In LARB, Kevin Hart reviews Jeffrey L. Kosky's Arts of Wonder.
Modern philosophers from Schopenhauer to Heidegger and beyond have brooded on the principle of sufficient reason, and recently versions of it have been formalized in an effort to be clear as to what it actually says. At the basis of Kosky’s understanding of the principle and its scope, however, are Heidegger’s 1955–’56 lectures Der Satz vom Grund, translated as The Principle of Reason. For Heidegger, the principle concerns being, not propositions; accordingly, it is the principle of all principles. Yet he notes that it is challenged by a strain of Rhineland mysticism, most overt in Meister Eckhart and Angelus Silesius. A line from a poem by Silesius puts it plainly: “The rose is without why: it blooms because it blooms.” In a subtle and patient manner, Heidegger leads us to see that being is precisely what grounds beings, from which it follows that being itself is ungrounded play. Heidegger’s great teacher, Edmund Husserl, maintained that phenomena manifest themselves to us by dint of both our consciousness, when properly purified, and the phenomena themselves. Yet Heidegger invites us to reflect that, as the ancient Greeks saw, phenomena do not need consciousness; the being that grounds them gives itself according to its own “missions.”