Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dumbing Myself Down


For today's installment, I will be trying an experiment called "Dumbing Myself Down". While I've always been opinionated, I have tried to present actual arguments for things. However, after a bit of web research, I have discovered that the most popular blogs are basically unreasoned rants, the more bitingly ironic the better. Oh, and I'd better start using the term "ironical" in order to fit in with common usage. So here goes.

Martin Heidegger is a complete lunatic. While at first glance he seems to be saying something deeply meaningful, deep down he's quite superficial. This is almost impossible to realise because he is using the power of language against you. In fact, he opens his nearly impossible to understand book with a kind of twenty page disclaimer about how you couldn't possibly understand anything he is about to say unless you already understand it. Furthermore, you can't even understand *that* until you understand exactly what he means by understanding anyway. Which is very useful.

I might add that this is possibly the most insightful thing ever said about Heidegger (I'm just assuming here) but due to people's assumption that what's difficult must also be important, history will fail to recognise my valuable contribution.

Let me first cast aspersion at his "nounification". Nounification is the very which describes "taking a verb and using it as a noun". The fact that the word nounification is the result of verbification only adds to ironic(al) beauty. Now, because I'm such a clever marketer, I will not deign to give an example. Giving an example would be sinking to his level, and if I try that he'll beat me with experience. Normally, being alive would be a significant advantage in a fight, but unfortunately I would have to present both sides of the argument and thus most likely vanish in a puddle of logic.

However, unless you understand Heidegger (which as we've already established, you can't unless you already did), there is no way for you to refute my claim. I'm quite comfortable that nobody reading this will be able to challenge this position without divine inspiration, and you can't fight that kind of enemy anyway.

There is only one explanation. Everyone who speaks Heideggarian has managed to learn so much new language that despite the fact the words do not reference any kind of reality, they mistakenly think they are making meaningful statements. Heidegger's great evil is that he has severed finally the link between truth and meaning - betweed symbol and symbolised. By pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, he has elevated his philosophy to a place so high that literally no meaningful engagement can be made with it.

All we can do is snipe at those people on the edges of his territory, and hope not too many people go to the Dark Side.

As I have not yet read any Existentialist works, I am happy to merely damn them all to limbo until judgement can be reasonably passed. Fortunately, that should sit well with their nihilistic tendencies.



Blogger zridling said...

Wrote my dissertation on Heidegger, and managed to read everything he had written at least twice. Here's the short version: Everything Heidegger talks about from his first and last writings is found in the wisdom of Zen Buddhism.

The problem is that Heidegger makes the [common] mistake of trying to describe being using language, and the closest he can get in Western thought is poetry. But by the time he met with the Buddhists, they were able to cut to the heart of his arguments and basically ask him, "So what's the big deal?"

Consider it. The more you understand Buddhism, then the more pretentious poor Heidegger reads. I Love Heidegger, but I'm hoping one day someone will compose a "greatest quotes" book from his writings and save future generations untold wasted time in graduate school.

5/26/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Why do you think the closest in western thought is poetry? Isn't the rather long (2000 year) history of neoPlatonism evidence of a rather thoroughgoing tradition here? The problem of language and Being appears in Plotinus and even more explicitly in his later followers. The pseudo-Dionysus is an excellent example of this in a more Christian context and negative theology (not that far removed from what happens in the east) was for a long time a prominent part of western history. Indeed it was "dug up" again by the so-called theological turn in French philosophy.

5/27/2005 03:31:00 AM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

It strikes me that philosophy post-plato went down the path of Aristotelian logic, and the rest was history.

Wittgenstein II seems to be talking a bit more to the problems of language and of being, and I would argue gets closer to the truth than anyone else I have ever read. The only addendum I would make to Wittgenstein as I know him is that he fails to identify other language-like activities which people undertake but are also relevant to his ideas.

If you apply Wittgensteinian ideas about language games to Heidegger's thought, I think a lot of it unravels. Heidegger is trying to proceed of some kind of a priori pre-factual cognitive structures which are supposedly the "existential" structures of "Dasein" but I think his philosophy is built on a house of cards.

