Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Blog Appendix 1: Primer For Heidegger's Holderlin

Holderlin Primer

To finish off this Blog/Diary of my thoughts on religion, existentialism and phenomenology from over the past year and a half, as promised, I will be doing an appendix of four book reviews of Heidegger's books on Holderlin's poetry.   Here is the primer for those upcoming book reviews

(A) Holderlin (Some thoughts from Wikipedia)

-   "When my second father died, whose love for me I shall never forget, when I felt, with an incomprehensible pain, my orphaned state and saw, each day, your grief and tears, it was then that my soul took on, for the first time, this heaviness that has never left and that could only grow more severe with the years."
-  In 1788, he read Schiller's Don Carlos on Luise Nast's recommendation. Hölderlin later wrote a letter to Schiller regarding Don Carlos, stating: "It won't be easy to study Carlos in a rational way, since he was for so many years the magic cloud in which the good god of my youth enveloped me so that I would not see too soon the pettiness and barbarity of the world."
 -  In 1789, Hölderlin broke off his engagement with Luise Nast, writing to her: "I wish you happiness if you choose one more worthy than me, and then surely you will understand that you could never have been happy with your morose, ill-humoured, and sickly friend," and expressed his desire to transfer out and study law but succumbed to pressure from his mother to remain in the Stift.  
- His mandated separation from Susette Gontard also worsened Hölderlin's doubts about himself and his value as a poet; he wished to transform German culture but did not have the influence he needed.
 -  At his home in Nürtingen with his mother, a devout Christian, Hölderlin melded his Hellenism with Christianity and sought to unite ancient values with modern life; in Hölderlin's elegy Brod und Wein ("Bread and Wine"), Christ is seen as sequential to the Greek gods, bringing bread from the earth and wine from Dionysus
-He understood and sympathised with the Greek idea of the tragic fall, which he expressed movingly in the last stanza of his "Hyperions Schicksalslied" ("Hyperion's Song of Fate").

(B) Holderlin in his “Hyperion's Song of Fate” says the following:

Radiant the gods' mild breezes/Gently play on you/As the girl artist's fingers/On
holy strings. - Fateless the Heavanly breathe/Like an unweaned infant
asleep;/Chastely preserved/In modest bud/For even their minds/Are in flower/And
their blissful eyes/Eternally tranquil gaze Eternally clear. - But we are fated/to
find no foothold, no rest,/ And suffering mortals/ Dwindle and fall/ Headlong
from one/ Hour to the next/ Hurled like water/From ledge to ledge/Downward for
years to the vague abyss. (Heidegger, Heraclitus Seminar, 101)

Eugen Fink and Heidegger, commenting on the meaning of the passage, say the following, "the gods wander without destiny, their spirit eternally in bloom, while humans lead a restless life and fall
into the cataract of time and disappear." (Heidegger, Heraclitus Seminar, 101).

Compare this with the David Farrell Krell translation of Homer when Apollo says
'"Why should I do battle for the sake of mere mortals!' exclaims the sun god, 'mortals, who are as wretched as the leaves on the trees, flourishing at first, enjoying the fruits of the earth, but then, deprived of heart (akerioi), vanishing (Iliad, 21.528-530) ... Vanishing how? Akerioi, as ... those who are deprived of [heart] (trns David Farell Krell, PAH, Kalypso, 105)." 

 Translated a little more interpretively, though less literally, I would offer: Apollo says:
"Why should I do battle for the sake of mere mortals!' exclaims the sun god, 'mortals, who are as wretched as the leaves on the trees, flourishing at first, enjoying the fruits of the earth, but then, no longer with their hearts in the goings on of life (akerioi), fade into the background."

