Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 30:24 — 27.9MB)
This is a short preview of the full episode.
On Martin Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism" (1949).
What's our place in the world? What is it, really, to be human? Heidegger thought that being human hinges on having a proper relationship to Being. What is Being? Well, it's something more basic than particular beings like people and tables and such, yet it being so close, Heidegger thinks it's hardest to see, and that we too often get sucked exclusively into engagement with particular beings: into worldly goals and temptations.
He wrote this essay as a response to a question about whether his philosophy was a type of humanism, meaning an ethics based on relieving suffering and other evidently human interests. He responds that humanism is based on bad metaphysics that ignores Being in favor of beings, and it's in fact that humanistic viewpoint that enables so much inhumanity in the first place. If you'd just get right with Being, you'd have wisdom and ethics and the rest of it would come naturally to you. But of course, most of us won't do that, because we're too corrupted by modern society and philosophical history starting with Plato to even understand what in blazes he's talking about. Bah!
Read more about the topic and get the text. Listen to Seth's introduction.
The Letter on Humanism was just came up (very briefly) in the Philosophy of Technology not-school group. So it’s helpful to hear what it’s all about. (I’ve only read chunks of Being and Time for a survey class so this is my first exposure to Heidegger’s later writings.)
This is not what humanism means in Heidegger.
Mark Linsenmayer says
If you’re referring to my formulation of “an ethics based on relieving suffering…”, yes, that’s my quick and dirty attempt to get at the common definition of humanism that is assumed by the questioner that Heidegger is responding to. The details according to Heidegger have to do with man being a rational animal and being basically the cogito and some other things that we detail in the discussion, and in my linked topic announcement, and in Seth’s earlier short Precog mini-episode.
However, let me take this opportunity to lay down the gauntlet to all you cranky Heidegger lovers who were dissatisfied with our treatment of him last time around and no doubt aren’t going to be any happier this time: put up or shut up. Don’t just slink in here with a snarky comment, but help help explain this difficult thinker to us.
Mark Linsenmayer says
Let me add that Heidegger doesn’t actually spend much time in this essay describing what this classical view of humanism is that he’s objecting to; the essay is not much “on humanism” at all. He instead is largely describing his positive view of humanity as ek-sistence, such that traditional humanism (which has such a long and diffuse lineage that it’s hard to nail down to any particular claims; he includes both Christian humanism–which is not the secular humanism we typically associate with the word now–and Communist humanism, which likewise is pretty idiosyncratic and not the humanism we see in, for instance, Ayn Rand) has failed to really acknowledge the dignity of Man, what with our special relation to Being. As described in the episode, Heidegger gives a back-door “creative etymological” argument that his IS humanism, and the only proper kind, if we acknowledge the ancient meaning of humanitas as having something to do with dwelling in the house of Being (which Wes and Dylan agreed was a significant stretch as far as the Greek words Heidegger was bringing in were concerned).
However, we will be reading “Existentialism is a Humanism” by Sartre pretty soon, and will try to say a bit more about what humanism actually is.
Sartre is definitely in the mix but one should also keep in mind the whole theological background, especially christian-humanisms, and the work of not just the neo-Hegelians but also demythologizing theologians like Bultmann, and the existentialist analysts who would be foundational in the humanistic/transpersonal psychology movement.
To go further back in the family tree, via Nietzsche, might be interesting to see this later work by MH in the light of Emerson:
Mark, I am not a cranky Heidegger lover, but since you put it out there, one thing that troubled me about the previous episode was the over reliance on Dreyfus and the present-at-hand / ready-at-hand distinction. [Although I am only partly through the current episode, I do have time as my horizon so I feel free to turn around and look back 🙂 ]. Something that could’ve enriched the previous episode was more discussion of how Heidegger rejects the ontic. I.e., the whole structure of subject/object metaphysics, where “object” is taken in the older sense of the Latin objectum, derived from “iacere” (ob-ject — to throw against the wall in the mind — for inspection). This method carries forward into Husserlian phenomonology and he breaks with this in presenting his existentiale — his categories or modes of existence which are not analyzed via ontic analysis but described via existential phenomenology. (The essay on fear in S&Z being his example of how to describe an existential category phenomenologically). I sense that the existentiale provide one possible thread between older and later Heidegger, i.e. the stuff on dwelling, thinking, etc. Thanks and keep up the great work.
Alexander Johannesen says
Don’t you think a counter like that requires at least a smidgen more information? Especially on a site dedicated to philosophy? And long boring texts? And rhetorics? And language? And definitions? And strongly held opinions backed by some semblance of good arguments and / or evidence? Just saying “you’re wrong” is not good enough.
I hate to seem like a grump, but I am, so that’s how I come across.
the question of whether or not there is a major shift in Heiddegger’s work is one of the many endless academic worries but I think that this bite is a relevant bridge to this podcast:
“Larry Gomez on the change announced with “The Origin of the Work of Art”.
In the Origin essay, we see Heidegger’s shift in thinking from Being and Time because he no longer locates the question of truth in the being of Dasein, but now in Being itself. Truth is no longer a structure of Dasein but the way Being unfolds in a given epoch. As such, it is subject to the flow of time, but in its unfolding results in an event, something that happens at a certain place in a certain time – “the site of the moment” as he calls it in Contributions. For Heidegger, this event of truth is simultaneously the grounding of that event in history. And art is one essential way in which that the event of truth arises and thus configures history. Heidegger says, “The origin of the work of art… is art. This is so because art is in its essence an origin: a distinctive way in which truth comes into being, that is, becomes historical.” [P. 202] Thus, for Heidegger, art is the pathway through which truth comes into being. But the coming into being of truth is historical because it changes throughout time. Heidegger comes to the same foundation when lecturing on Parmenides only he reverses the order of truth and history. There he says “[t]he ‘meaning’ of history, however, is the essence of truth, in which at any time the truth of a human epoch is founded.” [P. 56] The rest of that lecture reflects on this meaning of truth which was found in Parmenides’ fragments at the dawn of western philosophy.
This historical dimension of truth is a shift from Heidegger’s philosophy in Being and Time. With the Origin essay, the truth of becomes something historical. In Being and Time, Heidegger recognizes the historical as something in the past which no longer functions the same way in the present. The antiquities in the museums are still present-at-hand in the museum because visitors can see them, but they no longer function as they once did because the world they functioned in no longer exists.
In Being and Time what grounds history and also the world is Dasein. Dasein is what is primarily historical, while artifacts, ruins and landmarks are only secondarily historical. This grounding of the historical in Dasein is what changes in Heidegger after Being and Time when he drops talk of Dasein and focuses exclusively on Being, language and truth. We see this shift Origin where is no mention of Dasein. Instead, it is truth and Being which make up the historical.
Pp. 181-2 https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/larry-gomez/the-nomads-labyrinth/
Daniel David says
I just wanted to say that the Precognition was really helpful in dealing with this difficult philosopher, and I hope you guys keep doing that. Mark’s summaries always help, but having an audio summary is nice when I’m not at a screen (which I’m usually not when listening). I’m glad to see you guys did one for Jung already. Some episodes are obviously just going to be more difficult, I understand. I’ve listened to Dreyfus’s entire Division 1 course, as well as a good bit of other secondary material and I still feel like I have only a vague understanding, but I’m coming around. So good job on finding a way to keep your episodes both educational and accessible.
