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CONTINUED: PART 2, Heidegger, the body, and the French philosophers

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  • Gary C Moore
    PART 2 If it is very difficult to see the problem of the phenomenology of the body , and the body s death does not exactly correspond to Da-sein s death as
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2001

      PART 2


       If  “it is very difficult to see the problem of the phenomenology of the body”, and the body’s death does not exactly correspond to Da-sein’s death as exactly the same ontic-ontological event, then we definitely do have a problem. Now, the objection will be raised, that in Da-sein’s knowledge ontological understanding of its own death is indefinite because Da-sein cannot actually experience its own death, and that this very indefiniteness leads us to the fact that the concern about our own death which my Da-sein never can actually know yet is firmly convinced will happen is both a product of reflective imagination and necessary choice so that in authenticity Da-sein chooses to freely run ahead toward death. This is relevant to the last quotation from Heidegger in PART 1 which leaves us hanging as if he said we were God. But the whole issue here, as in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, is finitude, incompleteness: It is the very finitude and incompleteness of Da-sein that is Da-sein’s fundamental ground and is the very contingency that I exist. The main problem with the concept of God, that was evident with the notice of Ockham and the free but “always already” completed will of God in PART 1, is that any definition of God makes it an inoperable concept, an aporia of definition and words but not of existence which is per se, by definition and logical necessity, incomplete. If truth is discovery, then you cannot know unless you do not know.


      ALL of Sartre’s ‘psychology’ rest upon the uncompleatable passion (“Man is a useless passion”, B&N, Phil. Lib pg. 615,Wash.Sq. pg. 784, very last sentence of Part 4, Chap. 2, III) of Da-sein’s or the “For-itself’s” desire to be a self-cause:


      Man makes himself man in order to be God, and selfness considered from this point of view can appear to be an egoism; but precisely because there is no common measure between human reality and the self-cause which it wants to be, one could just as well say that man loses himself in order that the self cause may exist. We will consider then that all human existence is a passion, the famous self-interest being only one way freely chosen among others to realize this passion. (B&N, Phil. Lib. pg. 626, Wash. Sq. 796)


      To be man means to reach toward being God. Or if you prefer, man fundamentally is the desire to be God. ¶ It may be asked, if man on coming into the world is borne toward God as toward his limit, if he can choose only to be God, what becomes of freedom? For freedom is nothing other than a choice which creates for itself its own possibilities, but it appears here that the initial project of being God, which “defines” man, comes close to being the same as a human “nature” or an “essence.” The answer is that while the meaning of desire is ultimately the project of being God, the desire is never constituted by this meaning; on the contrary, it always represents a particular discovery of its ends. (B&N, Phil. Lib pg. 566-567, Wash. Sq. pg. 724)


      In other words, man is finite, therefore free. Heidegger concludes Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics with a series of questions leading in the same direction as Sartre, but does not state a conclusion.


      What is the transcendental essence of truth in general? How, particularly on the grounds of the finitude of Da-sein, are this [essence of truth] and the nonessence of untruth, which were originally unified with man’s basic neediness as a being who has been thrown into beings, to be compelled to understand something like Being? ¶ Does it make sense, and is there a justification for grasping man on the grounds of his innermost finitude – that he requires “Ontology,” i.e., understanding of Being – as “creative” and consequently as “infinite,” where indeed there is nothing which even idea of an infinite creature recoils from as radically as it does an ontology? (GCM: Why would an “infinite creature” recoil from ontology unless ontology smelled of mortality?) ¶ At the same time, however, is it permissible to develop the finitude in Dasein only as a problem, without a “presupposed” infinite? (GCM: This refers to Kant’s primary project in the Critique of Pure Reason to clearly separate the previously presupposed divine point of view of philosophers like Liebnitz, Wolf, and Baumgarten from the radically finite human project of David Hume.) What in general is the nature of this “presupposing” in Dasein? What does the infinite which is so “composed” mean? (trans. Richard Taft, Indiana University Press, 4th edition pg. 168, 5th edition pg. 172, 1990, 1997)


