Sunday, September 12, 2010

How should we think the History of Being?

I have been having a wonderful conversation in the comments section of my most recent post with the author of the blog Seynsgeschichte. Our conversation there had finally wandered into territory a little remote from the original blog post so I figured I would move it into a new blog post and come up with an excuse to continue the conversation and invite/encourage any other readers of this blog to join in. In his last comment Pseudonoma stated:

"As far as Seynsgeschichte itself, however, I am against all amorphous "loose" descriptions, and am equally dissatified by "narrative" accounts --which is why what you are saying, being neither one of these --is of great interest to me. For my own part I have a very particular reading of Seynsgeschichte, one which claims SG to elude all Niezschean or Foucalutian genealogy, while not simply refering to transhistorical universals, or any other for of seiendenheit."

I agree that Heidegger's conception of the history of Being is different from the histories of both Nietzsche and Foucault and also not concerned with the trans-historical. Let me say a little about the issue of Nietzsche and Foucault. I think that in Nietzsche's case, the concept of truth and a true history has been so problematized that his genealogies are to be thought primarily in strategic or (non-Heideggerian) poetic terms. They are re-descriptions which seek to shift the dominant metaphors through which we think key concepts. This isn't exhaustive of Nietzsche's history but it does make clear the sense in which history is always a history of the present, i.e. it is always a working over and working upon of current issues with the goal of bringing about future changes. In this sense history is strategic and not representational of "what actually happened" (an ontological entity whose very existence Nietzsche would call into question). I believe that Foucault's histories are similarly strategic histories of the present which refuse any belief in an "accurate" account but which general, nonetheless, follow the strategy of deriving historical change from within the micro power-structures which pre-exist the change in question. Some thinkers have claimed Heidegger must also hold such a view, i.e. that changes in the nature of the totality of practices for a life-world must derive from the practices which were in existence before the change occurred. I have called this, from time to time, the causal conception of history which understands historical events as caused by things which came before them. This seems an entirely inadequate way to conceptualize Heidegger's understanding of "ereignis", which I will generally translate as an "originary event". Heidegger's conception of history is not purely strategic, as he has not given up on the idea of truth but has rather altered the conception of it, and it is not causal insofar as originary events need not be understood as derived from what came temporally before them. I could say a lot more here but I will stop at these very brief suggestions for now.

I would like to hear more about how precisely Pseudonoma understands a "loose" description and a "narrative" account of the History of Being. I suspect I know what he means but I don't want to assume too much.

The introductory gesture having been made, then, I would like to offer two Heidegger quotations to get us on our way. Both are drawn from Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism" as it appears in Krell's Martin Heidegger Basic Writings. The first quotation is a bit of a side issue, as it glances back towards the relation of Sartre to history as well as Sartre's ability to relate to Marx, but I feel it suggests that some of what I had previously suggested about Sartre's a-historicality was also on Heidegger's mind:

"But since neither Husserl nor - so far as I have seen till now - Sartre recognizes the essential importance of the historical in Being, neither phenomenology nor existentialism enters that dimension within which a productive dialogue with Marxism first becomes possible." (p. 243)

The next quotation will be lengthy but I think it provides us with some starting material for a consideration of the History of Being:

"When philosophy attends to its essence it does not make forward strides at all. It remains where it is in order constantly to think the Same. Progression, that is, progression forward from this place, is a mistake that follows thinking as the shadow that thinking itself casts. Because Being is still unthought, Being and Time too says of it, "there is/it gives." Yet one cannot speculate about this il y a precipitately and without a foothold. This "there is/it gives" rules as the destiny of Being. Its history comes to language in the words of essential thinkers. Therefore the thinking that thinks into the truth of Being is, as thinking, historical. There is not a 'systematic' thinking and next to it an illustrative history of past opinions. Nor is there, as Hegel thought, only a systematics that can fashion the law of its thinking into the law of history and simultaneously subsume history into the system. Thought in a more primordial way, there is the history of Being to which thinking belongs as recollection of this history, propriated by it. Such recollective thought differs essentially from the subsequent presentation of history in the sense of an evanescent past. History does not take place primarily as a happening. And its happening is not evanescence. The happening of history occurs essentially as the destiny of the truth of Being and from it. Being comes to destiny in that It, Being, gives itself. But thought in terms of such destiny this says: its gives itself and refuses itself simultaneously. Nonetheless, Hegel's definition of history as the development of 'Spirit' is not untrue. Neither is it partly correct and partly false. It is as true as metaphysics, which through Hegel first brings to language its essence - thought in terms of the absolute - in the system. Absolute metaphysics, with its Marxian and Nietzschean inversions, belongs to the history of the truth of Being. Whatever stems from it cannot be countered or even cast aside by refutations. It can only be taken up in such a way that its truth is more primordially sheltered in Being itself and removed from the domain of mere human opinion. All refutation in the field of essential thinking is foolish. Strife among thinkers is the 'lovers' quarrel' concerning the matter itself. It assists them mutually toward a simple belonging to the Same, from which they find what is fitting for them in the destiny of Being." (p. 238-239)


  1. Before I begin my response, let me offer an editorial gesture for the benefit of the reader of this post, since I am one of those accused souls who cannot "walk and chew gum at the same time", and I have given fresh testimony to this fated fact in the comment that you have quoted in the post: I wrote it while trying to catch the T (or "subway" for all those who live outside the planet of Boston). So, without further excuse: typing errors above are as follows:
    1.) "Niezschean or Foucalutian" should be "Nietzschean or Foucaultian"
    2.)"or any other for of seiendenheit" should be "or any other form of seiendheit"

  2. (also, for the last comment "accused" should be accursed"...and there will be more as I continue, but I will TRY to proofread)...

