The Ordinary lightness of Binx

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  • #1 ~ ONE OF THE STANDARD ITEMS in any description of Percy, no matter how brief, is that he spent a fair amount of time reading th e existentialists,. ~ Heidegger’s philosophy on The Moviegoer . ~ briefly summarizing the aim of his major work ~ selected passages ~ I’ll read the quotations by Heidegger, ~ STYLE includes difficult terminology. ~ assume your familiarity with passages from the Moviegoer
  • #2 [2] ~ IN THIS QUOTATION FROM AN INTERVIEW, PERCY NAMEs his favorite existentialists, THEN states that it was by reading them that he better understood what it means to be alive in a world transformed by Science. ~ He then makes it clear that his goal was to render the co ncreteness of existential philosophy in the form of the novel.
  • #3 [4] AS FOR BEING AND TIME itself ~ Percy was able to read HEIDEGGER’S Sein und Zeit in the original German, long before it became popular in America. ~ Heidegger presents his aims from the very beginning. OUR AIM IN THE FOLLOWING TREATISE IS TO WORK OUT THE QUESTION OF THE MEANING OF BEING AND TO DO SO CONCRETELY.
  • #4 [6] HEIDEGGER IDENTIFIED THREE MODES OF BEING IN THE UNIVERSE: (1) READINESS-TO-HAND; HAMMER / EQUIPMENT (2) PRESENCE-AT-HAND; THE PROVERBIAL TREE FALLING IN FOREST SCIENCE OR THEORY (3) DASEIN - HUMAN EXISTENCE
  • #5 [7] the basic meaning of the German: DA is there; SEIN is to be. These are just a few of many statements about DAZEIN: The second says that FOR DAZEIN, BEING IS AN ISSUE FOR IT – THIS STATEMENT, OR SOME VERSION OF IT RECURS THROUGHOUT THE 400 PAGES OF BEING AND TIME. IN OTHER WORDS: A HAMMER DOESN’T HAVE ITS BEING IS AN ISSUE FOR IT Being a DAZEIN is an issue for DAZEIN.
  • #6 [8] PERCY CONTRIBUTED HIS OWN VERSION IN AN ESSAY WRITTEN AROUND THE SAME TIME HE WAS WRITING THE MOVIEGOER: THAT BEING IN THE WORLD WHOSE CALLING IT IS TO FIND A NAME FOR BEING, TO GIVE TESTIMONY TO IT, AND TO PROVIDE FOR IT A CLEARING. ~ The word CLEARING is a complex term in Being and Time, Which we’ll come back to later.
  • #7 [9] My theory is that Binx is one such typical DA-zine, And he tells us at the beginning of the novel How the typical Da-zine lives Consumer Wears deodorant Pays attention to physical and mental health Rides the bus All requirements that Binx is happy to fulfill to be an ORDINARY, well-adjusted DA-ZEIN.
  • #8 [10] WHAT DOES HEIDEGGER SAY ABOUT DA-ZEIN? THE SELF OF EVERYDAY DASEIN IS THE THEY-SELF, WHICH WE DISTINGUISH FROM THE AUTHENTIC SELF—THAT IS, FROM THE SELF WHICH HAS BEEN TAKEN HOLD OF IN ITS OWN WAY. This is a clarifying statement about DAZEIN, the problem and the potential. The potential is that DAZEIN can be authentic; The problem is that AS THEY-SELF, THE INDIVIDUAL DASEIN HAS BEEN DISPERSED INTO THE THEY, AND MUST FIRST FIND ITSELF. the THEY-SELF is comfortable listening to advertisements or riding the bus, but what does it mean for Dasein to find itself?
  • #9 [11] IN THE MOVIEGOER, Binx’s) idea of the search is even better than “ fi nding itself ” , which I think was probably something of a clich e even 50 years ago.
  • #10 [12] Another concept important to Heidegger is THROWNNESS DA-ZEIN IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN THROWN; IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT INTO ITS “THERE”, BUT NOT OF ITS OWN ACCORD. ~ Thrown “here” - we always find ourselves “DA” or “here,” and never entirely on our own terms. .. ~ If we go back far enough, none of us asked to be born. GEWORFENHEIT/CASTAWAY
  • #11 [13] ~ HERE IS AN IMPORTANT MOMENT FOR BINX, AS HE RECALLS his experience in Korea. ~ When I first read this, I’d imagined he’d been knocked out by a bomb ~ He SEES THE DUNG BEETLE, but more to the point, this is where he has his first insight that he is a CASTAWAY confronted by Being. ~ In Heidegger’s ONTOLOGICAL terms, I think he is confronted by that mode of BEING in nature that is present-at-hand, and this awakens a curiosity, and then th e search. Being has become an issue for Binx, to put it in Heidegger’s terms.
