Giuseppina D’Oro, Søren Overgaard (Eds.): The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology

The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology Book Cover The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology
Cambridge Companions to Philosophy
Giuseppina D'Oro, Søren Overgaard (Eds.)
Cambridge University Press
Paperback £ 23.99

Reviewed by: Roland Bolz (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

In the 21st century, the landscape of philosophical methods and orientations seems increasingly complex. Reference to ‘schools of thought’ may be misleading, suggesting more internal coherence than exists. Yet, (non-)allegiance to certain ideas about style and method can have real institutional consequences. At present, one can observe an increasing number of debates focused on the reliability of certain philosophical methods. Some attention is being given to how the ever-changing methods and scope of philosophy set it apart from the sciences. Lastly, there have been attempts to understand certain philosophical disagreements as disagreements on a meta-philosophical level, i.e. disagreements about the proper scope, data, standards, and goals of philosophy itself. The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology situates itself in this context of increasing reflection on methods and on the role of philosophy itself.

The editors Giuseppina D’Oro and Søren Overgaard have gathered an admirable roster of twenty authors with the aim to exhibit the contemporary wealth of positions and debates regarding philosophical methods. Quite generally, nearly all the contributions can be described as normative in scope, i.e. as giving arguments for why one should espouse certain methods. The collection gives a very good cross section of contemporary orientations in philosophy, with some of the essays aimed at a general philosophical readership and others more focused on issues internal to certain traditions. Although the collection is naturally heterogeneous (given the heterogeneity of the philosophical field itself), there is plenty of implicit conversation between the essays, including between those from adherents of different traditions.

The volume is organized into four main parts. The first section concerns broad views of philosophy. It includes essays on the merits of philosophy for the individual, the need for a systematic impulse, the centrality of the human perspective, and on disagreement in philosophy. The second part is concerned with the central thesis of analytic philosophy, which is that the proper method of philosophy is conceptual analysis. Here, different versions of this claim are defended and criticisms from naturalism and experimental philosophy are considered. The third part gathers essays about philosophical methods/orientations (e.g. Kantianism, pragmatism, and quietism) which are not classifiable as continental or analytic. The final part gathers essays clearly continental in orientation (concerning the methods of phenomenology, deconstruction, existentialism, and hermeneutics).

This division into parts befits the content of the essays well. It has the disadvantage of reifying the analytic/continental divide somewhat, perhaps discouraging cross-reading the essays, despite the editors’ reservations regarding the usefulness of this divide. Hence, the remainder of this review is organized around certain dominant themes which appear throughout the volume and which mostly disregard the organization into parts by the editors. Instead of giving detailed summaries of all twenty essays here, which would be beyond the scope of this review, the following will be an impression of the contents of the book in a single account.

The Data of Philosophy

One of the recurrent themes of the volume and a good start when orienting oneself in the vast field of philosophy is the question regarding the data for philosophizing. As Nicholas Rescher points out in his chapter, the available data for philosophy are very diverse, ranging from common sense beliefs, to recent scientific findings, to history, to empirical experience of the world around us, to ideas delivered to us from the philosophical tradition – as he says: “we always begin with a diversified cognitive heritage.” (34) The choice of a method for philosophizing seems to correlate with a preoccupation with certain data. This, of course, is reflected in the other essays in the volume as well, where very different data are considered key to the conceptual work that philosophers engage in. One may extend Rescher’s idea somewhat by recognizing that some philosophers consider the artistic productions of past and present times among the most important data for their philosophizing. This is common in continental philosophy, were one can expect philosophical books about the meaning of Franz Kafka’s work, among others. Also, for some philosophers, transformative first-person life experiences are among the key data to philosophizing (as for Sartre and Adorno, discussed in the essays of J. Reynolds & P. Stokes and Fabian Freyenhagen).

Apart from a positive choice, I would submit that a philosophical method may include the choice to disregard certain sorts of data in favor of others. In the example of methodological doubt (Descartes), the negative aspect of choosing to limit oneself to certain data only is clear. One can find similar tendencies in varieties of ‘critical philosophy’ such as Kantianism and in Wittgenstein’s quietism (explored in the chapter by David MacArthur). The latter chooses to view with suspicion the doctrines of classical ontology and favors observations of actual language use as more reliable data for philosophizing. As a philosophical approach, this is clearly powered by a negative (yet enabling) decision regarding the ‘correct’ data.

Another example of a disagreement about the data of philosophy is between proponents of naturalism and proponents of conceptual analysis, where the former advocate the primacy of phenomena over our concepts and the latter advocate the primacy of linguistic meanings for settling philosophical disputes. That said, as the essay by Hans-Johann Glock about ‘impure conceptual analysis’ shows, intermediate positions are possible. He sketches a form of conceptual analysis where concepts are still regarded as a priori, but where empirical and ethical concerns are put into play. The downright naturalistic perspective, where thinking about knowledge becomes inseparable from the cognitive sciences, is sketched by Hilary Kornblith in his chapter.

Another important theme in the volume concerns the reliability of data. Even if philosophers largely agree on the choice of data for philosophizing, there may be worries about how reliable those data really are. In analytic philosophy, one commonly employs the method of cases, where a short vignette is presented to establish or put into question certain intuitions about philosophical claims. In recent years, so-called ‘experimental philosophers’ have put into question the reliability of this method. The main issue is that one can show, using statistical methods, that certain choices made in the design of the vignette may influence the outcome, even if those choices should be irrelevant. If the outcome of such tests is not stable upon changing seemingly irrelevant details, it may be called into question whether the case reliably prompts the kind of intuition which was taken as evidence for the philosophical claim under discussion. This theme is taken up in detail in the chapter by Jonathan M. Weinberg. Far from criticizing the method of cases in its entirety, Weinberg explains that experimental philosophy aims to exercise a type of ‘quality control’ having both a restrictive and constructive side. This debate is best understood as internal to the tradition of philosophy as conceptual analysis in the armchair.

The question of the accessibility of philosophical data also emerges in phenomenology, addressed in the chapter by David R. Cerbone. In short, there is a gap between the ‘natural attitude’ (when we engage with our surroundings without reflecting on the role of consciousness) and the act of phenomenological reflection (when we consider the active role consciousness plays in constituting reality). But clearly, when engaging in the latter, one reflects on what is ‘given’ in consciousness – the question of data. The next question then becomes: what is it in the natural attitude that permits or calls us into the mode of phenomenological investigation? Cerbone draws attention to how Husserl and Heidegger try to bridge this gap differently. He points out that with both authors, an act of phenomenological reflection must be performed by the reader if she wants to understand a phenomenological text; she must somehow recall that the ideas in such a text also adequately describe her own experience.

Philosophical Disagreement

Several of the chapters focus on understanding the nature and extent of philosophical disagreement. As has often been noted, disagreement seems to be a rather pervasive feature of the philosophical field, especially when compared to the sciences. One can readily find ways to account for this. It may be that philosophy is simply harder than regular science. Alternatively, it may be that for many problems, it has not found the proper perspective (a sentiment that is strong in Kant’s philosophy, who thought that he had for the first time found the right perspective on the relation between intuition and understanding). The essays in the volume explore more subtle explanations.

Amie L. Thomasson presents an interesting perspective which accounts for at least some of the lasting disagreement. She builds on the already mentioned idea from Wittgenstein, Carnap, and others that philosophy is ultimately a form of conceptual analysis and thus primarily concerned with the proper use of concepts. This perspective has the great advantage that it does not put philosophy in a position rivalling physics (our best way of explaining ‘reality’), by focusing on language and not directly on reality itself. However, as she points out, according to the classical analytic conception, this type of work has a strictly descriptive character. Hence, it remains somewhat obscure how there can be lasting disagreement if all one needs to do is analyze the meaning of a concept. Also, if it is merely descriptive, this type of work is not so easily distinguished from linguistics after all. Her proposal to counteract these worries is to regard conceptual analysis as not only descriptive, but also prescriptive in nature. In other words, on her view, philosophers do not only debate about how words are used, but also about how they should be used – they engage in “metalinguistic negotiations” (David Plunkett quoted by Thomasson, p. 109). This proposal amounts to admitting that our conceptual schemes are often malleable and open to “ameliorative” revision (Sally Haslanger quoted by Thomasson, p. 115).

Questions that could be debated on this level are, for example, whether alcoholism is a disease, or what the best definition of ‘a person’ is. In both cases, wider societal, legal, and ethical concerns may inform our attempts at conceptual revision. An advantage of this view is that it does allow us to reinterpret a lot of ‘heavyweight metaphysics’ as negotiations of this sort. Often, it indeed seems to be the case that debates are so heated because participants are not merely trying to hit upon the one ‘correct’ usage of a pre-given concept but are advocating the best analysis among possible candidates. This opens the door to an ethical and at times imaginative type of conceptual analysis. (Thomasson suggests some compatibility between this notion and Foucault’s work on madness.)

Another essay concerned with the question of philosophical disagreement is Giuseppina D’Oro’s. The dispute she focuses on is between causalists (those who believe there are only events) and anti-causalists (those who believe there are events and actions). She asserts that on an abstract level, there seems to be little hope of resolving such debates, since there are respectable discourses which are causalist in character (engineering, physics, biology) and discourses which also speak of actions (history, sociology, psychology). D’Oro’s proposal, which follows suggestions from R.G. Collingwood’s philosophy of history, is that this debate is “best understood as a conflict between methodological practices which govern different forms of enquiry and the conception of reality that is entailed by them.” (221) The role of philosophy becomes not so much to settle the debate in favor of either of the positions, but to recognize that reality admits of several ontological schemes, dependent on the mode of inquiry undertaken (e.g. history or physics). Since both modes of enquiry are deemed legitimate as sciences, the two ontological schemes are ‘conditions of possibility’ for those modes of enquiry. Certainly, this seems to be applicable to the example debate, but one wonders whether other debates may be recast this way.

A chapter by Robert B. Talisse on pragmatism documents how the relation of pragmatist philosophies (Peirce, James, Dewey, Rorty) to the rest of philosophy is decidedly meta-philosophical. That is, the pragmatists related to other philosophies not on the level of first-order ideas but by developing intricate meta-ideas about philosophy itself. Talisse proposes this as a distinctive feature and risk of pragmatism. Finally, the chapter by Herman Cappelen, most explicitly about disagreement, tackles the claim that philosophy seems plagued by deep disagreements on a more empirical level. By and large, he puts into question the evidence for this claim in a convincing yet somewhat apologetic manner.

The Aims of Philosophy

Another important marker of methodological orientation appearing throughout this volume is the aim one ascribes to philosophy. Again, I would submit that one’s views on the aims of philosophy will generally correlate to some first-order philosophical ideas and with some view regarding philosophy’s data. For example, a scientifically inclined philosopher (‘science is our best way to describe reality’) might declare philosophy to be an “underlabourer to the sciences” (Locke), helping to elucidate the workings of science (epistemology, philosophy of science) whilst warning not to go above and beyond science. On the other hand, the larger one considers the conceptual and experiential territory outside of the bounds of science strictu sensu, the larger one may consider the task of philosophy. Also, there is the recurrent theme of the irreconcilability of internal and external perspectives on such phenomena as consciousness. Certainly, philosophers must not be oblivious about such external investigations (e.g. cognitive sciences) but they need not hand over the keys just like that either. Both the philosophy of mind and phenomenology seem to agree on this. On such views, the aim of philosophy may become to reconcile the findings of cognitive science with our first-person experience of our life-world (as advocated in the chapter by Jean-Luc Petit).

Although the volume has a section which is sort of devoted to the aims of philosophy (Part I: Visions of Philosophy), the theme certainly resonates throughout the entire volume. We already saw Amie L. Thomasson’s extension of conceptual analysis into normative and ameliorative territory. Along similar lines, Robert Piercey presents a case study of the analytic-continental divide, focusing on Richard Rorty (allegedly on the analytic side) and Paul Ricoeur (allegedly on the continental side), who share certain metaphilosophical convictions. Piercey calls these the metaphilosophy of hope and the metaphilosophy of historicity. The former designates that a central goal of philosophy should be to theorize for a better future. He shows us in some detail how this view takes shape in both thinkers and suggests that such metaphilosophical views are ultimately more helpful to orient oneself in the larger philosophical field (beyond the analytic-continental divide). Fabian Freyenhagen’s essay about critical theory and Adorno’s relation to philosophy can be taken along similar lines. There, Adorno is shown to both criticize classical philosophy to work towards its unfulfilled promises. The aim of critical theory is to soften the all too rigid hold certain problematic conceptual schemes have on society at large. This procedure both borrows from philosophy and criticizes it wherever it is found to be complicit in reinforcing the present social order. All of this also raises the questions how creative (in the sense of producing novelty) philosophy should aim to be. As A.W. Moore points out in his essay, the enduring influence of Wittgenstein in analytic philosophy has turned that tradition away from the creative conception of philosophy, an idea which is well alive with continental thinkers such as Deleuze & Guattari.

Beyond such collective aims, philosophy may also have real consequences for individuals engaging in it. Alessandra Tanesini explores a broadly Socratic view of philosophy on which the central aim for the individual is to find a way to live beautifully. She promotes the idea that this requires one to train one’s epistemic self-confidence. This includes skills pertaining to argumentation and concept-formation as well as the emotional capacity to defend unorthodox views within one’s community. Philosophy, construed as such, can greatly contribute to this effort and hence help an individual aiming to live beautifully.

