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

David Farrell Krell Indiana University Press 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).

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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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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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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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6. Conclusions and Directions for Future Research

David Farrell Krell Indiana University Press ePub

In this final chapter I will review some of the issues raised in the earlier chapters—those issues that for one reason or other strike me as problematic and as needing further reading, research, and reflection. No doubt, I will have missed many issues that readers may find particularly troublesome or compelling. Yet so many matters have thrust themselves to the fore that I will clearly have great difficulty in organizing them. There will be repetitions as well as omissions, and much meandering. And, no doubt, some of the following remarks will be controversial. The danger of letting your hair down is that it may cover your eyes. My only wish is that the controversial remarks spawn, to repeat, further reading, research, and reflection. That wish is perhaps extravagant given the current academic climate, especially in the English-speaking philosophical world, although not exclusively there, which seems to dedicate itself more to vociferous position-taking these days than to careful study. Yet as extensive and as debilitating as such position-taking is, there remain—if it is not too avuncular of me to say so—a surprising number of students and faculty who are dedicated to careful and critical reading. Let the following questions and concluding rambles be addressed to them, therefore, as an expression of hope in the future.

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