Two questions on Heidegger translation conventions

  1. Dasein — the convention of leaving this term untranslated seems to be the single most consistent trait across all English translations of Heidegger. It does have the disadvantage that leaving foreign words untranslated can make them seem like mysterious occult terms, and it can also make it seem as though Heidegger virtually created this term. I wonder if translating Dasein as “the existing being” might have been a better idea, all things considered. It makes it clearer, for example, that Heidegger is using a common term in the region of “being” in a narrower terminological way. It’s admittedly clunky, but it’s also clunky to leave a German word constantly untranslated, particularly when you then also need to leave it in German in Heidegger’s quotes from previous philosophers who used the term more broadly.

  2. Germanic and Latinate synonyms — the convention of distinguishing a pair of Germanic and Latinate synonyms (zeitlich, temporale) by capitalizing the latter is probably the least bad option in many cases, but I wonder if enough of an effort was made to find and perhaps even coin synonyms. Obviously one wants to avoid the worst excesses of the first translation of the Contributions, but would “timely” and “temporal” be so hideous, for example? I’m at a disadvantage because I only really know philosophical German, but my understanding is that many of the terminological usages of “common” German words ring foreign for German readers as well.

These are small points, since anyone who wants to study Heidegger’s texts at a detailed level is going to need to read the German in any case. But what do you think?

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37 Responses to “Two questions on Heidegger translation conventions”

  1. Luther Blissett Says:

    It’s a good thing that dasein is generally left untranslated, but that way it’s consistent across translations.

    Someone paraphrasing Heidegger for those unafflicted with Heideggerianism, should avoid jargon. I’d suggest “understanding being”, if it didn’t have so many syllables. It’s convenient for Heidegger that German has a common word for “there being”, but dasein ought to ring foreign for German readers, if they’re to make sense of his way of thinking.

  2. Phaidros Says:

    “Dasein” sounds quite familiar for German readers since it’s just a substantiation of the verb “dasein”. Reading Heidegger for the first time as a native German speaker, his words appear often to be too familiar. Hence, the most important part of learning how to read Heidegger, is to realize how foreign his words are to be read.

    However, doesn’t something like “being-there” work? Though I’m not an English native speaker, it seems to me to have almost the same semantic structure like “Dasein” since the verb “dasein” includes “Bist Du da?” (are you there?), “Ich bin für Dich da.” (I’m there for you), “Ich bin noch da!” (I’m still here!) etc. For sure, that’s a very artificial solution, but so is “Dasein” itself.

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    My understanding is that the philosophical use of the term is derived from Dass-sein (that it is, i.e., existence as opposed to essence, what it is). Heidegger seems to view being-there as a secondary meaning, and when he intends that primarily, he introduces a hyphen (Da-sein) — hence as a blanket translation it doesn’t seem to work. If it were up to me, I’d translate Dasein as “existing being” and Da-sein as “existing being-there.” Clunky, but it shows the connections much more directly.

  4. Phaidros Says:

    I don’t see that “Dasein” is derived from “Dass-sein”. Grammatically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to me. And the “existenziale Analytik des Daseins” als “In-der-Welt-sein” refers, afaics, explicitly to an active “Dasein” that has a “Seinsverständnis” (as a mode of “Seinsbestimmtheit des Daseins”). A mere “Seiendes” that is not also a “Dasein”, cannot have a “Seinsverhältnis”. (cf. Heidegger: Sein und Zeit, S. 12) Could you point me to a passage in Heidegger’s text about the “Dass-sein”?

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I cannot. And I now don’t remember where I heard this “Dass-sein” thing. My impression was that when the word was taken up into technical philosophical language, an alternative etymology of “Dass-sein” was used to justify its connection to “existence” (as glossed above). Am I just making this up? I don’t know how I could have.

  6. nonmanifestation Says:

    There’s one passage in B&T (p. 7 of the German, p. 26 of Macquarrie/Robinson) where he seems to contrast Dass-sein and Dasein: “Sein liegt im Dass- und Sosein, in Realität, Vorhandenheit, Bestand, Geltung, Dasein, im ‘es gibt’.” Though perhaps here he’s not using ‘Dasein’ in his own technical sense.
    On translating the German/Latinate pairs with the capital letter, maybe the idea was that the same distinction was being made in each case and should be presented the same way in the translation. Timely and temporal is good, but can you find a consistent way of doing the same thing with Gliederung/Artikulation, Auslegung/Interpretation, etc. (Though Macquarrie & Robinson do something like what you suggest with Geschichtlichkeit=historicality vs Historizität=historicity, so maybe consistency wasn’t really the point.)

  7. Jamie Says:

    Dasein = Da-Sein = being there/here

  8. Daniel Lindquist Says:

    I suspect the best way to handle the Germanic/Latinate pairs is to just footnote the hell out of Heidegger’s texts, as is done in the Cambridge edition of Kant’s works. That lets you translate the text however reads most smoothly in English, but still lets the German-poor reader easily track which version of various terms were being used in the original. I’m thinking here specifically of how “urteil” and “beurteil” were handled in Kant: as far as the translators can tell, there’s no general difference between them in Kant’s usage, so both are just translated as “judgement” (or some form of that), with a footnote to indicate which German term was used in the original. Just in case there’s a contrast meant in some ambiguous passage. Some pages of KU have a lot of footnotes because of this, but I think the scholastic rigor is worth the awkward formatting.

