Heidegger’s Geist

Stephen Quigley

University of Pittsburgh

We see changes in things because of the rearrangement of atoms, but atoms themselves are eternal. Words such as ‘nothing,’ ‘the void,’ and ‘the infinite’ describe space. Individual atoms are describable as ‘not nothing,’ ‘being,’ and ‘the compact.’ There is no void in atoms, so they cannot be divided. I hold the same view as Leucippus regarding atoms and space: atoms are always in motion in space. Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.

-- Democritus, Fragments 48-9

It can hardly be expected that any Negro would regret the death of Benjamin Tillman.

-- W.E.B. Dubois

This work of writing serves as a kind of workout… a way to work out, for myself and for you, my dear reader, the complexities of teaching on the former slave plantation that is Clemson University. The plantation, known as Fort Hill, was built by the fiery southern politician John C. Calhoun, on land that had been captured just decades earlier in the war against the Cherokee Nation. As a politician, Calhoun served the United States Government as a congressman, senator, vice-president, secretary of state, and secretary of war. Among his many works were those dedicated to the question of nullification, arguments that established the grounds by which the South might eventually secede from the Union. After the Civil War, Calhoun’s daughter, Anna Calhoun Clemson, inherited the property, and upon her death it passed to her husband, Thomas Greene Clemson, who deemed in his will that Fort Hill be given to the State of South Carolina for the establishment of a college in the hope of creating a “high seminary of learning.” Clemson’s plan for a college at Fort Hill would not have been possible without the will of another South Carolina politician, the infamous Ben Tillman. Tillman, known as “Pitchfork Ben,” was a brutal character in South Carolina’s history who served as a governor and senator, and who was known to brag about his role in murdering African Americans during the Reconstruction Era. By Tillman’s own account, Clemson was a recluse whose “ideas on the university were not clear or well defined” (“My Role…” 5) and the home he had inherited, Fort Hill, was in such a poor state that Tillman “lacked the faculty of describing the appearance of things” (4). Contradictory to the narrative that our university now promotes wherein Clemson was our great benefactor, Tillman claimed to have designed the university himself as a public white school organized in such a way that it could be protected from the “dangers of the negroes, who are largely in the majority of the state” and prevent the college from becoming “a school to which negroes would be admitted” (Tillman 5). Tillman designed a system that would be “self-perpetuating,” a system which has perpetuated to this very day.

It is our role in the present to work out the complexities of teaching and learning at this “high seminary” amid the lingering ghosts who contest these spaces. To do so, I write alongside Jacques Derrida’s own writings working out his personal and intellectual conflict with Martin Heidegger in Of Spirit. Through this exercise, I hope to develop a para-text that will help us consider a new epideictic rhetoric to move Clemson into a more ethical present-future orientation rather than stumbling around in the present-past, with our ghosts and our myths, as we have been these many years.

The Till

Democritus is where we should begin. His is the lesson of how we might use our minds to reason what is concealed from us. Though we are, ourselves, in the middle of things, the truth of Democritus’ fragments, and of our long struggle against its truth, as we try to assemble our own truths, provides a glimpse into the struggle of our body and our spirit and our relationality. I use the word “our” so as to realize Jean Luc Nancy’s “singular plural,” for if Democritus is right, to be embodied is to have already realized the singular plural. When we do the work of knowing, doing, and making, we never do it alone. Even in the liminal spaces of birth and death, we are never alone.

“Millions of signs rain down and in their flood they stick to one another, they kiss.” (Cixous, Stigmata 187)

These “atomi,” Epicurus tells us, are prone to “clinamen,” to swerve—that is, we are inclined towards the Other, and the Other to us, each to one anOther. This “clinamen” is a problem for readers of Epicurus in that we must now ask ourselves why does it all come together in the cosmic till? Is it in our spirit to swerve—and what makes the spirit swerve?

let go

we are


singular plural

in this universal


We make an attempt to protect some things from the cosmic till as their preservation will help others after we are gone. We can delineate such things, can even fit them neatly into the enormousness of the internet, then house this internet in a trim, thin electronic black box we carry through the world in the front pocket of our blue jeans. But there are other things we should pass down, keep from the till—for those of us at Clemson University, I speak of an eyeball. Not one that rots when death enters, but one more durable…I am speaking of a prosthetic eyeball. A blue one. The shell that remains when the animal had moved on, rotted away into till. take it in your hand. taste it on your tongue, listen to its oceans—give us the eye so we may see! for we are a people who till the till. We are tillmen. Benjamin Tillman. Pitchfork Ben. One-eyed Ben. Senator. Governor. Murderer.

