Excellent review of Faye at NDPR


Any genuinely philosophical texts are open rather than closed in their interpretative possibilities. This is what keeps philosophy alive. It is what makes philosophy an exercise in thinking rather than an exercise in the thoughtless reproduction of what has already been thought before. Now, there have been hundreds of books and essays by very intelligent people who have striven in vigorous conversation to make sense of Heidegger’s works, exploring their potentialities, expanding upon certain insights while modifying or dispensing with others. The history of philosophy is just this: an ongoing conversation stretching into the future, a chain of interpretation, argumentation, and counter-argumentation that addresses itself to a contested and always contestable canon of works. This is what I mean when I say that philosophical texts are “open” rather than “closed.” One may begin from some specific body of texts written by a particular author who wrote at some precise moment in the past. But in reading that body of texts one develops new thoughts that the original author may never have intended and may, indeed, have vigorously disputed. Historical reconstruction may very well help us to understand what a given text may have meant at a particular moment in time — to its author, and to any number of the author’s immediate contemporaries. Even then, however, we are liable to stumble upon historical debates at the very birth of a philosophical text, defeating our hope of ever arriving at some unitary and fixed text-in-itself. To this one might add more complicated problems, such as the “polysemy” of every text and the unconscious or latent meanings that afflict standard notions of authorial intent. Similar worries would also call into question the notion of a single or unitary historical context. For any given text, there is not just one but multiple contexts in which that text might be understood. And no one of those contexts deserves to stand alone as the ultimate horizon for our interpretation. One can sift through Heidegger’s philosophical arguments for their political significance, but the political context is only one dimension among many. Those arguments also address themselves to long-standing debates concerning, say, the phenomenology of religion, or the intentional structure of human action. Surely these contexts, too, deserve our attention. We should be wary of any scholar who would have us believe there is only one dimension to the world.

HT Enowning

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Filed under Heidegger, Philosophy

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