    I think leaving “Dasein” as “Dasein” is the least bad option: if there was a one-word translation for it that was passable, I would be okay with using that, but I don’t like replacing it with longer phrases; Heidegger translations are dense enough already. I especially dislike translating it with any modifier + “entity”; if Heidegger wanted to speak about us by constantly referring to us as “Seiendes” of some sort he could have, but he didn’t. It’s part of the analysis of Dasein that we are entities of a sort, but I don’t like having that plastered on every page of SuZ; it’s neither tautologous that we are entities, nor is it important enough to remind the reader of it so constantly. (I also dislike the newer trend of translating “Seiendes” as little-b “being” rather than “entity”; even ignoring awkward cases where you want to start a sentence by referring to “Beings” and have to rephrase it, I don’t see any reason to make the ontological difference any easier to miss than it already is: English lets us easily translate “Sein” and “Seiendes” by completely different words, and I think Macquarrie & Robinson did well to take advantage of that.) — but I think any discussion of how to translate “Dasein” into English is gassing at this point; that ship has sailed.

    I’d always heard that Heidegger’s etymology for “Dasein” was just “there-being”. The Blackwell “Heidegger Dictionary” backs this up: “(Dasein in Heidegger is quite distinct from Dass-sein, ‘that-being’ (XXVI, 183, 228f.).)” (I found this by googling “Heidegger “dass-sein””; I found nothing backing up the dass-sein etymology.)

  9. Daniel Lindquist Says:

    My link to the Dictionary entry got eaten; I can never remember which blogs allow HTML in comments and which don’t. http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=g9780631190950_chunk_g97806311909507_ss1-1

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I repent in dust and ashes. As I can’t find a reference anywhere else, I can only conclude that my faulty conclusion about the possible origin of “Dasein” comes from the passage quoted above with the “Dass- und So-sein.” I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused.

  11. Michael Eldred Says:

    ‘Dasein’ is a normal German word whose substantivization first occurred in the 18th century. You’ll find it in Kant and Hegel, for instance, where it means simply ‘existence’, i.e. that someTHING IS. Heidegger recasts the term entirely by shifting its signification from the existence of beings in general, and somewhats in particular, to mean the mode of being of human beings, i.e. of somewhos. In Heidegger’s phenomenology there is for the first time a well-worked-out, conceptual determination of whoness in distinction from the age-old concern of metaphysics with whatness, i.e. the being of ‘whats’, their ‘whatness’, ‘quidditas’ or ‘essence’. When Heidegger hyphenates Dasein as Da-sein or Da-Sein, there is a further twist, because the Da in Heidegger’s thinking is the temporal clearing itself within which all beings whatever (whats and whos) presence and absence. The clearing itself is the time-clearing of presencing itself, which is inconspicuous, hidden, whereas it is the presencing and absencing of ‘presents’, i.e. ‘occurrents’, that Dasein (human being) sees and understands AS such. It’s very important not to think of Dasein as a sort of entity, but as the MODE of being, i.e. as the ways of presencing and absencing, and of revealing and concealing, of human beings AS somewhose. In one sense, Dasein can be thought of as existence or ex-sistence in the sense of standing-out, ex-posed to the three-dimensional temporal clearing of the Da.

  12. Kevin Says:

    Hmm…we sometimes translate “-sein” into English as “-ness”–as “bewusstsein” is translated “consciousness” rather than “conscious-being”–so why not translate “dasein” as “thereness” or something like that? Just a thought.

  13. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I de-repent! I found my source — a footnote in the Basic Writings anthology, pg. 48.

  14. eric d Says:

    Adam: You are definitely right about the Das-Sein/Was-Sein coupling, which connects Heidegger’s German lingo with Scholastic (Latinate) distinctions of existentia & essentia. There’s an ongoing debate about this stuff on The Heidegger Circle blog line & if you’re not a follower maybe you should be. My own argument about leaving Dasein untranslated (briefly!) is that Heidegger is almost obsessionally fascinated by complex etymological puns & word play in German (& sometime Proto-Indo European) which connects the philosophical applications of contemporary words back to their Germanic or PIE roots; or else just plays off their contemporary meanings to make strange connections often inaccessible even to native speakers. The obvious connection is between Dasein and das Sein, which emphasizes the existential sense of “menschliches Dasein” (“human being”) as always already connected with what I like to call “cosmic Being” (das Sein) (which, for Martin Heidegger. is as close as he’ll ever get to using the word “God,” as in Aquinas’ “Deus est ipsum esse”). But this connection is reinforced by way of the complex word-play on Dasein/ das Sein des Seienden/das Sein; since “Dasein” (‘human being”) is existentially connected to “das Sein” (“cosmic Being”) via “das Sein des Seienden” (“the being of Beings”), which etymological connection is lost if the words are translated. Another un-translateable Germanism is the term, “das Seiende” (“being-ness” or “being” [small-B]) which is distinguised both from “das Sein” (“Being” capital-B) and “beings” (plural, lower case). Hence the terms “Being” and “being” (substantive nouns) have distinctive different senses which can’t be captured in English translation except through the convention of using Capital-B for “das Sein” and small-b for “das Seiende.” And then we also can’t forget that in German, Dasein/das Sein is formed from the infinitive of the German verb (to be: sein), which gives a distinctly verbal sense to the German noun which Heidegger insists upon in, e.g., The Zahringen Seminar (Viere Seminare). For a brief introduction to this stuff, the easy source is the chapter called “The Grammar & Etymology of the Word Being” in Introduction to Metaphysics (Einfuhrung in die Metaphysik).

