enowning
Monday, December 31, 2007
 
{1} The Western Tradition of Philosophy, a chapter from George Joseph Seidel's Martin Heidegger and the Pre-Socratics.
THE FORGETTING OF BEING


The history of western metaphysics might be called the story of the great tragedy of being. It is but a chapter in the history of being, but it has, unfortunately, been a very long chapter. For that which has tended to characterize the history of western metaphysics has been a degeneration from the authentic truth of being (Wahrheit des Seins), a degeneration which Heidegger has characterized as the forgetting of being (Seinsvergessenheit). This forgetfulness is not, as Heidegger points out, the absentmindedness of a philosophy professor who has left his umbrella someplace but cannot remember where. This forgetfulness of being is something that has affected the fate of being's essence. Neither does the anxiety which the true thinker must necessarily feel in the face of this forgetfulness of being have anything to do with psychiatry or psychoanalysis.

That this forgetfulness of being is something which has occurred historically could be known from the necessity of the analysis of Dasein which Heidegger found it necessary to carry on in Sein und Zeit. Why this forgetting of being should have occurred, the tragic flaws of which were already contained in the thought of the pre-Socratics--flaws which were carried to their inevitable, but nevertheless unfortunate conclusions by Plato and Aristotle only to find their conclusion and consummation (Vollendung) in the metaphysics of Hegel and Nietzsche: this is a matter which remains to be seen.
Continued.
 
 
The abyss, a metaphor for nihilism, in Nietzsche, read through Heidegger, by Straussians, the other Shi'ites.
I am not suggesting that the neocons are secretly reading the Koran. On the contrary what seems to be true is that large portions of the Koran are merely part of the zahir. Hassan, using medieval reason, derived the batin entirely from the shahada -- "there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet" Sharia law, the heart of the Koran and the heart of Islam as far as the Sunni are concerned, is a mere husk for the Shi'a. They have in the past, when they have gained political power, thrown it off. What I am suggesting is that the neocons, to the extent that they are Straussians, are fascinated by ultimate truths, just as are the Shi'ites, and that their ways of approaching them are similar. The neocons are different in that they are Western and do not start from the shahada. Overpowered by Nietzsche through Heidegger's reading, they have a batin of nihilism, the abyss. What is interesting is how for both neocons and Shi'ites, pursuit of ultimate truths is tied up with the pursuit of political power and how both employ medieval rather than modern philosophy. Strauss himself definitely believed in medieval philosophy's superiority to modern philosophy. And he admired both Islamic and Jewish philosophers. Shi'ism and Straussian thought have a common method and a similar goal.
 
Sunday, December 30, 2007
 
Ben Vedder on desire in Heidgger.
In Heidegger’s work, desire must be understood as a postponing of actualization, through which a holding on to the possible is preserved. In this context, Heidegger speaks of the ‘long time’, in which for a long time and again and again it is not time yet. Therefore, a certain holding out is necessary, for which Heidegger uses the word “Langmut”. According to him, this word means “not the empty (idle) and dull awaiting, but the courage to reach, to reach for the coming feast” (GA 52, 181). “Langmut” is explained by Heidegger as being able to reach for the coming. Poets in particular can express what a poem is for them only in expressing that which precedes all the actual: the coming (GA 4, 114); in other words, when they can truly desire.

The element of the long time is also present in Heidegger’s definition of boredom, “Langeweile”. In “Langeweile”, time becomes long. In the slow movement of time, Heidegger sees a homesickness. He points out that in a certain usage the expression “lange Zeit haben” not accidentally means something like “being homesick”. Someone who has “lange Zeit”, is homesick (GA 29/30, 120). At the same time he observes, with reference to Novalis, that homesickness is a basic mood of philosophizing (GA 29/30, 270–272). The words “Langmut”, “Langen”, “Langeweile”, “Lange-Zeit” denote how Heidegger in his later work characterizes the holding on to the possible and the coming. This indicates that it is always time that carries the “Langen” in “Langeweile” (GA 29/30, 237, 253).

