A Blog by Virgilio Rivas

Seinlassen: Farewell to Being (A Baccalaureate reply)

Seinlassen: letting be. Is this non-responsal? Does non-responsal question intentionality? Or, does it, contrary to expectations, celebrate intentionality in its most fundamental sense and genesis?

Does letting-be a letting of intentionality in this originary significance? Did Levinas intend the sense of non-responsal in the same way Heidegger meant his sigetic openness to the mystery of Being whose truth, he concludes, is prior to ontology? Seinlassen, lest it would unnecessarily confuse you (obviously, ‘you’: see Reply to E. Lazaro)  more than what is acceptable in terms of the relation of Levinas to Heidegger, is strictly Heideggerian, therefore, foreign to Levinas’s conceptual schema.

Still, Seinlassen may also mean non-responsal in the Levinasian sense on the condition that we allow letting-be in its original Heideggerian connotation to cross over into the path that Levinas aimed to protect against an ontological interpretation of Being, which, ironically, shares with the Heideggerian sense of destruktion, of destructive retrieval of the history of Being, in terms of returning the question of Being to the questioning of intentionality. Levinas is certainly a member of the class of thinking, granting the heuristic value of this conditionality apropos of a questionable intimacy with the Heideggerian Seinlassen, that questions the historical status of intentionality whose metaphysics Nietzsche had earlier exposed in his critique of Man’s will to truth. But Levinas’s own critique of intentionality is ultimately designed to rescue intentionality from the metaphysics of subjectivity. This, however, does not separate him from Heidegger whose fundamental ontology aims at returning our understanding (Verstehen) of Being to its proper sense, that is, a sense in which intentionality no longer holds the key to ontological deliberation, rather a sigetic releasement, an openness to the mystery of the origin, hence, Heidegger’s (though less popular) expression (in Contributions to Philosophy) that Man “is not the starting point.” Granting the expression—does this mean the non-starting point of intentionality?

It is worth asking which intentionality? What is the nature of this intentionality? Certainly, it is Man’s and it is the historicality that has characterized the fate of intentionality. It is this historicality that Heidegger pitted Seinlassen against, that is, the history of Being that has been understood to be the horizon of subjectivity in action, of freedom in a progressive course of self-realization, of intentionality, of the will to power. Heidegger underscored the oblivious nature of this history in terms of exposing how, in the horizon of freedom and subjectivity, the essence of Being is assumed by the subject such that Being becomes reducible to value-positing (a Nietzschean theme which Heidegger obviously improved). In contrast to this history, Heidegger proposed a return adventure to the mystery of the origin, this time not through philosophizing but through poeticizing (ein Dichten). In the final analysis, the Heideggerian Seinlassen celebrates a poetic event. In terms of the subduing of intentionality in poetic thinking—where ultimately, as it is understood by Heidegger, intentionality is rendered pointless by the words that operate on the sub-level of meaning, thus, intentionality is defeated by the obscurity of the origin, the origin that in known history intentionality has assumed for itself—Seinlassen is a non-responsal to representational thinking, and more, to history (the history of intending the origin in terms of positive knowledge, such as scientific knowledge) that demands on thought the responsibility for clarity, brevity, intelligibility, and coherence. Seinlassen is the poetic response to history and intentionality.

How can this be similar to Levinas’s non-response?

For it to be of a similar nature and character as Seinlassen, non-response ought to be assumed in light of the task of the retrieval of Being, a task that Levinas does not impose on his project. A faithful reader of Levinas would have Otherwise-than-being or Beyond essence in mind, Levinas’s second major important work.

Seinlassen is not non-responsal (of Levinas): non-responsal does not presuppose Being to the degree that the relation between the I and the Other does not constitute a positive relation of being, nor of being-ness which is immediately expressed in the appropriation of origin by subjectivity. To an even more radical degree, non-responsal is a response of Levinas to the Heideggerian Seinlassen which, owing to the non-negotiable status of Being, its mysterious essence, even to the point at which Heidegger would have logically abandoned the analytic of Being in favor of a rigorous phenomenology of intentions (the fixation on Being betrays the intentionality behind it, suffice it to say, but so does the fixation on the Other about which we will have to say a little more later), makes letting-be a victim of its own forgetfulness—to be more specific, the forgetfulness of the intentionality called Heidegger whom Heidegger obliviously addressed in his call for poeticizing thinking. True to its form, that is, its obliviousness of intentionality, Heidegger (intentionality) once dreamt of the end of history (the end of all intentionalities except the intentionality that intends this end, something of rizomata panton, first intention [oblivious] as first [thus oblivious] philosophy) to be inaugurated by the Nazi.

It is different with the fixation on the Other, the Other who interrupts the sense of subjectivity of the I and its dream of fulfillment. The Other to whom the I is subjected—thus, the founding traumatic origin of the I that is always already preceded by the Other, taken hostage by the non-I “I”, the intending non-ego of the I that is itself also traumatized: the tortuous tenacity of the circle is already unimaginable—interminably subjected to the practice of subjectivity, of the practice of intentionality in service of the Other, the Other who for all its enigma makes intersubjectivity possible, makes a claim on Being possible as an issue, more properly (in Levinas) as an intrigue of the intersubjective, an intersubjective intrigue which is nothing less than existence itself. Existence is the curiousity of this intrigue. But it is a curiousity in which everyone has an interest inasmuch as everyone desires life more than death. Life itself is the enigmatic seduction of this intrigue.

Apropos of its enigmatic relation to the preservation of life that in history has become nearly translatable to killing, murder, war of attrition, genocide, ethnocide, etc., all in the name of saving and celebrating the lives of those more important than anyone else—how different life would have been if we can only wage war with one another with intrigue as a common weapon.

But ultimately, I cannot let this intrigue be without qualification. This ‘intrigue’ is the intrigue introduced by Socrates less than three thousand years ago before the defeat of the intrigue in his eventual persecution. It was the intrigue that sustained the agonal dynamism of the imagined polis of persons with fondness for life and its paradoxes in the guise of the symposium and the republic of friendship flourishing within the margins of the historical polis, within the margins of history, culture, and society.

A fitting description would be the ekstasis of philo-sophia which bids, it always does in light of the everyday confrontation with Being, its farewell to letting-be.

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