Before I begin with the recollection of your new favorite section of Being and Time, number 73, I want to say a few things about Heidegger.
There's books written about this guy, and way more books than about other troubled intellectuals who did bad stuff, because, well... because. Generally, the sides on Heidegger are two. Either he is a Nazi, whose philosophy is inseparable from his political history, or his philosophy is metaphysics, and not political. I'm of the opinion that his philosophy should be considered separately from his political history... and that this philosophy reeks of Fascism.
He's brilliant, sure. I've said before that Being and Time taught me how to write. Every word is so carefully chosen, not only as a signifier but within the delicate structural framework of syntax and semantics that is philosophy. Just look at all the quote marks thrown around words, and the italics. These are not just emphasis, thrown out casually. Each is done with the same purpose as putting a castle on a hill, rather than a valley. There is literally an architecture to Heidegger's prose, and it backs his philosophy across every square, grade, stairway, sloping rooftop, and empty space in his thought. It's some of the best philosophy of the 20th century.
But it's also Fascist. The more lenient philosophers and political thinkers will often let Lenin and other leftists off with a wag of the finger, and a wise word about propaganda, political movements, and state power out of control. But this is not just a guy with a captive audience, and ego-crush on history. The architecture of the thought is Fascist, and it is so close to really good metaphysics that it should scare anyone who still cares about metaphysics.
Of course, writing philosophy is one thing, and kicking Jews out of academia is another thing. Anyone can do either, but it took Heidegger to do both, and seemingly, with the same univocal hand and mind. There is mass Fascism, and there is micro, little-Eichmann Fascism, and then there is intellectual Fascism. Being and Time is the reason I give anyone I hear talking about "authentic" anything a long, hard look. No matter how much Heidegger will argue that there is no moral distinction between authentic and in-authentic being, you can hear the goddamn crazy in his voice. He is lining people up in his head. Just a few sections on, in 75 and 76, when he starts talking about "resoluteness", and "loyalty" to the being of history. And in the famous Rectory Address (which you should really read if you haven't, to know what I'm talking about), when I visualize him actually speaking this, it's uncanny.
The point is, when I implement Heidegger here to make certain points about Time, I am doing so with this in mind, and also, against Heidegger. I have no doubt that he, and many Heidegger scholars, would disagree with the reading I'm about to make, and that is good. It is intended to pull away from his philosophy. His writing is still very well done, and very powerful, and this section made me think about time in certain ways that drew out my conclusions. But I would not say that what I'm about to draw out is Heideggerian. Who knows, however; perhaps, if he lived now in the age of digital reproduction, he would see that authenticity for the sham that it is, and maybe his metaphysics would go in a different direction. Maybe not. This is the strange part about history: that ultimately, it both is what it is, and is what it isn't.
Heidegger's text will be in blog block quote style, and my comments will not. All emphasis is Heidegger's.
Section 73 of Being and Time: "The Vulgar Understanding of History and the Occurence of Dasein."
Our next aim is to find the right position for attacking the primordial question of the essence of history--that is to say, for construing historicality existentially. This position is designated by that which is primordially historical. We shall begin our study, therefore, by characterizing what one has in view in using the expressions 'history' and 'historical' in the ordinary interpretation of Dasein. These expressions get used in several ways.
The most obvious ambiguity of the term 'history' is one that has often been noticed, and there is nothing 'fuzzy' about it. It evinces itself in that this term may mean the 'historical acutality' as well as the possible science of it. We shall provisionally eliminate the signification of 'history' in the sense of a "science of history" (historiology).
Isn't this great?!? Okay, a helpful hint: look at the different implementations of the word "history". There is "history" the noun. There is "historical", the adjective, or the state of something being history. There is also noun of this adjective, "historicality". Then there is "historizing", the verb that is the act of something being made history (more or less), and lastly, there is "historiology", or the science of deciding what all these words mean.
Heidegger is very careful with these words, and the different between the different parts of speech will spell out how he thinks history functions, from a metaphysical and existential standpoint. In the next few paragraphs, we'll see how exactly he wants to separate and unify these terms.
The expression 'history' has various significations with which one has in view neither the science of history nor even history as an Object, by this very entity itself, not necessarily Objectified. Among such significations, that in which this entity is understood as something past, may well be the pre-eminent usage. This signification is evinced in the kind of talk in which we say that something or other "already belongs to history". Here 'past' means "no longer present-at-hand", or even "still present-at-hand indeed, but without having any 'effect' on the 'Present' ". Of course, the historical as that which is past has also the opposite signification, when we say, "One cannot get away from history." Here, by "history", we have in view that which is past, but which nevertheless is still having effects. Howsoever the historical, as that which is past, is understood to be related to it, either positively or privatively, in such a way as to have effects upon it. Thus 'the past' has a remarkable double meaning; the past belongs irretrievably to an earlier time; it belonged to the events of that time; and in spite of that, it can still be present-at-hand 'now'--for instance, the remains of a Greek temple. With the temple, a 'bit of the past' is still 'in the present'.
This is the first of four significations of "history". Something 'past', in that "'the past' has a remarkable double meaning; the past belongs irretrievably to an earlier time; it belonged to the events of that time; and in spite of that, it can still be present-at-hand 'now'.
What we next have in mind with the term "history" is not so much 'the past' in the sense of that which is past, but rather derivation from such a past. Anything that 'has a history' stands in the contect of a becoming. In such becoming, 'development' is sometimes a rise, sometimes a fall. What 'has a history' in this way can, at the same time, 'make' such history. As 'epoch-making', it determines 'a future' 'in the present'. Here "history" signifies a 'context' of events and 'effects', which draws on through 'the past', the 'Present', and the 'future'. On this view, the past has no special priority.
Second signification. History is a becoming, a separation from the basic dimension of time, or to describe it in a familiar but perhaps problematic way, 'how we make our fortune'. To take our place in history, or to write ourselves into the history books, etc. To separate a span of time from other spans of time, and to segment it.
Further, "history" signifies the totality of those entities which change 'in time', and indeed the transformations and vicissitudes of men, of human groupings and their 'cultures', as distinguished from Nature, which likewise operates 'in time'. Here what one has in view is not so much a kind of Being--historizing--as it is that realm of entities which one distinguishes from Nature by having regard for the way in which man's existence is essentially determined by 'spirit' and 'culture', even though in a certain manner Nature too belongs to "history" as thus understood.
Third signification. History is the works of man, as split off from the rest of Nature. Again, post-modernly problematic, sure, but the way we casually refer to history may be problematic. However, I might argue that it is not problematic at all. Differentiating any single thing, be it human, animal, object, or idea, from the rest of the shapeless undifferentiated chaos of the world, is the first step towards representation.
Finally, whatever has been handed down to us is as such held to be 'historical', whether it is something which we know historiologically, or something that has been taken over as self-evidence, with its derivation hidden.
And the last signification means, in my view, history as history, or those past, epochal, cultural products we refer to as history and manipulate and study as such. This is the "meta" signification I guess--the pure history that is the subject of history as science, outside of our memories, products, and opinions.
If we take these four significations together, the upshot is that history is that specific historizing of existent Dasein which comes to pass in time, so that the historizing which is 'past' in our Being-with-one-another, and which at the same time has been 'handed down to us' and is continuingly effective, is regarded as "history" in the sense that gets emphasized.
The four significations are connected in that they relate to man as the 'subject' of events. How is the historizing character of such events to be defined? Is historizing a sequence of processes, an ever-changing emergence and disappearance of events? In what way does this historizing of history belong to Dasein? Is Dasein already factically 'present-at-hand' to begin with, so that on occasion it can get 'into a history'? Does Dasein first become historical by getting intertwined with events and circumstances? Or is the Being of Dasein constituted first of all by historizing, so that anything like circumstances, events, and vicissitudes is ontologically possible only because Dasein is historical in its Being? Why is it that the function of the past gets particularly stressed when the Dasein which historizes 'in time' is characterized 'temporally'?
If you aren't familiar with Being and Time then most of that just shot past you. Here's the gist, about which I can think of several professors who would be shaking their heads sadly if they knew I was writing. Heidegger believes that true being comes from being-there, in connection with various other beings, also being-there. Da-sein, get it? Of course, it's much more complex that simply being-there. There is 'care', which is the state of being with others in a way that one can say one is being-with them but also sort of seperate. And there is also time, which is a dimension in which Dasein must exist, for two there-being beings to be said to be there-being at the same time. Right? So time is necessary, for this true being, this Dasein. Not so far fetched, right?
Okay, so Heidegger is asking if history, of which we have just finished outlining four different ways in which we use the word, is the way that things be-in-time, then what is the relationship between history and these four different significations, and Dasein proper?
Personally, I'm more interested in his discussion of history than Dasein. As I said before, I think when he starts separating authentic being from inauthentic being is where he gets off course. There is no Proper-History, and Pedestrian-History. All of it is simply history, though it may have different facets. Same thing with Being. The thing about Being, is that no matter what you call it, what you dress it up as, or what titles and crowns you give it, it is still just Being. That's why it's so mysterious! Unless you eat psilocybin. Then Being is a whole lot of other things too. As my friend Steve once said, "energy is happen". But let's get back to history. Onward.
