Attunements in the Task of Thinking. 

In the 1956 text “Was ist das–die Philosophie?”  Heidegger uses the German word Abbauen, which literally rendered might be “deconstruction,” to talk about the “destruction” of the history of philosophy he had already recommended in Being and Time.  The paragraph says in the available English translation: 

This path to the answer to our question is not a break with history, no repudiation of history, but is an adoption and transformation of what has been handed down to us.  Such an adoption of history is what is meant by the word “destruction.”  . . .  Destruction does not mean destroying but dismantling [Abbauen], liquidating, putting to one side the merely historical [that is, historiographical] assertions about the history of philosophy.  Destruction means–to open our ears, to make ourselves free for what speaks to us in tradition as the Being of being.  By listening to this interpellation we attain the correspondence [to that towards which philosophy is on the way, necessary for an adequate answer to the question What is philosophy?] (What is Philosophy?, Rowan & Littlefield, 2003, 71-73)

Heidegger presents his notion of destruction as part of a Stimmung, an attunement, a specific mode of pathos that our historical epoch prompts in us and that grounds the possible correspondence.  Thaumadsein is the classical name for that attunement.  Heidegger claims that thaumadsein was not left behind, which for us, after Cartesian doubt, includes anew a step back and a restraint: “Im Erstaunen halten wir an uns . . . Wir treten gleichsam zurück vor dem Seiendem” (84).  And yet, Heidegger says, our “fundamental tuning” “is still hidden from us” (89): “What we come across is only this–various tunings of thinking.  Doubt and despair, on the one hand, blind obsession by untested principles, on the other, conflict with one another.  Fear and anxiety are mixed with hope and confidence” (91).  It is here, following those considerations, to which Heidegger offers no particular answer, that Heidegger makes the claim that such an attunement might best be explored through poetic language: “our discussion, which follows philosophy’s thinking, necessarily leads to a discussion of the relationship between thinking and poetic creation.  Between these two there exists a secret kinship because in the service of language both intercede on behalf of language and give lavishly of themselves.  Between both there is, however, at the same time an abyss for they ‘dwell on the most widely separated mountains'” (95).  To my knowledge, Alain Badiou, the great critic of the “suture” of philosophy to poetry in Heidegger, never referenced the fact that Heidegger places the closest proximity between the two at the level of a fundamental attunement–away from any psychology and certainly away from the identification of philosophy with poetry, but certainly on the way to the possible naming of an epochal pathos that could restitute an orientation on the path of thinking.  At stake is the correspondence with the epochal logos, which remains hidden from us. 

In the first part of the essay, which is really a lecture explicitly framed as an introduction to a conversation with his listeners, Heidegger had introduced André Gide’s dictum, in his book on Dostoyevski, that “with fine sentiments bad literature is made” (23).  In retrospect we read that the search not for fine but for the proper “sentiment” is crucial for a good answer to the question of philosophy. And yet the answer as to the sentiment is not given–hence there is no corresponding answer as to the question of philosophy.  Only the two questions subsist.  Heidegger has indeed risked that the question of philosophy has to do with establishing a correspondence with the sending of Being and also that the possibility of attaining it would include not just thaumadsein but also restraint and a step-back from an exclusive concern with das Seiende or present presence.  But that is all he risks.  Except that he does tell us that the notion of philosophy is historically situated as well: 

for Heraclitus philosophia did not yet exist.  An aner philosophos is not a “philosophical” man.  The Greek adjective philosophos expresses something completely different from the adjective philosophical.  An aner philosophos is hos philei to sophon, he who loves the sophon.  . . . What this word means for Heraclitus is hard to translate.  But we can explain it according to Heraclitus’ own interpretation.  According to this the sophon means, Hen Panta, One (is) All.  All means here, all things that exist, the whole, the totality of being.  Hen, one, means, the one, the unique, the all-uniting.  But all being is united in Being.  The sophon says–all being is in Being [Alles Seiende ist im Sein].  To put it more pointedly–being is Being . . . Being is the gathering together [Das Sein ist die Versammlung]–Logos. (47-49)

The Sophists attacked this conception, Heidegger says, and they caused the birth of philosophy by doing so.  The sophos–Anaximander, Parmenides, Heraclitus–lost his harmony, his homologein, the Sophists made sure of it.  From then on, only a striving was possible.  “Because the loving is no longer an original harmony with the sophon but is a particular striving towards the sophon, the loving of the sophon become philosophia” (51).  “The step into philosophy, prepared for by Sophism, was first accomplished by Socrates and Plato” (53). 

If so, it is legitimate to ask whether thaumadsein was already a derived and secondary attunement–in fact, the attunement proper to metaphysics, which Heidegger also calls, although not in this text, ontotheology.  The sophoi would have corresponded through a different attunement.  What was it?  And: was Sophism a historical disruption also in the sense of bringing forth a different attunement?  Was that precisely its fateful accomplishment?  Can we take Sophism to be an actualization or institutionalization of the Parmenidean third way?  Let me put it this way:  Sophism interrupted the sophon, the hen panta, the immersion of Seiende im Sein which was still the thought-character of Anaximander, Parmenides, Heraclitus, presumably Pindar and Aeschylus and even Sophocles.  Sophism was powerful enough to displace the aner philosophos toward a miswandering into a common sense no longer attuned to logos: attuned to doxa, to the marketplace of ideas, to the back and forth of the polis (which brought the polis to its doom at the same time it made it flourish).  That would be the claim.  It is fateful because the reaction to it–Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the ti question–forced the move into metaphysics and the forgetting of the ontological difference and it opened Western history as such. 

When Heidegger says in “On the Essence of Truth” that Kant opens up the last stage of metaphysics he must be talking about the stage where another disruption happened, this time the one that brings metaphysics to its culmination and its end: the stage of the death of God, announced by Kant and expressly formulated by Hegel and then taken up by Nietzsche and reformulated by Heidegger as the stage of the flight of the gods and the wait for the “last god.”  It is dubious that the reaction to such a stage could lead in the direction of a reestablishment, a restoration of the Hen Panta.  That is perhaps what the Heideggerian “other beginning” says: that the other beginning would be different from the “first beginning.”  But will there be an “other beginnning”?  If so, it could only be through some confidence in the possibility that somehow that “other beginning” will start to take place as a new fateful instantiation of Western (perhaps by now already global) history.   I lack that confidence myself, which may make me a pessimist.  We do not have a name, or any awareness, of the fundamental attunement of the last stage of metaphysics opened by Kant–no longer Aristotelian thaumadsein, not really, no longer Cartesian doubt.  Could it be Nietzsche’s probity?  Perhaps.  But restraint, or restraint in probity, still tells us nothing about the fundamental attunement needed to move to a different epoch of thought. 

Unless it is the terror that Rilke mentioned in his Duino Elegies, which crosses in many ways the essential poetry of the century, from Mandelstam and Pessoa to Celan and Claudio Rodríguez and José Angel Valente.  A thinking attuned by terror to the terror of planetary disruption through climate change, a new if long announced word of Being–hardly enough to accomplish a new beginning. 

Comentario a Monólogos de la bella durmiente, de Miguel Morey.  Madrid: Alianza, 2021.

            (El trato es hablar solo entre 10 y 15 minutos, lo cual implica tener que dejar de lado tantas observaciones sobre este intenso y por muchas razones perturbador libro de Miguel Morey.  Al menos hasta la conversación que siga a nuestros comentarios preliminares.  Me limito entonces a mencionar algunas cuestiones que me motivan particularmente.)

