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Thomas Sheehan

Commentary on Kaveh Nassirin´s Essay

Regarding: Kaveh Nassirin’s “Heideggers Sprachbilder der Bodenlosigkeit und Entwurzelung und ihre Antonyme 1922-1938/39. Zur Stilistik, Deutung und Übersetzung,” published in: (1) academia.edu (2) FORVM: Internationale Zeitschrift für kulturelle Freiheit, politische Gleichheit und solidarische Arbeit (http://forvm.contextxxi.org/heideggers-sprachbilder-der.html)

With the exchange of opinions between Thomas Sheehan and Kaveh Nassirin
at academia edu from Octobre 19 to 21, 2018


Thomas Sheehan:

Kaveh Nassirin and I disagree on a number of substantial issues raised in his paper. Below I comment only on some particular issues. The page references are to the original ms. he sent me via email.

1. Nassirin writes : p. 13, n. 24: zu Sheehan muss eingewendet werden, dass [1] die pseudo-etymologischen Darlegungen zu „Überlieferung“ von 1955 und 1957 stammen und [2] für Sein und Zeit daher kaum Gültigkeit haben und den Nennungen dort zudem widersprechen, vgl. „überliefern“, S. 6, 21, 22, 24, 26 u. passim u. S. 26: „Destruktion der ontologischen Überlieferung“

Response: re [1]: I would argue, to the contrary, that the 1955/57 readings apply to SZ as well. re [2]: Überlieferung in the cited passages has a different meaning, viz., “tradition,” from überliefern in section 7.4

2. Nassirin writes: p. 32: Die Frage an T. Sheehan wäre zudem, [1] welcher englische Titel für Sein und Zeit angemessener wäre als Being and Time, wenn [2] „Zeit“ gemäß der drei „Ekstasen“ übersetzt werden soll.

Response: re [1] Heidegger would seem to answer that question (in German) at GA 14: 90.1–2 when he retranslates the title of SZ I.3 (“Zeit und Sein”) as “Lichtung und Anwesenheit.” Hence “Sein und Zeit”: Anwesenheit und Lichtung. re [2] “Zeit” in SZ is connected with, but distinct from, “Zeitlichkeit.” The three exstacies that Nassirin mentions here pertain to Zeitlichkeit, not Zeit. Corresponding to, but distinct from, those three exstacies are the three schemata of Zeit (cf. GA 24: 431–445).

3. Nassirin writes: p. 33 Angesichts der zahlreichen Synonyme für „Grund“ ist „groundlessness“ eine schwierige Wahl.

Response: I would disagree. In English (as in the other languages cited) I believe it is a correct translation

4. Nassirin writes: p. 33 In dieser Lesart ist das dann kaum akzeptabel: „lack of any reasonable foundation“ gerät so sehr zur Fanfare der subjektivistischen, der cartesisch-kantischen Vernunft, dass es sich für Heidegger auch ohne die erfolgte Exegese der einzelnen Textstellen zu „Bodenlosigkeit“ ausschließen ließe.

Response: I disagree. Heidegger would certainly accept the term “reasonable” in this context, where it means “fair, sensible, appropriate.” The same would apply to what the text says (p. 33) about „Ungegründetheit.”

5. Nassirin writes: p. 33 nach einem Abendessen in einem Lokal im Kaufhaus Macy’s,

Response: No, actually not in Macy’s. The address of the actual restaurant is given in the text.

6. Nassirin writes: p. 34, n. 76 vgl. auch J. Fritsche, Sheehan/Birmingham, S. 28: „Sheehan manages (even without saying anything about the weather on that remarkable evening in Midtown Manhattan) to spend a quarter of a page informing readers about inessential aspects of that conversation“.

Response: Not uncharacteristically Prof. Fritsche seems to have missed the dripping irony of the passage.

7. Nassirin writes: p. 40: Wenn T. Sheehan zu denken gibt, dass [1] ein absence-of-soil-of-thinking grotesk klingt, so lässt sich fragen, [2] ob [12] „die größere Bodenlosigkeit, die an nichts gebunden, alles sich dienstbar macht (das Judentum)“ dann „the greater groundlessness“ im Sinn der „größeren Unhaltbarkeit“ sei, die an nichts gebunden ist? Das erscheint nicht weniger abwegig.

Response: re [1]: Yes, “the absence-of-soil-of-thinking” *is* grotesque, but even worse, it is a momentously absurd “translation” of the passage. re [2]: Heidegger’s despicable statement about Judaism is equally absurd. But one must ask why Nassirin’s text juxtaposes Fritsche’s *ignorantly* absurd “translation” of a passage in SZ with Heidegger’s *hatefully* absurd statement of anti-Semitism.

