[If you’re just joining us, please click on the cover icon on the right side of the page to see the post that gathers all the discussions of Braver Reading Group, or click here.]
1. Plea for Attention to Philosophical Context
In a footnote to “Predicate Meets Property” Mark Wilson notes that he had thought of presenting his view as an interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, but he was dissuaded by the fact that the book sometimes seems to operate as a Rorschach Test for philosophers. He wanted people to respond to the philosophical content of what he was saying instead of entering debates about what Wittgenstein “really meant” (of course if one has a competing Wittgenstein who can do the relevant philosophical work better than Wilson’s, then that’s fine, but most of the debate should still be philosophy, not hermeneutics).
Part of what makes a great work of philosophy great is that it does function as Rorschach Test for other good philosophers, and certainly Being and Time is no exception. For these books the main question about philosophically interesting interpreters has got to be what they are doing with the text, and where that goes philosophically. What does early-Heidegger-as-pragmatist (Okrent) allow us to do? Similarly with early-Heidegger-as-virtue-theorist (Bernasconi), early-Heidegger-as-anti-representationalist (Dreyfus, Gibson, Okrent), early-Heidegger-as-radical-externalist-about-scheme-content (Harman), and early-Heidegger-as-transcendental idealist (Blattner, Crowell/Malpas et. al.). The “real Heidegger” yields such diverse interpretations that all impact on on-going philosophical dialectic in non-trivial ways. Like any great philosopher, this is a part of of his brilliance.
So when we look at Braver’s presentation let’s please be sensitive to what “the early Heidegger” is doing in Braver’s book. [And before saying anything about this I should be clear about one point, by “early Heidegger” we mean the Heidegger of Being and Time and surrounding writings, not the brilliant earliest pre-Husserlian Heidegger who was doing interesting things in reaction to his teachers (the first 1919 formulation of Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit is in reaction to Rickert, who is discussed in this regard in History of the Concept of Time, but then the citation of the very same discussion is dropped in Being and Time), the Southwest School neo-Kantians, nor Heidegger right after that whose lectures of that period that spends 9/10ths of the time going through the ritualized dance of setting up the phenomenological verbiage. Being and Time is (among other things) a brilliant (though possibly inconsistent) working out of his earliest anti-neo-Kantian insights in the context of a very neo-Kantian Husserliana, the different interpretations above are all to some extent in reaction to the tensions between these two aspects.]
The key point about reading Braver on the early Heidegger charitably is to note that his discussion is the first sustained, careful, and charitable (c.f. Ferry and Renaut’s influential-in-Europe French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Anti-Humanism) attempt to see what happens when you construe the dialectic such that it takes seriously Foucault and Derrida’s own claimed debts to the later Heidegger. Braver sets up the early Heidegger to be able to explain this version of the later Heidegger in maximal clarity. This is his primary purpose, and the context in which we need to understand the application of the realism matrix. His secondary purpose is of course the rapprochement between the analytic and continental traditions, not by meta-philosophical exhortation, but rather by showing the interesting things that happen when you instantiate such rapprochement. His fascinating discussion of Davidson and Heidegger at the end of the chapter is an example of this.
2. Extremely Brief Overview
Like Hegel’s objective idealism and Nietzsche’s stage six physics, the early Heidegger’s phenomenological ontology is presented here as starting with a particular critique of realism and then re-establishing certain of its tenants. Hegel did this re-establishing with necessary historical progression, Nietzsche with the will to power, and the early Heidegger with the account of Dasein in the second part of Being and Time. All three critique, or help themselves to existing critiques of, the Kantian noumenal. All three continue to take what’s left over once you get rid of the noumenal to still be dependent on thinking in the sense of Kant’s phenomena (correlationism), and all three continue to ground necessary truths in terms of structures that in a weaker sense than noumenal radical unknowability (and arguably resulting unthinkability) transcend phenomena. Braver tells this story so as to be able to present the later Heidegger as taking this back in a way that leads to Foucault and Derrida.
In this light we should keep in mind that the “necessity” which Kant (responding to Hume) relocated in terms of the constitutive organizing of the human mind has a lot of different properties. Without even getting into the connection with a prioricity we have: (a) that which is unchanging, (b) that which is universal, and (c) that which is impervious to human will. Here’s a cartoon suggested by Braver: Hegel, Nietzsche, and the early Heidegger all accepted the Maimon/Ficthe/Shophenhauer/etc. critique of the Kantian noumena, but were still able to reinstate certain facets of Kantian necessity by finding something that is (a) unchanging (in a sense, with Hegel and Nietzsche) and (b) universal. The late Heidegger (and Foucault and Derrida) are going to be able to reinstate some aspects of necessity without having to find such archimidean points by weakening the traditional model of human will, which Braver will explain in terms of the vicissitudes of A5 Active Knower. This will be a radically different form of anti-realism. Once we are anti-realists about the self in certain manners, then other aspects of the realist/anti-realist distinction go away. For example- the model of anti-realism entailing that anything goes (see quote from Novalis below). Once A5 Active Knower is dropped, the very meaning of the denial of R1 Independence changes radically (I’m not convinced that contemporary analytic and continental “realists” have kept this in mind appropriately). Anyhow, again I’m just saying this now so that we do keep in mind where this is going.
