This site is supported by Nobility Studios.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

A Preparatory Reading of Being & Time

41 posts in this topic

Posted

When coming to evaluate a given philosophy for the first time, there is always danger of abandoning the text after the first 100 pages or so, or merely paraphrasing the thinker for lack of time, reflection and essential periods of intellectual gestation. This concern augments with one as ambiguous and terse as Heidegger.

From the first few pages of the introduction, one may conclude that Heidegger’s terminology, style and prose is obscure, perverse, difficult and pretentious, and it’s difficult not to agree. Russell referred to Kant as the greatest catastrophe in the history of philosophy and one feels that if he had ever read Being and Time, he might have revised his statement.

For decades, English speaking philosophers ignored Heidegger as a ponderous and rubbishy woolgatherer and we ourselves, the reader, are constantly faced with a grand dilemma: do we reject Heidegger as some obscurest crank and spare ourselves the trouble of ever reading on, or do we continue the arduous climb through his particular mountain of thin-air discourse?

One feels that many people have written off Heidegger’s Being and Time as something little less than inspired scurrility, perverse and stupid. His mission similar to those certain ribald men of the ancient world who ever dared believe they could capture Proteus, the old man of the sea; a curious creature who knew the future as well as the present and past and could change his aspect to myriad forms. Anyone wishing to draw from the momentous past, or discover future’s often disquieting significance, had to capture Proteus before he could change his aspect, which, of course, was virtually impossible.

Relevant to our discourse, Proteus’ name implies the loneliness of the first or beginning, that which primordially shows itself from itself before all else. In turn, his watery existence refers to the animate and the given adjective deriving from this being, protean, means someone or something that is variable, indefinite and forever shifting. At best, then, perhaps it is only a certain linguistic quality of Proteus that has ever, or ever will be ensnared: the verb to be, the most protean of all words, apparent in everything we utter or think, yet often without any discernible pattern or form.

This story of Proteus is worth bearing in mind when addressing Heidegger, for we become aware that questioning the meaning of being might simply reveal multifarious and possibly obvious aspects of existence without ever giving anything significant away. We can also acknowledge that both the reader and the author are setting out on a journey no less daunting than that particular voyage taken by the Pequod over one-hundred and fifty years ago.

An understanding of oneself - whatever that is taken to mean - was often considered the first step towards wisdom. Know thyself the ancients advised and although Goethe considered the exhortation a mere ‘deception…to confuse humanity’ and Twain the certain path towards despising oneself, we may understand that if we read on, we are implicitly adopting the ancient counsel and aiming towards an introductory understanding of ourselves and attending to the basic structures and properties of being as understood by ourselves.

With that said, for those who wish to read through Being and Time what I suggest is that as one goes through it page by page, taking notes and reflecting, we slow down from time to time and present to ourselves and the reader some of the more prominent themes and more interesting moves of the game.

In order to accomplish this feat, I’ve essentially lifted the following schedule from Dreyfus’ own university course and after working through it myself a number of years ago, consider it the best way to prepare and climatise oneself for Being and Time.

The course is split into two main blocks, each running for about five to seven weeks, and only deals with Division One of Being and Time. The first course takes us to the end of Chapter IV (27), and the second terminating at the end of Division One (44) while circling back to the introduction.

The preparatory reading of Being & Time for the first part of the course is as follows:

  • Being p24-28
  • Dasein p32-35 & p67-77
  • Being-in-the-world p78-104
  • The Worldhood of the World p 104-122
  • Critique of Descartes p122-134
  • Spatiality p134-148
  • The One p149-168

Note that all page numbers refer to the Macquarrie & Robinson translation which is Dreyfus' preferred reading. I also have a copy of Stambaugh’s translation and although I have never read it, there shouldn’t be difficulties finding these references in her own book.

May I suggest, then, that for those interested in reading Being & Time, they focus on the first part on the question of Being p24-28, and within a week, return to this thread to voice their concerns and understandings before we move on to the sections on Dasein?

I hope this post has helped and covers some of the concerns raised over the last few days.

N.B: This thread has been established so as to not interferer with Heretics' 'Notes' or Qualia's 'Reviews'.

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

As a warmup, I read Heidegger's essay on NIetzsche and the eternal recurrence, in which he broaches, well, being, and time, and I must say I found it all very clearly written and cogently argued. I was rather surprised, given his fearsome reputation for alleged obscurity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Remember, Heidegger is more difficult for the professors/students of philosophy than he is for the layman, because he doesn't use shortcuts like traditional concepts from philosophy.

