Archives For Heidegger

And sketches for themes concerning upcoming video projects…

From ‘Chris Marker: La Jetee’ by Janet Harbord (Afterfall Books)

” […] ‘I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering,’ says the narrator in another of Marker’s landmark films, Sans Soleil (Sunless, 1983), ‘which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining’. The comment recalls Nietzsche writing that there could be no hope, ‘no present, without forgetfulness’, as well as Kafka’s statement: ‘One photographs things in order to get them out of one’s mind. My stories are a kind of closing one’s eyes’. We close our eyes, like the cinema’s blink to blackness, and we dream of what has been and might be. Forgetting is not an abandonment of the past, but permission to elaborate, to reconstruct differently, to mix up the syntax. Both memory and cinema work with an unstable set of associations, contingent on the circumstances in which they appear. If the potency of a memory is the opening enigma of La Jetee, the rest of the film is an exploration of the ways in which recording devices, such as film and photography, perform a choreography with memory’s work.” (p4)

Harbord pulls together the exact thoughts I encountered upon studying Nietzsche and recognising the close connection between Nietzsche and the central thesis of the narration embedded in Sans Soleil. This thesis, or theme, attracts me because it provides a solid foundation, or rather inquest, in which to uncover, using the mediums of video and audio, what lies beneath, or next to, or perhaps above everyday reality. That is, the perceived experience of the everyday. For Nietzsche total memory was a prison, and the ability to forget was tied to human happiness.

“Metaphysics calls the permanent Now ‘eternity’. Nietzsche, too, conceives the three phases of time from the standpoint of eternity as a permanent Now. But, for Nietzsche, the permanence does not consist in something static, but in a recurrence of the same.” (p418 – Who Is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? {Heidegger})

Briefly, Nietzsche’s conception of the superman, or perhaps to coin a phrase less laden with contemporary connotations – an evolved modern person free from the pitfalls of historical ‘man’ – is someone free from the past and therefore free from the spirit of vengefulness and free from the degradation of the present as caused by the attachment to universal ideals. This second point pertains to the Will to Power and the eternal recurrence of the same – a statement on the Being of beings – see Nietzsche blog posts for more info.

Talking about ‘the everyday’ has some implications that need to be set apart. The everyday refers to the perceived everyday experienced by an individual subject. The implication of the activities of the subjects own memories in this everyday experience is that the past is always present and always fighting for attention in the present. The seduction of the past lives with us. It beckons us to grasp what has been and remake it differently. This is the central theme of La Jetee, of Vertigo (Hitchcock), of the Greek myth Oedipus and perhaps even an inversion of the stories of Kafka – that is; to wake up in the present without the desire to reshape it according to an ideal found in both an individual past and collective past. To no longer reshape the present is to break a fundamental contract with the past and with memory itself. In another sense this could be construed as an argument founded in solipsism; that is, the quest to set aside individual subjectivity in order to come upon a form of true objectivity (to prove the existence of others – the brain in a jar, evil demon deception problems) In short, memory construes an idealised past and invades our experience of the present tempting us to not see what is set out directly before us but rather to reshape what is before us to suit an ideal; a fantasy. We want to re-make things that have been in order to repeat them and to change them. Dangerous ground for tragic heroes.

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Memories exist in the unconscious. The unconscious is our storage unit. Drawing on Freud we can construe the unconscious as a land without time or temporality. Moments from the distant past may be buried deep but have no interest in real temporal orientation and so might erupt into the present creating fractures and disturbances. If the activity of memory constitutes our shaping (re-shaping) of the present then we are destined to madness, or a recurring nightmare; the past is simply an unknowable landscape which cannot be mined for truth. Truth being construed here as an objective viewing of the present, real and unfolding world. The scientists in Marker’s La Jetee attempt to mine and use the memories of their test subjects to reshape the future/past. To achieve their goal they need one of Nietzsche’s evolved human beings – a Nietzshean Superman.

