Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Having a Moment, Here...

I had a Heidegger moment the other day on a walk. Martin Heidegger was a German existential philosopher whose 'Being and Time' is very difficult, and very divisive. The latter is not due, so much, to its content, as to Heidegger's Nazism.

He didn't publish much, book-wise. But, unfortunately, he was one of the intellectuals who stuck around longer than he should have during the Third Reich.

Having studied Nazism a good bit, as well a philosophy, I think the 'traces' of Hitler-esque ideology some claim to find in the book are illusory. I did not detect them.

Being and Time does, however, provide one of the most coherent explanations of modern life. He sets forth examples of how we think, interact, and exist that, for me, are more relatable to than Sartre, Hume, Aristotle or anyone else, really.

To take an example, think of your socks.

Now, before reading 'socks' you likely weren't thinking of them. You might've been thinking about books, Nazism, me, or a slew of things the words before 'socks' conjured up. By the time you read 'socks' you may have just been politely skimming, thoughts in divers places I could not possibly know.

These sock moments tell us much about how we think, and act. More over, they tell us a fair bit about how we process space and time. I know, when I stop and think about it, what Professor Derby taught me about Einstein's spacetime. I could make you a Minkowski spacetime diagram, or the shadow of a hypercube.

No one, I suspect, goes about process the world in this way, though. Not even Einstein.

So while I was walking my mind was 'far away', as they say. (Stop and consider the philosophical connotations of such a phrase, in relation, as it usually is given, to one's mind. That's Heidegger.) My thoughts were pleasantly fantastical at the moment in question. A middle-aged Asian fellow walked briskly past me, requiring me to shift on the sidewalk, and pay attention to my footing.

I was peeved. I had been thinking fun thoughts, and this fellow had forced me to stop and think about my legs and feet! I was upset at him. Then my mind turned from feet not to my previous thoughts, but to Heidegger. Then I was pissed.

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