Human Studies

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 513–515 | Cite as

Language and the As-Structure of Experience

Charles Taylor: The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2016, x + 345 pp + index, $35.00
  • Robert D. Stolorow
  • George E. Atwood
Book Review

In recent years a number of excellent books have appeared devoted to the phenomenology of language (Inkpin 2016; Taylor 2016; Hatab 2017)—that is, to the experience of language and how this experience shapes one’s experience of oneself and of the world. Here we focus on Charles Taylor’s (2016) book, The Language Animal, which for us points to the most radical implications, but at the same time falls short of fully developing them.

At the heart of Taylor’s contribution is his explication of two meta-theories of language, two semantic logics—the designative and the constitutive. Although Taylor presents a rather detailed account of the evolution of these two viewpoints,1 we will restrict our comments here to what we regard as their most important originators and developers—Descartes in the case of the designative and Heidegger in the case of the constitutive.

The designative viewpoint follows directly from Descartes’s metaphysical dualism and the representational epistemology that...


  1. Hatab, L. J. (2017). Proto-phenomenology and the nature of language: Dwelling in speech. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.Google Scholar
  2. Heidegger, M. (1962) [1927]. Being and time (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans.). New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  3. Heidegger, M. (1971) [1957]. The nature of language. In On the way to language (P. Hertz, Trans.) (pp. 57–108). New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  4. Heidegger, M. (1998) [1946]. Letter on “humanism” (F. Capuzzi, Trans.). In W. McNeill (Ed.), Pathmarks (pp. 239–276). Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  5. Inkpin, A. (2016). Disclosing the world: On the phenomenology of language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Taylor, C. (2016). The language animal: The full shape of human linguistic capacity. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical investigations. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert D. Stolorow
    • 1
  • George E. Atwood
    • 2
  1. 1.Santa MonicaUSA
  2. 2.ProvidenceUSA

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