Friday, January 08, 2021

old student, young scholar…

They have in common deserving appreciation of their path’s integrity.

A young sociology grad (I guess) from Norway engaged seriously with a posting I did at the Facebook/Habermas Page, so I gave an evening to replying thoughtfully: His confusions portended emergence of important differentiations by his own engagement! I don’t find error in that; I find emerging self-actualization. So, I portrayed us in shared engagement.

An old scholar of Heidegger’s work—“an octogenerian,” he calls himself—invited discussion of a chapter of his long-ago published book, uploaded to his page.

I didn’t understand what he could want from reply so many years later. (25 other scholars where also indicated on his page as “in this discussion,” but no one but me had posted a message.) I asked about that—what specific issue did he want response about?—among other curiosities; but he didn’t reply to that; he replied to some of my other curiosities (ones which invited him talking about himself, rather than anything in the chapter he had uploaded). The event—his uploading, invitation to discussion—seemed actually about self consolation, as if needing reassurance that his scholarly life had been worthwhile.

I read his chapter carefully, but found his reading of Heidegger flawed, ironically in terms of his finding “Heidegger” self-invalidating. It was like a scene from psychotherapy: putting Heidegger’s texts into his unconscious transference relation. (This kind of thing is commonly called a “straw man” argument.) His Heideggerian fiction bolstered his own understanding, though sadly by need to find Heidegger flawed. His chapter title was, in part, “Hermes problem,” but of course it was his problem of reading Heidegger supportively, postured as Heidegger’s lack of “self-reflectiveness,” which of course the scholar could see, but Heidegger could not.

Indeed, the old man needed to feel reconciled? Frankly, his book of 2004 has been largely ignored. An anthology on Heidegger and the scholar’s topic appeared a year later, in 2005, but has no mention of the scholar’s book, which is really amazing (but also embarrassing).

So, I wrote an ending to my critique that celebrated the integrity of his venture, even though I found his critique invalid—his “Heidegger” fictional:
I must add: You show a fascinatingly fruitful partnership with texts that can be exemplary for others’ paths of scholarly fruitfulness. Nothing said about another reader’s (my) differentiation between Heidegger and “Heidegger” (or, of course, between my “Heidegger” and yours) detracts from the exemplarity of your pathmaking. I would venture that there's more kindredness between Heidegger's thinking and your project than was found in chapter 3. That would be fun to clarify! Glad tidings for your new year!
He didn’t reply.

But since he’s been part of a school of thought that has been intensely involved with finding Heidegger self-invalidating, I wrote a further response which dwellled with the first details of his chapter, where he goes wrong: his sense of a short passage from Heidegger that he quotes at the top of his chapter, which is dissociated from Heidegger’s context; and I had in mind his attraction to the point in Exodus where the character Moses faces himself—which scribes posture as his being chosen by “God.”

Earlier, in the critical response mentioned above, I noted that…
The figure Moses’s revelation in the wilderness is about a warrant to found a nation that looks to have ultimate destiny (which the Exodus verses, after the intro. that you quote, display [i.e., Exodus 3 : 1-4]), according to the scribes who wrote the character (for which there is no archaeological evidence).
I posted my second response as a Webpage that took ownership of Hermes and wrote stridently because I was annoyed by his evident want of attention with no interest in reciprocating. What did he really want? I gave myself license to do a discussion that I would enjoy. Noted on the homepage, in part: “…I have in mind all along the scholar’s elaborated desire, in terms of his ‘Heidegger,’ to show an originary validity of sacred text.” I did enjoy myself.

It was too much for the old man, I guess. He read my note to him at the discussion point on that I had done the Webpage, but he evidently didn’t read my page—or didn’t admit that he had? I got a message back from him saying, in part, “Thanks Gary. I don't remember what you missed, but it fades into insignificance…” But I never said I missed anything. I had no idea what he was indicating.

Then, he comments in his message about Hermes, as if retreating into his “adventures in mythology.” He was dismissive of points in my message to him, but was enthused about Hermes. I recognized that he was in strong need of self-consolation. Given his earlier use of Hermes as trope for his “Heidegger” (who was to be self-invalidating)—but is really his own problem with interpretation—I supposed that his passage into fond affection for Hermes (rather than responding to anything I wrote) expresses fondness for his own self-reconciliation (and an unsubtle indication of my own being faded by him into insignificance).

No biggie. I replied, in part, “Thanks for your gracious note….I've benefitted a lot from dwelling with your book and enjoyed formulating comments. I won't forget your venture. It will not fade into insignificance.”