The preeminent Heidegger scholar in the US (and perhaps in the English language), is Hubert Dreyfus at the University of Berkeley. Daniel did a post for the Husserl podcast linking to a series of videos of him being interviewed by Bryan McGee here. In that series he actually talks more about Heidegger, so it's worth revisiting for the Heidegger episode as well.
Dreyfus has written a fair amount about Heidegger, but he recently did a seminar at Berkeley on Being and Time that got recorded and turned into a podcast series. It's from the Fall of 2007, so pretty recent and it's a very disciplined approach to the text. Dreyfus is a terrifically engaging teacher and is able to speak 'right down to earth in a language that everyone here can easily understand'. Mark mentioned that Dreyfus has also written on cognitive science and philosophy of mind and he brings that kind of sensibility to the text, while maintaining respect for the project and its insights. You can find the recordings here:
Dreyfus lectures on Being and Time (also available at Learn Out Loud - which has other good Philosophy stuff - like PEL!)
You'd have to have a lot of time and really be committed to listen to the whole series of lectures. If you just want to get the flavor, he does a great job of laying out the project of the book and many of the key insights in the first four lectures: Being, Dasein and Being-in-the-World I & II. [You can skip the first 30 minutes of the first one while they talk about the syllabus and course scheduling, etc.] I took notes on the first two that I'm happy to share with anyone who is interested.
Hube seems like a decent Joe, and maybe his apparent confusion on the material is just a ruse to elicit class participation – like Socrates in a way that works with firm subject matter. But the vagueness of Heidegger combined with a vague teacher + podcast and no exam = empty room.
Heidegger’s playing with time is mirrored in Whitehead’s actual occasion which throws itself forward using the facticity of the objective past in a decisive act of the present duration is a clearer description of time. And Whitehead predates Merleau Ponty with his insistence that what the moderns got wrong with epistemology is that they filter the phenomena thru a ‘withness of the body’. And intentionality is the stuff of why Whitehead says ‘it is more important that something be interesting than that it be true’, and Pirsig reaffirms this when he emphasizes that until we care about something, there are no subjects and objects.
Does anyone at any big school like Berkeley study Process other than at Cleremont Theological?
Actually, if all one wants to do is understand human experience, forget philosophy and go to Jaak Panksepp’s Affective Neuroscience to find that all animal behavior is a mix of the seven basic affects (emotional modes established by seven brain sub-regions): SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC and PLAY. SEEKING is the primary mode – it is the urge to be about; what it seeks, or what it is intent on, is a function of the things of its immediate environment, and will elicit one or several-in-combination os the other six secondary affects, or emotional states, or valuations.
Beats the shit out of existentialist mental masturbation ala Heidegger.
Seth Paskin says
I can’t get on board with your criticism of Dreyfus’ lectures – they are for undergraduates and I don’t have a problem with professors who share their struggles reading and understanding texts with students. If I want someone to lecture me about the canonical way of x or meaning of y, I’d have studied accounting.
You comments about Whitehead, though I don’t understand them, are intriguing. Perhaps you could point out some specific works where he explores these things and we could do a future episode on him. Certainly one of the more marginal but interesting characters in the recent history of philosophy.
As far as substituting Panksepp for Heidegger, it might be worth having that conversation but if you think Heidegger is mental masturbation, you obviously aren’t interested in the outcome, so I won’t spend the energy on it. Again, constructively suggesting some readings from Panksepp would be useful.
Dreyfus’ style made Heidegger harder for me, but I see maybe why he does it his way.
My frustration is that there is this follow the herd mode in philosophy, so if a few say Heidegger is the man, that’s what gets taught and read.
He isn’t crap, but Whitehead isn’t either. And I think he said so much that philosophers will look for any excuse to avoid him. And that is just what is happening. Whitehead is hard, esp _Process and Reality_, but _Adventures in Ideas_ is a good start and quite approachable, as is _Science in the Modern World_, and _Modes of Thought_. When you read his work, you will be amazed at how many other philosophies you recognize he is covering.
