On Reading Being and Time:
An Explication and Commentary by Roderick Munday
Creative commons issues
My position on Heidegger
Citations and links
This project was started in September 2005 but was suspended because my PhD took over. I hope to pick it up again and finish it sometime. :)
There is also an online glossary of terms referred to in this document.
Your comments are welcome, please make them at my blog site Synthetic Knowledge
August 5 — September 11, 2005
EXPOSITION OF THE QUESTION OF THE MEANING OF BEING
THE NECESSITY, STRUCTURE, AND PRIORITY
OF THE QUESTION OF BEING
¶ 1. The Necessity of Explicitly Restating the Question of Being
For manifestly you have long been aware of what you mean when you use the expression "being". We, however, who used to thing we understood it have now become perplexed.
The above quotation from Plato summarises a key point from Heidegger's opening argument of Being and Time. Namely that today we are incapable of answering the question "What is being?" We cannot ever articulate a rudimentary understanding about it.
However, our inability to define Being is not the source of anxiety to us. Heidegger argues this is because the problem of being has been cumulatively buried over the years, as the concerns of each new epoph have moved further and fruther away from those that animated the anceient Greeks. Consequently in the modern era the question, 'what is Being?' does not seem to be one that is even worth asking. Heidegger places the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of successive generations of philosophers whom he says have been responsible for pulling the wool over our eyes in respect of regarding the question of being as something worth asking. Modern philosophy, "not only declares the question about the meaning of Being to be superfluous, but sanctions its complete neglect"... Being, according to this dogmatic philosophical view, "is the most universal and yet emptiest of concepts... one that resists all attempts at definition."
So in order to proceed in our enquiry, we must first discover what is vital and urgent about the question of Being that needs to be answered, in Heidegger's words, we must re-awaken it.
The Paradox of Being
The paradox of Being is that it is the most enigmatic and mysterious and yet the most banal and everyday of concepts. Being is the "is" of a sentence (in logic it is called the copula) that links the subject to its predicate, and as such is an integral part of the most basic form human language. Very young children have no problem understanding, for instance, that the cat is on the mat. But what is this is, the isness of the cat? Everyone refers to the concept of Being without stopping to examining it further.
At this early stage of the inquiry it is not possible to elaborate on such a disturbing lacuna in our collective understanding, nor on the prejudices that informed it, nor indeed the reasons for those prejudices. Such a detailed critique must wait until the foundations of Being have been properly laid, in other words until the question has itself been clarified.
However there are three preliminary remarks that we can extract from the history of dogmatic assumptions about Being, that will help us initially to clarify the question:
1/ "Being is not a genus".
It has been maintained that Being is the most universal of concepts, thus an understanding of Being is presupposed in our conceiving of anything as an entity. Being transcends any categorical distinction we care to make in our apprehension of the world. It does this by existing above and beyond any notion of a category that we can form in our understanding.
2/ Being is indefinable.
The term entity cannot be applied to Being because it cannot be defined using traditional logic, i.e. a technique for understanding which derives its terms either from higher general concepts, or by recourse to ones of lower generality. In other words, it is because Being is neither a thing nor a genus, it follows that it cannot be defined according to logic, whose job it is to set out the rules that govern the categorisation of things.
3/ Being is self-evident
Whenever one thinks about anything, or makes an assertion, or even asks a question; some use is made of Being. But the intelligibility of Being, in this sense, is only an average sort of intelligibility. This average intelligibility, true to the 'paradox of Being' elaborated earlier, is also indicative of its unintelligibility.
What does Heidegger mean by this? Well, Heidegger wants us to be aware that there are two sides to this question. On the positive side, we are all equipped with a common sense understanding of Being: we all seem to know what it is, even though we cannot articulate that knowledge. On the negative side, we are also very ignorant of Being and this ignorance is what Heidegger is seeking to expose, before he can even address the question of Being. We are ignorant because in positioning ourselves to regard any given entity (that is, focussing our conscious attention of own being onto the being of something else), we miss that this process is somewhat reflexive in character. What we are in fact doing is comporting 'the being of our being' towards the being of the entity. And therein lies an enigma, because according to traditional logic, what we are apparently seeing when we do this is a reflection. A reflection that is reflected off other reflections, which although clearly visible, seem to lack any original source. Hence when you penetrate the average intelligibility of Being (using the methods of traditional logical analysis) it seems in fact to be unintelligible — a blind alley; a circular argument; a hall of mirrors. This implies either, a) that the investigation of being is a non starter, or, b) that the method that we are using to interrogate Being is at fault. As Heidegger goes on to state…
What has been ascertained by examining these prejudices is that the question of being lacks an answer. And the main reason for this is that the question itself has been formulated in a way that lacks direction. Therefore the task now s to reformulaed the question.
