Rosenstock-Huessy points out that “we” is not simply a plural, not simply “one plus one plus one,” not a plural as “10 chairs or 10 apples are.”

“We” is a fundamentally liturgical pronoun: “It was not 10 oxen who first shouted ‘Te Deum Laudamus,’ but a ‘we’ which was made up out of different first, second, and third persons: out of a father, a child, brothers and sisters, a bridegroom, a servant, a mother, a maid, a guest of honor, a beggar, a congregation, a household, a family. They all can find themselves in the hymn of praise of the three persons of the plural, we, you, and they, ‘Father, we praise thee, praise the Lord. The heavens are praising the glory of God.’ This means a ‘we’ doesn’t just cover a bundle of identical, uniform ‘I-s.’ That already is practical exploitation of the ‘we’ by the marketplace. A ‘we’ doesn’t even cover the bonds between ‘you-s’ and ‘I-s’ who have found one another. That was the special function of the archaic ‘dual,’ nowadays submerged in the plural. In the genuine original plural, however, in the sense of a praying congregation, of all communities filled with faith, of any religiously alive original cell, in the original plural, a piece of the world - that is of some third person - has bee fused together with pieces of ‘you-s’ and ‘I-s.’ Primal grammar fuses God, man, and world into a resounding we” (quoted in Religion, Redemption and Revolution: The New Speech Thinking Revolution of Franz Rozenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy , 87-88).

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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