A challenge to Daseinsanalysis

02/01/2015 12:57

[proposed by Miltos Theodossiou]

There are two pictures, I think, in the IFDA, two different pictures of the human being and the human suffering. We can sharply distinguish them, though the differences may not be always as sharp as I present them. But this will encourage, I hope, further conversation.

Regarding this, I quote an excerpt from a paper of mine to be published soon by the new Greek Society Journal.

"Both pictures begin with conflict; the conflicted human being undergoing psychotherapy. One tries to cure this conflict by eliminating it; that's the first picture. According to this picture, the human being can live without any internal conflicts. Conflict is understood to be an illusion - there's no conflict at all, not really. There's just Life and the Flow of things. Therapy aims to bring out how internal conflict is an illusion. An illusion produced by too much thinking, too much self-involvement, too much mind, so to speak, and too little body, too little life, too little immanence. Taking out the excessive mindedness eliminates the conflict. This picture is quite ancient and has a deep theological pedigree. But we can find it at work even today. From the state of mind termed 'no-mind' in Zen practice and Eastern mysticism to Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty, the 'internal conflict is an illusion' picture has been popular and quite alluring with its promises of silence, quiet and self-surrender to a mindless state of calmness and detachment, namely, a state of being supposedly of releasement, composure and letting-be towards things. 
The second picture takes conflict for real. It does not try to cure it by eliminating it. It does not try to cure it at all. It introduces no mind-body contrasts or any other internal dualisms. Rather, it tries to learn from conflict; though what the lesson is going to be is unknown. It tries to look into the conflict and dwell on it till it fills itself up with mindedness, with self-consciousness, with minded -yet conflicted, cracked- body and soul. It tries to assimilate conflict in the natural way of things.
Here, it is human life without internal conflict, life without any gaps, that is an illusion. On the contrary, according to this picture, a gappy mind is still a mind, and should be treated as one. In this case, a human being is not determined by mere 'receptivity; he or she is characterized by 'spontaneity', the capacity to get involved in things, to self-consciously create, make up one's mind, take a position, accept responsibility and all the costs that come unavoidably with it, namely the costs of internal conflict. This picture, may not be as ancient as the first one -it draws from Kant, Hegel, the German Idealist tradition and goes up to certain strands in Martin Heidegger's and Ludwig Wittgenstein's thought, up to Hannah Arendt, Gadamer, Lacan and even Zizek. It encapsulates what we call Modernity: Modernity, autonomy, the capacity to know yourself on your own powers, with your own reason, the possibility to stand on your own two feet over the abyss without filling up the gap, without eliminating the 'lack', without giving up on Reason. This is a tall order no doubt. Admittedly, the burden of Modernity is quite heavy. No wonder the first picture, with its promise of no internal conflict, has become so relevant today. 
These two pictures do not have to be conceived specifically as alternative pictures of therapy, though therapy cannot be understood entirely independently of one or the other. Nevertheless, they touch upon the way that human beings stand in the world, the way that we exist as speaking and thinking animals or embodied minds."


From: Kenneth Bradford (USA)

Dear all,

Yes - this is fabulous topic, which I am sure will succeed in provoking some robust reflection and dialogue!

The topic of illusion is already incredibly fertile. It often seems that a state of conflict as well as a state of peace is totally real and substantial, emotionally compelling each its in own (ontic) way. But, is this true?

I have often wondered about the translation of that Heraclitus fragment, “conflict (strife, war) is the father of all.” How would you translate that?

best, Ken

From Thanasis Georgas (Greece)

Dear Ken, dear all

     I see this Heraclitus fragment, in a similar way as the fragment  «ήθος ανθρώπω δαίμων» [Ethos Anthropo Demon] Fragm.119

The word “ήθος” (Ethos),primarily meant the abode, the dwelling place, the open region in which the human beings live.

