A few free-floating observations on Heidegger


1) Heidegger does not seem interested in praxis. He is primarily concerned with poeisis as an activity which brings forth truth. As such he does not spend much time on social relations or ethics. How is this translated into a politics? An ethics? I realize Heidegger was a low-down nazi prick. But how does that intersect with the rejection of praxis?

2) Is the critique of rational, instrumental thinking politically indeterminate? It’s a theme that is raised by a range of thinkers identifying with disparate forms of politics. Is it always nostalgic?

My main issue, and I must confess it’s a bit of a deal-breaker for me, with Heidegger’s piece on technology, is that it posits Man as an undifferentiated subject in relation to technology. Technology and physics develops the way they do because they follow an internal dynamic. The impact of social structure on the development and implementation of technology is ignored completely.

Aside from the fact that I find the whole idea of Man untenable, I think this oversight genuinely weakens the piece. Within the idealistic framework he posits, Heidegger is incapable of exploring how this enframing came to be hegemonic in terms of Man’s relationship to the world. He mentions the development of modern science and the development of modern technology, and completely skirts the development of political economy, an engagement with which I think would do wonders for his argument as I understand it.

Scientific thought is not insulated from its wider social infrastructure. Industrialization, enclosure, and Anglo-American political economy cast a long shadow over Darwin’s theory of evolution. The development of physics and technology, in the specific forms which Heidegger, in my opinion, describes fairly succinctly, coincide pretty neatly with the consolidation of capitalism. The omission of any discussion of exploitation of labor and developments like Taylorism is also strange, given that he assigns poesis and craft such a central role in our species-being.The passages on enframing read like a shamanic take on political economy. Rather than historicizing the drive to reduce the world to standing-reserve, Heidegger seems to posit it as immanent to the human experience.

I’m not getting on Heidegger’s case for not being an economist or a social historian. I do feel, however, that ignoring the social and historical dimension as completely as he does impoverishes the piece. To avoid reductive materialism and engage with the text on its own terms, I would formulate my critique as follows; Heidegger fails to account for the role that praxis plays in determining the morphology of bringing-forth.

Cheers to Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau for the picture (http://dekersaint.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/martin-heidegger-looking-surprised.html)


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