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Writing a daily essay is a recently acquired activity. At first, I looked at the idea of writing daily, as a chore, somewhat unpleasant and time consuming. After a few months of daily writing and posting to the internet, I realize that writing a daily essay is very good for me, because it forces me to dig deeply into my thoughts, feelings and experiences and, in fear of running out of topics, I maintain a stable of topics rattling around in my head, for reviewing at spare moments. I recommend the activity to everyone.

Often writing the daily essay requires me to 'switch gears,' meaning that I need to change from linear thinking to quadratic thinking. For instance, I have been rewriting this web site's design (for the most recent incarnation go to, which requires absolute linear thinking. Thus, today's essay is being written five hours later than usual.

'Switching gears' has been difficult, today. So, I sat next to the fire and read the very interesting Le Thor Seminar from Heidegger’s Four Seminars, which leads me to today's topic -parapraxis, which no longer needs to rattle around in my skull.

Parapraxis occurs when one’s subconscious thoughts are somehow expressed on the surface through their words or actions. This often happens through name replacement (”I love you Laura” when Laura is your mistress’ name, not your wife’s), or through other “slips of the tongue” (”I would do anything to you” as opposed to “I would do anything for you”). No matter the form it takes, the most basic requirement for a speech error to be considered an instance of parapraxis is that you end up communicating something you didn’t intend but were likely thinking subconsciously.

At one point during his seminar, Heidegger quotes Hegel’s famous aphorism about the old sock, “A torn sock is better than a mended sock.” But immediately, as the notes to the seminar record, there is embarrassed whispering from his auditors. Heidegger had got it wrong. Hegel, they know, says something different: he says, “A mended sock is better than a torn sock; not so with self-consciousness”. Heidegger, blushing (if one can read between the lines) defends himself with an elaborate story that Hegel’s editor had changed the manuscript of the Wastebook (where the aphorism occurs) at the last minute, and what he has quoted was what Hegel originally said. His audience are clearly unconvinced. Rightly so. The editors of the Four Seminars do their best to defend Heidegger, arguing that his version of the line and his subsequent exposition of it are consistent with the spirit of Hegel’s aphorism. There is some truth in this, admittedly, though Heidegger can be said to take Hegel’s line for something of a walk. The torn sock allows Heidegger a Sein und Zeit-esque reflection on the ‘equipment’ which shows up its readiness-to-hand only when it doesn’t function (and this makes me wonder if he knew of the Hegel quote back in 1927 when he wrote Sein und Zeit, and if it influenced, in misremembered form, that seminal part of his Meisterwerk).

...But of course Hegel’s point lies in the second half of the clause. Self-consciousness is not like a sock. It is better for it to be torn (as Heidegger’s translators correctly note, for it to face up to diremption and to work with it, work through it) than for it to dwell in the self-satisfaction of being whole and complete.

There is part of the anecdote I have not mentioned. On first hearing the embarrassed whispers of his auditors Heidegger is confused. But he soldiers on, repeating the quote. This time he gets laughter in response. Now he is angry, and in a raised, sarcastic, and slightly hurt voice says, “Perhaps you are all content with being whole?” It is a wonderful moment, one of which Hegel would have been proud.

Any questions??