April 08, 2004

Heidegger & heebie jeebies

I wasn't able to post last night. I lost the connection and I could not reconnect with my IP. An hour was spent on the phone waiting for tech support only to discover the problem lay with Telstra. Their telephone infrastructure had an outbreak of the "heebie jeebies" in parts of South Australia.

So that was that. Telstra were meant to advise me when they had voodooed the heebie jeebies out of their telecommunications system, but they never did. I was just left with the after effects of the heebie jeebies, not knowing what it was all about.

I mention this little episode because it is difficult to deal with the "mysterious correspondent" who knows Heidegger but does not speak, makes not mention of the texts or indicates which ideas support the thesis of continuity in Heidegger and the claim that Heidegger's philosophy is fascist in its very core.

Why doesn't the correspondent use the comments box? Why do they not post? Why do they remain silent? Silence is not an ideal way to do philosophy. I'm just left with the after effects of the heebie jeebies.

Well let give a placeholder name to the mysterious correspondent who does not communicate. Richard Wolin is the one who runs the line that Heidegger's embrace of Nazism represented a logical outcome of his Being and Time position in the 1920's. This is pretty much a recycling of Karl Lowith's Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism. The concerns here are with the political implications of Heidegger's "existentialism". They do avoid the simplistic equation of Heideggerism with Nazism that was implied by Victor Farias.

The strength of the political reading is that it rejects the purely philosophical or textual readings, which say Heidegger's politics has nothing to do with his philosophy. It reconnects philosophy's relation to politics, reconnects philosophical passion to political passion. However, it is not the philosophy per se----the forgetfulness of Being--- that is of interest in Karl Lowith's political reading. It is the political influence that emanated from his fascism and his evasion of that political history that is the key concern.

What can we make of this interpretation ?

The Lowith reading points the finger at the German philosophical tradition, Nietzsche, the advent of nihilism and the transvaluation of values. This radicalization ---the nihilistic spiriit of revolution----disconnects Germany from its traditional/inherited spiritual moorings, and leads to a coming barbarism. Heidegger's philosophy with its ethos of destruction is part of this movement.

I guess you can say that Heidegger's disappointment with Nazism as a confrontation with instrumental/technological reason lead to the turn in his philosophy. What I would say is that Heidegger gave a political reading to the philosophical project of Being and Time:-- a national revolutionary reading that walked a line between America and Russia.

However, I do not accept Lowith's claim that there is a direct line from Nietzsche via Heidegger to Nazism with its tact premise that the response to nihilism is a return to the traditional values and heritage. This ignores the philosophical categories of Being and Time. The central category is Dasein, (the German word for "existence" or "being-there"). The meaning of Dasein is temporality and though Dasein is not homo sapiens, in German usage the category does tend to refer to human beings.

Dasein implies not only presence, but involvement in the world:--what Heidegger calls being-in-the world as opposed to being essentially a consciousness which we must then attempt to 'hook-onto' the world. This being-in-the-world is given a hermeneutic interpretation along the lines of the hermeneutic circle, in which every interpretation is itself based on interpretation. After provisional conclusions, based on presuppositions, one returns to the starting point, to continue the inquiry into deeper understanding in the circular process of interpretation.

The phenomenon of philosophical phenomenology is the being of beings or entities. The being of Dasein is such that Dasein understands its own being, and at the same time its pre-theoretical understanding makes it possible to understand the being of entities other than itself.

Heidegger argues that human beings is not one thing among many things, but relates to the world in a particular way; we relate to the world with 'concern' since we care about the way things are and we are interested in what will happen. Heidegger then attempts to characterise our general activities in the world along the lines of n both our practical activities encountering things as just 'there', as being 'present-at hand' and the tools that we use as things that lie ready to hand 'ready-at-hand'.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at April 8, 2004 08:19 PM | TrackBack
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