properties. The reason we might want to readily accept the line ofquestioning that Heidegger explores in his Way-making of language is because we areunaware of the immensely theoretical nature of the application of ideas like essence.Heidegger does not knowingly tread into this theoretical realm anymore thanWittgenstein does but concepts like induction and essence are inherently unreflexiveto us. Through a careful study of the language games in which our communityeveryday takes part we may heighten our awareness of the hidden assumptions thatare an inescapable part of everyday language and are thus almost completelyunobservable and inherently unquestionable (p113W). Here I make the analogybetween W's description of induction and our use of 'essence'. It is not thattheoretical frameworks like 'essence' are inherently bad they are merely dangerousbecause we are not fully aware of the assumptions we make when using them.H is clearly aware of the dangers of grasping language theoretically as aparticular instance of this or that universal as a general notion like energy, activityetcetera (406H). He, as can be seen from the quote below, is also clearly aware ofthe realities of our language as inherently representational.
 
To bring language as language to language... Our proposed way to language iswoven into a speaking that would like to liberate nothing else thanlanguage, liberate it in order to present it, giving utterance to it assomething represented--which straightway testifies to the fact thatlanguage itself has woven us into its speaking (398H).The representational taste to his formula for this Way-making of language is cited asevidence that we are deep within the Weft that is language. Despite the inescapablerepresentational identity of our language H is confident that his path will steer clearof this very pitfall. This is an important point at which I believe W would take greatissue with H. W's concerns would be to ascertain just how it is that H will avoid thepitfall to which he here alludes and nevermore mentions.Language evolved from use and our language has an underlying theoreticalframework of which we are not always aware -- to these things both H and W agree.Just as induction is a part of our everyday and unreflexive awareness so too areother pervasive theoretical frameworks that permeate our language (p113W).Wittgenstein is very careful about these hidden assumptions that arise from theevolution of our language and continually uses this knowledge as an important tool indivining important mistakes of thought.The primitive forms of our language - noun, adjective and verb - show thesimple picture to which it tries to make everything conform (p278).Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means oflanguage (p282W).This as I have said before is certainly not outside of H's thoughts as he undertakeshis Way to language but he does seem to think that his undertaking somehow avoids

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