Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Presencing and Essencing

[NOTE: I have made a few modifications since the original posting, though the substance of the entry remains the same. (KW 6-30-06 11:09 AM MST)]

Man's mode of being is being-in-the-world. In its essence, this means that man is related to beings and being; not only that, but man is essentially (not contingently) related to beings/being. In Being and Time, Heidegger discusses many equiprimordial characteristics that make up man's being-in-the-world, as exemplified in the care-structure. The German term for equiprimordial is gleichursprünglich, literally translated as "equally primordial." Moving away from the tendency for 'simplicity' in earlier philosophies, Heidegger is proposing (or bringing to light) multiple grounds for man's being, each of which is equally essential in Dasein's ontological constitution.

The phenomenon of the equiprimordiality of constitutive items has often been disregarded in ontology, because of a methodologically unrestrained tendency to derive everything and anything from some simple 'primal ground'.
Being and Time, 170/H131.
I'd like to begin with the question of presencing, or making present. As a being-within-the-world, I am at or exist as a 'here' (Da-sein, "being-here"). It is by virtue of my being a 'here' that there can be a 'yonder' or a 'there.' Within so-called 'objective' space, as constituted by absolute coordinates, there cannot be a 'there' as there are no privileged points in space; there are only objective distances between points in homogenous space. But with Dasein, as the being that is concerned with being, including its own being, there is a privileged place that is Dasein's 'there.' Every being is a certain direction and distance from a given Dasein: (pointing) "It's that way (from here)," "When you reach the corner take a right (your right)," etc. Even in the case of objectified space--i.e. North, East, West, South, 30° Latitude, 145° Longitude, coordinates (3, -5)--there is still a reference to Dasein, but in a modified sense: each objectified spatiality is enveloped within Dasein's concern (Dasein's world) and each is, in some sense, arbitrary in their measurements. Because of this, they cannot be fundamental.

Dasein's spatiality is dominated by presencing, or by making beings present in its concern in the world. This making present has little to do with objective space, as that which is 10 feet away--say an approaching acquaintance--is 'closer' in Dasein's world than the glasses through which they are looking. One other way of putting it is that the acquaintance appears, is present in Dasein's concern, while the glasses are not--they are that through which I see my friend, they are not what I see. This also applies to beings that are not in sight, according to the intentionality of Dasein's activities: when I am concerned with my wife, though she is out of sight, she is more present to me than the objects in my cubicle. It is because she can be so present that I am 'in my own little world' or that I 'just didn't see' my co-worker enter my cubicle, even though they were in my visual field. When I am 'somewhere else' I am no longer actively engaged with that which is objectively closer and, thus, I do not 'see' such things, they are 'far from my mind.'1

Heidegger's later thought added an element to this notion of presencing: that every presencing is also a non-presencing. Using his later terminology, every uncovering of entities is also a covering of entities. One example I've been toying with recently is a baseball bat: when I am in a baseball game, I presence the baseball bat in a particular way. Within that context, it is something that I use to hit the ball, it is a piece of equipment used in-order-to do something else. This understanding is further embedded in the game of baseball: the purpose of hitting the ball is to give myself enough time to run bases in-order-to eventually get to home base in-order-to score a point for my team. Included in this context are also other readily understood rules: I cannot hit other players with the bat, I can only use regulated bats, etc. The bat's meaning appears in this context: because of the rules, constraints, and intended purposes inherent in the game of baseball, the bat is presenced in a certain way.

But consider the bat in another context: that of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For example, here is Walter "Arlie" Latham's bat:

When you are at the batter's box, the bat has a peculiar presence: you can feel it in your hands, but it is not the object of concern. What is most salient is the pitcher's movements that indicate he is about to pitch and then the movement of the ball. At that point one's muscular gestalts, developed through hours upon hours of practice, kick in as you swing at the ball. Throughout this scenario the bat doesn't really appear, it isn't present in itself. In fact, you could just as well use another bat with the same general physical composition, so the bat in its particularity is inconsequential and does not need to appear. Instead, the bat is absorbed into the context that includes myself, the pitcher, the ball, and the context. Quoting Heidegger:

Equipment can genuinely show itself only in dealings cut to its own measure (hammering with a hammer, for example); but in such dealings an entity of this kind is not grasped thematically as an occurring Thing [merely objectively present], nor is the equipment-structure known as such even in the using... In dealings such as this, where something is put to use, our concern subordinates itself to the "in-order-to" which is constitutive for the equipment we are employing at the time; the less we just stare at the hammer-Thing, and the more we seize hold of it and use it, the more primordial does our relationship to it become, and the more unveiledly is it encountered as that which it is--as equipment. The hammering itself uncovers the specific 'manipulability' of the hammer.
Being and Time 98/H69.
Within a museum context, by contrast, the bat is allowed to appear in its singularity, in itself. Rather than being seen as something used in-order-to do something else (and hence not really being 'seen' at all), I notice the bat itself: I see its imperfections, the wood's grain, the way the lighting in the museum plays off its polished surface, perhaps those features that differentiate it from other bats. Within this context there are also various practices/rules: the bat is not seen, for example, as something that I can pick up and start hitting things with, which would cause screams of outrage from patrons and owners. Furthermore, in this case the bat is seen differently than the bats I could find at any sporting goods store: it has a history that is tied to various individuals and events that make it Latham's bat, it is Latham's bat. This is the same reason why we value originals in artwork: the copy, even the perfect copy, lacks a historical relation such as being the object where the moment of creation came to fruition (there are stark phenomenological differences between creation and copying).

In understanding the bat as something used to hit a ball, or understanding the bat within the baseball game context, some aspects of the bat come to presence (i.e. its utility) while others are covered over (i.e. its singularity). Beyond the above examples, other aspects of the bat are also covered over, like its utility as a weapon to protect oneself against an intruder, or as a door stop, or as a hammer, or as a trophy (which is slightly different than as a museum piece), or any other possibly limitless ways. In relation to the first case, when my life is threatened the bat has a particular salience as a weapon that is missing when I am engrossed in trying to hit the pitch. Each presencing of the bat as something in particular does reveal the being of the bat, but each also covers over other aspects, giving us an indeterminable excess of meaning that any given articulation cannot capture. This is not due to ignorance or the simple lack of information, but it is an essential aspect of every appearing/presencing.

Inherent in the above is another aspect of presencing: its circumspective character. The bat appears as an object with which to hit baseballs only within the context of the game of baseball. Without the rules, regulations, and practices inherent in the game, the baseball would lose some of its content through, Heidegger would argue, covering up aspects of its being that the context does not bring out. Another cogent example used by John Haugeland, in his Having Thought: Essays in the Metaphysics of Mind, is a Rook. Divorced from the game of chess, with its inherent rules and objectives, a Rook loses much of the meaning (or being) that it had within the game. While we may still ascribe certain movements to the Rook on a coordinate plane that mimic those found in an actual chess game, we lose other aspects of the Rook in the process: that it is useful for certain purposes and strategies, that in certain circumstances it is either wise or unwise to use the Rook, that it is weaker against some chess pieces, etc. (Wikipedia has an entry on Rooks, for those of us who are chess challenged, that mentions such matters). The Rook and bat, then, gain meaning depending on the context in which they are found. This requires a different kind of presencing.

To better illustrate this, consider a common literary point: inherent in every story is a context which makes the story intelligible, normally called the plot. The plot is that which unifies the otherwise disparate events within the story. These disparate events can occur in multiple stories and in various orders: the protagonist could (1) fall in love with the girl, (2) lose her to the antagonist, (3) valiantly fight to save her, and then (4) marry her; similarly, the protagonist could (2) lose the girl to the antagonist, (1) fall in love with her (3) in the process of valiantly saving her, and (4) then marry her; or the protagonist could (4) marry her, (2) lose her to the antagonist, (3) valiantly fight to save her, and then (1) fall in love with her; or the protagonist could (3) valiantly save the girl, (1) fall in love with her, (4) marry her, and then (2) lose her to the antagonist. What the plot does is organize these disparate events and (hopefully) connect them into a whole; it makes them coherent. Furthermore, it makes salient specific aspects of each event that are important for the movement of the plot itself, such as the personality quirks of those involved, how the protagonist and the girl fall in love, etc. What features are made salient within the individual telling are incredibly important, but are not determined or contained within the general events themselves.

This is what is needed in our intelligible actions: we need to gather together disparate beings according to certain purposes and motivations to make a context wherein they can become relevantly intelligible. This is Heidegger's "circumspection," or Umsicht ("looking-about"). By being receptive (or, to use another Heideggerian term, open) to what is needed in each circumstance, including how to presence beings and how to best respond to the contingencies of the situation as it unfolds, we come to understand beings in their essence. Perhaps the better way to put it is that we essence (as a verb) beings by bringing (or presencing) them into the proper contexts, which include various norms, intentions, and motivations, that make them meaningful. It is not that we somehow find essences 'out there in the world,' but we bring beings into their essence by presencing them in a context.

As a final point, this aptly indicates one of the Heideggerian problems with supposed 'objectivity'--a thing's essence, that which it is, is not found in a thing-in-itself completely separated from other beings. Rather, a thing's essence is at least partially constituted by its relations with other beings and intentions. This also requires a being that can presence the disparate beings and intentions into a context. Furthermore, every presencing simultaneously entails an excess that is covered over. Thus, every presencing will essentially be incomplete and cannot fully describe the being in question. This also implies that there is no privileged way to presence beings, whether it be through science or literature. Hence, objectivity itself becomes problematic, if not impossible, as it is traditionally understood.