  • #12 [14] DA-ZEIN IS a CASTAWAY into the world, but never without some degree of understanding. THAT WHICH IS UNDERSTOOD IS ALREADY ACCESSIBLE IN SUCH A WAY THAT ITS AS WHICH CAN BE MADE TO STAND OUT WHEN WE MERELY STARE AT SOMETHING, OUR JUST-HAVING-IT-BEFORE-US LIES BEFORE US AS A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND IT ANY MORE. ~ Heidegger’s point here is that it takes a certain amount of effort to see things w/o the benefit of experience. ~ SCIENCE DEPENDS ON THIS SORT OF APPREHENSION
  • #13 [15] Here Binx is practicing the same sort of DEFAMILIARIZATION Heidegger described in the previous quotation. ~ What are the simple facts of existence, of his Being here? ~ Binx discovered he was a CASTAWAY in the Korean War ~ Now the question is, how has he become a CASTAWAY in Gentilly?
  • #14 [16] ACCORDING TO HEIDEGGER, BEING A CASTAWAY ABSORBED INTO THE THEY-SELF IS CONNECTED TO A PHENOMENON HE CALLED “FALLING” WHICH HAS SPECIAL MEANING IN BEING AND TIME. HE WRITES <<THERE IS REVEALED A BASIC KIND OF BEING WHICH BELONGS TO EVERYDAYNESS; WE CALL THIS THE FALLING OF DA-ZEIN.>> AND THEN HEIDEGGER EMPHASIZES THAT THIS IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE IDEA OF ORIGINAL SIN.
  • #15 [17] HERE IS A SCENE AT HIS MOTHER’S HOUSE, IN WHICH BINX LITERALLY FALLS, MORE IMPORTANTLY, HE DECIDES TO FIGHT AGAINST EVERYDAYNESS - HIS INAUTHENIC MANNER OF BEING Which he then rails against at some length.
  • #16 [18] ~ The most obvious symptom of FALLING is what Heidegger calls IDLE TALK. << DISCOURSE … HAS THE POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING IDLE TALK. AND WHEN IT DOES SO, IT SERVES NOT SO MUCH TO KEEP BEING-IN-THE-WORLD OPEN FOR US AS RATHER TO CLOSE IT OFF>>
  • #17 [19] ~ THE MOVIEGOER IS FULL OF EXAMPLES OF IDLE TALK. ~ Here Binx refers to it generally; ~ Followed by his conversation with Nell Lovell on the Library Steps, where he tries hard not to pass gas
  • #18 [20] One way that Dasein is alerted to FALLING is through anxiety. HEIDEGGER WRITES WHEN ANXIETY HAS SUBSIDED, THEN IN OUR EVERYDAY WAY OF TALKING WE ARE ACCUSTOMED TO SAY THAT “IT WAS REALLY NOTHING”.
  • #19 [21] BINX, HAVING A KIND OF PANIC ATTACK <<WHAT THEN? WHAT IS THIS THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN? CLEARLY NOTHING. ~ FOR BOTH HEIDEGGER AND PERCY: IT MAY BE NOTHING, BUT IF IT REALLY IS NOTHING, WHY THE ANXIETY? ANXIETY ITSELF IS SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING.
  • #20 [22] ANOTHER WAY THAT DAZEIN IS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND ITSELF IS ITS EXISTENCE IN TIME. A COMPLEX SUBJECT IN HEIDEGGER, BUT ONE METHOD THE INDIVIDUAL CAN USE TO ORIENTATE HIS OR HERSELF IN TIME IS REPETITION. <<AS SUCH IT IS AT THE SAME TIME A DISAVOWAL OF THAT WHICH IN THE “TODAY” IS WORKING ITSELF OUT AS THE “PAST”>>
  • #21 [23] ~ The language is different, but I think the concept is the same. HERE BINX IS ISOLATING THE TIME THAT HAS LAPSED SO THAT IT CAN BE SAVORED OF ITSELF, THEN HE USES THE METAPHOR OF PEANUT BRITTLE. ~ IN HEIDEGGER’S WORDS, A DISVOWAL OF EVENTS THAT MAKE UP “TODAY” AS WELL AS THE PAST ~ IN BINX’S TERMS, HE IS MORE CONCERNED WITH THE BRITTLE THAN THE PEANUTS - THE EVENTS THAT CLOG UP TIME.
  • #22 [26] REMEMBER Percy’s definition of DAZEIN, and his call TO PROVIDE FOR IT a clearing. And compare it to what Heidegger says in BEING AND TIME. <<TO SAY THAT IT IS ILLUMINATED MEANS THAT AS BEING-IN-THE-WORLD IT IS CLEARED IN ITSELF, NOT THROUGH ANY OTHER ENTITY, BUT IN SUCH A WAY THAT IT IS ITSELF THE CLEARING. BY ITS VERY NATURE, DAZEIN BRINGS ITS “TH ERE ” ALONG WITH IT. >>
  • #23 [27 ] ~ BINX SEEMS ABOUT TO CLEAR THINGS UP IN THE EPILOGUE WHEN He states that he is an ordinary fellow. ~ OFFERS A Summary of the Search, but then he BEGS OFF. ~ THEN HE REFERS TO THIS RETICENCE, IN A DIRECT ADDRESS TO THE READER: <<RETICENCE, THEREFORE, HARDLY HAVING A PLACE IN A DOCUMENT OF THIS KIND, IT SEEMS AS GOOD A TIME AS ANY TO MAKE AN END.>>
  • #24 [28] RETICENCE WAS A CHARACTERISTIC IMPORTANT to HEIDEGGER <<IN TALKING WITH ONE ANOTHER, THE PERSON WHO KEEPS SILENT CAN “MAKE ONE UNDERSTAND … … IN SO PRIMORDIAL A MANNER THAT IT GIVES RISE TO A POTENTIALITY FOR HEARING WHICH IS GENUINE, AND TO A BEING-WITH-ONE-ANOTHER THAT IS TRANSPARENT>> THIS MAY OR MAY NOT BE TRUE WITH BINX OR KATE. CLEARLY KATE HAS A GREAT DEAL OF ANXIETY. For PERCY, the real CLEARING here is the space between the AUTHOR and the READER. SO THAT A NEW UNDERSTANDING can develop in the silence of the COMPLETED novel. IT’S TRUE FOR THE MOVIEGOER, and IT’S TRUE FOR HIS OTHER WORKS - ESPECIALLY THE LAST TWO BOOKS, WHICH I’D ENCOURAGE YOU TO READ IN LIGHT OF THIS LAST QUOTATION FROM HEIDEGGER. AND THIS IS A GOOD PLACE FOR ME TO MAKE AN END OF IT.
  • The Ordinary lightness of Binx

    1. 1. The Ordinary Lightness of Binx Being and Time in The Moviegoer or A Thief of Heidegger
    2. 2. Percy On Existentialists <ul><li>“ In somewhat this order I have read Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, then Sartre and Camus. These writers were a revelation to me. They fulfilled a tremendous gap in my view of the world, indeed they seemed to take it over at one time. In one way or another they all dealt with this important question: What is it like to be a man in a world transformed by science? They have put tremendous stress on the concrete predicament of a man’s life. How is this related to my novel writing? Perhaps a novel is the best way to render this concreteness .” </li></ul><ul><li>Conversations with Walker Percy , p12 </li></ul>
    3. 3. Being and Time (1927) “ But are we nowadays even perplexed at our inability to understand the expression ‘Being? Not at all. So first of all we must reawaken an understanding for the meaning of this question. Our aim in the following treatise is to work out the question of the meaning of Being and to do so concretely.” Being and Time , p1
    4. 4. Heidegger’s Ontology <ul><li>“… t he following structures and dimensions of ontological problematics, as we have repeatedly emphasized, must be kept in principle distinct: </li></ul><ul><li>1. the Being of those entities within-the-world which we proximally encounter— readiness-to-hand ; 2. the Being of those entities which we can come across and whose nature we can determine if we discover them in their own right by going through the entities proximally encountered— presence-at-hand ; 3. the Being of that ontical condition which makes it possible for entities within-the-world to be discovered at all—worldhood of the world. This third kind of Being gives us an existential way of determining the nature of Being-in-the-world, that is, of Dasein .” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p121 </li></ul>
    5. 5. Dasein in Being and Time <ul><li>German Da : h ere (or there) and sein : to be ; “ Be ing there ” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Th is entity which each of us is himself and which includes inquiring as one of the possibilities of its Being, we shall denote by the term Dasein.” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p25 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Dasein … is ontically distinguished by the fact that, in its very Being, that Being is an issue for it.” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p31 </li></ul><ul><li>“ In its factical Being, any Dasein is as it already was, and it is ‘what’ it already was. It is its past, whether explicitly or not.” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p41 </li></ul>
    6. 6. Dasein according to Percy <ul><li>“ He is, in Heidegger’s words, that being in the world whose calling it is to find a name for Being, to give testimony to it, and to provide for it a clearing . ” </li></ul><ul><li>Th e Mystery of Language (1959) </li></ul>
