August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

>”He often proceeds as if he combined the seriousness of nihilism with the mystagogy of a magician.” (Jaspers in Wolin 149).

–Karl Jaspers, “Letter to the Denazification Committee” concerning Martin Heidegger.


August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

>Consciousness is the trap of the modern person. The Enlightenment brightens a fixed space. In the departure of God, western human anxiety looks for historical explanations based on cause and effect reasoning.

Jonathan Edwards described being as complete renewal at every moment – God as a kind of power plant with creative intentions – the answer is to think the impossible: nothingness. We must become aware of the dreams of rocks (Cameron).

Leaving consciousness becomes a deep longing. It takes different forms. It could merely be a look for increased consciousness, a heightened state, apperception itself.

The great narratives of the nineteenth century try to locate humanity in time. From where did we come? Competition and class struggle. Freud describes a more localized hermeneutics; the patient becomes author and other.

My knowledge of the procedure (dream interpretation was reached in the following manner. I have been engaged for many years (with a therapeutic aim in view) in unravelling [sic] certain psycho-pathological structures – hysterical phobias, obsessional ideas, and so on. I have been doing so, in fact, ever since I learnt from an important communication by Joseph Breuer that as regards these structures (which are looked on as pathological symptoms) unravelling them coincides with removing them (Breuer and Freud, 1895.) If a pathological idea of this sort can be traced back to the element’s in the patient’s life from which it originated. It simultaneously crumbles away and the patient is freed from it. (Interpretation of Dreams 125)

It would be an oversimplification to leave Freud only interested in the individual without considering cultural factors, but we see here in the most basic of methods, the attempt to read the patient like a book. Memory unlocks the clarifying light of reason. And so the personal history of the patient is a more specific book than the history of Biology or the Anthropologist’s human record or even the Book of Nature. Interestingly, as the problem “crumbles away,” scientific innovation erases its own history.

Subject-author individualism

Maybe more sometime.

August 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

>pain is described as being close to oneself

Yes, one can think that there is fidelity in the work. Any instrument, any tool you make, will have a “destiny” through those other than myself who will use it; but it is, nevertheless, a signification where alienation is much more radical than in that of written work, or a work of art. The others who enter by reading and by interpretation will participate more in my destiny than by using a machine which I have constructed. A great text, a great work, participates in that essence of writing, in the religious sense of the term, and calls for an interpretation. There is a whole new interpretation. There is also filiality in the relation to this future reader who is me, who has a relation of filiality to me and who, at the same time, will freely read the work which is from me and wil interpret it according to his own being. (Levinas, IIRTB 60)

I agree with this statement mostly. But I also think it’s important to both interpret machines and to recognize the filiality involved in using them, for in this is much of my responsibility to the other and much of my guilt, even if it be a faultless guilt.

Yet Levinas will write a few years later…

My responsibility is the exceptional relationship in which the Same can be concerned by the Other without the Other being assimilated to the Same. A relationship in which one can recognize the inspiration for attributing, in this rigorous sense, spirit to man. It does not matter! Cutting across the rhetoric of all our enthusiasms, in the responsibility for the other, there occurs a meaning from which no eloquence could distract — nor even poetry. (OGWCTM, 13)

I guess the distiction here is between filiality (trace) and an always-already responsibility I am in. One question I have for Levinas then is: Will I not be responsible through my trace after I die? Surely I am not responsible for the interpretations others will make of my work, and yet signification itself must transcend me and my intentions. If I, for the other signify, not just in intentional work but in being-for-the-other, if my reception and care for the other signifies a kind of holiness — even in the “after you, sir!” — then signification itself works through the worker. Wouldn’t responsible work be a channeling?

The romantic and liberal conception of channeling in America is truly something to be suspicious of. But so is any form of exceptionalism…even Israel…even me.


August 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

>A hostage keeping vigil over the other who exalts the hostage to excessive being exceeding life: ethical watch against the oppressiveness of reason.

Blancot says,

In the work of mourning, grief does not work; grief keeps watch. (Writing of the Disaster).

>Heidegger was a Dunce

August 16, 2010 § Leave a comment


Heidegger’s early work on Husserl was influenced by his work on Duns Scotus. Scotus argued against a eudaimonistic view of morality (which Aquinas held) — based on a morality determined by human happiness and the will. As Thomas Williams points out (and translates):
“Therefore, that affectio iustitiae, which is the first controller of the affectio commodi with respect to the fact that the will need not actually will that to which the affectio commodi inclines it, or will it to the highest degree, is the innate liberty of the will”
Thus the affectio iustitiae provides the freedom that the will could not have if it were merely intellective appetite.
Heidegger’s work on Scotus leads to his work on Aristotle’s concepts.
Renaissance humanists reacting against Scotus’ thinking labelled his students “dunces.”
McGrath, Sean J. “Heidegger and Duns Scotus on Truth and Language.” Review of Metaphysics 57.2 (2003): 339-358. Philosopher’s Index. EBSCO. Web. 15 Aug. 2010.
Williams, Thomas. (1995). “How Scotus Separates Morality from Happiness,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 69 (1995): 425-445. [Preprint available online.]

>A contrast

August 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

>The subject still feels sure of its autonomy, but the nullity demonstrated to subjects by the concentration camp is already overtaking the form of subjectivity itself. (Adorno, Minima Moralia, 16)

Hegel, in hypostasizing both bourgeois society and its fundamental category, the individual, did not truly carry through the dialectic between the two. Certainly he perceives, with classical economics, that the totality produces and reproduces itself precisely from the interconnection of antagonistic interests in its members. But the individual as such he for the most part considers, naively, as an irreducible datum — just what in his theory of knowledge he decomposes. Nevertheless, in an individualistic society, the general not only realizes itself through the interplay of particulars, but society is essentially the substance of the individual. (17)

Adorno, bleak in his view, nevertheless holds out for the individual. Even in a society where my death is no longer my ownmost death, where I am replaceable — I think of an old SNL skit, maybe second season or so, selling the replaceable husband like life insurance — a twist on Heidegger’s concern (232). An old friend of mine recently remarked her allegiance to section six, where Adorno writes: “the only responsible course is to deny oneself the ideological misuse of one’s own existence, and for the rest to conduct oneself in private as modestly, unpretentiously as is required, no longer by good upbringing, but by the shame of still having air to breath, in hell” (27-8).

Levinas also finds solace in the individual in its sociality. For him, the relationship with the other brings the suject to its subjectivity, and in this is the good. It is not something willed. If we were able to choose goodness, he says, we would become slaves of the good. The good overflows me in an infinity in which I am a star.

The good is not pleasant. It is lonely.

For Levinas, the gesture of the “after you sir” indicates this. It is an ethics not based on “good up-bringing.”

I find this gesturing quite difficult. I do believe it approaches the sacred.

How does one be holy? One “is” not. Not the resonance of the A is A. Not the echo of presence.

It must be to stop breathing in the world. To hold on to in-spiration. To ______. The construct of an infinitive that doesn’t move.

The suffering of people you are leaving behind.

The love of glamor.

The ache of superficiality.

The longing for no longer being any kind of construction.

Being undone. Undone in love.

The nerve-endings of the smile on the plainest face.

Poverty of feeling.

>Thoughts on Heidegger and His Influences on Continental Thought

August 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

>Heidegger’s influnce on European thought throughout the twentieth-century can’t be understated. As a way of articulating my thoughts in preparation for exams, I will trace a few themes here.

Two themes seem essential to me: first, a positive attempt to articulate the structure of being in western thought; second, the role Heidegger’s thinking plays in the larger European theme of the disappearing subject.

Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein in Being and Time clearly comes from his earlier work on Aristotle developed in Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy, developed from his lectures at Marbourg in 1924. However, there is a larger background at work. Heidegger’s work owes much to the Idealist focus on History in Hegel and the materialistic historical narrative in Marx as class struggle and alienation (which relates to the disappearing subject theme). Structuralism in general grows out of a modernist tendency to historicize the world, and especially the ways that religious studies in the 19th century reacted to and incorporated Darwinian thought.

Religious studies (though the departments did not use that term for themselves) in the face of positivistism moved more toward historical and archaeological work. “Primitive” people were were studied with the intention of discovering the genealogy of humankind. Anthropologists sought the human record by stargazing at otherness, believing that they, like astronomers looking into space, could see a present record of human history in indigenous people from far away lands. It is essential to me that with colonialism and its tendency “to other” is not merely the attempt to control through political force. It is also a deeply earnest romantic longing for true and “immediate” existence – the kind mystical writers of the early Enlightenment like Thomas Traherne wrote of. The longing for mergence with the divine, for disintegration.

Even in Heidegger, there is a nostalgia for the older, the simpler, the everyday. But there is also a Catholic nostalgia, a pre-Reformation nostalgia, which comes through in his thorough study of Scholasticism.

Of course, Heidegger begins his analysis of Aristotle by way of Kant and his concept of definition:

Kant quite clearly says, in the introduction to Logic that in every cognition, matter is to be distinguished from form, “the manner in which we cognize the object.” A savage sees a house and, unlike us, does not know its for-what; he has a different “concept” of the house than we who know our way around in it. Indeed, he sees the same being, but the knowledge of the use escapes him; he does not understand what he should do with it. He forms no concept of the house. We know what it is for, and thus we represent something general to ourselves. We who know the use that one could make of it have the concept of house. The concept goes beyond answering the question of what the object is. (10)

Gaston Bachelard, in his Poetics of Space – a work heavily influenced by Heidegger’s notions of Being-there and Dwelling in Being and Time – will have a different take on “savages” and homes. But in the passage above the awkward example displays Heidegger’s culture speaking him, something he would likely admit. And the main point is taken. Defining is always more than defining.

To be continued…

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