Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My New Philosophy

Ever since I heard the soundtrack to You're a Good Man Charlie Brown I was hooked. It catches so many aspects of Charles Schulz's comic in music that, for someone who loves musicals and Peanuts, it is a good piece of work. This clip of "My New Philosophy" is from the Tony Awards and includes part of "Happiness" and Kristin Chenoweth's acceptance of the 1999 Tony Award for the Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Enjoy and remember...clearly, some philosophies aren't for all people. (NOTE: it gets a little out of sync, so ignore that.)

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Resonance and Rice

What kind of patterns would emerge if you placed rice on a metal sheet that was vibrating because of progressively higher sound waves? If you've ever asked yourself this question check out this video:

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CRVP Books Online

I once stumbled on this site, promptly forgot it existed, and now stumbled on it again. So, instead of inevitably forgetting it until the next time I happen to stumble on it, I'll post it here for future reference/use. The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy has a book series titled Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change that is available online. The site describes the aim of this series as follows:
Today there is urgent need to search out human wisdom regarding the nature and dignity of the person, the goal of the transformation of our environment, and the relation of both to the quality of personal and social life.

Such studies must draw deeply upon the cultural and religious heritages of all peoples and develop new and creative modes of cooperation, marked by trust and justice, honest dedication and mutual concern.

The series is composed of 7 sections: Culture and Values, Africa and Islam, Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and North America, Latin America, Foundations of Moral Education, and International Society for Metaphysics. I don't know the quality of any of the works on this site, but here are a few that caught my eye: So, enjoy and feel free to report back if you've found something interesting and worthwhile.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On the Essence of Truth--The Essence of Freedom

4. The Essence of Freedom
From the analysis already given we have little reason to give much credence to these criticisms, though we must be prepared for “a transformation of thinking” as we address what is lacking. Addressing the essence of freedom demands that we now examine “the essence of man in a regard that assures us an experience of a concealed essential ground of man (of Dasein) [this “ground” being freedom], and in such a manner that the experience transposes us in advance into the originally essential domain of truth.” One of the surprising claims Heidegger will make is that, if anything, freedom possess man, not the other way around: freedom is the ground upon which man must stand or, better put, man is freedom (later, Ereignis). Freedom allows for “the [125] inner possibility of correctness” because its own essence is found in “the more original essence of uniquely essential truth” which is open comportment that presences beings (see 122).

Recall that freedom was first spoken of as “freedom for what is opened up in an open region.” That which is “opened up” are beings (see 121-122) and these beings appear only within an open comportment that ‘creates a space’ wherein beings can appear.3 As the ground of this opening, the essence of freedom consists in “letting beings be” as they are. We usually speak of “letting be” in a negative sense in terms of relinquishing action; we do not ‘deal’ with something, but simply ‘let it be.’ But the notion of freedom we’ve given here, in terms of presencing beings (i.e. making beings present in an opening), does not allow for this negative definition: “To let be is to engage oneself with beings.” By letting beings be, we are open to beings in such a way that the beings can appear as they are. In other words, freedom is the capacity to allow beings to appear as they are, not as we would want them to be or as some preconceived theory demands. No other ground would allow us to make beings “the standard for the presentative correspondence” (122) as any predetermination on how beings can appear would, by definition, not let them appear as they are. The necessity of this should be apparent.

In the beginning of philosophy, the term used for the “open region” was ta alethea, or (literally translated) the unconcealed (a-lethea). Our use of a literal translation is not capricious; rather the literal translation “contains the directive4 to rethink the ordinary concept of truth in the sense of the correctness of statements and to think it back to that still uncomprehended disclosedness and disclosure of beings.” Disclosing beings through open comportment is to engage with beings in such a way that one’s preconceptions (see 118-119) withdraw so that beings can “reveal themselves with respect to what and how they are, and in order that representative correspondence might take its standard from them.” If it were the case that beings could only appear as they are constrained by our preconceptions (perhaps in a Kantian sense), then we would be incapable of letting beings be and we could not allow beings the privilege of being the “standard” for propositions. This “letting-be,” then, is [126] “intrinsically exposing, ek-sistent,” it is essentially tied to that which is transcendent from itself--being/beings.

With this understanding, freedom is not mere capriciousness or the absence of constraint (negative freedom); “[p]rior to all this...freedom is engagement in the disclosure of beings as such.” The disclosing itself, in its ek-static character, is preserved in comportment and even defines what it is, as “the ‘there’ [‘Da’].” By being Da-sein (literally, there-being, or being-there), by being and establishing a “there” (a context), man is able to exist, not in the sense of simply being present at a spatiotemporal coordinate nor as “man’s moral endeavor on behalf of his ‘self,’ based on his psychophysical constitution” (possibly alluding to Sartre’s appropriation [or mis-appropriation] of Heidegger’s thought), but being “rooted in truth as freedom” through openness to the disclosure of “beings as such.” On this primordial ground, “the ek-sistence of historical man begins at the moment when the first thinker takes a questioning [i.e. open] stand with regard to the unconcealment of beings by asking: what are beings?” By thus opening himself up to beings and by directing himself to the world around him, “unconcealment is experienced for the first time.” Within this openness, “Being as a whole” is seen in terms of physis, but not yet understood in the sense of a “particular sphere of beings” through mathematics/science, but beings in their “upsurgent presence.” The openness that man is can only be efficacious if there is something that enters into that opening; being/physis, then, is that which exudes, that upsurges, that flows into the opening.[127]

If “ek-sistent Da-sein” is grounded in freedom as the essence of truth and letting beings be, then caprice has no place in freedom. Freedom is constrained by beings, by our ability to disclose beings as they are. Similarly, we cannot say that man “possess” freedom as the opposite is the case: as the “there” (Da) of its being (Sein), openness “possess man” as it “secures for humanity that distinctive relatedness to being as a whole as such” which makes man what he is. Freedom, as disclosure (as Heidegger will later put it, as appropriation [Ereignis]) of beings, makes man what he is; he is understood in terms of his comportment with beings--as a teacher among students, blackboards, lessons, assignments, etc.; as a construction worker among buildings, power tools, foremen, engineering, etc.; as a Christian among rites, scriptures, beliefs, etc.--and cannot ‘be’ anything apart from this comportment, apart from some context (Da). This contextuality is what binds together everything we’ve already discussed:

Freedom, understood as letting beings be, is the fulfillment and consummation of the essence of truth in the sense of the disclosure of beings. “Truth” is not a feature of correct propositions which are asserted of an “object” by a human “subject” and then “are valid” somewhere, in what sphere we know not. Rather, truth is disclosure of beings through which an openness essentially unfolds [west]. All human comportment and bearing are exposed in its open region. Therefore man is in the manner of ek-sistence.
Every comportment of man has this openness and directedness toward beings, which thing is possible only through “the restraint of letting-be”--freedom. Similarly, it is only on this ground that correspondence is possible: only if we can let beings appears as they are can we give them the priority needed in correspondence. If man is currently ek-sistent (and he cannot be any other way), then he now possesses man’s “essential possibilities” through “the disclosure of beings as a whole”; the basic openness to beings, found in comportment through freedom, is available to all and is even the ground of history itself. It is the manner in which truth is unfolded through comportment at various points in history that creates an epoch, but the essence of comportment remains the same (which has been forgotten in technology). It is because things have been unconcealed as ‘resources’ that the ‘atomic age’ came about through such things as the Industrial Revolution (though, as we have seen, this manner of unconcealing began at least in the theism of the Middle Ages [see 118-119]).

