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Exeunt Heidegger, enter Voegelin

The last couple of days have seem me switch my attention away from Heidegger, and back to Voegelin. Stambaugh translation or no, reading the benighted swami of the Black Forest leaves me rather unmoved, and uninterested. For all the talk of fundamental ontology, he's yet to present a convincing portrait of existential and experiential phenomena that would provide a reasonable account of human life. Quite frankly, attempting to found "authenticity" and movements towards transcendence upon the de-worlding experience of moods like angst seems incredibly trite, and frankly smells of Nietzsche's dull, old assessment of Socrates.

It's also silly that he never seems to address the issue of the experiential development of understanding and attunement. It may be fine to say the inarticulate understanding underlies all explicit interpretation of phenomena at hand and their meaning, but it doesn't do much to account for how a child, for instance, first develops an understanding of the significance of things at hand, let alone her ability to distinguish forms from one another (cue vague hand-waving about the "they self", "moods", and the "as structure"). For all of Dreyfus' Heidegger-boosting and his poo-pooing of the Greeks, they did a better job of accounting for the ways in which children (and adults, for that matter) actually learn. As a consequence, my opinion remains that they provide a better account of thinking. I have the image of Heidegger stumbling around in a cave, cracking his shines against protruding rocks, and shouting back to his stumbling and beleaguered followers, "We're all being philosophers now! This is fundamental ontology; never mind the concussions!"

Reading Heidegger has been a chore. Reading Voegelin actually proves enjoyable and interesting. 'Still thinking through the bits regarding the paradoxical structures of consciousness, and reflective distancing.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 10th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
<http://www.jstor.org/stable/40059711>Shenkman</a> may prove useful to you on Voegelin's reflective distancing. At least he uses one of Voegelin's favorite books to work with (Tristram Shandy).

Agree with you about Heidegger. He was an early influence on Voegelin, but fortunately superseded. To me, the experience was like stirring up dust: sure, you can get some interesting patterns. But you'll cough too much for it to matter.
Aug. 12th, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
Thanks kindly for the reference; I'll take a look at it when I have a spare moment. At the moment, I'm thinking over Voegelin's final exegesis of Hesiod, and his reading of Mnemosyne as a symbol of reflective distancing. I won't be able to say whether I broadly agree or not until I've studied Hesiod again, and reflected upon it myself.

Regarding Heidegger, I haven't ever heard whether Voegelin ever deigned to have any association or correspondence with him after that whole unfortunate business with the National Socialists. My understanding is that Jaspers, Arendt, and Strauss all came to some sort of terms with Heidegger over the years. Given Voegelin's absolute lack of toleration for ideological thinking (let alone Nazism) though, it wouldn't be at all surprising if no meeting of minds ever transpired.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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