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For Heidegger, taking-as is grounded not in multiple modes of presence, but rather in a more fundamental temporal unity remember, it's Being and time, more on this later that characterizes Being-in-the-world care. For more on Heidegger's pre- Being-and-Time period, see e. For more on the philosophical relationship between Husserl and Heidegger, see e.

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Let's back up in order to bring Heidegger's central concern into better view. Consider some philosophical problems that will be familiar from introductory metaphysics classes: Does the table that I think I see before me exist? Does God exist? Does mind, conceived as an entity distinct from body, exist?

We typically don't even notice this presupposition. This is one way of asking what Heidegger calls the question of the meaning of Being, and Being and Time is an investigation into that question. The question of the meaning of Being is concerned with what it is that makes beings intelligible as beings, and whatever that factor Being is, it is seemingly not itself simply another being among beings.

But to think of Being in this way would be to commit the very mistake that the capitalization is supposed to help us avoid. For while Being is always the Being of some entity, Being is not itself some kind of higher-order being waiting to be discovered. As long as we remain alert to this worry, we can follow the otherwise helpful path of capitalization.

Heidegger means by this that the history of Western thought has failed to heed the ontological difference, and so has articulated Being precisely as a kind of ultimate being, as evidenced by a series of namings of Being, for example as idea, energeia, substance, monad or will to power. In this way Being as such has been forgotten.

So Heidegger sets himself the task of recovering the question of the meaning of Being. In this context he draws two distinctions between different kinds of inquiry. The first, which is just another way of expressing the ontological difference, is between the ontical and the ontological, where the former is concerned with facts about entities and the latter is concerned with the meaning of Being, with how entities are intelligible as entities. The second distinction between different kinds of inquiry, drawn within the category of the ontological, is between regional ontology and fundamental ontology, where the former is concerned with the ontologies of particular domains, say biology or banking, and the latter is concerned with the a priori, transcendental conditions that make possible particular modes of Being i.

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For Heidegger, the ontical presupposes the regional-ontological, which in turn presupposes the fundamental-ontological. As he puts it:. The question of Being aims… at ascertaining the a priori conditions not only for the possibility of the sciences which examine beings as beings of such and such a type, and, in doing so, already operate with an understanding of Being, but also for the possibility of those ontologies themselves which are prior to the ontical sciences and which provide their foundations.

Basically, all ontology, no matter how rich and firmly compacted a system of categories it has at its disposal, remains blind and perverted from its ownmost aim, if it has not first adequately clarified the meaning of Being, and conceived this clarification as its fundamental task. So how do we carry out fundamental ontology, and thus answer the question of the meaning of Being? It is here that Heidegger introduces the notion of Dasein Da-sein: there-being.

Haugeland , complains that this interpretation clashes unhelpfully with Heidegger's identification of care as the Being of Dasein, given Heidegger's prior stipulation that Being is always the Being of some possible entity. This fits with many of Heidegger's explicit characterizations of Dasein see e.

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That said, one needs to be careful about precisely what sort of entity we are talking about here. As Haugeland notes, there is an analogy here, one that Heidegger himself draws, with the way in which we might think of a language existing as an entity, that is, as a communally shared way of speaking. This appeal to the community will assume a distinctive philosophical shape as the argument of Being and Time progresses. The foregoing considerations bring an important question to the fore: what, according to Heidegger, is so special about human beings as such? Here there are broadly speaking two routes that one might take through the text of Being and Time.

The first unfolds as follows. If we look around at beings in general—from particles to planets, ants to apes—it is human beings alone who are able to encounter the question of what it means to be e. More specifically, it is human beings alone who a operate in their everyday activities with an understanding of Being although, as we shall see, one which is pre -ontological, in that it is implicit and vague and b are able to reflect upon what it means to be. Mulhall, who tends to pursue this way of characterizing Dasein, develops the idea by explaining that while inanimate objects merely persist through time and while plants and non-human animals have their lives determined entirely by the demands of survival and reproduction, human beings lead their lives Mulhall , This gives us a sense of human freedom, one that will be unpacked more carefully below.

This can all sound terribly inward-looking, but that is not Heidegger's intention.

