restricted access 6 Ethos and Poetic Dwelling
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SIX Ēthos and Poetic Dwelling Inaugural Time in Heidegger’s Dialogue with Hölderlin Heidegger’s early, phenomenological interpretations of ªthos in Aristotle remain knowingly and intentionally within the “scientific ” or theoretical orientation toward the disclosure of the ethical dimensions of human existence, an orientation that Aristotle himself establishes in characterizing the concern of the Nicomachean Ethics as a kind of “science” or epistªmª concerned with the human good (NE, 1094 a27). Of course, within this very orientation, Heidegger’s phenomenological interpretations—like those of Aristotle—themselves display the inherent limits of any theoretical or scientific approach to ethical life in pointing into the dimensions of temporal finitude, singularity, and circumstance that no theoretical logos can disclose. Moreover, in focusing on human action insofar as it stands within our power (our proairesis), insofar as the human being is understood as the originator (archª) of his or her proairesis and thus of his or her own actions, they also share with Aristotle a foreclosure of the entire realm of chance, of fortune and misfortune, of fate and of destiny, and thus of a realm that, as Aristotle himself freely admits, is rather crucial in deciding the eudaimonia of our life as a whole (1100 a8ff.). Yet Heidegger’s readings , as we have tried to show, also shift Aristotle’s decisive insights into human praxis into the dimension of ekstatic temporality and historicality—and ultimately into that of the destinal historicality of Being—thereby opening up those dimensions of Being that are inevitably occluded by the theoretical perspective. The question thus arises of whether there is a logos—presumably akin to that of phronªsis—that is more attuned to the happening of human ªthos as impacted by these other, ultimately decisive dimensions of our temporally and historically determined Being-in-the-world. In the present chapter, and in our final chapter, we shall suggest that Heidegger’s work finds a response to this question in his understanding of poetic dwelling, particularly in dialogue with the German poet Hölderlin and with Greek tragedy. 133 134 THE TIME OF LIFE This exposition, in the present chapter at least, entails a somewhat abrupt transition, an unsettling shift of terrain, from the phenomenological Heidegger of the 1920s and from the thinking of the history of Being in the 1930s (itself transitional) to the more “poetic” Heidegger of the 1930s and beyond. The shift appears as abrupt and unsettling not least because Heidegger’s work, while affording many clues and itself always on the move, nowhere makes explicit exactly what is entailed in this transition. This suggests, indeed, that what is at stake in this transition is nothing other than a transition to another beginning, and that such a transition, by its very nature, must be characterized by the suddenness and abruptness that mark all genuine beginnings as such. In part, this implies also that any attempt to straightforwardly account for or make explicit what this transition entails would risk merely repeating the theoretical perspective that emerged from and remains characteristic throughout the “first beginning” of Western philosophy. It does not, however, preclude that the “poetic” understanding of human ªthos remains in perpetual dialogue with the theoretical discourse of philosophy. In the following chapters, we hope to display something of this dialogue and continuity. In so doing, we knowingly risk underplaying the discontinuities, the entire strangeness and foreignness of much of Heidegger’s later work, and the singularities of its engagement. We shall first try to draw attention to certain continuities in Heidegger’s thinking of ªthos that extend from his early, phenomenological hermeneutics through his later engagements with Hölderlin’s poetizing. In view of what has just been said, however, it must be acknowledged that we cannot remotely pretend, in the present context, to do justice to the singularity of Heidegger’s later work as a dialogue with Hölderlin. In other words, our highlighting of certain continuities should not be taken to imply that an adequate deciphering of much of Heidegger’s remarks on Hölderlin would reveal their underlying philosophical truth and import, thereby letting us arrive at a general account or theory of human ªthos extending from early Heidegger to late. What we do wish to suggest is that while Heidegger’s dialogue with Hölderlin cannot be adequately understood without a painstaking engagement with Hölderlin’s work itself, it can and perhaps must also be understood as a dialogue with the philosophical understanding of ªthos, and...


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