    7. 7. The Moviegoer : “one’s right to exist” <ul><li>“ It is a pleasure to carry out the duties of a citizen and to receive in return a receipt or a neat styrene card with one’s name on it certifying, so to speak, one’s right to exist . What satisfaction I take in appearing the first day to get my auto tag and brake sticker! I subscribe to Consumer Reports and as a consequence I own a first-class television set, an all but silent air conditioner and a very long lasting deodorant. My armpits never stink. I pay attention to all spot announcements on the radio about mental health, the seven signs of cancer, and safe driving—though, as I say, I usually prefer to ride the bus.” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer , p7 </li></ul>
    8. 8. Being and Time : The “ Th ey ” (das Man) <ul><li>“ Th e self of everyday Dasein is the they-self, which we distinguish from the authentic self—that is, from the Self which has been taken hold of in its own way. As they-self, the particular Dasein has been dispersed into the Th ey, and must first find itself. ” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p167 </li></ul>
    9. 9. The Moviegoer : “ Wh at is the nature of the search? ” <ul><li>“ Re ally it is very simple, at least for a fellow like me; so simple that it is easily overlooked. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Th e search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. ” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer p13 </li></ul>
    10. 10. Being and Time : “ Th rownness ” <ul><li>“ As being, Dasein is something that has been thrown; it has been brought into its “th ere”, but not of its own accord.” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p329 </li></ul>
    11. 11. The Moviegoer: “ Under a chindolea bush.” <ul><li>“ Six inches from my nose a dung beetle was scratching around under the leaves. As I watched, there awoke in me an immense curiosity. I was onto something. I vowed that if I ever got out of this fix, I would pursue the search. ” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer, p10 </li></ul>
    12. 12. Being and Time : Being-in-the-world and Understanding <ul><li>“ Th at which is disclosed in understanding — that which is understood — is already accessible in such a way that its ‘as which’ can be made to stand out explicitly.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Wh en we have to do with anything, the mere seeing of the things which are closest to us bears in itself the structure of interpretation, and in so primordial a manner that just to grasp something free, as it were, of the ‘as’ requires a certain readjustment. When we merely stare at something, our just-having-it-before-us lies before us as a failure to understand it any more . ” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p189 </li></ul>
    13. 13. The Moviegoer: “ A man can look at this little pile …” <ul><li>“ I dressed as usually and began as usual to put my belongings into my pockets: wallet, notebook (for writing down occasional thoughts), pencil, keys, handkerchief, pocket slide rule (for calculating percentage returns on principal). They looked both unfamiliar and at the same time full of clues. I stood in the center of the room and gazed at the little pile, sighting through a hole made by thumb and forefinger. What was unfamiliar about them was that I could see them. They might have belonged to someone else. A man can look at this little pile on his bureau for thirty years and never once see it. It is as invisible as his own hand. Once I saw it, however, the search became possible. I bathed, shaved, dressed carefully, and sat at my desk and poked through the little pile in search of a clue just as the detective on television pokes through the dead man’s possessions, using his pencil as a poker.” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer , p11 </li></ul>
    14. 14. Being and Time : The “Falling” of Dasein <ul><li>“ [T]here is revealed a basic kind of Being which belongs to everydayness; we call this the “ falling ” of Dasein . </li></ul><ul><li>“ This term does not express any negative evaluation, but is used to signify that Dasein is proximally and for the most part alongside the ‘world’ of its concern. This “absorption in …” has mostly the character of Being-lost in the publicness of the “they”. Dasein has, in the first instance, fallen away from itself as an authentic potentiality for Being its Self, and has fallen into the ‘world’ . </li></ul><ul><li>p219-220 </li></ul>
    15. 15. The Moviegoer: “ … as if I had been seized by a fit …” <ul><li>“ I roll over and fall in a heap on the floor and lie shivering on the boards, worse off than the miserablest muskrat in the swamp. Nevertheless I vow: I’m a son of a bitch if I’ll be defeated by the everydayness . </li></ul><ul><li>“ (The everydayness is everywhere now, having begun in the cities and seeking out the remotest nooks and corners of the countryside, even the swamps.)” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer , p145 </li></ul>
