Thursday, 14 September 2017

HEIDEGGER AND HISTORY

I am putting out here my notes on Heidegger and his conception of the "historiality" of Being. The critique of Heidegger is of course, in reverse, as it were, a first adumbration or approximation of a proper ontogeny of thought that overcomes the limitations of Nietzsche's strictly "onto-genetic" approach - which is characteristic of the entire negatives Denken from Hobbes to Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer and beyond - to a phylogenetic and immanentist perspective that we are championing here.
The references to Gianni Vattimo are to his Textos sobre Heidegger, which is itself a translation of Introduzione a Heidegger, both available on scribd.com, as is Karl Lowith's Heidegger in Spanish translation (original: Heidegger: Denker in durftiger Zeit). I apologise for the Spanish quotations, of course.
  



En Ser y tiempo, el hombre no es pensado como sujeto, porque esto haría de él una cosa «simplemente presente»; es, por el contrario, Dasein, ser-ahí, es decir, sobre todo, proyectualidad. El sujeto, piensa Heidegger, tiene una sustancialidad que el ser-ahí como proyecto no tiene; el hombre se define, no como una sustancia determinada, sino como «poder ser», como apertura a la posibilidad. El ser-ahí sólo se piensa como sujeto, esto es, como sustancia, cuando se piensa en términos inauténticos, en el horizonte del «ser» público y cotidiano150. (p.98 – the note is to parr.10 and 25 of SuZ.)


La muerte es la posibilidad de
la imposibilidad de toda otra posibilidad, “la posibilidad de la pura y simple
imposibilidad del Dasein”64; La muerte es la posibilidad más propia del Dasein:
esto se puede ver atestiguado por el hecho de que todos mueren, es decir, que esa
posibilidad es coesencial al Dasein; pero la raíz del hecho empírico de que todos
mueren es la circunstancia de que la muerte es la posibilidad más propia del
Dasein en cuanto lo afecta en su mismo ser, en su esencia misma de proyecto,
mientras que cualquier otra posibilidad se sitúa en el interior del proyecto mismo
como su modo de determinarse65. (Vp.41)

The “authenticity” of Dasein, its “openness” to the being of being, its “liberation” from the “inauthenticity” of its “thrown-ness” as being-in-the-world, can be located in its totality only upon its comprehension of death, of its “contingency”, upon its “appropriation” of its “being-toward-death”! One may reflect bitterly or ironically about the authenticity of a Dasein whose “care” for the world ultimately cowers wimpishly into the “Angst” of its apprehension of Death!

El miedo a la nada, que es la angustia, se explica sólo admitiendo que en ella aquello de que se siente amenazado el Dasein no es este o aquel ente en particular, sino qué es la existencia misma como tal. En cuanto proyecto que abre e instituye el mundo como totalidad de los entes, el Dasein no está “en medio” de los entes como un ente entre los demás; cuando advierte este hecho - y, como podemos decir ahora, cuando advierte su propia trascendencia - se siente en un ambiente extraño, ajeno en el mundo, en el cual no se siente como en su casa porque justamente advierte que no es un ente del mundo como los otros entes. En cuanto modo de existir en la trivialidad cotidiana, el Dasein se concibe como ente entre otros entes, y hasta
se siente protegido y tranquilizado por los entes que lo rodean; el simple miedo atestigua esto, ya que tener miedo de algo significa concebirse siempre como “dependiente” de ese algo de alguna manera. La angustia, como miedo que no se puede explicar de ese modo, como miedo de nada, coloca al Dasein frente a su propia trascendencia, frente a la existencia como tal (y para entendernos major diremos también, frente a su propia “responsabilidad”: porque es el Dasein el que abre e instituye el mundo). (p.61)



“La liberación anticipante por la propia muerte libera de la dispersión en
las posibilidades que se entrecruzan fortuitamente, de suerte que las posibilidades
efectivas, es decir, situadas más acá de aquella posibilidad insuperable, puedan
ser comprendidas y elegidas auténticamente. La anticipación abre a la existencia,
como su posibilidad extrema, la renuncia a sí misma y así disuelve toda
solidificación en posiciones existenciales alcanzadas... Puesto que la anticipación
de la posibilidad insuperable abre al mismo tiempo a la comprensión de las
posibilidades situadas más acá de ella, ella lleva consigo la posibilidad de la
anticipación existencial del Dasein total, esto es, la posibilidad de existir concretamente como poder-ser-total.”66 (pp.395-6)…. “Así la muerte se revela como la posibilidad más propia, incondicionada e
insuperable.” (Ibíd., pág. 378).
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Heidegger’s notion of “authenticity-totality” opposed to the “inauthentic-fragmented” quotidian reality of the “one” (German, man, Arendt calls it “the Many”) invites the obvious parallel with Lukacs’s earlier vision of the scientific “totality” of the proletariat escaping its “alienated” condition as “the individual Subject-Object” of history! (The link is drawn by L. Goldmann in his Lukacs et Heidegger who even argues that Sein und Zeit was written as a reply to Lukacs’s ‘Geschichte’.) In sharp contrast, Nietzsche saw “the perspective of the herd” as a “need-necessary” out-come, result (Folge) of the Will to Power in its operari, in its manifestation as the ontogeny of thought in life and the world: his entire focus is on the historical significance of the Will to Power in its physiological, albeit ontogenetic, manifestations – in morality, in science, in politics, with art playing only an “illustrative” and marginal role despite Heidegger’s efforts to place it at the centre of Nietzsche’s thought – as “creativity”, thus wrongly defining the “content” of the Will to Power (see discussion below). This explains why human history and institutions are so much more central to Nietzsche’s explorations of the Will to Power: physis and istorein are much more intimately connected with and central to Nietzsche’s philosophy than they are to Heidegger’s where they play a marginal, if at all congruous, role. (In this regard, one may well agree with Cacciari’s judgement that Nietzsche’s attitude to “mass democracy” is far more complex and even favourable than many imagine. We will revisit this argument later.)




This is indeed a far cry from Nietzsche’s affirmation of life! Heidegger’s petty-bourgeois revulsion at the “mundanity” of everyday life, at its “inauthenticity”, is nonchalantly betrayed by Vattimo – who seems blissfully unaware of the enormity of what he is saying:

“…el Dasein auténtico es tal precisamente y sólo en cuanto se relaciona con el mundo
en términos de posibilidades. Y, de manera más general, en el análisis
preparatorio de la primera sección de Ser y tiempo, la autenticidad permanecía en
suspenso y en cierto modo “abstracta”, pues era todavía principalmente la
estructura de fondo que la reflexión existenciaria descubre sólo en la
inautenticidad de lo cotidiano. El concepto de anticipación de la muerte pone de
manifiesto lo que es, precisa y concretamente, la existencia auténtica.” (p.44)

Heidegger in the end finds himself precisely back at the point upon which Hobbes erected his entire axiomatic political theory and psychology – the decision:

En sustancia, ahora que se ha precisado la noción de autenticidad-totalidad mediante el concepto de anticipación de la muerte, se trata de ver si en el plano existencial, no en el de la reflexión filosófica sino en la vida concreta, el ser para la muerte se presenta como término efectivo de una alternativa que el Dasein puede elegir…. La busca de una posibilidad existencial de la anticipación de la muerte conduce a Heidegger a elaborar una compleja doctrina de la
45
decisión, que implica el empleo de conceptos objetivamente “enredados”70, como los conceptos de conciencia y de culpa…



(This about “com-prehension” is a point entirely similar to Heidegger’s exposition of Dasein in SuZ [cf. Vattimo’s first essay in ‘Introduction to H.’.] But note how Heidegger’s understanding of Dasein differs from the Wille zur Macht in that the latter is “physiological” rather than “existential” and phenomenological! Nietzsche is concerned with conflict in life and the world as an immanent physiological – almost “biological” - process, whereas Heidegger’s final concern is exquisitely “ontological”, and therefore “transcendental”; it is the phenomenology of Being within the horizon of time, and therefore “being-toward-death” and philosophical anthropology – authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) and art above all. Worse still, Heidegger is able to understand the passage from “com-prehension” to interpretation of life and the world by the Dasein purely in terms of “authentic” individual experience that is not “mediated” by the “doxa” of “public opinion” or of socially-constructed reality! The mere “thought” of “authenticity”, so dear to Heidegger in his openly bourgeois vision of the world, would seem scandalously artificial to Nietzsche who sees the ontogeny of thought itself as a manifestation of the Will to Power in life and the world – as a “perspective of the herd”, but as a “need-necessary” perspective that cannot be subjected to the moralizing “examen” of Heideggerian “authenticity”! Here is Heidegger:

En el pasaje en que habla del círculo comprensión-interpretación, Heidegger dice que:
“en él se oculta una posibilidad positiva del conocer más originario, posibilidad que es captada de manera genuina sólo si la interpretación comprendió que su tarea primera, duradera y última es la de no dejarse imponer nunca pre-disponibilidad, pre-videncia y precognición (son los terminus constitutivos de la precomprensión) por la situación o por las opiniones comunes, sino que debe hacerlas surgir de las cosas mismas con lo que quedará garantizada la cientificidad del tema”59.
[Again, Vattimo, ibidem.]