Final Remarks

The volume offers a diverse and valuable cross section of discussions regarding philosophical methods. By and large it focuses on methodological ideas which are supported by tradition. The essays display a healthy degree of implicit conversation between them. Reading the entire volume at once will sharpen even the advanced reader’s sensitivity and appreciation of the matter. All the essays are directed at an uninitiated readership, fulfilling the aim of facilitating conversation between different methodological orientations. Let me now close this review with some minor criticisms.

The volume may be found wanting with regards to methods of formal logic. Positions on the role of logical methods for philosophy differ greatly, but it seems that a sufficient segment of academic philosophy attaches great value to them (especially in connection to conceptual analysis and philosophy of language). Many of the classical philosophical paradigms went hand in hand with views on logic. At a more mundane level, logic plays into the (re)construction of arguments, which is part and parcel of philosophical activity. The volume lacks any discussion of the role of logic in the narrow or wide sense.

A more nuanced worry is the following. By focusing on established methods which seem to be shared between many philosophers, the volume furthermore risks neglecting that the history of philosophy is often marked by a degree of methodological extremism. That is, it sometimes seems like each philosopher invents his/her own methods anew. It may be that the volume, despite its pluralist stance, ends up portraying the philosophical field as more unified than it really is. Relatedly, it does not always recognize the negative experience of not understanding an opponent’s position – an experience surely at the heart of philosophical activity since Plato’s Euthyphro.

Here is a final question regarding the evolution of new methods that the essays in the volume suggest but do not really breach. Consider the following: Let us say that upon reading the works of a certain philosopher X, we discern that she is a proponent of the new method Y. Such schemes are by now familiar, and the Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology offers an abundance of examples. Now consider the following question: before X committed their thoughts to paper, what was their ‘method’ Z for arriving at the method Y? In other words, is there a useful distinction for methods understood as internal to philosophical programs and methods used to develop new ones? Given the plurality of different philosophical methods that have accompanied philosophy since its inception, is not deliberation about (new) methods among the key tasks of the philosopher? Far from suggesting an infinite regress, I merely want to express that there may be more dynamism to the philosophical practice than an evaluation of framework-internal methodologies will be able to bring to the surface. If, as Stanley Cavell puts it “philosophy is one of its own normal topics” (Cavell cited in D’Oro & Overgaard, 4), one might add that reflection on philosophical methods is one of philosophy’s normal methods. The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology is a recommendable way into this terrain.

Works Cited

  1. Cavell, S. Must We Mean What We Say? A Book of Essays. updated edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  2. Collingwood, R. G. The Principles of History. eds. W. H. Dray and Jan van der Dussen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  3. Descartes, R. Meditations on First Philosophy. trans. D. Cress. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993.
  4. D’Oro, Giuseppina, and Søren Overgaard, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
  5. Foucault, M. Madness and Civilization. trans. R. Howard. New York: Vintage Books, 1965.
  6. Haslanger, S. Resisting Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  7. Locke, J. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Glasgow: Collins and Sons, 1964.
  8. Plato. Complete Works. Ed. J. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997.
  9. Plunkett , D. “Which Concepts Should We Use?: Metalinguistic Negotiations and the Methodology of Philosophy,” Inquiry 58, no. 7-8 (2015): 828-74.


Eugen Fink: Sein und Endlichkeit. Teilband 2: Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit

Sein und Endlichkeit. Teilband 2: Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit Book Cover Sein und Endlichkeit. Teilband 2: Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit
Eugen Fink Gesamtausgabe, Band 5/2
Eugen Fink. Riccardo Lazzari (Hg.)
Verlag Karl Alber
Hardcover 99,99 €

Reviewed by: Christian Sternad (Husserl Archives, KU Leuven)

Eugen Fink ist eine der mit Abstand wichtigsten Figuren in der phänomenologischen Bewegung. Als einzigartiger Vermittler der philosophischen Entwürfe seiner phänomenologischen Lehrer Husserl und Heidegger, jedoch aber auch als Vermittler zwischen der transzendentalen Phänomenologie Husserls und der ontologisch-existenzialen phänomenologischen Philosophie Heideggers, hat er den zukünftigen Weg der Phänomenologie im 20. Jahrhundert entscheidend mitbestimmt. Während seine Philosophie vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg größtenteils noch sehr deutlich in der theoretischen Gefolgschaft Husserls verbleibt, erweist sich Husserls Tod 1938 und das katastrophale Ereignis des Weltkrieges auch in Finks philosophischem Weg als entscheidender und wegweisender Einschnitt. Sein lebenslanger Freund und philosophischer Gefährte Jan Patočka hat diese entscheidende Veränderung in Finks Denken in einem Brief an Robert Campbell vom 30. September 1947 in prägnanter Weise dargestellt; Patočka schreibt dort:

„Er hat sich weit von Husserl entfernt in der Heideggerschen Richtung. Aber er versucht Neues, indem er eine neue Interpretation von Kant, Nietzsche und Hegel vornimmt. Er hat mir daraus Stücke vorgelesen, die, wie mir scheint, die höchste Aufmerksamkeit verdienen. Er ist im Begriff, ein großes Werk über die ‚Ontologische Erfahrung‘ vorzubereiten, das im Aufriß schon existiert und von dem ich viel erwarte.“[i]

Der zweite Teilband von Sein und Endlichkeit versammelt Texte Eugen Finks, welche größtenteils aus dieser für Fink philosophisch so entscheidenden Zeit stammen. Wie der Herausgeber dieses Bandes, Riccardo Lazzari, in seinem vorzüglichen Nachwort erwähnt, können Finks „Überlegung[en] in den hier publizierten Vorlesungen als die Suche eines neuen Weges gedeutet werden“.[ii] Diese Suche nach einem neuen Weg erfolgt jedoch keineswegs geradlinig und führt auf den ersten Blick in sehr unterschiedliche Richtungen: Enthusiasmus, Freiheit, Endlichkeit, Welt, Zeit, etc. Was diese disparat erscheinenden Texte und Themen jedoch gleich einem unsichtbaren Faden zusammenhält, ist Finks sich in statu nascendi befindende Fragestellung nach dem Weltbezug des Menschen und jener nach der Welt überhaupt.

Die Frage nach der Welt ist bei Fink gerade jene philosophische Bewegung, in welcher er die Gedanken Husserls und Heideggers aufnimmt, sie jedoch zugleich in eigener schöpferischer Weise weiterführt. Dieser Ur-topos der Phänomenologie erfährt bei Fink eine bedeutende Neuinterpretation, welche hauptsächlich durch zwei Unzulänglichkeiten[iii] angestoßen wird:

  1. Die Welt hat bei Husserl zwar einen fundamentalen theoretischen Platz bezogen, sie bildet jedoch aufgrund ihres Horizontcharakters stets nur den (wenngleich auch allererst ermöglichenden) Hintergrund der Phänomene. Überdies scheint sich die Welt damit auf das Subjekt zu reduzieren, für welches die Welt als Horizont aller Erscheinungen fungiert. Fink möchte die Welt jedoch aus dieser Beschränkung auf das Subjekt und der damit verbundenen Horizontstruktur herauslösen.
  2. Bei Heidegger erfährt die Welt bzw. das In-der-Welt-sein bekanntlich einen existenzialen Zug, welcher jedoch umgekehrt zu dem Problem führt, dass auch hier die Welt lediglich in einer existenzialen Struktur zur Geltung kommt. Das Ganze der Welt, in welche der Mensch schon vor jeder existenzialen Struktur eingelassen ist, kann dabei jedoch nicht vollends zur Geltung kommen. Das Ganze der existenzialen Welt entspricht insofern nicht dem Ganzen der Welt als solcher, vor welche sich der Mensch gestellt sieht.

Diese Unterschiede möchten als Feinheiten der Interpretation erscheinen, sie sind jedoch letztlich entscheidend für den philosophischen Weg, welchen Fink über Husserl und Heidegger hinaus einschlägt und welcher am besten als eine Verwindung von einer phänomenologisch verstandenen Anthropologie und Kosmologie beschrieben werden kann. Bei Fink nimmt die Welt jenen Doppelcharakter ein, in welchem der Mensch auf die ihm so nah stehende Welt vor das ihm so fernliegende Ganze der Welt gestellt ist. Während im ersten Fall ein existenzieller Weltbegriff angezeigt ist, wird im zweiten Fall ein kosmischer Weltbegriff in den Blick genommen – ersterer bringt eine Welt im Menschen zum Ausdruck, der zweite Begriff der Welt zeigt einen Menschen in der Welt, welche Fink gelegentlich auch als „Allheit“ bezeichnet und welche er außerhalb der Verfügungsgewalt des Menschen verortet. Dies tritt in den Vorbetrachtungen zur Welt-Frage in der Vorlesung Welt und Endlichkeit[iv] (1949), die meines Erachtens das Herzstück dieses Bandes darstellt, in aller Deutlichkeit in Erscheinung. Hier formuliert Fink:

„Wir treffen die Welt nie an als einen Gegenstand unserer Erfahrung, weil sie in ihrer Offenheit überhaupt erst Gegenstände begegnen läßt. Vom Seienden ist jeweils nur ein Ausschnitt überblickbar, nie das Ganze. Dieses hält sich uns immer entzogen, und doch verhalten wir uns ständig zum Ganzen. […] Welt wird immer verstanden als das Ganze, in welches der Verstehende selbst mit hineingehört. Welt ist eine Urbekanntheit, die die menschliche Existenz durchmachtet und erhellt. Sofern wir überhaupt sind, leben und weben wir im Offenen der Welt.“ (199)

Diese Doppelstruktur von existenzialem und kosmologischen Denken ist das Charakteristikum von Finks philosophisch eigenständiger Fragestellung, nämlich „wie der weltoffene, aus dem Weltbezug existierende Mensch im Kosmos ist“.[v] Diese Frage nach der eigenwilligen Doppelstruktur der Welt entfaltet Fink mit jenen ihm so vertrauten Denkern wie Kant, Nietzsche und Heidegger, die im Verlauf seiner denkerischen Laufbahn ständige Gesprächspartner bilden.

Ohne der Lektüre dieses Bandes vorzugreifen, scheinen mir noch zwei Momente interessant zu sein, welche ich nur kurz andeuten möchte:

Zum einen betrifft dies das für den Phänomenologen interessante Wechselspiel zwischen Gegebenheit und Ungegebenheit, zwischen Erscheinung und Entzug, welches sich in der Weltproblematik andeutet . Welt ist das Bekannteste, die „Urbekanntheit“, jedoch auch immer das zugleich Flüchtigste. Sie ist immer da und fungiert als Erscheinungshorizont aller Erscheinungen. Zugleich verschwindet sie in eigenwilliger Weise, wenn sie zum Gegenstand der Überlegungen gemacht wird. Diese Schwierigkeit verstärkt sich, wenn die Welt in kosmologischer Hinsicht verstanden wird. Wie ist das Ganze der Welt zu fassen, wenn man nicht in einen banalen Begriff des ontischen Vorhandenseins aller Dinge abgleiten will? Wie lässt sich ein kosmischer Weltbegriff vorstellen, der die Unabhängigkeit der Welt vom Menschen beschreiben will, zugleich den Weltbegriff jedoch auch nicht in ein pures Vorkommnis außerhalb des menschlichen Bezugs nivellieren möchte? Diese Problematik motiviert die methodologischen Überlegungen in vielen von Finks Werken aus dieser Zeit. Cathrin Nielsen und Hans Rainer Sepp haben diese bedeutende Problematik bei Fink prägnant zusammengefasst:

„Es handelt sich dabei um eine paradoxe Konfrontation von solchem, das gegeben ist (Binnenweltliches) und sich zugleich jeder positiven Gebung verweigert (Welt) – oder um ein Zusammentreffen von solchem, das konkret da ist, das wir selbst sind, mit dem, was sich an der Bruchlinie des Stückhaften der Existenz in negativo noch zeigt, was zeigt, dass das, was ist, nicht alles ist – oder, noch anders und rein formal ausgedrückt, eine Identität, die nur als eine unaufhebbare Differenz fassbar ist.“[vi]

Zum anderen ist da noch die Frage nach der Transzendenz der Endlichkeit der Weltbezüge, welche Fink in verschiedenen Anläufen immer wieder neu und anders thematisiert. Vor allem der Vortrag Vom Wesen des Enthusiasmus[vii] (1947) zu Beginn dieses Bandes widmet sich dem Enthusiasmus als einem Moment der menschlichen Existenz, in welchem diese über sich hinaus gerät. Abseits von Finks konkreten Thesen – Fink interpretiert Philosophie, Kunst und Religion als jene „absoluten Verhältnisse, welche hin zum Wahren, Schönen und Heiligen führen“[viii] –, deutet Fink ein wirkmächtiges Spannungsverhältnis an, welches er selbst folgendermaßen beschreibt: „Im Bezug zum Unendlichen wird das Endliche als solches erfahren“.[ix] In diesem Spannungsverhältnis kann der Bezug zwischen dem Konkreten und jenem alle Konkretion Übersteigende erblickt werden – eine gedankliche Struktur übrigens, welche er mit seinem philosophischen Freund Jan Patočka teilt.[x]

Zuletzt noch ein Wort zum Aufbau dieses zweiten Teilbandes des fünften Bandes der Eugen Fink Gesamtausgabe: Die Haupttexte in diesem Band – Vom Wesen des Enthusiasmus (1947), Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit (1947), Welt und Endlichkeit (1949), Die menschliche Freiheit (1961), Die Exposition des Weltbegriffs bei Giordano Bruno (1972) – werden durch einige interessante ergänzende Texte flankiert – Freiheit und Werk (1961), Über Freiheit (Freiheit wovon…, Freiheit wozu…) (1961), Freiheit und Zeit (1962), Die Wissenschaften und das Weltproblem (1966) – und letztlich durch eine Reihe an Notizen und Disposition, welche als ergänzendes Material betrachtet werden können, abgeschlossen. Im Allgemeinen lässt sich sagen, dass der thematische Spannungsbogen dieses Bandes zwischen Sein und Endlichkeit eindeutig geglückt ist, weil sich darin die Fragen von existenziellem bzw. anthropologischem und kosmologischem Denken auf deutliche Weise verschränken. Die auf den ersten Blick disparaten Texte und Textentwürfe werden durch das hervorragende Nachwort des Herausgebers in einen erhellenden Gesamtkontext gestellt und erleichtern damit dem Leser den Einstieg in diesen voluminösen Band. Vor diesem Hintergrund lässt dieser zweite Teilband Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit mit Vorfreude auf den ersten Teilband von Sein und Endlichkeit vorausblicken, welche dem Publikationsplan zufolge unter anderem weitere wichtige Texte von Fink, wie etwa die Vorlesungen Philosophie des Geistes (1946/47) und Sein und Mensch (1950/51), beinhalten werden.

