Monday, March 31, 2008

Winter, Week 10 Meeting (Part II)

Reality (§43)

We discussed four questions (or “problems”) Heidegger finds associated with the traditional conception of being and reality: (1) whether entities independent of (“external to”) dasein are at all, (2) whether it’s possible to prove the (“external”) world is real, (3) whether entities and the world independent of dasein can be known as they are “in themselves,” and (4) what it truly means to be real, in the first place.

We explained the sense in which reality, according to Heidegger, has been traditionally construed in terms of the presence to the mind of a substance possessing essential and accidental properties. We pointed out the counterintuitive consequences of construing the real as essentially ‘subjective’ or mind-dependent, on the one hand (since we think that reality is distinct from and independent of our own mental representations of it), or as simply ‘objective’ in the sense of material and non-mental, on the other hand (since we are inclined to believe there are mental phenomena distinct from material phenomena). Heidegger inveighs against the traditional concept of reality because it makes it seem like the four problems above are genuine problems. The strict, ontological division of 'subjective' and 'objective', 'internal' and 'external' implies that there is a general philosophical problem of how to bridge the ontological (and epistemological) 'gap' between these, a problem whose solution constrains what we can coherently say about the meaning of being. Heidegger, in contrast, wants to reject these problems as philosophically illegitimate, and this, we concluded, is something that motivates his contrasting view of dasein as being-in-the-world. Heidegger argues that neither dasein nor ready-to-hand, intraworldly entities (nor, for that matter, present-at-hand entities) can be made intelligible on its own, independently of the intelligibility of the other, so there is no such ‘gap’ between them to be bridged. We briefly discussed two places Heidegger makes (something like) this argument: (1) in his claim that human life (existence, projection onto abilities-to-be-dasein) is intelligible if and only if the equipment with which (and the others with whom) human life is lived are also intelligible, and (2) his claim that when dasein’s possibilities cease to be intelligible in the face of Angst, the entities in one’s world also cease to be intelligible as the entities they are.

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