The difficulty of Heidegger’s position, its profound a-historicity, its dis-embodiment of the Dasein from its “physiological” roots - which are the crucial focus in Nietzsche (however “ontogenetically” he may understand these) - is neatly evinced by Vattimo in what is a desperate, unconvincing attempt to validate his “socio-historical” credentials (much in the manner Cacciari does in ‘PNR’):

Hay pues una precomprensión que no se limita a expresar que la situación histórico-social pertenece al mundo del se; trátase de una precomprensión que surge de alguna manera de la cosa misma: no evidentemente en el sentido de que la cosa se dé de algún modo como simple presencia, sino en el sentido de que la comprensión que realmente abre al mundo es nuestra relación concreta con la cosa. La charla habla de todo y especialmente de las cosas con las que no tiene una relación directa; la autenticidad es apropiación fundamentalmente en este sentido: se apropia de la cosa al relacionarse directamente con ella. (p.36)


But far from anchoring the existential Dasein in physiological and historical concreteness, one detects immediately in Vattimo’s churlish (the Spanish translation mentions “charla”, gossip), - dare one label it “inauthentic”? - “apologia” for Heidegger’s clumsy “pre-comprehension of the historico-social situation” its yawning “abstrusion” and “asportation” from the world of “common opinion” (again, Vattimo calls it “gossip”, “charla”!) - an esoteric revulsion at that very phenomenological world of “quotidian life” from which Heidegger ostensibly derives the “concreteness” of his existential analytic! With mindless disinvoltura, Vattimo brilliantly epitomizes the gnawing self-disgust of the estranged intellectual in the bourgeois era. – A presumption echoed, perhaps surprisingly, by Hannah Arendt in The Life of the Mind:

[W]hat for common sense is the obvious withdrawal of the mind from the world appears in the mind’s own perspective as a “withdrawal of Being” or “oblivion of Being – Seinsetzung or Seinsvergessenheit (Heidegger). And it is true, everyday life [Heidegger’s Alltaglichkeit], the life of the “They” [man], is spent in a world in which all that is “visible” to the mind is totally absent, (p88).



Construed in this purely “negative” or, to adopt Vattimo’s terminology, “weak” sense (Italian debole, hence Vattimo’s label of his own philosophy as “pensiero debole”, weak thought), Heidegger’s discussion of metaphysics as the history of Being rapidly turns into a vapid and meaningless abstraction – a novel edition of the qualitas occulta, the inscrutable quality of the prima philosophia, from Plato’s Ideas to the Kantian thing-in-itself or Schopenhauer’s Will to Life! Even if we agreed that the “subject-matter” of Western metaphysics, Nietzsche’s included, was a “presence”, an essence, a substance and finally a Subject whose totality stood as a timeless “quality” or quidditas or “value” inscrutable to human reflection but “knowable” to philosophical reflection at least from its “subjective” side (cf. Vattimo, ‘Intro’, p.73), - even then we would fail to see the difference between Heidegger’s own “position” and, say, the exordium of Genesis, where the whole quaestio of the complementarity of Being and Nothing, of “creatio ex nihilo” is most vividly posed (cf. Lowith), to the near entirety of German Idealism in which, as Nietzsche always acknowledged, there is always a “side” of Being that “conceals” itself and that philosophy consciously aims to comprehend “theoretically” but never “empirically”, except in the case of Fichte for whom the Subject posits the non-Subject (the “empirical I”), and whose solipsism, in any case, has been universally repudiated ever since. (Schopenhauer was most scathing in this regard.)




Heidegger insists on interpreting Nietzsche’s Will to Power as a relation of Will with itself, with a “self”, with “oneself”. Hence, for him, Will is “resoluteness toward oneself” (ch.10) and will to power is “to go further than oneself”, self-assertion. Yet in this self-assertion Heidegger, the phenomenological and existentialist philosopher, cannot see “beyond” the self-assertion to the very “object” of that assertion – which is not “self” but… another Will! Will to Power is not self-assertion as self-mastery – resolve as “resoluteness”, Heidegger’s “dis-closure” (Ent-schlossenheit) of the Dasein. Rather, it is mastery and command and domination over others!

Nor is Nietzsche’s Will to Power filled with the Angst, the fear of death that characterizes its “decision” or “responsibility” from Hobbes to Hegel through to Kierkegaard and Heidegger. In the former couple, the fear of death comes from an external, objective “threat”. In the latter couple, it always originates “ec-sistentially”, hence “transcendentally”, in the “possibility of death”, of non-existence, of “nothing-ness”. In all cases, its ultimate foundation, as Nietzsche discovers, is nihilism – despair in the worth of existence.


Heidegger perceives the ec-sistence of Da-sein, its “thrown-ness” into the world of beings, its lack of “totality” and therefore its “contingency” as a “fall” (Verfall), as a lack of “authenticity” in a “quotidian life” whose “triviality” he execrates. It is this “de-jection” (Geworfenheit) that reveals the brittleness of Heidegger’s Sorge (care) which no sooner is articulated than it turns into its real essence – anxiety and alienation, fear and loathing (Kierkegaard), “nausea” (Sartre)! Angst for the “finitude” of ec-sistence; loathing for its “error”, for the “averageness”, the anonymity (man) of “publicity”, for the “triviality of quotidian life”. And therefore a wish for that “totality”, the totality of Being, which is only accessible to Dasein as the “anticipation of death”, as the “apprehension of nothing-ness” (“why is there something rather than nothing?” is the leitmotif of the Einfuhrung).

Al ser-para-la-muerte Heidegger llega, en efecto165,
planteando un problema que a primera vista parece exquisitamente «metafísico»,
en la forma y en el contenido: ¿la analítica existenciaria, desarrollada en la
primera parte de la obra, nos ha puesto a disposición el Dasein en la totalidad de
sus estructuras? Pero, se pregunta en seguida Heidegger, ¿qué significa para el
ser-ahí ser una totalidad? Este problema, perseguido coherentemente, lleva
justamente a ver que el ser-ahí se constituye en una totalidad, y por consiguiente
se «fundamenta» (ya que la asignación del Grund, en que consiste la
fundamentación, ha significado desde siempre el cierre de la serie de las
conexiones, la constitución justamente de una totalidad, contra el regreso in
infinitum) en la medida en que se anticipa para la propia muerte. Traduciendo el
lenguaje heideggeriano un poco libremente diremos: el ser-ahí está ahí
verdaderamente, es decir, se distingue de los entes intramundanos, en cuanto se
constituye como totalidad histórica,…(p.113)

But however he twists it, Vattimo simply cannot extract from the mere “being there”, the sheer “thrown-ness” of the Dasein, from the “contingency” of its being and its “anticipation of death”, the sense of “ontic” reality requisite for historical analysis and action:

Heidegger
insiste mucho sobre el hecho de que no se debe leer esta relación con la muerte
en un sentido puramente óntico, y por tanto tampoco en sentido biológico. Sin
embargo, como todos los momentos en que la filosofía encuentra análogos
puntos de paso (ante todo aquél entre naturaleza y cultura), también esta
distinción heideggeriana es densa de ambigüedades. Si, en efecto, es cierto que el
ser-ahí es histórico - tiene una existencia como discursus continuo y dotado de
posibles sentidos - sólo en cuanto puede morir y se anticipa explícitamente para
la propia muerte, es también cierto que él es histórico, en el sentido de disponer
de posibilidades determinadas y cualificadas, teniendo relaciones con las
generaciones pasadas y futuras, precisamente porque nace y muere en el sentido
literal, biológico, del término. La historicidad del ser-ahí no es sólo la
constitución de la existencia como tejido-texto; es también la pertenencia a una
época, la Geworfenheit que, por lo demás, califica íntimamente el proyecto
dentro del cual el ser-ahí y los entes se relacionan el uno con los otros, vienen al
ser en modos improntados de vez en cuando de manera diversa. Es este doble
significado de la historicidad, en su relación con el ser-para-la-muerte, uno de los
puntos en que más explícitamente, si bien problemáticamente, sale a la luz el
nexo fundamentación-desfundamentación que es uno de los sentidos, más aún,
quizás el sentido, de Sein und Zeit. (p.114)


But Vattimo misses the essential point! And that is that it is not sufficient to conceive of Da-sein as a “contingent” and “mortal” mode of Being – even in the “active” sense of “Lichtung” – to make it “historical”! The very fact that Vattimo refers to “historical totality” means that Da-sein cannot be situ-ated within that “totality”! The “historical” point about human beings is not that they die or that they must die – the “finitude” of their “being”, its contingency – but rather the manner, the causes and reasons of “how” they live and die! This is the biggest difference between Hobbes and Hegel, on one side, and Heidegger on the other to the extent that they theorise the human “apprehension” of death. (On the centrality of death in Hegel’s phenomenology, see of course Alexandre Kojeve’s masterly studies.) Heidegger instead is almost exclusively concerned with the “anticipation” of death - that is, with death as an event that occasions the distinction between being and not-being, the relationship between Being and nothing-ness.

