donderdag 27 november 2008

Why Heidegger doesn't bring us any further

It is very understandable that reflexive managementauthors like Weick, Winograd and Flores look for inspiration towards Heidegger. If you want to stop the thinking about organizations in terms of schemes and diagrams, Heidegger offers a liberating perspective.

Heidegger holds that “knowledge lies in the being that situates us in the world”. That’s to say: we do not learn by taking a distance and by observing phenomena from the outside, but by being actively engaged in the world via work and relations. Heidegger prioritizes praxis and being in the world. By doing so he breaks through the deceit which originates from models and structures. Knowledge always is embedded in an acting way of being which precedes everything.

At the same time it is possible, in relation to the Heidegger oriented managementauthors, to identify two blind spots. The first concerns the unwillingness to communicate, which people - and not just in organizations - at times display. The authors seem not to be acquainted with this phenomenon. The spontaneous active being which they talk about in their writings, for them automatically coïncides with a permanent readiness to communicate.

The second blind spot concerns the difference one person can make with regard to another person. That people may disagree fundamentally about the direction and the goal of their acting is not a theme in the works of the above mentioned authors.

I tend so see a connection between those two blind spots. That connection, in my view, stems from the way in which Heidegger uses the concept of Mitsein. Namely, as a reference to a shared reality in which we humans collectively participate. We share Mitsein as a part of our active being-in-the-world. Communication arises from there almost automatically.

It is certainly true that Heidegger leaves room for individuals to conceive of primary being, where acting finds place, in their own, original way. But by the position he allocates to Mitsein there is a shift in the balance: the portion of collectivity weighs much more heavily than the portion of individual originality. Being is foremost one and collective, even if there is a multitude of personal insights in being.

This explains why plurality of thinking and profound differences between people get so little attention from authors who orientate themselves towards Heidegger. It is as Safranski says: the true nature of political thinking will be exposed by Hannah Arendt – as part of her answer to Martin Heidegger. Such really political thought derives from living communally our differences.

I would like to add that, for an elaboration of the radical difference between the one human person and the other, we can fruitfully turn to Levinas.

Also see Heidegger, Wittgenstein and traffic and Is the world sound?