I’m not sure how much of MH is really available to those of us who weren’t educated in that milieu but always interested in seeing what people make of him, part of what he seemed to be wanting to get at is some-Thing (in and for Itself), some way of being in relationship to the world that wouldn’t be so shaped/warped by (reduced to) our all-too-human uses of it, to get around seeing thru a glass darkly so to speak, and I think that this is futile and perhaps MH was agreeing with this when he said that only a God could save us, or at least that’s my take on him.
Wayne Schroeder says
Congratulations on presenting: The strength and weakness of heidegerian thought.
His strength is focusing on the one category of Being (as opposed to false “metaphysical” or objectifying categorical rationalism of traditional philosophy) which he has emphasized in his Letter on Humanism. His concept of how to “be” appears to be the intellectual awareness and participation in Being qua a being. He regards language as the house of being, and he thus regards philosophy as residing in that house.
His weakness appears that he limits his category of existence to Being, and does not include other people and society in his philosophical position, except indirectly through language. His position is thus solipsistic. This dead end of his philosophy thus leaves him without any personal or interpersonal compass beyond or within the category of Being. There is no compass for why not to be a Nazi. It is fascinating that his response for this failure of values is arrogance, denial and hostility toward values per se. That should guarantee a repeat of the same.
A caveat is that Heidegger was once talking to a Buddhist about the definition of language, and got a highly abstract response that Heidegger said sounded much like his concept of Erlebnis. An eastern concept of mindfulness is possibly implicit in Hediggerian thought but I think that is a gratuitious addition which he did not intend per se, because it does not fit within his intellectual confines.
It is ironic that the PEL interpersonal discussion of Heidegger raised the interpersonal absence in Heideggerian philosophy. Well done.
I think of Heideggerian thinking as an introductory course to the need to go beyond rationalistic categorical thinking and begin to think of how to think and live beyond the classic dualistic position of subject-object. He got us off to a good start.
Seth Paskin says
Great comment Wayne, thanks!
Many times I’ve read a passage of MH and just substituted “god” for “being” to try to make sense of a passage. I was relieved to hear a similar view expressed in this episode.
Seth Paskin says
“Being” certainly seems to do a lot of the heavy lifting that “God” does in other systems. That said, Heidegger would object to that characterization. Traditionally God is the ‘third term’ in any system that justifies, grounds or causally undergirds it. Heidegger doesn’t seem to want to say that Being does those things – I think primarily because those are all tied to traditional metaphysics. He needs an alternative language to describe what he’s driving at – in fact to manifest it – hence the poetic/etymological language he uses.
That said, I can’t tell you I understand what Being is or does. Yet.
Wayne Schroeder says
Yet 🙂 –There is always tomorrow.
I think the heavy lifting God as done now falls down to new false idols, including Being in the case of Heidegger, and Self in the case of Humanism.
Perhaps we need a new model for “heavy lifting.”
Starting in ‘From Enowning’ onwards, the differentiation between Be-ing and the Gods is a pretty vital distinction made, especially with regard to “the passing of the Last God”.
Surprisingly, “All Things Shining” by Hubert Dreyfus does a good job of introducing a new way of access to the distinction made here.
Pretty quick: The Gods are understood as ‘The Attuning Ones’ and as Divine Ways of Being, and not as if they were some ‘actual’ anthropomorphic beings running around in the clouds. Man doesn’t create the gods, and the gods don’t create man, yet the Gods emerge from Be-ing as a “tune” of Being which Dasein may then take up responsibility for enactment of a Decision qua attunement. In freeing oneself to becoming definitively and openly attuned, an Encounter between the God and Dasein may take place wherein Dasein allows itself to be transformed and re-made through the Encounter, and thereby the God may be surpassed.
I had a bit of trouble figuring out a differentiation between Being and God in his thought, and especially in his later thought, until the first time I was exposed to Martin Buber’s work. Personally, that really opened up the distinction for me.
Wayne Schroeder says
This is some great stuff. It is as if you are not only “channeling” Heidegger, but helping to explicate what he meant, would mean, does mean.
I’m especially drawn to the concept and experience of attunement philosophically and experientially because it helps to dismiss the false subject-object dichotomy, and arrive at the I-Thou.
Kind of ironic that the less philosophic/intellectual position of Buber (compared to Heidegger) would help to fill in the more personal/social/spiritual. Buber seems more connected to me than Heidegger precisely in the areas of the personal, social and spiritual.
Wayne Schroeder says
dmf–thanks for the book reference
Here’s a quote from: The Mystical Element in Heidegger’s Thought, by John Caputo–
“There is nothing in Heidegger’s “Ereignis” to love and much to fear. The releasement of which Heidegger speaks has taken on a more ominous aspect than [Meister] Eckhart’s, for it has been detached from its religious matrix. It is no longer releasement to a loving God, but releasement to a truth which is equiprimodially un-truth.” p. 249
While this book is more about the mystic Eckhart, it is refreshing to see clear language regarding Heideggerian thinking.
Daniel Horne says
John Macquarrie has done some interesting work on this particular angle. If you want to pursue the “God as Being” line further, consider checking out An Existentialist Theology: A Comparison of Heidegger and Bultmann:
(It’s pretty cheap if you try to track down a used paperback copy…)
This is what Heidegger means: the philosopher is the best kind of human. If you do philosophy, ideally whilst thinking or speaking Greek or German, you have achieved the ultimate potential as a human being. Have, in fact, transcended being human. If you do not do philosophy, or if you do it in another language, you are a helpless fool.
where is this spelled out in his work?
Specifically? “Letter on Humanism.”
um, that’s not very specific…
I’m just showing that Heidegger detractors can play that game….although technically I’m not a detractor, I have a love/hate relationship with him. Look below if you care to read my real thoughts.
To start: Ek-sistence, as standing out or standing forth within Being, is a response to the Sartre/Beauvoir misinterpretations of ‘existence’. It’s an easy habit to fall into to assume that ‘existence’ is all about going out and accomplishing ‘projects’ and ‘doing something’ within the world ‘as authentic Dasein’, and thereby the mind/body subject/object distinction is retained in simply another reformulation of metaphysics. Things continue on as before. To Stand Forth and ‘Shepard’ or Guard Being, to shift into and ‘inabide as Da-Sein’ means essentially recognizing that thinking a single thought within its own full and essential depth is at times more difficult than any running around and attempting political organization. For Da-Sein, if it is to exist or ek-sist authentically, enthinking of Being and enactment of Being are not separated phenomena, and must always attain the measure of their necessity through the experience of distress (which first allows for their unfolding as such).
Moving forward, Heidegger’s ‘poeticism’ isn’t just a big fuck you to all the philosopher’s who came before: Just as the Thing, A Vase, a Vessel, is masterfully shaped and crafted through an enactment of poesis which brings forth the Thing unto its ownmost essence, Da-Sein (Nor The Truth of the Meaning of Being) does not exist ‘a priori’ as just another term to replace ‘human’ with, but is rather something that must be shaped and formed in order to create the proper space and to make room for the possibility of the Advent or Occurrence of Being.
What am I trying to say? The Vessel creates space for possibilities – it may be filled with flowers, with water, it may be used to keep a precious item safe, etc. The Space for those possibilities did not pre-exist the shaping of the Thing. The essence of the thing does not lie in the material or in the productive activity which creates it, but rather in the nothing which the Thing shelters. The aim in speaking of Dasein and Ek-sistence and using such seemingly flowery language is in order to radically shift conceptions of personal identity and selfhood out of the realm of subjective representation. My Self is not something solid and concrete like the walls of the Vase, but rather my Self is something achieved only in and as the Space and Room Made for the utmost essential possibility of Ereignis. Dasein authentic dwells when recognizing that it IS ‘the space in between’.
