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Being and Time

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by Nile577, Dec 2, 2007.

  1. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    [​IMG]

    Being and Time (1927)

    by Martin Heidegger (1889 - 1976)

    Translated (1962) by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson​

    This thread aims to offer a detailed reading of the German Philosopher Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time." I will continue the reading as long as I am willing and able to so, though updates will be irregular.

    Anyone is welcome to read along with me and clarify my oversights and mistakes. I shall share my notes/thoughts (however imperfect and confused they are) with a view to deepening my own understanding in the undertaking. I will ask questions where I do not understand a passage myself.

    If this thread is of no interest to others, I ask our moderators to permit its existence for selfish reasons. It should also prevent outbreaks of "Heidegger jargon" in other threads.

    Again, far from being an expert, I am very much in the process of discovering Heidegger. Those with deeper understanding will speak with more authority and may find my musings naive. As I have no formal background in philosophy this reading will doubtless miss many references to the Philosophical Tradition (even if mostly deprecatory in nature).

    I suspect that in the course of our reading we shall discover that to undertake such a project is, in itself, a "blocking" of Heideggerian concerns. If this is the case, perhaps these notes might fall away as something to be discarded in light of deeper understanding.

    This will be a reading of the Macquarrie & Robinson translation as unfortunately it is the only one I own. As my knowledge of German increases I hope to provide revisions as I attempt to read the original text. The reading will be detailed and slow, being conducted section by section. I have consulted guidebooks by Dreyfus, Blattner, King and others as well as Dreyfus' lecture series, and my understanding of Heidegger is indebted to them (e.g. 'background' is a Dreyfus term).
     
    #1 Nile577, Dec 2, 2007
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2021
  2. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    This post will act as a placeholder to be replaced with (as far as possible) a 'glossary' of Heideggerian terminology. How appropriate it is to refer to Heidegger's neologisms as "terminology," and whether a 'glossary' is a viable structure to impose upon Being and Time remain undecided.
     
  3. Justin S.

    Justin S. Member

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    Opportune timing, as some fellow classmates and I are doing a reading of it over the winter break. Unfortunately, my semester doesn't end for another two weeks, so I won't be able to contribute much until them.

    Also, I know I've beaten this dead horse, but I think you would spare yourself a lot of work by tracking down Stambaugh's version (eminently more elegant!)...
     
  4. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Ok, ok i ordered it! It has a leaf on the cover, afterall.

    I guess I shall delay posting until it arrives and read it alongside the Macquarrie version. Once I have begun formal lessons in German, I'll read it with the original work.
     
  5. fates warning 666

    fates warning 666 New Metal Member

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    I'm definitely interested in reading but I'll probably be incapable of contributing, at least for the time being.
     
  6. Justin S.

    Justin S. Member

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    I've begun reading and my plan is to finish before spring term (mid-January). That works out to about four weeks, and a hundred pages per week. It "divides" well (structurally) along these page lengths as well.

    Nile577: it turns out only one classmate is reading it along this schedule with me, so our "meetings" won't be much, but we are dedicated. I'd enjoy meeting up with you during your stay in the area. I will be out of town Dec.26-Jan.2, so let me know what dates might work for you.
     
  7. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Here begins our reading. Please feel free to ask questions or correct misunderstandings on my part.

    Preface

    Thus, before we even reach the introduction of Being and Time, Heidegger has adumbrated the task at hand: nothing less than the working out of the meaning of being. The significance of this question must by necessity remain obscure at this preliminary juncture, yet perhaps we may venture a few preparatory remarks for our engagement with this text.

    The 'question of being' would fuel Heidegger's entire philosophical project, and it has thus far informed two generations of thinkers in 'continental' philosophy, theology, artificial intelligence and psychology (ironically, categories which Heidegger would reject). Here the question is presented abruptly, with the promise of further elucidation, yet already we are asked to consider the 'meaning of being.' What is meant here by 'meaning?' Are we concerned with a purely semantic definition of the word 'being?' In what sense, to whom, and how can we speak of 'meaning?' Is the question one of traditional epistemology?

    As it forms the ground upon which our enquiry is to unfold, it is essential to tackle this question at the outset. In part because of the unfinished nature of Being and Time, it is extremely easy to lose track of Heidegger's stated task, and thus misunderstand the thrust of his thinking. I will say more about this in future posts.

