Heidegger – Language is the House of Being
Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home.” – Martin Heidegger, German philosopher, Letter on Humanism, 1947.
The philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once said that man had no nature, only history. While I respect this opinion, I think that man’s real human nature is language. Just as the lesser god Prometheus handed fire to man, a major God handed a major boon to mankind: language.
After years of pondering whatever Martin Heidegger meant by “Language is the House of Being,” it finally dawned on me (as I watched catatrophic news on TV) that Heidegger meant language is not only a construct, a shelter, an edifice, an abode, but the soul of humanity–container of infinity.
Through language we search heaven and earth; through language we accept or reject God; through language we accept or reject the absolutes that guide the human race.
And yes, it is only through language that we experience aesthetic bliss–and love. Although bliss and love are more akin to the emotional life, the viscera, the central nervous system, the body can only partially express bliss and love. Language is indispensable, or if not, then try to tell that to painters, poets, and writers.
Take Trollope (in History of Pendennis):”It is best to love wisely, no doubt; but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all.” And Trollope went on to fill library shelves with language and love.
We think and we feel by using words. Though words are more adept and adequate to thinking than to feeling, we still recognize that even our deepest emotions must be converted into words to express what we feel. When we immerse ourselves in a good book we feel with and for the characters: with Don Quijote and Sancho we experience the real meaning of friendship; with Anna Karenina and Aschenbach we feel the exquisite pangs of deeply tormented souls; with Remedios The Beauty we ascend to heaven.
Can we build science without language? Isn’t language the vessel of patterns, axioms, equations, paradigms, and formulas? Is wisdom achievable without language?
Even the most recalcitrant nihilist or atheist needs language to refute the existence of God; the same God that gave him the gift of language.
When humans master a language, they are never homeless. Even when their houses burn–as we watched the flames destroy thousands of houses in San Diego, California–their spirit, their humanity survives in the House of Being–Infinity.