    PS: We also can’t forget what Martin Heidegger calls “the difference between “being” (das Sein) and “beings” (das Seinde, die Seienden), which is “the ontological difference” par excellence. But Martin Heidegger spends his whole philosophical career trying to define exactly what that difference is! Because if “Being” (das Sein) is not “the Being of beings” (das Sein des Seienden), still “Being” is nothing but “the Being of beings.” So disambiguate that!…

    Wish I had time to say more….

    PPS: Did you know the German verb “ist” (3rd person singular indicative of sein/”to be) is directly etymologically descended from the proto-Indo European verb stem *as- or *es-? which is also evident in Greek (esti) Latin (esse) and English (“is’). Which tells you something about the special privilege given to “Being”/”being” in Western indo European languages. Check out Charles Kahn, “The Greek Verb To Be,” in Essays in Being for details…

  15. stuartelden Says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    Two questions, and some interesting discussion in the comments, about Heidegger translations. I think Dasein should be kept, and all the nuances teased out in a translator note; and I dislike the capitalisation of nouns in English since it tends to reify or deify them. Nouns in German are capitalised anyway, so that’s a different convention. The biggest problem though, isn’t with the ones Adam Kotsko highlights, it’s Sein as ‘Being’… when it really should simply be ‘being’.

  16. Chris Says:

    Some of Sembera’s translations are quite good:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=dFFcEaOmsmEC

  17. Michael Eldred Says:

    It’s easy to get tangled making the distinctions between Dasein (human being, existence, quissity), Dass-sein (existentia) and Was-sein (essentia, quidditas, Wesen). The English translation of Dasein as ‘there-being’ has the problem that ‘da’ in German can just as easily mean ‘here’, and this signification is probably more appropriate when trying to think ‘Dasein’. In everyday German, “Ich bin da” means simply “I’m here”. So Dasein means ‘here in the Da’. As far as we know. only human beings are exposed to the Da; insofar, the translation of Dasein as ‘human being’ or ‘human existence’ is justified. Since Sein und Zeit is the attempt to show that being means time, and this is never dropped by Heidegger (cf. e.g. the Zollikon Seminars), I think it is important to think of being itself (in distinction from the metaphysical concern with the Seiendheit des Seienden, i.e. the beingness of beings) as Anwesen, i.e. presence itself, and to think beings as Anwesendes, i.e. presents. And this is what Heidegger himself comes to in his interpretations of Parmenides. Since presence itself is threefold, comprising also two modes of absence (the refusal of presence and the withholding of presence), beings themselves must be thought as comprising both presents and absents (in the twofold sense). So in German one could say that beings (presents) comprise schon Abgewestes, Anwesendes and noch Anzuwesendes (that which has already absented itself, that which is presently presenting itself, and that which has yet to present itself). Crucial here is the three-dimensional temporal nature of the Da, i.e. of the time-clearing itself. 3D time is not linear as it is from Aristotle through to Kant and beyond (including in all modern science). There is no longer any washing-line of time on which occurrences are hung as simultaneous or successive; there is also no longer any time t# indexed by a real, continuous number. Rather the three dimensions of presencing and absencing play freely into each other, impacting Dasein itself. This free play gives rise to a new meaning of ‘simultaneity’ in which the logical principle of non-contradiction (for which linear simultaneity is essential) loses its unquestionable validity.

  18. eric d Says:

    I add just one remark to Micheal Eldred’s excellent commentary. Martin Heidegger, does, in fact, repudiate the attempt to think Dasein in terms of temporality (per “Being and Time”). And that is in “Zur Sache des Denkens” (trans: “Of Time & Being” by Joan Stambaugh), where Heidegger outright says that the whole attempt to solve the problem of human existence in terms of temporailty was a mistake and a failure. In “Zur Sache des Denkens,” Martin Heidegger definitely moves away from the whole thinking of Being-as-presence which has characterized his previous thought, toward the thinking of “What gives… Being,” or, “What lets Being be…,” which is not Being or (a) being, but rather “the event” of what he calls “das Ereignis.” The three-fold presencing-of-presence Mr. Eldred describes here does sound very much like what Martin Heidegger says in “Der Spruch des Anaximanders,’ in which he describes the Early Greek thinking of Being-as-presence in precisely these tripartite terms. But I wonder if, in the final texts, Martin Heidegger wasn’t attempting to get past, not only the Western metapysical thinking of Being-as-metaphysical-presence, but also the Western metapysical thinking of temporal becoming as the presencing-of-presence/the present. And even past the whole Western metaphysical thinking spacetime per se, toward something like a post-Einsteinian cosmos… But it’s always difficult to tell what Martin Heidegger is expounding, and what he’s deconstructing! (e.g. “Western metaphysics.”) But this deconstructive effort is continued by J Derrida, in very Heideggerian style, in, for example, “Ousia et Gramme,” in Margins of Philosophy, which takes another step past the Western metaphysical thinking of spacetime…

  19. Eric Daryl Meyer Says:

    Apologies for the off topic comment.