[Note: me phrasing the above in terms of "will" continues to show how interested I am in a companion volume on Schopenhauer in light of Braver's matrix and dialectic. I hope that it didn't confuse anything.]
3. R3 Uniqueness Versus A3 Ontological Pluralism
R3 Uniqueness is shown to be falsified by Heidegger’s account of Vorhandenheit (presence at hand/objective presence), Zuhandenheit (readiness to hand/readiness), and Dasein (humanity).
3.1. The Zuhandenheit/Vorhandenheit Reversal
The Cartesian tradition had lead to Rickert and Husserl (and to what Haugeland calls “Good Old Fashioned Artificial Intelligence and Robotics,” which Wheeler has recently masterfully shown to be properly understood as the working out of Descartes’ own views, when you read more than just the Meditations) explaining values and practical concerns as something the mind adds to a more original perception of an objective reality of entities that subsist over time. In his 1919 lecture series on Windelband and Rickert, Heidegger argued that this gets things upside down. For him (what he would go on to call) Zuhandenheit (readiness to hand/readiness) is a realm of engaged practical activity where objects’ identities are always in terms of their relations to other objects (we move the hammer in order to hammer nails, in order to build houses, in order to protect ourselves from the weather, etc. etc.). In addition to being relational, this realm is always already valuative (the hammer exists as part of a complex form of life that essentially involves certain values, e.g. it is good not to have to sleep unprotected from the weather) and modal (“thrown possibility,” the hammer’s nature as a piece of equipment holds in virtue of what it can do). Vorhandenheit (presence at hand/objective presence) is the realm of objects that can be conceived to exist over time without their identity formed by relations to anything else. Heidegger argues that we only conceive of such objects after we factor out the properties (relational, valuative, modal) that characterize Zuhandenheit. That is, we only conceive of “objects” existing as discrete things over time in virtue of abstracting from our valuative, relational, modal immersion in the world. Thus, the way we normally operate in the world is just the opposite of the Cartesian model of the mind.
If you take Heidegger’s anti-Cartesian inversion to just describe some contingent psychological fact of the way human beings happen to think when they are being neither philosophical nor scientific, then it’s not that interesting. But if you take the reversal to be more fundamental, then it’s one of the most important moves in the history of philosophy.
For example, Humean problems about normativity get off the ground by thinking of the universe as a set of self subsisting objects and wondering how values could get involved (similarly with Hume’s problems of modality). But if “the universe as a set of self subsisting objects” is already parasitic on a relational, valuative, and modal realm, then you can’t pose Hume’s problems.
There are two poles of approaches by which to make Heidegger’s insight non-trivial. The first is in the traditional sense by interiorizing Heidegger as a kind of neo-Kantian, where the closest we can get to reality is the realm of phenomena. But then (so it goes), there is no “reality” by which to contrast the “psychological” mechanisms he reveals. Of course there are all sorts of ways such a view can be worked out. Braver’s early Heidegger is one of them (given that the late Heidegger drops A5 Active Knower, it becomes more misleading to call it neo-Kantian). The problem with this reading is that (as others have argued, see below) it tends to collapse either into Berkeleyan or Kantianism (in the sene of giving rise to the Maimon/Fichte/Schopenhauer critique).
At the complete other end of the spectrum is Harman’s guerrilla sense by externalizing Heidegger and seeing the Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit reversals as holding of objects in a universe without people (and it is no accident that Harman does not see a radical break between the early and late Heidegger). While Harman critiques Okrent and Dreyfus, his reading of Heidegger legitimates their appropriation of Heidegger’s insights to develop a non-Cartesian philosophy of mind and language. If Harman is right, then it is nothing at all perverse to use Heidegger to solve the mind-body (sign-signified) problem in in favor of body (signified). [Not that this is Dreyfus or Okrent's considered view; but the ability to do this with their Heidegger's has sparked a lot of analytic interest in Heidegger.] The problem with this intepretation is that it ends up striking people as frankly anthropocentric. In what sense can two rocks interacting be said to be valuative in the sense that Dasein’s world is valuative? We now solve Hume’s problems about modality and normativity at the expense of a kind of pan-psychism or animism. Even worse, we can pose Hume’s critiques about the explanatory role of religion (and Kant and Heidegger’s Humean critiques of theology) for the new view.
I don’t pose this to address this debate, but just to show that the non-triviality of Heidegger’s insight does not on it’s own presuppose radical forms of anti-realism (because one can adopt it in a realist manner like Harman, and then also like Braver’s interpretation of late Heidegger, keep it without commitment to A5 Active Knower). I think this strengthens Braver’s case.
3.2. A3 Ontological Pluralism (171-175)
In Braver’s discussion, the first reason the early Heidegger is a pluralist is that there are different modes of being that are not reducible to one another.