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A great lecture by Keith Sanborn – https://vimeo.com/62249185

The Worldhood of the World

Being-in-the-World has structure. The world is made up of ‘entities’ within the world. We want to see what shows itself in these entities. The first port-of-call is to catalogue things that ‘are’ in the world: houses, trees, people, mountains, stars. This is pre-phenomenological (as everydayness is pre-ontological for Heidegger: ontological is to think about being). So how do we move from a pre-phenomenological state to a phenomenological investigation? We are seeking the Being of those entities which are present at hand within the world. Entities within the world are things. Things can be things of nature and can be things invested with value (the hammer). Being which belongs to Things is substantiality. Asking ontologically about substantiality cannot lead to the phenomenon that is the world:

“Nature is itself an entity which is encountered within the world and which can be discovered in various ways and at various stages.” (p92)

The second port-of-call is to attach ourselves to those entities with which Dasein for the most part dwells. Objects which are invested with value. Thus far we have: ontical depiction of entities within the world and ontological interpretation of their Being. Neither activity propels us further toward the phenomenon of the world. In both these the world has been presupposed.

Worldhood (a structure of one of the constitutive items of Being-in-the-world) is a characteristic of Dasein itself. Dasein is not separate from Worldhood. Failing to see Being-in-the-world as a state of Dasein means that the phenomenon of worldhood gets passed over. Heidegger proposes then that we interpret the world in terms of the Being of those entities which are present at hand within the world but which are not discovered in terms of nature.

Why this rejection of present-at-hand objects proximal to nature?

Three stages of analysis:

1) the analysis of environmentality and worldhood in general
2) an illustrative contrast between our analysis of worldhood and Descartes ontology of the world
3) the aroundness of the environment, and the spatiality of Dasein.

1) the analysis of environmentality and worldhood in general

We have dealings in the world with entities within the world. Rather than a bare perceptual cognition these dealings are the kind of concern which manipulates things and puts them to use.

Conclusion points:

The present at hand view can’t allow the world to show itself.

There is a network of practical relations.

The background of the world is unobtrusive/non-obstinate which is practical and important as we try to do things in the world.

How does the world show itself as phenomenon?

When things go wrong (breakdown cases) the context of equipment (things) is lit up and the world reveals itself.

The overall structure of Being and Nothingness:

Introduction [discussion of Being in-itself (brute matter) and Being for-itself (consciousness)]

1. The Problem of Nothingness
2. Being-for-itself
3. Being-for-others (infamous discussion of ‘the look’ – how different consciousness’ relate to each other)
4. Having, Doing and Being

Conclusion [recognises an ethical dimension of his discussion – the discussion of ‘freedom’. Sartre promises a sequel that will deal with ethics]

First off, the title: Being and Nothingness. These are apparently a duality, or a binary. Sartre uses the term “being” predominantly in the distinctive sense of “what grounds” something (for instance, “the being of consciousness”). So Being means more than ‘what is’ or existence. It is related to the ontology of Heidegger: that is, ontology as the world as we understand it only once we start observing it. He sets this up in his own terms as: Being in-itself (brute matter) and Being for-itself (consciousness).

The spectrum Sartre is steering himself through (the two extremes):

Realism: we can look at objects and determine what’s going on in the phenomena – objective viewing
Idealism: to assimilate all experiences to the consciousness – to ask what is it for something to appear, what is the phenomena of appearing – when something appears it appears to an agent.

We are avoiding the Cartesian duality of subject and object; a continuation of the phenomenological project. Key influences and context:

Husserl
Heidegger
Hegel

Bad Faith (Chpt 2 Being and Nothingness) – The Problem of Nothingness

A formula for consciousness: “Consciousness is a being, the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being.” At first this is a tongue and mind twister but the implication emerges that we are aware of the things that we are not. We imagine possibilities and through choices veto future transcendences. We view other subjects (or things) as negations, as a prisoner views a jailor, or a slave the master. Other subjects are in the way of future transcendences.