[i] Eugen Fink, Jan Patočka, Briefe und Dokumente 1933-1977. Hg. Von Michael Neitz und Bernhard Nessler. Freiburg: Verlag Karl Alber 1999, 56.

[ii] 695-696.

[iii] Eine besonders klare Darstellung dieser doppelten Kritikrichtung findet sich in: Cathrin Nielsen & Hans Rainer Sepp, „Welt bei Fink“, in: Cathrin Nielsen, Hans Rainer Sepp (Hg.), Welt denken. Annäherungn an die Kosmologie Eugen Finks, Freiburg: Karl Alber 2011, 9-14.

[iv] Diese Vorlesung war bisher veröffentlicht in Eugen Fink, Welt und Endlichkeit, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 1990. Im vorliegenden Band: 191-402.

[v] Eugen Fink, Spiel als Weltsymbol, (EFGA, Bd. 7), Freiburg: Karl Alber 2010, 69.

[vi] Cathrin Nielsen & Hans Rainer Sepp, „Welt bei Fink“, in: Cathrin Nielsen, Hans Rainer Sepp (Hg.), Welt denken. Annäherungn an die Kosmologie Eugen Finks, Freiburg: Karl Alber 2011, 10.

[vii] 11-25.

[viii] 15.

[ix] 22.

[x] Vgl. hierzu die bemerkenswerte Studie: Filip Karfík, Unendlichwerden durch die Endlichkeit. Eine Lektüre der Philosophie Jan Patočkas. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2008.

Markus Gabriel, Csaba Olay, Sebastian Ostritsch (Hrsg.): Welt und Unendlichkeit – ein deutsch-ungarischer Dialog in memoriam László Tengelyi, Karl Alber, 2017

Welt und Unendlichkeit - ein deutsch-ungarischer Dialog in memoriam László Tengelyi Book Cover Welt und Unendlichkeit - ein deutsch-ungarischer Dialog in memoriam László Tengelyi
Markus Gabriel, Csaba Olay, Sebastian Ostritsch (Hrsg.)
Verlag Karl Alber
Hardback €32,00

Fausto Fraisopi: Philosophie und FrageFausto Fraisopi: Philosophie und Frage

Philosophie und Frage Book Cover Philosophie und Frage
Fausto Fraisopi
Karl Alber

Reviewed by: Marco Cavallaro  (Department Member of the Husserl-Archive Cologne; Visiting Researcher at Boston College)

Fausto Fraisopis neustes Werk gleicht dem ausgezeichneten Ergebnis einer ernsten philosophischen Untersuchung. Seine Stellung innerhalb der aktuellen Forschungslandschaft ist umso schwerer einzuschätzen, wenn man erkennt, dass das Buch auf eine originelle Offenlegung der Bedingungen der Möglichkeit jedes metaphilosophischen Nachfragens zustrebt. „Über Metaphilosophie“ lautet der Titel des ersten, kürzeren Bandes von Fraisopis Werk, in dem der Autor mit einem knappen und agilen Stil den Inhalt seines Unternehmens erläutert und den Leser bzw. die Leserin zum höheren Niveau der theoretischen Spekulation, die die ganze Abhandlung kennzeichnet, auf kleinen aber sicheren Schritten begleitet.

Fraisopis leitende Fragestellung bezieht sich nicht so sehr auf das, was Metaphilosophie ist, sondern darauf, welche Möglichkeiten die Metaphilosophie für das theoretische Denken und damit für die Philosophie überhaupt eröffnen kann. Diese Frage wird heute, nach dem Bankrott derjenigen metaphysischen Strebungen, die das Denken der abendländischen Kultur seit ihrer Geburt geleitet haben, höchst aktuell. Wie kann man sich noch heute auf die Notwendigkeit berufen, metaphilosophische Analysen durchzuführen und diese gar als das vitale Element des philosophischen Denkens auszuzeichnen? Das aus dieser Frage ausgehende Rechtfertigungsbedürfnis, das heute vor allem die Metaphilosophie betrifft, ist allgemeines Thema des ersten, einleitenden Bandes und erfährt im zweiten eine weitere Vertiefung.

Metaphilosophie lässt sich schlicht als „die Suche nach den Formen (oder den möglichen Formen) der Mathesis“ (S. 21) zusammenfassen. Als Ankerpunkt metaphilosophischer Untersuchungen dient Fraisopi seine phänomenologisch geprägte Frageanalyse – die man mit Recht als eine Alternative zu der hermeneutischen Stellung des Frageproblems in den einleitenden Kapiteln zu Martin Heideggers Sein und Zeit auffassen kann. „Die Frage“, so heißt es in der Einleitung zum ersten Band vom Fraisopis Werk, „ist das Moment, in dem das Denken sich zu dem Erfahrungshorizont in der Suche nach einer Antwort öffnet, und eo ipso muss die Frage der Anfangspunkt einer nicht metaphysischen Suche, einer Mathesis universalis, als universaler Wissenschaft sein“ (S. 17). Insbesondere das Kapitel II des ersten Teils des zweiten Bandes ist einer sorgfältigen „Logik und Phänomenologie der Frage“ gewidmet. Die Frage wird zunächst als Nach-Frage (petitio) bestimmt, was besagt, dass die Frage sich auf ein Objekt richtet, dessen Erfassung die Antwort zur Frage ermöglicht. Damit wird die Sättigung des in der Frage selbst enthaltenen Strebens, als ihr notwendiges Moment, ermöglicht. In Fraisopis Worten: „Das Ereignis der Frage zeigt uns einen völlig eigenen Modus der Intentionalität, der sein Noema, seinen Gegenstand, besitzt, der ihn jedoch nicht gemäß seinem Sein, seinem leibhaftigen Sein, sondern in der Offenheit des Möglichkeitsfeldes erfasst“ (S. 165).

Das ursprüngliche Thema der Nachfrage im Bereich des Spekulativen ist das, was jeden selbst zu allererst betrifft, nämlich das eigene Ich des jeweils Fragenden. Die ursprüngliche Frage ist dann: „Was/wer bin ich?“ Das Ich selbst stellt aber ein „extrem untypisches Deiktisches“ (S. 194) dar, zu dessen Erläuterung eine Bedeutungslehre im traditionellen Sinne nicht imstande ist. Der deiktische Charakter des Ich-Wortes bringt dann ein besonders „armes Phänomen“ (S. 203) im Mittelpunkt der fraisopischen „Meta-Egologie“ hervor, sodass diese aus einer diametral entgegengesetzten Perspektive zur metaphysischen Auffassung des Subjekts als res cogitans verstanden werden will. Denn die Frage selbst bereitet den Boden, aus dem heraus eine Schau des Ich erst möglich wird. In diesem Sinne, argumentiert Fraisopi, ist also nicht das Ich das Transzendentale, sondern die „Uröffnung, welche die Schau als psychologische Urdistanz begleitet und ihr vorausgreift“ (S. 227). Die von der Frage eröffnete spekulative Situation ermöglicht die „neutrale Festlegung der Schau“, d.h. die Auffassung der Schau und ihrer Bedingungen, unabhängig von jeder ontologischen Setzung und jeder ontologischen Vorinterpretation des anschaulich Gegebenen. Auf diese Weise entzieht sich die Meta-Egologie einer Ontologisierung des Ich sowie des psychischen und geistigen Lebens, die die traditionelle Metaphysik von Descartes her auszeichnet. Anstelle des metaphysischen Subjekts tritt deshalb der Begriff des Ich-Horizonts in den Vordergrund. Die Selbsterfassung des Ich zeigt sich in der Gestalt einer „Öffnung/Offenheit“. Denn „[d]as ‚Ich‘ ist nichts anderes als die Öffnung/Offenheit der Möglichkeit, das Gerichtet-Sein zu artikulieren. Besser gesagt: ‚Mein Ich‘ ist nicht zu unterscheiden von der ‚Öffnung/Offenheit-wohin‘ ich mein Gerichtet-Sein artikulieren kann“ (S. 238). Der Welthorizont, das Gegeben-Sein der weltlichen Gegenständlichkeiten in ihrem horizonthaften Charakter trägt nach dieser Auffassung die Bedeutung eines speculum, eines Sich-Widerspiegelns des Ich in der und durch die Welt. Die parusía der Welt ist gleichermaßen Selbstschau des Ich, Eröffnung jenes intentionalen Gerichtet-Seins, das sein Grundwesen ausmacht. Dieses Ich selbst stellt ein hybrides Wesen dar, sodass Fraisopi seine Selbstbeziehung als „hybride Selbstbeziehung“ bezeichnet. Der Gesamtbereich der intentionalen Akte macht eine modulare Mehrdimensionalität, ein „Multiversum“ aus, in dem die inflationäre Verbindung linearer Dimensionen und deren Faserung herrscht.

Der Frage nach dem Ich, die zur Meta-Egologie wird, folgt die Frage nach dem Wesenscharakter von dem, was man traditionell ‚Philosophie‘ genannt hat. „Was ist die Philosophie?“, fragt sich Fraisopi im zweiten Teil seines Werkes über die Meta-Theorie. Eine solche Fragestellung erweist sich umso dringender, nachdem die Unmöglichkeit der Metaphysik historisch sowie theoretisch geprüft wurde. Philosophie kann nicht mit der Metaphysik und ihren Problemen identifiziert werden. Im Gegenteil, sie versteht eine metatheoretische Dimension als einen Ort, wo Komplexe von Idealitäten (d.h. Theorien) als Gegenständlichkeiten aufgefasst werden können. Fraisopi befürwortet daher eine „Verflechtung zwischen dem Phänomenologischen und dem Metatheoretischen“ (S. 301), was letztendlich in diesem Werk den Stil seines Philosophierens auszeichnet. Das Wissen und seine Erwerbe, sprich die Theorien, werden aus dieser Perspektive als Gegenstände möglicher Erfahrung, und zwar theoretischer Erfahrung, aufgefasst. Die Meta-Theorie befasst sich mit der Form des Wissens überhaupt und folglich mit der Form der theoretischen Erfahrung. Das Originelle an Fraisopis Ansatz besteht unter anderen darin, die Mathesis selbst als eine weitere, hochrangige Form von Erfahrung zu kennzeichnen und die Meta-Theorie nicht als bloßes axiomatisches System von Regelungen für mögliche Verknüpfungen zwischen atomaren Wissenselementen, sondern in erster Linie als „eine Schau, eine Perspektive und nicht ein anderes Wissen, eine Theorie“ (S. 310) zu verstehen. Denn das Metatheoretische bestimmt sich als der Raum oder Ort, in dem die das Wissen selbst ermöglichende Öffnung stattfindet und in dem sich theoretische Strukturen (Theorien, Prinzipien, Gesetze, Axiome) als Gegenstände manifestieren können. Der Meta-Theorie entspricht eine neue Form der Anschaulichkeit, ein Theôrein, das kein „absolutes Schauen“ und kein „Blick von einem Nirgendwo“ darstellt, sondern dem „offenen Horizont einer reinen Schau“ (S. 335) näherkommt. Der metatheoretische Gegenstand bzw. der Gegenstand der metatheoretischen Anschauung, welche als solche toto caelo von der Anschauung des Wahrnehmungsdings verschieden ist, erweist keine ontologisch fixe morphologische Gestalt. Fraisopis Analyse der Form von Metagegenständen stützt sich vorwiegend auf Husserls phänomenologische Befunde bezüglich der Horizontalität der Gegenstandserfahrung sowie auf die ursprüngliche Idee der Mathesis universalis als Theorie von möglichen Theorienformen. Ein Meta-Gegenstand besitzt in diesem Sinne sowohl einen Innen- als auch einen Außenhorizont, welche zusammen die Gesamtheit der möglichen Bestimmungen seiner Selbstgegebenheit und der es umgebenden, miterfahrbaren Gegenständlichkeiten in der metatheoretischen Öffnung ausmachen. Fraisopi unterscheidet das Eidos des Meta-Gegenstandes als die morphologische Struktur seiner Erscheinung von seinem Logos, welcher seine Genese und die Entwicklungsgeschichte seiner sedimentierten Erfahrung widerspiegelt. Der originelle Gedanke dahinter ist nämlich die Einsicht, dass Theorien sowie theoretische Probleme „ein Eigenleben“ besitzen und keineswegs nicht-zeitlichen Entitäten eines platonischen Universums entsprechen (S. 358). Da aber Zukunft und Vergangenheit als solche lediglich einem Subjekt gegeben werden und dem Meta-Gegenstand an sich allein nicht inhärieren können, erweist sich einmal mehr die Notwendigkeit, die grundlegende Korrelation zwischen Subjekt und Objekt thematisieren zu müssen. Das aber soll mit dem Bewusstsein geschehen, dass Subjektivität eher einen Schauplatz darstellt, in dem Gegenständlichkeiten erscheinen und in dieser Erscheinung sich als solche konstituieren. Die Geschichte der Meta-Gegenständlichkeiten ist demgemäß in die Geschichte ihrer Schau für ein Subjekt eingeschrieben. Die Sedimentierung der Wissensformen korrespondiert und geht Hand in Hand mit einer Sedimentierung der Erfahrung auf einer subjektiven, noetischen Seite. Fraisopi geht von dem die Phänomenologie leitenden Prinzip aus, dass man „niemals das Wesen von ‚etwas‘ vollständig von der Erfahrung, die man davon macht, unterschieden erkennen kann“ (S. 378). Eine solche Perspektive eröffnet die „hermeneutische Dimensionalität“ (S. 369) des Meta-Gegenstandes und mithin der metatheoretischen Dimension, d.i. die „Strukturierung nach Beziehungen des Horizonts der metatheoretischen Erfahrung“ (S. 408). Eine solche Dimensionalität setzt den Meta-Gegenstand in Verbindung mit anderen Metagegenständen. Die Geschichte eines Meta-Gegenstandes kann sich auch aus der Umwandlung eines früheren Meta-Gegenstandes entwickeln und Gruppen von Metagegenständen können sich auf diese Weise etablieren. Das Metatheoretische als solches impliziert daher eine Mereologie, d.h. „die Auffassung jedes Erfahrungsgegenstandes innerhalb des metatheoretischen Horizonts, nach Verhältnissen von Ganzen und Teilen“ (S. 381). Gegenstände treten immer aus einem Feld oder einer „Region“ von Gegenständen heraus, die gemeinsame Wesensmerkmale aufweisen. Eine solche Sachlage erklärt sich aufgrund der „Regionalisierung der Strukturen“ von Gegenständen der Erfahrung, die dem Metatheoretischen eigen sind. Mereologie und Topologie vereinen sich, um damit eine „Mereotopologie“ zu formen.

