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THE LETHAL NARCISSUS: HEIDEGGER ON SACRIFICE/SACRIFICE ON HEIDEGGER Stefano Cochetti Technische Universität Chemnitz-Zwickau At the end oíJargon ofAuthenticity? the biting irony ofAdorno's critique reaches the level of indignation on two occasions; both ofdiese occasions concern the topic of sacrifice. This indignation is easy to explain ifone considers tiie principal aspects ofthe Adornian theory of sacrifice as formulated in Dialectic ofthe Enlightenment} According to Adorno, sacrifice assumes a modern rational value when it emerges as the secularization ofritual sacrifice along two lines of evolution: 1) the intrasubjective and 2) the inter-subjective. 1)Ritual sacrifice evolves into internalized sacrifice in the form of individual renouncement and self-discipline, namely as the intra-subjective modality withstanding the temptation of reverting to indifferentiation as die undifferentiating subordination of the ego to its instincts. The Sirens epitomize this threat. That is why they are Ulysses' enemies. 2)Ritual sacrifice is, however, also secularized in inter-subjective terms, insofar as it is transformed—according to Adorno—into rational exchange, that is, it changes from metaphysical exchange with divine entities into physical exchange of objects among human beings alone. 1 T. W. Adorno,Jargon derEigentlichkeit. Zur deutschen Ideologie (130, 132-133). 2 Horkheimer & T. W. Adorno, Dialektik derAufklärungi50-%1); Cochetti,Mythos und "Dialektik derAufklärung" (181-186). 88Stefano Cochetti Adorno's indignation towards Heidegger arises from the fact that Heidegger highlights in positive terms precisely the residual mythical aspects of secularized sacrifice, and not the rational ones. Intrasubjectively, self-discipline as the sacrificial ability of the individual to resist and renounce urges entails a rational value insofar as it is functional for the self-preservation of both the individual and the community. Now, Heidegger does not even consider this aspect of sacrifice. Instead, he esteems endurance in the face of Worry (Sorge) in itself as Being-for-death (Sein-zum-Tode). In Adorno's view, this implies the eventual yet cogent consequence that the endurance ofpain in itselfduring the agony which precedes death would evolve into the most authentic moment oíDasein. This is precisely the mythical-ritual residue which has passed through the filter of secularization and which still reverberates with the original blood-practices of initiation rites and ritual torture. Analogously, on the inter-subjective level, Heidegger judges the exchange aspect ofsecularized sacrifice—the sacrifice of an individual for his community or cause—to be a negative value. Consideration of the reasons, the specific ends, and the gains and losses of such a sacrifice is precisely what ought to be forgotten if the sacrifice in question is to have any value. Adorno's indignation is easily explicable when one considers two contexts: (i) the anthropological-evolutionary, and (ii) the historicalpolitical . (i) In the first context, the death of the individual in the service of a particular cause, which is not subject to a priori rational scrutiny, still retains an echo of an irrational predetermination which is mythicalritualistic in nature. (ii) The second context is Nazi Germany. In the face ofthis background, even Heidegger is, in this respect, unable to argue in defense of specific Nazi ideals beyond the generic need to simply pursue the collective survival of the nation at war. Paradox and dilemma of death It is this inability to produce an argument that opens a way for the primacy of sacrifice for its own sake: a sacrifice being unaware of any calculation ofgain and loss which might not only lessen its intrinsic value, but also its very performance. The most interesting aspects of Heidegger's attitude towards sacrifice should not, however, be considered on the basis The Lethal Narcissus89 of its pitiful political implications, which cannot be amended, but rather on the basis of the theoretical and historically symptomatic character of his examination of death. In this respect, I believe that the Girardian mimetic theory affords decisive clues for a coherent interpretation. In the chapter entitled "The Possible Completeness of Dasein and Being-for-deatJi" (Das mögliche Ganzsein des Daseins und das Sein zum Tode) in Being and Time, Heidegger considers the paradox of death: As soon as Dasein, however, "exists" in such a way that simply nothing of it is missing, it has already become one...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 87-100
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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