Back to Dugin on Heidegger index


I want, however, to begin by disregarding my own warning.

If we take Dugin's simplified account and simplify it even further we get something like this:

Western philosophy begins with 'the Greeks', namely those who are often called, though Heidegger understandably objects to the term, the 'pre-Socratics', (1) most importantly Parmenides and Heraclitus. They posed the problem of 'being'. Parmenides in particular declared that 'Being is. Non-being isn't'. This was in Dugin's summary (more so than in Heidegger's original, but we will come back to this) the beginning of the fundamental error that was to run through the whole of Western philosophy.

(1) 'To present Parmenides as a pre-Socratic is even more foolish than to call Kant a pre-Hegelian' - Martin Heidegger: What is called thinking? translated by J.Glenn Gray, New York, Harper Perennial, 2004, p.184

The error was to treat Being - the Being of beings, what it means to say that beings are - as itself a sort of being, something that in itself 'is'. This developed into the 'ideas' of Plato for whom every being is, so to speak, accompanied by its own being - what it has in common with all other beings of the same kind - and these being/ideas are arranged in a sort of hierarchy which goes up to an Absolute Being which may or may not be identified with 'God'. This hierarchy of beings-ideas-essences passes over into scholasticism, providing a means by which the real world (which is to say the world of real beings, the world of ideas) can be deduced 'rationally' or 'logically' from the unreal world - the world of appearances, the world as it is experienced through the senses.

The subject under discussion is Western philosophy. Heidegger never to my knowledge discusses whether or not a different development might have occurred in Eastern Christendom - the Christendom of the people who actually spoke the language of the Greek philosophers and were familiar with their writings (very little was available in Western Europe until the fifteenth century, the fall of Constantinople and the events immediately preceding it). I commented on this question in my article On Orthodoxy in the second Heidegger Review, using for my argument a text by a Greek associate of Dugin's, Nicholas Laos.

Within Western philosophy this Platonist idealism is more or less fixed through some 1,000 years or more of Christendom during which nothing much happens of any philosophical importance. Despite the fact that in his lengthy commentary on Plato's Sophist, written before Being and Time, Heidegger says that Plato can only be understood through Aristotle (2), he rarely refers to Aristotle in his later major writings. And despite the fact that his first major text, his professorial thesis, was on Duns Scotus, he rarely evokes the Realist/Nominalist dispute that ran through Western mediaeval philosophy, though it would seem to be relevant. The Realists argued that the reality of the particular tree lay in the idea of the tree, while the Nominalists argued that only the particular tree was real - the idea was just a 'name' used to designate it.

(2) Martin Heidegger: Plato's Sophist, translated by Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer, Bloomington and Indianopolis, Indiana University Press, 2003, p.8. The original lectures were given in 1925-5.

But skipping lightly over all that, the next development after Plato comes some two thousand years later with Descartes. Descartes further obscures the question of Being by dividing reality into a subject of whose existence we can be certain ('I think therefore I am') and an object, or res extensa perceived by this subject. After Descartes, things move very rapidly. The existence of the object is put in serious doubt by eg Berkeley, Hume, Kant and Schopenhauer. In Hegel, the world becomes the idea of a universal subject. Conforming to thought patterns, it is rational (as Descartes felt that the reality of the object could be ascertained through the intellectual process of mathematical calculation) and this rationality can embrace not just the immediately perceived world but the whole of human history. Being is rationality, to be is to be rational. With Nietzsche, however, the individual subject reclaims its rights and the fundamental reality, the being, of everything becomes the Will - the individual's will - to Power, somewhat in accordance with Darwin's survival of the fittest and Richard Dawkins' selfish gene. That will to power is exercised by human beings through 'machination', the manipulation of the things that are at hand to an end of self assertion, manifested in our own time as the seemingly infinite ingenuity expended on the production of mechanical devices. For Heidegger/Dugin, this represents the end of Western philosophy, the point beyond which it cannot develop.

Hence the need for 'another beginning'. This new beginning once again, like the early Greek beginning, poses the question of Being but instead of conceiving Being as itself a being, albeit a very refined one, the new beginning starts out with the assertion, perhaps more emphatic in Dugin than it is in Heidegger, that 'being is nothing'. That doesn't mean that the word 'being' has no meaning. In this new 'fundamental ontology' (as opposed to the 'ontology' of the first beginning) Being (sein) - or Beyng (seyn) as it may be called to distinguish it from the old ontological being - is now seen as the point of intersection of two lines, usually shown in the form of a St Andrew's cross, joining the four terms - the 'fourfold' or geviert - world (or 'sky'), earth, gods, men. (3) All four are characterised by their openness, while the Being considered as one being among many, as for example Plato's ideas, has a tendency to close them off. These closed realities become more opaque as time goes on. The sky from being a sort of blue canopy populated by the ideas becomes an extension of the earth populated by material objects whizzing about at great speed; the earth, from being a green sward constantly giving birth to perceived, experienced realities, becomes a huge repository of resources to be exploited for utilitarian ends; the gods from being extra-human forces that act on and through us become figments of our own wishful thinking, to be manipulated at will (4); men from being types, each with its own particular dignity, become atomised subjects, each scrabbling for its own little bit of self assertion, its fifteen minutes of fame.

(3) The sources for this in Heidegger are Martin Heidegger: Contributions to philosophy - of the event, translated by Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2012, eg  p.246 (§190), based on a manuscript unpublished in Heidegger's lifetime dating from 1935-6; and 'Building Dwelling Thinking' (first published in German in 1954) in David Farrell Krell (ed): Martin Heidegger - Basic Writings, London and New York, Routledge, 1993. Dugin also refers to Martin Heidegger: Geschichte des Seyns (1938/1940), Frankfürt am Main, Vittorio Klostermann, 1988. I don't know if this has been translated into English. My own feeling is that the geviert does not have the importance in Heidegger's overall thinking that Dugin attributes to it.

(4) Dugin in a rather pretty passage, pp.241-2, has them being scared off by our human boorishness.

Thus Parmenides' philosophical error, which started off as quite fruitful, has finally in our own day become fatal. Hence the need for a new beginning but although Heidegger is its prophet, the new beginning will not occur in the West because, as Dugin reminds us, the West is where the Sun sets. The Sun rises in the East. We will hopefully learn more about this when the companion volume to Dugin's book on Heidegger, his discussion of philosophy in Russia, is published.