Ep. 47 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Heidegger
(Sectioning and transcripts made by MeaningCrisis.co)
Welcome back to Awakening from the Meaning Crisis.
Last time I finished the discussion of wisdom and connected it to enlightenment and argued for the wise cultivation of enlightenment as our deepest kind of existential response to the meaning crisis. A way in which we can awaken from the meaning crisis.
I then wanted to put that scientific model of spirituality, for lack of a better phrase, into discourse with some of the central prophets of the meaning crisis. I'm using the word prophet, of course, as it's used in the old Testament sense. I'm talking about individuals who were crucial for articulating the advent and helping to propose or promise a response to the meaning crisis.
I put a diagram on the board. I'm not going to re-put that diagram on the board in which Heidegger played a central role. There's many connections in there that I will not be able to fully address. I'll point out. And because some of the people are there insofar as they help us articulate the response, not to be examined for their own sake.
A couple of major pointers I want to make out. First, an apology. I misspelled because of my dysgraphia and I didn't realize it. There was something bothering me the whole time about the diagram. I misspelled Heidegger. I won't make that mistake again.
I mentioned the work of Nishida and Nishitani in the Kyoto school. I will talk briefly about Nishitani here, but I won't be able to go into that in-depth. I do intend to pursue this later in another series I am putting together. I'm putting together a couple of series to follow this one, and I would like to do a series that will include work on the Kyoto school. [A] series that I'm entitling The God Beyond God, in which we look at all of these great non-theistic thinkers within both Eastern and Western traditions and things like the Kyoto school that try to bridge between them. So I will have to neglect to some degree the Kyoto school in this series, but I promise to follow it up more deeply in another series.
I also mentioned Derrida. And I will not be able to talk very much, probably maybe not even at all about Derrida and deconstructionism. I will also address this again when I return in the other series, The God Beyond God, especially when I'm going to talk about the relationship between Derrida and what's called negative theology. So many of you will be perhaps disappointed that I don't talk too much about Derrida or the Kyoto school. I do promise to return to that in another series that I am currently working on.
So what did I do? I sort of tried to give a quick background to Heidegger. I talked about the importance of Husserl and phenomenology. And I pointed you to the work of Sokolowski as a great introduction and this slogan of back to the things. Husserl. And he does write a book with the word crisis in its title. The crisis, I think—what is it? In European Science? We talked and this is basically, he is pointing to the loss of contact epistemology, and he's trying to get that contact back. And this is done through a reflective experience through our—not just introspection, but through a reflective experiential attention, paid to the structures and processes within our experience. And I pointed out how there's two components in this. There's the intentional mental directedness, noesis, and then there's the world disclosure. There's a deep correlation between them. And this is the noema. The noesis—and notice that that's the term I've used also to describe perspectival knowing, right? And that the correlation between the noesis and noema is very much like the agent arena relationship.
Now, we took a look at Heidegger's main criticism of Husserl's work and Heidegger's main criticism is that Husserl's work had not really given us back the missing contact. I would say that I'm in agreement with this. I think Heidegger's pointing to something very important in the critique of phenomenology that Sparrow has picked up in his wonderful book, The End Of Phenomenology. Anyways, Husserl's work had not given us a contact, but it has not really developed adequately participatory knowing.
Now, I do think that Merleau-Ponty went a long way towards addressing this. He's after Heidegger with his notion of embodiment. And I think I tried to explain how much this notion of embodiment has been taken up into cognitive science. And how intimately it is connected with the return to contact epistemology. In fact, I would argue that there is no return to a contact epistemology without a deep existential and theoretical recognition of embodiment.
So Heidegger is critiquing both the lack of participatory knowing, and perhaps that's addressed by Marleau-Ponty, but there's a further thing that I think Marleau-Ponty does not address that is also lacking for Heidegger. Is that participatory knowing is not set within ontology. It's not set within a deeper understanding of being and how we come into contact with being. Being as realness. In the sense of the groundingness, with that which grounds truth, seems to be something that Heidegger feels that was lacking in Husserl's work.
Another way of putting it is that Heidegger thought that Husserl was still trapped within the Cartesian cultural cognitive grammar. Husserl's still trapped within subjectivity. And this is the main thing that Sparrow criticizes throughout his entire book. There's also a YouTube video by him that you can watch on his critique of phenomenology. That phenomenology is driven by the goal of returning to the things, but because of its approach, it actually can never return to the things. It is still locked into a kind of subjectivity or a hidden kind of idealism. That what is really needed to get to being is this aspect of Heidegger that I'm going to talk about shortly, which is to pay attention to the independence of being from our experience of it, which is something that a lot of people do not tend to emphasize in Heidegger. That's largely because I think, while it's present in Heidegger, it's not made explicit and foregrounded enough from him. But I think the work of speculative realists like Harman and others–Morton, for example, brings this aspect out and why they see their work as transcending phenomenology.
