The Kenotic Utopianism of Language

  • Gabriel Vahanian
Part of the Radical Theologies book series (RADT)


Voice is a way of being, argues Giorgio Agamben, 1 as though the statement could not be reversed: being is a way of speaking. And yet it is the same author who, like Lacan, also points out that “the appearance of a new religion always coincides with a new revelation of language and a new religion means above all a new experience of language.”2 So much so, indeed, that insofar as humanity is concerned, there can be no God except through language (whereby yes is yes and no is no as is the yes to God at one and the same time as a no to the idol regardless of which has preponderance over the other). There is no religion unless God—or the idol it is frozen in—is tipped into language. And yet is no God that God which can only be this or that God. (Dieu ne peut qu’être sans l’être). Even rather than this or that being, God is verbum, no less a word than the Word. God no less brings to words than calls into being.


Verbal Condition Religious Tradition Ritual Ceremony Ancillary Mode Biblical Exegesis 
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  1. 1.
    Giorgio Agamben, “Propos…,” Bulletin de I’Association freudienne 2 (1983), p. 27.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Giorgio Agamben, “Verbum sine verbo,” Discours psychanalytique, no. 6 (1983), p. 65.Google Scholar
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    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness ( Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1961 ).Google Scholar
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    Martin Luther, Christian Liberty, ed. Harold J. Grim ( Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957 ).Google Scholar
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    Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Man and Language,” in Philosophical Hermeneutics, ed. and trans. David E. Linge (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 59–68 (especially pp. 62–63).Google Scholar
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    Ernst Cassirer, “Le Langage et la construction du monde comme objet,” in Essais sur le langage, ed. Jean-Claude Pariente (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1969), pp. 59–63.Google Scholar

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© Gabriel Vahanian 2014

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  • Gabriel Vahanian

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