On Reading Being and Time:

An Explication and Commentary by Roderick Munday










In this document: "Explication and Commentary 2"


II. The Double Task in Working Out the Question of Being:
     The Method of the Investigation and Its Outline

  5. The Ontological Analysis of Dasein as laying bare the Horizon
      for an Interpretation of the Meaning of Being in General

  6. The Task of a Destroying the History of Ontology

  7. The Phenomenological Method of Investigation

                 a. The Concept of Phenomenon

                 b. The Concept of Logos

                 c. The Preliminary Conception of Phenomenology

  8. The Design of the Treatise



For the contents of other sections see the main index

There is also an online glossary of terms referred to in this document.

Your comments on this document are welcome. Please make them at my blog site Synthetic Knowledge


September 14 - October 9, 2005

(page 36)









¶ 5. The Ontological Analytic of Dasein as Laying Bare the Horizon for Interpretation of the Meaning of Being in General

In the last chapter Heidegger established that Dasein was to be his primary object of investigation. Now his task now to place Dasein on a more secure 'scientific' footing. So the question is, how is our everyday understanding of our Being to be understood and interpreted?

Heidegger confesses he may have misled the reader, in demonstrating that Dasein is onto-ontologically prior, into thinking that Dasein is also onto-ontologically primary. In this case, the reason Dasein can only be grasped immediately, is that it is only actually manifest in the immediate present.

This would imply that Dasein could not be subject to interpretation, for if it was something that could only be grasped immediately, we would be unable to formulate any ideas about it at all, since to interpret something always involves some kind of mediation. However, the aim of this part of the introduction to show how Dasein can be interpreted.

Dasein is of course close to us, (our "being" and "us" cannot be separated, so in this sense Dasein is the closest thing of all) but the paradox is that Dasein is simultaneously also farthest away. Closeness does not necessarily equal clarity, in the sense that the lack of objectivity incurred by closeness can blind one's self to the obvious. In his novel Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie likens this paradox to being pressed up against a cinema screen on which the events of your life are projected, and consequently seeing them as nothing but an indistinct blur.

While it is true that Dasein's ownmost Being (the inner-consciousness that constitutes the 'usness of us') has an understanding of our Being, and indeed maintains itself with the sense that this Being has in some way been interpreted. It is not true to say that this interpretation is the best clue for answering the question, 'What is Being?' This is because Being is not revealed in the most primordial way when Dasein is indulging in introspection, but rather when its thinking is extroverted out towards the world. This implies that the way we understand things in the word, also reveals most profoundly something about the way we understand ourselves. And indeed Heidegger asserts that, with Dasein, the way the world is understood...

(page 37)

...reflects back ontologically upon the way in which Dasein itself gets interpreted.

Now the fact that Dasein is onto-ontologically prior (to its own thoughts about itself)means that Dasein's own structure of being is effectively concealed from it. This is why Heidegger says that Dasein is closest to itself, and at the same time also farthest away. But, when we speak of it in terms of a pre-ontological understanding - Dasein is hardly a stranger to us.

The above paragraph indicates that the interpretation of Being has peculiar difficulties, which can basically be put down to the fact that we are the object of our own inquiry. When we consider ourselves as entities under examination, our behaviour changes, and thus the nature of the object we are looking at also changes. Heidegger points out that these difficulties do not arise because we are mentally incapable of comprehending ourselves, but because an understanding of Being only truly belongs to Dasein, and therefore when that understanding is effectively trained on itself, it develops or decays along with whatever Being Dasein possesses at the time.

Dasein's capacities possibilities and vicissitudes have all been studied in the sciences of philosophy, biology, psychology anthropology, ethics, political science, history, poetry etc., etc. But existentially speaking, these approaches can only be said to yield a partial understanding of Being.

For example, if you take a subject like psychology, the major area of study is the human mind. Therefore looking at psychology existentially, it is hard to say whether the question of Being is genuinely illuminated or not. For any light that appears to shine in that direction, might just be over-spill from psychology's main area of concern.

  This is of course another reason why the onto-ontological structure of Dasein must be adequately worked out beforehand. Only when this is achieved can we be certain that the knowledge we have hitherto gained in interpreting Dasein through these human sciences is existentially justified.

But in case the conclusions of the last chapter lead us into thinking that what we should do is fortify our guesses about Dasein into some edifice of a philosophical doctrine. Heidegger warns us that we have no right to apply just any idea to Dasein, no matter how self-evident it seems. Nor indeed do we have the right to construct categories based on this idea and try to squeeze Dasein into them. For then we would just be spouting dogma. Rather we need to make sure that we give proper ontological consideration to the question, which means choosing a way to access it and an interpretation which allows Dasein, in Heidegger's words, "to show itself in itself and from itself"...

(page 38)

...What Heidegger is saying here is that Dasein must be examined in its average everydayness, because this is the state where certain primordial structures will begin to show themselves.

Thus Heidegger's inquiry will be orientated to uncovering the genuine meaning of Being by concentrating on Dasein in its everydayness, and in doing this, the limits of that inquiry will also be discerned.



Heidegger asserts that temporality is an important key to interpreting the meaning of Dasein, for Dasein's structures are in fact modes of temporality.

(Page 39)

As Heidegger has already indicated, Dasein has a pre-ontological Being as its ontically constitutive state. In other words, Dasein is something that understands something like Being. Keeping this thought in mind, we shall now show that whenever Dasein interprets something like Being, it does so from the standpoint of time. This is because time is the horizon for all understanding of Being and the key for all ways of interpreting it. Therefore the task now is to illuminate this aspect of time.



Time is primordially the horizon of the understanding of Being. Time exists as the Being of Dasein, which understands itself through temporality.

The above italicised conception of time must be differentiated from the way time is understood, both ordinarily and philosophically, (in actual fact the latter merely restates the tenants of the former). Here we must make it clear that the problem with this 'ordinary understanding of time' is that it has emerged out of temporality itself, and moreover it is blind to this fact. Therefore Heidegger's task in his analysis is to give his conception of time a sense of autonomy.

Time has long functioned as an ontical criterion for naively discriminating various realms of entities. For example, in the distinction made between temporal entities (historical happening and the like), and non temporal ones (spatial and numerical relations and the like). We are also accustomed to comparing the timeless meaning of propositions with the temporality of their application in situ. Heidegger points out what is interesting about these observations is that the concept of time functions in these inquiries as a self-evident fact. Indeed time becomes a self-evident fact even within the horizon of the way that time is ordinarily understood.

(page 40)

In contrast to this somewhat naive understanding, Heidegger proposes to treat the question of the meaning of time in a way that enables us to see how the central problematic of all ontology is rooted in the phenomenon of time.


Temporal Determinateness

If Being is to be conceived in its temporality, then it is not adequate merely to reveal the Being of entities in time, for Being itself needs to be made visible in its temporal character. But temporality does not just mean 'Being in time' for even the non-temporal and the supra-temporal still have a temporal aspect with regard to their Being. Non-temporality in this sense should not be seen in terms of being a privation--and absence of time--but in a positive sense

If we have been following Heidegger's argument that time is inexorably linked with being, it follows that a negation of time would also be a negation of being. There can be no absence of time, since time is constitutive for the existence of existence itself. However an example of positive sense of 'timelessness' is that some moments are said to possess a 'timeless' quality, which is neither a negation of time nor a negative judgement, for often these moments are often the ones which Dasein savours most of all.

The encapsulation of this wider sense of temporality calls for a fresh conception which we shall call "temporal determinateness".

Temporal determinateness can be defined as that state in which Being and its modes and characteristics have their meaning determined primordially.

Thus, a fundamental task of interpreting being, is working out first the temporality of Being. This is for the reason that it is only through temporality that the meaning of Being can hope to be concretely articulated. Being therefore can never be considered 'out of time' that is as an abstract free-floating thing separate from temporality.

The above meaning of temporality as primordially the horizon of the understanding of Being is not new as such. It is rather as a re-awakening of something ancient, something that enables us to consider possibilities that the ancients have made ready for us.


(page 41)

¶ 6. The Task of Destroying the History of Ontology

All research is an ontical possibility of Dasein. This judgement cannot just be restricted to research that aims at answering the central question of Being. Temporality is fundamental to the understanding of Being, because it makes historically possible the kind of Being that Dasein itself possesses, regardless of whether Dasein is considered an entity within time or not. "Historically" is meant here in the sense of a kind of sensibility towards history - one that projects an image of the human being in time from a perspective that stands outside of time. Heidegger has already indicated that such a perspective is impossible, since there is no position that can be said to be outside of time. This historical sensibility, however, is one that functions as a prior determinate to the "world-historical historising," or the subject of history as it is normally thought of and practised).



Historicality stands for that kind of Being that is constitutive for Dasein's 'historising' and only on this basis is anything like a 'world history' possible. In the fact of its Being, Dasein is as it already was. In other words, Dasein is constituted by its past experience in the world, whether this is made explicit by Dasein or not...

For example someone who is fighting depression because of abuses in their childhood might not reveal that aspect of their past to others, but it is the part of their history is actually constitutive of the present state of their Being in the sense that we are all feel that we are marked by our experiences in the past.

Heidegger's use of the term "past" is not in meant in the sense of a past which is carried along behind Dasein, or is a property of it. For Heidegger, Dasein is its past, in the same way that a tree is its roots. This is because of the way Dasein on every occasion, historises out of its future. Its own past is not something which follows along after it, but something which always goes ahead of it - setting the conditions for the possibilities of future existence.

In other words Dasein views its future possibilities and potentialities as being a territory which is delineated in terms of Dasein's past experience, and this is actually where the notion of "past" comes from is from and also where Dasein itself, as the sum of its experiences and hopes, is constituted in its ownmost Being.

The 'to be', which as Heidegger explained before, is the constitutive state of Dasein itself in its possibility [ref. page 32] is actually delineated by what has happened in Dasein's past. Thus the mediate states of the "past" and "future" inform the immediacy of its Being. The paradox here is that while Dasein may exist in the now, it is constituted by its orientation towards the 'to be' and the 'was'

This elementary historicality of Dasein may remain hidden from it. But it can be discovered if Dasein becomes aware of tradition, of the need to preserve the past, and the past can start to be studied explicitly by Dasein. To uncover Dasein's Historicity is to reveal the kind of Being which Dasein possesses...


(page 42)

...only because historicality is a determining characteristic for Dasein in the very basis of its Being. But if historicity is wanting, this does not mean that it does not exist, just that a particular Dasein is not conscious of it. For example Heidegger argues that an era can never be unhistorical, in fact it can only be called 'unhistorical' because it is in fact 'historical' - in other words one can be oblivious to history or actively deny it, but history itself has a presence in the very constitution of Dasein itself which is why it can never be negated.

On the other hand if Dasein has seized upon its latent possibility, not only of making its own existence transparent to itself, but also of inquiring into the meaning of existence for itself, and if its eyes have been opened by such an inquiry to its essential historicity then it could not fail to overlook that this inquiry has in fact been constituted by that historicity.

To reiterate the point I made in regards to Dasein's Historicity [ref. Page 41] Dasein's being, although it exists in the immediacy of the present is constituted by mediation, that is by the 'past' and the 'future' which Heidegger is arguing are far more fundamental to Dasein than if they were merely notions of the past and future. In fact Dasein's consciousness is shaped by what it has done, or what has happened to it, but also by what it hopes, intends, or feels compelled to do. The point to bare in mind here is Dasein's motivation in its 'to be' is limited by its a sense of past, or historicity as Heidegger calls it - "In the fact of its Being, Dasein is as it already was."


In its most primal sense a particular Dasein's inquiry into the meaning its ownmost Being ultimately becomes histrological, and therefore Dasein's understanding of itself must also be characterised as histrological in nature.



Dasein in its average everydayness tends to fall back on upon the world that it is in, and interprets this world in terms of a reflected light, which means that it simultaneously falls prey to a tradition .

Here I think tradition can be interpreted in both the personal and the sociological sense, in the case of the latter it is taken to mean the dominant philosophical paradigms and social norms which constitute a given culture. For instance tradition, when it pertains to an individual, can be thought of, for example, as a pattern of past abuses having a detrimental effect a particular Dasein's Being. But this conception of tradition can also be applied equally well in a socio-cultural context to the examination of a repressed group within a society for example.

The point Heidegger wants to emphasise here is that when tradition is seen as an immutable edifice, opportunities for self guidance are blocked...

(page 43)

...in the fundamental senses of Dasein's inquiring and choosing. This is also true in respect of the way Dasein understanding itself--its ownmost Being--and for the possibilities of developing that understanding, or making it transparent ontologically. In other words there is always the possibility that Heidegger's own inquiry into Being may be blocked by the tradition of ontological thought that exists in philosophy. This is the reason for his generally negative and hostile opinion of 'philosophical dogma', with regards to ontology.

When tradition becomes master, what it transmits seems to become distant so that it cannot be grasped proximally, it is in effect concealed. Tradition takes what has come down to us and treats it as self-evident. This self-evident aspect blocks our access to the primordial sources from which the categories and concepts of tradition have themselves emerged.

Dasein has had its historicity so thoroughly uprooted by tradition that it clings to its axioms of received wisdom, if only to veil the fact that it has no grounds of its own to stand on.

I remind you that Heidegger's major complaint against philosophy at the start of Being and Time is we don't even care that we are ignorant of Being. And in this sense our 'not caring' perhaps veils a deep rooted epistemological anxiety; a terror which speaks of the need to believe in something, anything, even if it is wrong, because believing in nothing is too terrifying to contemplate. Tradition then can be likened to a fortress that protects us from this nothing.

(page 44)

If the question of being is to have its own history made transparent, the grip this hardened tradition of philosophy has on the human imagination must be worked loose and all the concealments shaken out. Heidegger sets himself the task of destroying the traditional content of ancient ontology, until he arrives at the primordial sources discovered in the ancient world and which he asserts have guided humanity ever since.