    Now that I have established my failure as an editor (or typist), I feel I am well poised to say a few things about the essential movement of Seynsgeschichte! The way I am going to approach this "topic" is necessarily oblique; with Seynsgeschichte, it seems to me (and here is anticipation of my first point), we must come to discover in such a way that we must "by way of indirection find direction out". And this is because the movement of Seynsgeschichte does not go anywhere, not because it is static, but because it understands that rest is the fullness of movement, and stillness is the highest activity. This is not just the emulation of enigmatic of tedious rhetoric. But hopefully something of that will come to light in the course of the discussion.

    I must say first of all that I find your selection of the LOH quote startling, Bill, since it was really in meditation upon that very quote or rather a smaller portion of it, that set me thinking (about a decade ago)in --what was for me --a new way about what seyngeschichte really is supposed to mean. The thread I started tugging on was: "Progression, that is, progression forward from this place, is a mistake that follows thinking as the shadow that thinking itself casts." Not only is "thinking" *already AHEAD* of all progress, but it is so because it recognizes that the farthest point from the beginning is yet only half-way to the fulfillment of return, and that therefore what is nearest is farther than the most extreme (that is, äußerst) point away. Many people like to portray the various developments or periods in Heidegger's thought, but, in truth, there are none to be found, and this quote itself is as good example as any! For the Geschick des Seins of which Heidegger is here speaking is an articulation that is on its way TOWARDS and not AWAY FROM that very refrain chanted throughout Sein und Zeit in different variations, namely: "That which is ontically closest to us is ontologically farthest away." We must add to this that this very thought was articulated in Sein und Zeit from a beginning that was necessarily ontic ---it is thus a thought regarding the whole of Heidegger's thought, but precisely the whole insofar as it is capable of being expressed within a certain part, namely the beginning. And indeed such a restriction is what it itself is specifying: it is very knowingly a statement confined to the confinement which it is specifically describing. If I may for a moment offer this mereologically, whenever one attempts to think the whole he must do so from within a domain which can only be a part of the whole; the whole can be indeed be explicitly said --yet only partially. Far from being a weakness, this partiality is a strength since it is in fact a feature of the whole.

  3. TO offer an example of what I mean by this, let us speak in the terms of the waning lebensphilosphie that young Heidegger knew so well: One only thinks the whole of life through a part of life, namely, thinking --and therefore he must learn to think what he, in beginning to think, has de-PARTed from. Where he already began is thus farthest because most elusively near. Such a mereology is BY NO MEANS the same as,e.g., the glib doctrine with whose false humility many people love to sympathize in the present time, namely, that we can never know the whole, and thus the adventure of human knowing goes on (since we are constantly accumulating parts). Such a contemporary doctrine (at least of the "popular mind", to use one of my favorite Kantian turns of phrase) is in fact the very notion of progress from which the thinking Seinsgeschichte is to be rigorously contradistinguished according to the LOH quote above. By contrast, thinking already has the whole EACH STEP OF THE WAY, i.e. partially. And this is why it does not advance forward, because each step can only be taken by saying the whole, which means, by recalling what it is that in had just previously *wanted* to be said.

    And so it is with Seynsgeschichte, that each epoch says the whole in the only way that the whole allows itself to be said, namely, as a part which risks forgetting the whole. It is by no means the case that the history of Being consists of a collection of epochs, i.e. a succession or less still a development of ages. There is much more to be said, but I will let this suffice for the moment. And this brings me to your question. You say:

    "I would like to hear more about how precisely Pseudonoma understands a "loose" description and a "narrative" account of the History of Being. I suspect I know what he means but I don't want to assume too much."

    A "narrative" account of the history of being stunts the movement of Seynsgeschichte into the succession of events that all plot requires. It is essentially succumbing to that temptation "μῦθον τινα διηγεῖσθαι", to tell a tale --this time the bizarrely abstract tale of the way Being has been thought through two millennia. People talk of Heidegger's "muscular narrative the likes of which has not been seen since Hegel", but neither Heidegger nor even Hegel can be said to be narrating. The thinking of Seynsgeschichte neither tells a tale nor does it desribe a series of (however primal) events. It is rather the pursuit of a single Event that is missing --that indeed never actually happened in and as each epoch and only in them.In this way, each epoch of the history of Being follow the previous as the misdirection by which the movement of seynsgeschichte may be indirectly surmised.

    However rough or hollowly assertive this comment is, let it stand as a start which we may then be able to question and undermine --instead of be misdirected by.

  4. Sorry about re-broadcasting your typo, I thought it would have been presumptuous to edit what you had written.

    There is so much to discuss I haven't the slightest idea where to begin. Let me list a few issues of importance I would like to touch upon.

    1. How is the History of Being different from "history in the sense of an evanescent past"?

    2. What is meant by "the Same"?

    3. What does it mean to "remain where we are" and why is this a necessity?

    4. Does the dialectic of part and whole capture what is going on in the History of Being?

    5. What is the epochal character of the History of Being?

    Let me see if I can address some of these points in the light of your comments.

  5. 1. I take history as pertaining to an evanescent past to be similar to what you mean by a narrative presentation of the history of being. It is a story about things which happened in the past and caused other things to happen and, following the causal plot, leads eventually to us. I am opposed to a causal story, as I think that disclosure in some cases should not be thought in a causal manner and causality is dependent upon the existence of a very specific framework of meaning to show up the way it does (as Heidegger makes clear in The Question Concerning Technology), so insofar as we mean "causal" by "plot" I agree with your rejection of narrative.

    A further element of the history of the evanescent comes out, I feel, if we glance at a similar critique of misguided views of history we find in Being and Time's glance at Count Yorck in section 77. There the idea of history as ontic and ocular is rejected. Heidegger wants to problematize the use of ontic here, so lets just focus on ocular and Yorck's connected attack on ocular history as aesthetico-mechanistic. An ocular-aesthetico-mechanistic view of history understands the past events which history is concerned with as sensory events, which were we there, we could have seen or sensed but since we weren't there we need to infer from other sensory data. It is a standard empirical view of history. Yorck, following Dilthey, wants to shift to an understanding of history as living on within life as we live it. It isn't about past sensory events which have a causal connection to the present but rather something (meanings, practices etc.) which is still alive in our daily world such that we can retrieve it from that world. A history of the evanescent presents us with the same idea as the ocular, a history of things which happened and which have now faded from view or slipped into the past. The History of Being doesn't need to infer and dredge up past events since, in some sense, what it directs its attention to is present within the life-world in which we find ourselves. If this were not the case it would be a major problem how we could ever understand entirely foreign past "events". Furthermore, unlike ocular-aesthetico-mechanical histories of the evanescent, what the History of Being attempts to grasp are ways in which reality shows up for us within practices of thought, speech etc. It is not a history of objective events but a history of disclosures and closures that are more fundamental than subjects and objects.

    This leads us to #3 (skipping 2 for now). To stay where we are means that the history we are seeking to grasp is already contained in our current meanings and practices even if it is contained as concealed. Concealed meanings are still uncoverable within the world which conceals them. To put it very flat-footedly, we can't "move on" or "progress" until we understand the meaning of where we are and we can't understand the meaning of where we are until we understand the history of disclosures which are contained within it, which means to understand fully what you do today requires that you understand the entire history of being. Although, rhetorically, "first understand where you are" can sound preparatory (much like "first lets get clear on what we mean by Being") it is a project which necessarily never ends. All investigations whether scientific, historical or philosophical, move within this history of the present.

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  7. 2 and 4:

    As some of my comments in our previous conversation, and in previous posts, should suggest I think of Ereignis in a pluralistic manner. You do not seem to agree with me. I think that it is coherent, and parts of Heidegger's work encourages us, to think of multiple origins, multiple histories and multiple worlds. I also think that what Heidegger's work reveals directs us to the coherent possibility of future originary events (he wobbles from a future directed and past directed view and I take The Origin of the Work of Art to be one of his most future directed works which suggests to possibility of new originary events). But, admittedly, in places like the Beitrage he seems fixated upon what I have called Western history and the specific History of Being we find there. I take this to have to do with history and not necessity.

    I do want to say that I agree with your assertions concerning the always non-presence of the event. Originary Events show up in their withdrawal, we can never actually pin-point them as we are always working from within the framework the set up which, generally, can't think of meaning without them. Gadamer describes it as attempting to plumb a well with a bottom that constantly recedes, and ab-grund. It is not that there IS not bottom but the grund can not be made present.

    So 2, what does he mean by the "Same" if, as I want to assert, there are several originary events? First, probably because of the influence of The Origin of the Work of Art on my thought, I think that originary events (like "art opening a world") exist on a spectrum. The various moments of disclsoure and concealment within the larger western history of meaning are still originary events, they simply are part of larger ones. That being said, I think the Same should not be thought to mean Ereignis, THE originary event, but rather something like Reality. Certainly Heidegger is careful to avoid the word, and so uses words like the Same, because the word is packed full of philosophical presuppositions. If we are careful to take apart those presuppositions, though, I think we can use the term safely enough. The Same is "what is" and "how it is" which is ultimately what all thinking inquires into. This is something more than the originary event in which "what is" has been revealed and concealed in a specific way.

    4 should we think, then, this thinking of the Same in terms of thinking the Whole through Parts. As mentioned, I think that Ereignis itself is revealing-concealing as so fits fairly easily into a part-to-whole conceptual frame but this seems deceptive. As I have mentioned before, I think that we can not know or claim that alternative "revealings" will be coherent with one another. We can't know this because standards of coherence are internal to worlds and can't be applied to that which opens up worlds through its events of revelation. Neither coherence nor causal interconnection can appropriately be applied to "what is" or its unconcealments without assuming way too much. So, what then do we mean by "Whole"? We would have to map out the idea of unity, and what makes something united or one versus pluralistic, and generally all of this would import too many presuppositions. We can say "what is" without assuming unity, disunity, coherence, irrationality etc. (or at least I think we can). But I don't think we can think parts and wholes without importing many or all of these. So, I am wary of the part-whole talk.

  8. Finally 5, what is the epochal character of the History of Being? You state:

    "...each epoch says the whole in the only way that the whole allows itself to be said, namely, as a part which risks forgetting the whole. It is by no means the case that the history of Being consists of a collection of epochs, i.e. a succession or less still a development of ages."

    I suspect we agree here except that I would resist the part whole language. Each epoch offers us an aspect of "what is" which itself houses within it a concealing and refusal. Disclosure is always finite and each epoch consists of a certain type of disclosure of "what is".

    I wonder if you would say more about your rejection of succession here. It does seem that Heidegger thinks the epochal nature of the History of Being in a temporal sense. There is a series here, but there is an important presence of this series in the present world and an interconnection of this series. (notice my fixation with the metaphysics of presence there, I am sure that is gonna be a problem.) I don't have a lot else to say about this for now but here is the discussion of epoch from The Anaximander Fragment, it might spark something more to say later:

    "From the epoche of Being comes the epochal essence of its destining, in which world history properly consists. When being keeps to itself in its destining, world suddenly and unexpectedly comes to pass. Every epoch of world history is an epoch of errancy. The epochal nature of Being belongs to the concealed temporal character of Being and designates the essence of time as thought in Being. What is represented in this world "time" is only the vacuity of an illusory time derived from beings conceived as objects."