What the hell is Being? Being is revealing and uncovering, and every particular being that we see stands in some relation to Being. Being is the Be-ing of Dasein – YOUR Dasein and My Dasein – each only as unique and as distinct to the extent that we seize upon the essential possibilities of Being and appropriate them to our concrete, factical ‘Situation’. Each Dasein must take into its care and concern preparations, and that means undertaking the futural tasks of building for the sake of dwelling within one’s enowned ownmost essential nature (i.e. Ek-Sisting Authentically – Neither Solidified and Atemporal nor Becoming in constant Flux, but Be-ing).
The clearing is the rupture (the Lacanian in-breaking of the Real?), and as abground clearing is the gift of refusal from Ereignis. When Being withdraws or refuses itself, a specific and definite locale is marked by virtue of this default, which itself is the highest essential occurrence of Being. Dasein is essentially never ‘in itself’, but always outside and beyond itself (when Dasein essentially occurs, which not every ‘human’ is automatically capable of or admitted to), so Dasein essentially always stands within ‘the open’ venture of Being. The open, however, is not the cleavage or the clearing, for that which is gifted from the abground hints and marks the location for a grounding in which a site which opens up upon a unique time-space is lit up. Dasein must dwell inabidingly within the clearing if it is to authentically ek-sist in its commitment to Be-ing as Enowning, and must prepare to ground the open of the clearing if it is to first enable the possibility of enopen
ing enowning itself.
Being reveals, and Being is always taking place in either its onset or in its default. What is disclosed can only be so disclosed (as self-showing and self-illuminating) if there are eyes with which to see it, and that means that an opening for possible sighting of beings must first be granted by the clearing of Be-ing.
The intention here is to decenter the supreme self-certain subjectivity that one sees with Hegelian Absolute Knowledge (or, for that matter, anyone who has tripped a certain amount of acid while still under the impression that the “Self” is synonymous with ‘I’. To use an analogue, modern liberal conceptions of identity understand the Self as similar to a bright and shining Star, while this understanding of the Self seems to be more similar to a Black Hole). Rather than just presupposing our individuality and our freedom, the occurrence of the leap and the shift in Self-understanding enables each individual person the possibility to take the process of their individuation into hand and individuate it – this can only be accomplished after the thrown open leap into Be-ing for Being, which means completely rebuilding one’s conceptions of what and how the Self is achieved (and thus can be lost) from the ground up.
I don’t think it’s a question of the one or the many, which still is a metaphysical way of understanding Being, but rather that Being as Revealing NEEDS the mindfulness of Da-Sein in order for it to occur, and that Being is what is gifted from Ereignis (as the occurrence of the event of masterfully appropriating through first owning-over-to). Being is not a thing or a nonthing mystically floating around somewhere, but is an occurrence whose essential abode rests in language. Be-ing as Enownment IS the essential nature of Dasein, wherein what is most unique, rare, and worthy of enthinking/enacting may break-in and pass into the guardianship and care of the individual (who is no longer anybody, but is its OWN Self insofar as capacity for mindful Dasein allows the claim to transform that dimension of undifferentiated (undifferenciated?) identity.
So…. Ideally, it is not Heidegger as some fixed persona who is speaking in that text, because we’ve come to recognize that it is not WE who write works but it is the work that re-writes who we ARE by virtue of our openness and decisiveness to allow its emergence as such. We allow the logos to speak through us, and it is only insofar as we are capable of thinking in a manner attuned to that which we hear that we become and achieve our own unique Selves.
Sorry about that, I know it’s not my best or clearest work, but for some reason I just had to put it out there. Maybe I’ll try again for greater clarity some other time(-space).
Wayne Schroeder says
Ethan–thanks for constructing a dwelling by your words for the house of Being. I can share with you an understanding of the Being represented there, and that seems great, getting a little more toward achieving the uniqueness of our Selves. But is that it? Is that all there is? If I try to talk about my being with you or your being with me, or our being in society, in nature, does it all return to the same clearing, meaning the same thing?
If we want to talk about a being in terms of Being, then we need to take care so that the unveiling of our intended significance takes place, and not just that feeling you get when your friend tells you about some dream he had, you know? And if you want to talk about YOUR experience of Being with me? If you wanna try speak to me about that feeling of transformation, where Being as revealing suddenly shifts into meaning your OWN Be-ing? Or when Being shifts its meaning to something like ‘that occurrence that comes to lay a claim of ownership over you, and in accepting this responsibility for articulating a ground for its singular truth, you come to enown it to you’?
It all really depends on where you’re at, and what kind of experiences you’ve undertaken. If ‘We ARE time’ is still proving mindblowing and revolutionary (I promise, I’m sure my friends hated me the first time I read Being and Time and still thought it was fun to go around droppin’ knowledge bombs), then there’s only so far we can go in discussing Being in what is essentially a public space. Because that ‘same’ clearing, you were asking about? It’s only the Same in the sense that it is the utmost experience of a particular and concrete different difference.
The Clearing “clears” a path for thought and nihilates all our ungrounded preconceptions precisely because it is the rarest and most individuating summoning of Dasein unto what is to be thought. Being withdraws in a variety of circumstances – any revelation of my meaning may have remained obscured and concealed. However, when thought enacts the step back and phenomenologically-hermeneutically attempts to question the defaulting of Being itself As an advent of Being, the possibility of a refusal and not-granting may lay claim and mark the individual through the extreme distress which is undergone. It’s the highest gifting from Ereignis, and it is the precondition for a renewed onset of Being, but it’s not exactly a pleasant experience.
A river flows forward, and in flowing forth, it creates its own banks. Without the banks to guided and contain the waters, they’d simply disperse. In flowing forth, the river draws from a source which serves as an originating point which it has appropriated to itself, yet neither the river nor the source as a source exist a priori to the relation between one another. The terrain helps co-determine the depth and intensity of the river as it essentially flows out and beyond itself, and it only maintains its identity in flowing forward if every moment of its past is a co-present having-been which is connected into a unity with the present as it opens out onto the future. Whart happens when that river comes up against an obstacle that exists through a multiplicity of other dimensions than it? Like flowing straight into a great big tree? Or off a cliff?
Honestly, I think that might be the only way we can talk about Being, and not have it devolve into mere abstraction. But that’s just my opinion. And who the hell am I anyway?
– Ethan (or Logos – Whatever yo)
Wayne Schroeder says
Ethan–you are the Big Lebowski– the dude who abides (in Heidegger, in Being). Your response is the same I experienced with my great friends who did Acid (LSD). I had to read Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and pay special attention to the “Doors” in order to check what condition their condition was in.
You have definitely dropped into the Heidegger zone, which I appreciate you taking the time to communicate, as I sense you actually get him.
Your response confirms my concerns, that your relationship to Being, as you have communicated it, takes you out of Being with me (just my impression).
In fact, your esoteric Heideggerian language (which you reflect well) is extremely isolating/alienating to me due to the esoteric language itself, and what feels to me like you have a real buzz of being vicariously going on in your head that leaves me (and I suspect the rest of us) out (unless we drop into the dwelling of your Being and language, as Heidegger intended).
Ok, I understand your position as far as it goes and actually prefer Lebowski, but I think it lacks personally and socially.