If we understand truth’s essence as freedom, we must also admit to the possibility that “man can, in letting beings be, also not let beings be the beings which they are and as they are.” In this case, beings are covered (lethe) and mere “semblance” is made possible--a being can appear like something else in its appearing. “In [freedom] the nonessence of truth comes to the fore.” Since “ek-sistent freedom” is not [128] a property of man (see 127), as this ecstatic (etymologically--being outside oneself; ek--out--and stasis--place) freedom is itself what facilitates his historical mode of being, truth’s “nonessence” does not first appear because of man’s “incapacity and negligence” but derives its very essence from truth itself. In fact, it is because truth and untruth “belong together”5 that we can compare a true proposition with a false proposition. We now begin to see truth in a more essential way by including untruth in its essence; untruth does not fulfill this essential role by filling in gaps, but it plays an important role in “an adequate posing of the question concerning the essence of truth.” We have moved in our discussion from correctness (as the “usual concept of truth”) to the need of ecstatic (ek-sistent) comportment (which essentially includes man and being) to the place of freedom (which allows beings to appear as they are) and now we need to examine how untruth belongs to truth and freedom. Heidegger gives us a hint: “If the essence of truth is not exhausted by the correctness of the statement [requiring, as we have seen, presencing by open comportment which is made possible by freedom], then neither can untruth be equated with the incorrectness of judgments.”


  1. A comment from “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” might help us understand Heidegger’s point:
    We call this openness that grants a possible letting-appear and show “opening.” In the history of language the German word Lichtung is a translation derived from the French clairiere. It is formed in accordance with the older words Waldung (foresting) and Feldung> (fielding).

    The forest clearing (or opening) is experienced in contrast to dense forest, called Dickung in our older language. The substantive “opening” [Lichtung] goes back to the verb “open” [lichten]. The adjective licht “open” is the same word as “light.” To open something means: To make something light, free and open, e.g., to make the forest free of trees at one place. The openness thus originating is the clearing. What is light in the sense of being free and open has nothing in common with the adjective “light,” meaning “bright”--neither linguistically nor factually. This is to be observed for the difference between openness and light. Still, it is possible that a factual relation between the two exists. Light can stream into the clearing, into its openness, and let brightness play with darkness in it. But light never first creates openness. Rather, light presupposes openness. However, the clearing, the opening, is not only free for brightness and darkness, but also for resonance and echo, for sounding and the diminishing of sound. The clearing is the open region for everything that becomes present and absent.
    Joan Stambaugh, trans., in On Time and Being (New York: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 65.

    Light cannot penetrate a dense forest; a clearing, or opening, is needed for the light to appear. As such, man is the opening in which beings appear, the clearing that being can enter.

  2. Heidegger is not dabbling in ‘word mysticism,’ but is being consistent with his own philosophy: he is letting language direct him towards being. Aletheia is one term that the ancients used to discuss truth (or, as the later Heidegger viewed it, the essence of truth [i.e. open comportment]) and perhaps, as is the nature of language, it is directing us towards being in a certain way, allowing us to see being more primordially. A critic, then, must not focus on Heidegger’s drawing upon ancient Greek itself and his (often) poor etymology, but either on Heidegger’s understanding of language or what the Greek shows (i.e. makes present) in relation to beings and truth.

  3. In “The Principle of Identity,” Heidegger differentiates between “belonging together” (Zusammengehören) and “belonging together” (Zusammengehören). In the former we understand the “belonging” in terms of the “together,” as in just about anything can be placed in the vicinity of each other and hence can be “together.” On the other hand, when we understand the “together” in terms of the “belonging,” we see a tighter essential connection between the two, that they “belong” in their togetherness, or perhaps that they are ‘at home’ with one another (Identity and Difference, Joan Stambaugh, trans. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 29-30). It is the second essential belonging together that Heidegger means here--truth and untruth essentially belong together.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On the Essence of Truth--The Ground of the Possibility of Correctness

3. The Ground of the Possibility of Correctness
Heidegger next asks the question: “How can something like the accomplishment of a pregiven directedness [i.e. comportment] occur?” The answer lies in freedom: “To free oneself for a binding directedness is possible only by being free for what is opened up in an open region... The essence of truth is freedom.” This is a notion of freedom that has thus far been “uncomprehended” in the history of philosophy; most discussion of freedom is spoken of in terms of ‘freedom from’ (or ‘negative freedom’), leaving us with the question of what is freedom for (‘positive freedom’)? For Heidegger, this means that existential freedom is an ubiquitous but ‘unthought’ ontological assumption within philosophy. As an existential ground for truth, freedom in this sense must be present in every truthful utterance or proposition. But Heidegger is not claiming that freedom is “an unconstrained act” of giving or receiving a proposition, as if freedom were restricted to such actions. Rather, “freedom is the essence of truth”; just as comportment grounds the possibility of accordance, freedom is the ground for the possibility of comportment. Hence, “essence” means “the ground of the inner possibility of what is initially and generally admitted as known [i.e. correctness].”

Does Heidegger mean that truth is merely a subjective whim based on “human caprice”? [124] It appears as if truth has been “driven back to the subjectivity of the human subject,” losing its connection with the world. This possibility is strengthened when we readily admit that all sorts of falsehood--“deceit and dissimulation, lies and deception, illusion and semblance”--are attributable to humans. Previously, though, we defined truth in relation to accordance, so referencing the human basis of error seems irrelevant: “This human origin of untruth indeed only serves to confirm by contrast the essence of truth ‘in itself’ as holding sway ‘beyond’ man,” perhaps in some “imperishable and eternal” world. Truth seems to exist in some extra-human world, perhaps in the intellectus divinus or, as more recent theorists propose, in independently existing propositions/universals. But this resistance to freedom as the essence of truth “is based on preconceptions, the most obstinate of which is that freedom is a property of man.” Since “[e]veryone knows what man is,” any further questioning seems unnecessary. Here we see the same roadblocks that we had in relation to truth: stubborn “common sense” and an indifference to the question.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

A Plethora of Online Books

My wife, wonderful woman that she is, found this site: The Online Books Page, sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Library. The topics range from Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion to the Social Sciences to Education to Language and Literature to Science. You can find works by Kant, Nietzsche, Plato, Mill, Confucius, Bergson, and on and on and on. You can find books on logic, hermeneutics, psychoanalysis, the Bible, Buddhism, physics, and on and on and on. This could be a useful resource.