If history belongs to Dasein's Being, and this Being is based on temporality, then it would be easy to begin the existential analysis of historicality with those characteristics of the historical which obviously have a temporal meaning. Therefore, by characterizing more precisely the remarkably privileged position of the 'past' in the concept of history, we shall prepare the way for expounding the basic constitution of historicality.
The 'antiquities' preserved in museums (household gear, for exmaple) being to a 'time which is past'; yet they are still present-at-hand in the 'Present'. How far is such equipment historical, when it is not yet past? Is it historical, let us say, only because it has become an object of historiological interest, of antiquarian study or national lore? But such equipment can be a historiological object only because it is in itself somehow historical. We repeat the question; by what right do we call this entity "historical", when it is not yet past? Or do these 'Things' have 'in themselves' 'something past', even though they are still present-at-hand today? Then are these, which are present-at-hand, still what they were? Evidently these "things" have changed. The tools have become fragile and worm-eaten "in the course of time". But yet the specific character of the past that makes them something historical does not lie in this transience that continues even during their objective presence in the museum. But then what is past about the useful thing? What were the "things" that they no longer are today? They are still definite useful things, but out of use. However, if they were still in use, like many heirlooms in the household, would they then not be historical? Whether in use or out of use, they are no longer what they were. What is 'past'? Nothing other than the world within which they were encountered as things at hand belong to a context of useful things and used by heedful Dasein existing-in-the-world. That world is no longer. But what was previously innerworldly in that the world is still objectively present. As useful things belonging to that world, what is now still objectively present can nevertheless belong to the "past". But was does it mean that the world no-longer-is? World is only in the mode of existing Dasein, that is, factically as being-in-the-world.
Blam! My mind is blown! How can we say something is old, if it still exists right in front of our eyes? What is historical about them--because certainly there is something historical about them--is that they existed in a dimension of time that is-no-longer. They are from another epoch, whether it be the neolithic, the dark ages, "the Orient", or the 50s. We call them whatever we want, but still, they are in different rooms of the museum. Furthermore, they are in the museum to begin with. These things belong to our world now, but they also belong to another world then, which is definitely no longer this one.
The historical character of extant antiquities is thus grounded in the "past" of Dasein to whose world that past belongs. According to this, only "past" Dasein would be historical, but not "present" Dasein. However, can Dasein be past at all, if we define "past" as "now no longer objectively present or at hand"? Evidently Dasein can never be past, not because it is imperishable, but because it can essentially never be objectively present. Rather, if it is, it exists. But a Dasein that no longer exists is not past in the ontologically strict sense; it is rather having-been-there. The antiquities still objectively present have a "past" and a character of history because they belong to useful things and originate from a world that has-been--the world of a Dasein that has-been-there. Dasein is what is primarily historical. But does Dasein first become historical by no longer being there? Or is it historical precisely as factically existing? Is Dasein something that has-been only in the sense of having-been-there, or has it been as something making present and futural, that is, in the temporalizing of its temporality?
Here he is checking in with Dasein, by commenting on a difficulty. If the old stuff belonged to a world that is past, then in that world, it must have had Dasein (or the sort reserved for things rather than people) in order for it to really belong to that world. But the problem is, Dasein is characterized by it being now, among those Beings currently existing. So what happened to the old Dasein? Did it evaporate? Or is there as Dasein-shaped hole? Or is it something to do with the nature of Time as a continuum, that fundamentally supports the possibility of all Dasein, and through it, history? (WOW! You guessed number three! Good job! In metaphysics, it's always the most complicated rhetorical question that is the correct one. Either that, or none of them are.)
From this preliminary analysis of the useful things belonging to history that are still objectively present and yet somehow "past", it becomes clear that this kind of being is historical only on the basis of its belonging to the world. But the world has a historical kind of being because it constitutes an ontological determination of Dasein. It may be shown further that when one designates a time as 'the past', the meaning of this is not unequivocal; but 'the past' is manifestly distinct from one's having been, with which we have become acquainted as something constitutive for the ecstatical unity of Dasein's temporality. This, however, only makes the enigma ultimately more acute; why is it that the historical is determined predominantly by the 'past', or, to speak more appropriately, by the character of having-been, when that character is one that temporalizes itself equiprimordially with the Present and the future?
We contend that what is primarily historical is Dasein. That which is secondarily historical, however, is what we encounter within-the-world--not only equipment ready-to-hand, in the widest sense, but also the environing Nature as 'the very soil of history.' Entities other than Dasein which are historical by reason of belonging to the world, are what we call 'world-historical'. It can be shown that the ordinary conception of 'world-history' arises precisely from our orientation to what is thus secondarily historical. World-historical entities do not first get their historical character, let us say, by reason of an historiological Objectification; they get it rather as those entities which they are in themselves when they are encountered within-the-world.
If 'the past' is part of Dasein, how is it separate from our own individual pasts, and furthermore, separate from our sense of time in general? Well, let Heidegger introduce you to primary historicality, which is Dasein, and secondary historicality, which is the network of the world outside or our Being. Our Being relates to the world via Dasein, and objects relate to the history imbued to the world via Dasein, what he calls "the world-history".
This is where I step in. I am fine with a phenomenological reduction of history--things that are historical only are because we perceive them as such. But the only reason Heidegger is interested in creating a first/second order historicality, is so he can continue to privilege Dasein, the authentic Being, as something metaphysically more awesome than other things. After all, the 'volk's' sense of history is more important than, say, the history of production relations. Right? Because who cares about the factory, when OUR HISTORY AS SUBJECTIVE ACTORS is under discussion! Drill, baby, drill!
But really, look how he justifies it, as we continue:
In analyzing the historical character of equipment which is still present-at-hand, we have not only been led back to Dasein as that which is primarily historical; but at the same time we have been made to doubt whether the termporal characterization of the historical in general may be oriented primarily to the Being-in-time of anything present-at-hand. Entities do not become 'more historical' by being moved off into a past which is always farther and farther away, so that the oldest of them would be the most authentically historical. On the other hand, if the 'temporal' distance from "now and today" is of no primary constitutive significance for the historicality of entities that are authentically historical, this is not because these entities are not 'in time' and are timeless, but because they exist temporally in so primordial a manner that nothing present-at-hand 'in time', whether passing away or still coming along, could ever--by its ontological essence--be temporal in such a way.
He's so close, it kills me. He's right in saying that things do not become "more historical" by being older according to the timeline of years. And he's also right by saying that if "historicity" is not a factor of distance across this dimension, then temporal distance (say, number of years) in itself is "of no primary constitutive significance for the historicality of entities", and not because these things are somehow divorced from time, and timeless, beyond measure. They can be measured, and this measurement doesn't matter to their historicity.
But he thinks this proves that it is a sort of history that is therefore separate from our "present-at-hand 'in time' ": our present sense of the difference between past and future. It's a tautology--because Heidegger believes that current, present Being is fundamentally distinct from all historical, past senses of Being, then the difference between our appreciation of time-as-presence must be fundamentally different from our appreciation of time-as-history.
I would argue precisely the opposite. Our only sense of time is of time-as-history. Many philosophers have argued that the cone of perception extends only into the past. Of course, it is infuriating to us that we cannot "remember now", because as soon as we do, it is past. But think about it--what he is describing about history is precisely how we think about time. Our sense of history is not concerned with the difference in years. But our sense of history is certainly no separate from our subjective sense of "time passing". So doesn't this lead us to believe that our sense of history, and our sense of temporality are unified?
The trouble, it seems to me, is our necessary layering of measurement onto the segments of time. Remember the second signification of history? After the first, that past is both past and present, there is the second, that any particular past, is a derivation from such a past-present. A number line extends to infinity in both directions, but the minute you grab any segment of that number line, you must identify some sort of units to clarify which portion of the line, in relation to all other portions. To say segment 1,2 is different than 3,4 is easy; but to say segment 1,2 is different than -infinity,infinity is much more difficult. Hence, we develop the term 'zero', the point from which we extend in either direction towards infinity. But remember, 'zero' is also an infinity point. "Now" is just as non-existant as "zero past" and "zero future". Sure, we think about the past backing its way up to Now, just as the future extents outward from now. But this is simply a factor of time's passage, which in dimensional geometry, isn't actually "going" anywhere. Imagine backing up in time from a point in 10,000 BC all the way to Zero Past, or the point at which the dimension of time expires. Just as much of a pain in the brain as trying to "remember now", isn't it?
But this is the way we think about time. You could call it the Dasein in Time, or the fundamental condition of Time (or history, if you want to try this argument from the Marxist angle), or the authentic, primary history. It really doesn't matter what you call it. Time still is what it is, and is what it isn't. What we do know is that we have a sensation of time, and a sensation of history as time 'that is past'. If we reduce time and history to our phenomenological perception of it, this is what we are stuck with. We have the line of time, we have the expression of various segments along it, and we have the head-pounding problem of when we try to invent zeros for this line, in order to measure it correctly.
I contend, what is primarily historical, is this problem. We will always hurt our heads thinking about it, but we won't stop trying to think about these zeros, either.
But what is very interesting is what these meditations have uncovered about the way we think about time, which we ignored, maybe because our heads hurt so much, or just out of habit, trying to keep all the measurements straight. When we look at them, they only ensnare us further into the problem, but in ways that are very interesting, and provoke thought about new aspects of the problem.
Heidegger's four significations of history are true. We think about the past in terms of a unified past and present. We separate the particular past from our 'sense of the past'. We use history to define our world, and our place in the world. And most interestingly, we take up the material of our history, and study it as history, to try to know more about ourselves.
And all of this changes, the more work in historiology we do. The more 'raw data' of history we accumulate, and the more we categorize it and sift it, bringing it into our 'now', the more our history changes. What would Heidegger have thought of the Internet? No authentic Being out there, to be sure. But an awful lot of other stuff. Lots of being-in-general. Lots of history, both being studied, created, and lost. The Internet is a giant web of presence, but a presence that is impossible to measure, and is never infinite. It changes our perception of temporality, but nevertheless extends our temporality, allowing us to look at particular moments and segments in repetition, completely skip other moments, and interact with history at a speed we find comfortable, whether fast or slow. The Internet is a master tool of historiology. It is a SF nightmare scientific tool, but the tool is set to work on our perception of the world, and can never be unplugged, and we cannot look outside of its scopes anymore. The Internet began as a repository for data, but now it is the tool for producing the data, distributing the data, and the tool for producing the tools, and the relations of production. The Internet is the world-history, both as a repository thereof, as creator, and conduit, and content. You can unplug from the computer, but you cannot unplug from world-history. There is no timelessness outside of cyber-time. There is history that signifies in a seperate segment from cyber-time, but because cyber-time is part of our phenomenal perception of temporality, and part of our history, there can be no temporality existing separately, and no alternate history. There is only one history--a tangled web of then-and-now, ever changing, re-expressing itself, and constantly being experienced.
Really, its not just the Internet. Any tool, any object in the world changes our interpretation of it, and our Being in the world. When you pick up a hammer, your hand is changed. It can bash in nails. It can bash in heads. It is still your body doing these things, but it is doing it as part of being-with-hammer. The Internet is the same, only we are all connected to the same Internet. We are being-with-Internet. It's not all the same Internet, but none of it is different. It is all part of the same world. It is only so apparent because it is instrumental in our perception of history, which as you remember, is how we visualize our selves in the world. We all have always been connected via the ecosystem, and via our species, and via the distributed genetic logic of our interior chemical structures. ACGT. All of our chemistries speak the same language, and are in the same temporality. But because of consciousness, through some peculiar mechanism, we are driven to understand the span of time and space by segmentation, by splitting it into categories, and egos, and nows and thens, lines and dots, and all the rest. Now, with these consciousnesses interfacing with the same machine, we are starting to bring these individual, conscious-ego world-histories back together, re-writing and re-reading our historiological understanding of our own histories, and creating the world-history anew as we go. We are ditching some of the more quantitatively temporal segmentation strategies as we go. Minutes of the day.... time zones... yesterday versus the day before... what does it matter? All that matters is what history continues to be, and continues to show us about itself. And, what it still refuses to allow us to comprehend, by way of its own structure.
It will be said that these deliberations have been rather petty. No one denies that at bottom human Dasein is the primary 'subject' of history; and the ordinary conception of history, which we have cited, says so plainly enough. But with the thesis that 'Dasein is historical', one has in view not just the ontical fact that in man we are presented with a more or less important 'atom' in the workings of world-history, and that we remains the plaything of circumstances and events. This thesis raises the problem: to what extent and on the basis of what ontological conditions, does historicality belong, as an essential constitutive state, to the subjectivity of the 'historical' subject?
The easy way out would be to say that in this post-property Internet dimension, nothing belongs to anyone any more. Not even history; not even historicality. Historiology, the province of entrepreneurial metaphysicians, is now open territory to anyone. But, this is not really the answer to the question. Historicality does belong to someone; it has to, if it is something distinctly historical. You can't have a phenomenological reduction without someone to observe the phenomena. But I think what has changed is, what it means to 'belong'. We are not really atoms in the structure of world-history, nor amino acids, nor even electrons. We are fully conscious and individual animals, capable of independent worldly life and thought, that never the less choose to plug in and share with each other, creating new dimensions of time, space, and being where there were not before, and leaving old ones behind in the recesses and gutters of our collective memory. And that, when you start thinking about it, is really much more complicated.