When Words Fail: On the Power of Language in Human Experience


  • Dr. James Risser Seattle University




Beyond the ordinariness of experience in daily life there are times when we encounter an experience for which words seem inadequate to express and communicate the experience. The focus of my remarks for the first paper will explore this situation of the potential limits of language for understanding experience. The question of these limits depends on an analysis of just what takes place in experience and (the hermeneutic experience of) language. Drawing on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutic theory for an answer to the question, I will show just how experience and language are interrelated, and, as a result, I will show how the dynamic of language formation expands to accommodate what appears to be inaccessible and inexpressible, while allowing experience to sustain its own richness.


Author Biography

Dr. James Risser, Seattle University

Dr. Risser is a professor of philosophy at Seattle University and the Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University. He is also the editor of the journal Research in Phenomenology. He has held philosophy Chairs and is a prolific writer of books and articles in the areas of continental philosophy and philosophical hermeneutics.