Rosenzweig and Rosenstock-Huessy were all about names, and so set themselves against philosophy as it came from Socrates and Plato. Critaudo ( Religion, Redemption and Revolution: The New Speech Thinking Revolution of Franz Rozenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy ) summarizes Rosenstock’s position by noting that “Plato was overawed by the man Socrates, thus himself verifying incarnation over idea” but his philosophy did not reflect this priority, since it was “formed around the primacy of definition, concepts, and ideas.”

And as such it involved an assault on names: “Plato not only attacked the poets but also, in the Cratylus , ridiculed the idea that names have originally profound meanings embedded in the etymology of words, so that the more thoughtful person will know more about reality by tracking down the etymology of names. Like a well-known section of the Protagoras , where Socrates gives an interpretation of a poem by Simonides that only goes to show that someone can turn anything into anything, the Cratylus attempts to show that the elevation of names is a sohpistic game of the same order. Names proliferate, and the understanding goes off on a wild goose chase during which the essence of things is missed.” Rosenstock believed that Platonic philosophy was haunted by the “shadow family it wants to bring under its control if not silence completely: the family of poets, orators, statesmen, and . . . sophists” (119).

Rosenzweig and Rosenstock think the attack on the sophists is “overdone.” Not because they sympathize with sophistic relativism; they know that the sophists are playing games. But the games are the fault of “wilful perversion” of language, not of language and names themselves. And in response to the sophist, philosophy offers a perversion that is just as damaging: “the game playing cannot be stopped by the philosophical police . . . . Yes, sophistry plays games with words, but that is indicative of what people at play can do. For Rosenstock-Huessy and Rosenzweig, that delusory flux is nothing other than life itself, and while it is understandable that Plato was seeking to be rescued from the hell of internecine struggles within and without Athens, the way out is the wrong way, because it involves asphyxiating the very processes that enable us to be most alive” (119).

Articles by Peter J. Leithart