Sartre is contradicting/disagreeing with Husserl here who asserted that to study consciousness and phenomena one has to bracket the presumed existence of the world. Sartre is arguing that consciousness itself implies the existence of the world. To be conscious is to be conscious of something… The task is to make explicit the phenomena of this being-for-itself.

The negatites: approx translation would be negative entities. Whenever anything has a particular determination, lots of other determinations are being denied.

Sartre talks about irony:

“In irony a man annihilates what he posits within one and the same act; he leads us to believe in order not to be believed…” (p47)

So what of negation towards the self? Is it possible to deny oneself? Bad Faith is the attitude in which we find an example of this self-negation and which is essential to human reality. Bad Faith here means to lie to oneself, as distinguished from lying in general.

“But consciousness affects itself with bad faith. There must be an original intention and a project of bad faith; this project implies a comprehension of bad faith as such and a pre-reflective apprehension of consciousness as affecting itself with bad faith. It follows first that the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived. Better yet I must know the truth very exactly in order to conceal it more carefully.” (p49)

The tendency might be to reestablish dualism; to use psychoanalysis and suggest part of our conscious conceals truth from the other part, that there is a line of demarcation. There is a deceiver and deceived. Sartre wants to avoid this. In psychoanalysis Freud marks out the id and the ego. Sartre provides a complex deconstruction of this account of ones relation to oneself. Ultimately Sartre is pressing the implication of the unity of one and the same psychic mechanism and the double activity at its core. Each side of the double activity is complementary; it implies the other in its being.

Patterns of Bad Faith

Bad faith is best described by Sartre as a ‘game of mirrors’. Essentially the subject ( I ) is constituted by what it is not and Bad Faith is the mechanism by which this relationship to what is not is in a constantly active state.

“To cause me to be what I am, in the mode of “not being what one is,” or not to be what I am in the mode of “being what one is.” ” (p66)

This is related to the idea that a subject can transcend what they are Being at any given time i.e. you are never fully yourself, and there are potential/possible other ‘you’s’ which are similarly constituted by what they are not. If you were yourself in the way an ink-well is an ink-well (to use Sartre’s example) you could only ever be ‘yourself’ as inanimate and unchanging. Sartre is inferring that we are always rising to an ideal and always in a state of change. Sartre uses two key examples to extrapolate this: the woman who consents to go on a date with a man, and the waiter in a cafe.

The woman who consents to go on a date with a man for the first time is fully aware of his sexual intensions. She also knows that sooner or later she will confirm or deny his intensions. However, social relations deem that she does not need to nor want to realise an urgency to this situation; she need only concern herself with what is respectful and discreet and un-pressured. She disarms the man’s subtext or comments by taking him as restricted to what his behaviour reflects at the present moment. The temporal development of his conduct is kept out of focus. Being aware of the desire which she inspires and at the same time being embroiled in ‘Bad Faith’ creates a dualism:

“In order to satisfy her, there must be a feeling which is addressed wholly to her personality – i.e., to her full freedom – and which would be a recognition of her freedom. But at the same time this feeling must be wholly desire; that is, it must address itself to her body as object.” (p55)

Though it is being argued that she is in bad faith, the point is that she is employing certain procedures to maintain that bad faith. Bad Faith is in constant play and not a singularity to be presently reflected upon by the subject. In the case of the waiter, the waiter performs his duties as if acting out a rehearsed play. He is investigating what it is to move around the cafe and wait on tables. His condition is wholly one of ceremony. The waiter limits himself to the performative actions of waiting tables in the cafe and so denies all other possible states of consciousness at that particular moment; thereby acting out bad faith. The idea here is not that he cannot reflect on this particular act of bad faith but that he allows his condition oand knows the rights which it allows him. Being the waiter is a representation for others and for the waiter himself.

