Friday, November 13, 2009

On the Heideggerian dream

enowning has left a new comment on your post "Was Heidegger a Radical Universalist?":

Heidegger is interesting for what he has to say about ontology. As far as anything else is concerned, Heidegger's no more interesting than the next Bavarian bigot.

It's as an ontologist, and in the history of ontology, that Heidegger is a radical universalist. As far as I can tell, his predecessors split the being of this kind of being from the being of other kinds of beings, master from slave, philosophers from hoi polloi, women from men, uber- from mensch, and so on. Heidegger says that there's no difference. Anyone can question beyng. That's what's unique about humans. Animals don't have that ability. Heidegger was not so radical as to include animals, but all humans have the same ontological potential. Things may come to presence differently in different cultures and epochs, but things thing for all humans.

I haven't come across Heidegger discussing morality. I don't think he has anything original to contribute there.


Hmmm. No, not morality specifically, but morality is involved in authenticity, dont you think? Heidegger thought the future of the West and perhaps the world was on his shoulders. He thought of the authenticity of Germany and not so much of the morality of the individual German, but that isnt utterly absent. He relied not upon individual morality but upon German spirituality; authenticity would occur with a return to tradition.

The main justification for Emmanuel Fayes new book is the discovery of previously unpublished speeches in the 1934-35 time frame. That was the justification for the publication of Victor Farias book as well. Newly discovered speeches coming to light. Ferry and Renaut in 1990, responding to the then newly discovered speeches (newly discovered by Farias) write,

For what does Heidegger say in his speeches and proclamations? Essentially, that the decisive moment has come for determining whether the future will put the long decline that has been the worlds history to an end: Must we, along with the entire West, founder in decline (Verfall)? A decline that The Self-assertion of the German University describes as a spiritual decline: the spiritual strength of the West fails and the joints of the world no longer hold . . . this moribund semblance of a culture caves in. . . . But in the face of this decline, the stance of the rector of the Frieburg University was to call everyone to a genuine conversion of his being: It is incumbent on you to stay with this process [Geschehen], those of you who always want to press on further, those who are always ready, says the Call to Students of 12 November 1933. And what is to be prepared? A return to roots, said Heidegger a few days later, which would regain that original need of Dasein to preserve and save its own essence. One might think one were hearing Being and Time in the rectorates texts. Being and Time had held out the possibility of reversing the decline if man decides to recover the authenticity of his dasein; the texts of the rectorate are rife with calls to awakening and action and abundantly develop the theme of the decision to be made, for the theme of involvement. Here, as in 1927, the future destiny of the world and of thought depends on the effort of each to achieve authenticity. The Lone journey, clearly of unfathomed importance: the conviction emerged that a sociopolitical reorganization could promote this return to ipseity, and the march toward authenticity based on the personal experience of anxiety is then accompanied by the verve induced by a new organization of work, the university, and the economy.


Some who want to give credit to the Marxists for their Utopian Dream. Yes, it turned bad and ended in disaster, but give them some credit for the nobility of their dream. From what Heidegger has written and spoken he too had a nobility of purpose. Had he read Oswold Spengler I wonder? In the aftermath of the fall of Communism and the end of history it is hard to recall that victory for Liberal Democracy was ever in doubt, but in the 20s when Heidegger wrote Being and Time many thought it was seriously in doubt.

Not everyone exults over the Liberal Democratic victory, assuming it is truly victorious. For some the prospect of a universal victory for Liberal Democracy is to be mourned. The committed Marxists would mourn, as would the Chinese, the Muslims, and the dictatorial nationalists around the world. And when we read of why critics of Liberal Democracy disparage it, its lack of spirituality is prominently mentioned. We of the West are a crass and self-indulgent society and the more spiritual Chinese or Muslims or Orthodox Russians disparage what they see in us.

Can an utterly crass society flourish as Liberal Democracy seems to flourishing? Or are we in the sort of decline that Heidegger deprecated a decline that we arent aware of because we spend so much time in modern versions of the Roman Coliseum?

Of course we are not utterly crass, but our crassness is very visible on TV and in our movies. We can be whatever we like in our Liberal Democracies. Yes, being crass is a god-given right in the West, but we can seek spirituality if we choose, and we can do so without being ordered to do it by a totalitarian regime. Our public media is as coercive as Heidegger warned, but there is a counter-media providing perspective. We are not being fed just one line of thought as occurred in the Nazi ruins of Heideggers dream.

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