Mark van Atten in this author-edited volume brings together eleven previously published or at time of writing about to independently appear essays in the history of the phenomenology of mathematics. Kurt Gödel’s relation to the work of G.W. Leibniz, Edmund Husserl and L.E.J. Brouwer makes Gödel’s philosophy as influenced by these thinkers the connecting theme of van Atten’s studies. Van Atten in turn seems to be strongly influenced in his reading of Gödel’s involvement with the limits of logic clearing the way for a phenomenology of logical-mathematical reasoning by Hao Wang’s frequently cited interviews with and commentary on Gödel’s philosophy of logic and mathematics.
Gödel in his 1931 ‘Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia mathematica und verwandter Systeme. Pt. 1’ proves that there are arithmetical truths that cannot be nontrivially deduced or formally algorithmically verified by logically sound decision method, except from syntactically inconsistent assumptions by which classically any proposition and its negation are validly deduced. Having rigorously demonstrated that there are unprovable arithmetical truths, Gödel cancels logicism from the stark Fregean choices of pure logicism versus some form of psychologism. He meticulously constructs an unprovable undecidable sentence of arithmetic with implied inherent plans for designing as many counterexamples as desired. All that is strictly needed is one steady counterexample, although Gödel’s method suggests an unlimited structurally isomorphic plurality.
Gödel in 1931 thereby explodes Fregean-Russellian pure logicism in philosophy of arithmetic. The result leaves him to consider what psychological, phenomenological, intuitive or intuitionistic alternative might hold the best promise of shoring up the gap left in the foundations of mathematics by the deductive incompleteness of infinitary first-order arithmetic with addition and multiplication functions together with an identity relation. If objective mind-independent pure logical form cannot be the answer, then the mind is surely somehow involved. Mind ‘sees’ that the Gödel sentence implying its own deductive unprovability must be true, at least if first-order arithmetic is to remain syntactically consistent. Gödel sentences are guaranteed by indirectly self-referential construction to fail in deduction and decision if they are true. Mind judges that the Gödel sentence is true if arithmetic is to be contradiction-free, although the sentence is so constructed as to be true only if it is deductively unprovable from logically consistent assumptions. Pure logicism’s loss is phenomenology’s gain in Gödel’s evolving philosophy of mathematics, on the Wang interpretation that van Atten favors.
Recalled interviews with Gödel indicate that his turn toward phenomenology especially in the Princeton years after fleeing Vienna around the time of the Nazi Aschluß was not merely coincidental, like a medievalist with a side-interest in Jean-Paul Sartre. Setting that nonstarter aside, what is not answered, which is understandable given scanty equivocal historical documentation, and less satisfyingly unaddressed on philosophical grounds in van Atten or for that matter Wang is whether Gödel turns to phenomenology after the 1931 limiting metalogical proofs, or whether Gödel’s always latent phenomenological tendencies might have motivated and philosophically inclined him toward the discovery of the formal deductive incompleteness and sound algorithmic undecidability of infinitary first-order arithmetic. We underestimate Gödel one way or the other if we cannot imagine either of these interpretations being true of his intellectual depth and development. If Gödel gravitates especially toward the thinkers van Atten highlights in his essay-chapter investigations of each in historical turn, from Leibniz in the seventeenth century to Husserl and Brouwer among his closer contemporaries, then Gödel like other philosophers is presumably seeking out ideological antipodes and fellow-travelers.
Gödel-1 turns toward phenomenology and intuitionism after 1931, almost out of desperation and surprise. It as though the incompleteness proofs drive Gödel-1 unexpectedly away from pure logic and deductively valid mechanical syntax manipulation, once the discovery is made. Gödel-2 was always at heart a phenomenologist and intuitionist. He is impressed as were some members of the unofficially named Vienna Circle after Albert Einstein’s success in emphasizing the observer’s role in relativity physics when judging the position, speed and like factors of objects moving in spacetime. The application to logic may prove that the reasoning like the observing subject in physics needs to be included in the determination of logical truth, that there is no truth without thought, along with many other theoretically juicy suggestions. The choice of historical-philosophical interpretations of Gödel as Gödel-1 or Gödel-2 is arguably a if not the fundamental problem in understanding Gödel’s complex relationship with his discoveries in metamathematical logic and sustained interest in psychology, phenomenology and intuitionism. Qualifying my general admiration for van Atten’s accomplishment in this book is therefore a touch of disappointment that the essays do not address or even acknowledge this essential interpretive challenge.
