Why is it that Americans participate in such Anglo-Saxon war-time hubris over against the German intellectuals?
Perhaps being the last super-power gives them certain lee-way in choosing their intellectual allies. Then again, there always has been that "special" siblingship between the Britons and their wayward colony.
Perhaps the US is not the last super-power, but it currently is the only super-power. Perhaps her disregard for German intellectuals has helped her in establishing this position.
I'm not sure it makes sense to ask why Americans possess such hubris, but English speaking peoples have never (since they emerged as English speaking peoples) had any regard for anything that they could not in good conscience claim as entirely their own. This does not, however, mean that all Americans blind themselves when it comes to the products of German intellectualism.
I find it is not worthwhile to argue or question those who turn away. Do not those who turn away have their place as well?
Those who turn away on account of Hei's politics have their place but it could have been and ought to be better occupied.
All that is quite beside the point unless it is shown that the writings somehow entail national socialist ideology. My interest in Hei would vanish rapidly were I to find that to be the case. I so far have not found it to be so.
If I were that interested in Hei's person, I would consider him to have been too exclusively concerned with his career, a fault of most academics for deplorable and very understandable reasons. We tend to treat thinking as if it were very much like running for political office or perhaps starting a new Christian congregation.
Designations such as American philosophy, AngloAmerican philosophy or Continental philosophy or German philosophy are fradulent in that they express no proper content and are definable only ostensively.
There is certainly a turning away from German Intellectualism in that any piece of thoughful writing written in German is either Anglicized or ignored. Every turning away is a turning away from. There is no turn away from Heidegger among English speakers since they have not caught sight of Heidegger, or rather the thinking with goes by the name "Heidegger."
What is national socialist ideology? Did the political/military program executed in Germany under the **** Party (as a poltical and military institution) have an ideology? Did the program in any way correspond to what might have been an ideology? What if "Heidegger's thought" is embroiled in this "ideology"? Does that automatically discount it? A turning away from "Heidegger" on the basis of a supposed entailment of **** ideology is precisely not a turning away from "Heidegger." It is a turning away from **** ideology (a turn which does not even recognize itself as a turn in American academia). "Heidegger" is lost in process.
The concerns you raise might equally argue for better linguistic education in the States. I recently had a conversation with Paul Guyer, translator of the Cambridge Kant series, as to why even at Harvard his course on Kant's Kritik der praktischen Vernunft neglected to use the German text as its basis. His response was: "if we required people to read the original, we'd be out of business." The same went for similar courses devoted, for instance, to Plato under the venerable Raphael Woolf.
On a purely empirical level, this seems oversimplified: the works of John Caputo and Kisiel seem to bespeak at least a certain awareness of Heidegger's thought within the American intellectual community. You do have a point regarding the reception of many post-Kantian German philosophers within Anglo-American philosophy departments. I would be wary, though, of eliding the institutional biases of such departments with the "American intellectual public." There certainly has been receptiveness on the part of people outside of philosophy (particularly in literature) for German intellectuals: witness the current Benjamin craze.
I agree that Heidegger's "implication" should be carefully questioned -- it would be irresponsible, both politicallly and intellectually, for one to discount Heidegger because of his possible implication in National Socialist ideology. It seems almost a truism to say that we should study all the more carefully where the stakes are so high. We can, as I think you suggest, re-affirm our commitments to liberalism or universal humanism or whatever your particular ethical commitments may be without discounting Heidegger's thought. That doesn't, however, mean we shouldn't be vigilant concerning the possible consequences of thought per se.
The intellectual history of Heidegger reception
in the Anglo-American academy is a vexed subject,
but - as Charley points out - not simply a history
of wholesale dismissal.
(Interestingly, it was none other than Gilbert
Ryle who wrote a laudatory review of SZ in the
late 1920s.) In the current landscape I think we
have to distinguish several groups or filiations:
there are serious Heidegger scholars working in
departments receptive to Continental philosophy
(Kisiel, Caputo, DF Krell, etc.); there are
analytic philosophers who appropriate Heidegger
in ways that are often interesting even if they
have little to do with MH's own problematic
(Hubert Dreyfus is the best example); and there
is the literary-theoretical establishment, where Heideggerean idiom is a kind of currency that subsists alongside many others but Heidegger's
actual texts are infrequently read.
