The Anxiety of Relations: Risk in Heidegger's Experience with Language for Architecture and Philosophy
This paper proceeds from a reading of the relation between language and being in Heidegger's 1958 lectures "The Nature of Language" with implications for the limits of philosophical production and architectural theory. Heidegger's call to "undergo an experience" with language is an engagement with what language communicates beyond the order of the signified. Such engagement requires suppositional thinking whereby the belief in closure between word and thing (being) is renounced, allowing the word to be heard as word in its materiality or 'fact.' What arises in this listening is ontologically indeterminate. Suppositional thinking risks philosophy's integrity as a modality of truth and reason. It challenges philosophy's role in architectural theory, even in the most basic possibility of translation. In architecture, Rem Koolhaas's theoretical productions such as the Harvard Project of the City, with its uncanny leitmotivs of "shopping" or "density", allow the reader to undergo an experience in which the correspondence between language and thinking possesses an essential uncertainty. The paper argues that Koolhaas' projects, with accompanying dialectics of image, hold in abeyance semantic determination, and allows language to 'self-present' itself. The projects are risky in their suppositional character; a risk that must be taken according to Heidegger, towards a greater potential of language revealing its essential nature to us, and landing thinking in a postmetaphysical experience with language. The 'hesitation' immanent in suppositional thinking following the ungroundedness of relation between word and thing constitutes a spatio-temporal – hence architectural – opening that marks the 'taking place' (taking/time-place/space) of the relation itself. Koolhaas's architectural theory work is 'philosophical' by virtue of its architectural immanence, and rehabilitates the relations that were put in question earlier between philosophy and architecture.
Keywords: Language, Suppositional Thinking, Relation, Philosophy, Architecture
Senior Lecturer and Program Director, Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Design, University of South Australia