What the other knows about Heidegger and asking the right question
in Sri Lanka's The Nation
Assume, for a moment, that I wanted to begin this short piece with this wonderful quote by Heidegger: “the most thought-provoking question, in our most thought-provoking time, is that we are still not thinking”. Now, am I to assume that the reader – once again, that assumed person, the unknown entity, the imaginary other – would know a thing or two about Heidegger – that he was the most influential philosopher of the 20th Century, perhaps the last one to be universally recognised as a ‘canonical philosopher’, that he re-opened the question of being for modern philosophy, or, even, that he was a Nazi…
Heidegger, of course, was a master of spending page after page on the difficulty of posing the right question. His famous ‘Introduction’ to his most famous work – ‘Being and Time’ – spends much of its space discussing the difficulty of posing the question of ‘Being’. If one were to ask, ‘what is being?’, by including the verb ‘is’, said Heidegger, we are already assuming some knowledge about being. How else are we to move from ‘is’ to ‘being’ in that question? That is why it is always important to start with the right question. That is why it has become such an important part in philosophy that prompts certain philosophers to say that philosophy is ‘all’ about framing the right question.