I don’t hate films. I have hated individual films, and I hate certain tendencies in film, as it were. I am obstinately not part of fanboy/girl culture — but some of them throw around more hate than most critics I know, so I’m not sure if the distinction is useful. I like to think that I’m more down with a Heideggerean ideal of thinking as an affirmative act than anything else. I really believe it’s more about love than anything else.
Cocteau said that the spirit of creation is the spirit of contradiction. I think sincere artists and critics always embody this maxim. But I don’t think that opposes your Heideggerian ideal. Hating films begets the spirit of contradiction which begets the spirit of creation–a Moebius strip in which “hate” and “love,” “creation” and “contradiction” are inextricable from one another. This whole Greek-inflected obsession with taxonomy and classification and hair-splitting is my least favorite bit of Western intellectual baggage. We need a more organic, intuitive, even sensory means of arriving at truths. My impetuousness–or carelessness–with words can probably be traced to my own frustrated efforts in that regard.
I like how the interviewer and interviewee spell the adjectival Heidegger differently.
¶ 10:17 AM0 comments
If Heidegger really thought he was disclosing truth in Being and Time, it seems either 1) he thought the truth was so incomprehensible that it was outside the comprehension of at least some people (given that it is virtually undeniable that not everybody can comprehend Being and Time) or 2) the intriguing possibility that Heidegger thought that the truth should sound incomprehensible, lest it seem shallow.
[S]elling trade books is essential for subsidizing a core collection of other books, which often cost more to maintain. For a store like Great Expectations, which dealt in academic and scholarly literature, trade books were what allowed the store to stay in business. After all, it’s easier to sell a copy of Oliver Twist than it is to sell obscure books about Martin Heidegger.
They should stick to books by him. Books about him can probably make do with their authors making them required texts for their students. I expect a modestly priced paperback of Contributions is just what the industry needs.
¶ 3:14 PM0 comments
Heidegger was somewhat obsessed with language and believed that language tends, over time, to hide and obfuscate meaning, when it should rather shed light on things. Along this vein, Being and Time begins with the claim that we today no longer understand the meaning of Being, and that this forgetting is so thorough that we are not even any longer aware of this absence of understanding, so that even the question "What Is Being?", which should be the most important question for us, is for the most part ignored and overlooked. To even begin understanding Being, then, we must first try to understand the meaning of the question of Being. We must first come to the realization that there is even a problem there in the first place which needs to be resolved. Heidegger's chosen solution to this problem involves the claim that while language conceals meaning, it also, in its origins, is able to reveal it if we are able to come to understand language correctly. He gives an example with the term aletheia, which in Greek means truth. By getting to the origins of language and the experience of language, we can reveal aletheia. Aletheia, etymologically, means not-forgetting (thus the river Lethe is, in Greek mythology, the river of forgetting that the dead must cross before resting in Hades), and so the truth is implicitly an unconcealment that recovers the meanings implicit in language.
Jeffrey Powell reviews Clive Cazeaux's Metaphor and Continental Philosophy: From Kant to Derrida.
Cazeaux seems far too comfortable expressing Heideggerian themes and concerns in the language of conceptuality, as if Heidegger might be grouped in with a certain epistemological school. It is as if it is possible to distillate the thought of Heidegger into a few pearls of wisdom and translate that wisdom into the current language of the metaphysical tradition, the analytic tradition, or cognitive psychology. While it might well be problematic that the thought of Heidegger seems to be embedded in the language of Heidegger, it should also be noted that this is a problem, not just for Heidegger, but for any thinking deemed to be historical.
“Glorious news” the 21-year old Ingeborg Bachmann writes in a letter to her parents, the “surrealist poet” Paul Celan has fallen in love with her. It is May 1948, Vienna. The 27-year-old Celan, whose parents, Leo and Friederike Antschel, died in a German concentration camp in Ukraine, had fled just a few months earlier from Bucharest, via Budapest, to Vienna. Bachmann, the daughter of a teacher and a former member of the Nazi party, is writing her PhD on Heidegger. Celan, of all people, will write in a letter to Bachmann several years later, that Heidegger‘s choking on his own mistakes is more agreeable to him than the solid Federal German conscience of someone like Heinrich Böll.
[T]he Heidegger of Being and Time argues that objects are only disclosed in and through our being-in-the-world. This being-in-the-world is a world where determinations of space such as the near and the far are a function of my concernful engagement with the world, not metric distances. For example, the computer screen before me is near as it is that towards which I am concernfully directed, while the desk upon which the screen sits is far (despite being metrically closer) as it recedes into the background of concernful engagements. Graham is close to me despite being in Cairo because of my engagement with him and his work, whereas my cousin is far (despite being geographically closer) as we seldom speak to one another. Similarly, the earth of my being in the world stands still and is the ground of all my engagements with entities, and the objects populating this world belong to a system of relations of significance or meaning pertaining to how I project a future ahead of myself. Heidegger’s point is that objects are only ever disclosed in relation to this horizon of being-in-the-world that functions as an Urdoxa by being the ultimate ground of any and all beliefs I might have. Because all my relations to myself and objects are premised on this horizon or Urdoxa, I cannot say, the argument runs, what objects might be independent of this horizon. I can only ever speak of objects as they are for me.