  1. See, for example, Arian Mack and Irvin Rock, Inattentional Blindness (London: MIT Press, 1998); Simons, D.J., and C.F. Chabris, "Gorillas in Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events," Perception 28 (1999), 1059-1074; Lachter, Joe, Eric Ruthruff, and Kenneth I. Forster, "Forty-Five Year After Broadbent (1958): Still No Identification Without Attention," Psychological Review 111/4 (2004), 880-913; Susan Hurley, Consciousness in Action (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Alva Noë, Action in Perception; Steven B. Most, Brian J. Scholl, Daniel J. Simons, and Erin R. Clifford, "What You See Is What You Set: Sustained Inattentional Blindness and the Capture of Awareness," Psychological Review 112/1 (2005), 237. Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued for this when he claimed that we "polarize the world," bringing out those aspects of the environment that we set ourselves to see (see Phenomenology of Perception, Colin Smith, trans. (London and New York: Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1958), 129). Heidegger makes a similar claim with his discussion of "moods" (Stimmung) and "state-of-mind" (Befindlichkeit); see Being and Time, 29-31, 172-188 (H134-148) and The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, William McNeill and Nicholas Walker, trans. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995), 78-167.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Han on Nietzschean Truth

As I do more work on Heideggerian authenticity, I've recently finished (for the second and a half time) Béatrice Han's "Nietzsche and the 'Masters of Truth': The Pre-Socratics and Christ," in Heidegger, Authenticity, and Modernity, 165-186. Han's analysis is useful because she provides a convincing account for how Nietzsche does not delve into either nihilism or contradiction in his understanding of truth by grounding his view in a pre-Socratic understanding of truth. This has direct ties to my summary/commentary on Guignon, which should be kept in mind, particularly his distinction between a "means-end" approach to actions and a "constituent-end" approach to actions. It also has a few thoughts relevant to the question of the supposed primacy of logic and reason by directing us to something that is prior to both.

Han begins by bringing up the usual interpretations of Nietzsche:

Nietzsche's position would be threatened either by a nihilistic and generalized leveling of all values, or by the argument used against the Skeptics from Antiquity: any proposition that denies the existence of truth reasserts by definition the reality of what is negated by it--either a universal relativism, or a contradiction between the propositional content and the very existence of the proposition. (165-166)
One common tactic by Nietzsche's interpreters is to distinguish between different levels of truth. Heidegger, however, is the first to propose that Nietzsche was not arguing against metaphysics, but was bringing it to its fruition. Still, Heidegger agrees with the other commentators that Nietzsche implicitly assumes the correspondence view of truth, which he is opposing. The other assumption, in discussing Nietzsche's understanding of truth, lies in Nietzsche's denial of the existence of a 'thing-in-itself'; all truths are found solely in one's active living and are true in virtue of their pragmatic value. But even this doesn't work as Nietzsche denies any pragmatic understanding of truth: even if something works, that doesn't mean that it is right.
In fact, the real meaning of genealogy is to denounce the unconscious pragmatism of science and of metaphysics, precisely by unveiling its original occultation by the adequationist understanding of truth: what we see as (adequationally) true is, to take up William James's favorite expression, what "works."
This is something that hasn't quite occurred to me: that the adequationist/correspondent view of truth might actually have a pragmatic basis. From a Heideggerian perspective I imagine that this could be interpreted in the following way: some notion of correspondence works in various situations, particularly those of scientific categorization; because it works in this way, then the correspondence view must be adequate. If we cannot understand Nietzsche's notion of truth through either correspondence or pragmatism (on which the former seems to rest), then how can we understand it?

Han proposes that we understand Nietzschean truth, not through invoking different notions of truth, but through Nietzsche's analysis of the rise of metaphysics and the adequationist understanding of truth. By doing so, Nietzsche sees truth in its prehistory in pre-Socratic thought: as founded in ethics, in the personal greatness of the individual.

I have selected those doctrines which sound most clearly the personality of the individual philosopher, whereas the complete enumeration of all the transmitted doctrines, as it is the custom of the ordinary handbooks to give, has but one sure result: the complete silencing of personality.1 (168)
Here Nietzsche's psychological side comes through: one integral part of any philosophy is the personality of the philosopher; the two cannot be separated, even in principle. As such, one important part of the truth of any claim lies in the speaker's identity, not necessarily on some 'objective' state of affairs. "There is no impersonal access to truth: aletheia depends on ethos" (169). Drawing from the pre-Socratics, this ethical dimension is found in the "severe necessity between their thinking and their character."2 The pre-Socratics were integrated individuals who have harmonized the various drives/humors and thoughts that are part of their lives: what they have is theirs, they exist authentically. Furthermore, for the pre-Socratics this harmony occurred naturally, without will or conscious decision. Modernity, by contrast, is driven by conscious reflection; any harmony that may be possible must occur through thorough self-reflection and conscious change. Furthermore, the modern scholar sees no necessity in the continuity between their being and their thought: that relationship is seen as arbitrary and inconsequential to their claims. This is a natural consequence when truth is thought to be found within propositions, such that one can speak truthfully regardless of one's personal excellence. Nietzsche is revolting against this view: "The man is the incarnation of what he thinks, and his thought, the necessary expression of his character" (170).

With this ethical element, the philosopher is the incarnation of his word, he embodies his work. Rather than the philosopher's system being metaphysically abstract and 'objective,' the genuine philosopher's system is grounded in their being: "Far from being abstract, the systematization now becomes organic, its totalizing aspect being referred to the individual as a living, concrete totality (they 'bring themselves into a system')" (171). The modern self, in its reflective attitude, is divided in this regard: they cannot ground their propositions in truth and thus are fundamentally ungrounded, disjointed, and unintegrated. In their ethical excellence, the Greek philosophers are "tyrants of truth": being self-secure in their possession of truth and fully integrated in their being (having integrity), their authority and command is sufficient for their words to be believed because they are truthful. This self-assurance would soon be replaced by the Socratic/Platonic dialecticians, whose focus on the abstract theoretical world as divorced from the philosopher's being transmuted the tyrannical element--being believable because one exists truthfully--into a poison. Being incapable of grounding their truth in their mode of being, they grasp for whatever 'external' justification they can find.

In discussing the historical precedence of Nietzsche's understanding, Han brings in Marcel Détienne's The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece. There Détienne also addresses the adequationist understanding of truth: "In archaic Greece, [the Masters of Truth] have the privilege of dispensing the truth simply because they are endowed with the qualities that make them special."3 The poet and the king are to be believed because of their exceptional qualities, not because they can adequately argue for their beliefs through some application of reason. Han points out that, according Détienne, the individual's position was functional according to socio-cultural institutions, but still the connection between the character/being of the speaker and what they speak is a necessary element in the truthfulness of their claims. This is an important point: Nietzsche was not simply pulling a new view of truth out of thin air, but he drew on a genuine understanding of truth that existed prior to the adequationist/correspondence view.

Nietzsche describes the decline of the archaic understanding of truth in three stages. First, "the 'great concepts' seem to benefit from the metaphysical turn in that they are freed from the magisterial relationship (they become 'liberated ideas')" (173). Thought becomes separated from the individual to some intelligible realm, but in doing so they lose their "local source," they are like plants taken out of their soil, leading to a "phony autonomy" (174). Second, concepts become the "foci of truth," which Han describes as "the reactive character of Platonic nihilism" against the archaic understanding of truth as grounded in one's integrity (174). This reversal of nihilism--where Platonism is seen as nihilistic, despite its professed realism--is interesting: it is because of the way that Platonism seeks to ground meaning in some transcendental realm that it is nihilistic, that it loses its meaning and cogency. Third, and lastly, a new world wherein these falsely liberated concepts is created. Because of their inauthentic living and the disconnect between their personal excellence and their philosophies, truth needs to find a new home elsewhere, so the transcendental world was created to ground their nihilism. Most philosophy textbooks characterize this change as the move from a world steeped in authority to a world where reasons and arguments are needed to be believed. Nietzsche's point is that such a focus on reason and argument as an improvement on 'blindly' following authority in fact misses (and in fact buries) an important part of ancient authority--its being grounded in the excellence of the individual speaking.

This covering-up dynamic, which insensibly transforms the concrete deep-rootedness of values in the contingency of a spatio-temporal set of conditions (the "soil") into a transcendent foundation, is thus the hallmark of the slowly emerging metaphysics. (174)
Han quotes Nietzsche (174):
This degeneration of the archaic model is accompanied by the birth of a new type of man, the "abstractly perfect man," who is the ethical counter-part of the "theoretical man" already exemplified by Socrates in the Birth of Tragedy.

One had need to invent the abstractly perfect man as well--good, just, wise, a dialectician--in short, the scarecrow of the ancient philosopher: a plant removed from all soil... The perfectly absurd "individuum" in itself!4 (174)

The individuum in itself is absurd because, as with the universalized concept, it loses its nature by being so universalized: its particularity (its alterity) is lost and the magisterial relationship is covered up or even denigrated. Dialectic essentially spoils the magisterial relationship by disassociating the speaker from what is spoken and focusing exclusively on the latter. The truth had by the "Master of Truth," by comparison, is accepted because of his authority by virtue of the kind of person he is. Socrates, incapable of attaining the level of integrity had by the Master of Truth, becomes tyrannized by the abstract reason that he has 'released.' No longer able to naturally harmonize his life, he is dominated by his need for rigorous thought rather than the natural authenticity, majesty, and nobility that the Master possesses.

Nietzsche sees the same opposition in Christ and Paul. Here it would be good to state the common truism: you often learn more about the interpreter of a thinker than you do about the person interpreted. I, for one, think that Paul does not ignore the existential aspects in his writing, as Nietzsche proposes, such as in Romans 8. Still, Nietzsche's analysis is useful for accentuating his claim. It is also informative to show Nietzsche's relation to Christianity: he had enormous respect for Christ, but little respect for the abstract understanding that traditional Christianity developed, which he first sees in Paul.

Nietzsche sees three magisterial aspects of Christ's life: first, "one of the Messiah's most prominent characteristics is the impossibility of dissociating the content of his teaching from his person and from his life" (176). Christ did not present theoretical reasons or analytical demonstrations of his authority; rather, he showed us a way of being, a way of living, he performed good works and essentially answered arguments with, "What fault do you find in my life?" Second, "Christ is endowed, like the ancient Masters, with the internal harmony that allows him to ground in his personal ethos the truthfulness of his words" (176). In short, Christ knew how to live a divine life, a life which is lived and not argued for. Thus, he possessed the magisterial and noble mode of life that made him believable: he was, or existed as, the Truth, the Way, and the Life. Jonathan Erdman has an interesting paper, titled Aletheia and the Correspondence Theory of Truth, where he discusses the Gospel of John's multiple uses of aletheia, one of which has affinities with the magisterial understanding Nietzsche is espousing. Third, quoting Nietzsche, "Dialectic is equally lacking: the very idea is lacking that a faith, a 'truth,' might be proved by reasons"5 (177). One more useful quote by Nietzsche: "Christ's faith is not set in formulas--it lives, it is diffident of formulas... The experience of 'life,' as he alone knows it, is adverse to any kind of letter, formula, law, faith, tenet"6 (177). This is particularly seen in the Gospel of Mark, where knowledge is only possible from divine sources, from inspiration rather than argument, from regeneration rather than syllogisms.

