Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Language is The House of Being." What It Means

"Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home." —Martin Heidegger, German philosopher, Letter on Humanism, 1947

The philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once said that man had no nature, only history. While I respect this opinion, I think that man's real human nature is language. Just as the lesser god Prometheus handed fire to man, a major God handed a major boon to mankind: language.

After years of pondering whatever Martin Heidegger meant by "Language is the House of Being," it finally dawned on me (as I watched the news on TV) that Heidegger meant language is not only a construct, a shelter, an edifice, an abode, but the soul of humanity.

Through language we search heaven and earth; through language we accept or reject God; through language we accept or reject the absolutes that guide the human race.

And yes, it is only through language that we experience aesthetic bliss--and love.
Although bliss and love are more akin to the emotional life, the viscera, the central nervous system, the body can only partially express bliss and love. Language is indispensable, or if not, then try to tell that to painters, poets, and writers.
Take Trollope (in Pendennis):"It is best to love wisely, no doubt; but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all." And Trollope went on to fill library shelves with language and love.

We think and we feel by using words. Though words are more adept and adequate to thinking than to feeling, we still recognize that even our deepest emotions must be converted into words to express what we feel. When we immerse ourselves in a good book we feel with and for the characters: with Don Quixote and Sancho we experience the real meaning of friendship; with Anna Karenina and Aschenbach we feel the exquisite pangs of deeply tormented souls; with Remedios The Beauty we ascend to heaven.

Can we build science without language? Isn't language the vessel of patterns, axioms, equations, paradigms, and formulas? Is wisdom achievable without language? Lucretius, in his long poem The Nature of the Universe, despite his lack of advanced mathematics, advanced science, and scientific instruments, proved with words (poetic words) that the universe is infinite.

Even the most recalcitrant nihilist or atheist needs language to refute the existence of God; the same God that gave him the gift of language.

When humans master a language, they are never homeless. Even when their houses burn--as we watched hurricanes destroy thousands of houses in New York and New Jersey--their spirit, their humanity survives in the House of Being. Loneliness is caused by lack of language. With language even the poorest souls will feel they own a house: Language is the house of being.


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


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Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


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