Gödel after ‘Unentscheidbare Sätze’ concludes that the incompleteness of first-order arithmetic implies that minds are not mere syntax-processing machines like logically consistent formal symbolic deductive logical systems and mechanical decision methods. Van Atten does not take up the topic here, but says, p. 129: ‘We will leave a discussion of Gödel’s efforts on the question of minds and machines for another time’. There is a footnote (83) attached at the bottom of the page that mentions an in-progress essay with Leon Horsten and Rudy Rucker titled ‘Evolving a Mind’. This must be an essential piece of the puzzle in trying to reconstruct Gödel’s intellectual involvement with psychology, phenomenology and logical-mathematical intuitionism.
Van Atten seems to prefer Gödel-1, although he does not thematize in this way the history and philosophical dimensions of Gödel’s reception of Leibniz, Husserl and Brouwer. Nor does he recognize or try to argue the matter one way or another. He does not juxtapose the interpretations labeled here as Gödel-1 and Gödel-2 that could be recognized under any terminology. I find this a disappointing omission in the essays van Atten brings together in the book under review. It is one of the things that intrigues me most about the relation of Gödel’s metamathematics to his involvement with phenomenology and intuitionism, and I do not come away from van Atten’s discussions with a sense of how these things stand in Gödel’s thought.
There is surprisingly little said about Gödel’s proof at all in van Atten’s chapters, which as the book progresses becomes increasingly the unmentioned fabled elephant in the room. If van Atten has an opinion about the priorities of logical proof and intuition in Gödel’s thought, it would have been invaluable to have had his arguments and preferred interpretive analyses of this aspect of Gödel’s philosophy made explicit, the question raised even if only considered and deliberately unanswered. Gödel undoubtedly interested himself in phenomenology and intuitionism, as he did with respect to religious and mystic traditions, reflected in his personal library shelves inventoried at his death as reported by van Atten. The irrepressible historical-philosophical biographical question is which came first in Gödel’s lifework, the chicken of phenomenological and intuitionistic proclivities, or the deductive incompleteness egg of purely logically uncomprehended logical truth?
Working forward from Leibniz as the first important figure for Gödel in van Atten’s exposition, there seems to be an explanatory misconnection. Leibniz’s La Monadologie (1714) hypothesizes a God-chosen universal relation of interconnections among windowless monads that cannot bring about any changes in one another’s intrinsic natures or individual essences. Van Atten characterizes the parts of Leibniz’s metaphysics he regards as significant for Gödel in set theoretical language. The relation in Leibniz however is not naturally characterized in set theory, but more a matter of mereology, of part-whole or inferential connections among the truths of property instantiations by which each distinct monad is defined. If there are set theoretical commitments in Leibniz’s Monadology, they can only emerge after heavy interpretive overlay, given that set theory in anything like the modern sense does not appear in the history of mathematics as van Atten knows better than most until the mid-nineteenth century.
Van Atten relies heavily on Leibnizian references to the ‘reflection’ and ‘reflectiveness’ of each monad in every other monad distributed throughout the universe, but he does not explain what he takes Leibniz to mean by reflectiveness. Monad inter-reflectiveness in Leibniz is arguably better regarded as a purely abstract inferential network. Every monad is logically inferentially connected with every other monad if each monad’s interrelational properties is considered as its haecceity or uniquely individuating essence consisting of all its identifying conditions. Take any part of the universe and its relations like Leibniz’s contemporary Isaac Newton’s universal gravitation in which every physical object touches, attracts or repels but anyway affects every other object no matter how distant or with how weak and practically negligible a force. Leibniz’s monadology makes it possible in principle analogously to deduce from any object’s haecceity the haecceity of every other object. Information about all mutually causally untouchable interactively free unchangable Leibnizian monads is already fully contained in the information load of any and every monad. The role of set theory in understanding what Leibniz seems to mean beyond the summary just sketched seems negligible in identifying what Gödel might have found interesting in the inferential network of information about individual haecceities of all monads in Leibniz’s God-willed universe, the interlinkages of truths or truth-makers united together holistically in an unimaginably vast system of deductive implicational connections. That Gödel is highly interested in Leibniz and in set theory is not in dispute. The question is whether van Atten rightly interprets Gödel’s reasons for curiousity about Leibniz as plausibly explainable in set theoretical terms.
