- Toward an Indexical Criticism
The place where they lay, it has
a name—it has
none. They did not lie there.
Der Ort, wo sie lagen, er hat
einen Namen—er hat
keinen. Sie lagen nicht dort.—Paul Celan, “The Straitening [Engführung]”
I(a) - Saying
LEGEIN—A 1951 lecture by Heidegger on Heraclitus offers a series of readings of the Greek word LEGEIN, and, in response to the semantics of the word, discovers “the beginning of Western thinking, [when] the essence of language flashed in the light of Being” (“Logos” 78). “We have stumbled,” Heidegger writes, “upon an event whose immensity still lies concealed in its long unnoticed simplicity,” that “the saying and talking of mortals comes to pass from early on as LEGEIN, [as] laying [Legen],” so that “saying and talking occur essentially as the letting-lie-together-before [das bei-sammen-vor-liegen-Lassen] of everything which, laid in unconcealment, comes to presence” (63/8). As a sign, Heidegger suggests, LEGEIN “refers to the earliest and most consequential decision concerning the essence of language” (63). “Where did it [the decision] come from?” he asks (63). He does not answer this question historically but philosophically. “The question reaches into the uttermost of the possible essential origins of language. For, like the letting-lie-before that gathers [als sammelndes vor-liegen-Lassen], saying receives its essential form from the unconcealment of that which lies together before us [der Unverborgenheit des beisammen-vor-Liegenden] . . . the unconcealing of the concealed into unconcealment [that] is the very presencing of what is present [das Anwesen selbst des Anwesenden] . . . the Being of beings [das Sein des Seienden]” (64/8). From another perspective, one might have said instead that LEGEIN becomes the evidence of a different event, the offering up of language to philosophy (specifically, and quite recently, to Heidegger’s philosophy). But, whatever the reading, is LEGEIN as evidence a saying, is it a sign in the sense that LEGEIN speaks of signs? If not, then—as evidence—LEGEIN might be the sign of a semantics for which LEGEIN itself does not speak.
What does LEGEIN say?
What LEGEIN says may be different from what LEGEIN shows—To put this another way, what Heidegger says with LEGEIN may turn out to be distinct from what use of LEGEIN (the offering up of language to philosophy, and specifically to Heidegger’s philosophy) indicates. Not that Heideggerian philosophy is not alive to the indications: the interpretation of LEGEIN as evidence (as what we will refer to later as an index) shapes Heidegger’s presentation of language. Already in Being and Time (1927) he writes that “LEGEIN is the clue [der Leitfaden, the guide] for arriving at those structures of Being [der Seinsstrukturen] which belong to the beings we encounter in addressing ourselves to anything or [in] speaking about it [des im Ansprechen und Besprechen begegnenden Seienden]” (47/25. Translation modified). And: “in the ontology of the ancients, the beings encountered within the world [das innerhalb der Welt begegnende Seiende],” and which are taken as an example “for the interpretation of Being [ihrer Seinauslegung],” presuppose that the Being of beings “can be grasped in a distinctive kind of LEGEIN [in einem ausgezeichneten LEGEIN]” that “let[s] everyone see it [the specific being] in its Being [in seinem Sein]” (70/44. Translation modified). Whatever the turns in perspective between Heidegger’s earlier and later writing, the approach to LEGEIN as a clue and guide, as Leitfaden, is not abandoned. Nor is the interpretation of the clue (of what saying shows) as indicative of the ontological difference between Being and beings. As a complement to the semantics of LEGEIN, there is always this semantics as well, a semantics of showing, a complement to be found not only in Heidegger’s writing but in the writing of his contemporaries as well. A concern with showing may itself be indicative of a collective project in which any number of collaborators knowingly or unknowingly participate (in this essay we will be concerned, in addition to Heidegger, with Wittgenstein, Peirce, Benjamin, Arendt, and Celan, but this list—like the essay— should be regarded as open-ended...