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Continental Philosophy Review

Gadamer: Heidegger on subjectivity

Subjectivity and intersubjectivity, subject and person

domingo 30 de abril de 2017, por Cardoso de Castro

Extrato das páginas 279-281, da tradução de Peter Adamson and David Vessey, em Continental Philosophy Review 33: 275-287, 2000.

Now, how does the problematic of subjectivity look in the light of Heldegger and his proficient critique of Husserl  ? As is well-known, already in Being and Time   Heidegger transformed Husserl’s use of “phenomenon,” for he saw the basic task of phenomenology as laying bare the phenomenon, and found insufficiently careful Husserl’s mere phrase: “to the thing itself.” For something to show itself requires an unconcealing of the concealed, so that it can come to showing itself. The word “phenomenology” does not   only mean, then, “the description of that which is given,” but rather includes the unconcealing of a concealment, which need not consist only in some false theoretical construct. To a certain extent, in the beginning the art of phenomenological description seemed to begin with the unconcealing of dogmatic concealment, for example mechanical theories in the theory of [280] perception, or in the unconcealing of a hedonistic theory of drives. One might see this as a major impetus for the tum towards phenomenology, for instance in the works of Pfänder, the school of Theodor Lipps, and also the young Max Scheler  . Husserl himself speaks of sensual elements in the phenomenon of perception, and calls them “hyletic data.” Yet this occurred in order to work out the particular form-characters active in perception and in order to bring about the givenness of the object of perception in the flesh. Heidegger’s critique was more radical. It aimed at the very concept of the phenomenon and the givenness of the object of perception in the flesh, because for Husserl in the end these are related back to the apodictic certainty of self-consciousness. Heidegger, through his introduction of the concept of “presence-at-hand  ” (Vorhandenheit) and its analysis in the direction of “readiness-to-hand” (Zuhandenheit) and Dasein  , passed beyond the temporal   horizon   and the consciousness of time, as masterfully described by Husserl. He showed that this supposed givenness remains under the spell of the Greek experience of Being. That goes for all that lies in the concept of the transcendental   Ego   and its apodictic evidence, in which phenomena “constitute” themselves.

Augustine   already worked through the aporia of the consciousness of time in which the now in fact “is” not at all, since it has already disappeared into the past by the time it is identified. Husserl saw also the essence of self-consciousness in this, that it entangles itself in the aporia of the temporality as it tries to bring its own being before itself. The reflective self falls into an endless process of iteration, since the reflection can always reflect again on the reflecting self. Thus it follows from the structure of reflection itself that it is trapped in an empty iteration. This is Husserl’s concept of a transcendental subjectivity: that it involve this unending, empty iteration. Heidegger’s advance consists in the fact that he himself uncovered the secret after-effects of Greek ontology in this concept of self-consciousness, and thus invalidated the concept of self-consciousness and its role as the support for Transcendental Idealism.

“Being” is not to be understood only as that which I am conscious of — or, as the later Heidegger would interpret it, is present there [anwesen   ist]. With the concept of “self-presence,” that is, the appearing of the stream of consciousness to itself, Husserl meant to grasp the essence of the consciousness of time. Heidegger’s critique shows the narrowness of such a conception of being. He shows that on this conception, the primary, fundamental composition of human Dasein is misjudged. Dasein is not constituted in the always retrospective attempt to recognize oneself in the very act of becoming aware of oneself. It is rather “givenness-on-the-way” (Weggegebenheit), and not only because of its imaginings, but above all because of the non-givenness of [281] the future. This is what makes up human Dasein, as Hermann Cohen also emphasized. Whether one calls this the “Principle of Hope,” or however much one emphasizes the future-oriented character of human Dasein, Heidegger showed that in all this, and in the concept of subjectivity, there is transmitted an unnoticed ontological prejudice, even if one does not think of subjectivity as substantiality or as “presence-at-hand.”

From this critique of the concept of consciousness, which Heidegger would later radicalize, we can take to be of special significance that Heidegger already before Being and Time introduced the expression “hermeneutic of facticity,” setting it against his own questioning of the idealism of consciousness. Facticity is obviously that which cannot be clarified, that which resists any attempt to attain transparency of understanding. Thus it becomes clear that in every understanding there remains something unexplained, and that one therefore must ask about what motivates every understanding. This changes the entire concept of interpretation  , and we approach the radicality we saw above in the citation from Nietzsche  . My own works have proceeded in this direction, asking what interpretation in fact is when one goes so far as to fundamentally question the ideal   of the self-transparency of subjectivity. This does not mean only that de facto one will always find every understanding to be limited. It also means that an unlimited understanding would cut away at — indeed, abolish (aufheben) — the very meaning of understanding, just as a perspective that sees everything would abolish the very meaning of perspective.

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