The aim of this dissertation is to develop an understanding of the holy (das Heilige), the divine (die Gottheit), and gods (die Götter) in Late Heidegger. The lack of adequate in-depth scholarship on the subject and the specifics of Heidegger’s style in this period call for an encounter with his texts that would go beyond the usual theoretical analysis of the concepts and would be more in tune with his own hermeneutical and phenomenological way of thinking. This is why, in this dissertation, I will use a phenomenological method called body hermeneutics, which is based mainly on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of lived body. By doing phenomenology of artworks and concrete life situations I will bring the concepts of the holy, the divine and gods in touch with phenomenological reality. Facing the questions that arise while working on Late Heidegger, I will be looking for answers not only in Heidegger’s texts, but also, in the descriptions and reflections on how our phenomenological body lives and acts, relates to things and responds to them, how it is in the world. Thus, I will both acquire a deeper understanding of Heidegger’s insights and also articulate these concepts and related phenomena in a way that will allow them to become more meaningful in our contemporary understanding of things and world.
a) scope and objectives of the research
One of the most central and most thought provoking notions of the last period of Heidegger’s work (after the so-called “turn” around 1940) is the notion of fourfold (Geviert) – the interplay and the mirroring of earth, sky, mortals and divinities. Our full and meaningful living in this world, as Heidegger calls it, our dwelling (wohnen) depends on how well (if at all) we can recognize the fourfold in things and through things in the world. It depends on whether we can develop ways to relate, through the fourfold, to other beings (be it things, animals, or other humans). In other words, according to Heidegger, we cannot live full lives, we cannot be properly human and fulfill ourselves as human beings, that is, we cannot become “mortals”, unless we develop a deep understanding and a way of relating to earth, sky, divinities and other mortals. While the encounter with earth, sky, and other mortals still seems thinkable, even though the richness of it has been shrinking rapidly, the lived experience of the divine in our world has been almost completely lost. It seems hardly sufficient to merely revive or adapt any of the traditional religions, since most of them have metaphysically reduced and secluded the divine into an abstract sphere of the other-wordly, spiritual, that is, body-less realm, and thus, have destroyed the connection with reality, even if it existed once upon a time. Some new approach needs to be developed here, that would not be rooted in the presumptions of the metaphysical tradition, an approach that could succeed in reaching beyond this tradition, and develop sensitivities which could enable new and meaningful experiences with divine in particular and with the rest of the world in general. The first steps to such an approach can be seen in Heidegger’s Later Though. It is a matter, then, of gathering and comprehending his insights on the issues of the divine and the holy, and then trying to develop them further, however not by means of purely intellectual speculations, but rather by bringing them into our encounter with real things, that is through a kind of “in-the-world-phenomenology”.
In order to better outline the scope of this project, let me affirm what will not be dealt with in this dissertation.
First of all, the extent of Heidegger’s works which I will be dealing with in detail has to be limited. While, of course, one can hardly avoid referring to Being and Time when writing on Heidegger, there will be no fundamental discussion of Heidegger’s early philosophy in this dissertation. The literature on this subject is so abundant, that there is simply no point in adding yet another interpretation of the first 30 years of Heidegger’s writings, while the last 30 years have not been dealt with in any sufficient way.
I will not be dealing with Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning) written in 1936-38. This book has received a lot of attention lately, and is perceived, perhaps rightly so, as a “mystical” work rather than a philosophical one. Of course, it can provide helpful hints and connections in developing an interpretation of Heidegger’s understanding of the divine, and yet it will stay somewhat on the fringe of my interest, precisely because of its rather “abstract” way of dealing with the issue, which does not meet the “practical”, “down-to-earth” approach of this dissertation.
So, the main focus of this dissertation will be Heidegger’s texts written primarily after 1940 and published in: Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung; Holzwege; Vorträge und Aufsätze; Wegmarken; Unterwegs zur Sprache; Hölderlins Hymne „Andenken“; and Hölderlins Hymne „Der Ister“ (Volumes 4, 5, 7, 9, 12, 52 and 53 of the Gesamtausgabe respectively.)
Secondly, it needs to be stressed again and again, that my phenomenological encounter with divine and holy does not lie within what we understand these days as religion or even religious experience of any particular tradition. In other words, this dissertation is situated neither in theology, nor in “philosophy of religion”. It is an attempt to develop a post-metaphysical, and therefore post-religious phenomenology of the divine and the holy.
