Letter on Humanism -- Reading 8 (fwd)

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Date: Sun, 9 Apr 1995 14:49:58 -0400
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Letter on Humanism -- Reading 8

As I have been going through the text, I have felt "put off" by Heidegger's
peremptory stance, in which he asserts asserts asserts, without adducing
evidence, trying to make connections.... Item: I'm not sure whether the
translation of the first sentence of the present reading (#8) is fair to
Heidegger (any h*lp from somebody good with German?), but to speak of
Sartre's philosophy, whatever its merits of lack of same, as "a philosophy of
this sort", seems to me to carry the connotation blatantly of disparagement
(and if even "das Man" isn't supposed to be derogatory, surely Sartre isn't
even *worse*).

Two points:

(1) "But even this could take place only to the honor of Being and for the
benefit of Da-sein, which man ek-sistingly sustains; not, however, for the
sake of man, so that civilization and culture through man's doings might be
vindicated." It seems to me (<--that's already telling, since I'm asserting
myself here, i.e., taking the stance of a man doing) that ultimately Being
will only get honored if there's "enough in it" for (wo)man, so that "man's
doings" stubbornly sustain a correlative status with Being (and its putative
glories). Transcendentally (structurally, etc.), man may be destined
to/by/... Being, but that man undertake the care of Being or his relationship
to it in any thematic sense ultimately depends on his *evaluation* of it,
and, between Auschwitz, Camus' protestation about children getting cancer,
etc., (wo)men may, in particular situations, decide Being doesn't deserve
<whatever, e.g., to be>. I think Heidegger may be engaged in a "jump on the
bandwaggon" rhetorical ploy, trying to get us to confuse is with ought, etc.
No to mention, of course, that even his own books depend on man's doings in
the form of printing press runs, etc. If man is the shepherd of Being,
perhaps part of man's duties are to cull the flock.

(2) "Being is the nearest. Yet the near remains the farthest from man. Man
at first clings always and only to beings." I propose this is a good example
of a *mere* assertion. I would not wish to argue that factually for the most
part this assessment is statistically correct. But is it (thoughtfully...)
*true*? Does the telos of an infant examining an object presented by the
infant's mother in the clearing opened by her benignly encourging gaze
necessarily lead to either partner's clinging primarily to beings (entities),
or might it instead (if emphatically nurtured by the social surround) lead to
them clinging primarily to *the event they are* wherein what is, whatever it
is, is and is not rather nothing?

"For every departure from beings and every return to them stands already in
the light of Being." Transcendentally, this may be ineluctable. But I wish
to propose that one cannot argue from this *fact* that, when persons
thematize it, they find themselves "claimed", normatively, as opposed to
factually. Man remains free to respond to this claim as he sees fit,
including, perhaps, rejecting the claim insofar as it purports to place a
claim on him as opposed to making an appeal to him. These things "go round
and round", it seems to me. One level undercuts another which in its turn
undercuts the first level.... It seems to me that Heidegger does not address
the issue that Being must earn our caring for it, even if we are dependent on
it for being able to do anything at all. A "shepherd" can always say: "Shove
this!", and act accordingly.

I somehow cannot imagine Heidegger as an anonymous provincial shepherd. His
ambit seems more like some cosmopolitan pastors I have known.

Brad McCormick

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