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I'm in the Philosopher's Carnival

The Philosopher's Carnival "aims to showcase the best philosophical posts from a wide range of weblogs." My post, What Good is Philosophy?, got accepted into Carnival #30, hosted by anniemiz. Check it out!

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Merleau-Ponty Resources

Given my interests in psychology, philosophy of mind, and embodiment, I have found Merleau-Ponty's thought to be incredibly thought provoking and useful. However, it can sometimes be hard to find good Merleau-Ponty sources. I attribute this to at least two reasons, the second stemming from the first: people tend to 1) emphasize his Husserlian roots and 2) forget his Heideggerian roots. I will admit that my own acceptance of these reasons stem from a claim given by one of my old professors, Mark Wrathall, who's class introduced me to Merleau-Ponty. Wrathall thinks that Merleau-Ponty's attribution of primacy to Husserl in his Introduction to Phenomenology of Perception is more of a political move than not, showing his distaste for Heidegger's Soviet Socialist affiliations. My own reading (siding with Mark Wrathall, Hubert Dreyfus, Sean Kelly, etc.) seems to validate this belief: Merleau-Ponty is thoroughly Heideggerian, and secondarily Husserlian. This is a point of contention in some circles of Merleau-Pontian scholarship, so I will leave it at this and let the reader decide for herself/himself.

Here are a number of links and online papers that I've personally found useful in understanding and applying Merleau-Ponty's thought in my own studies:

In addition to the above, I believe that Alva Noë's work on embodied cognition is quite close to what Merleau-Ponty is trying to say. I would also suggest Samuel Todes' Body and World as a good advancement on certain aspects of Merleau-Ponty's thought.


  1. Flynn appears to accept Merleau-Ponty's acceptance of Husserl over Heidegger. This is a particularly telling statement that simultaneously diminishes Heidegger's influence and misunderstands Heidegger's claim: "Unlike Heidegger, he does not have a dismissive attitude towards science, namely, that it 'does not think' or that it is merely calculation." Practically every mention of Heidegger is made to differentiate his thought from Merleau-Ponty's. Again, there is disagreement on this matter.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Heidegger Lexicons

One of the initial difficulties of understanding Heidegger is his rather cryptic neologistic terminology. With terms like Ge-Stell and Er-eignis that have strong etymological bases but are foreign to even an extensive German lexicon, Heidegger can be just as frustrating for a native German speaker as an English speaker (I honestly don’t know who has it easier, if either does). So, here are a few lexicons (taken from Ereignis) on Heidegger’s terminology to consult as you mine his difficult works:

You can also find lexicons in various works, like at the end of Inwood’s Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction, A Heidegger Dictionary, the Index of Greek and Latin terms at the end of Theodore Kisiel’s The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time, and lexicons at the end of his translated works, such as The Basic Problems of Phenomenology and Introduction to Metaphysics. Lastly, there are various papers written on different terms, like Stimmung/mood, Eigentlichkeit/authenticity, aletheia/truth, etc. There are a wealth of resources available to the novice and advanced student of Heidegger, you just need to know where to look.


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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Monty Python's International Philosophy Soccer Match

Was just browsing the videos at YouTube and found this fun Monty Python clip--philosophers playing soccer, the Greeks against the Germans, with Confucius as referee. Enjoy!

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Online Works by Paul Ricoeur

I've been trying to find online texts from Paul Ricoeur for some time. One day, a few weeks ago, I decided to try again and, despite previous failures, found a small selection. First, though, some introductory links:

Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005) (from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Paul Ricoeur (from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Paul Ricoeur (from Mythos and Logos)

With that, here are the works that I have found:

Becoming Capable, Being Recognized (Ricoeur's acceptance speach given at the Library of Congress for the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities [a cyber-cast can be found here])

Essays on Biblical Interpretation (a book published in 1980 and made available online by Religion Online)

An excerpt from The Course of Recognition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005)

Memory, History, Forgiveness: A Dialogue Between Paul Ricoeur and Sorin Antohi (published through Janus Head)

Response by Paul Ricoeur: Philosophy and Liberation (a response to Enrique Dussel's Hermeneutics and Liberation; Dussel responds here)

If anyone else knows of other online works by Ricoeur, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.


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Omitted Translation in "The Principle of Identity"

Lately I've been working on an interlinear version of Heidegger's “The Principle of Identity” (found in Identity and Difference, Joan Stambaugh, trans. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1969)). In the process I discovered that Stambaugh did not translate two sentences (in bold):
Der Name für die Versammlung des Herausforderns, das Mensch und Sein einander so zu-stellt, daβ sie sich wechselweise stellen, lautet: das Ge-Stell. Man hat sich an diesem Wortgebrauch gestoβen. Aber wir sagen statt «stellen» auch «setzen» und finden nichts dabei, daβ wir das Wort Ge-setz gebrauchen. Warum also nicht auch Ge-Stell, wenn der Blick in den Sachverhalt dies verlangt?
“Der Satz der Identität,” 99.
The first sentence is translated as follows:
The name for the gathering of this challenge which places man and Being face to face in such a way that they challenge each other by turns is “the framework.”
As my German is sub-par, I emailed one of my old professors (who asked to be anonymous). He proposed that Stambaugh probably didn't translate these sentences because “they are a reflection [on] the neologism Ge-Stell that is very difficult to render into English” (Anonymous (personal communication), Thursday, May 18, 2006 10:15 AM). Stambaugh admits as much in the following footnote:
Framework or Frame (Ge-Stell) and event of appropriation (Er-eignis) are perhaps the two key words in this lecture. They are extremely difficult to translate. “Ge-Stell” in the sense in which Heidegger uses it does not belong to common language. In German, “Berg” means a mountain, “Geberge” means a chain or group of mountains. In the same way “Ge-Stell” is the unity (but not a unity in the sense of a general whole subsuming all particulars under it) of all the activities in which the verb “stellen” (place, put, set) figures: vor-stellen (represent, think), stellen (challenge), ent-stellen (disfigure), nach-stellen (to be after someone, pursue him stealthily), sicher-stellen (to make certain of something).
“Introduction,” in Identity and Difference, 14.
With that, my professor proposed the following “rough translation”:
One takes exception to this use of words. But we say instead of “place” (stellen) also “put” (setzen) and think nothing about the fact that we use the word “Ge-setz” (law). Therefore why not also Ge-Stell, when the view into the facts demands this?
Anonymous (personal communication).
Here, then, Heidegger seems to be making a case for his use of the neologism Ge-Stell, despite its non-existence in German. Then again, what else can he do when the idea that he is proposing cannot be adequately understood with already-existing terms that themselves are probably infused with the metaphysical worldview that he is critiquing? Such is a danger of letting “the matter speak for itself” (“The Principle of Identity,” 29)--it might speak something that is quite foreign to our usual concepts.

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On the Essence of Truth--The Inner Possibility of Accordance

2. The Inner Possibility of Accordance
We speak of accordance in a number of ways: two coins on the table can be said to accord because they materially resemble each other, both in composition and form. But we also speak of accordance when we say, “The coin is round.” But how does the proposition accord with the object? It obviously cannot be like the first correspondence, that they are materially similar:
Now the relation obtains, not between thing and thing, but rather between a statement and a thing. But wherein are the thing and the statement supposed to be in accordance, considering that the relata are manifestly different in their outward appearance? The coin is made of metal. The statement is not material at all. The coin is round. The statement has nothing at all spatial about it. With the coin something can be purchased. The statement about it is never a means of payment.
We then ask the question: “How can what is completely dissimilar, the statement, correspond to the coin?” [121] The proposition could not become the coin without changing its nature; we must retain the proposition as a proposition. So, the relation must consist in something else; unless we can make this relation explicit then all talk of correspondence is meaningless.

The proposition “relates ‘itself’ to the thing in that it presents [vor-stellt] it and says of the presented how, according to the particular perspective that guides it, it is disposed.” “[T]o present” means to let the thing stand out as an object, as something (or some thing)--as a dog, as a mathematical equation, as a piece of art, etc. As it stands out, the object also “withstands” or is “opposed” to me: it is there, opposite me, and presents itself in its solidarity, singularity, and presence.2 Furthermore, this object only appears “within an open region” that precedes the appearing, which region is defined as “a domain of relatedness.” Within this domain entities are related and contextualized in terms of human comportments: the hammer is intelligible in the domain of construction, nails, wood, needs/desires (for shelter, convenience, as a job), etc. from which it gains its identity and meaning. From the above, the relation between the proposition and the thing is “the accomplishment” of the presencing (or making present) of the being through comportment.

Comportment is understood in terms of its ‘adherence’ to something, [122] namely what is made present, or “being.” Unlike Husserlian comportment that is related to subjective sense data, Heidegger sees comportment as being essentially towards beings that transcend the individual and her consciousness. “Every relatedness is a comportment,” or every relatedness is a gathering together of beings into a context whereby they are not made merely spatially present (spatial coordination to the other objects is not even necessary), but they are related in their manner of being--the hammer’s hardness is related to the hardness of the nails and wood, which is related to the nature of construction/building, etc. How man comports towards beings depends on the beings he is directing himself towards and the manner of his comportment. For example, hammers and pens each allow for different uses, hence they each determine how I can use them; similarly, the mode of my comportment will vary if I am playing soccer rather than playing chess, as each requires a different way of relating to the world (and confusing them will cause problems in doing either). It is only in this “open region” of comportment that beings first appear, which itself is a necessary precursor to saying things--making propositions--about beings.

This can occur only if beings present themselves along with the representative statement so that the latter subordinates itself to the directive that it speaks of beings such-as they are. In following such a directive the statement conforms to beings.
A statement can be “correct” only insofar as it opens up a region (and occurs within an open region; one must inhabit an open region in order to open up another region), through comportment, in which beings can appear in the manner prescribed by the statement. “Open comportment must let itself be assigned this standard,” even prior to any “pregiven standard for all presenting” (compare 117-119). Since this open comportment is itself the ground for the appearing of beings, of making propositions about beings, and the correctness of a proposition, then comportment itself “must with more original right be taken as the essence of truth.” Not only this, but open comportment also aligns us with the privative meaning of aletheia--the active un-concealing of beings, the presencing of that which is remote--which is missing from the usual understanding of truth. With this more primordial understanding, the traditional assumption that truth essentially deals with propositions is fundamentally faulty: “Truth does not originally reside in the proposition,” but necessarily comes both before and after it; before, because beings must appear prior to our propositions, and after, because the truth of the proposition itself depends on comportment making beings present (presencing beings). But this raises another question concerning the ground of this “inner possibility of correctness,” whereby it itself is made possible. [123]


  1. This is the resistance of the “earth” to being controlled by a “world,” or the excess of beings in terms of any way we can make them “present” (see “Origin of the Work of Art”). It withstands any attempt to dominate it, or subsume it under a single interpretation. Within this lecture, this shows itself in terms of “untruth” and the “mystery of being.”

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Alva Noë's Action in Perception

Over at Psyche: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Consciousness they have a Symposia on Alva Noë's Action in Perception. Included is a précis of the work by Noë himself and comments by Andy Clark, Pierre Jacob, Jesse Prinz, and Mark Rowlands (with Charles Siewert coming soon). I personally find Noë's work to be very informative and philosophically interesting; certainly a must-read for those who are dissatisfied with traditional approaches to philosophy of mind.

Other related symposia are Mack and Rock's Inattentional Blindness and Milner and Goodale's The Visual Brain in Action.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On the Essence of Truth--The Usual Concept of Truth

1. The Usual Concept of Truth
We ordinarily understand truth as “what [117] makes a true thing true.” From this, “[t]he true is the actual.” For example, we can detect true gold from fools gold because the latter is “merely a ‘semblance’,” it only looks like gold, whereas true gold actually is gold. But we cannot base our understanding in terms of ‘actuality’ since the fools gold also is also something “actual,” even if it is not “genuine” gold. What, then, do the terms “genuine” and “true” mean? It is often spoken of in terms of “accordance”--that the object conforms to our understanding of what “gold” is.
Genuine gold is that actual gold the actuality of which is in accordance [in der Übereinstimmung steht] with what, always and in advance, we “properly” mean by “gold.” Conversely, wherever we suspect false gold, we say: “Here something is not in accord” [stimmt nicht]. On the other hand, we say of whatever is “as it should be”: “It is in accord.” The matter is in accord [Die S a c h e stimmt].
This raises another issue: we do not only call facts/objects (“the matter”) “true,” but also “our statements about beings.” Thus, a proposition is true if “what it means and says is in accordance with the matter about which the statement is made.” But in this case, contrary to our previous exposition, it is the proposition, not the matter, that is “in accord.” Whereas before we were concerned with whether an object itself is genuine or false according to some established criteria, now we are concerned with whether a proposition that is about an object is genuine or false. Truth, then, is seen in a double relationship: first, that an object accords with a previously understood meaning, and second, that a proposition accords with an object.

