– Number: Calculative Politics

Stuart Elden

in Speaking Against Number

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780748619818
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652518 | DOI:
– Number: Calculative Politics

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This chapter first returns to earlier work of Heidegger on mathematics, notably the excursus on Aristotle, arithmetic and geometry in the Platos Sophist course. It suggests that Heidegger here thinks through some fundamentally important issues about the mode of connection of the world, but that though these inform the first division of Being and Time in some central ways, he does not continue the project in anything like systematic form. From around 1935, however, he consistently argues that modern understandings of politics are overdetermined through their relation to calculation. Although it is doubtless invidious to single out a representative figure, Descartes plays just such a role in Heidegger's thought. Particularly in his Geometry, the distinction Aristotle proposed between the mode of connection of units and points, between arithmetic and geometry, is collapsed, thus rendering the material, external world – res extensa – as amenable to calculation and division. The analysis here is particularly of crucial 1930s texts such as the Question of the Thing course on Kant, the Nietzsche lectures, the Beiträge zur Philosophie and other manuscripts. Although these ideas would find their most obvious expression in the later work on technology, it is in these earlier writings that we find their most explicit political context. Here we find Heidegger engaging with a context that includes Gleichschaltung, mechanisation, total mobilisation, and the four-year plan. The reduction of the world to calculability, to measurability, is the modern malaise, and Nazism its most obvious symptom. The interrelation of machination, calculation and tekhne is explored in order to concentrate on the implications this work has for Heidegger's understanding of space, politics and the globe.

Keywords: Heidegger; mathematics; Aristotle; arithmetic; geometry; Descartes; machination; calculation; tekhne

Chapter.  22389 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy

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