Heidegger’s Ereignis and Wittgenstein on the Genesis of Language

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DOI: 10.4236/ojpp.2014.43046    9,260 Downloads   10,252 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

The paper argues that the orthodox readings of pgh. 608 of Wittgenstein’s Zettel (hereafter Z608), which holds that Z608 suggests the possibility that language and thought may emerge out of physical chaos in the brain (connectionist processing, causal indeterminism, a pile of sawdust, etc.) cannot be correct. Among Wittgenstein’s signature views are that the philosopher “must not advance any kind of theory” and that everything must be “open to view”. Despite this, the orthodox readings not only attribute theories about hidden processes to Z608, but quite extreme one’s at that. What the commentator should infer is that the kind of centre, chaos, and “arising” of language from chaos inZ608 must be of the sort that is already “open to view”—that is, a “phenomenological” reading, broadly construed. The paper argues that Heidegger’s account of the Ereignis (the opening of the Open, or “primordial truth”), provides a far better model of Z608 than the orthodox neurological interpretation—illuminating both Heidegger and Wittgenstein in the process. Against this background, it is argued that the central point in Z608 is precisely that the centre of a language referenced in Z608 cannot be the neural centre. Just as Copernicus replaced the old centre of the universe, the sun, by a new centre, the earth, so too, the aim in Z608 is to replace the old view that language is centred in the brain with the new view, reflected on virtually every page of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, that language centres around the everyday arena of human behaviour which is “always before one’s eyes”. Z608 is not stating theories about the brain, but is proposing a new “Copernican” paradigm in the philosophies of language and mind, a paradigm which is also found in Heidegger’s account of the Ereignis.

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McDonough, R. (2014) Heidegger’s Ereignis and Wittgenstein on the Genesis of Language. Open Journal of Philosophy, 4, 416-431. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2014.43046.

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