The centrality that Sean Kelly in his recent posts on the ALL THINGS SHINING blog gives to the notions of the « gift » and of « gratitude » would seem to indicate his dependence on a very questionable set of ideas coming from Martin Heidegger. In particular, it resonates with Heidegger’s concept of thinking as thanking, as developed in his WHAT IS CALLED THINKING?
Frankly, I don’t believe that thinking has anything to do with thanking, most of the time. Heidegger had an overly sacralising approach to the German language, where the words « denken » (thinking) and « danken » (thanking) are so close.This closeness is also the case for the corresponding English words. However, this proximity should not be seen to have universal import, as it is absent in other languages.
For example, the contemporary French philosopher Bernard Stiegler published a book in 2018 with the title QU’APPELLE-T-ON PANSER?. This deliberately echoes the French title of Heidegger’s book, QU’APPELLE-T-ON PENSER, which is pronounced exactly the same. Stiegler .draws on his native French and the identity in pronunciation between “penser” (to think) and “panser” (to dress a wound, to tend to, but also more generally to take care of, to attend to), and tells us that “penser” is “panser”, i.e. to think is to take care of, to care for, to pay careful attention to.
Despite the danger of word magic stemming from the reification of the specificities of one’s native language, I am much more in accordance with Stiegler’s idea of thinking as caring.
« Caring » is the more generic concept, in that thanking is only one way among others of attending to.
I have been devoting my recent to posts on AGENT SWARM to a dialogue with the ideas expressed on the ALL THINGS SHINING blog, because Sean Kelly’s new project, THE PROPER DIGNITY OF HUMAN BEING, seems to be going to some degree in the sense of my own project, towards a generic pluralism.
For the moment Sean Kelly has been writing in a fairly non-technical language, without explicit bibliographical references, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss and explore philosophical ideas in a non-partisan manner.
Yet the spectre of Heidegger haunts the dialogue and the future book, as Kelly’s subtitle – Notes and Reflections from the Later Heidegger – suggests. I think it would be a shame if the departure for a voyage into the open exploration of a new generic vocabulary for expressing human phenomena were closed off in advance by a very specific idea of the destination.