            Me pregunto en qué registro discursivo colocaría Jacques Lacan la obra de María Zambrano, ella misma relativa enemiga de la razón discursiva.  El pensamiento de Zambrano no sigue ni responde al discurso del amo, ni al discurso universitario, ni al discurso histérico, ni al discurso del analista.  Tampoco al discurso capitalista.   Es quizá discurso del saber, o del sentir, pero de la misma manera que podría decirse, sostenidas todas las diferencias, del discurso de Friedrich Nietzsche o del discurso de Georges Bataille o incluso de gran parte del discurso de Martin Heidegger.  En Zambrano todavía está más acentuada que en los pensadores mencionados la diferencia con el discurso universitario–para no hablar de los restantes. Morey, en su libro, habla con cierta insistencia de la dificultad extrema no ya de entender propiamente a Zambrano sino sobre todo de escribir o de establecer una relación crítica con su texto–el texto zambraniano desborda y delira el discurso universitario también en ese sentido, más marcadamente que tantos otros discursos de pensamiento en el siglo xx.  Es interesante esa renuencia y creo que no es posible atribuirla sin más al tipo particular de idiotez que el discurso universitario ha ido labrando para sí mismo de manera creciente y ya abrumadora.  En cualquier caso desde sus primeras páginas Morey renuncia a hablar sobre María Zambrano y opta por hablar desde ella o en relación con ella. 

            En el capítulo 10, un capítulo relativamente tardío en el libro de Morey, nueve lo preceden, nueve de once, al margen de los Apartes, Morey repite que “los alcances precisos” del pensamiento de Zambrano “se nos escapan” (223).  Y continúa:

Hace ya mucho tiempo que nos movemos en su atmósfera, pero estamos lejos de haber podido tomar realmente tierra.  Y tal vez siga siendo así aún durante un tiempo.  Sin duda llegará la hora en la que su propuesta de una razón poética podrá comenzar a ser aquilatada en toda su complejidad, y cuando así se haga es seguro que no dejará de constatarse su asombrosa proximidad con muchas de las más nobles, por culturalmente nutricias, experiencias de pensamiento que por los mismos años se estaban llevando adelante en las cuatro esquinas del mundo occidental.  (223)

            Morey dice que el denominador común a esas experiencias de pensamiento es la “crítica de la razón discursiva” (224).  Algo hay en el siglo xx, como período de la historia del ser, que lleva al pensamiento a intentar formularse como crítica de la razón discursiva en algunas de sus obras esenciales.  Morey menciona a Heidegger y a Bataille, pero también a Maurice Blanchot, a Emile Cioran, a René Char, que son más o menos coetáneos de Zambrano.  La pregunta de Morey en ese capítulo, para la que él esboza una respuesta preliminar y tentativa respecto de Blanchot, es, no si hay influencias o si puede establecerse una relación directa entre los textos, al modo universitario habitual, sino si hay paralelismos y concordancias que convendría establecer incluso a pesar del desconocimiento mutuo.  Es por lo tanto una pregunta que atañe a cierto secreto del pensamiento, y que tiene que ver no tanto con el “espíritu de época” sino más bien con esas “hegemonías rotas” de la historia del ser de las que hablaba Reiner Schürmann.  Si en la historia del ser hay principios epocales que acaban por sintonizar pensamientos de época incluso desde sus diferencias mismas, precisamente porque se postula que esos principios configuran una hegemonía histórica que condiciona, el siglo xx sería el comienzo de una época aprincipial, una época posthegemónica o an-árquica donde el pensamiento prescinde de toda sumisión epocal.  Es algo paradójica la noción: habría pensadores, Zambrano entre ellos, también Morey, cuya pertenencia epocal puede medirse en relación con su capacidad de ruptura de toda pertenencia epocal–su capacidad posthegemónica en relación con una razón discursiva general que marcaría o seguiría marcando una tendencia dominante o abrumadoramente dominante.  Pero hay algunos y algunas que no están en ello, siempre, dice Morey, “en soledad” (223). 

            La pregunta para nosotros, en la precisa medida en que ha dejado de interesarnos el discurso universitario o discurso dominante del saber, en la precisa medida en que nuestra curiosidad o nuestra querencia atiende genealógicamente a esos pensadores oscuros, relativamente impresentables, tan despreciados por la academia elegante, tan fuera de moda, tan incapaces de responder a esa noción caída de sentido común o de sentido común político que arrasa el campo contemporáneo de la producción académica, no es sin embargo si debe haber o no una “constatación,” como dice Morey, de sus paralelismos o concordancias diferenciales.  Esa sería en cierta medida una mirada todavía filológica, todavía pendiente de recursos archiacadémicos tales como el de reducir el pensamiento a su historia.  Yo pienso que nuestra pregunta es en qué medida esos pensadores an-árquicos o posthegemónicos del siglo xx pueden ser semilla o condición de pensamiento real en el presente y en el futuro.  Está claro que esa pregunta no busca acumulación de saber y mucho menos bajo la fórmula marxiana de “acumulación primitiva,” que para Marx era el “pecado original” del capitalismo.  No interesa encontrar una constelación de pensamientos que acabe por configurar, a fin de cuentas, una constelación de pensamiento en cuanto tal susceptible de configurar una nueva hegemonía–sería no solo un pecado sino también un error y una inconsistencia.  Interesa más bien encontrar en esos textos de un pasado tanto más acuciante cuanto que es relativamente reciente acicate y modelo para seguir la obra o la desobra que empieza a ser ya condición literal de respiración en nuestro tiempo. 

            Hacia el final de Le coupable Bataille dice: “Tu asunto en este mundo no es ni asegurar la salud de un alma sedienta de paz ni procurar para tu cuerpo las ventajas del dinero.  Tu asunto es la búsqueda de un destino inconocible” (416).  Perseverar en esa búsqueda es una posibilidad para cualquiera pero no para todos.   Sus resultados son en todo caso impredecibles y pueden resultar duros: “No te equivoques: esta moral que escuchas, que yo enseño, es la más difícil, no deja esperar sueño ni satisfacción.  Te demando la pureza del infierno–o, si prefieres, de un niño: no habrá promesa alguna a cambio y no quedarás ligado a ninguna obligación.  Oirás–viniendo de ti mismo–una voz que lleva a tu destino: la voz del deseo y no la voz de seres deseables” (416).  Creo que no sería falso decir que Morey escribe su libro desde Zambrano de forma claramente comprometida con ese mandato batailleano, a su vez plenamente compartido por Zambrano misma. 

            Empieza a hacerlo desde la referencia a un “tercer camino” que buscaría eludir la muy antigua división del campo de pensamiento entre poesía y filosofía.  El tercer camino zambraniano, meditativo antes que discursivo o contemplativo, trataría de eludir la doble trampa de la técnica y del misterio, es un camino más allá de la técnica pero también ajeno al misterio.  Vocación y destino, dice Morey, añadiendo una serie de precisiones sobre la recuperación o el recuerdo de un “sentir originario” del que dependería la posibilidad misma–yo la llamaría antifilosófica–del aprendizaje del secum morari senequiano.  Morey dice de ella, con Zambrano, que es un pensamiento del fondo oscuro, un pensamiento infernal o pensamiento de catacumbas que deriva o delira en “otra especie de verdad” respecto de las verdades que la filosofía o la poesía pueden producir. 

            Me atengo, pues, a eso en mi comentario.  Quiero pensar ese tercer camino al morar consigo, camino del morar consigo, que promete, en la recuperación del sentir originario, una aventura de pensamiento destinal en la experiencia de “otra especie de verdad:” verdad poética, o racional-poética, diría Zambrano, o demónica, preferiría decir yo si se me permite.  En todo caso, verdad todavía radicalmente intempestiva e inaceptable para tantos catedráticos del pensamiento contemporáneo y para sus numerosos acólitos.  Pero de la que depende, no solo una respiración posible, sino la existencia misma de un futuro. 

Comentario a capítulos 5 y 16 de The Rivers North of the Future.  The Testament of Ivan Illich as Told to David Cayley.  Toronto: Anansi, 2005.  Para conversación en 17 Instituto de Estudios Críticos, 5 de mayo 2022. 

