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Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet


HEIDEGGER

(1889 — 1976)

 

'ONTOLOGICAL' PHENOMENOLOGY

Martin Heidegger was born in Messkirch (Baden), Germany, where his father was a Catholic sexton. He was educated at Gymnasia in Konstanz and Freiburg before studying theology, medieval philosophy, and phenomenology at the University of Freiburg under Husserl. He gained his doctorate in 1914 and his Habilitation in 1916, and became a Privatdozent at Freiburg. In 1922 he was appointed a professor at Marburg, but in 1928 he returned to Freiburg to take over Husserl's chair. Having joined the National Socialist Party he was appointed Rector of the University in 1933. However, he resigned the following year. (His equivocal attitude towards Germany's Nazi period is a still a matter of great controversy.) He ceased lecturing in 1944 but was allowed to resume his professorship in 1955. From 1959 he lived in increasing isolation in the Black Forest.

 

Sources: References to Being and Time are to sections or to the paginations of the eighth (1957) German edition (English translation, Macquarrie & Robinson) — thus, in the case of the latter, 'H. 7', for example.

 

METHODOLOGY/ ONTOLOGY/ PHILOSOPHY OF MAN

[1] Heidegger's central concern was with the concept of Being. [A capital 'B' is used throughout this essay where Being means Sein — as against 'beings' [see sec. 5 below] though translations of his various writings do not always follow this convention.]. However, he was dissatisfied with various treatments of being in terms of Forms, substances, or categories, arguing that they failed to give an account of Being as such — leaving us only with a plurality of entities [Being and Time, sec. 1]. Interpretations of Being in terms of substance (for example, Aristotle's parousia or ousia), matter, mind, noumena, substrata, and so on — entities being grasped in their Being as 'presence' ['Anwesenheit'] [BT sec. 25; see also Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, sec. 44] — he found equally inadequate. A further objection he had to this "metaphysics of presence" [Derrida's phrase — q.v.] was that such philosophizing constitutes a fundamentally theoretical approach to a putative objectivity. All such approaches constitute a falling away from the once recognised fact that Being is intrinsically self-revelatory and identical with thought — in the unity of physis and logos [see Intro. to Metaphysics, 4.3] [a]. Closely associated with this position is his critique of a view of language as in some sense 'corresponding' to the world — mirroring nature. Rather, what the world is for us is determined by the way we understand it — and this for him entailed practical involvement [b]. He therefore also rejected any philosophy which supposes that a totally disengaged standpoint can be achieved. As "engaged agencies" [Charles Taylor's phrase — in 'Engaged Agency and Background'] embodied in the world we possess what Heidegger called a (non-theoretical) 'pre-understanding' or 'background' in the context of which our actions make sense and enable us to articulate, albeit partially, our feeling or sense of embodiment. Moreover, although in his early work he had employed Husserl's methods, his strictures came in due course to apply also to phenomenology itself. Heidegger agreed that phenomena as mental states should be investigated (he initially shared Husserl's aim to return to the "things themselves"), but he argued that systematic phenomenology failed to provide a unified single meaning of Being, and remains committed to the 'theoretical stance' [see 2d]. He also rejected the concept of a pure transcendental ego on the grounds that it provides only inauthentic self-understanding. We must take notice of the individual's personal life, history, and character, and indeed of the historical dimension in which the individual exists. However, 'life' and 'historicality' must be raised up into a consideration of Being in general and not left merely as a 'subjective' opposition to the 'objectivity' of science [c].

[2] [Being and Time, Part I, Division One.] For Heidegger the investigation of Being must start with an examination of the meaning of being, and this in turn requires us to discover how things become intelligible to us — how we understand them. Attempts to describe the world in terms of essences, substances, mind, matter, scientific entities, and the like will not, however, assist us to achieve such an understanding. This kind of theorizing is already a kind of abstraction, a distancing from the primitive concept of being itself. We have to understand Being before we set out to categorize the world in substantial terms. Central to his analysis is the concept of Dasein [Being and Time, H. 7]. This term means 'being here/ there' or 'being situated'. He uses it to refer to ourselves as beings who experience themselves in the everyday situation as being located, indeed, 'thrown' (geworfen) into the world [H. 135; also sec. 38] and as concrete, active, already belonging to a 'lived' world. (This has something in common with Husserl's Lebenswelt) [a].

Although Heidegger was critical of what he saw as the theoreticizing and abstractional characteristics of phenomenology, he nevertheless continued to use the method himself to examine, observe the phenomena of our everyday existence. He called this the 'ontic' level (and in the case of man it is described as the Existenziell [H. 11-15; sec. 4]. But more importantly the method was employed to reveal or 'uncover' the very underlying structure of human existence. The term referring to this is 'existenzial' [for example, H. 12, 56]. This describes the ontological level which, he asserts, explains the ontic level. Such phenomena which have been hidden, covered up, constitute an implicit 'pre-theoretical' sense, a 'primordial understanding' of our situation as personal agents in the everyday world conditioned by cultural and historical factors, a world in which we, as it were, know our way around. Human existentiality in this primary sense is manifested when the individual reaches Being through realizing his anticipated possibilities [b].

