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A Preparatory Reading of Being & Time

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Posted (edited)

Some time, some being, some nothingness have passed, so now let's enter the first stage world of Dasein.... :tzela:

Heidegger, P32:12: ...Dasein is an entity which does not just occur among other entities. Rather, it is ontically distinguished by the fact that, in its very being, that being is an issue for it. But in that case, this implies that Dasein, in its being, has a relationship towards that being - a relationship which itself is one of being. And this means further that there is some way in which Dasein understands itself in its being and that to some degree it does so explicitly.

Let's break this down a little, purple highlighting a brief moment of interest and see what we can reveal....

Folk may think from this that Dasein is fretting about its existence and of course, Dasein can do so :freakout1: but I feel the term issue should also be understood in a much wider context than mere thought and reflection. Issue can also be expressed through activities, behaviours and social roles, often conducted (at-the-moment, say) without any thought or reflection.

Again, in passing we can also note that Dasein understands itself :fear: , has some sense of what it is, what it means for the given dasein to be a Dasein and this sense or understanding will inevitably be framed and bordered within the horizons set by the given dasein's historicity, be this its culture, society, family, upbringing, work, or what have you.

We can appreciate, then, that if Heidegger's ontological enquiry is to begin with Dasein, that which makes being an issue for it, then already we can suspect that ontology can only be done within Dasein's historicity, within its mindset, within an all too human condition. Thus, any ology, any discipline which tries to offer an explicit understanding of being and frames its discourse on the assumption that it is stepping away from Dasein's historicity, taking that objective position of nowhere, is a foolish :flypig: floating-pinkcow-like myth. Disciplines, whatever they may be (I have suspicion with math), are going to be horizoned by the hermanautic circle, the circle of interpretation, of society and culture. And Dasein can only think, reflect and do, within this facticity.

It's often been suggested within the discourse of ontology that all that exist are things and relations, that is, objects and awareness (this was taken up in Sartre's consciousness as nothing and Brentano's intentionality of consciousness). Here then, I feel this relationship mentioned by old Heidy boy, is the same relation mentioned by Kierkegaard in his The Sickness Unto Death :rip: and this is very revealing.

Kierkegaard's Opening: ...what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way, a human being is still not a self.

:shocked:

So, it would seem here that the self is not any corporal or substantial thing, but instead a relation, a relation much like the = expresses a relation between two or more things. But, as we can see, the self is not that relation itself, but the relating of a relation, or perhaps better still, the relatings of relations. The self, the consciousness, then, is nothing in itself, it is always a relation, an intentionality, always about something or other. Putting this another way, just as the reflection in the mirror is nothing independent of the object which is being reflected, that is, the reflection is nothing in itself, the self or consciousness is nothing independent of that which it is aware, that to which it is directed. The self, then, is nothing. :compress: Does that make any sense?

Along with Hume and Sartre and Kierkegaard, I think Heidegger would agree that the being of Dasein is not a thing, but as stated, a relation. As we can see in the brief quote above, for Kierkegaard this relation was grounded on the "infinite and the finite", between our being grounded in the finite muck, drudgery and conditioned trial of everyday life towards about what the world might or could be like for us; a relation between our brutal necessity, our facticity of family, background, society and culture, and the potential freedom we have to move from this with our activities, projects and undertakings, our transcendence from these given facticities.

Interestingly, and on a final note, for Kierkegaard, this relation between the finite and infinite was a despairing relation, a sickness unto death. It was not a mood problem you could be cured of, it was a fundamental ontological feature of being. :boohoo:

Well, that's far enough.

Evening all :yo:

Edited by soleo
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Thanks for these posts, soleo, I am following them as I slog my way through Being and Time. So far I have found out all the things that Dasein is not, and you are help clarifying for me what Heidy is saying that it is.

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Posted (edited)

I think we're now in a greater position to understand what Dasein is for Heidegger, so once again, let's enter the labyrinth :tzela:

Heidegger, P32.12...That kind of being towards which Dasein can comport itself is one way or another and always does comport itself somehow we call existence...

Heidegger, P67.42...we choose to designate the being of this entity as existence, this term does not and cannot have the ontological signification of the traditional term existentia; ontologically existentia is tantamount to being-present-at-hand, a kind of being which is essentially inappropriate to entities of Dasein's character. To avoid getting bewildered, we shall always use interpretative expression presence-at-hand for the term existentia while the term existence as a designation of being will be allotted solely to Dasein. The essence of Dasein lies in its existence.

Okay, so we've got a number of things going on here which we ought to break down into smaller parts and investigate a little. For this reason, I will divide this part of our investigation into a number of smaller, bite-sized posts.

1

The first thing which springs to mind is that existence is Dasein's way of being and Dasein's essence is existence. With what we know already, we can now say, the essence of Dasein is to make an issue of its being and this way of being for Dasein is its existence.

This insight has a number of fascinating implications.

The first is that it was probably at this junction that the whole philosophy of Existentialism took its lead. Indeed, Sartre's well-worn slogan, 'Man's existence precedes his essence' is basically summing what Heidegger has already written above.

As we can appreciate, for Heidegger, Dasein has no other defining characteristic other than coming into existence and by inference, it is only through the course of life, through our activities and experiences, do we come to express given ways of taking over our selves, taking issues on our being; transforming and becoming through living a life.

Pascal says much the same thing when he asks of us:

Blaise Pascal: Custom is our nature. What are our natural principles but principles of custom?

So, What is it to be human? This has been a big question and it is exactly this question Heidegger is asking here. For the most of history, people have answered it in terms of some essential essence.

For the sake of brevity and argument, we could argue that:

Religion says we're creatures of some god, or some divine source or energy, and usually with a soul, or eternal essence.

Aristotle and Marx say we're essentially social creatures.

Schopenhauer says we're wills to survival, Nietzsche, wills to power and Frankl, wills to meaning.

In their fashion both Mill and Freud say we're essentially libido maximising beings.

Plato, along with a million others, says we're essentially rational creatures.

Biology says we're essentially DNA,

and so on, blah, blah, blah.

What is important here, as we have already seen from Heidegger's three-fold structure of the question, is that the answer you make will lead to different ideas about what it is to be a human, and in many cases, these different interpretations will lead to potentially different ways of being, that is, what it is a human should do and how it should behave.

Heidegger, though, is making the claim that none of these theories, no matter how persuasive, actually capture what it is to be human. At best, there are different interpretations and Dasein will be socialised into one of them and only then, will it manifest a given nature, and no doubt, come to believe that this socialised, contingent nature, is really the nature and essence of humankind.

In other words, a Heideggerian might argue that society, our socialisation, 'tells' us through its practices and behaviours, for example, what it is to be a man or woman and our behaviour and nature follow from this, but once we step back and realise what is going on, that there isn't, nor ever has been, a final and correct answer to the question, what is it to be human. we are capable of conjuring for ourselves other possibilities and understandings.

For me, Heidegger is not telling us, Listen guys, your nature is like this, you are children of god, or homo-economicus, nor is he trying to persuade us that one theory is any better than another. Not even his own, as we find out later on p274.231!

This whole stance, for me, is really quite a humble position to take, because I feel at this junction, Hedeigger is asking us to see all the theories and possible answers to that fundamental question of what is it to be human as fascinating thought experiements, not to be squabbled over, nor to take ever so seriously, but mere narratives to take pleasure in and laugh along with and laugh at.

If existence is our essence, then we are born, we come into a world, we become accustomed to it, we adopt its practices, paradigms, ideas, and ways of being, and only then, do they appear to be part of our nature.

As Pascal infers, custom does seem to be our nature.

Bye for now :yo:

Edited by soleo
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Nice post, soleo, you are addressing now the very passages that I am currently reading and making them clear. It does seem, though, that Heidy is getting perilously close to saying that Dasein is really nothing at all, which I'm doubting is what he means. Of course he has already dismissed the idea that it is self-evident, universal or indefinable.

To play devil's advocate, getting on about this "existence precedes essense" existentialist thing, how good an idea is that really? It presupposes unfettered freedom to make of one what one is. But two questions nag: Is there really a Cartesian "I" at all to do this, or is the "I" a bag of tricks, as I think Dennett said? Second, even if we don't want to define Dasein by, say, one's DNA, it is a fact that a lot of our essence is in fact structured a priori by our genetic baggage; and a lot more of it is structured by our nuture, so by the time we are adults we have been structured heavily by both nature and nuture, and the very existence of a Cartesian "I" remains in doubt. So what freedom of self-making is there, really?

