Thursday, January 7, 2010

Heideggerian Smirks

Graham Harman has to excellent short posts on the Heideggerian Smirk, see here and here. One of the things he says is that Heidegger gets away with these dismissive maxims in a way few philosophers do (at least in circles where Heidegger is taken seriously). Let me float a quick, off the top of my head guess as to why. I think there are few thinkers that produce such extreme reactions (at least in the American Academy, clearly this can be different elsewhere) as Heidegger. You have thinkers whose silence on Heidegger is both obvious and somewhat dismissive (Deleuze), silence but a mysterious perhaps appreciative way (Foucault), thinkers who are militantly opposed to Heidegger (Zizek, Badiou), and then of course you have the Heideggerians that for the most part find Heidegger useful, but in an odd cult like way (Harman use to have a post up on this I like, I quoted the best part here). I feel (and this whole post is mostly subjective) that we have really produced people who both find Heidegger very useful, but can take a critical distance from him only recently. Only recently can people find Heidegger to be a great philosopher without also finding him to be the master. Which is good.
I myself am so inoculated against Heidegger I risk autoimmunity of the subject. But I am glad that people can engage Heidegger's concepts but are beginning to turn against not just his style of thinking, but more importantly his thinking on thinking. I've always been most bothered by what Heidegger sees as the task of philosophy and what it means to be a philosopher.

Update: Graham Harman has two more short posts on this subject, here and here. Basically, I agree with him and Paul. The tone of Heideggerian scholarship is changing, and really only for the best. Look, I'm never going to be down with the H-man, but recently my disagreements with Heideggerians have actually been useful, and I seldom feel like I am arguing with religious zealots anymore. I'm happy that people can do useful and postitive projects with him, even if I don't personally see it in the source material.