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Juan Acevedo Neither Speaks nor Hides, but Signifies

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Are there limits of interpretation and, if so, where are they? Is pansemioticism a real thing, and if so, is it a bad thing?

An exploration of the nature of meaning and reality through (esoteric?) hermeneutics of Heraclitus, paying visits to Derrida and Foucault, Umberto Eco, the origins and significance of the development of alphabets for alphanumeric cosmological thinking, the ‘generative grammar’ hypothesis and the problems faced by any materialist linguistics, Briceño’’s work on the origin of language, the problem of ineffability, and more. Heady stuff.

Interview Bio:

Juan Acevedo is a researcher in ancient languages, the history of science, comparative religions, and ideas generally. He is currently working on a history of Indian-Ocean navigation at the University of Lisbon. His recent book Alphanumeric Cosmology from Greek into Arabic is the best introduction to this vast and fascinating subject.

Works Cited in this Episode:



  • ‘The fairest kosmos is a rubbish heap piled up at random’: B124 DK.
  • ‘Nature loves to hide’: B123 DK.
  • ‘The lord whose oracle is in Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but signifies’: B93 DK.


  • The Phædrus on why you shouldn’t write works like the Phædrus: 276a-277a.
  • On Thoth being the first one to distinguish the phonemes of language as stoicheia: Phileb. 18b6–d2.

Plotinus on the Egyptian hieroglyphics: Enn. V.8[31]6.1 ff.


  • Jacques Derrida. For a good example of Derrida’s post-structuralist ideas about language playing along the edges of western esoteric thought – in this case, primarily of the Pseudo-Dionysian via negativa – see How to Avoid Speaking: Denials. In H. Coward and T. Foshay, editors, Derrida and Negative Theology, pages 73–142. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 1992. Translated by Ken Frieden.
  • Umberto Eco. The Search for the Perfect Language. Blackwell, Oxford, 1995.
  • J. M. Briceño Guerrero. El origen del lenguaje. Monte Ávila, 1970.
  • Pierre Hadot. The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2006.
  • A. Lebedev. The Metaphor of Liber Naturae and the Alphabet Analogy in Heraclitus’ Logos Fragments. In E. Fantino, U. Muss, C. Schubert, and K. Sier, editors, Heraklit im Kontext, number 8 in Studia Praesocratica, page 231–267. De Gruyter, Berlin, 2017.
  • Algis Uždavinys. Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth: From Ancient Egypt to Neoplatonism. Prometheus Trust, Dilton Marsh, Westbury, 2008.