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edited by

Loyola College in Maryland, U.S.A.


A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN 978-0-7923-2964-0 ISBN 978-94-011-1160-7 (eBook)

DOI 10.1007/978-94-011-1160-7

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© 1994 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Originally published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in 1994
Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 1994
No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced or
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retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner.

Volume 17


William R. McKenna, Miami University

Editorial Board:

David Carr, Emory University

Lester Embree, Florida Atlantic University
J. Claude Evans, Washington University
Jose Huertas-Jourda, Wilfrid Laurier University
Joseph J. Kockelmans, The Pennsylvania State University
Algis Mickunas, Ohio University
J. N. Mohanty, Temple University
Thomas M. Seebohm, Johannes Gutenberg-Universitlit, Mainz
Richard M. Zmler, Vanderbilt University


The purpose of this series is to foster the development of phenomenological philosophy

through creative research. Contemporary issues in philosophy, other disciplines and in
culture genemlly, offer opportunities for the application of phenomenological methods that
call for creative responses. Although the work of several generations of thinkers has
provided phenomenology with many results with which to approach these challenges, a truly
successful response to them will require building on this work with new analyses and
methodological innovations.

As editor, I would like to thank Mrs. Dorothy G. Kockelmans for

her generous and circumspect advice. Special thanks are also owed
to Pierre Kerszberg of the Philosophy Department at the
Pennsylvania State University. I am indebted as well to James M.
Edie of Northwestern University for his suggestions concerning the
organization and thematic structure of this volume, and to William
McKenna, editor of the Contributions to Phenomenology Series at
Kluwer. For their work in preparation of the manuscript, I thank
the staff at the Word Processing Center at Loyola College in
Maryland. And finally, I am appreciative of the support offered- by
the Faculty Development Committee at Loyola College.

This volume was presented to Joseph J. Kockelmans by his friends

and colleagues in December of 1993, at the Eastern Division
Meetings of the American Philosophical Association in Atlanta,


PIERRE KERSZBERG / Joseph J. Kockelmans: A

Biographical Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix

TIMOTHY J. STAPLETON / Editor's Introduction ......... 1


OTTO POGGELER / The Future of Hermeneutic

Philosophy .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 17 .

KARL-OTTO APEL / Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events?

An Attempt to Determine the Logos of Hermeneutics . .. 37

CALVIN O. SCHRAG / Transversal Rationality .......... 61

HANS LENK / Towards a Systematic Interpretationism .... 79



GERHARD FUNKE / Husserl's Kant Reception and

the Foundation of His Transcendental
Phenomenological 'First Philosophy' ............... 91

WALTER BIEMEL / The Transformation in Husserl's

Later Philosophy ...................... ........ 113

JAMES M. EDIE / The Question of the Transcendental

Ego: Sartre's Critique of Husser! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 127



THEODORE KISIEL / Kriegsnotsemester 1919:

Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough ............ 155
viii The Question of Hermeneutics

TIMOlHY J. STAPLETON / Heidegger and Categorial

In.tuition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 209

moMAS M. SEEBOHM / Considerations on 'Der Satz

vom Grund' ................................. '137

RICHARD E. PALMER / Gadamer and Derrida as Interpreters

of Heidegger ................................ 255



BAS C. VAN FRAASSEN / Against Transcendental

Empiricism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. 309

pmRRE KERSZBERG / Being and Knowing in Modem

Physical Science .............................. 337

PATRICK A. HEELAN I Galileo, Luther, and the

Hermeneutics of Natural Science ................. 363

LESTER EMBREE / Phenomenological Excavation of

Archaeological Cognition or How to Hunt Mammoth. 377

MICHAEL HElM / Heidegger and Computers . . . . . . . . .. 397


ARION L. KELKEL / The Enigma of Art: Phenomenology

of Aesthetic Experience or Archaeology
of the Work of Art? ........................... 427

ADRIAAN PEPERZAK / Ethics in Our Time ........... 451

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .. 469


INDEX ........................................ 491


by Pierre Kerszberg

Joseph J. Kockelmans: A Biographical Note

Joseph Kockelmans was born on December I, 1923, at

Meerssen in the Netherlands. In 1951 he received his doctoral
degree in philosophy from the Institute for Medieval Philosophy,
Angelico, Rome. Earlier on, he had earned a "Baccalaureate" and
a "Licence" from the same institution. Upon his return to the
Netherlands, he engaged in a series of post-doctoral studies. His
first subject was mathematics, which he studied under H. Busard
who taught at the Institute of Technology at Venlo (1952-55). A
major turning-point then occurred when, from 1955 to 1962, his
post-doctoral research centered simultaneously around physics
under A.D. Fokker at the University of Leyden, and
phenomenology under H.L. Van Breda at the Husserl Archives of
the University of Louvain. Still in the Netherlands, his first
position as professor of philosophy was at the Agricultural
University of Wageningen from 1963 to 1964. Even though he had
been a Visiting Professor at Duquesne University in 1962, the year
1964 marked the actual beginning of his career in the United
States. He began by holding a professorship at the New School for
Social Research in New York (1964-65). Before establishing himself
permanently at the Pennsylvania State University from 1968
onward, where he became a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
in 1990, he also held a professorship at the University of Rittsburgh
from 1965 to 1968.
Kockelmans' arrival in the United States was the decisive
event that was instrumental in fostering the recognition of
Continental European philosophy in this country. Indeed, from
1965 to 1967, not only did he create (together with John Anderson
and Calvin Schrag) an internationally-acclaimed journal, Man and
World, he also published two books which turned out to be
essential tools for a generation of students of European philosophy:
these are his introductions to the works of Edmund Husserl and
Martin Heidegger. In addition, he edited a most useful anthology
of fundamental writings in phenomenology, which include both
primary and secondary sources.
T.1. Stapleton (ed.), The Question a/Hermeneutics, ix-x.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
x Pierre Kers2;berg

Kockelmans' intellectual journey is not quite dissimilar to

Husserl's. Like Husserl, he began by working on issues related to
the foundations of mathematical and exact sciences. His own path
to phenomenology reflects his primary concern for the history of
these sciences. His aim is to reflect critically on the ontological
status of scientific entities. Technically speaking, this brings him
close to a position known as constructive empiricism, but his
originality lies in the claim that the truth of scientific entities is
thereby not dissolved, but is still at issue. At the same time,
Kockelmans has always shown a permanent concern for the
quality of education in our contemporary world. He likes to think
of himself as an educator. This concern is reflected in the
publication of several anthologies dealing with various aspects of
philosophy, all primarily designed for undergraduate students.
Herman Van Breda and Alphonse de Waelhens introduced
Kockelmans to the world of phenomenology during his years at
Louvain. Kockelmans' own position can be aptly referred to as
"hermeneutic phenomenology," a position which is deeply
influenced by Heidegger. By hermeneutic phenomenology,
Kockelmans means a philosophical reflection which dwells within
a sphere prior to both the theoretical and the practical level. This
position combines the classical notion of subjectivity and the
Heideggerian notion of concern. Thus; all understanding of
intentionality, intuition, or temporality is to be medi,,:ted by
interpretation, but the emphasis on interpretation does not
discharge us from a systematic attempt to master these ultimate
entities for their own sake. On this account, Kockelmans does not
associate himself with the strong current of deconstructionism now
advocated by several "post-modern" philosophers. Man's Being is
inherently temporal, which for him implies that our task is to
reflect upon what is needed in order to pursue some of the themes
of classical metaphysics which are still relevant and significant
today. A concern for the totality of meaning is not to be
abandoned. As he put it himself: "Philosophy consists effectively
in the critical reflection on our human experiences and on the
world in which we have these experiences as well as on our own
self, and this reflection is to be enacted from the perspective of the
totality of meaning of which we can now conceive."

by TImothy J. Stapleton

The collection of essays presented here under the title, liThe

Question of Hermeneutics," represents more than anything else an
attempt to take stock of things. Ours has been a century of
extraordinary change; and change of a sort that appears only to be
accelerating as the millennium draws to a close. To have lived
through this century is to incarnate the memory of an historical
epoch unsurpassed in terms of quantitative shifts. But many today,
when speaking of this era, would hesitate to use terms like
"progress" or development." These words which came so easily,

so confidently in times past, as part of the stock vocabulary of

"modernity," now signify precisely those concepts which are most
suspect when reflecting on lithe fate of the West" today. At the
core of these doubts are suspicions about that which, culturally, is
most our own; about those paradigmatic embodiments of Western
rationality, about science and technology and their respective
claims to truth and value. Is the truth of science no more than a
privilege granted the power of calculative, instrumental thinking?
How are we to characterize, then, our own philosophical
situation today? Such a question can easily be dismissed as simply
too general; any answers rejected as necessarily reductionistic. But
perhaps not unlike the Seinsfrage with which Heidegger began
Being and Time, the generality of this question is no proof that it
need not, that it must not, be asked. To try to provide a positive
answer might indeed prove extremely ldifficult. Let us proceed,
then, via negative. We may not be able to agree at all on what (or,
in some of the more radical cases, on whether) philosophy is or
should be. But we know what it's not, and it's not what it used to
be. Ironically from such a perspective, if philosophy has made
"progress" in the twentieth century, it is precisely insofar as it has
explicitly surrendered its traditional self-understanding; an
understanding which, among other things, legitimated the ideal,
if not the fact, of progress. The ideals of philosophy as "rigorous
science," as foundational, as that which provides a "metaphysical
groundwork," these are notions which have fallen on hard times.
In describing both major camps of contemporary philosophy,
analytic and continental, Husserl's comments from the Summer of
1935 seem appropriate, and prophetic:

T.l. Stapleton (ed.), The Question o/Hermeneutics, 1-14.

© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
2 Timothy J. Stapleton

Philosophy as science, as serious, rigorous, indeed apodictically

rigorous, science - the dream is over.... Philosophy once thought of
itself as the science of the totality of what is. Thus even if
philosophy itself drew the distinction between the world, as the
totality of what exists finitely, and God, as the principle uniting the
infinity of finite things, it thought itself capable of knowing
scientifically the metaphysical principle and the world through the
principle. Whatever it later substituted in the way of world-
transcending, metaphysical [principles], however it conceived of the
unity of the absolute, it thought all too long that scientific paths
could lead to the transcendent, the absolute, the metaphysical... But
these times are over - such is the generally reigning opinion of
such people. A powerful and constantly growing current of
philosophy which renounces scientific discipline, like the current of
religious disbelief, is inundating European humanity.l

For a long time analytic philosophy, for better or worse,

seemed immune to this spectre which Husserl saw haunting
Europe. Yet the recent influential publications of Rorty and
Feyerabend, for example, have proven this to be an illusion.
The hermeneutic turn in philosophy is one strand, albeit a
very important one, in the unfolding of twentieth century
philosophy. In the opening essay in this collection, Otto Poggeler
begins by noting the triumph, even in America, of hermeneutic
philosophy over its competitors. Hermeneutics is meant here, and
in this volume as a whole, not in a narrow sense, confined to any
specific school of interpretation or interpretation-theory. The
hermeneutic turn is rich enough in its significance to embrace the
methodological hermeneutics of Dilthey, the phenomenological
hermeneutics of Riceour, the philosophical hermeneutics of
Gadamer, the critical hermeneutics of Apel and Habermas, and
even, perhaps, the "post-hermeneutic" deconstructionism of
Derrida. At the center of this circle (and of this volume), however,
as a kind of nodal point around which various trends converge
and then spin off again in different directions, is unquestionably
the thought of Martin Heidegger.
Contemporary hermeneutic philosophy unfolds in the shadow
of Heidegger; of his transformation of phenomenology, of his re-
vitalization of the question of the meanings of Being, of his
ontological critique of the privileging of Vorhandenheit and of
theoria, of his assertion of the primacy of understanding and its
Introduction 3

fore-structure, of his "thinking" (Denken) about the origins of art,

about the essence of technology, about the ways of language.
How is it, then, with twentieth century philosophy? With
hermeneutics in particular? What is its own genuine essence, its
logos? How does hermeneutics relate to traditional philosophy? To
Kant? To Hegel? To Husserl? What possibilities does hermeneutics
offer for a philosophy of the future? What does it have to say
about science, about art, about values, about rationality and its
limits, about what it means to be who we are? Such are the
questions that belong to those who try today to think
philosophically. Such are the questions of this volume, The Question
of Hermeneutics.

Hermeneutic Rationality

In "The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy," Otto Poggeler

looks to hermeneutics as a possible philosophy of the future,
wondering whether it is adequate to the kinds of tasks and
problems, to the sense of things that is emerging as we move
toward the twenty-first century. Poggeler argues that despite the
success of hermeneutic philosophy in establishing itself as a
dominant intellectual force, it has failed to secure an adequate
point of departure. And this failure, if left uncorrected, bodes ill
for the future of hermeneutic philosophy.
Poggeler traces the emergence of hermeneutics from a critical
consideration of Hegel'S understanding of philosophy. Do history
and time, when conceptualized and idealized from a certain
metaphysical perspective as in The Phenomenology of Spirit, lose
their distinctive natures? Man's complex relation to history and
time called for a "many-levelled hermeneutic" of the sort begun by
Dilthey, and these efforts were seemingly given a more radical
foundation derived from Husserlian phenomenology by
Heidegger's Being and Time. Heidegger offered, as a new "logic of
philosophy," a formal indicative hermeneutic in response to
Hegel's dialectic. Yet P6ggeler notes that Heidegger's project failed,
as testified to, for example, by his burning of the preparatory
studies to the third part of Being and Time. Later attempts on
Heidegger's part to· overcome these difficulties still left the starting
point and the future of hermeneutic philosophy in doubt.
4 Timothy J. Stapleton

Poggeler's essay ends with a vision of the future as a task, and

with a series of concrete questions which need to be thought
through if hermeneutic philosophy is to be adequate both to its
origins and to the future.
Karl-Otto Apel's essay, as " attempt to determine the logos
of hermeneutics," raises the central question of the relationship
between hermeneutics and practical philosophy. Given the
hermeneutic starting point and the radically situated nature of the
act of understanding, can hermeneutics legitimately talk of better
or deeper, or only of different, understandings? In this essay Apel
calls for a "re-transcendentalization" of the philosophical
hermeneutic which could offer the possibility of a normative,
critically oriented hermeneutics, one which could answer not only
the quaestio facti but also, in the Kantian sense, the quaestio iuris. A
key point in Apel's argument involves challenging one of the most
fundamental moves of hermeneutics and phenomenology, what
Apel takes to be their "trivialization" of reflections on the a priori
of "validity" in favor of the a priori of the pre-reflective lifeworld.
This shift or turn is discussed in numerous later essays in this
collection, particularly those by Biemel, Kisiel, and Stapleton.
Calvin Schrag's "Transversal Rationality" takes up this theme
of the plight of modern rationality as under siege. Like Poggeler
and Apel, he recognizes the depth of the challenge posed to
philosophy, implicitly and explicitly, by some of the descendants
of the hermeneutic turn. Schrag goes back to Kant and his three
separate critiques, seeing in this division of cultural spheres a
gesture which sets the stage for the drama of modernity and
beyond. But rather than calling for a "re-transcendentalization" of
philosophical reflection, Schrag suggests that we need to re-think
our image of rationality itself. The notion of "transversality" is
offered as an alternative to the images of rationality as vertical
grounding or horizontal play; a transversality which seeks a
middle ground, neither affirming nor denying the ahistorical, but
rather seizing upon what he calls the "trans-historical."
The last of the essays in this section, "Toward a Systematic
Interpretationism" by Hans Lenk shifts the emphasis from
reflections centered about the problems of time, history, and
historicism, to that of perspectivism in a more Nietzschean sense.
Lenk's essay displays the interpretive (hermeneutic) character of
human action and being in all its varied forms. He wishes to argue
Introduction 5

for a systematic, methodological interpretationism which, on the

one hand, avoids the kind of "levelling" and skepticism of which,
for example, Nietzsche warned, without on the other hand falling
prey to a dogmatism or absolutism.

Hermeneutic Origins: Husserl and Phenomenology

Heidegger's (and hence hermeneutics') relation to Husserl and

phenomenology is a complex and controversial one. But Poggeler
is surely right in pointing to the importance of Husserl's
phenomenology in Heidegger's attempt to give to hermeneutics a
radical foundation. The three essays in this section each indicate
a dimension of Husserl's evolving phenomenology which would
have a significant impact on the emergence of hermeneutic
phenomenology and fundamental ontology: (1) the evolution of
Husserl's understanding of the nature of philosophy itself, as a
foundational science, (2) the new significance given to the life-world
in its foundational capacity in the later writings of Husserl, and (3)
a re-evaluation of Husserl's understanding of consciousness as
non-egological in a distinctively Sartrean (existentialist) vein.
The first essay by Gerhard Funke traces in detail the influence
which Husserl's growing familiarity with Kant had on his own
understanding of the nature of philosophy as a foundational science
and on the nature of transcendental foundations orgrounds as well.
This movement, Funke suggests, can be viewed as a passage "from
Brentano to Kant." A deeper appreciation of Kant's transcendental
turn, and in particular of Kant's highest principle of experience
[that the conditions for the possibility of experience are at the same
time the conditions for the possibility of the objects of experience]
allow Husserl to supplement the notion of intentionality derived
from Brentano with that of constitution. Husserl's ongoing struggle
with psychologism, naturalism, historicism, and anthropologism
provides the contours within which his understanding of the idea
of philosophy as the science of ultimate origins, of ultimate
knowledge, unfolds. The critique and "correction" of Kant which
Husserl undertakes is guided by this idea of rigorous science as
well. As Funke notes, in quoting Husserl:
6 Timothy J. Stapleton

Philosophy exists to represent the idea of completed knowledge, the

final telos anchored in the essence of knowledge, and to regulate all
future knowledge according to this idea. Philosophy in this old
Platonic sense is either nothing at all, or it exists as the intention to
become the most rigorous science in the most radical and most
ultimate sense. (see below, p. 111)

At the center of Walter Biemel's piece is the consideration of

Husserl's new understanding of the lifeworld that emerged in the
years after his retirement from Freiburg. Biemel's article leads us
to ask if Husserl's relentless search for genuineness of origins, for
radical foundations, leads in a direction far beyond that of his
more "Kantian" phase? In what way does Husserl's new
understanding of the significance of the lifeworld change our very
understanding of the nature of philosophical foundations, and of
the meaning and status of theory and of the theoretical a prioris
now "founded" in the lifeworld? The earlier article by Karl-Otto
Ape! seized upon the privileging of the lifeworld as a move which
tends to undermine both the universality and the normative force
of theoria. Biemel focuses upon the emergence of this thematic in
Husserl's later writings. Yet we must ask, is it really the case that
for Husserl the emergence of a new, founding significance for the
lifeworld means the surrender of the infinite, eternal ideals of
scientific rationality?
And finally, in the third essay of this section, "The Question
of the Thanscendental Ego: Sartre's Critique of Husserl," James
Edie turns to examine that which is usually taken to be new and
distinctive in Sartre's conception of consciousness, that it is a non-
egological, non-substantial, pure intentionality. Through a careful
analysis of the relevant texts of Husserl and Sartre, Edie shows
that Sartre's critique is based upon a fundamental misunder-
standing, that Sartre and Husserl say virtually the same thing on
this issue of the ego, that Sartre's attack is "factitious, verbal, and
H Edie's analysis is correct (and I believe it is), then some
rather interesting consequences seem to follow. For Sartre, the non-
egological nature of subjectivity provides the basis for the most
fundamental of ontological distinctions in his philosophy, that
between the en soi and the poUT soi. Heidegger too sees the
question of the Being of that being who is intentionally as the
Introduction 7

question which needs to be raised by fundamental ontology. The

seminal nature of Husserl's phenomenology, the full force of his
discovery and explorations of the problems of intentionality, could
be given no better testimony than this. Even if Husserl did not
himself explicitly consider the ontological questions raised by
Heidegger and Sartre, the grounds for such a phenomenological
ontology have clearly been laid.

Hermeneutics and Ontology: Heidegger

The publication of Being and Time in 1927 can be considered

the pivotal event in the emergence of hermeneutic philosophy.
Despite the abruptness of its appearance, and of the text's own
beginning, it is clear that this work is the product of lengthy
meditations on the nature and history of philosophy. What then of
the background of Being and Time? How did Heidegger's own
thinking evolve and move toward that radicality of spirit and
substance which ushered in, among other things, the hermeneutic
revolution in philosophy?
In "Kriegsnotsemester 1919: Heidegger's Hermeneutic
Breakthrough," Theodore Kisiel turns to this early lecture course,
along with habilitation work of 1915-16 ("The Doctrine of Meaning
and Being in Duns Scotus") to cast light on Heidegger's path to
Being and Time. Kisiel provides a detailed explication of the
emergence of Heidegger's notion of the "formal, indicative
hermeneutic" of which Poggeler spoke earlier. He also points to
the importance of Lask in Heidegger's development, as Heidegger
takes up the problem of establishing philosophy as the primal or
original science. Again, the central phenomenological problem of
the emergence of the theoretical from the pre-theoretical shows
itself, along with the network of questions concerning access to,
language for, and the significance of, such. a primal, founding
sphere of origins, of Ur-doxa. Kisiel suggests that such a move, for
Heidegger, involves a certain "proximity" to Husserl, but one
which transforms the latter's "principle of all principles," giving to
the idea of phenomenological intuition a hermeneutic thrust rather
than understanding it in theoretical terms [as a gaze which looks
at, sees, or inspects].
8 Timothy J. Stapleton

The next article in this section, "Heidegger and Categorial

Intuition," also takes up this theme of Heidegger's way to Being
and Time. Heidegger's lecture course from the summer semester of
1925, The History of the Concept of Time, is the focus and occasion
for a reflection upon the often noted significance of Husserl's
Logical Investigations for the emergence of Heidegger's phenom-
enological ontology. This article suggests that Heidegger saw in
Husserl's discovery or re-discovery of categorial intuition
possibilities so radical that if fully grasped, they would render
superfluous the central methodological moves of Husserl's
transcendental turn. Yet at the same time the author hesitates to
embrace Heidegger's use of categorial intuition and his critique of
Husseri, and instead poses the question of the nature of "first
philosophy." How would we decide in a non-dogmatic fashion
which question is more originary, which provides the ultimate
point of departure: the question of being or the question of (the
critique of) reason?
With the essays by Thomas Seebohm and Richard Palmer, we
move from a consideration of the very early, "pre-Being and Time"
Heidegger to reflections on what are usually taken to be much
later developments in Heidegger's thought. Seebohm looks to the
lectures of 1955/56, Satz vom Grund; Palmer to Gadamer and
Derrida as interpreters of Heidegger, with the emphasis decidedly
on Heidegger's later thinking [for example, The Origins of the Work
of Art, the Letter on Humanism, and the two-volume Nietzsche
Seebohm begins by noting the transitional nature of Satz vom
Grund, as Heidegger moves from what he called the "preliminary
and clumsy" language of Being and Time to "other forms of
presentation." In this regard Seebohm's essay reminds us of the
point made by Kisiel, that from the very beginning the problem of
a formal indicative hermeneutics, the problem of a pre-theoretical
science " ... ultimately becomes a problem of language: how to
approach and elucidate the dynamic, and thus elusive, facticity of
1!£ "

In "Considerations of 'Satz vom Grund'" Seebohm spells out

what he takes to be a few of the implicit presuppositions and
implications of this work by Heidegger. Seebohm sees in
Heidegger's "leap" to the Ab-grund, to Being which as the ground
of beings is itself groundless, not so much a radical turn (Kehre) in
Introduction 9

Heidegger's development, but rather the continuation of a line of

thinking begun much earlier, in Heidegger's critique of Kant and
of Husserl's transcendental phenomenology. His suggestion,
however, is that the ground of this critique, especially that of the
critique of Husserl, has shifted by the time of Satz vom Grund. In
the 20's, Heidegger had taken Husserl to task for failing to ask the
question of Being, a question which he thought to be the ultimate
phenomenological question. The question of phenomenological
origins leads to the question of Being. From the perspective of Satz
vom Grund, however, Husserl's approach is faulted in asking for
ultimate grounding at all. As Seebohm puts it, "asking the
question of being is not asking for the ultimate ground, but a leap
into the un-ground, the Ab-grund." Seebohm concludes with an
interpretation of Heidegger's own metaphysical tune which hears
in it echoes of Schelling's attempt to think the Absolute in its
absence, in its Ab-grund.
In "Gadamer and Derrida as Interpreters of Heidegger,"
Richard Palmer provides a valuable overview of hermeneutics via
a comparative study of these two influential thinkers who, in their
own independent and autonomous ways, inherit the Heideggerean
legacy. Palmer chooses four texts from each of their works, texts
which not only are particularly revealing in terms of the respective
authors' own thinking, but which also focus on interpreting
Heidegger. Hence central Heideggerean themes, many of which
have been discussed in earlier essays, are now made visible in
terms of their fruition in the ongoing development of philosophical

Hermeneutics and the Worlds of the Sciences

The essays found in the final two sections of this volume

explore hermeneutics in practice. How does the hermeneutic turn
work itself out, what is its cash value, when reflectively directed
toward the natural and social sciences, toward art and ethics?
What new insights, alternative approaches, fresh and original
questions result? If philosophical hermeneutics poses an essential
challenge to traditional philosophy, how is this challenge
manifested with regard to specific philosophical questions and
10 Timothy J. Stapleton

The opening article in Section Iv, Against Transcendental


Empiricism" by Bas C. van Fraassen, takes up one specific

challenge posed to empiricism and an empirical philosophy of
science. In his 1986 Presidential Address to the American
Philosophical Association, Joseph Kockelmans questioned the
metaphysics implicit in empiricism. Van Fraassen takes up that
challenge. "Against Transcendental Empiricism" provides the
occasion for an interesting dialogue between hermeneutics and the
empiricism to which van Fraassen himself subscribes. He argues
that empiricism (and, by implication, any substantive philosophical
position) cannot be understood essentially in terms of a particular
dogma, doctrine, or set of cognitive beliefs, be they explicitly
articulated or merely presupposed. As an alternative, van Fraassen
introduces the notion qf what he calls a stance, attitude,
commitment, or approach.·Two things of particular interest emerge
here. First, van Fraassen insists upon the epistemic autonomy and
priority of such stances or attitudes over beliefs or doctrines.
Secondly, in articulating and justifying this autonomy, he turns to
Husserl's distinction between the natural and philosophical
attitudes (Einstullungen). In raising these two points, "Against
Transcendental Empiricism" goes a long way in building bridges
between the more analytically oriented and the hermeneutic and
phenomenological philosophies of science.
In "Being and Knowing in Modem Physical Science," Pierre
Kerszberg turns to a phenomenological consideration of the role
and significance of immediate intuition in an attempt to throw
light upon the nature of the gap separating familiar, everyday
experience from symbolic experience. One of the basic claims of
modem physics is that appearances of ordinary life should be
corrected because they may be deceiving. Thus, every major
advance made in physics seems to have been responsible for
mutilating what we understand by intuitive knowledge
independent of all theory. Yet, in the case of time, physics has
always relied on a supposedly immutable type of ordinary
experience, namely, the irreversible passage of time from past to
future. Kerszberg follows the development of ideas in relativity
and post-relativity physics concerning immediate intuition,
employing insights and suggestions from Husserl's transcendental
Introduction 11

The two essays which follow take up the task of a hermeneutic

philosophy of science. Patrick Heelan, in "Galileo, Luther, and the
Hermeneutics of Natural Science," displays the depths to which
hermeneutics is implicated in the process of science. He draws the
distinction between methodological or weak hermeneutics
(textually oriented) and strong hermeneutics (in the context of
perception and pre-perception), the latter being hermeneutic
phenomenology. After exhibiting and justifying this distinction via
the choice of exemplary instances (Luther and Galileo), he
concludes with a sketch of what a hermeneutic philosophy of
natural science would be like. The "phenomena" of this
hermeneutic would lie not in theory, nor in data gathering, nor in
the importance of texts (journal articles, etc.), but rather in
experiential, laboratory research programs.
Lester Embree's "Phenomenological Excavation of
Archaeological Cognition" practices what Heelan might call a
strong hermeneutics. Embree notes, for example, that while
archaeology is indeed a human science it is unique due to its
central reliance on non-verbal data; that is, on remains rather than
artifacts. Archaeological cognition may indeed involve, Embree
shows, a "hermeneutics of traces," but this sort of indicational
awareness is not a reading of texts. Embree's carefully practiced
hermeneutic phenomenology also displays the level at which such
"phenomena" manifest themselves. The analysis focuses not on
logic-oriented theories of induction but on that prior evidencing
which lies at the bottom of archaeological cognition, on the unique
nature of "indicationally representational awareness."
Finally, in "Heidegger and Computers," Michael Heim uses
Heidegger's reflections on technology for carrying on the task of
thinking. Heidegger did not live to see what Heim suggests to be
the vehicle for the most powerful technological revolution of our
century: the proliferation of the microcomputer. Heim draws not
only upon Heidegger, but also on the writings of Marshall
McLuhan and Eric Havelock in an attempt to shift philosophical
reflection on computers beyond the constraining confines of the
often combative questions concerning artificial intelligence (mind
as computer, mind versus computer, etc.). Rather than computer as
opponent, he suggests the notion of computer as component in the
activity or event of human self-understanding.
12 Timothy J. Stapleton

Hermeneutics, Art, and Ethics

The final section of The Question of Hermeneutics turns from the

worlds of science and technology to the worlds of art and morality.
Arion Kelkel, in "'The Enigma of Art: Phenomenology of Aesthetic
Experience or Archaeology of the Work of Art?" brings together,
under the heading of a question, different strands of the
hermeneutic project which may stand in tension with one another.
The focal point of Kelkel's piece is Heidegger's liThe Origirl of the
Work of Art." Can an approach to art, he asks, which situates its
eidos, its origin, in aesthetic experience (a kind of "aesthetic
cognition," in the language of Embree's essay), even when that
experience is understood in terms of intentional analyses and the
essential noetic-noematic correlations involved therein, do justice
to the autonomy, the mystery, the power, the truth of the artwork?
Heidegger's analysis of the work of art, which played such a
powerful role in the development of Gadamer's hermeneutics (see
Palmer's essay), is emblematic of the turn from his earlier
phenomenological approach. Kelkel's question, therefore,
articulates the question not only of the enigma of the work of art,
but also the enigma of the relationship between phenomenology
and hermeneutics.
The final essay, "Ethics in Our Tune" by Adriaan Peperzak,
represents a return to our beginning point, a closure of the
hermeneutic circle. The Question of Hermeneutics began with
questions about the future of hermeneutics, about the adequacy of
its origins, and about the relation between hermeneutic and
practical philosophy. The sense and the urgency of these same
questions animate Peperzak's essay. He notes that what is called
"continental philosophy" today has, with but a few exceptions,
failed to put ethics at the center of its concerns. In this regard
phenomenology and hermeneutics continue the tradition begun by
Descartes' deferral of moral reflection. In terms of modernity,
Kant's project is "the great exception," his entire philosophy being
dominated by the moral perspective. Why, Peperzak wonders, are
virtually all contemporary moral philosophies merely re-worked,
refined versions of 18th century theories? In this respect he
presents the suggestive image of the "modern museum of
cultures" in which we live, with the formalistic attitude which
accompanies it. But can form and content, theory and practice,
Introduction 13

contemplation and involvement, philosophy and wisdom, be so

easily separated? Peperzak ends with a call for a sort of
hermeneutic renewal. liThe remnants of the past lose their
importance, if they are not converted into building material for
new manners of existence and thought on the verge of being
born." Such a moral, existential" de-struction" of the past remains
as a task for a hermeneutics which is to be a philosophy of the

Loyola College in Maryland TIMOTHY J. STAPLETON

Baltimore, Maryland
14 Timothy J. Stapleton


1. Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental

Phenomenology, trans. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970),
Appendix IX, pp. 389-90.


by Otto Poggeler
(Translated by Dale Snow)

The future, according to Hegel, is a yielding element in which

a variety of things can be imagined. He who speaks of the future
of a particular philosophy can look upon previous achievements
and desire to build upon them, thereby abandoning himself to
illusory hopes. It cannot however be denied that hermeneutic
philosophy, contrary to all predictions, has even in America
triumphed over competing directions, or at least has joined
together with them in a combination [which] is difficult to
Nothing whatsoever will be argued here with respect to what
has been achieved in the conflict of the positions; it is rather the
future of hermeneutic philosophy which is in question, because
this philosophy has yet to arrive at a point of departure which
could be adequate to contemporary problems. If this philosophy is
not to fall prey to the illusions Hegel criticized, then the
insufficiency of the previous starting points in the history of the
development of hermeneutic philosophy must be demonstrated.
Therefore as a first step I would like to show how it came to
pass that discussion of the hermeneutic arose in response to
Hegel's understanding of philosophy. The second step will be to
show how Martin Heidegger countered Hegel'S dialectic with the
formal indicative [anzeigende] hermeneutic as the logic of
philosophy. The third step will be concerned with the question
whether the new and different element which is indicated by the
adjective "hermeneutical" or other words has been sufficiently
articulated. Thus we may be brought to see that the future which
we must not lose demands from us a philosophy which has yet to
be developed.

I. Hegel and the Consequences

After Hegel had concluded his Phenomenology of Spirit in the

Fall of 1806 on the night before the battle of Jena, he added a
preface to the work, which was also intended to serve as the
preface to the entire System der Wissenschaft. This preface contained
T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question o/Hermeneutics, 17-35.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
18 Otto Poggeler

a reminder that philosophy bears a Greek name. However, it also

contained a demand that philosophy ought to discard the name of
mere love of wisdom and become genuine [wirkliches] wisdom.
Plato had already made the distinction: the gods may possess
wisdom; among men only the sophists pretend to posses it and sell
it as commodity. Philosophy remains the striving after wisdom
which emerges out of ignorance and remains always threatened by
it. Thus a distinction has to be made between what one knows and
does not know. Philosophy, therefore, is one of the products of
Eros who is not a god but rather negotiates as a daimon between
gods and human beings. Through Eros, by means of conception
and birth, men still seek in the mortality of each individual
something like an immortality; they also seek the power of the law
against the constant decay of the social order, and seek in
philosophy a standard of wisdom with which to define these laws.
This love of wisdom, which according to Plato in his conversations
with the philosophically inclined, always comes only "suddenly"
to its target, is, according to Hegel, to become real wisdom. The
preface therefore also says that [for this reason] that which is
regarded as the best in Plato is sometimes expressed in
"scientifically worthless myths." The times known as times of
fanaticism (such as the Neoplatonism of late antiquity and
medieval philosophy) held the late dialogue "Parmenides" to be
the highest artistic achievement of ancient dialectic and at the same
time the positive expression of the divine life. Basic logical
concepts such as ''being-non-being,'' which "suddenly" trans-
formed into each other produced ever more complicated
conceptual structures (such as substance-accident), so that the
conceptual process finally succeeds in overtaking and becoming
reflective about itself or speculative. This logic or dialectic can
grasp what God is - that thinking of thinking, which is at the
same time life and reality.
From the perspective of this Platonic tradition a speculative
philosophizing could claim that man can become one with God
[eine Teilhabe gewinne an Gott] who has made things as he comes to
know them. "Formerly," says Hegel in his preface, "men would
connect all things by a single guiding thread to heaven; philosophy
extracts from things that spark of light with which God invested
all created things." This orientation towards a predetermined
heaven was however dissolved by the modem striving after
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 19

experience. The natural sciences as well as political science

[Staatswissenschaften] and the critique of religion were expected to
function without transcendent presuppositions and to build
themselves up out of their own critically tested experience. Yet
already in his work of the Jena period, Glauben und Wissen, Hegel
had demanded true nihilism. It not only dissolves all
presuppositions and all connections; it is also prepared to subsume
the free subjectivity which thereby arises in an all-encompassing
object-subject of the absolute. In the passage through this nihilism
or as true nihilism and skepticism, the love of wisdom becomes
genuine wisdom. Philosophy returns to the reality which is
expressed by men in deeds and wisdom, and thereby requires and
reappropriates that free experience for itself. What is historically
constructed as wisdom achieves its binding connection and
becomes genuine wisdom or a system.
The conclusion of the Phenomenology of Spirit returns this work
to its place in the total system. In this connection the relationship
of time and concept must be separately mentioned. In the
"Timaeus" Plato has described time as an "image" of eternity:
man, who cannot join the end of his life with its beginning,
belongs in time; there he is capable only of incompletely taking the
self-sufficient eternal into himself. For Hegel human temporality is
however (above all in Christian religiosity) experienced as an
absolute negativity: the finite as the negative is negatively posited
and rescued out of the infinite; thus does time contain in itself the
power to elevate itself to eternity. Philosophy completes this
elevation when it grasps for itself how the logical-speculative
concept becomes one-sided and dispersed in time and thereby
experienced as fateful [schicksalhaft]. It was precisely this
completion of spirit in absolute knowing which Hegel reclaimed
for his system. Within this absolute knowing the concept is capable
of obliterating [tilgen] time, that is, to annul [aufzuheben] the
dispersion in the fateful, isolated, and one-sided. The
Phenomenology of Spirit organizes an ideal history based upon that
which is conceptually possible. If contingent history is
conceptualized in terms of this ideal history, then one arrives at
that conceptualized history with which Hegel closes the
philosophy of spirit.1
Hegel developed a new sensibility for the analysis of historical
processes, regardless of whether these processes took place in the
20 Otto Poggeler

moral and political realm or in the areas of art and religion.

Philosophy itself understood itself as an historical event
[geschichtliches Tun], which, however, related the history of spirit
together with nature to the absolute and thus oversteps the merely
historical. The question remains whether history, understood from
this metaphysical perspective, still retains its distinctive nature. Is
it not tied to a teleology which misrepresents its character, and
isn't it the case that the idea of the good is placed in too close a
connection with the idea of life, for which within certain limits the
teleological must be taken into account [beansprucht]? Since it is the
realization of the eternal in history with which Hegel is concerned,
he finds the span of 6000 years of which the Biblical writings speak
sufficient. With insignificant modifications of this tradition, Hegel
is able to refute Voltaire's contention that Chinese history, with its
fictitious greater length, exceeds these limits. Historical research
has, however, managed, after all, in many ways to go beyond
these limits in that it revealed the thousands of years of pre- and
early history. The two and one-half million years which are today
understood as the time of the existence of human or human-like
creatures are only two or three seconds in the hour of life which
has unfolded in the past four billion years on this planet. Hegel
still completely denied that life had in the evolution of species
undergone numerous accidents and catastrophes and thus had
something like a history. With the acknowledgment of this
evolution and the wide-ranging history of man, time again became
a problem. To what extent can one orient oneself in time in general
through exact measurement? As much as 3500 years ago sundials
and water-clocks existed; the wheel-clocks of the Middle Ages
introduced a new mechanization of time. Now we can come to
realize that the overly precise contemporary instruments of time
measurement can, in accordance with their movement in space, go
faster or slower: the absolute time of which Newton spoke seems
to be called into question. Doesn't man have only one definite,
completely subjective relation to time? The Baltic embryologist Karl
Ernst von Baer started his work within the limits of an idealistic-
romantic philosophy of nature; in the end he developed his well-
known time-fictions [Zeitfiktionen]: the human being has, in fact,
ten to eighteen impressions per second or heartbeat. If he
experienced things a thousand times faster, then he would be able
to have the experiences of a lifetime in 29 days. He would in that
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 21

case be as a single person unable to detect the change of the

seasons, but he could follow the flight of a musket ball
[Flintenkugel] with the naked eye. On the other hand, if he were to
experience everything a thousand times more slowly than normal,
then the change of the seasons would be a pulsation completed in
a few hours, etc. 2 Is, therefore, our perception of time entirely and
wholly conditioned by our form of life? In this case it is difficult
to want to obliterate [tilgen] time by means of a generally binding
concept, as Hegel does! In general, must we not give up the
metaphysic which approaches time, evolution and history with
ideas such as "life," lithe True," and lithe Good"?
Henri Bergson has come to this conclusion at least with
respect to traditional metaphysics. He no longer proceeds from
metaphysical definitions of the soul, world and God, and their
interrelationships to ideas; the most basic given, upon which he
grounded a new philosophizing, was rather time as duration.
Bergson's first book, about the immediate givens of consciousness,
showed that lived and experienced time as duration cannot be
grasped in terms of static representations of space. Since this time
contains in itself the past and the open future, it is connected
[Verknupft] with freedom. Thus in both German and English
translations Bergson's book is entitled Time and Freedom [Zeit und
Freiheit]. Bergson has built upon this philosophical starting point
in subsequent publications, for example in the evolutionary theory
of Creative Evolution [in which] the objective time of this
development is recovered as the presupposition of lived or
subjective time.
However, when Bergson discussed time with Albert Einstein
in Paris in 1922, Einstein rejected Bergson's starting point, because
it contained as an intuition or subjective experience a metaphysics
which had long ago been dismissed by science. But does the
metaphysical position being criticized belong only to Bergson's
philosophizing? Einstein himself represses probabilistic positions
in his physics; the irreversibility of time suggested by thermo-
dynamic theory, and with it the subjective time of the living
creature were never really taken seriously. When his Swiss friend
Besso died, Einstein wrote shortly before his own death that to be
preceded in death meant nothing. "For we physicists who are
believers, the division between past, present and future has only
the significance of an illusion, albeit a stubborn one." This physicist
22 Otto Poggeler

is a believer in Spinoza's sense, who metaphysically eliminates

lived time in favor of the desired eternity.3
The philosophy which no longer wants to decide its
metaphysical problems dogmatically must discuss all the various
languages that have been developed in physics, but also, for
example, the language of the mystic, in which, according to
Bergson, life in its uniqueness apprehends itself in the moving life
of the godhead (Gottheit). Won't this make philosophy becoIIl£ a
many-leveled hermeneutic? WIlhelm Dilthey began, in his philo-
sophizing, from the work of the human sciences and humanistic
studies; but he was well aware that this starting-point was one-
sided and required supplementation by other points of view.
Could these different viewpoints be brought together in a single
philosophy of self-reflection? This self-reflection contains the
understanding of a situation which must be distinguished from
that kind of explanation which in the end would like to grasp the
always given aspects from a situation-less point of view.
Understanding is always also understanding of the other, with
whom we are placed in an open plurality, thus "hermeneutic."
Doesn't philosophy then become, when it is radical, constituted by
a variety of world-views? Self-examination itself must be mediated
in the history in which it is borne and determined.4 Thus the move
which Dilthey himself never made lies close at hand: from this
hermeneutic to construct the adjective "hermeneutical" as the
designation of a new way of philosophizing.

II. Dialectic and Formal Indicative Hermeneutics

Martin Heidegger has attempted to give the many tentative

efforts of Dilthey a radical foundation derived from Edmund
Husserl's phenomenology; thus on his way to Being and Time he
had spoken of a hermeneutical philosophy. Still it was Soren
Kierkegaard who forced the departure from Hegel's dialectic and
sought in a formal indicative hermeneutic a new logic for
philosophy. In one of the crises of this view, in the lecture The
Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics in the winter of 1929-30,
Heidegger presupposed that philosophizing had ·fallen under the
influence of time. Thus he says: "The influence of time can only be
broken by time itself, through that which is of the essence of time
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 23

and which we, following Kierkegaard, call the moment

(Augenblick)." Kierkegaard had "for the first time in [the history of]
philosophy really grasped" that which is called the "moment
(Augenblick);" thereby inaugurating "the possibility of a completely
new epoch of philosophy."s In a long footnote in his The Concept
of Dread Kierkegaard had interpreted the "sudden" (PIOtzliche) in
which, according to Plato, the basic concepts became transformed
into one another, as the moment (Augenblick); at the same time he
reproached Hegel with having seen the connection of the dialectic
to the moment (Augenblick) and to history, but then misrep-
resenting it. Kierkegaard was not able to oppose the Hegelian
dialectic with another fully developed philosophical logic. It was
this task which Heidegger set himself, especially since he wanted
to be a philosopher and not remain a mere "inspirational"
[erbaulicher] writer like Kierkegaard.
Plato's dialogue "Parmenides" is concerned with the funda-
mental philosophical problem of the One and the Many. The
young Socrates encounters the old Parmenides. The latter held
Being to be one. Is the One the one Being or the one Existent [ein
Seiendes], which belongs to the many? Here it was essential, not
just to sense, but also to think. It was for this reason that Zeno
developed the dialectic of the One and the Many out of the
breakdown of sensible intuition. Thinking, according to Plato, now
seeks that idea with respect to which the Many participates in the
One. Only the dialectic itself can succeed in grounding this
participation: that self-directed movement of the concept in which
the basic concepts, "in a blink of an eye," are transformed into one
another. This "blink of an eye" (the exaiphnes) remained for Plato
an atopon - one which touches the eternal.
This is where Kierkegaard goes beyond Plato: this ''blink of an
eye" [is to be understood] as a limit which leads us out of our
given situation, the moment (Augenblick) in which time and
eternity intersect. TIme in itself is an empty succession; but when
it takes the eternal into itself, qualitative differences and the leap
to the new become possible, future and past differentiate
themselves. The Greeks were not able to see this relation so clearly,
since they excluded nothingness from Being. Certainly
philosophers have battled against deception, but as something
which does not actually exist. In contrast to this, the Christians
assumed that the world was created out of nothing and that the
24 Otto Poggeler

non-existent remains in creation in the form of appearance, vanity

and sin. [A sense of] eternity as the judge of time occurs in the
most fleeting experiences of which we are aware - in an atom
and in the blink of an eye, as Kierkegaard says with the apostle
Paul (I Cor. 15, 25). Therefore the life of man remains defined by
fear and trembling; by that dread, in which existence in itself
trembles. Inasmuch as Hegel seeks to obliterate time through the
concept, he has suppressed the tension between the moment and
the inaccessible eternity. In contrast to this, Kierkegaard wants, by
means of an "indirect message," to inform humanity of the stages
of life, but not preempt the decisions (such as the decision to
believe) which it will be necessary to make in a human life.
This indirect message, in which even the non-believer can refer
to the dimension of belief, was formed by Heidegger into a formal
indicative hermeneutic. What an indicative sign is was, not
coincidentally, explained most persuasively in his lecture
Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion of the winter of 1920-2l.
Therein Heidegger criticizes Ernst Troeltsch, who had, as a
philosopher of the historical religious school, just [finished] relating
the theologians yet again to a metaphysical theology. In opposition
to this, Heidegger believed that he had to give up that which from
Plato and Aristotle up to Hegel and Troeltsch had been the end
point of philosophy and the beginning of the sphere of religion.
Philosophy knows nothing of God; perhaps it is not even
permitted to know anything of God when He freely shows and
reveals himself. Heidegger refers in the second part of his lecture
with concrete exegeses to the epistles of St. Paul, in which it is
stated in the first epistle to the Thessalonians that the last things
will reveal themselves in an ineffable moment. About this moment
or kairos philosophy cannot anything decree. However, a
phenomenology that wants to be true to human experience both
can and will gain access to the religious dimension of life. It must
present the many-facetedness of life in a formal indicative method
(manner) in order for us to be able to move in an appropriate way
through the different dimensions. To exhibit this, philosophy itself
needs an appropriate logic or theory of concept-building, which
has yet to be worked out.
Edmund Husserl distinguished between generalization and
formalization in section 13 of his Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and
Phenomenological Philosophy. Generalization ascends to ever higher
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 25

levels of commonality -from the blue of this piece of clothing to

the color blue, from one color to colors in general, then to the
qualities, etc. Formalization, on the other hand, goes back to the
logical and categorial forms [Formungen] of which generalization
has always made use. Here the truth of the old saying that Being
is not a genus (which one can approach by generalization) is to be
seen. In Heidegger's formal indicative concepts, on the other hand,
it is to be carefully taken into account that the interaction of
generalization and formalization can take place in a variety of
ways. The region to which something belongs must be taken into
account in the construction of the concept. Thus the human being,
who is "existence," is not to be taken as merely present
[Vorhandenes] or at hand [Zuhandenes]. In theoretical work or in my
daily routine I take a thing as an random instance of the
realization of a general type: I am familiar with what a table is,
and take the table before me as a helpful, but arbitrarily chosen
case of a general type, as a That [Dass] to a familiar What [Was]. It
is in this fashion that the human may not grasp himself or his
fellow man. In his existential being there can be moments in which
his being or essence determines itself in a new way; that is, in his
"That" his "What" manifests itself in a new way. That further
means that the indicated essence of the human being is not given
in a theoretical experience of evidence such that this experience of
evidence is grounded in itself. It is rather the case that the formal
indication leads into a decision, for example, the decision to
believe, which cannot be prescribed by thought. The formally
indicated concepts extend themselves toward a consummation
which from the point of view of thought itself remains in
uncertainty. Heidegger, in his lecture on phenomenology and
theology, points out that philosophy, considered in itself, has no
relationship to theology, but that despite this theology can use the
work of philosophy, not in a direction which pre-empts decisions
about belief, but in formally indicated correction[s] philosophy
refers theology to the arena [SpieZraum] of understandable belief-
decisions (for example, concerning talk of revelation, sin,
resurrection, etc).6
How the formal indicative hermeneutic could be the logic of
philosophy itself was what Heidegger wanted to demonstrate in
the third section of Being and Time. However, this part was never
published. For some years Heidegger believed that he had found
26 Otto Poggeler

in Aristotle and in Kant's doctrine of the schematization of the

categories a path: the different dimensions of time (proper and
improper future, past, and present) were ordered in terms of
schemata; the differing interactions of these schemata make it
understandable that there is, for example, Being on hand
[Vorhandensein], at hand [Zuhandensein], and existential Being.
Aristotle, in his hermeneutic, had placed special emphasis on the
proposition, because it had not only a possible relation to the truth,
as do the question or the exclamation, but also is subject to the
alternatives of "true or false." [In contrast to] the apophantic "as"
of the proposition, which in its theoretical use takes something as
something, i.e. to be something, and thereby attributes a predicate
to a subject, Heidegger presents the hermeneutic "as," which
makes present to me out of the disclosure of my surroundings a
table or hammer prior to any more theoretical comprehension. Is
there not also an existential "as" or "in-order-to" (Umzu), in which
an existential being can exist as himself? To explain this existence
the analysis must also set forth the schema of the future: that "for
the sake of itself" in which he who exists understands himself
from an open Future. Were this actual schema of the future to be
faded into the unreal schema of the given" for-which" [Wozu], then
the surroundings thrust themselves into the foreground, in which
a manual laborer unselfconsciously pursues the practices peculiar
to his work. If this "for-which" is also suppressed and the
apophantic "as" given precedence over the hermeneutic lias," then
the theoretical attitude can emancipate itself from the merely
present. This temporal interpretation, which distinguishes the
different kinds of being in terms of their temporal status, in no
way leads to a radical historicism or relativism; it is after all
intended to make clear why, for a mathematician, two times two
is always equal to four whenever he does mathematics. However,
with respect to the constellation of the different determinations of
time as a whole, it is maintained that they must be wrested out of
the tradition and themselves remain historical. The first part of
Being and Time, the systematic construction, ought for that reason
to be brought into connection with a second part, the historical
According to his own testimony, Heidegger burned the
preparatory studies for the third part of Being and Time. This
admission of failure indicates that the starting point itself was
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 27

flawed by aporias. On the one hand, time as "temporality" was

supposed to produce in the schemata of its different dimensions a
structure of principles, from which philosophy as interpretation or
hermeneutic could grasp the multiplicity of Being and thus ground
itself. But then on the other hand, time itself in this sense is
supposed to be grasped as temporal and thereby as something
which can only be wrested out of history. Heidegger had sought
to avoid this aporia in that he assumed on the basis of the so-
called turn [Kehre] that the differentiation of Being into distinctive
determinations in general itself only took place as an historical
event and belongs in every case in the appropriate historical
constellation. Philosophical thinking must also place itself in
history in the way in which it, in other endeavors - for example,
in a poetic or literary work of art, has a partner whose task can in
turn be influenced by thought. Only this temporal-historical view
seems to lead to a hermeneutic as a logic of philosophy. Still
Heidegger himself in his latest writings referred to the fact that the
understanding of Being or the truth of Being as history presses
history itself into the foreground in an inadmissible fashion.
History is only one of the dimensions of Dasein and is therefore
usually distinguished from nature, for example, or ideal being.
History therefore ought not to be presented without further ado as
[the] fundamental dimension. 7 Being and Time retains this
relativization of the historical when, for example, the historicity of
Dasein is juxtaposed with the "within-time-ness" which is of the
same origin. However, can this fragmentary effort bring
hermeneutics to the level where Hegel's speculative and self-
reflective dialectic has made its home? It could be doubted
whether Heidegger was able, in his different ways, to hold fast to
the universality as well as the radicality of the phenomenological
starting-point. Thus hermeneutic philosophy, as it has unfolded in
the last thirty years, faces an unconquered task.

ITI. The Future as a Task

One can attribute a future to hermeneutic philosophy, it

seems, because it has asserted itself world-wide as one of the
competing philosophical directions. Certainly one cannot
comprehend that which calls itself "hermeneutical philosophy"
28 Otto Poggeler

today from the opposition of Heidegger's formal indicative

hermeneutic and Hegel's dialectic alone. (It is much more likely to
be the case that one must fear that the significance of this
opposition would not be understood). Also independent of
Heidegger and standing in opposition to him is the school of
Dilthey, in the context of which the problem of a hermeneutical
logic has been developed, [and] the rehabilitation of practical
philosophy represented as hermeneutics. Not just only some of the
human sciences, such as theology or jurisprudence, but also
medicine, for example, seem to be bound to a dogmatic distinction
(such as "healthy-sick") and in this way lead to hermeneutical
problems. As the United States was confronted in the sixties with
new problems in the areas of culture and politics, the indigenous
tradition of analytic philosophy became newly receptive to the
speculative-hermeneutical traditions of the Continent. A typical
author, such as Richard Rorty, places hermeneutic philosophy [in
the context of] the opposition of existential knowledge and the
rational discussion of public affairs. Thus do life and history,
which have led to the specifically "Western" distinction between
private existence and the public realm, appear to have subjected
philosophy to their given [ausgebildeten] forms.
The French philosophy of today, on the other hand, tends to
exaggerate the hermeneutical starting point so much that it
destroys itself. With Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, Paul Ricoeur
introduced suspicion into hermeneutics: that which is held to be
knowledge is perhaps only the mere reflection of a particular
unconscious form of life. However, Ricoeur wanted to combine
with ar~eology, as a return to pre-conscious life, a teleology,
which with Hegel's Phenomenology of Spiritsought to relocate every
possible form of life in an all-encompassing Whole and concrete
generality, even if this Whole is historical and open. In contrast to
this Jacques Derrida has protested against this integrating and
universal hermeneutic in the name of the otherness of the "Du"
and of the unconscious. Heidegger, along with HOlderlin, wanted
to hold fast to at least the "trace" [Spur] which would in leaner
times lead to other beginnings. However, Emmanuel Levinas
sought to show that this searching for that which is essential holds
fast to the metaphysical orientation on identity (even though it is
a historical identity). In truth we are not, or are not exclusively, on
the trace which is proper to the self, but rather always also on the
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 29

trace of the other, who obligates us and leads us into an ethical

dimension. Sigmund Freud spoke of this, that memory builds itself
out of those traces which have been left on the unconscious as the
result of a traumatic injury. Doesn't the existence of those
references in thought to the traces left by the other and those who
are absent lead beyond a hermeneutic which seeks an all-
encompassing whole, even if only for just this historical moment?8
Or does philosophy lose in this radical destruction and
deconstruction "the things themselves" to which Husserl had
referred phenomenology? Certainly, for example, it has been
shown that a philosophy more geometrico is not possible; but has it
also been exhibited that and how geometries are possible and
[that] Euclidean geometry perhaps has a definite sense of
achievement? The formal indicative hermeneutic is concerned with
the introduction to the different approaches to these "matters," and
so it was that Being and Time led to the simultaneously appearing
treatises of Oskar Becker. on the philosophy of mathematics and
also to Rudolf Bultmann's new theological view. The future of
hermeneutic philosophy does not lie in the anarchistic confusion
of various forms and variations of the hermeneutical view and its
self-dissolution, but rather in the appropriate transformation of the
radicality and universality of phenomenology and philosophy in
general. 9
It was Hans-Georg Gadamer, who with his major work Truth
and Method produced world-wide interest in hermeneutics. His
philosophical hermeneutic maintains the universality of under-
standing and interpretation in two directions. In one respect it is
claimed as valid that the interpretation which is set in opposition
to the universality of understanding, must be taken back in the
process of understanding and is in every case a limited case of
understanding. In the ontological sense this means, for example,
that we must indeed accept the Aristotelian objection against
Plato's connection between knowledge and ethical behavior, but
then we must agree that Plato's universality makes his the stronger
position: the idea [Idee] can be thought both from the viewpoint of
the mathematical model and the aporetic determination of virtue.
Then Gadamer dissolves the transcendental-philosophical view in
an open historical process [Wirkungsgeschichte]; thus acknowledging
that our thought arises in a manner determined by the other[ness]
of our origins or out of a dialogue. However, this Other is received
30 Otto Poggeler

in the understanding-process, and thus Gadamer can maintain the

radicality of the hermeneutic with the universality, which must in
each instance be based upon itself. It is for this reason that it is
said that the idealism of a Kant or Fichte must, in the end, triumph
over Schelling's allusion to nature or even to nature as the dark
origin in God. Hussed's account ought, given his hermeneutic
transmutation through Heidegger, to remain superior to, for
example, the unrest of a Max Scheler, who with Nietzsche and
Freud took the will to live [Lebensdrang] as antagonistic to spirit.10
Isn't it, however, the case that the philosophical hermeneutic,
which maintains the universality of the hermeneutic in a
harmonizing integration, must be converted into a hermeneutic
philosophy, which would like to do more justice to contradictions
and differentiations? Then explanation need not become the
limited case of understanding; but rather explanation and
understanding will be distinguished by an exposition [Erortern],
that ought not to be grasped one-sidedly from the viewpoint of
understanding. Explanation governs phenomena according to
determinate aspects, in that it builds and tests indicating sense-
formations (for instance, a mathematical formalism) based on their
own consistency [Konsitenz]. An immediate "understandability" of
these indicating or exploring accounts is not always given and is
also not required (Maxwell's equations are cleverer than their
author). Understanding, in contrast, finds itself in a particular
situation and is, for example, itself influenced in a historical
connection by that with which it is concerned; thus it must
examine and differentiate a pre-understanding [Vorverstandnis],
without being able to escape its immersion in its situation and the
effects thereof. Philosophizing is not a universalized hermeneutic,
but set apart from explanation and understanding as an exposition
[Erorterung]; thus it can be called "hermeneutic" only through a
delimitation from the traditional hermeneutics. Its radicality is
breached, in that it is connected to life, which surges past it,
limiting it. Philosophy must self-critically take into account that it
can be interwoven with life and its mysterious currents
[Tendenzen ].
Following Descartes, Neo-Kantianism took physics on the one
side and history on the other as model sciences. However, we
must ask ourselves today whether this dogmatic opposition of
explanation and understanding exhausts the necessary
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 31

differentiation of knowledge. For example, can this opposition

provide access to the living? Certainly man has, in the meantime,
also found here the key to the structure of living things and
therewith the possibility of a technical exploitation. Still technically
supported knowledge cannot render completely understandable
how life found, in the unimaginably long eras of evolution, its
forms and niches. The technical exploitation of life which has
become possible is as dangerous as it is useful. The physicists'
discovery of how to split the atom took shape in the drama of the
struggle to rule the world and of industrial competition. However,
one ought not to overlook the fact that it is the enormous
machinery of atomic technology, and only that, which allows men
to discover the depths of things and to see the cosmos itself with
new eyes. For the first time in his history, man knows more
definitely that life in the cosmos presupposes unlikely conditions
and in any case will endure for only a limited time. At the same
time, our earlier consolation has been taken from us; namely that
the decline of one culture can be the rise of another; the entirety of
life on this planet is in question. One may indeed admire the
wisdom with which life in its evolution has adjusted itself to its
surroundings. Today, however, man can no longer trust the play
of an evolution beyond good and evil or any history. We must
take on a responsibility which is new.
A philosophy which provided orientation would be needed
today as never before. However, the task which has been set for
philosophy today appear to be too difficult. The powers which
determine our time - science and technology, even a counter-
movement such as art - expect no help from philosophy. For
philosophy takes it as self-evident that it must fundamentally alter
itself. Since Dilthey, one recapitulates the classic development of
Western philosophy under the rubric of "metaphysics" and speaks
then of an end to metaphysics (one may follow Heidegger, who
championed this way of speaking, or conceive of Heidegger
himself as still contained in the metaphysical striving for identity).
But this end of metaphysics does not mean that those questions
which used to be called "metaphysical" no longer come up: but
rather that these questions have been re-released as unsolved and
insoluble. We do not know whether the cosmos in which we live
is unique, or perhaps even has something like a history, or
whether it is a constant pulsation. Does life necessarily appear, is
32 Otto Poggeler

it distributed through out the cosmos in many forms, or is it

improbable, perhaps even unique?
Any kind of encounter with another rational being in the
universe would decidedly alter man's self-understanding. Still we
know nothing about the possibility of such an encounter. Perhaps
we are altogether too new to this world to be able to discuss
questions such as these. Is there a tendency toward the spiritual
[Geistege] in living things in general, or has this only been achieved
on our planet in the most extraordinary of circumstances, [or] is it
unlikeliness itself? Philosophy can no longer answer such questions
by means of that speculation presented by Hegel. Therewith,
however, it is only returning to its beginning point again, to
Socrates' questions, Socrates who wanted to know what it is that
we know and what it is that we do not know. When thought
stands before such open horizons, it can very well, by starting with
particular concrete questions, begin a valid philosophizing.
This philosophizing comes to itself in that exposition which
also concerns itself with itself. This exposition can therefore be
called "hermeneutic" because it does not make the claim to be able
to place itself as the origin - for example, "fundamental
ontology"- prior to an application to particular questions. Only
from the various different points on a periphery, thus from a
scientific or humanistic starting-point, or out of an encounter with
art, can an all-embracing speculative midpoint be reached, which
presents and withdraws itself simultaneously. This hermeneutic
philosophy is not a historicism or even super-historicism, since
history, for it, is only one main feature among others belonging to
the speculative mid-point. The discussion must first of all clarify
whether it is concerned with a priori elements of our knowledge,
with constants of our being-in-the-world, with historical structures,
or metaphysical suppositions and considerations. One also ought
not to assume that European philosophy, as metaphysics, prepared
the ground of science and technology and thus built up, in a
unique historical development, today's world civilization. It might
be the case that there is something in technology itself which
belongs to humanity as an ever-present possibility, and that
therefore could have been developed even without the above-
mentioned European contribution. The so-called "anarchy of
systems" or the incommensurability of world-outlooks and
Weltanschauungen cannot be held against philosophy, since a
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 33

pluralism of starting-points belongs to it. On the other hand, the

conversation among the starting-points which have different
historical origins, thus for example between East and West,
remains to be achieved and developed as a positive possibility for
philosophy. Thus the radicality and universality of philosophizing
can only be preserved in a truncated form within a hermeneutic
philosophy. This philosophy dares not reject a question; it also
cannot break off the open process of questioning. Rather, every
starting-point must self-critically admit its preliminary nature and
its limitedness. A hermeneutic philosophy which attempts to
achieve clarity about these possibilities is a task for the future.
34 Otto Poggeler


1. The Hegelian Phenomenology of Spirit should not be understood as

undifferentiated anthropogenesis and history (as it is, for example, by Karl Marx,
Alexandre Kojeve, and Francis Fukuyama). It demonstrates in an exemplary
learning process the fundamental moments of speculative logic and must
therefore raise the question of the relationship of the concept and time.
Concerning the various connections between system and history, see my
discussion in Hegels Idee einer Phiinornenologie des Geistes (Freiburg/Miinchen:
Verlag Karl Alber, 1993).
2. Erich Rothacker has called upon Baer's fictions; see for example
Geschichtsphilosophie (Miinchen/Berlin: Verlag R. Oldenbourg, 1934), p. 88ff.
Rothacker has developed a differentiated philosophical reflection on the work of
the human sciences, but has failed to pose the fundamental questions radically
enough. See in this connection my remarks in "Rothackers Begriff der
Geisteswissenschaften," in Kulturwissenschaften: Festgabe jUr W. Perpeet, ed. H.
Liitzeler (Bonn: Bouvier-Verlag, 1980), p. 306ff.
3. See also in this connection Dya Prigogine/Isabelle Stengers: Dialog mit der
Natur (Miinchen/Ziirich: R. Piper & Co., 1980), above all p. 286. See also my
contribution "Bergson und die Phanomenologie der Zeit," in: Aratro Corona
Messoria: Festgabe jUr Gunther Pflug, ed. B. Adams et. al. (Bonn: Bouvier-Verlag,
1988), p. 153ff.
4. On Dilthey and hermeneutic philosophy see my introduction to Wilhelm
Dilthey: Das Wesen der Philosophie (Hamburg: F. Meiner, 1984). See also the essays
in the Dilthey-Jahrbuch, volumes 3 and 4 (1985 and 1987).
5. See Martin Heidegger: Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik (Frankfurt a. M.:
Vittorio Klostermann, 1983), p. 225f. See p. 421ff on formally indicative concepts.
Unfortunately Heidegger's lecture "Introduction to the Phenomenology of
Religion" of winter 1920-21 with the detailed explication of formal indicative
hermeneutics has not been edited. See in particular my essay "Heideggers
logische Untersuchungen," in: Martin Heidegger. Innen- und Aussenansichten, Forum
fur Philosophie Bad Hamburg (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1989).
6. See Martin Heidegger, Phenomenologie und Theologie (Frankfurt a. M.:
Vittorio Klostermann, 1970).
7. In remarks late in life Heidegger distinguished among three phases of his
essential intellectual development, see in this connection my references in
Heidegger und die hermeneutische Phiinomenologie (Freiburg/Miinchen: Verlag Karl
Alber, 1983), p. 139ff.
8. Concerning the conception of the "trace" as an answer to Hegel's
connection of time and concept see, O. Poggeler, Neue Wege mit Heidegger
(Freiburg u. Miinchen: Verlag Karl Alber, 1992), p. 31Sff.
9. See in this connection Phenomenology and the Natural Sciences, ed. Joseph J.
Kockelmans and T. J. Kisiel (Evanston: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1970). On the
following see Joseph J. Kockelmans, ''Hermeneutik und Ethik" in: Kommunikation
und Reflexion, ed. W. Kuhlmann and D. BOhler (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1982),
The Future of Hermeneutic Philosophy 35
10. See Hans-Georg Gadamer, Gesammelte Werke, Band 4 (Tiibingen: J.CB.
Mohr, 1987); Oskar Becker, Grosse und Grenze der mathematischen Denkweise
(Freiburg/Miinchen: Verlag Karl Alber, 1959), p. 161ff. See also in this connection
my essay "Hermeneutische und mantische Phanomenologie," in Heidegger:
Perspektiven zur Deutung seines Werks, ed. O. Poggeler (Konigstein/Ts: Athenauin,
1984), p. 321ff.

by Karl-Otto Apel
(Translated by Dale Snow)

I. Introduction

The question of the relation between hermeneutics and

practical philosophy is one which poses a challenge for the
contemporary philosophical situation. This way of posing the
problem provides one of the two stimuli for my attempt to
determine the logos of hermeneutics. The other resides in the fact
that in contemporary philosophy, a tendency has persisted for
quite some time to define the internal relationship between
hermeneutics and practical reason in such a way that one is no
longer able to identify [the element of] practical reason therein.
The difficulty is already apparent, for example, in view of the
following suggestion: on the one hand the hermeneutic
understanding is to be grasped from the pre-scientific connection of
communicative agreement in dialogue,! on the other hand as a
"sense-event" that is "transmitted by tradition" through "fusion of
horizons," which "plays itself out" like a cosmic event in nature in
such a way that, in the end, there will be no more point to
assuming a regulative principle of a deeper or better understanding.
Instead one must come to terms with the fact that, especially when
the interpreter can use the "temporal distance" between himself
and the interpretandum in the sense of a "historically effective
consciousness," one can always achieve only a "different
understanding.,,2 This is supposed to be the case because the
existential fore-structure of understanding is determined through a
pre-understanding of the world and hence by "prejudices" which can
never be fully taken into account by the critical consciousness of
the interpreter, For in the end, temporal being, which rules the
interpreter, is more powerful that his critical consciousness. So
argues, as is well known, Hans-Georg Gadamer in his grounding
of hermeneutics, inspired by Heidegger, in Truth and Method.
Already in view of this surrender of the regulative idea of a
possible progress in understanding -and that means also in the
judgment of related validity-claims in communicative agreement-it
is difficult to establish the simultaneously maintained internal
T.]. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics, 37--60.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
38 Karl-Otto Apel

connection of hermeneutics to practical philosophy and thus to ethics

and to an ethically understood politics. For is it then supposed to be
possible to uncouple ethics from the claim, indeed from the
responsibility to a binding judgment, for example, of normative claims
to validity? And does not the impossibility of this uncoupling imply
that progress in understanding a judgment's claims to truth and of
normative, finally moral, claims to rightness must be held to be
possible in principle?
It should be emphasized that of course it is not necessary to
hold that the history of the world or of humanity has a "necessary
path" or must be conceived of or prophesied as a causal or
teleologically determined process. This "meta recit" of modernity
(Lyotard) in the sense it is employed by Hegel, Comte, or Marx
may well be declared to be dead. 3 But before this hubris on the part
of reason arose, Kant had introdu~~c:Lanentirely4ifferent concept
of progress. He had, as b~g the subject at hand, already
established that it is ourinoral duty to hold a morally relevant
progress of humanity 16 be, at least in principle, possible and, in
an attitude resisting, so to speak, frustration, to again and again
reconstruct history such that its practical continuation from a moral
perspective can appear to be possible.4 A post-Heideggerian or post-
Gadamerian hernreneutic must hold this morally grounded idea of
a practical progresfs, [one] which would be internally related to a
progress in understanding, also to be a "meta recit" of modernity
which, in the meantime, has died! What would then still remain?
Gadamer at least does not wish to give up the idea of moral
obligation. For him and his German followers there still remains
a neo-Aristotelian ethic with neo-pragmatic and Wittgensteinian
undertones. In its name one could explain how there still can be an
ethic of phronesis and of the commonly accepted (Wittgenstein would
say: the "practices" of a "form of life," which determine
respectively the language game and to that extent also the fore-
structure of our pre-understanding of the world), even if there can
be no ethic with a claim to universal validity and thus a claim to
ground the progress of humanity. In this sense Gadamer would
continue to hold the obligation of a contemporary valid
understanding for us (for whom?) to be possible, a hermeneutic,
so to speak, whose internal connection with practical reason should
be uncoupled from the regulative idea of a universally valid
progress in understanding and judgments of claims to validity.
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 39

It is in this apparently moderate direction of the "hermeneutic-

pragmatic" turn that something of a liberal- conservative synthesis
seems to be emerging in the Federal Republic of Germany and the
Anglo-Saxon countries today.5 For me this synthesis would be, as
I have already indicated, no longer acceptable either as a basis for
a hermeneutic or as a basis for an ethic. The reasons for this
disapproval will be laid out later, but in the present connection, I
can already hint at them by referring to the radicalization of the
post-Heideggerian hermeneutic by the so-called "post-modernists."
What is their situation with respect to the intemal relationship
between hermeneutics and practical philosophy?
The first thing to be noted about the post-modernists who rely
upon Heidegger and Nietzsche is a subversive style which cannot
be rendered compatible with Gadamer's conservativism which ties
hermeneutics to the received tradition - and to that extent also to
Plato and Kant. This becomes clear in the latest discussion between
Gadamer and Derrida in Paris in 1981.6 Like the later Heidegger,
Derrida wants to give up ties to the received tradition of western
metaphysics and also the connection to "logos" and therewith,
consistently, even ties to the discipline of "hermeneutics." Here,
apparently, the concern is no longer with "interpretation" at all, let
alone with a "holding in validity" [in Geltung halten] (Gadamer),
but rather with "deconstruction" in an extension of that which
Heidegger - still in the name of an existential hermeneutics -
called "destruction" of traditional ontology?
But, even according to Heidegger's demand to "think" the
meaning of Being that, due to the ontic-ontological difference,
escapes from us in the "event" of the "clearing-concealing"
[lichtend-verbergenden] disclosure of world-meaning - finally
thinking this meaning of temporal Being in its difference from the
entity [Seienden] and from the abstract "entity-ness" [Seiendheit] -
even this demand of a hermeneutic of Being Derrida's deconstruction
would like to question as still being a product of the concealed will
to "logocentric metaphysics," the will to the "presence" of the
"signifie." This is supposed to be achieved with the help, so to
speak, of a post-structuralist semiotic of the infinite "play" of
"differance," which sets free the symbolic sense, but at the same
time "displaces", so that only the infinite play of the
"dissemination" of the significants remains for us - the always
fruitless attempt, as it were, to discover and root out the "trace" of
40 Karl-Otto Apel

the transcendental significatum - in search of the "archi-ecriture"

in the "ecriture" that for its part takes the place of the presence of
the world.
Where, in this case, could the normative obligation of symbolic
sense and its internal connection to practical philosophy lie - if
we assume that this question or its formulation were not also to be
deconstructed? It would seem that according to Derrida there
remains only the leap, the "rupture," in the attempt to understand
the claim of a foreign symbolic sense and - as an equivalent for
the intersubjectively binding character of meaning - the aesthetic
suggestion of the "grand style," which manifests itself in Nietzsche
as will to power.8
For Heidegger himself there remained the quasi-norm of the
"event," the "consignment" [Zuschickung] of Being in "the fate of
Being" [Seingeschick], once he distanced himself from the brutality
of the will to power as being itself grounded in the metaphysics of
subjectivity. However, we can no more speak here of normative
bindingness in the sense of practical reason than we can for
Nietzsche's posing of values through the will to power. And
through even more careful consideration, it can be seen that for the
late Heidegger, just as in Being and Time, the logos of an inter-
subjectively valid understanding and claims to validity of
normative judgments are replaced by the immediate connection of
the "conscience" to the "silent voice of Being." Essential to this
thought from the beginning is the questioning of the logos of
intersubjective validity through temporal Being. It, and not some
kind of principle of reason, is what man must "correspond" to,
whether it is in the project [Entwurj] of one's own Being or in the
grasping of the kairos- thus 1933 - or finally in "devotion" with
respect to the "fate of Being." The ultimate result of this kind of
thinking is the suspicion that the logos of philosophy, reason, is to
be thought of as itself an epochal event in the history of Being -
that is, in the revealing-concealing temporalization [Zeitigung] of
How is this challenge to be met? How can one pronounce as
valid, or even be able to understand the claim that reason, as
principle of validity, is itself a contingent historical product, a
function of time?
It seems that here reason, just as it is for Nietzsche in the end
- from the standpoint of the "other of reason" - must undergo
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 41
a critique, not from the standpoint of the will to power, but rather
from the standpoint, so to speak, of temporal Being. And this
paradox of a radical critique of reason, in which reason functions
merely as object and no longer as subject of critique, has in the
meantime established itself as one of the fundamental char-
acteristics of post-modem thought.
In the light of these obvious paradoxes it can be seen that even
Gadamer's apparently moderate hermeneutic has, regardless of its
conservative attitude toward the tradition of metaphysics, already
crossed the Rubicon of post-rational "thought" - whatever that
may be. For Gadamer too, along with the late Heidegger, wants
the condition for the possibility of understanding - and the
Kantian formulation suggests, the condition also for the validity of
understanding - to be seen only in the historicity of understanding;
that is, in the context-dependency of the always "other [different]
understanding." Precisely in the admission of this dependency on
history, not as a hindrance to objectivity but rather simply as a
condition of the constitution of sense, does Gadamer want to see
the overcoming of historicism, the overcoming of the difficulties in
which Dilthey remained entangled because he held fast to the
methodological ideal of objectivity.9
Gadamer does not deny the difficulties, even the paradoxical
nature of the solution to the historicity problem which he
champions. On the contrary, he explicitly discusses this in Truth
and Method, and this fact distinguishes him from the unconcerned
- or rather, from the provocatively stylistically employed -
irrationalism of the "deconstruceurs." Gadamer takes on Hegel at
a decisive point in his work, Hegel who, as Gadamer admits and
even emphasizes, had thoroughly recognized the historicity of our
thinking, but still wanted at the same time to "mediate" it with the
claim to the universal validity of thought. The uniqueness of
Gadamer's assessment of Hegel consists, on the one hand, in his
holding Hegel's "absolute mediation of history and truth" for the
unsurpassable position of reason to which there is no alternative, which
from the standpoint of reflection is "not to be overturned." Yet on
the other hand he is convinced that the actual truth is against it,
that in the end the demand of the young Hegelians, Kierkegaard,
Feuerbach and the young Marx, for a self-overcoming of the
philosophy which found its completion in Hegel was somehow
justified. to
42 Karl-Otto Apel

This uniquely ambivalent and finally unargued-for assessment

of Hegel as the absolute mediator of logos and history makes it
understandable, yes even has as a necessary consequence, that
Gadamer no longer holds a paradox-free solution to the historicity
problem to be possible or even necessary on the level of
argumentation. Since he sees the "dialectical superiority of
reflective philosophy" in Hegel as unsurpassable and formally
irrefutable, he seeks a way out of the dilemma, to a certain extent,
by hacking through the Gordian knot. He explains the dialectical
superiority of reflective philosophy in general as simply a "formal
(false) appearance.',ll This means that Gadamer now employs the
reproach of "sophistical" not only against Hegel, but rather against
all reflective philosophy and at the same time employs mere hints
about the factual success of the refuted opposing positions in history
as, so to speak, arguments against the validity of arguments. With
respect to the problem of historicity, that reads as follows:

Heinrich Rickert, who in 1920 thoroughly refuted "life philosophy"

through argument, was unable to come anywhere near the influence
of Nietzsche and Dilthey, which was beginning to grow at that time.
However clearly one demonstrates the inner contradictions of all
relativist views, it is as Heidegger has said: all these victorious
arguments have something about them that suggests that they are
attempting to bowl one over. However cogent they may seem, they
still miss the main point. In making use of them one is proved right,
yet they do not express any superior insight of any value. That the
thesis of skepticism or relativism ":futes itself to the extent that it claims
to be true is an irrefutable argument. But what does it achieve? The
reflective argument that proves successful here falls back on the
arguer, in that it renders the truthfulness of all reflection suspect. It
is not the reality of skepticism or of truth-dissolving relativism, but
the claim to truth of all formal argument that is affected.U

This appears to be, I must confess, a very peculiar argument

for many reasons, of which I will mention here only the most
important in the following order:
1. First, I wish to ask in general: how could one know or how
could one as a philosopher show that "irrefutable arguments" fail
to address the "real problem"? Perhaps by a reference to the factual
success of the refuted position; for example, by reference to the
"reality of skepticism or truth-dissolving relativism"? But this
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 43

seems to end in the capitulation of argumentative reason and to open

the door to purely rhetorical suggestion and dogmatic assertion.
Who at present would contest the victorious "reality" of skepticism
and relativism - if not of nihilism? But should that bring to a halt
every further discussion and render those assertions
2. However, I would like to return from this general position
to the concrete bone of contention of philosophical hermeneutics:
How does Gadamer know that the refutation of relativism-historicism
as a position that one cannot hold without self-contradiction must
remain unfruitful and without consequences? The following
conjecture might be expressed: Gadamer sees himself forced into
this questionable verdict because he absolutizes certain historical
paradigms of an apparently "dialectically victorious" philosophy of
reflection; for example, on the one hand the Hegelian paradigm, not
at all uncriticizable, of a speculative-dialectical, total or absolute
mediation of history and truth, and on the other, that of the neo-
Kantians, a merely formal reflective philosophy which in fact does not
take into account the moment of the historicity of knowledge
recognized by Hegel.
Is it then the case, especially from the viewpoint of a
philosophical hermeneutic, that there can be no alternative to these
two versions of a "reflective philosophy"? Is it settled that for us
today only three alternatives are conceivable? Either:
(1) the attempt, with Hegel, to "suspend" the historical
relativity of knowledge by calling upon "absolute knowledge," the
divine standpoint, so to speak (or, as the case may be, the
standpoint of the end of history); or
(2) the attempt, with Kant, in purely formal reflection to
maintain the claim to validity of knowledge, without taking the
historical conditioning of the content of the "pre-understanding"
and "prejudices" into account at all; or
(3) the capitulation of self-consistent argumentation, which makes
a virtue of the aporia of historicism-relativism and gives up all
claims of philosophical arguments to universal validity, in that
logos itself is understood as a contingent product of the history of
The following will be an attempt to show that these three
positions do not exhaust the possibilities of determination (or
abandonment) of the logos of philosophy and especially of
44 Karl-Otto Apel

hermeneutics; that rather it is possible to do justice to the insight

into the historicity of understanding without giving up the
universal claim to validity of knowledge in general and especially
the claim to a progressively better or deeper understanding in the
sense of a normative hermeneutic. Therewith would also be indicated
-at least sketchily- that only a normatively oriented hermeneutic,
one which holds a progress of understanding and judgments of claims
to validity to be possible, can do justice - as Gadamer, among
others, has maintained - to the internal relationship of hermeneutics
with practical philosophy.