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the post, David. I will try to reply to your questions but for now I just wanted to tidy one more thing from the quote above:

Heidegger, P67.42...we choose to designate the being of this entity as existence, this term does not and cannot have the ontological signification of the traditional term existentia; ontologically existentia is tantamount to being-present-at-hand, a kind of being which is essentially inappropriate to entities of Dasein's character. To avoid getting bewildered, we shall always use interpretative expression presence-at-hand for the term existentia while the term existence as a designation of being will be allotted solely to Dasein. The essence of Dasein lies in its existence.

Existentia is a medieval term for existence and I think what Heidegger means when he says, "ontologically existentia is tantamount to being-present-at-hand" is that the tradition, the philosophical tradition, has generally understood being as substance. That is, all subjects and all entities have properties, categories or predicates which often, at their most basic level, are self-sufficient; they don't need other properties to make them that way.

Existentia seems to be the atomistic account of being.What Heidegger terms as the being's 'what'. The question could be, what determines an entity as the type of entity it is?

Accordingly, you get a subject like Descartes' ball of wax and you throw upon it the speculative gaze and through reflection, comprehension and theoretical study and practice, you can begin to predicate it and discover its properties which will make it known what is it made of, what makes it soft like, what makes it useful for light and burning etc,Detached from the world, the theory runs that if you can show all the predicate-properties-categories of things and show how they are related to each other, then you have essentially described the world.

Now, Heidegger doesn't disagree with this type of ontology, nor does he think it is a useless way of going about investigation. All he is arguing at this stage is that it doesn't work for all kinds of being, so we can't mistake it for being The Ontology.

Existentia, or present-at-hand, is, for the sake of argument, the world of science. It is the world of the cool-gaze, of numbers, atoms, particles, and the such, it is a way of being, but cannot be being itself because it doesn't explicitly exhibit the type of being that is the being of Dasein, which Heidegger is going to call existence.

The question is, how does Heidegger argue that the essence of Dasein is existence and not, say, its DNA structure, or its will-to-power? And he does this by referring the reader to his methodological claim, what he calls his 'privisional' narrative' (p38.17).

What he says is that any enquiry has to start somewhere, that's all we got, that's the best we can do and if you bear with him, he'll make some provisional claims about dasein, existence, and the such which at the end of the investigation, we'll be able to see if he got it partially right or not.

So, the enquiry, right from the beginning, is only provisional and whether we decide his narrative is succesful or not will depend on whether he can offer up a fuller picture, or a more coherent understanding of the being of Dasein, than say, an ontology like biology, or theology or physics, or chemistry can do.

- - - - - -

Okay, David. I think now we on the same page:

It does seem, though, that Heidy is getting perilously close to saying that Dasein is really nothing at all, which I'm doubting is what he means.

Dasein solely conceived as present-to-hand is to be understood by its categories and general structure of substances and characteristics that given ologies (biology, psychology, physics, chemstry) have imbued upon it or discovered.

Aristotle probably began this project of present-at-hand, of listing the properties of objects having causal relations in time and space, and Kant continued it. Heidegger fully understands and backs the project but he notes that "what we call categories, characteristics of being [are] for entities whose character is not that of Dasein" (p70.44).

So, we could argue that there is no problem understanding Dasein as only its present-at-hand categories and properties, and, indeed, we could imagine the case of a hardcore-doctor treating other Daseins only on this ground, merely as a present-at-hand being, a being merely of causal substances and categories and nothing more, but for Heidegger, something really important is still missing from this picture.

So, present-at-hand, although it underlies or grounds Dasein, which means to say there would be no Dasein if it weren't for its DNA, etc, this viewpoint still doesn't capture everything there is to say of this being. First, it is a tradition which has overlooked another type of being, the being of tools, and has also overlooked the essential, defining feature of entities like Dasein, which according to Heidegger is that they exist which is just another way of saying, they take a stand of their being which things like numbers, atoms, DNA, chromosones, do not seem to do.

To play devil's advocate, getting on about this "existence precedes essense" existentialist thing, how good an idea is that really? It presupposes unfettered freedom to make of one what one is. But two questions nag: Is there really a Cartesian "I" at all to do this, or is the "I" a bag of tricks, as I think Dennett said? Second, even if we don't want to define Dasein by, say, one's DNA, it is a fact that a lot of our essence is in fact structured a priori by our genetic baggage; and a lot more of it is structured by our nuture, so by the time we are adults we have been structured heavily by both nature and nuture, and the very existence of a Cartesian "I" remains in doubt. So what freedom of self-making is there, really?

We'll be getting to Heidegger's critique of Descartes in a wee bit, but for now we can say that Heidegger is extremely critical of the mental, of understanding the world as subject and object, the bifurcated self, and so on. Putting it bluntly, along with Dennet, and Hume, Heidegger thinks such talk of an I is myth talking.

I'm not entirely sure if Heidegger really addresses the 'freedom' of Dasein, its metaphysical, Aristotelian type of freedom as something Sartre did do a lot. I've looked through my notes and cannot find a little, self-created title with something like, Freedom according to Heidegger. Indeed, if we take into account Heidegger's das Man, the World, anxiety, and so on, a picture comes across as an extremely limited amount of freedom for Dasein and I'm convinced that many of the structural limitations mentioned in Being and Time influenced folk like Foucault massively.

But with that said, for Heidegger we are still not solely our DNA, we are not only a given substance or two, for our way of being is to take an issue on it and we do this by taking up activities, we are what we do, we are Dasein, we are human because we take up practices. Dasein makes an issue of being by taking up activities using equipment (readiness-to-hand) and acts in the world. By doing this, it gives itself an interpretation of what it is to be a human in the particular and as a human in a given culture.

By inference, it seems that this way of being is determined, we have no choice but to take a stand on our being, it is our existence, our essence, our very way of life, so to ask if we are metaphysically free not to do this, is, I think, not too important a question in Heidegger's enquiry. It is a human condition. It is the way of being for Dasein which it isn't for trees, cats and gold.

Has this helped a little?

Edited by soleo
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Yes, this is good, soleo, this is helpful. As I mentioned in chat, my take so far on Heidy is that, among other things, his discussion of Dasein is an early gloss on what today might be called the "hard problem of conscisousness," in which it is held that all talk about the mind, mental states, qualia, etc. is essentially non-reductive. So let's see how this gloss comparts with what is to come later. I'll be interested to see his critique of Descartes.

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Thanks for your support on this project, David.

Let's go back again to page 33, for I feel there's something important here being said:

Heidegger: p33.12: Dasein always understands itself in terms of its existence - in terms of a possibility of itself: to be itself, or not itself. Dasein has either chosen these possibilities itself, or got itself into them, or grown up in them...The understanding of oneself which leads along this way we call existentiell...The context of such structures we call existentiality. Its analytic has the character of an understanding which is not existentiell but rather existential.

The first thing to get out the way is the terminology.

The investigation into the ontological structure of Dasein, its existence, the fact that Dasein makes being an issue for it, is Heidegger's existential analytic and that is pretty much what Being and Time is all about. It is a narrative which will try to lay out Dasein's fundamental ontological structures.

Any given Dasein's understanding of its existence - and it is not necessary for Dasein in the particular to ponder such things - Heidegger calls Dasein's existentiell and from here we can highlight some interesting features:

Dasein's understands itself always in terms of its existence, and this, due to existing, must be manifest in everything that it does, right?

So, by growing up in this understandiing, I feel that Heidegger is hinting at the given historic, contingent, public understanding of what it means to be human, and, in most cases, this is accepted passively and this, I feel, cannot be treated as a negative condition.

We are all socialised and since every human, in order to be human, must be born into a given society and culture, there can be no escape from growing up in some given understanding of what it means to be human. Aristotle and Marx were right, we are social animals. In this fashion, the stand one takes on one's life, the extent to which one makes their life an issue for themselves, the answers one gives to one's living have, to a massive extent, already been learnt, grown up within, picked up from the culture, society and family one is born into.

By getting itself into, I think Heidegger is just saying one gets into the public understandings and interpretations on offer. Of course, this could be contested, one could argue equally as well, that one gets-into by stumbling into something without much thought or conviction, as in, I got myself into a bit of a mess yesterday, but I prefer to think of Heidegger as being pre-rock n roll.

One digs or grooves the possibilities of being within their culture. This is no longer passive acceptance or absorbtion as we have seen in the growing up in socialisation, but actively identifying and participating in the understandings and social roles on offer. In our culture, for example, we could say that one gets into and identifies with being a student, a self-sacrificing mother, a victim, a hard-worker, an artist, a hippy, a sport's freak, a tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, beggarman, or theif, and so on.