At best, such a de-finition can situate the Da-sein within the “ontic” sphere as opposed to the “ontological” one – and then only as “philosophical anthropology”. After all, it is precisely Heidegger who claims originality in his “remembering” the question of Being as against that of being-as-essent. But Da-sein remains “locked” within its philosophical “birth certificate” precisely because its very “concept” is incurably philosophical and abstract – indeed, transcendental, as Vattimo keeps reminding us. Da-sein remains “walled” within its own self-referential phenomenological categories. It describes the “existential” questions confronting human beings to the extent that they are “beings” – only in this onto-logical dimension. Da-sein cannot even remotely begin to tell us how Da-seins inter-act, not only with one another in social relations, but not even with the natural world in a manner that goes beyond the most remote “existential” categories that, again, concern the Da-sein only as Da-sein, only as “being” in its ontological acceptation.

Contrast Nietzsche’s ‘Of First and Last Things’ in HATH which deals very much not with either “thing” – but with the “be-tween”! Heidegger is more concerned with the “sum” (Latin, I am) of the cogito – Nietzsche with the “vivo” (I live)! (Heidegger says “sum ergo cogito”, Nietzsche actually wrote “Vivo ergo sum”.)



It is symptomatic that Heidegger refers to Hegel’s Phenomenologie and the preparedness of German Idealism (even in Schelling) to include negation and death in the concept of Being (ch.13) – because his own ontology reflects and contains this nihilistic longing for “totality”, for the com-prehension of Being from purely philosophisch and therefore subjectivist and idealist – trans-scendental – premises! Small wonder, then, that Heidegger should seek to understand the Will to Power in terms of “creativity” and “art” (in his Nietzsche, chpts.10-12). One may well agree with Vattimo that it is no longer Heidegger who interprets Nietzsche as a thinker unable to overcome nihilism but rather the other way round! It is Nietzsche who shows us why Heidegger’s ontology remains within the “circle” of metaphysics; why it is unable to grasp the materiality of life and the world, the physio-logy of the Will to Power.




This is where Hobbes and Heidegger meet, as it were - in the Heideggerian “decision in anticipation of death” whose “authenticity” is founded on the transcendental anxiety of the Dasein in its being-toward-death that prescinds from the conventional “inauthenticity of quotidian life”.





El discurso sobre el ser-para-la-muerte, incluso estructuralmente, es paradigmático del modo como Sein und
Zeit, partiendo en busca de una fundamentación, aún en sentido amplio, metafísica, llega luego a resultados nihilistas, al menos en el sentido del término al que he aludido. (Vattimo, p.113)

But this is a lucus a non lucendo! This “negativity” of the truth that “un-conceals” itself and the Being that “gives itself”, which supposedly is what introduces “historiality” in our reflection on life and the world are only “historial” in the flimsiest, most dis-embodied, ontological, transcendental sense. As Vattimo observes, with praiseworthy objectivity, Heidegger’s “negative” approach to Being may itself justify a charge of nihilism (p.111). Despite his insistence on articulating the “foundation” of Being, Heidegger was never able clearly to delineate its Grund, its “positive” or “strong” basis. (It may be said, jokingly, that “Being and Time” is like “Hamlet without the Prince”, in the sense that it does not discuss Being itself.)

It is not “history” that Heidegger engages with, but rather “metaphysics as the history of Being” – and then again only to emphasise its Vollendung, even going so far as to revive, in the Einfuhrung, the notion of Abendland (the Occident as “land of the setting sun”) as the geographical site of the “retreat” of Being. But if Nietzsche denounces the shipwreck of metaphysics on the rock of nihilism, it is only because he can see that the metaphysical quest for truth has de-throned the very “subject” of that quest – not just God, but Man above all! And in this “de-throning” of Man as the auto-phagous subject of life and the world, Heidegger’s Dasein is fully implicated! And this “implication” in nihilism only serves to highlight the pre-eminence of Nietzsche’s thought over Heidegger’s as a “guide” to the “overcoming” (Uberwinding) of nihilism.

Ya en Sein und Zeit el ser es «olvidado como fundamento»; en el lugar del ser capaz de funcionar como Grund se percibe - precisamente en la centralidad que asume la analítica existencial y la elucidación del nexo con el tiempo - un «ser» que, constitutivamente, no es ya capaz de fundar, un ser débil y depotenciado. El «sentido del ser», que Sein und Zeit busca y al que, al menos en cierta medida, llega, debe entenderse sobre todo como una «dirección» en la que el ser-ahí y el ente se encuentran encaminados, en un movimiento que los conduce no a una base estable, sino a una ulterior permanente dislocación, en la cual se encuentran desposeídos y privados de todo centro. La situación descrita por Nietzsche (en el apunte que abre la vieja edición del Wille zur Macht) como característica del nihilismo, aquella en que, a partir de Copérnico, «el hombre rueda fuera del centro hacia la X», es también la del Dasein heideggeriano: el Dasein, como el hombre poscopernicano, no es el centro fundante, ni habita, posee, coincide con, este centro. La búsqueda del sentido del ser, en el desarrollo radical que tiene en Sein und Zeit, saca progresivamente a la luz que este sentido se da al hombre sólo como dirección de desposesión y desfundamentación. Por tanto, también contra la letra de los textos heideggerianos, será preciso decir que la búsqueda comenzada en Sein und Zeit no nos encamina a la superación del nihilismo, sino a experimentar el nihilismo como la única vía posible de la ontología. Esta tesis choca contra la letra de los textos heideggerianos porque en ellos nihilismo significa el aplastamiento del ser sobre los entes, es decir, el olvido del ser, que caracteriza la metafísica occidental y que al fin reduce el ser a «valor» (en Nietzsche), a validez puesta y reconocida
112
por el y para el sujeto. Así sucede que, del ser como tal, no queda ya nada. No es aquí el lugar de discutir si y en qué medida el nihilismo entendido de este modo caracteriza fiel y completamente la posición de Nietzsche. Pero está claro que también y sobre todo el uso, por parte de Heidegger, de la noción de nihilismo para indicar la culminación del olvido del ser en el momento final de la metafísica es responsable del hecho de que de su pensamiento, en cuanto alternativo o, en cualquier caso, esfuerzo de superación, uno se espera, en cambio, que el ser, contrariamente a lo que sucede en el nihilismo, recupere su función y su fuerza fundamentadora.



Heidegger’s attempt to historicise his existential phenomenology is flawed from the outset precisely because his Dasein lacks a physio-logical dimension, which is instead crucially indispensable in Nietzsche’s conception of the Will to Power, and is therefore condemned to an abstract “temporality” that flounders in an ethereal, ontological “transcendental intuition of time” (the explicit phrase adopted in the Kantbuch) without ever being able to ground the Dasein and this “temporal intuition” (a pale shadow of istorein) in the immanence that the very “materiality” of the intuition of time, of the istorein (in-quiry), requires.

A totality that is “truth” – a truth that can only be accessible “partially” to the Dasein and that therefore can “reveal” itself objectively – not under the “control” of Dasein. It becomes clear why Heidegger conceded in a seminar in 1964 that Being and Time should have been titled “Being and Lichtung” (in Vattimo, p.62)! But Heidegger equivocates sybillinely between the Lichtung as a “revealing light” that is thrown actively by the Dasein onto individual beings (essents) or instead as an “unconcealing light” with which Being “illuminates” the world for the Dasein (recall Heidegger’s ambiguity of Being as “es gibt” [“is there” or “it gives”] to which we drew attention earlier and which we owe to Karl Lowith, in Heidegger). Vattimo is so caught up in this obfuscation that he fails to notice it even as he falls prey to it almost in mid-sentence!