       This is perfectly consistent with his own method as stated in the second volume of his Nietzsche lectures, The Eternal Recurrence of the Same that gives a fundamental clue as to their – ‘disagreement’:


      The question “What is being?” . . .The more this question becomes the guiding question, and the longer it remains such, the less the question itself becomes an object of inquiry. Every treatment of the guiding question is and remains preoccupied with the answer, preoccupied with finding the answer . . . Yet no matter how varied the configurations have been, they remain unified by the framework of the sole guiding question; once it is posed, the question seems to pose itself automatically – and hence to recede as a question. The question is not unfolded along the lines of its own articulation . . . Because the guiding question is what is properly metaphysical in metaphysics, we call the stance that derives from the undeveloped guiding question the fundamental metaphysical position (Krell:  literally “the metaphysical ground question”). ¶ The concept fundamental metaphysical position may be grasped in prepositional form as follows: The fundamental metaphysical position expresses the way in which the one who poses the guiding question remains enmeshed in the structures of that question, which is not explicitly unfolded; thus enmeshed, the questioner comes to stand within being as a whole, adopting a stance toward it, and in that way helping to determine the location of humanity as such in the whole of beings. ¶ All the same, the concept of a fundamental metaphysical position is not yet clear . . The historically developed fundamental positions themselves are necessarily . . . opaque and impenetrable . . . We invariably represent the fundamental metaphysical positions . . . Leibnitz, Kant, and Hegel . . .  extrinsically, according to the various doctrines and propositions . . .  We adopt sundry “aspects” which apparently just happen to be there . . . ignorant of the fact that there can be such aspects only because a fundamental metaphysical position has been adopted here . . . Such unfolding of the guiding question is not solely and not even primarily motivated by the desire to achieve a better conception of the fundamental metaphysical position as such . . . To treat this question as stated and posed is simply to look for an answer. To develop the question as it is formulated, however, is to pose the question more essentially: in asking the question one enters explicitly into those relationships that become visible when one assimilates virtually everything that comes to pass in the very asking of the question. When we treat the guiding question we are transposed forthwith to a search for an answer and everything that has to be done on behalf of that search. Developing the guiding question is something essentially different – it is a more original form of inquiry, one which does not crave an answer . . . An answer is no more than the final step of the very asking, and an answer that bids adieu to the inquiry annihilates itself as an answer. It can ground nothing like knowledge . . . Here the development assumes such proportions that it transforms the very question, bringing to light the guiding question as such in its utter lack of originality. For that reason we call the question “What is being?” the guiding question, in contrast to the more original question which sustains and directs the guiding question. The more original question we call the grounding question . . . To question questioning strikes common sense as rather unwholesome, extravagant, perhaps even nonsensical. If it is a matter of wanting to get to the beings themselves – and in the guiding question this is surely the case – then the inquiry into inquiry seems an aberration. In the end, such an attitude, asking about asking, seems nothing short of noxious or self-lacerating; we might call it “egocentric” and “nihilistic” and all the other nasty names we so easily come by . . . What is being? What is meant is being as such, neither some particular being nor a group of beings nor even all of them taken together, but something essentially more: what is meant is the whole, being taken as a whole from the outset, being taken as such unity. Outside of this one, this being, there is no other, unless it be the nothing. Yet the nothing is not some kind of being which is merely other . . . Let us then resolve not to forget in anything that follows what it was that rose to meet us in the first tentative step in the question concerning being, namely, the incontrovertible happenstance that we stumbled across the nothing . . . In the field of the question, in the very staking out of the field, the goal of the question is itself already established – what we are asking for in the matter interrogated, to wit, the Being of beings. Just as we collided against the nothing when we undertook to set the field of the question in relief, so here the staking out of the field and the establishment of the goal that is at stake condition one another reciprocally. And if we may say that the nothing looms at the border of this question, then, in accordance with the reciprocity of the field and the goal of the question, we may experience the proximity of the nothing also in the goal, that is, in the Being of beings; provided, of course, that we are actually inquiring, that our aim is true, that we are on target . . . Thus the most durable and unfailing touchstone of genuineness and forcefulness of thought in a philosopher is the question as to whether or not he or she experience in a direct and fundamental manner the nearness of the nothing in the Being of beings. Whoever fails to experience it remains forever outside the realm of philosophy, without hope of entry. (trans. David Farrell Krell, Harper Collins, 1984, pp. 190-195)


      THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! I do not think you will find anywhere else in Heidegger such a summation in a nutshell of his WHOLE philosophy, from beginning to end, and even then, without my ‘creative’ editing you may or have missed it as indeed I did when I first read it. Go and read the pages yourself, which you should do anyway since I have an irresistible urge on this April Fools Day to play a trick on everyone, and see if my version gives you the message much more clearly and directly. Do you remember how the first chapter of the introduction of Being and Time is entitled? “The Necessity, Structure, and Priority of the Question of Being.” This little quotation contains the whole of Being and Time in it. Also, it clarifies and sharpens the lectures/essays  “What is Metaphysics,” “Introduction to ‘What is Metaphysics’”, and “On the Question of Being”, all key texts from Wegmarken/Pathmarks. Here is explained how the question is to be asked and why it is so important. For one thing, the grounding question can only be asked by a finite being.  “Being” that Heidegger is forever talking about is in the question, not in any answer! It relates directly to the question and nature of human finitude, and why finitude is more valuable and important than ‘infinitude’! The simple, overwhelmingly obvious incompleteness of human being is all that it is all about. Also, you can find in that the ground of the fundamental disagreement between Husserl and Heidegger. Also, note the importance of experience in what Heidegger says: Not thought, experience. What Heidegger says about the artificial complication and obscuration of the great metaphysicians (This is NOT a category that Heidegger derides! In Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, he states, “The Metaphysics of Da-sein is not just metaphysics about Da-sein, but is the metaphysics which occurs necessarily as Dasein. But for that reason it can never become metaphysics ‘about’ Dasein, as for example zoology is about animals” Taft, 4th ed. pp. 157-158) is reflected in The History of Sexuality, volume 1, An Introduction by Michel Foucault, trans. Robert Hurley, Pantheon, 1978, pp. 55-57:


      This much is undeniable: the learned discourse on sex that was pronounced in the nineteenth century was imbued with age-old delusions, but also with systematic blindnesses: a refusal to see and to understand; but further – and this is the crucial point – a refusal concerning the very thing that was brought to light and whose formulation was urgently solicited. For there can be no misunderstanding that is not based on a fundamental relation to truth. Evading the truth, barring access to it, masking it: these were so many local tactics which, as if by superimposition and through a last minute detour, gave a paradoxical form to a fundamental petition to know . . . The important thing, in this affair, is not that these men shut their eyes or stopped their ears, or that they were mistaken; it is rather that they constructed around and apropos of sex an immense apparatus for producing truth, even if this truth was to be masked at the last moment . . . What needs to be situated, therefore, is not the threshold of a new rationality . . . but the progressive formation (and also the transformations) of that interplay of “truth and sex” which was bequeathed to us by the nineteenth century, and which we may have modified, but, lacking evidence to the contrary, have not rid ourselves of. Misunderstandings, avoidances, and evasions were only possible, and only had their effects, against the background of this strange endeavor: to tell the truth of sex.


      Now, substitute the word “Being” for “sex”, and the obvious reaction would be, “That is the most innocuous, utterly inane, and totally stupid, ridiculously illiterate and ignorant thing I have ever heard of!!!!!. This is good and true, and quite on the point. It is the most obvious thing in the world, the most obvious of all things, that human being is limited in every way simply because it has a body. Man is finite. “What’s the big goddamn deal?” Man is mortal: Socrates is a man: Socrates is mortal. Socrates died. Here is the fundamental root of all insanity, the contradiction in human behaviour that the mad – and goddamn well mad for good reason – pick up on as just as obvious to the normal, sane man sees but does not, let us say, follow out the immediate and blatant implications. Saint Paul at least knew exactly what the problem was, and knew exactly the only way to ‘solve’ it:


      Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.    I Corinthians, 15: 29-32


      Paul could say, like Luther did say, believe in the risen Christ or you believe in nothing, that there is no alternative. So I eat and drink and make merry.


