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The Truth (and Untruth) of Language

Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Derrida on Disclosure and Displacement

By Gert-Jan van der Heiden

Publication Year: 2010

Throughout the history of philosophy, the truth of language has often been considered from the perspective of the distinction between language that serves the transparency and univocality to which philosophy strives and language that threatens this goal. Linguistic phenomena such as writing, metaphor, and poetic mimesis are often considered examples of the latter form, and as a result, treacherous to truth; they would exemplify the “seduction of language,” as Husserl beautifully called it. Against this background, it is remarkable that contemporary hermeneutics often inquires into the relation between truth and language by taking these seductive forms of language as a point of departure. Contemporary hermeneutics does so in order to provide a new understanding of truth and untruth in relation to language.

In this study, Gert-Jan van der Heiden shows that this hermeneutic understanding of the relation between truth, untruth, and language can be clarified by inquiring into the meaning of two notions: disclosure and displacement. Unconcealment and hiding, truth and untruth, disclosure and displacement are the key notions to understanding the various conceptions of language in contemporary approaches to hermeneutics in continental philosophy. By painting a picture of the different meanings of these concepts in the work of Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Derrida, illuminating the differences and affinities of their respective projects, he finds an original way of showing how these three thinkers mutually discuss the relation between truth and language.

The Truth (and Untruth) of Language also confirms Heidegger’s continued influence in contemporary debates by tracing the influence of his account of the disclosure and displacement of language in the reigning schools of hermeneutical thought in continental philosophy. As a result, he offers a clear account of the comparison between hermeneutics and deconstruction by elucidating Ricoeur and Derrida’s shared resource of Heidegger’s project.

“Van der Heiden clearly locates the problem of language around its double ability to disclose the essence of things and displace the essence of things. No one has penetrated the Heidegger hinge between Ricoeur and Derrida as much as van der Heiden has.” — Leonard Lawlor, Edwin Erie Sparks Professor of Philosophy, Penn State University

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page / Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The Faculty of Philosophy of the Radboud University Nijmegen proved to be a fruitful environment for working on this book. In particular, the Heidegger seminar was a very seminal place, and I would like to thank the people participating in it: (among others) Vincent Blok, Chris Bremmers, Nico Dieteren, Gerben Meynen, Andreea Parapuf, and Ben Vedder. In addition, I would...

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INTRODUCTION: Truth and Language

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pp. 1-10

The above quote stems from the essay “Of the Vanity of Words.” In this essay, Michel de Montaigne warns his readers against the treacherous language of rhetoricians. Within the history of philosophy, Montaigne’s warnings are not isolated. The philosophical distrust of language does not just concern the language of rhetoricians or sophists, but often also includes the language...

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ONE: Heidegger on Disclosure and Language

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pp. 11-57

Heidegger’s concern with the notion of truth and his reinterpretation of the Greek notion aletheia is an abiding theme in his thought. In fact, as one of the Feldweg-Gespräche suggests, his entire work consists in bringing the word aletheia back to language and in thinking that which the Greeks experienced in it.1 Against the background of the history of metaphysics, the claim that the word...

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TWO: The Transference of Writing

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pp. 58-123

In the previous chapter I discussed how Heidegger’s thought emphasizes the primacy of disclosure in relation to displacement. The latter is first and foremost understood as concealment as pseudos. This primacy of disclosure was traced clearly in his account of the essence of language as saying. However, there is more to language than the mere event of disclosure in saying. There is also...

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THREE: Inventions of Metaphor

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pp. 124-180

In Heidegger’s work, poetic language plays a crucial role to think the essence of language as the disclosure of being. In the wake of his work, contemporary hermeneutics and deconstruction have developed a keen interest in poetics. In particular, much attention has been paid to the use of metaphor and mimesis as important elements...

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FOUR: Mimesis in Myth and Translation

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pp. 181-235

The above quote from IJsseling beautifully shows that mimesis, like metaphor, fundamentally involves both disclosure and displacement. All mimesis concerns the disclosure of reality at another place or another level than where it originally occurred — in a story, on a stage, and so on. The reinterpretation of this notion in hermeneutics and deconstruction is concerned with the question...

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CONCLUSION: Disclosure and Displacement in Hermeneutics

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pp. 236-244

Heidegger, Ricoeur, and Derrida are all three, though in different ways, concerned with the questions and problems that arise in the wake of a thinking that begins with language, to paraphrase Ricoeur’s statement at the end of “Existence et herméneutique.” In the previous chapters we have seen how the pair of concepts disclosure...


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pp. 245-267


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pp. 269-284


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pp. 285-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705477
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704340

Page Count: 303
Publication Year: 2010