The Sacrament of Language (Giorgio Agamben).

No hay forma de destacar con justicia, mediante la selección de citas, el contenido de uno de los libros de Giorgio Agamben que me ha acompañado este mes. En este librito que parecería ‘inofensivo’, Agamben me ha (re)volcado el pensar y me ha hecho detenerme más de una vez sobre su cronología y su argumentación que, genialmente hilvanadas, me han puesto a anotar mil preguntas sobre sus implicaciones. Se trata de The Sacrament of Language (2010, Polity). Me parece una lectura imprescindible en estos tiempos, particularmente sobre los temas de lo Politico, la Ética, el Lenguaje, el Derecho y la Religión. Si tuviera que seleccionar de mi selecta selección de citas, escojo lo siguiente a los fines de compartir en este post corto su controversial planteo:
Every naming is, in fact, double: it is a blessing or a curse. A blessing, if the Word is full, if there is a correspondence between signifier and the signified, between words and things; a curse if the Word is empty, if there remains, between semiotic and the semantic, a void and a gap. Oath and perjury, bene-diction and male-diction correspond to this double possibility inscribed in the logos, in the experience by means of which the living being has been constituted as a speaking being. Religion and law technicalize this anthropogenic experience of the Word in the oath and the curse as historical institutions, separating and opposing point by point truth and lie, true name and false name, efficacious formula and incorrect formula. That which was “badly said” became in this way a curse in the technical sense, and fidelity to the Word became an obsessive and scrupulous concern with appropriate formulas and ceremonies, that is, religious and ius. The performative experience of the Word is constituted and isolated in a “sacrament of language” and this latter in a “sacrament of power”. The “force of law” that supports human societies, the idea of linguistic enunciations that stably obligate living beings, that can be observed and transgressed, derive from this attempt to nail down the originary performative force of the anthropogenic experience, and are, in this sense, an epiphenomenon of the oath and of the malediction that accompanied.

When the ethical –and not simply cognitive—connection that unites words, things and human actions is broken, this in fact promotes a spectacular and unprecedented proliferation of vain words on the one hand and, on the other, of legislative apparatuses that seek obstinately to legislate every aspect of that life on which they seem no longer to have any hold. The age of the eclipse of the oath is also the age of blasphemy, in which the name of God breaks away from its living connection with language and can only be uttered “in vain”.

It is perhaps time to call into question the prestige that language has enjoyed and continues to enjoy in our culture, as a tool of incomparable potency, efficacy, and beauty. An yet, considered in itself, it is no more beautiful than birdsong, no more efficacious than the signal insects exchange, no more powerful than the roar with which the lion asserts its dominion. The decisive element that confers on human language its peculiar virtue is not in the tool itself but in the place it leaves to the speaker, in the fact that it prepares within itself a hollowed-out form that the speaker must always assume in order to speak –that is to say, in the ethical relation that is established between the speaker and his language. The human being is that living being that, in order to speak, must say “I”, must “take the word”, assume it and make it his own.

Philosophy is, in this sense, constitutively a critique of the oath: that is, it puts in question the sacramental bond that links the human being to language, without for that reason simply speaking haphazardly, falling into the vanity of speech. In a moment when all the European languages seem condemned to swear in vain and when politics can only assume the form of an oikonomia, that is of a governance of empty speech over bare life, it is once more from philosophy that there can come, in sober awareness of the extreme situation  at which the living human being that has language has arrived in its history, the indication of a line of resistance and of change. 

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