3.2.1. The First Reason
From the Heideggerian perspective,the defender of R3 Uniqueness is the person who ontically wants to take a class of beings as the really real ones, and explain everything else in terms of them (downgrading the objective status of anything that can’t be so explained), and who ontologically also wants to reduce different modes of being to one fundamental mode. Consider a person (what Heidegger calls a “Dasein”), who can be conceived of as a self subsisting object, or machine-like combination of such objects (Vorhandenheit, also as subject to Dennett’s physical stance) as a tool for manipulation either by evolution or other puppet masters (Zuhandenheit, also as subject to Dennett’s design stance), or as something else (e.g. Aristotle’s reasoner, Kant’s active world-constituting mind, Dennett’s intentional system, the early Heidegger’s locus of care, etc.). The paradigmatic anti-pluralist wants to collapse this ontological diversity
So the first way Heidegger defends pluralism is by denying that such a reduction is possible. And this does seem to follow from the Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit reversal. Almost, if not all, reductive plans wrongly try to reduce the other entities and modes of being to a subset of entities conceived in the Vorhandenheit mode of non-modal, non valuative, non-relational objects that self subsist over time. A great deal of philosophy results from what to do with modality and values when this is your metaphysics. But if Heidegger is right that the very mode of Vorhandenheit (objective presence, presence-at-hand, the physical stance, etc.) is derivative, only achieved by abstraction from (or, more realistically, emergence out of) a more originary realm of Zuhandenheit, then the reductive hopes are smashed. We must learn to live with A3 pluralism. Here’s Braver.
In particular, we ourselves exit in a fundamentally different way than substances: we are temporally stretched out, free (in some sense), self-interpreting, purposive, and so on, none of which can be accounted for in terms of substances “It has to be shown that the mode of being of human Dasein is totally different from that of all other entities: (in Husserl 1997, 138). This ontological pluralism could be explained as a simple dichotomy, however–those entities which are Dasein have one mode of Being, non-Dasien another. Heidegger goes further, however, to state that one and the same entity can be in different ways. When a pen is being used to write, inconspicuously withdrawing from attention, it is in the mode of ready-to-hand. On the other hand, if it runs out of ink an draws attention to itself as a useless thing to be stared at, it changes over to present-at-hand. Which is the real pen? Heidegger’s position is that this is a bad question; entities simply can be in more than one way. “Beings have stages of dicoverability, diverse possibilities in which they manifest themselves in themselves. There are diverse stages–and one cannot say that, for example, physics has the genuine knowledge of the solar sphere, in contrast to our natural grasp of the sun” (Heidegger, MFL, 167; see also Heidegger; HCT 38; Heidegger, BP 68). The demand that things must really be one way (R3) is a realist prejudice, an assumption that becomes self-confirming by filtering out all disconfirming experience. (173-174)
3.2.2. The Second Reason
There is a second sense in which Heidegger is an A3 pluralist. Even within a mode (Vorhandenheit, Zuhandenheit) or ontologically interesting sets of objects (if that’s the fair way to characterize Daseins and, later, artworks).
Actual attention to our experience suggests openness to widely disparate ways of Being: “Even in a rough analysis a multiplicity of intrinsically founded levels of being are manifested within the being of things and of equipment alone.” (Heidegger, BP 305)
. . . .Even within a single mode of Being, ready-to-hand tools offer multiple perspectives. Since they are defined by their context of referential significance, that is, their position in the network of instrumental relations which ultimately depends on our roles, a tool can change character as our roles change. A flat tire will be very different to a professor trying to get to work than to a mechanic, being an obstacle to work for one but work itself to the other. Rather than rejecting this instability as evidence of subjectivity and unreality, Heidegger wants us to accept it as the fully legitimate nature of this mode of Being.
It is precisely when we see the “world” unsteadily and fitfully in accordance with our moods, that the ready-to hand shows itself in its specific worldhood, which is never the same from day to day. By looking at the world theoretically, we have already dimmed it down to the uniformity of what is purely present-at-hand, though admittedly this uniformity comprises a new abundance of things which can be discovered by simply characterizing them. (Heidegger, BT 177/138; see also 1`41/106)
Presence-at-hand is itself a legitimate perspective which reveals real beings, but it denies the realty of the ready-to-hand- tools that it covers over in its ontological Gestalt switch. (174-175)
4. A5 Active Knower (175-181)
Braver shows that there is a sense in which early Heidegger supports A5 Active Knower. (1) He explicitly takes himself to be engaged in a transcendental project in the Kantian sense (set aside the inconsistency of taking oneself to provide conditions of possibility for cognition while characterizing possibility itself as something thrown into the cognizer’s (Zuhandenheit) world), and (2) more specifically:
But what determines which mode they are in is how Dasein approaches them, or what Heidegger sometimes calls Dasein’s “projecting” or “projecting a being on its Being.”
