The point of Being and Time: To properly formulate the question, What is being? so as to draw forth its meaning.
The process of reading B&T is sort of like being zoomed in on a pixel of a photograph and slowly zooming out to see the context. Which explains why my first reading in college was so infuriating—I had no sense of where things were going, I had no context for understanding. Now that I’m on my second reading I hope I’ll be able to provide some of that context as I start from the beginning, although a blog post is certain to be inadequate. Maybe, though, it will be a jumping-off point for further reading.
Well, let’s start with some terminology. (With this I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg, and even so we may not get any farther in this post):
phenomena: Heidegger often seeks the meaning etymologically, so we, too, will go back to the Greek: φαινόμενoν (phainomenon) which he takes to mean “to bring something to light.” “φαινω” (phaino) is closely related to φῶς (phos), which means “light.” He calls phenomena
“the totality of what lies in the light of day or can be brought to the light—what the Greeks sometimes identified simply with τὰ ὄντα (ta onta, entities)” (29).
So here we already see that phenomena is tied to beings or things. As if all we needed to do was turn on the light. But how did Being remain in the dark until Heidegger came along? Well Heidegger’s answer is that we’ve been asking the wrong questions. The mind-body problem has never been a legitimate problem.
The study of Being will turn out to be possible only through phenomenology. This is a radical claim.
Heidegger defines phenomenology as: “to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself”…aaaaannnnd…this is when we try not to throw the book against the wall in despair. Or we go ahead and throw it just to vent…
Why all the verbiage?
Well, he’s being careful here. Phenomena can be challenging. Sometimes phenomena present themselves in a straightforward way, like this coffee mug before me. Other times phenomena point outside themselves, like a symptom pointing to a disease. For instance, a runny nose, a cough, etc. are indicative of something behind them, causing them; namely, a cold. So the reason Heidegger adds “in the very way in which it shows itself” is because appearances can be taken to mean a mere semblance. In other words, it can reveal itself as something which it is not. (29)
We have thus far two kinds of phenomena:
a) “appearances” that show themselves
b) “appearances” that, in showing themselves, show what they are not. Symbols, metaphors, symptoms, illusions, and indicators are all in this category.
The latter is constituted in the former. Without straightforward appearances, there would be no indicators. The latter are in a reference-relationship to the former (31).
Then there’s another kind of phenomenon:
c) “appearances” “brought forth” that do not make up the real Being of what it brings forth, but constantly keep the thing it announces veiled (30).
c) sounds mysterious. I think I know where he’s going with this, but I would only be guessing. For now let’s just take Heidegger’s definition of phenomenology at face value—as that which shows itself in the very way in which it shows itself. Soon we will see how his phenomenology is distinguished from Husserl’s, which I discussed more fully here.
In order to understand Heidegger’s stance on phenomenology, we need to know what noumena is: It’s an unknowable thing-in-itself, which cannot be experienced. The word is often used in opposition to phenomena and is a term used by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason. There, Kant gives examples of noumena: God, the soul, freedom, and objects as they exist ‘in-themselves,’ apart from our experience of them. For Kant, noumena is ‘behind’ phenomena in a causal relationship, but noumena are never directly experienced.
It helps to take the phenomena/noumena divide into the context of phenomenology. While Husserl ignores noumena, simply setting it aside in order to focus on the phenomena, Heidegger outright rejects noumena in order to find the meaning of Being phenomenologically. Imagine it like this:
Husserl explicitly turns away from the question of being itself in merely bracketing noumena (in the earlier post on Husserl, the thing bracketed was designated “the natural attitude,” but it amounts to the same thing). His phenomenology is simply not concerned with things as they are “in themselves” in the Kantian sense. Husserl wants only to describe the phenomena as it appears, taking no positive stance on noumena.
Heidegger makes a positive claim: Being itself and its meaning can be disclosed to us. It’s not something “out there” beyond experience causing our experiences. Dualism (the mind-body problem) is predicated on a huge mistake that has carried through the whole history of Western philosophy (of which more in future posts).
For Heidegger, being is hidden, but only because we don’t pose the question of being properly, not because it is inherently inaccessible. Phenomena never lie. Nothing is hidden behind the phenomena.
In the next post I’ll discuss the mistake we are inclined to make in posing the question of being, and why we make this mistake.
Another thing. This post took me for-freaking-ever to write. And this was the easy one. So the next post may not come too rapidly…although hopefully I’ll gain some direction from your comments.
83 thoughts on “Heidegger’s Being and Time (Part I: Phenomenology)”
Team Arendt! Perhaps team Husserl? Team anyone but Heidegger?
More seriously, thank you for this. As someone who doesn’t really do Continental philosophy in a mainly Continental philosophy department, my lack of Heidegger knowledge is often conversationally prohibitive.
You are welcome! You know, as I wrote it, I thought, “I hope this serves someone well for cocktail parties.” Really, really…I did have this thought. And my next thought was, “Tina, when have YOU ever discussed Heidegger at a cocktail party?” Then I became jealous of everyone who discusses Heidegger at cocktail parties. 🙂
My hopes are that you will be able to read this and have it as a starting point. I’m sure your colleagues are going to have a lot more to say about Heidegger than I will. I’m running each post by my husband first to make sure I don’t mislead anyone too badly.
I’m hoping to go on up through Being and Time until I get to readiness-to-hand and presence-at-hand. After that distinction, I couldn’t make much sense of the book the first time through. The stuff about anxiety and care etc., left me mystified. But who knows, maybe I’ll find myself wanting to read on? I’m already surprised at how this whole thing turned from a single blog post into a project.
I’m surprised to hear you say you don’t do Continental philosophy. I was under the impression you did.
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Heidegger is one of the reasons I stopped going out for drinks with colleagues. I’d just sit there blinking until someone brought up Plato and then snap back to life. This is actually going to be very, very helpful at cocktail parties and department receptions.
And that’s the trick with philosophy. A single blog post is never enough – I keep fully intending my Philosopher Fridays posts to be complete, but each philosopher seems to end up a multi-post series. Heck, I keep intending my Philosopher’s lexicon posts to be under 500 words, and that doesn’t seem to be working out at all!
My philosophical category is a little confusing; I’m trained in a very Continental style and am thus definitely not an Analytic philosopher, but I don’t focus on any German or French philosophers – but nor am I properly and Ancient philosopher or Medievalist, or even a philosophical historian, as I tend to work in extended thematic narratives. I defy category!
Wow, now I’m really jealous. You really do get to talk about Heidegger at cocktail parties? I end up talking about the weather, which is an especially boring topic in Tucson. Although in all honesty, if I did happen to find myself in a group that talked about Heidegger, I’d probably just listen since I don’t have enough of a grasp to really partake. Still, that would be great. And I’d do the same thing with Plato…”Oh Plato, I have something to say here. Oh wait, you’re discussing Cratylus? Never mind.” LOL
I’ve considered doing something more formal like what you’re doing, but I’m a bit too intimidated by structure. I do sort of wish I could get my posts organized, but I haven’t found the energy to figure it out. And 500 words? I don’t think I could ever write a post that short. I need to work on that.