Understanding this double nature, truth is that which “accords” in two senses: “on the one hand, the consonance [Einstimmigkeit] of a matter with what is supposed in advance regarding it and, on the other hand, the accordance of what is meant in the statement with the matter.” This is seen in “the traditional definition of truth: veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectūs.” [118] While this is traditionally translated as “truth is the adequation of intellect to thing,” this translation only makes sense on the basis of the “adequation of thing to intellect” (the more literal translation). Either way, both conceptions about “the essence of veritas have continually in view a conforming to... [Sichrichten nach...), and hence think truth as correctness [Richtigkeit].”

We need to understand that these two notions of truth are not mere inversions: depending on which translation we focus on the intellectus and res have different meanings. In its medieval manifestation, the adequation of thing to intellect is not a Kantian transcendental unity of apperception, but the Christian notion that the object, as a creation (ens creatum) of God, “corresponds to the idea preconceived in the intellectus divinus, i.e., in the mind of God, and thus measures up to the idea (is correct) and in this sense is ‘true.’” For the God who micromanages, as he does in traditional Christian thought, this means that everything--every object, event, being, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential--accomplishes some divine intent, some divine telos by virtue of being created by God. The human mind, as a gift from God, must also be adequate according to God’s intent and this intent is only realized in “the correspondence of what is thought to the matter” which, ultimately, returns to the ideas of God. In this way, the human intellect must be able to correspond to the matter in the same way as God’s ideas/intents, “on the basis of the unity of the divine plan of creation.” An object’s ‘true’ meaning depends on where that object fits within God’s plan; it is ordered in terms of the divine intention. With this understanding, “veritas essentially im-[119]plies convenientia, the coming of beings themselves, as created, into agreement with the Creator, an ‘accord’ with regard to the way they are determined in the order of creation.”

This, then, can be generalized: the theologically motivated understanding of creation can be replaced by “the capacity of all objects to be planned by means of a worldly reason [Weltvernunft] which supplies the law for itself and thus also claims that its procedure is immediately intelligible (what is considered ‘logical’).” With this teleological interpretation of the medieval conception of adaequatio rei ad intellectum, truth itself needs no more elucidation: correctness is essentially established by the intent of the agent; even material entities are correct only as they accord “with the ‘rational’ concept of its essence.” This interpretation seems to be far removed from questions of “the Being of all beings” and, thus, it seems to have a self-evident (or fundamental) feel to it: it apparently occurs prior to the question of being (it certainly does in its theological basis) and thus seems to escape any ontological commitments. This is seen in many modern approaches to rationality: it is the formal gateway through which all ontologies must pass, hence it is temporally and logically prior to all existence(s). Furthermore, it seems to account for the fact of untruth: untruth is “the nonaccordance of the statement with the matter.” Since truth is defined by its accordance, any discussion of truth itself can safely ignore the question of untruth. This notion, as Heidegger will later argue, misses the fundamental connection between truth and untruth, concealing their ontological intertwining. It is also worth pointing out the precursors of ‘technology’ in the above: the reduction of the essence of beings to their telic use, as ‘resources’ that are utilized through ‘planning.’

But where can we go from here when this conception of truth [120] seems to be fundamental and “obvious”? In seeing the theological ground for this notion of truth, even “the philosophical definition completely pure of all admixture of theology” is seen as “an old--though not the oldest--tradition of thinking.” With such a pedigree, what is still “worthy of question”? Fundamentally, we have yet to question the notion and nature of the “accordance of a statement with the matter.”

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What Did Mathematics Do to Physics?

When I was looking for information concerning anschaulich views in physics, I stumbled on Yves Gingras’ “What Did Mathematics Do to Physics?,” in History of Science 39, 4/126 (2001), 383-416 (can be found online here). It examines how the mathematization of physics (begun by Newton) revolutionized how physics was done. Here is his conclusion:
In this paper, I have tried to show that the mathematization of physics had long-term social, epistemological and ontological effects on the discipline. A similar analysis could be made of the famous debate concerning the non-visualizability of quantum mechanical phenomena in the 1920s. One would then see that it was strictly analogous to the debate over vortices or the ether, for the disappearance of these substances had the effect of making gravitation and light propagation hardly anschaulich: their understanding depended essentially on mathematical formalisms.155 Thus it is not very surprising that David Bohm, a strong advocate of a ‘realist’ (a better word would be ‘substantialist’) interpretation of quantum mechanics, wrote in the mid-1980s that “the current emphasis on mathematics has gone too far” and that “physics may have taken a wrong direction in giving so much emphasis to its formalism”.156 Though Bohm’s views were very marginal at the time,157 they remind us, in the end, that the question of the relationship between physics and mathematics is still being debated158 and one could fruitfully follow its effects in contemporary physics.159 And since there is no reason to think that these effects were limited to physics, the framework of analysis suggested here could be used to look at the effects of mathematics on other disciplines like chemistry and biology. From J. J. Sylvester and A. Cayley in the 1870s, who used advanced mathematics to understand molecules and isomers, to the emergence of quantum chemistry and mathematical biology, mathematics has had the tendency of redirecting the focus of inquiry towards the relational character of the elements, thus contributing to the transformation of concepts and practices.160

But only a more detailed analysis could show that the desubstantialization of matter was directly related to the mathematization process itself which distanced the meaning of the concepts from their original intuitive referents. Through their formal manipulation as mathematical symbols, concepts thus acquired a relational definition and lost their original substantial quality while gaining in generality.161