“I am a waiter in the mode of being what I am not.” (p60)

Phenomenology is typically said to be:

a return to things in themselves
a descriptive method (not explanatory)
centered on the use of intuition
the study of appearances or ways of appearing
the study of the structures of consciousness
based on a method of reduction
opposed to naturalism (viewing everything in scientific terms)

Existentialism is typically said to be:

concerned with concrete/individual subjects
deny that there is a fixed human nature (‘existence prior to essence’)
emphasize personal freedom and responsibility
consider the meaningfulness of human life
be concerned with individuality and self-fulfillment (as opposed to mass identity)
highlight the transformative power of certain kinds of subjective experiences/emotions (anxiety/nausea) or extreme situations
be ‘anticartesian’

These terms are not particularly illuminating and it seems evident that no two philosophers would discuss any of these labels in the same way. Never-the-less, a starting point for building a map needs to come together. Something to attempt as I go on to read the various Phenomenologists (Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty) is to map out the similarities and differences between them; searching for connections. What’s the connection between Phenomenology and Existentialism??

In his Introduction to the Second Volume of the First Edition of his Logische Untersuchungen (Logical Investigations 1900 – 1901) Husserl speaks of “the phenomenology of the experiences of thinking and knowing”. He is discussing the need for a wide-ranging theory of knowledge. Husserl is treating ‘experience’ in a complex and new way:

“This phenomenology, like the more inclusive pure phenomenology of experiences in general, has, as its exclusive concern, experiences intuitively seizable and analysable in the pure generality of their essence, not experiences empirically perceived and treated as real facts, as experiences of human or animal experients in the phenomenal world that we posit as an empirical fact. This phenomenology must bring to pure expression, must describe in terms of their essential concepts and their governing formulae of essence, the essences which directly make themselves known in intuition, and the connections which have their roots purely in such essences. Each such statement of essence is an a priori statement in the highest sense of the word.”

Dermot Moran describes this project as an ‘a priori transcendental science of pure consciousness”. (p2) Husserl argues for a ‘reduction’ wherein the subject suspends or brackets the everyday natural attitude and all intentional acts which assume the existence of the world. The practitioner is led back into the domain of pure transcendental subjectivity. Importantly, this has to be more than a psychology of consciousness which suggests consciousness as a ‘tag end’ of the world. The philosophical practice has to stem from consciousness unassuming of the real world. Dermot Moran frames phenomenology as a thoroughly modernist outlook as it has its origins in the newly emerged science of psychology (Franz Brentano).

So to study experiences in such a pure form with regards to the experiencer, phenomenology’s first step is to avoid in advance all misconstructions and impostions (relgious, cultural traditions – language as with Gadamer, time as with Heidegger). Phenomenology aims at gaining perspective over the history of philosophical questions. Husserl and Heidegger believed that the real philosophical issue in the traditional skeptical worry about the existence of the external world was not the need to find rational grounds to justify our natural belief in this world, but rather to explain how this kind of worry could have arisen in the first place. (p4)

“But experience is not an opening through which a world, existing prior to all experience, shines into a room of consciousness; it is not a mere taking of something alien to consciousness into consciousness… Experience is the performance in which for me, the experiencer, experienced being “is there”, and is there as what it is, with the whole content and the mode of being that experience itself, by the performance going on in its intentionality, attributes to it.” (Husserl, Formal and Transcendental Logic)

This quotation comes close to painting a picture of what Husserl seeks to posit as experience and consciousness and the relationship between the two terms, but still manages to be elusive. He suggests that there is a directional element to conceptualizing phenomena: that is, we do not consider experience as information from the pre-existing world entering into a pre-existing consciousness. This much is OK. More clarity is needed on experience as ‘being there’ and what performance actually means.

(Introduction to Phenomenology: Dermot Moran Routledge pp 1 – 6)

Might Heidegger’s question of Being be a similar framework to Plato’s question of Forms?

Plato’s Forms:

equality: A concept like equality (in the sense of a set of logs of equal length, width etc) is an abstract concept. To see a set of logs with equal properties and then ascribe to them the concept equality is the step that Plato is focussing on. For instance, if the logs are equal in one way but not in another then equality is the wrong concept. It would be something more like similarity. The concept of equality once realized takes on a life of its own. You can remove the logs from the equation and still be left with the abstract ideal of equality. Plato thinks that the concept therefore must have always been there. He posits that the concept (Form) must have always been and that when we come into contact with it we are actually remembering it (remembering that Plato assumes eternal life and reincarnation as life models).

