Language, Time, and Death. An Ethico-Philosophical Perspective Following Hegel, Heidegger, Lévinas, and Blanchot



How to Cite

Kaushal, S. (2022). Language, Time, and Death. An Ethico-Philosophical Perspective Following Hegel, Heidegger, Lévinas, and Blanchot. ETHICS IN PROGRESS, 13(2), 11–24.


Our daily existence is affected by how we perceive death, be it our own’s death tocome or others’ death. The intimidating nature of death has the potential to affect our daily ethical existence in relation to the other, as is seen in various crises in human history. In such a context, since expansive literature in various approaches such as biological, sociological, psychological, and political addressing the question of death is already available, this essay presents an ethico-philosophical perspective on death and argues if death should be seen as the worst event that is to be experienced by being. In this essay, I correlate language, time, and death, contrasting popular analogies, i.e., death is possibility of impossibility (Hegel and Heidegger), and death is impossibility of possibility (Lévinas and Blanchot). Firstly, the essay stages the discussion with contrasting synchronic and diachronic perspectives of language, i.e., historical understanding of language and time in Hegelian terms and the messianic time in Lévinasian terms, to see how sensibility, i.e., universal meaning, is expressed through concept. Secondly, the essay sees how sensibility is expressed through a concept beyond dialectic opposition and negativity while acknowledging that the question of ethics arises only after the end of philosophy, for something is always inexpressible through expression; there is always remnant beyond philosophical significance. This essay not only argues language, time, and death as the ethical responsibility of the self towards the other, but also contributes to the understanding of language as ethics beyond philosophy, and death as passivity beyond ontology following Lévinas’s idea of messianic time and Blanchot’s views on literature and death.


Ahmadzai A. 2021. "Dying to Live: The 'Love to Death' Narrative Driving the Taliban's Suicide Bombings," Perspectives on Terrorism 15(1):17-38.

Blanchot M. 1982. The Space of Literature, trans. A. Smock. London: University of Nebraska Press.

Blanchot M. 1995a. The Work of Fire, trans. C. Mandal. California: Stanford University Press.

Blanchot M. 1995b. The Writing of the Disaster, trans. A. Smock. London: University of Nebraska Press.

Blanchot M. 1999. The Station Hill Blanchot Reader - Fiction & Literary Essays, trans. L. Davis, P. Auster, & R. Lamberton. Barrytown: Station Hill Press.

Blanchot M. 2003. Book to Come, trans. C. Mandell. California: Stanford University Press.

Blanchot M. 1992. The Step No Beyond, trans. L. Nelson. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Bradley B. et al. (Ed.) 2012. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death. Oxford University Press. DOI:

Burn R. 1794. A Red, Red Rose. Scottish Poetry Library., retrieved on 11 August, 2021.

Das S. B. 2020. Death, Time and the Other: Ethics at the Limit of Metaphysics. eBook Edition, Springer. DOI:

Derrida J. 1992. Acts of Literature, ed. by D. Attridge. New York: Routledge.

Dolgoy E. A, Hale K. H., & Peabody B. (Eds.) 2020. Political Theory on Death and Dying. New York: Routledge. DOI:

Gaille M., Araneda M., Dubost C. et al. 2020. "Ethical and Social Implications of Approaching Death Prediction in Humans - When the Biology of Ageing Meets DOI:

Existential Issues," BMC Med Ethics 21, no pagination. DOI:

Harris K. A. 1972. "The Political Meaning of Death: An Existential Overview," OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying 2(4):227-239. DOI:

Hayes J., Ward C. L., & McGregor I. 2016. "Why Bother? Death, Failure, and Fatalistic Withdrawal from Life," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 110(1):96-115. DOI:

Hegel G. W. F. 1970. Philosophy of Nature, trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hegel G. W. F. 1977. The Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Heidegger M. 1962. Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Hill L. 1997. Blanchot - Extreme Contemporary. London: Routledge.

Jakušovaitė I., Luneckaitė Z., Peičius E., Bagdonaitė Z., Riklikienė O., Stankevičius E. 2016. "Determination of Death: Metaphysical and Biomedical Discourse," Medicina 52(4):205-210. DOI:

Kearl M. & Rinaldi A. 1983. "The Political Uses of the Dead as Symbols in Contemporary Civil Religions," Social Forces 61(3):693-708. DOI:

Kokosalakis N. 2020. "Reflections on Death in Philosophical/Existential Context," Society 57:402-409.

Kokosalakis N. 2020. "Reflections on Death in Philosophical/Existential Context," Society 57:402-409. DOI:

Leach J. 2018. "Give-up-itis' Revisited: Neuropathology of Extremis," Medical Hypotheses 120:14-21. DOI:

Lévinas E. 1969. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A. Lingis. Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press.

Lévinas E. 1987. Time and the Other, trans. R. A. Cohen. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Lévinas E. 1988. Existence and Existents, trans. A. Lingis. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Lévinas E. 2000. God, Death, and Time, trans. B. Bergo. California: Stanford University Press.

Lévinas E. 2006. Otherwise than Being or beyond Essence, trans. A. Lingis. Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press.

Llewelyn J. 2004. "Lévinas and Language," in S. Critchley & R. Bernasconi (Eds.), Cambridge Companion to Lévinas (pp. 119-138). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Morese R., Palermo S., Torello C., & Sechi F. 2020. "Social Withdrawal and Mental Health: An Interdisciplinary Approach," in R. Morese (Ed.), Social Isolation - An Interdisciplinary View. DOI:

Nair-Collins M. & G Miller F. 2017. "Do the 'Brain Dead' Merely Appear to Be Alive?," Journal of Medical Ethics 43:747-753 DOI:

Oberst J. L. 2009. Heidegger on Language and Death: The Intrinsic Connection in Human Existence. Continuum.

Purdy C. 2018. "Giving up on Life Can Lead to Actual Death in Less Than a Month,". Quartz. Retrieved September 2, 2021, URL:

Rentmeester C. 2018. "Heidegger, Communication, and Healthcare," Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy 21(3):431-437. DOI:

de Saussure F. D. 1959. Course in General Linguistics, trans. W. Baskin. New York: Philosophical Library.

Setta S. M. & Shemie, S. D. 2015. "An Explanation and analysis of How World Religions Formulate Their Ethical Decisions on Withdrawing Treatment and Determining Death," Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 10(6), no pagination. DOI:

Shariatinia Z. 2015. "Heidegger's Ideas about Death," Pacific Science Review B: Humanities and Social Sciences 1(2):92-97. DOI:

Steffen L. & Cooley D. 2014. The Ethics of Death: Religious and Philosophical Perspectives in Dialogue. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. DOI:

Thompson R. 1984. "Medical Ethics in Life and Death," Editorial Research Reports I, no pagination.