  1. Arthur I. Miller, “Redefining anschaulichkeit”, in Abner Shimony and Herman Feshbach (eds), Physics and natural philosophy (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), 376–411; Daniel Serwer, “Unmechanischer zwang: Pauli, Heisenberg, and the rejection of the mechanical atom, 1923–1925”, Historical studies in the physical sciences, viii (1977), 189–256.
  2. David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, order, and creativity (New York, 1987), 7, 9.
  3. Bohm’s view are now undergoing a revival; see Peter R. Holland, The quantum theory of motion (Cambridge, 1993), and Russell Olwell, “Physical isolation and marginalization in physics: David Bohm’s cold war exile”, Isis, xc (1999), 738–56.
  4. For a recent critique of the lack of physical explanations in the modern mathematical approach to physics, see Daniel Athearn, Scientific nihilism: On the loss and recovery of physical explanation (Albany, 1994).
  5. For very recent examples, see Nature, cccciv, issue of 2 March 2000, 28–29; Science, cclxxxvii, issue of 7 January 2000, 49–50.
  6. See, for example, Karen Hunger Parshall, “Chemistry through invariant theory? James Joseph Sylvester’s mathematization of the atomic theory”, in Paul H. Therman and Karen Hunger Parshall (eds), Experiencing nature (Dordrecht, 1997), 81–111; Ana Simoes and Kostas Gavroglu, “Quantum chemistry qua applied mathematics: The contributions of Charles Alfred Coulson (1910–1974)”, Historical studies in the physical and biological sciences, xxix (1999), 363–406, and idem, “Quantum chemistry in Great Britain: Developing a mathematical framework for quantum chemistry”, Studies in history and philosophy of modern physics, xxxi (2000), 511–48; Giorgio Israel, “The emergence of biomathematics and the case of population dynamics: A revival of mechanical reductionism and darwinism”, Science in context, vi (1993), 469–509.
  7. Yves Gingras, “La substance évanescente de la physique” (ref. 16).
I do not doubt that someone other than myself will find this incredibly interesting. It is quite pertinent to understanding the development of Western thought.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

On the Essence of Truth--Introduction

The more I read Heidegger’s work the more I realize that his understanding of ‘truth’ is central to understanding his thought as a whole, particularly his later work. As such I want to inaugurate my posting of summaries and commentaries by starting with Heidegger’s On the Essence of Truth (all page references [bolded numbers] taken from John Sallis’ translation in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, David Farrell Krell, ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), 111-138). Many of my own current interests stem from Heideggerian aletheia, so a close study of this work will be good exercise for myself and (hopefully) a good introduction for others.

[NOTE: This is an ongoing project and will be posted by section in line with Heidegger's own work. Also, this is a work-in-progress, so I may make some changes to already-posted sections; I'll let you know if/when that happens.]

Written in 1943 (about a decade after Heidegger’s “turn”), “On the Essence of Truth” stands at a changing point in Heidegger’s understanding of truth, directing us back to his exposition in Being and Time and pointing forward to his reformulation of the idea in “Time and Being” and “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking.” This is seen particularly in his exposition of truth as “freedom” and his discussion of “errancy” and “forgetfulness” (both important for understanding Heidegger’s elucidation of the rise and [possible] ‘end’ of “technology”). Heidegger primarily deals with the correspondence/representational views of truth, attempting to ground it in something more primordial--the appearing of entities.

[115]We are discussing “the essence of truth”; not the (ontic) question of the truth of science, of art, or even that of belief, but what truth itself is (ontologically). Some might think that this too abstract; aren’t we depriving truth of its real-world relevance when we push it to such a level of generalization? A philosophy that “turns to what is actual [ontology] must surely from the first insist bluntly on establishing the actual truth that today gives us a measure and a stand against the confusion of opinions and reckonings” (emphasis mine). Here we are thinking of science or modern epistemology with their ‘methods’ for determining and validating the nature of entities: through experimentation, normative rules, verification, logical coherence, etc. While no one can avoid “the evident certainty” of this claim or the seriousness with which it is given, [116] this demand inherently rejects the “essential knowledge” of beings, or philosophy.

“[C]ommon sense” has its own peculiar kind of “necessity” because it appeals to “the ‘obviousness’ of its claims and considerations,” for why should we doubt what ‘everyone’ (das Man) knows? But philosophy itself is defenseless against such, if only for the fact that “common sense” lacks the ability to hear what philosophy has to say. The average person does not want to be questioned, to be excised from their comfortable everyday understanding of things; allow them to be content with what everyone knows, that which does not need to be questioned because it is “obvious.”

[W]e ourselves remain within the sensibleness of common sense to the extent that we suppose ourselves to be secure in those multiform “truths” of practical experience and action, of research, composition, and belief. We ourselves intensify that resistance which the “obvious” has to every demand made by what is questionable.
Because of this, even if do question truth, we want to know “where we stand today” on the issue (compare 115); we want to start with the question of how our current notion of truth developed historically (through “research, composition, and belief”). We look at what philosophers and scientists are saying now and catalogue the possibilities that they have given, trying to find the strongest case among them. In doing so, “we call for the goal that should be posited for man in and for his history” by looking for the “actual ‘truth’” in what has already been accomplished. By putting things in these terms, we intimate that we already know “what truth as such means” and we think that we already have a grasp of it “today,” hence our appeal to the current situation. By looking closer at “where we stand today,” what we already know, what “common sense” dictates, truth is known only “in a general way” and the insistence that we already know what truth means shows our “indifference” to the question.1 Such are the roadblocks that an examination of the essence of truth comes up against: stubborn “common sense” and a resultant indifference to the question.


  1. No doubt the philosophers who may read this will think (perhaps ironically, from Heidegger’s point of view) that this claim is patently false: surely ‘truth theory’ in the last century has amounted to more than a “vague” or “general” understanding of truth. Given Heidegger’s approach to philosophy, this may not be the case: much of 20th century thought on the issue of truth all began from the wrong ground, whether that be logic/rationalism, empiricism, or scientism. By ignoring the question of being, and with it the question of man, modern thought on the question of truth will largely amount to vague generalities that are truly ungrounded. For Heidegger, only a thought that is grounded in being can bring truth-itself to light.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Heidegger on God's Existence

I was reading through the "Letter on Humanism" and found this interesting quote. The context is Heidegger's discussion of man's being as being-in-the-world and its consequences.
With the existential determination of the essence of man, therefore, nothing is decided about the "existence of God" or his "non-being," no more than about the possibility of gods. Thus it is not only rash but also an error in procedure to maintain that the interpretation of the essence of man from the relation of his essence to the truth of Being is atheism. And what is more, this arbitrary classification betrays a lack of careful reading. No one bothers to notice that in my essay "On the Essence of Ground" the following appears: "Through the ontological interpretation of Dasein as being-in-the-world no decision, whether positive or negative, is made concerning a possible being toward God. It is, however, the case that through an illumination of transcendence we first achieve an adequate concept of Dasein, with respect to which it can now be asked how the relationship of Dasein to God is ontologically ordered." If we think about this remark too quickly, as is usually the case, we will declare that such a philosophy does not decide either for or against the existence of god. It remains stalled in indifference. Thus it is unconcerned with the religious question. Such indifferentism ultimately falls prey to nihilism.

