Sunday, April 5, 2009

Poetry, Language, and Being

This essay was not what I was expecting. Heidegger's style in this essay doesn't seem to be that of the typical philosopher (hindering back to the readings of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), but rather, he seemed more like a literary critic, approaching this poem by Stefan George from a philosophical perspective. This mesh of literature and philosophy is part of what makes Heidegger such a powerful author. Some of the points he makes seem futile or obvious, while others seem like he is reading too much into the poem.

He begins this lecture with the intention of undergoing an experience of with language; to allow language to change or overwhelm us. But Heidegger soon gets into what this experience enables: a dramatic questioning of the relationship between a thing, Being, and language. What does it mean to say that 'where word breaks off no thing may be'? Language allows a thing to come into Being. But how? If there is no word for a thing, does it not exist? I think that Heidegger, in this essay, again turns to the idea of limits and possibilities. The poet has undergone an experience with the word, and thus has gained greater understanding, but only because he saw the limits of Being; that Being is limited by language. For Heidegger, throughout the entire essay, poetry becomes something almost transcendent; the poet, like the philosopher, can't put his experience with Being into "normal" terms, he has to bend them, fine tune them, and orchestrate the words he uses in order to vaguely say what he passionately feels; he tries to share an experience unique to him with the world. Heidegger tries to decode this text the poet has left us, in order to undergo the same experience with language and Being that the poet did.

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