Discourse and disclosure, Law and Gospel, and the like
(notes on The Culmination1

a question of discovering, beneath the developments which a supple phraseology had extended and infinitely varied, the fundamental data of the myth: the scheme which generates the amplification 2

stuck inside of Absturz with the Anfang blues again 3

M. L. West tells us that especially characteristic of Indo-European poetry “is the use of polar expressions, that is, pairings of contrasted terms, as an emphatic expression of the totality that they make up.”  E.g., ‘gods and men' (θεοί τε καὶ ἀνέρες, guðanna ok manna ) or ‘immortals and mortals' ( amṛtam mártiyaṃ ) for ‘all intelligent beings.' “The biosphere as a whole,” he writes, “is covered in Vedic idiom by the merism jágatas tasthúṣaḥ . . . ‘what moves or stands still', that is, animals and plants.”  West ventures that “bipolarity (not [ contra G. Dumézil and his school] trifunctionality) is the fundamental structuring principle of Indo-European thought.” 4  

Bernard Williams, in the merismically titled Shame and Necessity , observes that “A set of oppositions structures much of Plato's philosophy, and they are supposed to parallel one another: soul to body, reason to desire, knowledge to belief, philosophy to politics, and (at least some of the time) argument to persuasion.”  Williams adds, “In each, of course, the first is superior to the second.” 5

A different set of contrasting terms structures all Heidegger's thinking (he said he had no philosophy 6 ); as the skeleton of, e.g., Being and Time:—Wirklichkeit and Möglichkeit, the apophantic als and the hermeneutic als, vorhanden and zuhanden , Verstehen and Befinden, Uneigentlich and Eigentlich, 7   Tradition and Erbe, Historie and Geschichte, existentiell and existential, ontisch and ontologisch, Seiende and Sein .  In this set the second, inapparent term contrasts with the first, and all pairs in some sense parallel one another to express the totality they make up, the ‘canonical critter' 8  being-in-the-world.  What sense?

Robert Pippin's new book documents the merism ‘discourse and disclosure' as expressing Heidegger's vision of the totality of Denken.   In Heidegger's view, Pippin writes, Hegel “draws exactly the wrong lesson from the unthinkability of Being as such.”  For Being's “unavailability to discourse , and by contrast its presencing in disclosure, is precisely the point.” 9

Tradition, Heidegger writes, “blocks our access [ verlegt den Zugang ] to those primordial ‘sources' [ den ursprünglichen »Quellen« ] from which the categories and concepts handed down to us have been in part quite genuinely drawn.” 10   So we can, as Pippin says, “in effect ‘clear the ground' for the possibility of a new ‘attunement' by the ‘destruction' of the metaphysical tradition.” 11  To put this project in the imagery of an old story, 12  Heidegger set out Indra-like to slay the source-blocking Dragon, and thereby to ‘release the waters' for the relief of stultified humanity. 13   You won the cows, hero, you won the Soma, you freed the seven streams to flow. 14

What Dragon?  

“Plato and Aristotle set us in a direction we have found it impossible to free ourselves from—the metaphysics of presence, the primordial mattering of intelligibility;”  “the cardinal sin of the metaphysical tradition, culminating in Kant and Hegel,” that the meaning of being as such is to be “thought of in terms of discursivity;” “what Dahlstrom has called ‘the logical prejudice,' that only what is fit to be the content of an assertion can count as a being;” “The insistence, thanks to the philosophical tradition, that things are manifest for Dasein primarily in their cognitive intelligibility;” “the principle of cognizability as the meaning of being;” “determinately standing being [ ständige or beständige Anwesenheit ] as thinkability;” “by far the greatest ‘errancy' in the Western philosophical tradition: the priority of logos as ratio in the understanding of the meaning of Being.” 15

What source?

