9-22-2004 PHI 347


*First paper is now due on October 13th (rather than Oct. 6th)

*Paper assignment: Choose a text, film, novel, play, or philosophical text, which you will talk about in each of the three papers (see assignment description in syllabus). Your first task is to pick one of those types of things or something similar, and basically say what Heidegger would say about it — a Heideggerian reading or interpretation – hermeneutic – of the work (or event), a Heideggerian interpretation of whatever subject you choose, based on all of the material we’ve read so far. What does that mean? We’ve talked a bit about what hermeneutics is, etc. – interpretation, meaning, understanding, Zeitgeist, Weltanschauung. There should be a preliminary in which you say what’s going on; if it’s a poem you put copy, photo put copy, film do a summary of it. You could take up a philosophical theme/concept, such as the problem of meaning and talk about what Heidegger says about meaning, or the notion of understanding. (This will get complicated in Derrida.)The readings are: the essays in the Introduction to Being and Time, Supplements, the essays in the Holderlin Elucidations book, and from Poetry, Language, Thought. The second paper should focus on later work of Heidegger, the third should use Derridean deconstruction. All of this stuff is on the web. Go to Stony Brook Philosophy Dept. web site and Faculty, then click on Silverman’s picture and just a little bit down from the first couple of panels you’ll see a thing that says “Courses and Syllabi” – click on that and find this course and the protocols will be there.

From Poetry, Language, Thought, read: “The Origin of the Work of Art,” the essay “What are Poets For?” and the last essay called “Language.” Basically, Chapters 2, 3, 6, and 7.

                                         Notes on Student Protocols

Heidegger wasn’t actually one of Husserl’s students (though many think he was); he was his assistant: he had a temporary appointment working with Husserl.

Merleau-Ponty worked in the Husserl archives in late 1930's.

The ontic – namely beings – doesn’t have to do with being in general; it is related to Being but doesn’t have to do with it. The ontic, which has to do with beings, doesn’t have to do with being in general – it just has to do with beings.

The ontological is the relation to being, rather than just being per se. As such, you can’t talk about Being – you can only talk about the relation to Being. Everything that is has a relation to Being. (Be careful for translations of Heidegger in which Sein, which we refer to as Being, is translated with a lower-case ‘b’, which is very confusing!) As a matter of convention it is best if we think of being in general as Being (i.e. with a capital ‘B’). ‘Dasein’ means, in everyday German, “existence.” If you talk about somebody’s Dasein you talk about that person’s existence — but Heidegger uses ‘Dasein’ in a very precise way, not in this everyday sense.

Wu bin ich? means “Where am I?”

Ich bin da means “I am here”

Husserl’s notion of consciousness – “I am consciousness of something” – Heidegger doesn’t use; he tries to avoid it because it sets up a subject-object relation that his inquiry doesn’t want to employ for key reasons.

The problem: Of all the beings in the world, there is one kind of being that is able to ask about its relation to Being. A table, cup, pencil, chair – these are not able to ask about their relation to being: they just are. But Dasein is a particular kind of ontic entity that is able to ask about its relation to Being and therefore to ask an ontological question. There is thus an ambivalence or ambiguity – Dasein is both ontic and it is able to question itself in relation to Being. Of all the beings that there are, there is the one that is here [da], and in that it is here it is able to ask about its being in relation to Being.

