Andrew Haas: Unity and Aspect

Unity and Aspect Couverture du livre Unity and Aspect
Orbis Phaenomenologicus Studien, Band 46
Andrew Haas
Königshausen & Neumann
2018
Hardback 68,00 €
384

Reviewed by: Mark Tanzer (University of Colorado at Denver)

Unity and Aspect has been short-listed as a finalist for the 2019 Prix Mercier.

Andrew Haas’ Unity and Aspect is a work in an area philosophy that is rarely addressed any longer; in Haas’ words, “something that might have previously been named first philosophy or metaphysics, or at least just philosophy, if there is such a thing” (16).  With this characterization, which concludes the initial paragraph of the book, Haas sets the tone for his own foray into metaphysics.

To begin to get a foothold in Haas’ thinking, we note that he conceives of metaphysics as “the study of implications” (18), but not just any implications.  The specific relations of implication on which Haas focuses are those between being, unity, time, and aspect.  Haas sees the consideration of these relations as essential to metaphysics insofar as the traditional prioritization of being qua being compels the metaphysician to take up the problem of unity, since “being and unity imply one another” (16).  First philosophy as ontology, then, is more properly “onto-henology” (16).  Furthermore, being and unity imply time, which itself implies aspect; and so metaphysics, ultimately, is “onto-heno-chrono-phenomenology, or just metaphysics for short” (17).  Haas’ metaphysics, then, is anchored in these four notions; Unity and Aspect traces the ways in which their relations of mutual implication play out.

Haas’ project is further complicated, when he notes that implication itself requires examination.  For the notion of the implicated that he adopts is not simply the traditional negative counter-concept to the explicit, the precise, the clear and distinct.  Instead of conceiving of the implicated as that which, in fact, has not been brought to its possible explication, Haas sees it as a type of implication that can never, even in principle, be made explicit, a type of being-implied that “repeatedly problematizes our desire to make what we mean explicit” (36).  Herein lies the fundamental challenge of Haas’ book: to articulate a metaphysics of implication, despite its intrinsic resistance to explication.  Thus, Haas avers that “we probably should not be surprised to find it difficult to give an account of our work” (76).  For as he notes when he takes up the theme of explication, it is “the language of the explicit that serves as the norm” (307) in traditional Western thought.  That is, our thinking has been, and continues to be, grounded in “a language that presupposes the possibility or necessity of presence” (308), i.e., in an ontology for which to be is to be present or at least presentifiable.  This traditional ontology limits thought since it cannot accommodate a lack of presence that is not equivalent to mere absence, to mere non-being, and so “would seem unable to unfold that which is merely implied” (309), unable to give an account of that which lies outside the scope of presence and absence.

In view of the intrinsic difficulty of articulating a metaphysics of implication, Haas invokes several examples of familiar phenomena whose analyses at least facilitate an understanding of implication, as these phenomena exhibit structural similarities with that which is implied.  For instance, Haas compares implications with memories, noting that just as an implication is neither present nor not present, so a memory is “neither the thing itself…nor is it simply not the thing at all” (67).  Neither a purely positive phenomenon, nor the simple negation thereof, a memory, like an implication, is some kind of “third thing” (67).  Haas draws similar comparisons between implications and apparitions (67), hints (122), marks (139), light (168), visual objects (198), and other phenomena.  The upshot of these comparisons is that implications, being neither present nor absent, indicate a position outside of presence and absence, or “the suspension of both” (142) presence and absence.  And Haas maintains that it is its suspension of this traditional opposition that renders implication characteristically “problematic” (75), characteristically inexplicable.  A metaphysics of implication, then, articulates that which can only be addressed in suspension, that which is intrinsically a problem.

From this outline of the basic framework of Unity and Aspect, the influence of Heidegger is patent, particularly with regard to the clear kinship between Haas’ rejection of a metaphysics of presence and Heidegger’s critique of the ontology of the present-at-hand.  Haas hints at this connection, when he holds that “[t]he problem of Being and Time is the problem of the problem” (359).  For this can also be said of Unity and Aspect.  A metaphysics of implication, addressing that which is intrinsically problematic, that which continually frustrates our need for resolution, for relief from suspension, is a metaphysics of what it is to be problematic, a metaphysics of the problem as such.  In this sense, Haas’ endeavor bears a clear similarity with Being and Time’s project of articulating a conception of being that resists traditional philosophy’s attempts to render being explicit, to bring it to presence.  Thus, Heideggerian being can only be thought as a problem, or more precisely, as what it is to be a problem, what it is to preclude a final resolution: in Haas’ formulation, “the problem of the problem.”

