Friday, July 5, 2019

The Heart of Heidegger's Nietzsche: Eternal Recurrence as Existentia and Will to Power as Essentia

Heidegger’s Nietzsche: Eternal Return as Existentia and Will To Power as Essentia

ABSTRACT: This article looks at Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence to see the metaphysical forces underlying modern frenetic jumping from thing to thing that is realized in such cultural problems as smart phone addiction.  It also explores Will to Power as what allows thinking/experiencing "essence"

Introduction: Existentia and Essentia

The Essentia/Existentia distinction is the traditional determination of the Being of beings in Western Philosophy/Metaphysics.  So, for instance, a table may be brown and hard in terms of its Essentia, “what” it is (taken in its most general sense), and ‘poorly positioned’ in terms of its Existentia, “how” or the manner in which it is.  Thoughtful apprehension also has this “what/how” structure.  Heidegger comments that:

"That is, we will proceed step by step toward ‘what’ is meant in the concepts and toward the ‘way’ they are formed and grounded.  It will thereby become evident ‘what’ these lectures are dealing with, as well as ‘how’ they interrogate and investigate the objects, the mode of dealing with them (Heidegger, Basic Concepts Of Ancient Philosophy, 1, my emphasis).” 

Heidegger considers Nietzsche to be the last metaphysician because Heidegger thinks Nietzsche to have fulfilled the Essence (What) / Existence (How/Manner) metaphysical position.  In his recently published 1964/65 lecture course on Heidegger, Derrida zeroes in on this and says "Heidegger tries to show that being as such in its essence is will to power, and in its existence Eternal Return of the Same (Derrida, Heidegger and the Question of Being and History, 42)."  Derrida then quotes Heidegger that:

"The essential relation between the 'will to power' and the 'eternal return of the same' must be thought in this way; however we cannot yet represent it here directly because metaphysics has neither considered nor even inquired about the origin of the distinction between 'essentia' and 'existentia.' " (Heidegger, "Nietzsche's Word: God Is Dead," in Off the Beaten Track, 178 - cited by Derrida in "Heidegger: The Question of Being & History," 43).  

It is scarcely pondered that the traditional twofold Being of beings are actually answers to the question “what” and “how.”

(1) Eternal Return of the Same

Characterizing The Eternal Return, Nietzsche says:

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science)

By Eternal Return of the Same in Nietzsche, Heidegger understands that the ultimate existential or “how”  of beings is that we encounter them as though we have encountered them countless times before, and so the luster they have for us is potentially in danger.  Heidegger comments that "The way Nietzsche here patterns the first communication of the thought of the 'greatest burden' [of eternal recurrence] makes it clear that this 'thought of thoughts' is at the same time 'the most burdensome thought.' (Heidegger, Nietzsche, v2, 25)"

Following Heidegger’s lead here, I take issue with the usual interpretation of the Eternal Recurrence as simply being (merely, although it is this too) an idiosyncratic cosmological idea, because it is hard to see how such a conception, in and by itself, would in any sane sense be the "heaviest weight" ("das schwerste Gewicht").  This is especially true, as I say in my paper, when we have a perfectly good historical analogy for the Eternal Recurrence from a book Nietzsche himself alluded to, namely in Ecclesiastes: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).”

 Nietzsche expresses the thought when he says “"Everything has returned. Sirius, and the spider, and thy thoughts at this moment, and this last thought of thine that all things will return". At greater length, Nietzsche writes

"Whoever thou mayest be, beloved stranger, whom I meet here for the first time, avail thyself of this happy hour and of the stillness around us, and above us, and let me tell thee something of the thought which has suddenly risen before me like a star which would fain shed down its rays upon thee and every one, as befits the nature of light. - Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, - a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of the cosmic process. And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon". (Notes on the Eternal Recurrence - Vol. 16 of Oscar Levy Edition of Nietzsche's Complete Works (in English).  In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche calls The Eternal Return the fundamental concept of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Let’s consider this in relation to some of Heidegger’s thoughts on Time.