Heidegger explicitly ties Dasein’s different ways of projecting to the two modes of non-Dasein Being. One way to project is scientific “thematizing” where the “aim is to free the entities we encounter within-the-world, and to free them in such a way that they can ‘throw themselves against’ a pure discovering–that is, that they can become ‘Objects.’ Thematizing Objectifies” (Heidegger, BT 414/363). On the other hand, if I become preoccupied with something else while using a pen and let it fade from conscious awareness, then I make it ready-to-hand. Of course, the pen has to cooperate, writing roles must be available within my society, and so on, but it is still my action that gives it its ontological character. “What determines an entity as such ready-to-hand equipment, then, is that we have adopted a certain attitude or relationship to it” (Richardson 1986, 17; see also 19). If I then stop writing and stare at the pen, letting its usefulness and emotional resonances fade out, I have rendered it present-at-hand. As Guignon says, “Our projections determine the Being of entities” (Guignon 1983, 201; see also Versenyi 1965, 27; Poeggler 1970, 293). Placing at least some control over conceptual assignment, as well as focusing on the basic dichotomy between temporal and non-temporal categories, are two distinctly Nietzschean elements in Heidegger’s early thought. (180-181)
This is all correct, but I think there is another important sense in which even in his early stages Heidegger is leaning towards a more passive knower. If you accept his basic Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit inversion and have a strong enough version of the A5 Active Knower, then there is one way to get ontological pluralism on the cheap. You merely hold that the mind is free to abstract non-trivially distinct kinds of sets of self-subsisting objects from the Zuhandenheit soup. This kind of abuse of scheme-content distinctions to some extent characterized German Romanticism after Kant:
. . . .then everyone will be his own physician, able to acquire a complete, assured and exact feeling for his body, then man . . . will perhaps even be able to restore lost limbs, to kill himself by mere volition and only thus acquire true knowledge of the body, the soul, the world, life, death and the spirit world. It may possibly depend on him alone whether a dead person is reanimated. He will compel his sense to produce for him the shape he demands, and he will be able, in the most real sense to live in his world. (Novalis, cited in Safranski, p. 130)
It is both to Heidegger’s immense credit and a central part of his continuing philosophical import that he himself resists this (though I think the similarities between the era of the “philosophers of 68″ (especially as this work has leaked out into non-philosophy departments) and the people inhabiting Safranski’s “wild years of philosophy” is probably due to shared confusion about these very issues, which many people reading this blog will have been exposed to by freshman level students enthused to study philosophy after seeing The Matrix one too many times).
As far as I know, there is no hint of this kind of thing in the early Heidegger, on the contrary we can get into the realm of Vorhandenheit by “tarrying” or just trying to stare without being to caught up in our projects. We have to let go and open up to do this. This is profoundly passive. In the next chapter Braver shows how this aspect of the early Heidegger actually leads to quite radical changes and a complete rejection of the Kantian A5 Active Knower.
5. A1 Phenomenological Ontology
Everything written above (including the passive knower version of Heidegger) can be worked out in a manner consistent with R1 Independence. Graham Harman explicitly does this. Most philosophers of mind and language moved by the Heideggers of Dreyfus and Okrent do at least implicitly as well. So there’s a huge set of philosophical and interpretive issues that we can’t do justice to here.
Phenomenological Ontology, on the other hand, cannot be worked out in a manner consistent with R1 Independence. Braver shows how what the early Heidegger took from Husserl fits perfectly with the “dump noumena, treat what’s left as still depending on human thinking” maneuver of Hegel and Nietzsche.
Heidegger’s most basic tenets entail this rejection of noumena. His definition of Being as the presencing of that which is present (which represents his “granite of spiritual fatu,” in Nietzsche’s term) on the one hand, and the identification of beings with the totality of that which presents itself on the other, are flip sides of the same coin. Starting from this definition of Being, it is virtually tautological that anything that in principle cannot present itself to us cannot be considered real, while whatever is present to us has real Being without needing an absent Idea, God, or noumenon for support. Going in the other direction, once we reject noumena, the realm of beings left is coextensive with the realm of phenomena or what shows itself to us. “The question of being is thus raised, it is even answered. We have to do solely with the genuinely scientific way of answering it, which attempts to define the sense of the reality of something real insofar as it manifests itself in consciousness.” The raising of the question of Being guides its own answer, since the only way we can possibly investigate it is by appealing to evidence that is in principle available to the inquirer. The only Being we can talk and think about is not evidence- or experience-transcendent. Thus the meaning of the Being of beings is ultimately whatever is involved in becoming present to Dasein, or what he calls “presence within the clearing.”
This view represents Heidegger’s early theory of Being, which I will call Phenomenological Ontology (PO). It represents his counterpart to Hegel’s Objective Idealism and Nietzsche’s Step Six Physics; that is, the strain of this thought that has surpassed the Kantian Paradigm and twisted free of meta-physics by rejecting even the coherence of a realm inaccessible to human experience. (184)
This point is then made about Being herself.
A transcendent Being would be of no relevance (not just of no use) to human thought since it could not sustain intelligible discussion. Heidegger puts this more directly when he says that “our investigation . . . asks about Being itself in so far as Being enters into the intelligibility of Dasein” (193/152). For the realist, Being itself and Being insofar as it enters into the understanding of Dasein are importantly distinct, and identifying the two fatally compromises inquiry as the search for true reality or “what is there anyway.” For the Phenomenological Ontologist who has completed the mounting break with the noumenal realm (A1), however, the claim amounts to little more than a truism; we can only think, talk about, and attribute Being to what is in principle encounterable. Being just is Being as it shows itself to Dasein (see Versenyi 1965, 46) (186)
This all seems to have a strong whiff of Hylas and Philanous about it. Isn’t all of this just Berkely’s argument again and again? Try to conceive of something existing unconceived. You can’t. Therefore to be is to be shown to Dasein.
