I had the pleasure visiting Martin's hut, often referred to as “die Hütte", at Todtnauberg, on the edge of the Black Forest, southern Germany. He considered the seclusion provided by the forest to be the best environment in which to engage in his philosophical thought, and here was where he wrote his most famous book Being and Time.
It is a small ski hut measuring six meters by seven, the low hanging roof covers three rooms: the kitchen which is also the living room, a bedroom and a study. Scattered at wide intervals throughout the narrow base of the valley and on the equally steep slope opposite, lie farmhouses with their large over-hanging roofs. Higher up the slope the meadows and pasture lands lead to the woods with its dark fir-tress, old and towering…This is his work world.
That day he hiked the way up mountain, then ski back down, he is an avid hiker and an accomplished skier. I greeted him at the hut front door this short and stout professor with dark piercing eyes, his sun tan face gleaming. We sat at the coffee table, ready to discuss ‘Being and Time’.
“According to Plato truth is determined by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately corresponds with that world, true beliefs and true statements correspond to the facts. What is truth according to you?”
Martin, talking slowly and deliberately:
“For Plato, and those that followed, truth meant correctness, a correspondence between knowledge, judgement, and the object. This view of truth implies that the experience of truth is structured in terms of the relationship between a subject and an object. There is an essential difference between viewing truth as correctness, and truth as unconcealment , Aletheia. Truth as correctness has ignored the experience of truth as an opening that lets unconcealment occur. In unconcealment, truth lies not only in a judgement, but in the human existence itself. To draw real things from concealedness to unconcealedness, Aletheia, requires a certain 'light'. This light is the existence of Being (Dasein) itself, its being-in-the-world. Because of Dasein’s open-stance, which involves engagement to the world as a whole, it is able to unconceal, opening up its world for itself. “
I said:“You reportedly saw the painting of Van Gogh “A pair of shoes” on an exhibition in Amsterdam and you were impressed by it. Tell us about your insight on the painting.”
“As long as we only imagine a pair of shoes in general, or simply look at the empty, unused shoes as they merely stand there in the picture, we shall never discover what the equipmental being of the equipment in truth is. From Van Gogh’s painting we cannot even tell where these shoes stand. There is nothing surrounding this pair of peasant shoes in or to which they might belong — only an undefined space. There are not even clods of soil from the field or the field-path sticking to them, which would at least hint at their use. A pair of peasant shoes and nothing more. And yet.
From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrate the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field."
“Your insight on this painting of rugged old shoes is very interesting, it unconceals both the being of the shoes and the peasant women’s world to us. The painting lets us know what the shoes are in truth, and it is not separable from the entities in the world, including the one who unconceals the entities and also oneself, Dasein. According to your book Being and Time this is authentic Dasein, authentic Being-in-the world, Dasein’s understanding about the truth”.
“Unconcealment can occur authentically, without a set of predispositions. Entities are initially manifest but nevertheless concealed in what they most authentically are. Authenticity by contrast, consists in Dasein learning to “uncover the world in its own way … this uncovering of the ‘world’ is … always accomplished as a clearing away of concealments and obscurities, as a breaking up of the disguises with which Dasein bars its own way.”
“You further described that authentic Dasein means being something of its own, not someone else, the Dasein that does not bow to assertion of the mass, the public, which you call as ‘das Man’, or the ‘they’. The authentic Dasein does not choose to follow tastes, interests, fashions, pop culture that are made as consumer goods. Authentic Dasein is thereby opposed to inauthentic, public Dasein, which is what Dasein is when submitting to the control of a not-oneself, the public, the ‘they’, das Man. Authentic Dasein chooses its own possibilities and acts on them, shutting out the voice of das Man and with it the public understanding of the world.”
“Yes, Dasein is authentically itself only to the extent that, as concernful Being-alongside and solicitous Being-with, it projects itself upon its ownmost potentiality-for-Being rather than upon the possibility of das Man. Becoming authentic requires a process of self-assertion and self-initiated liberation from the temptations of inauthentic understanding. In its normal, everyday way of living in the world, Dasein is under the dominion of inauthentic understanding. Dasein has a tendency to become absorbed in the concerns and possibilities that the world presents to it as valuable.