II. The Logos of Hermeneutics in the View of a

Transformed Transcendental Philosophy

Before undertaking to answer the questions which have been

raised by these theses, a few remarks will be made about what
should now be seen as uncontestable insights of the hermeneutic
turn in contemporary philosophy, and about the transcendental-
philosophical limitation of its scope. To this end a quasi-
autobiographical retrospective will be offered as a beginning.

(A) The Insights of the "Hermeneutic Turn" of Contemporary Philosophy

and the Transcendental-Philosophical Limitation of Hermeneuticism

Since my dissertation on Heidegger I have followed the

program of a transformation of the transcendental philosophy in the
sense of an anthropology of knowledge and, soon thereafter, in the
sense of a "transcendental hermeneutic."13 In the beginning the
emphasis on historicity, and in this sense the concrete dependence
of thought on language, was entirely in the foreground, as for
example in my book Die Idee der Sprache in der Tradition des
Humanismus von Dante bis ViCO. 14 After reading Gadamer's Truth
and Method, however, I underwent a gradual shift of emphasis in
favor of the theme of the transcendental- philosophical. And since the
encounter with the post-modernists, and especially with Rorty's
program of "de-transcendentalization,,,15 I have been convinced of
the necessity of a "retranscendentalization."
That does not mean, however, that the insights connected with
the post-Heideggerian hermeneutic ought to or could be
abandoned. I would like to refer to these insights here at least in
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 45

outline, for I would like to make as clear as possible what need not
be contentious in a dispute between the defenders of IIre-tran-
scendentalization" and the defenders of de-transcendentalization"

or deconstruction."

1. As has already·been indicated, the insistence on consistently

indisputable and therefore indispensable universal claims to the
validity of argumentation does not mean that one must deny that
the content of our knowledge - and thus also for example the
hermeneutic understanding of texts - is always already pred-
icated upon a IIpre-understanding," in which the historical
embeddedness and the "event"-character of the understanding is
manifested. Here it is rather the question about the methodologically
relevant relationship of two moments which both determine the logos
of hermeneutics: the historical conditioning on the one side and the
claim to truth as a claim of universal validity on the other.
2. The first to recognize this relationship and the necessity of
a mediation of both moments was, in my view, Hegel. Yet he
wanted to offer the concrete mediation as absolute"; that is, [as a]

definitive mediation of the transcendental form and the historically

conditioned content of understanding from the standpoint, as it
were, of the "ex-post-reflection" at the end of all history: that is as a
systematic comprehension within the framework of speculative
philosophy, and not merely as a philosophical grounding of a
possible cooperation and complementing of philosophy and the
specialized sciences of historical hermeneutics. In contrast to this,
in my view, a philosophical hermeneutic must realize - and this,
of course, with a universal claim to philosophical validity - that the
concrete hermeneutic understanding, all empirical knowledge, must
take its standpoint in the historical situation; and that means under
the presupposition of the aprioris of facticity and of historicity
3. From this arises an alternative to the Hegelian mediation of
form and content by speculative thought, namely the "hermeneutic
circle" as the basic model of all concrete, situation-dependent
understanding. With Heidegger I can accept and even emphasize
that all concrete understanding of the world cannot depend upon
"avoiding" this circle - the circle between the historically
conditioned pre-understanding of the world and the corrective recoil
function of the interpretandum - but rather depends upon
correctly "entering into" the circle.16 However, this knowledge of
46 Karl-Otto Apel

the philosophical hermeneutic can itself be expressed with a

universal, that is transcendental, claim to validity. And it allows
still another question to be added, which is to be answered at least
partially in philosophically valid terms, the question: how does one
correctly enter the circle in the case of the critical-hermeneutical
4. The addenda thus far articulated, aimed toward the
recognition of the hermeneutic circle, indicate the central problem
of a transcendental hermeneutic or of a mediation between
philosophical hermeneutics and concrete hermeneutical under-
standing. In the post-Heideggerian philosophy, it appears that the
virtually unreflective opinion has formed that the affirmation of a
hermeneutic circle, and on the other side the reliance on the
universal validity of the transcendental presuppositions of
argumentation, that is, of all thought, present irreconcilable
paradigms of philosophy between which a choice must be made.
But this can hardly be correct, if only because in that case one
could not even refer to the insight into the unavoidability of the
hermeneutic circle as a valid philosophical insight. But above and
beyond that it is also possible to say something universally valid
about the methodologically correct way to enter the hermeneutic circle.
And it is only in this answer to a question dear to Heidegger's
heart, yet not posed by him, that in the spirit of a transcendental
hermeneutic the possibility of an alternative to Hegel's total
mediation of the form and content of understanding must be
demonstrated. This point will be returned to below.
5. If one were to acknowledge the program of a cooperation
and mutual complementarity of the (transcendental-) philosophical
hermeneutic and the empirical-hermeneutical sciences, then
disagreement should no longer be necessary about the fact that
hermeneutical understanding -like all empirical knowledge - is
incompletable and always falsifiable, thus fallible and open to
revision. This is not to admit, contrary to current opinion, that
there can be no infallible insights of a transcendental-philosophical
hermeneutic. For challenging this is the fact that concepts like
empirical testing, falsification, fallibility, etc., are only under-
standable to us so long as certain implied presuppositions are held
to be universally valid: for example, that there is truth and that
we, on the path of the elimination of the false, can get closer to the
universal consensual (konsensflihigen] truth.
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 47
6. More interesting than the general, epistemological admission
of the incompletability and fallibility of all empirical knowledge
would, naturally, be an answer to the question of the relationship
of the hermeneutical methods of the humanities and social sciences
to the methods of the so-called exact sciences - thus the mathe-
matical natural sciences and also the quasi-nomological, technologically
relevant social sciences. Unfortunately, here I cannot speak in detail
about this large area of inquiry, to which I have devoted many
works,17 but would like to permit myself a few appropriate
A noteworthy and regrettable consequence of the post-
Heideggerian hermeneutic seems to consist of the fact that in
recent times all interest seems to have been lost in the decades-
long efforts at detailed distinctions and mediations between the
possible methods of knowledge as well as between their
fundamental questions and knowledge-determining interests. On
the one hand there is a tendency to lump the hermeneutic methods
together with all other scientific methods of the Cartesian "logos of
the framework [Gestell),' and, together with the "logocentric
metaphysics," subject them to deconstruction. On the other hand
there is a tendency, particularly as a result of the Anglo-Saxon
appropriation of Heidegger, Gadamer, and the post-Kuhnian "new
philosophy of science," to apply the concept "hermeneutics" in a
positive sense to the methodology of all sciences. One thereby still
overlooks, just as once happened in the program of the nomological
unified sciences, the decisive difference between a scientific form of
knowledge, of which the hermeneutic presuppositions involve only
the side of the subject, and the truly hermeneutical sciences, which
presuppose a communicative relationship to their object and
therefore must also on the side of the object, or better expressed:
the subject- object, presuppose and understand speech, intentions,
conventions, traditions, understanding, pre-understanding, etc. 1S
Today there is for the most part agreement only that one
simply must assume for all sciences those restrictions on the older
ideal of objectivity, of ability to progress, and even of the capacity
for truth, which-one earlier, in any case, held to be unavoidable
only in the case[s] of the "soft," art-related Geisteswissenschaften or
"humanities." But little of value appears in the contemporary
tendency toward the de-differentiation, if not the obsolescence, of
epistemology and scientific theory under the sign of the pan-
48 Karl-Otto Apel

hermeneutic. It would be much better to hold fast to the results of

the older differentiations, above all those of the anthropology of
knowledge and [of] the transcendental-pragmatic appeal [Rekurs]
to different human questions and fundamental knowledge-guiding
interests. 19
7. In this connection only a brief word [will be offered] about
that unique type of social-psychological science, in which the
hermeneutical methods are mediated with causal or functional
explanatory methods: not however, as in the case of the
technologically relevant social sciences, in the sense that the
understanding enters the service of nomological explanation and
prediction. But rather [it is] the reverse, in that the causal and
functional explanation of more or less unconscious or forced
relationships of determination finally enter into the service of the
deepening of the hermeneutic understanding (and therewith
human communication and self-understanding): namely, those
which have taken the model of psychoanalysis and the critical
emancipatory social sciences oriented toward the critique of
Doubtless the methodological difficulties in these areas are still
much greater than in the classical domains of the natural sciences
or humanities respectively. In addition, the models presently
available for the mediation of understanding and explanation
previously referred to - psychoanalysis and Marxist or neo-
Marxist ideology critique - are anything but unproblematic. This
has led on the one hand to a weariness with or discreditation of
the entire project; on the other hand, to a broadening and
subsequent differentiation in the sense, for example, of the critical-
hermeneutic oriented sciences of the rational reconstruction of
human competences on the one side, and functional system
theories on the other.21 However, as involved and complex as the
relationships in the human sciences have become, it still appears
established that it must lie in the interests of practical reason to
make the complex relationships of social integration and social
evolution, insofar as they are not transparent for communication,
as understandable as possible. Human beings then retain a chance
to come to agreement about their social systems and institutions
and retain, relative to them, the initiative, as it were, in the sense
of responsible political action. This does not imply that man could
ever be able to expect the total transparency of human relationships
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 49

from the sciences which can be put in the service of hermeneutic

understanding. But this in no way implies that the methodological
approaches to be mediated could not stand under the regulative
idea of the deepening of human self-understanding and therewith
the possibility of responsible action.
8. This last observation is valid in particular for the
remarkably ambivalent achievements of the structuralist and post-
structuralist semiotics if observed from the viewpoint of a
transcendental-hermeneutic semiotics.'12 Here also the concern is with
insights into anonymous - and to that extent not immediately
intentionally understandable - structures and processes, which
prima facie define a limit to the possibility of the transparency of
human self-understanding and communicative understanding. Yet
the provocative talk of "the end of humanity" employed by those
who thematize the anonymous structures and processes as
determinants of human relationships must, particularly coming
from them, sound a priori paradoxical. For insofar as their
investigations achieve valid results at all, the same holds true for
them which must also be said about the results of psychoanalysis
and systems theory: the valid results can have meaning at all only
as an indirect broadening and deepening of human self-
understanding and communicative agreement on responsible
In this sense one can, for example - with Peirce and with
Derrida - gladly admit that the processes of human knowledge,
as processes of the sign-mediated interpretation of signs, are as
such empirically incompletable and, because of the sense-
constitutive difference between the singular act of sign use and the
repeatable model of significant form, are subject to an infinite Spiel-
Geschehen of differential sense shifting ("differance") and of
"dissemination." Still it does not follow from this that the
hermeneutically relevant processes of sign-interpretation are not,
each according to its methodological approach, capable of being
subsumed under the "regulative idea" of a "transcendental
significatum" (an ultimate logical interpretant, as Peirce would
say).23 Still more holds true: contrary to the -to a certain extent
semiotistical - claim of Derrida, an intersubjectively valid agreement
about meaning must not only be possible, but rather also already
actual. For without this transcendental-hermeneutical
presupposition the insight claimed by Derrida with respect to
50 Karl-Otto Apel

"differance" and "dissemination" of "signifiants" would of course

also not be thinkable. At least the "differance" of the "signifiants"
must also be thematized by Derrida as "signifie" and to that extent
brought to a "logocentric presence."
With these last remarks I would like to indicate - just as
in.the conflict with Gadamer's unargumentative critique of
reflective philosophy, that I, to a certain extent as a pedantic
philosopher, wish to hold fast to the principle of avoiding
perJormative self-contradiction as the limit of all possible critique of
reason or "logos" - or of "deconstruction," as the case may be.
The starting point of an attempt to determine the logos of
hermeneutics is now revealed to arise out of this principle.

(B). Attempt to determine the logos of a normative-critically oriented


The following attempt, which is limited to the exposition of

theses, begins from a presupposition taken to be, within the limits
of a transformed semiotic or speech-pragmatic transcendental
philosophy, not surpassable [hintergehbarl through a reflexive final
ground. 24 In the present connection this can be advanced only as
a claim and presented as a starting point over against relativistic-
historicistic hermeneuticism, not to speak of deconstructive semioticism.
Thesis (1): Logos, within the limits of a semiotically
transformed transcendental philosophy, should not be understood
as the logos of the "framework [Gestell),' which was, to some
extent, correctly relativized by Heidegger and Derrida. That is, we
are not speaking of the mind-set of the subject-object relation of
the technical-scientific accessibility of the world, but rather that
wider logos of the intersubjective, speech-communicative agreement
concerning validity c1aims,25 which is always already presupposed
in this concretization. It must be presupposed concerning this
speech-logos that it cannot be reduced to a contingent result of the
temporalization of Being and thus to the history of Being, since it
is that which could make valid statements about the history of
Being possible in the first place. (To this extent it is possible to
reproach Heidegger's reproach of the forgetting of Being with the
forgetting of logos).
Thesis (2): As to presuppositions of the speech-logos that are
not disputable without performative self-contradiction and
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 51

therefore must be always already pragmatically implied on the

level of argumentative discourse - exactly four universal claims to
validity and the presupposition of their redeemability in principle
can be established:26
(i) the claim to verbally expressible and to that extent
intersubjectively communicable sense;
(ii) for propositional statements, the assertorically raised claim to
intersubjectively consensual truth;
(iii) for the verbal expression of intentional states of subjects, the
claim to truthfulness or sincerity (which cannot be assured through.
arguments, but only through. behavioral praxis);
(iv) for speech-acts as communicative acts with appellative force,
the claim - that is also always already implicitly raised for the
assertive acts - to normative, finally ethically justifiable - correctness
or rightness.
Thesis (3): Concerning the necessary acknowledgement of
these universal presuppositions of argumentative discourse - and not
only about the factual "agreement" with regard to contingent
background presuppositions with respect to pre-reflexive "being-in-
the-world" or the "life-world"27 respectively - there can and must
exist in a philosophical hermeneutic an ultimate "agreement"
This thesis contains the decisive step of a "re-
transcendentalization" of the philosophical hermeneutic which can
protect it against falling victim to the historicism-relativism of the
post-Heideggerian hermeneuticism. In this connection it must be
recognized that the famous Heideggerian analysis of the "fore-
structure" of Dasein that in ''being-with'' the others "already"
understands itself as being-in-the-world, which makes our
understanding a priori dependent on the "thrownness" in the
"there" and to that extent [also] on the historically contingent
"Seinsgeschick," has from the beginning neglected an essential
aspect of the fore-structure. It has forgotten to take account of the
presuppositions of argumentation, presented in theses (1) and (2),
which make a philosophical analysis of the existential structure of
being-in-the-world - an analysis with a claim to universal truth
- possible at all in the first place. In this overstepping of the
conditions for the validity of one's own analysis lies the logos-
forgetfulness of the Heideggerian philosophy. Since then it has
become customary to trivialize the a priori of reflection on validity
52 Karl-Otto Apel

in favor of the supposedly in every respect deeper a prioris of the

pre-reflective, sense-constitution of the life-world.
Were the a priori of the speech-logos in the sense of theses (1)
through (3) acknowledged, then it would become possible to
introduce a methodologically relevant principle of philosophical
hermeneutics, one that shows that the pedantic respect for the
formal-reflexive, undebatable presuppositions of argumentation
need not, as Gadamer suggests, remain without consequence and
unfruitful. In one sense, perhaps meant by Gadamer, this would
indeed be the case, if on the level of philosophical discourse one
could recognize the presuppositions as undebatable, but at the
same time and in spite of that, have to recognize on the level of
the concrete interpretation of texts the total dependency of
understanding on the always historically conditioned pre-
understanding, and to that extent must acknowledge only an
"other (or different) understanding" without a view toward a
normatively regulated progress as truth in the sense of historicism-
relativism. As will now be shown, however, this is precisely not
the case.
Thesis (4): If the introduced presuppositions of all
philosophical argumentation must be acknowledged as an ultimate
logos-apriori, then this means at the same time that this logos- apriori
must also be recognized as a part of that a priori offacticity of being-
in-the-world (Heidegger) which today is always presupposed by us.
However, that means that every attempt at a critical hermeneutic
reconstruction of the evolution of culture or of social or spiritual
history, as the case may be, stands a priori under the regulative
principle of having to understand its own presuppositions in the
sense of the logos-apriori as a possible and factual result of
evolution or of history respectively. This I have called the principle
of self-catching up [Selbsteinholungsprinzip] of the critical-hermeneutic,
or, to speak with Habermas, of the reconstructive sciences. A little
explanation is necessary in order to clarify the methodological
scope of this principle.
(4.1): My appeal to the four validity claims of argumentation
and also my application of these argumentative aprioris to the
reconstruction of the evolution of culture is decisively indebted, as can
easily be seen, to the Habermasian conception of a universal speech-
pragmatic or the reconstruction of human competences.29 On the other
hand I have from the very beginning protested against Habermas'
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 53

belittling or devaluation of his own philosophical insights, in that

in his concept of reconstructive sciences he did not wish to make a
distinction between the transcendental-pragmatic reconstruction of the
ultimate presuppositions of argumentation - thus of the
philosophical logos - on the one hand and an empirical- hypothetical
reconstruction of cultural evolution or concrete history on the other
hand. 30 Habermas here still seems to share with Gadamer and the
older Frankfurt school the assumption of the young Hegelians that
after Hegel'S completion of theoretical metaphysics something like
the self-suspension of philosophy - for example in the sense of a
fusion with the critical and interpretative social sciences - is at hand.
I hold this view to be untenable, for a variety of reasons, of which
only a few can be presented here.
(a) If one shares with Habermas the view that in the post-
Hegelian age it is essential to establish a cooperation between
philosophy and the special sciences, which also foresees mutual
support and correction of results in terms of a coherence principle,
then one must insist that the validity claims and the related testing
methods of philosophy and the special sciences - for example, the
critical-reconstructive social sciences - be carefully distinguished.
For only under this precondition is it possible that the
convergences and the divergences of the complementary
approaches may be methodologically relevant. 31 This means,
among other things, the following: mutual (reciprocal) corrections
of philosophy and the critical social sciences can never take place
directly - that is, through confrontation of results on the same
level of discourse - but rather only in such a way that the
divergent results stimulate each other to correction with their own
methodological means. Philosophy must therefore - especially
when it wants to cooperate with the special sciences - hold fast
to its own unique final grounding function, not in order to practice
a hierarchical patronage (such rhetorical appeals to modesty rest,
in my view, on an ideological confusion of methodological and
sociological or psychological categories), but rather in order to
retain its worth as a conversational partner for the individual
This can be illustrated with an example: it makes no sense and
is precisely what cannot be of help to the special sciences if one,
like Habermas, suggests that the necessary presuppositions of
argumentation mentioned above are to be empirically tested by the
54 Karl-Otto Apel

questioning of competent speakers, analogous to the method of

linguistics. For in order even to understand what "empirical
testing" is supposed to mean, one must at least presuppose the
validity of those presuppositions of argumentation. And it is this
transcendental-pragmatic proof of the function of presuppositions - and
not an empirical confirmation - that is capable of distinguishing
the universally valid pronouncements of philosophy from the
hypothetical universals of empirical science; for example,
Chomsky's universals of the inborn language learning capacity of
human beings.
(b) If it is supposed to be possible to discover a normative
standard of measure for the grounding of critical-reconstructive
social sciences from the universal validity-claims of human discourse
- something that I along with Habermas hold to be possible and
necessary - then it is not enough to take the empirically
reconstructible validity-claims of the communication found in the
life-world of human beings as a point of departure. For these,
because of their relativity to historically conditioned forms of life,
are not uncircumventable [nichthintergehbarl. Yes they can even, as
Max Weber has shown, be called into question in the post-
Enlightenment age as non-redeemable (uneinlosbar) in principle.
Rather it is far more imperative to take recourse to the consistently
undebatable presuppositions of discourse qua argumentation, which are
upheld even by the skeptic and relativist as long as he argues, and
to "reconstruct" these as the transcendental-pragmatic ultimate
presuppositions of every empirical-hermeneutic reconstruction of
social and spiritual history. When this is done one can, as was
maintained in thesis (4), presuppose the transcendental-pragmatic
reconstructed logos-apriori as a whole, as well as in the sense of the
principle of self-catching up, as a quasi-teleological presupposition of
an empirical-hermeneutic reconstruction of social and spiritual history.
And therein lies the then methodologically relevant bridge from
the transcendental-pragmatic reconstruction of human competences
to critical-hermeneutical, empirically testable reconstructions of
social and spiritual history.
Thesis (5): The principle of self-catching up of the critical-
hermeneutic or reconstructive sciences provide a post-Hegelian
substitute, so to speak, for the metaphysically presupposed and to that
extent dogmatic (and that means not finally groundable via a
transcendental-pragmatic) teleology of the speculative philosophy of
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 55

history of Hegelian or orthodox Marxist ongm. The

methodologically relevant difference between the speculative meta-
physical presupposition of a teleology of history and the minimal
teleology of those reconstructive sciences grounded through the
self-referential principle lies in the following: the former
presupposes a causal and/ or teleological determinism with respect
to the empirically discoverable path of history; the latter, on the
other hand, presupposes only that an incontestable condition of
arguing, from which we can and must today take our point of
departure, has factually been reached through the course of
history, and that over and above this the necessarily postulated
and contra-factually anticipated ideal relations of communication
in discourse can and should be a goal toward which we aim. With
respect to the causally conditioned dynamic of the historical
process, no necessity will be presupposed. It ought to be obvious
that thereby Kant's ethically grounded postulate of progress (see
above, page 34 f.) receives its transcendental-philosophical
Thesis (6): The postulate of self-catching up of the critical-
hermeneutic or reconstructive sciences contains the transcendental-
hermeneutic answer to the question raised, but not made explicit
by Heidegger: how one properly enters into the "hermeneutic
circle" of understanding of the historically conditioned situation of
The principle implies, for example, among other things, the
following methodological postulate: the "preconcept of perfection"
(Gadamer) with respect to the evaluative judgment of the
interpretandum is valid as long as the interpreter finds grounds for
being able to understand the validity claims of the interpretandum
in the sense of the differentiating claims to universal validity of
human speech as well grounded. Thus, these claims could be taken
as possible contributions to an internal progressive history of the
knowledge of scientific truth in the widest possible sense, or as
possible contributions to the internal progressive history of the
judgment of normative correctness in the sense of the evolution of
legal or moral consciousness, or as possible contributions to the
internal progressive history of the truthful or authentic self-expression
of human subjectivity - in particular, in works of art. In all three
dimensions of possible historical reconstruction, in the sense of
rational reconstruction, the interpreter is compelled and justified,
56 Karl-Otto Apel

precisely in the sense of the "preconcept of perfection," in

understanding the interpretandum even through reflexive
overtaking. And that means to understand it in certain respects
better than it, or its author as the case may be, is capable of
understanding itself. That does not rule out the possibility that the
interpretandum may be superior to the interpreter as a source of
possible information. It has rather to be postulated that the
tentative exchange between the reflexive, superseding under-
standing and the readiness to learn is itself an aspect of the
hermeneutic circle, which on the whole already received its formal
a priori regulation through the postulate of self-catching up.
However, to the degree that the interpreter is not capable of
understanding the interpretandum in terms of the internal
reconstruction of the evolution of culture in the sense of the three
aforementioned dimensions of progress, but rather has good
reason for the assumption that the limit of such understanding is
conditioned through external causes, to that extent there arises
from our principle of reconstruction the license and even the
methodological impetus for the transition to causal and functional
(for example systems-theoretical) methods of explanation. Under
certain circumstances this amounts to the attempt at analyzing
pathological cases of cultural decline or regression. 32 Even in these
cases, however, the "preconcept of perfection" as it is characteristic
for the hermeneutical sciences remains valid in such a form as it
is employed for example by Imre Lakatos for the reconstruction of
the history of science.33 This means that reconstruction must
preserve the advantage, in the hermeneutical sense, to be in the
position to maximize the amount of internally understandable,
rational reconstruction and minimize the element of external
Thesis (7): The postulate of self-catching up of a
critical-normative hermeneutic is thoroughly compatible with the
presupposition - with Heidegger - that the possibility of true and
false assertions has a pre-condition in the "revealing-concealing" world-
sense-disclosure in language - or more precisely: in the various
languages. (With Gadamer one could further illuminate the scope
of this conditional relationship through the following suggestion:
Since every proposition could be seen as an answer to a possible
question, the issue arises for a hermeneutical reconstruction of the
evolution of culture, about which questions can be asked in this
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 57

culture and which cannot. About this, however, it appears that the
world-sense-disclosure is a priori decisive.) By the same token the
self-referential principle is not compatible with taking the history
of the world- sense-disclosure and the history of the knowledge of
truth which is in a certain sense dependent upon it, as an a-rational
temporal happening, that is, as exclusive of a rationally
reconstructible progress. It rather forces the conclusion that there
are long-term self-sustaining processes of learning - in all three
dimensions of the possible rational reconstruction of cultural
evolution - that playa decisive role in determining which world-
sense-disclosures come into being in the history of language.34
Hence, we are led finally to the following conclusion: even if
the actual insights of the post-Heideggerian hermeneutic are taken
as seriously as possible, there is no reason to call into question the
specific presuppositions of the logos of understanding, or to
"deconstruct" them along with the technical-scientific logos of the
"framework." Even if the greatest possible realm of application is
permitted to the temporal and historically conditioned "play" of
sense-differentiation in the area of the interpretation of texts and we are
clear about the fact that we will never achieve full self-transparency
through critical hermeneutics, still there is no reason to ignore the
regulative ideas of a normatively conditioned progress. These
already preconfigure all understanding in that it must correspond
to a practical need of communicative understanding and the
judgment of claims to validity. Also, in the final analysis, through
these validity claims are grounded - as demonstrated - the
regulative principles of possible progress in understanding, and among
them that of a progress in the rational reconstruction of a moral
competence in "judgment". Therein, and not in the supposedly mere
"happening" or "event" character of understanding, lies the
internal connection between hermeneutics and practical philosophy.
58 Karl-Otto Apel


1. To this point - and that means in the rejection of the attempt at a

scientific reduction of understanding to a heuristic moment of the context of the
nomological (causal or statistical) explanation of acts as events - there is certainly
agreement between H.-G. Gadamer, J. Habermas, and myself.
2. See H.-G. Gadamer, 'Duth and Method (Tiibingen: Mohr, 1960), critical
discussion thereof in K.-o. Apel, TransforrtUltion der Philosophie (Frankfurt a.M.:
Suhrkamp, 1973), Bd. I, Introduction, note 70.
3. See G. F. Lyotard, ''Histoire universelle et differences culturelles," in
Critique 456 (1985), p. 559ff., where the paradigm of the superseded historical-
philosophical idea of progress is even traced directly to Kant. Hans Jonas, in his
Prinzip Verantwortung, also detects - in my view unjustly - in Kant's ethically
grounded regulative idea of possible progress a mere preparatory stage of the
Hegelian and Marxist conception of the intelligibly necessary (progressive) course
of history. See Jonas, Prinzip Verantwortung (Frankfurt a.M.: Insel, 1980), p. 227ff.
4. See L Kant. "Das mag im das Theorie richtig sein, taugt aber nicht fuer die
Praxis," Akademie Edition (Berlin: de Gruyter), Bd. VITI, p. 308ff.
5. . See, for example, R. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1979), and Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1982).
6. See Philippe Forget, ed., Text und Interpretation (Munich: WIlhelm Fink,
7. On Heidegger and Derrida see J. Habermas: The Philosophical Discourse of
Modernity (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1985), chapters VI and VII, as well as K.-o.
Apel, "Die Herausforderung der totalen Vemunftkritik und das Programm einer
philosophischen Theorie der Rationalistatstypen," in Concordia 11 (1987): pp. 2-23;
in French translation in I.e Debat (1988).
8. See Derrida's contributions in Ph. Forget, ed., Text und Interpretation (see
note 6).
9. See H. G. Gadamer, Truth and Method, p. 218ff.
10. Ibid., p. 326f.
11. Ibid., p. 327.
12. Ibid., p. 3.
13. See for example K.-o. Apel: "Szientismus oder transzendentale
Hermeneutik?" in: R. Dubner et. al., eds., Hermeneutik und Diale1ctik, Festschrift fur
H.-G. Gadamer (Tiibingen: Mohr, 1970), Bd. I, pp. 105-45.
14. K.-o. Apel: Die Idee der Sprache in der Tradition des Humanismus von Dante
bis Vico (Bonn: Bouvier, 1963, 1980).
15. See note 5.
16. See M. Heidegger: Being and Time (Halle: Niemeyer, 1941), pp. 153 and
17. See especially K.-o. Apel: Die Erlclaeren: Verstehen-Kontroverse in
transzendentalpragmatischer Sicht (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1979); English
translation: Understanding and Explanation: A Transcendental Pragamatic Perspective
(Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1984).
Regulative Ideas or Sense-Events? 59
18. See in this connection most recently K.-O. Apel: lithe
'Erklaeren/Verstehen' - Controversy in the Philosophy of the Human and
Natural Sciences" in G. Floisstad, ed., Contemporary Philosophy. A New Survey, vol.
IT (The Hague/Boston/London: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), pp. 19-50, as well as the
same author, "Diltheys Unterscheidung von 'Erklaeren' und 'Verstehen' im Iichte
der Ergebnisse der modernen WlSsenschaftstheorie" in E. W. Orth, ed., Dilthey
und die Philosophie des Gegenwart (Freiburg i. Br.: Alber, 1985), pp. 285-347.
19. See J. Habermas: Erkenntnis und Interesse (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1968);
English trans.: Knowledge and Human Interests (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), as well
as K.-O. Apel, "Szientistik, Hermeneutik, Ideologiekritik," in Apel, Transfonnation
der Philosophie (Frankfurt a.M: Suhrkamp, 1973), Bd. IT, pp. 96-127; English trans.,
Towards a Transformation of Philosophy (London: Routledge &: Kegan, 1980), and
Apel, '''!ypes of Social Science in Light of Human Cognitive Interests" in Social
Research 44 (1977), pp. 425-70, reprinted in St. Brown, ed., Philosophical Disputes in
the Social Sciences (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1979), as well as Ape!, Die Erklaeren:
Verstehen-KontTO'lJerse in transzendentalpragmatischer sicht (see note 17).
20. See the discussion volume Hermeneutik und Ideologie-Kritik (Frankfurt a.M.:
Suhrkamp, 1971).
21. See J. Habermas/N. Luhmann: Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie?
(Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1971); further J. Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen
Handelns (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1981), Bd. IT: "Zur Kritik der
funktionaIistischen Vernunft." English trans., Theory of Communicative Action, vol.
two (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984).
22. Concerning the following, see note 7.
23. On Peirce's philosophy see K.-O. Apel, Der Denkweg von Charles Sanders
Peirce - Eine Einfuehrung in den amerikanischen Pragmatismus (Frankfurt a.M.:
Suhrkamp, 1975) (English translation: Charles S. Pierce: From Pragmatism to
Pragmaticism (Amherst, Mass.: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1981) as well as from
the same author, "Peirce and Post-Kantian Truth," in E. Freeman, ed., The
Relevance of Charles Peirce (LaSalle, m.: The Hegeler Inst., 1983), pp. 189-223; and
"Linguistic Meaning and Intentionality. The Compatibility of the 'Linguistic-Tum'
and the 'Pragmatic Turn' of Meaning-Theory within the Framework of a
Transcendental Semiotics," in H Silverman and D. Welton, eds., Critical and
Dialectical Phenomenology (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1987), pp. 2-53.
24. See K.-O. Apel, "Das Problem der Philosophischen Letztbegruendung im
Lichte einer transzendentalen Sprachpragmatik: Versuch einer Metakritik des
'Kritischen Rationaiismus'" in B. Kanitschneider, ed., Sprache und Erkenntnis.
Festschrift for G. Frey (Innsbruck, 1976), pp. 55-82; English 'Iranslation in Man and
World, vol. 8 (1975), pp. 238-75, reprinted in K. Baynes et al., eds., After Philosophy.
End or Transformation? (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987), pp. 250-90. See
further: W. Kuhlmann, Reflexive Letztbegrundung. Untersuchungen zur
Transzendentalpragmatik (Freiburg/Munich: Alber, 1985); D. BOhler, Rekonstruktive
Pragmatik. Von der Bewusstseinsphilosophie zur Kommunikationsrej1exion (Frankfurt
a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1985), as well as most recently: K.-O. Apel, "Fallibilismus,
Konsensustheorie der Wahrheit und Letztbegruendung," in Forum fur Philosophie
Bad Hamburg: Philosophie und Begruendung (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1987),
pp. 116-277.
60 Karl-Otto Apel
25. See K.-O. Apel, "Die Logosauszeichnung der menschlichen Sprache. Die
philosophische Tragweite der Sprechakttheorie," in M. -G. Bosshardt, ed., Sprache
Interdisziplirurer (Berlin/New York: W. de Gruyter, 1986).
26. See J. Habermas, ''Vorbereitende Bemerkungen zu einer Theorie der
kommunikativen Kompetenz," in J. Habermas/N. Luhmann, Theone der
Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie?, op. cit., note 21, pp. 101-141; by the same
author: ''Was heisst Universalpragmatik?" in K.-O. Apel, ed., Sprachpragmatik und
Philosophie (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1976), pp. 174-272; by the same author:
Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, op. cit., note 21, Bd. I, Kap. fi, as well my
work cited on note 25.
27. Concerning the necessary presupposition of contingent psychic and in
particular historical presuppositions of world-understanding there is at present
a widespread consensus among philosophers, originating with Collingwood,
Wittgenstein, Searle, Heidegger and Gadamer. That there are also non-contingent
- that is, argumentatively indisputable and to that extent universally valid -
presuppositions of sensible argumentation, seems to most something easy to
question - although every questioning as argumentation must obviously involve
validity claims.
28. See K.-O. Apel, "Die Herausforderung der totalen Vemunftkritik ... " See
note 7.
29. See note 26.
30. See the contributions from K.-O. Apel and J. Habermas in K. -0. Apel, ed.,
Sprachpmgmatik und Philosophie, see note 26; further K.-O. Apel, ed., "Fallibilismus,
Konsensustheorie der Wahrheit und Letztbegrundung," op. cit., note 24, as well
as W. Kuhlmann, ''Philosophie und rekonstruktive Wissenschaft" in Zeitschrift fur
philosophische Forschung, 40 (1986), pp. 224-334.
31. See K.-O. Apel, "Die transzendentalpragmatische Begriindung der
Kommunikationsethik und das Problem der hoechsten Stufe einer
Entwicklungslogik des moralischen Bewusstseins," in: K.-O. Apel, Diskurs und
Vemntwortung (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1988), p. 306ff.
32. See K.-O. Apel, Die Er1claeren: Verstehen - Kontruoerse in tmnszendental-
pmgmatischer Sieht, see note 17.
33. See I. Lakatos, "Die Geschichte der Wissenschaft und ihre rationalen
Nachkonstruktionen," in W. Diederich, ed., Theorien der Wissenschaftsgeschiehte
(Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1974), pp. 55-119.
34. See K.-O. Apel, "Die Herausforderung der totalen Vemunftkritik ...", see
note 7.

by Calvin O. Schrag

It would surely be a gross understatement to say that the

vocabulary of rationality has become problematized in the
philosophical situation of our time. Admittedly, the question
"What does it mean to be rational?" has been asked by the learned
and the vulgar alike for some time; and it has been taken for
granted that philosophers, both by disposition and training, are
those best equipped to answer the question. Indeed, it could well
be said that in the tradition the question "What does it mean to be
rational?" has been indissolubly linked with the question "What
does it mean to be a philosopher?" To do philosophy, it has been
assumed, is to put into play, in a variety of ways, the claims of
reason; and to be a philosopher is to take on the mantle of the
guardianship of rationality.
From time to time, however, both this traditional portrait of
the philosopher as the guardian of reason and the putative claims
within reason itself have been brought under suspicion. This
would seem to be particularly the case in the current philosophical
state of affairs. In philosophical circles, both at home and abroad,
there is considerable talk about the poverty of reason, the
bankruptcy of the logos, and indeed the "end of philosophy"

I. The Challenge of Postmodemity

It is common to ascribe anti-reason and "end of philosophy"

talk to what is broadly referred to as "postmodemism," which
itself suffers a variety of expressions both in continental and
Anglo-American enclaves. Although there is no unified voice of
postmodernism, clearly the problematization of rationality is one
of its recurring themes. The postmodem celebration of plurality,
multiplicity, heterogeneity, paralogy, and incommensurability
makes the task of finding a place for the claims of reason
particularly demanding. But it is precisely this task that we wish
to undertake in our current exercise. Formulated within its most
general context, the current exercise is an attempt at a response to
the postmodernist challenge pertaining to the resources of rationality.
T.]. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics, 61-78.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
62 Calvin O. Schrag

There are admittedly a number of specifics operative here.

From the side of current continental thought there is Jacques
Derrida's fight against logocentricism; Michel Foucault's
amalgamation of knowledge and power; the anti-logos "literary
machine" of Gilles Deleuze's nomadology; Jean-Fran~ois Lyotard's
notions of paralogy and lithe differend"; and then Jiirgen
Habermas's response to the assortments of postmodernity in his
recent The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity.2 From the side of
current Anglo-American thought, one is reminded of Richard
Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Naturtf and Paul Feyerabend's
Farewell to Reason.4
But there are also developments of less recent date that have
conspired to gravitate us into the peculiar predicament in which
we find ourselves-developments which provide, if you will, the
backdrop of what one might call the postmodern ethos. This
involves the more encompassing story of modem rationalism,
including the formative influences of Kant's celebrated three
Critiques and the development of the Enlightenment ideal of
Kant set the stage for the drama of rationality as it unfolded
in the modem period. Reason was given the charge to provide its
own resources for critique. His "critique of reason" was
understood as an internal deployment, proceeding by way of a
rigorous examination of the universal and necessary (Le.
transcendental) conditions that make knowledge possible. One of
the chief results of such a deployment, as is well known, was a
dismantling of the unfounded metaphysical claims of the tradition.
The substantive rationality of the tradition, with its putative
metaphysical guarantees, was displaced by a critical rationality
shorn of all metaphysical pretension. The resultant "critique of
reason" thus displayed a bivalent grammatical case-structure, at
once accusative and subjective genitive. It was at once directed
against the dogmatic, metaphysical employment of reason and
reflexive upon its internal critical resources.
The genitival construct of critique, as affording its own
resources for yielding the conditions for finite knowledge, was
then coupled with a postulate of autonomy. Critical reason was
thus viewed as autonomous, liberated from the tradition and all
external moral authority. In this liberation from tradition and
authority the "Enlightenment" imprint of reason became fully
Transversal Rationality 63

visible. Reason, critically self-reflexive, won its independence from

all extraneous, social, political, and ecclesiastical authorization.
The design of this citadel of enlightened reason did not,
however, provide a stable foundation or ground floor for
anchoring and unifying its varied operations. Indeed, any such
unity of operations was inhibited by what Max Weber suggestively
called the "stubborn differentiation" of the three culture-spheres
within Kant's wider programmatic. The three culture-spheres,
comprised of science, morality, and art, were the defined topoi of
Kant's three Critiques. Critical and autonomous reason was deemed
to be operative in each of these, but the resources of this reason
appeared to be markedly limited because of the diremption that
the differentiation of the culture-spheres invited. It was precisely
this that occasioned Hegel's philosophical project-namely that of
fulfilling the requirement for a unification of the differentiated
Habermas also responds to this requirement as defined by
Hegel, albeit in a different manner. Habermas is of the mind that
Hegel made the wrong tum in fulfilling the requirement. Hegel
departed from his reflections of the early Uena) period in which the
notion of community played such a decisive role and might have
provided resources for a full-bodied communicative rationality. But
he then dropped the gauntlet in moving to his later philosophy
where rationality is given a subject-centered franchise .that
culminates in an exaggerated claim for" absolute knowledge". This
was Hegel'S wrong tum, which Habermas proposes to redirect
along the lines of a "universal pragmatics" that takes on the
lineaments of an encompassing "Theory of Communicative
Action".5 The point that needs to be made at this juncture is that
Habermas's decision to accept Hegel's project of unifying the
spheres of science, morality, and art places him within the
discourse of modernity.
It is precisely this formulation of the philosophical task of
finding within reason the resources for adjudicating the diremption
of the three culture-spheres that has become problematized in the
postmodern challenge. Richard Rorty's contribution becomes
particularly significant at this juncture. Rorty is of the mind that
the wrong tum was negotiated not by Hegel but already by Kant
in splitting up the culture-spheres in the first place.6 This does not
mean that for Rorty things are not split up-he is too much of a
64 Calvin O. Schrag

pluralist to deny the multiplicity of vocabularies, forms of

discourse, and social practices. His point is that there is something
amiss in the way that Kant split up and congealed the spheres,
under the aegis of the constraints of a unifying rationality. Rorty
simply believes that we have better things to do than carve out the
domains of science, morality, and art and then search for a grand,
unifying perspective. He enjoins us to learn to live with plurality,
change, and incommensurable discourses. This is Rorty's
postmodernism-which exhibits certain family resemblances to
Derrida's philosophy of differance, Loytard's celebration of paralogy,
and Deleuze's notion of lithe multiple". We need, however, be
careful not to gloss some important distinctions between Rorty and
his continental counterparts-distinctions which appear, for
example, in Rorty's effort to split the difference between Habermas
and Lyotard, in which he retains a quasi-Habermasian hope for
consensus in the midst of incommensurable discourses. 7
Admittedly this is a pragmatic hope, without metaphysical or
epistemological guarantees. It is a hope that things will work out
all right, that we will be able to make do, as we carry on lithe
conversation of mankind."
Now where does this all leave us? It leaves us pretty much at
sea as regards matters of rationality. Taking a page from Neurath,
we may indeed have to settle for repairing our ship at sea If such
be the case, let's make an effort to do it, lest our ship be dashed on
the rocks of an unmitigated pluralism, an unmanageable
heterogeneity, and a self-isolating relativism.

II. A New Figure of Discourse

In the current exercise I want to have a go at repairing our

ship at sea by undertaking a thought-experiment on the issue of
rationality in which I utilize a new figure of discourse-that of
"transversality." If the newness of this figure/ concept/metaphor
be contested (and there would be reasons for doing so), let me
retrench and set my format as one of utilizing the figure in a new
way. Admittedly, for some time now mathematicians (and more
specifically topologists) have employed the vocabulary of
transversality, and have spoken, for example, of the transversality
of a line as it intersects a system of lines or surfaces. Physicists
Transversal Rationality 65

define the ratio of accelerating forces in terms of transversal mass

(as distinct from, yet in conjunct with, longitudinal mass).
Physiologists talk about the dense transversality exhibited in a
band of fibres. In the vocabulary of anatomy transversality is used
to describe the lateral movements of a vertebra. In this play of the
grammar of transversality within and across the disciplines there
are some family resemblances of usages that come to the
fore-having to do principally with the related senses of extending
over, lying across, intersecting, and converging without a resultant
coincidence. Although there are recurring temptations'to reduce
the sense of transversality to its algorithmic formalization in a
particular discipline, we urge an acknowledgement of a polysemic
play of figuration as one moves across the borders and boundaries
of the several disciplinary matrices.
The recognition of this polysemic play is of particular urgency
when one shifts to the discipline of philosophy. Here too we learn
that the grammar of transversality has already been put into
service. Jean-Paul Sartre employs the notion in his celebrated
critique of Hussed's doctrine of the transcendental ego. Contra
Hussed, Sartre argues that the ego is not a transcendental, identical
pole of our conscious acts but rather the result of a constituting act
of consciousness. According to Sartre, there is no ego in
consciousness but only an ego for consciousness. Thus, the very
concept of the transcendental ego is flawed; and more specifically,
it is flawed on two counts. It is superfluous in that it performs no
utility in accounting for unity and individuality, and it is a
hindrance in that it functions as an opaque blade" that severs

consciousness from itself. Sartre then recommends that the

transcendental ego that allegedly grounds Husserl's phen-
omenology be replaced with a notion of consciousness which

unifies itself, concretely, by a play of 'transversal' intentionalities

which are concrete and real retentions of past consciousness".8
Consciousness unifies itself, achieves a bonding, by virtue of its
passage across its retentional qualifications. Consciousness comes
to a stand in an experience of presence as a consolidation of
transversal forces within the intentionality of a remembering
This philosophical use of transversality by Sartre to account
for the unification of consciousness may indeed have its own
rewards. It also, however, in our view, suffers certain limitations,
66 Calvin O. Schrag

reqwnng a refiguration of the figure of transversality. One

limitation issues from Sartre's definition of his philosophical project
as proceeding from an originating consciousness, engaged in an
effort to render some kind of account of itself. Sartre's philosophy
remains a "philosophy of subjectivity," centered on the pour soi (for
itself) as a founding principle. This founding principle is through
and through that of an intentional consciousness. One might speak
of this as Sartre's phenomenological prejudice, and more
specifically, as his indebtedness to the general impulse of
Husserlian philosophy. Although critical of Hussed's
transcendental programmatics, Sartre continues to make purchases
on the primacy of consciousness as center and origin. Now
philosophies of subjectivity and of consciousness, be they
epistemological or existential, have become problematized of late,
and indeed postmodernism has had much to do with this. We
share the postmodernists' general suspicions about the various
subject-grounded and consciousness-centered approaches to
rationality within modernity; but we are not all that quick to
jettison the vocabulary of subjectivity per se. It may be problematic
to begin with the subject, either as epistemological point or as an
individuated existing subject, but one may still have to end with
a notion of the subject, duly de-centered and refigured.
A second limitation in Sartre's use of transversality involves
his problematic concept of temporality, in which primacy is
granted to the present to the neglect of the efficacy of the future.
For Sartre the present has a past, but it is not clear to what extent
it has a future. The dynamics of Sartre's notion of transversality
moves principally backwards. The protentional vector of
transversality is suppressed. Consciousness extends across its past
intentionalities and then returns to the present as retentionality
qualified. The unification of consciousness is thus the result of a
peculiar networking whereby consciousness moves from present
experiencing to past moments of consciousness somehow retained
in the ongoing experience of presence. In this heavily accented
retentional play of consciousness there is little space roomed out
for the protentional or futural thrust of transversal consciousness.
In their own ways, both Heidegger and Medeau-Ponty corrected
this deficiency in Sartre's account of temporality.
Transversal Rationality 67

m. The Refiguration of Transversality

Given the limitations in the figuration of transversality within
a subject-centered and consciousness-oriented perspective, a
refiguration of the economy of transversality is required. This
refiguration will be governed by a shift away from an analysis,
description, and interpretation of the datum of consciousness to
the space of communicative praxis. Consequent to this shift, the
principal focus will be on the assemblages and patterns of
discourse and action as they play in our communicative practices
rather than on the structure and dynamics of the self, ego, or
Against such a backdrop, the economy of transversality is
not-at least not in it's first instance-a passage of consciousness
across a spectrum of moments of experience spread out over a
retentional continuum; it is rather a lying across and folding over
of a multiplicity of discursive and non-discursive practices. In this
lying across, extending over, and intersecting of varying forms of
discourse, modes of thought, institutional engagements, seats of
power, and alleged authorities there are conjunctions and
disjunctions, accommodations and alterations, appropriations and
disavowals, repetition and ruptures. Some constellations of thought
and action slide into each other soliciting approval and consensus.
Others are constituted through contrastive comparisons, difference,
and heterogeneity, leading to disapproval and dissensus. The
transversal chronotope of our multiple beliefs and practices, habits
of thought and attitudes, prejudices and assessments, is indeed a
multiplex phenomenon of converging and diverging config-
urations. However, at this juncture, the point is to recognize that
the texture of transversality that we are tracking resides within the
domain of our social, communal, and institutional
practices-within which, to be sure, the subject and consciousness
emerge as implicates of communicative praxis, but never enjoy the
epistemological or metaphysical security of originating principles.
Thus, the sense of transversality that is at issue for our concerns is
that of a transversality socially and historically qualified.
The social dimension of transversality has been given a
concrete, praxis-oriented expression in Felix Guattari's explication
of the workings of "transversality in the group." The context in
which Guattari monitors the performativity of transversality is that
68 Calvin O. Schrag

of the institutional setting of a psychiatric ward. He uses the figure

to detail the functioning of the different constellations of power
and decision-making involved in the performance of psychiatric
therapy. The institutional setting consists of a peculiar amalgam of
groups and sub-groups, and lines of expertise, authority, concern,
and involvement invested in each. There are the administrators of
the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, the assistants to the doctors
and the nurses, the patients, the families of the patients, and
friends of the patients. All of these groups have a stake in the
project of psychiatric healing. A multiplicity of social roles and
institutional lines of force inform this setting. These social roles
and lines of force exhibit a transversality in that they diagonally lie
across, extend over, intersect, other social roles and lines of force.
The degree of transversality achieved depends upon the
effectiveness of a dialogue across these roles and enclaves of
authority in fostering a recognition of the otherness of each of the
groups involved, leading to a "dialectical enrichment." 9
Transversality thus at once heightens self-understanding and
self-reflection in each of the groups or sub-groups and produces a
recognition of the need to make adjustments and accommodations
because of the presence of the other groups and sub-groups. It is
in this way that transversality avoids both the hegemony of a
decision-making process that proceeds vertically from top down
and the impasse of serially juxtaposed groups warring with each
other on the plane of mere horizontality. Guttari sums it up as
follows: "Transversality is a dimension that tries to overcome both
the impasse of pure verticality and that of mere horizontality; it
tends to be achieved when there is a maximum communication
among the different levels and, above all, in different meanings. 1110

Iv. Transversality and the Claims of Reason

The specific task of our current project is that of locating the

claims of reason within the interstices of the transversal passage
from group to group, from one assemblage of beliefs and practices
to another. Our general thesis is that rationality is transversal to
the multiplicity of our discursive and nondiscursive practices.
Stated somewhat more specifically, we propose that reason is
operative in the transversal play of thought and action in the guise
Transversal Rationality 69

of three inter-related momentS or phases of communicative praxis:

(1) praxial, evaluative critique; (2) praxial, engaged articulation;
and (3) praxial, incursive disclosure. These three moments make
up the texture and dynamics of transversal rationality.
The adjective "praxial" as a qualification of these three
moments is of some consequence. It distinguishes the operation of
rationality as critique, articulation, and disclosure from the theory-
grounded, subject-centered, epistemological-criteriological
paradigm of modernity. Theoretical critique proceeds by way of a
privileging of methodological rules and antecedentally determined
criteria. Now there are many sub-plots in the story of the modern
epistemological-theoretic paradigm, which in the end is pretty
much the story of modem philosophy from Descartes to Husserl
on the continent and from Locke to the early Wittgenstein on
Anglo-American soil. A rehearsing of this rather encompassing
story and its various sub-plots would call attention to the vagaries
of foundationalism, the myth of the given, the limits of
representation, the elusiveness of apodicticity, the indeterminacy
of meaning, the inscrutability of reference-and much more. The
result of the postmodern response to all this, if indeed one can
speak of results on matters such as these, is a shift of focus on
thought and experience as a system of beliefs to a preoccupation
with assemblages of discursive and non-discursive social practices.
In this paradigm shift, it is important to recognize, the concepts of
theory and practice themselves are refigured. Theory is no longer
viewed as a system of apriori rules and principles, and practice is
liberated from its subordination to a mere application of theoretical
protocols. A third dimension, as it were, has been called into
being. We call this third dimension praxis, indicating a
comportment of thought and action that displays its own
discernment, insight, and disclosure, no longer standing in need of
a transcendental ego or a pre-delineated system of rules to swoop
down from on high, or emerge from below, to confer intelligibility
and sense upon our multiple forms of social and historical
In our effort to locate critique within the economy of praxis we
wish to highlight the performance of discernment in the critical
posture-discernment as a separating, sorting out, distinguishing,
contrasting, weighing,and assessing. It is interesting to note that
the originative Greek notion of "criterion" as krino, which
70 Calvin O. Schrag

interplays with "critique," already contained these praxis-oriented,

related senses of discernmentY Proceeding from this early Greek
usage, we suggest that it can be further enriched by noting the
play of transversality in the performance of discernment. Some of
our practices link up with other practices, exhibiting lines of
continuity, resulting in accommodation or simple adoption. At
other times they impinge upon other practices in such a manner as
to occasion modification or transformation. At still other times
contrasts and collisions of discursive and nondiscursive practices
herald a veritable rupture and incommensurability, inviting an
intervention via displacement or overturn. Within this travail of
linking up, accommodating, transforming, or indeed overturning,
praxial critique as a performance of discernment and assessment
is already operative. This is a critique that issues from the play of
forces within the body of the social practices themselves as they
mix and separate, mingle, and conflict. The point is that one does
not need the protocols of pure theory as a backup for the
achievements of such discernment.
There is, however. another moment in the odyssey of
transversal rationality, traveling, as it were, with the dynamics of
praxial, evaluative critique. This is the moment of articulation.
Rationality as articulation has of course a rather noble heritage,
going back to Plato's logon didonai and Aristotle's deloun-and no
doubt even further back. Here rationality becomes more directly
associated with discourse, with rendering an account, with
articulating sense or meaning. 12 Although Plato's de-historicized
forms and Aristotle's de-historicized essences become prob-
lematized in our socio-historical-pragmatic approach to the
question of meaning, this does not necessitate a rupture of any
further conversations with them. The more immediate concern,
however, is to respond to the hurried postmodern displacement of
any question having to do with meaning because of its alleged
indeterminacy and undecidability. We accept the challenge, but
insist that there might be another route to the citadel of meaning,
one that circumvents not only the classical doctrine of essence and
the modem epistemological appeal to apriori and decontextualized
rules, but also the modem linguistic-semiotic appeal to determinate
signifiers. To call upon linguistics and semiotics to solve the
problems that epistemology was unable to solve does little to
Transversal Rationality 71

address the aporia of meaning resulting from its modem

placement within the domain of pme theory.
Meaning as a social practice and a communicative
achievement, rather than a mental act issuing from a subject-
centered reason, opens up a new way to address old problems. We
no longer search for meaning in the representations of isolated acts
of cognition but rather within the play of social practices.
Abandoning the quest for a determinable what-be it a self-given
essence, a physical object, or a sense-datum, all of which exude a
certain elusiveness, undecidability, and deferral-we shift the
project to an understanding and articulation of how our
conglomerate beliefs and practices hang together, bind and
separate, come to be and pass away. Meaning is that which
becomes articulated in the configurative display of our discursive
and non-discursive practices; and, as Charles Taylor time and time
again reminds us, this articulation is particularly attentive to the
background featmes of the practices, whether they be of a more
political nature (e.g. negotiating or voting) or of a more scientific
nature (engaging in a laboratory experiment).13
Rationality as articulation thus proceeds in tandem with a
refigured notion of meaning. No longer beholden to the modem
theoretico-epistemological paradigm, meaning is inserted into the
density of a praxial and transversal time-consciousness. The
configurations of praxis-" forms of life" (Wittgenstein), "existence-
spheres II (Kierkegaard), "manners of being-in-the-world"
(Heidegger)-lie across other configurations of praxis, antecedent
as well as co-present. Indeed, it is through the transversal
dynamics of extending over, lying across, altering, and
transforming that the configurations of praxis are first constituted.
The weight of tradition in this transversal play is considerable.
Each configuration of praxis has its inherited characteristics, which
are repeated throughout the life of the conjugated figures. Each
configuration exhibits a retentional, socio-historical time-
consciousness. It is at this juncture that we still have something to
learn from Plato's doctrine of recollection. But the transversality of
the articulation of meaning also runs forward, and here we have
something to learn from Kierkegaard's refiguration of Plato's
recollection as a "repetition" that is "recollected forwards.,,14
Articulation is anticipative as well as recollective. The lines of
transversality are protentional as well as retentional. As such they
72 Calvin O. Schrag

mark out possibilities for new forms of discourse and new forms
of action, against which past and present assemblages of practices
are judged, assessed and re-evaluated. These possibilities for new
and inventive configurations provide the proper tapas of praxial
critique, the place from which discernment and valuation issue.
This is why the rationality of praxial critique requires the
supplement of rationality as engaged articulation. The articulation
of meaning as possibility rescues critique from being simply a
strategy of negation and deconstruction. As a strategy of negation
critique counters that which is not feasible, not desirable, not
coherent, not workable. But as such it does not project the
positivity of the possible, which is supplied only by the projective
transversality and anticipatory understanding of rationality as
We have spoken of a third moment of transversal
rationality-rationality as disclosure. This moment is tied closely
to that of articulation. Indeed, Charles Taylor sees the one as
collapsing into the other, determining every event of articulation
as an event of disclosure. IS This collapsing of the two, the virtual
identification of the one with the other, may be too hurried. There
is a distinction of some consequence at stake. We recommend the
provisional use of the modem epistemological distinction between
sense and reference to point us in the direction of our distinction
between articulation and disclosure. We flag this as a "provisional"
usage because after the dust has settled we will be able to assess
the sense / reference distinction as a Wittgenstein ladder which
eventually can be set aside.
It may be helpful, nonetheless, to speak of the moment of
disclosure as a postulate of reference, a claim for reality that brings
us out of the closure" within a sphere of sense. It is disclosure

that keeps articulation from circling back upon itself, from falling
into a discursive closure in which there is nothing outside of
language, nothing beyond the text, only a free play of signifiers
perpetually feeding upon each other. Disclosure as the
achievement of reference leads us beyond language and beyond
textuality, "beyond" not in such a manner that language and
textuality are no longer at issue, but rather ''beyond'' in such a
wise that not everything is language and text. One could thus
speak of disclosure as the fulfillment of articulation as
Transversal Rationality 73

epistemologists are wont to speak of reference as the fulfillment of

However, a measure of vigilance is required in such an
appropriation of the vocabulary of sense and reference. As the
epistemologically derived notion of sense is refigured in our
economy of transversal rationality, so also its epistemological
correlate of reference as an ostensive, objectifying determination is
recast. Disclosure assumes a posture of reference, but it neither
objectifies nor does it identify features within a form/matter
schema. It refers via a displaying, a showing that lets that which
shows itself be presented. And that which shows itself, that which
becomes manifest, is the displayed world of praxial involvements.
Admittedly, this sounds very much like the "life-world"
vocabulary of phenomenological philosophy, and indeed it should
for there is a phenomenological feature in our notion of disclosive
rationality. Disclosure brings us out of the closure of articulation
within the sphere of sense to a display of the world as
phenomenon, as that which shows itself in the manifold of human
experience. The performance of reference in the event of disclosure
displays a world. It supplies that which our articulatory gestures
of discourse and action are about.
The dynamic of reason as event of disclosure follows the lines
of transversality that we marked out in our praxeology of
evaluative critique and engaged articulation. Disclosure extends
across the spectrum of already installed forms of discourse, action,
and institutional regimes, and makes manifest the variety of
delivered social practices in their conjunctive and disjunctive re-
lations. It is here that Gadamer's notion of the retrieval of the
tradition through an "effective-historical consciousness" (Wirkungs-
geschichtliche Bewusstseins) becomes particularly pertinent. However
the lines of transversality also traverse a protentional horizon,
projected into a region of future possibilities, the not-yet said and
the not-yet done, wherewith the concrescence of the past with the
present is re-opened and transvalued, determining the texture of
the past and present as an "open-texture." The relevance, efficacy,
indeed "reality" of the future as it impinges on the present and the
reco~ected past qualifies the temporalized space of disclosure. Both
background and foreground regulate the dynamics of disclosure
and determine its temporal horizon.
74 Calvin O. Schrag

We have spoken of disclosure as being iricursive. It is this

feature of incursivity, irruption, resistance, the encounter with
otherness, that is a decisive factor in the transfiguration of the
epistemologically based postulate of reference. The reference
operative in incursive disclosure is occasioned not by an isolated
mental act 6f cognition seeking commerce with an external world,
but rather by an incursion of the world upon the myriad
intentionalities of subjectivity. Reference rides the crest of a play
of forces that act upon us, that obtrude, thrust themselves forward
without warrant or request. Reference occurs in the response to
such incursions and obtrusions. It is borne by the encounter with
that which is other-an irruptive portion of discourse, an
unanticipated meaning in a text, an alien social practice, a
heteronomous intervention. Incursive disclosure, in conjunct with
evaluative critique and engaged articulation, is an effect of the
transversal lines of force that issue from that which is other.

V. The Transversal Logos

The concept of rationality in the history of Western

philosophy, the occidental doctrine of the logos, has generally
functioned as an enabling resource for the claims of universality.
The classical metaphysical paradigm anchored these claims in a
doctrine of essence. The modem epistemological paradigm located
the claims for universality in a criteriological conception of
rationality and its ideal of apodicticity. In these traditions the
figure of vertical grounding remains rather firmly entrenched. The
claims of reason are vertically grounded either from above (from
the vantage point of transcendent and ahistorical essences) or from
below (from the vantage point of transcendental, logically a priori,
and equally ahistorical conditions). In both cases we are proffered
a perspective from the other side of history.
The postmodern challenge problematizes the facile employ-
ment of the figure of vertical grounding; valorizes diachrony, flux,
multiplicity, and heterogeneity; and calls into question the search
for universals. In this postmodern emphasis on diachronic
succession and present-becoming the stage is set for a subversion
of the figure of vertical grounding and its replacement with the
figure of horizontal play. Instead of a perspective from the other
Transversal Rationality 75

side of history we are offered only a fragmented vision from this

side of history. The consequences of such an immersion into the
horizontal flux of ever-ch.anging forms of life and language would
appear to be a straight-forward relativization of all forms of
thought and all contents of culture.
Our response to this challenge is basically that of embracing
the postmodern problematization of the classical and modem
claims for universality, but then using postmodernism against itself
by showing how the figure of transversality can more productively
address the issues at hand. One might characterize our project as
an effort to split the difference between the verticality of the
classical and modem conceptions of reason and the horizontality
of the postmodem perspective on the anti-logos flux of becoming.
Transversality replaces universality. The transversal supplies an
alternative to the vertical hegemony of the universal. However,
transversality does not jettison the logos. It refigures the logos as
a praxial performance of critique, articulation, and disclosure
which manages the multiplicity and flux of our socio-historical
becoming without pretentious claims for ahistorical grounding.
Whereas the tradition, classical and modem alike, suppresses the
historical through an appeal to ahistorical essences, criteria, and
rules, postmodernity catapults us back into history, but ends up
with a too thin sense of the historical. 16
The root difficulty in the over determination of the metaphors
of verticality and horizontality resides in the failure to distinguish
the ahistorical from the transhistorical. Verticality affirms the
ahistorical; horizontality denies it. But there is a "between" the two
that neither the defenders of modernity nor the proponents of
postmodernity are wont to recognize, namely the space of
communicative praxis and its indigenous economy of reason that
enables a praxial critique. articulation, and disclosure, wherewith
transhistorical judgments and assessments can be made without
gravitating into an empty universalization on the one hand, or a
heterogeneity of culture-spheres, particularized language games,
are relativized moral claims on the other hand. 17
The transversality of communicative practices, whereby
different assemblages of discourse and action are seen at times to
link up with and other times to contrast with other assemblages,
occasions at once a recognition of the integrity of the "other" and
the requirement to make adjustments in responding to an alterity
76 Calvin O. Schrag

from which there is no escape. It is against the background of such

a topography of concrete transversal relations that the discernment
of evaluative critique, engaged articulation, and incursive
disclosure register their inscriptions. It is in the hard struggle for
communication that rationality as critique, articulation, and
disclosure is called into being. The myths of universalization,
totalization, and unification may indeed still remain in force in this
desire and interest in communication (as, for example, in Haber-
mas's use of the myth of the "ideal speech situation"), but these
myths must be recognized as broken myths. They function in the
service of an open-ended process of unifying that does not congeal
into a fixity of formal determinations and a closure of historical
possibilities. On the other hand, however, we are not consigned to
a Walpurgisnacht of irrationality in which all signifiers are black, in
which everything goes, in which any interpretation is as good as
any other interpretation, and in which all moral claims are equally
Transhistorical judgments and assessments are still possible,
and indeed required, thanks to the transversal play of our social
practices, webs of belief, and societal engagements which occasion
an ongoing response to that which is said and done. It is in this
response-dynamics of communicative praxis, in the performance
of the fitting response, that the strategies of discernment,
articulation and disclosure achieve their efficacy. These strategies
proceed along the lines of a sorting out of the effects of the
multiple assemblages of thought and action through a tracking of
their transversal intertexturing. We thus repair our ship at sea by
striving for a semblance of coherence in our configurations of
discursive and non-discursive practices and for a measure of
consensus in our engagements with the other. In this striving, the
claims of reason, refigured along the lines of a praxial critique,
discernment, and disclosure, remain intact.
Transversal Rationality 77


1. Although Heidegger clearly had much to do with the currency of "the end
of philosophy" thematic [see particularly Martin Heidegger, The End of Philosophy,
trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper &: Row Publishers, 1973)], in more
recent times the thematic has received variegated expressions in the academy.
One is reminded particularly of the collection of essays under the title After
Philosophy: End or Transformation?, Kenneth Baynes, James Bohman, and Thomas
McCarthy, eds., (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1987), the first printing of which was
sold out three months after its publication.
2. Trans. by Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1987).
3. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.
4. New York: Verso Press, 1987.
5. The Theory of CommunicatiTJe Action: R.etlson and the Rationalization of Society,
Volume One, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984); The Theory
of Communicative Action: Lifrworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason,
Volume two, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987).
6. "But whereas thinks that the cultural need which 'the
philosophy of the subject' gratified was and is real, and can perhaps be fulfilled
by his own focus on a 'communication community,' I would urge that it is an
artificial problem created by taking Kant too seriously. On this view, the wrong
turn was taken when Kant's split between science, morals, and art was accepted
as a donnee, as die massgebliche Selbstauslegung der Moderne.", "Habermas and
Lyotard on Postmodernity" in Habennas and Modernity, ed. Richard Bernstein
(Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1985), p. 167.
7. "Habermas and Lyotard on Postmodernity," p. 173.
8. The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness, trans.
Forrest Wllliams and Robert Kirkpatrick (New York: The Noonday Press, 1957),
9. Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, trans Rosemary Sheed (Penguin
Books, 1984), p. 22.
10. Molecular Revolution, p. 18.
11. David James Miller has provided an illuminating account of the interplay
of "critique" and "criterion" in the originative Greek notion of mno (1Cp\'IXO),
which carries the related senses of "picking out", "separating", "putting asunder",
"distinguishing", "deciding", "judging", and "assessing" as these notions play in
the actual context of life within the polis and its requirement for concrete delib-
eration and action. See his "Immodest Interventions" in Phenomenological Inquiry,
Volume 11, 1987.
12. Charles Taylor has paid particular attention to the articulatory function of
reason in his effort to think beyond the foundationalism of the modem
epistemological paradigm, and specifically as it was illustrated in the thought of
Husserl. "But if we purge Husserl's formulation of the prospect of a 'final
foundation' where absolute apodicticity would at last be won, if we concentrate
merely on the gain for reason in coming to understand what is illusory in the
modem epistemological project and in articulating the insights about us that flow
from this, then the claim to have taken the modem project of reason a little
farther, and to have understood our forbearers a little better than they understood
78 Calvin O. Schrag
themselves, isn't so unbelievable. What reflection in this direction would entail
is already fairly well known. If involves, first, conceiving reason differently, as
including-alongside the familiar forms of the Enlightenment-a new department,
whose excellence consists in our being able to articulate the background of our
lives perspicuously," "Overcoming Epistemology" in After Philosophy, pp. 480-81.
13. See particularly his essay "Interpretation and the Science of Man," The
Review of Metaphysics, Vol xxv, No.1, Issue 97, 1971.
14. Repetition: An Essay in Experimental Psychology, trans. Walter Lowrie
(princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941), p. 4.
15. "Overcoming Epistemology," p. 481.
16. lhis thin sense of the historical comes to the fore in the Dialogues of Claire
Pamet and Gilles Deleuze. "Future and past don't have much meaning, what
counts is the present-becoming: geography and not history, the middle and not
the beginning or the end, grass which is in the middle and which grows from the
middle and not trees which have a top and roots," Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues,
trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habherjam (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1987), p. 23. The pulverization of the present into an evanescent "present-
becoming" precludes any full-bodied sense of historical presence as the
chronotopal intersection of a reclaimed past and an anticipated future.
17. Kai Nielsen has developed a quite similar approach to the issue at hand
in his strategy of "wide reflective equilibrium," which I would consider to be
another way of stating the dynamics of transversal rationality. For Nielsen, "wide
reflective equilibrium" basically falls out as an amalgamation of a non-foundation-
alist, Rortyian, pragmatic reflection with a Habermasian critical theory of society
developed along the lines of emancipatory interests. See particularly his article,
"Searching for an Emancipatory Perspective: Wide Reflective Equilibrium and the
Hermeneutical Circle," in Evan Simpson, ed., Anti-Foundationalism and Practical
Reasoning (Edmonton, AB: Academic Press, 1987). Nielsen gets maximum mileage
out of the vocabulary of "shuttling back and forth" and "rebuilding the ship at
sea." These well-placed metaphors enable him to articulate what we would call
the transversal play of beliefs and practices across both a retentional and
protentional field, as well as to highlight the nautical-like character of our
philosophical travels, making do with what we have on board in transit. "We
shuttle back and forth between considered convictions, moral principles, ethical
theories, social theories, and other background empirical theories and those
considered judgments (at least some of which must be distinct from the initial
cluster of considered judgments) that are associated with or are constitutive of or
partially constitutive of the moral principles, social theories or other background
theories. (The association will be such that they are standardly appealed to in
justifying those principles or theories.) In such shuttling we sometimes modify or
even abandon a particular considered conviction; at other times we abandon or
modify a moral principle or come to adopt some new principles; and sometimes
(though of course very rarely) we modify or evan abandon a social theory or
other background or even come to construct a new one. We move back and
forth-rebuilding the ship at sea-modifying and adjusting here and there until
we get a coherent and consistent set of beliefs. When we have done that, then we
have for a time attained wide reflective equilibrium," Anti- Foundationalism and
Practical Reasoning, pp. 14&49.

by Hans Lenk


It was Friedrich Nietzsche who stressed the all-pervading role,

constitutive function, and importance of interpretations, though
he did not work out a systematic theory of interpretation but
contented himself and his readers with rather fragmentary
aphorisms like the following ones:

"The interpretative character of all occurrence. There is no event in

itself. Whatever would occur, is a set of phenomena selected and
collected by an interpreting being"l

"It certainly pervades my works that the value of the world resides in
our interpretation." (W, p. 112)

Nietzsche even goes thus far to state, "there are indeed no matters
of fact, but only interpretations." (W, p. 323) Also, it is by
interpreting that "interpretation itself is a means to get to dominate
something.,,2 It is by means of our very interpretations that we
would dominate the world. We would not go so far as to estimate
our interpretations per se a sufficient means of power and
conquerin~ but certainly there is no conquest and domination
without goals, values and, thereby, interpretations.
In America, it was Charles S. Peirce who explicitly used semio-
tics for his foundation of epistemology: "We think only in signs"
and even "Omne symbolum de symbolo": "In signo veritas" - in signo
solo veritas? Only by using, understanding, i.e. correcting and
interpreting signs, are we able to "grasp something, to refer to
things, objects and events, matters of fact, to things-in sum, to the
If we understand by "signs" the whole network and
framework of theories, language, value orientations, etc. implied
in our views of the world the mentioned indispensability of
interpretations might be seen as to coincide or at least be easily
compatible with a current strong position in epistemology-namely
with H. Putnam's internal realism.4 This approach combines Kant's
transcendental, though not absolute, idealism with the actual cri-
T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question o/Hermeneutics, 79-88.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
80 Hans Lenk

ticism of any magical theory of reference whatsoever.

H it is only by interpretation and within interpretive frame-
works that we can refer to objects, things, events, etc., if reference
is only an internal"mapping" within our interpretive projections,
we might end up with either a transcendental or even an absolute
interpretationism. Nietzsche's and Abel's approaches seem to imply
the latter position, Putnam's internal realism rather the former one.
Abel goes even that far in his interpretationist epistemology,
but also in his own approach as to state that "truth" would just be
a matter of interpretation: Sola interpretatione veritas.5 And he goes
on: "Everything which 'is' is interpretation, and interpretation is all
there 'is'. Reality is but an internal function of the interpretation
schema which cannot itself be circumvented, methodically
distanced or operationally produced.,,6 And again: liThe limits of
interpretation are the limits of the world."7 According to Abel, any
activity within and as a body would essentially be of the type of
interpretation. Derrida goes so far as to state: liThe thing itself is a
sign"-just a sign?
To be sure, reason and the interpretationist epistemological
approach itself would also be interpretations. Therefore, Abel's
approach leads to an allegedly non-vicious circle. We may leave it
open here whether Putnam's epistemology basically leads to the
same relativistic and, in the last analysis, rather skeptical results.
In any case, any (external) realism, the correspondence theory of
truth as well as any external hook-up for reference would be gone.
(Even ostensive definitions would in effect not denote anything at
We think that this idealistic interpretationism, though very
provocative and interesting, would lead us too far from any chance
to account for reality. However, we can take advantage of an
interpretationist approach like that, if we restrict it to
epistemological questions: This would lead us to a limited and
Kantian model of what we might call a transcendental or, rather,
methodological interpretationism. We would thereby also avoid
anti-realistic fallacies like the one consisting in interferences from
the epistemological non-provability towards an ontological non-
existence. This interpretationist methodological approach would be
compatible with a kind of hypothetical-critical realism. Even if
reality can be grasped only by means of our interpretations and
their respective frameworks, that would not mean that there
Systematic Interpretationism 81

cannot be a reality as such. We have good reason to think and

hypostatize, hypothesize an underlying reality. In any experience
and knowledge of it, however, we are unavoidably dependent on
our interpretations. We may not necessarily be captives of one
interpretation only, we might switch over to another interpretive
framework, culture, language, theoretical foundation etc. We may
consciously construct, design, develop parts of a new interpretive
pattern. But we cannot know and find out anything about "reality"
without using interpretational networks. To that degree the
previously mentioned interpretationist approaches by Nietzsche,
Peirce and Abel are all right. But taken strictly they would lead us
too far, all the way down towards relativism, unrealism, and at last
Putnam's internal realism like Nietzsche's pragmatist inter-
pretationism does however emphasize another important point. It
is characteristic for man, lithe ever-interpreting being" after Nietz-
sche, that his interpretations become and necessarily are part of his
cultural world. Institutions, value and norm systems are ne-
cessarily the results of constitutive interpretations. If there is an
ontology of the social and the cultural world at all, it is here that
one can trace the locus of quasi-ontological interpretationism:
Norms and values, ideas, etc. would indeed exist only as results of
interpretations. These latter may be mostly unconscious. At times,
they may figure as deliberate constructs resulting from a process
of interpretation/construction.


More than one and a half decades ago, I tried to develop a

methodological approach to the philosophy of the humanities
and the social sciences essentially relying on interpretations,
perspectives, and interpretational constructs.8 This approach was
first elaborated in discussing action theory in analytical
philosophy as well as in the outline of a modification and
extension of Kant's theory of Reason and Understanding.
Gebauer (1978) called the former approach a "perspectivist
theory of action."9 I generally referred to it as an approach or a
"method of interpretational or interpretive constructs." The
approach was developed independently of Nietzsche's
82 Hans Lenk

interpretationism, but it certainly took into account the state of the

debate in semiotics, semantics and hermeneutics.
By contradistinction to the latter approach the proposal favors
and emphasizes the role of deliberately theoretical constructs and
metaphors. Interpretation is neither an atheoretical or even
antitheoretical nor a merely passive process. Interpretations may
be criticized and changed. Though we certainly cannot deliberately
construct all interpretive frameworks and we are not able either to
criticize all of them at the same time, we can criticize and change
interpretations, interpretive constructs, and frameworks. We have,
however, to do this from the basis of another interpretive
viewpoint. (This is the meaning of the unavoidability of
interpretativeness. )
The emphasis on perceptual change, on the possibility and
availability of constructs and modeling of interpretations and their
foundations and frameworks is the most notable difference from
traditional hermeneutics, phenomenology, and even Kantian
transcendentalism. The theoretical and constructivist components
make the difference. (Some modem brands of phenomenological
and hermeneutical approaches including, e.g., Joseph Kockelmans'
epistemology and "existential phenomenological" philosophy -
may contain some such activity-oriented and constructive traits.)
Moreover, we are not obliged to take one and only one perspective
or to stick to one and only one interpretation of any element of
culture or the world. Interpretation is, so to speak, an active
process, it has to be open to decision between alternative
perspectives, etc.; but it is not unlimited. Although dependent on
conventions, interpretations do not necessarily lead to a full-
fledged conventionalism or relativism.
The methodological interpretational theory of action conceives
of actions as semantics-impregnated constructs. An action is, so to
speak, constructed in the beholders', and/ or the agents', eyes by
using the social and cultural settings and goals or goal-assignments
to interpret an "observable" movement (or an intended omission
of such one) as an action. (Observables, however, are inter-
pretational products, results or constructs, too.) Thus, actions are
necessarily impregnated, even constituted, by using interpretations.
Parts of actions, namely physical movements, may be quasi-ontic
events which might be described or even (as, e.g., reflex
movements) explained without using a reference frame comprising
Systematic Interpretationism 83

goals, values, etc. But a full-fledged action can only be grasped,

described, planned, performed and understood as well as
explained by using an interpretational construct. According to
Wittgenstein "nothing" needs to be added to make a physical
movement an action. to Nothing but an interpretation - I would add,
nothing but semantical components of the whole action concept.
Already in the late seventies, I expanded and thereby modified
Thalberg's constituent and component theory of action (allowing
for physical. and mental components of an action) by adding
interpretational components.ll An action thus can only be grasped,
described, constituted, understood, explained, forecasted, by using
interpretation. Therefore an action can only be characterized as or
by an interpretive construct, even though it might on the Iiontic"
level be coextensive with a physical movement. There is no action
without interpretation-usually on the agent's as well as on the
observer's side. (And the interpretations must match to a certain
degree if both are to understand the action as one and the same
action.) Action concepts are interpretation-impregnated constructs
working on the observer's side, as theoretical concepts and types
would do in contexts of description, classification, explanation,
prediction, and understanding. But the agent himself would also
usually observe, plan, justify, anticipate, and relate his action to
goals and values, as well as to motives and emotions, etc. (which
are interpretive constructs as well). He has to use interpretive
constructs in the description as well as in the goal- or value-
oriented sense or function. (There is even a normative use of
interpretive constructs.) To quote from an earlier paper:

To take an example from the realm of sport or sportlike behavior:

Whether an agent performs a javelin throw as an action of spear
hunting, warfare, sport, or an other conventional, social or political
action, certainly depends on the SOCially impregnated definition of
the situation, the social setting and the interpretation or the
description by the agent himself as well as by observers, participant
or not. In medieval times, even the claim of a vassal for ground
estate was sometimes measured by the applicant's ability to throw
a stone or a spear to the utmost border of his future acquisition. In
early Roman antiquity the priest's throw of a spear at a special place
outside the City was a decisive symbol of declaring war.12
84 Hans Lenk

In each of these cases the agent's physical movement may

have displayed the same external form. At least, let us assume this
for the sake of the argument. The differences and the various
assignments to a particular realm of action clearly depends on the
socially impregnated definition of the situation, the social context
and environment with all their norms, rules, traditions, values,
frames of reference, reference groups playing a decisive role
already in perceiving, and all the more in actively orienting, reac-
ting and acting.
For the agent as well as for the observing partner and also for
the observing, analyzing scientists, actions are therefore in-
terpretive constructs of constituents which are in part elements of
the object language proper but which are in part and not to the
least degree dependent on theoretical perspectives or even on
metalinguistic concepts. Action concepts are theoretical concepts of an
interpretational character.
The component theory developed by Thalberg has to be
modified in order to take this theoretical-interpretive character of
action concepts into account. The component theory therefore has
to be enlarged toward a descriptive interpretational constituent theory
of action.!t is only this way that the modified component approach
can cope with the methodological difficulties and anomalies men-
tioned above.
Even the possible identification and classification of actions
prior to their explanatory analysis is dependent on a descriptive
frame delineated amongst others by constitutive rules and
constructive as well as constitutive and regulatory interpretation.
Generally speaking, the perception and understanding of a
specific action event is only viable and expressible in terms of pre-
supposed interpretation. Even the reconstruction of a report on a
sport event, for instance, requires a specific repertory of ex-
pressions and a mode of representation lending structure to the
respective narrative. In addition, a special reaction and emotional
impact (thrill, rejoicing, admiration, contempt) as well as a
particular relationship, frequently including a special hue with
regard to the depicted events or agents (e.g identification) are
rather common features. These characteristic features necessarily
shape or impregnate the perception of the actions. They are neces-
sary a priori constituents of any event perception which logically
speaking are even prior to the perceived events. We do and can
Systematic Interpretationism 85

only perceive of interpreted events. It is much the same thing here

on a general level as with the interpretation of single actions
mentioned above. Like actions also events, notably social events,
are interpretation-impregnated, insofar as they can only be
perceived and understood in terms of an interpretation embedded
in a wider social, institutional, or cultural framework and historical
Certainly the mode of interpretation is dependent on the
means of representation available to us. Narratives and the
mentioned modes and means of representation and interpretation
are necessarily constituent parts of social, cultural, and intellectual
forms of life. We are so much accustomed to these forces of habit
as "second nature" so to speak, that we experience drastic and
sudden deviations or inadequacies with the habitualized
interpretations as a sort of "accident" (to use Austin's expressions)
or deliberate collisions.

What has been said with regard to conceiving, grasping, seeing
and noticing actions can be and has been extended to many
other concepts used in describing and explaining human
Most, if not all of them, are interpretative in character. This
analysis has been carried through with the concepts and phe-
nomena of "motives" and motivations, "values", "reason", "self",
"conscience", "responsibility" etcY All of these are interpretative
constructs impregnated by our tradition and rules of interpretation
and interpretative constructs. We cannot think, conceive of
anything, even do anything without interpretation and
interpretative constructs, be they constitutive or just rule applying.
Interpretatio necessaria est.
All this fits neatly in with Joseph Kockelmans' theory of
understanding or what he earlier called "existential
phenomenology" with regard to our usual approach and attitude
to the world, praxis and science.14 No praxis of life, gaining of
knowledge and development of scientific method and testing will
be possible without some perspective which can be aptly called
interpretative. On the other hand, no theoretical understanding of
86 Hans Lenk

the world and their phenomena could be reliably devised and

improved without resort to praxis and a context of life and
meaning as Kockelmans has repeatedly stressed over the years. 15

The way of "seeing" which is characteristic of the theoretical

attitude, therefore, always implies a certain "view" and a new
"position" toward the intramundane things which now no longer
manifest themselves as being ready-to-hand, but only as present-at-
hand. This typical "perception" of the present-at-hand as such takes
place when one addresses oneself to something as something and
discusses it as such. This amounts to a certain interpretation, and on
the basis of such interpretation the theoretical perception becomes
an act of determination. What is thus perceived,interpreted and
determined can be expressed in propositions, and can be preserved
as what has thus been asserted. The perceptive retention of such an
assertion about something is itself a way of being oriented toward
the world, and it is not to be interpreted as a procedure by which a
"subject" provides itself with "representations" of something which
remain stored up "inside" as having been thus appropriated, and
with regard to which the question of how they agree with "reality"
can occasionally arise. 16

Even in modern mathematical science we have to perform a

projection, a mathematical and model-like "projection of nature"
which amounts to an apriori of understanding via taking a special
practical and theoretical stance:

The articulation of this understanding of nature, the delimitation of

a region of things as subject matter guided by this understanding,
and the delineation of the way of conceiving which is appropriate
to these things - all of these belong to the totality of the projection.17

The respective "thematization" as Kockelmans calls (after

Heidegger) the taking, hypostatizing and reflecting of this
perspectival, or interpretative projection, is in my words, certainly
the result of an interpretation as a constructive activity which is as
such dependent on contexts of life, actions and meanings and our
"primordial orientation towards the world."ls Even lately,
Kockelmans referred again to these pre-scientific though by no
means arbitrary "prejudgments" which are procedurally necessary
interpretative constructs indeed:
Systematic Interpretationism 87

For humans there is nothing wrong in accepting that to know

always means to understand within a context of meaning that is
already given in advance. This acceptance brings indeed an
interpretative dimension into the picture.19
88 Hans Lenk


1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Werke Bd. VIII, 1 (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1980),

p. 34. Hereafter cited as W. The English translation is my own.
2. G. Abel, Die Dynamik der Willen zur Macht und die ewige Wiederkehr
(Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1984), p. 138. English translation is my own.
3. G. Abel, Worlds of Interpretation (Unpublished manuscript in press).
4. Hilary Putnam, Truth and History (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press,
5. G. Abel, Die Dynamik der Willen zur Macht und die ewige Wiederkehr, p. 155.
6. Ibid., p. 169.
7. Ibid., p. 19.
8. See Hanks Lenk, "Handlung als Interpretationskonstrukt. Entwurf einer
konstituenten und beschreibungstheoretischen Handlungsphilosophie," in H
Lenk, ed., Handlungstheorien interdiszipliniir Bd. II, 1 (Munich: Fink, 1978), pp. 279-
350. Also, by the same author, "Interpretive Action Constructs," in J. Agassi &
R.S. Cohen, eds., Scientific Philosophy Today (Dordrecht Reidel, 1981), pp. 151-57.
9. G. Bebauer, ''Oberlegungen zu einer perspektivischen Handlungstheorie,"
in H Lenk, ed., Handlungstheorie interdiszipliniir Bd. II (Munich: Fink, 1978), pp.
10. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,
1953), par. 621.
11. I. Thalberg, Perception, Emotion, and Action (Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1977).
12. Lenk, "Interpretive Action Constructs," pp. 154-55.
13. Hans Lenk, Zwischen Sozialpsychologie und Sozialphilosophie (Frankfurt
Suhrkamp, 1987).
14. Joseph J. Kockelmans, The World in Philosophy and Science (Milwaukee:
Bruce, 1969), p. 16 and p. 155.
15. Ibid., p. 157ff. Also, see Joseph J. Kockelmans, "On the Problem of Truth
in the Sciences," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association
61, #1 (Supplement), September 1987, pp. 5-26.
16. Ibid., pp. 158-59.
17. Ibid., p. 160.
18. Ibid., p. 168.
19. Kockelmans, "On the Problem of Truth in the Sciences," p. 16.




by Gerhard Funke
(translated by Royce Nickel)

Hussed's lectures on First Philosophy (Erste Philosophie, 1923-24;

1956), which. should include the individual articles from the
" Abhandlungen" and "Beitrage" of Husserliana VII, share a
common goal. They are supposed to demonstrate irrefutably that
the ground of philosophy, that which is truly "first" about it, is the
establishment of its foundation, its groundwork.
Hence the ground, the soil capable of providing the reliable
support and actual firm grounding, must be disclosed. The aims
involved in providing such a foundation must in turn have their
own ground, one which the aims themselves make plausible. Only
thus can it count as to 1tP6Yt'r! cptA.o<Jocj)tcx. And therein lies the
traditional problem of foundations, a familiar one in the history of
philosophy. It is the Aristotelian problem: is that which is "first"
according to the order of things (the universal, for example, as
1tp6tEpoV 't'Ij CPU<JEt) at the same time "last" (OOtEPOV 1tPO~ Tn. UX~)
or subsequent for us, that is, for those attempting to establish such
a foundation?
Hussed's discussion is not primarily directed at whether that
which is "first" or "more original" according to the "nature of
things" is the universal, something that only becomes accessible to
human knowledge "secondarily," i.e... as that which appears as
something still to be mediated, or whether that which is closest to
us is according to its true essence something derivative. For
Hussed the true beginning of philosophy consists instead in seeing
that what is original is the origin itself, that is, not a factum but a
faciendum. Accordingly, these Aristotelian countervailing
relationships receive in Hussed a single, characteristically
Husserlian solution. Rather than opt "decisionistically" for the
primacy of one or the other type of resolution, Husser! sets out on

.. For generous assistance and helpful criticisms of the translation I wish to

thank Hoke Robinson..

T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question o/Hermeneutics, 91-112.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
92 Gerhard Funke

the path to transcendental enlightenment. But what does this path

look like?
To be compelling, any answer to this question must appeal in
principle to insight, Le., it must be valid on the basis of 1'}eroeia. To
be convincing in general, however, the justification of this kind of
assertion has to proceed scientifically and not merely by an appeal
or a mere evocation: only scientific procedure will be able to do
justice to a claim of general validity. But to regard philosophy as
a science, as a strict science, hardly represents a self-evident
position to be simply accepted as a matter of course. For such a
view of philosophy to function foundationally, it must show itself
to be compelling. Its attempt at self-demonstration is its
justification. This is what Hussed means by "ratio in constant
movement of self-elucidation."l Philosophy does not find its path
in repeatedly remaining dependent on some "other" but in
referring back to itself and to the completion of its own
accomplishment. This path "is" the entry into the transcendental
constitution of ratio, which brings about this path.
This is the sense and meaning of the "Phenomenological
Fundamental Consideration" which Hussed undertakes in more or
less explicit form beginning with the Logische Untersuchungen (1900-
01), considerations which later achieved such a degree of certainty
in his reflections that he could explicitly entitle and represent them
as such in the first volume of "Ideen zu einer reinen Phiinomenologie
und phiinomenologischen Philosophie" in 1913 (ill: 57-149). But these
reflections took shape much earlier. The path, then, which Hussed
pursues and the viability of which he tests, is recorded in the
Addenda to this volume. They represent stations along the path of
this progressive self-understanding.
These are not "programmatic writings" like some of Husserl's
other works; piece by piece, they present results that supplement
and complement each other. At the same time, they mark the path
of a mathematician on the way to transcendental philosophy.
This path at the same time leads Hussed to overcome an
assumption common in his time, namely, the view that psychology
is the fundamental science. Only after the attainment of this insight
can one speak of Hussed as a philosopher. His philosophy can
therefore be regarded only as a single urtified contribution to the
problem of foundations. In this regard the following moments are
Husserl's Kant Reception 93

After studying mathematics in Halle and Berlin, Husserl

obtained his doctorate under Karl Weierstrass and Leopold
Kronecker at the University of Vienna in 1883. His dissertation was
called "Beitrage zur Variationsrechnung." From Weierstrass
Husserl adopted a basic theme of his later non-mathematical work,
the theme of the systematic construction of a general theory of
analytic functions. Husserl's insistence that arithmetic be grounded
analytically (and not synthetically) derives from this thesis.
In 1887 Husserl completed his habilitation in Halle, "Uber den
Begriff der Zahl," under the psychologist Carl Stumpf, a student
of Brentano. This work was incorporated as part of the Philosophie
der Arithmetik (1890) in the course of Husserl's efforts to provide a
psychologically conceived foundation for mathematics. Charac-
teristically, the work bears the subtitle Psychologische und Logische
Untersuchungen in accord with the dominant tendency of the time.
The "psychologistic" tendency of both works, later attacked by
Husserl himself in the Prolegomena zur reinen Logik (1900), is
characteristic of his thought during the 1890s. And even after
Husserl's encounter with the mathematician Gottlob Frege,
beginning in 1894, this tendency can be seen in numerous other
places. One could name, for example, the "Bericht tiber deutsche
Schriften zur Logik aus dem Jahre 1894," the essay
"Psychologische Studien zur elementaren Logik" (1893-94), as well
as the unpublished journals that Husserl began to write about
During his pre-phenomenological period, Husserl, then a
beginner in philosophy, clearly stood under the influence of
nineteenth-century Austrian anti-Kantianism, both in a general and
a specific sense. From 1882 to 1884 Husserl attended the lectures
of Franz Brentano in Vienna.
Brentano, together with the pedagogue Otto Willmann based
in Vienna and Prague, set a severely anti-Kantian tone in Austrian
philosophical circles. A series of misunderstandings, which only
came to Husserl's attention through his later work on Kantian
transcendental philosophy, can be traced back to Brentano's
influence. Brentano's basic position can be found in works
published or written at that period: "Uber die Griinde der
Entmutigung auf philosophischem Gebiet" (1874), "Uber die
Zukunft der Philosophie" (1893), and "Die Vier Phasen der
Philosophie" (1895) which includes remarks on the state of
94 Gerhard Funke

philosophy at the time. Similarly, Willmann's synoptic History of

Idealism (1894) presents what has become an almost classical
misinterpretation both of Kant's critical method and of the
beginning of his transcendental idealism. Anti-Kantianism from
these sources initially exercised a persistent influence on Husserl.
But just as a deeper elaboration of the problems themselves
had forced Husserl to abandon his original "psychologism" in the
Logische Untersuchungen I and II (1900-01), so too it was the nature
of the problems that finally required him first to acknowledge the
naive anti-Kantianism of his Brentano years as problematic, and
then gradually to dismantle it in "Untersuchungen zur
Phanomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis" and "Elemente einer
phanomenologischen AufkHirung der Erkenntnis" (1901).
And yet it was Brentano who motivated Husser! in Vienna to
make philosophy his life's work. The ever-accelerating efforts in
Berlin and in Halle to develop a Kant interpretation true to the
subject-matter (efforts developing later in Gottingen as well) seem
to have made little impression on Husserl. Interested in systematic
problems, he developed little historical connection to the human
sciences. Thus he took no part in the rapidly developing neo-
At. first, then, the demand that arose immediately following
Hegel's death and during the flowering of positivism for a speedy
return to Kant's sense of philosophizing was neither known to nor
significant for him. This demand meant little to him as long as it
was derived from purely historical interest; he began to take it
seriously, however, when it began to show a correspondence with
an interest emerging from the subject-matter itself. This decisive
point could only be attained in his philosophical development
"originarily," so to speak; and this was the case when he
discovered that, for systematic reasons, the design of his
phenomenological philosophy required it to take on the character
of a transcendental idealism.
In this respect the indications in the history of philosophy for
a "return to Kant" had no decisive significance for Husserl. But on
the other hand, they are not to be dismissed either, since at least
by the 1920s Husser! was aware that he too belonged to a
tradition. Indeed, he felt he had his own place in it.
The stages which mark the Kant reception of the nineteenth
century, and which constitute the tradition which Husserl finally
Husserl's Kant Reception 95

acknowledged, are the following. As early as 1832, Friedrich

Eduard Beneke, founder of a "psychology of experience," took
IIKant and the Philosophical Task of Our Tune" ("Kant und die
philosophische Aufgabe unserer Zeit") as his theme, and
established foundational interrelationships among the two poles.
In the same year his student, Carl Fortlage, was able to point out
IIGaps in the Hegelian System" ("Lucken des Hegelschen
Systems") that a return to Kant would be able to fill. In 1847 a
member of the opposing camp, the speculative idealist Christian
Hermann Weisse, went further: in an academic address he showed
"the sense in which German philosophy now had to reorient itself
on Kant." The justification of such a (historical) return to Kant was
(logically) grounded by systematic reference to the fact that the
essential moments of the Kantian philosophy had not been
comprehended at all within the (younger) positivistic philosophy
then drawing to a close. In the same vein the younger Fichte felt
compelled to develop his "Principles for Future Philosophy"
(IIGrundsatze fur die Philosophie der Zukunft," also 1847) under
Kant's banner. And Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz, holder of
Kant's old chair in Konigsberg, traced the tradition back to its
starting point in his 1840 IIGeschichte der Kantischen Philosophie"
which he saw as responding to a felt need of the time.
Given this background, it is not surprising to see the kind of
impact that the Heidelberg historian of philosophy Kuno Fischer
achieved with his Clavis Kantiana (1855) and his extensive Kant
biography (1860). He was considered the "rediscoverer of Kant"
quite early on, more so than Wilhelm Wmdelband to whom the
definitive phrase is due, that to understand Kant means to go
beyond him (1883). But the historian of logic, Carl Prantl, had
already made current the idea of "going beyond Kant" as "The
Present Task of Philosophy" ("Die Gegenwartige Aufgabe der
Philosophie"), a task derived from logic. And, similarly, the
theologian Eduard Zeller had signaled a gnoseological turn toward
Kant in his Heidelberg inaugural lecture, "Die Bedeutung und
Aufgabe der Erkenntnistheorie," in 1862. Otto Liebmann's 1865
polemic "Kant und die Epigonen" thus found the doors already
Three famous contemporaries, all of whom called for a "return
to Kant," were teaching in Berlin during Husserl's student days
there: the physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz (in Berlin 1872-88),
96 Gerhard Funke

the theologian Eduard Zeller already mentioned (in Berlin 1872-95).

and the pedagogue Friedrich Paulsen (in Berlin 1875-1908). Husserl
in fact only attended the ethics lectures of Paulsen. But it was from
Paulsen that he adopted the notion of "formalistic apriorism" that
was later to playa role in his own thought.
During the years at Halle, Husserl was principally influenced
by the psychologist Stumpf. The great psychologist of sound was
convinced that the "neglect of psychology" was a fundamental
weakness of the Kantian philosophy; he too wanted to concede no
more than a psychological sense to the Kantian question
concerning the "conditions of possibility." Husserl's understanding
of Kant, then, and his sense of the goal of philosophy did not
escape these influences from his pre- phenomenological period;
this understanding, colored by the view that psychology was the
fundamental science, was in every respect a second-hand
At this time Husserl had no contact with Hans Vaihinger,
professor at Halle (1884-1906), author of the great Kant com-
mentary (1881-92), and founder of both Kant-Studien (1896) and the
Kant Gesellschaft (1904). His first contacts were with Kant
philologist Benno Erdmann who taught in Halle somewhat later
(1890-99). But it was in fact Erdmann's Logik I (1892) and the
"anthropologism" he found in it that would come under attack in
Husserl's critique of Psychologism in the Prolegomena zur reinen
Logik (XVIII: 142-158)~ Short-lived, though more positive in its
significance, was Husserl's relation to Alois Riehl (in Halle 1898-
1901). It was the "realist thesis" which can be ~licited from Riehl's
main work Der philosophische Kritizismus that made this critical
approach appear at first more acceptable than the neo-Kantian
position of the Marburg School (Cohen, Natorp. etc.) or the
Southwest German School (Wmdelband, Rickert).
Husserl's first serious engagement with Kant and the
transcendental philosophy is characterized by three moments, of
which at least one is related to this last connection.
1. It was Paul Natorp's essay "Uber objektive und subjektive
Begriindung der Erkenntnis" (1887) that first gave Husserl the
impetus to turn away from his own psychologism. The essay
opposes the warrant of the logical sphere to that of the
psychological sphere. At the end of the 1890s this impetus was
Husserl's Kant Reception 97

strengthened by Husserl's appreciation of Natorp's Einleitung in die

Psychologie (1888).
2. In 1894 Gottlob Frege, author of the Begriffsschrift (1878),
reviewed Husserl's Philosophie der Arithmetik from a mathe-
matician's perspective for the Zeitschrift fUr Philosophie und
philosophische Kritik; the rather sharp attack challenged Husserl to
reconsider his approach. Frege described the "intrusion of
psychology into logic" as a "devastation," one which Husserl's
work, though in keeping with the spirit of the time, had managed
to intensify entirely on its own. According to Frege, this meant that
any possible service Husserl had performed on behalf of logic was
irrevocably reduced to the purely "psychological" and thus
remained for Frege more than a little problematic.
3. Cohen's student August Stadler, in his "Grundziige der
reinen Erkenntnislehre in der Kantischen Philosophie" (1876), drew
a distinction between the metaphysical and the transcendental a
priori and thereby implicitly posed the question of their inner
relation. This opened a path to a correlation· thesis, that is, to the
discovery of a correlation a priori. It was then Moritz
Steckelmacher's "Die formale Logik Kants in ihren Beziehungen
zur transzendentalen" (1879) which served to bring attention and
methodical considerations to this theme. In short, what was
ultimately at stake in both works was "transcendental
apperception," both what it was possible to know through it and
what it was possible to know about it itself.
Accordingly, in the Prolegomena zur reinen Logik (1900) the
question Husserl first posed concerned the "conditions of the
possibility of science in general" (XVllI: 238). At the same time,
Husserl gave the question a particular tum. If "the essential goal
of scientific knowledge can only be achieved through theory in the
strict sense of the nomological sciences," then the question
becomes how to search for the "conditions of the possibility of
theory in general" (XVIII: 239). For "theory as such" consists of
truths whose combination to form the theory must in tum be
disclosed if the theory itself is to be true. To disclose means to
make "evident" or accessible to insight.
Seeing something "as" something, therefore, forms the
beginning. Precisely this is the function of "evidence" as the
"immediate grasping of truth itself" (XVIII: 29), to the extent that
it is "nothing less than the character of knowledge as such," as
98 Gerhard Funke

Husserl succinctly says in the Prolegomena (XVIII: 239n). In other

words, it has to do with evidence in the sense of apparency;
namely, that something comes into view as that, and only as that,
which attains givenness hie et nunc in consciousness and which
thereby becomes an "appearance" or even "phenomenon." It is the
quid of phenomenological consideration: it can be and is disclosed
in exactly the same way that it announces itself. The deictic,"

pointing-out procedure "reports" and mediates"; and this always


takes place in "transcendental composition [transzendentaler

Veifassung]." It points something out that appears as this-there on
its own account = becomes apparent (apparet) and that elucidates
= sees into (evidet) consciousness by and in its own outreach. It
becomes accessible in "intuition" [Anschauung] which is both
intuition [Intuition] and reflection. If such a procedure is to have
more than subjective validity, it must in turn be scientific, that is,
"methodic." For that which possesses intersubjective = objective
validity must be capable of being pointed out, described and also
corrected through the systematic steps of approach, consideration,
saturation and grasping, steps repeatable in principle.
What is required, then, is a lC'UQ1£1>COV A.6'yo~ an overwhelming
fundamental insight: something revealed as obvious, something
given to which nothing can be opposed other than this itself (and
that means nothing other than this which really enters into
appearance). Thus it concerns the a priori ground. In other words,
"in insightful theoretical thinking we have insight into the grounds
of the state of affairs being explained" (XVIII: 243). And an a priori
theoretical science is one which has as its foundation "the ideal
essence of science as such" (XVIII: 244); thus the fundamental
science must be the kind that can bring this too out of itself to
evidence/ apparency.
It is in this sense that Husserl, following his discovery of the
entangling deceptiveness of psychologism in 1898, is already
involved in dealing with the "ideal conditions of the possibility of
science in general" (XVIII: 256) in attempting to legitimate the
validity claims thrown up by his own procedure. Thus Husserl is
concerned with "fundamental insight" (XVIII: 5) as well as with
"fundamental science" (XVIII: 237); these have their own
conditions (inspectable idealiter) which appear as a priori
grounded, can be methodically followed out and are
transcendentally composed (XVIII: 5, 237). In the sense intended by
Husserl's Kant Reception 99

Hussed, they may be compared with the "fundamental science"

called for by Kant (B xxiv). Right from thel/Introduction" to the
Critique of Pure Reason on, Kant places the "Idea of Transcendental
Philosophy" at the beginning (A 1). It is very revealing to note that
Kant and the idea of transcendental philosophy itself become a
theme for Hussed precisely at the moment where he becomes
conscious not only of the self-sufficiency of his own comprehensive
phenomenology but also the cogency of Kant's more restricted
transcendental-idealist critique.
Whereas before 1896 Hussed devoted no courses specifically
to Kant, we- find them increasing after a slow beginning in Halle
1897; they become more numerous in Gottingen (1907-1916), and
end in Freiburg in 1927 with unannounced sessions on Kant. Iso
Kern provides a detailed account in his 1964 Husserl und Kant
(appendix. pp. 425 ff.).
We can accordingly identify three periods of Hussed's more
intensive concern with Kant: the first begins in 1895 while he was
working out the Prolegomena and the conception of a "pure" logic;
the second is from 1905 to 1907 during the breakthrough to
transcendental phenomenology found in the five lectures Die Idee
der Phiinomenologie (1907) and the final period is in 1916 during
preparation for a lecture on the principles of Kant's transcendental
philosophy in relation to his own.
Husserl's "Philosophie also strenge Wissenschaft" (1911) appeared
in the newly-founded journal Logos (1910). In it, Husserl took great
pains to set out sharply the difference between his progressively
clarified phenomenological position and the contemporary
Weltanschauung doctrines, the various schools of philosophy, and
the like. In Ideen I (1913) it is neo-Kantianism to which he contrasts
his own philosophy: transcendental-phenomenological idealism
could achieve that self-reliance or the "more correct" or "more
adequate" fulfillment of what Kant, Natorp, etc., had in mind. This
is, obviously oversimplified, the basic thrust of Husserl's
presentation of the matter, though not of the matter itself.
After the Fichte lectures (1917), after the Kant address (1924),
and after the composition (but withdrawal from publication) of the
ambitious Kant treatise (1924), one thing becomes clear: it becomes
apparent to Husser! himself that the moment has come for finding
his place in a philosophical tradition. Thus he could write to Ernst
100 Gerhard Funke

Cassirer that he had" only been able to appropriate the rich lessons
of Kant and the Kantians in the last few years" (April 3, 1925).2
As important as these interrelations and connections are from
a historical point of view, their development does not suffice by
itself to explain how Hussed could make the decisive turn, so to
speak, from "Brentano to Kant." What was needed was a
"devastating idea" which could bring about a philosophical-
systematic breakthrough.
Thus we should keep the following in mind. In his
phenomenological period, that is, during the period of his own
creative philosophical work, Hussed adopted, in modified form,
Brentano's notion of intentionality, that is, of the constitutional
interconnection of intentio and intentum. But the notion only
became truly important (and thus methodologically decisive, a
genuine lC'UQtEUrov A6')'O~) in the context of Hussed's deeper
understanding of Kant, according to the following consideration:
in the Critique of Pure Reason (A 93-95/B 197 ff.) Kant named a
highest principle for experience, that which he intended to explain;
this principle was to make experience scientifically understandable.
For Kant, the form of this principle was that the conditions of the
possibility of experience in general are likewise the conditions of
the possibility of the objects of experience. They therefore have
objective validity and are grounded in a synthetic judgment a
By adopting this principle, Hussed could systematically
supplement the concept of intentionality with the concept of
constitution. This in turn was possible to the extent that it involved
a correlational a priori that could provide the transcendentalism of
the Kantian philosophy with a more general grounding and
thereby make it more plausible. Hussed employed these
considerations in the service of his logical qua genealogical
explication of reality, an explication now based on a more
fundamental understanding of the conditions of possibility.
That Husser! was convinced by the transcendental idea as
such can be clearly seen in the total context of his writings from
1900 to 1936. In the Prolegomena he posed the "transcendental"
question explicitly (XVIII: 238) - without, however, designating
it as such. In doing so he construed the question as a quite II

necessary generalization of the question concerning the 'conditions

of the possibility of experience'" in general (XVIII: 239). This
Hussed's Kant Reception 101

purpose would be served by an ultimate phenomenological

deliberation as opposed to a merely penul~ate phenomenalistic
construction. This is what Hussed means when, leaving Kant
behind, he determines that what is at stake are really "those
concepts and laws that [form] the ideal constituents of theory in
general," that is, the conditions of its possibility (XVIll: 243). To
that extent Hussed already regarded pure logic in 1900 sub specie
logicae transcendentalis. And one can speak here with Kant of a
"futile attempt" should someone set out "to use an empirical
theory to ground something that is itself a presupposition of that
theory." Husserl adopted this phrase (as did also the neo-Kantian
Wmdelband); in doing so, he revealed his new "transcendental"
attitude (XVIll: 94n).
Thus Hussed was confronted with questions of "origin," the
genetic questions that he would later refer to as genealogical
questions in Erfahrung und Urteil. In discussing the logic of pure
science in the Logische Untersuchungen, however, Hussed avoids a
direct confrontation with the "transcendental logic" of Kant, taken
in the strict sense. His critical references to Kant's Logic (ed. Jasche,
1800) are subordinate to other concerns (xvm: 65).
Yet in another, more fundamental passage in the Prolegomena
Hussed does make an approach to Kant. He describes truth as "an
idea whose instance becomes an actual lived experience in the
evident judgment" (XVIll: 193).
This does not mean that this "idea" is to be taken in a Platonic
sense. Rather, the "pure logic" of the Prolegomena seeks to extract
"in the most general manner the ideal conditions of the possibility
of science in general" (XVIll: 256). Nevertheless, these unity-
bestowing "ideal conditions" can only be found for Hussed in a
correlativism. In this determination Hussed assumes that the
"interconnection of things" and the "interconnection of truths"
form a "material unity": i.e., it is possible to show that "one and
the other . . . are given a priori together" and remain
"indissoluble," and in this way "objective validity" is attained.
But this corresponds to the sense of the Kantian approach in
the Critique of Pure Reason (B 197). Both approaches concern
"functions." For Hussed these involve both acts and the correlates
opened up and made graspable in such acts (XVIll: 246). Although
it is true that this question, essentially transcendental in nature, is
not posed or named as such in the Prolegomena, Hussed does
102 Gerhard Funke

understand it to be ~ question that concerns "origin," not in a

psychological or formal-logical, but in a deictic-phenomenological
sense. Seen from this perspective, Husserl's understanding of
"logic" enables him. to feel closer to Kant than to any of the
empiricists (such as Mill, Sigwart, Avenarius, etc.). He does,
however, chide Kant for not "clearly recognizing" the "essence of
the intended discipline" and for not "presenting it in a manner
appropriate to its content" (xvm: 218).
After dealing with psychologism in logic and mathematics,
Husserl basically launches an attack here on anthropological
empiricism with regard to the grounding of science in general. Just
as Frege's review of 1894 had provoked Husserl to a radical
change of direction with respect to his Philosophie der Arithmetik, so
also his correspondence with Natorp beginning in 1897 and his
concern with Natorp's work on the subjectivism/objectivism
problem (1887, 1888) led him to a kind of "Copernican turn" in his
views on fundamental science.
In an essay bearing the title ''Kants Kopernikanische
Undrehung und der Sinn einer solchen Kopernikanischen
Wendung iiberhaupt," which appears in the supplementary texts
appended to Erste Philosophie -(VII: 208-229), Husserl speaks of the
Kantian "revolution in the manner of thinking" (B xi). The essay
of 1924 is a prelude to Husserl's major Kant essay, a compre-
hensive and more extended study (VII: 229-287). But even in the
latter essay Husserl carefully plays down the role of Kant as well
as that of the neo-Kantians, especially Natorp (and Rickert as well),
in his account of how he arrived at his own position. As others
have correctly observed, it was precisely for such incidental
reasons that Husserl in the end withheld the larger essay; it
appeared neither in Kant-Studien, as originally planned, nor
anywhere else. Husserl wanted to avoid his philosophy of the
originary, on which he had been working since the Logische
Untersuchungen, being seen in too neo-Kantian a light. Beginning
with Ideen I, his intention was to present his philosophy as an
independent "transcendental-phenomenological idealism." The
"Phenomenological Fundamental Consideration" (llI: 57-149) thus
introduces the "transcendental-phenomenological £1t0Xl1" and
characterizes the "systematic significance" of the phenomenological
reduction in general (m: 67, 144). The "Phenomenology of Reason"
discussed in this connection (llI: 333-357) deals with "originally
Husserl's Kant Reception 103

presentive seeing" is the first basic form of reason (m: 333). with
evidence and insight. as well as with the interweaving of all the
modes of reason (ill: 341). But from the Die Idee der Phiinomenologie
on (IT: 14, 22 46, 52, 58), this "critique of reason" constitutes the
founding presupposition that makes metaphysics possible; "within
the framework of pure evidence" we must in principle follow up
"all forms of givenness and all correlations" (IT: 13), so that
"transcendental apperception" comes into view in a "non-
mysterious sense" (II: 48). This means that metaphysics announces
itself as transcendental metaphysics. Husserl interprets the
"intuiting knowledge" which this involves as a form of givenness
of "reason which aims at bringing the understanding to reason"
(IT: 62). Among other things, the openings achieved by the
understanding are to be distinguished from the pure intuitions
("evidences") in which openings concerning the modes of these
openings become apparent!evident. It is in this sense that Husserl
speaks provisionally of an "intuitio sine comprehensione" (IT: 62).
Basically, however, this is transcendental philosophy "in
With respect to method, Husserl's phenomenological
investigation of origins is concerned with everything that can be
demonstrated through originally presentive intuitions in
corresponding forms of givenness according to the "principle of all
principles" (Ideen I, § 24). The procedure for demonstration is and
remains completely "positive." It does not become "dialectic" or
"skeptical." It holds to the given and that is its "object." What
counts as given, however, is whatever appears in an intuition of
consciousness which intends such-and-such. In each case its sense,
its meaning, comes to light in a particular "positive" apprehension
that identifies it as such and such. And should the occasion arise,
the apprehension itself can in turn only be eliminated "positively,"
that is, by something else, by something definite.
In this way reason, as "ratio in the constant movement of self-
illumination" (VI: 273), continually encounters positiva, that is,
things self-identical in such-and-such a manner, things intended in
such-and-such a way, the "logos" appearing within them in such-
and-such a manner. This is what Husserl meant later in the
Cartesianische Meditationen when he observed that what was
basically at stake was the systematic unfolding of the universal a
priori, an a priori essentially innate in transcendental subjectivity.
104 Gerhard Funke

What was at stake, in other words, was the "universal logos of all
thinkable being" (1: 181).
The occurrence of a possible conflict of two positiva, or even
the moment of otherness alone, is in each case exhibited in its
respective way in a new entity, characterized again anew in a
positive manner, according to the phenomenological-deictic
procedure. Here "intuitive" demonstration obviously includes, in
addition to the "sensible" presentation, the "eidetic," the
"categorial," and the "reflexive'" nor can we finally neglect the so-
called "doxological" aspects any more than the "practical" or
"axiological" aspects respectively (m: 343). But in order for these
to be grasped, it is important that they in tum be expressed in
particular "doxic" ("theoretical") form.
This, then, represents the "idea" which Husserl took to be
central. In the programmatic essay "Philosophie als strenge
WlSsenschaft," however, Husserl points out how philosophy never
managed to fulfill its own claim to be a strict and ultimately
foundational science. Nowhere has philosophy been able to satisfy
"the highest theoretical requirements" (XXV: 3). It has not yet
embarked on its decisive and justified course. This lack of secured
foundations makes it impossible to follow any of the philosophies
of the past. Scientific honesty thus forbids such historical
"appropriations." In large measure this also holds for Kant. A
philosophia perennis does not yet exist. It still has to be founded and
set in motion. This is philosophy's "cause," its grounding. Without
a foundation, all the forms that have been attempted and
presented are nothing at all. Seen in this light, philosophy is called
above all the "science of true beginnings, of origins, of Q\~OOp.a'ta
7tav'tmv" (XXV: 61). It only begins to satisfy its claims to validity
when it dedicates itself to pursuing the scientific form of science,
that is, the "form" which a knowing must have if it is mediated as
knowledge and requires doxic certainty. The "matter" that is at
issue here is therefore no "matter of fact"; the "matter" is rather
this "grasping as ..." in the intuiting intentional accomplishment,
in a faciendum.
In requiring a return "to the things themselves," (XIX/I: 10),
Husserl was at the same time stressing the scientific requirement
"not to be forced by prejudice to interpret away what is seen"
(XXV: 61). The so-called "phenomenological grasping of essences"
asks nothing more than this.
Husserl's Kant Reception 105

The foregoing yields several consequences. A science which

concerns itself with its own roots as a science must make a
"radical" return to "its absolutely clear beginnings." It must gain
a view of its "absolutely clear problems." And it must also indicate
the "methods called for by the special sense of those problems." In
setting forth something as something at all, such a discipline is
already a method and has been one all along, yet a method in
need of clarification and one that can only function as grounded
through the act of grounding.
There are four main points which such a philosophical science
must take into consideration.
1. It must not be blind to the ideas which "within a broad
range are absolutely given in immediate intuition" (XXV: 61).
2. It has no other choice but to use "philosophical intuition in
the correct sense," one not "bound by prejudice."
3. As a science that returns "to the last origins" (to its roots),
it has to begin the process of enlightenment with itself; for it is the
means that is never not involved and, as such, is "reflexive."
4. Such a science must ultimately be understood as a radical
"turn" and not only flow into a "Kantian critique of reason";
instead it must become object for itself in its own constitution and
position itself on the ground of transcendental philosophy in such
a way that it not only asserts itself to be transcendental, but
enlightens itself transcendentally.
Understood in the light of these points, transcendental
philosophy can only fulfil its function of providing final grounds
by being a philosophy of reflection. And as a philosophy of
reflection it must become a science of the interconnections of
constitution and correlation. For only as such can it proceed from
the transcendental conditions of possibility to the attainment of
reality in its regional ontological constitution only, indeed, by the
path of reflection.
In radically reflecting on itself, philosophy by no means loses
its relation to world and reality in that it pursues every
phenomenon that "announces," "shows," orlldemonstrates" itself
as X in consciousness with a determinate meaning. This "pursuit"
occurs in following interconnections of reference that contain
whatever meditation presents. The idea of an absolute rationality
cannot thereby dissolve or lose itself, but also not sublate itself
[sich aufheben]. It is continually "saved" whenever in the course of
106 Gerhard Funke

a constitutional analysis it becomes necessary to enter upon the.

path toward a horizon of references, one which recedes step by
If the transcendental question is posed "too simply"-and
Husserl is of the view that Kant posed it too 'simply-what results
is a "cloud of profound obscurity" which in Kant's case "spread
over the whole system" and for which "no one has yet been able
to provide complete clarity" - obviously an unfinished task.
This, then, was and remained the inducement Husserl felt and
embraced as a provocation for his own work. This can be seen
quite clearly in the essay of 1924, "Kants Kopernikanische
Umdrehung und der Sinn einer solchen Kopernikanischen
Wendung uberhaupt" (Vll: 208 229). Though still Uhable to repress
all his reservations concerning Kant, Husserl nevertheless names
one thing as "Kant's immortal service": although a child of his
time in his almost exclusive orientation to the natural sciences and
their causalism, Kant nevertheless immediately set about" applying
the course of the transcendental problematic to all the forms of
possible objectivity; for him this meant applying it to the moral
and the aesthetic worlds" (Vll: 228).
It is this immanent consistency in the articulation of the
"revolution in the manner of thinking" that, in Husserl's view,
makes tenable any talk of a "revolution."
The real Copernican tum is therefore in the direction of a
universal, unlimited, transcendental idealism. Yet the possibility of
this tum and its very necessity must be made clear and, for
Husserl, this means exhibited phenomenologically. It is not enough
merely to claim its justification. Without a deixis that points to the
thing itself, nothing is valid.
By the time of the Kant lectures in 1916 Husserl was
convinced that Kant's "profound doctrine of synthesis" already
contained the discovery of what was for him the foundational
doctrine of the specific character of intentional interconnections as
well as that of correlation relations in the realm of constitution.
And the essay ''Kant und die Idee der Transzendentalphilosophie"
(1916/1924), which makes this very claim, also determines that
"phenomenological sources are to be found in almost all his
theories" {VIT: 235).
With respect to the reciprocal relation between Husserl and
Kant and to the development of this relationship, it might be well
Husserl's Kant Reception 107

to comment on the collection of writings appended to Erste

Philosophie I. These writings all date from the period 1903 to 1924.
Although in some sense "parerga," they nevertheless have their
own special significance. They bring into focus the zig-zag path of
Husserl's own insight,. the path which the founder of
phenomenology pursued in his transcendental-idealist approach to
the problems of ultimate foundations.
And at the end of this path Husserl can say, quite
independently of the pious sentiments surrounding the Kant
centenary, that his own goal is "to realize the deepest sense of the
Kantian philosophy" (VII: 287). If the approach and the procedure
pursued by phenomenological research "can be justified," then it
is Husserl's conviction that such an attempt will succeed. In this
sense the "Kantian inheritance" cannot and ought not to be "given
up"; rather, there should be "immortalized, by means of
clarification and evaluation, its absolute content" (VII: 286).
Thus when Husserl, as we have seen, comes up against the
foundational function of synthetic a priori judgments in Kant and
conceives of the function of intentionality in the constitutional
interconnection of his own phenomenology, it is not without
difficulties and not without a scrupulous consideration of possible
objections that he arrives at this isomorphism.
In this respect the discussion appended to the 25th lecture
from the first part of Erste Philosophie, the so-called "Critical
History of Ideas," is characteristic (VII: 350-356). The discussion
deals with Kant's relation to Hume in the context of a critical
consideration of the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments. In
this early study from 1903 one can find, in spite of the regard and
attention paid to the contributions of Locke and Hume respectively
as opposed to Kant, a more positive strain: "in struggling for a
solution to the problem of knowledge Kant looked deeper into the
problem than anyone before him"; and "even in his unsuccessful
theories one can find important and fruitful ideas that have not yet
been fully exploited" (VII: 356).
In the earliest discussions Husserl's concern always centered
on the handling of the "first question," that is, whether Kant had
really discovered the basic problem and whether he had
"correctly" ("with insight") presented it. A fragment from 1908
takes up this question (VII: 377-381). For Husserl it is really
foundational whether the "objective validity" of synthetic a priori
108 Gerhard Funke

judgments is displaced into either a "metaphysical or a

psychological sphere" (VII: 381). This is the danger which Husserl
perceives at least in the earliest stage of his investigations into the
founding role of phenomenological transcendental methodology
(taken in the strict sense).
Precisely the question as to the character of the necessity
pertaining to judgment-experiences [Urteilserlebnisse] leads Husserl
to a more intensive struggle with Kant's transcendental philosophy
(in a fragment from 1908). And, indeed, at issue is the particular
form of "Kant's method, the analytical critique of reason" which
the neo-Kantians had developed (VII: 382). Thus it is Husserl's aim
to show that even the logical origins of knowledge as merely
ostensible knowledge have a "strict scientific" validity and as such
should be uncovered and exhibited. Hence these origins must be
sought for lias origins of objectivity in transcendental subjectivity"
in general (VII: 382). Yet "Kant as well as the neo-Kantianism and
neo-idealism based on his work had little idea" of such an
exhibition of the basic foundations, on the one hand, and on the
other, of the corresponding principles of objective-logical
connection as well as the founding "modes of consciousness" (VII:
382). In this context is to be found the suggestive statement in
which Husserl holds that, as a logic that "refers back transcen-
dentally to consciousness," transcendental logic indeed contains
"grounds for a possible nature but not for a factual" nature (VII:
394). The latter's facticity does not belong to logic: it is the field of
If that is the case, however, then Husserl's critique must apply
not only to Kantianism or neo-Kantianism, which he always uses
as a foil. It must also apply to the neo-idealism which he mentions
in the same context in 1908.
Extensive studies that served as preliminary studies to the
27th lecture in the "Critical History of Ideas" (about 1915)
specifically deal with this theme (VII: 395-408). Here the
foundational determinations of the "specific human sciences" also
come into view (VII: 406). Extending the critique to the whole
realm of foundations yields for Husserl a future task which he
describes as follows: "what is needed is a plan for the ontologies
and phenomenologies of the human sciences, and based on that a
plan for the metaphysical problematic from the point of view of
Husserl's Kant Reception 109

human spirit, and finally a synthesis of this problematic with the

problematic of nature" (VII: 408).
This indicates the program for a comprehensive, phenom-
enological transcendental philosophy as opposed to a merely
phenomenalistic one. And here it is said explicitly that to the
transcendental critique there must correspond the "idea of
philosophy as the science of ultimate knowledge" (VII: 408).
But if this transcendental philosophy itself is to contribute to
fulfilling the idea of philosophy by laying ultimate foundations, it
cannot itself be grounded in an "anthropological theory," not even,
as Husser! insists, on the Kantian one. For this latter, in regressing
to the empirical (Le., to the "anthropological" constitution of the
human being), cannot establish its claim to the foundational. It too
then collapses into the much talked-of anthropologism which had
been exposed elsewhere. (1908/1917; VTI: 357-364).
Kant, however, cannot mean that synthetic a priori judgments
represent syntheses that could also be performed differently or that
are only in fact ("factually") performed by human beings
"necessarily" in the same exact manner every time as a result of a
subjectivity which is factually of such-and-such a kind. That would
be anthropologism. Such a "misunderstanding" should be clarified
(VTI: 357-364). If the "genuine a priori of knowing" amounts to
"apodictic insight into an essential interconnection" to which the
"a priori of the state of affairs" corresponds, then the discussion of
foundations must clarify this through a phenomenological
interpretation of the passage B 197 ff. in the Critique of Pure Reason
(VTI: 364).
A priori exhibitions are indeed valid for the a posteriori but
cannot be derived from the latter: they refer to essential
The critique which Hussed applies to Kant in order to
emphasize the latter's real purposes is in the end extended to every
form of "dogmatism" that can move no further. In this sense
Husser! regards Leibniz and Kant as belonging to the same line
(1924; Vll: 365-376). Both of course avoid naturalism,
psychologism, and historicism "in the usual sense" since neither of
them ground epistemology on natural science (including
The reproach which Hussed nevertheless raises against Kant
is that he does perhaps fall into an anthropological psychologism
110 Gerhard Funke

in that he cannot be shown to have produced the "knowledge of

faculties" with which he operates and which he simply
presupposes out of pure consciousness.
In short, this means the following: Kant certainly refuses to
acknowledge the validity of anything touching the experience of
phenomena except that which the transcendental critique
establishes as a condition of possibility. If, however, he proceeds
in this manner, he may not at the same time and without
examination claim legitimation for the procedure he is using
without grounding this as well. And if we are to avoid the
iterating regress of a critique of the critique, etc. - while at the
same time upholding the claim to strict scientificity - only one
path remains: the sense and justification of the procedure must
elucidate themselves or bring about their own insight.
The conclusion Husserl draws is that even Kant's
transcendental epistemology can only be carried out in a
meaningful way "in the framework of a universal epistemology."
Such a task is not exhausted in the explication of natural
phenomena and our access to them; rather it consists in the
elabor~tion of a comprehensive theory of phenomena. Kant's
project of a transcendental philosophy can only be "saved" if a
categorial intuition with respect to the transcendental be conceded.
Here is where the "pure science of consciousness" qua
phenomenology steps in (VII: 369). After outlining all these
required steps, Husserl is finally able to indicate how a critical
transcendental philosophy is to proceed if it is to remain genuinely
He sums up the matter in the following way: any requirement
which a pre-phenomenological, that is, an old-Kantian critique of
knowledge stipulates for a metaphysics that "shall present itself as
science" is unjustified if the requirement lacks a "scientific
grounding" (VII: 374).
The critique of Kant, the inspection of Kant, and the correction
of Kant which Husserl undertakes concludes with an unequivocal

A philosophy that is to have a sense peculiar to itself at all must not

only be science, but a science of complete 'clearness and
distinctness,' of the final accounting. Hidden abysses, overlooked
problems, confusions in correlative directions of knowledge cannot
Husserl's Kant Reception 111
be tolerated, not in any sense or direction. Philosophy exists to
represent the idea of completed knowledge, the final telos anchored
in the essence of knowledge; and to regulate all future knowledge
according to this idea. Philosophy in this old Platonic sense is either
nothing at all, or its exists as the intention to become the most
rigorous science in the most radical and most ultimate sense (VII:

Such philosophy is under way. And on the way it confirms

and strengthens itself even where it corrects itself. It shapes itself
in actu.
Seen in this light, the problems discussed in Husserliana vn are
problems derived from the Kantian approach, problems which
must be taken into account in any appropriate interpretation of a
possible transcendental philosophy in general belong in a
consistent discussion of Husserl's path toward transcendental-
phenomenological idealism.
The access to a truly "First Philosophy" opens up there; and
whoever finds this point of access should also use it.
112 Gerhard Funke

Translator's Notes

1. VI: 273. All Husser! quotations are documented according to volume and
page number of the Husserliana edition of the Gesammelte Werke (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1950).
2. Letter to Ernst Cassirer quoted by Iso Kern in Husserl unci Kant: Eine
Untersuchung uber Husserls Verhiiltnis zu Kant unci zum Neokantianismus (The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1964), p. 39.

by Walter Biemel
(translated by Michael Heim)

I would like to begin with two quotations from Husserl's letters

to Heidegger. The letters touch on Husserl's living situation just
before his retirement. 1

I am. having a miserable time. The doctor forbade all tobacco

smoking, and for nine days now I have not smoked. The world
seems distant and strange, and so do my manuscripts. My insomnia,
though, has turned into an appetite for sleep, and all the other
harmful symptom.s of tobacco poisoning have pretty well vanished.
I walk with a lighter step now and my appetite and digestion are
fine. Now we will see when I can reflect again in an orderly way. A
person cannot always go for walks. Oanuary 30, 1928)

Five months later, on May 9, 1928, Husserl wrote a detailed

description of his Holland lectures at Amsterdam and Groningen,
(at the same time Heidegger was accepting Husserl's chair in
philosophy at Husserl's recommendation). 1I1his description of the
tour, Husserl wrote:

Perhaps your youthful energy is just the right counterbalance to the

hesitations of myoid age - in case you find time, in this higher
sense, to function as my assistant and in particular to restrain me
from investigating further infinitudes (and finitudes). Surprisingly
enough, I still get thoughts and have not yet ended by becoming a II

parrot of myself." (In this letter Husserl also says that he put in an
application for Landgrebe at the Association for the German Sciences
and asked for a higher salary, 250 Marks, for his Assistant.)

In the following, I want to show that indeed Husserl's

retirement did not reduce him to taking walks, nor did he begin
to parrot himself.
I want to recall some parts of Husserl's work at that time and
show how an astonishing transformation occurred as he found

"First presented at a Festkolloquium for Ludwig Landgrebe, May 13, 1987.

T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics, 113-125.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
114 Walter Biemel

new and decisive thoughts. The Cartesian Meditations (1931), an

expansion of the Paris Lectures (1929), was a kind of overview of
the phenomenology he had developed. The Meditations treat the
systematic topics that are so central to the transcendental
reduction. In a letter to Roman Ingarden from March 19, 1930,
Husserl wrote that the Crisis represents a transformation and
renewal of phenomenology, an outline of the philosophy I have

developed, and a fundamental work on methodology and

philosophical problems."2 This new form of phenomenology had
a remarkable influence after the Second World War, especially in
France with Merleau-Ponty and, from France, an influence on
Germany - strengthened by the publications of Ludwig
Landgrebe. It also had an influence in the United States, where a
number of Husserl's students had emigrated, including Herbert
Spiegelberg, Alfred Schutz, Fritz Kaufmann, and Aron Gurwitsch,
to mention only a few. Through their influence (Marvin Farber and
Dorion Cairns should be mentioned), phenomenology became a
significant philosophical direction.
Let me organize my comments around the following topics:
1. The theme of historicity in the later Husserl, and his
interpretation of the European crisis and its possible solution.
2. The significance of the lifeworld for later phenomenology. Here
two points stand out:
a) the prehistory of the notion of the lifeworld
b) the motif of the lifeworld in his work, the Crisis, where the
meanings of doxa and episteme change.
3. The new kind of scientific attitude that phenomenology must
develop, in order to explore the relationship of the lifeworld to the
scientific world, and to overcome the crisis of the sciences.

1. History has a prominent place in the main themes of the
Crisis. But this does not mean that Husserl had not previously
addressed the notion of history in his earlier work. Of course,
history had never been so prominent a topic as the constitution of
the transcendental ego or as the method of transcendental
reduction. Ludwig Landgrebe, in an essay A Meditation on

Husserl's Statement 'History is the Great Fact of Absolute Being"',

made clear how the topic of history had arisen in earlier texts. 3
Transformation in Husserl 115

Husserl had, in fact, already published a decisive text, the Lectures

on the Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, which first
appeared in Volume IX of the Jahrbuch fUr Philosophie und
phiinomenologische Forschung and then was later published by
Boehm in Volume X of Husserliana. Furthermore, Husserl had early
on seen, in his study of the constitution of meaning -a key
question of phenomenology - that the process of constituting
meaning involves something like a settling and a sedimentation of
meaning, and in this saw the problem of history. Here is a citation
on this point:

History is from the outset no more than the living movement of the
conjunction and interpenetration of the primordial development and
sedimentation of meaning.'

This fine, clear statement comes from a text which Fink published
in 1939 in the Revue Internationale de Philosophie in Brussels under
the title On the Origin of Geometry. That was the time when Husserl
was developing the ideas of the Crisis. Ludwig Langrebe makes a
reference to Jacques Derrida's remark (in the French translation of
the text published in Paris in 1962) that Husserl had found a new
way of gaining access to history, but that Husserl had not made
this access into a problem of its own.
When I refer to the special significance of history in Husserl's
later work, I do not mean to suggest that history had no meaning
for him in the early work. There is an anecdote that Heidegger told
me. As he was accompanying Husserl on a train on the way to his
London lecture, Husserl with great animation spoke about nature
and spirit (Geist), always returning to the opposition between the
two. Heidegger asked, "How does history fit into all this?" Husserl
was said to have replied, "I forgot about history!" History was
central for Heidegger. Landgrebe has shown how this topic was
already present, but history, no doubt, had a special significance
in the Crisis period. Here I cannot go into the ideas about teleology
which were so important· to Husserl. Paul Janssen has done
thorough work on teleology in his Geschichte und Lebenswelt in
which he also treats Husserl's differences with Hegel.5 To a thinker
to whom Husserl had basically little connection, phenomenology
was a counterweight to speculative metaphysics. (Husserl had read
only the Editor's Preface to the Phenomenologie des Geistes.)
116 Walter Biemel

What surprised and impressed me thirty years ago, when I

worked on the texts of· the Crisis, was not so much the way
Husserl pondered history in general but how he explored the
concrete significance of history in a way I had not noticed in his
previous work. He did this not only in the main text where he
seeks to elucidate the origins of the European crisis by analyzing
history, but also in the Vienna Lecture "The Crisis of European
Humanity and Philosophy," which was originally entitled
"Philosophy in the Crisis of European Humanity" (May 1935).
In his 1930 work, Die geistige Situation der Zeit, Karl Jaspers
analyzed the concrete historical situation and foresaw the rise of
the totalitarian regimes, the various escapist reactions, and the
emergence of mystical and pseudo-mystical cultural streams. 6
Husserl went a different direction. He tried to elucidate the crisis
of the European sciences. This seemed to him far more important
than a study of the political situation. He saw politics as
ephemeral, while he thought it more important to purify the mind
and reason.

In his Vienna Lecture, he formulates the theme immediately:

I want to awaken new interest in the often-treated theme of the

European crisis by developing the historical-philosophical idea (or
the teleological meaning) of European humanity. The crisis of
Europe will gain new clarity insofar as I can show the essential
function of philosophy and its offshoots, the sciences?

Husserl wants to show how the rise of philosophy shaped

European humanity. Husserl explicitly acknowledged that it
belongs to the essence of philosophy to confront history. In the
group of manuscripts marked K III, there is a whole series of texts
in which Husserl asks why philosophy needs history and the
sciences do not. No doubt, the important thing for Husserl is to
show the reason for the crisis, so he begins his main text with the
provocative question whether it is appropriate to speak of a crisis
of the sciences or whether in fact it is philosophy itself and it alone
that is in crisis.
In his main text, Husserl shows how our modem knowledge
bifurcated. On the one hand, there is physicalistic objectivism, and,
on the other, there is transcendental subjectivism. In Descartes, a
Transformation in Husserl 117

philosopher whom Hussed valued and revered, he sees the reason

for the bifurcation of knowledge, which later developed into
mathematical science and transcendental philosophy.
Let me recall a single motif. Human knowledge is not a final
possession that is good once and for all; human knowledge does
not consist of apodictic truths in the sense that mathematics does.
Instead, human knowledge is historical - as stated in The Origin
of Geometry - "the living movement of the conjunction and
interpenetration of the primordial development and sedimentation
of meaning." By acquiring and stabilizing knowledge, human
reason comes to realize itself. Reason is essentially an ongoing
process. The demand of reason - nearly a Platonic thought - is
to come into harmony with itself, to achieve harmony. Because of
this, the notion of responsibility to oneself is central.
Hussed had already linked the concept of evidence with the
concept of teleology as far back as his work Formal and
Transcendental Logic. 8 Evidence is not something simply given, but
it results from a step-by-step struggle. The increasing completeness
of self-possession in Formal and Transcendental Logic becomes in the
Crisis an increase in selfunderstanding whereby human reason
achieves fulfillment. In this context, the notion of what is apodictic
acquires new meaning. It no longer means an absolutely certain
and indubitable knowledge in the mathematical sense, but it means
the thoroughly translucent knowing of reason which is compelling
"because reason, insofar as it is reason, cannot act unreasonably
but must decide according to its insight, so that reason realizes
itself through its decision.,,9 Here too there is a Platonic echo of the
link between knowing and doing. At the conclusion, therefore,
Husserl speaks of the "crisis of apodictic freedom." At first it may
sound nonsensical to connect apodicticity and freedom. But, if we
conceive the notion of reason consistently and radically enough,
and if we understand the human being as a creature of reason,
then the insight into rationality is the highest certainty which must
determine action. The goal of being human is now "understanding
oneself as a being called to a life of apodicticity.,,10 The knowledge
of philosophers, at first so dubious when compared to the
knowledge of scientists, now becomes the model of knOwing.
Phenomenology, then, is to heal the conflict between objectivist
and transcendental ways of knowing. This is because
118 Walter Biemel

phenomenology provides insight into the bestowal and

development of meaning.