Particularly because of this holding on to the possible, the German word “Verlangen” (the English “longing for”) is very appropriate for comprehending Heidegger’s thinking of being. It applies to a holding on to the fullness of the possible that never becomes a fixed possession. The word “Verlangen” does justice to this notion completely. The “Mögen” can be understood as “Verlangen” because “Verlangen” implies being open to the coming and to the possible. That is what happens in “Mögen”.

Because this stipulation of “Verlangen” (longing) differs from the usual way of speaking about longing and desire, it is good to sum up the main characteristics of this longing once more:

This authentic desire is not born from a lack. The experience of lack is a consequence that springs forth from a preliminary understanding (preunderstanding) of the abundance and the fullness of the possible, which is given with the primordial temporalization.

This authentic desire does not take up a position midway between the poles of abundance and lack. In performing the primordial temporalization, this desire is determined primarily as a producing movement. This movement does not rest on two poles but exists primarily as movement.

This authentic desire is a given that is not to be appropriated by Dasein; it happens to Dasein rather than being controlled by Dasein.
Nor is this authentic desire focused on a goal that is to be realized. Desire itself is enacted as a being open to the coming and the possible. It is therein not focused on the content of the coming and the possible, but on the coming and the possible as such.

From this notion Dasein is determined essentially as desire. Dasein is essentially desire, because as long as Dasein is Dasein, the possible is always higher than the actual.

The ontology of the present-at-hand is inclined to change the possible into the actual without holding on to the possible as such. In the notion of desire that is presented here, the possible remains standing above the actual. The essential structure of desire is such that it entails this. With this explanation of desire Heidegger positions himself in opposition to western ontology, which, according to him, is ever concerned with dominance of the actual over the possible. From Greek philosophy on, being-in-act, the actual, has been placed above the possible. Heidegger in contrast wants to define the actual from the measure of the possible.

Heidegger on Desire, Continental Philosophy Review 31.4, 365-367
 
Saturday, December 29, 2007
 
How not to speed date.
My first date appeared. I smiled at him, and said: "I am a human rights lawyer (grin)." "I work 60 hours a week (grin)." And watched him shrivel up. "I'm an engineer," he said (no grin). And then he was silent, so I told him I was reading Heidegger. He stared at me as if I had told him that I boil men's heads.
 
 
Danny Cox is trying to figure out how to deal with people.
My existentialism class, surprisingly, had a few optimistic views on the subject. Kierkegaard emphasized the importance of our relation with others, particularly as not "mediated by universals." Beauvoir made the point that at the very least we seem to have to value the freedom of others. On the other hand, Heidegger seemed fairly pessimistic on the subject. He basically said that relations with others distracted us from our main business of perfecting the self. Sartre took an even gloomier view, arguing that the mere presence of another person is threatening because it makes us feel objectified. He says that there are only three responses, each of which can only be a temporary solution and is doomed to failure. The first is sex, doomed because of its inherently fleeting nature and because it makes both of those involved into objects. The second is love, doomed because there is no guarantee as to its permanence and a third person could always come along and objectify the both of you. The third is hate, doomed because there are a good six billion of us parasites crawling on this planet's face, and it's too tall of an order for anyone to hate every one of them, at least on an individual basis. These are not very hopeful views.
 
Monday, December 17, 2007
 
I'm off traveling until the end of the month. Access to email will be sporadic.
 
Sunday, December 16, 2007
 
In-der-Blog-sein

Reading Heidegger on the question of Being.
The undefinability of ‘Being’ is connected with its universality. ‘Being’ cannot be defined as an entity; entities require a character. Heidegger, however, insists that ‘Being’ cannot have the character of entity due to traditional [Aristotelean] logic. The way in which traditional logic characterizes entities is subject and predicate relations. Heidegger insists that “the undefinability of being does not eliminate the question of it meaning; it demands that we look that question in the face.”
 