I have just expressed my sense of personal alienation regarding your excellent Heideggerian response, and that would necessarily expand to you and Heidegger’s place for the social, natural, and metaphysical in general.
While I can see you get a good buzz from Heidegger, and most of the best of life correct, I have great concerns for the personal and social given his/your ontology.
Thanks for your well-earned understanding of Heidegger–Wayne.
Alexander Johannesen says
Wow. I think I get it now. The Heidegger-Schroeder-Lebowski conundrum of being Being. I better calm down with some Readers Digest …
(Awesome response, Wayne, that I slap my “me, too” stamp of approval on)
If the language itself feels dense (i.e. not cleared or open for meaning to come forth and reveal itself) and alienating, then what is being expressed is doing its job.
The words we use, and especially those words that are nearest to us yet are never explicitly taken hold of (what was called De-Severing in Being and Time – the phenomena that what is closest and what often has a vitally important influence upon us is most remote) are words which point toward certain primordial phenomena. Remember the Buddhist story about the teacher who points to the moon, yet all the pupil sees is the finger which he uses to point? Well, the same point also holds when you reverse the story – the teacher points and the pupil focuses on the great and faraway majesty of the moon, while the teacher was really attempting to draw attention to the act of pointing itself.
So the words and language seem esoteric and at times unnecessarily obscurantist? The experience of aletheia – the self-showing and unveiling of meaning – appears to withdraw and understanding itself breaks down? Then that itself is a defaulting of Being, which itself marks the location of something vital and essential which is as yet still not being thought in and through its own terms. This leads you to a questioning of the place of communication itself, and promotes an anxiety regarding the capacity and importance of creating a mutual with-world between “your Being” and “my Being”? Good. Because these still ARE the vital questions of our epoch, and those matters which apparently are the most settled and yet remain most remote from the reaches of actual, vital thought.
For me, at least, part of the path toward a re-conception of the social with regard to Being is made blindingly clear through *this* very conversation itself. What I mean is…
If you hadn’t have responded to me with your questions and your concerns, which necessarily come from a region totally Other to my own experience, how could I have accepted and taken to heart the directive to give thought and voice to these concerns explicitly? Of course, these are details which have bothered and concerned me before, however, something fundamentally different occurs when I write through a problem within the dimension of my own thinking, and when I write through a problem that has been present only in virtue of the Being of another person. I mean, its not as if I’m trying to ‘teach’ anyone anything, or am dogmatically asserting the one true “Truth” of an interpretation which binds commonly across all time and all space. Rather, through the active engagement with explicitly thinking and articulating this concrete problem in response to the issues you have raised, I’m allowing what I write and what I think to re-create my understanding within the context of this discussion. Who, what, and how I am my own Self is transformed insofar as what I write springs from me (again, sparked through a dialogue with you) and touches upon what is essential within the matter at hand, and then insofar as I allow what has been interpreted and articulated as such to return (re-turn) my Being in order to face in the direction of that region which has thus enopened itself and called upon me for further inquiry. The crazy part is that you, in reading what I write, in thinking what I think (again, insofar as you allow it to be taken to heart and affect you) are becoming…. who? More truly distinct, by virtue of the significance of the difference? Yet, only by first becoming… me?
Honestly, one of the reasons I first found myself so attracted to Heidegger’s thought is because I feel that it (implicitly) puts forth one of the only grounded and sustainable arguments against solipsism. But again, that doesn’t mean we’re allowed the luxury of going back to business as usually, and just groundlessly assuming the common humanity of everyone in general.
Also, for those of you who still have this feeling of “bullshit” whenever Heidegger says that the history of Western philosophy has been an attempt to essentially push through and work upon one essential problem, OR for those of you who are completely baffled and turned off by the late Heidegger’s talk of “the fourfold”, the ‘heavens and the earth’, ‘divinities and mortals’, etc. I’d recommend taking a look at Hesiod.
Wayne Schroeder says
Thanks again for your thoughtful and very meaningful response. I am truly impressed by your ability to have understood Heidegger and integrated a philosophy into the core of your life. Ironically, I do not feel most of what you have said does not make sense to me.
I see both your moon and your pointing to aletheia. Believe me, I respect your ability to have incorporated Heidegger into your being, and your deeply formulated response (until the last two paragraphs and the last of the third paragraph)
Although deeply verbalized in Heideggerian code, you make assertions in the last three paragraphs which are not nearly as informative and are deeply embedded in code which I must admit I do not understand:
3rd # from last) “You . . . are becoming who ? . . . more truly distinct.” While you are congratulating my individuation and distinction/differentiation from you, does your first becoming only thus depend on you becoming “me?”, i.e. you?
I realize this is a true need not to confuse the subject (me)object (you) problem. I was thinking you would refer to this subject/object issue here.
2nd # from last) “arguments against solipsism.” This seems more of an assertion rather than explanation, although I assume you feel that has been addressed above. I do feel connected to your understanding, but only because I understand you and Heidegger.
I do not think this understanding would generalize to most people, i.e., why can’t we communicate with common language? (Please refer to John Caputo, The Mystical Element in Heidegger’s Thought, for the ability to talk about Heidegger in clear language.)
3rd # from last) “one essential problem.” I believe this is my concern about Heidegger focusing on Being at the expense of other essential problems. Hesiod is interesting, but not a clear response.
Ethan, my main concern is not with your ability to be clear with Heidegger (although that is the problem of most philosophers), but with you and Heidegger’s ability to be clear with philosophers and other people in normal language, preferring instead to rely on code, on “Heidegger Speak,” at which you are impressively adept.
Please interpret this response as a request for elaboration of your comments in the last three paragraphs rather than as negatives. –Thanks Ethan, Wayne.
Wayne Schroeder says
Ethan–I understand your nonresponse as a valid disinterest in engaging in subject-object talk which misses the point of what you have been saying. Thanks again for your ability to translate Heidegger’s theorizing into the poetic present.–Wayne
Ethan, that was excellent, worthy of its own blog post or lead post in a Not-School group. And to our fearless leaders, I have to say well-done. Somehow a seemingly casual conversation again gets at some very profound insights whilst serving as a learned act of literary criticism.
As regards poetry, I actually believe he privileges poetry over philosophy. I remember thinking he feels at a loss because all he does is philosophy, while the poet has the real, or easy, access to Being. But I’ve read/listened to so much on Heidegger I’m not sure it’s in the text or if that is someone else’s opinion. Remember he wept and told a colleague he was going to retire (or was it commit suicide?) when Rilke died? He thought that without the poets, philosophy was useless.
Speaking of language in general, Heidegger certainly privileges Greek and German over all other languages, and I initially took this as German Nationalism. Although I still feel it is, I think there is some truth to it. If you look at a “language tree” of the Indo-European languages, Greek and German are derivative of far fewer languages than all other western languages, especially English and the Romance Languages, but even Latin is a bastardization. So if Ek-sistence is only possible through human language, and that Being exists prior-to our subject/object interactions with the world, then our piddley human “chit-chat” (from Being and Time) takes us away from Dasein. However, if we are Thinking (doing philosophy) in Greek or German, we are getting closer to our essence because we are doing so in a language that is not corrupted by the human interpretations and socialized contexts. If you don’t believe me, I insist someone give an alternative explanations as to why he goes back, explains where the Romans (in Latin) corrupted our understanding and use of certain terms (like “humanism”) and then goes farther back to get at the true essence of the word….from the Greek.
