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By now most people are familiar with the concept of Heidegger Kitsch: the aping of Heidegger’s verbal mannerisms without the soul of the thing being there. At times Heidegger himself even seems to lapse into this, such as in portions of the Beiträge and even more in lesser texts in the same vein such as Besinnung.

This is probably the fate of any important philosophy. In order to recapture the soul of the thing, a new philosophy needs to be created from scratch that borrows from some of the more recent important ones. This is why I never sympathize with people who chuckle about “the next new thing.” I don’t see what harm is done by next new things. They are candidates for long-term durability, and nothing more. You have to consider a number of candidates if you want to get a few live ones, and there are generally only a handful of live ones per century.

We’ve been familiar with Derrida Kitsch for 20 years; in fact, in Derrida’s case some of it was simultaneous with the high point of the movement, perhaps because he is so verbally mannered that imitation is naturally encouraged.

In the past several years we’ve begun to see Deleuze Kitsch. By this I mean certain decisions of Deleuze that are automatically followed even though their liberating power is already somewhat expended. For example, the tendency to prefer Deleuze’s own line of “minor” thinkers: the Stoics, Spinoza, Hume, Bergson, etc. Whenever this sort of thing goes too far, it’s better to shift emphasis to the other side, whose defects are inevitably being exaggerated. It’s one of the reasons I think a time is ripe for a return not to “minor” but to the “major” thinkers with whom Deleuze doesn’t do enough: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz...

Via Graham Harman's Object-Oriented Philosophy blog.

Readers Comments

  1. Impossible not to be reminded of Bernhard's Reger, of course:

    'Heidegger was a kitschy brain... a feeble thinker from the alpine foothills... true, the Heidegger cow has become thinner but the Heidegger cow is still being milked. Heidegger is the petit bourgeois of German philosophy, the man who has placed on German philosophy his kitschy night-cap, that kitschy black night-cap which Heidegger always wore, on all occasions. Heidegger is the carpet-slipper and night-cap philosopher of the Germans, nothing else... Heidegger is… the specially suitable luncheon philosopher straight from the scholar's frying pan. When you come to a petit-bourgeois or even an aristocratic-petit-bourgeois party, you are very often served Heidegger even before the hors-d'oeuvre, you have not even taken off your coat and already you are being offered a piece of Heidegger, you have not even sat down and already the lady of the house has brought Heidegger in with the sherry on a silver salver…'

  2. Some odd premises in Harman's suggestion:

    (1) As well as the book on Leibniz & the Baroque, there are a number of seminars on Leibniz over at Deleuzeweb. Indeed, the whole method of differential analysis that Deleuze employs has its provenance within Leibniz.

    (2) Plato is the exemplary thinker of representation & resemblance within the philosophical tradition - given that Deleuze's whole philosophical project seeks to leave the terrain of representation & resemblance, it's hard to see how he could have "done more" with Plato (notwithstanding his delightful recovery of a Platonic ontological simulacrum which gnaws at the core of Platonism).

    Whilst the point about Heidegger/Derrida/Delueze kitsch is well-taken, simply to return to 'major' writers smacks of the kind of kitsch dialectical oscillation from which both Derrida & Deleuze were at such pains to distance themselves.

    It would be more interesting to reflect critically on the very dynamic at work in the relation between 'minor' & major' as Deleuze frames it; or, having returned to one or other of the so-called minor texts that feature in Deleuze's 'canon', to attempt to think about these texts anew, outwith the framing device of major-minor.

    Ultimately, the exhilaration of reading Heidgger, Derrida or Deleuze, when they read texts from the history of philosophy, derives from their uncanny ability to make these texts speak to us anew, & in ways which challenge our fundamental interpretative & philosophical presuppositions.

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