Monday, August 06, 2012
In Tim Horvath's short story "The Understory", Heidegger and biology professor Schöner take regular walks through the Black Forest around Freiburg, circa 1932.
He is also delighted by Heidegger's reverence for classical civilizations. At last he's found an ally who will sympathize with his own insistence on instilling Latin terms in his students' minds. Heidegger, though, never simply agress or disagrees, and in this case he frowns.
"The Romans translated everything, but the essences were destroyed in the act. Unlike the Greeks, remember, the Romans were a brutal, materialistic people right down to the morpheme."
Schöner is no match for him as a philologist, so he tries to swing the conversation back to the need for interdisciplinarity where they will surely agree. "Anything else is sheer stupidity," says Schöner. "The trees grow in the soil. For that, we need to understand nitrogen compounds. To understand these, we must understand nitrogen atoms, right down to physics. Labels impede scientific work. Worse, they impede progress." He practically sings the last word.
Heidegger seems more amenable as he speaks, but in the end he continues to hem and haw. "Progress. A word to be infinitely suspicious of," he says. "Science needs to get back to its roots, its origins. In its essence, science has no divisions. But the essence of science has little to do with its practical forms."
"I'm afraid," admits Schöner, "that maybe I don't understand what you mean by the 'essence.'"
"You're not alone, then," says Heidegger.
P. 62
morpheme: the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language.
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