Das Man comforts Dasein by hiding the truth from it, an act that Dasein is complicit with. As a result, the particular Dasein in its everydayness is disburdened by das Man. Not only that; by thus disburdening it of its Being, das Man accommodates Dasein if Dasein has any tendency to take things easily and make them easy. And because das Man constantly accommodates the particular Dasein by disburdening it of its Being, das Man retains and enhances its stubborn dominion. Inauthenticity is a “tranquilizing” way of existing.”
“What do you mean inauthencity is “tranquilizing” way of existing?”
“In utilizing public means of transport and in making use of information services such as the newspaper, every Other is like the next . . . . We take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they, de Man, take pleasure; we read, see, and judge about literature and art as they see and judge; likewise we shrink back from the ‘great mass’ as they shrink back; we find ‘shocking’ what they find shocking.”
“In ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ you viewed technology negatively. Technology, despite its contribution to humankind in this modern era, you described it as a major threat to the authentic Dasein.”
“The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it. But human reflection can ponder the fact that all saving power must be of a higher essence than what is endangered, though at the same time kindred to it.”
“In what way does technology is dangerous to human existence?”
“Our current modern age is the epoch of technology which manifests a specific way of understanding and interpreting the world, machination, just as das Man manifested the public understanding of the world.
But ‘the epoch of technology’ is far more than the control or enslaving of man by technology. The dominant understanding of reality in the epoch of technology is largely encompassed by the term ‘calculability,’ meaning that everything that is real is understood in terms of discrete, calculable, orderable units, of what can be produced or used for production.
Machination fosters in advance the completely surveyable calculability of the subjugating empowering of beings to an accessible arrangement. Machination fosters in advance a particular understanding of beings such that they are accessible because calculable. Access to beings is defined by calculability; to grasp what a being is, one must be able to understand it in a calculable manner. Reality is organized, ordered, something counted and assembled from parts.
What it is to exist, according to the epoch of technology, is to be calculable; the world is understood as calculable, goals and purposes are understood in terms of calculability and producibility, i.e., as discrete entities consisting of potential forces that can be harnessed for ends.”
“That being said, if anything, can one do? “
“Wherever man opens his eyes and ears, unlocks his heart, and gives himself over to meditating and striving, shaping and working, entreating and thanking, he finds himself everywhere already brought into the unconcealed.
“In ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ you said that the nature of art is poetry and the nature of poetry, in turn, is the founding of truth. A work of art has the ability to set up a world. World is a self-opening openness of the broad paths of simple and essential decisions in the destiny of a historical people. Art creates meaning by allowing letting truth arise, by means of which Being becomes comprehensible. The meaning of a work of art cannot be considered separately from the conversation that the work initiates and which the artist anticipates. Can you explain this please.”
“What poetry, as illuminating projection, unfolds of unconcealedness and projects ahead into the design of the figure, is the open which poetry lets happen, and indeed in such a way that only now, in the midst of beings, the open brings beings to shine and ring out.
I like to cite the poem ‘Autumn’ by Friedrich Hölderlin:
Nature’s gleaming is higher revealing,
Where with many joys the day draws to an end,
It is the year that completes itself in resplendence,
Where fruit come together with beaming radiance.
Earth’s orb is thus adorned, and rarely clamours
Sound through the open field, the sun warms
The day of autumn mildly, the fields lie
As a great wide view, the breezes blow
Through boughs and branches, rustling gladly,
When then already to emptiness the fields give way.
The whole meaning of this bright image lives
As an image, golden splendour hovering all about
This poem of Hölderlin is capable of awakening us the ‘astonishing’ and to the wonder of the ‘extraordinary’ in ‘the ordinary’. We think of the images of the landscape which are resplendent. Yet the landscape is not yet nature itself, ‘being’ (sein) is not ‘Being’ (Dasein) itself. Nature lets shine forth everything that belongs to the landscape. In the look of landscape, which nature grants, the gleaming of nature is higher revealing, that is to say, of divine essence. “
This is an imaginary interview in memory of Martin Heidegger
Derek R. O’Connell- Heidegger’s Authenticity
MJ Geertsema - Heidegger’s onto-poetology: the poetic projection of Being
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