Saturday, 2 June 2012

On Heidegger's "Being and Time": Truth (Study Notes #3)

Continuing my attempt at providing study notes to important notions in Heidegger's Being and Time. As ever these are my notes and so little or no explanation of fundamental terms/notions is offered. From this point on notes will probably only be of use to anyone familiar with the majority of Division I, owing to the peculiar development of Heidegger's argument. 

At the culmination of the division Heidegger spends the final parts of Chapter Six dealing with the philosophical consequences of his interpretation of the being of Dasein as care (which turned out to be the structural articulation of being-in-the-world). But before Heidegger penetrates to the ultimate ground of Dasein's being as temporality (which will be the theme of Division II) he makes it clear to us just how much of the philosophical landscape has changed already. Traditional epistemological questions about if we can even know the world and ontological questions about the reality of the world are turned on their heads. However the most interesting result of Division I, for me, is Heidegger's existential notion of truth. As many of the themes of Division I are finalised in this notion I think its more deserving of attention than the specifically epistemological or ontological consequences of the existential analytic (which are in a way held within the essence of truth themselves).

Initially Heidegger's understanding of truth seems quite strange. We're accustomed to thinking of truth as the correspondence of a statement with a state of affairs. If the content of the statement matches the state of affairs itself then we call the statement true. For instance if I say "the apple juice is in the fridge" and the apple juice is indeed in the fridge then the statement is true. Otherwise the statement is false (as it does not represent anything in the world). Analogous to Heidegger's treatment of the isolated subject perceiving objects he points out the problematic nature of how two such things with such different natures could possibly correspond to one another. Like the problem of how the res cogitans can reach into the res extensa a similar problem now emerges about how the logos can represent the physis.

Now Heidegger does not wish to do away with the correspondence theory as he did not wish to do away with the substance ontology when he dealt with Descartes. As we've seen time and time again in Division I, Heidegger simply wishes to elucidate the existential grounds of the theory and exhibit how something like correspondence is initially possible. By now we'll be familiar with Heidegger's existential-phenomenological method of beginning with an ontic phenomenon and laying bare its ontological grounds (i.e. the condition of its possibility, its essence). We first saw how the subject and object are both founded in the being [sein] of Dasein, and are as modifications of being-in-the-world. We saw that without being-in-the-world there could be no possibility of passive observation as the original moment of understanding is disclosed in the active being of Dasein. What such passive observation refers to are significations already disclosed by participation in being-in-the-world. This means that when we know the apple juice is in the fridge, the "content" of our knowledge has already been given over in that original moment of understanding. When we press into beings, beings press into us: this propriative moment of mutual disclosure "is" the original happening of truth.

So we saw how being-in-the-world discloses significations. When the handle breaks off my mug of tea and spills everywhere, the initial propriative moment is the apprehension that my mug is broken and the floor is wet. We understand now that we can only grasp something like broken-ness by being the kind of being which is concerned in its being about that being. Broken means no longer able to fit into the nexus of activity from which beings show themselves as the beings that they are. If we weren't always already intending upon things as beings for-the-sake-of some end (i.e. for the sake of drinking) we could not grasp how something could become broken and thus incapable of allowing us to pursue that possibility of our being (drinking tea)

The disclosure of such significations like "it is sunny", "I am tired", "this is boring" goes along with the structure of being-in-the-world. As preliminary steps have been taken to introduce being-in-the-world in its temporal character as care, care becomes the essence of truth. Care was understood as Dasein's thrown-projection which took it that our present activities make sense in terms of their trying to fulfil some possibility of ourselves which lies in the future (making a brew) but which was made initially possible by our thrownness (that we found ourselves bored near a kettle in a culture which drinks tea).

As care is the essence of Dasein it follows that the essence of truth is Dasein. The happening of truth depends on the being of Dasein but this does not mean that the specific being [seindes] of truth depends upon Dasein. Heidegger himself states that only being [sein], i.e. only the propriative moment of understanding in which beings are grasped as the beings that they are depends on Dasein. The ontic qualities of those beings themselves are whether or not Dasein is around to disclose them. The wind would still blow and the flowers would still blossom even if we were not around to behold them. Truth is this being able to behold them.

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