At first glance “reason” is the answer to the question: What is philosophy? If reason means making arguments, and not only describing things, then modern science is the termination of reason. Anyone who only describes things, in the way they move, doesn't use reason. They are more like a parrot. Parrots seem to speak, but they actually only make noise. If reason were to cease to exist that would be a kind of death, a removal of a part of the human being. But has that actually happened? Not at all. Up until now the modern sciences have been frustrated in their supposed ambition to become rational. Rationality would be a specific interpretation of the concept of the good, the collection of descriptions without reason would be the rational. According to David Hume one can not describe causality. One must argue for it. This, beside myriad other pollutions of pure rationality, is the decisive life of reason. Reason still continues in the End of Philosophy so called. But how is this supposed to help us when we try to hear what “Seriousness imitates play." says?
We need to know if we are making some mistake before we can answer that, by way of a sideline we continue to add to the circle of the ongoing inquiry being carried out in the last several posts. According to one tradition, we deserve to be scolded, because we artificially work with the constituents of a so-called binary opposition. But if we are allowed to think, can we not avoid the logical difficulty, and escape this presumption of an educational admission? What attests to the link at all, in the case of an opposition? It is the principle of thought called the Law of Excluded Middle, that which affirms reciprocity of oppositions. Isn’t it a part of philosophy? But can we keep to philosophy if we want to think Being? Not at all. Yet, we are still thinking, and giving reasons, for what we take Being to say. That is quite unavoidable, or at least so far. Yet, we are not attempting to give reasons or to do philosophy, but to set up a path, that will carry us in thought. Contrary to our intention we may yet do philosophy, since we are, according to a pronouncement found in the work called Heidegger, still in the gathered End of Metaphysics. Perhaps this saying is in error? We can ask about that by looking at an oft-cited word of Hericlitus:
Ὁ ἄναξ οὗ τὸ μαντεῖόν ἐστι τὸ ἐν Δελφοῖς, οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει, ἀλλὰ σημαίνει.
The God whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks plainly nor conceals, but indicates by signs.
The phrase “indicates by signs” (the translation is indifferent, we have made no special exacting translation, we aren't explicating the line, but only using it according to what it brings to intelligibility in connection to our theme, with the sense of not saying what is arbitrary, not just anything, but we are not attempting to accurately construe the notional being of the fragment as a historical fact. Parenthetically, that is not possible, the work of classists is not what it is presented to be, but an interpretation of something ungraspable, and we presuppose its impossibility here as a fact without going into it) is supposed to be a reference, not to the pythia, or to the God Apollo, but rather to the rising possibility to gather the significance of the signs, and it is this that became the possibility of argument. The argument is not simply a saying of what is, as though now, just now we had become able to see what is now, but something more has a life in the argument. It is a beyond, a perversion. But as a perversion, is it itself the Spielraum? That which allows for the interpretation of death as the seriousness, as the thing explicated by Tolstoy as the final day of his hero? Supposedly, one lives as many, but dies as one. According to the significance produced by the look of the talk about death, assuming that what is gathered in a theme, and kept in the inclusion of that theme, tells us something that we grasp at a glance.
Reason, logon, ratio in Latin, is classically the given specific differentia of man as man. It is identified with speach and thus with knowing. It is made distinct from the sensible through the tradition laid down by Plato, as a Gogolian overcoat. (An extrinsic comment is warranted: Whoever makes use of some limited literary allusion will be, these days, suspected of being literary. The strange imputation of the literary. Is it an evil? Subjective and aesthetic. Thought has a wider sphere, since it thinks beings in toto. It is not something essentially pretty, or like art when it loses itself in the standardless measure of the art world, it is still like a voice in the wilderness, that would only whisper to itself.) It is what tells us what man is, when we suppose that man is not only different from the other things by degree, but essentially. Socrates explicates this thesis when he says that “The life that does not demand questioning investigation, is no human life.” (The famous and beloved translation, from Plato’s Apology of Socrates, by the English Classicist Jowett reads: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”)
“Seriousness imitates play.” remains an opaque saying, but if play is something from which the rest finds its ground, or house, that it housed within, it is strange to ask about a dyadic relation. But do we really know what that significance of the sighn “play” is simply because we have made a theme out of it? The theme itself is a part of reason, but in the whole, or, better, not in the whole, but in what Being wants to say, is there the possibility of a break where reason stands to one side, apart from the stock of all things? It’s not that we want to find a place to sit reason at the table, because reason is the Spielraum itself. But at the same time it seems to one that the seriousness is the thing that imitates and stands in opposition to this elbowroom. For the reason that what is signified seems to be the things, and not the Spielraum itself. But the Spielraum, or reason, is there along with all things, as what is fielding almost raising into the Element where they are the same.