“Moving Around Heidegger” involves dance, animation, film and poetry and is based on the rhythm and timing that all of the media share. Producing the program, which involved an intricate combination of video camera and traditional film cameras, was like conducting a symphony, Dill said.
So there I was getting ready to turn in what had seemed just a moment ago to be this incredibly important thing, with the argument that would transform the current debate in academia about contemporary avant-gardes and technologies of writing and procedural composition and the meaning of creating schools of writerly affiliation in the postmodern age, the oeuvre that would help everyone finally understand Heidegger, and I suddenly saw it for what it was: a piece of writing with that symbol that had only represented insecurity and fraud in my mind.
Now, in the digital age, much of this dissertation submission running around can be done without leaving one's computer.
A look into the options for publishing dissertations follows. Once it's available online, it's important to let the relevant web sites know, so they can link to it, which will help it show up in web search results, and eventually everyone may finally understand Heidegger.
¶ 8:50 AM0 comments
As Heidegger says we are thrown into the world. The world conditions us from day one. The set of ideas and the set of material conditions which prevail when we enter the world effect our development. Our choices are constrained. In effect the Nietzschean ubermench has choices to make within a world that limits them from day one. He may not simply follow others but his consciousness must nonetheless interact with a world which is the result of the work, thought, and experiences of all his forebearers. No one can have eternal or perfect freedom or anything else for that matter. As Heidegger teaches, truth as an absolute, as an essence is a fallacy, we have inherited from Plato and Socrates. Truth is rather a relational concept for us human beings in our efforts to live our lives.
In effect, then, Heidegger’s use of the phrase “metaphysics of Dasein” points to what I would now think of as the traumatic essence (in the sense of Heidegger’s usage of ‘Wesen‘ [whereby it carries a strong verbal connotation, as of the bringing together into one of an-wesen, to be present, and ab-wesen, to be absent: "essence" as the unitary-unifying "sence" of "ab-sence" and "pre-sence," so to speak]) of Dasein: Dasein, as Da-sein, is the wounding of/amidst beings by and with which the place is first cleared and set up for beings to be–the place of letting beings be.
It never had occurred to me that there would be so close an analogical connection between Spinoza and Heidegger, in text, though long I had sensed that Spinoza works to resolve something of the strained and willfully produced tension in Heidegger’s human-torqued universe of fundamental alienation. (Briefly I could say that metaphysics of alienation are naturalizations of political products, and as such work to make invisible the results of choices we have collectively made.) Spinoza’s insistence that human beings are not “a kingdom within a kingdom” seems a well suited antidote to Heidegger’s “thrownness” [Geworfenheit], in concrete terms.
Think of Derrida's 'Ends of Man'. In it, Derrida, commenting on a colloquium theme in which he was invited to speak in 1968, investigates the possibility of a 'philosophical anthropology', the bringing together of philosophy and anthropology. Derrida is deeply skeptical of such a prospect of arriving at an anthropology that is not wholly determined by the interests of the West. This is Heidegger's question: the essence of man and technology. The West tries to 'interiorize' its difference with other cultures - it tries to find a universality of 'the anthropos'. However, Derrida argues that colloquium is always political; the one in which he is speaking at is no different. Philosophers always question the claim to universality, 'official policy'. This gesture is tangible in the difference many philosophers feel with their nationalities.
But Derrida's concern with these questions is perhaps even broader than Heidegger's.
"It is considered the oldest fragment of Western thinking" - thus writes Heidegger in his famous essay on the even more famous sentence of the ancient Milesian philosopher Anaximander (ca. 610-540 BCE). The "fragment" in question, of course, is preserved by the Neo-Platonic scholar Simplicius, who flourished in the early to mid-sixth century CE. Without pausing to consider what meaning, if any, we may find in the phrase "fragment of Western thinking" - as if "thinking" could produce or be held fast in a fragmentary manner - or even to ask how one is justified in assigning an age - "the oldest" - to a passage that occurs, as a quote, in the midst of a treatise produced by a writer working at the very end of a long and noble tradition, I will simply say that we fail to render the proper tribute to this statement of Anaximander if we only refer to it as a preserved piece of thinking. For thinking, as Heidegger himself has taught us, is a tending toward existence and all its questions; a tending that causes questions to grow, and calls ever more urgently for bolder and more profound acts of thought.
