Studies in the Thought of Paul Ricoeur
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Reviewed by: Henri Otsing (Tartu University)
Paths in Heidegger’s Later Thought is a much-needed communication of ideas from German-educated scholars to their anglophone counterparts in other traditions. A compendium of excellence and creativity, it does indeed map paths that the 15 researchers have either pursued over lengthy careers or are just now discovering. While sometimes eclectic and rather expository, the book might be called mandatory reading for a precise overview of current global Heidegger scholarship.
This review will attempt to characterise the common traits shared between the authors’ approaches and give short descriptions of all articles for the benefit of the reader encountering these authors for the first time.
A few words on the book as a whole. The collection takes as its starting point the oft-cited motto of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe, “Ways, not works.” Moving from these ways of thought understood in a “metaphorical” sense towards a thinking that is indeed way-making in its character, it attempts to gather and map the recent and more penetrating paths that have been lain through the thickets of Heidegger’s body of thought.
And as the German background of the editors (and most contributors) suggests, the collection follows what we might attempt to generalise as the European approach to Heidegger. This approach focuses more on the later Heidegger, is more focused on congeniality than force of interpretation and aims towards a Heideggerisation of ideas rather than an appropriation in the opposite direction. That said, the collection does a decent job of consciously avoiding the common stumblings: falling from hermeneuticism to hermeticism or from introduction to reduction.
The editors phrase the endeavour of the collection thus: “to present a range of ways in which Heidegger can be read and a diversity of styles in which his thought can be continued. […] it is a hermeneutic endeavour, beginning with an interpretation of his writing” (Foreword, 1-2). This is a wonderful maxim and evidently helps to produce texts that are generally capable of the critical approach, but don’t bog down in open, nor hidden hostility towards a competing interpretation. Still, this variety does beg the question whether the book should be considered a whole at all or merely as a collection of individual texts.
Even more so – and this is not a jab at the editors’ careful work –, does this seemingly unpretentious “range” and “diversity”, a presupposed equality of ideas, perhaps not undercut the texts’ individual philosophical ambitions? Be how it may, the experiment with a plurality of critical interpretations merits even philosophical appreciation, since Heidegger’s own work suggests that authentic thought follows a non-linear or multistable character itself.
Thus, the essays seem to be grouped with regard to their shared paths of thought, intersections and common landmarks. The section titles attempt to reflect these commonalities to a degree but serve rather to facilitate readability. A general overview could here be refined by having a look at the indexes. Keywords like earth (Erde), event (Ereignis), gathering (Ver-/Sammlung), presence (Anwesenheit) and unconcealment (Unverborgenheit) are not left unmentioned for more than one or two essays, broadly speaking. Here, gathering and presence strike as the two most surprising keywords, since they are not exclusive to the later Heidegger and no essay deals with them centrally. On the other hand, care (Sorge), ecstasis (Ekstase), sense (Sinn), but also the turn (Kehre), National Socialism and building (Bauen) – they receive only sparse mentions.
Now, spelling out substantial common traits and ideas between the authors would be to try and formulate a school of Heideggerian research. This would be folly, but the individual authors do share that they are mostly Heideggerian in the sense, that they seem to be operating on an impulse received from reading Heidegger. In the sense of aspiring to go beyond a “mere” scholarly account of Heidegger and walking forward on paths he exposed.
This could be said about the contributions in a historical sense as well. Regardless of his prescient predictions, from a perspective of intellectual history, in many ways Heidegger envisioned a path different to what we see today. Here, the collection displays the throes of reconciling a Heideggerian new beginning and the world today. Perhaps indeed a less unitary and more diverging approach might hold the means to finally “making sense” of Heidegger’s thought.
Next, a quick look will be given at the contributions one-by-one, following the structure of the book. This is to serve also as a quick reference to locate the topic of interest for the reader.
The first section “Language, Logos, and Rhythm” is devoted to essays focused on Heidegger’s notions concerning language, broadly speaking. However, it is perhaps the most uneven section, comprising of works by Jeff Malpas, Markus Wild, Diego D’Angelo and Tristan Moyle.
Interestingly enough, one common theme in this section is explicitly specifying the mode of interpretation: “exegetical externalism” (Wild: 45-46), “immanent interpretation” (D’Angelo: 65-66) and “naturalistic interpretation” (Moyle: 85-86). What’s stunning is that although the three essays and authors differ to a great degree, the mode or methodology of interpretation is actually quite similar.
