Saturday, July 25, 2009

Das Nichts nichtet

Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in Duncan Richter's article, "Did Wittgenstein Disagree with Heidegger?" carried me first into humor and then into pensive consideration.

In reading about and in discussing Heidegger with my friend Alan Sevier, I began to consider the relevant similarities between what seems to be an existential description of meaning in both Heidegger and the later Wittgenstein. (Existential as in coming forth foremost from subjectively situated behavior versus Cartesian as in drawing in sensation to build, foremost, an objective, spatial picture—the second view taken by Husserl.)

I searched for relevant material online and that is when I encountered the Richter article above—which was disappointing. The article discusses indirectly implicated quotes from Heidegger's writings that Wittgenstein uses in his lectures. The article is dissatisfying because I was looking for an examination of the conceptual similarities between the two philosophers in their dealing with meaning. The author instead focuses on literal overlaps—where one philosopher is mentioned or quoted by the other. Nevertheless, I was entertained by the discussion on Heidegger's sentence, das Nichts nichtet, which Wittgenstein calls, an inarticulate sound.

Wittgenstein says, We would like to begin ph(ilosophy) with something which should be the foundation of everything to follow, of all the sciences, and yet at the same time it is not supposed to be a ‘foundation’ simply in the sense of the bottom course of bricks in a house. […] This dilemma gives rise to the need to begin philosophy with, so to speak, an inarticulate sound. And a proposition such as ‘The nothing noths’ is in a certain sense a substitute for this sort of inarticulate sound.

What sort of mood is this?
—this mood that the creator articulates at the inception of his metaphysics. Does this inarticulate sound represent a frustration or a private excitement that seeks to become known? Is this that rumored creation of language that is said to come forth from the poet in his esoteric abandon? Additionally, Wittgenstein suspends the thought before us, drawing attention and consideration to the possibility that within his articulation the metaphysician is explicitely using words with a regular meaning in an irregular way.

What exactly is a poet?—this god of language said to have brought diverse grunts into fashion. I cannot accept a conventional picture of the term poet; I wouldn't hesitate to consider Kurt Gödel a poet if poets are men who "use language to encounter language," a definition Sevier playfully considered. However, I would say that, in many cases, the use of the word "what" is erroneous, a barbarism of a Socrates, and the word "who" begins the sentence of proper ettiquette. The proper question is "who is a poet?"—after which we would begin naming an individual, and this form of the question brings me relief.

But what is in the question "what is a poet?" that is not in the question "who is a poet?"—a repressed anger, a frustration, an attempt to appreciate degenerate indifference over selective, personal, existential meaning; this lineage of decadence remembers the name Socrates. I recognized Socrates and Plato to be symptoms of degeneration, tools of the Greek dissolution, pseudo-Greek, anti-Greek TI, "The Problem of Socrates" 2.

Nietzsche continues, Whatever has being does not become; whatever becomes does not have being. Now they all believe, desperately even, in what has being TI, "'Reason' in Philosophy" 1.

Perhaps the inarticulate sound that begins a poet's prose is that moment of vague compatibilism between necessity and freedom of will—where one does not give reasons but commands TI, "The Problem of Socrates" 5.

The inarticulate sound can be imagined as many possibilities, but let's imagine these two possibilities: that (α) the sound is a frustration, and henceforth, an embarrassment and that (β) the sound is an excitement, an occurrence of abandoned creation.

In (α), the frustration arises because the dialectician searches desperately for a justification, and the sound represents frustration. But how can the dialectician create?—well, he can certainly lie and fool with confidence. The moment, (α), is where he deceptively mutters a few esoteric words to conceal either his presuppositions or his uneasy conscience.

In the second case, (β), a new space is pushed into existence by he who voices the postulated phrase—a phrase with a personal floor in a floorless existence. Why do I refer to instance (β) as a moment of vague compatibilism? Because that is the moment where the articulator of the sound feels the joy of freedom after and alongside the compulsion of power ("after" because power is given primacy, and "alongside" because power is given concordant flow). Compelled by a thriving necessity, in which the poet's actions are taken over and determined (embodied inspiration), the exertion of strength is a feeling of freedom. In other words, what is determinism from a third-person perspective is emotionally manifest as first-person, Existential freedom.

On the one hand, when lacking a necessary compulsion, we can imagine the anxiety that an individual, as Sartre describes, has in the face of freedom; on the other hand, we can imagine the joy Nietzsche describes when an individual is compelled by Dionysian determinism. Thus, the psychological or existential effect is reversed against what is the conceptualized, physiological influence. If I find myself, in concept, as being deterministically compelled, I can also find myself feeling free when I identify myself as the actor.

I am reading about Heidegger in preparation for the Berkeley seminar on his Being and Time, Division I—taught by Drs. Dorothea Frede and Katharina Kaiser. Returning to the beginning of this discussion, I hope to further disentangle Heidegger's description of meaning this Fall semester.

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