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Heidegger and the Language of Poetry (review)
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132Philosophy and Literature understanding of himself," recognizing that "a sense of discernment is useless without a moral foundation" (p. 123). A peculiar feature of The Act of Reading, given its stress on the discovery of the meanings of novels, is its initial exposé of the "traditional expository style of interpretation" whereby the work is "reduced" to a "single 'hidden' meaning" (p. 10). Iser makes use of James's "The Figure in the Carpet" to discredit such reductions, but proceeds to enunciate the story's meaning: "that meaning is no longer an object to be defined, but is an effect to be experienced" (p. 10). Indeed Iser tells us the "hidden meaning" of every text he discusses, and he may be read not as having discredited traditional interpretation but as having lent it theoretical substance. While he insists on the difference between "image" and "discourse," the fact remains that we must fall into discourse when we start to discuss a work. Like Iser, we come up with general propositions to account for the fictional "world" we have discovered and assume them to represent the novelist's ideas about the world we live in. Williams CollegeJohn Reichert Heidegger and the Language ofPoetry, by David A. White; xv & 245 pp. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1978, $13.50. This reworked dissertation offers a systematic reconstruction of Heidegger's discussion of poetic language. What guides this reconstruction is the promise of Heidegger's claim that poetry furnishes us a language more adequate to "the being of entities than that provided by metaphysics" (p. 72). The author's concerns are thus ontological rather than aesthetic. To lead us to a better understanding of what lets Heidegger turn to poetry, White places his discussion in the context of the later Heidegger's determination of the essence of language. How can language be? According to White, Heidegger answers this question with a transcendental ontology of language. Language must be related to "a fundamental—and extralinguistic—ontological base" (p. xii). Developing hints found especially in Unterwegs zur Sprache, White emphasizes the distinction between "speaking" and "saying," where "saying" may not be reduced to a merely human speech, but refers rather to the silent way in which things speak to man and thus provide his speaking with a measure. According to White, man's speaking presupposes "the extralinguistic existence of entities" disposed "to be represented through language" (pp. 35-37). But in what sense does Heidegger's thinking leave room for such an extralinguistic given? The issue demands more and more searching discussion. The author's reading of Heidegger as a transcendental realist also informs Shorter Reviews1 33 his discussion of "the fourfold" as a cosmology providing "the ground for the essence oflanguage" (p. 38). The central three chapters attempt to reconstruct this cosmology, which is to remedy the deficiencies of traditional metaphysics with the help of hints found in the work of such poets as Hölderlin and Trakl. Two chapters relating "Poetizing and Thinking" follow, the first providing an account of Heidegger's "doctrine of presence," the second a commentary on Gelassenheit, which is offered as an example "of the type of fused poetizedthoughtful commentary which is appropriate for Heidegger's later work" (p. 188). A critical chapter concludes the book and leaves the reader with three questions: 1) Can Heidegger's understanding of the temporality and history of being escape a vitiating historicism? 2) Can Heidegger's ontology of the fourfold yield a principle of differentiation that allows us to distinguish one thing from another? 3) Does Heidegger's emphasis on ambiguity, his tolerance of contradiction, make it impossible to distinguish truth from falsity? As the author points out, his questions are based on "traditional metaphysical doctrines" (p. 214). Not that he is unaware of Heidegger's attempt to distance himself from that tradition, but, invoking the authority of Otto Pöggeler, White insists that Heidegger be understood as a "classical philosopher in the tradition running from Anaximander to Nietzsche" (p. xiii), whose thought is "in all respects speculative in the grand manner" (p. x). I would question this. While it is indeed important to place Heidegger in the context of the tradition, such placement...