  9. I like the way you have structured the discussion; I will try to speak in order to each point that you have laid out. I think you ask the proper questions here, and I find myself in accord with much of your response to them, so let me here isolate and pursue those aspects which to my mind remain obscure.

    1.)"I take history as pertaining to an evanescent past to be similar to what you mean by a narrative presentation of the history of being."

    I am here in agreement with you. This is indeed what I had in mind in taking aim at narrative, if I may mark the words of your sentence carefully, and also mark them off from your further elaboration of the point. For the character proper to narrative that must be avoided is not in the first place causality, anymore than causality needs to be invoked in order to distinguish the (evanescent) past of vergangenheit from the still approaching of gewesenheit. Why not causality? Because causality itself has its ground in succession, in the before and after and the transition whereby they are yoked together into their very relational identities. It is true that causality, as a manner of recovering what is prior by discovering the indebtedness of the present, may also provide that sort of "story telling" whereby the Being of some being is traced back to another being or principle of a being. But that is itself derivative of a misunderstanding of motion --and that is indeed why Heidegger, in QCT, finds the question of causality to ultimately hinge on a translation of Aristotle's ἀρχὴ τῆς μεταβολῆς. Motion understood as the succession whereby a point of departure is then departed from, is this fundamental condition for narrative. By succession, then, what is here meant is that process of evanescence whereby one occurrence finds its limits, completes itself, and recedes into the shadow of a "now" that has passed away into the past, thus de-fining itself as a moment, an evanescence.

    Now in a way, if I merely linger on this point regarding the point of departure I think quite a bit might be clarified regarding my own reading of Seynsgeschichte. For this notion of motion as something which enabled the departure of the beginning, thereby also making possible the advance FROM the beginning, TO what succeeds the beginning, is what Heidegger has in mind in the LOH quote above when he states: "When philosophy attends to its essence it does not make forward strides at all." Why does philosophy not move forward? Because it is attending to its beginning, that is, to the superabundant happening that first made it possible, which may also be called, quite simply, its essence. The essence of philosophy is its source, and it is from this source that philosophy is given just what it is to be philosophy at all. When philosophy receives the gift *OF* its own essence, then an epoch has been inaugurated, but this very inauguration is the manner in which philosophy becomes forgetful of its own essential source. In other words, in the point of departure of the history of being the beginning and source of that departure is departed from and forgotten. Motion, understood as succession, is errancy.

  10. What does such errancy as a straying from the beginning as from its own essence? I think you offer a very fine illustration in your eloquent overview of section 77 of Sein und Zeit. Let me clarify what I mean. You write:

    "Yorck, following Dilthey, wants to shift to an understanding of history as living on within life as we live it. It isn't about past sensory events which have a causal connection to the present but rather something (meanings, practices etc.) which is still alive in our daily world such that we can retrieve it from that world."

    Now what I want to focus on in connection with errancy is precisely this: in just WHAT way is this "something...still alive in our daily world SUCH THAT we can retrieve it from that world"? The answer is: it is STILL alive right in front of our eyes and underneath our noses, as precisely something that we have missed, have passed by, have as Sein und Zeit will put it "passed over". But this "passing" is a result of a motion that inherently strays from the source to which it is destined (to return). The factically given historical world is given in just such a manner that it is over looked --it is granted precisely such that we take it for granted. This is why the consummate granting of world can only take place in the locutions of philosophy: the very possibility of philosophy stands the condition of having already taken for granted existence in a manner that cannot possibly be surpassed. For in order to ask: what is anything --not insofar as it could threaten my family or yield tonight's supper, nor even so far as it can be made and used or even allow me to admire its beauty or have the pleasure of simply knowing the entire course of this once unnavigable river, but, instead of all this, to ask what is anything only and precisely insofar as it is (anything), we must have to have already passed through an entire world in which we had to cope and cooperate or stumble over and fall at the feet of everything within it. And this is why there is no "Eastern history of Being" or any such thing --anymore than we should thing of Seynsgeschichte --which is the true history of the West, as a "Western" history which may be laid aside others. This is not possible because all history depends upon what has been --not, as we have already both made clear, as the past, but rather as the "passed over", as the missed, or in other words, as the granted. The geschick des seins achieves itself and comes into its own as fully granted only at that time when a unique interlocution occurs that tries to say the whole of beings as such, since only then is the taking for granted complete. Such an interlocution is philosophy, and before it transpires Being is still on the way to being granted, and is not yet thought at all. Every epoch is a pronouncement of the whole in this sense, namely das GANZE des Seienden als solchen.

  11. Let me now take stock of what I have said thus far, since I am nearing the crucial point where you and I find a point of contention that stands at the center of our discussion. I will schematize the past two remarks in three points:

    a.)Succession, movement as movement forward, determines that evanescence whereby the beginning appears errantly as a mere point of departure that is necessarily left behind, i.e. passed over into the past.

    b.)The history of Being begins only when the granting of Being (in terms of which all seinsverstandnis is made possible) has consummately taken place. This happens for the first time in the posing of the question "τὶ ἐστί...;" or in other words the question which demands that we make explicit what we already understand implicitly in the language in which we have our residence.

    c.)Philosophy thus begins epochally, i.e. it brings to appearance in the philosophic pronouncement the understanding of being which it has taken for granted in order to come to that very comportment in which such a pronouncement can be made. This means that philosophy begins by trying to bring to its first expression where it already is, namely, amidst beings as a whole as such --and this precisely as granted, i.e. ALREADY undestoos in a seinsverstandnis.