Friday, December 14, 2007
 
The New Yorker that arrived yesterday has an article on the supposed rise in intelligence.
Flynn has been writing about the implications of his findings—now known as the Flynn effect—for almost twenty-five years. His books consist of a series of plainly stated statistical observations, in support of deceptively modest conclusions, and the evidence in support of his original observation is now so overwhelming that the Flynn effect has moved from theory to fact. What remains uncertain is how to make sense of the Flynn effect. If an American born in the nineteen-thirties has an I.Q. of 100, the Flynn effect says that his children will have I.Q.s of 108, and his grandchildren I.Q.s of close to 120—more than a standard deviation higher. If we work in the opposite direction, the typical teen-ager of today, with an I.Q. of 100, would have had grandparents with average I.Q.s of 82—seemingly below the threshold necessary to graduate from high school. And, if we go back even farther, the Flynn effect puts the average I.Q.s of the schoolchildren of 1900 at around 70, which is to suggest, bizarrely, that a century ago the United States was populated largely by people who today would be considered mentally retarded.
If we extrapolate even further, back two and a half millenia, then Plato and Aristotle must have been thick as bricks, compared to today's geniuses.
The best way to understand why I.Q.s rise, Flynn argues, is to look at one of the most widely used I.Q. tests, the so-called WISC (for Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children). The WISC is composed of ten subtests, each of which measures a different aspect of I.Q. Flynn points out that scores in some of the categories—those measuring general knowledge, say, or vocabulary or the ability to do basic arithmetic—have risen only modestly over time. The big gains on the WISC are largely in the category known as “similarities,” where you get questions such as “In what way are ‘dogs’ and ‘rabbits’ alike?” Today, we tend to give what, for the purposes of I.Q. tests, is the right answer: dogs and rabbits are both mammals. A nineteenth-century American would have said that “you use dogs to hunt rabbits.”

“If the everyday world is your cognitive home, it is not natural to detach abstractions and logic and the hypothetical from their concrete referents,” Flynn writes. Our great-grandparents may have been perfectly intelligent. But they would have done poorly on I.Q. tests because they did not participate in the twentieth century’s great cognitive revolution, in which we learned to sort experience according to a new set of abstract categories.
So then intelligence tests measure how much someone has accomodated the dominant paradigm of technological thinging and thinking. Is that smart?
 
Thursday, December 13, 2007
 
In chapter Gimel, Excursus on Gravity, in The Lamentations of Julius Marantz, author Marc Estrin asks:
What keeps us from rising?

The fallen Martin Heidegger may be of some help. We, he notes, are thrown into existence, not like a pop fly, or even like a good strong peg, but like an old cigarette butt, tossed out God's window, perhaps with half a right foot [the protagonist's birth defect]. Verfall, he calls it, a fallenness prior to any corruption in the Garden of Eden. Adam, pre-apple, was already falling by virtue of mere existence.

Torn from its authentic Self, our Being plaunges downward into everydayness, into the routine habits and conventions, the idle talk, mere curiosity, and "whateverness" of the "They." We crash like a falling plane into the groundlessness of inauthentic existence, into a world in which everything is already "already," a given world, alienated and scattered far from the possibilities of authentic existence. We find ourselves simply "there," amidst incessant bustle, without knowing where we are from or where we are heading.

Pp. 102-3
That's all a bit theological; concerned with the They-ity, fallen more than thrown. Me, I'll go with the pop fly. Authenticity, is only a moment away.
 
 
A review of rock bio-pics in the New Statesman gets clever.
Going back to Control, a film which is all about European constrictions and limitations - Ian Curtis committed suicide on the eve of an American tour. It's pushing it too far to suggest that he couldn't bear the idea of being in America, or, as Heidegger would put it, Being-in-America.
Or, more likely, the hiddenness of beyng in America.
 
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
 
Kwame Anthony Appiah on experimental philosophy,
which has rudely challenged the way professional philosophers like to think of themselves. Not only are philosophers unaccustomed to gathering data; many have also come to define themselves by their disinclination to do so. The professional bailiwick we’ve staked out is the empyrean of pure thought. Colleagues in biology have P.C.R. machines to run and microscope slides to dye; political scientists have demographic trends to crunch; psychologists have their rats and mazes. We philosophers wave them on with kindly looks. We know the experimental sciences are terribly important, but the role we prefer is that of the Catholic priest presiding at a wedding, confident that his support for the practice carries all the more weight for being entirely theoretical. Philosophers don’t observe; we don’t experiment; we don’t measure; and we don’t count. We reflect. We love nothing more than our “thought experiments,” but the key word there is thought. As the president of one of philosophy’s more illustrious professional associations, the Aristotelian Society, said a few years ago, “If anything can be pursued in an armchair, philosophy can.”

