Monday, February 16, 2015

Heidegger's Aesthetic Approach to Phenomenology in Being and Time Introduction II

The method Heidegger seeks to use is phenomenology, which is commonly characterized by the cry of "To the things themselves!" (I am working with Being and Time tr. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, SCM Press, 1962) My working hypothesis is that this means something radically different in Heidegger than it did in Husserl, that the things themselves are no longer placed in opposition to things that are not phenomena.  Hediegger does not in any way see humans as walking in bubbles of experience. 
An epoche is not even necessary.  Rather, phenomena simply consist in the entities we experience.  Subject/object dualism is deconstructed.  But what else is new?  I suspect that the analysis becomes fundamentally aesthetic, not because of the primacy of aesthesis, the Greek for perception, but because of primacy of metaphorical seeing.  That is, metaphorical seeing is the core of Heideggerian approach to ontology.  Heidegger does not much use the term "essence," but the goal of his effort is revelation of the Being of beings, which I would call the essential nature of beings (recognizing that these are not Platonic Forms but rather aspects that change over time.)  Heidegger uses false or questionable etymologies to structure our thinking in a such a way as to undercut traditional ways we might look at phenomenology, ontology and philosophy in general.  The phenomenon becomes something that shows itself, and thus is no longer thought of as something internal or subjective.  His derivation of phenomenon from phaino for "bring to light" takes us to seeing phenomena as moving temporally from the obscure into light rather than as objects there simply to be described.  The idea that the object "shows itself" indicates that the viewer is not the sole active agent in the person/entity relationship.  The phenomena include not only the things that are in the light but also things than "can be brought to light."  Moreover a phenomenon can "show itself as something which in itself it is not" and can then "look like something or other," which is a matter of "seeming."  Yet, Heidegger argues, the two ideas of phenomenon (bring to light and seeming) are "structurally interconnected."  First, something has to claim to show itself before it can show itself as something it is not.  This he distinguishes also from symptoms or appearances.  "Appearing" involves something not showing itself, rather than something showing itself as what it is not, as in "semblance."  Also, appearance involves the showing itself of something: it is just that something appears without being an appearance, appearing taking on three meanings, as announcing-itself and as what does the announcing, and as mere appearance, the phenomenon being something that hides itself in the appearance. 

The concept of "seeming" seems at first to be entirely negative, but takes on a different aspect when we look at the second part of the analysis of the word "phenomenology."  Logos is understood in many ways, but Heidegger characteristically traces it back to one Greek insight, that it is a function of discourse, which, in his understanding, lets something be seen in its essential nature.  Again, discourse does not occur in an experiential bubble.  Genuine discourse takes its clue from the thing itself, making it accessible to the other party in the discourse.  So it is a dynamic involving three things, the phenomenon and two interlocutors. 

Now for the aesthetic part. Heidegger sees discourse as "synthesis" in the sense not of a "psychical binding" (in the way Kant would see it) but as letting "something be seen in its togetherness with something" i.e. "seen as something."  This is the metaphorical moment which I have referred to in my working hypothesis, that Heidegger sees phenomenology as revealing essences that are essentially metaphorical, the Being of beings as metaphorical, as seemings, but of a particular powerful, truthful, rather than the (usual) untruthful, sort.  This is why a correspondence theory of truth will not work here.   Truth is something that happens in the synthesis of what is with what it is not; a revealing that also, at the same time, conceals.  We, in talking, let the hidden thing be "seen as something unhidden" or, in the false mode, cover it up.  Truth is this process in which we let something be seen. 

For Heidegger, aisthesis, "the sheer sensory perception of something" is "true" in the Greek sense of true, although not in the contemporary propositional sense.  He takes this to provide a kind of insight into truth, the idea being that the noein "is the perception of the simplest determinate ways of Being which entities as such may possess" and which can be perceived just by looking.  The next stage is the synthesis structure when something is being seen as something and thus possibly covering it up, the true judgment being the opposite of this.  What Heidegger seems to be suggestion is that the Platonic doctrine of ideas is correct if understood in a different way, i.e. under this Greek notion of truth as unconcealment.  (The emphasis on aesthetisis seems to indicate that the uncealment happens in the live interaction of the human creature with its environment, to use Deweyan terminology.)  What is shown in phenomenology is "something that proximally and for the most part does not show itself as all:  it is something that lies hidden, in contrast to that which proximally and for the most part does show itself."  (59)  The is why phenomenology is hermeneutics:  it is interpretation which reveals the hidden.  

So phenomenological reveals Being but not in the mode of judgments under the correspondence theory of truth but in the mode of revealing the hidden while at the same time keeping something hidden by the fact that the truth is metaphorical, a seeming, although a powerful one.  No doubt this is a stretch:  my apologies to Heidegger scholars.  But something to think about.      

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