Christ is the incarnate Word (Logos) and thus his being and his words are inextricably combined and fully integrated--he is to be believed because of who he is, of the excellence he exhibits in his life. This has two consequences: first, Christ is incomparable with anyone else and, thus, his words have more credence. Not because he can give reasons for his words, but because of the excellence of his being. Second, Christ's life is exemplary. Like the famous book by the same title, the imitation of Christ is our goal: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Hence Nietzsche's claim: "Christianity is a way of life, not a system of beliefs"7 (177). By thus imitating Christ (imitatio Christi), the disciples are then able to be "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), thereby partaking in the magisterial relationship. Put one more way, Christ's true disciples exemplify Christ's ethos and thus dwell in the truth, are the truth incarnated in their lives. It is because of this exceptional existential mode of being that they are to be believed, not because they are skilled dialecticians (see Acts 4:13; see also Ephesians 4:16, 18).

Paul, in comparison, is described by Nietzsche as "passionate" and "violent," demonstrating the unintegrated nature of his being. As a paradigm Modern, he is introspective and sees himself as preyed upon by his natural desires rather than finding harmony in them. As with the Dialecticians, Paul then seeks to validate his views by demonizing that which is out of his grasp. Furthermore, according to Nietzsche, Paul becomes "obsessed" with a single question: "what is the Jewish law really concerned with? And in particular, what is the fulfillment of this law?"8 (178). Rather than seeing Christ's death as something to be imitated, Paul sought to explain it, to give reasons, thus giving it a formal meaning divorced from the ethos of the individual. By taking this approach to Christ, Paul "proceeds by inventing 'counterfeits of true Christianity,'9 formal counterfeits that are best characterized by their impoverished existential content" (179). By thus formalizing Christianity, Paul betrayed the life of Christ by making it into an abstract "motif."

By reversing the former priority of the practical over the theoretical, or more precisely by abolishing the necessity of grounding an individual's ability to speak the truth on his ethos, Paul--ironically enough--"annulled primitive Christianity as a matter of principle."[10] (180)
The above shows the reasons behind Nietzsche's disrespect for his contemporaries: the lack of respect for individual philosophers (rather than just their thought) has led to a lack of respect for philosophy as a whole. "The main evil that Modernity suffers from is the loss of the magisterial relationship" (180). Philosophy is now reduced to a theory of knowledge, a theoretical web of propositions and beliefs, which itself lacks genuine efficacy. In such a state, "the exaggerated manner in which the 'unselfing' and depersonalization of the spirit is being celebrated nowadays as if it were the goal itself and redemption and transfiguration"11 (180). I should point out that this is not merely taking account of a philosopher's moral or immoral actions, but rather in reuniting the primordial relationship between what a philosopher thinks and the kind of person they are. Eclectically bringing together ethics and epistemology/metaphysics is not sufficient as the tie needs to be seen as essential.

Nihilism has now come into its own: "the individual, instead of being the living proof of the virtues expressed by his discourse, becomes the point in which these virtues, unable to root themselves in his ethical substance, degenerate and perish" (181). Against this depersonalization of thought, we must regain the magisterial relationship and understand that truth is, in fact, rare. "This ideal of a scarcity of the only way truth can recover its value: the greatness of philosophical conceptions must become again the reflection of the achievements of the individual... Theoretical comprehension must be rooted in existential experience: understanding something means living it" (181). Correct beliefs do not allow for ethical living; rather, ethical living must proceed and ground correct beliefs. Thus, rather than proclaiming, as does Descartes, that I will endeavor to not be deceived, I should endeavor never to deceive anyone, myself included. It is only from this determination that truth can be spoken.

This return to a magisterial relationship between ethos and truth requires a self-making: "one must become worthy of truth in order to be able to found it as true" (183). As with the pre-Socratics, one must integrate all aspects of one's life into a harmony wherein truth can appear and dwell. Reminiscent of my own thoughts, we must enter into a receptive state whereby we can see properly; this existential ground for the appearing of truth needs to receive again the importance that it lost after Socrates.

Thus, Nietzsche's reconstruction of the pre-Socratic understanding of truth plays an architectonic part in the Nietzschean corpus: going back to the very origins of our history, it enables us to grasp the common point between such diverse events as the invention of metaphysics and of adequationist truth by Socrates, on the one hand, and the reformulation/betrayal of Christ's teaching by Paul on the other. In both cases, the truth-speaking power that the Master derived from his personal excellence is brought down. In both cases, the principal cause of this fall is ressentiment: because they were by definition unable to enter the magisterial relationship, Socrates and Paul turned against it and replaced it by an abstract, impersonal understanding of truth. Moreover, the ideal horizon outlined by the possibility of recovering the archaic conception of truth allows for a better understanding of the importance devoted by Nietzsche to the theme of self-creation and to such heroic figures as Goethe or Zarathustra. (184-185)
To summarize, it will not do to force Nietzsche into one of the traditional theories of truth: each option still lies within the stark dissociation of what is spoken from the speaker. It is because we try to force Nietzsche into one of these moulds that his views appear relativistic or contradictory. Instead, we should see Nietzsche as a champion of an older view of truth: the magisterial relationship wherein someone speaks the truth because they are truthful. We are asked to reverse our 'common' conception: one is not truthful because they give true propositions; rather, one speaks true propositions because one is truthful. Given our modern reflective attitude, we cannot fully return to the pre-Socratic understanding, nor is such a complete return desirable. What is needed, however, is a new emphasis on the existential relationship between what is spoken and the speaker, of seeing the importance of this relationship in tandem with our modern reflectivity.


  1. Early Greek Philosophy, quoted in Leslie P. Thiele, Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul: A Study of Heroic Individualism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 25.
  2. Ibid, 79.
  3. Les Maîtres de vérité dans la Grèce archaïque, 7.
  4. The Will to Power §430, 235; emphasis supplied.
  5. The Antichrist, §33, 607.
  6. Ibid, §32, 606.
  7. The Will to Power, §212, 125.
  8. Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, §68, 40.
  9. The Will to Power §169, 101.
  10. Ibid, §167, 101.
  11. Beyond Good and Evil, §207, 122-123.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

On the Essence of Truth--Untruth as Concealing

6. Untruth as Concealing
Concealment does not allow aletheia to have full disclosure of beings; “concealment preserves what is most proper to aletheia as its own.” This concealment does not occur simply because the “knowledge of beings is always fragmentary” as unconcealment “is older than every openedness of this or that being” and “letting-be itself, which in disclosing already holds concealed and comports itself toward concealing.” In order for a being to unconceal beings there must be concealment, it must preexist any particular unconcealing of beings that let’s them be as they are. That which is ‘conserved’/‘preserved’ is exactly that which is concealed--“beings as such.” Since every comportment is a comportment of beings (see 121-122), “beings as such” are “what [are] most proper to aletheia as its own.” Hence, untruth/unconcealment is also that which is “most proper to aletheia as its own.” This is “the one mystery” that “holds sway throughout man’s Da-sein.”

Concealing at first appears in what is concealed. Da-sein, through ecstatic comportment, “conserves the first and broadest undisclosedness, untruth proper” in every unconcealing of beings. This is the mystery--the “nonessence of truth.” Here nonessence is not seen as something inferior, as in the distinction between being and becoming, necessity and contingency, actuality and possibilitas. Rather the nonessence is taken to be a “pre-essential essence,” the essence that is both prior to and part of every essence (every being as something).6 But we should at first understand the nonessence of truth as a “deformation of that already inferior essence” since this nonessence, unlike the traditional understanding of nonessence, will always [131] be essential for (it belongs with) the essence--the uncovered (unlike the traditional understanding of essence and nonessence) “never becomes unessential in the sense of irrelevant.” This is an unconventional way of speaking about nonessence/untruth and “goes very much against the grain of ordinary opinion and looks like a dragging up of forcibly contrived paradoxa.” But this understanding of the nonessence directly follows from our path--we first examined the claims of the traditional understanding of truth (i.e. correspondence) and found that it required the appearing of beings; this appearing of beings furthermore required ecstatic (ek-static) comportment towards beings. From here, so that beings may be the “standard” for our true statements, freedom for beings was needed--the freedom to let beings appear as they are. Lastly, freedom required that we allow for untruth, for the nonessence of truth as concealing “beings as a whole,” which occurs with every unconcealing; the nonessence of truth must be understood positively in terms of being covered over, hidden. Thus, understanding the essence of the nonessence of truth is needed in order to understand truth; understanding the covering is needed to understand the uncovering. Because of this, it is more prudent to reject “ordinary opinion” than to reject where the phenomenon of truth has led us--that “the primordial nonessence of truth, as untruth, points to the still unexperienced domain of the truth of Being (not merely of beings).”

This may require a little more explication: every unconcealing of beings as something necessarily conceals other aspects of those beings, those aspects that are unimportant for the given comportment. When kicking a soccer ball, its scuff marks or even its design is irrelevant to the activity, thus they get covered over. This covering over is an important part of our experience of the soccer ball in that comportment: it drastically reduces the aspects of the soccer ball that we must take notice of, that we must focus on in our activity. Thus, in the activity of kicking the soccer ball, the fact that some aspects of the ball do not become salient is important in that it allows for those salient aspects to come to light and be relevant in the situation. If we needed to take explicit notice of every aspect of every being that we come upon in the world we would be incapable of action; we would be too engrossed in trying to ‘register’ everything in our environment and the objects we are interacting with. It is because we can in a sense ignore those aspects that are irrelevant to our current purposes that beings can appear as this or that. It is because of this that every unconcealing requires concealment, that every truth requires untruth.