I admit to being confused by some aspects of van Atten’s recounting of Gödel’s interest in Husserl’s phenomenology. Gödel seems to have studied Husserl’s Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie (1913) with some care, as he did Husserl’s Logische Untersuchungen (1900/1913) and popularly more accessible 1929 Paris Sorbonne Lectures published in translation as Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vorträge (1931). An example of the difficulty I had of following van Atten’s thread appears on p. 45. There van Atten begins with a substantial quotation from Wang’s (1996) A Logical Journey entries in his personal notebooks from 8.7.13-14. The passage is insightful, but attribution of the view expressed is first extended without further ado from Wang to Gödel. This is reasonable if in fact Wang is recalling the details of his conversations with Gödel. Remarkably, if I parse these passages correctly, the same proposition is then ascribed to Leibniz, again without special preparation or segue that I could uncover after several attempts squinting in the light of my desk lamp.
Van Atten in this instance writes: ‘The approach is “theological” [to adopt Wang’s language in the quoted text] because in the monadological setting, it is a central monad or God who creates a universe of objects.’ This may be true as far as it goes about Leibniz, but it is unclear from van Atten’s surround discussion whether Wang is exactly quoting Gödel and whether either Wang or Gödel would have had Leibniz’s monadology in mind in mentioning ‘monads’ and ‘the closeness aspect to what lies within the monad and in between the monads’. Leibniz is not the only thinker to invoke monads, and nothing prevents Wang or Gödel from picking up a useful terminology and turning it to their own very different non-Leibnizian ends. These are relations that for whatever reasons of lacunae in my education I anyway do not recognize as belonging to the Leibniz with whom I am familiar in the relatively late work Monadology, relatively early Discours de métaphysique (1686), Nouveaux essais sur l’entendement humain (1764), or others of his major writings on speculative metaphysics and scientific method. Perhaps the associations with Leibniz are obvious upon delving more deeply into Wang and Gödel as van Atten has, but things did not piece themselves together in my own efforts to connect the dots as van Atten presents them in his historical-philosophical narrative.
The linkage between Gödel and Husserl and Brouwer is more easily understood than Gödel’s fascination with Leibniz. Beyond its integrated metaphysics of logical interconnections and every logician’s taking Leibniz’s projection of a Characteristica universalis as an ideal for symbolic logic’s formal aspirations, as well as a German ancestor of logic, mathematics and so much more, it is not obvious at first what might have interested Gödel in Leibniz’s philosophy. There is a potential tension in van Atten’s efforts to subjoin Gödel’s interest in and affinity with Leibniz understood as set theoretical relations among representations of any monad’s properties with every other’s, and Husserl’s rejection of a specifically representational phenomenology. Leibnizian ‘reflection’ and ‘reflectiveness’ among monads understood as van Atten seems to interpret it as some kind of representation of their respective contents is not immediately compatible with Husserl’s rejection of representation in the phenomenology of perception.
Husserl’s reasonable argument is that mind does not represent an external reality if the two cannot be compared with one another for accuracy or inaccuracy of depiction. Given that one thought content can only be compared with another, there is no meaningful judgment of accuracy or inaccurancy of representation, and hence no sense in speaking of representation. If Leibniz’s ‘reflection’ and ‘reflectiveness’ of monads in other monads is understood set theoretically and representationally as van Atten seems to encourage, then there is a sudden breakdown between Leibniz and Husserl that van Atten does not acknowledge. It could be that there is in truth a basic disagreement between Leibniz and Husserl on the mutual representation of contents among monads, but that Gödel did not know it or fixed, on more positive applications of Husserl’s phenomenology, knew something about the incongruity but did not care. Did Gödel come to conclude that Leibniz so interpreted was right to regard monads as interconnected by representational ‘reflections’, or was he at some point convinced by Husserl that thought content does not represent in anything like the way that the plastic and performance arts, languages and artifacts can purposefully reference objects and states of affairs? It would be useful to consider attempts to rectify or smooth over the apparent disharmony in explaining the influence of these two thinkers on Gödel. The problem only arises on the assumption that what Leibniz means by the mutual reflectiveness of monads is representational. The difficulty disappears if reflectiveness is not interpreted representationally as van Atten proposes. The question is raised reading van Atten’s book, but the problem is not recognized nor answer provided.
