The Greek λήθη (and λανθάνομαι) only gets the meaning of forgetting
via the indirect manner of a specific derivation, whereby, however, the
objective sense is still present. What is decisive for this derivation is precisely
its origin in the fundamental meaning of remaining-hidden.
λανθάνω means that I am or remain hidden, to myself or to others. This
fundamental meaning of the word leads to a linguistic usage quite characteristic
of Greek, namely combination with a participle as we know this
from Homer (Odyssey VIII, 93, a verse which we still remember from
school): ἔνθ' αλλους μέν πάντας έλάνθανε δάκρυα λείβων. 'He remained
hidden to all the others as someone shedding tears'; we say, by contrast,
that he shed tears without anyone else noticing it. For the Greeks, remaining-
hidden stands in the foreground (it is expressed in the verbum finitum),
always as an existing state of affairs, as the character of the beings (also of
a particular human being). But we turn the state of affairs around into
something subjective, and express it by saying that the others did not
notice his weeping.
In this way the wisdom of language provides us with an important
testimony to the fact that the remaining-hidden and being-unhidden of
things and human beings (to themselves as to others) was experienced by
the Greeks as an occurrence of the beings themselves, and also belonged
to the fundamental experiences which determined the existence of
ancient man. λανθάνω ἥκων: I remain hidden as someone who comes; we
say: I come without anyone noticing. Thus the meaning of λανθάνομαι as
letting something be hidden to me, i.e. I let it withdraw, slide away from
me and be gone, I allow forgetting (being-gone) to come over something,
I do not turn towards it, I let it rest, I forget it. Only by way of this
modification do λανθάνομαι and λήθη come to have the meaning of forgetting in the sense of a subjective state of affairs (but precisely in the
meaning of being-gone).
An example from Homer, Odyssey VIII, 93, where Odysseus says
that he remained concealed before all the others as one who was shedding
tears. A person, then, remains in a certain concealment. We do
not say: he remained concealed to all the others. We say: he shed tears
without any of the others noticing. We speak beginning with the other
who is perceiving.
These are quite clear proofs of the tremendous power that ἀλήθεια
had in the Greek experience of Dasein. Before we enter the confrontation
with the Greeks, our fundamental task is to have a completely
clear knowledge of how they stood in relation to beings.
The word δόξα also belongs among these fundamental meanings: I
come forth; that which comes forth, that is, strikes others as such and
such, that which shows itself; the look, the appearance of something,
the respect in which something—an achievement, a person—stands;
also fame. δόξα θεοῦ in the New Testament = the majesty of God. But
what is decisive is this meaning of δόξα: looking a certain way, standing
in visibility and respectability.
Now, this meaning goes together with a second meaning. The second
we grasp in a certain sense with the words believe, belief. With this,
a double meaning comes to light. We are familiar with this double
meaning when we translate δόξα as view. A picture postcard or vista
postcard, is a card that shows a picture, a vista—a view in the objective
sense; it shows the look of a landscape as it strikes us. View in the objective
sense of a multiplicity of objects. But we also use the word
“view” in this sense: My view is . . . The postcard has no belief, it offers
a look. So there is a double sense: (a) as a characteristic of the
thing, look; (b) in the sense of believing, thinking such and such. This
double character always resonates among the Greeks from the start; it
is based on what the word means.
[W]e will now determine how, in the
oldest sense, deinon, the uncanny, for the Greeks can mean the unhomely, and then later
pursue the determination into its culmination in Sophocles. In Homer, Kalypso is the
deine theos, the uncanny Goddess, and is understood as preventing Odysseus
from returning home. This is why Heidegger can understand the deinon as opposing the
homely in the Greek. Athena says "[i]t is Laertes' son, whose home is in Ithaca. I have
seen him on a certain Island, weeping most bitterly: this was in the domains of the nymph
Kalypso who if keeping him with her there and thwarting return to his own country (from
Odyssey, IV, 549-643).
