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Plato's Sophist [8-9]


As so determined, however, phenomenology could be identified with any given science. Even botany describes what shows itself. The phenomenological way of consideration is distinguished by the determinate respect in which it posits the beings that show themselves and in which it pursues them. The primary respect is the question of the Being of these beings. We shall henceforth call what shows itself the "phenomenon. " This expression must not be confused with what is denoted by "appearance" or "semblance." "Phenomena" designates beings as they show themselves in the various possibilities of their becoming disclosed. This type of consideration, which is at bottom an obvious one, is not a mere technical device but is alive in every originally philosophizing work. Thus we can learn it precisely from the simple and original considerations of the Greeks. In the present era, the phenomenological mode of thought was adopted explicitly for the first time in Husserl's Logical Investigations. These investigations have as their theme specific phenomena out of the domain of what we call consciousness or lived experience. They describe specific types of lived experience, acts of knowledge, of judgment; they question how these really appear, how their structure is to be determined. That consciousness and lived experience were the first themes is founded in the times, i.e., in history. Of importance here was descriptive psychology and, above all, Dilthey. In order to establish something about knowledge, about the various acts of lived experience, etc., one must understand how these phenomena appear. That entails a whole chain of difficulties. Yet what is most difficult to master here resides in the fact that all these regions already trail behind themselves a rich history of research, with the consequence that their objects cannot be approached freely but instead come into view in each case through already determined perspectives and modes of questioning. Hence the necessity of constant criticism and cross-checking. The Platonic dialogues, in the life of speech and counter-speech, are particularly suited to carry out such criticism and crosschecking. We will not discuss the further course of development of the phenomenological movement in philosophy. What is decisive is that phenomenology has once again made it possible, in the field of philosophy, to raise questions, and to answer them, scientifically. Whether phenomenology solves all the questions of philosophy is not yet decided thereby. If it understands itself and the times correctly, it will restrict itself at the outset to the work of bringing into view for the first time the matters at issue and providing an understanding of them.

Now an introduction into phenomenology does not take place by reading phenomenological literature and noting what is established therein. What is required is not a knowledge of positions and opinions. In that way phenomenology would be misunderstood from the very outset. Rather, concrete work on the matters themselves must be the way to gain an understanding of phenomenology.


Martin Heidegger (GA 19) Plato's Sophist