Heidegger’s Early Philosophy, Chapter 2: An Indigenous Conceptuality of Dasein

Whenever a phenomenological concept is drawn from primordial sources, there is a possibility that it may degenerate if communicated in the form of an assertion. It gets understood in an empty way and is thus passed on, losing its indigenous character, and becomes a free-floating thesis.


Indigenous Expression and the Being of the Self

From his first published writings on Duns Scotus in 1915 and his indication of ‘haecceitas’, of this-ness, we glimpse Heidegger’s determined attempt to leave a phenomenology dominated by theory, by ‘unworlded’ abstractions, and to gain a ‘toehold,’ a way of access to and expression of the temporal sense of ‘matters themselves’. For the next ten years, Heidegger unfolded an “indigenous conceptuality” of being-in-the-world. Heidegger understands his project, in an echo of Nietzsche’s manifesto of art as a counter-movement to nihilism, as a counter-ruination amid theoretical falsifications of lived existence.

Heidegger undertakes to dismantle the regime of falsification through a destruktive appropriation of the theory at hand in light of the question of source of its expression, of its “conceptuality.” Heidegger traces the expression of phenomenology to a temporality of ruin (Ruinanz) and sets out from this facticity in his own attempt to articulate an indigenous expression of existence. Turning away from the protocols of Neo-Kantianism, Husserl’s phenomenology and logical positivism, he points to that which is ‘there’, to the phenomenon in a pre-theoretical beholding of ‘truth’. The intimacy of this disclosure is not that of Heidegger’s ‘shattered’ Platonic-Christian naivity before God, but is the openness of a situation of self-interpretation amidst the playspace of disclosure and concealment.

The being-there of the self, of the one amid its world, is, as freedom, outside of common, or more precisely, generic time, which cannot express a singular sense of existence. Amid this pre-understanding of one’s own predicament, we can take a step back towards ‘primordial sources’ for a self-expression of our own original temporality. Self-expression, in the context of the question, gives access to, uncovers, sets free, original ‘matters themselves’. It intimates an original topos of ‘concept formation’ amid, as Krell writes, the ‘raptures’ of ecstatic temporality.

Within a logically disciplined ‘system of consciousness,’ there can be no encounter with this-ness, such a possibility cannot even be articulated, for this would violate the circuitous discursivity of necessary and universal norms of thought, of strict knowledge against this desire to behold the ‘things themselves’. With clear Platonic overtones, Kant asserts that the distance (and authority) which Reason maintains with respect to the “dimensia” of sensibility necessitates a procedure of subsumptive predication in a regime of theoretical truth. One can only be perplexed over the possibility of a beyond of this familiar web of ‘consciousness’, as we can never know anything regarding this ‘outside’.

In this way, if we accept these limits, the question of the “intimacy” of a pre-understanding, and therefore, of a radical phenomonology of original temporality is rendered mute (or shifted into the realm of practical reason). From the turrets of Leibniz, Kant and Husserl, intimacy is quaranteened into those makeshift domains of private languages, poetry, and madness, such as was done with James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (1928), ‘silent’ de facto in the sense of the logical proposition. ‘Consciousness’ is suspicious of discourses which fall away from the rhetorics of logical formalization, routine clarity and generic precision.

Heidegger contends that phenomenology must be a vital response to this ‘crisis’, one which will allow us to break through our ‘rote’ procedures, and to re-aquaint ourselves with our be-ing after the fall, the catastrophe of the breach, portrayed in Kisiel’s discussion of Heidegger and the ‘Great War’. Yet, how can philosophy express that which immediately bestows itself amid one’s own world, how can we think for ourselves, as the point of departure of our expression is that of the discourse of historicity? How do we access/express things themselves, not merely parroting a historical philosophy, but apprehending and speaking about such things in our own voice? With which words can we ‘express’ the ecstasy of existence? Are we not thrown back into the same dilemma as Kant in his futile attempt to deduce the ground of the legitimacy for the application of received concepts to the manifold of appearance from the (violent) spontaneity of apperception?

Since the concepts he traded were inadequate to the expression of the intimacy of lived existence, their continued application, for Heidegger, is merely a covering up of the truth of existence with a pre-fabricated expression. How can discursivity approach this – memory, hope, awe, belief – without destroying it? Heidegger articulated his radical phenomenology of ecstatic temporary within the horizon of these questions. The method of formal indication was characterised as a dedicated submission to the phenomenon, a finite knowing, or, in the words of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, a pure, sensible reason. Such a paradoxical thinking is characterized by receptivity, an openness to that which is there, listening, amidst ‘no-thing’.

Indigenous expression is articulated amidst finite, lived existence. It cannot account for its own legitimacy, but simply discloses that which is there. But have ‘we’ already said too much? Must we not heed the early Wittgenstein’s warning to pass over that about which we cannot speak in silence? Is there an expression beyond a methodological silence? In the following pages, I will explore the character of radical phenomenology in the context of Heidegger’s engagement with the phenomenology of Husserl. It will be out of this destruktion that Heidegger will unfold the basic features of his analytic of existence which would become his “Sein und Zeit” project.

