Hoiwah Tam


Protocol of Sept. 15th, 2004 Class (2nd meeting)



Important People


-Heidegger: After studying philosophy in Marburg, Martin Heidegger became Edmund Husserl’s assistant at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Heidegger's Sein und Zeit [Being and Time] applied the methods of phenomenology to ontology in an effort to comprehend the meaning of "the Being of beings" – beings in particular in relation to Being in general. This led Heidegger to a conception of Dasein as that existence or being that asks about its relation to Being. This was the origins of what is known as ontological hermeneutics.


-Edmund Husserl: He developed phenomenology as the pure investigation into the nature and content of consciousness when directed at things themselves as they appear in the world.  Husserl was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Heidegger was his assistant. During the early 1930s, and after Heidegger succeeded him as Professor of Philosophy,  because of his presumed Jewish background, he was not allowed by the Nazis to continue teaching at the very university where he was Professor.


-Jean Paul Sartre: A French philosopher who studied in France and went to Germany to learn more about phenomenology from Husserl. When he got there, Heidegger had already replaced Husserl as the leading light. In 1936, after returning from Germany, he writes The Transcendence of the Ego, which adopts Husserl’s idea that “all consciousness is consciousness of something,” but turns to Heidegger’s notion that phenomenology cannot bracket off human existence.


-Emmanuel Levinas: A Lithuanian philosopher who traveled to France where he spent most of his life.  As a young man in Strasbourg (Alsace), he travelled to Freiburg where he pursued his studies with both Husserl and Heidegger. Levinas was particularly struck by Husserl’s phenomenological notion of intuition and Heidegger's early phenomenology of existence in Being and Time.


Raymond Aron: A French philosopher who specialized in the study of history and sociology, went to Germany to learn about phenomenology and then returned to France to introduce the idea to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.


-Simone de Beauvoir- Also educated in Paris, Simone de Beauvoir was Sartre’s life-long companion of more than 50 years. They had an ongoing romantic relationship but never married. She contributed significantly to the development and expression of existentialist philosophy.

 -Maurice Merleau-Ponty: French philosopher. In the later 1930s, Merleau-Ponty went to Louvain (Belgium) to study Husserl’s manuscripts.  He would then apply the methods of Husserl's phenomenology to the perception, embodiment, and experience.


It was important for these philosophers to travel across the border to Germany. The experience was an eye opener, and it changed the shape of French philosophy. French philosophy of the mid-1930s was heavily informed by these phenomenological philosophers from Germany. Much of French philosophy was built around German Philosophy but they would then develop their own brand of phenomenological and existential philosophy.



* Important note in reading philosophy texts. It is important to know how to read the “Table of Contents.” It is similar to understanding how to read a map; if one were to study a whole map carefully, one would have a much better sense of where he or she is. Heidegger’s language in Being and Time is very carefully constructed and with a very precise vocabulary. He wants to be precise; this is why each claim is very carefully placed. The placing of each chapter and each introduction is very methodical so each section relates to another in a determinant way.




Background to Heidegger’s Philosophy

            Heidegger’s philosophy revolves around hermeneutics and phenomenology. In the Introduction to Being and Time, he questions the nature of phenomenology and links it to hermeneutics. He defines it as the essence of interpretation. The introduction asks about beings and their meaning in relation to Being. This is the topic of today’s lesson to understand what Heidegger meant in the exposition “What is the meaning of the Being of beings”.



Introduction I: Why Is This Question Important?

The Necessity of an explicit retrieve of the question of Being. Heidegger wishes to retrieve, to go and dig out the question of Being. The question of Being is something that needs to be retrieved. Retrieval is an important part of methodology. Heidegger will find out intellectually what the definition of Being is.

The formal structure of the question of Being. To look at the formal structure of Being. It is a question, it has structure, is formally structured. Heidegger will find out how it is formally constructed.

Ontological priority -- the priority of Ontology- the study of Being. For Heidegger, the study of Being is prior to other considerations. For him, the study of Being (ontology) is prior. It is before other questions. The question of Being has to be asked first before any other questions can be asked.

The ontic. The “ontic” has to do with that which is. The ontological  has to do with the relation to Being in general. (to put it simply: this is a book, it is, and it is something that is, hence it is ontic).


Ontic- the concern with beings in their particularity and everydayness.

Ontological- the question of Being, that which concerns all beings. Each being has a relation to Being, the ontological.


All of these somethings that are, beings, they all have something in common. What they all have in common is that they all are. Every being that is has a relation to Being.


The Methods Used to Look at:

The Question of Being

The ontological analysis of Dasein as the ex-posure of the horizon of an interpretation of the meaning of Being in general.



 How do we define Dasein it. This is a disputed question.

 Da-sein: (sometimes without the -) is a German word that means “existence.” Sein means “to be.” The verb [to be] is Sein. “To Be” turned into a noun is “Being.”


To be= sein

Being= the to-be

Dasein (noun)= the being that is here.


            For a long time Dasein is translated as “Being there.” However it would be better if it were translated as “Being here.” This is because the being that asks about its own being is here (not there). When one asks “wo bin ich?” (where am I?), the answer is “ich bin Da” (I am here – not there). Therefore Dasein should be defined as Being here.


Dasein- When translated into French by Henri Corbin, Dasein became “la realite humaine” (human reality). Dasein is the being that can ask about its relation to Being. Heidegger is trying to keep it general. He believes that being, any being that is able to ask an ontological question is here (Da) , i.e., Dasein. Dasein is the being that does ask the question of Being and questions its own existence. Dasein asks the ontological question rather being one that “just is.” A being that “just is” is ontic.  Dasein is ontic and can ask the ontological question.


The Ontological Analysis of Dasein as the exposure of the horizon for an interpretation is the task of an ontological hermeneutics.

Ex-posure: the bringing out of something, dis-playing. Ex- means away from, posure is positing, putting forth.


Ontological analysis has as its task to expose something. This will be connected to Heidegger’s notion of truth and disclosure. What is being disclosed? This is the horizon of the meaning of beings in relation to Being in general.


What is a horizon? It is a limit, the furthest edge. The question is what is beyond that. Horizon is the limit of what one can see, what is available to perception. If it is the horizon that we are ex-posing, then the limit is exposed as well. When doing ontological hermeneutics, the horizon for the interpretation for the question of Being to beings is ex-posed. What is the frame, the limits; these will be helpful for the meaning of Being. An interpretation has to do with hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is concerned with interpretation. We want to know the limits of the meaning of Being in general.


Destruktion in the history of ontology is not just concerned with the meaning of Being, but is also interested in history and historicity. What is the history of Being? Heidegger believes the history of the study of Being is very important. He wants to know how this notion of Being has been treated by ancient Greek philosophers. He wishes to retrieve what has been forgotten over the years regarding the meaning of Being. Heidegger wants to find out how the meaning of Being has been ex-posed historically; he believes this will help us bring out the meaning of the being of Beings in the present.