Auch wenn das Metatheoretische kein Gegenstand ist, sondern eine kontextuelle Situation, d.h. eine Perspektive, schließt sich die Verbindung zwischen Meta-Theorie und Ontologie nicht völlig aus. Ein solches Verhältnis ähnelt laut Fraisopi dem, was bei zwei Figuren in einem Perspektiven- bzw. Gestaltwechsel vorkommt (vgl. S. 424). Die Gegenstandstheorie oder Ontologie als die Theorie des Gegenstandes überhaupt setzt einen metatheoretischen Horizont im Sinne einer thematischen Öffnung voraus. Die Ontologie verliert demnach jenen epistemischen Vorrang, den sie in der metaphysischen Tradition besaß. Aufgabe der Meta-Ontologie wird denn nicht eine Beschreibung der Gegenstandstheorie, sprich Ontologie, sondern vielmehr die, „zu erkennen, was genau die Gegenstandstheorie als Meta-Gegenstand entstehen lässt und bestimmt: die Grundfrage der Ontologie selbst“ (S. 440). Demzufolge wird die Ontologie als Meta-Gegenständlichkeit zu einem Relativen, das keine Letztbegründung durch sich selbst zulässt und daher eine absolute Bestimmung des Etwas grundsätzlich ausschließt. Diese ontologische Relativität besagt, dass zwischen den regionalen, materiellen und formalen Ontologien kein Vorrang und keine Hierarchie herrscht. Das führt nicht zu einem ontologischen Relativismus, sondern, wie Fraisopi argumentiert, nur zu einem „ontologischen Pluralismus als ontologischem Kontextualismus“ (S. 544, Anm. 6). Die Öffnung des metaontologischen Horizonts enthüllt also die „Ontologie als das, was sie ist, nämlich als einen kontextuellen Raum im Inneren, von dem es eine Deklination einer gewissen formalen Bestimmungsstruktur des ‚Etwas’ gibt“ (S. 519). Eine kontextuelle Ontologie dieser Art definiert die Kriterien, denen gemäß Individuationsprotokolle einzelner Gegenstände in einer vorgegebenen Region der Realität bestimmt werden können. Es besteht kein einseitiges Kriterium der Individuation und kein vorzüglicher Anschauungsmodus – in Fraisopis Worten: „Es gibt keine Individuationsmöglichkeit in der thematisch deskriptiven Öffnung der Metaontologie, kein metaphysisches Individuationskriterium, sondern nur ein kontextuelles (lokatives) Kriterium der Konkretheit“ (S. 532).

Der metatheoretische Gedanke der neuen Mathesis, die Fraisopi in diesen Seiten darlegt, prägt sich also grundsätzlich in einer „meta-metaphysische[n] Situation“, im Sinne einer „Situation der Neutralisierung von der Frage nach dem Realen“ (S. 546). Die Meta-Metaphysik ist also keine neue Metaphysik nach dem Austräumen vom Traum der traditionellen Metaphysik. Sie entspricht stattdessen der Sachlage, dass die Metaphysik „in ihrem Unsinn anerkannt und aufgehoben wird“ (ebd.). Diesem Zustand trägt ferner die metaontologische Modellierung der Systemformen der Individuation Rechnung, welche im letzten Abschnitt von Fraisopis Arbeit vorkommt. Die meta-ontologischen Modelle, d.i. die Modelle die sich im meta-ontologischen Raum zeigen, sind als topologische n-dimensionale Räume zu denken. Durch die Anwendung der Kategorientheorie zu den meta-ontologischen Modellen kann man die lebendige Interaktion, die Morphismen und die Transformationen zwischen solchen Gegenständen betrachten und streng deskriptiv beschreiben. Eine solche Modellierung ermöglicht, „die Konstruktionen und ihre Isomorphismen zu vergleichen, die zwischen den verschiedenen metaontologischen Strukturen der Metagegenstände fortbestehen“ (S. 606). Sie trägt daher zu einer holistischen Darstellung der Wesenszusammenhänge von Gegenständlichkeitsbestimmungskriterien bzw. Individuationsprotokollen bei. Eine solche Darstellung liefert den Schematismus einer Grammatik des Schauens, welche korrelativ eine Ontologie als Ordnungssystem der verschiedenen Gegenstandstypen und ihren Regionen ermöglicht. Darüber hinaus lehnt die metaontologische Modellierung die Rechtmäßigkeit der Schöpfung von einem Weltbild als einem einzigen Bild der phänomenalen Welt ab: „Es gibt kein Weltbild zu konstruieren, nur eine Topographie des Realen, sodass es durch die spiegelhafte (stets neumodellierbare) Beziehung zwischen den Wissensformen und ihren ontologischen Bildern hervortritt“ (S. 588). Ein solches Vorhaben wäre laut Fraisopi zum Scheitern verurteilt, da sich die Struktur der Welt als dynamisch und komplex charakterisiert und als solche die Basis jener monistischen und fixen Ontologie zerstört. Besonders an dieser Stelle ist, dass der Gedanke der Komplexität in Fraisopis Werk zentral wird. Die Komplexität und Dynamizität des Realen, welche uns die aktuellsten, wissenschaftlichen Erfindungen bezeugen, ziehen dem traditionellen metaphysischen Weltbild sozusagen den Boden unter der Füßen weg. Auf diese Weise rechtfertigt sich die Aufgabe einer Meta-Metaphysik und der korrelativen „konstruktivistischen Metaontologie“. „Der Skandal“, der, könnte man sagen, den fraisopischen Gedanken einer Meta-Philosophie ursprünglich provoziert hat, besteht darin, „dass die Ontologie noch an einen gewöhnlichen Charakter des Diskurses gebunden ist, der weder der Dimension der gewöhnlichen Erfahrung noch den komplexen und extrem raffinierten Modellierungen des Wissens zugehört, für die es nicht ausreicht, eine philosophische Wiederholung zu liefern, um ein profundes, spekulatives Verständnis davon zu bekommen“ (S. 601). Es handelt sich dabei auf keinen Fall um Einwendungen naturwissenschaftlicher Befunde in den philosophischen Diskurs. Denn das Denken der Komplexität lässt die Bestimmung dessen, was das Reale ist, grundsätzlich offen, und darin hebt es sich von dem Denken der traditionellen Wissenschaft, etwa der Galiläischen Naturwissenschaft, ab – welche übrigens metaphysische Voraussetzungen enthielt und sogleich aus solchen entstammte. Auf der Grundlage dieses ‚Offenlassens‘, das heißt, auf der Grundlage des intimen Bewusstseins der Unmöglichkeit einer letzten Antwort auf die Frage nach dem Wesen der Realität, kann sich die Mathesis im Sinne einer Öffnung der Dimension des Spekulatives als Schau präsentieren.

Fraisopis Werk zeigt sich ambitioniert. Seine Absicht ist es, den Leser oder die Leserin dazu zu bringen, nicht weniger als die gesamte Aufgabe des theoretischen Denkens neu aufzufassen und ihn oder sie auf die Notwendigkeit aufmerksam zu machen, eine Mathesis universalis für die Menschheit zu konstruieren. Wie alle großen Gedanken und Philosophien wird voraussichtlich auch für Fraisopis die Zeit den entscheidenden Faktor für den Erfolg seiner Arbeit darstellen. Zeit ist auch das, wonach der Leser oder die Leserin dieser mächtigen zweibändigen Arbeit gefragt wird. Nach unserer bescheidenen Überzeugung wird aber seine oder ihre Zeit exzellent investiert.

Martin Heidegger: Interpretation of Nietzsche’s Second Untimely Meditation

Interpretation of Nietzsche's Second Untimely Meditation Book Cover Interpretation of Nietzsche's Second Untimely Meditation
Studies in Continental Thought
Martin Heidegger. Translated by Ullrich Haase and Mark Sinclair
Indiana University Press
Cloth $55.00

Reviewed by:  Michael J. Sigrist (George Washington University, Department of Philosophy)

Interpretation of Nietzsche’s Second Untimely Meditation (INM) is a translation by Ullrich Haase and Mark Sinclair of a seminar conducted by Martin Heidegger in Freiburg over the Winter Semester 1938-39. Originally published as GA 46, the text consists of a collection of lecture notes and diagrams that loosely correspond to the topical sections of Nietzsche’s essay. Throughout the course Heidegger deepens his critique of Nietzsche, revisits the question of animal life, offers a lengthy reflection on the connection between truth and justice, and extends his reflections on the unity of temporality, historicality, and Being.

The title describes the contents perfectly: these lectures record Heidegger’s thoughts on Nietzsche’s “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life.” Readers should be familiar with the latter work to get the most out of Heidegger’s text. Needless to say, readers will also want to know a fair bit of Heidegger, starting with Being and Time (BT), but The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (FCM), and Contributions to Philosophy: From Enowning are also advised. While Nietzsche scholars may find some items of interest, and should take Heidegger’s overall critique seriously (more below), this text will be primarily of use for scholars and students of Heidegger.

These lectures appear at the tail end of Heidegger’s decade-long rumination on Nietzsche’s philosophy, a period also marked by Heidegger’s so-called Turn (Kehre). In Being and Time it’s clear that Dasein oscillates between authenticity and inauthenticity, but through the Turn Heidegger began to view these transitions historically through the destiny (Geschick) of Beyng (written so in order to accentuate the verbal, eventful meaning of the term). That history is punctuated by certain epochal figures, of which Nietzsche is the last, marking the transition from the ‘first’ to the ‘other’ beginning. The sort of considerations that guide Heidegger’s thinking through the turn are not the focus of this text but they are evident as background assumptions that shape certain lines of questioning. As Haase and Sinclair note in an insightful article that can be read as a companion piece to the book[i], Heidegger alters his approving evaluation of Nietzsche in Being and Time[ii] to a more confrontational mode in these lectures.

It’s refreshing, given the expansive nature of some of Heidegger’s other writing from the period, to find a text so focused on a single topic. While often repetitive and enigmatic, the text is content to take its cues from Nietzsche’s essay and simply to reflect on what is offered. Rather than itemize these all and run down a list, I’m going to review some of the most important themes so that readers get a sense for what the text at its best can offer.

