A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF MARTIN HEIDEGGER'S CONCEPT OF BEING
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The central focus of this work is to critically evaluate
Heidegger’s concept of being and other related issues. Being has been a
very intriguing issue that has held philosophers spell bound over the
years. Philosophers throughout the ages have tried to give it their own
interpretation based on the way they have conceived it. Heidegger, in
response to the problem of being, arose to develop a largely acceptable
interpretation of what he conceives as being. Whether he succeeded would
be an issue that would be treated in this project.
TABLE OF CONTENT
Tile Page - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - i
Certification - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ii
Dedication - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - iii
Acknowledgements - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - iv
Abstract - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -vi
Table of Contents - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - vii
CHAPTER ONE: General Introduction
Background of the study - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1
Statement of problem - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3
Purpose of study - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4
Significance of study - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4
Scope of study - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5
Methodology - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6
Literature Review - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6
Endnotes - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9
CHAPTER TWO: Heidegger in Historicity
Life and Work - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10
Influences - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12
General concept of Being - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13
CHAPTER THREE: Heidegger on Being
The ontological error of western philosophy--- 22
Heidegger’s fundamental ontology----- 23
Being and beings--------24
Being and Time--------27
Why is there something rather than nothing?----31
The significance of unanswerable question----34
Authentic and Inauthentic life------36
CHAPTER FOUR: Evaluation and Conclusion
The relevance of Being in Heidegger’s thought----41
A critique on Heidegger (Merits and Demerits)--- 44
The proper conception of Being-------46
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
central part of metaphysics is ontology; study of Being. The word
ontology derives from the Greek word ‘On’ (in the plural ‘onta’), which
is the present participle of ‘einai’, the verb ‘to be’. (Kenny
The founder of ontology was Parmenides and he defined
it by placing the definite article “to” in front of the participle ‘on’.
‘To on’, literally ‘the being’, on the model of the living; means: All
that is .it is customary, argues Kenny (2010:160), to translate the
expression into English as (Being) with an initial capital. Without a
capital, the English word ‘being’ has in philosophy two senses or uses,
one corresponding to the Greek participle and one to Greek infinitive. A
being, we can say, using the participle is an individual that is,
whereas being (using the verbal noun) is, as it were, what any
individual being is engaged in. The totality of individual being makes
For Parmenides ‘Being is, and non-being is not, for
Heraclitus Being is becoming, for Plato, Being exist in the world of
‘transcendental form’. For Aristotle, it is the study of anything that
is, whether material or immaterial. For Thomas Aquinas, it refers to all
that is and their ultimate support (ultimate principle). For some
contemporary thinkers, being is abstract and refers to nothing concrete.
It is therefore important to point out that the entire metaphysical
journey is that of trying to understand being in this effort to
explicate being, Heidegger the great German philosopher is not left out.
problem which Heidegger sets out to investigate is not the problem of
man but the problem of Being. He feels passionately that it is necessary
to restate this ancient problem which has been neglected.
in our own time have answer to the question of what we really mean by
the word ‘being’? Not at all! So it is fitting that we should raise a
new question of the meaning being…
Our aim in the following
treatise is to work out the question of the meaning of being and to do
so correctly (Heidegger: 1962: 80).
Martin Heidegger entered into
the metaphysical world with the aim of correcting what he calls the
“Ontological error of western philosophy”. According to Ireogbu
(1995:214), on reading historically back, however, Heidegger asserts:
in its historical journey, something has gone wrong with metaphysics.
It has missed its way in terms of the primary object of its occupation:
But metaphysics in the process forgot the most fundamental
subject of its inquiry. The “Sein, “Ens”, Being”, or “To be”, of the
different levels of being. ‘The forgotten Being here is the difference
between Being and beings, Otherwise called “Ontological difference”.
query was that the fundamental ontological question on Being has been
forgotten and so he set out on a reformation of being. Firstly, he
started by posing the fundamental ontological questions.
Being? Why is there being rather than nothing? (Heidegger, 1962:88)
whether Heidegger succeeded in his quest is one that we will discover as
we progress with this project. This project is therefore a critical
attempt to investigate into the “onto-logos” of Being and at the same
time to correct the mistakes of his predecessors
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
fact that should be taken into consideration is that Being itself is
veiled which makes an accurate difocation of it to be very difficult.
first problem we shall encounter here is that of articulating the
nature of something that is veiled or hidden. This according to
Heidegger makes the forgetfulness of being a part of its reality. The
second problem is Heidegger’s attempt to derive the notion of Being from
the notion of Dasien (Man). Metaphysically the concept of Being is
prior to the concept of man. It becomes problematic to attempt to draw
the concept of Being from that of man. In fact the concept of man is
always dependent on a particular concept of Being. It is the horse that
should draw the cart and not the other way round.
problem that will face us in this project is that Heidegger’s theory of
Being is a metaphysical inversion of religion. Not only is Heidegger
consciously silent on the God question, his preponderant use of
pre-Socratic text is denounced by Levinas as anti-scripture. (Ireogbu,
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY
Heidegger lashed out at
his predecessors and accused them of forgetfulness of Being. Our purpose
here is to critically assess the reasons behind Heidegger’s accusation
and then see whether he succeeded in reconstructing Being positively.
more, the question of Being has been very elusive and difficult to
grasp. Much as the history of philosophy is riddled with bad answers
that need requestioning. What is Being? Remains a question to be now and
again restated in new vocabularies, given new circumstances. It is
therefore our intention to re-examine and re-evaluate old questions
within the context of contemporary experiences. The contemporary
experience seems to be based on concrete issues and questions and not on
abstract entities like Being and non-Being.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
significance or relevance or importance of this project cannot be
over-emphasized “Being as Ireogbu articulates (1995: 60)” is the primum
notum (The first to be known) and the per se notum (The most
self-evident) “reality of the human intellect” Heidegger’s giant
contribution to the question of Being is unquestionable. His profound
analysis of ‘Dasien’ is refreshingly revealing.