“In the domain of greatest importance to Heidegger, how things matter, how much they matter, why they matter, and so forth—the primary mode of availability in the everyday world—is available to us only in disclosures, not as objects of propositional attitude;” “another of Heidegger's most radical innovations is his insistence that our access to such a disclosure, the mode of being of Dasein ‘open' to such an unconcealment, is not cognitive, at least not as that notion is commonly understood;” “So we have now a series of attempts, not at all exhaustive, to pin down the distinctive way in which the question of the meaning of Being can be formulated. As:

Manifestness as such




Pre-discursive familiarity/intelligibility




Openedness (Aufgeschlossenheit)

Announcing itself/appearing

Clearing (Lichtung/lighting).”16


What relief?  

Here Pippin is more circumspect.  He leaves “relatively open” the question of “what, if Heidegger is basically right, all this would mean in living out one's life, in somehow being attuned to some disclosure of some intimation of possible meaningfulness, inseparable from the unclarity and confusion (not indeterminacy) of concealment.” 17  In the context of ‘some disclosure of some intimation of possible meaningfulness' Pippin discusses the ‘think the wall'  passage from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge which Heidegger takes up in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology.   (Only bare walls of a decrepit building.  And yet . . .)  Heidegger tried his own hand in the ‘think the shoes' passage of The Origin of the Work of Art : “A pair of peasant shoes and nothing more.  Und dennoch.” 18   There again the da Vinci effect19  summons aus der dunklen Öffnung  a (briefer) variant of Rilke's wall-disclosure. 20   To borrow a favorite word of Pippin's in this book, Rilke's and Heidegger's reveries are variant exfoliations.

And yet the Seinsgeschichte strikes us as the inverse operation, a de foliation of the jungle of metaphysical tradition so as to lay bare the topography.  Or, to change  the figure, to reveal  le schème générateur de l'amplification .  In the Seinsgeschichte's scheme ‘discourse and disclosure' takes form as ‘metaphysics and ἀλήθεια.'  Insofar as ἀλήθεια and Anfang—like freedom and whisky—gang thegither , ἀλήθεια appears twice in the scheme, as first and as other (new) Anfang.  Anfang/ἀλήθεια is both whence and whither, wohin and woher , of the history of Being.

Taking the first and the other Anfang as fundamental data of the myth we can gloss them, respectively, with two sentences from Williams:—“One of the most persistent fantasies, at least of the Western world, is that there was a time when things were both more beautiful and less fragmented;” 21  and “Philosophy, and in particular moral philosophy, is still deeply attached to giving good news.” 22  (Why does the fantasy persist?  Why is philosophy still attached to evangelizing? 23 )  Metaphysics, the other fundamental datum per the Seinsgeschichte , holds dominion between the first and other Anfang.

Richard Wolin is only the latest to note that “Heideggerian Seinsgeschichte embodied a . . . version of Christian Heilsgeschichte.” 24   In particular, though this is not in Wolin's account, Heidegger maps Saint Paul's version of the myth into philosophy.  Most importantly, Heidegger's mapping brings ‘discourse and disclosure' within the ambit of Harnack's Law: Das Religionsprincip, welches in dem Gegensatz von Gesetz und Evangelium alle höhere Wahrheit zusammenfaßt, ist auch das Princip der Erklärung des gesamtens Seins und Geschehens. 25  Leading to the question, What other pairs may manifest in parallel with discourse and disclosure, metaphysics and ἀλήθεια, Law and Gospel?

The scheme of ‘first Anfang/metaphysics/other Anfang ' has its isomorph in Paul as ‘promise of God/the Law/faith in Christ.'  Paul sets out the myth most clearly in Galatians 3:21-29 (RSV; I have modified the translation slightly as indicated):

“Is the law 26  then against the promise of God (ὁ οὖν νόμος κατὰ τῶν ἐπαγγελιῶν [τοῦ θεοῦ])?  Certainly not; for if a law had been given which could make alive (ζωοποιῆσαι), then righteousness would indeed be by the law (ἐν νόμῳ ἂν ἦν ἡ δικαιοσύνη).  But the scripture (ἡ γραφὴ) consigned (συνέκλεισεν) all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who [dwell in faith] (ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοθῇ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν).  Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed.  So that the law was our [master, παιδαγωγός] until Christ came, that we might be [made right] by faith (ἵνα ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν).  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a [minder, παιδαγωγός]; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith (διὰ τῆς πίστεως). . . . And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise (κατ᾽ ἐπαγγελίαν κληρονόμοι).”

