chapter  1
Metaphysics: negativity, potentiality and death
Pages 26

Some of the most intractable problems that Agamben addresses in his work derive from his engagement with the history of metaphysics in Western philosophy, and particularly the tendency that he diagnoses in metaphysical thought to presuppose and posit a foundation for being and language in negativity. This position is elaborated most explicitly in the complex text, Language and Death, where Agamben sets himself the project of surpassing this metaphysical tendency towards negative foundation, which he argues first requires an examination of the true meaning of the terms “Da” and “Diese” central to the thought of the German philosophers Martin Heidegger and G. W. F. Hegel respectively. Throughout this book, he pursues the logic of negative foundation as it appears throughout Western metaphysical thought, particularly in the figurations of language as constituted by or founded in the ineffable or unspeakable. The task of surpassing metaphysics leads Agamben to posit the necessity of an experiment in language, in which what is at stake in language is not the ineffable that must necessarily be suppressed in speech, but the very event of language itself, the taking place of language prior to signification and meaning.