    16. 16. Being and Time : Idle Talk <ul><li>“ Di scourse, which belongs to the essential state of Dasein’s Being and has a share in constituting Dasein’s disclosedness, has the possibility of becoming idle talk. And when it does so, it serves not so much to keep Being-in-the-world open for us in an articulated understanding, as rather to close it off , and cover up the entities within-the-world. To do this, one need not aim to deceive. ” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p213 </li></ul>
    17. 17. The Moviegoer : “ It happens when I speak to people.” <ul><li>At such times it seems that the conversation is spoken by automatons who have no choice in what they say. I hear myself or someone else saying things like: “ In my opinion the Russian people are a great people, but—” or “Y e s, what you say about the hypocrisy of the North is unquestionably true. However— ” and I think to myself: this is death. Lately it is all I can do to carry on such everyday conversations ...” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer , p100 </li></ul>
    18. 18. Being and Time : Anxiety <ul><li>“ In that in the face of which one has anxiety, the ‘It is nothing and nowhere’ becomes manifest. </li></ul><ul><li> “ Wh at oppresses us is not this or that, nor is it the summation of everything present-at-hand; it is rather the possibility of the ready-to-hand in general; that is to say, it is the world itself. When anxiety has subsided, then in our everyday way of talking we are accustomed to say that ‘it was really nothing’ . </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p231 </li></ul>
    19. 19. The Moviegoer : “ I know where I am and what time it is.” <ul><li>“ Wh enever I feel myself sinking toward a deep sleep, something always recalls me: Not so fast now. Suppose you should go to sleep and it should happen. What then? What is this that is going to happen? Clearly nothing .” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer , p 84 </li></ul>
    20. 20. Being and Time : Repetition <ul><li>“ Repetition makes a reciprocative rejoinder to the possibility of that existence which has-been-there. But when such a rejoinder is made to this possibility in a resolution, it is made in a moment of vision; and as such it is at the same time a disavowal of that which in the “today”, is working itself out as the ‘past’ .” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p438 </li></ul>
    21. 21. The Moviegoer : Repetition <ul><li>“ Wh at is a repetition? A repetition is the re-enactment of past experience toward the end of isolating the time segment which as lapsed in order that it, the lapsed time, can be savored of itself and without the usual adulteration of events that clog time like peanuts in brittle. ” </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer , p80 </li></ul>
    22. 22. Being and Time : the Clearing <ul><li>“ Wh en we talk in an ontically figurative way of the lumen naturale in man, we have in mind nothing other than the existential-ontological structure of this entity, that it is in such a way as to be its “ h ere ” . To say that it is ‘illuminated’ means that as Being-in-the-world it is cleared in itself, not through any other entity, but in such a way that it is itself the clearing . By its very nature, Dasein brings its “there” along with it .” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p171 </li></ul>
    23. 23. The Moviegoer: “ a very ordinary fellow ” <ul><li>“ As for my search, I have not the inclination to say much on the subject. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Further: I am a member of my mother’s family after all and so naturally shy away from the subject of religion (a peculiar word this in the first place, religion ; it is something to be suspicious of). </li></ul><ul><li>“ Reticence, therefore, hardly having a place in a document of this kind, it seems as good a time as any to make an end. </li></ul><ul><li>The Moviegoer , p237 </li></ul>
    24. 24. Being and Time : Keeping Silent <ul><li>“ In talking with one another, the person who keeps silent can ‘make one understand’ (that is, he can develop an understanding), and he can do so more authentically than the person who is never short of words. </li></ul><ul><li>“ As a mode of discoursing, reticence Articulates the intelligibility of Dasein in so primordial a manner that it gives rise to a potentiality-for-hearing which is genuine, and to a Being-with-one-another that is transparent.” </li></ul><ul><li>Being and Time , p208 </li></ul>

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