Sunday, March 27, 2005

Heidegger and the Juden Dasein

Give one way of presenting a differences among each of the following three characteristics of “Being”:
1) “Being” considered as the name of the highest “genus” of beings;
2) “Being” considered as the “substance” underlying all categories;
3) “Being” considered as the “What it is to be” of a particular being, such as chalk, a nation-state, a high school, a mountain range.

The Being as the highest “genus” of all Beings, summarizes the essential qualities that make up all other Beings as essential categories that individual beings of those categories share. So, the Being of apple trees as a whole, is different from a being such as a particular apple tree that possesses accidental properties that can differ from those of other Apple Tree beings but also the essential properties that establish it as Being the Apple Tree. The Being of the apple tree is included in a higher “genus” of a “tree” which in turn falls under “plant” and so forth, with the highest “genus” of all Beings that encompasses all.

Give an objection to the idea that there is such a Being (a to be) in each of the above cases/examples. Why or how do these characterizations avoid the split between Being as essence and Being as existence? (Of course, you must characterize, at least in a preliminary way, “essence” and “existence”

The essence is a set of attributes that establish what a being is, the necessary qualities that are agreed upon to be enough to establish categories. Existence can be seen as just another quality of a being, so a non-existence of a particular tree would not undermine its essence. In fact, there can be an essence without any instances of existing beings. For example, there are no dodo birds in existence, but the essence of a dodo bird as a particular set of qualities is in Being. The essence and existence are of course not applicable solely to material things, but are descriptive of categories, ideas and concept, any being that is considered by the Dasein. Therein lies a problem with the Being (to be) of the examples, as it is depended on the artificial categories set in an attempt to rationalize and simplify the relation to beings by the Dasein. A particular piece of chalk is a descriptive device for referring to a portion of matter that has what is agreed upon as the qualities that establish it as chalk. The portion of matter is in existence (though it constantly changes on particle level) but the “white damp piece of chalk with a chewed-off end” exists only for someone who understands the language and operates with such categories. An example with nation state is even harder to fathom, as it does not point to an isolated portion of matter but rather to a scattered instances of occurrences and relationships that are considered to resemble a pattern against which they are judged. While the question of the existence of a particular piece of chalk mostly revolves around issues of terminology, a nation-state is subject to different opinions and points of view. A High School is a set of material and conceptual beings that create an identifiable structure considered to represent an essential Being of High School. The problem of the existence of a particular High School lies in a discrepancy of what is considered to constitute a High School. Of all the examples, the Mountain Range is perhaps the hardest to refute, as it is the only Being that is not created by the Dasein and thus it’s essence can be seen as predating the human being. But it is human beings who came to regard what they considered to be closely positioned protrusions from the earth, as mountain ranges. Thus, all of the examples revert back to a question of weather a particular being fulfills the essential requirements of it’s essential Being, as thus can be considered to exist under a specific name.

If “Why are there beings rather then nothing?” is in some sense the first question how can we be forced to ask the question “How does it stand with being?” as a prior question?

“How does it stand with Being?” is a prior question to “Why are there beings rather then nothing?” not in a sense of stature or importance but because it provides the groundwork for the latter. It establishes the status of particular beings in the relation to their essential categories, allowing the inquiry into the reasons behind their Being. A simple question, why is there a brick on the lawn is predated by a prior set of questions that are aimed to establish the presence of a thing that holds the qualities of a “brick” Being.

What kind of argument does Heidegger for suggestion that the asking of the “prior” question is “itself historical” and belongs to the “world-history of the earth”? Does Heidegger give or imply an adequately explicit difference, or set of differences, between “earth” and “world history”?

(IV)Heidegger presents the question of “How does it stand with Being?” as being historical in a sense that the essential relations are formed in regards to time, events and places. Heidegger makes a distinction between “history” and the “science of history” which is, an academic and scholarly account of the past. History, for Heidegger, is not content to looking back, it grows from aspirations of the future that determine the allusive with regards to the past. There also seems to be a distinction between the terms “world” and “earth.” A “world” for Heidegger is largely concerned with the spiritual state, while the “earth” exhibits physical qualities and points to our home planet. So a “world history” reflects the spiritual quality of the beings in time.

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