A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF MARTIN HEIDEGGER'S CONCEPT OF BEING
The central focus of this work is to critically evaluate Heidegger’s concept of being and other related issues. Being has been a very intriguing issue that has held philosophers spell bound over the years. Philosophers throughout the ages have tried to give it their own interpretation based on the way they have conceived it. Heidegger, in response to the problem of being, arose to develop a largely acceptable interpretation of what he conceives as being. Whether he succeeded would be an issue that would be treated in this project.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The central part of metaphysics is ontology; study of Being. The word ontology derives from the Greek word ‘On’ (in the plural ‘onta’), which is the present participle of ‘einai’, the verb ‘to be’. (Kenny 2010:160). The founder of ontology was Parmenides and he defined it by placing the definite article “to” in front of the participle ‘on’. ‘To on’, literally ‘the being’, on the model of the living; means: All that is .it is customary, argues Kenny (2010:160), to translate the expression into English as (Being) with an initial capital. Without a capital, the English word ‘being’ has in philosophy two senses or uses, one corresponding to the Greek participle and one to Greek infinitive. A being, we can say, using the participle is an individual that is, whereas being (using the verbal noun) is, as it were, what any individual being is engaged in. The totality of individual being makes up being. For Parmenides ‘Being is, and non-being is not, for Heraclitus Being is becoming, for Plato, Being exist in the world of ‘transcendental form’. For Aristotle, it is the study of anything that is, whether material or immaterial. For Thomas Aquinas, it refers to all that is and their ultimate support (ultimate principle). For some contemporary thinkers, being is abstract and refers to nothing concrete. It is therefore important to point out that the entire metaphysical journey is that of trying to understand being in this effort to explicate being, Heidegger the great German philosopher is not left out.
The problem which Heidegger sets out to investigate is not the problem of man but the problem of Being. He feels passionately that it is necessary to restate this ancient problem which has been neglected. Do we in our own time have answer to the question of what we really mean by the word ‘being’? Not at all! So it is fitting that we should raise a new question of the meaning being… Our aim in the following treatise is to work out the question of the meaning of being and to do so correctly (Heidegger: 1962: 80). Martin Heidegger entered into the metaphysical world with the aim of correcting what he calls the “Ontological error of western philosophy”. According to Ireogbu (1995:214), on reading historically back, however, Heidegger asserts: That in its historical journey, something has gone wrong with metaphysics. It has missed its way in terms of the primary object of its occupation: Being. But metaphysics in the process forgot the most fundamental subject of its inquiry. The “Sein, “Ens”, Being”, or “To be”, of the different levels of being. ‘The forgotten Being here is the difference between Being and beings, Otherwise called “Ontological difference”. Heidegger’s query was that the fundamental ontological question on Being has been forgotten and so he set out on a reformation of being. Firstly, he started by posing the fundamental ontological questions. What is Being? Why is there being rather than nothing? (Heidegger, 1962:88) whether Heidegger succeeded in his quest is one that we will discover as we progress with this project. This project is therefore a critical attempt to investigate into the “onto-logos” of Being and at the same time to correct the mistakes of his predecessors.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
A fact that should be taken into consideration is that Being itself is veiled which makes an accurate difocation of it to be very difficult. The first problem we shall encounter here is that of articulating the nature of something that is veiled or hidden. This according to Heidegger makes the forgetfulness of being a part of its reality. The second problem is Heidegger’s attempt to derive the notion of Being from the notion of Dasien (Man). Metaphysically the concept of Being is prior to the concept of man. It becomes problematic to attempt to draw the concept of Being from that of man. In fact the concept of man is always dependent on a particular concept of Being. It is the horse that should draw the cart and not the other way round. The last problem that will face us in this project is that Heidegger’s theory of Being is a metaphysical inversion of religion. Not only is Heidegger consciously silent on the God question, his preponderant use of pre-Socratic text is denounced by Levinas as anti-scripture. (Ireogbu, 1995: 23).
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY
Heidegger lashed out at his predecessors and accused them of forgetfulness of Being. Our purpose here is to critically assess the reasons behind Heidegger’s accusation and then see whether he succeeded in reconstructing Being positively. Further more, the question of Being has been very elusive and difficult to grasp. Much as the history of philosophy is riddled with bad answers that need requestioning. What is Being? Remains a question to be now and again restated in new vocabularies, given new circumstances. It is therefore our intention to re-examine and re-evaluate old questions within the context of contemporary experiences. The contemporary experience seems to be based on concrete issues and questions and not on abstract entities like Being and non-Being.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The significance or relevance or importance of this project cannot be over-emphasized “Being as Ireogbu articulates (1995: 60)” is the primum notum (The first to be known) and the per se notum (The most self-evident) “reality of the human intellect” Heidegger’s giant contribution to the question of Being is unquestionable. His profound analysis of ‘Dasien’ is refreshingly revealing. The question he postulated “why is there anything instead of nothing”? Is one of the most important questions that face man in the contemporary era? A world where Being is neglected would not be a meaningful world. It is in fact impossible to neglect it as Being speaks for itself. This project is therefore contributing to the knowledge in the senses that we want to ground meaning ultimately, we want to understand Being in the context of past, present and future with a view towards man’s ontological end. If as Heidegger argues that a man is a “Being unto death” and that death brings fulfillment instead of destruction, then it follows that we should seek to understand Being comprehensively.
