Monday, January 13, 2014
The Chronicle of Higher Education on public humanities.
Later in the semester, a student in an upper-level seminar on literature and philosophy came to my office. I suspect she wouldn't have come were it not required. She was almost always silent in class, and when she came to talk to me about her paper, she had difficulty getting started. She asked if she could use my laptop. I passed the computer over, and she opened her notes on Heidegger's late lecture on "The Thing." She took a breath and began tentatively: "Heidegger says that when we try to define something, 'the thing as thing remains proscribed, nil, and in that sense annihilated.' I think he means that by defining things, we give them identities, but we also destroy them."
"What do you mean by 'destroy'?" I asked.
Now she looked at me, and didn't need her notes. We had read the Heidegger essay months ago. She'd been working to articulate this all semester: "I mean, when we say what something is, we kill its other chances. I think we do that to people, too."
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