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Basic Principles of Thinking, I of V


Welcome the wild.

Basic Principles of Thinking, I of V

Mark Douglas

Heidegger's last extended lecturing engagement at Freiburg University coincided with the celebration of the university's 500th anniversary. Here are the introductory comments on this series of lectures from the translator, Andrew Mitchell.

Here Heidegger traces the notions of being and thinking as operative in dialectical thought back to their roots in the Greek conception of the logos. From the Aristotelian conception of logos apophantikos and its principle of grounding, however, Heidegger proposes a "leap into the abyss" whereby logos is understood more primordially (via Homer) as "saying" (sagen). Heidegger's concluding ruminations on the interconnection of being, language, and thinking are some of the most provocative of his career.

We begin with a discussion of the basic principles of thinking; identity, contradiction, the excluded middle. These are formal presentations of "empty forms of thought" (p. 77). We should see that trying to snatch the basic principles of thinking in our own thinking is a slippery endeavor. It's tricky at best because we cannot get out of thinking when thinking the basic principles of thinking. "Every time, the laws of thinking already stand behind us, behind our back, so to speak" (p. 78). 

Hegel reached the pinnacle of logical thinking if we take logical thinking as binary. This came to fruition in Hegel's dialectic and is seen most in The Science of Logic. This is a historical incident. This is a digital conception of time. It doesn't allow for time to sweep like the smooth hand of a Rolex. It posits time ticking away. The digitization of time occludes "to what extent authentic history is constantly an impending [Gegenwart]" (p. 79). The impending is what would clutch Dasein "so that he would surmise [vermute] the future in its claim" (p. 79). 

If we think of ourselves as mere subjects alone and waiting for private subconscious inspiration then we mistake ourselves. Rather, we are best served to "listen ahead to the tradition addressed to it" (p. 79). We aren't slaves to nostalgia. We are attuned to fruitfully cultivated cultural resonance and meaning. This means that we stand open to "the imposition of the inceptual--i.e., of what is already enduring, assenting--as well as its concealed gathering" (p. 79). If we are in pre-sence then something is pre-senting. Pre-senting is the carefully resolute approaching claim of what has been. Being attuned to presence needs inceptual thinking. Inceptual thinking is a thinking that catches what is thrown to it. Pre-sence as pre-sens with sens fulfilling the meaningful.

Dialectic isn't all wrong. The dialectic shows us how thinking necessitates "mirroring itself in itself, of reflecting" (p. 81). Therefore "thinking is reflection" (p. 81). But wait, we can't separate or "in any way sever thinking as a representing from its objects" (p. 81). (Talk about non-representational theories!) Thinking is a process that cannot be digitized or succumb to a Dedekind cut.

Basically, through the principle of identity that says A = A we can realize that for A to be A it must have "breached the empty sameness of A with itself and set A, at the very least, against itself, against A" (p. 81). This speaks to the self-seclusion of earth. This is the ultimate withdrawal of the real object. Think of Brad Stand in the "existential comedy" Huckabees asking himself about his real qualities. Speaking with Harman's ontography, this means that Brad Stand is asking about the heart of Brad Stands when he says, "How am I not myself?"

I Heart Huckabees

We then get more evidence of Hegel's dialectic in terms of clinging to contradiction. Heidegger boils it down to a kind of earthly mantra for real objects in that it must be the case that we "annihilate the principle of contradiction in order to save contradiction as the law of actuality of the actual" (p. 83). Getting to the phenomenon of Brad Stand, this means that we must not ask 'how am I not myself' in order to re-cover being there (Dasein). We don't ask 'how am I not myself' in order to save contradiction (re-cover or re-veil) as being there (the law of actuality of the actual). We can ask 'how am I not myself' so long as we are prepared to endure the existential angst of obviated contradiction.

We come then upon Heidegger's claim that dialectical materialism, blind to the truth of contradiction (that is, blind to the ultimate withdrawal of the earth (real object)), thereby holds untruth in its essence. Dialectical materialism lies to itself in taking A = A at face value. Dialectical materialism has its head on backwards. It lies in confrontation. "Behind this confrontation of world views, as one calls it, the struggle for the mastery of the earth rages on" (p. 84).

We then get a brief section about mortals (sensual objects) and thinking. I don't have this nailed down yet. He says "mortal thinking…is constantly only claimed by a thought, either to correspond to it or to renounce it. It is not we, the humans, who come upon these thoughts; the thoughts come to us mortals whose essence is set upon the thinking as its ground" (p. 85). So that on the basis of which mortals are, is thinking. Using the standard fourfold model whereby we have something specific and something at all (qualities and objects). Thinking is what qualifies mortals. That makes sense. 

And yet still, part way through Lecture I of V, we haven't brought thinking into its "inceptual questionability" (p. 86). We still can't appropriately catch what is thrown in the question of thinking. Heidegger shows us the big problem of investigating the principles of thinking. The problem is that investigating basic principles of thinking has thinking as "the subject of its basic principles as much as their object" (p. 87). Are we to uncover or recover the basic principles. "For their part, do the basic principles require a concealment and sheltering? But where are they sheltered? Where do they come from? What is the place of origin for the basic principles of thinking?" (pp. 87-88)

Thinking comes from darkness. This is not darkness as "the mere and utter absence of light" (p. 88). That would be a relativistic or meontic nothing rather than thinking stemming from radical or oukontic nothing (HT to @the_eco_thought). We then get some borderline histrionics from Heidegger. "Mortal thinking must let itself down into the dark depths of the well if it is to see the stars by day….What wants only to shine, does not illuminate" (p. 89). He gives us a nice summation by saying that nobody is REALLY thinking these days. All that's going around is productivity. (Cue some kind of link to the latest Alfred productivity pack or Hazel rules or TextExpander shorthand.)