Monday, November 23, 2009

Brockelman, Thomas P. Review of Alejandro Vallega, SENSE AND FINITUDE. NDPR (November 2009).

Vallega, Alejandro A. Sense and Finitude: Encounters at the Limits of Language, Art, and the Political. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009. Alejandro Vallega's new book, Sense and Finitude: Encounters at the Limits of Language, Art, and the Political, is admirable both in its location of finitude as the key positive insight in Heidegger and in its effort, having admitted the cogency of Heidegger's technology-critique, nonetheless to maintain a certain distance from Heidegger's univocal understanding of Western History. Vallega's text also forms a significant contribution to the reception of Heidegger's Beiträge, his recently translated 1936 text documenting the German thinker's mapping of a project that, in hindsight, seems to have remained remarkably stable from the mid-1930s until his death in 1976. More problematically, Vallega argues for the continuity of Heidegger's thought from early through late, a task for which the Beiträge is especially handy. While, from my perspective, the chasm of his response to modernity opens between the two periods, there can be little doubt that, in some form, the question of finitude remains a constant for Heidegger. Recognizing this, the initial four chapters of Sense and Finitude use the Contributions to Philosophy to link the analyses of "mood", "thrownness", etc., from earlier texts such as Being and Time and the Basic Problems of Phenomenology to the later work with its technology critique and accompanying announcement of the "end of metaphysics". For Vallega, as was certainly true for Heidegger from 1936 onward, the task of living honestly as mortal human beings -- i.e., of living in a fashion that acknowledges the transcience of our experience and lives -- demands above all a response to modern technology as "what's happening" in our world. Of course, what "modern technology" means is best captured by the preferred term from the Beiträge, "machination", rather than any word implying criticism of technological objects or strategies: what Heidegger, and Vallega, have in mind, is the basic "way of seeing the world" that leads to the development of technologies -- a mode of being which increasingly reduces everything to its "potential usefulness" in such a project of control: "the future depends on the urgent production of results and technological implements for shaping and making the future safe and secure through the expansion ad infinitum of rational quantitative productions of meanings and goods" (p. 15). . . . Read the rest here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=18185.

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