2015-2017: The Ethico-Political Relevance of Thinking. An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Relation Between Thinking and Action

Project development

In the following, the individual research results of the four members of our project will be presented.

Project Director, Assist. Prof. Habil. BOGDAN MINCĂ, PhD, had the following research results:

  1. Books

—Bogdan Mincă, Origin and Difference. Heidegger’s Translative Thinking, Brill, Leiden-Boston, forthcoming in 2017 (accepted for publication by Hans-Christian Günther, the editor of the series Studies on the Interaction of Art, Thought and Power)

In this volume, the author gathered articles that deal with: 1. the way in which Heidegger connected, in the years 1931-35, thinking, poetry and politics; 2. the way in which Heidegger addressed the issues of origin, difference, identity in his writings devoted to art and poetry in the years 1931-1935; 3. the way in which Heidegger understood the beginning throughout Western philosophy, focussing on the manner in which the source (the beginning, the origin) functions, which implies also the issues of identity, difference and otherness. Thus, key concepts of our project (thinking, origin, identity, difference, otherness) are explored in central writings of Martin Heidegger. This volume belongs to stages 2.1. and 3.1. of our project.

  1. Publications in international contexts:
  1. a) Chapter in a book, published by a renowned publishing house:

—Bogdan Mincă, “Dichtung und Politik bei Martin Heidegger”, in: Hans-Christian Günther (ed.), Political Poetry Across the Centuries, Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2016, pp. 15-26

The paper investigates the manner in which Heidegger linked together poetry and politics in the years 1931-1935. It shows that Heidegger’s attempt to reform the German University, as well as his fatal political involvement with Nazism in 1933, is inextricably linked to his interpretations on the idea of origin, beginning and source – as origin of European thought from the Greeks onwards and as origin of Being itself -, as well as to his interpretations on the role of (German) politics in his epoch. Poetry (and especially Hölderlin’s poetry), along with thinking, seems for Heidegger to bring together all the aspects of the real (mankind, the divine, things, world) and to keep them in an eternal dispute. This dispute is hosted by language itself, whose role, in Heidegger’s view, is to manifest Being itself. The article ends with an interpretation of several passages from Heidegger’s of Rectoral Address (1933), attempting to read in a philosophical-political-poetic key the relation between leader (Führer) and people (Volk) (this relation being constituted by the exercise of power by the leader and the simultaneous contestation of his power by the people). This paper belongs to stages 2.1. and 3.1. of our project.

  1. b) Article in international journal (listed ERIH)

—Bogdan Mincă, “Heidegger’s Return to the Cave. The Interpretation of the Platonic Cave Allegory and Theaetetus as an Early Indication of Kehre and Ereignis“, in: Heidegger Studies, vol. 33 (2017), accepted for publication

This forthcoming paper is dedicated to Heidegger’s interpretations of Plato in the years 1931-32, i.e. to the same period with which the previous article had dealt. It focuses on the great importance of Heidegger’s course of 1931-1932, dedicated to Plato, in order to see how key concepts of the second (or the later) Heidegger are born and developed, namely the concept of “return” (Kehre) and of Ereignis (usually translated as “enowning”). If, in the years 1921-1923, Aristotle was the key figure for Heidegger, in the years 1931-1934 Plato is the philosopher whom Heidegger fights the most when he tries to regain access to the origin of Western thinking, origin which – chronologically – is contained in the fragments of the Pre-Socratics in Greece (Heraclitus, Parmenides). Plato is here “guilty” of losing access to the primordial meaning of truth as a-letheia, “unconcealment”, and of focussing only on truth as correctness (with falsehood as its counterpart). The author of the paper showed that Heidegger’s return to Plato obeyed a complex scenario, whereby original truth returns in Western philosophy and for Western mankind. Heidegger’ interpretation of Platon rests, in fact, on a rethinking of history (Geschichte) and of original time. This paper belongs to the stage 1.2. of our project.

  1. Publications in volumes of proceedings published at Romanian publishing houses, recognized by UEFISCDI:

—Bogdan Mincă, „Interpretarea dată de Heidegger arche-ului grec ca «salt originar» (Ur-sprung) în Originea operei de artă, in: Mădălina Diaconu & Christian Ferencz-Flatz (eds.), Estetica fenomenologică după centenar. Perspective istorice și tendințe actuale, Editura Universității A.I. Cuza din Iași, 2016 (listed in category B)

This paper contextualizes the Heideggerian essay The Origin of the Work of Art (1931-35), revealing its relations with other works from the years 1931-1936, especially with the course from 1934 on Hölderlins. The paper focuses on the term “origin”, Ursprung, claiming that the topic of beginning and of originating source is arguably Heidegger’s central topic of thinking in the years mentioned above. More specifically, the author emphasizes the central feature of the idea of “origin”, namely the “law of the origin” itself: any origin is the origin of something (which involves key terms such as identity and difference), as well as the fact that there is a primordial dispute between origin and that which is originated from it. The author also pointed out that Heidegger’s way of approaching origin is indebted, in 1932, to the Greek term arche, “beginning”, as it appears particularly in Anaximander’s fragments (cf. the course from the summer semester 1932, recently published). This presentation fits in the project’s structure because it highlights how Heidegger is concerned, in the years 1931-1936, with the deconstruction of the traditional way of relating to things, in this special case with the work of art (this relation relying primarily on causality and uni-directional meaning), and with the development of a phenomeological-hermeneutical approach based on bi-directional meaning, reciprocity and mutuality. These lines of thinking are obtained by Heidegger through a deconstruction of the ancient Greek way of thinking the origin (arche), and, in close connection with this, of the relationship between the One and the multiple. This relationship is decisive, among other things, for the rethinking of the political dimension of existence. This paper belongs to stages 2.1. and 3.1. of our project.

  1. Co-organized international conferences:

—Bogdan Mincă was part of the scientific committee of the international conference 2400 Aristotle, held on 25-26 November 2016 at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest (his specific task: to review the abstracts submitted for the panel “Aristotle and Phenomenology” and to establish the final programme of this panel).

The panel “Aristotle and phenomenology” covered topics related to the reception of Aristotle in phenomenology. The eight participants to this panel have dealt with topics relating to: Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotelian poiesis and its importance in establishing the preeminence of sophia over phronesis in Aristotle’s thinking; Heidegger’s interpretations of Aristotle’s Physics; Heidegger’s interpretation of the relationship between phone and logos in Aristotle; F. Brentano’s interpretation of the polysemy of Being in Aristotle; the existential status of friendship in Aristotle, Heidegger and Hannah Arendt; the phenomenological interpretation of priority in Aristotle’s Categories; the role played by phantasia in the Aristotelian treatise De motu. Two members of our project (Bogdan Mincă and Ileana Borţun) presented contributions closely linked to the theme of our project (Heidegger and Aristotle on the realation between sophia and phronesis; Heidegger and Hannah Arendt on friendship, philia, in Aristotle). This activity belongs to stage 1.1. of our project.

  1. Co-organized national conferences:

—Bogdan Mincă co-organized (with Cristian Ciocan and Paul Marinescu) the annual conference of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology, in collaboration with the Institute of Philosophy “Alexandru Dragomir” and the Inst. for Research in Humanities of the University of Bucharest (IRH), 16-17 November 2016, held at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest. Conference Title: Comunitate – Identitate – Diferență. Perspective fenomenologice / Community – Identity – Difference. Phenomenological perspectives

The conference aimed, among other major topics, at exploring how the relationship between identity and difference within a community can be understood through the lens of the relation between thinking and action. Greek antiquity was, due to Pre-socratic and then to Platonic and Aristotelian thinking, responsible for the first configuration of the triad community-identity-difference, depending on: the relationship between the One and the multiple (both in the ontological and in the political sense); the dichotomy “theoretical wisdom – practical wisdom”, the dichotomy “thinking-action”. The relation between community, identity, and difference is reliable, in modernity, to receive new formulations, depending on: the role of thinking (understanding) in establishing the own identity of the person; action as appeareance of the agent; thinking as a dialogue with myself as an other (thinking as friendship with oneself); the characteristics of the action (, irreversible unpredictable); totalitarian violence, directed against individuality; thinking community through the lens of the relationship between the One and the multiple (unity in diversity); the hermeneutic logos, active both in thinking and in action, as a way of letting the other appear in his/her own individuality; the communication between thinking and concrete action in individual cases; faculty of judgment as mediation between thinking (formal) and action (concrete); ethics of the situation; the constitution of the personal identity by relating from an ethical point of view to the other. This conference belongs to stages 2.1., 2.2., 3.1 and 3.2., 4.1. and 4.2. of our project.

  1. Presentations at international conferences:

—a) Bogdan Mincă – international presentation: Origin and Difference. Heidegger’s Thinking of the Difference in the Years 1931-1935, at the international conference Phenomenology and Beyond (14th annual conference of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology), University of Reykjavik, Iceland, 21-23 April 2016

The central topic of the presentation is the question of difference in Heidegger, as it became manifest in the years 1931-1935, closely related to the question of the origin (beginning, source) and to the law governing the origin. It is the topic from which one can also approach with profit the famous episode of Heidegger’s failed attempt to reform the German University in 1933 (as it is contained in his famous Rectoral Address). The topics pertainig to the origin are: ontological difference, otherness, identity, uni-directionality, bi-directionality, mutuality etc. At stake was to show that it is possible to read and interpret Heidegger’s failed political involvement by looking at his interpretations from 1931-35 of Greek thinking (Aristotle and the relationship between potentiality (Kraft) and act, Plato and the relationship between truth and falsehood, the Pre-Socratics and especially Heraclitus’s relationship between the One and the multiple). It can thus be shown that Heidegger’s interest in reforming the academia în 1933 and his ardent wish to regain the vigour of the origin (as it is now attested in the first of his recently published Black Notebooks) is deeply connected to topics like: thinking, action and the going-over of thinking into action, power/force, opening, imagination and creation (Schaffen). This presentation belongs to stages 2.1. and 3.1. of our project.

—b) Bogdan Mincă – international presentation: Heidegger’s Interpretation of the Aristotelian poiesis and its Importance for the preeminence of sophia over phronesis, held at the international conference 2400 Aristotle, organized by the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest, 25-26 November 2016.

In this presentation, the author wanted to emphasize Heidegger’s strong thesis regarding Aristotle, namely that the Greek meaning of Being, to which Aristotle constantly (albeit implicitly) refers in his metaphysical investigations, was Being-produced, Hergestelltsein, i.e. Being-brought-to-the-fore and thus Being-present, Gegenwärtigsein. The act of producing something (poiesis) is the paradigm which enabled Aristotle to develop his analysis of movement (kinesis) in his Physics and thus to obtain his celebrated concepts of dynamis, energeia, entelecheia, by which the first understanding of “nature” (physis) was made possible in the West. The Aristotelian achievement was so groundbreaking, that this implicit meaning of Being as produced-ness (resulting in constant presence) was to dominate the whole history of ontology and metaphysics. Heidegger’s deconstruction of Aristotle’s philosophy is meant to lay bare the Greek bases of the meaning of Being as Being-produced (and of the relations “active–passive”, “subject–object”) and to open the way for a more originary, existential understanding of man as Dasein, which starts from the irreducible meaning of Being as it is manifested by Dasein itself through the development of a hermeneutics of its own situation. Thus, Heidegger’s deconstructive interpretations of Aristotle’s poiesis are the necessary accompanying step for a real phenomenological analysis of man’s Being. The author then focused on Heidegger’s interpretations of the way in which Aristotle compared the two supreme faculties of the human soul, i.e. phronesis and sophia, and ascribed pre-eminence to the latter. By so doing, Aristotle only radicalized the theoretical (contemplative) dimension already at work in techne, which is the knowledge guiding the poiesis. But, as Heidegger argues, by so doing Aristotle also abandoned a very fruitful way of investigating the nature of practical wisdom (phronesis), which is in consonance with man’s everyday understanding. Heidegger shows why Aristotle had to let sophia – as the knowledge of the movement of perfect beings – win the contest: because the (implicitly) guiding Greek meaning of Being was Being-constantly-present, Being-arrived-to-its-end (perfection) and self-standing. Human being and its peculiar mode of “movement” (as well as the knowledge, phronesis, that opens access to its first principles) fails to reach perfection. This presentation belongs to stage 1.1. of our project.

  1. Presentations at national conferences:

—a) Bogdan Mincă – national presentation: Interpretarea dată de Heidegger arche-ului grec ca „salt originar” (Ur-sprung) în Originea operei de artă / Heidegger’s Interpretation of the Greek arche as „Original Leap” (Ur-sprung) in the Essay The Origin of the Work of Art, presented at the annual colloquium of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology, entitled Estetica fenomenologică după centenar. Perspective istorice şi tendinţe actualeIn memoriam Walter Biemel (1918-2015) / Phenomenological Aesthtetics, Hundred Years after. Historical Perspectives and Current TrendsIn memoriam Walter Biemel (1918-2015), held at the Faculty of Philosophy (University of Bucharest), 21 November 2015.

For an abstract of the ideas presented at this colloquium, see above section 3 (Publications in volumes of proceedings published at Romanian publishing houses, recognized by UEFISCDI). This presentation belongs to stages 2.1. and 3.1. of our project.

—b) Bogdan Mincă – national presentation: Gândirea acțiunii ca gândire a diferenței și identității la Heidegger / Thinking Action as Thinking Identity and Difference in Heidegger, presented on 17 November 2016, at the annual colloquium of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology, entitled Comunitate – identitate – diferenţă. Priviri fenomenologice / Community – Identity – Difference. Phenomenological Perspectives, organized in collaboration with IRH Bucharest and the Institute “Alexandru Dragomir”, held at the Faculty of Philosophy (University of Bucharest), 16-17 November 2016

The presentation highlighted the relation between thinking and action in Heidegger, because this relation helps us to understand better other two relationships of utmost importance for Heidegger, namely: the relation, or, more precisely, the identity of being and thinking, and, secondly, the relation, or, more specifically, the difference between Being and being. The author then showed how action (Handlung) relates to late Heidegger’s central philosophical term, namely Ereignis, itself the source of both identity and difference. The author began with a brief overview of the meaning of “action” in Being and Time in 1927, which was followed by an analysis of “action” in the Letter on humanism in 1946. The insights won were then paralleled with the main ideas of two later texts by Heidegger, as they were gathered in the volume Identity and Difference (1957): the conference The Principle of Identity and the essay The onto-theo-logical Constitution of Metaphysics. The essence of action – as defined in the first sentence of the Letter on humanism – is to “bring to fulfillment” the other, where “the other” is primarily not man, but Being itself, to which man is bound by a sort of hearkening-listening. Human action is exercised not by way of factitive spontaneity, or as will to act, but rather as a sort of letting the other reach its own fulfillment: be it one’s self, the other person or a thing. The keyword here is Bezug, the “relation” between man’s essence and Being itself, a relation which “is” already, insofar as thinking man does only bring it to fulfillment: it is not thinking that constitutes, makes or peforms the Being of beings. According to Heidegger, thinking is man’s supreme action, which is engaged by Being itself to think nothing other than the relationship between man and Being (i.e. a letting of this relationship to come to its fulfillment). By so speaking, Heidegger tries to avoid classical terms like “active”, “passive”, “subject”, “object”, because they do not manage to grasp the opening (“active”) character of thinking, which is simultaneously dependent (“passive”) on the engagement that comes from Being itself. Action is not simply active, initiating, efficient and “factive”, thus imitating in a certain way the divine creation as creation from nothing. Action as bringing to fulfillment that which already is is a letting the other gain his/her ownmost Being. By so “doing”, action itself gains its own Being. Action thus does not create this otherness, but leads it to fulfillment. Finally, the author interpreted Heidegger’s analysis of the identity of Being and man, and of the (ontological) difference between Being and beings in the two texts mentioned above (from Identity and Difference), by showing how the question of identity and difference is ultimately connected to origin and the law which governs it (origin as the origin of something). In the opinion of the author, this last topic is Heidegger’s deepest concern in his whole work. This presentation belongs to stage 4.2. of our project.

