Everything is now strictly bound in planning and control and in the exactitude of a sure course of action and a domination ‘without remainder.’ Nonbeings, under the semblance of beings, are brought by machination into the haven of beings, and human desolation, which is ineluctably compelled thereby, finds its compensation in ‘lived experience.’ (Martin Heidegger, Contributions322)
The future ones stand in sovereign knowledge as genuine knowledge. Whoever attains this knowledge cannot be subjected to calculation or compulsion. Furthermore, this knowledge is useless and has no ‘value;’ it does not matter and cannot be taken as an immediate condition for a currently ongoing business. (Martin Heidegger, Contributions314)
On Presentiment. The Anticipation of an Other Beginning. Ankhibasie. Draft Paper for BeiträgeWorkshop, Indiana University, April 12, 2019. By Alberto Moreiras.
In Conversations on a Country Path Martin Heidegger talks about devastated life as, among other things, life deprived of what is unnecessary for it. He refers to some Chinese dialogue about the necessary and the unnecessary. The Chinese sage says that the only necessary thing is a square foot of earth where one can plant himself and stand up. But if someone were to come and remove all the unnecessary dirt that surrounds the necessary square foot, then one could no longer ever take a step without falling into a fairly radical Abgrund. I am sure everyone of us will have their own opinion as to whether the world in general is increasingly moving in the direction of devastated life, that is, of bare life for the human in general (and of no life for many species, as we know). But we can narrow it down a bit, to make it manageable: Is the Chinese parable not a good parable of the contemporary public university, both for teachers and for students? It could be the case that the ongoing reduction of the unnecessary, particularly in the humanities, in the name of good business practice, is threatening the necessary. We will always find out too late. Once we do, we may become vigilant as to whether the tendencies toward devastation to which our administrations happily subscribe (with the passive complicity of the faculty, obviously) reach absolute success or whether a reaction against them may thwart them. But then of course we need to ponder the reach of the possible reaction, and whether the reaction is and can be anything other than devastating itself. At this point there are no ideas, there is no program, whether in the left or in the right, to salvage the situation. Ongoing devastation seems to be what everybody wants. To that extent and for that purpose we can certainly trust our university leaders.
Let me state that the structural site of thought today, such as it is, is the university. If the university, as structural site of thought, is moving towards the elimination of everything unnecessary, perhaps in the name of business (or is business the name for something else yet unnamed and unnameable?), then it may be time to ponder the unnecessary as the toposfor a breakaway, at the unstructured center of the structure: can we see there, in the inconspicuous unnecessary, the “clearing of a self-concealing,” as Heidegger would put it? The clearing of the university, following the logic of the parable, must then be a clearing from the university, a move away from the university, ex universitate. Let me accept beforehand that such a move will be politically useless, and entirely without value. No business will be done.
I have been reading Heidegger all my life, more or less, on and off, yes, but not professionally. For me that means I was not reading him to quote him, not reading him in order to write about him. Until recently. He was a private pleasure, formative, yes, but in pretty much the same way my favorite thriller authors, also a reading passion of mine, were formative: they offered me an intriguing show of style, thoughts to lose myself into, and even, secretly, perhaps a way to model myself, a prop for my own path, the idea of a master to follow, something not to share, something others would have to find on their own. Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, and a few others, at different times, were also that for me. For god’s sake, I was in Spanish, not even a literary critic, not even a cultural studies fellow, not even a historian of ideas, somewhere in between, as I tried to accumulate, through the rest of my writings, a necessary knowledge, or experience, or guts, or permission, to write about the unnecessary authors within my academic field that were really important to me: Valente, Benet, Goytisolo. Which I have not done yet. This is not a disclaimer, just an explicitation of what is the case, of facticity. And I thought that my contribution to this workshop on Heidegger’s Beiträge, a fairly inexhaustible “unwork,” in my opinion, could come directly from that facticity, from that modality of Weg-sein, of being thrown into what is the case, of being-away, which happens to be mine. I have no pretensions to expertise, therefore, but let me tell you something: I do not believe in expertise any more, not in the humanities, I no longer seek it. The only game for me is to manage to say something to you, here and now, that might prompt a conversation, in this case in relation to Heidegger’s Beiträge. Oh, this has nothing to do with modesty. I do not claim modesty. I will claim, I do claim, that I am following an imperative of thought that Beiträgeitself seems to suggest to me, co-suggest, prompt me into. Let me call it, for short, the transport into an existential clearing. And I will offer my own context for it. The last thing I feel I can do is to utter an exegetic or paraphrastic account of Heidegger’s own attempt at transitional thought. I will try to say something about my own transitional thought, indebted to Heidegger, if you want radically indebted to Heidegger, and grateful to him. But I do not particularly want to speak as a Heideggerian (this sentence may become meaningful only at the end of my paper, through the mention of the death drive.)
What moves the transition? What moves movement? This is of course an old question. Thomas Sheehan has linked the Heideggerian conception of ex-sistence to Aristotle’s notion of kinesis, movement, as energeia atelés. Through kinesisa thing achieves itself, completes itself, or at least does so when its dynamisdisplays. According to Sheehan, Heidegger’s notion of Eignungtranslates dynamis, which would be the thing’s (force of) appropriation to the thing’s own telos. In terms of the human being, Ereignisbecomes for ex-istence what Eignungis for things: existential kinesis, move toward self-appropriation, which in Beiträgewill several times be named “selfhood” in a non-subjectivist sense, i.e., the “selfhood” of Da-sein, Da-sein’s appropriation into the “there.” Sheehan reserves the word that Heidegger used in what was perhaps a slightly different context, ankhibasie, an extant word from Heraclitus meaning “ever approaching” (to Logosin the Heraclitean sense, to the Da of Seyn in the Heideggerian one), to name this “asymptotic condition of ex-istence” (Sheehan 1), that is, a condition of ex-sistence according to which ex-sistence can never fulfill itself but can come closer and closer to such a fulfilment. Ankhibasieis therefore an existential practice of radical transition into a “there” that receives several names in Beiträge: “the other beginning,” “the clearing self-concealing,” “the essence of truth,” “the sheltering,” even “the last god” among others. What interests me at this point is the imperative dimension of ankhibasie, not present in the Heraclitus fragment: that fact that, in the Heideggerian-Sheehanian way, it names a drive that is a drive for Da-sein, an existential drive somehow explicitly situated beyond the drives of animal rationale. If the animal rationalemeans to be left behind, and with it the “sheer, insatiable riot of blind drives” that Heidegger refers to at one point in his text (196), it is not as if Da-sein were to be deprived of dynamic movement. In fact, we could probably, and impossibly, sum up Beiträgeby saying that it marks the attempt to establish a blueprint for a transformation or transfiguration of animal rationaleinto Da-sein. What does this mean? It means that there is no “closeness to life” that may rescue us, that an intensification of life, a recuperation of life, a redemption of life is not what Da-sein seeks. But, if the inversion of animality is spirituality (rationalehas meant “spirit” all along the history of metaphysics), then no spiritual transformation is being invoked here: neither spiritual transformation nor life’s redemption. Da-sein’s drive is a drive of desire otherwise, an ex-istential desire, a form of jouissancefor which I am happy to accept Sheehan’s suggestion and call it ankhibasie. Ankhibasienames Da-sein’s dynamic movement forward.
In the section of Beiträgeentitled “The Future Ones” the connection between the seeking of transitional thought and what Conversations on a Country Pathwould name ankhibasiebecomes almost explicit: “Seeking is intrinsically futural and is a coming into the nearness of being. Seeking brings the seekers to themselves for the first time, i.e., brings them into the selfhood of Da-sein, wherein the clearing and concealment of beings occur” (Contributions315). It is also important to point out that, in that section, Heidegger marks a difference between those he calls “the future ones,” of whom he will say that “there are already a few” without further precisions (317), and those of us who live in our own hour: “Our own hour is the era of downgoing” (314), which is “the path to the reticent preparation for what is to come, i.e., for the movement in which and the site in which the advent and the remaining absent of the gods will be decided. The downgoing is the utterly first beginning” (314). In another section, Da-sein is defined as “the crisis between the first and the other beginning” (233). The first beginning is our history, which our downgoing consummates. There is a way in which Da-sein, that is, not the human being, certainly not the animal rationale, but the human being that has leaped into Ereignis, that is, the human being who has accepted the need for a transitional thought into his or her own asymptotic condition of ex-sistence, is opposed to what Heidegger calls Wegsein, being-away. In its first mention Being-away presents itself as a rewriting of the notion of inauthenticity in Being and Time(cf. Contributions238). It is a “denial of the exposure to the truth of beying” (239), and it is as such “the ordinary way of being human” (256): a way of living, in history, away from history, distracted from it. If so, then there is a way in which Being-away also grounds Da-sein: “To the ‘there’ belongs, at its extremity, this concealment in its most proper open realm, i.e., the ‘away’ as the constant possibility of being away; the human being is acquainted with the ‘away’ in the various forms of death” (256). Hence, Da-sein must incorporate the concealedness of the ‘there’ into the steadfastness of enduring the truth” (257). Such incorporation, the accomplishment of what Being and Timecalled “Being toward death,” is the passage into Da-sein, and the leap toward the other beginning. Which consummates our history in an alternative sense, precisely by opening it up again. Ankhibasieis Da-sein’s dynamic movement toward another history, which is history itself.
What would I want you to retain from all of this? We are living in our own hour, in our own time, a time of downgoing that can solve itself into a time of permanent blockage, a time of devastation and of the deprivation of everything unnecessary for life, paradoxical as that may sound, or a time that can find in that very devastation an intimation and a presentiment of what Heidegger calls “the most intrinsic finitude of beyng,” “the last god” (325), understood as “the danger of something strange and incalculable” (322), simply the most extreme decision regarding that danger, and death as “the most extreme possibility of the ‘there’” (257). There is a choice here, or rather than a choice, a decision, a decision for history, a decision for time, but it is unclear who decides, and even whether a “who” decides. In any case, ankhibasieis the name for the exposure to the ceaseless imperative of the there, which means exposure to the decision of the last god, exposure to our own ongoing death as completion and Ereignisof our finite existence, and exposure to the “utterly first beginning,” to the end of the first beginning as abandonment of beying and overcoming of the metaphysical path: a decision for history, a historical decision. They all may be the same. This is the crisisof Da-sein as Heidegger presents it. It is a crisis precisely as the site of a decision in favor of the asymptotic condition of ex-sistence that alone may enable us to understand the radical negativity of the abandonment by beying in the constellation of death and the advent or remaining absent of the most extreme god that may open up history again.
The decision, between the Wegseinof the first beginning and the Da-sein of the other beginning, hinges on an intimation, a Wink(also called an Ahnung, a foreboding, a presentiment). Who is receptive to it? Or even: can there be receptivity? In the first section of Beiträge, entitled “Prospect,” Heidegger speaks about the “long future” of transitional time (19) and mentions the need for a “basic disposition” that would attune the human being to it. Heidegger calls it “presentiment,” Er-Ahnenor Ahnung, and says of it that it encompasses shock, and restraint, and diffidence (14), and that the presentiment is the “decisiveness” itself (20). This decisiveness is ankhibasie, Da-sein’s drive. The decision for the other beginning, that is, for the not-yet, is grounded in a leap away from the first beginning, that is, the no-longer. It is a decision that stems from a basic disposition, a Grundstimmungthat not everybody has—only “the transitional thinkers,” named such in the text. Who are they? Again, let us narrow the question down in order to make it manageable.
Who are they? Certainly not everybody in the university. In fact, Beiträgeincludes a ferocious indictment of the German university in the late 1930’s. We have become so familiar with Heidegger’s dubious exaltation of the institution during his rectorate in the early 1930’s that it is possibly worthwhile to quote him at length, since by the time of Beiträgehe had abandoned all illusion:
the universities, as “sites of scientific research and teaching,” . . . are becoming sheer business establishment. In these establishments, which are ever “closer to reality,” nothing is decided. They will retain the last vestiges of a cultural decorationonly as long as they must also and for a while still remain a means for “cultural-political” propaganda. Nothing resembling the essence of universitaswill be able to unfold out of them any longer: on the one hand, because the commandeering of everything into political-ethnic service makes such an unfolding otiose, and also because science itself as a business can hold its course more securely and easily withoutwhat is “proper to a university, i. e., without the will to meditation. Philosophy, understood here exclusively as thoughtful meditation on truth, i. e., on the question-worthiness of beyng, and not as a historiological and “system”-building erudition, does not have a place in “universities” and certainly not in the business establishments they will become. For nowhere at all does philosophy “have” a place, unless it is the place it itself founds, to which indeed no path could lead immediately, starting from an established institution. (121-22)
We can no doubt split a few hairs and claim that our university of today, in the United States, for instance, does not do cultural-political or political-ethnic propaganda, which in Heidegger’s terms would mean that universities have lost their last vestige of “cultural decoration” value, that is, their last claim to symbolic prestige. It is not quite so, as we all know, thanks in part to branding and propaganda techniques and to the residual prestige of social hierarchy, which means that a degree from Texas A&M University in the main campus of College Station is worth more than a degree from, say, Texas A&M Prairie View, or Stanford is worth more than California State at Fresno. But that only means that even the residual value of cultural decoration has been reduced to business–money rules the day in the university, and there is no longer even a pretense to anything other than the increasingly radical application of the principle of general equivalence, on which branding itself is based. For university administrations, increasingly, at least in the public area, the university is an institution that should be handled according to the logic of so-called Customer Relationship Management–really, no longer an institution, only a corporate business where meditation, Besinnnung, what Heidegger calls philosophy or thought according to the imperative of ankhibasiefinds no place, no site, no mercy. The logic of today’s university of excellence is exclusively the logic of machination, of which Heidegger said: “The hex cast by technology and its constantly self-surpassing progress is only onesign of this bewitchery that directs everything toward calculation, utility, breeding, management, and regulation. . . . The average becomes better and better, and thanks to this betterment the average secures its dominance ever more irresistibly and unobtrusively” (98). The principle of general equivalence can only fight himself–a generalized leveling of all ranks promotes of course the most extreme hierarchization. “The constant raising of the average level and the concurrent widening and wide application of this level, until it becomes the platformfor all activity, constitute the most uncanny sign of the vanishing of the decisive places: it is a sign of the abandonment by being” (99).
What is to be done? Does Heidegger advocate for an institutional change? Does he ask for university reform? For something in the nature of an academic countermovement? For a leftist correction to the hegemony of the right, or for a rightist correction to the hegemony of the left? No. In fact, he says: “Not a counter-movement, for all counter-movements and counter-forces are essentially codetermined by that which they are counter to, although in the form of an inversion” (146). The possibility of what Heidegger calls “opening up the truth of beying,” that is, of a transitional thinking orientated toward the other beginning, “will not be made in previous domains (‘culture’ — ‘worldview’), ones still upheld by counter-movements” (147). Thought is only possible today ex universitate.
What could we then say of university politics? Politics is overrated, I think, it has become another form of chatter. Politics, either for business or as a counter-movement to business, that is, for more business, will not guarantee, will in fact cover over the very possibility of finding an existential clearing in the university. I take my authorization from Beiträge. At several early points in the text Heidegger repeats the notion that he would like to have nothing to do with Existenz, as he does not want his project to be confused with Existenzphilosophie. But in #179, admittedly a paragraph that stands alone and has no precedent or continuity, Heidegger will nevertheless say in black and white that “being-historical Ex-istence” is “steadfast transport into the there” (239). There is therefore a clear reason, from Beiträge, to speak of the need for the return to a thinking and a practice of existence, to a meditation on existence that I will simply name infrapolitical.
Daniela Vallega-Neu has often called the reader’s attention to the passages in Mindfulnesswhere Heidegger discusses the three possibilities of the so-called “decision.” According to the first possibility (but Heidegger says that “the order in which these possibilities are named here is not important” [Mindfulness204; I am using Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary’s translation, and it will sound very different from the English terminology used so far, I apologize]), “whether in poets and thinkers ‘the thinking-ahead-remembering’ of the truth of be-ing enowns itself, that is, in those who have a burden to lift, whose weight escapes any and all numerical calculation” (204). That is, the truth of beyng will come out of unconcealment in the word of the poets and thinkers, always the spokesmen for the essence of their people. According to the second possibility,
whether beings hold on to the claims and conventionalities of the hitherto historically mixed up and inextricable beingness and compel to a total lack of decision; whether within the sphere of this lack beings then pile upon beings in ever-newer arrangements and ever-faster controllability; whether under the guise of an intensified “living” a being chases another being, takes its place, and settles the haze of an amusement over all beings . . . until the end of this mastery of beings (of “actuality that is close to life”) has become endless. (204)
It is clear that, of the two possibilities, Heidegger favors the former and not the latter, and his wager seems to be for the former as the many paragraphs in Beiträgethat speak about “the essence of a people” and as the very fascination with Hölderlin, understood as the poet of the German fatherland, as one of “the future ones” would seem to indicate. For us, indeed, eighty years later, and in spite of the hopelessly counterfeited resurgence of contemporary nationalisms everywhere, it seems as if that first option is already gone from the books, and the poets and the thinkers will never accomplish the feat of carrying the burden of their people and saving them all beyond, precisely, calculation, even if we make it merely political calculation. At the same time, I assume we reject the second possibility as desirable–even if we cannot reject it in its sheer facticity. What about the third possibility, then? Heidegger writes: “whether the first possibility stays away, and though the second one does assert itself, and given their admitted appearance, beings dominate all being but still something else happens: whether the history of be-ing (the grounding of its truth) begins in the unknowable hiddenness-shelteredness within the course of the struggle of the ‘alone ones’ and whether be-ing enters its ownmost and strangest history whose jubilation and sorrow, triumphs and defeats beat only in the sphere of the heart of the most rare ones” (204-05). Surely the rhetoric is old, perhaps even distasteful. Those lonely ones, the rare, the rarest, would have it on themselves to follow ankhibasie, to expose themselves to the end of calculation, to sound out the absent gods. If so, something would be kept, and could be transmitted.
It seems to me, such is my own transitional thinking, that the keeping of the unnecessary, to go back to the Chinese tale, as we let all machination pass us by without resistance (no counter-movement, no counter-politics: let them come to their own end), is the only possible promise of an existential clearing ex universitate. It is not much, and it may be nothing. We still have students, and we may owe them our presentiment, which is all we really have. But let me not moralize, let me not end in a note of moralism: perhaps beyond students, what I am arguing for is the need to let ankhibasieflourish, to let it proceed to where it may lead, no spiritual transformation, no individual redemption, just a liberation of a certain drive, which could indeed prove to be a form of the death drive: Da-sein’s death drive, to be distinguished from the biologistic death drive of animal rationale. How are we to think about it?
Texas A&M University
(Notes missing on Vallega-Neu, Polt, Ziarek, Dastur, Sheehan, Schürmann, on Country Path, etc. . . . Note on the death drive in Freud, Lacan?)
Dastur, Françoise. …
Heidegger, Martin. Contributions to Philosophy. (Of the Event). Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu translators. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2012.
—. Conversations on a Country Path. …
—. Mindfulness. Parvis Emad and Thomas Kalary translators. London: Continuum, 2006.
Osborn, James. “The Overturning of Heidegger’s Fundamental Ontology.” Journal of Philosophical Research41 (2016): 559-600.
Polt, Richard. The Emergency of Being. On Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2006.
Sheehan, Thomas. Making Sense of Heidegger. A Paradigm Shift. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Vallega-Neu, Daniela. Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2003.
—. Heidegger’s Poietic Writings. From Contributions to Philosophy to The Event. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2018.
—. “Heidegger’s Reticence: From Contributionsto Das Ereignisand toward Gelassenheit.” Research in Phenomenology45 (2015): 1-32.
Schürmann, Reiner. Wandering Joy. Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Philosophy. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne, 2001.
Ziarek, Krzysztof. “The Modern Privilege of Life.” Research in Phenomenology44 (2014): 28-49.
—. “Image-less Thinking: The Time-Space for Imagination in Heidegger.” International Yearbook for Hermeneutics. . .