5.2 Equipment (Zuhandenheit)
With regards to the world of equipment, we have:
Equipment, also called “the in-order-to,” hangs from the goal or “towards-which” of the task at hand; a hammer is only a hammer insofar as it is related to hammering. The towards-which, however, only functions within the context of a “for-the-sake-of-which,” that is, a broader, self-defining role or project we take up as a (futile) attempt to settle the issue of our Being (see Heidegger, BP 301). Without Dasein’s care for its own Being driving her to pursue projects via tools (again, widely construed), there simply would be no such thing as equipment, since what it means to be a tool is to occupy a place within or be “involved in’ the network of instrumental chains anchored on our roles. . . . As Richardson puts it, “What determines an entity as such ready-to-hand equipment, then, is that we have adopted a certain attitude or relationship to it” (Richardson 1986, 17; se also 19; Pruss 1999, 36; Okrent 1988, 80) (186-187)
This is really quite stunning. Remember that there is a very strong sense for Heidegger in which the relational, modal, valuative mode of Zuhandenheit is more basic than the Vorhandenheit realm of self subsisting objects, which exist either as abstracted from or emergent relative to the Vorhandenheit realm. But if the Zuhandenheit realm is itself mind-dependent, then the self subsisting objects in the universe will be mind dependent.
We should note that the claim of dependence here isn’t just that human perspective is involved in viewing what exists as Vorhandenheit or Zuhandenheit. That is consistent with the claim that humans are viewing objectively existing things and properties. Rather, what is being attributed to Heidegger is the much stronger claim that the ready to hand properties themselves are somehow entirely a function of human interests. This leads to the greatest a poria in the early Heidegger’s thought.
5.3 Objects (190-198)
If Zuhandenheit is not R1 Independent, and Vorhandenheit is derivative (“founded”) on Zuhandenheit, then Vorhandenheit is not R1 Independent. This leads Heidegger to say things that are incredibly problematic, giving rise to what Herman Philipse calls “a Kantian version of the probelm of the external world” (“Heidegger’s “Scandal of Philosophy,” The Problem of the ‘Ding an Sich’ in ‘Being and Time,’ Transcendental Heidegger, 168-198). Braver nicely presents some of the problematic issues in this section. The key incoherence on Heidegger’s part is in Section 44(c) of Being and Time where he ends up saying things that entail that there are beings without being. These beings previously existed even though nothing is true about them (“all truth is relative to Dasein”) which directly entails that it is not true to say that they exist, which is what Heidegger does say about them. Note that this kind of incoherence is exactly the Maimon/Fichte/Shopenhauer/Hegel/Nietzsche problem with the noumenal realm!
As Braver shows, a central fissure in Heidegger scholarship concerns what to do with this aspect of Heidegger. He states the problem and Heidegger’s own strategy beautifully,
Heidegger’s considered opinion is that as a mode of Being, presence-at-hand is as dependent on Dasein as any mode. The problem is that discussion of this mode immediately runs into paradoxes, since on of its apparent features is independence of Dasein. Ultimately, Heidegger wants to acknowledge phenomenologically that we do find this feather, but still claim that it is founded in Dasein, “That to which all understanding of being-at-hand, actuality, must be traced back” (Heidegger , BP 119).
Of course only as long as Dasein is (that is, only as long as an understanding of Being is ontically possible), “is there” Being. When Dasein does not exist, “independence” “is” not either, nor “is” the “in-itself.”. . . In such a case it cannot be said that entities are, nor can it be said that they are not. But now, as long as there is an understanding of Being and therefore an understanding of presence-at-hand, it can indeed be said that in this case entities will still continue to be. (Heidegger, BT 255/212)
This passage solves the puzzle. As long as Dasein is around and has an understanding of Being–including an understanding of presence-at-hand which claims Dasein-independence–we can intelligibly say that present-at-hand objects do not need Dasein, that is, they can exist before or after Dasein as a whole arose or it will pass away. However, this Dasein-independence itself is dependent on Dasein, since it is a meaning which can only manifest itself within a clearing. Paradoxically, Dasein-independence is itself Dasein-dependent. . . (193-194)
On page 195 Braver further works this out in terms of stars being ontologically dependent upon us but not ontically dependent.
I have to confess that I just don’t get this. We were interested in being (which for Heidegger is a weird mixture of what following the Greeks most philosophers still regard as two separate things- actuality and essence (c.f. the brilliant explicit discussion of this in Heidegger’s Nietzsche lectures, where he equates the birth of metaphysics with the mistaken separation of actuality and essence)), but now we have bifurcated being into two things: being-for-Dasein and something else. This something else is the sense in which the stars still actually exist without us. Truth is supposed to be reserved for the first sense of being, but we continue to make assertions we take to be true about the second sense of being (i.e. “there are beings without Dasein”). But this is Kantian in exactly the sense that Maimon and Fichte criticized. As discussed in my post on Hegel, Braver’s discussion is an instance of what Meillassoux calles “doubling down” on meaning. There are two senses in which one can assert “there are beings without Dasein:” (1) the assertion is true in some sense internal to Dasein, and (2) the assertion is meaningless if meant to assert something external to Dasein.
Obviously, we’re not going to solve this issue in a blog post. Arguments against the kind of solution Braver attributes to Heidegger are organizing problematics of Graham Priest’s Beyond the Limits of Thought and Meillassoux’s After Finitude. (I should also mention in this context that John Protevi has traced a “what might have been” realist Heidegger from The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, which makes the title of Dummett’s anti-realist The Logical Basis of Metaphysics more ironic than Dummett possibly realized).
For what it’s worth, I think that there is nothing wrong with Braver’s interpretation of Heidegger qua interpretation of Heidegger here. I’m just not convinced that Heidegger’s position is coherent. From some of my earlier posts it’s clear that I had hoped that a non-Daseinocentric (mis)reading of Heidegger such as Graham Harman is the way to go, and it might be for lots of reasons (it yields an fascinating metaphysics, its take on scheme-content contrasts very nicely with John McDowell, and pace Harman’s own views it justifies the Dreyfusarian appropriation of Heidegger), but I worry that my hope just elided the original problem.
As a point of philosophy Priest is correct that something like Cantor’s paradox was imperfectly expressed by the Kant of the Dialectic (I am not saying that this is all that’s going on there) and others before him, and that this understanding of the problem space (for all that some bloggers here hate it) motivated a tremendous amount of 19th century philosophy and mathematics. But then, as Priest shows, Russell’s expression of Cantor’s paradox is the canonical form for nearly every other paradox discovered, including the original “affectation” argument against noumena on which (according to Meillassoux and Priest) Phenomenological Ontology founders. So even if you save Heidegger from the affection argument by Harmanizing him, if your theory doesn’t have anything interesting to say about all the other paradoxical arguments isomorphic to the affection argument (the very arguments that give rise to versions of the phenomenal/noumenal distinction in the first place!) then you haven’t really won the game. You’ve refused to play it.
In this regard, I should say that I think a decent anti-realist (in some of the senses Braver adumbrates) response to the paradoxes more generally might be able to defend as workable the move he attributes to the early Heidegger. This (as well as the realist option) needs to be worked out in reference to Priest and Meillassoux’s work.
In addition, once the later Heidegger drops A5 Active Knower, everything changes radically, including this problematic for Phenomenological Ontology! At least some of the takes on this problematic will be (dis)solved by the move to late Heidegger.
[Before marching forward I should note one more thing about Braver’s move of, following Heidegger, sometimes suggests that noumenal sounding talk is meaningless. The claim that stars existed before the possibility of human life is true if the assertion is understood in some sense internal to Dasein’s ambit, and meaningless if not. I should also note that much of the discussion in analytic philosophy prompted by Paul Bogghosian’s “The Status of Content” is relevant here too. Boghossian raises the question of whether statements of where the truth-apt/meaningless distinction falls can themselves be claimed to fall on the meaningless side of the distinction. The thought is that if you think they fall on the truth-apt side then you have to be a semantic realist, and that it is incoherent to think they fall on the meaningless side. Therefore you have to be a semantic realist. Tennant fantastically reconstructs and critiques Bogghosian’s argument inThe Taming of the True, but more recent arguments that use three valued semantics to model some of these issues can be read in response to Tennant (there’s a really fascinating paper in Mind that I can’t find right now).]
6. A2 and A4: Rejection of Correspondence Truth and Bivalence (198-207)
In “On the Essence of Truth” (a transitional piece written a few years after Being and Time, and published in Basic Writings) Heidegger trenchantly argues that to claim that the set of true assertions is co-extensional with the set of assertions that correspond to reality is not to explain what truth is. What are we actually determining when we determine that some assertion corresponds to some fact? Minimally: (1) that the fact obtains, and (2) that the assertion corresponds to the fact. This first sense is the more origninary conception of truth for Heidegger. When we say it’s true that John is a friend or that John is a true friend we’re talking about the facts, not about assertions or correspondence.
This is of a piece with the anti-representationalism of Being and Time (and History of the Concept of Time and the 1919 lectures long before that) We don’t perceive a representation of the table to which the mind then adds valuative and modal predicates. It’s the other way around. We first interact with the table as a piece of ready-to-hand equipment, and via the “in order to” relation the table itself refers to other items of equipment. Our activity manifests practical grasp of this deferring realim.
In Division 1 these are the building blocks from which cognitive and linguistic (Section 33: “an assertion is a pointing out that refers and communicates”). And Heidegger’s model of truth is part of this.
