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Re: Heidegger and Humanism

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  • jimstuart51
    Wil, Thank you for your post 46723 in which you give an extended exposition of the Heidegger passage on page 265 of his Letter on Humanism . I am in general
    Message 1 of 28 , Jan 25, 2009
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      Thank you for your post 46723 in which you give an extended
      exposition of the Heidegger passage on page 265 of his "Letter on

      I am in general agreement with what you say, and on your view of
      Heidegger as a whole. Of course I acknowledge that you have studied
      Heidegger much more thoroughly, and to much greater depth, than you
      have, so the further remarks I make her are tentative nuances on what
      you write.

      Wil: What we see here [in the page 265 quote] is the continuing
      influence of the phenomenological reduction of Husserl which wants to
      prescind from the, as it were, face of Being any sense of
      familiarity, to make of the apprehension of Being a pure quiddity.
      When I was an undergrad, a friend of mine and I used to practice a
      form of phenomenological reduction as a way of breaking free from all
      eidetic limitations. We would practice looking at someone's face and
      reduce it to its fundamental appearance, but without losing the
      knowledge that it was a 'face', or at least something alive.

      Response: Yes, what you write makes Heidegger much more accessible
      now you remind me of the fact that he was Husserl's student.

      I feel there is something right about the Husserl/Heidegger approach,
      and also something wrong about it.

      Surely, part of the examined life of the genuine philosopher is a
      drive to cast off our social and cultural prejudices and gain access
      to reality-as-it-really-is. For Husserl and Heidegger this meant
      concentrating on the "pure phenomenology" – the experience as it is
      without the distortion of background beliefs.

      However, the face example shows the limitations of this method. I
      think Wittgenstein was one of the philosophers who made the point
      that we perceive directly the emotions of other people, we do not see
      the furrowed brow, the jerking limb movements, etc. For example, I
      see directly that MV is angry, it takes a conscious effort to see the
      furrowed brow, the dilated pupils. I see directly that RV is
      impatient, it takes a conscious effort to see the sharp and short
      bodily movements, etc.

      No doubt evolution is responsible for us being able to read the
      emotions of others directly. Those of our ancestors who didn't detect
      anger on their fellows' faces were much more likely to end up with a
      rock on the head or a spear through the heart.

      The Husserl/Heidegger student may get the idea that by trying to
      uncover the raw phenomenology of the other's face, he is making a
      step closer to perception of how things really are, however I would
      argue that the reality is the other's anger, and the other's facial
      contortions and bodily movements constitute a lesser truth.

      Wil: What is more true, the face prescinded of everything 'human-
      like', or the face that looks to me as a person's face for whom I
      have a regard in some way? One can argue either way, but the moment
      you opt for the former truth you have crossed a line, a line that
      even in his most nihilistic moods Nietzsche never crossed.

      Response: Yes, I agree. Further, I do not see any benefit, and only
      great risk, for crossing that line.

      Wil: It is ironic how a philosopher who has defended thought from
      calculation can have fallen to a political regime that did just the
      opposite. But, as Zizek has shown (Ticklish Subject, and elsewhere),
      this is perhaps not as surprising as all that. The search for
      beginnings with a sense of revival and destiny, but at the expense of
      the present which is seen as debased and compromised by agencies of
      superficiality has always been the eternal creed of rightwing
      conservative ideologies.

      Response: Yes, but not just rightwing conservative ideologies.
      Religious ideologies often compare the sinful present to some
      sinless `golden age' past.

      Wil: This 'original horizon of being' from which Heidegger seeks all
      kinds of succor is, in my humble opinion, an empty nothing, if it
      even can be said to have any meaning at all. As I said in another
      post, it is in History, in the real life of exigencies and duties,
      that Being is discovered. There is no 'covering over' of being, only
      the covering over of one's relation to other people.

      Response: Yes. Each of other has work to do to see through the
      propaganda of our age, to uncover the reality of our place in history
      (both local and global). We need to work hard to see the correct
      relationship required to our friends, neighbours and supposed enemies.

      Wil: That is not to say that Heidegger is not worth the effort to
      know. It would be stupid for me to say that he is "wrong".
      Heidegger's examinations are deep and brilliant, and he has had a
      huge impact on me, especially Being and Time.

      Response: Yes. For me, his greatest achievement was to uncover the
      false view of the human subject put forward by Descartes. Much
      current philosophy is still infected by the erroneous Cartesian

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