July 6, 1876. Hamburg, South, Carolina. Benjamin Tillman walked clockwise around the perimeter, what his white militia called the “Death Circle,” a circle of more than one hundred white men with guns trained on twenty newly surrendered black men, soldiers of the National Guard. Some weeks before these black men of Hamburg had armed themselves and organized so as to protect their right to vote. The white men, many of them known as Red Shirts, among whom Tillman was one of their leaders, marched into Hamburg to make sure the black men didn’t vote. Tillman, revolver in hand, walked clockwise, always clockwise around the Death Circle. He did so because his left eye socket held not a seeing eyeball, but a glass one. He walked and thought around the outside of the Death Circle, his good eye catching intermittent glances of the vanquished as framed between the silhouettes of the armed white men. Tillman was thinking just then how he didn’t want the scales of justice to even, not an eye-for-an-eye—he wanted them to come crashing down. One white man had died in the fighting as did one of the black men. But justice, Tillman thought, is a heavy thing.

Give us this technology, this crystal ball— to see the cowering Other on the uncertain side of a gun, watch the hammer fall, the smoke rise, the disbelief in the eyes of the dying. This technology, this glass eye. Use it to watch the spirit and the body separate, undoing that which allows for being. Let us know the full terror of later incidents, witness the lynching and execution of the African American South Carolina Senator Simon Coker who came to investigate the massacre. Watch while Coker— praying on his hands and knees— begs the executioners’ leader, Ben Tillman, to deliver the corn crib key in his pocket to his soon-to-be widow, watch as the bullet discharges into the back of Coker’s head. Give us the eye so we may see what is concealed from us— I tell you, there are many things which have been concealed from us: our past, our future, our Other— let this glass eyeball pass to us and to our Other afterwards.

We are plowed through and through. trodden. turned over,

until we are untilled

and become

the Other.

Heidegger already said all of this. Sorry for wasting your time. “We are the other and… bla bla bla.”

Being and Time.

But what of the spirit?

Of this, Heidegger is less certain.

“I shall speak

of ghosts [revenant],

of flame and of ashes.

And of what,

for Heidegger,

avoiding means” (Derrida 1)


Some of us think it our duty to seek out spirits— to haunt them as they supposedly haunt us. To spook them out. Others of us avoid such talk, such words. Heidegger uses the word “vermeiden”: to avoid, to flee, to dodge when he thinks of the word “geist” (Derrida 1). Derrida, for his part, ponders why this is the case?

“Could it be that he failed to avoid what he knew he ought to avoid? What he in some sense had promised himself to avoid? Could it be that he forgot to avoid? Or else, as one might suspect, are things more tortuous and entangled than this?” (2)

In Being and Time (1929), Heidegger remarks that the word “geist” must not be used. Why? And why is it, Derrida ponders, that over the course of his writings, Heidegger never settles on what he means by the root word “geist?” Is it fear, Derrida wonders, that drives Heidegger to bind “geist” in quotation marks as I will do in this section, until Heidegger himself breaks “geist” free from these bonds—what does Heidegger’s grammar contain?

Derrida’s reading of Heidegger and Heidegger’s “geist” is valuable in that it reflects the German’s shifting episteme as regards the “spirit,” and in so doing offers us a look into Heidegger’s relationship with words— what he says about them and what they have to say about him. So what of the “spirit?” To begin, Derrida wonders if words like “sein,” “geist,” “geistig,” and “geistlich” even properly translate for Heidegger?—How these words haunted him. In old German, “geist” was written “gast” meaning “spirit” or “soul.” Sein has gothic roots in “seele,” but its meaning as “soul” seems to have come into fashion sometime during Christianity (Arnett 11). Arnett admits that there is still great confusion concerning the words’ origins, but that “gast,” when one considers its etymology holistically, seems to have a more violent connotation than does “seele.” As we will see, Derrida tries to close the meaning of these two words in his reading of Heidegger.

If the German translation is difficult, an English one is worse. We should wonder what happened to “gast and “seele” as they wandered into Low Countries, boarded the Frisian longboats and traversed “…troubled in mind, / across the ocean-ways […] forced / to stir with […] hands the frost-cold sea, / and walk in exile’s path. Wyrd is fully fixed!” (Wanderer 2-5)were they restricted under the Danelaw, designated as Other by the Franks? How different they must look now to their long-removed German cousins who themselves mean...so many things that can’t be written…that couldn’t be defined even by Heidegger. We can try to catch the momentary meaning… and with these quotation marks “”…we can hold the word down, “force it here”…restrain it between other words…mandate our juxtaposition, choke it a little—just a little—to scare it. Be patient, dear reader, dear writer. It will do what we want… but we should not feel good about it afterwards. In Being and Time, Heidegger writes:

Dasein […] is “spiritual” (“geistig”) […]” (qtd. in Derrida 25).

Derrida thinks of Heidegger’s quotation marks as a kind of surveillance…as if a “spirit” can be surveilled. I see the quotation mark as a kind of product warning label. For it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to warn any user when either 1. The product is known to be dangerous by the public. 2. The product is known to be dangerous by the manufacturer. 3. The product’s danger might not be known by the user.



Let’s proceed with that quote:

Dasein can, to the contrary, because it is “spiritual” (“geistig”), and only for that reason (und nur deshalb) be spatial according to a modality which remains essentially impossible for an extended corporeal thing.” (Heidegger qtd. in Derrida 25)

Did you hear that? …“because it is “spiritual” (“geistig”), and only for that reason.” Heidegger says it, here. This “spirit” is what makes for Being in time. we got “spirit” yes we do. we got “spirit” how ‘bout you? “Spirit,” Heidegger says, is not time, but what makes our time possible (28).

Anna Calhoun Clemson, wife of founder Thomas Clemson, daughter of John C. Calhoun, woke to the smell of her father. And when she sat up she saw the ghost of her long dead father standing above her. He had been dead ten years. The ghost reached out, placing his palm against her cheek, and she inclined her head against its coldness.

For almost six years, to our knowledge, Heidegger did not use the word “geist,” but on 21 April 1933, the University of Freiberg elected him its rector. In this position at the fore of the Nazi rise to world power, “geist” once again enters Heidegger’s lexicon. On 27 May 1933, twenty-seven days after joining the National Socialist Workers Party, he uttered the following as part of his Rectorship Address:

“To will the essence of the German university is to will science, in the sense of willing the spiritual historical mission of the German people (Wille zum geschichhtlichen geistegen Auftrag des deutschen Volkes) as a people who knows itself in its State. Science and German destiny must, in this will to essence, achieve power (Macht) at the same time.” (Heidegger qtd. in Derrida 35)

geistegen. Do you see it? You can feel it with your finger, dear reader. He frees geist from its quotation marks. I, myself, in this writing, at this moment, have emancipated the ghost, the spirit, the gast, etc. from quotation marks—as if it could ever really be controlled by a being such as me, such as you, such as him. But you see, I have chosen to incline it, lovingly. geist. Incline it towards that cosmic Other, that cosmic all. In this speech, Heidegger will let loose several manipulations of geist, all freed from their bonds, including “Geistige kraft” (spiritual force) and “jenes geistige Auftrags” (spiritual mission). Read on, to where this Nazi is going with his Geist, where he is marching it in rank and file…