Freedom, in letting beings be as they are, is the “resolutely open bearing that does not close up in itself.” This is a strange way of putting it: to be resolute usually means to be closed off, not to be open. John Sallis, the translator, provides the following note that is informative:

”Resolutely open bearing” seeks to translate das entschlossene Verhältnis. Entschlossen is usually rendered as “resolute,” but such a translation fails to retain the word’s structural relation to verschlossen, “closed” or “shut up.” Significantly, this connection is what makes it possible for Heidegger to transform the sense of the word: he takes the prefix as a privation rather than as indicating establishment of the condition designated by the word to which it is affixed. Thus, as the text here makes quite clear, entschlossen signifies just the opposite of that kind of “resolve” in which one makes up one’s mind in such fashion as to close off all other possibilities: it is rather a kind of keeping un-closed.
Heidegger’s use of “resolute” here is emphasizing the pervasiveness and active character of this openness: it must be sustained as an event of uncovering/covering. All possible comportments are made possible by and grounded in this resolute openness; it is because I am resolutely open to beings (because I am free for beings), because I have a ‘here’ whereby I can direct myself towards a ‘there,’ that comportment is possible. But as we saw above, this bearing towards what is concealed (in order to unconceal it) is also concealed in every unconcealment, “letting a forgottenness of the mystery take precedence and disappearing in it.” In this forgottenness man still “takes his bearings [verhält sich]” through comportment, but in forgetting the essential relationship between unconcealing and concealing he allows himself to comfortably dwell in a particular way with beings. He takes up those particular modes of comportment--those particular ways in which he unconceals beings--and remains in that mode of unconcealment. To use one historical example, philosophers and scientists have long interpreted beings in terms of properties, thus when they disclose beings (at least consciously; if Heidegger is right then they disclose beings in other ways all the time) they see an object in terms of its properties and categorize it accordingly. When it is suggested that there are other ways to disclose beings, other ways that a being is, they are often incredulous--how can beings be other than as a substance with properties? The dominance of metaphysics, then, is sustained in this forgetfulness of beings as a whole, of the nature of comportment and unconcealing/concealing. Heidegger put it aptly:
Man clings to what is readily available and controllable even where ultimate matters are concerned. And if he sets out to extend, change, newly assimilate, or secure the openedness of the beings pertaining to the most various domains of his activity and interest, then he still takes his directives from the sphere of readily available intentions and needs.
Already confident that we know what we are talking about (see 115-117), we rely on those modes of comportment that we are familiar with and thus constrain how beings can appear by limiting our modes of bringing them to light. By doing so we forget our own disclosing of beings through open comportment and, hence, forget the nonessence of truth that is the mystery of being itself. Despite this forgetting, we commonly express this phenomena, for example those times when we say, “He thinks like an engineer,” or, “Can you stop being a philosopher for just a moment!” We all naturally deal with things in those modes of comportment with which we are familiar; the key is understanding the nature of comportment to beings as a whole, including the relation between unconcealment and concealment.

By remaining in our common modes of comportment, we are not letting “the concealing of what is concealed hold sway.” Instead of retaining the concealed as the pre-essential essence of truth, we reduce it to mere puzzlement and [132] ignorance of some of the beings that we come in contact with; it is a mere deficiency in our knowledge/understanding of things, a temporary stopping point on our way to better understanding them through our already established modes of unconcealing. In doing so we do not allow the nonessence of truth to have its peculiar sort of presence.7

Wherever the concealment of beings as a whole is conceded only as a limit that occasionally announces itself, concealing as a fundamental occurrence has sunk into forgottenness.
This forgetting of the mystery of being/the concealed does not annihilate the mystery, but gives it a “peculiar presence [Gegenwart].” By forgetting the relationship between our unconcealing of beings and the excess that remains concealed in that unconcealing, man is left to his own devices, appropriating the world in terms of “the latest needs and aims” in terms of “purposing and planning.” In the modern age this is seen in technology: everything is reduced to a resource or reserve that can be used for thus-and-such a purpose, whether it be time, materials, or people that are ‘contracted’ for their work. When this occurs, it is the needs and aims that determine the “standards” for beings (compare 125-126)--beings are disclosed in terms of these needs and their ‘worth’ are determined according to how they can fulfill them; utility becomes the standard, not beings. This implies an inherent pragmatism: beings of all kinds are useful because they can be used for some purpose, they ‘work.’ Because of this, man “persists in [needs and aims] and continually supplies himself with new standards, yet without considering either the ground for taking up standards [freedom through open comportment] or the essence of what gives the standard [the nonessence of truth].” By being left to himself man mistakes the “genuineness of his standards,” projecting his standard onto beings themselves rather than on its ground (see 118-119).

By thus unconcealing beings according to our own desires, man can then quickly assume that they are the standard for beings: that beings are for his use and consumption and must continually be referred to himself. Here he is again forgetting that being--the unconcealed--is our standard. This phenomena demonstrates that man, while ek-sistent, is also in-sistent--“Dasein...holds fast to what is offered by beings, as if they were open of and in themselves.” While the mystery of the unconcealed (i.e. being) still holds sway, it is forgotten and seen as “unessential” to truth proper. The primary fault, then, is not in disclosing beings in a particular way--as technological resources for our use and manipulation--but in forgetting the nonessence of truth, namely being. Here yet again we find Heidegger returning to his primary question: the question of being. This is simply one more way that the question of being has been forgotten, including the consequences of that forgettfullness.


  1. In his later thought Heidegger often speaks about ‘essencing’ in terms of a verb, not as a noun or property of entities. Man, in disclosing beings, essences them, partially constitutes their being in relation to how they are disclosed as something, how it is gathered into a context. This “partially” is seen in the essential relatedness of unconcealing and concealing--being/physis enters or upsurges into the open comportment that is man; as it relates to the ‘correctness’ (Richtigkeit) of the uncovering of beings, being/the concealed pre-essential essence itself limits what I can truthfully disclose. This imposes some specific restrictions on the claim that ‘everything is interpretation,’ while not denying the claim itself. For Heidegger, this understanding asserts it more essentially and authentically.
  2. This expresses a common theme in Heidegger’s thought, first given in Being and Time, that the ‘nothing’ has a particular presence; primordially it is not simply the empty absence of things, but a positive phenomena, whether it relates to anxiety or truth’s nonessence. To put it one more way, it is a felt absence, such as when we lose a loved one who nevertheless remains an important part of our everyday activities.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Essencing vs. Essence

One of the questions that has been central to traditional metaphysics is that of essence--those properties and/or relations that either define or constitute what an entity is. Within the dominant substance-property metaphysic, an essence is the necessary and sufficient properties that make a thing what it is. In contrast, traditional metaphysicians speak of those contingent properties that are only accidentally 'attached' to the substance or property. One of Heidegger's primary concerns was to qualify this metaphysical dogma that has never been phenomenologically grounded. This, I believe, is one step closer to answering the question of logic's primacy, either in epistemology or metaphysics.

Consider, to use the ubiquitous Heideggerian example, a hammer. For the substance-property metaphysician, the essence of the hammer is understood in terms of its properties--hammerness, steelness, brownness, greyness, hardness, etc. The essence of the hammer must be understood apart from any contingencies such as history, culture, or the existence of any other being. Furthermore, there may be other things that are attributed to the hammer, but which do not ontologically belong to the hammer-itself: it may be valued as an heirloom or perhaps have security value, like Linus' blanket.

The first time Linus appears with his security blanket.
These valuations, however, are 'subjective' properties that a mind 'attaches' to the object, not objective constituents of the object-itself. It is from the objective standpoint, devoid of valuations and contexts, that the 'true' constitution of the object is understood. The essences and properties that define the hammer, as 'universals,' could just as well belong to another object at another time or place and their meaning is uinvocal in every individual instantiation--it is non-spatial and atemporal. This has two consequences: first, the best understanding of an object will consist of understanding its necessary properties in their essence. This means understanding them in their universality, their non-contextual and universal meaning. Second, all things that exist--be it an object, a person, or a discipline--can be grounded in these non-contextual entities. This is the assumption that drives attempts to explicate 'objective' realities--truths, morals, etc.

This will no doubt seem natural to many, even to be 'common sense': of course objects are best understood from an 'objective' (i.e. non-contextual/non-situated) standpoint and of course values are 'subjectively' attached to objects by human minds. Lastly, of course objectivity is preferred to subjectivity, as we want to be grounded in what objectively is, not in what minds subjectively attach to objects (which may have no basis in 'reality'). How could anyone doubt such obvious facts?

The historian of philosophy would be quick to point out that this hasn't, in fact, been such an obvious view within history. Even as late as Descartes, 'objectivity' is attributed to ideas and representations, not mind-independent objects (see the third meditation in Meditations on First Philosophy). It was perhaps with the empiricists, but certainly by the time of Kant, that the exact opposite was thought to be the case--the objective concerns mind-independent objects/entities. This probably doesn't mean that the pre-Kantians simply used the same categories but applied them to the opposite kinds of entities than we do, which leads to the second point: the obviousness of the modern understanding is, in fact, not so obvious.

From the beginning of his philosophical journey, Heidegger thought that "the genuine problematic" of philosophy has been deformed by "the general domination of the theoretical."1 By focusing on atemporal/non-spatial universals such as Forms, properties, or a universal Being (God, the Good, etc.), philosophy has forgotten the contextual and hermeneutical foundations of philosophy and science. As argued within Being and Time and moving on to "Time and Being," these philosophies have forgotten the essential connection between being and man, or between being and Da-sein, being-there. As I will argue below, an alternative way of understanding Da-sein is that of being-a-context.

Consider an alternative account of the hammer: to understand the being of a hammer is not to summarily make note of its properties, but to see how it appears within our concerns in the world. Consider, for example, our understanding of its physical constitution: having an adequate grasp of the hammer first and foremost deals with the hammer's serviceability. This is not a matter of knowing that the hammer weighs this much, has its center of gravity here, and is this dense. Rather, it is a question of how 'hefty' it is for the user, how adequate it is for the given purpose, and how skilled the individual is in hammer use. Understanding the hammer in this way requires that the hammer be situated with other objects and people: with the objects that are hammered, the conglomeration of objects with which the hammer is associated (wood, nails, a workshop, etc.), the physical capacities and skills of the hammerer (which will vary from person to person), the needs that the hammering fulfills (building houses, toys, or equipment), etc. Long before the hammer was weighed to the gram, before its density could be measured, and before precise mathematical formulas were used to describe them, carpenters were industriously making objects and distinguishing between useful woods and metals. In short, the more 'scientific' understanding of the hammer, the one that is ontologized in categorization through its properties, is not a necessary component for the skilled hammerer's correct understanding of the being of the hammer.

In fact, it is on the basis of this practical and contextual understanding that we can begin to scientifically measure weight, density, and such. It is because I am skilled at taking up and using a hammer, at hitting other objects, and noticing that some objects are dented or augmented when hit by more dense objects that I can begin to think of and test scientific/mathematical density. It is also through such a practical understanding that I can then test whether the scientific understanding is accurate. The scientific enterprise itself is dominated by such practices: by methods, ways of setting up tests, and ways of interpreting data. The current crisis in fundamental physics seems to stem from the failures of these practices--particularly of the hermeneutic kind--and the need to find new ones (see also Yves Gingras' What Did Mathematics Do to Physics?).