Said flatly, in order to escape the vagueness of an exposure to pure flight into talk, we can channel the strain of historical thought called the Fact/Value distinction. This distinction is explicated by Strauss who calls it the “sanitization of Nietzsche”. Instead of an interpretation, Simmel hands us a pair, the fact on the one side, and the value on the other. The value reminds us of the arbitrary, of reason as the Spielraum, and the fact is like all things. Yet Nietzsche never tries to think Being. Let us look at a word of Strauss’s in order to see how one might attack the position of the work with the name Heidegger, and to become its enemy. Remembering that for the most part all criticism is something less than an enemy, has no traction, and does not confront the thought of a great thinker. Strauss says:
Yet how can finiteness be seen as finiteness if it is not seen in the light of the infinité? Thèse and similar difficulties seem to hâve led Heidegger to a very thorough revision of his doctrine. One may doubt whether through that revision the fundamental relativism was overcome. I can allude hère only to one point, to Heidegger's teaching regarding historical truth. The interpreter's understanding of Relativism and the Study of Man understanding of a thinker is true if it understands his thought as he understood it. According to Heidegger this is altogether impossible; it is not even a reasonable goal of understanding Nor is it possible, in his opinion, to understand a thinker better than he understood himself; true understanding of a thinker is understanding him creatively. i.e.. understanding him differently from the way in which he understood himself. This understanding necessarily implies a criticism, a fundamental criticism of the thinker in question. According to Heidegger, all thinkers prior to him hâve been oblivious of Sein, i.e.. of the ground of grounds. This assertion implies, in fact. the claim that Heidegger understands the great thinkers of the past in the décisive respect better than they understood themselves.
We must strain to understand how Strauss thinks this “better”, in the final sentence. At first glance it can not make sense, because Heidegger makes the decisive break from transcendence in order to deny the moral conscience any umbilical access to the bestowal of the moral. Heidegger understands the moral as memory, as practical memory, phronesis (Judith Butler is an example of a contemporary proponent of such a "rather prefer[red]" "memory"). In this he stays, more or less with Nietzsche, I don’t purpose to argue that point, but only to say that Heidegger does not admit morality in the sense of the moral conscience that is granted through a relation with a Summum Bonum. The “better” might refer to the hermeneutic claim, that is mentioned, about the famous business of understanding the thinkers of the past better than they understood themselves. Yet, that is not what Strauss has in mind, rather he wants to pose an objection to the Historicist supposition, to the possibility of Historicism. Strauss grants, elsewhere, that if the objection to Historicism is a question of its privileged insight, that is adequately dismissed on the basis that there are ages when the insight is possible, but not every age. This implies neither a teleology of stages nor a End. It is the claim of the End that comes into sight here, in the “better”. We have mentioned this before, as the point where Husserl sees the “own” “naivetes” of the work that is titled Heidegger.
But is this a naivete? It is not a nescience in the manifest sense that something that might have been cognized was not. Here we think of the “resolute steadfastness”. This is self understood as a attempt to answer a calling, it is what calls to mind the charge of the hidden sorcerer who does not reason nor give us the signification. The thought of Being, still a thought of something, is always insufficient in a way that can’t be made right in the Spielraum. This is why Nietzsche keeps struggling with Heidegger by suggesting that the inescapable difficulty to which the thinking of Being willingly brings the thinker is the blinding attempt to commit suicide within the sight of the Summum Bonum. Where the Summum Bonum is a life-giving lie. This presentation of the possibility of attacking this discovery of Being is worth keeping within our circle, but it is not decisive, and not powerful enough to put a stop to the thinking.