enowning
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
 
Levinas on being as event, from Jean Wahl's A Short History of Existentialism.
I think that the new philosophical "twist" originated by Heidegger consists in distinguishing between Being and being (thing or person), and in giving to Being the relation, the movement, the efficacy which until then resided in the existent. Existentialism is to experience and think existence--the verb "to be"--as event, an event which neither produces that which exists, nor the action of what exists upon another object. It is the pure fact of existing which is event. The fact of existing, until then pure and reticent and tranquil; the fact which, in the Aristotelian notion of the act, remained quite serene and equal to itself among all the adventures that befall a being; the fact which was transcendent to all being, but which was not itself the event of transcending; this fact appears in existentialism as the adventure itself, containing History in itself.

When Heidegger says "being-in-the-world" and "being-for-death" and "being-with-others," what he adds that is new to our millenary knowledge of our mortality, our social nature, and our presence in the world, is that these prepositions--"in," "for," and "with" are in the root of the verb "to be" (as "ex" is in the root of the verb "to exist"); that these phrases are not created by us as existents placed in determinate conditions; that they are not even mathematically contained, as in Husserl, in our nature or our essence as existents; that they are neither contingent not necessary attributes of our substance; and finally, that they are articulations of the event of being, heretofore considered to be tranquil, simple, equal to itself. One may say that existentialism consists in feeling and thinking that the verb "to be" is transitive.
. . .
Thus, in existential philosophy there are no longer any copulas. The copulas express the very event of being.

I think that a certain use of the verb "to be"--which does not mean that I give to Being a purely verbal signification--corresponding to this notion of transitiveness, is more characteristic of this philosophy than the evocation of ecstasies, anxiety, or death, which are in themselves as Nietzschean or christian as they are existentialist.

P. 50-51
Glossary

copula: a linking verb. One that links the subject with
the complement of a sentence; e.g. She is a philosopher.
 
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