Muchas gracias por la invitación a participar en esta conversación.  Es un honor.  Cuando me contactó Benjamín Mayer al respecto yo pensé que mi única función en ella sería precisamente la de ser un conversante más, no tenía idea de que se esperaría de mí esta pequeña intervención especial, para la que no me encuentro especialmente preparado.  Así que, con mis disculpas, y sin más pretensiones que la de ayudar en la conversación, voy a centrar mis comentarios en el capítulo 5 sobre “la criminalización del pecado” y en su contrapartida en la segunda parte de Los ríos al norte del futuro, que es el capítulo 16, la conversación sobre “conciencia.” 

El contexto es por supuesto la gran temática de cristianismo y secularización que cruza todo el volumen.  Para Ivan Illich, como sabemos, la secularización es consecuencia de la “corrupción” del cristianismo, ella misma consecuencia quizá inevitable de la formación original de un “cristianismo histórico” en la creación de la Iglesia como poder secular.  La cuestión fundamental atraviesa por lo tanto la misión o la función de Pablo e indirectamente de Agustín de Hipona.  Dado que hablamos de corrupción, es lógico suponer que habría en Illich un gesto o una voluntad contra la corrupción, definitorio de su posición, y que tal gesto consiste en un retorno a la pureza de la revelación original, del acontecimiento de Cristo como revelación.  A lo largo de todo el libro Illich insiste en la parábola del Samaritano como momento clave o cifra de esa revelación.   Si el pecado es, desde el punto de vista de esa revelación original, simplemente la traición del amigo, que es también traición al dios encarnado, Illich insiste en que la criminalización de tal traición, que equivale a la conversión del pecado en crimen, tiene consecuencias incalculables en el proceso de corrupción secularizante constitutivo de la civilización cristiana y europea. 

Todo se retrotrae al siglo XII, para Illich un momento histórico en el que se produce una extraña conjunción histórica, que es la conjunción de una serie de cambios de formas de vida y de mentalidad y de prácticas eclesiásticas cuyo interés principal era el control de tales cambios.  Por eso podemos entender esa extraña conjunción histórica como un momento señalado en el itinerario que va de la conspiratio original a la conjuratio ya siempre necesariamente corrupta porque vela y oculta el flujo original del espíritu al darle concreción institucional y política, político-institucional.  “Cristo vino a liberarnos de la ley, pero la cristiandad permitió que la mentalidad legal fuera inserta en el corazón mismo del amor” (87), dice Illich refiriéndose a la institucionalización del matrimonio como contrato entre personas en el Cuarto Concilio de Letrán (1215). 

Son las disputas de investidura, sin embargo, las que terminan por originar la criminalización del pecado.  La Iglesia quiso asegurar sus derechos de control y dominación sobre los fieles contra los derechos del imperio sobre sus súbditos.  E intentó hacerlo mediante la reivindicación de autonomía en su autoridad espiritual.  La institución del sacramento de la Confesión, que obliga al fiel a declarar sus pecados a un sacerdote un mínimo de una vez por año, es entendida por Illich como un paso esencial en la criminalización del pecado, es decir, en la idea de que una falta espiritual habría de tener consecuencias seculares en el terreno del castigo.  Así nace el forum internum por oposición al forum civile, según el cual el fiel debe acusarse a sí mismo ante Dios y su representante sacerdotal por faltas a la ley divina.  Illich piensa que tal creación sacerdotal o eclesiástica implica ni más ni menos que el nacimiento de la conciencia.   Dice Illich:  “la implicación primaria de la idea de forum internum es que la ley ahora gobierna lo que es bueno y lo que es malo, no lo que es legal e ilegal.  La ley eclesiástica se convirtió en norma cuya violación llevaba a la condena al infierno–un logro fantástico y . . . una de las formas más interesantes de perversión del acto de liberación de la ley consagrado en el Evangelio” (90). 

El Concilio de Trento es un paso más, notorio, en la medida en que en él la Iglesia, que ya no es identificable con la Cristiandad sin más, entroniza la noción de que su autoridad ha abolido ya la diferencia entre lo que es bueno y verdadero y lo que es mandado, impuesto por la Iglesia misma.  No es que esto consume una colonización de la conciencia, sino que, para Illich, constituye la conciencia misma como interiorización, no ya del evento de revelación cristiana, sino de la autoridad eclesiástica.  Para Illich, siguiendo a Paolo Prodi, esta “criminalización del pecado” “guarda la llave para entender los conceptos políticos de Occidente de los próximos 500 años” (89)–por ejemplo, sienta las bases para entender el concepto de ciudadanía, y de ciudadanía democrática o tendencialmente democrática, como algo obligado por la conciencia. 

El capítulo 16, que empieza con la demanda de David Cayley a Illich de elaborar la noción de fuero interno, por un lado aclara la noción del nacimiento de la conciencia en la criminalización del pecado y sus repercusiones políticas, y por otro, en mi opinión, revela su posible problematicidad.  No tengo más remedio aquí que citar con cierta amplitud, también porque no es seguro que ustedes hayan vuelto a ese capítulo en la medida en que la conversación de hoy tenía que centrarse en los capítulos 5 a 9.  La primera cita que quiero traer a su consideración es la siguiente:

La criminalización del pecado hace posible hablar de conciencia.  Olvidamos con demasiada frecuencia que la conciencia, en el sentido en el que hablamos de dolores de conciencia y de que debemos actuar según nuestra conciencia, o, a la manera kantiana, derivar normas de la conciencia, porque lo que no quiero que se me haga a mí no debería yo hacérselo a otros, la conciencia en ese sentido es producto de la criminalización del pecado, y esa criminalización del pecado puede atarse plausiblemente al siglo doce, y particularmente al intento del Papa de expandir la victoria ganada en la lucha de investiduras.  (190)

Y la segunda:  “Mi hipótesis es que las certezas de hoy son . . . el resultado de los intentos occidentales de institucionalizar la idea cristiana fundamental de que la fe, la caridad y la esperanza no están vinculadas a una norma sino que son interpersonales.  . . . Las ideas occidentales sobre la democracia son un intento de institucionalizar un ‘deber’ que por su propia naturaleza es una vocación personal, íntima e individual” (191).  Y la tercera:  “parece extraordinariamente difícil . . . concebir la conciencia excepto como apelación a una norma . . . El Samaritano no actuó desde su conciencia.  ¿Cómo debemos entender desde qué actuó?  Pablo habla de amor, fe y esperanza” (192).  El capítulo termina con ciertas reflexiones sobre la angustia desde luego nada casuales pero que debo dejar al margen por el momento. 

Cabe entonces resaltar dos cosas, y con esto concluiré.  En primer lugar, la confesión y la obligación de confesión son cruciales en este proceso, pues es la confesión la que inscribe en el cuerpo del fiel la noción de que más allá del bien y del mal está lo que es correcto o incorrecto legalmente, esto es, atendiendo a las normas de la Iglesia.  Y por otro lado, la conciencia es entendida por Illich como sometimiento a la norma, o bien exógena o bien, a la manera kantiana, ya internalizada como mandato interior. 

