In the Yijing (I Ching in Wade-Giles), gua 20, Contemplation or View or Watching, when the fifth line is moving, the comment on that line is variously translated, but it’s gist is simply that if you are to examine your life and the lives of others, you must do so from the sight of a superior man, a gentleman, or that of a man of very good character, even that of a sage. This advice means that even if one is not a superior man, if you want to examine one’s own life and the life of others, you must adopt the view of the superior instead of the mean or mediocre. When the superior man watches over his life and the others, he does so without blame, without fault. When others watch over their lives and do so from any other view than the superior, they will not see the loss that their lives have or they see their losses in the wrong light. The superior man, too, sees the losses of his life, but he can do so without any anxiety or fear, without blame, without fault.
A great part of life is decay, whether it be physical or psychic. That deterioration affects our ability to understand what is going on for what is going on now, in this present, in this moment, is where the future will be. To be superior means to be here now. It doesn’t mean being in the past or living for the future that may eventually come. To be in the now means to be in the eternal present.
Heidegger, the Nazi, once felt a great angst, anxiety, that he had no being, and only existence for Being, writ large, had thrown, excreted, man out and in a meaningless world of nothing. With this vision, Heidegger developed a rebellion against all traditional metaphysics, and precisely against what I wrote in the previously in the first two paragraphs of this post. In viewing his life and the lives of others, does Heidegger see through the eyes of the superior man? This question can only be asked if we adopt the position of the superior man. We are in a bind. As Heidegger, in effect, has adopted the position of the superior man, to be superior thus means to agree with Heidegger.
Leo Strauss put the problem in the following way: “The only question of importance, of course, is whether Heidegger’s teaching is true or not. But the very question is deceptive because it is silent about the question of competence—of who is competent to judge. Perhaps only great thinkers are really competent to judge the thought of great thinkers. Heidegger made a distinction between philosophers and those for whom philosophy is identical with the history of philosophy. He made a distinction, in other words, between the thinker and the scholar.”
Strauss then does a rather funny thing by a rather satiric admission that he is only a scholar, because the whole of Strauss’s work is dedicated in part to showing that there is no such thing as history and that the very premises that there is a historical development of thought is wrong. (Sadly, there are those who use this passage to deny that Strauss was a philosopher and only a scholar.)
I opened this post with the Yijing and not Aristotle or Plato for two reasons: First, Heidegger had spoken of a time when East and West would come together. He did so with the sense that all would come out as he says it would. Second, I used the East, the Yijing, to question whether Heidegger was correct. Although for different reasons, Aristotle and the Yijing both deny that there is any time. For Heidegger the temporality of man, including his having to face death, is at the very core of his existence Time as an irrational historical movement is what makes man. Man must face his meaningless and his loss resolutely. In Heidegger, there is no sense of continuity and there is a sense that man’s existence as the excretion of Being places man in a great stillness.
There are many explanations of the fundamental premises of the Yijing, but I think certain premises are basic. In the Yijing, there is no history, no time, only change and that stillness is only a momentary appearance, almost an illusion, like that momentary stillness of a point of a tire on the ground when it is rolling. There are numerous patterns to change, but these patterns cyclic and vibrate from positive to negative to positive, etc.. The change abides by the principle of enantiodromia, a Greek word that indicates that anything goes to an extreme will revert to his opposite. The principle gives birth to the yin and yang lines, the trigrams, and the hexagrams with or without moving lines. The patterns of these changes are reflected in these trigrams by synchronicity. When the divination takes place, the change or seemingly random create acausal coincidences that are meaningful, In this understanding, there is no history, as the whole is in an unending flow whose inner order makes the seemingly unrelated meaningful together, while that flow’s order is accessible not through a linear causality, but through the very seeming random events that occur at any time.
Heidegger’s hope to bring West and East together has been done before there ever was a division between East and West by the Yijing and other Asian thought, such as Daoism and Buddhism. Clearly, Heidegger knew nothing of what he called Eastern thought. Heidegger betrays his Chinoiserie. One of the interesting things we can do with the Yijing is that it can be tested by divination. How can we test the validity of Heidegger’s claims? We can’t, because all of Heidegger’s thought is geared to a future, writ large, of which we have no knowledge. Yet, there is a terrorizing authoritarian quality to Heidegger’s thought. Its validity is based on a sense of terror that overcomes the individual. The thinker opens up the individual to experience angst as the validation of the thought, while the East, as Heidegger calls it, works in a way to bring serenity and compassion to the individual. A Daoist by maintaining his Daoist way of life cannot become a Nazi. Heidegger, in all terror, not only can become Nazi, but he remained unrepentant about being a Nazi after the war. Heidegger was resolute.
Enantiodromia simply means that one day Heidegger’s extreme will revert to its opposite, whatever that really is. Perhaps the best way to examine other lives and one’s own is through using what is superior even to the superior man.