In lieu of P and R, Hosinski wrote an undergrad text on ANW’s process philosophy, _Brute Facts and Creative Advance_ that is easy and deep. David Ray Griffin explains Whitehead very well, and usuaslly, so does John Cobb.
Philosophy professors dis Whitehead because his magnum opus, P and R, is so hard. So are lots of others, like all the German Hs, as Searle says. And the rejection of Pirsig from the philosophy classroom seems a petty response to Pirsig’s criticism of the profession. I think Rorty gets a cold shoulder for the same reason. But Pirsig is so damn accessible, and it would be productive for philosophers (not literature professors) to point out to people how his ideas fit into the phil tradition.
Panksepp is a good alternative/addition to many philosophers’ theory of mind, wherein the assume we have no bodies. He has several Youtube vids, and I am avaiting my copy of Affective Neuroscience (comes with high praises).
I am sorry about dissing H. But is is so often that I see the giant thoughts of ANW, and the folkishly profound wit of Pirsig to be more explicable, yet they have been locked out.
A great intro to Panksepp’s affects, and a bonus second speaker who applies them to psychoanalysis
One of the most interesting papers about ANW is by David Griffin where he explains how ANW views intentionality (awareness of something = aboutness) as giving rise to conscious experience,.
And for Philosophy of Mind fans, a fascinating definition of just what consciousness really is.
BTW, Anthony Flood’s website is a rich eclectic source of fine scholarly papers from which I have gained immensely, so thanks, Anthony.
Those wondering about the congruence of ANW’s process metaphysics and Pirsig’s Quality might note how Griffin;s explanation of Whitehead’s idea that
“…creative experience is the aboriginal stuff out of which human experience and what we call material objects are both made.”
is precisely what Pirsig means with
“Quality is the continuing stimulus which our enviornment places upon us to create the world around us.” and “Quality precedes subjects and objects” – they arise from Quality.
A Pirsig man from the U of Wisconsin (now at the U of Arizona) synthesizes Husserl, Pirsig, and Sartre.
There is full resonance in Matts essay and Griffin’s account of ANW
Seth Paskin says
So I agree with you about how the canon excludes certain figures and caricatures others. ANW has been marginalized as a Philosopher of Mathematics and frankly suffered from his association to Bertrand Russell in the public consciousness. I was unaware of the richness of some of his other work and will be following up based on your suggestions. I should note that we will be doing more in the philosophy of mind later this year, we just have so many things in the pipeline. We’ll be doing Frege next and he’s kind of the platform on which all of that 20th century stuff sits.
I would also point out that Heidegger is hardly considered ‘the man’ and Dreyfus is really one of the only guys out there pushing his agenda. Our doing an episode on him has everything to do with me and nothing to do with him being on the main curricula of most philosophy departments.
I have some very ad hominem ideas about why ANW was never given his due by philosophers in the tradition he helped establish, but I’ll refrain from airing them here. He’s lucky to have an advocate in you.
If my stuffing up your combox is a bother, just tell me. I am a synthesizer by nature, and like a librarian, once you say what you might wish to locate, I am in gear.
In another combox, I likked this article which I only found yesterday – look at its notes for some great insights to ANW. (And many articles he mentions are at Anthony Flood’s site)
From Mill’s notes, this may be of interest to your readers interested in the relevance of Whitehead
David B Panagore says
Interesting conversation and if Whirehead, yes sidelined at my university to a math precept, said as such, I’m interested. By the same token H was excluded and only thru Dreyfus lectures have I learned, listening to each and every one (some I had to repeat manya time) while traveling alone for two weeks in Europe . I recommend that approach, I am not sure any other not it’s equal would work.
One more thought as to struggle or vagueness, Dreyfus always puts his finger on a tension puts and rotates around it providing various other interpretations before continuing on his way thru the text, and always returning to core observation.
Thanks for posting this,
william delaney says
For a positive and readable introduction to Dreyfus and Heidegger I would suggest the article: APPLYING HEIDEGGER, Anthropology and Humanism, Vol 17, Issue 2, June, 1992, pp. 40-48, by William Delaney.
I would love the notes!
Seth Paskin says
I added a link to the post – here it is direct: