Heidegger in His Seminal Text Being and Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


In his seminal text Being and Time, Martin Heidegger attempts to investigate the nature of being, and by extension, human consciousness, in an intelligible way that allows one to actually make useful claims regarding the nature of Being despite the human mind's inability to escape the imaginary limitations inherent to human consciousness (imaginary meaning the very real, functional limitations to human imagination due to human's inescapable perception of time). Thus, while he implicitly criticizes previous formulations regarding the nature of human experience, he is more concerned with correctly answering a fundamental question than dismantling any specific, traditional view of human experience, because according to Heidegger, nearly all previous conceptions of human experience have erred from the outset due to their assumptions and misformulations regarding the essential "question of Being." By examining Heidegger's claims regarding being as such, one is able to see how Heidegger manages to sidestep the limitations of human experience in order to describe it in such a way as to avoid the pitfalls of relying on human sensory perception in order to describe human experience.

Before investigating Heidegger's arguments in greater detail, it will be useful to briefly examine the most common, traditional means by which philosophers, and humans in general, have attempted to describe their own experience, as a means of demonstrating the disruptive and novel nature of Heidegger's work. In short, the traditional view of human experience begins with the synthesis of sensory information in the self, and all observations regarding the nature of human experience stems from this initial reflection on said sensory information. A human, having perceived one's own self, then proceeds to perceive objects, and in particular objects which share many of the same external features of the self, meaning other people. From this, the individual makes assumptions regarding these other people by predicting that they, like the individual, share a similar sensory experience of the world. From here, the individual begins to make meaning out of the various objects in the world by synthesizing the behaviors and expressions of others in much the same way that the individual's initial conception of the world is the result of the internal synthesis of sensory information.

The prevalence of this view is due to the fact that it appears at first glance to be an intuitive and wholly natural description of human experience, and indeed, it is. However, this view ultimately fails to fully describe human experience precisely because it is so intuitive; put another way, this view is easy to accept because it does not challenge any of the underlying assumptions and preexisting biases of experience, due to the fact that it does not, and in fact cannot, describe human experience from outside of that experience, in the same way that a person entrapped in language cannot think, or even imagine a thought, independent of that language. Due to these limitations, "a dogma has developed which not only declares the question about the meaning of Being to be superfluous, but sanctions its complete neglect" due to the fact that Being is regarded as "the most universal and emptiest of concepts," not requiring "any definition, for everyone uses it constantly and already understands what he means by it" (Heidegger 21). The limitations of human experience make it appear "that 'Being' is of all concepts the one that is self-evident," but in the end, "this is merely a semblance," because "subjecting the manifold to tabulation does not ensure any actual understanding of what lies there before us as thus set in order" (23, 77). Thus, Heidegger's goal is to find a way to describe experience and Being as such, independent of any individual experiences or beings, as this is the only way to satisfactorily and intelligibly describe human experience.

AS previously mentioned, Heidegger is not expressly concerned with deconstructing earlier concepts of human experience, but rather with providing a positive description of that experience. In order to escape from the limitations of perception, then, the first step is to acknowledge those limitations; that is, to acknowledge that "to work out the question of Being adequately, we must make an entity -- the inquirer -- transparent in his own Being," and furthermore, to realize that "the very asking of this question…

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