May 192013

Since Descartes (whose Radical Doubt long preceded Nietzsche’s God is Dead moment), Western philosophy has been dominated by a nostalgia for lost Being, for the sacred cosmos that made our lives an epic drama of  interaction with the gods. The 20th century was dominated by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who turned mostly away from the problem and thought about how language constitutes the world we live in, and Martin Heidegger, who seems to have maintained the possibility of a romantic semi-mystical phenomenological intuition (for want of a better word) of Being.

When I was an undergraduate and graduate student at Edinburgh, the problem of lost Being did obsess me (probably more than was healthy); my solution was to throw myself into the study of Kant, who turned out not to have solved the problem. My son Jacob has inherited the family obsession, and, willy-nilly, has thrown himself into the study of Heidegger (and his student Gadamer). It’s a fascinating family dynamic; I only grasped it the other day walking the dog, who is a Cynic.[1]

Wes Cecil is, as I have said before, a remarkable, funny, passionate lecturer, a massively helpful Virgil in the Land of the Philosophical Shades.



Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. I fear only Jacob will get this joke. The word “cynic” comes from the Greek kunikos, which means dog-like.

  3 Responses to “Nostalgia for Lost Being: Wes Cecil Lecture on Martin Heidegger”

  1. A wonderful lecture, even though I only have time to listen to part of it this morning. The idea of “thinking” is very much like developing the “watcher” in Buddhist practice. That is, seeing yourself non-judgmentally as you act out your daily life in compassion, anger, lust, etc.

    That’s all well and good, but right now I have to make important choices based on my overnight email. Should I-
    1. Regain my independence with a walk-in tub.
    2. Go solar and let the government subsidize my installation
    3. Become an Internet Millionaire and quit my job fast.

    Suggestions appreciated,
    Bruce Hiscock

  2. Try reading ‘The World as Will & Representation’ by Schopenhauer; that should blow away a few cobwebs. Your dog will appreciate your new-found kinship with him.

    • Tim, Thank you. Of course, Schopenhauer. Substitutes the will for the Kantian thing-in-itself; following on from Kant’s distinction between Wille and Willkur.

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