2. I want now to consider another concept central to the later

philosophy, namely, the lifeworld. This notion also has an intra-
Husserllan prehistory.
a) In Manuscript F 143m from 1910, Husserl confronts
Avenarius and his concept of the natural world. Avenarius II

assumes that a natural world can be described, a world as it gives

itself, as it is to be found before any theorizing. He assumes that
theory by its very definition presupposes that things are there to
be found in a pre-given, immediate state prior to any description,"
(Ms. lOa, transcript p. 17). And somewhat later Husserl says:
"Here we have the motive for a phenomenological clarification of
the meaning of the world as something intended by a discovering
and knowing consciousness ..." (ibid.). What he sees in Avenarius
is the first attempt "to do a pure description of what is
'discovered'" (12a, p. 22). And, "Without being aware of himself,
Avenarius describes a general meaning framework for the world
of immediate experience," (Ibid.). Husserllater added a note in the
margin, probably around 1915: "But Avenarius does not say that
he is doing this and that is his mistake," (12a, p. 23). Husserl says
in the same manuscript, "I have the world by experience, prior to
all theorizing and prior to all communicable meaning, but I do not
have the world in a way that fully satisfies my intention to know
it. So I must begin to describe the world as it is immediately given
to me, that is, I must describe my experience with regard to what
I have experienced as such," (12b page 24). This seems to be, in a
nutshell, the first form of the later notion of the lifeworld. In Ideas,
volume I (sections 27-30), Husserl speaks of the "natural
environment" immediately given to me by sensory contact. "The
arithmetical world is there for me only when, and only insofar as
I have studied arithmetic.... The natural world, however, the world
in the everyday meaning of the term, is and continually was there
for me as long as I lived naturally."u The need to examine the
natural world is clear in section 30: "Such a task can and must, as
a scientific task, be established, and it is an extraordinarily
important task which has hardly been noticed before."l2 Thirty
Transformation in Husserl 119

years later, Husserl takes up this task again, though this time with
a new sense of importance.
There is also a reference to the world of experience as the
pretheoretical world in the Phenomenological Psychology of 1926. But
there Husserl still excludes it from the realm of rigorous truth:

All inquiries into true being presuppose this changing world of

experience: the true world denotes, then, a higher product of
knowledge that obtains its primal material from the shifting universe
of the specific givens of experience. Put another way, this first reality
of experience is the source field from which scientific research
produces the true world as its fruit.13

However important he thinks the world of experience is - "world

of experience" is the early term for lifeworld - Husserl
nevertheless excludes from this world the concept of truth. Despite
its relativity, this world is "perceived and experienced as existing
with indubitable certainty."· But, Husserl continues, "the
indubitability refers here not to truth but literally to that kind of
unbroken certainty of directly intuitable and graspable being that
belongs to every perception.... "14 Only theoretical thinking could
establish" objective, valid truth. "15 Yet Husserl makes an important
remark which hints at the Crisis themes when he says:

Provided that we could show that the pretheoretical experience has

a general systematic structure as a general formal system which
permeates all the transient instances and so belongs everywhere to
the world of experience, no matter which section of experience we
might consider... , this structure would then prescribe, prior to all
possible sciences, the corresponding systematic form, the context as
a system....16

Finding this structure would be, in the Crisis period, the task of an
ontology of the lifeworld. Unfortunately, Husserl carried out this
task only in partial sketches.
b) In the Vienna Lecture there is, as I read it, a change that
takes place and which I can briefly explain with the key words
dom and episteme. At the beginning of the lecture, Husserl asks
about the "spiritual Gestalt of Europe." He claims that the Gestalt
of Europe was founded by the philosophizing of the ancient
Greeks. He calls this "the breakthrough and initial development of
120 Walter Biemel

a new epoch of humanity, an epoch of a humanity that no longer

merely wants to survive but can now live by freely shaping its
existence and historical life according to ideas of its reason,
according to an endless task.,,17 "In the breakthrough of
philosophy, in the sense shared by the sciences, I see ... the primal
phenomenon of the European spirit."lS
In his presentation, Husserl proceeds from the naive or natural
attitude, which has a practical approach and which serves humans
in finding their way about the world. The practical character of
this attitude can be intensified so that we have a higher-order
practical attitude, which must be distinguished clearly from the
theoretical attitude. Phenomenologically, this means an attitude
that rests on a voluntary suspension (epoche) of all natural and

higher-level kinds of praxis serving naturalness in the scope of its

own particular calling.,,19
We must clearly distinguish the natural attitude from the
theoretical attitude. "The idea of truth in the sense of
science... sequesters itself from the truth of pre-scientific life. It
wants to be an unconditional truth.,,20 Truth in the natural attitude
is a relative truth; theoretical, scientific truth would be equivalent
to episteme, and the relative truth equivalent to doxa. "In this
amazing contrast, we get the distinction between representation of
the world and the real world and hence a new question arises about
truth; thus there is no longer an everyday truth which is tied to
what is traditional but there is a completely valid self-identical
truth which is no longer mixed with what is traditional- a truth
in itself."2l This interpretation of things corresponds to Husserl's
own research. But in examining and inquiring into these
connections, a surprising transformation takes place. I can describe
it briefly in this way, that Husser! became aware of the meaning
of the truth of life-in-the-world, that is, the truth of doxa. This truth
precedes scientific truth. In fact, scientific truth can only exist on
the basis of the truth of the lifeworld. The kind of truth that
prevails in the lifeworld is intuitive, the kind that was always so
important for Husserl in his efforts to establish a new
phenomenological mode of seeing that contrasts with speculative
Husserl says that the lifeworld "has the validity of something
that can be unanimously agreed upon and mutually corroborated.
This rough description indicates that the lifeworld is constantly in
Transformation in Husserl 121
motion so that it remains constantly valid in a mobile relativity
relative to those who are living amidst one another and share the
same world. fl22 Husserl himself understood doxa this way. How do
we account for this reversal? All the objective sciences, with their
goals of 'final' and 'eternal' truths, build on the foundation of the
lifeworld. The judgments of the sciences are "judgments based on
the foundation of the lifeworld, on the foundation of a universal
validation of being which emerges in the constant mobility of the
life of valuation, and it has its proper certainty persisting through
everyday experience and its validation. fl23
How are we to understand this change in the value placed on
doxa? The change occurs within the context of a shift in research.
At this time, Husserl no longer assumed that theoria establishes a
new form of life, a life form typical of the spiritual life of Europe.
Instead, Husserl tried to show how the different ways of
establishing meaning come about. In this way the lifeworld
emerges as the indispensable foundation of meaning. Here is a
passage from Beilage XVII:

The lifeworld is the constantly pre-given thematic which continually

validates things a priori with regard to some universal goal but
which does not validate out of any particular explicit intention.
Every goal presupposes this thematic, even including the universal
goal to know the thematic itself scientifically; it presupposes the
thematic in advance and, in the process of doing its work, it
repeatedly presupposes the thematic over and over again,
presupposing it as something that exists in its own special way but
nonetheless still exists.24

As I formulate this when I tried to present this entire thought


It is a fact that we moderns are oriented toward episteme as the

model for knowledge and toward the objective sciences. But this is
a fact with which the philosopher Husserl is not content. Husserl
says: " ...but perhaps what is first for us is not the knowledge that is
of itself first," (VI, 563). We can designate the specific type of
knowledge that follows the model of objective truth as first
knowledge, but it is not at all first knowledge in the sense of
knowledge of basics, of principles. It would be first if it focused on
the very foundations of objective science, if it were to ask how it
122 Walter Biemel

arrives at this foundation and through what anonymous acts of

subjectivity it constructed this foundation in the first place. This new
knowledge - its respective science as philosophy - may not leap
over the lifeworld as all previous knowledge has done.25

In his Vienna Lecture, Husserl presents the matter this way:

The mathematical science of nature is a triumphant achievement of

the human spirit. But regarding the rationality of its methods and
theories, it is thoroughly relative. It makes a basic presupposition
that completely sets aside an effective rationality. Insofar as the
scientific program forgets as purely subjective the world we perceive
intuitively, it also forgets the subjectivity that is working scien-
tifically and so the scientist never comes into focus scientifically.
(From this perspective, the rationality of the exact sciences parallels
the rationality of the Egyptian pyramids).26

There is another passage in the main body of the text. When he

explains, the concept of lifeworld, Husserl refers to the necessity of
making the lifeworld a theme of scientific reflection in which the
foundational order maintains its priority. He shows how lithe
question has never been asked scientifically how the lifeworld
continually functions as an underlying support, how its many pre-
logical affirmations function to ground the logical and theoretical
truths. And perhaps this scientific approach, which explores the
lifeworld as such and in its universality, is a uniquely scientific
approach which is not itself objective but which, as the ultimately
grounding science, has not a lower but a higher value." 27
The meaning of doxa resides in its role as ground. In other
words, the lifeworld as the realm of doxa is the realm of primordial
foundation. We also find an important passage in a volume edited
by Landgrebe, Erfahrung und Urteil, a book whose fate shows some
of the irrationality of our times. The book was published in Prague
just before the occupation by German troops, then the book went
underground, and it was published again after the Second World
War. The book was at first ignored, but then it increasingly gained
the attention of philosophical research, especially through its
influence on French phenomenology. Here is the passage:

This reversion to the primordiallifeworld does not just simply take

in the world of our experience as we receive it. Instead, it reverts to
Transformation in Husserl 123
the historicality already submerged in the lifeworld, returning to its
origin. The meaning of an existing world "in itself," with objective
determinations, develops historically on the basis of primordial
intuition and experience. The logician does not plumb the world of
original experience which is layered over with idealizations, but the
logician believes instead that the primordiality of experience lies
obviously at hand. So the logician measures cognition against the
ideal of exactness, believing episteme to be precise and "objective"
knowledge. In contrast to the logician's approach, our reversion to
the lifeworld of prepredicative experience and insight, which is the
deepest and most primordial layer of prepredicative experience,
implies an affirmation of daxa, which is the realm of the most
primordial evidence not yet idealized with mathematical-physical
precision. This realm of daxa, then, does not offer evidence that has
a lesser rank than that of episteme, but it is the realm of ultimate
primordiality to which exact knowledge returns for its meaning. We
must see through the character of exact knowledge as a mere
method and not as a self-supportive way of knowing. 28

Finally, I want to add a parallel passage from the text of the


Of course, the scientific exploration of the lifeworld has the very

important task of affirming the fundamental rights of this evidence,
even affirming its value for grounding the knowledge that has
objective-logical evidence. We have to make it completely clear, with
final proof, that all the evidential grounds supporting the form and
content of objective-logical theory (such as mathematical and
objective science) has its hidden source of grounding ultimately in
our life activities. Here the manifest givenness of the lifeworld draws
its pre-scientific sense ever anew.29

Here Husserl wants to discover what kind of originating,

anonymous fundings of meaning lead to the constitution of the
Iifeworld. He seeks the ur-doxa from which all research and
investigation must proceed.

3. I come now to my final point, which I can only sketch

briefly. There is a kind of knowledge which does not leap over the
lifeworld, which instead investigates the lifeworld, looking at its
124 Walter Biemel

specific constitution, and inquiring into the way the lifeworld

absorbs the scientific world, seeing the way the lifeworld collects
sediments from the scientific world. This is a new kind of knowl-
edge, or, more precisely, a knowledge of a new science: phenom-
enology. Phenomenology contains an episteme of a higher sort.

In Beilage XVIII Husserl puts it this way:

The discovery of the lifeworld as a focus for theory (namely, the

world taken for granted by objective science) does not put an end to
the matter; the modem science of the lifeworld moves inescapably
into the universal tasks that make up its properly scientific character;
in the end it encompasses all the meaningful problems of the
knowledge of being and of truth, all the problems of reason. 30

I have tried to show that Husserl's retirement had in no way

reduced him to taking walks, nor did he begin to parrot himself.
In his old age Husserl achieved a phoenix-like self-renewal.
I must close with an admission. When I first chose the title for
these remarks, everything seemed clear. When you have lived a
long time in the Husserlian world, it all seems familiar and you
think you know it from top to bottom. As I began to present this
familiar world, I realized how much richer it is, how many levels
of meaning it contains. What I could present here does not go as
far as I would have wanted. Even the text of On the Origin of
Geometry (Beilage III) has so many levels - as Derrida has shown
nicely - that you can always read it anew and always find in it
something new. Perhaps this is the greatness of Husserl, that he
constructed an apparently clear, transparent edifice of thought,
where you can dwell, but the longer you live there, the more
rooms you discover, and the more the inexhaustible riches of this
thought appear. So I do not want these remarks to be taken as a
clarifications but rather as a provocation to discover the many
facets of this thought, the sign of true greatness. We have Ludwig
Landgrebe to thank for bringing us all into this edifice by his
writings and teaching, and for building some extensions on the
edifice - in a critical sense, not in the form of a stale
phenomenological orthodoxy.
Transformation in Husser! 125
1. The original, yet to be published letters can be found in the Heidegger
Archives in Marburg.
2. Roman Ingarden, ed., Edmund Husserls Briefe on Roman Ingarden (The
Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1968), p. XLIV.
3. See Ludwig Landgrebe, FaktizWit und Individuation (Tiibingen: Meiner
Vedag, 1982). The English translation appears as, "A Meditation on Hussed's
Statement: 'History if the Grand Fact of Absolute Being'," Southwestern Journal of
Philosophy 5 (1974): 111-125.
4. Edmund Hussed, Die Krisis der europiiischen Wissenschaften und die
transzendentale Phiinomenologie: Eine Einleitung in die phiinomenologische Philosophie,
ed., W.Biemel, Husserliana, Vol. 6 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1954), p. 300.
Hereafter cited as Krisis.
5. Paul Janssen, Geschichte und Lebenswelt (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,
6. Kad Jaspers, Die geistige Situation der Zeit (Berlin: W. de Grugter & Co.,
7. Krisis, p. 314.
8. Edmund Hussed, Formal and Transcendental Logic, trans. Dorion Cairns (The
Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969), p. 159ff.
9. Walter Biemel, "Die entscheidenden Phasen der Entfaltung von Husseds
Philosophie," Zeitschrift for philosophische Forschung 13 (1959): p. 212.
10. Krisis, p. 275.
11. Edmund Hussed, Ideen zu einer reinen Phiinomenologie und
phiinomenologischen Philosophie, Erstes Buch: Allgemeine Einfohrung in die reine
Phiinomenologie, ed., Walter Biemel (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950), p. 61.
12. Ibid., p. 62.
13. Edmund Hussed, Phiinomenologische Psychologie, ed., Walter Biemel (The
Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1959), p. 57.
14. Ibid., p. 62.
15. Ibid., p. 63.
16. Ibid., p. 64.
17. Krisis, p. 319.
18. Ibid., p. 319.
19. Ibid., p. 328.
20. Ibid., p. 324.
21. Ibid., p. 332.
22. Ibid., p. 464.
23. Ibid., p. 465.
24. Ibid., p. 461.
25. Walter Biemel, "Doxa und Episteme in Umkreis der Krisis-Thematik," in
Lebenswelt und Wissenschaft in der Philosophie Edmund Husserls, ed., Elizabeth
Stroker (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1979), p. 14.
26. Krisis, p. 343.
27. Ibid., p.127.
28. Edmund Hussed, Erfahrung und Urteil, ed., Ludwig Landgrebe (Prague:
Academia, 1939), section 10.
29. Krisis, p. 131.
30. Ibid., p. 463.

by James M Edie

I. Historical Perspective

What is most distinctive, one might say new, in Sartre's view

of man is his conception of a consciousness that is not me, that is
transphenomenal, pre-personal, pre-reflexive, his own conception
of transcendental consciousness. This is the non-substantial absolute. It
is "mine" but it does not contain a "me." It is absolute because it
is its own foundation, its own justification; it does not come from
something else; it comes from itself and exists for itself because
consciousness can only come from consciousness. It is a primitive
given, not a being except in the sense of "the being of
nothingness," the source of "nihilating" acts which discover the
"negativities" of denial, negation, absence, otherness, abstraction,
determination, the possible, the potential, the subjunctive, the
"not" in being. Consciousness is not a "mode of being" and can
never be reduced to being; nor can being ever be reduced to
consciousness. It is necessarily non-substantial; its 'only content
comes from its objects; its only unity comes from its objects; it is
a pure intentionality, a directedness towards a world of being which
it is not.
The ego, therefore, can appear only in reflexive or thematic,
positional consciousness, on the level of the cogito; it appears as a
new object, as being behind consciousness, "like a pebble at the
bottom of a glass of water." My own ego is just as much an object
in-the-world as the ego of anybody else; it is only "more intimate."
My consciousness is not the product of my ego; my ego is the
product of consciousness, a consciousness which is spontaneous,
pre-personal, pre-reflexive, non-egological. The ego is only a state
or qualification of the fully reflexive, thinking cogito. I can speak of
"my" consciousness only in the sense I speak of the "day of my
baptism." It is simply a designation, not a definition. Tran-
scendental consciousness is an impersonal spontaneity; each instant
of conscious life is a constant creatio ex nihilo of itself by itself for
itself. The ego does not create the world; the world does not create
the ego; both are objects for consciousness, which alone is absolute
spontaneity, absolute freedom, absolute intentionality (in both the
T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics, 127-151.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
128 James M. Edie

epistemological sense of "having objects" and in the ethical sense

of "making choices," both "nihilating" activities).
This "new" conception of consciousness as "non-egological,"
is expressed in an early essay, "A Fundamental Idea in the
Phenomenology of Husserl: Intentionality,"l and primarily in
Sartre's first important philosophical publication, The Transcendence
of the Ego, 1936.2 What he argues in these first essays was later
orchestrated in many different tonalities in his chef d'oeuvre, Being
and Nothingness, 1943, and plays an important background role in
his literary productions (short stories, novels, dramas) as well as
many of his other philosophical works. 3 The inspiration for this
first, "new," genial idea which contains the germ of his fully
developed philosophy was clearly inspired by Edmund Husser!.
Bergson once said that every great, systematic philosopher has
only one idea, which contains the germ of his "system" and which
all his later works serve to explicate and develop to its necessary
conclusions. If one can put oneself at the point of view of such a
thinker, and see everything from his point of view, one sees that,
within his system there is nothing to refute, everything hangs
together with logical necessity; to understand is to see the truth,
with nothing left out, everything is explained. It is only because
there are other possible points of view, other points of departure,
that one can escape the system of a great philosopher, but one will
never escape if one concedes the validity of the starting point. In
fact if a great systematic thinker has more than one genial idea, he
has too many; his "system" will be flawed and break down.
Genius consists in taking a new viewpoint on the whole of
experience and getting everyone else to see the world from that
point of view. A great philosopher, like a great artist, like a Picasso
for instance, creates his own language, his own medium of
expression, at first imperfectly understood, if understood at all, but
which gradually creates its own audience and comes to be
understood as we enter a new way of looking at the whole of
Most of the great historical philosophers have conceived their
first great systematic ideas, the germs of their systems, around
their thirtieth year, (there being no child prodigies in the language
of philosophy like there are in the language of music) though
some, like Descartes and Hume, are more precocious, and others,
like Kant and Husserl, more ponderous and slower to develop. I
Question of the Transcendental Ego 129

submit that Sartre was about right on schedule with his

publication of The Transcendence of the Ego in 1936. But where did
this come from?4
It is presented in the guise of a polemic against Husserl's
conception of the "transcendental ego." Much later in life Sartre
admitted that he wrote this essay "under the direct influence of
Husserl" though he took an anti-Husserlian position because, as he
said, "I'm argumentative by nature."s My purpose in writing this
essay, is to argue that, stripped of its pseudo-polemic and reduced
to its bare bones, to its ultimate meaning, Sartre's surface
disagreement with Husserl is merely factitious, a purely verbal and
not a substantial dispute. There exists, it is true, an enormous body
of literature from France, Germany, the United States, England,
and even Latin America, Portugal, Sweden and Israel on the merits
of this attack on Husserl,6 much of it quite unhelpful and divided
between those who take the debate seriously and those who find
Sartre's discussion seriously flawed and even "erroneous." I will
argue that it is not erroneous at all, but very misleading precisely
because it advances against Husserl what has to be his own
First, a historical fact. Sartre did not attend, like his friend
Merleau-Ponty, the lectures which Husserl gave at the Sorbonne in
the Salle Descartes in 1929, one year after his retirement from
teaching at Freiburg, and published shortly afterwards in French
as Les Meditations Cartesiennes. 7 However, shortly thereafter,
through the good offices of his friend Raymond Aron, he began to
become acquainted with Husserl, bought and read Emmanuel
Levinas' new book, Theorie de l'intuition dans la phenomenologie de
Husserl,8 and spent the next six years reading Husserl, particularly
Ideas I and the Cartesian Meditations. From his footnotes it is clear
that he also looked into Formal and Transcendental Logic and Inner
Time-Consciousness, and perhaps a few other things, but did not
delve as deeply into their arguments.
In the year 1933-1934, at the age of 29, again thanks to Aron,
he was able to take a leave of absence from his teaching in Le
Havre to spend the year reading Husserl while living in the
FranzOsische Akademikerhaus in Berlin. In spite of his Alsatian
birth his German was not very good and his year in Berlin was
laborious9 but he did steep himself in Husserl. As he later wrote
of this year:
130 James M. Edie

Husserl had gripped me. I saw everything through the perspectives

of his philosophy, which, besides, was more accessible to me
because it looked Cartesian. I was "Husserlian" and longed to
remain so. At the same time, the effort I'd made to understand-in
other words to break my personal prejudices and grasp Husserl's
ideas on the basis of his own principles rather than mine-had
exhausted me philosophically for that particular year .... It took me
four years to exhaust Husser1.10

He tells us at the same time that he had tried to take up

Heidegger's Being and Time in the same year but that his
commitment to Husserl made Heidegger "indigestible" and that it
was a mistake for him to try to take up two such major and
unfamiliar philosophers in the same year. He later came to
Heidegger also, taking from him mainly what he found on subjects
which reinforced some of his own earliest notions, the concepts of
authenticity, contingency, facticity, historicity, and the conception
of being-in-the world. He expressed his triumphant relief that his
reading the works of these two thinkers at such an early stage in
his career had saved him an enormous amount of time and
enabled him to progress much more rapidly than otherwise might
have been possible, "How much time I gained!"U But his main
comment was still that "Husserl to me has been the greatest
revelation in German Philosophy since Kant.,,12 He calls Husserl a
"genius," his "master," a "twentieth century Descartes" and
Cohen-Solan writes that this was "the encounter of his life," one he
never abandoned. 13

II. The Transcendence of the Ego

Even before writing his first published philosophical essay, The
Transcendence of the Ego, Sartre had found in Husserl's concept of
intentionality the key to refuting the "pulp" and "digestive"
phenomenologies of his own French teachers, like Leon
Brunschvicg, Andre Lalande, Emile Meyerson, and, in fact, the
whole ancient tradition, going back to Plato and Aristotle, which
presents "knowing" on the basis of the metaphor of the
Question of the Transcendental Ego 131

assimilation of food by the biological organism.14 This "alimentary

philosophy" is based on an illusion common to both realism and
idealism, an impasse which Sartre, following Husserl, wanted to
overcome; it reminded him of a spider which would "draw things
into its web, cover them with white spittle and slowly assimilate
them, reducing them to its own substance."ls
Consciousness, on the contrary, is not a container of forms; it
is not self-enclosed, it is, rather, a directedness outwards, an
intentionality (in the literal sense of the Latin phrase tendere
animum in). One of Sartre's earliest and most constant themes, both
in his theory of knowledge and in his ethical writings, is his stress
on the ability of consciousness to dipasser Ie reel, to stretch itself
out, to transcend itself towards what it is not, what is not yet the
case, to confer on things-in-themselves meaning and value, in short
to "have objects." It is consciousness which objectifies, defines,
gives structure, meaning and value to things; in-itself being is
utterly indifferent to consciousness. Consciousness adds nothing to
being except a relationship to itself. There is no "inside" to

Against the digestive philosophy of empirio-criticism, of neo-

Kantianism, against all "psychologism," Husserl never tires of
repeating that we cannot dissolve things in consciousness.... Husserl
sees in consciousness an irreducible fact which cannot be rendered
by any physical image, except, perhaps, the rapid and obscure image
of bursting forth. To know is "to burst out towards," to tear oneself
away from the clammy gastric depths to slip outside of oneself over
there, towards what is not oneself....Now, consciousness is purified,
it is as clear as a strong wind, there is nothing left in it, except a
movement of escaping itself, a slipping outside itself. If, by an
impossible chance, you were to get "inside" a consciousness, you
would be seized by a whirlwind and thrown back outside .. .for
consciousness has no "inside."16

It is this definition of consciousness by Husserl which, in The

Transcendence of the Ego Sartre calls the "fruitful" definition, which
must never be violated, namely that "all consciousness is always
consciousness of..." Let us, therefore, turn to the structure of the
argument in The Transcendence of the Ego.
It is clear, first of all, that Sartre understands Husserl's
phenomenology of perception, given in Ideas,t7 very well. Taking
132 James M. Edie

a perceptual object as the paradigm of any object transcendent to

acts of consciousness, it is clear that, when I perceive such an
object more is "given" as the object than is immediately
"presented" in anyone intuition, in any isolated act of perception.
The perceptual object is given to me as having other sides,
different aspects which I am not just now perceiving but which I
could perceive, which I may even now experience as being seen by
other persons occupying positions vis-a.-vis the object which I do
not yet occupy. These are all perspectives on the same object which
are not now presented to me but which could be so given if I were
to stand where the others are standing. Much more is
"appresented" to us in any given object of perception at anyone
instance than is actually "presented" from my own necessarily
perspectival viewpoint.
Consciousness is always in a place, namely its own body,
perspectivally situated within a field of perceptible objects and
unable ever to perceive all aspects, all sides, all possible
presentations of any object from all possible viewpoints, all at
once, without emphasis. In fact, no perceptual object is ever given
all at once and anything we may say about it is always only
presumptively true and dependent on the confirmation of future
experience, presuming that when all of experience shall have taken
place all the possible presentations of a given object in the ultimate
field of objects, which we call the "world," will be found to cohere
with one another. In fact, from the point of view of perceptual
experience, one could say, with Gurwitsch, that an object is
nothing other than the law or system of all its possible
appearances. IS
This must, however, be understood not in the sense of the
phenomenalism of a Russell (or some other British empiricists) but
rather in the sense that we never perceive just aspects Qr qualities
but the objects themselves, whole and entire, but always from some
given point of view, tatum sed non totaliter. There is nothing left
out; we indeed perceive the objects, but always from one aspect at
a time.
If we were to take a more complex example, still within
perception, we would distinguish between the "internal horizons"
which constitute all the possible modes of presentation of a given
object and the "external horizons" which lead to the whole field of
objects of perception actually and possibly given, ultimately to the
Question of the Transcendental Ego 133

"world." If, for instance, I take as the central object in my

perceptional field the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at a
baseball game, through the time it takes us to sing it from beginning to
end (while at the same time I am concomitantly aware of my whole
perceptual field as containing many other co-present objects not
intrinsically connected with my focal object, such as the stadium
itself, the other persons in the stands, the baseball teams on the
field, the sunshine, the blue sky, the breeze, the hotdog vendors,
the organ playing, and even the honking of horns and sirens of
emergency vehicles in the streets outside the stadium) I never
confuse the other co-givens with the object of my immediate
attention, even though they are co-present as other possible objects
of attention capable of forcing themselves upon my awareness at
any moment.
There is also the intersensorial unity of my own perceptual
consciousness, which requires that many perceptual objects, while
being seen, for instance, also have typical sounds, thermal and
weight qualities, smells, sizes, etc., which are all co-presented with
the visual presentation even though I have not yet felt, held,
touched, smelled or heard them as such. Perception takes place
through time; the perceptual object is affected by what Husserl
calls "a synthesis of unification," which permits the same object to
be held before consciousness through time as being the same object
and not another. Consciousness is necessarily "synthetic." Its
syntheses enable us to identify and hold before our minds any
possible object whatsoever.
Though we are here giving only examples from perception we
could go on, mutatis mutandis, for other kinds of objects, those of
imagination, of memory, of thought, numbers, constructs, theories,
aesthetic and religious experience, etc. But it is not necessary to
give a completed phenomenology of the whole of life-world
experience to make the point that all objects of experience are
transcendent to consciousness, outside the mind; what the mind
does is to give structure, distinctness, meaning, value to the world
of objects. All this is clearly granted by Sartre. The being-in-itself
of objects of experience is transphenomenal in the sense that, in
experiencing objects abschattungsweise, there is always more to be
experienced, the object is always beyond any particular experience
of it; this is what he calls in the Introduction to Being and
Nothingness the "infinity" of the object.
134 James M. Edie

But in The Transcendence of the Ego he is primarily concerned
with the manner in which the experiencing ego is itself given as an
object to itself. It is the "miracle" of consciousness not only to be
the objectifier of things in the world but to be able to take itself, its
own acts, states, and "qualities" or dispositions, as objects. And, as
with the experience of external objects, it experiences itself both
pre-reflexively and in acts of full reflection, of fully reflexive
awareness. There is here the possibility and the danger of making
the spurious distinction between the "I" and the "me," in which
the "I" would be the true, "innermost" ego, the source of
consciousness, an unknown x "behind" consciousness as its
producer, whereas the "me" would be the psycho-physical self, the
empirical ego in the world. This is the dichotomy Sartre will not
accept; there is neither a formal nor a material distinction between
the "I" and the "me."

The I is the ego as the unity of actions. The me is the ego as the
unity of states and qualities. The distinction that one makes between
these two aspects of one and the same reality seems to us simply
functional, not to say grammatical. 19

On the level of pre-reflexive (pre-thematic, pre-predicative,

non-positional) awareness there is neither the "I" or the "me" but
simply consciousness-of-something apprehended, or consciousness-
of-something-being-done. Take, for example, the famous example
from "The Look" in Being and Nothingness.

Let us imagine that moved by jealousy, curiosity, or vice I have just

glued my ear to the door and looked through a keyhole. I am alone
and on the level of non-thetic self-consciousness. This means first of
all that there is no self to inhabit my consciousness, nothing
therefore to which I can refer my acts in order to qualify them. They
are in no way known; I am my acts ... I am a pure consciousness of
things.... My attitude ... is a pure mode of losing myself in the world,
of causing myself to be drunk in by things as ink is by a blotter in
order that an instrumental-complex oriented toward an end may be
synthetically detached on the ground of the world. The order is the
reverse of the causal order. It is the end to be attained which
Question of the Transcendental Ego 135
organizes all the moments which precede it.... This situation reflects
to me both my facticity and my freedom....
But all of a sudden I hear footsteps in the hall. Someone is looking
at me! What does this mean? It means that I am suddenly affected
in my being and that essential modifications appear in my
structure-modifications which I can apprehend and fix conceptually
by means of the reflective cogito.20

In short I have moved from the pre-reflexive state of

consciousness to the fully reflexive state; I am no longer a pure,
disembodied, consciousness-experiencing-the-world, no longer the
dominant subject, the sole objectifier of the world. I am also an
"object," a "me," being seen by others. I am not just the absolute
center of the universe before whom all things and all "others"
spread themselves out before me as my objects, but I am myself
capable of experiencing "shame," "guilt," "otherness," of taking
myself as an object. I am also an "object" to other consciousnesses
who drain the world away from me, out of me.
We here come up against a rock-bottom factum of conscious
experience. While I am always the absolute subject in and for my
own experience, I am at the same time always an object" for II

others and they for me. There is an inescapable truth of solipsism.

I can always experience others and they can always experience me
but I cannot experience the others' experiences nor they mine. A
co-experiencing of the world is possible; nothing could be easier;
but there is always the unbridgeable gap between my
experiencings and the experiencings of others (what Sartre calls
"the dialectic of sadism and masochism" when he talks of the
necessity of always taking the "other" as an object and of always
being taken by the other as an "object"). The fundamental law of
consciousness holds: all consciousness is consciousness of an
object. And since I am always what I am not and not what I am,
this law pertains even to my experience of myself.
Let us now return to the principal argument of The
Transcendence of the Ego, using as a basis Sartre's example of Peter's
love for Mary.

Phenomenology has come to teach us that states are objects, that an

emotion as such (a love or a hatred) is a transcendent object and
cannot shrink into the interior unity of a "consciousness."
Consequently if Paul and Peter both speak of Peter's love for
136 James M. Edie

example, it is no longer true that the one speaks blindly and by

analogy of what the other apprehends in full. They speak of the
same thing. Doubtless they apprehend it by different procedures, but
these procedures. may be equally intuitional. And Peter's emotion is
no more certain for Peter than for Paul. For both of them it belongs
to the category of objects. . . 21 .

By slightly rearranging22 but still following Sartre's reasoning

very closely we may make the following distinctions.
First of all, as with all emotive acts of having objects which are
really given to us we find an intentional structure which is
inescapable. Even if we do not fully understand why we like or
dislike, love or hate someone or something, even if the reasons for
these attitudes are lost in the depths of the unconscious,23 these
emotions are not objectless; they are very intense, directed ways of
"having objects." Moreover, emotive acts, like perceptual acts, are
instances of what Hussed calls "passive syntheses," namely they
are not directly willed, deliberately chosen in acts of premeditated
reflection, but rather come upon us as the way things are in our
experience. Affective syntheses, in particular, emerge at the level
of fully reflexive consciousness as the result of something which
has already been accomplished.
If I have a rapport with someone, if I get along with someone,
if I like to be in the company of someone, if I find someone
reassuring and another discomforting or repulsive, these are ways
of having objects on the pre-reflexive level which just happen; I
discover them after the fact. When, suddenly, a particular affective
manner of having an object emerges on the level of consciousness
I become aware of an act of consciousness which says to itself "I
like so and so," "1 get along with... ," "I desire the company of.
. .," "I desire... ," "I love... ," etc. So when Peter says to himself
that he likes or loves Mary, he is formulating in a fully reflexive
act of awareness a manner of having Mary as an object which
would have been preceded by any number of prereflexive acts of
the same kind directed towards the same object.
We are here distinguishing, following Sartre, between acts,
states, and dispositions of consciousness which can be objectified
(after the fact) and which together enable us to take our own
conscious acts, our own consciousness as an object. This is, for
Sartre, a much more important experience of freedom, of being free,
Question of the Transcendental Ego 137

than the freedom (and necessity) to choose, which is secondary

and derived from this noetic sense of freedom. We are not
ourselves because we are always capable of taking ourselves as
objects, of going beyond ourselves, of becoming "unstuck" from
When Sartre speaks of being-in-itself he speaks of its being a
viscous gelatinous mass, sticky, boundless, something in which
consciousness gets "stuck" because there is "too much" of it; but
consciousness can become "unstuck" by taking an intentional
attitude towards being and its own being, because every act of
consciousness, of true awareness, is a "nihilation" of being. The
true definition of Sartrean "freedom" lies in the experienced ability
of consciousness to stand back from itself, to become unstuck from
itself and to experience itself as the non-substantial absolute which
is "consciousness of... " itself. Pre-reflexive consciousness

becomes positional only by directing itself upon the reflected

consciousness which itself was not a positional consciousness of
itself before being reflected. Thus the consciousness which says I
think is precisely not the consciousness which thinks. 24

When Peter says to Paul, "I love Mary," he becomes fully

aware of the conscious act of loving Mary; before he was just
loving Mary; now he says to himself and to Paul that he loves
Mary. But the consciousness which says "I love Mary" is not in the
act of loving Mary, of simply having Mary as the object of a
particular emotive act, but rather the consciousness of loving Mary.
This is the "absolute" consciousness; it does not say "I" until after
the fact, by taking its pre-reflexive acts as objects. There is no
infinite regress here; at each moment of full reflection the absolute
consciousness moves up into the position of being a fully
"reflected" object of the non-positional, pre-reflexive, absolute, non-
egological consciousness which remains a pure, free, spontaneous
If the series of conscious acts of love directed towards Mary
continues in Peter's behavior, perhaps increasing in intensity from
the "I realize that I love... " to "I know that I love ... ", "I desire .
. .," "I absolutely have to have..." etc., both he and Paul will
speak of his states of consciousness of being in love, as a general
mode of having Mary as an object.
138 James M Edie

And if these states, which come and go as do any conscious

states, since one never simply is any particular state of
consciousness, Peter will become aware gradually of his own fixed
disposition to love Mary as a part of his present character, of his
present being. He loves Mary not only when she is present, or
when he is thinking of her, but even when he is immersed in
preparing his legal briefs, even when he is preoccupied with the
news of the day, even when he is asleep. It becomes a part of the
way he defines himself in the world, his way-of-being-in-the-
world. It is a simple, inert, quality of his being an object to himself,
insofar as he is a thing among things open to the free gaze of
intentional consciousness. It is a being in the world with all the
characteristics of dubitability, incompleteness, contingency of any
other possible object of consciousness. It is a transcendent,
inexhaustible, "infinite" object.
Here is the ultimate meaning and conclusion of Sartre's
"transcendence of the ego." The ego, even in taking itself as an
object, finds itself to be an object in the world like any other. There
is no need of an "innermost I" behind or within the self; the self,
like the world, is an object of a pre-personal, non-egological
Just as it had been assumed for many centuries that material
objects were constituted of an inner kernel, nucleus, or "substance"
which only appeared through their "accidents," appearances, or
aspects, so egological theories of consciousness assume that there
is an ego, a self, a "spiritual substance" hidden in and behind the
acts, states and dispositions of consciousness.26
But, in the same way, just as we have learned that there is
nothing hidden in or behind perceptual (and other transcendent)
objects, that these physical objects of consciousness are nothing
more than the ways in which they can appear, the system of their
actual and possible presentations to consciousness, in the same
way there is no basis for assuming an innermost I "behind" or "at
the bottom of" the conscious acts in each of which the ego appears
in its entirety, though always under the special aspect given here
and now.
This is not really different from the theory of consciousness
given by William James in the chapters on "The Stream of
Thought," and "The Consciousness of Self" in his Principles of
Psychology, a treatise which greatly influenced the early Husserl.
Question of the Transcendental Ego 139
Consciousness,...he writes, can be fully described without supposing
any other agent than a succession of perishing thoughts, endowed
with the functions of appropriation and rejection, and of which some
can know and appropriate or reject objects already known,
appropriated or rejected by the rest.27

Consciousness can always take its just completed acts as

objects of reflection, but even as it does so "the present moment of
consciousness" must always remain "the darkest in the whole
series," because the act of consciousness which takes itself as an
object must always necessarily escape objectification-it being "the
inescapable subjective condition" of such objectification. The
"introspective glance" of consciousness can never turn around on
itself quickly enough to catch itself in the act. All it can grasp are
its just completed past acts. In short, we can focus on the ego or
the self only in acts of reflection logically posterior to the simple
"having of objects," of being directed towards objects outside of
consciousness, whether these objects be the acts of consciousness
themselves or other things.
When I am experiencing something there is always the
concomitant awareness that I am experiencing something and this
is the only sense which Sartre (who hated the "inner life" he says)
could give to the locution "interiority." . be and to be aware of itself are one and the same thing
for consciousness. This may be expressed in different ways: I may
say, for example, that for consciousness appearance is the absolute
to the extent that it is appearance; or, again, that consciousness is a
being whose essence involves its existence. These diverse
formulations permit us to conclude that ... interiority would itself
be beyond contemplation, as its condition.... 28

All transcendence falls under the Husserlian reduction: "The

I is presented as an opaque reality whose content would have to
be unfolded."29 Husser! would call it the "noematic pole" of an
indefinite number of possible acts of consciousness, in this way no
different from any other object in the field of transcendental,
constituting consciousness.
140 James M. Edie

III. The Transcendental Ego

Sartre attacked Husserl's notion of the transcendental ego as

a notion of "profound irrationality,"30 but at the same time he
hedged: though, he wrote, "the ego has in itself the character of
dubitability" (since it is a transcendent object of consciousness), "it
does not follow that the ego is hypothetical. In fact, the ego is the
spontaneous, transcendent unification of our states and our actions.
In this capacity, it is no hypothesis.,,3l
Has Sartre fully understood Husserl's criticism of Descartes?
When Descartes discovered the ego cogito it appeared to him to be
a human consciousness, an act of homo sapiens, a thing in the
world; the emphasis was on the ego. What Husserl discovered was
an intentional consciousness, an ego cogito cogitata, an impersonal
or transcendental structure eidetically true of any possible
consciousness as the very definition of the meaning, or if one
prefers, the conditions of possibility, of any consciousness as such.
As Hussed wrote in a passage of the Cartesian Meditations
which Sartre certainly read:

It must by no means be accepted as a matter of course that, with our

apodictic pure ego, we have rescued a little tag-end of the world, as
the sole unquestionable part of it for the philosophizing Ego....This
Ego, with its Ego-life, who necessarily remains for me, by virtue of
such epoche, is not a piece of the world; and if he says, "I exist, ego
cogito," that no longer signifies, "I, this man, exist." No longer am I
the man who, in natural self-experience, finds himself as a man...nor
am I the separately considered psyche itself. Apperceived in this
"natural" manner, I and all other men are themes of sciences that are
Objective, or positive, in the usual sense .... Just as the reduced Ego
is not a piece of the world, so, conversely, neither the world nor any
worldly Object is a piece of my Ego, to be found in my conscious
life as a really inherent part of it... This "transcendence" is part of the
intrinsic sense of anything worldly, despite the fact that anything
worldly necessarily acquires all the sense determining it, along with
its existential status, exclusively from my experiencing, my
objectivatjng, thinking, valuing, or doing, at particular times... If
this "transcendence," which consists in being non-really included, is
part of the intrinsic sense of the world, then, by way of contrast, the
Ego himself, who bears within him the world as an accepted sense
Question of the Transcendental Ego 141

and who, in tum, is necessarily presupposed by this sense, is

legitimately called transcendental, in the phenomenological sense.32

Since the "world"-in its meaning-bears within itself the

sense of "transcendent," so too the ego, which constitutes the
world "within itself" as to its sense, "is necessarily presupposed by
this sense." This is what is meant by transcendental in the
phenomenological sense of the word. The ego is not "in" the
objective world; but it is not "in" the world of sense, which
presupposes its activity, either.33
But let us return to the reasons Sartre himself gives for his
criticism of Husserl. There are two main lines of argument. 34 (1)
The first is that the notion of the ego is what gives "unity" to, or
unifies, what would otherwise be scattered mental acts and states,
and there is, in fact, the unification which occurs through the
mind's ability to hold before itself identical objects in temporally
distinct and separated acts. One can always think the same
thought as another (e.g. 2 x 2 = 4) or the same thought one has
had on earlier occasions. This is a unity which depends on nothing
other than the intentionality of consciousness itself. The necessary
and irreversible temporal sequence of acts of consciousness which
are the acts of real, existing, thinking subjects are themselves
unrepeatable. As William James also insisted the "same thought"
never recurs twice in the temporal flow of consciousness; what can
be "had again" are only the same objects. All the unity of the ego,
conceived traditionally, says Sartre, can be explained by the "unity
of its objects," by the necessary law of intentionality that "all
consciousness is consciousness of ... "
(2) Secondly, there is the necessity of the unity of the acts
themselves in their real duration through time. This is the
conception of "consciousness unifying itself in time.,,3S

It is consciousness which unifies itself, concretely, by a play of

"transversal" intentionalities which are concrete and real retentions
of past consciousnesses. Thus consciousness refers perpetually to
itself. Whoever says "a consciousness" says "the whole of
consciousness," and this singular property belongs to consciousness
142 James M. Edie

But this unity does not depend on the ego; it is, rather, what
renders the ego, as an object, possible. Husserl's talk of the
transcendental ego as a "monad" leaves him open to the very
objections he raised against Descrates, says Sartre, precisely
because the ego gets substantialized, albeit as "an infinitely
contracted me.,,37
The question for us now is, then: just how telling are these
criticisms? And what motivated Husserl to speak of a
"transcendental ego" (an I) as distinct from the empirical ego (the
To give Husserl's own answer to these questions is not at all
difficult, or at least not as difficult as many writers have tried to
claim. The answer, however, does involve pointing out that on this
question there was a decisive development in Husserl's thought,
or perhaps we should say a decisive reinterpretation of Husserl by
himself between the completion of the Logical Investigations in 1900-
1901 and the first volume of Ideas in 1913.
In fact there are two notions of the ego which are developed
throughout most all of Husserl's writings. The first is the
conception of the ego as a Welterfahrendesleben (life-experiencing-
the-world), or, in the words of the Logical Investigations as an
anonym-fungierende-Intentionalitat(an anonymous operating
intentionality). This is the unreflected self-transcending activity of
consciousness, which is both protensive and retensive, going
outwards toward the world of objects, a consciousness which
constitutes objects in their meaning and value prior to thought,
which is never "punctual" or instantaneous but always ahead-of-
itself, dynamic, always a "synthesis" through time. It is not fully
conscious of its own activity, except as the concomitant,
consciousness-of-self which on the basis of the pre-known, the co-
given, projects itself forward to the not-yet-known to achieve the
already-known.38 This consciousness can thematize itself only after
the fact; it is the very notion of consciousness Sartre himself
develops, on the basis of Husserl's texts, as the non-thetic, non-
positional, pre-reflexive consciousness.
Like Hume, like James (who found the ego to be a "pure
diaphaneity"), Husserl in the Logical Investigations wrote that he
had to "frankly confess... that [he was] quite unable to find an
ego, this primitive, necessary cen~er of relations" in consciousness39
though in the second edition of 1913 (the same year as Ideas 1) he
Question of the Transcendental Ego 143

admitted in a footnote: "I have since managed to find it." In the

first edition of the Logical Investigations he had not distinguished
between the "empirical ego" and the "phenomenological ego," but
in the edition of 1913 he writes:

. . . the empirical ego is as much a case of transcendence as the

physical thing. If the elimination of such transcendence, and the
reduction to pure phenomenological data, leaves us with no residual
pure ego, there can be no real (adequate) self-evidence attaching to
the "I am." But if there is really such an adequate self-
evidence--who indeed could deny it?-how can we avoid assuming
a pure ego? It is precisely the ego apprehended in carrying out a self-
evident cogito, and the pure carrying out eo ipso grasps it in
phenomenological purity, and necessarily grasps it as the subject of
a pure experience of the type cogito.40

In other words what happened around 1913 is that Husserl

grasped the distinction between the "empirical ego" (our being-in-
the-world) and the "transcendental ego" (our fully reflexive
consciousness of the logically prior, impersonal or pre-personal,
intentional activity of simply experiencing-the-world). This is not
a distinction between two different egos. It is a distinction between
two attitudes: (1) "the natural attitude" in which we
unselfconsciously constitute the world of intended objects and (2)
"the transcendental attitude," which he also calls the "reduction,"
in which we can become reflexively aware of the fact that our
always already experienced world, including ourselves
experiencing, is unreflected, taken-for-granted. To make this
distinction is ipso facto to adopt the transcendental attitude towards
our own experience. Giving meaning (Sinngebung) is an act of
consciousness founded on a perceptual or categorical intuition with
reference to an object. The transcendental ego is not, therefore,
some hidden, innermost, ego behind consciousness; it is, rather, an
attitude which consciousness can and (and for purposes of
philosophical reflexion must) take towards its own empirical
If we were to expound the whole of Husserlian
phenomenology here, many other distinctions would have to be
made, but this is the essential one. The point is that there has to be
an aspect, an attitude (Einstellung), of consciousness which escapes
the reduction, namely the ego that performs the reduction. The ego
144 James M. Edie

has to be able to transcend its momentary experiences of being a

consciousness since it unifies these experiences and enables us to
constitute them as acts, states and dispositions of one single,
unique, conscious flow, namely our own, one, ego-life. The
structure of this "transcendental consciousness" (which is also
"genetic," "temporalizing" (Zeitigung), with a unique "monadic"
history) is not, in principle, different from the "Transcendental
Unity of Apperception" taught by Kant. 41 This transcendental
structure is not "yours" or "mine" or "anyone's"; it is an
!mpersonal, necessary, universal, eidetic structure. But this
structure, according to Hussed, is lived in and through each
unique consciousness, each ego-life. The pure ego is unique "for
each separate stream of experiences," it is "a non-constituted
transcendence--a transcendence in immanence.,,42
Hussed's discussion of transcendental subjectivity is however,
quite different from Kant's and all other transcendental
philosophies.. It is unique. On the one hand, Hussed says, every
ego ("every stream of experience") is capable of grasping its own
indubitable and absolute existence with the self-evidence of
immediate insight:

I apprehend an absolute Self whose existence is, in principle,

undeniable, that is, the insight that it does not exist is, in principle,
impossible; it would be nonsense to maintain the possibility of an
experience given in such a way not truly existing. The stream of
experience which is mine, that, namely, of the one who is thinking,
may be to ever so great an extent uncomprehended~ unknown in its
past and future reaches, yet as soon as I glance towards the flowing
life and into the real present it flows through, and in so doing grasp
myself as the pure subject of this life... I say forthwith and because
I must: I am, this life is, I live: cogito. 43

Moreover, what I grasp is not only that there is a stream of

experience taking place here but that this consciousness is the
absolute theater of being for me. This consciousness is coextensive
with the whole of being in such wise that I can "doubt" all other
things, events, all other consciousnesses, but I cannot doubt that it
seems to me that I perceive these things, events, persons, etc. It is
the world which is contingent" and consciousness which is

Question of the Transcendental Ego 145
The world is not doubtful in the sense that there are rational
grounds which might be pitted against the tremendous force of
unanimous experiences, but in the sense that a doubt is thinkable and
this is so because the possibility of non-being is in principle never
excluded. 44

It is an essential feature of the "thing-world" that its existence

is never necessarily guaranteed by its givenness to consciousness;
whereas it is an essential feature of consciousness that it is the
necessary condition of the givenness or appearance of anything
But Husserl goes on to observe that this necessity within my
own experience is an "ontic" or "empirical" necessity; it is a
Faktum, an existential intuition which is valid only once, i.e., only
for me, and not for everyone or from all perspectives.4S Therefore,
this existential necessity must be completed by becoming the object
of an intentional analysis. Its conceptual features are disclosed
through a method of eidetic intuition which takes this existential
fact (of the indubitable givenness of the world to my
consciousness) as an example of what it is to be a consciousness as
such. By freely varying this example in imagination, I can discover
its eidetically necessary structures and, in that way, will add an
eidetic necessity to an empirical necessity. Since every individual
instance of an essential type. must exemplify the essential
structures and characteristics of that type, we need no more than
one example-and in any case we can never have, in this instance,
more than one example namely, our own ego-life. Through eidetic
analysis we are able to ascend from the example to the type, to
transcend the factual reality of our own individual, "solipsistic"
consciousness to discover in eidetic intuition what is necessary and
true for any consciousness. The existential intuition is valid only
for me; the eidetic intuition is true for all.
Sometimes, in the Cartesian Meditations, we have to admit that
Husserl, particularly in speaking of the monadic quality of the
transcendental ego, expresses himself badly. But what historical
philosopher, including Aristotle, Augustine and Kant, did not? If
we adopt, as a principle of interpretation, the commonsensical
stance that the obscure passages of a given philosopher should be
interpreted in the light of the more frequent and more completely
developed clearer passages, and not the inverse, we will come to
146 James M Edie

the conclusion that what Husserl meant by the transcendental ego

as a monadic consciousness was not some hidden, inner, "kernel"
of substance (which Sartre attributes to him) but rather the fact,
and the structure, of the unity of one ego-life, i.e., a consciousness
living both in the non-egological pre-reflexive "natural" attitug.e,
and simultaneously the same consciousness which can, through
refiexion, adopt a transcendental attitude towards even its own
experience, and grasp itself inescapably as a transcendental-
constituting consciousness of both itself and the intersubjectively
given common world, through all the eidetically distinguishable
noetic ways of "having objects in the world," (which, all together,
give us, noematically, the whole of life-world experience).
The imagined dispute between Sartre and Husserl is, therefore,
a merely verbal dispute: Et non est sapientis mere de verbis
disputare. 46
Question of the Transcendental Ego 147

1. This was first published in January, 1939, in La Nouvelle Revue Francaise,

and republished in Situations I (Paris: Gallimard, 1947), pp. 32-35, and again as
Appendix V in the 1966 critical edition of La Transcendance de L'Ego, ed., Sy1vie
Le Bon (paris: Vrin), pp. 109-113 (an English translation was done by Joseph P.
Fell, British Journal for Phenomenology, May, 1970). Though its date of publication,
1939, is later than the first publication of The Transcendence of the Ego, 1936, we
know from Sartre's correspondence with Simone de Beauvoir [Lettres au Castor,
2 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1983)] that the ideas expressed in this essay, particularly
concerning "alimentary philosophy," were in his mind and had, in fact, been
largely formulated well before 1939.
2. This was first published in 1936 in Recherches Philosophiques, and has been
republished several times, unchanged, the first being in 1937, Paris, Vrin, and the
most important the critical edition by Sylvie Le Bon in 1966. The excellent English
translation by Forrest Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick, with helpful notes, was
published in 1957, New York, Noonday. It is this translation we will cite in this
3. His most important early philosophical works are certainly: L'imagination
(paris: PUF, 1936), (English translation by Forrest Williams, Ann Arbor: University
of Michigan Press, 1979), L'Imaginarie (paris: Gallimard, 1940), (English translation,
New York: Philosophical Library, 1948 as The Psychology of the Imagination), and
Esquisse d'une theorie des emotions (Paris: Hermann, 1939). The most important of
these by far, and the one that most orchestrates his theory of intentionality prior
to Being and Nothingness, in 1943, is L'Imaginaire. His later philosophical works
take quite un-Husserlian directions.
4. In her biography, Same, A Life (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), (English
translation, New York: Random House, 1987) Anne Cohen-Solal entitles two of
the crucial sections of the first chapter of her book: "A Thousand Socrates," to be
followed by the section "Just One Socrates." The titles of these divisions are taken
from the words of Sartre himself; in his War Diaries he wrote that he considered
the first years of his philosophical life, from 1921 to 1929, to be the period when he
was "a thousand Socrates," but then; all of a sudden, after discovering Husserl,
he was ''becoming just one Socrates."
5. In Sartre by Himself, tr. Richard Seaver (New York: Urizon, 1978), p. 30.
Cited by Peter Caws, Sartre (London: Routledge, 1979), p. 59.
6. See Francois H. Lapointe, Jean-Paul Sartre and His Critics: An International
Bibliography (1938-1980) (Philosophy Documentation Center, Bowling Green State
University, Ohio, 1981), ca. pp. 329ff.
7. This French translation by Gabrielle Peiffer and Emmanuel Levinas, (Paris:
Vrin, 1953), antedated the publication of the critical German edition and the still
later English translation by quite a few years.
8. First published in Paris, Alcan, 1930, subsequently republished by Vrin,
1963, and, in English translation, The Theory of Intuition in Husserl's Phenomenology,
tr. Andre Orianne (Evanston: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1974).
9. There are two good biographies, the best by Annie Cohen-Solal, cited
above, the other by Ronald Hayman, Sartre, A Biography (New York: Simon and
148 James M. Edie

Schuster, 1987), which treat of this period in Sartre's life brilliantly. There is
another biography by John Gerassi, Jean-Paul Sartre. Hated Conscience of His
Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), which hardly mentions it.
It would be interesting to study the French-German intellectual exchanges
between, let us say, 1870 and 1945; one thing is certain: they were very few in
number (or depth) and the influence of German thinkers on France was much
greater, especially in philosophy, than the inverse. Young philosophers in the
1930's in France, like Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Aron and others, made conscious
efforts to come to grips with what was happening across the Rhine. But even
Sartre's attempt to live in and understand Germany during his sojourn in Berlin
was accomplished almost exclusively by association with his French-speaking
fellows of the French Institute, telling French jokes together, visiting the sights
and nightclubs together, etc. with no lasting ties having been formed with
German thinkers. When Sartre left Berlin at the end of his stay on a tour of some
famous German cities with Simone de Beauvoir before returning to Le Havre, he
made no apparent effort at all to visit Husserl in retirement in Freiburg, or any
other philosopher. This is in striking contrast to the behavior of American
philosophers, for instance, of the same period, when people like Marvin Farber,
Dorion Cairns, Charles Hartshorne, John Wild, and many others were spending
sabbaticals and periods of study in both France and Germany. Even before that,
William James had formed friendships with German philosophers like Carl
Stumpf, with French thinkers like Henri Bergson, and Englishmen like Henry
Sidgwick, and many others, while these Europeans would never have thought of
visiting or speaking to one another at that time in history.
10. The War Diaries [Les Camets de ltl drole de guerre (Paris: Gallimard, 1983)],
tr. Quenton Hoare (New York: Pantheon, 1985), p. 184. See Cohen-Solal, op, cit.,
p. 92, and Hayman, op. cit., p. 107.
11. Cohen-Solal, op. cit., p. 187.
12. Cohen-Solal, ibid., pp. 91, 95; Hayman, op. cit., p. 107.
13. Cohen-Solal, ibid., p. 92.
14. See James M. Edie, "Expression and Metaphor," Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research (June, 1963).
15. Cf. Hayman, op. cit., p. 100.
16. See: James M. Edie, Speaking and Meaning (BlOOmington: Indiana University
Press, 1976), pp. 181ff., on Sartre's interpretation of intentionality.
17. Hussed gave his first extended phenomenology of perception in Ideas I, in
paragraphs 40ff. Edmund Husserl, Ideas, tr. W.R Boyce Gibson (New York:
Macmillan, 1931), pp. 128ff.
18. Aron Gurwitsch, The Field of Consciousness (Pittsburgh: Duquesne
University Press, 1964), passim.
19. Jean-Paul Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego, tr. Williams and Kirkpatrick
(New York: Noonday, 1957), p. 60.
20. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, tr. Hazel E. Barnes (New York:
Philosophical Library, 1956), pp. 259-260.
21. Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego, p. 95.
22. In the Transcendence of the Ego there are some obscurities not only because
of Sartre's highly metaphorical style but because the argument frequently seems
Question of the Transcendental Ego 149
badly organized. For instance, he treats of "states" and "qualities" (what I call
here, in accordance with better English philosophical usage, "dispositions"),
before he speaks of "actions" (or "acts") of consciousness. His argument was
much better organized when he took up the same points later in Being and
Nothingness, op. cit., pp. 162 ff. However, he maintains and repeats the major
content of The Transcendence of the Ego in Being and Nothingness. There is only one
point which he takes back completely: whereas in The Transcendence of the Ego he
claimed that his argument was the "only possible" refutation of Husserl's
"solipsism," (p. 103), in Being and Nothingness, p. 235, he writes: "Formerly I
believed that I could escape solipsism by refuting Husserl's concept of the
transcendental "Ego".... But actually although I am still persuaded that the
hypothesis of a transcendental subject is useless and disastrous, abandoning it
does not help one bit to solve the question of the existence of Others."
23. Sartre, in both Being and Nothingness and in The Transcendence of the Ego is
utterly opposed to "the materialistic mythology" of Freud and, seemingly, to any
theory of the unconscious. But, in The Transcendence of the Ego he expresses
himself hesitantly with locutions like "even if the unconscious exists... " (p. 57),
and in the section on "Existential Psychoanalysis" in Being and Nothingness (and
in his later existential psychoanalyses of Beaudelaire, Tmtoretto, Jean Genet and
others) he argues that even though all human actions are "meaningful" as the
expressions of a "fundamental choice," a way-of-choosing-to-be-in-the-world, all
these actions and behaviors observable on the surface level of behavior have to
be "interpreted." Their meanings and connections are not immediately available
to the subject itself.
24. The Transcendence of the Ego, p. 45.
25. Though the treatment of the matter is just as metaphorical, and
considerably less focused than Sartre's, it has sometimes been remarked that
Gilbert Ryle's treatment of The Systematic Elusiveness of the "1" in his book, the
Concept of Mind (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1949), pp. 195-198, makes in its
own way the same point Sartre is making in The Transcendence of the Ego. Ryle
writes, for instance: "So my commentary on my performances must always be
silent about one performance, namely itself, and this performance can be the
target only of another commentary." The "1" is an "elusive" quarry, an "ultimate
mystery." Even in concentrating on the problem of the "1" the philosopher can
never "catch more than the flying coat-tails of that which he was pursuing. His
quarry was the hunter." See also, James M. Edie, "Sartre as Phenomenologist and
as Existential Psychoanalyst," in Lee and Mandelbaum, eds., Phenomenology and
Existentialism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967), pp. 149 ff.
26. See the excellent presentation and evaluation of Sartre's argument in Aron
Gurwitsch, "A Non-egological Conception of Conscioussness," Studies in
Phenomenology and Psychology (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966), pp.
287-300. Gurwitsch also reorganizes Sartre's presentation to make it more logical
and effective.
27. William James, Principles of Psychology, Volume I (New York: Holt, 1890),
p. 342. As we know, James' Principles of Psychology had considerable influence on
Husserl's thought during its formative period and, through Husserl, perhaps
indirectly on Sartre. See my analysis of James' phenomenology of the experience
150 James M. Edie

of the "self" in James M. Edie, William James and Phenomenology (Bloomington:

Indiana University Press, 1987), pp. 38-43 and passim.
28. The Transcendence of the Ego, pp. 83-84.
29. Ibid., p. 51.
30. Ibid., p. 81.
31. Ibid., p. 76.
32. Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, tr. Dorion Cairns (The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1960), pp. 24-26.
33. Cartesian Meditations, op. cit. p. 26. Peter Caws (Sartre, op. cit, p. 52) says
laconically: "It seems unlikely that Sartre understood this, since he appears to
attribute to Husserl a view of the substantiality of the ego... as a substantial,
inhabitant of the conscious world, which inverts Husserl's position, placing the
Ego in the world rather than the world in the Ego." The translators of The
Transcendence of the Ego, Williams and Kirkpatrick, state more timidly, concerning
Sartre's discussion of the relationship of the eidetic to the factual, that "This
would not appear to be orthodox Husserlian phenomenology" (p. 113). One word
of caution. While Caws is certainly right to point out Sartre's lack of
comprehension of the true meaning of Husserl, there is a danger in using the
phrase "the world is in the ego" in any phenomenologically unsophisticated
manner, or we will make Hussserl into an absolute idealist which he was not. It
is not, literally speaking, true that the world is "in" consciousness. What is "in"
constituting, transcendental consciousness is the "constituted sense" of the world
(as well as the "constituted sense" of the ego-experiencing-the-world).
34. These are more carefully and cogently and clearly arranged by Gurwitsch
(op. cit. pp. 291 ff.) than by Sartre himself.
35. The Transcendence of the Ego, op. cit., p. 39.
36. Ibid.
37. Ibid., p. 41.
38. In writing these words I am still inspired and indebted, these many years
later, to the magnificent lectures on the Logical Investigations given by my former
professor, Georges Van Riet, at Louvain in 1956-57. At a recent symposium (a
memorial to Aron Gurwitsch) Bernhard Waldenfels pointed out that Husserl
maintained this view throughout his life and expressed it again in his last work,
the Krisis. See: Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences and
Transcendental Phenomenology, tr. David Carr (Evanston: The Northwestern
University Press, 1970), pp. 109-110, note.
39. Edmund Husserl, The Logical Investigations, tr. John Findlay (London:
Routledge, 1970), Volume II, p. 549.
40. Ibid., p. 544, note 1.
41. At the most important point of Husserl's discussion of this matter, cited
above (note 32) he recalls the position of Kant in a marginal notation. Cartesian
Meditations, op. cit., p. 25.
42. Ideas, op. cit., p. 173.
43. Ibid., p. 143. See my Introduction to Gaston Berger, The Cogito in Husserl's
Philosophy (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972), pp. xxi-xxii.
44. Ideas, op. cit., p. 145.
45. Ibid.
Question of the Transcendental Ego 151

46. The final fact of the matter is that Husserl's theory of consciousness is just
as non-egological as Sartre's; it is only more complete. In his later writings Sartte
himself admitted the artificiality of his argument against Husserl and needed to
admit that there was an aspect/ function/ attitude of the ego that had to survive
the reduction; he confessed that he took an anti-Husserlian stance in The
Transcendence of the Ego mainly: "because I'm argumentative by nature." Sarlre by
Himself, interviews with Astruc and Contat (New York: Urizen, 1978), p. 30. See
also: Peter Caws, Sartre, op. cit., p. 59.



by Theodore Kisiel

Where exactly does Heidegger's Way clearly begin to point to

Being and Time? (Hereafter cited as BT.) There is something
abrupt and arbitrary about any beginning, and a great beginning
involves an especially violent burst of creativity. In retrospect,
there is a tendency to dispute its intrusion and heal the breach
in history by pointing to the precedents latent in the initial
situation of departure. Anticipating this tendency, the historian
wishing to recount its story must himself arbitrarily name his
beginning and justify it as a beginning within and against the
surge of precedents that then follow and, for the first time,
become identifiable as precedents.
In the case of the Early Heidegger, his philosophical departure
from the tradition is underscored by an interruption in his teaching
career during the war years coupled by a personal change in
religious confession. His abrupt philosophical beginning is clearly
identifiable in the public record, but the burgeoning precedents
leading to it less so, especially those that may finally be rooted in
the private conscience. That this religious conversion was
associated with a fundamental transformation of "my philosophical
standpoint" is testified by Heidegger's letter of January 9, 1919, to
his friend, Engelbert Krebs, a Catholic priest:
"Epistemological insights bearing upon the theory of historical
cognition have made the System of Catholicism problematic and
unacceptable to me - but not Christianity and metaphysics (these
however in a new sense)."l Thus we know that Heidegger came
home from the front philosophically transformed and, as Edmund
Hussed's assistant, from that moment launched a revolution in his
chosen arena of philosophy, in phenomenology.
The external trappings of public reputation, typically spread
by hearsay and rumor, also serve to date our starting point. The
retrospective account of Hannah Arendt is best known: 2

.. .the beginning in Heidegger's case is neither the date of his birth

(September 26, 1889, at Messkirch) nor the publication of his first
book, but the first lecture courses and seminars which he held as a
mere Privatdozent (instructor) and assistant to Husserl at the

T.]. Stapleton (ed.), The Question a/Hermeneutics, 155-208.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
156 Theodore Kisiel

University of Freiburg in 1919. For Heidegger's "fame" predates by

about eight years the publication of Sein und Zeit [BT] in 1927;
indeed it is open to question whether the unusual success of this
book - not just the immediate impact it had inside and outside the
academic world but also its extraordinarily lasting influence, with
which few of the century's publications can compare - would have
been possible if it had not been preceded by the teacher's reputation
among the students in whose opinion, at any rate, the book's success
merely confirmed what they had known for many years.... in
Heidegger's case there is nothing tangible on which his fame could
have been based, nothing written, save for notes taken at his lecture
courses which circulated among students everywhere.... There was
hardly more than a name, but the name traveled all over Germany
like the rumor of the hidden king.

The rumor reached Hans-Georg Gadamer in Marburg as early as

1920 that Heidegger in a "highly original, profound and revo-
lutionary lecture course used the phrase, 'it worlds",3 This was in
fact the very first course that Heidegger gave after the war in the
first months of 1919 in an extraordinary "war-emergency semester"
(Kriegsnotsemester = KNS). Now we know that Heidegger also
innovated upon the phrase, es er-eignet sich (it properizes itself as
it e-vents), in this extraordinary KNS. This second innovation adds
further credence to Gadamer's thesis that the groundwork for all
of Heidegger's later thought after the 'turn' was already being laid
in KNS 1919.4
Upon first elaborating the phenomenon of the world in BT,
Heidegger remarks in a footnote "that he has repeatedly presented
this analysis of the environing world and in general the
'hermeneutics of the facticity' of Dasein in his lecture courses since
WS 1919-20" (SZ 72n.).5 In actual fact, both themes were first
broached two semesters earlier in KNS 1919. It was accordingly in
this very first semester after the war that basic elements of BT first
began to assume clearcut shape. The Ur-Heidegger had found
himself and was on his way. It is here that we find the zero-point
of Heidegger's development toward BT. Across the gulf of seven
decades, the original fascination reported by the auditors of this
first course after the war (many of them 'returning veterans') can
still be sensed, especially by reading the student transcripts. For
Heidegger and his students, it must have been like the discovery
of a new continent. And indeed it was. The importance of this
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 157

groundbreaking course, in all its vital rawness and freshness

pointing the way to all of Heidegger, in my view cannot be
overestimated. For here he first clearly identifies and names his
subject matter, his lifelong topic which, even in those early years,
rapidly assumed a series of names: the primal something, life in
and for itself, factic life, the historical I, the situated I, factic life
experience, facticity, being, Dasein. Even though the phrase
"hermeneutics of facticity" does not surface until 1922, it can well
serve to characterize what is already assuming clear contour in the
KNS, namely, Heidegger's lifelong topic of thought and how it is
to be approached.
The course bore the title, liThe Idea of Philosophy and the
Problem of World View," and so reflects the goal of Husserl's
program expressed in his Logos-essay (1911) to further
"Philosophy as a Strict Science." But upon discovering and naming
the subject matter of philosophy, Heidegger transforms this into an
almost contradictory goal: Philosophy as the primal science is like
no other science, since it is to be a supra- or pretheoretical science,
in short, a non-theoretical science, which forces us to the very
limits of science. Thus, for the next ten years, Heidegger vacillated
between the two poles of whether philosophy is to be the primal
science or no science at all. Already in WS 1919-20, he remarks that
philosophy as the science of origins, in view of this ambition to
overtake and keep to our vital origins, is not really a science in the
true sense of the word, but "more." And in the very next semester,
he traces this "more" back to the original motive of philosophizing,
the "unrest" that resides at the heart of life. A decade later, when
he definitively abandons the project of making philosophy into a
strict science - which is one mark of the "tum" - ,he observes
that philosophy is not a science not out of lack but rather out of
excess, since it springs from the ever superabundant and ebullient
"happening of Dasein" itself.
For an expeditious survey of the breakthrough course of the
KNS in its main thrust, namely, the naming of the subject matter
of philosophy and the determination of how it is to be approached,
it will be necessary to supplement the published edition especially
in the brilliant and dramatic concluding hour of the course (April
11, 1919). For the version there is quite dense, and - as the
student transcripts indicate - especially here in this two-hour
course Heidegger spoke" off the cuff" to explain and expand upon
158 Theodore Kisiel

his difficult points.6 The printed text, for example, lacks

Heidegger's significant concluding words on the difference
between philosophy and world view, which serve to clinch the
task expressed in the course title: 7

Phenomenology is the investigation of life in itself. Despite the

appearance of a philosophy of life, it is really the opposite of a
world view. A world view is an objectification and immobilizing of
life at a certain point in the life of culture. In contrast,
phenomenology is never closed off, it is always provisional in its
absolute immersion in life as such. In it no theories are in dispute,
but only genuine insights versus the ungenuine. The genuine ones
can only be obtained by an honest and unreserved immersion in life
itself in its genuineness, and this is ultimately possible only through
the genuineness of a personal life.

Philosophy: neither theory nor world view, but rather the

plunge into life itself in its authenticity. This resolution is
reminiscent of the oft-quoted Eckhartian lines in the Conclusion
(1916) of Heidegger's habilitation work, that the most authentic
vocation of philosophy is to go beyond the theoretical attitude as
well as the attempt to spell out reality into a world view, so that
the living spirit may aim at a "breakthrough into true reality and
real truth."s The quest for a breakthrough to pretheoreticallife is
carried over into 1919, but its "true reality and real truth" had in
the interim changed with Heidegger's radicalization of
phenomenology, as we shall see, by purging it rather thoroughly
of its earlier elements of scholastic metaphysics and neo-Kantian
philosophy of culture. As a result of his habilitation effort to apply
the means of modern philosophy to medieval logic and grammar,
the Young Heidegger had ended up in the hybrid position of a
phenomenological neo-Kantianism laced with medieval
metaphysics. The first task of the 1919 courses is to set
phenomenology off as sharply as possible from neo-Kantianism,
especially the branch with which he had formerly closely allied
himself called "transcendental value-philosophy" (so in the title of
one course in SS 1919) or the "Southwest German School" of
Wilhelm Windelband, Heinrich Rickert and Emil Lask. Since the
habilitation work was dedicated to its supervisor, Rickert, and its
foreword gratefully recalls Lask "in his distant soldier's grave," the
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 159

1919 courses clearly also represent for Heidegger a personal

exercise in self-deconstruction and the breaking of old ties.
But for the story being told here, there is another reason to go
back to 1916 from KNS 1919, in order to measure the leap of the
intervening three years. In SS 1925 Heidegger pays homage to
Husserl and the phenomenological ''breakthrough'' he brought
about at the turn of the century through his Logical Investigations
and its three central ideas: intentionality, categorial intuition, and
the new sense of the apriori ensuing from these two insights. The
history of phenomenology and the gloss of the Sixth Logical
Investigation presented there are somewhat formal, suitable
perhaps for course presentation, but we get very little inkling of
how Heidegger himself actually took up these three terms and
adapted them to his own brand of phenomenology. This
adaptation is already in full swing in the years 1915-19 especially
by way of the application of Husserl's Logical Investigations that the
Young Heidegger found in Lask, who for him not only mediated
between Rickert and Husserl but "also sought to listen to the
Greek thinkers" (FS, X). Eckhartian mediations on intentionality
and categorial intuition serve to complete Heidegger's
transformation of phenomenology in this early period.
Thus, even though the story of the genesis of BT begins in
KNS 1919, there are certain developments in it which necessarily
take up back to the habilitation work of 1915-16. With the
publication of KNS 1919, this earlier work on "The Doctrine of
Categories and Meaning in Duns Scotus," after a dormancy of
seven decades, now assumes new significance in more ways than
we have so far mentioned. That the prehistory to a "hermeneutics
of facticity" must include the habilitation work finds corroboration
in a letter from Heidegger to Karl Lowith in August 1927, shortly
after the appearance of BT. Lowith had found the "ontological
formalizing" of Dasein in BT not particularly helpful in his own
habilitation work on an "ontic" anthropology and expressed a
preference for the more concrete "hermeneutics of facticity" which
he had learned from Heidegger's courses and seminars in the
earlier years from 1919. In the context of underscoring the ontic
founding of ontology as one of his most important discoveries,
Heidegger finally remarks:9
160 Theodore Kisiel

The problems of facticity exist for me no less than in my Freiburg

beginnings, only much more radically and now in the perspectives
which even in Freiburg were guiding me. That I was constantly
concerned with Duns Scotus and the middle ages and then back to
Aristotle, is by no means a matter of chance. And the work cannot
be judged by what was simply said in the lecture hall and the
seminar exercise. I first had to go all out after (extrem losgehen auf)
the factic in order to make facticity into a problem at all. Formal
indication, critique of the customary doctrine of the apriori,
formalization and the like, all of that is still for me there [in BT]
even though I do not talk about them now. To tell the truth, I am
not really interested in my development, but when the matter comes
up, it cannot simply be put together from the sequence of lecture
courses and what is only communicated in them. This shortwinded
consideration forgets the central perspectives and impulses at w<>l'k
both backwards and forwards.

Heidegger's own brief sketch of his development toward BT,

shortly after its appearance, puts the finger on the very first
impulse which led to it, namely, the full identification of the factic
and the means to get at it ("formal indication"), and locates the
beginnings of this impulse in his work on Duns Scotus. Indeed, a
close examination of the habilitation work will show that it is
totally governed by the tendency toward facticity, or what Duns
Scotus himself calls haecceitas (thisness). The very choice of Duns
Scotus as a dissertation theme was dictated by the fact that "he
found a greater and finer proximity (haecceitas) to real life, its
multiplicity and potential, than the scholastics before him" (FS
145). But to this, Heidegger also adds an appreciation of Scotus'
logical acumen. For it is the coupling of the two senses, the feel for
formality and concreteness at once, which comes into play in
Heidegger's own breakthrough in KNS 1919, which was in fact a
double breakthrough, not only to facticity but also to the "formally
indicative" approach to that facticity. And the very idea of "formal
indication" in fact finds its first stirrings in the Scotian version of
the Aristotelian-scholastic doctrine of the analogy of being.
This double breakthrough first becomes dramatically manifest
in the very last hour of the course of KNS 1919, when the upshot
of this last lecture, and so of the entire course, is made transparent
by a four-part schema which Heidegger doubtlessly sketched by
hand on the board in the middle of the hour. This overview
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 161

scheme, which immensely clarifies an otherwise dense

presentation, is not to be found in the so-called "readable" and
"last hand" edition of the course but only in the student transcripts.
We present it at this point as a guide to the following analyses and
an efficient means for discussing the entire course:

I. The pretheoretical something
A. preworldly so~ething B. worldly something
(basic moment of life as such) (basic moment of particular
spheres of experience)
primal something genuine lifeworld

ll. The theoretical something

A. formal-logical objective something B. object-type something

(motivated in primal something) (motivated in a
genuine lifeworld)

What this scheme identifies and distinguishes allows us to

pinpoint the double breakthrough of the course to 1) the
ontological question of the 'it' which worlds and thus properizes
itself, here characterized as the pretheoretical and preworldly
"primal something" (Ur-Etwas). In the following year, in SS 1920,
this primal something will for the first time be designated by the
abstract neo-Kantian borrowing, IIfacticity." The related question
that Heidegger in particular wishes to raise through the schema is
2) the methodological question of the potentially fruitful relation
between the pretheoretical primal something and the theoretical
"formal-logical objective something' which is "motivated" in it, and
so provides access to it. This relation, crucial for Heidegger's
phenomenological method, two semesters later will for the first
time be called the "formal indication." Thus we come to some of
the questions which will have to be clarified in the following
analysis of KNS 1919: Why precisely does factic life call for a
formally indicative approach? What is this facticity which dictates
the formal indication? It will be necessary to arrive at a point
where we can see that a formally indicating hermeneutics and a
162 Theodore Kisiel

dynamically understood facticity belong essentially together in a

close-knit unity; whence a "hermeneutics of facticity."
A final word about the convention of terms like "something"
or "It" prevalent in our discussion. It would be noted that the
convention antedates Heidegger, who simply adopts it from the
neo-Kantians in his habilitation work as an alternative way of
talking about "being." The frequency and endless variety of the
impersonal sentence in the German language seems to be behind
it (e.g. the child's Christmas carol, "Es weilmachtet sehr," "It is
really christmasing"), and Heidegger will exploit this to the limit.
Already in the KNS, he adds two new coinages of his own as well
as exploiting a number of already extant possibilities. In fact, the
entire semester can be summarized in terms of the developing
mov~ment of German impersonal, from the neo-Kantian First Part
through the Husserlian-Laskian thought experiment in the 'there
it is' into the phenomenological Second Part:

First Part: es gilt (29, 50), es solI (34), "es wertet" (46)
Transitional Thought-Experiment: es gibt (62)
Second Part: "es weltet" (73), es er-eignet sich (75)

With his very first coinage, "it values," Heidegger indicates that he
understands such impersonals more in terms of the intransitive
verb instead of the substantifying 'it,' thus a sheer action, both
subjectless and objectless. "The value is not, but simply 'values' ...
In the experience that is 'worth taking', 'it values' for me, for the
worth-experiencing subject." It is only through formalization that
"valuing" becomes an object, but to call it an object already leads
us astray from the initial experience. Heidegger concludes by
noting how even such language is not "up to" the "new typology
of fundamental experience" that he wishes to express (ZBP 46).
This would include an "eidetic genealogy of primary motivations"
which would trace experiences like "it values" back to the more
primary ones of "it worlds" (ZBP 73).
This linguistic lineage found its start in the Young Heidegger's
fascination with the neo-Kantian formula with regard to
judgmental truth as validity and its proper place: "it is not, rather
it holds" (es gilt, it is valid or in effect). While in 1919 he still
clearly wishes to retain its insight into an "ontolOgical difference"
between being and beings, Heidegger is already busy
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 163

deconstructing what he in 1914 regarded as a "felicitous

expression" belonging to the "linguistic treasure" of the German
language (FS 211,111), seeking instead to found validity in a more
basic dimension of experience (ZBP SO£). In BT, validity is in the
end denounced as "this word idol" (SZ 154). Pure validity, the
timeless realm of pure logic, yields to the primacy of the more
concrete temporal apriori of a dynamic facticity, which is still an
impersonal, non-objective realm which 'is' not, but rather worlds,
properizes, values. And the German impersonal continues to play
a central role in Heidegger's terminology to the very end of his

Harbingers in the Habilitation

We therefore take the first bearings for our story from the
habilitation, which is the very last work that Heidegger published
before BT. The gap between 1915-16 and 1927 has always been too
broad for interpreters to breach, indicative of how much and how
rapidly Heidegger modified and deepened his orientation over the
intervening years. But there is a connection, and the recent
publication of the courses of the early Freiburg period has enabled
us to some extent to divine it by way of a retrospective reading.
And yet the key to detecting elements of a "hermeneutics of
facticity" operative in filigree in the habilitation text has been
available almost from the start. But although Heidegger, both
young and old, has repeatedly singled out the influence on him of
the youngest of the neo-Kantians of his day, Emil Lask (1875-1915),
no one has thought of reading the habilitation work, where the
influence of the neo-Kantians upon Heidegger was at its peak,
specifically through the eyes of Lask. For who nowadays reads
Lask? One who had, Heinrich Rickert, teacher of both Lask and
Heidegger, observes in his final report on the habilitation work -
he was the director, the Doktoroater - that Heidegger "is especially
very much (ganz besonders viel) obligated to Lask's writings for his
philosophical orientation as well as his terminology, perhaps more
than he himself is conscious of."U For Heidegger cites Lask a scant
half-dozen times in the work, and yet any reader also steeped in
Lask will note how not only its central but also countless
incidental terms bear the stamp of Lask.12
164 Theodore Kisiel

The basic problem of the habilitation work is a medieval

version of the category" problem, the problem of the articulation

of the field of being into its various domains of reality and the
fundamental concepts that describe them, and consequently also
their categorial unification in "transcendental" concepts like being,
one, true, and good. This theme of scholastic logic and ontology is
to be examined by the means of modem philosophy. For the
Young Heidegger, this in fact means the focus provided by the
confluence of neo-Kantianism and phenomenology in Lask's
application of Husserl's Logical Investigations to the "logic of
philosophy." Lask's distinction between the constitutive categories,
that pertain to the matter of the domains of reality, and the more
formal, general and so "empty" reflexive categories can serve to
orient our discussion of the harbingers of a hermeneutics of
facticity in the habilitation. We pick up the first clues of facticity in
Heidegger's discussion of the transcendental verum (the true),
where the extrovertive (noematic) side of the relationship of truth
first leads to the discovery of the "principle of the material
determination of form" specifically within the constitutive
category. The first stirrings of the "formal indication," central to
Heidegger's hermeneutics, occur in the discussion of the
transcendental unum (the one), at the point where the reflexive
category is related to the medieval doctrine of the analogy of
being. Lask's distinction thus plays a catalytic function in both
components of Heidegger's later breakthrough. But Lask will serve
to mediate other insights in this complex question, as we shall now

A categorially charged facticity and haecceitas. How do we know

that there are different domains of reality? How are such
differentiations established? The Young Heidegger's answer is in
its simplicity a paragon expression of the basic phenomenological
conviction in the possibility of description: Such differentiations
can only be "read off" from the reality itself (FS 197,257,263, 346).

That there are different domains of actuality cannot be proved a

priori by deductive means. Facticities can only be pointed out. What
is the sense of this showing, this demonstrative display? That which
is shown stands before us in its selfness and, graphically put, can be
immediately apprehended, it needs no detour across something else;
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 165

the single thing that can be pointed out holds the view fast. In
practice it is our duty only to look, to grasp actually all there is to
grasp, to draw out the pure self of what is offered. Over the
immediate there can be no doubt, probability and delusions. For as
immediate it has as it were nothing between itself and the
apprehension (simplex apprehensio) (FS 155).

That the differentiations of meaning stem directly from the

domains themselves (implying that they are already 'categorially'
structured [FS 196-8], that they therefore need only to be "read off"
from such "facticities," already amounts to a "hermeneutics of
facticity" ensuing from the Young Heidegger's commitment to
Aristotelian-scholastic realism: Simple apprehension espies the
analogical distribution of an identical meaning (ens commune)
differentiated "in each case" (je) in accord with lithe inherent
differentiation of meaning coming from the domains of reality
themselves," and so "determined by the nature of the domains" to
which the meaning is applied (FS 198f, 229). A few years later; the
small German distributive je, so easy to ignore (it often is by
translators), becomes the veritable mark of the facticity of Daseiri,
which is "in each case (je) mine."
This phenomenological construal of facticity constitutes a
radical reversal of classical neo-Kantianism, which coined the term.
The abstract term IIfacticity" first appears in Fichte, who uses it to
describe our encounter with the "brute" face of reality 'not
amenable to rational thought. The factic is the irrational par
excellence, the sign of the insuperable irrationality of the 'matter'
given to thought. In the Kantian tradition, Fichte was the first to
explore its various polar pairs in terms of the "hiatus irrationalis,"
the abyss between the empirical and the apriori, the individual and
the universal, quid facti and quid juris, intuition and concept, in
short, between facticity and logicity.
But what if our immediate encounter with facticity in all its
"logical nudity" involved not just an empirical intuition but also
a categorial intuition? This is the step that Lask, following Hussed,
took beyond traditional Kantianism. Lask's expansion of Kant's
transcendental logic beyond Aristotle's categories of empirical
reality dictates that such categories must themselves have
categories if they are to become objects of knowledge. But this
possibility shows that there is already a precognitive moment in
166 Theodore Kisiel

which the initial categories or forms first present themselves as

simply given in experience before they are known. This immediate
experience of living through the forms in order to mediately know
the cognitive object, the matter, is the moment of categorial
intuition in every cognition. Thus the non-sensory form is at first
not known but only experienced or lived (erlebt). This constitutes
the immediacy of human life fraught with meaning and value (=
form). Thus only the factic experience of the pure sensory manifold
is absolutely irrationalY In a fascinating but elusive chapter on
"Living and Knowing" in his Logik der Philosophie (GS II, 190f£),
Lask describes, in a somewhat 'mystical' vein, this immediate
experience of the non-sensory in its first occurrence "as a
pretheoretical something" (Cf. the KNS-Schema!) in which we first
simply live before we know it. In brief summary: our first
experience of categories is such that we are "lost" in them in "pure
absorption," for example, in aesthetic, ethical or religious
"dedication" (Hingabe: GS II, 191; but also 56, 85, 103, 129, 132 et
passim), in which we already find ourselves simply "given over"
(hingegeben) to the given form, meaning, value. Contrary to
traditional Kantianism, this is the life especially "deserving" of
philosophical study, "not brute factic life but rather the sphere of
immediate experience replete with value, of life already made
worthwhile" (GS II, 196).
In KNS 1919, Heidegger will adopt this favored word Hingabe
(submission, self-abandonment, devotion, dedication), used by
Lask to describe the tacit intuition of the categorial dimension, for
the more overt working intuition that the phenomenologist (not
Lask) seeks.
Lask had already found this higher level of facticity, clearly
the one that already interests the Young Heidegger, in his
dissertation on Fiehte's Idealism and History.14 For the middle Fichte
had already distinguished between the extremes of two facticities:
on the one hand the minimal epistemological sense of
individuation which starts from the multiplicity of 'bare' sense
data; on the other, the fuller cultural sense of the factic individual
in history. Paradigms of the historically individual in its fullest
manifestations of humanity include Kant's" genius" understood as
a "value individuality," the hero, artist, scientist, saint, in short,
those who "have had a decisive impact on the progress of
humankind" (GS I, 17, 196,206). At the end of this series stand the
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 167

deeds of the Divine intervening in history in an 'irrational'

revelation like the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus. Such
acts of God's grace constitute a "breakthrough" of absolute values
and a unique "influx into history of the ever fresh and new" (GS
I, 226£, 240£), in what has since been called a Heilsgeschichte. These
more surcharged manifestations of -"irrationality" or "brute
facticity" (Fichte's word for them: GS I, 173, 284) thus mark the
entry into human history of the unexplainably new, unprecedented
and creative.
The trailmarkers of the Young Heidegger's swelling interest in
this higher level of facticity of "the historical in its individuality"
(FS 204) are clearly recorded: In July 1915 he delivers his formal
"test lecture" on "The Concept of Time in Historical Science" (FS
357-375). His Conclusion of 1916 calls for a thorough revamping of
the category problem by centering it upon the pretheoretical
"living spirit," which is a "historical spirit in the broadest sense of
the word." Accordingly, "history and its teleological interpretation
along the lines of a philosophy of culture must become a meaning-
determining element [Le. a form-differentiating matter, a reality
principle] of the category problem" (FS 349f). While history as the
arena of value formation and world view ultimately points to the
value-laden "transcendent primal relationship of the soul to God,"
this means that it ultimately rests in the inner personal life of the
individual, so that this primal value-relation must by analogy "be
compared to the back-and-forth flow of the stream of experience
in selective spiritual individualities" (FS 351f).
Compared to this lavish metaphysics of history of the
habilitation's Conclusion, the more methodological test lecture,
while still couched in the neo-Kantian trappings of value and
culture, is a paradigm of soberness, and owes it basic insights to
Rickert's works on concept formation in the "individualizing"
science of history. The basic idea: the uniquely individual (and so
"irrational") events of history receive significance, and so can be
conceptually represented, through their relation to value.
Accordingly, in contrast to the quantitatively uniform time of the
natural sciences, historical time is qualitative and selective, in
accord with the event's significance. To exemplify the value-
ladenness of time, one need only to think of an especially
significant Event (Ereignis): the founding of Rome, the birth of
Christ, the Hegira (FS 374). But even here, there is much to
168 Theodore Kisiel

deconstruct (the neo-Kantian starting point in extant sciences, the

teleology of value, etc., where 'history' is already prejudged) before
the phenomenological backtrack in KNS 1919 to the 'properizing'
(Sich-ereignen) of the "historical I" (the first precursor to Dasein)
can take place. One finds more promising harbingers in the
habilitation corpus in the Young Heidegger's attempts to describe,
in the language of Rickert and Scotus, the matter of history from
which its categorizing must necessarily start. For when irreducible
ultimates are invoked, the only recourse that is left is
phenomenological seeing: "To give a schoolbook definition of it
will not be possible, since it is an ultimate, something which is last.
Its essence can only be described, pointed out (notificari)" (FS 189),
'read off' from the actuality itself.
Rickert describes the reality of history as a ''heterogeneous
continuum" (FS 195-8, but also ZBP 171££), which makes it
irrational. For utter heterogeneity or absolute multiplicity is a limit
concept that lies at the outskirts of any category theory. With any
category or form, there is at least a minimal order, which 'lifts' the
utter dispersion (FS 197). The continuum of history is its absolute
flux, "the continuity of uninterrupted transition and change" (ZBP
171), such that every part of its actuality is absolutely different
from every other. Such a continuum can be conceptually grasped
only when it can be found to be homogeneous in its entirety or in
a discrete portion of it, in short, when it is formed. We already
know Rickert's teleological solution of a value relation. Heidegger
by contrast, when he first gives his own in KNS 1919, will couch
it simply in the minimal terms of the above description of the very
matter of history, in terms of the differentiating indifference of the
Such deceptively simple terms hide a complex intertwining of
homogeneity and heterogeneity which he first learned in the
medieval description of the real world in terms of the order of
analogy (FS 199). "Nevertheless, the complexity of the historical
person, its uniqueness, its relativity and manifold bearing, its
involvement with its surroundings, the idea of historical
development and the problems related with it, all these are present
to the medieval mentality only in a very inadequate conceptual
specificity" (FS 206). Yet Scotus' haecceitas, the very form of
individuality, shows promise, since it invests each individual with
its own "this-here-now" (Dasein!) and so brings out a rich
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 169

categorial structure that underscores the decisive function of time

(FS 195). Nevertheless, since each individual is an "irreducible
ultimate," does not even such a form reduce the immediate
givenness of reality to the chaos of "boundless multiplicity"? By no
means. By following the various strands of "the guiding thread of
givenness (modus essendi)" (FS 263) within the Scotian texts,
especially those on speech significations, Heidegger finds that the
concrete universality of modus essendi (the order of being, i.e. factic
reality) is centered in the fullness of the historical individual which
is consciousness, precisely through the unity of its intentional
correlation with all that is "given."

Intentionality. At this point, it should be noted that the

operative concept of the entire habilitation work is intentionality,
operating there through the coincidence of the conceptual pairs
noesis-noema, form-matter, modus activus et passivus. What
Heidegger finds astonishing and fruitful, in the interpretation of a
key Scotian text, is that even the "order of being" has an active
mode, that there is a modus essendi activus, which is self-evident for
the orders of knowing and signifying (speaking). In their passive
modes, these two orders converge upon and coincide with the
modus essendi from which they receive their objects.
What precisely is the "order of being'?" The modus essendi is
whatever can be experienced and lived (das Erlebbare uberhaupt), in
the absolute sense whatever stands over against consciousness, the
'robust' reality which irresistibly forces itself upon consciousness
and can never nor again be put aside and eliminated" (FS 260).
The overriding sense of facticity emanating from this passage -
"robust reality" will soon turn out to be the historical- has been
building ever since Heidegger had mentioned the fact of different
domains of reality (d. above), whose very difference cannot be
proven but only pointed out, shown. "Whatever gets pointed out
stands before us in its selfness and, graphically put, can be grasped
immediately.... Regarding the immediate there can be no doubt,
probability and delusions. For, as immediate, it has, as it were,
nothing between itself and the apprehension (simplex apprehensio)"
(FS 155).
But by now, it should be evident that the Young Heidegger is
also working at cross-purposes with his mix of mentors, both
scholastic and neo-Kantian, regarding the basic 'noetic' character
170 Theodore Kisiel

of this rudimentary level of givenness and meaning, reflected in

terms like simple apprehension, direct acquaintance (Kenntnis), pre-
judicative cognizance and now 'lived experience' (Er-leben). Is it
living or knowing, or perhaps both at once? What exactly is the
modus essendi activus (FS 262; my boldface) analogous to the active
noetic correlate in the orders of knowing and signifying? What is
the character of the immediate experience corresponding to
immediate givenness? This question concerning a potentially
rudimentary 'understanding of being' is at least speculatively
'mirrored' in the remarkable 'backtracking' into the Scotian text
(or, if you will, 're-duction' or 'deconstruction' of) which we have
been following. The crucial pages (FS 259-262) bear closer scrutiny,
inasmuch as they are invariably missed or botched or balked at by
virtually all commentators, much to their detriment, especially in
understanding the much-remarked Eckhartian footnote in the
Conclusion (FS 344), which refers more or less explicitly back to
those pages. In the words of one commentator, "it would make no
sense to speak of a modus essendi activus" apparently because, when
it comes to the given, all that one can ultimately say is "that is
how the things themselves are."IS But 'brute' facticity is not the last
word for medieval man, who can always go on to say "God made
it that way"; likewise not for the Young Heidegger, who is still
operating wholeheartedly out of the medieval worldview (FS 351;
his Vorhabe in common with "Scotus"). And it is precisely those
allusions to the ultimate baseline of medieval experience, namely,
to that "distinctive form of inner existence anchored in the
transcendent Vr-relationship of the soul of God" (FS 351), God's
intentionality, that he now draws out of the Scotian text.
Heidegger begins his final 'backtrack' here by observing that
all three modes (cognoscendi, significandi, essendi), though they
converge noematically by being one in their matter, nevertheless
differ in form, in the regard in which that matter is taken, where
he clearly includes the modus essendi among them (FS 259f). What
then is its form, especially if we recall that" forms are nothing but
the objective expression of the various ways in which consciousness
is intentionally related to the objective"? (FS 261) What is striking
here is that "Scotus," even though he never explicitly speaks of a
modus. essendi activus, nevertheless invests this mode with a
particular ratio, thereby making it "approach the character of a
determinateness of form, which must correspond to the character
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 171

of an act." What then are "the acts in which immediate givenness

actually becomes conscious"? (FS 262) The answer can no longer
be put off: "The modus essendi is the immediately given empirical
reality sub ratione existentiae. There is something significant here
which must be noted: Duns Scotus characterizes even this
empirical reality as standing under a 'ratio', a point of view, a
form, an intentional ordering (Bewandtnis); this is nothing less than
what is nowadays being said in the following terms: Even
'givenness' already manifests a categorial determination" (FS 260).
In Rickert's words, what we have here are the "most rudimentary
logical problems" which force us to "draw even 'prescientific'
knowing into the sphere of our investigation" (FS 260). Or in our
terms, the immediate experience corresponding to immediate
givenness is that of "a categorial determination." It is a categorial
experience, in short, it is what Husserl calls a categorial intuition.

Links with KNS 1919. With the invocation of intentionality, we

are now one further step removed from a brute facticity and
toward the comprehensive sense of an encompassing factic domain
which becomes the concrete starting point in KNS 1919. We are
getting a sense of the global magnitude of the "primal something,"
the irreducible ultimate from which phenomenological seeing must
take its point of departure. Perhaps still lacking from this
categorially charged and now intentionally structured immediacy
of life and experience is a true sense of its temporal character
implied in terms life "living spirit" and "historical individual." But
the still static structure of intentionality can now be developed in
two directions: as a rich form-matter relation, which yields the
constitutive category, and perhaps is a precursor of 'worlds'; as a
bare subject-object relation, which yields the more "subjective" and
formal reflexive category. The distinction in categories is Lask's, so
let us have him introduce the levels of discussion, which at once
anticipate the levels of the KNS-Schema:

A something stands as logically naked and preobjective only before

the 'immediate', unreflected and theoretically untouched dedication
and surrender [LA. in KNS-Schema]. By contrast, it always confronts
reflection as an object.... Of course, only a minimum of objectivity
needs to be involved in such reflecting [ILA]. In such a case, the
matter needs to be legitimized theoretically merely as a 'something'
172 Theodore Kisiel

which 'is given' or 'is there' ('es gibt'). It remains to be seen what
the precise relevance of this bare 'reflexive' category of merely
'being there' ('Es-Geben') may be (GS II, 129f).

With this initial introduction of the reflexive category, Lask then

proceeds to distinguish it from the more substantive constitutive
categories, which pertain to the hierarchical domains of the
sensory, non-sensory and suprasensory something. The distinction
coincides with the two types of the "theoretical something" in the
KNS-Schema, between the unhierarchized formal-objective (ILA)
and the hierarchized objective something (II.B). And what Lask
here calls the logically naked, preobjective, pretheoretical and
immediate something accessible only through submissive
dedication is the "primal something" (lA), the categorially
charged, intentionally structured global concretion of immediate
experience which we have just finished discussing under the
Scotian rubric of modus essendi, the pretheoretical order of being.
The fact that Lask's broad distinction between a theoretical
"something in general" in the order of knowing and a
pretheoretical "primary something" in the order of being (life,
immediate experience) fails to isolate, under the latter heading, a
worldly something (I. B), may suggest precisely where Heidegger
found h!s decisive insight in his hermeneutic breakthrough beyond

The Constitutive Category. However, even Heidegger's discovery

of a preobjective, pretheoretical world as the meaningful context
for things may have been suggested by Lask's hylomorphic way of
describing the intentional relation. As already indicated, we live
immediately in the form in order to know the matter mediately.
Put differently, we live in categories as in contexts through which
we experience the things included within them. Considered along
these lines, therefore, the relation of form to its matter is one of
"environment" (Umgebung). Matter is encompassed, embraced
(umgriffen), surrounded or environed (umgeben), bordered (verbriimt)
by the form; it is enveloped (umhUllt), enclosed (umschlossen) in the
form (GS II, 7Sf). This brief survey of a passage in Lask replete
with exploratory metaphors is perhaps not an idle exercise. It may
have been suggestive enough to prompt the Early Heidegger to
make the leap from category to world, more specifically to the
Heidegger's HermeneutkBreakthrough 173

environing world (Umwelt), which is a central thrust of his first

major breakthrough.
Be that as it may, the form-matter relation is used to
reinterpret the intentional relation precisely in the context of
comprehending the transcendental verum, being as knowable or
intelligible and in that sense 'true'. This is not the truth of
judgment, truth as validity, but rather the truth of simple
apprehension,16 truth as meaning, that of the simple encounter at
the interface of the orders of knowing and being, "the essential
union of the object of knowledge and the knowledge of the object"
(FS 344, 208), intentionality at its most direct. It is the truth of
simply having an object as "a meaning independent of judicative
characterization... The truth is consummated in givenness and does
not extend beyond it." (FS 210). Material givenness rather than
judicative forming plays the major role on this rudimentary level
of truth, where the categorial forms of thought are dependent on
the matter of being for their meaning. This is the "principle of the
material determination of form" which permeates the habilitation
text (FS 252-263, 344-350 but also implicitly 193, 198, 206£, 222,
229), which in language and content is clearly an outgrowth of
Lask's "doctrine of the differentiation of meaning" (GS 11,58££,102,
169). There is therefore a reciprocal determination in the
hylomorphic relation of intentionality: Form" encompasses" matter
in order to give it cognitive validation. But forms are also by their
very nature "enclitic" (GS II, 32f, 93£), they stand in need of
completion and fulfillment by matter, their basic attribute is that
of pointing toward (Hinweisen) and being valid of (Hingelten) their
matter; they are through and through and nothing but a relation,
a Hin - (GS II, 58££, 173f£).
What exactly does matter, traditionally the passive 'substrate',
do to form? Heidegger provides the answer quite early (FS 193):
"Form is a correlative concept; form is form of a matter, every
matter stands in a form. Matter moreover stands in a form
befitting it; put differently, form receives its meaning (Bedeutung)
from matter." Put in reverse once more, form accommodates
("tailors": GS II, 59) itself to a particular matter such that it is itself
particularized by meaning. Meaning is thus the fruit of the union
of form and matter. Meaning is that very union, which is why the
ultimate answer to the question "whence sense?" cannot really be
"matter" but instead "by way of matter" or "relatedness to
174 Theodore Kisiel

matter." The "moment of meaning" is the "relatedness of the

validlike to the outside" (GS II, 170). The answer is not at all
surprising, in view of the "operative concept" of intentionality
which governs the analysis. From the standpoint of 'pure' form,
meaning is an "excess" arising from its reference "to a something
lying outside of it," which the Kantian Lask views as a kind of fall
of pure form from the realm of 'pure' validity into a "lower" realm
mediating the univocal homogeneity of the logical realm (sic
Heidegger, FS 224) with the "multiplicity of all that is alien to
validity", with the "opaqueness, impenetrability, incompre-
hensibility" and "irrationality of matter" (GS IT, 59-61, 77). Form
accommodating itself to the multiplicity of matter yields the
"impure" middle realm of meaning. The "moment of meaning" is
accordingly the "principle of individuation" which particularizes
and differentiates forms, the "principle of plurality in the
[otherwise homogeneous] sphere of validity" (GS II, 61),
multiplying forms as it specifies them. Form "burdened" with
meaning thus becomes the fuller and more "specific" constitutive
form, "the categorial determination called for by non-validating
matter," which "lets the essence of matter shine through, as it
were" (GS II, 172, 103). The constitutive form is accordingly an
intrinsic "reflection of material determination" (GS II, 65: the only
occurrence of Materialsbestimmtheit in Lask). It is a more
determined form which has undergone a Formbestimmtheit (GS II,
58; FS 230, 255, 259, 261) relating it to a particular matter; i.e. it is
a form oriented toward being fulfilled by its own very particular
What does the Young Heidegger draw from this story of the
genesis and nature of the constitutive category? Leaving aside the
Plotinian overtones of the "fall from grace" of validity into
meaning, Heidegger quickly brings the counter-Kantian,
phenomenological thrust of the analysis in tandem with the central
thrust of his own investigation, namely, the task of distinguishing
and at once characterizing the various domains of reality (FS 174,
229, 342). We have already cited Heidegger's use of simple
apprehension as a model for phenomenological seeing and his
insistence that the articulation and differentiation of domains of
reality can only be "read off" from the realities themselves.
Especially important for the coming years is the Young
Heidegger's express desire to make history, though here still
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 175

burdened by a neo-Kantian interpretation, into a "meaning-

determining element for the category problem" (FS 350). This is
not so much faith in reality as a faith in the meaning ensconced
within it. This facticity of meaning reflects Heidegger's choice from
among the options of the transcendental philosophies of the time.
Not an ideal and theoretical realm of validity but a 'transcendental'
realm of pretheoretical meaning flowing from life itself, which
Lask called a "panarchy of the logos" (GS II, 133) in which I
already "live in truth" (Le. intelligibility, meaning)P
Lask likewise opposes Kant's "purely logical" deduction of the
categories, because they are after all "not logical through and
through... but arise from a logical material" and so fend their order
in a material logic; "we can determine their place only by way of
a detour across this matter, persistently looking at it and regarding
its stufflike nature" (GS II, 62f). Also, contrary to Hegel's
panlogism, the individual forms are not intertwined by reciprocal
logical relations. They stand before us in a reciprocal heterogeneity
and irreducible multiplicity. The pure form in which we stand at
most gives us the inner light by which to regard their matter, since
it is also being reflected from the impenetrable surface of matter's
facticity. In our encounter with this interface, we can only accept
its alogical order of being and resign ourselves to the limits of
Thus, through Lask's mediating of the neo-Kantian tradition
in the direction of Husserl and Aristotle, the two earliest
philosophical influences upon Heidegger, he has developed a sense
of intentionality and categorial intuition which allows him to move
toward a new sense of the apriori, that of the facticity of meaning,
which finds its norms in experiencability instead of knowability.
But that is not all. There is still the problem of how to express this
precognitive realm of lived meaning.

The reflexive category. It is therefore important to note that

Lask's treatment of the reflexive category appears in the
habilitation text expressly in the section on the doctrine of speech
significations. But it had already appeared unannounced in the
earlier section on the transcendental unum. While the constitutive
category plays a central role in the differentiation of the domains
of reality, their regionalization into various material logics, the role
of the reflexive category is that of their unification, and its logic
176 Theodore Kisiel

tends toward the most general and formal of considerations. Its

utter generality suggests that it is the emptiest and most abstract
of categories. But Lask's account of its genesis at the very outskirts
between knowing and being, in the very first stirrings of taking
thought and reflecting upon an initially amorphous absorption in
a homogeneous experience, suggests instead a proximity to the
concrete whole of being itself (GS IT, 129f). Thus, Heidegger in
KNS 1919 can say that the formal objective "something in general"
of the reflexive category is "motivated" in the undifferentiation of
the primal something of experience.
The medieval discussion of the categories expressed this
primal indifference in the concept of ens commune, about which one
can indifferently say, "it is." "Aliquid indifferens concipimus" (FS
156). If this indifference is thought to its extremity, "the 'general'
here loses all meaning" (FS 159), and ens commune can no longer
be made subject to predicative subsumption according to the
hierarchy of genera and species. Because it is beyond the
hierarchical generalization of a subsumptive universal and has its
own unique universality, being is called a "transcendental." In the
language of neo-Kantianism, something in general, the object pure
and simple, is not an object at all but rather a homogeneous
continuum. This "indifference of the on-hand (Vorhandenheit)"
surfaces in a surprising number of places in BT along with the
limit of indifference of everyday absorption in the world. 18
The reflexive category thus arises at this utter limit between
the indifference and difference of being. For the starting stuff of
the reflexive category is this "something in general" and its initial
form is "there is" (es gibt). Put otherwise, the very first reflexive
category is "persistent being'" (Bestand). Out of this indifferent
identity arises the categorial pair of identity and difference, which
belong together in the relation of heterothesis (Rickert's term for it)
or the transcendental unum. It is at this point that an object clearly
becomes an object. "There is (es gibt) no object, no object is given,
when the One and the Other is not given" (FS 173 citing Rickert).
"Why is the something a something, one something? Because it is
not an other. It is a something and in being-something it is not-the-
other" (FS 160). Being an object at all, being identical with itself
and being different from something else are "equally primordial"
(gleich ursprilnglich: FS 172, 323; also 158, 166), in the very first use
of this important term in Heidegger's thought, here associated with
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 177

the "convertibility" of the transcendentals ens and unum (FS 160).

In the proximity of the primal indifference, basic terms tend to
converge. What this basic convergence yields is the most minimal
order (form, determination) necessary to apprehend an object at all;
Rickert would add, necessary for anything whatsoever to be
thought at all: For a pure monism without opposites cannot even
be thought. The apparent tautology ens est necessarily ,already
involves a heterology. In an account of the difference in function
between the noun ens and verb esse in this sentence which is
already reminiscent of his later reflection on the ontological
difference between being and beings, the Young Heidegger writes:
"Equally primordial as the object in general is the object's state of
affairs; with every object there is an 'intentional nexus'
(Bewandtnis), even if it be merely that it is identical with itself and
different from another" (FS 323).
This example from Heidegger's account of a speculative
grammar (Scotus) or apriori logical grammar (Husserl) illustrates
what the reflexive order of categories promises for him: logical
insight into the structural resources in a living language which
would abet especially the "logic of philosophy." Lask too alludes
to this connection between logic and language. At one point in his
defence of the seemingly ethereal and remote reflexive categories,
he poses the rhetorical question: what would we do with a
language without words like'and', 'or', 'one', 'other', 'not'? (GS II,
164) Accordingly, such hyperreflective categorial artifices, which
buy transparency at the price of depleting the constitutive
categorial forms upon which they are parasitical (GS II, 158, 163,
168), still have their concretion. For the reflexive categories draw
their moment of meaning-differentiation from the subject-object
duplicity rather than from the form-matter relation (GS II, 137). In
its own way, therefore, the reflexive category constitutes a formal
skeletal structure of the intentional structure of life itself. Lask thus
describes the panarchy of the logos as a "bundle of rays of
relations" (GS II, 372). The reflexive object is the pure ob-ject as
such; in relation to subjectivity, it is a "standing over against" (GS
II, 72f). Its being "is stripped down to the bare reflexive being of
the shadowy anything whatsoever, to the naked something of the
'there it is'." (GS II, 229).
Its noetic correlate, Heidegger later notes (ZBP 69), is an
empty ego, an I and not really my I, a 'no matter who', a
178 Theodore Kisiel

theoretical I which is "utterly I-remote." But even though Lask

observes that the very nature of the "reflexive" category is that it
is "created by subjectivity," his transcendental logic remains
"halfsided" in giving primacy to the objective-logical (FS 277, 349).
The Young Heidegger thus sees the need to supplement Lask and
finds that the medieval theory of speech acts and their contents
already "manifests a sensitive and sure disposition of attunement
to the immediate life of the subjectivity and its immanent contexts
of meaning" (FS 343), especially in sorting out the signifying
functions of univocity, equivocity and analogy, "which originate
in the use of expressions in living thinking and knowing" (FS 277).
In the same vein, Heidegger tantalizingly suggests that the variety
of domains in any category system, even though they are
differentiated primarily in objective accordance with the actual
domains themselves, at least to some extent receive their identity-
difference relations from the "subjective side" which finds
expression in the reflexive categories (FS 346). This side is at least
partly met by the concerns of medieval speech theory for
privations, fictions and other non-entities or entia Tationis (FS 254f).
In coping with such articulations, linguistic forms, in contrast to
empirically oriented constitutive categories and much like the
reflexive categories, develop a peculiar dilution and
indeterminateness which make them amenable to 'anything
whatsoever', the very matter of reflexive categories (FS 256£).
It is precisely these resources of a living language which
philosophical discourse must draw upon in order to perform its
comprehensive tasks, in short, not so much upon empirical
metaphors but more upon structural considerations already latent
in the comprehension of being by language. The Young
Heidegger's interest in the impersonal sentence and the distinction
between genitive objective and genitive subjective exemplify this
quasi-structuralist sense of language. The perennial embarrassment
of philosophical language to attain its goals might well be lessened
by a fuller explication of the formal-reflexive schematization of
intentionality already operative in our extant language. This
accounts for the importance of Lask's distinction between the
reflexive and the constitutive category. It coincides with the
medieval distinction between the unique universality of being and
the stepwise hierarchical generality of beings (d. SZ 2), Russed's
distinction between formalization and generalization,19 and the
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 179

distinction in the KN5-Schema between two kinds of the

"theoretical something." In KNS 1919, in the face of phenom-
enology's embarrassment to express the primal something of life,
this manifold distinction will yield the method of "formal
indication" as a way of approaching a subject matter which
borders on ineffability. The expanse opened up by the reflexive
category between the extremes of homogeneity and heterogeneity,
indifference and difference, will serve as Heidegger's initial space
of articulation of that ineffable domain of our being.

KNS 1919: The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of World Vzew

In order to achieve the goal of "Philosophy as a Strict Science,"

HusserI in the closing pages of his programmatic statement of the
Logos-essay (1911) calls for a radical break with any philosophy
which is even remotely oriented toward a world view. 20 On the
opening day (February 7, 1919) of his course, therefore, Heidegger
observes that the reigning neo-Kantian philosophy, even though it
regard a world view to be the personal affair of the individual,
understands itself as the critical science of values which, "based as
it is on the basic acts of consciousness and their norms, has in its
system an ultimate and necessary tendency toward a world view"
(ZBP 12). And breaking with his own earlier desire for a
metaphysical"optic" (FS 348) as well as with the entire tradition
of philosophy, he proposes with Husserl, as an opening thesis, that
philosophy and world view have absolutely nothing to do with
each other. The course thus places itself in pursuit of "a brand new
conception of philosophy. .. which would have to place it outside
of any connection with the ultimate human questions" (ZBP 11).
And if philosophy is still to be the Ur-science, this would
necessarily entail an entirely new conception of origins and ends,
the first and the last things. Philosophy itself now becomes a
problem especially in its starting point, its primary subject matter,
and consequently in its method and goal. What then is The Idea
of Philosophy?
In 1919, a sharp contrast between neo-Kantianism and
phenomenology was dictated by the very proximity of the two
schools. Both approaches in particular lay claim to the venerable
ambition of establishing philosophy as the "primal" or "original"
science (Urwissenschaft). Both seek to determine origins and
180 Theodore Kisiel

ultimates, the first and the last things, the underived from which
all else is derived, which can only be 'shown' or 'pointed out' but
not 'proven', thereby inexorably implicating the original science in
a circle, assuming in the beginning what it wishes to find in the
end. What then is the beginning, the IIp rimalleap" (Ur-sprung: ZBP
24, 31, 60, 95 = 160, 172, 247 in the habilitation) of thinking or
knowing, the point from which it gets its start? For Heidegger,
such a starting point would have to allow for the problem of the
very "genesis of the theoretical" which he finds already operative
in Lask (ZBP 88).
As he promised in his Conclusion of 1916, the 1919 course
moves, albeit slowly and laboriously, to displace the neo-Kantian
starting point in the 'fact' of knowledge and science with the
phenomenological starting point in the 'primal fact' of life and
experience. Situating the original domain of philosophy beyond the
theoretical in a "pretheoretical something" at once overcomes the
circularity of presupposition and proof which characterizes the
neo-Kantian Idea of philosophy. The principles and structures
developed in 1916, largely with the help of Lask, playa significant
role in this movement of displacement. The following selective
summary of the course21 will first focus on the strategic use of
those principles and structures in that deconstruction and
regression toward the original domain of the environmental

experience" and the "life in and for itself."

First (Neo-Kantian) Part. The Principle of the Material

Determination of Form surfaces already in the second hour, in the
specification of the Idea of the primal science. As a Kantian Idea,
as an infinite task, it must be left open to further determination.
Any further determination of the Idea depends on the content of
the object of the Idea, i.e. on the "regional essence" or categorial
character of the object which motivates the search (ZBP 15).
The problem of material determination then gradually but
inexorably displaces, and so reverses the orientation away from,
the teleological determination which the forms and norms of

thought" provide. In order to found the laws of thought in an

ideal and normative manner rather than in actual fact, the
teleological method is at first sharply set off from the genetic-
psychological method. But in order to offset the abstract
constructivism of the early Fichte's IIdialectical-teleological
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 181

method," the "critical-dialectical method" allows for, in fact is in

need of a "material clue" or "guideline" (Leitfaden: ZBP 37 = 263 of
the habilitation!) simply to find the points at which the goal of
reason is "realized." Thus, for example, philosophy 'borrows' from
psychology the material distinction of psychic functions into
thinking, willing and feeling, on the basis of which it then
articulates the normative domains into the true, good and
beautiful. But in the end, psychology still offers only the formal
characteristics: liThe real content, the formations of rational values,
is first shown in history, which is the true organon of critical
philosophy. The historical formations of cultural life are the real
empirical occasion for the critical-teleological reflection," (ZBP 38;
correcting the last word from Bestimmung to Besinnung). The
quotation recalls the Young Heidegger's third task for a "cosmos
of categories," of factoring in the Material Determination of
"history in its teleological interpretation along the lines of a
philosophy of culture" (FS 350).
Psychic and historical matter provide the "impetus" which
"motivates" the bestowal of norms. The operative concept of
intentionality is clearly in evidence as the Early Heidegger
gradually draws the givenness of matter and the giving of
normative forms into an indissoluble intentional unity. The noetic
side involves a first attempt to unravel the neo-Kantian tangle of
validity, value and oughtness. For the weak link of the critical-
teleological method is its noetic hinge: It is in search of the
universal valid values which "ought to be" acknowledged once
they are "pointed out." But acknowledgment is not the same as
consent or approval, which is the 'Yes' response Wmdelband really
wants to a valid judgment, but cannot demonstrate. In what "form
of experience" does validity "give itself"? "Does it correspond to
a subject-correlate of an original kind or is it a founded
phenomenon, perhaps even extremely founded?" Heidegger points
to the direction he would take: "In the end, validity is a
phenomenon constituted by its subject matter, presupposing not
only intersubjectivity but the historical consciousness as such!"
(ZBP 50£). And the es soli, oughtness? "How does an ought give
itself at all, what is its subject-correlate?" (ZBP 45). Is its object-
correlate always a value? Clearly, the reverse does not always
hold. The value of the 'delightful', for example, gives itself to me
without a corresponding experience of the 'ought'. This entire
182 Theodore Kisiel

tangle of experiences calls for an "eidetic genealogy of primary

motivations" to set things right (ZBP 46, 73). For that matter, even
to call the valuable an "object" is already wrong. Like validity (es
gilt), the valuable is best expressed in an intransitive impersonal
sentence. "The value is not, but simply 'values'... In the experience
that is 'worth taking', 'it values' (es wertet) for me, for the worth-
experiencing subject" (ZBP 46; correcting urteilende with
werterlebende, "worth-experiencing").
With this tangle of impersonals which represent the basic
constitutive categories of neo-Kantianism, one of them of his own
coinage, Heidegger in 1919 is already finding that language is not
'up to' the "new typology of fundamental experience" that he
wishes to express. The fact that they will be separated at this
critical juncture from the impersonal constitutive categories of
hermeneutic phenomenology (the Second Part of the course) by
Lask's formulation of the reflexive category par excellence, Es-
Geben (ZBP 67, 69=Lask, GS II, 130,142,155, 162££), gives substance
to the methodological claim we discovered in the Young
Heidegger (FS 257): In those instances when language fails us, the
very indeterminacy and dilution of reflexive categories can play an
indispensable role in developing more suitable descriptive
categories. The thought experiment that Heidegger now performs
is first of all designed to break the tyrannic predominance of the
theoretical represented by the psychology of his day, both
hypothetical-inductive and descriptive. Consideration of the latter
will lead to a kind of psychologistic parody of phenomenology

The Transitional Thought-Experiment. The issue leading up to

this critical juncture is in fact the material determination of the
forms and norms of thought by their psychic mater. The joining of
the issue begins when the matter and the ideal norms are drawn
so closely together that Heidegger can entertain the anti-Kantian
question: Is the giving of matter perhaps also the giving of ideals?
For in a certain sense, "everything is psychic or mediated by the
psychic." Can we perhaps arrive at an "objective level" within
psychic matter upon which the ideal norms could be grounded?
What is an objectively given 'psychic matter'? According to
psychology-here extrapolating its quest for facts to its
extreme-the psychic manifests the continuity of a temporal
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 183

process which is analyzable into sensations and representations.

Can psychic processes be so regarded such that they at once give
the ideal? Do they constitute the level of origins, the p.rimalleap
(Ur-sprung) of the primal science we are seeking? How is the
psychic itself as a total sphere to be given? (ZBP 6Of). "We can
only get at the sphere by pure dedication and submission to the
subject matter." Without bringing in assumptions or theories, we
must fall back upon a description "pointing out the facts befitting
the 'thing itself'." Just the facts (Tatsachen) of the thing (Sache)
itself, of the psychic? Description? "But description itself is a
psychic phenomenon [and thus also] belongs in the thing itself.
What is that supposed to mean, to have one thing describe
another? Is description really a way of connecting things?" (ZBP
61). "We are thrown from one thing to another, which remains
mute like any thing" (ZBP 65). Can we even speak of things when
there are only things? Heidegger summarizes his experiment in
terms of the staple category then current among neo-Kanti'ans,22 es
gibt: "Is there even one thing when there are only things? Then
there would be no thing at all, not even nothing, for with the total
domination of the thing itself there is not even the 'there is'. Is
there the 'there is'?" (ZBP 62).
Thus, the neo-Kantian route through the 'fact' of the science
of psychology likewise dead-ends in a kind of paradox: H there are
just facts (givens), then there are not even facts (givens). But we
have already seen that even that tradition had begun to develop
a facticity other than that of the factum brutum. Going far beyond
what Wmdelband and Rickert ventured to do in their
"transcendental empiricism" (ZBP 40), where matter is a mere
appendage to the teleological method, Lask gleans the following
description of the material realm from Fichte's 'middle' period, in
his most extreme "positivism" (GS I, 148): "The 'really real' is what
you 'really live and experience', the givenness which happens to
you, 'filling the flowing moments of your life', the self-forgetting
and immersion of dedicative intuition." This is life at ground-level,
"raised to the first power," so to speak; or in reverse, it is "the
sinking of consciousness to its lowest power." "Whatever occurs
in this sphere is what is called 'reality', 'facts of consciousness' or
'experience' (Erfahrung)." Are we describing the mute life of the
dullard, "the limiting case of dull abandon to the given" (dumpfes
Hingegebensein),23 or is it the immediate contact with the very
184 Theodore Kisiel

source of life, the first stirrings and upsurge of meaning in human

In short, is this immediacy mute or meaningful? The first
alternative applies if we rule out the possibility, as good Kantians
do, that our most immediate experience is already 'categorially'
charged. The latter option is clearly the Early Heidegger's direction
of interpretation, if we were to judge simply on the basis of his
continued use of Lask's language for categorial intuition in his own
descriptions. "'The only way to get at this original sphere is by
pure dedication (Hingabe) to the subject matter" (ZBP 61; 65). "Let
us immerse ourselves again in the lived experience" (ZBP 68). To
escape unwarranted opinions, free-floating theorems and
speculative excesses, "the philosophers... throw themselves into
history, into robust reality" (=p. 260 of the habilitation!) and "give
themselves over to its richness and its movement" (ZBP 135). For
this primitive level of direct acquaintance or "taking cognizance"
is already "characterized by a pure and undivided dedication to
the subject matter. It operates first of all in the very stuff of natural
experience." It is subject to different levels of clarity and so can be
improved upon. It can become the preparatory form of the
theoretical but also the "primal form in the religious" (ZBP 212).
It is in fact toward this boundary issue of immediacy ("Mute
or meaningful?") that Heidegger now, at the very fulcrum of the
course, directs his thought experiment, which aims to reduce
everything to the level of 'brute' facticity, of the sheer and naked
"there it is ... and nothing else": Is there something? Is there even
the "there is"? Everything is now made to hinge on such boundary
questions reminiscent of Leibniz's famous question. "We are
standing at the methodological crossroad which will decide the
very life or death of philosophy; we stand at an abyss: either into
nothingness, i.e. absolute thingness, or we somehow manage the
leap into another world, or better: for the first time into the world
as such" (ZBP 63).24 This marginal comment in fact prematurely
anticipates the sense of world as meaningful context. The first leap
to be made here is simply from mute thingness to a 'categorial' i.e.
meaningful context. Is Heidegger here perhaps alluding to another
leap he has tacitly made, his intuitive leap from Lask's environing
form or category as a creative bridge to his environing world? Or
is he suggesting the difference between his thought experiment
and Husserl's, which it recalls, where Husserl leaps from an
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 185

annihilated world to a worldless subject? Let us examine more

closely how Heidegger recovers from the naturalistic devastation
of the total reification of experience.
What is left after the absolutizing of thingness? There is still
the interrogative movement itself, "Is there ... ?". What does the
interrogative experience itself give us? If we simply immerse
ourselves in the experience itself, in its movement toward what
motivates it and nothing else, and now diligently seek to avoid
stilling the movement through the blatant reification of our
previous reflection, we really do not find anything either psychic
or physical. The 'object' of our present reflection is a living
experience and not a psychic process, not "a mere occurrence." It
is even questionable whether we have an 'object' here. "The
living-out of an experience is not a thing which exists in brute
fashion, beginning and ending like an encountered process. The
'relating to' is not a piece of a thing attached to another piece, the
'something'. The living and lived of experience are as such not like
entitative objects stuck together" (ZBP 69f).
In fact, this particular experiencing is itself not only
non-objective but also impersonal. For is it really I myself, in full
personal involvement, who asks, "Is there something?" Not really,
precisely because what is asked about (Gefragtes) does not touch
me personally. The experience is related to an I (n'importe qui) but
not to my I (ZBP 69).
Finally, what is asked about, that toward which "I" live in the
experience, the content of the question or its "hold" (Gehalt) and
so its "hold" on me. For in any experience, intentionally
understood, there is a "pull" (Zug) toward something, such that
the noematic pole, in its directive sense (soon to be termed the
Gehaltssinn), motivates the experience. In this experience,
something is asked about something in general. What is being
questioned (Befragtes),'}5 the matter of the question, is "something
in general." What is asked about, what stands in question, the
form that the question takes, the actual content (Formgehalt) of the
question, is the "es geben." In both form and matter, the question
contains the emptiest, the most general, the most 'theoretical' of
the reflexive categories. From Lask, we have learned that
'givenness' is the very minimum that can be said about the most
minimum. It is so devoid of substantive meaning that we have a
tendency to fill in the phrase with examples. This very 'pull'
186 Theodore Kisiel

reflects a certain dependence of the phrase on something more

concrete which itself will have to be explored. Even apart from its
interrogative quality (which in fact proves to be irrelevant in this
context), this experience both noetically (the empty ego) and
noematically points beyond itself to another experience, with a
fuller sense, upon which it depends and (presumably) from which
it arose. lithe sense of the something, as primitive as it obviously
is, in its very sense proves to be the motivator of an entire process
of motivations." "Where is the sense motivating the sense of the 'es
gibt' to be found?" (ZBP 67f).

Second (Phenomenological) Part. At this point, therefore, an

entirely different experience is described, namely, the
environmental experience, an experience not so much 'of' as 'out
of' the immediate world around us (Umwelt), an experience which
by its very contrast serves to develop the issue at hand. The
descriptive emphasis in this very first of a series of environmental
analyses will be more on looking around (Umsicht) rather than the
later "getting around" (Umgang). Looking around for an example,
Heidegger selects the mundane, habitual, common and yet in its
way individualized experience of walking into class and "seeing
your desk." Such a seeing always: (1) takes place "in an
orientation, illumination and background"; "in an orientation"
means "laden with a meaning," (2) it is always limy seeing [and
so] individual to the utmost" (ZBP 71£). If we 'reduce' the more
current theoretical constructions as we describe, what I see are not
brown patches on rectangular shapes, or a box which I eventually
construe as a schooldesk, I simply see my desk at once, quickly
noting also at once anything that might be out of place or unusual
about it, a book on it, and the like. Others more or less familiar
with things academic will also see 'this pupil's desk.'
Even a total stranger to such things, say, an African aborigine
suddenly transplanted into this classroom, will not see "a
something which is simply given" (reflexive category) but perhaps
something to do with magic or a good defense against arrows or,
at the very minimum, a something "which he does not know what
to make of or do with." In this limiting case, therefore, what is
experienced is not so much logically contradictory as it is
contrary-to-sense, such that this sense-alien experience of the
useless still belongs to the same class as that of the meaning-full
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 187

desk. (ZBP 71f: This example of "instrumental alienation" is

reminiscent of the "broken hammer" experience in BT.)
All these things (books, pens, cars, campus, trees, shade, etc.,
etc.) give themselves directly out of the immediate context of
meaning encompassing us which we tend to call the 'world'. Much
like Lask's objects known only through the constitutive categories
in which we live, such things receive their significance from that
meaning-giving context encompassing Us, whose activity can then
be described as 'worlding'. If we then take our campaign against
reification one step further, then the true locus of our experience
is not in objects or things which "in addition are then interpreted
as signifying this or that," but rather the signifying element itself,
the 'it' which 'worlds', a milieu which in conjunction with Lask
has already been called the "transcendental realm of meaning"
(intelligibility, truth). "The meaningful is the primary, [for] it gives
itself immediately, without any detour of thought across the
apprehension of a thing. Overall and always, it signifies to me,
who lives in an environing world, it is wholly worldlike, 'it
worlds'" (ZBP 73; 71ff).
But is this impersonal es weltet, this completely constitutive es
giht, so to speak, really an impersonal experience? Contrary to the
reflexive es giht with its abstract I, my own and temporally
particular I is in some way wholly present "with" the worlding
experience. In fact, in the 'seeing' involved here, my I goes out of
itself completely and immerses itself in the world in total
absorption. This impersonal experience of the historical I wholly
'given over' to its world is thus the opposite of that of the
theoretical I almost totally remote from its objectified es gibt. The
latter experience of the indifferent I is only a rudiment of the
"living through" (Er-leben) of experience in the full sense; it is in
fact an un-living (Ent-leben) of experience. All that is left is an
"impoverished I-relatedness reduced to a minimum of
experiencing." Correlatively, the object is re-moved (ent1ernt),
extracted from its authentic experience. The objectified occurrence,
a psychic process (Vor-gang=going-by) for example, simply passes
the cognizing ego by, immobilized like a thing. By contrast, "in
seeing the desk, I am there 'with it' with my whole I, the I
resonates with this seeing in total harmony, we said, it is an
experience properly (eigens) for me." It is my proper experience
because it appropriates me and I, in accord, appropriate it. This
188 Theodore Kisiel

experience is accordingly not a process but an event appropriate

to me, a propriating event (Ereignis). "This living-through does not
pass by before me like a thing posited by me as an object; rather,
I myself properize it to myself and it properizes itself (es er-eignet
sich) according to its essence." Such an 'event' is something
entirely new, outstripping all talk of psychic and physical, subject
and object; even 'inner' and 'outer' make no sense in this context.
"Living experiences are properizing events insofar as they live out
of the proper and life lives only so, in accord" (ZBP 7S; 73ff).
There is thus the sharpest contrast to be drawn between
living-through (er-leben) the wodding which properizes my full
historical I, and the un-living (Ent-leben) of the "there is" before the
remote theoretical I. It is the difference between the fullness of the
Er-eignis and the impoverishment of the Vor-gang, impoverished of
meaning, un-worlded and dehistoricized. It is the contrast between
the pretheoretical and the theoretical. The primacy, the
absolutizing of the theoretical is now breached. With the contrast,
it is now possible to make the theoretical itself into a problem. The
problem of the genesis of the theoretical would be one of the tasks
of the pretheoretical science, the science of lived experience as
such. One of the most difficult would be the problem of the
transition, the boundary crossing from environmental life to the
initial objectification (ZBP 91). It is a problem intertwined with the
very possibility of a pretheoretical science, which itself would want
to keep itself free of the objectification which would destroy its
unique essence and make it once again into another theoretical
But how is a pretheoretical science of experience at all
possible? For its 'object' is the "experiencable as such" (Erlebbares
ilberhaupt: ZBP USf) which is not an object at all. This formula for
the primal something was already used in the habilitation work to
describe its form-cietermining material guiding clue, the
"givenness" (FS 263) of the modus essendi: "The modus essendi is the
experiencable as such, is in the absolute sense whatever stands
over against consciousness, the "robust" reality which irresistibly
forces itself upon consciousness and can never nor again be put
aside and eliminated" (FS 260). What is put aside in 1919 is
precisely the rigidifying language of consciousness-over-against-
object to characterize the primal realm of experience. Heidegger
now emphatically rejects the characterization of the environmental
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 189

as given," regarding that as a form of theoretical infringement,


albeit the slightest. "Thus 'givenness' is already quite probably a

theoretical form" (ZBP 89). Already for the Young Heidegger, the
discovery of a modus essendi activus was a source of much
excitement and astonishment, now intensified by the discovery of
other aspects of the "in-itself of the streaming experience of life"
(ZBP 116). But his newly heightened sensitivity to his basic terms
now extends even to terms like 'life' and 'lived experience'. liThe
word 'lived experience' is itself nowadays so common and diluted
that it best would have to be put aside were it not so relevant. It
cannot be avoided, which is all the more reason to come to terms
with its essence." In the same context, Heidegger even begins to
experiment with another impersonal, lilt lives, and moreover it
lives toward something," for his basic experience, without
following through any further (ZBP 66).

A formally indicating hermeneutics. The problem of a

pretheoretical science therefore ultimately becomes a problem of
language: how to approach and articulate the dynamic, and thus
elusive, facticity of life? The problem comes to a head in Paul
Natorp's ingenious objections against Husserl's phenomenology,
which Heidegger now makes his own. 26 Put at its extreme,
phenomenology claims to be able to get at and articulate the
pretheoretical realm of life in a pretheoretical way, and so to
achieve the unique status of a pretheoretical science, the virtually
contradictory limit-case of an Ur-science. This is the upshot of
Heidegger's radical reformulation of Husserl's program to make
phenomenological philosophy into a strict science, and it is his
response to Natorp's pair of objections as they apply to his own
endeavor that gives birth to the solution of a formally indicating
language and hermeneutics.
1. How is the non-objectifiable subject matter of phenom-
enology to be even approached without already theoretically
inflicting an objectification upon it? How are we to go along with
life reflectively without un-living it? For reflection itself already
exercises an analytically dissective and dissolving effect upon the
life stream, acting as a theoretical intrusion which interrupts the
stream and cuts it off. "For in reflection the life-experiences are no
longer lived but looked at. We ex-posit the experiences and so
extract them from the immediacy of experience. We as it were dip
190 Theodore Kisiel

into the onflowing stream of experiences and scoop out one or

more, which means that we 'still the stream' as Natorp says" (ZBP
100£). This is Natorp's first objection against phenomenology,
against the intuitive access to its chosen subject matter.
2. Phenomenology purports merely to describe what it sees.
But description is circumscription into general concepts, it is a
"subsumption" under abstractions. The concrete immediacy to be
described is thereby mediated into abstract contexts. There is no
such thing as immediate description, since all expression, any
attempt to put something into words, generalizes and so objectifies
(ZBP 101, 111). This is Natorp's second objection against
phenomenology, against the potential expression of its immediate
It is actually in answer to this double methodological problem
of "intuition and expression" that Heidegger develops the four-
part KNS-Schema which guides him to his solution of the "formal
indication." In response to this single methodological problem
divided into two parts - how to approach and articulate lived
experience - Natorp, Lask, indeed Husser! himself, sought a
theoretical solution, Heidegger on the contrary a supratheoretical
one. For Natorp, the immediate is the subject which determines
everything and therefore itself lies "this side of all determination"
and so is not immediately accessible. His solution is to resolve the
subject, in the spirit of mathematics, in an infinite series of
admittedly objective determinations of thought from which it can
again be asymptotically reconstructed into its original subjective
unity (ZBP 102f£). Similarly, Lask's "logic of philosophy" involves
an ever increasing series of forms of forms of forms etc. Even
Husser! here speaks of a descriptive reflection upon an initially
reflectionless experiencing of experience which is repeatedly
reflected upon "into infinity" (ZBP 99). In every case, the
immediacy of intuition is lost in the mediacy of expression and the
initial unity of intuition and expression is rent asunder. It is well-
known that the phenomenological "principle of principles" gives
the primacy to intuition. Less noted in this context is the
inseparable intentional relation between intuition and expression,
that is, between intuitive fulfillment and empty intending. All of
our experiences, beginning with our most direct perceptions, are
from the start already expressed, indeed interpreted.27 This
Diltheyan emphasis of the intentional structures described by
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 191

Husserl in Logical Investigations is the seminal insight of

Heidegger's hermeneutical breakthrough in 1919, leading to a
pretheoretical solution to the problem of intuition and expression,
and thus to a more radical conception of phenomenology as the
original science of origins than hitherto conceived. Intentionality
itself already contains its own solution to the problem of
expression. As we have already noted, in being already
intentionally structured, immediate experience is itself not mute
but 'meaningful', which now means that it is already contextured
like a 'language'. In view of this articulation inherent in
intentionality, the problem of "intuition and expression" may
perhaps now be more cohesively formulated: How can appropriate
expressions be 'read off' directly from experience and developed
in order to enable rather than to obscure intuitive access to it?
Where can we find philosophical expressions which serve this
intuition instead of preventing it? The answers hinge upon a
proper understanding of both the structure and dynamics of
A final objection, an outgrowth of the first, will serve to test
this understanding. The objection spawns a torrent of surprise
developments in the very last hour of the course. In view of this
complexity, it will be convenient to take the upshot of its
formulation of intentionality in terms of each of its two parts:
Verhalten zu etwas (ZBP 112), a comportment relating itself to
The final objection against the purportedly non-distorting
intuitive access to life is broached. In this phenomenological
intuition, there must surely be at the very minimum a something
which "gives itself." Is this sheerest something not the something
in general which represents the very epitome of "un-living"
ensuing from the process of theoretization? Up to now, this has
been formaliter so in our account. But now, a fundamental division
must be made within the theoretical, which in turn will lead to the
exposition of an analogous two-part division in the pretheoretical
realm; ergo, the four-part "something" of the KNS-Schema already
outlined above in anticipation of this moment.
In sum, the objection is answered by distinguishing between
formal theoretization (Vergegenstandlichung), which yields the
"something in general" in one fell swoop directly from primal life,
and the actual theoretization (Objektivierung) which occurs stepwise
192 Theodore Kisiel

and typewise from the environmental experience: desk, brown,

sense datum, physiological reaction to the physical, cause-effect
relation, wave l~ngth of other vibrations, laws relating their
simplest units. At each level, in each type of objective process, one
can always say, "It is something" (and not lies gibt etwas"!),
indicating that the formal something is not bound to these steps of
objectivation, thus not motivated by these object-domains (ZBP
113). As we have seen from the habilitation work, its compass is
far broader: sensory and non-sensory, real and possible objects,
even non-being. Noteworthy is the fact that it is not tied to
theoretical comportment, to the scientific lifeworld, but is to be
found also in atheoretical comportment, in the aesthetic, ethical
and religious lifeworlds. Even in religious experience, something"

is given. This suggests that the formal-objective something first has

no connection with the theoretical process, that its motivation out
of life is qualitatively and essentially different.
It extends to whatever can be experienced, lived (Erlebbares
uberhaupt: ZBP 115 = p. 260 of the habilitation). And this is the
phenomenological"primal something" (Ur-Etwas). It is indifferent
to any particular world and especially to any particular object-type.
It is not yet differentiated and not yet worldly; ergo a preworldly
something. And this "not yet" is the "index for the highest
potentiality of life." This potentiality is the basic 'trait' (Zug) of life,
to live out toward something, to "world out" (auszuwelten) into
particular lifeworlds. Life in itself is motivated and has tendency,
it has a motivated tendency (= thrown project in BT) and tending
motivation. "But this means that the sense of something as that
which can be experienced implies the moment of 'out toward',
'direction toward', 'into a (particular world) - and in fact in its
undiminished 'vital impetus'." (ZBP 115)
lilt is out of this preworldly vital something that the formal
objective something of knowability is first motivated. A something of
formal theoretization. The tendency into a world [that of es weltet]
can be theoretically deflected before its demarcation and articulation
as a world. Thus the universality of the formally objective
appropriates its origin from the in-itself of the streaming
experience of life" (ZBP 116). In short, the universality of
formalization has the direct access to the flowing "primal
something" which phenomenological intuition wishes to have. The
reflexive categories derived from formalization are not "parasitical"
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 193

upon the constitutive categories of the world, as Lask thought (GS

II, 162). Their contentlessness reflects a freedom from the genera
and species generated in the theoretical generalization of the
world, a freedom which makes them philosophically useful, as we
have seen more than once above, especially in those
methodological impasses where language seems to fail us.
Traditionally, what philosophy seeks is at once comprehensive and
fundamental, and the pure and simple universals of formalization
come closer to that than the mundane order of strata caught up in
a complex web of genera and species in ever increasing
"subsumption" and generalization.
Pure and simple as it is, however, the form of formalization
nevertheless tends toward an object, which, as Lask already noted,
"at once alludes to the 'standing over against' in the relation to
subjectivity" (GS II, 72). Add to this the "heterothesis" essential to
isolating one object from another, and the phenomenological
ambition to 'go with the flow' of original life and to describe this
"living out toward" from the inside out, as it were, is simply
thwarted by the escalating diremptions of formalization (ZBP I11f,
117). Why should formalization then be regarded so positively?
What does it really contribute to phenomenology'S own,
enormously difficult category-problem, that of finding the right
words for its pretheoretical sort of descriptions? Looking beyond
this 'minus', the prejudice of diremption, we have in fact come
upon a third 'plus' which we can now add to our list. In addition
to its proximity to the comprehensive uniqueness of life and the
methodological flexibility and freedom offered by its
contentlessness, the formal category of "Object in general" in fact
magnifies its relation to subjectivity, what Heidegger will soon call
the relational sense (Bezugssinn) as opposed to content sense, what
it 'holds'. The one thing that the formal category lacks, as
Heidegger will point out in subsequent courses, in the dynamic
"sense of actualization and fulfillment" (Vollzugssinn).
Formalization from the start cuts itself off from the fullness of the
concrete situation, and so does not, so to speak, let its phenomenon
follow through to its natural conclusion, but instead immobilizes
it into an object. Nevertheless, there are methodological lessons to
be learned from formalization. Phenomenology needs only to
improve upon the schematization of formalization and expand it
into the full intentional movement dictated by the phenomenon of
194 Theodore Kisiel

life. Small wonder, then, that Heidegger will shortly (WS 1919-20)
call the 'open' methodological concept that points the way and
guides the explication of phenomena without prejudice, Le.
without falling into standpoints and regional limitations, the
''formal indication" lformale Anzeige: In BT, "existence" is the formal
indication; in 1916-19, it is what hitherto has been called the
"operative concept" of intentionality; for Lask, it is perhaps
'matter-needy forms'. Each in fact schematizes the same
The pluses and minuses of formalization and its noematic
"formal-logical objective something" may now be applied to the
"primal something" to bring out is full character. Both are
indifferent in regard to all differentiations, reflecting the hollow
dilution of the medieval concept ens commune which indifferently
applied to everything. But surely there is a difference between
theoretical and pretheoretical (Le. factic) indifference. The step into
factic life is the step from the levelling 'not' of indifference to the
"not yet" of potentiality, therefore "the index for the highest
potentiality of life" (ZBP 115). In particular here, factic life has not
yet devolved into a world, it is not yet worldly; it is "preworld1y."
The KNS-Schema thus distinguishes on the pretheoreticallevel a
worldly from a preworldly something, and describes the latter as
the "basic moment of life as such." It is "life in and for itself' and
not a "genuine life," that is, life in a "genuine lifeworld" (ZBP 115f:
What does "genuine" mean here? Heidegger provides no
clarification). The distinction serves to divide the event of worlding
into its two parts, as two sides of the same coin, and gives primacy
to the suffix, to the (structuring, articulating, thus meaningful)
dynamism of life in and for itself, "the in-itself of the streaming
experiencing of life" (ZBP 116). It is this dynamic center of life that
is to be enhanced and amplified by formal considerations. How?
By investing it with the formal schematism of intentionality.
So far, this dynamic center has only been isolated (Le.
formalized) through negative terms, placed on the outskirts of
"genuine" worlds and yet - and here is the positive turn -
charged with the potential for worlding. The "not yet," this more
pregnant 'not' of dynamic undifferentiation, contains within itself
the power to differentiate worlds; it is a differentiating indifference
or, in more Kantian language, a determinable indetermination. The
indifference can do something. And this is the primal something.
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 195

How to conceptualize and define this 'deed'? For the Kantians, all
concepts have the function of determining. According to our
already established precautions, this is to be a purely formal
determination rather than the hierarchical determination of genera
and species. Heidegger finds such a formal determination in
intentionality. Within the undifferentiated dynamism of the primal
something, in its undiminished "vital impetus," there is the bare
intentional moment of "out towards" "in the direction of," "into a
(determinate) world" (ZBP 115). The student transcripts add
another formulation: the tendency to "world out" (auszuwelten) into
particular lifeworlds. Put in another way, this character of being
toward something- is "life in its motivated tendency and tending
motivation" (ZBP 117). The primal something may be undif-
ferentiated and unformed, but is not the "amorphous irrational X"
(Rickert) of brute facticity, inasmuch as it contains within itself the
tendency toward differentiation and determination and so has an
intrinsic directional sense.
With this positive development of the undifferentiation, we get
a clearer picture of how Heidegger means to overcome the final
objection against a pretheoretical science, namely, that a
diremption between knowledge and its object always remains,
inasmuch as every intuitive comportment is inescapably a
comportive 'relation toward something'. His answer is at once
simple and genial: With the primal something, the "something" is
the relation (VerhaIten) as such, it is not an ob-ject at all but instead
the intentional moment of out towards," what Heidegger two

semesters later will structurally distinguish as the relational sense

(Bezugssinn) of intentionality. This is in actuality the non-objective
formalization read off from the intentional structures of life. It
involves a phenomenological modification of traditional formal-
ization in order to efface its proclivity toward diremption. All
formally indicative concepts aim, strictly speaking, to express only
the pure "out towards" without any further content or ontic
fulfillment. From the relational sense of "out towards," for
example, the formal indication of "object in general" becomes the
pure "toward which" (das Worauf)28 instead of Lask's reflexive
formulation of "standing over against" (Entgegenstehendes) which
takes the object more from the side of its content sense, and so is
still too objectively formulated. In this sense, formal objectification,
even though "motivated" in the primal something, is still not near
196 Theodore Kisiel

enough to life's origin, to its 'primal leap', for Heidegger's formally

indicative concepts. Despite Heidegger's effort to revive it, formal
objectification is finally still an un-living in its rigid duality of the
subject over against the object, which must be dismantled and
revivified by the unified relation of motive to tendency, which is
at the 'heart' of the intentional movement here. The conceptual
pair motive-tendency (later the pair throwness-project understood
as equiprimordial) is· not a duality, but rather the "motivated
tendency or tending motivation" (ZBP 117) in which the
'outworlding' life expresses itself. Expression, articulation,
differentiation arises out of a core of indifferentiation which is no
longer to be understood in terms of subject-object, form-matter or
any other duality. What remains of the old objectification is the
indifferent continuum of the toward-which on the noematic end,
and the tending motivation on the noetic.
This simple "concretum" (ZBP 68) of the "in-itself of the
streaming experiencing of life" is moreover, as intentional, not so
much subjective as "I-like" (so in WS 1919-20). It is my life, my full
historical I is there in a peculiar way where the personal borders
on the impersonal (Merleau-Ponty's terse formulation is apt here:
j'en suis, 'I am of it,' 'I belong to it'). Life, world, history, all of
which is my experience: perhaps now one can appreciate the
complex of proximate realities which dovetail and asymptotically
withdraw into this undifferentiated concretum, this all-inclusive X
of my experience, the It which worlds and properizes. This is the
origin, the primal leap which Early Heidegger makes into the
subject matter of phenomenology and wishes to articulate, in
defiance of the classical maxim Individuum est ineffabile.
Already in WS 1919-20, the primal something in which I live
is described as an indeterminate something concerning which one
does know what it is, so that it can take on a threatening and
disquieting character. This uncanny life however stands in a
particular horizon of significance which allows it to be determined.
Such a primal something plays a great role in the genuine
lifeworlds, for example, as the mysterium tremendum in the religiOUS
lifeworld. It is therefore not to be confused with the formal-logical
something.29 (Clearly, the KN5-Schema had already provoked quite
a bit of discussion among Heidegger's students, who had already
begun to circulate his course-transcripts among themselves.)
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 197

Not at all discussed is the differentiation of worlds, which

appear in the plural in the Schema, where they are characterized
as "particular spheres of experience" (under LB.) They clearly refer
back to the primal something, which is the experiencable as such"

whose "indifference with respect to every genuine [does 'genuine'

thus mean 'particular', 'determined'?] worldness and especially
every determinate object-likeness" contains within itself lithe
highest potentiality" for differentiation (ZBP 115). The typification
of lifeworlds (Erlebniswelten) at this time simply follows the neo-
Kantian division of values and so commonly include scientific,
ethical, aesthetic and religious lifeworlds. Clearly, es weltet is here
still connected with es wertet. The real concern is with the active es
and how to describe it in its own terms, purely and simply. The
entire schema is geared to this process of 'abstraction' from
regional problems, of the formal isolation and identification of the
dynamism of facticity, along with the resources already indigenous
to it which allow it to be described 'in itself' from itself. Life is
sufficient unto itself, Eckhart already said. The trick is to get to this
level and stay with it, thereby reaping the harvest of its self-
expression. For factic life also gives itself in the deformation of
objectification, which must first be dismantled in order to get to its
initial moment of articulation. This was even true of Heidegger's
chosen route through formalization. The formal indication must
find its motivation earlier than formal objectification, in the more
incipient moment of life "in its motivated tendency or tending
motivation." Since the grasp of con-cepts intercept life and "still
the stream," phenomenology must find less intrusive, more natural
ways to get a grip on its subject matter, which remain in accord
with the "immanent historicity of life in itself" (an ad lib in the last
hour not in the edition). This smoother entry into life's historicity
in order to tune in on and 'read off' its self-expression is described
as a "hermeneutic intuition" (ZBP 17). Such an intuition immersed
in lithe immanent historicity of life" might reach back into its
motivation and forward into its tendency in order to form those
special con-cepts which are accordingly called re-cepts
(retrospective grips, Riickgriffe of the motivation) and pre-cepts
(prospective grips, Vorgriffe, of the tendency), without of course
lapsing into old-fashioned objectifying concepts (Be-griffe).
Heidegger will later improve upon this dualism suggested in the
hermeneutic type of concept by having the single term pre-
198 Theodore Kisiel

conception (Vor-grifJ) imply both retrospection and prospection,

which unitively and indifferently stretches itself along the whole
of the lifestream. In the same vein, a formal indication is
sometimes also called a "pre-cursory" (vor-liiufige) indication.
Springing from life's own sense of direction, from the indifference
of its dynamics only in view of its incipient differentiation, the
formal indication wishes to point to the phenomena in extreme
generality, indifference and contentlessness, in order to be able to
interpret the phenomena so indicated without prejudice and
standpoint. Some of Heidegger's later examples may help to
illustrate this: existence as (having) to-be, death as the provisional
indiCation of the possibility of the impossibility of existence, the
indifferent levelling of absorption in the world, indeed the
indifference of the entity pure and simple, about which one can
always simply say, "it is."
In the closing minutes of the course, Heidegger alludes to the
unique eidetic universality needed to grasp the "world-character
of experienced experience." He does not quite get around to
explain clearly enough that this "experienced experience," this
unique doubling of experience upon itself or better, the streaming
return of life back upon itself, is precisely the immanent historicity
of life, a certain familiarity or "understanding" which life already
has with itself and which the phenomenological intuition must
simply repeat. And what is this understanding, whether implicit
or methodologically explicit, given to understand? The articulations
of life itself, which accrue to the self-experience that occurs in the
'dialectical' return of experiencing life to already experienced life.
In WS 1919-20, he calls this experience of the self-articulation of life
a "diahermeneutics." Once again, life is not mute but meaningful,
it "expresses" itself precisely in and through its self-experience and
spontaneous self-understanding. "The pre-worldly and worldly
signifying functions have in themselves the essential character of
expressing features of the propriating event... They are both
prospective and retrospective in their grasp and reach, i.e. they
express life in its motivated tendency or tending motivation" (ZBP
117). From such accounts, terse as they still are, one begins to espy
the justification for identifying intuition with understanding and
phenomenological with hermeneutical intuition. liThe experience
of experience that takes possession by taking itself along is the
understanding intuition, the henneneutic intuition, the ordinary
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 199

phenomenological back-and-forth formation of re-cepts and pre-

cepts from which all theoretical-objectifying positing as well as
transcendent positing falls out" (ZBP 117).