But this working loose of ontology should not be seen in the negative sense of a viscous relativising that denies all axioms and all absolutes. For the positive possibilities of the tradition are also shaken out along with the negative. In this task, Heidegger cautions that we must always keep within the limits of Dasein in its average everydayness, for this is what will determine the boundaries of the inquiry. As for the negative possibilities, we must bear in mind that the destruction is not aimed at the past per se, but rather at the way the past is viewed retrospectively as a dominant orthodoxy which cannot be challenged.


(Page 45)

Heidegger's critique of Kant

Our first task is to work out whether the interpretation of Being and the phenomenon of time have been brought together thematically before. The only person who has explored this territory, according to Heidegger is Kant, particularly in his work on the 'transcendental schema' of time in the Critique of Pure Reason. In that work Kant argues that there are two fundamental concepts, space and time, that human beings use to order the otherwise chaotic manifold of existence into a manageable form they can comprehend. In other words space and time are the schema that we use to frame our existence. The implication of this ordering is that the idea of space and time have to be present before human being can perceive anything else. Thus Kant calls them ideas which exist a priori, which literally means before, in the context of ideas that the brain needs to order reality which are employed even before we open our senses to perceiving that reality. Heidegger argues contra Kant that only when we have established the problematic of temporality with regards to Being, can we successfully "illuminate the obscurity of Kant's doctrine of 'Schematicism'."


Kant's doctrine of 'Schematicism' from The Critique of Pure Reason, pages 142 - 144

The schematicism of the pure understanding denotes the sensuous condition under which pure conceptions of the understanding can be employed in all conceptions of phenomenal objects. Kant asserts that the conception must contain that which is represented in the phenomenon. For example the empirical conception of a particular china plate on one's dining table is in a sense homogeneous with the pure geometrical conception of a circle, inasmuch as the idea of roundness in the former is intuited in the latter.

But strictly speaking pure conceptions of the understanding are just ideas, which are according to Kant's philosophy quite separate from empirical things, and thus can never be discovered in any intuition. This raises the question how is it possible to have ideas about phenomena in the form of categories, where the former can be used to analyse the latter?

To answer this question Kant postulates the existence of a third thing, which can mediate between the pure idea and the empirical phenomenon, to make the application of the former to the latter possible. This third thing must be pure (i.e., without any empirical content) and yet must on the one side be intellectual, on the other sensuous. Such a representation Kant calls the transcendental schema.

Kant did not have to cast around for long to find his transcendental schema. The concept of time is universal in that it rests upon a rule a priori and yet time is something which is contained in our conceptions of everyday reality as well. Thus the idea of time can be both a pure and a sensuous idea. Therefore an application of the category to phenomena becomes possible, by means of the transcendental determination of time, which, as the schema of the conceptions of the understanding, mediates between pure ideas and empirical objects.

Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Pure Reason, Translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn, London: Everyman, 1993



Heidegger asserts that an ontological analysis of Kant's schematicism of the pure understanding will show why the area of temporality that he (Heidegger) has been outlining remained closed off to Kant in its central ontological function. In other words Kant analysis is flawed because although he pays attention to time, he does not pay attention to Being.

Heidegger argues that, in his ignorance of the fact that time cannot be considered without Being, Kant adopts Descartes' position on Being quite dogmatically. (Descartes position according to Heidegger was that he treated Being as the ego cogito, the subject or the "I" of reason, spirit, person). Despite the fact that Kant as part of his "Copernican revolution in philosophy" famously brought the phenomenon of time back into the domain of the subject, in the long run it was his conception of the subject itself, as Descartes' "I", that kept him from working out the 'transcendental determination' of time in its own structure and function. Kant's investigation was stymied because of the double effect of the ontological tradition started by Descartes, that meant that the decisive connection between time and the 'I think' became shrouded in darkness, so much so that it did not even become a problem.


Descartes Cogito Ergo Sum explained in Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy p. 547

Cogito Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am) is known as Descartes Cogito, and the process by which it is reached is called 'Cartesian doubt'.

In order to have a firm basis for his philosophy, (Descartes) resolves to make himself doubt everything he can. He begins with scepticism in regard to the senses. For example Descartes asked himself can he doubt that he is sitting by the fire in his dressing gown? He answered yes, for sometimes he has dreamt such a thing, when in fact he was lying naked in bed. Moreover Descartes reasoned that madmen sometimes have hallucinations, so it is possible that his perception of reality may likewise be deluded. Drawing on another dubious tradition in philosophy, that of mimesis, Descartes reasoned that Dreams were like paintings, in that they presented us with copies of real things. Therefore corporeal nature in general, which involves such matters as extension, magnitude and number, is less easy to question than beliefs about particular things. Arithmetic and geometry, which are not concerned with particular things, are therefore more certain than physics and astronomy. Even in regard to arithmetic and geometry however, doubt is possible. There maybe an evil demon, employing all his industry into misleading humankind. If there be such a demon, Descartes reasoned that everything he sees and think maybe only illusions. However, there remained something that could not be doubted. No demon, hover cunning, could deceive him that he did not exist - "I may have no body, this might be an illusion, but thought is different. While I wanted to think everything false, it must necessarily be true that it is I who is doing the thinking." ThusDescartes formulated his famous Cogito - "I think therefore I am." This seemed to him an assertion so solid and so certain that even the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of upsetting it. Descartes therefore made cogito ergo sum the first principle of his philosophy.

Russell, Bertrand, History of Western Philosophy, London, Routledge, 1993



(page 46)

Heidegger's critique of Descartes

In taking over Descartes ontological position Kant made and essential omission: he failed to provide an ontology of Dasein. This omission was a decisive one. With the " cogito ergo sum", Descartes claimed he was putting philosophy on a firm footing. But what he left undetermined was the kind of being that belongs to the 'res cogitans' ('thinking entity'), or--more precisely--the meaning of the being of the 'sum' ('I am'). Heidegger declares that by working out the unexpressed function of the 'cogito sum' ('thinking I am', or the thinking Being), he shall complete the second stage of his journey in the destruction of traditional ontology. This will show, not only that Descartes not only neglected the question of Being altogether, but also why he came to suppose that the absolute-Being-certain of the cogito prevented him from raising the question of the meaning of Being that the "I" possesses. For a more detailed critique of Descartes, see Part, Div III, ¶ 19 - 21


(page 47)

The ancients, as we will discover, interpreted Being orientated out towards the world: towards "Nature", and this interpretation was obtained in terms of time. The outward evidence for this (although merely outward) is the treatment of the meaning of presence in ancient Greek philosophy. Presence has an ontologico-temporal meaning which can be expresses as entities, grasped in their Being, as 'presence,' therefore they can be said to be grasped in the 'present'.