A major problem I have with existentialism, particularly that of Heidegger and Nietzsche, is their attempt to find a way to exalt modern man, to transcend the modern condition. Both men openly decry the descent of man into “technology” with Heidegger, or “nihilism” with Nietzsche, and as our hosts point out, Heidegger (and N) blame science (as derived from Plato and Aristotle). Both philosophers look back to a by-gone age when humans were able to fully actualize their potential, to stand out, as it were, either through true philosophy or martial deeds. Both men pick Ancient Greece as the ideal point of human achievement, and I find it convenient that they pick an almost pre-historic time, when what we are able to extrapolate about what people did and thought is based upon literal fragments of writing, or references in other writings that came, in some cases, hundreds of years later.
We can call this time “Epic,” or “Heroic” (although technically the “Heroic” age is the so-called “Dark Ages,” the time of King Arthur and Beowulf, but I include it because Nietzsche likes it). But still, the time Heidegger looks back to is the time of Achilles and the Trojan War, and the time of course, of Alexander. Now, Heidegger claims Thinking is in fact the best, or ONLY, way to access Being, to truly Ek-sist. And when he says this, the martial experiment of Nazism had already failed. So what else to do but retreat back, lick your wounds, and claim Thinking, not Action, is the ultimate way to achieve oneness with Dasein? And do not forget, Heidegger could easily find solace and reinforcement with his beloved Greeks, for Alexander himself said “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”
As our humble instructors enunciated in the first Nietzsche episode, we can’t ALL be Uber-Mensches. It is unrealistic or impractical to imagine all of society would rise to the challenge and transcend nihilism in the way Nietzsche prescribes, and I claim the same is true with Heideggers prescription for accessing Being. Yes we NEED more Thinking, and less chit-chat, but are we going to get it? Of course not. So that is why political action, organizing, and simple daily interactions with beings, as opposed to Beings, is much more practical and realistic and, I would argue, more valuable. We may, as philosophers, engage in Thinking to our hearts content, but we may NOT make value judgements about our selves and others as humans because of that.
In case anyone cares, the Indo-European language tree, worth a viewing regardless of what you thought of my post:
Pfffft. Is there any armenian or albenian philosopher worth revisiting?
I see your point.
actually….I kind of see your point too!
The NYTs Sunday Review had an article that I think is similar to your discussion at 1.04 (Your site shut down I have to start the podcast all over and will check the time count) where Dylan states, “My response as a being in the world being is an activity.” From there Seth draws on a religious strain to Heidegger, Buddhism…compassion, Wes draws on contentment and contemplation, and someone mentioned “experience” – Heidegger on technology or such. Again, I had to start the podcast again and listen more closely.
That said, there was an article in the NYTs Sunday Review by Judith H. Dobrzynski titled, “High Culture Goes Hands-On” that caught my attention because a few years back I wrote an article (with a religious strain [Catholicism]), attempting to show how Catholic dogma was being utilized in economics coined “an experience economy.” Dobrzynski writes:
“IN the world of commerce, this trend has been going on for decades. By 1998, two consultants, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, had coined the term “the experience economy” and were urging businesses to offer customers a memorable time, rather than a product or service. On that theory rest businesses like Chuck E. Cheese’s, Build-A-Bear Workshops, Niketown, hotels as tourist destinations and virtually all of Las Vegas (which, by the way, no longer has an art museum — the Las Vegas Art Museum closed in February 2009 after nearly 60 years of operation, a victim of poor attendance and declining donations).”
I mention because the article draws on running threads the four of you are wrestling through with this particular text by Heidegger. Again, my connection shut down when you started speaking about poetics and art. The article could demonstrate similar thoughts about technology re Heidegger’s concerns.
Yet another awesome podcast. And I think it’s great that this Heidegger episode followed the Heraclitus episode.
There were many mentions of Heraclitus and his influence on Heidegger, but one that came to mind that wasn’t mentioned is that it seemed to me listening that Heidegger is doing with Being and beings very much something like Heraclitus’s One and Many.
And I agree with Seth’s comment above that Heidegger really would object to this Being being equated with a “God” a kind of dualistic transcendent. It seems, as much as I can make sense of it, his Being is immanent like Heraclitus idea of the Logos and/or Fire being common.
Heraclitus didn’t care if you called his Logos or Fire “Zeus”, but it seems Heidegger would mind calling his Being “God”. Perhaps if you changed the definition of “God” to something like Spinoza does or Bishop John Shelby Spong does, a kind of panentheism. I guess some one could try to make sense of it that way but it doesn’t seem to be the way Heidegger is meaning or Merleau Ponty who makes this Being and beings embodied as the flesh.
The hint at mysticism of Heraclitus and Heidegger here reminded me some what of Zen Buddhism’s transcendence of transcendence.
And both Heraclitus and Heidegger (intentionally) avoiding the categories of “metaphysics”, “ontology” etc seem to want to have a groundless ground a lot like Merleau Ponty and of course Buddhism as Nagarjuna was mentioned. He does something very similar in his Mūlamadhyamaka-kārikā.
I think Eva talked about emergence and it’s turtles all the way down or something like that.
And I forget who said it in the Heraclitus episode about the problem with grounding a philosophy or ethics in a single word/concept/etc.
The Groundless Ground
From Place to Ground
Donald Parker says
Dasein. Da-Sein. There Being. “Being There”. Hal Ashby with Peter Sellars. Mind blown! A simple minded gardener long isolated from the rest of the world whose simple statements are misinterpreted as profundities. Or perhaps the movie is suggesting that because Chance the gardener, aka Chauncey Gardiner, was uncorrupted by life that he really DOES make more sense then any one else around and is truly profound. Heraclitus would probably see this as a deliberate ambivalence. While I don’t quite get Roger Ebert’s Big Blue/AI bookends, the rest here is an excellent review that will give you a taste of the many possible MH influences. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-being-there-1979
Nice one man. With regard to other Being-Media (that IS a thing, right?), I’ve been playing around with the idea of Don Quioxte as the Knight of Being… Every one thinks he’s just an insane old man because he jousts against windmills and thinks they’re giants who have killed off all the knights-errant. And suddenly! We realize that the technicity embodied through these fields of windmills ARE what eventually lead to the death of chivalry (the flight of the gods). I’d write up an actual essay, but I’m pretty positive it must have already been done at every small liberal arts school in the country at some time or another.
After re-re-listening to the podcast and re-re-re-reading the text. The David Farrel Krell translation.
And thinking over the connections with the essay “Mysticism without transcendence: Reflections on liberation and emptiness” Louis Nordstrom University Journal Philosophy East and West.
“The truly radical Zen move at this point is to insist that such true transcendence is already revealed and realized in the emptiness and suchness of things as they are. What this means is that there is really no need for transcendence at all, since true transcendence is, as it were, built into the nature of things. What one needs liberation from, in effect, is the very impulse to transcend, an impulse necessarily based on an inability to see things as they are as self-transcending. Seeing through the deluded nature of transcendence (in the relative sense) is true transcendence-a transcendence of the very impulse to transcend. It is this insight which is behind the Zen emphasis on liberation as nothing special and on the profoundly mystical character of so-called ordinary mind.”
“To liberate one’s mind from all trace of conceptualization is to transcend transcendence, for there is a need to transcend only so long as one continues to confuse conceptualization with actuality. True transcendence, then, is the removal of this confusion which simultaneously eliminates the very need for transcendence. Even the notion of the beyond becomes devoid of significance, unless one radically reconstructs the notion in such a way that beyondness is built into the suchness of things by virtue of their emptiness.”