    In her guide to Being and Time, Magda King notes that "meaning, according to Heidegger, is that from which something is understandable as the thing it is." How do we understand something as the thing it is? Let us try to give an example of our own.

    Consider a garden rake. How do we understand it as that which it is - a rake - and not simply a collection of molecules among others, a type of wood, or a quality of steel? Well, in a sense, it has a function as a tool. If we wished to convey the meaning of 'garden rake' to a child, we might first of all tell him it is a tool for loosening soil, and, assuming that he already possessed an understanding of 'tool,' we might then reveal that it is a tool for gardening. However, only if the child understood that raking loosened the soil for gardening - the dwelling-undertaking by which a gardener cares for the land, tills the earth and brings forth plants - would he understand the rake as essentially the thing it is.

    Why would it not be sufficient to demonstrate the functional usage of the rake, you may ask? Because "function" is not isolated from "world." A child might see a skilled typist pressing keys on a keyboard, and be able to perform the motor task of pressing buttons, but when typing, one is bound up with "language," "communication" and "writing." Analogously, demonstrating the usage of the rake as that which loosens earth would allow a full understanding of the rake as the 'thing it is' only if one were to understand the bound-up nexus of "gardening," "growing" and "harvesting".

    Mere factual knowledge of the rake's physical properties, molecular structure, colour and dimensions do not in themselves provide the meaning of a 'rake.' Even a simple demonstration of the rake as that which breaks earth provides only a limited understanding of the thing it is. From where, then, has this understanding taken place?

    We have seen that something like a nexus reveals the rake. This nexus is the world of human existence. As our investigation continues it will become clear that Heidegger means nothing like 'fixed extended space' when he employs the term 'world.' The term suggests, rather, a complex, equipmental nexus (though we get far ahead of ourselves here). For now it is sufficient to grasp that, for Heidegger, meaning comes from the human world of existence. Without the human world, a rake, a ten-dollar-bill and a baseball stadium would have no meaning as the things they are.

    To return to King's definition, "meaning, according to Heidegger, is that from which something is understandable as the thing it is." Again then, from where is a rake understood? From the world of gardening or, in short, from the world of human existence. As will be revealed, we are not at all talking of the world as offering a mode of epistemological understanding, or bringing forth a structuralist analysis; rather of understanding coming from the underlying attunement of human being itself. For now this too must remain nebulous and unexplored.

    The world of our quotidian existence comprises what Heidegger calls the 'horizon' (the region) of our understanding. Things show up meaningfully as the things they are when they are disclosed (revealed) in the horizon of human understanding. Being and Time will try to show that time is the horizon of our understanding of being.

    To return to our initial question - the meaning of being - Heidegger aims to undertake an analysis of how we are able to understand the meaning of being whatsoever. As King notes, ‘The horizon which makes it possible for us to understand being as being is itself the meaning of being.’ Some primary considerations and intense difficulties with the enquiry will be examined in our forthcoming reading of section 1, "The Necessity of an Explicit Retrieve of the Question of Being."

    I am hopeful that my next post will be more approachable, with Heidegger presenting his formal introduction to the question.
     
  8. Blowtus

    Blowtus Member

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    That was great :) Look forward to more posts.
     
  9. Justin S.

    Justin S. Member

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    Glad to see this thread underway.

    In trying to gain a better understanding of "meaning of being," I find it helpful to consult the German text (though Nile577 already did a nice job showing how "meaning" for Heidegger is nothing merely definitional or "functional").

    Heidegger asks about the "Sinn von Sein," often translated as "meaning of being." However, "Sinn" is frequently translated (Being and Time included) as "sense," (e.g., "in what sense...") and if handled carefully one could rightfully say Heidegger is concerned (though not exclusively) with the question of the "sense of being" (of course, nothing sensory). "Meaning," as we usually "hear" it in English, resounds more like "Bedeutung." Every beginning German speaker quickly learns "Was bedeutet ... ?," "What does ... mean?" This question usually seeks a more definitional answer in both languages. I think it's very important to keep these distinctions in mind, specifically that the question of being is always in terms of "Sinn," and not "Bedeutung."

