16 Chapters
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1. The Beast and the Sovereign I

David Farrell Krell Indiana University Press ePub

Imagine yourself standing outside the corner show window of one of the few academic bookstores left in Paris, this one on the rue des Écoles itself. Filling the window are twenty-five books on animal life considered from various philosophical points of view. The book jackets are all colorful—Dürer’s hare, Bosch’s uncanny monsters, Dutch-interior dogs—and the subtitles are all titillating: Should We Kill Them? Should We Eat Them? Are They Human? There, translated into French, is Jeremy Bentham’s treatise on the question of animal suffering. And at the bottom of this bibliolithic mountain, off a bit to each side, left and right, lying flat, apparently too heavy to be propped up, are two very plain, very thick, very oddly titled tomes: volumes one and two of Jacques Derrida’s Séminaire: La bête et le souverain. “So many books!” as an American tourist once complained to Derrida in a foreign-language bookstore in Tokyo. “What is the definitive one? Is there any?” (UG 71).

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Seven. Lifedeath: Heidegger, Nietzsche, Freud

David Farrell Krell Indiana University Press 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.

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An Introduction to Za-ology

David Farrell Krell Indiana University Press 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).

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

David Farrell Krell Indiana University Press 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:

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5. Is Apophantic Discourse the Touchstone?

David Farrell Krell Indiana University Press ePub

The chapter title intends to ask whether Heidegger takes apophantic discourse, which he (following Aristotle) attributes to humankind alone among all living beings, to be the ultimate distinguishing feature of humanity. In the 1929–1930 lecture course, especially in its final hundred pages, from section 69 onward, this appears to be the case. It would be the capacity of human beings to assert beings as such—the god as a god, the dog as a dog—that would make human being something other than god or dog. And, with great good luck, something closer to the former than to the latter. Such exceptionalism would be a perquisite of the human being’s successful confrontation with death as death, dying as dying. In earlier chapters I have claimed that Heidegger’s analysis of the existential-hermeneutic-as still needs to be brought to bear in all considerations of apophantic discourse, which for its part is fundamentally derivative. As I mentioned in the foregoing chapter, sections 32–34 and 44 of Being and Time, which argue for the preeminence of the existential-hermeneutic over the apophantic “as,” still seem to me among the greatest achievements of Heidegger’s thought. Yet it is also possible to look ahead in Heidegger’s career of thought in order to challenge the priority of assertory language—the language of statements and judgments—as the earmark of humankind. Here I will consider Heidegger’s 1951 “Logos” essay, which contemplates Heraclitus’s fragment B 50. We might in all innocence render the fragment in this way: “Listening not to me but to the Logos, it is wise to say in accord with that Logos: One is All, All is One.” It would of course also be possible to trace Heidegger’s thinking of language through his 1959 Under Way to Language. Yet the “Logos” essay has the advantage of having been translated by Jacques Lacan—a Lacan who may differ from the one we have seen so far, that is, the Lacan whom Derrida locates squarely within the Cartesian canon. For, as Derrida would surely admit, there is a more obstreperous Lacan, for whom language is much more than a structuralist “symbolic.”

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