So, what Heidegger is doing here is making it clear that the normal method of philosophical analysis. I.e. the one which relies upon naming things, placing them into categories and analysing them using logical subject/predicate oppositions is inadequate for the task of investigating the question of Being. For this reason, any analysis that based fundamentally on logic is here-on-in abandoned. Readers will notice that, as a consequence, the terminology from this point becomes more unfamiliar. As Heidegger feels compelled to invent new words and analytical techniques to articulate the question of Being anew. In effect this terminology functions to defamiliarise the reader, by abandoning conventional conceptions of existence. It seems for Heidegger that only when this has been achieved, can the examination of Being proper commence in earnest.
Heidegger's analysis of Being can be seen (partially) as an attempt to describe the world of immediate existence of course that comes before linguistic and rational understandings. This would cannot be adequately captured in representational terms, because words place a different kind of reality over our immediate understanding of the world
We must try to resist the inevitable temptation of trying to make Heidegger speak more clearly to us in representational terms. I say inevitable because that is of course what we must do initially to understand Heidegger. Although such simplification can be helpful at first, we must resist the temptation hold onto these linguistic crutches for too long, because then we are liable to fall into the trap of finding that Heidegger's argument collapses into something banal and easily dismissable. If we were to do this, I think we would be the poorer, because we would miss a lot of what Heidegger is trying to uncover.
¶ 2. The Formal Structure of the Question of Being
Heidegger reminds us that the 'question of Being' is not just any question, it is the question, in the sense that it belongs to every other question. So to understand it we must uncover the commonalties in every question, so that what is peculiar about questioning can be made transparent.
Every inquiry is seeking and the journey of seeking is guided beforehand by what is sought.
Heidegger defines questioning as "a cognisant seeking for an entity both with regard to the fact that it is and with regard to its Being as it is." (Note here that in Heidegger's view, Being become central to the investigation of everything else. This should be a cause of anxiety for us, the readers, because arguably Heidegger is claiming here that, because we do not understand the question of Being, we do not really understand anything at all)
Questioning can take the form of both investigating and interrogating.
Investigating is a mode of questioning which is concerned with obtaining a goal, that of laying bare the nature of the question to ascertain its character. This is a type of questioning Heidegger calls "expressly theoretical".
Interrogating is a mode of questioning where the goal is not so much obtained as constantly deferred or reflected back onto the questioner. All inquiries are inquiries about something, which is also a questioning of that something. So, in addition to what is asked about, there is also a sense of that which is interrogated. In this case, inquiry itself is also about the behaviour of a questioner, and the reciprocal relationship that gets established between the questioner and the questioned. Both has their own character of being. Consequently both must be examined. When one makes an inquiry one may do so casually…
…or formulate the question explicitly. The latter case is the more peculiar in that the answer itself is not clarified until all the elements of the question are themselves made transparent
We must be mindful then of the structural considerations of questioning itself, if we are to formulate the question: What is Being?
Because inquiry is always guided beforehand by what is sought; the meaning of Being must already be available to us in some way . After all, as Heidegger has already pointed out, we go about our day to day activities with a common-sense understanding of Being. Which he refers to as an 'average sort of intelligibility' [ref. page 23]. If we ask, 'what is "Being" ?', we already have an understanding of what the is in this sentence signifies, what we do no know as yet is the horizon in which its meaning is to be grasped and fixed. However it is important to realise that even a vague common-sensical understanding is still an understanding. In other words, the question that is to be asked of Being is one of clarification, not of seeking a totally novel, or surprising explanation. The problem for Heidegger's inquiry then is to reveal the horizon of Being. He proposes to set about doing this by shedding light on those aspects of Being have hitherto existed in a pool of darkness. (A darkness Heidegger adds made more opaque by the hooves of traditional philosophical dogma, muddying the waters).
The first real assertion we can make is this:
"Being is that which determines entities as entities before they are actually understood as entities."
For instance, when a child points at something and says, 'what's that?' The 'that' is already understood as 'a something' before the question is even asked. All the child is seeking is to name the being of the given entity.