Me gustaría invocar las reflexiones de Hegel sobre la conciencia desdichada en el capítulo cuarto de su Fenomenología del espíritu.  La subjetividad está para Hegel, en ese período de la historia del espíritu subsiguiente a la dialéctica del amo y del esclavo, escindida, alienada radicalmente.  El llamado sujeto se encuentra autónomo o abandonado y al mismo tiempo soberano, en el sentido de que todo lo que existe existe para él.  Pero el sujeto también entiende que su particularidad y su finitud burlan su pretensión de soberanía universal.  Soy capaz de incorporar la totalidad del mundo a mi conciencia pero el mundo al mismo tiempo me rechaza como ejemplo o instancia particular de finitud ridícula, como egoísta patético.  Desde el punto de vista del otro, es decir, para el mundo, soy solo otra cosa, un cuerpo, un donnadie.  El conflicto entre mi autoentendimiento interno y mi autoentendimiento como resultado de una perspectiva externa me liquida, me hace miserable.  La Iglesia, para Hegel, presentó una solución histórica a ese problema de la conciencia desdichada mediante el sacramento de la Confesión.  La Confesión es el mecanismo mediante el que excedo mi propia finitud.  En ella me reconcilio conmigo mismo, pero a un coste, a un precio.  Es el precio del autosacrificio.  La confesión, mi confesión, es la realización del hecho de que hay un tercero, y de que necesito un tercero, un mediador.  Ese tercero, el espacio de la comunidad, es el espacio en el que me alieno absolutamente para recuperarme a mí mismo, excepto que ahora mi verdad ya no es la mía sino que es siempre ya la verdad del otro.  En el retorno a mí me he sacrificado a mí mismo.  Encontré un nosotros, y ese nosotros me hará inmortal, me dará vida eterna.  Por fin hay un sentido en el mundo. 

La figura de la conciencia desdichada es la figura que media entre la vieja relación con lo divino, anterior a la “muerte de Dios,” es decir, entre la epifanía de la revelación en el sentido de Illich, una revelación siempre olvidada en el pecado, y por lo tanto también siempre recordada en él, y la versión moderna y secularizada que es la relación con “el pueblo,” la nación, la comunidad identitaria, en otras palabras, la política.  Podríamos incluso entender a partir de estas reflexiones de Illich sobre el siglo XII que la muerte de Dios no es un fenómeno de los siglos XVIII y XIX, vinculado a los nombres de Kant, Hegel, Marx y Nietzsche, sino que es ya parte de la reforma gregoriana, como momento en que la mediación eclesiástica reemplaza la mediación divina y hace al dios redundante.  Después de eso, ya todo es política.  Hasta que aparezca otra posibilidad. 

Pienso que todo esto es consistente con, y al mismo tiempo va más allá de las reflexiones de Illich.  Illich no habla de conciencia desdichada como aquello que el cristianismo histórico, en su corrupción o perversión institucionalizante, supera.  Mi idea es que no lo hace porque Illich es incapaz de asumir la necesidad de cancelar el sacrificio–su posición es sacrificial, abiertamente sacrificial, como la hegeliana.  En él el cristiano de la revelación debe aceptar su sacrificio en la marcha de la historia, y el cristiano histórico debe también en el límite aceptar su sacrificio en cuanto al dios de la revelación.  La desecularización en Illich todavía es práctica sacrificial, como lo es la secularización. 

En cuanto a la conciencia, ¿estamos seguros de que la noción de conciencia se agota en la conciencia moral que propone Illich?  Tenemos por supuesto un modelo alternativo, que es el heideggeriano.  Para Heidegger, desde la analítica existencial de Ser y tiempo, la conciencia no responde a la interiorización de la norma y no es por lo tanto primariamente conciencia moral.  Más bien todo lo contrario.  Por lo tanto cabría decir que Heidegger establece las condiciones para un abandono de la estructura sacrificial de la historia en los términos de Illich, que son los términos de toda contraposición entre cristianismo y secularización, incluyendo la hegeliana pero también a otros pensadores de nuestra contemporaneidad como René Girard, Vincenzo Vitiello o Gianni Vattimo.   La conciencia heideggeriana no lleva a la construcción o consolidación de ningún “nosotros” comunitario o político o político-comunitario que sea a la vez la apoteosis y la negación de la comunidad de fieles, sino que atiende más bien a un abandono y desplazamiento radical con respecto de los términos de la conciencia desdichada solo resolvibles en el sacrificio.  No hay por supuesto tiempo de entrar con detalle en el análisis heideggeriano, así que debo limitarme a proporcionar dos breves citas que podemos discutir, y con ellas termino mi exposición:  “La llamada de retorno a través de la cual la conciencia llama hacia delante da a entender al Da-sein que el Da-sein mismo–como fundamento nulo de su proyecto nulo, en pie en la posibilidad de su ser–debe sustraerse y retrotraerse de su perdición en el ‘se,’ y esto significa que es culpable” (Sein und Zeit 287).  “Cuando el Da-sein se deja ser convocado a esta posibilidad, ello incluye hacerse libre a la llamada: su disposición para la potencialidad-de-ser a la que se le convoca.  Entendiendo la llamada, el Da-sein escucha a su posibilidad más propia de existencia.  Se ha escogido a sí mismo” (287).

Ese entendimiento de la conciencia no pasa por la criminalización del pecado ni por la sublimación político-comunitaria de la muerte de Dios–tampoco por la ley moral kantiana.  Busca, sobre todo, eludir el sacrificio en el retorno a una concepción trágica de la existencia opuesta al drama histórico cristiano que Illich tan brillantemente propone.  Saber si la analítica existencial en Ser y tiempo es en última instancia compatible con la posición existencial de Illich, y cómo,es algo que no excluyo de antemano, pero que nos llevaría lejos de estos capítulos que debemos comentar hoy. 

On José Antonio Gabriel y Galán’s Muchos años después.

I just finished rereading José Antonio Gabriel y Galán’s Muchos años después. I still think it is an extraordinary novel. Pierre (Klossowski), Gilles (Deleuze) and Felix (Guattari) show up in less than very dignified garments at some point–staging an enigmatic body-without-organs performance.  But essentially the novel is a very tough take on the Spanish democratic transition in the 1970s.  Too many years ago, so this doesn´t strictly matter anymore except in a now allegorical sense.  Those of us who came of age at that time, it is true, were under the illusion that a promise had been made to us in terms of a liberation of desire–political, libidinal, existential.  But the promise did not pay off.  The three main characters in the novel: Silverio the communist, who spends his days writing and rewriting what ends up being a monstrous volume on the fate of communism–revolution or reform?, leftism or pragmatism?, and so forth.  He tries repeatedly to bring his work to the attention of the Central Committee, but the Central Committee could not care less even if poor Silverio was always ahead of the times and anticipated everything.  At the end, his monumental oeuvre ends us in ashes in three shoeboxes forgotten on a bench in the park, eventually thrown into the sea.  Julián published a very successful novel on inner exile, in French no less, but as it turns out it was the only novel he was ever able to write, and he ends as a ludopath, gambling his life away, and naturally losing it, in the new Madrid Casino.  And Odile, a great dancer, also goes through her own spiral of destruction in drug addiction.  The political illusion, drug addiction, and ludopathy stand in, therefore, for the promised liberation of desire, with tragic consequences.   Perhaps these few lines towards the end of the text address the role of the writer or the thinker reflecting on that existential predicament: “la verborrea podía considerarse una terapéutica eficaz, si bien desde el punto de vista de la dignidad no dejaba de ser un truco más o menos barato, dependiendo del estilo de la facundia.”   As a reader, muchos años después de Muchos años después, I need to wonder whether my own path was so divergent from the paths that Odile, Silverio and Julián took, which are also the paths of some of my brothers and sisters.  I expatriated myself partly as a consequence of what I saw as clear dead ends available to me, but then I am not sure my expatriation was not another dead end.  It was marked by work, and by an attempt to gain dignity in it or through it, perhaps too desperately, perhaps too enthusiastically.  Now I despise all of it, in certain precise ways, as nothing more than a “truco más o menos barato.”   And what remains is both a sense of relief that things were not worse than they actually have been and a sense of wonder that I could have been so stupid.

I imagine there is some comfort in waking up to the fact, even if belatedly, that, yes, we are always ahead of ourselves, and we are thrown into circumstances not of our own making. And there is no return. The only lesson to be learned is that newer generations may not be free of the illusions and delusions mine had to undergo. Things are not better now than they were so many years ago. If the promise of a liberation of desire was empty, the actual predicament, as I glimpse it from my students, is more like a promise of continued incarceration within tedious parameters they themselves seem unable to recognize as such. Let us see how they deal with it.