Questing Into Our Being
So how—but now to return to Heidegger, how do we get to this deeper contact? Well, it's really interesting. He tries to do he's still within phenomenology. But he's trying to get it to drive towards ontology, get us back in touch with the world. And he's trying to get you to do this through a specific kind of questioning.
This questioning, you have to think of this questioning as taking place, not in the having mode in which we're trying to get an answer. Trying to control the situation. You have to think of it much more as within the being mode. A being mode that is experienced as wonder. In fact, perhaps a better word is not questioning, but questing, you're trying to go on a quest with this questioning. You're not trying to have a propositional answer. You're trying to engage in a participatory transformation. Okay.
Now this brings us to the central thing for Heidegger in some ways. And this is Heidegger's notion of dasein. Being there. This is our being. And notice how this is an inheritance from the Christian tradition that we're in the image of God. Somehow by Heidegger's taking this up, as somehow by paying attention, by wondering into, questing into our being, we will get a deeper understanding of being itself.
Why is that? Because for Heidegger our being is the being whose being is in question. We are the type of being who actually questioned who and what we are in a way that makes a difference to who and what we are. This is the core idea of existentialism. Existentialism is that we are fundamentally without an essence and that we are—our essence, if you want to put it that way, is to have no essence. And therefore we are continually defining ourselves by how we question our being and respond to that questioning questing. So the idea by phenomenologically exploring that being, our dasein, the way we are, the being whose being is in question, we can simultaneously come into contact with our modal existence. Come into the being mode and come into contact with the mystery of beer.
A History Of Nihilism
Now coming into contact with this is central to Heidegger and Heidegger is deeply responding to the meaning crisis. One of Heidegger's most famous, or perhaps infamous thesis, the one that runs as a constant thread throughout his work is this idea, that the history of metaphysics, which Heidegger tends to use in a pejorative term, the history of philosophical, existential, and perhaps also religious responses to dasein, to the kind of being we have, the history of that response is metaphysics. And for Heidegger, that history is the history of nihilism.
Heidegger sees that whole project as fundamentally misconstrued. To use our language, the whole project is a fundamental misframing of our relationship to being and because of that, that has produced this deep loss of contact with our being and therefore simultaneously with being itself. And that for Heidegger is the meaning crisis.
So this whole history that we saw, for example, in the first half of this series is the history of nihilism. And you can see, I hope, if you remember that argument, that there's a lot of great truth in what Heidegger has to say about how the unfolding of the history of that metaphysical project has led us into the meaning crisis.
Now, Heidegger does not use the word ontology in a pejorative way, the way he uses the word metaphysics. Most people don't have this distinction as clearly as Heidegger stipulates it to be. So when we're talking about Heidegger, metaphysics is a pejorative term. It is a misframing of the ontological project. The ontological project is the project of understanding our being and thereby understanding our relation to being and thereby understanding being itself.
Heidegger is volumous, he's incredibly prolific. He's also famously difficult to read. His works have an aporetic structure to them. They often fail to come to any clear conclusion. Part of that I think is legitimate. Part of that is him wrestling with trying to break out of the cultural cognitive grammar. But I also think, and this is part of my criticism of Heidegger, part of it is self-promotional. By constantly being the person for, you know, announcing these deep mysteries and how difficult it is to think about them and how he's exemplifying that difficulty. He was also—and I think it's pretty clear this is part of what he's doing. He was also—you can see this from some of those who knew him more intimately—he was also building a mystique around himself. So you have to take that into account.
So all of that makes it difficult to sort of point to here's where I'm going to point to the core of Heidegger. But I do think there's something for me and for many other people, and I hope for you, there is a particular place where I think we can zero in on what Heidegger is doing. And this is his important essay Vom Wesen der Wahrheit which is on the essence of truth. And I think this is important because it will tie into many of the themes we have discussed.
I want to read an extended quote from this, and then I'll comment on it. So this is the quote from Heidegger, obviously translated into English, which is a difficult task I've been told. You have to read a lot of Heidegger before you read Heidegger well because you will misread Heidegger for a long time. And part of why he makes his writing so torturous is to sort of tear you out of the mistake in ways you will misunderstand him.
The Essence Of Truth
Okay. So here is the translation. "A statement is invested with its correctness," so this is a sense of true—when we say that statement is true when we mean it's correct. "A statement is invested with its correctness by the openness of comportment." So I'm going to try and unpack all of this for you. The openness of comportment. How you were comported towards things. "For only through the latter,"—the openness and comportment. And I'll try and explain to you what that means. "Can what is opened up really become the standard for the presentative correspondence." Okay, so let's stop here.
