Friday, March 25, 2016
Richard Polt on being.
But what does Heidegger mean by “being” ? The question is difficult and controversial. To get a clear and complete concept of being, we would need to have completed the project of Being and Time itself. However, as Heidegger emphasizes from the outset, we already have an implicit, vague understanding of being that we can work with — as he does in his book. The following remarks, then, are inexact elucidations of Heidegger’s usage of the word Sein, not strict definitions.
First, Heidegger often uses “being” as one might use “essence” or “nature” : for instance, to examine “the kind of Being which belongs to the living as such” is to establish what defines something as alive (BT 10). Heidegger calls this “what-being” (BP 77 – 121).
“Being” also has what is often called an existential sense, or “that-being.” An entity, something that is (or, in common parlance, exists), is something instead of nothing. “Being lies in the fact that something is [as well as] its Being as it is” (BT 7).
Furthermore, Heidegger emphasizes that being is not an entity. It “is” not, but it is given to Dasein as the entity who understands being (BT 183). Being is essentially related to Dasein’s understanding; it is that in terms of which Dasein understands entities as entities (BT 6).
These various usages cohere, as long as we are willing to challenge some standard distinctions such as the split between what-being and that-being. What it means for something to “ exist ” (that-being) may depend on what sort of entity it is (what-being), and vice versa. If we keep what-being and that-being utterly separate, we easily end up assuming that “existence” has one and the same sense for all kinds of entities. That is precisely the unquestioned, reductive understanding of being that Heidegger found pernicious
P. 220-221
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