Thursday, October 06, 2011
In NDPR, Stephen Mulhall reviews Michael Watts's The Philosophy of Heidegger.
Watts does have a particular interest in 'the Nothing', and more specifically in the way Heidegger's interest in it allows him on the one hand to relate questions of fundamental ontology to what Watts bravely but rightly refers to as questions about 'the meaning of life', and on the other to exploit with an increasing degree of interest a set of connections with Eastern philosophy and religion. The book's scene-setting opening chapter makes much of the role of 'the Nothing' in Heidegger's inaugural lecture and thereafter (although I think Watts misses a trick in failing to stress its pervasive presence in the second division of Being and Time); and this allows the book's later chapter on Tao and Zen to present itself as a kind of culmination of Heidegger's enterprise. This is undeniably an interesting angle of approach.

Even so, I found the opening chapter's more detailed treatment of 'the Nothing' rather misleading than otherwise (at one point it offers as an analogy to Nothing's role in relation to Being the claim -- itself couched in highly misleading terms-- that modern science has revealed so-called solid objects to be almost 100% empty space). Likewise, the final chapter's attempt to illuminate Heidegger by invoking the way Asian thought regards the subject-object duality as sheer illusion seemed to me positively unhelpful (for Heidegger, the worldliness of Dasein no more renders the distinction between human beings and the natural world an illusion than the internal relation between Being and beings rendered the ontological difference a matter of mere appearance).
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