Speaking against Number: Heidegger, Language and the Politics of Calculation

By Stuart Elden | Go to book overview

Introduction

Man as the measurer. – Perhaps all the morality of mankind has its origin
in the tremendous inner excitement which seized on primeval men when
they discovered measure and measuring, scales and weighing [das Maass
und das Messen, die Wage und das Wägen] (the word 'Man [Mensch]',
indeed, means the measurer [Messendend], he desired to name himself
after his greatest discovery!). With these conceptions they climbed into
realms that are quite unmeasurable and unweighable [unmessbar und
unwägbar] but originally did not seem to be.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, § 21.1

Thus aletheuin shows itself most immediately in legein. Legein, 'to speak'
[Sprechen], is what basically constitutes human Dasein. In speaking, it
expresses itself: by speaking about something, about the world. This legein
was for the Greeks so preponderant and such an everyday affair that they
acquired their definition of man in relation to, and on the basis of, this
phenomenon and thereby determined it as zoon ekhon logon. Connected
with this definition is that of man as the being which calculates [rechnet],
arithmein. Calculating does not mean here counting [zählen] but to reckon
something, to be designing [berechnend sein]; it is only on the basis of this
original sense of calculating [Rechnen] that number [Zahl] developed.

Martin Heidegger, Plato's Sophist (GA19, 17–18).2

The Greeks made one invention too many, either geometry or democracy.

Bruno Latour, Pandora's Hope.3

What is the relation between politics and number, between our understanding of the political as the realm in which political action occurs and the notion of calculation? How does enumerating something, holding something to account, coming to a reckoning differ from a purely linguistic description or judgement? Is there something inherently problematic in reducing complex phenomena to a question

-1-

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Speaking against Number: Heidegger, Language and the Politics of Calculation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One – Speaking: Rhetorical Politics 17
  • Two – Against: Polemical Politics 72
  • Three – Number: Calculative Politics 116
  • Taking the Measure of the Political 170
  • Subject Index 185
  • Index of Names 191
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