Pithy quotes from our current reading which give us pause to reflect

I know that being perplexed while trying to read Heidegger has vexed @Kendel and @Jay313 as well as myself. So this might be helpful.

While reading McGilchrist on creativity I came across this quote of Heidegger’s biographer which seems to suggest his remarks on thinking may have been focused more on creativity than discursive rationality.

Preconceptions hamper the generation of solutions since they easily turn into constraints. Consequently, one of the ways to encourage flexibility is the relaxation of self-imposed constraints. And, most importantly, the adoption of the stance of someone who does not know, and is prepared to listen. Those who are creative do not know their outcomes in advance, even though some idea of a purposive goal may exist. As George Steiner puts it, speaking eloquently of Heidegger:

“As knower and user, the ego is predator. For Heidegger, on the contrary, the human person and self-consciousness are not the centre, the assessors of existence. Man is only a privileged listener and respondent to existence. The vital relation to otherness is not, as for Cartesian and positivist rationalism, one of ‘grasping’ and pragmatic use. It is a relation of audition. We are trying ‘to listen to the voice of Being’. It is, or ought to be, a relation of extreme responsibility, custodianship, answerability to and for.”


Mark, you give me way too much credit. I have only provided moral support to others, who were attempting to understand Heidigger. I have no such aspirations. :blush: But I appreciate the quote nonetheless.



“we mean, specifically, that the experience is not of our own making”

(As any who know me would expect, my mind immediately goes to the language of Providence. ; - )

The source of the ‘saying’ to which Heidegger exhorts us to listen is Being. But Being is not distinct from this ‘saying’ – it would be more accurate, Cooper suggests, to say that Being “is a ‘Saying’”

The fits nicely with Being being the Word, the Being of God is the Logos of God.

As Heidegger puts it, “We are trying to listen to the voice of Being”, where the word ‘of’ is used with care owing to the intimacy of language and Being which Cooper highlights: language is, Heidegger tells us, the “language of Being” as clouds are the “clouds of the sky”

Nice metaphor (yeah, I know, it’s a simile ; - ), not entirely unrelated to “‘In him we live and move and have our being.’”

“We are trying ‘to listen to the voice of Being’. It is, or ought to be, a relation of extreme responsibility, custodianship, answerability to and for.”

Most definitely. What’s sad though is that neither Heidegger nor anyone else can ‘listen to the voice of Being’ if they disingenuously and a priori preclude and disallow one of the essential attributes of the Being, or the essential Being, namely his ‘spiritness’ far beyond all the merely natural and illimitably far above the merely material, amalgamate and homogenize the latter as you will. So in that case, ‘listening to the voice of Being’ is an oxymoron and an impossibility, and if we think we are listening, a self-deception, denying “a relation of extreme responsibility, custodianship, answerability to and for.”

1 Like

You reminded me of this poem. It certainly fits BioLogos!


That’s digestible. Thanks. I’m familiar with Heidegger’s thinking mostly through second-hand sources that I trust (meaning other philosophers, not Christian apologists!). He’s just one of those I can’t read as a primary source because his sentence structures and choice of words are atrocious. The same goes for Kant. I would blame it on German-to-English translation, but Nietzsche is readable, if objectionable.

1 Like

Unfortunately Kant made enough sense to me that at the time it infected my writing and very rarely still does. Heidegger is safely out of my reach but reading this makes me more sympathetic to what caused him so much trouble. Too bad he didn’t take up poetry.

1 Like

I’m also not that interested in Heidegger because of his whole-hearted adoption of Nazism. I know he’s an important figure in 20th century philosophy, but it’s hard to get past that.


By contrast, Wittgenstein was the son of the steel tycoon of Austria, one of the richest men in Europe, and he happened to be home when WWI broke out. Rather than leaving the country or buying an officer’s commission, he volunteered for service in the infantry as an artillery spotter on the Italian front. That was typically a death sentence, since they snuck behind enemy lines to direct cannon fire. During his entire service, he was known as the “Gospel man” since he carried Tolstoy’s Gospel in Brief the entire war. By the outbreak of WWII, Wittgenstein was a world-famous philosopher at Cambridge, but he volunteered and spent the war as an orderly in a hospital.

Give me Wittgenstein over Heidegger every time. The same goes for Camus and Sartre.


@Jay313 and @MarkD ,
Heidegger and Kant (as well as Thomas Mann and plenty of other prose writers) exploited the nuances of German grammar and sentence structure with impunity. The structure lends itself to incredibly long and complex sentences that conclude with a precisely laid out log jam of verb forms that have been piling up for at least a page. Speaking of being “aufgehoben” (suspended)! As a student of German, there were times I would get to the end of a sentence (after the 3rd attempt) and mutter in triumph, ,Endlich! Ich hab’s!” (Finally! I got it!)

