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The Present Personal

The Present Personal

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Present Personal
    Book Description:

    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 content.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50827-8
    Subjects: Linguistics, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Philosophy and the Personal
    (pp. 1-18)

    In making a beginning, this book needs to overcome a certain difficulty. Unlike many philosophical books that have the privilege of simply plunging into a given question or of naturally making a move on a map they take for granted, this study belongs to a family of philosophical texts whose subject matter is not yet charted by philosophical discourse and whose central questions need time in order to resonate as questions at all. The Present Personal: Philosophy and the Hidden Face of Language is concerned with a dimension of the experience of language that, for different reasons, cannot call attention...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Language and the Bell Jar
    (pp. 19-40)

    The personal tends to hide itself from philosophy’s reflective gaze. It resists the collecting movement—for Heidegger the original sense of logos—that enables thinking to take in the world as thinkable. In remembering how Heraclitus speaks of nature, we may even want to say that the personal likes to hide (itself). However, this is only partially true. The other side of the story is that philosophy makes it difficult for the personal to show itself: it hears the intelligibility of everyday language in a way that stifles its resonance. This is not the result of an occasional deafness as...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Limits of Language and the Dream of Transcendence
    (pp. 41-64)

    In this aphorism appearing in “Diapsalmata,” the opening section of Either/Or, Kierkegaard is concerned with a disappointment, a disappointment that awaits the individual—addressed here as “you”—who follows philosophy and internalizes its perspective. Philosophy, according to Kierkegaard, is bound to disappoint you. Is this a complaint? Is it a warning? A prognosis? Is disappointment an unavoidable consequence of the engagement with philosophy and, as such, is it an essential predicament of philosophy? More to the point, what exactly is disappointing about philosophy? What kind of disappointment is Kierkegaard speaking of in this aphorism?

    The relationship between an individual’s disappointment...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Austin’s Fireworks
    (pp. 65-86)

    The personal needs to be thought together with the question—with the open possibility—of freedom in language. Can I, how can I, what would it mean, in language, with limits, for me to be free? As suggested, these questions open up quite naturally to the issue of responsibility: What do I do in the face of freedom? How do I orient myself in relation to the promise of a possible freedom in language as well as in relation to the actual horizons opened by freedom? Again, what would it mean, for me, to exercise the kind of freedom I ...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Personal Objects
    (pp. 87-124)

    The pragmatic turn in the philosophy of language opened up the possibility for breaking out of the hegemony of the propositional. This did not happen, however. The Anglo-American tradition that appropriated the work of Austin and Wittgenstein was not interested in the more radical implications of their work and has ultimately interpreted the pragmatic turn as a philosophical adjustment: an enriching supplement to semantics. But even if the philosophy of language were to follow Austin, for example, and embrace the pragmatic turn in order to subvert the reign of the propositional, it would most likely have remained deaf to the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Language Unframed: Beauty as a Model
    (pp. 125-148)

    We need to think the personal while allowing everyday language to reverberate in our ears. This may be very difficult to do, but it is also simple. It is difficult because the return to ordinary speech is more complicated than it seems or because ordinary speech is not as ordinary as philosophers of language seem to believe. We must recognize, therefore, that ordinary language is not simply equivalent to that sphere of possibilities that a language can, in principle, express in everyday circumstances. That is to say, the logical possibilities open to everyday speech should not be understood, although they...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Personal Time
    (pp. 149-176)

    The personal lives in the tension that exists between a person’s language and her individuality. We cannot encounter the personal unless we turn to language in a manner that acknowledges and actively embraces this tension. This can be done, however, only once we understand that the personal is not the dialectical counterpart of abstract content. Unlike propositional content, the personal is not abstract but always concrete, and yet its concreteness is not external to the appearance of meaning. On the contrary, the personal is the very fabric of meaning. It belongs to the phenomenon of language just as texture belongs...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 177-182)

    The personal marks a certain way, a mode, of being in language. When I speak to you I may be attuned to the things you say in a personal way, and yet I may also meet your language in a manner that is impersonal. I may speak to you personally, and I might alternatively remain impersonal. The personal is a possibility. At the same time, however, the personal is also the metaphysical condition of our being in language. The personal is the root of the self’s situatedness in language. One way to understand the relation between the metaphysical character and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 183-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-202)