At first I thought you were saying you were on the Analytic side of things, and I was pretty shocked by that since so many of your posts are Continental. I think it’s great that you defy category! It sounds like you have your doors open for whatever comes your way.
I’ve never really gotten into Analytic stuff, mostly because a lot of it reads like a math problem to me. Heidegger’s hard to read, but it still doesn’t feel like math.
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That’s some heady stuff.
Haha, yes indeed. And this is the digested version. I just heard a lecture in which the lecturer tells his audience to just go ahead and skip the intro since it was written after the rest of the book. I kind of wish I had done that!
Quite a challenge you are taking up there! “Strong tobacco!” (to translate a slightly old fashioned German expression literally 🙂 ).
As far as I understand this, Heidegger equates being with phenomena. This appears as somehow naive to me.
In my opinion, the phenomena always also depend on the observer. They arise from the interaction of an observing system with some reality that “Is”. In my view, there is a distinction of phenomena and noumena, but the border between the two depends on the structure of the observer and since this structure can be changed, the border can be moved. It is moved through the evolution of animals, it is moved during our development from baby through child to adult to old person, and it is shifted during the history of culture and science. It is probably individually different as well, and different from culture to culture.
I must confess I put the book down after a short glance. Heidegger invents a lot of strange words or uses existing words in very unconventional ways (even grammatically), and it was hard for me to make sense even of a single sentence I read, and I was (and I still am) in doubt if it would be worth the effort to penetrate that book. His language sometimes has some poetic power, but it is not very clear. I don’t know how translators are dealing with this, it must be quite a challenge. I did not exactly throw the book at the wall, but I did not really try to get into it.
Since he is changing the language like that, then as an observer, he must have been looking at the world in a different way from me, so the phenomena he was seeing might be not the same ones I am seeing. If he was just dealing with the world as it appears, why did he feel the need to invent a new langugage? Everyday languages have had thousands of years of time to adapt to the everyday world. Was he not contradicting himself just by the way he dealt with language?
(Maybe a stupid question, I don’t know. I admit I do not really know what I am talking about here 🙂 )
Not at all a stupid question! And I was curious to hear what you’d say about Heidegger’s use of language as it is in the original German.
So why does Heidegger change language? Heidegger wants to get at the meaning of being in a radical way. He believes that our misapprehension of being is so deeply rooted that it has infiltrated our grammar. So in order to bring us to his view of being, he has to deconstruct language as well, get rid of its prejudices. This makes for some pretty tedious reading, but there could be a reason for it.
Thus far I haven’t gotten into how Heidegger proves these claims of his. I’m just trying to set things up properly so I don’t make a big mess of things. The main point will come in a blog post down the road when I get to presence-at-hand and readiness-to-hand. I hope you’ll stick around long enough to get there…after that point I didn’t find much of interest, but that was only on my first read…who knows what I’ll discover on my second read. I’m thinking the main point post will come after the next one, which I think will be on Dasein.
“Strong tobacco” indeed. If Heidegger turns out to be right, that will seriously affect your current view! I’m just hoping the strong tobacco doesn’t give us sore throats.
I have a question for you about German, actually: Does “Da” mean only “there”? or can it also mean “here and there” depending on context and how you say it? Our dictionary says it means “there”, but I heard a lecturer comment that it can mean both.
“Da” means “there”, but it may be there right in front of your nose. It does not imply distance. You can contrast it wiht “hier” and then it might refer to something more distant (“over there”, but there is another word “dort” with that meaning, so the opposition between “here and there” is “hier und dort”), but used alone, it is quite vague, so I can imagine instances where it could refer to “here and there”.
“Dasein” means to exist or existence, especially in the sense of (human) life. The term sounds Heideggerian, but it was there before (see https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=Dasein&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=20&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2CDasein%3B%2Cc0) although he might have influenced its connotations and has probably given the term a more specific meaning (if translators left it untranslated, then he certainly did).
Thanks for the clarification. That helps a lot. I’m going to talk about Dasein in my next post on Heidegger. I think he has a different definition, but I’ll leave that for later when I have time to give it some thought.
Dasein is indeed untranslated. I’ve heard that some even translate it as Da-sein with a hyphen. For non-German speakers, such a word comes across as very technical in its foreignness. I imagine it must be harder for German speakers to get a sense of the way Heidegger uses the word, as I would think it has a lot of different connotations in everyday speech.
“He believes that our misapprehension of being is so deeply rooted that it has infiltrated our grammar.” This is what I meant. The way the phenomena present themselves to us depends on our language. so the question is: is there a “true layer” you are getting at by clearing language of misapprehensions, or do you just construct a different percception by looking at what is there through a different set of concepts. Do you change the glasses (from pink to blue glass) or do you put them off? Is it possible to put them off?
The point that astonishes me in phenomenology is that the human mind seems to be taken for granted, Maybe I am misunderstanding them. The question I am interested in is how does the mind work and how does the structure of the mind influence the structure of the phenomena. In phenomenology, it looks like this question is left out. It is ok to “braket” the question, to deliberately leave it out of consideration and try to describe phenomena as they look to us. But just to ignore it looks somehow naive to me. The experienced world of a dog should be quite different from our own, because its mental system has a different structure. I cannot declare the world as experienced by humans to be what really exists. That would be anthropocentric. If we change the structure of the perceiving system, i.e. we add microscopes, telescopes, antennas, measuring devices, computers etc. to the system, the world as a result looks different. In Heideggers world, you can catch a cold but there are no rhinoviruses, and the mind has nothing to do with the brain (or maybe I am getting him totally wrong).
I think Heidegger would say there are no glasses. I think he’d also say that talking about “human mind” is a product of the dualism he’s trying to clear away. For him, there is no human mind over and against the world out there, making sense of it. The two coalesce as one. This is his thesis and we’ll see if he can make a good argument for it.
I see what you mean by preferring the bracketing of “noumena-natural world”. What Heidegger’s doing is truly different from Husserl.
That said, I’m not sure the objects of science necessarily go away. I don’t think he’d say there are no rhinoviruses or gravity or anything like that. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to do away with such things, as we still perceive them, only not with our eyes. I’m not doing a good job here, so I’ll come back to it later.
I’m glad you’re asking these questions. They’re going to help me in future posts!
I also want to add, the first time I read this, I felt like I was drowning. I had to read this for class and this came after reading Husserl’s “Ideas”. I can totally sympathize with your not wanting to take Heidegger seriously. In fact, in the margins of my book I have all kinds of nasty comments from when I read it the first time back in college. Heidegger’s language is absolutely infuriating. Even knowing that he was messing with grammar on purpose didn’t help. It really derailed me and made me think there was no point at all. I really thought he was being an obscurantist because he had nothing to say.
However, the presence-at-hand / readiness-to-hand issue kept ringing in my head as something that needed to be thought about, but the rest I didn’t care for. I won’t say too much here about it because I want to organize my thoughts first.
When I first read Heidegger, I believed Husserl was the careful one, whereas Heidegger was a sort of bastard child of phenomenology. I mean I really hated his stuff. Husserl brought forth all the wonderful things about phenomenology without disturbing that scientific way of viewing the world. Heidegger wants to change things, but I’m still unclear about what he will say about science itself. I have many questions myself. I may go back to my original view, that Husserl’s phenomenology is better, but we’ll see!
Husserl had a background in mathematics and physics. Heidegger, I think, did not have such a background. If you take the experienced world as the world that is, and thats it (maybe I am misunderstanding him, I don’t know) then there cannnot be any deeper understanding of science. Your science will look like that of Aristotle. The coffee mug is a coffee mug, it does not consist of crystalites of some silicates (or whatever). Does it even have anything behind the glazing (until you smash it?). Does it have a micro-structure? The physical mug depends on gravitation (think of using one in a space station). But is there gravitaion in Heidegger’s world. Things have a natural tendency to move downward (like in Aristotle’s world). That is the phenomenon. There is nothing to explain, neither in the phenomena nor in the mind. It is like it is.
I think Husserl describes the experienced world as it is experienced, but he would recognize that one could try to explain it. He is just not interested in the explanation and trys to see how far he can get with a description. Thats OK for me. But equating the experienced world with reality is a naive view (in my oppinion). I don’t know if that is Heideggers view, but that is the impression I am getting.
I have the same questions about Heidegger’s take on the possibility of science as we know it. I don’t know the answer to this.
I do think, however, that in the case of gravity, it’s not clear that Heidegger only wants to admit visible phenomena. I think he will turn out to be much broader than that…I think he must be if he’s to be consistent. So yes, we drop a cup and see it fall to the ground—this is what WE take as phenomena. Then we come up with theories to explain it. The theory is NOT a phenomenon, by our typical scientific understanding of the word, and we think gravity comes from our minds. I don’t think Heidegger would approve of this kind of division because it depends on dualism.
I will have to address Heidegger’s stance on science at some point because I’m dying to know the answer.
Husserl was more sympathetic to science as we know it. He certainly had a real respect for it. I had that feeling when I was reading him; he’s careful. This care comes across as very tedious, but in an entirely different, less infuriating way from Heidegger. I’ve always felt that Husserl was abandoned prematurely and everyone went flocking to Heidegger’s sexier and bolder philosophy. Husserl just never took off in that way.
But anyways, I mustn’t think this way. I’m trying not to be biased against Heidegger.
Of course, my comments here migt be a result of missunderstandings. My understanding of Heidegger is, in a way, based on hearsay, and that is, of course, unfair.
I am looking forward to your next post on him. I still cannot say I understand him. What I think I understand I find partially weired and partially naive. Like the ontology of a four year old child. But its probably lack of understanding on my side. We will see.
Another problem I have with him (but that is a totally different topic, or isnt it (?)) is that he was a nazi. After the war, he never distanced himself from it. What is wrong with the thinking or the feeling of somebody who is intelligent enough to become a professor of philosophy, and does not distance himself from that after all the evidence that was there after the war. They would have killed his ex-girlfriend Hannah Arendt, after all. I find it a bit strange and I would like to understand if or how his philosophy (maybe his later one, since I hear that he changed his ideas after Beeing and Time) is intrinsically connected to the thinking of the nazis. Does his way of thinking somehow shut down critical reflection? Is it somehow connected to authoritarian structures?
However, that is a totally different discussion (and I think there is quite a lot of literature on that topic, probably mostly in German) and one I do not expect from you, except you should feel like taking up that topic.
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You know, I try not to think about that aspect of him while I’m reading (otherwise every time I hit a stumbling block with him I start dismissing him on that basis), but it’s hard not to think about that. And to think that Husserl was Jewish! He dedicates Being and Time to him. It’s all quite perplexing.
I don’t really know much about his background. From what I’ve read, it’s unclear. It’s not a good sign that he joined the Nazi party and remained a member, but he did stop going to meetings the after a year and resigned his position in the party. Still, why didn’t he dissociate himself more? I’d be curious to see if Nazi ideology is somehow in his work. So far I haven’t seen anything pointing to that. I see more of that in Nietzsche than in this work by Heidegger, but I think in Nietzsche’s case it was he who influenced the Nazis.
So as I read I’ll keep my eye out for anything that might be revealing. I doubt that his philosophy would be connected to authoritarian structures, but from what I recall, there is an antisocial aspect reminiscent of Nietzsche that comes later in this work (not sure if that has anything to do with Nazi thought). This part of his work was never interesting to me. I found the first part a lot more rigorous. I don’t actually see that these antisocial parts have anything to do with the first, I don’t see a necessary connection, but I’d have to give it a closer reading. (Which I’m not sure I’ll be able to do at this point. My attention span is not up to snuff these days.)
Maybe the real reason you felt so dizzy was Heideger 😉
HA! He does have that effect!
Don’t confuse our φῶς with your φώς, wahahhaa. Old Classics joke I wish people would get…at cocktail parties. φώς means men, φῶς is light, as you mentioned; also interpreted, for the purpose of the joke as light(weight) men. Interestingly enough, φώς was the average Joe of Greece, so the joke never made much sense. One day I till tell you the Greek diarrhea joke.
Lovely post! Love the Greek, of course, and the Middle/Passives expressed by Heidegger (I kept thinking of Heidi when I read it…I swear I have ADD). I also appreciated his idea of time and space as nature’s unhidden concepts of truth and light. It was Einstein who also formulated this in a way that I like: “Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But there is no doubt in my mind that the lion belongs with it even if he cannot reveal himself to the eye all at once because of his huge dimension.” Phenomena, in this case, is the lion’s tail, all that is and ever was remains to be discovered. Oh ya, going back to Middle/Passives, more specifically Middles. Ancient Greek had a way to express this idea in just a couple of words like φαινεσθων φαινεσθαι (let that thing which shows itself to be seen), if you really wanted to be emphatic you could add αυτον ὡς αυτῳ (itself as a means to itself). Showing oneself as something is a conscious effort by the actor, to be seen as oneself is a conscious effort by the one seeing the actor.
Therefore, as Einstein would have it, in order to see the lion, which manifests itself to us as it is, we must make a conscious effort to see it for what it is despite its sheer size. Your metaphor when you begun was awesome, for we are constantly in that state of zoom-in-ness, only able to see the lions tail. Your efforts to zoom out and see the whole, therefore educating all of us, are just awesome. I can’t wait for the next installment!