As for language education in the US - the
situation is obviously execrable, but not all
that much better elsewhere (even at the best
universities in France, for example, seminars
are often conducted on the basis of French
I'm not sure simply deploring the current state
of linguistic education is particularly productive: certainly most American college students know perhaps only one, if any, foreign language well enough to study it, and certainly this fact is deplorable. I'm not sure that it's the reason why graduate seminars in philosophy departments are often conducted on the basis of English translations of texts, though. (It should be noted that, at least in my experience, the texts referred to in, let's say, German department graduate seminars are typically the German originals, and similarly in other departments. Comparative Literature, of course, poses its own problems, since many of the students have different linguistic backgrounds, and many professors at least include English texts as an option in order to attract a wide range of students).
I think, however, that the English language bias of philosophy departments has as much to do with the theoretical notion that philosophical Gedanken do not depend upon the language in which they are written, and so there is no philosophical disadvantage to considering these texts in English. Whatever the problems with this view as a philosophical position, it seems to pertain to ideology rather than to language instruction. Now, it does seem that this wouldn't account for Guyer's remarks; however, once this preference for English texts is instituted, professors who may not necessarily believe in the philosophical claim will nevertheless, through force of habit and sense of necessity, pursue the same practice.
There are boatloads of "scholarly" research surrounding Heidegger--circling around Heidegger. Also, the opposition (which is never so simple) to Heidegger can constitute a most serious engagement: "This kind of discipleship is the best; but it is also the most dangerous."
Nobody is going to claim that there is total lack of awareness of Heidegger within the American intellectual community, leaving aside what it would mean for a community to possess awareness. Awareness, however, is not confrontation. Confrontation happens in thought. That thinking which is thought in America does not confront Heidegger. Neither does it turn away from Heidegger. It has not faced up to Heidegger. This is what I meant by "ignored," ignorance. I'm definitely not speaking here concerning thinkers. I'm concerned with the public: I did caution, "This does not, however, mean that all Americans blind themselves when it comes to the products of German intellectualism."
Where is this public to be found? For one, in speech--here we come into contact with the issue concerning language, translation, and transformation. I am more interested in how English speakers take up Heidegger, in how English takes up, takes to, lives up to Heidegger. There is also a serious question about the extent to which a text such as Being and Time can touch a person steeped in America with her language and her history when read in the "original" German.
If we can take as a point of departure a pre-reflective idea of the different semantic fields involved in "circling" and "confronting," it would seem as though "confrontation" - which itself seems to imply a kind of "head on," or face to face encounter - might be no more the right figure than "circling" for an engagement with Heidegger. What would it mean to "confront Heidegger in thought"? Which "Heidegger" are we talking about? A different sort of engagement seems required for different texts: when dealing with SZ, it seems that one can use a method of philosophical argumentation (which I'll leave unspecified for now) that wouldn't be appropriate, according to the terms Heidegger himself sets out, when looking at the works on Hoelderlin, which themselves demand a different kind of engagement. Of course, I wouldn't rule out an "oppositional" posture, but it seems as though the many possibilities for engagement themselves necessitate their own thinking.
What is this "scholarly" research that simply "circles"? What does it mean simply to circle as opposed to confront? Why the Abwertung in your tone? Is this thought ("scholarly" research) singular? Does it not deserve to be called "thought"?
>Also, the opposition (which is never so simple) >to Heidegger can constitute a most serious >engagement: "This kind of discipleship is the >best; but it is also the most dangerous."
>Confrontation happens in thought. That thinking >which is thought in America does not confront >Heidegger. Neither does it turn away from >Heidegger. It has not _faced_ up to Heidegger.
What is "that thinking which is thought in America"? It's difficult to reply to this when you say you are *not* talking about "thinkers." What would be this "thinking which is thought in America" that is not thought by thinkers?
You provide clues in your notion of the "public" given by speech. Do you define this public through some sort of "essential relation" to English? I suppose I wonder what it means for someone to be "steeped" in America. Is a person who thinks ever simply of a place? Is "America" a singular term? Your question seems interesting, but might be stated more generally: what does it mean for any subject operating within a particular empirical matrix to take up thought? Then, more specifically, what defines, if anything, the specificity of "America," "now." What does this mean for an "individual," what does it mean for "thought."
>There is also a serious question about the >extent to which a text such as Being and Time >can touch a person steeped in America with her >language and her history when read in >the "original" German.
Do you think there's something about SZ that makes it inacessible to such a person? Why would this be? Do you have anything specific in mind?
I just found this little community, I hope I am welcome.
I saw Jack Caputo's name mentioned. I am a student of his. It is good to see his name mentioned amongst a list of those in America have engaged Heidegger.
