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Re: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.

I have never read Arendt, so I really can't contribute anything to a discussion of her views.

But I've been reading a bit more of Habermas, and have come to see that he draws upon the various accounts of ontogenesis that we have mentioned largely because he is building a particular view of adolescence. Since that topic has been in the air perhaps it will be interesting to others to unpack his views a bit more. (I'm referring to his 1983/1990 book Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, which I quoted last time but omitted the reference.) I said earlier that the big question was how to find a vantage point from which to decide on the morality of cultural practices. Habermas argues, in effect, that each of us becomes able to adopt such a vantage point in adolescence.

This is because it is in adolescence, the time when post-conventional thinking becomes possible (though not necessary) that Habermas believes the developing person is able for the first time to recognize that the social practices they were born into are conventional. The adolescent "rises above the naivete of everyday life practice." The objectivity of things and events now becomes less substantial, and the normativity of the accepted ways of doing things is no longer compelling. The world is "theorized," by which Habermas seems to mean that it is now seen as just one world among an infinity of possible worlds. Relationships become "moralized," in that the way things are done is now seen as just how they happen to be, not how they *ought* to be or *must* be. What seemed natural and in consequence necessary is now seen as contingent and problematic. The result is a kind of disconnection from the lifeworld of immediate relations, a loss of the sense of intuitive certainty the child has enjoyed, and a lack of color to interactions with others, which are now viewed from a "purely moral point of view." The social world no longer seems stable and factual, and now needs to justify itself. The adolescent experiences a "life crisis."

The adolescent now has to find a new basis for the systems of norms that have lost their rooting in everyday background practices. It was the adolescent's fully decentered way of viewing the world that got them into this difficult situation, but it is the same viewpoint that can get them out of it, or so Habermas claims. The adolescent looks for moral principles by which to judge the morality of norms of conduct. Intersubjectively accepted norms now seem to be *merely* accepted, and not necessarily valid. A differentiation appears between *evaluative* issues, relative to a specific form of life or individual life style, and *moral* issues, which must be decided rationally. Previously these were fused, in the child's ethics of being a good boy or girl by acting in accordance with social and cultural conventions. Evaluative questions remain contextual and concrete; but moral questions are now decontextualized and abstract, and must be settled by "reflectively tested claims to validity," through "justified reasoning alone." Such reasoning cannot appeal to cultural notions of the good life because now "at the post-conventional stage... the social world [is] uncoupled from the stream of cultural givens." What is necessary to solve these moral problems is a "distanced" point of view.

Here comes the rabbit from the hat. Habermas' next step is to argue that this kind of detached viewpoint is possible only when the adolescent cannot avoid accepting it even when they disagree with it. And this can only be the case because the participants in a discussion over a moral issue are *already* involved in the pragmatics of argumentation, which has built into its very structure the moral point of view, in the form of "a fundamental reciprocity that is built into action oriented towards reaching understanding." Discourse ethics is the philosophical analysis that discloses this reciprocity. Habermas concludes that "morality as grounded by discourse ethics is based on a pattern inherent in mutual understanding in language from the beginning."

I find Habermas' description of the problem pretty convincing. There is a point when some of us are lucky enough to realize that the way we've been living, and have taken for granted, is just one way of doing things among many. I am far less convinced by his proposed solution, that communication comes with a built in guarantee that people will be able to talk together and agree whose way is moral, and whose way is not. Of course, I don't have a better solution!


On Oct 25, 2009, at 4:25 PM, Michael Glassman wrote:


Let me take a shot at what perhaps Arendt and perhaps Emily were getting at. (With the caveat the my knowledge of Heidegger is somewhat limited). But anyways, it seems Heidegger sees individuals as Beings in the world who are dealing with Things at Hand - as you said

Heidegger's account, as I understand it, was that we are, from the
outset, thrown into the public social practices of a specific form of
life, and as we develop we can only understand who we are in terms of
these practices. Professor, student, nurse, adolescent - all these are
ways of being in a form of life.

But each of these roles is defined by the immediate and by society. You make choices about who you are, unreflectively or reflectively. What Arendt I think attempted to bring to this equation is that it is not enough simply to be what you are, you must understand who you are in terms of otheres in your universe - whether close or far - and redefine yourself based on this. It is not enough to be a Professor, or rector of a university, and base your decisions on being a professor or rector, even in the context of how society or those things in the world that you come into contact with define it. This should not give you safety from the moral storm, as a matter of fact it make you thoughtless You have to redefine yourself in the world based on how your role is effecting others, even when it goes against the demands of society (and in this way perhaps Arendt was a forerunner of both Kohlberg and Habermas).

