[lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2015 15:36:17 +0100

If anything, I would find the argument more persuasive if it were claimed
that we need to know classical Greek in order to understand Heidegger. The
difference between Greek of the 4. century B:C.E. and modern Germanic
languages is rather more likely to be significant than the difference
between contemporary English and contemporary German. And of course it is
the classical Greek way of thinking that Heidegger is supposedly after,
trying to reconstruct. Again, the assumption that the classical Greek way
of thinking is somehow more 'authentic' than the modern is a problematic
one, particularly considering how much the Greeks 'borrowed,' usually
without acknowledging it, from Egyptians and Middle Easterners. It sounds
very much like it is connected to the theories or 'Arian race' and culture
which we know who promoted.

O.K.

On Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 3:14 PM, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
wrote:

> >I.e. Barrett is suggesting that the implicatures of
>
> ii. Das Nichts nichtet.
>
> differ from those triggers by
>
> i. The nothing noths.>
>
> But how so? Even if H's language cleaves to different etymologies etc.,
> how much is really lost in translation between the German and the English
> here?
>
> I am sceptical that even the resonances of the phrase are that different
> between the languages, but even more sceptical that what might be called
> the 'propositional content' differs substantively.
>
> What may lurk at the back of contrary claims (viz. that there is some
> 'essential' difference between the two expressions) is an essentialist
> theory of meaning as dependent on the essential particularities of the
> language in which meaning is expressed. But this may be just one of those
> many essentialist myths that are a hangover from the Greeks and which
> continue to infect 'literary' education, the humanities and philosophy
> twisted by a linguistic turn.
>
> Consider: 'Das gras ist grune' and 'The grass is green' - is there an
> essential difference in meaning in philosophic terms or in terms of
> 'propositional content'? [Would a German-phrased law as expressed by a
> German-speaking judge at the European Court lose something vital in
> translation so that it could not be translated into English, and so no
> English lawyer could properly express that law in English? Or vice-versa?
> And is the same is the case for the language of 'science'?]. What takes H's
> language out of the wide range of inter-translatability between languages?
>
> Of course, it is possible that the Greeks were onto something essential
> about the nature of humanity that we moderns have lost. But it is not
> likely. What is much more likely is moderns dissatisfied with modernity
> might seek their escape in the idea of an authentic ancient existence that
> has been lost to us but which might be refound to our redemption.
>
> Dnl
> Ldn
>
>
>
>
>   On Tuesday, 17 February 2015, 13:41, "dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <
> dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>
>
> Geary had written about "'Twas brillig...":
>
> "Words certainly do not  have to mean anything to me, just please me. ...
> Here's a start:  The  slithy toves did gyre and gimble  upon the wabe, all
> mimsy were the  borogroves and the mome raths outgrabe.  What greater
> truth
> could be said  than that?"
>
> McEvoy protested.
>
> Geary inspired R. Paul in a further post where he develops the theme that
> the only valid signature for an artist, is, say, not "Mondrian" (or
> "Mondriaan")  but simply "Artist" (or its equivalent in Dutch).
>
> Geary went on to thank C. B., made a distinction between what I might
> call
> 'poetic language' and 'philosophical language' (such as that of Martin
> Heidegger, the Meßkirch-born German philosopher):
>
> Geary: "Had he [the Meßkirch-born German philosopher that Grice, also a
> philosopher, referred to, once, as "the greatest living philosopher"] been
> a
> wonderful ... artist whose works spoke to me, I would have no trouble
> separating  his art from his person.  In one sense I insist on doing
> that.
> Philosophy, though, seems to me to have a kind of "moral element" attached
> to it
> -- as if, in a way of speaking, it "preaches" about what it means to be a
> human  being and urges us to own up to that."
>
> C. B. had uttered the adage, commenting on a passage that dwelt on the
> Meßkirch-born German philosopher's infamous obscurity,
>