“And the spiritual world (geistage Welt, underlined) of a people […] (is) the deepest power of conservation of its forces of earth and blood, as the most intimate power of emotion (macht der innersten Erregung) and the vastest power of disturbances of its existence (Dasein). Only a spiritual world, (Eine geistage Welt allein) guarantees the people its grandeur. For it imposes the constant decision between the will to grandeur on the one hand, and on the other the laissez-faire of decadence (des Verfalls), give its rhythm to the march our people has begun toward its future history.” (Heidegger qtd. in Derrida 36-7)

Let us remember, dear reader, that this was the philosopher who was haunted by ghosts, who captured and imprisoned them within quotation marks “”. Derrida, in his reading of Heidegger, insists we stop for a moment in our own reading of Heidegger. Stop to clarify what Heidegger meant by this geist, and what this usage might mean for Heidegger. In 1953, some twenty years after the Rectorship Address, Heidegger offers a definition for geist while considering the poetry of Trakl. “Doch was ist der Geist?” What is spirit? Heidegger asks. “Der Geist ist das Flammende” (Qtd in Derrida 84).

November 16, 1838. The wedding day of Thomas Green Clemson and Anna Calhoun at Fort Hill Plantation in Pickens County, South Carolina. The local Pendleton Newspaper prints the couple’s wedding band. The front page headline that day: “Conflagration!” Abolitionist newspapers burned on Main Street.

Der Geist ist das Flammende.

How do we locate the flame in Being…this being that without flame cannot be?

It is March 4, 1843. John C. Calhoun has just retired from the United States Senate and returned to his beloved Fort Hill Plantation at what is now Clemson University. His fellow Democrats are urging him to run for the President of the United States in the 1844 election and Calhoun is wrestling with the decision. It is approaching night and the Calhouns smell smoke. Upon investigating, they discover that someone has placed a hot coal under the pillow of the Calhoun’s thirteen-year-old son, William Lowndes Calhoun. The boy had a reputation for trouble, and was described by his sister Anna as “full of tricks as a little monkey.” Mrs. Calhoun blamed the slave Old Sawney who ran away as soon as the shout of “fire!” went out. But his fellow slaves were less convinced and soon the rumors began that Old Sawney’s daughter, Issey, had been the arsonist. Many on the plantation, slaves included, thought she should be hanged. But Issey did not hang. She was not even punished— initially. It was two years later that Issey was separated from her family and sent to another Calhoun plantation located in Alabama. Issey should have hanged and this is a great mystery. She should have at least been sent to the fields, but she remained in her position as a servant in the house. What was it that Issey knew?

And so, Heidegger

realizes his geist

is aflame,

releases it from

quotation marks.

It is not that

he is unafraid—

He merely wants

to use his geist


without relinquishing


What is this geist that Heidegger parades about the stage? That which he prods, molests through his grammar. Can we, thinking what we know, knowing what he thinks, continue with Heidegger? Continue with his usage of his Geist? How should we judge this Heidegger? And what of this spirit—this haunt, this spook. This thing which allows Being, this thing that we have ourselves released from bondage, let it incline as it will in our writing, freed, inclined, towards the Other—towards us all, as mothers are inclined to children, as we are called to be inclined to the Other. But here, we shall return to Heidegger’s 1933 Rectorship Address as Heidegger gives us yet another definition for geist:

“Spirit [in quotation marks in the Address] is neither empty sagacity, nor the gratuitous game of joking, nor the unlimited work of analysis of the understanding, nor even the reason of the world, but spirit [here the quotation marks had already been removed in the Address] is the being-resolved [or the determined opening: Entschlossenheit] to the essence of Being, of a resolution which accords with the tone of the origin and which is knowledge.” (Heidegger qtd in Derrida 67, bracketed emphasis is Derrida’s)

I say again: “spirit is the being resolved to the essence of Being.” Capital B. The flameless spirit. The spirit in bondage, enclosed in quotation marks. geisterflecken vermeiden. Cold, cold spirit. Kind spirit of which we Long for in our reading. How tightly he binds you, needs you. the spirit that he fears but his readership loves. seeks. This word, this usage, is the geist we find in the Peircean semiotic object of our language—and we shall bow in reverence and call ye subject— that closes with the soul— our same gast, same seele, that have wandered since man first wandered. This is the Heidegger we knowknew. The one for which we seekers of Being must reconcile against the other. He continues his Rectorship Address

