1. Is Community an Allegory of the West?
2. From Community to “Broken Subjects”
4. Heidegger as a “Hegemonic Fantasm” or “Broken Hegemony”
5. The Stranger
1. Is Community an Allegory of the West?
Just as in Letter on “Humanism” when Heidegger praises Hölderlin for his other vision of Greece as a beginning, he removes Greece from its historical even geographical moorings – places it ‘adrift’ in the open – the world as a shoreless ocean – so that it is nowhere and everywhere – but rather “world-historical” and a “nearness to the source” per se. This then is the West escaped from its historical and terrestrial boundaries. Speaking of Hölderlin’s poem Homecoming (Heimkunft) in Letter on “Humanism” – Heidegger situates only the West within the domain (so-called “clearing”) of Being – and leaves out the East as Orient and the West as Occident. So that the destiny of the West with which Hölderlin is exclusively concerned is the homecoming of and to Being. Such nearness to Being is called, following the thought of Being and Time, the “Homeland”.
Esposito reveals this peculiar identity not just of the West and Being – but of the West and community. So that whenever community is questioned – it is the West that is in question. Homelessness – and its opposite(s) Homecoming and Homeland – are of the West. This is what Esposito refers to as “the objectively communitarian arrangement Heidegger assigns to Hölderlin’s poetic experience.” (Roberto Esposito, Communitas, The Origin and Destiny of Community, Stanford, 2010, p. 103) So that Heidegger through Hölderlin both deterritorializes Germany into the sheerness of the West then deterritorializes the West from its regional limitations as mere Occident in contrast to Orient (not merely as Europe) – and as such doubly deterritorialized thinking the West becomes simply “world historical out of nearness to the source.” In a similar movement “German” (as in Hölderlin’s German) is not spoken to the world so that the world should be cured through German essence (am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen), [the exclusively German world-historical mission] – but German is spoken to Germans [even more local patriotic] so that Germans will realize their “destinal belongingness” to other peoples [turn inward to turn outward] so that they might become world-historical along with them (Martin Heidegger, Letter on “Humanism”, 1949 edition, translated by Frank A. Capuzzi, (first German publication 1946) in Pathmarks, p. 257)
Homeland and historical dwelling is a nearness to being, which one assumes is the same as “nearness to source”. All of that is also what is meant in the Heideggerian philosophical Diaspora as “community”.
Community is meant anywhere Heidegger speaks of homeland – but especially in his thought of ‘homelessness’ – so prominent in Letter on “Humanism” – according to Esposito the heart of the relation of Hölderlin to Kant is also one of community – the same as that raised by Heidegger’s ‘homelessness’. Recollecting that Esposito’s definition of Heidegger’s impolitical or non-political philosophy is ‘the deconstruction of political philosophy in the thought of community’ – so homelessness belongs to this thought.
2. From Community to “Broken Subjects”
The line of breakage is a temporal one – between the subject’s present and future. (the past is memory and regret – the present and future is the axis of action, anticipation, ‘care’, will – none of these can be directed towards the past.) Although for Heidegger as is well known – the past, especially the Greek past was interrupted, the pre-Socratic past before the Platonic devastation of Being – when logos and physis cease to be one.
Being is swallowed by the Idea - chorismos is the separation of the idea as what really exists from what does not exist but only seems as a mere copy of the Idea. We must return to the Greek past before it was seized by the hegemony of the Idea for the recommencement of the history of being. Such recommencement is Heidegger’s esoteric naming in Introduction to Metaphysics of the ‘national socialist revolution’. As Reiner Schürmann notes: “Heidegger was only partly mistaken when, for a few months in the 1930s, he expected a new beginning of the West responding to Homer and Solon.” (Reiner Schürmann, Broken Hegemonies, Indiana University Press, 2003, p. 526) But why should Heidegger see the destiny of the West embodied in the “uprising” of Germany – one can perhaps imagine how he was mistaken – but in what part was he not mistaken?
The Greek past as such a ‘new’ beginning is much closer to Being than the future. But each and every Dasein must also heed his ownmost (je meines) ‘call’ of conscience (Gewissen) which inevitably calls him back to a more originary site – and as such – to a past even if not his own - before he can propel himself into his authentic mode – which in Being and Time he finds only within the collective – Mitsein or Volk (people). Of course paradoxically he had always been there - inauthentically lost – in ‘das Man’ (the They) – just as ‘das Man’ is itself Mitsein in a deficient mode. In his incisive reading of Being and Time - Johannes Fritsche explains that not only is Dasein lost – the past to which he must return is itself lost, buried under an inauthentic past of ‘the modern’, some of whose effects in the ‘kairos of today’ must first be purged. (See Johannes Fritsche, Geschichtlichkeit und Nationalsozialismus in Heideggers Sein und Zeit, Nomos, 2014)
The Nazi ‘revolution of the past’ anticipated in Being and Time (1927) is a Doppelgänger of the projected return to an ‘authentic’ Greek past in Introduction to Metaphysics (1935); both are virtual stations in the renewed history of Being before the ascendancy/hegemony of the Platonic Logos.
This split between present and future is Kantian – because Kant evades the dialectic “as the mode of resolving opposites in a world defined by the originary of the split.” (Communitas, ibid., pp. 104-5) For Hegel the split is also originary – it is resolved in totality – but totality remains a contradictory unity. Kant resides in the unresolved split – escaping totalization (Adorno would also be Kantian in this sense). No Vermittlung (intermediate term) between opposites – sensibility and reason, human and divine, existence and essence (Heidegger’s Dasein pair) – resulting out of this implacable split – is a broken transcendental subject (from the start): “(…) a fracturing of the subject, divided and in conflict with itself, beginning with its own temporal constitution.” (ibid., p. 104)
[Why is it when Esposito claims only Heidegger took up Kant’s question of community – he immediately speaks in the next sentence of Kant’s supposed abyss of the self. How is this jump to be explained? The abyss is the temporal structure of the self – the empty space is time. Yet, returning to Hölderlin, the Kant Esposito finds in Hölderlin – is the fearless Kant arguing for the finitude of the subject – whose inner split, divided in itself begins with its temporal constitution. Or as Hölderlin calls the subject – “die Sterblichen” (the mortals) always in conflict with their masters “die Himmlischen” (the heavenly ones) who are not all powerful, they can’t do everything – and the mortals arrive in whatever way they can at the abyss. “Time is long” – what happens, says Hölderlin, the event is “the truth”. (Mnemosyne 2nd Version)
The split is the one from present to future – never knowing anything beforehand, never expecting anything to repeat itself – “between what was and which can no longer be.” Then again the jump to community in a quote from Hölderlin: “Thus compare that time with ours: where will you find a community (Gemeinschaft)?” (ibid.) ]
This community as lack or the lack which is community – is neither a destination nor something we have lost. We are condemned to such community. But how to look back to something, long for a lost community, we never had? Hölderlin could be cryptically saying – where will you have found anything but a lack then or now? ‘Homelessness’ is far closer to community than home or ‘homeland’.
Esposito differs from Balibar’s version of the transcendental subject – the subjectum, hypokeimenon; Balibar makes Kant and the French Revolution responsible for its articulation. On the contrary, says Esposito, at the moment of its invention, despite the French Revolution – the transcendental split subject has no identity with itself – it is not the synthetic unity of experience – a constant ‘I think’ to accompany my representations – but a “non-subject”. (ibid., p. 87)
Time is what breaks the subject at its very beginning. “Time – here is Kant’s “un-said” that Heidegger “makes” him say – extends, “stretches” the subject to the breaking point, opening and exposing the subject to a constitutive alterity.” (ibid.) (His broken Other?)
Kojève says the same thing of Hegel – Selbst (Self) is the pure negativity of time/negative time. The self is time – and negates time and itself – in its historical action. But since the self is time – it can know itself only through an unrepeatable act of remembering. Only because the subject/self is time does the philosophical concept – “the thought of the world” - take the form of a remembering (Erinnerung), but only after a “form of life has grown old” (Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, cited in Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Basic Books, 1969, p. 163).
Philosophy always comes too late, says Hegel. Once though such a form of life has aged – no philosophy could ever rejuvenate it – in the manner of Heidegger’s ‘recommencements’. Otherwise the form of life would have been neither historical nor time.
Heidegger (according to Esposito) removes universality or the transcendental from Kant – so that what remains is a subject which is its own presupposition – qua immanent law. Or “the law’s immanence to the subject that it, the law, “decides”.” (Communitas, ibid., p. 89) So that the law comes before, but is at the same time of the subject – the law partakes of the same finitude as the subject (das vergängliche Gesetz) – and is not that through which the subject transcends itself into a sphere “of an infinite universe of freedom” – the position Cassirer espoused in his controversy with Heidegger.
So here again is the before and after question of the subject – the subject as subject (split in and through its temporal constitution) comes before and after itself. How different from Balibar’s Kant – who even intimates that Kant’s opposition of radical finitude and universal sovereignty is a “paradoxical unity”.
“The “call” (of conscience in Sein und Zeit) is no longer an instance outside of Dasein that demands obedience from the categorical imperative, but the exteriority or extraneousness of Dasein from itself.” (ibid.) Here something like community begins to loom – in the outside of Dasein which is also inside of Dasein. But a community as an impossible realization. Why? Not because it is unreachable as a destination – destiny – but because it is already there (Da-Sein). It is another presupposition of Dasein. So that the question of the subject is a decoy for the question of community – because (in this interpretation) the abyss at the centre of Kant’s seemingly unassailable transcendental subject – the emptiness of the subjectum is the cum-munus – the figure of community. Munus means donation (the gift) – the gift of Being – but not solitary being – a being-with. The subject is broken – not in itself – but in its being-with others. Hence existence is always co-existence – essence lies in co-existence – not I am – only ‘we are’ – no alterity in the sense of a separate Other – because there is never any distance which can or must be bridged.
In a variation upon Esposito’s Heideggerian Kant – Balibar collapses Kant’s transcendental subject and ethical-practical subject into one – bound by the categorical imperative – but in Esposito’s case – the finitude of the ethical creature (carrying the law within, the law which his being presupposes) is the finitude of ethics itself – from which he concludes that ethics (for Heidegger) is itself finished. The emptiness at the heart of the transcendental subject - that is the temporal structure - turns into an ethical lack in the ethical subject. For Balibar the sovereignty of the transcendental subject, which means being the condition of its own experience – is mirrored by the ethical subject who is the universal self-legislator of its own laws of moral conduct. In Heidegger – it is rather a double lack grounded in finitude.
This “ontological declination of ethics” (ibid, p. 89) begs the question of the original (ontological) guilt of Dasein in Being and Time – and the ‘call’ of conscience which initiates Dasein’s self-removal/transition/telekinesis from the inauthentic to the authentic mode. How else to define or classify ‘guilt’ than in the ethical key – even if in the case of Dasein as Heidegger says – guilt or Being-guilty precedes any act? (quite the opposite of the presumption of innocence in the conventional court of law).
“The meaning of the “call” becomes plain if, in our understanding of it, we stick to the existential sense of “Being-guilty”, instead of making basic the derivative conception of guilt in the sense of an indebtedness which has ‘arisen’ through some deed done or left undone. Such a demand is not arbitrary, if the call of conscience, coming from Dasein itself, is directed towards that entity alone. But if so, the “summons to Being-guilty” signifies a calling-forth to that potentiality-for-Being which in each case I as Dasein am already. Dasein need not first load a ‘guilt’ upon itself through its failure or omissions; it must only be ‘guilty’ authentically —‘guilty’ in the way in which it is.” (Being and Time, Oxford, 1962, p. 333) If in Kant (and Balibar) law as the categorical imperative is immanent to the subject of practical reason - for Heidegger and Esposito it is guilt or being-guilty which is at the core of Dasein.
Heidegger’s guilt is as such a positive existential lack : “Though the call gives no information, it is not merely critical; it is positive, in that it discloses Dasein’s most primordial potentiality-for-Being as Being-Guilty.” (ibid., p. 334)
Is not such guilt also a source or an origin almost a foundation (Grund)? Being-guilty is an apriori condition of Dasein – a guilt which Dasein (in German “dieses Seiende”) can never load on itself or more significantly unload – it stands before any factical guilt – it is the pre-factical prerequisite for any sort of factical guilt and of conscience. If such preordained guilt is not ethical or moral or legal then it can only be understood as an onto-theological transposition/trace of the Christian doctrine of original sin – itself not far from ancient mythical thought for whose gods, in the words of Benjamin’s Zur Kritik der Gewalt (Critique of Violence), mere natural life was the marked bearer of apriori guilt – a guilt whose seeming takes the form of fate, another one of Heidegger’s preferred terms. Such mythical thinking becomes in Benjamin’s ‘Kritik’ the historical ground of legitimate violence.
Strange that Althusser in his late text The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter could applaud Heidegger for the radical contingency of his ‘thrown’ Dasein – without mentioning Dasein’s distinctly non-contingent “being-guilty”. What is contingent about a guilt one has not incurred but can never atone – but which obliges you as the ground of your existence? Such guilt implies Dasein’s radical ontological heteronomy – the opposite of the possibility of another world – implied in the contingent ‘rain of atoms’ and their swerves. The moment of the unexpected implicit in the notion of clinamen does not exist anywhere in Heidegger.
Heidegger’s Being-Guilty could have been read at the time of the Weimar Republic as a polemic against what Fritsche calls “the business-model” of guilt in liberalist ethics and law – where guilt like debts could be cleared and quantitatively weighed against one another, a normative world based on equivalents and commensurables. “Gegen das business-Modell der Schuld interpretiert Heidegger Schuld als das “(nichtige) Grund-sein einer Nichtigkeit” (1972:285), als eine Schuld die nicht abgetragen werden kann, und als Verpflichtung, einen Grund zu übernehmen, den man selbst nicht gelegt hat (1972:283ff). Was immer Heidegger mit diesen Formeln sonst noch meint – sie schließen die Notwendigkeit ein anzuerkennen, daß Dasein wesentlich nicht die autonome Person oder das Subjekt ist, als welches moderne Gesellschaft und Aufklärung es ausgeben.”
(“Against the business-model of guilt Heidegger interprets guilt as the “(nullified) being-the-ground of a nullity”, as a guilt which can never be paid off, and as an obligation to take on a ground one had not laid oneself. Whatever else Heidegger means with these formulae – they include the necessity of recognizing that Dasein is essentially not the autonomous person or subject, it is rumoured to be by modern society and Enlightenment.”, Johannes Fritsche, ibid., p. 302)
Whatever happened though to ‘being-guilty’ in Heidegger’s texts after 1933? Did being-guilty vanish with the ‘flight of the gods’ (Introduction to Metaphysics)? At least, there is no talk of being-guilty in Letter on “Humanism” – homelessness comes perhaps in its stead?
Back to Kant: Kant is – through Hölderlin’s eye – the philosopher of the never-ending battle of the parts – anti-synthesis, recalling Kant’s “stroke of genius” (Adorno) on the first page of the preface to the Critique of Pure Reason – that metaphysics is nothing other than a battle-ground – a force-field for endless disputes/controversies about “principles”. Reason flees (to the principles and the battle-ground) in the attempt to put an end to its compulsive need to question beyond the possibility of experience or empirical test. (Isn’t Heidegger’s perpetual question of Being or the Meaning of Being a classic example of such a compulsive question?)
In Hölderlin the Kantian irresolvable split becomes more world-historical. The relation of Europe to an origin which is missing. Esposito then suggests a relation between the origin (of European identity/subjecthood), which is missing, and the community that is missing because it is always there – and therefore cannot be a destination – or a ‘coming community’ (as per Agamben). Thus Heidegger who reflects upon community as Mitsein is not a political philosopher – but Heidegger supposedly deconstructs political philosophy in the thought of community. Although one can ask – how to understand Heidegger’s thoughts about hierarchy, command, world power, will, rank and order – his emulation of Jünger, bending and pressing Nietzsche’s Übermensch into Jünger’s ‘Arbeiter’ mould – the whole tone of Beiträge zur Philosophie (Von Ereignis) (Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning))? This is not just Mitsein (being-with). The concept of Volk itself breaks out of ‘community’ –“geschichtlich ist immer nur ein Volk.” (From the Freiburg Version of Origin of the Work of Art)) – “Only a people are historical”.
4. Heidegger as a “Hegemonic Fantasm” or “Broken Hegemony”
“A phantasmatic hegemony has a life. It begins, it consolidates itself, and finally it loses its integrative power and vanishes.” (Johannes Fritsche, unpublished Preface to a proposed publication of Reiner Schürmann’s lecture courses on Being and Time and Kant)
“The play of functions and dysfunctions, no longer in ancient or modern texts, but at the level of Heidegger’s utterance itself, makes this utterance the most pathetic document of broken hegemony.” (Reiner Schürmann, Broken Hegemonies, ibid., p. 524)
Heidegger is known for his esoteric and exoteric writing in one in the same phrase or text. The ‘impolitical’ Heidegger – prescribing organized power over the many and – the thought of community – is the exoteric plane – for public consumption. Organization is always that which the many – the uprooted groundless (rotten) masses must endure. “Die Herrschaft über die frei (d.i. bodenlos und eigensüchtig) gewordenen Massen muß mit den Fesseln der “Organisation” errichtet und gehalten werden.” (“Power over those who have become free masses (that is ground-and-landless and egoistic) must be constructed and held with the fetters/shackles of “organization”.” Martin Heidegger, Beiträge zur Philosophie (Von Ereignis), 25. Geschichtlichkeit und Sein, Frankfurt, 1989)
Organization can only mean that some sort of complex society – Gesellschaft – is unavoidable – community or Gemeinschaft alone can’t keep the masses on the leash. But what masses? Is Heidegger bemoaning the demise of the land-owning peasant or the end of serfdom? The flux of the freed agricultural slave into the urban proletariat? Or are these masses more ontological, spiritual?
The ‘political’ Heidegger, the esoteric plane – the one frozen in the Nazi time warp of January 1933 – writes cryptic missives to the hidden few – the “founders to come” who will first have to create new stands in being from which the “renewal” can commence. Heidegger’s ‘deep state’ or hidden domination imagines willed power for the few so that constancy (Beständigkeit) in the strife of world and earth can happen again. But “those who know” must will this “renewal” of Being which ‘incidentally’ is also the ‘rescue of the West’. These are the lonely few – especially the poet, the thinker and the creator of the state – who are also the “anointed of Being” (see Introduction to Metaphysics).
Both “forms of domination” (“Herrschaftsformen”), the revealed one for the “freed masses” and the silent restrained hidden preparations of the isolated few, says Heidegger, although fundamentally different from one another – must at the same time both be willed and affirmed by the knowing ones, those of the future (see Broken Hegemonies, ibid., pp. 521-522, Beiträge zur Philosophie, ibid.). What exactly is the difference between willing and affirming – isn’t willing – at least since Schopenhauer – also affirming (Bejahung des Willens zum Leben – the affirmation of the will to live)? For Schopenhauer though it is the sexual act. Willing which is negating would be the negating of willing itself – a kind of renunciation. Heidegger breaks the will (to power) down into pseudo particles, which introduce false beings in Being – willing without affirming, willing with affirming and affirming on its own, with all the possible delays between the two. But more jarring than that – for Schürmann – is that Da-sein and Being itself is left to the machinations of the few – their contingent will. He measures the distance to Being and Time by the intensity of the return of a voluntarist subject in other words the ‘sovereign beast’ into Heidegger’s portfolio of Being.
Despite all the “counter strategies” always ‘ready-at-hand’ even Schürman must gasp at the change – the self-dating and out-dating – Heidegger afflicts on Dasein: “Reading Being and Time, who would have ever thought that a few years later Heidegger would go on to submit Da-sein to the will of a few? This establishment of a contingent will ruling over the there determines the anthropologism, the theologism, and the populism we have just seen.” (Schürmann, ibid., p. 521) But what does Schürmann object to the most – wasn’t the Dasein of Being and Time who in its authentic Mitsein was fused into a destinal people (section 74)– not already under the rule of a contingent will – the “resoluteness” of the many? Those who must choose their hero? And isn’t Heidegger’s program of the willed power of the few in Beiträge zur Philosophie – better described as elitism and not populism? Or does Heidegger as usual turn at once in two different directions as a kind of primitive ersatz dialectic: Being itself is cleft – its essence is split between the highest singularity and the flattest of the common. (see Beiträge zur Philosophie, ibid.)
Both chapters – 74 in Being and Time (1927) and 25 in Beiträge zur Philosophie (1936-1938) feature the term – Geschichtlichkeit – historicity – in their heading, suggesting that Heidegger himself was aware of his own underground currents. Historicity in both instances details the mode in which Dasein must aspire to lasting power in and for Being in the face of all contingencies.
What does Esposito mean then when he says Heidegger’s impolitical philosophy is the deconstruction of a political philosophy in the thought of community? When did this deconstruction take place – or does it pervade all of his oeuvre? Or is it not the description of the post-apocalyptical ‘necessity’ of his thinking – or what the German ‘apocalypse’ (Zusammenbruch) imposed on his thinking after 1945 at the latest? The “deconstruction of a political philosophy” is the mark of historicity in the process of his thought – the very opposite of a thinking sub specie aeternitatis.
Heidegger himself speaks elliptically of a thought, which has been shattered – distancing himself from those who merely “philosophize” about a shattered thinking. Such a shattered thinking – the failure of Being and Time for instance - is the only true ‘gift of being’. A thinking that is shattered by being is itself a gift of being – mere ‘philosophizing’ is done from a safe distance – hence ineffectual – impotent.
“Darum ist das “Philosophieren” über das Scheitern durch eine Kluft getrennt von einem scheiternden Denken. Wenn dieses einem Menschen glücken dürfte, geschähe kein Unglück. Ihm würde das einzige Geschenk, das dem Denken aus dem Sein zukommen könnte.” (Brief über den “Humanismus”, in Wegmarken, Frankfurt, 1976, p. 343 – “Thus to “philosophize” about being shattered is separated by a chasm from a thinking that is shattered. If such thinking went right for someone/ were someone’s good fortune, no misfortune would have happened. He would have received the only gift that could come to thinking from being.”) Heidegger’s version of “Fuck you, Jack, I’m all right!”
One could also ask – how can thinking shatter (zerbrechen) on its own – thinking which ends so violently must have come up against something hard. Its breaking must be in some way an act – an ‘event’ – or invested in such an event. If though it shatters – it is pulverized – and its countless particles mingle with the atmosphere – a quasi kabbalistic ‘breaking of the vessels’. Heidegger mythologizes the German collapse in the same manner as he spiritualised the Nazi regime – as a chapter in the history of being or the “truth of Being” (see Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit Heidegger and the Question, Chicago, 1991, pp. 31 ff.), “Truth of Being” (Wahrheit des Seins) is that which thought has to think. In Heidegger’s case what his thinking thinks is the ‘truth’ of Nazism. Just as his thought formed itself around the “hardness of thought’s thing” – he must find an equivalent form in his thinking for the breaking of this hard thing and the breaking of his own thought of it. His thought of breaking and the breaking of the thing create in his thinking a new whole. “Das Ganze ist das Unwahre.” (“The whole is the untrue.”) as Adorno says in Minima Moralia.
Heidegger’s thought is intimately complicit in both the rise and the fall of Nazism. Being and Time, that thinking of German destiny, in which he seems to anticipate a German epoch in Being shatters ‘naturally’ within the collective disaster – his thought and that epoch/chapter are inseparable for Heidegger. Such a ‘shattered thinking’ emanates what Badiou would call an extreme ‘fidelity to the event’ of Nazism. Although as Lacoue-Labarthe observes, the “injunction of 1933” which Heidegger will sustain to the end – will no longer be addressed exclusively to Germany – after 1945 – but to Europe and the West. The form of this address is nothing less than ‘a new mythology’ – perhaps in the measure that Heidegger finds mythology – after the collapse of Nazism - a more obliging topology than historicity. (Philippe Lacoue Labarthe, Heidegger, Art and Politics The Fiction of the Political, Oxford, 1990, pp. 13-14)
Heidegger himself dates his thoughts,– aware of the longue durée inside of thinking – the temporal contamination. Schürmann sees in his “calculation of dates” the surreptitious return of the forbidden “system”. Most obviously in his Letter on “Humanism” when he connects the text to thinking ‘begun in 1936’ – most likely referring to the manuscript Beiträge zur Philosophie. (In a first footnote – he also distinguishes between ‘languages’ he will be using in the letter – the ostensible or ‘exoteric’ language of the letter is couched in the idiom of metaphysics – the other language more associated with that thinking begun in 1936 “remains in the background” – quasi-esoteric – but not totally obscured.)
Thinking which began in 1936 would certainly have undergone some revisions – despite the slowness/inertia of the history of being. Historicity or historiality deconstructed Heidegger’s thought for him – the aleatory or the unexpected invaded the stasis/constancy of being. In Introduction to Metaphysics – a thinking from 1935 – his philosophy is suffused in the savage idiom of the raw Greco-German new beginning. The resounding Greek word he appropriates from Sophocles’ Antigone is deinon or strangeness – man is deinotaton – the strangest, which he translates as das Unheimlichste (recalling the term Unheimlich from Sein und Zeit describing Dasein’s originary anxious mood of not being-at-home-anywhere-in-the-world). The arch must be stretched to 1949 – when mankind, he says, has entered a period of ontic and ontological homelessness, abandoned by being. Here Heimatlosigkeit seems to mean something quite physical and real. He does not say when this condition arose in the numberless periodicity or ahistorical history of being. But one senses it is rather recent. In some way a fresh loss. He speaks of the “homelessness of modern human beings”. (Letter on “Humanism”, ibid., p. 258)
Homelessness implies an impossibility of return, an irreversible loss – a new nomadic phase of being – whereas the violent beginning of 1935 posited “a violence-doing Dasein” a dangerous powerful unfamiliar human being who has never been at home.
But considering the nature of man – the Parmenidean theme he follows in Introduction to Metaphysics – man’s nature as Sophocles’ chorus declaims – is ever so – he is aporos – without an exit or destination although he is constantly en route and apolis – without a city or fixed place on earth. So nothing new under the sun in 1949. Why then the deep sorrow in the text – the unsaid one of course – about the present lot of Dasein’s homelessness? Greek man – the originary Dasein in the sense of the precursor of German man (homo teutonicus) to whose inception the German Volk is returning – is not ‘homeless’ (heimatlos), he is ‘uncanny’ (unheimlich). “The saying “the human being is the uncanniest” provides the authentic Greek definition of humanity.” (Introduction to Metaphysics, New Haven, 2000, p. 161/p. 116) Such a human being is the very opposite/antithesis of home – his being the uncanniest is “the basic trait of the human essence” and not just a mood or an emotional impression (as in Being and Time) – meaning that he does not just dwell in the midst of his own uncanniness – he is perpetually moving beyond “the limits of the homely” from the uncanny to the overwhelming (das Überwältigende) (ibid.).
Something happened to the composition or de-composition (unravelling) of Dasein or Da-sein between 1935 and 1946 or 1949 in other words Introduction to Metaphysics and Letter on “Humanism”. A footnote on the first page of the letter from 1947-1949 confesses that the content wasn’t just thought up then when the letter was written – to Jean Beaufret – but is based on a course of thinking begun in 1936 persisting until that moment. And yet there is a distinct difference in tone – from Introduction to Metaphysics.
Until 1945 Heidegger’s trio in charge of the new beginning of the West in Germany, its spiritual middle,– the poet, the thinker, the statesman – was complete. Its three members were Hölderlin who first hears the call, from whose poetic anticipation it passes to the thinker Heidegger who in turn conveys it in prose to the statesman – who for Heidegger was the new Solon – Hitler.
In his lecture course from 1934-1935 on the Hölderlin hymns Germania and The Rhein – Heidegger introduces this triangulation of historicity and fate (Gechichtlichkeit and Geschick) – all three are necessary to force inauthentic Daseins into their authenticity – the mode of community, comradeship and the gathering of Volk, ‘the metaphysical people’. In those days of the violent new beginning - as Johannes Fritsche notes – Heidegger had no need to be so subtly esoteric: “The poet is without doubt Hölderlin, the other two – for any listener of those days – could only have been Heidegger and Hitler.” Or in the words of Reiner Schürmann: “The founding in the realm of language, responding to the Greek epic, thus bears the name Hölderlin. For a few months, Heidegger also thought he could name the new Solon.” (see Fritsche, ibid., p. 311 and Schürmann, ibid., p. 519)
After 1945 only Hölderlin and Heidegger are left from this triad of historicity and fate – Heidegger’s politics must ‘limp’ along without its third leg. The underlying tension in the text Letter on “Humanism” – figures not only in what Heidegger can still say and what he can no longer say (always trying to exceed the unsaid limit) – but also between what historically stays the same and that which has been voided. Can Heidegger’s thinking and saying renounce that third signifier – Hitler the state creator – now missing, without itself ebbing away?
Heidegger subscribes in 1935 to that Ur-Greek ‘virile’ view of the struggle of man and god-nature which Heidegger equates with Being or phusis, – both violent to the extreme – whether on land or sea. Already then – he contemplates the “necessity of breaking/shattering” of “perdition” (Verderb) as an unavoidable consequence of Dasein’s fatal exposure to Being. “Doing violence must shatter against the excessive violence of Being, as long as Being holds sway in its essence, as phusis, as emerging sway.” (Introduction to Metaphysics, ibid., p. 173/ p. 124)
Greek Dasein is not autochthonous, rather a Dasein from nowhere going nowhere with much passion and suffering in between. Those cities and kingdoms he founds are crushed as easily as he – offering him no respite or shelter from his wanderings. After tragedy strikes – in the Greek tragic concept of truth, the hidden – the uncanniest - is revealed. Though blinded – the hero ‘sees’ more – as captured in Holderlin’s apothegm – which Heidegger likes to cite - “Oedipus had one eye too many, perhaps”. But even before all tragedy – the Greek ‘violent-doer’ longs for the disaster/downfall –“ as the deepest and widest Yes to the overpowering.” (Introduction to Metaphysics, ibid. p. 174/p. 125) Is that a hint of Heidegger’s own premature “euphoria of defeat”? Dasein’s lustful shattering on Being?
Being assumes the persona of Moloch – its supreme violence (Übergewalt) breaking in as it appears in the breach made of historical sacrificial Dasein(s) – who as this breach (diese Bresche) must shatter against Being. (see ibid., p. 173/p. 124) Perhaps one of the few erotic moments in Heidegger’s oeuvre - when vaginal Dasein (the breach) is ravished by overpowering phallic Being.
Why does Heidegger emasculate this wild originary tragic Greekness which in 1935 is his model for German Dasein - when extracting or filtering it through his interpretation of Hölderlin’s poetic homage to Greece in Letter on “Humanism” (1947-1949) – when Dasein shrinks to nothing more than a “shepherd of Being”?
Hölderlin is Heidegger’s poetic straw man for the West or the Greeks, but hiding behind Hölderlin in Heidegger post 1945 is the missing signifier - the empty throne - of the statesman - the state-creating hero - this ‘monstrous’ absence – in the historically interrupted chain of transference from the poet to the thinker to the statesman.
The overpowering trio of historicity is in full flower though in Heidegger’s interpretation of Hölderlin’s hymns in 1935 – nothing ‘impolitical’ in sight there: “Die Mächte der Dichtung, des Denkens, des Staatsschaffen wirken, zumal in Zeitaltern der entfalteten Geschichte, vorwärts und rückwärts und sind überhaupt nicht berechenbar.” (“The powers of poetry, of thought, of state founding work forwards and backwards, especially in times of unfolded history – and they are not at all predictable.”, Martin Heidegger, Hölderlins Hymnen “Germanien” und “Der Rhein”, Frankfurt, 1999, p. 144) They can even go unrecognized for a long time – but still whether they know of one another or not – act for one another.
Falling into the tone of Introduction to Metaphysics with its inventory of “greatness” (Größe) –‘ as in the inner truth and greatness of the national socialist movement’ – Heidegger sees this epoch as the unfolding of the power of “these three creative authorities (Gewalten) of historical Dasein” – only they can bring about that je ne sais quoi to which alone we can attribute greatness. (ibid.)
This trinity limps on (Reiner Schürmann uses the phrase 'political limpings' for Heidegger's esoteric instructions in Beiträge, see Broken Hegemonies, ibid., p. 522) with only two members still intact - the poet and the thinker. The absence of this other figure (Hitler - or Heidegger’s reincarnated Solon) is what Heidegger calls esoterically the 'homelessness' of Being in Letter on "Humanism". This shattering event is what happened to Being between 1935 and 1949.
5. The Stranger
Geophilosophy is philosophy, which is earthbound. Territory is immanent to it – but territory has a history, is a history, a contingency – so that through territory such philosophy is bound to history or its history is identical with the history of territory. Territory and not just Dasein is an incident/accident. But then how can an incident have roots? Or is Dasein just another sort of flora and fauna – bound not by Fate (Geschick) to a piece of earth – but only through its biology and zoology? In other words – in Heidegger’s terms – without a world? What is the relation between land and sea/water in Hölderlin? In the sense of home, of returning – to the sea or from the sea? Isn’t Heidegger’s Being whatever it is – not sea rather the opposite of sea – Anwesen, anwesend: a solid ground, present, a dwelling, even his Ab-grund (chasm, abyss) is solid; Nietzsche calls Being a ‘vapour’, an error – an indignity to Being which Heidegger labours at dispelling in Introduction to Metaphysics.
Water does not have chasms, abysses or traces. It is the trackless element. Anwesen means substantial landed property; ‘West’ is almost a declension of Wesen – as in es west – it abides. Only the few can claim possession of water – as the Venetians say about one of their local oligarchs –he is so rich he ‘owns’ a wave.
Being is landed, it has neighbourhoods, it’s local – there are no neighbourhoods or localities in the sea where the human being could be the neighbour of Being.
But since Heidegger’s Greco-German man in 1935 had not yet become a defeated peasant abandoned by the ‘homeland’ alias Being– why do Deleuze and Guattari see in Heidegger’s writings only the bogus Greek Autochthon or the German impersonator of the Greek?
“He (Heidegger) views the Greek as the Autochthon rather than as the free citizen (and, as the themes of building and dwelling indicate, all of Heidegger’s reflection on Being and beings brings earth and territory together): the specificity of the Greek is to dwell in Being and to possess its word.” (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, New York, 1994, p. 94)
Landed territorialized Being pulls the Greeks into the neighbourhood of National Socialism/Nazism, the neighbourhood of the West – a movement Deleuze and Guattari describe as circular and inverted. “But in Heidegger it is not a question of going farther than the Greeks; it is enough to resume their movement in an initiating, recommencing repetition. This is because Being, by virtue of its structure, continually turns away when it turns toward, and the history of Being or of the earth is the history of its turning away, of its deterritorialization in the technico-worldwide development of Western civilization started by the Greeks and reterritorialized on National Socialism.” (ibid., p. 95)
But is this recommencement possible even for Heidegger? What is the West which has to be rescued? Is Heidegger not as much ‘anti-Western’ as he is Western or Greek? He repudiates the separation of Logos and Being at the origin/commencement of Greek-Platonic philosophy. Instead he formulates the demand in the name of Being to erase that separation – so that he and Nazism can appear as the power which violently reverses the history of philosophy and the West in favor of Being. Or is he the hyper-Western who locates Being solely in the West – but one transcending geographical boundaries, a supra-geophilosophy, transcendental geography? Is the West just Germany and ancient Greece? The West encompasses (for Heidegger in 1935) in its ‘vulgar’ sense even Germany’s arch rivals in Being who between them hold Germany-the West in its pincers - American technological civilization but also that other geopolitical malevolence - the Soviet Union – itself not just ‘East’. Should they all be rescued?
How did Heidegger and Nazism propose to reverse a history – upon which the ‘West’ depends for its subsumption of all of the earth under its dictate – the hegemony of world capitalism through its method of provoking internal crisis into profitable disequilibrium between systems? The history of the West and the history of Greece are not a continuum – rather the relation between modern philosophy to capitalism is anticipated in the relation of ancient philosophy to Greece. “(…) the infinite movement of thought, what Husserl calls Telos, must enter into conjunction with the great relative movement of capital that is continually deterritorialized in order to secure the power of Europe over all other peoples and their reterritorialization on Europe.” (Deleuze and Guattari, ibid., p. 98)
When he asks himself the “dangerous” question in Beiträge zur Philosophie – who are we? – Heidegger must admit/concede that even Bolshevism is originally European, of the West just as the ‘rootless masses’ (who must be re-rooted) and the rise of industry, technicity are all an effect of the West, which can be traced back to Greek ‘techne’ or craft also in the sense of craftiness, and to Christianity itself a form of Platonism (here he will rely on Nietzsche’s arguments).
“(…) but insofar as the dominance of reason as equalization of all people is merely the consequence of Christianity and Christianity is fundamentally of Jewish origins—cf. Nietzsche’s thought on slave-rebellion in morality—Bolshevism is actually Jewish; but then Christianity is fundamentally Bolshevist!” (Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), Indiana University Press, 1999, p. 38)
By identifying the West (and Germany) with Greece – a hegemonic fantasm which was itself supplanted by another – the Roman, is to charge/levy the beginning with something which disappeared, was surpassed or overtaken – this is also the mood of Hölderlin’s Mnemosyne – Eleutherai, the city dedicated to the goddess Mnemosyne – goddess of memory once stood on Mount Kithaeron, but no longer, the death of the heroes, the treacherous menacing landscape – the indifference of the gods. Hölderlin evokes the image of Greek heroes dying just anywhere – far from Greece – as if he were one of the broken host.
Died on me near a fig tree,
And Ajax lies in the caves of the sea
Near the streams of Skamandros
Great Ajax died abroad/ in a foreign place
Following unmoved Salamis’ fixed customs (…)
Many others died as well.” (Mnemosyne)
The very paths on the hills of heaven are dangerous/evil –“We” though don’t want to look where we are going – neither forwards nor backwards – but let ourselves rather be rocked to sleep as if in a boat on the open sea. Yet - a longing – for Greece of the heroic epic? – strays always into the unbounded.
Where is Hölderlin’s Greece? Esposito comments on this – Greece as a dug up and cut apart country, territory, land – but of course this assumes that there is a native or autochthonous strata which can be lost – and thereby Greece – the Greece of philosophy is lost with it.
Greece is ‘outside of itself’ – Hölderlin alludes to this in the beginning of the second version of Mnemosyne:
“We are a sign without meaning,
Without pain we are and have nearly
Lost our language in foreign lands, (…)”
Doubly alienated or foreign – first as a meaningless insensible sign – (without pain) – an element of language which has lost its meaning – and second someone who has almost forgotten – the language which he is.
The border between language and those who speak it – both close to extinction – tends to fade.
Heidegger predictably interprets these lines as Hölderlin’s prophetic call to arms to the German Dasein of 1935. ‘The diviners of signs have to be educated – so that dead languages regain their meaning.’ The Germans in 1935 are in a state of urgency (Not). The general location is the “metaphysical need of the West” within which “Western Germanic historical Dasein” confronts “the Asiatic”.
The same three verses serve Heidegger to introduce his lecture course What is Thinking? in 1951-1952. But nothing is left of the battle of the Titans – the West versus the Asiatic – or any mention of the West’s Germanic avant-garde. The simple verb-less question remaining is: “Who we?” (Wer wir?) Heidegger cannot even utter his favorite verb ‘ist’ (is), otherwise the grammatical carrier of Being. His answer is vague – we, the humans (Menschen) of today, but a today which has already lasted longer than any historical reckoning (the longest of all possible longue durées) – a generic indifferent event-less empty today. It is almost as if Heidegger himself doesn’t quite know what to ask Hölderlin anymore, somehow the thrill is gone – as the oracle of German historical Dasein, the mysteries seem to have dried up.
But perhaps Hölderlin’s vision already takes place in the afterlife – on the “hills of heaven”. Mnemosyne was also the name of a water in Hades where the newly dead could drink to remember their past lives – the opposite of Lethe. On this water “we” let ourselves be cradled as if in a boat – in the manner shades are transported around the underworld on its streams and rivers. Hölderlin’s sea in Mnemosyne is in the afterlife – a dead sea – not as Esposito proposes – the open sea of a life voyage.
Here he wanders Dante-like amongst the spectres of Greece, of the Iliad – my Achilles, Ajax, Patroclus. Many died – some in the fields, some facing their destiny (Geschick). But as he speaks in the “we” form – he is already amongst them – himself a dead language. On one of those high roads half covered in snow – now in the Alps – wanderers speak of the cross set there for someone who has died – the continuity of the West takes place in an ideal underworld in the Swabian alps.
Even the law seems to have died – but which law? Divine or human, the law of nature? Does Hölderlin echo the old lament – Pan is dead? But the severe gods are “unwilling” when someone doesn’t rein in his soul, prove his nerves are cold – but when he does – then soon all grief is gone.
If the Greek human is the “strangest” – it seems only natural that the philosopher should be (at the least) the stranger – historically, ontologically? Deleuze and Guattari make such a claim in What is Philosophy? (see ibid., pp. 87 ff). Nietzsche himself – in his genealogies of philosophy - calls the original philosophers “disorientated strangers” – the pre-Platonists who arrived amongst the Greeks – escaping the archaic empires of the East like Persia. The first philosophers were émigrés. (cited in Deleuze and Guatarri, ibid., p. 223)
Is it impossible to be in a certain sense a philosopher and not a stranger? Is there such a thing as an autochthonous philosopher? But if philosophy were the ‘gift’ of the stranger to and in Greece, the stranger and philosophy cannot be lost – neither is bound by any temporal hegemony. Hence the power of the stranger.
Philosophy had at its inception – not an origin in some atavistic soil of Being - but an encounter, a conjuncture sparked by the arrival of the émigré philosophos from the borderlands of Greece, then an interconnected ring of colonizing cities, and the old empires - into the Greek ‘milieu of immanence’. This milieu bred a particular sociability of exchange and commerce, characterized by friendship, association and opinion or discourse. So did philosophy begin like commodity exchange itself – on the borders of a milieu or between communities? But exchange (like friendship, enmity, love) is asymmetrical – non-equal – and contingent, in this case between the stranger and the unfamiliar milieu. Like in chess – the stranger’s moves introduce instability into the static line-up – without instability nothing new can ever happen. Friendship turns into rivalry, associations break up and opinions induce dissension. The Greek type of the polis is the Friend. Yet Derrida’s book The Politics of Friendship revolves about the sentence attributed to Aristotle which Montaigne quotes in his essay “On Friendship”: – “O my friends, there are no friends.” (Till this day members of the same party in the English House of Commons address one another as “my Right Honourable Friend.”)
The true philosopher then is the Stranger not the Friend.
Isn’t the exchange between the Stranger and the Friend always an exchange of no exchange – a relation of no relation – or as Bataille writes “a community of those without community”? In Derrida’s logic of dissolving binaries – the Enemy is only the Trans-Friend, just as the Trans-Enemy is the Friend. The Stranger though exceeds that logic – neither Friend nor Enemy.
Compared with the hierarchical static East – the West was geographically an ambience of freedom – figured in the plebeian type of the cunning Ulysses. The émigré coming from the outside was more the ‘spectator’ of the milieu. The everyday meaning of the Greek word teoria is to look upon. The outsider is naturally less involved in the milieu, observing the ‘shipwreck’ of life with greater ataraxy/remoteness.
Still somewhat perplexing – Deleuze and Guattari claim that the philosopher must always have a sort of spiritual yet tangible homeland, but only to lose it – (like Hölderlin’s “lost language”) so that he starts out apriori forced into exile from it. “But why is this fatherland unknown, lost or forgotten, turning the thinker into an Exile?” (ibid.)
On the other hand – the philosopher is a Stranger – for example the figure of the Stranger in Plato who appears in various dialogues. His “conceptual persona” verges on the conman, the impersonator. One can never know the true pedigree of the Stranger. The authors then ask without offering an answer: “What sort of stranger is there within the philosopher, with his look of returning from the land of the dead?” (What is Philosophy? ibid., p. 69)
Is the land of the dead then his homeland,– near to Hölderlin’s sea of Mnemosyne?
From the lack of originary source – the homelessness of being – or the human in being – Esposito follows Hölderlin’s traces to the ‘Orient’ – as the ‘unoriginal origin’ – the Oriental stream though carries the ‘Oriental mystical principle’ to the West? And this source evokes fear. So Greece the origin is a non-origin – just as Kant’s subject is a non-subject. It is rather a lack – alienated from itself, extraneous to itself as ‘we’ (the West is) are to it.
Hölderlin finds only foreignness and otherness in the Greek model – the origin of the improper, originating from the foreignness of Asia.
Perhaps that is why “We (the Greeks) are a sign without meaning.”
(Mnemosyne 2nd Version)
He could have also written – a sign which cannot be translated.
He could have also written – a sign which cannot be translated.
The image Esposito uses to show this uprooted-ness is that of the sea – the mariner – the impossible homecoming. Doesn’t that sound like the improper Odysseus once again?
What if homecoming never takes place – as in shipwreck. Shipwreck is neither homecoming nor homelessness. In shipwreck one is no longer on the way to anywhere. But in Hans Blumenberg’s genealogy of the West – the mariner is not on the way home. Seafaring with all its risks is a necessary and desirable transgression of terrestrial and communitarian (community) borders without which world commerce and ‘world’ would (have never come to be or) cease. It cannot have escaped Esposito’s attention that the history of the West and its seafaring is bound up with the history of capitalism (commerce and war) – the West’s world-making mechanism par excellence.
“Es beginnet nämlich der Reichtum
Im Meere.” (“Wealth namely begins in the sea.”, Friedrich Hölderlin, Andenken (Remembrance) )
Like Coleridge’s ‘ancient mariner’ doomed to wander the earth and tell his tale of shipwreck - Esposito warns:
“That we are mariners has no other meaning than this: our condition is that of a voyage that takes us far away from ourselves.” (Communitas, ibid. p. 107) That is another sort of illusion – or wishful thinking. If there is no origin – we can never leave it either – origin being considered ‘ourselves’. The worst condition of all – for any mariner – is a becalmed sea. The voyage is also from East to West – now citing Hegel – from the improper (foreign) to the proper “free and beautiful Greek spirit” – the Greek re-formed the foreign into something new.