Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Philosophy Forum on the Vico in Heidegger.
For Vico, the true nature of human beings is not that of the Cartesian homunculi, who sit, detached from the body, in some regally isolated solipsistic realm contemplating their own “clear and distinct” ideas; instead they are, rather like Heidegger’s Dasein, not only beings in the world, but beings in the world with others. The true nature of the individual can only be understood if seen in the context of that individual’s relations with the world of others. As A. Robert Caponigri says, for Vico,

… it is only through society that man finds the fulfilment and realisation of his nature… [O]utside these relations he is, at best a hypothesis, at worst, simple alienness and absence from himself. The proper study of mankind is, indeed, therefore man; not, however, man in the abstract individualism… but man in society, because here alone, in the social structure, is the reality and fullness of man discovered.

For Vico, the impulse which impels humankind to attempt to fulfil its ends, and which can only be achieved by “society as a whole and not by individuals alone, is the history of mankind”. Like Heidegger’s Dasein, Vico’s concept of the individual is that of one thrown into a historical world whose primary sensation or experience is fear (for Heidegger this fear is called angst). Heidegger describes anxiety as the uneasiness one feels when one intuits the instability of one’s existence. As he says:

Anxiety ‘does not know’ what that in the face of which it is anxious is…That which threatens cannot bring itself close from a definite direction within what is close by; it is already ‘there’, and yet nowhere… .

In other words, anxiety, for Heidegger, is the profound fear of that which we cannot understand. For Vico this anxiety derives from the fear of that which is ‘Other’ than man.
Mitsein does tend to get ignored in commentaries. But I believe the "silent call of conscience" from S&Z, whose relation to the "distress" of the Beitrage is not clear to me, are motivations in the direction of achieving Dasein. I do not recall reading a clarification of the sequence, if any, of Mitsein and Dasein.
Vico's ideas regarding historical cycles may retain some significance (Joyce thought so), but...lets' not forget he was a ...orthodox catholic-- in the Thomistic tradition, right. Vico's solution of the Cartesian mind-body chestnut, then, consists of..returning to the Aquinas/Aristotle realism, essencia, causes--and humanism, for that matter. IOW, don't really engage the question (though Vico's schema is rather ....massive, and not really capable of being summed up in a combox).
The relation between Dasein and Mitdasein is still one of the most interesting in Being and Time for me. It turns solipsism on its ear and, just like the other epistemological problems of modern philosophy, reveals it as a pseudoproblem while setting forth a new terminology to describe the obvious.
There are other persons (apparently. Tho' as Wittgenstein asked in Phil.Inv., how do we know they're not ...automatons??) , and there may be communication of a sort. But people don't have access to others' thoughts, memories, emotions so forth--"being-with" doesn't exactly resolve epistemological problems (including the mind-body problem), at least in any rational sense. MH obviously opposes the Cartesian Res Cogitans- but ...then so did traditional catholics. Like Vico they more or less insisted, well, the older Aristotelian-thomistic realism was correct, no need for epistemology, so forth. Yet with MH's Angst, care so forth there seems to be a def. psychological dimension (..a bit gestaltist)
And for that matter, Hegel had already suggested ...a way out of the mind-body problem (though didn't he actually praise Descartes' rationalism though seeing its limits or something). So one might say that Heid. develops the Hegelian impulse away from subjectivity (via History, and the State itself ....as objective Spirit)--though one of the official academics hereabouts might ask Zizek if he ....replaces Hegel (ich denke nicht...though not to say Zizek's ...readings are the final word. ).

Hegel loved Aristotle as well
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