Is philosophy deaf to the sound of the personal voice? While
philosophy is experienced at admiring, resenting, celebrating, and,
at times, renouncing language, philosophers have rarely succeeded
in being intimate with it. Hagi Kenaan argues that philosophy's
concern with abstract forms of linguistic meaning and the
objective, propositional nature of language has obscured the
singular human voice. In this strikingly original work Kenaan
explores the ethical and philosophical implications of recognizing
and responding to the individual presence in language.
In pursuing the philosophical possibility of listening to
language as the embodiment of the human voice, Kenaan explores the
phenomenological notion of the "personal." He defines the personal
as the irresolvable tension that exists between the public
character of language, necessary for intelligibility, and the ways
in which we, as individuals, remain riveted to our words in a
contingently singular manner.
The Present Personal fuses phenomenology and aesthetics
and the traditions of Continental and Anglo-American philosophy,
drawing on Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Kant, Kierkegaard, and
Heidegger as well as literary works by Kafka, Kundera, and others.
By asking new questions and charting fresh terrain, Kenaan does
more than offer innovative investigations into the philosophy of
language; The Present Personal, and its concern with the
intimate and personal nature of language, uncovers the ethical
depth of our experience with language.
Kenaan begins with a discussion of Kierkegaard's existential
critique of language and the ways in which the propositional
structure of language does not allow the spoken to reflect the
singularity of the self. He then compares two attempts to subvert
the "hegemony of content": the pragmatic turn of J. L. Austin and
the poetic path of Heidegger. Kenaan concludes by turning to Kant
and discovering an analogy between the experience of meaning in
language and the aesthetic experience of encountering beauty.
Kenaan's reconceptualization of philosophy's approach to language
frees the contingent singularity of language while, at the same
time, permitting it to continue to dwell within the confines of
Subjects: Linguistics, Philosophy
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