In The Los Angeles Review of Books, Gregory Fried reviews the Black Notebooks.
[Heidegger] wants to rebuild the university from the ground up, to take nothing as a given, to unite the faculty and students across the disciplines in a spirit of questioning that seeds the ground for that other inception of history. He sees this task as requiring a hardness and daring for radical change, but everywhere he finds resistance from Spießbürgerei, a word almost impossible to translate: it expresses such a depth of virulent contempt for the cowardice, lack of imagination, and conformism of the many who pretend to be Nazi revolutionaries that “bourgeoisie” or “yuppiedom” would not even scratch the surface of Heidegger’s loathing.
The conference started from a sombre premise. What Heidegger called Gestell, or “enframing” – the rather terrifying notion that in our industrial, technological world, entities only exist by being regarded as resources, or means to an end – has spread its remorseless dominion over the Earth. The university itself is heading towards becoming a sort of simulacrum, in Baudrillard’s terms, where an essentially meaningless exercise in going through hoops is rewarded by a certificate. As for the earth itself, talk of natural resources, natural capital, ecosystem services and so on, which treats the Earth as a service provider for the global capitalist economy, has become so commonplace that its essential strangeness goes unnoticed.
There is a whole school of Darwinian aesthetics that explains art as a useful adaptation, which historically must have helped those who made it or those who enjoyed it to improve their chances at reproduction.
To Martin Heidegger, however, this way of looking at art would appear exactly backward. Equipment, tools, “gear,” are for Heidegger what we don’t notice or pay attention to so long as it is working. A hammer in good condition is like an extension of the person using it, a way for him to work his will. It is only when the tool breaks that it escapes the banality of usefulness and takes on determinate existence as a piece of wood and a piece of metal, with its own weight, hardness and luster.
Literature, in this sense, is a tool that is always broken.
Heidegger’s critique casts the ‘hack everything’ attitude in an unflattering light. Instead of being a simple, pragmatic way of looking at the world, the hacker way can be seen as an ontologically-transformative attitude that enframes reality as field of manipulable resource. This attitude is relatively unproblematic when applied to inanimate objects. It is highly problematic, however, when it is applied to the social and economic structures of human life. Human life is not hardware. Social and economic systems are not strings of code. To treat society in this way reflects an impoverished point of view, symptomatic of an alienated experience of the world.
In Heidegger’s depiction, therefore, at the most extreme extremity of the history of the metaphysics of constant presence, we find ourselves poised at the very threshold of crossing over into an authentic experience of be-ing in the propriating event, das Er-eignis. But despite the apparent and so tantalizing proximity of this ex-perience, we are not given to expect a smooth gradual crossing over to it simply because of the extremities at which we are poised: the machinations of technology have resulted in the complete abandonment of beings by be-ing [Seinsverlassenheit] and the human being is in peril of not only forgetting his essential be-ing but even of having forgotten this forgetting of be-ing. “But in this extreme extremity of destining peril the most intimate relationship [of man and be-ing] shows itself, but shows itself only as a completely veiled hint. [P. 327]” It is necessary to push the ex-perience of the peril of technology to the extreme to glimpse the e-vent emerging in the Ge-Stell.
When Heidegger speaks of "non-Being" in the ontological sense, he conceals (or rather discloses) a sly nod to Goethe's Mephistopheles: boredom, an objectless anxiety and alienation from life, gives us an intimation of "non-Being," Heidegger said. He might have mentioned rage, perversion, horror and violence. Heidegger followed the logical conclusion of his thinking into membership in the Nazi Party. I do not mean to attribute too much authority to Heidegger; as Michael Wyschogrod showed in his classic study of the two philosophers, he borrowed his best material from Heidegger. Nor did Heidegger discover intimations of non-Being in the pre-Socratics; Fernando de Rojas' citation of Heraclitus in the introduction to La Celestina (1499) long preceded him. Still, Heidegger gave us the modern formulation of the problem in its standard form.
My versión catedrática includes Fernando's Prologo. He cites fragment 53 in Latin: omnia secundum litem fiunt [Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι]. I don't recall it coming up in the version where Penelope Cruz played Melibea.
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