deeper into indications

As I’ve been thinking more about Heidegger’s formal indications, specifically with respect to religion, a question has occurred to me as to exactly what could emerge as a formal indication within the scope of a “phenomenology of religious life” and what could not. It seems, based on what Heidegger himself comes up with, that despite his stated goal of explicating a “fundamental religious experience” that would shed light on “originary religious phenomena” in general, a concept like “religion” does not appear on his radar as something that would work as a formal indication. Only religious concepts – ones that arise out of factical religious life, e.g., sin, grace, damnation, salvation, etc. – become formal indications when transposed into the domain of philosophy proper.

However, I would argue that “religion” or the “religious” does more work philosophically when taken as a formal indication itself – not only because this saves it from being taken to refer to some definable thing the essence of which is the same is the same in each case but also, and more to the point here, because it can cover a much broader field than the formal indications more narrowly determined by (in this case) Christian experience. Now ultimately I would also argue that at the narrower, more “regional” level, Derridean quasi-transcendentals are the more appropriate tool in that they better reflect their historically, materially situated and conditioned structure. But insofar as one wants to retain a generic concept like “religion” (and I think there are several reasons to want this, despite there also being reasons not to), understanding it as a formal indication has benefits not the least of which is that this emphasizes its lack of its own proper content. The content that it indicates would need in each case to be supplied by inquiry into concrete details – guided by provisional quasi-transcendentals that could (and should) be indefinitely multiplied. Coming up with (and just as important, letting go of) quasi-transcendentals would be especially necessary as the scope of what what we think about under the umbrella of the “religious” is broadened (as it should be) to include not only beliefs, creeds, practices, individuals, societies, and gods but also places, buildings, so-called fetish objects, books, and clothing – each on their own terms.

Posted on May 4, 2010, in Heidegger and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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