The relation of ourselves to Being — the fuller implication of Dasein as being-in-the-world — is further analysed in terms of three features or aspects. Firstly, he talks of 'moods', that is, being-there as a state of mind [H. 134; sec. 29]. Examples are facticity and thrownness. Secondly, being-there is considered as understanding [sec. 31] — in the sense that we can be said to take a stand on our being when we choose to embark on a project. Thirdly, being-there is discourse [sec. 34] [c], which involves the articulation — usually by means of language — of the intelligibility of things in the world. Heidegger himself gives a concrete example [H. 69] to illustrate what he means and what is involved in the concept of Dasein. Consider someone using a hammer in his workshop. When engaging in this activity what he is attending to is not the hammer, nails, wood and their various properties but rather the practical project — the process regarded as leading to an end having a purpose, fulfilling a function. Heidegger here distinguishes between what he calls 'present-at-handedness' (Vorhandenheit) ('closeness to', or 'being in front of oneself') [for example, H. 74] and 'ready-to-handedness' (Zuhandenheit) [H. 69]. Objects considered as present-at-hand are in a sense abstractions from their practical use, particularly when they are treated as physical objects for scientific investigation and explanation. This is characteristic of the 'theoretical stance'. In our everyday engagement with the world, however, objects are ready-to-hand, are being used, appropriated for projects; and this for Heidegger constitutes primacy — present-at-handedness being secondary or derivative. (Even what he calls a 'voluntative theory of Dasein' relates to 'Being-present-at-hand' [d]. The experiencing of resistance, Heidegger says, is possible ontologically only by reason of the world's disclosedness as being presupposed. [H. 210]). In this utilization lies what he calls the world's 'worldhood' (Weltlichkeit) — a holistic network of functionalistic relationships [sec. 14]. He regards this worldhood as the primary object of intentionality — in terms of which alone theoretical and practical intentionality, in the Husserlian sense, can be understood. Implicit in this approach is a dispensing with any 'bracketing' procedure [e].

This example is important because (1) it draws attention to the possibilities of Dasein, and (2) it points to the significance for Heidegger of the relationship between self and the world. With respect to the first point, when engaged, practising in the world, and in the light of our 'pre-understanding', we are free to appropriate objects in any way we choose in accordance with our needs and projects. Here we "take a stand". Multitudes of projects are open to us. A given item can be used in a variety of ways — many of which are of course derivative, for example, for scientific purposes. There is thus always more to Dasein than is contained in descriptions of say, bodily appearance, mental characteristics, and so on, all of which Heidegger terms 'factuality' (Tatschlichkeit) — possessed by physical objects in general [H56]. In Dasein's 'thrownness', engagement with the world, the concrete limitations which define the possibilities are referred to as facticity (Faktizitt) [H. 56, 135]. As for the second point, Heidegger argues that through this activity Dasein acts as a 'clearing' through which entities in the world can reveal themselves, 'stand forth' [H. 133]. Dasein is thus the instrument through which Being itself emerges from concealment into presence [see also sec. 44] [f].

Being-in-the-world is therefore for Heidegger a 'unitary phenomenon' the basic determinations of which are self and the public world — which includes the recognition of the presence of others (he rejects approaches to the 'other' which appeal to analogy or empathy, for example) [see secs 25-6]. But Dasein is not just another thing. In its very being it has a relationship towards Being, which is itself one of being. What we are is clearly determined by our environment, the opportunities, tools, facilities it offers. On the other hand, the being of the everyday world in which we exist as agents has to be understood in terms of what we do, the choices we make, the way we use things in order to achieve our projects. There can be no ultimate ground behind or underlying this unity of being-in-the-world. Being is therefore to be understood as an 'absence of ground'. The totality of our involvement in and response to the world — of things and persons, that is, our 'being-in-the-world' as a unitary phenomenon and in terms of which we make sense of our existence, is referred to by Heidegger as 'care' (Sorge). Care is thus the Being of Dasein [g] in that it is characterized in terms of the existential formula for the structure of care: "ahead-of-itself — Being-already-in (a world) as being-alongside (entities encountered within-the-world) [H. 182, 192, 317; and especially secs 41, 42]. By this Heidegger means that Dasein is (i) aware of its possibilities; (ii) it is 'thown' and 'factical', that is, finds itself in a particular situation in which both the 'state of mind' in which this throwness is revealed and the possibilities open to it are determined; and (iii) that as alongside other worldly entities it is engaged in its daily activities .

Although Heidegger has constructed his analysis of Dasein with reference to the everyday involvement of human agents with the world, this involvement has, as it were, a downside in that it can be characterized as a 'falling' [sec. 38]. What he means by this is that we can be wrapped up in our own projects, or in a habitual and unreflective following of social, cultural conventions — he frequently talks of our conforming to what others (the 'they' or the 'one) do or say — so that we become self-forgetful. We lose sight of what genuinely matters — not least of being itself. Thus, while the world can be regarded as the material on which we can work creatively to realize our ends, it is also that which can lead us astray; and this alienates us from our obligation to fulfil ourselves. Such existence he calls inauthentic. This inauthenticity or 'everydayness' is characterized not only by ephemerality but also by finitude. We recognise that our 'being-in-the-world' must end in death and hence 'loss'. Our feeling of loss is referred to by Heidegger as anxiety or uneasiness (Angst) [H. 182]. When in this state of mind, Dasein, he says, "finds itself face to face with the 'nothing' of the possible impossibility of its existence" [H. 186, 266]. But this 'nothing' — Dasein's 'non-being', while not an 'entity' is, for Heidegger not an empty term; for he regards this as the 'clearing' or 'absencing' which is a precondition for the occurrence of 'self-manifesting' ('presencing') of being through Dasein [h]. Dasein as the 'clearing' is thus already temporal nothingness. [See also sec. 3] It is the light of this concept of 'fallenness' that Heidegger understands man, in his practical dealings with the world, as both free and determined. We are free in so far as we can choose what, when, and how to appropriate the 'equipment' of the world and thereby to make ourselves — in face of our 'nothingness', as it were. But this freedom is limited by our historical situation, our family, education, nation, and indeed by our own body as well as the changing inner (psychological) and outer (sociological) events of our daily lives [for example, H. 188, 191; see also H. 366] [i].