 To combat this, Aristotle said contemplation or theoria is a kind of athanatizein, a soul eternally in youthful bloom,

“Aristotle, Plato's disciple, relates at one place[31] the basic conception determining the Greek view on the essence of the thinker: 'It is said they (the thinkers) indeed know things that are excessive, and thus astounding, and thereby difficult, and hence in general 'demonic (daimonia)' - but also useless, for they are not seeking what is, according to the straightforward popular opinion, good for man.' ... The Greeks, to whom we owe the essence and name of 'philosophy' and of the 'philosopher,' already knew quite well that thinkers are not 'close to life.' But only the Greeks concluded from this lack of closeness to life that the thinkers are then the most necessary -precisely in view of the essential misery of man.” (Heidegger, Parmenides, P, 100)

Perhaps a great culprit regarding this was the tragic Greek understanding of death that cast a pall over their lives.   Achilles, a great hero of the Iliad, would rather “live working as a wage-labourer for hire by some other man, one who had no land and not much in the way of livelihood, than lord it over all the wasted dead” (Homer, 11.380, 624-28).  It was a primary concern of the Philosophers to change the Homeric interpretation of death.

In the ode to man in Sophocles's Antigone, Sophocles calls man homeless (deinon/apolis).  Humans strive for the homely (parestios, the one in the satiety of the warmth of the hearth fire), but this is precisely what is never realized – deinon/apolis.  Sophocles’ ode to man says “Many things are uncanny (deina), but nothing more so than man.”  We lose ourselves in endless distractions, but can never escape what Heidegger calls the monstrous essence within us:

Heidegger/Psychiatrist Medard Boss explain : "Our patients force us to see the human being in his essential ground because the modem neuroses of boredom and meaninglessness can no longer be drowned out by glossing over or covering up particular symptoms of illness. If one treats those symptoms only, then another symptom will emerge again and again ... They no longer see meaning in their life and ... they have become intolerably bored." Heidegger and Boss, Zollikon Seminars, 160  

For Hegel, in contrast with Husserl, Phenomenology is about dis-closing from hiddenness.  In his 1816 Heidelberg lecture, Hegel famously said "The essence of the universe, at first hidden and concealed, has no power to offer resistance to the courageous search for knowledge."  Heidegger elaborates on Hegel's thoughts here by pointing out:

 "In modern times, sunsets are now only for ‘poets’ and ‘lovers.’  The enchantment of the world has been displaced by another enchantment.  The new enchantment is now ‘physics’ itself as an outstanding achievement of the human.  The human now enchants himself through himself."  The modern human is now what is enchanting (Heidegger, Heraclitus Inception, 41)

This perhaps will connect to what Hoderlin talks in the poems about the flight of the gods.  But what is a God?

The 2-part System Fully Actualized: By Logic, Hegel meant the unity of Ontology and Speculative Theology, "Speculative Theology" pertaining not to traditional theology per se, but the "ens realissimum" or highest actuality.  The Phenomenology of Spirit was to provide foundation for this metaphysics.  Regarding Hegel's thoughts on God, Heidegger summarizes:

 “In its formal meaning, pantheism means: pan-theos, "Every thing God"; everything stands in relation to God; all beings are in relation to the ground of beings. This ground as the One, hen is as ground what everything else, pan, is in it, in the ground. Hen kai pan. The One is also the whole and the whole is also the One. (Hen kai pan, this followed Heraclitus's fragment hen panta einai, nr. 50, and was according to the spirit of the time the chosen motto of the three young Swabian friends, Schelling, Hegel, and Holderlin.) (Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on Human Freedom, 68).”

The first two Hymns of Holderlin Heidegger will be looking at are Germania and The Rhine.  Can we see hints in Holderlin’s first poem that something might be amiss with humanity?  He writes:

For shame is fitting for mortals,
And thus  to speak most of the time,
Of gods is also wise (strophe VI, lines 87ff)

Greek distinguished shame in the bad sense of "disgrace, dishonor" (aiskhyne) from shame in the good sense of "modesty, bashfulness" (aidos).

 Holderlin is concerned with the commencement of who we are, not the beginning.  Analogously, Heidegger makes the point that the Great War began with certain events, but had its commencement centuries earlier. 

Holderlin wanted to change culture.  Let's see how!

