PHI 347 Classnotes : SEPTEMBER 8, 2004 - (2nd class meeting)


Reading Assignments:

* From Supplements you are to read: Chapter 4 (time), Ch. 7 (Jaspers), Ch. 10 (Dilthey), Ch. 9 (Aristotle). Chapter 10 (on Dilthey) came out just before Being and Time came out and it features Heidegger’s notions and discussions of Dasein, phenomenology, Husserl, Dilthey, intentio, world view. *See, for an overview of Heidegger’s work, Chapter 1 from Supplements. See the glossary as well.

*Read the 35-page Introduction to Being and Time. Study the Table of Contents of Being and Time.

*Read most of the stuff in Elucidations, especially “Holderlin and the Essence of Poetry,” which is important, and “Homecoming.” Basically you’re going to need to see how Heidegger reads the Holderlin poems and how he does hermeneutics with them.

                                           Introductory/Background Remarks:


(Abbau is translated “deconstruction,” which is an example of a tentative translation in glossary of Supplements.)


Being and Time is the main work by Heidegger, the “Bible” in terms of background for hermeneutics and deconstruction.


Being and Time mostly covers Being (and not time), so Heidegger did a little book called On Time and Being, written decades later (in the’60s), but it’s the basic book that made Heidegger famous. He was at the University of Freiburg, first as an assistant of Edmund Husserl. When Being and Time came out Heidegger became a professor, then the philosophy professor at Freiburg when Husserl retired.


During his Freiburg years Heidegger corresponded with Karl Jaspers. (See the correspondence published in a series of books in a series edited by Prof. Silverman for HUMANITY BOOKS – Letters from 1920 til the ’60s.) They had the view that together they could somehow shape German philosophy in the pre-world war II period and even define philosophy for the entire world.


Heidegger became Rector ( in ’33 - ’34, in which National Socialism was coming to prominence and Hitler was coming to power), which is the chief academic figure – someplace between provost and president – of the university and the one most responsible for the decisions . Anyone who was Jewish was “invited” to leave the university and not allowed to teach anymore. Husserl had some Jewish background and was not allowed to come back to the university. (Heidegger’s background was Catholic.)


In 1933-34 Heidegger gave his Rectoral address in which among other things, he defended National Socialism’s ideals and goals.


Heidegger continued to teach through the 2nd World War. He was barred from teaching after the de-Nazification of Germany in 1945. He continued to hold seminars privately and lectures into the ’50s and ’60s and had avid students. There are questions about to what extent he was actually committed to the policies of the Nazi party and to what extent he believed in their ideology (see Derrida’s book on this, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question). He came from a rural, peasant environment, though he was from a middle-class family.


This was the political side of Heidegger’s work.


Heidegger’s notions of philosophy and notions of thinking that he developed are extraordinary and shaped much of Continental philosophy in the 20th century.


His work was taken up substantially by French philosophers, beginning in around 1933 with Emmanuel Levinas, who first studied with Husserl then with Heidegger before going back to France. Levinas translated Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations into French, bringing phenomenology into France. The Notion of Intuition in Husserl’s Philosophy by Levinas was influential for French philosophers, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre. Everyday objects, the perceptions of them, could be developed phenomenologically, which excited Sartre (that you could do philosophy with a wine glass – which was actually apricot brandy, said Sartre in an interview years later). Sartre’s The Transcendence of the Ego (1936) was a critique of Husserl’s phenomenology, particularly of his concept of the transcendental ego. Sartre also had Heidegger’s views in his background. 

 – French philosophy also featured Simone de Beauvoir (Sartre’s girlfriend) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, another who was influenced by Heidegger.


In late 1960s Jacques Derrida publishes three books, including Speech and Phenomena, which is a very close reading of Husserl’s key works.


Heidegger occupies a crucial role in the development of the early hermeneutics of the late 19th century and the work that was subsequently developed in France.


This course will focus on the work of Heidegger, then seeing what happens to it when it is re-thought, re-shaped by French deconstruction.


                                              Main Lecture/Discussion:


What is the connection between hermeneutics and phenomenology? We’ll focus on this for this class meeting.


*You should always read and study the table of contents of a book, especially a philosophy book such as Being and Time, because it will help you understand the overall structure of the book, which will help you understand what the objectives and procedures of the book’s argument will be. And it will provide you with a “road map” to orient and guide your reading

 Discussion of Table of Contents of Being and Time:


“The Ontological Priority of the Question of Being”: The question of Being, the Being question, comes before other questions.


