josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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24 Nov '15 04:19:34 AM

'There was no email saying, "Come outside." That wasn’t it. It was just people coming outside.'

21 Nov '15 03:31:21 AM

'… a blog is a very serious place indeed…'

15 Nov '15 07:01:55 PM

'… there is nowhere else to go.'

14 Nov '15 06:30:19 AM

'… the point is to see if criticism can live up to how big the world truly is.'

12 Nov '15 11:29:29 PM

'Moral philosophers should be frankly and realistically high-minded in the sense of recognising the unique and profound presence and importance of a moral sense. They should be liberal-minded, not cynics, reductivists, relativists, but able to scan a wide vista of human life. Such thinking involves a sensitive empiricism and grasp of detail. For instance (some of Plato's dialogues are exemplars here) it is necessary to consider with the help of examples what egoism is, whether it is wrong, how it relates to truth, love, freedom. What is happiness, what is 'true happiness', why did Mill find that he could not do without the concept of higher pleasures? These are not just theoretical exercises in seminars, they indicate the nature of our everyday problems.'

10 Nov '15 07:04:54 AM

'… he takes words as he finds them interrelated about him and composes them—without distortion which would mar their exact significances—into an intense expression of his perceptions and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in the speech that he uses.'

3 Nov '15 06:48:32 PM

'Data is just a proxy for control.'

29 Oct '15 05:34:33 PM

'Next we may take a characteristic expression of Heidegger's: Zeitlichkeit zeitigt sich. The unusually long discussion that follows in Being and Time is not devoted solely to this phrase, but to the whole problem that it represents. This problem does not concern Heidegger alone, but the whole of philosophy. It is this: how can we speak of being in an appropriate way, when being is totally "other" than beings? If we rightly say of a tree that "it is," can we claim equal rightness for "being is"? The "is" means being; we might as well say "the is is"—obviously a flagrant tautology. An equally embarrassing situation arises when we try to speak of the characters of being. How are these to be distinguished from those ontic characteristics that belong to beings? In our usual descriptions of a person, for example, we say that he is fair, raw-boned, slow in thinking, and the like. But we also say "man is temporal." We are compelled to employ the same form of speech when the meaning is totally different. The sentence "Man is temporal" does not predicate an ontic characteristic of man; it means that he exists in a timeish way. It does not describe what certain beings are, but how existence is, how being is.

This whole problem is touched upon by Heidegger when he warns his readers that timeishness (Zeitlichkeit) does not belong to the order of beings, and therefore all "is" should be kept away from it. "Zeitlichkeit," Heidegger says, "is" not, but "zeitigt sich" (SZ, 328). Zeitigen means to bring to ripeness, to mature, to let arise, to bring forth. As we shall see later, what timeishness brings forth is not beings, but purely and solely various modes of itself. Long before we come to understand precisely what this means, we can and do notice something peculiar about the phrase "die Zeitlichkeit zeitigt sich." Both the noun and the verb have Zeit, time, at their root. What we have before us is evidently a tautology, which unfortunately is lost in translation. It might just be possible to say "timeishness timeifies," and the meaning would not be very far off Heidegger's, but the expression is too forced to be used, except perhaps in extremity. (In their translation of Being and Time Macquarrie and Robinson have been somewhat more successful. They have adopted "temporality" for Zeitlichkeit, which enables them to say "temporality temporalizes.")

Helpful as a well-turned translation undoubtedly would be, the really important thing is to understand why Heidegger deliberately adopts a tautology where it could be avoided. Is it out of a childish delight in playing with words? Or is there a sober, well-founded reason for it? Certainly there is. Heidegger thinks that meaningful tautology is the only way in which we can express that being is not something, but the sheer "other" to all beings. It may be asked, however, what in fact this "other" can be? If it is not something, not anything, must it not be nothing? Indeed, Heidegger maintains like Hegel, only for quite different reasons, that being and nothing are the same. All the more important for us to remember that this "nothing" is not a total, absolute hiddenness. It must be manifest to us in its own way, otherwise we could not even say "it is nothing." How the nothing "is" can be expressed with precision only in a tautological way: the nothing negates (das Nichts nichtet. WM, 34, W, 11, G9, 114, P, 90, BW, 105, EB, 369). Similarly formed phrases can be found scattered throughout Heidegger's works, such as: "the world worlds" (die Welt weltet), "place places" (der Raum räumt), "speech (language) speaks" (die Sprache spricht), and so on.

Although these tautologies are introduced here for the first time, they are not strange to us. Especially the phrase "the nothing negates" strikes a familiar note, because it says what is so basic to Heidegger's thought that, in a different form, it had to be considered already in our study of Division One. A fuller explanation of this phrase will therefore give us the best chance of seeing that the tautologies quoted above are in fact eminently meaningful.

