4. The Two Aspects of Language: The Saying and the Said

Jeffrey Dudiak

in The Intrigue of Ethics

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2001 | ISBN: 9780823220922
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235759 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

4. The Two Aspects of Language: The Saying and the Said

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Levinas's analyses of “the saying” and “the said” in Otherwise Than Being are an attempt to give an account of how, at once, my ethical relationship with the other — the “singular” other — is the basis of all meaningfulness, and the fact that I do not re-make language each time I encounter a new interlocutor, but participate, even in my responsibility for the other in his or her singularity, in a “universal” system of meanings. That is, these analyses could be read as being Levinas's attempt to account for the truth in the Heideggerian claim that I do not so much speak language as language speaks me. Levinas, does not so much dispute this claim as he would add to it what is for him the essential caveat that questions in and of Being — the distinction between being and nonbeing, the distinction between Being and beings — are not the most important, or even the most “fundamental,” questions that one can ask. For a meaningful saying of something to another does presuppose universality, does presuppose an appeal to a meaningful system of interrelated signs, to a positive language. This chapter argues that one of the meanings of Levinas's “le dit,” one of the meanings constitutive of the regime delineated by this term, is precisely “a positive language,” “the said” in a system, a necessary but not the only aspect of language as experientially spoken. It begins by tracing out another related meaning of “the said” in Otherwise Than Being, the analysis of “I say something to an other”: the said as the identification of the this as this or this as that — the saying of some-thing.

Keywords: Levinas; Otherwise Than Being; language; saying; said

Chapter.  20276 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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