At this point the traditional metaphysician will display their trump card: It must be the case that these practical concerns and uses of the hammer are dependent on the objective properties of the hammer. Why? Because the hammer exists apart from human minds and there must be some content to this existence without mankind's concerns and needs. But is this the case? As with any good phenomenology, let's examine the phenomena itself: what is density? Mathematically, density is expressed by the following formula:

Density is a measure of mass per unit of volume.
This is a good start; but what does it mean? First, the notion of equality requires a mode of comparison of the kind A = B. This particular sort of equality is very precise, not of mere similarity but of exact correspondence: e.g., 22 = 4. One more precise way of putting it (as used in transfinite set theory) is that every unit on one side of the equal sign can be matched up to a unit on the other, with none remaining. This is thought to be objectively true: it is true in all possible worlds and requires no context to be intelligible. But this isn't the case. As Lakoff and Nunez have cogently argued, our understanding of this equality depends on certain metaphors, in this case Number as Collection of Objects. To see that two numbers are equal, you collect as many objects as correspond to the numbers in two locations; if we collect the same number of objects in both locations, then the numbers are equal.

It is also dependent on my ability to 'collect' objects. This 'collection' has a peculiar character: it is not dependent on spatial proximity or object similarity. In seeing how many yellow objects there are in a given room, the object that is in my hand is just as relevant as the object that is 10 feet away. As such, the object that is 'objectively' furthest away is in a sense brought 'just as close' in my collecting as the object that is already in my hand: they are both 'near' in my collecting. This is seen by the fact that the red objects in the room, the ones that are irrelevant to my current collecting, are 'far away'; they are not relevant, perhaps even not seen. For a better example, in 'collecting' the 7 wonders of the world, their 'objective' distance from me is inconsequential in my collecting/counting them. Similarly, I can collect various objects that have very little in common: they can have various shapes, sizes, weights, colors, or uses. How the objects are collected is also important.

Psychological findings on categorization of objects might be useful here. I'm reminded of the military's attempt to create AI that can identify enemy tanks: with apparently enormous success in identifying pictures of enemy tanks and differentiating them with ally tanks, the program failed miserably in a public demonstration because it was categorizing the tanks according to when the pictures were taken. All of the enemy tank pictures were taken during the night and all the ally tank pictures were taken during the day; the AI program was accounting on the wrong aspect of the picture for identification. Other categorization tests with children also yield interesting results: the children will often come up with rather intricate methods of differentiating and categorizing objects that are surprising to their testers, but in fact have a reason about them. But the most important aspect of categorization for our purposes is its contextual nature.

Robert Goldstone and Yvonne Lippa, for example, have an interesting article that discusses how discrimination of objects alters how the objects appear, in this case as increasingly dissimilar. From their abstract:

By a strategic judgment bias account, the categories associated with objects are explicitly used as cues for determining similarity, and objects that are categorized together are judged to be more similar because similarity is not only a function of the objects themselves, but also the objects’ category labels. By a representational change account, category learning alters the description of the objects themselves, emphasizing properties that are relevant for categorization. A new method for distinguishing between these accounts is introduced which measures the difference between the similarity ratings of categorized objects to a neutral object. The results indicate both strategic biases based on category labels and genuine representational change, with the strategic bias affecting mostly objects belonging to different categories and the representational change affecting mostly objects belonging to the same category.
Wenchi Yeh and Lawrence Barsalou, in The Situated Nature of Concepts, argue for a broader understanding of how our background (not only of concepts, but practical understanding of the situation) influences concept comprehension, creation, and categorization. A relevant quote from their paper:
Across these diverse areas, background situations are fundamental to cognition. By incorporating situations into a cognitive task, processing becomes more tractable than when situations are ignored. Because specific entities and events tend to occur in some situations more than others, capitalizing on these correlations constrains and thereby facilitates processing. Rather than having to search through everything in memory across all situations, the cognitive system focuses on the knowledge and skills relevant in the current situation. Knowing the current situation constrains the entities and events likely to occur. Conversely, knowing the current entities and events constrains the situation likely to be unfolding.
This is a fact that has been focused on in much of the current literature on philosophy of perception: the world appears only in terms of our goals, intentions, and, as later Heidegger would put it, our openness to beings.2 This is an important phenomena in that the hammer can appear as a hammer only if some of its aspects are covered over. In actively using the hammer, It is only because I am a being that cares about beings, that is concerned with them in some way (e.g., to fulfill my needs, desires, or intentions), that beings appear at all. Otherwise why would I even care that 22 = 4 or that there are 3 yellow objects in the room? There is no motivation, no reason to attend to such things and thus no reason for them to appear as such. As something that I will argue later, understanding this openness as the precursor to every logical statement provides the non-logical basis for logic, or that which makes logic possible but cannot be encapsulated in it.

Returning to our question about the equation for density, the meaning of the equation only comes to light on the background of certain skills, practices, and motivations that can bring things to light as valuable or meaningful/relevant. When divorced from those skills, practices, and motivations, the equation is meaningless: someone who is incapable of collecting objects (i.e. counting), bringing their relevant attributes to light (as objects, differentiable from other objects in the environment), and who, quite frankly, cares about what on earth is happening (i.e. what is happening matters to me) will see nothing (or no-thing). As the research in the philosophy of perception seems to demonstrate, without such engaged concern the equation would not appear to begin with nor could the relevant skills and practices develop whereby the equation gains its meaning. All of these are necessary factors for the initial appearing and understanding of the equation. Far from being a context-less entity or description, the equation is intelligible only on the background of these skills, practices, and motivations.

The substance proponent, in defense of their views, will now quickly respond (almost repeating their first objection, but not quite): but these skills, practices, and motivations are simply bringing to light what was already meaningfully, objectively there! In other words, even if these skills, practices, and motivations are needed in order for us to see things like objects or relevance, they are simply discovering what is already there. But does this follow in the case of the hammer? The hammer is understood in terms of its relation with certain practices and objects, but do these relations happen 'naturally' or 'objectively'?

The answer I would like to propose is, no, they do not: seeing the hammer as something with which to build requires non-objective (in classical terms) relations. Hammers do not appear in nature, nor do the hammer's relations--with nails, wood, contracts, etc.--occur without a peculiar kind of being. Building itself is meaningful only in terms of a being that needs or desires something to be built for some purpose; in an impersonal, 'objective,' and non-contextual world, such needs would not exist. Futhermore, it requires a being who has the relevant embodied skills with which to build. These skills are not dominated by explicit rules, perhaps by rules of thumb, but even rules of thumb require a receptivity to when those rules do not apply and an understanding of what to do instead. But most importantly, it requires a being that is open to beings: it requires a receptivity to beings that is necessarily prior to our ability to say anything about those beings. It is only because beings appear that I can say anything about them; divorced from beings, any possible saying would have no referrent and, hence, would not be language. It is this receptivity that escapes 'objective' analysis: I have concerns and intentions that essences beings, that bring them into the relations with other objects, skills, and practices (i.e. the context) whereby they can be something to begin with. Within such a world, there is no need to appeal to some transcendental objective intelligible sphere; what is needed is a being who is concerned with its world, that is open to beings, and that is able to disclose beings. Notes:

  1. Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie, 87; quoted by Charles Guignon, "Philosophy and Authenticity: Heidegger's Search for a Ground for Philosophizing," in Heidegger, Authenticity, and Modernity, 82.
  2. See, for example, Arian Mack and Irvin Rock, Inattentional Blindness (London: MIT Press, 1998); Simons, D.J., and C.F. Chabris, "Gorillas in Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events," Perception 28 (1999), 1059-1074; Lachter, Joe, Eric Ruthruff, and Kenneth I. Forster, "Forty-Five Year After Broadbent (1958): Still No Identification Without Attention," Psychological Review 111/4 (2004), 880-913; Susan Hurley, Consciousness in Action (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Alva Noë, Action in Perception; Steven B. Most, Brian J. Scholl, Daniel J. Simons, and Erin R. Clifford, "What You See Is What You Set: Sustained Inattentional Blindness and the Capture of Awareness," Psychological Review 112/1 (2005), 237. Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued for this when he claimed that we "polarize the world," bringing out those aspects of the environment that we set ourselves to see (see Phenomenology of Perception, Colin Smith, trans. (London and New York: Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1958), 129). Heidegger makes a similar claim with his discussion of "moods" (Stimmung) and "state-of-mind" (Befindlichkeit); see Being and Time, 29-31, 172-188 (H134-148) and The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, William McNeill and Nicholas Walker, trans. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995), 78-167.


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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Online Philosophy Lectures

Tanasije Gjorgoski, at A Brood Comb, has provided a list of possibly interesting philosophy videos he found at Google Video, most of which I've missed in my searches there. Of particular interest is the IBM Research’s Almaden Institute Conference on Cognitive Computing. Take a look!


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Friday, June 16, 2006

Guignon on Authenticity, Values, and Psychotherapy

I've been going through a number of articles in the Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, trying to return to the Heideggerian basics, having spent most of my time lately in the later Heidegger. One of the concepts that I haven't done much reading in is that of authenticity. As such, I decided to take some time and read through Charles Guignon's "Authenticity, Moral Values, and Psychotherapy," the last aspect being of interest due to my entering the UWG Psychology program in August. Here is a summary and commentary of Guignon's paper:

Psychotherapy and the Question of the Good Life
Guignon begins by noting the high regard that Heidegger often has in existential psychology, with particular mention of Medard Boss. Unfortunately, "what one usually finds is a Heidegger refracted through the lens of the far more accessible writings of Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus" (215). I've also noticed this in my interactions with those who claim some understanding of Heidegger: he is more often than not seen as an existentialist with a morbid fascination with anxiety and death (drawing on a Sartrean interpretation of Being and Time). But as existentialism is now held in less regard, psychologists often think that Heidegger has nothing to contribute, understood as he was through an existentialist lens. Guignon conjectures that the decline of existentialism is largely due to its inability to "capture the concrete realities of actual existence" because of, for example, notions like the "terrible freedom" that denies our being embedded in a social and physical world and an amoral notion of authenticity (215-216).