Even though authors show this conscious effort and also considerable skill in specifying their respective mode of interpretation, these modes tend to differ in mere nuance of exposition and seem to be specific to the question of interest each author addresses. Differences between the authors’ deliberations seem to stem from other sources than the stated mode of interpretation. Perhaps a larger problem in Heidegger scholarship is reflected here: the question of how to interpret Heidegger while differing to a great extent, has been shaped in a sort of tacit consensus, as indicated by some actual similarities of approaches, regardless of differences in stated methodology. To say the least, the search for an approach to Heidegger is ongoing.
The book sets out from home: Jeff Malpas’ “‘The House of Being’: Poetry, Language, Place” builds on his longstanding “topological interpretation” of Heidegger and contends with the problem of bridging language and a topology implied in Heidegger’s oft-quoted “Language is the house of being”. Asserting that in Heidegger the classic dichotomous concepts of spatiality collapse – that “the dimensional and relational are not separate but rather are two sides of the same” (p. 23)–, Malpas gives a delicate account of how this along with a more mature account of the poetic makes sense of Heidegger’s “turn” after Being and Time and also brings the later Heideggerian project to a clearer shape. This is accomplished by identifying poetry as where place and language intersect, where most prominently “saying is placing and placing is saying” (p. 34).
Influential among and well-known to anglophone speakers, Malpas’ essay demonstrates the continuity between anglophone and European scholarship. Markus Wild, known foremost as a philosopher of biology and animals in specific, however, undertakes an investigation into Heidegger’s often disregarded confrontation with Trakl in his “Heidegger and Trakl: Language Speaks in the Poet’s Poem”.
Wild occupies himself with a search for the site (Ort) of Trakl’s singular poem – “the poet’s poem”, a sort of fictional “centre of gravity” from and to which his poetry flows. Wild argues here that the value of Trakl for Heidegger is not, like other poets, liable to be subsumed under or merely opposed to what Heidegger’s treatments of Hölderlin uncover. To this end, he specifies his aforementioned mode of interpretation aimed at locating claims “in relation to other discussions while responding to clues and hints contained in Heidegger’s text” (p. 45). A laudable attempt, which might indeed account for lucidly conveying certain notorious Heideggerisms and also manages to integrate elements from classical rhetorics, speech act theory and psychology.
That said, Wild may well be suspected of walking only halfway down Heidegger’s path towards Trakl’s poetry. This is because Wild seems to, at points, conceptualise poetry in terms of its “ultimate purpose” (p. 60), which is reached and conceived in terms involving notions of empathy and imagination foreign to Heidegger – perhaps a psychologising analysis. In any case, the paper deserves to be followed by an even more “externalist exegesis”, which would connect or relate Heidegger’s analysis of Trakl with the other poets’ – a task little noticed so far.
D’Angelo gives a detailed account of how Heidegger approaches the phenomenon of greeting (Grüßen) in his writings on Hölderlin’s “Der Ister”. By and large, repeating what may be read in the relevant sections of “The Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger”, D’Angelo’s article does go into necessary and enlightening detail.
Perhaps of most interest is his treatment of the semiotic, in particular a Heideggerian account of the sign (66-69), and how he weaves it into the more well-known account of greeting: a remembrance (Andenken) directed at the future and fundamentally stemming from the Holy (das Heilige).
Now, Moyle’s “Later Heidegger’s Naturalism” should perhaps be called “A Naturalistic Look at Later Heidegger” to reflect its contents more exactly. One of the essays that is only now discovering previously concealed pathways, naturalism is here a specifically McDowellian sort of “aesthetic naturalism” (see 85-87) and the main topic in later Heidegger is rhythm.
Although this is an interesting superimposition, there are clear problems with Moyle’s attempt to “domesticate Heidegger’s rhetoric” (p. 96). In particular, he seems to go against the very idea of a path-like webwork of thinking in Heidegger, by connecting ideas in Heidegger from different time periods and lines of thought – paths, which for specific reasons don’t seem to converge at the points he expects them to. This brings with it some problematic inferences and questionable conclusions. Also, Heidegger’s own translation of the Greek word as Fügung and the implications it involves are not considered.
That said, even when arguing that being itself should perhaps be thought of as rhythm – quite audacious to these ears – there are strong links being made, that merit further study and elaboration.
The second section is concerned with the Greek word physis and centres, with obvious scholarly informedness, on the seemingly paradoxical interplay of emerging and enclosing – the dynamics that Heidegger’s “Greek” physis carries. Here, different readings tend to rely on different sources and thus approach them with ostensibly non-concomitant perspectives, intersecting at uncomfortable angles. Still, this section is perhaps the most focused in terms of substance, including essays from Thomas Buchheim, Guang Yang, Claudia Baracchi and Damir Barbarić.
