Much of the English-language reception of Heidegger's early thinking about language (Sprache) and speech (Rede) is organized around two interpretive devices. The first device is a distinction between “instrumental” and “constitutive” conceptions of language. The second device involves a further distinction between “pragmatic” and “linguistic” readings of Heidegger. In this essay, by contrast, I propose an interpretation of Heidegger's early accounts of language and speech that breaks with these frameworks and that indicates why such readings of Heidegger distort his thinking. Genuine speech, I argue, designates precisely onto-logy—a speaking grounded in silent listening to the ab-sent origin. In contrast to common interpretive devices, then, Heidegger understands language as the expression (Aussprechen) of onto-logy. Unlike the interpretive devices previously mentioned, this interpretation of Heidegger's work makes possible a reading of his account of silence and the call of conscience. Dasein is itself genuinely discovered only in silence, which is a kind of listening in which one hearkens to the call of conscience. The reifying tendencies of the “pragmatic” and “linguistic” readings of Heidegger, however, ultimately conceal these phenomena even though they are central to Heidegger's treatment of language and speech in Being and Time.

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