Christopher Fynsk taught a class entitled: HEIDEGGER, ART AND THOUGHT.
NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes
because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I
am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.
This will be a first year, introductory course, although many of you are more senior students. We will be working through "The Origin of the Work of Art."
EGS became a real inspiration for me while I was at SUNY Binghamton. I hope you're aware of both the madness of this institution and yet the special work that is done here. I hope that continent. will help sustain the network of students here.
[Note: I will be referencing the translations found in David Ferrell Krell's Basic Writings.]
I find "The Origin of the Work of Art" works well as a source, like water. It helps guide readings of Heidegger. He's working with immensely difficult ideas. But once you grasp his formulations, you will be better able to read him with these hand holds.
It's also a fascinating position in his corpus. The late Heidegger was the really influential one in the 1970s and 80s. This essay was at a turning point in his thinking. The turn starts in 1930 and unfolds during the 1930s—a move away from the project that made him "Heidegger." It was quite an event when he came on the scene. "What Is Metaphysics?" was being read by Wittgenstein.
His body of work was larger than Being & Time and he attempted to pose a new question of being. The scope of the project is breath-taking. He wouldn't use the word, "system," but like Kant or Schelling he was working on the foundations of philosophy itself.
Fundamental ontology. His argument was that we could rethink Being itself from the human being's awareness of Being. If we can grasp what constitutes the being human, we can rethink Being itself. In this way we understand Being & Time as an existentialist text.
It's that the temporality of understanding takes form in the human's awareness of his mortality. Dasein is future-oriented. We project onto the possibility of our being; it's what distinguishes humans to other animals in this relationship to death.
Being thrown into the world, we find ourselves in a world already there and ourselves already there. He sets up a hermeneutic circle in this circle. Future opens onto past. It's the ground of our being in the present.
The articulation of the above becomes the foundation of our being in the world. He's proposing we rethink ontology from the viewpoint of temporality. There is a hidden privileging of the previous eras—it's a given that what we can rethink this if we recognize this constitution of the human being and thereby rethink ontology.
But, around 1929, Heidegger saw this wasn't going to be possible. Being & Time is actually a fragment, he never finished the second section. He hit a road block.
The problem of space arose and we'll see this in "The Origin of the Work of Art." He says that the language of the tradition will not enable him to think anew—this paleonymy. During the 1930s he attempts the new language, look at Contributions to Philosophy, the writing is pretty wild. The translation is nearly impossible. We'll talk about this problem of language later on.
In "The Question of Being" a passage beyond nihilism is possible. He sees the definition of nihilism is it's first problem. If we are to confront the question, we must rethink the term.
Fundamental ontology→1930→another thinking, the advent of Being, ereignis; we have to find other paths and languages.
The 1930s is also a momentous time for Heidegger as he asserted himself into politics and openly supported the Nazi regime. He understood Nazism as a revolution and saw himself as the spiritual führer. It wasn't a passing fancy (contrary to the way it was presented during the 1980s). He very much wanted this position. He later said it was a blunder, but he never retracted that he thought of himself as a Nazi.
European thought, aprés coup, was coming to thought in the 1980s about the Holocaust. A tremendous problem for thinking and art. Suddenly Faría's book, which provided information already available, became widely circulated. We had to face Heidegger in a way that was not being done.
"The Origin of the Work of Art" states that art is the founding site for a people and history. This is a quiet nod to Hölderlin, whom he was lecturing about in 1935. This new path he proposes has to be in dialogue with art. The advent of German destiny requires taking up Hölderlin's language. This is also when Heidegger begins to tangle with Nietzsche.
With his inaugural rector's address, "The Self-Assertion of the German University," Nietzsche and Hölderlin became primary references for Heidegger in the 1930s. "Nietzsche did me in," was something Heidegger muttered even into later life. He was fighting against the official Nazi formulation of Nietzsche and he tried to think with him his own version of National Socialism. This affirmative reading gave fascinating thinking on Nietzsche's concept of the Eternal Return and Zarathustra.
Then, in 1939, we have another turn, now against Nietzsche. Heidegger situates him as another metaphysician, simply overturning Plato. In German there are two volumes composed of Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche; the second volume is a history of modern metaphysics. I cannot emphasize them enough.
Heidegger saw himself caught up in the metaphysics of subjectivity and this was due to the nature of the tradition's language itself. The poietic act was necessary to overcome this. He felt the Greeks got it right by discussing the production of worlds through language. Eternal Return and Will to Power were Nietzsche's way of being caught in metaphysics.
Descartes founds the truth of humanity, the subject, as the ability to present itself as the subject of History and the subject of Truth. Heidegger unseats this subjectivity—he returns to his earliest intuitions in the 30s and says that it's the finitude of the human that is most central. The question of finitude becomes more and more disruptive for him. We find ourselves in a world not of our doing and we take up these limits imposed by both finitude and our thrown-ness.
Nietzsche started with the artist, Heidegger in the 1930s displaces the artist, in this text the artist hardly appears at all.
Ereignis—the advent of Being. The coming about of the disclosure of Being; the advent of language.
The question is how to think about the work of art, how does the production of Truth happen here? This is the labor of the negative Hegel; Marx also has this mode of subjectivity. How can Being be brought, truthfully, in being said or produced in art?
