Re: "The Fourfold"

>Would you please explain the lines:
>> If language is the house of being, then the fourfold, as contents of
>> linguistically sustained world, really don't seem to be essential (and
>> could get on just as well in a city or a spaceship). If the fourfold is
>> essential, then the ontological difference was a mistake.
>I am not expressing disagreement, only a desire to know more.

(Admittedly, I stated this polemically, something like sending forth a mouse
in front of a cat....)

"If language is the house of being" -- well, now, that's a metaphor, too, but
I was giving *it* the benefit of poetically pointing in the direction of
thinking speech as the event in which what-is comes to "being" <as opposed to
what I believe cannot even really be thought, namely(sic), ?whatever? ?is?
?outside? speech>. I am thinking here, for instance, of a mother's words to
her infant in (what Winnicott called:) "object presenting" -- e.g., the
mother offering a ball to her infant's attention and saying "Ball....
Baull.... Yes! -- Ball!...." -- where these words serve not to label
equipment to be maniplated in a Wittgensteinean (Skinnerean?) "language
game", but as occasion for opening up a clearing in the density of what-is
where presentation can come to stand (instead of going out of existence in
the process of coming into being) in re-presentability. (More metaphors,

If speech (which is what I presume Heidegger means by language, i.e., speech
*acts*, not taxonomies of symbol spaces -- grammars and lexicons, etc.) is
the essential condition for human ek-sistence, then all entities form a
homogenous space of things-to-be-talked-about. Autobahns, peasants' wooden
clogs, the gods, mortals, heaven and earth and so forth all are contingent
referents of speech. Speech needs *something* to speak of, but
what-that-something-is is, in the end indifferent insofar as its primary role
is to let the clearing happen (here one needs to think about such things as
intractable pain...). To get to my first point: the stainless steel inside
of a space ship is as much a place for a person to *speak* (and *hear*) as an
agrarian-romantic site which lends itself to being described in terms of "the
fourfold". John Caputo (in his presentation at the 1989 Applied Heidegger
Symposium) said that all that is required of us is to make the best of the
situation we happen (facticity!) to find ourselves in. For thinking that
rigorously thinks our task is to be open to *whatever* presents itself, "the
fourfold" is a certain contingent constellation of the <whatever>. The
fourfold is therefore *inessential* in the sense that our orientation should
be (<--somebody will probably jump on me for that phrase...), primarily, to
cultivate our being clearing where <whatever> can be what it is, while the
<whatever> should take second place -- or, better, *part place* as that which
enters into the clearing in the particular instance. The important thing is
not to cultivate potatoes with a hand-hoe rather than to write computer
programs, but to do what one does, whatever it is, reflectively ("Nur das
Fragen ist die Frommigheit des Denkens"...). It then becomes an empirical
question how good a facilitator "the fourfold" is for such thinking, and I
propose that having a (perhaps, to pick an antipode to a Heideggerean
peasant, Bauhaus-trained) mother "whose face lights up at the sight of her
child" (Heinz Kohut) is far more relevant than the (agrarian) elements of
"the fourfold".

Now to the second point: the ontological difference. One way I approach this
is in terms of the distinction between (a) naive immersion in attending to
entities as if what-is was a totality of entities (in which "oneself" is
either or both just another entity or not noticed), and (b) attending to the
fact that (one is) event wherein what-is is and is not rather nothing. The
<what-is>, in the latter case, is a free variable whose substitution
instances range over whatever in any particular case facticity (the "es
gibt") presents. What would it mean for "the fourfold" to be essential? It
seems to me it would mean that there was something about the fourfold which
was in some (again essential) sense prior to the issue of our attending to
what-is whatever-it-is as being rather than not being, i.e., our being (at
least: being essential for) the clearing. Such thinking has fallen back into
ontical (naive) realism. If we take the ontological difference seriously,
then we distance ourselves (<--sorry for the loose phrasing here) from -->
stand outside *EVERYTHING* --> ex-sto --> ek-sist. This is not done by going
elsewhere (which would only be to arrive into a somewhere and therefore to
fall back into *EVERTHING*) but by comporting ourselves elsewise. "The
fourfold", in that case, is merely a particular factical possibility (for
some reason I happened to think of VanGogh's Starry Night here), which, if
*it* presents itself to us, is what we have to care for (make the best of)
(in the situation where it is what presents itself to us).

Finally, let me say something about the first-person plural voice -- "we" --
here. I am referring to words insofar as they are event of addressing
<whatever>, before any metaphysical (and potentially falsifiable) attribution
to "self" or "other" etc. The paradigm I have in mind is the leisured
situation in which persons can indeed let what-is be because their stomachs
are full, their bodies are healthy, their backs are covered, etc (Winnicott's
"holding environment"). "You and I" (whoever in the particular case these
may be) discuss <whatever> in that temporality of which Nietzsche said that
it takes a long time -- or is it a short time? for, to speak properly, there
is no time for it on earth (i.e., in busy-ness) for such things -- not
attending to "who says what", or, if so, attending to *that* in a
non-"territorial" way. This is surely a condition man (women, child) is in
at best only sometimes. Husserl wrote in 1935: "For the sake of the
life-task that has been taken up [e.g., the foregoing] , in times of danger
one must first let these very tasks alone and do what will make a normal life
possible again in the future. The effect will generally be such that the
total life-situation, and with it the original life-tasks, has been changed
or in the end has even become fully without an object. Thus reflection is
required in every sense in order to right ourselves. (Husserl, "The Crisis of
European Sciences..." (1970, p. 392)

I hope the foregoing is helpful (to quote Heidegger: I have taken up this
position not as a final resting point but rather as a temporary resting place
on a path -- for what endures in thinking is the process of thinking). It is
surely an occasion for repeating Neils Bohr's admonishment to his students to
take every statement I make not as an assertion but as a question.

Brad McCormick

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