NB.  Keeping a blog or diary throughout a course of study can be great for students in focusing on core material; as part of the writing process; publishing with pride and sharing with friends, family, and other students; debating with those who read the blog; and countless other applications!

Friday, December 6, 2019



Dear Reader,

The preceding blog is dedicated to the memory of Martin Heidegger, who, as Dr. Murray Miles of Brock University once pointed out to me, was one of the Great Philosophers, on the level of Kant and Aristotle.  It is also dedicated to my friend and mentor, the late Dr. David Goicoechea of Brock University, who suggested to me that if I really wanted to understand Contemporary Continental Philosophy, I needed to tackle the issue of Heidegger and presence.

Yours Truly,

John Andrew MacDonald

December 6, 2019, excitedly anticipating Christmas!

Sunday, November 10, 2019


If Ethics is to be First Philosophy and First Religion, not just a component of Philosophy and Religion but the ground of both, the question needs to be answered "What is JUSTICE?"


(1) Aesthetics: The term "definition" is ambiguous, and can refer to a generalized all-encompassing concept, like the Definition of Virtue in the dictionary. By contrast, it can mean "encountering" a general concept, like when we say Mother Teresa was the very Definition of Virtue, or Jesus defined Love (Agape). Aesthetics shows we vividly understand concepts when we encounter them, not just when we try to generalize a concept into words. So, the first time we stand before the majesty of Niagara Falls, we may experience "Now this is Nature," it is Nature itself, as though the God Nature was showing through the Falls. Nature personified. Nature incarnate. The Falls as an Avatar of Nature. Similarly, we say of a work by Leonardo or Mozart "Now this is Art!" Or, upon seeing the Beauty of your first L G B T Q wedding, "Now This is Justice!" It is still very questionable, for instance, as to what the relationship between a dictionary "definition" of Justice is, and some thing or event "being" the definition of Justice!  

By contrast, it was Nietzsche's genius to point out with The Eternal Return that the force of being fades.  I, for instance, grew up around Niagara Falls, and am too used to it to notice its majesty.  Similarly, presencing depends on the person, since a person may encounter a celebrated piece by Mozart as boring and irritating.  Heidegger points out: "It is not to all that the gods appear "enargeis [argos, radiantly]" (Odyssey 16:161): Eg., I might experience the painting "AS THOUGH" it was an avatar that ART ITSELF was presencing through = "Now this is Art!," though the person beside me might experience the painting as amateurish. .  

(2) There is great explanatory power in a "threefold" explanation. In outlining concepts, we like to get an 1 Example, 2 Exemplar, and 3 Avatar. So, in understanding basketball, we need to be able to think of examples of basketball players, exemplary players that exhibit all the traits of a good player, like Larry Bird, but then to fully conceptualize we need an exemplary player like Michael Jordan who so fundamentally understood the game that he changed how the game was played, and in that difference co-posited what basketball meant (his play exhibited the Essence of basketball). Gretzky did something similar at hockey, and no one had a more revolutionary impact on the world than Jesus. A threefold interpretation is a very powerful interpretation to foster understanding: Ecclesiastes 4:12 said "And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

(3) For the Greeks, the eidos is what is encountered prior to the actual thing at hand, such as the look of the table that the carpenter has in mind before the production begins. Regardless of knowing the definition, I have "strawberry" before my mind, and so return from market with the right fruit. In this light, phenomenologically, one doesn't really create the definition of justice as dis-cover it.

As said above, "It is not to all that the gods appear "enargeis [argos, radiant]" (Odyssey 16:161): Eg., I might experience the painting "AS THOUGH" it was an avatar that ART ITSELF was presencing through = "Now this is Art!," though the person beside me might experience the painting as amateurish.

Plato also uses enargestata along with ekphanestaton and erasmiotaton in the Phaedrus to characterize the Beautiful: "Now this is a house!" - a radiance of an avatar that is not simply visible, but rather an invisible (Heraclitus - aphanes) appearing. Consider the beauty of Justice conveyed at your first LGBTQ wedding! Consider too Nietzsche's point of how fleeting this presencing is ...