  12. This leads me to the matter of the CONSTITUTION of the history of Being. You write:

    "To stay where we are means that the history we are seeking to grasp is already contained in our current meanings and practices even if it is contained as concealed."

    My question for you is: "meanings and practices"...what are they? What is the nature of this conjunction? Does meaning translate SZ's "bedeutsamkeit", its "sinn" or someother third thing? Are meanings to be distinguished FROM practices? I ask this because I believe we can employ a word that can name what at once unifies and stretches beyond "meanings and practices" --and the word is seinsverstandnis, which Heidegger subordinates all practice to in SZ. To substantiate this claim I will offer to quick observations:

    1)all practice requires in advance the freedom in terms of which the beings involved in such practice are enabled to be encountered via and a priori understanding which practice relies upon and appropriates. This understanding is the seinsverstandnis of zuhandensein.(cf. SZ section 18, Heidegger's pagination: pg. 85).

    2.) However, more primordial even than this a priori understanding wherein practice first becomes possible is that understanding of Being itself which is concealed in the understanding of any Being of beings, of which zuhandensein must certainly be counted. The seinsverstandnis of Being itself is more primordial than vorhandensein or zuhandensein or EVEN the existenz of Dasein. But even this seinsverstandnis is made possible by a Geschick des Seyns. This is important for our current discussion because it means the following: practice is made possible by a seinsverstandnis of a unique realm of beings, namely, τὰ πράγματα. Practice is a function of the projecting open of a wherein of understanding of beings. The understanding that projectively resides within this "where in" and which constitutes a totality of relations is bedeutsamkeit. Such a projection presupposes an understanding of Being itself, whereby Being is understood as that which unifies the meaning of all projections (e.g. the underlying Sein of vorhandenSEIN, zuhandenSEIN, DaSEIN, etc) (for which we might also use the term "meaning", sinn). Hence the question SZ raised: "die frage nach dem sinn von sein überhaupt." But the understanding which this question inquires into is first of all an understanding taken for granted, and thus presupposes a granting. This granting is the geschick des seins. This granting happens first, that is, consummately for the first time, in the emergence of the philosophical WORD. It is kept not in meanings or practices, but in something at once more conspicuous and primordial: SPRACHE.

    In this sense, seynsgeschichte is not reducible to the tradition of meanings and practices. For the latter, a genealogy motivated by a hermeneutics of suspicion would suffice (e.g. Foucault, Nietzsche).

  13. Another way of putting this is simply: the living history that Yorck was keen enough to recognize is made possible by Seinsgeschichte, since it itself depends in advance upon the meaning of Being and, even before that, Being itself as Ereignis --the "it" which sends itself as Being and thereby grants what the understanding can take for granted. We must take care however, not to confuse Yorck (or Heidegger's reading of Y) with the history given in Seynsgeschichte.

    Why I want to be so emphatic about this is because it makes clear that Heidegger is not talking about an infinite "possibility of worlds." Seynsgeschichte leaves its trace in philosophy and only there. This, of course, does not mean that it pertains only to things that are considered "philosophical" --after all philosophy is the culmination of the appearing of world ---its word first determines how what has already been granted can now appear. But this pre-eminent use (brauchen, χρεῶν) of language happens in Greece and only there. Being is first granted ---and that means also completely passed over ---in Greece, and in Greek. Epochality finds its withheld essence in Greek: ἐποχή. The world as such COMES TO PASS for the first time in Greece --and with this passing, the beginning is missed and departed from and history is sent on its way.

  14. So finally the quick answers to the questions.

    1.) Seynsgeschichte differs from an evanescent past insofar as it begins by withdrawing, thereby creating the illusion of succession that all evanescence requires.

    2.)The Same is the name for Being as it has been granted throughout each epoch. But each epoch understands Being differently. The Same, therefore, does not designate an identity among epochal sendings of Being, nor does it designate another underlying thing (subjectum) in terms of which the unity of the epochs can be thought. Rather the Same designates that in terms of which each epoch may be called an epoch, or in other words, that in terms of which each epoch differs from the other yet remains epochal. What is this? It is the ἐποχή, that is, the withholding of the beginning which is proper to the beginning, and which destines in advance all possible epochs. The identical requires the present. The Same, unlike the identical, is that which cannot any longer be grasped now, in the present age, but rather lies in our future as the beginning. The Same is thus the still unthought jointure in terms of which the epochs are related. It is therefore a unity that can account for the plurality without reducing it to some one present thing. The attempt to say the Same explicitly must accordingly necessarily diversify itself.

    3.) To remain where we are means to thoughtfully attend to what has already transpired in and as the immediate present, i.e. to attend to just what it its that we have been granted and have therefore missed. Such an thoughtful attending happens in a preeminent way any time philosophy seeks to begin. The necessity to remain where we are becomes clear to the extent that the mistake of succession is recognized and avoided ---a recognition that can only take place what appears to be the succession of epochs are recognized in their truly epochal character, namely as pursuing the beginning that has withheld itself; thus they are recognized ans not merely coming after, but GOING after the beginning that withheld itself upon arrival.

    4.)As far as mereology goes, that was just a spontaneous trope that I employed for the purpose of the last comment, and I agree with you in making it questionable. My approach would be to consider it from the understanding of whole at stake in Heidegger's famous phrase: das GANZE des Seienden als solchen. I think one CAN speak of the history of Being in terms of whole and part, and I think this leads to an astonishing rethinking of the two terms and how they relate, but I think you are exactly right in saying that the "DIALECTIC of whole and part" falls short.