“Spirit is the full power given to the potencies of entities as such and in totality (die Ermachtigung der Machte des Seienden als solchen im Ganzen). Where spirit reins (herrscht), the entity as such becomes always and on every occasion more entity (seiender). This is why the questioning towards entities as such in totality, the questioning of the question of Being, is one of the fundamental questions for a reawakening of spirit (Erweckung des Geistes), and thereby for the originary world of the of a historical Dasein. And thereby to master the danger of darkening the world, and thereby for taking up of the historical mission (geschichtliche Sendung) of our people, inasmuch as it is the middle of the West.” (Heidegger Qtd in Derrida 67)

Fuck you, Heidegger,

for what you did.

for what you did to your Geist.

Fuck you.

Anna Calhoun Clemson writes in her diary:

“I lay in bed but not it seemed to me asleep, though my eyes were shut, when suddenly, but with an evident intention to avoid alarming or surprising me, my father stood beside me.— I come, my daughter, said he, to speak with you, & I do so now, that your mind is more independent of your body, than when you are awake, that I may spare you the shock, always felt, when matter comes in contact with disembodied spirit. You are right, my daughter, not to give way to the delusions of spiritualism— I do not say there are devils, for evil is not created, but from want of knowledge, comes error. — I cannot explain to you many things—human language has no words, for what the human mind cannot conceive, of the great mysteries on this side. Continue to strive to know & do the right, & to elevate by every measure your soul, & when you come on this side all will be clear” (Anna Calhoun qtd. in Russell 112)

Now that is some crazy ass shit right there. Knowing, doing, making. That’s right, you read it. The ghost of John C. Motherfuckin’ Calhoun just talking some Aristotelian shit about knowing, doing, making.

Strive to know.

Do the right.

Elevate by every measure of your soul.


A little context right? So that was Anna Calhoun Clemson, the daughter of the racist son-of-a-bitch John C. Calhoun, Anna the wife of Thomas Green Clemson (“founder of Clemson University”), writing in her diary about her beloved dead dad visiting her in the form of a ghost. A little backstory—stay with me—she just had a miscarriage—like a month before.


How do we even talk about that?

How do I write this?

That’s the complexity of it all. The turning of truth. Yet we are called, in our time to judge this woman. To judge this man. These beings. This Nazi. To judge so that we, ourselves, might know better, do better, make better…judge this Anna Calhoun, and so we read and reread and unread. this devoted daughter of the son-of-a-bitch John C. Calhoun. Anna Calhoun, slave owner, a slave user. a cold woman easy to hate. Like Nazis. Like Tillman. So we juxtapose this Anna Calhoun with her peers, peers who knew better. women like South Carolina’s Angelina Grimké who abandoned her wealth and slaves and took up the abolitionist cause against slavery. For those might have been Grimké’s anti-slavery propaganda papers burning in a barrel on Pendleton, South Carolina’s Main Street, on the very day of Thomas Green Clemson and Anna Calhoun’s wedding day:

“I appeal to you, my friends, as mothers; are you willing to enslave your children? You start back with horror and indignation at such a question. But why, if slavery is no wrong to those upon whom it is imposed? Why, if as has often been said, slaves are happier than their masters, free from the cares and perplexities of providing for themselves and their families?” (Grimké)

Where is the building at Clemson University named in honor of Angela Grimké? Why do we not honor her? What about Simon Coker, that do-gooder murdered by Tillman? Instead, we honor Tillman, who terrorized and murdered African Americans with Tillman Hall, home to Clemson’s School of Education. We must judge so that we might know. What is thy verdict?

