Reading Nietzsche Reading Heidegger

H/T the Enowning Blog: The NDPR published Cressida J. Heyes’ review of  Foucault’s Legacy. This part of the review takes up Babette Babich’s chapter:

In “A philosophical shock: Foucault reading Nietzsche, reading Heidegger,” Babette Babich argues that any reading of Foucault must incorporate readings of both Nietzsche and (a “very French”) Heidegger, rather than one at the expense of the other. The meanders of this essay take us through Nietzsche and Heidegger via an analysis of The Birth of the Clinic and reflections on philosophy of science to make the case. Remaining with Heidegger, later in the volume Santiago Zabala examines Foucault’s influence on the living Italian philosopher Vattimo. Foucault’s implicitly Heideggerian ontology is made explicit in Vattimo’s philosophy, Zabala argues. Foucault’s “ontology of actuality” (or “historical ontology of ourselves”) is his rejection of transcendental critique in favour of a historically situated analysis of the conditions of possibility of human being. This move, which engages Kant’s legacy while rejecting key aspects of his thought, has been key for Vattimo. The latter’s “weak thought” abandons “philosophy’s traditional claim to global descriptions of the world because after those masters’ demystifications . . . thought is much more aware of its own restrictions, limits, and boundaries” (115-116). Zabala goes on to make the connection between Vattimo’s referencing of Foucault’s ontology and Heidegger’s destruction of metaphysics and his hermeneutic alternative.

All four of these essays (which are scattered through the volume) suffer from the same difficulty: no doubt the authors found it hard to compress such complex philosophical ideas and inheritances into a chapter-length essay, and they are all broad-ranging and allusive rather than focused on a closely argued issue.

I haven’t read Babich’s essay and I think, if this summation of her point is correct, that it’s true (though less so about Heidegger). But it did remind me a bit of this:


  1. It is interesting that both Babich and Zabala are Heidegger scholars (I’m reviewing Zabala’s wonderful The Remains of Being at the moment and Babich is giving a talk at the Heidegger conference I’m organizing so I am pretty familiar with both of them apropos Heidegger scholarship).

    Judging by Zabala’s concise Remains of Being (roughly 150 words) I’m not sure he has a problem with compressing his ideas. In fact one of the perks of his book, which is a deeply faithful ‘Heideggerian’ style book in the best possible sense, is that he manages to condense the entire post-Heidegger response into a single chapter without it being too busy. He talks a little about Foucault in the RoB too and perhaps the issue here is that attempts to develop a new logic of remains jars against this kind of exegesis (I suspect his interest in Foucault is not broad enough to appeal in this collection to those interested in Foucault sans the ‘hidden’ Heidegger influence).

    Babich’s style is unique enough that I would give her a pass on the basis that her work tends to be richly rather than frustratingly allusive. Either way I think I’ll need to pick up the book on the basis of the contributors alone. It seems to be the first such book where I feel familiar with most of the names directly rather than knowing their names in a kind of ‘worked in my field in the 80’s..must read it at some point’ kind of way.

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