An interesting choice to include in the collection Buchheim’s essay on Heidegger’s physis as it develops in his thought, which is translated from the similar collection published in 2007, Heidegger und die Griechen, displaying a certain continuity between the publications. D’Angelo’s very readable translation makes it easy to grasp why the editors decided to publish a work older than a decade.
Utilising the arsenal that knowledge of classic philology provides, Buchheim first identifies two quite separate periods Heidegger deals with physis. Second, he gives a sharp overview of the first period physis becomes a topic of deep interest for Heidegger (starting from the 1920s). Then, in an answer to his titular question “Why is Heidegger Interested in Physis?”, Buchheim gives an account of Heidegger’s oft-criticised but piercing account of Aristotle’s physis as an echo of the original presocratic notion. Intensely focused and well-informed, the text makes a case for the presence of a concept of physis as a primordial withdrawal much earlier than is largely supposed. This is certainly one of the essays that gives the collection merit and depth.
One should perhaps approach Yang’s essay as intimating a novel approach, a work-in-progress. He doesn’t precisely reach what the title promises, “Being as Physis,” but instead gives a reading of rest and movement as it pertains to the notion of physis in a phenomenological sense. The two main areas being connected are Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle and his conception of art. A challenging read, the paper’s strength and potential failure lie in how it attempts to include a large portion of Heidegger’s writings that do touch on physis from different sides. A longer form would perhaps enable Yang to express the picture he is setting up with more graspable severity.
“The End of Philosophy and Unending Physis” is an alien text in this collection, but definitely impressive. In it Baracchi retells “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” in a nimble and alluring style. While not a standard scholarly piece on Heidegger, it makes a number of inspiring, if flimsy, intimations like “the end of philosophy is the task of thinking” (p. 155), most of them, of course, more intricate. Inspired by Heidegger and, it seems, a certain rage against the undying of the light of metaphysics, she has chosen a form of writing that should perhaps reflect the non-metaphysical sort of discussion a thinking might follow after it has surmounted metaphysics.
Another fine article, Barbarić’s “Thinking at the First Beginning” attempts to pave a way towards what the title names. Starting from the plausible assumption that in Heidegger physis “determines Being itself rather than a domain or realm of entities” (p. 165), the crux here is physis and its ontological depth (as opposed to surficity), which Heidegger sets up against the later concept of truth based on the Greek notion of idea, but which is also the source of the latter.
But Barbarić does more than tell the rather familiar story of the completion of Western thought and a need for a return to the first beginning. The intricacies can’t be discussed here without a terrible watering-down, and the reader should instead be directed to Barbarić’s Zum anderen Anfang. Studien zum Spätdenken Heideggers (2016, Karl Alber Verlag) for the whole picture.
The third section, “Phenomenology, the Thing, and the Fourfold”, features essays from Günter Figal, Jussi Backman, Nikola Mirković and Andrew J. Mitchell.
In a tiny masterpiece, Figal lays out the line of thought Heidegger’s philosophy seems to follow in the latter’s reading of Parmenides. Building from the “Seminar in Zähringen” (about this text, see 179-180), Figal takes a look at the neologistic tautophasis and “tautological thinking”, which Heidegger espoused at that point. Now, tautophasis stems from the realisation that phenomena appear or show (phainesthai is the ancient Greek verb). Both Greek words coming from the same root, the presencing of phenomena is thus a sort of self-showing or more aptly “saying-two-together” (Selbander-sage), which is Heidegger’s translation for tautophasis (see p. 183). The corresponding thinking is thus characterised as tautological.
Figal opens up tautological thinking in a way that allows him to venture his own thought: Heidegger failed to address the theme of the sign (semata) in Parmenides – and if he had, the idea of tautophasis (indeed an anti-dialectical attitude) would have perhaps seemed less feasible. Here oversimplified, Figal’s “Tautophasis: Heidegger and Parmenides” manages to keep up with Heidegger and is definitely worth reading, if one is interested in Heidegger’s relationship to the Presocratics.
