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July 21, 2008

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Better late than never, indeed. Thanks for taking the time to clarify your views. However, I am still not convinced.

"Heidegger, to be sure, is not clear-spoken. But neither was Kant and neither was Nietzsche."

True, but Kant was precise, and Nietzsche was witty, funny and pithy: Heidegger is none of these. I have to confess I suspect Nietzsche would have been as embarrassed by H's style as by his philosophy.

"Kotoba and iki are in the lexicon of my 6 year old son, and Heidegger's take on their meaning and etymology... are also the standard take."

I don't doubt that your son knows the words kotoba and iki, but I very much doubt that H's explanations can reasonably be called 'the standard take'--either his 'pure delight of the beckoning stillness' or his 'appropriating occurrence of the lightening message of grace'. If you can provide some pre-Heideggerian sources that use this sort of language or thinking, I'll believe you. They do not correspond at all to what my Japanese-speaking authorities provided me with.

"language is rooted in the understanding"

Yes, and understanding is rooted in language; whether or not these claims are true, they seem clear enough without going on about 'grace' or 'being'.

"Does kotoba somehow reflect the Japanese understanding of being (not in its entirity but some aspect of their cultural paradigm)? I think the understanding is unquestionably Yes."

I don't understand the parenthesis. As for the latter statement, you claim it, but you haven't argued it. (And I can't read the Japanese Wiki article.) Does the etymology of our word "language" tell us much about our concept of Being? Does it even tell us much about our concept of language? I'm sure I would enjoy an explanation of why it did--but I'm also sure I wouldn't believe it.

To Aegeus—the King:

Thank you for reading! I agree with everything you say about style; for writing that bad, well, it is hard to forgive. If you paid me huge lumps of money, still I would not read Heidegger again.

Never again, that’s my motto.

Now, whether our blubbering uberman and his sidekick dionysus is one to laugh or not…. Well, I wouldn’t read him again either.

The problem with your original post, I remain convinced, is

1)You did not read the essay in terms of the context of Heidegger’s project (as spelled out in Being and Time). Those latter essays do not stand alone and that’s why they made absolutely no sense to you.

2) Your “Japanese experts” were actually one person (Matt). And he pointed out already that the essay would make sense if all those terms had been defined (which they already have been defined in Being and Time).

3) I Think to prove my point regarding etymology and understanding of being I would actually need to show-- NOT a pre-Heideggerean thinker-- but rather something in the culture he is talking about (ie, japan) that proves he was on to something... And I think I already did that (cf. Shinto concept of gods dwelling in nature--including tree leaves-- & kotodama).

*Also, this is not as way of proving anything per se, but Heidegger and H. Bergson are perhaps two of the most influential Western philosphers who have impacted modern Japanese philosophy. The Japanese seem to feel a real affinity to him and I will ask my philosophy professor at the University of Hiroshima as soon as I finish the translation I am working on for him, but I have never heard any dispute of this particular essay from a Japanese source. I will confirm with the Prof, however as he would know better.

Note: The 'appropriating ocurrence of the lightening message of grace' is not talking about Japanese “koto-ba” but about language in general; how language “lights up” the way we think about being… is how I would translate it, but like I said, I haven’t read Heidegger in years… The beckoning grace one, well, what can I say, I have no idea…(but just because I cannot comment is not to say Heidegger was wrong but rather I am not prepared to seriously take on his idea).

Finally to your main point: does the etymology of our word "language" tell us much about our concept of Being? In the case of koto-ba, Heidegger it seems had a vague point. And, this is not saying I think he nailed it, but rather just that, no, I don’t think he was a charlatan. Cheers.

I think the central lesson to be learned from this is not that Heidegger is a charlatan, but that etymology as a philosophical method is a complete waste of time and inevitably exposes you as a dilettante. It was stupid when Nietzsche did it and it was stupid when Heidegger did it; as far as I can tell, it was stupid when Derrida did it too--and let's not forget Proust. The best it can do is provide a sort of clever example; certainly no central or significant part of an argument can legitimately be made to rest upon it. Leave etymology to the etymologists, for Christ's sake. At least they usually know what they're talking about.

What is the basis for your statement, though? Indeed, it was only as you say a clever example. But, as my philosophy professors repeatedly instilled in me way back when... philosophy without example is rather hard to understand. So, I do not fault Heidegger for using an example to back up his theory. And, more, the example was not only clever, but his example of kotoba was-- despite his not being an etymologist-- also surprisingly accurate as well (for someone in that time and place).

Examples (etymological or otherwise) are always required, I would argue, if you are trying to do phenomonemology....

A friend of Conrad's is a friend of mine... not really but welcome-- and thanks so much for reading!

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