Talk / Discourse / Distinguishing

Talk is the ability to enunciate distinctions. Talk is one of the three existential components of the ‘there’. The others are understanding and mood (disposedness.)Talk is the articulation of intelligibility. The intelligibility of being-in-the-world expresses itself as talk.

Talk is an articulation or enunciating, that shows, tells, or names the ‘carved-up-ness’ of the world. Non-human animals also carve up the world in some kind of understanding. But as far as we are certain, only higher primates tell-name-talk the carved up pieces, and retain the telling as a regular practice. We are beginning to find out that crows, and some other birds also have particular calls when specific kinds of food is found. 

Background: Talk, Rede, λογος

We have many words for the actions we do with words; ‘Speaking’, ‘saying’, ‘discoursing’, ‘telling’, and ‘talking’ are a few of them. Each has its own special connotations. There is no single word that encompasses them all. Even if there were such a word, we would continue to use these others because they provide nuances and contextual information that is important for us. But, even so, we can see that there is some underlying foundation for them all, even though we lack the word.

The ancient Greek word ‘logos’ is one such single word. Throughout western history many different contextual meanings have resulted in ‘logos’ being translated as: ‘word’, ‘reason’, ‘logic’, ‘language’, and ‘talk’. There must have been some fundamental phenomenon that the logos represented for them.

Heidegger uses the ordinary German word “Rede” for the fundamental Greek concept logos. Most Heidegger students use “discourse” to translate”Rede” in Being and Time. The simplest translation for the German ‘Rede’ is “talk”. The standard translation of Being and Time uses “discourse” or “talk” when “discourse” seems too formal. John Haugeland suggests using “telling”. I will mostly use the plain English word ‘talk’ in an attempt to keep this writing closer to the phenomenon. Babies learn to talk, not to discourse.

What is Talk?

What is the fundamental phenomenon we are talking about when we use the word ‘talk’?

“Talk is the articulation of intelligibility.” “The intelligibility of being-in-the-world expresses itself as talk.” Intelligibility here means the ability to understand something; to recognize a phenomenon as something I already know. Example: Chairs are intelligible for me. If you show me a four legged thing for sitting on, I tell it’s a chair. Talk is the ability to enunciate distinctions.

Talk is the ‘moody carving up’ of the totality of relationships of significance by understanding.

Earlier we read in S&Z that there is a totality of relationships that comprises the ‘worldhood of the world’. (§18) These relationships are what we have already given ourselves as the world we are in. In acts of understanding, understanding lets itself make assignments both in and of these relationships. We, as understanding, interpret this totality of relationships by carving it up into significations, to which we can attach words. Our interpretive carving up of the world is the intelligibility of being-in-the-world. This intelligibility of being-in-the-world (which always comes with a mood) expresses itself as talk.

Talk enunciates the “moody carving up of the relationships that make up the worldhood of the world”.

Talk can get expressed and retained in language as words. As spoken and written, words themselves are entities that can be encountered. As something that can be encountered in the world, language (the totality of words, grammar, and syntax)can itself become a concern of talk. Attentive listening and keeping silent can demonstrate some of the activity of this concern.

There are four main constitutive components of talk:

  • What the talk is about
  • What is said in the talk
  • Communication
  • Making known

What the Talk is about

Being-with is always part of being-in-the-world. Being in the world always has some manner of concernful being-with-another. This ‘what the talk is about’ is shared in being-with the other. Talking is always being-with, and is always talkabout something. What the talk is about may not even be expressed in the words directly. What the talk is about is what it ‘talks to’, what it’s uncovering, what the point is.

What is Said in the Talk as such

The actual words that are used. This is the mechanism of enunciation or articulation.  It is how we articulate what we are attempting to disclose to another. Example: This is how a four year old might talk/tell you about you about the giraffe she just saw at the zoo, or an engineer might talk/tell you about how an IP stack works.


When we communicate we are being-with those with whom we are communicating. As I write this, I am with you, and you are with me. There is an articulation of our being-with one another. (please take a moment to notice this.)  In communication there is an explicit understanding of this being-with. There is also a shared disposedness, or mood. In talk this being-with and disposedness is explicitly shared.

Making Known

The speaker expresses herself, and makes herself known in the talk. In talking, her being-in and her mood are made known to the listener. There are many ways of being-in (for example knowing something). Usually what is made known is her way of being-toward what is talked about in the talk.  She shares her knowing about, and her mood towards what is talked about. She talks to bring us into a shared being towards what is talked about.

In language these four aspects of talk are always present in some manner, even though they are often disregarded or aren’t explicitly recognized.

The everyday mode of talk, idle talk, loses, covers up or fails to disclose what the talk is about.

This is based on Being and Time §34 and §18.


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