Starting this off with a quote from Heidegger, as revealed to me by my favorite Philosophy professor was probably an evil thing to do. Because it sets the tone for this post… and any post in which something Heidegger related is the tone should cause you to hate me. Because at worst, you’ll hate me for reading Heidegger, and at best, you’ll just get a massive headache and hate me for that. And, on a very rare occasion, you might be interested in what I’m saying. But that just puts you into the same boat I’m in as I write this… so poor, poor you.
So… Language, a wonderful topic, which Kas picked for our weekly theme. Fascinating stuff, language. I could talk about the “elasticity of language,” but… I think Fry and Laurie already covered that…
But I digress. Language is the house of Being. For those of you who haven’t read Heidegger, there is a reason that the “B” is capitalized here, but that requires an entirely separate post to explain (actually, probably more than one). I will try, probably in vain, to explain the sentence, without delving too deeply into utterly confusing Heideggarian terms and philosophy. So… here goes.
In Heidegger’s Sein Und Zeit (Being And Time), he attempts to address the problem of the “fundamental question of the meaning of Being.” Primarily, how to even ask the question. The entire idea of Being is so complex and complicated that it is a “loaded” question anyway. And Heidegger pushes this even further by demanding that I, the reader, his “student” of sorts, ask the question properly. Of course, the basis of basically the entire 488 page book is how to ask the question properly… so he believes that this is an extraordinarily difficult question to ask. But the most important thing to remember when delving into the book, and the question, is that quote. “Language is the house of Being.”
Now… if I was going to do this properly I would take each word in that sentence and break it down to its roots, getting to the meaning behind the word, before trying to reconstruct the sentence… but again – an entire separate post would be needed. So for now I will address one part… which I hope will convey the complexity of the sentence. And it’s the word that probably raises the most questions in the sentence anyway – house.
What does Heidegger mean by “house”? Well, house has many different connotations. It can mean a building, which surrounds and shelters. It can mean a home, in the sense of where I “belong.” And it can mean other things as well… But let’s focus on house as a “home…”
A house is, as I mentioned, both a building and an idea. When I refer to my “home” I usually don’t mean the building I live in… I mean a place, or specifically, my idea of a place. If you really want to delve into what that means, go read Brandon’s post, because I think that covers it better than I could here. But yes, an idea of a place. My “home” is where I am happiest. This could refer to a building where my belongings and loved ones are. Or it could refer to the city I love being in. Usually it refers to some combination of the two. Or if I’m feeling particularly
pompous Caring, it refers to this planet, Earth, which is my home for obvious reasons.
So what is the house, or “home,” of Being? Why is it “Language”? Well, in relation to Heidegger’s attempt to answer the question of the meaning of Being, this becomes fairly obvious. The only way to properly ask the question, is to properly formulate the question – use the proper language. This is where it gets tricky, because how do I know what the proper language is? Trial and error seems to be my general method… but I digress. Basically, if I don’t use the proper language, I can’t ask the question properly – which seems like a fairly obvious statement, but it goes much deeper in this case. Who determines what the proper language is in this case? Well… that’s what Heidegger tries to do for 488 pages… so I’m not going to attempt it in an 800 or so word blog post… sorry. My suggestions. Read the book. Or rather… forget you read this post. If you read the book you might try to hurt me… I have a feeling Brandon is already going to try and beat me with a shoe now…
Oh, and just to clarify – this was not a philosophical attempt to explain Heidegger’s Sein Und Zeit in laymens terms… it was simply a rambling rant on how language is a fickle bitch. Please don’t assume you know what Heidegger is all about just from this post… hell, I’ve read the book and TAed the class for 3 years and I don’t think I even know what the book is all about.