(4) GOD
Levinas: In the suffering of widow, orphan, stranger, and enemy we sense God in the awakening of an Infinite Responsibility in us that our ability to act never measures up to. Derrida: We take a leap of faith and act though there is never enough time, precedence, info, etc, and there might always be unintended violence. Deconstruction is Justice!

Vance Morgan: "But imagine a community or a society with governing practices and policies infused with the energy, not of the Ten Commandments, but of the Beatitudes. Imagine a legislative body whose guiding north star was the mercy and compassion of the Beatitudes rather than the cold and clinical justice of the Ten Commandments. How would such a community’s or society’s attitudes and policies concerning the poor, the disenfranchised, those who are struggling, those who have fallen through the cracks, change as it learned to see such “unfortunates” not as a problem, but rather as the very face of God?"

ASSIGNMENT: Act out What and How JUSTICE is ("The Same, Apprehending as well as Being" - Parmenides)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Blog Unit Test

                                               BLOG UNIT TEST

* Nota Bene: This blog represents a Unit of Study in the R.A.F.T format of writing in role as a Sith Lord from Star Wars.  It mostly deals with issues of interest to students of Heidegger and Nietzsche, but also addresses such topics as (fittingly for a Sith) deception, religion and popular culture.  As someone with a background in Education would notice, I wrote with an approach addressing Multiple Intelligences (interests and aptitudes), the various levels of Blooms Taxonomy, De Bono's thinking hats, and the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. higher order thinking methods. 

                                          Selected Reflection Questions

1.  This first post outlines the Noble Lies model of Christian Origins: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2018/03/examining-easter-peering-behind-veil-of.html .  Interpretive hermeneutic models account for the evidence, explain it, and attempt to explain away any apparently recalcitrant evidence.  This is their limit.  Even the best (most explanatory) models may encounter ambiguities in the text, and multiple interpretations may be the result.  Summarize the arguments marshaled in favor of the Noble Lie model, and explain why this model, while possible, is not probable.

2.  With Postmodernism as a concept, Derrida tried to restore weight to marginalized and ignored voices, whether ethically, in texts, etc.  What are some of the presuppositions this blog points out Postmodernism emphasizes that we bring to texts we are reading (eg., see this post: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2018/10/postmodernism-and-biblical-hermeneutics.html ) ?

3.  Phenomenology, as Heidegger uses the term, refers to the fourfold intentio, intentum, perceivedness of the perceive, and disclosing of the always, already implicit into explicitness.  Discuss this using such ideas as Heraclitus's phrase physis kryptesthai philei -> "a-letheia" and Hegel's example of the torn sock.

4.  Why does Heidegger's research imply intentionality (directed awareness) involves a fundamental being-addicted.  Why has this become exacerbated in modern times?

5.  Explain the relationship between Being as Essentia and Existentia, and how this helps us to understand Time (eg., Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence)

6.  Compare and Contrast the Evil of The Joker with the Evil of Palpatine to outline a phenomenological (descriptive) spectrum of Evil.

7.  How does Boredom/Langweile help us to understand time, and outline Time as (1) Coming from the future, into the present, and passing away into the past, and conversely (2)  Marching forward as an endless series of Nows going toward the future, (3) Painfully Stretching Out in Boredom/Langeweile, and (4) Vanishing as time flies when we're having fun (or completely vanishing in a brief chemically induced coma like general anesthesia where even the creative power of the mind to create time in dreams is blocked).

8.  Thinking about the Noble Lie model of Christian Origins again, outline the possible relationship between Jesus and the impaled, just man of book 2 of Plato's Republic.

9.  As I go through this blog, there is a lot of reposting, revision, etc.  What does this show about the writing process?

10.  Starting on Tuesday May 7, 2019, I began blogging through Richard Polt's anthology on Heidegger's Being and Time.  Imagine that you never read Being and Time, and only had these posts from the anthology to go by.  Briefly explain what Heidegger is up to in Being and Time.