Hence Heidegger's apology for leading the reader into thinking that Dasein was solely concerned with 'the immediacy of Being' at the start of this section [ref. Page 36]. The reasons for this apology can now be explained more fully. It is because Dasein can only truly be grasped in its immediacy - or in the present. Once we attempt to re-present the immediacy of Being in the mediacy of language, or in other words when we try to say what Dasein is, the 'present' of Dasein's immediacy becomes 'presence' in language. However this conception of representation verses reality does not imply the usual critique of representation found in modern epistemologies, such as semiotics for example. The semiotic paradigm criticises as naive, the traditional conception of representation as 'mimesis', or as a straight copy of reality. But Heidegger does not seek to alert us to the epistemological problems of 'presence' being a copy or otherwise of the 'present', instead he merely emphasises that the two differ in terms of their Being. This difference does not necessarily cast doubt on the fidelity of language to represent reality. Heidegger now elaborates the reasons for this.




In ancient Greek ontology, man's being is defined by its potentiality for discourse (or talk). Talk is in fact the clue for arriving at those structures of Being which belong to those entities which we encounter in addressing ourselves to anything or speaking about it.

(page 48)

Recognising an associative link between things (or more properly grasping something), is the simple awareness that something present-at-hand has the temporal structure of a pure 'making present' of something. In the grasping, those entities that show themselves present-at-hand are understood as entities in the most authentic sense. Presence then is literally an interpretation of something with regard to the present (immediacy of perception).

The Greeks arrived at this interpretation without any of the clues that we have uncovered thus far regarding temporality and the like. Rather they took time itself as one entity among many and tried to interpret it in the structures of its Being (rather that seeing it as self-evident fact as modern thinkers do). Therefore they were able, albeit naively, to hit upon the right methodology for revealing the horizon of Being - that is, time.

This is also a concrete illustration of the way that Heidegger conceived of a naive understanding of Being (what I called earlier 'a common-sense understanding') as more primordial, or getting closer to the essential nature of Being, than the ontological tradition in philosophy.


(Page 49)

The question of Being does not achieve its true concreteness until we have carried through the process of destroying the ontological tradition in philosophy. Once this has been done we can prove that the question of the meaning of Being is one that we cannot avoid, and we can demonstrate what it means to talk about 'restating' this question.

However, in any investigation where the 'thing investigated is deeply veiled', one must take pains not to overestimate the results. For in embarking on such an inquiry, one is constantly compelled to face the possibility of disclosing even more primordially the universal horizon from which we may draw the answer to the question, "What is Being?" We can discuss such possibilities seriously and with positive results, but only if the question of Being has first been reawakened. For only then will we have arrived at a field where we can come to terms with this question and talk about it in a scientific way, that is in ways that can be delineated and controlled.

¶ 7. The Phenomenological Method of Investigation

In characterising the object of inquiry (Being) it seems we have also delineated the method to be employed--albeit partially and in a negative sense--in that we can discount traditional ontologies as inadequate to this task.

Instead of using traditional philosophical methods (logic) our investigation needs to be treated phenomenologically...

(page 50)

...The expression phenomenology signifies primarily a methodological conception, not of the 'what' an object is, but of the 'how' of the research - i.e., how do we form an understanding which constitutes the 'what' of an object?

The term phenomenology expresses a maxim: 'to the things themselves.' The maxim invokes a principle which should be the mainstay of any science, namely that nothing is self evident. And the converse of this is that everything needs to be questioned. In fact phenomenology seeks to question self-evidential qualities, also implies that it is prepared to cast light upon the its own processes of investigation.

The term Phenomenology is a compound made up of the Greek words for phenomenon (thing) and logos (word). Taken superficially it is formed in the same way as all the 'ologies'--biology, psychology and the like--which can be translated as "science of...". Thus, biology equals "science of life," psychology equals "science of mind" etc.: this would then make phenomenology the "science of phenomena."

(page 51)

A. The Concept of Phenomenon

The Greek expression phenomenon is derived from the verb "to show itself". "To show itself" in Greek also connoted "bringing something to the light", in other words bringing it to a place where it can be manifestly visible in itself. We must keep in mind here that phenomenon signifies, "that which shows itself in itself." This is because an entity can show itself for itself in many ways, depending on the kind of access we have to it. Indeed it is even possible for an entity to show itself as something it is not. This is the kind of showing is called 'seeming'. Thus "showing itself" is part of the understanding of a phenomenon, in that it indicates that everything depends on our seeing how, 1/ what is designated in the first signification (phenomena as showing itself), and 2/ how the second (phenomena as seeming, or rather semblance) is structurally interconnected with "showing".

Only when something makes a pretension of showing itself, can it actually show itself as something which it is not. For only then can it be what it looks like and not what it is.


Phenomenon and Semblance

The primordial phenomenological signification, of "to show itself for itself" is still included in semblance. In when we consider the claims of the italicised sentences above, it can be seen as resting upon it. This makes the term phenomenon potentially ambiguous. Therefore, we shall here-on-in restrict phenomenon to stand for only the primordial and positive sense of showing, while semblance stands for the secondary and negative sense of seeming.

It is worth noting here that both these terms have nothing to do with 'appearance' nor indeed with 'mere appearance'...

(page 52)

...for example as in the things one talks about when describing the symptoms of an illness. An illness appears through its symptoms as something that exists (is present-at-hand), but it does not show itself directly.


Appearance and Announcing

Appearance, as the appearance of something, does not mean something that shows itself, but rather something that announces itself. Announcing can be defined as a 'showing itself by not showing itself,' for example the illness referred to above that announces itself in the symptoms, which is so to speak its calling card, but not the thing itself. So in a sense appearance is a not showing itself. (here the term "Not" is not meant as a negation, but merely as a device to indicate the presence of something unseen). Anything that never shows itself is also something that can never seem. This is why appearance is different from showing or seeming. All indications, presentations, symptoms and symbols have this basic formal structure of appearing, even though they differ among themselves.


(page 53)

The multiple meanings of Appearance

In spite of the fact that appearing is never showing-itself in the sense of a phenomenon, appearing is possible only by reason of the 'showing itself' of something. Appearance announces itself through the something which shows itself. A phenomenon is not something that merely appears. The Being of a phenomenon always shows itself. Therefore, if we define an appearance to be the appearance of a given phenomenon, we have not in fact defined that phenomenon we have only presupposed it. However this fact is usually concealed from us because of the multiple meanings of appearance.

1/ Appearance = "announcing itself without showing itself," i.e. symptoms.

2/ Appearance = "something that signifies showing itself, and therefore implies the appearance of phenomena," for example, a phantom trace on a radar screen being mistaken for a plane

3/ Appearance = "used albeit imprecisely in the sense of genuinely describing the showing-itself of a phenomenon."

4/ Appearance = "as the positive emissary of that which does not appear in any manifest form." In this sense appearance is the thing that indicates the existence of that which does not appear and never will appear. For instance, causal changes due to the passage of time announces itself in the greying of someone's hair for example, or the changes in a landscape, or the decaying of fruit, left in a bowl to rot. All these things appear to point to the existence of a thing called time, which otherwise does not exist as a phenomenon.

The point here is that if one defines phenomenon with the aid of a conception of appearance that does not differentiate between these multiple meaning, then confusion is bound to reign!


