Monday, 16 January 2006

The Rector of Decrepitude

Let it fall to your credit that it has never occurred to you to say that the banks of a stream lie across from one another because of the existence of bridges:
The bridge [Martin Heidegger tells us] . . . does not just connect banks that are already there. The banks emerge as banks only as the bridge crosses the stream. The bridge expressly causes them to lie across from each other. One side is set off against the other by the bridge. Nor do the banks stretch along the stream as indifferent border strips of the dry land. With the banks, the bridge brings to the stream the one and the other expanse of the landscape lying behind them. It brings stream and bank and land into each other’s neighbourhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream. [1]
A thought so absurd as this could occur only to a man who has nothing left to say, but who, for the sake of his upkeep, has to say something nonsensical that will provoke amongst his acolytes a solicitous interpretation that takes such sayings as tokens of a profound understanding.

In the genealogy of pseudo-philosophic hogwash, Professor Heidegger stands out as an unhinged and fecund ancestor to the vacuity and decrepitude of certain strains of modern intellectual life. If, for instance, you feign to agree that “[w]hen Dasein does not exist, ‘independence’ ‘is’ not either, nor ‘is’ the ‘in-itself’” [2], then most likely you stand as an intellectual scion of this sorely afflicted line, a defender of the great shyster’s claim that “[m]aking itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy”. [3]

For anyone who has not given up sense in favour of a faddish and craven pretension, however, the works of Professor Heidegger provide an almost inexhaustible source for wonder at how such hogwash might pass for philosophy. Consider, for instance, the following:
We also catch sight of the nature of nearness. The thing things. In thinging, it stays earth and sky, divinities and morals. Staying, the thing brings the four, in their remoteness, near to one another. This bringing-near is nearing. Nearing is the presencing of nearness. Nearness brings the near—draws nigh to one another—the far and, indeed, as the far. Nearness preserves farness. Preserving farness, nearness presences nearness in nearing that farness. Bringing near in this way, nearness conceals its own self and remains, in its own way, nearest of all. [4]
Hereafter, for all that might be said against Heidegger’s philosophy, let no man deny the existence of German comedy!

[1] Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking”, in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, ed. and tr. D. F. Krell, (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 354, original emphasis.

[2] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson, (New York: Harper, 1962), p. 255.

[3] Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), tr. P. Enad & K. Maly (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), p. 307.

[4] Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, tr. A. Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), pp.177-178, original emphasis.

1 comment:

Paul Cossins said...

Looks like Herr Heidegger is one of the chief malefactors in this rogue's gallery. Still, I had never supposed that there were pearls of humour in his dunghill of lucubrations.