11.  This is a post I did on teaching Philosophy to children: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2019/05/picture-book-philosophy.html .  Is Philosophy fundamentally esoteric, or can it be framed so that even a child can understand it?

12.  What clues to the ancient experience of Being can we glean from the way Language (eg., grammar, syntax, etymology) was constructed by them?

13.  Explain the challenges Heideggerian Continental Philosophy reveals for Cognitive Scientists trying to model the mind for Artificial Intelligence.

14.  Outline a Phenomenology of the everyday experience of Space and Time.

15.  Two critiques I offered of the traditional interpretation of Time included:

(a)  As we can see, Einstein's point that the division between past, present, and future as illusory may have serious merit.  Take the experience of time as stretching out in Langeweile/Boredom.  Does this feeling of the stretching out of time represent external reality?  In a way it does, because I really do experience boringness as a characteristic of the TV show.  But on the other hand, we know this drawing out of time is entirely subjective, because we understand that there is nothing about the show that demands a person "must" find it boring.  "Boringness or Langeweile" does not pertain to "what" the show is (a baseball game, for instance), but rather to the "manner or how" I am experiencing it.  Similarly, in my expecting (intentio) the lecture (intentum) later tonight, the "later-ness" of the lecture doesn't pertain to the being of the lecture, because it would be the same lecture if it was given in the past, or being given right now.  There is nothing in my experience right now that gives evidence the lecture actually will take place later, because the Prof could always cancel class, or the sun could explode, etc.  Similarly, there really isn't any reality to the past, but the past is simply what is gone, and provides the illusion of reality because of the force it presents itself with in memory.  All there ever really "is" is in the present in human experience.
(b) In general, we can say: Heidegger said we experience that 1. Time flows forward (two more days and I will make it to Christmas); 2. Time flows backward (Christmas is coming; is here; has passed into the past); 3. Time Stretches (in Langeweile/boredom); and 4. Time Vanishes in enjoyment!
 If time is a real objective something, how can it simultaneously flow forward and backward? It's not that Time is contradicting itself, but that we are experiencing a stretching from two different points of view, and an understanding of spatial relations are tacitly being employed.
For instance, imagine you are on a soccer field with your friend, and you kick the ball to her. If you consciously or unconsciously fix the point when the ball was kicked, mentally stretching from that point as the ball moves, and count as it rolls to her, you can experience the going forward in time as the ball moves away from you. Conversely, if she kicks the ball back to you, you can feel the approaching of the ball in time as it comes to you, arrives, and passes by if you miss it. The point is that we can feel time moving forward, just as we can feel it coming back to us, but in order to do this we must fix a reference point and experience the stretching. If there is no counter, there is no counted. 
What do you consider to be the most interesting commonality/contrast when we compare the everyday experience of time with the endless procession of Nows moving toward the future of "Clock Time?"

16.  How does my writing in role as a Sith affect the Voice of this blog?  What is Voice in writing (consider the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing model)?  Why do you think this blog repeatedly indicates that it is on the last post, but then keeps coming up with new posts?

******** Hint for answering: This is not a memory test designed to see who is the best at recalling and regurgitating material.  The late, great Heidegger scholar Hubert Dreyfus said the key is always to return to the phenomena.  Phenomenology is about describing the Phenomena, so if you are unsure about whether your description is reasonable, re-examine the phenomenon (eg., Time) to see what the Phenomenon is dis-closing (a-letheia) itself to be!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Veni, Vidi, Vici

As Heidegger said, any translation is an interpretation, and it's easy to criticize a translation, but not so easy to come up with one of your own.  Veni, Vidi, Vici is Latin for a saying attributed to Julius Caesar meaning "I came, I saw, I conquered."  Less literally, one might translate "I came, I oversaw, I conquered."  

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!

*As those of you who are around my age would remember, that's what you would see at the end of a G. I. Joe cartoon when we were kids.  Hope you liked the show!  And remember, only you can prevent forest fires!