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  • 8/12/2019 Joeri Schrijvers - Anarchist Tendencies


    Research in Phenomenology 37 (2007) 417439

    Re s ea r chi n

    Phenomeno logy

    Anarchistic Tendencies in Continental Philosophy:Reiner Schrmann and the Hubris of Philosophy

    Joeri SchrijversKatholieke Universiteit Leuven


    is article presents Reiner Schrmanns thought of anarchy through its relation to the thought

    of Martin Heidegger. e main aim of this article is to examine the relation between Schr-

    manns two major works, Heidegger on Being and Actingand Broken Hegemoniesthrough their

    respective relation towards other authors in the continental philosophical tradition such as Jean-

    Luc Marion, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida. e article focuses furthermore on

    Schrmanns stress on the theme of the end of metaphysics and interrogates the ambiguities sur-

    rounding this theme not only in Schrmanns works but also in the larger bulk of contemporary

    continental philosophy.


    anarchy, phenomenology, existence, Heidegger, metaphysics


    What is to be done at the end of metaphysics? It is Reiner Schrmannsquestion, and it is one that deserves to be posed. For, if indeed we would agree

    with Schrmann and Heidegger that the collapse of metaphysics and its addic-tive after-worlds is of immediate historical concern to us,1the question of

    action, attitudes, and comportment towards such a collapse seems all the more

    urgent.It is to the latter question that Schrmann has contributed considerably.

    Reginald Lilly, the translator of Schrmanns Des Hgmonies brises, notes,for instance, that the connection between the existential analytic and the his-

    tory of being as onto-theology has never been made clear by Heidegger or his

    1) Reiner Schrmann, Heidegger on Being and Acting. From Principles to Anarchy, trans. C.-M.

    Gros (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 191.
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    418 J. Schrijvers / Research in Phenomenology 37 (2007) 417439

    commentators. [I]t is precisely such a connection that Schrmann means to

    make in basing his topology on an analytic of ultimates. [is] analytic

    promises to give us those elements, structures, and dynamics that are funda-

    mental to human existence and are presumed by any history of philosophy.2It would be unfair, however, to see Schrmann as but one more Heidegge-rian or, as I will show below, deconstructionist. To be sure, his interpreta-

    tion of Heidegger is intriguing and often innovating: one need only think ofhis efforts to read Heidegger backwards without regard for the fashionable

    distinction between the early Heidegger and its mystical and mythical sequel,

    or of his interpretation of Heideggers work on Nietzsche, which, as Schr-

    mann convincingly shows, speakformallyof Nietzsche, but materiallyabouttechnology.3

    And yet, Schrmann pushes one to look beyond Heidegger, and perhaps

    indeed to consequences more extreme than Heidegger would wish.4 Itremains to be considered whether Schrmann actually succeeded in showing

    the fundamental unity of thinking, acting, and being, but with Schrmann,finally, the tragic condition of the human being is given a voice in contempo-

    rary philosophy. In effect, Schrmann might even have the strongest case to

    date to take the existential character of metaphysical questions into account.In its simplest form, we all know or at least have a pre-understanding of our

    tragic condition, for the point of departure of the analytic of ultimates isthe knowledge from which no one escapes and which escapes no one, even if

    the natural metaphysician in each of us closes his eyes to it . . .: the knowledge

    that we arrive by our birth and go to our death.5

    Besides the practical and existential character of the most intimate ques-

    tions of metaphysics, this article will address the import of Schrmanns notionof the natural metaphysician in each of us, for the question that seems to

    divide Derrida and Schrmann seems to hinge on precisely this issue of ametaphysics that comes natural to us. irdly, this article will, in relating

    Schrmann not only to Heidegger but also to Levinas and Derrida, pay atten-

    tion to the new understanding of philosophy that seems to emerge fromSchrmanns work, which is due precisely to its practical starting-point.