So the charges of obscurity come from English speaking schools of philosophy because of the naive belief that their language is transparent. :shakehead:

Edited by The Heretic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

It's funny because I read a lot of contemporary analytic philosophy, and this first piece by Heiddeger that I've read was like a gust of fresh air compared to the prose that comes from modern philosophers, at least those in the analytic tradition. Of course he was also writing about, and either quoting for paraphrasing, Zarathrustra, which is a beautiful poetic work, so that by itself may account for a lot of the clarity. Anyway, I look froward to reading Being and Time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I'm in the same boat, David. :shakehead:

I read Derrida & Deleuze, Sartre, etc., before I read Heidegger. :doh:

B&T isn't really that difficult. A thick read, certainly, but it is more due to the fact Heidegger uses his language. SO the best advice is to read a lot and in a short amount of time (for retention and overall significance) and pay attention to the terms, how they hang together, especially when Heidegger hyphenates them. After you familiarize yourself with his language then you'll find the going less difficult.

As I go further down the labyrinth I find it a masterpiece, completely and utterly organized and how thoroughly he explores the experience of our being and how he maps out being & connects it to our death.

Basically B&T is a mapping out of Dasein, rather than an argument for belief in one mode over another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

This is great! I can't wait to see what you guys have got to say. At last folk here at TGL are doing old Heidy-boy :sunny: . In it's way, B&T is beautifully written, it glitters, haunts and although, for me at least, it is often patterned into strange, mercurial sentences that are not always easy to follow, you stick with it and things really do turn out just fine. B&T is no more difficult than any other philosophy book, no more tricky than Marx, Hobbes, Marcuse or Locke. It makes a lasting impact upon the mental sensorium, it is a total experience which needs to be returned to time and time again.

Edited by soleo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Ok, now reading Being and Time. Preliminary report:

My mind is going ... I can feel it. I can feel it. :freakout: My mind is going ... I can feel it. Dave. Will you stop Dave. I am afraid ... My mind is going.

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I actually have both translations now and have compared them somewhat; they do not seem significantly different so far. I will post some thoughts soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Thoughts on "Being and Time" to come shortly; hang in there, soleo, I've been reading it but also writing The Pood, which is taking up a lot of time. :poodsmall:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Excuses. I'm still reading the Worldliness, and I should put up a quickie summary shortly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I started reading B&T recently without having seen this thread. I am moving slowly, as I tend to do with philosophy texts, but I have to say that though the book is dense, I would not call it difficult. In fact, I may be the only person in history, but I rather like the writing style, even if only in translation. I have lost track of time (ironically) on a couple of occasions, I was so caught up in the reading.

I am through the introduction, and moving along at a rapid creep. I will keep an eye on this discussion.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

:soleo: Okay. I'm going to go over some reflections I've had on - The Formal Structure of the Question of Being. And before I start with H, I want to ask myself some basic questions and see what I can come up with on my own.

The first question which springs to mind is what could be said about the word 'being'?

Well, it's a gerund and can be used as a noun or with a continuous tense. That In Spanish there are two forms of being and in English and French and in most other languages, there's only one.

What more could we say?

Whenever we talk about being we are talking about substances which have properties, right? So being could include but not limited to numbers, trees and pretty Cavalier Spaniels. Being is considered the most general type of property to all substances from which some will infer that Being (the big B ting) is the Supreme Being (what H calls ontotheology).

If someone has done a little mainstream philosophy at school, or a little Kant, they may have also heard about the threefold negation of being:

  • being is not a thing, it is always-already presupposed in any comprehension of reality, which is to say it cannot be ontologically categorised.
  • being is indefinable because it lacks any specific property, and
  • being is self-evident, it denotes existence (even in the conditional form)

With these three arguments under one's belt, one may consider that any further enquiry into being is needless and superfluous, but H saw here a tradition which had established being in merely negative terms and his radicality was to deny such negation and aim towards another strategy.

With this background in place, we can now turn our attention to the section noted above. For the sake of brevity, I will deal with one short but significant sentence which not only defines being for H but also tells us something about the condition of being:

In the question which we are to work out, what is asked about is being - that which determines entities as entities, that on the basis of which entities are already understood, however we may discuss them...(25-26/6).

We seem to have two things going on here. For H, being determines entities as entities and that whatever being turns out to be, this 'determining' has something to do with something which applies the condition that on the basis of which entities are...understood.

Now, what on earth could this be?

The way I read this is that the only thing which is that on the basis of which things can be understood by me or anybody else is some kind of capacity or quality or condition of the brain, the human mind. That is, without a brain, how could anything be understood?

It must be our mind, then, which has the capacity to comprehend-grasp-realise-and make intelligibile and so this must be the condition that on the basis of which entities are already understood. If this reading is correct, then we could say, we already-understand being, it is in everything we do, in our activities and behaviour. Moreover, it is we who determine entities as entities and this most fundamental form of comprehension is the most general and basic feature of all things.

Okay, so human understanding-ability-comprehension-intelligibility-know how-grasping-getting-dealing with is behind everything, it is a feature of all things, nay, it is on the basis of which anything and everything makes any kind of sense.

Both Dreyfus and Blattner call this feature the background, a pre-theoretical, pre-cognitive capacity which has to be in place before anything can be understood. Dreyfus points out that Wittgenstein also came across this feature in his own investigations but considered it impossible to describe. H, on the other hand, won't give so easily and will go to great pains to highlight some fascinating and mind-blowing features of this background.

So, we can conclude with just this very short sentence that all being depends on us (our on the basis of which), but beings do not, for beings are already there and give rise to our intelligibility.

If this last point is correct, that beings give rise to our comprehension, our familiarity, our pre-cognitive capacities, then we can already appreciate that some interesting structural features are going to arise in H's narrative.

It also raises an interesting idea for a short story. As the novelist Paul Auster asked himself, what kind of human-thing would it be that lived its entire life with no being other than itself to give rise to comprehension?

Look forward to seeing some other ideas based around these few short pages of section 2 and The Formal Structure of the Question of Being.

Hope this post was helpful......... :zombi: :zombi: :zombi: :zombi: :zombi:

Edited by soleo
2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Not too late for me to join in, I hope? I’ve been unable to find a copy, and ordering one would have taken considerable time and trouble, but within a few days I should have all the documents necessary to check books out from the local library. The joys of being an expat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Tzela Vieed, try this archive of continental philosophy texts:

http:// itsnotworkingarchive . tk

(without the spaces)

You'll find plenty of Heidegger's works after you click "text" and then scroll down to find "Martin Heidegger".

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Thank you very much!

Oh no, it's asking me about cookies. Apparently the problem is with the download site, and it's not letting me change the security setting because it's not an https:// address.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Try a different browser. For instance I just tested the site with Chrome, and had no problems downloading Being & Time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

It worked! Thanks again. I'll report back once I've had more of a chance to think over what I've read so far.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Yeah, nice one, Heretic.

Tzela, whoever you may be, it's good to see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

:soleo: Another week has been and gone, the rations are low but here we go...

One of the bigger influences H has played on my life is right here at the beginning of Section 2, running from page 24 to the very top of page 25 (5).

It's all about his indication that what follows in Being & Time will be a provisional narrative, a clue about the question of human existence and not some nailing down of final truths and essences. Well, that's the way I've read it.

For me, there's something very special about H at this point. His position is rather humbling.

If you go about the walks of life, you'll meet a lot of folk who'll fear falling into error. I, too, often belong to that group, so it's nice to come across a great thinker who considers that the worry about falling into error is probably an error itself. H's underlying message appears to be that the best we can do is start somewhere, and realise that's all we've got.

I believe H does this by drawing our attention to the four-fold structure of the question:

  • every seeking gets guided beforehand by what is sought...(24/5)
  • any inquiry, as an inquiry about something, has that which is asked about...(24/5)
  • an inquiry has that which is interrogated..(24/5)
  • inquiry itself is the behaviour of the questioner...(24/5)

So what we get is the following: a question is always about something which presupposes some kind of - underlying - conception of what is - already - sought. Questioning is a human activity which can be carried out in various ways on something which is interrogated. So, in the best possible worlds, we make some provisional claim and at the end of our interrogation we see whether we've got it right or wrong.

For me, H's message in this part of the story is that to expect from life absolute answers is a futile search of essences. Why? Because the question put forward and the way of the inquiry will always be a reflection of the inquirer, and thus, it follows, there cannot be any neutral perspective. Inquiry is gunked with prejudice, presumptions and presuppositions.

Indeed, there is no necessity in accepting the idea that there exists in any part of this world some privileged, absolutely adequate narrative, nor is there any need to believe in some true absolute grounding of, or foundation for any type of narrative.

The concepts of the absolute begin to lose their fundamental, dogmatic role and this stance is but a matter of rejecting the prejudice which ever asserted the necessity of an Ideal, an absolute, the ultimate and correct, once and for all interpretation.

Old time preachers used to say just that about God, that if we lost religion we’d witness the erosion of morality, but in that case, they’ve been proved wrong. I’m figuring that within time the same will happen with all the other fundamentals, that we’ll all be able to understand that there can be truth and great talk of truth without there being any necessity of an absolute foundation for it.

Logic, rhetoric, literature, science, philosophy, music, art and poetry are different narratives in which none should aspire to be the one and only true conception of truth. One may speak of logic being a “tool for the intellect” and another may speak of emotions and instincts being a “tool for the intellect” but there is no demand to consider either conviction as the ultimate truth.