Summation: In the Proximity of Husserl. The last citation

suggests Heidegger's own version of the 'phenomenological
reduction' that he had been developing in previous hours in his
critique of the "transcendent positing" of "reality" in realistic and
idealistic theories of perception, in order to justify the
circumspective seeing that is entailed in the experience of the
environing world. And his allusion to an indigenous "experience
of experience" within the lifestream (its immanent historicity), that
is, of a reflexive dimension built into life itself, is clearly an
attempt to salvage, amplify and deepen Husserl's sense of
"reflexion as a basic peculiarity of the sphere of experience" (Ideen
I, 77; ZBP 100) in opposition to Natorp's criticisms. But now he
avoids the term "reflection" because of its objectifying visual
connotations - "The experienced experiences become looked-at
experiences" (ZBP 99) - and instead attempts to reinterpret
intuition in more kinetic and vitalistic ways: Starting from
Husserl's "principle of principles," he describes the
phenomenological intuition that attuned itself to the inner
expressivity of life as a hermeneutic intuition which understands
experience out of the motivational structure of its inner historicity.
This non-theoretical and so non-objectifying intuition is moreover
variously described as a dedicative submission to life, sympathy
with it (ZBP 110), immersion in it, in all, a form of life which
outstrips the cognitive connotations of the word "intuition" and
suggests the later total attitude of authenticity. The laboriously
achieved practice of intuition is more a matter of cultivating a
basic habit or attitude of life, "and this is not achieved by any
conceptual system so far constructed,but by phenomenological life
in its increasing intensification of itself" (ZBP 110). This is what the
"strictness" of the science of phenomenology really refers to.
In taking the "principle of principles" to be non-theoretical in
nature, Heidegger admits that he is going beyond what Husserl
had explicitly said, but claims it to be an implication. That the
reduction leads to a radically non-theoretical science is also
presumably something that Husserl had not got around to saying.
Heidegger observes that Husserl's Logos-essay did not go far
200 Theodore Kisiel

enough in only blaming naturalism for the distortions of

objectification that prevent philosophy from reaching its goal of
strict scientificity. The fault lies more broadly in the tyranny of the
theoretical as such (ZBP 98); prote philosophia lies this side of all
theorizing and "transcendent positing" of the 'real', the 'given' and
the like. In speaking of the hazards of the slightest vestiges of
objectification, Heidegger notes that even Husserl's investigations
tend to situate themselves first in the sphere of things (a note from
the transcripts not in the edition). Thus Heidegger begins to hint
that a problem with Husserl's philosophy lies not only in a few
infelicities with the choice of a language still contaminated with
objectification. It was not Husserl but Lask who was the only one
who had gone far enough to even see the problem of the
theoretical in its essence and genesis (ZBP 88). That the goal of the
reduction is a sphere of experience which is not thinglike or real,
that the immediacy of the experience of the meaningful and the
meaning-yielding lies at the heart of intentionality, is nevertheless
still a lesson to be learned from Husserl's studies of "inner-time
consciousness," from which Heidegger is already drawing here in
his own descriptions of the "stream of experience." The Husserlian
vocabulary of "primal impression," "primal apprehension"
(understood as an incipient interpretation!), and much more, in
describing this primal source (Urquell) of experience suggests
Heidegger's "primal something," which even in its most
hermeneutical moments of articulation here still trades off from
Husserl's retentional and protentional scheme of temporality. Even
the hybrid of "phenomenological hermeneutics" which, as
Heidegger notes in the very first hour of the next semester, 'lifts'
the distinction between the "systematic" and the "historical" in
philosophy (ZBP 131£), may not have been regarded by Husserl as
a departure from his own orientation. Husserl's task-setting letter
to Heidegger of September 10, 1918 mentions the convergence with
his ongoing work on Ideen II30 of an article by Dilthey's student,
Edward Spranger, on the "theory of understanding." In SS 1919,
Husserl gave the very first of a series of courses all entitled
"Nature and Spirit," in which Dilthey's hermeneutic approach
played an essential role. 31
For Heidegger's part, the months immediately after his return
from the front were the most philosophically fruitful phase of his
intimate association with Husserl.32 Heidegger in his courses at this
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 201

time conveyed to his students a clear sense of joining forces with

Husserl while he was at the same time striking out on his own.
That such an alliance did not exclude an open and public critique
is testified by the "field campaign" launched by Husserl's students
against the 'pure pole' of a transcendental ego in their regular
Saturday discussions with him: "Or. Heidegger is taking a
mediating position by asserting that the primal I is the qualified
'historical I' from which the pure I is derived by repressing all
historicity and quality. Such. an I can only be a subject of
theoretical acts and oriented to things."33 In KNS 1919, the full
historical I finds itself caught up in meaningful contexts such that
it "lives toward this or that world-laden element" (ZBP 74), it
oscillates according to the rhythmics of worlding (ZBP 85, 98), it
properizes itself to the articulations of an experience (ZBP 75, 78),
which is governed by the immanent historicity of life in itself. For
the primal something of the lifestream is more than the primal I,
the self experiencing itself experiencing the worldly. The ultimate
source of the deep hermeneutics of life is properly an irreducible
"it" which precedes and enables the I. It is this unity and whole of
the "sphere of experience" understood as a self-sufficient domain
of meaning that phenomenology seeks to approach,
"understandingly experience" (ZBP 115), and bring to appropriate
language: ergo, the intertwining problems of (immediate
experience), intuition and expression, which determine the Idea of
phenomenological philosophy and so emerge time and again in the
semesters that follow.
Clearly, the students common to both Husserl and Heidegger
sensed a difference in what Husserl's precocious assistant had to
say, but did they sense it as a radical difference? Doubtlessly not,
at least not at first. Breathtaking as it is, that phenomenology could
be regarded. as a uniquely non-theoretical science is but an
implication of the epoche taken to its limit of bracketing out all
objective formations. Both were saying that the reduction stops at
an intentionally structured lifestream and not in the sheer flux of
a pure sensory manifold, and that the dynamics of this life-context
can be understood in terms of a motivational context (Ideen I, 47).
The "it" of its facticity could be compared. to the "anonymously
functioning intentionality" of the transcendental ego. That this
facticity includes a structure of self-experience reminiscent of the
peculiar doubling of the retentive-protentive temporality of the
202 Theodore Kisiel

lifestream gave the hermeneutically slanted descriptions a

Husserlian flavor. That this historical self-experience dictated a
departure from the Cartesian model of "reflection" found
resonances in Husserl's efforts to overcome the form-matter
dualism in his description of the consciousness' reception of the
"primal impression" of the lifestream. In SS 1920, Heidegger
criticizes, not Husserl's, but Dilthey's conception of "immanent
perception" in his search for non-reflective alternatives to describe
this inherently historical self-experience (soon it will become the
call-response relation of the situated "conscience"). And
Heidegger's overriding interest in the "robust reality" of the
historical allowed Husserl to concentrate his teaching in his
preference of systematic philosophy.
After the KNS, with 19 students, Heidegger's class regularly
tripled and on occasion quadrupled in number. Many a student
came to Freiburg to hear Husserl and followed Heidegger instead,
often upon Husserl's recommendation! The old founder himself
sanctioned Heidegger as a major spokesman of phenomenology.
"Phenomenology: that's Heidegger and I - and no one else,"
pronounced Husserl then, according to an oft repeated anecdote.
As far as he was concerned, Heidegger was truly 'doing'
Whatever Heidegger was doing, it remained consistent with
the seminal ideas of facticity, intuition, and expression implanted
in the KNS, which is literally the beginning of the Way. In fact, it
was in this semester which inaugurated his phenomenological
decade that he first discovered the root metaphor of the 'way' to
describe his very kinetic sense of philosophy. Philosophy is not
theory, outstrips any theory or conceptual system it may develop,
because it can only approximate ("formally indicate") and never
really comprehend the immediate experience it wishes to articulate.
That which is nearest to us in experience remains farthest removed
from our comprehension. Philosophy in its "poverty of thought"
is ultimately reduced to maintaining its proximating orientation
toward the pretheoretical origin which is its subject matter.
Philosophy is accordingly an orienting comportment (Verhalten), a
praxis of striving and a protreptic encouraging such striving. Its
expressions are only "formal indications" which smooth the way
toward intensifying the sense of the immediate in which we find
ourselves. It is always precursory in its pronouncements, a
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 203

forerunner of insights, a harbinger and hermeneutic herald of life's

possibilities of understanding and articulation. In short, philosophy
is more a form of life on the edge of expression rather than a
science or a body of theories. That phenomenology for Heidegger
is more a preconceptual, provisory comportment than a conceptual
science, that the formally indicating 'concepts' are first intended to
serve life rather than Science, becomes transparent only after the
Turn, at the end of his phenomenological decade, when he says in
WS 1929-30: "The content of such concepts does not directly intend
and say what it relates to, it gives only an indication, a pointer, so
that those who understand this conceptual connection are called
upon to bring about a transformation of themselves into the Dasein
[in themselves]" (GA 29/30: 430, 428). Philosophy is
"philosophizing" (WS 1921-22), being "underway to language"
(1959), "ways not works" (1976).
204 Theodore Kisiel


1. Bernhard Casper, ''Martin Heidegger und die theologische Fakultat 1909-

1923," Freiburger DiOzesan-Archiv 100 (1980), p. 541.
2. Hannah Arendt, ''Martin Heidegger zum achzigsten Geburtstag," Merkur
X (1969), p. 893; "Martin Heidegger at Eighty," The New York Review of Books,
October 21, 1971, p. 50. Also in Michael Murray (ed.), Heidegger and Modern
Philosophy (New Haven: Yale UP, 1978), pp. 293-4.
3. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Heideggers Wege (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1983), p. 141.
4. Hans-Georg Gadamer, ''Wdhelm Dilthey nach 150 Jahren," E.W. Orth, ed.,
Dilthey und die Philosophie der Gegenwart (Sonderband der Phiinomenologischen
Forschungen), (Freiburg/Munich: Alber, 1985), p. 159.
5. SZ =Sein and Zeit. The German pagination given here is to be found in
the margins of its English translation,. Being and Time, where the translators,
Macquarrie and Robinson,. call them the H-numbers. Other abbrevations: 55 =
Summer Semester and WS = Wmter Semester.
6. Martin Heidegger, Zur Bestimmung tier Philosophie, ed., Bernd Heimbiichel,
Gesamtausgabe (GA) Volume 56/57 (Frankfurt Klostermann, 1987), pp. 114-17.
Hereafter cited as ZBP.
7. This is a citation of Oskar Becker's distillation which contains the essentials
of Franz Josef Brecht's transcript, the only extant first-hand student version of this
hour. Gerda Walther's transcript, due to the illness and death of her father, ends
in mid-course on March 14, and afterwards copies Brecht. For the German, cf. my
"Das Kriegsnotsemester 1919: Heideggers Durchbruch in die hermeneutische
Phiinomenologie," in Philosophisches Jahrbuch 99, no. 1 (1992), p. 106f.
8. Martin Heidegger, Friihe Schriften (Frankfurt Klostermann,. 1972)i p. 348.
Hereafter cited as FS.
. 9. Heidegger's letter to Karl LOwith on August 20, 1927. I wish to thank Frau
Ada LOwith for access to the .original of this letter and Klaus Stichweh for help
in deciphering it The German text of this letter is now available in its entirety in
Dietrich Papenfuss and Otto Poggeler, ed., Zur philosophischen Aktualitiit
Heideggers, Vol. 2: 1m Gesprach der Zeit (Frankfurt Klostermann,. 1990), pp. 33-38,
esp. p. 36f.
10. Once again, I am following Oskar Becker's transcript, who added the
outline designations, I.A, I.B., TI.A. and n.B to Brecht's first-hand version, and so
provides convenient designations for us in follOwing this important schema. For
the German, written across the blackboard in a single row, d. my
''Kriegsnotsemester,'' op. cit (note 6). It might be observed here that the term Ur-
Etwas is to found only in the transcripts (several times), while the published
edition speaks instead of the pretheoretical, preworldly something (ZBP 115-7).
11. Rickert's report is to be found in Thomas Sheehan, "Heidegger's
Lehrjahre," J.e. Sallis, G. Moneta and J. Taminiaux, eds., The Collegium
Phenomenologicum: The First Ten Years, Phenomenological Vol. 105
(Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer, 1988), p. 118.
12. I have dealt with this relationship in great detail in my "Why Students of
Heidegger WIll have to Read Emil Lask," Deborah G. Chaffin, ed., Emil Lask and
the Search for Concreteness (Athens: Ohio UP, 1994).
13. Emil Lask, Gesammelte Schriften, Volume n (Tiibingen: Mohr, 1923), p. 78.
Herafter cited GS I for Volume I, GS n for Volume TI.
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 205
14. Fichtes Idealismus und die Geschichte (1902) is to be found in Lask's
Gesammelte Schriften, Volume 1 (=GS I).
15. John D. Caputo, "Phenomenology, Mysticism and the Grammatica
Speculativa: Heidegger's Habilitationsschrift," Journal of the British Society for
Phenomenology 5 (1974), pp. 101-117, esp. p. 107. Oversight of this hidden agenda
of a pre-understanding of being in the habilitation work and, with it, the loss of
a precious opportunity for insight into the phenomenon of mysticism, is especially
detrimental to Caputo's particular interests in Heidegger. Moreover, he
perpetuates and even magnifies the mistake in various ways in his later books on
the relation of Heidegger to medieval scholasticism and mysticism. Small wonder
that, having missed this noetic dimension of modus essendi he goes on to speak of
"the realism of the Habilitationsschrift," which prevents Heidegger from seeing the
"mystical elements" of the "event" of truth until after the "tum" of 1930.
(Heidegger was in fact developing such insights and, for that very reason, already
making the turn in 1919!) Cf. John D. Caputo, Mystical Elements in Heidegger's
Thought (Athens: Ohio UP, 1978) p. 152. There is more warrant for asserting that
Caputo himself has allowed subliminal vestiges of scholastic realism to get the
best of his phenomenological training. A little dose of transcendental idealism a
la Lask might have averted the wrong tum, by recalling the aspects of Divine
Idealism operative in the scholastic doctrine of ontological truth. In this regard,
I missed the works of Albert Dondeyne in Caputo's book, Heidegger and Aquinas
(New York: Fordham UP, 1982). Cf. Also Roderick M. Stewart, "Signification and
Radical Subjectivity in Heidegger's Habilitationsschrift'," Man and World 12 (1979),
pp. 360-386, esp. p. 365, who notes the active modus essendi with some
astonishment and does not know what to make of it.
16. In scholastic philosophy, simple apprehension is called the first "act of the
mind" and judgement the second.
17. This very Laskian phrase refers to the truth of simple apprehension or
categorial intuition. This relationship between living (or 'experiencing = erleben)
and knowing, crucial for what follows, first takes shape in Husserl's discussion
in the Sixth Logical Investigation (§ 8, 39) of tacitly experiencing truth as
identification in knowing the identical object. Cf. my articles on the Husserlian
aspects of Heidegger's thought: "Heidegger (1907-1927): The Transformation of
the Categorial, "Continential Philosophy in America"," edited by H.J. Silverman, J.
Sallis & T.M. Seebohm (Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1983) pp. 165-185, esp. p. 178;
"On the Way to Being and Time: Introduction to the Translation of Heidegger's
Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs, Research in Phenomenology XV (1985) pp.
193-226, esp. p. 201. The Laskian phrase "to live in truth" thus first appears in
Heidegger's gloss of Husserl's Sixth Investigation in Summer Semester 1925:
Martin Heidegger, Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs, Gesamtausgabe
Volume 20 (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1979), p. 70; English translation by T. Kisiel,
History of the Concept of Time: Prolegomena (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1985) p. 52.
Cf. also p. 94 (69) of this very same section in the course, where the one mention
of Lask is to remark that he was influenced in his investigations on the logic of
philosophy and the theory of judgment by Husserl's treatment on categorial
intuition. Heidegger introduces the phrase "in truth" in BT (SZ 221) as if it were
common parlance. It is, of course. But shortly before (SZ 218, note), he had
identified Lask as "the only one outside of phenomenology who has positively
taken up" these portions of Husserl's Sixth Investigation, from which Lask's Logik
der Philosophie (1911) was especially influenced by the sections on Sensory and
206 Theodore Kisiel
Categorial intuition and his Lehre rom Urleil (1912) by those on Evidence and
Truth. The investigation of these even more specific interconnections made by
Heidegger might well prove fruitful for the understanding of all three parties in
this philosophical'triangle'.
18. o. the excellent index to the English translation of BT Macquarrie and
Robinson. For insight into the importance of such dimensions of undifferentiation
for Heidegger's sense of the formal indication, I am indebted to an unpublished
paper by R.J.A. van Dijk and ThCW. Oudemans, "Heideggers formal anzeigende
19. Edmund Husserl, Idem zu einer reinen Phiinomenologie und
phiinomenologischen Philosophie, Erstes Buch (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950),
§13. Hereafter cited as Idem 1. First published in 1913, there are two extant
English translations of this book.
20. Edmund Husserl's Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft was first published
in the neo-Kantian journal Logos in 1911. English translation by Quentin Lauer is
in E. Husserl, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy (New York: Harper &
Row, 1965). Hereafter cited as Logos-essay.
21. I have summarized this course in others ways and for other purposes in
my work on Lask (ct. note 10) and the Kriegsnotsemester (ct. note 6), but first of
all, based strictly on the student transcripts, in "Das Entstehen des Begriffsfeldes
'Faktizitiit'im Friihwerk Heideggers," Dilthey-Jahrbuch 4 (1986-87), pp. 91-120.
22. Cf. Ibid., p. 97 n. 23, which pinpoints Paul Natorp's use of the term es gibt
in his courses at the time to describe the problem of "facticity" facing the neo-
Kantians in their ongoing efforts to overcome 19th-century naturalism, for which
the "irrationality" of facticity is insuperable. Cf. ZBP 122.
23. Jonas Cohn, Religion und Kulturwerte, "Philosophische Vomiige" of the
Kantgesellschaft (Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1914), p. 21. Heidegger refers to this
article in ZBP (145n).
24. Lask likewise writes: ~'What is at issue here is nothing less than the very
life and death of philosophy" (II, 89). But what is at issue for Lask is the
philosophical institution of the search for the categorial forms of the non-sensory
forms already operative in our experience, and for the forms of those forms of the
forms, etc. This, from Heidegger's perspective, is clearly a tum away from the
already operative categorial intuitions in experience, which are to be explicated
in themselves, toward ever escalating theoretizations of them. Ergo Heidegger's
final assessment of Lask: he was the first to see the problem of the theoretical in
avo, but this very problem is difficult to find in him since he tum wanted to solve
it theoretically (ZBP 88).
Heidegger's thought experiment of the total reification of the world clearly
bears close comparison to Husserl's experiment in Idem I (§49) of world-
annihilation. The detailed comparison, which must be left for another
occasion, may be especially revealing for the understanding of the different
"system of motivations" (Ibid., §47) accruing to a historically situated and
contextua1ized intentional dynamiCS as opposed to the dynamics of an
immanent and absolute consciousness. There is a great deal in §47 which
must have inspired Heidegger's descriptions of the primal something, like
the 'not yet' of experience which ''belongs to the indeterminate but
determinable horizon of my temporally particular actuality of experience...
Every actual experience refers beyond itself to possible experiences" and so
serves as a motivating source of experience.
Heidegger's Hermeneutic Breakthrough 207

25. I have added this tenninology from BT (SZ 5f), not only to relate this early
discussion of the structure of a question to a later development of it, but also to
raise the question of whether, aside from its use here as an illustration, there is
really a point to a question like "Is there something?" What does it ask for
(Erfragtes)? Is the Erfragtes collapsed into the Gefragtes here? Later, in examining
formalization, Heidegger discovers that its product lacks a Vollzugssinn, i.e., it
does not follow through to some sort of fulfillment. In short, such a question does
not seem to be situationally motivated. It is the "trivial" (kummerliche: ZBP 63)
question of ens commune by a remote I and not the distressed (bekummerte)
question of ens proprium by a fully engaged I.
26. In a long letter to Heidegger on September 10,1918 (Heidegger was then
"in the field"), Husserl mentions that, after a pause of 5 years, he had begun to
read Natorp's Allgemeine Psychologie (1912) once again and was concerned about
Natorp's misunderstandings of his phenomenology. And whatever Husserl thus
mentioned in this important letter to his future assistant and protege became an
explicit task for the Early Heidegger, as we shall see in other instances of these
early years of proximity to Husserl.
27. Heidegger, History of the Concept of Time, pp. 56, 48 (German pp. 75, 65).
Precisely in this Husserlian context in the course of SS 1925, Heidegger
underscores the phrase "intuition and expreSSion," which is a dominating
leitmotif of his courses of 1919-20. Due to the fictive license allowed by the format
of his later "Dialogue on Language" in Unterwegs zur Sprache (1959), the Old
Heidegger pretends to forget that the title of his course of SS 1920 included this
phrase. In fact, at one point, he wonders whether its title was not "Expression and
Meaning," the title of Husserl's First Logical Investigation, which played such a
crucial role in the development of Heidegger's thoughts on the fonnal indication.
Cf. his On the Way to Language, translated by Peter Hertz (New York: Harper &
Row, 1971), p. 34 (German p. 128).
28. Das Woraufis the conceptual predecessor of "das Woraufhin des primaren
Entwurfs" (SZ 324), "the toward-which of the primary project" of Dasein which
in BT is fonnally defined as its "sense" (Sinn). (It already means 'meaning' in the
transcendental context of early 1919. From this earlier context of its genesis, we
also see why the English translation of this crucial tenn in BT as the "upon-
which" is in the end erroneous.
29. Cf. my "Das Entstehen des Begriffsfeldes," op.cit. pp. 102, 106f.
30. Edmund Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinem Phiinomenologie und phiinom-
enologischen Philosophie, Zweites Buch (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952).
Hereafter cited as Ideen II. This book is now available in an English translation by
Richard Rojcewicz and Andre Schuwer (Dordrecht Kluwer Academic Publishers,
31. "Angekniipft hat meine Seelenlosung an eine Sprangersche Abhandlung,
die (in der Volkeltfestschrift) unter dem TItel "Zur Theorie des Verstehens und
der geisteswissenschaftlichen Psychologie" Fragen behandelte, denen ein
Hauptteil meiner Ideen II gilt und mit denen ich wohl langer und
schmerzensvoller gerungen habe als irgendeiner der Lebenden." R I Heidegger
1O.lX.18, Husserl Archive, Louvain, Belgium (I wish to thank Samuel Ijsseling,
Director of the Archive, for permission to cite from this letter.) Also significant for
their common endeavors in this period is a remark by Husser! in a card to
Heidegger in March 28, 1918: "Mir wachst in dem stillen Hochtal ein grosses
Werk heran - Zeit und Individuation, eine Erneuerung einer rationalen
208 Theodore Kisiel

Metaphysik nach den Prinzipien." It is the SS 1925 version of Husserl's courses

on "Natur und Geist" that we have available to us as Husserliana IX. Cf. the
English translation by William Scanlon, Phenomenological Psychology (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1977).
32. For example, in a letter to Elizabeth Blochmann on May 1, 1919, Heidegger
makes note of his "standiges Lernen in der Gemeinshcaft mit Husserl,"
"continually learning in my association with Husserl." Martin Heidegger -
Elisabeth Blochmann, BriefwechseI1918-1969, Joachim W. Storck, ed., Marbacher
Schriften (Marbach am Neckar: Deutsche Schillergesellschafte, 1989), p. 16.
Heidegger's correspondence in 1920, on the other hand, already reflects a change
in attitude toward Husserl.
33. Letter of Gerda Walther to Alexander Pfander on June 20,1919. I wish to
thank Eberhard Ave-Lallemant of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich for
permission to cite from this letter.

by TImothy J. Stapleton

Heidegger's lecture course of the summer semester of 1925, the

text of which is now available as the History of the Concept of Time,l
is justifiably described as an early draft of Being and Time. As such,
the status of this work, its hermeneutical import, is somewhat
ambiguous. As the text of a lecture course not originally intended
for publication, it would seem to lack a certain critical authority.
Viewed as a "draft," it would apparently have to stand under the
shadow of its final, definitive appearance, the text of Being and
Time itself. For Heidegger specialists, of course, this text has great
significance. Questions about conceptual development and
terminology, about shifts in meaning and emphasis, the apparently
non-existential tone of the lectures, all cast light on the
understanding of Heidegger's development.
Yet the significance of these lectures is not limited to these
more esoteric concerns. For Heidegger's transformation, or perhaps
radicalization, of phenomenology in Being and Time has, for better
or worse, left in its wake an altered understanding of philosophy
itself. For all his radicality, Husserl is one in spirit with that
philosophical trajectory which spans from Plato to Hegel. Husser!
dreamt of bringing philosophy's implicit telos to actuality, to a
genuineness of beginnings. The movement of thought set in
motion by Being and Time, however, as a "critique" of metaphysics
and onto-theology, calls for a post-philosophical Denken. Hence, in
the debate between Husserl and Heidegger, in the movement from
Husserlian phenomenology to fundamental ontology and beyond,
one finds in germinal form the seeds of the shift, the turn, which
has become so pronounced in much of contemporary continental

The structural similarities between the History of the Concept of

Time and Being and Time are striking. Like Being and Time, the
projected work as a whole was to consist of two parts, each
containing three divisions. And like Being and Time, only the first
two divisions of Part I actually appear. The first two divisions
treat, in a somewhat condensed fashion, many of the same themes
that appear in the first two divisions of Part I of Being and Time.
T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics, 209-236.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
210 Timothy J. Stapleton

The articulation of the question of being and its structures, the

concept of everydayness, the notion of being-in-the-world and the
analyses of its "moments" in terms of worldhood, being-in, and
the "who" of Dasein as being-in-the-world, constitute the bulk of
Division 1. And this division, like its counterpart in Being and Time,
ends with a reflection on the unity of the phenomenon of being-in-
the-world, understood as Care. The second division, while very
abbreviated, turns to the problem of wholeness and totality, and
hence to the questions of death, conscience, and guilt.
But what is remarkable about the text of these lectures is not
just that they give us an early version of Being and Time. As is well
known, Being and Time begins with the famous quotation from
Plato's Sophist. The question of being, says Heidegger, not only
needs to be asked once more. But the ground for the question, the
genuine perplexity in the face of being which was experienced by
the Greeks, must be reawakened. This same quotation, or at least
part of it, also appears in the History of the Concept of Time. Here
too it serves as a kind of prefatory remark, appearing prior to the
divisions of the "Main Part." But it serves also as a conclusion to
an extended "Preliminary Part" entitled "The Sense and Task of
Phenomenological Research." Where Being and Time begins, this
"Preliminary Part" ends. Hence, the History of the Concept of Time
offers us a glimpse of Heidegger's thought "on the way to Being
and Time" in two distinct senses. First, we have an early draft of
the text itself. Second, we are led to the issues of Being and Time in
a way which was only alluded to in that work. In particular,
Heidegger's indebtedness to Husserl and to phenomenology,
proclaimed in Being and Time, is systematically spelled out in the
History of the Concept of Time.
This Preliminary Part of the History of the Concept of Time gives
us a detailed and systematic treatment of phenomenology by
Heidegger. Within it one finds, on the one hand, material that was
presented in Being and Time; in particular the clarification of the
nature of phenomenology through an etymological analysis of the
name. In Being and Time, of course, Heidegger's central reflection
on "The Phenomenological Method of Investigation" is an attempt
to uncover the essence of phenomenology by looking to the Greek
roots of the expression itself. In Section 7 of Being and Time,
Heidegger insists that phenomenology refers primarily to a
methodological conception. "This expression does not characterize
the what of the objects of philosophical research as subject-matter,
but rather the how of that research."2
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 211

However, in the History of the Concept of Time the emphasis, at

least, is somewhat different. The consideration of the name
"phenomenology" appears as a small part of a larger reflection on
the fundamental discoveries and the basic principle of
phenomenological research. And while the History of the Concept of
Time insists as well on the purely methodological character of
phenomenology as such, we also find Heidegger offering an
apparently more substantive definition of phenomenology as lithe
analytic description of intentionality in its apriori." (HCT, 79) This
latter definition emerges as the result of Heidegger's detailed
exposition and interpretation of fundamental Husserlian themes.
It is in this context that we find Heidegger taking up what he
considers to be the key concepts of Husserl's Logical Investigations;
namely, intentionality, categorial intuition, and the a priori. Here
we come to see what it was that so "fascinated" Heidegger about
this work of Husserl's. The empty intendings of Being and Time are
brought to a fulfillment in this earlier draft, as Heidegger's
allusions to the seminal nature of Husserl's thinking are here given
concrete determinacy.
In the History of the Concept of Time, the fundamental tension
between Heidegger's own thinking and the direction of traditional
phenomenology, a tension dearly sensed in Being and Time, is
allowed to unfold. On the one hand, the manner in which
Heidegger engages in analyses, as well as his defenses of
phenomenology from contemporary critics, allow us to understand
what might have lead Husserl to refer to his young colleague as
limy phenomenological child." These moments of alignment,
however, are only temporary. For they are· followed by what
Heidegger calls an "immanent critique" of phenomenology and its
own self-understanding. Furthermore, this transition from disciple
to critic seems by and large to parallel the movement from the
Logical Investigations to Ideas I.
Of course it has often been noted that Heidegger's real break
with Husserlian phenomenology centers precisely around the
thematic elaboration that Husserl undertook in the years following
the publication of the Logical Investigations. But what the History of
the Concept of Time provides is a remarkably detailed and unified
record of this initial convergence and subsequent divergence. In
this essay I shall for the most part limit myself to a consideration
of one theme which plays a central role in this story; namely, the
notion of categorial intuition. The question to be explored bears
not so much on Heidegger's use of categorial intuition per se.
212 Timothy J. Stapleton

Instead, I would like to focus on its "methodological" significance,

in a very broad sense of the term. In particular, what is the
relationship between Heidegger's understanding of the import of
categorial intuition and the key "methodological" devices of
Husserlian phenomenology? Does the discovery of categorial
intuition not only provide Heidegger with greater analytical power
when articulating the question of the meaning of being, but also
alter the sense of the philosophical problematic in such a fashion
as to call into question the force of the dilemmas whose solution,
or dissolution, are provided by the phenomenological-
transcendental reduction? Is it possible that Heidegger saw in
categorial intuition an alternative, more original or primordial
"device" for disarming the ground of those prejudices which
Husserl articulates in his descriptions of the natural attitude? Put
succinctly, does categorial intuition render the phenomenological
reduction(s) superfluous?

The History of the Concept of Time is unique in the degree to

which Heidegger articulates his own sense of phenomenology,
both with an eye to its methodological conception, as well as to its
substantive content. Furthermore, the Husserlian component in this
text is extensive. Not only does Heidegger talk about Husserl's
phenomenology, in terms of its practice and influence on him, but
he also engages it on its own terms. The themes initially treated
are drawn directly from the Logical Investigations, and Heidegger
takes up the practice of phenomenology in a strikingly Husserlian
manner. Here we see Heidegger as student, as learner. In a
moment of what some might consider uncharacteristic modesty, he
even notes: "It almost goes without saying that even today I still
regard myself as a learner in relation to Husserl." (HCT, p. 121)
This comment, however, comes relatively late in the lecture course,
after Heidegger has launched a trenchant critique of Husserl's
transcendental phenomenology. His apprenticeship has clearly
ended. Yet Heidegger insists that this critique is an immanent one;
that it is "the things themselves" as disclosed phenomenologically
that animate phenomenology toward ontology rather than in the
direction of a "critique of cognition" or of a transcendental theory
of pure consciousness.
How is it then, that Heidegger practices phenomenology?
Precisely how is this immense "debt" owed to Husserl illustrated
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 213

concretely? Is it that not only the formal spirit (liTo the things
themselves"), but also the "letter" of phenomenology, the detailed
thematics and self-understanding that evolved out of the Logical
Investigations, to which Heidegger is more "authentically" true?
How are we to understand Heidegger's claim that "Phenom-
enology has become unphenomenological"?
The Preliminary Part of HCT consists of three chapters, each
of which contributes to a clarification of liThe Sense and Task of
Phenomenological Research." The first chapter, however, is largely
historicaL Heidegger here describes the philosophical situation and
climate at the end of the nineteenth century, noting in particular
the positions of positivism, Neo-Kantianism, the emergence of the
Dilthey's critique of positivism, along with the contributions of
Brentano and the early Husserl to an understanding of philosophy
as scientific philosophy, as well as the question of its relation to
The result of these historical reflections, however, is to show
their inappropriateness for a genuine understanding of pheno-

It is of the essence of phenomenological investigations that they

cannot be reviewed summarily but must in each case be rehearsed
and repeated anew. Any further synopsis which merely summarizes
the contents of this work would thus be, phenomenologically
speaking, a misunderstanding. We shall therefore try an alternate
route by providing an initial orientation concerning what is actually
accomplished here. This will also serve as an initial preparation and
elaboration of the working attitude which we shall assume
throughout this lecture course. (HCT, p. 26)

Hence the movement to chapter two is a transition from an

external description of phenomenology to its actual practice. The
"fundamental discoveries of phenomenology" are laid out
phenomenologically. "Laboratory experiments" are re-conducted in
a phenomenological workshop, and Heidegger has no reservations
at this stage in about talking of phenomenology as a form of
research" :

...the manner of research is neither historiological nor systematic, but

instead phenomenological. One of the goals of this lecture course is to
demonstrate the necessity and the sense of such a fundamental form
of research. (RCT, p. 7)
214 Timothy J. Stapleton

Hence, the three major discoveries of phenomenology made during

its breakthrough period, namely intentionality, categorial intuition,
and an original sense of the a priori, are concretely exhibited in
their emergence from exemplary instances. Seeing is believing, and
showing takes precedence over explanations, proofs, or con-
structive arguments.
Intentionality is the first theme to be taken up, and remains as
the seminal topic generating the problematic of phenomenology.
Heidegger's treatment of intentionality includes both a spirited
defense of the authenticity and integrity of this phenomenon from
a variety of charges brought to bear against it by some of his
contemporaries, as well as a demonstrative showing and
elucidation of intentionality as the elemental structure of "acts,"
"lived experiences," or "comportments." The failure to grasp
intentionality on its own terms, according to Heidegger, is the
source of numerous confused and misguided attacks on phe-
nomenology, attacks rooted in epistemological and metaphysical
presuppositions which permanently bar access to "an unprejudiced
reception of what phenomenology wants to do." (HCT, p. 27)
Heidegger focuses upon Rickert's critique as exemplary in this
regard, though allusion is made to that of o. Kraus, and the
Marburg School, as welL According to such a critique, the
Scholastic roots of the concept of intentionality bring with them a
tradition of metaphysical dogmas which need to be edited in order
to situate intentionality properly and exclusively for acts of
"judgment." Heidegger's attempt to combat and disarm such
objections involves, he claims, "no special talent." (HCT, p. 29)
Rather, what is demanded is "that we set aside our prejudices,
learn to see directly and simply and to abide by what we see
without asking, out of curiosity, what we can do with it."(HCT, p.
29) Yet such a simple description is misleading, for the business of
learning to see, in this sense, is no small task; and as for putting
aside prejudices, one might wonder if this doesn't gradually
assume proportions more resembling a sort of Kantian regulative
Despite the apparent disclaimer mentioned above, Heidegger
recognizes the difficulty of such a project. He wants ultimately to
insist that the issue in not one of talent, nor simply of method.
Like Descartes, Heidegger here claims no special talent or native
ability. But unlike Descartes (and perhaps ultimately Husserl as
well), the difficulties are not resolved, the prejudices not held at
bay, merely by the discovery and application of the appropriate
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 215

philosophical method. Husserl will ultimately trace these

prejudices back to the natural attitude, which he takes to be the
pre-thematic, pre-theoretical ground of naturalism, historicism,
psychologism, scientism, and fundamentally, of all previous
philosophy. The sense of "natural" here should be understood not
so much as in opposition to "conventional," as in terms of empirical
universality. The initial philosophical task then becomes to disarm
the natural attitude, and the phenomenological reduction becomes
the methodological vehicle which allows this to occur.
Heidegger will come to insist, however, that the ground of
these prejudices is not what Husserl calls the natural attitude. For
him, the natural attitude is anything but natural. It is itself a
theoretical construct. Furthermore, he wants to assert that a
genuine disarming of the natural attitude is not accomplished via
bracketing or suspension. The natural attitude generates certain
problems which not only fail to be solved within the natural
attitude, which lead to certain a poriai or dialectical illusions. More
radically, from Husserl's perspective, the upshot of the natural
attitude is absurdity. Reason is not merely "limited," to make room
for other forms of spirituality, but is swallowed up in an
apatheosis of skepticism and irrationalism. Heidegger's question,
I believe, is whether the movement of suspension or bracketing is
appropriate for disarming the prejudices in question. What is the
relationship between the natural attitude and the transcendental
attitude? Is it possible that, in a quasi-Hegelian fashion, the
transcendental reduction's mastery of the natural attitude
undergoes a dialectical inversion so that the master is mastered?
Does not the elemental sense of what is philosophically
problematic, of what needs solution or clarification, continue to
dictate, albeit in a subterranean manner, the terms of the inquiry?
Problems of immanence and transcendence, of constitution, of
syntheses and identity assume an entirely novel meaning when
recast in the mold of transcendental self-consciousness. Yet the
philosophical dilemmas which they now allow us to transcend or
overcome, problems of skepticism, realism and so forth, are still at
work within the transcendental attitude, nourishing the regard from
which we view pure consciousness, dictating those terms which
we select out as featured. In the language of Gestalt theory, is the
natural attitude the ground for the figure of transcendental
For Heidegger, however, the source of those prejudices which
bar genuine access to intentionality, and hence to the full import
216 Timothy J. Stapleton

and possibilities of phenomenology, are neither situated in what

Husserl termed the natural attitude, nor can they be
philosophically dealt with via "suspension."

In the face of the most obvious of matters, the very fact of the matter
is the most difficult thing we may hope to attain, because man's
element of existence is the artificial and mendacious, where he is
always already cajoled by others. (HeT, p. 29)

This formulation is a clear anticipation of the language of

fallenness and· inauthenticity, states characterizing man's very
being or existence. For Heidegger, therefore, it is only by raising
the question of being, only by an appeal to the experience of being,
that adequate access to intentionality is insured, and that the
genuine roots of "naturalism" are disclosed philosophically.
When Heidegger, then, turns to the fundamental discoveries
of phenomenology as part of the larger project of clarifying the
nature of phenomenology, intentionality is the first one treated.
This is no accident or arbitrary beginning, for phenomenology
comes, at the end of this chapter, to be understood as the "analytic
description of intentionality in its a priori." (HeT, p. 79)
Intentionality is defined as the "directing itself toward" which
characterizes the very nature or essence of lived experiences, of
comportments in their totality. To experience, in the most general
possible sense of the term, is to intend, to be directed toward,
something. In this seemingly trivial, and at this stage almost
formal, characterization resides, however, the enigma that spawns
phenomenological philosophy. To grasp intentionality in its full
scope and on its own terms is to encounter a phenomenon whose
incorrigibility resists ignoring, and whose singularity evades
traditional schemes of intelligibility. We can neither explain it nor
explain it away. The discovery of intentionality worked on
emerging phenomenology not unlike the enigma of planetary
motion on the history of astronomy. There was no denying the
irregularity of these celestial motions, and no matter how elaborate
the schemes of cycles and epicycles, these wanderers just wouldn't
fit. And so with intentionality. That which is closest to us, our very
being toward the world, is that which is farthest from
comprehension. What do we know better than what it means to
fear and to hope, to work and to play, to see, to doubt, to wonder?
And yet when we ask what these "acts" are, these modes of
comportment, how quickly we are led astray. Almost immediately
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 217

they become "inner," "psychic" states. The phenomenon of

intentionality becomes recast as a "relation," either between the
"inner" and the "outer," or within the "immanence" of subjectivity
itself. In the latter case, that toward-which intentional acts direct
themselves are taken to be representations, images, ideas,
impressions, or sensory contents of one sort or another.
Yet, Heidegger insists, the IIfacts" are otherwise. First,
intentionality is not a relation between one self-contained being
and another, a relation which is somehow added, either
accidentally or essentially, to a "psychic thing." To be intentional
is not something that psychic contents can, or must, do, but rather
it is what they are.

When all epistemological assumptions are set aside, it becomes clear

that comportment itself-as yet quite apart from the question of its
correctness or incorrectness-is in its very structure a directing-itself-
toward. It is not the case that at first only a psychic process occurs
as a nonintentional state (complex of sensations, memory relations,
mental image and thought process through which an image is
evoked, where one then asks whether something corresponds to it)
and subsequently becomes intentional in certain instances. Rather,
the very being of comporting is a directing-itself-toward. (HCT, p.

Already, the priority of substance to "relation" within the

traditional categorial scheme is in question.
Secondly, the toward-which of intentional comportment is no
subjective image or representation, no mental content or picture,
no sign or symbol of the thing, but is quite simply, the thing itself.
I see the smile on my daughter'S face, I touch her hand. I
remember her first halting steps, or the fever that kept her awake
all night. I don't see pictures or images, and certainly not
complexes of sense data. I see her. I remember her. As Heidegger
says in his account of intentionality: "Even in ... a case of merely
thinking of something, what is represented is not a representation,
not a content of consciousness, but the matter itself." (ReT, p. 35)
We dwell in the world, not along side it. And no matter how
wrong we may get it, it's "it" that we get wrong, and not some
image, copy, or picture of it. There is no "mirror of nature" that
somehow needs polishing. Reflections are not the currency of
comportments. Our initial contact with the world is not a
commerce "with images seen dimly at night.,,3 We stand in the
openness to beings in being intentionally.
218 Timothy J. Stapleton

We might wonder, however, how Heidegger can insist upon

this reading of intentionality. It clearly goes against the grain of
what Husserl calls the natural attitude. Has the phenomenological
reduction, then, already been executed? To "save the
phenomenon" of intentionality, for Husserl, requires those
methodological devices whose concrete implementation constitutes
the phenomenological-transcendental reduction. Heidegger too
recognizes the tension between the self-understanding of
intentionality articulated here and the weight of the modem
philosophical tradition. "Since Descartes, everyone knows and
every critical philosophy maintains that I actually only apprehend
'contents of consciousness'."(RCT, p. 30) The natural attitude,
however, is a historical phenomenon, a projection of the modem
theoretical framework back upon everyday experience." Hence for

Heidegger what is at work here is not so much a natural attitude

as a historical interpretation, which in tum points back to the
historicity of man's being and the tendency toward an inauthentic
relationship toward that historicity, a falling into forgetfulness.
Husser! and Heidegger, then, will clearly disagree both on the
ultimate roots of the prejudices under whose incipient embrace the
predominant pre-phenomenological modes of intelligibility unfold,
as well as on the "therapy" necessary to undo this bewitchment.
Nonetheless, for both thinkers the discovery of intentionality
provides both the efficient and the final causes for the subsequent
development of phenomenology. The elemental wonder is elicited
not so much by the "Starry skies above" nor lithe moral law
within," but by the presence of man to beings and beings to man,
and the truth (aletheia) of this self-understanding of intentional
What operative principle, then, is at work in Heidegger's
beginning of phenomenology? Listen to the way Heidegger speaks
in defense of this initial un-hiddenness. In his critique of Rickert,
he claims that despite the sagacity of Rickert's analyses, " ...the
most primitive of requirements is nevertheless missing: admission
of the matters of fact as they are given. The thinking thus becomes
groundless." (RCT, p. 32) Heidegger goes on to claim that Rickert
arrived at his theory about judgments " ...not from a study of the
matters themselves but by an unfounded deduction fraught with
dogmatic judgments." (RCT, p. 33) Furthermore, liThe most
primitive matters of fact which are in the structures themselves are
simply overlooked for the sake of a theory." (RCT, p. 35) And
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 219

finally, Heidegger articulates that 'most primitive of all


Yet the methodological rule for the initial apprehension of

intentionality is really not to be concerned with interpretations but
only to keep strictly to that which shows itself, regardless of how
meager it may be. (HCT, p. 47)

What makes possible the initial apprehension of intentionality

along with its inherent enigmas is the credibility, the incorrigibility,
of such intuitive givenness. If this initial self-apprehension could
be wrong, if theories were needed not just to explain but to correct
comportment's self-understanding at its most elemental (formal)
level, phenomenology would be dead in its tracks. The Cartesian
"evil genius" would hold sway.4 Heidegger's phenomenology
begins, therefore, precisely where Hussed's does; namely, with the
"principle of all principles."

Enough now of absurd theories. No conceivable theory can make us

err with respect to the principle of all principles: that every originary
presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that everything
originarily (so to speak, in its personal authority) offered to us in
"intuition" is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being, but
also only within the limits in which it is presented there. 5

It is clear that Heidegger is unwilling to rest with intentionality as

the final word in phenomenology. "Quite the contrary, it identifies
that whose disclosure would allow phenomenology to find itself
in its possibilities." (HCT, p. 47) The challenge of intentionality
may lead to a radically altered understanding of its depth
dimensions. Nonetheless, no subsequent development can
undermine the legitimacy of this initial intuitive principle without
thereby undermining its own credibility, its own founding, motive
force. Hussed's phenomenology is in many respects grounded in
the awareness that any comprehensive account of intelligibility and
its limits must not preclude the intelligibility of that account itself.
Psychologism is guilty of just such an error. Often times Kant's
Critique of Pure Reason is viewed in a similar vein. One must be
alert to the danger, then, as to whether or not, as the depth
dimensions of intentionality are uncovered, in Hussed via the
method of reductions, and in Heidegger, via the ontological
analytic of the being of that being who is intentionally, the result
is such as to destroy, or perhaps only determinately negate, its
220 Timothy J. Stapleton
own beginning point. How is it, then, that Heidegger is led from
the enigma of intentionality to the question of the being of that
entity which is intentionally? And to what extent does this path
continually presuppose and makes use of the legitimacy of this
initial, elemental intuitionism from which the problem first
Heidegger's initial move is to preserve the puzzle of
intentionality by turning to this phenomenon in its concretion.

It must therefore be flatly stated that what the belonging of the

intentum to the intentio implies is obscure. How the being-intended
of an entity is related to that entity remains puzzling. It is even
questionable whether one may question in this way at all. But we
cannot inquire into these puzzles as long as we cover up their
puzzling character with theories for and against intentionality. Our
understanding of intentionality is therefore not advanced by our
speculations about it. We shall advance only by following
intentionality in its concretion. An occasion for this is to be found in
our effort to clarify the second discovery of phenomenology, the
discovery of categorial intuition. (HCT, p. 47)

Heidegger's emphasis upon the provisional nature of these

questions immediately alerts us to the possibility that the source
of the puzzle may not be intentionality itself, but the horizon
within which intentionality is apprehended. Heidegger's turn to
categorial intuition, therefore, has a two-fold import. First,
categorial intuition comes to the surface as the internal
complexities of even the simplest modes of intentional
comportment are made manifest; that categorial intuition " .. .is
invested in the most everyday of perceptions and in every
experience." (HCT, p. 48) What Heidegger suggestively refers to in
these lectures as the experience of being, therefore, is not some
special mode of apprehension, nor the result of abstractions nor
formalizations. Rather it belongs to, accompanies, saturates every
mode of intentionality: the· theoretical and pre-theoretical, the
practical, affective, volitional, and so forth. Second:

The discovery of categorial intuition is the demonstration... that

there is a simple apprehension of the categorial, such constituents in
entities which in traditional fashion are designated as categories and
were seen in crude form quite early [in Greek philosophy, especially
by Plato and Aristotle]. (HCT, p. 48)
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 221
It is categorial intuition that will allow Heidegger to "raise anew
the question of being," and to do so in such a fashion as to
interrogate the ontological self-understanding which accompanies
the thematic apprehension of intentionality. To put it simply: To
see, for example, is to grasp not only what is seen, but also what
it means to be seen (versus, to be imagined, remembered, thought
about, and so forth). To see also involves or entails an
accompanying self-understanding of what it means to be seeing.
When someone asks me what I'm doing, and I reply that I'm
looking for my sweater, I already knew not only what I was doing,
but what it meant to be doing it, to be looking rather than listening
or hoping. A description of the essential kinds of noetic-noematic
correlations, of the "how" of intending and being intended,
constitutes· the thematic field of phenomenology. For Husserl, all
of this is made explicitly accessible via an act of "reflection," of
"immanent experience," and ultimately via what he calls
"immanent perception." Heidegger's "immanent critique" of
phenomenology, as will be discussed later, bears upon "immanent
perception. "
But what kind of significance does Heidegger give to
categorial intuition in terms of the "enigma of intentionality"?
What is its true sense within phenomenology? The remarkable
thing is that upon closer inspection, it can be seen that categorial
intuition plays a role analogous to that of the transcendental
reduction in HusserL It is only through the transcendental
reduction to absolute consciousness that, according to Husserl, we
can overcome those false senses of immanence and transcendence,
of subjective and objective, of real and ideal that have
inappropriately defined, for example, the modem philosophical
project. His "historical way" to the reduction in the Crisis makes
this eminently clear.6 Heideggers suggests, however, that the
discovery of categorial intuition has already accomplished this.

The origin of these non-sensory moments [being, unity, plurality,

and, or, etc.] lies in immanent perception, in the reflection upon
consciousness. This is the argument of British empiricism since Locke.
This argument has its roots in Descartes, and it is in principle still
present in Kant and German idealism, though with essential
modification. Today we are in a position to move against idealism
precisely on this front only because phenomenology has
demonstrated that the non-sensory and ideal cannot without further
ado be identified with the immanent, conscious subjective. This is
not only negatively stated but positively shown; and this constitutes
222 Timothy J. Stapleton

the true sense of the discovery of categorial intuition. [emphasis mine]

(HCT, p. 58)

And furthermore:

From this fundamental and crucial rectification of an old prejudice,

which interprets and identifies 'non-sensory' or 'unreal' with
immanent and subjective, we at the same time see that the
overcoming of this prejudice is at once linked to the discovery of
intentionality. We do not know what we are doing when we opt for
the correct conception of the categorial and at the same time think
we can dismiss intentionality as a mythical concept. The two are one
and the same. (HCT, p. 59)

In other words, does categorial intuition itself, or the

appreciation of it at any rate, uncovered in the concrete explication
of intentionality, already move toward "disarming" those
prejudices which Husserl situates in the natural attitude? Are they
neutralized, not so much by bracketing, but by the demonstrative
force of the exhibition of categorial intuition? Or as Heidegger
himself puts it, "This spell was broken by the discovery of
categorial intuition." (HCT, p. 72)
Note then, that Heidegger has no qualms in talking about
constitution at this stage.

The categorial 'forms' are not constructs of acts but objects which
manifest themselves in these acts. They are not something made by
the subject and even less something added to the real objects, such
that the real entity is itself modified by this forming. Rather, they
actually present the entity more truly in its 'being-in-itself.'
Categorial acts constitute [emphasis mine] a new objectivity. This is
always to be understood intentionally and does not mean that they
let the things spring up anywhere. 'Constituting' does not mean
producing in the sense of making and fabricating; it means letting the
entity be seen in its objectivity. (HCT, pp. 70-71)

However, just as intentionality is not the final word, but rather

points to a network of new problems and difficulties which must
be examined, so too categorial intuition points to possibilities and
to problems, to the "discovery of the original sense of the a priori"
and to the field of ontological questions contained therein. "As
categorial intuition is possible only on the basis of the
phenomenon of intentionality having been seen before it, so the
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 223

third discovery to be discussed now [the a priori] is intelligible

only on the basis of the second and accordingly on the basis of the
first." (HCT, p. 72)

But what takes place, then, in Chapter 3 of the History of the

Concept of Time, when Heidegger turns from exposition and
defense, to a critique of Husserlian phenomenology? His claim is
two-fold. On. the one hand, the critique is immanent in nature; the
ground upon which it stands and from which it is nourished is
provided by phenomenology itself. We can now see that this
ground is nothing other than the concept of intentionality in its
concretion; namely, categorial intuition. From Heidegger's
perspective, then, categorial intuition is not something which he
can simply borrow from Hussed and use for other purposes.
Instead, its discovery inevitably raises a set of questions, an entire
problematic, according to which the distinctions between
immanence and transcendence, and between the natural and
transcendental attitudes [which recasts this distinction], are no
longer relevant. "The a priori is not only nothing immanent,
belonging primarily to the sphere of the subject, it is also nothing
transcendent, specifically bound up with reality." (HCT, p. 74) One
might say, of course, that this is precisely Hussed's perspective.
Husserl's transcendental phenomenology offers a "correlation a
priori," one whose "correlative" and ".constitutive" sense is
achieved via transcendental epoche. For Heidegger, however, "the
a priori is a feature of the structural sequence of the being of
entities, in the ontological structure of being." (HCT, p. 74) Hence
the question, does the transcendental reduction allow us genuine
access to, or still misplace, the a priori?
The second dimension of Heidegger's critique bears upon the
"elaboration of the thematic field" of phenomenology; namely
intentionality in its a priori. The movement of phenomenology
traced out here is from the initial· breakthrough period,
characterized by essential discoveries, to the establishment of the
significance of these discoveries through their contextualization.
Heidegger begins the third chapter by claiming that "We shall
examine the growing elaboration of the thematic field [of
phenomenology], its determination, and the outlining of the
working horizons as they emerge from this determination of the
field." (HCT, p. 90) The History of the Concept of Time does so by
224 Timothy J. Stapleton

looking at the work of both Husser! and Scheler. We shall restrict

our comments to Heidegger's treatment of the former.
The period from the publication of the Logical Investigations to
the appearance of Philosophy as Rigorous Science and Ideas I is one
in which phenomenology's self-understanding develops and is
radicalized. From Hussed's perspective, it is an era marked by
maturation. Phenomenology's concerns are extended from the
foundations of the discipline of logic to those of the universality of
reason. This extension in breadth is accompanied by a
corresponding one in depth. The "naturalizing" and "historicizing"
of reason could only be adequately addressed when their depth
dimensions were uncovered in the natural attitude, and disarmed
or neutralized via the discovery of "the essential possibility of the
alteration" (Ideas I, p. 57) of this attitude, an alteration whl.~
makes manifest a "new region of being," (Ideas I, p.63) and with it
the possibility of a new science. For Husserl, then, the
transcendental reduction is that which allows phenomenology to
actualize its pure possibilities, to free itself from that network of
prejudices and assumptions which nourished, among other things,
the modem philosophical tradition.
Heidegger's reading of this "maturation," predictably, is
somewhat different. It is true, he might say, that Ideas I is
characterized by a heightened self-consciousness not yet present in
the Logical Investigations. It is true as well that a certain "naivete"
has been overcome. Yet for Heidegger there was a truth to that
naivete that now has been lost. The heightened methodological
self-awareness, accordingly, testifies not so much to a freedom
from prejudice, but rather to its opposite. "This period in the
development of phenomenology saw its work being drawn into
the horizon of contemporary philosophy, a tendency which has not
remained without influence upon the subsequent inquiries of
phenomenology." (HCT, p. 93) Is the subsequent problematic of
phenomenology drawn from the originary phenomena? Or is it
externally, albeit implicitly, dictated by the horizons of traditional
philosophy? Where do phenomenological questions take root? Do
they rise from phenomenology'S own soil? Or have they been
surreptitiously imported from foreign domains but mistakenly
labeled "domestic"?
Sections 10 and 11 of the History of the Concept of Time contain
a detailed exposition and critical commentary on Ideas 1.
Heidegger's basic question bears upon "the fundamental and
explicit elaboration of the thematic field of phenomenology carried
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 225

out by Husserl." (HCT, p. 94) Heidegger, on the basis of the

discoveries of the Logical Investigations, has defined phenomenology
as the "analytic description of intentionality in its a priori." (HCT,
p. 79) Hence, the question becomes "can intentionality in its a
priori be singled out as an independent region, as the possible field
of a science?" (HCT, p. 95) In order to answer this question, the
analysis must proceed at three levels or stages. As Heidegger puts

A fundamental accentuation of the a priori field of intentionality will

therefore have to give an account 1) of the exemplary ground, the
field of concrete individuations of lived experiences from which its
structure of intentionality is to be brought into relief ideatively; 2)
of the way the a priori structures are brought into relief from this
background; 3) of the character and type of being of this region thus
brought out and highlighted. (ReT, p. 95)

These three correspond to: (1) a reflection upon the natural

attitude, as the exemplary ground of concrete individuations, (2)
a consideration of the movements of reduction, both eidetic and
phenomenological, and (3) an account of the description of pure,
absolute, or transcendental consciousness with r~gard to its type
of being.
It is clear that for Heidegger the most important of these will
be the first. For the natural attitude, despite its subsequent
suspension, is where we begin. The roots of the philosophical
problematic reach deep into the soil of pre-philosophical
experience. We recognize here a curious kind of "in between," or
perhaps even a circularity. Any attempt to reflect upon the pre-
philosophical is always already a nascent philosophical move. That
which we tend to highlight, to select out in our reflections as
relevant, is guided by a prior projection, even if only by a "hint"
of that telos which would account for the motivation of such
reflection. At the same time, that telos can have no other source
than pre-philosophical experience itself. As Heidegger puts it,
"what is to be seen and traced [for Hussed] is how the 'new
scientific domain' of phenomenology arises from what is given in
the natural attitude." (HCT, p. 95) Nowhere, then, would there be
a purely naieve experience, in the sense of a totally unmotivated
reflection. 7
The "discovery" of the natural attitude is, then, a philosophical
discovery. The serious difficulty has to do with whether or not it
226 Timothy J. Stapleton
is a philosophical construct. The problem of specifying this field
from which philosophical reflection embarks, or has always
already embarked, marks the heightened methodological self-
awareness of Ideas 1.8

In the initial phase of phenomenology, the discussion and

description of intentionality still operated wholly within the
framework outlined by the disciplines of psychology and logic and
their particular questions. Now, however, the discussion no longer
deals with these old questions and traditional tasks but is concerned
with the reflection, secured in the matters themselves, upon the
connection between the phenomenological field to be derived and
the field from which we start. In other words, it is concerned with
the concrete individuation of intentionality, of comportments and of
lived experiences. It is now a matter of defining the field in which
the comportments first become accessible. (RCT, p. 95)

Heidegger then proceeds, in the remainder of paragraph 10,

to trace out the movement of thought in chapters 1 and 2 of Part
IT of Ideas I, involving a description of the natural attitude and the
thesis· of the transcendent world, the possibility and execution of
epoche, bracketing, and phenomenological and eidetic reduction,
and the description of the absolute givenness, the absolute being
of pure consciousness. With the completion of these moves we
have seemingly secured the region or domain of phenomenology.
Chapter 3 of Part IT of Ideas I, entitled "The Region of Pure
Consciousness," takes up the elaboration of this secured or
discovered phenomenological field. With this Chapter the third
level or stage of analysis has been reached. Heidegger interprets
Husserl's intention here to be that of posing the following set of

How is it at all possible that this sphere of absolute position, pure

consciousness, which is supposed to be separated from every
transcendence by an absolute gulf, is at the same time united with
reality in the unity of a real human being, who himself occurs as a
real object in the world? How is it possible that lived experiences
constitute an absolute and pure region of being and at the same time
oc-rur in the transcendence of the world? This is the line of
questioning motivating the elaboration of the phenomenological field
of pure consciousness in Husserl. (RCT, p. 101)
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 227

Heidegger's immanent critique of Husserl begins at this stage, and

works backward from it, through the reductions, to the natural

This critique proceeds through three stages. The guiding

question at each level bears upon -the degree to which, if any, the
question of being is raised. Does it appear at the zenith point of
Ideas I, where the "region of absolute being" is descriptively
secured and articulated? Or does it manifest itself in the
methodological moves which make accessible pure consciousness,
in the execution of the various reductions? Or perhaps is it
genuinely raised in the very starting point of phenomenological
reflection, in what Heidegger terms the exemplary ground of the
reductions? At the level of "natural- experience"? Sections 12 and
13 of the History of the Concept of Time proceed via a critique of
Ideas I on each of these three points. Heidegger's claim is that
despite all the talk of being in these passages, the question of being
is never raised, nor is the meaning of being, to which there is
constant recourse, every clarified.
Before we turn to the details of this critique, however, let us
remember its claims to "immanence." Perhaps phenomenology
need not raise the question of being. Perhaps if indeed being is in
some way "bracketed," such a suspension is appropriate on
phenomenological grounds. Could it be that the question of being
itself is fostered by the kind of "naturalism" that must be set aside.
Husserl's own response to Being and Time took this form. 9 Yet for
Heidegger, what makes it possible, even necessary, to raise anew
the question of being, are precisely the central discoveries of
phenomenology itself. Intentionality in its concretion, as
"saturated" by categorial intuition, is the theme of phenomenology.
These are among its ''breakthrough,'' defining discoveries. This
categorial "excess" which announces itself in intentionality
undermines a kind of naive, "naturalistic" ontology which
dismisses the question of being. Further, the enigmatic "to be" of
intentional being opens the doors to multiple meanings of being,
and paves the way for the "destruction" of the hedgenomy of
being understood as Vorhandenheit.
For Heidegger, then, the failure of Ideas I to raise the question
of being is a failure to see the significance of categorial intuition.
Accordingly, Heidegger would want to insist that it is not a matter
228 Timothy J. Stapleton

of using the discovery of categorial intuition for extraneous

purposes. Intentional analyses, as constitutive, necessarily articulate
the categorial dimensions which allow beings to be. In order to
understand intentionality, therefore, the question of the being of
intentional being must be raised. For Heidegger, then, the question
to be addressed to Ideas I is, "Does this elaboration of the thematic
field of phenomenology, the field of intentionality, raise the
question of the being of this region, of the being of consciousness?"
(HeT, p. 102)
Heidegger notes four essential features to Hussed's description
of the field secured via the phenomenological reductions. The
sphere of consciousness is said to be (1) a region of immanent
being, (2) characterized by an absolute given ness, (3) which "nulla
re indiget ad existendum," and (4) hence is a sphere of pure
consciousness. Are· these four determinations genuinely
phenomenological? Are they drawn from the things themselves?
Or are they the result of a certain, non-phenomenological
perspectivism? It is important to note that Heidegger's analyses
and criticisms, at this stage, do not reject any of these claims of
Husserl. Nowhere does he say, or imply, that pure consciousness
or absolute giveness, for example, do not characterize
phenomenologically reduced consciousness. His critique is not of
the possibility of the reduction or of the substantive results
attained thereby. It proceeds, rather, at an entirely different level.
At this stage of Heidegger's development, his critique more
resembles the Kierkegaardian rather than the Nietzschean critique
of "ratio." Transcendental phenomenology is not viewed as
doomed, in principle, to failure. It is rather the "wholistic" claims
of such phenomenology that are challenged. Genuine philosophical
questions remain outside the bounds of the reduction and its
sphere of concerns. To talk of transcendental subjectivity as the
"sphere of absolute origins," as the "region of all regions," is to
suggest that all genuine philosophical questions must, and can, be
framed within the contours of intelligibility circumscribed by
transcendental self-consciousness. Heidegger's critique, however,
is directed toward the nascent presuppositions guiding the
development of phenomenology from the Logical Investigations to
Ideas I, and toward their wholistic aspirations.
Why, Heidegger asks, are these four determinations,
(immanent, absolutely given, constituting, and ideal [pure)), and
o!'ly these four, selected out via the reflective phenomenological
gaze? Do they address the being of consciousness, of lived
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 229

experience, on its own (authentic) terms? Or are these features

"posited" via an inquiring look already interested in thematizing
a region for scientific inquiry? If what we find depends in part on
what we're seeking, what goal is eliciting the emergence of, the
discovery of, transcendental subjectivity? Hussed's guiding
question is regulated by an ideal of absolute science. What must
things be like in order for philosophical science, understood in a
particular way, to be possible? What minimal conditions must be
satisfied in order for "absurdity" (naturalism, psychologism,
historicism, etc.) to be avoided? Heidegger insists that this line of
inquiry cannot be the original one. A concern for the minimal
conditions for the possibility of sense (versus non-sense) cannot
take precedence over the question of what it means "to be." For
Heidegger, this is the genuine import of phenomenology, that it re-
establishes the priority of ontology over epistemology.

