Medium 9780253331472

Daimon Life: Heidegger and Life-Philosophy

Views: 571
Ratings: (0)

"Daimon Life is life-enchancing. To read it is to become richer in wor(l)d." –John Llewelyn

Disclosure of Martin Heidegger’s complicity with the National Socialist regime in 1933-34 has provoked virulent debate about the relationship between his politics and his philosophy. Did Heidegger’s philosophy exhibit a kind of organicism readily transformed into ideological "blood and soil"? Or, rather, did his support of the Nazis betray a fundamental lack of loyalty to living things? David Farrell Krell traces Heidegger’s political authoritarianism to his failure to develop a constructive "life-philosophy"—his phobic reactions to other forms of being. Krell details Heidegger’s opposition to Lebensphilosophie as expressed in Being and Time, in an important but little-known lecture course on theoretical biology given in 1929–30 called "The Basic Concepts of Metaphysics," and in a recently published key text, Contributions to Philosophy, written in 1936–38. Although Heidegger’s attempt to think through the problems of life, sexual reproduction, behavior, environment, and the ecosystem ultimately failed, Krell contends that his methods of thinking nonetheless pose important tasks for our own thought. Drawing on and away from Heidegger, Krell expands on the topics of life, death, sexuality, and spirit as these are treated by Freud, Nietzsche, Derrida, and Irigaray. Daimon Life addresses issues central to contemporary philosophies of politics, gender, ecology, and theoretical biology.

List price: $20.99

Your Price: $16.79

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove

10 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

An Introduction to Za-ology

ePub

Aber Lebendige machen alle den Fehler, daß sie zu stark unterscheiden. [Yet living beings all make the same mistake—they distinguish too sharply.]

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegy
no
. 1

Ist nicht vielleicht der Mensch nur die Entwicklung des Steines durch das Medium der Pflanze, Tier? [Might not human being be the mere development of stone through the medium of plants—an animal?]

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Fate and
History

Heidegger borrows a story from Aristotle. It is the story about Heraclitus warming himself at a stove. And about those frustrated tourists who had come to catch a glimpse of a thinker in action but were chagrined to find him engaged in the undignified activity of warming his . . . well, warming some part of himself, Aristotle does not say which part, and if Heidegger knows he refuses to tell, although ancient rumor has it that Heraclitus was warming some part of his body.

Heidegger recounts this story in his “Letter on Humanism” in response to an observation by Jean Beaufret, whom Heidegger quotes as follows: “What I have been trying to do, for a long time now, is to spell out the relationship between ontology and a possible ethics” (W, 183; BW, 231). In the ensuing discussion Heidegger cites fragment B 119 of Heraclitus, in which the word θοϛ appears. He cites that fragment, he says, because he does not have time to recite the tragedies of Sophocles, which, “in their saying shelter the θοϛ in a more pristine form [anfänglicher] than do Aristotle’s lectures on ‘ethics’ ” (W, 184; BW, 232–33). Fragment B 119 reads as follows: θοϛ ἀνθϱώπῳ δαίμων. “Human beings dwell, insofar as they are human, in the nearness of god.” Der Mensch wohnt, insofern er Mensch ist, in der Nähe Gottes (W, 185; BW, 233).

 

One. “I Call It Death-in-Life . . .”: Reading Being and Time

ePub

“Life” is not an existential structure of Dasein. Yet Dasein dies. Indeed, it is even born to that end: birth is one of the two ends of an end-like or finite existence—Dasein natal, Dasein fatal. In this regard Heidegger entertains the testimony of a medieval Bohemian peasant, one who has recently become a widower, and who therefore has a complaint against Death. However, Heidegger follows the lead of his anonymous medieval predecessor by allowing Death to have the last word. Der Ackermann aus Böhmen begins:

Grimmiger tilger aller leute, schedelicher echter aller werlte, freissamer morder aller menschen, ir Tot, euch sei verfluchet!

Malevolent subverter of all the people, thoroughly malignant to all the world, murderous devourer of all mankind, thou Death, my curse upon you!

Death, offended by the farmer’s vituperation, replies:

Weistu des nicht, so wisse es nu: als balde ein mensche geboren wird, als balde hat es den leikauf getrunken, das es sterben sol. Anefanges geswisterde ist das ende. . . . [A]ls schiere ein mensche lebendig wird, als schiere ist es alt genug zu sterben.

 

Two. “. . . Life-in-Death”: Reading Being and Time (II)

ePub

Life has appeared thus far in Being and Time as the unlikely body of Dasein and the impossible object of ontology. We must now go to encounter life in falling, anxiety, and care. Further, we shall rise to meet it in the ungraspable reality of the resplendent sun, then descend to meet it in bedazzlement, demise, and death. Perhaps even in perishing.

