Agamben and Heidegger

Spending time with Heidegger at the same time that I’m translating Agamben is proving fertile — it’s obvious that Agamben is “influenced by” Heidegger in a lot of ways, but it’s good to get a firm handle on exactly how. It’s now beginning to seem to me that the ambition of the Homo Sacer series is to rework Heidegger’s “history of Being,” in part by treating Nazism as a decisive event in that history in a way that Heidegger’s direct involvement could not allow him to.

I also have to admit that I feel a little dumb for not realizing that the emphasis on Aristotle most likely comes from Heidegger and that the priority of potentiality over actuality is found directly and directly in Being and Time: “As a modal category of presence-at-hand, possibility signifies what is not yet actual and what is not at any time necessary. It characterizes the merely possible. Ontologically it is on a lower level than actuality and necessity. On the other hand, possibility as an existentiale [i.e., the equivalent of a "category" for Dasein's special way of being] is the most primordial and ultimate positive way in which Dasein is characterized ontologically” (M&R trans., pg. 183, original pp. 143-44).

(I thought I saw a book with the title “Agamben and Heidegger” in some context recently, but I can’t find it on Amazon now.)

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11 Responses to “Agamben and Heidegger”

  1. Markus Says:

    You might be thinking of “Improper Life – Technology and Biopolitics from Heidegger to Agamben” by Timothy C. Campbell

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I did see that, but it really seemed like I saw something that was literally just “Agamben and Heidegger.” Now I’m worried I may have just dreamed it!

  3. specularimage Says:

    I wrote about this on my blog as well and I believe I titled it Agamben and Heidegger. I think the idea of facticity plays prominent in Agamben from Heidegger. Adam do you feel that Agamben didn’t do a thorough study of Aristotle using primary sources but instead used perhaps Heidegger’s work on Aristotle? If this is the case how did you come to this? thanks

  4. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Sorry I missed your post. I didn’t mean to suggest Agamben didn’t study Aristotle directly — I was thinking that Heidegger’s interest inspired him to study Aristotle.

  5. David True Says:

    The connection gets some treatment in Simon Critchley’s “The Faith of the Faithless.” SC suggests the Agamben is partly to blame for covering his tracks.

  6. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I don’t think he’s covering up anything. If you want to rip off someone’s ideas and hope no one notices, do you really choose Heidegger? Unless I’m misunderstanding the claim you’re attributing to Critchley.

  7. David True Says:

    The connection with H is not always looked upon so highly, right?

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I don’t think this is a very productive direction for the discussion — too much sheer speculation involved.

  9. zjb Says:

    the link of possibility-vituality back to Heidegger is very, very interesting. thanks, Adam Kotsko!

  10. bzfgt Says:

    I find the moments when Agamben tries to distinguish himself from Heidegger are at times ambiguous and hard to parse…he’s usually too close to Heidegger to make a clean break.

  11. André Dias Says:

    Well, there is also Heidegger’s 1931 course on Aristotle’s Metaphysics θ 1-3. On the Essence and Actuality of Force, which seems a very clear source for Agamben’s take on actuality/potentiality…
    Agamben’s explicit closeness to—and assumed heritage from—Heidegger sometimes limits his approach; for instance, in The Open: Man and Animal he kind of entangles himself in Heidegger’s brilliantly tortuous argument, reaching a somewhat unsatisfactory dead-end.
    At other times, his criticism is clearer, as in The Kingdom and the Glory (and in the direction pointed by Adam): «Heidegger cannot resolve the problem of technology because he was unable to restore it to its political locus. The economy of being, its epochal unveiling in a veiling is, like economic theology, a political mystery that corresponds to powers entering into the figure of Government. And the operation that resolves this mystery, which deactivates and renders inoperative the technological-ontological apparatus, is political.» (253)
    Anyway, I gather his misreading of Foucault to be more fruitful than his entire heideggerian—a bit pompous—heritage…


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