    A similar issue (that I touched upon in my aborted and abandoned Kant thread) is the English translation of the German verbs "kennen" and "wissen" both as "to know." However, they have distinct senses and uses. Roughly, "wissen" is to know as a "fact," "kennen" is knowledge through "acquaintance" of some sort. "Science" in German is "Wissenschaft." Philosophy, on the other hand, is bound up in the richness of "kennen."

    Also, the "preface" of Being and Time opens with an important excerpt from Plato's Sophist. The strangeness or uncanniness of the questioning of "being" is an essential part of the work. There are two lines omitted within Nile577's quotation. They are: "So it is fitting that we should raise anew the question of the meaning of being... So first of all we must awaken an understanding for the meaning of this question."

    Not only does the sense of being lie in oblivion, but so does the sense and understanding of the question of it, of its question-worthiness. Oblivion, like essential forgetting, is a twofold concealment; the matter at stake is concealed, and this concealment is also concealed (e.g., when we really forget something, the matter doesn't simply slip from mind, but the fact that it slipped from mind also slips away).

    Heidegger seeks to "renew" and "reawaken" what has fallen into oblivion yet remains nearest, to rekindle "a Battle of Giants concerning Being" [this again from Sophist]. Even his later chapters in the book are still titled "preparatory," "sketch," "preliminary," attempts that must be repeated on a "higher," more intense and penetrating level as the understanding of the meaning of the question is stoked. Being and Time is an introduction that was left "unfinished" (in terms of a publication), its continuation (not "completion") necessitating recapitulation from steps further along the path it opened (Heidegger's later work).
     
  10. kmik

    kmik Member

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    Is it a sense of Being of a specific Being or a sense of Being, generally?
     
  11. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    An excellent question, Kmik.

    Certainly the latter. Traditional ontology has been in error, notes Heidegger, where it has started its enquiry into being from the being of beings. "Being" as a universal genus of "things" is not a very good predicate, since the being of numbers, people, potatoes and gods is very different. That is, the attributive qualities of the 'is' in the statements "God is" and "man is" bear little similarity. Hence, Heidegger's enquiry is concerned with the meaning of being in general (not the being of beings).

    Keeping with Justin's important post above, Dreyfus puts it rather well in noting that Heidegger wants to "make sense of our ability to make sense of things." Our "ability to make sense of things" is our background understanding of being. This understanding is a not property that we have, but is broadly constitutive of what we are. In future posts we will discuss how this understanding is not to be thought of as a object or as being in any sense open to the scientific enquiry of a subject.

    More about the history of traditional ontology and Heidegger's criticisms of it will be found in the first ("substantive") introduction to Being and Time.

    (Important note: For the purpose of an introductory investigation of Being and Time - presumed here a first step into Heideggerian thinking - we should probably not capitalise "being." This has been discussed elsewhere on the forum but the most persuasive reason for not so doing is that we avoid thinking of being as an entity. A consideration of Heidegger's later philosophy may cause us to revise this decision in light of the religious weight of what is suggested, but such decisions are here assumed to be a matter for future consideration.)
     
  12. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Here begins our notes on Heidegger's first introduction. These notes are just that: notes. As such they are rough and ready and lack the structure and polish of an essay, or guidebook. I have sometimes placed the term "being" in quotation marks to aid comprehension. No special meaning is intended by this. I urge people to correct misunderstandings and mistakes on my part.

    INTRODUCTION 1

    The Exposition of the Question of the Meaning of Being

    I – The Necessity, Structure, and Priority of the Question of Being

    1 – The Necessity of an Explicit Retrieve of the Question of Being

    Paragraph 1

    Heidegger begins by noting that the question of being has been forgotten. He suggests that, though our time considers itself “progressive” in affirming metaphysics, we remain in obscurity concerning this essential question. Now, Heidegger’s usage of the word “metaphysics” may appear rather peculiar to those who are unfamiliar with his thinking. Elsewhere (in Introduction to Metaphysics & What is Metaphysics?) he develops our understanding of the term at great length. We ourselves will come to better appreciate what he means as we progress through Being and Time. For now it would not be too harmful to think of “metaphysics” as representing the traditional method of philosophical and scientific enquiry.

