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Daniel Heller-Roazen

Daniel Heller-Roazen is Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Comparative Literature and the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. He is the author of Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language, The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation, and The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations, all published by Zone Books.

Titles by This Author

The Art of Rogues and Riddlers

Dark Tongues constitutes a sustained exploration of a perplexing fact that has never received the attention it deserves. Wherever human beings share a language, they also strive to make from it something new: a cryptic idiom, built from the grammar that they know, which will allow them to communicate in secrecy. Such hidden languages come in many shapes. They may be playful or serious, children’s games or adults’ work.

Pythagoras and the Disharmony of the World

An ancient tradition holds that Pythagoras discovered the secrets of harmony within a forge when he came across five men hammering with five hammers, producing a wondrous sound. Four of the five hammers stood in a marvelous set of proportions, harmonizing; but there was also a fifth hammer. Pythagoras saw and heard it, but he could not measure it; nor could he understand its discordant sound. Pythagoras therefore discarded it. What was this hammer, such that Pythagoras chose so decidedly to reject it?

Piracy and the Law of Nations

The pirate is the original enemy of humankind. As Cicero famously remarked, there are certain enemies with whom one may negotiate and with whom, circumstances permitting, one may establish a truce. But there is also an enemy with whom treaties are in vain and war remains incessant. This is the pirate, considered by ancient jurists to be "the enemy of all."

Archaeology of a Sensation

The Inner Touch presents the archaeology of a single sense: the sense of being sentient. Aristotle was perhaps the first to define this faculty when in his treatise On the Soul he identified a sensory power, irreducible to the five senses, by which animals perceive that they are perceiving: the simple "sense," as he wrote, "that we are seeing and hearing." After him, thinkers returned, time and again, to define and redefine this curious sensation.

On the Forgetting of Language

Just as speech can be acquired, so can it be lost. Speakers can forget words, phrases, even entire languages they once knew; over the course of time peoples, too, let go of the tongues that were once theirs, as languages disappear and give way to the others that follow them. In Echolalias, Daniel Heller-Roazen reflects on the many forms of linguistic forgetfulness, offering a far-reaching philosophical investigation into the persistence and disappearance of speech.