April 06, 2004

Heidegger and post-modernism

Gary,

You’ve been busy since my last entry over a week ago. I hardly know where to start. Perhaps I’ll just try a few remarks as they come to me reading through your contributions.

The idea of a discontinuity in Heidegger: I don’t really know enough about him to comment, although I would say that my correspondent isn’t simply reading Being And Time but the later works as well. I guess that where one of you sees a discontinuity the other sees a continuity.

Even if I accept the discontinuity thesis it doesn’t seem to weaken my argument, which is about the choices Heidegger made during the 1930s, before he purportedly broke with metaphysics.

On the question of breaking with metaphysics, I’m with Gaston Bachelard, who said that while the mind may change its metaphysics, it cannot do without it. The later Heidegger and the analysts have something in common – they both thought that they’d disposed of metaphysics, which means that they both had an implicit metaphysics, a hidden metaphysics. Where do you find it if it’s hidden? Well, start looking in their dogma. That’s usually where it’s buried.

Heidegger and the post-modernists: I think what you’ve got to say here is most interesting – that they’ve both ditched metaphysics in the same way. They’ve both tried to be positive but only achieved positivism. Positivism is the rejection of metaphysics. I see this in Habermas too. He’s also a Heideggerian in the sense you describe, which means that he has something in common with the post-modernists.

I see Habermas and the post-modernists in terms of the actual contemporary practices of tertiary education, as well as simply theoretically, which is perhaps the source of my concern with various ideas. I’m not talking about individuals here – I’m talking about the ideological usage of ideas in relation to current administrative practices, or what Deleuze called ‘territories’ or ‘rule-governed spaces’ (‘striated spaces’). So-called ‘critical theory’ and post-modernism have both played a major ideological role in relation in the current reterritorialisation, and I don’t think it’s through their misuse. Most of my publications in administration have been on this topic.

Here’s something with which I am in complete agreement with Adorno. Adorno wrote that Kracauer taught him to see Kant’s critical reason as ‘a kind of coded text from which the historical situation of spirit could be read’, to which Kracauer attached the ‘vague expectation that in doing so one could acquire something of truth itself’. This is how Heidegger and Habermas and the post-modernists should be approached, in my view, as coded texts from which the historical situation of spirit can be read.

I’m sorry to be so brief but I’m really pressed for time, which is why you haven’t been hearing much from me.

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