  1. Months of research at a guest institution abroad:

—Bogdan Mincă – 1 month of research conducted from 8 August to 8 September 2016 at Le Centre de Recherches sur la Pensée Antique “Léon Robin” (Paris), at the invitation of Prof. Anca Vasiliu, director of research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, Paris-Sorbonne University, and the above-mentioned centre.

The aim of this research at a guest institution abroad (Centre de Recherches sur la Pensée Antique “Léon Robin” (Paris)) was to obtain more detailed information about the relationship between theoria and praxis, on the one hand, and the relationship between polis and the community on the other, in ancient Greece. Chronologically, Bogdan Mincă focused primarily on Pre-Socratic thinking, but also on the works of Plato and Aristotle. Also, the rich resources of Parisian institutions have facilitated the access to secondary literature inaccessible in Romania, as well as the chance to enter a fruitful dialogue with some active researchers in the fields above-mentioned, Mrs. Vasiliu being one of them. Bogdan Mincă’s research focused especially on the way in which the relationship between the One and the multiple (i.e. the unity in diversity) is of outmost importance for the gensis of Western thinking in Greece (contained in its most clear form in the fragments of Heraclitus, but also of the Seven Sages). This primordial idea (unity in diversity) was possible only within the Greek polis and the relationship the citizen had to the divine. Pre-Socratic thinking emerged before the split between the theoretical and the practical, between the vita activa and vita contemplativa (in Arendt’s words), between thinking and action, betwenn individual and community. The way in which the divine is itself dependent on a domain of the world (whereby the divine is, because of this very dependency, the centre of power and organization of this domain) – all this constitutes the basis for understanding both the political relationship between polis and individual, and the ontological relationship between universal and particular (or general and individual). By studying the prononunced metaphorical way of speaking of several Pre-Socratics, one can obtain a very interesting perspective on the integrative power of early Greek philosophical language (“integrative” being not yet equivalent with “generalization” or “abstraction”): cf., for example, the metaphorical role played by hygron (the humid) in Thales or by pyr (fire) in Heraclitus.

            An other path of research which was explored by Bogdan Mincă during his research in Paris was the relevance of a hermeneutical way of reading Plato’s dialogues through the lens of this primordial relationship implied by the formula “unity in diversity”, which can be found in the relationship between man and divine or individual and polis. This hermeneutical way of reading Plato would aim at overcoming traditional platonism (the absolute dominance of the ideai over the individual things), as well as the dominant role of ratio / logos in figuring out the presence of the general (of the idea) within the multiple, by way of abstraction. This traditional Platonistic (and not Platonic) way of understanding the primordial relationship between the One and the multiple (as well as the role played by thinking in configuring it) is to blame for the birth of pure theoretical thinking (vita contemplativa and the focus on the eternal, in Arendt’s words) and the gradual neglect of practical wisdom, phronesis (because it deals only with issues and matters that are not generalizable – even if these issues are pathways towards immortality, as emphasized by Arendt). Bogdan Mincă aims thus at developing this hermeneutical way of reading Plato (after a similar reading of Pre-Socratic thinking) and at detecting in Plato’s dialogues traces of Pre-Socratic integrative (One-multiple, unity in diversity) thinking. This integrative thinking should be grounded in something deeper than the dichotomy thinking-action, thus constituting itself as their basis and preserving as the ultimate horizon of thinking the political realm. Bogdan Mincă believes that a successful elaboration of this integrative thinking – as it has emerged in ancient Greece – offers great resources for sustainig actual efforts of reconnecting the community to the purely political (and not the economical or the social), i.e. of providing a model for working together of leaders and political communities. This research abroad belongs to stage 3.1. of our project.

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