Monday, August 23, 2010
Thomas Sheehan on meaningfulness during the KNS semester.
In his first course after the Great War Heidegger made the point by asking his students what it is they directly encounter in lived experience. Is it beings? things? objects? values? No, he insisted. What one encounters is
the meaningful [das Bedeutsame] – that is what is primary, that is what is immediately in your face without any mental detour through a conceptual grasp of the thing. When you live in the world of first-hand experience, everything comes at you loaded with meaning, all over the place and all the time. Everything appears in a meaningful context, and that context gives the thing its meaning.
To underline the point Heidegger frequently refers to this phenomenological “being of beings” as das Anwesen des Anwesenden: the meaningful presence of whatever is meaningful. Likewise he glosses the Greek on and ousia as paron and parousia, that is, not mere “beings” and their “beingness” but meaningful things and their meaningfulness. Let us then revisit Aristotle’s famous sentence about the meanings of the word “being.”
The term “being” has many meanings, but all of them point analogically toward one thing, one single nature” (Metaphysics IV 2, 1003 a 33-34).
Read in a phenomenological key, that says:
The word “meaningful” has many senses, but all of them point analogically toward a unified “meaning itself” [Sein selbst as physis] that is the source of all meaning.
I am often baffled at the distinction between ontology (ousia) and phenomenology, and how many Heideggerians shift between the two. Ousia (Being, ie ontology) seems...primary and phenomenology secondary --inclusion of sorts within Being, or the study of Being---YET one could imagine a different approach--phenomenology, in the Kantian sense (which even Husserl grants as a starting point, did he not) preceding ontology. Kant himself avoided grand speculations about ontology really (somewhere in the Transcendental Analytic, right) --and also objecting to the theological version of ontology (onto. argument).

Phenomenology thus seems...idealist in a sense; whereas ontology at least hints at realism (for Kant, Leibniz was the realist target...if not, dare we say, catholic and greek tradition). So Herr Heidegger wanted it both ways...ontological realism (he never doubts...Dasein, does he) AND phenomenology--sort of verboten, at least per Kantian phenomenalism ...(somewhere in SZ doesn't MH address this...with temporality at least MH seems to retain a certain idealism ...but on the whole I agree...slightly with those readers who perceive the realist (as in metaphysical/Aristotelian) elements to MH's system..for better or worse: perhaps it's a mishmash...at least in traditional greek philosophy, rationality--logic, geometry, dialectic, etc-- was part and parcel of Ousia, or understanding Ousia....

The somewhat psychological elements also complicate matters (ie..angst, fear, "care" etc)--in a sense that seems slightly Kantian (tho' really Kant's schema understanding does not allow for the subjective, introspective sort of reflection that many "phenomenologists" engaged in; ie., Husserl and MH may have invoked Kant, but ...IK's ghost (Geist!) probably did not approve...).

scuzi rant
more on "ousia"--
other philosophers have objected to Heidegger's use of Being for ousia, usually rendered as "substance":

I defy anybody to produce a single piece of Greek text which proves the semantics of 'ousia' as meaning 'Being' in the Heideggerian sense either written at a time before the great productive periods of Greek philosophy, of which Socrates, Plato and Aristotle represent the finest example, or at a time contemporaneous with them, or at any time before the later influence and corruptions and distortions introduced by the later Greek speaking advocates of Christianity, or the subsequent Neo-Platonists perverted their writings.

The Evans site tends to be a bit analytical but features some fairly weighty phil. people. At any rate, "ousia" has been translated as "substance" for years--not as a substitute for...God, or immaterial mind, or Being qua Being--though ousia should not be considered merely matter either, but matter and form (then...even the traditional metaphysicians were not completely sure on that...at times substances become essences, etc. A tree's made of wood..but the wood--the carbon-based cellulose, etc-- survives when the tree's dead). As you probably are aware--nonetheless some postmodernists seem to think Heidegger the authority on ousia (as "Being")...when that is not the case.
I understand ousia as inertial mass, and don't recall a passage in conflict with that. Ousia is not being, but all beings have ousia. If I can't find the the ousia in a being, I'll start to question whether it exists.

I think think that what's encountered as the meaning of beings is the ontological difference. Beings have ousia, but their meaningfulness doesn't exist apart from dasein.
Interesting, though I am not sure Ousia's to be read as merely mass (which would make it equivalent to matter more or less): it's more like a compound of ...Form , and matter--according to metaphysical and theological tradition anyway. The primordial Substance was Thought itself, all particulars were considered sort of...contingent instances of the divine Mind (so the Evans guy is a bit off as well--the church did use Aristotle's "ousia" in a theological fashion)--substance -> essence->to genus/species-> particular--similar to biological taxonomy (which Aristotle also relates to ousia).

That said, I believe Aristotle at times considered atomism and had a hunch about elements, like carbon, etc--he assumes there's an underlying substance, but they considered it...spiritual (if not pantheistic)--not strictly bio-chemical. Then....roses will be roses next year, and not ... cedar trees or rattlesnakes; order holds, even in natural world (tho not to the degree the "Design" people might think).

Many reductionists don't quite get the issue of form, continuity, or the causality--a few quantum physicists at times even suggested something like..ousia . Of course the empiricists rejected all that (tho' Leibniz didn't exactly)--as did William of Occam, earlier

Heidegger may not have been orthodox catholic but he often seems...neo-platonic. He doesn't really address the organic aspects of Aristotle (perhaps QCT hints at it...)
Yes, if I were to write a proper philosophy paper, I would have to bring in hyle and morphe, as the mass and form properties of ousia. But I find that in most places where Aristotle uses ousia, substituting mass works fine, and avoids the complications associated with changing forms - is a bean bag a chair?

I'll avoid a digression into scholastic interpretations because I really need to focus on what's been going on at the office while I was out. Day job, and all that.

I added Evans to my spam filter over a decade ago, and find myself in better moods, less annoyed. I find that when he gets wound up it's all potty mouth and sexual slurs, and not thinking.
OK--. I agree the scholasticism can easily get long winded and obscure, and keeping a day job's usually more important than mere philosophastry. Yet...Heidegger (and anti-Heideggerians for that matter) often hints at the scholastic tradition, but it's generally in abbreviated form. And most students in Collegeville get a few soundsbites of Aristotle, or german idealists for that matter (if that) from Heidegger--or perhaps Nietzsche and postmods-- without knowing much about the details of that tradition--who cares about hylomorphism, or Latin grammar for that matter, when you have to memorize the Periodic table in a few days...

Ezra Pound at times seems to be saying something similar to Heidegger (tho' in a rather more sophisticated form, I believe)---it's as if Reality--at least for the average American college boy-- started with Locke and the American and French revolutions. Or is it the Periodic table.

OK--Ill let you return to Arbeiten.
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