Abstract What is the origin of language? For Levinas, from Aristotle to von Humboldt, the tradition of Western metaphysics has understood language as a representation of reality, going beyond or transcending experience. In this way, language is a metaphor that substitutes for experience?and all language is originally metaphorical. Experience however, is essentially inexpressible?for it not only transcends language, but it does so because experience is always experience of the other, of that which remains infinitely other. And language reminds us of its failure (a failure which Derrida sees, ironically, as a success) to express this other by maintaining a trace of the inexpressible in every expression?and metaphor is failure of expression par excellence. But what is the origin of this original failure? In fact, it can be found in the way in which language makes metaphors (which is the way in which it makes itself, transcends itself, substitutes for itself, becomes other than itself). For as Aristotle reminds us: metaphor-making (indeed, all language, every word and deed) is poi?sis?and the origin of poi?sis is improvisation. If we have, however, discovered the origin of language in improvisation?but what is that?
Keywords Levinas  Aristotle  Improvisation  Metaphor
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DOI 10.1080/09672559.2012.699225
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De la Grammatologie.Jacques Derrida - 1967 - Editions de Minuit.
Nature.Ralph Waldo Emerson - 1836 - J. Munroe.
The Levinas Reader.Sean Hand (ed.) - 2001 - Wiley-Blackwell.

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