Aquí importa subrayar la expresión en cuanto: que de la nada provenga todo ente en cuanto ente no quiere decir que de la nada provenga la “realidad” del ente entendida como simple presencia; ha de entenderse en cambio que el ser del ente es como un colocarse dentro del mundo, como un aparecer a la luz que el Dasein proyecta en su proyectarse. Contrariamente a la concepción del ser como simple presencia, la concepción del ser, que se anuncia como implícitamente supuesta en Ser y tiempo y en estos escritos posteriores, es precisamente la concepción del ser como “luz” proyectada por el Dasein como proyecto103. El hecho de que empero el Dasein sea siempre proyecto lanzado, como hemos visto, descarta que el ser pueda concebirse como su “producto” y que la filosofía de Heidegger se reduzca a una forma de idealismo empírico o trascendental. Estas dos doctrinas suponen siempre, inseparablemente, una concepción del ser como simple presencia y una concepción del Dasein que olvida el carácter de ser lanzado: ambas lo resuelven todo en la relación sujeto-objeto, en la cual el sujeto o bien funda y produce directamente la realidad (simple presencia) de las cosas (idealismo empírico: esse est percipi) o bien por lo menos funda y ordena el mundo como mundo de la experiencia (trascendentalismo kantiano o neokantiano). En ambos casos, no se pasa más allá del sujeto y aun éste, lo mismo que el objeto, es concebido como presente y se olvida su carácter de “lanzado”. (pp.62-3)

Note that Vattimo initially speaks of “the being of the essent appearing in the ‘light’ that the Dasein projects in its projecting”. So here it is the Dasein that “projects” light (Lichtung) onto the essent. Yet in the very next sentence Vattimo says the opposite! He speaks of “the conception of being as ‘light’ projected for the Dasein as project”. Here it is “being”, not the Dasein (and certainly not the essent!) that “projects ‘light’ for” the Dasein!


We have come full circle now with the “turn” (Kehre) – from the phenomenological anthropocentrism of Being and Time to a new theo-logy! (Lowith). Indeed, time itself has disappeared from view. All that remains is the “immateriality” of Lichtung, the “e-venientiality”, the “historiality” of truth as the essence of Being – a truth and Being that are entirely “negative”, from which the Dasein is wholly estranged – alienated. (Cf. Negri’s essays.) And the alienation is tangible, becomes “material” in science and technology. As we have shown, Heidegger’s “time” differs from Nietzsche’s in this “syndotic” respect despite its “historical” pretensions that never manage to go beyond the phenomenological and that more often than not – as in the being-toward-death and the anticipation of death and the existential status of decision that mark the “freedom” of Dasein as authenticity (an aspect developed by Sartre) – relapse inevitably into sheer transcendental ontology, the prima philosophia of the metaphysica generalis. [On Heidegger’s inadequate comprehension and integration of physis and istorein in his Entwurf, cf. Lowith in Heidegger.]



It simply will not do to assert, as does Heidegger, that the very fact that we can pose the question about the “occultation of being” or “obscuring of the world” perpetrated by metaphysics as “the history of Being” of the last two thousand years constitutes already a sign that Being “gives” to the Dasein. It is hard to see how this “occultation” differs from the “noumenality” of Kant’s thing-in-itself” and indeed Schopenhauer’s Will to Life as (precisely!) a qualitas occulta. Or even, as Vattimo discusses it (p.86), of Hegel’s Aufhebung!

En efecto, si el pensamiento liberado de la metafísica fuera ese pensamiento que recuerda el ser en el sentido de asumirlo finalmente como contenido temático propio, entonces verdaderamente Heidegger no se distinguiría sustancialmente de Hegel y el Schritt zurück sería sólo un nuevo disfraz [disguise], más o menos disimulado, de la autoconciencia hegeliana.

Again, we may contrast Heidegger’s truly “obscurantist” stance – indeed, obfuscatory sophistry! – with Nietzsche’s infinitely more specific ontogeny of thought. In a perceptive and valiant attempt to give a “strong”, positive slant to Heidegger’s ontology, Vattimo even comes very close to proposing Nietzsche’s own intuition of time (as we have presented it here) in its extra-temporal, extra-mundane immediacy – as opposed to the intra-temporal and intra-mundane one:






This should put paid to the fumblings and insinuations of post-heideggerians about any precedence over Nietzsche by Heidegger who, if anything, merely copied from the genius from Rocken even in the characterization of the ontogeny of thought, which Heidegger re-christened “quotidian life” (Alltaglichkeit). (The “screen” of Max Scheler used by Heidegger cannot disguise the evident Nietzschean matrix of their phenomenology and sociological analysis, as in terms like “ressentiment”. Vattimo, much to his credit, is only too keen to stress the “continuity” of Heidegger’s thought with Nietzsche’s. What we are doing here obviously is to reaffirm the immanentist and materialist superiority of the philosopher of Rocken over any and all of his epigones.) Note that Heidegger in his Kantbuch seeks to “re-interpret” Kant exactly in this “anthropological” sense already indicated by Scheler – much to the dismay of Cassirer and the neo-Kantians at Marburg [see chronicle of their Swiss encounter] -, away from metaphysica specialis [epistemology, philosophical anthropology] to the metaphysica generalis [ontology]. Husserl perhaps best intuited, as his marginal notes to Heidegger’s Kantbuch reveal, the “anthropological” affinity of Heidegger’s tendentious interpretation of Kant with Nietzsche’s Entwurf. We have reviewed these matters in detail in our Heidegger’s ‘Kantbuch’.)


Sólo a un
proyecto definido y “finito” las cosas pueden manifestarse en su verdadera
esencia de cosas. Antes de llegar a la noción de estado-de-yecto y a la noción de
autenticidad, “podía parecer que el ser en el mundo era una armadura rígida en
cuyo interior tuvieran lugar las relaciones posibles del Dasein con su mundo sin
que la ‘armadura’ misma estuviera implicada en su ser”63; es decir, el Dasein
parecía poder cambiarse por el yo trascendental. Pero la idea de Geworfenheit
nos mostró que el proyecto mismo está históricamente definido y, por lo tanto,

que es “finito”. (c. p41)

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Nietzsche's Ontogeny of Thought and Heidegger's Dasein

This intervention was written as a reply to the thoughtful and incisive comment (as always) to our last post by Dan. Rather than a direct reply to the various perspicacious points he raises, I thought better to write a piece of greater depth that I hope other friends may find useful, if not interesting. Clearly, these matters seem to be of greater relevance in the light of recent geopolitical events that are buffeting and cosseting what Neruda styled as our "residencia en la Tierra".  This post will be followed by one on "Heidegger and History" that will seek to elucidate further some of the matters raised and covered here. Cheers to all!


Vivo ergo cogito! I live, therefore I think. The Nietzschean riposte to the Cartesian cogito aims at reaffirming the primacy of experience (even of perception) over reflection and deduction. It’s not that the cogito is a false syllogism; it is also that all syllogisms are false, unless they are tautologies, in which case they are devoid of any real content and meaning. Initially, in Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche had developed this philosophy in a positivist scientific perspective. As early as The Gay Science, however, but more explicitly in Beyond Good and Evil, he had extended his critique of logical deductivism to all scientific or “natural laws”. By attacking the legality of science, Nietzsche was thereby reasserting the primacy of experience and perception over any “scientific theory” that could reconcile or con-nect (link indissolubly together, from Latin nexus) objects and ideas.

Central to his attack on “theory” was Nietzsche’s demolition of the metaphysical Subject, of Ego-ity (Ich-heit), because the Ego itself, the I, is a phantomatic notion, as Hume’s skepticism had warned. Yet Nietzsche lacked the language to affirm these propositions, because even the concept of “vivo” (I live) contains the first pronoun – “I”. The ontology of thought points also to this – the misconceptions in which our language is mired as a result of our “physio-logical” development. Heidegger may be right: “Language is the house of being” (in Letter on Humanism): but it is a house with frail imperfect foundations. Language is the most evident proof of the interpenetration of perception and meaning, of experience and thought, of instinct and reflection. The intuition of this interpenetration, of the con-naturation (to borrow a word from the Italian language) of instincts, perception, experience and thought, constitutes the essence of Nietzsche’s naturalism – “the true phenomenology”, as he called it.