It is important to say a few words here about the distinct character of Later Heidegger’s style of thinking and writing, since it requires a no less special approach, if one wants to understand and to do justice to the complexity and depth of his philosophical questioning. After the so-called “turn” around 1940, Heidegger is trying to break out of the metaphysical limitations that permeate Western philosophizing. Besides shifting his interests from what could be seen as “hard-core” theoretical questions to spheres that tend to be at best on the fringes of traditional philosophical consideration (language, poetry, things, gods, nearness, dwelling, etc.), Heidegger also abandons a traditional academic way of writing and scholarship. In contrast to the opus magnum quality of Being and Time, written in the best traditions of German Idealism, as well as to the abundant body of his lecture courses in the following years, Late Heidegger completely gives up the detailed, systematic and, one could say, comprehensive, “holistic” way of laying out philosophical problems and dealing with them. Instead, he adopts a style of rather short oral lectures which tend to approach the same cluster of questions from a slightly different angle every time, to push further and better articulate different “aspects” of those questions, to uncover or elucidate different layers, to stress or accentuate different moments. While these texts undoubtedly supplement, play off and reflect each other, they, still, in no way, provide the reader with a full and clear picture. The view remains sketchy and incomplete. There are more questions than answers, more puzzlement than certainty, and so the reader has to work along with Heidegger, to follow Heidegger’s path of thinking, to fill in the gaps, to ponder about the same questions and to stumble over the same difficulties, if one wants to really understand Late Heidegger. It is also possible, that such a reader will be able to see things Heidegger did not see, that the path of thinking will take the reader in a new direction, perhaps these new insights and ways of articulating the concepts will relate better to our current situation, perhaps they will speak better to us and perhaps they will be easier to understand. At least, that is the aim. In order to do justice to Late Heidegger, I will follow his path of thinking by employing a phenomenological method called body hermeneutics.
The method of this dissertation is body hermeneutics developed by Sam Mallin. Body hermeneutics is a phenomenological method that describes and reflects on the lived body in a concrete situation dealing with everyday concerns, institutions, people, nature, art. The particular strength of body hermeneutics is that it does not limit the method to working exclusively in cognitive sphere, but develops its insights with the help of different “regions” of lived body, that is, perceptual, motor-practical, social-affective, cognitive. Body hermeneutics describes how lived body responds to a concrete situation through its different “regions”.
Similarly to traditional textual hermeneutics, the goal of the method is to describe, to clarify, to articulate and to elucidate what one is working on. However, both the “toolbox” and the “field” to which the method can be applied are much broader. Body hermeneutics is carried out by the whole body, that is, not only by cognition, but also by other “faculties” of the body, like emotions, sense perception, motility, and so on. At the same time, body hermeneutics can be applied not only to texts, usually it is applied to all kinds of artworks, or even to everyday situations in which we constantly find ourselves.
While doing body hermeneutics of a situation or an artwork, we try to purposely and systematically feel it out, paying attention to the different aspects of our body, or as Mallin calls them, following Merleau-Ponty, “bodily regions” – sense perception, motor-practical region, social-affective, and cognitive. When we describe an artwork or a situation, we pay attention to how it attunes different “sides” of our body, how it makes us move, or feel, how our eyes see the colors and shapes in it, how it changes the space, what emotions it brings out in us, what it calls for in terms of practice and action, how we breathe, and so on. And so we “circle” describing different aspects of being in touch with that on what we work. Just as with traditional “textual” hermeneutics, we do not merely make the same circle over and over again, but somehow we go deeper, our descriptions become sharper, different sides and aspects start confirming each other, the things we are describing become fuller and thicker. They show themselves better than before, using Heidegger’s term, they become “nearer”. We start feeling and understanding them better than before, we learn something about them, about how to be with them, and about ourselves too.