8. Nassirin writes: p. 41 Doch Sheehans eindeutiges Plädoyer für „groundlessness“ kommt ohne eine philosophische Klärung dieses Einbruchs des Rationalen in die heideggersche Ontologie aus.

Response: “Einbruch des Rationalem”? I believe this again indicates a misunderstanding of the use of “reasonable” in the passage cited on p. 33 as well as later on p. 41 (“zugunsten der „rationalen Unhaltbarkeit eines Argumentes“ zu streichen, wie es T. Sheehan will, erscheint auch im Konnex mit Heideggers philosophischem Grundanliegen fragwürdig zu sein”).

Kaveh Nassirin´s response:

1. 1. Well, we leave this open.

1.2. Yes.

2. The paper states: „Die Frage an Prof. Sheehan wäre zudem, welcher englische Titel...“ If we follow the answer, should Prof. Fritsche have „translated“ Sein und Zeit as Presence and Clearing -?
(Macquarrie/Robinson, Being and Time, p. 47, n. 1; p. 171, n. 2.)

3. Prof. Sheehan’s objection is certainly correct in philological terms. But the context of my remark indicates sufficiently, I guess, that I was referring to the last sentences of SZ. However, I agree that I should have emphasized the temporality-time relationship here more clearly.

ps to 3 (actually Prof. Sheehan’s 2.2.), SZ p. 329: „Wenn daher die der Verständigkeit des Daseins zugängliche ’Zeit’ als nicht ursprünglich und vielmehr entspringend aus der eigentlichen Zeitlichkeit nachgewiesen wird, dann rechtfertigt sich gemäß dem Satze, a potiori fit denominatio, die Benennung der jetzt freigelegten Zeitlichkeit als ursprüngliche Zeit.“

4. Thanks to Prof. Sheehan for clarifying that he used ’reasonable’ meaning „fair’, „sensible“, „appropriate“ rather than „rational“. (I’ll add this to the text published on FORVM too). That was actually why I let Prof. Sheehan have the ms before I published it. Nonetheless it doesn’t seem to solve much of the problem here (see below, 8)

5. Stella 34: Macy’s Herald Square, 151 West 34th Street, New York, 10001, https://www.patinagroup.com/stella-34/

We should leave this question open to further debate…

6. We all should do our best to understand Prof. Sheehans sense for irony which is not an easy task - but if we try harder we will make it. (And we still miss the „elementary philological grounds“ which were expounded on the way through Midtown Manhattan).

7. 1: If we refrain from the stylistic of „absence de sol“ the question remains what connotations Prof. Sheehan wants to allow for „Bodenlosigkeit’ and which not. (See below, 8)

7.2. The juxtaposition is not one of „Fritsche’s ignorantly absurd ’translation’ of a passage in SZ“ and „Heidegger’s hatefully absurd statement of anti-Semitism“ but of „Bodenlosigkeit“ and its translations in SZ and in GA 95, VIII, 9 [citation 12 in the paper]. It would otherwise be concluded that „Bodenlosigkeit“ in SZ and elsewhere in Heidegger’s works needed various translations (which could, indeed, be appropriate, see the paper, p. 43, l. 19-25).

8. I agree (see above, 4). However, the central question of the translation problem remains unresolved as far as the connotation of a rational ground is excluded from „Bodenlosigkeit“ as well as the one of „earthbound“ etc. If Prof. Sheehans preference for „groundlessness“ is to be determined by the above connotations of „reasonable“ - „fair“, „sensible“ (i.e. „meaningful“ or, again, „rational“?), „appropriate“ - this confirms the definition of the vague (see paper, p. 40: „Topos als eine Verweisung auf Vages“) rather than explaining „Bodenlosigkeit“ as a philosophical term. The question can be put in an even more simple way: To what extent is the lack of reference to the (home) earth involved in the concept of „Bodenlosigkeit’ according to Prof. Sheehan?


Thomas Sheehan replies:

My thanks to Dr. Nassirin for his responses to my eights disagreements. I should note:

[re no. 2] “Should Prof. Fritsche have „translated“ Sein und Zeit as Presence and Clearing -?
(Macquarrie/Robinson, Being and Time, p. 47, n. 1; p. 171, n. 2.)”

Response: No, not at all. I’m afraid the question above misunderstands the point I made in the article, namely:

1. “Lichtung und Anwesen” is the later Heidegger’s reinterpretation of the title of Part One, Division Three of SZ.

2. All of his later work reinterprets the words “Sein” and “Zeit” as, respectively, “Anwesen” and “Lichtung.”

3. Prof. Fritsche’s paper, like his book, gives no evidence that he understands these basic facts in Heidegger scholarship.