So here's the idea of truth as correspondence (Fig. 1a) (writes Truth as correspondence). A standard notion of truth. So the idea here is this is how truth works. Here's the statement (writes Statement below Truth as correspondence) and what makes it correct is that it corresponds (draws an arrow from Statement) in some important way to reality (writes Reality). What's in the statement and what's in reality correspond. That's what makes it correct. That's what it is to be true. Now, of course, famously philosophers have argued for a long time in many different ways about what this correspondence is. But what Heidegger is trying to say is that debate about the correspondence has missed something. And here's part of the misframing. It's missed that this corresponding relationship is grounded (draws an arrow below the arrow connecting Statement and Reality and writes Grounded), is dependent on, and is sustained by a deeper relationship. Right?
"Open comportment must let itself be assigned the standard." So this lower. relationship, this open comportment is an affordance of an ability to set up correspondence between statements and reality, such that we find them true.
Now start to think about what this means. That must mean that in making the statement, the person is directed and connected. It also means that the statement is picking up on some aspect of reality that is disclosed and there's some kind of connection there. So he's trying to point towards that. This means that it must take over a pre-given standard for all presentation. This belongs to the openness of comportment.
So the normative standard, what we normally call truth, truth as correctness, as correspondence between statement and reality is ultimately grounded, dependent on how this deeper relationship, which we haven't quite articulated yet, affords and makes possible this (indicates Statement and Reality).
But you can see something here, to use some of our language. You can see how the agent and the arena (Fig. 1b) (writes Agent and Arena and draws a double-headed arrow between) have to be shaped to each other, such that what the agent does or says is meaningful in that arena (draws a double-headed arrow above Agent and Arena). So the agent and arena relationship makes possible and affords this correctness. But, of course, what Heidegger's pointing to is, yes, but what grounds (draws a downward arrow below Agent and Arena and writes ?) this agent arena relationship? Now I've tried to argue that it's ultimately the process of relevance realization. We're going to come back to that. Heidegger's gonna (draws an arrow from Grounded)—I'm gonna argue that this is relevance—I've argued this is relevance realization (writes RR beside ?). Heidegger talks about this in terms of attunement (writes Attunement beside ?) He uses attunement, which is very nice, cause it picks up on musicality.
So here's another quote by Heidegger, specifically mentioned this. "However, being attuned, attunement can never be understood as experience." Notice what he's saying here. "Attunement can never be understood as experience and feeling." He is rejecting any subjective interpretation of attunement. Why? Because—to continue, "it is thereby simply deprived of its essence." You have lost the essence of attunement if you understand it subjectively. It is not an experience. It is something that makes meaningful experience possible. And I argued that that, of course, was the case, for relevance realization. Let's continue with his quote, "being attuned," that is what he calls eksistent, standing out exposedness. So this standing out, he spreads—he takes the word existence. And he plays with words a lot. (Fig. 2) (writes Ek-sistence) this is standing out (writes Salience below ek-sistent), which of course is analogous to how what the word salient means. Standing out.
"This eksistent exposedness," how things—exposedness to being—this is us—"as a whole can be experienced and felt." And he puts both those words in sort of scare quotes to question them. "Only because the man who experiences"—again in question, because he's challenging this whole natural way of thinking and talking, that's why he's putting it all in these scare quotes, right? "Without being aware of the essence of attunement is always engaged in being intuned in a way that discloses beings as a whole."
So attunement is not subjective. Any subjective feeling or experience of it is actually grounded in the attuning relationship that precedes and grounds our cognitive appraisal or appropriation within the agent arena relationship.
Okay. So because we have got locked up here (indicates Truth as correspondence), what I would call the propositional level, we have forgotten this (indicates Attunement and RR). We have forgotten the attunement relationship, which for Heidegger is the essence of truth. Because it's what makes correctness of statements possible for us. "Because of this forgetfulness," Here's another quote, "man, clings to what is readily available and controllable even where ultimate matters are concerned." Remember that word ultimate when we come back to Tillich please.
So what happens is we get trapped into the having of propositions. We get trapped into the having mode (indicates Truth as correspondence). All right. "What is readily available and controllable." There's a deep, modal confusion at this deep existential level. The forgetting of the grounding attunement also traps us within propositional processing and it traps us in the having mode, the having of correct propositions.
And this goes right back, right? This goes right back to Plato. I don't think Heidegger would like me doing this. His attitude towards Plato is very ambivalent. Plato consistently makes a distinction between philia sophia (writes Philia Sophia), right? The love of wisdom. And philia nikia (writes Philia Nikia). The love of victory.
The love of victory. The having of the correct answer that defeats the opponent. And one of Plato's ongoing points is this is the deepest kind of bullshitting (encircles Philia Nikia) because this looks like we're arguing. This looks like we're reasoning (indicates Truth as correspondence), but what we're doing is manipulating propositions, and trying to assert correctedness, but we're forgetting all of this and we're forgetting the pursuit of wisdom (Fig. 3) (draws an arrow from Philia Nikia to Philia Sophia). The transformative existential project that Socrates advents for us.
This is why I continually criticize people who I suspect present themselves as if they're doing this (indicates Philia Sophia), but are often doing this (indicates Philia Nikia). This is why I am so critical of people who want to debunk, demolish and debate to the point of victory their opponents, people who really are incapable of getting out of modal confusion. They cannot remember the being mode. Because they can't listen. Look, this is how, you know, somebody is listening. They will say, I did not know that I have just learned something from you or I was wrong. I was mistaken about this. Those are the marks of philia sophia
Heidegger is trying to get us to remember philia sophia. And he definitely sees the history of metaphysics is becoming more and more bound up with philia nikia, the pursuit of victory. The ultimate theory that crushes all opposition. So we have to wake up according to Heidegger. And again, this is why his language is so torturous because we are in a state of deep forgetfulness, deep modal confusion. And if we read his text, we are deeply tempted to read them from that forgetfulness and that modal confusion and thereby fundamentally misunderstand him. So his texts are right deliberately Socratic in they're constantly trying to undermine that cognitive cultural grammar that we habitually bring to things. So he wants us to remember Sati. The forgotten mystery of dasein.
So he says this, "Whenever the concealment of being as whole is conceded only as a limit that occasionally announces itself, concealing as a fundamental occurrence has sunk into forgetfulness." If we only sort of acknowledge the way beings transcend our framing of them, sort of, at the limit. Yes, yes. Yes. Reality is combinatorially explosive. Yes, yes, yes, yes. And we turn that and we wave our hands and then we go back to, yes, but within this, within my framework, blah, blah, blah, blah. And what Heidegger says is, when you only acknowledge it as a limit, you have actually deeply forgotten it. That relationship to the combinatorial explosive nature of things has to be a ongoing feature of your thinking. Now, I try to argue for this within the relevance realization framework, which I'm going to show you is deeply appropriate to Heidegger in terms of this idea of sacredness as an acted, enacted participatory resonance to the moreness, the inexhaustibleness of reality.
The Thing Beyond Itself
In order to pick this up, I want to briefly, because as I said, I can't go into this a great deal. I hope to go into this again later in another series (erases the board). But I want to briefly talk about the work of Harman and what's called object-oriented ontology, or what's also known as speculative realism. And this is the position from which Sparrow and Harman and others have critiqued phenomenology as being inadequate. So what—and again, I'm trying to summarize all of this, which is like some of the most exciting work that's recently being done in ontology. You know—and I respect people who say, we need to talk about ontology more, but if you want to talk about ontology, just don't do old talk about ontology. Pay attention to the insightful, inventive, new work being done on ontology within speculative realism.
So again, I wouldn't even claim this as a summary. I'm just picking up one important thread of the speculative realism as a way of trying to develop this important idea of Heidegger and cause we're gonna need it when we talk about other people like, you know, Tillich and Jung and Barfield. So the core of this is not the Kantian picture of the thing in itself, veiled by subjectivity. So remember that Kantian picture, right? Our subjectivity completely veils the thing in itself and makes it ultimately inaccessible to us.
So what Harman is picking up on is that this transjective attunement, and we'll come back to see that they have a difficulty with limiting ontology to what they call correlation, just our experience of ontology. But nevertheless, let's start here. This transjective attunement makes both the subject and the object possible in experience, in phenomenological experience.
So. What does that mean? Well, there's a different way about thinking about how you encounter objects. Instead of the Kantian thing in itself that is veiled from us by our subjectivity, instead, think about two things happening simultaneously. This is picking up on what Heidegger's talking about. Think about the thing shining into subjectivity and that's what phenomenology originally means. Heidegger picks up on it. The Greek term, phenomenon, actually means to shine forth. So simultaneously the thing is shining into my subjectivity, but that is interpenetrated, inter-afforded with, it is simultaneously withdrawing from my framing. It is always beyond my framing as well. And that that beyondness is not something in my phenomenology, but it contributes to the sense of the realness of my phenomenological experience.
Think about how in virtual reality, when there—if the world, if you get a sense that the world is closed, if that you can drain it dry with your activity, it loses its realness, but only, and here's now the openness that Heidegger is talking about—the comportment, but only if there's a realness, a way in which the world withdraws beyond you continually. So there's always a horizon of your experience. A horizon is something you always move towards, but you can never reach. So as long as that world constantly withdraws, as it also shines into your experience, then it is real to you.
Now, the moreness is not something in your experience. It's not an object of your experience, but it's a feature. The withdrawal is as much a contributor to the realness of things as they're shining into your subjectivity. This is I think, a profound way in which Harman and others have explicated Heidegger's idea and then gone beyond it.
Now, the way I want to put it and the way I've argued it earlier, I think this lines up with what I've tried to argue. That our framing, which is transjective in nature about attunement simultaneously discloses and conceals. Right. So I want to replace the Kantian term, the thing in itself with another way, another term. The thing beyond itself (writes The thing beyond itself). Everything is both shining into our subjectivity and withdrawing beyond our framing of it. And those are inter-affording. They're interpenetrating. They co-contribute to the realness of the object for us. And it's precisely the withdrawing, according to Harman and others that was missed by phenomenology because of the way it was still bound within a Cartesian subjective framework.
Whether or not that is completely fair to phenomenology is another question. And I'm not trying to get into that theoretical debate right here. My main focus here is trying to understand what's going on, but I think we can take from speculative realism, this idea, this term I've coined the thing beyond itself. It's clearly a central idea in Harman's idea of the object, the thing beyond itself.
Truth As Aletheia
Okay. So this takes us to now a new understanding of truth (erases the board). How do we get an attunement that discloses things as things beyond themselves, things that are simultaneously shining into our subjectivity, but also withdrawing into their objectivity where this no longer means an object of thought. It means a depth beyond our framing. An independence beyond our experience and how those are transjectively interpenetrating for us in the sense of realist. What does it mean to be connected to things in this way? And this is Heidegger's famous notion of truth as aletheia (writes Truth as Alethea).
Truth as aletheia. So lethe means to cover or to forget. In Greek mythology, the underworld, you passed through the river of Lethe and it made you forget all of your previous life as you went into the underworld. And this (indicates 'a-' in aletheia) is of course the negation of it. So it means it's sort of a deep remembering, sati and a deep disclosure.
So always remember these two poles. It's a deep remembering. You have to modally remember, not just like our normal sense of remembering. Like Sati, you have to remember the being mode and this (indicates Aletheia) discloses this aspect of reality that it is simultaneously shining and withdrawing.
So truth is aletheia is this attuning to the mutual disclosure. Fittedness within the mystery of being. You're getting attuned to things. You're deeply remembering things. And again, not just cognitive memory, existential memory. You're remembering things. This is to be in contact with them when you're attuned to how they are simultaneously appearing, shining and withdrawing.
Now I've been throughout using the language of relevance realization that I've argued for to talk about Heidegger. And some of you may be a little bit sort of like, eh, I don't like that. You know, Heidegger's, you know, I like the Heidegger talking, it's all ontological and I don't want this scientific talk and, you know, and you might have a deeper point there because the scientific talk for Heidegger is at a higher level than ontology.
Nevertheless, I want to continue to making this argument and I want to make it because there's an explicit and important history (erases the board). And this is the connection that has had a profound impact on my work and the argument that you have seen between Heidegger, Herbert Dreyfus (Fig. 4a) (writes Heidegger = Dreyfus), and third generation, third gen, 4E cog sci (writes 3rd gen and 4E cog sci) that I have articulated and exemplified to you.
Dreyfus is an important interpreter of Heidegger, but he's also one of the founding figures of this version of cognitive science. In fact, Dreyfus, tried to formulate or is continuing to formulate important aspects of third generation 4E cognitive science as a way of trying to articulate the importance of Heidegger for understanding the nature of mind, the nature of cognition, the nature of consciousness, et cetera.
So there's a book he wrote on Heidegger's most central work, Being And Time and Dreyfus's book is called Being-In-The-World. And I want to read you a quote for that. And the quote is exemplary. It's not a unique, isolated moment in Dreyfus's work. It's something that is exemplary of a theme running throughout Dreyfus.
Here's the quote from that book on Heidegger. Okay. Quote, "Facts and rules are, by themselves, meaningless. To capture what Heidegger calls significance or involvement, they must be assigned relevance." And those two terms are emphasized in the original. My emphasis of them is just reporting the emphasis that he gave them.
"They must be assigned relevance. But the predicates that must be added to define relevance, are just more meaningless facts;" You can't capture it with a definition. "And paradoxically, the more facts the computers are given."—sorry, "the more facts the computer is given," notice how he immediately links Heidegger to a computational psychology and a deep critique of it. "The more facts the computer is given the harder it is to compute what is relevant to the current situation." You get into combinatorial explosion if you stay at the propositional computational level, and you lose your ability to fit yourself to the current situation, to cope with the current situation.
This is why Dreyfus because of Heidegger was one of the founding and remains one of the ongoing critics of a purely computational Cartesian approach to cognitive science, to AI, to artificial intelligence. He literally wrote the book entitled, What Computers Can't Do that founded this whole criticism of computational psychology. It's considered the discovery of the frame problem within cognitive science. He later updated it with a later book called What Computers Still Can't Do. This has been an ongoing thing. He sees Heidegger as the deep forerunner of the criticism that we should understand the mind only in propositional computational terms.
This is why Dreyfus went on to pick up also work from Marleau-Ponty, which I've referenced and helped to develop (draws a downward arrow from Dreyfus) this notion of optimal grip that I've discussed at length (Fig. 4b) (writes Optimal grip below Dreyfus). Optimal grip. It is a process that is doing this relevance realization. And it is something that is deeper than propositional knowing.
So I'm trying to show you that my attempts to connect Heidegger, who is a prophet of the meaning crisis to the machinery of relevance realization and participatory knowing, and optimal gripping is not misplaced. Dreyfus is not a single figure. There are other figures like this. See the work by Dreyfus and Charles Taylor, Retrieving Realism, about how we can get back to really being in contact by making use of these ideas.
I'm going to keep doing that. I'm going to keep showing you, because what I'm trying to show you is that the framework we have built allows us to enter into deep dialogue with the central prophets of the meaning crisis in a way that I think insightfully discloses aspects of their own theorizing and affords potentially synoptically integrating them together into a more comprehensive response to the meaning crisis. This is the final part of the argument I'm making.
A Dynamic Coupling
I want to continue on. Do a little bit more about Heidegger and leading into the other thinkers we want to examine. So Avens in his wonderful book, The New Gnosis, in which he talks about Heidegger, Corbin, Jung, Hillman, right? It's a book in which she links Heidegger to Corbin into Jung. And he puts it this way when he's discussing Heidegger's thought. Here's a quote.
Again, it picks up on something we've already been talking about. Here's the quote, "A questioning that involves the questionner in the matter of thoughts so deeply, he becomes, in a sense, one with it. At this point, knowing is no longer divorced from being. We know the way we are, and we are the way we know. In the Platonic tradition, this is expressed in the axiom, like can only be known by like." He is pointing directly. And this is not something you get in Heidegger. But that's why I turned to Avens. He's pointing to how Heidegger is actually bringing back this deeply Neo-Platonic idea of knowing, of participatory knowing as a deep kind of conformity between you and the world. This is a participatory knowing that is a dynamic coupling.
Now Avens immediately points and connects this kind of participatory knowing, this dynamic coupling, like known by like. And reality is dynamic. So you have to be dynamic and dynamically coupled to it. He immediately points from Heidegger to Corbin because Corbin is deeply influenced by Heidegger. Corbin was one of the first important translators of Heidegger into French. His translation of introduction to metaphysics was seminal for how Heidegger was spread into France, for example.
But Corbin explicitly calls this participatory knowing that is a dynamical coupling, a dynamical conformity, he explicitly calls this gnosis. A term we've already examined right. "Gnosis," for Corbin, this is quote "is a." Here's the quote, "a salvational redemptive knowledge, because it has the virtue of bringing about the inner transformation of man," sorry for the sexist language on his part. "It is knowing that," quote, "changes and transforms the knowing subject."
You see, it's that dynamical coupling in which, you know, by being coupled to something. And it's participatory knowing because you know it insofar as you are changed and your knowing of yourself and your knowing of the object are coupled together. But that is what you need to respond appropriately to dasein. Look, you are the being whose being is in question. And by questing into that, you quest into being. You are only going to get a response to that quest when you add something that's simultaneously in an inter-penetrative, inter-affording fashion is both knowing yourself—not your autobiographical knowing, knowing the depths of your being. Knowing yourself and knowing the world, coupled together, mutually affording each other. That this is what Corbyn is calling gnosis. And this is what he's saying he's getting from Heidegger.
Now let's take a look at what we've done so far (erases the board). And I want to show you how these two things are not irrelevant (Fig. 5a) (writes Heidegger and draws two lines below it). They're deeply relevant to each other. You've got Dreyfus over here (writes Dreyfus below Heidegger) and the whole aspect of relevance realization (writes RR below Dreyfus) and Dreyfus is clearly pointing out that this is non-propositional. Coming from Heidegger, non-computational in the sense where computation is the inferential manipulation of propositions to draw out implication relations (writes Non-propositional, non-computational under RR).
And then over here, you have Corbin (Fig. 5b) (writes Corbin below Heidegger). And he's calling all of this gnosis (writes Gnosis under Corbin), this participatory, mutually self- and world-transformative kind of knowing. But what Corbin is doing with the gnosis that isn't apparent in Dreyfus is that he's pointing out how this (indicates Gnosis) is redemptive. How it saves us. Right? Remember the Gnostics are trying to free us to liberate us from existential entrapment.
So Corbin is pointing out that how this, Corbin is making explicit, that this machinery that we're talking about here is a way of responding to the modal confusion. It is a way of responding to the forgetfulness of being. It is a way of awakening from the meaning crisis. So let's try and do this again a little bit more carefully (erases the board).
Forgetfulness Of Being
Let's try to do this a little bit more carefully. What is this forgetfulness? This modal confusion. Okay. So on one hand, we have the being mode (Fig. 6a) (writes Being mode). And remember Fromm ultimately gets this from Heidegger as does Stephen Batchelor. Being mode, the having mode (writes Having mode).
Do you see what I'm trying to do though? I'm trying to show you how seamlessly you can interweave this language from Heidegger with the language we've been developing in the second half of this series.
So the being mode. So what's going on in the being mode? The being mode is the transformative participation in the mystery of being. Okay. That transformative participation in the mystery of being (Fig. 6b) (draws a downward arrow from Being mode), this leads, of course, to aletheia (writes Aletheia below Being mode), which I have discussed. And there's two components to this that we've discussed. There's the attunement (writes Attunement below Alethea), right. But there's also the independence of Being (writes The independence of Being).
I think the attunement clearly points to relevance (Fig. 6c) (writes Relevance below Attunement). I've already argued that repeatedly. I hope I don't have to argue it anymore. But this independence of being. This is independent of the correlation between us and being. That being always transcends how it is being known and being experienced by us. This is the moreness, the withdrawal that is simultaneously pres—I almost made a mistake. Sorry about that. The moreness is simultaneously with the presence of the shining, right?
This (draws a downward arrow from The independence of Being), I think, is, what Harman and others would argue, ultimately gives things—I don't want to say all of their realness, but an important pull of their realness that we have neglected. You can see what I'm trying to point to there's. I mean, the word I would, you know, it might not even seem natural to put here—of the independence of Being is truth (writes Truth below The independence of Being) but that's not quite right (erases Truth). Because we've seen that truth belongs up here in the discussion of aletheia (writes Truth beside Aletheia) or even higher up in the correctness of our propositions based on Aletheia (erases Truth).
So this is relevance (indicates Relevance). And why am I stopping here? Because remember, we don't want to confuse relevance and we don't want to disconnect relevance from truth or realness. Right? I want to put to something deeper here. That the relevance must always be open to—and remember, not just as an acknowledgement of the limit. It has to be an ongoing constraint. The relevance has to have an ongoing constraint in its connectedness to a sense of the moreness (Fig. 6d) (writes Moreness below The independence of Being), the inexhaustibleness of the thing beyond itself (writes Inexhaustibleness of the thing beyond itself).
So what would be going on over here in the having mode? And where we're getting the modal confusion? So now we think of an object. We think of its being in terms of how it can be manipulated by us, not just physically, conceptually. Remember, this is the quintessential point of the having mode. We have control. We can grasp it. We can manipulate it. We can use it. We're not confronting mysteries. We're solving problems. And so what happens when we get into the having mode into conceptual manipulation and the having of propositions and we forget the being mode and all of this over here (indicates the Being mode)? What can happen to us?
Onto-theology And Nihilism
Well, and this is one of Heidegger's main critiques. We start to misunderstand in a modal sense. You start to misunderstand Being as a particular being. Misunderstand being as a being (Fig. 6e) (writes Being as a being). So I'm using Being as with a capital B to Being. Where I'm using a little be to mean a particular being like this, you know, marker or this eraser or this body. Alright?
And then we misunderstand the attempt to try and get back to this (indicates The independence of Being) by positing it within—this is a modal confusion. We try to capture—something's wrong, just thinking, we're not quite getting being with a big B. When we look at this being (picks up the eraser) or think of being as a particular bit, we've got to do something more. And so what we'll do is we'll put it to the limit. Remember what Heidegger says? That's insufficient. We'll understand Being, as the supreme being (Fig. 6f) (writes As the supreme being below Being as a being), the highest being. The highest subject, perhaps. The highest person at the highest force. The highest thing.
And for Heidegger, this is the ultimate modal confusion (indicates Having mode) for this is to try to turn being in a problem, being into a problem that can be solved by the conceptual manipulation of a propositionally defined object. And, of course, what's being alluded to here (Fig. 6g) (draws an arrow from As the supreme being and writes God) is classical Theism's sort of traditional presentation of God. Now, whether or not this is going to be fair to how many people have written about God, we're going to come back to that when we talk about Tillich and Barfield.
Heidegger is certainly right that there is a longstanding tradition within metaphysics understood in a pejorative sense in which God is understood in this limit sense. God is understood within the having mode. God is understood as the supreme being that somehow grounds and makes all other beings. And this is a fundamental mistake for Heidegger. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. It's a fundamental problem.
So this is known as the problem of onto-theology (Fig. 6h) (writes Onto-theology below As the supreme being), where we try to understand Being theologically, in terms of a supreme being. And for Heidegger that, and this may strike many of you who come from religious framework as, you know, almost bordering on offensive. I'm trying to present in a way I think that's more accessible to you. That's not the case. But what Heidegger is saying—sorry, it's not the case that—I misspoke there. It's not the case that you should simply—I'm sorry. I'm not, I'm stating something where I should be requesting something. That's why I'm stumbling. I'm requesting of you that you are not simply offended, that you try and understand what Heidegger is trying to articulate here, because he's going to make this claim.
And here's the claim that you might find offensive. That there's a deep connection between the understanding of Being in terms of the supreme being, God, onto-theology, and nihilism. This is Heidegger trying to articulate Nietzsche. And Nietzsche is another big influence on Heidegger. Understanding Being or the ground of Being as a supreme being, onto-theology, is the deep forgetfulness that just caused us existentially adrift in modal confusion and fundamentally misframing our relationship to Being and therefore being subject to a disconnectedness from realness, which is at the heart of the meaning crisis.
So Tillich is going to pick this up. It's going to be deeply influenced by Heidegger, but also I think I prefer Tillich to Heidegger and there's also personal reasons for that. Tillich was the first non-Jewish academic to be basically, well, persecuted by the Nazis because he, from the very beginning, opposed them and resisted them. He had to leave Germany because of that.
Unlike Heidegger. And this is not something you should dismiss like some people do and I want to return to it, discuss it later.Heidegger joins the Nazi party and becomes an official member. An official within the Nazi party. And that is something to pay attention to. And it's fair to bring this up because Heidegger presents his entire position as an existential one, not just a theoretical one. And if you try to dismiss his participation in the Nazis by just saying, Oh, but that has nothing to do with his theory, you have sort of fundamentally missed how he is involved with the very presentation of his own theory.
Now Tillich is going to take up nevertheless, Heidegger's critique onto-theology, but he's going to do something very interesting with it. He's going to use this as a way of bringing back the very traditional religious notion of idolatry and what is wrong with idolatry. So next time, what I would like to to explore with you as a way of developing further what Corbin is talking about with gnosis and gnosis as serious play. I want to try to finish up. What would it be like to have the gnosis? To remember Being through aletheia What would it be like to be remembering Being through aletheia? What would that be like? How would we be? How would the world be to us? And this is a way of trying to say, what would it be like to experience the remembering that is a way of awakening from the meaning crisis.
Thank you very much for your time and attention.
- END -
Episode 47 Notes
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Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher who is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. He is best known for contributions to phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism.
Book Mentioned: Basic Writings – Buy Here
Kitarō Nishida was a prominent Japanese philosopher, founder of what has been called the Kyoto School of philosophy.
Keiji Nishitani was a Japanese university professor, scholar, and Kyoto School philosopher. He was a disciple of Kitarō Nishida.
The Kyoto School is the name given to the Japanese philosophical movement centered at Kyoto University that assimilated Western philosophy and religious ideas and used them to reformulate religious and moral insights unique to the East Asian cultural tradition.
Jacques Derriad, born in Algeria, was a French philosopher best known for developing a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction, which he analyzed in numerous texts, and developed in the context of phenomenology.
Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God, the Divine, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God.
Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a German philosopher of Jewish origin, who established the school of phenomenology.
Book Mentioned: The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology – Buy Here
Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness.
Monsignor Robert Sokolowski is a philosopher and Roman Catholic priest who serves as the Elizabeth Breckenridge Caldwell Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
Nous, sometimes equated to intellect or intelligence, is a term from classical philosophy for the faculty of the human mind necessary for understanding what is true or real.
The word noema (plural: noemata) derives from the Greek word νόημα meaning "thought", or "what is thought about".
Book Mentioned: The End of Phenomenology – Buy Here
Maurice Jean Jacques Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger.
Book Mentioned: Phenomenology of Perception – Buy Here
Speculative realism is a movement in contemporary Continental-inspired philosophy (also known as post-Continental philosophy) that defines itself loosely in its stance of metaphysical realism against its interpretation of the dominant forms of post-Kantian philosophy (or what it terms "correlationism").
Graham Harman (born May 9, 1968) is an American philosopher. He is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles.
Book Mentioned: Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory Of Everything – Buy Here
Timothy Bloxam Morton is a professor and Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University.
Dasein is a German word that means "being there" or "presence", and is often translated into English with the word "existence".
Existentialism is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centers on the lived experience of the thinking, feeling, acting individual.
Nihilism is a philosophy, or family of views within philosophy, expressing negation (i.e., denial of) towards general aspects of life that are widely accepted within humanity as objectively real, such as knowledge, existence, and the meaning of life.
Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.
Sati is mindfulness or awareness, a spiritual or psychological faculty (indriya) that forms an essential part of Buddhist practice.
In metaphysics, object-oriented ontology (OOO) is a 21st-century Heidegger-influenced school of thought that rejects the privileging of human existence over the existence of nonhuman objects.
Paul Johannes Tillich was a German-American Christian existentialist philosopher and Lutheran Protestant theologian who is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century.
Carl Gustav Jung, was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology.
Arthur Owen Barfield was a British philosopher, author, poet, critic, and member of the Inklings.
Aletheia is truth or disclosure in philosophy.
Hubert Lederer Dreyfus was an American philosopher and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.
Charles Margrave Taylor CC GOQ FRSC FBA is a Canadian philosopher from Montreal, Quebec, and professor emeritus at McGill University best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy, and intellectual history.
Book Mentioned: Retrieving Realism – Buy Here
Henry Corbin was a philosopher, theologian, Iranologist and professor of Islamic Studies at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris, France.
Book Mentioned: The New Gnosis – Buy Here
Erich Seligmann Fromm (/frɒm/; German: [fʁɔm]; March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist.
Stephen Batchelor is a British author and teacher, writing books and articles on Buddhist topics and leading meditation retreats throughout the world. He is a noted proponent of agnostic or secular Buddhism.