The power of language (Shankara and Heidegger)

Natalia Isayeva, in her book – ‘Shankara and Indian Philosophy’ – finds a parallel between Shankara and Heidegger with respect to language and meaning, in particular the later Heidegger, with his interest in, and focus on, the etymological and hermeneutical approach (‘rather than a purely scientific one’). That is, language not as a determination of reality, but as its own self-revelation (“the word is a hint and not a sign in the sense of simple signification”). Not trying to provide the ever elusive Being with a fixed definition, but seeing the word as an indication, a pointer. This demands from a person – following Isayeva – “and not only from a poet, but from a philosopher, an ability to listen and to hear what is being prompted and suggested by language”. Similarly, “the Vedic sayings of paramarthika level relating to the identity of atman and Brahman, which abound in metaphors and parables”, should be seen in this light, she suggests.

Isayeva notes in this respect the same attitude of Shankara towards language: “Indeed one cannot, according to Shankara, ‘see the witness of seeing… or think the essence of thinking’. And still, there is something inherent in the very nature of language, something that helps to reveal reality without giving it an exhaustive definition… according to Shankara we are always trying to catch this being at its word, to apprehend it through fragments, through scraps and broken phrases, where one can still discern the echo of the true word, unpronounced and ineffable.”

In a foot-note, in relation to ‘Being’ as expounded by Shankara and Heidegger, Isayeva remarks on “an essential aspect, rather important for both teachings – that of the philosophy of language, of the ontological role of language in the creation and self-revelation of the world.”

About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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3 Responses to The power of language (Shankara and Heidegger)

  1. May I share this on Facebook?

    • Certainly! I published it also in ‘my’ FB (and even in twitter!!, of which I am a recent tho’ reluctant follower). That question stemmed from ‘Quora’ – an excellent venue in many different and relevant issues (like classical music, philosophy, etc.); do you know it?

  2. Thank you! No, I do not know it, but had studied some Heidegger a few years ago, and this has inspired me to go back and read some more of his work. 🙂 Namaste _/l\_

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