[3] [In Division Two] Heidegger investigates the temporality (Zeitlichkeit) [secs 66-71] and historicality [secs 72-7] of Dasein. As we have seen, the central feature of the lived relationship of ourselves to the world — Dasein as being-in-the-world — is (as is established in Division One) care. The three aspects, (i) existentiality, (ii) our sense of facticity reflecting our 'thrownness' in the world, and (iii) fallenness, are associated, respectively, with understanding, mood or disposition, and discourse (later to be modified to 'language');and this concept of care, together with that of death, provides the basis for his later analysis of the temporality of Dasein. We have seen Dasein as characterized in terms of its possibilities (choices, projects). Now, Heidegger says, it is clear that all such possibilities are terminated with our death. It is this inevitable event that Dasein can comprehend both in its totality and in what he calls its 'mineness in each case" (Jemeinigkeit) ("Dasein has in each case mineness... [it] is mine to be in one way or another... Dasein is in each case essentially its own possibility" [H. 42; cf. 114-15].) One's death is uniquely one's own. It is through care as the basic condition of Dasein that this constant threat of death is revealed. The three aspects of care are associated with the three aspects of the time dimension — past, present, and future, which in their connectedness constitute the 'ecstatic' unity of time ('ec-stasis': standing, reaching out towards death) [Div. Two, I; and secs 65-6]. Clearly the fundamental aspect of care is manifested in Dasein's being-ahead-of-itself, in so far as it apprehends termination of its finitude as a future event [a].

To the extent that Dasein is lost in the 'they' it must find itself, and to do so it must be 'shown' to itself in its possible authenticity. "In terms of its possibility, Dasein is already a potentiality-for-Being-its-Self" [H 268]. The possibility of understanding one's ownmost and uttermost potentiality-for-Being, that is, the possibility of authentic existence, Heidegger terms 'anticipation' [H. 262-7]. But the question remains of Dasein's authentic Being-a-whole and of its existential constitution. Can it be attested to by Dasein itself? Can then the anticipation of death, so far projected only in its ontological possibility, have an essential connection with the attested authentic potentiality-for-Being? These are issues taken up in Division Two, II & III. Heidegger argues that the 'ontological possibility' of our confronting 'being-to-death' is realized in 'conscience' (Gewissen). By this he means that we are called to an acknowledgement of our responsibility for our own being: it takes us away from 'fallenness' and back to 'authenticity'. The 'voice of conscience' (Gewissen) provides the 'attestation' (Bezeugung) of this potentiality [b]. And in our "wanting to have a conscience" there is, he says, our 'existentiell choosing' — to choose a kind of Being-one's-Self which he calls 'resoluteness' [H 270]. By this he means roughly Dasein's conscious opening up to its circumstances and its determination to make appropriate choices that will be disclose itself to itself and reveal its authentic possibilities: However, choices may be inauthentic — one may be irresolute. Then failure to meet the obligations of conscience gives rise to 'guilt' (Schuld), that is, a 'debt' the self cannot discharge [sec. 58]. Nevertheless, this is the ground of the self's determination to achieve authenticity; for in recognising itself as guilty the self knows itself inwardly as possessing the capacity to escape from its fallenness or 'forfeiture' to history and everyday distractions. 'Resoluteness' thus means "letting oneself be called forth to one's ownmost Being-guilty" [H 305]. Heidegger also introduces the mode of 'destiny'. He distinguishes between individual destiny (or 'fate') (Schicksal) and collective destiny (Geschick) [H 384]. The former is closely connected with what he calls 'existential time'. By this he means one's entire life span as the ground of what one fundamentally is, namely, a human being. Man grasps this in recognising his finitude. It has a dual aspect. In overseeing the entire life span he looks to the future ending in death as reaching back to assimilate his past which becomes his present. But he also faces back into that past history in which the future has been given and for which it is responsible. In understanding this the individual discovers his destiny as an authentic present, that is, a present which is achieved as a result of the exercise of his freedom to live authentically and thereby to escape from fallenness and become 'historical' in a genuine sense [for example, secs 72-76]. As Heidegger says, it is only when death, guilt, conscience, freedom, and finitude dwell together at the very source of a being's Being that destiny is possible.