Heidegger’s Being:

Being: In the same way that Plato looks at equality as something other than the things that are equal, Heidegger looks at being (existing) as something other than the things that are being. Where conventionally linguistics and structuralism take the place of metaphysics, Heidegger is brushing aside linguistics (finding new words to escape the structures of inadequate language). Is he returning to Plato style metaphysics?

So if we took Plato’s ideal of Beauty and analyzed it:

Eternal: “it does not come to be or cease to be”
Unchanging: “it doesn’t increase or diminish”
Unqualified: “it isn’t attractive in one sense and repulsive in another”
Not Localized: “in itself and by itself”
The Source: “every other beautiful object somehow partakes of it”

(Symposium; 209e – 121a)

Heidegger’s Being could be understood in exactly the same way. Daesein therefore could mean the human performance of the ideal? (could the word ideal be appropriate for Heidegger’s Being?) So the concept is not simply that the human exists, but delves into further detail to examine the idea that somehow the human partakes in Being.

(The trick to getting a hold on Being is to read the concept over and over until the words start to separate away from the ‘vision’ that Heidegger is struggling to express. It is a matter of perceiving the concept almost visually. This is why he employs invented and ambiguous words.)

Nietzsche and Heidegger

June 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

Text: Who Is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? (Heidegger)

Heidegger identifies the subtitle to Nietzsche’s work Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One as a reference to Nietzsche’s concern with Being as an existential, metaphysical and ontological question. Everyone refers to every man for whom his essential nature has become worthy of his thought, and no one to the everyday man, the idle curious who merely intoxicate themselves with aphorisms. Heidegger identifies Zarathustra the character as an advocate or spokesman. A spokesman for what? For that of and for which he speaks. Zarathustra is the ‘convalescent’: that which returns home. Zarathustra is the man who collects himself to return home, to turn into his own destiny. Zarathustra makes a threefold claim of what he advocates: life, suffering and the circle. This is Nietzsche primary set of concerns. These three things are one and the same. The advocate Zarathustra is a teacher of two things: the eternal recurrence and the superman.

Heidegger claims that Nietzsche is the first thinker to recognize, in view of the emerging world-history, for the first time the question as to whether man, as man in his nature until now, is ready to assume dominion over the whole earth. This is the position of the superman: a man sufficiently brought beyond himself but not a product of an analysis of the modern age. The superman surpasses previous and contemporary man, and is therefore a bridge. We as readers need to observe three things:

1) That from which the person passing over departs
2) The bridge itself
3) The destination of the person crossing over

“Metaphysics calls the permanent Now ‘eternity’. Nietzsche, too, conceives the three phases of time from the standpoint of eternity as a permanent Now. But, for Nietzsche, the permanence does not consist in something static, but in a recurrence of the same.” (p418)

“For modern metaphysics, and within its particular expression, the Being of beings appears as will.” (p422)

Heidegger on revenge: Revenge is the bridge to the highest hope for Zarathustra.

Nietzsche has Zarathustra say: “For that man be delivered from revenge, that is the bridge to the highest hope for me and a rainbow after long storms.” (N in H, p418)

Revenge?

Heidegger asserts that Nietzsche’s meaning is that Zarathustra intends to serve a spirit which is free from vengefulness and therefore precedes all mere brotherhood relations, all peace secured pacts. The superman is man without the spirit of revenge, who pre-dates the spirit of revenge, and so who is also part of the eternal recurrence. This is related to Nietzsche’s extensive writings on punishment in the Genealogy of Morals:

“The spirit of revenge, my friends, has so far been the subject of man’s best reflection; and wherever there was suffering, there punishment was also wanted.” (p419)

Reflection is that thinking in which man’s relation to what is, to all beings, is attuned. According to Nietzsche, this thinking has thus far been determined by the spirit of revenge. Revenge is opposing, degrading persecution. Nietzsche claims that revenge is ‘the will’s aversion to time and its ‘It was’.’ Note that he leaves out It is, and It will be, suggesting he characterizes revenge as particular to one aspect of time. The will has no influence over ‘It was’, and constantly runs up against it.