However, just as the present-at-hand is grounded in the ready-to-hand, so its correlate assertional or propositional truth is also parasitic on a more fundamental form of truth. “Assertion is grounded in Dasein’s uncovering, or rather in its disclosedness. The most primordial ‘truth’ is the ‘locus’ of assertion; it is the ontological condition for the possibility that assertions can be either true or fasle–that they may uncover or cover things up: (Heidegger, BT 269/226). The original locus of truth is Dasein’s uncovering or clearing, that is, her experience of beings which enables them to be corresponded to in the first place. Assertions are only derivative truth-relations that occur after Dasein’s switch-over to the non-engaged attitude (see 57/33; Heidegger, BW 122). (200)
As Braver notes, this is Dummettian through and through (or rather, Dummett is Heideggerian through and through). Bivalence (and the law of non-contradiction) is at best a regulative ideal on the logic of correspondence truth, that is, truth of linguistic assertions. But there are two more levels. (1) The logic of unconcealment itself. The later Heidegger will allow that at different points in history incompatible truths may reveal themselves to Dasein. (2) Assertions about beings without Dasein. “Heidegger explicitly states that without Dasein, Newton’s laws are neither true nor false, a clear violation of bivalence.” (201) So,
We can see that Heidegger does accept R2 Correspondence Truth, but redefines (see Heidegger, HCT 51) and limits it. It is only true of present-at-hand objects, and it necessarily presupposes the more primordial truth of uncovering or disclosure (A2), which he calles aletheia.
One might quibble a bit about how this is put, because Heidegger does assert quite a bit about the modal, valuative, and relational realm underlying the Vorhandenheit’s arena of present-at-hand objects. But in either case, alethia is the way in which facts themselves are revealed as true, prior to the question of whether an assertion corresponding to that fact is thereby made true (and anything incompatible with that assertion false as a result).
Note again that one could accept all of this without making the more originary conception of truth depend upon Dasein. Heidegger’s entire critique is consistent with aletheia being something that happens whenever any two objects interact. The rock by itself is primordially a vorhandenheit realm of possibilities involving possible and actual relations to other entities. When it hits another rock many of these are “concealed” and some unconcealed or revealed to the other rock.
But, given A1 Phenomenological Ontology this insight becomes irrevocably Daseinocentric.
“The Being of truth is connected primordially with Dasein. And only because Dasein is as constituted by disclosedness (that is, by understanding), can anything like Being be understood. . . . Being and truth ‘are’ equiprimordially” (Heidegger, BT 272/230). (205)
This is related to the worries of the previous section. In particular, just as interpreters have difficulty making sense of objects existing prior to Dasein, it is hard to make sense of falsity on the model of aletheia.
Ernst Tugendhat famously notes a progressive change in the definitions of truth in Section 44 of Being and Time from uncovering the entity “just as it is in itself” to simply uncovering the entity. Dispensing with the “as it is in itself” clause prevents us from comparing the appearance with the real entity, thus closing down the traditional logical space of correspondence truth and falsity. Heidegger identifies truth with uncovering in general rather than with accurate uncovering, prompting Tugendhat to object that “this theory leaves out of account precisely the phenomenon of truth in its specificity” (Wolin 1993, 251-52, 257).
Tugendhat is right to see radical implications in Heidegger’s thought. “A true assertion is not directed at the entity as it shows itself immediately, but instead at the entity as it is in itself. This difference intrinsic to self-manifestation between any immediately apparent givenness and the thing itself is not taken into consideration by Heidegger: (Wolin 1993, 255). However, the radicality of this new conception of truth actually fits Heidegger’s dismissal of the in-itself, for what is the appearance to be compared with in order to generate falsity? Given Heidegger’s Phenomenological Ontology, the thing-in-itself cannot even serve as the “regulative idea of critical questioning” that Tugendhat suggests (260). “Appearance as appearance or object does not need at all still to correspond to something actual, because appearance itself is the actual” (Heidegger, PIK 69). There simply is nothing else to correspond to for PO. (205)
The only thing I find dissatisfying about Braver’s book (and it’s a brick so that’s saying a lot) is his treatment of this issue. Remember we’ve got two notions of truth here (and a specific notion of neither for certain metaphysical propositions): (1) aletheic and (2) correspondence. Braver accepts that there is no falsity on the aletheic notion of truth in what strikes me as too cavalier a matter. Tugendhat has argued that there is a bug in Heidegger’s thinking, and Braver tells us that this is really a feature.
If we reject aletheic falsity how can we still have correspondence/assertional falsity? Weren’t we told earlier that correspondence is fine as far as it goes, that the only problem came from not seeing it as derivative? Or are we supposed to reject correspondence falsity, so that we have to say that no assertions are false? Why can’t we use the notion of coherence truth Braver sketches in relation to Kant? [See page 46, the view is very similar to the Ayer that Austin critiqued in Sense and Sensibilia.] If I can’t say that any assertions are false, why should I accept anti-realism over realism? Isn’t opting for one to take it to be more likely that that one is true and the other false?
In addition to Dahlstrom’s canonical book (section in googlebooks starts HERE), there are a couple of interesting recent papers on this very issue: (1) Rufus Duits (2007) On Tugendhat’s Analysis of Heidegger’s Concept of Truth. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 15 (2):207 – 223, (2) William H. Smith (2007). Why Tugendhat’s Critique of Heidegger’s Concept of Truth Remains a Critical Problem. Inquiry 50 (2):156 – 179.
7. R6 Realism of the Self-Authenticity (211-228)
Braver shows how in Division 2 Heidegger puts forward a realist view of the self. Heidegger’s brilliant discussion of “the they” in Division 1 suggests an anti-realist view.
This interpretation of the self as completely defined by societal structures would be the fulfillment of ED and A6, the complete immersion of the self into the world without remainder. This would complete the progressive erosion of R6 Realism of the Subject, one of the processes we have been watching since Kant inaugurated it by distinguishing the noumenal self from transcendental subjectivity and focusing the attention of theoretical knowledge on the latter. However, Heidegger does not maintain this position in his early work. Like Hegel and Nietzsche, he falls back into an attenuated R6 Realism of the Subject in two different ways which I will discuss in turn. (212)
For Heidegger “existentialia,” which are predicated of Dasein, are different in principle from “categories” which are only predicated of non-Dasein entities. Then the first way in which he has an essentializing view of the self is in terms of his account of an authentic self.
Heidegger even endows this true self with the traditional qualities of Being that he refuses other entities. One of the main targets of Being and Time is the view that “that which can be shown to have the character of something that constantly endures . . . makes up the real Being of those entities of the world which get experienced (Heidegger, BT 128/96; see also 125/92). This age-old prioritization of constant endurance or presence is based on present-at-hand ontology and its concomitant temporality. However, Dasein’s existential structures are awarded the status of being the real ones precisely because “in every kind of Being that factical Dasein may possess, [they] persist as determinative for the character of the constantly present throughout ontic fluctuations in content, so they must constitute the true nature of the self. Correlatively, one of the flaws of the average everyday self is that it “has been dispersed into the ‘they,’ and must first find itself” (167/129). The they-self has been dispersed into projects which come and go like ephemeral fads, “driven about by its ‘affairs.” So if it wants to come to itself it must first pull itself together from the dispersion and disconnectedness of the very things that have ‘come to pass’” (441/390). If this happens, a new possibility that was prevented by the hustle and bustle of fallen everydayness emerges.
The phenomenon of this authentic potentiality-for-Being also opens our eyes for the constancy of the Self. . . . The constancy of the Self, in the double sense of steadiness and steadfastness, is the authentic counter-possibility to the non-Self-constancy which is characteristic of irresolute falling. Existentially, “Self-constancy” signifies nothing more than anticiaptory resoluteness. (Heidegger, BT 369/322) (216)
This view of authenticity is both descriptive and normative; it describes an ideal we can fall away from or achieve, upon how we cope with things like anxiety and death. In addition to pointing out how weird this ideal is, given his critique of objective presence driving everything prior, Braver also makes really interesting points connecting Heideggerian authenticity to Kant on pages 220-221.
The second sense in which Heidegger reinstates the realist self is his analysis of time and care.
What is relevant for my discussion is that, just as Heidegger insists that he has gathered up all of Dasein’s existentialia, he also claims ot have dug down to the deepest level in his analysis of the layers of Dasein’s self. First there is the surface level of Dasein’s average everydayness; this is made possible by Being-in-the-world, whose unifying condition is care, which in turn rests on time. Like Kant, this analysis explains our organizing structures. . . . (224)
8. Donald Davidson’s Understanding of Understanding (225-251)
This is such a philosophically rich discussion that it deserves a separate post. Time constraints prevent me from giving it the space it deserves. Braver discusses three critiques of Davidson on radical interpretation.
- Most communication takes place unproblematically and immediately without involving anything that we would normally call interpretation, that is, an evidence-based process of making inferences about meaning.
- Cases of interpretation do occasionally occur, usually when some difficulty in comprehension arises, but these are by their very nature atypical and should not form the basis for a theory of communication.
- Theoretical knowledge is in general a bad model for linguistic competence.
Once the explicit reference to Davidison are removed from these objections, the combined analysis bears a startling resemblance to Heidegger’s analysis of Being-in-the-world. Heidegger’s criticisms of traditional and in particular Cartesian conceptions of the mind and understanding anticipate to a large degree the objections these three prominent analytic philosophers pose to Davidson. Furthermore, Heidegger also offers a rich, fully worked out analysis of (to speak loosely) human nature, thought, knowledge, and language comprehension that connects these three objections into an organic whole, just the kind of analysis Dummett calls for at the end of his piece (see Lepore 1986, 475-76) (234)
Braver’s discussion shows just this.
The Davidsonian will likely respond to Braver the same way that people respond to Dreyfus’ Heideggerian critique of Good Old Fashioned Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, arguing that Heidegger’s critique may apply to our conscious experience, but that nonetheless subconscious processing proceeds exactly the way that traditional Artificial Intelligence predicts.
This rises and falls with the ability to provide a Heideggerian explanation of the relevant phenomena, and comparing it with more Cartesian accounts.For example in the case of perceptual knowledge Noe’s enactivism attempts to model the empirical phenomena as well as answer the relevant philosophical arguments for sense data (Mark Silcox and I present it this way in Chapter 2 of our book). In the case of fully developing an anti-Cartesian Heideggerian account of language (that covers in detail the successes of linguistics, among other things) I’m particularly interested in Brandom’s inferentialism, which is half the way there, and Okrent’s fascinating new book on animal cognition and the sources of linguistic intentionality. Braver’s connecting this approach with a critique of Davidson is a really important piece of the puzzle.