But now a restive contingent of our tribe is convinced that it can shed light on traditional philosophical problems by going out and gathering information about what people actually think and say about our thought experiments. The newborn movement (“x-phi” to its younger practitioners) has come trailing blogs of glory, not to mention Web sites, special journal issues and panels at the annual meeting of the American Philosophical Association. At the University of California at San Diego and the University of Arizona, students and faculty members have set up what they call Experimental Philosophy Laboratories, while Indiana University now specializes with its Experimental Epistemology Laboratory. Neurology has been enlisted, too. More and more, you hear about philosophy grad students who are teaching themselves how to read f.M.R.I. brain scans in order to try to figure out what’s going on when people contemplate moral quandaries. (Which decisions seem to arise from cool calculation? Which decisions seem to involve amygdala-associated emotion?) The publisher Springer is starting a new journal called Neuroethics, which, pointedly, is about not just what ethics has to say about neurology but also what neurology has to say about ethics. (Have you noticed that neuro- has become the new nano-?) In online discussion groups, grad students confer about which philosophy programs are “experimentally friendly” the way, in the 1970s, they might have conferred about which programs were welcoming toward homosexuals, or Heideggerians. Oh, and earlier this fall, a music video of an “Experimental Philosophy Anthem” was posted on YouTube. It shows an armchair being torched.
What are "professional philosophers"? Shouldn't that be: professors who teach philosophy? Has there really been a career philosopher since Diogenes? And if you can do an experiment to resolve an issue, aren't you engaged in science, categorically?
The deciding factor in modern "experiment"--testing as probing--is not the "apparatus" as such, but the qay of questioning, i.e., the concept of nature. "Experiment" in the modern sense is experientia in the sense of exact science. Because it is exact, therefore it is experiment.

P. 115
 
 
Lee Siegel, in The Gay Science: Queer Theory, Literature, and the Sexualization of Everything, explains where hermeneutics went.
Modern hermeneutics, from Schleiermacher through Hans Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method (1960), has run in two currents. The first was the gradual conditioning of meaning and value on the shifting templates of psychology, history, and, most of all, language. In this outlook, the self was always on the verge of cognitive calamity. But the second current was founded on Gadamer's belief that mutual comprehension and shared values between people was possible. The so-called hermeneutic circle--to understand the whole, you have to grasp the parts, which changes your perception of the whole; to understand a part, you have to grasp the whole, which changes your perception of the part--was not a ceaseless flux. It was an affirmation that ultimate meaning exists as an elusive mystery, that it can be grasped in shards and echoes, and that preservation of a secret itself communicates a cherishable meaning.

Gadamer borrowed many of his ideas from Heidegger, but Heidegger had sown the iron seeds of hermeneutical extremism. He lowered the boom on hermeneutics by raising the stakes: he made the hermeneutical enterprise synonymous with existence itself. For Heidegger, "Being" is the ultimate truth of existence: to go about the business of living in the deepest sense is to go about the business of interpreting truth and finally understanding it. Such "Being," however, is beyond rational articulation. So obscure, so mystifying, so all-encompassing is Heidegger's Being that, his vatic pretensions notwithstanding, it leaves nothing to interpret but other interpretations.

And this was the loftily regressive situation from which the French poststructuralists embarked. Dismissing Heidegger's foundation of Being as a quaint metaphysical holdover, they retained his assault on reason. They made their happy escape from shared meaning.

Pp. 184-5
 
Monday, December 10, 2007
 
In-der-Blog-sein

The Financial Philosopher starts a post on figuring out your own retirement plan with a popular aphorism about language.
Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.
And his point is practical, as financial decision should be.
The quote of the day features Martin Heidegger, who was a controversial, yet brilliant, 20th century philosopher that placed an emphasis on language as the vehicle through which the question of "being" could be unfolded. He is certainly not the first philosopher who has warned of (and complained about) the inadequacies or sometimes complete falsehoods of language and the words that we use to communicate ideas.

In the realm of personal finance, "retirement" is just one of countless words that should be defined by the individual and not by any outside influences. Since there is no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" definition for retirement, it behooves the individual to arrive at one for them self, otherwise their path may take them to a destination determined by popular conventions -- one that is completely unsuitable or even unattainable for the individual.
 
Sunday, December 09, 2007
 
Slavoj Žižek on the Heidegger in Václav Havel's politics.
In dissecting late socialism, Havel was always aware that Western liberal democracy was far from meeting the ideals of authentic community and 'living in truth' on behalf of which he and other dissidents had opposed Communism. He was faced, therefore, with the problem of combining a rejection of 'totalitarianism' with the need to offer critical insights into Western democracy. His solution was to follow Heidegger and to see in the technological hubris of capitalism, its mad dance of self-enhancing productivity, the expression of a more fundamental transcendental-ontological principle -- 'will to power', 'instrumental reason' -- equally evident in the Communist attempt to overcome capitalism. This was the argument of Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, which first engineered the fateful shift from concrete socio-political analysis to philosophico-anthropological generalization, by means of which 'instrumental reason' is no longer grounded in concrete capitalist social relations, but is instead posited as their quasi-transcendental 'foundation'. The moment that Havel endorsed Heidegger's recourse to quasi-anthropological or philosophical principle, Stalinism lost its specificity, its specific political dynamic, and turned into just another example of this principle (as exemplified by Heidegger's remark, in his Introduction to Metaphysics, that, in the long run, Russian Communism and Americanism were 'metaphysically one and the same').

Keane tries to save Havel from this predicament by emphasizing the ambiguous nature of his intellectual debt to Heidegger. Like Heidegger, Havel conceived of Communism as a thoroughly modern régime, an inflated caricature of modern life, with many tendencies shared by Western society -- for instance, technological hubris and the crushing of human individuality attendant on it. However, in contrast to Heidegger, who excluded any active resistance to the social-technological framework ('only God can save us', as he put it in an interview published after his death), Havel put faith in a challenge 'from below' -- in the independent life of 'civil society' outside the frame of State power. The 'power of powerless', he argued, resides in the self-organization of civil society that defies the 'instrumental reason' embodied in the State and the technological apparatuses of control and domination.

I find this idea of civil society doubly problematic. First, the opposition between State and civil society works against as well as for liberty and democracy. For example, in the Unites States, the Moral Majority presents itself (and is effectively organized as) the resistance of local civil society to the regulatory interventions of the liberal State -- the recent exclusion of Darwinism from the school curriculum in Kansas is in this sense exemplary. So while in the specific case of late socialism the idea of civil society refers to the opening up of a space of resistance to 'totalitarian' power, there is no essential reason why it cannot provide space for all the politico-ideological antagonisms that plagued Communism, including nationalism and opposition movements of an anti-democratic nature. There are authentic expressions of civil society -- 'civil society' designates the terrain of open struggle, the terrain in which antagonisms can articulate themselves, without any guarantee that the 'progressive' side will win.

Second, civil society, as Havel conceived it, is not, in fact, a development of Heidegger's thinking. The essence of modern technology for Heidegger was not a set of institutions, practices and ideological attitudes that can be opposed, but the very ontological horizon that determines how we can experience Being today, how reality discloses itself to us. For that reason, Heidegger would have found the concept of 'the power of the powerless' suspect, caught in the logic of the 'will to power' that it endeavours to denounce.

Pp. 144-5
 
Saturday, December 08, 2007
 
I'm just finished converting the Greek text in What is Philosophy? to Unicode. If the Greek not rendering correctly on your machine what keeping you from reading this lecture, well, now you don't have that excuse any longer.
 
Thursday, December 06, 2007
 
At first glance, the recent translation of the summer semester 1926 lecture course Basic Concepts of Ancient Philosophy seems pretty exciting. A class on Greek ontology from Thales to Aristotle, given while Heidegger was finishing up Being and Time. However, because he was busy with that book's manuscript, he had less time to devote to the course. So, whereas most of Heidegger's lecture courses were written out in complete sentences beforehand, in this case Heidegger limited himself to 77 pages of notes. Since those were double-sided, and supplemented by slips of paper, that still works out to 158 pages in the translation, with an additional 64 pages of student transcripts. This volume could be the basis for a book on Heidegger's interpolation of his way of thinking with the Greeks. Many of the sections of this course are covered in depth in other courses; e.g. Heraclitus, Parmenides, Plato's cave allegory and Theatetus, sections of Aristotle's Metaphysics.