But first, what is this


is this the word

we must not say

cannot say.

lost in its own


I want to say something about Anna Calhoun’s pain as a being. There is misery here, much of it from her unhappy marriage, but I will give you just a small portion to add context, to turn the truth over in the till… Death followed Anna the years leading up to the miscarriage. Just a year and a half earlier… she lost a child… a cute little girl named Nina, age three. It’s like a hundred and sixty-six fucking years after Nina died and she’s still cute in her photographs. Her name’s even cute, and that’s odd given names weren’t cute back then. What is this spirit? Anna also lost four of her five siblings in the five years prior to this visit by her father’s ghost. The dead, Seek the dead if you want the truth. The dead, Hélène Cixous says, are our doorkeepers (Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing 7). Close your eyes. smell the boxwoods that line Fort Hill, the plantation home of John C. Calhoun, the center of what we now call Clemson University, the “high seminary of learning.” You know the smell of boxwoods. Breathe it in. Then place your nose in the gaps of the red oak’s corduroy bark—place it in the same tree under which Thomas Clemson napped on hot summer days—breathe in that pungent red oak smell. Admire how the great cypress leans dangerously towards the big house, ever poised to smash it in. Run your fingers along its fibrous strands of bark. There are so many doors into Fort Hill. threshold after threshold. border after border. let there also be a modicum of jouissance in this endeavor. Passing from space to space in sweet epistemological pleasure.

“To begin […] we must have death, I like the dead, they are our doorkeepers who while closing one side “give” way to the other.” (Cixous 7)

A key, an old lock. Perhaps a glass eyeball, a blue one.

“It’s true that neither death nor the doorkeepers are enough to open the door. We must also have courage, the desire to approach, to go to the door.”

I came here—to Clemson


I wanted

to know


technology wants.

so I have come

to Heidegger

then via Heidegger

to the Ghost of Derrida.

Ghost of Derrida: (camera close-up) […] “it’s the art of letting ghosts come back” […] (medium angle shot over the shoulder of interviewer)

“And I believe that modern developments in technology and telecommunication instead of diminishing ghosts as does scientific or technical thought…” (zoom-in to close-up) “is leaving behind the age of ghosts, as part of the intellectual feudal age… with its somewhat primitive technology… as a certain perinatal age. Whereas I believe ghosts are part of the future. And that the modern technology of images like cinematography and telecommunication” (zoom-out to previous framing shot) “enhances the power of ghosts and their ability to haunt us. In fact, it’s because I wished to tempt the ghost out that I agreed to appear in a film. It could perhaps offer both us and them a chance to evoke the ghost. The ghost of Marx, the ghost of Freud, the ghost of Kafka… that American ghost… even yours! […]” (McMullen, blocking mine)

Thomas Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s partner in the invention of the telephone, was known to experiment with his equipment in the realm of ghosts (Gunning 23). This man who Avital Ronell says, “wrote an art of telephony,” an art of letting ghosts come back, attended nightly séances in Salem. Séance, as Ronell tells us is French for a psychoanalytic session. (99) “He was, for a time, a strong medium. The telephone’s genius, whose rhizomesque shoots still need to be traced” (192). Though his body was lain to rest at Sleepy Hollow cemetery, his till flows through each of us. Technology, he understood, is the new medium (n.) – one who speaks with ghosts. Technology, whose essence, Heidegger says, is outside of technology. Tillman’s eyeball. blue in color. Technology, the medium for humans, the medium for ghosts. We have become post-human, we have become post-ghost.

sing technology of

where we are becoming

in this new night.


Once in this country, one doesn’t stop there. It’s the moment, it’s the place to go, the one thanks to the other, at the depths of the instant, finally realizing the dream of all human beings, which is to take the present by the root and eat the root. We all who in truth live only for this hope, and in reality renounce it most of the time. We all who almost always make everything except love, and we are entirely invaded by exile and bordered by solitude. —Cixous, Stigmata 102

The world of the spirit is deterritorialized. It holds in one hand the complexities of justice and injustice throughout space and time. And so here in this earliest of countries, here we can return to the question of judgement. For the polis needs an epideictic rhetoric so that we might know, justly act, rightly make. But truth…truth turns. truth requires forgiveness, does it not? truth requires carelessness, for otherwise we will never know the truth we do not seek. Walking is looking. walking is knowing. wandering is neither. wandering utilizes the foreign, the unconscious, the unconcealed. wandering is the carelessness of walking between poets and children.

