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Friday, January 18, 2008


posted by on January 18 at 12:13 PM

We know that the most famous German philosopher of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger, did not like “idle chatter.” For him, it was a fallen form of human communication; a type of speech that suffocated poetry, the language of being dead serious. In 2003, the Italian philosopher Paulo Virno reversed Heidegger’s judgment and declared that chatter was important for its “significant variances, unusual modulations, sudden articulations…” Why the strong disagreement? And was it entirely a philosophical issue? I found the answer in the streets of Rome. The chatter (background human noise) in the that Mediterranean city is not the same as the chatter in, say, Frankfurt. In short, Italian chatter sounds much better than German chatter. Heidegger would not have thought so poorly of chatter if he had been Italian.

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Or if he'd known about blogs.

Posted by elenchos | January 18, 2008 12:38 PM

Martin Heidegger kinda sounds like he sucks. Then again, I'm not sure most Germans are fans of small talk. Conversation with German (and Austrian, for some reason) friends always seem to go from ZERO to HOW THE FUCK DID WE GET ON THIS TOP? in about 2 sentences.

My French, Spanish, and Mexican friends never seem to have this problem.

Posted by Dougsf | January 18, 2008 12:56 PM

much as i loathe america chatter, but don't mind it when i'm travelling through germany or der schweiz.

beides american chatter is banal and lame as fuck

Posted by holz | January 18, 2008 12:59 PM

Dougsf, let me assure you that Heidegger doesn't suck. He's AWESOME. It's just that his beef with idle talk sounds draconian mainly because it's out of context

Heidegger also had beef with curiosity, which at first glance is like, WTF?

The point I get from that part of Heidegger is that when we get caught up in gossip or being a tourist so we can go see things just 'cause, like, we wanna, we tend to give up our capacity for critical thinking. That is, we become so caught up in what "one" should think or see or feel or care about that we cease to see the world as it is.

Posted by FooFootheSnoo | January 18, 2008 1:05 PM

But did Heidegger the Nazi also respect the fascists of Italy, for how they tried to put the idle to work or to death?

Posted by Mr. T | January 18, 2008 1:15 PM

I should rephrase then to say, "Charles makes Heidegger sound like he sucks."

I see the point as you described it. While I can't defend the topics of idle conversation, idle talk with others can serve an important function, since we're not allowed to sniff eachother's butts.

Posted by Dougsf | January 18, 2008 1:17 PM

If you go to the Italian city of Sirmione, an island castle on Lake Garda, you'll find most of the chatter is German tourists.

Bella tourista, ciao!

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 18, 2008 1:20 PM

Che cazzo dice Mudede???

The chatter in Rome is mostly tourists and those that cater to them.

Posted by SeMe | January 18, 2008 1:35 PM

Rome fucking sucks.

Posted by Mr. Poe | January 18, 2008 2:17 PM


1. Idle chatter bad.
2. Worse: chatter about chatter.
3. The ne plus ultra: Slogging about chatter about chatter ...


Posted by unPC | January 18, 2008 2:37 PM

The Germans have always been way too serious for their own good.

Also, let's not confuse "most famous" with most important or most relevant.

Posted by S. M. | January 18, 2008 3:51 PM

The Germans aren't all serious, S.M. They like it when people fall down. It's hilarious apparently.

Posted by Abby | January 18, 2008 4:36 PM

That and sex farces, Abby. Not sure why.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 18, 2008 5:04 PM

rome rocks. just keep your money close to your body. and walk quickly away from middle-aged men who try to grope you. otherwise, fantastic.

Posted by ellarosa | January 18, 2008 11:03 PM

whatever, europeans in general are the masters of small talk, especially weather. I've never said/heard "it's cold, heh?" in all my life in the u.s. as I do living in Europe.

Posted by mintygreen | January 19, 2008 8:50 AM

According to Heidegger idle chatter is one of the hallmarks of inauthenticity. His fear was that this would become our primary mode of communication. It appears that Charles was seduced by the aesthetics of Italian chatter without realizing that the nature of the conversations he was overhearing likely revolved around the crumbling economy and poor leadership in that country. When idle chatter inhibits genuine dialogue/action it can be deleterious. In any case, the whole notion of authenticity is dualist and elitist rubbish and one of the reasons that existentialism sometimes gets a bad rap.

Posted by BigB | January 20, 2008 11:04 AM

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