Here's a bit on Plato's αγαθόν.
οὐσία and αγαθόν. How do we proceed form the principles and basic determinations of beings, from the Ideas as structures of Being, to the Idea of the αγαθόν, from the logical to the ethical, from Being to the "ought"? οὐσία and αγαθόν.

Being, i.e., the Being of beings [das Seinde-Sein], is that which is understood purely and simply for the sake of itself and is the only thing that can be understood in such a way. For the sake of itself: the end of all understanding. If I say "for the sake of itself," that is still an assertion about it: end, πέρας, αγαθόν. In a naively ontic sense: something higher than Being itself, which, moreover, still is Being itself. Considered more closely, however, not an assertion about Being, but one that turns away from Being and is precisely not directed to Being itself but, instead, approaches it obliquely, in relation to how it is understood, what it is for the understanding and not as it is itself. Even "Being" as principle is a derivative characterization.

At issue here is the Being of Dasein, the soul itself. At issue is Being, the "for the sake of which" of this being, that which it has "to be." The being of whose Being an understanding of Being pertains. Understanding of Being: the potentiality-for-being wherein Being is at issue. In the Greek sense: that which is at issue, the for the sake of which, itself as a being, the good. Being is πέρας, "end," the αγαθόν. It is a matter of the αγαθόν, because Being is understood as a being, an existing property, the good. More is said about the soul than the good, according to its sense, can bear. To restrict the ontological assertion to its proper limits.

To know, to see, is an an action, being out for.

αγαθόν, πέρας, any seeing is already, and above all, related to the light. The understanding of Being is brought to completion in seeing. Being through the ἰδέα, "something see"; Being through the αγαθόν, the "for the sake of which," the "end." The Idea of the good is Being in the proper sense and is a being in the proper sense.

Pp. 116-117
 
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
 
An address by Archbishop Bruno Forte last month has been appearing in parts. In today's, he mentions Heidegger for the second time.
In reaction to the failed claims of "strong" reason, then, there emerge the contours of a time of shipwreck and collapse; this crisis of meaning is the special characteristic of postmodern restlessness. In this "night of the world" (Martin Heidegger), what seems to triumph is indifference, a loss of the taste for seeking ultimate reasons for human living and dying. And thus, too, we reach the nadir of the parable of modern ideologies, nihilism: Nihilism is not simply a matter of giving up values for which it is worth living. It is a much more subtle process: It deprives human beings of the taste for committing themselves to a higher cause, of those powerful motivations which the ideologies still seemed to offer.
The notable feature here is that I can't Heidegger every using that phrase anywhere, although there are dozens of texts attributing it to Heidegger; none of them citing a specific text. It appears to have been used originally in one of Hegel's Jena lectures. The misattribution appears to be another instance of a chain of authors copying each other's works, without any ever checking the original source. The earliest offender, in this particular case, appears to be Leo Strauss.
 
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
 
Leo Strauss and the theology in the existential.
Meier demonstrates that in his quest to understand the nature of thinking, Strauss was involved in a dialogue with Heidegger that was more fundamental and fascinating than is usually thought. For Strauss, the philosophical act is groundless, which resonates with Heidegger’s own attempt to recover the Greeks as well as his phenomenology of temporality. Meier even suggests that Strauss may have been sympathetic with Heidegger’s substitution of death for God (as the horizon of an atheistic philosophy), although this goes against the grain of Strauss’s most trenchant criticisms of Heidegger. Strauss always thought that Heidegger confused philosophy with theology by framing philosophy with an existential rhetoric that barely conceals its genealogy in secularize Protestant theology.
 