5/27/2005 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

I think Heidegger and Wittgenstein are closer in many ways than you seem to think. Certainly many people argue they have somewhat similar projects. (I'm not versed enough in the details of Wittgenstein's thought to argue one way or the other - but I've certainly read papers arguing similarities)

I think though to suggest that language games don't fit into Heidegger is mistaken.

5/27/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Just to add, I'm definitely not saying that Heidegger and Wittgenstein are engaged in the same project at all. Just that I think saying that applying language games to Heidegger's thought makes it unravel rather misses the point Heidegger is getting at.

5/27/2005 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger zridling said...

I suggest poetry is the closest for Heidegger because it was the one thing (at least he thought) that changed how one sees their world, and notably its past (he never lets you forget how the Germans took over where the Greeks left off). When practiced, Buddhism accomplishes the same result — the world is now seen and experienced much more intensely (mindfully) when the seer himself is "awakened." That same awakening is the being that he holds the Greeks knew on an everyday level. Sometimes I think Heidegger would have been better off composing koans after WWII!

5/27/2005 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Cooper said...

I am a little confused here, zridling seems to be pushing a Buddist line and equating it or making it superior to all other thought.While I am no expert on this matter it appears to me that there are many flaws in Buddist thought with many of these flaws being exhibeted by the leading Buddists.Penor Rinpoche supreme head of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, proclaimed Steven Seagal a reincarnated lama and a sacred vessel or "tulku" of Tibetan Buddhism. Strange choice.Buddhism can be as hysterical and sanguinary as any other system that relies on faith and tribe. Lon Nol's Cambodian army was Buddhist at least in name. Solomon Bandaranaike, first elected leader of independent Sri Lanka, was assassinated by a Buddhist militant. There are many other examples like this. My point is that Buddist thought is no better than any other school of thought. I feel it would be better if one if one drew on other sources to inform their thought but in the end developed their own thoughts.

5/27/2005 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

Bill, if your point is that no system which can lead to error ought be trusted I'd probably agree. But it seems that is just a facile point. After all if one rejects Cartesian certainty (which most do) and adopts a thoroughgoing fallibilism (more controversial, but hardly uncommon) then no group is trustworthy.

More particularly though it seems like you make an ad homen fallacy. Surely Buddhism's point about language and being doesn't rest upon the moral wisdom of particular Buddhists, any more than Heidegger's thought somehow becomes wrong because of his immoral acts. If personal behavior was a guide for metaphysics or ontology then we all should have rejected Newton long prior to Einstein.

5/28/2005 04:49:00 AM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

I think Bill's point is valid. Just because it's Bhuddist doesn't make it good. You can't use it as an authority to give the argument more weight.

I would accept that a lot of Heidegger's stuff is like Bhuddism-Lite, although I wouldn't even give it that dignity. But neither would I say that the ultimate form of philosophy was Bhuddism.


5/28/2005 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Cooper said...

I obviously need to do a bit more reading and buy a better dictionary. I can't match it with you lot on technical grounds and it seems that arguements such as this are difficult to couch in plain prose. But I will keep reading and poking my nose in here and there.

5/28/2005 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...


I think you bring interesting comments to the blog, it would be a shame to see you go. On the other hand, I don't believe in trying to censor comments, so if you're not enjoying the company, you should do whatever brings you most enjoyment.

Philosophy, I find, is a huge mix. It's my position that for most arguments there is an equal and opposite counter-argument. One never wins an argument, one just puts it out there to do its work. Don't assume you're saying stupid things just because other people are coming at you with arguments.

Anyway, I'm off to go buy a hose attachment. Philosophy can wait. :)


5/28/2005 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

Oh, and if you follow the link from to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and also wikipedia, you should have covered most of your bases.


5/28/2005 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Cooper said...

I wasn't going anywhere, perhaps I sounded a little more serious than I meant to. If your budget stretches that far buy good quakity metal fittings, much better in the long run. Thanks for the reading list.

5/29/2005 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

I'd be more cautious with Wikipedia. Its entries aren't always that accurate.

6/01/2005 07:35:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home