Haaretz reviews Savyon Liebrecht's take on the Martin and Hannah story, "The Banality of Love".
The first encounter between Heidegger, the esteemed German professor, then 35-years-old, married and the father of two, and Arendt, a brilliant 18-year-old Jewish student, takes place in a mountain cottage belonging to one of Arendt's classmates, a fictional Jewish student. When Heidegger absentmindedly picks up a pillow from the bed (which serves as a highly significant piece of furniture, though barely used in the play), he finds underneath it a hammer that Arendt hid in embarrassment while tidying up the place before teacher meets student.
It as, as philosopher Martin Heidegger famously put it, always already too late. Our attempts to step outside the stark imperatives of our mortal existence and gain some transcendent, objective viewpoint, he argued, are already doomed to failure by the very nature of our being.
Just as the philosopher Martin Heidegger argued that the awareness of death allows us to live a more intense and “authentic” life, I believe that the embrace of our problems leads us to a deeper appreciation of our pleasures.
The philosopher Martin Heidegger eloquently expresses man’s position of being “stuck between” the glory of the divine and the pain of a mortal all-too-aware of the immortal. “Man, as man, has always measured himself with and against something heavenly,” wrote Heidegger. “Man’s dwelling depends on an upward-looking measure-taking of the dimension, in which the sky belongs just as much to the earth … In poetry the taking of measure occurs.”
Essentially Heidegger is making the point that man defines himself, his being, through art and poetry—which alone are the devices by which we can take measure of the dimension where the sky (heaven) touches the earth (our world); or, as we have seen, where the eternal star met the little town of Bethlehem. Art is born, like Jesus, mystically at the intersection of this-worldly being and that-worldly mystery. As George Steiner says, “There is language, there is art, because there is ‘the other.’”
Working Notes posts a guide to major posts on Heidegger, Derrida, and both.
First, Heidegger: "Negativity, Repetition, and das Geschehen das Daseins:" what was for me (in writing it) an enlightening analysis of what Heidegger means by historicity and that enigmatic word in Being and Time, "repetition." I try to show that repetition here differs from the operation of the Aufhebung of Hegel. "Building, dwelling, thinking...:" a close analysis of what is going on in "Building, Dwelling, Thinking," so we can understand the sort of linguistic work that is going on in Heidegger--what drives him to compose the way he does.
A true gift never belongs entirely to the giver or the receiver. It remains in a place between them like a meaningful conversation or a kiss. And it can stay there permanently. The gift may even leave traces for the couple’s family, when the giver and the receiver live only in memory.
As Heidegger said, gifts are not given or owned, but rather shared.
While Laclau seems not to be a 'philosopher in the strict sense', there is in fact a moment, (an excess) in his work of what I would call the strictly philosophical — and what Heidegger would have called 'thinking'. But where exactly to locate the 'strictly philosophical' — that which exceeds philosophy — in Laclau? I would contend that we will find it, amongst other places, in the numerous occasions where Laclau has recourse to the notion of the ontological difference — in the radical Heideggerian understanding of difference-as-difference, a notion which simultaneouly points at the a-byss of the (non)ground and thus has to be situated within the wider horizon of current post-foundational thinking. It is here that 'the philosophical' in the strict sense intervenes into the field of 'ordinary' political philosophy.
Heidegger examines Nietzsche’s “nihilism,” as a questioning of the dominant metaphysic of Western thought in both its classical and Christian phases. Heidegger in his study of Nietzsche and in his essay Zur Seinsfrage (1956) adapts his predecessor to examining and deepening the distinction between two forms of being, contingent, historically limited Dasein and the more encompassing and not fully definable Sein. Heidegger depicts Nietzsche as someone who anticipated his journey, by breaking from a God-centered theological conversation, one that both figures considered passé. Like Nietzsche, Heidegger bequeaths to posterity an austere fatalism, which he claims to be finding in pre-Socratic Greek musings about the nature of being. Like Nietzsche, he insists that a wrong turn had been taken by abandoning an earlier Greek attitude toward the mystery of being for what became with Socrates rationalism and a rationally accessible theology.
Despite Heidegger’s attempt ‘to understand time in terms of time’ and to overcome the metaphysical neglect or forgetfulness of being in addressing being as Dasein, sheer daily existence, he has not pushed the boundaries far enough, has not removed the objectivity of time. Even if we understand time in terms of time, it is still the human wishful thinking of grasping and getting hold of something secure. Heidegger’s being and time in this sense has pointed into the right direction and challenges the older concepts of targeting and conceptualising the transcendent, missing out the real ‘place’ of being and where being is constituting itself, namely in and through the subject. However, even he is still caught in the long metaphysical tradition which needed to locate and to stylise being. Even if this being, Dasein, ‘in its most extreme possibility of Being’ is time itself, timely, than time is still thought of in ontological terms, physics replacing metaphysics, the daily removing the eternal, the running ahead from the now to the future taking the place of past, present and future. And Heidegger admits that, though ‘Dasein flees in the face of the “how”’ which is time, being ‘clings to the specific “what” that is present’, and Heidegger underlines the physical reality and the assumed entity by adding: ‘Everything that is encountered in the world is encountered by Dasein as residing in the now; thus it encounters the time itself that Dasein in each case is, but is as present’.
