terça-feira, 1 de novembro de 2011

Letters From Vöegelin

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Voegelin's Correspondence on Heidegger

Given that he was born in Cologne and served as the founding head of the Institute for Political Science at the University of Munich for ten years, Voegelin was well acquainted with the intellectual climate of Germany and Europe.

Especially pertinent was the work being done on Heidegger which preoccupied much of the time and attention of his contemporaries. And it would be fair to say that Voegelin himself was interested in what Heidegger had to say or what his colleagues thought about him.

Voegelin is widely known for his scathing critique of modern political ideologies that resonate with gnostic predilections, but sadly he is not as widely known when it comes to his philosophy of consciousness. His analyses of problems pertaining to historical existence depend on his theory of human consciousness, a theory which preoccupied him during his later years–and at a time when Heidegger remained influential.

Voegelin states that on the “problems of existence I was, of course, influenced by Jaspers and Heidegger.” In a letter to Eugene Webb on February 16, 1977, he mentions briefly at the end that “I have studied practically all the work of Heidegger . . . .”7

But there are clearly too many barbs leveled at Heidegger to be overlooked, such as his 1970 observation that he might have become an existentialist too, “though he recovered reason when he saw what existentialism in the form of Heidegger’s could become” 8

While sending the “rent money” for a three-month stay with colleague Aron Gurwitsch On June 1, 1956, Voegelin complements him on his successful national “lecture program,” during a troubling time for philosophy in Germany “Mainz is probably still the worst; and Cologne still looks pretty bad, too." And then he offers a back-handed compliment: "Freiburg is in pretty good shape–but then again, Heidegger is there.” 9 He then shows his curiosity by asking: “Will you visit him?”10

After reading Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” in 1950, he was left with a “peculiar impression: he is much more classic-conservative (more Platonic) than I was clear about, and at the same time a peculiar German oddball” (emphasis added).11

Voegelin remained interested in Heidegger despite the fact that “the night in Heidelberg in the winter of 1929 in which I devoured Being and Time like a detective novel is long gone.” 12 As he tells Karl Löwith in 1952, Heidegger’s “temperament” and “technical competence” was “impressive” and “moved” him).13 But he was never sympathetic philosophically, as he wrote much later, in 1975:

In Kyoto I was surprised to find all the people who are somebody to be deeply involved in German philosophy of the Husserl-Heidegger-Gadamer type, because they all have studied in Germany–not exactly my taste (emphasis added).14

In a 1965 letter to Max Müller, Voegelin explains how Heidegger’s philosophizing remains within a limited “horizon” through his misguided interpretation of Plato and Aristotle. 15

In Heidegger’s phenomenological interpretation of Aristotle we find him emphasizing the “four causae” in opposition to the divine ground of being (aition), but he wrongly associates aition as a cause, used in the proofs of God. This was the Aristotle of the Scholastics, “the post-Aristotelian commentary- and school-metaphysics.”

Heidegger ignores the fact that

ground-aition still has for Aristotle the compact meaning of the ground or the beginning in the sense of the myth–myth, in the strict sense of a story that explains the present from its beginning, is a basic language form of the exegesis of being endowed with form as well as duration–in a duration that does not yet differentiate between time and eternity but has the symbolic form of the Time of the Tale, as I have called this symbolism. 16

This criticism of not acknowledging the myth contained within Aristotle’s prote philosophia is also leveled at Heidegger’s critique of Plato’s philosophy as overly “eidetic.”

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