Heidegger argues on the one hand, we say "I just have to make it through a few more days of work and I'll make it to Christmas," as though from birth Time for us simply proceeds forward as an endless succession of Nows moving from the indeterminate past onward to the future.  This is the average, everyday understanding of time that was left unclarified by Heidegger’s teacher Husserl as to its structure.  Husserl simply took this as the basic ground of human experience: the living present.  By contrast, Heidegger says that we live in such a way that we deny the finitude presented in experience.  Heidegger says:“[C]onsciousness betrays its essence: at the same time, to be already that which it is not yet.”    Heidegger’s thought is that the 'simple present' is not the ground of lived experience (contra Husserl), but rather the present is in fact constituted as a more primordial being futural.  This does not mean a constant fear of death, but rather that a person in the moment projects him/herself into a future that is in fact closed off, and makes his/her decisions in the moment ‘as though’ this future isn’t cut off.  There is a being-toward-death in our experience of the present.  For instance, I reach out for the glass in thirst ‘as though’ my hand will reach the glass.  It is not an active question in my everyday dealings that the next moment might be denied, even though it quite clearly could be.

On the other hand, the being of time is also un-covered in the opposite direction, where time flows with a telos of the Past.  This sense is revealed to us on important occasions such as when we experience that Christmas is coming, as though Time moves in the opposite direction from (i), starting from the future (Christmas is coming), moving into the present (Christmas is here), and passing away into the past when Christmas is over.

Also, phenomenologically, we can coax the creative, constructive power of the mind in creating the experience of time out of hiding (a-letheia) in the "privative (in the absence of time)."  So, we say, and experience, that "Time flies when you are having fun."  Also, when you go under general anesthetic (a type of chemically induced coma) for minor surgery, you drift off to sleep, and awaken in what seems like the next instant an hour or so later, not having experienced any passing of time.  Many patients report that undergoing general anesthesia is a surreal experience—and practically no one remembers anything between when the medication is administered and waking up in the recovery room.   So, our experience of time is fundamentally dependant on how the mind is acting on itself.

Conversely, and this is how Heidegger understands Nietzsche, we say Time is like an extended present, such as when we are enduring the drawing out of time in boredom (Langeweile, as German aptly conveys).  This stretching out of time that fundamentally underlies human experience and is manifested in melancholy, boredom and depression, can be phenomenologically coaxed out of hiding when we are separated from beings.  With boredom, for instance, you can imagine doing your afternoon workout by yourself and without music/T.V. to help pass the time.  Certainly, if we don't have these distractions, contemporary people experience a boredom, a stretching out of time while exercising.  Similarly, try going on a driving trip by yourself and without music.  Again, recall a time when something you are waiting for is late (eg., a friend, train, plane), and how you become acutely aware of the drawing out of time as you wait.  And importantly, remember being naughty as a child and getting punished by being separated from beings and made to sit in the corner facing the wall in a "Time Out," and how the stretching out of time afflicted you.  Or, reflect on a time when you had “Cabin Fever,” and how this showed how addicted to novelty you are.  Further, consider how the misplacement of your cell phone caused you to have to endure the monotony/anxiety of the day in a way that simply didn't happen when you were younger and had not yet become addicted to smartphones.  As Heidegger said, our being-addicted to beings is getting worse, not better with the contemporary age, which doctors try to bandage with processes like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness Meditation.

Nietzsche pointed to this “cabin fever” present in human experience that is separated from novelty even before “cabin fever” was a term in Language.  He also thought of the Philosophical way of life as a way to overcome it. Nietzsche comments that “He who fortifies himself completely against boredom fortifies himself against himself too. He will never drink the most powerful elixir from his own innermost spring. (Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human : The Wanderer and His Shadow, 200. THE SOLITARY SPEAKS).” In a letter to Overbeck, Nietzsche commented that:

"terrible rain the last several days, everyone's suffering cabin fever [sehr ungeduldig] - that is the way it is in this isolated place.  Only I don't share it since I am busy thinking about and finishing my new work [the third Untimely Meditation].  Engaged in that, one lives in a different place where one doesn't have anything to do with rain any more." KGB 11.3 382 