The two principal problems of the “everyday being of the ‘there’ and the falling [Verfallen] of Dasein” (SZ, §§35–38) are, first, the difficulty of achieving genuine phenomenological access to falling as the movement or animatedness (Bewegtheit) of existence and, second, the ease with which the factical ideal of such a fallen yet always still falling existence, an ideal derived from certain strands of the theological and moral-philosophical traditions, surreptitiously guides Heidegger’s fundamental ontology. Both problems touch on life. For the falling of Dasein is, as we have seen, the ruinous animation of factical life as such; and the factical ideal of a vigilant, reticent, and resolute Dasein that gets a grip on itself and escapes the snares of the world is an ancient ideal—the ideal of all idealisms and asceticisms since time immemorial, which seek to protect themselves above all from life.

 

Three. Where Deathless Horses Weep: The 1929–1930 Biology Lectures

ePub

. . . We often have occasion to observe how repugnant it is for a horse to trample a living body underfoot; an animal never encounters without disquiet a dead member of its own species; there are even some that extend to their dead a kind of interment. . . .

—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur
l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité
parmi les hommes

Some years ago Charles Scott sent me the draft of a paper on Heidegger and ethics.1 In it he cited a passage from Homer’s Iliad on horses and ethics. It became clear that in questions of ethics horses had the edge over Heidegger. For the passage Scott cited is one of the most stunning in all of Homer. It appears twice (not surprisingly, inasmuch as a third of all Homeric verses are repeated verses), first in the sixth song, as Paris gallops through the city on his way to the plain of battle, and then in song fifteen, as his brother Hektor spurs the Trojans to their most successful counterattack. The passage, a literary critic would say, elaborates an “extended metaphor,” and it runs as follows:

 

Four. “You in front of Me, I in front of You”: Heidegger in the University of Life

ePub

Heidegger and politics. The theme is dreariness itself, dreariness relieved only by disgust. My aim in this chapter, which is on the way toward a politics of life, is threefold. First, I want to write something—very little, very briefly, very carefully—about Heidegger’s silence after 1945 concerning the Extermination. It is of course foolish to write summarily about something that cries for time, thought, and recognition; but it is death itself to perpetuate that silence and to forget the enormous consequences of a topic I have just called “dreary.” Second, I want to report on several of Heidegger’s activities as rector in 1933–1934 that have only recently, that is, in the past five or six years, come to light. I mean his efforts to precipitate the end of the “liberal” constitution of the German university, as envisaged in Kant’s Conflict of the Faculties (Der Streit der Fakultäten, first published in 1798), by eliminating the frontier between power and knowledge, state and university, heteronymy and autonomy. His efforts can be summed up in a single very ugly word, Gleichschaltung, the “streamlining” of the university, the “meshing of gears” between Party-State and university, the “synchronizing,” better, the total submission to Party and to state power by the German university between 1933 and 1935. Or, if irony might help us to confront and bear ugliness, the rectification (from Recht, right, far right, erectile, rectal, rectoral) of the German university. Third, I want to discuss one of Heidegger’s earliest statements concerning the university in a lecture course taught at Freiburg in 1921–1922, “Introduction to Phenomenological Research.” Whereas the 1929 inaugural address, “What Is Metaphysics?” (W, 1–19; BW, 91–112), the 1933 rectoral address, Heidegger’s 1945 plea in his own defense, and the Spiegel interview of 1966 have long been available, this early text, only recently published, is Heidegger’s most detailed and most astonishing avowal concerning the university—as the university of life.1

 

Five. Shattering: Heidegger’s Rhetoric in the 1930s

ePub

No doubt Heidegger’s texts of the 1920s and 1930s betray a penchant for the hard and heavy, for metal, mettle, and melancholy—Härte und Schwere. No doubt such a penchant is troubling, especially when one discerns the debility and morbid sentimentality of all hard nationalisms and heavy fanaticisms. When Heidegger pleads for das harte Geschlecht, mustered “heart by heart, man by man,” one can only suffer pangs of embarrassment and then turn away in shame or disgust or pity or self-recognition. Once again, Rector Heidegger addressing the student body at the University of Tübingen on November 30, 1933: “We today are in pitched battle for the new reality. We are but a transition, a sacrifice. As fighters in this fight we must have a hard Geschlecht, one that no longer clings to anything of its own, one that attaches itself firmly to the basis of the Volk. . . . We are fighting heart by heart, man by man.”1

Winfried Franzen analyzes the motif of a “yearning for the hard and heavy” in Heidegger’s 1929–1930 lecture course, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World—Finitude—Solitude, which occupied us in chapter 3 and which remains crucial for our inquiry into daimon life.2 Here the mood of melancholy (Schwermut) predominates—melancholy in, of all things, biology. Franzen tries very hard to provide a fair and balanced account, threading his way warily between the Assassins and the Acolytes. Yet at almost every turn in his essay, with almost every “verdict” and “judgment,” one senses that he has either gone too far or fallen short—something that, as both Aristotle and Heidegger agree, is “easy” (61, 108–10).

