From: Joseph Milne <alfar@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 04 Nov 1997 15:26:07 +0000
At 17:00 01/11/97 -0500, you wrote:
>In einer eMail vom 01.11.1997 20:20:44 MEZ, Joseph:
><< Dear Maintal,
> Thank you for your comments. I see that my statement is a bit misleading. I
> meant that making ethical judgements is the easy thing to do, and I respect
> Heidegger from refraing from doing so. The reason I say this is because
> taking an ethical stance about the "essence" of something seems to be a
> wrong relation with essence - as though there were some moral position
> outside being that could evaluate it or its disclosures.
>Thanks for your reply, too!
>I see, you suggest the investigation in 'essences' is more or less
>'phaenomenological', a trial to percieve without valuation, right?
Yes, because valuation can only follow after an effort first to see and must
arise from a different concern.
> On the other hand, I think you are quite right to say that there does seem
> to be an "evaluative" aspect in what Heidegger says about technology. I
> have reflected for some time on why it is that I agree with Heidegger that
> technology is an ontic framing of the world with ugly consequences, but
> which seems to be be a "wrongness" that I am reluctant to call "ethical".
>Mmmh, as far as 'ethical' implicates the question for the 'good' life, why
>not? And if you are right with your point of view that tech is an _ontic_
>framing of the world, it is open for the question of 'good', it seems.
>(Whereas it would really become difficult to ask if e.g. the 'essence' of
>human being is good or bad, for it seems one is to be forced to look at and
>evaluate the action and the qualities of the 'real' existent exemplars of
>that species in order to start discussion, a 'mere' ontological investigation
>won't do. In fact, I suggest it in this respect a _mere_).
I am not happy to follow you here. I think that the "ontic" is a
phenomenological fact, just like enframing, not a "good" or "bad" thing.
> Part of the problem here is that we are unclear about the essence of ethics
> in the same way as we are unclear about the essence of technology. Is
> ethics itself a type of Enframing, or does it stand above enframing?
>Yes, you are right, this is a worthy matter for a permanent exploration (and
>it is a never ending story, otherwise I would concede that phil may come to a
>stop-end; it is the stunning characteristic of phil. that there are no final
>answers for its most crucial questions). Thus we may investigate the essences
>of tech and eth, but we always are technicans and use tech and we are persons
>with ethical evaluations, also we donnot exactly know how and in which way we
>evaluate; we just do it and usually are not in the least astonished about it.
> It is
> rather like the claim of "objectivity" in science which supposes there is
> some totality neutral place to view reality from outside as it really is in
> itself. Ethics tends to assume a similar kind of "absolute" authority from
> above things. But if we wonder about the ontological foundations of ethics
> it seems it cannot be outside and cannot evaluate comportments of being
> since it is itself a comportment of being.
>I see. That is an interesting point: 'But if we wonder...cannot
>evaluate...since it is itself a comportment of being.' Yes, I donnot feel any
>necessity to e.g. evaluate 'being' in an ethical sense altough I'm in need of
>ethical evaluations and I really perform such kind of ethical evaluations
>every day (of course, I know that my 'evaluation' is doubtful and far away
>from perfectness which seems a thing quite impossible to me, but if one
>starts to argue, I will give him some reasons for my evaluation, also no
>perfect one). But in general it is, of course, not quite evident in how far
>the recognition of essence of being might help to a 'good' evaluation, even
>if we presume it to be possible to 'get' it quite fine. The same, to my
>impression, with the question for the essence of ethic: it is not quite clear
>how a solution here may enable us to percieve what is 'good'. This 'good'
>seems to hint to something different than all this 'essences', to something
>we _should_ do. (this is the old problem of how we can conclude from _is to
True, but how we evaluate in everyday experience depends upon how we grasp
the world. Heidegger suggests that the fourfold is the true way in which
man dwells in the world, and that manner of dwelling grants to every being
its being. Maybe this is a point at which a "natural" ethics has its
beginning. The granting of being to all beings is grounded simply in the
openness of being, rather than any evaluative act, which seems to follow
after. Granting does not bring with it "should" and "should not". My
feeling is that the whole sphere of "ought" is already a falling from being
in its originary openness.
> For me this raises the question of whether there is some "pre-ethical"
> understanding in being, just like the pre-understanding of the world, which
> most ethical thinking is a kind of ontification of - especially when much
> ethical thinking is either of the prohibition type or the demand on others
> type. So I am wondering if there is some kind of "owing" in being a being
> that is the real ontological foundation of ethics.
>My problem here is how we might evade this problem is ->shall, and if there
>is any sense in investigating the ontological foundation of ethics in respect
>of the 'good' deed, the 'good' life at all.
Yes, I agree. The "good deed" etc. is already far away from the simple
openness of being. Good and bad deeds are acts, not themselves modes of
being. I think the really hard thing about thinking about the ground of
ethics is to try to mave back from outer actions to being.
> I am thinking for
> example that Heidegger regards our being as a "gift" for which we should be
> ever giving thanks. Or I am thinking of the "wonder" that is the beginning
> of philosophy for Plato.
>I see, but this your 'should' is too much, to my impression. That I'm and
>simultaneously something like 'world' and something misteriously obvious like
>'being', cannot and will not force me to an 'ever giving of thanks' (wouldn't
>that mean that I have to be thankful for everything and at every time? Well,
>that is not only impossible, but almost abominable, to my impression, this
>being thankful for _everything_; there really are too much disgustful
Yet I wonder if being itself already rejoices in itself. If we think of
ourselves as different from being giving thanks to being, then of course we
are only thinking of the ego liking or disliking existence. So the thanks
for being must originate in being itself.
> I find this a very difficult question and I only throwing gueses at it. But
> what is certainly clear to me is that if we think we can begin thinking on
> firm ethical grounds we are deluded.
>I agree, there are no 'firm ethical grounds', and I additionally suppose,
>there will never be something like that. And all these is, in fact, quite
>difficult, of course.
> And this is one reason I reject all
> the political criticism of Heidegger. It is absolutely absurd to imagine
> that politics can decide on the question of being or critique Heidegger's
> attemts to grapple with this question.
>I agree here with you that political criticism on the question of being is
>absurd, but I understand and share the criticism insofar as the outcome of or
>the possible effects of such a phil may have vital influence on phil.
>ideologies; _in this case it is the duty of such a philosopher to reject such
>kind of interpretation of his phil by himself explicitly and not to give it
>some more and willingly food_. (Here I think H. was too careless and it even
>seems to me that the early H. himself was not enough aware of this vital
>distinction you make; he had better behaved completely unpolitical, otherwise
>one might suspect _he himself thought his phil. as a possible foundation of
>practical phil, which I doubt_).
Although I can see the reasonablness of your point, I do not see the grounds
upon which a philosopher is so responsible. If we decide the
responsibilities of the philosopher to those who hear him we are imposing a
demand upon him which we do not impose upon ourselves. The philosopher does
not "owe" us anything. Surely his responsibilty lies only towards being
faithful to truth itself so far as he is able. Within that responsibility
we have to grant that the task is always open and unfinished. If that were
not so it would make any "error" a moral wrong. It would also make our
present "attempting" to understand wrong on the grounds that we do not yet
Heidegger has a duty only to the work in hand that he undertakes - which of
course he calls "thinking" rather than philosophy. I see no basis to impose
any other set of duties upon him, and I see even less basis in any duty to
critique him for leaving unsaid what we think he could have said. Nobody
has a duty to judge Heidegger.
> I am aware that Levinas has tried to approach the question of being from an
> ethical stance and gives precedence to the "other", but I find his
> expositions of this artificial and forced.
>I have heard so much of Levinas, perhaps I should really tackle him at some
>time or the other (although the mere fact that I have heard much of him
>cannot force me to tackle him as someone worth for such a trial).
> I would be interested to hear your views, or any others, on this, for me,
> completely unsettled question.
Sorry it has taken me so long to reply and also for an inadequate reply!
With kind regards,
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