Is language for metaphysics in some essential way, or might we ascribe such a conceit, perhaps a bit unfairly, to a narcissism of philosophers? As I approach, slowly, Levinas' understanding of language, I can just make out the features of a dialogism, a dialogism of the face-to-face encounter and not of the utterance per sebut I am speaking too quickly; the utterance as such has yet to be unpacked, and, besides, I am sure we will find that Levinas offers a word or two to say about the utterance. Levinas promises:
We shall try to show that the relation between the same and the otherupon which we seem to impose such extraordinary conditionsis language. For language accomplishes a relation such that the terms are not limitrophe within this relation, such that the other, despite the relationship with the same, remains transcendent to the same. The relation between the same and the other, metaphysics, is primordially enacted as conversation, where the same, gathered up in its ipseity as an "I," as a particular existent unique and autochthonous, leaves itself.
(Totality and Infinity, p. 39, Levinas' emphasis)
Lingis, Levinas' translator, has given us a difficult sentence to interpret, since we don't usually say "limitrophe within." What Levinas means is that your transcendence is never completely encompassed or enclosed by your relation to another which is language. Well, Levinas is defining metaphysics and language in the same way, as a relation between same and other, or, more exactly, he sees discourse as an enactment of metaphysics. Is there such a thing as a natural language, or a natural discourse, a discourse that would be physical before or without being metaphysical? (Is there any enactment that doesn't require the physical, if only to earn the name of action?) Could languages be metaphysical in ways Levinas couldn't have imagined, or did he have in mind an incalculable multiplicity of metaphysical enactments that would indeed cover every usage? Put another way, should I allow you the possibility of transcending metaphysics itself? How would making such an allowance affect my approach to conversation? Wouldn't I have to in some significant sense let go of the business of enacting metaphysics, or an expectation of a mutual enactment of metaphysics? I'm leaning towards the idea that conversation puts metaphysics at risk, that conversation always makes openings for the possibility of a verbal gesture that would undo metaphysics. What would be a good example of such a gesture? Search me.
P.S. It temporarily slipped my mind to say something about the sojourn, about the sojourn into conversation. What did we have to learn before we learned to sojourn? There is a relation between the limitrophe and the sojourn, taking nourishment at the border, perhaps even from the border one has every intention of freely crossing. A demand for hospitality? Such a demand might precipitate a refusal, an undoing of metaphysics. How might the sojourner into metaphysics be reminded of what it means to reside? Yes, I'm intrigued by the idea of the sojourner leaving himself at the border, but if that's what happens in conversation, where did we come into our memory of how to live in a place, which I feel we draw from in order to sojourn? It can't be that knowing how to live in a place is always knowledge in the form of memory, can it?