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Archive for December, 2009

Truth and Boredom with Martin Heidegger

Posted by achresis on December 29, 2009

“Do things ultimately stand in such a way that a profound boredom draws back and forth like a silent fog in the abysses of Dasein?” (Martin Heidegger)

The Germans say Langeweile and in it you can hear a word that strangely is missing from the English language: long-while.  The French say ennui. The English will say this too when boredom doesn’t quite cut it.  In it you can hear a word that is not missing from the English language: annoying.  But imagine that we had that missing word: the book I’m reading is so longwhiling; I think I might not finish it. 

And so while attempting to ward off boredom we might get a sense of what kind of state it is.  (Here I will refer to Martin Heidegger’s lecture course of 1929-30.  The reference is below.)  We drive boredom away with constant activities but it can always return.  Heidegger thinks that we “constantly cause it to fall asleep.”  While we are awake we want our boredom with things to fall asleep.  We should laugh here I think.  We usually say of something boring that it provokes sleep.  This book is so boring I keep falling asleep.  It’s more like we want boredom to fall asleep.  

What happens?  Something boring provokes boredom in us.  Boredom is both objective (the boring object) and subjective (the boredom we feel when attuned to it).  It is this that prompted Heidegger to notice that “boredom is a hybrid, partly objective, partly subjective.”  We can “become bored by” something, but we also experience this as “being bored with” it.  He also noted that it essentially has to do with the experience of time passing (in German this is already quite obvious).  Time seems to drag while we are bored.

This is what we try to drive away: the passing of time.  Have we forgotten how to feel as a loss the way time can pass slowly, achingly slow?  Why can we not bear this? 

I propose later to follow Heidegger in a simple analysis of the so called three forms of boredom: his claim to truth in the third kind (Grundlangeweile).  But this might take a long while.  It could be, then, not only that truth is boring but, more to the point, in boredom lies the truth.      

(Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude.  Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995).


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