Saturday, October 18, 2008

Are Questions Creative?

Heidegger analyzes the question of nothingness and argues that it's logically impossible to question the nothing without making something of it (What is Metaphysics?). How do we question the nothing without calling it into being? The question of the nothing, he says, robs itself of its own object. He continues:

Wenn wir uns aber durch die formale Unmöglichkeit der Frage nach dem Nichts nicht beirren lassen and ihr entgegen die Frage dennoch stellen, dann müssen wir zum mindesten dem genügen, was als Grunderfordernis für die mögliche Durchführung jeder Frage bestehen bleibt. Wenn das Nichts, wie immer, befragt werden soll–es selbst–dann muß es zuvor gegeben sein. Wir müssen ihm begegnen können.

However, if we do not allow ourselves to be distracted by the formal impossibility of the question of the nothing and nevertheless confront the question, then we must satisfy what is a basic requirement for the possible carrying through of any question. If the nothing itself would be questioned then it must be given beforehand. We must be able to encounter it.

Possibly there is no nothing itself but only a nothing als etwas. In calling the nothing into question we would indeed be questioning the formal concept of an imaginary nothing, perhaps because that's all that's meant by thinking "nothing." So what then do we make of the requirement that we be able to meet what we question before we begin to question? Or that the questioned must be given? Is givenness never to be called into question? Is a question never to be creative?

Is a question essentially a consciousness? Let's say that it is a conscious act. We might call such an act a thought just for the sake of following Heidegger's argument. He says that thinking, which is essentially always thinking of something, while it is thinking of the nothing must act contrary to its own essence. Wouldn't it be more likely for thought to operate contrary to the essence of the nothing before operating contrary to itself? (Our ideas about the nature of thought may not be compatible.) Yet the thinking of nothing is not so simple. We need something like a temporal horizon to interpret the way thought brings itself into the thinking of the nothing; the nothing appears as the residue of what thought accomplished just now, reflects upon it, sums it up–no, that's not quite it. It responds. In negation it's as if everything that had come before possibly to affirm the present moment had been posed in the form of a question and then answered in the negative. Here it's not a matter of negation revealing the primacy of a question, but one of negation simply unfolding in the horizon of a questioning, or indeed, a culture of questioning.

Does questioning, when directed at the nothing or at anything, ever operate contrary to its essence? Would only being able to address the already given be more in keeping with the essence of an answer than a question? How would we know when a question had violated itself? Obviously we may see questioning operate contrary to the way we feel questioning should operate. It can operate contrary to its ideal. But how much do we really know about the operation of the question? Or should I say the "carrying through" of the question? What do we already know about how a question is carried through? How do we begin to study it? I'll keep you posted.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:35 AM.


Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Heidegger said of DT Suzuki, "If I understand this man corectly, this is what I've been trying to say all these years."

In light of this, it can perhaps be seen that Heidegger was simply using the ghost of reason (his own dogma) to flesh out that which wasn't meant to be fleshed.

That is, the language of reason is a tool for differentiating the world, and in this way is perhaps always creative. Is "the nothing" that which comes at us undifferentiated then? or perhaps that thing which was taking over Fantasia in "The Never Ending Story"

If reason cannot speak to something, then it doesn't exist. Simply name a truth which exists void of a proposition. In this way what is nothing exists in everything; undifferentiated, pre-intellecualized reality, nothing.

October 18, 2008 4:23 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, Andrew.

Interesting take. (I just read your post on "the nothing" too.) Your criticism seems to go to the heart of Heidegger's project.

I wonder whether fleshing out that which wasn't meant to be fleshed out isn't actually creative, perhaps even in some way that we might recognize as essential to who we are. But you see that possibility, if I'm not mistaken.

October 19, 2008 8:41 AM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

On the other hand though, creative is a value word. And there seems to be two perspectives to it.

There’s a flower sitting in front of a window in the morning. As the sun comes up the process of photosynthesis takes over, the flower opens up and the peddles raise. This is a perfectly rational and scientific process. On the other hand, perhaps the flower just likes the warmth of the sun, so it tilts it’s head up. However, because it’s simple enough that we can describe it through rational thought, we don’t consider the flower *likes* anything.

I'm not sure reason has the capacity to tie down creativity, any more then it can tie down what's good. So there's really two essences here, maybe....
Things are creative because we like them to be.

I'm not really going anywhere with this, sorry.... And I'm off topic...

October 19, 2008 12:43 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Well, you needn't apologize for wandering off topic. I do that all the time here.

October 19, 2008 3:17 PM  

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