Nietzsche begins his second Untimely Meditation (UM) famously envying the cattle in pasture for their incessant forgetfulness. These meager creatures with their uninspiring lives achieve an effortless happiness, while we, even in our most joyful moments, suffer the awareness that all moments necessarily pass. The cause of this melancholic existence is our inability to forget, which is why we are historical and animals unhistorical. This distinction marks Heidegger’s first major point of contention. It is incorrect to call animals unhistorical, he says. Just as only beings who exist essentially with others can be alone, and only beings who are essentially determined by speech can be silent, so Heidegger claims that only essentially historical beings can exist unhistorically: “only that which is historical can be unhistorical”.[iii] Rather than unhistorical, Nietzsche’s cattle lack history altogether, Heidegger says.[iv] This is not just a pedantic point, for important consequences follow.

Nietzsche’s analysis implies that humans and animals occupy distant points along a continuum, from total forgetting to total remembering (later in his essay Nietzsche worries about an oversaturation of historical knowledge). For Nietzsche, the key is not to settle at some sensible mid-point, but to acquire a horizon that let’s one retain just the proper amount of historical consciousness necessary for life.[v] Heidegger complains that this encourages us to think that the problem is one of how much or what sort of things to forget, whereas there is a kind of forgetfulness that characterizes Dasein’s inauthentic, unhistorical way of being that has nothing to do with the amount or kind of memories Dasein retains. In fact, Heidegger says, being unhistorical is itself a way of being historical, in parallel with (or as another way of framing) the relation between authentic and inauthentic existence. After the Turn, machination and reification take over the role played by inauthenticity, where rather than structural features of Dasein these are increasingly understood as being-historical tendencies in the destiny of Western metaphysics. These lectures explain that we ought to understand Dasein’s unhistorical being not as some nearer approximation to animal life but as contemporary Dasein’s inauthentic way of being historical.

This is important because contemporary Dasein is unhistorical despite a flood of historical information and historical awareness. The massive increase in historical knowledge—Heidegger and Nietzsche agree—is not the result of exogenous improvements in the technology for discovering and disseminating historical facts (quite the reverse actually) but due to contemporary Dasein’s dominant self-interpretation as historical. Contemporary Dasein has so much historical information because it seeks it out and interprets itself accordingly. The rise of historicism in the German academy only reflected the rise in historical consciousness through which Western Dasein increasingly came to understand itself over the course of the 19th century. Many of Heidegger’s and Nietzsche’s contemporaries believed that this increase in historical awareness and information resulted in a manner of conduct and self-evaluation showing unique historical sophistication, as if modern Dasein were more in touch with its history than its ancestors. Heidegger and Nietzsche both dispute this idea. For Heidegger, it is clear that our scientific mode of framing and retaining historical knowledge– not the amount or kind–paradoxically blinds us to our historical existence. We know ever more about the past but by this very mode of knowing turn away from it.

In Being and Time Heidegger believed that this mutual distrust of historical science indicated a deeper philosophical agreement with Nietzsche. He claims that Nietzsche’s distinction between three modes of history—monumental, antiquarian, and critical[vi]–shows that Nietzsche had achieved—though left unsaid—an insight into the original unity of authentic temporality. Nietzsche claimed that the historicism of his day overlooked the fact that history is in service to life, and Heidegger seemed to detect an affinity between this claim and his own warnings against scientism as the de-worlded representation of beings in the mode of the present-to-hand.

A decade later, these lectures show that Heidegger has substantially revised his understanding of Nietzsche’s project. Rather than revealing the ground of authentic historicality, Nietzsche now represents the final forgetting of Being. Specifically, Heidegger believes that, behind an ostensible critique of science and objective historiology, Nietzsche surreptiously announces the culmination of the scientific, technological enframing of Being.

The first sign of this re-evaluation is obvious in early sections of the text. Nietzsche argued that the proper approach to history should strive for the right balance of memory and forgetting. Specifically, historical memory ought to be measured by the life-affirming values it enhances in the present–via inspiration, reverence, and liberation, corresponding to the three modes of history. Heidegger reflects on different kinds of memory and forgetting–anticipating such distinctions as semantic, episodic, and observer memory–but the general conclusion is that Nietzsche only understands memory as ‘making present’ and thereby conceals its essence. Heidegger points as evidence to Nietzsche’s conflation of Historie with Geschichte. Historie for Heidegger is more than just the academic writing of history, and might better be described as telling history, something constitutive of any human community. In Being and Time he argues that it is important that such telling arise as an authentic expression of Dasein’s gechichtliches way of being grounded in ecstatic temporality. In these sections of INM Heidegger’s comments seem trade on a distinction familiar from Husserl. Husserl distinguished Gegenwärtigung from Vergegenwärtigung, the latter often translated by the somewhat clumsy ‘presentifying.’ Memory–or ‘recollection’–is a paradigmatic ‘presentifying’ act for Husserl, an act which presents its object as absent in its absence. Husserl was clear that presentifying acts presuppose and take as their content prior, original intuitive presentations, so recollective acts are founded on and take as their content direct, intuitive retentions. Heidegger, both here and in Being and Time, argues that a similar relation obtains between the telling of Historie and Dasein’s original, geschichtliches way of being. Heidegger does not mean of course that Historie is answerable to Geschichte in the way that propositions are answerable to facts. “Mere making present and remembering are fundamentally different,” he explains, later clarifying that to ‘make present’ is to ‘take up into the present,’ whereas ‘to remember’ is “placing oneself into that which has been and as belonging to it”.[vii] So unlike Husserl, who grounded recollective memory on intuitive perceptions, Heidegger’s Historie is grounded in Dasein’s ontological involvement with or (as he frequently puts it in this text) ‘belonging to’ the past. Nietzsche, by effectively writing Geschichte out of Historie, erases Dasein’s ontological foundation in the past. Whatever meaning the past has for Nietzsche is written back into it from the present, and whatever has no present use ought to be ‘forgotten.’[viii] There are parallels here (not coincidentally, given that these texts are composed in the same period) to the way that enframing in the mode of Gestell projects the being of beings as standing reserve for the will, so ‘making present’ in Nietzsche’s sense displays a similar enframing projection of the past.

There are more entries on life in this text than on any other topic. In Being and Time Heidegger implicitly associates Nietzsche’s thinking about history with Wilhelm Dilthey’s philosophy of life and defense of the originality of Geistwissenschaften, but especially following the rigorous analysis of life in FCM, Heidegger no longer thinks that life is an appropriate concept for understanding Dasein’s way of being and has concluded that Nietzsche’s thinking about life stands directly opposed to Dasein’s fundamental historicity. Many of the statements about life in this text repeat the analysis from a decade earlier. Animals are ‘captivated’ by their milieu (Umfeld) whereas Dasein understands its ‘environment’ (Umwelt). Animality, says Heidegger, is not grounded in any intrinsic property of organisms but by the ‘absorbtion’ and mutual determination of organism and environment. Although this should not be understood causally, animals are merely responsive to their environment whereas Dasein is in some sense free. Animals do not transcend their milieu and so are “bound to the moment”.[ix] By elevating life to the name of being as a whole, Nietzsche projects all of being through this totalizing presentism.

Heidegger’s claims about animality remain controversial and the focus of ongoing research.[x] Scholars will not find anything in this set of lectures to contradict or add nuance to claims about the ‘world-poor’ existence of animals. However, readers will acquire better insight into the kinds of considerations that motivated Heidegger to undertake those analyses in the first place and the context they occupy for him. Recent interest in Heidegger’s remarks about animality has been driven by growing contemporary attention to animal rights and a broader critique of anthropocentrism, but as this text makes clear, those are not part of the frame that Heidegger brings to these issues. Instead, this text shows that foremost in his mind is combatting–what Heidegger believed to be–the confusions and regressions of Lebensphilosophie, historicism, scientism, rationalism, and the technological projection of being. He is especially concerned to awaken an attunement to the existential potential of historically transcendent Dasein. Richard Polt, in a recent lecture at Emory University organized around the Black Notebooks, states that during this period Heidegger began to interpret the barbarism around him as a regression to a form of animality that formed the counterpart to the calculative rationality of enframing.[xi] This sentiment is consistent with what one finds in INM.

This text also covers ground familiar from Heidegger’s more famous writings on technology and earlier set of lectures on Nietzsche. Looking beneath the surface of Nietzsche’s frequent critique of consciousness, moral motivations, and objective truth, Heidegger claims to find an even purer expression of modern rationalism. As Heidegger would explain in the Question Concerning Technology (QCT), what defines technological rationalism is not consciousness per se but the projection of being as standing reserve for the encompassing presentism of the subjectum. Nietzsche’s ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ might undermine the epistemic self-certainty of consciousness but only to the effect of extinguishing any remaining resistance from beings themselves to ‘life’ and thus the erasure of being into nothing. Being itself is nothing but the projection of life. Thus “despite the enmity with Descartes,” Heidegger writes, Nietzsche “only replaces the cogito by a vivo and thereby raises the subjectum to the highest level of preeminence”.[xii] This story, as I’ve mentioned, will be familiar to readers of Heidegger’s other writings on Nietzsche and technology, but this text adds a specifically historical inflection to that critique.

That inflection sets the context for one of the more noteworthy sections of the text where we find Heidegger offering a sustained reflection on justice. The original connection–between life, truth, history, and justice–is not Heidegger’s but Nietzsche’s. In UM, Nietzsche describes, in his usual complex way, the drive for an austere objectivity in history as a kind of justice. Unlike other areas of science, we cannot remain indifferent to the results of history. (Feigned indifference, modeled on scientific dispassion or aesthetic indifference, always dissembles ulterior, self-aggrandizing motives, Nietzsche believes). I have no particular stake in the specific atomic weight of some element, but to discover that the revered founder of my country was a kleptocratic murderer, or that your friends have never really respected you, can be profoundly affecting. It requires a rare and special sort of fortitude, Nietzsche imagines, to look directly at historical truth nonetheless, calling that a kind of justice. Normally, Nietzsche assumes, we use the past for precedents and excuses, for scapegoats and reassurance, a tendency at both the individual and collective level. Those few who are not seduced by such drives possess what Nietzsche calls a “dreadful virtue” that confers the right to be a “regulating and punishing judge”.[xiii] But even this drive for justice must be wed to an artistic drive to create lest it undermine the very life it expresses. As Heidegger explains, Nietzsche’s notion of justice is not about what is or has been but about possibility, the ability to posit new goals and ideals.[xiv] Without such goals, this dreadful justice only destroys. Nietzsche points to the withering effects historical criticism had had on the spiritual power of religious figures like Jesus, and today we might point to contemporary histories that turn an unflinching eye toward the details of the oppressive and unjust legacies of our own past. When in service to a life-affirming ideal, the dreadful virtue of historical honesty can be creative, but most of us never achieve or even aspire to such historical virtue. Instead, we are motivated by “boredom, envy, vanity, the desire for amusement,” etc.[xv] Nietzsche mocks the careful historians of his day (and he could easily be talking about our own) for judging the deeds and opinions of the past by standards of the present and calling that ‘objectivity,’ work he derides as the attempt “to adapt the past to contemporary triviality”.[xvi]

In Being and Time Heidegger saw in this accusation of banal anachronism a connection to his own critique of publicness, but in these lectures he finds something else. The drive towards justice–even the austere, virtuous kind that Nietzsche admires (and would practice with his method of genealogy–belongs rather to life than truth. Nietzsche will persist using the word ‘truth’, but Heidegger argues that his failure to see past metaphysics nullifies his right to that term. Nietzsche’s claims to truth are a ruse: “The will to truth belongs to “life” and in this belonging it is precisely the will to untruth, to appearance.[xvii] Truth is really untruth, which is to say, no truth at all, only life.

For all of his criticisms of how philosophers talk about truth, the need for truth remains one of Heidegger’s deepest and most persistent commitments. It is a commitment Nietzsche cannot share because, Heidegger claims, Nietzsche continues to think of truth through the metaphysical opposition of being and becoming.

 “What Nietzsche here grasps as “will to truth”—always from the perspective of the human being—is it not simply the will to the “true,” that is, to what is “fixed,” and therefore precisely not will to truth as an essential will to the question-worthiness of the essence of the true?”[xviii]

For all of his ability to see through the pretensions and self-deceptions of philosophy, Nietzsche still cannot see how that which changes—that which has a history—can be true, and so he rejects truth—and with it, being—for the sake of something he calls life. (Heidegger includes several interesting asides cataloguing the inconsistent ambiguities in Nietzsche’s use of that term in connect with similar ambiguities in his uses of ‘justice’ and ‘truth.’)