Backman’s “Radical contextuality in Heidegger’s Postmetaphysics: The Singularity of Being and the Fourfold” approaches Heidegger from without, we might say in contrast to Figal. Backman starts to trace in Heidegger a “radical contextualism” (the definition should be found on p. 190), in a sense attributed to postmodernist and postmetaphysical thinking. He adheres to a Sheehanesque reading – meaning and intelligibility as the ultimate frontier for being, this reading supported by texts that allow for this reading – and finds a radical contextuality in Heidegger, centering around Being as the singular event (Ereignis): “Ereignis, the title for the basic dynamic character of Seyn, is the event or the ‘taking place’ of historical singularity in which meaningful presence ‘finds its place’ – in other words, is contextualised and situated within the ‘instantaneous site’ (Augenblicksstätte) of spatiotemporal situatedness (Zeit-Raum) furnished by Dasein.” (p. 195).
From this he proceeds to unfold the fourfold or “onefold of four” as parallel to Aristotle’s four causes, the difference being that instead of Aristotle’s concept of being as a situatedness, Heidegger conceives of being as “this event of instantiation as such” (p. 201). This strand of thought, as the entire essay, is admittedly inspired and fascinating – perhaps it would benefit in scope and succinctness if also made a comparison with the question of being and becoming in Heidegger.
Looking for a sense of being that bestows meaning like Backman, Mirković turns instead to Dreyfus’s and Kelly’s All Thing Shining. His first aim is to explore the background Heidegger might provide for Dreyfus and Kelly, but reaches something of a deeper nature in what the title succinctly names “The Phenomenon of Shining”.
He starts with the concept of beauty expressed in “The Origin of the Work of Art”: “Beauty is one way in which truth as unconcealment comes to presence” (p. 216) and connects this with the concept of shining in a way that should be familiar to Heidegger of that period. Then, by looking at how Heidegger handles Plato’s concept of beauty in “Nietzsche”, he points to a striking similarity between Plato and Heidegger, but also a sharp distinction: for Heidegger, beauty is related to the earth, but shining and radiance comes about “through its interplay with art and its integration into actual works of art” (p. 218). This is momentous because earth seems to here bestow both what we would call sensible and intelligible – meaningful, yet not limited to conceptual knowledge.
The second strand of the essay concerns history. Where Dreyfus and Kelly characterise modernity in terms of a general loss of meaning and nihilism – art, broadly speaking, included – they seem to be making an overstatement about the (being-)historical change, that has come to pass with the arrival of modernity. Mirković provides an example for this, the Staiger-correspondence on Mörike’s “On a Lamp”. In Heidegger’s interpretation of the poem, Mirković sees a clear inclusion of both social and practical circumstances in the analysis of the work. Now, one may doubt Mirković’s own interpretation here, but still have to admit that Heidegger’s knowledge of history extended well beyond the philosophical, and there is good reason to believe that the practical side of history is indeed incorporated into his deliberations on the topic.
In “A Brief History of Things: Heidegger and the Tradition” Mitchell provides a riveting account of just that, things – in the Heideggerian sense, of course. He starts from the place of a thing as its inherent distinction in Aristotle, proceeds to the intricate medieval system of natural and unnatural places and then to the break from this relational account to an objective account in Newton (this distinction was discussed in Malpas’ essay as well). Finally, he arrives at an ideal body that really exists nowhere, made transcendental from the viewpoint of the subject by Kant’s philosophy.
Done with the Heideggerian story, he turns to Heidegger himself, suggesting that we have to enter this between (Zwischen) that separates subject and object. Interestingly, Mitchell seems to view the between as a sort of rediscovering of the “inherently relational nature of existence” (p. 234). Aware that this claim is suspect, perhaps because a fundamental relationality seems to go against the Heideggerian intuition, he furthers and clarifies it by turning to Being and Time.
Taking an interesting turn here, he quickly makes the case, that Being and Time does not adhere to what we can elucidate as the aspects of a thing in the later Heidegger (p. 239) – “we cannot speak of any ‘things’ in Being and Time” (p. 238). Containing a wealth of new ideas, Mitchell’s proposal of a certain relationality in Heidegger could perhaps be supplemented with the latter’s treatment of Leibniz, one of the definitive modern metaphysical (and especially spatial) relationists.
The last section is titled “Ground, Non-ground, and Abyss”. A sort of show of force, the book ends with three accomplished authors: Hans Ruin, Sylvaine Gourdain and Tobias Keiling – the latter two belonging almost exclusively to the European-language tradition. However, the first two, touching on Leibniz and Schelling respectively, both suggest that the philosophical predecessors may have had a larger impact on Heidegger than previously thought. Keiling then closes the book with an insightful unravelling of the notion of Erklüftung, making this perhaps the most illuminating section for the anglophone reader.