The point is: Phenomenologically, in terms of phenomenological production, the more and more we separate ourselves from beings, the more we are able to produce/coax/force to the surface the monstrous Being of that being which we ourselves are.  Heidegger says that "[wjith open eyes [boredom] looks into our existence (albeit from a distance), and with this gaze already penetrates us and attunes us through and through ... [It is an] insidious creature that maintains its monstrous essence in our Dasein (Heidegger, Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 79)."   We are all a step back from life, never fully satiated - creative types more so than most.  Aristotle asked why all the great thinkers were melancholic?  We experience beings in such a way that we eventually experience them “as though” we have experienced them innumerable time before, and hence they lose their lustre.    

So called "Abnormal Psychology" such as severe anxiety driven OCD or profound boredom/depression neuroses are not best looked at by psychologists as a strict sick/normal separation as though it was a difference of kind, but rather psychologists today understand it to be a difference of degree: a continuum.  Pathological illness such as severe OCD and Boredom neuroses are philosophically interesting because they can act as a kind of exemplar, coaxing the silently hidden nature of "normal life" to the surface (physis kryptesthai philei: a-letheia = disclosing from hiddeness).  

For example, in the Zollikon Seminar Heidegger/Boss point out that:

"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/Boss, Zollikon Seminars, 160.)."

Nietzsche likewise comments that

“Against boredom even gods struggle in vain.” (The AntiChrist, Chapter 48)

“It is common to scare away boredom by every means, just as it is common to work without pleasure. (The Gay Science : First Book, 42. Work and Boredom).”

I think that by focusing on the centrality of boredom, Heidegger/Nietzsche are not simply fascinated by a pathology that is existentially unrelated to normal life, but rather is pointing to something underlying our modern frenetic jumping from thing to thing to thing.  This underlying boredom structure can be coaxed to the surface when we are separated from stimulus and novelty with such things as the agitation coaxed to the surface in cabin fever, or the fidgeting that is produced when a child is made to sit in a corner, facing the wall in Time Out.  Or consider what happens to people when they forget their smart phones at home and have to "endure" the day without the smart phone as a distraction: Smart Phone Addiction.  Heidegger doesn't characterize it in this way, but I think what he means is something like addiction withdrawal symptoms are produced when our being-addicted to novelty is suddenly faced with a disruption in the satiety.  This is amplified in the modern age, but was true in the past as well.    

Analogously, Ecclesiastes in the Bible emphatically proclaims all the actions of man to be inherently hevel, a word meaning "vain", "futile", […] as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death. While Ecclesiastes clearly endorses wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived senselessness, he suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's work, which are gifts from the hand of God. The book concludes with the injunction: "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone" (12:13).  We find a similar formulation to Nietzsche’s Eternal Return in Ecclesiastes with “Under the Sun.”  It is found in Ecclesiastes 1:9, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."  Ecclesiastes’s answer to tedium and pointlessness of life was to find satiety in God.  

Nietzsche raised the issue of how we are to deal with the situation without God?  The meaning is that even the luster of one who was a passionate lover fades, and becomes like a warn out recording of a favorite song.  The luster fades from being and we encounter them "as though" they have been encountered before, and in fact innumerable times before.  This is the tragic thought of the Eternal Return of the same.  This is the experience of time that lies hidden underneath normal existence, but which nonetheless can be forced to the stage such as with cabin fever, or a child's time out. 

Much in Nietzsche seems to allude to Ecclesiastes.  In Ecclesiastes, we read “I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl 2:17) since “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity” (Eccl 2:15) and “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl 1:14)

Similarly, Nietzsche has Zarathustra say in Part 3:

“What is the greatest thing that you can experience? It is the hour of your great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness turns to nausea and likewise your reason and your virtue.

The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my happiness? It is poverty and filth, and a pitiful contentment. But my happiness ought to justify existence itself!’

The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my reason? Does it crave knowledge like the lion its food? It is poverty and filth and a pitiful contentment!’