Monday, December 03, 2007
 
A portrait of the thinker from Karl Löwith's roman à clef, Fiala: The Story of a Temptation.
How Professor Ansorge's face looked up close was at first really impossible to say, and for a very simple reason: the thinker could not actually look at anyone for any length of time, or even into the distance with head held high, the pose that photographers like to have. The natural expression of his face included a working forehead, veiled face, and lowered eyes, which now and then would take stock of the situation with a short and swift glance. If someone temporarily forced him into a direct look by speaking to him, then this extremely unharmonious face, jagging angularly in all its features, would become somewhat reserved, wily, shifting, and downright hypocritical. Its expression was through-and-through self-conscious, since candor and directness were for it in every respect unnatural. What was natural fr it was the expression of cautious mistrust, at times full of peasant cunning.

The face assumed its most positive expression when the thinker looked at the ground or, glancing at his manuscript, spoke with composure and concentration as he thought to himself. In spite of his extraordinarily short stature, his effect at the podium was quite normal, due to his austere and resilient bearing and the well-disposed proportions of his philosophically insignificant corporeality. His lecture was totally devoid of gesture and bombast. The one rhetorical device at his disposal, which he certainly did not forego, was an artful soberness and thesis-like rigor in the construction of his ideas. His bronze-colored countenance seemed full of expression from the manifest effort of mental concentration and through its plain but interesting asymmetries. The penetrating look of his dark eyes was directed only in passing at his listeners. It was the forehead, which was traversed and arched by a highly prominent vein, that laid claim to total animation. One saw it literally working of its own accord, without regard for the audience, which was roused to listen to the lecture more than solicited to think with it. The tangled black hair and an old-fashioned, stiff white collar gave the whole of this face an impressive frame, while the whole man stood at his podium in conscious isolation, as he turned page after page of his manuscript with a slightly conceited hand gesture that betrayed the proud and modest consciousness of a man who knows his way around his subject matter and has nothing to worry about.

Pp. 425-426
 
Sunday, December 02, 2007
 
Raymond Tallis on philosophical thinking.
What philosophy, in the end, demands of us, is concentration – but concentration of a different kind from that which enables us to formulate, or follow, a complex argument. To think ‘Being is’, or even to really think about the nature of mind (including the mind that’s currently thinking), or to think about thought, requires the kind of discipline we associate with mystics. And this is something that pretty well everything in our life militates against, as we surf our attractions and distractions. According to Heidegger, the “most thought-provoking feature of our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.” (What Is Thinking? [sic]) This paradoxical claim certainly seems true when our cogitations are measured against Heidegger’s notion of what it is truly to think philosophically: “to confine yourself to a single thought that one day stands still like a star in the world’s sky.”
 
 
There's yet another literary work based on Martin and Hannah: What is thinking?

With all the recent works about those two, I suspect there's probably a biographical script being shopped around the studios, which immediately leads to the question: How will Heidegger be portrayed in the cinema? I expect the plot of any Heidegger biopic will revolve around his involvement with Hannah Arendt and the Nazis, with a screenplay by Jan Jelinek and director Paul Veerhoven, and star John Malkovich and Maria de Medeiros in the lead roles--Ms. Madeiros's costumes by Bela's Dead. I can picture the tender separation: Martin saying goodbye to Hannah at Freiburg airfield, as the Gestapo closes in. "Last night you said I was to do the thinking for the both of us. Well, I've done a lot of it. You're getting on that plane." The airplane's propellers fire up. "But what about us?" "We will always have Marburg."

The movie could present a more rounded portrait of Heidegger by alluding to what else, besides tutoring Hannah, Martin is known for. Explaining anything about his way of thinking would require a break from the main plot (a sequence of chase and love scenes), so the movie should probably have differently paced segments, perhaps from other directors. I'm visualizing a Malickish segment where Heidegger leaves his hut with a walking stick and sets off down the country path. He exchanges a gnomic greeting with a passing farmer. The sun filtered through autumn tree leaves. A hedgehog's head pops up and looks around. Heidegger pauses to look out over the overcast valley. On a patch of earth he writes with his walking stick: τὸ ἄπειρον. The clouds part, he looks up, the sun shines across on the valley, for a moment only.
 
For when Ereignis is not sufficient.

Appropriation appropriates! Send your appropriations to enowning at gmail.com.

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