First thoughts on Being and Time

In Heidegger’s Being and Time: A Reader’s Guide, William Blattner writes that Heidegger uses Husserl’s Phenomenological method in his analysis of everyday life. That method being a “way of disentangling the mind’s representation from the objects it represents and from the psychological states that do the representing.” Blattner adds that Heidegger was also influenced by Kant’s emphasis on examining the world as it appears to us; since the world ‘as such’ is totally off limits. So, it would seem, Heidegger follows Husserl in separating objects from our representations of them, but then disregards the object in itself like Kant. Blattner writes that according to Heidegger “to investigate the limits and requirements of our understanding of being is the only thing we can mean by ‘being.’ ” So, Heidegger rejects that the object in itself has any being? Is he then an Idealist like Berkeley?

At this point it seems Heidegger would barge in and say “Both Kant and Berkeley got it all wrong. We must disregard the object/subject distinction altogether. They inherited that mistake from Descartes. Of course the ‘external world’ exists. We take hold of and make use of it everyday. That’s what I’m talking about.” In his commentary to division one of Being and Time, Hubert Dreyfus identifies “five traditional assumptions that Heidegger seeks to clear away to make room for his interpretation of human being and his account of being in general.” One of which being mental representation. Or the distinction between the experienced and the experience.

Heidegger seeks to analyze Dasien’s interaction with the world, showing that in its most elementary interaction, Dasein is indistinguishable from the world. Thus, the subject/object structure is useless. The question arises: what qualifies as Dasien? Obviously humans do, but what about animals? Heidegger didn’t really offer an answer to this question, even upon direct questioning. He says though that Dasien must have an understanding of being, as that is a “definite characteristic of Dasein’s being.”(32) So if we could tell whether animals understand being we conclude that Heidegger’s remarks apply to them as well. I’m no animal psychologist but how could we determine whether animals understand being? Maybe if we could see if they fear death?

What really helps us decide thought, is found on page 33. “Dasein always understands itself in terms of its existence—in terms of a possibility of itself: to be itself or not itself.” Again I am no expert but it seems animals never don’t have that relation (as Kierkegaard might say) to themselves. They don’t say to themselves, “Who or what am I? Is it possible for me to change that?” They don’t make goals. In other words, it is impossible for animals to be inauthentic.

I have one more question that I hope will be answered as I read more of Being and Time, the prompt for which comes from Nietzsche. “To understand how the abstrusest metaphysical assertions of a philosopher have been arrived at, it is always well (and wise) to first ask oneself: ‘What morality do they (or does he) aim at?’ ” What are Heidegger’s ethical positions? He talks about pre-reflective activity in which an entity does not think about its being or about the equipment it uses. Should we think about being or should we just be? Should we think about what it means to be a hammer or should we just use the hammer in such a way that it becomes transparent and we don’t think about it at all? In fact, this angle seems to turn Being and Time into one huge paradox. The book seems to imply that pre-reflective activity is a more pure kind of being. But if we are not to think about being, then why read the book? If we should think about being why all this talk of pre-reflective activity?

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One Response to First thoughts on Being and Time

  1. Cris says:

    Happy New Year, from a foreign citizen who enjoys philosophy, Heidegger and your papers

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