Although Unity and Aspect is too rich and wide-ranging to be read solely through a narrow Heideggerian lens, this seems to be a valuable way to approach the book, as a first reading.  (Even the title suggests this approach, as unity and aspect are the most direct implications of being and time, respectively, which can be taken as implying that Unity and Aspect is the implication of Being and Time.  For Haas, I suspect, what exactly that means depends on what is meant by implication, and so requires a metaphysics of implication.)  Through this approach, we gain a point of orientation in the complex and difficult course of argumentation that constitutes Haas’ work. And though a good deal of late 20th Century and early 21st Century philosophy can be seen as developments of Heideggerian thought, Haas’ book is unique.  To see the originality of Unity and Aspect, we first note the writing style that Haas adopts.

In consonance with its subject-matter, Haas’ writing reflects the enigmatic, indeterminable character of implication itself.  Rather than asserting determinate claims, he makes suggestions, saying that something “might be” the case, that something else “would perhaps” follow, or “would probably” obtain.  Haas sustains this suggestive, elusive mode of discourse throughout the entirety of Unity and Aspect, never making any fully definitive assertions, nor allowing any train of exposition to arrive at a determinate, unequivocal conclusion.  This unyielding open-endedness may frustrate our need for resolution, our need to relieve the disquiet of suspense and arrive at a moment of presence.  But, as we have seen, this resistance to presence lies at the very heart of a metaphysics of implication.  The suspense is further maintained by Haas’ manner of articulating the pivotal terms discussed in the book.  He gives detailed accounts of what being, unity, time, and aspect, along with other key terms, are not, contrasting them with traditional conceptions thereof.  Being, for example, is introduced as not “a thing, nor just a universal, analogous, or paronymous…nor does it seem that it could be merely a word, one among many, nor just a thought, nor simply the position or existence or presence of a thing, nor a relation of things to themselves, like self-presence or self-identity” (17).  Here, however, Haas is not merely practicing a negative ontology, as being is also not “their opposites, like non-self-presence, absence, withdrawal…” (17).  In this way, traditional conceptions of being, like those of the book’s other key terms, are exposed as variations on the purported need to choose between presence and non-presence, a choice that overlooks implication and its suspension of both terms.  The way that Haas carries out the exposition of his analyses also exhibits the indeterminacy of implication. Although it is not presented in the form of a linear, logical argument, the book follows a logic of its own, continually circling back to previous discussions, thereby relentlessly re-assessing, and further problematizing the metaphysical notions addressed in those discussions.  By writing in a manner that does not merely proclaim, but exhibits, the indeterminacy of its subject-matter, Haas’ work is distinctive.  It is an original metaphysics written in a way that is designed to afford a unique angle on the problems of metaphysics, specifically in their ineluctably problematic character.  And Haas shows that such work is a valuable way of developing some of the fundamental insights of Heideggerian thought, of explicating the inexplicable withdrawal of being, and its implications.

Haas concludes Unity and Aspect by suggesting that a metaphysics of implication could be seen as engaging in a kind of waiting, that “waiting might also suggest how to consider something like suspension” (325).  For the suspension intrinsic to implication leaves metaphysics unfulfilled, always on the way to an impossible presence that the metaphysician of implication recognizes as such.  The ultimate insights that traditional metaphysics expects will eventually come to presence are now recognized as unpresentifiable, and thus as essentially “delayed,” “deferred,” “deterred” (325), as that which can only be encountered as still to come, as waited for.  The danger of this characterization is that waiting can easily be conceived as waiting for a possible presence, rather than waiting for a suspension that is neither present nor absent—a waiting for rather than a waiting toward.  To succumb to this danger would constitute a regression into the metaphysics of presence.  Here, we can see why a metaphysics of implication must remain problematic, unresolved.  Since its operations lies beyond the scope of that which our thinking can articulate, its expositions will always be no more than hints or suggestions.  Conceiving of metaphysics as waiting, then, is no more than a hint.  But it also no less than a hint.  It may give a distorted view of the objects of a metaphysics of implication, but a distorted view is nevertheless a view.  And waiting might be a particularly felicitous distortion.  In Haas’ words, “waiting might far more be, possibly or necessarily, our normal way of being one with things, temporally and aspectually” (325).  Although that, like all claims made in the context of a metaphysics of implication, remains to be seen.

Matthew Eshleman, Constance Mui (Eds.): The Sartrean Mind, Routledge, 2019

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Routledge Philosophical Minds
Matthew Eshleman, Constance Mui (Eds.)
Routledge
2019
Hardback £190.00
664

Thomas Bedorf, Steffen Herrmann (Eds.): Political Phenomenology: Experience, Ontology, Episteme, Routledge, 2019

Political Phenomenology: Experience, Ontology, Episteme Couverture du livre Political Phenomenology: Experience, Ontology, Episteme
Routledge Research in Phenomenology
Thomas Bedorf, Steffen Herrmann (Eds.)
Routledge
2019
Hardback £120.00
368

Arnaud Dewalque, Venanzio Raspa (Eds.): Psychological Themes in the School of Alexius Meinong, De Gruyter, 2019