Heidegger scholars will find this text frequently fascinating if also enigmatic and frustrating. As this review illustrates, it stays for the most part on the level of critique. But a positive understanding of being-historical is intimated between the lines of this critique, and begins with the aforementioned notion of historical truth. Understood within the framework of traditional epistemology the very idea is barely intelligible. How could truth change? Historical relativism or some sort of temporally-indexed contextualism are insufficient. Either way, truth itself is not ‘historical’ but relativized into fixed frame or constantly shifting perspective. This suggests that we should look elsewhere than traditional epistemology to get a sense of what truth as historical might mean. The first step is to recognize that truth is a guiding, constitutive feature of Dasein’s existence—lived out more than known, enacted rather than objectively grasped. As Haase and Sinclair note, this is a sense of being-historical already laid out in 1919/20 in Phenomenology of Religious Life. As I write, my country—the United States—confronts a deep crisis about the kind of country it has been, is, and will be. And familiar arguments over our history have once again become public (Are we an immigrant nation or an ethnic one? A liberal and progressive nation or reactionary and conservative?) It is a mistake to assume that the past is fixed, or that history unfolds a fixed essence. But it is equally wrong to assume that there is no ‘truth’ to the matter or that historical truth is confined to the present. The past not is a set of facts, but one ground for the possibility of meaning, a possibility that also includes the present and the future. The meaning, for instance, of the Constitutional Convention is not found only in the facts of what occurred in Philadelphia in 1787, but in the meaning that those facts continue to have today for those of us responsible to them, and that meaning in turn is not just found in the present facts of today but in who we become in the future. We right now are aware of all this right now and thus our present is this responsibility towards our future by way of our past. The truth is not something we create, nor something we find, but something for which we are responsible. It is—and this is my final observation—this notion of responsibility that Heidegger implies is missing from Nietzsche’s philosophy. For Nietzsche the past and the future are consumed by a drive for power into a totalizing present: “‘life’ is posited in advance as life-intensification, as the consuming desire for victory, spoils, and power, which in and of itself means: always more power”.[xix] Is this a hint at Heidegger’s so-called subtle ‘resistance’ to National Socialism in his Nietzsche lectures? If so, it is an important datum for intellectual historians trying to gauge Heidegger’s precise sympathies, but all the same, must strike us now as pathetic and insufficient.

[i] Haase, Ullrich and Sinclair, Mark. “History and the Meaning of Life: On Heidegger’s Interpretations of Nietzsche’s 2nd Untimely Meditation.” Heidegger in the Twenty-First Century. Springer: 2015.

[ii] See especially BT, Division II, Ch. 5.

[iii] INM, 24.

[iv] “The animal is not unhistorical, but much rather without history [historielos] – and these are not the same.” (INM, 24). See also: “The human being is in its very essence characterized and distinguished by the historical. At the same time, the unhistorical has a primacy within human life.” (INM, 18)

[v] “A living thing can be healthy, strong, and fruitful only when bounded by a horizon.” (UM, 63). Heidegger questions why Nietzsche seems to equate the ‘horizon limitation’ with ‘being able to forget.’ (INM, 115)

[vi] See UM.

[vii] INM, 33. And elsewhere: “representing–bringing before oneself–derives from a mere making present (free and unrestrained) which is not carried and goverened by remembering (the being concerned by what has been, being affected by it)” (INM, 92).

[viii] “…for Nietzsche, ‘history’–when he does not simply equate it with historiology–is what first of all comes into being by means of objectification on the part of historiology” (INM, 78).

[ix] INM, 16.

[x] See Calarco, Matthew. Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida. New York: Columbia UP, 2008; Derrida, Jacques, Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Geoffrey Bennington. The Beast & the Sovereign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011; Padui, Raoni. “From the Facticity of Dasein to the Facticity of Nature: Naturalism, Animality, and Metontology.” Gatherings. The Heidegger Circle Annual, 3 (2013): 50–75; Tanzer, Mark. “Heidegger on Animality and Anthropocentrism.” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 47.1 (2015): 18-32;

[xi] “Inception, Downfall, and the Broken World: Heidegger Above the Sea of Fog.” In Heidegger’s “Black Notebooks”: Responding to Anti-Semitism, ed. Andrew J. Mitchell and Peter Trawny. New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2017.

[xii] INM, 114.

[xiii] UM, 88.

[xiv] See INM, 144-5.

[xv] UM, 88.

[xvi] UM, 90.

[xvii] INM, 118.

[xviii] INM, 119.

[xix] INM, 178.

Raoul Moati: Levinas and the Night of Being

Levinas and the Night of Being: A Guide to Totality and Infinity Book Cover Levinas and the Night of Being: A Guide to Totality and Infinity
Raoul Moati, Translated by Daniel Wyche, Foreword by Jocelyn Benoist
Fordham University Press
Paperback $28.00

Reviewed by: Innocenzo Sergio Genovesi (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn)

From Deleuze to Derrida, from Badiou to Nancy and Marion, the concept of event (évènement) witnessed an important development in the last fifty years of French philosophy and it is present in the most influential authors’ thought. Today, this notion still plays a central role in several attempts to rethink ontology and phenomenology, such as Claude Romano’s evential hermeneutics (hermenéutique événementiale). Even if the ideas of these philosophers substantially differ from each other and cannot be simply grouped together, we can trace at least one common issue in the notion of possibility. Events – with capital E – are happenings inaugurating a new horizon of possibility. They can actualize unforeseeable potentialities or make the impossible possible. For this reason, Events are said to be extraordinary moments and it has been argued that they should be unpredictable (imprévisible) or even impossible (impossible) since they lie beyond the ordinary structure of possibilities in which normal ontological movements take place. It goes without saying that the foundation of the modal structure of Being in such Events attests several theoretical problems If such Events overstep the general structure of Being, how are they supposed to happen? And where should an Event take place and have a place if Being cannot harbor its excess?

Some years before the flourishing of French “event” philosophy, Emmanuel Levinas formulated the notion of nocturnal events (événements nocturnes) in the preface of his masterwork Totalité et Infini. Levinas’ purpose is not to develop a philosophy of events. Indeed, in the whole book the expression “nocturnal event” is no more used and the adjective “nocturnal” appears just a few more times. However, even this parsimonious use of the term is enough to give us an important suggestion. The ultimate events that allow the deployment of new possibilities and which our comprehension of the world is based on are maybe not to be thought as impossible (im-possible), neither as unpredictable (im-pré-visible). They could rather be just invisible (in-visible).

After his impressive book on Derrida and Searle, Raoul Moati keeps deepening his researches about contemporary French philosophy dedicating an entire essay to Levinas and his idea of nocturnal events. What these two works have in common is the great attention given to the concept of intentionality and its Husserlian origins in the phenomenological tradition. Levinas and the Night of Being offers a fine reconstruction of the path undertaken by Levinas in Totalité et Infini to trace the way from the sensible ego to the infinite Other. Moreover, Moati shows us to what extent Levinas takes distance from other phenomenologists such as Husserl, Heidegger and Sartre as well as what does he own to their ideas. This review will first address which are the ontological and phenomenological involvements of nocturnal events that Moati highlights in his book. We will then retrace the way to the infinite in the context of a nocturnal conception of Being. Finally, we will have an overview of this book and its English translation by Daniel Wyche.

The Night of Being.

What Levinas reproaches to ontology and phenomenology is not, as other philosophers would have it, to be a sort of metaphysics of presence. Moati shows that the main critique that Levinas addresses to ontology and phenomenology is to be in a certain sense a metaphysics of light: they are based on “structures of illumination” (65), such as intuition, intentionality or comprehension. Sight and touch tended to have absolute primacy in the philosophical tradition, where “to be” means thus to be visible and graspable (67). The immediate consequence of this “diurnal sense of being” (XVI), from which Totalité et Infini attempts to liberate ontology, is that there is no more room left for otherness and exteriority: being becomes a totalizing structure and the Other is reduced to the self. A drastic rethinking of ontology, as a nocturnal broadening, is therefore needed in order to establish a place for those events that cannot be understood as being part of Being as a totality. That is to say, the nocturnal events:

There must be an ontology that establishes a place for ultimate events of being. […] Such events will no longer draw their significance from a Hegelian totalization or even from phenomenological constitution (Husserl) or the comprehension of the sense of being (Heidegger). The horizon of their deployment consists in a relation to being that overflows the light of objective evidence and of which all of these cases constitute various avatars (11).

The representation of Being that Moati presents us with is thus not that of a light irradiating the sensible world anymore, nor would it be that of a unique and totalizing illuminated surface. There are actually more than one illuminated surfaces, and we are only able to perceive them because of the dark background that encloses and undergirds them. Being does not correspond to these bright spots, but rather to the infinite night surrounding them. This night can be lightened by our “structures of illumination” and this is what originates diurnal events. However, there will always be a dark part not being seen in which nocturnal events are taking place.

Nocturnal events are “the nocturnal dramas by which being exhaustively produces itself” and amount to “a more originary experience for consciousness than transcendental constitution” (15). Is it possible to find a concrete case of nocturnal events? Moati provides us several examples taken from Levinas’ philosophy to describe these “nocturnal dramas”, among them we find the erotic encounter, fecundity, sociality and messianic peace. All these are for Levinas elements that, on the one hand, ground our primordial openness toward the Other and his or her face and which, on the other hand, constitute the base of an ontology that renounces to contain Being within the unity and recognises rather its plurality, taking up the discontinuity of the same and the other (81).

Even though Levinas affirms the primacy of events that are more primordial than subjective comprehension and transcendental constitution, Moati decisively stresses that this gesture does not correspond to a denial of the fundamental role that subjectivity, sensibility and ego play on the path to infinity. Indeed, without the ego’s sensible rooting in Being, no experience of infinite otherness would be possible: “the metaphysical alterity of the Other requires the precondition of the position of the self, a here-below positioned in relation to an over-there” (30). We will now see how nocturnal events and the sensible ego lead us on the way to infinity.

The Terrestrial Condition.

While in the first and last chapters of Levinas and the Night of Being Moati outlines the idea of a nocturnal ontology and unfolds the ontological involvements of nocturnal events, in the central chapters he deploys Levinas theory of the sensible ego and follows the path to infinity he had already sketched in Totalité et Infini. The book structure self is in this way a good representation of the nocturnal conception of being, where nocturnal events are the dark frame of our illuminated terrestrial experience.

First of all, Moati recalls the Levinasian notions of jouissance and element (élément). As it is known, according to Levinas the pre-objective degree of sensation corresponds to what he calls il y a (there is), that is the undefined existence without the existent, the undifferentiated element in which the self is originally immersed, the starting point of any further experience: “the element is the content from which forms are carved out, but it is not, as such, itself delimited by anything” (52). The first break in the uniformity of the element coincides with the subject’s jouissance, representing “the concrete mark of separation” (41). Enjoyment is “the contact between sensibility and the formless quality of the element” (94). It corresponds to sensation and more precisely to the very moment when the instrumental schema of the sensible is rejected and the subject just perceives his or her distinction and independence from the elemental world. Before having the possibility to be part of an ethical encounter with the Other, the subject should first have an ontic consistency: “enjoyment thus reveals the fundamental priority of the ontic for ontology” (47). This idea of a detachment and a constitution of the subject from and through the element questions the phenomenological distinction between constituent and constituted. Indeed, if on the one hand the ego shapes objectivity starting from the undifferentiated element, it is itself in turn delimited by the element:

Enjoyment reveals the impossibility of reducing the constituted to the position of the intentional correlate of the constitutive acts of transcendental consciousness. Every constituted object reveals itself through enjoyment just as much as it occupies the position of the constituent, which is to say the sensible nourishment of the self (55).

Once subjectivity consolidated, the self is ready for the encounter with the Other. This encounter begins in two other well known topoi of the Levinasian production: the dwelling (demeure), that is “the starting-place of any finalized human activity” (91), and the labor (travail), that consists “in the transformation of elemental nature into a world of identifiable things” (94). In order to encounter the Other, that is to manifest himself or herself to the Other, the subject should first have some possession to share with the Other, something to communicate to him or her. Here lies the fundamental importance of labor. It allows us to substantialize the element and fix it between the dwelling’s walls. Through labor we make the world and its objects identifiable and we start having possessions. At this point, Moati highlights and develops another great Levinasian intuition that, as the idea of a nocturnal ontology does, anticipates and responds to several difficult theoretical issues emerging in later event philosophy, especially the ones related to the possibility of the given and to its ontological status. Labor and possession – says Moati – turn the category of being into the category of having and they do that through a neutralization of being:

The thing is also, therefore, nothing more than the element, because it coincides with an element whose ontological independence has been neutralized and, in other words, whose being has been anesthetized. Put differently, through labor and the possession that results from it, the being (l’être) of the element becomes the having (l’avoir) of the self. […] The element becomes something only through the suspension of its being. Here, the ontological frontiers of the element no longer exceed those of the self, which is to say that we are now dealing with being insofar as it is possessed by someone (the self) (95).

Furthermore, in the event of the encounter our possessions become gift for the Other (136), and this gift is the content of the fundamental relation of teaching, that is the constitutive relation that marks the Other as such. As someone being my master not because of his or her deeper knowledges, but because of his or her radical otherness (126). Our shared world, that is the object of our ontology, does not follow the logic of being anymore, but that of having and giving. We are here facing a movement from être to il y a, from sein to es gibt.

Nocturnal Events.

Our possessions, shared in the social contest, exceed thus the ontology of light and become constitutive of the nocturnal event of sociality, a feature that marks us as humans. As the last step of the reconstruction, Moati finally points out how such nocturnal events, way far from being transcendent moments indirectly concerning the terrestrial condition, are not to be thought separately from our sensible way of being and how it grounds all other diurnal activities. We will now cite two cases Moati presents us with: sociality and fecundity.

Sociality is the base of our relationship with the Other. Because ofit we always already possess the idea of the infinite (107), which otherwise would be paradoxical and unreachable, for it would be reducible to totality of the self. Through sociality, ultimate event of Being, it is possible to articulate a relationship between the two terms (me and the Other) and at the same time maintain their separation (112). It is remarkable that sociality is an event of Being itself, constitutively belonging to its nocturnal structure. Because of sociality, Being is not a totalized monolithic Eleatic Being but is rather open and plurivocal. Moreover, in reason of this fundamental sociality, subjects can live their ethical relationship with the others expressing themselves through their discourse and interlocutory presence. Discours and teaching are the way in which the Other reveals to us his or her transcendence and allows us to have a relation with the infinite without reducing it to ourselves. Moati stresses one more time that this kind of expression is not to be understood in the context of a structure of illumination: “The one who expresses himself or herself does not draw his or her intelligibility from the light ‘borrowed’ from intentionality and unveiling, from which the same emerges” (115).

