Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

II. The twofold task in working out the question of Being. Method and design of our investigation

This is a summary of Heidegger's second introduction to Being and Time.

5. The ontological analytic of Dasein as laying bare of the horizon for an interpretation of the meaning of Being in general.

Dasein is a tricky thing to analyse in that it is in some respect obvious to us and in some other obscure. MH writes that "Dasein is ontically 'closest' to itself and ontologically farthest; but pre-ontologically it is surely not a stranger." As regard to its existence, we understand it immediately since "we are it". But "in spite of this, or rather for just this reason", it is the most difficult thing to really understand in its essence, because we are naturally inclined to consider it as obvious, self-evident. However, intuitively we have some sort of embryonic understanding of its essence since "Dasein is in such a way as to be something which understands something like Being". To perform an analytic of Dasein we must "choose such a way of access and such a kind of interpretation that this entity can show itself in itself and from itself".

MH announces that "we shall point to temporality as the meaning of the Being of that entity which we call "Dasein"," and that "we shall show that whenever Dasein tacitly understands and interprets something like Being, it does so with time as its standpoint". And in consequence, "time needs to be explicated primordially as the horizon for the understanding of Being, and in terms of temporality as the Being of Dasein, which understands Being." But the conception of time required will have to depart from the ordinary understanding of time (in particular time as a "criterion for naively discriminating various realms of entities", such as temporal, non-temporal, 'supra-temporal' eternal entities...).

"The central problematic of all ontology is rooted in the phenomenon of time, if rightly seen and rightly explained".

6. The task of destroying the history of ontology

Dasein's own past "is not something which follows along after Dasein, but something which already goes ahead of it" (Dasein "is its past"). This has the perverse effect that Dasein "falls prey to the tradition of which it has more or less explicitly taken hold. This tradition keeps him from providing its own guidance, whether inquiring or in choosing". And this also holds true for ontological understanding. Tradition "becomes master" and conceals itself. "It blocks our access to those primordial 'sources' from which the categories and concepts handed down to us have been in part quire genuinely drawn". The Greek ontology has thus "deteriorated to a tradition in which it gets reduced to something self-evident". Then "in the Middle Ages this uprooted Greek ontology became a fixed body of doctrine". Subsequent concepts such as "the ego cogito of Descartes, the subject, the "I", reason, spirit, person" (...) "all remain uninterrogated as to their Being". Just like in certain oriental philosophies, the primordial clarity of mind has deteriorated throughout history into rigidified clich├ęs.

Our task is clear: "we are to destroy the traditional content of ancient ontology". AC/DC man! But nihilist enthusiasm is inappropriate: this destruction is "far from having the negative sense of shaking off the ontological tradition" (or "bury the past in nullity"). "We must, on the contrary, stake out the positive possibilities of that tradition, and this always means keeping it within its limits".

The point of departure for the task of destroying the problematic of Temporality will be the Kantian doctrine of time. After all, Kant is "the first and only person who has gone any stretch of the way towards investigating the dimension of Temporality". Still he didn't go very far because he "took over Descartes' position quite dogmatically". And Descartes, with his radical discovery of the 'cogito sum', left undetermined the meaning of the Being of the 'sum'. He "is 'dependent' upon medieval scholasticism". Furthermore, "Kant's basic ontological orientation remains that of the Greeks", and more precisely that of Aristotle.

In summary, the strategy is clear: in order to concretely address the question of Being with time as a horizon we must first destroy the associated tradition "until we arrive at those primordial experiences in which we achieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being".

7. The phenomenological method of investigation