Thesis of Modern Ontology [174-175]

prepared for in different ways, not only does not pose the question of the being of the subject but even interprets the subject's being under the guidance of the concept of being and its pertinent categories as developed by ancient and medieval philosophy. Descartes' basic ontological concepts are drawn directly from Suarez, Duns Scotus, and Thomas Aquinas. The Neo-Kantianism of recent decades introduced the historical construction that with Descartes a completely new epoch of philosophy begins. Everything before him back to Plato, who was himself interpreted by Kantian categories, was supposed to be mere darkness, In opposition to this notion, it is rightly stressed today that modern philosophy since Descartes still continues to work with the ancient metaphysical problems and thus, along with everything new, still remains within the tradition. But this correction of the Neo-Kantian interpretation of the history of thought does not yet touch the decisive point for a philosophical understanding of modern philosophy. It implies not only that the old metaphysical problems continued to be treated along with the new problems but also that precisely the newly posed problems were posed and treated on the foundation of the old—that therefore the philosophical revolution of modem philosophy, seen fundamentally in ontological terms, was not a revolution at all. On the contrary, by this turnabout, by this allegedly critical new beginning of philosophy in Descartes, the traditional ontology was taken over. By this allegedly critical new beginning ancient metaphysics became dogmatism, which it had not earlier been in this style; it became a mode of thought that with the aid of traditional ontological concepts seeks to gain a positively ontical knowledge of God, the soul, and nature.

Although in modern philosophy everything in principle remained as it was, the marking out and accentuating of the subject had to result in shifting the distinction between subject and object in some way to the center and, associated with that, in conceiving with greater penetration the peculiar nature of subjectivity.

We must first of all see in what way modern philosophy conceives this distinction between subject and object or, more precisely, how subjectivity is characterized. This distinction between subject and object pervades all the problems of modern philosophy and even extends into the development of contemporary phenomenology. In his Ideas, Husserl says: "The theory of categories must begin absolutely from this most radical of all distinctions of being—being as consciousness [res cogitans] and being as being that 'manifests' itself in consciousness, 'transcendent' being [res extensa]."1 "Between consciousness [res cogitans] and reality [res extensa]

1. Husserl, Ideen, vol. 1, p. 174. [Edmund Husserl, Ideen zur reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologische Philosophie, first published in jahrbuch fur Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, vol. 1, edited by Husserl (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1913, 1922, 1928), trans. W.R. Boyce-Gibson, Ideas (London: Macmillan, 1931). The quoted passage is on p. 212. There are two recent German editions of Ideen, vol. 1, the first edited by Walter Biemel as a "new edition based on the handwritten additions of the author" (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950), and the second edited by Karl Schuhmann, which contains "the text reproduced as it was in Husserl's lifetime, 1913, 1922, 1928, 'three almost completely identical editions,'" and "all of Husserl's manuscript additions in the second half-volume" (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976). Both these later editions appear in the series: Husserliana: Edmund Husserl, Gesammelte Werke.]