Amphibologies

The ontological non-metaphoricity, that to which we have been alerted by Heidegger, is referred to again by Levinas when he writes that we should be on guard against the danger implicit in the widely held idea that in a predicative statement, a statement of the form 'S is P', the verb signifies an event, action, process or change of state.This idea is plausible and correct for such statements as 'The boy is running.' But to analyse such a statement into a nominal component signifying an entity and a verbal component signifying an event, action, process or change of state is to reveal less than the truth. It is to obliterate the force of the verb 'to be'. That force persists even in so-called tautologies, statements of the form 'A is A'. The force of the 'is' in 'Red is red' is more faithfully preserved if this statement is construed not simply as the appending of an adjective to a nominalized adjective, but as 'Red reds', except that the force of the verb 'to be' is concealed also here if the verb is taken to do no more than signify metaphorically an action analogous to what is understood as dynamic action in a literal sense. In the verb 'reds' resounds the temporalizing of being and the tensing of the verb 'to be'. The verb is more than a signifier standing for a signified that could stand on its own independently of and external to signification. It is the way of being's essencing. This is what Heidegger means when he says that language is the house of being, and this is why in saying that he was not speaking metaphorically.1

But 'being' is ambiguous. With an ear to the non-metaphor of being's house in language, being may be said to be amphibological. We can expect an amphibology of logos corresponding to the amphibology of being, to the ontic-ontological difference that Heidegger traces back to the ambiguity in Aristotle's Greek of to on meaning both a being and the being of beings. This ambiguity, Heidegger surmises, is inherited from that of the archaic eon found in Parmenides, Heraclitus and Homer. One might go as far as to say, he adds, that the fate of the West hangs on the translation of this word, assuming that translation (Übersetzung) depends on the carrying over (Übersetzung) into the unconcealment of truth what comes to language in it. This participle and its derivative on is the singular of eonta, meaning 'beings', hence it announces in the history of metaphysics the totality of beings or the highest being, God. But it names also 'the simply singular, the singular in its numerical unity that is singularly and unifyingly one before all number' ('das schlechthin Singuläre, das in seiner Einzahl einzig das einzig einende Eine vor aller Zahl ist').2 Being before all number is that which the verb of a proposition endeavours to express, the 'is' expressed in 'reds'.In 'Red reds' and in 'The apple reds', the verb is an éon, Levinas writes, cultivating the ambiguity between the already ambiguous eon and aeon, sometimes spelled eon, a hypostatic emanation of the One in Neo-Platonism.Levinas speaks of hypostasis in this sense here (AE 56, OB 44). This new ambiguity throws into relief the choice between interpreting the One before all number as being as such, or as the Good or God, a choice Levinas resolves by reserving pre-originality for the Good and God beyond being, while allowing to being the originality it has in the thinking of Heidegger.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment