The Significance of Heidegger and His History of Philosophy for Russia — Part 4
Translated by Michael Millerman. Founder of http://MillermanSchool.com - online philosophy and politics courses on Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Dugin, Strauss, and more.
Who are you, Herr Heidegger?
Heidegger himself has repeatedly asked himself the question: who is Hölderlin in the context of modern philosophy? Who is Rilke’s Angel?20 Who Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? 21 In the same vein, we can ask ourselves: who is Martin Heidegger in his own historico-philosophical picture? From what was stated above about the structure of Heidegger’s history of philosophy, the conclusion is almost unambiguous: Heidegger considered himself the philosopher of another Beginning; the herald of the possibility of Ereignis; a figure who deciphered the logic of the history of Western European philosophy and opened, through its special interpretation, the space for entering into a new comprehension of the problem of being.
In his own history of philosophy, Heidegger sees a dual key moment. It consists in establishing the exhaustion of the historical and philosophical process by witnessing the advancement of the point of Great Midnight, on one hand, and on the other, in opening the horizon of another Beginning, that is, the possibility to philosophize differently than philosophy did before, but taking into account the dramatic and catastrophic experience that is imprinted in the history of this philosophy.
On one hand, Heidegger fulfills the role of the “doctor of the dead,” introduced by Dumas on the last pages of The Count of Monte Cristo: he writes out a certificate of the indubitable death that has taken place (Western European philosophy). On the other hand, he opens up the possibility of glancing - through Geviert and the perspective of another Beginning - beyond the horizon of rationalistic and technical nihilism to approach closely a different philosophy.
In other words, in Western European philosophy Martin Heidegger is a reference point in all directions: into the past, into the future, and even to the side. It can be said that Heidegger ultimately thinks of himself as Dasein, whose presence he first revealed and grounded, and then fundamentally comprehended during the unfolding of his philosophy.
If Hölderlin, according to Heidegger, was a poetic herald of another Beginning (as Homer was a poetic herald of the first Beginning), Heidegger himself became the starting point of that thinking that explicitly (and not just explicitly) puts an end to Western European philosophy and throws it into the mouth of a volcano.
Heidegger as a philosophical character in his own (eigene) history of philosophy is an embodied invitation to the execution of a decision (Entsсheidung).22 Heidegger polemicized about Entscheidung with Carl Schmitt, who built his philosophy of right (Entscheidungslehre) on the principle of decision (decisio). Heidegger reproaches Schmitt with the fact that he lowers, diminishes the significance of the decision, reducing it to a choice of orientation in specific questions of a political sort. According to Heidegger, Entscheidung is something much more fundamental and meta-political. It is a choice that is made in the face of the final moment in the history of philosophy: the choice between “moving towards another Beginning” and “perishing” in the endless labyrinths of postponing the last historical and philosophical moment, in the “not-yet,” which is nothing fundamentally new, but seeks to extend to infinity the gap between the already completed end of philosophy (the end of the history of philosophy, in Hegel and Nietzsche) and the final and irreversible awareness of this end. The decision is the choice between realizing what has happened and refusing such a realization.
In the last years of his life, Heidegger was inclined to conclude that the West decided to ignore the end of philosophy and committed itself to the “endlessly ending end.”
In the 1930s and 1940s, an Entscheidung was made in the form of Europe’s rejection of two versions of Machenschaft,23 the final incarnations of techne in the triumph of the machine philosophy of machine (American) society, which Heidegger called “planetär-idiotismus” [planetary idiocy], and the Soviet, Marxist one. Having lost the battle for Europe as a different decision (compared to the United States and the USSR as two forms of the ultimate embodiments of Western European metaphysics), the West made a decision for nothing, for rejecting Ereignis.
Decision and Russian philosophy
Again we return to our problem, the possibility of Russian philosophy.
If we relate to Heidegger with trust and take his philosophy as the history of philosophy that provides us with a model of the whole in the circle of philosophical hermeneutics, we can outline two ways for the formation of Russian philosophy in new circumstances, when the legitimacy of the Hegelian (and Marxist) version is exhausted.
First: to accept Heidegger’s reconstruction, and also the role of Heidegger himself as the designer of the funeral speech for Western European philosophy. Then we will have the right to study it biographically or, in the case of an extreme degree of distrust, anatomopathological plans (we will study the dead by examining how and why it died and how it was dying). If at the same time we have doubts about the circumstances of death, we will be able to dig up the corpse and re-examine it. In any case, Russian philosophy, built on such a basis, will be able to become authentic; we will understand what we are exploring and will get a correct idea of the meaning and significance of what we are studying. This conscious contact with nothing, expressed in the contemporary moment of the history of philosophy, will be the guarantor of the authenticity of our philosophical thinking and the basis of the interpretational scale, on the basis of which we will perceive and comprehend what comes to our attention.
In the second case, the prospects are more promising: by adopting Heidegger, we will be able to put forward our claims and ambitions for participation in another Beginning. Although simple enthusiasm is not enough for that; we will have to take the trouble to immerse ourselves in the subtleties and nuances of the history of Western philosophy, for another Beginning cannot occur (happen, open itself ) without scrupulous and careful tracking of the entire process of deontologization that originated in the context of the first Beginning. In other words, another Beginning can hardly be expected without participation in the destiny of the first one. In order to be granted participation in another Beginning, we need to live out and exhaust the destiny of Western European nihilism (and for this we have some historical basis in the form of the Soviet period and the Russian reading of Marxist philosophy). In any case, to get a mandate to participate in such a decision, we must be not outside, but within Western European philosophy: extreme course of entry into which we, however, are guaranteed if the legitimacy of Martin Heidegger’s historico-philosophical reconstruction is recognized.
The fact that Russians are not so far on the way beyond the edge of the West, to the point of Great Midnight, should not mislead us. This is not a reason to avoid the influence of this final eschatological point; if not today, then a little later, but we will be there. The fact that we are “not-yet,” “noch nicht,” cannot calm us down or inspire empty hope: the bottom of the abyss is what will give us the possibility to receive a part in a different legacy, in another Beginning. “Already in it,” not “not yet in it”: such is the terrible stake in the historico-philosophical process.
As in the 19th and 20th centuries, we operated with the Hegelian-Marxist model of the reconstruction of the historico-philosophical process to identify the content and meaning of any philosophical phenomenon, school, author, or theory, today, by accepting Heidegger’s legitimacy and history of philosophy, we shall be able rather precisely and unambiguously to classify and interpret any fact in the history of philosophy through the operation of “phenomenological destruction.” Derrida adopted this Heideggerian thesis from Sein und Zeit in his famous method of “deconstruction” (previously used by Lacan)... Derrida is talking about the contextualization of a statement in the original semantic environment, requiring careful research. This is a consequence of the application of the rules of structural linguistics and the connotative approach (notwithstanding the denotative) in the content analysis of philosophical discourse. Heidegger’s original version, which served as the basis for “deconstruction,” presents an even clearer method: placing this or that philosophical discourse in the overall picture of the “whole” historical and philosophical process, comprehended as a gradual movement along the path of deontologization towards total nihilism. The place where this or that statement or philosophical theory is located on this trajectory predetermines its hermeneutical meaning.
Once we accept Heidegger’s history of philosophy, philosophical facts and constellations of facts will make sense to us.
Heidegger and Russians’ second attempt to enter into philosophy
The second attempt of Russians to enter philosophy is directly connected with Martin Heidegger. Without a history of philosophy — distinct, capacious, and teleological —Russians cannot penetrate the hermeneutic circle of Western philosophy. Of course, there remains a doubt: should we, in general, penetrate there? Moreover, the statement of the growing nihilism of the process of Western European philosophizing hardly serves to dispel this doubt. But nevertheless, on a purely theoretical level, if we do not want to remain eternal ignoramuses in the philosophical process, taking one thing for another and not for what it really is, we are simply fated to accept one of the histories of Western philosophy on faith. And the choice, as we have seen, is small here. Most of those constructions that are known as “history of philosophy” are not at all what we need: they describe the formal process of the flow of philosophical theories and concepts, whose implicit logic is intelligible only to those who participate in this process in a natural way, due to culturally belonging to a society built on philosophical foundations. The foundations of our society and our culture are whatever you please, but not philosophical, which means that we will not close this gap with an personal efforts. We need an image of the “whole”; only then can we correctly evaluate the particular. But for the natural representatives of Western European culture, such an image is not necessary. They know it implicitly and are part of it. We are outsiders on this path into the abyss, and its trajectory, goals and causes are far from obvious to us.
We could consider other versions of the history of philosophy, as capacious and holographic as the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. But nothing comes to mind. There are several versions of the philosophy of history (for example, Jaspers’),24 but this is completely different. The history of philosophy is not a philosophy of history. If such histories of philosophy from the twentieth century are discovered and are sufficiently substantiated, then it will be possible to think about other possibilities of Russian philosophy; more precisely, about another possibility of Russian philosophy. At first glance, Heidegger is the most optimal option for us, the most logical and structurally close for giving us a primary fundamental impulse.
20. Heidegger M. Wozu Dichtern? Heidegger, Holzwege
21. Heidegger M. We ist Niezsches Zaratustra? Heidegger M. Vorträge und Aufsätze
22. Schmitt C. 1985. Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press
23. Heidegger M. 2000. Introduction to Metaphysics. New Haven: Yale University Press
24. Jaspers K. 1953. The Origin and Goal of History. New Haven: Yale University Press