Monday, September 30, 2013

a note on Heidegger’s early philosophy

Here is a review by Theodore Kisiel (the leading scholar in English of Heidegger’s early development) of a 2008 book, Heidegger’s Early Philosophy: The Phenomenology of Ecstatic Temporality. Kisiel uses the occasion of his review to provide the best succinct conception of Heidegger’s early thinking that I’ve ever read (as something short). What can be said briefly about Being and Time? Kisiel shows the reader.

By the way, near the end of the review, Kisiel corroborates my view that Heidegger saw Being and Time as a great way station in his path of growth, not a finalized magnum opus that was unfinished. (That is, Being and Time was not regarded by Heidegger as a basis for understanding his later thinking; rather, his later thinking articulates the basis that was implicit to hurriedly writing Being and Time. Heidegger wrote to Rudolf Bultmann in 1929 that he had “gone too far too soon,” according to Kisiel.)

It’s clear from Heidegger’s work shortly before Being and Time that he had been searching for several years to complete his conception and did not do so. The 1925 lecture course, preceding the writing of Sein und Zeit itself, is an outline of what partially became Sein und Zeit that more or less stops at the point of beginning Division 2, and whose Division 1 in the lecture course is the penultimate draft of Division 1 of Sein und Zeit. Being and Time works out a Division 2, but this Division 2 was regarded by both Heidegger and scholars afterward as exploratory. It’s said that his later lecture courses, then later writing, was his working out of the “destruction” of metaphysics that he didn’t have time to articulate in Being and Time (which was presented under deadline for his application to teach at Marburg).

So, clearly a path of thinking was continuing through Being and Time, and that pathmaking was severely upset by the environment of the 1930s, which transformed Heidegger’s sense of thinking-in-presentation. The 1935 “Origin of the Work of Art” is Another World from Being and Time. The circa 1938 unpublished Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event / From Enowning) is overtly exploratory and experimental. In the early 1940s, he’s lecturing on Nietzsche, against biologism and against technologism—and for Hölderlin (channeler of the authentic German spirit?) and for rigorous poetic thinking. A Hölderlinian “fourfold” was to weave itself through Heidegger’s later work.

This was the pathmaking of a philosopher who was searching for a new way of using language—of languaging, so to speak—so to speak through worded showing—better for an accessible holism of “what calls for thinking,” more truly phenomenological than the standardly-grammatical rhetoric (discursive formalization) of “phenomenological” philosophy in the German tradition (from Kant through Husserl to deconstruction of ontotheological metaphysics).

What he found in later essays/lectures, published in English as What is Called Thinking?, Identity and Difference, Time and Being, Poetry, Language, Thought, and On the Way to Language expresses a sense of accessible Showing-in-thinking that he lacked during the era of Being and Time, but was already thinking, before writing Sein und Zeit, though in the confounding rhetoric of the tradition that he sought to appropriate.

Clearly, he saw his career as a continuum of pathfinding, in which Being and Time was a great way station. It unwittingly anticipates what was to become of Heidegger’s pathfinding and pathmaking. Being and Time should be read through the “lens” of his later work. Otherwise, Being and Time is not thought appropriately. It’s a way station, not a magnum opus.

Kisiel understands this. His review of Heidegger’s Early Philosophy used that book as an occasion for a succinctly major statement by Kisiel about what Being and Time was doing. Kisiel is also gracious toward the book’s author, as Kisiel gently implies that the author is importantly misguided.