Body hermeneutics is definitely a bodily “exercise”, and yet at the same time it is always carried out within language and by means of a language. It always remains hermeneutics, and as such it has the purpose to articulate, clarify and develop our concepts, our cognitive habits, our ways of cognitively understanding phenomena by naming and describing them. When doing body hermeneutics, we bring our (often so abstract) concepts to meet things, artworks, and situations to which they are supposed to relate. In working out this relationship between the name and the named, between the surface and layers of depth, between the abstract and the rich ambiguity, between cognition and flesh, between concepts and phenomena contained in and brought out by things and situations, the concepts become less and less abstract. They become deeper and fuller, more accurate and precise in some ways, yet thicker and livelier in others. The concepts become in touch with phenomenal reality, they grow and stretch, focus and sharpen, they adapt and develop, they acquire an ability to bring out (shine with) evidence and truth (both understood phenomenologically as Evidenz and aletheia).
c) strategy of the dissertation
In order to develop an understanding of the holy, the divine and gods in Late Heidegger with the help of body-hermeneutics, the following steps will be taken:
The first step consists in outlining the general (preliminary) understanding of the three major concepts: das Heilige, die Gottheit, Gott/Götter in Heidegger’s texts. Here, Heidegger’s sketchy and fragmented insights about the holy, the divine and gods are brought together. However, at this stage they bring forward more questions than answers as to what they mean and how they are to be understood. Articulating the questions that arise, finding the gaps in understanding and the paradoxes will set up the provisional map of the project that is about to start.
For example, my current understanding of the texts (as well as the interpretations of several other Heidegger scholars) suggests, that the sequence of the holy, the divine and gods illustrates a tendency from “less concrete” to “more concrete”, if one can say so. While the holy is seen as something akin to “atmosphere”, something very general and ethereal, god or gods are quite concrete “figures”. They seem to possess certain “qualities”. They are said to dwell in the divine, and to belong to the holy in such a way that their own essence lies within the holy and is defined by it. At the same time, the holy, while being “general” is not “abstract”. Heidegger suggests, the holy is there (and can be felt) even before gods appear and show themselves, moreover, the holy stays around even after the gods have withdrawn. And so, it seems, it is through the holy, that we could start developing some sensitivity to the “divine sphere” of the world.
This first take on what Heidegger means by the holy, the divine and the gods sounds, at the very least, strange, paradoxical and puzzling, and rightly so. Here are some of the questions that could arise out of this preliminary understanding and guide the ways in which this project could develop:
What is the difference between the holy, the divine and gods? Is it related to “ontological difference”? If the divine were to be something between “particular” (gods) and “general” (the holy), then how could we understand this “middle ground”? What would be its features? How could it manifest? How can we perceive “gods”, the divine or the holy? If we perceive them through our phenomenological body, would it mean they have to have a kind of a body as well, for us (our bodies) to be able to encounter them? How can we, through our concrete and thus limited perspective, perceive something that is not concrete, but rather “general”, “the holy” in this case? What are our boundaries, and how do we ex-peri-ence, that is reach beyond the boundaries? Heidegger says, that it is the poets, who sense the holy, then what is it about poetry that makes it possible? How is poetry capturing the “experience” of the holy, and how is it bodily? Why does poetry relate first of all to the holy, not to gods or the divine? And what is the difference between the three in this respect? What is the difference between poetry and thinking, and can thinking open up ways to encounter the holy like poetry does?
One could go on for pages and pages listing such questions, and that is, in fact, part of the process of doing body hermeneutics. The section containing the summary of the first take on the holy, the divine and the gods in Late Heidegger, as well as the questions that arise from this preliminary understanding will be provided in the first introductory chapter of this dissertation.
These questions are, then, kept in mind throughout the second step of body hermeneutics, which is the phenomenological description of artworks and concrete situations. Just like a philosophical or other book, every artwork carries in itself and attempts to work out in some way a set of issues, some of which are clearly visible right away, while others might take some work to be revealed. In a similar way, certain issues arise and manifest themselves when we deal with concrete situations. For the purpose of this dissertation, I will choose artworks and situations, which carry issues of the divine and the holy (or other phenomena closely related to them). In describing the bodily encounter with these artworks and situations, as was noted before, the concepts are “molded” by phenomena, they become more real, they grow deeper into truth.
The two steps are then repeated over and over: articulating the questions again, then articulating phenomena in phenomenological descriptions again and again. Through this process of circling or looping I will be able to work out some of the questions like those listed above, and to better articulate other questions, as well as to develop a conceptual understanding of the issues central to this dissertation.
d) account of existing scholarship
The interest in the issue of God and divine in Heidegger’s thought has been on the rise recently, particularly after the publishing of Contributions in German (1989) and subsequent translation into English. The majority of scholars, however, keep seeing these issues in Heidegger in a theological context, trying to put Heidegger to use in Christian theology (Schalow). Also, they focus mainly on Heidegger’s writings up to 1940, thus, leaving the late period, in which I am interested, out of the discussion. Another thread of Heidegger scholarship on the issues of divine and religion tends to compare Heidegger with Levinas or postmodernists. My task is different in that my primary goal is not to compare Heidegger with other thinkers, be it Meister Eckhart, Hegel, Levinas or Derrida, and not to debate about the issues that arise out of such comparisons, but to develop an understanding of Heidegger based on his own texts and with the help of phenomenological encounter with art and life situations.
Having said that, there are several monographs that are very helpful in beginning to understand the complexity of the issues (Kovacz, Hemming, Trawny). However, they each have only a chapter or two that deal with Late Heidegger, and thus cannot go much further than clarify the terms and sometimes trace their development.
There are interesting books by Vycinas, which are very helpful in getting a non-Christian perspective by relating Heidegger’s notions to the pre-Christian mythological understanding of the divine. However, they do not deal sufficiently with the present and possible future. There is a fundamental habilitation dissertation of Helting, where he provides a detailed lecture-by-lecture interpretation of Heidegger’s texts on Hölderlin, but his purpose is to apply it later to a concrete use in Daseinanalysis, and thus its scope is somewhat narrower and more specialized than mine.
To conclude, the amount of scholarship on the issues of the divine and the holy in Later Heidegger is hardly sufficient. The work that has been done, however, can provide a good starting point for my dissertation. It will be helpful in formulating the preliminary understanding of Heidegger and articulating the questions. But it is body hermeneutics of artworks and live situations, that will help me to further develop a deeper understanding of Heidegger, and, most importantly, to investigate a possibility of (re)creating a lived relationship with the divine (through the holy) in our contemporary world.
d) tentative structure of the dissertation
In this chapter I will provide the preliminary understanding of the concepts of the holy, the divine and gods in Late Heidegger and introduce the questions of this dissertation (as explained above). I will outline my project and propose a way to start working out these questions.
There will be a section in this chapter which will contain a detailed review of literature. Here I will outline the main approaches to the discussion of the issues of divine and holy in the scholarship of Heidegger, evaluate them and establish the necessity of further research, part of which is to be taken on in this dissertation.
There will also be a section dealing specifically with body hermeneutics as methodology, in which I will explain how it works, why this method is helpful in dealing with the particular approach I take to the issue, and what kinds of new possibilities to explore the issue this method brings, that would be closed off or limited were one to use a more “traditional” philosophical methodology.
2-4. The places of the holy – meeting the divine.
In these two or three main chapters, depending on where body hermeneutics will take me, I will lay out the results of body hermeneutics of artworks and life situations. As mentioned above, I will work on artworks and situations which respond to issues of the divine and the holy and hold the phenomena related to these issued.
Most likely, there will be a chapter on the body hermeneutics of the holy, another chapter on the divine and gods. There is a possibility, there will be a separate chapter on the fourfold and the place of the divine and gods in the fourfold, or, perhaps, a chapter on the dwelling of mortals and its connection with the divine and the holy. It is also possible that the results of body hermeneutics will demand a different break-down of these main chapters and in that case they will be divided accordingly.
In this chapter I will come back to the main concepts and questions laid out in the introduction, summarize and conclude the findings of body hermeneutics done in chapters 2-4 and sketch out the possible future developments of my work.
f) selected bibliography
Works by Heidegger in German
Heidegger, Martin. 2006. Zollikoner Seminare: Protokolle, Gespräche, Briefe. Um Register erganzte Aufl. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 2004. Vorträge und Aufsätze. 10. Aufl. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.
Heidegger, Martin. 2003. Unterwegs zur Sprache. 13. Aufl. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.
Heidegger, Martin. 1997. Die Herkunft der Gottheit. Einmalige, numerierte Aufl. ed. Meßkirch: Martin-Heidegger-Gesellschaft.
Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung. 6. erw. Aufl. Bd. 4. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1995. Phänomenologie des religiösen Lebens. Bd. 60. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1984. Hölderlins Hymne “Der Ister”. Bd. 53. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1983. Aus der Erfahrung des Denkens, 1910-1976. Bd. 13. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1982. Hölderlins Hymne : “Andenken”. Bd. 52. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1980. Hölderlins Hymnen “Germanien” und “Der Rhein”. Bd. 39. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1977. Holzwege : [unveränd. Text mit Randbemerkungen d. Autors aus d. Handexemplaren]. Bd. 5. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1977. Sein und Zeit : [mit Randbemerkungen d. Autors]. Unveränd. Text. Bd. 2. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1976. Wegmarken. Unveränd. Text. Bd. 9. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1970. Phanomenologie und Theologie. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 1959. Gelassenheit. Pfullingen: Neske.
Heidegger, Martin. 1957. Identitat und Differenz. Pfullinger: G. Neske.
Works by Heidegger in English
Heidegger, Martin. 1998. Pathmarks. New York: CambridgeUniversity Press.
Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and time. Albany, NY: StateUniversity of New York Press.
Heidegger, Martin. 1991. Nietzsche. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
Heidegger, Martin. 1977. The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row.
Heidegger, Martin. 1975. Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper & Row.
Heidegger, Martin. 1972. On Time and Being. New York: Harper & Row.
Heidegger, Martin. 1972. What Is Called Thinking? New York: Harper & Row.
Heidegger, Martin. 1971. On the Way to Language. New York: Harper & Row.
Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Being and Time. New York: Harper & Row.
Heidegger, Martin. 1960. Essays in Metaphysics : Identity and Difference. New York: Philosophical Library.
Other primary sources
Gadamer, Hans G. 1976. Philosophical Hermeneutics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Mallin, Samuel B. 1996. Art Line Thought. Vol. 21. Dordrecht ; Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Mallin, Samuel B. Body on My Mind: Body Hermeneutics. Unpublished Manuscript.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2004. The World of Perception. Milton Park, Abington, Oxfordshire ; New York: Routledge.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1989. Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1973. The Prose of the World. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1967. The Structure of Behavior. Boston: Beacon Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. The primacy of perception, and other essays. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. Sense and Non-Sense. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. Signs. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1968. The Visible and the Invisible: followed by working notes. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1974. The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. New York: Vintage Books.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1968. The will to power. New York: Vintage Books.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2000. Basic writings of Nietzsche. Modern Library ed. New York: Modern Library.
Nietzsche, Friedrich.1982. The portable Nietzsche. New York: Penguin Books.
Main secondary sources
Bruns, Gerald L. 1989. Heidegger’s Estrangements: Language, Truth, and Poetry in the Later Writings. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Caputo, John D. 1993. Demythologizing Heidegger. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Danner, Helmut. 1971. Das Gottliche und der Gott bei Heidegger. Bd.76. Meisenheim am Glan: A. Hain.
Fóti, Véronique M. 1992. Heidegger and the Poets: Poiēsis/Sophia/Technē. New Jersey: Humanities Press International.
Froment-Meurice, Marc. 1998. That is–to say: Heidegger’s Poetics. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Helting, Holger. 1999. Heideggers Auslegung von Hölderlins Dichtung des Heiligen : ein Beitrag zur Grundlagenforschung der Daseinsanalyse. Bd. 30. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Hemming, Laurence P. 2002. Heidegger’s Atheism: the Refusal of a Theological Voice. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.
Kearney, Richard. 1995. Poetics of Modernity : toward a Hermeneutic Imagination. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press.
Kovacs, George. 1990. The Question of God in Heidegger’s Phenomenology. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Mallin, Samuel B. 1979. Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Perotti, James L. 1974. Heidegger on the Divine: the Thinker, the Poet, and God. Athens: Ohio University Press.
Pöltner, Günther. 1991. Auf der Spur des Heiligen: Heideggers Beitrag zur Gottesfrage. Wien: Böhlau Verlag.
Risser, James. 1999. Heidegger toward the Turn: Essays on the Work of the 1930s. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Schalow, Frank. 2001. Heidegger and the Quest for the Sacred: from Thought to the Sanctuary of Faith. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.
Trawny, Peter. 1997. Martin Heideggers Phänomenologie der Welt. Bd. 3. Freiburg: Verlag K. Alber.
Vycinas, Vincent. 1973. Search for Gods. The Hague: Nijhoff.
Vycinas, Vincent. 1961. Earth and Gods : an Introduction to the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger. The Hague: M. Nijhoff.