Gravity and Light

I just completed a course with Dreyfus on Heidegger & Foucault and I
want to put froward a concern that has troubled me throughout the semester.

I have never been very comfortable with the relative homogeniety of
the clearing that Heidegger seems to argue for. Drawing on the metaphor of
the clearing one tends to imagine a serene meadow flooded with the morning
sunlight surrounded by a dark and ominous forest . The field of the clearing
is flat and it lacks defining features which make one area more desirable
than another. Movement within the clearing is unbridled. The inhabitants of
the clearing see themselves and their world with the same eyes.
What I want to argue is that position matters. There is a certain
gravity to the position one stands in the meadow and that that gravity
bends the light of the clearing. That means that the 'where' of the 'there'
in Dasein makes a difference - that there are good and bad places to find
oneself in the meadow and that people struggle to maintain positions which
are favorable by blocking the mobility of those in less fortunate locations,
and seek to move into better places currently occupied by others.
I have been told that this concern is too ontic -that the turmoil
of the clearing has no real bearing on the ontological argument that
Heidegger is advancing. However, I am suspicious that this answer attempts
to dismisses my concern without actually addressing the issue I am raising.
Let me clarify. First, the issue I am raising is NOT moralistic -
that the clearing really *ought* to be level, that mobility *ought* to be
unrestricted, and that people *ought* to imputed a dimension of equality.
Second, it is not my intention to reduce the mode of Being to the social or
institutional structures of existence that order a given culture, although I
will admit that this is closer to my point and it is the trap I need to
avoid. Certainly early Heidegger is offering a structural interpretation of
Being which transcends the actual practical instantiations of a given
cultural interpretation.
However, as soon as one begins to ask oneself what the clearing
really looks like, merely dismissing relevance of the practices of a culture
seems to contradict the 'bottom up' 'non-intentional' account Heidegger
seeks to offer. Certainly Foucault seems to argue that it is the patchwork
of social interactions which ultimately weave themselves into the overall
fabric of a society. Foucault also seems to argue against the transcendence
of Being, that there are any structures to Being qua Being at all. I am not
sure I am ready to moor my boot to that pier, but I do feel the pull to
anchor Being to practice.
My intuition is that there is a residue left over from those ignoble
beginings. One's position in the social interactions which make up the
clearing continues to have a bearing on the mode of being one adopts -
hence, there is a gravity to one's locality and that that gravity bends the
light of clearing thereby individuating one's mode of being. This
individuation may have some relationship to class experiences such that
there are regions of the clearing which adopt a mode of being which can be
differentialed from other regions.
I am curious what others think of this intuition.
Hagen Finley
Berkeley, CA


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