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CHCB 467
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Workshop

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Basic Principles of Thinking, Lecture V of V

Mark Douglas

The whole point of these lectures is to locate the ground that is covered and the connotations that arise when we call the basic principles of thinking: eruption of thinking into the realm of thinking, or “leaps of thinking into the abyss, namely into the abyss of thinking” (p. 144). Thinking comes to us through the embedded cultural tradition we ourselves dwell within. That traditional practice of thinking, however our culture embodies it, is articulated in the logos. Thinking grounds and founds how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the world through the logos.

The founding we mean is that of a giving or granting the logos, logon didonai. This means that we give the logos the floor in the sense of “the floor is yours, madam chairman”. We grant leeway or clearance to the logos. It means “to let the ground, that which underlies, the soil, lie beforeí” (p. 144). This is why thinking as grounding and founding is not at all lost in the abyss. Thinking has to avoid being lost to the abyss. If we lose thinking to the abyss then we lose the possibility of recovering and place in which to ground anything at all. We mustn’t merely Velcro thinking to the ground as ground. Because “thinking must properly reach into the abyss in order to be able to release the essential realm for the ground and our relation to it” (p. 145). 

This means that thinking reaches into the abyss and finds traces of the fugitive gods. The abyss is the lack of a ground that stands forth in withdrawal to ground the meaningful differences in our lives. The challenge of modernity is that there’s no ground of any type so that anything may be any more meaningful than anything else. This is the culture of whatever forever whatever forever whatever. Heidegger wants us to make room for a groundless ground. The background practices are not themselves an entity that ground meaningful differences (not ontotheology). Nevertheless the practices and thinking as releasement are a condition for the possibility for meaningful differences. Thinking reaches into the abyss by attending to the background practices and finding places in those background practices where it’s not obvious that everything is resources. Thinking takes heed of the background practices as they stand forth in everyday existence in a mode by which it is not obvious that everything is merely meaningless resources. (This paragraph using Sean Kelly’s 2010 Later Heidegger lectures) Thinking is called by what is to be thought.

But doesn’t something that is relaying and bearing need a medium by which it can relay? Doesn’t thinking need a vehicle? Thinking is suspended. Thinking is both the condition of the possibility of thinking and thinking itself. The Greeks had logos as being the headwaters and stream in which what presences stand forth. We need to pay attention when “the being of beings is defined as logos. It requires examining. We find that logos as the being of beings is only two doors down from what Parmenides had in being, “En, the simple unifying singular entity” (p. 146). We can translate En as amidst, during, or growth.”

This speaks to the tendency for background practices (Harman’s real qualities) to gather in the sense of En panta, or every way, on every side. Real qualities qua background practices each belong in the same throughout all possibilities. “The same is what is first, from where the being as such is each time a being (being? [Sein] presence)” (p. 146). The be the same is to be of identical ilk. The same is the ilkhood of an ilk. When you catch someone’s drift you are thinking amidst one ilk. “Being is the system of the absolute itself” (p. 146) Is being finitude? Being is the most protic. Being is archeoprotic as the logos, “it is the ground that grounds” (p. 146). It the utterly and utmost simple. Taking a phrase from the show Swamp People, being is “neater than a skeeter’s peter”. That is, it is the opposite of the sensational or spectacular.

But nowadays all over the logos takes the form of representations, calculations, and machinations. It’s all about “rules, laws, methods, axioms, and to their painstaking construction” (p. 147). Heidegger attributes the flip flop of truth into certainty as the root of the mathematical worldly fascination. He traces it back to Leibniz and his meditation de principiis. So now logic and logistics draped in mathematics takes and makes the rules. But hopefully this logistical logos will take the path to a juncture.

Perhaps the crossroads will show up as a possibility to go cross-country (querfeldin). This comes to us by way of the alteration of the sense by which we say “Basic Principles of Thinking” as abysmal ground leapings of thinking. “Grounding-principles now means leaps into the abyss, and indeed leaps of thinking precisely into the abyss of thinking.” We get a short aside into Heraclitian logos which involved Ἔρις, goddess of chaos. For Heraclitus, logos; that which is amidst everything (Πάντα) which has enduring strife or conflict. This gives the sense for how from the days of Heraclitus the polemic amidst thinking-being has been radically interlaced. But the back of beyond for logos holds another place. Logos is the word for talk and legein is talking for our preSocratics. What’s the deal with talking? Legein also incorporates “gathering, bringing together, and letting what is brought in lie before, bringing-before” (p. 150)

