Whitehead vs Heidegger (2): History of Philosophy

Note: I am using the list of 6 points of difference between Whitehead and Heidegger that Shaviro gives at the beginning of his WITHOUT CRITERIA to articulate why I am disappointed with ALL THINGS SHINING, despite its many congenial ideas. At first sight ATS is a pluralist work expounding the existence of a plurality of incommensurable understandings of being and the consequent absence of universal transhistorical norms of action (or even of perception). This first aspect (a non-foundationalist, anti-essentialist, anti-monist vision of the history of the West) is undermined by a series of orientations that either weaken or contradict this pluralist vision.

2)History of Philosophy: Pinning-down vs Twisting

For Shaviro Heidegger has a unilateral vision of the history of philosophy, trying to show « where it closed down the possibilities it should have opened up ». Whitehead, on the other hand, appreciates the complexity of the past, its multivalence, and can find pluralist gestures even in Plato and Descartes. Different understandings of being ( or « images of thought », as Deleuze calls them) coexist in the same thinker and in the same epoch. Heidegger is structuralist: he tries to pin down the structures that scand the history of philosophy (and,more generally, the history of our understandings of being). Hence the appeals by Dreyfus and Kelly to Thomas Kuhn and his notions of paradigm and gestalt-switch. Whitehead is poststructuralist: he tries to follow the multiple twists and turns that traverse the history of philosophy and that render the grand incommensurabilities permeable. On this reading Whitehead is closer to Deleuze and to Feyerabend than to Bourdieu and Kuhn.

ATS is ambiguous about this divide. In broad outline it is a « structuralist » treatise establishing the existence of successive incommensurable understandings of being, and overcoding that succession with a grand story of decline towards nihilism (such a grand story is one way of recommensurating the incommensurable). Yet, another theme of the book is the existence of « marginal practices », survivances in one understanding of being of practices that embody aspects of other older understandings and that can serve not just as relics of the old but as points of resistance to the dominant understanding and as seeds of renewal. This is the poststructuralist thread of ATS, and it is this which gives a transformative sense to the otherwise nostalgic and reactive notion of « luring back ». Creative retrieval (or transformative « luring back ») does not aim at edifying a new macro-understanding of being to supplant our currently hegemonic technological understanding and expel all other practices to the margins. « Luring back the gods » may well be too evocative of some Greek macro-structure, and Dreyfus and Kelly replace it sometimes with the more molecular slogan « luring back the shining things ».

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7 commentaires pour Whitehead vs Heidegger (2): History of Philosophy

  1. dmf dit :

    human subjects undergo tears in the fabric of their lives, tears that, in
    principle, allow not simply for new choices of objects of desire, but rather
    for the radical restructuring of the coordinates of desire, for genuine changes
    of direction in life. Ethical consistency will mean something like the creation
    of new fabric out of a tear. (Santner, Neighbors)

    Aimé par 1 personne

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