Although, I can tell you that if you are the type who laments the lack of "Hediegger" in America that Caputo's thinking is problematic for you. He is no acolyte. Also, I think the discussion thus far has underestimated the American engagment with Heidegger. To wit, Dennis Schimdt (also at V.U.), Sallis, Bernasconi, et cetera.
Another point I would like to bring up is Germany's own appropriation of Heidegger. This, as much as problem for America as Heidegger's own work. Take for instance his trustee's. It is fair to question their attitude. The recent translation of the Beitraege are an indication of the divide that still exists between the German and American intellectual worlds (no disrespect to Emad or Kely, it was an unenviable task).
was nahe dem Ursprung wohnet, den Ort.
When I speak of Heidegger, I speak of the thinking that has been named Heidegger. Rarely am I interested in pursuing a historiological caricature of Heidegger the personage-my personal prejudice.
Hence circling around (going around the circle) Heidegger involves resisting an entry in the circle posed by Heidegger (posed by thinking).
Research lies on top of the ground that has been laid (explicitly?) for that research. A simple example: mathematical research produces proofs. Proofs are the kind of text that is demanded by the ground of mathematics (as a study). Proofs never confront the ground; they build up from the ground. Nevertheless, every proof (no matter how simple) exposes the ground for the ground that it is.
Set theorists do not confront the essence of mathematical logic or the definition of a set - set theory does not discern its own method or its own realm of beings. A set is a collection of objects. So says set theory at the outset. Never mind that the definition is a renaming: set = collection (collection of objects is a pleonasm in this context). In fact, a set is called a collection when a set is a set of sets. Every set can be manipulated as a collection, as a composition of sets. Every set can be manipulated as an object (an element of another set). This ambiguity makes set theory (and hence all of modern mathematics) possible. But this ambiguity is of no concern to the mathematician - sets of sets defy Russell. The definition hints at the ambiguity (Bolzano's definition does more than hint). The proofs given in set theory expose the ambiguity for what it is. The ambiguity has no meaning outside of set theory. (A proof is also a work of art that allows the ground of mathematics to shine, is a shining of the ground of mathematics - but it need not be produced as such!). The mathematician as a mathematician is concerned with producing results. It belongs to the mathematician as a mathematician that the ground itself is of little or no concern. I hope no Abwertung has been detected. I wanted to be a mathematician once.
Research a-bout Heidegger, research sur-rounding Heidegger, research that circles a-round Heidegger is concerned with production--production of that kind of text that is demand by the ground of "philosophical" research (hence research always has the appearance of being a collection of results). This text, unlike that demanded by the ground of mathematics, happens in a specific language. Research into philosophy (which is often confused with philosophy in that research can seem to be philosophy and philosophy can seem to be research) in the English language is unmistakably barristerish. The thesis is the moment of a text produced in researching.
Rather than "head on" encounter, let us say struggle. In a pre-reflective sense, confrontation struggles with thought. Research does not think. It is not concerned with thought: it is concerned with the production of text which argues a thesis. Arguing a thesis (among other things, activities, processes) is called thought. Even so, every thesis leaves unsaid the "I think" at its beginning. Arguing holds a special priority in the English language. Sometimes it seems as if arguing, language, and thought are the same. But arguing and thinking are not the same even if an argument sometimes comes to be called a thought, even if thought becomes tied down to opinions, views, viewpoints, perspectives.
Saying that research circles around Heidegger, around thought, does not say that it merely "circles." Research has its own place, its own domain; it has won a domain in a confrontation, a struggle. Research comes to be called thinking, but research is not the same as thinking. The researcher and the thinker are not the same.
Thinking is thought through a thinker. Sometimes we call a thinking by the name of a thinker through which it is thought. Research is researched by a researcher. The researcher produces. Pro-duces for whom? For the public. Research is available to the public, accessible to the public. Research speaks the language of the public. Research speaks to the public. There is a public that calls itself the "American public." The America spoken of here is a place, but it is not to be found on a map. Often America is not a place at all: "America wants"; "American thinks"; "America invaded"; "North Korea is willing."
Reading Heidegger in German is difficult. Listening to Heidegger in German is difficult even for Germans. Scholarship, research, thinking, in German is withheld from the American public. Philosophical research and university classes on philosophy do not aim for thinkers. They provide for the public, they nurture the public. This is their nobility, their beauty.