Heidegger will have more to say on all this and by way of forwarding the chat a little, this manner of taking a stand on one's life is to disown or cover up our fundamental doubts, anxieties and unsettledness. An anxiety which, for Heidegger, arises from the fundamental structural feature of what it is to be human - a self-interpreting creature and thus a creature with no fixed nature. Getting into some social role, then, is the manner in which we can surrender our anxieties, cover them up, forget about them, whilst appearing in the eyes of others as if we have won and chosen ourselves.

Interestingly, the capitalist market choice offered today as a means of getting over identity crisis or a means to answer the questions What do I do? or Who am I? is, for Heidegger, an inauthentic (need not carry negative connotations) way of being. In Heideggerean terms, we are quite literally falling away from ourselves, for we are denying and failing to acknowledge the full range of possibilities and existential freedom we could really have. We live a degraded life in this condition, a life levelled down to the most common denominator, the gratuitous everyday condition. It is a lostness in the Everyone, the Anyone, an aggressive form of conformism.

Clearly, this condition echoes the concerns of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. That contemporary life filled with the weak willed and unimaginative mass of humanity who have no taste for difference and adventure.

But stop! We're jumping ahead of ourselves. We'll have a look at mineness and authenticity a little later.

The final way one can take a stand on their being is to choose those possibilities, to choose oneself. In the whole of Being and Time, it is never made clear how we go about doing this, but the general idea is that we create projects for ourselves, life defining projects which steer from the ethical and rational demands of the communal life. In a sense, it should be so that we could say at our death, without regret or pity, This was what I chose. I did it my way. It was my destiny.

Although Heidegger may deny that he was ever putting forward a normative philosophy, this, for me, seems the opening to what will be a subtle critique of industrial society, a critique of modern life which raises the suspicion that most folk are living it inauthentically and simply following the herd.

It's as if within that difficult and bizarre terminology, that paragraph exposed above, that Heidegger is beginning his cry to arms and his message is that to take a stand on one's being, make being an issue for it sincerely is not to forget "that man is impossible without imagination, without the capacity to invent for himself a conception of life, too ideate the character he is going to be" (Ortega y Gasset).

Edited by soleo
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It’s about time I report back with how I’m getting on, I suppose.

I made the mistake a couple weeks back of putting the book aside to take care of (no pun intended) some other things, and so I had the lovely task of reacquainting myself with the terminology, main points, etc., before I could go on. That accomplished, I’ve managed to get as far as the analysis of Descartes. Practically a quarter of the way through! :cheers1::shocked:

It’s been nice having your posts here, Soleo. Makes it easier to connect what Heidegger’s saying with more familiar ideas, and some of the possible implications, which is definitely an issue with so much unfamiliar language to digest.

I’d like to write up a more comprehensive response sometime in the next few days, so for now I’ll just share a dream I had last night, which I’m sure owes something to the section on signs, which I had been reading the day before that:

In the dream, I was playing a video game, and moved my on-screen character over to a generic item symbol. When I selected it, I got a message telling me that this wasn’t itself an item, but it pointed the way to other items. Then the screen changed to a sort of similar place where there were, indeed, other items.

Signs being “useful things which explicitly bring a totality of useful things to circumspection so that the worldly character of what is at hand makes itself known at the same time,” one can hardly fail to see a parallel. Actually, a lot I’ve read so far lends itself well to an analogy with video games now that I think about it. My subconscious mind may be onto something….

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Posted (edited)

Last thoughts on Dasein, for now...

Before moving on to the next section, I just wanted to say a word or two on some of the terminology.

Heidegger, P32, 12:...we should reserve the term 'ontology' for that theoretical inquiry which is explicitly devoted to the meaning of entities...then what we have...in mind in speaking of Dasein's 'Being-ontological' is to be designated as...'pre-ontological'.

Heidegger, P33, 13: Sciences are ways of Being in which Dasein comports itself towards entities...But to Dasein, Being in the world is something that belongs essentially. Thus Dasein's understanding of Being pertains with equal primordiality both to an understanding of something like a 'world' and to the understanding of the Being of those entities...So whenever an ontology takes for its theme entities whose character of Being is other than that of Dasein, it has its own foundation and motivation in Dasein's own ontical structure, in which pre-ontological understanding of Being is comprised as a definite characteristic.

Heidegger, P34,13: Therefore fundamental ontology from which alone all other ontologies can take their rise, must be sought in the existential analytic of Dasein.

Okay, so we've got number of things going on here.

I think for Heidegger, the term:

  • pre-ontology is the pre-cognitive and pre-explicit 'understanding' of things. Dasein has an idea of its own being, no matter how vague, and demonstrates an 'understanding' of other beings, through, for example, picking them up, using them, inspecting and staring at them, producing them, disclosing them to self and others, and all this without any need to draw on any explicit theory or discipline. At this most fundamental level we may call dasein's understanding of being a 'primordial absorption' (p76, 51). It is here, then, at this pre-ontological level, that all ontologies must arise, the being of dasein, its existence, reflected in all things conceived.

  • ontology points to a more focused, detailed and explicit understanding of beings, something like an ology or science.

  • theoretical ontology is any given discipline within the worlds of the ontology.

  • ontic or ontical ontology is the understanding of the properties and substances of a given being, their 'present-to-hand' as understood by the given theoretical ontology.

  • fundamental ontology will be the study of Dasein, the structural understanding of the being who makes being an issue for it. Why? Because as we have seen, all other ontologies depend on and are reflected through Dasein. Dasein, then, is the fundamental foundation of all ontology.

Rounding up for now, then, what we get is the following superficial sketch of Dasein, of you and I, which will be given its detailed portrait as we move on through B&T.

A Brief Sketch of Dasein

In some fashion, we make being an issue for us, we take a stand on it, which as we have seen means for Heidegger, the way we express ourselves :uglycheerleader: through our activities, behaviours and social roles, often conducted in an absorbed manner, without much thought or reflection.

In taking up activities and behaviours and social roles, Dasein manifests an understanding of being: that of the being of other things and that of itself. So, for example, when I pick up a drill :work: , I 'understand' the being of that drill as a hole-making-thing (a what) and I do this for some reason (my why).

This way of using stuff is one way Dasein 'understands' being.

But Dasein can also sit about and stare at stuff. It can contemplate things :pray2: , wonder about them and try to understand their ontic composition, their properties and characteristics. This is the game of traditional philosophers and scientists and this way of being exhibits another understanding of being, namely, present-at-hand.

So, for Heidegger, we've got three fundamental ways of being in the world:

  • Dasein - the being which makes being an issue for it :freakout1:
  • Present-at-hand - the properties, predicates, characteristics, categories of things :pray2:
  • Stuff dasein can use, equipment, tools, means to an end and stuff like that. :smash:

Now, all these ways of being highlight one important feature, they're all ways Dasein has a relationship with the world. The first is the way it relates itself to itself, the second and third is the way Dasein relates to things out-there and all three are reflected through Dasein and its way of being.

Thus, Dasein reflects its being onto all beings and so ontology must start with Dasein.

So, being and the understanding of being - whatever it is, be it a god, an octopus, or other human - is always in terms of analogy and metaphor, always in terms of ourselves, who carry and project our being towards and onto the being of all other things.

It follows that if we want to understand existence, ontology, what there is, the three dominant ways of being, ourselves or any other, we need to lay out the fundamental structures of Dasein which any type of intelligibility of being depends upon.

Now this doesn't make Heidegger an idealist. He's not questioning whether there would be substances and entities and properties in existence if there was no Dasein. Indeed, it would be a little odd to figure that existence per se depended on dasein. But clearly, there just wouldn't be this type of (human, all too human) understanding we have of being without Dasein.

Thus Being and Time is going to be an existential enquiry, an existential analytic, a book which will try to lay out the fundamental structures of existence which afterall is Dasein itself.

I hope all this has made some sense.

:yo:

Edited by soleo
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Posted (edited)

I should have added this to the end of the other post, but no worries.

We should by now have a more or less basic understanding of dasein and the approach H is going to take with B&T and I feel we are now ready to enter the world of Being-in which hovers around pages 78 to 104.

This is a complex and mighty section, so I think it's a good idea for folk to digest what is going on here in their own way, under the perspective of their own understanding, before I make any more comments on the text, and I feel this may take some time. It's a big section and there's a lot of things going on.

