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Only dead fish swim with the stream, it has been said*

Sunday, 28 Dec 2014

Martin Heidegger on Staff and Scrip, Dr John Dunn I’ve been prompted by you to think recently about the purpose of this blog.

And yet, in my humble opinion, there is still a place for original writing,original thoughts, challenging shibboleths of our time... and previous times.

But need there be so much deference to the great names of the past? Plough your own furrow, you might say.

Only dead fish swim with the stream, it has been said.

But striking out for individualism is not easy. Does it not conform to one of liberalism's social mores? This certainly leaves us in a dilemma.

Individualism becomes conformity - conformity is individualism - individualism becomes conformity - and so on and so forth...

It was in this area of conflicts that Martin Heidegger (pictured) was so good...

It is not this one, not that one, not oneself, not some people, and not the sum of them all [but] the neuter, the [impersonal] "they" [Average Man].

We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as THEY take pleasure; we read, see, and judge about literature and art as THEY see and judge; likewise we shrink back from the "great mass" as THEY shrink back; we find "shocking" what THEY find shocking.

In one's concern with...the Others, there is constant care as to the way one differs from them, whether that difference is merely one that is to be evened out, whether [one = Dasein] has lagged behind the Others and wants to catch up in relationship to them, or whether one's Dasein [self] already has some priority over them and sets out to keep them suppressed.

Because the "they" presents every judgement and decision as its own [i.e., because we justify our decisions by appealing to what THEY do, what ONE does], it deprives the particular Dasein of its answerability.... It remains indefinite who has really done the choosing... Dasein makes no [independent] choices, gets carried along by the nobody, and thus ensnares itself in inauthenticity. This process can be reversed only if Dasein specifically brings itself back to itself from its lostness in the "they".

(HEIDEGGER from Being and Time)
Are we not only individuals before God? If so, live honestly before God said Kierkegaard.

But outside institutional religion, said Weil.

But is there such a thing as our own spirituality? Is the attempt not simply adding to a fragmented world that relies upon laws for some sort of cohesion; a fragmentation that, amongst other things, leads to the breakdown of the family?

And is not the family the only institution in which the individual is guaranteed a place?

Is the achievement of synthesis a forlorn hope? I mean, perhaps the individual will never be integrated into society again. And yet, surely the unthinking individuals (nihilistic career-chasers, suckers for 'bread and circuses', burger van owners etc) are integrated.

Are the unthinking the wise, therefore?

No, because integration in this basis can only ever be a surrender to the crowd, leading to a life of inauthenticity.

Of course, synthesis comes to us all in the end, as we sink back into the muck and slime from which we all arose.

Does that render the struggle for authenticity during our lifetimes futile?

But if futile, why bother living at all?

And if life is worth living, it can only be on the basis of authenticity, otherwise it is not a life.

Where then is the individual to find authenticity within society? In a philosophy of solitude, or life of private anarchism?

It has been said by many that we are indeed now free; but if that is the case, why are we increasingly the same, the world over? A pall of uniformity now has the world in its ever-looming shadow. Yet we think we are free to choose. There is a conundrum to explore and unravel here. For example, either we are not in reality free to choose, or we are free but do not have the capacity to choose to be different to everyone else.

I suppose ‘community without uniformity’ is an ideal that I might hold up. Indeed, it is a long-standing Christian ideal. Yet there is something collectively oppressive to the contemporary mind about the word community. Then again, we are all in a community of sorts, whether we like it or not. So might not the searched-for ideal involve an acceptance of community, but with a limitation upon the infringements by community upon the life of the individual. But hasn’t this been tried and failed?


John Dunn.

*Quotation attributed to Malcolm Muggeridge.


I'll continue to explore this interminable issue on my website, but for now I'll leave the last word to Caroline Coxon, from her blog, Quirkyworks.

"Welcome to the salmon in my soul. May it never find itself in a tin.


...and certainly never skinless and boneless..."







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