By this light we can read the genealogy “from Abraham to the Messiah” at Matthew  1:2-17 as tracing the descent of ἡ ἐπαγγελία τοῦ θεοῦ, the jewel of the heritage, God's promise of blessing which has never changed but which came to be occluded by the law.   For the gravamen of Paul's argument in Romans, H. J. Schoeps writes,

“is that righteousness can be attained apart from the law and as a pure gift of grace, just as was promised to Abraham.   For faith was reckoned to him as righteousness when he was still in an uncircumcised state (Gen. 16:6) [i.e., unmarked to the law].  . . . The confident trust in the promise which is older than the law , was in itself already sufficient for the attainment of righteousness. [my emphasis]  Hence, deduces Paul, true righteousness springs from faith and not from the law (Rom. 5:20).  ‘For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law' (Rom. 3:28).” 27

Jesus reportedly taught that he came not to destroy but to fulfill (πληρῶσαι) the law and the prophets. 28    In this role of ‘Culminator' 29  Jesus brought the completion, the perfection of the law;  die »Vollendung« der Gesetz 30  so to speak; lex mosaica per Jesum prophetam reformata. 31   Paul mistakes32  the gist of this teaching, whatever the wording by which it was transmitted to him, for τέλος γὰρ νόμου Χριστός (Rom. 10:4); Christ as the end of the law in the sense of superseding and dispensing with the law, abolishing the law.  Bye-bye Law, Hello Gentiles.

And further, however distorted Nietzsche's depiction of Paul 33  might be it contains this truth:  “Escape to a different milieu . . . , even with imperfect adaptation, can be more advantageous than improved adaptation to a grossly hopeless or deteriorating situation.” 34   Σῶθι σεαυτόν.  For Paul and Heidegger the law and metaphysics ‘been on the job too long,' with consequent lethal curse.

“Thrown,” Schoeps writes, “by the pressures of his fate into a many-sided situation in life, in many respects aggressive, in others the victim of aggression, [Paul] finally became the first and the greatest Christian theologian.  But his theology was that of a completely unique situation which will never recur.” 35   No doubt the second sentence is correct in that the details will never repeat.  And yet, as Kenner observes, “history's stuff, human experience, is self-similar;” 36  Existenz is eternal recurrence of family resemblance.

Wege — nicht Werke. As for Wege, Heidegger says philosophical investigation must understand daß  sie nur dazu da ist, damit eine neue Nähe nicht willkürlichen sondern sachlichen Fortgangs möglich wird ;37   it exists only for the sake of possibilizing a way forward to an undiscovered intimation, eine neue Nähe.   As for Werke, don't get him started—

“The dominance [Herrschaft ] of this epistemological problem [the subject-object schema] (and corresponding ones in other disciplines) is characteristic of a widely observed kind of activity through which academic disciplines, especially philosophy, gain a foothold in life and preserve themselves [ sich am Leben erhält ].  90% of the literature is preoccupied with ensuring that such wrong-headed problems not disappear and are confounded still more and in ever new ways.  Such literature dominates the industry [ beherrscht den Betrieb ]—everyone sees and gauges the progress and vitality of academic disciplines with it.” 38

The metaphysico-industrial complex dominates so as to ensure its survival, σώζειν τὸν παράδειγμα .   Thank goodness then for those stealthy slayers “who quietly put a stranglehold on such pseudo-problems (Husserl's Logical Investigations !) and see to it for those who have understood something of all this that they no longer investigate such things.” 39   Too bad Husserl's phenomenology worked out to be yet another version of the subject-object schema. 40

