The Catholic University of America

School of Philosophy
The Catholic University of America 
Fall 2011 Lecture Series 


Lecture Abstracts

Der Mensch ist der Hirte des Seins.  Man is the shepherd of Being.


"Rethinking Difference"
Presented by Daniel Dahlstrom, Professor of Philosophy and chair at Boston University

According to Heidegger, the difference between being and beings is the most essential difference and not surprisingly it is a constant in his thinking from beginning to end.  Yet in the course of his work, he re-thinks this difference fundamentally, recognizing its at times ambivalent sense and even insisting on the need to abandon various versions of it.  His re-thinking of the difference between being and beings plays a crucial role in his clarification of what he dubs the basic question (Grundfrage) that calls for thinking and in his call for a different sort of thinking, particularly in his work from the mid-1930s on.  Consideration of Heidegger’s re-thinking of the difference between being and beings thus provides a valuable lens on his thinking as a whole, through all its twists and turns.  The aim of this paper is to examine particular instances of that re-thinking with a view to demonstrating some of its significance, for Heidegger and for us.


"Thinking, Truth, and Technology.  Heidegger's Later Philosophy as a Philosophy of Freedom."
Presented by Holger Zaborowski, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Catholic University of America.
No Abstract available.


"Tracing Techne: Heidegger, Aristotle, and the Legacy of Philosophy"
Presented by William McNeill, Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University, Chicago

This paper will attempt to trace the changing status of techne in Heidegger’s work, from the mid-1920s through his mature reflections on technicity in the 1950s and beyond. The Greek techne, “art” or “artisanship,” refers to a mode of disclosure and of knowledge that enables the production of both items of utility and works of art.  In his early work around the period of Being and Time (1927), techne is, it appears, severely criticized by Heidegger as a deficient mode of disclosure that indeed gives rise to the impoverished conceptuality of philosophy itself.  In this criticism, he follows Aristotle, finding in Aristotle another, more original form of disclosure, that of phronesis (prudence or practical wisdom), which provides a central resource for his phenomenological analysis of human existence, or Dasein, in Being and Time.  Yet why, then, in the 1930s does techne return as the issue to be thought, assuming center stage in Heidegger’s reflections on Being, while all mention of phronesis disappears?  And why does the work of art now become paradigmatic for Heidegger’s rethinking of techne? and his meditation on the “enigma” it contains?  This renewed meditation on techne, finally, in constant dialogue with Aristotle, also becomes the pivot of Heidegger’s subsequent reflections on the essence of technology, reflections that continually confront the question concerning technicity with the question of art.  Technology, as an outgrowth of Western philosophy and science, returns us to the question of the inaugural complicity of philosophy with techne in the Greek beginning: it returns us to the question of the reductiveness of that beginning and what, still today, it leaves unthought.


‘Heidegger’s “The Truth of Being”’
Presented by Richard Capobianco, Professor of Philosophy and chair at Stonehill College.

Heidegger’s well-known expression ‘the truth of Being,’ which dates to the 1930’s, has its origins in his work during the 1920s and especially in his elucidations of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Theta, 10 on the alethes on.  Heidegger’s understanding of Being as manifestive and therefore as true leads him to critique all later philosophical positions on the proper locus of ‘truth.’  The presentation examines these early issues in his work—but only by way of bringing back into view what has been lost sight of in many contemporary readings of Heidegger, namely, that the core matter of Heidegger’s thinking  (including his discussion of Ereignis) is the manifestness (die Offenbarkeit) of Being.


"Drawing the Line:  Political Thought in Heidegger's Lecture Courses and Seminars of 1933-35"
Presented by Richard Polt, Professor Philosophy and chair at Xavier University

We now have access to many texts that document Heidegger's teaching activity during his year as rector and shortly thereafter. If there is a substantive connection between his philosophical thought and his National Socialism, it is expressed in texts such as the two 1933-34 lecture courses collected in the volume Being and Truth, the 1933-34 seminar on "The Essence and Concept of Nature, History, and State," the 1934 Logic lectures, the 1934-35 course on Hölderlin, and the 1934-35 seminar on "Hegel and the State." I will characterize the political dimension of these texts from the perspective of a scholar and translator and in relation to major landmarks in Heidegger's earlier and later thought.  My guiding theme is "drawing the line": how do we draw the line between what is and what is not? Between who we are and who we are not? Between Heidegger's insights and his errors?


"How Heidegger Resolved the Tension Between Technological Globalization and Indigenous Localization: A 21st Century Retrieval"
Presented by Theodore Kisiel, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University

The title is a quasi-popularized expression of the tension between Ge-Stell (lit. a gathering of posits) and Bodenständigkeit. The 21st century reappraisal is initiated with an etymological translation of Ge-Stell—the term Heidegger coined to define the essence of modern technology—from its Latin and Greek roots as "syn-thetic com-posit[ion]ing" which presciently portends the contemporary globalizations of the  internetted WorldWideWeb with its infinity of websites, Global Positioning Systems  (GPS), interlocking air traffic control grids, worldwide weather mapping, the 24-7 world news coverage of cable TV-networks like CNN, etc., etc., all of which are structured by the complex programming based on the computerized and ultimately simple Leibnizian binary-digital logic generating an infinite number of combinations of the posit (1) and non-posit (0). The more loaded term Bodenständigkeit (rootedness, autochthony; state of being native, indigenous) would have to be unloaded of its Blubo Nazi connotations and weaned in the facticitous Hölderlinian direction that Heidegger takes it, namely, of already having been rooted (born, thrown) into a particular native language (for them, it happens to be German-Greek). But all of this would have to be first introduced by a discussion of Heidegger's Hauptgrundbegriff, namely, the distributively universal concept of Da-sein as situated ex-sistence, according to which EACH of us happens to have been rooted (born, thrown) into our own unique existential and historical situation and EACH of us is called upon to own up to this particular situatedness that is most our own and that in fact constitutes our very identity and be-ing. And it must of course be stressed that this be-ing utterly precedes the subject-object domain, which is the domain being radicalized by the Ge-Stell in a surprising direction.


