9 - In respectful contempt: Heidegger, appropriation, facticity  pp. 137-154


By Rudi Visker

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The respectful contempt to which I refer in my title is not my own. Nor does it concern Heidegger. At least not directly. It is Hilary Putnam who in Reason, Truth and History in the course of a discussion on relativism, just after showing that it is self-refuting, suddenly reminds himself and his readers of the ambivalent attitude which he has to one of his colleagues with whom he has been engaged in a political discussion over many years without them coming any nearer to one another. Putnam refuses to draw relativist conclusions from this. Neither he, nor his co-disputant, Bob Nozick, he assures us, would agree that what divides them is “just a matter of taste” (RTH 165). Such a “false relativism” is “dishonest” (RTH 166), it lacks the courage to admit that in such a fundamental disagreement each of the disputants feels “something akin to contempt, not for the other's mind … nor for the other as a person … but for a certain complex of emotions and judgments in the other” (RTH 165). There is “respect for the intellectual virtues in the other,” but it goes together with “contempt for the intellectual and emotional weaknesses” (RTH 166).

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