On Derrida’s Messianic and Heidegger’s “Authentic Existence.”

I have reread some of the Derridean texts on messianicity without messianism.  And, concurrently, I have been rereading Being and Time’s pages on being toward death and resoluteness.  As a result, I am convinced (for now at least) that Derrida’s messianicity without messianism, which is for Derrida the very cipher of his position on politics,  relates precisely and univocally to what Heidegger calls “authentic existence.”  As you might remember if you have read the text, but then you might not, “authentic existence” is the existentiell recognition of the fact that death is not to be bypassed, and that it is the “possibility of the impossibility of existence in general.”  In “resoluteness,” which is the “anticipatory revealing” of the impossibility of existing, always and in every case for me, we come to “understand” existence as radically singular and individual, subtracted from the “they.”  It is a freeing for existence in the very face of the impossibility of existence, which “initially and for the most part” remains entangled and obscured in everydayness.  Heidegger says something towards the end of his analysis of being-toward-death that seems inconspicuous but where in fact everything comes together: “Because anticipation of the possibility not-to-be-bypassed also disclosed all the possibilities lying before it, this anticipation includes the possibility of taking the whole of Da-sein in advance in an existentiell way, that is, the possibility of existing as a whole potentiality-of-being.”  It is here, I think, in this possibility of full existence that Derrida situates his messianicity without messianism–in other words, the structure of the to-come, always already perhaps-to-come.  Which means that even politics, as democracy-to-come, hinges for Derrida on the messianic possibility of full existence.  The other side of this is of course that apocalypse must then be understood as the revelation of a certain (I mean, certain with certainty) sacredness or sacrality in death (which Angst confirms and sustains).  The sacrality of the understanding of death, mine, opens for Da-sein “the complete authenticity of its existence.”   “Passionate anxious freedom toward death,” which is the Heideggerian formula, remains to a certain extent hidden in Derrida, but not so hidden if one reads, say, “Circumfession” carefully.  For me, this calls for a rereading of Derrida in exactly the same way Schürmann read Heidegger: from the end back to the beginning.   Needless to say, but I should say it: if the very condition of politics, particularly in the sense of democratic politics, is to be found on the “messianic” (remember: a waiting without horizon, which is the waiting for death/the event in the understanding that death/the event is always already here, has always already happened) project of authentic existence, then we are talking about infrapolitics.

On Jean-Luc Nancy’s “Exscription.” 

In the first page of “Exscription” (in The Birth to Presence) Nancy sets up a differend–the so-called transparent communication of the sort that is commended by general hegemonic discourse, which “serves only to obscure violence, betrayal, and lies,” and a different communication, the communication of exscription, where something like a spillage of meaning would take place.  This notion of a “spillage of meaning” becomes then what the essay must try to grapple with. 

Nancy does it through an extensive and rather cryptic commentary on the destiny of “the book,” which, he says, has been ruined by texts “bearing the names Mallarmé, Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Bataille, Borges, Blanchot, Laporte, Derrida.”  Of course these are names of the infrapolitical canon.  They set up a task: a “repetition” and a “rewriting” “of what does not have its identity imprinted once and for all . . . in the untranscribable Book:” “for the sake of deliverance.”  If the first kind of communication sets itself up as the answer to a question the second kind of communication has more to do with the response to a call.  It is always therefore an autographic move, or paspas naturel, pas ordinaire.  “The autograph walks into the abyss.” 

For Nancy this abyss marks the very possibility of community, which the book betrays: “the book never aspires to anything less than the retracing of what exceeds it.”  “At the end of books, there is the Apocalypse:” we write necessarily “according to the logic of discourse and therefore under the nostalgia of the theological logos, also speaking to make possible a communication of speech that can be decided only on the basis of a communism of relations of exchange and therefore of production.”  But, decisively, we write “yet also not speaking, but writing in rupture with all language of speech and writing:” for the Apocalypse, “an impossible, unsustainable nakedness.”

“The reasons for writing a book can be reduced to the desire to modify the relations that exist between a man and his fellows.  These relations are judged unacceptable and are perceived as a dreadful misery.”  These words open the commentary on Bataille.

Bataille places his writing in the stage–“the Christian theater of confession, absolution, relapse into sin, renewed abandon to forgiveness.”  But it is a stage:  “Bataille always played at being unable to finish, acted out the excess, stretched to the breaking point of writing, of what makes writing: that is, what simultaneously inscribes and exscribes it.”  The “interruption of discourse” is the emptying out of the Christian theater, and the emptying out of inscription, “always a murky business.”  But it is Bataille’s “movement of thought.” 

The definition of exscription comes then, and I think it must be seen as a difference with the Derridean notion of “there is nothing outside the text,” in spite of everything.  This is the fundamental Bataillean gesture that Nancy sponsors for himself, and that I think is quite consistent with infrapolitics as second-order deconstruction: “writing exscribes meaning every bit as much as it inscribes signification.  It exscribes meaning or, in other words, it shows that what matters–the thing itself, Bataille’s ‘life’ or ‘cry,’ and, finally, the existence of everything that is in question in the text (including, most remarkably, writing’s own existence)–is outside the text, takes place outside writing.”  “This outside–wholly exscribed within the text–is the infinite withdrawal of meaning by which each existence exists.”  Nancy now makes his own proposal, as I see it, linking Bataille to the thought of the ontological difference.  The “empty freedom” through which existence comes into presence and absence is “certainly not directed toward a project, a meaning, or a work.”  It only passes through them “to expose . . . the ungroundable being of being-in-the-world.  The ‘fact’ that there is being . . . this is the very place of meaning, but it has no meaning.” 

Writing and reading are therefore an exposure to the exscription of the ontological difference: “the being of existence is not unpresentable: it presents itself exscribed.”  “The heart of things: that is what we exscribe.” 

É(x)criture, then.  And through it “the implacable, joyous counterblow that must be struck against all hermeneutics, so that writing (and) existence once more can expose themselves: in the singularity, in the reality, in the freedom of the ‘common destiny of men.'” 

So writing existence is a praxis of existence, and existence is exposure to the ex-. 

A Note on Agamben’s State of Exception

The notion that metaphysics is the hegemonic configuration of the West, through the centuries and also now, has been disregarded, when not ridiculed and rejected.  Its counterpart is of course that any hegemony–always both a product and a foundation of sovereignty–is necessarily metaphysical.   This has not only been disregarded, ridiculed, and rejected, but just abominated and declared more than unacceptable, casus morti.  And yet, at the very heart of Agamben’s State of Exception, Agamben offers a thought that confirms it all:

He is talking about the Schmitt-Benjamin disputatio on sovereignty and the state of exception.  He says: “at issue in the anomic zone is the relation between violence and law–in the last analysis, the status of violence as a cipher for human action.  While Schmitt attempts every time to reinscribe violence within a juridical context, Benjamin responds to this gesture by seeking every time to assure it–as pure violence–an existence outside the law” (217 in The Omnibus Homo Sacer).  The following passage is crucial:

“For reasons that we must try to clarify, this struggle for anomie seems to be as decisive for Wester politics as the gigantomachia peri tes ousias, the ‘battle of giants concerning being,’ that defines Western metaphysics.  Here, pure violence as the extreme political object, as the ‘thing’ of politics, is the counterpart to pure being, to pure existence as the ultimate metaphysical stakes; the strategy of the exceptioin, which must ensure the relation between anomic violence and law, is the counterpart to the onto-theo-logical strategy aimed at capturing pure being in the meshes of the logos” (217).

Things get more complicated, or cryptic, after that, when Agamben attempts to show that “pure (or divine) violence is attested to only as the exposure and deposition of the relation between violence and law,” to such an extent that, as Benjamin’s essay on Kafka would show, the “law” whose nexus with power and violence has been deposed “blurs at all points with (infrapolitical) life” (220).