    Since the world of continental philosophy, religion, and ecology is not all that big. I feel the need to publicly clarify that I am not Eric D. When I post to AUFS (or elsewhere in the world of bloggery) I always post under my full name—Eric Daryl Meyer—and have never posted under any other name.

    Several people have already been understandably confused, because “Eric D” and I share the same first name, middle initial, and surname, so I want to clarify for anyone else who may be confused.

    You will know me by my “Daryl.” Also, I’m unlikely to be found saying smart things about Heidegger.

  20. Michael Eldred Says:

    In response to Eric D.: my interpretation of the Da as the time-clearing is based very much on ‘Zeit und Sein’ (1962) in Zur Sache des Denkens. I agree that the It that gives both being (Anwesen und Anwesendes) and the dimensions of time (An- und Abwesung) is the Ereignis (propriation). The step beyond metaphysics is to get over the fixation on beings/presents and also the one-dimensionality of time/presencing conceived as a linear succession of Nows. On this please look up ‘Being Time Space’ at my web-site, where you can read also my critique of Derrida — as an obliterator of the phenomenon of time through a ‘writing on writing’ or grammatogrammy — in my longer study, The Time of History. You have to decide whether you want to learn to see what you already see, or, like Derrida, to write all over it so you don’t see anything anymore.

  21. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Eric Daryl, I was indeed wondering about that. Thank you for the clarification.

  22. bzfgt Says:

    I thought Heidegger in “Time and Being” said the attempt to ground space in originary time was a failure, not that Dasein was no longer to be thought in terms of temporality.

  23. eric d Says:

    To All Whom It May Concern: I am Eric D. Meyer. I sometimes say stupid things and sometimes smart things about Heidegger. If I say stupid things and it’s drawn to my attention, I’ll admit it. The exact quote from “Zur Sache des Denkens” escapes me at the moment. But it’s something like: “The attempt to derive human spatiality from time in Sec. 70 of “Being and Time” was a failure….” It’s somewhere in the last few pages of the essay. I’d agree that Jacques Derrida is often found saying stupid things and sometimes very smart things. But he’s always an interesting commentator on Martin Heidegger. I do think “Ousia et Gramme” is a very interesting and perceptive essay on what Martin Heidegger, in”Being and Time”, calls “the vulgar concept of time” (“as a linear succession of nows”), but J. Derrida shows wasn’t vulgar, even in Aristotle, in the first place. J Derrida;’s thinking derives instead from Hegel’s thinking of time as a constant succession of Aufhebungs, which is sort of an interesting idea. But of course J Derrida finally dissolves both space and time into a dissemination of virtual traces, which strikes me as an attempt to think the cosmic quantum field of virtual particles & virtual energies in un-metaphysical terms, & therefore also as possibly a smart idea, although still in need of thinking. .I agree with Derrida that the whole notion of “Ereignis” as “ap-propriation” is metaphysical because its suggests the attempt to grasp being & time as metaphysical substance(s) or metaphysical presence(s0, which they are not. That’s why I object to the Joan Stambaugh translation of “Ereignis” as “Appropriation.” I prefer “the event,” which emphasizes both the temporal and verbal sense of “What gives…” Being: It’s an event or happening, not a thing, right?… As far as seeing what I already see, the privileging of metaphors of sight (the Platonic eidos, Husserlian eidetic seeing. etc.) strikes me as also metaphysical. In “The Zahringen Seminar,” Martin Heidegger concludes by arguing for a “phenomenology of the in-apparent or un-visible (unscheinbar),” which would disclose the field of phenomenology to what has been un-thought in previous metaphysical thinking. I think that’s a smart idea . But I’m still waiting to find out exactly what it means. Does it mean a phenomenology of what’s called “extrasensory perception” or “paranormal experience”? If so, I’m for it…

  24. Michael Eldred Says:

    Responding to bzfgt: The sentence you’re referring to in ‘Time and Being’ reads: “The attempt in Sein und Zeit §70 to lead Dasein’s spatiality back to temporality cannot be maintained.” Why not? Because in SuZ §70 it’s a matter of the “Sicheinräumen des Daseins” (“Dasein’s spacing itself”) by “Ausrichtung und Ent-fernung” (“orienting and nearing”), thus focusing on Dasein and its movement, whereas ‘Time and Being’ proposes that “the origin of space” has to be thought from the “adequately thought peculiarity of place (Ort)”. And he gives the hint that place, in turn, is thought through in ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’. In this way, he proposes. space “can be thought” in its “relation … to propriation (Ereignis)”. In BDT space is spaced (Raum wird eingeräumt) via certain things, namely “erected things” (Bauten). In this way, space has a MEDIATED relationship to propriation which gives both being (Anwesen des Anwesenden) and four-dimensional “pre-spatial (vor-räumlich)” time-space (Zeitraum). I call this Zeitraum the pre-spatial time-clearing, another name for the Da. The presencing of certain presents, namely extended built things, in the time-clearing is the placing of places that space space (Raum einräumen).

