The Issues > 11


And so it is finally the systematization, noted above, of what is claimed to represent the underlying continuity of Western metaphysics (if not explicit until German Idealism) that can reveal finally what is missing or left out, or what remains unasked. For the Grundfrage in this tradition, both ancient and modern,15 is the question of the Being of beings, Seiende, but that is understood in the way sketched above, as what is categorially necessary, or necessarily presupposed for any being to be the determinate being it is. Th is means that being is already understood as what Heidegger will call throughout his career “standing presence” (ständige or beständige Anwesenheit) (HM, 299).16 By this he means a being that is determinate, discriminable from other beings, and so potentially available to a subject in the present and able to endure through a temporal phase. The comprehensive concept for such an understanding is ousia, substance. (This establishes already the crucial inseparability of any understanding of the meaning of being and time, something Heidegger frequently reminds his listeners in this lecture.) This then raises the question that is the heart of the matter for Heidegger: Why have we not asked whether this (let us say as shorthand, determinately standing being as thinkability) should be assumed to be the orientation for any inquiry about the meaning of being qua being? What grounds justify such an orientation? Is it possible that a finite, mortal being can understand itself as an in- principle, completely self-knowing being with respect to the fundamental issues of first philosophy?17 If the question is the meaning of Being as such, it must mean the meaning available for the one being open to that question, and that being is not rightly understood as exclusively self-consciousness, a pure thinking being, but as a living, finite being—what Heidegger calls Dasein—and the task of first philosophy must be reformulated in the light of the analysis of that being, a Daseinsanalytic. So, instead of a Phenomenology of Spirit, culminating in the self-knowing of a Science of Logic, we need a “metaphysics” of Dasein (HM, 315).

The idea that the task of first philosophy should have always been the Absolute in this way can at first sound mystifying. But it should not be. Philosophy is not an empirical enterprise. Its stock in trade are claims for an a priori status, and the modality of the a priori is necessity. In that context, every philosophical judgment, from Aquinas on substance to Quine


15. We shall deal with Heidegger’s unusual claims about historical “epochality” in later discussions.

16. See also HM 308. Heidegger is offering an interpretation of the implications of Aristotle’s question, τί τὸ ὄν, what is being, as a question about the “beingness” of a being, any determinate being, a τόδε or this-such (HM, 296).

17. “... daß Sein ousia sei, bleibt außer Frage, gefragt wird nur noch, was jeweils die ousia sei und wie sie näher zu bestimmen sei” (HM, 299).


The Culmination by Robert Pippin