For Heidegger, “the open” is something literally fundamental which lay at the heart of his thought. “The open” is the space revealed to us in the moment when the world we live in, which because of our many tasks and travails we tend to take no distance from (like animals with their stimuli), opens out onto something larger. This moment of distancing ourselves from our everyday concern with means and ends, with stimuli and response, is what gives us not just an environment, but a “world.” “The open” is what we find ourselves in when the bustle and haste of our environment recedes and we see that environment in all its strangeness and immensity—as a “world,” greater and less graspable than our restricted and finite representations. This experience of “the open” is, for Heidegger, what makes us human, and what separates us from the animals. And this open moment lies at the origin of philosophy: the humbling—and potentially frightening—moment of wonder that spurred speculation into the finer and deeper reason for things. As was his wont, Heidegger introduces a special phrase to describe this experience of acceding to the open, “the world worlds,” “die Welt weltet” and in the very next sentence states that “the rock has no world. Plants and animals also have no world”. When the world, strangely enough, worlds, we find that world open before us; we are standing, to adopt Heideggerʼs terms, in a “clearing,” a step away from both trees and forest. The world is no longer too much with us, and we suddenly see trees, forest, and ourselves in an uneasy and changing relation to one another.
From the New Republic's review of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
It is thus a kind of blank, and forms a pair with his other metaphysical crutch, the name he gives to evil in the cosmic sense: "the abyss." This is a venerable trope in modern thought, typically employed with a great deal of self-pity and a great want of precision. Bolano sometimes uses it to mean death or oblivion, and 2666 is pockmarked with pits and craters and mineshafts and ravines, images of the grave. But as is often the case, he also wants to make it stand for something more. For all his hardheadedness, Bolano is not immune to the Ibero-American tendency towards spiritual bombast. Death is just death, but to speak of oblivion as an abyss is to give it a spurious glamour, while to talk of "the abyss"--the abyss that we are all dancing on the edge of, or tragically circling, or whatever--is to seek to recover the Christian Hell, in all its metaphysical significance, under a different name. The idea, like the thing itself, is empty.
Perhaps I am carrying modernist expectations to a postmodern work.
Heh. The empty empties. Das Nichts nichtet. The point is not to bridge, leap, or otherwise avoid falling in the abyss, but to understand it. And poets are our spelunkers.
¶ 9:14 PM0 comments
A letter about Paul Celan to the editor of Commentary.
I came to appreciate how much emphasis Celan placed on the essential dialogue that could be heard in all real poetry, and so when Mr. Felstiner quoted Celan's Bremen Prize speech, a talk I was unaware of, I clearly heard the voice of Heidegger. This is not to say that Heidegger told Celan what poetry was about. (I am certain Celan could have told Heidegger just as well.) It is rather that both understood that poetic language is essentially dialectical.
Heidegger had been a Nazi in 1933 and 1934 and then had settled for an ambivalent relationship to his own past which lasted until his death in the 1970's. One would therefore think that Celan might have kept his distance from the man if not from his thinking, but the thinking drew Celan to the man. So he finally visited the philosopher at his cottage in the Black Forest, sometime at the end of the 1950's.
In computer games, winning is all about not dying.
Our impetus to win can be seen as a drive towards transcendence. A transcendence that is both over death and, in a sense, a metaphorical death. Winning a video game is much like what Martin Heidegger referred to as becoming a “being towards death.” That is a self-realized individual who has overcome uncertainty in life, reconciled their place in the universe and has acknowledged death within their life.
This simultaneity of both transcendence in life and the acknowledgment of death is also encountered during what the French like to call “la petite morte” or in English, “the little death.” This is the refractory period following sexual climax in which a person can achieve no further orgasm and is filled both with pleasure and melancholy.
Warning: the linked page refers to devices that are not legal in the great (-ly repressed) state of Alabama.
¶ 4:57 PM0 comments
Sure, genetic engineering might extend your life, but would immortality be authentic? Burt Olivier investigates.
The above is a broadly scientific take on this question but it does not exhaust all the possible perspectives one could adopt towards it. There is also a psychological-existentialist perspective, as well as an ethical one, to mention but two. Martin Heidegger explains in Being and Time that the precondition for an “authentic” life (as opposed to an “inauthentic” one of being the victim of mere convention) is to face one’s own possibility of non-being (that is, your death) resolutely via the state of mind known as anxiety.