Mere appearance (and mere semblance)

The fourth sense of Appearance can be defines as being tantamount to the "bringing forth" of something which does not in fact constitute the real being of an entity. This then is appearance in the sense of "mere appearance". In the case of mere appearance, that which announces itself can be likened to an emanation of what it announces, but in all cases the thing which is being announced is kept constantly veiled by the announcement.

(page 54)

Phenomenon announces itself through appearance which shows itself, but such appearance can also take the variant form of 'mere semblance (deception) . A person can fake an illness, for example by coughing and sniffing. The appearance of these symptoms announces the existence (the Being present-at-hand) of that which isn't really there.


Summary Definitions of Phenomena and Appearance

Phenomenon is the-showing-itself-in-itself, it signifies a distinctive way in which something may be encountered.

Appearance is a relationship between phenomena, which is always based on a referral of some kind or another. The phenomenon of appearance also shows itself, but its Being is always a reference masking some other kind of Being.


The Formal Conception of Phenomena

An implication of this conception of phenomena is that it is actually rather indefinite what things we can consider as phenomena. And it is left open whether an entity shows itself as an entity, or merely as some characteristic which the entity may have in its Being. Thus we have arrived at the formal conception of phenomenon. In the Kantian sense we can literally call phenomena, entities which are accessible through formal intuition (for example space and time). But this conception of phenomena is not the phenomenological conception, which can be defined as "that which already shows itself in the appearance as prior to the phenomenon," i.e., Kant's a priori) as it is ordinarily understood.

(Page 55)

In every case the phenomenological conception of phenomena can be brought to show itself in itself. The thematic of phenomenological method is therefore that the forms like space and time can also be made to show themselves.

However, if the phenomenological conception of phenomenon is to be understood at all, it presupposes that we already have an insight into the meaning of the formal conception of phenomena, and therefore that we can discern its legitimate employment in an ordinary signification. But before we set upon demonstrating this, we must define the signification of logos (word or language) so as to make clear in what sense phenomenology can be a 'science' of phenomena.

B. The Concept of the Logos


Logos as Discourse

Plato and Aristotle's conception of logos (language) had many competing significations, none of which were assumed to have especial dominance over any of the others. Whereas in Heidegger's analysis, the basic signification of logos is discourse (talk).

Heidegger claims that the true meaning of discourse has been constantly covered up by the later history of the logos, particularly by the interpretations of the philosophers who came after Plato and Aristotle (like Descarte and Kant presumably). Some of the many interpretations to which logos has been subjected include: "reason", "judgement", "concept", "definition", "ground" or "relationship". So the question that needs to be examined is how discourse, as constituting the basic state of language, can be so susceptible to interpretation that logos can mean all these things?


Logos as discourse means to make manifest, in the sense of actually revealing what one is talking about in the discourse. Logos in ancient Greece meant 'showing', or 'letting something be seen', (Aristotle called it uncovering), which is essentially the same thing as the 'making manifest' of discourse. In the discourse, the 'that,' which is made manifest is discourse itself.

Discourse is never a fiat, (and the Lord said "let there be light" and there was light). In discourse the things which are talked about do not actually appear before us, so in terms of the being of discourse, talk is 'just talk.' However, when announced in the talk, things which do not exist can appear to be existent, for example we can talk of 'pink elephants' or 'pigs that fly' and in this sense discourse makes these things manifest and real. I want to raise an implications of this that I feel is important. Namely that meaning is only realised when thoughts and ideas are extroverted as talk. For example, a person who has a problem is advised to get it out into the open by talking about it: "a problem shared is a problem halved." But the reasoning behind such advice is predicated on a notion that Heidegger is trying to articulate here. Namely that discourse objectifies thoughts and presents them as things which show themselves and can therefore be dealt with as things rather than chimerical abstractions. Hence the social sciences theoretical emphasis on discourse and discursive processes as the source of cultural meaning. When people talk about the profound influence of Being and Time on contemporary thought, this is one of the areas where it is definitely felt.

As Heidegger puts it like this, "discursive communication in what it says, makes manifest what it is talking about." And this process also describes the structure of logos as 'uncovering'.



Discoursing has the character of speaking, but in a vocal proclamation--or utterance--something is sighted. It is only because the structure of the logos is uncovering, of letting something be seen or pointing it out, that the logos can have the structure of synthesis. Here synthesis does not mean in the logical sense of a combining of representations (i.e. thesis, antithesis, synthesis); it has a purely apophantic signification.

"Apophantic" is a term coined by Aristotle to designate a certain kind of judgment which he claimed could ascertain what is false and what is true in phenomena. An apophantic judgement does not arrive at its verdict by comparing true entities with false ones, for the phenomenon being evaluated is examined in itself. So apophantic judgements can be seen in the emphatic sense of a (judicial) sentence: attributing a predicate to a subject insofar as it pertains to the subject as a property of it; or denying a predicate to a subject insofar as it does not pertain to it. From this ontological basis, Aristotelian claimed that philosophy can establish the "pure forms" of all possible true (and false) predications.

[Ref. This explanation of apophantic was adapted from a definition found at www.marcuse.org].


But here everything depends on steering clear of any conception of truth which is construed in the sense of 'agreement'. The Being true of the logos as truth means that in saying as uncovering, the entities of which one is talking must be taken out of their hiddenness, which has nothing to do with their being related to something else. Agreement is predicated on this sense of relating, which is why agreements should be avoided, rather truths should be uncovered for and in themselves, so that they can be seen as something unhidden...

(Page 57)

...That is to say, they must be discovered. Being false amounts to an attempt to cover up the truth by putting something in front of something and thereby obscuring it, or passing it off as something which it is not.



But because truth has this meaning and because the logos is a definite mode of letting something be seen, logos (language) is not the kind of thing that can be considered as the primary 'locus' of truth. It has become customary nowadays to define truth as 'something pertaining to judgement' (i.e. comparing and relating one thing to another), but as the above argument has demonstrated, this is unjustified and misunderstands the Greek conception of truth.


Perception and Grasping

For the Greeks truth (alethéia) meant perceiving- i.e., the sheer sensory perception of something as true. This sense of truth is even more primordial than logos. Perception aims at the idea of entities. Those entities which are genuinely accessible through it and for it are considered to be true, and consequently perception itself is also true, and necessarily so. Pure grasping is the perception of the simplest determinate ways of a given entity's Being, and one perceives the Being of entities simply by looking at them. This grasping is what is true in the most primordial sense, that is to say truth merely dis-covers. Just as seeing always discovers colours and hearing always discovers sounds, grasping can never cover up and it cannot be false, at worst entities can remain ungrasped and non perceiving.



When something no longer takes the form of just letting something be seen, but is always harking back to something else, it thus acquires a synthesis-structure, and with this is born the possibility of covering up...

