Heidegger and the "Crisis of Being" in western thought
Starr, David E
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Our purpose in "Heidegger and the 'Crisis of Being' in Western Thought" is to demonstrate that Heidegger's idea of Being as the source of unity and centeredness in human intentionality is the "key" to understanding his thought in three ways. First, it is the basis of his critical analysis of the development of occidental philosophy. Second, it is the explicit theme of his systematic work in Being and Time. Finally, it is the presupposition of his later religio-esthetic writings. As such, the problematic of Being provides a bond of continuity within Heidegger's work and between his work and the tradition out of which it springs. The first phase of our development of this thesis takes the form of a tracing of Heidegger's account of the "devolution" of Western thought. It is Heidegger's belief that the ancient Greeks had a pretheoretical understanding of Being as the mysterious source and center of meaning, that fundamental (i.e., ontological) Truth is the manifestation of Being in finite human striving, and that man is therefore the unique locus of the revelation of Being, standing between pure intentionality and mere thinghood, striving to discover essential meaning in finite life. In this struggle, Heidegger finds the basic condition for the ontological concerns of Heraclitus and Parmenides and also for the tragic vision of the Greek poets. Heidegger regards this pretheoretical intuition of man's ontological status as essentially true and as the source of the philosophical tradition that begins with Plato and Aristotle. Yet, he regards that tradition as a "devolution" in the sense that it is ontologically eccentric, in the sense that its struggle to uncover the meaning of certain structures of human existence at the same time progressively obscures the ontological foundation of its own activity. Heidegger claims that the philosophical tradition extending from Plato to Neitzsche represents an ever more radical descent into ontological error. His argument is in brief compass as follows: Plato in his search to grasp the permanent, essential structures of human existence, hypostatizes them as ideas, or intellectual representations, and begins to interpret Being as ideality and truth as the "correct" representation of eternal ideas by finite reason. Aristotle applies this representational schema to " nature," interpreting Being as the totality of ob jects of possible representations, man as the animal who is capable of systematic representation, truth as the adequacy and consistency of such representations, and assigning levels of Being to the objects of possible representation according to their intrinsic intelligibility, or degree of approach to the perfection of pure form, of self-reflecting reason. In the Middle Ages, Heidegger says, the form of late Greek philosophy is retained with two important modifications. First, complete indubitability becomes one of the necessary conditions for the assertion of the truth of any proposition, since absolute faith in the assertions of dogmatic theology is regarded as the basis and paradigm of all knowledge. Second, the pure form, the self-thinking thought of Aristotle's metaphysics is decisively interpreted as a supra-temporal entity and identified with an absolute rational Subject, the Unlimited personal Creator of HebrewChristian mythology. In modern thought, Heidegger claims, this complex of quasi-fundamental notions enters into a period of crisis through the critical work of Descartes. Rejecting authority as a source of philosophical certainty, Descartes tries to establish the indubitable ground of all representative thinking as the subject engaged in that thinking, thereby in effect rendering the cogito the judge and certifier of the being of all objects of thought [TRUNCATED].
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