Religious language as poetry: Heidegger's challenge

Heythrop Journal 52 (6):926-938 (2011)
This paper examines how Heidegger's view that language is poetry might provide a helpful way of understanding the nature of religious language. Poetry, according to Heidegger, is language in its purest form, in that it both reveals Being, whilst also showing the difference between word and thing. In poetry, Heidegger suggests, we come closest to the essence of language itself and encounter its strangeness and impermeability, and its revelatory character. What would be the implications for viewing religious language in this way? Through examining Heidegger's view that poetry is the purest form of language, I suggest that it would also be possible to view religious language as poetry in this way, in that it also shows the transcendence of what cannot be brought to presence in language, except as concealed. Such a view of religious language does not regard it as a problematic type of language, deserving special treatment, but rather suggests that in religious language the inarticulable relationship between word and world is revealed
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2008.00466.x
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Emmanuel Levinas (1969). Totality and Infinity. Pittsburgh, Duquesne University Press.
Karl Barth (2004). Church Dogmatics. Edinburgh: T and T Clark.
Martin Heidegger (1972). Poetry, Language, Thought. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 31 (1):117-123.

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