[re no. 5] “Stella 34: Macy’s Herald Square, 151 West 34th Street, New York, 10001, https://www.patinagroup.com/stella-34/ We should leave this question open to further debate...”

Response: I’m happy to leave the question open, but I’m fairly sure Professors Faye, Harris, Trawney, et al. had dinner at “Stella 34 Trattoria” (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d3962299-Reviews-Stella_34_Trattoria-New_York_City_New_York.html ) and not in “the flagship of the Macy’s department store chain” on E. 34th Street (https://l.macys.com/new-york-ny).

[re no. 6] “We all should do our best to understand Prof. Sheehans sense for irony which is not an easy task - but if we try harder we will make it. (And we still miss the „elementary philological grounds“ which were expounded on the way through Midtown Manhattan).”

Response: Yes, irony is tricky and not Prof. Fritsche’s strongest suit.

[re 7. 1] “If we refrain from the stylistic of „absence de sol“ the question remains what connotations Prof. Sheehan wants to allow for „Bodenlosigkeit’ and which not. (See below, 8)”

Response: Those meanings, denotations, and connotations are laid out fairly clearly both by Heidegger himself in SZ § 77 and in the essay on “Emmanuel Faye: The Introduction of Fraud into Philosophy?” pp. 383-386.

[re 7.2 and 8] Response: Faye and Fritsche have indeed offered absurd translations and interpretations of Bodenlosigkeit in SZ § 77. They have refused to recognize—much less justify—those absurdities, and they only compound them by claiming that Heidegger’s *anti-Semitic* use of Bodenständigkeit in the Black Notebooks is the *same* meaning that Bodenständigkeit has in SZ § 77.

Kaveh Nassirin´s answer:

Equally thanks to Prof. Sheehan for the reply. Without wanting to strain the discussion - after a re-examination of the mentioned pages, Fraud, 383-386, the central question of chapter VI of my paper concerning Fraud and L’affaire seems to remain further unresolved.

7.1./8. (I fully agree to the criticism concerning E. Faye and J. Fritsche in 7.2.)

Summary, Fraud: p. 383: E. Faye mistranlates „Bodenlosigkeit“ as „absence de sol“ where it should be „groundlessness“ and „lack of any reasonable foundation“, “unfoundedness of a philosophical position“. p. 384: „only once does ’Boden’ have a locative sense in SZ“ (i.e.: „Bodenlosigkeit“ is not used in a locative sense in SZ - merely a negative definition); p. 385: E. Faye’s method of creating a collage (my paraphrase) of SZ and what Count Yorck said 1884; n. 62: translations of the term; n. 63: later anti-semitic meanings of „Bodenlosigkeit“; (Prof. Sheehan may consider the contrast of „bodenständige Kräfte“ and „Verjudung“ in the letter to Victor Schwoerer, 1929); p. 386: quote Ockham.

As Prof. Sheehan himself says, „Bodenlosigkeit“ is only used once in § 77 - and this is Count Yorcks definition (apart from ...bodenlose Relativismen... but, well.) So, the three definitions discussed in the paper - „groundlessness“, „lack of any reasonable foundation“, “unfoundedness of a philosophical position“ - are the ones we find on the pp. 383-386. Here the debate might get into a circle. And it doesn’t seem to me to be entirely conclusive that later statements Heidegger made to give an interpretation of SZ (30, even 40 years after) are used whereas later explicit anti-semitic connotations of „Bodenlosigkeit“ are not. Heidegger said quite a lot about himself in order to polish up his past. It might not be the right place here, in this case I like to express my hope that Prof.Sheehan returns to the issue in a future work and clarifies the question in 8 a little clearer.

Stella 34: Right, I’ll figure this out once I’m in NY – but italian food should be better here in Italy.


Thomas Sheehan

Dear Dr. Nassirin, May I recommend the ribollita in the basement trattoria in Piazza dell’Olio, Firenze? My treat. Tom

Kaveh Nassirin

Thanks, Tom, I’ll try that ribollita next time in Firenze. Much more my pleasure. Kaveh

For Thomas Sheehan see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Sheehan_(philosopher)

His above mentioned Essays:

Fraud, d.i.: Thomas Sheehan, Emmanuel Faye: Introduction of Fraud into Philosophy? in: Philosophy Today, Volume 59, Issue 3 (Summer 2015);

L’affaire: Ders. L’affaire Faye: Faut-il brûler Heidegger? A Reply to Fritsche, Pégny, and Rastier in: Philosophy Today, Volume 60, Issue 2, Spring 2016.

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