One: Questionable Origins Heidegger, history, and the question of the origin

In the context of post-Kantian German philosophy, the question of whether there can be a Chinese, Indian, or African philosophy is determined by the interpretation of philosophy’s history as more than a fortuitous contingent process or collection of historiographical facts. In his early thought of the 1920s, Heidegger unfolded a distinction developed in the correspondence and writings of Dilthey and Count Yorck von Wartenburg. History as the facts and explanations of historiography (Historie) is contrasted with lived experiential history as occurrence and event (Geschichte).4 While Historie concerns the external reconstruction of contingently related phenomena, Geschichte points toward the temporal and historical occurrence of human existence as Dasein (“being here”). Dilthey described Geschichte through the first-person participant perspective of individuals as the living experience (Erlebnis), expression (Ausdruck), and interpretive understanding (Verstehen). Geschichte becomes the ontological event of being in Heidegger, to speak schematically here, who confronted the conventional everyday and historiographical understandings of history with the facticity of history as an enactment (Vollzug) and as event (Ereignis) of being.

The living sense of one’s own historicity needs to be interpreted ontologically rather than ontically (e.g., biographically, historiographically, and psychologically) for Heidegger. The disclosive event of being is presupposed yet not directly understood in the first-person participant perspective. It requires a critical destructive confrontation (Auseinandersetzung) with the sedimentations of ordinary life and the metaphysical tradition of the forgetting of being to be encountered and properly thought as a question.

It is the destructuring, deconstructive dimension of Heidegger’s project that binds philosophy to confronting and recollecting its Greek origin. The dismantling, which is called “destruction” (Destruktion) in German in Being and Time, of the history of metaphysics motivates Heidegger’s readings of historical Western philosophers and pushes the inquirer back into the question of the origin of philosophy. It is in the wonder of the origin that the thinker rediscovers more than the conditional and transient ontic beginnings of philosophy much less the ontic existence of early philosophers. In this situation of dismantling the historical transmission in order to confront its originary source (Ursprung) anew, and thus reawaken the radicalness of the origin, any empirical ontic starting point (Beginn) of thought—which can happen anywhere and anytime—is distinguished from philosophy’s primordial ontological origin and destiny.

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