Heidegger’s Antiphilosophy

I propose the following, tentative definition of antiphilosophy: antiphilosophy happens when a thinker, having come to the end of her or his particular ontological itinerary, refers to an altogether alternative kind of experience of thought, normally posited as yet-to-come or barely glimpsed, hence futural but immanent, and it is an experience of a nearness where things will have come to be accomplished in terms of that thinker’s itinerary of thought.   In modernity we can point to Nietzsche, and his notion that he was just about to have an insight that would break the history of the world in two in the weeks prior to his mental collapse; to Wittgenstein, and his notion that thought opened up in the silence of which one could no longer talk, having exhausted the talkable, at the end of his Tractatus; of the later Lacan, and his notion of the analytic matheme.  There could be other examples.  I could cite the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, for instance.  Waiting to be read.  I think Heidegger reaches a particular antiphilosophical formulation in the 1950s, and he presents his path to it in particular in the lectures entitled “The Danger” and “The Turn.”  The experience of “the turn” is an antiphilosophical experience.

I will quickly go through the main steps in those two lectures. These are just notes, not a finished paper.

“The Danger”

This lecture prepares the ground and anticipates what will be determined in the following one (they are two consecutive lectures presented at Bremen) as what I am calling an antiphilosophical experience:

First, Heidegger carefully establishes a notion of being of beings (to einai) to which he opposes “the world.”  This is the key passage, and you will see that he makes an overcoming of nihilism dependent on it:  “Being has to own its essence from the worlding of world . . . the worlding of world is an appropriating (das Ereignen) in a still-unexperienced sense of this word.  When world first properly takes place, then being, and along with it the nothing, vanish into worlding.  Only when the nothing, in its essence from the truth of being, vanishes into this is nihilism overcome” (Bremen and Freiburg Lectures 46-47).

There is therefore an assertion that world and being are the same, but not equivalent: “they are the same in radical differentiation” (47). 

The essential experience of forgetfulness defines human thinking at this stage or epoch.  It is the epoch of positionality (Gestell).  It is the epoch of technology.

The world refuses itself.  There is only a “hint” that such refusal takes place.  In positionality, the essence of technology, the forgetting of the essence of being completes itself (49).  But there is a hint.

This hint that positionality as the being of beings offers a refusal of world through which we may get some kind of access to the fact that there is world, and not just positionality, is a reformulation of the earlier experience of the ontico-ontological difference.  There is a difference, or the trace of a difference, or the hint of a difference, mysterious, between world and positionality.

The hint is also called “a ray from the distant arrival of world” (50).  This comes through the refusal of world.  In other words, in the experience of world refusal the possibility of other-than-positionality-as-being-of-beings opens up. 

In the meantime, the pursuit and requisitioning of positionality, regarding which we have no choice, as we are not masters of being, is “the danger.”  We must traverse it.  Earlier, Heidegger tells us, he called the zone of the traversing “errancy.”

The danger conceals itself as the danger that it is.  We experience perils and plights, indeed of horrifying kinds, but the danger remains concealed.  There is immeasurable suffering and pain, but the essence of pain is concealed.  (Nota bene: a strange “we” surfaces here, as Heidegger says that “we” are unpained, but it is not clear where those whose flesh went into the Nazi “fabrication of corpses in annihilation camps” or the starving dead in China are equally unpained.)

To experience the danger as danger is, however, a requisite—positionality must be traversed.  There is a suffering of thought, a pain of thought, and Kant and Nietzsche are mentioned here as two thinkers who underwent it. 

In accomplished positionality we must traverse and experience the danger of presencing.  Presencing is the basic trait of positionality, a human production based on the presencing of being.  If physis gives us a rock, the human posits a stone staircase.  Human positioning is production: the pursuit and requisition of presence as standing reserve.

“The Turn.”

Heidegger announces that the accomplished essence of positionality prepares a “change in being” (65).  There is to be a “conversion of positionality” that would signal “the arrival of another dispensation” (65). 

The human must prepare itself for it.  How?  In thinking.  Thinking is the “authentic action.”  “By thinking we first learn to dwell in the realm in which the conversion of the dispensation of being, the conversion of positionality, takes place” (67). 

This is “the turn,” or its possibility.  From the forgetting of being to the guardianship of the essence of being.

We are not masters of being.  We cannot command it.  We can only prepare in the waiting. 

We prepare for a favor, a grace. 

It will come to us, if it comes, as a “lightning flash,” a “flashing entry” (71). 

It will give us insight (Einsicht) into that which is.  This is Ereignis. 

Beyng would have unconcealed for us “its highest secret” within the dominance of positionality. (72)

The favor, the grace, the Einkehr into Einsicht—all of this seems to me an appeal to antiphilosophy as thought.  To thought as antiphilosophy.  With it nihilism will have been overcome.  And an other beginning will have taken place. 

The history of the world would have been split in two. 

Resources that are no longer philosophical, but existential, are activated therein.  If you can muster them.  And then . . . if you wait well enough. 

Is this not, finally, transformation, transfiguration? 

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