Tuesday, May 3, 2016

race of the river: a preface

I’m going to quote Heidegger from his 1931-38 Notebooks at length, but let me begin this way: What’s more interesting: where a river is going or where it’s been?

It’s going somewhere because it’s drawn to do so—by gravity, of course—not because it’s coming from somewhere.

Likewise with lives: Actualization of potential goes where it can, in its best interest. It doesn’t unfold a destiny. The human interest isn’t Given. It’s not primordially about its past, rather about its futurity, because interests, too, develop with the life. One is transformed along the way, and the character of interest in going further is transformed too—if potential and futurity orient the way, rather than attachment to notions of inevitability of a given past—or lost past to be regained.

A hallmark of Heidegger’s thinking is an avowal of the primordiality of potential and future over the essentialism of a past. Even his well-known devotion to re-thinking early Greek thinking is for the sake of retrieving a primordial futurity which is to work in the present for the sake of “the Other Beginning”—an intrinsic futurity that, in his time, seems to have been dreadfully lost.

His thinking is ultimately contrary to Creationism—or essentialism, what I commonly call Originism. Theology is Originist. But developing beyond a legacy of theology—or “onto-theological” thinking—can be difficult; and be a delicate matter. It’s not about being anti-theological. It’s about fruitfully appropriating theological thinking in future-drawn humanity—but which is not eschatological (which is Originist) and not messianic. Yet, a phenomenology of destiny has its place in a—so to speak—authentic destining, if only because attachments to senses of destiny are part of the difficulty and delicacy of self-actualization.

Lineage is like a river; and should (for intrinsic reasons) be oriented by potential for futures. We love this in our childrens’ flourishing. They are all future. Great legacy is a capability for flowing where the appeal of horizons are most promising.

Race in Heidegger’s Notebooks is a notion of lineage within future-oriented interest. He’s deeply troubled by the loss of primordial openness in notions of lineage. He writes:
...over and above all distribution into belonging to a line of descent and a class—what alone is decisive is how one belongs, i.e., whether one merely gives “expression” to the common and familiar qualities of the line of descent or rather, through one’s course of life and achievements, sets forth undeveloped tasks and new possibilities. All of this makes otiose [fruitless, profitless] the talk—even rational talk—about belonging to a line of descent. [p. 255 note 66, continuing at note 67:]

Our epoch, in accord with its smallness and accompanying self-inflation, believes that through dogmatic “reflection” on the past and on “biological” foundations it can posit the beginning of something [that is actually] already antiquated even in its idea—the beginning of a “culture”—instead of actually venturing into the future and posing the actual decisions—i.e., taking the Godlessness of Bolshevism as well as the moribund state of Christianity as great signs that we have actually and wittingly entered the epoch of the abandonment by being....
Ironically, it is no abstraction to indicate how being has become a concealed abstraction: “the epoch of the abandonment by being.” Loss of the self-actualizing efficacy of one’s ownmost potential for being is experienced as abandonment by what’s been made phenomenally abstract, loss lived immanently as abandonment, shown in anxiety, displacement, devaluing the other, etc. What is essential to a life—being one’s self in accord with one’s ownmost potential—is overridden by abstracted abandonment, which results in clinging to what can still anchor, disowning loss through attachment to what’s available: “...with the help of doctrines which never reach into the domain of the decisions to be taken—...” What is to be done? “...since, for example, race [lineage!] can only be a condition of a people, but never what is unconditioned...,” i.e., potential for self-actualization, “...and essential of that people” [255-6, note 67]. What is essential is unconditioned in a sense that includes lineage as a condition.

Heidegger doesn’t mention race much at all in the 1931-38 Notebooks, so it’s revealing (as well as humorous) that he refers to “the race of commentators,” which is congruent with the normal sense of race as lineage (“the human race”). But it’s not just humorous; I see Heidegger laughing, if we read the context:
No one up to now actually asked in a penetrating way what the Greeks experienced and developed as the beingness of beings. But what I have communicated of this meditation in my writings and especially in my lectures and seminars has in the meantime penetrated into the race of commentators—as something self-evident. I will one day find that I myself am accused of “plagarizing” these newly promulgated discoveries”[, i.e., his own work; p. 285, note 127].
One might joke that the commentators are no lineage at all, but rather an odd species, viz. “people [who] merely trade in them [i.e., his discoveries] and make a career out of them.” This is what happens when a dismissive scholar is confident that Heidegger is doing nothing new. Theodor Adorno was like that. Also, Karl Jaspers and Karl Löwith (who were key voices in creating a myth of Heidegger’s culpability). But what do I know? Probably little—except that I see Heidegger doing in his main work unprecedented “things”—by now, a little tiring to us, perhaps, nearly a century later; but doing “things” that only now are we coming to appreciate that he was importantly anticipating.

What was anticipated? It’s an endless conversation, to me, relative to Our own times. After all, we have progressed, the past century. But one feature comes to mind that is easy to portray, showing that he was anticipating what we have better language to prospect.

In recent decades, there has been much constructive work done on relations between neo-Aristotelian notions of political ethics and neo-Kantian notions of political ethics, such that we can make easy sense of a notion of communitarian government; e.g., through the work of political philosopher Martha Nussbaum and economics philosopher Amartya Sen. Heidegger didn’t have a concept of communitarian government. But such a notion is clearly to me what he was prospecting with his “private” sense of national socialism. This is proven by Theodore Kisiel’s work. In the early 1930s, Heidegger was trying to improvise a sense of localist communitarian (“communal”) government that could be a national model. This is easy to show through his notebooks prior to and during his rectorship period. But he stops writing about “communal” promise after he leaves the rectorship, thoroughly disgusted.

So, the appeal of Heidegger here (reading political times in the 1930s) is not to go back to wanting his improvised notion of national socialism, but rather appreciating what he was actually anticipating, in better terms than what his times had available, without concealing the singularity of what he sought to do, which was in terms of traditional questions of “being,” for those who are drawn to such traditional questioning as such.

Regarding race, in his 1931-38 notebooks, he’s prospecting how a notion of lineage can figure into his Conversation of Humanity (Gadamer would call it), but he lacks the option of anticipating what has become of cultural and evolutionary anthropology. So, what was he actually attempting to do, in terms that were unavailable to his times?

We now have notions of progress that are post-biologistic and with open teleology. That was inconceivable in Heidegger’s time, but his conception of The Clearing is, so to speak, endless Process, irreducible to spatial tropes.

What did Heidegger want to find in Hölderlin’s Rhine? What is expressed in the archetype of the river: an archetype of endless futurity, intrinsic to conceptual evolution?

The gravity of Time appeals in the distance to flourishing. Wanting to be in Flow is essential for Our human race.