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

By Stuart Elden | Go to book overview

Three – Number: Calculative Politics

The Problem of World

The essence of man has been decided long ago. Namely, man is an
'organism [or creature, Lebewesen]' and indeed an 'organism' that can
invent, build and make use of machines, an organism that can reckon
[rechnen] with things, an organism that can put everything whatever into
its calculation and computation [Rechnung und Berechnung], into the
ratio. Man is the organism with the gift of reason. Therefore, man can
demand that everything in the world happen 'logically'. (GA51, 90–1; see
GA54, 100–1)

Aristotle's definition of the human continues to exercise Heidegger throughout his career. In this example, from 1941, he makes clear a theme that has been developing in his thought for many years. Indeed, the discussion of this phrase back in the Plato's Sophist course, quoted as an epigraph to this book, had made the link between the 'rational animal' and the question of calculation: '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' (GA19, 17–18). Many years later, in the winter of 1942–43 that saw the German army defeated at Stalingrad, Heidegger declares that 'man as animal rationale is the [animal] that calculates, plans, turns to beings as objects, represents what is objective and orders it' (GA54, 232; see GA7, 52).

It is therefore worth noting that if the first chapter of this study traced concerns across the period of about a decade, and the second narrowed its focus to a very short span of time, this final chapter ranges across Heidegger's entire thought, though with an emphasis on

-116-

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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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