But we come to the question of being as such only if our inquiry is

guided by the drive to question to the very end or to inquire into
the beginning, that is, if it is determined by the sense of the
phenomenological principle radically understood-which means by
the matter itself-to allow entities to be seen as entities in their being.
(HCT, p. 137)

It is not via a critique of cognition that phenomenological

questioning radicalizes its ownmost tendencies. Rather,
"phenomenological questioning in its innermost tendency itself
leads to the question of the being of the intentional and before
anything else to the question of the sense of being as such." (HCT,
Hence, for Heidegger, the four determinations of phenom-
enological consciousness articulated in Ideas I are discovered
precisely to the extent that they constitute answers to the question,
'how is an absolutely grounded science possible?' From such a
perspective, consciousness is indeed experienced (immanently) as
an epistemic source. When consciousness is taken as apprehended,
its immanence can be noted. When it is taken as given,
consciousness manifests its absolute being. When viewed as
constituting, its non-dependence upon transcendent being discloses
itself. And when viewed as ideating, its pure, non-empirical status
is revealed. It is Heidegger's claim that such perspectives, however,
are alien to consciousness in its own being.
230 Timothy J. Stapleton

This idea, that consciousness is to be the region of an absolute science, is

not simply invented; it is the idea which has occupied modern
philosophy ever since Descartes. The elaboration of pure
consciousness as the thematic field of phenomenology is not derived
phenomenologically by going back to the matters themselves but by going
back to a traditional idea of philosophy. (ReT, p. 107)

Again, there is no doubt that Heidegger grants a certain

legitimacy to the line of questioning Husser! has taken up. He does

...on the positive side it must be said that they [these four
determinations] only determine the region as region but not the
being of consciousness, of intentional comportments as such; they
are concerned solely with the being of the region consciousness, the
being of the field within which consciousness can be considered.
(ReT, p. 108)

To circumscribe a field for scientific inquiry, to articulate the

criteria for scientific consideration, is a necessary step in the
establishment of a science. In so doing, the question of the
meaning of the being of the entities which would belong to or
populate such a realm need -not be asked. Instead, it is always
taken for granted, assumed as self-evident, or viewed as irrelevant.
Yet for Heidegger, it is precisely phenomenology and its re-
discovery of the categorial that opens up the question of being as
the first, the founding, the originary question. Hence, the
"immanence" of the Heideggerean critique.
This pre-given idea of scientific philosophy, understood as a
critique of cognition, or. ultimately of reason itself, and grounded
in a reaction against the threat of skepticism in all its forms, is part
of the forgottenness of the question of being, and is in turn itself
nurtured by a certain understanding of being. In Ideas I, according
to Heidegger, it silently holds sway not only in dictating the
"regard" from which consciousness is viewed, but also the other
two levels at which the problematic unfolds, that of the
phenomenological and eidetic reductions and the natural attitude.
The reduction(s) at one level seem to have a decidedly ontological
thrust. Heidegger himself combats· many standard interpretations
of the phenomenological reduction which tend to see it as an
abstraction, as looking away from or disregarding questions of
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 231
This bracketing of the entity takes nothing away from the entity
itself, nor does it purport to assume that the entity is not. This
reversal of perspective has rather the sense of making the being of
the entity present. This phenomenological suspension of the
transcendent thesis has but the sole function of making the entity
present in regard to its being. The term "suspension" is thus always
misunderstood when it is thought that in suspending the thesis of
existence and by doing so, phenomenological reflection simply has
nothing to do with the entity. Quite the contrary: in an extreme and
unique way, what really is at issue now is the determination oj the being
oj the very entity. [emphasis mine](HCf, p. 99)

Yet ten pages later in the very same text, Heidegger apparently
contradicts this defense" in claiming that:

In its methodological sense as a disregarding, then, the reduction is

in principle inappropriate for determining the being of consciousness
positively. The sense of the reduction involves precisely giving up
the ground upon which alone the question of the being of the
intentional could be based (admittedly with the aim of then
determining the sense of this reality from the region now secured).
(HCT, p. 109)

The tension between these two statements, however, resides in the

distinction between raising questions about the being of the region
consciousness, and interrogating the "to be" of the entities within
the region. On the former score, Heidegger would grant the
novelty and radicality of the phenomenological reduction. But
precisely in thematizing a region for scientific investigation, the
more fundamental question of being is not raised. The phenom-
enological and eidetic reductions together "disregard" (Heidegger's
word) the reality and particular individuation of lived experiences.
The eidetic reduction, of course, itself employs a form of categorial
intuition, an act of ideation, in which a "new form of objectivity"
(HCT, p. 69) is constituted. Like all categorial acts, eidetic intuition
is a "founded" one. Yet an important difference persists between
such acts of ideation, and those of synthesis. The concrete
individuation, the particular exemplary foundation is required for
acts of ideation, but is not itself intended. "The individual is indeed
founding, but in such a way that it is precisely not cointended, as
it is in the 'and' of conjunction, which co-intends both this and
that, raises this 'a and b' up into a new objectivity." (HCT, p. 67)
The apprehension of the being-yellow of a chair co-intends the
232 Timothy J. Stapleton

concrete individuation, the singular entity. To talk of being is to

talk of the being of some entity. No "disregard" is possible in this
case. Apprehension of an eidos, on the other hand, while founded
in a particular instance, engages in the imaginative variation of
ideation in such a fashion as to "look through" the instance. For
Heidegger, then, categorial acts of the synthetic sort, rather than
the eidetic per se, are what reawaken the question of the being of
beings. "Merely looking at the what-content (eidos) means seeing
the what as apprehended, given, constituted. (HCT, p. 110) Hence

the same implicit scientific telos animates this reduction as it does

the articulation of transcendental subjectivity. And further:
But above all this conception of ideation as disregard of real
individuation lives in the belief that the what of any entity is to be
defined by disregarding its existence. But if there were an entity
whose what is precisely to be and nothing but to be, then this ideative
regard of such an entity would be the most fundamental of
misunderstandings. It will become apparent that this mis-
understanding is prevalent in phenomenology, and dominates it in
tum because of the dominance of the tradition. (HCT, p. 110)

For Heidegger, only a form of categorial intuition which explicitly

cointends the particular, and in so doing " ...actually present[s] the
entity more truly in its 'being-in-itself'" (HCT, p. 70), would be
appropriate for genuine ontological questioning.
The same problems, and possibilities, are at work at the initial
pre-phenomenological level of the "natural attitude." To articulate
as natural an understanding of the being of intentional acts as
empirically real, as psychic entities, is to articulate a complex,
quasi-scientific, theoretical position. These descriptions involve a
philosophical "reading" of a more original text, highlighting
precisely those features which will give rise to the epistemogical
dilemmas necessitating the reductions, and their subsequent
discoveries of absolute, pure subjectivity. As a matter of fact, it is
at this level that Heidegger's critique finds its central target. For
Heidegger, the problems concerning the reduction(s) and the
descriptions of transcendental subjectivity are echoes of the
original position.

What then was the point of our critical discussions? Was it

precipitous on our part that we discussed the question of being and
even established a neglect, in view of the determinations of being
which are attributed to pure consciousness? . . . In fact, this
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 233

difficulty does not concern the determinations of the region as such,

the characterization of pure consciousness. As we have already
suggested, the basic difficulty with this determination of the reality
of acts lies already in the starting position. (HeT, p. 112)

For Heidegger, what is needed is to take up the possibilities of

categorial intuition at the level of the natural attitude. The "reality"
of acts, the specific "act-being" of comportments is something to
which we must already have access, even if it is covered over and
misread by the "natural attitude."
For Heidegger, therefore, to disarm the natural attitude in an
authentic way would involve a special sort of "suspension," one
for which the phenomenological and eidetic reductions are
insufficient. There is no doubt that for Heidegger, HusserI's
phenomenology, as it moves from the Logical Investigations through
"Philosophy as Rigorous Science" to Ideas I, radicalizes the
question of the possibility of cognition in ways which far transcend
the tradition of modem philosophy. Yet for Heidegger, this
radicalization of the question still unfolds within a traditional
horizon of an understanding of being. To be is to be intelligible.
What is most intelligible, as apprehended, as given, as self-
constituting, is consciousness. "What is primary in this
characterization of consciousness in its being is the sense of a
possible scientific objectivity and not its specifically inherent being,
which precedes any possible scientific treatment and has its own
sense." (HCT, p. 120)
Access to this pre-scientific sense of being, under the headings
of Zuhandenheit and Existenz, involves not so much a suspension
of the naturalistic theses concerning being as real, empirical,
individual, etc., but rather of the more elemental understandings
which structure even the dismissal or suspension of these
conceptual horizons. The possibilities of categorial intuition are
seized upon by Heidegger as the vehicle which, in rediscovering
the categorial dimension, radically expands our understandings of
being. Initially, we come to see that " ... objectivity in its broadest
sense is much richer than the reality of a thing, and what is more,
that the reality of a thing is comprehensible in its structure only on
the basis of the full objectivity of the simply experienced entity."
(HCT, p. 66)
234 Timothy J. Stapleton

We need to end these reflection with a question, one intended

simply to highlight what is at stake in this "immanent critique" by
Heidegger, and to continue the dialogue between Husserl and
Heidegger on the genuine possibilities of phenomenology. It is, as
would be expected, a question about where we begin. Husserl's
phenomenology begins in crisis. It is the experience of breakdown,
of the dissolution of rational meaning that gives the urgency, the
passion, the rigor, the telos to Husserl's reflections. The crisis of
reason is no late-comer on the Husserlian scene. What begins with
investigations concerning the foundations of mathematics and logic
and ends in reflections on the crisis of human spirituality is a
continuous arc, r,erhaps an inverted image of the movements of
Plato's thought.1 What evokes philosophical questioning is a sense
of the infinite, the absolute, the unconditioned, and in particular a
sense of these as under siege. Husserl is a Platonist in the sense
that he is a man who has met, as it were, Protagoras, Callicles, and
Thrasymachus. Husserllooks to the act of human meaning, and sees
in it a gesture which resists assimilation to the merely finite. For
him this gesture is not futile, nor is it merely an act of absurd
rebellion. For Husserl, the alpha and the omega of philosophy is
the infiniteY
Heidegger's philosophy begins with the question of being,
with wonder in the face of being. The experience that evokes
philosophical perplexity is not so much that things fail to make
sense, but rather that they are" at all, and in particular, that "I

am." For Heidegger, the interrogative power of being has lost its
But the results of these [traditional] reflections [of Plato and
Aristotle] are in command to some extent without maintaining the
ground from which they were drawn in the expressly interrogative
experience or without first of all bringing them to such an
experience. These results prevail without the initial vitality of the
articulating question, that is, without the full force of the
interrogative experience and its explication from which these
categories originated. (ReT, p. 129)

The question, only one of many possible ones, is why should

being, or the experience of being, have this interrogative force.
Heidegger's answer, formally speaking, is simple. Man's lito be" is
to question what it means to be. H this is man's "essence," can one
question beyond it? One can certainly articulate more concretely,
interpret (lay-out), what it means. One can show how authentic
Heidegger and Categorial Intuition 235

questioning about what it means to be only arises within a horizon

of the possibility of not-being. One can unify the apparently
disparate manifestations of this being under the heading of Care,
and found its unity, in tum, in the ekstases of temporality. But in
some ways, this is as far as the analysis can go. To ask why about
this, to ask why Care, is to ask for a reason for being. Does
Husserl ask precisely this non-Heideggerean question?
236 Timothy J. Stapleton

1. Martin Heidegger, History of the Concept of Time, trans. Theodore Kisiel
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985). All citations of this work will be
abbreviated as HCT.
2. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward
Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 50.
3. See, for example, the imagery in Plato's Republic, Books VI and VII.
4. It is interesting, in this regard, to note Heidegger's spirited defense of a
philosophy of intuition on page 47 of HCT.
5. Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a
Phenomenologiclll Philosophy, trans. F. Kersten (Boston: Kluwer Academic
Publishers, 1982), p. 44.
6. Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental
Phenomenology, trans. David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970).
7. Witness the "motivational" eidos of consciousness in Husserlian thought.
8. Though this thought reaches explicit clarity in Ideas I, it is already
emerging both in The Idea of Phenomenology and in ''Philosophy as Rigorous
9. In a letter to Roman Ingarden dated December, 1927, Husserl says,
''Heidegger has not grasped the whole meaning of the reduction." See Herbert
Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965),
p. 281. And in Husserl's marginal notes to his own copy of Sein und Zeit, he says
the following: ''Heidegger transposes or translates the constitutive,
phenomenological clarification of beings...the total region of the world, into
anthropology. For the ego, he writes Dasein, and so forth. Thus all its deeper
sense becomes unclear and loses its philosophical worth. What is said here is my
own teaching, only without its deeper foundation. This is, in my view, the way
to an intentional psychology of the personality, of the personallifeworld...." See
Alwin Diemer, Edmund Husserl (Meisenheim am Glan: Verlag Anton Rain, 1965),
10. A traditional interpretation of the development of Plato's thinking involves
its movement from initial spiritual and ethical concerns, through metaphysics, to
questions of language and logic in the later works.
11. See, for example, Husserl's ''Vienna Lecture," where he talks of the infinite
goals of reason, and of "...the concept of Europe as the historical teleology of the
infinite goals of reason." The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental
Phenomenology, Appendix I, p. 299.

by Thomas M. Seebohm

I. A Bridge of Metaphors

In the brief preface to his lectures on the Satz vom Grund from
1955/56, published in 19571, Heidegger says the thoughts
developed in the lecture belong to a context requiring other forms
of presentation (andere Formen der Darstellung). In one paragraph of
the lectures he calls the language of Being and Time preliminary
and clumsy (unbeholfen und vorlaufig) (SG 146). This paragraph as
a whole is very illuminating. For preliminary considerations it is
sufficient to keep in mind that the lectures on the Satz 'Dom Grund
are on the one hand beyond the phase of Heidegger's development
reached in Being and Time, but they have not yet reached the level
of the "other form of presentation." "Development" should not be
understood as development of a subjective history. What is meant
is an objective systematic movement of thinking. The movement of
thinking in the lectures have, therefore, the character of a
Heidegger characterized this transition in a short formula in
lecture seven, Le. precisely in the center of the lectures. It is the
transition from a thinking dominated by the Satz vom Grund,
understood as principium rationis sufficientis, principle of sufficient
reason, to a thinking that is a Satz in den Ab-Grund and as such a
Satz in das Sein als Sein. (SG 96). Given the formula it follows that
the translation of the title of the book as "The Principle of
Sufficient Reason" would be a mistake. The principle of sufficient
reason, the principium reddendae rationis sufficientis, according to
Heidegger, is only one of the tunes (Tonarten) in which we can
listen to (vernehmen) the Satz vom Grund. The other tune is the tune
in which the Satz vom Grund is heard as a Satz in das Sein als Sein,
that is, als Grund (SG 96). It is impossible to translate this formula.
But if it is impossible to translate this formula in the very center of
the lectures, then it is also impossible to find a fully satisfactory
translation for the title of the lectures. I have, therefore, offered no
translation of the title. In its place I offer the following preliminary
The formula cannot he translated because we find in its center
two meanings of the word Satz. The two meanings and the use of
the word Satz in connection with each of them are completely
separated in ordinary German.2 What they have in common is only
T.J. Stapleton (ed.J, The Question o/Hermeneutics, 237-253.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
238 Thomas M. Seebohm

their relation to the same phonetic unity Satz. The unity of the
relation proposed by Heidegger in his formula creates, therefore,
a surprise in ordinary German. It is a joke, a pun. Puns of this
kind cannot be translated. Cases in which the same phonetic unity
is used to express two different meanings are usually restricted to
one and only one language.
The first meaning of the word Satz used in the formula3 can
be translated into English as "sentence, statement." The second
meaning has to be translated as "leap", because that is the only
meaning Satz can have in the connection Satz in... . It is not
possible to discover an obvious reason for the attempt to build a
bridge of meaning between the meanings "sentence" and "leap"
with a simple analysis of the meaning of these words. Heidegger
uses a complex system of metaphorical transfers of meaning in
order to build that bridge. He moves, for this purpose, from the
German Satz through different possibilities offered by Latin and
Greek translations of this word and words close to it. The
movement is accompanied and completed by another move
beginning with Grund, ground, and ending with Sein, Being. The
following is a brief outline mentioning some of the key words used
by Heidegger.
In the technical language of German philosophy Satz can be
used also as shorthand for Grundsatz, the translation of principium.
The meaning of principium is exhibited by going back to its roots
in the Greek axioma and hypothesis leading to ratio itself. Thus it is
possible to read the principium rationis also as ratio rationis or
Grundsatz vom Grund. This is the first tune (Tonart) in which the
principium can be heard (vernommen werden).
The movement that leads to the second tune can be heard, if
the earlier metaphysical formulas of the principium are considered.
Heidegger points out that the formulas "Everything has its
ground," "Nothing is without ground" do not reveal anything
about the ground. The subjects in the first case are beings. The
formula tells us something about beings and their relation to the
ground but nothing about the ground. The second formula can be
associated with another formula in the realm of older metaphysics,
namely "Being is without ground," that is, "Being = God as
ground of beings is without ground." Not withstanding that this
consideration is not a surprise in a Heideggerian context it is
essential that already early metaphysical formulations of the
principium state that Nothing and Being are "without" ground.
Thus the ground of beings is qua Being itself groundless. It is an
Considerations on "Der Satz Vom Grund" 239

Ungrund or Ab-Grund. The Satz vom Grund demands in the

principium reddendae rationis sufficientis that a ground should be
given for every being. But that implies that there should be an
ultimate ground. This ultimate ground reveals itself as an Ab-
Grund. But an Ab-Grund cannot be given, rendered, "principium" in
principium rationis cannot be understood as sentence, Satz,
Grundsatz. Satz has to be understood as "leap," as a leap into the
Ab-Grund and that means a leap into Being (SG 184/85).
This indicates the second tune in the Satz vom Grund. The leap
itself can be characterized also as a leap from the first to the
second tune in the Satz vom Grund. Heidegger says (SG, 108):

Der Sprung (= leap) ist der Satz (= leap) aus dem Grundsatz (=
principle, grounding sentence) vom Grund als einem Satz (sentence)
vom Seienden in das Sagen des Seins als Sein.

This is a brief and abstract map of Heideggers movement of

thinking in the lectures. Its disadvantage is that it still depends in
its development on metaphysics; that is, it does not reveal the real
meaning of "leap" and of "un-ground." The following consider-
ations are an attempt to explicate some implications of this map
leading into directions that are not explicitly mentioned by
Heidegger himself. That will require further developments of the
map following Heidegger. Before entering such considerations a
brief remark about the structure of the lectures and certain topics
that have not been mentioned in drawing the map is necessary.
Considering SG as a whole we find several passages that have
the character of key passages. Some of them have been mentioned.
There is also a movement through the lectures as a whole leading
to the deepest and sharpest confrontation in lecture thirteen. The
leitmotif from the very beginning is the confrontation of the first
and the second tune of the principle of sufficient reason. The
confrontation occurs on all levels of the development and has the
same structure. We find an explication of the first tune of the
principle of sufficient reason leading toward a critique of the
principium in that tune. This critique itself is a hint about the
direction of the possible second tune in which the principium can
be heard. There is the possibility to understand, for example, the
interpretation of a poem of Angelus Silesius in lecture five (SG
68ff) and some other passages as examples of such a Vernehmen of
the principle in the second tune. The context of the lectures is not
240 Thomas M. Seebohm

sufficient to decide whether such passages represent already what

Heidegger in the preface called the " new form of presentation."
An essential aspect is a topic that can be found in many of
Heideggers later writings. It is the critique of modem technology
and its devastating consequences. This critique is itself an essential
part of the critique of metaphysics, its destruction, because it is this
metaphysical thinking that finally reveals its power in modem
technology. Thus it is sufficiently clear after lecture four that the
problem of Seinsentzug and Seinsgeschick and their interplay in
Heidegger's conception of the history of western man in its
connection with the problem of modem technology is the guiding
problem in SG.
There are, however, enough passages and thoughts that can be
understood without (a) entering into an interpretation of the
passages that might already be written in the- "new form of
presentation" and (b) references to Heidegger's eschatological
understanding of history. The following considerations use only
passages and thoughts of this kind. The goal of the considerations
is to connect Heidegger's reflections liOn Ground and Being" with
other positions that are not considered in Der Satz vom Grund.

ll. The principium and Analytical Philosophy

Heidegger's philosophy of logic and formalized logic has been

discussed in the literature.4 It is sufficient to summarize some
essential points. Heidegger dismissed his early positive evaluation
of Frege's conception of logic from 19125 in his lectures or logic
from 1924/2Si. Formalized Logic, Logistik in Heidegger's
terminology, is not logic in a proper sense. Logic in a proper sense
is connected with metaphysics. A logic developed with the aid of
mathematical techniques for the purpose of analyzing mathe-
matical inferences is not a logic that can have any significance in
philosophy. This judgment, taken for itself, is by no means new in
the German philosophical tradition. Hegel already said that formal
logic is a notionless treatment of the notion and that the
characteristica universalis of Leibniz and other attempts to give
formalized accounts of logical form are empty games without any
content. 7 He inte~reted his own logic as a new synthesis of logic
and metaphysics. Heidegger's reasons for his judgment about
formalized logic are not Hegel'S reasons. They are the outcome of
his reflections on the essence of science and scientific judgments.
Considerations on "Der Satz Vom Grund" 241

Heidegger in Being and Time distinguishes three aspects in

judgment, namely foresight (Vorsicht), interpretation (Auslegung)
and projection (VorgrifJ). Foresight has priority in theoretical
judgments. The projection in theoretical judgments is determined
by the idea of Being that understands Being as an unchanging
existence (stiindiges Vorhandensein). Scientific judgments consider
the content of theoretical judgments in mathematical perspective.
Time is given in this projection as world time, the infinite series of
nows and space as the universe of space-points. Both have lost the
capability of revealing the essential differences given in the
projection that is guided by concern.10
Formalized logic is characterized as a calculating (ein Rechnen)
with judgments without the ability to recognize that judgments are
essentially means of ontological interpretation in Being and TimeY
Formalized logic cannot be considered as logic in any sense. In
1954 a slightly different thesis can be found in Was heifit DenkenY
Heidegger says now that the methods of formalized logic have a
certain significance, because they are immediately implied in the
projection (dem VorgrifJ) of scientific judgments. Formalized logic
is, therefore, a useful instrument for scientific investigations. Die
Frage nach dem Ding (1962) offers a corroborated version of such an
account of the projection dominating science. Formalized logic
reveals the very essence of scientific projection of being as a
wholeY Joseph Kockelmans has given a thorough account of the
significance of these passages for the development of Heidegger's
philosophy of science. 14 For the present purpose it is of significance
that Der Satz vom Grund reveals an essential link in the move from
the brief remark of 1954 to the fully developed new conception of
1962. It is not necessary to decide here, whether this move is a
move to a new position or whether it can be understood according
to the hint given by Heidegger in SG. In this case it would be
simply the result of avoiding the clumsiness and ambiguity of the
language of Being and Time.
Heidegger points out that the original root of the meaning of
Grund-Satz principium is the Greek word axiom (SG 33 ff). Axiomata
are contexts of concern, that is, on the pre-theoretical and pre-
scientific level, evaluations. (Wurdigungen). They indicate what
stands in the highest esteem, what has the highest value.
Judgments are axioms as sentences standing in highest esteem
because they are evident (offenkundig) and recognized by
everybody. In Greek geometry science still has a metaphysical
character. Axioms are constitutive for an order of an ordered realm
242 Thomas M. Seebohm

of beings (Ordnungsbezirk) (SC 40 /41). The principle of causality is

itself only one aspect of the principle of sufficient reason. It is the
principle of the order of the realm of facts. Axioms on this level
also can be considered as sentences, Siitze. As such they are
hypothesis; that is, sentences supposed, assumed, unterstellt as
grounds for· other sentences. The formula of the principium
reddendae rationis sufficientis reveals a peculiar connectedness of
principium and ratio. A highest ratio is itself an axiom, a principium.
The principium reddendae rationis was, therefore, also called ratio
rationis, Grundsatz des Gfundes, and ground, ratio is itself a sentence
(SG 31). Ratio has an additional meaning. Ratio comes from reor
reckoning, calculating, and a ratio reddenda is a ground that has to
be set up, supposed. Thus the principle turns out to be a principle
of and for a relation between sentences, Siitze, and this relation is
a reckoning, calculating (SG 138). Causal laws, considered as
sentences, are now explicated in mathematical terms and are
thought themselves under mathematical reckoning. The fully
developed idea of reckoning and hence the fully developed first
aspect - or tune - of the principle of sufficient reason is Leibniz'
idea of the characteristica universalis. This is the guiding idea for the
modern understanding of calculating. The function of axioms is
only to generate systems free from contradictions (SG 41, 169).
Since it is sufficient for this purpose to consider them as "pure
sentences"; that is, to disregard possible interpretations of their
meaning, there is no difference between axioms and theorems
except the difference used in reckoning. They have no objective
meaning. They serve only the purposes of reckoning (SG 41). The
idea of a calculating machine, known already to Leibniz and
realized by modern technology is just another aspect of this
development. It indicates the connectedness of the principium with
technology. If their development is complete even our abstract
classical scientific concepts of space, time, and objects given in time
and space will vanish in the framework of the universal calculus.
Heidegger's account of the development of the principium in
the sciences - the development of metaphysical thinking will be
the topic of the next section - can be read under a specific aspect.
Under this aspect one has to bracket the negative evaluation of the
"descent" of the principium in the first tune. The result of such a
reading has some unexpected consequences The reading can be
summarized in the following theses:
(1) Science is the outcome of the radical development of the
principle of sufficient reason.
Considerations on "Der Satz Vom Grund" 243

(2) This development requires an elimination of all traces of

metaphysical meaning in the principle. This elimination has as its
consequence the elimination of metaphysical elements in the basic
concepts of science.
(3) The elimination requires a mathematisation of the concepts
of science and also of the principium; that is, all giving of reasons
in reasoning must be explicable in some calculus.
(4) The system of pure calculation is the system of formalized
logic and the language of formalized logic the ideal language of
the ideal science.
(5) The world represented in this language is completely
separated from the world of natural language, that is, the world of
concern. It is a world given in some multidimensional continuum
that can only be represented in the language of the mathematical
Already a superficial knowledge of analytical philosophy and
e.g. the presentation of its basic ideas in Quine's Word and Object
is sufficient to recognize that Heidegger's descent corresponds
precisely to Quine's "semantic ascent." Of course, Quine's account
of this movement seen from a technical point of view is much
more precise. The reason is that for Quine such an ascent has an
unquestionable positive value. Heidegger in this respect has done
justice to formalized logic and analytical philosophy. Simply to
claim, however, that Heidegger has also rejected a positive
evaluation of the semantic ascent in showing the devastating
consequences of technology, science, and formalized thinking is a
simplification. This simplification is neither just with respect to
analytical philosophy nor is it just with respect to the rigor of
Heidegger. Heidegger's eschatology, developing the picture of the
highest and universal threat for mankind as the result of that
development, can be understood and was understood in the
framework of this simplification. But there are other aspects that
should be taken seriously. They can be found in reflections on the
significance of the principium for the idea of ultimate tran-
scendental grounding.

ITI. The principium and the idea of ultimate grounding

The principium rationis sufficientis is the principle of meta-

physics. It has its origin in a shift in the meaning of "if-then." The
244 Thomas M. Seebohm

"if-then" is originally given in the encounter with ready-to-hand

(zuhandenen) beings in contexts of concern. It connects means and
goals in this context. What is addressed with an "if' is addressed
as this and that in a context of concern (Bewandtniszusammenhang).
This experience of "if-then" connections belongs to the second level
of temporality, the level on which time is experienced as ecstatic.
Tune is understood as linear world-time on the third level. Places
become spaces, and the surrounding world of concern becomes
nature under this understanding. The "if-then" is applied to the
universe of what exists under this projection, the beings considered
only as being there (Vorhandenes). The "if-then" of contexts of
concern is not universal. It is applied from case to case in specific
different contexts of concern. In the realm of the understanding of
beings as being there the "if-then" is applied to all beings without
specifying differentiation. It is constitutive for beings under this
This consideration, taken from Being and Time15, explains why
the principium is introduced in SG as a universal principle for
beings. On the level of theoretical judgment and metaphysical
thinking the principle says: "Everything has its ground" and
"Nothing is without ground." (Alles hat seinen Grund, Nichts ist ohne
Grund). Heidegger with Leibniz distinguishes different levels of the
development and unfolding of the principium (SG 31, 43, 51 ff). The
metaphysical principle is that being as a whole, God included, is
in its essence determined by the principium rationis. We have to
distinguish between two meanings of ground." The vulgar

meaning is cause, causa. The other meaning of ground is spelled

out most clearly in saying: "God is the ground," "God is ultima
ratio rerum." The double meaning is manifest if the distinction
between the "grounding" in causal relations and God as ground
of created things is taken into account. In the first case grounding
(cause) and grounded (effect) are of the same kind. Both are
created things. In the second case there is an infinite difference.
This is of significance for the listening to the principium in the
second tune. The second tune and its relation to the first will be
considered in the next section. A re-examination of the idea of
ultimate grounding first has to consider the principium in the first
tune in its metaphysical meaning that is close to the scientific
The more developed formula of the principle in the first tune
occurs if it is not applied primarily to beings but to sentences. For
Considerations on "Der Satz Vom Grund" 245

sentences it is the principium reddendae rationis. It is on the one

hand, as explained, the principle guiding the idea of modem
science in its ultimate expression in a formalized calculus, the
chnracteristica universalis.
The metaphysical idea of ultimate grounding, on the other
hand has its own transformation. This transformation is parallel to
the development of science and transforms the idea of ultimate
grounding to the idea of transcendental grounding. The dimension
of ratio, reason, in Kant's philosophy is, in the tradition of
Descartes (SG 132), the dimension of selfhood and subjectivity. His
transcendental method limits the realm of the grounding grounds
(begriindenden Grande) (SG 137). Being determines itself in Kant's
philosophy only in the realm of the subjectivity of reason.
Subjectivity is the sum total of the laws of the presuppositions; that
is, the grounds of the possibility of objects (SG 137). But this
subjectivity is not a human subjectivity. It is the subjectivity of
science, that subjectivity which brings everything under its power
as something calculable with the aid of calculation which is the
Verrechnung von allem zum Berechenbaren (SG 138). The tran-
scendental method is the medium in which the principium rationis
sufficientis as the principle of reason (i.e. ratio) can unfold its power
in complete freedom.
Heidegger in the beginning developed his own position via
critical reflections on transcendental philosophy. They were not
restricted to Kant but include also a critique of Husserl's tran-
scendental phenomenology. A comparison of the early
development with what is said in SG leads to a question about the
movement of thought in Heidegger's later philosophy: Do we have
to understand the transition to the second tune in the principium as
a turn, a Kehre, in Heidegger's development itself, or is there some
continuity so that the Kehre has, in principle, already taken place
in Heidegger's rejection of the Kantian and Husserlian approach to
the problem of ultimate transcendental grounding? A further
viewpoint can be added. Heidegger in SG distinguishes a double
aspect in the development of the principium. There is a strict
correlation between science on the one hand and an ultimate
transcendental grounding in Kant on the other. The analysis of the
idea of science in Husserl's Cartesian Meditations has a similar
result. Husserl speaks of the correlation of the development of the
positive sciences and the striving for an ultimate grounding in the
turn towards subjectivity in modem transcendental philosophy.
246 Thomas M. Seebohm

There is, of course, no indication of the second tune of the

principium in Husserl. What is missing as well is a reflection on the
principle of grounding itself. Grounding is understood precisely in
the sense in which it reveals itself in the idea of science.
Phenomenology according to the Grundprobleme der
Phiinomenologie16 is the method of scientific philosophy (GP 1 - 3).
The outcome of Heidegger's investigation of the basic problems of
phenomenology is a critique of Husserl's transcendental phenom-
enological reduction (GP 255ff). Husserl's. reduction presupposes
the being of subjectivity as apodictic being and the being of the
world as a relative being grounded in the apodictic being of the
subject. Being, therefore, is presupposed in Husserl's reduction
without asking the question of Being (Seinsfrage). The task of
ultimate grounding requires an answer for this question.
Presupposing Husserl's approach the first task is to consider the
apodictic being of subjectivity. The consideration reveals that the
being of subjectivity is a ''being in the world." This interpretation
of the being of subjectivity shows the impossibility of Husserl's
reduction. Heidegger suggests that the reduction of beings to Being
given with the ontological difference is the true phenomenological
reduction (GP 26-31).
Joseph Kockelmans has shown the significance of Heidegger's
interpretation and modification of Kant's transcendental doctrine
of method for the GP.17 The distinction between Being and beings
is a critical distinction. The "phenomenology" of the early
Heidegger is, therefore, a critical philosophy (GP 20 ff). The
ontological interpretation of Dasein reveals its transcendence.
Dasein itself in the explication of time and temporality is the
transcendental horizon for the question of Being. The a priori is
understood as the a priori of the preontological understanding of
Being as beings. Heidegger's intention is to ground Kant's
transcendental logic in a transcendental
Heidegger's early understanding of the ontolOgical difference
is, so to speak, still under the power of the idea of ultimate
transcendental grounding. One aspect of his attempt to develop his
own conception of phenomenology with the aid of Kant indicates
the difficulties connected with this understanding of the
ontological difference. For Kant the ultimate "grounds" of the
being of the subject as well as of the being of object of experience
are transcendent. The ultimate ground is not accessible in
experience. Heidegger's Being is also absent for the preontological
Considerations on "Der Satz Yom Grund" 247

ontic understanding beings. It is even absent in ontological

understanding, because it reveals itself only in the ontological
difference; that is, in its relation to beings. The ultimate ground in
Hussed's phenomenology is given in the apodictic evidence in
which the subject is given to itself. Heidegger's grounding of the
"phenomenological" reduction in the ontological difference is,
therefore, a Kantian move. What is emphasized is the tran-
scendence, the absence of the ground. This can be understood on
the one hand as an early version of Heidegger's later refutation of
phenomenology. Phenomenological evidence recognizes only what
is present, what is there in originary givenness. Thus
phenomenology is one of the versions of the metaphysics of the
present. 19 We have, on the other hand, the difficulty that such a
Kantian interpretation of Being in a transcendental ontology can be
understood for example, with Natorp as a hypothesis, as a
presupposed necessary condition that cannot be brought to
phenomenological givenness at all.
Hypothesis in SG is characterized as one of the steps in the
development of the principium in the first tune. It is the step from
axiom in the original sense to the Grund-Satz of the principium
reddendae rationis. Heidegger's early understanding of the
ontological difference is misleading, because he asks the question
of Being in the framework of the search for a transcendental
ultimate grounding. Thus he moves in the direction of the
principium in the second tune, but his questiQning is still under the
power of the first tune. A thinking under the second tune of the
principium cannot advertise itself as a more perfect version of the
philosophizing that asks for transcendental ultimate grounding. It
is also characteristic for the early "Kantian" self-understanding of
Heidegger, that the beginning with Dasein can be understood as
giving preference to the subject in the tradition of transcendental
philosophy. Heidegger in SG explicitly rejected such an
interpretation of Being and Time. He admits, however, that this
interpretation was possible because of the clumsiness and the
preliminary character of the language of Being and Time. (SG 146)
Seen from the viewpoint of SG the basic mistake of Husserl's
phenomenology is not that the question of Being is not asked. It is
easy to reject such a demand from the phenomenological point of
view. 20 Such a question cannot be asked in investigations interested
in the "how of the givenness" of phenomena. Phenomenology is
restricted to the epistemic point of view and if Husserl speaks
248 Thomas M. Seebohm

about apodicticity then he speaks about the apodicticity of self-

givenness of the subject and not about its apodictic or necessary
being. The real problem with Hussed's approach in philosophy is,
that he asked for ultimate grounding under the principium. Asking
for ultimate grounding, seen from the viewpoint of SG, simply
implies the impossibility of asking the question of being. Asking
the question of being is not asking for the ultimate ground, but a
leap into the un-ground, the Ab-Grund.

Iv. The principium and Speculative Thinking

The Satz in den Ab-grund as a Sagen des Seins in the second

tune of the principium is explored in SG only with interpretations
of poems, references to mystical experiences and the prophetic
hope for a turn in the history of Being. Following Heidegger's hint
in the preface it can be assumed that saying more will require the
"new forms of presentation" in the context outside of SG. Whether
and where such new forms can be found is a difficult question.
The difficulty is to distinguish between the style in which
Heidegger talks about the second tune in SG and the style he uses
to talk about Being in later writings. Instead of an attempt to solve
that problem some steps in another direction can be made.
Heidegger's advice is to explore the history of being in the history
of metaphysics. Such an exploration might also shed some light on
the problem of the relation between the first and the second tune
in which the Satz vom Grund can be heard.
Heidegger's metaphorical movements in SG are meaningful for
a metaphysical mind only, because they are embedded in his
interpretations of metaphysical thinking. They are meaningful for
metaphysical thinking, because they point beyond metaphysical
thinking in an explication of metaphysical thinking. Kant's
transcendental philosophy is the last development in the history of
metaphysics analyzed in greater detail in SG. But it is also clear in
other references that there is a further development of metaphysics
beyond Kant. In several places we find references to Hegel.
Heidegger's first attempt to say something about the second tune
is his interpretation of Angelus Silesius. In the beginning of this
interpretation he quoted Hegel's evaluation of Angelus Silesius, but
he also says that this evaluation is not essential for his
Considerations on "Der Satz Vom Grund" 249

interpretation. Its function is only to indicate the significance of

Angelus Silesius in the history of metaphysics (SG 68/69).
Another passage, again after a long quotation, deals with
Hegel's attempt to think the Absolute. Heidegger praises Hegel's
openness for the sending of Being (Seinsschickung) that sends itself
for thinking as the absolute concept. He adds, however, that this
revelation of Being for metaphysical ontological thinking on the
highest level of its development is at the same time the most
radical retreat of Being (Seinsentzug) (SC, 145/46). The explanation
for this statement is given later (SG 149 f). The transcendental
method is the presupposition for the development of the dialectic
of German Idealism. The task of thinking together in a unity what
is at the same time a difference, namely ground and Being, is
fulfilled in Hegel's logic for metaphysical thinking (SG 152). The
brief summary of the discussion of the problem of essence (Wesen)
and ground ends with a remark about Hegel's dialectic of essence
and ground (SG 162/163).
Schelling is mentioned as the one who started the
metaphysical discussion of Leibniz' principium. This discussion
ends in Nietzsche's teachings about the will to power (SG 43). This
brief remark reveals that Schelling in the history of metaphysics
has a position after and beyond Hegel. Heidegger in SG has not
mentioned Schelling as the one who used the term Ab-Grund in his
book The Essence of Human Freedom and in his later writings. It is
Schelling'S term for the dark, irrational depths within the Absolute.
An attempt to explicate the connection between Schelling and
Nietzsche has to begin here. Though the term Abgrund has been
used by Jacob Bohme, it can be assumed that Heidegger was
familiar with Bohme and with Schelling's speculation. Finally it can
be mentioned that Heidegger published Identitiit und Differenz in
the same year in which Der Satz vom Grund was published. The
problem of identity and difference, found already in the writings
of the earlier Schelling, is the key motif of speculative thinking.
The references to speculative thinking in SG are brief and
scattered. It is, therefore, difficult to give a convincing
interpretation of Heidegger's evaluation of speculative thinking in
SG. But what is said by Hegel is sufficient for stating that an
analysis of speculative thinking will bring us much closer to
Heidegger's interpretation of the principium than his discussion of
Leibniz and Kant.
250 Thomas M. Seebohm

A dialectic of ground and substance already occurs in the first

system of speculative thinking, Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre. 21 Since
substance and ground in theoretical philosophy are immediately
opposited in the explication of the interrelation of the Absolute in
its aspect as Self and as Not-Self, neither ground nor substance can
be understood as categories of beings. They are determinations of
the Absolute. There is an explication of the dialectic of cause and
substance in Hegel's Logic that is similar to Fichte's. But there is
also the more basic dialectic of essence and ground. This dialectic
seems to be close to Heidegger's analysis of Being and ground.
Heidegger in his brief remark about Hegel's explication of
ground and essence says that Hegel is talking about ground as an
isolated word - in order to do justice to Hegel one should say: an
isolated category - and not about ground in the context of the
Satz vom Grund. In other words dialectical explications of ground
and substance, cause and substance, essence and ground are under
the power of conceptualizing dialectical thinking. Within that
thinking ground is related to essence in the Hegelian sense.
Essence is the truth of being, but that means in Hegel that essence
is developed as the truth of Being in the dialectic of Being in his
Hegel'S dialectic is not a dialectic of ground and Being. It is
even impossible, considering Hegel's dialectical conceptualizing of
Being, Nothing and Becoming, to think such a connection.
Heidegger's "dialectic" immediately connects ground and Being
and it achieves that not via dialectical ordering of categories but
via explicating movements in the history of being in considerations
about a sentence, not a concept, the Satz vom Grund. The dialectical
movement of concepts in Hegel is essentially metaphysical because
it is transcendental. It is not the subject in the Kantian sense, but
it is reason, the absolute concept. Hegel rejects, as mentioned,
formalized logic and calculating. But Being in his system as a
whole is recognized as real to the extent in which it is rational. The
dominating function of the ratio is the factor responsible for the
absence of Being in Heidegger's sense in Hegel's system.
In Schelling's later philosophy the power of the absolute
concept and dialectical ratio is broken.23 His Absolute conceals in
itself the Abgrund. The Abgrund is what is opposed to all essence
as formed essence and to ratio, reason, in general. This opposition
is the most basic determination for the process of the Absolute, its
history. The dialectic of concepts and with it logical negation
Considerations on "Der Satz Vom Grund" 251

belongs to the realm of form and formed essence and is, therefore,
derivative. To think the Absolute means for Schelling to think it in
its absence, and that means, to think it as Abgrund.
Schelling's destructive move can be described in terms of
speculative thinking. This might be the reason why Heidegger
characterizes Schelling'S speculations about the ground as
metaphysical. But they can serve for precisely that reason as the
most perfect expression of Heidegger's intention in the framework
of systematical metaphysical thinking.
252 Thomas M. Seebohm


1. M. Heidegger, Der Satz vom Grund (pfullingen: Neske, 1957). Hereafter

cited as SG.
2. It is, of course, possible in historical linguistic research to discover the
common root of the two meanings before they were separated in the development
of German language. But such common roots are (a) not known, not "conscious"
in the use of ordinary German and (b) Heidegger did not use such research in the
Satz vom Grund.
3. Other meanings would also be available and are not considered by
Heidegger. There is e.g. in Fichte the connection between Setzen, "to posit" and
4. Thomas A Fay, Heidegger: The Critique of Logic (The Hague: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1977). And, by the same author, "Heidegger: The Origin and
Development of Symbolic Logic," Kant-Studien 69 (1978), pp. 445-60.
5. M. Heidegger, Neue Furschungen aber Logik, Gesamtausgabe (GS) II
(Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1975), Volume 20.
6. GS, Volume 24.
7. G.W.F. Hegel, The Science of Logic, trans. Johnston and Struthers (New
York: Humanities Press, 1966), Volume I, p. 63, and Vol. II, p. 323.
8. Ibid., Volume I, pp. 55-62.
9. M. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1953), p. 89 ff, and p.
153ff. Hereafter cited as SZ.
10. Ibid., p. 359.
11. Ibid., p. 159.
12. M. Heidegger, Was heiflt Denken (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1954).
13. M. Heidegger, Die Frage nach dem Ding (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1962). See
also: "Die Zeit des Weltbildes," Holzwege (Frankfurt Klostermann, 1950), esp. pp.
70-77; "Wissenschaft und Bessingung," Vortriige und Au/siitze [1943-54] (Pfullingen:
Neske, 1961), esp. pp. 50-57; "Die Frage nach der Technik," Vortriige und AUfsiitze,
op. cit., pp. 13-14.
14. Joseph J. Kockelmans, Heidegger and Science (Washington D.C.: Center for
Advanced Research in Phenomenology and the University Press of America,
1985), esp. chapter v.
15. SZ, p.359.
16. M. Heidegger, Die Grundprobleme der Phiinomeno1ogie (Frankfurt
Klostermann, 1975). Hereafter cited as GP.
17. Joseph J. Kockelmans, "Kant's Method and Heidegger," Kant and
Phenomenology, ed;, Thomas M. Seebohm and Joseph J. Kockelmans (Washington
D.C.: Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology and the University Press
of America, 1984), pp. 161-83.
18. M. Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. J. Churchill
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962), pp. 27-30.
19. M. Heidegger, "Die Onto-Theologische Verfassung der Metaphysik," in
ldentitiit und Differenz (pfullingen: Neske, 1957).
20. See Thomas M. Seebohm, "Die Stellung der phiinomenologischen Idee der
Letztbegrundung zur Seinsfrage," in Einheit als Grundfrage der Philosophie, ed., K
Gloy and E. Rudolph (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1985).
Considerations on "Der Satz Yom Grund" 253
21. J. Fichte, Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, Werke, ed., 1. H
Fichte, Vol. 1, § 4, sections C, D, and the first baH of E.
22. Hegel, op. cit., Volume II, Book II, Section I, chapter 3; and Section ill,
chapter 3.
23. For Heidegger on Schelling, see: Martin Heidegger, Schelling's Treatise on
the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Joan Stambaugh, Series in Continental
Thought 8 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985).

by Richard E. Palmer

I. Introduction

It is well known that Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques

Derrida are associated with "hermeneutics" and "deconstruction,"
respectively. Both of these terms they drew from Heidegger, so one
could assume that for all their differences there are similarities
between them also. That may have been what prompted Professor
Gadamer to seek in the late seventies a friendly Auseinandersetzung
with Derrida- which eventually took place April 25-27, 1981, at
the Goethe Institute in Paris.} Indeed, Manfred Frank, who was
instrumental in arranging the 1981 symposium put forward in his
paper at the same conference four areas of common ground
between "Neostrukturalismus" and hermeneutics: First both are
"after Hegel, after Heidegger, after Nietzsche," and thus neither of
them finds in absolute consciousness any escape from history and
human finitude. Second, in neither of them is a transcendental
value evoked to justify life; rather values emerge from an
"infinitely perspectival interpretation." Third, neither of them finds
the epistemological subject to be the lord of his own being; rather
"self-understanding," as Gadamer calls it, comes about in a
semiotic context of a world "into whose structure a certain
interpretation of the meaning of being has already entered. Finally,
both neostructuralism and hermeneutics are both philosophies of
language in which language guides the onward march of
'consciousness'. ,,2
Several of the areas of common ground seem to converge in
Heidegger, yet at the same time many of the differences, the areas
of divergence, also go back to Heidegger -one might say, a
"different" Heidegger. On the only occasion when I had a
conversation with Heidegger (evening of July 21,1965), Heidegger
indicated that Gadamer's continuation of his thought had traded
away its radicality by mixing in elements of Hegel (the dialectic)
and Dilthey (Horizontverschmelzung was "straight out of Dilthey!").
Gadamer had just finished the final lecture of a summer semester
Vorlesung carrying the title "Von Hegel bis Heidegger," and
T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics, 255-305.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
256 Richard E. Palmer

Heidegger came down for the final lecture. Gadamer found the
interaction of Entbergung and Verbergung in Heidegger's discussion
of the Lichtung des 5eins subtly reflected a dialectical relation.
Heidegger subsequently noted that he was no philosopher of
"Absolutes Wissen," and that all of Hegel'S thinking culminates in
Wissen[knowing]. After Gadamer's lecture, I fell into step with
Heidegger and asked him whether the presence of a follower like
Gadamer was not reassuring to him, to which he replied
categorically that German philosophy was going "auf den Hunden"
[lito the dogs"].
Such an attitude, such a remark, makes one wonder whether
Heidegger might perhaps have found in the iconoclastically radical
Jacques Derrida a follower more to his liking. After all, like
Heidegger, Derrida was an admirer of Nietzsche. It is not
accidental that in his paper for the symposium on "Text and
Interpretation," Derrida addressed himself to Heidegger's
interpretation of Nietzsche. Here, we find Derrida's Heidegger to
be a figure radically different from the Heidegger which Gadamer
takes as his inspiration for an ontological, linguistic, historical
How Heideggerian is Gadamer? It is not accidental that
Gadamer in Wahrheit und Methode is not satisfied to develop a
hermeneutics solely out of Heidegger but goes back to Friedrich
Schleiermarcher and Schleiermacher's famous biographer, Wilhem
Dilthey, while at the same time all but ignoring the current of
philological hermeneutics embodied in August Boeckh. Nor is it an
accident that Gadamer shows the fruitfulness of Hegel (following
Heidegger in his Hegels Begriff der Erjahrunt) in comparison with
Schleiermacher, as he tried (following Heidegger) to free himself
of the emphasis on method in Schleiermacher's allgemeine
Hermeneutik and from the scientific quest for Allgemeingu.ltigkeit in
order to "ground" the Geisteswissenschaften in hermeneutics as
found in Dilthey.
On the other hand, Derrida takes up the Heidegger that
Gadamer seemingly puts aside, the Heidegger of the Destruktion
(deconstructive reading) of the history of ontology (5Z 5), the
Heidegger who wants, like Nietzsche, to "go beyond metaphysics"
through a new analysis and understanding of time. Gadamer, as
a student of Plato trained in classical philology and philosophy
whose doctoral thesis was on Plato's dialectical ethics, winces at
Gadamer and Derrida 257

Heidegger's Plato interpretations and labels Heidegger's return to

the early Greeks as "an adventurous journey into error"-"eine
abenteuerhafte Irrefahrt" ("Destruktion und Dekonstruktion," GW
II, 363; DD, op.cit,p. 104). On the other hand, Derrida is
interested in Heidegger's return to the Presocratics and to the
Greek verb ousia. Heidegger was seeking an opening to a different
sense of being, of presence, a sense that being is here and now in
the "happening" of Being rather than being bifurcated into the
metaphysical dualism of time and eternity. Gadamer, in contrast
to Derrida, is less enthusiastic about Heidegger's references to "die
Sprache der Metaphysik." In a 1985 essay, he is more explicit than
before about his disagreements with Heidegger, noting that with
regard to the language of metaphysics there are metaphysical
concepts within language, but metaphysics is not itself a language
(DD 366/106). Derrida takes seriously this aspect of Heidegger's
project in his attacks on the "logocentrism" of Western thought.
In making comparisons on specific points one does well to
remember that Derrida stands in a quite different "Ort" ["place"]
from that of Gadamer; not just geographically, linguistically, and
in his experience of history, but also in relation-in filiation- to
Heidegger. Gadamer was born in 1900 while Derrida was born in
1930. Gadamer (in contrast to Heidegger, as he once pointed out
to me) was reared in a culturally refined home, with music, art,
literature, and educated company, at hand. A Lutheran, educated
in classical philolOgy and especially in Plato, Gadamer was a
younger contemporary of Heidegger (eleven years younger), and
his essay on Heidegger's Marburg years is a valuable historical
document of the powerful impact Heidegger had as an explicator
of texts from his earliest teaching days. Gadamer found in
Heidegger a powerful thinker whose project had powerful
consequences for the ways in which time, history, language, and
art were apprehended, and he translated these consequences into
his monumental work on hermeneutics, Wahrheit und Methode.
In contrast, Derrida, we learn from his 1983 interview with Le
Nouvel Observateur, was born in EI Biar, a suburb of Algiers in
French colonial Africa, into an assimilated" Sephardic-Jewish

family in 1930. His childhood experiences included both the

Second World War and the antisemitic persecutions during the
occupation; for instance, he was, as a Jew, summoned to the
principal's office and dismissed from the school he was attending.
258 Richard E. Palmer

At 19 he moved to Paris, and a chance radio broadcast on Camus

the day after he received his baccalaureate degree drew him to
enroll in a philosophy course at the Ecole Normale. Although he
never met Sartre, Sartre's thought was a major early influence,
even though he found many faults with Sartre; indeed, he refers
to Sartre as "this man who rejected or imperfectly understood so
many theoretical and literary events of his time. 114 His
philosophical study immediately plunged him into close reading
of Hegel under Jean Hippolyte, then Hussed and Heidegger on the
German side, along with Blanchot, Bataille, Jabes, Ponge, Levinas,
and other French figures. Major currents of thought at the time in
addition to existentialism and phenomenology were Marxism,
Freudian psychoanalysis, Nietzsche, and the reign of
"structuralism" in the 1960's. From all of these he borrowed-but
critically and independently, without ever becoming a doctrinaire
Taken together, these currents of thought constitute a quite
different and more diverse milieu than that of Gadamer's Germany
in the fifties and sixties. Also, as an interpreter of Heidegger,
Derrida is working with a text in a second language, and in
working with phenomenology and Husserl in La voix et la
phenomeme, he parts company with thinkers like Foucault, for
instance, who, in his acceptance address to the College de France
in 1971, categorically rejected phenomenology as outdated. A
sympathetic reader of Levinas, Derrida is able to bring the
Levinasian critique to bear on his reading of the Heidegger, whom
he never saw, since Heidegger remained a fairly private figure.
Standing on the outside, on the margins, then, Derrida is able to
deal with Heidegger not as a disciple recognized by the master but
as an autonomous French interpreter free to find fault with a
thinker in whom he at the same time finds a great deal to admire.
Derrida's reading of Heidegger, as we shall see in specific texts,
shadows Heidegger's every move and linguistic gesture, moving
intimately into the texture and movement of the thinking of
Heidegger before turning a critical gaze on what is repressed and
hidden. In the manner of phenomenological analysis, he makes
explicit what is implicit, but in the manner of psychoanalysis and
also Heideggerian strategy, he also finds what is unconscious-the
"unthought" and unsaid-within the Heideggerian text. As La
Rochefoucault observed, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,
Gadamer and Derrida 259
and in imitating and continuing Heideggerian deconstruction,
Derrida marks himself as a follower, not just an "interpreter" of
Gadamer, on the other hand, stands in quite a different
"place"; in Germany, at Heidelberg, a prestigious university,
seeking to build on the Heideggerian legacy, but not uncritically.
He discretely adds to the Heideggerian hermeneutics-the
dialogical character of encounters with artworks and with texts, the
metaphor of game, the concept of Horisontverschmelzung-along
with a quiet noncontinuation of the hermeneutical extravagances
of the later Heidegger in returning to the Presocratics and in his
interpretations of Holderlin, George, and Trakl. Gadamer was not
antipathetic to poetry; on the contrary, he regards the poetic text
as the "eminent text," offers many interpretations of poetry, and
places a passage from Rilke as an epigraph for Wahrheit und
Methode. Rather, it was Heidegger's tendentious interpretations of
the Presocrates and of poetry in relation to the Destruktion of the
history of ontology that bothered Gadamer. Also, confident of his
education and tastes in classical philology, Gadamer drew back
from the violence and political implications of the later Heidegger's
poetic Erliiuterungen of Holderlin and others, even while he
recognized the trans formative potential of Heidegger's thought for
a new "hermeneutics."
Heidegger, of course, perceived both the additions and the
omissions-and felt betrayed. But perhaps there is poetic justice in
this, since Husserl, too, felt betrayed by Heidegger within weeks
after Heidegger succeeded to his chair at Freiburg.

II. Four Texts of Gadamer Interpreting Heidegger

To explore further the contrasts between these two inheritors

of the Heideggerian legacy, these two interpreters of
Heidegger-and, by extension, interpreters of interpretation-let
us turn briefly to some specific instances of Gadamer and Derrida
at work interpreting a text of Heidegger. For a sense of Gadamer
at work, let us look at Gadamer interpreting Heidegger in four
texts, two early and two from the 1980's: first, Wahrheit und
Methode (1960), then the "Einfiihrung" to a 1960 Reclam paperback
edition of Heidegger's famous essay, Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes,
260 Richard E. Palmer

and finally two recent essays, "Letter to Dallmayr" and

"Destruktion und Dekonstruktion" (both 1985), in which Gadamer,
nine years after Heidegger's death, speaks quite frankly about his
differences with Heidegger and also his relation to Derrida. For
Derrida, among many possibilities-such as "Ousia and Gramme,"
"Les fins de l'homme," or "La mythologie blanche" in Marges, or
his famous discussion of Heidegger's "Origin of a Work of Art,"
in La Verite en peinture, I believe-I will comment very briefly only
on his interpretations of Heidegger in four essays from the 1980's:
"Envoi" (1979-1980), "Signatures-Nietzsche/Heidegger: Deux
questions" (1981), "La main de Heidegger" ["Geschlecht II"] (1984-
85), and De J'esprit: Heidegger et la question (1987).


The task of exhaustively interrogating Gadamer's relationship

to Heidegger, tracing it through his major texts, would be a book
in itself. We can only attempt here, as Derrida so often says, "some
preliminary indications." Clearly Heidegger is a major impetus for
Truth and Method. Traces of Heidegger can be found in most of its
major themes: the historicity of understanding, the transformation
of the concept of the "hermeneutical circle," the ontology of
understanding, Gadamer's argument for the "truth" of art, the
overcoming of neo-Kantian epistemology through phenomenology,
and language as the "medium of hermeneutic experience," to name
a few. Still, Heidegger would probably find that the radicality of
his thought and of his deconstructive quest for the meaning of
being is watered down when placed in the context of a
philosophical, dialogical hermeneutics that speaks of the
"hermeneutical experience" and that forges links-not uncritically,
however-with the humanistic tradition, the "classical," Husserlian
phenomenology, Diltheyan historicism, Hegelian dialectic,
Christian theology of the Word, Platonic dialogue, and Aristotelian
phronesis, to name a few items.
Gadamer's strategy seems to be to find something important
in each of these influences, such as Dilthey, even as he seeks to
provide a provide a radically more inclusive hermeneutical
standpoint and shows the entrapment of each in partiality, a
strategy that owes something to Hegel's concept of the partiality
of every truth. Gadamer seems to rescue the "truth" in every
Gadamer and Derrida 261
partiality. It becomes evident in Wahrheit und Methode that
Gadamer is not just continuing the Heideggerian project; rather, he
has a standpoint, project, and contribution of his own. His is a
project that, using Heidegger, rehabilitates truth in art and
literature and attacks "the subjectivization of aesthetics since
Kant," indeed, that attacks "aesthetics" as such. It is a project that
attacks scientific objectivism in history and the humanities,
defending the value of the classics and the humanistic tradition
against a mindset shaped by the Enlightenment that downgrades
tradition as such. It is a project of showing the topicality and
importance of Aristotle (as Heidegger also argued) and exploring
the moment of application found in juridical hermeneutics. In
Gadamer's text Heidegger seems to find himself encased in the
very philosophical tradition that he believed was categorically
misguided. And the justification of prejudice (Vorurieil) in Wahrheit
und Methode was probably the "last straw" for Heidegger, as
Gadamer redirected Heidegger's radical attack on modernity, his
"step back" from representational thought, his project of a
deconstruction of the language of metaphysics, into a Hegelian-
Diltheyan, dialectical-hermeneutical defense of tradition against
scientism and "the subjectivizing of aesthetics since Kant." True,
Gadamer found ammunition for his project in Heidegger's
existential analytic of Dasein's understanding and in Heidegger's
essay on the origin of the work of art, but the revolutionary,
apocalyptic, orphic later Heidegger, with his references to the
destiny of the West and the sendings of Being, disappears in
Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics.
Still, the impetus of Heidegger's thinking is clearly present in
all three major parts of WM. In the first part, which deals with the
reopening of the issue of truth in art, Gadamer consciously makes
use of Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes. In the second part, on
redefining understanding in the Geisteswissenschaften, Gadamer is
building on the analysis of existential understanding put forward
by Heidegger in Sein und Zeit. And in the third part, on the
"ontological turn" toward a hermeneutic that makes language its
reference point and guide, Gadamer is obviously attempting to
bring the insights of the language-emphasis in the later Heidegger
to fruitful application in hermeneutics. An analysis of the
modifications of Heidegger's thought brought about by its being
placed in the context of each of the three parts would require a
262 Richard E. Palmer

lengthy discussion which cannot be entered into here, but we may

give some preliminary indications of such an analysis in reference
to Part II of Wahrheit und Methode.
It is surprising how little space is actually given to analysis of
Heidegger's text itself in Part II. His name does not occur in the
first two sections on the historical preparation and on Dilthey's
entrapment in the aporiae of historicism, pp. 162-228. It is in the
third section, on the overcoming of the epistemological standpoint
through phenomenological investigation that Heidegger's project
of a "hermeneutic phenomenology" is taken up. Here he rightly
emphasizes the radical attack on philosophy of reflection, on the
Kantian-Neokantian tradition of transcendental philosophy, and
unmistakably on the Husserlian version of this. He notes:

Heidegger's thesis was: Being itself is Time. This thesis shattered the
whole of subjectivism as the basis of modern philosophy, and this
also included, as he was soon to show, shattering the whole horizon
of questioning in metaphysics dealing with Being as the being of
what is present [to consciousness] (Sein als Anwesenden). (WM 243)

Gadamer, writing in the late 1950's, clearly grasps the radical

consequences of Heidegger's project in Sein und Zeit not just as a
new starting for ontological thinking but as a broad challenge to
all philosophies that make consciousness their ultimate reference
point, such as Neokantianism and Husserl's later phenomenology.
For, Gadamer points out, Heidegger makes the IIda" in IIDasein"
something prior to consciousness and thereby goes beyond all
transcendental philosophy:

The fact that Dasein is concerned with its being, that it is

distinguished from all other beings by its understanding of Being,
does not mean, as it might appear in Being and Time, that it takes a
transcendental standpOint as its ultimate basis. Rather, it points to
a quite different basis, to that which makes all Seinsverstiindnis
possible; which is, that there is [es gibt] "da" at all, eine Lichtung im
Sein, an opening, a clearing in Being; that is, the difference between
Being and beings. (WM 243)

This giving of a "there" by Being reverses the direction of

questioning from the being of beings to the being of Being, II a
direction which necessarily remained unthought, indeed precisely
Gadamer and Derrida 263

because it was covered up and hidden by the way metaphysics put

the question about Being" (WM 243). This reversal of direction in
Being and Time (not to be confused with the later Kehre, but in
parallel with it), Gadamer notes, led to Heidegger's assertion of the
"Seinsvergessenheit" that "reigned over Western thought ever
since ancient Greek metaphysics" and to Heidegger's raising the
problem of Being in terms of Nothingness.
Gadamer makes all the connections, even the fact that
Heidegger's leap beyond philosophies of consciousness and
beyond Western metaphysics as a whole is not indebted to Dilthey
or Husserl but rather to Nietzsche's radical critique of Platonism
(WM 243-44). We cannot trace Gadamer's further delineation of
how Heidegger's existential analysis of Verstehen was totally
outside and inconsistent with traditional metaphysics (245) and
methodologies of understanding (246), but we can see that
Gadamer's interpretation of Sein und Zeit captures the radicality of
Heidegger's challenge to the tradition both of metaphysics and
hermeneutic methodology. At the same time, it "places" it in the
context of a philosophical tradition with which it was engaged. It
shows how the Heideggerian standpoint expanded the "problem
of hermeneutics" to a universal compass, and also, according to
Gadamer, provided a new model of one's relationship to the text:

The belongingness of the interpreter to his/her object, for which the

historical school was not able to find any satisfactory account,
acquires here a concretely demonstrable meaning, and it is the task
of hermeneutics to show us this meaning. (249)

Yet it was precisely the "transcendentalen Sinn" (249, Gadamer's

underlining) that gives hermeneutics its "universal standpoint." So
even as Heidegger's thinking leaps beyond transcendental
philosophy and all philosophies of reflection, it does not, for
Gadamer, leap beyond transcendental and universal meanings. In
fairness to Gadamer, he is at this point in his argument building
on Heidegger 's own "Fundamentalontologie" to argue for a universal
dimension for hermeneutics, yet although Gadamer is ready to
accept fruit of Heidegger's reversal of thinking here, he wiUlater
balk at some of the more extreme consequences of the Kehre and
also Heidegger's political thinking.
264 Richard E. Palmer

One final note: Although Heidegger's contribution to Wahrheit

und Methode is decisive and indispensable in the fabric of
Gadamer's narrative, he is only one of dozens of thinkers who are
drawn into the argument. Heidegger is effectively integrated back
into the very tradition he was rejecting, made into a transformative
contributor to the development of hermeneutics and the
development of philosophy, while Gadamer tactfully omits those
aspects of the Heideggerian legacy he does not find useful. It is the
monumental achievement of Sein und Zeit, not the later Heidegger,
whose analysis provides the basis for Gadamer's universal,
historical, ontological new account of understanding in


Gadamer's edition of Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes (The Origin

of the Artwork) in an inexpensive Reclam edition in 1960 obviously
serves as a theoretical adjunct to his own masterwork, in which
this essay plays an important role. While studying with Gadamer
in Heidelberg in 1965, I presented a paper on Gadamer's Wahrheit
und Methode to a small circle of his assistants and colleagues. In it,
I attempted to show the connections between his analysis in that
work and Heidegger's Sein und Zeit. His reply was that I had
totally omitted the importance of Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes and
it was this work which was of great importance to Wahrheit und
Methode also. After all, Heidegger does not take up the question of
art and the artwork at all in Sein und Zeit and this topic is a major
concern of Gadamer's, both in Wahrheit und Methode and in his
later works. For Gadamer, following Heidegger, poetry is language
in its most condensed and powerful form. The same reversal of
direction of meaning which Heidegger accomplished in Sein und
Zeit-where the meaning flows from the clearing of the da of
Dasein-is carried over in the essay on the origin of the artwork,
where art (Kunst), not the subjectivity of the subject, is the "origin"
of the artwork. This radical reversal of direction changes the
interpreter, acts on the interpreter, contains a truth that "happens"
to the interpreter. Earth is something that stands in itself and then
emerges, discloses itself, in the "world" of the interpretation. The
artwork makes a claim that the mere thing or object does not, the
Gadamer and Derrida 265

artwork discloses the being of its material components in a way

that non-art objects do not.
Gadamer's 24-page introduction to the essay followed the
general order of many of his essays-beginning with a very
general historical review and situation of the topic. In this case,
Gadamer looks back in his own recollections to the post-World
War I period in Germany and the intellectual and cultural
influences of the period, then turns to the way in which
Heidegger's Sein und Zeit was related to them, asserting lithe
central ontological certainty of temporality" (106) as the foundation
of Dasein's self-understanding. In Sein und Zeit, things in the world
are given as zuhanden (ready-ta-hand) before they become
vorhanden (present at hand) as objects. It would seem obvious that
in art we also go back to the realm of the zuhanden but art is not
mentioned in Sein und Zeit and the realm of the ready-ta-hand is
analyzed in terms of implements like a hammer that exist
unobtrusively in one's world until they break down.
Gadamer observes that when Heidegger took up the subject
of art in 1936, it was a great surprise (eine iiberraschung), and
created "a philosophical Sensation,"-"eine philosophische
Sensation." The concept of "world" was already a part of
Heidegger's thinking as something that went radically beyond a
metaphysics of the present at hand; but, Gadamer observes, lithe
startling thing was that now this concept of World acquired a
counterconcept: Earth" (108). Such a concept had "ein mythischer
und gnostischer Urlaut, der h6chstens in der Welt der Dichtung
Heimatrecht haben mOchte" (108), a mythic and gnostic ring that
at best might claim a home in poetry; specifically, its source was
the poetry of H6lderlin, Gadamer tells us, "which Heidegger had
at that time turned to with passionate intensity" (108). Still, what
Dasein comes upon in Befindlichkeit, Gadamer notes, "represents
the extreme limit beyond which the historical self-understanding
of human Dasein could not advance" (109). There was no way, in
the horizon of Sein und Zeit to get from the analysis of Befindlichkeit
to a concept such as Earth. It remained for Der Ursprung des
Kunstwerkes to provide that link: Earth was a necessaryII

determinant of the being of the work of art" (110).

Then Gadamer turns to the issue of the philosophical
significance of the question of the nature of the work of art. For
this, he says, we must turn to the "concept of a philosophical
266 Richard E. Palmer

aesthetics." There follows an analysis similar to that in Wahrheit

und Methode in which Gadamer traces the modem history of
aesthetics since the 18th century, and Kant's Third Critique, which
related aesthetics to the taste of the viewer of the artwork, and
thus the work of art stands outside the norms and rules of reason.
It was a "great accomplishment," Gadamer grants, to give art
autonomy from the Regelfrommigkeit und Moralglaubigkeit of
previous views of art, but the grounding of aesthetics in the
subjectivity of "Gematskrafte" was the beginning of a subjectivizing
process that put the issue of truth beyond the realm of art and, by
default, assumed lithe systematic priority of scientific cognition.
What truly is, is the thing, the fact given to the senses, that which
will provide natural science with objective knowledge" (113). The
question of "truth" or the truth of art becomes unaskable within
this context.
Heidegger's analysis changes all this, for the work of art is not
an object, nor even a sign that points beyond itself: "A work of art
presents itself in its own being, so that the beholder must tarry by
it" (116). The being of earth-the materiality of the tone, the fabric,
the colors-discloses itself in the eventing" of the artwork. What

impresses Gadamer, at this point, is the revolutionary impact these

conceptions have on traditional aesthetics:

In all this, Heidegger not only gives a description of the mode of

being of the work of art that avoid the prejudices of traditional
aesthetics and the modern conception of subjectivity, he also avoids
simply renewing the speculative aesthetics that defined the work of
art as the sensuous manifestation of the Idea. (117-18)

But it is also something that goes beyond aesthetics to the general

question of truth and its occurrence in human life. Above all, the
encounter with a work of art is an encounter in which truth occurs.
Not the scientific truth of correspondence but another sort of truth:

A unique manifestation of truth occurs in the work of art. . . it is

meaningful to speak of a happening of truth [Geschehen der Wahrheit].
This means that Heidegger's essay is not limiting itself to giving a
more adequate description of the being of the work of art. Rather it
is one of his central philosophical goals to grasp Being itself as a
happening of truth, which is supported by this analysis. (118,
emphasis added)
Gadamer and Derrida 267

This truth is not a matter of a statement that corresponds to

something that already exists in the world. Rather, "not only is
something meaningful given to experience that was not known
before, but also something new comes into existence with the work
of art itself. It is not just a manifestation of a truth but is itself an
Ereignis, an 'event'." (119)
It is, as Gadamer notes, an event that goes beyond art to the
question of the disclosure, of being itself: "The conflict between
revealment and concealment is not the truth of the work of art
alone, but the truth of every being, for as unhiddenness, truth is
always such an opposition of revealment and concealment" (122).
This conception of truth does not stand within the context of a
subject-object schema, or fact and representation, for this kind of
truth "is not simply the mere presence of something that can stand
over and against a correct representation of it.. .. Such a concept of
being unhidden would presuppose the subjectivity of the Dasein
that represents beings ... "(122). Then Gadamer makes a very typical
gesture, the appeal to "what everyone has experienced": "What
Heidegger means can be confirmed by everyone: an existent
thing... has an inner depth of self-sufficiency that Heidegger calls
its 'standing-in-itself'" (122-123). This standing in itself is expressed
in art in its very resistance to the characteristically modem will to
control and dominate things. It is in the work of art that "we
experience an absolute opposition to the will to control"(123). The
interpretation of the work of art, the encounter with the work of
art, the truth of the work of art, then, constitute evidence that the
modem will for total domination of the external world had a limit,
has an opposite in an encounter differing radically from the
modem mindset.
Gadamer sees in Heidegger, in both Sein und Zeit amd Der
Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, the possibility of a radical critique not
only of the "subjectivization of aesthetics since Kant," of idealist
epistemological notions, but also the excesses of a culture given
over to technical domination. He finds in the concepts of the
happening of truth, of the clearing, of hiddenness and
unconcealment, and art as poetizing, anticipations of Heidegger's
later thinking. At no point does his interpretation undertake to
criticize the essay that he himself was valiantly seeking to make
fruitful in Wahrheit und Methode, which appeared in the same year.
Perhaps considerations of tact prevented him from bringing
268 Richard E. Palmer

reservations forward, reservations about which Gadamer can be

more frank in two essays written nine years after Heidegger's
death and in response to Derrida's rival philosophy of
interpretation based on Heidegger, among others. To these two
essays we now tum.


"Destruktion und Dekonstruktion" was originally presented

in Rome in May, 1985 and later published in second volume of the
GesammeIte Werke (1986). The "Letter to Dallmayr" was written in
the spring of the same year and has appeared in English
translation along with a translation of "Destruktion und
Dekonstruktion" in a recently published collection of essays on
Gadamer's encounter with Derrida which Diane Michelfelder and
I edited and translated: Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-
Derrida Encounter, 1989 (see footnote 1). In both of these essays
Gadamer is in effect continuing his debate with Derrida over the
Heideggerian legacy and his interpretation of Heidegger. At that
time Heidegger had been dead nine years, so Gadamer could
speak more frankly than previously in print over where he differed
with Heidegger. Indeed, his effort to deal with Derrida as a
competing interpreter of Heidegger offered a unique opportunity
for clarification of these issues. Thus, in both essays, Gadamer not
only continues in public the ongoing private debate he had with
Heidegger over the "language -of metaphysics," the legacy of
Hegel, and Heidegger's return to Nietzsche, Holderlin, and the
Presocratics but also he seeks to confront Derrida's presumed
objections to his position.
The "Letter to Dallmayr" was a twelve-page reply to a paper
Dallmayr had sent Gadamer which reviewed and evaluated the
1981 encounter with Derrida as published in Text und Interpretation
(1984).5 The letter begins with a lament that the clarification of
issues between two great interpreters of Heidegger had not come
off as he had hoped, which he blamed in part on the language
barrier and the fact that Nietzsche also did not provide a common
ground. In reality, there were many other obstacles: Derrida seems
not a have read much in Gadamer's writings and in his response
to Gadamer relied solely on the paper Gadamer had presented at
the symposium. Also, Josef Simon has speculated in an essay on
Gadamer and Derrida 269

the encounter that for Derrida just to consent to enter into a

dialogue with Gadamer seems to concede in advance that there is
a common ground between them, robbing Derrida of alterity.
Derrida himself remarked to Neal Oxenhandler sometime later that
he had the feeling that "nothing had happened"; furthermore, he
was not feeling well at the time, and, besides, a serious discussion
would require preparation he simply did not have time for in his
whirlwind schedule.6 In an essay I wrote on the dialogue/ I
pointed out that politically Derrida had little to gain and much to
lose in such an encounter, and an agreeable encounter would itself
send an undesired message. The encounter at the time seemed a
draw. Nothing seemed to have happened.
In his letter to Dallmayr, Gadamer took the opportunity to
reflect on the encounter after a four-year interval. In the original
encounter, Derrida responded to Gadamer's paper, but Gadamer
did not have the opportunity to comment on Derrida's paper on
Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche. He takes that opportunity
in this letter and in the essay that follows. Allying himself with
Heidegger against Derrida's criticisms, Gadamer remarks that he
was the "willing victim" ["williges Opfer"] of Heidegger's Nietzche
interpretation, whereas it would appear that Derrida is using
Nietzsche to go beyond Heidegger. Says Gadamer, Along withII

Heidegger, I see metaphysics in Nietzsche in the process of self-

disintegration." Of course, "in taking up and continuing
hermeneutics as philosophy, I would appear [to Derrida] at best as
the lost sheep in the dried up pastures of metaphysics---das in die
verdorrenden Gefilde der Metaphysik verirrte Schar (DD 94).
To this imagined reproach from Derrida, Gadamer responds
heatedly with a rhetorical question:

Have I really gone astray even though I intended to follow

Heidegger when he spoke about the overcoming [iiberwindung] or
recovering [Verwindung] from metaphysics? Certainly it is true that
I have held fast to hermeneutics-which he placed at the center of
his ontology of Dasein-against his own later decision in this regard.
But in so doing I did not by any means intend to hold fast at the
same time to his transcendentally conceived fundamental ontology.
Rather, it is precisely the new trajectories in thought opened by the
later Heidegger-drawing into the hermeneutical dimension the
themes of the artwork, the thing, and language-that have guided
my way. I cannot see that I have somehow fallen into that very
270 Richard E. Palmer

metaphysics or onto-theology whose overcoming and recovering

from was Heidegger's task of thinking. (LO 94)

Here Gadamer is claiming his own faithfulness to the

Heideggerian project of overcoming metaphysics and his own
effort to bring "into the hermeneutical dimension" themes in the
later Heidegger, such as artwork, thing, and language. Imagining
himself accused of "logocentrism" by Derrida, Gadamer goes on
to define logocentrism as "onto-theo-Iogy" and presence at hand,
and argue that in Being and Time "Heidegger had already gone
beyond such a concept of being," for example "in his analysis of
the hermeneutical structure of Existenz" (94). Gadamer is concerned
to say that he very well understands Heidegger's project of going
beyond metaphysics, he has carefully studied the later Heidegger,
and he has attempted to present a "postmetaphysical"
hermeneutics following the impetus of Heidegger.
"But," I think he imagines Derrida saying, "surely your
dialogical model with its emphasis on conversation draws you
back into a metaphysics of presence and all its conceptual errors?"s
To follow Gadamer's answer to this, we have to realized it has
several steps. First, Gadamer concedes that he has substituted the
notion of dialogue "as a mode of being unterwegs zur Sprache" in
the place of Heidegger's existential structure of speech in Sein und
Zeit, namely Rede, but in doing so, he argues, "I am holding very
systematically to the starting point of Sein und Zeit-that is, Dasein
understanding itself in its being." This brings up the key term that
Gadamer elsewhere shows as connected with Protestant theology,
Selbstverstiindnis. Here, again, he claims to follow Heidegger in
understanding it existentially:

This self-understanding is, in all its forms, the extreme opposite of self-
consciousness and self-possession. Rather, it is an understanding that
always places itself in question, which is not only grounded on what
Heidegger called Jemeinigkeit ...but encompasses at the same time all
recognition of oneself in the other, which first opens up in dialogue.
(95; emphasis added)

This addition of the conversational model is an enhancement of

hermeneutics, he argues, adding a dimension that both involves
limits and human finitude and at the same time is universal, since
Gadamer and Derrida 271

conversation takes place wherever, whenever, and with


whomever something comes to language" (95).

