The Bounds of Being: Existence-Death-Language. The Existential-Ontological Connection of Language and Death in Heidegger's "Being and Time": An Exegetical Approach to Heidegger's Linguistic Ontology

Dissertation, Mcgill University (Canada) (2000)

The thesis of this dissertation can be summed up in a nutshell: Death forces language into being. When faced with the possibility of non-existence, humans are confronted with the reality of nothingness and respond by filling the fathomless emptiness of the abyss with permanent meaning. ;Chapter I outlines this thesis in detail as grounded in Heidegger's existential analytic and provides examples of some of its manifold applications in both everyday life and literary experience. ;The thesis is supported in three main steps. In Part A I explore the problem of human subjectivity in terms of Heidegger's existential ontology in particular with respect to the question of language and death. I show that the process of language evolution can be understood as an ongoing conflict resolution between the two fundamental modes of human selfhood. The gap between authenticity and inauthenticity is resolved in the dialogue of language. Death, which is nothing other than the nothingness of this yawning gap where one can easily lose oneself, thus appears to be a main factor of language origination, and, paradoxically, at the same time it finds its supersession in language. ;In Part B I demonstrate that Heidegger has an answer to the question of language origins, and what his answer is. Both the "That" and the "What" lead to the further question of why language "exists" at all. The answer is simple. If Heidegger's phenomenological ontology can be understood as a linguistic ontology, as argued in Chapter I, the relationship between death and language follows. Death motivates the emergence of language, because it is the "existence" of language that can counteract the facticity of death. ;In Part C I derive support for such a position from Hegel and Benjamin in order to demonstrate that the position is tenable also for other thinkers. In the concluding chapter on Parmenides I show that, with Heidegger, it is possible to see in Parmenides the originator of the thought that the "divine" ontological status of language constitutes, in its persistent thinking of being, a continued existence that defies the facticity of death
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