Re: Foucault and Heidegger

Your comments on Heidegger, Sartre and Foucault provide me with
a fascinating but totally different take on 20th century Continental
philosophy than mine. I really don't mean that as a criticism,
though. I'm just at a beginning point, for myself, of figuring out the
connections. I have read Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and
Husserl, from a phenomenological philosophical point of view.
I recommend Hubert Dreyfus's essays or books for a fuller
philosophical reading on the connections being sought. But I'd like to
mention some problems I have with the way you tell this story.

As you know, there is an early (i.e., more phenomenological) Heidegger and
a later Heidegger, which some call metaphysical, some call even mystical,
and this later Heidegger contemplates Being (and that *is* with a capital
"B"). These 2 Heideggers are not unrelated, but how related they are
is a question for another discussion.
The question of whether Heid. called himself "existentialist" is not
important; none of them, including Sartre and Beauvoir, were happy with
the term, though Sartre and Beauvoir conceded to it, after a while.

What I find a bit too jarring in your narrative about 20th c.
Eur. phil. is what I'd have to describe as a "search for the origin."
Heidegger is a major philosophical figure, of that there is no doubt;
Derrida, as well as Foucault, and Heidegger's political critics as well as
his philosophical critics, would agree with this.

But the line of causality needs to be decentered from
Heidegger; of all of these thinkers, the one closest to an "origin" is
Husserl, not Heidegger, I think--only in the sense that he exerted a great
influence on Heidegger; in fact, Heidegger was Husserl's assistant at U.
of Freiburg from 1920-23. It's misleading to say that Sartre read Husserl
and then read Heidegger and then turned Heidegger into Husserl. BOTH
Sartre and Heidegger read Husserl.

And you present a much too uncomplicated picture of Sartre's work.
In fact, Sartre's first phil'cal work was
TRANSCENDENCE OF THE EGO, in which he takes Husserl to task for having
forgotten the phenomenological project because he (Hus.) posited the
transcendental ego. More correct, I think, is that Sartre AND Heidegger
read Husserl, and they went on to create very different philosophies.

Sartre's "Existentialism Is a Humanism" essay, quoted frequently,
was a defense/apology of existentialism for a "popular" audience,against
numerous attacks, particularly misunderstandings about what
existentialism's claim of human subjectivity was all about.
The context of the essay needs to be noted--as does the fact that he
lived to regret his decision to allow a publisher to reprint this piece
in what was to be a limited edition. Contat and Rybalka say "This is...the
only work Sartre has largely rejected." (See THE WRITINGS OF JEAN-PAUL
SARTRE, vol. 1, and see WM. McBride, SARTRE'S POLITICAL THEORY.)

OK--the importance of Heidegger over Sartre for Foucault's thinking is
probably true, but one needs to consider the weight of our separate
"anti-philosophies" in the development of our own thinking.
Remember that "A Preface to Transgression" was written as a tribute to
Bataille--attacked earlier by Sartre in his essay, "A New Mystic."
We might even go so far as to say that Sartre, the "Old Man," was the
Father that Foucault had to kill.

Another part of this history is the translation into French of early
Hegel, i.e., PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT (MIND), at just about the same time.
Sartre was dealing with early Hegel, as well as Husserl, as well as
Heidegger, when he wrote BEING AND NOTHINGNESS.

Back to Heidegger and Foucault: here's a remark that speaks to some
differences between them--from Dreyfus's and Rabinow's essay, "What
Is Maturity?" in David Couzens Hoy's FOUCAULT: A CRITICAL READER:
"Like Heidegger, Foucault wants to change our world. But whereas
Heidegger considered his effort a failure because it did not help bring
about a new god, Foucault never lamented the default of god nor himself
looked for a new one. Nor did he consider it his main task to offer
alternative possibilities for acting." (pp. 117-118) I agree--and I
think these are not minor differences.

Jo-Ann Pilardi, Towson Univ. jpilardi@xxxxxxxxxx

On Sun, 7 Mar 1999, Stuart Elden wrote:

> I checked back to the mail you cut this from, and found it followed my long
> list of suggested reading on this issue. But my honest feeling is that the
> best way into this is to read some Heidegger, and then read Foucault
> (again). The secondary literature struck me as a pale shadow of the picture
> I found. I had read Foucault before I read Heidegger, but when I read him
> again, after having immersed myself in Heidegger, I found so much more.
> On this specific point, schematising quickly, Sartre became interested in
> phenomenology and read Husserl. He then read Heidegger. But (I think) he
> misunderstood Heidegger's radicalness (specifically the critique of the
> Cartesian subject) and when he appropriated Being and Time into his own
> Being and Nothingness he made the structures of existence (Dasein)
> structures of a subject, with bad faith, etc. So, in some ways he made
> Heidegger back into Husserl, or made Heidegger French (read Cartesian).
> Merleau-Ponty followed Sartre in the appropriation of Heidegger and was in
> some ways much more faithful to Heidegger. I don't really know M-P very
> well, but interestingly someone remarked to me the other day that
> Phenomenology of Perception was very similar to Cassirer's Philosophy of
> Symbolic Forms (Cassirer and Heidegger had a good-natured encounter over
> Kant in the late 20s).
> Heidegger was not at all convinced by Sartre's work (though he did initially
> suggest they meet up, go skiing together and philosophise). The Letter on
> Humanism is a stinging critique of Sartre's take on Heidegger (especially
> Sartre's notion that existentialism _is_ a humanism). By this time,
> Heidegger was not (if he ever really was) an existentialist. By critiquing
> humanism, the subject, and specifically Sartre, Heidegger was able to give
> up and coming French philosophers a possibility of circumventing Sartre's
> enormous influence, and in some ways a means to do just that. Althusser did
> it in Marxism, which of course Sartre turned toward (it's interesting to
> note that Althusser, Sartre and Henri Lefebvre - three of the most important
> French Marxists this century - were all influenced greatly by Heidegger).
> Lacan did it is psychoanalysis, Derrida and Foucault in whatever Derrida and
> Foucault did/do (not meant flippantly, merely that I think neither is easily
> categorised). The Order of Things, for example, is a very anti-Sartrean
> text, though apparently all the direct references were taken out before
> publication.
> Interestingly, Jean Beaufret, who was the recipient of the original Letter,
> and one of Heidegger's foremost disciples in France, taught Foucault.
> Foucault's quote that Heidegger was the essential philosopher, that his
> entire development was determined by him, that Heidegger and Nietzsche
> together was the philosophical shock, etc. needs, I think, to be taken very
> very seriously.
> The problem is the lack of secondary material out there, which might be put
> down to the fact that many of the people that read Foucault are not those
> who might be expected to read Heidegger. I'm a political theorist/historian
> by training, and there were some raised eyebrows when I proposed spending
> the next six months of the PhD reading Heidegger 'to see if it made some
> sense of Foucault'. I never looked back.
> Hope this is in some way useful. I'd appreciate any questions or criticisms
> of the above, very rough, take.
> Best wishes
> Stuart

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