Husserlian and Cartesian Pathmarks in Division I of Being and Time (1927)


Following Heidegger’s “Introduction,” which is meant to set up his theoretical approach to Being and Time, Heidegger presents the term “Dasein.” This special term not only has implications in the original German as “being-there,” but contains particular resonance as “human being.” In both cases, Dasein construes human existence through “being-ness,” and it is that “being-ness” that constitutes the “there-ness” of human being. It is this “there-ness,” or the “Da-” of Dasein that becomes essential not just to Heidegger’s necessity, structure, and priority of the question of Being, but is decidedly pivotal to how Heidegger wishes to approach the two-fold task of working out this question.

As we have learned in the “Introduction,” this two-fold task, in part, seeks to destroy the history of ontology by providing, upon entering Part 1, an interpretation of Dasein along two “analytic” fronts of inquiry: in terms of temporality, and the extent to which an explication of time lends a transcendental horizon for the question of Being. This “explication,” however, requires, for Heidegger, providing the theme for the analytic of Dasein and presenting “Being-in-the-world” as the “basic state” of Dasein itself. To be sure, Heidegger defines this “basic state”—that is, in terms of what Being-in-the-world means as a unitary phenomenon—as “in-the-world,” what I would term as the every-case-ness of the way in which an entity is, and “Being-in” as such.

In revisiting these constitutive elements grounding how Heidegger conceives of Being-in-the-world (as I have mentioned at the close of the previous paper), a critical step forward for Heidegger involves prefacing that the “in” in Being-in-the-world is not an inside-ness. In other words, if we consider this inside-ness as how Dasein is “in” the world, we become victim to a Cartesian subject-object understanding of the world as an enumeration of things—Heidegger’s intention, then, is to describe the phenomenon of world (the idea of the worldhood of the world/Welt) by avoiding and critiquing the intentionality of subjects towards objects. Heidegger contends that this sort of intentionality between subjects and objects is rooted in traditional ontology, rooted in Cartesian metaphysics, and furthered in Husserl’s phenomenology, especially if, as Husserl argues in Cartesian Meditations, the Cartesian way is “the prototype for philosophical reflection” (1).

Yet, Heidegger would argue that Husserl’s “philosophical reflection” is “always confined to entities [to the point that] it is ontical” (91). This indictment recognizes that Cartesian-Husserlian “reflection” reflects on entities themselves. More importantly, Heidegger’s indictment of Descartes/Husserl suggests that both provide “a phenomenological description of the “world” [that] mean[s] to exhibit the Being of those entities which are present-at-hand within the world, and to fix it in concepts which are categorical” (91). Consequently, Heidegger considers the Cartesian-Husserlian definition of the “world” as res extensa—the extension, or extendedness of substances in terms of the accessibility of their attributes and the degree to which, Heidegger argues, that “every substance has some distinctive property from which the essence of the substantiality of that definite substance can be read off” (122).

This kind of thinking, then, comes to bear on Cartesian spatiality. Because of this, Heidegger embarks on a rethinking of spatiality and arriving at an understanding of how Dasein is “in” the world, or Dasein’s worldhood itself—for Heidegger, it is “the sense that [Dasein] deals with entities encountered within-the-world, and does so concernfully and with familiarity” (138). If spatiality, then, has a belonging-ness to Dasein, that belong-itude, if you will, is, as Heidegger ascertains, only possible “because of this Being-in” 138). From here, Heidegger suggests that “spatiality shows the characters of de-severance and directionality” (138)—the latter becomes contingent on the former, where, through Dasein essential de-severance, “[Dasein] lets any entity be encountered close by as the entity which it is” (139). To say that there is a close-by-ness between Dasein and the possibility for an encountered entity to be as it is means recognizing Dasein’s spatiality. That is, it means recognizing, as Heidegger does, that space is not in the subject, nor is the world in space [but] space is rather “in” the world in so far as space has been disclosed by that Being-in-the-world which is constitutive for Dasein” (146).

Engagement with the world—in terms of worldhood and spatiality—comes to bear on “Being-with” (solicitude) and “Being-one’s-Self” (“who”’) as the extension of Being into “the world” as Being-for-self and Being-for-others. Here, we enter Ch 4, where Heidegger offers an approach to the existential question of the “who” of Dasein—this who-ness is answered through how Dasein is absorbed in the world, and the manner in which “certain structures of Dasein are equiprimordial with Being-in-the-world: Being-with and Dasein-with” (149). This lends “the mode of everyday Being-one’s-self” (149) which “enables us to see” the subject of everydayness as “the they.” Yet, the who-ness of Dasein is relegated to “I” asits essential characteristic, “one which must be interpreted existentially” (152), through Ch. 5’s “Being-in as such” and the existential constitution of the “There” by way of Dasein’s “state-of-mind” after finding itself in its “thrownness.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s