Friday, December 13, 2013
In NDPR, Leslie MacAvoy reviews The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger’s Being and Time,edited by Mark A. Wrathall.
In the final essay, "What if Heidegger Were a Phenomenologist?", Thomas Sheehan returns us to a consideration of broader programmatic issues. His core thesis is that if Heidegger were a phenomenologist, his topic would be meaning, not being. Sheehan’s overarching concern here is one that he has expressed in other places, but the formulation of the argument here is novel, and he offers suggestions for how we might go about rethinking Heidegger’s project in these terms. He identifies multiple places in Heidegger’s text where one could substitute Sinn (sense/meaning) for Sein (being) without any loss of meaning (no pun intended).
Sheehan has a point, though it might also be difficult to simply drop any use of the term ‘being’, as it was the term Heidegger chose and not just occasionally, but more or less continuously. We would also be faced with the problem of making sense of his famous claim that "only as phenomenology is ontology possible." One is struck, then, by how divergent this last essay and the first essay on the question of being appear to be. Also puzzling is the implication that doing ontology and doing phenomenology are separate enterprises in a way that they seem not to have been for Heidegger. But Sheehan is responding to a certain tendency to reify being that occurs in the secondary literature, so perhaps one can say that to do ontology rightly is to do phenomenology and that if we have read Heidegger carefully and paid attention to what he was trying to do philosophically, we will not be confused or misled by the term ‘being’.
The first time I looked, on the review page, the book title was missing it's final 'e'. No doubt an homage to thinking people's fave boy and his ontological friend. The real bish, of course, is with the boshy spelling of beyng.
I don't think the fact that Sinn can be interchanged with Sein is whole sections of Being and Time is that shocking. H himself wrote his "Denker als Dichter", "Thinker as Poet",

What is said is never, and in no language, what is spoken.

Applying this sentence to writing, I think that a philosophical text can convey if not create a meditative mindscape, an openness to being or meaning, and within that openness and playfulness words can be interchanged without adversely affecting that mood or attunement created by the text in symbiosos with the reader's mind.
Sein as Sinn, is one way to ground Heidegger in phenomenology, as instead of to an ineffable Being. But it's controversial - that's in the nature of new paradigms. Sheehan makes a pretty compelling case across the papers he's published over the last two decades. He has a book on the subject, to be published next year.
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