So, for now, I'll leave the discussion on Dasein and look forward to other folks' comments.

Hope this has helped :)

Edited by soleo

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Here is what it (seems like) to me, the direction Heidy is heading.

Da-sein, being, our conscious interactions with the world, are pre-theoretical, pre-ontological and pre-analytical. What has long been taken to be primary — the reduction, atomization, objectification and systematizing of the external world — is actually secondary or derivative. While we can look at the world this way, it doesn’t give us any inkling of what it is to be in the world, in a sea of context-dependent objects, environments and the like.

To take an example, when I create art, such as drawing or painting from the model, there comes a moment when the “I” completely falls out of it and I am simply lost in the work, and that is all that there is. That is basic and primary, and everything else, if it comes at all, is derivative or secondary: analyzing what a paintbrush is, the ontology of paints, what it means to model for a work of art, what art actually is, etc. etc. But the actual being is in the doing, and the web of relations. Is this where Heidy is going? Because this example certainly is meaningful to me.

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Posted (edited)

David, I think you've got a good grasp and I'm comfortable with the notion of 'conscious interaction with the world' if it doesn't assume some private-experiencing subject. Even when Martin talks about 'understanding' or 'state of mind' we've got to be careful. So, if we can appreciate that at almost all times it is a type of Cartesian, Searle, Kantian, Humean, Lockean paradigm which is being panned, we're definitely on the right track.

Indeed, the more I read of Being and Time, the more I feel Heidy is having a little natter, not so much with Descartes and all that mind-stuff which follows right up to Searle of today, but more with Kant's critique. Evidently, right from the opening, Kant argues that experience requires understanding and while Kant asks himself the Cartesian question: what does understanding supply to experience, or better said, what do we supply to have experience of the world. Heidegger says to Kant, yeah, that's good, but if you do that we're going to run into problems like idealism/realism, still stumble on the endless empirical Versus rational debates of skepticism, others minds etc. What we should ask is a more passive question, something like: How does understanding arise? And the answer seems to be from a primordial, rock bottom, basic, non-cognitive familiarity in the world from a species who takes a stand on its being, who makes being an issue for it.

Since realising this, I will need to go back over Kant and will need to re-study to see how the conversation I have in my hand really pans out between Heidy & Kant.

Nevertheless, with that said, if you ever feel or consider that the phenomena explication of Dasein is questionable or misleading, then that ought to be brought to light. At every move, as we keep our eyes on the ball, all we have to do is ask ourselves, Is it really like that for me? This goes for the misreadings of Heidegger a la existentialism.

Highlighting just the same phenomenon you mention above can be found here: http://www.galilean-...dpost__p__50702 . I don't know if that helps, but I brought it up just to show you that I too have read old Heidy boy in similar fashion.

If any further enquiries arise, I'd be only too happy to post replies via email.

Edited by soleo

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Posted (edited)

Perhaps one or two others might be lured into this joint reading, so that soleo feels more obliged to continue in thread rather than via e-mail? :)

Edited by davidm

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Posted

Ugh… I’ve been ill all week, so I wasn‘t really up to doing anything with this. But I guess now I’m ready to put forward a few thoughts… or try, anyway.

I’ve been thinking about the language. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes fascinating. I can usually manage to get at least something out of it, given enough time, but I don’t just want to understand it; I want to be sure I understand why Heidegger wrote this way in the first place. I assume it must have been essential to his purpose since I find it hard to imagine anybody choosing to write 400-some pages like that for the fun of it.

The most obvious advantage of the language he uses is that it’s not contaminated with preconceived notions, jarring in its off-ness, capable of showing the ‘space’ between our already-existing concepts-- or even making that space-- somewhat like a good aphorism might do. Or, rather, he gives us a new horizon to work from, although that doesn‘t seem to fully express the enormity of his system.

Such an approach would be ambitious, a direct grab at the meaning of being. Soleo’s Proteus comparison is definitely apt. The question then would be, “Is it successful?”

I would definitely want to get further on before trying to answer that question. But I’m skeptical. Heidegger’s way does seem to offer something unique and valuable, but can a frustrating, repelling language really provide the best way to ‘the things themselves’? Isn’t such a system bound to be isolated from our actual experience by its very nature?

Or perhaps its role is rather to point the way to other ways? :)

Anyway, I’d like to hear what someone who actually knows what they’re doing has to say.