Even with the decline of such existentialist views there still remains a conviction that "scientific" approaches to psychology similarly lack the resources to capture the concrete application and theory of psychotherapy. "One way to describe this gap between theory and practice is to say that standard theories fail to make sense of the rich and complex forms of moral discourse that characterize therapeutic dialogue" (216). Appealing to Ira Progoff (The Death and Rebirth of Psychology), it was the scientific/technological paradigm that created the space wherein our modern psychological problems could develop. Pre-modern societies had recourse to their religious and social traditions, rituals, and practices for their values; in a world where such traditions are put into question and individualism becomes the norm, the individual is cut off from his past and forced to find his own way in his future. Because of this the therapists are called upon to be the moral authorities: "the theological priesthood has lost much of its authority...the scientist practicing counseling and psychotherapy assumes a new moral authority. He is asked to make moral pronouncements in the name of science in the way the clergy was called upon for religious directives" (C. Marshall Lowe, Value Orientations in Counseling and Psychotherapy: The Meaning of Mental Health, 16-17; 217). Left in a moral vacuum no longer filled by traditions and accepted authorities, individuals are less likely to come to the therapist with classic Freudian neuroses and more likely to have pervasive feelings of meaninglessness and alienation.

This new role that the therapist is asked to take on might be too much given the dominant paradigm: science is often felt to be amoral; it does not work from basic values, but only seeks to objectively describe states of affairs (or so it thinks; Guignon will help disabuse us of this illusion; see also Charles Taylor on modernity). Given the dominant view (discussed by Taylor in his contribution to this work, which I will go through later)--of bare causal inputs that are then 'given' meaning by the mind--morals are thought of either as the concern of the patient herself or in terms of whatever dominant "self-evident" norms are generally accepted by the professional community. Within an eclectic or pluralistic society, the therapist's desire for 'objectivity' and not wishing to 'force' his beliefs on the patient places him in an even harder position. I would also add that this is exacerbated by the current drive to sue that seems to be so prevalent in our society, perhaps in terms of being 'religiously oppressed' or some other such thing.

The importance of addressing and making explicit this moral dimension of human existence that seems to be so important with the increase of patient's neuroses of 'meaningless' should be clear. Guignon feels that Heidegger's understanding of authenticity (eigentlich) "has a great deal to offer" (218). For those who have read Being and Time this will seem like a strange claim--Heidegger himself strongly denied any moral significance to authenticity, that it is morally 'better' to be authentic than inauthentic (though it still does creep in, against his explicit claim). I'm not sure if Guignon has convinced me otherwise, but he does make a good argument. Here is Guignon's thesis:

By working out Heidegger's alternative view of human existence and authenticity, I hope to show that moral concerns are an inescapable part of any project of understanding humans, and that they quite naturally will be central to any meaningful therapeutic dialogue. In trying to display the evaluative dimension of psychotherapy, my aim is not to propose a new technique, but to provide an ontological basis for understanding what always goes on in therapy though it is never fully comprehended in standard theories. (218)
Underlying Assumptions of Psychotherapy Theories
Guignon sees naturalism as the dominant paradigm in modern psychotherapeutic theories--"because humans are a part of nature, we understand them by applying the same canons of explanation used for other parts of nature [i.e. physics]" (218). Guignon identifies three general assumptions that appear to give content to this paradigm: first, following 17th century physics, it rejects the view that the world consists of inherently meaningful entities. The cosmos, at its core, is a valueless mass of particles in motion. Included in this view is the self as a physical object, though with some sense of "inwardness," of an inner self that is only contingently related to the outside world (the disengaged Cartesian subject).

The second assumption is a view of agency as a means-end calculator; humans consider the options before them, do a cost-benefit analysis (of some sort), and then make a decision according to what will potentially yield the greatest benefit. Within a causal world, what other view could there be: we exert causal force on the causal world in order to bring about some effect; the result is the primary aim, the telos of our actions, as our cause sinks into nonexistence in the linear temporal order. This temporal assumption will be addressed partially by Guignon, but there are other accounts that are also useful (I'll post about them soon). This led to a technologizing of self-improvement--with the guidance of an expert (the therapist) the individual could learn to structure their lives according to pure rationality and become expert calculators. Guignon refers to programs that give "procedures of self-transformation described in a vocabulary of reworking the self to achieved particular ends" (219). Though he does not mention them, this rationalization of agency also includes the 'inner' self--the 'think-it-till-you-are-it' techniques that give so much importance to our 'inner will' or 'inner self.' The remarkable thing about this approach, Guignon notes, is its inability to give value to the things in question--the patient is often called to either fulfill their basic needs/drives or are given no counsel at all, left to their own devices. For these methodologies, psychotherapy remains indifferent to the ends achieved, as long as they are achieved with the proper methodology.

The third assumption is what Guignon refers to as "ontological individualism"--"the view that human reality is to be understood in terms of self-encapsulated individuals who are only contingently aggregated into social systems" (220). I am, essentially, a self that is only contingently related to my culture; in my 'inner' world, which is where I am 'located,' I give meaning to the 'outer' world, which includes others. By virtue of such contingency, the 'inner' is both temporally and epistemologically prior to the 'outer,' including my culture. This view almost inevitably leads to a view of human relations as conflict--when every individual is seeking to achieve their particular ends through whatever means possible (as no means can be more or less valuable in an objective world), others will be seen either as help or hindrance to my goals and are treated as such. Every relationship, then, is seen as a tentative truce held until the other is no longer 'of use' to myself.

In the 50s and 60s, humanistic/existentialist psychology came to the fore of psychological discussion. Eschewing the 'scientific' approach to man, they accepted an "expressivistic" approach, reminiscent of Romanticism--"the self contains an inner seed of potential that is capable of self-fulfillment through artistic creativity, communion with nature, and intense relationships with others" (220). Unfortunately, one inherent presupposition of this paradigm is the individualism assumed by the scientific approach, thus tacitly assuming that which they sought to overcome and unknowingly taking on its consequences. Guignon then discuses how this individualism, including the lack of an ability to posit non-technologically (means-end) based values, weakens the theories of Rollo May, Medard Boss, and Ludwig Binswanger. Ultimately these approaches are faulty, if only for the fact that our "seed of potential" includes not only goodness, but also selfishness, hostility, hate, and oppression. May/Boss/Binswanger's dictate to fulfill one's possibilities provide no basis on which to reject these possibilities, raising the question of whether they are also included in the 'authentic life.'

Central to both Boss and Binswanger is their belief in what is the core value of modern individualism: freedom understood negatively as freedom from constraints. It may be the case, however, that this ideal of unbounded freedom is self-defeating. For where all things are equally possible, nothing is really binding, and so no choice is superior to any others. Freedom then becomes, in Rieff's classic line, the "absurdity of being freed to chose and then having no choice worth making" [The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, 93]. (223)
With this, the humanistic/existentialist views revert back to that which they were arguing against--the meaninglessness of life and the essential loneliness of the individual in the world. By trying to overcome the meaninglessness of modern scientific approaches, the existential psychologist falls prey to the same fault--the inability to posit values. What we need is a new way of conceiving human existence itself, rather than a mere modification of the currently dominant view.

Everydayness and Inauthenticity
Heidegger, in his phenomenology of the human mode of existence, tried to ignore the presuppositions of the modernistic view of the self and, instead, vigorously pursued the phenomena itself to see what it has to say. Man, in his being, is more of an "event or happening" (in his later thought, Ereignis) than an object. Because of this, it is wrong to say that man is essentially 'inner,' either in consciousness or experience; similarly, we cannot say that we 'find' our selves as we find our keys, as one object (albeit a personal or reflexive one) among others. As an event, Dasein finds itself only in what it does, which essentially (i.e. not contingently) includes the transcendent--the world, one's family, one's culture. Quoting Heidegger, "Even one's own Dasein [is] something it can itself proximally 'come across' only when it looks away from 'experiences' and the 'center of its actions,' or does not yet 'see' them at all. Dasein finds 'itself' proximally in what it does" (B&T 155/H119). This is a common phenomena: I am a student because I participate in student activities (go to class, write papers, talk with professors, pay tuition, etc.) within a student context (a university); I am a husband because I do husband actions (I love my wife, perform husbandly duties, planning my life with someone, do her laundry with mine, etc.) within a husband context (civic/religious marriage ceremony, living together).

There is no 'human nature'--the essential list of properties that determine what I am--but only our essential relation with beings and the possibilities that we enact in that relation. Our 'essence,' in a classical view, consists in this active relationship and is inherently dynamic, as opposed to static (hence, not a traditional 'essence'), as seen in the later Heidegger understanding of Dasein as Ereignis--the event of appropriation. For the existentialist/humanist I am striving to recover my "true self" that lies hidden 'within' me; my actions are valued as better or worse only to the degree that they fulfill this inner self. We can see the classic dichotomies between mind/body and inner/out, where the mind/inner instrumentally determines the body/outer. For Heidegger, on the other hand, there is no clear demarcation between an inner and outer. Guignon coins this a "'manifestationist' view of human agency," saying that "to say that we are what we do is to say that our very identity as agents--our being--is defined and realized only through our ways of becoming manifest in the world" (224). As an example, Guignon suggests that we look at a blunt person--it is not the case that her straight-forward responses come from some inner property called 'bluntness,' but her bluntness itself is her being blunt, her acting blunt. In the same way, I am angry, I am happy, I am suspicious when I act within (or interact with) the world in that way.

As an aside, this 'externalist' view of mind (if it can be termed that) has a ubiquitous presence in our lives. In his work, Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy Wilson gives story after story of how we are ignorant of ourselves, even of those things that are supposedly 'closer' to us than not--our thoughts, desires, feelings, etc. In a few particularly interesting case studies, he provocatively demonstrated how others often know us better than we do--they can see when we are worried when we can't, they know the kind of person we are better than we do. Unless we posit some sort of mind-reading of the alleged 'inner' aspects of our self to our friends/associates, the connection between the 'inner' with the 'outer' is much stronger than traditionally thought, if not (as Heidegger argues) inseparable. Of course, to view them as inseparable is to present a different understanding of the 'inner' and 'outer,' so perhaps to think of it in those terms will import too many traditional assumptions that are not coherently importable. Heidegger's being-in-the-world and being-there (Dasein) express the connection better than the traditional inner/outer distinction. Again, we must unrelentingly pursue the phenomena rather than dwell on modern conceptions.