This Being (the Being of entities) is something which can be extracted from them, as Being per se, yet this Being is not itself an entity. Consequently, if we want to understand what Being is, we should not treat it as a 'something.' For then the trajectory that our inquiry will take will be a search for origins–a 'Holy Grail' type of seeking–which is the stuff of myth, not of philosophical inquiry. So the meaning of Being needs to be conceived of in a way that is unique to this 'non-entity' quality of Being,
…And this is where traditional language fails us, because the nature of language is to always objectify what it is talking about. language talks in words, which represent concepts, which either represent things or a reified into things. Language can be said to be totally concerned with the 'thingness of things'. Linguistically it seems impossible for there to exist a 'named thing' like Being, which is not at the same time an existent object. For this reason we tend to judge the assertion, 'being is not a thing' as sounding illogical. It is natural to assume that Being is some impossible object and to dismiss it, rather than to suspect that the fault lies with they way that language represents existence. Perhaps then we should consider the possibility that logic and language are indeed fallible. But if we deny this possibility, we need to ask ourselves, how is it that we cannot account for the existence of being using language and logic?
The question, 'what is Being?' needs to be formulated with these problems in mind.
As we have said, Being is that which determines entities as entities, in other words, Being can be said to mean the 'Being of entities.' It follows therefore that the entities themselves must be questioned to find out the nature of their being.
This is a neat reversal of the Child's question 'what's that?' In asking the question, the child is seeking to fix the name of something in language, for example, to understand that the four legged animal that barks is called a 'dog'. But this fixing of a name also tends to be the termination of the child's inquiry; she knows what a 'dog' is, and so her attention moves onto to other unnamed entities for the next, 'what's that?'. Heidegger proposes that for our inquiry, we point at a dog and ask 'what's that?', not in the sense of seeking a new name for the dog, but in the sense of uncoupling the entity from its name, i.e. freeing ourselves from our dependence on a purely linguistic understanding and examining existence afresh in terms of it Being, or to put this another way, in terms of that which makes some things stand out from the manifold of existence as a thing, capable of arresting our curiosity in the first place.
But there are many things which we designate as Being. So the question is not 'what entities?', but which? And this prompts a further question. Are all entities equally equipped for answering this question, or do some reveal more about their Being than others?
So our inquiry must explain how being is looked at, how its meaning is to be understood, and should also prepare the way for choosing the right entity to examine, by sorting out genuine ways to access it. Looking at something, understanding and conceiving it, choosing, access to it–all of these ways of behaving are constitutive for our inquiry, and therefore are modes of Being for those particular entities, as our we, the inquirers, a mode of Being ourselves...
To work out the question adequately, we must make an entity–the inquirer–transparent in his own Being. Thus the entity in this case is the 'human being' (or a consciousness that is aware of itself as a consciousness–i.e. as opposed to an animal that operates solely by instinct), and in the mode of inquiring. As Heidegger puts it, "The very asking of this question is an entity's mode of Being; and as such it gets its essential character from what is inquired about–namely, Being." This 'inquiring consciousness' then becomes the 'subject' of Heidegger's entire inquiry into Being and he denotes this henceforth by the term "Dasein."
But doesn't the study of our own being become a viscous circle, like staring into the multifaceted reflections in a hall or mirrors? Heidegger answers no. This is one of the problems of logic again, that it cannot penetrate the question sufficiently. Once one is embarked on the journey of inquiry, with all the practical considerations that entails, then one will see that these chimeras of theoretical abstraction will fall away.
"Factically", (a Heideggerian term for which we can usually substitute "in fact") there is no viscous circle at all, because one can determine the nature of entities in their being, without necessarily having to have an explicit concept of the meaning of Being per se. For if things were otherwise, Heidegger argues, there would be no ontological knowledge at all.
But, as Heidegger has already stated, Being is not a concept. But something that can already be presupposed by to our common-sense understanding of Being. Heidegger calls this 'taking a look beforehand', so that certain entities get provisionally articulated in their Being…
What Heidegger means by this 'taking a look beforehand' can be defined as essentially guesswork, and it derives its legitimacy from our common-sense understanding of being . In other words, we already know what Being is, even though we cannot articulate it properly yet. This makes examining these guesses a good starting point for the inquiry - especially given the fact that our common sense understanding of Being belongs already to the essential constitution of Dasein itself).
You will notice that such presupposing has nothing to do with logic, which is always concerned with laying down an axiom from which a series of propositions can be deductively derived . It is not a question of grounding something, but rather of laying bare the grounds for it. For those who know Peirce, this is very similar to his concept of abduction, which itself can be defined as taking a guess.
