6th October 2004 - PHI 347

Class Notes



*Paper due Monday, October 18th, in Prof. Silverman’s mailbox in Philosophy Dept. by 5:00pm. (Or if the Dept. office is not open then put it under Silverman’s door, #203 Harriman.) For next week: Read Heidegger’s On Time and Being.

“On Time and Being” - key essay you need to read, plus summary of the lecture.

“The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” - need to read this, a very important essay; a presentation sent in to Paris in 1964 for conference on Kierkegaard

“My Way [in]to Phenomenology” - nice little background essay

“Aesthetics,” from Greek aisthesis, which has to do with perception, seeing. The term ‘aesthetics’ was introduced in the 18th century by German philosopher Baumgarten, who wanted to talk about the science of pleasure, of feelings, of perception, and questions of judgment – judgments about the arts, in particular. Aesthetics is thus concerned with perceptions of work of art, and judgments about it – value judgments. Today it aesthetics is one of the various branches of philosophy, comparable to metaphysics, epistemology, etc.

Papers: There are two different ways to approach it: (1) take up a novel or play or poem or building or something and do a Heideggerian reading/interpretation of it, an interpretation in the sense of hermeneutics; (2) take up question of meaning or horizon or world or disclosure, truth, origin, art – big deal topics Heidegger talks about. Demonstrate that you understand how hermeneutics works, how you can do a hermeneutic interpretation, practice is. What do you do when you do a hermeneutic interpretation of, say, a poem? Remember that we talked about the three different potential places of origin in the hermeneutic circle: (1) the work of art – the stylistics, the conditions/material, length are not what you want to talk about; nor do you want to talk about (2) the artist in terms of biographical account – “Van Gogh lived in Holland, worked with the minors and helped them and also painted them, etc, how poor he was, etc.” <— not what you want to talk about; nor do you want to talk about (3) Art per se – how a particular poem is used in commerce, whether a painting achieves and fame or renown, etc. All these things are not relevant for a Heideggerian interpretation. What, then should you talk about?

            Talk about the meaning of the work of art, the truth i.e. the disclosure: what kind of world is disclosed by this work of art? What are the horizons, limits of this world? What’s in the frame and what’s outside? What kind of world is disclosed here? E.g. the painting of the shoes: Heidegger talks about this: he looks at the painting of the shoes. We look at photograph of painting of kitten in shoes. It’s a world that seems secure, pleasant, playfulness, calm, at ease with the world. This is the meaning of this.

            *Answer to student’s question: Is the world as it is disclosed necessarily the same as I perceive it? No. You never know; this is why an interpretation is an interpretation and not knowledge. It is true, but it is not knowledge! But what can we say about the world that is disclosed in the [picture of the] painting. You’re supposed to leave aside your “impressions,” feelings, sense of . . . <Silverman trailed off here>.

            Answer to student’s question: What’s the horizon of this world? One of them is: the kind of person who would wear the shoes; the mother of the cats; the room in which the shoes are located. The horizon is the limit of the world that appears here, and these three things mentioned are beyond the limits of this world as disclosed here. What is disclosed are facts such as: there are two shoes, there is a certain lighting with rays of sunlight at certain angle; there are cats in the shoes, etc.

            Answer to student’s question: You have no idea what the artist “intends” to communicate in the work. Neither the author nor you is relevant for hermeneutic interpretation.

            Answer to student’s question: An example of spirit of the times is: kittens can be in shoes and photographed there rather than in an alley with grease on their backs, etc. You couldn’t have a picture like this in the middle ages.

            We’re trying to disclose the world of this photograph. A certain technology, which is part of the world – that is displayed, disclosed – is part of the world that is disclosed here, which would not have been possible before 1960 or so. Heidegger makes the distinction between the thing and the world of the thing. The technology, the sense of the “equipmentality” – first of the shoes, but also of how the world is disclosed – is important.

            The task for us is to describe how the world [in the work] is disclosed.

                         Artist                          The interpreter has to get on the merry-go-round of the

                                        } Art circle to interpret what’s happening in the work.


If there is an origin of the work of art that is relevant and interesting it is where truth happens, is disclosed? Where is that? It’s in the open, the space that’s delineated by the circle. It’s the space in between that is created by the circling of the circle. It’s not in the place of the artist, or in the artwork, or in Art – but in the space which is no place, which happens in the relations of all of these. Each place per se is not “wrong,” but any one place is the wrong place to look for the disclosure of the truth of it.

*Answer to student’s question: The skill of an interpreter is no more relevant than is the particular skill of the artist.

Lethe means forgetting, oblivion; alethia means coming out of forgetting and oblivion. For Heidegger, truth is disclosure, unconcealedness. (“Truth,” for him, is not a Correspondence Theory of truth - i.e. our ideas must correspond to the object or state of affairs, nor is it a Coherence Theory of truth - i.e. all the pieces of information have to be coherent and this is criterion of its truth.) What shows itself, makes itself evident, appears, presents itself. If you ask for evidence you’re asking for something to be made evident, to be disclosed in the sense that it presents itself. So Heidegger’s view of truth is closer to an evidence criterion. Heidegger’s view of truth is concerned with that which makes itself evident and appears from the situation, from looking at what’s there, rather than imposing something from outside, from a personal point of view, perspective, motive (which have nothing to do with what presents itself, appears, comes out of concealment). There are limits to the place of disclosure in a work. The meaning is what arises when there is an interpretation of the work. The meaning comes out when the interpreter interprets the work. Your main task is to disclose the world of the [poem, painting, etc.] that you’re talking about.

