Wednesday, January 6, 2016
On fathoming the unfathomable.......
I have this nagging suspicion that for the past fifty-odd years I have been dismissing Heidegger's question as total twaddle without ever really trying it on for size. Martin Heidegger was a twentieth-century German existentialist who focused - if hundreds of pages of dense, enigmatic prose can be called a focus - on the concept of being. As much as I can grasp his question, I gather that he is not asking why some things exist and others do not, or even asking what is is that causes something to exist and what constitutes its existence. No, he is after even bigger game than that. Heidegger is asking us to confront the idea that existence itself can be called into question, and this, he believes, is the ultimate philosophical question. He writes, "To philosophize is to ask 'Why are there things that are rather than nothing?' Really to ask this question signifies: a daring attempt to fathom this unfathomable question by disclosing what it summons us to ask, to push our questioning to the very end. Where such an attempt occurs there is philosophy."
-Daniel Klein, as excerpted from Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life
Ed. note: Heidegger's quote and question come from his Introduction to Metaphysics, where in he also apparently says, "It is absolutely correct and proper to say that `You can't do anything with philosophy.' ... For the rejoinder imposes itself: granted that WE cannot do anything with philosophy, might not philosophy, if we concern ourselves with it, do something WITH US?"