Re: Foucault and Heidegger (fwd)

On Wed, 10 Mar 1999, Stuart Elden wrote:

> Jo-Ann wrote
> >Stuart,
> >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").
> 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
> work.

I'm not convinced by the above that "Being with a capital `B'" in _Being
and Time_ is only a product of the English translation. However, I would
maintain that in this early work, Heidegger stayed closer to a
phenomenological (that's "existential-phenomenological") project, at

> > >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.

I don't know about this; we also have to remember that Sartre's _Being
and Nothingness_ (with a title echoing Heid's B&T) was subtitled:
"A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology." You wouldn't characterize Heid.
unambiguously as an existentialist, would you?
> My preference would be: he's an existential-phenomenologist doing

> >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 isn't the problem; I think the problem is seeing his
influence as *the most important* .
> >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).

Funny story about Husserl. I'm not suggesting a search for the
origin at all, but for a plurality of influences. The reception of
early Hegel into France has also been a major. influence.

> >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.

Thanks for clarifying your thinking about the above issues,
especially your description of your project above; I'd look forward to
reading such a study, even though I too will take Foucault's activism--
and his type of activism. Heidegger had an activist side, too,
unfortunately--in that it served fascism, as you know.

As to Heidegger's take on the phil'cal tradition: there is no question of
that it is brilliant--and therapeutic.

Good luck with the book proposal.

Jo-Ann Pilardi
> 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
> clearly.
> Best wishes
> Stuart

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