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Reivew of Heidegger Beyond Deconstruction: On Nature by Michael Lewis

Reivew of Heidegger Beyond Deconstruction: On Nature by Michael Lewis

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Published by AnthonyPaulSmith
Review, draft only. Appears in the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, Volume 40 Number 1 (January 2009)
Review, draft only. Appears in the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, Volume 40 Number 1 (January 2009)

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Published by: AnthonyPaulSmith on Nov 27, 2009
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08/07/2010

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 HEIDEGGER BEYOND DECONSTRUCTION: ON NATURE 
,
MichaelLewis, London and New York: Continuum, 2007, viii+ pp. 184, Hbk., £65.00. ISBN-13 - 978-0826497796.Michael Lewis’
 Heidegger Beyond Deconstruction: On Nature
is an originalinvestigation into the question of nature in Heidegger’s philosophy. The main thesisof the book may be stated in this way: nature’s imminent apocalyptic demise, due toits subjugation under humanity’s technology, uniquely discloses nature for the firsttime and Heidegger’s philosophy exceptionally allows an awareness of that revealingin his thinking of the ‘near’ (important, readers of 
 Being and Time
will remember, for Heidegger’s understanding of the relationship between Dasein and tools). In order toargue that Heidegger’s philosophy is an invaluable resource to thinking through theenvironmental crisis Lewis must show how Heidegger moves beyond theanthropocentrism of his early work 
 Being and Time
. Overcoming thisanthropocentrism will also show that Heidegger allows nature to reveal itself ascondition of, and not creation of, humanity. Lewis’ antagonist for this investigation isthe deconstructive criticisms of Heidegger’s conception of the near and the figurewhich allows Lewis to parry such deconstructive thrusts is found in Slavoj Žižek.While Derrida’s reading of Heidegger, and thus the Heidegger presented indeconstruction, is rejected and argued against in the book, Lewis does not writeextensively on Derrida’s critique. Rather, and refreshingly, Lewis presents hisalternative reading of Heidegger casually without appearing desperate to protectHeidegger from Derrida. Derrida is merely taken as a foil with which Lewis mustengage in order to present a Heidegger on nature and beyond deconstruction, rather than an opponent that must be destroyed.Lewis first evades the criticism of the ‘near’ by agreeing that there is a problem in theearly Heidegger but that Heidegger himself realized this and responded to it. The problem may be located in the
Urfaktum
of temporarity that has been taken by manyto bea philosophical anthropology which is necessarilyanthropocentric. Lewis arguesthat Heidegger’s concept of temporarity is not anthropocentric, since finitude does not belong solely to humanity, but rather the mistake of the early Heidegger is takingtemporarity as a grounding fact that admits of no further explanation. For there wasstill something that continues to intrude and is not intelligible via temporarity and thusgrounds it. This thing is nature. It is the thing, which is another name for nature as it is being revealed in its destruction, that Heidegger comes to in his realization that worldinvolves earth and that divinity involves man (and vice versa) – all of which is namedthe fourfold that determines the individuation of being.In order to explain how this thing always exceeds the world, by which is meant thetotality of signification, Lewis turns to a heuristic dual reading of Heidegger alongsideLacan. For Lacan the Thing (which he capitalizes) is the perfect thing and does notexist; it is instead the very void and condition upon which desire builds itself. TheThing cannot be circumscribed within the symbolic, since it precedes the symbolic ascondition, as evidenced by attempts in “sublime art” which show that the signifier elides something. Thus both Heidegger and Lacan think the thing in order to think aninhuman entity outside of the opposition of subject and object, and thus outside anyappropriative use of the thing, i.e. nature. Lewis is thus presenting the reader with akind of realist Heidegger that is looking for the thing in itself, as the thing properly is,
 
rather than as it appears for us, which is always veiled in a forgetting of the excess beyond the signifier.This allows Lewis to turn deconstruction’s charge of anthropomorphism back at it,though indirectly through another dual reading of Heidegger with Levinas this time.The idea being that, insofar as Derrida recognizes in Levinas a forbearer of his owndeconstructive philosophy, the critique of Levinas may also come to bear on that of Derrida as well. Lewis argues that Levinas’ philosophy anthropomorphizes being ingeneral as oneness by modelling it on the ethical situation of the human One and thehuman Other after individuation from the
il y a
. While this does not bestow uponhuman beings wholeness, split as they are in between One and the Other, it does bestow this on the pre-individual ground, the
il y a
, where there is no Other becausethere is no death. As the pre-individual ground may be understood as nature uponwhich humanity, the One and the Other, is dependent Levinas can be seen to say thatnature has a oneness or wholeness. However, in so far as in Heidegger actual death isthat which individuates beings, his understanding of nature can be traced onto Žižek’sintertwining of Hegel and Lacan and ‘the incompleteness of beings as a whole.’ Saidotherwise, there is death in nature and from this fact it becomes manifest that nature isitself incomplete. This is a clear statement against those conceptions of nature that propose nature to be a whole that then gives secure grounding to natural things. At thesame time, it does not claim that nature lacks the power of creation or is somehow passive. Rather it is because of this character of incompleteness that signification andindividuation are possible within nature, for without such the character of incompleteness nature would be fixed, eliminating both possibility and the actualitydependent upon it.This tracing of Heidegger onto Žižek’s system is expanded on in the penultimatechapter. Here Lewis makes clear the differences between Žižek’s reading of Heidegger, specifically in his
The Ticklish Subject 
, and the way in which Žižek hasallowed Lewis to read Heidegger. Simply stated, Lewis faults Žižek with hinging hisentire reading on the early Heidegger and failing to expose his own theoretical edificeto the challenges posed by the later Heidegger. What Žižek’s analysis of Heidegger’s Nazism allows Lewis to locate is the political stakes of Heidegger’s hithertounrecognized or disregarded philosophy of nature. Leading to an interestinginvestigation, in the last chapter, of Heidegger with Marxism. Heidegger saw inGerman National Socialism an ontological resistance to the subjugation of all of nature, which includes humanity, under technology. The later Heidegger recognizesthis also in the philosophy of Marxism, but not in the politics of communism that heheld came from the same ontological failure as capitalism in so far as both did notemancipate all of nature it then kept all of nature, including humanity, in chains.While this is laudable and one may find much to agree with here, it seems to make histolerancefor certain ontic failures of National Socialism even more disturbing. Ultimately Lewis must stop here as Heidegger’s philosophy may allow the revealingof nature in itself it does not provide a political blueprint, instead it can only arguethat a truly ontological politics would emancipate the whole of nature.To close we offer some criticisms of an otherwise excellent intervention into thereading of Heidegger as well as the question of nature for philosophy. First, Lewisfollows Heidegger in a certain antipathy towards the natural sciences. However,science is not one thing and ecology itself offers many resources for thinking the very

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