The Birth of Phenomenology

Turning to the 1925 lecture course, History of the Concept of Time, we will trace Heidegger’s projection of the origins of the ‘phenomenological movement’ against the background of its emergence as a response to a ‘crisis’ in philosophy as such. In the self-understanding of the early phenomenological movement, a return to the ‘matter themselves’ was regarded as an explicit resistance to the degeneration of thought to a mere appendage to a logico-scientific ‘machine.’ With the collapse of idealistic systems amid the convulsions of the 19th and 20th Centuries, there arose ‘positivist’ ideologies of an ‘arid and crude materialism,’ and ‘philological criticism,’ filling the vacuum that had erupted with the ‘analytical fragmentation’ of a ‘whole man’, cut up (ratio), classified, divided against itself.

Amid this ‘crisis,’ there were differing responses. Dilthey, Heidegger relates, had called for an independent method for the human, historical sciences. He sought to claw his way out of the vortex of a hegemonic ‘moralist’ sociology. With the intimation of the specific character of ‘life’, Dilthey opposed the application of the methodologies of the ‘natural sciences’ to human relations, advocated by Mill and ‘revolutionaries’, such as Engels, who manufactured his own ‘scientific socialism’. Dilthey advocated an expression of an indigenous sense of life. Heidegger describes Dilthey’s project:

Its task is rather to regard ‘life’ itself in its structures, as the basic reality of history. The decisive element in Dilthey’s inquiry is not the theory of the sciences of history but the tendency to bring the reality of the historical into view and to make clear from this the manner and possibility of its interpretation.

Heidegger contends that this vision of ‘life,’ conceived as an intimate disclosure of the ‘ways and byways’ of phenomena, intimates a topos (Da) ‘beyond’ the blindness and violence of objectified ‘consciousness.’ As is well-known, it was his affinity with the life-philosophy of Dilthey and to Nietzsche which led to the great divorce within 20th century philosophy between the logical positivism of Carnap, Ayer, et al. and the phenomenological movement which traces its genealogy through Husserl to Brentano.

Brentano, Husserl’s teacher, had resolved that philosophy must ‘draw its concepts from its own matter,’ to simply clarify ‘what’ is given, the phenomena themselves without ‘constructions.’ Brentano admited however that phenomena must be ‘classified according to basic structures’, an ordering which is ‘always done from a point of view.’ Not mere imaginative orders, contexts of objective, physio-logical ‘relations’, but perspective, a way of seeing ‘drawn from the actual elements themselves.’ Brentano’s descriptive psychology set out the parameters for access in that ‘classification can be made “from a prior familiarity with the objects…’ by which is meant, in the context of Heidegger’s project, ways of being, pre-theoretical, pre-practical orientations of existence.

Brentano, prefiguring Heidegger’s destruktion in the Kantbook, asked the question of the relation between psychic phenomena and what is designated as the ‘physical.’ He answered that these latter ‘stems’ can be traced to a common rooting in an ‘indwelling’ of ‘something objective,’ in the ‘structure of action’. Brentano designates this indwelling as ‘intentional inexistence,’ which is conceived as the ground of epistemic relations, such as representing, judging, or willing, conceived as lived experiences.

The notion of intentionality, to which Brentao’s coneption is related, traces its genealogy to the Scholastic intentio, a ‘directing itself toward’ and to the intentum, that toward-which there is direction. For Brentano, intentionality is a self directedness that is grounded in representation, amongst which is included the phenomena of representation, such as judgement, interest, and emotions. Representation, is thus considered to be a ‘basic’ comportment of the original unity of intentionality.

Heidegger objects to this characterization of intentionality in that representation, even if broadly conceived, remains primary to the things themselves due a starting point in the severed stems of the psychical and physical. In this way, following Aristotle, ‘intentional inexistence’ is a representation that mediates a relation of opposing representations. Husserl, for his part, and which we will see in more detail below, answered the question strategy of his teacher through an elimination of the dogmatic conception of the transcendent object. In both cases, however, Heidegger contends that there is a suppression of the matters, of things themselves. Indeed, the starting point in severance forbids de facto any access to the matters themselves.

Heidegger lays out a provisional exposition of intentionality as a ‘structure of lived experience’, as the ‘comporting of all relations of life.’ He contrasts this, following his rejection of of the primacy of representation in Brentano, with a similar strategem in Rickert’s Neo-Kantian ‘philosophy of immediacy’ by pointing out that there must be a way of access to a disclosure of ‘matters themselves’. He admits that he cannot avoid construction, but seeks instead one which is a preparation for a formal, or in the case of Being and Time, an “existential” indication through which phenomena are released so as to ‘speak for themselves’. Despite his basic agreement with Rickert’s criticism of Husserl’s “eideticistic” reduction, Heidegger criticizes the former for not allowing his immediacy to be immediate. Rickert’s may speak of immediacy, Heidegger suspects, but he has simply repeated the architectonic of ‘consciousness’; he cuts, distributes ‘being’ into a psychic and physic, immediacy over against the mediate.