[Division Two, III] Heidegger's view that conscience attests to Dasein's being potentiality-for-Being-its-Self" leads to his ontological analysis of care and of selfhood. His existential analysis of Dasein's potentiality-for-Being-a-whole as revealed that authentic being-towards-death is anticipation and its authentic potentiality-for-being has been Interpreted as resoluteness. How can these be brought together? What can death and the 'concrete Situation' of action have in common? Heidegger's procedure is essentially to show that 'anticipatory resoluteness' is intimately associated with Dasein, the Self, and care. Ontologically, he says, Dasein is fundamentally different from the 'present-at-hand' or 'Real'. Its subsistence is not based on the substantiality of a substance but on the 'Selbststandigkeit' (Self-subsistence or self-constancy) of the existing Self, whose Being as been conceived as care [H 303]. Now, the phenomenon of the Self is already implicit in care, but the existential 'connection' between them needs to be discovered if we are to define the Selfhood of Dasein ontologically. Kant is correct in that he does not allow reduction of the 'I' itself to substance, but he still takes the 'I' as subject, the ontological concept of which characterizes not the Selfhood of the 'I' qua Self, but the selfsameness and steadiness of something that is always present-at-hand. [H 320] The 'I' for him remains related to empirical representations without which it would be nothing. However, for Heidegger, in saying 'I' Dasein expresses itself as Being-in-the-world, that is within the horizon in which the Being of other entities (be they ready-to-hand or npresent-at-hand, or neither — just 'subsistent'). This can be understood (i) in an everyday manner — in terms of the 'world' it is concerned with [Heidegger seems to adopt a more 'realist' position than Kant here]; or (ii) in terms of care; and it is only through the latter that Selfhood can be discerned existentially, and in one's potetiality-for-Being-one's-Self, and through which the Self's constancy gets clarified. [H 321-2] [c]. The ontological meaning, of care, the primordial unity of its structure, reveals itself as temporality in that 'ahead-of-itself' is grounded in the future, in that temporality makes possible the unity of existence, facticity, and falling. 'Anticipatory-resoluteness' thus casts light on Dasein's potentiality for authentic Being-a-whole. Dasein itself is thereby characterized by temporality and 'historicality' [sec. 66]. Nevertheless, if all the variations of Being are to be Interpreted for everything of which we say, 'It is', we need an idea of being in general — a task Heidegger did not undertake in Being and Time.

.It should be noted that Heidegger's discussion of time as a process of becoming, Dasein's temporality, does not refer to time in our everyday sense of earlier and later, measurable by clocks, dates, etc. [see especially Div. Two, IV and VI; also sec. 66], whereby Dasein is positioned in the historical dimension. (Time in this sense is inauthentic temporality). Dasein is here characterized by insecurity, a determination to hold onto the 'present-at-hand', possessions, relationships, by which we 'make things' present. Correlatively we seek to forget the past and are in a state of constant expectancy in relation to the future. By contrast, in facing up to death as giving totality, individuality, meaningfulness to existence, Dasein experiences time authentically in its ec-static unity [d]. Anticipating the future, reliving, repeating the past, it achieves the moment of vision in the present. To the extent that our apprehension of our death is revealed to us in a state of anxiety, Heidegger says that both authentic and inauthentic temporality are grounded in the temporality of anxiety in its three temporal modes.

[4] Being and Time ends with a number of unresolved questions concerning the relation of Being to time [Division Two, VI]. Dasein has been presented as disclosing Being. But Heidegger concludes by asking how this disclosure is possible. Do we have to go back to the primordial constitution-of-being of that Dasein? Furthermore, there are problems with temporality. If the existential-ontological constitution of Dasein's totality is grounded in temporality, how are we to interpret this 'ecstatical' projection of being, this mode of temporalizing of temporality? Can we get from primordial time to the meaning of Being? "Does time itself manifest itself as the horizon of Being?" There are other problems too. Can the unity of Being be reconciled with the plurality of Dasein? Is Heidegger's account of finitude, the inevitable culmination of life in death, consistent with his assumption that the individual can be fully realized only when he ceases to be real, that is when he ceases to be? And perhaps the key problem is how Being in itself is to be understood, that is, considered apart from its revelation through the engaged agency of Dasein. Can this question be considered at all?

These are all issues that Heidegger no doubt had hoped would be resolved in a projected Division Three of Part One — which was to be devoted to the presentation of a fundamental ontology of Being. This was, however, never written. Neither was Part Two of Being and Time, which would have considered (i) Kant's doctrine of schematism and time as a preliminary stage to his (Heidegger's) own treatment of the problem of temporality; (ii) the ontological foundation of Descartes' 'Cogito, sum'; and (iii) Aristotle's essay on time, which would have enabled Heidegger to identify the phenomenal basis and limits of ancient ontology. Heidegger says that the task of Part Two was to be an exploration of the basic features of a phenomenological 'destruction' of the history of ontology — the problematic of temporality being the clue. By 'destruction' Heidegger means, negatively, that the ontological tradition from the ancient Greek philosophers down to Hegel, as it is treated nowadays, must be shaken off, loosened up, but with the positive aim of 'dissolving' the concealment or forgetting of being which he supposed that tradition to have brought about [sec. 6] [a]. The 'destruction' of Kant was only partially fulfilled. In Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics he criticizes Kant for allegedly having omitted from the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason of any discussion of the role of the imagination as responsible for the activity of both the sensibility and the understanding. Kant does in fact say [B xlii] that this and other changes were made in the interests of a more intelligible exposition and stresses that the fundamentals of his system are unaffected. Nevertheless, Heidegger regards this omission as a mistake, in that he thinks Kant has thereby missed a significant feature of the transcendental imagination [KPM, sec 31]. From the standpoint of its unifying role it can be said to anticipate the gathering or synthesis of material drawn from both sensibility and understanding, and thus carries with it an essentially temporal dimension. Temporality for Heidegger is, as we have seen, the very condition of human Dasein and is thus "the basis of the possibility of selfhood". Time and the 'I think' are no longer opposed to each other; they are the same — "primordially identical" — though Kant himself, Heidegger says, did not see this identity as such. Be all this as it may, this 'destruction' of Kant's treatment of temporality makes little or no contribution to the exposition of the fundamental ontology of time and being which the unwritten Division Three of Part One was to have provided. It would seem that Heidegger had come to realize that such an ontology might not be attainable. Indeed in his subsequent work from 1930 onwards he would appear to have moved off in a new direction. This brings us to the so called Kehre or 'turn' in his thinking — though he stressed that his new approach was but a reorientation, with a different emphasis on the still central concept of Being as presence.

[5] Heidegger's general approach [Introduction to Metaphysics] is indicated in his posing of the "fundamental question of metaphysics" [ch. 1, p. 1]: Why does anything [ a being or 'essent'] exist? ['essent' is Heidegger's English translator's coinage for 'ein Seiendes'.] His initial concern is to determine what is meant by 'essents' — how they are to be understood as essents — indeed, what the essence of Being is; how to get beyond the "blunted, indefinite meaning of the word". [See also BT H. 6-8.] He starts with Heraclitus and Parmenides, who, he says, identified the essent with phusis (according to Heidegger — contentiously, through translation into Latin it came to mean 'nature' ). This is interpreted as a special kind of process inherent in Being itself whereby essents become observable. It is an emergence from the hidden. Heidegger argues also that for these early philosophers phusis was identical with logos. (He translates Heraclitus's "the Logos is common" [Fr. 2] as "the logos is this togetherness in the essent"! [Intro. to Metaphys., 4.3].) He attempts to show how in due course this concept became restricted and Being came to be forgotten. What he seeks to do is to restore the centrality of Being and man's 'being-there' [a] — which he associates with the need to recover the Western world's spiritual destiny from the technological and nihilistic forces threatening it in his own day. Heidegger explicitly says he is not now attempting to establish a traditional ontology in which the question of being means an enquiry into being as such, or the defining of the transcendental in terms of Dasein. He is concerned not with "the existential ecstatic temporality of the human being-there" but rather with being as the subjective consciousness of the human essent.

An examination of essents, be they tools, vehicles, mountains, Bach's fugues, Hölderlin's hymns, the Earth itself, and so on (for the purposes of which he makes use of some highly questionable etymology of Greek terms and quotations) shows that while 'Being' is a universal name, the name itself and what it names are unique. The 'is' discloses itself to us in many ways. The word in its many inflections relates to being quite differently from the way that all other nouns and verbs relate to the essents expressed in them. But despite the seeming impossibility of identifying a universal generic meaning common to the many modes of 'is' as species there is, Heidegger says, a single determinate trait. This directs our contemplation of Being to a definite unifying and determining horizon of understanding and thus contains the meaning within the realms of actuality and presence, permanence and duration, abiding and occurrence. (Heidegger relates this to the Greek infinitive.) So if we are to preserve the historical importance of the question 'How does it stand with being?' we must reflect on the source of our hidden history and will thereby "hold to the discourse of being". Accordingly he embarks [ch. 4] on an investigation of the how Being has come to be limited in its relations with Becoming, Appearance, Thinking, and 'the Ought'.

What we find in An Introduction to Metaphysics through to his last writings is a move from the subjectivity or centrality of Dasein as the agent for the revelation of Being towards the view that man is used by Being for its 'safekeeping'; man is conceived as the "shepherd of being" [b]. There is a central paradox here in that, to the extent man seeks to uncover Being — for example, through speculation, present-at-handedness, Being becomes concealed: "Being conceals itself through emerging-into-presence". This ties in with his earlier critique of the theoretical stance and of 'real presences'. But more significant is his account of the role of language. In his early work language was regarded as a tool or instrument by means of which Dasein can engage with and thereby understand the multifarious modes of Being. He now thinks of language itself as "the house of being and it is by dwelling [there] that man ek-sists"; language speaks to man [see Letter on Humanism]. We can perhaps say that language is in a sense ontologically prior to Dasein [c]. We also find Heidegger appealing to a philosophical poetry. As he says:

The origin of language is in essence mysterious. And this means that language can only have arisen from the overpowering, the strange and terrible, through man's departure into being. In this departure language was being, embodied in the word: poetry. Language is the primordial poetry in which a people speaks being. [Introduction to Metaphysics, ch. 4, 4.]

In particular he looks to the writings of Hölderlin to restore this pristine relationship to Being.

In his Unterwegs zur Sprache he introduces the concept of 'the Fourfold' (das Geviert). By this somewhat mythical notion he seems to be referring to the cosmos as an 'interplay' between earth, sky, man and the gods and which constitutes the 'saying' of Being to man, through 'poetic' language, as it were. Despite the seeming obscurity of Heidegger's remarks, it is arguable that there is a certain thread of continuity in his developing philosophy — a thread belonging to the concept of temporality. Shortly after Being and Time had been published he introduced a distinction between the temporality of Dasein (Zeitlichkeit) and the temporality of Being (Temporalitt). Unfortunately his account of the latter and its relation to Dasein is incomplete and not worked out systematically; and it is unclear how it fits in with other distinctions already made in Being and Time between temporal and atemporal realms of Being. The temporal realm, he claims, is subdivided into two modes, Nature and History; the atemporal realm into the Extra-temporal and the Supra-temporal. Now in what sense is being extra- or supra-temporal? Is he referring here to some kind of Husserlian realm of Essence? And how can Dasein belong to both categories of history (qua person) and Nature? Can Dasein confront Nature 'in itself', that is, prior to both its 'present-at-handedness' and 'ready-to-handedness'? Is this what is implicit in the concept of the 'Fourfold' and to be achieved through the poetic? Is there a suggestion here of a mystical strain in Heidegger's last years — a pointing to atemporal Being beyond all understanding? [d]

 

