sábado, 6 de octubre de 2007

Small Gripes on Dreyfus.

Dreyfus’ first characterization of Heidegger’s undertaking in Being and Time is surprisingly deceptive; he tells us that Heidegger aims at “…deepening our understanding of what it means for something to be.” (pg. 2). But, of course, in Heidegger’s view our understanding of being is not deepened by a philosophical excursion, but clarified and recovered. We do not increase or improve understanding by undergoing a phenomenological therapy, but rather take heed to what we already experience and understand through our actions and language. We must thus realize from the start that Heidegger’s use of understanding is unconventional; we do not learn to understand, but rather learn to express how we understand. In this sense, what philosophy can provide to us is, at best, a rediscovery of our understanding of the world in an originary way. For this reason, the reader that approaches Being and Time expecting to learn a new theory should keep in mind that Heidegger is first and foremost concerned not with providing a new theory about human existence as much as trying to clarify human existence as it is always, already and necessarily understood in distinct ways.

Dreyfus missteps again in this matter when saying that ‘… one cannot understand something unless one has an accurate account of what one is trying to understand.” It is not hard to see what is meant here; and it seems trivial to impute against it, especially since it is written for introductory purposes: in order to restore the question of being, we must not simply put idle concepts to use; to avoid endangering a misconstrual the problematic from muddled concepts and theories. We must rather examine how our language and tradition have developed this question to re-place it anew, free from whichever confusions have emerged. As Heidegger was steadfast to point time and time again in his lectures, we must be careful not to comprehend from the start those presuppositions which guide the author at the beginning of his work, and which guide the work’s unfolding as such.[1] We do not wish to understand being, but its meaning. We already understand and presuppose being, it is not foreign to us and it is not something which we must strive to acquire. At the same time, the question has today been forgotten, and with it the ontological problematic which inaugurated the history of Western thought.

[1] Needless to say, Being and Time is, on its own, insufficient to grasp the background from which it develops. This insufficiency, which is somewhat remedied by studying the brilliant lecture courses from 1925-1930, if not carefully dealt with, is misguiding and affecting.

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