Amid ‘consciousness’, immediacy becomes ‘semblance’, shades. Rickert thus remains trapped in representation, covering over matters themselves. For Heidegger, one of the most profound errors of the reaction to the hegemony of the ‘Scientific Worldview’ was a return to the Kantian philosophy in the guise of ‘Neo-Kantianism’. In other words, it was a ‘renewal’ which took place not as ‘an original return to the matters at issue, but by going back to a historically established philosophy…’ Any ‘authentic’, honest, phenomenology, on the contrary, must return to the ‘matters at issue.’ We will thus turn to Heidegger’s account of how the early phenomenological impulse sought and failed to overcome the barriers to the things themselves erected by Neo-Kantianism, to find Ariadne’s thread out of the labyrinth of representational ‘consciousness’.

Breakthrough Discoveries of Phenomenology

Heidegger’s account of the early phenomenological movement is not an ‘objective’ history, but a preparatory investigation which will lead not only to his destruktive criticisms of Husserl’s captivation by the mythology of consciousness, but also his own appropriation of the discoveries of the movement. In what will become the first half of the lecture course, Heidegger will meditate upon and challenge the articulation of phenomenology in the Sixth of Husserl’s Logical Investigations. It will be through this necessary detour that Heidegger will arrive at his own indigenous ‘conceptuality’ of the existentials in his phenomenology of ecstatic temporality.
There were three ‘breakthrough’ discoveries of early phenomenology according to Heidegger: intentionality, categorial intuition, and an original sense of the a priori. It will be these innovations that he will deploy to overcome the retrogression into Neo-Kantianism.


Heidegger seeks to bring phenomenology back to comportments with “matters themselves”. This entails, as we have already seen, a challenge to the image of representational intentionality as a co-ordinating structure for the severed stems of the psychic and physical, where any psychic act has its counterpart in the physical. This account of intentionality is countered by Heidegger with a prominent and decisive example: that of a hallucination of an automobile sailing over and across the lecture room, where the linkage between the psychic and physical is disrupted. Yet, if all there is is representation, how do we know there is a disruption? Heidegger is concerned with comportments, ways of being amid the ‘matters themselves’, which have the stucture of a directing toward, which even a hallucination exhibits. He criticizes Rickert for his compartmentalization of intentionality into the immanences of judgment, value, ‘consciousness’, and thus for his failure to apprehend things themselves in their immediacy.

With his own sense of intentionality as the ‘comporting of all relations of life’, Heidegger, anticipating the post-structuralists, contends that since intentionality has been severed from representation, there need no longer be question of a co-ordination of the stems of the psychic and physical. Indeed, there is no necessity of remaining within a philosophy of ‘consciousness’ at all in that phenomenology is a ‘not knowing’ in Kant’s sense. Heidegger challenges Rickert’s concept of ‘immediacy’ with being blind to intentionality as a comportment with an entity itself. Rickert is capitvated by a ‘box’ theory of ‘consciousness’ that necessitates he be blind to phenomena, which are themselves displaced in favor of a theory of immediacy. Heidegger insists that we must witness intentionality as a directing itself toward in its singularity, as lived existence. He declares: ‘All theories about the psychic, consciousness, person, and the like must be held in abeyance.’ The perceived entity shows itself from itself as primary – names, assertions – are brought to the ‘thing’. Heidegger is concerned with simple apprehension, letting something be seen, before assertion (logos).

In opposition to this scientific account, what we want is precisely naivete, pure naivete, which in the first instance and in actuality sees the chair.

This seeing is pre-theoretical, pre-practical, which is possible with regard to Heidegger’s specific epoché, in which he brackets epistemology, psychology, and ‘theories of perception.’ One does not bring a theory or the expression of the thing from without in the manner of Kant. For Heidegger, ‘naive’ characteristics are ‘read off’ a thing itself via ‘a simple envisaging of structures.’ This reading unfolds the perceived in the strict sense as a phenomenon showing itself, before the artifices of representation.

The ‘mythology of consciousness’ has instigated, Heidegger states, a severe confusion with its characterization of perception as a subjective picturing of an objective outside. Such a ‘theory’ always leads to an infinite regress, and of the many language games which are designed to avoid such a regress. Sherover in his remarkable work, Heidegger, Kant and Time, contends that, in that Heidegger does not begin with the stems, the projection of a common structural rootedness of the stems in his interpretation of Kant (as we shall see) obviates this infinite regress. For Heidegger, however, the logical problems of the mythology of consciousness is not what is at bottom most problematic about this mythology. Instead, it does not correspond to the ‘simple phenomenological findings.’ It is un-phenomenological.

