The ‘Thing’ in Martin Heidegger and Georges Bataille

Comparative Critical Studies 13 (1):47-65 (2016)
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This article juxtaposes two of the most influential thinkers of the previous century, Georges Bataille and Martin Heidegger: my overarching claim will be that a contrastive approach allows a better understanding of two central dynamics within their work. First, I show that both were deeply troubled by a certain methodological anxiety; namely, that the practice of writing might distort and deform their insights. By employing a comparative strategy, I suggest that we can gain a better understanding of the very specific form this fear takes in them: in each case, it is articulated and justified in terms of the ‘chose’ or ‘Ding’ (‘thing’) or the ‘objet’ or ‘Objekt’ (‘object’). Second, I argue that close textual comparison allows us to identify an important, new dimension in their reactions to this shared anxiety: the thing or object which was originally the site of the anxiety gradually becomes, through series of ontological and textual shifts, the solution to it. I track this transformation across a range of case studies including Heidegger’s later work on the term ‘Ding’ and Bataille’s treatment of prostitution. I close by indicating how these results might create avenues for further research.
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