Sunday, February 26, 2006

Heidegger as Problem

In a recent comment on The Three Enlightenments, Gary Sauer-Thompson (of philosophical conversations) wrote:

Why exclude Heidegger? Is there not a significant portion of his work that could be rescued for you "pragmatist Enlightenment?

Of course there is "a significant portion of his work that could be rescued." But at what price?

One could "rescue" a good deal of Division I of Being and Time for the pragmatist Enlightenment. In the Anglo-American context, this would mean following in the footsteps of Hubert Dreyfus, Mark Okrent, Richard Rorty, and Taylor Carmen. In the Continental context, this would mean following in the footsteps of Derrida, Foucault, Levinas, or Nancy.

My difficulty here is this: why should be necessary to rescue something from Heidegger? What would we be rescuing Heidegger from? It strikes me that we would be rescuing Heidegger from himself: from Division II, from "Being-towards-death" and "resoluteness" and "authenticity". But without Division II, does Division I even make any sense?

One can play the game of reading the values and ideals of the pragmatist Enlightenment into Division I of B&T. I can do that. I'm very good at reading something I like into something else. But there comes a point where that's no more interesting or helpful than reading Taoism into quantum mechanics, or vice-versa.

What I'd like to be able to determine is not, "can we rescue something of value from Heidegger?" -- because it strikes me that that's trivially easy to do, and because it runs the risk of using Heidegger as a Rorschach test.

Rather, what I want to determine is, "what are some of the distinctive and important moves of Division I of Being and Time that aren't found in Dewey or Wittgenstein, or which are necessary for understanding Adorno, Marcuse or Foucault?" And "how else might Division II be read, apart from an anticipation of National Socialism?"

While I find Richard Wolin's attitude toward Heidegger bordering on the vituperative, his recent "Heidegger Made Kosher" at least raises the questions that must be raised if we are to come to terms with one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century.


Anonymous Yusef said...

I was very surprised that the Wolin article " Heidegger made Kosher" was mainly about Levinas.

When I learned that it was, I thought, " Aha, here is Wolin throwing below the belt again."

I don't like that guy. I don't think that Levinas has made Heidegger kosher, and I don't think Levinas deserves to be smeared that way.

I do not think that Heidegger was anti-semitic, as untenable as that comment may sound...

6:32 AM  

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