> If you haven't read Heidegger in German, you haven't read Heidegger
> _simpliciter". (adapted).
>
> which may equivocate on 'read' (cognate with English 'riddle').
>
> The text quoted by C. B. is by W. Barrett and it may be worth re-quoting
> it
> in full.
>
> It may connect with Popper, who was in Vienna at the time when Carnap was
> laughing at the the Meßkirch-born German philosopher and making a career
> out
> of  that -- Ayer followed suit in Oxford just to provoke his tutor,
> Gilbert
> Ryle,  who had reviewed the Meßkirch-born German philosopher for "Mind".
>
> Barrett seems to be working with an adage:
>
> "Clarity is not enough" (Lewis)
>
> and one of Grice's maxims,
>
> "Avoid obscurity of expression" -- a maxim of "MANNER", a conversational
> category that refers NOT to WHAT is said, but to HOW what is said has been
> said.  It can be exploited for the purpose of triggering a conversational
> implicature  (the only interest in Grice in postulating the maxims in the
> first
> place).
>
> Barrett writes as follows, and we should consider
>
> "The nothing noths."
>
> Or
>
> "Das Nichts nichtet"
>
> if you must(n't).
>
> "Then again, there is the matter of Heidegger's famous 'obscurity', which
> would seem to require that special comment be made upon him.  A great
> deal
> of this 'obscurity' is a matter of translation, and disappears when
> Heidegger is  read in German."
>
> I.e. Barrett is suggesting that the implicatures of
>
> ii. Das Nichts nichtet.
>
> differ from those triggers by
>
> i. The nothing noths.
>
> Barrett goes on:
>
> "To be sure, his German is at times a very highly  individualized vehicle
> of expression: Heidegger does coin his own terms when he  has to, and
> usually
> these are coinings that stick very close to the etymological  roots of
> German."
>
> I suppose 'nichten' is a case in point. But cfr. 'noth', qua verb (and
> the
> quote by P. L. Heath cited in this same thread).
>
> Barrett:
>
> "Heidegger thinks very much within the matrix of the German  language, and
> his expressions hugs the particularity of this language to its  bosom.
> All
> of this makes for difficulty in translation."
>
> We should thus compare
>
> iii. Carnap's laughter (-- or 'hilarity' as Heath prefers) as he (Carnap)
> read the Meßkirch-born German philosopher in the vernacular he shared:
> i.e.
> the  German language).
>
> and
>
> iv. Ayer's laughter, who found "The nothing noths" -- a mere translation
> of
> the 'joke' -- laughable enough. Vide Ayer, "The elimination of metaphysics
> via  the logical analysis of language".
>
> Barrett goes on:
>
> "If we compare Heidegger with two classical German philosophers, like
> Kant
> or Hegel, his sentences are remarkably compact and incisive, his
> expression
> notably terse."
>
> Yet Grice loved Kant, and would say his favourite philosopher EVER was
> Kantotle (vide Bennett, "In the tradition of Kantotle", Times Literary
> Supplement).
>
> Barrett:
>
> "Very often, in reading Hegel, we get the feeling ... that  the
> philosopher
> is deliberately willing to be obscure."
>
> Grice played with Kantotle and Ariskant. I once played with Plathegel.
> Hegel can be brilliant, in both the vernacular and the rough translation.
> For
> example, the keyword: CUNNING OF REASON I find unique and in great need in
> any  dictionary of philosophy worth its name. Kant could critique reason,
> both  theoretical and practical, but lacked the humour to coin 'cunning of
> reason',  that manifests in history, as Hegel does.
>
> Barrett goes on:
>
> "One never gets this impression from Heidegger: he is struggling to
> communicate, and his command of his own means of communication is powerful
> and
> impressive.  The difficulty comes, rather, from the obscurity of the
> matter
> with which Heidegger is grappling."
>
> This is controversial from a Griceian point of view.
>
> If "Avoid obscurity" pertains to STYLE, rather than content, Barrett is
> wrong.
>
> Take
>
> i. The nothing noths.
>
> Carnap and Ayer criticised this for breaching logical syntax. The
> obscurity
> is a matter of style. Content -- can it BE obscure? There was this adage,
> 'obscurus per obscurius", and it may be argued that obscurity (the
> opposite
> of  clarity) may pertain to the realms of metaphysics -- when the
> philosopher tries  to swim in the depths, rather than stay in the 'shallow
> berths' as
> Grice prefers  of ordinary language.
>
> "Avoid obscurity" then, which pertains to the MODE or manner or style,
> and
> keep in mind that, still, clarity is not enough, which is yet not a
> propaganda  for obscurity.
>
> Barrett goes on:
