Tag Archives: Dialectics

Reading and time: A dialectic between academic expectation and academic frustration

Anne forwarded me this small beautiful exchange between scholars.


I wanted to add that

I do not agree… You never need anything to read anything.

Actually to understand Derrida it is not necessary to read e.g. Sein and Zeit. The question is then of course, what exactly did you understand in reading “Grammatology”, and even more, re-reading it: will you still understand the same? The tricky thing is that claiming to understand anything in philosophy is to a certain extent always a lie.

My problem is that I did not understand this and a lot of times felt dumb and helpless.

So I do not understand Zizek and it took me years to understand him.

The awful thing is that one has to “with-stand” philosophy to “under-stand”. Interestingly in german under-stand is ver-stehen. The  “ver” means that by doing something actively you somehow actively do something not intended.


ver-zeihen – for-give (par-don, lat. pro [veniam] dare)

ver-führen – seduce, führen – lead

ver-sagen – fail, sagen – say

Most interesting of those is

ver-sprechen –

It means to promise and to make a slip of the tongue or to make a mistake, sprechen – speak

So by understanding something by the pure meaning of the word verstehen in german you misunderstand while understanding.

So far to the subtelities of language and philosophical meanings. Fortunately Heidegger is making these differences most of the time quite clear.

Still, I read once for training Pablo Neruda in German and Spanish side by side. In german it sounded awful. In spanish it made me get tears in the eyes.

Now to something completely different:

At the end I want to share one of my favorites regarding understanding philosophical texts. But in 2 Translations. Note that the last subsentence is missing in the first.

Hegel’s night of the world.

First in German “von hier“:

Der Mensch ist diese Nacht,

dies leere Nichts, das alles in ihrer Einfachheit enthält
– ein Reichtum unendlich vieler Vorstellungen, Bilder, deren keines ihm gerade einfällt – ,
oder die nicht als gegenwärtige sind.
Dies die Nacht, das Innere der Natur, das hier existiert reines selbst,
– in phantasmagorischen  Vorstellungen ist es rings um Nacht, hier schießt dann ein blutig Kopf,
– dort eine andere weiße Gestalt plötzlich hervor, und verschwinden ebenso
– Diese Nacht erblickt man,
wenn man dem Menschen ins Auge blickt
– in eine Nacht hinein, die furchtbar wird,
es hängt die Nacht der Welt hier einem entgegen.

In dieser Nacht ist das Seiende zurückgegangen.”

Now in English from here:

“The human being is this night, this empty nothing, that contains everything in its simplicity—an unending wealth of many representations, images, of which none belongs to him—or which are not present. This night, the interior of nature, that exists here—pure self—in phantasmagorical representations, is night all around it, in which here shoots a bloody head—there another white ghastly apparition, suddenly here before it, and just so disappears. One catches sight of this night when one looks human beings in the eye—into a night that becomes awful.

it suspends the night of the world here in an opposition. In this night being has returned.”

And here:

“The human being is this Night, this empty nothing which contains everything in its simplicity – a wealth of infinitely many representations, images, none of which occur to it directly, and none of which are not present. This [is] the Night, the interior of [human] nature, existing here – pure Self – [and] in phantasmagoric representations it is night everywhere: here a bloody head suddenly shoots up and there another white shape, only to disappear as suddenly. We see this Night when we look a human being in the eye, looking into a Night which turns terrifying. [For from his eyes] the night of the world hangs out toward us.”