“The Meaning of the Question of Being”: Heidegger’s Being and Time as Philosophical “Critique” and Historical “Criticism” of Philosophy


I would like to argue that notions of “critique” and “criticism” come to bear in Heidegger’s Being and Time, in which Heidegger’s chief concern with questioning the meaning of “Being” is ultimately rooted in constructing a specific critique about Being and appropriating that critique to a new kind of criticism of Being. Heidegger’s critique, then, especially in the Introductory section to Being and Time, centers on “the necessity, structure, and priority of the meaning of Being”—for Heidegger, this specific critique begins as a counterargument to Plato’s Sophist, where Plato admits (through Socrates) that the meaning of Being, as such, is perplexing. Heidegger suggests, through his critique, that “we should raise anew the question of the meaning of Being,” so that what grounds his critique about Being must “work out the question of the meaning of Being and to do so concretely.” The task of “work[ing] out the question of the meaning of Being” requires, to be clear, a specific critique Heidegger wishes to employ, but also, and more importantly, requires an understanding of the historical criticism of Being, not just before Plato with the Presocratics, but after Plato. As with any critique, Heidegger’s critique enters into a field of criticism and, by doing so, attempts to “destroy” it—his critique contends that Being has been philosophically misunderstood by Plato and this misunderstanding has been carried forward through the history of philosophy to the point that ontology and metaphysics have been misconstrued.

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