Van Atten’s studies of Gödel’s interest in and influence on his philosophy of mathematics especially by Leibniz, Husserl and Brouwer, in different ways, with different effects and influences, despite the focus above on the reviewer’s burden of grudging critique, are extraordinarily rich in exploring the book’s chosen topics. Many more pages should be devoted to van Atten’s important contributions in the collection to begin to do it justice. The reader is strongly recommended to take up this detailed examination of Gödel’s selective reading in logic-related branches of phenomenological philosophy, as much for the questions it provokes as its detailed authoritative analysis of historical-philosophical themes.
(History, Politics, Ideology. Heidegger’s “Black Notebooks” in Context)
From 14th to 16th of January 2016 an international conference on Heidegger’s recently published Black Notebooks was held at the University of Freiburg. It was sponsored by Fritz Thyssen-Stiftung and organized by Günter Figal, David Espinet, Tobias Keiling, and Nikola Mirković. A volume collecting all the contributions will be published by Mohr Siebeck Press in Tübingen. Currently, the organizers of the conference are working on a related project, Heidegger Lexikon, which will be published by Verlag De Gruyter in 2016. Ever since the publication of the first volume of the so-called Black Notebooks, Heidegger’s philosophy has become the focal point of controversy, debate and target of criticisms. The disturbing remarks on the world Jewry in the Black Notebooks pose serious challenges to Heidegger scholarship: how to make the distinction between Heidegger’s groundbreaking and inspirational philosophy and the man who gets involved in the National Socialism and succumbs to its anti-Semitic ideology, and how to deal with this gloomy legacy in general. Participants of the conference, including renowned specialists from all over Europe and America who spoke English, French, and German, approached this contentious topic carefully and conscientiously by situating various concrete questions of the Black Notebooks in the broader philosophical, historical, and theological contexts.
The conference opened with a lecture by the former president of the Martin Heidegger Society, Günter Figal. According to Figal, there is not much philosophical worth in the Black Notebooks. Instead, Heidegger himself stands as the protagonist at the centre stage, yet without the Nietzschean irony of self-portrait. The notebooks lay open Heidegger’s personal opinions and prejudices culminating in the idea that the world Jewry and the Jews are the main agency of the oblivion of Being and privileged conveyors of machination (Machenschaft) in modernity. Heidegger’s polemical attacks on others in order to legitimate the status of his own thinking follow the logic of resentment, as it is analysed by Nietzsche in Zur Genealogie der Moral. However, what is even more troublesome is the amalgam of Heidegger’s antisemitic resentment and his philosophy, because in this kind of amalgam something that makes philosophy impossible creeps in the philosophy and distorts it to ideology. Therefore, it is misleading in this context to try to relativize Heidegger’s antisemitism by attributing it to his criticism of modernity and naming it as being-historical (seinsgeschichtlicher) or metaphysical antisemitism. The critical question here is how to distinguish between two types of ideas and concepts, namely those that rule out the possibilities of ideological appropriation and those susceptible to ideology. Pursuing this reading strategy, Figal carries out an examination of some key concepts in the Black Notebooks in the second part of his talk and offers an insightful explanation about the intricate relation between Heidegger’s thinking and his personal resentments. For example, the flip side of Heidegger’s attack on metaphysics as such is his own conception of the truth of Beyng (Seyn), which finds its expression in the saying (Sagen) and naming of the word of thinking. And such thinking could preserve the origin and is rooted in the enowning event (Ereignis) of Beyng. Heidegger calls it “radicalism” (GA 96, 51), which prepares for the leap into the other beginning. At the same time, the revolutionary thinking of beginning excludes and opposes everything that is not originary or radical in the Heideggerian sense of the word. From the structure of such radical and polemical thinking, according to Figal’s analysis, one cannot derive the antisemitic resentment as its integral part. And yet, the basic structure of this thinking allows for possibilities of concrete resentments like antisemitism, which in turn do not object to the fundaments of that structure. This is the reason why Heidegger could incorporate the ideological resentments into his philosophy and thereby undermine its value blindly. The last part of Figal’s talk points towards some other aspects of Heidegger’s later thinking, which, as alternatives to his revolutionary radicalism, have shown inconspicuous gestures of humility and releasement (Gelassenheit). Heidegger criticizes in the fictive dialogue “Ἀγχιβασίη” the polemical and revolutionary way of thinking for being ensnared in antagonism and “enmity” (Gegnerschaft, GA 77, 50-51). However, judging from the already published Black Notebooks, one cannot know for sure that there is definitely such a change of attitude in Heidegger’s thinking after World War II. Therefore, towards the end of his talk Figal called for an open access to Heidegger’s unpublished works, which received positive responses from most of the participants.