Let us say you are a plumber. You are an excellent plumber and you do very good work with those things at hand the pipes and the wrenches and therefore you are successful in society. You have a job where you go every week to redirect pipes. By redirecting these pipes though you are actually denying small family farms water and redirecting it to large corporate farms, leading to starvation on the small family farms. What does this mean in terms of being a plumber. Would Heidegger say that your being is a plumber, you are working as you should, those other decisions are made by others which you really have no control over. Or do you really think, not just reflect on being a plumber, but on what your being a plumbers means to those small family farmers. Arendt I think to do so is to essentially act without thought.

And yet that is how society works, isn't it? I'm sure Heidegger saw his role as being Rector of the university, maintaining as much integrity as he possibly could. He couldn't really help what the Nazis did eslewhere. Wearing a unifrom and agreeing with the Nazis meant he could have more power to create a better university. This is a choice many of us face on an everyday basis. Who are you and what type of thought should you put in to who you are. When NCLB came out many in power in education knew that this might not be good for the more marginalized children in society - but researchers, administrators, professors might argue that their job was to protect the funding source, to protect their college, to protect the university and so they attempted to work within NCLB. Tests just became a fact of life. How different is this from the plumber or the rector really? One of the reasons we don't read Hannah Arendt more I think is because she asks the questions we are all afraid to answer.



From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Martin Packer
Sent: Sat 10/24/2009 2:10 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.

If Heidegger's work has any value today, I would say, it is as an
example of an approach that tries to describe human existence as
throughly and inescapably social and material - along with both the
advantages and perils of such an approach. Heidegger's starting point
was that human being is always "in-the-world." Any time I give to
discussing Heidegger's work is motivated to try to figure out how this
kind of approach can work, and not to try to defend Heidegger's

Having said that, I have never seen Heidegger distinguishing public
and private morality, or inner or outer sources of morality. I don't
even know what this would mean in a social, material ontology.
Heidegger's account, as I understand it, was that we are, from the
outset, thrown into the public social practices of a specific form of
life, and as we develop we can only understand who we are in terms of
these practices. Professor, student, nurse, adolescent - all these are
ways of being in a form of life. We have to choose - one cannot be
*both* nurse *and* plumber, for example - but the choices, although
made by an individual and playing a part defining that person - are
choices among social options. Usually such choices are made
unreflectively, without much deliberation. But it is possible to
engage in a kind of reflection that takes the form chiefly of anxiety
(or angst) in which we come to appreciate the contingency of our
social practices, and recognize the arbitrary character of such self
definitions. At this point it is not a question of choosing between
the personal and the public, because the public has *defined* the
personal. The best one can do is be "resolute," continuing to
participate in public practices *despite* the fact their arbitrariness
is now evident.


On Oct 24, 2009, at 9:12 AM, Victor wrote:

Heidigger's notion of dual morality, private and public, appears to
me as a misguided attempt to unify Kant's theory of logically innate
moral imperatives with Hegelian objective idealism (and ignoring
without refutation, Hegel's critique of just that concept of
Kant's).  Arendt's thinking on the development of private moral
intropection as a function of interaction with others is the
appropriate complement to Hegel's theory of the ideal explaining
both the origins and development of ethical conventions - an
important element of Ilyenkov's paper on the Ideal -as well as the
formulation of private morality.
----- Original Message ----- From: "Duvall, Emily" <emily@uidaho.edu>
To: "Vera Steiner" <vygotsky@unm.edu>; "eXtended Mind,
Culture,Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Saturday, October 24, 2009 12:57 AM
Subject: RE: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.

I find it most useful to consider Hannah Arendt's view of moral
philosophy, her ethic of moral introspection, as developing as we
engage with others rather than what she saw as Heidegger's
perspective, which was that the moral comes from within. This
doesn't excuse Heidegger, but rather it explains his activity with
the Nazis as having its origins and justification from a sense of
private morality versus public morality. That Heidegger could live
with a duality of morality so to speak.
I really find Arendt's 'dialogical concept of citizenship' to be
quite powerful and a wonderful critique of Heidegger's moral
My 2 cents...

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Vera Steiner
Sent: Friday, October 23, 2009 3:18 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.