Heidegger’s notion of Dasein (being there) falls far short of capturing the Nietzschean ontogeny of thought. Despite his ambitious pretensions of originality – and even conceding that he was certainly the greatest philosopher of the last century – Heidegger’s philosophy remains a series of footnotes to Nietzsche (just as, for Whitehead, Western philosophy was “footnotes to Plato”). Little wonder that Heidegger’s voluminous, imponent study on Nietzsche remains a work of perhaps even greater significance than Being and Time – the fruit of an obsession that nearly drove him to madness!

The dif-ference between Heidegger’s Dasein and Nietzsche’s ontogeny of thought is all here: although both notions are “ontogenetic” in nature, Heidegger’s Dasein is purely transcendental, whereas Nietzsche’s ontogeny is far more physiological, biological even. Husserl was right to criticize (vehemently if not bitterly) Heidegger’s divagation from phenomenology as “philosophical anthropology”; yet even what is anthropological and sociological in Heidegger (see above all, not just Sartre’s first section of Being and Nothingness, but also Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality) remains steeped in the “metaphysics” that he wished to overcome - whereas Nietzsche’s ontogeny is inextricably tied to immanence, from instincts to exploitation, to domination, to ideology, politics and art. (Small wonder, then, that Sigmund Freud purchased a copy of Nietzsche’s collected works very early in his psychoanalytic career!)

Heidegger’s claims concerning the “historiality” of Dasein are not just excessive: they are unjustified, if not incorrect. Dasein is pure transcendence where Nietzsche’s ontogeny is an attempt, however inchoate and incomplete, at immanence – an attempt at rooting the primacy of experience over reflection in the bio-physio-logical evolution of human beings. (I will post again soon my essay on this thesis, “Heidegger and History”.) Of course, Nietzsche never even suspected that phylogeny could replace ontogeny: he always saw “human beings” as “individuals”, as separate beings, not as “being human”, as aspects of a single “being” (cf. Leibnitz, “a being is a being”). His notion of life as exploitation – of all life as exploitation – is too abstract to withstand critique: Hegel saw right, life is objectification, not necessarily exploitation – but he, too, as Marx asseverated, confused objectification (an ineluctable aspect of existence) with alienation (a historically specific aspect of social reality). The weakness in this confused notion, Nietzsche inherited from Schopenhauer’s vision of the body as “the objectification of the Will [to Life]”. Even so, Nietzsche’s vision of life as exploitation and his injunction “to love fate” (amor fati) provides us with a priceless caveat against all world visions (Welt-anschauungen) and religions and teleological ideologies that would lull us into an catastrophically false sense of security over the fatidic “triumph of Good over Evil” in human history!


For both Nietzsche and Heidegger, “history” is a fictitious notion in that history is inevitably the sum of all interpretations of past events – where ‘events’ are themselves a process of selection and interpretation (cf. Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations). Time, and by extension history, is not a “thing” – a separate reality with a past, a present and a future. The only “time” possible is the here and now, the nunc stans – everything happens at once, and it happens now! (Colloquially, one might quip that “back to the future” or “time travel” is an absurdity for both philosophers.) For Nietzsche, all being is “being-as-becoming”, just as for Heidegger Being must above all not be “presence”, sub-stance, re-ality (thing-iness), per-manence (what persists, what remains unchanged). Time is not measurable; it is not “space”; time is a “place” (Ort). It is the reification of time, and therefore of human ec-sistence – of Dasein – that leads to ‘inauthenticity’ for Heidegger. Authenticity is the seizing of consciousness by Dasein that existence is mere possibility, contingency – ultimately, Dasein is “being toward death”.

It is this contingency, this dispensability of Dasein – its in-essentiality, or rather, the awareness of its inessentiality, of death - that seals its “thrown-ness” (Geworfenheit) in the world of beings (Seiende). In its “thrown-ness”, Dasein is not at home in the world of “things”. Indeed, it is possible to argue that Dasein is at bottom a solipsistic notion – one that is irreconcilable with “the life-world” (which confirms Husserl’s own reservations on the Heideggerian project – “is this philosophy or anthropology?” he queried in his margin notes to Heidegger’s Kantbuch)! (Perhaps the most profound and incisive critic of Heidegger in this regard was his erstwhile pupil, Karl Lowith – cf. his essays in Heidegger.) That is why Heidegger’s cognate notions of Zu- and Vor-handenheit are probably among the least convincing of his entire philosophy. A coherent account of these “aptitudes” or “orientations” of Dasein would require an immanentist foundation that Heidegger’s philosophy thoroughly lacks.



By contrast, Nietzsche’s “instincts of freedom” (later “will to power”), however incoherently outlined by the philosopher of Rocken, require as a conceptual premise the positing of the immanence of perception, of the materiality of being human. The transcendental nature of Dasein, its ineluctable a-historicity, its complete lack of immanence, belie Heidegger’s strenuous attempts – most ill-advised in his Nazi period – to give his existentialism a historical and socio-political flavor (cf. above all, Introduction to Metaphysics, a most despicable apology for the Nazi regime).

Because of its transcendental character, because of its thoroughgoing a-historicity – regardless of his thorough misconstrual of historicity -, Heidegger’s philosophy can be said to be “innocuous” from a sociological viewpoint – certainly with regard to the dramatic experience of the Nazi Lager. (But I still esteem Karl Lowith’s profound and deeply humane truncation of Heidegger’s political aberrations as arising from deficiencies in his phenomenological project – see his Heidegger.) Woefully, instead, it is Nietzsche’s doctrine of Un-ver-antwortlich-keit (literally, “unaccountability” or “innocence” in the sense of “blamelessness”) that is certainly very relevant to the Nazi death-camps! Contrary to what foolish epigones from Foucault to Deleuze (the summit of foolishness) to Agamben and other neo-Nietzscheans have propounded as zoe (naked life) as against bios (politicized existence), the Nazis never ever (!) saw their Jewish victims as “stateless” or as “lacking citizenship”! As Hannah Arendt saw – with the astounding perspicacity that characterized her political philosophy -, the Nazi German dictatorship fundamentally obliterated the very notion of “citizenship” by substituting it with race or “Volk” – which is a fluid concept incapable of de-finition (Latin, finis, boundary, border, end) - legal, historical, or even biological - that made possible the utterly arbitrary unbounded removal of all legal attributes from German Jews, first, and then just about all “enemies of the Reich”. (The mandatory reference is, of course, to Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism.) For the Nazis, the inmates of concentration camps were as “blameless” as they saw themselves to be! In executing the orders of the Fuhrer, they were simply carrying out “the laws of Nature”, - a brutish misappropriation of Nietzsche’s “instincts of freedom” - just as contemporaneously the Bolshevik executioners were carrying out “the laws of History” in the Soviet Union – in the name of Karl Marx!


(We shall return soon to the importance of superseding the ontogenetic approach adopted by the near entirety of Western philosophy with the novel phylogenetic one enucleated explicitly first by Karl Marx and then reprised by many later thinkers.)

Friday, 25 August 2017

Merleau-Ponty and the Phenomenology of Perception

This is Part Two of "The Philosophy of the Flesh". Against the idiotic fumblings of "identity politics", what we are attempting here is the opening of a path to a new immanentist ontology that can lead to the discovery of a new humanist ethic. The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, in my view, laid the foundations for such a novel ethic - with considerable influence on the work of Hannah Arendt (see especially her The Life of the Mind). Here we provide a constructive critique.

The entire aim of Kant’s critique of metaphysics – his enquiry into the “possibility” of any “future metaphysics able to call itself ‘science’” – was to avoid the Cartesian dualism by relegating the subiectum of reality to the inscrutable status of “the thing in itself”, which allowed the hiatus between this last and human knowledge to be “bridged” or “mediated” by the human faculties of intuition, the intellect (the understanding), and finally pure reason, in a series of “mediations” that moved from “mere appearances” to “the laws of nature” and those of logico-mathematics as “governed” by the rule of pure reason. Kant accepted the skepticism of both Leibnitz and Hume over the existence of a “subject” as the “author” or agent of the thinking process. Descartes had committed the fallacy of presupposing an “agent” behind every “action” – and therefore he presumed that the act of thinking necessarily presupposed the existence of a “thinker”. Both Leibnitz and Hume, and most emphatically Nietzsche, showed that this was a non sequitur. Leibnitz, in particular, postulated that reality could not be divided into noumena and phenomena for the “sufficient reason” that everything that exists, including phenomena or mere appearances (Kant’s blosse Erscheinungen), has a greater right to exist than what does not: - and that is a “sufficient reason” for its being.