Once you have accepted the inescapability of your own death (instead of avoiding it, covering it up, and so on), paradoxically, it frees you for living a full life of caring for yourself and for others because everything else is relativised in light of the unavoidability of death. Petty competition with others for institutional or political power, for instance, appears insignificant compared to those things that appear important in light of your own impending death such as love for your family and friends, the attempt to live a creative life, and so on. This is an existential reason for our mortality — it is a prerequisite for an “authentic” life.
Fred Dallmayr reviews Nikolas Kompridis's Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future.
In Kompridis's view, critical theory's renewal has to rely on alternative resources, including insights "central to the German tradition from Hegel to Heidegger and Adorno" and phenomenological explorations of the "life-world." In this context, a crucial resource is Heidegger's notion of "world disclosure," articulated variously under the labels of "Erschlossenheit," "Lichtung," and "Ereignis." The basic point of the notion of disclosure is that "we operate 'always already' with a pre-reflective, holistically structured, and grammatically regulated understanding of the world" -- which means that our thinking and reasoning is always embedded in a pre-cognitive experiential setting. In Heidegger's own terms: If there is to be any understanding of something "as something," then "our understanding must itself somehow see as disclosed that upon which it projects." The implications of this insight are obviously immense and bound to reverberate through all modes of philosophizing, including critical theory. Kompridis is by no means naïve about the obstacles facing the recuperation of Heideggerian insights. As he writes: "The idea that Heidegger's thought can contribute to the renewal of critical theory is more likely to be greeted with disbelief (if not derision) than with curiosity." For, as is well known, "Heidegger's person and his thought have played the role of critical theory's 'other': he is the very antithesis of the critical intellectual as critical theorists imagine 'him'." Not daunted by these obstacles, Kompridis wagers that the benefits of the recuperation outweigh possible drawbacks.
Epicurus advises us not to worry about death, Heidegger would have us constantly reminded of it – Carel tries to negotiate between the two. With Epicurus she agrees that there is little to be gained by worrying about death itself. But, at the same time, she also agrees with Heidegger that we do have to understand the presence and inevitability of death in our lives, as it inescapably shapes them. What is needed is not to come to terms with death itself but rather the fact that our lives are finite and then to learn to live them in light of this.
If you've missed this circus thus far, here's a news story. It's about standing up to enframing and businesses treating humans like any other resource.
"Businesses look at him as a commodity. But Michael is more than a commodity to me. He's a human being and he needs love and affection, and periodically he needs a shoe up his you know what. That's how kids are."
Jeffrey Powell reviews Clive Cazeaux Metaphor and Continental Philosophy.
While it is true that in the end Cazeaux argues for a Heideggerian-Derridean view of metaphor as the interweaving of metaphor and metaphysics (metaphor-as-metaphysics, metaphysics-as-metaphor), it is also true that the Heideggerian discourse gets woven into a metaphorical system to which it became increasingly foreign. That is to say, Cazeaux too frequently resorts to a traditional metaphysical language (e.g., perception, sensation, empiricism, realism, subject-object, theory of knowledge, etc.) for the expression of Heideggerian themes, as if we have now moved beyond Heidegger's concern with the language he found to be inadequate, or even counter-productive, for what was developed in Being and Time. Cazeaux seems far too comfortable expressing Heideggerian themes and concerns in the language of conceptuality, as if Heidegger might be grouped in with a certain epistemological school. It is as if it is possible to distillate the thought of Heidegger into a few pearls of wisdom and translate that wisdom into the current language of the metaphysical tradition, the analytic tradition, or cognitive psychology. While it might well be problematic that the thought of Heidegger seems to be embedded in the language of Heidegger, it should also be noted that this is a problem, not just for Heidegger, but for any thinking deemed to be historical.
For Heidegger, building is good as long as we cultivate within our phenomenological horizon. Bauen, the German word often associated with building, originally meant ‘to remain’ or ‘to stay in place.’ Staying in place leads to an acquisition of neighbors and sets one’s horizon for a limited sphere of dwelling. For Heidegger this is good building. To achieve Bauen, however, requires an anchoring of the ‘fourfold’ in everything we build.
In James Morrow's The Philosopher's Apprentice, an ethicist discusses bringing up pod children.
“I’m afraid our efforts to help the children may prove even trickier than we imagine,” I confessed, sipping my coconut ale.
“I don't want to hear this,” Henry said.
“Martin Heidegger,” I said.
“Heidegger was a Nazi,” Brock said.
“A Nazi, a nitpicker, and the worst sort of pedant, but I still have to respect his concept of Geworfenheit,” I said.
