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Report from the Workshop – 11/22/21

Currently reading:

  • All Things Shining by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly
  • Politics of Deconstruction by Susanne Lüdemann
  • God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

Currently writing:

  • Sketches for essays after finals
  • Notes on final papers
  • to-do list entries that say “work on papers”

Currently thinking about:

  • The anthropology and psychology of shame (for my Nietzsche course)
  • Writing and what it discloses as a practice for Heidegger (for my Heidegger course)
  • The question of things “mattering” (or not) in the contemporary world – Heidegger’s thinking of nihilism
  • The insufficiency of Heidegger’s thinking of Technology (capitalized to show its ontological status)

[A quick gripe before getting into it: Google Keep is really useful and I’ve recently returned to using it on my phone and tablet, but Google now makes you use Keep as a Chrome app instead of being able to use the app on its own in aOSX. This annoys me because I don’t use Chrome as my regular web browser and to use Keep on my laptop I have to open both applications. Annoying.]

Two things have kept me preoccupied this week:

The first is the critique of Heidegger’s thinking of technology from the postphenomenological position espoused by Don Ihde. I’ve been reading his Heidegger’s Technologies for my final paper and have found his position, at a crossroads between phenomenology and American pragmatism, much more congenial to my own thinking than Heidegger’s. But despite his critiques in the book, Ihde doesn’t break completely with Heidegger. For one thing, Ihde finds Heidegger’s thinking of Technology as Gestell, enframing, perfectly appropriate to large-scale industrial technologies like the ones Heidegger would have been familiar with during his life. Steel mills, battery farming, and other “big” industries do make sense within Heidegger’s framework, even if his claim that there is no difference between mechanized agribusiness and the gas chambers of the Holocaust raises a skeptical eyebrow (at least). I’m still working through the book but have found it worthwhile reading so far. I’ll probably write something in more depth about Ihde’s position after finals. (There’s another commitment The Editor will have to make sure I follow through on.)

My second preoccupation this week has been the question of “meaning,” or its lack, in the contemporary world. I’m working on a longish essay on this question that sprouted from something my Heidegger professor said in class this week. (Before going on I should say that I like this prof and he’s a good instructor. He’s something of a Big Deal, if heterodox, scholar of Heidegger. I don’t intend the essay as a take-down; this isn’t YouTube, I’m not “destroying” anybody. Rather, I have in mind Nietzsche’s line from Zarathustra that “One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.”)

The question of “meaning” strikes me as important because the position I’ve heard before is that the modern world doesn’t have “meaning” built into it like the ancient or Medieval (European) world did. While I’m sympathetic to Heidegger’s critique of the Nietzschean/Sartrean position that humans are the ones to assign value to things outside of them (Descartes once again rearing his ugly head), it nonetheless strikes me that the idea of having to think about one’s “meaning” is a good thing on balance. I’ll readily concede that anxiety and malaise could result from this “loss” of “meaning,” but it still strikes me that anxiety is an improvement over calcification, and it’s only from the perspective of the possibility of anxiety that a more “unified” or “non-split” subjectivity is perceptible at all, much less appealing. I’m not saying that anything could be “meaningful.” There’s probably a relatively small set of things that tend to be determined to be “meaningful” after the fact of actions that diverge from strictly “efficient,” “normal,” or “optimized” behavior. Probably, but I don’t know what they are.

[Sorry for the overuse of scare quotes above. It’s a bad habit I’ve picked up since reading Derrida, but I think it’s actually appropriate here since I’m not sure what we call “meaning,” or its lack, is a good way to think about the world.]


Otherwise, this week has seen me beginning to sail out of the luffing doldrums of worrying about my final papers. It seems like every semester I go through an initial stage of feeling confident about a topic, then some aimless pacing about getting started on it, before finally something happens and I start working in earnest. Oh well, guess I’d better just unfurl the sail (or whatever the correct sailing term is.)

On a final note, I found my nearly-forgotten CD ripping skills put to good use this week while at work in the archives. Who knew that clumsy, janky-ass music pirating knowledge would someday be a valuable skill! Turns out being a child of the 1990s has its advantages.

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Author: Krumholz

Dreams are messages from the deep.

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