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Thanks so much! I am only ever vaguely aware of all those accents in Greek. I always ignored them in class (unless it made an “h” sound or an “oi” sound).
Now I’m gonna have to ask you a serious question. This is the most serious of all questions dealing with Being: What’s the diarrhea joke?
Wahahaa, there are two versions:
Hera’s favorite animal was a flightless bird named the Rhea (forget that it is actually the peacock), but Zeus made her so sad that she actually kept two, a male and a female, to be reminded of the love her and Zeus once shared. It has been said, since, that Hera’s only relief in life was diarrhea (two rhea birds).
There was a time when Cronos, King of the Titans, was dissatisfied with Rhea, his wife and sister. Apparently, Rhea was not vigorous enough in bed. To address his own lack of satisfaction, Kronos created another Rhea in order to have double the pleasure. However, the shortsightedness of the god was well repaid when he had to deal with both of his wives and their problems at the same time, becoming quite depressed over this. When he was asked why he was so blue, at some point, he replied: “I can’t deal with my diarrhea” (his two wives).
They are both terrible jokes, but they circulate around quite a bit at Classics cocktail parties.
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I love them! Those are EXACTLY my kind of jokes…so geeky they’re not funny by most people’s standards, but so not-funny they actually make me laugh out loud. Why is it that not-funny jokes are so much funnier to me?
I made one up while I was not-listening to a Leibniz lecture. This one is absolutely terrible, so brace yourself:
Leibniz walks into the men’s room and finds Newton in there taking a leak. He looks down and comments, “Monads are bigger than yo nads.”
Terrible. I know. If all you’re doing is shaking your head in disgust, I’ll understand.
LOL!! I have been laughing for ten minutes now! The peeps at the library think I’m nuts!
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I SO wanted to tell everyone that joke in class, but I didn’t have the, um, balls to do it.
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Me too TLTA. XD
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Er, . . . I didn’t mean I thought you were nuts TLTA. 😮
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My only philosophy joke is pretty long in the tooth…
Descarte is sitting in a bar having a drink. The bar tender says, “Hey, René! Do you want another drink?” Descartes replies, “No,… I think not.”
I used to have this mug, but then my husband put it through the dishwasher and it really disappeared:
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Heh, that’s nice! I like to turn that famous expression around: I am, therefore I think!
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So what does Heidegger think about the things other people call noumena? That they don’t exist and only phenomena do? One impression I get from his emphasis on the Greek is that he’s too focused on vision as the means of apprehending phenomena. It is a metaphor but a limiting one…
As for the Kantian take on all this, I simply can’t see the difference between Kant’s noumena and Plato’s ideas. Actually we may have touched on this point before, but I can’t recall what you said about it!
I was eager to start in on your questions, but I’m realizing that I won’t have a clear enough understanding to answer them without writing the next few posts (writing has that effect on me). So I’m going to put off some of those questions until the next post. I still have a lot of questions too. I’m going to try to stay sympathetic to Heidegger’s POV in my posts in order to give him the fairest interpretation, and I may even argue in his favor. In truth, I have a lot of reservations myself. I see his philosophy as a natural product of phenomenology…not so much a necessary evolution, but it makes a lot of sense to me the more I think about it. The further we get from Kant, the more noumena feels like a kind of contrivance…Now I’m getting into it even though I said I wouldn’t. 🙂
As for the Kant-Plato comparison, I can see why this might be confusing. I’ve even read things on the internet that equate Plato’s forms to Kant’s noumena. I can see this comparison only insofar as Plato’s forms (being) influence and make possible the world of appearances (becoming). Kant’s noumena functions in a similar way to phenomena. However, the similarities end there.
Plato thought we could “apprehend” the Good/Being/God/Beauty (these things are all kind of mixed up, but I think it’s fair to say that they’re interchangeable for Plato). Kant thought we couldn’t know them, but we needed to believe in them anyways because it was necessary in order for us to be rational.
You may be wondering why I didn’t simply say Plato thought we could know the Good. By “apprehend” I mean something like “grasp.” We can reason our way only so far, but when we finally apprehend the Good the process is not one of reason…Socrates describes the Good as something beyond words, but which itself makes reason possible. To get there, one must first go through modes of knowledge, and these correspond to levels of reality:
pistis=opinion or belief
Then at the end of all this is the idea of the Good. Then one goes backwards through all levels to reinterpret these objects through the idea of the Good. Plato doesn’t give us much more than this, unfortunately. He’s not one to simply drop the Idea of ideas down on us from the skies; we have to find it ourselves.
In short, you can’t ever know Kant’s noumena, but you can “know” Plato’s ideas, though it’s really really hard.
Thank you for your questions! I think they are a good thing to add to this discussion and help clarify things for me too. Now we can start thinking about what noumena MEANS for Heidegger as a kind of driving question throughout this. (I think this might have to be faced after the Dasein post).
I’ve had a lot of questions myself: What does Heidegger’s philosophy mean for science? I don’t know the answer to this. I’m hoping to find it and write about it, but no promises!
I’m finding I’m already looking for an easy exit, but you guys will have so many great questions that I’ll have to trudge through the whole damn book. 🙂
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Great, I will look forward to the upcoming posts (good luck with the dreaded Dasein post, LOL!)
Thanks for the explanation about Kant and Plato. What strikes me is that they both seem to assert that things like “the good” exist independently of the human mind–that even if every human disappeared, “the good” would still exist. I believe that Plato’s description of apprehending Beauty (at least in the Symposium) was influenced by his experience of the Eleusinian Mysteries. He used the Mysteries as a metaphor, but that also means that there was an experiential aspect not accessible by reason.
My biggest question about phenomenology as a whole is similar to yours about Heidegger: how does all of this mesh with science? I have been watching “Cosmos” lately and having my mind blown by what the astrophysicists say. For example, they seem quite certain that there are other universes. But we can never observe them, or (so far as I can tell) their effects. Or what about space itself, which is the same thing as time? Where do these fit into a phenomenology? Or electrons which seem to pop in and out of existence? It is all very challenging and counterintuitive.
Yes indeed…for Plato the Good is an independent existence. It’s also inside us…it’s almost like a life force. It’s through the good inside us that we are able to access the Good as independent reality. For Plato there’s an interesting absence of this “inside me, outside me” talk (though he was aware of this POV). People call him a dualist, but I think the dualism is nothing like Descartes’ and I never use that word to describe Plato because I think it’s very confusing. It’s a soft dualism for Plato…mind is certainly to be preferred over matter, but mind is not something ‘in my head’. Mind also informs matter and creates the visible universe. So the whole world as we see it is the product of mind and matter coming together. We are a product of mind and matter coming together. Because these things are mixed up, we have access to higher realities through the lower ones (the cave metaphor is a perfect example of this.) Not only is the world mixed up, WE are mixed up. So gaining knowledge means straightening ourselves out as well as making distinctions in the world we see. So there is no great divorcing of me and the world. We might ask how mind mixes with matter, and in this sense the dualism poses a problem. Plato gives different theories but almost always provides a counter argument against his own theories. We are left in aporeia. Then while we’re feeling bad about this, he gives us a story…what we call fiction is what Plato would say is the best way to convey truth. He wouldn’t like our style of doing philosophy now! The Timaeus I think provides his best exposition of the mind-matter problem…he calls the whole thing at the outset a “likely story” and explains that a “likely story” is something that makes the most sense of matters and ought to be taken as true, though it’s not as rigorous an account as we would like. I could go on and on about the Timaeus and its relationship to science, but I’ve gone off on a tangent.
I agree about Plato being influenced by the Eleusinian mysteries (God would I love to know more about that!) He talks about them sometimes in his dialogue in praising tones. I’m so curious about this. From what I’ve read, it involves something violent and shocking, and also involves drinking a possibly psychedelic substance. Would Plato really be into that? Well, there must be a lot more to this whole affair. Unfortunately, if you gave away the Mysteries, you paid for it with your life, so we don’t know much about them. This is such a shame. I get the feeling it would explain a lot about Plato.
It’s hard to say how phenomenology as a whole meshes with science. Husserl’s phenomenology doesn’t undermine science in any way, but I’m not so sure about Heidegger. He talks about his phenomenology providing the groundwork for all the sciences (as just about everyone seems to do) but I can’t see how it would work that way, not unless science is radically changed. I actually think in the end, we’ll see Heidegger’s position really threatens science as we know it. He might not say that explicitly and I’m sure others will disagree with me, but I can’t see it any other way.
What Heidegger is getting at is counterintuitive. He wants us to take a step back from our scientific thinking to see how it appeared, how it came about.
I’m not sure what Heidegger has to say about space. Once I explain Dasein, these things should be clearer (assuming I don’t screw it up!)
Maybe Plato is not entirely dualist because Greek concepts of the soul tended to be materialist. They started out with the idea that it was the breath, but that breath had substance.
As for the Mysteries, I know something about them because it’s one of my research fields (ancient Mediterranean religions). The best informed guess is that there was a re-enactment of the Demeter/Kore reunion, including a scary element with some previews of afterlife punishments! Light and darkness were used to dramatic effect (lots of torches, and probably music and dancing). The psychedelic theory is interesting but no serious scholar buys into it. It’s based on the ritual drink, which included barley. Supposedly the grain would have been infected with ergot which is highly hallucinogenic, but also very difficult to dose and very dangerous. It would have been a good way to kill everyone off, and there are no reports of people falling into convulsions after being initiated 🙂
The one thing that people who were initiated always said was that you don’t learn something, you experience something. They also say the experience was induced visually.
Plato’s concept of the ‘good’ sounds very similar to the Buddhist’s ‘Buddhal Nature’!
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Wow, thanks for that info on the Mysteries. I’m glad you told me about the psychedelics…I have a little mention of it in my novel. I might have to revise that section a bit.
Do you have any more info on it? I’ve been looking around on the internet, but that’s unreliable it seems. Have you written more about it?
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I will write you an email!
Wonderful! Thank you!
I think you know Tina, that I know nothing of philosophy so can only comment from a position of naivety and ignorance. I am trying to get a broad fix on Heidegger’s thinking from these fragments, and this is what is being conjured up in my mind so far:
It sounds as if he’s positing something you philosophers might perhaps call a form of Externalism. Maybe that’s a bit misleading, because that same term implies an Internalistic counterpart. Heidegger seems to be sweeping away the two from what you say here. He’s abandoning the constructs of subject and object, not merely as terms of reference, but as actualities – is that something like correct? He appears to be taking the appearances of awareness – “what lies in the light of day or can be brought to the light” – as synonymous with Being. This means ‘Being’ becomes verb-like does it not? ‘Being’ really means ‘Beingness’ because “what lies in the light of day or can be brought to the light” is constantly mutating of course; it’s a flux. He’s taking the representations of the mind as being Beingness – whether or not he accepted the existence of something we (rightly or wrongly) think of as ‘mind’. He’s doing away with considerations about how any psychical representations of the physical senses may corrupt Beingness – in the way that we nowadays know they do – and instead is taking the world, as it presents, at face value, and in a way that we habitually do not. So, there’s a very radical abandonment of the perceiving subject as well as the total embrace of (what we think of as) otherness in arriving at a singular Being(ness). This would suggest his Beingness is what we call, whilst at the same time misunderstanding, ‘awareness’. Have I completely lost the plot Tina?
Hariod, I don’t think you’ve lost the plot at all…in fact, I think you’ve anticipated some things to come. I noticed some Heideggerian language in your book and that’s why I wondered if you had read him. I was surprised when you said you hadn’t, because you seem to already know what he’s going to say. Some of what you said I didn’t quite get, but I think you’re basically right on the money.
“He’s abandoning the constructs of subject and object, not merely as terms of reference, but as actualities – is that something like correct?”
This sounds right to me. He’s going to go even further—he’ll show why we fall into this dichotomy and why this dichotomy distorts and conceals Being from us.
“‘Being’ really means ‘Beingness’ because “what lies in the light of day or can be brought to the light” is constantly mutating of course; it’s a flux.”
Not quite sure about this. You could be right, but I’m in no position right now to tell you. It sounds right, but I could be mixing him up with some other existentialist.
There is a radical abandonment of the subject and object…your line “arriving at a singular Being” is right…
But wait for me!
“I noticed some Heideggerian language in your book”. Well, God only knows how that got in there Tina – whatever language it was you are referring to. I’ve never read a single line of Heidegger’s and have only ever heard Raymond Tallis commenting on him over the radio some years ago – my impression being that Heidegger’s ontology is pretty unfathomable by most, and so Tallis took a stab at unpacking B&T in imagined dialogues with him, for the benefit of all.
Anyway, I’ll be really fascinated to read your thoughts on why Heidegger says we ubiquitously fall into the dichotomy of subject and object, always presuming that he has something deeper to say beyond the formation of the putative ‘self’ that seems to come in during very early childhood – I’m sure he does. Just on the point about any stasis in Being – is he positing that there is such a thing as a fixity of Being? Maybe that comes in when he talks about Time? You may want to cover that later; if so I’ll do as you suggest and wait. Love all this Tina, the way you lay stuff out is so engaging, even for someone like me who doesn’t have the first clue.
Who knows how Heidegger got into you! And by that I don’t mean that your writing is incomprehensible like his…only that certain words and phrases rung a bell for me.
Not to give too much away, but you’re right, Heidegger doesn’t get into anything having to do with the self of early childhood. I failed to mention this, but he, like Husserl, dedicates a part of his introduction to explaining that he’s not doing any sort of psychology (in the ordinary scientific sense). What he’s doing is much more general and foundational than any of the sciences. (He thinks it’s foundational anyway. I’m not so sure it has anything whatsoever to do with the sciences.)
On the second question…”is he positing that there is such a thing as a fixity of Being?” It’s a very good question. I have half a mind to make a little video with a finger puppet of Heidegger in which I put my own words in his mouth. First I want you to see what he would say in response to your question:
“Time must be brought to light—and genuinely conceived—as the horizon for all understanding of Being and for any way of interpreting it. In order for us to discern this, 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. This task as a whole requires that the conception of time thus obtained shall be distinguished from the way in which it is ordinarily understood. This ordinary way of understanding it has become explicit in an interpretation precipitated in the traditional concept of time, which has persisted from Aristotle to Bergson and even later. Here we must make clear that this conception of time and, in general, the ordinary way of understanding it, have spring from temporality, and we must show how this has come about.”
There’s a lot of technical language in here that I hope to explain later, but hold on to this and come back to it. It feels like he’s using “temporality” as a technical term, something over and above “time” and not to be equated with what we normally think when we use these words. I believe he thinks that time has also been affected by dualism, so that we need a radical overhaul of that concept as well. So in other words, your question is affected by dualism and he doesn’t pose it.
How would I answer your question on Heidegger’s behalf? No.
Well, your answer seems to be the only sensible one Tina, and I kind of appreciate its unequivocal brevity after reading that extract from B&T. 😉 Sorry to keep asking you to wear the MH finger puppet; it’s a bit unkind but I also want to know what you think as you work through it all.
I imagine I know what he means by the phrase “time needs to be explicated primordially as the horizon for all understanding of Being”, but I may very well be projecting my own ideas into the phrase. That’s the problem with fuzzy language (or translations?); our brains’ may still seek out and discern non-existent patterns within it. The way I read his distinction between ‘time’ and ‘temporality’ is that the former is the arrowhead or horizon, and is objectless, whereas the latter is a bunch of objects. In other words, ‘temporality’ is the apparent discernment of time, but is not itself time; rather it is the apprehending of a sequence of discrete phenomena. Once again, this is all me seeking patterns where there may be none of that kind. I will await your further elucidation Tina.
I don’t mind wearing the finger puppet too much because that makes it clear I’m the one doing the talking. And it’s too stupid to take seriously, which is exactly the position I want to be in. Hell…I need to get a Heidegger finger puppet. That just needs to happen.
I think you’re close to getting at Heidegger’s definitions, but simply switch the meanings. Temporality is the horizon, time is the “apparent discernment”:
“We shall point to temporality as the meaning of Being of that entity which we call Dasein.”
So temporality is like a foundation for time. “Time” is derivative of “temporality”.
To put it in even simpler terms: Temporality, good. Time, bad.
This is how I go through his book. There seems to be a pattern in his taking over of language…one word against another similar word. One is good, the other he doesn’t like. My thought process has a caveman feel to it, but it helps me.
Now he’ll use these two words in different ways, sometimes confusing matters. It helps to take the context into account when he does this. Sometimes he’s criticizing history and he’s speaking from history’s POV by using the old language. He usually puts words in quotes when he does this, so you have to be sure to notice that. It signifies he’s not happy with the word. If you take these definitions hard and fast, you’ll get really confused. I mean, if you think about the title of the book, Being and Time, how can we say that Time is “bad”? Well that’s because he’s taking over the old use of the word and changing its meaning. It could very well be that toward the end of the book, he’s hijacked the word “time” completely.
If your head is spinning, I’m truly sorry. If it makes you feel better, mine is too.
I will try to explain his lingo in my blog posts…if I can avoid difficult terminology, I will. I don’t want to assume anything. And if he doesn’t use a word consistently, I’ll try to rephrase things to make it consistent, even when he’s not. I’m working on getting to the meaning of what he’s saying, but that will involve sometimes parting with his mode of exposition without distorting what he says. Which is why I’m pretty nervous about my next few posts!
Many thanks Tina! Only I don’t know what Dasein is yet, so that bit of the quote doesn’t aid me. [Your para. 3] I can’t understand how the two (loose) definitions are about face. You say that Temporality is the horizon, and that time is what I called “the apparent discernment of time, but is not itself time; rather it is the apprehending of a sequence of discrete phenomena”. [I know you may disagree with my wording after the semi-colon]
And yet Heidegger says “Time needs to be explicated primordially as the horizon”. What does that mean? It seems to mean the same as “Time is to be analytically understood as the fundamental [primordial] basis for its own effects.” In your own words that would equate to the “foundation for time.” And yet you say that Temporality is the foundation for Time and that Time is a derivative of it. So that’s what’s got me stumped.
[Damn, this is hard scrolling between comments and trying to patch these ideas together along with loads of HTML tags (for italics and bold) – on top of this WordPress is doing its old trick of suddenly changing the editing format so that added words replace previous text rather than just dropping in and shunting the rest along – bastards!]
Sorry for all the confusion. Don’t worry about Dasein just yet. And let’s drop the whole time-temporality lingo and just go back to calling time time.
Time is not to be analytically understood…I may have used the wrong word in calling it a foundation. Sorry about that.
The gist of what Heidegger is trying to say in that paragraph I sent you a while back is that the history of philosophy has misunderstood the meaning of time, starting from Aristotle. This misunderstanding comes from certain prejudices about being and its relationship to time. We tend to take things that are “timeless” as somehow more real. But “timelessness” is always in juxtaposition to something “in time”. There is a kind of dichotomy here that he wants to get ride of in the same way he wants to get rid of the subject-object dichotomy.
Blech…I feel like I need some mouthwash to get this Heideggerian flavor out.
Okay, let’s leave Heidegger’s notions of Time to one side for now. I honestly don’t know how you’re handling all this with your current balance issue Tina. Don’t you just want to veg-out ’til you get back to normal?
You know, I am having a hard time concentrating. I take a lot of rests and I lie about sometimes for hours thinking about all the things I want/need to do. But since I can’t really go anywhere for prolonged periods, I don’t really have anything else to do but blog incoherently about Heidegger. (Oddly, I find this easier than writing my novel.)
BTW, we still haven’t figured out the cause of my dizziness. I thought we had, but I misunderstood. I was under the impression that the testing I just did was to figure out which ear was causing the problem, but they found something unusual in the tests. I’ll tell you about it sometime. It’s boring medical stuff. At least now I can join in on bitching about medical problems with my friends (many are 60+).