The hour in which you say: ‘What matters my virtue? It has not yet made me rage. How weary I am of my good and my evil! That is all poverty and filth and a pitiful contentment!”

Paul Hodge comments that:

The summary of the Book of Ecclesiastes is forewarning people that their insatiability for happiness will eventually end as a disastrous disappointment. Zarathustra reflects this same theme.  However, Ecclesiastes and Zarathustra give opposing solutions to man’s deliria.  In Ecclesiastes it concludes by saying this world is filled with unanswered questions and challenges. If this world is all there is, then all is vanity. The new direction, the way, truth and the light that will restore hope, is to worship God.

Heidegger comments on the essence of what Nietzsche taught that:

"You know that an assessment of the human situation in relation to the movement of nihilism and within this movement demands an adequate determination of the essential. Such knowledge is extensively lacking. This lack dims our view in assessing our situation. It makes a judgement concerning nihilism ready and easy and blinds us to the presence of 'this most uncanny of all guests' (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Outline. Werke, vol. XV, p. 141). It is called the 'most uncanny' [unheimlichste] because, as the unconditional will to will, it wills homelessness [Heimatlosigkeit] as such. This is why it is of no avail to show it the door, because it has long since been roaming invisibly inside the house (Pa, OQB, 292; also cf Pa, LH, 257)."Due to its instantiated nature, "[h]omelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world (Pa, LH, 258)."

Heidegger famously said “only a God can save us now.  We are addicted to the present and the novel, and so scarcely see the hidden unhomely/cabin fever (deinon/apolis/hupsipolis in Greek, homelessness) that underlies our general satiety (parestios, the one in the sphere of the warmth of the hearth fire in Greek).  Heraclitus says people are like well fed cattle.  Marx said religion was the Opium of the masses, whereas today we say "the new" is the opium of the masses: when a recording of a favorite song has become warn out, no worry, because another distraction is on the way.

Severe depression, compared with the average boredom that underlies experience, are not two different kinds, but differences of degrees.  Fundamental boredom drives us into beings, like a drug addict’s dark addiction drives her into cocaine, or a social media addict driven to her cell phone.  Human existence is understood by Heidegger, although he doesn’t characterize it in this way, as “Being-Addicted,” nursed in satiety by the light or luster of beings (but driven into the light out of a more primordial dark addiction).  This is even more exacerbated in the modern age than when Aristotle spoke of the brilliant melancholics of his time, with things like cell phone addiction. 
This dark restlessness, the stretching out of time of boredom which has always lain at the heart of who we are, has become exacerbated in the modern age.

Even the seeming escape of thoughtful inquiry is subject to this.  The later Heidegger speaks of the Greeks in terms of an “essential misery of man (Heidegger, Parmenides, 100),” and “the dreadful non-essence of all beings (Heidegger, Inception, 11).”  In the modern age, what was pleasurable for the Greeks, the process of thoughtful inquiry into Being that lead to a more primordial understanding of what was initially thought, is now experienced as tedious and irritating because it doesn’t lead to immediate, quantifiable results (Heidegger, Inception, 47, 48, 53).  Inquiry into Being uncovers that boredom and anxiety that resides at the core of humans.  Many things absorb us for a time, but nothing completely.  Heidegger comments that"[t]he deepest, essential need in Dasein is not that a particular actual need oppresses us, but that an essential oppressiveness refuses itself, that we scarcely apprehend and are scarcely able to apprehend this telling refusal of any oppressiveness as a whole" (Heidegger, Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 163-6)." 

Heidegger says It is in this being held back -distance from beings that gives us perspective about beings (seeing the forest despite the trees) and because of which we are able to comport ourselves to beings “as beings.” Regarding the link between not being caught up and lost in the everyday and having the perspective that facilitates genius, being able to see the forest despite the trees, for instance, in the Preface to the Second Edition of Wuthering Heights, in 1850, the great writer Charlotte Bronte wrote of her brilliant sister Emily:

“My sister's disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she knew them: knew their ways, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but WITH them, she rarely exchanged a word.”