Ruin’s “Heidegger, Leibniz, and the Abyss of Reason” takes a look at what Heidegger himself centres on when discussing Leibniz – the principle of reason or ground (Grund). Heidegger’s interpretations are here examined with penetrating but succinct means. Quite convincingly, where Heidegger seems to prima facie interpret with a deal of “violence”, Ruin identifies a hermeneutics that sheds light on Heidegger’s own development (see especially 249-251).
Giving first an overview of the writings on Leibniz “The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic” (1928) and “The Principle of Reason” (lectured 1955-56), Ruin makes explicit, and at the same time calls into question, the interpretation that the earlier text paves way for the Kehre and the latter treats Leibniz as a symbol of the history of merely rational, calculating thinking – as opposed to “meditative” thinking (Besinnung). Especially concerning this opposition, Ruin urges us to “question and learn to move across the strict borders that Heidegger creates in his own somewhat Manichean conception of the tradition” (p. 256). But in a broader sense, Ruin points at the structural similarity between Leibniz’s ultimately theological metaphysics, Leibniz’s God and Heidegger’s Being. This should motivate us, he asserts, to “refrain from becoming trapped in the dichotomous contrast between rationality and mysticism” (p. 256) and offers further reading and ides on the topic.
Another interesting and very capable essay, “Ground, Abyss, and Primordial Ground: Heidegger in the Wake of Schelling” recounts the influence of Schelling on Heidegger’s notion of ground, which he fully articulates only after Being and Time. Schelling’s Grund, a non-rational basis, is most similar to the Heideggerian notion of earth in terms of a withdrawing-providing nature. Gourdain attempts to also connect it with the notions of Ungrund, Ek-sistenz, clearing and tangentially even with Seyn.
The main comparison here is drawn from the relationships between Schelling’s ground and existent on the one hand and Heidegger’s earth and world on the other. The main similarity here is that Grund and earth both defy total intelligibility, they “each signal the withdrawal and resistance of materiality, which never exhausts itself within a definitive meaning” (p. 267), but still both provide the impenetrability or darkness that is necessary for any disclosing that their respective counterparts seem to encompass.
Heidegger’s deeper confrontation with Schelling occurs roughly simultaneously with the reworking period of “The Origin of the Work of Art” and the beginning of writing “Contributions to Philosophy” in the 1936 lecture course on Schelling’s famous essay on human freedom. This concurrency prompts Gourdain to offer a rather daring sketch of a sort of Schellingian later Heidegger.
This essay is especially welcome as an introduction to both Gourdain’s profound work on Heidegger and to the perspective on the later Heidegger, that’s intimately aware of German Idealism. This is certainly one of the core essays of the collection, one that should motivate further attempts at translation.
Such is the case also with Tobias Keiling’s “Erklüftung”. He approaches this German word, often translated as “sundering”, with a striking supposition. Namely, he follows Blumenberg’s works on the metaphor (see notes, p. 294) and instead of discounting the ultimate legitimacy of metaphors in philosophy, he embraces them wholeheartedly on the grounds, that metaphors or “linguistic images are ‘foundational elements’ of philosophical language” (p. 280) and that the opposite supposition would be Cartesian fancy of an entirely transparent language.
Moving on to a sort of genealogy of Erklüftung, Keiling first lays out the meaning the word had for the brothers Grimm and Goethe. He then gives an account of and relates to Erklüftung the notions of ground and projection, a few marvellous pages that deserve the absence of an inferior summary. Let us quote the final concern that Keiling raises after carefully enumerating and discussing the multitude of characters attributed to Erklüftung in the “Contributions”: “Heidegger’s overdetermination of the term, similar to the overdetermination of Entwerfen [projection] in Being and Time, calls into question the value of this metaphor as intuitive confirmation of a philosophical theory” (p. 291).
Now, admittedly, Keiling does not seem to have concerns that perhaps the problem with Erklüftung lies in the fact that, in treating it as an intuitively graspable metaphor, one can’t service the broadness of its significance. So, instead of dropping the supposition of metaphors as necessary elements, he posits that the term is a “speculative metaphor” and thus conceptual in the sense of being non-phenomenological (see 291-292). Now, even though the notion remains vital for a phenomenology of projecting and Dasein, Keiling asserts, that Erklüftung was sidelined foremost by the notion of the clearing.
Paths in Heidegger’s Later Thought lays out an intriguing trajectory across the later Heidegger’s oeuvre and touches on most key notions therewithin. Generally, the more accomplished authors offer a more substantial account of Heideggerian thought, but a few exceptions do stand out, as mentioned above. An inspiring read and a good overview of the European Heideggerians, the book’s usefulness to a professional reader still probably lies in specific essays of interest.