HERMENEUTICS

[6] Heidegger's later work, with his emphasis on the ontological primacy of language, his 'translation' of Greek texts, his quest for a 'philosophical poetry' to 'reveal' Being (and thereby Dasein) is clearly of major significance in hermeneutics. But the foundations for his own contribution are already to be found clearly set out in Being and Time [secs 31, 32]. Consistently with his rejection of 'theoreticism' and his emphasis on the 'engaged agency' of Dasein, he thinks of interpretation as involving a grasp of the nature of a thing by reference to its role, that is, as a tool or piece of equipment functioning in the context of an agent's choice of possibilities towards the fulfilment of his project. However, he distinguishes between a wider sense and a narrower sense of the term. In its wider sense (Auslegung) it covers our everyday skills and activities. In the narrower sense Interpretation (with a capital 'I') (Interpretierung) refers to theoretical, philosophical, academic reflection on phenomena, including reflection as a specific interpretation. Indeed Being and Time itself is an Interpretation in that it is a philosophical exploration of Dasein. But all interpretation, he says, is grounded on understanding [sec. 33] [a] — the second aspect of Dasein's relation to Being [see sec. 2]. It follows that Interpretation must also assimilate all attempts of Dasein to explicate the Being of Nature — including the findings of the mathematical and natural sciences. But whereas traditionally such sciences have presupposed the possibility of achieving an 'objective' explanation of the 'world' (as against the 'understanding' which supposedly characterized the 'human' sciences), Heidegger's radical shift and redefinition of understanding and Interpretation shows the impotence of the natural sciences in this respect. These sciences are 'paradigmatic' not because of their exactitude or alleged universality but because the entities they deal with are discovered in them "by the prior projection of their state of Being" (the only way, he says, in which entities can be discovered) [H. 362]. The implication of this position is that the sharp dichotomy between the Naturwissenschaften and the Geisteswissenschaften is overcome: "All understanding... operates in the fore-structure" [H. 152]. Both kinds of sciences are modes of Interpretation but have different functions in relation to human engagement with the world and the quest for its meaning (he refers to this engagement as "primary understanding") [b]. "Mathematics [for example] is not more rigorous than historiology, but only narrower, because the existential foundations relevant for it lie within a narrower range" [H. 153].

Heidegger's account of Interpretation and his rejection of any possibility of an objective 'mirroring' of nature raises a serious problem concerning truth. All understanding, Heidegger says, is circular; and we cannot get outside this hermeneutic circle. So how do we decide between different interpretations? In the last analysis the test seems to be a pragmatic one: whether Dasein's 'engagement' with the phenomenal world — with respect to either 'possibilities' or 'factuality' — is successful. And ultimately success is to be judged in terms of the 'authenticity' or 'genuineness' of Dasein's progressive revelation to itself of Being — of which it is the primary manifestation [c].

 

AESTHETICS

[7] ['The Origins of the Work of Art' (in PLT).] Heidegger rejects both subjectivist views of art and the more 'classical' view that the value of a work of art lies in its relation to, say, beauty or pleasure. For him the value pertains to what the work does, namely, showing us what a 'thing' is — discloses its being [PLT, 20-39]. There are of course different kinds of things. There are natural objects such as a rock, and useful things such as a shoe. What of things depicted in or fashioned by works of art? Such works do not of themselves have a specific purpose: they need to be interpreted. He makes his position clear by examining Van Gogh's painting of a peasant's shoes [32ff.] and the example of a Greek temple [41ff.]. And to bring out the meaning of 'thing' he adapts the Aristotelian notions of form and matter [26ff.]. In our everyday world we think of shoes only in terms of utility. This is the 'form' imposed on the 'matter' ( the leather, and so on, of which they are made. But the painting shows us, partly 'opens', 'clarifies' how the objects are involved both with the 'world' (that is, human products and activities, the region of 'possibilities, values, tools) and with the 'earth' [cf Geviert] which is 'actuality', raw materials, and that which 'resists' and partly conceals human possibilties. Similarly the temple utilizes (but does not use up) 'earthy' raw materials and sets up a structure which articulates human activity: it is a cultural artefact which has functional significance.

All art, Heidegger says, is Dichtung [PLT, 72]. By this he means in general 'invention', 'composition', but in a narrower sense poetry. In so far as it effects unconcealment through language Dichtung in the narrower sense of poetic composition (poeisis) is primary; it is in this opened-up realm that the other arts (painting, architecture, sculpture) can function. Its essence is to 'found' truth [57-78]; that is, (i) it 'bestows it' as a gift; (ii) grounds it in the 'earth'; (iii) initiates and prepares the way for its revelation. Truth establishes itself through all human cultural activity: it sets itself into work; it shines forth in "the nearness of that which is not simply being, but the being that is most of all"; it grounds itself in "essential sacrifice", and in the thinker's questioning [ibid. 61-2]. Art always attains its historical essence as a founding, when beings as a whole require grounding in openness [75]. In Greek times, through art being was revealed as presence; in the mediaeval era beings were transformed into divine creations; in the modern age of technology beings were made into manipulatable entities. But in these modes art brings about opening, 'unconcealment' (truth as aletheia), and faciltitates human endeavour. We might say even that art uses man [a], art being the 'origin' (Ursprung — 'primordial leap') of the work of art and of its creator and preserver, thereby 'grounding' the 'historical' movement of beings in general towards their realization of potential, their destiny: "When beings as a whole require grounding in openness, art always attains to its historical essence as founding" [75].