The final passage of the section, thoroughly messianic, encapsulates in a sense my difficulties with Agamben in general–for me, the reason why a step back becomes necessary, that is, a step not forward towards a messianic deposition of the law (through divine or revolutionary violence), but back towards the region that is prior to politico-juridical capture (or metaphysical capture).

“One day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good.  What is found after the law is not a more proper and original use value that precedes the law, but a new use that is born only after it.  And use, which has been contaminated by law, must also be freed from its own value.  This liberation is the task of study, or of play.  And this studious play is the passage that allows us to arrive at that justice that one of Benjamin’s posthumous fragments defines as a state of the world in which the world appears as a good that absolutely cannot be appropriated or made juridical” (221).

Finally, here is the last paragraph of the book, where Agamben seems to come to the infrapolitical neighborhood only to double down into politics, at the cost of proposing an archiutopian notion of it:

“To show law in its nonrelation to life and life in its nonrelation to law means to open a space between them for human action, which once claimed for itself the name of ‘politics.’  Politics has suffered a lasting eclipse because it has been contaminated by law, seeing itself, at best, as constituent power (that is, violence that makes law), when it is not reduced to merely the power to negotiate with the law.  The only truly political action, however, is that which severs the nexus between violence and law.  And only beginning from the space thus opened will it be possible to pose the question of a possible use of law after the deactivation of the device that, in the state of exception, tied it to life.  We will then have before us a ‘pure’ law, in the sense in which Benjamin speaks of a ‘pure’ language and a ‘pure’ violence.  To a word that does not bind, that neither commands nor prohibits anything, but says only itself, would correspond an action as pure means, which shows only itself, without any relation to an end.  And, between the two, not a lost original state, but only the use and human praxis that the powers of law and myth had sought to capture in the state of exception” (242).

Violence becomes a cipher for a life not captured by juridical sovereignty and at the same time the means for its extraction from it. This is why in Benjamin it appears as divine violence. Agamben aims at a time of posthegemony, but it shows up in his text as a sacred time, the time beyond the second coming, an after-time. This is a messianic projection that can only become so either from religious eschatology or as an ideological offshoot of a democracy-to-come.

The Question of Freedom. Aporias.

No, I am talking about the absolute arrivant, who is not even a guest.  He surprises the host–who is not yet a host or an inviting power–enough to call into question, to the point of annihilating or rendering indeterminate, all the distinctive signs of a prior identity, beginning with the very border that delineated a legitimate home and assured lineage, names and language, nations, families and genealogies.  (Jacques Derrida, Aporias 34)

To say “I am a Jew” or to say “I am a Christian” or to say “I am this and that,” and by “this and that” we mean any form of being that has been culturally produced, politically produced, historically or historiologically produced–that is insistent existence.  It is existing, alright, but it is a form of existing where ontical identifications have been made primary and defining.  We call that in-sistence, a dwelling that is primarily or exhaustively concerned with our ontical relations, our relations to beings, to entities.  Of course the same is true if we primarily think of ourselves as professors, or engineers, or federal agents.  Of if we think about ourselves in terms of the identitarian register, whatever it is we claim under that determination.  This does not mean we should not do it (we would do it anyway)–it only means that, as long and for as long as we do it, we live in insistence as a mode of being, and we exclude or neglect ex-istence, which calls for a different relation to beings as such, that is, to Being. 

Being cannot be grasped, cannot be retained, we get a glimpse of it as a clearing-in-withdrawal, it can only be the ground of a questioning.  We access it in the slackening of insistence for the sake of existence, that is, for the sake of something in us which constitutes us more fundamentally than any insistent allegiance–and that constitutes everything else as well. 

This is the reason that Heidegger, in Section 16 of The Beginning of Western Philosophy, says that an approximation to ex-istence, that is, to ex-istent existence from in-sistence, insistent existence, is first of all to be understood as a liberation: “Assuming that the Being of humans came to existence, then a transformation of them has occurred.  In the transition to existence, they are determined on the basis of existence.  And existence as understanding of Being is letting-be: freedom.  The transition to freedom leads to lack of shelter, thus to a liberation from something to something” (70). 

Liberation to the freedom of existence.  Heidegger does not talk about what makes some human beings capable of taking the step from insistence to existence.  He claims it is a universal capability, even though not everybody acts on it.  Those who do step into a letting-be which enables not just oneself but all beings to be what they are, in freedom. 

“The questioning directed to Being is the basic act of existence; this questioning inaugurates the history of humans as existing humans” (72).  And yet we choose, generally and for the most part, to withdraw ourselves from it.  “We can withdraw from it only in the way the wanderer, distancing himself more and more from the spring, semblantly dissolves every relation to it and yet perishes precisely through and on this relation of distancing himself” (73). 

Some of us, for whatever reason, get a bitter taste of the emptiness and hollowness of insistence.  We can certainly double down and perish from it, heroically or abjectly.  But we can also understand that the exclusion from insistent shelter opens up the field of freedom.  It is a difficult freedom, but there is no other freedom.

Heidegger says: “To be actually existent means for us: to become the ones we are” (74).  Far from “persevering” in identity, becoming the ones we are also means becoming mortal and becoming timely.  It is a simple matter: to give up our exclusive dependence on insistence for the sake of existence, in difficult freedom.  So that, by becoming the ones we are, we also let all beings be what they are. 

What does the Greek morning have to do with it?  If we are enabled “to begin again the unbegun beginning” (74), to recover originary freedom, and if that is the “essential task” of our lives, we do it out of our own resources.  We have nothing else, short of the boring and anxiety-producing refuge in insistence.   

The Greek morning is only a historical referent.  But it is also a historical referent.  It helps. 

But I wonder whether this difference between insistence and existence, which repeats of course the difference between Leitsfrage and Grundfrage, and ultimately repeats the ontological difference in its second, non-metaphysical modality, should be read as aporetic:  as both necessary and impossible.  Perhaps Heidegger would not deny its aporetic character–both insistence and existence cross each other’s borders, and they do it all the time, perhaps time itself is the ceaseless aporetic crossing of the borders between insistence and existence and back to insistence–but I think he would still insist on the absolute need for the paradoxical experiencing of the aporia as such (I call it paradoxical because, in principle, there could be no ex-perience of the a-poros).   Perhaps the Parmenidean fourth way is the experiencing of the aporia created by the impossible difference between the first way and the third way.  As usual, I fail to locate the second way in this uncanny map.

Unless . . . the second way is the way of what Derrida calls the arrivant in the epigraph above, of whom he says: “it no more commands than is commanded by the memory of some originary event where the archaic is bound with the final extremity, with the finality par excellence of the telos or of the eskhaton” (34).   Death, in other words, which is no longer insistent or existent, but rather marks the passage from existence to non-existence.  Non-existence is no longer the opposite of insistence, not quite, since it is mediated by existence.  And yet perhaps non-existence, as the most proper possibility of Dasein, which is aporetically the possibility of its impossibility, the certain possibility of its impossibility, determines in advance the flight from existence to insistence, through anxiety and fear.  Insistence would be in a way a warding-off of non-existence and not so much a flight from existence.  If both existence and insistence are modalities of being, non-existence is the border upon which they both crash and lose their impossible purity and reach exhaustive contamination.

The second way of Parmenides, the impracticable way, the impossible way, the way of no-way–is it not the way of death? 

Dasein‘s most proper possibility (death) is also its impossibility (the impossibility of existence)–this is the aporia.  In Aporias Derrida, at the end of a vertiginous analysis of Heidegger’s existential analytics of death, links this up with what he calls “a universal Marrano, if one may say, beyond what may nowadays be the finished form of Marrano culture” (74).  Why is that?

