||"Es gibt" is German for: "there is", literally: "it gives".
We ask: "What gives?" Answer: "It gives [Es gibt]."
||"Es gibt" can be said equally applicably of anything and everything.
A lady bug crawling on a window frame is. Es gibt. A cancer tumor is. Es gibt.
If we successfully remove the tumor and the patient is cured, that is. Es gibt. If the
tumor kills the patient, that is. Es gibt.
Winning the lottery is. Es gibt. Losing the lottery is. Es gibt. Getting a "C-" on the final exam is. Es gibt. Getting an "A+" on the
final exam is. Es gibt. (Getting an "F" on the final exam is, too. Es gibt.)
The cat knocks the valuable vase off the shelf. Es gibt. But the vase doesn't break because it falls on the
sofa instead of the floor. Es gibt. But somebody doesn't look and sits down on the vase and breaks it anyway. Es gibt.
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) invented the technical philosophical term "Es gibt". Es gibt.
Everything is, including,
in its perverse way, "nothing" (Nothing is -- nothing, just like everything else is
itself, just exactly what it is.) Es gibt.|
|["Es gibt" may
also be the true meaning of Darwinean evolution: "In June 1860, seven months after his Origin of
Species was published, Charles Darwin wrote to the geologist Charles Lyell:
'I am beginning to despair of ever making the majority understand my notions....
I suppose "natural selection" was bad term; but to change it now would make
confusion worse confounded. "Natural preservation" would seem a truism and would bring man's and
nature's selection under one point of view.'...
Darwin's lament was that nobody seemed to understand that natural selection is a process without purpose -
without a preordained outcome and without an active selection process as in 'Man's selection'....
[T]his aspect of Darwin's idea has never become widely understood... instead, history and culture have
dictated that evolution, as an active conscious selector and an inevitably progressive force, is widely thought to
represent natural selection....
Natural selection is the antithesis of conscious improvement and until the
implications of this are assimilated the true Darwinian revolution remains in abeyance." (Stuart Hobday,
23Apr02, emphasis added)]|
|What could possibly be the "point" of such an obviously
true and equally obviously entirely unhelpful idea? (I personally do not think
Heidegger himself really sticks with this idea rigorously, for, if he did, I don't think he would hope for
anything desirable from "Being" -- because "Being" is just the
name for all possible "Es gibt" thought and "lumped" together,
from the standpoint of its EsGibt-ing!) The point of "Es gibt" is
to disabuse ourselves of illusions we may have that things that exist [the referents of true
statements about matters of fact] really care about us. The tumor may kill us.
The "A+" may lead to us living the life of Riley (or rather the sinecure life of a tenured full
professor, which may also single oneself out for guillotining if a student
revolution happens...). But all of it just is -- without reason, without "Why?". Es gibt.|
had a couple more words for this phenomenon of finding ourselves in circumstances we did not ask to be in
and often do not want: "Geworfenheit" -- "thrownness", into "facticity":
factually existing conditions into which we find we have already been inserted [e.g., by being born into them...] and
can't get out of, so we are stuck and must suffer them. A friend once said to me:
"They put me off at the wrong stop when I was born".
Or, as they say in "Philosophy 101":|
|"Is does not imply ought."|
|I propose that if one seriously thinks "Es gibt" for a while, one
will become nauseous. There can, however, perhaps enter into Being something different from
"Es gibt": genuinely protective and nurturing social space of genuine concern
for our own and each other's good, which we create in and through our
caring, nurturing activities. Emmanuel Levinas wrote that to be free
is to act as if one was free. That applies here. If we really try to make our
world of life, starting right where we are, be good instead of just be, goodness will in that
very activity enter into our world.
|If (e.g.) we are a full professor, then in our
relations with our students and lab techs, instead of being "Es gibt" which
they find inflicted on themselves in exams, peremptory orders they must obey,
rules they but not the professors have to follow, long hours and low wages which the
professors do not have to endure as well, etc. -- instead of all this alien impingement, they can find us genuinely asking them how we
can make their lives secure and joyous. Then we are no longer "Es gibt". Then,
instead of "it gives", i.e., being a source of one intrusive impingement after another
upon these persons (with, of course, some occasional more pleasurable things thrown
in because in a random throw of dice any number one chooses has to come up some times...) --
instead of being part of the "incoming" these persons need to try to protect
themselves against, or, more often, since part of the impingement is to prohibit them from addressing
the impingement directly, try to
find ways to "work around".... Instead of being part of this nauseating "Es gibt", we
can make ourselves be, in a straightforwardly delighting and nurturing way, a source of freely desirable gifts.|
|And, if there is a G-d, G-d can do this too. For one example,
if G-d wasn't sufficiently "developed" to have shared the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
with Adam and Eve, from the get go [ab initio] -- If G-d initially was too immature, inexperienced, forgetful [or whatever] to have shown Adam and Eve how they could
enjoy the tree's fruit and learn from it without getting hurt by it, after G-d "Es gibt" threw
Adam and Eve out of The Garden of Eden, he could have thought about what He did, and
realized it was [Es gibt], but it was not good. G-d could then have humbly apologized to Adam and
Eve, admitted to them that He had sadly discovered that He Himself, too, "just was", and G-d could have
sincerely begged their forgiveness for what He had done to them,
and asked them to work with Him to help Him do better in future. G-d could have
rolled out a red carpet -- a moving sidewalk -- to gracefully glide
Adam and Eve back into the garden, and G-d could have again sincerely asked their forgivness
for His Pettiness in having punished them for healthy curiosity, and welcomed them back to
what He solumnly promised he would try to make be a better place.|
|--Any responsible being, i.e.,
any "one" who is able to respond to questions why they have done what they have done with
good reasons self-reflectively arrived at in an endeavor to become self-accountable in dialog with
their interlocutors who in their turn are similarly committed to this process of justification, can
participate in the construction of the realm of genuine meaning.
G-d or ghost, Klingon or dolphin, gorilla or Alpha Centaurean, hermit or heretic... -- all who freely
choose to become interlocutors in what
Hans-Georg Gadamer called: "the conversation we are", are welcome to join with us -- we can join with them --
to construct and preserve and defend and ever further enhance
an oasis of "is good" in the endless indifference of "Es gibt".|
|The "opposite" of "it gives"
("What gives? What more have we got to cope with now?")
is: "I could never have imagined anything like this. This is wonderful. This really is real? Bless you!" -- where this
about whatever "it" is shall stand up to a long lifetime, and from generation to generation,
of unconstrained scrutiny in intimate daily use. Better: Not just stand up over time, but ever get even better over time....|
|"Prove all things; hold fast
that which is good." (1 Thes 5:21)|