Nietzsche's Will to Power and Heidegger's Metaphysics of Pain: A Response to Mitchell

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Erik Pomrenke looks at Andrew J. Mitchell’s “Entering the World of Pain: Heidegger” from Telos 150 (Spring 2010).

Heidegger’s thinking of pain allows for a positive revaluation of pain as openness, not closure, to the world. Andrew J. Mitchell contends in his “Entering the World of Pain: Heidegger,” that “pain is the surest sign that we wholly belong to this world; in fact, pain is nothing other than our contact with the world and our ‘openness’ to it.” Mitchell situates Heidegger against two popular accounts of pain: Freudian psychoanalysis and the humanist interpretation of pain as articulated by Elaine Scarry in her book The Body in Pain. Both models oppose pain and openness to the world and therefore see pain as a withdrawal from meaning. Within psychoanalysis, this takes place in the disengagement of cathexis—divestment of libido from love objects. Within the broadly humanist account, world and body are opposed. When the body demands attention, it necessitates a withdrawal from and contraction of the world. Scarry’s thought is structured by such binary oppositions as pain and meaning, interiority and exteriority, and it will be the task of Heidegger’s thinking of pain to reconfigure these oppositions by holding up pain and language as co-original phenomena—a task that Mitchell illustrates by reading Trakl.

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Gillian Rose and Theology: Salvaging Faith

Gillian Rose began as a sympathetic interpreter of Adorno. This essay considers the abiding strength of Adorno’s thought, from her point of view, by contrast for instance with that of Heidegger; but also the rationale of her eventual move beyond Adorno, and back to Hegel. Fundamentally at issue, in this move, is the Hegelian notion of “Absolute Knowing,” as a systematic re-opening of the most purely rationalistic philosophy, toward theology. That is, the sense in which it represents an ideal “salvage” strategy, with regard to religion: neither over-reductionist in the manner of Kant, or of Feuerbach, nor inadequately critical in the manner of Schleiermacher; but, rather, an approach precisely focused on the ineradicable ambiguity of all religious utterance—as a potential medium for “Spirit”—even whilst fully acknowledging religion’s unsurpassable potential virtues as a non-elitist mode of communication. Rose, it is argued, quite rightly sees beyond Adorno’s caricatural misreading of Hegelian grand-narrative “theodicy”: which is by no means, in fact, the intrinsically de-sensitizing mode of ideology he supposes it to be, but is, instead, a therapeutically “comedic” impulse, akin to Nietzschean amor fati, combined with a (not at all Nietzschean) concern for effective cosmopolitan solidarity-building.

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Heidegger’s Being and Time: A Collection of Pretentious and Vague Platitudes

The following article was originally published in the Greek newspaper To Vima on December 21, 1997, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the first publication of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time.

I consider Being and Time to be one of the overrated books of the century. To be precise, I regard it as a collection of platitudes expressed in pretentious and obscure language. Whoever goes beyond the narrow philosophical perspective and surveys the history of ideas and problems in its totality arrives at this conclusion. Being very one-sidedly educated as a rule, philosophers usually inflate the importance of things that take place in their own field and consider an author original solely because he introduces them to one or two new concepts. In reality, the philosophy of the Modern Era did not create its own problematic but followed, directly or indirectly, in a better or worse manner, the rapid changes that occurred chiefly in the natural sciences to begin with, and subsequently in the social and human sciences. The epistemologically oriented philosophy of the subject was developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as an attempt to provide answers to questions raised by the mathematical physics of the time (the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, causality, substance). The social and human sciences, whose foundations were laid in the eighteenth century and which came into their own in the nineteenth, introduced a perspective that has proven fatal for philosophy’s vital myth, namely, that of the autonomy of spirit, since they demonstrated its dependence not only on “irrational” and “existential” factors but on “non-spiritual,” socioeconomic, and historical ones too.

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Re-working the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger: Iran’s Revolution of 1979 and its Quest for Cultural Authenticity

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus, Being and Time (1927), constitutes one of the most important contributions to philosophy of the last century. Beyond having a defining influence on numerous fields of study within philosophy that include but are not limited to existentialism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction, Heidegger has often been viewed as “the most creative religious writer of the twentieth century” (Ireton, 243). It should thus not be surprising that his ideas were widely received and regarded by Iranian intellectuals and students before (and after) the Iranian Revolution of 1979. One of the main seeds of Heideggerian thought that blossomed particularly well in the Iranian context was his notion of authenticity (Eigentlichkeit). Used by Heidegger to draw ontological distinctions, authenticity inspired a politicized discourse—among its Iranian readers—on a return to an “authentic” self. The authenticity of the Iranian return to the self firmly grounded on a separation from imposed Western ideals. A tendency among Iranians toward the study of existentialism[1] in addition to Heidegger’s poignant critique of a decadent West cloaked in religious terminology made him an excellent partner to a group of Iranian intellectuals unsatisfied with a despotic monarch perceived to be antagonistic to Islam.

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From Freiburg to Frankfurt: Rovatti on Critical Theory and Phenomenology

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Damien Booth looks at Pier Aldo Rovatti’s “Critical Theory and Phenomenology,” from Telos 15 (Spring 1973).

The relationship between phenomenology and critical theory is a complex one that deserves a great deal of attention. On the one hand, Marcuse, as a student of Heidegger, maintained a certain level of affiliation with his thought, while, on the other, Lukács and Adorno were critical of phenomenology, with Heidegger in particular coming under criticism. In “Critical Theory and Phenomenology,” Pier Aldo Rovatti attempts to show how these two modes of thought may have a meaningful encounter.

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