    Today we think the question of being resolved; Heidegger thinks nothing of the sort. He notes that the question occupied Aristotle and Plato, but was then considered “solved;” with their findings being twisted into new questions (the traditional “philosophical” enquiries). That is, for Heidegger, all philosophical systems since Aristotle and Plato are just different takes on a superficial understanding of being. This is a very radical claim. He calls such philosophies “substance ontologies.” That is: philosophical projects that have, at source, an understanding of being that is rooted in the being of beings. More will be said about this below.

    Something of the magnitude of the task is suggested when Heidegger notes that the Greek understanding of being, which has become the trivialised, taken-for-granted foundation of philosophical enquiry, was initially “wrested from phenomena with the highest exertion of thought". A similar exertion will be required for the enquiry to be undertaken in Being and Time.

    Paragraph 2

    Not only is the question of being considered “dealt with,” or trivial, but a kind of dogma has evolved which considers it unanswerable! Heidegger writes,“It is said that “being” is the most universal and emptiest concept.” By stating this he means to suggest that "being" cannot be thought of as an existing thing, or property of a thing. It is not, that is, that all things ‘have’ being; – as if being were a property they possessed that could be isolated - it is that all things are*. Being is not a property in isolation, or a thing itself. One can’t go into the butcher’s shop and ask for “a pound of being, please.” Being is not a thing.

    *Note: I did not say “all things are being” as that would imply that the totality of beings – that is, everything – is Being, and that individual beings are tiny slices of a collective, existing thing. To keep with our analogy, being is not some kind of cosmic leg of lamb which is cut up into slices, just so, at the butcher’s shop; rather, our understanding of being allows lamb to show up as the thing it is.

    Today it is thought that this "most universal concept" – being – does not need definition, that it is already understood. A Hammer and a number have very different ways of being, as do a man and a cactus; yet we seem implicitly to understand this without a worked-out study of being. “Everybody uses [the term “being”] constantly and already understands what is meant by it.”

    It must be stressed that Heidegger is not after a definition of the word “being,” as if the question were merely a matter of semantics. He is enquiring after our ‘sense,’ or understanding of the “meaning” of being (as outlined in our notes to the preface).

    Paragraph 3

    The prejudices that keep the question obscured (that is: the prejudices of bad metaphysics) cannot be discussed in detail here. To do so we would need to consider the foundations of ancient ontology (that is: the study of being), of Greek thinking itself. Of course, we must eventually return to the very soil from which this ancient ontology was developed, but to do this we must first have already understood the meaning of being beforehand. For now, though, we will briefly look at these prejudices to draw out the necessity of asking the question again. This will not be a detailed “critique.”

    Heidegger points us towards three prejudices:

    Paragraph 4

    1 – being (beingness) is the most universal concept.

    ““Being” does not delimit the highest region of beings so far as they are conceptually articulated according to genus and species: oute to on genos [“Being is not a genus”]. The universality of being surpasses the universality of genus.”

    This is a difficult passage. As we have already seen, “being” is not a property that things have. Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo floresiensis are examples of the ‘Homo’ genus, but “being” does not form a genus in this way. We cannot look at a table and strip away its other qualities until simple “being” remains. Furthermore, even if we could, we have seen that “being” is not a universal concept: numbers, gods, things and people have very different ways of being. The being of beings is not the always the same. Furthermore: concepts like "genus" themselves have a way of being.

    “Being,” then, must be understood before any physical or categorical concepts. Aristotle thought that being was understood by a process of analogy. That is, we could understand the being of a god by comparison with the being of man; we might understand the being of a number in comparison with the being of a dog. Some progress is made by this approach, but still our understanding of being in general is left hidden. We must already have an understanding of being to understand the types of beings we are comparing.

    Medieval ontology (particularly the work of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus) discussed the problem of our analogical understanding of being in particular relation to the being of man and the being of God. How are we to understand the different nature of the “is” in the statements “God is” and “man is?” These ontologies attempt to designate beings as “possible” and “necessary,” and ground all beings in a theistic God. We will talk more about these “onto-theologies” later. For now, it is sufficient to recognise that our understanding of being has become no clearer. Just as we must already understand what is meant by “steak” to understand “raw steak” or “cooked steak;” for being to be “necessary” or “possible” we must already have an understanding of being.

