Thursday, December 03, 2015

Another Proof that Anvils Don’t Float

Heidegger originally planned to go into the priesthood. How might his description of human existence square with dogmas like the immortality of the soul? The problem isn’t that on his view Dasein is ineluctably corporeal. In a sense, Catholic belief implies the same, which is why the Last Judgment takes the form of a resurrection of the dead, not simply an assembly of disembodied spirits. Persons are judged, not just souls. To be sure, the eternal existence of the saved doesn’t mean that the saints will have to drag these leaky bags of meat around forever—our gross flesh will be transmuted into something appropriately luminous—but a soul without a body is not a person. Thing is, though, being-in-the-world, Heidegger’s way of characterizing our existence, is not simply embodied. It’s… Well, there is no word in English or in any other language I know of that captures the idea—embedded? enworlded? Which creates a fresh challenge for a Heideggerian Catholic over and beyond the difficulty of imagining what you’d be on the other side of death if you are, as Heidegger also said, being-towards-death. Along with a heavenly body, you’d need a heavenly world. Imaging such a thing might not be impossible—philosophers are good at that sort of thing—Leibniz managed to come up with a way of harmonizing the monadology with the real presence of Christ in the host, for example. At a minimum, though, it complicates matters.

This whole line of thought is just another way of making an old point of mine. The description of existence in Being and Time is incomplete. Since Dasein is ineluctably social and worldly, the possibility of no more possibilities cannot simply be an orientation towards my private demise but to the end of the world: the apocalypse. It follows that existential hope, if such a thing made sense at all, would involve a new heaven and a new earth. Since I’m not a theologian, I think I’ll pass on elaborating that project; but it’s harder to get around eschatology itself, even if you do sing the song in a different key. And, no, Heidegger exegesis isn’t the point of bringing this up.

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