Saturday, February 16, 2013
Timothy Morton on the trouble with Heidi.
His unwillingness to accept illusoriness might have been what pushed Heidegger into Nazism. Heidegger understands that truth is not simply making “objectively present” assertions about “objectively present” things. Truth is an event in the world, a kind of “truthing,” in which truth and untruth are coemergent: “All new discovery takes place not on the basis of complete concealment, but takes its point of departure from discoveredness in the mode of illusion. Beings look like …, that is, they are in a way already discovered, and yet they are still distorted.” Heidegger descended to this ontological depth without much protective gear. He thought he had hit some kind of authentic bedrock, and in a bitterly ironic way, he had. But voyaging at these depths requires some kind of cognitive protection—this is territory that Buddhist mystics swim in, as Heidegger himself intuited. The depth could drive you crazy. Why? Because there are no guarantees. The protection that a Buddhist has at this depth is the protection of emptiness: not a hard suit of armor or tough diving gear, but a light-touch sense of the openness and illusoriness of things, without cynicism.
Unable to tolerate illusion, Heidegger relegates it to a function of Da-sein being confused, caught in “the they” and so on. In other words, he reinvents the wheel a little: he himself reinstalls some of the “objective substance” software that got us into trouble. Despite thinking that (especially thinking that) he had gone beyond objective presence he reified being into an authenticity that means ripping the illusion away. There is a fantasy of seeing a real underneath. In a perfect political storm, this authenticity-speak matched the authenticity-speak of Nazism. This is a true tragedy, because the tunnel to the future lies through some kind of engagement with Heidegger. But his very name gives people an allergic reaction.
As Captain Wiles put it in The Trouble with Harry: "Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed."
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