Psychological Themes in the School of Alexius Meinong Couverture du livre Psychological Themes in the School of Alexius Meinong
Meinong Studies / Meinong Studien 10
Arnaud Dewalque, Venanzio Raspa (Eds.)
De Gruyter
2019
Hardback 79,95 € / $91.99 / £72.50
180

Édouard Jolly: Étranger au monde: Essai sur la première philosophie de Günther Anders, Classiques Garnier, 2019

Étranger au monde: Essai sur la première philosophie de Günther Anders Couverture du livre Étranger au monde: Essai sur la première philosophie de Günther Anders
Philosophies contemporaines, n° 7
Édouard Jolly
Classiques Garnier
2019
Paperback 36,00 €
349

Antonia Egel, David Espinet, Tobias Keiling, Bernhard Zimmermann (Hrsg.): Die Gegenständlichkeit der Welt, Mohr Siebeck, 2019

Die Gegenständlichkeit der Welt: Festschrift für Günter Figal zum 70. Geburtstag Couverture du livre Die Gegenständlichkeit der Welt: Festschrift für Günter Figal zum 70. Geburtstag
Antonia Egel, David Espinet, Tobias Keiling, Bernhard Zimmermann (Hrsg.)
Mohr Siebeck
2019
Paperback 109,00 €
VIII, 356

Emmanuel Alloa, Frank Chouraqui, Rajiv Kaushik (Eds.): Merleau-Ponty and Contemporary Philosophy, SUNY Press, 2019

Merleau-Ponty and Contemporary Philosophy Couverture du livre Merleau-Ponty and Contemporary Philosophy
SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Emmanuel Alloa, Frank Chouraqui, Rajiv Kaushik (Eds.)
SUNY Press
2019
Hardcover $95.00
256

Felix Duque: Remnants of Hegel: Remains of Ontology, Religion and Community

Remnants of Hegel: Remains of Ontology, Religion, and Community Couverture du livre Remnants of Hegel: Remains of Ontology, Religion, and Community
SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Félix Duque. Translated by Nicholas Walker
SUNY Press
2018
Paperback $19.95
182

Reviewed by: Oded Balaban (Dept. of Philosophy, University of Haifa, Israel)

Felix Duque is arguably the most important living philosopher in the Spanish-speaking world. Remnants of Hegel is the first book translated into English. It is not a mere interpretation of Hegel, but rather a critical study that attempts to drive the aspects of its subject matter toward their ultimate consequences using Hegelian criteria. In other words, if Hegel’s philosophy is a critique of Kant’s critical philosophy, then Duque’s exposition is a critique of Hegelian philosophy. Furthermore, and just as Hegel develops Kantian categories in order to reveal a truth that goes beyond Kant, Duque develops Hegelian concepts in order to deduce a truth that transcends them. Indeed, Duque says that “The Hegelian system, impressive as it is, ultimately reveals itself as a miscarried attempt to reconcile nature and theory, individuality and collective praxis” (Duque, x).

Moreover, I should begin my review by noting that the book is clearly written for readers who are well acquainted with Hegel’s philosophy. In this respect, my review will attempt to overcome this difficulty by limiting itself to a reading that makes it accessible to those who are not conversant with this philosophy.

The book itself contains five chapters:

Chapter I: Substrate and Subject (Hegel in the aftermath of Aristotle). This chapter is concerned with the famous expression made in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit: “According to my view of things, which can be justified through the exposition of the system itself, everything depends on apprehending and expressing the true not as [nicht als] substance, but just as much [eben so sehr] as subject” (Duque, 17).

Chapter II: Hegel on the Death of Christ, is a discussion that seeks to analyze the transition from nature to society, or, rather, the transition from a natural human being to a historical being, and to a being having a second nature, which is the political life of man, a transition which is made possible by the understanding of society and politics as a higher level of self-consciousness.

Chapter III: Death Is a Gulp of Water. This chapter is concerned with terror in World History. More specifically, it is a critical exposition of Hegel’s idea of revolution and terror which primarily refers to the French Revolution. The politics of terror, the chapter argues, is the necessary result of trying to implement the revolution without mediations, that is, directly and as an abstract revolution (Duque, 83). Here Duque does not limit himself to an analysis of Hegel and his time, but also deals with its historical reception by the likes of Communism and Stalinism in the twentieth century. Such an idea of terror does much to radically undervalue the value of life and also makes us remember Hanna Arendt’s Banality of Evil. Indeed, terror is, paradoxically, a result of the French Revolution in its historical imagining of Napoleon, namely, the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity as mediated by his political force appearing as the opposite of those values’ true essence.

Chapter IV: Person, Freedom, and Community is an analysis of the last chapter of Hegel’s Science of Logic which is concerned with the notion of the absolute idea. It is an essential problem to understanding the book as a whole since Hegel begins and ends the book by praising this notion rather than explaining or developing it.

Chapter V: The Errancy of Reason. This chapter summarizes the previous chapters and engages in a holistic critical analysis of the topics discussed.