Only in this limited sense, the certainty of “per-ception” – the fact that there is something instead of nothing – was the Cartesian cogito “certain”. And in this sense Nietzsche was right to replace the Cartesian cogito ergo sum with his “vivo ergo cogito”. As Merleau-Ponty reminds us in the quotation below regarding the cogito: “Sa vérité logique … est que pour penser il faut être.” It is not the act of thinking that comes first; rather, it is the ineluctable reality of “living” or perception that precedes “thinking-as-reflection” or “consciousness” and, much farther down the track, that of the thinking subject, of the ‘I’. This conceptual chain, what Nietzsche calls “the ontogeny of thought”, and the evermore strict con-nection between perceptions, then reflection, and then the extrapolation to a conceptually or logically necessary chorismos (Plato) or separation between the perceiver and the perceived (of ideas and things, says Merleau-Ponty below) was to become the fateful problematic for Western thought. Had Descartes been more careful in his formulation of the cogito, as Nietzsche and Arendt suggested, he would have expressed it as “cogito me cogitare, ergo sum” (p.20, LotM). But in that case it would have become obvious to him that the first “cogito”, the one that “perceives” that “I think”, begs the question of whether the “thinking” is done by a “thinker”, by an ‘I’ – which, as Nietzsche showed beyond question, leads to a circulus vitiosus (each fresh statement pre-supposes a previous “thinking subject” or ‘I’); or to a non sequitur (because thinking can occur without a thinking subject or ‘I’). This is the “fundamentality” of thought, its “abyss” or, with Nietzsche, its “Being-as-becoming”:

Quant à la source même des pensées, nous savons maintenant que, pour la trouver, il nous faut chercher sous les énoncés, et [Maurice Merleau-Ponty, SIGNES. (1960) 27] notamment sous l'énoncé fameux de Descartes [that is, the cogito]. Sa vérité logique - qui est que « pour penser il faut être » -, sa signification d'énoncé le trahissent par principe, puisqu'elles se rapportent à un objet de pensée au moment où il faut trouver accès vers celui qui pense et vers sa cohésion native, dont l'être des choses et celui des idées sont la réplique. La parole de Descartes est le geste qui montre en chacun de nous cette pensée pensante à découvrir, le « Sésame ouvre-toi » de la pensée fondamentale. Fondamentale parce qu'elle n'est véhiculée par rien. Mais non pas fondamentale comme si, avec elle, on touchait un fond où il faudrait s'établir et demeurer. Elle est par principe sans fond et si l'on veut abîme; cela veut dire qu'elle n'est jamais avec elle-même, que nous la trouvons auprès ou à partir des choses pensées, qu'elle est ouverture, l'autre extrémité invisible de l'axe qui nous fixe aux choses et aux idées. (Merleau-Ponty, Signes, p.27.)


This “fundamentality” of thought is why for Kant, contrary to Descartes, the question of the Ich-heit or Ego-ity (the thinking subject), could not be settled by rational means: the ‘I’ was a concept that belonged to the transcendental dialectic in that its existence could not be proven by scientific or logical means. Arendt (in the preface to ‘LotM’, pp13ff) rightly laments the distinction Kant made between Reason and Intellect and the relegation of the former to the task of “cognition” rather than “thought”, of “truth” rather than “meaning”, - something that he ought to have left to the Intellect instead, as Schopenhauer rightly insisted (see discussion in section below). But neither Kant nor Schopenhauer nor even Arendt ever question the nexus rerum constituted by the physical laws of cause and effect; and this failure is what prevents them from posing correctly, “meaningfully”, the question of “transcendence”, of the “separation” of the suprasensible and the sensible worlds. Though he questioned the possibility of meta-physics, Kant’s philosophical efforts were directed at showing how scientific laws were possible: how it is possible for human beings to discover invariant relations between physical events with the predictable precision or “certainty”  of logico-mathematics that justified their description as “natural laws” on account of the causally necessary link – otherwise known as nexus rerum - that permitted the ontological and epistemological ordo et connexio rerum et idearum (order and connection of things and ideas). Kant reasoned that we need to go beyond the Leibnitzian Principle of Sufficient Reason because that principle cannot account for the mathematical regularity of scientific observations: - as he revealingly put it, Reason had to give back to Nature the “order” that the latter had supplied with its “regularity”. Although reason is inconceivable without human intuition to provide it with the material content of its conceptual categories, this human intuition in turn could not become aware of its content (it could not con-ceive or com-prehend or “grasp” it) without the mediation of the Schematismus of the intellect and, in turn, of the logico-mathematical “rules” of Pure Reason.

Kant regresses back into Cartesian dualism by simply positing the “finitude” of the per-cipient subject and the “noumenality”, the incom-prehensibility of the per-ceived Object, of Being in its “totality”. This is the kernel of what we may call (with Merleau-Ponty) “the transcendental attitude”. Kant distinguishes two “moments” (momenta) of experience, one being the “constitutive” (perception) and the other the “regulative” (concepts or theory). This “separation” (or chorismos) of perception and the perceived, of the percipi and the esse, already pre-supposes a dualism of perceiving Subject and perceived Object. The act of perception is founded on the logical presupposition that there is a “thing” that is to be perceived – the Object. And the logical requirement of the act of perceiving is that there be an “entity”, a Subject, that “does” the perceiving. Whereas Descartes had placed the Ego or the Soul at the summit of philosophy, Kant preferred to appoint the logico-mathematical powers of human thought. It is the very ec-sistence of logico-mathematical id-entities that are within life and the world, within experience, and yet are independent of experience for their “truth” or “validity” – it is this a priori ec-sistence of logico-mathematical rules or laws that confirms the ec-sistence of two separate yet inextricable aspects of human existence: the constitutive principle of experience and the regulative principle of theory, the awareness or intuition of the res or “things”and the cognitive ability to link these “things” according to cognitive rules. There exists therefore both a faculty that “links” or “con-nects” ideas between themselves, and a faculty that links or connects these “ideas” with “things”, and an entity that pro-duces these “ideas” (the Sub-ject) as well as the “things” (that are ordered and connected) in themselves! Here Being is seen as “pre-sence”, as a fixed entity: what is forgotten is that the only “fixity” is that of the “degree zero” of being, which is its “being-for-others”, its perceptibility and not some kind of “nothing-ness” (Heidegger), as even Merleau-Ponty ends up mistaking it:

Les choses et le monde visibles, d'ailleurs, sont-ils autrement faits? Ils sont toujours derrière ce que j'en vois, en horizon, et ce qu'on appelle visibilité est cette transcendance même. Nulle chose, nul côté de la chose ne se montre qu'en cachant activement les autres, en les dénonçant dans l'acte de les masquer. Voir, c'est par principe voir plus qu'on ne voit, c'est accéder à un être de latence. L'invisible est le relief et la profondeur du visible, et pas plus que lui le visible ne comporte de positivité pure. (Signes, p26, my emphases.)

Merleau-Ponty, like Heidegger and Husserl and Hegel before them, continues to approach the question of being in its “verticality”, its transcendence – and so betrays his own enterprise. (Arendt speaks of “depth” [or ‘true being’] and “surfaces” [or ‘mere appearances’] to distinguish between transcendence and immanence [see ‘LotM’, p26 and p30 on “the value of the surface”]. Negri adopts this term, too in his writings on Spinoza.) Had he turned to the immanentists, he would have understood more fully what he himself sustains below when he substitutes “visible et invisible” for “etre et neant” – the impossibility of Being ec-sisting in its “totality”, as “pre-sence” that would render the pre-sent (the nunc stans) meaningless, as “un etre sans restriction”; - and therefore the futility or irrelevance of transcendentalism:

Dimensionnalité, ouverture n'auraient plus de sens. L’absolument ouvert s'appliquerait complètement sur un être sans restriction, et, faute d'une autre dimension dont elle ait à se distinguer, ce que nous appelions la « verticalité », - le présent - ne voudrait plus rien dire. Plutôt que de l'être et du néant, il vaudrait mieux parler du visible et de l'invisible, en répétant qu'ils ne sont pas contradictoires. On dit invisible comme on dit immobile: non pour ce qui est étranger au mouvement, mais pour ce qui s'y maintient fixe. C'est le point ou le degré zéro de visibilité, l'ouverture d'une dimension du visible. Un zéro à tous égards, un être sans restriction ne sont pas à considérer. Quand je parle du néant, il y a déjà de l’être, ce néant ne néantise donc pas pour de bon, et cet être n'est pas identique à soi, sans question. (Signes, p27.)