This 'laying bare the grounds' entails not a circular argument, but an interrogation, i.e. a lot of relating backwards and forwards. This manifests as a constant stepping out of the mode of inquiring directed towards something, to ask ourselves how our questioning is related to the mode of Being that we are inhabiting whilst we are in the process of inquiring. This self-monitoring aspect becomes an essential technique to learn, as it is particularly pertinent to the inquiry itself. Interrogating then is a way–perhaps a very special way–in which entities with the character of Dasein are related to the question of Being itself. Heidegger designates this latter relation as Dasein's ownmost meaning (this is a term which we will hear more of later) .
Heidegger asks at this point whether we have not already demonstrated that some entities are more important than others with regard to the question, 'what is being?'? His answer is "not entirely". For in truth we have not demonstrated this yet, but in keeping with the provisional nature of our inquiry, we can say that we have a hunch that the priority of Dasien has already announced itself.
¶ 3. The Ontological Priority of the Question of Being
This question of Being requires some fundamental considerations to be addressed before it can be solved. But such considerations will only become apparent once we have delineated the aim, motives and function of the question. For example, what purpose is the question supposed to serve? Is it merely the most speculative of all generalities, or the most basic and concrete question of all?
Being Scientific (or the systematic study of phenomena)
Being is always the being of an entity. The totality of entities can be a field for determining certain areas of subject matter. These areas–space, history, nature, etc–can serves as objects for inquiry which corresponding scientific investigations take as their themes. (Heidegger uses the term "Scientific" here to designate, not just what we would call 'the sciences', but any systematic interrogation that is concerned with making conscious its aims and objectives as well as answering the question). For example, astronomers and architects study different aspects of space, historians study past time, biologists study nature, etc.
Scientific research itself establishes, albeit naively, the initial fixing of the areas of its subject matter. But the basic structuring of the territory has already been worked out in advance in our pre-scientific ways of experiencing the domain of Being; in the particular areas where a 'subject' point of view has emerged and to which it is confined. These basic concepts of subject territories or domains (derived from common-sense assumptions) serve as the first clues when any the scientific investigation seeks to uncover a particular territory.
This is the reason Heidegger says that the real progress of researching comes not from the physical data collated, but from the very act of inquiring into the ways each area is basically constituted. We are driven to this desire for precision and specialization of our knowledge, in a sense, by reacting against information overload, where an ever increasing flux of information becomes unwieldy in time and threatens to overwhelm us. For example a subject like 'Nature' becomes loaded with more an more information, so that the very notion of nature itself becomes fuzzy and inevitably an enquiry into nature them spawns sub-branches of inquiry, such as biology, which in turn get divided up into zoology and botany etc., etc.
Actually, real movement in the sciences only takes place when their basic concepts consciously undergo a radical revision, or become transparent in Heidegger's terminology. The level to which a science has reached (its maturity as a subject) paradoxically can be determined by how far it is capable of undergoing a crisis in its basic concepts…
Heidegger is arguing that, from our common-sense understanding of things, we develop a set of basic concepts that determine the way in which we get an understanding beforehand of any given subject. It is only after the area itself has been explored beforehand in a in interrogating our guesses that these concepts become genuinely demonstrated and 'grounded'. But since this data is obtained from entities; this preliminary research signifies nothing else but an interpretation of those entities with regard to their basic structure of Being. Such research must run ahead of the investigations of the positive sciences, and in fact this proves to be the case. This laying the foundations is something Heidegger calls "a productive logic", which is different in principle from what it traditionally thought of as logic, "which "limps along after investigating the status of some science… in order to discover its 'method'" (31). Productive logic leaps ahead of the problem, as it were, disclosing novel areas of Being for the first time in the constitution of its Being, and after arriving at this structure, it makes it available to the positive sciences as conscious directions for their inquiry to take. For example Kant's Critique of Pure Reason contributes towards the working out of what belongs to any Nature, because his transcendent logic is an a priori logic for the subject matter of that area of Being called "Nature".
In fact ontology in its broadest possible sense, can be defined as inquiry; that is an inquiry that does not favour any particular ontological directions or tendencies. This broad and free-ranging inquiry can be compared with the more narrowly delineated and focussed inquiry of the sciences–Heidegger uses the term ontic to designate the latter type and Ontological is reserved from here-on-in to designate only for the former, free ranging inquiry. Ontological inquiry is an inquiry of Being and is more primordial than ontic inquiries. The term "Primordial" is meant here in the sense of being closer to Being itself, which according to Heidegger's epistemology, comes before ontic knowledge.