If sociality allows a relation without totalising elements of a plurivocal being, fecundity makes possible the production and realization of the infinite becoming of being. Moreover, it also represents a valuable alternative to the Heideggerian Geworfenheit to describe our terrestrial condition and our rooting in the concrete temporal situation. Moati recalls the famous example of the father/son relationship and gives us an account of its ontological meaning:

For the self, to be is also, through fecundity, to be other. The father is his son, in the precise sense in which the father transcends the horizon of his own selfhood in the son. The selfhood of the son, in the form from which the self of the father emerges, no longer coincides with the selfhood of the departure, that of the father. In fecundity, the self is discontinuous, fragmented. This discontinuity is an ultimate event of being itself, insofar as it is social, which is to say, transcendent and plural (172).

Levinas and Phenomenology.

As we mentioned before, together with a detailed development of the concept of nocturnal events and a reconstruction of the sensible ego’s relation with the infinite, Moati provides us with illuminating comparisons between Levinas and other prominent phenomenologists throughout this book . These comparisons aim at explaining to what extent he kept following the Husserlian and Heideggerian ideas and what kind of disagreements he had with his contemporaries.

It goes without saying that the greatest dissent with Husserl concerns the ideas of transcendental ego and intentionality. We already saw how Levinas gives up the primacy of intentionality as a mean of objective representation since it is reduced to a structure of illumination, and how the distinction between constituent and constituted is questioned. Besides it, Moati also stresses the fact that Levinas cannot accept Husserl’s notion of transcendental ego for at least two reasons. First of all, the ego is always already sensible and we cannot think of an ego beyond its sensible situation. Second, Levinas reproaches the subjective non determination of the concept of transcendental ego. Indeed, its generality “hinders the possibility of establishing a relation that departs from the concrete immanence, from which only the other may speak — which is to say, deploy its ethical infiniteness” (182). All these remarks could be summed up in the general critic that Husserlian phenomenology brings about a totalization of the other and reduces it to the self.

Concerning Heidegger, Moati highlights that in the eyes of Levinas his historical and temporal conception of Dasein and thrownness (Geworfenheit) surely represent a step forward compared to the Husserlian suprahistorical model of consciousness. However, it would be a mistake to describe the sensible installation of our sensible ego within the element in terms of thrownness. More specifically, the concept of thrownness is linked to a conception of our existence based on the notion of power, that Levinas instead wants to quit: thrownness reveals our limits only in regard to the power that we have over our being. On the contrary, for Levinas our primordial situation is a position that locates consciousness beyond any positive or negative reference to power (78) and corresponds to the nocturnal event of fecundity. While thrownness puts us in the tragic condition of being powerless faced with our historical sensible determination and subject to the given horizon of possibility that is opened up to us with our birth, fecundity frees our terrestrial condition from this tragic connotation. Indeed, fecundity is here situated in the context of an ontology that renounces every claim of totalization and, therefore, renounces the primary role of power in representing our relationship with the Other: “the primacy of sensible happiness over any condition of misfortune becomes intelligible only once the nocturnal event of fecundity is elucidated, which in turn opens up the sensible depth of our being-in-the-world. It is thus fecundity that exhausts the reference to power and allows us to grasp the depth of our foundation in being” (83).

Another important disagreement drawn by Moati concerns Sartre. It is true that for both Levinas and Sartre the Other cannot be the object of a phenomenological reduction because of his or her transcendence and the encounter with the other takes the form of a dispossession of the world. But in this disagreement, Sartre understands this dispossession as a kind of alienation from the world, while for Levinas it actually corresponds to the “real becoming an objective world” (135). Indeed, Levinas sees a world that is only possessed and not shared, a silent world without discourse, as a contradictory world that remains subjective and relative. Since sociality grounds our being in the world, sharing our possessions with the other becomes the realization of our humanity and does not imply for us any kind of loss. The world is always a common world.

The last comparison that Moati presents us with is the one with Derrida and focuses especially on Derrida’s essay Violence et métaphysique. First of all, Moati points out a misunderstanding concerning the concept of “transcendental violence” in Derrida’s reading of Totalité et Infini. This misunderstanding is caused by the different grasping of the concept of intentionality and egoity that the two authors have: while Derrida thinks about the ego in the ethical relation as a transcendental ego (even if, as we all know, he strongly criticizes the Husserlian idea of transcendental), Levinas is instead talking about a sensible ego. The critique Derrida addresses to Levinas on “transcendental violence” thus misses its addressee, since Levinas refuses to problematize the subject’s relation with the other in transcendental terms (181). Moreover, the most stimulating remark that is formulated by Moati in this comparison is for sure the one concerning their two different conceptions of eschatology, for this thematic directly relates to event philosophy. Roughly, the greatest difference between the two authors lies in the fact that Derrida thinks the infinite in eschatology as a negativity, an endless process of spacing produced by the infinite waiting for an Other that never comes. In other words, as an infinite différance. For Derrida history designates “the ever-unachieved work of transcendental constitution” and is to be understood as “opening up to a nonpresence at the heart of phenomenality” (186). On the other hand, eschatology “lies in history as the movement of overflowing the closure of finite sameness” (187). Quite the opposite, Levinas sees eschatology as a relation to positive infinity. The Other manifests his or her infinite transcendence to us in a positive way, without a negative withdrawing. For Levinas eschatology is not contained within history but rather suspends it, “not only in that the transcendent passage from finite totality to the positivity of the infinite happens through it, but also in that eschatology suspends any recourse to our constituent powers to deduce the event of the revelation of the infinite” (187).

I would like to underline this final remark. In his late works, starting with Psyché. Inventions de l’autre, Derrida explicitly mentions the event of the coming of the Other as a fundamental – even quasi-transcendental – element of our experience and the human condition. Nevertheless, for Derrida the Other never comes and should never come in order to keep open the empty space needed to welcome him or her. This is why the event is impossible for Derrida; its conditions of possibility are its condition of impossibility. Levinas’ nocturnal events, and above all the event of sociality allowing our relationship with the infinite transcendence of the Other, free us from the paradox of an impossible foundation of our experience and knowledge. Indeed, both in Derrida and Levinas, our theoretical openness is based on the previous ethical striving for the Other. But while the Levinasian ethics finds its foundation in the nocturnal event of sociality, Derrida always misses the fundamental encounter with the Other.

In the night of Being, the Derridean spectre of the impossible could be chased by invisible ghostbusters: the nocturnal events.


Levinas and the Night of Being is an outstanding work of research in which Raoul Moati fully develops the ontological and phenomenological consequences of the notion of “nocturnal event” – on which very few was previously written – and properly contextualizes Levinas production in the phenomenological frame. Moati’s reading of Levinas thus provides us with new conceptual instruments to understand the key concept of ethics and otherness, theoretical core of Totalité et Infini. Inlight of his knowledge of phenomenology and French philosophy, Moati manages to explain with a remarkable clarity what is Levinas’ relation toward Husserlian phenomenology and how it is developed in contemporary philosophy, while also presenting critical readings of his work, such as the Derridean argument. Even though the chapters dedicated to the reconstruction of the sensible ego’s relation to infinity give us a general glimpse of Levinasian main concepts, I would not suggest reading this book to first approach Levinas’ philosophy because of its complex critique of ontology and phenomenology. I would rather warmly suggest this reading to anyone who is already familiar with Levinasian ideas in general and with Totalité et Infini in particular. Indeed, Moati’s book not only helps us understanding his work by giving us a rigorous phenomenological context but it also prevents us from misreading Levinas as an anti-metaphysical or anti-ontological author. On the contrary, Moati shows us that an ontology is definitively possible insofar as we accept to also consider its nocturnal component.

Last but not least, I would like to spend a few words about Daniel Wyche’s translation as conclusion. Translating such a book is for sure not an easy task. Beyond the difficulties caused by philosophical jargon and complex argumentative structures there are several expressions in French, untranslatable in English, that should be rendered with neologism or directly rewritten in French. The most complex paragraphs may therefore prove more difficult to understand in the English version. It is maybe for this reason that the author chose to completely rewrite several passages exclusively for the English version. Overall, Wyche’s realized an elegant translation and managed to render in English concepts that are so idiosyncratically French. However, I would suggest to francophone readers to check also the original version, at least the least clear passages.

Peter Sloterdijk: Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger

Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger Book Cover Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger
Peter Sloterdijk. Translated by Ian Alexander Moore, Christopher Turner
Paperback $26.95

Reviewed by: Anthony Crisafi (Philosophy Department, University of Central Florida)

Peter Sloterdijk is currently one of Germany’s most important and most controversial philosophers, and his work has been emerging in English translations more and more over the past ten years. Polity Press has published quite a bit of Sloterdijk’s work, and its publication of Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger is a much-needed addition for Sloterdijk’s English audience. In this book of essays, lectures, and excerpts, Peter Sloterdijk presents the reader with a collection of thoughts which all swirl around two main concepts: 1. That Heidegger is a fallen soul whose inability to venture from the provincial into the cosmopolitan led him to retreat from the human world; and 2. That only through what Sloterdijk terms the anthropotechnic – the mobilization of the human being – can modern humans find their way in the world and to create of it what they will. In his fashion, through extended dialogues with both the reader and with a wide range of thinkers, as well as a developed depth and breadth of intellectual knowledge – with a literary style that is dense and compelling – Sloterdijk laments the fallen Heidegger, acknowledging and admonishing Heidegger’s embrace of cynical evil, while offering a positive vision of human power based on conscious activity and intelligent creation.

Concerning the first point, the substance of Sloterdijk’s critique of Heidegger is that Heidegger, in eschewing the cosmopolitan city for the village, never fully understood how humanity expands. Instead, Heidegger sought to impede modern growth by insisting on a philosophy of anti-expansion, one in which, according to Sloterdijk in the later works of Heidegger, becomes a parochial return to the Catholic-Augustinian acceptance of the human as a deeply flawed being incapable of overcoming this fall except through some metaphysical/spiritual intercession. Heidegger sought to ground the person in Ursprunglichkeit (origin), but for Sloterdijk this was a false consciousness: The human is anthropotechnic by nature, one whose growth is dependent on creating and recreating itself and its world through constant kinetic movement forward. In this instance, for Sloterdijk, the “The People” is a fiction, as this assumes, like Heidegger, that there is an essential essence which is what connects people together. But if we reject this Heideggerian Ursprunglichkeit for a more mobile ontology, we see that what connects people together is not essential ideology, but rather necessary technics of desire. Here, Peter Sloterdijk writes the following:

We will be dealing with a bit of mythology in which the screenplay for the history of this world begins with its prelude in the beyond. The Augustinian Satan, who represents something like an allegory of negation on a level below the principal, does not resort — this much is certain—to any external motive for his revolt against the origin. He finds everything that is necessary for sedition in himself — to put it more precisely, in his capacity for freedom, his most important endowment. By virtue of this, he can, parodying divine creation ex nihilo, generate his ‘no’ from the abyss of an unmotivated act of the will. Thus one may not ask why and from where he has acquired his evil will. He wills as he will and nothing more. (63)

It is the Augustinian-Satanic human, flawed and always doomed to failure and falling by engaging in degrading and dehumanizing behavior, of itself and of others for which contemporary humans have embodied in the new era. But Sloterdijk both laments and admonishes Heidegger for his own evil. Because Heidegger was afraid to move forward, he therefore had to justify his own failures within this Augustinian-Satanic paradigm, which also allows Heidegger to posit that there are classes of human beings: God and human, rulers and ruled, and breeders and bred.

However, the antithesis to Heidegger’s cynicism is through anthropotechnics and mobilization. Mobilization is a theme throughout Sloterdijk’s main work, and it is also found within the sections of this book as well. This lack of mobilization is what makes Heidegger’s fall to the Augustinian-Satanic figure so much more difficult for Sloterdijk. In the first essay in the book, titled “The Plunge and the Turn: Speech on Heidegger’s Thinking in Motion,” Sloterdijk writes, “With this fanciful sketch, ladies and gentlemen, with this almost ridiculous curriculum of the philosopher educated to the end, I have outlined what Heidegger, The Freiburg professor of philosophy and educator/inspirer of a generation of young thinkers and scholars, never did nor even attempted” (27). It may appear as a strong interpretation of Sloterdijk here, but Heidegger was evil because he was a coward, and Sloterdijk sees this in Heidegers’s own retracting from cosmopolitan human engagement. Sloterdijk lays bare the stark contradiction in Heidegger as he writes, as he lays bare this critique of Heidegger. But Sloterdijk goes further to demonstrate that Heidegger’s retreat into Augustinian solipsism is actually a perversion of Augustine’s own emphasis on movement through mediation. Heidegger selfishly adheres to the retraction part, which is where, according to Sloterdjk, Heidegger’s fear of expansion leads him to fall into the ignorance of the Augustinian-Satanic figure. This misappropriation of Augustine can also be found in Heidegger’s own awestruck admiration for Nietzsche. Heidegger’s affinity for Nietzsche rests within a narrow focus on power in Nietzsche, where Heidegger then mistakes power for the pastoral in Nietzsche. He refers to Heideger’s myth of “path of thought” (41) grounded in the “heroic apprehension of the self” in pseudo-Nietzschean terms, while Sloterdijk then remarks that this is because Heidegger retreats into a philosophy which pleads for salvation while still at the same time cowardly hides behind the fear of mobilization.

