i should probably preface the following remarks by saying that i haven't read any relevant passages of Rorty's writings regarding Heidegger or Wittgenstein order to make any pointed critical remarks about them. The observations i make regarding the two prior thinkers' philosophical relationship are only my own...:
i don't know that Heidegger made enough
of an issue in his early philosophical phases of language's relationship to truth or aletheia. He was much more influenced by Husserl's concentration on experience and phenomena. I think most of those statements regarding Heidegger's concern with language find more matter for discussion during his later periods. Perhaps certain inferences
could be made regarding the relationship between "truth" and language, after the khere and about the prior writings, and shed some of the political taintedness of Heidegger's later writings in the process, but i am not sure that they would be reliable.
Heidegger's later writing often used language as a way of denuding contemporary thought of some of its "misconceptions" by tracing the meaning of a word, through its supposed etymology, to its original meaning. By reasserting the "true", original meaning of a word against its current usage, Heidegger tried to set thought upon firmer footing. However, a lot of his etymologies are questionable, not merely in tracing back the original meaning, but also in interpreting its history.
Heidegger also often chose poetry as a subject of his interpretation, adopting the romantic idea that the source from which of language had evolved was (epic) poetry. Taking many later romantic poets as the interlocutors for his ontological muse, Martin often used interpretations of poems as the starting point for his philosophical essays. Whether you would like to regard his interpretations as self-serving or true readings of those poems beyond their authors' knowledge is up to the reader, but it cannot be denied that he often made interpretations of those works that would have been unrecognizable to the poets, the contemporaries of the poets, and of questionable historical and biographical value.
The later Wittgenstein, albeit he did not choose to publish any works besides the "Tractatus" under his own name in his lifetime, seemed to regard language as a "game". Not one concerned with "concepts" so much as the practical exigencies of human existence. Were he so concerned, I think he would have made mincemeat of Heidegger's claim to etymological authority as regards the experience of his contemporaries.
Both philosophers had a high regard for the relationship between truth and language, both mens' philosophies had a significant mystical substrate, and both men had a strange, complicated, yet hostile relationship with Judaism. And yet, I would think it insupportable that each man's philosophy was complicit with the other's beyond these superficial similarities. The semantic field of each does not sufficiently overlap with the other to expect any actual parallel or cooperation. At one point in his notebooks (the comment was later collected into the book Remarks on Colour
[with the English spelling , mind you]) Wittgenstein made the remark that: "There is no such thing as phenomenology, but there are indeed phenomenological problems."
What Wittgenstein actually meant should probably be left to better L.W. interpreters than me, but i read them thusly: There might be phenomenological problems but they cannot be worked out purely linguistically. -- You may or may not agree, and i may or may not agree with you, as to my interpretation. But it does seem to strike a cautionary note as to his agreement with any of Heidegger's writings.
i like Merleau-Ponty, what i have read of him at least. But i don't think that his points are strengthened by an association with Heidegger. They were not exactly contemporaries, but they were near-, and they drew much of their water from the same wells. The French "Existentialists" drew a lot of inspiration from Heidegger's example (Sartre most of all, obviously), but Heidegger never respected that connection. If anything he was critical of that group and denied association with it. If nothing else, i think that M.M.-P. had a rigor that i think was lacking in "the fox".
As to Heidegger's "epistemology", he was much more influenced by Dilthy than Vico. But i'd say he did fit a constructivist more than a positivist model, in a fashion. He was certainly an opponent of the latter. However, his particular employment of the "hermenuetic circle" made his epistemology more exclusive than inclusive, more closed than open. He was more prone to mythologizing than de-.
All that being said, i'm not entirely sure that a constructivist epistemology excludes the idea of "illusion" or "obscurantism", if anything it may multiply it many times fold, re: an observer/observed co-dependent reality. If the limit between observer and observed is regarded as dynamic, both breach and closure, then the relationship between observer and observed, and illusion and reality, is dependent upon that limit -- as the "fulcrum" upon which "reality" rests, rather than the sum zero you seem to suggest. Were that understood to be the case, one's epistemology need not be any less constructivist, which is to say global, but also that the status of "truth" is understood to be both global and situational. However, there would still be opportunities for personal and social illusions regarding the relationship between holistic circumstance and personal vantage point.
tl;dr: Heidegger is a bullshit artist with a couple of valid points; Merleau-Ponty (or what i've read of him) and Wittgenstein are both more reliable thinkers and writers. Misunderstandings, in good faith or otherwise, still seem possible within a finite, holistic system, while certainty is not fixed within it.
Also, @ Frank Apisa:
Frank Apisa wrote:
Considering your phrasing, it occurs to me that a reasonable argument could be made that Google thinks Heidegger is not particularly obscure.
"Being obscure"...is a trait of obscurantism and obscurantists. If you are asking about the "worst one in history"...and Heidegger is mentioned first, couldn't that mean that he was the worst at being obscure?
That's a great point, but most obscurantists work in fields that benefit their efforts, at least in the short term. Not to say that philosophy as an academic field doesn't sometimes encourage dishonesty, but philosophy (logic/epistemology/ and "love of wisdom") plus academic rivalry plus long memories plus political discredit might highlight some wildly successful short-term obscurantists. Particularly if it was possible to make an object lesson of them.