restricted access Deconstructing Heidegger
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Reviews Deconstructing Heidegger BERNHARD RADLOFF Christopher Fynsk. Heidegger: Thought and Historicity Cornell University Press 1986. 264. us $24.95 Christopher Fynsk's book is the most ambitious and systematic effort to deconstruct Heidegger yet to appear in English; his work goes far beyond Paul de Man and American deconstruction, and generally moves on a much higher and more convincing level of analysis. Fynsk, moreover, succeeds, at least in part, in avoiding the dogmatism of Derrida's often fragmentary commentary on Heidegger . While taking dear departure from the 'old guard' of Heidegger scholars such as Buddeberg, Allemann, Vyincinas, and von Herrmann, Fynsk's work is also distinct from attempts to formulate a 'Heideggerian' poetics such as suggested by the work of William Spanos and David Halliburton's Poetic Thinking (Chicago 1981). What one misses, however, is a determined coming to terms with these works, which are by no means of a kind. The intricate argument of this book, moreover, assumes familiarity with both Heidegger and deconstruction, and is therefore liable to be incomprehensible to the general reader. On the other hand, Fynsk's attempt to read Heidegger through the optic of deconstruction does raise interesting questions - about Heidegger and about deconstruction. Undoubtedly the most significant of these leads one to ask why the discourse of difference - or 'alterity,' as Fynsk practises it - is systematically apparently forced to displace the question of the meaning of being. Despite the author's determination to enter into the movement of Heidegger's thought, and despite the often rich detail of his analysis, this question as a question never comes up; it is dissimulated in favour of the program of deconstruction. The occultation ofbeing accords fully with Derrida's position: merely to pose the question of being connotes logocentrism . The five chapters of the book consider the period between Being and Time (1927) and the Letter on Humanism (1947): Fynsk's argument passes by way of Nietzsche, Heidegger's explications of Alltigoneand The Origin ofthe Work ofArt, to Holderlin. Fynsk's main thrust is to turn Heidegger's reading of the will-to-power in Nietzsche against the Heideggerian text. In Heidegger's history of the Occident, the subjectivity of modern thought since Descartes radicalizes the objectification of humanity and nature by defining both in terms of their availability for rational UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 57, NUMBER 4, SUMMER 1988 562 BERNHARD RADLOFF manipulation. This movement reaches its preliminary consummation, as Heidegger sees it, with Nietzsche's definition of being as will-to-power. Heidegger's attempt to rethink the meaning ofbeing is an effort to letgo ofthe modem attitude which realizes itseU through the technological objectification of the world. Heidegger's critique ofWestem metaphysics, then, is a consistent and systematic attempt to undermine the subject/object dualism of the tradition. Fynsk, however, focuses almost exc1usively on those elements of Heidegger's thought still entangled in the dualistic tradition he is trying to overcome. In Being and Time, for example, the anticipation of the possibility of one's own death is given the power to shatter the subject/object relation. In Fynsk's interpretation, however, death is reduced to a conceptual object of the subject's will to gain power over itself. Hence the otherwise curious interpretation that what Heidegger calls the 'shattering' of the subject/object relation is explicated by Fynsk as suicidal self-destruction. Given that Fynsk's central thesis never abandons the standpoint of Cartesian subjectivism, the coUapse of dualism can only be interpreted as the destruction of the self. The same premises make Fynsk's failure to consider the text of Discourseon Thinking (1944) especially instructive. As this text intimates, the objectification of death and the triumph of dualistic thought have their planetary correlative in the will-to-power of humanity (as a collective subject) to impose itself on the earth and to exploit it. Within the context of deconstruction, Heidegger's critique of technology simply falls by the wayside. The author's Nietzschean reading of Heidegger is also unable to come to terms with Heidegger's critique of technology as developed through the discussion of non-objectifying modes of thought. For Heidegger, art is essentially allied with religion in offering...