The connection between Lustre and the uncarmy (deinon) that captures ones' eye,
which is really the most important point of this whole thesis, and one that Heidegger does
not ever make explicitly but in nonetheless central to his entire theory, is brought out
quite explicitly when Hermes comes to the Island of Kalypso, the deine Theos, to demand
the release of Odysseus, "[i]n the space within was the goddess herself, singing with a
lovely voice, moving to and fro at her loom and weaving with a shuttle of Gold. Around
the entrance a wood rose up in abundant growth - alder and aspen and fragrant cypress ...
Even a Deathless One, if he came there, might gaze in wonder at the sight and might be
happier in the heart (from Odyssey, V, 38-125)." The general point of the Odyssey is the
absurdity of man's condition that he at all times abandons and neglects his hearth and
family in the pursuit of adventure and the lustrous and that, in the end, the greatest and
most lustrous beauty is nothing in comparison to what one already has anyway in the
everyday of one's home.
When one begins to explain the perception of the blackboard from
sensory stimuli, one has indeed seen the blackboard. In this theory of
sensory stimuli, where is [there a place for] what is meant by "is" [being] ?
Even the greatest possible accumulation and intensity of stimuli will never
bring forth the "is." [What is meant by it] is already presupposed in every
[act of] being stimulated.
Even imagining can only be seen as directed into a world [in eine
Welt hinein] and can only happen into a world. To imagine a golden
mountain can always really only happen in such a way that even this
[mountain] is somehow situated in a world. Even in such imagining there
is more there than just the isolated golden mountain. I do not imagine a
golden mountain within my consciousness or within my brain, but rather
I relate it to a world, to a landscape, which in turn is again related to
the world in which I exist bodily. The golden mountain is present as
something imagined which is a specific mode of presence and which has
the character of a world. It is related to men, earth, sky, and the gods.
The whole starting point within the psychic and the point of departure
from a consciousness is an abstraction and a nondemonstrable construct
[eine nicht ausweisbare Konstruktion]. The relationships of a thing to the surrounding
world [Umwelt] do not require explanation; they must simply
be seen [in a phenomenological sense].
Richard Polt on why you can't explain things physiologically.
The sciences take it for granted that there are beings, and presuppose an
understanding of the being of beings; this seems to cut them off from the
question of be-ing. If we tried to explain be-ing sociologically, for example,
we would have to take society for granted as something with a self-evident
way of being. We could then give a factually correct description of how people
operate within society and how their behavior brings with it certain beliefs
about what it means to be. In doing so, however, we would have to leave
our own beliefs about what it means to be unquestioned, so that they could
serve as the stable basis for our empirical research. The question of the status
and origin of our own understanding of the being of beings would have
to be left unaddressed. Similarly, we might be able to give a physiological explanation
of the workings of the brain, “explaining” consciousness in terms
of the various complex neural responses that are associated with it. But in order
to do so, we have to assume that the brain and consciousness have a certain
way of being that we understand. If all our observations depend on this
understanding of the being of brains and consciousness, then our observations
cannot provide a satisfactory explanation of how the understanding of
the being of beings occurs. If these considerations are valid, then any scientific
attempt to explain be-ing is circular: it must presuppose a given sense of
the being of beings. Now, if we are willing to embrace the circle by revising
this sense in the course of our investigation, the circle may not be vicious;
this is what Being and Time does, after all (SZ 153, 315). But then we are engaging
in philosophy, not just empirical science. We are struggling with the
limits of our sense of the being of beings, and thus experiencing it as contingent
and finite. This distinctively philosophical experience is needed in order
for being to trouble us.
When professor William Irwin assembled a book of essays called Seinfeld and Philosophy in 1999, the book’s release garnered a media reaction ranging from dubious to hostile.
Writing about the book for Salon.com, James Nestor said, “After reading that even the title of the show holds etymological affinity to German existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time (Sein und Zeit in German), one wonders if Seinfeld and Philosophy is merely an elaborate gimmick, an attempt to cash in on a sitcom with mass appeal and crass (book) sales potential. What better way to propel one’s career than creating a buzz and turning hours wasted in leisure into a dissertation?”