On the prejudices of the philosophers
One preconception of modern Western philosophy, one shared by Heidegger when he valorizes Asian discourses as forms of unphilosophical “poetic thinking” which echoes in its contemporary incarnations is the assumption that argument, conceptualization, and rationality do not occur in non-Western intellectual lineages in an appropriately philosophical way. Asian philosophies have been categorized as folk, mystical, mythical, and poetic wisdom traditions lacking argumentation and what Hegel called the “labor of the concept” (“Arbeit des Begriffes”).19 The distinction between non-conceptual and conceptual cognition, and the particularity of non-Western forms of thought and the universality and infinity of Western philosophy, was deployed by Hegel and the subsequent tradition to demarcate and subjugate non-Western discourses to the master discourse of Western philosophy.
The historical account of the developmental unity of European philosophy from the archaic Greeks to the technological moderns is a common dominant trope of much European philosophy. From Herder and Hegel through Heidegger to Derrida and Rorty, only that which stands in an internal historical relation to philosophy’s Greek origins is considered philosophy in contrast with other forms of thought and reflection. It is notable that this essentially Hegelian narrative, which we traced in Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption in Chapter 1, continues to shape the approaches of those thinkers claiming to explicitly oppose the totalizing nature of Hegel’s philosophy of history as the developmental and teleological unfolding of spirit toward its absolute realization.
Heidegger not only problematized the modernity that is the culmination of Hegel’s narrative, he also questioned the height of classical Greek civilization for the sake of what it purportedly conceals: the experience of being as physis, as upsurge and holding sway into the openness of being. The “other beginning” (der andere Anfang) that Heidegger began to articulate in the 1930s does not occur through imitating the first Greek beginning (der erste Anfang), but rather by confronting it, exposing all that is questionable and uncanny (unheimlich) in it.
Heidegger’s division of the philosophy of the evening land (Abendland) of the West and the non-philosophical mythic and poetic thinking of the morning land (Morgenland) of the East presupposes his destructuring of metaphysical thinking underway to its origin. The other beginning is suggestive in that it has been construed in overly charitable readings as indicating beginnings outside of
Greece.20 Nonetheless, although there are other kinds of other beginnings outside the West, these cannot be beginnings of and for philosophy. It cannot essentially constitute “another beginning” for Heidegger if it is not a Western differentiating confrontation (Auseinandersetzung) with its own first Greek beginning.
The Eurocentric paradigm defining the present scope of philosophy depends on a particular conception of history and consequently can sound odd to nonphilosophers while remaining academic philosophy’s dominant paradigm. This Eurocentric model, challenged in the work of Misch, has had significant implications for contemporary thought as it operates as the basis of claims of Derrida and Rorty that there is no philosophy outside of the West.21 Heidegger’s strategy is revised and radicalized in Derrida’s and Rorty’s deconstructive unweaving on the tradition of Western metaphysics that indirectly and in the last analysis preserve the primacy and privilege of the Western essence of philosophy. In contrast to the singular-plural “dialogue of peoples” articulated by thinkers such as Georg Misch, Helmuth Plessner, and Martin Buber, even the discourse of the competition between Athens and Jerusalem—as representing Greek philosophy and its Jewish other—in Rosenzweig, Levinas, and the later Derrida remains too restrictive insofar as it is closed to Qufu Й^, identified as the birthplace of Confucius, or that which is exterior to this dyadic dynamic that defines Western ontotheology.22