HOW HEIDEGGER CAME UP WITH THE WORD “EREIGNIS.” By Thomas Sheehan.

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(I am grateful to Thomas Sheehan, from Stanford University, for his permission to post this text here, which is what the editors allowed us to post as an excerpt out of a larger text, commented upon below in the blog, to be published in Richard Polt and Greg Fried eds., After Heidegger?, forthcoming later this year.)   

  1. eignung 

1.1 In describing ex-sistence’s actuality as possibility, Heidegger was modeling ex-sistence on Aristotle’s notion of movement: κίνησις as ἐνέργεια ἀτελής. 

1.2 Κίνησις is a thing’s ontological condition of being real (ἐν ἔργῳ) but not yet fully (ἀ-τελές), i.e., actual to a degree, yet still coming into its own:

1.2.1 ἐνέργεια is a thing’s essential activity (Im-Werk-stehen), i.e., its functioning

  • either as fully within its τέλος   (if its movement is already complete)
  • or as still underway to its τέλος (if its movement is not yet complete).

1.2.2 δύναμις is a moving thing’s Eignung (GA 9: 215.25; GA 19: 265.14; etc.), its condition of

  • coming-into-its-own/eigen, coming-ad-proprium, that is:
  • being ap-propri-ated by and unto its τέλος.

1.3 Two examples, one from nature (ϕύσις), the other from human know-how (τέχνη):

1.3.1 An acorn has the δύναμις/Eignung of being an oak tree. It is “drawn” into its proper wholeness by its τέλος (“oak tree”). This τέλος lies within the acorn; it is the origin and ordering (ἀρχή) of its movement. Put otherwise, the acorn already has itself in its τέλος (ἐν τέλει ἔχει), but not fully. The realness (actuality) of the acorn has the form of ἐν-τελ-έχεια ἀ-τελής.

1.3.2 Guiding the construction of a cabinet is the carpenter’s know-how (τέχνη), beginning with the prior projection of an idea of the outcome, the εἶδος προαιρετόν that will function as the τέλος of the activity.

The wood that has been selected as appropriate (geeignet) for the task then undergoes a process of appropriation (Eignung) to being a cabinet. In this case the process is guided not by an internal τέλος, as with the acorn, but by the external τέλος residing in the mind of the carpenter who first projected the outcome (GA 9: 191-93; MEGA II 5, 129.31-36). 

1.4 In short, Eignung names the reality of a something that is in the process of being brought-ad-proprium, still coming into its proper status as complete and whole.

  1. ereignis

2.1 What Eignung is to artifacts and acorns, Ereignis is to ex-sistence – but with an important twist.

2.2 Ereignis does have to do with κίνησις, and κίνησις does have to do with incompleteness. However, Ereignis applies exclusively to existential κίνησις.

2.2.1 Ex-sistence is unique in being already “complete” in its incompleteness, already “whole” as never being whole. Ex-sistence is perfectly “perfect” in its imperfection, its inability to achieve complete self-coincidence.

2.3 In SZ, what accounted for ex-sistence’s finitude (its open-ended-ness vs. full self-presence) was called “thrownness.” But in 1936 Heidegger began calling thrownness “Er-eignis” (“ap-propri-ation”), a term modeled on Eignung. 

2.4 Appropriation names the fact that ex-sistence has been brought a priori into its proper ownness (er-eignet) as the finite, mortal Open (GA 73,1: 226.26; GA 12: 128.29-30.; 248.16; 249.5–6).

2.4.1 The word “Ereignis” simply reinscribes the basic structure of ex-sistence that SZ had called thrownness. (GA 65:34.8–9; 239.5; 252.23–25; 322.7–8 with SZ 325.37; GA 9: 377, note d; GA 73, 1: 642.28-29; etc.)

2.4.2 Appropriated ex-sistence is Zu-sein: as possibility, ex-sistence is in the condition of ever-becoming.

2.4.3 To name this asymptotic condition of ex-sistence, Heidegger adopted Heraclitus’ hapaxlegomenon ̓Αγχιβασίη, “ever approaching” (fragment 122).

2.5 Appropriation is not an “event” in any sense of that term (GA 14: 25.33; GA 11: 45.19-20; GA 70.17-19). It is an existential fact, the very facticity of ex-sistence.

A Note on Thomas Sheehan. By Alberto Moreiras.

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At the end of a yet unpublished paper, “But What Comes Before the After?,” Thomas Sheehan asks how to go beyond Heidegger, how to move after Heidegger.   If Heidegger is for us the Socratic othen or “whence,” Sheehan asks “What is [specifically] the othen we push off from in moving towards an ‘after Heidegger’?” (14).   The question has to do with the problems that plague Heideggerian scholarship today—the tendencies of it to remain exegetical and paraphrastic even in terms of lexicon and jargon.   How do we understand Heidegger’s relevance, contra its merely academic exegesis and even more contra the political beautiful souls that block Heidegger’s relevance in the name of his “toxic social and political convictions” (14)? Sheehan proposes his own othen, and it is one that seems absolutely relevant to infrapolitics. I do not claim that infrapolitics is necessarily the only way to move “after Heidegger,” but I would venture that it is one of the ways to do it.

Sheehan’s text (I have asked him for permission to post it here, but he may understandably prefer not to until it is published) starts off by referring to Pindar’s “genoi oios essi mathon,” “learn and become what you already are.”   The latter part of Pindar’s injunction in the English translation (the first, “learn,” would refer to the analytic dimension) is what Sheehan calls the “protreptic” dimension of Heideggerian thinking, not subservient to the analytic, but on the contrary: “it is the final goal of all Heidegger’s work” (3).   The protreptic dimension, which Reiner Schürmann called “imperative” in the context of his explanation of Meister Eckhart’s work, alludes to the non-dissociation of the practical and the theoretical—but, more than that, it also points to a transgressive dimension of thought as itself practice. All thought, when “authentic” in the specific Heideggerian sense, leads to a “durchbruch,” to a breakthrough where existence, in each case one’s own, is at stake.

Sheehan prefers “Ex-istence,” in order to underline the ecstatic standing of Da-sein, its fundamental “ejectivity” (against every subjectivity and every objectivity) (11). Ex-sistence has a dual structure, as it refers to the structure of Da-sein (existential) and to the “persons and activities (existentiel) that this structure makes possible” (4).   The relationship between the existential and the existentiel is decisive, and necessarily the focus of the Heideggerian gaze, which, for Sheehan, was never abandoned.   If Ex-istence, as existential, opens the field of meaning, as the Open itself, the existentiel can never supress a relation to it, although such a relation can take many forms.   Sheehan even says that the Open is “the relation,” echoing an essay by Werner Hamacher (“The Relation”) that it would be pertinent to read in this connection: “Since ex-istence is the world-of-meaning . . . and since the world-of-meaning is the Open . . . , there is no need of a ‘relation’ that would span a ‘gap’ between ex-istence on the one side and the Open on the other. The so-called ‘relation’ is the Open itself; and ex-sistence is this very relation” (5). Let me submit that this relation, understood as the (tracing) game of existential and existentiel, could be redefined in terms of the trace structure, which would be the Derridean tropology for what Heidegger calls the ontico-ontological difference.   Ex-istence is the (trace) relation of the ontico-ontological difference for every singular Da-sein.

The task of Da-sein, existentiel, is making her or his own facticity explicit—this is also Heidegger’s own definition of philosophy (from his 1922 essay on Aristotle). “Authentic” existence, by no means only reachable through philosophical work, which constitutes only one of its tropes, is to be understood as simply the right way, the best way, of relating to the trace relation, that is, of making explicit the existential/existentiel relation and of living it out.

And what of this “authentic existence” for the thinker?  Sheehan refers to it in terms of ankhibasie, the Heraclitean hapaxlegomenon that means “ever approaching” (10).  It is an always ever asymptotic condition that cannot be calculated in advance.  If Geoffrey Bennington has recently referred to the “ever approaching” as a way of dwelling in “the politics of politics,” in an effort to make it clear that any epochal or ontological appropriation of politics always already blocks politicity, in the same way that any epochal appropriation of history blocks historicity (see “Microinterview with Geoffrey Bennington” below), we call it “infrapolitics.” (I myself used the term ankhibasie once to name the task of infrapolitics: “Pero justo en la medida en que la infrapolítica no es política, sino que sólo toca la política, en la medida en que la infrapolítica no es otra forma de política aunque sea quizás otra forma de pensar la política, en esa misma medida se abre también a un afuera no domable ni reducible por la angustiada pretensión de que todo es político.   Y es pensar ese afuera, que es por supuesto también una forma del adentro, lo que buscamos sin saber si su cercanía se hará accesible: ankhibasie. Habrá sido una forma de goce (otro) en el futuro perfecto.”)

The liberation of facticity into itself—that is, the making it explicit—is the exercitium of post-epochal thinking in Sheehan’s terms: “One can get free of being restricted to metaphysics as an ‘epoch,’ by embracing one’s appropriation and living out of it” (12).   Epochs are sequesterings of history, “the bracketing out of the Open” (12) in every case. Infrapolitics is post-epochal thinking, its attempt, an exercise in epoch-destruction, an exercise in an-archy for the sake of an existential/existentiel breakthrough, inconspicuous, an inconspicuous event in every case.   Thinking the non-event of appropriation in order to release facticity, politics, history into their own—is that not a way of pushing off from our contemporary othen? That is the wager, at any rate.

Illegitimacy? Review of Giorgio Agamben’s The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days. By Gerardo Muñoz.

agamben mystery 2017Giorgio Agamben’s Il mistero del male, now translated in English as The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days (Stanford U Press, 2017), is an intense repudiation of the mundane legitimacy of every institution, costume, and political structure hitherto existing on earth. For Agamben, the decline towards illegitimacy has not been a matter of a few years or decades, but part of a larger inherited drama. The core of the book reads Benedict XVI’s “great refusal” as an ‘exemplary act’ [sic] against the Church, bringing to awareness a vital “loss of substantial legitimacy” (Agamben 3). Overstating the dual structure characteristic to Western governmentality – potestas and autorictas, or economy and mystery, legality and legitimacy – Agamben asserts that Ratzinger’s gesture cuts through the very thicket of the ekklesia arcanum, reversing the mystery of faith in time to the point of abandoning the very vicarship of Christ (Agamben 5). Of course, this comes as no surprise to those that have engaged with his prior The Kingdom and the Glory (2011), where Agamben interprets the Trinity as a stasiological foundation of an oikonomia that plays out (vicariously) as a praxis without Being [1].

In many ways, this essay is supplemental to the larger turn already undertaken in The Kingdom, only that this time, Agamben brings to focus a seminal institution of the Western political tradition. Here Agamben seems to be pressing more heavily on the state of global affairs in which the Church is a metonymy: “…if this gesture interests us, this certainly is not solely insofar as it refers to a problem internal to the Church, but much more because it allows us to focus on a genuinely political theme, that of justice, which like legitimacy cannot be the eliminated from the praxis of our society” (Agamben 16-17). This is consistent with overall structure of The Kingdom, by which the structure of the oikonomia is understood vis-à-vis the true ‘providential machine’ of human administration. So every administrative structure is illegitimate, since for Agamben, it governs through de-substantial vicarious being. It is a true ‘kakokenodicy’ (referring to the emptying) that can only justify effective evil (Agamben 36). To the extent that Agamben’s overarching project seeks to establish a responsive unity to the problem of discessio or internal division, it is not difficult to grasp how Benedict XVI’s return to Tyconius’ obscure thesis of the Church composite of good and evil is highly relevant, as we shall see.

We are far from Augustine’s City of God, where the split was produced between two cities, allowing for what Erik Peterson understood, against Schmitt, as the impossibility of any political theology. Tyconius is, in a sort of way, the persistence of an Anti-Augustinian gnosis. Agamben’s effort, let’s be clear, tries to make Augustine a son of Tyconius, which makes it even more mysterious; since whereas Augustine separated Church and Empire, Tyconius separates evil and good in the temporal katechontic nature of the Church (Agamben 10-11). Agamben cites Illich’s testimony to claim that the Church is always already mysterium iniquitatis as corruption optima pessima (the worst possible corruption of the best). But once again, Agamben seems to be forcing positions, since whereas for Illich the Church, consistent with Augustine, allowed for ius refomandi (reform), Agamben posits discessio as the arche of the corporeal Church, in this way reintroducing the myth of political theology to stage the mysterical drama of History.

In a strange sense, the mystery is not that mysterious. It becomes messianic eschatology on reserve. According to Agamben’s narrative, the Church as a dual nature of opposites, possesses an internal stasis between a temporal restrainer (katechon), the evil that runs counter to against law’s integrity (anomos), and the eschatological dimension of the End. This last character points to the Pauline’ messianicity, which allows Agamben to link Benjamin and Tyconius’ in a common salvific structure. As he writes: “The mysterium iniquitatis…is a historical drama, which is underway in every instant, so to speak, and in which the destiny of humanity, the salvation or fall of human beings, is always at stake.” (Agamben 14). Benedict XVI is a counter-katechon, as he is able to reveal, in his exodus, the eschatological structure that leaves behind the vicarious economy. According to Agamben, Benedict XVI’s message was “nothing but the capacity to keep oneself connected to one’s own end” (Agamben 16).

On the reverse, this entails subscribing a messianic turning of life from within the Church in order to posit a metapolitical form without remainder. The renunciation of the katechon implies that we are left with an economy (oikonomia) devoid of legitimacy. The central problem here is that history itself has become mystery of the economy, instead of an economy of mystery, which is the Pauline arche. What compensates for this illegitimacy becomes messianic politics that “does not remain a mere idea, entirely inert and impotent in the face of law and economy, but succeeds in finding political expression in a force capable of counter-balancing the progressing leaving out onto a single technico-economic plane of the two coordinated but radically heterogeneous principles [legitimacy and legality] that constitutes the most preciouses patrimony of European culture” (Agamben 18).

But if the machine of governance of the West is dual, playing legitimacy and legality in a skirmish co-dependency, why does Agamben conflate the renewal of legitimacy to the coming of a new politics? The reason seems to be that once you accept the condition that what exhausts government is an economical structure of the Christian katechon, you can then accept as exodus a metapolitics of salvation. What is interesting is that this politics, seemingly against Schmitt, actually re-enacts the same movement for an exact, albeit reverse, political trade-off. Agamben does not follow Peterson here. Let us recall that Peterson’s argument was never that the Church is an oikonomia, but that Schmitt’s totalizing and unifying political theology applied not to the Church, but only to Empire. This principial politics, as we know, has always led to catastrophic dominance, from Rome to Christian Monarchy to Nazi Germany. Counter to Schmitt, Agamben wants to produce not an imperial katechon, but “a time of the end, [where] mystery and history correspond without remainder” (Agamben 30).

The problem becomes that in order to set the stage for such “drama”, Agamben needs to avoid at all costs the Augustinian/Petersonian split of the Church in its facticity (as it actually happened). This explains why, in the second essay, history is understood as mysterical. In this context, it is noteworthy that Peterson is fully absent, even though he famously authored the essay “The Church”. There he writes in an important passage:

“The worship the Church celebrates is public worship and not a celebration of the mysterious; it is an obligatory public work, a leitourgia, and not an initiation dependent on voluntary judgment. The public-legal character of Christian worship reflects the fact that the church stands much closer to political entities like kingdom and polis, rather than voluntary associations and unions” [2].

I highlight Peterson’s reference to the “the mysterious”, because this is an explicit polemical stance against Casel, the Benedictine monk that informs Agamben’s mysterical adventure in history. But this has important implications, only two of which I will register here. First, accepting Casel’s mysterical Church leads us to conclude that internal worldly illegitimacy requires that we embrace a messianic politics ‘again’ (Agamben 38). In fact, politics is ultimate salvation in Tyconius, Casal, and Benjamin.

Secondly, mysterical historicity demands voluntary filiation. Agamben lays this out in plain sight: “it is in this drama, always underway, that all are called to play their part without reservation and ambiguity” (Agamben 39). Messianism forces agonic politics, displacing administrative vicarship with a conceptual theodicy. But profane life does not need to coincide with or abdicate a metapolitics of salvation. Now, if this is so, perhaps the accusation raised against governmental structure as illegitimate is in itself not legitimate. What if instead of being on the side of the metapolitics of the eschatological mystery, legitimacy is nothing other than the internal rational enactment of the separation of the profane that is always taking place in the world?

 

 

Notes

  1. Agamben writes in The Kingdom and the Glory (2011): “And, more generally, the intra-Trinitarian relation between the Father and the Son can be considered to be the theological paradigm of every potestas vicaria, in which every act of the vicar is considered to be a manifestation of the will of the one who is represented by him. And yet, as we have seen, the an-archic character of the Son, who is not founded ontologically in the Father, is essential to the Trinitarian economy. That is, the Trinitarian economy is the expression of an anarchic power and being that circulates among the three persons according to an essentially vicarious paradigm… The mystery of being and of the deity coincides entirely with its “economical” mystery. There is no substance of power, but only an “economy,” only a “government.” 138-39 pp.
  2. Erik Peterson. “The Church”. Theological Tractates (Stanford U Press, 2011). 38 pp.