Heidegger revealingly describes "being-a-self" as a "process of realization" (The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, 139; 224). Drawing on Ricoeur, our identity is not stable, but is enacted throughout our lives in narrative form. The upshot is that we can only understand another (and ourselves) by understanding where they have come from, where they are, and where they are going. As with any narrative, any given action is understandable only by being found within a context--that person A performed x in context s which is situated in plot h. To use one historical example, to understand that WC had an affair with ML includes WC's history of infidelity, the professional relationship between the two, and the aftermath of the event's coming to light. Every contextual addition enriches to our understanding of "WC had an affair with ML" and makes it more intelligible. For Heidegger this three-fold temporality expresses itself in Dasein's temporal mode of being. Dasein is essentially "ahead of itself" in that it is always projecting itself into various possibilities. Every action I perform involves enacting some possibilities rather than others, with each enactment determining my identity, determining what kind of person I am. How I relate to my wife, my work, my personal studies are all determinative for me and my future, of whether I will be a bad husband, a lazy worker, or an exceptional student. This is Heidegger's "being-toward-death"--"everything we do contributes to making us people of a particular sort" (225).

As human beings, we are essentially related to a past, we are "thrown" into a culture, a family, a set of values (explicit and implicit) that informs our lives. My religious commitments, how I am raised, the cultural climate of my childhood, the ways of being that I learn (again, explicitly or implicitly) from my parents, siblings, and other authority figures, the dominant stories (be they Biblical, Buddhist, or fairy tales) that were commonly reiterated all give content to my present. Furthermore, they also in part determine my possibilities--within my religious context the possibility of killing someone is seen as 'impossible,' within my familial context the possibility of using a woman and then dismissing her is not a genuine possibility, etc. In every case, some possibilities are 'acceptable' and others 'unacceptable' because 'we don't do that,' 'that's not what a Winters boy does,' 'I can't, I'm Mormon.' Heidegger describes this in terms of what Macquarrie and Robinson translate as "the 'they,'" which has also been (in my mind better) translated as "the 'one.'" It comes from the German das Man, as in "Wie spricht Man..." and "Wie tun Man..." ("How does one say..." and "How does one do..."). Thus, as a student I go to classes because "that's what one does when one is a student"; as a husband I love my wife because "that's what one does when one is married"; I eat with a spoon because "that's how one eats food"; etc.

In its inauthentic manifestation, we do these things because they are natural, they are taken for granted, that's just how things are done! One eats with a spoon, one opens doors for women, one shakes the other's hand when introduced, one stands a certain distance from the other when speaking (i.e. respects 'personal space'), one drives on the right side of the road, one raises one's hand before speaking in class, one has tea every day at noon, one turns off their cell phone during a movie, one attends their children's activities, one avoids certain language in certain contexts, one burps after a meal to show approval, one wears a shirt and shoes inside a store, one shows respect to one's elders/superiors, etc., etc., etc. Our lives are informed by an indeterminably large number of norms for action/being, most of which we do simply because that is 'what one does.' It is against this background that our actions are intelligible, it provides the context or plot wherein our thoughts, feelings, and actions have meaning. This is even the case when I deviate from these norms, as my actions are 'deviant' only by virtue of occurring against the background of 'conformist' behavior/practices; thus I can never escape my background, even as my horizon's expand into new contexts. By providing the basis of our possible ways of being, our past is a positive constituent of what/who I am.

Our thrownness, however, also has some negative possibilities. Our average understanding of how things are and what one does is a leveled understanding, brought down to the lowest common denominator. Our norms and average language must be understandable by anyone, or else we could not even communicate; we thus must share a basic understanding of things, both from direct experience and from 'idle talk.' But this understanding must, of necessity, be vague and undeveloped, which fact is seen by any expert when they attempt to discuss their work with a layman--there are many things that are lost on the layman due to their level of understanding, many things that they do not see or distinctions that they are unaware of. Also, when things are seen as 'obvious,' we have a tendency to simply "go with the flow," unthinkingly following common norms in any given aspect of our lives. By doing so we limit our understanding of our possibilities--they are restricted to what one does, what one expects from life, and they become "the only game in town" (226-227). We need to understand, however, that this isn't necessarily bad--our basic abilities to converse with one another, to do many things (eat with utensils, drive a car, etc.) naturally, and to not get bogged down in excessive Humean doubt are made possible by our thrownness. Its consequence, though, is giving us a poor sense of our possibilities, of what we can do and become, which includes a sense of our selves, though it is a positive sense (however vague). But it is only against this background that I can become authentic, that I can take up some possibilities genuinely.

The third temporal aspect of Dasein's mode of being is that of "falling." In our projection into possibilities based on our being thrown into a context, there is the possibility of becoming bogged down in our present. By assuming that the average everyday understanding of our possibilities are "the only game in town," one becomes unconcerned with one's future--one simply expects what one should expect and thus one gets lost in what das Man has already dictated. When this happens we have a non-genuine relationship with our possibilities, with our selves--we accept and enact possibilities simply because that is what one does. Heidegger has two different levels of forgetting--in the first, we lose ourselves in our actions. When we are running to catch the bus there is no explicit or implicit "I am running" or understanding of it as one possibility among others; we are simply engrossed in the situation, in the bus and our attempting to catch it, and no "I" or "I could be doing something else" invades. This first kind of forgetting is necessary for any effective action within the world as we direct ourselves toward beings. In the second kind of forgetting, however, we forget that we have forgotten--we relinquish the possibility of remembering our temporality, of our ability to project in ways that are not already dictated by das Man (this kind of forgetting is further discussed in the latter half of "On the Essence of Truth," which I haven't gotten to yet in my summary/commentary). By continually catering to what das Man dictates in its average everyday understanding of things, we lose site of the fact that we are the ones projecting our possibilities, not the amorphous "one" or "everyone." This is seen in the linguistic signifiers "one," which can refer to anyone, and "I," which designates a specific beings (myself). The forgetful Dasein thus gets bogged down in "more of the same," loses itself in das Man and their leveled expectations. What else can result from such an existence than a feeling of alienation, meaninglessness, and being ungrounded? When your life is essentially determined by 'what one does' rather than, say, 'what I do,' feelings of powerlessness and alienation are inevitable.

In contradistinction with inauthenticity, we have authenticity. Within Heidegger's thought, authenticity is not to be confused with the Romantics or Sartre's (mis)interpretation of Heidegger's work, the consequences of which have already been discussed. Being authentic does not remove the individual from their background (their thrownness), but more genuinely involves the individual in it: "since our own life stories are inseparable from the wider text of a shared we-world, authenticity can be nothing other than a fuller and richer form of participation in the public context" (228). It might be good, before proceeding with Guignon's analysis, to understand the illuminating etymology of authenticity, or eigentlich. Eigen, in German, can be translated in terms of what is "actual" or "appropriate," but the meaning Heidegger is directing us towards is that of "what is one's own" or "what is mine." An authentic life, then, is one that makes something one's own. What this something is will naturally depend on your views of Dasein, of man's mode of existence. Within Heidegger's view, where one is actively and concernfully situated within a culture and world, it is making that world and the beings within it your own. The hermeneutic (hence, narrative) parallel should be obvious--making the alien familiar through translation and interpretation.

What is altered in an authentic existence is not necessarily the specific actions that you perform; thus, to be authentic does not necessarily mean a change in behavior or practice. Rather, what is changed is how you relate to your own temporality, to your own possibilities. In inauthenticity we evade this ownness: we allow ourselves to be thrown into the everyday and what das Man expects of us in order to forget that we have to take a stand on our existence, on our mode of being (the second forgetting). In being inauthentic it is not the case that I haven't taken a stand on my existence, as I am still appropriating the world; but what that stand is happens to be determined by something other than myself and I forget my essential relationship with my possibilities. Granted, das Man is also essentially related to my possibilities, das Man is not itself sufficient for my possibilities; Dasein must be being-with, being-alongside-others which entails Dasein's temporality. By being before death, by understanding our utmost ability not to be (or not to be Dasein), we can take a more engaged role in determining who and what we are, on becoming active in that determination rather than passive in das Man's dictates. By taking this authentic stand on our existence, our lives are transformed in a subtle way: we no long depend wholly on das Man to understand our possibilities (either as limited or infinite) and we have a clearer view of our possibilities. This view is not perfect, by any means, but it is more genuine, more true to man's constitution as an individual, or, better put, as an-individual-with-others.

In this authentic life, our possibilities take on a new crispness or lucidity. Within das Man there is always the dumbed-down understanding of possibility that is dominated and even constituted by a vagueness; even where the extraordinary is spoken of, it is shrouded in an averageness that allows for no foreseeable limits. In the context not spoken of by Heidegger or Guignon--that of being given extremely limited options ("you'll never become anything," "no one ever leaves [insert name of location here]," etc.)--the extraordinary is not spoken of at all, or if it is it is made into some unattainable ideal that is better ignored than attempted with supposedly inevitable failure. In these cultures, das Man continues to determine the possible and the inauthentic Dasein takes them up rather than relating to its own possibilities, what its own context, abilities, and potentialities allow. By taking an authentic stand on our existence, then, we give coherence to our lives: our actions can be understood in terms of our own temporal way of being rather than the vague 'what one can do.' As stated earlier, the events in a story are intelligible only in terms of the wider plot; similarly, one's actions are now intelligible because they are genuinely situated in a more precise context.

To better understand this, Guignon makes an important distinction between a "means-end" approach to actions and a "constituent-end" approach to actions (230-231). In the first, our life is seen as an attempt to find means to particular ends, whatever those ends may be (recall the view of causation spoken of in the second section). Actions, in this case, are valuable only in terms of their ability to help us reach our goals, i.e. they are instrumentally valuable. Within the "constituent-end" approach, I understand that my actions are intimately connected to who/what I was, who/what I am, and who/what I will be and, as such, they are valuable in themselves. Thus, instead of running in order to be healthy and helping another in order to assist them, I run as part of being a healthy person and I help the other as part of being a helpful person. In the first, I do something in order to accomplish something; in the second, I do something in the context of existing in a certain way. Though the actions are the same in both cases, the grounds for their instantiation are substantially different: with the instrumentalist, life is seen as periodic events constituted by actions that can get me something; with the constitutionist, life is a temporal whole (past, present, and future, even towards death) wherein the actions are situated, which actions constitute who/what I am. Guignon put it nicely:

Where the means-end attitude trivializes the present by keeping us preoccupied with the carrot at the end of the stick, the constituent-end approach, by making us realize that what we are doing at this moment just is realizing the goals of living, throws us intensely into the present moment as the arena in which our coming-to-fruition is fulfilled. Running and being a friend are not just impositions I could as well do without; they make me the person I am. What is important is building myself as this kind of person, not scoring points or getting rewards "down the road." (231)
The upshot of this is that the inauthentic existence is simultaneously a misunderstanding of human existence itself: it misunderstands the ontological function of means and their deeper ontological/temporal foundations in Dasein's existence (i.e. projection, thrownness, and fallenness/forgetting). By thus misunderstanding man's mode of existence, the instrumentalist further perpetuates a limited understanding of man, insofar as man does act instrumentally, but only on the basis of constituent modes of being. This should clarify the fact that authenticity is not a question of discovering our 'true inner self' nor is it merely 'doing what I want.' Rather, it is a concept that is intimately tied to existence, to the question of being, or the being of Dasein (which is a preparatory question on the way to being). Also, authenticity does not reject the instrumentalist view per se, but only questions its supposedly fundamental nature.

