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Forgiving Heidegger: Padres 8, Phillies 2

Let's face it: I will never not be telling this joke, even when it's stopped being at all funny.

Sein und Zeit
Sein und Zeit
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

On twitter today -- which, it should be noted, is where I am literally 99 percent of the time nowadays -- I made a crack about Cameron Rupp's vaunted (and poorly predictive) conservatism:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Like Levinas with Heidegger, I have not forgiven Cameron Rupp for his stupid political beliefs.</p>&mdash; Trev from TGP (@Hegelbon) <a href="">September 10, 2013</a></blockquote>

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Now, I've used this joke more times than is at all reasonable, and I admitted as much right afterward.  Noted wiseacre Joecatz followed that up with this riposte:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="">@Hegelbon</a> and it will take most people 999,999,999,999 tweets before they get it.</p>&mdash; Catztradamus (@joecatz) <a href="">September 10, 2013</a></blockquote>

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So, in the interest of making my hackery a little easier to follow, I want to talk a little bit about Levinas' forgiveness of Martin Heidegger.  Levinas was a vaunted ethicist and Jewish thinker who was extremely influential in charting the contemporary intellectual interest in alterity or "the other."  A student of Heidegger's, Levinas took the ontic-ontological critique of his teacher and answered the central question of Heidegger's pivotal Being and Time -- namely, and in a too short gloss, "What precedes existence?" -- through an appeal to the ethical imperative.  As the preceding link tells us, the most easily reducible form of Levinas' thought is simply "Ethics precedes ontology" -- our ethical relation to the other precedes our very existence.

So why would Levinas reject the other in his own teacher? To answer this, it is important to note that Heidegger, a German living through the rise of Hitler in Germany, did not exactly situate himself in the best relationship to history.  Heidegger was elected rector of Freiburg University in 1933, and subsequently became a member of the Nazi party.  It gets hazy here, as he renounced his membership in 1934, but remained a member of the Nazi Party until 1945.  Certainly we might attribute this to a desire to survive potentially dangerous historical times, but one can imagine how Levinas -- whose family were murdered in Lithuania during the Holocaust, and who had to perform forced labor in France while his wife and daughter were forced into hiding -- might not be terribly sympathetic to such an appeal.

In the end, then, the two men ended up with different answers to the same question: How can we describe or quantify what comes first, if our physical plane is not it.  Rejecting metaphysical cohesiveness or systematicity (a la Kant or Hegel), as well as unifying spiritual systems (literalist religious readings), both men strove to determine an answer to a powerfully problematic question.  And despite Heidegger's remorse vis-a-vis his Naziism, the hyper-individualist and vaguely domineering Dasein (there-being), is radically different than Levinas' appeal to the ethically situated other.  Seeing his mentor veer so far off of what he must have felt was the only true answer to the questions of Being and Time -- the answers to the philosophical imperative in general -- must have been deeply demoralizing to Levinas.  And so we can sympathize, at least somewhat, when he says, in a consideration of forgiveness in the Talmud, that "One can forgive many Germans...but it is difficult to forgive Heidegger."

The Phillies dropped yet another depressing and boring game to a fairly middling opponent.  Indeed, as a number of people pointed out, the Phillies were tied with the Padres for the 11th pick in the 2014 draft coming into tonight.  The 10th pick, for which the Phillies now have pole position, is the first protected pick in the draft, and a veritable beacon of hope.  But as we have rehashed again and again in the tank/no tank argument, it's not 2014 yet, and these games are still miserable and depressing.

Tyler Cloyd pitched...poorly.  Once again, he limited walks and struck out a fair number of batters -- zero walks and four strikeouts over four innings -- but he was painfully hittable, allowing seven runs on four nine hits.  These weren't all BABIP fairy specials, either, as liners just kept lofting their way into the outfield.  I'm not sure what I make of Cloyd at all.  As my previous description implies, I distinctly remember him being decent at striking out batters this year (however inexplicably) and also decent at limiting walks, but his Fangraphs page says that he's struck out just over five per nine and walked just under four per nine.  That's...not great.  And even when he has good peripherals -- e.g. tonight -- he can't put together a good start to save his life.  It's a bummer.

But I do know how I feel about Zach Miner: not great! Despite the pleasant surprise of a three strikeout inning, Miner allowed three hits and gave up a run in the fifth, though some of his damage was attributed to Cloyd due to inherited runners.  From him on, however, the bullpen was decent, with four scoreless innings absorbed by Ethan Martin, Cesar Jimenez, and Joe Savery.  Notable is Martin, who threw ten pitches for ten strikes, with zero hits or walks and one strikeout.  Yowza.

The hitters were kind of sleepy tonight as well.  Against erstwhile Cub and present fantasy baseball (and real world baseball) frustration Andrew Cashner, the Phillies mustered four hits and one walk.  They also struck out seven times.  Welp.  On the plus side, two of the hits (and one of the walks) came from young'uns, as Cody Asche launched his fifth home run and walked to increase his OPS over 800, and young premiering catcher Cameron Rupp got his first MLB hit.  But alas, despite one more hit in the game, the Phillies really only had two runs in them tonight, and the Padres clearly had more.

But lest we become too bitter and jaded, let us turn our eyes again to Levinas.  Because the Phillies are not Heidegger -- they have strayed from good baseballing ways, yes, and they have embraced questionable tactics in terms of advanced statistics and player acquisition.  There's no denying this.  But they haven't done anything diametrically opposed to the very spirit of our endeavor here as baseball fans.  There is no Josh Lueke on this team to divide our ethics from our ambition.  There isn't even a Delmon Young anymore.  And as repellent as I find Cameron Rupp's politics, perhaps some of you share them, and I certainly don't hate any of you.  Well, one of you. No, no...I'm not saying who.

What I'm saying is that Levinas withheld forgiveness for Heidegger not out of some resentment or grudge, but because philosophically speaking it was difficult -- if not impossible -- to forgive Heidegger and maintain his own episteme.  And perhaps this is for the best, as a healthy dose of skepticism toward Heideggerian thought (and Nietzschean thought), despite its brilliance, is important (I will let you know how important after my reading group with TGP user LTG8).  Either way, while we may feel divided from the Phillies, understand there is still a clear path back to the fandom.  It starts with letting go three weeks from now and forgiving not only Cameron Rupp, but the all of the players on the team, especially the young ones that will be the future, but are only the frustrating present today.  They are not who we recognize, but there is good -- ego-destroying, dialectically driven good -- in recognizing and coming to terms with deep alterity.  There may still even be room for rebirth along the philosophical lines that we have cherished together over the winning seasons.

And for Pete's sake, at least none of 'these guys are or were Nazis.  ...I mean, probably.  Fangraph of Uncomfortable Delmon Absence below.

<iframe src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="">FanGraphs</a></span>

And the songs that this game made me think of (because, like Levinas, I do not forgive the 2013 Phillies):

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