Derrida has exposed in his analysis that Heidegger must impossibly hold to his distinction between the authentic and the inauthentic, which is the difference between existence and insistence, “as well as that among the different forms of ending: dying properly speaking, perishing, and demising” (77): “These distinctions are threatened in their very principle, and, in truth, they remain impracticable as soon as one admits that an ultimate possibility is nothing other than the possibility of an impossibility and that the Enteignis always inhabited Eigentlichkeit” (77).  There is no existence without insistence, which means that the distinction does not hold. 

Derrida gives the name of “Marrano,” with a capital m, to what we may call the vortex of disappropriation for any possibility of authenticity.  In a clipped and all–too–rushed manner Derrida concludes his 1992 Cérisy lectures by claiming that the analytics of death in Being and Time does not exceed the Christian experience, “indeed, the Judeo-Christiano-Islamic experience of death to which the analysis testifies” (80): “this fundamental questioning cannot protect itself from a hidden bio-anthropo-thanato-theological contamination” (79).  From that perspective, the deconstruction of the existential analytic, which is also the deconstruction of the existence-insistence polarity, is a marrano adventure.  Derrida concludes: “Let us figuratively call Marrano anyone who remains faithful to a secret that he has not chosen, in the very place where he lives, in the home of the inhabitant or of the occupant, in the home of the first or of the second arrivant, in the very place where he stays without saying no but without identifying himself as belonging to.  In the unchallenged night where the radical absence of any historical witness keeps him or her, in the dominant culture that by definition has calendars, this secret keeps the Marrano even before the Marrano keeps it.  Is it not possible to think that such a secret eludes history, age, and aging?” (81).

Incidentally, this seems to me the textual site where Derrida links deconstruction and the marrano position, thereby inserting himself, autographically, as a marrano thinker within the history of thought.  But his critique of Heidegger, which he makes extensive to Freud and Levinas (“The same could be said for Freud’s and Levinas’s thought, mutatis mutandis.  . . . the only characteristic that we can stress here is that of an irreducibly double inclusion” 80), is in fact the accentuation of an already explicit, perhaps still inchoate marranization of thought, already active in Heidegger in the original displacement from insistence with entities to the outside of an ex-istence “in the unchallenged night”–and the argument could be repeated for Freud and Levinas.  If so, Derrida’s universal Marrano, il y vas d’un certain pas (6), is a figure of difficult freedom whose drive would have intensified the voiding out of the double inclusion into the double exclusion where the secret of existence could live on, in a wait for the arrivant unentangled by falsely hospitable contamination. 

Nicholas’ Question

“Now for my basic clarifying questions. From my point of view, the problems we face today are in some ways unlike anything humanity has faced before. I completely agree that history can teach us valuable lessons, and that we should try to learn from history, but I get the impression that Heidegger is saying something more than that. Maybe I’m mistaken though, and Heidegger is really just making a simple point about the need to study history. It’s hard for me to imagine how we would be in a position to do “real” thinking by somehow remembering pre-metaphysical thinking. Wouldn’t the resulting thinking be just a synthesis of metaphysical and pre-metaphysical thinking? It’s not as if we can return to pre-metaphysics, so clearly that can’t be what Heidegger is arguing. But is it really just the simple point that we should learn from history? Is he really just saying that any ahistorical thinking is no thinking at all?” (Nicholas)

Nicholas, thank you for that question, which gives me an opportunity to repeat, recapitulate, sum up what I think is the main thrust of what I am proposing to all of you in this seminar.  I don´t know that I have the time to say everything that would need to be said in answer to your question, but I will give it at least an initial try.  I would ask that you reread some of the things I have been posting in this space, though, as they might clarify further.

I think you know by now that I am a philosophical renegade.  I studied philosophy formally at the University of Barcelona in the second half of the 1970s, but after a while I got very fed up with the sanctimonious piety of the discipline and decided to abandon it–I had a chance to go get my PhD in Philosophy at Heidelberg, but I let it go in favor of coming to the US to get my degree in the much more humble field of Spanish and Latin American Studies, which at the time meant for me: literature in my primary language.  In fact I was so fed up with university pieties that I also rejected an invitation from Yale in order to get my degree in a provincial department, U of Georgia–I figured it would be safer for me to keep away from more sanctimonious rhetoric, the one associated with supposedly elite institutions, in order to open some degree of freedom for myself, since I just wanted to be left alone to do my thing and I could not care less at the time about the structures of academic prestige (now I realize they have advantages). So I did, and I have spent most of my career doing literary and cultural studies, which is another can of worms that I won´t go into, as it would be rather irrelevant to your question.  The point is, even though I had abandoned philosophy as a discipline, I was already hooked on Heidegger.  He was not the only one that had hooked me–I was also hooked on Greek philosophy, and on Nietzsche in particular, and later on on Freud and Lacan, Derrida, Badiou, etc.  But Heidegger kept growing on me, although I never (well, almost never) made it a point to write directly about him.  I did not need to.  He was the writer that taught me the most, consistently.  The guy I could go to when I was bored to death with everything else in order to find a new stimulus, to recharge my often exhausted batteries if you will.  Which brings me to our seminar and to your question.

Heidegger is for me, indisputably, the essential thinker of the 20th century.  That does not mean I consider myself a Heideggerian or that I want to repeat Heidegger or that I have some kind of desire to paraphrase him endlessly and make a cult of him.  Not at all.  It simply means I realized long ago that thought, as far as I was concerned, had to measure up to what Heidegger had said–his work was there, it was extraordinarily important, and it needed to be accounted for rather than disavowed or ignored. 

It is in that context that, when it came to attempt to develop thinking that I am doing in my own name, that is, not as a critic, not as an exegete, not as what one could consider an interpreter of the primary work of others, Heidegger needed to come on board.  Which is the fundamental reason I am dwelling on him quite a bit in the seminar, whose secret mission is simply to push the notion of a marrano infrapolitics.  As I said on Wednesday, if it came to Heidegger’s dead ears that I am making him the measuring yardstick for the development of marrano infrapolitics, even of marrano posthegemonic infrapolitics, he would turn around in his grave.  Until, that is, he gave me a chance to explain myself. 

In that context, I will now attempt to get to your question:  no, Heidegger’s primary reference is not history, it is the Seinsfrage, the question of being.  It takes time to understand what he means by that, it takes a lot more than the explanation I can give you of it here, so all I dare say now is that it is important and that you should work it into your study plans over the next 15 years.  But in shorthand, so as to get to your question:  Being is not something out there, being is not God or some other extraterrestrial entity.  On the contrary, being is radically dependent on historical humanity, and in particular on Western humanity, since our languages are all of them absolutely centered on the notion of being.  Heidegger will say:  history is the history of being, everything else is historiology, and as such metaphysical.   We can translate this a bit: the history of being marks the historical destiny of Western humanity, which, as dominant humanity, also involves the destiny of the planet as a whole.  But the history of being is also the history of a monumental, and historically sustained, cover-up, a forgetting, he calls it, which has resulted in metaphysics as the properly (and properly violent) hegemonic articulation of the West (hence of the planet, in a derived way).  Can we get beyond the cover-up, can we retrieve being through all the metaphysical mystifications?  We can try.  Heidegger tried.  He tried first by formulating his own understanding of ex-istence as not exhausted in, in other words, as in radical excess of, hegemonic everyday alienated unfree inauthentic living, and he came to realize that he needed to understand the reasons why we are stuck where we are, in that kind of living, primarily and for the most part.  He thought that for that he needed to go back to the first morning, the historical dawn of Western thinking, namely, the early Greek thinkers and poets.  The radical investigation of what he thought he could deem both original and derivative in the Greek world of thought, and subsequently in the history that developed though Rome, through Neo-Testamentary religion, through the curia and the Holy Roman Empire, through the history of the Western nation states, through the history of technology, through the history of revolutions and secularizations, through nihilism, etc., is what makes him the essential thinker of the 20th century.  The point was never to say: “hey, fellows, I have succeeded in demonstrating that there is a strange continuity in history that explains the devastation of the world we see today, our political impasses, the wasteland that is everyday life for a vast majority of human beings, the misery, the cracks and inconsistencies of capitalism, etc., starting with the Greeks.”  The  point was rather, from the beginning, I would say, to say: “hey, fellows, if we are going to have a future, we need to interrupt the inertia of that Western history, to step out of it, and to move towards an other beginning of thinking.  But–that other beginning of thinking is only that, a beginning, preparatory, nothing else.  I have not decided anything: I do not have a philosophy.  I only ever want to clear the way to a possible future.”   

