Speech and Reality
Introduction by Clinton C. Gardner
Imprint: Wipf and Stock
Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973) was a sociologist and social philosopher who, along with his close friend Franz Rosenzweig, and Ferdinand Ebner and Martin Buber, was a major exponent of speech thinking or dialogicism. The central insight of speech thinking is that speech or language is not merely, or even primarily, a descriptive act, but a responsive and creative act, which is the basis of our social existence. The greater part of Rosenstock-Huessy's work was devoted to demonstrating how speech/language, through its unpredictable fecundity, expands our powers and, through its inescapably historical forming character, also binds them. Born in Berlin, Germany into a non-observant Jewish family, he converted to Christianity in his late teens. He met and married Margrit Hussy in 1914. Rosenstock-Huessy served as an officer in the German army during World War I. He then pursued an academic career in Germany as a specialist in medieval law, which was disrupted by the rise of Nazism. In 1933, after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, he immigrated to the United States where he began a new academic career, initially at Harvard University and then at Dartmouth College, where he taught from 1935 to 1957.
"The historical nature of man is the aspect of reality about which we have been basically and emphatically instructed in the epoch of thought beginning with Hegel ... Rosenstock-Huessy has concretized this teaching in so living a way as no other thinker before him has done."
"It is unfortunate that Rosenstock-Huessy's thought has been so overlooked. For years he has been concerned with many of the same things theologians are grappling with today, that is, the meaning of speech, the question of hermeneutics, the problem of secularization, and the disappearance of a sense of the transcendent in modern life. Rosenstock-Huessy's thought is becoming more and more central to the theological conversation as the interest in secularization and the relationship of theology to secular categories continues to grow."
Harvey G. Cox
"Rosenstock-Huessy's interpretation of speech challenges the language philosophy of the epoch from Parmenides to Hegel, in which a metaphysics of spirit has overshadowed speech and a turning to abstractions has led to a forgetting of God."