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Heidegger: Phenomenology, Ecology, Politics

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Michael Marder’s book is particularly thought-provoking. It comprises an Introduction and three Parts, each including three chapters.

The first chapter of Part I (“Phenomenology”) is “‘Higher Than Actuality’: The Possibility of Phenomenology.” The reference is to Heidegger’s phenomenological observation in Being and Time that possibility stands higher than actuality. Possibility here pertains to (1) Dasein (the type of entity that we are in that we ex-ist), given that possibilities are an intrinsic feature of Dasein’s “being-in-the-world;” (2) phenomenology, where the specific reference is to Heidegger’s opening of phenomenology as developed by Husserl to what Heidegger calls fundamental ontology; and (3) to the Destruktion of the tradition, in that it aims at making possible another beginning for thought.

The second chapter, “Failure and Nonactualizable Possibility,” develops a particularly interesting correlation between the role of possibility in our being-in-the-world and a sense of failure as it pertains to our ex-istence. By virtue of the temporal character of our ex-istence (temporality is the meaning of Dasein), and the ec-static character of time (time is the ekstatikon par excellence), I am never simply who I am. When finitude, as understood by Heidegger, is taken into account, the result is a sense of non-actualizable possibility belonging to our existential or ontological structure. Marder identifies a “fecundity of failure” whereby existential failure brings about different possibilities. He relates his description to the silent call of conscience as Heidegger describes it in Being and Time, and via Heidegger’s understanding, in that text, of what takes place when equipment fails, to the character of “technicity” on an historical scale.

Marder associates failure here with Heidegger’s sense of “fallenness” (Verfallenheit) in Being and Time. Given that the factor of height has already been introduced by virtue of how possibility lies higher than actuality, and given Heidegger’s explicit specification to the effect that fallenness, as he intends it, is not to be understood in terms of a fall from a height where I previously found myself, this association may not be entirely felicitous. In any event, one wonders why Marder did not invoke Heidegger’s sense of “errancy” (Irrnis) (as Peter Trawny does in Freedom to Fail: Heidegger’s Anarchy,[1] although errancy, while providing a sense of straying rather than falling, does not provide any immediate sense of fecundity. Perhaps one would have to reach for Hölderlin’s point that where the danger grows, the saving power grows as well.

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Credit: Notredam Philosophical Reviews

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