Research-synopsis January 2006
The subject of my research in the nineties was the element or attitude of `Erlebnis' (lived experience), fundamental concept in the philosophical project of Wilhelm Dilthey, touchstone in Friedrich Nietzsches philosophy, the starting point for phenomenology; of `sensation', the measure in modern French culture for real poetry and real art. In letters to his son Lucien, Camille Pissarro, the impressionist, used the expression `sensation vitale'. I made profound study of the impact of this measure of lived experience in the philosophies of Nietzsche and Dilthey and in the impressionism of Claude Monet. Together with studies on the critical diagnosis of `Erlebnis' on the part of Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin this resulted in a book, that in 1998 was published in Dutch (De druk van de beleving) and 2005 in a German translation (Erlebnisdruck).
During my studies I discovered that lived experience is an ambiguous ground for art and philosophy as well as for life itself. In Nietzschean terms it can be designated as an element of exploitation and experiment. Nietzsche relates the massive exploitation that he foresees to the primacy and the globalizing of economics. We will all be severely exploited, not only in our labour capacity and intelligence, but also in our feelings and tastes, unless we succeed to give a personal artistic and sophisticated form to our experiences and attitude. Precondition for that is a process of huge experimenting, of individuals with themselves, with their ways of living. And Nietzsche had good prophesying. Today we must say: what does science, what does the experience-market not experiment with? The question arises, whether and in what extent Nietzsches experiments are n't becoming part of the process of exploitation. The least we can say is, that the boundaries between exploitation and experiment are fading, are growing blurred.But there's a rich nucleus of existential truth in Nietzsches thought. His experience of amor fati escapes the proces of exploitation. I discovered the same in Dilthey's impressive reflections on the enigmatic structures of historical life as well as in the route of Monets painting, ending up with the waterscapes. So I suggest that the primacy of lived experience in our culture, in all of our attitudes, is transitory. I conceive it as a state of transition and downfall. On the one side it stimulates the process of exploitation, on the other side it contains indications of a more original attitude, the mood and attitude of release. So the starting point for the young Heidegger is `Erlebnis' - philosophy requires `eine total erlebnishaften Gerichtetheit' (1919), we have to be completely directed by lived experience -, but 'Erlebnis' leads, in a way already in Sein und Zeit, to `Gelassenheit'. I consider Nietzsches amor fati as a mode of `Gelassenheit'.
During the past six years I made study of the work of the German medieval mystic Meister Eckhart, who formed the substantive `gel‚zenheit', I took up Heidegger again (in the eighties I did my dissertation on Nietzsche and Heidegger) , I re-read Nietzsche in the light of this new motive and in prolongation of my work on Monet I'm losing myself in Georges Braque. I try to reflect on the historical and philosophical essence of cubism and on the mood or attitude that reveals itself in the course of the painting and especially the late work of Braque. Picasso's mood or disposition is a dionysian one, that of Braque - painter for poets - testifies to the attitude of release. I hope to finish a book with studies on release in the course of 2007. The final chapter will be dedicated to the theology of language of the young Benjamin and concentrate on the phenomenon of the proper name. As to language the copernican turn of the critique of metaphysics finds its most radical advocate in Benjamins suggestion that we have to look for the essence of human language not in the generality of the concept but in the universal singularity and uniqueness of the proper name. There's a bond between the phenomenon of the proper name and the attitude of release: both imply singular emptiness and a home for the unique.
This linguistic theme gives an example of the relation of my research to the theme of the research-master of the faculty of philosophy in Leiden, that of the boundary's of rationality. The logic or language of metaphysical and modern scientific rationality finds one of its bounds in the proper name, that it can't incorporate; it excludes it. Equally or still more important in my research is the relationship between rationality and the affective. The book on release will contain a chapter that bears the title `Over gemoed en hart bij Meister Eckhart' (`On mind and heart in Meister Eckhart'). One detailed paragraphe will be dedicated to Aristotle's analysis of the essence of the affective, another to the question of the hierarchic relation between reason and feeling, what it is in metaphysical thought that makes that thought and the intellect is primary and feeling or the affective secondary. The fact is that not only an emotion, but reason too can't stand on its own. One easily forgets how in the past logos, intellectus, reason were embedded in a divine cosmic order or christian divine order of creation. Rationality needs a lead, needs an origin, needs the bond of a metaphysical mood. In the era of nihilism, the death of God, as Nietzsche has called it, this new lead, this bond has been sought in man's historical life, in the primacy of `Erlebnis'. In this transient or transitory domain the old mystic attitude of `Gelassenheit', of release returns. I expect that in the long run the process of globalizing makes a dialogue between cultures inevitable, a dialogue out of the spiritual roots of every culture. An example of this wil be the dialogue between `Gelassenheit' in a European and `wu we' in a taoistic spirituality. One day Nietzsche termed his own thought a form of European buddhism.
As to co-operation in this field of research, within the programm of the faculty there are fruitfull connections with the Nietzsche-research of colleague Herman Siemens. Besides this programm two co-operations are especially important for me. There's the co-operation called `Philosophy and spirituality'. Together with the special professor for theosophy at the faculty in Leiden, Hans Gerding, and Rico Sneller, a theologian who teaches ethics at the faculty of theology in Leiden, I organize lectures on this theme. The second co-operation is the initiative, together with Dutch and Flemish colleagues, to found a Society for Phenomenological Philosophy for the Netherlands and for Flanders. The Society will be presented september 2006 during an international congress on Levinas in Nijmegen.
Supplement august 2008: