Heidegger and improvised being
Friday, 29 November 2019 at 17:19
I do not think that Heidegger was consciously philosophising against Spinoza, but in reality he was doing so.
Spinoza espoused an ontology of a divine, eternal substance, while Heidegger explicitly sought to destroy the history of ontology, the ‘ousiology’ of the metaphysical tradition. Heidegger did not recognise Spinoza’s role in strengthening that tradition at the heart of the Counter-Renaissance and Enlightenment. However, in taking a philosophical stance against metaphysics Heidegger was de facto standing against Spinozism.
Spinoza’s watchword was that ‘freedom is the recognition of necessity’, a formula later repeated by Engels and Stalin amongst others.
Heidegger rejected Spinoza’s conception of freedom as an acquiescence to God, or Nature, call the ontological entity what you will.
Heidegger, in this context, specified that it is precisely in a revolt against God, indeed, in active ‘evil’ or the self-assertion of human existence, that freedom is disclosed as the law of one’s own being. (1936 lectures on Schelling’s The Essence of Human Freedom.)
Spinoza, drawing particularly upon Lurianic Kabbalah, understood human beings to be mere modes of existence of the one original Substance.
He regarded this divine Substance as the place of our own being, and that our acquiescence is merely a pseudo-surrender to ourselves.
In contrast, Heidegger established a difference between human existence andany originating Substance, whilst seeking freedom from any presupposed conceptions that might limit our own experience of being.
What was the Spinozan necessity to which we all must acquiesce? Spinoza sought to demonstrate logically that there is only one Substance and every being in the world is merely a mode of this infinite entity. It is through thought that we can apprehend our predicament, which is peculiar to human beings, making us, at the very least, the only mode ofSubstance that thinks.
Freedom to Spinoza then is the conscious affirmation of necessity arising from the singular nature of the Substance, God or Nature, call it what you will. For example, we must consciously submit to the laws of that which we come to understand as Nature, because we are inseparable from the one Nature.
To be free in the Spinozan context is to rid ourselves of passions, emotions and creative imagination as far as understanding the world around us is concerned, and be guided only by a logical understanding of the Substance of which we are an inseparable part.
However, Heidegger was convinced that we are not of the eternal Substance as finite beings. We know this because of the human phenomenon of mood, especially anxiety in the face of death. Anxiety discloses the truth of that which is ultimately necessity, i.e. the negativity of death and nothingness.
Heidegger’s discovery of ‘eternity’ in the negativity, exposed Spinoza’s philosophy as a consoling fiction that justifies acquiescence. In contradistinction to passivity, Heidegger argued that the human being can throw off a condition of givenness where it seizes hold of its possibilities and acts in a concrete situation. This is what Heidegger called projection and it is the very experience of what Heidegger understood as freedom freedom. For him freedom was not an abstract philosophical concept, but rather the experience of the human being demonstrating its potential through acting in the world. To act freely in such a way is to be authentic.
Through logic Spinoza suppressed his emotional, personal being by leaping into the infinity of Substance in the hope of an impossible escape into the Unlimited. Such logic reflected the cosmic return to Oneness from a state of fragmentation that in Lurianic Kabbalah is called Tikkun. It was a further reflection of the state of exile and hoped-for return experienced by Spinoza and other Marrano Jews. Thus Spinozism operates on a number of levels, from the individual, to the onto-theological, to the socio-political. Acquiescence in the context of the latter has disturbing undertones, to which Heidegger as a political animal was sensitive.
Heidegger revolted against all levels, indicating that we must not seek freedom in the impossible other-world of eternity, but that we must comprehend that we are by necessity free to love and hate and to choose a ‘world’.
Between birth and death a clearing emerges, in which we can decide to choose our world. It is a place in which authenticity demands that we undertake a ‘critical ontology of ourselves’ in order to escape the banal clutches of Das Man, or ‘the they’. We can inscribe this place of temporality with the temporarily improvised self-expression of our own being. This, for Heidegger, was freedom.