  25. Michael Eldred Says:

    Response to eric d.’s comment ““Ereignis” as “ap-propriation” is metaphysical because its suggests the attempt to grasp being & time as metaphysical substance(s) or metaphysical presence(s)”.
    Substance is indeed a key metaphysical concept, rendering Greek _ousia_ (lit. beingness) or _hypokeimenon_ (lit. ‘that which underlies, substratum, sub-ject), both of which play a leading role throughout metaphysics (including today’s science), starting with Aristotle, as the primary mode of being of beings. In its primitive metaphysical sense, _ousia_ means simply the enduring presence of an underlying being to which predicates can be attributed by the _logos_. In a further sense, _ousia_ means the essence or whatness of a being, in particular, its _eidos_, the ‘look’ it presents of itself.. Neither being itself nor time, however, are beings, so it makes no sense to call them substances. Rather, Ereignis gives being(=presence itself) which unfolds as the three-dimensional clearing of presence and absence for presencing AND absencing. This 3D time-clearing — to which Dasein itself is enpropriated — is inconceivable metaphysically, despite the pied piper’s (Derrida) disturbingly successful attempts to bamboozle through writing. Likewise Ereignis is not a substance but the It that gives. All that can be said (tautologically) of Ereignis is “Das Ereignis ereignet” (‘Zeit und Sein’).

  26. eric d Says:

    Yes, absolutely right, the whole metaphysics of substance comes from Aristotle’s Ton Meta Ta Phusika (“Meta-Physics?”), in which Greek ousia is usually translated as “substance” & confused with hupokeimenon, which more properly means “sub-stance” as “sub-ject” or “sub-stratum” (Greek prefix: (h)upo, under, beneath etc. Note that these are all Latinate translations of the Greek words, substituting “sub-” for “(h)upo-“). There’s also a confusion between the syllogistic (grammatical?) “sub-ject” & the metaphysical “sub-stance” which, by my reading Martin Heidegger never clarifies. (And which shows up in a major way in GWF Hegel’s Phenomenology.) Heidegger’s strong on translating Gr. ousia as “being,” but Liddell & Scott also give: “substance, property, possessions, one’s own” etc. which maybe suggests “ap-propriation.” Maybe because of this confusion, I don’t believe Martin Heidegger ever quite frees his thought from the Western metaphysical propensity to think “Being”/”being” as a metaphysical substance or metaphysical presence. although he certainly shows the way toward that deconstructive effort in Of Time & Being. I do think J Derrida is more successul in “Differance,” albeit at the expense of dissolving everything into a mise en abyme or an ephemeral archi-trace structure without positiive terms: a play of virtual particles & virtual energies in empty space, which eludes signification or representation. But I admit that the whole question: What is metaphysical? And what ain’t? Is itself also metaphysical, since whenever we talk a Western metaphysical language or inhabit a Western metaphysical world-view (including the most advanced astrophyics & etc.) we are being metaphysical. So I’d say that discussions of the Western metaphysical world-view like Martin Heidegger’s & Michael Eldred’s, while still metaphysical, take us to the limits of metaphysics. Which is as far as we can go without falling off the edge of the world into J. Derrid’a abyssing of the abyss. Still, I prefer to translate “Ereignis” as “the event” of “What gives…” rather than as “ap-propriation” because I still think that leads us back into the metaphysics of substance presence & essence etc….

    PS: Mister Eldred: I’d invite you to join the Heidegger Circle & have a few go-’rounds with Prof. Thomas Sheehan from Stanford on the subject of “Being” as “presence,” since Prof. Sheehan has a very sophisticated take on the sub-ject & is always prepared to sling citations from Martin Heidegger’s text at you. I think, briefly, that Prof. Sheehan’s take would be that “das Ereignis” is “What lets Being come to presence” (Anwesen-lassen); but the debate often focuses on whether what you call the en-propriation of Dasein is necessary for das Sein (Being) to come to presence; or whether das Sein selbst (Being) comes to itself without its meaningful presence to a sub-ject or sub-stance (if, as J Derrida says, Dasein is not, but is still, a metaphysical subject. And so on..). Anyway, I think you’d enjoy the dialog & probably we’d all learn something…

  27. Michael Eldred Says:

    Thanks for the tip, Eric. I know Tom personally, but I didn’t know he was discoursing online. He and I agree that MH’s German is Greek. What’s the address for the Heidegger Circle? And please, not “Mister Eldred”, but ‘Dr Eldred’, if you like, or simply ‘Michael’.

    As for the Ereignis — it’s the abyss around which we do the round dance of estimation with things and each other. We humans are not sub-jects under-lying anthing, but whos playing in the play of estimation around the abyss on the Earth and beneath the Sky.

    As for Derrida — I’ve already said more than enough… My critique of his grammatogrammy is in my Time of History. Grammatogrammy is of Talmudic inspiration rather than philosophical, and, in my experience, it obscures the view.

  28. Michael Eldred Says:

    eric d. writes “Heidegger’s strong on translating Gr. ousia as “being,” but Liddell & Scott also give: ‘substance, property, possessions, one’s own’ ”

    Heidegger was perfectly aware of these other significations of _ousia_, and he goes further than Liddell & Scott in providing a phenomenological interpretation of _ousia_ as German ‘Anwesen’, which means not only ‘presencing’, but also ‘estate’, ‘Hab und Gut’. This connection is (just) one way of making the link between _ousia_ as being-ness (_ousa_ is the feminine present participle of _einai_) and Anwesen as beständiger Anwesenheit (enduring presence or better: standing presence).