Heidegger is often seen as critical of modern technology. [See 'The Question Concerning Technology'.] However, he has in mind here inauthentic technology — as when it threatens to control us, or conceals the 'earth-world struggle, ignores the 'Mystery of Being'. It is allowable as a means for opening up truth but only if we open ourselves to its essence — which is contingent on our use and attitude. [Note that techne in Greek means 'work of art', 'skill', 'craft'.] Here he contrasts the Greek temple with a power station on the Rhine.

 

CRITICAL SUMMARY

What are we to make of Heidegger? A controversial figure both as a thinker and a human being, he has been regarded by many critics, particularly those in the logical positivist and analytical traditions, as a charlatan, the writer of dense, almost unreadable, indeed nonsensical tomes; by others he has been lauded as the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. His undeniably equivocal attitude towards National Socialism has of course not helped his philosophy to receive a fair hearing. Nevertheless, his influence, not only in philosophy but also in the fields of literature, theology, psychology, has — for good or ill — been immense. His existential-phenomenological analysis of man as an alienated being; his plea for a return to Being as revealed through Dasein or (in his later work) through language; his critique of what he saw as dehumanizing technology — all this has had a considerable impact on twentieth century thought.

Three general objections can be made here.

(1) Some critics have suggested that Heidegger's project fails because he never really passed beyond the finitude of man himself: Being remains 'hidden'. He would of course have rejected this, arguing that Being is partially revealed through Dasein (which is itself a manifestation of Being), or (in the later stages of his thought) through language.

(2) Heidegger's language has of course been the object of criticism and often ridicule. Many opponents have said that his convoluted neologisms are totally disproportionate to what, at the end of the day, his philosophy 'boils down' to, namely, that we humans are fragile and insecure beings in the face of a seemingly hostile cosmos. Against this it might be said that such criticisms are superficial and ignore the difficulty of the task Heidegger had set himself and the seeming intractability of the philosophical problems he was addressing. It remains an open question whether his ideas could have been developed more clearly: one must also of course allow for the Germanic tradition in which he had been philosophically educated. Furthermore, one might charitably suggest that many of the extraordinary etymologies of German and Greek words he proposed in his later writings represent a deliberate attempt to shock the reader into a realization of the absolute primacy of language and to encourage him or her to attempt to break through its limitations and distortions to discover Being itself. (His 'hero' Hölderlin provides a precedent for this.)

(3) These two criticisms lead on to a third: that Heidegger's espousal of the 'hermeneutic circle' commits him to a 'relativist' and antirealist position. Certainly, there are real difficulties for such notions as belief and truth — which, together with all 'interpretations', necessarily operate within the 'circle'. But arguably it is mistaken to think of him as an antirealist in any strong sense (such as would be more appropriately applied to, say, Derrida and other 'post-structuralists'). Being for Heidegger can be 'grasped', albeit through Dasein's practical engagement with the world; and while there is a plurality of possible 'frameworks' through which this engagement can be articulated, it is the same 'reality' which is being meaningfully revealed. Heidegger might then be more accurately described as a 'weak realist'. However this remains a contentious issue.

.So, notwithstanding the seeming impenetrability of Heidegger's writings, they should be studied as far as possible with an open mind; the problems he grappled with throughout his life are genuine philosophical aporiai, and how he sought to solve them should be taken seriously even if we come to a considered conclusion that he was radically mistaken, his solutions untenable.

 

READING

Heidegger: [of many works] Sein und Zeit (1927) (Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson); Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik (1929) (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. J. S. Churchill); Einfhrung in die Metaphysik (1953) (Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. R. Manheim); Unterwegs zur Sprache (1950-59) (On the Way to Language, trans. P. D. Hertz). Collections of essays: Wegmarken (1967) [essays 1919-1961] (Pathmarks, various translators, ed. W. McNeill). The essay 'Der Ursprung der Kunstwerkes' ('The Origin of the Work of Art') (based on 1935 lectures and originally in Holzwege, essays 1935-6) is included in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. A. Hofstadter, and in Basic Writings, ed. D. Krell (which contains a number of other useful essays); 'Die Frage nach der Technik' ('The Question Concerning Technology') is in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. W. Lovitt.

Studies:

Introductory

M. Inwood, Heidegger.

R. Polt, Heidegger: An Introduction.

G. Steiner, Heidegger.

More advanced

M. Gelven, A Commentary on Heidegger's 'Being and Time'.

O. Pöggeler, Martin Heidegger's Path of Thinking.

R. Schmitt, Heidegger on Being Human.

Collections of essays

C. Guignon (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger.

M. Murray (ed.), Heidegger and Modern Philosophy.

 

 

CONNECTIONS

Heidegger

 

Note: Heidegger was committed to a general rejection of all previous philosophies from the Greeks down to Hegel — see especially 1a b, 4a, 5a. Necessarily the following Connections are selective and incomplete.

 

[1a; cf. 5a] Being (Sein) — criticism of being in terms of substance/ categories, etc. — Being as 'presence'; Being as thought and self-revelatory

   Heraclitus

   Parmenides

   [Representative
   philosophers: ]

   Plato

   Aristotle

   Descartes

   Kant

Rorty

[1f]

[1a]

   
   

[1b c]

[4a b]

[3a]

[2c d]

[1a]

 

[1b; see also 2d] Critique of correspondence/ 'mirroring' of world views of language; world determined by our understanding and hence practical involvement

   Aristotle

   Duns Scotus

   Kant

   Dewey

Ortega y Gasset

Gadamer

Rorty

[2a]

[1d]

[2d]

[2a]

[2a]

[1a b]

[1a]

 

[1c; cf. 2a-d] Phenomenology does not give unified meaning of Being; critique of transcendental ego; relevance of life and historical dimension to Being

