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«BOOK R EV I EW Richard Capobianco. Engaging Heidegger. Toronto: University of Toronto Press,. Pages. Reviewed by Lawrence J. Hatab Richard ...»

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BOOK R EV I EW

Richard Capobianco. Engaging Heidegger.

Toronto: University of Toronto Press,. Pages.

Reviewed by Lawrence J. Hatab

Richard Capobianco’s impressive book, Engaging Heidegger, tackles

some fundamental questions in Heidegger’s thought, and does so in a

remarkably clear and pointed manner. In this brief review I address the

following salient topics covered in the text: the status of the Seinsfrage

in Heidegger’s later thought, particularly in relation to Ereignis; the question of homelessness and being-at-home; and the position of Angst in some of Heidegger’s writings after Being and Time.

In his rst two chapters, Capobianco challenges some readings of Heidegger that see the later writings moving beyond or supplanting the centrality of being in the early works. The primary example of this supposed shift is the focus on Ereignis, understood as that which “gives” being (as in es gibt Sein). Capobianco makes a thoroughly convincing argument that the being-question remains the fundamental Sache in Heidegger’s thought through to the end (well documented in the late text, Four Seminars). This argument is trenchant as long as being is shown in its “di erence” from beings and metaphysical constructs drawn from beings – a di erence named in such words as Seyn, Sein selbst, Sein als solches, and Sein als Sein. Being is then di erent from beings (Seiendes) and from the metaphysical “beingness” (Seiendheit) of beings. In Capobianco’s analysis he draws these distinctions quite e ectively. Yet he is careful to maintain that being is always the being Gatherings: The Heidegger Circle Annual, ( ): – Review: Engaging Heidegger of beings and that something like Dasein’s ecstatic dwelling in, and correspondence with, being never recedes in Heidegger’s thinking. Capobianco then shows how various focal words in the course of Heidegger’s work – e.g., unconcealment, presencing, the freeing, letting, or giving of beings, Lichtung, and Ereignis – are variations on the primal theme of being. There is a very helpful chart (Engaging Heidegger, – ) that organizes the di erent ways in which Heidegger expresses the being-ofthe-beingness-of-beings (drawn in terms of being itself), metaphysical beingness, beings, and human responsiveness.

Capobianco also does a great service in his attempt to render the features of being itself that can be tracked in Heidegger’s thought, which I will cull from di erent passages (Engaging Heidegger, and ) as follows: Being as such is the temporal-spatial, nite and negatived, appearing of beings in their beingness, which calls forth from Dasein a cor-respondence in language that allows both what appears and appearing itself to become manifest. According to Capobianco, being itself in this sense is the “same” as key words in the later writings, including Ereignis. Capobianco concedes that Heidegger’s language in the s and s was not always careful on this matter – for instance, the idea that Ereignis is that which “gives” being. Yet through a meticulous analysis of various texts, and especially the four seminars given between and, Capobianco is able to show convincingly that the Seinsfrage was the single question animating Heidegger’s entire thought, and that Ereignis gives the beingness of beings, not being itself, for which Ereignis is “another name” (see the summary discussion in Engaging Heidegger, ).

I have no criticism of Capobianco’s work in these rst two chapters;

I am in complete agreement with their contents. But I would like to o er what I think is a supplement to his argument by considering how we should understand the language of Heidegger’s core words. As with any thinker, we are prone to look for the fundamental terms, what these terms mean, and whether any change in terms is a change in the thought. Capobianco is warning us against asserting the latter notion, and his account of being itself that I culled earlier is an impressive articulation of what seems to persist throughout Heidegger’s thinking (with duly noted variations or shifts of emphasis, of course). With such an articulation of die Sache selbst, I don’t really care what we call it, although care is called for when selecting or considering the resonances of a focal word or phrase.

In Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger called ontology “the e ort to bring being into words.”1 For me, Heidegger’s thinking, from beginning to end, was an “experiment” in bringing the question of being into words, not in the typical philosophical manner of canonical terms meant to govern thought, but an attempt to gather in language a resonant response to the enabling environment of language and thought, which as such cannot be exhausted by language and thought.

