Sunday, May 24, 2015
Figure/Ground interviews Michael Zimmerman.
Two things remain viable about Heidegger’s thought. The first is his view that human existence is constituted as the clearing or openness in which the intelligibility of things becomes available or manifests itself. Heidegger’s interest was not so much in the being of entities, but instead in the clearing that allows things to show themselves (in their intelligibility) and in that sense “to be.” Heidegger was not interested in the various structures of entities, which he regarded as a matter for the sciences and other means of exploration. Nor was his main topic being (Sein) as the metaphysical tradition had understood it, that is, as the origin, ground, structure, or foundation of entities. Instead, Heidegger took a step back and asked: How is the being of entities made available to us? How can we encounter it in the first place? He answered this question by positing that human existence amounts to the open realm (existence, the clearing) in which things can show up and thus be in one way or another. If this reading of Heidegger is right, the current techno-scientific understanding of things is not an aberration but an inevitable development of humanity’s gift for understanding things in their intelligibility. Most humans inevitably pay no attention to the clearing that makes all this possible, but instead turn toward the entities that show up as affording one or another use or application.
Heidegger’s second lasting contribution was his analysis of great Western thinkers, from Aristotle to Nietzsche. Although his interpretations are at times controversial, they were often brilliant and groundbreaking, perhaps especially his extraordinary rethinking Aristotle as a phenomenologist. Unlike some of his writings, In many of his lecture courses, which are usually clearly presented, Heidegger critically investigated and entered into dialogue with the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, Kant and Schelling, Nietzsche and Augustine, among others. Arguably, Heidegger was the greatest 20th century interpreter of major Western philosophers, even though the anti-modernist “spin” he applied to his meta-analysis of that history is deeply problematic.
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