Ontic and Ontological
It is worth underscoring the distinction between the terms Ontic and Ontological because Heidegger makes frequent use of them in the text. The translators–John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson– advance this helpful definition: Ontic is concerned with knowledge about entities (facts about things in other words), whilst ontological in concerned primarily with Being. A good example of how this distinction between ontic and ontological works in practice is provided in the next section (¶4) Heidegger says of Dasein that it is "ontically distinctive because it is ontological." Thus equipped with these definitions, you should at least be able to understand semantically what is meant by this sentence. However, a fuller explanation must wait until the next section comes under examination.
Summary of Section
The section concludes that, the question of Being aims to ascertaining the a priori conditions which create the possibilities for a science that is capable of examining entities as entities. However, in case we start to forget our priorities...
"All ontology no matter what categories it uses to slice into the world remains blind and perverted from its truest and most authentic aim, which is to discover the meaning of Being, whose clarification is its most fundamental task."
In answer the question posed in the title of this section, this is why ontological research gives absolute priority to the question of Being.
¶ 4. The Ontical Priority of the Question of Being
Science in general (that is science abstracted from any particular content) may be provisionally defined as "the totally established through an interconnection of true propositions." Although this definition does not really approach the true meaning of science. As ways in which man behaves, sciences have the meaning of Being which this entity–Man himself–possesses.
This is an important point. It other words what Heidegger is saying is that our understanding of existence reflects ourselves, in the sense that the world is ultimately part of us and that there can be no "objective" - in the sense of detachment - understanding. The world isn't something totally outside and divorced from us, it is in the most literal sense our world, so the particular questions that a given science takes up are in the final analysis going to concern us.
This, 'meaning of Being which man himself–possesses', we denote by the term "Dasein". As we stated earlier, Dasein can be defined as a human being in the mode of investigating the question of its own Being. Scientific research is not the only manner of Being which this entity (Dasein) can have, nor is it the one which lies closest to Dasein. It is Dasein alone that has a special distinctiveness as compared with other entities. Provisionally this can be expressed as Dasein's concern with its own being. The fact that Being is at issue, implies that Dasein's relationship to its own being is constitutive for the definition of Being per se. And furthermore, this also implies that Dasein understands itself in its being, and moreover, it does this explicitly to some degree. Therefore: "Understanding of Being is itself a definite characteristic of Dasein's Being
Here, "being ontological" is not the same thing as "developing an ontology". So we should reserve the term "ontology" only for that theoretical inquiry which is explicitly devoted to the meaning of entities (i.e. not Dasein or Being per se). What we have in mind when we speak of Dasein's "Being ontological" is actually to be designated as something "pre-ontological". This is because it signifies being in such as way that one already has an understanding of Being. The kind of being towards which Dasein comports itself we call "existence".
We have chosen to designate Dasein, because we cannot define its essence in terms of "what it is", but in terms of "what it is to be", (i.e., in terms of its potential), and this potential is at the same time something which belongs to Dasein and is all its own. Dasein is purely an expression of its own Being. ("own" is used in the sense here of belonging to Dasien, should not be taken to mean "as a property of" but rather as something that fundamentally constitutes it).
Dasien always understands itself in terms of its existence–in terms of a possibility of itself. Dasein has either chosen this possibility for itself or has got into it. Only the particular Dasein (the individual) decides its existence: either by "taking hold" (i.e. making the decision consciously) or neglecting (being carried along with the flow).
"Existentiell" and "Extential"
The question of existence never gets clarified except through existing. The understanding of oneself that we acquire along the way Heidegger calls "Existentiell". The question of existence is close to Dasein, but this does not mean that Dasein is necessarily conscious of the question of existence (the question doesn't have to be theoretically transparent). But this structuring of the question points the way for the analysis of what constitutes existence. The context of such structuring we call "Existentality". But its analytic has the character of an understanding which is not extentiell, i.e. structure plus content. But extential: structure minus content. So to distinguish these two very similar sounding terms we can say that whereas "Existentiell" refers to an individual particular existence, "Extential" is a more formal and more general understanding of existence per se.
"Extential" refers to the task of an existential analytic of Being that is delineated in advance in both its possibility and its necessity and Dasein's ontical constitution.
So far as existence is the determining character of Dasein, the ontological analytic of this entity always requires that existentiality be considered beforehand. By "existentiality" we understand the state of Being that is constitutive for those entities that exist. But the idea of such a constitutive state of Being already includes Being as its core component. And this is the reason why we are prevented in working out the general answer to the question, 'What is Being?' before the question itself has been answered.