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I figure it all a bit of an exaggeration but if I recall, William Blattner said that for a good five years or so, he didn't read anything but B&T. And Sean Kelly has said pretty much the same thing. I've read in someplace, somewhere that Dreyfus took about forty years to 'finally nail' the sense of some given lines in B&T. If it's any consolation, there must only be a handful of loons in each country, each year who ever decide to read B&T and most of those who begin, will never finish. Go slow, read, re-read, re-read. Let the book rest for a while and reflect on the phenomena Heidy is trying to expose you to. If you feel on any given section you are lost or confused, don't ignore the problem. And don't worry. Try to voice your concern, maybe someone can help. I good tip is not to read the introduction because it's not really going to be understood until the book is finished. Another, keep on asking yourself, Is this how it is? Is this how it is for me?

Here's a nice essay on problems of translation, German philosophy and Heidegger: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/german/gerphil.pdf

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Such an approach would be ambitious, a direct grab at the meaning of being. Soleo’s Proteus comparison is definitely apt. The question then would be, “Is it successful?”

I think it's not so much a 'direct grab' at being but more a provisional, circumspectional understanding, a formal indication. Indeed, by the mid-thirties, Heidegger didn't think you could get at being solely through Dasein. Society and culture, structures and practices, which imbue themselves in Dasein, also need to be accounted for.

Nevertheless, with that said, I wanted to just draw attention to the manner in which I have gone about reading B&T and which may help a little to some of the other readers. I don't know....

The provisional claim, the one being worked over in the entire text is that being is not a substance of any kind, it is not a form, a god, a substance with predicates, or what have you, but merely "that on the basis of which entities are already understood..." (p25:6).

This means that whatever being is, however some-thing, whatever that some-thing be, makes sense to you, it has to do with your understanding, intelligibility, a comprehension of some kind. Now, this is radical. The entire tradition has pretty much said that being is the most general property, universal, indefinable and self-evident, but if you start framing being as something which is understood by you and your kind, you're beginning to undercut some of those notions.

If you stop to pause at page 25, already little questions should spark: Understood by what? When? How? Under what circumstances? And you can appreciate that the given answer, the ones you give youself right here, may not necessarily be universal, indefinable, a general property and self-evident.

Indeed, playing along with Heidegger just at this page, without any need to read on, what does it mean for something to be understood? If something, for me, is understood, then as I reflect on that which is understood, I'm already having to draw on a bewildering frame of other features and characteristics. The pen, to be understood, needs to draw itself or refer to other things like ink, plastic, ball-points, paper, which again, refer to other things, like wood, oil, which in turn refer to other things, and just for the sake of argument, point to implicit understandings of language and writing, given social practices, ways of behaviour and activities in given historical times, education, and so on. The being of the pen, as something understood by me as a pen, even at this most basic level, once reflected upon has a most complex way of being.

Okay, so we read on a little more and we get to "Being arises from the average understanding of being in which we always operate and which...belongs to the essential constitution of Dasein itself." (p28.8).

Being belongs to Dasein! Our understanding of being arises from us. And what of this 'average understanding' what does that mean? At this point, I didn't read on. I put the book down and went for a walk, I went to college and to work, strolled the park, watched the children and the families, went to a bar and had a coffee. Certainly, I saw folk dealing with things. They were walking the streets, going in and out of door ways, picking up pens and bags, exchanging money for goods, picking up forks and knives in a general manner, dressed in a way, talking in another, going about their lives coping and struggling, and if I asked a child or an adult in class what theoretical concepts, hypothesis, theories, grammars they were drawing upon as they went about their everyday life, they, like me, couldn't give an answer.

They were just doing their thing, skillfully doing things without, in many cases, any deep reflection and certainly not drawing upon complex theories as they went about their daily lives. Most folk I encountered had this practical comportment towards the world of being. They, like me, knew-how to go about, and generally knew what they had to do.

And this led me to think what is the structure of that kind of fundamental understanding, what of the world these fellows move about in, what of their encountering with others, and so on. I went back to the book and read on.

In this manner, reading, reflecting, re-reading, reflecting, will mean that B&T will take years to read, but there's really no hurry. If the language throws you, don't worry. Just reflect on what you do grasp and even that will be something very significant and life rewarding.

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