I would now wish to develop some ideas on Hegel inspired by reading Duque’s work and by my own understanding of Hegel’s philosophy.

Hegel’s logic is not normative. Unlike formal logic, which determines how we should think and not how we actually think, Hegel‘s Science of Logic, proceeds in the opposite direction by studying thought as it is as well as its development from the most abstract stage (the thought of pure being without further determinations) to the most concrete, this being the absolute idea as the unit of theoretical and practical thinking. Duque’s interpretation adopts this principle, and unlike the interpretations offered by Alexandre Kojève and many others, asserts that it should be taken literally, that is, by not trying to correct the author in order to understand him! Understanding by correcting makes the original a tabula rasa since it allows the interpreter to introduce any idea as it occurs to her or him to the work in the belief that it is an interpretation, while it is actually a creation of her or his own mind.

Hegel’s Logic is a reflective study of the concept. In Duque’s words, “the entire Logic is nothing but a relentless attempt to furnish a conscious and deliberate reconstruction of fugitive and fleeting linguistic forms and determinations.” (Duque, ix). The terms in his Logic do not have the fixity that they have in formal logic (both classical and modern), but their meaning varies according to the context, and especially according to the level in which the study is developed. Hegel perceives only the term, the word, as fixed, but not the concept or content that is expressed through words.

Hegel’s logic attempts to solve the classic problem of Aristotelian logic, in which “to say what something in the last instance really is, its ultimate logos, amounts to affirming all the affections, properties, and determinations of that thing” (Duque, 4). Hegel, however, is not successful in resolving this difficulty despite believing he is.

Hegel suggests that thought and reality, as well as mind and world, are inseparable in the sense that their meaning undergoes constant change and construction with respect to the conceptual level and context in which it takes place. A concept’s level of abstraction or concreteness thus simultaneously determines the degree of reality to which it refers. Put differently, this reading suggests that the Science of Logic ultimately serves as an ontological proof which not only proves the existence of God but also the existence of every concept subjected to actual thought. In other words, if I really believe in the concept of having a hundred thalers in my pocket, and not merely imagining them, then the hundred thalers become real and become part of my patrimony. I thus either have them in my pocket or, alternately, owe them and am obliged to pay them. This is not the case with Kant, since he merely imagines them, that is to say, recognizes from the very outset that they are not real thalers. This, in turn, is the difference between abstract and concrete concepts.

The process of concretion is clearly explained in the “logic of the judgment” discussion in the third part of Science of Logic, which is nothing but logic from the perspective of the relationship between the two essential components of judgment—subject and predicate. Thus, every judgment announces that the subject is the predicate. More explicitly, the subject of the judgment is the entity whose identity is being subjected to inquiry, and the answer is offered by all the predicates that refer to that subject. Each predicate thus changes the meaning of the subject, and, in reality, amplifies its meaning. In this respect, a subject is enriched by having more predicates attributed to it – as each of the latter forms another subject with other questions. In other words, to think is – formally – to pass from the subject, which functions as what is unknown and in need of becoming known, to the predicate, which functions as what is known and therefore as what bestows knowledge and meaning on the subject. It is thus a relation between a bearer of meaning (the subject) and a meaning (the predicate).

However, this relationship occurs within the frame of another relationship that occurs in the same intentional field. It is the relation (entirely unlike that of subject and predicate) between subject and object. Despite their difference, subject-predicate and subject-object relations cannot be separated but only distinguished. In effect, when the thought passes from the subject to the predicate, it does not consider the predicate (that is to say, it does not think about grammar) but its content, that is, the object or, rather, something that acquires the status of an object. The subject thus objectifies the target of though by means of predication. In the case of philosophy, that is to say, thinking about thinking, thought passes to something else, to what is being thought about, namely the object. And what is an object if not something that stands in front of the subject as a correlative to the subject? Hegel indeed argued that the object possesses nothing more than this relational character. The object is thus what was thought about by the subject. It is the entire universe existing insofar as it is the content of thought. There is no other universe. However, it is not the thought of my individual reflection. It is ultimately a universal reflection, and Hegel goes so far as to maintain that everything is Spirit (“There is nothing at hand that is wholly alien to spirit” (Hegel, Encyclopedia § 377, note, quoted by Duque, 38).

The Spirit is the objectification of subjectivity, the whole universe as thought of, a conceptualized universe, insofar as another does not replace it. But if something else remains, it is the task of thought to appropriate it, that is, as we said, to conceptualize it and thus imbue it with reality. This, in turn, is the secret of the coincidence of logic and metaphysics.

Thus, it turns out that the object is the complete expression of the subject. A strange reflection indeed. Fully aware of being a reflection and its denial at the same time—because it always returns to thinking about the object when it is supposed to be thinking about thinking about the object.