    Hegel calls being the “indeterminate immediate,” and founds his logic upon it. Obviously this remains an unclear (“indeterminate”) understanding of being, and furthermore forsakes Aristotle’s understanding that being is transcendent of physical categories.

    Paragraph 5

    II – The concept of being is indefinable.

    Heidegger tells us that this conclusion was drawn from being’s “highest universality.” That it, as soon as we try to define being as a being (something that is), or as a genus (which as a category still has a kind of being), we have already understood being in understanding the being of these beings. Simply (and again): being cannot be a being (a thing), as beings (things) do not possess being as a property among others.

    Being cannot be derived from theoretical concepts whatsoever, as such concepts already are as soon as they are established. In positing concepts we already demonstrate an understanding of being. Thus we cannot define beings with traditional logic. Logic works on the premise of analysing “objects” (or theories, or abstracts, or entities in the widest sense) with propositions, and being is nothing like an object but rather that which, when understood, allows objects to show up.

    Paragraph 6

    III – Being is the self-evident concept

    However, we DO have an everyday and constant understanding of being. We understand the meaning of “the sky is blue,” or “I am happy.” The way in which we have access to (understand) entities is our understanding of being, yet we cannot think of this understanding as an entity for enquiry.* How are we to proceed?

    * = This "access" to beings is not an epistemological mode of understanding, but our understanding of being in general. Heidegger grounds epistemology (which works on the premise of a subject-object distinction) in a prior fundamental ontology. This prior understanding of being allows "objects" and "subjects" to show up.

    Paragraph 7

    If we are to enquire after this “self-evident” understanding of being, it seems dubious to allow it to form – without enquiry – the foundation of fundamental philosophical questions. That is, we should not allow thinking to start with the notion that our understanding of being is self-evident and therefore not worth investigation.

    Paragraph 8

    Not only is the answer to the question of being clouded, but the question itself runs into the same obscurity. Is not a question already a being itself? Is it not asked by an enquirer who already is? Indeed, do we not already have an understanding of being when we ask what is being? Before we seek the answer, we must more carefully formulate the question. We will see how Heidegger does this in section 2.
     
  13. kmik

    kmik Member

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    Great post! Very clear. Just one thing: I remember a vague talk of truth as ontological rather than propositional: that is, before "the sky is blue" we must say "the sky is". But I guess its touched upon later. It's just not clear if by the ambiguity in the "is" you mean the ambiguity of the relationship between "blueness" and "sky" or the fact that there IS sky as an entity.
     
  14. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    I don't think it is quite that we must say "the sky is blue." It is that our understanding of being allows the blue sky to show up as the thing it is prior to any proposition. The "truth" of a proposition is founded upon its correspondence with "reality." Heidegger argues that "reality" is already given by our understanding of being and, hence, the "truth" of propositional logic already presupposes an understanding of being. "Truth" is not propositional, or even observational (for things to be observed, they must already be). Truth is the way in which beings show up in the clearing of the "world." (This last sentence leaps way ahead and must remain obscure for now.)

    It's not quite that the relationship between "sky" and "blue" is ambiguous, or even that the “fact” of the sky as a being is ambiguous. Indeed, these things are very well understood in our common, everyday understanding of being. It is that our understanding itself remains hidden, forgotten and taken for granted. To answer your question: if we were to abstract “blueness” from “sky,” “blueness” would already be an abstract thing. Heidegger is not concerned with the properties of entities (e.g. colour, texture weight - ontic qualities). He is after an understanding of being that allows these entities to be the things they are. As we have seen above, we CANNOT begin this enquiry starting from beings themselves, or properties/characteristics of beings. Being is not a being, since all beings already are*.

    * This “are" should not be confused with having material existence. Numbers, gods, thoughts and emotions do not have material existence but are all beings.

    Heidegger will argue that our understanding of being is not just a set of "theories" we have forgotten that could be brought to light and understood like any other. While we can make our understanding of being manifest in a “concrete” sense, it cannot be made explicit in the same way as directions on a map, or computer instructions. We must also beware of thinking that our understanding of being is a kind of "subconscious" which we can mine for details. Our understanding is what allows all beings whatsoever (e.g. theories, models of the mind, objects, subjects, abstract categories etc) to show up.