The question he
postulated “why is there anything instead of nothing”? Is one of the
most important questions that face man in the contemporary era? A world
where Being is neglected would not be a meaningful world. It is in fact
impossible to neglect it as Being speaks for itself. This project is
therefore contributing to the knowledge in the senses that we want to
ground meaning ultimately, we want to understand Being in the context of
past, present and future with a view towards man’s ontological end. If
as Heidegger argues that a man is a “Being unto death” and that death
brings fulfillment instead of destruction, then it follows that we
should seek to understand Being comprehensively.
1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY
work should be limited in scope to a critical evaluation of
Heideggerian concept of Being. The work divides itself into four (4)
Chapter One(1) deals with scientific
methodology. Chapter Two (2) examines Heidegger’s historicity. Chapter
Three (3) examines Heidegger’s concept of Being. Chapter four (4) which
is the last chapter focuses on merits and demerits of Heidegger’s works
Basically, we would be combining two
methods in this thesis. First is the analytic method which will enable
us reflect systematically, coherently, consistently, logically and
otherwise. If Being is veiled it is only through analyses that its
hiddeness shall be unveiled.
Secondly, we shall be employing the
critical method. This second method shall enable us to examine the
strength and weakness of Being as a concept.
first book under review here is titled Heidegger: A Beginner’s Guide,
authored by Michael Watts, published at Oxon by Hodder and Stroughton
press Ltd in 2007. The author’s informative text explores the following.
Heidegger’s background and the times he lived.
The central ideas of Heidegger’s work in simple terms.
influence on ecology, art and literature and lastly, the continuing
importance of Heidegger to philosophy and contemporary thought. The next
work to be reviewed here is titled: A Commentary On Heidegger’s Being
And Time, written by Michael Gelven, published by Northern:
Illinois-university press, 1989. For the author, Heidegger equiperates
Being with Time (Zein und Zeit). For him, existence within time refers
to our fundamental way of Being which simultaneously spans and is
constituted by the three dimensions of time-past, present and future.
The third book under review is titled: The Cambridge Companion To
Heidegger, edited by Christian Guignon and published by Cambridge
university press, 1996. The central theme of this companion is
fundamental ontology. By this Heidegger understands the critical or
preliminary step of first studying the human being before one then
pursues the investigation of the ‘sein’. It is the preliminary analytic
of the Dasien which is the sole focus where the Being-question is posed
The fourth book to be reviewed here is authored by
Pantaleon Iroegbu titled Metaphysics: The Kpim Of Philosophy, published
in Owerri in 1995 by international university press Ltd. The author,
insist here that Being is the fundamental bedrock of any metaphysics.
For Ireogbu, Being is and non-beings is not. Being is englobing and
encompassing. It signifies the totality of reality. He especially
devoted chapter 17 of this work to explaining, analyzing and evaluating
Heidegger ontological difference. For Heidegger, the question of Being
has today been forgotten, the challenge therefore, and that is
Heidegger’s metaphysical project is that the question of the meaning of
Being must be re-formulated,
The next book under review is
titled: The Problem Of Metaphysics, authored by Fredrick Sontag,
published in Pennsylvania by chandler publishing company in 1970.
According to the author, philosophy, in so far as it is, is a search for
first principles is the basic assumption implicit in any question in
metaphysics. It teaches us a radical form of questioning. In this sense,
“Metaphysics is simply basic of philosophy”. The search for and the
questioning of first principles. The author insist here that metaphysics
deals with problems which themselves involves even more fundamental
problems, and the exasperation involves in this difficult enterprise
comes from an impartial desire simply to settle a question without first
reformulating and criticizing the question itself. One of these basic
metaphysical problem is that of the true meaning of Being. Chapter six
(6) of this book centers on the problem of being as Heidegger
encountered it when he contrasted being with non-being.
book under review here is titled Delimitations, Phenomenology And The
End Of Metaphysics, authored by John Salles, published by Indiana
university press in 1986. Chapter seven of this book is devoted to the
origins of Heidegger’s thought and the questions of Being. The author
argues that the historical origins of Heidegger’s thoughts in the
restricted sense specified are thus constituted by Husserlian
phenomenology and Greek ontology. However, the basics question is “How
is it that Being is what remains in thought in the appeal to the things
themselves? How is it that a radical-phenomenology must become
Gelven, Michael, (1989), A Commentary On Heidegger’s Being And Time, (Illonis: Nothern Illonis University Press.
Guignon, Christian, (1995), The Cambridge University Companion To Heidegger, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Ltd.
Iroegbu, Pantaleon, (1995), Metaphysics: The Kpim Of Phylosophy, Owerri International University Press ltd.
Heidegger, Martin, (1962), Being And Time, (trans) by John Macquarrie, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Kenny, Anthony (2010), A New History Of Western Philosophy, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Salles, John, (1986), Delimitations: Phenomenology And The End Of Metaphysics, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Sontag, Fredrick, (1970), Problems Of Metaphysics, Pensylavania: A Chandler Series.
Watts, Martin, (2007), Heidegger: A Beginner’s guide, Oxon: Hodder and Stoughton Press.
A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF MARTIN HEIDEGGER'S CONCEPT OF BEING
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