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In a way that is about to become clearer, Dasein's projects and possibilities are essentially bound up with the ways in which other entities may become intelligible. So perhaps Mulhall's point that human beings are distinctive in that they lead their lives would be better expressed as the observation that human beings are the nuclei of lives laying themselves out. The second route to an understanding of Dasein, and thus of what is special about human beings as such, emphasizes the link with the taking-as structure highlighted earlier. Sheehan develops just such a line of exegesis by combining two insights.

These dual insights lead to a characterization of Dasein as the having-to-be-open. In other words, Dasein and so human beings as such cannot but be open: it is a necessary characteristic of human beings an a priori structure of our existential constitution, not an exercise of our wills that we operate with the sense-making capacity to take-other-beings-as. And this helps us to grasp the meaning of Heidegger's otherwise opaque claim that Dasein, and indeed only Dasein, exists , where existence is understood via etymological considerations as ek-sistence , that is, as a standing out.

Dasein stands out in two senses, each of which corresponds to one of the two dimensions of our proposed interpretation. Second, Dasein stands out in an openness to and an opening of Being see e. As we have seen, it is an essential characteristic of Dasein that, in its ordinary ways of engaging with other entities, it operates with a preontological understanding of Being, that is, with a distorted or buried grasp of the a priori conditions that, by underpinning the taking-as structure, make possible particular modes of Being.

Heidegger puts it like this:. Being and Time 3: 33—4. This resistance towards any unpalatable anti-realism is an issue to which we shall return. But what sort of philosophical method is appropriate for the ensuing examination? Famously, Heidegger's adopted method is a species of phenomenology. In the Heideggerian framework, however, phenomenology is not to be understood as it sometimes is as the study of how things merely appear in experience. Presupposed by ordinary experience, these structures must in some sense be present with that experience, but they are not simply available to be read off from its surface, hence the need for disciplined and careful phenomenological analysis to reveal them as they are.

So far so good. But, in a departure from the established Husserlian position, one that demonstrates the influence of Dilthey, Heidegger claims that phenomenology is not just transcendental, it is hermeneutic for discussion, see e. In other words, its goal is always to deliver an interpretation of Being, an interpretation that, on the one hand, is guided by certain historically embedded ways of thinking ways of taking-as reflected in Dasein's preontological understanding of Being that the philosopher as Dasein and as interpreter brings to the task, and, on the other hand, is ceaselessly open to revision, enhancement and replacement.

For Heidegger, this hermeneutic structure is not a limitation on understanding, but a precondition of it, and philosophical understanding conceived as fundamental ontology is no exception. Thus Being and Time itself has a spiral structure in which a sequence of reinterpretations produces an ever more illuminating comprehension of Being.

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As Heidegger puts it later in the text:. What is decisive is not to get out of the circle but to come into it the right way… In the circle is hidden a positive possibility of the most primordial kind of knowing. To be sure, we genuinely take hold of this possibility only when, in our interpretation, we have understood that our first, last and constant task is never to allow our fore-having, fore-sight and fore-conception to be presented to us by fancies and popular conceptions, but rather to make the scientific theme secure by working out these fore-structures in terms of the things themselves.

Being and Time And this is a tension that, it seems fair to say, is never fully resolved within the pages of Being and Time. The best we can do is note that, by the end of the text, the transcendental has itself become historically embedded. More on that below. What is also true is that there is something of a divide in certain areas of contemporary Heidegger scholarship over whether one should emphasize the transcendental dimension of Heidegger's phenomenology e. How, then, does the existential analytic unfold?


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Heidegger argues that we ordinarily encounter entities as what he calls equipment , that is, as being for certain sorts of tasks cooking, writing, hair-care, and so on. Indeed we achieve our most primordial closest relationship with equipment not by looking at the entity in question, or by some detached intellectual or theoretical study of it, but rather by skillfully manipulating it in a hitch-free manner.

Entities so encountered have their own distinctive kind of Being that Heidegger famously calls readiness-to-hand.

The less we just stare at the hammer-thing, and the more we seize hold of it and use it, the more primordial does our relationship to it become, and the more unveiledly is it encountered as that which it is—as equipment. Readiness-to-hand has a distinctive phenomenological signature. While engaged in hitch-free skilled activity, Dasein has no conscious experience of the items of equipment in use as independent objects i. Thus, while engaged in trouble-free hammering, the skilled carpenter has no conscious recognition of the hammer, the nails, or the work-bench, in the way that one would if one simply stood back and thought about them.