Demon comes from the verb δαίω [daio] which, at first, means  divide [lat.. dῑves] and share out. Also then, it means burn, blazed with fire, conflict, separate, but also, I take place in a symposium, a feast, in eating and drinking (in modern Greek παν-δαισία”).

Heidegger, in his "Letter on Humanism”, translates this fragment as: “The (familiar) abode for man is the open region for the presencing of god (the unfamiliar one)”.

So, the familiar for the human being is the dwelling in the unfamiliar. That means, the implicit and the unsaid, the nothing which stands as our groundless ground and source of meaning. The movement in which unconcealment comprises concealment.

   According to this (and according to the text of Miltos Theodossiou)  could we consider  conflict simply as an illusion? An illusion produced by too much thinking, too much self-involvement, too much mind? Is it possible for the human being to live without any conflicts, as part of the flow of things, wearing the face of a “nobody” -in other words, with no self-identity? Is it possible to think of a therapy which eliminates conflicts just by eliminating mind, or just by “broadening” mind?

      Or should we take conflicts for real, belonging to the ontological nature of Da-sein? In this view, therapy should try to look into the conflict and dwelling on it. Not to avoid it. In this way, perhaps, authentic questions may be raised in psychotherapy. Daseinsanalysis cannot give up Reason (Logos).

   Perhaps Heidegger’s Gelassenheit relates to a new, meditative “way of thinking” and not simply a “letting-be towards things”.

Warmly from Athens, Thanasis Georgas

From: Miles Groth (USA)

I am interested in the group members' ideas about Martin Heidegger's discussions of Heraclitus and this fragment especially. Given his influence on Boss ...

From: Kenneth Bradford (USA)

Dear Thanasis+,

Thank-you so much for your reply. Based on your clarification, it seems that in Heidegger’s treatment of this provocative fragment, demon/daio as conflict or dividedness is either diluted or lost in translation. I’m assuming his translating of “unfamilar” may be a way to account for this, but unfamiliar is quite different from either conflict or dividedness, isn’t it? Thus, it seems that Heidegger only explicates Heidegger, and not necessarily Heraclitus and his provocative conflict/divided reference. 

What IS clear is that conflict can only occur if there is a division between (at least) two points of view. Dividedness is therefore the basis for any conflict that arises from it. Fleshing dividedness (demon/daio) out as separate and blazed with fire makes for a richness of felt experience. In this, the echo of the Buddha’s Fire Sermon: "the world is burning...with desire…with grasping…" can be heard quite clearly in my ears. The divided mind/the mind divided against itself is a cause of the fire of so much suffering, no?

Understanding demon as dividedness makes for a different emphasis than taking it as unfamiliar, especially if we translate unfamiliar in the ontological sense as you do, following Heidegger, where unfamiliar is stretched to become something like "our groundless ground.” It seems to me that attending to dividedness attunes us to the mind and its conflicts. Whereas attending to the groundless ground of being attunes us to the nature of the mind, beyond (or prior to) conflict, and undivided. 

warmly, Ken

From: Miltos Theodossiou (Greece) 

Date: 2015-01-02, 17:56

Dear all,

Heidegger in Introduction to Metaphysics comments on Heraklitus Fragment 53 as follows: 
     The polemos named here is a strife [Streit] that holds sway before
everything divine and human, not war [Krieg] in the human sense. As
Heraklitus thinks it, struggle [Kampf] first and foremost allows essences to step apart [auseinandertreten] into opposition, first allows position and stance and rank in their presence to come into a relation. In such a stepping apart, clefts, intervals, distances and joints open themselves up. In confrontation [Auseinandersetzung], a world
comes to be. [Confrontation neither divides, nor does it destroy unity.
It builds unity, and is gathering (logos) . Polemos and logos are the
(The final sentences in square brackets are Heidegger 's own insertion)