Werke und Wege , another merism parallel to discourse and disclosure, γράμμα and πνεῦμα, 41  εἶδος and πίστις, ἔργα νόμου and ἡ ὁδός (καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή), and, widest track of all, exploitation and exploration:

“A central concern of adaptive intelligence within a path-dependent, meandering history is the relation between the exploration of new possibilities and the exploitation of old certainties. Exploration includes things captured by such terms as search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, play, flexibility, discovery, and innovation. Exploitation includes such things as refinement, choice, production, efficiency, selection, implementation, and execution.” 42

‘Living out one's life,' Werke und Wege, is then a species of self-organizing process—in Hedegger's terms “self-interpreting, self-articulating” 43 —through “exploration of different states followed by the selective stabilization of one of them.” 44  Serial polystabilizations, that is, and ever only stable ish .  Such is the dynamical scheme which generates the amplification, ramification, exfoliation.

DCW  03/04/2024

1  Robert B. Pippin, The Culmination: Heidegger, German Idealism, and the Fate of Philosophy (2024).

2  Émile Benveniste and Louis Renou, Vṛtra et Vṛθragna: Étude de mythologie indo-iranienne (1934); .as translated in Calvert Watkins, How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics (1995) 299.

3  The Laureate's words are ‘Mobile' and ‘Memphis,' respectively.  Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, Side 2 track 2 (1966).

4  M. L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (2007) 99-100, 101.  

5   Shame and Necessity (1993)  155.   Williams's title makes reference to the totality of βία—‘force,' ‘compulsion.' As to ‘superior,' the neutral term of the linguists is ‘marked.'  “[Nikolai] Trubetzkoy realized that binary opposition ‘assumes a particular form in linguistic consciousness.  The presence of some mark is opposed to its absence (or the maximum of some mark to its minimum).'  He came to the conclusion that ‘only one of the terms of a correlation is perceived as actively modified and as positively possessing some mark, while the other term is perceived as lacking the mark and as passively unmodified.'”  Roman Jakobson, On Language (ed. Linda R. Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston 1990) 136, quoting Trubetzkoy.

6   ich habe überhaupt keine Philosophie.  Gesamtausgabe Band 20: 417.

7  “The Indo-European ability to create negative compounds with the prefix * - made it easy to form polar expressions of the type ‘X and non-X'.”   IE Poetry and Myth 101.

8  On the Indo-European ‘canonical creature/beast' composed of a list of contiguities see How to Kill a Dragon 46 and ch. 57.

9   The Culmination  187, his emphasis.

10   Being and Time (tr. Macquarrie and Robinson 1962) 43. Sein und Zeit 21.

11   The Culmination 206.  I.e., “If the question of Being is to have its own history made transparent, then this hardened tradition [ verhärteten Tradition ] must be loosened up [Auflockerung], and the concealments [Verdeckungen ] which it has brought about must be dissolved [ Ablösung ]. We understand this task as one in which by taking the question of Being as our clue, we are to destroy [ vollziehende Destruktion ] the traditional content of ancient ontology until we arrive at those primordial experiences [ ursprünglichen Erfahrungen ] in which we achieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being—the ways which have guided us ever since.” BT 44; SZ 22.

12  Which Pippin of course has no cause to mention.  In Pippin's words “Heidegger is proposing to shift the main tasks of philosophy from the analysis of the concepts involved in knowledge claims, empirical experience, and moral claims to an interpretive enterprise, at the center of which are these notions of familiarity ( Vertrautheit ), meaningfulness ( Bedeutsamkeit ), and care ( Sorge).”  The Culmination 42.