                                                 Students’ Protocol Discussion:

*Dasein is a particular being that can question its relation to Being or any being’s relation to Being.

*The notion of retrieval means going back and digging out Being. If something is forgotten, then it once was; and remembering or recollecting means making it come back again. Seinsvergessenheit has gone on since the Greeks, and now it’s a question, for Heidegger, of bringing Being back into concern. For centuries they were concerned with what is, with beings, the ontic – and not the ontological. The task of Denken, of thinking, which situates itself in the relation of beings to Being, is to accomplish this retrieval. It’s once again possible to bring Being, which has been forgotten for a long time, back again. See “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking.” The task of thinking is to think the relation of beings to Being. Heidegger suggests that the Greeks did this once upon a time – e.g., Parmenides. If you don’t think about Dasein as asking about its relation to Being then you’re stuck at the level of beings and you’re forgetting Being. So the task of Denken is once again to think the relation of beings to Being.

To think language is to attend to the texture of language. Derrida does this as well.

The ‘laut’ in ‘Erlauterungen’ connotes a kind of sounding. The word ‘elucidation’ is a bad English translation because it has to do with seeing and not hearing. Heidegger is really big on hearing <insert word for hearing here>. ‘Soundings’ might actually have been a better translation than ‘Elucidations’. The ways in which the poem is or can be heard, the way in which the poem speaks, and the speaking in the spoken of the poem. In the “Language” (p. 189 or 187 depending on edition) essay, Heidegger says: Language belongs to the closest neighborhood . . . “belongs to” = es ge hoer zu; something belongs to something else. And then hoerlen is the word ‘to hear’. You can hear the connection, the link, between belonging and hearing. You hear the sound, and there is a belonging. The term Heidegger uses – especially in “What Are Poets For” – is Zusamengehoerigkeit = “belonging-togetherness.” This has to do with that they are heard together. Heidegger says that being and beings belong together; there is a Zusamengehoerigkeit of being and beings; they’re heard together, they sound together. “Language belongs to the closest neighborhood of man,” etc. “Gather into appropriation” – appropriation is a translation of Ereignis. There is an event that happens in the relation of beings and being that can be heard, because beings and being belong together. Gesprache, sprechen, spricht - you can hear the similarity. In English it’s “language speaks,” but in German it’s Sprache spricht. Language is not just any old language; language as logos is a special kind of language: language is language that speaks. See poem, “A Winter Evening,” on p. 192. He takes this example of a poem and talks about a wintery evening and the people in the poem with the wanderer outside – and there’s a between of what’s inside and what’s outside. But language speaks in the poem. What is heard in the speaking of language is the relation of beings to Being, so it’s language in a very special poem. This is another good example of how Heidegger talks about a poem. Page 199: intimacy – Latin inter. The inter in the intimacy of world and thing a dif-ference prevails. This is like the difference that happens, is heard, sounds, belongs to, the being of beings. The language is saying what’s going on the relation of beings to being. Threshold is very important in this course: A place between, what separates outside from inside, marking the inter.


“Pain has turned the threshold to stone.” The threshold marks the difference between the two scenarios (the people inside and the wanderer outside). Language sounds in the between, and as it sounds in the between something happens, and as it happens . . . (see text). Heidegger says that poetry is precisely that in which language speaks, in this special way. There are two German words for poetry: dichtung and poesie. ‘Dichtung’ is really “poetizing.” ‘Washer’ in German is the same word as ‘poetry’: it thickens the language, makes it more profound. When language speaks as poetizing it’s a much more heavy duty activity.

            “Everyday language is a forgotten and therefore used up poem” – everyday language is a kind of debased form of poetry. The sounding, call is no longer in everyday language.

            Heidegger concludes the last page of the essay (on p. 208) by saying that language speaks and its speaking bids the difference to come, which expropriates world and things in the simple onefold of their intimacy. Being and beings are intimate, and when language speaks it brings it about in this place of difference. Man responds and this responding is a hearing, so that when we speak we are not just responding to something but there is a hearing – a hearing in the speaking of language. “It hears because it listens to the command of stillness.” There is a listening to the stillness in the poem. The task is to learn to live in the speaking of language, but the speaking of language as in poetizing – not just the used-up language of everyday speech. Everyday language is not language as logos, not the speaking in which language speaks; but poetizing helps us hear the connection between beings and Being. The thickening of language through dichtung is precisely what makes it possible for that connection to sound, to lauted. Erlauterung, sounding, brings out the sounding of poetizing. The poetizing, thickening of the poem, makes the sounding happen so that the belong-together of beings and Being is disclosed.

            Heidegger thinks that poetizing is the highest form of language and that it needs to be heard.

            Poetizing and thinking go together. So that, if we think a poem there is a thinking of language and it speaks.

            In “The Origin of the Work of Art,” there’s the painting, the temple, and the poem. Heidegger talks about the “fourfold”: the gods and the mortals, the earth and the sky. He says that the temple opens up a space in which this fourfold takes place. A world is disclosed. The mortals are beings and they have a relation to Being. There is a space between, a space of difference, and in that space of difference is where language speaks. The building is like language. The disclosure happens in a building. In thinking this relation of beings to Being is when disclosure happens. Everyday talk doesn’t allow you to think the relation of beings to Being.

Heidegger’s key, central question in Being and Time: “What is the meaning of the being of beings?” What is the meaning that happens in the being of beings, in that dif-ference? If you just stay at the level of the artwork you’re just staying at the ontic level: you can’t hear anything; there’s no language speaking. Language speaks not in the artwork per se but in the dif-ference, in the open.

It’s a question of hearing, i.e., letting the language (in the artwork) speak, be — letting truth happen.