The ontological question concerns what is. The ontological priority is one of trying to get back to the first question.


What’s the difference between the ontological priority and the ontic priority? The ontic has to do with that which is, whereas the ontological has to do with Being, with is-ness, with being in general. For example, a book is something that is. The ontic has to do with something that is, that which is. Being (with a capital ‘B’) has to do with the ontological; being has to do with the ontic. (This is specifically according to Heideggerian terminological exigencies.) If you can say that something is, then it’s ontic. Each one of things that are, are – i.e., they have Being in common. The thing that all these beings have in common is that they all are, they all have a relation to Being. Every being that’s in the world has a relation to Being. This brings us from the merely ontic to the ontological. There are two different priorities: the ontic priority of the question of being and the ontological priority.


“Necessity, Structure, and Priority of the Question of Being.”


What method? An ontological analysis of Dasein. ‘Dasein’ is a German word, and the question of how to translate it is much disputed. Some think you should translate it, some think not. –Note* For example, Derrida thinks that “human reality” is a very poor, misleading, inadequate translation of Dasein because it connotes a kind of humanist metaphysics which leads us astray from Heidegger’s focus. Sartre employs the French translation of Heidegger’s Dasein in his works, which translation – authorized by Corbin – is literally (in English) “human reality.” This French translation (realite humaine) set the conceptual tone for a kind of humanist development of Heidegger’s thought in French philosophy.


The German word “to be” is sein. You can take the participial form of “to be” and make it into a noun. Heidegger makes up the word seinde, which designates a being, one of these beings. But you can talk about the ‘to be’ rather than a being, and the ‘to be’ would be Das Sein. Being is the ‘to be’, namely Sein. “Da” means either “here” or “there.” It is translated sometimes as “being there” but better to translate it “being here.” The being that asks about its own being – Dasein – is here. “Da Sein” is “here being” or “being here” or “being there.”


In one sense, Da-sein is a being, something that is – so in this sense takes a lower-case ‘b’. But as a being that is here it is special because I, as the being that is here, ask “Where am I?” or “What am I?” The book and the table can’t ask about its being. Saying that it’s a “human being” is much too specific. (*See note above on inadequacy of French translation of Dasein). Heidegger is trying to keep it at a level of generality, to refer to any being that asks about its relation to being, a being that asks the ontological question. This being is Dasein. Dasein is that being that is able to ask the question of Being, the question of its being. Dasein is that being which asks about its relation to being, namely, which asks the question of Being, the ontological question – and not just a question of the being that is, which would be an ontic matter.


‘Ontological’ / ‘ontic’ distinction: Heidegger’s language is a very circumscribed and carefully constructed vocabulary because he wants to be very precise. It’s a carefully constructed formulation.


to be = sein

a being = Seiende

the ‘to be’ (Being) = Sein


“Exposure” [ex, away from; posure -posing, placing, positing] The ontological analysis is to expose something. This is connected with Heidegger’s notion of truth as disclosure. What’s being exposed is the horizon for the interpretation of the meaning of Being in general. “Horizon” means edge, limit, what you can see – the limit of what you can see, what you can experience, what is accessible to you. If it’s the horizon you’re exposing then what you’re bringing out is that limit. You’re bringing out as far as you can go what that limit is. There’s the question of what’s where you are and what’s beyond it. “Horizon” is a very technical word in phenomenology. If you’re exposing the horizon for the interpretation of the meaning of Being, the questions pertain to: what are the parameters, limits, frame, broadest possible area that can be exposed to interpret the meaning of Being? Hermeneutics is concerned with interpretation, and we want to know what the horizon is for the interpretation of the meaning of Being in general. We are concerned with coming up with an exposure, a bringing out of a horizon where you can interpret where the meaning of Being in general would be.



“The Task of the De-structuring of the History of Ontology” – Not just concerned with the meaning of Being in general but with the history of Being. The question of the history of Being is a big theme in Heidegger, i.e., how it has been treated since the ancient Greeks. The history of ontology, namely the question of being, goes back a long way. Thus “retrieval” goes back through the history of philosophy to see how the question of Being has been treated and, especially, forgotten. He wants to go back to the ancient Greeks to find out how the history of the Being has been treated. “Retrieve” = go back and dig out the question of Being. The question of Being is something that needs to be retrieved. Retrieval means — as with the Golden Retriever — to fetch and bring back.