God, the last thing you need is all my silly questions right now Tina. When concentration fails then it seems the hardest thing to do is to get into somebody else’s (stupid) head so as to figure out what they’re prattling on about. Are you still off to Oklahoma or is that on hold for now? And I’m an oldie myself so feel free to elaborate on your ailments as the mood takes you; that’s what we oldies natter on about once we’ve forgotten much everything else in life. Hey, this is the perfect time for you to write some song lyrics Tina isn’t it? Sod Heidegger, for now, why not get the axe and quill out?
Unfortunately I’m not going to OKC right now. I really want to, but I just don’t think I’ll hold up well.
So I’ll tell you the weird thing they found out. They thought it might be an inner ear problem caused by a virus or something like that. They ran hearing and visual tests, then squirted hot water into my ears to induce vertigo. (If you don’t get vertigo, that means something’s wrong.) Well, I DID get vertigo which means I’m normal. So no diagnosis thus far. Then onto the VEMP test which also checks for inner ear problems. They put electrodes on your neck and you wear ear buds which transmit a knocking sound. When you hear the knocking sound, you’re supposed to lift your head up. Apparently I had a “latency” (delay) on my right side that was consistent enough for concern. This apparently is not related to viruses in the inner ear. I can’t find what it would be related to. So now we’re still trying to find out what the cause is. In the meantime, I’m heading to the balance clinic but I don’t really know why.
If I could write song lyrics, I totally would. I can’t even write a poem though! Believe it or not, reading Heidegger is easier for me.
Thanks for the update Tina; it must be more than a little frustrating for you that they can’t get a fix on it yet, and of course, having to suffer in the meantime is grim – I feel for you my friend, as we all do here I’m quite sure. Actually, I think I know what it is. It’s a bug, a little software bug resting on your eardrum that keeps looping around the dizzyingly whispered idea that you can’t write song lyrics. 😉
Thanks Hariod. I’ve had the song lyrics bug for a while (although not when I was 15 and wrote some god-awful stuff.)
So yesterday they made me do balance exercises for 70 min. and this absolutely exhausted me. I was surprised by how bad my balance is. I couldn’t even stand on one leg. A few months ago I was doing Zumba!
They still don’t have a diagnosis, but they’re going to pretend it’s vestibular neuritis. This is strange because I don’t have true vertigo and the caloric and VEMP test BOTH showed I most likely don’t have it. These tests are pretty accurate. After having these tests, I did my fair share of Googling and thought it might be a problem with my vestibulospinal tract. Yesterday I heard that the woman who did these tests on me the other day thought the same thing (she refused to tell me at the time, but I could tell she was surprised by my test results). I tried to get information on what I would do to cure this problem if I do have an issue with my vestibulospinal tract, but I couldn’t get any answers. I can’t find a damn thing on the internet about it in isolation from MS. The woman told me not to worry about it and to just do my balance exercises. Annoying! I like to plan for all possibilities.
In any case, I’m going to do these horrible exercises for a while and hope that I can retrain my brain to compensate. If that doesn’t work, well…who knows. I wish they would just tell me these things to stop me from Googling. I’ll drive myself crazy (but I am sort of proud of myself for reading all those medical papers and figuring out something that is not altogether off-base.)
I’m trying to just do as I’m told and forget other possibilities, but it’s kind of hard for a person like me.
Maybe I’ll write the “vestibular neuritis” song which will involve all the brain and nerve terminology I’ve learned thus far. Think it’ll hit the top 40?
Thanks for listening to my boring medical rant. Feel free to reciprocate at any time to make me feel less guilty. 🙂
Well, you can rightly be proud of yourself for wading into all that scary medical stuff. Then again, doctors always seem to say that they dread patients doing that because more often than not the patient ends up making the wrong connections. It seems as though you may not have done though, thus far, and so it must indeed be frustrating that you can’t place complete confidence in the experts yet. What about this Romberg’s Test – did they ask you to take that?
Yeah, they did that one on me several times. I didn’t do so well with that yesterday, which is why I think they’re treating me for vestibular neuritis. I pretty much flunked all the balance tests, but only mildly. Still, I guess it was enough to make them wonder if I can be cured by doing PT.
I kind of wish I hadn’t looked up all this stuff, but at least now I’ll be able to catch what the pros are talking about when they speak to each other in medical jargon. Or at least I’ll trick myself into thinking I understand when I don’t. 🙂 I’m exactly the kind of patient doctors must hate, but I hope I’m not a total nut job!
“I hope I’m not a total nut job!”
Er, you just said that when you couldn’t concentrate you read Heidegger for fun.
“Fun!, “Fun!?! – sorry Tina, case closed. You’re nutty as a fruit cake.
Haha! Good point. Only a nut job like me would miss that one.
Good post. I am awaiting the follow-up because I would really like someone else to be reading Heidegger for me. I know that is just down-right lazy, but… I enjoy the follow-up discussion just as much. It is an education.
So glad to hear that! I’m hoping my follow-up will live up to your expectations. I’m certainly no scholar, so please take my interpretation with a grain of salt.
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Tina – I read it and found it interesting, but I’m not sure what I can add of value. Maybe some questions. If he’s suggesting there is no mind-body problem was he a monist, or is he something different altogether? Are these views of his accepted by many or few philosophers today across the world?
Very good questions. I think Heidegger would object to the term “monist” because it relies on a kind of matter-mind duality. For him, such words are tied too closely to the history of philosophy that he wants to extricate himself from. But I would say, sort of. It’s not technically correct. You can think that quietly to yourself to get a foothold on his thought, just don’t bring it up around scholars. 🙂
I would say relatively few philosophers accept Heidegger’s views. I think he’s talked about quite a bit because his ideas are so novel even now, and his thought has influenced many other philosophers, but I don’t think many have accepted his views wholesale.
I think I may possibly get it. If you look at descriptions of different kinds of monism it actually still distinguishes mind and matter – it’s only different from dualism in the way it treats those 2 things. Did he then want to remove the distinction between mind and matter completely? I hope I’m not totally botching this up and writing nonsense.
You’re not writing nonsense. Heidegger’s a tough nut to crack.
I think you’re right. Those descriptions I’ve read of monism seem to want to reduce one thing to another, but Heidegger isn’t trying to reduce anything, but to do away with the distinction. So in one sense, he’s a monist with his Dasein and being-in-the-world (more on these in my next post). In another sense he’s not a monist because monism implies a reduction of some sort, and he thinks that this misses the point completely.
I hope this makes sense. My next post on Dasein will hopefully make things clearer. So far I think you’re on the right track.
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Ok, glad that I may at least be getting some of this. By the way it really helps a lot to have real life examples to explain the concepts. You’re good at that – for example your runny nose/cough example in the post was helpful.
Believe it or not, Heidegger gave that example. It is so rare to get examples from these guys…I latch onto them too. I’ll try to keep them coming!
Owwww. I think my head is going to explode. Tina, I’m in awe of your ability to parse and summarize this stuff. Thank you for giving us insights into it. I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the wherewithal to slog through Heidegger (or most continental philosophy for that matter).
Thanks! You know, that’s how I felt when I first read it. I still feel that way, but I’ve learned to just ignore everything that doesn’t make sense. Speed reading is the way to go with this stuff. Plus I read with a goal in mind, which helps a lot (and I keep my goals modest.)
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I’m looking forward to your future posts! I have to admit, I’m out of my depth here, but it’s really fascinating! (I’m going to have to come back and re-read both the post and the comments… maybe more than once! The comments are as interesting as the post itself!)
I have you guys to thank for keeping me on track with your comments. It’s my favorite thing about blogging. I’m finding out where I need to go in future posts and realizing that there are way more questions than I had originally asked. It’s a fun enterprise. Thanks for slogging through…I hope it will be worth it!
I’ve found that in some of my posts as well. The subject gets better explored in the comments section than in the post (thanks to people like you and Hariod). I’ve decided I really like that! Discussion is always better than a lecture. 🙂
Indeed! I love waking up in the morning to my coffee and blog conversation. Although sometimes the questions are pretty tough and I have to wait a moment until the coffee kicks in before I can respond. (Of course, I will blame all of my bad responses to lack of coffee.)
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This is a great post; you make Heidegger seem fairly transparent, and that is quite a task to accomplish. I look forward to seeing some of your future posts on Heidegger.
I have never read “Being and Time, but i have read some of his later works like “The Question Concerning Technology,” so I understand how frustrating and difficult it is to understand his thought.
My friend once made the comment that “no one understands Heidegger. Even Heidegger himself is in the dark on this question.” I tend to think that may be a fairly accurate statement.
Haha…yes, it’s hard to be so opaque to others and yet remain transparent to yourself.
Thanks so much! It might be a while till the next post, but it’s hard to tell. I might just wake up tomorrow morning and think, “I’m gonna DO it!”
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Heidegger sounds like he has much to say, but he loses people by how he says it. As a result, I avoided him, but I’m considering a read commentary or 12 on his work.
He comes up occasionally in Eastern Philosophy. In fact, I recently read a book called “Tao: A New Way of Thinking”, which quotes him a lot, although often from works other than Being and Time.
Your discussion with nannus (especially wrt the coffee mug) reminds me of some of the other philosophers who took a different approach to sense data and what underlay them. In particular, the Pyrrhonists and Berkeley.
I think a key problem is that all we have access to is phenomenology, so we’re using phenomenology to undermine itself. Yet when we do this, we’re confronted with a paradox; if phenomena are untrustworthy and if they’re all I have, then on what basis can I validate or invalidate phenomena with phenomena?
If I experience a dream, I only “know” it’s a dream by later experiences (waking up, memories, evaluating events in the dream in the context of waking consciousness, and so on). I think this is called subrating. The consensus of others is also an experience of phenomena that look and behave like me (or match my memories of the mirror which I assume is an accurate representation of…). Even the things I can’t experience (like subatomic particles, far away galaxy) are experienced as concepts many orders removed — something I read in a book or heard in a lecture.
All this seems to confuse the issue and puts the appearance/reality distinction in some doubt.
Yes, Heidegger is pretty difficult to read, mostly because you only get a sense of what words mean and you have to rely on that sense—a vague feeling, really—to slog through it. The second reading is much easier, I’m finding. That said, there’s still quite a few paragraphs that leave everyone mystified. I just skip those. It’s much easier to read when you’re on a mission to write a blog post. Then you just boil things down to something manageable. Plus, I write all over my books, so I can just read my notes in the margins to hone in on what I’m looking for. I would recommend trying to read Heidegger, but skip the introduction. Apparently it was written afterwards. It’s just very difficult to understand unless you’ve already read the book.
I can see why Heidegger would come up in Eastern philosophy. I notice a lot of the language is similar.
“if phenomena are untrustworthy and if they’re all I have, then on what basis can I validate or invalidate phenomena with phenomena?”
I think you’ll find that Heidegger is facing this question, but for him the question is: Why are phenomena considered untrustworthy? In my last Heidegger post, I’ll get into this question more.
I think we all agree that there’s no way to experience anything outside of the world of phenomena, even if we do posit an objective reality outside of it which causes it. It does seem like a reasonable thing to wonder why we value certain phenomena as opposed to others. Few actually look at the phenomena as they are presented and explore the givens—what’s really being presented—without speculating to something beyond. Phenomenology is all about confining oneself to phenomena. I think there’s a lot that can be revealed in this way.
What is it that makes a dream a dream? I really like Kant’s answer to this question. He thinks that it’s the lack of causal connective-ness, the way the dream presents itself to us as outside of the world of order and laws. I do believe Kant is doing phenomenology here. He’s not saying that dreams are simply not connected to the ‘real’ world and he doesn’t posit that mode of thinking as possible.
As you say, dreams are recognized as such in the context of waking. But there’s also that intrinsic quality about them—a kind of law-breaking quality—that sets them apart from waking life. I sometimes know I’m dreaming while I’m dreaming. “I can’t fly. This is absurd,” I’ll say to myself in the dream. Then I’ll try to manipulate the dream and I’ll set up tests to see whether or not I’m dreaming. It’s funny that in the dream I remember the laws of waking life and use those to determine whether or not I’m dreaming.
I think you’ll be interested to hear what Heidegger has to say about the reality/appearance distinction. He gives an account of why this distinction comes about, and tries to show that this distinction relies on a ‘primordial’ state.
Maybe I will have to tackle Heidegger, and I’m looking forward to your other posts on this.
It’s fascinating that you bring your waking consciousness with you in the dream state. This rarely happens to me (and I think it’s rare for most people). In my dreams (which are almost always asinine), I can accept the most asinine of events and it all seems to make sense. Not only that, but in the dream I get a sense of continuity with previous events. Not that I recall the events, but I have a feeling that there’s a history behind all that went on in the dream at that point and even connections with previous incidents that would have went on prior to the dream — had I known this was a dream.
It’s all quite strange, but it’s been very insightful into some of my own presuppositions about my waking state.
But I’m off on a tangent 🙂
Oh, I’ve only had dreams like that a few times. Most of mine are asinine too. Or I’ll dream about brushing my teeth or something boring like that. In a realm where anything is possible, why do I spend my time brushing my teeth? How lame.
I think I know what you mean about feeling a sense of continuity. It feels continuous when you’re in the dream even though people morph into each other, time and place changes with no transitions, the laws of physics are defied, etc. I find that lack of continuity is usually found only in retrospect, so perhaps Kant’s observation would have to be in conjunction with yours.
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I have never read any Heidegger so this post is my introduction to his thought. I just wanted to remind you of this to increase the pressure 🙂
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Haha! Well I hope I’m not leading you astray. That’s quite a lot of pressure!
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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