    It is not without irony that the thinker who copiously worked out the metaphysical nature of metaphysical thinking, showing that its conception of being is implicitly a restricted, tunnel-vision understanding of time in which only the present instant properly exists, is himself accused of merely continuing metaphysical thinking by those who don’t even get his path-breaking recasting of time as 3D ecstatic time (e.g. Derrida’s ‘Ousia and gramme’). Heidegger, namely, is the thinker who draws attention to and works out that the two modes of absence are precisely modes of presence — something metaphysical thinking never saw, not even today’s super-advanced metaphysical quantum gravity theory that is still struggling vainly to come to terms with the phenomenon of time within the mathematized age-old metaphysical straight-jacket of linear, real time t. Cf. my Digital Cast of Being. With Derrida, linear time is reduced merely to the _gramma_, the line, so that all temporal meaning is lost, disappearing into the text.

  29. bzfgt Says:

    Dr. Eldred,

    Thanks for correcting me, I haven’t read that lecture in too long so I shouldn’t be popping off without consulting the text. And your gloss on it is awesome! I hadn’t quite read it that way before, but it fits entirely with the context, particularly the seminar notes after the lecture in which Heidegger talks about how the problematic of the ontological difference becomes instead that of world and thing (again, from memory, but I’m confident I have the gist of it). So I am grateful for your interpretation, which goes in exactly the direction I’d like to see it go.

    By the way, I wrote my dissertation on Marx and Heidegger, so I am a fan…

  30. bzfgt Says:

    By the way, Eric, I admire and share your willingness to sometimes say stupid things (not that I’ve caught you doing it or anything). I think it is one of the more underrated virtues in our profession.

  31. Michael Eldred Says:

    Thanks, bzfgt. With a diss. on Marx & Heidegger, you’re in an elite group of maybe six worldwide. The ontological difference between being and beings becomes that between Anwesen selbst und Anwesenlassen des Anwesenden (presence itself and the letting-presence of presents), whereby the presents present themselves in their respective historical garb, i.e. hermeneutically AS such-and-such, depending upon the historical cast of being in an age. E.g. within the Cartesian mathematico-scientific epoch, today presents are presenting themselves AS bit-strings circulating in electromagnetic media:: the cyberworld.

  32. bzfgt Says:

    Here’s the passage I’m thinking of:

    [F]rom Ereignis it becomes necessary to free thinking from the ontological difference. From Ereignis, this relation shows itself as the relation of world and thing, a relation which could in a way be understood as the relation of being and beings. But then its peculiar quality would be lost.

  33. Michael Eldred Says:

    Response to bzfgt: I found the passage you quote:
    “_Nur insofern es das Lassen von Anwesen gibt, ist das Anwesenlassen von Anwesendem möglich._ Wie aber dieses Verhältnis eigens zu denken ist… Die Hauptschwierigkeit liegt darin, daß es vom Ereignis her nötig wird, dem Denken die ontologische Differenz zu erlassen. Vom Ereignis her zeigt sich dagegen dieses Verhältnis nun als das Verhältnis von Welt und Ding, ein Verhältnis, das zunächst noch in gewisser Weise als das Verhältnis von Sein und Seiendem aufgefaßt werden könnte, wobei aber dann sein Eigentümliches verloren geht.” (Zur Sache des Denkens S.40f))
    My rendering:
    “_Only insofar as it gives the letting of presence, is the letting-presence of presents possible._ But how this relation is to be thought in its own right … The main difficulty lies in its becoming necessary to release (erlassen) thinking from the ontological difference. From propriation, by contrast (dagegen), this relation now shows itself as the relation of world and thing, a relation that at first in a certain way could be conceived as the relation between being and beings, whereby however, its peculiar character is then lost.”

    The “relation” at the focus of attention is that between Anwesen-Lassen (letting-presence) and Anwesenlassen von Anwesendem (letting-presence of presents). How is this relation to be thought from propriation (the It that gives)? This is already a different question from that concerning the relation between being and beings, i.e. the ontological difference, so thinking has to be “released” from the OD, as if from a debt, since the OD does not think being itself, but being in relation to beings, i.e. it thinks beingness.

    The relation in question might be thought to “show itself” as that between “world and thing”, but this relation, too, is not sufficiently primordial. Why? Because not all presents are things. For Heidegger, things are certain extended, practical things (e.g. a jug), whereas many presents (such as trust or justice or fair play) are not extended and so do not qualify as things. Things as extended have a place at which the play of world is gathered. And certain things Heidegger calls “Bauten” (erected things) are themselves places through which the world becomes spatial through places’ spacing space. So it would be a mistake to reduce the relation between the granting of presence itself and the letting-presence of presents to that between world and thing. The former, primordial relation concerns the granting of the time-clearing itself, i.e. the open three-dimensional clearing for the presencing and absencing of occurrents, by propriation.

    The granting of presence itself is inconspicuous in favour of the presents themselves that present themselves AS such-and-such in an historical epoch. Hence Heidegger’s formulation, “Lichtung des Sichverbergens” (clearing of self-concealment”). This self-concealment is related to the “ringing of stillness” (Geläut der Stille), which I call The Quivering of Propriation (see my study with this title). Only by virtue of this quivering resonance is Dasein musical.

  34. eric d Says:

    While I was browsing Giorgio Agamben’s “Homo Sacer,” I came across this brief blip on “Ereignis,” which appears to put the question in a nutshell. I guess Michael Eldred probably thinks even less of Agamben (…Derrida’s student!…) than Derrida,. but for what it’s worth, here it is:

    “This is the direction in which the late Heidegger seems to move, if still insufficiently, with the idea of a final event or appropriation (Ereignis) in which what is appropriated is Being itself, that is, the principle that had until then determined beings in different epochs and historical figures. This means that with the Ereignis (as with the Hegelian Absolute in Kojève’s reading), the “history of Being comes to an end” (Heidegger, Zur Sache des Denkens, p. 44), and the relation between Being and being consequently finds its “absolution.” This is why Heidegger can write that with the Ereignis he is trying to think “Being without regard to the being,” which amounts to nothing less than attempting to think the ontological difference no longer as a relation, and Being and being beyond every form of a connection.”

    My own reaction is that Agamben makes the same mistake of confusing “Ereignis” with “ap-propriation” that American & English speaking scholars make, probably after reading Joan Stambaugh’s translation of “Zur Sache des Denkens”. (…I don’t know what the French translation of “Ereignis” is, but I suspect it’s equally suspect…) See, I don’t think “Ereignis” as an “ap-propriation” of “Being”/”being” at all (…let alone of “Being itself”!!!…), but as “What gives…” “Being”/’being,” or, if you prefer, “What lets…” “Being”/”being” be “being” etc. But which is neither “Being,” “being-ness,” or “being(s)” etc. (…It might be “being” as a participle or verb, but that’s another argument….). “Ereignis,” I’m fond of saying (…stupidly or not…) can be compared to the Scholastic (Thomistic) “actus purus” as the pure act of creation which constantly sustains “being(s)” in “being” (…but is not (a) being etc…). But it can’t be thought, in Scholastic & Aristotelian fashion, as a metaphysical substance presence or essence… Which is why I also get nervous about any “thinking” of “Ereignis” which goes back to the Western metaphysical thinking of “Being”/”being” as presence, even if it’s qualified as a “lettting come-to-presence” (“Anwesenlassen”) in the later Heideggerian style. Because the whole thinking of “Being” as a (“metaphysical”?) presence quickly leads to re-appropriation of the Platonic “eidos” as (an) eternal presence/present & thence into the Aristotelian thinking of “Being” as metaphysical substance (…yes, ousia as hupokeimenon…) which I think Martin Hiedegger is attempting to think his way past, if not always successfully. As are “we” all, including Derrida & Agamben et al. Right?…

    PS: Agamben’s argument here follows his argument in “*Se-: Hegel’s Absolute & Heidegger’s Ereignis,” which also strikes me as wrong but always interesting.

    For Agamben in “Homo Sacer,” the main point is political (the critique of sovereignty) & not exegetical (…the ontotheology of “Being”…), so he can be wrong, if he wants. Heidegger’s “Ereignis,” for Agamben, is connected with the 1930s-era hysteria about the “end of history” & the rise of fascism/communism leading to WWII & the Nazi holocaust etc. Which may be wrong, but it’s certainly worth thinking about. And who in contemporary scholarship is more “right” about the contemporary “state of exception” called “the international war on terror” & its drastic threat to democracy & sanity than Agamben? (…Except maybe Derrida in the “Autoimmunity” essay/interview). For which I think we should be grateful to those darned Euros, anyway…

  35. Michael Eldred Says:

    Response to eric. d.: You’re right to point out the risk of relapsing into old metaphysical habits of thought. But there’s no danger of this if you keep your wits about you. I don’t find anything about “absolution” on p.44 of Zur Sache des Denkens, but there is mention of the history of being coming to an end. This must be so once the step back from being thought as the beingness of beings is taken to the giving of being itself. The step back is a matter of learning to see something new that metaphysics was unable to see explicitly. It did not see the intimate connection between being and time, and had recourse instead to an _idea tou agathou_, a summum ens or the like conceived as Ur-Sache, i.e. as primal thing. Hence the fatal ambiguity of Metaphysics from the start as ontology (the investigation of _to on haei on_), on the one hand, and as _epistaemae theologikae_ (theological knowledge), on the other.

    In any case, Agamben muddies the waters by characterizing Ereignis as a “final event or appropriation (Ereignis) in which what is appropriated is Being itself”. The propriation that eventuates is that of being itself and human being to each other. Since being itself is Anwesen (presencing), which unfolds as the three-dimensional time-clearing of the Da, it’s equivalent to say that the Da and Dasein are enpropriated to each other; they belong to and need each other. This is the retrieval (Wieder-Holung) and re-sending of Parmenides’ message: “For minding and presencing are the same.” (Frag. III)

    Ereignis is the abyssal (groundless), hidden (_laethae_) It that gives. Its giving is twofold. Firstly it “reaches” the three-dimensional interplay of th ecstasies of time to each other through to human being itself. The Da as the interplay of presencing and absencing impacts, affects human beings, rendering them as Dasein. Secondly, It gives the respective hermeneutic As of each historical epoch which defines AS what or who presents present themselves in the Da (time-clearing).

