Tuesday, December 02, 2014
Robert Pippin on nothing at all.
In his famous interviews with François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock insisted that while many of his thrillers concerned some piece of information or object around which swirled all the intrigue and energy of the film, it didn’t matter if that object was never identified, that it could even turn out to be nothing at all, of no serious importance in itself. Borrowing from some Kipling stories, he called such an elusive object of attention a “MacGuffin,” and went on to say,“My best MacGuffin, and by that I mean the emptiest, the most nonexistent, and the most absurd, is the one we used in North by Northwest. . . . Here, you see, the MacGuffin has been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all.” In 1987, the great intellectual historian Hans Blumenberg, in a supremely backhanded compliment, noted the effectiveness of Heidegger’s “question about the meaning of Being” in functioning in just this Hitchcockean way. In a clever rejoinder to Heidegger, Blumenberg titled his article,“Das Sein—Ein MacGuffin,” thereby deliberately invoking Hitchcock’s own description of the MacGuffin, “boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all.”
P. 199
In Identity and Difference, Heidegger offers a way to think this nothingness as the “event of appropriation”: “But this abyss is neither empty nothingness nor murky confusion, but rather: the event of appropriation.” (39) The McGuffin as Ereignis... Hans Blumenberg’s paper was translated in 1991 as “Being—A MacGuffin: How to Preserve the Desire to Think” (Salmagundi, No. 90/91 (Spring-Summer 1991), pp. 191-193)
The narrator produces the macguffin to drive the plot to its end (τέλος). But it has not form or mass. It's not really a thing.

The same could be said of an unpalpable god. Any metaphysics is a macguffin.

Heidegger says beyng is not a thing (there's an ontological difference). Ereignis is no thing, too. It's a how; how the open opens up.

That’s interesting. The way I see it, a MacGuffin is a mean (an apparatus) as well as an end, as you pointed out. The MacGuffin does indeed pretend to be the goal, the aim, or the conclusion of the narrative, even though it’s never actually shown. In a way, the MacGuffin represents –or stands for– something that is never represented (on screen: never given to see). From that perspective, the MacGuffin is the presentation of an enigma. It offers a firm τέλος only maybe to the characters of the film. The viewer in its seat is instead provided with a closure in the form of an indeterminate opening.
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