- The Relation
□ What relation?
□ The one that allows to ask which relation is being talked about—in what sense and if it is a “relation” at all. Therefore, the one that allows to question and to speak. Clearly, the question “What relation?” is not asked primarily because we are speaking of a relation that is still unknown and is therefore astonishing, but because there is something being spoken at all, something addressed and addressing, touching and entering into a relation.
□ Does this mean that the question concerning the relation is, in truth, no question at all but an answer? And, then, does this mean that the answer is not an answer to a question but an answer to something that [End Page 29] we cannot call either a question or an answer, yet something that speaks with and accompanies every question and every answer?
□ “Speaks with” and “remains silent with” and, who knows, maybe even remains mute or becomes muted in every question and answer. In any case, the difficulty of the relation that we are speaking about lies in that we must already speak from it when we speak about it. We can call what we call a “relation” only because another “relation” already precedes it that remains unnamed.
□ We may also say that this other “relation” always accompanies the name or the notion of the “relation” whenever we use it and allow the syntax of our statements, (of our “relations” [Verhältnisse] and “behaviors” [Verhalten] with each other) to be determined by this name or notion. Regardless of whether this other “relation” precedes or accompanies its naming, evidently there must be a particular relation between the linguistic expression “relation” and the “relation” that makes this expression possible in the first place. But the relation between the one and the other relation, whether that of a “before” or a “with,” cannot be defined by the concept that we form of it, since the latter is first rendered possible by the other relation.
□ Therefore, we will have to assume, first, that there is a “relation” beyond the one that we designate with that name. Furthermore, we will also have to assume that this further relation allows the so-called “relation” in the first place. And, third, we must assume that this relation beyond the named and nameable relations, on its part, does not speak in that it allows speech, and rather holds itself back with speech, withholds speech and only this way, withholding it, preserves it as speech.
□ The other, the further relation of which and from which we are speaking would not be then a simple relation (Relation), nor a relation of relations (Relation von Relationen). It would be a relation (Verhältnis) that we could [End Page 30] describe as abstention (Enthaltung) or, as the German language makes it possible, Verhaltung as retention.
□ Thus, we can speak only as long as something other withholds itself with speech, does not speak and, not-speaking, holds a “not” against speech.
□ The way an other can speak only
□ if I
□ or I
□ remain or fall silent or mute. In every word of every sentence, in every syllable, every sound, every letter, the “not” of language must offer to it this resistance (Widerhalt) from which everything that is said, shown, and written, and above all, speaking, showing, and writing as such can set themselves off. The happening of language is from the very beginning withholding or retention even in relation to this happening. It happens out of the “not” of its happening. We can also say: Language speaks from its “not.” Or: Language speaks—its “not.”
□ This retention, however, alters every concept of the “relation” that we have used so far, since it renders every relation withheld and held at a distance from itself and, thus, a mis- or even an un-relation.
□ But not on the ground of the intervention of some external, lower or higher agency, which can first emerge only from this peculiar “relation.” Only by virtue of its own structure will such a relation in its retention become a mis-relation. To be more precise, we should say that the further...