      Not only did [the society that emerged in the nineteenth century] speak of sex and compel everyone to do so; it also set out to formulate the uniform truth of sex. As if it suspected sex of harboring a fundamental secret. As if it needed this production of truth. As if it was essential that sex be inscribed not only in an economy of pleasure but in an ordered system of knowledge. Thus sex gradually became an object of great suspicion; the general and disquieting meaning that pervades our conduct and our existence, in spite of ourselves; the point of weakness where evil portents reach through to us; the fragment of darkness that we each carry within us; a general signification, a universal secret, an omnipresent cause, a fear that never ends. And so, in this “question” of sex (in both senses: as interrogation and problematization, and as the need for confession and integration into a field of rationality), two processes emerge, the one always conditioning the other: we demand that sex speak the truth (but, since it is the secret and is oblivious to its own nature, we reserve for ourselves the function of telling the truth of its truth, revealed and deciphered at last), and we demand that it tell us our truth, or rather, the deeply buried truth of that truth about ourselves which we think we possess in our immediate consciousness. We tell it its truth by deciphering what it tells us about that truth; it tells us our own by delivering up that part of it that escaped us. From this interplay there has evolved, over several centuries, a knowledge of the subject; a knowledge not so much of his form, but of that which divides him, determines him perhaps, but above all causes him to be ignorant of himself. (Ibid., pp69-70)


      The first and main point that should come to our attention, when ‘interchanging’ “Being” for “sex” if in fact we are not simply exchanging one synonym for another attached to the same meaning: the body - is the ridiculous simplicity of the actual subject interrogated. Nothing is simpler than sex itself. Just look to the animals. Do you see any psychic damage done if your dog commits incest? And as to life, they just live it. They don’t need philosophy just as Heidegger says a normal person doesn’t need ontology: “The question of existence is an ontic “affair” of Da-sein. For this the theoretical transparency of the ontological structure of existence is not necessary” (S 10-11/M&R 13/SuZ 12). All they do and need is to live.


      Ivan Karamazov puts the matter with blunt simplicity: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted,” and then everything one constructs metaphysical systems for goes down the toilet. In the face of death, there is no point to Marxism or Fascism because the need for human co-operation is fundamentally undermined, and the worst those systems can do to you is kill you – and you are going to die anyway. The only way to truly threaten a person fundamentally is with eternal punishment. Otherwise, if they are up to accepting the consequences of their actions, anything goes, no matter how many fantastic systems of morality are invented by philosophers that have nothing to back up their strictures if death is not a threat. However, pain is, and stays. A philosopher can construct a morality based on that. Do you think it would be pretty? Would you like to do it? Would it make you feel proud?


      But death is not a poem, nor a merely cognitive problem, though it certainly is that. The convincingness of Da-sein’s authentic death comes precisely from the experience of the contingency of one’s own body. You cannot know the death of your body just as Da-sein cannot experience its own death. But you do experience the contingency and fragility of the body, that the viability of parts of it is experienced as put into question through injury, or merely the threat of injury, and pain and sickness which one can actually experience their threat to the existence of the whole body through the diminishing ability to act as one normally does. Old age itself becomes a kind of ‘sickness’ defining the growing death in the body everyday. To bastardize Paul, “I die daily.” Death gains its whole importance from the fact that it is bodily death. The sick and injured body dominates, overwhelms, the fundamental ontology of Da-sein. This is clearly demonstrated by Elaine Scarry in The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford, 1985). Torture is the most thoroughly studied dialectical development of the full process and reality of pain. All other kinds of pain that are essentially objects of a medical gaze are in that very context events to be arrested and reversed, and only through a failure to arrest does pain begin to show its full potential. But this reality is deliberately ignored because it is counter to the medical treatment and indicates more and more the doctor’s failure to arrest and reverse the problem, so that they are not observing phenomenologically the reality that is developing in front of them. However, even in the medical context, there are clues as to pain’s real nature. Scarry quotes the Civil War surgeon S. W. Mitchell:


      . . . After lancet wounds, the most terrible pains and local spasms resulted. When these had lasted for days or weeks, the whole surface became hyperaesthetic, and the senses grew to be only avenues for fresh and increasing tortures, until every vibration, every change of light, and even . . . the effort to read brought on new agony. (pg. 55)


      Scarry notes “the failure of many surgical attempts to remove pain pathways” because “the body quickly, effortlessly and endlessly” recreates them (Ibid.). Scientists want to discover a specific pain center in the brain that would vastly simplify the whole question and nature of pain, but the very nature of the brain as an organ and not a mechanical component does as much for pain as it many times does for lost bodily functions due to brain damage. Scarry quotes Ronald Melzack, “a leading theoretician on the physiology of pain”, from his book The Puzzle of Pain (New York: Basic Books, 1973):


      It is traditionally assumed that pain sensation and response are subserved by a “pain center” in the brain. The concept of a pain center, however, is totally inadequate to account for the complexity of pain. Indeed, the concept is pure fiction, unless virtually the whole brain is considered to be the pain center, because the thalamus, hyperthalamus, brainstem, reticular formation, limbic system, parietal cortex, and frontal cortex are all implicated in pain perception. Other brain areas are obviously involved in the emotional and motor features of pain. (Ibid; Melzack 93)


      Pain then is a creation of the whole brain AND the whole body. But in torture where pain is taken through its whole course of development, Scarry says:


      It eventually occupies the entire body and spills out into the realm beyond the body, takes over all that is inside and outside, makes the two obscenely indistinguishable, and systematically destroys anything like language or world extension that is alien to itself and threatening to its claims. Terrifying for its narrowness, it nevertheless exhausts and displaces all else until it seems to become the single broad and omnipresent fact of existence. (Ibid.)


      These ‘extravagant’ claims for pain come toward the end of a deliberately designed course of action, designed to specifically accomplish what Scarry states when torture is inflicted not simply to elicit information, which, when accomplished, should end the torture, but is used to disintegrate the personality of the victim altogether. Actually, the completed process of torture does much more than that.


      The fundamental premise that is brought to this conclusion Scarry states is;


      When one speaks about “one’s own physical pain” and about “another person’s physical pain,” one might almost appear to be speaking about two wholly distinct orders of events . . . For the person in pain, so incontestably and unnegotiably present is it that “having pain” may come to be thought of as the most vibrant example of what it is to “have certainty,” while for the other person it is so elusive that “hearing about pain” may exist as the primary model of what it is “to have doubt.” Thus pain comes unsharably into our midst as at once that which cannot be denied and that which cannot be confirmed. ¶ Whatever pain achieves, it achieves in part through its unsharability, and it ensures this unsharability through its resistance to language . . . Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it, bringing about an immediate reversion to a state anterior to language, to the sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned . . . The utter rigidity of pain itself  - its resistance to language is not simply one of its incidental or accidental attributes but is essential to what it is . . . If one were to move through all the emotional, perceptual, and somatic states that take an object – hatred for, seeing of, being hungry for -  the list would become a very long one and, though it would alternate between states we are thankful for and those we dislike, it would be throughout its entirety a consistent affirmation of the human being’s capacity to move out beyond the boundaries of his or her own body into the external, sharable world. This list and its implicit affirmation would, however, be suddenly interrupted when, moving through the human interior, one at last reached physical pain, for physical pain – unlike any other state of consciousness – has no referential content. It is not of or for anything. It is precisely because it takes no object that it, more than any other phenomenon, resists objectification in language. (pp. 4-5)


      Pain destroys the sharable world necessary to morality, and turns morality merely into co-operation so one will not be hurt. A truly noble and elevated ethical system.

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