chapter  1
18 Pages

The limits of the theoretical

Heidegger is often acknowledged as the most decisive and most influential thinker of the second half of the twentieth century. All the same it is not hard to see why no introduction to Heideggerian poetics exists. Many assumptions usually at work in an introductory volume of this kind are exactly those Heidegger spent his lifetime attacking – the assumption that philosophical thought or literary reading are a matter of ‘having a theory’ and then putting it into practice, that there are ‘key ideas’ in the sense of conceptual packages that can be transferred like so many commodities across a counter, that a work of thought is in the business of making its matter available in the ‘quickest and cheapest way’ (D: 45). Heidegger’s injunction to free ourselves from ‘the technical interpretation of thinking’ whose origins ‘reach back to Plato and Aristotle’ (P: 240) includes the notion that thinking is a kind of inner tool kit, containing ‘ideas’ to be picked up and employed on ‘problems’ as occasion requires. An introduction to Heidegger’s thinking that does not at once register these issues has already failed to give a sense of its challenge and fundamental disturbance.