Heidegger writes in Letter on Humanism:

Language is the House of Being. In its home human beings dwell.

And then later:

the widely and rapidly devastation of language not only undermines aesthetic and moral responsibility in every use of language; it arises from a threat to the essence of humanity.

What 'devastation' is he referring to; and is it even now ongoing? What is the nature of the 'threat'?

In part this seems to be answered by:

much bemoaned of late, and much too lately, the decline of language is, not the grounds for, but already a consequence of, the state of affairs, in which language under the dominance of the modern metaphysics of subjectivity almost irremediably falls out of its element.

But what are the 'modern metaphysics of subjectivity'? Freud and Jung? Psycholinguistics?

And how does this entail:

Instead,language surrenders itself to our mere willing and trafficking as an instrument of domination over beings.

And thus:

We encounter beings in a business and calculative fashion, but also scientifically and by way of philosophy, with explanations and proof. Even the inexplicable belongs to these explanations and proofs. By such statements we believe we confront the mystery.

This is clear enough; but:

But if the human being is to find his way once again into the nearness of Being he must first learn to exist in the nameless.

Is this 'nameless' not named by a name, as such; and nor by explanations or proofs?

1 Answer 1

  1. 'Devastation' is a mistranslation. The German word is 'Verödung', which is this case seems to mean 'impoverishment'. The threat is rather a danger, namely that human beings misconceive their own being and Being itself, and language too. This danger is rooted in the increasing domination of science & technology, Technical thinking does not recognize Being itself and the humans relation to it. In the language of science and technology, the talk of being and Being is meaningless. It limits our ways of expression, therefore it is an impoverishment of language. For example, in technology, language is seen as a mere tool for communication, rather than a way of naming and disclosure.

  2. Modernity (German: Neuzeit) is the period after the middle ages (this is a common usage in German) until now. Heidegger usually takes Descartes as its philosophical starting point. He characterizes it a turn towards subjectivity with science and technology as its culmination.

  3. Nameless. Not quite clear, I guess: Heidegger sees himself as preparing for thinking Being itself, which is/has become inaccessible to us, other than in the guise of technology as nihilism. Being itself then is for us nameless, it is (the) nothing. In order to prepare for it, we have to affirm/embrace/question this nihilism (lack of meaning, lack of gods, lack of higher purpose, domination of technology, etc), the experience of the nothing. This confrontation with nihilism is for Heidegger the preparation for questioning Being itself.

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