“Sounds like a character our of the Brothers Grimm,” Henry said, sampling his mango lager. “'Geworfenheit and the Enchanted Lederhosen.'”
“Geworfenheit, thrownness, the Paramount fact of the human condition,” I said. “Every person is hurled into a world, a culture, a set of immediate circumstances not of his own choosing. The authentic life is a guesr to comprehend one's status as a mortal Dasein, a self-conscious subject, an entity for whom the riddle of situated existence — being there, inhabiting the given - is a central problem, if not the central problem.”
“I don't know what the fuck you're talking about,” Henry said irritably, an attitude I attributed to his enthusiastic beer consumption.
“But if the average person is thrown into the world,” I continued, “then Edwina's offspring have been shot into the world, like a circus performer getting blasted out of a cannon. For most of us, pondering the mystery of Dasein leads to anxiety. For Londa and Donya and Yolly... well, I shudder to imagine what they might be facing down the road. Exponential despair. Angst to the nth. But there's reason for hope. According to Heidegger, a Dasein can ameliorate its encounter with nothingness by adopting a nurturing attitude toward other beings.”
“And according to me, a Dasein can ameliorate its encounter with nothingness by not reading Heidegger,” Henry said.
KING LEAR Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.
KING LEAR An you lie, sirrah, we'll have you whipped.
Fool I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are: they'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace. I had rather be any kind o' thing than a fool: and yet I would not be thee, nuncle; thou hast pared thy wit o' both sides, and left nothing i' the middle: here comes one o' the parings.
KING LEAR How now, daughter! what makes that frontlet on? Methinks you are too much of late i' the frown.
Fool Thou wast a pretty fellow when thou hadst no need to care for her frowning; now thou art an O without a figure: I am better than thou art now; I am a fool, thou art nothing.
Nick Cave's interviewed in the March Mojo. He says:
Songs can become excruciatingly personal so you can't help but write in a guarded way...So lyric writing is about obscuring the truth; writing in a way that doesn't really reveal all that much - about yourself.
Until quite recently, modern artists regularly took a step back into the past, the better to confront the present. James Joyce, in his utterly contemporary novel Ulysses, stepped back about as far as it was possible to go, to Homer’s Odyssey, to give structure and resonance to his novel of a single day.
Twentieth-century artists such as Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani, Hepworth and Moore delved into the distant past, the time of the Cycladic figurines and still further back, the cave painters of Lascaux and Altamira, to give form to their contemporary visions.
Now the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, suggests that they had it right, and, in a strange twist, that the contemporary artists who are interested solely in the contemporary are not really contemporary at all. Agamben, who studied with Heidegger in the 1960s and lives in Paris, has just brought out the French edition of a suggestive, poetic monograph entitled “What is the contemporary?” His answer is that it consists of “the singular relationship with one’s own time to which one adheres by keeping one’s distance”.
In their book “Freakonomics,” Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt write that kids who grow up in houses packed with books fare better on school tests than those who grow up with fewer books. But they also contend that reading aloud to children and limiting their TV time has no correlation with success on tests. If both of these observations hold, it’s worth determining what books really are, the better to decisively decorate with them. The widespread digitization of text has complicated the matter. Will Ben benefit if I load my Kindle with hundreds of books that he can’t see? Or does he need the spectacle of hard- and softcover dust magnets eliminating floor space in our small apartment to get the full “Freakonomics” effect? I sadly suspect he needs the shelves and dust.
Such scepticism about matters metaphysical is understandable enough and has a fine philosophical ancestry. But where does it leave us and where does it leave the question of belief, the cornerstone of Obama's entire presidential campaign? We come back to where we started, with the common good. Obama wants to believe in the common good as a way of providing a fullness to experience that avoids the slide into nihilism. But sometimes I don't know if he knows what belief is and what it would be to hold such a belief. It all seems so distant and opaque. The persistent presence of the mother's dilemma - the sense of loneliness, doubt, and abandonment - seems palpable and ineliminable. We must believe, but we can't believe. Perhaps this is the tragedy that some of us see in Obama: a change we can believe in and the crushing realisation that nothing will change.
Now that Barack's been president for a few weeks, the beliefs have run into the usual problem of not corresponding with the facts. But you can still feel the change since the election in people's demeanor. It's kind of like what I remember San Francisco feeling like whenever the Forty-Niners won the Super Bowl. I don't follow sports, but I noticed that people were happier and more pleasant to be around. It doesn't feel tragic yet.
¶ 11:14 AM0 comments
Jerry Fodor reviews Andy Clark's latest book, on embodiment, or am I in your iPhone?