We started with two questions: 1) subjectivity and 2) language. For Heidegger, the question of being is the question of language itself. In "What Is Metaphysics?" he's already raising the question of language. He, through Hölderlin, begins to talk about mythic language, Humboldt becomes important for him. The essence of art is poetry. The essence of poetry is language. We attribute the language-talk to the later Heidegger, but we see it here already, during the War years.
All of these ways of trying to find new ways of being brings us to an awareness of how Heidegger is writing. After 1939 we can no longer talk about his theses of Being because he has moved away from this traditional way of thinking. It gets so extreme, in a way. We have to give up what the words mean and then giving up, the language moves us away to thinking. The thinking is in the language itself. He dissects the words themselves, we speak Heideggarian, not German.
My experience has shown that even native German speakers have a similar trouble with Heideggarian language. We have to suspend understanding, but this requires a careful reading. The more we understand, the less we understand. But we will read carefully together and find that it opens up. There are no prerequisites, by reading carefully we will come to an understanding of Heidegger's thinking through the movement of the text. We'll be following the text and in this way derive an Explication de Texte, in the French tradition.
Let's continue a bit with this question of language. I'll be jumping ahead in his thinking, but it will help us in reading "The Origin of the Work of Art." Starting in the late 1950s, Heidegger wrote a series of essays on language. "Was heißt Denken?"and Unterwegs zur Sprache are exemplary.
We cannot treat language as an object of reason in the way Linguistics does. We can't say that language is this or that. The way it is present to us is given to us, gibt. "Es gibt Sprache." Heidegger invites us to think how we relate to language itself. We are in language and don't pause. We don't have a relation to language unless language is disturbed, as when a word is on the tip of our tongues. Only when a word escapes us do we become aware of language as itself.
How do we get to language? The relation is inversed. Language gives us the ability to think. It's not a tool to use in our relating, language actually gives us the relationship to the world. In "Letter on Humanism" he states that language is the House of Being; it's our horizon, our ground, but not in the traditional sense because that would be Logos.
The finitude of existence means being Abgrund. Language is that from which a subject comes to itself as itself through language and the relation to existence that language provides. He doesn't want language to be the subject, however.
Heidegger gives special prominence to this word, der Brauch; brauchen is to need, to use. Wittgenstein refers to this word for meaning. In "Die Sprache" (chapter 6 in Poetry, Language, Thought) he lays out language uses human speech to come into speech. If we think of language as the relation of language, through articulation language comes about. Poetry is a special expression of this.
In the broadest sense, Language requires human speech in order to come about as language. Heidegger uses this scheme to bring us into relation with Language. We have to grasp how speech brings to language Language. We have to speak in a manner that brings to the fore Language. Poetry and thought bring this relationship into vision. Neither poets nor thinkers can get this relationship alone, poetry and thought have to come into dialogue.
In an initial stage we have:
↳[uses of the human here]
Ereignis appropriates the essence of the human with and for the use of language for itself
➚ Language→human speech→saying of Being
↘ human ≠ linguistic
You notice that the human appears twice, we come to ourselves as selves through our relating to the world through language use. It's prelinguistic insofar as Ereignis is co-originary with Language and the human. Derrida chose not to talk about this for some reason and it brings into question animal and the body.
This question of the use of the human is important for our essay, "The Origin of the Work of Art." What distinguishes art is its use of the earth. The artist's use of the earth is brought up here. Poetic speech turns upon itself such that it exposes itself in relation to itself. "It's most distinguished" Language is a drawing out of [trusts?], it articulates the relation between showing and saying—drawn into articulation and relating. Thought and poetry both do this, but poetry is a counterpoint.
If Truth is something transcendental and not in temporality, then how do we find the instantiation of Truth in our temporality? Die Sprache; Language is not regular speech. This poietic discussion of the creation of a people's world is very much of the German Romantic tradition, but Heidegger knows that this Romantic thinking is very much the metaphysics of the subject.
The subject's relation to the social order is this Butler/Rancière discussion, but what is at work here is this possibility for social order at all. The past twenty-five years has seen politics absorbed into all conversation such that politics is the ground of meaning. Heidegger is discussing the advent of the political, the limit of politics. Suddenly everything must be political..
Heidegger sees every human act that comes into being through Being with Truth. Art confronts dimensions of experience that are not immediately political. We cannot make everything reduced to the imperative that everything be political. Partly what "political correctness" does is say everything is political and the imperative that control be asserted in its horizons. This controlling limits our ability to engage what is. Contemporary "Theory" has seen this commodification of names and concepts: you write about certain people because you can get jobs doing that. This commodification overdetermines "Theory." Nevermind the references, get to the question.
I got into this discussion of Language to talk about usage and the earth. What Heidegger is doing is inviting us to rethink our relation to language and from this place consider what language does. Starts with aesthetics, which appeals to our relationships and he wants to undo this relationship. Art gives us a relationality in which we find ourselves in our relation to the world. It's an opening to relationality. Es gibt die Kunst. Art grounds being and so has a hierarchical effect yet overturns political relations—a moment of disruption totally processual and dynamic.
[END OF DAY 1]