    Once again, if you will excuse the repetition, Being and Time attacks all philosophical or methodological systems that give total priority to a subject-object dualism. It argues that the subject-object distinction is founded upon a more primordial understanding of being that allows subjects and objects to show up.

    Heidegger is not opposed to all theory, or to science. Theories are useful in context but are not foundational. Likewise, science is brilliant, demonstrable and of immense practical use, but where it becomes scientism it obscures the very question he is trying to raise.
     
  15. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    I wonder if (if and when he has time) Justin might say a bit about why "an entity" is a poor translation of "ein Seinendes." I seem to remember him taking issue with its use in the Macquarrie translation. Dreyfus is not much help here and simply notes that "when Heidegger is describing everyday contexts it is preferable to use "a being" [as opposed to "an entity"]" He does not give a reason for this choice.
     
  16. Justin S.

    Justin S. Member

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    A few reasons why:

    The first, and perhaps most basic reason, is that Sein and Seiende* are what is written; they share the same root and this essential connection is the key (trace) to ontological difference (the difference between being and a being). Why then, when English has the "equivalent" infinitive and noun "to be" and "being," would one substitute some other word that severs the crucial relationship of Heidegger's work? Sein und Zeit displays an entire nexus of words rooted in or constructed from Sein: Dasein, in-der-Welt-sein, mitsein, selbstsein, etc.

    Whenever we read or say "a being," "being-in-the-world," "being-towards," or "being-with" we are drawn back to, kept near, being. What about "entity"? What does this lead us to? Nothing in English, as the root is ens, the Latin transformation of the Greek "to on." Entity, lacking the nexus of being, is often employed in specific philosophical and scientific senses, already carrying with it certain interpretations of being. It is disastrous to import, through "translation," the very conceptions the work seeks to overturn.

    *Seiende, Seiendes, Seienden, Seiendem, etc., are all the same noun but have different endings due to the German case system.
     
  17. kmik

    kmik Member

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    That Being is not a being confused me. All beings ARE. So Being IS NOT?
     
  18. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    (Kmik: thanks for the question. I will try to get to it as soon as possible. I apologise for the delay in answering you. I am extremely busy with work and study.)

    Here is the next post in our ongoing reading of Being and Time. Please correct any errors or misunderstandings you see in this difficult section.

    2 – The Formal Structure of the Question of Being

    Paragraph 1

    Our question - the question of being - must be formulated. All questions, if they are enquiries, have a certain basic structure. That is, all questions ask about something. We have already seen, however, that being is not a thing. How, then, are we to ask after being? In order to formulate our specific question we must examine (make transparent) the structure of questions in general. We will then see the unique challenge presented by the question of being and perhaps discover a way in which it can be formulated despite this challenge.

    Paragraph 2

    Here Heidegger explicates the structure of questions in general. His thinking in this regard is extremely subtle and gives an indication of the extent to which this work will challenge theories constructed upon our "taken for granted" common sense understanding of being. Note: Heidegger will not assert that all such theories (whether scientific, philosophical, political or social) are incorrect (though he does attack "theoretical" philosophy). He merely wishes to establish that they are not primal, and are in fact grounded upon a dubious metaphysical principle. This metaphysical principle (man as a rational animal located spacially in a physical world) covers up and glosses over our pre-theoretical understanding of being. That is: an understanding of being which is already present before any theorising begins; an understanding of being that allows us to understand the being of the theorising self ("rational man") and the world in which he finds himself as the things they are.

    When we formulate a theoretical question, an understanding of what is to be asked about is already delineated. A question asks about a specific type or region of beings, and, in its formulation, discloses and reveals the kind of beings it is to ask after. In a general sense, a vague adumbration of the "asked about" is given in the question. Simply put: when we ask a question, we ask about someTHING. The being of a thing is thus sketched out in advance. A question, then, inquires into a thing or things.

    The being of what is to be ascertained by the question lies in the question itself. For example, let us suppose we wished to ask a simple question: "what are animals?" In asking the question we disclose the type of beings to be asked about: animals. We must already have a certain understanding of animals in order to formulate the question. Animals are what are asked out, what are to be interrogated, what are to be ascertained. You may object that we might replace "animals" with a completely abstract nonsense word. This would require, however, an already present understanding of the abstract and the nonsensical. In formulating a question, an understanding of being leaps ahead and discloses the kind of beings which will be asked after.