    5.)I believe I may have answered this 5th question reagarding the nature of epochality in my ranting above. Epochality is the with holding in terms of which Being can be brought to light AS BEING. Now since this illumination constitutes the beginning of history proper, it holds back a more primordial beginning that can never be a point of departure for the occurrence of succession, since it lies in that future toward which all succession infinitely tends. If thinking in the present time fails to attend to this beginning that is still in store for it to first of all think, then it will remain trapped in the illusion of a philospohy of "infinite tasks" which has to "keep an open mind" ---it will in short, completely dissipate instead of rediscovering the one thing alone that it has been given to think since the beginning of the world.

  15. If I may add a sort of Heideggerian post-script to the remarks I have made on part and whole as they regard the history of Being:

    "Nietzsche sees clearly that in the history of western man something is coming to an end: what until now and long since has remained uncompleted. Nietzsche sees the necessity to carry it to completion. But completion doesn't mean here that a part is added which was missing before; this completion does not make the whole by patching; it makes the whole by achieving at last the wholeness of the whole, by thus transforming what has been so far, in virtue of the whole." (Was heißt Denken?)

  16. Wow, thank you for providing me with such an extensive presentation of your view! I am working out some observations in response which I will post soon.

  17. Causality, motion and succession:

    I am perfectly amenable to the idea that my criticism of causality's role in a mechanistic history fits within a larger and more basic concern, namely a misconstrual of succession. I think we agree on your presentation of Heidegger's critique of succession but I think I would have presented it in terms of the nature of disclosure and not in terms of succession. Let me say a bit about this and epochal history.

    I haven't look at "The Question Concerning Technology" in a few months but I never read Heidegger's evaluation of efficient causality's dominance over the other causes necessarily in terms of how we should translate the idea of (here I offer a translation which is, without a doubt, debatable) "movement from an arche" or "change/development from an arche". I don't doubt we can think it in these terms, but it seems to me we can see Heidegger's main focus as the attempt to think "cause" and "creation" in terms of disclosure. We do not rearrange elements, we do not bring about from nothing etc. we usher (or find ourselves part of a larger event of ushering) something into appearance which was previously undisclosed. This gives us the same critique of succession, things do not move or change FROM one thing TO another (leaving the first thing behind) but rather there is an unfolding or infolding during the course of which what was concealed is revealed or what is revealed is re-concealed. In this sense, certainly, succession in the sense of a movement which leaves the previous moment behind is certainly an illusion. Like I said, I think we can speak of this in terms of a rejection of a certain conception of succession or simply in terms of temporality understood in terms of disclosure and concealment.

    This brings me to epochal history and errancy. I think we agree on this as well. There IS a history which, in a sense, is made up of epoches. It is wrong, whoever, to think of these epoches as transitions from one era to another such that the past is left behind. Each epoche is defined by its bracketing nature, as it were, i.e. by the way in which it covers something over and by the way in which it reveals something that the previous epoche may have been concealing. In this sense, each epoche fails to "move on" from the beginning and there is no movement from the beginning. The more we think that we HAVE moved from the beginning the more we have fallen further into the concealment inherent in errancy.

    Hopefully my gloss is not too far from some of what you meant.

  18. A point about Word, Speech, Understanding and Meaning:

    I believe that Heidegger shifted from time to time on his position concerning the relation of practices in general to speech. For this reason I generally talk about "practices" within which I include language-practices (I am not going to be very careful here about how I use the terms "language", "speech" and "discourse").

    Certainly speech is very often prioritized, there are times where he asserts that it is primarily language which opens a world (for example in The Origin of the Work of Art). There are also moments where he suggests that speech is equiprimordial with understanding and attunement (Befindlichkeit). See Being and Time section 34. At other times he suggests that there is a pre-linguistic open space of meaning (see the role of Nous in the Sophist seminar). So, I grant the importance of Sprache but I doubt that even Heidegger was entirely certain that it was in any way "more primordial" than practice generally conceived.

    This brings me to the issue of what I mean by meaning and my focus on the centrality of practice. You suggest that practices are made possible by the understanding of Being which opens up the meaningful life world in which alone the concerns of practices can show up. I am not sure how much we actually disagree here, I think we may just be talking from slightly varied perspectives. Here are your own words, in case my rephrasing misses anything: "all practice requires in advance the freedom in terms of which the beings involved in such practice are enabled to be encountered via an a priori understanding which practice relies upon and appropriates. This understanding is the seinsverstandnis of zuhandensein.(cf. SZ section 18, Heidegger's pagination: pg. 85)." The question is, and in some ways I take this to be the central question for me, what is the being of an understanding of being? Heidegger states that we must have already "let things be involved" in order for any specific thing to show up in terms of the totality of involvements which is the world but ultimately I take this to mean that world, i.e. the totality of roles and practices (i.e. totality of involvements) is primordial/basic and can not be "built up" out of or from other things. So, when I ask what the being of an understanding of being is I believe the answer is that it IS as a total practical world.

    Let me try to clarify this with an analogy. Discussing an understanding of being independent of the life world in which it is embodied such that the understanding comes before the world seems a bit like discussing the linguistic meaning of a word independent of the word and the language. It is wrong in a pretty fundamental way, I suspect, to think that there IS linguistic meaning before or without word and language. In the same way, there only IS an understanding of being insofar as it IS the totality of practices in which it exists. This is at least one reason why it is important that understanding, discourse and attunement are equiprimordial in Being and Time. The understanding of being exists along side with talking about how things are and having a certain orientation (boredom, anxiety, wonder etc.) towards this "how" of how things are.