>
> "That there are obscure matters at all in our experience is a contention
> that rubs against the prejudice of some positivistic philosophers that
> whatever  cannot be said clearly and distinctly cannot be said at all and
> the
> effort to  say it can only result in 'meaningless' verbalism."
>
> In the obituary to P. F. Strawson, Grice went to the extreme, as quoted,
> "If you cannot put it in symbols, it is not worth saying it at all".
>
> Barrett goes on
>
> "Every philosopher, in this view, ought to be able to express himself
> with
> the simple-minded clarity of, say, Bertrand Russell"
>
> a favourite philosopher with Grice who wrote, "Definite descriptions in
> Russell and in the vernacular".
>
> He is thinking of Russell as USING his own symbols (co-invented with
> Whitehead, after Peano), like the iota operator for things like 'The king
> of
> France is bald'.
>
> In other words, there's Russell and there's Russell.
>
> Russell in fact criticised Strawson for not taking symbolism seriously
> ("Mr. Strawson on referring", Mind).
>
> Barrett goes on:
>
> "and if the philosopher does not do this, it is a  clear sign of
> intellectual incompetence.  All this, of course, is  oversimplified
> psychologizing.  A
> philosopher may be quite capable of  mastering one or the other of the
> clear and distinct dialects of philosophy and  bouncing the ball of
> dialectic
> deftly back and forth across the net; but he may  be drawn by other
> subject
> matters into following a quite different path in  philosophy.  From the
> point
> of view of a philosopher like Heidegger there  are parts of our experience
> that ordinary language finds itself hard put to  express, if it can
> express
> these matters at all."
>
> The keyword here is: "ORDINARY LANGUAGE", that Grice defended (in "The
> learned versus the vulgar'). He found it idiotic that Eddington should
> think
> that English -- or ordinary language -- is inapt to describe Eddington's
> table,  and that therefore, the ordinary language way to describe a table
> is
> WRONG and  that a scientist equivalent, learned, rather than vulgar, is
> RIGHT.
> Mutatis  mutandis, the Meßkirch-born German philosopher ""preach[ing]"
> about
> what it  means to be a human being and urges us to own up to that", to
> quote genial  Geary. Because, however obscure, one CAN or MAY get the
> point
> behind (i), the  implicature as it were. The nothing noths because
>
> iv. Nothingness annihilates.
>
> A preface to nihilism in one form or other. There is some preaching about
> what it means to be a human being if the nothing noths. Why should we let
> the  nothing noth? Perhaps the nothing does not noth as much as the pretty
> nihilistic  Meßkirch-born German philosopher (and later Parisian Sartre)
> thought it  did.
>
> Barrett: concludes the quoted passage: "[I]ndeed, this ordinary language
> seems to have been formed out a kind of conspiracy to cover over or forget
> these  parts of experience altogether."
>
> Well, as McCreery has reminded us, we think it was Rorty who pointed out
> the similarity between the rather COMPLEX philosophy of language by the
> Meßkirch-born German philosopher and John Dewey (Grice gave the Dewey
> Lectures).
> Heidegger has a place for 'ordinary language': one way of describing
> things is  through their ability to be 'to hand', and there's the 'one' as
> in
> 'one says',  which incorporates an anonymity that seems to be
> characteristic of
> those who  stick with ordinary language expressions.
>
> Carnap and Ayer would still stick with the fact that there is still no
> real
> need to breach the rules of logical syntax. A poet (or artist) can do that
> --  and seldom do. But a metaphysician shouldn't?
>
> Apparently, it all started recently, as Palma informed us, when the chair
> of the Heidegger Society resigned from his post. This was upon the
> 11-volume?  publication of the Meßkirch-born German philosopher's works in
> GERMAN. It
> may be  some time before they are available in the native language of Sir
> Freddie Ayer,  that is, some form of English or other. And it seems it's
> other keywords than  "NOTHING" and "NICHTEN" that are the controversial
> reason
> why the chair  resigned. Not pure abstract metaphysics, but those segments
> of
> the Meßkirch-born  German philosopher's extensive work on areas like
> political philosophy and  stuff.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Speranza
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
> digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html
>
>

Other related posts: