Hier ist kein warum [Reading Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event)]


Professional happenstance led me to reading Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event). Written between 1936 and 1938, it was published posthumously in 1989, and then again in 1994 as a second edition. I’ve heard that the one to read is the English translation by Rojcewicz and Vallega-Neu, which appeared in 2012. The Contributions track Heidegger’s transition from Being and Time to his later work. I’ve seen it quoted here and there, but since I was on a MA thesis committee devoted to it, I wanted to get a sense of the whole.

Leaping over the ontological distinction between beings and Being, the Contributions are meant to think the truth of “Beyng,” understood not as object or subject, but as truth qua essential occurrence or occurring, i.e. qua event. Beyng turns out to be primordial ground, the illumination in which beings occur (p.300). As an act of self-withdrawal, Beyng constitutes a cleared site for the emergence of being. (Readers of Gershom Scholem and the Jewish mystical tradition might recognize here the doctrine of tzimtzum in Lurianic Kabbalah).

Neither object nor subject, Beyng happens without image and representation or calculation. Uniquely simple, it does not need to be set in relief in relation to other differences, including the difference from beings (pp.370-1). Based on no sufficient ground of reason, Beying simply occurs. “Why beings? Why? Wherefore? To what extent? Reasons!…In each case beyond beings. Whereto? Because being essentially occurs., Why being? Out of itself” (p.400).

While Heidegger rejects Nazi racialism, as if it were something shallow, all kinds of micro-fascisms remain. These would include the decisionism combined with quietism (that penchant for stillness and silence that readers of Rosenzweig will find in The Star of Redemption), the excess and compelling power of Beyng, the catharsis thought that the truth of Beyng opens up only through great breakdowns and upheavals, but above all through the “demolishing of the subject” (p.359), the demolition of mediation, technology, representation, and calculation, and all those things associated with modernity (and Jews).

The “last ones” leap into the abyss. There is no God to save them. For Heidegger in this text, God, or the last god, is a medium through which to stand before Beyng (as opposed to beings being the media through which to connect to God or godhead in traditional theism and pantheism) (p.327). For Heidegger, mediating is always second to more primordial or original Beyng or the more primordial grounding of truth as essential occurring.

At the core of the reactionary conceit is the fancy that one might no longer be constrained to think on the basis of beings, i.e. other beings, but that thought is now compelled by Beyng itself (pp.338, 349, 361). In this insistent grounding, Heidegger turns thought loose from beings in order to turn back to them transformed (p.356). But is there any turning back from out of an abyss and if so on what basis?

What’s left for a being to do? Heidegger’s is the terrifying world picture of a massive sphere emptying out and filling up with beings as they emerge and pulse and shine in strife without reason or purpose and without any measure of justice or mercy. Like what Primo Levi says the guard at Auschwitz told him, Hier ist kein Warum.

Finally, the critique of Christianity is full blown in the Contributions, the tradition faulted primarily for its concept of nature as created being (ens creatum), which for Heidegger is at the root of modern machination and the abandonment of beings by being (pp.218, 1, 4, 87-9). Impersonal and with no intentional object, is there a place in this picture of Beyng for those big and small tender mercies about which religious belief thanks its God?

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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4 Responses to Hier ist kein warum [Reading Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event)]

  1. dmf says:

    haven’t read the text in question but this “the terrifying world picture of a massive sphere emptying out and filling up with beings as they emerge and pulse and shine in strife without reason or purpose and without any measure of justice or mercy” sounds more like Nietzsche, is there no Sorge no moral-artistry springing from our tunings to such event-ualities?

    • zjb says:

      but Nietzsche did it with joy. no, not for Heidegger. the entire leap remains strangely passive, without a trace of Sorge, and certainly not ethics.

      • dmf says:

        not sure how much actual joy Nieztsche lived but to the matter at hand is Being and Time no longer in play than, what of matters of concern, works of art, etc?

      • zjb says:

        Nietzsche of course never lived his joy. He only thought about it. He himself notes, i think in the Gay Science, that had he actually lived the joy about which he thought he would never have had to think it.

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