If Heidegger rightly maintains that being and nothing are the same, then the first task must be to show that the nothing negates in such a way as to make something—that is, beings as such, understandable in their being. This happening is possible only because the negation differentiates between nothing and something: Nothing not Something, and conversely, Something not Nothing. The capital letters are introduced here solely to emphasize the differentiating function of the negation (the not). It holds the nothing and something apart, so that from the difference between them each can show itself, the nothing as nothing, the something as something. At the same time, the difference holds them together in their sheer "otherness," for the nothing can only show itself as the other to something, as the "not something," while the something can only show itself as the other to nothing, as the "not nothing."

This difference, however, is what we familiarly call the difference between being and beings. For when we assert of something that "it is," the "is" means purely that the something has become manifest in and as itself. This is possible only because the something can show itself in its difference from nothing, as "not nothing." This reflection enables us to see in what sense being and nothing are the same, and in what sense we may rightly distinguish between them. When we consider being purely with regard to beings—that is, as the manifestness of beings in and as themselves—then we rightly speak of the being of beings. But when we consider being purely with regard to its possibility, then indeed being and nothing are the same.

At this point, however, a doubt may arise. If both nothing and something can only appear from the difference between them, does Heidegger rightly insist that the nothing negates? Would it not be equally true to say that the something negates? This thought proves to be untenable as soon as we realize that something can never disclose nothing. All the beings in the world can never make the nothing understandable. The possibility lies only the other way: the nothing must be disclosed to us in advance, and only from it can something come to light as something, beings as beings.

Metaphysics, on the other hand, starts from beings. Its basic question, "What are beings as beings?" Heidegger rightly insists, can never radically formulate, let alone solve, the problem of being, for beings can never explain being, something the nothing.

Heidegger's tautological way of expressing how the nothing "is," has so far proved to be not only meaningful but eminently precise: the nothing negates by introducing the first differentiation between nothing and something, being and beings. In so doing, however, it in advance drives beings on to the same plane: they must and can only show themselves as beings, not nothing. The nothing negates by unifying beings into a whole. That is why Heidegger usually speaks of beings in the whole (das Seiende im Ganzen), and not, as would seem more natural to us, of beings as a whole.

Hence when there are beings like ourselves in whose existence an understanding of being becomes a fact, we must necessarily find ourselves amidst beings in the whole. Moreover, we do not merely indifferently occur among other beings, but are in advance referred to them. The nothing repels us and so turns and directs us toward beings. This repelling and referring is grounded in a negation as denial and withdrawal. The nothing denies us any further progress, it utterly forbids any further penetration into itself. The nothing denies itself as "something" we can grasp and hold on to; it withdraws itself from us as a ground we can stand on. In this denial of penetrability and ground lies the initial thrust that throws us into a world, referring us to beings that we can grasp and hold on to, among which we can find firm ground. The nothing negates as the inner possibility and necessity of world, which essentially belongs to our being. When we ask about the "world itself," we are asking precisely about the last intelligible ground of its possibility and necessity.

But the world of a factical existence, as we know from Division One, has a richly differentiated structure and is altogether a highly defined phenomenon. Has this anything to do with the central event that the nothing negates? We may say in anticipation that it has, although it cannot yet be shown how and why. As the following study will try to show, the nothing negates in certain definite ways, and all these ways have the character of notness, that is, of denial and withdrawal. The nothing gives us no ground to stand on, no place to stay in, no time for further possibilities. As we shall see, in these various ways of negating, denying, and withholding, lies the ultimate disclosure of these irreducible characters—time the most fundamental among them—whereby we can articulate and define being.

What we do know already is that the world, as a highly articulated and defined phenomenon, has a unique function in the disclosure of being. This function is that only in and from the world can any concrete beings meet us and be distinguished according to what they are and how they are. The articulations of "what" and "how" were first brought to our attention by Heidegger's idea of being: what- and how-being, something, nothing, and notness. The something, or more precisely, to-be-something, can be further differentiated into how-to-be and what-to-be. But, as we can now see more clearly, all these articulations of being are still only empty, formal concepts, devoid of any real content. To enable us to fill these empty forms with concrete content—that is, to enable us to find ourselves among other beings and so distinguish ourselves from them, our own mode of being from theirs—is the unique function of world. It is the uniqueness of world that finds expression in the phrase "the world worlds."

Heidegger's tautologies, which at first seemed forced or meaningless, have now proved to be highly appropriate to those phenomena that belong to the disclosure of being. These are not an absolute nothing, nor, on the other hand, can they "be" in the same way as beings are. Each of these phenomena, moreover, has a distinctive and unique function in unifying, articulating, and defining being, which cannot be replaced by anything else. They are identical only with themselves; they are the strictly understood "identities."'

28 Oct '15 11:23:01 PM

'… seen as thieves, stealing their own bodies from someone else.'