 

Six. Paranoetic Thinking: “Life” in the 1936–1938 Contributions to Philosophy (Of Propriation)

ePub

In the foregoing chapter we cast our nets wide—excessively wide, no doubt—in search of the daimon. We found the daimonic site, τò δαιμóνιον, in the 1928 logic course, in the thicket of transcendence, freedom, temporality, the overpowering, the nothing, and the holy. The common element of these apparently disparate items proved to be “strewing” or “bestrewal,” Streuung, the root of emphatic Zer-streuung, dissemination, dispersion, and distraction. If the foregoing chapter spread itself too thin across too many texts, the present one will concentrate its forces and focus sharply on but two or three pages of a vast text, on some fifty lines in a book over five hundred pages long. We shall examine only two of the 281 sections or aphorisms of Heidegger’s 1936–1938 Contributions to Philosophy (Of Propriation). Both appear in Part IV, “The Leap” (if Sprung means “leap”), the two aphorisms that treat of “life.” And we shall permit nothing to disturb our focus.

 

Seven. Lifedeath: Heidegger, Nietzsche, Freud

ePub

Earlier we noted how disconcerting it was for life-philosophers such as Georg Simmel who became convinced that death could no longer be regarded as standing apart from life as its opposite. Studies by biologists on the life-duration of individual members of the various genuses and species suggested that the causes of dissolution and death were immanent in life; if not the τέλοϛ of life’s unfolding, death was certainly not a merely contingent truncation of a vital development that was in principle endless. Neurophysiological research on nerve tissue and germ plasm and psychoanalytic speculations on the types of drives and pulsions at work in living creatures expanded on these medical and biological studies, which, as we have seen, had already (especially through Eugen Korschelt) had their impact on Heidegger’s existential ontology. If Dasein was reborn at each instant of its ecstatic existence, and if it was dying in each such instant as well, then the immanence and imminence of its death had to alter whatever sense its factical “life” might possess.

 

Eight. Something like Sexes, Something like Spirit: Heidegger and Derrida

ePub

Goethe says: “It is not always necessary for the true to be embodied: enough if it hovers like a spirit [geistig] and produces accord; enough if it wafts through the air, earnest and amicable, like the sound of a bell.”

—Martin Heidegger, “Art and Space”

At various points in this meditation on daimon life we have been drawn to Derrida’s discussions of Geschlecht—sex, race, tribe, and generation are some of its meanings—and spirit. How could the daimon not have to do with spirit? How could sexuality and generation not touch on life? Or something like the sexes and sexuality, something like spirit? Heidegger says in 1929 that he is searching for something like being. Yet on his quest for being he encounters the flesh of the gods in his body but despair in his heart something like sexes, something like spirit.

Thus far we have seen four generations of Derrida’s “Geschlecht,” the third as yet unpublished; we also have the volume that interrupts the genetic transmission from the (unpublished) third to the (recently published) fourth generation. There is neither time nor space for a full-scale review or detailed reading of the five texts in question, four generations of Geschlecht and one generation Of Spirit, but it may advance our reflections on daimon life if we remind ourselves of Derrida’s as yet uncompleted and as always inimitable itinerary.

 

Nine. Final Signs of Life: Heidegger and Irigaray

ePub

In chapters 6 and 7 some nonsense was uttered about a second history of being, a “more covert” history of ϕύσιϛ and ζωή. Evidently, such a second history of being, appealing as it does to a distinction between overt and covert, surreptitiously reverts to the first, which is based on the opposition of revealing and concealing, openness and closure. One would have to be both more careful and more reckless about such talk. More careful: a history of za-ology cannot simply be rattled off without the most painstaking research and reflection. If Heidegger took three or four decades (or five, or six) to elaborate the first, no one should expect less of the chronicler of the second. Guarantees against old age, decrepitude, and lifedeath would have to be written into the contract. More reckless: an other history of being, of being as ϕύσιϛ, but of ϕύσιϛ as ζωή, and of ζωή as ζά, might well have to cast off every pious appurtenance of Heideggerian Geschichte and Geschick, abjure every appeal to “essence” and “fateful sending,” renounce the comforts of epochality, propriety, and propriation, and overcome both the temptations of fundamental ontology and the blandishments of an ostensibly other thinking of beyng—or of its history. In short, such a second history of being would have to lose both history and being to anarchy. For as long as a history of being recounts the story of being as destinai, as a sending, the “suspension of epochal principles,” as Reiner Schürmann calls it, and calls for it, is a sometime thing. A truly an-archic thinking will occur only at the moments of interruption in any recounting of any history of being. A second history of being would therefore have to be ludic, and perhaps even ludicrous; it would have to persevere without face-saving strategies of any kind. Disarmed by life, as it were, in the way an adolescent is disarmed by love; without recourse, destined only to continue in the face of inevitable interruption.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000084851
Isbn
9780253114808
File size
1.51 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata