Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Role of the Beitrage in Heidegger's Critique of Science

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

The Role of the Beitrage in Heidegger's Critique of Science

Article excerpt

Bell & Howell Information and Learning: foreign text omitted.

In sec 73 of the Beitrage, Heidegger argues that the abandonment of being (die Seinsverlassenheit) that characterizes the modern epoch is decided by modern science, and that therefore philosophical reflection on science is the only possibility for philosophy to make the transition to another beginning. The Beitrage is a transitional moment for Heidegger between his interest in science and nihilism first articulated in What Is Metaphysics? and his suggestion in "Science and Reflection" that reflection on the sciences is preparatory "for the exhortation and consolation [Zuspruch] that our human race needs today."' In the former text, he argued that science is an "irruption [Einbruch] by one being called 'man' into the whole of beings."2 Science was therein laid out not as a trivial pastime of human being, but as the definitive moment of Dasein the enquirer, the determination in modernity of both human being as knower and being that has withdrawn in the face of the frenzied activity of the scientific encounter with beings. Science is in the ambiguous position of wanting to know nothing of the nothing, yet of being forced back to the nothing in the attempt to express its proper essence. In the Beitrage, that developing thought is made explicit: reflection on the sciences offers the possibility of moving through nihilism to a new beginning for thinking. Heidegger's thinking is both destructive and constructive. The Beitrage is a crucial text in which he first claims that reflection on science is the moment of destruction that will make new construction possible.

Indeed, the Beitrage is significant for Heidegger's critique of science in several ways. It serves as an often cryptic but nonetheless informative insight into his analysis of the ideology and methodology of modern science. First, there are two concurrent contrasts against modern science that run throughout his analysis. One is the historical contrast against other ways of knowing, that is, ancient science, ..., which Heidegger tends to treat only in terms of Aristotle, and medieval scientia. Also there is an on-going question as to the difference between history and physics. The Beitrage clarifies the role of such contrasts in analyzing modern science, and argues what the crucial differences are. Secondly, Heidegger confronts the issue of specialization. In his early work, the Husserlian analysis of regional ontology and basic concepts was an uncritical account of the logic by which the positive sciences are established. In the Rectoral Address, Heidegger now makes the critical claim that specialization leads to the fragmentation of knowledge, and he suggests that the role of philosophy in the university is the breaking down of the departmental barriers that institutionalize fragmented knowledge. In the Beitrage, he synthesizes these two moments of his thought by arguing that the Betriebscharakter of the sciences, its business as specialized research, is the necessary consequence of its representation of its objects. Thirdly, he raises the question of the mathematization of nature in the experimental method. Whereas previously, in Die Frage nach dem Ding, he argued that the mathematical is not simply the numerical but is that which is already known that the thinker brings to knowledge (BW, 273-78),3 in the Beitrige he looks rather at calculation in the experimental method, which measures, and he uses this methodological analysis to show that the scientific method is reductive of its object. Fourthly, in the Beitrage he looks at the relation between experiment and experience, and he concludes that the experimental method's claim to be empirical is deceptive since the need for experimentation arises precisely because, left to itself, nature does not in fact behave in the ways it does in a laboratory. Hence the Beitrage is a significant moment in the development of Heidegger's philosophy of science. …

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