The sciences are ways of Being in which Dasien comports itself towards entities which are not necessarily part of it. But to Dasien, "Being in a world" is something that is absolutely a part of it and belongs to it essentially. Thus Dasien's understanding of Being is very much bound up in its understanding of the 'world', so much so that Heidegger says that it is an equally 'primordial' understanding (i.e. one that gets right to the heart of the question of Being) and in addition this, Dasein's understanding of the Being of other entities within the world is equally primordial.
So, we have three aspects of Being which are primordial to the understanding of Being.
1/ Dasein's Being
2/ The Being of the world
3/ The Being of things in the world
Whenever an ontology takes for its theme entities whose character of Being is outside of Dasein, it has its foundation and motivation for doing so in Dasein's own ontical structure, in which, as has already been indicated [ref. Page 32], a pre-ontological understanding of Being is comprised as a definite characteristic.
Therefore the Fundamental ontology must be sought in the existential analytic of Dasein, because it is the source of all other ontologies.
Dasein takes priority over other entities in three ways:
1/ An ontic priority because Dasein's being has the determining characteristic of existence.
2/ An ontological priority, because existence is also determinative for Dasein. (plus Dasein understands the being of all other entities, and this understanding is actually constitutive of Dasein's own being)
3/ Dasein provides the onto-ontological condition for the possibility of any ontologies. (without Dasein the notion of Being would not exist)
But the roots of our enquiry although it is into the general nature of existence (existential) are actually found in particular examples (extentiell), it is therefore to the being of individuals (each existing Dasein) that we must look, if we are to discern the existentiality of existence in general.
Thus now that the onto-ontological priority has been grasped we realise that in fact it was grasped long ago. For example it was grasped when Aristotle said, "Man's soul is, in a certain way, in entities." The soul that makes up the being of human–the 'human being'–has sensations and thinking among its ways of Being, and in these discovers the world and all the entities within it, 1/ in the fact that they are, and 2/ in the fact of their Being as they are — but these last two statements are not actually distinct, as they collapse into the "they are", or just Being. Aristotle's thoughts were later taken up by Thomas Aquinas, who discussed the notion of Transcendia, that is aspects of the Being of an entity whose characteristics lay beyond any possible classification, and thus can said to be that part of Being that belong mutatis mutandis to any entity. Thomas's task was to demonstrate the validity of transcendia by evoking an entity, which in its very manner of Being is suited 'to come together' with all other entities. This entity he called 'the soul'.
In these examples the priority of Dasein emerges over other entities, although it was not ontologically clarified before.
By provisionally indicating Dasein's onto-ontological priority…
…we have grounded the notion that they question of Being is onto-ontologically distinctive. But when we analysed the formal structure of the question in section two [ref. Page 24 - 28], we became aware of the distinctive way in which this entity functions in the very formation of the question of Being. Dasein revealed itself to be the first entity that must be worked out in order to answer the question of Being. But now it has been shown that the ontological analytic of Dasein taken generally, is actually what constitutes our notion of ontology per se. Thus Dasein itself functions as that entity which must be interrogated beforehand as to its Being. This means that Dasein is not only the primary entity to be interrogated, it is also the entity which recognises the being of everything else, and comports its Being, towards what we are in fact asking about when we ask the question, 'what is Being?'. The implication is that the question of Being itself is nothing more than radicalisation of an essential tendency of Being which belongs to Dasein itself–namely the pre-ontological understanding of Being.
Concluding Thoughts On This Section, Or, The Meaning Of "Is"
Heidegger states that "the question of Being itself is nothing more than radicalisation of an essential tendency of Being which belongs to Dasein itself." In other words, Being is, if you'll excuse the crude analogy, part of our core programming. It is for this reason that human beings see everything else in terms of this 'thing' called Being. In a way we can help it, this is simply the way that human beings are made… In other words, let me pose the question of Being very much in the interrogative case:
You know the meaning of "is" don't you?
Now the difficulty regarding the question of being becomes, therefore, not a search for some lost thing, but a task of separating the wood from the trees. Marshall McLuhan once said that the creature least qualified to tell you anything about the nature of water is the fish. In other words, we as human beings are terrible at recognising that which is right in front of our noses, so to speak. The best way to start recognising Being for what it is, is to follow our hunches. In Heidegger's language to this is listening to our "pre-ontological understanding of Being". His point is, since we are so much a part of our Being, these hunches are liable to turn out to be the best point of departure for our inquiry.
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