(page 58)

for instance, because the function of the logos is simply letting something be seen, logos can itself signify reason. And because moreover logos is used not only with the signification of grasping (perception) but also that which is exhibited (showing). Exhibiting is nothing else that the Being already at hand. This showing of existence lies at the bottom of any procedure of addressing oneself to it, or discussing it. Additionally in the context of apophantic judgements the logos in the mode of exhibiting can also become visible in itself as a relation to something. The logos in this instance can signify that which, as something to which one addresses oneself becomes visible in itself. Logos thus acquires the signification of relation and relationship. Thus the primary function of the logos is in exhibiting the kind of relationships present in apophantic discourse.

C. The Preliminary Conception of Phenomenology

When we consider these interpretations of both 'phenomenon' and 'logos', it should be apparent that there is an inner relationship between the things meant by these terms. The expression. Phenomenology may be formulated in Greek as, 'saying' as the being of bringing 'something to light', when 'saying' is synonymous with unhiddenness.

Thus the formal meaning of phenomenology can be stated as - "to let that which shows itself been seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself."

Note, the apparent cumbersome use of language here is Heidegger's way of exorcising from phenomenology the concept of the subject (subjective) as a mediator of existence. The (immediate) perception of reality is what allows phenomena to 'unhide itself'. Heidegger fights with the grammatical conventions of language to articulate this concept.


And thus phenomenology expresses exactly the same thing as the maxim to the things themselves [ref page 50]

(Page 59)


A Summary Definition of Phenomenology

Phenomenology designates neither the 'object matter' or the 'subject matter' of its study. The signification of phenomenon, is such that any exhibiting of an entity may be called phenomenology. This means that phenomenology (as a science of entities as entities) is intrinsically different from a normal science that designate its object of study according to its subject-matter. The latter can be conceived of as a science of an entity; defined as a 'thing,' which then becomes the frame through which other 'things' are examined and evaluated. For example in theology, theos (or religion) is the subject of the science, and also the frame through which other phenomena are examined. This is hard to grasp--in the sense that it seems to suggest that there is no phenomenological framing to phenomenology. Of course there is, but the difference between phenomenology and other sciences is the reflexiveness with which this phenomenological frame is handled. The researcher in an phenomenological investigation considers the 'subject' and the 'object' to be so intimately bound up with one another than the distinction between them disappears (this is Heidegger's point about doing away with them as meaningful cateories when examining Being). Instead of being self evident, and not thought about, a phenomenological frame is always interrogated alongside the phenomena of investigation. So that the investigation becomes not just about the entities in question, but also about the access granted to those entities by the phenomenological method.


Logic Reasons; Phenomenology Shows (Demonstrates)

Phenomenology merely informs us of the how with which the what is to be treated. To have a science of phenomena means to grasp its objects in such a way that everything about them, which is up for discussion, must be treated by exhibiting it directly and demonstrating it directly. The term descriptive phenomenology underscores this by emphasising the intended aim of the science, i.e. to attempt to describe phenomena in and for itself, which is challenging because it deemphasising all the judgemental aspect of the analsys. So the aim is to defamiliarize, to strip the entitly of all of the associations bound up in its name, to free the 'what's that?' of the object. This also has this meaning of demonstrating, showing the essential qualities of the object. Here description signifies a kind of prohibition against the temptation to flesh-out a perception through reasoning, in the sense that descriptive phenomenology does not characterising anything without first demonstrating it. It is through the character of this kind of description, that the specific meaning of the logos can be established in terms of its thinghood. It is this constant referral to the entity in the description that gives phenomenology its evidential base and scientific definiteness.


What must be taken account of, if the formal conception of Phenomenology is to be 'deformalised' into the phenomenological one

What is it in phenomenology that lets us see phenomena in this distinctive sense? What is it that by its very essence is necessarily the theme whenever we exhibit something explicitly? Here are a few pointers for answering this question:

1/ Manifestly it is something that proximately and for the most part remains hidden, (in contrast to that which does show itself).

2/ It is something that belongs to whatever shows itself and belongs to it so essentially that it constitutes its meaning and its ground.

The answer is of course that it is Being. I refer you back to the first claim Heidegger made for Being [ref. Page 25] "Being is that which determines entities as entities before they are actually understood as entities."

Being is not the Being of this or that entity, but the Being of all entities, as Heidegger has previously asserted [ref. Page 26]. However, we know now that this Being can be covered up so that it becomes forgotten. When Being of entities is treated phenomenologically however, its ownmost content is revealed once more. It is in fact what phenomenology has taken into its grasp thematically as its object.

Being must become a phenomenon


(Page 60)

Only as phenomenology is ontology possible

Therefore phenomenology is our way of access to what is to be the theme of ontology, and it is our way of giving it demonstrative precision. Only as phenomenology is ontology possible. In the phenomenological conception of phenomenon (that which shows itself for itself) the Being of entities--its meaning , its modifications and its derivatives--are revealed. The Being of entities is not anything which lies behind phenomena, or stands for something else which does not appear

In Peircean language: firstness does not refer to anything else, nor does it lie behind anything. The "first" is simply that which is of itself (Peirce, Complete Works, vol 1, §356). Similarly in relation to Heidegger's Being, the Being of an entity when grasped in its immediacy cannot be anything which it is not, for then it would be simply the Being of something else.

Thus there is nothing behind the phenomena of phenomenology, but problems emerge because what is to become a phenomenon can remain hidden. This is precisely why our investigation requires the phenomenological method, in order to uncover that which proximally and for the most part remains hidden. Covering up is therefore the counter-concept to phenomenology.

There are many sense in which a phenomenon can be covered up.

1/ Hiddenness
In the sense that a phenomenon has not been discovered (in which case it is neither known nor unknown).

2/ Burying
In the sense that a phenomenon can be buried over, i.e. it was once discovered by has now lapsed back into obscurity. However, in this case, the burial is hardly ever total. Something may still be visible if only as a semblance. Nevertheless this semblance is still a semblance of the phenomenon's Being, for the reasons outlined above.

3/ Disguise
In the sense that a phenomenon can be disguised as something else, with the attendant possibilities of lies and deception which makes the discovery of the true being of that phenomenon especially difficult.

Furthermore covering up, whether in terms of hiddenness, burying or disguise has in turn two possibilities.

1/ Covering up which is accidental

(Page 61)

2/ Covering up which with the best of intentions gets lost in translation when immediate experience is represented in language.

In the latter case the Being of the entity gets understood in an empty way, and it ownmost Being (its indigenous character) gets lost.

For example, the concept of the immediate present itself can never be represented in language or in any other form. Thus the indigenous character of "the present" can never be shown after the fact. As the following will illustrate.





Were you even for a second in the immediate present? If you felt that you were, perhaps you realise now why you cannot lie about it. You cannot lie because you need to think about something on order to be able tell a lie about it. Lies are complex, reality is simple. The closest we can ever get to reality is by Being in the immediate present. However when we try to communicate this experience to others we are already outside of this simple reality and we find ourselves already in a more complex territory of representation, i.e, a place where lies can operate. Thus, unless we are very careful, we will find ourselves in a situation where, no matter how earnestly we are trying to tell the essential truth of what we feel, that this very truth gets lost in the telling. In a nutshell, this is the problem addressed by the phenomenological - with its constant referral back to the entity in question, and its reflexive examination of its own operations method

Even using the phenomenological method it is possible that entities which are primordially within our grasp may become hardened into concepts that mask the presence of the entity. Consequently the entity is no longer grasped in and for itself, but becomes an appearance of that entity. Heidegger points out that this is the difficulty with this type of research. There is always a need to realise the possibility that language may cover up the Being of phenomena, and thus phenomenology must always be self critical.

