Friday, October 31, 2008

A Working Introduction to a Project of Mine

I have been focusing as of late on Heidegger's critique of presence. The critique of presence is hard to pin down for someone of analytic background since by presence Heidegger describes the relation either between the traditional subject relating to an object of experience, or the subject as related to its own awareness of itself. Analytical philosophers often have a hard time with the generality and obtuseness of Heideggerian language. However, there doesn't need to be any confusion. The two descriptions of presence are simply propensities that characterize much of the history of ontology, that is, how various philosophers have described the subject's epistemic relation with objects, and the characterization of the transcendental viewpoint of the Cartesian subject as aware of itself. According to Heidegger's thought, the overlooked propensities of presence are biased unquestioned assumptions in the history of metaphysics that require exposure.

In exposing these common interpretive assumptions, Heidegger feels justified in calling them into question, and so he should since no assumption can be left unturned in philosophy. However, what you find in Heidegger is an anti-metaphysical, or what one might call an uncritical dismissal of philosophies that violate/perpetuate a "metaphysics of presence." This assumption has formed the bedrock of European philosophy for the last century, and on its own merits paints a picture of philosophy unlike anything I would call "philosophy." In fact, it is this very dismissal I take issue with. As such, I disagree with Heidegger's conception of the subject and being-in-the-world. Instead, Husserl offers a much better picture of philosophy's capability to provide insight into the very relations Heidegger denies through his critique of presence. One guiding thought motivating this essay beyond Husserl is that if these are biases of our tradition, then the re-emergence of these biases in the history of ontology might be productive for understanding in the Gadamerian sense of "bias" rather than a historic failing on the canonized metaphysicians of Western thought since Plato.

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