Hegel nonetheless moves backward. He rethinks the thought, concentrating not on content but on the fact of thinking about it. Hegel and his readers believed that they were thinking about Being when they were actually thinking about Essence; they thought they were thinking about Essence, and they were actually thinking about Concept! That is to say, Hegel was not concerned with a question of being but with the concept of being. It was not a question of essence but of the concept of essence, and it was not about concept but about the concept of concept. Hegel and his readers believed that they were thinking about substance when they were actually thinking about themselves—about the subject. Duque is therefore right in saying that all this does not mean we are solely concerned with thinking about substance, but also about the subject. This is because the substance is not even the truth, although it is a reflection, but this is a reflection that lacks reflection, or that does not know that it is a reflection. In other words, we are ultimately concerned with a subject thinking about itself.

The culmination of this backwards-advancing reflection is the Absolute Idea, which also serves as the culmination of subjectivity in the Subjective Logic (the third and last part of the Science of Logic). This must not be forgotten, as must the assertion that Hegel’s thought cannot migrate to another sphere, or does not enter it because Hegel does not need it, although he promises to explain something new, viz. the content of the Absolute Idea. But it is precisely here, at the end of the Science of Logic, that Hegel begins being poetic and stops being philosophical: he offers pure promises without any fulfillment. Such is the end of the great Science of Logic despite its colossality. Duque, in turn, ascribes a great deal of importance to this abrupt end in Hegel’s Logic. When the Absolute Idea is reached, according to Duque, “Everything else [Alles Übrige] is error, obscurity, struggle, caprice, and transience [Vergänglichkeit].” (Hegel, Science of Logic, quoted by Duque, 38). Is it not the case that everything should be included in the Absolute Spirit? Is the whole path unnecessary, as is the case of the ladder for the young Wittgenstein? This would go against the spirit of Hegel’s philosophy no less than his own assertion about error, obscurity, etc.

The Absolute Idea, then, does not fulfill Hegel’s intention. The universal absolute should deduce the individual in her or his singularity from itself because the individual is absolutely relational. It is a being that includes what is not her or him in itself, as well as what is other than itself, as the determinant of what it is. In other words, it is a concrete individuality understandable in its concrete universality. This is especially apparent when we think of the individual as a social being. If we take away all of the individual’s « environment » and context, namely, every socially shared issue and every general feature including language and clothing it will remain, contrary to what could be expected, an abstract individual: Just as when attempting to isolate the individual in order to understand it in her or his singularity, nothing remains and the very individual disappears. This, in turn, means that individuals are wholly social, that is, totally relational. This does not, however, imply that the individual is not individual, but that this is what it consists of: The more singular the individual, the more dependent she or he is on her or his network of relationships. Thus, the more relationships the individual has, the more individual she or he becomes.

When the individual denies her or his otherness, as in the case of the worker or the slave in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, she or he not only denies the other but it denies her or himself when alienating her or himself from her or his other because that other is her or his own other, not an abstract, isolated other. Thus, the more she or he is social, the more individual she or he becomes. The more she or he has relations to and dependencies on other individuals, the more she or he is a concrete singularity, a singularity determined by its relationships. This is entirely unlike the Aristotelian relations of genera and species, where the individual is obtained through isolation. The Aristotelian individual is obtained by excluding all difference. In Hegel the opposite is true: the more a thing includes the differentiated as differentiated in itself, the more individual it becomes. History is thus a process of socialization which is – in actual fact – a process of individuation. In Aristotelian logic, intension and extension are opposed: the greater the intension, the smaller the extension; the greater the definition, the smaller the subsumed individual(s). In Hegel, there is no such opposition. The individual is more social the more determined she or he is and the more she or he includes the other. Hegelian logic is not, however, intended as an alternative logic to Aristotelian logic, but rather as the self-consciousness of the Aristotelian logic as well as its inner development and evolution. Formal logic is thus a stage that the spirit must pass through in order to be finally be criticized by consciousness, as it is in the Logic of Essence, the second part of the Science of Logic, which engages in the critique of the “laws” of identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle.

I will now turn to the relationships between substance and subject. According to Aristotle, a substance is that which is neither said of a subject nor in a subject, namely, it is not a predicate as predicates are said about a substance (individuals, like this individual man or this statue). However, entities which say what a substance is are “secondary” substances, genera and species, that can be also subjects as well as predicates and are always general and never individual. However, saying what an individual is, has the genera and species as an answer, something that is not individual. The individual man belongs to a species, man, and an animal is a genus of that species. Thus, both man and animal are considered secondary substances. In this respect, Duque rightfully claims that the Aristotelian definition of substance as a negative definition arises from the impossibility of saying what it is without making it into something other than what it is. In other words, predicates will always betray their original intention since they cannot be individuals.

If there is something that is neither said of a subject nor exists in a subject, this is obviously because it is itself the subject, as Aristotle himself concedes: “All the other things are either said of the primary substances as subjects or in them as subjects” (Aristotle, Categories, 2a, 34–35, quoted by Duque, 6). Duque then proceeds to state:

Yet secondary substance does not exist of itself, unless it is given with primary substance. We are evidently confronted with a certain inversion here, with an irresolvable chiasmus: that which is first in the order of being is second in the order of logical discourse, and vice versa.” (Duque, 7)

The substance is for Aristotle the being of the being, and it is the fixed (permanent) side of change, something that does not change as things change. As a being of being it has a double function, meaning that it has two meanings in the sense that it is both the essence of the being and the being of the essence.

As the essence of being, the substance is the determinate being, the nature of the necessary being: the man as a two-legged animal. As the being of the essence it is the two-legged animal as this individual man.

This is a duality that Aristotle did not manage to resolve. When Aristotle says that the substance is expressed in the definition and that only the substance has a true definition, the substance is understood as the essence of the being, as that which reason can understand. But when, on the contrary, he declares that the essence is identical to determinate reality, as beauty exists only in what is beauty, Aristotle understands the substance as the being of the essence, and as a principle that offers necessary existence to the nature of a thing.

As the essence of being, the substance is the form of things and bestows unity on the elements that make up the whole where the whole is a distinct proper nature unlike its component elements. Aristotle refers to the form of material things as a species, and species is, therefore, its substance. As the being of the essence, the substance is the substrate: that about which any other thing is predicated but that cannot be a predicate of anything else. And as the substrate it is matter, a reality without any determination other than a potentiality. As the essence of being, the substance is the concept or logos that has neither generation nor corruption, that does not become but is this or that thing. As the being of essence, the substance is the composition, namely, the unity of concept (or form) with matter—the existing thing. In this sense, the substance comes to being and comes to its end.

As the essence of being, the substance is the principle of intelligibility of the being itself. In this sense, it is the stable and necessary element on which science is founded. According to Aristotle, there is no other science than that which is necessary, whereas the knowledge of what can or cannot be is rather an opinion. Substance is thus, objectively, the being of the essence and the necessary reality, and subjectively the essence of being, as necessary rationality. In short, the distinction Aristotle makes between primary substances (0ρώται οὐσίαι) and secondary substances (δεύτεραι οὐσίαι) consists of understanding the former as physical individuals and the latter as species (τά εἴδεα) and genera (τά γένη) of those individuals (Aristotle, Categories, 2a14).

In Hegel, on the other hand, the substance is the principle from which the individual is deduced. He argues for the primacy of the universal and the primacy of substance over the individual. Unlike with Aristotle, the universal is the principle of individuation, so that the individual has no meaning without the universal. This, in turn, is the basis on which his understanding of truth as substance but also as subject can be understood. Duque contends that “primary substance is entirely subsumed in secondary substance, or in universality. But this universality is indeed concrete since it bears and holds all particularity and all individuality within itself. It is concrete, but it does not yet know that it is.”  (Duque, 2018, 24). Namely, it doesn’t know that it is also a subject.

The intentional character of the subject, as it is understood in self-consciousness, means the understanding of the subject as the one that externalizes itself and then internalizes what was rejected, that is, that understands that this is its way of acting. It also means that being is ultimately recognized in reflection as a first instance, that is, as thinking. Substance is itself thinking, though not recognized as such. Ultimately, therefore, subject is a synthesis of self-consciousness and objectivity.

In judgment, when the subject moves toward the predicate, when it is objectified and when, in subsequent reflection, discovers that it returns to itself (since the predicate is predicated from the subject), then the subject ends up enriched with what the predicate attributes to it.

This, in turn, allows us to understand the controversial and somehow obscure dictum in the 1806 preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit:

According to my view of things, which can be justified through the exposition of the system itself, everything depends on apprehending and expressing the true not as [nicht als] substance, but just as much [eben so sehr] as subject (quoted by Duque, 17)

Hegel therefore contends that self-consciousness is externalized and thus becomes an object. But this posited object is itself the very subject that has been placed as another, thus appearing as an opposite to itself: it knows itself knowing the other.

And this happens because that object is not, as it were, a natural object, a given, but an object created or engendered (like any object, according to Hegel) by self-consciousness. They are, then, two momenta, that of subjectivity (being-for-itself) and that of objectivity (being-in-itself). In reality, however, they are not merely two momenta, but a single reality split into two momenta that are only true in their opposition and in their unity. For subjectivity does not become true if it is not objective and true objectivity cannot be natural but only produced by human endeavor (in the broad sense of the word). This is why the fact that men, at one point in history, had subjected other men to work, to externalize themselves, to produce objects out of themselves, and thus transform a given natural environment into a human environment, is a necessary step in human development, as this is a human creation, an elevation above the natural.

A misreading, according to Duque, is to believe that the substance is not true as if the subject has nothing to do with the substance (or mutatis mutandis, a misreading that believes that freedom has nothing to do with necessity). Just as reason does not exist without understanding, subject does not exist without substance. The subject is thus the conceptual understanding of the substance and the consciousness of necessity. Put differently, it is a continuation of Spinozism taken to its logical extreme.