   Dilthey

   Husserl

   Scheler

Gadamer

Sartre

Merleau-Ponty

[1a b]

[2a 2c 4b 5a]

[1b]

[1d]

[1c]

[1b]

 

[2a] Dasein — ourselves as beings 'thrown' into/ belonging to world; Dasein also as state of mind, understanding, discourse; cf. 'Life-world'

   Husserl

   Scheler

   Jaspers

Merleau-Ponty

[4b 8a]

[4b c]

[1b]

[1b c 2a 3c]

 

[2b; cf. 1c] Manifestation of human existentiality in reaching being through anticipated possibilities

   Kierkegaard

   Jaspers

Ortega y Gasset

Sartre

[1d]

[4b]

[3b]

[3a]

 

[2c — see 2a]      

 

[2d; cf. 1b] 'Present-at-handedness' (theoretical stance) and 'ready-to-handedness' (the latter primary)

   Husserl

   Scheler

Sartre

[2a]

[4b c]

[2a]

 

[2e] 'Worldhood' — primary object of intentionality (in terms of which theoretical and practical intentionality understood); no role for 'bracketing'

   Husserl

Sartre

Merleau-Ponty

[1c]

[1a c]

[3a b]

 

[2f; see also 2h]

Dasein (i) engaged in world, appropriates objects in accordance with needs/ projects;

(ii) as 'clearing' through which world entities are revealed; 'facticity' as limiting factors

Merleau-Ponty

Ricoeur

[1b]

[4b]

 

[2g] 'Care' — involvement of 'being-in-the-world' through which we make sense of existence; recognition of the 'other' belongs to Dasein essentially (no appeal to 'empathy', etc.)

   Husserl

   Scheler

Sartre

Merleau-Ponty

[7b]

[1g]

[4a]

[3e]

 

[2h; cf. 2f] Alienation, inauthentic existence, recognition of finitude → 'anxiety'; Dasein and 'nothing' (as 'clearing' for 'self-presencing' of being

   Kierkegaard

   Jaspers

   Ortega y Gasset

Sartre

Merleau-Ponty

[1c d]

[4b]

[3a]

[2b c 6d]

[4b]

 

[2i; cf. 1b 2d] Freedom in choice but limitation through historical situation, body, psychology, life events, etc.

   Kant

   Ortega y Gasset

Sartre

Merleau-Ponty

[7a]

[1c]

[4c]

[3g]

 

[3a; but see 2g] Dasein comprehends Jemeinigkeit and totality of death; care in Dasein's 'Being-ahead-of-itself' Ricoeur [8d 9a]

 

[3b] Conscience provides 'attestation' for Dasein's being a potentiality-for- Being-its-Self Ricoeur [5a 7a c]

 

[3c] Ontology of Dasein and self: distinction between permanence of substance and self-constancy; Being-in-the-world and 'horizon'

   Kant

   Husserl

Ricoeur

[3f]

[8a]

[5h 7c]

 

[3d] Dasein's temporality (inauthentic and authentic) and historicity; guilt, death, etc.

   Aristotle

   Augustine

   Kant

   Hegel

   Dilthey

   Husserl

   Bergson

   Jaspers

   Ortega y Gasset

Gadamer

Merleau-Ponty

[12c]

[6a]

[2b]

[4b]

[1a]

[6c]

[1b]

[1c]

[1c]

[1d]

[3d]

 

[4a] Phenomenological 'destruction' of history of ontology → to 'dissolve' concealment of Being Derrida [1a]

 

[5a; cf. 1a 4a] phusis = logos in early Greek thought; quest for meaning of 'essents' and essence of Being (restricted and forgotten concept)

   Heraclitus

   Parmenides

   Aristotle

Ricoeur

[1f 3a]

[1a]

[9a]

[7b]

 

[5b] Move from centrality/ subjectivity of Dasein (as agent of revelation of Being) to view of man's utilization by Being to 'keep it safe' Merleau-Ponty [4b]

 

[5c] Language (i) instrument used by Dasein; (ii) that in which man 'ek-sists' and through which Being is disclosed (language onto logically prior?)

Gadamer

Merleau-Ponty

Ricoeur

[2a d]

[5c d]

[4a]

 

[5d] The mythical 'Fourfold' → mystical atemporal Being beyond understanding?

   Schelling

   Jaspers

   Sartre

[3c 6e]

[2a]

[3b]

 

[6a] Interpretation as grasp of a thing's nature — role in context of agent's choice of possibilities to fulfil project; interpretation as (i) skill, activity, (ii) theoretical reflection — both grounded in understanding (Verstehen) (as primary sense)

Gadamer

Ricoeur

[1b]

[2c]

 

[6b] Natural and human sciences have different functions but both modes of Interpretation (relating to man's engagement with world — 'primary understanding')

   Dilthey

Gadamer

Ricoeur

[2a b]

[3a]

[2d 4b]

 

[6c] Problem of truth (given criticism of 'mirroring'): 'hermeneutic circle' — pragmatic solution (in authenticity of Dasein's revelation of Being

   Dewey

   Scheler

Gadamer

[2a]

[5c]

[2e]

 

[7a; cf. 5c d] Rejection of subjectivist, relativist, and 'classical' theories of art; art discloses 'being' of things, 'founds' truth; art as Dichtung (primacy of language) 'uses' man

   Aristotle

   Kant

   Hegel

   Schelling

   Nietzsche

Gadamer

[23a b]

[9c]

[8b]

[sec.5]

[1a]

[1c]