    Questioning itself has its own kind of being. Questioning is a mode of human being. Questioners can either casually ask around after something, or can formulate an explicit theoretical question. Explicit theoretical questions do not become transparent to themselves until they have become transparent in their structure as it is outlined above.

    Paragraph 3

    Our question, in Being and Time, is the question of being. In order to make the question transparent we must consider its structure. Does the question of being already reveal, in its formulation, that which is to be asked after: being, and, if so, how can it do so if being is not itself a being?

    Paragraph 4

    We have already seen that questions have a certain guidance from what they seek. That is, something of the being of what is asked after is already disclosed in the formulation of the question. The question of being, however, is formulated by a questioner who always and already understands being implicitly. Our understanding of being is utterly prior to the formulation of any theoretical question of being. That is, we do not know with any theoretical clarity what being means, but we already stand within an understanding of being. We must already understand being implicitly to understand the being of any question whatsoever and to understand the being of the questioner. Heidegger will call this pre-theoretical understanding of being Dasein's preontological understanding of being. Following Dreyfus, 'Preontological' just means 'implicit,' or 'before' (pre) any worked out theory of ontology.

    Heidegger is suggesting, then, that the question of being itself arises from a background preontological understanding of being. To formulate a question of being we must already implicitly understand the being of the questioner and the being of questions. We have explicated the structure of questions in general (above) but we now find that the structure of the question of being arises from the soil of our implicit understanding (of being) itself. If we examine the question "what is being?," we have an implicit, background, already-present understanding of the "is." We cannot grasp what the "is" means theoretically; it is understood in a pre-theoretical fashion. We do not even know the horizon from which being is understood. Yet our preontoloical understanding of being announces itself as a fact.

    Paragraph 5

    Our preontological understanding of being is worthy of exploration. However, a questioning into this pretheoretical understanding of being finds guidance only when we have developed the concept of being itself. Thus we will set aside an inquiry into this background understanding until we have a clearer understanding of the concept of being.

    Paragraph 6

    Furthermore, our preontological understanding of being can be subjected to various theories that attempt to explicate but in fact prejudice our understanding. Our preontological understanding of being is not a theoretical network that can be illuminated and written out as a set of propositions. Likewise it should not be mistaken for a theoretical region of consciousness (i.e. the unconscious, the subconscious). Our preontological understanding of being is radically prior to these things, allowing us to understand the being of theories and consciousness.

    Without a preontological understanding of being, no beings whatsoever would be understood by us as the things they are.

    What is asked about in the question of being is not, then, unfamiliar, but our preontological understanding of being is totally ungraspable. That is, we cannot formulate it as an explicit theory.

    Paragraph 7

    What is to be asked about is being. Being is that which determines entities as the things they are (it itself is not an entity). We understand beings in terms of their being, which is not a characteristic they possess but that which they fundamentally are.

    (NOTE: Heidegger never finished Being and Time. We must rely on this early sketch of what he means by being to guide our understanding of the work as it exists. As will become clear, Heidegger felt it necessary to understand the being of the questioner (Dasein) before moving on to an understanding of being in itself. Because the book was abandoned before Heidegger dealt with the question of being in general, Being and Time is often erroneously thought of as a work concerned only with human existence. Heidegger's enquiry into Dasein was to serve as the precondition for an enquiry into being itself. For such an enquiry we must look to his later philosophy.)

    In the book Heidegger's Temporal Idealism, William Blattner makes the important point that, on Heidegger's description here, being is not tied to any kind of Dasein-based idealism. Being is not, as Dreyfus holds, what makes beings intelligible to Dasein. Rather, as Blattner writes, "we can understand the being of an entity to be its ontological framework. By 'ontological framework' I mean that framework in virtue of which an entity is an entity and an entity of the sort that it is. The framework of baseball [would be] the configuration of items that make up the game of baseball. An ontological framework is, thus, a configuration of items in virtue of which an entity is an entity of the sort it is."

