Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-12-06 - 9:44 a.m.
Wrote to PW about Dave Douglas’ Blue Latitudes and the parallels with his Sea Changes.
Pressing on with Thomson’s book on Heidegger, I am currently on Ch3 about the vision of the university. Apparently Heidegger picked up on an article about science as a calling or profession which Max Weber wrote as a counter-blast to Nietzsche and his populariser, Otto Spengler. Spengler’s views were widely discussed in Germany after they lost the First World War.
Weber writes ‘classically’ to say that in the pursuit of science the calling is to subjugate oneself to the pursuit of truth. Heidegger wants to put philosophy in the place of science and to build the university as a community around that overall mission. There seem to be echoes between these aspirations and the way that Cambridge English started off at the same time - especially in the way that Leavis thought that studying the great tradition up to and including DHL might be the cultural core of the university.
DHL was influenced quite strongly by Nietzsche. And indeed (to recap elements of the Sublime of the Small) some critics have seen Huxley’s Brave New World as Heidegger-like critique of technology. Its not at all clear that Huxley read Heidegger whereas its quite plain he was swept off his feet by DHL.
Actually reading Heidegger is pretty hard work - even the Introduction to Metaphysics. I have a good commentary to Being and Time which helps.
Heidegger is very unlucky to have the chance to become rector of his university just at the point when the Nazi’s are coming to power - he joins the party - and this tarnishes his reputation permanently - some say that this mistake will still be debated in centuries to come. Without this error Heidegger might clearly be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. As I read more about him I begin to see how this could be true - for example it is said that before Heidegger there was just philosophy but afterwards there was the gulf between Anglo Saxon philosophy and Continental philosophy.
The idea of recreating metaphysics is intriguing - what B C Smith is trying to do. Huxley said that everyone ought to do metaphysics - and indeed his early novels are (in my view) his way of carrying out that endeavour. When I was at university I especially liked Strawson’s book Individuals - which he describes as descriptive metaphysics. I was going to do my long essay on science and metaphysics in the wake of Gerd Buchdahl who no one seems to talk about any more - but I threw out the idea of the aesthetics of improvisation and was encouraged to go down that path instead.
Yesterday the Leitch Review was published - it is so bland it could be an alternative to barbiturates. In Annex B he manages to identify 5 decent points and then he ignores them.
Today I am off to the Hilton at the East Midlands Airport to confer on the future of European Manufacturing. This is the first serious outing for the Learning Grid.