But does the foregoing observation teach indifferentism? Why then are particular words in the note italicized--and not just random ones? For no other reason than to indicate that the thinking that thinks from the question concerning the truth of Being questions more primordially than metaphysics can. Only from the truth of Being can the essence of the holy be thought. Only from the essence of the holy is the essence of the divine to be thought. Only in the light of the essence of divinity can it be thought or said what the word "God" is to signify. Or should we not first be able to hear and understand all these words carefully if we are to be permitted as men, that is, as ek-sistent creatures, to experience a relation of God to man? How can man at the present stage of world history ask at all seriously and rigorously whether the god nears or withdraws, when he has above all neglected to think into the dimension in which alone that question can be asked? But this is the dimension of the holy, which indeed remains closed as a dimension if the open region of Being is not cleared and in its clearing is near man. Perhaps what is distinctive about this world-epoch consists in the closure of the dimension of the hale [des Heilen]. Perhaps that is the sole malignancy [Unheil].
"Letter on Humanism," in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), 253-254.

Heidegger's thought is not essentially atheistic, whatever his own religious leanings. However, his thought does elucidate the very grounds on which we can think of the divine: in terms of man's understanding, his being, which must be a factor in the God-man relationship. If we misunderstand man's essential nature then we will also misunderstand his relationship to the divine (as we will his relationship to everything else). Indeed, how can we seriously question the existence of God (whether he "nears or withdraws") when we ignore the very grounds on which that question rests, the very grounds on which such questioning is possible--man's essential relationship with being?
But man's distinctive feature lies in this, that he, as the being who thinks, is open to Being, face to face with Being; thus man remains referred to Being and so answers to it. Man is essentially this relationship of responding to Being, and he is only this. This "only" does not mean a limitation, but rather an excess.
"The Principle of Identity," Identity and Difference, Joan Stambaugh, trans. (New York: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 31.
Such thinking, in the wake of Heidegger's philosophy, has begun in the works of Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Marion, John Caputo, and Adriaan Peperzak. As with Heidegger's later work on ontology itself, the answer seems to lie in that which is 'beyond being.'

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Friday, May 05, 2006

So, You Want to Understand Heidegger?

Here’s a brief reading list, from the more introductory to the more difficult, for those who want to understand Heidegger better. First, though, you might ask yourself, “Why should I study Heidegger?” Here is a list of reasons that stand out in my mind (and I’m sure more could be given):
  1. Heidegger stands among the most prominent and important 20th century philosophers (often coupled with Wittgenstein).
  2. Heidegger has influenced many prominent thinkers in various fields:
    1. Psychology—Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre, R.D. Laing, Rollo May, Medard Boss.
    2. Philosophy—Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, Emmanuel Levinas.
    3. Hermeneutics—Rudolf Bultmann, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Derrida, Paul Ricoeur, Jürgen Habermas.
    4. Political Theory—Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt.
    5. Anthropology—Clifford Geertz, Tim Ingold.
    6. Theology—Paul Tillich, Jean-Luc Marion, John D. Caputo.
  3. Heidegger is a major figure in the phenomenological/humanistic tradition, which has had a profound effect on modern culture.
  4. Heidegger’s thought, though difficult, is rewarding.
Given Heidegger’s widespread influence, anyone wishing to educate themselves in 20th century thought can benefit from mining his philosophy. Furthermore, understanding what he was attempting to accomplish, including how his goals and conclusions differed from those whom he influenced, is important for gaining a richer understanding of how many contemporary schools of thought (hermeneutics, deconstruction, postmodernism, etc.) developed.

With that in mind, here is my list of secondary works for those who are interested in learning about Martin Heidegger’s thought, placing them in preferred reading order:

As you read through the above, I would suggest the following order for Heidegger’s own works: After you’ve gotten your feet wet with Inwood, Polt, and Mulhall and Basic Problems and Being and Time, what you study next will depend on what facets of Heidegger’s thought interest you. You will find more difficult expositions of Heidegger’s thought in Dreyfus, Wrathall, and Richardson, Wrathall's being a good transition into Heidegger’s later thought and Pattison and Young’s works. Within Krell and Lovitt you will find works that range from the essence of art to the essence of science/technology. In Fundamental Concepts and you will be able to better see Heidegger’s “turn” (Kehre) to language and poetics in the early 1930s, as seen in Introduction to Metaphysics, The Question Concerning Technology, and Poetry, Language, Thought. With this foundation, you can become informed about Heidegger's thought and, if desired, you can continue through his later works and more difficult commentaries. Whatever reading you will do, you will see (and thus must keep in mind) Heidegger’s central concern: the “question of being.”

P.S. If anyone has any suggestions, corrections, or comments on this list either in terms of content or order, please let me know.


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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Colbert 'Roasts' Bush

I usually avoid politics, but this was too priceless to pass up. On April 29, 2006, Stephen Colbert of the The Colbert Report 'roasted' Bush in every positive and negative (metaphorical) sense of the term at the White House Correspondents Dinner. In the midst of political officials, military (and ex-military) figures, and celebrities Colbert gave a slew of highly satirical comments concerning the Bush Administration and Bush himself, ranging from low approval ratings, the 'liberal' media, and the so-called "War on Iraq." While some of his deliveries got a great degree of laughter from the audience, much of his presentation (particularly the last half) resulted in either half-hearted nervous laughter or silence. Needless to say, his 'biting' humor did not go down well with most of the attendees, including Bush himself.

You can find Colbert's presentation online in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. On Comedy Central, Colbert gave a quick plug for his presentation and his video application for Press Secretary (both can be found here).

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What Good is Philosophy?

To inaugurate my move from Angelfire to Blogger, I want to begin with an honest question: what good is philosophy? Many think of philosophers as those who sit in ivory towers, thinking about things that are beyond the ken or concern of the ‘average person.’ One can likely thank Plato for this view when, in The Republic, he describes the education of the Philosopher Kings: they are not to be shaped through gymnastics (VII:521d), music (VII:522a-522b), or art (VII:522b), all of which have “nothing which tended to that good which [the philosopher seeks]” (VII: 522a-522b). Rather, they are to be steeped in “number and calculation…compelling the soul to reason about abstract number, and rebelling against the introduction of visible or tangible objects into the argument” (522c, 525d) Similarly, Plato derides those who “[use geometry for] practice only, and are always speaking, in a narrow and ridiculous manner, of squaring and extending and applying and the like--they confuse the necessities of geometry with those of daily life; whereas knowledge is the real object of the whole science” (VII: 527a-527b). With such a view, where philosophy is abstracted from everything practical to the point of debasing those who use their understanding practically, philosophy can only appear as something useless.