I think Adorno having been forced to emigrate and suffer the loss of
(and possibly family members) was more deeply touched by the role of
supporters than are people of a later generation. I live in a town
full of
Jungians who have a hard time understanding why I am unable to teach
theories.(He,too, was a Nazi sympathizer.)
It is a great challenge to live in the shadows of the 20th century,
----- Original Message ----- From: "Wolff-Michael Roth"
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 5:36 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] "Creature Consciousness," "Heil Heidegger!," etc.

thanks for the extended note. I personally grounded quite a bit of my
work in Heidegger, and so have numerous philosophers, including of
Jewish faith, such as Derrida and Levinas. I do not think that anyone
is in support of anything that Heidegger might have written to
support Nazism, or his everyday behavior that would have given
support to Nazism while it was operating at its worst.
For those interested in the issue, there is an interesting
discussion of the question of forgiveness in Derrida's book of the
name, and he deals precisely with the question of Heidegger and
Nazism, on Jankélévitch and his writings on the Shoah and pardon, and
Paul Celan, his poem "Todtnauberg", and the visit to Heidegger. There
is also the question why Heidegger did not ask for forgiveness.
I think it is one of the master pieces of Derrida (I only have the
French version, "Pardonner: l'impardonnable et l'imprescriptible")
because he says that we can only forgive the unforgivable, because if
you forgive something that is forgivable, then you have done nothing.
The relationship between giving and forgiving is brought to that of
temporalization, the very question Heidegger began to investigate in
the relation of Sein (Being) and Seiendes (being).

On 21-Oct-09, at 4:12 PM, Martin Packer wrote:

A few days ago Steve made passing reference to an article that
apparently Tony had drawn his attention to, titled "Heil Heidegger."
I Googled and found that it is a recent article in the Chronicle of
Higher Education.


The focus of the article is Heidegger's links with and support of the
Nazis, and its principal recommendations are that we should stop
paying attention to Heidegger, stop translating and publishing his
writing, and "mock him to the hilt."

I feel I should comment on this, since I have occasionally drawn on
Heidegger's work in these discussions. I certainly have no intention
of apologizing for Heidegger, who seems to have been a very nasty
person, who was responsible for some deplorable actions. I do want to
question, however, the proposal that because of these facts we all
would be better off ignoring his writing.

I was introduced to Heidegger by a Jewish professor of philosophy who
shared his last name (coincidentally as far as I know) with one of
the best-known victims of antisemitism. At that time less was known
about Heidegger's Narzism, but by no means nothing, and I recall
discussion in the classroom of the issue. I came to feel that the
last thing one should try to do is separate the man's work from his
life. Perhaps if he had been working on some obscure area of symbolic
logic, say, that would have been possible, but Heidegger had written
a philosophy of human existence, and this would seem to *demand* that
there be consistency between what he wrote and how he lived. Indeed,
perhaps it would be important to study the man's writings to try to
understand where he went wrong; at what point in his analysis of
human being did Heidegger open the door to the possibility of
fascism? I think in fact that it is in Division II of Being and Time,
where Heidegger is describing what he called 'authentic Dasein,'
which amounts to a way that a person relates to time, specifically to
the certainty of their own death, that the mistake is made and the
door is opened to evil.

Carlin Romano, the author of the article, doesn't seem to know
Heidegger's work very well. Dasein ("being there," i.e. being-in-the-
world) is not a "cultural world," nor do "Daseins intersect," as he
puts it. (But I suppose that he is mocking Heidegger.) And that
brings me to my other reason for recommending that we continue to
read Heidegger, his politics and (lack of) ethics notwithstanding. It
is that his analysis throws light on issues that have been raised in
this group, and were important  to LSV and others. I am sure it seems
odd to link a Nazi philosopher to a socialist psychologist, but I am
hardly the first to see connections. Lucien Goldmann wrote "Lukacs
and Heidegger," a book in which he acknowledged the incongruity but
argued that there are "fundamental bonds" between the two men's work,
that at the beginning of the 20th century "on the basis of a new
problematic first represented by Lukacs, and then later on by
Heidegger, the contemporary situation was slowly created. I would add
that this perspective will also enable us to display a whole range of
elements common to both philosophers, which are not very visible at
first sight, but which nevertheless constitute the common basis on
which undeniable antagonisms are elaborated" (p. 1).

What is this common basis? It is that of overcoming the separation
between subject and object in traditional thought, overcoming subject/
object dualism, by recognizing the role of history in individual and
collective human life, and rethinking the relation between theory and
practice. As Michael wrote, Heidegger reexamined the traditional
philosophical distinction between an object (a being) and what it
*is* (its Being), and rejected both idealism and essentialism to
argue that what an object is (and not just what it 'means') is
defined by the human social practices in which it is involved, and in
which people encounter it. These practices, of course, change over
historical time, so the conditions for an object to 'be' are
practical, social, and historical. And since people define themselves
in terms of the objects they work with, the basis of human being is
practical, social, and historical too.

I continue to believe that this new kind of ontological analysis,
visible according to Goldmann in the work of both Lukacs and
Heidegger, influenced in both cases by Hegel, is centrally important.
If we can learn from studying Heidegger how to acknowledge these
cultural conditions without falling into a valorization of the folk,
without dissolving individuals in the collective (a failing of the
Left just as much as the Right), then we will have gained, not lost,
by reading his texts.


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