“For Nietzsche, the most profound revenge consists of that reflection which posits eternal Ideals as the absolute, compared with which the temporal must degrade itself to actual non-being.” (p423)

Therefore, man cannot assume dominion over the earth until revenge vanishes, and along with it eternal Ideals and the degradation of the temporal. With the disappearance of revenge, and thus the eternal and lost past, the Being of beings can be represented to man as the eternal recurrence of the same. Man can cross the bridge and become the superman.

“The highest will to power, that is, the life-force in all life, is to represent transience as a fixed Becoming within the eternal recurrence of the same, and so to render it secure and stable. This representation is a thinking which, as Nietzsche notes emphatically, ‘impresses’ upon being the character of its Being. This thinking takes becoming under its care and protection – becoming of which constant collision, suffering, is a past.” (P426)

Heidegger’s response to this exposition:

Is the spirit of revenge overcome by this thinking?

By fixing transience as Becoming under the protection of the eternal recurrence (remembering that transience is the seed from which the spirit of revenge grows), does not Nietzsche somehow suggest an aversion to transience? Therefore, could there not be a supremely spiritualized spirit of revenge?

It seems here that thought up to this point has been metaphysics, and Nietzsche brings it to a completion.

“Metaphysical thinking rests on the distinction between that which truly is, and that which by comparison does not constitute true being.” (428)

This is a distinction between the sensible and the super-sensible, but not necessarily an opposition. Heidegger claims that Nietzsche merely reverse the order of this distinction: The Dionysian, the inexhaustible permanence of becoming, as to which the will to power wills itself in the eternal recurrence of the same.

“‘Eternal recurrence of the same’ is the name of the Being of beings. ‘Superman’ is the name of the human being who corresponds to this Being.” (p429)

“In what respect do Being and human being belong together? How do they belong together, if Being is neither of mans making, in man’s power, nor man only a special case within being?” (p429)

Essentially, Heidegger acknowledge’s Nietzsche as the end-point of Western metaphysics, but also points out that Nietzsche himself thought metaphysically.

“In the ‘Influence of Darwin’ essay, the obvious justification for tracing the background to Darwin’s innovation is to show how much of an innovation it was. In contrast to over two millennia of philosophical commitment to the priority of fixed forms and permanent ends, of over-arching design and pre-established constraints, and a companion denigration of change, the merely experiential and chance, Darwin’s work marks a momentous shift in point of view regarding reality.” (Browning, p8)

“The new approach in philosophy is itself transitional, in process, today and for the foreseeable future. It is not one, at least in 1910, of providing firm hypotheses, much less final answers, regarding the large philosophical problems it faces.” (p14)

“The Darwinian revolution, Dewey declared, had opened the way for a transformation of ‘the logic of knowledge’.” (P18)

“The new proposals regarding knowledge in the first essay and regarding truth in the second were formulated by Dewey concisely, yet meticulously. A specific case of knowing is an experience that, as such, intends or points to another experience, not itself immediately present, but as one which would become fully and immediately present were certain operations carried out. So understood, a knowing upon which one relies in predicting or attempting to control a future experience may be disappointed and, therefore, assessable as misleading. And the truth of an idea (or judgment, proposition, belief, etc) consists of its ‘effective capacity’ to ‘make good,’ that is, to lead to the completion or achievement to which it points by means of the operations and actions it proposes.” (p18)

Writing about John Dewey’s famous essay “The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy” in The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays in Contemporary Thought: John Dewey, Larry A. Hickman, Douglas Browning

These thoughts point towards an understanding of reality that is itself transitive. This sounds as if it would be in conflict with historicism, as defined in the early 20th century, and the logical positivists. It sounds resonate of Gadamer and Heidegger.