Marius Johan Geertsema: Heidegger’s Poetic Projection of Being

Heidegger's Poetic Projection of Being Couverture du livre Heidegger's Poetic Projection of Being
Marius Geertsema
Palgrave Macmillan
2018
Hardback 93,59 €
VIII, 288

Reviewed by: BB Bieganski (University of South Florida)

In his 2018 book, Heidegger’s Poetic Projection of Being (henceforth HPPB) Marius Johan Geertsema demonstrates that in Heidegger’s oeuvre, Being is essentially dialogical with the poetic. The poetic is not to be understood as strictly tethered to poems, but as a type of thinking which contrasts the worrisome technocratic with thinking combatted by Adorno, Foucault, Ortega y Gasset, and Heidegger himself. The poetic refers to the intimation of the future that shapes human thought and behavior in light of our finitude. Geertsema’s reading of Heidegger describes Being as a relation to a sort of hermeneutical receptivity that is found in poetic thinking—that is, an attunement towards nature, ourselves, and each other.

HPPB divides into three sections: an overview and explication of Heidegger’s philosophy, followed by Geertsema’s argument for Heidegger’s onto-poetology, and last a conclusion and implication section.

The first section of HPPB is dedicated to a discussion of Heidegger’s corpus which includes all the juicy aspects for any serious Heidegger scholar. This includes an elucidation of both the early Heidegger (including work prior to the publication of Being and Time) and the late Heidegger, along with a discussion of the Kehre—Heidegger’s turn from Dasein toward Being. Geertsema recontextualizes each phase of Heidegger’s work in light of the others, and even though he subtly offers his interpretation of the rupture between the early and late Heidegger, the first section of HPPB is primarily focused on outlining the different philosophies of early, middle, and late Heidegger.

The next 150 pages or so of HPPB are Geertsema’s own analysis of how Heidegger treats poetry, and its important role in Heidegger’s philosophy. In this section, Geertsema discusses the relationship between Being (that is, the world of experience) and poetry, and how Heidegger illuminates the role of language in our understanding of the world. Geertsema does an excellent job of citing textual evidence for Heidegger’s analysis of the intricate relationship of language and thought. It’s not surprising then, that Geertsema thinks that Being and poetics are intimately linked and that the way we interpret the world will be enmeshed in the way we discourse.

Geertsema takes great care in combing through Heidegger’s work: even in the areas that seemingly contradict the relationship between language and thought, Geertsema finds textual evidence that the discrepancy between thought and language isn’t so wide. For example, in the postscript to What is Metaphysics? Heidegger mentions that the poet and the thinker live on separate peaks of two mountaintops, which seems as though he views philosophical and scientific thinking as inconsistent with poetry and art. But Geertsema points out that in Anaximander’s Saying, Heidegger asserts that thinking grounds poetry and poetry grounds thinking, suggesting that Heidegger doesn’t think them as strictly incommensurable. And even though it seems as though Heidegger is inconsistent on the topic, Geertsema finds a way to bridge these ideas into a consistent overarching narrative in Heidegger’s thought.

Another impressive aspect to note in this section is that Geertsema tackles the dreaded Fourfold that flummoxes even the most well-read Heideggerian scholars, arguing that the Fourfold is a projection of a realm of thought that only poets can think. The Fourfold, which has two poles—the earth-sky pole and the mortal-divinity pole—can only be comprehended by poets, or “demigods”: those who exist “between” humans and gods and are receptive to the world around them as they project a type of thinking that anticipates and prepares for the future. Because poets are receptive to the world while understanding the boundaries that shape their understanding, poetry, or poetical thinking is able to get out of calculative, instrumental thinking. Metaphysicians, on the other hand, are concerned solely with how to explain reality, which opens up the question of technocratic domination. Poetry is dwelling, says Geertsema’s Heidegger: a sort of becoming comfortable with one’s own situation and context, where humans must realize their place according to their own boundaries. Thus, as poetry constitutes dwelling, it is the poet rather than the metaphysicians who understands the Fourfold as mode of thinking which grants us a way of navigating and understanding the world.

The final section, which concludes and examines the implications of the thesis laid out by Geertsema, unfortunately lasts only 4 pages. Here Geertsema introduces his own thoughts on the matter, which is the most interesting part of the book. Geertsema points out several worries for Heidegger, if Being is tied to the poetic (for example, Geertsema questions why should poetry be privileged—can’t architecture or a ballet also unite a people the same way poetry does?). Moreover, here Geertsema also considers certain secondary figures who have problematized Heidegger’s affinity for poetry, whereas in the bulk of the text such secondary exegesis is absent. Perhaps in a future book Geertsema will unearth these implications more in detail, as his worries seem to be problematic for Heidegger, if not outright lethal.