So although the investigation of being has a set goal, it needs also to be true to the definition of interrogation [ref. page 24] "where the goal is not so much obtained as constantly deferred or reflected back onto the questioner." One must always step out of the inquiry, and ask ourselves if the entities under examination have remained vital and have not ossified through representation into something else.

The way in which Being and its structures are encountered in the mode of phenomenon is one which must first of all be wrested from the objects of phenomenology. This is actually the point of departure for this inquiry. This places the phenomenological method in direct opposition to a naive sense of immediately and unreflectively beholding.

Thus Heidegger has articulated a method of examining our average intelligibility of Being and developing a 'scientific' method for investigating Being. Here we are not merely taking a guess [re. Page 28], nor are we elevating our guess work into some edifice of philosophical dogma [ref. Page 37]. But rather we must proceed in our investigation mindful of the difficulty of the task, considering it in full self-consciousness of the pitfalls into which out investigation can potentially fall. However on the positive side, if this sense of showing phenomena 'in and for themselves' can be held onto, we will be able to delineate the limits of our investigation. In other words, in orientating ourselves in our inquiring to demonstrating and exhibiting the things themselves, (rather than reasoning about them) we have uncovered the very frame of reference in which the entire territory of the inquiry into the meaning of Being in general will be revealed.



Phenomenal and Phenomenological

Now that we have determined our preliminary conception of phenomenology, the terms phenomenal and phenomenological can be given their proper signification.

Phenomenal = that which is given and is explicable in the way a particular phenomenon is encountered. (In other words a phenomenon is defined only in terms of what it shows)

Phenomenological = everything which belongs to the species of exhibiting and explicating and which goes to make up the way of conceiving demanded by our research. (in other words a general description of the phenomenological method expressed by the maxim, to the things themselves)

Phenomena when understood phenomenologically are nothing but the component parts, so to speak, that go to make up the phenomenon of Being in general. We can flip this insight around and thus make the converse generalisation that Being in general is always the Being of some entity or another. Therefore, in our investigation of the meaning of Being in general, we should first bring forward entities in themselves and discover their Being.

There are two reasons for doing this:

Firstly because there is nothing behind phenomena

and secondly because phenomena cannot lie.

All entities must show themselves phenomenologically in themselves and for themselves with the kind of access that genuinely belongs to them.

Phenomenology, as we have characterised it, is actually the same thing as ontology, in that it reveals the Being of entities. In explaining the task of ontology we have found it necessary to focus on a fundamental entity--Dasein--which is in itself onto-ontologically distinctive. Dasein is onto-ontologically distinctive because Dasein is a Being which is concerned with its own being. Therefore, it is through investigating the Being of the entity Dasein, that we will confront the cardinal problem of answering the question, "What is the meaning of Being in general?"



Our investigation will show that the meaning of phenomenological description as a method lies in interpretation.

(page 62)

Language in the form of words (logos) which represents the phenomenology of Dasein has the character of hermeneutics.

Dasein is an intity that interprets itself.

All the basic structures that characterize Dasein are made known to Dasen through interpretation.

Because the logos is a representation of the immediate reality discovered by the phenomenological method--i.e., the perceiving the things themselves for themselves. The Logos, as a re-presentation of this perception, it can not be an exact re-creation of immediate reality (in Heidegger's terminology it is presence not present [ref. Page 47]). Therefore we can say of language that it always 'interprets' the phenomenology of Dasein, and this is why the phenomenological method places such emphasis on opening up its own processes to scrutiny, so as to avoid mis-interpreting.

  It is through hermeneutics, as a systematising approach to interpreting, that the authentic meaning of Being is articulated (and also of those basic structure of Being which Dasein itself possesses).

There are three points about this to bear in mind.

1/ The phenomenology of Dasein is a hermeneutic in the primordial signification of the word. That is, in the sense that hermeneutics can be defined simply and most primordially as the business of interpreting.

2/ Because of the priority of Dasein over other entities for working out the question of Being, it follows that the horizon for any further ontological study will be revealed , through the hermeneutics of Dasein.

3/ As far as a hermeneutic works out Dasein's historicity ontologically, as the ontical condition for the possibility of historiology, it contains the roots of what can be called 'hermeneutic' only in a derivative sense of the methodology of those human sciences which are historiological in character.

This reiterates the point that Hermeneutics when applied to Dasein does not mean interpretation, in the sense that the two terms are synonymous, rather that Hermeneutics is a "science of interpretation" in that it systematises the interpretive method.



A Summary of Heidegger's Thoughts on Being as Compared with Thomas Aquinas's Concept of The Transcendens (The Soul)

Being, as the basic theme of philosophy as such, is not a class or genus of entities and yet it pertains to every entity. Its 'universality' is therefore to be sought higher up. Being and the structure of Being lies beyond every entity and every possible character which any entity may possess. Being is therefore the transcendens pure and simple [ref. Thomas Aquinas, page 34]. And the transcendence of Dasein's Being is distinctive in that it implies the possibility and the necessity of the most radical individuation. Every disclosure of Being as the transcendens is literally transcendental knowledge. In this sense phenomenological truth (the disclosedness of Being) is veritas transcendentalis.


What is Philosophy?

Ontology and phenomenology are not two distinct philosophical disciplines among others. These terms in fact characterise philosophy itself with regards to its object and its way of treating that object. Philosophy is universal phenomenological ontology, and takes its departure from the hermeneutic of Dasein, which, as an analytic of existence, defines the trajectory of all philosophical inquiry, both at the point where it arises and the point to which it returns.

The phenomenological method shows that "Our commitment to the preliminary conception of phenomenology has shown that what is essential...

(page 63)

...does not lie in actuality as a philosophical movement. Higher than actuality stands possibility."

Finally in this introduction Heidegger apologises for "the awkwardness and inelegance of the expression in the analysis to come". This is because of the treacherous nature of speaking about the reality of being. It is one thing to give a report about entities, but quite another to grasp entities in their Being. For the latter task we lack not only most of the words, but above all the 'grammar.' Unfortunately "the harshness of our expression will be enhanced, and so will the minuteness of detail with which our concepts are formed."

In other words, if you thought the introduction was obscure and difficult, you ain't seen nothing yet! However, this is not quite true, for the introduction of any philosophical treatise has perhaps the most difficult job to do of all, in that it has to orientate the reader into the work's peculiar paradigm. Thus the possibility of alienating the reader at this early stage is always a very real danger.

