Phenomenology and Ontology (1923-1929)
Martin Heidegger’s work centers on the task of retrieving the traditional problem of ontology, metaphysics, and first philosophy: the problem of Being. There has been a tendency in the scholarship to take Heidegger’s formulation and solution to the problem together as a whole. In contrast, I propose to differentiate between the two, and to engage Heidegger’s formulation of the problem as such, which takes shape as phenomenological ontology in the second half of the 1920s. I claim that the subject matter of phenomenological ontology, the problem of Being, is in fact the unitary articulation of four problems: the ontological difference, the basic articulation of Being, the possible modifications of Being, and the truth-character of Being. My analysis shows that these four problems are Heidegger’s problematization (following Brentano) of the four main senses of Being, traditionally associated with Aristotle and Aristotelianism: the difference between the incidental and the in itself; the articulation of being-at-work, potency, and being-at-work-staying-itself; Being in the sense of the categories; and Being in the sense of truth. Concerning its method, I claim that phenomenological ontology reformulates the problem of Being in three moments: reduction, construction, and destruction. My analysis shows that, with these three moments, Heidegger problematizes (following Husserl) the movement of ascent and descent traditionally associated with Plato and Platonism. Although Heidegger never makes it fully explicit, the problem of the phenomenologically reductive, constructive, and destructive unitary whole of the four basic problems of Being is in fact his problematization of a (the) perennial locus philosophiae—the unity of the four senses of Being in an ascent and a descent. Moreover, I claim that phenomenological ontology has a transcendental-architectonic character, in a Kantian sense. The problem of Being is formulated in three differentiated moments: the reductive fundamental ontology asks and answers the question of the sense of Dasein’s Being; the constructive transcendental science of Being asks and answers the question of the sense of Being as such; and the destructive groundwork of metaphysics asks and answers the question of the (historical) whole [καθ'ὅλου] of the Being of entities. Heidegger considers that his own architectonic is the historical outcome of the ontotheological orientation of the problem since Antiquity (Aristotle’s Metaphysics), during the Middle Ages (Suárez’s Disputationes), and throughout Modernity (Kant’s Critiques.) Because my interest lies in the problem itself, my aim is to problematize Heidegger’s ontotheological interpretation of the locus philosophiae. The first task in this direction is to clarify Heidegger’s incomplete construction of a unitary phenomenological ontology during the mid-late 1920s. The present text begins this clarification by outlining the reconstruction of fundamental ontology as projected upon the science of Being, and on the basis of the indicated locus. The reconstruction is a clarification in that it exhibits the simplest moments of the inner structure of phenomenological ontology. The dissertation is divided into two main parts. In the first part, I analyze the basic concepts of phenomenological ontology. I exhibit first the basic concepts of fundamental ontology (Chapter 1), and then the basic concepts of the science of Being (Chapter 2.) Through these first two chapters I show the correspondence between the concepts of fundamental ontology and the science of Being based on the projection of the former onto the latter. It is here that I argue that fundamental ontology and the science of Being are two stages in Heidegger’s architectonic reformulation of the problem of Being. I also argue that each of these stages reflects the whole problem from its own standpoint. In the second part, I begin the reconstruction of fundamental ontology as projected upon the science of Being. I claim that the analytic of Dasein is to be understood as the reduction of Dasein. The reduction of Dasein is articulated in two distinct moments that I call ‘ontological’ and ‘existential.’ I first characterize the reduction of Dasein as a whole (Chapter 3) and then its first moment—the ontological reduction (Chapter 4.) The text ends with an Appendix where I clarify Heidegger’s lexicon of Being. Here, I anticipate fundamental aspects of the existential reduction, and point toward the connection between Heidegger’s and Husserl’s accounts of the reduction.