Walker Percy, philosopher (4)

Forthcoming: Walker Percy, Philosopher.

Walker Percy, Phenomenology, and the Mystery of Language

by Carolyn Culbertson

In his theoretical essays on language, Walker Percy criticizes contemporary linguistics for overlooking the deep, existential impact that language acquisition has on human life. This acquisition, for Percy, radically transforms the human being’s mode of existence. With the acquisition of language, the world and our role in it change. The meaning of the world comes to be revealed through the ongoing life of human discourse: through books, conversations, philosophical inquiry, and so on. This chapter clarifies and elaborates on Percy’s critique by showing how it arises as a central insight in twentieth-century German phenomenology, particularly in the later work of Martin Heidegger and in the hermeneutic phenomenology of Heidegger’s student, Hans-Georg Gadamer.

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