For this reason I think we should recognize “term limits” with respect to Heidegger’s focal words, or to paraphrase his remark about the Gesamtausgabe, we should attend to “ways, not words.” I draw these remarks from my understanding of Heidegger’s early notion of formal indication, where philosophical concepts arise out of concernful dealings in factical life and then point back to the task of factical enactment. Formal indications are consequently shot through with the nitude of existence and consequently they cannot be construed as a priori necessary structures, generalizations, universals, or essences – all of which are meant to “govern” what can be said of things.





Such constructs are drawn from the presumption of re ection upon objecti ed entities. Formal indication is responsive to what is already operating before re ection and objecti cation – hence concepts such as Zuhandenheit, Be ndlichkeit, care, etc. This is why philosophy, for Heidegger, is hermeneutic phenomenology, because it can only engage in the interpretation of what is “already” showing itself in factical life.

The point is that philosophical concepts are self-limiting indications that can only be “ful lled” in factical experience. The “hermeneutic circle” is a circulation between language and lived experience that cannot presume to o er xed truths or objective explanations. At one point in Being and Time Heidegger acknowledges the circularity of his own text as interpretation; it can engage, not in “proof,” but only in Review: Engaging Heidegger “allowing to come into words” an understanding of being, from which readers can discern for themselves whether the text’s “formal-indicative sketch” is disclosive of understanding or not.2 In other words, there is no free-standing measure for the success of a text, only what I would call an experiment calling for “reader response.” I nd a similar notion even in the later text Time and Being. Heidegger begins and ends this essay with a warning about its presentation in “propositions” (Aussagesätzen), which are an obstacle to addressing the Sache of the text, which is an experience of Ereignis.3 The Protokoll of the lecture appended to the main text is called an experiment (Versuch) that attempts to open up an experience of die Sache of the text by way of a conversation between participants in the lecture.4 Thinking deploys notions such as “extending” and “giving,” in order to work from them (abarbeiten) and to perform and consummate (vollziehen) the Übergang to the experience of thinking. Such an ambiguous relation between language and die Sache is not something we can talk about (darüber reden). It can only be decided performatively, “by whether such a saying succeeds or not.”5 My point is that we should avoid the hypostasization of any fundamental terms in Heidegger’s thought. Die Sache selbst is a continuing circulation between thoughtful language and the factical environment “giving” language – which is measured not by the “right” words but by whether words succeed in resonating with listeners, in eliciting the nite eld of being that Capobianco has articulated so well.

In Ch. of his book, Capobianco does a wonderful job of trying to navigate the changing ways in which Heidegger deployed the terms heimlich and unheimlich, referring to being and not being at home. The course of this deployment seems to be as follows: In Being and Time the unheimlich is “more primordial” than the heimlich, in that Angst lurks beneath, and then disrupts, Dasein’s everyday familiarity. In the Introduction to Metaphysics, Sophocles’ ode from Antigone sets a clear divide between the unheimlich, transgressive character of the creator and the protective hearth of the normal world. In the Der Ister. Heidegger seems to o er a di erent reading of the ode, wherein humans can become at home in being, but in the mixed sense of das Heimischwerden im Unheimischsein. In this and other re ections on Hölderlin, Heidegger speaks of the joy in coming to terms with the nitude of being as one’s true home, rather than the eeing absorption in beings. Finally, in the Gelassenheit and the Messkirch Address, Heidegger emphasizes the “rootedness” of the homeland (Heimat), contrasted with the unheimlich character of technicity and calculative thinking. Being at home can now be accomplished in the calm of meditative thinking and letting-be, rather than the constant assault of technological machines and controls.

Capobianco is right to see this course of thinking as complicated and apparently con icted, and he makes a noble e ort to chart the movement.

He is also right to question how the last sense of being at home – which is at rest and even “gladsome” – can be squared with earlier insights about engaging the disrupting nitude of being. I learned a lot from Capobianco’s account and I concede the di cult complexity in this topic.