    Is Heidegger “attempting to think the ontological difference no longer as a relation, and Being and being beyond every form of a connection,” as Agamben claims? No. Why not? Because the ontological difference is now thought as the sending of the historical casts (the hermeneutic As in the plural) of the presencing of presents, and hence still as a “relation”, but seen differently This sending can only eventuate within the open time-clearing of the Da to which Dasein belongs and which in turn needs Dasein.

    Agamben is off on a wild goose chase insofar as he wants to ‘explain’ the thinking of Ereignis from the ontic political situation of the 1930s. Such explanations are worth nothing for issues of phenomenological thinking which is grappling with those simplest thoughts through which history is shaped decisively, definitively. Phenomenological thinking is thus a ‘re-vising’, a ‘re-seeing’ of these sendings of historical casts, a learning to see what we already see unthinkingly, in order to re-cast a more appropriate hermeneutic As into the future that may arrive one day. Any attempt to ‘explain’ phenomenological thinking politically is misguided, since the political itself as an historical way of worldsharing is itself a phenomenological-hermeneutic question. Therefore, you have to enter this hermeneutical circle to gain clarity about the political. In the West, this question concerns the historical issue of (the possibility of) FREEDOM in worldsharing.

  36. eric d meyer Says:

    Just a quick response, rather than keep flogging this issue. But, Michael Eldred, I do think that, in some specific cases, 1930s & 1940s politics are immediately relevant to how we read MH’s “Ereignis.” For example, the first lines of “Uberwindung der Metaphysik” are: “Was heiBt Uberwindung der Metaphysik? Es ist das Ereignis, in dem das Sein selbst verwunden ist…” Now, “Overcoming Metaphysics” is very clearly a self-critical, “political” text, in which MH looks back at his previous “metaphysical” texts (like “Einfuhrung…” which contains the notorious “inner truth and greatness” comment viz a viz National Socialism…) & considers how the Western metaphysical world-view & specifically the Nietzschean “metaphysics of will” contributed to the Nazi holocaust & Stalinist debacle. And also how his own metaphysical thinking might be implicated in them… “Das Ereignis” here, then, clearly has a “world-historical” or “being-historical” meaning as an event (…possibly violent?…) that inaugurates an epoch in the history of Being. In “Overcoming Metaphysics,” Martin Heidegger specifically sees “the events of this [20th] Century” as evidence of this world-historical discontinuity & epistemic break that marks the “completion of metaphysics” as “completed nihilism” or, otherwise, as the world-wide hegemony of Western technology/technocracy. Heidegger also clearly attacks the Nazi “Weltanschauung” by way of the Nietzschean metaphysics of will in Sec. xxvi of UdM; and criticizes the Nazi Fuhrer cult, racial eugenics, and the biotech manipulation of the human organism (Nazi biopolitics, as described by Foucault & Agamben). So in this case, I’d say the 1930s-1940s political situation is clearly relevant to how we read MH’s “Ereignis.” And Giorgio Agamben is a fairly perceptive commentator on Nazism, whatever his failings as a Heideggerian. If you’re interested, I do talk at greater length (…Okay, here comes the shameless plug!…) on the subject of MH’s Nazism & “Overcoming Metaphysics” in my book, “Questioning Martin Heidegger.” I’d even be willing to trade a copy for a copy of your prestigious scholarly tome, if you’re interested…

  37. Michael Eldred Says:

    Response to eric. d. meyer: I suppose even Ereignis can become a flogged dead horse, although we’re not quite there yet. I agree that you can look at historico-political events from the perspective of Ereignis, by which I mean, from the perspective of the “step back” from metaphysics, but Ereignis itself cannot be thought from these events because it has to be thought first of all in its own right as a stage in grappling with the deepest issues in Western thought itself. So, on the one hand, I’m with you on viewing Nazism through the Nietzschean metaphysics will to power but, on the other hand, will to power characterizes the entire epoch of subjectivist metaphysics starting with Descartes (its seed lying already in Aristotle’s ontology of ‘powerful’ movement/change). With cogito ergo sum Descartes posits human being AS subjectivity. Henceforth the human being under-lies all movement/change, and strives to master all movement/change through modern (mathematized) scientific means. On THAT score, National Socialism and the caring welfare state are the same. To differentiate between the two, as a thinker, one cannot simply proceed self-evidently from one’s own ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ political convictions, criticizing Heidegger’s anti-modern anti-liberalism along the way. Rather, the issue of FREEDOM is posed philosophically and it has to be penetratingly asked wherein free human being lies as an historical mode of worldsharing. That freedom and democracy are usually treated as synonyms these days is a scandalously complacent thoughtlessness, in my view. If human being ‘gets over’ (rather than ‘overcomes’) being subject in stepping back from the metaphysical will to effective power, what could freedom look like in the open, three-dimensional free play of the time-clearing?

    Thanks for your offer of a book-exchange, which I find most attractive. Unfortunately, I don’t have any free copies of my Social Ontology left, but the extended 2nd e-book edition is available for download at my web-site.


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