*Response to a student’s question: To what extent can writing be a being? Is writing something that is or is it an activity? We’ll talk about poetry and what Heidegger has to say about poetry and in what way poetry is in some respects other than just a being. Poetry is a kind of writing. What kind of status does this kind of writing (poetry) have? In the Elucidations what is the nature, essence [Wesen] of poetry? Is poetry a thing? Or, is it something other than that? Does poetry not in some ways ask about its relation to being? Perhaps poetry occupies a status that is something like Dasein. But poetry is doing something a little different: it is not the same as any old being. Poetry does something special. Heidegger talks about this. And what is the status of philosophical writing? Heidegger wrote lots about philosophers who talked about Being (Parmenides, Plato, Duns Scotus) and he has a notion, which we’ll come back to, of “the forgetting of Being” [Seinsvergessenheit]. In the whole history of Western philosophy, Being has been forgotten, and part of his hermeneutics is to go back and bring it out and make all the forgotten stuff reappear or appear for the first time. So when he does hermeneutics he is in effect raising the question of the relation of beings to Being. He has a different word for this activity of bringing out, which he thinks is different from philosophizing and is a heavier-duty thing, an activity that brings out the relation of beings to Being. Heidegger is not interested in knowledge-gathering or the hypothetical-deductive method but an activity more primordial than that, something that allows us to bring out Being, which has been forgotten: thinking [Denken]. This is more important than philosophizing and it will get you to the relation of beings to Being. You have to think the Being of beings in order to get the meaning of the Being of beings. Without thinking you won’t be able to get to the relation to Being. What you need to do is think the meaning of the Being of beings – which is also what we understand as interpretation in the hermeneutic sense. In a sense, the relation or distinction between philosophizing and thinking is analagous to the relation or differentiation of beings to Being. The word ‘Denken’ is a very powerful word in German.

‘Cogito’ (as in Descartes) means “I think”, which means there is an “I” which is doing the thinking. Kant says that “The ‘I think’ [‘Ich denke’] must be able to accompany all our presentations.” But Heidegger wants to focus on thinking, which is independent of a particular “I” doing the activity. To think the meaning of the Being of beings is the hermeneutics Heidegger does. The minute you get the “I” in there it gets ego and self and personal interest involved – which are things that get in the way of disclosing the meaning of the Being of beings.

*Response to student’s question: Dasein is not a subject in the sense of subjectivity, consciousness, “I,” but rather a being, and a being that is able to interrogate* concerning its relation to Being. Dasein is one of these beings that asks or thinks the relation of beings to Being, and particularly the relation of its being to Being.

*[“interrogate” is the English translation of German des fragen; zufrage = to ask; Latin/English: “Interrogation”: inter-, (as in interpretation); rogare, ask: thus (interrogation has the sense of) “asking in between”]

Dasein is possibilities; Dasein is being-towards-death; Dasein is being-in-the-world; Dasein is temporal. Zeitlichkeit and Temporalitat are distinguished, one having to do with the time of beings and the other with the time of Being. See pp. 213-400 of Being and Time for the relation of Dasein to temporality. See Chapter 4 of Supplements for a preliminary notion of time, outlined here (before Being and Time’s discussion of it). Heidegger here (in Supplements) distinguishes historical time from metaphysical time. He will talk about this latter, metaphysical time, later in Being and Time. The temporality of Dasein is different from the “vulgar notion” of time.

Henri Corbin translated some of Sein und Zeit and translated ‘Dasein’ as “la realite humaine.” But when you say it’s a human being then you determine it much more than how you wanted to, which is not a step that Heidegger really wants to take – although in 1946 he writes the “Letter on Humanism,” which was his response to the question of whether existentialism is a humanism. He says yes of course I’m talking about human existence, basically, but he tries very hard to avoid this term. Dasein is the being that is here that asks about its relation to Being, and this is when thinking goes on. Dasein thinks the relation of beings to Being, i.e. “ontologically.” We’re talking just about ontological hermeneutics, the hermeneutics which is concerned with the relation of beings to Being.

*In response to student’s question: Dasein isn’t able to discriminate whether it can ask or not; it just does [ask about its relation of beings to Being, of its being to Being].

“Horizon” does have a temporal aspect to it.

                                             <end of protocol discussions>

(See below for lecture/discussion notes, which I have supplemented in places by relevant passages from one of our recommended readings, Silverman’s book Textualities: Between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction.)


                                                Lecture/Discussion Notes

“The Origin of the Work of Art” from Poetry, Language, Thought (which is background for Elucidations* discussions [*The German word for ‘elucidation’ is ‘erlauterung’.]).

             First presented in 1935, eight years after the publication of Being and Time. It was a lecture in Freiburg (where he was professor), then in ’36 he presented it in Stuttgart and then in Switzerland. By 1935 he had already resigned as Rector and went back to lecturing and teaching. The first time Heidegger actually talks about art is in this essay, “The Origin of the Work of Art” (published, ultimately in 1951). After having presented this essay the first and second times, he then added a section on a painting, but the final version comes out in ’36 and published in ’51.

