The they and what not


Steve Martinot writes:

"I would think that to associate das Man with particular (even
stratified) political positions or lifestyles is to leave out of
consideration the fact that there are other positions or styles (e.g.
one's own), and they are also das Man, and just as inauthentic in terms
of the thinking that Heidegger wants to philosophize through Dasein.
It is also what Sartre philosophized through his notion of bad faith."

That makes a lot of sense. Heidegger's project is, largely,
getting to authenticity. Anyone, anywhere in the tableaux I
mention (sixties dasein) can be either authentic or
inauthentic. And we would find, among the "establishment",
both the authentic and the inauthentic, like authentic or
inauthentic hippies. Abby Hoffman would have been authentic,
or what we might call "authenticity actualized" while still
having and being inauthentic *at times* though perhaps not
predominantly. And another hippie, just some guy, might have
donned the apparel, and was "there", but never really found
himself. Another found herself, but was not famous. It's
interesting to note the themes of finding oneself from the
sixties, the themes of authenticity. To this extent, part of
what the sixties were about was recuperating authenticity.
So we might posit to basic social stratra: the establishment
and counterculture, not simply as "alternative dasiens", but
as opposed in the manner of being or not being at issue with
authenticity as such. To this extent, it becomes quite clear
that the Sartrean discourse *on bad faith* stand in a
particular relation to his time, his world, and ditto
Heidegger. Just as the existential analytic of Heidegger
arises and clarifies itself within Being by that (this, in
each case) being which has being as an issue for itself. We
would, furthermore, find "discourses and practices of
authenticating" in the "low-authentic" strata. So, the
sixities estabishment, which might have been "less
authentic" or more in bad faith, would still have had its
authenticating calls to conscience, i.e., speeches by
presidents, the sermons by ministers, various popular novels
in various ways, yet there might have been a certain loss or
mechanization of these calls to the point where it was
somehow lost. Heidegger's writings often exploit reflection
in service of re-authenticating things. Take his Memorial
Address for a composer (I think it was Kreisler): it works
to bring into thought the question "What is a Memorial", to
get out of the mechanized repetition of ritual and into
something more authentic. Likewise, the Rectoral address
works to activate some very crucial themes/existentalia, in
effort to authenticate, or lay the condition of the
possibiltiy of authenticating the inner greatness of the
movement afoot. We know the tragedy involved here. I'm a
little more sympathetic with Heidegger after reading his own
account of the situation, and think it is indeed quite
possible that he really wasn't at all cooperative, and that
he was removed from his post because of this. Nevertheless,
he appears to have been very naive, in some ways. And
perhaps the essential and structural antisemitism of his
early Catholocism played a role in his blindess, even
submerged or unconscious blindess to the writing on the
wall. I don't know.

So I'm identifying the situation of the movement to
authenticity, with authenticity *as a value*, such that it
is "everywhere", just as is it's other, "the they", the "one
does", and so forth is a *positive possibility* for Dasein..
I see Heidegger here as something of a specialist, an expert
on the existential skeleton, an existential kairo-practor,
if you like. The question is, if a Nazi with a back problem
comes in complaining that he can't lift dead bodies well
enough, do you treat him? And I think one of Heidegger's
answers would be (besides silence): if we are to get past
this abomination, we have to fix the back problems of friend
and enemy alike. The "full being" must be released, in some
way, into its authenticity if people are to be able to face
themselves, their guilt, their responsibility, and recognize
others, perhaps even the Other, and not be monsters. I guess
I would say that the existential project of regaining
authenticity only goes so far.

But this discussion was about the status of the They. I had
raised the question of "groups and strata" and thought that
"the they" might be stratified. The "they" I spoke of was
not Heidegger's "they", as was well noted. But what about
the other "they", the enemy? They are "they" in an important
sense. Us and Them. They're certainly not "us", on our side,
etc. I'm leaving aside here the critique of the black and
white constitution of sides for the moment. So, a hippie
says, "that's what they, the establishment does", the *other
side*. Likewise, the establishment: "that's what the hippies
do". And both: "it's a war!" Heidegger wants to release both
the hippie and the establisment into their authentic being.
So that the establishment can more authentically find its
heros and kill 2,000,000 Vietnamese *authentically*. So that
the counter culture can protest *authentically* rather than
just "doing what you do" (go to a rally, get stoned, be hip
and say "Fuck" like Abbie Hoffman does ((pardon my
French))). So that more people can present in mental
institutions in the Summer of Love. So that both the
establishment and the hippies can call themselves into their
Dasien, so that they can not only be there or be square, but
so that they can Be There or Be Square.

To a certain extent, I view this *equanimity* on Heidegger's
part as a certian nonviolence. I think he had to let go of
the violence of interpretation and moralism in order to get
the chart of the existential skeleton, so to speak,
together. The political violence that often happens is when
the skeleton is lopped off according to the agenda. This
means: In the discourse on what is *human* (not Heidegger's
discourse), we say that "the other side" is "not human".
This is an essential violence of some (but not all)
politics. Even the Nazis, read off according to the
existential topology, are not "inhuman", but in fact bear,
in differing ways, all the structures of Dasein. I think
this is the right approach. Indeed, some of the Nazis might
be regarded as having reached a feverish pitch of
authenticity, were perhaps madly authentic. But the
Heideggerian analysis would ask how many were lost in the
they, how the lostness in the they enabled the amassing of
troops, of military aggression, and how technology figures
in all of that, etc. So, let me say here: the analysis could
go on and on, and would still have the possibility of
identifying major strata where the discourse and practices
of authenticating are waxing or waning.

Heidegger is saying, "wake up! Find your hero! Live out your
days! Know thy finitude! Become world historical along with
others, maybe even if your role is to be the oppressor, the
vanquished, the murderer, the murdered! Don't flee strife!
It will just make things worse in the long run!" And if you
tell him, look we've got to do something about X, he'll say,
"Maybe so, but if you attack X's existentiality, you'll just
be doing a violence which will cause a reaction, and maybe
if you were more authentic or if X were more authentic,
he/they'd be less inclined to kill. I'm not going back to
the straightforward political discussion!" I think there is
some real wisdom in this. But at the same time, there are
many other things that are possible.

How does Heidegger stand with the "other possibilities?"
He's got his own project, maybe that's enough. Maybe people
criticizing him should turn their gaze rather to the many
who have done nothing. But, at the same time, there is a
problem with his discourse. As a kind of metadiscourse on
being, it will take any and every thing one does and exhibit
it according to his discourse on authenticity. "Oh, your
saying this or that falls here or there in the topology". In
this respect, I recognize something totalizing in his
discourse, but it may just be the positive totalization of
specialization. But I think Levinas does too, a certain
psychism of thematization, a violence of thematization, in
which the face to face encounter and the idea of infinity is
lost. There are some really difficult problems here, I
think. How does one *manage* an existential analytic, or
topos? In Heidegger's later writings, I think he alludes to
the fact that the existential topology (the "topology of
Being") can only "tell being the whereabouts of its
presence", but then you've got to deal with the present.
Then what do you do? For Heidegger, the answer is simple:
you think. In any event, here Heidegger is pretty good. When
he says "facticity", when he speaks of the factical
situation, and conscience, he is not saying that one should
just "continue reading off", though the style of Being and
Time has this forward momentum of a philosophal, and not a
living, project. Or, rather, it has the character of the
living project of a philosopher, namely, Heidegger. So the
call of conscience, *for Heidegger*, is to think what calls
for thinking, work it out, and write it down. Maybe read the
Presocratics or Aristotle again. But for me it may be
something like "gee, I haven't taken the dog out for a
while, he's getting kind of morose. I'm ignoring him. I feel
guilty. I've got to do something about it. I'll always be
guilty in some way or other, I can only hope not to load
myself up with guilt, but I can't hope to have a 'clean
conscience', that's an oxymoron." So I walk my dog, and
Heidegger writes "On Time and Being". And maybe Heidegger
walks his dogs, or visits Auschwitz (sp?). Or maybe he
doesn't...

Maybe *I* visit Auschwitz, or maybe I don't, or maybe I
develop a project based on the world I'm in, my factical
situation. Well, that's what I'm doing. Two main projects.
And so forth.

I think the existential analytic is not visibile unless one
is experiencing it. When I first read Heidegger, though,
according to my predilections, it was to "be a philosopher",
in some way. So the things I wanted to do, based on my
factical situation, and arriving at some resoluteness
(though the business of attestation is another matter
altogether), was to develop certain projects, academic
projects, etc., many of which I had already started. But I
was rather fucked up, too, as I'd had a tremendously
traumatic family background, and so forth. And another thing
that happened was I found myself feeling like I was "being
with" too many others, and feeling guilty all the time, in
terrible and really irrational ways. I was drawn in by a
buch of vegan fascists who laid guilt trips on me and tried
to indoctrinate me into their brand of "radicalism" (which
on reflection I see as the most pedestrian polemos, real
crap), and it got worse and worse. Heidegger enabled me to
"turn up the volume" to such a situation, and I ended up
being profoundly incapacitated. But I'm not mad at Heidegger
for this, barring part of his totalizing tendencies, and
barring in general, the structure of guilt in certain ways.

So what's the point of this LONG rambling? There isn't "a
point". But there are some examples of how we, on this list,
might take up discussing Heidegger. There might be more
first person accounts, for example. And we might speak of
rival and differing "discourses on authenticity". We might
question the "absolute essentialism" of Heidegger's
discourse. We might ask, "ok, getting this from Heidegger,
where do I go from here?" We can of course open the
political thing again (and again and again). Vis a vis the
"they", as a pianist, I know what happens when you take one
isolated passage of a piece of music and work it too much:
it looses meaning, and often you can't even play it after a
while. Perhaps the same goes here: perhaps to get a better
sense of the they, the one does, the many, we need to keep
the flow through, perhaps taking several approaches at the
problem, but leading further into the other structures, and
on each spin of the hermeneutic circle, catching something
else in the process. Certainly, the various movements of
Being and Time, with their repetitions and clarifications,
take this form of "swooping" and "circling", rather than
alighting for very long periods of time.

Well, some thoughts.

Tom

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"It is only after one ceases to reduce public affairs to the business of
dominion that the original data in the realm of human affairs will appear, or,
rather, reappear, in their authentic diversity." -- Hannah Arendt

Crises of the Republic; lying in politics, civil disobedience on violence,
thoughts on politics, and revolution. Hannah Arendt [1st ed.] New York,
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich [1972] pages 142-143

Tom Blancato
[email protected]





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