De-structuring is how you unframework something. It’s a strategy that comes back in a different way in Derrida, in his notion of “deconstruction.”


The Phenomenological Method: The investigation is phenomenological, and has three parts – phenomenon, logos, phenomenology.


The term phenomenology was a term used very heavily by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938). Husserl wanted to develop a pure phenomenology.

Analysis of term “phenomenology”:

‘Phenomenon’: Literally, a phenomenon is an appearance or appearing. Phainomenon is Greek for ‘appearance’. Appearing is something that just is – and its is-ness is qua appearance, is just its appearing – something that just appears, simply appears and does not need any explanation. It’s not mediated by theorizing or explanation or scientific activity. A phenomenon is that which appears.

‘Logos’: Logos is a discourse, or even, a language. ‘Logos’ means the language, study, logic, word about a subject matter – e.g., the word about life in “biology”.


Thus phenomenology is the language or study or word or discourse about phenomena. Phenomenology is the study of phenomena – viz., appearances. By ‘appearances’ we mean that which appears directly, unmediatedly. Key bits of Husserl’s concept of phenomenology (part of which Heidegger methodologically assumes and part of which he does not): Phenomenology is the study of appearances how they appear to a subject. Intentionality has to do with the directedness of consciousness at something. When I direct my consciousness at something, it appears to my consciousness. That appearing to me in a direct and immediate way is a phenomenon worthy of study. Husserl tries to develop a method, a pure and rigorous method – a rigorous science. He thought that he could develop a methodology for studying how things appear to and for a consciousness in a pure way. There are procedures – reductions. Basically there are two of them: (1) to perform what he termed epoche, a suspension of judgment, a bracketing of things. (The Hellenist Skeptics thought you could do an epoche to achieve ataraxia, i.e. tranquility or peace of mind by stepping back and suspending judgment.) Another name for it is the transcendental reduction: stepping back, suspending judgment about what is – namely, about all of the everyday expectations and attitudes you have about things. My experience of the book gets in the way of the essence of the book as a phenomenon or appearance for/in my consciousness. I have to be able to interpret it, understand it as a meaning. (2) Eidetic reduction. An idea is an essence or form or core. What we want to get at or get to is the essence or idea of what we’re studying. In order to get at what is essential and leave aside what is accidental we do eidetic reduction. When you leave aside assumptions, presuppositions, and accidental features then you’re left with (for example) the “bookness” of a book, the essence or meaning of it. When you perform, according to Husserl, these two reductions, you’re left with the pure essence, pure meaning, pure phenomenon that appears to an “I”, an ego or subject that can reflect upon its contents. You can reflect on the contents which are what’s left after the reductions. Phenomenology is a philosophy of reflection, and what you reflect on is a meaning, an essence, or an idea – e.g., bookness.

            In Husserlian phenomenology, once you perform these two reductions you can reflect on the meaning that’s in your consciousness.

            Heidegger doesn’t use the first reduction, the transcendental reduction or epoche of Husserl. Husserl wrote in the margins of his copy of Heidegger’s Being and Time, “What happened to the transcendental reduction? What happened to the epoche?” Heidegger doesn’t care about the bookness of the book in the same way that Husserl is; what he’s interested in is that it’s a being, and he concerns himself with the question of the relationships of all these beings, such as books, to Being. One of the things that gets left out in the Husserlian transcendental reduction is whether it (e.g. a book) exists at all. In Heidegger, if you’re asking about the question of Being and the relation of beings to Being you can’t leave out the question of existence because it’s very much a part of what’s in question. What Heidegger is doing is not transcendental phenomenology but existential phenomenology. The ego, subjectivity, the “I” that has a meaning in consciousness is not a concern for Heidegger because that’s just going to confuse things and take us outside of the existing world. (Again, see Sartre’s The Transcendence of the Ego for a critique of Husserl’s concept of the transcendental ego. In this essay, Sartre argues that said ego is really an object in the world for consciousness – which would be “a being” for Heidegger and an ontic matter, therefore outside the path of our inquiry into [our] Being or Dasein.) For Heidegger the whole question of Being and its interpretation is one that doesn’t have to raise the question of subjectivity at all.


Heidegger’s question is the question of the Being of beings and very specifically of the meaning of the Being of beings. Heidegger’s interested in the meaning or Sinn as it appears in the Being of beings. Heidegger is interested in the relationship of Being and beings in general and the meaning of this. This is an eidetic question.



                                              <end of seminar meeting>