Nietzsche comments that “Only the highest and most active animals are capable of being bored. The boredom of God on the seventh day of Creation would be a subject for a great poet. (Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human : The Wanderer and His Shadow, 56. INTELLECT AND BOREDOM.”   


The cultural issue of boredom and meaningless neuroses were in full swing among the youth of the mid 1990's - the early 2000's, just prior to the social media explosion.  Typical albums were The Smashing Pumpkins "Melancholie And The Infinite Sadness."  Lead singer Billy Corgan has said that the album is based on "the human condition of mortal sorrow". And there were anthems like "Longview"by Green Day."  A selection from Longview reads (pardon the crude language):

I sit around and watch the phone, but no one's calling
Call me pathetic, call me what you will
My mother says to get a job
But she don't like the one she's got
When masturbation's lost its fun
You're fucking lonely
Bite my lip and close my eyes
Take me away to paradise
I'm so damn bored, I'm going blind
And loneliness has to suffice

Analogously, the famous song "Common People" by the band "Pulp" in the 1990's poetized that you

Dance and drink and screw, Because there's nothing else to do.

But why did this zeitgeist of boredom and meaninglessness fade?  My thesis is that a new and stronger drug/distraction emerged: Social Media.  Psychologists have long known the addiction-like nature of being on social media.  You send out a comment, and then wait excitedly in anticipation for a response to come back, like a gambler pulling the arm of a slot machine.  If you don’t think you are addicted to social media, just try going without it for a day, and experience the withdrawal symptoms of anxiety and boredom.

And if this thesis is right, then we should see the symptoms that go along with traditional addiction on the rise.  And culturally, this is just what we do see.  Data indicates a sharp uptick in anxiety & depression among iGeners (born 1995/after).  Post 1995ers  were the first generation to deal with major exposure/addiction to Social Media.  Art Keller, Contributing Editor@The Technoskeptic, Writer on tech and Nat. Sec. Novelist, former CIA case officer, comments: "Smartphone manufactures/social media companies should face liability over this. The endless FOMO and chasing of likes, which were DELIBERATELY DESIGNED IN, drives teen girls in particular to depression and anxiety."  The Guardian reports an interesting new study showing people are happier without Social Media, like an alcoholic feeling release in sobriety:  And, The Washington Post reports Depression/Suicide and Addiction rates are all culturally on the rise:

Anyway, that's part of the reason I think Nietzsche is so important right now, because there is a real problem.  I was looking at my five month old nephew the other day and thought he will never really know himself because he will never know a world without the stimulation and distraction of the smart phone/social media narcotic.

(2) Will To Power as Essentia

Focusing in on and excluding aspects of the apeiron that is “essence” is what makes thinking essence possible.  Regarding the other distinction of Being (I talked about Existence above), not Existence, but Essence, Jaco Gericke points out Nietzsche says: “The answer to the question ‘What is that?’ is a process of fixing a meaning from a different standpoint. The “essence”, the “essential factor”, is something which is seen as a whole only in perspective, and which presupposes a basis which is multifarious (Nietzsche WTP:556).  This act of fixing a standpoint is Will to Power, and results in a plurality of points of view.  In a brief way, Gericke points out that:

To be precise, the problem here is, in the words of Bird (2009:497) in another context, “what it is to possess a property essentially is a matter of debate.” … That is  putting it mildly. Included here are (very crudely summarized) Socrates (essence as common properties), Plato (essence as archetype), Aristotle (essence as genus), Porphyry (essence as species), Boethius (essence vs. existence), Avicenna (essence as quiddity/whatness), Abelard (essence as semantic feature), Scotus (essence as haecceity/thisness), Descartes (essence as principle attribute), Locke (essence as sortal), Leibniz (essence as sufficient reason), Kant (essence vs. appearances), Hegel (essence in/as appearances), Nietzsche (only (non) appearances), Wittgenstein (essence as grammar), Husserl (essence as given), Heidegger (essence as being), Sartre (existence before essence),  Popper (essence as definitional fallacy), Quine (essence as accidents), Putnam (essence as stereotype), Kripke (essence as necessary properties), Derrida (“essence” vs. identity/difference), Deleuze (“essence” vs. difference/multiplicity) (see Gericke 2017).

It's not that there is a correct answer to “what” something is, but rather the apeiron that is “whatness” admits to a multiplicity of aspects.  Gericke doesn’t put it in this way, but fixing on one of these senses and excluding others is Will To Power.

For example, Kant says existence isn’t a real predicate, doesn’t pertain to the ‘res,’ which is manifestly true because just as you cannot derive that a table is “badly positioned” from analyzing its concept, or that the lecture is at 6:00 from reading the content of the lecture, bare existence adds nothing to a thing’s concept.  Thereby, Kant forked the essential/existential distinction in his metaphysical interpretation.  But is this the last word?  Clearly not, since Kant left an explanation of the apparent necessary unity of “what” and “how” being that Kant assumes unclarified.  He also simply adopts the idea from the tradition that the thinghood of the thing basically means that which temporally persists amidst change.

As Heidegger pointed out, thinghood need not correspond to the ‘metaphysical (existential) how/(essential) what’ interpretation of the object as standing separate and over-against (gegenstand) the knower, that is, Being traditionally interpreted temporally as “abiding presence in the midst of change.” 

For instance, Heidegger says when some 'thing' intimately concerns us so, either in love or hate, we say in English that it is our 'thing,' it is what matters to us in a pre-eminent sense, it gathers our existence together in the sense that our whole life revolves around it.

Before the metaphysical subject/object, the thing is that which concerns us, that which we care about, not only trivially, but also something that brings cohesion to our lives in a pre-eminent sense, such as when we speak, in love about someone who is the entire world to us, for she is the pole around which everything else in our lives turn, because she's the thing, she's what really matters.  It is not a question of inner feelings and an outer object of affection, but that in falling and being in love the inner/outer dichotomy is precisely that which is not to be described as an opposition/dichotomy.:
Heidegger says:

"The Roman word res designates that which concerns somebody, ... that which is pertinent, which has a bearing ... In English 'thing' has still preserved the full semantic power of the Roman word: 'He knows his things,' he understands the matters that have a bearing on him ... The Roman word res denotes what pertains to man, concerns him and his interests in any way or manner. That which concerns man is what is real in res ... Thus Meister Eckhart says, adopting an expression of Dionysius the Areopagite: love is of such a nature that it changes man into the things he loves (Heidegger, Poetry Language Tthought, T, 175-6)."

When thinking about love, I always think back to the beautiful description by Dickens in David Copperfield where Dickens writes:  "I was sensible of a mist of love and beauty about Dora, but of nothing else ... it was all Dora to me. The sun shone Dora, and the birds sang Dora. The south wind blew Dora, and the wild flowers in the hedges were all Doras, to a bud.  (Dickens, David Copperfield ch 33, Blissful)"  I recall the first time I fell in love with a girl (I was age 12): She was my whole world, and my entire being was in being attuned to that world.  No matter where I went and what I saw, all I found was her.  And, conversely, I truly found myself (who I truly was) in and through my object of affection.

Heidegger says that the 'thing things,' it gathers.  In love for his 'thing' man is less himself and more at home as the thing gathers the totality of its relations, including the man, into a unity.  Latin speaks of 'Perfectio,' 'Complete'.  I am reminded of the line at the end of the movie Jerry McGuire where Tom Cruise's character says out of love: "You Complete Me." 

'Things' in this sense of this word, compared to the endless number of objects, are rare (see Heidegger,  PLT, T, 182).  I would suggest that, in fact, it is only when we are not locked up into ourselves (which is never complete anyway), that the true realization of our human being and potential occurs, when we stand in relation to that which dissolves our concern for ourselves. This is what Heidegger saw in the 'beautiful.' When I truly find the beautiful, it is never in relation to any needs that I have for its use, 

"in order to find something beautiful, we must let what encounters us, purely as it is in itself, come before us in its own stature and worth ... [This is] the supreme effort of our essential nature, the liberation of ourselves for the release of what has proper worth in itself ... in order that we may have it purely (Heidegger, N1, 109)." 

It is through such experiences beyond the subject/object dichotomy that we truly experience what we are in the presencing of the other.  Heidegger comments that:

Heidegger: ... To be absorbed by something ... [means] 'to be totally preoccupied by something , as for instance, when one says: He is entirely engrossed in his subject matter. Then he exists authentically as who he is, that is, in his task ... Da-sein means being absorbed in that toward which I comport myself... To be absorbed in beholding the palm tree in front of our window is letting the palm tree come to presence, its swaying in the wind, is absorption of my being-in-the world and of my comportment in the palm tree. (Z, 160-161)  

In the Dasein analytic of Being and Time, Heidegger seeks to recover a more pure understanding of Truth (physis kryptesthai philei -> a-letheia) than the one that was handed down from Descartes of the subject/object based Truth as certainty, free from doubt.   One instance Heidegger gives of this more originary truth is that the tearing of a sock “re-veals” the category of unity that the being always, already exists in, precisely ‘as a loss unity.’  Descartes initiated an Historical Age with the definition of truth as certainty, free from doubt, and the objecthood of the object as calculableness, an age which is different from what we would consider as one of the historical epochs of humanity. 

Heidegger showed, the interpretation of Truth as “certainty, free from doubt” was an historical accident.  Following Thomas and realized in Luther, ‘Truth’ was re-envisioned as certainty free from doubt, a model Descartes took over.  For Luther, what had to be certain, in the sense of free from doubt, was the salvation of the soul.  Didier Franck provides a useful summary of the genesis of modernism (the transition of verum into certum): “No doubt, Descartes transferred to the cogito what Saint Thomas, who placed certainty of faith above that of knowledge, attributed to divine science alone.”   Further, Descartes took as his model Luther’s characterization of certainty as freedom from doubt, which left Descartes with the cogito as certain, as far as he could tell; that is, free from doubt.  Descartes appropriated the model of truth as certainty in the sense of freedom from doubt, and Modernism/Cartesianism effected reducing the Being of beings to ultimately be something calculable.  We now know, as Derrida said, the Cartesian paradigm of certainty was grounded in the psychological state of 'obviousness,' since Descartes was wrong in the foundation he thought he found, as was Husserl about what he thought of the “Living Present” as foundational.

So, the traditional distinction between existential and essential disappears as I truly become what I am in the other truly becoming what it is.


By Derrida
Heidegger: The Question of Being and History, trns Geoffrey Bennington,  2016

By Heidegger

Basic Concepts of Ancient Philosophy (Studies in Continental Thought) Hardcover – November 12, 2007 by Martin Heidegger  (Author, Editor), Richard Rojcewicz (Author, Translator)
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 2001
Four Seminars (Studies in Continental Thought) Hardcover – December 11, 2003 by Martin Heidegger  (Author), Andrew Mitchell (Translator), Francois Raffoul (Translator)
Heraclitus Seminar (Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) Paperback – January 21, 1993
by Martin Heidegger  (Author), Eugen Fink (Author), Charles H. Seibert (Translator)
Heraclitus: The Inception of Occidental Thinking; Logic: Heraclitus’s Doctrine of the Logos, trns.Assaiante and Ewegen, 2018
Indiana University Press, 1996
Heidegger: Off the Beaten Track by Martin Heidegger (2002-09-30), trns Young and Haynes
Parmenides, trans. Andre Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz, Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1998.
Pathmarks  by Martin Heidegger  (Author), William McNeil (Editor, Translator)
Poetry, Language, Thought (Harper Perennial Modern Thought) Paperback – December 3, 2013
Zollikon Seminars, trans. Franz Mayr and Richard Askay, Illinois: Northwestern
University Press, 200 1

Works by other authors:

Gericke, Jaco “Philosophical assumptions related to the question “What is a god?” in Hebrew Bible scholarship”  (2018):


  1. Ecclesiastes 1:9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

    What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

    “The heaviest burden: “What, if some day or night, a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh… must return to you—all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!’ If this thought were to gain possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “do you want this once more and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

    Ecclesiastes had the wise, tragic insight that life was seemingly meaningless (eg. Ecclesiastes 1:9 anticipating Nietzsche's Eternal Return), and that the way out of this tragedy is through relationship with God. Nietzsche had the brilliant response that if life was meaningless and godless, it was neither inherently good nor bad, but open to interpretation, and hence was determined by our healthy, or sickly, interpretations, valuations and approach. Nietzsche advocated a healthy glass half full approach/attitude where we learn to dance in our chains and, in Nietzsche's words, celebrate Amor Fati while saying Yes and Amen to all of existence!

    Put somewhat more simply in terms of human existence, the difference is whether we are to understand tragedy as a merely ontic phenomenon, or in terms of the basic character of beings themselves. On the one hand, the dwarf perceives the most dismal thought to be a mere travesty of time, whereby beings become indifferent to us in light of the fact that newness and novelty of them gets ripped asunder, like the way the luster of a favorite song fades once it has been played numerous, successive times. Zarathustra, on the other hand, understands beings themselves as tragic, which is precisely what makes the thought so abysmal... ... To be a being, then, means to be something that can be an object of concern. But then beings are merely that, something which we can concern ourselves with. Nihilism breathes precisely in this melancholic awareness: no matter what I am concerned with or the extent to which I am concerned with it, it is merely "something," one being among infinite others, and no more worthy of my concern than any other being, like what we mean when we say "same shit, different day."

  2. TV connects to Heidegger and Nietzsche and the Technology question. People of a certain age will notice that scene changes in modern cinema and TV happen much more quickly than, say, 50 years ago. Many older people find it irritating: Addiction to novelty/upping the dose.

  3. Summary

    We all have different 'pastimes,' "pass the time" in different ways. I find it interesting that we need to pass the time at all. I don't think there's a right way to do it. Nietzsche said:

    “Against boredom even gods struggle in vain.” (The Anti Christ, Chapter 48)

    “It is common to scare away boredom by every means, just as it is common to work without pleasure. (The Gay Science : First Book, 42. Work and Boredom).”

    Nietzsche said this stretching out of time in boredom (which the German word for boredom conveys) lies hidden at the core of who we are, but can be coaxed to the surface in separation from novelty, like the "withdrawal symptoms" produced in a child's fidgety Time Out, or Cabin Fever. Being-human can be interpreted as a kind of being-addicted to beings (something that 'is' in some way or other) and novelty. But it all depends on whether we interpret this phenomenon as restlessness, or rather as a joyous surplus of energy. Nietzsche comments that:

    (1) “Only the highest and most active animals are capable of being bored. The boredom of God on the seventh day of Creation would be a subject for a great poet. (Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human : The Wanderer and His Shadow, 56. INTELLECT AND BOREDOM.”

    (2) “He who fortifies himself completely against boredom fortifies himself against himself too. He will never drink the most powerful elixir from his own innermost spring. (Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human : The Wanderer and His Shadow, 200. THE SOLITARY SPEAKS).” In a letter to Overbeck, Nietzsche commented that:

    (3) "terrible rain the last several days, everyone's suffering cabin fever - that is the way it is in this isolated place. Only I don't share it since I am busy thinking about and finishing my new work [the third Untimely Meditation]. Engaged in that, one lives in a different place where one doesn't have anything to do with rain any more." KGB 11.3 382

    A great Sci Fi example of this is the Star Trek Voyager episode where the Q continuum Philosopher Quinn (a god-like being) wants to commit suicide because he has been devastated by the boredom of having been everything and done everything countless times.

    We can see this, what Nietzsche calls Eternal Recurrence where we encounter beings "as though" we have encountered them countless times before, and hence lost their luster (luster being what the Greeks understood as presence), such as when the once passionate relation to a love fades, or like we can demonstrate by playing a favorite song over and over again until it becomes annoying.