In 1959, at the invitation of Dr. Medard Boss, Heidegger began to make regular visits to Switzerland to speak to psychiatrists about his philosophy. The documentary evidence of these seminars–manuscripts, notes, letters, etc.–has been published as Zollikon Seminars, ed. Medard Boss (Northwestern University Press, 2001). The first text by Heidegger is a brief handwritten manuscript for an apparently informal presentation delivered on September 9, 1959, in the Bürgholzi Auditorium at the University of Zurich Psychiatry Clinic. The printed version of the manuscript begins with this diagram:

Heidegger explains:

This drawing should only illustrate that human existing in its essential ground is never just an object which is present-at-hand; it is certainly not a self-contained object.  Instead, this way of existing consists of “pure,” invisible, intangible capacities for receiving-perceiving [Vernehmen] what it encounters and what addresses it. In the perspective of the Analytic of Da-sein, all conventional, objectifying representations of a capsule-like psyche, person, ego, or consciousness in psychology or psychopathology must be abandoned in favor of an entirely different understanding. [Zollikon Seminars, 3-4]

More than 30 years after Sein und Zeit, here we have a picture of Dasein, or rather, five distinct Daseins. I do not know if other drawings can be found in his manuscripts. For now, I will assume that Heidegger produced this visual support out of pedagogical exigency. I imagine that he must have been hesitant about being so explicit–this simple drawing commits him to a certain presentation of Dasein that hundreds of pages of text do not.

Here Heidegger wants to show us how being is oriented in the world: each arc-and-arrow figure includes exactly the same kind of outer limit and the same vector of movement.  Evidently Heidegger has had to draw more than one in order to make his point; here there are two ranks, with the lower right outlier standing somehow closer to the source of the transmitting vector than all the others. Yet the figures do not otherwise communicate with each other; in fact, they are oddly shielded and turned away from one another, hardly sharing the same space. Maybe we should call them “open cells.”

Each arc-and-arrow design is composed of two lines. Yet the lines have, as it were, different existential weight.

The arc seems to be a fixed boundary. If it does not designate a containment, it nevertheless marks a limit. It is already in the world. The arrow, meanwhile, apparently depicts (or rather, simply is) a movement: it indicates a path of time: it comes into the world. At any rate, that would be the most conventional way of seeing the diagram. But what if the arc can be seen with something of the dynamism of the arrow, and the arrow with something of the fixity of the arc? There would be a kind of unsettled visual churning: up and left, deflected down and right.

Just when this figure begins to look like the insignia of a vibrant process, the fact that Heidegger drew five of them, all aligned the same way, makes them seem more static again. Or is that impression simply prompted by repetition? Can we assume that the number and alignment of the figures is significant? If dialectics (as Zizek says) asks us to count to four, maybe the thinking of Dasein requires us to count to five. There’s never just one, but two is an opposition; the third in a new row would set up, precisely, a dialectic, while the fourth would create too much symmetry. So there has to be a fifth, one more than enough. Visually the fifth seems to come first (it “stands out,” which is just what Dasein does), but it comes last if we treat these lines as if they were words on a page, written from top left to lower right.

Why is each figure oriented the same way? Must we assume that the arrow arises straight from somewhere more primordial than the space of the drawing? Heidegger does not want the diagram to say too much: it “should only illustrate” what he says it should. Yet, just as words say more than they represent, lines show more than they illustrate.

Advertisements