                    Heidegger uses three examples in the final version of this essay:

(1)A painting from Van Gogh which he did in 1886-88

(2) A building in So. Italy, Naples, to which he refers as “the Greek temple.”

(3) A poem by Mayer, “The Roman Fountain”

            Heidegger wants to figure out what is the origin of the work of art. He begins by saying “origin” [ursprung; ur, originary; sprung, coming out of] is that from and by which something is what it is and as it is. Heidegger is asking about “that from and by which the work of art is what it is and as it is.” . . . we call what it is its essence [Wesen] or nature. * See the discussion in Silverman’s Textualities, p. 49: “In asking about the origin of the work of art, Heidegger is asking about the structural interconnections among the artwork, the artist, and Art. . . . [It is] a question of relation” (my emphasis).

               The question about the origin of the work of art asks about the source of its nature. What is the origin or source of the work of art? Where does it come from [in terms of its nature]? Usual view: “The work arises out of and by means of the activity of the artist.”<— This is the standard view, which is the view that the artist is the origin of the work of art. A work of art is a work of art because an artist creates it.

            But Heidegger asks: How does the artist get to be the artist? You only know that an artist is an artist because he or she produces works of art. You’re only an artist because you produced works of art. I can say I’m a great artist, but if I didn’t create works of art, if I didn’t produce any art I’d only be an imaginary, self-ascribed artist. The artist gets her origin from the work of art as well. But neither the artist nor the work of art is the sole support of the other. Each is what it is by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both: Art. So basically you can’t talk about an artist or a work of art if there is no such thing as art.


            The question of the origin of the work of art becomes a question about the nature, essence [Wesen] of art.


            Art is present in the art work, but what and how is a work of art?


                                       What is the origin of Art?

Art work: the origin of this is the artist (in accord with commonsense view)

Artist: the origin of her is the art work. “When [Heidegger] . . . asks about the origin of the artist, and when he claims that the artwork is the origin of the artist, the direct filial chain [process of parentage] is broken. The mutual origination of artist and artwork is structural-synchronic and no longer historical-diachronic. This becomes even clearer when Heidegger announces that there is also an origin to the artist and the artwork, namely Art” (Textualities pp. 49-50).

Art – origin of this is the artist and the artwork. “Art makes it possible to speak of artist and artwork. Since Art is the origin of the artist and the artwork, the triangular relationality of multiple origination sets up a framework in which, in fact, there is no point of origin. . . . The path of origination is not linear . . . [but] could best be characterized as a circle . . . [but] circular only in the sense that it may be repeated” (Textualities, p. 50).

            This questioning leads us to a circle. “This isn’t allowed according to logic,” you might say. As far as logic goes, it doesn’t work, and yet the whole argumentation or the way in which we precede in it is a necessary one. To enter upon the path of the circle “is the strength of thought [Denken].” There is a circle and it is a movement that comes back to where it began and keeps going. The path [Weg] of thought takes one in what looks like circular thinking, which in terms of formal logic is not permissible. But Heidegger is trying to show that entering into this path of thinking is very important because it’s a path of thinking in which something very important is happening, in that what we’re getting out of this is understanding [Verstehen]. When you move, work in this circle of thinking, asking about the mutual or successive origination, it brings out what Heidegger calls understanding. So this circle is not just any old circle, not a vicious circle, but the hermeneutic circle: a circle of understanding which is brought out in this path of thinking which, as Heidegger says, “circles in the circle.” (Heidegger takes things that look likes nouns – i.e. circle – and makes them into verbs, an activities: e.g. things thing, beings be, Dasein “worlds a world,” etc.)

            Out of the circling comes understanding; and in that circling of the circle, something happens, which he calls disclosure. Something happens in the circling of the circle in which the result is understanding, but at the same time there is a disclosure, which is another word for truth. Disclosure is truth. The Greek word for truth is aletheia [a- negating prefix; -lethia, forgetting]. Lethe is a river in ancient Greek mythology, the river of forgetting or oblivion. The story is that when you die and your soul comes back into a new form your soul first gets dipped into the river of oblivion and you forget what you knew in a previous life, and you are for your whole life trying to remember, recollect, retrieve what you once knew. Forgetting and bringing out of forgetfulness is at issue here. Truth is an unforgetting, an unconcealing, a disclosure: a negation of forgetting, concealment, and closure. Truth is the bringing out of concealment. So, if you circle in the circle then what you are doing is disclosing.