One day in my German language class in Munich, my overly-optimistic instructor, the dear Roland Meinart, presented us with a few pages of Kant, certain of our success. Today, Jay and Mark, I feel entirely vindicated. Thank you.


A bit off-putting to say the least.


And then there are compound words.

And sentences made of compound words.

With the longest German word in the article apparently made obsolete, I wonder if this Finnish one takes the cake? I lived in Finland for a year but fortunately never had to learn this one :grin: @Kendel
Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas – This supposedly is the longest Finnish word with 61 letters, and it means an airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student. Learn it, you may need to use it one day


That’s a brain full!

Wittgenstein’s story is so much more admirable but I don’t know how I would do if some would be dictator successfully revolted against the government and once in power turned his brown shirt thugs loose to terrorize everyone. I can’t judge that situation from my perspective. It isn’t hard to imagine it happening any more but it is hard to imagine how principled I would be if people I cared about were threatened. So I’ve always dismissed the idea of ignoring what he had to say on that basis.

1 Like

It would take too long – I’m in my mid geezerhood and I haven’t got that much time. :grin:

1 Like

To be fair, based on the few biographical sketches I’ve picked up, I wouldn’t describe it as ‘whole-hearted.’ While I don’t think he ever apologized to Hannah Arendt, she remained friends with him.

1 Like

The thing with Heidegger, is that you never know (philosophically) if it’s not Nothing, which can contradict itself.

In Finnish, more subwords are combined to one word than in English. For example, we write ‘Moottoriurheilukeskus’ instead of Motor sports center. Understanding or reading the long names is not more difficult than learning ‘airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student’. It is much more difficult to try to learn and remember the small words between in English language. We do not have such words in Finnish.

Finns are more interested in the length of palindromes. Saippuakauppias is perhaps the longest common palindrome word in Finnish. It means ‘soap seller’.

Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilaskaan is as valid word and slightly longer. It means ‘not even an airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student’.
As I wrote, Finnish does not have ‘the small words between’ so all such meanings are expressed by changing the ending of the basic word, except the gender. Finnish does not have ‘he’ or ‘she’ or words that would be classified as masculine or feminine. If you want to tell that the person was a male, you have to use words like man or boy. A truly gender neutral language, if you wish.


How delightful, Kai!
When we’re not used to looking at the really long words, it just looks like alphabet soup, but when one’s eye is trained by using those smaller words all the time, it’s not hard to see the divisions.
You mentioned “small words in between” in English and “he’ and ‘she”. Can you give some more examples? Do you only mean pronouns, or maybe prepositions? German uses prepositions a lot but also exploits gender, case and endings in ways that English can’t. In English we have to use prepositions more for the same expressions, and word order/sentence structure for others.
A language that delights itself in long palindromes seems to include a light-heartedness that would rarely be associated with linguistics!

1 Like

Prepositions are difficult because Finnish has only a small number of prepositions. It is surprisingly difficult to try to remember what prepositions to use and I make often errors. A large proportion of my edits are changing a wrong preposition to a hopefully correct one to avoid misunderstandings.

‘A’/‘the’ is also something that Finnish does not have.

The worst part of learning Finnish is remembering the names of all different cases. Finnish has 14 cases plus one that is mostly used with pronouns (accusative). Luckily, you do not need the names in real life, only in the school.
Nominative, partitive, genetive, inessive, elative, illative, adessive, ablative, allative, essive, translative, abessive, instructive, comitative.

One easy feature in Finnish is that all words are read exactly as they are written. You never have to think how to pronounce something.


And (American) English speakers are overwhemed by 4 cases in German (plus 3 grammatical genders) that predictably alter endings on articles, nouns and modifiers. 14! Finns must really be a light-hearted bunch! And with a case called ‘elative!’ I must find out more about that.

German spelling is also “cleaned up” in helpful ways. What I missed as a student of German, though, is the etymology that is reflected in our “haphazard” English spelling conventions. One way German got around this historically was by regularly rooting out foreign words and promoting a Germanic equivalent. So there is a beautiful concreteness to German that we fail to perceive in English, because we no longer understand that very aspect of the foreign words we have incorperated into English.
How is this in Finnish?

I think prepositions are murderous as well. The meanings are so subtle (or aparently absent) they sometimes seem entirely random in their application. They can even be different by region. Often it is just a matter of memorizing a convention, rather than trying to figure out some logical application. Sigh.