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Faculty of PhilosophyOrganizationDepartmentsDepartment of the History of PhilosophyGroningen Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Thought
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Spoiler: Theory of silence

Date:06 December 2019
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo
Vico, Scienza Nuova, Dipintura allegorica (detail)
Vico, Scienza Nuova, Dipintura allegorica (detail)

I’m revising the manuscript of a book that should (hopefully) appear next spring (2020). The title is Theory of silence. Original experience and language starting from Giambattista Vico (my English rendering for the actual title: Teoria del silenzio. Esperienza originaria e linguaggio a partire da Giambattista Vico). Since the book is in Italian, I was thinking about including an English abstract. And since I already wrote it, I thought that perhaps it is worth sharing with you all.

"If you can read English but cannot read Italian, and you are reading this abstract in order to get a sense of what this (otherwise unreadable) book is about, then you already got that sense perfectly. This book is about how silence makes language possible. This book is just silence for you since you cannot read it. And yet, in a sense it still speaks to you: it is after all a silence that could be read, understood, discussed. The book could speak because you can hear its silence. This is what the book is about. In this silence (in this book) there are three main parts. The first deals with how Giambattista Vico (a philosopher who, unlike you, could not read English) struggled with the attempt of reading the languages and minds of the most ancient times. In a sense, his struggle is your same struggle. You might think ‘I should learn Italian, in order to read this book, or at least to read Vico.’ This might be a good wish, but it will probably take a significant amount of time, of effort and it will involve some pain. The same happened to Vico. What you might discover is that this book (and perhaps Vico’s thought) does not make much sense, it does not produce any sense, it simply cannot, it flees any determinate meaning as the shadows of a forest (the ingens sylva) flee the gentle touch of the moon. Vico discovered the same: in the beginning, language did not ‘make sense’, it tried rather to escape the anxiety of silence. The second part reflects on this fact. If you are still reading this abstract, you might become increasingly impatient, you might want to get to something determinate, palpable, concrete. This impatience is the topic of the second part: it is apodictically impossible to get to anything determinate, this-and-only-this. That concreteness of meaning is the myth of the determinate. As a myth, it hides its own impossibility behind the veil of its dreams. And now what? The third part is about this question. By now, you can expect that this question will not get any determinate answer. However, insofar as you look through the non appearance of any determinate answer, you can discern the silence of that answer. This silent answer can appear only by remaining silent, unheard. This is possible only amidst language itself. Silence is not the well determined absence of some particular voice or sound. Silence is where you cannot hear silence (that is silence), precisely within the voice that speaks, in the sound that resonates. Only because silence remains silent, language can speak. The speaking of language is just the appearing of silence as such. This very silence is the horizon of all experience, it is the condition of possibility of all appearance. It is in virtue of this silence that any language can speak about some thing or another. Hence, the third part of the book is about the structure of the content of appearance, why this involves that appearance has unqualified priority over (any) being, why being is necessarily given as an infinite unfolding process, and why, in this infinite unfolding process, any sense of ‘I’ or ‘mine’ is necessarily a misleading and dangerous illusion. Yes, this last bit has a Buddhist flavour. If you can’t read the third part, that is just fine. If you look into its silence, you will find it. By the way, if you are an Italian-speaking reader who is reading this abstract out of politeness towards the author and the hermeneutic ideal of a close reading of any book, from cover to cover, this is a gift for you: an a parte, a cadenza that gives you the right tempo."

 

About the author

Andrea Sangiacomo
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