The irony in such a conviction is noted, that in a way, this position is also a fundamental one and I hope I haven't made H-boy into too much of a Humanist, but it's the way I like to think about this grand opening of section 2.

Hope this has helped in some sense of the term...

Edited by soleo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Sorry, soloe, it's this damned Pood that I am writing that is taking up all my time. I hope to post thoughts later today on Heidy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Thanks for the note, David, but I reckon you just carry on as you're doing. I think it's fantastic that you're creating stuff and I think that is a lot more important than going over someone else's work.

This thread is open to anyone and everyone to highlight reflections or difficulties they are having while and as they read through B&T or the entries here, nothing more. If time permits, each week I'll try to whip up something I've had time to think about, but I would hate to think this was my thread and I would hate to think anyone felt compromised in having to supply a post. We fly as our hearts drive us. I hope I've made some kind of sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Tzela, whoever you may be, it's good to see.

Oh, nobody much. ;)

I’ve gone over part I. of the introduction, and found the second section the most interesting so far. The observation that all questions are, to a degree, leading, isn’t by itself a particularly new one, but there it’s put to an unexpected use, and made to throw light on a supposedly intractable problem. At least, that's what I managed to gather?

I didn’t find the language difficult, for the most part. It probably helps that I’ve read Boss before, so this wasn’t my first time encountering some of the more exotic terms. Of course, there‘s a long way to go….

I’ve got my own projects to work on, so I might not be able to take it at too fast a pace, but I’m definitely intrigued enough to continue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I’ve read about 30 pages, not because I find the book particularly difficult but just because I have lacked time recently. Actually the writing itself is mostly quite clear, belying perhaps a fearsome reputation for difficulty or ponderousness or obscurity.

The book is devoted to asking, what is the meaning of being, or what is being? So of course I ask myself the same question; how would I answer the question, even before reading Heidegger?

Is Being the same thing as Existence? Notwithstanding what dictionary definitions might be employed, how might they be different? To me, “being” is embodied in Hamlet’s “To be or not to be”; it suggests consciousness. To be, is to be conscious. It looks as if Heidegger agrees, from my early reading. What he wants to ask about, or interrogate, is this Dasein, which I take to be a personal being, a mind that that is not only conscious but self-conscious.

Being, he says, is found in entities but is not itself an entity. That seems plain enough. Could it be that “being” is nothing more than the exemplifications of being through different (all?) entities? If we distinguish between “being” and “existence,” does existence depend on being for its own existence? What is his take on Berkeley? On esse est percipi? Or on Descartes and Cogito ergo sum? Or “existence is not a predicate”? Or on “existence precedes essence”? All of these are various ways to meditate on existence and/or being.

I suspect it will turn out that all of these will be inadequate to his definition of being, and of course he also explicitly rejects the standard explications of the question of being, either that it is self-evident, or undefinable, or a universal. Rejecting the third option would seem to preclude considering “being” as some sort of abstraction, like a proposition perhaps, the existence of such abstractions being rejected anyway by nominalists.

Again, asking myself this question, I would say there is something brushing up against idealism with this question of being, and wonder if it is so for Heidegger as well. My own idea would keep going back to the idea that “being” is tied up in consciousness and specifically in self-consciousness. From this the existence of the external word is the sum total of mental concepts that I have of the word, my experience of them as mediated by sense perception. So my being involves self-consciousness and the existence of extrinsic objects, of external reality, is in my head. All the properties or attributes of a rose, say, that are commonly ascribed to the rose, are in my head. There is no redness of the rose, or greenness of the leaves, or prickliness of the thorns, or sweet aroma, or anything else about that rose that is in the rose itself. All these properties are not properties of the rose itself but of my mind. So what can be said of the rose’s existence, outside my mind? And this leads back to another old philosophical question, of noumenal vs. the phenomenal world. No idea what Heidy will say on this, if he addressed it. But to ask a question like, what sort of existence does a rose, or even the whole universe, have outside my mind; to ask what a rose or a universe is like outside my own mind, is to ask a self-defeating question, for it ask what something is “like” presupposes a mind already.

Heidy make a distinction between the ontological and the ontic, with the latter evidently referring to the nature of the existence of everyday objects and the former dealing with more fundamental issues of what actually exists in the world. He seems to suggest there is some pre-theoretical or pre-ontological knowledge of mode of being, though what this means is a little unclear to me. He suggests that being already has “being” in mind when it inquires about the meaning of being, and argues that this notion is not circular.

I’ll stop here because I want to re-read what I’ve read already and then move on to the next section. Comments welcome.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I'm at page 60 ... discussion of logos, past the stuff about "that which shows itself in itself" and the translator's lengthy explication of same and related observations....

:freakout:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0