13  More precisely, for that part of humanity Heidegger deemed worthy.  I.e., “Only someone who is German [ der Deutsche ] is capable of poetically articulating Being in an originary way;” “The will to the essence of the German university is the will to [realize] the historical-spiritual mission of the German Volk as a Volk  that knows itself in its State;” “the German alone . . . will conquer the essence of theoria ;” “Only the Germans are capable of redeeming the West in its history.” As cited in  Richard Wolin, Heidegger in Ruins: Between Philosophy and Ideology (2022) 137, 151, 155, 157.

14   Rigveda 1.32.12; tr. West, IE Poetry and Myth 257.

15   The Culmination 67, 52, 48, 10, 11, 70.

16   Id. 71-72, 75, 77.  “The kenning  . . . is a metaphorical figure, based on a relation of similarity.  The merism , on the other hand is a metonymic figure, based on a relation of contiguity.  Both refer indexically to an external notion.  The Argument of the kenning and the merism, the metaphor and the metonym alike, is precisely that indexical reference. . . . A particular variant of the bipartite merism is the indexical list, which typically functions as an overt or implied totality of the entity listed.”   How to Kill a Dragon46.

17   The Culmination 216.

18  GA 5: 19.

19  “I will not omit to introduce among these precepts a new kind of speculative invention, which though apparently trifling, and almost laughable, is nevertheless of great utility in assisting the genius to find variety for composition [ varie invenzioni ].  By looking attentively at old and smeared walls [ in alcuni muri imbrattati di varie macchie ], or stones and veined marble of various colours [in pietre di varî misti ], you may fancy that you see in them several compositions, landscapes, battles, figures in quick motion, strange countenances, and dresses, with an infinity of other objects. By these confused lines the inventive genius is excited to new exertions.”  Leonardo da Vinci,  A Treatise on Painting (tr. John Francis Rigaud 1802) 84 .  Gazing at darkness works just as well: “I begin the psychoanalytic treatment by assuring him that when he closes his eyes he will see images, or ideas will come into his mind which he should tell me.”  Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams  (tr. Joyce Crick 1999) 410.   ich ihm versichere, er werde nach dem Augenschluss Bilder sehen oder Einfälle bekommen .

20  What Rilke does, we're told, is not “imagined into the wall,” ist nicht in die Mauer hineingedichtet .  GA 24: 246.  Lesley Chamberlain's work suggests strongly that Heidegger's bleak vision aus der dunklen Öffnung  draws on, as he writes of them to Elfriede, “the grim and somber [Van Goghs] from the Brabant time.” A Shoe Story: Van Gogh, the Philosophers and the West (2014) 49.  

21   Shame and Necessity 166.  He continues, “But it is always a fantasy, and no serious study of the ancient world should encourage us to go back to that world to search for a lost unity, in our social relations to one another or, come to that, in our relations to Being.”

22  “The Women of Trachis : Fictions, Pessimism, Ethics,” in Bernard Williams, The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy (ed. Myles Burnyeat 2006) 49.

23  As in Heidegger's proffer of gerüstete Freude to the Entschlossen  upon atonement with death. Sein und Zeit 310.  For a disciple's hymn to Heidegger's glad message of ‘releasement to the clearing' see Richard Capobianco, Engaging Heidegger (2010) 121-122.  On the form of this hymn see IE Poetry and Myth 314: “Of course several mythical events could be mentioned within the compass of one poem.  If the poet chose to organize them into a series, the outcome might be what has been called an ‘Aufreihlied', listing the god's accomplishments for his greater glory.”  In Watkins's terms, a particular variant of the bipartite merism, the indexical list.   How to Kill a Dragon 46; fn. 16 above.

24   Heidegger in Ruins 164.

25  Adolf von Harnack, Marcion: das Evangelium vom fremden Gott (1921) 28.

26  “By νόμος (whether with the article or without) Paul understands the Old Testament Law or the whole Old Testament conceived as law, except in a few passages where νόμος has the general meaning of norm or of compulsion, constraint.”  Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (tr. Kendrick Grobel [1951] 2007) 259.