            So the question of the origin of the work of art is a matter of disclosing, bringing out of truth, making truth happen.


          The artwork-artist-Art relational structure can be compared to the beings-Being-ontico-ontological difference relational structure:


          artwork - artist - Art

           (ontic)-( ontological)-(ontico-ontological)

            beings - Being - ontico-ontological difference (which difference “establishes the very identity of both beings and Being, for without that difference, they would not have independent status in relation to each other” [Textualities p. 51])


            Beings (Seiendes) get their being from Being (Sein), but Being gets its being from beings, and both Being and beings get their nature from the difference between them — the in-between which Heidegger calls the ontico-ontological difference. “This ontico-ontological difference gives rise to the relation to Being and the Being of beings. Heidegger calls this triadic relationality: the hermeneutic circle” (Textualities, p. 50).

    Works of art get their being from the artist, but the artist gets her being from the artworks she produces, and both the artworks and the artist get their nature from Art, which “makes it possible to speak of artist and artwork” (Textualities, p. 50).


          Where is the origin of the work of art? “Since art is the origin of the artist and the artwork, the triangular relationality of multiple origination sets up a framework in which, in fact, there is no point of origin” (Textualities, p. 50). So it (the origin) is within the circling of the circle.

            Every time you try to pin down the origin of the work of art it gets away because you’re led ineluctably into the circling. The origin is not in any “place” in the circle. Art, for Heidegger, is profoundly concerned with truth. The truth of the art work happens not at the place of the artwork itself, nor at the place of the artist, nor at the place of art.


          You can’t just talk about the painting per se. Well, then do you talk about the artist, giving biographical information? Does this help? No; this will not tell you about the truth of the work of art. And you can’t talk about Art, either, i.e., the “contribution to Art”— e.g. Impressionism and how Van Gogh has transformed Art, etc. This will not get at the truth of the work of art. All three elements are relevant to the truth of the work of art.


          What is the relationship between the work of art and the “thing”?

          Heidegger says there are two ways in which we’re related to things (see Supplements and Being and Time): Things are ready-to-hand [Zuhandenheit] and present-at-hand [Vorhandenheit] or there in front of me presenting themselves to me. These are two types of “equipmentality.” As a painting, Van Gogh’s shoes are present-at-hand, but the shoes are ready-to-hand in the world of the painting.


          Heidegger talks of the equipmental character of the pair of peasant shoes in “The Origin of the Work of Art.” (Prof. Silverman reads passage in which Heidegger describes the world of the peasant woman, and this whole world of the peasant woman comes out in his interpretation of the work of art.) Heidegger puts himself in the place of the artist, and is trying to disclose, specifically, a world through his disclosing of the meaning that is happening in the place of disclosure. By interpreting this work of art there is a disclosure, a truth that comes out of this work of art. And this is very similar to the relation of beings to Being and Dasein to beings and Being: truth is what happens in the Being of beings. The ontological hermeneutic circle and the aesthetic hermeneutic circle are repetitions of one another. There is a circling of the circle in which meaning, truth, and disclosure happens — in this case, the life of the peasant woman and her world. Heidegger is thinking the work of art and trying to disclose a world. There is a thinking that is going on which brings out the meaning of the work of art, the truth of the work of art – and is bringing out the meaning and truth, disclosure of the work of art and its place in the world.


            *Question: Is there just one meaning, one truth? This is debated. (See Derrida.)


            Art is disclosing truth. Art, and the artwork and the artist we’re in a realm that’s different from simple equipmentality, beyond taking things as tools or equipment that you can use. Art is not something that you can use: its social function is of a different order. When you want to talk about art it’s going to say things other than the ways in which you might use it. It makes possible the disclosure of truth. The interpreter places herself in the place of the artist and then circles in the interpretive circle, which circling will bring out a meaning and a truth. The painting of the shoes relates to the world of the peasant woman.



                                  < end of seminar discussion >