Daniel Heller-Roazen

Daniel Heller-Roazen is the Arthur W. Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature and the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. He is the author of Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language, The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations, and The Fifth Hammer: Pythagoras and the Disharmony of the World, all published by Zone Books.

  • No One's Ways

    No One's Ways

    An Essay on Infinite Naming

    Daniel Heller-Roazen

    From Homer's Outis—“No One,” or “Non-One,” “No Man,” or “Non-Man”—to “soul,” “spirit,” and the unnamable.

    Homer recounts how, trapped inside a monster's cave, with nothing but his wits to call upon, Ulysses once saved himself by twisting his name. He called himself Outis: “No One,” or “Non-One,” “No Man,” or “Non-Man.” The ploy was a success. He blinded his barbaric host and eluded him, becoming anonymous, for a while, even as he bore a name.

    Philosophers never forgot the lesson that the ancient hero taught. From Aristotle and his commentators in Greek, Arabic, Latin, and more modern languages, from the masters of the medieval schools to Kant and his many successors, thinkers have exploited the possibilities of adding “non-” to the names of man. Aristotle is the first to write of “indefinite” or “infinite” names, his example being “non-man.” Kant turns to such terms in his theory of the infinite judgment, illustrated by the sentence, “The soul is non-mortal.” Such statements play major roles in the philosophies of Maimon, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and Hermann Cohen. They are profoundly reinterpreted in the twentieth century by thinkers as diverse as Carnap and Heidegger.

    Reconstructing the adventures of a particle in philosophy, Daniel Heller-Roazen seeks to show how a grammatical possibility can be an incitement for thought. Yet he also draws a lesson from persistent examples. The philosophers' infinite names all point to one subject: us. “Non-man” or “soul,” “Spirit” or “the unconditioned,” we are beings who name and name ourselves, bearing witness to the fact that we are, in every sense, unnamable.

    • Hardcover $32.95 £28.00
  • Dark Tongues

    Dark Tongues

    The Art of Rogues and Riddlers

    Daniel Heller-Roazen

    An exploration of secret languages, moving among hermetic artificial tongues as diverse as criminal jargons and divine speech.

    Dark Tongues constitutes a sustained exploration of a perplexing fact that has never received the attention it deserves. Wherever human beings share a language, they also strive to make from it something new: a cryptic idiom, built from the grammar that they know, which will allow them to communicate in secrecy. Such hidden languages come in many shapes. They may be playful or serious, children's games or adults' work. They may be as impenetrable as foreign tongues, or slightly different from the idioms from which they spring, or barely perceptible, their existence being the subject of uncertain, even unlikely, suppositions.

    The first recorded jargons date to the time of the Renaissance, when writers across Europe noted that obscure languages had suddenly come into use. A varied cast of characters—lawyers, grammarians, and theologians—denounced these new forms of speech, arguing that they were tools of crime, plotted in tongues that honest people could not understand. Before the emergence of these modern jargons, however, the artificial twisting of languages served a different purpose. In epochs and regions as diverse as archaic Greece and Rome and medieval Provence and Scandinavia, singers and scribes also invented opaque varieties of speech. They did so not to defraud, but to reveal and record a divine thing: the language of the gods, which poets and priests alone were said to master.

    Dark Tongues moves among these various artificial and hermetic tongues. From criminal jargons to sacred idioms, from Saussure's work on anagrams to Jakobson's theory of subliminal patterns in poetry, from the arcane arts of the Druids and Biblical copyists to the secret procedure that Tristan Tzara, founder of Dada, believed he had uncovered in Villon's songs and ballads, Dark Tongues explores the common crafts of rogues and riddlers, which play sound and sense against each other.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £22.50
  • The Fifth Hammer

    The Fifth Hammer

    Pythagoras and the Disharmony of the World

    Daniel Heller-Roazen

    How the ordering of the sensible world continues to suggest a reality that no notes or letters can fully transcribe.

    An ancient tradition holds that Pythagoras discovered the secrets of harmony within a forge when he came across five men hammering with five hammers, producing a wondrous sound. Four of the five hammers stood in a marvelous set of proportions, harmonizing; but there was also a fifth hammer. Pythagoras saw and heard it, but he could not measure it; nor could he understand its discordant sound. Pythagoras therefore discarded it. What was this hammer, such that Pythagoras chose so decidedly to reject it?Since antiquity, “harmony” has been a name for more than a theory of musical sounds; it has offered a paradigm for the scientific understanding of the natural world. Nature, through harmony, has been transcribed in the ideal signs of mathematics. But, time and again, the transcription has run up against one fundamental limit: something in nature resists being written down, transcribed in a stable set of ideal elements. A fifth hammer, obstinately, continues to sound. In eight chapters, linked together as are the tones of a single scale, The Fifth Hammer explores the sounds and echoes of that troubling percussion as they make themselves felt on the most varied of attempts to understand and represent the natural world. From music to metaphysics, aesthetics to astronomy, and from Plato and Boethius to Kepler, Leibniz, and Kant, this book explores the ways in which the ordering of the sensible world has continued to suggest a reality that no notes or letters can fully transcribe.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £22.50
  • The Enemy of All

    The Enemy of All

    Piracy and the Law of Nations

    Daniel Heller-Roazen

    The philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist: the pirate, the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe.

    The pirate is the original enemy of humankind. As Cicero famously remarked, there are certain enemies with whom one may negotiate and with whom, circumstances permitting, one may establish a truce. But there is also an enemy with whom treaties are in vain and war remains incessant. This is the pirate, considered by ancient jurists considered to be “the enemy of all.” In this book, Daniel Heller-Roazen reconstructs the shifting place of the pirate in legal and political thought from the ancient to the medieval, modern, and contemporary periods presenting the philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist. Today, Heller-Roazen argues, the pirate furnishes the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe. This is a legal and political person of exception, neither criminal nor enemy, who inhabits an extra-territorial region. Against such a foe, states may wage extraordinary battles, policing politics and justifying military measures in the name of welfare and security. Heller-Roazen defines the piracy in the conjunction of four conditions: a region beyond territorial jurisdiction; agents who may not be identified with an established state; the collapse of the distinction between criminal and political categories; and the transformation of the concept of war. The paradigm of piracy remains in force today. Whenever we hear of regions outside the rule of law in which acts of “indiscriminate aggression” have been committed “against humanity,” we must begin to recognize that these are acts of piracy. Often considered part of the distant past, the enemy of all is closer to us today than we may think. Indeed, he may never have been closer.

    • Hardcover $28.95 £25.00
  • The Inner Touch

    The Inner Touch

    Archaeology of a Sensation

    Daniel Heller-Roazen

    An original, elegant, and far-reaching philosophical inquiry into what it means to feel alive.

    The Inner Touch presents the archaeology of a single sense: the sense of being sentient. Aristotle was perhaps the first to define this faculty when in his treatise On the Soul he identified a sensory power, irreducible to the five senses, by which animals perceive that they are perceiving: the simple "sense," as he wrote, "that we are seeing and hearing." After him, thinkers returned, time and again, to define and redefine this curious sensation. The classical Greek and Roman philosophers as well as the medieval Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin thinkers who followed them all investigated a power they called "the common sense," which one ancient author likened to "a kind of inner touch, by which we are able to grasp ourselves." Their many findings were not lost with the waning of the Middle Ages. From Montaigne and Francis Bacon to Locke, Leibniz, and Rousseau, from nineteenth-century psychiatry and neurology to Proust and Walter Benjamin, the writers and thinkers of the modern period have turned knowingly and unknowing to the terms of older traditions in exploring the perception that every sensitive being possesses of its life. The Inner Touch reconstructs and reconsiders the history of this perception. In twenty-five concise chapters that move freely among ancient, medieval, and modern cultures, Daniel Heller-Roazen investigates a set of exemplary phenomena that have played central roles in philosophical, literary, psychological, and medical accounts of the nature of animal existence. Here sensation and self-sensation, sleeping and waking, aesthetics and anesthetics, perception and apperception, animal nature and human nature, consciousness and unconsciousness, all acquire a new meaning. The Inner Touch proposes an original, elegant, and far-reaching philosophical inquiry into a problem that has never been more pressing: what it means to feel that one is alive.Winner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies

    • Hardcover $24.95 £20.00
    • Paperback $24.95 £20.00
  • Echolalias

    Echolalias

    On the Forgetting of Language

    Daniel Heller-Roazen

    A far-reaching philosophical investigation into the persistence and disappearance of speech, in individuals and in linguistic communities.

    Just as speech can be acquired, so can it be lost. Speakers can forget words, phrases, even entire languages they once knew; over the course of time peoples, too, let go of the tongues that were once theirs, as languages disappear and give way to the others that follow them. In Echolalias, Daniel Heller-Roazen reflects on the many forms of linguistic forgetfulness, offering a far-reaching philosophical investigation into the persistence and disappearance of speech. In twenty-one brief chapters, he moves among classical, medieval, and modern culture, exploring the interrelations of speech, writing, memory, and oblivion.

    Drawing his examples from literature, philosophy, linguistics, theology, and psychoanalysis, Heller-Roazen examines the points at which the transience of speech has become a question in the arts, disciplines, and sciences in which language plays a prominent role. Whether the subject is Ovid, Dante, or modern fiction, classical Arabic literature or the birth of the French language, structuralist linguistics or Freud's writings on aphasia, Heller-Roazen considers with clarity, precision, and insight the forms, the effects, and the ultimate consequences of the forgetting of language. In speech, he argues, destruction and construction often prove inseparable. Among peoples, the disappearance of one language can mark the emergence of another; among individuals, the experience of the passing of speech can lie at the origin of literary, philosophical, and artistic creation.

    From the infant's prattle to the legacy of Babel, from the holy tongues of Judaism and Islam to the concept of the dead language and the political significance of exiled and endangered languages today, Echolalias traces an elegant, erudite, and original philosophical itinerary, inviting us to reflect in a new way on the nature of the speaking animal who forgets.

    • Hardcover $22.95 £18.99
    • Paperback $22.95 £18.99

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  • Remnants of Auschwitz

    Remnants of Auschwitz

    The Witness and the Archive

    Giorgio Agamben

    A philosophical study of the testimony of the survivors of Auschwitz.

    In this book the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben looks closely at the literature of the survivors of Auschwitz, probing the philosophical and ethical questions raised by their testimony.

    "In its form, this book is a kind of perpetual commentary on testimony. It did not seem possible to proceed otherwise. At a certain point, it became clear that testimony contained at its core an essential lacuna; in other words, the survivors bore witness to something it is impossible to bear witness to. As a consequence, commenting on survivors' testimony necessarily meant interrogating this lacuna or, more precisely, attempting to listen to it. Listening to something absent did not prove fruitless work for this author. Above all, it made it necessary to clear away almost all the doctrines that, since Auschwitz, have been advanced in the name of ethics."—Giorgio Agamben

    • Hardcover $28.95
    • Paperback $21.95 £17.99