27  Hans Joachim Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (tr. Harold Knight [1961] 2002) 201=202.  

28  Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας: οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι:  Matt. 5:17.

29  “For Heidegger, Hegel had taken that mostly implicit assumption [of the primary availability of beings to discursive thinking] as far as it could be taken, and so was its ‘culmination' in the claim that the Absolute had been achieved, that all dualisms had been reconciled and that a complete account of the intelligibility of being and thereby an account of any possible being had been realized.”   The Culmination ix.

30   Hegels Metaphysik ist keine beliebige, sondern sie ist die »Vollendung« [der Metaphysik].   GA 80.1: 283.

31  Paul 86.

32  My gloss on Schoeps's thesis. He writes, “Παλαιά and καινὴ διαθήκη become for Paul the antithesis between Judaism and Christianity, and indicate the stark contrast between the religion of the law and the religion of grace.  Because Paul had lost all understanding of the character of the Hebraic berith  as a partnership involving mutual obligations, he failed to grasp the inner meaning of the Mosaic law, namely, that it is an instrument by which the covenant is realized.  Hence the Pauline theology of law and justification begins with the fateful misunderstanding in consequence of which he tears asunder covenant and law, and then represents Christ as the end of the law.”   Paul 218.  Plain misunderstanding or creative misprision?  One might conjecture that Paul became, through the double anxiety of the law's bonds and the divine revelation to him, a Harold Bloomian ‘strong poet;' his καινότης consisting in flipping the tradition ass over elbow.

33  Morgenröthe (1887) Erstes Buch  ¶ 68.

34  Mary Jane West-Eberhard, “Alternative adaptations, speciation, and phylogeny (A Review),” 83 PNAS 1388, 1389 (1986).

35   Paul 13.

36  Hugh Kenner, “Self-Similarity, Fractals, Cantos,” 55 ELH 721, 728 (1988).

37  GA 21: 280.

38  Martin Heidegger, Ontology—The Hermeneutics of Facticity (tr. John van Buren 1999) 63.  GA 63: 81.

39   Ibid. GA 63: 82.

40  An ancient crux: ‘Why does Indra flee?  ( See Per-Johan Norelius, “Indra's Flight and Affliction: Vedic Reminiscences of an Indo-European Myth,” 45 The Journal of Indo-European Studies 333 (2017).)  Conjecture: Lest he become Vṛtra's avenger, another Vṛtra; lest the liberator become the exploiter/enslaver, the occupational hazard of Retter, divine and other.

41  “Among the men of Jerusalem [i.e., those who had lived alongside Jesus and had conversed with him daily], the consciousness of the presence of Christ guiding the church by His Spirit faded into the background, because their thought was directed to the earthly rather than to the Risen Christ, and they aimed at filling the time up to His expected return by an exposition of His teaching.  On the other hand, Paul, whose activity flowed from the resurrection of Christ, spoke of a Christ who was alive and present to believers by His Spirit . . .”   Paul 73-74.

42  James G. March, A Primer on Decision Making: How Decisions Happen  (1994) 237.   See also John H. Holland, “Genetic Algorithms,”  267 Scientific American 66, 69 (1992): “In addition to coping with nonlinearity, the genetic algorithm helps to solve a conundrum that has long bedeviled conventional problem-solving methods: striking a balance between exploration and exploitation. Once one finds a good strategy for playing chess, for example, it is possible to concentrate on exploiting that strategy. But this choice carries a hidden cost because exploitation makes the discovery of truly novel strategies unlikely. Improvements come from trying new, risky things. Because many of the risks fail, exploration involves a degradation of performance. Deciding to what degree the present should be mortgaged for the future is a classic problem for all systems that adapt and learn.”

43   das Dasein selbst ist sichauslegendes, sichaussprechendes Seiendes .  GA 20: 418.

44  Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb, Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life  (rev. ed. 2014 ) 450.

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