The Later Heidegger on Language

  • Johannes Achill Niederhauser


It might be helpful to situate Heidegger’s stance on language by turning to some of the most important poets he reads. In his later writings Sophocles, Rilke, Goethe, Trakl, George, and also the Alemannic poet Johann Peter Hebel are where Heidegger draws inspiration for his thought on language. Of course, Hölderlin also remains crucial. For the poet Hölderlin there is a “sovereignty of poetry over philosophy”, as Beiser has argued (Beiser 2008: 378). Beiser also points out that for Hölderlin “poetry is the source of insights and ideas that philosophy presupposes but cannot express in its discursive language.” (ibid.) Heidegger responds to this stance by Hölderlin with his poetic thought. With reference to George’s The Word Heidegger puts it as follows in The Essence of Language: “in a poem of such rank thinking is going on, and indeed thinking without science, without philosophy.” (GA 12: 154/61) Poetry can get behind the presupposition philosophy makes when it formulates its claims, for poetry speaks freely out of language itself. The freedom of poetry shows itself in the freedom it takes from grammar and by twisting free. In this chapter I first introduce these poets and show their influence on Heidegger’s understanding of both poetry and death.


  1. Beiser, Frederick C. 2008. German Idealism: The Struggle Against Subjectivism, 1781-1801. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Demske, James. 1970. Being, Man, and Death: A Key to Heidegger. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.Google Scholar
  3. Mandelstam, Ossip. 2001. In The Poet’s Dante, ed. P.S. Hawkins and R. Jacoff. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar

Works by Heidegger

  1. Heidegger, Martin. 1989. Überlieferte Sprache und Technische Sprache. St. Gallen: Erker Verlag.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Achill Niederhauser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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