When I brought this question up to those at LDS-PHIL, someone mentioned Martin Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics. Here is one pertinent excerpt:

It is entirely correct and completely in order to say, "You can't do anything with philosophy." The only mistake is to believe that with this, the judgment concerning philosophy is at an end. For a little epilogue arises in the form of a counterquestion: even if we can't do anything with it, may not philosophy in the end do something with us, provided that we engage ourselves with it?
Introduction to Metaphysics, 13 (H9-10).
Earlier in IM, Heidegger claimed that, "according to its essence, philosophy never makes things easier, but only more difficult" (Ibid, 12 [H9]). The essence of philosophy, for Heidegger, is not to create coherent world-views or systems within which we can frame (gestellen) everything (what he termed onto-theo-logy), but to interrogate beings and let them speak for themselves. Within the history of philosophy, probably starting from Plato, there has been the attempt to find the ‘grand unified theory’ of everything. Put in other terms, philosophers have attempted to find a single mode of discourse within which one can discuss ‘the real.’ For Plato this was the realm of the Forms, for Aristotle (at least under one interpretation) it was the form/matter distinction, for the Scholastics it was the Creator/creature distinction, for the positivists it was reductivistic science, and for many Analytic philosophers today it is logic. All of these are attempts to find a way of speaking about objects to show them as they really are, at the exclusions of other modes of discourse that do not share their methods and manner of speaking. It is this monolithic assumption--that there is a single and all-inclusive way of speaking about objects/beings--that so-called postmodernists have been arguing against since their inception.

With this in mind, the ‘making things more difficult’ that Heidegger proposes as the essence of philosophy is not based in classical skepticism or willy-nilly questioning, the kind that is most often attributed to so-called postmodernists. Rather, it is being itself that ‘makes things harder.’ Heidegger was quite explicit that the whole effort of his thought was centered around the question of being, a question that he feels has been ignored within philosophy. Thus, his rejection of philosophy as a maker of worldviews--which certainly makes things easier--is grounded in his interrogation of being, in letting being speak for itself without the fear of being unthinkingly pigeonholed into a pre-established worldview. From this ground we find Heidegger’s notion of ‘thinking’ (as a technical term): it is not something that we do every day and neither is it the logical ordering of propositions or data, but the eruption of truth into the world, a new appropriation of beings.

So, what good is philosophy? It is good because it changes us; it helps us to see the world differently; beings appear in new ways. Every revolution in every discipline has altered how we see the world around us, how we see and interpret beings. Whether you choose Impressionistic art or quantum physics, the world appears in ways that were literally impossible prior to beings presenting themselves in ways that were unheard of before. When developed, philosophy cultivates (bildungen) us as human beings, expanding our appreciation of the world, allowing it to appear in all its mystery and inexhaustible wonder. In this way, philosophy is openness to that which is foreign, which is not accounted for in our current understanding, and the desire to bring it near (i.e. a principle of hermeneutics).

The historian of philosophy would be quick to point out that philosophy has greatly affected civilizations. It is because of the philosophical musings of such figures as Aristotle, Francis Bacon, and Rene Descartes that we have technology, modern science, politics, etc. Thus, philosophy does much more than simply cultivate the self: it allows for the production of all kinds of useful things.

It is undeniably true that philosophy has shaped our culture and will undoubtedly continue to shape it. However, this affect is not direct:

Philosophy can never directly supply the forces and create the mechanisms and opportunities that bring about a historical state of affairs, if only because philosophy is always the direct concern of a few. Which few? The ones who transform creatively, who unsettle things. It spreads only indirectly, on back roads that can never be charted in advance, and then finally--sometime, when it has long since been forgotten as originary philosophy--it sinks away in the form of one of Dasein's [mankind's] truisms.
IM, 11 (H8).
The philosophies of Aristotle, Bacon, and Descartes directly influenced how we see things, how beings appear to us. However this change in our affectivity in relation to beings is not the same as the technologies, programs, and theories that developed thereafter. The strange appearance of the photon following the two-slit experiment is divorced from the many theories later developed to explain it and any practical applications of the photon’s strange behavior. This is particularly true given the fact that only a new appearing of the photon might help us decide between various theories, granting that this new appearing does not itself raise more questions than it answers. Given that, historically, every new appearing in every discipline has raised more questions than it has answered, this is not a likely occurrence. Returning to Heidegger, being itself is “the reservoir of the not-yet-uncovered” (“The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Poetry, Language, Thought, 58), the excess that remains in every appearing of beings as beings. As such, being itself essentially escapes every attempt to bring it fully to light; if philosophy is essentially the activity of bringing beings to light, then philosophy itself is prior to every practical application that occurs after that bringing to light, which may be termed science or simply scholarship.

So, why study philosophy? Because philosophical study cultivates your own vision, your own ability to see and discern. Perhaps you can study philosophy so you can assist others in seeing, as I hope to. To do anything more is to do "scholarship about philosophy" (Ibid, 12 [H9]), not philosophy proper. Not that such scholarship is worthless (far from it), only less primordial, less originary.

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Welcome to my blog, Heideggerian Denken.

About 4 years ago I took my first class on Heidegger, taught by Mark Wrathall at Brigham Young University. Though I will admit to being completely lost during that entire semester (my term paper was a complete flop, though Mark was merciful in his grading), I was determined to understand what on earth Heidegger was trying to say, what he was trying to accomplish. Thus I spent the following summer re-reading various parts of Being and Time, History of the Concept of Time, and Hubert Dreyfus' introductory work, Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I.

Finally, about 4 months after the end of the class, I began to understand what he was saying. Terms like ‘world,’ ‘equipmentality,’ ‘mood,’ and ‘aletheia’ began to make sense. When Heidegger spoke of the ‘being of beings’ (Sein des Seiendes), I could see something important and intelligible. Since that first glimmer of something meaningful, important, and revolutionary in Heidegger’s work, I’ve been hooked. Over the last 4 years my Heidegger library has expanded, including various works by Heidegger, commentaries (on his early and later thought), and journal articles.

With the above, I am still in my relative infancy in studying Heidegger’s thought. I do not put myself forward as an authority of Heidegger, but an admirer and student who is doing his best to understand his odd and sometimes enigmatic turns of phrase and terminology, spurred on by the success I have already had in understanding him and with the realization that there is much more that I haven’t even begun to understand. What you will find here are my own musings on Heidegger’s thought (including his philosophical progeny), often based on my current research in psychology, anthropology, hermeneutics, or whatever else strikes my fancy at the time.

I hope you enjoy this blog and my thoughts. If you ever have any questions about Heidegger, how to interpret a particular statement that Heidegger made, or how a Heideggerian might approach a certain issue feel free to email me and I will do my best to answer your queries (or at least direct you to where you might be able to find an answer). With that, enjoy!

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