His thesis was:  the destruction of metaphysics, through the retrieval of a thinking of being, is a necessary condition for the future of thinking, which is also the future of humanity. 

In my opinion, regarding the problems you mention in the first lines of the paragraph above, Heidegger is the most clear-sighted and useful thinker both at the level of diagnosis and at the level of recommending how to work on a path out of them.  But I do grant that it takes time to figure this out–if only because his complete works exceed one hundred volumes. 

Modestly, I am trying to develop the idea of a marrano Heideggerianism–after Heidegger, as Rafael so brilliantly put it in his presentation this week.  The marrano has good personal and historical reasons to abhor metaphysics.  So the marrano–what I am trying to present as the historical and typological figure of the marrano, which I am calling the marrano register–is for me the existential position (perhaps only one of them, although I cannot think of any other, frankly) that is attuned to the (Heideggerian) task of finding a path beyond or below history, towards a reformulated, certainly renegade, posthegemonic understanding of free existence.

I call that infrapolitics.  Let me now add that without infrapolitics there will never be a politics worthy of the name.  We do not have it now, and the non-Heideggerians that I know of have been singularly inept at proposing it. 

Well, as I said, this is only a beginning.  I hope it helps as such. 

Introduction to sections 11 and 12, Heidegger, The Beginning of Western Philosophy.  (Rojcewicz translation for quotations in English, GA 35 for the original German.)

Remember the first words of the seminar:  “Our mission: the cessation of philosophizing?  That is, the end of metaphysics; by way of the originary questioning of the ‘meaning’ (truth) of Beyng” (1).

At the end of Section 11 Heidegger says that the Seinsfrage, that is, the question of the essence of Beyng, is “the fateful question ‘of humanity,'” although he puts humanity in question marks and hurries to say he only means Western humanity.  It is Western humanity that has devoted itself to asking merely “semblant questions” in the name of ontology (42).  The question of Beyng is no longer, it seems, an ontological question.  Ontology has prospered in the forgottenness of Beyng.  We need to go beyond ontology and ontological reflection. 

Heidegger then says an “experience” of the question–Erfahrung–is needed, and that such an experience will bring us to “a possible characterization of the beginning and of its possible proximity” (43).  The question:  “was ist das Seiende, nämlich hinsichtlich des Seins?” (55).  Heidegger then engages in a disquisition on whether and in what sense that question is a Fragliche question, question-worthy (55).   The question must be asked so that what is not (thought of) as question-worthy in what is interrogated shows its question-worthiness, makes it explicit.

“Beings are the interrogated” (44).  They are familiar to us, within known limits: everybody knows “das Seiende im Ganzen.”    We are pre-acquainted with it.  We pre-know it.  We must get beyond that and ask: “was ist das Seiende, es als ein solches, sofern es überhaupt Seiendes ist?  Was macht Seiende, gleichviel welcher Art und aus welchen Gebiet, überhaupt zu Seiendem?” (58).  (“what are beings as such, just insofar as they are beings?  No matter of what kind or of what region, what makes beings beings at all?” 45).   The question-worthiness thus begins to appear:  “das Seiende is das Bekannte, dessen Sein das Unbekannte” (58). 

We know the being of beings to the extent that we know what non-being is.  It is a limited extent.  It is even an extent to which we are generally forgetful, an extent we rarely make question-worthy.  We ex-press it constantly and we do so precisely because it is always “pressing” (“it is already present prior to the expression of it,” 47).  But we generally do so “thoughtlessly” (in Gedankenlosigkeit, 61).  Can we turn that thoughtlessness into thought?

We thoughtlessly know being in its thatness, whatness, suchness, trueness.  And yet we know it “without delusion,” with certainty, and in general agreement with others.  But we have no concept of it: “wir es verstehen und doch nicht begreifen, . . . wir es vor allem Begriff verstehen” (62).  It remains forgotten in favor of beings.  It is therefore the most unproblematic (das Fragloseste). 

How do we turn it into question-worthy?  For the first time (50). 

Heidegger concludes Section 11 by claiming that we have been preparing for that question since the first day of the seminar–it is interesting that here he uses Sein, Sein des Seienden, rather than Seyn (66).  And yet we do not know was das Sein besagt (66). 

[Note that the upshot is that we do not yet know anything about the most fateful, the fateful, question of Western humanity.  We, Western humanity, are clueless about our fate, and ontology and the ontological tradition, beyond our poor understanding of history, itself conditioned by ontology (by bad ontology?), are at least partly responsible for it.  This is what generates the need to proceed to the destruction of ontology, also to the destruction of historiology, and to the recovery of the first beginning, in order to access a “proximity” to the Seinsfrage.]

Toward the end of Section 11 Heidegger remarks that we know little “of the essence of language,” just as little “as we know of the essence of being” (51).  This could offer a clue as to what is meant by Western humanity, since, Heidegger says, “we are now following a linguistic idiom, one in which we have been moving since long ago” (51). 

The linguistic tradition of Western humanity, then, has long moved along a path that opposes Being to becoming, to the “ought,” to thinking (or consciousness), and to semblance.  According to this particular determinateness, which has a history and comes from a history, Being is “perseverance, abiding, rest, standing in availability, presence at hand, palpability, and actuality” (53).  Something is gained regarding the question of Being.  Being is not simply opposed to the nothingness, but is also opposed to all those determinations: “We surely said that the question of Being is the deepest and broadest.  Being is so encompassing that it finds its limits only in nothingness.  Yet now we see that becoming, the ‘ought,’ thinking, and semblance fall outside of Being” (54).  Not trivial, since we are talking about nature and history, all human moral action and even work and even politics, everything having to do with subjectivity, and everything which falls outside of truth.   In the Western tradition, those issues took over philosophical reflection and reduced the question of Being to the unimportant and ar bitrarily narrow.  “And so it might be fully justified that the question of Being altogether disappeared from the ruling center of philosophical questioning” (54).  And so the historiologists, the ontologists, the metaphysicians may be correct: it is really just a matter of thinking about beings (55). 

And yet.  Perhaps upon reflection we will discover that becoming, the “ought,” thinking and semblance do not fall outside of Being.  “Every something that is not nothing has some sort of Being” (55). 

Should we persist in raising the question of the question-worthiness of Being, or have we been persuaded that the question of Being is barely question-worthy? 

In a footnote to the last page of Section 12 Heidegger mentions “the flight in the face of Beyng into graspable beings! Cf. Nietzsche.”  I find it hard to grasp what Heidegger had in mind here in terms of his reference to Nietzsche, but he is clearly pointing out a structure of fugitivity, of flight, from Being to beings, that has occupied, perhaps even defined, the entire history of Western humanity, from its inception. 

[How to turn that flight around, that is, how to begin to think of an alternative fugitivity, a fugitivity from beings back into Being, or Beyng–that seems to be the orientation and the mission of the Seinsfrage.  It would be a total reversal of historiology, which goes through an ontological clearing and destruction already recommended in Being and Time. Is this not the “cessation of philosophizing”?  The cessation of philosophizing may begin to be understood as the destructive character of the Seinsfrage, in a movement of return to the historical beginning, or to a proximity to the beginningProximity to the beginning: Is there a way in which we can find it in ourselves? Heidegger will proceed in Section 13 to an examination of the notion of existence as a way of facilitating that path.  But that secret will only be revealed next week!]