Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I

Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I

Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I

Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I

Excerpt

What Martin Heidegger is after in Being and Time is nothing less than deepening our understanding of what it means for something (things, people, abstractions, language, etc.) to be. He wants to distinguish several different ways of being and then show how they are all related to human being and ultimately to temporality.

Heidegger claims that the tradition has misdescribed and misinterpreted human being. Therefore, as a first step in his project he attempts to work out a fresh analysis of what it is to be human. Obviously the results, if sound, are important for anyone who wants to understand what sort of being he or she is. Heidegger's conclusions are also crucial for the human sciences, for it should be obvious that one cannot understand something unless one has an accurate account of what it is one is trying to understand. Thus, for example, if one thinks of man as a rational animal, solving problems and acting on the basis of beliefs and desires, as the tradition has done since Aristotle, one will develop a theory of mind, decision-making, rule-following, etc., to account for this way of being. If this description of human reality turns out to be superficial, all that hard work will have been in vain.

The traditional misunderstanding of human being starts with Plato's fascination with theory. The idea that one could understand the universe in a detached way, by discovering the principles that underlie the profusion of phenomena, was, indeed, the most powerful and exciting idea since fire and language. But Plato and our tradition got off on the wrong track by thinking that one could have a theory of everything--even human beings and their world-- and that the way human beings relate to things is to have an implicit theory about them.

Heidegger is not against theory. He thinks it is powerful and important--but limited. Basically he seeks to show that one cannot have a theory of what makes theory possible. If he is right about this . . .

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