  19. So, what do I mean by meaning. Usually I use the term meaning for Heidegger's Sinn which includes within it significance. How do I understand Sinn? I take seriously Heidegger's assertion at points that Sinn and Sein are the same. That to be is to be meaningful. To be meaningful is to fit within a totality of involvements, to have a place in a world. Significance fits within this larger sense of meaning as the type of meaning that arises when the meaning/understanding existing within practice is articulated through discourse. In other words, insofar as understanding, discourse and attunement are equiprimoridial we can have meaning without discourse (equiprimordial does not necessarily mean inter-dependent) i.e. we can have the meaning housed in practical understanding (verstehen) and the meaning housed in our orientation towards what shows up in practice (befindlichkeit) without this meaning being articulated through discourse (significance). I find this observation to be really important because it shows that there is, in effect, always something more to SAY. We can never get, in language, entirely clear on how things seem to us and what our practices mean or show us about the world. This is part of what the concealed means at the time of Being and Time as well, for example that something can be disclosed (through practice for example) as not entirely revealed yet through discourse.

    So, to be brief and summarize. World is the ground of meaning. World is practice. Practice is larger than language-use. An understanding of being exists only within world, indeed its existence just means that there IS a world. The event, i.e. the ultimate Ereignis, which opens up a world is more basic than all of these, but this event happens AS the birth of a world/practices etc. In other words, the being of the event, the way in which the event IS, is as the birth of practices in which it is concealed and revealed.

  20. Alright now, let us discuss the issue of there being one history of being or several. I take this issue to be connected with the issue of whether philosophy begins the history of being and the plural use of the term "world".

    More and more as Heidegger concerns himself with the history of Being he asserts that this history begins with Philosophy much in line with your assertion on this issue which I quote: "Why I want to be so emphatic about this is because it makes clear that Heidegger is not talking about an infinite "possibility of worlds." Seynsgeschichte leaves its trace in philosophy and only there... But this pre-eminent use (brauchen, χρεῶν) of language happens in Greece and only there. Being is first granted ---and that means also completely passed over ---in Greece, and in Greek. Epochality finds its withheld essence in Greek: ἐποχή. The world as such COMES TO PASS for the first time in Greece --and with this passing, the beginning is missed and departed from and history is sent on its way."

    I agree, Heidegger speaks like this. On this topic then either Heidegger is not consistent (I very much think this is the case) or I disagree with Heidegger and believe that the work he has left us gives us good internal reasons to disagree with him. My previous discussion alone should suggest that the centrality of language that this view of the history of Being relies upon is not Heidegger's only or consistent view of language and world-disclosure.

    But even granting the view of language which underlies this view of the beginning of the history of Being, we would first have to very carefully engage in a philosophical exploration of, say, Eastern history, or native American history or African history etc. to have any idea if or in what way they may have asked (or not asked) the question of Being. But to do so we would have to be part of that life world (rather than simply leaping into their texts or folk tales etc.) which poses massive (thought perhaps not insurmountable) problems. To pose this observation slightly differently, to be certainly that the History of Being is One and only begins in Greece WITHOUT doing the life-long work of attempting to philosophically live a very different life-world's history we would have to assert that the History of Being somehow tells us about what was before Greece, what was external to Greece and the history it started, and so on. The history of being would have to make mention of, say, the history of the people of Tasmania.

    But this, also, is a side issue. As I have mentioned much of my Heidegger interpretation derives its impetus from "The Origin of the Work of Art". So I wonder this, what event is Heidegger describing when he discusses great works of art which open up worlds? I believe The Origin of the Work of Art presents us with a non-philosophy-centric view of Ereignis. The great work of art dramatically begins the life of a world while at the same time revealing the earth on which it rests, i.e. the concealed limitations which all worlds have. In other words, great art as Heidegger conceives of it provides the same thing philosophy does in terms of asking, and offering answers to, the question of being. If this is the case we need not look to a mode of disclosure just like philosophy in other contexts, say native American culture, in order to find a History of Being.

  21. In both Being and Time and The Origin of the Work of Art Heidegger discusses worlds in the plural and, as I have mentioned, I believe that this can be read to accommodate both the epochal view of the History of Being and the pluralistic view that there are Histories of Being even as there are Worlds.

    I find it odd to think that Zen, for example, isn't born from an attempt to say what beings as a whole are and, in turn, isn't the answer that it is a deceptive mistake to ATTEMPT to say what beings as a whole are. Indeed this seems one reason why Heidegger himself was very interested in Zen.

    Eh, I fear I have run out of steam and may now be babbling. There were a few points I was hoping to say more clearly, but perhaps our further conversation will give me the chance to clarify them.

  22. I am altogether thrilled with the turn our discussion has taken! And I have in no small way to thank your manifest knack for seeing what is essential and organizing the discussion accordingly for this fact. (Cannot --must not -- pretension be utilized in a manner that avoids violence? And so I will speak, even if with pretense, without pretending).

    But let me also invoke modesty, and, at least for the moment, resolve to address only one of the many important questions your remarks have raised ---though no doubt, others will by implication be touched upon in passing. I wish to take up the question, then, of Heideggerian pluralism, that is, of whether "there is an history of Being or several." I stated emphatically that there was but one history of Being. But I did not thereby equate this unity with one, that is to say, any, of the epochs of seynsgeschichte. Instead, I wanted to refer to a different possibility; all equation presupposing and not at all surmounting that very identity from which I distinguished, in a move that threatens to become "standard", the meaning of "the Same". Instead, I tried to speak of the Same as the name for precisely what is covered over in each and every epoch's designation of what is identical, including (and especially) that Hegelian notion of "identity in difference".

