Science and Things

We learn from Heidegger's "The Thing" that not all things are equal, only objects (which are in the sphere of science) are - and they are countless. Things, annihilated by science, gush with symbolism, contain thought of that which is essential, are presencing - and are not that numerous.
When I mused over that this morning, I remembered working at The Strand one summer and how I kept encountering the same cab driver who'd come in ever few days and drop a pile of books next to my register from the dollar stands outside, saying as he paid for them: "This is my food money, but you know there's a saying. It says if you've only got enough money for two loaves of bread, buy a loaf of bread and a bouquet of lavender." A paean for things, not objects.
Heidegger considers science to annihilate things, not letting them speak for themselves, engaging only a specific kind of representation, engaging with "objects" of study. But when I read Heidegger - as opposed to say one of the Zen texts said to have inspired him, I feel the heavy presence of the "scientific" where the word denotes that which is systematic and methodical. A verse from the Tao Te Ching could say even more than his one lecture - but the meaning in the verse is not pinned down like in an insect display box. Philosophy becomes science.
But I would rather not take any side in a science/poesis problem (poeisis being Heidegger's answer to science in his other lecture that accompanied "The Thing" - "Question Concerning Technology"), preferring Ricoeur's method of crossing. That said, dialectics - where the word indicates opposites - can bring interesting ideas to light. As I was looking for the notes from my Strand summer to find that quote, I found a quote I'd taken from Hermann Broch's The Unknown Quantity - a book about a young man who takes refuge in studying the night sky and mathematics, but also a book about decaying values. It is the latter Broch is most known for - most famously in The Death of Virgil, where Virgil demands the Aeneid be destroyed because it is poetry, not knowledge. Again: tension between science and poetry.



"He could not express what he felt, it was too difficult. For as a potential artist - or an artist manqué - this was the rock on which he split: the unseen forces in the world manifested themselves in the night, it was in the night-time that thought embraced the whole world, but if a man wanted to conquer the world by what he saw though his eyes, he had to depend on the sun. And because he could not express this, because he only felt vaguely that it had something to do with his vision as an artist..." I'm afraid that's all I'd copied.
I think the passage works well to illustrate that more than one way of knowing is necessary for well being. To shockingly oversimplify Heidegger, he argues that without the poetic, man is in danger of being regulated by objects - or Matthew Arnold's "machine". Certainly, we would be bereft of books and lavender. I think, too, we would lack motivation, for the lack of dialectics.
"As our idea of perfection widens beyond the narrow limits," Arnold writes, we shall again reach our ideal. We are to see beyond the confines of the tastes of our class and allow for a spontaneity of consciousness (i.e. give up fixed ideas). Opposed to the "infinite number of works and ideas of our ordinary selves ... pretty near equal in value" - does that not harken back to Heidegger's objects - Arnold writes that we are to pursue the "one thing needful": that is to remain vital and true to "the thing itself as it was conceived" and not become mechanical.
The problem is not in science, but where science becomes mechanical. It cannot become mechanical so long as it has an opposing method to rival it; poesis. But I still haven't figured out a way to address this theme without sounding like I am recycling mid to late 20th century criticism. So I'll end by quoting from my notes from my days at The Strand: "I think it's really much better to write something awful at this point than to write nothing at all."



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