As the original title of his lecture, “L’introduction de la philosophie dans le nazisme”, suggests, Gérard Bensussan reverses the position of Emmanuel Faye, who maintains that Heidegger introduces Nazism into philosophy, and raises instead the question: to what extent does Heidegger introduce philosophy into Nazism? Bensussan argues against Faye’s attempt of eliminating Heidegger’s thinking from philosophy and tries to show that Heidegger’s antisemitism does not arise from the “sleep of reason”. Rather, it is a monstrosity not foreign to reason even when it is awake and vigilant. To develop this thesis, Bensussan generalizes the use of the term “anti-Semitism” to all implicit antisemitic idioms, which are not restricted to the fourteen explicit disparaging references to the Jews in the Black Notebooks. Just as Nietzsche in Der Antichrist and the young Hegel in Der Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal have done before him in the diagnosis of their epoch, Heidegger assigns Judaism a place in his thinking. The epoch is, as Heidegger diagnoses it, a time of urgency, disenchantment, and necessity (Notwendigkeit). Machination is most expressive of such a modern time which reduces truth of Beyng to technical manipulation of beings. In Bensussan’s view, Heidegger’s epochal diagnosis overlaps with the metaphysical role of the Jews as the culminating top of metaphysics in its completion in the being-historical sense. This metaphysical approach to the issue of Jewry, albeit not a racial question anymore, outdoes the biological and vulgar racism just in a frightening way, for the Jews have become the carrier of various symptoms of the oblivion of Being. Even the “principle of destruction” could be attributed to the Jews themselves, and this attribution can find its expression in both historical and contemporary discourses on the Jewish tradition. For Heidegger, the reversal of the Hegelian metaphysics by Marx exemplifies this destructive principle. The world Jewry is thus a universal figure of enmity in the Black Notebooks, and Heidegger’s antipathy to the Jews is also essentially linked to his criticism of “culture” (Kulturbetrieb). Bensussan’s generalized understanding of Heidegger’s anti-Judaism draws on several relevant thinkers in the history of Western philosophy in order to show that his antisemitic resentment follows the paradigms of antisemitism in the metaphysical tradition. Bensussan’s meticulous analysis is mostly convincing and sheds light on the larger background and context of the issue.
