What is Called Thinking? (book review) Martin Heidegger,

J. Glenn Gray(Translator/Introduction)


010815: this is a later later addition: think i should try to answer the title question with the insistence that what hd is most concerned with is never an 'answer', but describing the process, which involves close inspection, etymological, historical, emphatic- 'thinking'. that is, not received wisdom, not recounted theory, not philosophy as a body of knowledge, but as an attitude of questioning. which does not mean you should not question him as well...


this is a later addition: reading my review, i discover that i speak more of the ways of thinking, the ways of questioning- rather than trying to summarize response to the the title question 'what is called thinking?'. this is not unusual for me, mainly because i want to encourage or qualify something of the questioning experience for the reader. if, however, a summary is desired, i suggest this review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1251271920?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1


first review: this is a curious five. often i have given five to introductory, or perceptive but particular work on, rather than by, certain philosophers. this rule is broken by two texts by bergson, by husserl, a few collections by bergson, merleau-ponty, heidegger, sartre, de beauvoir, which were organized, ordered, and perhaps designed for the reader's progress rather than simply the author's whole thoughts...


this is a curious five because it not only directs inquisitive readers to other work, interests, insures fascination, but is itself a central work that must be read, according to blurbs and intro, as necessary to engage heidegger as his masterwork 'being and time'. that was his original, massively influential, incomplete, essential early thought. this is a selection of the last lectures he gave, and in word, in thought, characterize and exemplify his later thought. or, rather, the innovations of how he will explore his abiding concern: 'the question of being'. this is not new. this is what he started on, this is not a break in subject, object, original ontological precis- though it is a new way of asking the question, of compelling 'thinking'...


'what is called thinking?' is a series of lectures, each with helpful repetition, and though not declaimed in non-philosophical poetry, he does use poetry, he gets etymological, he translates, transforms, interprets previous works- primarily parmenides but also socrates, plato, aristotle. and this is the doubling of a problem for me. i read neither german nor greek, so there are two levels of interpretation on the go which i must accept. does the greek work that way, how does that work for german, is there significance in german lost in translation to english, is there something that simply confuses, that does not clarify but rather muddies this or that quote, these are all questions inspired by his writing...


'what is called thinking?' part one goes into nietzsche a lot, and not much in a way i understand, only interesting in his prescient diagnosis of where 'european man' was headed, some time before anyone else was concerned. 'the wasteland grows', well yes that sounds like n. the superman (overman) must be understood as exactly the same and thus 'heaviest thought' as 'eternal recurrence', must be understood in plain meaning as: 1) the passing over 2) the site from which passage leaves 3) the site to which passage goes... but this is just all h warming up. and then i do not know if i will appreciate n as he should be...


'what is called thinking?' has four interpretations of the question, all apparently using the same words in german. i recall once reading that the seemingly-repetitive, nonsensical, deployment of the word 'being' and 'beings' and 'Being' (capitalized), was all down to the fact german has several words with the right meaning each case, which all translate into the one english word. and that in english you could use 'existents' and 'Being' but then you lose the obvious poetic similarity that reminds of the philosophical kinship... or, also, hearing that his exotic name 'Dasein' for something like human/being, is in fact common german for 'be' and 'there'... so forgive my poor german and greek, i really am not able to follow much of his translation-elaboration of the title question...


'what is called thinking?' offers the four ways that question works in lecture one of part two. perhaps part one is all warmup, all setting the stage, training the reader, to understand that there are four ways to understand this apparently transparent question. there is 1) what is designated by the word 'thinking'? 2) what does the prevailing theory of thought, namely logic, understand by thinking? 3) what are the prerequisites we need to perform thinking rightly? 4) what is it that commands us to think? h asserts we must answer 4) first. and that all are one question seen different ways. if your mind is not warmed-up by now, best read part one again- or, like me, soldier on in relative ignorance...


'what is called thinking?' in 4) can only lead the reader into the twisty ways of translation by way of h, for whom it is the questioning aspect of the question that must be understood, rather than headlong rushes of something traditional and empty as propositions, orders, truths, such as is usual in analytic attempts, answering when you do not yet understand the question. and here it comes for me, when to say 'it is all greek to me' is not polite, deprecating escape when the topics addressed escape my limits of thought. for yes, it is all greek. through german. h starts by interpreting the question/answer in a new translation: 'one should both say and think that Being is'... and here is the first hurdle for those who think language and thus corresponding logic are always already there rather than work in progress...


'one should both say and think that Being is' sounds like saying the same thing twice. not if you are h. for whom every word in that translation is in question: 'one' 'should' 'both' 'say' 'and' 'think' 'that' 'Being' and most importantly 'is'. perhaps had i been taking these lectures over some time with like-minded, equally inquisitive, fellow students, i would be able to follow the ins and outs of h's arguments for this or that interpretation/translation. i am not in his or any prof's class. so i think of all the other books i have read somewhat on h: 21, and by h: 6. some few collections of h's work, some few works by other philosophers such as sartre, merleau-ponty, husserl, that engage with his thought. i am overwhelmed. there is so much, there are a thousand thoughts stimulated by each argument. such is the experience of reading h, and why even in my relative ignorance this book must be a five...


'one should both say and think that Being is' becomes what the rest of the book is dedicated to explicate, such that i think of later 'deconstruction' and all those post-structuralists, postmodernists, of continental lineage, who can no more escape h than say nietzsche. so i take refuge, i comfort myself, i soften my lack of comprehension, all by finding or recognizing quotes i had read elsewhere or original formulations that i discover again. for there is 'shifting sands, better billowing waves of the ocean' as finding words not yet 'over-used' to get his ideas across. there is the use of thinking, or rather uselessness: 1) does not bring knowledge as in sciences 2) does not produce usable practical wisdom 3) solves no cosmic riddles 4) does not endow with power to act... this certainly suggests 'thinking' is not dependent, constrained, supported by/supporting anything other than thinking...


'one should both say and think that Being is' is eventually rendered as 'needful: the saying also thinking too: being: to be' but by the end of this text has become 'useful is the letting-lie-before-us, so (the) taking-to-heart, too: beings in being'. h has led through these two parts, 21 lectures, to something like an answer, more a question for a questioning, of 'what is called thinking?' but what a long, torturous, difficult way to get there... he finally uses 'unconcealed' as something like 'truth' in the last two lectures, something beyond/before identity of 'verifactionist' truth theory... this is when h's idea of 'thinking' is so much different than the much narrower 'scientific' or 'instrumental' concept of thought...


as i read this book, particularly part two, i began to question the entire process h uses to set and question 'what is thinking?'. part one, well he refers to nietzsche and it is usual that philosophers build on other philosophers' works, so that i could sort of follow... but part two is more problematic for me: even if in another universe my greek and german was fluent, i do not know it i would agree that tracing heritage of, finding genesis of, comparing meanings of words that a previous series of thinkers used, is necessarily the best way to research your subject or offer your argument. is the ancientness of terms closer to truth? well that sounds like hermeneutics deployed in religious texts, discovering say ancient christianity is the more truthful christianity. regardless of era. so i am ambivalent about this entire way-of-interpretation, not as entirely skeptical about words and representations and so on, but maybe ready for more argument. i believe that original terms, original translations, are significant not as 'dogma' of thought but as inspiration for further exploratory 'thinking', as pointing out paths that may lead to 'clearing' of being. maybe...

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