    2) Reginald Lilly, e Topology of Des Hgmonies brises, Research in Phenomenology 28

    (1998): 22642,231.3) Heidegger on Being and Acting, 182.4) Ibid., 38.5) Schrmann, Broken Hegemonies, trans. R. Lilly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,

    2003), 345.[aid=8032842][aid=8032842][aid=8032842][aid=8032842][aid=8032842]
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    J. Schrijvers / Research in Phenomenology 37 (2007) 417439 419

    Heideggerian Anarchy

    e title of this section, which may surprise the Heideggerians, is not minebut Schrmanns.6is section will address Schrmanns temporalizing of theontological difference, turning it into a temporal and therefore an-archicdifference, and convey the practical import of it.

    e Practical a Priori

    e existential character of metaphysical questions comes to the fore in Schr-manns beautiful contradictory notion of the practical a priori. If Lillys state-

    ment that only the analytic of ultimates of Broken Hegemonies shows theconnection between Heideggers history of being and some form of existential

    analytic, the practical a priori of Heidegger on Being and Actingcan serve as ahermeneutic key to bring the profound continuity between Schrmanns twomajor works to light. In this sense, my effort here is a sort of reading Schr-

    mann backwards. is will allow us to interpret Schrmanns nuanced stanceon the question of overcoming metaphysics and to correct some of the views

    on his uvre that have emerged in secondary literature, as, for instance, inVahabzadehs entirely metaphysical characterization of the 1987 work as bear-

    ing the stamp of a flourishing life, an effect of natality . . . while Broken Hege-moniescertainly comes from a life pulled toward death.7

    If one of the main theses of Broken Hegemoniesis that all of the major meta-physical systems (mainly Plotinus, Cicero, Augustine, and modern philoso-

    phy) have arisen from the ultimate analytic of natality and mortality, in thatall these systems are subjected to a sort of natural drive to maximize or overde-termine one phenomenal region over others (according to Schrmannn, meta-

    physics main mode of procedure is to focus on the phenomenon of fabrication,those thing that are man-made), then this native and natural tendency towards

    generalization, universalization, and de-phenomenologization inevitably

    gives birth to its other, namely, the pull and pressure of finitude, for the phe-

    nomenological and singular encounter with finite beings in and through ourfinite comprehension of those beings resists precisely such a fantasmic maxi-mization under the rule of one overarching and hegemonic phenomenon

    (whether it be the One, nature, or the modern cogito). It is death, as the oneand only singularization to come, that throws the hubris of these philosophies,

    6) Heidegger on Being and Acting, 155.7) Peyman Vahabzadeh, Review of Broken Hegemonies,Journal for Cultural and Religious eory

    5 (2004): 5156, 55.

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    420 J. Schrijvers / Research in Phenomenology 37 (2007) 417439

    rendering reason of all beings, back upon its humble condition,8the lives

    and deaths that you and I will have to experience.9e ontology of natality,

    that is, of the natural metaphysician in us, inevitably gives way to its parasitical

    other in the return of the denied,10namely, the contingency and historicity oftime as that which will lead us to our deaths.11

    It is true that Broken Hegemoniesoffers an elaborate discussion of the his-torical moments of such metaphysical madness, which was perhaps lacking atthe time of Schrmanns Heidegger book. Nevertheless, the main theses of the

    first-mentioned book are present in the latter book as wellwhich already

    makes it impossible to consider it solely as stamped by a flourishing life.

    What Schrmann will later, with Arendt, name as the ontological traits ofmortality and natality have both figured in his first book as well. Take, forinstance, the trait of mortality. Commenting upon the lineage from Ancient

    philosophy, the Nietzschean overturning thereof, and its connection with our(post)modern technological era, Schrmann writes that for the [technologi-

    cal] manipulable to inherit the prestige of the ancient Good, the representa-tion of an ideal hierarchy must have contained its fatal agent within itself eversince its conception.12

    Not only does metaphysics therefore write, so to say, its own testament, asif its birth certificate is at the same time its hour of death, but even in Schr-

    manns Heidegger, the dawn of metaphysics originates in the human beingsnaturalshould I say: compulsive?behavior. Indeed, even the Heidegger

    book intimates metaph