In line with Bensussan’s verdict on the relation between Nazism and philosophy, David Espinet contends in his paper that Heidegger indeed introduces a specific pattern of totalitarian philosophy, i.e. the monistic, identifying, and totalitarian way of thinking of the all-encompassing Being, into a particular kind of National Socialism. Espinet sets forth to read Heidegger’s characterization of philosophy as “attack” in an earlier lecture on Kant (GA 31, 35) and a passage from the Black Notebooks, “people without space” (GA 94, 18) in parallel, and points out the conflation of Heidegger’s metaphysics of Dasein in this period with his narrative about the founding of a national space (einen völkerischen Raum) and his attack on Husserl and the Kantian transcendental philosophy. Espinet moves on to show that the critical reading of Kant’s concept of freedom in the Black Notebooks is based on the primacy of historicity in Heidegger’s thinking. In his destruction of the moral core of the Kantian freedom, Heidegger transposes the cosmological freedom to the practical freedom and thereby overlooks the normative dimension of this concept. While one cannot but follow Espinet’s compelling and rigorous argumentation, one might still raise the question if it is appropriate to reduce the whole spectrum of Heidegger’s phenomenological reading of Kant’s moral philosophy to such politicised interpretation based on the hindsight derived from the Black Notebooks. In the last part of his account, Espinet argues against Heidegger’s ontological identification of nature and freedom and the total reign of Being in general. According to Espinet’s illuminating diagnosis of the typology and pathology of radical thinking, philosophers like Marx, Heidegger, Sartre, and Badiou tend to find philosophical, unitary reason for their radical convictions in the hope for a super-event that changes everything.
Maurizio Ferraris draws an interesting parallel in his talk between Heidegger’s piety of thinking and Pharisaism: As the Pharisees claim that moral value is determined by the beliefs one professes, not by one’s actions, the Heidegger of history of Being develops a theory of thinking according to which thoughts are the true, most intense and radical actions and thus exempt him from common moral actions in practice. Ferraris identifies the Pharisaism with the anti-realistic epistemological and ontological fallacy that things exist only for subjects, who are therefore responsible for the things. In light of his new-realistic standpoint, which is somewhat far-fetched in this context, Ferraris continues to discuss critically Derrida’s and Vattimo’s interpretation of Heidegger’s philosophy in the last part of his lecture.
The subject of Nikola Mirković’s talk centers on the style and form of the Black Notebooks. Mirković’s analysis of the three passages on the concept of style indicates that there is no consistent usage and definition of style in Heidegger’s notebooks from 1931 to 1948. In the following part of his talk, Mirković describes in detail the transformation of style of the Black Notebooks in terms of three phases of attunement (Stimmung), namely revolutionary pathos, gloominess, and fall of tension. This description is helpful to capture the immanent transition and shift of tones in Heidegger’s notebooks. Moreover, Mirković’s talk shows us that Heidegger has deployed consciously various stylistic and linguistic devices to evoke certain attunements in the notebooks.
In his talk on Heidegger’s antisemitism, Dieter Thomä discerns first of all two patterns of logical operation in the Black Notebooks. On the one hand, the logic of identity prevails and different phenomena are equated with one another under the name of the Same, such as capitalism, communism, and Catholicism, which are all symptoms of oblivion of Being. On the other hand, Heidegger avails himself of superlative expressions, like “highest clarity” and “purest simplicity” (GA 94, 47), to display his superiority. Thomä makes a very telling observation that Heidegger did not make explicit antisemitic remarks until the end of 1930s, i.e. after his public engagement with the Nazi movement. This is also the period when he began to distance himself from National Socialism, which, according to Heidegger’s changed opinion, has slipped into oblivion of Being. Different from Carl Schmitt’s aetiological antisemitism, which attributes the downfall of the German people to Jews as its cause, Heidegger’s antisemitism is described by Thomä as “emergent” antisemitism. It means that the Jews emerge at the right moment of the declining history of Being, not as necessary cause, but as profiteers. Towards the end of his talk, Thomä compares the reference of “worldless” and “groundless” (bodenlos) in Being and Time with relevant passages in the Black Notebooks, which are explicitly embedded in Heidegger’s antisemitic discourse, and calls for a more differentiating research approach to Being and Time. In view of the convincing argumentation of his talk, one can only concur with Thomä’s appeal for more critical differentiation concerning Heidegger research in general.