With perception, Heidegger describes, the entity is ‘there’ in its ‘thing whole’. The sameness of the entity persists amidst adumbrations, shadings, which are manifest via a phronetic looking around, as circumspection. In other words, a perceived is imagined to be the same, and hence, its ‘unity’ is primary to its aspects. In this way, perceivedness as lived intentionality, as the intentionality of lived experience, is primary, is a ‘whole’, as with Dilthey’s holistic a priori. The ‘unity’ of the intentio (the why something is intended) and the intentum (the how of being intended) must be understood from out of the ‘unity’ of intentionality itself. An intentum belongs to every intentio, Heidegger states, with a ‘specific structural interrelation.’ Each intention is a projection upon a possible ‘fulfillment’. Intentionality ‘is’ the place of all acts, the formation of concepts from raw meaning. It is not concerned with Rickert’s ‘subsequent coordination’ of stems, but is an original unity, a ‘belonging together of intentio and intentum.’

Heidegger surmises the his innovation in the grammar of intentionality poses difficulties for the phenomenologies of Husserl and Scheler, who assimilate the structure of intentionality, via Rickert and Brentano, into a blind nomenclature of consciousness, reason, and spirit. Heidegger calls for a distinct radicalization of phenomenology. He foreshadows:

intentionality is not an ultimate explanation of the psychic but an initial approach toward overcoming the uncritical application of traditionally defined realities as the psychic, consciousness, continuity of lived experience, reason.

Categorical Intuition

In light of his bracketing of ‘traditional’ protocols and standards of conceptualization, Heidegger indicates an alternative mode of conceptuality in categorial intuition. Intuition is the simple apprehension of the bodily given as its shows itself. However, there is also simple apprehension of the categorial amid the everyday pre-understanding. In this way, categorial intuition is the self-expression of ‘intentionality’. With Heidegger’s way of thinking, original perception ‘gives the demonstration’ for empty intention. He contrasts this fulfillment, as a ‘structure of evidence’, with that of ‘feeling of evidence’ of Rickert. This feeling is a ‘psychic’ process which is necessitated in that a said ‘inside’ has no direct experience of an ‘outside’. Heidegger dismisses this theory as not corresponding to ‘findings’. ‘Evidence’ breaks in as the disclosure of a sense of being that is accentuated from this ‘originarily intuited matter’, a breach amid this situation of inconspicuous phenomena. This ‘breach’ throws the familiar into conspicuousness.

Heidegger insists that phenomenology must break with a notion of truth abiding only in judgment. He refers to the “Greek” association of being with being-actual, as ‘non-relational single rayed acts’, which is an emphasis on ‘matters themselves’. With this contrast, as was indicated in the previous chapter, the sense of ‘truth’ is provisionally widened. In his destruktion of the Sixth Logical Investigation, Heidegger explores the distinction between the simple as a single level act and those acts of expression that entail multi-level acts. Removing himself from the severed stems, he exposes the alleged naivity of the simple level act as ‘pervaded by categorial intuition’ and exhibiting a ‘high degree of complexity in its act-structure.’

Heidegger describes this complexity of acts through a distinction between two types of acts. On the one hand, there is the ‘unity’ of simple lived intentionality which is of a ‘single level character’ – single level acts. On the other hand, multi-level acts are those in which there is expression of the ‘matters themselves’. There is, moreover, an inherent relation betwixt the two ‘objectivities’, as one is built upon the other. The simple act is repeated via the categorial act, in a new objectivity. The multi-leveled act is an ‘act of expression.’ It is a ‘founded act,’ assertion, logos, and ‘discloses the simply given objects …precisely in what they are.’

The simple is disclosed through expression, ‘precisely in what it is,’ in an accentuation of a topos. This pointing out is a reciprocal, dual-directional relation, a ‘double direction’ belonging to this being of states between two differing acts. The new objectivity is expressed, it expresses itself via its discourse, as putting together (synthesis) and taking apart (diairesis) which taken together give forth an ‘objectivity’ as an accentuated ‘state of affairs’. This is logos, founded upon simple apprehension. This expression is an indication, a naming through which phenomena are accentuated. Simple apprehension is however always already pervaded via categorial relations, and thus a new objectivity will not only express the truth of an entity, but an entity itself is only fathomable on the basis of such a pre-understanding. Yet, simplicity is primal in its figurative giving of intuitive “unity”, a simple, self contained, given amid a ‘glance of the eye’. ‘Matters themselves’, and not assertions, remain the exemplar of an original sense of an a priori.

Ideation, on the contrary, gives a new objectivity founded upon a fundament of individuality, but it purports not to mix with this fundament. ‘Ideation’, as narrated in the ‘mythology of consciousness’, is an intuition of the universal. This categorial act gives itself its own object, idea eidos, as outward appearance, the ‘look’ of ‘something’ – its ‘what’. The act gives a ‘universal of individuations,’ an ideal ‘unity’ toward which one ‘looks’ in a concrete act of comparison. However, since simple apprehension is already always pervaded by categorial acts, there are no simple acts ‘versus’ complex acts, and thus, for Heidegger, there could be no ‘universals’ which would not always be able to trace their lineage to the matters themselves.

Categorial acts, for Heidegger, must be founded upon simple apprehension, in whatever manner this takes place and upon whatever ‘ground’. They do not ‘float freely’. Heidegger denies to ideation its escape from these “matters themselves”, contending that, as Aristotle wrote, ‘the soul never thinks without an image’. Thought comes to be disclosed as an accentuation of ‘something’ already given; finite thinking is ‘grounded’ upon a founding sensuousness. Indicating the beginnings of his destruktion of phenomenology, Heidegger contends that Husserlian ‘acts of ideation’ do not ‘intend’ or ‘relate to’ sensuousness, but nullify it, and, as pure categorial intuitions of generality, must therefore be put out of play. In its denial of the transcendens in favour of a reduced immanence, the ‘ideas’ do not follow along with the movement of the phenomena in the truth of its ‘mixed’ character.

An Original Sense of the A priori

The third breakthrough discovery of phenomenology is its indication of an ‘original sense of the a priori’. For Heidegger, the a priori presupposes an understanding of time, and in this way, he lays out its provisional indication in formal terms, as the ‘earlier.’ He takes to task any concept of an a priori as the “knowledge of the subject” – ‘… before it oversteps the bounds of its immanence.’ On the contrary, he claims, the a priori has ‘nothing at all to do with subjectivity.’ As we have seen vis-a-vis categorial intuition, ‘ideas’ are ‘read off’ the ‘things themselves’, “structures” come via a careful accentuation of the “matters themselves.” In this way, the a priori is ‘structurally earlier’, and thus, it is a ‘title for being.’ A priori truth must, as Heidegger describes, be ‘universal’, ‘indifferent’ to subjectivity, and be directly accessible in simple and originary intuitions. A priori truth, in this way, is not an aspect of knowing, of statement and reason (logos), but is the horizon of the situation, topos, of existence, which is disclosed amidst a self-interpretation of Dasein.

The maxim ‘to the matters themselves’ is regarded, by Heidegger, as the announcement of a movement in philosophy which sought truth with minimal construction and without the trading of free-floating and groundless concepts. The maxim invites us to demonstrate this from a ‘native ground’, to ‘secure’ the matters, through an openness to the phenomenon. Heidegger states that a living philosophical ‘logic’ is a thinking which abides to the “lawfulness of the object.” Thinking is, at the same time, self-expression, as a ‘meaningful fixation of what is thought.’ In this light, intentionality is to be considered in its a priori, as an original topos of the phenomenon. This modality of treatment of the ‘field’ is a ‘simple originary apprehension’, a formal indication of the phenomenon, a self expression of phenomena amid one’s own ‘direct self apprehension’. In this way, as Heidegger concludes, finite self “knowing” is an ‘analytic description of intentionality in its a priori.’

Heidegger turns to the event by which the idea or concept, the assertion, became free-floating, as it had severed itself away from its tutelage to the phenomenon, just as Apollo severed himself from Delos/Dionysus. To this end, he outlines in his lecture two historical senses of the term phenomenon 1) the manifest, a non-referential, originary self showing of entities themselves; 2) semblance or appearance which is a standing in, a reference to that which conceals itself in being announced, such as the Kantian thing-in-itself in the relation of phenomena and noumena.

It is pointed out by Heidegger that the latter sense is a modification of the former, and relies upon an original, “Greek” sense of phenomena since even an appearance or a symptom is a self-showing, despite its referential function. The word logos (λoγoς), traced from legein (λεγειv), has the sense of a making manifest via discourse, apophansis, is a letting something be seen from itself, a saying that is drawn from the subject matter, from what is being talked about.

Concretely, logos is voice or a reticence, an indication or ‘pointing out and letting something be seen.’ Logos is thus, in its basic state, semantic, a general signifying, or ‘something vocal which shows something.’ Apophantic discourse, however, in a post-Kantian sense, has become restricted discourse, it points out the ‘spoken’ to be seen ‘as’ itself, in theoretical logos. It is with theoretical ‘consciousness’, Heidegger contends, that the first sense of phenomenon transforms into the second. Semantic discourse, coopted into theoretical statement, can no longer give a place for expression of a non-apophantical voice in ‘an exclamation, a request, a wish, a prayer.’ The phenomenon can no longer express itself, but is represented and positioned in theoretical statements which orchestrate a specific limitation of semantic discourse, where logos takes on the meaning of theorein.

The meaning or sense of phenomenology, for Heidegger, however, takes its cue from an ‘intrinsic and material relation’ between logos and phenomenon, ‘letting the manifest in itself be seen from itself.’ That which is manifest is not material content, entities, but the finite how with respect to an encounter with this being (sein) of entities. This how is a ‘way of encountering something,’ a pointing something out, ‘how’ matters must be prepared, to be there for interpretation and expression, indication, ‘laying open and letting be seen.’

In preparation for his destruktion of Husserl’s phenomenology, and hinting at broader claims with respect to the historical ‘forgetting’ of the sense of being, Heidegger writes that which is seen, the truth as a-lethea, can be suppressed, covered up, concealed. ‘Being covered up is the counter-concept of phenomenon.’ Being-covered-up is falsity, undiscovered, buried, disguised. The shoots of falsity are assertions, which disengage from the phenomena, lose their rooting in the soil of finite existence. In their remoteness from ‘matters themselves’, voice is ‘lost to itself’ in a ‘detour’ of assertion.

Phenomenology becomes ‘hardened in its results.’ Heidegger insists that phenomenology must be ‘critical of itself in a positive way.’ This destruktion is an un-covering of phenomena that, in its desire for truth, sets forth what he calls a ‘picture-book phenomenology.’ Categorial intuition is “founded” in that it requires that there to be an ‘intuition of an example.’ Intentionality, in this way, must be read off from an ‘exemplary ground of the field of concrete individuations of lived experiences.’ The original sense of the a priori, the ways and byways of this ground, requires the accentuation of phenomena. From this ‘field’, there is disclosed a ‘character and type of being of this region.’ Yet, contrary to Husserl, Heidegger insists the character and type of being in this region is one of temporality and the topos is that of finite existence, the “Da” of Dasein – and not ‘consciousness’.

Husserl’s Thematic Field of ‘Pure Consciousness’

The aim of Husserlian phenomenology is to “distill out” a pure essence of ‘consciousness’, of pure lived experiences, a pure ‘ego’ from a point of departure in the ‘lived experiences’ of this ‘ego’ in its ‘natural attitude’. The latter is an individual ‘stream’ of lived experiences, of the human subject as a ‘real object in the natural world.’ The act of self-directedness toward our own experience is ‘reflection.’ We turn our gaze upon our own acts. Reflection and that upon which is reflected belong to the same sphere of being that Husserl describes as ‘immanence,’ a sphere ‘apart from any and all {properly} essential unity with the thing.’ There is a ‘gulf’ between immanence and transcendent perceptions of things. This stream of ‘pure consciousness’ is a ‘self-contained totality’ which excludes ‘every thing’, ‘every real object, beginning with the entire material world.’

At the same time, however, ‘consciousness’ is also regarded as ‘present’ factually ‘in’ physical things, in that it has a ‘never-absent physical connotation’ which is merely a re-statement of the point of departure. Heidegger writes that in order to isolate the pure essence of ‘consciousness’, amidst its ‘double involvement’, Husserl contends that we must not live in the perception, in the apprehension of the thing, but as intentionality, we must ‘live thematically in the apprehension of the perceptual act and of what is perceived in it.’ This abstinance from a transcendent world symptomatizes Husserl’s epoché, his thematization, construction, of an ‘attitude of the immanent reflective apprehension’. This is a not going along from an ‘act’ toward things, but staying with an ‘act’ itself.

For Husserl, it is possible to enact a phenomenological suspension across this whole range of acts via a reduction which, Heidegger describes, lays out the sphere of acts and its objects in the ‘uniformity of a specific sphere’. The field is a unique singularity, which is my stream of ‘consciousness’. This singularity, however, in its concrete acts, is subjected to another eidetic reduction, which suspends all individuation to reveal the structure of the pure field of ‘consciousness’.

In this reduced field, an object of immanent perception is ‘absolutely given.’ This ‘stream’ is a region of ‘absolute position,’ and in reference to ‘Kant’s thesis about being,’ ‘pure consciousness’ is the ‘sphere of absolute being.’ With this determination of the meaning of being, Heidegger suggests that phenomenological reflection reaches a ‘climax,’ an ‘end’, or, as Bataille might insert, a ‘little death.’ He asks pointedly before undertaking his destruktion, how his ‘thesis about being’, especially as expressed in the eidetic reduction, can relate to a ‘unity of the real human being?’

Heidegger’s Destruktion of Phenomenology

In a climax to his only sustained criticism, Heidegger questions Husserl’s fourfold determination of ‘pure consciousness’ as 1) immanent being; 2) absolute being absolutely given; 3) as independent of reality; and 4) as ‘pure being.’ Heidegger asks how ‘pure consciousness’ is to be rooted in the ‘matters themselves’? In all four cases, there is neglect of a question of the sense of being of the entities or acts, as for instance in the neglect of the intentum. In the first case, that of pure consciousness as immanent being, the being of immanent ‘acts’ is left undetermined. In the second, the being of this alleged ‘absolute’ is left in silence. In the third, ‘pure consciousness’ as that which is independent of reality is revealed as an ‘earlier’ that survives an ‘annihilation of the world of things.’ In the fourth, the meaning given to being is that of an ideal, not an ‘actual’ being. Heidegger declares:

All four determinations of the being of the phenomenological region: immanent being, absolute being in the sense of absolute givenness, absolute being in the sense of the a priori in constitution, and pure being are in no way drawn from the entity itself.

Heidegger’s indication of an original sense of the a priori seeks to demonstrate that Husserl has ‘ruined’ his initial breakthrough with a premature climax, in his answering too soon, naming a what – the being of the field of intentionality as ‘pure consciousness’ and all that such an answer entails. The thing, this being of the entity, as a field of intentional acts, is covered up by traditional theories of ‘consciousness’. In this light, Heidegger contends,

the elaboration of pure consciousness as the thematic field of phenomenology is not derived phenomenologically by going back to the matters themselves but by going back to a traditional idea of philosophy.

