Monday, April 4, 2011

Heidegger on the Limits of Philosophy

In this post, I detail some thoughts I've had for a while. It concerns the limits of what philosophy becomes after Heidegger's influence in Being and Time (BT hereafter), and the claim of the Daseinanalytik. For those unfamiliar with BT, Heidegger claims that if we are concerned with the question "What is Being" we need not further ask anymore than to locate this question within the self-referential nature of Dasein. It is within Dasein (for now just think of Dasein as his word for you and me). Dasein has an intimate awareness with Being since it is the only entity that can pose the question of its own being to itself. Therefore, an analysis of Dasein's ability to pose the question is the locus of interrogation for the more general question "What is Being?". In this way, Heidegger proposes to outline the primordial structure of Dasein to get at the heart of Being by consulting only Dasein. Like a phenomenologist, Heidegger commits himself to the view that he wants to get at the heart of the phenomenon of Dasein without presupposing anything about it. As such, this move to do a phenomenology as a fundamental ontology of Dasein means Heidegger has to address many presuppositions before such an analysis of Dasein can take place.

With the transition to putting Dasein clear aThe totnd in focus, many things have to be addressed. Heidegger advocates a deconstruction of Western metaphysics, makes truth into a historically revealed event, and insists on the on mediated character of experience just to name a few. Heidegger overturns the typical notions subjectivity, and opts for an analysis of pre-reflective consciousness in terms of the structure of care while at the same time insisting on the hermeneutic character of philosophy. For Heidegger, philosophy cannot step outside of history since Dasein's structure is temporalized. Yet, sometimes, Heidegger's analysis of Dasein's care structure invokes a sense of the transcendent, as if the description of that structure of care is transhistorical in nature. In the opening of Division II, he states:

"The totality of Being-in-the-world as a structural whole has revealed itself as care" (BT, H. 231).

So the question is how to reconcile instances of thinking this reveals that when Heidegger describes the structural whole of the care structure, he's describing the transcendental preconditions of Dasein's possible experience and the added fact that if that's true, then Heidegger no longer observes the hermeneutic limit he establishes for philosophy. If there's something else gong on, it is less clear to me what is going on.

Several options might be relevant to mention to allay the interpretive tension with candidate passages above:

1. Heidegger could be using a sense of the transcendental in different ways, or a more nuanced way than Kant or Husserl. If so, then what does his analysis ultimately imply?

2. We could read Heidegger as an existentialist. This might alleviate some burden since existentialists describe the human predicament in general terms, but Heidegger strives to differentiate himself from Sartre in the Letter on Humanism. There is no room for thinking that Heidegger is fine with simply an existentialist label.

3.  We could read Heidegger as just another species of Husserl--as a transcendental phenomenologist. This doesn't seem to bode well either since most of his fans follow out a story to do with the severe differences mitigating Husserl and Heidegger's approach to things.

I know there are other options, and I'll not focus on them. Please feel free to make your own suggestions.

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