(for part I go here)
Knee-deep into ontological shit
I feel there’s plenty to mine from the first part of the introduction. On p. 16, Heidegger says that Dasein has a number of positions:
- Ontic: the special position is ontic, in which existence determines this being in its being.
- Ontological: Dasein is itself ontological, based on its existence. Dasein is the ontic-ontological condition of all ontology.
- Dasein is ontologically primary being that precedes all Being that is the object of inquiry (or questioning).
Yeah, so? This piece is actually quite thought-provoking. That is, if you can handle the number of beings and ontologies and onticalities and existences…
The ontic considers the things that are, so Dasein’s ontic position has to do with where things are & in this that which makes it special is its existence. In other words, its ability to reflect upon its own possibilities and come up with a purpose for itself. That makes it quite different from things like the decaying wooden fence outside my window.
The ontological level is about the structure of being, and Dasein in this regards is different, since like I said, its being is itself ontological, since its mode of being is to question its own being. Dasein is obsessed with its own being, and ultimately differs in its structure of being precisely in which its structure includes its way of reflecting upon this very structure.
Basically it seems that we have a self-consciousness that reflects upon itself, and more importantly that it is a necessary condition for us: we are self-conscious & reflect upon ourselves and can do nothing else.
Not only is Dasein trying to understand itself, it also tries to understand that which is not Dasein (nature or objective world). Since ontology is the reflection upon the structure of being & Dasein isn’t just the only one doing that, it’s the only being that can do that. Dasein’s determining attribute is the ability to ask questions. Thus the necessary condition of all ontology in general isDasein – the only being that can have an ontology, the inquiry to the structure of being.
In a nutshell: only self-conscious beings are able to ask & only asking beings are able to even try to understand being, no matter if those other kinds of things are themselves part of being.
Nothingness remains a plank in my eye
After consulting Hubert Dreyfus’ excellent Being-In-The-World (I’ve stayed away from it in this reading group just to keep my impressions authentic), I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been reading Heidegger with Sartrean goggles and I have yet to wean myself off them when it comes to phenomenology. First love dies hard.
Dreyfus insists that Dasein isn’t a conscious subject for the term “Dasein” means everyday human existence, and Heidegger uses it to refer to human being. That doesn’t necessarily mean Dasein is only a self-conscious subject. Early interpreters have fallen in the same rut as Sartre, likely because they approached Heidegger through Sartre, and ended up reading Heidegger as an existential phenomenologist.
However, I do not have the benefit of reading ahead, where Heidegger says “…if we posit an ‘I’ or subject as that which is primarily given, we shall completely miss the phenomenal content of Dasein” (p. 72) and neither do I remember much from the class I took on Heidegger in several years back.
Thus Dasein is understood to be more basic than mental states & intentionality. Some interpreters go the other way and claimDasein is the masses. But Heidegger uses the term to signify an individual throughout the book, particularly in Division II, so the golden means between a self-conscious individual and the masses is human being, for it can refer to both all people & a person, without being either one exclusively.
Then again, Dasein, essentially self-interpreting, has no nature. And at the same time Dasein understands itself as having a specific essential nature, and bases its action in this understanding of a “human nature” and is comfortable in being a member of a country or an ethnic group.
Regarding Dasein, Heidegger avoids from making dogmatic statement what constitutes the meaning of Dasein, because the existential analysis must begin with account of Dasein in its everydayness. In other words, the most uncritical mode of daily life that where even the most profound live.
Talking about the everyday self allows experience to speak for itself. This avoids limiting Dasein to a criteria that reduces analysis to an aspect of Dasein’s being. The entire point is to study what it means to be.
The fact of everydayness is a vague awareness. Awareness of being is not some mysterious, transient & mystical knowledge or insight. But everyday perspective must be transcended to a perspective of ontological insight, after the entire range of everyday perspective is examined thoroughly.
In all the ways in which a person can be said to be, the understanding of such ways is limited by finitude. Non-temporal truths of logic and faith are also temporal since they’re understood by a person determined by temporal dimensions. To grasp what it means to be in time is to grasp what it means for Dasein to be at all.
Heidegger claims the temporality of Dasein has been long ignored, since questions are always temporal and partially determined by the context of the culture they emerge from. It seems reasonable because the questions we are likely to bring up in our culture are based on culture itself. We ask questions about the environment when the relationship between the environment and our culture become a problem.
The question about Being has to be temporal as well, and Heidegger says this has been forgotten. The tradition has hidden its foundations too well from itself. This is where Heidegger unleashes his most creative idea: the entire history of Western philosophy has been a progressive cumulation of forgetting, and we must return to the very core to reinterpret the thinkers of antiquity.
They were the original context in which the question of Being emerged first, and that context has been buried by the tradition that dropped the problem and ran away with the answers.
Here, Heidegger brings up the idea of “Destruction” in which tradition has to be shattered into pieces in order to reveal what was buried within. Then we shall navigate back through 2300 years of philosophy to its core to rehabilitate the meaning of Being.
This shows a strong Nietzschean influence, as in his unrelenting critique of philosophy, and is easily my favorite part.
It’s important to note that Heidegger chose the Latinate Destruktion instead of the German word for destruction (Zerstorung).Destruktion should be understood as de-struere, ‘de-construct’ or ‘ab-bauen’ rather than devastation. That which covers up the sense of being or structures that pile on top of each other, making the sense unrecognizable is deconstructed.
Thus, destruction doesn’t mean Heidegger is about to destroy or overthrow the entire history of philosophy. However, one must do violence to the history of thought. Destruction is hermeneutic violence, for it resists the traditional understanding and goes against it. Take your own approach and problem and under the guiding rules of this problem prod the thinker with your questions and reinterpret what they actually said and test the spirit or power of their thought. Heidegger engages the past thinkers in a dialogue about his topic, the meaning of being.
Due to the impediment of the traditional meaning of Being the past thinkers ended up speaking of existents instead. Despite their failure, given that they’re the greatest thinkers they did implicitly say much to add to the meaning of being.
Heidegger has a strategy when confronting the past thinkers: First, point out the major error they made in failing to recognize difference between Sein and Seienden (things that exist). Then show how much what they said is relevant to the question of being.
Heidegger breaks the ice to loosen the tradition that froze around the ideas of the past thinkers. Traditions are the work of lesser minds that freezes and destroy the creativity of the original thinkers. School of philosophies do more damage and dishonor to a thinker than a violent antagonist. I’m reminded of Bertrand Russell’s comment: I would rather be reported by my bitterest enemy among philosophers than by a friend innocent of philosophy.
If Heidegger distills insights from Kant, Aristotle, or Descartes about question of being that no tradition has ever heard of, then what the thinkers actually meant becomes trivial. Heidegger doesn’t change what they said, but instead force them to give up a secret that wasn’t obvious before. If Heidegger does succeed, then the complaint the older thinkers didn’t mean what Heidegger says, because it’s not traditional, merely begs the question. How they implicitly dealt with the question of Being affects our understanding of it & is a legitimate part of the inquiry as to how Dasein understands its own being.
This is probably Heidegger’s least clear or worst written section. Phenomenology is the new movement in philosophy devised by Heidegger’s teacher Husserl in which it attempts to present a ‘non-metaphysical’ description of the objects of experience. In other words, no traditional philosophical terminology bearing ontological monstrosities within. Husserl devised a method in order to discover the essences of things as experienced by a universal transcendental ego that is independent of culture, history, or philosophy.
Heidegger however dismisses most of his mentor’s beliefs about essences, and accused him of only repeating Descartes’ error by reducing Dasein into a thing. Since Dasein’s being is interpretative activity, Heidegger calls this hermeneutics. What I find interesting is Heidegger’s attempt to unify phenomenology with hermeneutics. Phenomenology seems transcendental, in which the essential structures of everyday Dasein are analyzed in the way they make possible the modes of Dasein’s being. But at the same time, Dasein’s temporality has a historical aspect in Dasein’s interpretive activities. It seems that there are no uninterpreted facts for phenomenology, no foundations, which puts severe doubt to letting facts speak for themselves in phenomenology.
It will be interesting to see how Heidegger balances the transcendental requirements of phenomenology with the temporal aspect of historicism or hermeneutic aspect of Dasein.
Dasein understands itself in time & through time. Therefore, a historical approach of Dasein is necessary and to uncover the foundations of this understanding all that is piled on it and obstructs it must be removed through the method of Heideggerian destruction.
So the study begins from time and the way Dasein understands itself in time, and through the foundations that are unhidden, we can attempt to understand the more general Being.