Re: Foucault and Heidegger (fwd)

Jo-Ann wrote

>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

Being with a capital 'B' is only a product of English translations, as Sein,
like all nouns in German is capitalised anyway. The later Heidegger is
trying to escape metaphysics, though whether he succeeds is another
question: cf Derrida.

These 2 Heideggers are not unrelated, but how related they are
>is a question for another discussion.

Sure, the turn, or 'Kehre' is one of the key issues in Heidegger
scholarship, but it is crucial to understanding the French reception of his

>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.

I think it is. Heidegger is regularly seen as such, and it shapes the
reception of his work. Being and Time was translated in the wake of Sartre's
popularity, and this shapes the English reception in a number of ways. Even
the new translation by Stambaugh doesn't really challenge this. Kisiel's
magisterial The Genesis of Being and Time calls this into question in a
number of ways.

>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."

You mean in my tracing so much French thought back to Heidegger?

>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.

Sure, but the search for the origin can go on and on (Dilthey, Nietzsche,
Hegel, Kant, etc. etc). I'm not trying to depreciate the debt to Husserl,
but I would still hold to what I said. Heidegger was taking forward
Husserlian phenomenology, but did some incredibly important and challenging
things to his work. The critique is there in Being and Time though not
always clear (Husserl only realised the critique after a second close
reading - he apparently completely missed it when he was helping Heidegger
with the page proofs). The first half of History of the Concept of Time is
much clearer. Heidegger's originality was missed by Sartre - i think. And
the second part of my quickly summarised story - the move against Sartre in
post-war France by Heideggerians is much less indebted to Husserl (though
see Derrida for an exception).

>And you present a much too uncomplicated picture of Sartre's work.

I'm sure this is true.

>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.

I don't know Sartre as well as you, clearly. I concede this. But Heidegger
is the more influential in the long term, especially on the French thought I
was talking about.

>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.

Sure, Hegel is regularly forgotten. Foucault is often posited as
anti-hegelian, which is far too reductionist I think. See The Order of
Discourse, for example. And I've just co-authored a piece that looks at the
links between Hegel and Foucault over the police concept.

>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.

Fine. I'm not trying to say Foucault is Heidegger. But there are important
links between them that show some important and neglected themes in
Foucault's work. For me, I'll take Foucault's activism, but have it informed
by Heidegger's take on the philosophical tradition.

Sorry this is brief, but I have a book proposal (on Foucault and Heidegger!)
to write. Hopefully if this is published my views can be expressed much more

Best wishes


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