Heidegger, fenomenologia, hermenêutica, existência

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Carman: Heidegger’s question of being

quarta-feira 5 de abril de 2017

More precisely, Heidegger’s question of being is: what does it mean to be? What does Heidegger mean by "meaning"? Not   linguistic meaning but intelligibility more broadly construed: "Meaning is that wherein the intelligibility [Verstandlichkeit] of something maintains itself. That which is articulable in an understanding disclosure we call ’meaning’ . . . Meaning is that… in terms of which something as something is intelligible" (151). Granted, Being and Time   begins with a passage from Plato   ’s Sophist in which the Stranger asks Theaetetus what he means when he says "being" (the participle ov in Greek), "for we, who formerly imagined we knew, are now at a loss." [1] Heidegger then asks, "Do we today have an answer to the question concerning what we really mean when we use the expression ’being’ [seiend  ]? Not at all" (1). A few pages later Heidegger reiterates the question of "what we really mean by the expression ’being’ [Sein  ]" (11). [2]

These formulations make it sound as if the question of being is a question about the meaning of the word "being," but it is important to see that this is not the case; Heidegger’s question is not a question of semantics. [3] Heidegger often talks, for pedagogical and expository reasons, about what we mean when we say "to be" or "is" or "am," but the words with which we express our understanding of being are for him neither the only nor even the most important manifestation of that understanding. We understand equipment (Zeug  ) by using it [86] competently, we understand objects by recognizing and responding to them intelligently, and we understand ourselves in all our distinctively human behaviors and practices. Using words is just one of many ways in which we exhibit our understanding of being. [4]


[1Plato, Sophist, trans. F. M. Cornford, in Plato: The Collected Dialogues, eds. E. Hamilton and H. Cairns (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 244a.

[2Likewise in his 1928 lectures, Heidegger says, "What does ’being’ mean? This is the fundamental question of philosophy par excellence" (GA26:171).

[3Ernst Tugendhat complains that although "Heidegger’s philosophy is receptive to linguistic analysis from the outset," nevertheless, unlike Wittgenstein, Heidegger failed to recognize that philosophical questions can only be questions of language: "if someone says being and thereby thinks that he has evoked something that is not merely what we understand when we understand the word, this does not allow for elucidation as a matter of principle. For the sole possibility of an elucidation would consist in recourse to the word." Tugendhat’s adherence to a purely linguistic conception of philosophy can seem arbitrary and dogmatic. To his credit, though, he concedes that his "linguistic-analytical interpretation" of Being and Time "does not correspond exactly to Heidegger’s self-understanding, but it is the best I could make of Heidegger’s question of being." Ernst Tugendhat, Self-Consciousness and Self-Determination, trans. P. Stern (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986), 145, 148, 150.

[4This is what Heidegger thought when he wrote Being and Time, anyway. In his later works, by around the mid-1930s, although he still maintains that there are nonlinguistic manifestations of our understanding of being - in the peasant’s unthinking reliance on her shoes, in nondiscursive works of art like the Greek temple, in technological machinery like the hydroelectric plant on the Rhine - he also seems to hold that the words of great thinkers and poets are a privileged site for the manifestation and evolution of our collective understanding of being.