Therefore, according to Sloterdijk, Heidegger turned away from thinking and retreated towards a mythic metaphysics, as, according to Heidegger, the human cannot find a path to thought without help. Here we can feel Sloterdijk wrestling with an apologetics for Heidegger as Sloterdijk sees Heidegger as a fallen figure to be pitied. The true power of the human, according to Sloterdijk, is the mobilization towards outward expansion, which itself is a movement towards atmospheric and ecospheric migration, leaving behind the Augustinian for the propulsion into the macrosphere. But Heidegger himself never experienced this, and as such he sought to keep others from experiencing it as well through the appeal to philosophical certainty. Therefore, according to Sloterdijk here in Not Saved, philosophy is the attempt to plot a course, which is what Heidegger got right. But there is not one course, and Sloterdijk reads Heidegger as falling into a trap, in which for Heidegger contemplation is the tension and the kinetics of discovery, not truth. Once the philosopher abandons the search for truth, he becomes the lost soul, never finding the real and substituting that for chasing redemption in exile.

This theme runs throughout the book, in which Heidegger as the Augustinian-Satanic character is prevalent. In the essay “Luhmann, Devil’s Advocate,” Sloterdijk writes that the essentialist nature of Heidegger is exposed through Lumann’s own critique of the Augustinian, in which Luhmann demonstrates he is not afraid of the underlying systems of human ontology. This can also be seen in the essay “The Domestication of Being,” where Sloterdijk contrasts Luhmann to Heidegger by writing “The discourse on the human being in historical anthropology proceeds from the fact that the expression ‘human being’ does not designate any object concerning which one could formulate direct (edifying or lamenting) statements, but rather only presents a conceptual container that, to speak with Luhmann, holds ‘vast complexities’” (98). Here we see Luhmann embracing the macrospheric expanse, where Heidegger seeks to retreat away from this complexity into a mythology of a cynical rejection of human complexity. Here again, Sloterdijk points out that this expansionist thinking was present in Plato and Aristotle as the demiurgic and creative power of the human being.

However, the essay that encapsulates this dichotomy between the fallen Heidegger and the anthropotechnic antithesis is “Rules for the Human Park,” for which Sloterdijk started a controversial war of words between he and Habermas. Habermas raised the criticism that Sloterdijk was relying on the eugenic language of the Nazis, while Sloterdijk would go on to accuse Habermas of fascistically trying to smother Sloterdijk’s main point in the essay: That humanism is based on sophisticated dialogues between others and for which creates the topological space for human identity and human being. In this essay, Sloterdijk returns to the themes he has already raised in Not Saved by focusing on the categorical mistake Heidegger makes in dividing the world into God and human, rulers and ruled, and breeders and bred. Here, Sloterdijk insists that it is through true humanism – the study of the minds of the past and present – that will move the human from being a part of a breeding stock and towards a holistic being.

In “Rules” Sloterdijk writes:

The phenomenon of humanism deserves attention today above all because it recalls—in however veiled and timid a manner—the fact that human beings in high culture are continually engaged by two formative powers at the same time—we would like here, for the sake of simplicity, to designate them simply as inhibiting and disinhibiting influences. The conviction that human beings are ‘impressionable animals’ and that it is hence necessary to get them to come under the right kind of influences belongs to the credo of humanism. The label ‘humanism’ recalls—with false harmlessness—the constant battle for the human being, which is carried out as the struggle between bestializing and taming tendencies. (196)

Here Sloterdijk argues that human beings are “impressionable animals,” alluding to Aristotle’s comments concerning humans as politikon zoon while also harkening back to Plato’s theory of how proper education helps to create the good citizen and the just state. With a specific emphasis on Plato’s regard for rules regarding human political and social conduct, Sloterdijk then argues that human beings are not firstly interested in education, but rather, human beings are like animals who want to engage in the conditions which may breed successful human beings within a political-social topology. As Sloterdijk writes “In his dialogue Politikos—often translated as The Statesman—Plato put forward the Magna Carta of a European pastoral politology . . . Its incommensurable position in the history of thinking about the human being above all consists in the fact that it is conducted as though breeders were having a conversation about work” (207). Therefore, in Plato’s dialogue, Sloterdijk sees the beginning of Heidegger’s turmoil: From its very inception, philosophy has been about creating rules for human consumption. According to Sloterdijk, “Thus this Stranger and his counterpart, the Younger Socrates, devote themselves to the tricky endeavor of placing the politics of the future or the herdsmanship of the city under transparently rational rules” (207). On the surface, one may be tempted to take Habermas’ rejection of Sloterdijk here as true, but that would be facile at best. Sloterdijk is not advocating eugenics or any kind of political-social breeding program; instead, Sloterdijk wants to reorient the anthropology of the breeding human towards a positive and forward thinking humanism.

To do this, Sloterdijk begins the essay by defining humanism as “What from Cicero’s time onward has been called humanitas belongs, in the narrowest and broadest senses, to the consequences of literacy . . . It has allowed its writing to continue like a chain letter across generations” (193). From this point, Sloterdijk moves into a sustained critique of Heidegger, specifically Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism.” Sloterdijk begins by acknowledging the vast gratitude he has for Heidegger in general, but from there begins to criticize Heidegger for allowing the humanism of philosophical discourse degenerate into attacks against humanity in general. Sloterdijk writes:

A part of Heidegger ’s strategy thereby becomes manifest: the word ‘humanism’ must be given up if the actual task of thought, which in the humanist or metaphysical tradition wanted to appear as though it had already been accomplished, is to be experienced once more in its initial simplicity and inevitability. To put it sharply: why again tout the human being and his prevailing philosophical self-depiction in humanism as the solution when it has just been shown in the catastrophe of the present that it is the human being himself, along with his systems of metaphysical self-elevation and self-explanation, that is the problem? (198)

Here Sloterdijk once more takes Heidegger to task for not directly engaging in humanity, or rather from disengaging from humanity. The critique here is based on Heidegger’s Post-War status as a former Nazi in exile, rather than the esteemed philosopher Heidegger used to be. We must now realize that Sloterdijk is wrestling with both Heidegger the philosopher and Heidegger the historical figure, and for Sloterdijk both of these positions come together in Heidegger’s work in general. Because Heidegger always saw philosophy as a provincially elitist activity, Sloterdijk now contends that Heidegger never fully understood the true quality of human activity: To create humanism. Humanism, even in the face of Sloterdijk’s own arguments concerning breeding in this essay, is the rule for human activity.

In order to affect this new concept of humanism, Sloterdijk must also focus on the concept of anthropotechnics and its mobilization as the power of humanism. Therefore, the other philosophical archetype in this essay for Sloterdijk is Nietzsche, for whom Sloterdijk views as the antithesis for the cynical Heidegger. Sloterdijk asserts that it is through Nietzsche that Heidegger’s rejection of Plato’s concept of education is now understood as a human breeding system which arranges the material world by strict rules of hierarchy of powers, both material and phemonenological. Sloterdijk’s use of Nietzsche in this essay leads him to advance a radical critique rooted in a position posited strictly against the inhuman form of late modernism itself. For example, Sloterdijk writes that “The era of modern humanism as the model for schooling and formative education is over with, because the illusion can no longer be maintained that large political and economic structures could be organized on the amiable model of the literary society” (195). Modern society – which for Sloterdijk is the contemporary world of late and hyper capital – is awash in Heidegger’s cynicism: Instead of embracing humanism and the good, the modern age has followed Heidegger down the rabbit hole and into a world where there is no human good to truly discuss. Because Heidegger sees his own failure as a failure of ideas, so to then the modern world must be bereft of ideas for Heidegger to hide his own cynical, evil Nazi persona. Again, according to Sloterdijk’s critique of Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism,” Heidegger hides his shame behind the Augustinian-Satanic figure by shifting the blame onto an abstract concept of evil rooted in anti-humanism.

From this point in the essay, Sloterdijk begins to unpack Nietzsche for the reader. For Nietzsche:

In contrast, Nietzsche—who read Darwin and St. Paul with equal attention—thinks that he perceives a second, darker horizon behind the bright horizon of the formation of the human being in schools. He perceives a space in which inevitable battles over directions of human breeding will begin—and it is this space in which the other, veiled aspect of the clearing is revealed . . . He [Nietzsche] wants to call the proprietors of the monopoly on taming up to this point—the priests and teachers who present themselves as friends of the human being—by their name and to designate their secret function; he wants to launch a world-historically new kind of contest between different breeders and different kinds of breeding programs. (204)

Sloterdijk’s understanding of Nietzsche here is a complex articulation of both the fundamental problem within political philosophy – philosophy as regulator of human activity – and what Sloterdijk sees as Nietzsche’s strength: The human as anthropotechnic and mobile. Sloterdijk demonstrates that Heidegger’s cynical rejection of humanism has wrestled humanity away from its own consciousness by technologizing human labor and regulating human congregation, specifically through modern capital’s control over media and the phantasy worlds they create. By reproducing text itself not as a phenomenon of human cognitive self-positioning but as a measurable quantity of human worth and dignity, reproducible within technological apparatuses, human being can be controlled through the architecture of modern capital itself. Plato and Heidegger posit that rules must come from specialized types of ruler, referred to as breeders, for which Sloterdijk questions whether or not the breeders become a different species altogether, as Heidegger also differentiates between human and animal species, effectively rendering any discussion of consciousness from the later.

The result in the essay “Rules for the Human Park” is that Sloterdijk comes back to the concept of humanism as not a set of rules but the means to create human spaces. Sloterdijk writes:

It is the signature of the technological and anthropotechnological era that human beings become increasingly involved in the active or subjective side of selection, without having to be voluntarily thrust into the role of the selector. Additionally, one may observe that there is an unease in the power of choice; soon it will become an instance of opting for innocence when human beings explicitly refuse to exercise the power of selection that they have in fact managed to achieve. But as soon as powers of knowledge are positively developed in a field, human beings cut a poor figure if they—as in earlier times of incapacity—wish to allow a higher force, whether it be God or chance or something else, to act in their stead. Since mere refusals and dismissals generally fail in their sterility, in the future it will arguably be necessary to actively enter the game and formulate a code of anthropotechnics. Such a code would even retroactively transform the significance of classical humanism—since it would disclose and put in writing the fact that humanitas not only involves the friendship of human being with human being; it always implies as well—and with growing explicitness—that the human being represents the higher force for the human being. (206)

Sloterdijk’s reading here of psycho-socio culture is as an aggressive purveyor and user of cynicism against philosophy as humanism and humanity as biological. In this case, the human is not a self-creating being with anthropotechnic power, but rather is a product of a radical barrier which cuts off from the self its desire to create, maintain, and sustain its own ontology. Humanism is recognized here by Sloterdijk as the extended dialogue with past minds and as the concretization of the ideal through this mobilized poesis. Therefore, the antithesis for Heidegger’s cynicism is for human beings to return to true humanism and become the very spirit for which has to overcome its current bioorganic-technological existence. Instead of creating categorically false differences between classes of breeders and those who are bred, mobilization becomes the activity for consciousness to embody and extend itself into the material through a synthesis of anthropotechnic root structures.

The selections of the essays, lectures, and excerpts from Sloterdijk’s works here in Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger provides the reader with a sustained critique of Heidegger while also clearing a path towards unity between human and world. The uncovering of Heidegger as a fallen figure allows Sloterdijk to posit a philosophy of mobility and movement forward, and the analysis of the anthropotechnic – the self-creating mobile human being – becomes the action and the activity for which we as modern humans find mobility. The translation of these pieces by Ian Alexander Moore and Christopher Turner is sensitive to Sloterdijk’s style while at the same time offering English readers the ability to savor Sloterdijk’s literary approach to philosophy. The book itself is not a primer for Sloterdijk, as it presents essays, lectures, and selections as pieces of an extended argument, as well as the nature of Sloterdijk’s dense prose, which is never stultifying but rather engaging and erudite. However, the translators are keenly aware of this as well, and as a general introduction to Sloterdijk’s methodology and concepts, this book is essential for anyone interested in one of the contemporary world’s most prescient, prolific, and prominent philosophers.


Víctor Velarde-Mayol: Ser y objeto: Estudios sobre la teoría del objeto en Meinong, Editorial Síntesis, 2016

Ser y objeto: Estudios sobre la teoría del objeto en Meinong Book Cover Ser y objeto: Estudios sobre la teoría del objeto en Meinong
Víctor Velarde-Mayol
Editorial Síntesis
Paperback 23.00 €

Giuseppina D’Oro, Søren Overgaard (Eds.): The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology, Cambridge University Press, 2017

The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology Book Cover The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology
Cambridge Companions to Philosophy
Giuseppina D'Oro, Søren Overgaard (Eds.)
Cambridge University Press
Paperback £ 23.99

Dan Arbib: Descartes, la métaphysique et l’infini, Puf, 2017

Descartes, la métaphysique et l'infini Book Cover Descartes, la métaphysique et l'infini
Dan Arbib
Presses Universitaires de France
Broché 32,00 €