The limit of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception can be sensed in his failure to appreciate how the notion of “becoming” in Nietzsche’s version of the concept does not leave “the sensible, time and history” untouched but trans-values them quite radically:
La philosophie qui dévoile ce chiasma du visible et de l'invisible est tout le contraire d'un survol. Elle s'enfonce dans le sensible, dans le temps, dans l'histoire, vers leurs jointures, elle ne les dépasse pas par des forces qu'elle aurait en propre, elle ne les dépasse que dans leur sens. On rappelait récemment le mot de Montaigne « tout mouvement nous découvre. » et l'on en tirait avec raison que l'homme n'est qu'en mouvement 6. De même le monde ne tient, l'Être ne tient qu'en mouvement, c'est ainsi seulement que toutes choses peuvent être ensemble. La philosophie est la remémoration [anamnesis] de cet être-là, dont la science ne s'occupe pas, parce qu'elle conçoit les rapports de l'être et de la connaissance comme ceux du géométral et de ses projections, et qu'elle oublie l'être d'enveloppement, ce qu'on [Maurice Merleau-Ponty, SIGNES. (1960) 28] pourrait appeler la topologie de l'être.

But Merleau-Ponty’s interesting notion of “invisibility” as “the degree zero of visibility” leads us back to the discussion over Schmitt’s “exception” and Hobbes’s “hypothesis” and Nietzsche’s Invariance – all of which are “border” or “liminal” concepts, as it were, and offer revealing radiographies of the bourgeois transcendental and ontogenetic understanding of human being. Having just stated that “quand je parle du néant, il y a déjà de l’être”, Merleau-Ponty remains locked in the transcendental attitude that he attempts to supersede because he remains tied to the Heideggerian phenomenological notion of “nothing-ness”: if “being is in motion”, if it is a “be-coming”, then there must also be a non-being that pre-supposes being, which is the “space” left “empty” by the pre-sent being understood as a fixity. Similarly, “in-visibility” has meaning or “sense” only in the light of visibility (“la lueure de l’etre” [p21], an echo of Heidegger’s Lichtung). Merleau-Ponty has a vice of falling into these delusional dualisms as when he speaks of “silence” enveloping “words”, for meaning or “sens” as “l’etre d’enveloppement” and the Platonic “anamnesis” (cf. his expressions above, at p.28 of ‘Signes’).

It is interesting also that Foucault and then Agamben (Homo Sacer) mistake this “degree zero” for some puerile pre-political “state of innocence” that has been tainted by “statality”, by civil society as “bourgeois society”, as a degeneration or de-secration from “zoe” to “bios”. In effect, Agamben et alii erect a “naked life” as a bulwark against the “fiction” of citizenship that de-fines the “border” between the state of legality and that of “exception”. 

E em referencia a esta definicao que Foucault, ao final da
Vontade de saber, resume o processo atraves do qual, nos
limiares da Idade Moderna, a vida natural comep, par sua
vez, a ser incluida nos mecanismos enos calculos do poder
estatal, e a politica se transforma em biopolitica: "Par milenios,
o homem permaneceu o que era para Aristoteles: um animal
vivente e, alem disso, capaz de existencia politica; o homem
moderno e um animal em cuja politica esta em questao a sua
vida de ser vivente." (Foucault, 1976, p. 127) (See pp.3-4 of Eng. Edtn.)

Despite his appeals to the authoriality of Hannah Arendt (for he is a master at seeking out associations with “authors” such as Heidegger and Deleuze), Agamben neglects the cardinal importance that Arendt gave precisely to the concept of “citizenship”, not as a mark of biopolitical repression, but indeed as the only realistic and real “protection” of a human being by a human community! There is no reference in Arendt to this “primacy of natural life” to which Agamben refers (p.4). Little wonder that he should complain (same page) that “Arendt establishes no connection” between the analyses in The Human Condition and in Origins of Totalitarianism! The Nazi concentration camps operated not on the basis that “citizenship” was denied to the Jews, as Agamben foolishly believes, but precisely on the Nietzschean and later Schmittian notion that society and its “ontogeny of thought” are fictitious “masks” that serve to dissemble the “nakedness” of life as exploitation! Though this debacle may have begun with the progressive emargination of social groups from the protection of citizenship, as Arendt genially showed, the Nazis never saw Jews as “people deprived of citizenship” – and they never meant thereby “to exclude” them from any kind of biopolitical “statality” or “statal power”. The Nazis quite simply ob-literated the very notion of “citizenship” altogether! – In such a way that the Jews became in their eyes the “innocent” (Unschuldig!) victims of the struggle for life, the war of all against all, - the state of nature that is exactly what Agamben’s notion of “nuda vita” and Foucault’s earlier Aristotelian one of “zoe” ineluctably revive! In the Nazi ideology, Jews were merely the representatives of a losing “slave morality” that were to be dominated by the homologously “ir-responsible” or “un-accountable” (un-ver-antwort-lich) Nazi “Arian” bearers of the “master morality”! To lump together political systems that retain the notion of “citizenship” with systems like the Nazi state that abolished citizenship completely is to commit a political misjudgement of the worst possible kind! The puerility of Agamben’s “late-romantic” Rousseauean reveries is of an almost unbearable naivete’ – something that Nietzsche exposed and ridiculed with “the ontogeny of thought” which shows, in a manner later rejuvenated by Arendt, the (sit venia verbo!) “nakedness” (allusion to Agamben’s “nuda vita” or naked life) of the violence that the bourgeois transcendental attitude and ontogeny unleashes on beings human because of its equally “naked” denigration and denial of any phylogenetic inter esse, let alone “citizenship”! Nietzsche falsely believed to be able to overcome the nihilism of Western thought by exposing its Invariance: in reality, however, he only ended up identifying the ineluctability of exploitation and of “the pathos of distance”, as well as the instrumentality of the capitalist logico-mathematical and scientific order. (Esposito, incidentally, has sought to redefine inter esse as comunitas, with the emphasis on the munere which preserves the social individuality of the esse and shifts the political emphasis from the inter.)


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Or, si nous chassons de notre esprit l'idée d'un texte original dont notre langage serait la traduction ou la version chiffrée, nous verrons que l'idée d'une expression complète fait non-sens, que tout langage est indirect ou allusif, est, si l'on veut, silence. (‘Signes’, p45)

 Again, the “totality” of being, just like “the complete expression” is a non-sense, says Merleau-Ponty. The “parallelism” of word and object, of thought and word is therefore also a nonsense:

Il n'est pas davantage de pensée qui soit complètement pensée et qui ne demande à des mots le moyen d'être présente à elle-même. Pensée et parole s'escomptent l'une l'autre. Elles se substituent continuellement l'une à l'autre. Elles sont relais, stimulus l'une pour l'autre. Toute pensée vient des paroles et y retourne, toute parole est née dans les pensées et finit en elles. Il y a entre les hommes et en chacun une incroyable végétation de paroles dont les « pensées » sont la nervure. - On dira - mais enfin, si la parole est autre chose que bruit ou son, c'est que la pensée y dépose une charge de sens -, et le sens lexical ou grammatical d'abord - de sorte qu'il n'y a jamais contact que de la pensée avec la pensée -. Bien sûr, des sons ne sont parlants que pour une pensée, cela ne veut pas dire que la parole soit dérivée ou seconde. Bien sûr, le système même du langage a sa structure pensable. Mais, quand nous parlons, nous ne la pensons pas comme la pense le linguiste, nous n'y pensons pas même, nous pensons à ce que nous disons. Ce n'est pas seulement que nous ne puissions penser à deux choses à la fois : on dirait que, pour avoir devant nous un signifié, que ce soit [26] à l'émission ou à la réception, il faut que nous cessions de nous représenter le code et même le message, que nous nous fassions purs opérateurs de la parole. La parole opérante fait penser et la pensée vive trouve magiquement ses mots. Il n'y a pas la pensée et le langage, chacun des deux ordres à l'examen se dédouble et envoie un rameau dans l'autre. (‘Signes’, p24)

In fact here even the “la” of “la pensee” ought to be in cursive – because if languages interpenetrate thoughts, then it is foolhardy to postulate the existence of “one” thought: there are as many “thoughts” as there are words to articulate and express them. Merleau-Ponty obliquely argues as much when he rightly observes that there cannot be any plausible analytical distinction between synchronic “parole” and diachronic “langue” a’ la Saussure. (See generally “Le Phenomene du Langage” in Signes, p.85:
L'expérience de la parole n'aurait alors rien à nous enseigner sur l’être du langage, elle n'aurait pas de portée ontologique.
C'est ce qui est impossible. Dès qu'on distingue, à côté de la science objective du langage, une phénoménologie de la parole, on met en route une dialectique par laquelle les deux disciplines entrent en communication.
D'abord le point de vue « subjectif » enveloppe le point de vue « objectif » ; la synchronie enveloppe la diachronie. Le passé du langage a commencé par être [Maurice Merleau-Ponty, SIGNES. (1960) 86] présent, la série des faits linguistiques fortuits que la perspective objective met en évidence s'est incorporée à un langage qui, à chaque moment, était un système doué d'une logique interne.