If the historical resonances of the period (WW II) are set aside, then this is a very important remark, as far as conflict is concerned. It shows that conflict may be understood as a creative instance of world-gathering. It does not enforce unity, but constitutes it as novelty, as awakening. Heidegger further comments:

     Struggle first projects and develops the un-heard, the hitherto un-said
and un-thought. This struggle is borne by the creators-the poets, the thinkers and the statesmen. Against the overwhelming might, they cast the counterweight of their work and bind into this the world which is thereby opened up. With this work, the raging might of phusis comes to a stand in what is present. Beings now become what they are as such. This becoming of a world is authentic history. Struggle not only allows beings as such to stand forth, but it alone preserves beings in their
constancy. Where struggle sits out, beings indeed do not vanish, but
world turns away.

     I'd like your comments on this. Is Daseinanalysis close to this way of perceiving things in therapy?

From Thanasis Georgas (Greece)

[....Struggle not only allows beings as such to stand forth, but it alone preserves beings in their constancy. Where struggle sits out, beings indeed do not vanish, but
world turns away.     I'd like your comments on this. Is Daseinanalysis close to this way of perceiving things in therapy? (Μ. ΤΗ.)]

     I try to think about it, through a Daseinsanalytic interpretation of some relevant psychoanalytic insights:

     Ιn the psychoanalytic theory, human individualization begins with a founding separation from an undifferentiated entirety (Holon), the intrauterine embryonic state. The human individualization originates from a literal and a metaphorical “birth trauma”.  Through the breach, through the absence, through the nothing… this is the first trace of the appearance of the other and at the same time of myself..! This is the first opening of my ex-istence!

In the same view we could see the threat that originates from the father (the “castration” in the Freudian terminology) as that which stops the way back and activates the breach, the founding separation which accompanies life, from its beginnings. The father is like to repeat and activate the “birth trauma” and, in this sense, he becomes the parent who gives the child its ex-istence! This is the important role of the appearance of the other: the otherness as an ontological lack, which by undermining the illusionary construction, cracks it and opens up an area in which an ex-istence may be born. This event is the ultimate creative act of ex-isting. This allows and at the same time obliges the human being, not to coincide with itself, but, constantly and by definition, to be in reference to something else. In the core of the existence, there is the otherness, and at first it ex-ists as a crack,  threat,  breach,  separation, -in other words, as nothingness...

           Could we see the above experience in the light of the ontological depth which characterizes the human being as Da-sein? (Certainly, in this  light, the Freudian field comes to be a totally different field.) 

       The core of Dasein is the Unheimlichkeit, the unsettledness or not-being-at-home. The finiteness of “being-in-the-world”. That means that Daseinsanalysis cannot be a simple description of manifestations. It’s rather a continuous dialogue with this which cannot be a simple manifestation -the unknown, the unsettledness, the implicit, the unsaid. Each manifestation presupposes the unmanifestable as its source  -and that means the “Geheimnis”, that is, the “Unheimlich” the  ‘not-being-at-home’ the ‘uncanny’.
      We could see then, in an even deeper way the ontological dimension of the human being so as to feel the abysmal mystery which is hidden in it. In this way we can understand the main point of Daseinsanalysis,  that all mental suffering is rooted in the ontological nature of Dasein, that is, in existence itself.

     The “Unheimlich” pushes Dasein towards the familiarity of Das Man and the world of “common sense”, so as not to bother about its own being and without having to deal with its own angst. Today this unavoidable Unheimlich is more and more unsettling, because the communities (our traditional frames of reference) have been increasingly eliminated by processes of delocalization and disorientation. We see this, for example, in Greece,  especially  in recent years…!

    But we could see all this as an opportunity which enables the Dasein to be Dasein, the individual to be an individual. All this,  helps Dasein to come to terms with his very own “abyss”, to look into the conflict and dwell on it till it fills it with meaning…

      So then, yes, I do agree with Miltos Theodosiou: “Where struggle sits out, beings indeed do not vanish, but world turns away”.