  23. And what is so covered over? Only this: the very epochality of each and all of the epochs. For what differentiates the epochs of Seysgeschichte is that which each has missed --and above all this means what the first epoch, the Greek beginning, has missed. But what they have missed is that which they have been finally granted: Being. This consummate missing is first TO BE FOUND nowhere else. It is the essence of what is Greek and it properly belongs, just as much as we today do, to what is Greek. Thanks to historiography, we all now know, however, that this is not at all the final word, nor is it an objective assessment. There are IN FACT many histories --many that have been all too easily cast aside by the Western history whose aim and impetus has found a comfortable identification in the names of "development" and "progress", if not in ultimacy and "end". And so a snowfall befalls the West, "covering earth in forgetful snow" --and first of all, as the Beitrage would have it, those peaks of Western thought known as philosophy, where the earth has reached so high that it is always lonely, quiet, and covered in snow.

    To the earth then! But how should we get there? How does the Origin of the Artwork get there? What on earth is this earth? Of course, my point is, in keeping with what I take to be Heidegger's radical consistency, the earth can only be thought THROUGH the Greek beginning and not as an exception to it. Such is the case with all things non-western. Thus does Heidegger declare, in Unterwegs Zur Sprache, in what would otherwise seem to be an instance of that misbegotten accusation of "ethno-centrism", that any dialogue between East and West has as its precondition a dialogue with the Greeks (cf. Heidegger's dialogue between an inquirer and a Japanese). And this is because all cautions we might have regarding anything outside the tradition of the West understood as the History of Being, are themselves understood in advance in obedience to historiography and its presuppositions --which means, at bottom, the history of Being.

  24. You write: "But even granting the view of language which underlies this view of the beginning of the history of Being, we would first have to very carefully engage in a philosophical exploration of, say, Eastern history, or native American history or African history etc. to have any idea if or in what way they may have asked (or not asked) the question of Being. But to do so we would have to be part of that life world (rather than simply leaping into their texts or folk tales etc.) which poses massive (though perhaps not insurmountable) problems."

    You keenly admit that these problems are "PERHAPS not insurmountable". But where does the path lie, which, if taken, may yield such a possible surmounting? The answer is: only where it can be granted. That is, Greece, the site of the greatest, most consummate granting. Even the attempt or goal to look for the lebenswelt of a, e.g., Native American existence, is thoroughly an affair of a thinking whose forgotten beginning lies in Greece. Surely the native Americans had no need of such an investigation. And even if, in the face of absurdity, we wanted to claim the opposite, where would WE ground such a claim? When you write "But even granting the view of language which underlies this view of the beginning of the history of Being", I am prompted to ask: How shall we grant this? If we have understood it properly, have we not understood how it cannot be granted, as if it were one of the grantings proper to Seynsegeschichte? Does not this language consist of not being granted at all? Is its word not still missing? And why does the Origin of the Artwork privilege the word --the word of the dichter --above all art?

  25. If I do have any talent for focusing on the essential it, unfortunately and often enough, comes at the expense of grace in my writing. If several of your comments are any sign, you have the the same talent without having to pay the price.

    It seems like our conversation has circled around the constant danger of our NOT disagreeing with each other. At this point I think I have collapsed fully into that danger. In other words, I suspect I agree with your last several posts.

    In fact I am embroiled in a few projects which attempt to think histories that are before or beside the history which may find its origin in Greece. I agree that the only way to gain access to these histories is through Greece. Through getting beneath or beyond Greece I would suggest, but you may not agree.

    So, the attempt to think "other" histories requires our engagement with the History of Being which may take its origin in Greece. But what does this say about the idea that there is only one History of Being? If this is taken to mean that any history is going to have to return to the beginning in Greece before going elsewhere then fine. However, this statement says nothing about whether this return can be surpassed. ("Surpassed" is likely the wrong word here, perhaps a better one might be "skirted". The Ereignis, any Ereignis, is going to allow for continual rich attempts to think our way into it. These attempts will never be complete. But that does not mean these attempts are the only thing we can be engaged with. Drawing near to the origin might allow one to enter paths towards other origins.) I do not think that all other histories have their origin in Greece, I do not think there is one world Ereignis, even though our access to other histories must be through our own. So, then, the attempt to think the Greek event, as I read it, can be seen as an attempt to think beyond, below, or beside the originary event.

    One wonders, for example, how important the great Homeric epics, or Hesiod's work, might be for the event which supposedly originates just beyond - what? - Anaximander read as the "oldest fragment of recorded thought"? One wonders, beyond this, what influence the Near Eastern epics had on Homer and Hesiod. One sees a path that can be followed, in fact bridges that can be uncovered, which allow us to think into other histories.

    But I suspect these histories are, indeed, Other. What we attempt to think isn't a single tapestry through which we can follow one thread towards one ever receding origin. There are origins, and by their very nature they are indiscernible insofar as they grant through receding, but the paths to which they give rise do overlap at very important, although often seemingly innocuous, points.

  26. I think you're right that there are many interlocking points in our respective interpretations of Seynsgeschichte...but I also think you've done an excellent job raising a whole fortress of questions by which the danger of agreement might be warded off. I am left with a whole host of fresh considerations and an interest in following through with several threads of our exchange...maybe I can put together something over at SG in the next few days...But either way, thanks again, Bill, for the very valuable insights!

  27. Thank you! This has been one of the most useful and enjoyable internet exchanges I have had. Let me know if you put something up at your page. I will link to it and obviously come by and see what is going on.

  28. Hey Bill...just wanted to make good --in dilatory fashion, of course --on my promise to ramble on a little bit more regarding Seynsgeschichte: