On Heidegger’s “Overcoming Metaphysics,” “Recollection in Metaphysics,” and a bit on Derrida’s “Le retrait de la métaphore,” I. (Alberto Moreiras)

Joan Stambaugh, the translator and editor of the volume The End of Philosophy, where both texts by Heidegger are included, warns that “overcoming” does not mean “left behind and defeated,” rather “incorporated” and somehow neutralized, as one may perhaps do with a flu. Metaphysics has already done it to Being—Being is incorporated and neutralized through the history of metaphysics, which is why metaphysics is also the history of the forgetting of Being.

Metaphysics rules today, unconditionally, determining what is real and its objects.   But, from a certain perspective, this also means that it has entered its ending, which “lasts more than the previous history of metaphysics” (85).

At the terminus of metaphysics, man is defined as the working stiff, animal laborans, itself objectified as mere will to will.

At the time of completion there is a decline: “a collapse of the world characterized by metaphysics” and a “desolation of the earth stemming from metaphysics” (86).

A metaphoric sedimentation has taken place historically, at the end of which “Man wills himself as the volunteer of the will to will, for which all truth becomes that error which it needs in order to be able to guarantee for itself the illusion that the will to will can will nothing other than empty nothingness, in the face of which it asserts itself without being able to know its own completed nulllity.”

[Esta es una frase perfectamente nietzscheana. Esa “empty nothingness” es en mi opinión el resultado de la gran acumulación metafórica de la modernidad, que es también su reducción máxima al principio de, por ejemplo, excelencia universitaria: si usted es un profesor excelente, usted publicará durante el resto de sus días no menos de tres ensayos y dos cuartos al año en revistas indexadas de al menos 7.38 puntos de estimación, y sus evaluaciones de enseñanza en ningún caso bajarán del 4.562. Lo demás no importa, para eso están nuestra tolerancia y generosidad democrática ejemplares. El corazón de la metáfora, como ya Nietzsche intimaba en el texto sobre Verdad y mentira, es la sedimentación de la gran mentira que pasa por verdad histórica, y la verdad histórica del momento (el error que necesitamos para mantener la ilusión, etc.) es por lo pronto el produccionismo excelentista. Que podríamos desmetaforizar sin que eso implique en absoluto desmemorización ni desmundianización, todo lo contrario.]

Heidegger goes briefly into the history of modern metaphysics—Descartes, Kant, Hegel. “The completion of metaphysics begins with Hegel’s metaphysics of absolute knowledge as the Spirit of will” (89).   The countermovement that follows Hegel—Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, but also Marx—“completes” Hegel, completes the completion. The thought of “value,” and of Being as value as a condition of the will, accomplishes metaphysics [Heidegger never says it, but value is the condition of the principle of general equivalence. General equivalence is at the same time a condition and a determination of the world understood as will to will].

But—at the time of completion, the ontological difference, the memory of an alternative figuration, veiledly appears. “Together with the beginning of the completion of metaphysics, the preparation begins, unrecognized and essentially inaccessible to metaphysics, for a first appearance of the twofoldness of Being and beings. In this appearance the first resonance of the truth of Being still conceals itself, taking back into itself the precedence of Being with regard to its dominance” (91).

If “destiny” is the granting of the ontological difference, metaphysics wards it off.   The lack of destiny is the unhistorical.   Completed metaphysics throws up an unhistorical unworld ruled by technology, understood as objectified nature, the business of culture, manufactured politics. (93)

Representational-calculative reason (the form of reason consistent with the principle of general equivalence, although Heidegger does not talk about general equivalence) is technology’s reason.   Driven by will to power, which is will to will.   This is the scaffolding of the order of the earth: truth as certainty and stability, art as enthusiastic push and drive.

“But with the end of philosophy, thinking is not also at its end, but in transition to another beginning” (96). “Philosophy in the age of completed metaphysics is anthropology” (99).   One could choose—either anthropology or a preparatory thought for another beginning.

Let`s think of this not as it related to Heidegger´s own time, or more specifically to the 1936-46 period when these notes were composed.   Let us think of it as related to today.   For instance, as pertains to US electoral politics for 2016 as reported in yesterday’s New York Times (Jan 27, 2015), in an article about the Koch brothers’ fund directly to influence elections. Heidegger says that representational-calculative reason, guided by the principle of equivalence (although he does not say it), is “the ubiquitous, continual, unconditional investigation of means, grounds, hindrances, the miscalculating exchange and plotting of goals, deceptiveness and maneuvers, the inquisitorial, as a consequence of which the will to will is distrustful and devious toward itself, and thinks of nothing else than the guaranteeing of itself as power itself” (100-01).

This aimlessness is called “mission” (or sometimes “vision,” and often “strategic plan.”)

And here comes the Heideggerian radical indictment of all (modern) politics, hence the first historical opening into explicit infrapolitics as the thought of the ontological difference. This is an important text, and very unusual in the Heideggerian oeuvre: “The struggle between those who are in power and those who want to come to power: On every side there is the struggle for power. Everywhere power itself is what is determinative. Through this struggle for power, the being of power is posited in the being of its unconditional dominance by both sides. At the same time, however, one thing is still covered up here: the fact that this struggle is in the service of power and is willed by it. Power has overpowered these struggles in advance. The will to will alone empowers these struggles. Power, however, overpowers various kinds of humanity in such a way that it expropriates from man the possibility of ever escaping from the oblivion of Beings on such paths. This struggle is of necessity planetary and as such undecidable in its being because it has nothing to decide, since it remains excluded from all differentiation, from the difference (of Being from beings), and thus from truth. Through its own force it is driven out into what is without destiny: into the abandonment of Being” (100).

Abandonment of Being, in the double genitive sense.   Nihilism in the completion of metaphysics.   Heidegger now says something unexpected: against so much “machination” a “pain must be experienced and borne out to the end.”   It is a curious pain: the pain of the lack of need.   It needs to be understood, Heidegger says, that experiencing “lack of need is the highest and most hidden need” (102).

Heidegger now engages in a long rant on global war, which foresees Carlo Galli’s recent determination of the concept. “The question of when there will be peace cannot be answered not because the duration of war is unfathomable, but rather because the question already asks about something that no longer exists, since war is no longer something that could terminate in peace” (104). Beings are out everywhere for consumption as raw material, and war is the name for the consumption.   For that, “leaders” emerge everywhere, in the various “sectors,” including the university sector, or the poetry sector, or the culture sector.   But leaders are only “the necessary consequence of the fact that beings have entered the way of erring in which the vacuum expands which requires a single order and guarantee of beings” (105).

And Heidegger also engages in a rare diagnostic of the division of the world between superhumanity and subhumanity, hegemony and subalternity, using the category of “instinct,” which seems to take us back to Alexander Kojève’s meditation on the end of history into animality: “Instinct is the superescalation to the unconditional miscalculation of everything. It corresponds to superhumanity. Since this miscalculation absolutely dominates the will, there does not seem to be anything more besides the will than the safety of the mere drive for calculation, for which calculation is above all the first calculative rule. Until now, instinct was supposed to be a prerogative of the animal which seeks and follows what is useful and harmful to it in its life sphere, and strives for nothing beyond that. The assurance of animal instinct corresponds to the blind entanglement in its sphere of use. The complete release of subhumanity corresponds to the conditionless empowering of superhumanity. The drive of animality and the ratio of humanity become identical” (106).

What remains is an ordering as the form of guaranteeing aimless activity. “This circularity of consumption for the sake of consumption is the sole procedure which distinctively characterizes the history of a worl which has become an unworld. ‘Leader natures’ are those who allow themselves to be put in the service of this procedure as its directive organs on account of their assured instincts. They are the first employees within the course of business of the unconditional consumption of beings in the service of the guarantee of the vacuum of the abandonment of Being” (107).

Heidegger ends by warning that “no mere action will change the world” (110). Something else is needed.   In the meantime, and we might as well think here about global warming, which was not present for Heidegger as a demonstrable phenomenon, “the desolation of the earth begins as a process which is willed, but not known in its being, and also not knowable at the time when the being of truth defines itself as certainty in which human representational thinking and producing first become sure of themselves. Hegel conceives this moment of the history of metaphysics as the moment in which absolute self-consciousness becomes the principle of thinking” (110).

Something else is needed.   A process of Andenken, or recollection, Heidegger will call it, which is also a step-back from the unworlding of metaphysics.  That will be for Part II of this commentary.


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