martes, 23 de octubre de 2007

Dreyfus Fall 2007 Podcast - Confused About Solicitude.

On the first lecture dealing with Heidegger's notion of the 'one' (or the 'they' as it appears in the Macquarie-Robinson translation) Hubert Dreyfus' sounded quite perplexed upon reading the following sentence from Being and Time:

"But because solicitude [Fursorge] dwells proximally and for the most part in the deficient or at least the Indifferent modes (in the indifference of passing one other by), the kind of knowing-oneself which is essential and closest, demands that one become acquainted with oneself." [B&T- Pg. 161].

This sentence can be broken down into the following claims:
(1) Solicitude dwells proximally and for the most part in either (a) deficient, or (b) indifferent modes of being.
(2) Essential and close knowing-oneself requires acquaintance with oneself.

Dreyfus sees no major problem with (1b): that is, he is content to accept that our dealing with other is mostly indifferent, passing each other by, taking little to no notice of the other, and so forth.
What he sees as problematic is the first part of the claim, namely that solicitude is also mostly spent in deficient modes of behaviour. He finds it harder to tie this with (2).

I think his confusion can be cleared up without much trouble. What Heidegger means by the 'deficient' modes of solicitude is certainly not equivalent to the deficient modes of equipment in which they may show themselves up as something unavailable for use. After all, the mode of being of Dasein is not that of equipment or present-at-hand entities.

But there's nonetheless a crucial similarity. I think what Heidegger means here by 'deficient' is merely that in our dealing for others we are for the most part just undergoing standard-procedural behaviour. For example, I stumble upon someone and I say 'excuse me'; or I ask for permission to go to the bathroom, I greet somebody with the customary 'Good morning!' or 'How do you do?!'. These acts do not require me to truly deal with the other as Dasein; the interaction that takes place resembles that with a computerized operator, or a metro security-bar which requires you sweep your card in order to 'get by'. In other words, we are for the most part dealing with others without ever having to 'present-ourselves', to really communicate or engage with them.

This means that in these modes, one isn't presenting oneself nor is one dealing with the other as authentic Dasein. The deficiency is, as is to be expected, to be found on both the side of the interlocutor and that of the speaker.In this sense, dealing with others resembles more like dealing with the deficient equipment that needs to be set aside in order to continue your activity. This is certainly what we do for the most part in everydayness; we do not sit and have a meaningful chat with everyone we met. Thus, (2) becomes much more understandable: in order to break through these indifferent or deficient modes of behaviour we cannot merely rely on standardized responses; we must first of all be prepared to 'give ourselves over' to the other- to not merely repeat some idly conceived discourse and expect some equally idle response. One must be prepared to say something meaningfully human, think alongside the other, consider the other's uniqueness, and even deliberate about oneself.

This does not amount to merely figuring out whether you like your coffee with sugar or milk through introspection; in that scenario you might as well be dealing with a machine. In order to 'see through them' one must perhaps follow 'special routes' to gain closeness, meaning that in order to deal with others in a manner that acknowledges the other as Dasein one must think and act in an interpretative fashion, not following guidelines. Everyone is different and there isn't a single, standard way to make this happen. That we live mostly by way of idle behaviour can be exemplified in less evident cases: books which give you a set of prepared lines to deploy when dating; courses about the sort of things one can and cannot say at job interviews; behaving in a well-mannered way at the table. One is not so much Dasein in these cases as much as a product; the job interviewer does not care about you as an existing, unique being- he merely considers you in terms some specific task you can perform, some skill you possess, some fact about where you have worked or studied, and so forth. Likewise, most of our behaviour doesn't demand anything more than to act according to certain familiar, mundane, standardized ways. In this sense Dreyfus' substitution of 'the one' for 'the they' corresponds to the specific tasks that Dasein assumes when it is dealt with in these forms of deficiencies: as a 'job applicant', as the 'waitress from whom I expect a good service', etc. In each case, specific roles are directly associated with specific tasks one tacitly expects in advance from the other, which means that Dasein is reduced to a resource, a tool, or a mere obstruction to one's doing. In some cases, it doesn't even 'stand out' at all. These are all elucidating Heidegger's later positions about how modern science ends up turning man into standing-reserve, and his views on technology.

To sum up, the account of solicitude in the abovementioned passage ties in perfectly with Heidegger's later account of how the public world is ultimately tied to inauthentic idle-talk, in which Dasein is 'lost' in the public world. This is to say that for the most part Dasein is lost in the turmoil of the 'they', as the 'one', not being authentically himself in being-with-others. This, of course, shouldn't entail that a non-deficient, authentic way of dealing with others implies 'empathy', in the vulgar sense of getting a grip of what is happening in one's 'private sphere'. For even though we are essentially Being-with and cannot dispose of the other (after all, we speak a language, belong to an epoch, a place, a culture and set of conventions) there's a fundamental difference in merely programmatic behaviour and human relationships.

The interesting question would thus be begged: 'how can we behave authentically; not merely just follow the 'they' [or, in Dreyfus’ translation, is ‘the one’] and know-ourselves?' I think there's not a single answer to this; since the position in which one stands in relation to culture and others is always unique. One cannot hope to merely prescribe a set of directives in order to discover a 'unique-self' underlying the muddled everydayness; allowing for such prescriptions would presuppose each and everyone of us shares the same world-view, has the same language, conventions, etc. These are all somewhat obvious suggestions in post-Heideggerean culture, but we shouldn't forget it was Heidegger who systematically dealt with this in a thorough fashion. The hermeneutic guideline is merely to always interpret positionally with respect to the particular narrative into which we are imbued. There isn't a single disinterested, neutral point from which we could all attempt a phenomenological reduction and thus arrive at the same grounds.

Thus, authenticity, contrary to what Dreyfus says in that very lecture, is entirely related to the topic at hand. Concernful solicitude, in its rare non-deficient modes, would have to involve both a recognition of the unique position one is in (knowing-oneself) and therefore not just speaking or listening (understanding, interpreting) through idle-talk.At the same time, this seems a tough line to draw; since even when we have meaningful conversations with others we still deploy a shared language, views, and all sorts of things which are left unquestioned. Why then, can we call this activity truly authentic, and not just another instance of disguised Inauthenticity? I think this is partly what leads Heidegger to later say that this 'authenticity' is only necessary to the philosopher: only the philosopher, who goes through the trouble of facing and sort out the conceptual turmoil that goes around in public discourse, is able to be authentic.

But at that point, I can see why 'authenticity' appeared less and less the merrier word to use for Heidegger, and why he drops it, since it would disavow most of the population on Earth, if not all of it. In this I see a clear continuity with Heidegger’s later attempt at overcoming metaphysics and arriving at a genuine attempt in thinking.

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