Fractured Compass

June 17, 2006

The Primacy of Prepositions

Filed under: What I Saw and Read — roundapple @ 8:29 am

In the heyday of Heidegger’s influence, authenticity became a key word – and living authentically became a catchphrase of existentialism, the art-nouveau bastard child of Husserlian and Heideggerian thinking. Even now that Heidegger and Nazism seems almost a blase topic, there are still Heideggerians among our midst and perhaps wired within our own neurons.
That this cannot be helped is explained by the thinking human’s fascination with Being and beings. There was a time when I read, word for word, every sentence of Being and Time, after reading commentators on Heidegger, hoping to catch a revelation or even a glimpse of Authentic Being.
Then came a period of eclipse, and a year ago, I decided to read again Being and Time, after reading Safranski’s biography of Heidegger. But what Time and a little age can do to Being! What stood out was the almost comic preoccupation with being and Being compounded with prepositions. Philosophy becomes the obvious, perhaps too obvious. Because how else can you conceive of being or Being or Who-ness or What-ness, in consciousness or thinking, except with Where-ness or With-ness or For-ness, or any preposition for that matter. Being or being, necessarily compounds itself, in our mind, with prepositions the moment you think about it or place it in the world. Taken in itself, it flirts with nothing or Nothing (as Jean Paul Sartre’s interminably long Being and Nothingness dissolves Being into Nothingness), Otherwise, it’s substance or essence. Both Spinoza, whose more static substance philosophy leads to a movement towards an overarching Ethics, and Heidegger whose premise is to put being or Being in context, may be right depending on your moods. Both are equally dangerous when extrapolated into practice. Attractive philosophy leads to A Separate Peace or A Separate Ethics or A Separate Revolution which can prove popular or hip although, almost always, never lasting. Authentically dangerous to health or to others.
In the context of textual exegetical debate, the preposition in the text of Scripture can be the skandalon, the literal stumbling-block to consensus, the crucial hinge that links and at the same time allows a door to swing in or out depending on who turns the doorknob.
The only safe philosophy (or exegesis?) maybe armchair or academic philosophy: either Anglo-Saxon Philosophy of Language, or Franco-American (which in its Derrida guise is its Strange Bedfellow) Deconstruction, because the former is mere diversion and the latter dissolves philosophy itself and much else besides, leaving No-thing. Notice how italics, hyphens, prepositions, and Caps seem all-important and how all I wrote is Non-sense.

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