    I find this account persuasive (we should not conflate being with Dasein's sense of being), though I would prefer the term "flavour" to "framework," as "framework" is suggestive of a Structuralist analysis of being (which is far from what Heidegger intends), and in general it implies a rigidly analytical focus to Being and Time which is belied by the methodological approach Heidegger develops in his second introduction.

    To continue:

    Heidegger warns us against the errors of onto-theology, of "telling a story" of being. As outlined above, we should not account for beings in terms of their causal grounding in a theistic god, since this gains us no understanding of being itself.

    To formulate the question of being, then, we will need a concept of what is to be ascertained (the meaning (sense) of being) that is essentially different from the concepts of beings that guide other questions. Since being is not a being, we cannot enquire after it as we do animals, or buildings (which are determined as the entities they are by being, and are understood by Dasein from the world of human existence). The meaning of being will need its own unique conceptualisation.

    [Paragraphs 8 – 12 to follow later]
     
    #18 Nile577, Apr 1, 2008
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2021
  19. JoeVice

    JoeVice Member

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    "Heidegger is suggesting, then, that the question of being itself arises from a background preontological understanding of being."

    "Heidegger will call this pre-theoretical understanding of being Dasein's"

    "Our preontological understanding of being is not a theoretical network that can be illuminated and written out as a set of propositions. "


    pfff...i could go on, but damn nile, this is a lovely idea.

    "Heidegger is suggesting, then, that the question of being itself arises from a background preontological understanding of being."

    "Heidegger will call this pre-theoretical understanding of being Dasein's"

    "Our preontological understanding of being is not a theoretical network that can be illuminated and written out as a set of propositions. "


    pfff...i could go on, but damn nile, this is a lovely idea.

    "it seems to me that our reference to being can be an entity. or is it just that the "reference to being" is the entity, and that the real being should be more in the realm of "of" the "reference to being as an entity"?"

    sorry if this is ridiculous, but maybe you could help clear it up a bit...i think i'm really on to something!!!
     
  20. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    I think you understand the passage very well. If we are trying for a worked out theory of being then yes, our "reference to being" has itself a kind of being. The kind of being that theories/questions have is understood intuitively (preontologically). That is, we do not need to consult some kind of "complete idiot's guide to being" to understand the being of questions; we just understand it*. (though we can, of course, attempt to delve into this understanding – as Heidegger does above –, we cannot bring it to absolute theoretical clarity). Ideas and theories grow out of the soil of our preontological understanding of being. This understanding is not something we have but is broadly constitutive of what we are.

    * = A further example of our preontological understanding of being would be the distance we stand from those we consider friends vs. the distance we stand from those we consider lovers. It is very unlikely that, as children, we were ever told to stand precisely 0.79 meters from friends in a non-crowded environment; we just do it. Likewise, we are never instructed in the exact distance we must raise our eyebrows in greeting; we just do it. We do not know such things in a theoretical sense; we understand them pre-theoretically.

    Heidegger's argument is that human's are bound up with this preontological understanding of being (into which they are acculturated as children) more primally than the adopted theoretical stance (founded upon a subject/object divide.). The theoretical outlook only arises when our preontological understanding of being is challenged in some fashion. In using a door, for example, we do not seem to process a detached, computer-progam-like set of instructions; we have been acculturated into implicitly understanding the being of the door. We are not a subject using an object; we are being-towards-opening-the-door. We may, and indeed often are, thinking of something else entirely at the time.

    If the door “malfunctions,” however, suddenly it leaps out as an object. We examine and inspect the handle and are confronted with a number of possibilities as to what to do next. Theories can be of immense use in this circumstance (for example: a theory of how I, as subject, will fix the door handle, as object). However, theories are not primal and are founded upon a preontological understanding of being. Heidegger feels the error of Western thinking has been to posit the theoretical outlook (the subject/object divide) as the unquestionable foundation of thought. He wishes to shake this foundation.

    Heidegger must try to write of being without using the methodology (metaphysics) of ideas and theories. In the conclusion of our reading of section 2, and our reading of the second introduction, we will see how, and why, he develops hermeneutic phenomenology as his methodological approach. If Heidegger is correct, this will bring forth a new way of thinking, and will allow us to question being even as we stand within its draft.
     

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