The mark of the mental is its intensionality (with an ‘s’); that’s to say that mental states have content; they are typically about things. And (with caveats presently to be considered) only what is mental has content. It’s thus unsurprising that considerations about content are most of what drives intuitions about what’s mental. For example, Clark (and Heidegger) notwithstanding, tools – even very clever tools like iPhones – aren’t parts of minds. Nothing happens in your mind when your iPhone rings (unless, of course, you happen to hear it do so). That’s not, however, because iPhones are ‘external’, it’s because iPhones don’t, literally and unmetaphorically, have contents. But what about an iPhone’s ringing? That means something; it means that someone is calling. And it happens on the outside by anybody’s standard. And similarly, what about Otto’s notebook? It has lots of content (it contains, for example, the phone numbers of lots of his friends); and it’s about something – it’s about, for example, his friends’ phone numbers. And also, come to think of it, what about iPhones that have had numbers programmed in? So, even if shovels and the like can’t be parts of minds, how does insisting on the intensionality of the mental rule out notebooks and iPhones?
Bloomberg reports on one way to get your hands on the loot.
Built on the oil revenue that’s transformed Norway into one of the richest and best places to live on the planet, the fund lost 14.5 percent of its value through September. The third quarter was the worst in its 18-year history.
“We burned our fingers, and we’re not very happy about that,” says Slyngstad, 46, a former scholar of German philosophy who’s wearing a gray pinstripe suit and brown-and-white polka-dot tie on this unseasonably mild November day.
From 1987 to ‘91, while in his late 20s, Slyngstad backpacked around Asia, Latin America and Africa. He paid his way by working in Norway for six weeks every year. In 1990, he took a six-month break from his sojourn to live alone in Tysfjord in a fisherman’s cabin north of the Arctic Circle.
There, on the banks of Norway’s second-deepest fjord, he immersed himself in the writings of two German philosophers. The first, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, developed a system that analyzes contradictions to help one reach a comprehensive understanding that encompasses history, the spirit and the physical world. The second, Martin Heidegger, believed that Western philosophy had misunderstood the nature of being and that a new inquiry must be conducted by retracing the steps of history.
“Reading philosophy presses the borders of your thinking,” Slyngstad says. “It’s not irrelevant when thinking about risks.”
He doesn't appear to have done worse that others who studied economics and finance.
¶ 4:55 PM0 comments
The fire, obviously close, was also obviously big. I went out to my balcony which faces the street and was immediately hit with the acrid smell of burning building. Smoke danced above and through the trees. Firetrucks were aligning in from of my tastefully appointed mid-rise.
I could smell a story here. Call it a hunch; call it the cough inducing smoke that surrounded me, but I knew something was amiss and it needed me…ME to provide clarity.
I was soon joined by two young women. The terminally hip types that consider themselves gifted in the arena that is intellectual esoterica. They’re the kind of uber modern chicks who’ve colored their hair this raven black….gangrene black , really and they wear their bangs very short and erratic, as if cut by tiny fingernail scissors being operated by Parkinsonian hands….or TV’s Hugh Beaumont after a bender.
They firmly believe that this hair color and style go great with the distinct lack of melanin in their skin. In addition, they slip their slim, meth-affected frames into school girl outfits–short skirts that display white, spindly legs with feet adorned with green Chuck Taylors. They buy other types of second hand raiments purchased from stores in the bohemian section of any large city. They wear plastic kiddie hair clips, really red lipstick and listen to trance music, along with the occasional Mantovani and Echo and The Bunnymen.
We exchanged nods and made some idle chit-chat about it being a one horrific fire. We watched in silence for a while, and then the oh so wizened San and Skrit, standing to my left, started getting very deep and pseudo philosophical about the conflagration before them. These two self perceived “noted thinkers” began with existentialist, Martin Heidegger.
Mary Kate: "You know, this fire makes me hearken (yes, she actually said ‘hearken”) back to reading Heidegger as a child. Since metaphysical philosophy is aware of the “ontological difference” but habitually misconstrues it, and proceeds on the mistaken assumption that Being can be fully grasped by way of a “general theory of Being”, we lose a sense of the presence of Being in our lives, and that is an inestimable loss. You know…lke the end result of this fire. Possessions are things and things help comprise life and to live is to exist!"
Ashley : "Ah yes. This is the perfect indication that Heideggar was catching the same worries as the early Wittgenstein, in the latter’s musings about regaining the “mystical” sense of “wonder” that anything at all exists. In a true Heideggerian sense then, are we really watching this fire? Are the people behind us still there and still watching the fire and do the flames look to you as they do to me? What color is justice and and inequity in everyone’s world?"
Gradually it dawns upon him that his love for Sarah has cost him much of his prestige, and will sooner or later cost him his job.
