Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tarkegger, Heidegger, Foucault, Hayden White, etc.


            While my little prose snippet, "Tarkegger's Culpability" [ ], was written during a fit of frustration, I later tried to think of it as a poem.  Poetry often dredges more out of my subconscious than I know is there.  Tarkegger says to me, you are wasting time with French angst over how much of a Nazi Heidegger was when you should be considering what would have happened had Heidegger gotten his way, that is, if Germany had become the spiritual leader of Europe as Heidegger hoped.  Consider Heidegger's dream in counterfactual terms -- the sort of exercise that Niall Ferguson loves. . . and I did consider it --  for several moments -- it would have required a benign leader, not Hitler, and the resultant Pan-European meta-nation, that Heidegger dreamed would be spiritual and benign, wouldn't be.  Nazi Germany worked against itself, sort of the way the present-day Islamists do by antagonizing everyone rather than seeking allies, but a benign, spiritual, Germany would have sought allies.  Then, much later, after Pan-Europe had become the most powerful economic power in the world, a Hitler would arise and make it the most powerful military power as well.  A spiritual Hitler would have been more disastrous than the anti-Semitic, anti-Slavic, anti-everything Hitler that we knew and hated.             Heidegger must have been very like the "anarchist Left" that Foucault referred to.  Hayden White says about Foucault (on page 105 of his The Content of the Form) "The anarchist Left he dismisses as infantile in its hopes for the future and naive in its faith in a benign human nature."  I presume that Heidegger learned his lesson, that is, that he got past his 1933-34 "infantile hopes for the future" and "faith in a benign [German] human nature."   Heidegger was sufficiently vague for us to be permitted to consider our own tradition in ways that do not embrace an "infantile hope" for the future or a "benign" view of "human nature." 

            Since I had taken Hayden White's book down, I thought about him as well.  He reminds me of J. L. Speranza.  Where Speranza sees everything in terms of what Grice would say or think about it, White sees everything in terms of tropes.  When he considers the work of Foucault, for example, he has to assign a trope to him.  Foucault's "style privileges," White tells us [p. 106] "the trope of catachresis in its own elaboration; and that, finally, this trope serves as the model of the world-view from which Foucault launches his criticisms of humanism, science, reason, and most of the institutions of Western culture as they have evolved since the Renaissance." 

            This is precisely what Ferry and Renaut railed against in French Philosophy of the Sixties, An Essay on Antihumanism; which was published in France in 1985.  White's essay, "Foucault's Discourse: The Historiography of Anti-Humanism" was published in 1979 as one of the essays in Structuralism and Since: from Levi-Strauss to Derrida.  But I wonder if Ferry and Renaut read it.  I don't recall their crediting White, and I think I would recall that since I admire White.

            And then, perhaps because I am tired, I began wondering what sort of "trope" White would call "Tarkegger."  I rarely consider such things as tropes, but White  would have.  Would White call it "irony"?   Perhaps, but I wasn't feeling ironic when I wrote it.  But had history developed as portrayed in "Tarkegger's Culpability," its reflection upon Heidegger's "infantile hopes for the future" and "faith in a benign [German] human nature" might have seemed ironic to the survivors -- although by that time some other trope might seem more appropriate, something more malign and involving a ravenous pack of wolves.



hayden white said...

Tarkegger? It is an anacolouthon.

Lawrence Helm said...

Hayden White,

Thanks for the comment. See my speculations about it at

Lawrence Helm