© John Dunn.
The machinations of Heidegger
Wednesday, 27 November 2019 at 10:17
The age of technology, according to Heidegger, presents the real to us as raw material. This era is, for him, the completion of metaphysics, the end-game of Western thought since Plato.
He saw history as an epochal decline of what it means ‘to be,' culminating in our age of technology in which ‘to be’ means ‘to be raw material for the self-enhancing technological system’.
Heidegger understood the twentieth century to be the final stage of the Greek way of understanding being, as humanity entered a new uprooting phase. However, there was a positive counterpart to the nihilism and lack of perspective in the uprootedness.
Heidegger saw in this end-game the possibility of a new beginning, free of metaphysics - in short, a new way of being. Technology represented the completion of metaphysics and the calculative thinking itself with whichit is associated.
Machination (Machenschaft) was the expression chosen by Heidegger to define the essence of technology, later replaced by Gestell. Machination in this context highlights how in the technological stage of history we understand the real as ‘makable’. ‘Machen’ means ‘to make’, i.e to make from the raw material that is the world, including human resources.
To live ‘worldless’ was for him the consequence of machination. In Heideggerian terms, we now live in the era of technological uprooting so to speak, with a worldless lifestyle.
The contemporary technological thinking has caused an uprooting process, removing references to time and place as evidenced, for example, by contemporary historians who speak of the past in the present tense.
Heidegger’s thesis is that in the age of technology we measure and calculate everything, as all metaphysical references crumble.
The resultant deconstruction of ultimate authoritarian metaphysical thought systems means that philosophers can no longer claim to point the way to truth. Heidegger believed that this epoch of machination marked the end of philosophy, giving mankind the opportunity to experience a new authentic way of being that is not determined by an inherited logocentric way of thinking.
He was wrong in this idealistic and naive belief. The truth is that deconstruction has evolved into a new logocentrism.
I think that he eventually saw the truth of this, and that he thought that ‘only a god’ could save us from it, the ‘god’ being an alternative onto-theology.
© John Dunn
Deconstructionist food mixer
Sunday, 24 November 2019 at 21:26
Late 19th, early 20th, philosophy came to be identified with sociology. This was a response to the totalitarianism of science.
Critical Theory arose to counter and dismantle authoritarian thought systems.
Heidegger was part of this movement, but far more complex in his approach than the other more simplistic models on offer.
Heidegger realised that Being is epochal. In his theory of gestell, or enframing, the epoch of the technological world order is the completion of metaphysics.
Heidegger said that in the enframing lies the saving power itself. - i.e. the overcoming of metaphysics:
An excellent way of approaching enowning (Ereignis) would be to look into the essence of enframing (Ge-stell) insofar as it is a passage from metaphysics to another thinking (“a Janus head,” as it is called in On Time and Being), for enframing is essentially ambiguous. “The Principle of Identity” already says: enframing (the gathering unity of all ways of positing (Weisen des stellens)) is the completion and consummation of metaphysics, and at the same time the disclosive preparation of enowning (Ereignis). (Four Seminars)
Heidegger was wrong. Being will not be realised through enowning (Ereignis).*
Heidegger did not live to see the rise of liquid modernity and electronic technologies. The enframing aspect of technology that he was talking about was based on machines and heavy modernity. We are now in the epoch of liquid modernity, the shift from mechanics to digital electronics.
Digital media connect everyone, making everyone vulnerable to the imposition of potentially controlling ontologies.
The newly dominant ontology is unicultural one-worldism. Multiple realities and grounds of being are being crushed as the globalist cultural monopoly emerges as the new moral order.
The so-called deconstructionist philosophies commonly grouped together under the label of post-modernism have conceptualised a food mixer effect that has broken down multiple grounds of being into a single mélange of infinite interpretation. The new onto-theology that has resulted is thus founded upon the One and the Infinite i.e. the same foundation of all onto-theologies in ages past.
The grip of metaphysics is stronger than ever.