Here once again Merleau-Ponty seems unable to distinguish between human ana-lysis – literally, the retrovisual categorization of reality that ends up in the prima philosophia (ontology) and the “reality” that is the “fundament” or even the “abyss” of thought and language and action, in short, of what may be called the point of intuition, the reality of perception.

Yet Merleau-Ponty’s conception of thought remains tied to the intra-mundane notion of time:

Il n'y aurait rien s'il n'y avait cet abîme du soi. Seulement un abîme n'est pas rien, il a ses bords, ses entours. On pense toujours à quelque chose, sur, selon, d'après quelque chose, à l'endroit, à l'encontre de quelque chose. Même l'action de penser est prise dans la poussée de l’être. Je ne peux pas penser identiquement à la même chose plus d'un instant. L'ouverture par principe est aussitôt comblée, comme si la pensée ne vivait qu'à l'état naissant. Si elle se maintient, c'est à travers - c'est par le glissement qui la jette à l'inactuel. Car il y a l'inactuel de l'oubli, mais aussi celui de l'acquis. C'est par le temps que mes pensées datent, c'est par lui aussi quelles font date, qu'elles ouvrent un avenir de pensée, un cycle, un [Maurice Merleau-Ponty, SIGNES. (1960) 21] champ, qu'elles font corps ensemble, qu'elles sont une seule pensée, qu'elles sont moi. La pensée ne troue pas le temps, elle continue le sillage des précédentes pensées, sans même exercer le pouvoir, qu'elle présume, de le tracer à nouveau, comme nous pourrions, si nous voulions, revoir l'autre versant de la colline : mais à quoi bon, puisque la colline est là ? À quoi bon m'assurer que ma pensée du jour recouvre ma pensée d'hier : je le sais bien puisque aujourd'hui je vois plus loin. Si je pense, ce n'est pas que je saute hors du temps dans un monde intelligible, ni que je recrée chaque fois la signification à partir de rien, c'est que la flèche du temps tire tout avec elle, fait que mes pensées successives soient, dans un sens second, simultanées, ou du moins qu'elles empiètent légitimement l'une sur l'autre. Je fonctionne ainsi par construction. Je suis installé sur une pyramide de temps qui a été moi. Je prends du champ, je m'invente, mais non sans mon équipement temporel, comme je me déplace dans le monde, mais non sans la masse, inconnue de mon corps. Le temps est ce « corps de l'esprit » dont parlait Valéry. Temps et pensée sont enchevêtrés l'un dans l'autre. La nuit de la pensée est habitée par une lueur de l'Etre. (‘Signes’, pp20-1)

This is a “spatial” con-ception of being and time - there cannot be “empty space” because even “emptiness” pre-supposes “space”! And indeed even intra-mundane “time” is “spatialised” because it is conceived as a “now-sequence” of equal intervals unfolding from past to future (cf. Heidegger’s early essay on time). “I do not jump out of time when I think” betrays Merleau-Ponty’s nunc fluens conception of time, as a “flowing river” in which all being floats. So does his reference to “the arrow of time” and to “time is the body of the spirit” – in other words, for the spirit, time is its “embodiment” or “corpo-reality”. Yet we know, first, that “time” is a meaningless concept outside of human intuition (“spirit” here), and second, that if “time” is what gives “body” to the “spirit”, then it comes into opposition with “space”: in other words, we still do not know “where” this “spirit” is! It is this “invisibility” of “spirit” and this “spirituality” or “corporeality” of “time” that relegates us to the illusory dualism of Body and Spirit, of Idea and Thing. These are transcendental notions because they conceive of being as “something” that can be located in a spatio-temporal continuum. Merleau-Ponty himself acknowledges as much when he meekly suggests that l'être et [le] néant, il vaudrait mieux parler du visible et de l'invisible, … ne sont pas contradictoires”. Yet they are! Nothing-ness does not admit of “being”, unless “being” is understood transcendentally, in terms of the philosophia perennis, as the suprasensible world of which “nothing-ness” is only the kingdom of shadows, of appearances, the “negative” or “reverse” of being; or else as “possibility” or “contingency” (Heidegger, Sartre), which is certainly not “nothing-ness” but “being in gestation”, potentiality or Aristotelian dynamis – all of which poses an antinomic dualism that Merleau-Ponty was desperately trying to eschew from the inception. In this “antinomic world”, nothing-ness also has its “being”, and Heidegger’s sophistries come to resemble closely Hegel’s dialectical teleology (see his discussion of Aristotle in Vol.1 of Nietzsche).

It is instructive that Merleau-Ponty’s ultimate lunge to evade this linguistic trap is to prefer the phrase “topology of being” – which is closer to our notion of “place” (Ort) and the “nunc stans” to re-place (!) the old intra-mundane notions of space and time. The “fundamentality” that Merleau-Ponty is chasing is the “materiality” or immanence of being.

Dans le texte tardif que nous citions en commençant, Husserl écrit que la parole réalise une « localisation » et une « temporalisation » d'un sens idéal qui, « selon son sens d'être » n'est ni local ni temporel, - et il ajoute plus loin que la parole encore objective et ouvre à la pluralité des sujets, à titre de concept ou de proposition, ce qui n'était auparavant qu'une formation intérieure à un sujet. Il y aurait donc un mouvement par lequel l'existence idéale descend dans la localité et la temporalité, - et un mouvement inverse par lequel l'acte de parole ici et maintenant fonde l'idéalité du vrai. Ces deux mouvements seraient contradictoires s'ils avaient lieu entre les mêmes termes extrêmes, et il nous semble nécessaire de concevoir ici un circuit de la réflexion : elle reconnaît en première [121] approxi-mation l'existence idéale comme ni locale, ni temporelle, - puis elle s'avise d'une localité et d'une temporalité de la parole que l'on ne peut dériver de celles du monde objectif, ni d'ailleurs suspendre à un monde des idées, et finalement fait reposer sur la parole le mode d'être des formations idéales. L'existence idéale est fondée sur le document, non sans doute comme objet physique, non pas même comme porteur des significations une à une que lui assignent les conventions de la langue dans laquelle il est écrit, mais sur lui en tant que, par une « transgression intentionnelle » encore, il sollicite et fait converger toutes les vies connaissantes et à ce titre instaure et restaure un « Logos » du monde culturel.
Le propre d'une philosophie phénoménologique nous parait donc être de s'établir à titre définitif dans l'ordre de la spontanéité enseignante qui est inaccessible au psychologisme et à l'historicisme, non moins qu'aux métaphysiques dogmati-ques. Cet ordre, la phénoménologie de la parole est entre toutes apte à nous le révéler. Quand je parle ou quand je comprends, j'expérimente la présence d'autrui en moi ou de moi en autrui, qui est la pierre d'achoppement de la théorie de l'intersubjectivité, la présence du représenté qui est la pierre d'achoppement de la théorie du temps, et je comprends enfin ce que veut dire l'énigmatique proposition de Husserl : « La subjectivité transcendantale est intersubjectivité. » Dans la mesure où ce que je dis a sens, je suis pour moi-même, quand je parle, un autre « autre », et, dans la mesure où je comprends, je ne sais plus qui parle et qui écoute. La dernière démarche philosophique est de reconnaître ce que Kant appelle [Maurice Merleau-Ponty, SIGNES. (1960) 96] l'« affinité transcendantale » des moments du temps et des temporalités. C'est sans doute ce que Husserl cherche à faire quand il reprend le vocabulaire finaliste des métaphysiques, parlant de « monades », « entéléchies », « téléologie ». Mais, ces mots sont mis souvent entre guillemets pour signifier qu'il n'entend pas introduire avec eux quelque agent qui de l'extérieur assurerait la connexion des termes mis en rapport. La finalité au sens dogmatique serait un compromis: elle laisserait face à face les termes à lier et le principe liant. [122] Or c'est au coeur de mon présent que je trouve le sens de ceux qui l'ont précédé, que je trouve de quoi comprendre la présence d'autrui au même monde, et c'est dans l'exercice même de la parole que j'apprends à comprendre. Il n’y a finalité qu'au sens où Heidegger la définissait lorsqu'il disait à peu près qu'elle est le tremblement d'une unité exposée à la contingence et qui se recrée infatigablement. Et c'est à la même spontanéité, non-délibérée, inépuisable, que Sartre faisait allusion quand il disait que nous sommes « condamnés à la liberté ».


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