The Self as a Moral Agent: Implications for Psychotherapy
From the above, Heidegger's view of Dasein sees a direct correlation between who we are and what we can become. Contrary to early Heidegger (but perhaps correctly), Guignon sees in this an ethical imperative--that we are called to be authentic--showing a necessary ethical aspect to human existence that both the modernist/scientific and existential psychoanalysts cannot account for: "Heidegger's account of life gives us a way of seeing substantive moral questions as an unavoidable part of any attempt to understand human beings" (231). I, for one, think that Guignon would do better to tie the ethical aspect of authenticity to Heidegger's later thought, or perhaps with Levinas, as it is not clear at all in his earlier works--we are obligated to being and the appearing of beings through appropriation (Ereignis) and, hence, have a responsibility (or response-ability) to being and (for Levinas) the Other. Through technology we 'challenge' and even do violence to being by constraining beings to appear within its frame (Ge-Stell) instead of releasing it to its own being; the former is inauthentic while the latter is authentic. In the former beings can only appear through the lens of technology; in the latter beings can appear as technology, but are also free to appear as something else. In Levinasian terms, it is letting the Other (in this case being/beings) be Other in its alterity even as it appears as something familiar. But that is for another entry.

Guignon next addresses the possible objection that Heideggerian authenticity still does not address how we are to bring these ideas up in a therapeutic setting. If we are to respect the diversity in modern society, any appeal to some moral values might be seen as an imposition on the freedom of others. This, however, itself assumes the relativity that it attempts to preserve--it assumes, but does not argue for, the value of pluralism. As such, far from being value neutral, naturalistic and psychoanalytic approaches themselves value the objective valueless stance; in Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self, this objective approach (starting in Augustine and culminating in Descartes) is seen as the Good, the methodology or mode of being that is considered better than a 'subjective' approach. Far from lacking a moral or valuative stance, the appeal to objectivity itself presupposes and thrives on a value judgment--that the disengaged approach to life/the world is 'better' and more valuable than the engaged/subjective approach to 'get at the real, the really real, the really really real, the REALLY really really real.' What we should realize, given what we've said above, is that this value judgment could very well be a prime cause of the disorders that people are paying the therapist to address--their lives are groundless, they have no authorities, no dominant narratives that give their lives meaning, they dwell in a meaningless world, they feel alienated. The patient, then, comes to the therapist with this feeling of alienation only to be told, or at least to be assumed in the therapist's methods, that that is just the way things are; buck up and courageously take up your life's meaninglessness in whatever way you want. To re-quote Reiff from earlier in the paper, we can safely speak of the "absurdity of being freed to chose and then having no choice worth making" (The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, 93; 223).

This self-defeating approach, seen in terms of what the therapist assumes and what the patient is suffering from, should make us reevaluate our presuppositions. Guignon ends his article by giving four ways that he thinks Heideggerian authenticity can help us better see the necessary moral dimension of therapy. First, Heideggerian authenticity, while not giving us a method, does give us "metavalues" such as "resoluteness, steadiness, courage, and, above all, clear-sightedness about one's own life as a finite, thrown projection" (232). While these metavalues are also assumed in the existentialist approaches, Heideggerian authenticity adds the further element that these are not means to ends, but are ways of being, ways of becoming the person I am and will be; they are valuable in themselves as constitutive elements of my identity. As such, we are answerable for our choices, not merely their consequences. This also makes us responsible for our self-deceptions--if we are authentic, if we own up to our thrownness, projecting, and fallenness, we will hold ourselves accountable for what we are and will not transfer blame to das Man. With a better grasp of and more accountability for our possibilities, we can have a truer understanding of ourselves.

Second, Heidegger's understanding of authentic Dasein allows us to see what role moral reflection plays in our self-understanding. Dasein's being is partially constituted by our being thrown into a culture that provides the basic possibilities of being that we can realize in our lives. As we do so we get a sense of what is valuable to the community, we become 'attuned' to what the community values as the Good (borrowing again from Taylor). This attunement in part constitutes how the world and the beings within it appear--our elders appear as people worthy of respect, certain places (Churches, temples, or gardens) appear as holy spaces, articles of clothing appear as either the latest fad or 'so last year,' etc. As constitutive aspects of my being, these attunements are an important facet of who and what I am--I am respectful, I am reverent, I am fashionable. As positive constituents of my identity, reflection on these values/attunements is itself valuable, not because it leads to some useful result, but because it improves our vision of ourselves.

Heidegger would have us understand, though, that the values appropriated from our fallenness and past das Mans are products of history--the Enlightenment das Man, the humanistic das Man, the Puritan das Man, the Mormon/Catholic/Buddhist das Man etc.--which have strongly influenced 'what one does' and 'what one is': an individual with God-given rights, that one should have their own opinions on matters, that women have their place in raising children. Our moral sense (our moral attunement) is shaped by these historical contingencies. In authenticity we enact a new relationship with these historical facts, we see their contingency and realize that there are other possible attunements (though we may not know what they are at the time). By seeing this contingency, the authentic Dasein "chooses its hero" (B&T 437/H385), it chooses its authorities whereby it can develop its basic attunements to beings. In being authentic, Dasein does not transcend das Man and thereby find its morality 'within' its 'inner self' nor 'without' itself in transcendent reason, but rather immerses itself in its context and chooses its authorities, either within its own tradition or finding new traditions. By finding exemplary stories and heroes/figures, Dasein finds a ground on which to find and choose its possibilities by relating to its history, the history of its culture, and perhaps in interacting with new cultures/attunements. As said earlier, any new culture/attunement that one discovers does not negate Dasein's thrownness, which continues to inform the Dasein's life, but it does establish a more genuine relationship between Dasein and its thrownness.

Third, authenticity further grounds our essential relationship with others. As essentially being-with (mi-Da-sein) and being inevitably thrown into a culture, authenticity helps us see better the connection between the Other and ourselves, of our fates being intertwined. Being human is not being alone or being only contingently related to others, but being Dasein, having a 'there' that is also inhabited by the Other whom we interact with; and how we interact with them is essentially constitutive for our being, as well as theirs. The authentic understanding that being human is essentially a being-with that also partially provides a context, a Da for the creation of the Other's being, by necessity introduces an ethical element. Because of this, we no longer see freedom as freedom from constraints, but rather as freedom for beings and the Other. As stated above, this is seen better in Heidegger's later thought and in Levinas where we are essentially responsible for the Other, be it being or another Dasein. Our freedom expresses itself in freedom for beings and the Other, from which we are able to constitute our being/identity; it is only against this background that we can also be free from things.

Heidegger's language of "loyalty" and "authority" shows that his concept of authentic freedom, far from pointing to some existentialist conception of "terrible freedom," as designed to bring out the role of those bedrock loyalties and commitments that already inhabit our lives, though often in a form distorted by ontological individualism. (235-236)
Fourth, authenticity can "clarify and expand the conception, found in certain recent theorists, of therapy as the renarrativizing of a person's life story" (236). As actions and thoughts only make sense within a context, authenticity can assist in gaining further clarity on that context and the dominant narratives that we have inherited from it. By finding continuity between disparate events in one's life through understanding the contexts in which they occurred, including the dominant values/attunements within those context, one is better situated to understand one's past, find resolution, and reinterpret one's identity. Seeing the continuity, for example, between mom's alcoholism, dad's temper and occasional beatings of mother and self, the dominant narratives and attunements found in one's culture and home, and one's current feelings of inadequacy, one may see the historically contingent nature of one's own narratives and find other narratives or grounds for narratives that engender different meanings than the inadequacies one feels. It could be argued that one primary reason that we see our current narrative with its inherent attunements as 'the only game in town,' that we are stuck, that we are 'in a rut,' that we 'can't escape from our inadequacies' is because we cannot see any other context/attunement within which to interpret the events. The therapist, here, will help guide their patient to see better his inherited values and attunements for what they are--contingent historical creations that might be distorting their understanding of themselves more than bringing it to light. Guignon is quick to point out that this narrative approach has a necessary moral element--protagonists, antagonists, suffering, injustices, lessons learned, etc. all are integral to a plot; they are what give the story meaning and life. Every narrative emerges from a world with its norms and practices; as such, narrative therapy must engender moral reflection, the reflections that shape how the world appears.

Guignon concludes with the following:

We began by looking at how naturalistic and third-force psychotherapy theories tend to presuppose a picture of the self as an essentially isolated individual in a morally neutral, objectified universe. What is troubling about such theories is the possibility that their picture of the self might be a major source of the emotional and behavioral problems that many people bring to therapists today. If this is so, then modern therapy risks perpetuating the problem in the cure. Heidegger's conception of authenticity, in contrast, can help us make sense of dimensions of therapeutic practice not fully accounted for in most forms of theorizing. Its value lies not in offering recipes for new types of technique, but in providing a basis for understanding our embeddedness in a wider context of meaning, the role of constraints in genuine freedom, and the fundamental role of moral commitments in our ability to be humans in any meaningful sense. In this way it provides a counterweight to conventional therapeutic ideals of effective behavior and self-actualization, and it can open up therapeutic practice to an understanding of life that is left unintelligible by prevailing theories. (236-237)
After all is said and done, I do believe that Guignon has shown a nacent ethics in Heidegger's conception of authenticity. Not an ethics of categorical imperatives or laws, but of man's essential relationship with and responsibility for the Other and being. I think bringing Levinas into the picture, as well as aspects of Heidegger's later thought, is particularly informative--one constitutive facet of Dasein's being is its responsibility to the Other and being, the latter being seen in the dangers of technology. By wallowing in the world of das Man where our temporal constitution is covered over, and with it a realization of our ontological relationship to our past, present, and future, this essential being-with is forgotten in the wake of the vague 'one.' By authentically taking up our possibilities, with its clearer understanding of this essential relationship, ethics is a necessary consequence.


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