Friday, October 28, 2011
Continuing the milieu in James Miller's Passion of Michel Foucault.
But the coming of World War II, and the catastrophic defeat of the “hero” Heidegger himself had chosen in 1933—namely, Adolf Hitler—led the German philosopher to what he himself called a “reversal,” or turning back. In Heidegger’s new understanding (as Hannah Arendt once helpfully struggled to sum it up in plain English), “the very possibility of taking action,” presented now as “the will to rule and to dominate,” looms as “a kind of original sin, of which he found himself guilty when he tried to come to terms with his. . . past in the Nazi movement.”

In “The Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger in effect tried to purge transcendence of its conventional ties, not simply to logic, morality, and metaphysics (already challenged in Being and Time), but also to the “very possibility of taking action.” He marked this shift largely through the words he chose to emphasize. Instead of Dasein, he now stressed Sein, or “Being” as such. To illuminate Being as such, he now thought required not action, but rather a silent waiting, an essentially reverent contemplativeness that might keep open the (slight) possibility of a new, neo-pagan religion of man arising from the ashes of Hitler’s aborted revolution. As one of Heidegger’s shrewdest French readers, Jacques Derrida, would later point out, the “Letter on Humanism” abounds in images of light and metaphors that evoke “the values of neighboring, shelter, house, service, guard, voice, and listening.” “Man,” Heidegger declares, “does not decide whether and how beings appear,” as many readers of Being and Time had concluded. Rather “man” is merely “the shepherd of Being.”

At first glance, the vocation 0f the “shepherd” sounds idyllic. But a darker, more disquieting note was also sounded repeatedly in Heidegger’s letter—and it was this note that would resonate most deeply with Foucault, who already knew from Sade and Goya something about dark and disquieting visions of the world. For a human being committed neither to reason nor to purposive action must, as it were, be prepared to let itself go. To surrender one’s customary inhibitions and descend into what Heidegger called the “unthought,” the thinker had first to “learn to exist in the nameless.” To accomplish this paradoxical task, it was not philosophy but poetry and art that might light the way. “Language,” as Heidegger famously asserts, “is the house of Being”; but the metaphor is deceptive. For to inhabit, however contemplatively, the world revealed by the language of Sade, for example, was as likely to disturb as it was to comfort. “Concealed in the step back,” away from logic and conscious action, is “a thinking that is shattered.” Probing beyond the limits of reason, thinking sooner or later finds itself without statute or rule, structure or order, and face-to-face with nothing. The thus discover, as Heidegger puts it, that “Being” and “the nothing” are “the Same” is to “risk discord.” Heidegger’s new way of thinking might bring about a healing “ascent into grace,” but by the same token it might also unleash “evil,” “the malice or rage,” and the “compulsion to malignancy” with the certain and potentially fatal consequence. As the title of one of Goya’s most famous etchings summed up the risks, “the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.”

Pp. 49-50
the (slight) possibility of a new, neo-pagan religion of man arising from the ashes of Hitler’s aborted revolution

Reading the Dwelling essay and "the Fourfold" I get a slightly paganish vibe--not to say that's necessarily a positive. Some of the the nazi leaders--Himmler-- had an interest in pagan themes--mostly nordic was it not--tho' the nazis did send some teams to india/nepal for odd aryan-related projects. As yr probably aware. Finding a german-gothic-hindu-sanskrit connection was also a 19th cent. philological interest--e.g. Schopenhauer--Nietzsche to an extent. Schopenhauer. insisted the Vedas were the root of western language and civ. (or..per TS Eliots...wwhat the thunder said--Da. as in snskrt. dharmma, what is given--cognate data in Lat. "dar" in spanish..)
Some pagans also make the same connections, through the Dwelling essay and "the Fourfold".

I see the literary allusions, but for me MH's way of thinking has traveled through monotheism (Agustine, Luther) and can't return to paganism. Any more than we can discard techonology or the scientific view. We move forward, looking back. So our understanding of MH's new etymologies wouldn't have applied for the pagan Greeks who actually spoke the words.
Heid. mentions gods and divinities in the Dwelling essay. excuse me for being literal--but he used the plural "gods" whereas monotheism is one (as is "Being")..So is it plural--a type of polydeism,as "gods" would imply-- or mono. aka "God", so-called JHVH, or possibly both, or none? Or what.
God, gods, they're just allusions. He's an athiest, for Christs's sake.
OK sry to be a stickler. It's metaphorical then but "gods" just seems a bit imprecise as far as philosophy goes (which ones? Thor Wotan,etc? or zeus & Co--some might want to know).
We can understand the history of being (or of the Mediterranean, if you will) as having a pagan epoch of many gods with their myths, competing and complementing each other other in explaining the way things were, then came the monothiestic explanation that wrapped up all explanations into one, then the scientific age that didn't need theology to explain the universe, and MH's indication that theology, science, and technology operate with ontological contexts. When MH calls on god or gods, IMHO, he is requesting a new ontological context.
Alright--then one might say (as many .theo-types do contra-the neo-atheist gang)--given ~(Gott) why any duties,any responsibility, even to.."authenticity", creating great poesy,..understanding Dasein/ontology, etc.? (sort of IVan Karamazov's existentialist Klassic--or Nietzsche -- again-but still relevant IMO)
If I understand correctly, the assertion is: if you don't have a Gott that tells you how to behave and where the universe comes from, then you must be some kind of nihilist, who doesn't know how to behave or where the universe comes from.

If that's the assertion, then I say it's another one those false dichtomies I mentioned the other day; e.g., if you're not a Democrat then you must be a Republican.

I know how to behave already, without deferring to, or following, a particular godhead. I don't need an onto-theological authority to tell me not to hurt others.

Why study ontology? Because I'm curious.
Au cuntraire! Karamazov doesn't say..given ~(gott) then one must be a nihilist, but that....one could....you could still choose to be a ..saint of sorts perhaps (Saint of Nothingness?) or you could decide to be a Polpot. In a sense I read it...as denying the very possibility of pascal's wager----ie, God is not a possibility, sy Sartre and MH; ergo there is no foundation or transcendent realm which would justify moral decisions--thus atheo-existentialism seems nearly stoical (ie prudential---an atheist might not decide to be...a DeSadean but were some--Maoist sort to invite you over to his chateau in some obscure chinese province for some Desadean kicks with his concubines,you might, with no fear of ..spiritual payback so to speak) )
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But the Dostoevskian option to be a saint is already within a way of being within which saintliness is an option. For early pagans (I'm thinking Homeric types here) being a saint was not a feasible option, they understood being a hero or not, but not sainthood.

In Sartrean terms, Dostoevski's tale does present a choice for the existential hero. (Isn't grappling with such choices already a feature of Tolstoy's W&P?) But for MH, it is only a choice if your way of being already predisposes you to accept sainthood as a choice.

The Maoist's chateau is only desirable if I am already familiar with the erotic possibilities of the opportunities to be presented there. And for me, to specify the empirical details of this experiment, there would be no fear of spiritual payback. Guilt's purely psychological.
there would be no fear of spiritual payback. Guilt's purely psychological.

says the atheo-existentialist. Dostoyevsky's writing does not proclaim that (he suggests some humans do think thusly ie,..Ivan K....though IK does not lack ironic touches ...or are they
mephistophelian). I,e the atheist's pride in proclaiming ..knowledge of the Infinite, in effect--is one of Dosty's themes, really ("I don't know", or even "doubtful" quite different, then "no")
I can see the case for behaving along with Pascal's wager, if you're not sure. But I'm sure there's no spiritual payback.
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