“Once one has seen deeply into the nameless character of all ordinary experience, the importance of a special mystical experience of transcendence, in Zen, becomes almost scandalous.”
“The experience of transcendence-the sense of attainment-is a source of boundless joy to the younger monk, but a source of embarrassment to the older, not because mystical experience is ineffable in some special sense, and therefore should not be announced in this callow way, but rather because the experience of transcendence reveals nothing but the deeply deluded condition that makes such experience necessary in the first place. What is that deluded condition? Precisely the assumption that one must go beyond one’s conceptual scheme to have a direct encounter with reality. What is scandalous about transcendence is this link to delusion; it is, in a sense, like airing one’s dirty laundry.”
In Zen, the quasi-comic nature of the experience of transcendence, when viewed as a breakthrough into a superior and higher form of reality, is put vividly and with characteristically wry humor by saying that a person who has a mystical experience and thinks it involves some ontological transcendence is as deluded as a thief breaking into his own house! Instead of breaking into one’s own house, one should simply live in one’s house, and when hungry, eat, when sleepy, sleep. It seems to me that the Zen move in all matters mystical is always one of radical deflation.”
“The mystical union so often inflatedly described in mystical literature is deflated in Zen on the ground that there is really no need for one big transcendent union at all; rather, what is needed is simply to unite with whatever is happening, completely to remove any trace of separation from the content of one’s experience. To do so one must see through the merely apparent opacity of one’s conceptual scheme which tends, existentially speaking, to result in a condition of extreme separation and alienation from what is experienced. In Zen any experience qualifies as mystical so long as it is an experience of non-separation and union with what is. The eloquent irony of Zen consists, therefore, in the fact that our nonconceptual experience of the world is so thoroughly mystical in character that there is nothing at all really mystical about it.”
It really makes the connections clear and how he’s trying to get out of the trajectory of western metaphysics and philosophy after the pre-Socratics that lead us to this point in history and in thought.
And it makes his understanding of Heraclitus clear and the connections with Taoism and Zen quite clear.
Heidegger’s Hidden Sources: East-Asian Influences on his Work
“In Heidegger’s Hidden Sources, Reinhard May demonstrates that Martin Heidegger drew upon German translations of Chinese Daoist and Zen Buddhist classics for some of the major ideas of his philosophy. May also shows how Heidegger’s appropriation of East Asian modes of thinking continued through conversations with Chinese and Japanese scholars over many years”
With Heidegger writing “..Being he must first learn to exist in the nameless” and how we must over come homelessness, a kind of alienation, that western metaphysics and post-Socratic philosophy such as Plato through to Christianity has brought us to our current technological age where we are resources to be consumed.
And Being is not a thing = Śūnyatā.
Taoism and Zen much like Heraclitus would not fit into the categories of western philosophy such as “metaphysics”.
It is interesting that Heidegger has this connection to Zen Buddhism coming from Heraclitus.
But that isn’t by accident or coincidence.
Seems like a very interesting book by Ma Lin. The reviewer:
“The Daodejing is the only Eastern text mentioned and discussed multiple times in Heidegger’s published works. His uses of it reflect his own philosophical preoccupation with the question of Being, emptiness, and language, so that he freely adopts the translations according to his own linguistic priorities without considering its Daoist or Chinese contexts. This is undoubtedly true of his uses of the other principal text associated with early philosophical Daoism: the Zhuangzi. The biggest gap in Ma’s book is the somewhat surprising lack of detailed consideration of the Zhuangzi, especially given how exactingly the other connections and influences are examined, and its crucial role in Reinhard May’s argument for Heidegger’s indebtedness to Chinese and Japanese thought in Heidegger’s Hidden Sources”
Deciphering Heidegger’s (and Hegel) Connection
with the Daodejing
Heidegger and Taoism on Humanism
In chapter 17 of the Chuang-tzu Hui Shih puts forward a challenge: “You are not a fish. Whence do you know that the fish are happy?” Chuang-tzu replies, famously, “You aren’t me, whence do you know that I don’t know the fish are happy?” [Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters, A. C. Graham, ed. and trans. (Boston: Unwin Paperbacks, 1986)
The Ma-wang-tui manuscripts (to which Heidegger did not have access) have an interestingly different version: “If one settles the turbid it gradually ….]
With Hsiao’s assistance, Heidegger translated these lines as follows:
Wer kann still sein and aus der Stille durch sie auf den Weg bringen (be-wegen) etwas so, daß es zum Erscheinen kommt? Wer vermag es, stillend etwas so ins Sein zu bringen?
(Who can be still and out of the stillness, through it, bring (move) something along the way so that it becomes manifest? Who is able, through stillness, to bring something into being?)
Heidegger is known to have been fond of this passage and to have read aloud from it in 1930 during a discussion of intersubjectivity and empathy (Pöggeler, 52).
For a long time now, all too long, thinking [like a fish] has been stranded on dry land. — Heidegger
Fish thrive in water, man thrives in the Way [Tao].– Chuang Tzu
And now that I’m thinking about it the part about “thinking of Being” there is a kind of right thought praxis that is very close to Zen.
“Abide in neither thinking nor not thinking. Thinking is linear and sequential, a separation from the reality that is the subject of thought, and thus is an abstraction rather than the reality itself. Not thinking is suppressive. It cuts away thoughts the moment they arise, making the mind into a great impenetrable mountain-dead, unresponsive. Non-thinking has no such edges. It is the boundless mind of samadhi that neither holds on to, nor lets go of, thoughts. It is the manifestation of the buddha mind, in which the dualism of self and other, thinking and not thinking, dissolves. This is the dharma of thusness that is the right thought of all the buddhas in the ten directions.”
Martin Larsson says
I just have to ask, where do these white noise bursts come from that now and then makes a guest appearance in the show? It’s starting to get ridiculous 😛
Mark Linsenmayer says
Where exactly in the file are you hearing this? How far in time wise?
Martin Larsson says
I hear one at 7:40.
I’ve been thinking back over this podcast discussion and the text.
This is isn’t that well thought out as I’m still pondering over all of this and how it relates to the political and economic issues of our time.
There’s one thing that didn’t get much mention about Christian Humanism.
It was mentioned that we usually associate “Humanism” with Secular Humanism.
But there is a large western tradition of religious Humanism and Christian Humanism. This has been a huge thread in Christianity especially moderate or liberal traditions.
And this has been a huge thread in philosophy because philosophy was the hand maiden of theology and as a means of apologetics.
In some philosophers it’s hard to tell if they’re doing philosophy or theology.
In the discussion and in the comments it’s hard for us not to try to put Heidegger back into categories or to shove “God” back in. Or if it’s not there then it’s “atheism”.
But I think as it was said he’s trying to go beyond dichotomies.
There was part of the discussion that the current technological age is worse than the preceding and we need to get out of it but there is definitely the progression that it’s the earlier ages that lead us to where we are now.
I’ve read and heard a few thinkers that think in large part it was Christianity in Europe that has lead to the modern industrial scientific technological world. And in a way I think it has. In the Bible there is the idea of not only man having dominion over animals which was mentioned but also over especially women and over other men. And men and women of all ages are to be bought and sold for a monetary value. The end is coming some day so there is no need to care about what we do to the earth. We don’t need to worry too much about the horrors and suffering in the world because “God” will make it alright in the end etc.
I can see how so many of these ideas really are responsible for our current situations and even though we’ve outlawed slavery in most parts of the world the social and economic system is the same as the slave plantation economy.