But he still loves her, and eventually he leaves his beloved Freiburg for her sake. In 1935 Heidegger is teaching in Berne, but only as a visitor. Switzerland has by now given away all its philosophy chairs. Suddenly a call comes from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. There Heidegger spends two years slowly and painfully learning English, aching for the chance once again to spellbind seminar rooms of worshipfully attentive students. He gets a chance to do so in 1937 when some of his fellow emigres arrange a permanent job for him at the University of Chicago.
There he meets Elizabeth Mann Borgese, who introduces him to her father. Heidegger manages to overcome his initial suspicion of the Hanseatic darling of fortune, and Mann his initial suspicion of the Black Forest Bauernkind. They find they agree with each other, and with Adorno and Horkheimer; that America is a reduction ad absurdum of Enlightenment hopes, a land without culture. But their contempt for America does not prevent them from seeing Hitler as having ruined Germany and being about to ruin Europe. Heidegger’s stirring anti-Nazi broadcasts enable him to gratify a need a strike a heroic attitude before large masses of people - a need that he might, under other circumstances, have gratified in a rectorial address.
For Heidegger, all sciences belong to and continue the metaphysical tradition of forgetting the question of the being of beings. For Lacan, every proper science means a break against, within and in regard to the metaphysical tradition of philosophy. From a Heideggerian perspective, Lacan is unable to see the metaphysical implications and presuppositions of all the sciences. From a Lacanian perspective, Heidegger’s interpretation of a science is, in the end, naive and totalitarian. In other words, Heidegger includes all discourses into the totality formed by the history of the question of (the meaning of) the being of beings. Besides this, Heidegger includes all sciences into a homogenic and homological group, the totality of science, which seems to be, not only a coarse judgment, but also simply a totally blind and incompetent misjudgment. In Lacanian jargon, this means that Heidegger himself presupposes the Other of the Other: for Heidegger, the question of the being of beings functions, in the last analysis, as the Other of the Other criticized by Lacan. For Lacanians, what is radical in sciences is their ways of constructing discourses through formalized languages, not some determined “scientific” proposition. This is why Lacan stresses again and again that psychoanalysis is a science, and not only whatsoever science, but the science of the subject of science. The subject psychoanalyses studies is the subject of signifiers approached formally as signifiers, without their signified. Psychoanalysis as Lacan sees it became possible only after scientific revolutions. From this perspective, psychoanalysis is always secondary in regard to scientific revolutions.
Heidegger says that death is unique for each person, only the same sharable experience for each other. Death, the end of the life cycle, repeats for each mortal being. It cannot come twice to a single (multiple death is a sign of a god, as Phil learns), so it can only categorize us en masse, and from second hand. Our culture helps us keep going by substituting fear of categorical death for our eerie yearning for that singular closing newness to be had in a life that descends ever so slowly, as we age, into endless repetition. I wake up. I go to work. I feed my face. I lay down.
By the way, whoosh-up is what things did in first beginning; when they had the ontological style of physis, and all that pre-Socratic goodness.
Be sure to check out this blog's excellent list of resources in its right column.
¶ 4:19 PM0 comments
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Derrida on Dupin, truth, and the The Purloined Letter.
Therefore the letter has a proper meaning, its own proper itinerary and location. What are they? In the triangle, only Dupin seems to know. For the moment, let us set aside the question of this knowing, and let us concern ourselves first with what is known. What does Dupin know? He knows that finally the letter is found, and knows where it must be found in order to return circularly, adequately to its proper place. This proper place, known to Dupin, and to the psychoanalyst, who in oscillating fashion, as we shall see, occupies Dupin's position, is the place of castration: woman as the unveiled site of the lack of a penis, as the truth of the phallus, that is of castration. The truth of the purloined letter is the truth, its meaning is meaning, its law is the law, the contract of truth with itself in logos. Beneath this notion of the pact (and therefore of adequation), the notion of veiling/unveiling attunes the entire Seminar to the Heideggerian discourse on the truth. Veiling/unveiling here concerns a hole, a non-being: the truth of Being as non-being. The truth is “woman” as veiled/unveiled castration. This is where the signifier (its inadequation with the signified) gets underway, this is the site of the signifier, the letter. But this is also where the trial begins, the promise of reappropriation, or return, or readequation: "the search for and restitution or the object". The singular unity of the letter is the site of the contract of the truth with itself. This is why the letter comes back to, amounts to [revient à] woman (at least in the extent to which she wishes to save the pact and, therefore, that which is the King's, the phallus that is in her guardianship); this is why, as Lacan says elsewhere, the letter amounts to, comes back to Being [la lettre revient à l'être], that is to the nothing that would be opening itself as the hole between woman’s legs. Such is the proper place in which the letter is found, where its meaning is found, where the minister believes it to be in the shadows and where it is, in its very hiding place, the most exposed. Possessing the letter in the shadows, the minister begins to identify himself with the Queen (but must not Dupin, and the psychoanalyst within him, do so in turn? We are not there yet).