Either way I must stress that you not

mistake the wanderer for the idiot,

or uncertainty for stupidity.

I seek the glass eyeball of Benjamin Tillman, Pitchfork Ben, Governor, Senator, Murderer Tillman. That body that degrades not with the body. I seek it but I dare not search for it. It is the truth that is equally untruth. It is in a box in a drawer before us, waiting to be found. With the dead we focus too often on le dire. We do not suppose that le dit can also apply. That the dead are speaking to us. Le dire and le dit. Connais and savoir. The key to the door is a glass eyeball blue in color. Ghosts, freed from the body, from Being, need us, the living. We came forth from the till so as to look at the Other. to linger with the Other. Cixous tells us that “Souls are already mature” (Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing 115). I like to think that instead, they are still learning, learning as we are learning, learning with us, through us. That ghosts swerve. And maybe this is how we judge, with them present in our period. Looking forward. Inclining, together. Thinking, not knowing. Dwelling in our inauthenticity. I want to walk with Heidegger’s Geist in a way that is wandering to us both. Heidegger’s Geist on one side, my two sons on the other. The four of us holding hands, walking, until the smell of boxwood overcomes us, and we stop. Heidegger’s Geist, interestingly enough, likes to point out the wabi sabi to my children. and they listen to him, cling to him, they like how intensely he wants them to understand, to understand Heidegger.

the spirit calls on us to judge, but…

“It is not a figure, not a metaphor. Heidegger, at least, would contest any rhetoricizing reading. One could attempt to bring the concepts of rhetoric to bear here only after making sure of some proper meaning for one or other of these words, spirit, flame, in such and such a determinate language, in such and such a text, in such and such a sentence. We are far from that and everything comes back to difficulty.” (Derrida 96)

Which Heidegger? The Heidegger I know is still learning. The Anna Calhoun Clemson I know is still learning. Even Calhoun and Tillman are still learning. We have so much learning and unlearning to do together. Omniscience is an impossibility because knowledge, as Cixous says, is cumulative—building, churning, breaking, rolling. I like to think that in death, the spirit finally comes to understand the Other. And it asks us to do likewise. “As the operator who acknowledges the blindness of the Other” (Ronell 95). To realize, also, that we are the Other. The Other is inside us (70). This Othering is where Ronell finds the mother in Heidegger, the mother in Freud (95). The spirit is freed from the body, freed from quotation marks, from Being. The spirit, the… geist… belongs between ellipses… For these… ghostsgast… have no beginning and no end. I like to think that the spirit calls us to judge it. The ghost of John C. Calhoun wakes Anna in the night and tells her to rethink her knowing, doing, making. He nudges us off our point of stasis. He calls on us to change. To awaken to the tragedy we are born into. “Tragedy is all the more tragic in that it is sober and elliptical.” (Cixous, Stigmata 142). So which Heidegger? Which geist? We must judge. We must keep writing over the truth, over history. We must own up to our inauthenticity, to be authentic (Eigentlichkeit own-ed-ness) about our inauthenticity (Uneigentlichkeit un-own-ed-ness). We must keep writing and rewriting. Renaming buildings, rewriting monuments. And in judging what we perceive we judge ourselves—for we are but till... tillmen… elliptical… repeating…

About the Author

In addition to craft theory and critical making methodologies, Stephen Quigley’s research interests include new media writing pedagogies and digital/s/p(l)ace rhetoric as viewed through an ecological framework. He received a PhD in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design from Clemson University and now teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. His work has been published in Kairos, Computers and Composition Online, Ulmer’s Textshop Experiments, The Writer’s Chronicle, New Writing, among other publications.


Tillman did not use a glass eye, nor an eye-cover. His eyelid was sewn shut.

I would like to extend my gracious thanks to the anonymous reviewers who provided the insight needed to move forward with this manuscript, and to Cynthia Haynes in whose bravery and kindness I find hope.

Works Cited

Arnett, L. D. The Soul--a Study of past and Present Beliefs. Thesis. Reprinted by the American Journal of Psychology. April and July, XV. 1904.

Cixous, Hélène. Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. New York: Columbia UP, 1993.

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