2 Introduction

§1. Deconstructing Action


It is a decisive question for me today how a
political system, and what kind of one, can at
all be coordinated with the technological age.
I do not know the answer to this question. I
am not convinced that it is democracy.

'"Only a God Can Save Us Now"1



It is the nature of this "I do not know," of the ignorance admitted in these lines—feigned? sincere? or perhaps necessary?—which is of interest here . I am not treating this avowal of ignorance as a signifier that would refer to some state of consciousness or some event in Martin Heidegger's life; one that would be the symptom, in other words, of some psychological, political, or moral signified. Whether the avowal of ignorance is pretended or sincere, whether it refers to political longings and leanings or not, is not my subject. But perhaps this avowal is not accidental. Perhaps it directly concerns the single question that never ceased to preoccupy Heidegger. In any case, it can be paralleled with other 'confessions' of ignorance: "The greater the work of a thinker—which is in no way measured by the extent and number of his writings—all the richer is what remains unthought in that work, that is, what emerges for the first time thanks to it, as having not yet been thought."2 "The fact that the real has been showing itself in the light of Ideas ever since Plato, is not a fact brought about by Plato. The thinker only responded to that which addressed itself to him."3 "The plurivocity of the essence of reality at the beginning of modern metaphysics is the sign of an authentic [epochal] transition. "4 "What Kant, beyond his express formulation, brought to light in the course of his laying the foundation ... Kant himself was no longer able to say anything about. Generally, whatever is to become decisive in any philosophical knowledge is not found in the propositions enunciated, but in that which, although unstated as such, is brought before our gaze through these propositions."5 Like the works of Plato, Descartes, and Kant, Being and Time itself is traversed by something unthought or unsaid that is not due to chance: "Do not our own efforts, if we dare compare them with those of our predecessors, ultimately evidence a hidden avoidance of something which we—certainly not by accident—no longer see ?"6

A very distinct ignorance, then, seems to prevail at the moments of transition between epochs, at the 'decisive' moments (decidere, 'to cut off,' 'to set apart' ). It remains to be seen what this ignorance bears upon and what is the source of its necessity. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the opinions and convictions of an individual, with his sense of political responsibility or with the sagacity of his analyses of power. What if the avowal of ignorance were integral to the body of writings which circulate, operate ,


Reiner Schürmann - Heidegger On Being and Acting