But I want to question some of the terms of his analysis, not to discount it entirely, but to revise it. For one thing, I wonder if the kind of circumspection Capobianco provides on the supposed shifts from the Seinsfrage might be appropriate here too, at least in some respects.

I am not sure that the di erent treatments of home and homelessness are as distinct or divided as Capobianco suggests. Take the rootednessunheimlich contrast in Gelassenheit, where variations of Wurzel are employed. It turns out that variants of entwurzeln were used in Being and Time to describe Dasein’s everyday absorption in beings.6 This seems to mean that Dasein’s authentic existence sparked by the Unheimlichkeit of Angst is a kind of “rootedness,” and so the primordiality of the unheimlich can imply some sense of being at home. Although Heidegger does not spell this out clearly in Being and Time, I do not think that everyday being heimlich in the world and the unheimlich character of Angst should be sharply divided. We should remember that the “unity” of care also joins the “double meaning” of Sorge – concernful devotedness and worriedness – as a single phenomenon,7 a twofold disposition that could be said to mark authentic existence. Authenticity is not a Review: Engaging Heidegger departure from, but rather a modi cation of, inauthenticity,8 where Dasein “exists nitely”9 – which I have always taken to mean embracing the unheimlich dimension of existence, given the “unshakable joy” that Heidegger connects with Dasein’s anxious potentiality-for-being.10 So I am not sure Capobianco is right when he contrasts the unheimlich in Being and Time as a “destination” with the unheimlich as a “passage” to joyful dwelling in the Hölderlin essays (Engaging Heidegger, ).

Capobianco wonders if Heidegger’s later musings on Heimat bypassed earlier (and preferable) heimlich-unheimlich blends, and he may be right. But the later unheimlich absorption in technicity may recall the uprootedness of everyday Dasein in Being and Time. Since technicity is marked by securing and controlling the earth, it would seem that some kind of disorienting break with technicity would be called for. Perhaps Heidegger’s late writings try to stress the positive aspects of dwelling, but such things are not absent in earlier treatments. The “rest” and “calm” that Capobianco nds in later texts may indeed be strikingly di erent, but we should recall the calm that Heidegger attributes to Angst in the “What is Metaphysics?”11 We should also not discount the possibility that the apparent quietism in later works was symptomatic of his own withdrawal after the disaster of his earlier politics.

In Ch., Capobianco examines another possible transition in Heidegger’s thought: from Angst to astonishment, where a disrupting sense of Angst gives way to more positive senses of wonder (Wunder), awe (Scheu), and astonishment (Erstaunen) in later works. Here again I would call for some caution. Capobianco is certainly right in tracking these shifts, and in showing how Angst in “What is Metaphysics?” (and in the Postscript and Introduction) seems di erent from Being and Time. My sense of this, however, is that the “What is Metaphysics?” trilogy begins to articulate “being itself,” for which Being and Time was preparatory. The disruption of Angst in Being and Time sets up, I think, the structure of being and nothing in “What is Metaphysics?” As Angst opens up the possibility of authentic existence in Being and Time, Angst in “What is Metaphysics?” opens up the structure of the being of beings – by way of the experience of das Nichts.

Capobianco rightly shows that wonder and awe, rather than Angst, are emphasized after the s. But I think that “What is Metaphysics?” shows a link. In the Postscript, Angst “guarantees the enigmatic possibility of experiencing being,” which is “close by” Angst and designated as “the wonder of all wonders: that beings are.”12 Yet the original essay has Angst connected with the “nihilation of the nothing,” in which beings as a whole are shown in their “heretofore concealed strangeness as what is radically other – with respect to the nothing.” In Angst, “the original openness of beings as such arises: that they are beings – and not nothing.”13 In Angst seems necessary for evoking wonder, which arises only because of the nothing.14 Does Angst in still retain some essential role in wonder and awe, “guaranteeing” them, as it were? In any case, I’m not sure that Angst is exchanged for wonder and awe, and here’s why: The absorption in beings requires disruption to open up the meaning of being;



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