*Ereignisis the happening of truth and is associated with related terms such as ‘the clearing’, ‘being’, ‘the being of beings’, ‘presence’, or ‘presencing’. But it is also an act of appropriation, an experience: the ‘event’ appropriates us. Hence the enowning translation of Ereignis in the passage quoted.
© John Dunn.
Friday, 22 November 2019 at 16:50
At one time the answer to this question might have been quick and simple - the priest or the philosopher. These people have authority as the holders of the keys to truth. They had privileged access to ontologically guaranteed ideas (as they saw it), which gave them authority as the advisors to kings. This was the traditional role of philosophy, or onto-theology, which held steadfast until Heidegger’s time.
When Heidegger wrote The End of Philosophy, he was discoursing upon the end of Platonic metaphysics, where truth is understood to mean the matching of our ideas with some kind of objective world.
Nietzsche preceded Heidegger in his Twilight of the Idols by describing the gradual decline of the authoritative nature of truth. There were four stages in the authoritative era:
- Plato’s objective realm of truth (which Heidegger called Being), i.e. the realms of the forms and ideasFollowing Nietzsche and into the 20th century, the fate of the philosopher can be compared to that of the artist. Following the breakdown of ontological truth, art has come to be appreciated as a subjective undertaking. Whether or not an artist’s work has meaning does not affect its status as art. Artists no longer open the door to the sublime for mere mortals.They no longer give us access to truth.
- Christianity - the truth that is attainable after this life
-Kant’s ‘Copernican Revolution’ - in which truth was discovered to be no longer out there, but rather inside us. Kant interiorised the ontological ground of being and truth was understood to come from within the structures of human reason. But truth remained nevertheless
-Positivism - the still commonly held view that only the scientist has a privileged access to truth. It was in the time of Nietzsche that the scientist began to replace the philosopher as the arbiter of truth.
In the same way, after post-structuralism and the deconstruction of ultimate authoritarian metaphysical thought systems, philosophers can no longer claim to have found the door to truth. Heidegger was right. It is the end of philosophy.
Unless… rather in the way that Derrida oversaw the removal of all meaning from all texts, leaving one textual mélange of infinite possibilities… we have again arrived at the One and the Infinite. The Oneness of the post-structural world is now the philosophical, or onto-theological, authority for globalism.
© John Dunn.
Friday, 15 November 2019 at 10:25
Peter Sloterdijk’s point is that the humanistic tradition is the literary canon - within a nation state. Everyone in that state reads the same texts and community results.
But from World War 1, mass culture ruptured this humanistic tradition with radio, television and more lately the internet.
Thus his thesis that modern societies can produce their political and cultural synthesis only marginally through literary, letter-writing, humanistic media.
He makes another point that humanistic texts have a taming effect upon individuals, leading them away from barbarism.
How a person can become a true or tamed human being becomes unavoidably a media question.
We are now in a post-literate age, a post-humanistic age influenced by disinhibiting media, (akin to Roman bread & Circuses).
The book is giving way to the sports stadium, or the same spectacle on screen.
Sloterdijk turns to Heidegger for a philosophical bolstering of his position.
Heidegger wanted to replace humanism with an onto-anthropology
Heidegger believed that the humanistic tradition led to the problems of the 20th C. i.e. the logocentric tradition that places man, the rational animal that understands the truth, at the centre of all things.
Instead of humanism, Heidegger argued, we need a tradition in which the human being listens to being and does not dictate to being. Man should be the shepherd of being.
The place where this happens is the Clearing
Heidegger wishes man to be more submissive/obedient than a mere good reader would be.
There can be no public canon of manifestations of Being.
This demands a passive rather than an active frame of mind.
Sloterdijk points out that you cannot construct a community out of this attitude. It will result in a construction of monk-like separate individuals.
He moves on to Nietzsche for further clarification, particularly on the subject of human taming. Of the humanised Nietzsche wrote:
…They are uniform, decent and kind among themselves, as grains of sand are uniform, conforming and decent with each other. Modestly accept a kindness--that means, submit! Basically they want only one thing: that no one harm them…
Individuals have been minimised by this dwarfing process.
This is the root of the basic conflict Nietzsche postulates for the future: the battle between those who wish to breed for minimisation and those who wish to breed for maximisation of human function, or as we might say, a battle between humanists and super-humanists.
We are rushing headlong into a void. The decline of the book is concomitant with the rise of the stadium and disinhibiting media.
Humans are regressing back to a state of barbarism in which books are no longer needed and are instead archived, to be the preserve of experts.
Whois controlling this human zoo? asks Sloterdijk. He does not even pretend to have an answer, merely ‘the realisation… that our lives are the confused answer to questions which were asked in places we have forgotten’.
© John Dunn.
Tuesday, 12 November 2019 at 20:59
‘All society makes one somehow, somewhere, or sometime, common’, wrote Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil.
It was bad enough in Nietzsche’s day - but now that we swim in the medium of the internet… Nietzsche’s words must be amplified a hundred times and more to have relevance.
‘Wherever is the crowd is a common denominator of stench.’
Amplify the above words and you will only approximate to something like the truth. The words are a paraphrase of:
Books for the general reader are always ill-smelling books, the odour of paltry people clings to them. Where the populace eat and drink, and even where they reverence, it is accustomed to stink. One should not go into churches if one wishes to breathe pure air. (Beyond Good and Evil)
At no other time in history has the pressure to be ‘common’ been greater than at present. The controllers of the human zoo secrete their bile of inclusiveness, togetherness, oneness and sameness, which is realised in phenomena such as:
The crushing of diversity.
The religion of ecologism, with its ‘saints’, asceticism and self-denial.We live in the age of self-denial and idolatry.
God is alive.
The self is dead.
© John Dunn.
Superman out of time
Sunday, 10 November 2019 at 17:18
Superman status is not for everyone. Nietzsche was not arguing that you or I might achieve such an exalted status right now.
It is not about now, according to Nietzsche, it is about the future, and it is the future seen from the standpoint of an extreme social Darwinist.
Nietzsche dismissed social mores that still hold sway today, i.e. the individualistic morality along with the collectivistic, since the former, like the latter, fails to recognise an order of rank among men and wants to give equal freedom to all. Such views, Nietzsche implied, will lead mankind into an evolutionary cul-de-sac.
His thoughts turned rather on the degree of power that one or other person may exert over others or over all, and on how far a sacrifice of freedom and virtual enslavement may be forced towards the end of bringing forth of a higher type in the future.
Put in the crudest way, to what extent could the strong force us to sacrifice our lives towards the development of a higher type than man into existence? Nietzsche’s concept of such a type was the superman.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a major influence upon Nietzsche’s social Darwinian theories, even though he died years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species.
Fichte, a major influence upon Nietzsche, contended that cultural cohesion must be total, demanding a moral commitment from everyone.
It is the duty of every one, not only to endeavour to make himself useful to society generally; but also to direct all his efforts, according to the best knowledge which he possesses, towards the ultimate object of society - towards the ever-increasing ennoblement of the human race; that is, to set it more and more at freedom from the bondage of Nature. (Vocation of the Scholar)
This call for sacrifices now toward the ennoblement of mankind in the future was the precursor of Nietzsche’s demand for action now to prepare the way for the superman. Fichte offered the keys to Paradise in return for a societal commitment that passed down the generations into Eternity.
That which men call Death cannot interrupt my activity; for my work must go on to its completion, and it cannot be completed in Time; - hence my existence is limited by no Time, and I am Eternal: - with the assumption of this great task, I have also laid hold of Eternity. (Vocation of the Scholar)
Fichte postulated the conditions under which the human race would best pursue its moral destiny. He spelt out a specific, all‐transforming, intervention into history, advocating a socialist utopia that emphasised a shared language, culture and moral destiny.
© John Dunn.