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Question: Your last book, The Hermeneutic Nature of Analytic Philoso-
phy: A Study of Ernst Tugendhat, centered on the German philosopher in
order to dismiss the division of philosophy into the analytic and continental
schools, while in this new book you seem to engage in a strictly ontological
issue: “What remains of Being after the deconstruction of metaphysics?”
What is the difference between both books? What is the goal now?

Santiago Zabala: I don’t think there is a big difference since they both en-
gage in what has become the most important problem for philosophy since
Heidegger: how can metaphysics be overcome? While in the first book I
gave an answer through the postmetaphysical thought of Tugendhat, in
this new book I confront the problem at its root, that is, through the con-
cept of Being. Although in this new book I include a whole section on Tu-
gendhat (as well as sections on Jacques Derrida, Reiner Schürmann,
Jean-Luc Nancy, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Gianni Vattimo), its purpose
to expose the remnants of Being in Tugendhat’s philosophy, which shows
the continuity between both investigations. In sum, the goal of this book
is to expose the remains of Being after Heidegger’s destruction of meta-
physics in contemporary philosophy. The greatest achievements of this de-
struction are, first, the revelation that Being has always been described as
a present object in its presentness and, second, the realization that it is not
possible to definitively overcome this objective interpretation without
falling back into another descriptive interpretation. In this condition,
where metaphysics cannot be “überwinden,” (overcome, meaning a com-
plete abandonment of the problem) but can only be “verwinden” (sur-
passed, alluding to the way one surpasses a major disappointment not by
forgetting it but by coming to terms with it) it is necessary to start inter-
preting Being through its remains, which is a concept that maintains meta-physics in such a way to also overcome it.
Q: You talk not only about the “remains” but also the “remnants” of Being.
What is the difference? Doesn’t this concept direct your thought toward an
archaeological vocabulary where “ruins” would also work appropriately?

SZ: Although the difference is very small, it is significant. While the “re-
mains of Being” refers to the whole historical corpse of Being after Hei-
degger’s destruction of it, “Being’s remnants” instead indicates what is left,
the traces of Being. The first is really the horizon within which every entity
gives itself as something; the latter shows what remains of Being, that is, its
survival in fragments (which differ in each of the philosophers I study). Re-
garding ruins and archeology, this is also a question that Jean Grondin
asked me when he read the manuscript, but, as I told him, these fragments
have nothing to do with “ruins,” that is, with the ruins situated throughout
the Roman Forum, for example. While these once were royal palaces, res-
idencies, and other identifiable structures, the remains I’m talking about all
have the characteristic of been “indeterminate,” “unpresentable,” or “un-
graspable,” that is, “abgegriffen,” “worn-out.” This is an expression used
by Heidegger himself in a lecture course delivered at Freiburg in the win-
ter semester of 1941 not to indicate the origin of Being but, on the con-
trary, to respond to the state, condition, and actuality of Being. Being’s
remnants do not presence or represent anything but are instead answers to
the new fundamental question that Heidegger announced in 1936 (and
later published in Introduction to Metaphysics): “Wie steht es mit Sein?
“How it is going with Being?” This question will always refer to Being’s
original state, and any answer will always refer to its origin when it was in-
tact. In sum, the remains of Being do not represent anything objective ex-
cept their own traces or remnants, which, although they are not objective
and escape all forms of comprehension, are still the condition of such rep-
resentations. If metaphysics cannot be overcome but must be surpassed,
then Aristotle’s “energeìa,” Descartes’s “representedness,” or Hegel’s “ab-
solute Spirit” of Being must now be abandoned in favor of a Being that in-
cludes this “surpassing,” such as Derrida’s traces, Schürmann’s traits, or
Vattimo’s events of Being. If I were to exaggerate, I would also demand
that science talk about remains rather than the objectivity of its materials
since again objectivity is never really present. That science, as Thomas
Kuhn explained, constantly changes paradigms actually demonstrates how
objectivity is just a desire we never really fulfill. Even science’s hard facts are
a result of constructions that might be replaced at any time. In this new
postmetaphysical condition, hermeneutic ontology attains a central role.
Q: Why hermeneutics?
SZ: Of all the available philosophies in the so called postmetaphysical mar-
ket, hermeneutics is the only one that does not pretend to an accurate de-
scription of Being; that is, it never intends to completely interpret Being.
This limit or weakness of hermeneutics is actually its strongest feature
since it indicates how it has inherited all the consequences of the destruc-
tion of metaphysics. This inheritance, this awareness, is nothing else than
“weak thought.” Hermeneutics is the philosophy of “weak thought,” and,
following Heidegger in his volumes on Nietzsche, it indicates how “within
metaphysics there is nothing to Being as such.” A weakened ontology re-
quires an interpretative philosophy where truth is not the result of de-
scriptions but only the outcome of productive interpretations that are
always insufficient. Just as in today’s theological studies Jesus’ factual ex-
istence is less important than its historical effects, so in philosophy the re-
mains of Being are much more significant than its objective presence or
origin. This is why the motto of the book is: “what remains, not what is,
is essential to philosophy.”
Q: How is the book structured?
SZ: After going through Heidegger’s revolutionary operation in the first
part (“Being Destroyed”) I engage six philosophers (in the second part,
“After the Destruction”) who have proposed a way to follow Heidegger’s
demand to “work out Being for itself anew.” But the book does not end
here. In the third and final part, “Generating Being Through Interpreta-
tion,” the remains of Being in Derrida, Schürmann, Nancy, Gadamer, Tu-
gendhat, and Vattimo provide for a “logics of discursive continuities” in
order to demonstrate how Being can be generated through interpretation.
In this final part I lay out the case for considering hermeneutics a philos-
ophy of “generations” because interpretations (also descriptions) do not
“create” but, as Vattimo explained, “generate Being, new senses of expe-
rience, new ways for the world to announce itself, different from anything
“before.” They join the latter in a sort of discursus whose logic (also in
the sense of Logos) consists precisely in continuity. This logics is explained
through various examples from Plato’s Symposium, Luther’s principle of
sola scriptura” and Gadamer’s effects of the classic.
Q: Can readers expect to learn about these authors from your analysis, or
should they already be prepared?

SZ: I do not think the readers need to be experts in contemporary ontol-
ogy because I structured the book in a way to allow all readers to find
themselves engaged systemically in it. I would just hope everyone will read
it from the beginning to the end because otherwise one might become
lost: I doubt we can understand the remnants of Being in any of the six
philosophers without going through Being’s destruction in the first part.
Nor could anyone understand the “Logics of Discursive Continuities” in
the third part without first reading these remains. All my colleagues who
read the book had the same thing to say: “Once you start it, it’s impossi-
ble to stop.” While I interpret this just as a very friendly comment, I did
make sure all ten sections are systematically interconnected in order to
allow the reader to follow a journey rather than reading just to obtain in-
formation. Information can be had from reading histories of philosophy,
but philosophy comes from engaging critically with original texts. This is
a book for those interested in engaging critically with philosophy. This is
something I learned from Richard Rorty who, contrary to a first impres-
sion is very much present throughout the book. Rorty always hoped that
in the future philosophical books will be “less pretentious, less profes-
sionalized, less priggish, and less guarded,” which is always my own con-
cern even when, as in this case, I’m writing about ontology, which can be
such a drastically artificial theme. For these reasons from the start of the
introduction I don’t explain just the ontology we will outline together but
also why certain authors such as Emmanuel Lévinas, Jean-Luc Marion,
and Alain Badiou are not studied in the second part.
Q: Is the remains of Being the ontology of “weak thought.”? Why did you
choose Derrida, Schürmann, Nancy, Gadamer, Tugendhat, and Vattimo to
expose this ontology of remnants? Are they all weak thinkers?

SZ: While Heidegger indicates the “worn-out” status of Being, Derrida
proposes Being’s “traces,” Schürmann Being’s “traits,” Nancy Being’s “co-
presences,” Gadamer Being’s “conversation,” Tugendhat Being’s sentences,
and Vattimo Being’s “event of weakness.” All these are interpretations of
the remains of Being, not of what Being is. In this way, yes, these are all
weak thinkers, although I doubt they would all agree with this definition.
But this is secondary; what is important for all of them is Being’s worn-out
status. In addition, I did not investigate Being in these six philosophers
only because they express Being’s remains; I also hope to show how Being
is never single after metaphysics. There isn’t one “remnant” of Being that
suits better than the others, but there are authors, such as Heidegger and
the six I analyze, who propose an interpretation where the weakness of
Being is deliberate. In this way, ontology is not only necessary, but also re-quested by Being itself since, Heidegger wrote to Sartre in the Letter onHumanism: “précisément nous sommes sur un plan où il y a principalementl’Être [we are precisely in a situation where principally there is Being].”What Heidegger was trying to explain to Sartre (and to us) was that Beingis always in the “driver’s seat” (this expression was suggested to me byThomas Sheehan), in other words, it’s Being that guides our destiny. Q: Why is a study on ontology necessary today? And what does this work
add to contemporary philosophical discussions? Are there other books today
that deal with a similar ontological perspective?

SZ: Ontology as the investigation of Being has always been unique in phi-
losophy and will probably continue to demand our efforts (in the form of
recollection or appropriation, as Heidegger requested) not only because
it’s what shaped philosophy in its essence but also because it is the only
sphere through which we think. Among the first things my teacher, Prof.
Vattimo, taught me is that to be “a philosopher means to be obsessed with
the verb Being (concerning what is and what is not) because it invites you
not to remain satisfied with your own identity and to seek the entire hori-
zon of Being—in other words, to dialogue.” In this book I really took this
suggestion literally since it implies that Being requires infinite interpreta-
tions rather than definite descriptions, in other words, “conversations in-
stead or truth” as Rorty always requested. Apart from the books by the six
philosophers I work through, which are still very much part of the con-
temporary debate, I think Michael Marder’s The Event of the Thing (2008)
is a great investigation with similar goals, although he focuses mostly on
Derrida. I hope that Marder and this book will remind the contemporary
philosophical debate that there is nothing further apart from science or
metaphysical thought (such as that of John Searle or Barry Smith) than
ontology. Being might also be the meaning of the word Being (as so many
analytic philosophers still insist today), but this word has also a history of
effects without which it would cease to be a word. These effects are not
only linguistic but also social, anthropological, and political. The only “re-
ality” of the word Being is the history of its various meanings, which dis-
cards any objective solution. This is why Being is what invites us to
dialogue or, which I prefer, “conversation.”
Q: It seems you are inheriting and developing the traces of Derrida rather
than Vattimo’s events of Being?

SZ: I don’t think so (although there wouldn’t be anything wrong with
that). The reason one might have such an impression is because the terms
“remains” and “remnants” sound very much like Derrida’s “traces.” But
I only consider Derrida’s “traces” as one possible remnant of Being, not
the realm within which Beings appear, that is, the remains. For me Derrida
(like Schürmann, who is also a “deconstructive philosopher”) is much
more significant for his concept of “traces” or the “margins of philoso-
phy” than for the deconstructive procedure. I think his deconstruction
has already been brought forward by Heidegger’s destruction of meta-
physics. Derrida in several places recognize his debt toward Heidegger as
far as deconstruction is concerned. My intention was to outline the on-
tology of “weak thought,” which invites us to surpass metaphysics by in-
heriting the history of its dissolution. In this dissolution or weakening, one
finds the remains of Being.
Q: In the introduction you clarify how this book is the development of a
project outlined by both Foucault and Vattimo. How has your teacher re-
sponded to this work?

SZ: While Foucault was the first to coin the term “ontology of actuality”
(in order to turn to those “events that have led us to constitute ourselves
and to recognize ourselves as subjects of what we are doing, thinking, say-
ing”), it is Vattimo who actually elaborated its consequences after the de-
construction of metaphysics in books such as Beyond Interpretation,
Vocation and Responsibility of the Philosopher, and Nihilism and Emanci-
pation
. In the first book’s preface he announced a book entitled Ontology
of Actuality
(based on a series of lectures at the University of Louvain-la-
Neuve in the early nineties, which I attended) that has now become On Re-
ality
, which is still in progress. While I encourage him to finish it, in our
discussions he suggested I do it myself since he noticed I was interpreting
this “ontology of actuality” in a different way than he was. He was correct:
while he was thinking more about the “actuality” of Foucault’s formula, I
was focusing more in its “ontology.” In sum, the idea for me was to find a
concept of Being weak enough to surpass metaphysics in order to con-
tinue its journey. While I suggested Being as “conversation” (which I still
consider today the most suitable postmetaphysical remnant of Being), I
also recognized it was first necessary to outline systematically weak
thought’s ontology, which Vattimo has been indicating for the past thirty
years in terms of ontology of actuality. As it turned out, I produced a book
that is very different from what he still has in mind now. For this reason,
I’m grateful he encouraged me to develop on my own what I thought was
his idea of the “ontology of actuality.” His reaction to the book was posi-tive (see chapter 42 in his Not Being God), particularly considering how Imanaged to find in Heidegger’s later work notions such as “worn-out”Being, which justifies his “weak ontology.” Although he thinks I gave himand Foucault too much credit by explaining all this in the introduction, Ibelieve it is important to give readers the genealogy of the book they arereading. When philosophical books seem too original, it’s often because theauthor believes he is writing “from nowhere” when in fact we are all pur-suing our teachers, education, or readings and ought to acknowledge it.

Source: http://www.filosofia.it/images/download/argomenti/Zabala_InterviewColumbia08.pdf

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