A university professor and/or researcher can also be a thinker (thinker is not a profession). Neither circling nor confrontation is the right figure for engaging Heidegger. Each has its place. Is it appropriate to throw up barriers for everyone when it comes to Heidegger? I would argue that appropriateness and appropriation are a matter of taste.
Originally posted by ThuocLa:Is it that professors and researchers can accomplish something in a professional context which thinkers cannot, whereas thinkers possess a fragile art which cannot withstand the rigours of the saeculum; and: does a thinker once hired cease to be so, as if an ontological mutation had found place; or does the thinker exist alongside, a principle of active libido?
Originally posted by warptera:Welcome.
[edit: Thank you Peter]
Personally, I tend to think of "thinker" as a historically determined classification, whereas "researcher" and its ilk can be safely applied in the present.
Perhaps ThuocLa meant it in that regard?
Originally posted by warptera:Interesting; that would propose the very challenge to which we're called: to wed the thinker's anachronism with the worldliness of the professional. Indeed "historical" men, however lasting their effect, are out-dated even before they can safely be applied to the present: a kind of a priori disdain for the progress of culture -- and yet, uncanny insight into the character of the times.
The task of the worldly philosopher is therefore untimely; witness the "before their time" of the thinker who has mastered the provenance of his own survival: pertinence.
I don't know if I understand the importance attached to "thinking" here in any way except that it renders it undiscussable (in that "any understanding of it would simultaneously be a falsification," as Adorno wrote of Heidegger's "taboo"). Strictly speaking, I would say that what is named "Heidegger" is a constellation of texts. The "thinking" that these texts may or may not provide, perform, or force their readers into is, to me, an epiphenomenon, and a difficult subject for any shared discussion or understanding because it leads inexorably to argument ad hominem and to claiming to speak for "thinking" as perhaps Heidegger did for Being (and a flame-war on this subject may be more interesting than continued nationalistic ressentiment, so I'll voluntarily incite it).
Incidentally, it seems to me that "barristerish" (or "legalistic") is a more apt description of the "Heideggerian" voice (in Heidegger and some of his followers even here) than of the anti-Heideggerian, whatever that may be (it isn't here to speak for itself, is it?). The constant resort to stylistic obscurantism, tautology, and mysticism in order to win arguments does not seem to me to be properly "thoughtful." But I am as big a fan of difficulty as ThuocLa; it's just that I would like to avoid, if possible, the apparent aversion to saying anything in some of the comments I've already read here.
Smaller points: if university classes in philosophy, and academic philosophical research, aim at "the" public, then we end up with a very narrow conception of precisely which human beings are allowed to be part of the public; I think this is politically unfortunate.
And as to "entering" the circle of Heidegger rather than "circling around" him, I will leave the penetration to the next reader -- though he is seductive, I think I don't mind staying at first base. And I mean that profoundly.
I hope and believe that "untimely" alludes to Nietzsche's "Untimely Meditations" and particularly "The Use and Abuse of History." It seems to me that this argument for the "anachronism" of thinkers _is_ historical, and "monumental" in Nietzsche's sense, in that it presupposes a "continuity of the great in every age." It might be useful, then, to remember what Nietzsche wrote about monumental history:
Its object is to depict events at the expense of the causes...it turns aside, as far as it may, from reasons, and might be called with far less exaggeration a collection of ˜effects in themselves' than of events...
I would add: the pretension to anachrony or ahistoricity -- to timeless "thinking" rather than situatedness -- is the most dangerous form of historicism. Or rather, while I think "out-dated even before [he] can safely be applied to the present" is an apt description of the kind of thinking that Heidegger did, I do not at all see the corollary "uncanny insight into the character of the times" in his texts. This seems too pat an explanation. In fact, here as rarely elsewhere I agree with Arendt's opinion: I find his lack of such insight to be the uncanny thing, coexisting so closely with such obvious intelligence and seductive prose.
In the spirit of shifting from nationalisms to a flame war re: Heidegger's "speaking for Being," I wanted to throw out a question: in an early essay entitled "Heidegger's Exegeses of Hoelderlin" Paul de Man writes:
"One question arises above all: why does Heidegger need to refer to Hoelderlin? ...As one reads the last commentary on Hoelderlin ('...dichterisch wohnet der Mensch [poetically man dwells]...'), one understands why Heidegger is in need of a witness, of someone of whom he can say that he has named the immediate presence of Being. The witness is Heidegger's solution to the problem that had tormented equally poets and thinkers, and even mystics: how to preserve the moment of truth. ...How are we to shore up our rememberance of authentic Being so that we can find our way back to it? This Fund, this find, it must be somewhere; if it had never revealed itself, how could we speak of its presence? But here is someone - Hoelderlin - who tells us that he has seen it, and that, moreover, he can speak of it, name it, and describe it; he has visited Being, and Being has told him some things that he has collected and that he is bringing back to mankind. With respect to himself, Heidegger is not so sure that he has seen Being and, in any case, he knows that he has nothing to say about it beyond the fact that it conceals itself. Yet he does not intend to give up discourse since it is still his intention to collect and found Being by mmeans of language. And he intends to remain a thinker and not turn to mysticism. The experience of Being must be sayable; in fact, it is in lanuage that it is preserved. There must be someone, then, of unquestionable purity, who can say that he has traveled this route and seen the flash of illumination. One such person is enough, but there must be one. For then, the truth, which is the presence of the present, has entered the work that is language. Language- Hoelderlin's language - is the immediate presence of Being. And the task that we, who, like Heidegger, cannot speak of Being, inherit, is to preserve this language, to preserve Being."
De Man goes on to argue that Heidegger fundamentally misreads Hoelderlin: that Hoelderlin's poetry is precisely the lament at *not* being able to communicate the experience of seeing Being. In de Man's reading, Heidegger grasps the issue confronting Hoelderlin but turn it around.
This strikes me as a prima facie plausible reading of Heidegger's uses of Hoelderlin (apart from the exegetical question, which I'm not sure of) whether Heidegger "gets Hoelderlin right." I'm not sure that Heidegger actually needs "a witness," as de Man claims; however, it certainly seems that Heidegger thought he needed a witness.
Frank's Real Pa,
Heidegger's detachment is evident, by all accounts, during his Rectorship. It is also most evident in Heidegger's failure to adequately address that period. However, I do not think that his diagnosis of modernity as a time of fundamental crisis, an epoch during which we are malnourished by our understanding of beings, can be dismissed on those or any other ˜personal' grounds.
I would agree that Heidegger's work benefits from "seductive prose" (although those who appropriate him solely on such grounds do themselves a disservice). But when we read his texts it is not a man that is revealed, so I think that we'd be remiss to judge his work the way in which we'd judge a person.
Perhaps the difficulty you have seeing his insight into his [and our] times is that there is no clear, concise, consolidated work in which his critique is to be found. Rather, I would argue, it is a theme that pervades most of his work from the 1930's on. Aspects of his engagement with modernity were revisited multiple times, reformulated, sometimes enacted and other times simply stated, over the course of many years and many difficult texts.
Thank you for posting that, I haven't read it before. I suppose I disagree with what Paul de Man writes, but not because I think he is being unfair or careless. I guess I am unsure about the way he frames the question of Hoelderlin in the first place.
I have learned to tread lightly around Hoelderlin, but let me ignore that lesson for a moment and venture to say something about Heidegger's Hoelderlin...
It is reasonable to assume that Heidegger always had a very personal engagement with Hoelderlin's work. But it becomes a public matter for his thought during a very specific time, namely the mid to late 1930's. This is the time after Heidegger's ˜collusion' with National Socialism, or speaking generally, after his attempt at politics. That period in Heidegger's life was encapsulated most poignantly by his friend and student Gadamer who (at the end) asked him "Back from Syracuse now?" (Referencing Plato's attempt to educate Dion, the Tyrant of Syracuse).
I would never look for a ˜political system' in Heidegger's thought. But it is becoming clear to me that Hoelderlin holds a privileged place in Heidegger's thinking about politics or at least communal living after his own failure. Take for instance Heidegger's treatment and translation of the choral ode from Sophocles' Antigone during his semester teaching Hoelderlin's hymn "Der Ister." It is somewhat clear that Heidegger treats Sophocles as a primordially political thinker. I believe it is the case that Heidegger feels that poets found culture.
Thus, I think Heidegger locates in Hoelderlin's work the founding of a future age, an epoch in which thinking returns to the disclosure of beings and reclaims itself. For instance, Hoelderlin in mentioned frequently in the Beitraege as the poet of the ˜ones to come' or ˜futural ones' (or however they translated it). But he is not merely a poet as we conventionally think of one. Rather, Heidegger sees the poetic work as a cultural gathering point.
Anyway, there is my little spiel about that. It is certainly a most worthy topic and I look forward to hearing other people's opinions on this matter.
was nahe dem Ursprung wohnet, den Ort.
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