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Davis (GA77:Foreword) – Gelassenheit and Will

quarta-feira 2 de agosto de 2017

The word Gelassenheit   — as the nominal form of the perfect participle of lassen, “to let” — has a long history in German thought. It was coined by Meister Eckhart   in the thirteenth century and subsequently used by a number of other mystics, theologians, and philosophers. [1] In the context of Christianity, Gelassenheit is generally thought to entail both a releasement-from — a renunciation or abandonment (Ablassen) of — self-will, and a releasement-to — a deferral or leaving matters and one’s own motivations up to (Überlassen) — the will of God. Heidegger certainly draws on this tradition  . And yet, while he acknowledges that “many good things can be learned” from Eckhart, Heidegger explicitly seeks to distance his thought from any deferential obedience to a divine will. This traditional understanding of Gelassenheit, it is said, is “thought of still within the domain of the will.” Heidegger does not   want to simply reverse positions within this domain, namely from active assertion (willful projection) to passive deference (will-less reception). Rather, insofar as releasement as “non-willing” (Nicht  -Wollen  ) would “not belong to the domain of the will” as such, he is attempting to twist free of this very dichotomy, and indeed to think “outside the [very] distinction between activity and passivity” (p. 70).

This attempt proves, however, to be extremely difficult. To begin with, this difficulty is due to the fact that “non-willing” can all too easily be (mis)understood to indicate a variety of comportments within the domain of the will, such as a willful refusal to will or a mere lack of strength to will. Each of these senses is shown to be a “variation” (Abwandlung  ) of, rather than a genuine alternative to, willing (see pp. 48ff.). Authentic non-willing must be thought of as radically beyond the domain of will, rather than as a mere shift of position or simplistic reversal within it. And yet, it is the very radicality of this difference that gives rise to the enigmatic character of the transition from willing to non-willing; after all, at least the instigation of such a transition would seem to require a “willing of non-willing.” Much attention in the conversation is accordingly given to the Guide’s intentionally paradoxical remark, “I will non-willing” (see pp. 33, 37-42, 68-69, and 92-93). In any case, the conversation-partners cannot simply and without further ado renounce the will and embrace the [xii] alternative of non-willing, but must “slow down their pace” and meditate on the enigmatic transition out of the domain of the will and into the open-region of non-willing.

This crucial yet enigmatic transition from willing to non-willing is not just a central topic of the first text   in Country Path Conversations. As I have sought to demonstrate in detail elsewhere, the meditations on Gelassenheit in terms of non-willing in this text play a pivotal role in a turn in Heidegger’s thought-path itself, a turn which involves a transition from an ambiguous and often ambivalent philosophy of will to a radical and explicit critique of the (domain of) will, together with an endeavor to think non-willing(ly). [2] Country Path Conversations was written precisely as Heidegger was rounding the bend of this “second turn” in his thought-path. After this time, the will is seen as nothing less than the aberrant meaning of being — its revealing in extreme self-concealment, its withdrawal to the point of abandonment — in the modern epochs of the history of being, which culminate in Nietzsche  ’s philosophy of the “will to power” [3] and finally in the contemporary epoch of the technological “will to will.” [4]

[HEIDEGGER, Martin. Country Path Conversations. Tr. Bret W. Davis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010, p. xi-xii]

Ver online : Country Path Conversations

[1See Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, ed. Joachim Ritter (Basel and Stuttgart: Schwabe, 2006), vol. 3, pp. 220-224. On Gelassenheit in Meister Eckhart’s thought, see Bret W. Davis, Heidegger and the Will: On the Way to Gelassenheit (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2007), chap. 5.

[2See my Heidegger and the Will. For an introduction to this topic, see my “Will and Gelassenheit,” in Bret W. Davis, ed., Martin Heidegger: Key Concepts (Durham: Acumen, 2010).

[3See in particular the second volume of Heidegger’s Nietzsche, 5th edition (Pfullingen: Neske, 1989), most of which was written in the five years leading up to Country Path Conversations. The English translations of these lectures and essays are contained in volumes three and four of Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1987, 1982).

[4In an essay completed around this same time (1946), Heidegger writes: “The basic form of appearance in which the will to will arranges and calculates itself in the unhistorical element of the world of completed metaphysics can be stringently called ’technology’.” Martin Heidegger, Vorträge und Aufsätze, 7th edition (Pfullingen: Neske, 1994), p. 76; “Overcoming Metaphysics,” in The End of Philosophy, trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 93.