Now we call indentured servant “debt/credit” but it’s really the same thing. It’s still debt bondage.
As for what Heidegger was/is saying is that western philosophy and religious traditions have created this current age. And yes it is responsible for the wars and and for the economics and political problems we see toady in the U.S. and Europe. (And we see dichotomies of opposition playing out in the middle east and north Africa.)
Each side left or right is coming with their ideologies/-ism/beliefs/preconceived ideas and want to force them on the world and on other people left or right. We’ve been conditioned to have to “believe” something to have to have some ideology some concept some fact the “truth” to hold onto.
It seems he’s saying that the current dichotomies of believer/atheist etc… they’re in opposition but they are doing the same things and we fall into the traps laid out. It’s like someone has painted the outline of a dead person on the ground and we go lay down in it.
A poll I came across awhile back about people who didn’t believe in a God showed that the highest numbers are in China Korea and Japan. People who will also identify as Confucianist, Taoist, and Buddhist.
And in Japan many have a Shinto Birth, Christian Marriage, Buddhist Burial.
Besides his writing being performative in a very zen way he is also not trying to give new information. It’s not more information we need. There’s nothing to get or as is said in zen there is nothing to attain.
A great Zen master said, “Do not seek the truth; simply cease cherishing illusions.”
It’s not a new idea or a new belief. It’s really nothing new at all.
I think I agree with him using ek-sistance sanding-out or the the particularity for consciousness, but he doesn’t want to use that term because of the associations of dualism from like Descartes.
But I think he is doing and describing something very much like or exactly like what is described by Eckhart Tolle in this video.
I’m glad to read your post. I decided to refresh with the Marx podcast, which took me to the Schleiermacher podcast. Interestingly, recently finished a book and the author critiques Schleiermacher’s understanding of soft power drawing on ‘Orientalism’ and ‘Occidentalism’. From there I found a good article titled, “Religion in the Public Sphere” by Habermas, Jürgen (which I have yet to read).
Thank you. I’m going to listen to the Marx podcast again and spend some more time on it.
And I think I’ll check out the Habermas article you mentioned.
You are welcome. In this particular post, your questioning is almost identical to questions raised by Merton (http://udini.proquest.com/topic/thomas-merton/epage:120780991/) and then looks more closely at Feuerbach and Marx. The man doesn’t go easy on Christianity, which I think is good because he defended Christianity.
I think academics are in a tuff spot today, and although I sympathize, I do not empathize because I think it’s creating policies that perpetuate hyper neo platonic idealism that theoretically values a human person (not ‘the’ human person, which is an abstraction), solidarity in our difference and human dignity, I think but shuts it down. It’s amusing at best but I think this can change with higher adult enrollments entering higher education. I think of it like, if you don’t go to them, they will come to you. This will be a ‘game changer’, and I don’t think these people are into ‘games’.
Did you have an opportunity to read the article by Habermas?
you seem to be leaving out the whole question of Technology (not technologies), Heidegger was deeply influenced by Meister Eckhart of whom Tolle is kind of D-Chopra/lite newage version of and this kind of “perennial” pop philosophy was widely available in Heidegger’s time (he didn’t die that long ago) and he wanted nothing to do with it (to the degree that he was aware of how his own work was being watered down on the way to becoming California style “trans-personal” psychology he was openly against it). Now you may well feel that this was some kind of mistaken high-culture prejudice or or such on his part and that he didn’t get the full import of his own work (which is how he certainly destrukted earlier philosophers) but perhaps we should also characterize his own works in keeping with his oeuvre, no?
I don’t know. I don’t know if you can separate the question of Technology from the specific/particular technologies i.e. the essence of technology and humanity’s role of being with it. But that’s really addressed in a different text and a whole other topic really in itself.
I think after skimming back over the text, I think Heidegger is talking exactly about what Eckhart Tolle is saying in the video.
The problems with Meister Eckhart or others like D-Chopra I think for Heidegger is they make metaphysical/ontological claims and they fall into the dichotomies and categories Heidegger is trying to get out of. D-Chopra obviously Hindu inspired and Meister Eckhart was a neo-Platonist and Christian mystic. So they would be exactly part of the problems with the trajectory of western thought. Meister Eckhart would be part of the Christian Humanism stage/age.
When I listen to the video of Eckhart Tolle his performative description of an experience of Being, of being in the present moment and open space is right on. Even much of his talk about language and speech and thought and time.
But then I’m certainly not an expert on any of this.
True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. ~ Socrates
it’s actually central to the question of what, if anything, human-ism is for Heidegger, and where he differs from Sartre who made central the role of our all-too-human human project-ions.
Meister Eckhart was not a humanist but part of the via-negativa and the demythologizers of Heidegger’s day (as I note above) were folks like Bultmann that Heiddeger was well aware of and yet purposely did not join in waxing theological.
Certainly Meister Eckhart would not fall neatly into the categories Roman Humanism or Christian Humanism but he is as well as all via-negativa or apophatic theology as well as the demythologizers all be part of the trajectory of western culture and western philosophical/theological traditions that Heidegger is talking about.
It’s as if he’s saying all of this was a wrong turn down a dead end street and we need to turn around to get out.
And he certainly has a good point there. I don’t think Eckhart Tolle is the solution either. He does go onto move into metaphysics and closer to something like Advaita vedanta or Christian mysticism in his second book and later talks when he’s gotten a wider audience.
In the video I was noting the specific description of an experience that I think Heidegger is trying to convey. A way of thinking, so it’s consciousness, the truth of Being that is a direct experience of Being in the present moment that is prior to metaphysics or really any dichotomies/categories.
That most mystics and philosophers and everyone else have access to and probably experiences of this truth of Being that is not a thing, but then we go on to make up stories and an mental images and conceptualizations metaphysics/ontologies etc…
Like what Deleuze said:
“The history of philosophy isn’t a particularly reflective discipline. It’s rather like portraiture in painting. Producing mental, conceptual portraits. As in painting, you have to create a likeness, but in a different material: the likeness is something you have to produce, rather than a way of reproducing anything (which comes down to just repeating what a philosopher says)”. (N 136)
All of the religious traditions and philosophies and political and economics philosophers are all creating mental images and concepts and we reify them, we confuse them for being real things. And we as humans will go to war and fight and kill for our imaginary concepts.
In the episode the was mention of Foucault and in other comments sections we’ve talked about how capitalism positions us. These are all again conceptualization that we reify.
It’s like I said above it’s as if someone has painted the outline of a dead person on the ground and we go lay down in it.
But I don’t know. Maybe I’m just going off the rails in a tangential rant.
This podcast in particular is a lecture delivered by Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, entitled “Multiple Secularities: Toward a Cultural Sociology of Secular-Religious Distinctions”. This was one of the keynote lectures at the NSRN’s 2012 Conference at Goldsmiths, University of London, in July 2012. http://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/wohlrab-sahr/
Wayne Schroeder says
qapla, dmf, Tammy–
These blogs are like a philosophical playground, with significant and creative questions abounding.
dmf: “Heidegger was deeply influenced by Meister Eckhart of whom Tolle is kind of D-Chopra/lite newage version . . . California style “trans-personal” [Charles Tart] psychology” 🙂
qapla: “It’s like someone has painted the outline of a dead person on the ground and we go lay down in it.” 🙂 LOL. Had to wait till I could stop laughing–great line–meaning as you said: “All of the religious traditions and philosophies and political and economics philosophers are all creating mental images and concepts and we reify them.