My aim in attempting this explication and commentary has been to add a level of extra guidance, both for myself and for others. I hope, as we pick our way through this difficult terrain together that the difficulties do not become unassailable. An important point to raise here is that any explication of a bone fide philosophical work (and certainly Being and Time more than falls into that category) is going to be challenging. I hope therefore that in my explication of Being and Time, I have made the challenge a little easier, in that my aim has been to clarify some of Heidegger's more obscure language, but without robbing his thoughts of their essential vitality. However, the task of making philosophy easier to digest should never be interpreted as talking away the challenge it offers for its readers. For I think it is only by rising to that challenge, that a reader can actually enter into the world of the philosopher, and moreover really understand for themselves the positive value (or otherwise) of being there. Without that challenge then, any explication would merely be a dumbing down.

¶8. The Design of the Treatise



The question of the meaning of Being is the most universal and emptiest of questions, but at the same time it is possible to individualise it very precisely for any particular Dasein. If we are to arrive at the basic concept of Being and to outline the ontological conceptions which is requires and the variations which it necessarily undergoes, we need a clue which is concrete. We shall proceed towards the concept of Being by way of and interpretation of a certain special entity, Dasein, in which we shall arrive at the horizon for the understanding of Being and for the possibility of interpreting it: the universality of the concept of Being is not belied by the special' character of our investigation. But the very entity, Dasein, is in itself 'historical' so that its ownmost ontological elucidation necessarily becomes an historiological interpretation.

Heidegger then sets out the design of his treatise, two books each consisting of three parts. However this grand scheme was never realised. All that has been published is the first two parts of book one which are:

1/ The preparatory fundamental analysis of Dasein

2/ Dasein and temporality


Heidegger's critique of semiotics (and a semiotic critique of Heidegger)

What is semiotics? Peirce defines it as follows "{Sémeiösis} in Greek of the Roman period, as early as Cicero's time... meant the action of almost any kind of sign..." [Peirce: CP 5.484] A sign is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity." [Peirce: CP 2.228]


Now compare this to the following:

"Being false amounts to an attempt to cover up the truth by putting something in front of something and thereby obscuring it, or passing it off as something which it is not." [Heidegger: BT, 57]

Therefore, for Heidegger semiotics amounts to lying. (interestingly this was also the definition of semiotics advanced by Umberto Eco in his Theory of Semiotics [Eco, 1973, p58])

These quotations from Peirce and Heidegger reveal the fundamental differences in their beliefs over how the world is apprehended by human consciousness. For Heidegger it is all about uncovering the essential truth of phenomena through the immediacy of perception (for as long as phenomena are perceived in their immediacy they cannot lie, and moreover language, although it is a representational system, can also uncover the essential truth of phenomena, so as long as language is subjected to the right interpretational method - hermeneutics). For Peirce there can be no such reassurances, for everything even the immediacy of firstness is subject to processes of inference, and inference always incurs the relation of one thing to another, in other words, everything is semiosis. As this quotation from Peirce illustrates"

"It might be objected that to say that the purpose of thought is to bring the truth to expression is to say that the production of propositions, rather than that of inferences, is the primary object. But the production of propositions is of the general nature of inference, so that inference is the essential function of the cognitive mind" [Peirce: CP 2.444 Fn P1 Para 2/2]

Heidegger asserts that it is possible to grasp the immediacy of Being through looking, "For the Greeks truth (alethéia) meant perceiving- i.e., the sheer sensory perception of something as true [ref. Page 57]. Peirce would casts doubt on that assertion, not from the vantage point of the logic of thirdness, (the tradition of philosophy that Heidegger so despises) but by referring to a different interpretation of the very same immediacy that Heidegger evokes as the prime locus for the discovering of phenomenological truth (firstness). The following long quotation from Peirce should hopefully illustrate this point.

"Here I sit at my table with my inkstand and paper before me, my pen in my hand, my lamp at my side. It may be that all this is a dream. But if so, that such dream there is, is knowledge. But hold: what I have written down is only an imperfect description of the percept that is forced upon me. I have endeavoured to state it in words. In this there has been an endeavour, purpose--something not forced upon me but rather the product of reflection. I was not forced to this reflection. I could not hope to describe what I see, feel, and hear, just as I see, feel, and hear it. Not only could I not set it down on paper, but I could have no kind of thought adequate to it or any way like

Hundreds of percepts have succeeded one another while I have been setting down these sentences. I recognize that there is a percept or flow of percepts very different from anything I can describe or think. What precisely that is I cannot even tell myself. It would be gone, long before I could tell myself many items; and those items would be quite unlike the percepts themselves. In this thought there would always be effort or endeavour. Whatever is the product of effort might be suppressed by effort, and therefore is subject to possible error. I am forced to content myself not with the fleeting percepts, but with the crude and possibly erroneous thoughts, or self-informations, of what the percepts were. The science of psychology assures me that the very percepts were mental constructions, not the first impressions of sense. But what the first impressions of sense may have been, I do not know except inferentially and most imperfectly. Practically, the knowledge with which I have to content myself, and have to call "the evidence of my senses," instead of being in truth the evidence of the senses, is only a sort of stenographic report of that evidence, possibly erroneous. In place of the percept, which, although not the first impression of sense, is a construction with which my will has had nothing to do, and may, therefore, properly be called the "evidence of my senses," the only thing I carry away with me is the perceptual facts, or the intellect's description of the evidence of the senses, made by my endeavour. These perceptual facts are wholly unlike the percept, at best; and they may be downright untrue to the percept. But I have no means whatever of criticizing, correcting or re-comparing them, except that I can collect new perceptual facts relating to new percepts, and on that basis may infer that there must have been some error in the former reports, or on the other hand I may in this way persuade myself that the former reports were true. The perceptual facts are a very imperfect report of the percepts; but I cannot go behind that record. As for going back to the first impressions of sense, as some logicians recommend me to do, that would be the most chimerical of undertakings" [Peirce: CP 2.140 & 141].

In a way this quotation can be seen just as much of a justification of the Hermeneutical method as the phenomenological method. The essential difference is the trust each philosopher puts in our ability to perceive the truth of things themselves. Indeed this trust/distrust gets to the very heart of debates about the nature of truth in its absolute sense. About the nature of the latter, Peirce's remarks are salutary:

"Whether or not there is, at all, any such thing as Reality, the logician need not decide. He cannot hide from himself, any more than another man can, that objects very nearly like real things there are; and he cannot pretend to doubt it. But he sees, perhaps more clearly than other men, that approximation to reality and absolute reality itself are two different things... All that it is incumbent upon the logician to learn is what inferential habits are conducive to knowledge, and to positive knowledge, in case there be any reality of which it is possible to have positive knowledge, and are conducive to such semblance of positive knowledge as we can have, in case there is no perfect reality or in case otherwise true positive knowledge is impossible" [Peirce: CP 2.64]

Peirce, Charles Sanders (1931-1935), The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vols. I-VI, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (editors), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press".


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This is the second part of my explication and commentary of Being in Time, tor contents of previous sections see the main index

There is also an online glossary of terms referred to in this document.

Your comments on this document are welcome. Please make them at my blog site Synthetic Knowledge