In this way, the matters which are still in need of determination have been displaced by the insertion of a traditional field which has embedded in itself a logic of its own, alien to the matters. Indeed, Heidegger contends that it is Husserl’s procedure of eidetic reduction which erases the matters, in the idealization of singular being into mere res extensa in the manner of Descartes. What is excluded in the reduction is precisely this factical, ontic ground which founds the possibility of phenomenology.

In other words, in the construction via negativa of an a priori in ‘pure consciousness’, Husserl has come into conflict with this original, “Greek” sense of an a priori in that he forsakes a phenomenological description of the ‘that’ of a phenomenon and the ‘how’ of the encounter. Stepping not beyond the topos of the ‘natural attitude’, of naivety, Heidegger points out, as with the exception of this example of hallucination which disrupts a regime of epistemological discipline, that this ecstatic be-ing evades eidetic reduction. He describes the predicament of such a be-ing:

But if there were an entity whose what is precisely to be and nothing but to be, then this ideative regard of such an entity would be the most fundamental of misunderstandings.

Since there is such an entity that is nothing else but to be, it is ‘phenomenology’ that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding. Heidegger contends that it is Husserl who has himself implicitly asked and set out an answer to the question of being: Being, the sense of actuality of something, is determined as a being for ‘consciousness’. Being is a manifesting in, and for, ‘consciousness’. Heidegger claims that not only is such a formulation premature, but that this definition harbours ‘hidden’ ontological implications and tacit commitments which taint Husserl’s entire phenomenological endaevor, beginning with his determination of the sense of ‘natural attitude.’

Husserl determines the “natural” in the way of ‘natural science’ – the human being is conceived as a living being, a zoological object. Heidegger claims however that this is indeed an ‘unnatural’ starting point: it is a theoretical position, it is an attitude. Indeed, the “natural attitude” is merely the ‘other side of the same coin’ of the reduced ‘pure consciousness’ – it begs the question of a ‘pure consciousness’. The meaning of the being of acts is, in this way, ‘theoretically and dogmatically’ defined in advance as the meaning of being of Nature.

Husserl’s sequence of reductions then is a de-naturalization. In this way, Heidegger, keeping in mind the indefinite yet indicative original sense of the a priori, claims that Husserl does in fact give an answer to the ‘question of being’. Yet, the answer and question remain undiscussed, buried, silenced by his ‘mythology of consciousness’. He pretends not to be concerned with the question, yet, this semblance of indifference betrays a hidden nexus of “binding commitments.”

For Heidegger, the question of being is provoked by a conflict between the divergent senses of the a priori: between the ‘entity’ and ‘pure consciousness’. This question is necessary since, in his final determination of the ‘most radical of all distinctions of being,’ that between ‘pure consciousness’ and of a transcendent, Husserl, via his eideticist strategy, has neglected/obliterated one of the poles of distinction, this specific be-ing of comportments with the transcendent. There is a neglect of this be-ing of ‘acts’ and of the sense of being as such, a question which does not float in freely from the air, but is provoked via Husserl’s own repetition of what, for Heidegger, precisely falsifies the phenomenon.
It is in light of such a technicist repetition that Heidegger deconstructs Husserl’s ‘supplement’ of personhood, of the spiritual lifeworld in Ideas II, in its attempt to give a breathing space for ‘personality’ with respect to a universalistic ‘scientific naturalism’, much the same way as Kant’s limitation of reason to ‘make room for faith’.

Husserl’s supplement is, as Gadamer would concur, ‘ontologically the same,’ since these ‘constituted’ distinctions remain dependent upon the already established a priori ground of Ideas I, upon ‘pure consciousness’, the universal structure of reason. Indeed, and in a way similar to the falsification of the being of the natural via an idea of a ‘natural attitude,’ Heidegger insists ‘personality’ as a ‘constituted’ region and theoretical ‘nominalization’, with all that it implies, covers up this being of the ‘acts’. The question of the being of ‘personality’ is not asked. In this way, this supplement repeats the suppression of acts in the sequence of reductions.

Heidegger credits Scheler with laying new ground in raising the question of the being of the acts. This question strategy, in tune with a bracketing of ‘consciousness’, rejects the idea of the psychic as an interpretation of the being of a ‘whole person’. Heidegger quotes Scheler:
The sole and exclusive mode of its givenness {of the person} is rather its very performance of its acts (including the performance of its reflection upon its acts) – in living its performance it simultaneously vitally experiences itself.

For Heidegger, this is only a first step, however, in the ‘twilight of the idols’ of a deconstruction of the rhetoric of ‘consciousness’. It is only a beginning since silence reigns regarding the question of the mode of being of an ‘act performance’ and of the ‘performer’ – of the questioner. Heidegger charges that phenomenology fails to live up to its initial breakthoughs. Its assimilation into the tradition prevents it from making an ‘original leap to the entity’. He declares:

Not only is the being of the intentional, hence the being of a particular entity, left undiscussed, but categorially primal separations in the entity (consciousness and reality) are presented without clarifying or even questioning the guiding regard, that according to which they are distinguished, which is precisely being in its sense.

Heidegger asks, with respect to the original asking of the question of being by the “Greeks”, if this neglect of being by ‘phenomenology’ is indicative of the ‘history of our very Dasein’. He says that one can only express oneself, come into one’s own in rebellion against this tendency of falling, in a struggle against the ‘hegemony’ of the idol of reason which Husserl takes from Descartes. This rebellion removes itself from the ‘idea of absolute and rigorous scientificity.’ For Heidegger, not only is Philosophy not a strong science, it is not a science at all.

Radical Phenomenology and the Question of Being

Philosophy, for Heidegger, is an originary tendency toward the “matters themselves”. It must ceaselessly rebel against a deference to the falsifications of the “tradition”. As a possibility, philosophy must be held open, not displaced, or fixed by a premature answer to the question of being. To hold open a tendency towards ‘matters’ is, Heidegger declares, a retrieval of an original posing of the question of being asked by the ‘Greeks’. He assures us such a historical reference is not the repetition of ‘authority’, but a retrieval of a thread of questioning – understanding it by entering into it.

The sole ground of possibility for the question of being as such is Dasein itself insofar as it is possible, in its discoveredness in possibilities.

Heidegger is directing his listener toward the ‘matters themselves’ in an original apprehension of this being which either appropriates or discards that which has been, and thus gives rise to ‘tradition’ in the first place. The question of being is to be grounded in the questioning itself. In this way, the question of the ‘being of the intentional’ is surpassed by a more basic question of the meaning or sense of being, in the movement to matters themselves. Heidegger states:

This question can be attained in any entity; it need not be intentionality. It does not even have to be an entity taken as a theme of science.

For Heidegger, this turn toward the ‘matters themselves’ is a questioning “to the very end or to inquire into the beginning… to allow entities to be seen as entities in their being.’ This circular hermeneutics of existence is, at the same time, a comportment amid the historicity of thought. Philosophy cannot be born ‘mid-air’. In this way, the question of being is not simply uttered, but relies upon an initial arrival at the phenomena, which cannot be, as we have seen, an ‘analytic description of intentionality in its a priori.’ With his apprehension of the historicity of his own thinking, Heidegger inaugurates not only a radicalization of the ‘thematic field’, but also a ‘more refined conception of the entity having the character of the intentional.’

In this light, he indicates that it is time that will be our clue for the articulation of the question of being, since the ‘history of the concept of time… is the history of the question of the being of entities … of the decline and distortion of this basic question…

The question of being ‘must be articulated.’ Any ‘answer’ to such a question will point to something that is already ‘there’, understood in a question, an opaque, indefinite pre-understanding, but ‘still an understanding.’ This is the ‘primal source’ of the question, of expression, “conceptuality”. The questioning begins in the indefinite, vague, in a ‘cloud of unknowing’. This is not the question of Kant’s deduction, of how to bridge the gulf betwixt sense and the concept, but of an indigenous expression that emerges amid the pre-understanding of everydayness where there is always an understanding of the ‘is’ but ‘without being able to say more precisely what it actually means.’

Heidegger lays out the point of departure for our questioning in a series of considerations which describes the character of finite knowing which emerges from the site of factical existence. The direction of the inquiry is guided by an ‘inquisitive looking upon’ the ‘on-which’ of the questioned in a cultivation of a ‘preparatory outlook of the interrogating regard…’ ‘What is interrogated’ can be anything of which we speak, or point to, take note of, intend, towards which we act. ‘What is asked about’ is a questioning of this being with respect to its own being. ‘What is asked for’ is a sense or meaning of being, expressed through a ‘conceptuality pertinent to what is asked for…’ Yet, all of these questions of access, direction, outlook, are, Heidegger tells us, all entities. There are myriad entities, phenomena. Yet, which being is to be questioned? What access do we have to this being? He sets out a provisional answer in the ‘being of the questioning of the questioner himself.’ The questioner, in that he questions, is disclosed as the phenomenon. To the ‘sterile’ charge he moves in a circle, Heidegger responds:

… the entity whose character is access, experience, etc. must be illuminated in its being, to the point where the danger of a circle exists. But this would be a circle of searching, of going and of being…

The depth of penetration into this questioning being will project a horizon for the radicality of a response. The question is of a sense of being for an entity, this questioning of the questioner. In this way, there will be a detour via the questioning entity, a preparatory uncovering of the entity simply in ‘what’ it is, which Heidegger claims is ‘the entity that we ourselves are,’ self-affected, temporal existence. He states, ‘This affectedness of the questioning entity by what is asked for belongs to the ownmost sense of the question of being itself.’ Questioning is to be open to itself, a ‘phenomenology of Dasein,’ an intimate openness to being. Radical phenomenology is a self-interpretation of existence of original temporality. Yet, there is a danger in self-expression, Heidegger warns us, that in our attempt to negotiate the peculiar ‘doubling’ of expression, that when one risks self-expression, there is a possibility of ‘getting lost’.

Publication on this site is at the discretion of the editor.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s