“Heidegger’s Poetic Measure: An Ethics of Haunting”
Presented by Charles Bambach, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas

Hölderlin’s work becomes a source for Heidegger since it appears as the last trace within the Western tradition of a non-metaphysical thinking of ethos, one that is marked by the comportment of openness to the enigma of human existence. As Heidegger will read it, Hölderlin’s obscure poetical language commemorates the opening of ethical reflection in the early Greeks. It points to a world of concerns that is not narrowly focused on prescribing morally efficacious rules for behavior; rather, it situates itself in a tragic world of the early Greeks where the human being confronts the riddles of a world so strange that in confronting them we become strangers to ourselves. For Heidegger it is out of this experience of strangeness, one where we genuinely enter into our situation of not being-at-home, that we start to begin to see the poverty of our own way of thinking in the present historical moment. Within this Age of Machination governed by the dominion of technological thinking,"ethics,"  in its originary sense, becomes impossible. Until we can genuinely accept this impoverishment as a historical form of being’s withdrawal (Entzug) and withholding (Vorenthalt), we will remain trapped within the selfsame Gestell of progress and amelioration that shapes the epoch of technology.

Yet poetry, especially Hölderlin's poetry, offers hints and traces of what thinking might be like in the "other" beginning. I want to contend that Heidegger's discussion of justice as Fug constitutes his own attempt to think ethos in conjunction with the larger order of being that Heraclitus, Anaximander, and Parmenides understood as the order of physis to which human beings needed to adjust. It is this form of ontological justice as the order of being that exceeds human calculation and control – especially the calculative ethics of moral reckoning – that marks Heidegger's hopes for originary reflection.


"Heidegger’s Non-Idealistic Reading of Kant’s Transcendental Philosophy"
Presented by Rudolf Makkreel, Professor of Philosophy at Emory University

It is well-known that in his 1929 book Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Heidegger argues that the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason is not the improvement over the first edition that it is generally assumed to be.  Because timeless concepts of the understanding are made victorious over the temporal schematization of the imagination, Heidegger reads the second edition as a lapse into a shallow idealism on Kant’s part.  The second edition is seen as responsible for the heritage of German idealism and Marburg Neo-Kantianism that reduce Kant’s theoretical philosophy to mere epistemology.  It is Heidegger’s aim to retrieve something more profound from his reading of the first edition, namely, an ontological access to the world that can ground our intellectual representations of it.

In a later set of lectures published as What Is a Thing?, Heidegger returns to the Critique of Pure Reason with a different assessment.  Now he says that although Kant had attained his basic insights in the first edition, it is not until the second edition that he succeeded in bringing forward a delineation of judgment that justifies his transcendental position.  The first edition had exposed our human finitude by pointing to the temporizing role of the imagination in foreshadowing the thingness of things.  The second edition is now seen as providing a way to cope with the shadowy nature of our finitude through a new conception of judgment.  Kant’s realization that judgment is no longer a mere intellectual relation among concepts, but capable of giving concepts an intuitive grip on the thingness of things, leads Heidegger to other reassessments of the second edition, including a new understanding of the meaning of transcendental reflection.


"Political Philosophy and the Ontological Question"
Presented by Richard Velkley, Celia Scott Weatherhead Professor of Philosophy at Tulane University

The lecture has two primary themes: Heidegger's Destruktion of tradition and recovery of the question of Being as preparing the ground for Leo Strauss's turn to political philosophy, and Strauss's overcoming of historicism through Socratic skepticism.   


"The Intimate Interplay of Existence and Facticity in Heidegger's 'Being and Time'"
Presented by Walter Brogan, Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University  

This paper will address the central question of Heidegger’s Being and Time, the question of the being of Dasein, by examining the relationship that is established within the text between facticity and everydayness (the concreticity of Dasein) on the one hand and Dasein’s existential and authentic being on the other.  The thesis of the paper will be that there is an inextricable twofoldness to Dasein’s being so that its being is co-constituted by both existence and factical life.  I will try to show that this demands that the project of Being and Time be not only the destructive project of moving from inauthentic everydayness back to an authentic grasp of Dasein’s existential being but also a return of the existential self to the very site of the they-self.  I will attempt to trace this doubling movement between facticity and existence and suggest that this way of being of Dasein is such that an irreparable breach lies at the core of Dasein’s way of being as a whole.  This rift at the heart of Dasein’s being is what Heidegger means by Dasein’s radical finitude.


"Heidegger on Plato: Truth and Myth"
Rudolf Bernet, Professor of Philosophy at Catholic University of Leuven

Plato’s philosophy seems to have been a kind of embarrassment for Heidegger. So it is worth investigating what his interpretation of Plato leaves out and what it owes to his (earlier) work on Husserl and Aristotle. More interesting, however, is to follow how Heidegger uses the Platonic myths of the Cave and of Er as well as a surprisingly positive interpretation of doxa to make “Plato’s Doctrine of Truth” look more phenomenological.