Hans Ruin’s talk, titled “Heidegger, Paul, and Theology: Rethinking the Greco-Judaic divide”, puts the topic of anti-Judaism in the constellation of Bultmann, Heidegger, and Jonas with regards to their common link, the Letters of Paul. Ruin begins with a delineation of the Pauline legacy in the existential analysis of the early Heidegger and the history of Being of the 1930s. Ruin points out that Paul, while providing the foundations of Christian ethics, is at the same time inventor of the historical and theological matrix that produces antisemitism in Christianity. According to Ruin’s illuminating analogy, this immanent tension in the Pauline Letters resurfaces in Heidegger’s contorted appropriation of them. Through comparing Bultmann’s and Heidegger’s behaviour in similar situation during the time of NS movement, Ruin shows us another possibility of comportment on their shared basis of existential analysis. Ruin moves on to ask what are the sources for Heidegger’s ideas of returning to the Greek beginning and of leaping into a new beginning. Ruin puts forward an insightful thesis concerning Heidegger’s sources: It is exactly in the Pauline Letters that the shape of history as destruction of tradition and possibility of new birth is configured. Furthermore, Heidegger’s denial and rejection of the Jewish in his narrative of history of Being can also be seen as extension of the anti-Jewishness of the Jewish tradition itself. The last section of Ruin’s paper discusses Jonas’ essay “The abyss of the will”, dedicated to Bultmann. Here, Ruin’s intricate and intriguing interpretation reaches its climax, which also marks one of the highlights of the entire conference. He argues that Heidegger’s existential analysis of temporality, his understanding of human will and the finitude of freedom, and the exclusion of the Jews from the history of Being can all be traced back to Paul to the extent that the Pauline Letters foreshadows the ambivalent fusion of genuine articulation of the human existential predicament and anti-Judaism.
The starting points of Denis McManus’ speech are authenticity and historicity in Being and Time, which might have sown the seeds of Heidegger’s later political commitment. Yet, McManus points out that Heidegger’s discussion of Dasein’s historicity and the related terms like Schicksal, Geschick, Held, and Volk in section 74, is strikingly faint and brief, and accordingly the arguments for a chauvinistic reading of these passages are remarkably thin. McManus’ interpretation links those concepts to Heidegger’s destructive approach to the history of philosophy in other lecture courses before Being and Time. In his whole talk, however, there is scarcely direct thematization of those key ideas from the Black Notebooks, which the audience had naturally expected.
Tobias Keiling’s talk broaches the traumatic Heideggerian question of Being in relation to Heidegger’s understanding of power. In his reading of the Black Notebooks, Keiling discerns sharply a connection between Heidegger’s thinking and the experience of power, violence, and brutality. Keiling’s argumentation operates with the concept of “ontological circle” pointing to the inner difficulty of the question of Being. Instead of conflating the ontological speculation with Heidegger’s idioms of power, Keiling suggests that one can understand the circular logic of the question as a “progress”, which provides an alternative possibility to overcome the traumatic failure of Being and Time and the later concept of history of Being. Accordingly, the role of Dasein is freed from the ontological orientation towards power, time, and truth; it is transformed into a place for open questions and new beginnings in thinking.
The three-day conference was wrapped up with Markus Gabriel’s talk, “What is ‘thinking’. Heidegger and the problem of philosophy”. Gabriel is mainly concerned with the fundamental question of the link of Heidegger’s philosophy to his political engagement with the Nazi movement. According to his reading, what is at stake in this context is the intractable problem of the status of philosophy that remains unclear since Kant. First of all, Gabriel points out some editorial malpractices and errors, which lead to the mystification of a text type and genre, namely the Black Notebooks. Subsequently, Gabriel analyzes several passages from the notebooks to illustrate Heidegger’s ambivalent attitude to philosophy and thinking in relation to the political situation of the time and the concept of worldview (Weltanschauung). Against the practice of marginalizing Heidegger’s political mistake, as well as demonizing his philosophy at large, Gabriel calls for a more balanced and differentiated approach in line with the spirit of Enlightenment. In sum, Gabriel’s talk provides some novel insights into Heidegger’s ambivalent understanding of the role of philosophy and thinking in the Black Notebooks.
The papers presented at the conference approached the theme of the relation between philosophy and ideology in the Black Notebooks from various perspectives. The speakers tried to explore different interpretative possibilities of dealing with Heidegger’s political engagement critically and yet philosophically. The forthcoming compilation of the papers will certainly contribute to, and offer new vistas for the research on the Black Notebooks and Heidegger’s philosophy in the future.
Reviewed by: Guang Yang (University of Freiburg and Nankai University)