“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” ~ Socrates (Therefore you know that you know nothing–uhoh–limits of binary–couldn’t resist this one)
This subject/object dichotomy seems to keep all philosophers coming back for more, one way or another. The analytic throw gutter balls on the rationalistic side and the mystic/synthesists throw gutter balls on the experiential side.
One thought is not that there is an ideal solution to this problem, but that each time/age/generation provides provisional answers for the problems of the time/age/generation , and that the overall solution is in fact the series of provisional answers, rather than some outline of a dead person on which we must lay down–?
“One thought is not that there is an ideal solution to this problem, but that each time/age/generation provides provisional answers for the problems of the time/age/generation, and that the overall solution is in fact the series of provisional answers, rather than some outline of a dead person on which we must lay down–?”
I don’t know if that’s continuing down the same trajectory that Heidegger is saying we should not go down or not. Would each of the provisional answers not also be an outline we lay down in, a dead end. I don’t know. That is something to think about.
I think as to Heidegger’s point we have to first recognize, as you are saying, that this is what we are doing. And as you said each side, whether it’s in religion/politics/philosophy/economics/etc., can see the mistakes and fallacies of the other side but not their own.
What comes to mind of Heidegger’s thinking the truth of Being is how it is taken up and explored by Merleau Ponty as Being and beings more originally/primordially embodiment and by Deleuze in so many ways.
I think that Heidegger’s quest for some-thing/way to replace the void in our social affairs left by the death of God/Author-ity was (as he found really) a dead-end, and that the spectre of this that haunts both the later quasi-transcendental/Levinasian works by Derrida and the various neo-vitalisms of Deleuze and others are also more of the same kind of theo-logical wishful/magical thinking.
If we get around to Richard Rorty/neo-pragmatism, the ordinary language philosophers, and the related sociologies of science (including actor-network-theory) folks I hope it will become clearer why there is no longer a useful distinction to be made between philosophy (as one of many human-doings) and anthropology.
Wayne Schroeder says
Rabinow seems well focused, employing “concept” in the same manner as Deleuze, continuously assessing concepts for their applicability as the way to proceed. This approach is similar to the “series of provisional answers” I mentioned above, which are derived from concepts and continually assessed and applied.
I also appreciate that Merleau Ponty adds the ontic to the ontological of Heidegger by way of embodiment.
well both Rabinow and Deleuze studied the pragmatists (and Dewey on instrumentalism) and this fits in nicely with speech-acts, post-Wittgensteinian-enactivism, and such, M-Ponty was caught up in that unfortunate theologically inspired pipe-dream of meta-physics but folks like Alva Noe and SeanDKelly are doing great work in phenomenology and lab studies that is doing similar work without the is/ought problems or some version of pantheism creeping in.
Wayne Schroeder says
I was going to add Metzinger as a great example of current phenomenology (Being No One) along with Noe and Kelly. However, in their freedom from the subjective, they are still running into problems with reductionism, although less than most.
Wayne Schroeder says
By the way, I understand how you characterize metaphysics as a pipe-dream based on much philosophizing, however, the way I see it is that we all have a metaphysics, whether we do it well or not, we talk about existence and about how we know it in one way or another.
we could just have physics, no?
any particular ways/places where you find reductionism in recent works by those 2 phenomenologists?
Wayne Schroeder says
If we attempted to just have physics, I don’t think our psyche would fit in. Thankfully, Noe and Kelly have steered clear of superimposing values outside of their phenomenological paradigm so far (will be interesting to see Noe’s new book on Art), although Metzinger has not fared so well, though coming from a similar position of embodied cognition. Reductionism tends to show up when we argue from a “scientific” point of view about human values. Metzinger makes many non-sequiters in his book Ego Tunnel regarding social and personal values.
Eric Trowbridge says
At around 23:00 – 25:00, Heidegger has to stop just short of a private language, which one of y’all said you think he is hitting the limits of language. Interesting take.
Doug Pinkard says
So to salvage vestiges of his reputation not only as a philosopher but as a human being Heidegger decides to get all brave and shit by “refusing to bow to the pressure?” represented by a letter written to him by some University scholar somewhere?! Awesome! What could be better (from a literary standpoint, I mean) than the irony of the philosopher credited with giving contemporary currency to such values as courage and authenticity that he all but shoved others out of the way making sure to be first on line to bow to the pressure put on him when it came time to throw his philosophical mentor (Husserl) under the bus (very nearly literally)? Think he would have turned on the gas if they’d “pressured” him? What a disgusting “human” “being.” Very, very small “b”!
I think we need new words to cope with Ray Kurzweil.
Jean-Francois Wen says
Fascinating podcast. Here’s my reaction to the ideas discussed.
Perhaps a useful metaphor for thinking about Heidegger’s concept of Being and its relation to ordinary beings is that Being arises when a human being is completely “absorbed in an activity.” The idea of an activity implies human intentionality and the presence of other beings. Absorption in the activity means that the human being is psychologically and physically so fully engaged in the activity that the individual loses awareness of himself or herself. One can think of hunting a deer, for example. The hunter may become so concentrated that the rifle and the deer and the surrounding trees, etc. become a single mental picture defined by the intent of the hunter. As in Heidegger’s shoe example, if the rifle misfires, then the rifle’s being (small b) separates from the organic picture and reveals itself as a particular shiny metal object with a trigger, etc. that serves as a weapon. In this sense, Being defines the being of the rifle. Human beings have the ability to step out from the so-called clearing of Being as a result of their rationality, or more precisely, their capacity for self-awareness. When they become self-aware, humans step back from Being and are revealed as beings. However, their temporary immersion in Being allows each particular human being to draw conclusions about who they are and whether the experience of Being was satisfying or not. If not, then the being must reorient himself or herself. This may be the idea of inauthenticity. Or inauthenticity might be the case of some human beings’ incapacity altogether for absorption in an activity, because their chosen activities are uninteresting and superficial. Hence, Being is not a property of being but the experience of Being tells us something about a particular human being.
Donald Parker says
One of my favorite moments of this podcast, hell of 2013, was Wes’ paraphrasing MH here as, “You want values? Fuck you, you’re not getting any values!”
I live on a farm with young adults with special needs, in particular severe autism. I just completed a teaching block on, of all things, Heideggerian capital-D Dwelling. Surely, it did not look or sound anything like your average Heidegger seminar, but I wanted to put Heidegger’s ideas about Being-in-the-world to the test.
Can we come to the same conclusion about dwelling, the clearing, and the meaning of human being-in-the-world not by philosophical thinking, but by actually doing things in the world? Can you teach about capital-D Dwelling solely with your limbs, without any conceptual content at all? The immediate skeptical response would be “of course, Heidegger has no conceptual content to begin with!” Fair enough, but I decided to take his poetic language seriously. It’s not often that we get to put philosophy to the test, and it was an extremely rewarding and exciting experience. Our final project was to build a doghouse, and in true Heideggerian fashion, we bypassed the power drills and used hammers and nails. We hammered and hammered without once having to step back and think about what a hammer is.
Philosophers often try to prove a point by directing us to “imagine a person who [insert wild way of experiencing the world here]…” but for me, it isn’t a thought experiment so much as naming the kid who lives in the room next to mine, or the kid who I help to eat at the table. Philosophy can matter in the world, the task is to translate it from the language of the mind to the language of the body. The PEL podcast, and particularly those on Heidegger, were an invaluable resource for me in preparing and reflecting upon my lessons. Thank you for all you do.