In the ongoing discussion of what is living and what is dead in Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly’s ALL THINGS SHINING project Kelly makes an important point about language. He argues that my insistence, in my review of the book, on using the qualifying adjectives in expressions like “non-theistic” gratitude and “immanent” authority (see also here) can be a way of giving, even unwittingly, priority to the term that they are opposing (« theistic » and « transcendent » respectively) and so skew the meaning of what one is getting at.
Kelly remarks that it would be best to come up with a non-dualistic way of talking that is “prior” to these oppositions, but this quest for priority may open up an infinite regress, searching for what is pre-prior to these prior terms, etc.
I agree that once it is clear that we are no longer talking in a theistic context, not even in a very sublimated or poetic one, then the dualistic adjectives can be dropped. My worry is that even so the vocabulary of gift, gratitude, and authority may still be skewed so as to cover up the phenomena as much as it reveals them.
Against this mental reservation, one could argue that more neutral terms (such as event, gladness, and potency) not only themselves contain their own presuppositions, but are also abstract and lifeless in comparison with the more personal-sounding terms that Kelly proposes.
I do not know the answer to this aporia, or even if there is one. Sometimes I prefer the concrete and I personify and poetise shamelessly, at other times (and in other moods) I prefer abstraction and try out more austere vocabularies. Both can be illuminating, there is no rule.
Whatever our preferred solution, I think in both cases we need mental “correctors” to compensate for any residual one-sidedness, and a “charitable” understanding of what our partners in dialogue may say.
There may be no pure phenomenological language in which to describe our experience, at least in terms of an abstract definition of « purity ». We come back to the idea that the best we can do is speak in the most « appropriate » or the most « fitting » terms, according to the situation. Purity then, even in the domain of language, would no longer be an all-or-none affair, but a matter of gradations on a spectrum.