 The greatest virtue of HPPB is that Geertsema has clearly done his homework. Every exegetical claim made in the book is backed up by a quote or citation from Heidegger. Moreover, Geertsema doesn’t examine only the early or the late Heidegger, but the whole of Heidegger’s work, including lectures and biographical anecdotes. Scholars who focus on one period of Heidegger’s thought might come away from Geertsema having a better grip of Heidegger’s entire project because of how well Geertsema integrates every Heidegger—early, middle, and late—into one cohesive text.

However, there are limits to HPPB. Anyone who has little to no experience with Heidegger will effectively drown in the Heideggerese that Geertsema presents. Take for example: “To put it simply, Being can, according to Heidegger, only be what it is, in as far as it is appropriate at all to assert that Being ‘is’, when Being grants the human being the experience of Being, not only as the presencing of Being, but also as concealment; that is, the oblivion of Being as oblivion yielding from Being” (p. 52). Anyone without a sufficient background in phenomenology or Heidegger would find this passage to be mere nonsense, or some kind of unfunny joke. On the opposite end, those who are well-researched Heideggerian specialists might find swaths of HPPB uninteresting, uninformative, or uninspired. Experts studying a particular epoch of Heidegger might pass over sections of HPPB in order to reach their own area of interest. Since Geertsema offers expositions of Heidegger’s philosophy rather than a radical or novel reinterpretation of it, there is a risk of such inquisitive experts coming away only to be empty-handed. The primary audience that might get the most out of HPPB would be those who have read Heidegger but don’t understand him well enough yet. In other words, to use Geertsema’s nomenclature, HPPB is a book for demi-Heideggarians.

Another odd aspect of HPPB is that some of Geertsema’s claims are either wrong or open to easy misinterpretation. For instance, Geertsema claims that “Heidegger never took an interest in poetry and literature incidentally” (p. 9), which is either wrong (Heidegger wrote several poems, most of which are clumsily bad), or oddly-worded (Geertsema actually quotes some of Heidegger’s poetry, calling it “ugly,” p. 110). Or, for another oddity: “We will therefore examine = now [sic] the truth of the Being in relation to the phenomenon” (p. 103). Is the equal symbol supposed to represent that the concept of the ‘now’ to be examined? Or is it a weird typo that was maybe overlooked in the proofreading process (there are a few throughout the book, such as ‘Being a Time’ instead of ‘Being and Time’, p. 50). Or, in one of the rare instances in which Geertsema invokes secondary literature on Heidegger, he cites Thomas Sheehan’s work, Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift (2015), asserting that Sheehan gripes about the translation of “Ereignis” as “event”, but we should “pay attention to the use of the term by an author [Heidegger], instead of assuming a rigid frame of reference of the reader [Sheehan]…” (p. 38). However, Sheehan points out in several places in which Heidegger himself refused the interpretation of Ereignis as an event (as early as page xvii in the foreword of Making Sense of Heidegger, and which Sheehan explicitly tackles in chapter 8). These issues are mostly just distracting, but if this book is being recommended to scholars who are interested in learning more about Heidegger but are not yet experts, more could be at stake than simply getting one or two tenets of Heidegger’s philosophy wrong.

Lastly, and most pedantically, Geertsema tries his hand at Heideggerian etymology which turns out merely decorative rather than argumentative or explanatory. Those of us who don’t find the etymology interesting or informative have to sit through Geertsema’s own attempt at it. For example, Geertsema proffers that every seeing is a saying, and points out that both the English word ‘saying’ and German word ‘sagen’ come from the Indo-European ‘seku’, which means to ‘scent’ or ‘smell’, meaning to follow the trace of something (in Latin, to ‘tell’ or to ‘sequence’ is a following, ‘inseque’), which is also where the English word ‘seeing’ and the German word ‘sehen’ come from (p. 113-4). Heidegger would often analyze etymology to make a point about the relatedness of two ideas, but Geertsema’s own analysis is hardly elucidating or argumentative.

Despite some issues, Geertsema’s HPPB is a fantastic resource for Heidegger scholars who are interested in getting a stronger handle on Heidegger’s own thought. And while Geertsema doesn’t offer much of his own thinking here, the ideas that he offers will be suggestive to anyone who has an interest in Heideggerian phenomenology or continental philosophy of language.

 

References:

Geertsema, M. J. 2018. Heidegger’s Poetic Projection of Being. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sheehan, T. 2015. Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift. New York, NY: Rowman &   Littlefield International Ltd.

Harald Seubert (Hg.): Neunzig Jahre ›Sein und Zeit‹: Die fundamentalontologische Frage nach dem Sinn von Sein, Alber, 2019

Neunzig Jahre ›Sein und Zeit‹ Couverture du livre Neunzig Jahre ›Sein und Zeit‹
Martin-Heidegger-Gesellschaft Schriftenreihe Band 12
Harald Seubert (Hg.)
Karl Alber Verlag
2019
Hardback 39,00 €
312