File spoon-archives/heidegger.archive/heidegger_2001/heidegger.0105, message 6

Date: Wed, 2 May 2001 05:27:31 -0400 (EDT)

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From: Nate Goralnik <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2001 4:57 PM
Subject: destruction

> Where does Heidegger most comprehensively treat "destruction"? Or is
"destruction" kind of like "immanent critique"...something observed in his
work, rather than explicitly stated by him?
Dear Nate Goralnik,
I am very interested in "Destruktion" in Heidegger and want to review it
myself. On pages 22-27 of SuZ (Stambaugh 20-24/M&R 42-49), Heidegger writes
of Destruktion:
We understand this task as one in which by taking the question of Being as
our clue, we are to destroy the traditional content of ancient ontology
until we arrive at those primordial experiences in which we achieved our
first ways of determining the nature of Being - the ways that have guided us
ever since . . . We must . . . stake out the positive possibilities of that
tradition, and this always means keeping it within its limits; these in turn
are given factually in the way the question is formulated at the time, and
in the way the possible field for investigation is thus bounded off. On its
negative side, this destruction does not relate itself towards its past; its
criticism is aimed at 'today' and at the prevalent way at treating the
history of ontology, whether it is headed toward doxography, towards
intellectual history, or towards a history of problems . . . its negative
function remains unexpressed and indirect. The destruction of the history of
ontology is essentially bound up with the way the question of Being is
formulated, and it is possible only within such a formulation. In the
framework of our treatise, which aims at working out that question in
principle, we carry out this destruction only with  regard to stages of that
history which are in principle decisive.In line with the positive tendencies
of this destruction, we must in the first instance raise the question
whether and to what extent the Interpretation of Being and the phenomenon of
time have been brought together thematically in the course of the history of
ontology, and whether the problematic of Temporality required for this has
ever been worked out in principle or ever could have been. (M&R 44-45)
Destruktion here is tied specifically to the "question of being" which
destroys any "intellectual history" quite intentionally and literally
because he wants to "arrive that those primordial experiences in which we
achieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being. This makes quite
clear what he wants to do is phenomenologically discover the 'beginning' of
experience as it just is, before "intellectual" interpretation. Therefore
what he is destroying is the historical accumulations of intellectuality
that have totally obscured those "primordial experiences."  I think Jacques
Derrida would say this is an impossible endeavor, that all you are going to
find is just another 'intellectual interpretation.' Rather, I think what
Heidegger is doing is not trying to discover a specific point of historical
origin, but rather an imaginary thought experiment such as, "How did the
Greeks seem to think if one destroys the lenses constructed by Plato and
Aristotle through which we traditionally view the PreSocratic Greeks?" To a
certain degree one can actually do this with qualifications. You can
describe the thought of Aescylos simply within the context of the Oresteia
or of Homer 'solely' within the context of the Iliad if you keep your system
of references as purely as possible within the Oresteia and deal with
Aescylos' words literally, not as metaphorical in any sense whatsoever. This
can reduce Aescylos almost to unintelligibility sometimes as when
Klytemnestra goes to the grave of Agamemnon and speaks of her love for the
head of the household, i.e., love as duty instead of personal feeling which
duty Klytemnestra owes to Agamemnon no matter what. You then get a peek of
sorts at historical "primordial experience" but which remains meaningless
unless in some fashion you can yourself experience this love as overriding
duty as opposed to love as spontaneous personal emotion. Heidegger is
dealing primarily with experience always as what concepts cover over,and
this is why Destruktion is specifically a phenomenological procedure.

"Destruktion" is specifically what the second half of BEING AND TIME was to
be about, specifically in relation to Aristotle, Descartes and Kant in
regards to "Temporality." He deals specifically with Kant's doctrine of
Only when we have established the problematic of Temporality, can we succeed
in casting light on the obscurity of his doctrine of schematism. But this
will also show us why is one which had to remain closed off to him in its
real dimensions and its central ontological function. Kant himself was aware
that he was venturing into an area of obscurity: 'This schematism of our
understanding as regards appearances and their mere form is an art hidden in
the depths of the human soul, the true devices of which are hardly ever to
be divined from Nature and laid uncovered before our eyes.' Here Kant
shrinks back, as it were, in the face of something which must be brought to
light as a theme and a principle if the expression "Being" is to have any
demonstrable meaning. In the end, those very phenomena which will be
exhibited under the heading of 'Temporality' in our analysis, are precisely
those most covert judgments of the 'common reason' for which Kant says it is
the 'business of philosophers' to provide an analytic. (ME&OR 45)
What Kant shrinks back from and Heidegger will want to uncover is "the
fundamental faculty of the imagination," not as an intellectual machine or
structure of concepts but as "primordial experience," as Kant says,"an art
hidden in the depths of the human soul." Heidegger goes into a great deal of
detail in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics on the "violence" he does to
Kant in order to get him to say explicitly what he really wanted to say but
failed to do. Many people have thoroughly denounced this procedure of
"violence" to get Kant to say what he literally did not say, but I think
they miss the whole point of philosophy itself. It is neither a profession
one earns one's daily bread by nor a narrow minded little intellectual game.
Heidegger relates philosophy specifically to how one should live,why one
should live, and who one is explicitly in the KANTBUCH takes up Kant's
questions 1) What can I know? 2) What should I do? 3) What may I hope? and
4) What is man? Heidegger quotes Kant, "Basically we classify all these
under Anthropology because the first three questions refer to the last." 
Heidegger says, "The innermost interest of human reason unites these three
questions in itself.In it, an ability, a duty, and an allowing to hope stand
in question" (section 38, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics). It is
precisely here one sees both a primary characteristic of Destruktion and of
Fundamental Ontology itself: The first three questions concerning immanent
existence "right now!" are subsumed under the fourth which then ceases to be
"Anthropology" because the question "What is man?" is permanently left
opened and unanswered as it becomes "the question of being" which 1) is what
being is, i.e., fundamental questioning, and 2) is based on experience,
emotion, need, not upon concepts - which would be the only way a permanently
unanswered question can endure in its unanswering! So Destruktion is a
destroying all the intellectual concepts that interfere with and cover over
what it is you fundamentally desire. Destruktion is primarily concerned with
how and why and should you exist personally. It is not a process of
abstraction but is the discovery of why philosophy is personally important,
why the 'interests' and 'aims' of Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant only have
importance in relation to "the question of being" of your personal, private
existence. So Heidegger's program does have a distinct aim and goal whereas
I think Derrida's Deconstruction is fundamentally missing that,though if
someone can show otherwise I would appreciate it.

Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics is the most extensive place where he
explicitly deals with Destruktion, but in Nietzsche, vol. 1, The Will to
Power as Art he touches upon it on page 59 of Krell's translation where he
states he wants to do without formal definition and concepts:
Not as though we laid no value on strict and univocal concepts - on the
contrary, we are searching for them. But a notion is not a concept, not in
philosophy at any rate, if it is not founded and grounded in such a way as
to allow what it is grasping to become its standard and the pathway of its
interrogation, instead of camouflaging it under the net of a mere formula .
. . To be cognizant, to know, is not mere familiarity with concepts. Rather,
it is to grasp what the concept itself catches hold of.
This is also a good description of "formal indication." Again, what
Heidegger wants to destroy is "mere familiarity with concepts," and uses
bodily comportment words like "grasp" and "catch." In talking about the Will
to Power, Heidegger says:
Although Nietzsche does not formulate it expressly this way, at bottom that
is what he means . . . What is decisive is not production in the sense of
manufacturing but taking up and transforming, making something other than .
. ., other in an essential way. For that reason the need to destroy belongs
essentially to creation. In destruction, the contrary, the ugly, and the
evil are posited; they are of necessity proper to creation, i.e., will to
power and thus to Being itself. To the essence of Being nullity belongs, not
as a sheer vacuous nothingness, but as the empowering "no.' . . . Will is in
itself simultaneously creative and destructive. Being master out beyond
oneself is always also annihilation. (pg. 61, 63)
So when Heidegger says "Destruktion", that is truly the specific word he
intends and has no connotation like 'deconstruction' which is a polite
mechanical taking apart in such a way it can be nicely put back together
again. After "Destruktion,' only the process that can act is literal
creation again, no putting back together of what was there before. I know
Derrida is actually much closer to Heidegger than this, but the point is his
'followers' merely use "deconstruction" as a 'technique' whereas Heidegger's
"Destruktion" is literally a life or death drama revolving around "To be or
not to be": "Da-sein always understands itself in terms of its existence, in
terms of its possibility to be itself or not to be itself" (Stambaugh 10/M&R
33/SuZ 12).

........................................................     why wouldn't you? 

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