Throughout this essay I attempt to bring into focus what I see as the thorniest point of proximity between two giants in twentieth-century ontology; that is, the nature of language in the delineation between human beings and animals within the work of Martin Heidegger and Martin Buber. I consider Heidegger’s conception of world in an attempt to understand how he sees the abyss—as well as the bridge—between animals and humankind. Buber’s more encompassing view of being seems to be a fruitful catalyst for moving Heidegger closer to something at which he hints but from which he withdraws. By exploring the relationship among human beings, animals, and language, I hope to offer a way of encountering animal life that, although it speaks to Heidegger, is actually a way of being in the world that apparently was closed off to him.

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