Saturday, August 11, 2007

B&T 8: Disclosure, Idle Talk, Ambiguity, Curiousity

Part 7

The final aspect of being in is discourse. This isn’t language - it is the ontological condition of language. That which is disclosed by attunement and understanding is articulated by discourse. Discourse is a shared event; the listener understands the speaker because they are articulating meaning that is already there. Spoken disclosure is to share what is disclosed.

It’s already been said that Da-sein is dispersed into the they and thrown into possibilities. Da-sein is thrown into the they. The they has its own modes of understanding and interpretation. These are idle talk, curiosity and ambiguity. All three of these sound derogatory, but Heidegger insists this isn’t cultural criticism.

Discourse shares what is disclosed - but the mark of idle talk is that it does not go back to the original disclosure. It is discourse that only offers the most average, levelled down understanding. It’s almost like speaking for the sake of speaking; it has no relation to the being being spoken of. It’s like gossip, or “passing the word alone.” Because idle talk offers a leveled down understanding, it can understand everything. Quantum physics? No problem. I watched What the bleep do we know. Chaos theory? No problem. I watched Jurassic Park. It’s not about deception... it’s just rootless talk.

Curiosity corresponds to sight as a mode of disclosing. Just like idle talk understands everything, curiosity sees everything. Remember, BitW is initially absorbed in taking care. We take care of the things around us. Curiosity only wants to see - not see and take care. It is restless; always seeking novelty. Jumping from new possibility to new possibility. The newest theory comes out of Europe... gotta jump on it! Curiosity sees everything and idle talk understands everything. This can be confused with a “lively life.” Being able to do 10 000 things in a piecemeal way rather than dwelling with one thing.

Ambiguity has the same sort of thing going on. Ambiguity is what “everyone knows.” It knows what everyone else thinks and feels. It also knows what is going to happen and what should be done. Political opinions are usually a pretty good example of this; everyone knows what the significance of the Iraq War is. When something actually does happen, we all knew it was going to happen that way, too.

Ambiguity dominates being-with, as well. The other is “there” in terms of what we have heard about them. Gossip, piecemeal opinions, these things all too often dominate our relations with others.

Idle talk, curiosity and ambiguity constitute the entanglement of Da-sein. This is how Da-sein is in the world, initially and for the most part. Da-sein is fallen prey. It’s an absorption in the they. This entanglement is the inauthenticity of Da-sein. This entanglement is Da-sein not being itself. Heidegger says Da-sein is “tempted” into falling prey; it confuses Da-sein into thinking all of its possibilities are open to it, when in fact they are leveled. This is tranquillizing. Tranquilization is not stagnation, but busyness. Again, this is like the lively life. Always running to and fro, finding new things to distract one’s self. Being tranquilized makes feel at home.

Heidegger actually sets up an early critique of something like multi-culturalism here. This belief that all possibilities are open leads to the belief that understanding and synthesizing foreign cultures will lead to the “enlightenment” of Da-sein. Because Da-sein is tranquilized and entangled, it is alienated from its ownmost possibilities. This is inauthenticity; a loss of one’s own possibilities.

It is important to note that Da-sein be falling prey only because it is concerned, understanding, attuned being in the world.


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