In this transcript of a conversation between Simon Critchley & Badiou on Badiou's book Being and Event, Badiou states:

And after that, I have also to understand why there is in modern times a clear relationship between poetry and philosophy. As you know, it’s a Heideggerian idea: this renewal of a philosophical interest in poetics is fundamentally in the Heideggerian field. So it’s a great discovery of Heidegger that we have to learn something essential from poetry.

First, I note that Badiou talks of a renewal so that this approchement is merely the latest rapprochement.

Now, what is this great discovery and something essential? Is this something that Heidegger learnt from reading Hölderlin? (In fact, Heidegger delivered a lecture course on a single poem of Hölderlin's The Ister (The River) in 1942.) Is this discovery a source for Critical Theory in Literary Studies?

Holderlin was certainly interested in Heraclitus. But I don't want to posit Hölderlin as merely a middle term between Heraclitus and Heidegger. Rather as Badiou himself says (in the same conversation) to see the poetic situation and subjectivity speak itself:

What is for poetry the very nature of a situation? ...I think that a poetic situation is always a situation in language...it’s the state of affairs in the expressive dimension of language. What is a poetic event? It’s always the birth of a new possibility of naming inside the language,...[it] is the creation of the possibility of naming that which was without name...The consequences of a poetic event are the creation of poems and the appearance of a new poetic subjectivity – Romanticism, Surrealism, and so on. That is not too complicated. But we can say that there is always in every truth procedure a poetic moment.


Maybe that for Heidegger poetry is the peak of language. That is: poetry can say something other forms of language (for example theoretical statements) cannot. For example, it can designate, circumscribe, reveal, speak of what is not obvious or in plain view.

  • But this can all be done in prose. Poetry being the 'peak of language' sounds good. – Mozibur Ullah Jun 1 '13 at 6:20
  • @MoziburUllah Indeed, Dichtung can mean prose as well as poetry – jeroenk Jun 3 '13 at 7:51
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    well, I've discovered he wrote a book called - language, thought & poetry. So that might be useful to look at. – Mozibur Ullah Jun 3 '13 at 8:11

I don't know what Heidegger thought. But it should be clear that philosophy has this in common with poetry : both are about using innovation in language and imagery to try to capture and describe new ways of experiencing and thinking about the world.

The poet crafts new metaphors and turns of phrase which can give you an insight into what something is like : perhaps it's the experience of being in love, of being amazed by nature, of the tragedy of a war etc.

Philosophy is also a history of powerful metaphors : Plato's shadows on the wall of a fire-lit cave give us a sense of the inadequateness of the mere world with respect to the forms. Wittgenstein's language "goes on holiday". Hobbes submits to a Leviathan and Deleuze talks of folds and war-machines.

Philosophy needs poetry's techniques to imagine and communicate novel ideas which would be hard, if not impossible, to convey and understand without them.

  • -1 The question is specifically about Heidegger. – jeroenk Feb 14 '14 at 9:06
  • How do you know it's "about" Heidegger, and not just using a reference to Heidegger to ask a more general question about Philosophy and Poetry? – interstar Feb 14 '14 at 18:06

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