1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY
This work should be limited in scope to a critical evaluation of Heideggerian concept of Being. The work divides itself into four (4) chapter’s methodology. Chapter One(1) deals with scientific methodology. Chapter Two (2) examines Heidegger’s historicity. Chapter Three (3) examines Heidegger’s concept of Being. Chapter four (4) which is the last chapter focuses on merits and demerits of Heidegger’s works etc.
Basically, we would be combining two methods in this thesis. First is the analytic method which will enable us reflect systematically, coherently, consistently, logically and otherwise. If Being is veiled it is only through analyses that its hiddeness shall be unveiled. Secondly, we shall be employing the critical method. This second method shall enable us to examine the strength and weakness of Being as a concept.
The first book under review here is titled Heidegger: A Beginner’s Guide, authored by Michael Watts, published at Oxon by Hodder and Stroughton press Ltd in 2007. The author’s informative text explores the following. Heidegger’s background and the times he lived. The central ideas of Heidegger’s work in simple terms. Heidegger’s influence on ecology, art and literature and lastly, the continuing importance of Heidegger to philosophy and contemporary thought. The next work to be reviewed here is titled: A Commentary On Heidegger’s Being And Time, written by Michael Gelven, published by Northern: Illinois-university press, 1989. For the author, Heidegger equiperates Being with Time (Zein und Zeit). For him, existence within time refers to our fundamental way of Being which simultaneously spans and is constituted by the three dimensions of time-past, present and future. The third book under review is titled: The Cambridge Companion To Heidegger, edited by Christian Guignon and published by Cambridge university press, 1996. The central theme of this companion is fundamental ontology. By this Heidegger understands the critical or preliminary step of first studying the human being before one then pursues the investigation of the ‘sein’. It is the preliminary analytic of the Dasien which is the sole focus where the Being-question is posed and tackled.
The fourth book to be reviewed here is authored by Pantaleon Iroegbu titled Metaphysics: The Kpim Of Philosophy, published in Owerri in 1995 by international university press Ltd. The author, insist here that Being is the fundamental bedrock of any metaphysics. For Ireogbu, Being is and non-beings is not. Being is englobing and encompassing. It signifies the totality of reality. He especially devoted chapter 17 of this work to explaining, analyzing and evaluating Heidegger ontological difference. For Heidegger, the question of Being has today been forgotten, the challenge therefore, and that is Heidegger’s metaphysical project is that the question of the meaning of Being must be re-formulated,
The next book under review is titled: The Problem Of Metaphysics, authored by Fredrick Sontag, published in Pennsylvania by chandler publishing company in 1970. According to the author, philosophy, in so far as it is, is a search for first principles is the basic assumption implicit in any question in metaphysics. It teaches us a radical form of questioning. In this sense, “Metaphysics is simply basic of philosophy”. The search for and the questioning of first principles. The author insist here that metaphysics deals with problems which themselves involves even more fundamental problems, and the exasperation involves in this difficult enterprise comes from an impartial desire simply to settle a question without first reformulating and criticizing the question itself. One of these basic metaphysical problem is that of the true meaning of Being. Chapter six (6) of this book centers on the problem of being as Heidegger encountered it when he contrasted being with non-being.
The last book under review here is titled Delimitations, Phenomenology And The End Of Metaphysics, authored by John Salles, published by Indiana university press in 1986. Chapter seven of this book is devoted to the origins of Heidegger’s thought and the questions of Being. The author argues that the historical origins of Heidegger’s thoughts in the restricted sense specified are thus constituted by Husserlian phenomenology and Greek ontology. However, the basics question is “How is it that Being is what remains in thought in the appeal to the things themselves? How is it that a radical-phenomenology must become ontology?”
Gelven, Michael, (1989), A Commentary On Heidegger’s Being And Time, (Illonis: Nothern Illonis University Press.
Guignon, Christian, (1995), The Cambridge University Companion To Heidegger, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Ltd.
Iroegbu, Pantaleon, (1995), Metaphysics: The Kpim Of Phylosophy, Owerri International University Press ltd.
Heidegger, Martin, (1962), Being And Time, (trans) by John Macquarrie, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Kenny, Anthony (2010), A New History Of Western Philosophy, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Salles, John, (1986), Delimitations: Phenomenology And The End Of Metaphysics, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Sontag, Fredrick, (1970), Problems Of Metaphysics, Pensylavania: A Chandler Series.
Watts, Martin, (2007), Heidegger: A Beginner’s guide, Oxon: Hodder and Stoughton Press.
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