Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Nature's Circle: Being in Heidegger



Being or, in the German, Sein, in Heidegger's rhetoric, is in most cases best understood as intending "nature". Dasein, there-being, the human being, highlights the fact that being human is embodied nature, embodied Being, embodied Time. 


Heidegger preferred Sein , Being, over the German die Natur, Nature, because, as is Martin's wont, he found that Sein was closer in spirit to the Greek concept of nature: φύσίς, what grows and returns into itself in a perpetual circle. Source: Introduction to Metaphysics.


It could be argued that while φύσίς  moves in a circle, anything that moves in a straight line is anti-nature, violent, in Greek: βία. In his now out-of-print lecture course, What is a Thing?, Heidegger made note of this example whereby a stone lying on the ground is harmonious with nature but someone picking the stone up and throwing it in the air runs counter nature's circular harmony and is therefore anti-nature and disharmonious which is to say: violent. 


He goes on to argue that in the science of the Modern Age, i.e. in the post Aristotelian conception of nature that started with Galileo, everything, every force was conceived as moving in a straight line unless stopped by another force of equal strength (Newton's laws of motion). As with Batman and the Joker who are condemned to ever continuing altercation, 

"An unstoppable force meets an immovable object" 
the Modern Age's conception of motion as a straight line runs counter the harmonious circularity of the Greeks' conception of nature. Instead, the modern conception translates well into motor cars and other contraptions of modern technology which move in a straight line, from point A to point B. 

For the Greeks, the moving in a straight line from point A to point B, such as one might do today in a plane (although planes make many mini zig-zags to reach their final destination) or indeed by throwing a stone in the air, runs counter nature's circle and was typically man-made violence. The word they used to signify this anti-natural movement, βία, also meant strength, might, power. 


As such the power of Modern Technology is pure βία in the twofold sense of powerful and violent.