Talk and talking is less about saying and more about bridging the talking ones. Logos and legein “means: bringing before, bringing collectively to appearance” (p. 151). Talk is truly akin to pulling some jewel from under one’s cloak and proclaiming, “take a gander.” Logos shows up in Homer once and it is put to good measure as “with soft and wheedling words” or for Heidegger, “mild and charming speech”. And so Athena characterizes Calypso’s logos modality. Make no mistake about the isolated use in terms of Calypso. “The etymology of Calypso's name is from καλύπτω (kalyptō), meaning ‘to cover’, ‘to conceal’, ‘to hide’, or ‘to deceive’ “ (Wikipedia). Or in other more Gore-y words, “Words are very unnecessary – They can only do harm” (Depeche Mode). That is, words are iridescent flickers of truth. Things have an evocative relation to the logos. Logos; “saying as the gathering letting appear” (p. 152). 

What about thinking? Thinking is “νοεῖν, perceiving: putting forth and taking up, i.e., gathering, bringing to the fore that which presences in its presencing” (p. 152). Thinking and saying are a couple; “thinking is from the outset a saying, presumably the inceptual saying, pervading all ways of saying” (p. 153). After an aside in retort to the misconception of linguistic clout Heidegger goes on. (Heidegger likes linguistics as much as mathematics in terms of mantles for logos).

Taken in truth, we have “logos as saying and this experienced as the essential resonance of language—logic is the soliloquy of language with its essence” (p. 154). That is, logic is the monolog of language with itself. Logic is language in dialogue with its own essence. But what of reconciliation? Can we recover the essence of thinking?

We must leap from tradition to the back of beyond tradition. This will be “invariably richer in hidden gifts than a mere quest for novelty would like to believe” (p. 154). It must be a leap into the unsaid. “Indeed the unsaid has its place only in what is said and only through the highest force of saying can it become as such. Through the unsaid we first catch sight of the issue of thinking in its whole importance” (pp. 154-155). We are talking about subtext. Let’s get down to the heart of the matter; thinking matters. “[T]hinking cannot be discussed in isolation on its own; for without a look to the relation of thinking to being we always have merely a fragment of the essence of thinking before us” (p. 155). Humanity dwells within the threefold of thinking-being-language. And we are to celebrate this perplexity.

“Language shows itself as the ground, thinking and being as it’s appearances” (p. 156). I take this to mean that language relates to earth and mortals while thinking and being relate accordingly with sky and gods. “The essence of language is what does the holding in the relationship that holds being and thinking to each other in their belonging together” (p. 157). Language is the >< among being >< thinking. Remember when we talked of Heraclitus. We said for Heraclitus, logos involves Ἔρις, goddess of chaos. For Heraclitus, logos is that which is amidst everything (Πάντα) which has enduring strife or conflict. This is the dark turmoil of logos. Logos has been our signpost and really our lodestone. “However dark and foreign to us the relation between language, thinking, and being may appear, it reveals a cast and trait that we have to face if we do not want to high-handedly disregard the signpost and its directing ability” (p. 157).

What is essence? “Essence is a persevering as a granting and this is an appropriating. The essencing of language as saying is the realm. This word is here claimed as a singular tantum. It names something singular, that wherein all things and beings extend to one another, reach over, and thus reach one another, and redound to the benefit and detriment of each other, fulfill and satisfy one another” (p. 158). Let’s call out to the essence. Essence is a leeway of clearance granted and laid out. The realm is in everlasting glimmering interplay. The essence of language is a realm. It is a romper realm. It’s “the dominion of play, wherein all relationships of things and beings playfully solicit each other and mirror each other” (p. 158). The romper realm is “where thinking and being belong together” (p. 158).

Language safeguards being. Language speaks. Language speaks through the human tongue in the tongue’s concordance with language. Language can be for showing. But sheer showing needs no representation or sign. We can only have signs on the basis of having and making showing. We can’t take up thinking and logos lest we come through and unfold saying. Playwrights are fond of saying and showing. “In saying they let appear what they have caught sight of, namely that which has sighted them themselves” (p. 161).

Language’s essence flickers and leaves an afterglow. We are graced by catching sight of it. We get an extended monologue on the uncanny tricks at play within language. “These constitute a world of their own” (p. 163). Heidegger recognizes the circularity in his thinking-saying-being. It is “a saying that encircles itself and thereby directly remains open, just like a ring, which as a ring is indeed closed, but precisely as closed preserves all around a light and free space wherein perhaps something unsaid might make an address without showing itself” (pp. 165-166). We end with an anecdote from Cezanne that gets after the in-between of blurred interplay. There’s no place where something clearly ends unless it plays with something flickering within beginning.