Next, Gadamer denies Derrida's charge that his turn to
conversation as an experiential basis for his hermeneutics is a
falling back into logocentrism, by recalling that Heidegger
criticized the Greeks themselves llwith respect to their ocularity,
their eidos-oriented thinking, their leveling of the logos into the
logic of referential thought [Logik der Apophansis]." Gadamer says
that he too rejects this kind of logocentrism. But he turns to
reproach Derrida:

But then to go on to speak about Heidegger's criticism of logocentrism

as itself a logocentrism represents, in my view, a misunderstanding
of the mysterious character of the word. The word is what one
person speaks and another understands. How does presence playa
role in this? Who listens at all to his or her own voice? And who
understands what he or she merely hears? Here, it seems to me,
Derrida in his accurate criticism of Husserl's Logical Investigations
and of his concept of Kundgabe .. .lets himself be led into making a
false imputation. And this has fateful consequences for his approach
to Heidegger and to hermeneutics. (95; emphasis added)

For Gadamer, to move outside the conversational model of living

language is to fall back into the reductionist models of semiotics.
And this is what, according to Gadamer, leads Derrida into
asserting the primacy of writing over conversation.
Replying to Derrida's assertion of the primacy of writing,
Gadamer answers: IIWhat is writing if it is not meant to be read?
Certainly I share with Derrida the conviction that a text is no
longer dependent on an author and his/her intention" (69). Textual
autonomy is not at issue. It is the question of whether
understanding is not somehow oral, and to speak of
understanding" is already to fall into metaphysics of presence.

Gadamer does continue to insist that a text speaks: IIEven so [with

independence of the text from the author], I only read a text with
understanding when the letters are not just deciphered but when
the text begins to speak, and that means when it is read with
appropriate modulations, articulations, and emphases... .! really
would like to know what understanding-and by implication,
reading with understanding-has to do with metaphysics" (96).
What Gadamer is describing here seems perfectly consistent with
272 Richard E. Palmer

semiotic descriptions of understanding as a productive activity.

What might be at issue is what Derrida thinks Gadamer is saying
about this moment of production. Unfortunately, Derrida was not
physically present to tell Gadamer what understanding has to do
with metaphysics of presence!
Finally, in this essay, Gadamer raises the thorny issue of the
"language of metaphysics," apparently a matter of considerable
discussion between himself and Heidegger over the years since the
appearance of Wahrheit und Methode. Indeed, in the text, we find
Gadamer conceding that Heidegger said of Gadamer's
hermeneutics that it fell back into metaphysics (98). Indeed,
Gadamer concedes that "I continue to speak the language of
metaphysics-and is this not the language of dialectic?" In an
apparent reference to Derrida'a essay in the encounter [on
Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzche], Gadamer says, "It seems
to me this is the point [dialectic?] Derrida criticizes in Heidegger
when he says that Heidegger falls back into the language of
metaphysics" (98). Again, Gadamer allows Derrida's criticism of
Heidegger to fall on himself, a move that realigns himself with
Heidegger, but then he turns the tables and has Derrida join
Heidegger in criticizing him: "Does not Heidegger himself say that
we are always in danger of falling back into metaphysics? Certainly
he has said this about my development of his 'hermeneutical' initiative"
(98; underlining added).
This charge, this shift, which puts Derrida and Heidegger
together reproaching him provokes a veritable apologia pro vita sua:
"In response to this I would ask: What is 'the language of
metaphysics' supposed to mean? Is there actually any such
thing?"(98) He flashes back to his early studies with Heidegger
and the emergence of the concept of Destruktion. Here we find
Gadamer putting forward his rival account of this Heideggerian
strategy and even making some remarks about "what special need
caused him to undertake this Destruktion" (100). Although he
sought to carry through Heidegger's critique of modern concepts,
he could not agree with him about the "language of metaphysics":

I learned from the young Heidegger what "Begrifflichkeit" [thinking

in and through concepts?] is and what it means for thinking. Above
all, I learned to see how much self-alienation lurked in the
conceptual tradition of modem thought. So as I encountered
Gadamer and Derrida 273

Heidegger, I immediately felt pursued by the pathos of Destruktion .

. . . but I have not been able to follow Heidegger, or anybody else,
when they speak of the "language of metaphysics," "the right
language of philosophy," or the like. Language, for me, is always
simply that which we speak with others and to others.... (98)

Gadamer's point is that Destruktion (deconstruction) is a process of

critical interaction with concepts, not a "language." What Heidegger
achieved by the deconstruction of the concept of subject and object,
the Greek concept of substance, and the Greek concept of being
was the deconstruction of a "metaphysical conceptuality" not the
"language. of metaphysics," because metaphysics does not have a
language other than the living language we all speak. It does not
destroy concepts but lets them speak. In a typical gesture that
invokes consensus and "the experience we all have," he asks:

Who can fail to recognize that the language we humans speak has
always pre-formed our thinking? . . . In Heidegger the word
Destruktion never means destruction but rather dismantling [Abbau].
Its purpose is to take concepts that have become rigid and lifeless
and fill them again with meaning.... The goal of Destruktion is to
let the concept speak again in its interwovenness in living language.
This is a hermeneutical task. (99-100; emphasis added)

Destruktion is not a task opposed to hermeneutics, it is itself a

"hermeneutical task." Hermeneutics and deconstruction are not
opposed concepts, then, nor does Gadamer see Destruktion as a
desertion of the history of Western rationality. On the contrary, he
asserts in his closing sentence, "I do not see how-for Nietzsche,
or for Derrida himself--deconstruction can mean the repudiation
of this history" (110).
This closing sentence implies that for Derrida, deconstruction
would involve repudiating the Western metaphysical tradition,
more specifically the tradition of rational thought since Plato and
especially Descartes and Kant-Le., lithe tradition." Gadamer
seems to be saying that it is one thing to show that a certain
picture or conceptuality has held us captive, as Wittgenstein has
put it, and quite another to repudiate the tradition in toto or the
language in which the picture or concept appears. It would seem
that Gadamer is reproaching both Heidegger and Derrida with
"the repudiation of this history."
274 Richard E. Palmer

But is this a fair reproach? It would seem that what Heidegger

means by the "language of metaphysics" is in fact metaphysical
conceptualities that have conditioned our sense of time, being,
thing, artwork, bridge, shoe, temple and powerstation on the
Rhein. It is not too hard to grasp this point, although one may not
agree with his analyses. In fact, in his "Destruktion und
Dekonstruktion" Gadamer himself speaks of Heidegger's early use
of language that broke with the solid and dignified "Schulsprache
der Metaphysik," scholastic language of metaphysics. Nor does it
seem fair to tax Derrida with repudiating the history of Western
rationality, since Derrida's deconstruction would seem to be a
strategy of boring from within, of staying within texts and
concepts of that history and patiently trying to free us from
"logocentric" conceptualities (not necessarily restoring them,
however, which seems to be what Gadamer is suggesting
deconstruciton should do if it wants to follow Heidegger). Derrida
seems to be inclined to enter into critical/ deconstructive dialogue
with canonical texts in the tradition more than many contemporary
Anglo-American analytic and pragmatic thinkers. And just for this
reason he also seems more "hermeneutical" than they; that is,
more inclined than many other contemporaries to use close textual
interpretation of certain canonical texts as a manner of
philosophical investigation.


Very briefly, let us consider the essay "Destruktion und

Dekonstruktion." We find some of the same ideas as in the "Letter
to Dal1mayr." For instance, Gadamer again attacks the idea of the
"language of metaphysics" and is even more blunt: "There is no
'language of metaphysics'. There is only a metaphysically thought-out
coinage of concepts that have been lifted from living speech" (107;
emphasis added). Gadamer refers to Heidegger's deconstruction of
ousia, a word which has "has increasingly lost its original sense as
grounded in being" (107). It is this process of hardening and
alienation that must be overcome. "Thus, the task of a Destruktion
of the conceptuality of metaphysics was posed. This is the only
tenable sense of talk about the 'language of metaphysics'" (107).
What Gadamer adds here, however, is a clue as to why the
issue of "the language of metaphysics" is so important to him. The
Gadamer and Derrida 275

key issue is the Hegelian dialectic and how each of them responds
to it. After suggesting that Heidegger's later thinking "actually
held to his fundamental project by maintaining in a sublimated
form, the deconstructive achievement present in its beginnings,"
Gadamer offers this luminous and significant sentence:

It seems to me that, along with Heidegger's own efforts to leave

behind lithe language of metaphysics" with the help of Holderlin's
poetical language, two other paths exist and have in fact been taken
in efforts to overcome the ontological self-domestication belonging
to dialectic and move into the open. (109)

It is this turn toward poetical language as an escape from lithe

language of metaphysics" that Gadamer would not take with
Heidegger; this is the turning point where he cannot follow the
master any more. Basically, Gadamer considered most of
Heidegger's efforts to make a radical break with Western
conceptuality as misguided. Gadamer says that as Heidegger
realized that his "fundamental ontology of Dasein could
not... overcome its own self-reference and hence a fundamental
positing of self-consciousness" he turned to Nietzsche and his
"hazardously radical thought experiments" (104). Yet these offered
only paths that led nowhere-"Holzwege." Indeed, "these paths,
after the Kehre [the turn of the way of Heidegger's thinking toward
being guided by Being], led into impassable regions." Furthermore,
the effort to "step back from Aristotle's concept of Being as physis
to the experience of Being in its Presocratic beginnings" through
the analysis of texts remained "an adventurous journey into error"
(104). "Heidegger hoped to find in Anaximander, then in
Heraclitus, then in Parmenides, then again in Heraclitus, in the
originary experience of Being, testimony to the mutual
interweaving of concealment and disclosure," but in the end, says
Gadamer, "it was not really valid for the speaking-that is to
say,the kind of self-interpretation-one encounters in the early
Greek texts" (105). For Gadamer, then, Heidegger's later thinking
wandered off into "labyrinthian paths to error." They were simply
"ungehbar," and no sane person could follow him. "In the naming
power of words, Heidegger found precious veins of gold, in which
he could only recognize again and again his own vision of Being:
that 'Being' is not to be construed as the Being of beings" (105). So
276 Richard E. Palmer

Heidegger "became a fellow traveller with Nietzsche for a short

stretch of his own way" (105) with equally inconclusive results.
But Gadamer's luminous sentence cited above in the block
quote contains more. It refers to "efforts to overcome the
ontological self-domestication belonging to dialectic." The
metaphysics Heidegger fears, says Gadamer, is ultimately the
powerful metaphysics of Hegelian dialectic. Gadamer's
hermeneutics follows and incorporates dialectical elements,
whereas Heidegger denies such elements even the relationship
between Entbergung and Verbergung, Earth and world, Being and
beings, seems dialectical. Dialectic is the powerful magnet, the
charybdis toward which modem philosophers feel drawn and
labor to free themselves.
In translating this essay, I considered retitling it "Three Paths
Back from Dialectic," for this is what Gadamer is proposing here,
and it is the heart of his argument. Heidegger's effort to leave
behind the "language of metaphysics" is really an effort to step
back, to make a path back and away from the conceptual
entrapment of the dialectic. What about the second of the "two

One is the path from dialectic back to dialogue, back to conversation.

This is the way I myself have attempted to travel in my
philosophical hermeneutics. The other is the way shown primarily
by Derrida, the path of deconstruction. On this path, the awakening
of a meaning hidden in the life and liveliness of conversation is not
an issue. Rather, it is in an ontological concept of ecrituTe...that the
very integrity of sense as such is to be dissolved, thereby
accomplishing the authentic shattering of metaphysics. (109)

Gadamer finds here in the opposition to, and fear of, the seductive
metaphysical power of the dialectic a way of distinguishing the
three paths taken by Heidegger, himself and Derrida and at the
same time a common ground in postmetaphysical thinking. It is
significant that Gadamer is not opposed the project of overcoming
metaphysical concepts but quibbles with the term "language of
metaphysics." Ultimately he cites his recourse to conversation in
his hermeneutics as the path he took to avoid metaphysical
thinking. In making this distinction he indirectly answers the
Derridean critique that he is still entrapped in metaphysics. He
Gadamer and Derrida 277

follows Heidegger, but not into poetic mysticism or tendentious

interpretations of the Presocratics, however brilliant they may be.
After several pages of explaining that "conversation"
[Gespriich] in his hermeneutics is fruitful and not a fall back into
metaphysics, Gadamer relates his argument to Derrida, identifying
ecriture with a code model of language: "Clearly the dimension in
which our questioning is moving here has nothing to do with a
code, and the business of deciphering one. It is certainly correct
that a certain decoding process underlies all writing and reading
of texts, but this represents merely a precondition for hermeneutic
attention to what is said in the words. In this regard I am fully in
agreement with the critique of structuralism." Just when he
appears about to agree with Derrida's leap beyond structuralism
and the metaphysical assumptions of structuralism he identifies
Derrida with a code model of language: "But it seems to me that
I go beyond Derrida's deconstruction, since a word exists only in
conversation and never exists there as an isolated word but as the
totality of a way of accounting by means of speaking and
answering." Here, again, I think Gadamer oversimplifies Derrida's
But then he goes on to an even more daring charge: That
Derrida reads Heidegger too much through a Husserlian view of

Derrida speaks out against a metaphysical concept of logos and

against the logocentrism that is inscribed even in Heidegger's
question about Being as a question about the meaning of Being. But
this is an odd Heidegger, a Heidegger interpreted back through
Husserl; as if all speaking consisted merely of propositional
statements.... yet even in Husserl's efforts to build a respected
philosophy, it is precisely the experience of time and time-
consciousness that forms the prior basis of an "presence" and even
the constitution of supratemporal validity. (122)

So ecriture is now reproached with lacking even Husserl's

consciousness of time. It would take an extended discussion to sort
out and distinguish the rather different task that ecriture is
intended to accomplish in relation to the questions of temporality,
consciousness, and the movement of language, but the thrust of
Gadamer's objection is clear: the Derridean project appears to him
278 Richard E. Palmer

to desert the richness, historicity, and temporality of "living

language." And precisely because Derrida reads Heidegger through
Husserl, says Gadamer, "he takes Heidegger's borrowing of
Husserlian concepts, which is clearly noticeable in the
transcendental self-description present in Being and Time, as
evidence of Heidegger's logocentrism. Likewise, he deems [we are
not told where] as 'phonocentrism' the fact that I take not only
conversation but also the poem and its appearance in the inner ear
as the true reality of language. As if voice ...were not itself an act
of disappearance" (113).
Finally, in the final paragraph, Gadamer again aligns himself
with Heidegger against Derrida's reproach in the "Signatures"
essay that Heidegger totalizes and therefore falls back into
metaphysics: "To take up Nietzsche in a thoughtful way does not
seem to me to be some kind of falling back into metaphysics and
into the ontological concept of essence in which it culminates"
(113). Granted, but I believe Derrida's point, in the "Signatures"
essay was that in spite of Heidegger's own goal of a
postmetaphysical thinking, his analysis does seem to have
elements of totalizing. (Bernasconi has come to Heidegger's defense
on this point by arguing that Derrida totalizes Heidegger's
interpretation, which is really more variegated, nuanced, and
hesitant than Derrida credits it,9 making Derrida's interpretation of
Heidegger also seem somewhat interest-guided and tendentious.
But this leads us into our next major topic, namely, Derrida's
interpretation of Heidegger in four texts and contexts.

ITI. Four Texts of Derrida Interpreting Heidegger

We have seen in section II that Gadamer based his Wahrheit

und Methode on the Heidegger of "Der Ursprung des
Kunstwerkes," of Sein und Zeit, and on the later turn toward the
ontological priority of language, but that he drew back, both in
Wahrheit und Methode and in later essays, from Heidegger's radical
critique of "the language of metaphysics" and found his
Erliiuterungen of Holderlin's poetry and of presocratic fragments of
Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides only an "adventurous
journey into error." On the other hand, we shall see that Derrida
criticizes some aspects of Heidegger Gadamer had accepted as
insightful, namely Heidegger's Nietzsche interpretation, and that
Gadamer and Derrida 279

Derrida emphasizes (although accompanied by deconstructive

critique) certain aspects of Heidegger which Gadamer found
wrongheaded: the deconstruction of the "language of metaphysics"
in the West and the roots of Heidegger's political thinking. We
shall here restrict ourselves merely to giving "some preliminary
indications" of the direction of Derrida's interpretations of
Heidegger and their contrasts with Gadamer's in four essays from
the decade of the 1980s: "Envoi" (1979-80), "Signatures:
Nietzsche/Heidegger: Deux Questions" (1981), "La main de
Heidegger" (1984-85), and De l'esprit: Heidegger et la question (1987).


"Envoi" ["Sending"] was presented as the opening paper at

the 18th annual meeting of the Societes de Philosophie de Langue
Fran~aise in 1980 at Strasbourg. The theme of the meeting was
"Representation," and Derrida addresses in his paper the concept
of representation that has held sway in modernity, namely the
centered subject with the world at his/her disposal presents the
world to himself/herself in images. After a fairly lengthy
discussion of _the term "representation," including a rather
humorous review of the effort of French philosophers in 1900 to
have the term dropped from philosophical use, Derridabases his
discussion in the latter part of the paper on a critical exegesis of
Heidegger's "Die Zeit des Weltbildes," "The Age of the World
Picture" (1950). It is to that part of the paper we direct our
Basically, Derrida agrees with Heidegger's view that Descartes
and Hegel are the two "most powerful organizing moments" in the
modem reign of the world as representation. to Yet, as usual,
Derrida finds in Heidegger's language and conceptuality the very
structure of representation that he is questioning. For instance, he
remarks that Heidegger interprets the relationship of the modem
"age of representation" to the Greek epoch itself "in the
representative mode, as if the couple Anwesenheit/repraesentatio still
dictated the law of its own interpretation" (136/trans., 131).
Because it is the age of representation, it points back to an original
that sends out (envoi) its representation, its representative, the
combination of original and representative. In order for the epoch
of representation to have its sense and its unity as an epoch, it
280 Richard E. Palmer

must belong to the group of a more originary and more powerful

sending (envoi). And this powerful sending, for Derrida, seems to
be that of "being as Anwesenheit [presence]." In a complex sentence
that puts its hypothesis as a question, Derrida wonders if

all interpretation according to destiny or history prescribes for the

modem epoch of representation (in other words modernity, and in
the same text Heidegger translates: the era of subjectum, of
objectivism, of subjectivism, of anthropology of aesthetico-moral
humanism, etc.) an original envoi of being as Anwesenheit, which
itself translates as presence and then as representation according to
translations which are so many mutations in the same, in the being-
together of the same envoi .... (135/130)

If so, then a certain logocentrism lurks even in Heidegger's effort

at a postmodem standpoint. For even within the divisions of Greek
thinking there is the gathering together of the legein, which
escapes, preserves itself and thus assures a sort of indivisibility of
the "destinal." The various epochs, then, all come out of the
"grouped individuality of the envoi [sendings]" (135/130). It is
conceived by Heidegger in the representative mode, and just for
this reason Derrida asks:

Can we not then conclude that if there has been representation, the
epochal reading that Heidegger proposes for it becomes, in virtue of
this fact, problematic from the beginning, at least as a normative
reading (and it wishes to be this also), if not as an open questioning
of what offers itself to thought beyond the problematic, and even
beyond the question as a question of being, of a grouped destiny or
of the envoi of being? (131)

By deconstructing Heidegger's own analysis of the age of

representation, Derrida finds within it traces of representation,
presentation, and presence metaphysics that make it problematic.
Without even taking a counterpositlon, Derrida succeeds in calling
into question the coherence of the Heideggerian project. It is this
"hermeneutics of suspicion" in Derrida's interpretive relation to
Heidegger than contrasts with the relationship of Gadamer. Not
that Gadamer does not criticize Heidegger, but rather that Derrida
finds in the very language of Heidegger's thinking the metaphysics
it is seeking to overcome. It is not wrong to try to leap beyond the
Gadamer and Derrida 281

language of metaphysics or to criticize the epoch of representation,

but Heidegger's own effort falls back into metaphysics, even the
metaphysics of representation itself.
But Derrida marks himself as a Heideggerian with a
Heideggerian gesture that outdoes Heidegger. Derrida finds at
stake in Heidegger's analysis of the problem of representation, not
just the question of whether Heidegger stumbles in his analysis,
nor even the question of "the destiny of the West." What Derrida
wishes to call into question is the feasibility of assuming "a
sustaining sense" which serves as a foundation for organizing our
knowledge, and for our trust in "a centered and centralized
organization of all the fields or all of the sections of representation,
grouped around a sustaining sense, of a fundamental
interpretation... " (131). It is this sustaining sense that Heidegger is
invoking as a kind of coherence that holds the epoch of
representation together, so that one can lump it all within a single
totality. Certainly Derrida is indebted to Heidegger for the
standpoint from which he can take the measure of the metaphysics
of modernity, but he goes further to question the univocity, the
foundationalism, and the metaphysical and linguistic basis for
Heidegger's thought-along with that of modernity.
Derrida goes on to offer in his own name, however, what
looks very much like something deriving from the Lichtung-
Verbergung structure in the later Heidegger, a structure of
representation based on difference, on absence. In such a structure
based on difference,

the problematics or metamorphoses of representation that are called

"modem" would no longer at all be representations of the same,
diffractions of a unique sense starting from a single crossroads, a
single place of meeting or passing for convergent enterprises, a
single coming together or a single congress.
If I had not been afraid of abusing your time and your patience,
I would perhaps have tried to put to the test such a difference of
representation, a difference that would no longer, in contrast to
Anwesenheit, organize itself according to presence or as presence, a
difference that would no longer represent the same or the reflexivity
of the destiny of being, a difference that would not be recoverable
in the sending of the self, a difference as a sending that would not
be one, and not a sending of the self but sendings of the other, of
others. (132)
282 Richard E. Palmer

In a deconstructionist move, Derrida here finds in Heidegger the

very metaphysics of presence Heidegger wants to be transcending.
He finds Heidegger not staying with his own insight into the
limitations of representational thought, not carrying it far enough.
The remedy, for Derrida, lies in the very principle of "absence"
one can find in the concept of difference. To close his piece,
Derrida calls attention to two matters he finds are "unrepresented"
in the conference: the concept of representation in Freud, and the
concept of the unrepresentable-another Heideggerian theme, the
unsayable (132-35).
Derrida's discussion of Heidegger's interpretation of
representation, very briefly summarized here, may be taken as
typical of many of his readings, and I believe it is much closer to
the later Heidegger in style and tone than Gadamer generally is.
It is typical of Derrida's exegetical strategy to take a tiny piece,
perhaps a sentence or a paragraph from a much larger whole, and
make his point on the basis of the tiny piece through intense
philological analysis. This has the advantage that the audience has
before it the piece of text that is being explicated. On the other
hand, Gadamer will often generalize from a whole essay or even
the general project of Heidegger. Derrida here also makes another
characteristic move. After "placing" Heidegger through a minute
explication of the text, Derrida then attacks him for being
logocentric or metaphysical in spite of himself. Indeed, in reading
Derrida's analysis one has the sense that he often goes so minutely
into the text, snowing its deeper implications, that he seems to
know the author "better than he knew himself." But then, in an
abrupt turn, typical of Derrida's version of deconstruction, he will
show the text to be trapped in presence metaphysics, logocentrism,
or even phonologocentrism.
All this is also very Heideggerian, however. It is the
Heideggerian attack on representational thinking, sharpened now;
it is the Heideggerian rejection-of the metaphysics of modernity,
and anti-"humanism," the anti-establishment stance of Heidegger.
Derrida follows Heidegger Dack to Plato1:0 look for the wrong tum
that set the metaphysical forms for the West, but in a kind of
genealogical return in the style of Nietzsche. In a word, this
strategy is a "hermeneutics of suspicion" (as Ric<>eur calls it)
that-after the model of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud-finds the
mainstream consciousness and self-interpretation to be a false
Gadamer and Derrida 283

consciousness and a self-deception. Apocalyptic, prophetic, anti-

modem-all streams in Heideggerian thought.
In a sense, Heidegger and Derrida stand in a father~on, or
better, father-rebellious son relationship. The son rebels against the
father with the very tools the father has given him, radicalizing the
very ideals and goals the father has taught but incompletely
realized. I do not wish to imply that Derrida's debts are exclusively
to Heidegger. On the contrary, Derrida stands in the milieu of
contemporary French culture: Jabes, Baudrillard, Bataille, Lacoue-
Labarthe, Nancy, Lacan, the Freudians, the Marxists; he has a
Jewish heritage, including Levinas and his criticisms of Heidegger
on behalf of the other; there is Saussurean linguistics and the idea
of difference; his critique of Husserl (in fact, Gadamer reproaches
him for following Hussed too closely); Hegel, Nietzsche,
Hyppolite, and others. His encounter with Anglo-American
philosophy (Wittgenstein, Austin, Searle) and literary criticism (the
Yale deconstructionists, like Geoffrey Hartmann and Paul DeMan)
have been factors in his thinking. It seems that Heidegger may
offer Derrida that outside factor, a lever, that gives him a radical
angle for an overarching and undermining critique of modem
culture; but that does not mean he is an uncritical follower of
Heidegger. A similarly large but perhaps less culturally varied set
of non-Heideggerian influences could be mentioned for Gadamer.
Gadamer is working within his culture, explicating a thinker in his
own language, with whom he has studied and entered into
dialogue. Derrida never met Heidegger, and may not have
considered it important to do so in any case.


"Signatures: Nietzsche IHeidegger: Deux Questions" was

presented by Derrida at a symposium on "Text et Interpretation"
held in April 24-26, 1981, in Parisll It was published first in
German translation (1984) then in English (1986 and 1989), though
not in French until a much later date. It is this essay to which
Gadamer has reference when he comments on Derrida's Nietzsche
interpretation in his "Letter to Dallmayr" and "Destruktion und
Dekonstruktion" which we have discussed above. It will not only
take us a step further in examining Derrida's interpretation of
Heidegger-namely, into the topic of Heidegger's Nietzsche-
284 Richard E. Palmer

interpretation-but it will also offer some contrasts between

Derrida and Gadamer on Heidegger's Nietzsche interpretation,
since, as we have seen, Gadamer takes issue with Derrida's
criticisms of Heidegger. True, Spurs would show us Derrida
interpreting Nietzsche directly (and also interpreting
hermeneutics), but considerations of space and the contrasts with
Gadamer dictate the choice of this essay.
In "Signature: Nietzsche/Heidegger: Deux Questions," Derrida
takes up two difficulties ("two questions") he has with Heidegger's
interpretation of Nietzsche. The first has to do with the name (and
signature) of Nietzsche, and the second with the concept of totality
as it functions in Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche. In both
cases, he takes up Heidegger's own presuppositions-about
interpretation, and specifically the interpretation of Nietzsche. He
even turns to passages where Heidegger advises his students on
the proper and improper way to approach the reading of
In taking up the first question, Derrida selects just two sections
of two chapters of Heidegger's two-volume Nietzsche for
discussion, saying that the risks of misrepresenting Heidegger in
this case are quite small, since "in each instance a single system of
reading is powerfully concentrated and gathered together. It is
directed at gathering together the unity and the uniqueness of
Nietzsche's thinking, which, as a fulfilled unity, is in a fair way to
being the culmination of occidental metaphysics?" (DD 58).
Derrida has in mind here Heidegger's thesis that Nietzsche's claim
about going beyond Western Platonic metaphysics was wrong, and
that in his doctrines of will to power and eternal recurrence
Nietzsche marked himself as the "last metaphysician." But, asks
Derrida, is Heidegger's interpretive system not itself making a
metaphysical assumption, namely, "the unity and uniqueness of
Nietzsche's thinking?" (58) Furthermore, "if one can glimpse
behind Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche the foundations of a
general reading of Western metaphysics," then a more general
question arises, namely, to what extent does Heidegger's view of
Western metaphysics "contain an interpretive decision about the
unity or singularity of thinking" (58-59) Or, we might say, his
definition of "thinking" and his separation of this human function
from all other aspects of a person, such as biographical details.
Gadamer and Derrida 285

We will come back to this separation and its metaphysical

presuppositions in a moment, but first what about this unity? Is
Western metaphysics itself a unity? And within it are there little
unities which are singular in their individual unities in relation to
the larger unity? It is just this conception of Western metaphysics
which Derrida finds hidden within Heidegger's view, conditioning
Heidegger in advance to look for the "unity" in Nietzsche's
thinking-whether it is there or not. Certainly it takes a powerful
act of intellectual synthesis to find that unity, and Heidegger's
interpretation, according to Gadamer, is powerful precisely in this
synthesis. In any case, Derrida summarizes Heidegger's position on
Nietzsche as follows: "there is a unity in Nietzschean thought even
if it is not that of a system in the classical sense. This unity is also
its uniqueness, its singularity... " (59). A singularity among thinkers,
first among equals in a history of thinking that is primarily a
history of thinking.
What is wrong with this? First of all, Derrida finds in it a
certain elitism, an elitism that assigns a second-class status to all
that is not thinking and thought:

This uniqueness was neither constituted nor threatened, neither

gathered together nor brought about, by a name or proper name-nor
by the life of Nietzsche either normal or insane....The result of all this
is that biography, autobiography, the scene or the powers of the
proper name, signatures, and so on, are again accorded minority
status, are again given the inessential place that they have always
occupied in the history of metaphysics. This points to the necessity
and place of a questioning which I can only sketch here. (59;
emphasis added)

The biography or autobiography of a thinker, also the uniqueness

of the name or the signature of a thinker are, Derrida notes,
assigned lithe inessential place that they have always occupied in
the history of metaphysics." This minority or marginal status, this
gesture of repression, gives Derrida pause. It raises questions about
the limits of Heidegger's view of interpretation per se, not just of
Nietzsche but of any "thinker." For in principle this would apply
to any thinker-even himself.
Indeed, Derrida turns to the beginning of Nietzsche and cites
the following initial sentence of Heidegger: "This publication,
286 Richard E. Palmer

rethought as a whole (als Ganzes) should provide a glimpse of the

path of thought which I followed between 1930 and the Letter on
Humanism (1947)" (59). So in 1961, when Heidegger is writing this
prefatory note, even his own path of thought is not pictured as
aimless in the woods (Holzwege) but as having a unity.
Says Derrida, lithe unity of this publication and of this teaching is,
then, also the unity of the path of thought of Heidegger at a
decisive moment and traced through a period of over fifteen years.
But at the same time this also means that the unity of his
interpretation of Nietzsche, the unity of Western metaphysics, to
which this interpretation is referred, and the unity of the
Heideggerian path of thought are here inseparable. One cannot
think the one without the other" (DD 59-60). Derrida suggests that
Heidegger's assumptions about the unity of Western metaphysics,
the unity of Nietzsche's thought, and the unity of his own path all
form another unity, a unity that marginalizes mere biographical
facts, signatures, proper names in the higher unity of "thinking."
The irony, of course, is that fifteen years of trying to break out of
Western metaphysics, the leap back from representational thought,
the rejection of the foundationalism of transcendental structures in
Sein und Zeit, the interpretations of Holderlin, the quest for the
originary sense of Being in Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenidies,
are all drawn into the unity of this path, the unity of this
interpretation of Nietzsche. But perhaps this concept of a unity of
thought, the unity of a path of thought, as Heidegger uses them
here, Derrida suggests, are themselves already a falling back into
Derrida's further analysis focuses on Heidegger's opening
sentence, which already makes the significant claim:
"'Nietzsche'-the name of the thinker nameS die Sache seines
Denkens-the matter of his thought." What does this mean? It
means, says Derrida, that for Heidegger, "Nietzsche"-in quotes-
somehow names the supposed unity of Nietzsche's thinking.
Indeed, says Derrida, "'Nietzsche' is nothing other than the name
of this thinking" (61). And that is the problem. Derrida wants to
question a mode of questioning that excludes the biographical
from the proper name, assigns a certain unity to the thought going
under that time, a unity that marginalizes in the very act of
placing the name between quotes the physical, the biolOgical, the
biographical. Derrida quotes Heidegger from a section titled
Gadamer and Derrida 287

"Nietzsche as Thinker of the Fulfillment of Metaphysics" as


Who Nietzsche is and above all who he will be we shall know as

soon as we are able to think the thought that he gave shape to in the
phrase "the will to power." We shall never experience who
Nietzsche is through a historical report about his life history, nor
through a presentation of the contents of his writings. Neither do
we, nor should we, want to know who Nietzsche is, if we have in
mind only the personality, the historical figure, and the
psychological object and its products. (64)

Interestingly, in interpreting Heidegger here, Derrida goes carefully

back to the historical period in which the lectures were written. He
finds it valuable and unusual that Heidegger asked the question
"Who is Nietzsche?" in the provocative way Heidegger did, and
he recognizes that Heidegger himself knew that Ecce Homo begs to
be read as "unrestrained self-presentation and measureless self-
mirroring" (64). Heidegger answers this objection by saying that
Ecce Homo is not an autobiography, "and if anything culminates in
it, it would be the final moment of the West, in the history of the
era of modernity" (64). But Derrida finds this immediate leap into
the "destiny of the West" bypasses the opportunity to reshape the
conventional concept of autobiography, and Derrida wants to
know why: "Does Heidegger himself escape a fairly traditional
opposition between biographical factuality-psycho-biographical,
history-and an essential thinking on the order of a historical
decision? One can also ask what interest is served by the Heideggenan
discourse being carried out along these lines" (64-65; emphasis added).
In recognizing the interest-guidedness of interpretation Derrida is
applying a Nietzschean concept within his analysis of Heidegger's
interpretation. He finds Heidegger's motive here to be lito rescue
Nietzsche from his singular fate" (65).
What is that fate? It is, according to Heidegger, to be
misinterpreted in contradiction with his "innermost will." Certainly
these misinterpretations can be denied, and it is clear Heidegger
~d not want to interpret Nietzsche as a "life-philosopher," as was
-common at that time. It is a matter, as Derrida says, "of
rescuing-in a most ambiguous way-the uniqueness of a thinking
from the ambiguity of a life and worki ' (65). This rescue is itself
288 Richard E. Palmer

ambiguous, for in rescuing Nietzsche from these interpretations,

Heidegger at the same time places his interpretation of Nietzsche
in the context of his project of overcoming metaphysics. Derrida
asserts that "Heidegger directs this whole interpretation of
Nietzsche's essential and singular thinking to the following
argument: this thinking has not really gone beyond the end of
metaphysics: it is still itself a great metaphysics and even if it
points to such an overcoming, it is just ·barely, just enough to
remain on the sharpest crest of the boundary" (65). By a certain
irony, Derrida finds Heidegger to be himself trapped in
metaphysical concepts even while claiming to discover them in
Nietzsche. Heidegger attempts to rescue Nietzsche from
misappropriation by others, but" at the very moment of affirming
the uniqueness of Nietzsche's thinking, he does everything he can
to show that it repeats the mightiest (and therefore the most
general) schema of metaphysics" (65). Also, in rescuing the
uniqueness of Nietzsche's thinking from the distortions of the
Nazis and others, Heidegger himself distorts it, Derrida points out,
by placing it in categories like "the opposition between essential
and inessential, authentic and inauthentic, thinkers, and by the
definition of an essential thinker as someone selected, chosen,
marked the history of the truth of Being" (65). What an
honor to be the one marked out by destiny" to bring metaphysics

to its completion! Thank you, Martin! And by thrusting aside the

biographical side of Nietzsche-interpretation in order to focus only
on the "thought," Heidegger separates in a most ambiguous way,
Derrida thinks, "the uniqueness of a thinking from the ambiguity
of a life and work" (65).
Finally, there is Heidegger's allergy to life-philosophy, which
leads him to distort even his direct quotations. Again, Derrida
demonstrates the scrupulous attention to detail that characterizes
his reading of texts. He finds Heidegger in his preface subtly
eliding words like "desirable" and "true" (applied to life) in a
citation from The Gay Science in order not to have everything lead
back to life, "making a biological reading of Nietzsche more
difficult in advance, whether one understands this reading under
the model of biology or as a celebration of life as the ultimate
aim--even to the point of determining life as the Being of beings,
or being as a whole" (66).
Gadamer and Derrida 289

Ironically, Derrida's interpretation of Heidegger here is

decidedly Nietzschean in that it unmasks Heidegger, it reveals the
interests that are guiding his interpretation. Nietzsche's revenge?
It is decidedly a ''hermeneutics of suspicion." Derrida explicitly
says that "when reading Heidegger's lectures on Nietzsche it is
possibly less a matter of suspecting the content of an interpretation
than of an assumption or axiomatic structure. Perhaps the
axiomatic structure of metaphysics, in as much as metaphysics itself
desires, or dreams, or imagines its own unity." Unity is a dream
of metaphysics, and it is a dream of Heidegger. Derrida finds in
Heidegger's interpretation a strange circularity: "an axiomatic
structure that consequently demands an interpretation, one,
gathered up, around a thinking unifying a unique text and
ultimately, the unique name for Being, for the experience of Being"
(67-68). Derrida finds the (unconscious) motive for Heidegger's use
of the name of "Nietzsche" naming the matter of his thought:
"With the value of the name this unity and this oneness mutually
guard themselves against the dangers of dissemination" (68) in
precisely the thinker-Nietzsche-in which dissemination is strong!
The name acts as a counterforce to this dissemination and helps to
give unity; the name represents a dream of unity, a unity that is
always questioned and contradicted by-Nietzsche! Thus
Heidegger's rescue, says Derrida, is like "stretching out the net for
the tightrope walker," but for a tightrope walker "who was
dead"-robbed of life-''before he has landed in the net" (69).
Derrida asks near the end of the essay, "is it perhaps hasty to
make Nietzsche out to be a metaphysician...if a metaphysician is,
as Heidegger sees it, a thinker who adheres to the thought of
beings as a whole. It just may possibly be that Nietzsche is not at
all a thinker of beings..." (71). After all, Derrida asks (71), did not
Nietzsche at one time propose to think the word "being" starting
from life in all its plurality and ambiguity and not the other way


"La main de Heidegger: Geschlecht II" was presented at a

symposium of papers on the works of Derrida organized by John
Sallis at Loyola University of Chicago in March of 1985. It was
published in 1987 in both America and France: in a volume of
290 . Richard E. Palmer

papers from the conference, Deconstruction and Philosophy: The Texts

of Jacques Derrida. 12 It and De l'esprit are of interest because they
take up the -political implications of Heidegger's nationalism,
something Gadamer did not pursue textually.
Derrida's exploration here is subtle, careful, textual. He
explains by way of preface that the previous "Geschlecht I: sexual
difference, ontological difference," published in 1983, had arisen
out of a Paris seminar titled "Philosophical Nationality and
Nationalism," and the present essay out of "the slow rhythm of a
seminar engaged in a difficult reading, one that I would like to be
as meticulous and careful as possible, of certain Heidegger texts,
notably Was heisst Denken? and above all the lecture on Trakl in
Unterwegs zur Sprache" (DP 161). Notable here is the thoroughness
of.proceeding line by line in a difficult text, a procedure which
obliges Derrida in his essays, including this one, to deal with a
fragment here and there, finding a great deal in each fragment.
This strategy for philosophical thinking may perhaps be called
''hermeneutical,'' since it relies on close textual analysis to make its
case, following Heideggerian seminar style, which was known for
its slow progress. Now it is true that proseminars offered by
Gadamer in Heidelberg on Hegel's Phenomenologie and Heidegger's
"Humanismusbrief' also followed a similar "slow rhythm," but the
published texts of Gadamer are conspicuous for their nonreliance
on minute rhetorical analysis. They flow smoothly-often they
have been transcribed and edited from tapes of lectures given from
a few notes on a scrap of paper-relying, of course, on an
immense grasp of the Heideggerian corpus on which he~could call
at will. It may be said, however, that Derrida's presentations
parallel in their own form the close textual analyses Heidegger
offers in, say, Was heiflt Denken and in the Trakl essay, "Die
Sprache im Gedicht." Also, Derrida's scrupulous analytical
procedures seem to have the tendentiousness and rigor of
Heidegger's explications, in contrast to Gadamer's more
synthesizing, conversational, recollective style. Indeed, Derrida's
own procedures would seem to exemplify in themselves a
Heideggerian fondness for etymologies, for hidden connections, for
distinctions whose implications extend to the destiny of the

Before turning to Was heiflt Denken? Derrida links up with his
preceding discussion in Geschlecht I by going into the meaning of
Gadamer and Derrida 291

Geschecht for Germans. He starts from a sentence from the seventh

discourse of Fichte's Reden an die Deutsche Nation (Discourses to the
German Nation): "was an Geistigkeit glaubt, und die ewige
Fortbildung dieser Geistigkeit durch Freiheit will, das wo es auch
gebore~ sei und in welchern Sprache es rede, ist unsers Geschlechts,
es gehort uns an und es wird sich zu uns tun" (DP 162) ("whoever
believes in spirituality and in the freedom of this spirituality, and
who wills the eternal development of this spirituality by freedom,
wherever he may have been born and whatever language he
speaks, is one of us; he is one of us, and will come over to our
side.") Derrida notes that Geschlecht in German "can be translated
by sex, race, species, genus, gender, stock, family,. generation or
geneality, community" (DP 162), so "one of us" above could mean
of our stock, or our wider community, or obviously, the German
nation, since these are "addresses to the German nation." But the
German nation--or whoever the "we" or "unsers Geschlechts"
includes-is here a spiritual thing; it reaches beyond boundaries,
beyond the German language, to encompass all who "will the
eternal development of spirituality by freedom."
In clarifying the semantic resonance of Geschlecht, Derrida
notes· that Fichte distinguishes Humanitiit from Menschheit
(humani'!y described abstractly through a latin-based word, and
the term which for Germans joins together concrete intuitions in

an intellectual concept of humanity, always opposed to animality,"

164; emphasis added), with the latter term having the resonance of
concrete intuitive experiences. Derrida calls attention to this
contrast "in order to underline the difficulty of translating this
sensible, critical, and sensitive (nevralgique) word Geschlecht, and
also in order to indicate its irreducible bond to the question of
humanity versus animality" (165).
This attitude toward animality, Derrida asserts, has political
overtones and consequences which emerge in Heidegger's account
in a 1945 letter to the Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg
explaining his attitude during the Nazi period which locates the
evil in the "biologicist and racist ideology" of the Nazis, of which
he never at any time approved. Heidegger wrote:

I thought that Hitler, after taking responsibility in 1933 for the whole
people, would venture to extricate himself from the Party and its
doctrine, and that the whole would meet on the terrain of a
292 Richard E. Palmer

renovation and a gathering together with a view to a responsibility

for the West. This conviction was an error that I recognized from the
events of 30 June 1934,13 I, of course, had intervened in 1933 to say
yes to the national and the social (not to nationalism) and not to the
intellectual and metaphysical grounds on which the biologism of the
Party doctrine rested, because the social and the national, as I saw
them, were not essentially tied to a biologicist and racist ideology.

Heidegger is consistent in his condemnation of racism and

biologism, condemning the whole ideological discourse of
Rosenberg, which Derrida explored in his 1987 Irvine seminars on
Politics and Nationalism between the two world wars. The
condemnation of biologism and racism, Derrida notes, "inspires
numerous Heidegger texts, whether it be the Rektoratsrede or the
courses on Holderlin and Nietzsche, whether it be also the
question of technology, always put in the perspective against the
utilization of knowledge for technical and utilitarian ends, against
the Nazis' professionalization and their making university
knowledge profitable" (165). All of these indicate that Heidegger
eventually came to hate what the Nazis stood for. But since he has
explored this subject elsewhere, Derrida says, Derrida turns "to
another, perhaps less visible, dimension of the same drama" (166),
the place of "the hand" in all this. What is the relation of
Heidegger's view of the hand to Derrida's discussion of Geschlecht?
What is its relation to Heidegger's political views? What is its
relation to his view of thinking and his critiques of technology?
Derrida turns to a citation from Holderlin's "Mnemosyne" in
which there occurs the mysterious line. "A sign we are..." which
the French translation had translated as we are a "monstre"-a
"showing" or/and a "monster";

Ein Zeichen sind wir, deutungslos,

Schemerzlos sind wir, und haben fast
Die Sprache in der Fremde verloren.

(We are a "monster" void of sense

We are outside sorrow and have nearly
Lost our tongue in foreign lands.)
Gadamer and Derrida 293

"Ein Zeichen sind wir" is referred to by Heidegger in Was heiflt

Denken? in the following passage on the hand (quoting Derrida's
translation): liThe hand reaches and extends, receives and
welcomes-and not just things: the hand extends itself, and
receives its own welcome in the hand of the other. The hand
keeps. The hand carries. The hand designs and signs, presumably
because man is a (monstrous) sign-Die Hand zeichnet, vermutlich
weil der Mensch ein Zeichen ist" (WHD 51/WCT 16; DP 168). The
hand is very special, is a direct physical sign of thought, and could
be called, says Derrida, lithe hand of thought, of a thought of the
human Geschlecht, a thought claiming to be nonmetaphysical.... "
The hand as the hand of thought takes Derrida's argument
another step closer to the meaning of Geschlecht, for the hand is a
distinguishing mark of the "human Geschlecht"-.:..species, human
being, being human. It is that which shows. As Derrida puts it,

"The hand is monstrosity [monstrositel, the proper of man as the

being of monstration. This distinguishes him from every other
Geschlecht [speciesl" (169). Especially monkeys. Derrida finds it
very significant that after saying that authentic thinking "ist
jedenfalls ein Hand-Werk," a craft of the hands one learns as one
learns cabinetmaking, Heidegger remarks that monkeys do not
have "hands." "Monkeys, for example, have organs that can grasp
[Greiforganel, but they have no hands" (WHD 51/WCT 16). Only
humans have hands-because only humans have language, says
Heidegger. No language, no "hand," and therefore, of course, no
"thinking" (handwork). The cabinet-maker interacts and responds
to the essence of the wood, and the "thinker" does not grab his
objects like a monkey but responds to the matter to be thought,
turns it over in his hands. Of course, technology grabs and
manipulates, but that is not "thinking" but rather calculation,
manipulation, pursuit of profit, technics.
Derrida is interested in this not just because in it Heidegger
distinguishes between teaching which just indoctrinates, makes the
student a technocrat by instilling useful knowledge, and teaching
which is itself a "Hand-Werk," but also because it relates thinking
to the body: "I have chosen this text in order to introduce a reading
of Geschlecht. In this text Heidegger in effects binds thinking, and
not only philosophy, to a thought or to a situation of the body of
man and of human being (Menschheit) ....Thinking is not cerebral or
disincamate; the relation to the essence of being is a certain manner
294 Richard E. Palmer

of Dasein as Leib" (171). Furthermore, this is tied in with

Heidegger's politics, in that all the technologization and
professionalization of studies is tied to "the hand's effacement or
debasement in the industrial automation of- modem
mechanization" (172). Derrida notes the next step in the
denunciations of business and capital, "notions whose associations
then are well known. In addition, with the division of labor, what
is called 'intellectual work,' the Hand-Werk of 'thinking' and
poetizing, 'implicity finds itself discredited'" (172).
The work of thought as Hand-Werk, then, is for Heidegger on
the level of spirit, not animality. It has nothing to do with the
biological "Greifsorgane" of the ape, and indeed "the hand" is
generally singular rather than plural. But the important point is the
political consequence: a kind of "artisanalist protest" against
technology and against academic overspecialization, such that he
later blames the failure of his dream on these factors in National
Socialism. Derrida is not at all pleased with Heidegger's statement
here about the "difference" between man and monkey:

Dogmatic in its form, this traditional statement presupposes an

empiric ~r positive knowledge whose titles, proofs, and signs are
never shown.... Heidegger does not... even examine the sorts of
presuppositions, metaphysical or otherwise, it can harbor....In its
very content, this proposition marks the text's essential scene, marks
it with a humanism that wanted certainly to be
nonmetaphysical-Heidegger underscores this in the following
paragraph-but with a humanism that, between a human Geschlecht
one wants to withdraw from the biologistic determination... and an
animality one encloseS in its organico-biologistic programs, inscribes
not some differences but an absolute oppositional limit. (173-74)

This "absolute oppositional limit," Derrida asserts, leads back to

the homogeneous, "following the most resistantmetaphysico-
dialectical tradition." Heidegger is falling back into metaphysics,
even in his opposition to man as "rational animal" in the Letter on
Humanism and elsewhere. But Heidegger's "higher humanism"
turns out not to be post-metaphysical but dogmatic and
metaphysical. The hand is not a separable organ but is "far from
these in an infinite way (unendlich) through the- abyss of its being
(durch ein Abgrund des Wesens)" because of its connection to
language, which animals do not have. Ironically, "that is the order
Gadamer and Derrida 295

Heidegger opposes to metaphysics: 'Only when man speaks, does

he think-not the other way around, as metaphysics still believes'"
(WHD sIlwer 16; DP 174). The humanism Heidegger is rejecting
is really a kind of biologism that places reason in man's animal
being and makes man the highest animal, whereas Heidegger starts
from the hand-work of language in which the giving of being
occurs, giving through language and the openness of man,
expressed in the openness of the extended hand of man (of
"thoUght" by essential thinkers turned toward being), the hand
that "gives itself" even as it receives, that can bring man to being
in the manner of a handshake (178). Thus, the hand '"grounds' the
alliance, the accord, the engagement (Bund)" (178). Furthermore,
the topic of the hand arises also in the Parmenides seminar focused
on the history of truth. Derrida notes, "the hand comes to its
essence only in the movement of truth, in the double movement of
what hides and causes to go out of its reserve (Verbergungl
Engbergung)" (178). What the hand gives to thought is truth, and
thus hands "occupy the essence of being human."14 Only the being
that has speech can have a hand, in the human sense, according to
Heidegger, so it is language, not "reason encased in an animal"
nor even an animal that has language and therefore reason [" zoon
logon echon"].
Derrida goes on to a pronouncement of Heidegger in Was heiflt
Denken? to the effect that Socrates was the "purest thinker of the
West. This is why he wrote nothing." This and other remarks, such
as "after that, literature entered the picture" (cited on 181) reflect
a "devaluation of writing in general" (180) in Heidegger. The entry
into literature represents, for Heidegger, a withdrawal from
"thought," a withdrawal of thought, not a power to evoke it, as
Derrida would see it. For Heidegger, it was one of those fateful
departures from the purity of "thought" that help to decide (and
degrade) the "destiny of the West." Heidegger is led by his own
metaphysical view of handlspeech to see in the emergence of
writing a disheartening turn that shapes medieval thought and
modern science:

Sheltered from thought, this entry into writing and literature (in the
broad sense of this word) would have decided the destiny of
Western science as much qua doctrina of the Middle Ages (teaching,
discipline, Lehre) as qua the science of Modem Ttmes. This is
296 Richard E. Palmer

naturally a matter of what constructs the dominant concept of

discipline, teaching, and the university. So one sees being organized
around the hand and speech, with a very strong coherence, all the
traits whose incessant recurrence I have elsewhere recalled under the
name logocentrism. (181)

According to Derrida, this logocentrism is not something that

enters Heidegger's thinking only after the "turn." Rather, already
in Sein und Zeit (1927) it is found in the hand-related distinction
between Vorhandene and Zuhandene, according to which that which
is "ready to hand" is more primordial than that which merely
"present at hand," the objectively present and also theoretical
thinking; it is found in Sein und Zeit (1927) and it persists in other
forms right down to the last works from Heidegger's pen (not
typewriter). Behind this is a certain conception of thought,
language, (and spirit) in absolute opposition to body, animal
interaction, and representational thinking that is reflected in his
views on the priority of the rustic, on technology, writing
(including typewriting), language, biologism, racism, and the
wrong kind of humanism (starting from animality). And of course,
it is Geschlecht and the degradation of Geschlecht as spiritual not
physical degradation, which Derrida finds Heidegger tracing in
poetic form in Trakl. It all fits together.
It would seem that Derrida reveals himself to be truly the son
of Heidegger, a son who, as Freud has told us, would displace the
father.. Derrida's careful examinations of the presuppositions
behind a particular metaphor, like the hand, or the rich
associations of the word, like Geschlecht which appears in his
analysis of Trakl and elsewhere, display a Heideggerian
thoroughness-and also the deconstructive Heideggerian goal of
freeing thought from the hold of Western metaphysics. But Derrida
is more thorough, in that he finds logocentric metaphysics even in
the master, who undertook, like Nietzsche, to free thinking of the
metaphysical heritage of Platonism, but now it appears that this
was on an entirely different basis. We see more clearly, now,
through Derrida's careful analysis of the hand in Heidegger the
presuppositions Heidegger is making about the nature of man,
language, and the hand-work of thinking, and how they are
reflected in his denunciations of technology, of the present age,
even of philosophy and philosophers today. And taking it a step
Gadamer and Derrida 297

further, they also explain a good deal about Heidegger's politics,

and his own account of his political mistake.
Clearly, Derrida is unhappy with these presuppositions, but
his analysis works from the inside of a text or corpus of
texts-inside metaphysics, one might say, not outside of it-to
reveal its presuppositions ever more clearly. As the
presuppositions combine into a pattern, the implications, especially
the political implications, of a single position of Heidegger became
more and more clear. We understand that Heidegger was not a
"Nazi," in his own mind, because he rejected their basic racist and
biologicist ideology, but we find, with Derrida, that the basis for
this rejection of biologism was a view of man the rested on an
absolute opposition between spirit and matter that was profoundly
metaphysical, an opposition in which Derrida finds the
metaphysics of logocentrism. His subsequent analysis of Geist to
which we now tum, continues and confirms Derrida's basic


Derrida's De l'esprit: Heidegger et la question (1987; trans. 1989)

is based on a paper presented to a conference on March 14, 1987,
in Paris on "Heidegger: Open Questions." For this occasion,
Derrida continues the inquiry into the same network of issues
relating to Heidegger's political thinking that grew out of his
several-years-Iong seminar on philosophical nationality and
nationalism and gave rise to his two Geschlecht papers, the second
of which we have just discussed under the title, "La main de
Heidegger." In the same Heidegger text of Trakl from Unterwegs
zur 5prache that contains the lamenting reference to the Germans
as the "verwesende Geschlecht" ["people in decline"]-a Geschlecht
that is a "sign," alienated, beyond pain, no longer pointing
anywhere-one encounters a distinction which Heidegger would
like to be of decisive importance between geistig and geistlich. This
distinction, and a divide within the term geistlich itself into two
kinds of geistlich, Derrida asserts, "organize the thinking of
Geschlecht at this point on Heidegger's path" (E 22/5 7-8).
In the same seminar on philosophical nationality and
nationalism Derrida found that a patient reading of Plato's Timaeus
indicates that Heidegger's interpretation of the term chora
298 Richard E. Palmer

[necessity, destiny] in EinfUhrung in die Metaphysik is "at least

problematical." This for Derrida raised broader questions
concerning lithe general history of onto-theology," and by
extension concerning what Derrida calls lithe axiomatics of
Destruktion [deconstruction] and of the epochal schema in general."
Derrida found the term "Geist," in Heidegger, means, among other
things, lithe One and the Versammlung, one of the names of
collecting and gathering" (24/9) itself gathered the interlacing of
the "four threads" he had been trying to trace in Heidegger.
Derrida's exploration on spirit in Heidegger, then, will involve the
broadest and most urgent questions Derrida has about Heidegger's
interpretations, his project of onto-theology, and his politics.
The four threads or questions in part take us. back into issues
we have discussed in connection with Heidegger's view of
"thinking" in terms of the hand, and the observation that monkeys
(and animals in general) do not have hands,. but they also extend
our scope basically across the range of Heidegger's thinking, or as
Derrida would say, its "axiomatics," that which is presupposed
and beyond question: the prestructure, the unthought, in
Heidegger's thinking. The first thread is the priority Heidegger
assigns to "the question" both in Sein und Zeit and in the later
works. Questioning, as such, Derrida finds, is strangely privileged
in Heidegger. It stands for "what is highest and best in thought,"
and also for "the decision, the call of the question, the guarding of
the question," which represent for Heidegger the 'piety' of

thought" (25 /9). Yet its privilege is not absolute, for it cannot
question Geist, because "Geist, as I will attempt to show, is perhaps
the name Heidegger gives beyond any other name, to this
unquestioned possibility of the question" (26/10). Geist, then, is not
just a term Heidegger explicitly attempted to avoid in Sein und Zeit
and which in adjectival forms strangely reappears in writings of
1933-1935 and also in the Trakl essay in connection with Geschlecht,
it is related to what is essential in Heidegger, namely questioning.
Geist is directly related to the second thread, namely the theme
of contamination by technology. In asserting that lithe essence of
technology is nothing technological" Heidegger is asserting that
the essence is "spiritual" but it has been degraded-Derrida likes
the word "contaminated"-by the impurifying language of
technology. Geist, Derrida suggests, "names what Heidegger wants
to save from any destitution (Entmachtung, [literally, robbing of
Gadamer and Derrida 299

power])" Indeed, it is "the very thing that saves (rettet, [rescues])"

(26/10). Heidegger distinguishes between Geistigkeit, which merely
represents the metaphysical opposite of matter as found in
Descartes and the Western tradition, and Geistlichkeit, a spirituality
above metaphysical oppositions, not the same as but prior to
Christian spirituality, a spirituality he wants to save so that it can
save us.
The third thread, the third" open question" of the four Derrida
puts forward as troubling him in Heidegger, "concerns the
discourse of animality and the axiomatic, explicit or not, which
controls it" (27/11). At this point Derrida briefly summarizes his
lecture on the hand of Heidegger. His problem "concerns once
more the relationship between animals and
particular by means of a very problematical opposition, it seems to
me, between giving and taking" (27-28/11). This opposition, says
Derrida, "dictates the relations between prehension and reason, the
relations between speech and the hand, the essence of writing as
handwriting." Like the opposition between human and animal
Dasein, the interpretation of the hand "dominates in a thematic or
nonthematic way Heidegger's most continuous discourse, from the
repetition of the question of the meaning of Being, the destruction
of onto-theology, and first of all, from the existential analytic
which redistributes the limits between Dasein, Vorhandensein, and
Zuhandensein. Every time it is a question of hand and animal-but
these themes cannot be circumscribed-Heidegger's discourse
seems to me to fall into a rhetoric which is all the more
peremptory and authoritarian for having to hide a discomforture"
(28/11). Basically, then, Heidegger's key images seem to drag him
back into the metaphysical concepts he is seeking to avoid. The
avoidance phenomenon is familiar in Freudian analysis, and one
senses a bit of psychoanalysis in the references to a discomforture
that is being hidden by authoritarian rhetoric. What is unthought
in Heidegger is precisely the metaphysical character of his
humanism: "It [his rhetoric] leaves intact, sheltered in obscurity,
the axioms of the profoundest metaphysical humanism: and I do
mean the profoundest." It is the purpose of Derrida's analysis to
draw these axioms out of their shelter and obscurity.
Finally, the fourth thread has to do with "the thinking of
epochality..." (29/12). Derrida is interested in the way such thinking
leads to "the foreclosure of certain bodies of thought, such as that
300 Richard E. Palmer

of Spinoza on the principle of sufficient reason." What interests

Derrida is Heidegger's distinction between an epoch dominated by
"the Platonic-Christian, metaphysical or onto-theology
determination of the spiritual," which Heidegger labels the geistige,
and the geistliche as elaborated in Heidegger's interpretation of
Trakl in Unterwegs zur Sprache: "now withdrawn, as Heidegger
would like, from its Christian or ecclesial signification" (29/12). At
the conclusion of a brilliant final chapter, Derrida constructs an
imaginary dialogue between the Christian theologians and
Heidegger in which they argue that what Heidegger has thought
of as the absolutely heteronomous origin outside all Christian
metaphysical tradition is what they themselves have been seeking
all along. Derrida says it quite bluntly just prior to the dialogue he
constructs to illustrate his point: "The gestures made to snatch
Trakl away from the Christian thinking of Geist seem to be
laborious, violent, sometimes simply caricatural, and all in all not
very convincing. It is with reference to an extremely conventional
and doxical outline of Christianity that Heidegger can claim to de-
Christianize Trakl's Gedicht" (178/108). What Heidegger is
proposing as other than Christianity, as "origin-heterogeneous," is,
says Derrida, nothing other than "the origin of Christianity, the
spirit of Christianity, the essence of Christianity" (176-177/108-
In essence, it would seem that Heidegger's view of animality
compromises and undermines his dreams of a pure,
uncontaminated, postmetaphysical "realm of spirit." In careful
close analysis of the "axiomatics" governing his exclusion of
animality from spirit, Derrida finds Heidegger falling back into the
metaphysical oppositions his thought was hoping to overcome. The
problem with Heidegger's thesis on animality r'The monkey, for
example, does not have hands": and, from the Einfiihrung in die
Metaphysik. "The animal is Weltarm [poor in world], the stone is
worldless; man is weltbildend"), according to Derrida, is that it is
dogmatic-a hypothesis about matters he can have no evidence
for-and also metaphysical. It is ultimately a metaphysical
humanism. It presupposes "that there is one thing, one domain,
one homogeneous type of entity, which is called animality in
general for which any example would do the job. It is a thesis
which, in its median character, as clearly emphasized by Heidegger
(the animal between the stone and man), remains fundamentally
Gadamer and Derrida 301

teleological and traditional, not to say dialectical" (89-90/57). For

Derrida, this single axiomatic assumption threatens the undoing of
the whole Heideggerian project of going beyond metaphysics.
"Can one not say, then, that the whole deconstruction of ontology,
as it is begun in Sein und Zeit and insofar as it unseats, as it were,
the Cartesian-Hegelian spiritus in the existential analytic, is here
threatened in its order, its implementation, its conceptual
apparatus, by what is called, so obscurely still, the animal?" (57)
Derrida wants to follow Heidegger's project of moving beyond
metaphysics, but he finds in Heidegger's ideas of Geschlecht and
now Geist versus animality an axiomatics that undermines
Heidegger's own project. Derrida's strategy here may be taken as
exemplary of his general deconstructionist approach with
psychoanalytic overtones. It moves into and lingers within the
conceptuality to be understood, examines minutely its rhetorical
dimension, finds points of hesitation, avoidance, exclusion, and
then looks for their implications, looks for a network of
assumptions, an "axiomatics."
Interestingly, Derrida here relates the question of animality to
his analysis in "Signature." He notes that during the very same
years he is discussing here, Heidegger in his Nietzsche
interpretation is seeking to "withdraw him from any biologistic,
zoologistic, or vitalistic reappropriation. This strategy of
interpretation is also a politics. The extreme ambiguity of the gesture
consists in saving a body of thought by damning it" (73; emphasis
added). He seeks to rescue it from biologistic misinterpretation but
at the same time he veils Nietzsche's radicality by framing him as
the "last metaphysician." He "unearths" in Nietzsche, according to
Derrida, "a metaphysics, the last metaphysics, and orders all the
significations of Nietzsche's text according to it" (73; emphasis added).
The anti-biologism we find here, then is related to Heidegger's
view of spirituality as excluding animality.
I can here mention only one other point I find indicative of
Derrida's approach to interpretation. Speaking of Heidegger's essay
on Trakl's poetry as "one of Heidegger's richest texts," Derrida
finds it "subtle, overdetermined, and more untranslatable than
ever" (137/86). Yet at the same time it is also "one of the most
problematic" (137/86-87). In the present text, he will restrict
himself to the axiomatics that govern Heidegger's use of Geist,
geistig and geistlich, apologizing in advance for the inevitable
302 Richard E. Palmer

violence to the text involved in all he must exclude. Then he gives

a revealing glimpse of what he hopes to explore: As I am II

continuing to study this text. ..with a more fitting patience, I hope

one day to be able-beyond what a lecture allows me to do
today-to do justice to it by also analyzing its gesture, its mode,
and its status (if it has one), its relationship with philosophical
discourse, with hermeneutics and poetics, but also what it says of
Geschlecht, of the word Geschlecht, and also of the place (Ort), and
of animality. For the moment, I shall follow only the passage of
spirit..." (137/87). Derrida's philological thoroughness marks a
mode of interpretation that is both finely tuned and never without
a certain vigilance as to the "axiomatics" of Heidegger's
interpretation and their implications for the success of his project
of going beyond metaphysics and the places where Derrida finds
Heidegger losing hold of his own project. It strives for "patience"
and it is sensitive to the rhetorical side of the text it analyzes: "its
gesture, its mode, its status." It clings lovingly, carefully, to the
text. As has been frequently noted, Derrida's analysis is parasitic
on the texts it interprets. It catches the author up on even a little
phrase, which it magnifies into a major issue. It does not so much
take a position philosophically and defend it as rather explore
carefully and minutely the position of another thinker, in this case
Heidegger. On the other hand, it is not devoid of its own
interpretive interest, which would seem to be to appreciate and
continue the Nietzschean-Heideggerian legacy even while
vigilantly seeking to uncover what is "questionable" or
"problematic" in it.

N. Conclusion

Gadamer and Derrida are two valuable and important

interpreters of Heidegger. In examining four texts of each, major
contrasts emerge with regard to style, place in time, historical
relationship to Heidegger and to the Heideggerian text. Recent
interest has focussed on Heidegger's political attitudes and
concepts, and Derrida's subtle textual analyses offer a
philosophically subtle account not only of inconsistencies in
Heidegger's position but the philosophical axiomatic structures that
led him to take the political positions he did.
Gadamer and Derrida 303

In some ways the separate projects of Gadamer and Derrida

undertake quite different things: Gadamer-the
aes thetic I textual Ihistorlcal I interpretive consequences of
Heidegger's analysis of Dasein, of language, of the poetic text, of
the work of art. Derrida-to trace Heidegger's restless effort to
venture beyond onto-theology, to penetrate the interpretation of
Nietzsche as "last metaphysician," to find the axiomatics behind
Heidegger's radicalism, his anti-biologism, his scorn of technology.
Through an analysis of certain terms in Heidegger, such as
Geschlecht and Geist Derrida seems to have put together a
persuasive network of assumptions in Heidegger that shed
significant light on ~s relation to politics, technology, and national
The legacy of Heideggerian thought is rich, and Gadamer has
helped a whole generation gain a better access to it. An important
aspect was the theological significance of Heideggerian thought,
which Gadamer also illuminated. On. the other hand, there is in
Heidegger something more deeply radical, Nietzschean, and
politically puzzling, that Derrida's deconstructive close readings of
Heidegger offer. In my view, one need not choose between them.
Both reveal dimensions of Heideggerian thought that might not
otherwise have been seen.
304 Richard E. Palmer


1. See Text und Interpretation, ed. Philippe Forget (Munich:Fink, 1984). The
texts from this volume relating to the encounter between Gadamer and Derrida
(plus three subsequent essays by Gadamer and fifteen essays of commentary)
have been translated by Diane Michelfelder and Richard Palmer under the title
Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter (Albany: SUNY Press,
2. "Die Grenzen der Beherrschbarkeit der Sprache: Das Gesprach als Ort der
Differenz von Neostrukturalismus und Hermeneutik," in TI op.cit., pp. 181-82;
trans. DD, op.cit., p.151.
3. See Martin Heidegger. Hegel's Concept of Experience, trans. Kinley Dove
(New York: Harper and Row, 1970).
4. See Derrida's interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, 9 September 1983, a
translation of which appeared in Derrida & Difference, ed. David Wood and Robert
Bernasconi (Conventry, England: Parousia Press, 1985 [published in the U.S. by
Northwestern University Press)), p. 115. Of Sartre he remarks in the same
paragraph that he does "share the affection, almost kinship, which many feel for
this man I never saw."
5. Edited by Philippe Forget (Munich: Fink, 1984). The very brief encounter
was at a symposium on "Text and Interpretation" at the Goethe Institute in Paris,
April 25-27, 1981. Another symposium in which both Gadamer and Derrida
presented papers took place at Heidelberg, in February, 1988, on the topic,
"Heidegger et la politique." See "Wenn es um Heidegger geht, reicht der Horsaal
nicht aus," Die Welt, Feb. 2, 1988. In addition to its appearance under the title,
"Letter to Dallmayr" in DD, this essay has appeared in German under the title
"Dekonstruktion und Hermeneutik" in a commemorative volume for Otto
Poggeler: Philosophie und Poesie: Otto Pogge1er zum 60. Geburtstag, edited by
Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert (Stuttgart/Bad-Cannstatt: Friedrich
Frommann/Giinther Holzboog, 1988), vol. 1, pp. 3-15.
6. See N. Oxenhandler, ''The Man with Shoes of Wind: The Derrida-Gadamer
Encounter," DD pp. 264-68.
7. "Improbable Encounter," Art Papers, special issue on
Derrida/postmodernism, 10,1 (1986): pp. 36-39.
8. Indeed, later he says, "I cannot agree with Derrida, who would relate the
hermeneutical experience, especially live conversation and dialogue, to the
metaphysics of presence" (p. 95).
9. See his "Seeing Double: Destruktion and Deconstrucion/' in DD pp. 233-50,
esp. p. 239, and also David F. Krell, Ashes ashes we all fall ... ': Encountering

Nietzsche," in DD pp. 222-32.

10. Cf. "Envoi," Pysche: Inventions de l'autre (paris: Galilee, 1987), pp. 109-143,
esp. 117-43/trans. pp. 107-37, esp. pp. 114-37. English references will be to the
Peter and Mary Ann Caws translation, "Sending: On Representation," in
Transforming the Hermeneutical Context, ed. Gayle Ormiston and Alan Schrift
(Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1990), hereinafter abbreviated THe.
11. Also presenting papers were such eminent figures as Hans-Georg
Gadamer, Manfred Frank, Jean Greisch, Hans-Robert JauB, Fran~ois Laruelle, and
Gadamer and Derrida 305
Philippe Forget. The papers from the symposium were published in German
translation under the title Text und Interpretation (Munich: Fink, 1984). The papers
by Gadamer and Derrida, and Derrida's response to Gadamer's paper and
Gadamer's reply, along with three subsequent essays by Gadamer responding to
Derrida, plus another fifteen essays by others commenting on the "Gadamer-
Derrida encounter" were translated and published in DD in 1989 (see footnote 1).
12. Edited by John Sallis (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1987), hereinafter
abbreviated DP and in Psyche: Inventions de ['autre (paris: Galilee), hereinafter P.
13. Date of Hitler's bloody purge of the S.A (Brown Shirts).
14. Derrida cites the German: "Der Mensch 'hat' nicht Hande, sondem die
Hand hat das Wesen des Menschen inne," which I would translate, with
explanatory insertions, as follows: "The [fully] human being does not 'have'
hands [as an appendage to an essence of anther kind], but rather [since the hand
depends on speech and "upsurges" from speech] the hand lies within the very
essence or nature of being human" (Parmenides in GA 54 [1982]; p. 118; DP p. 178.



by Bas C. van Fraassen

What is empiricism? There can be no authoritative answer to

any such question. A historian of philosophy can at best try to call
what is common to philosophers who either identified themselves,
or have traditionally been identified, as empiricists. But what has
set those philosophers apart from others, and especially from those
whom they criticized, may not be captured in common views or
doctrines. The historian may, in trying to fix the label, rely tacitly
on a view of what philosophical positions are and how they are to
be identified. Finally, it is typical of philosophers who decide to
range themselves under some pre-existing banner ("empiricism",
"pragmatism", "phenomenology") to change the very philosophy
they take on, as much as did their historical heroes in their day. I
will here try to give a sustained argument about what empiricism
cannot be, and then enter upon a tentative exploration of what it
should be (taken to be).

1. What empiricism cannot bel

As I proceed I shall bring in piecemeal some of the
characteristics that have characterized those episodes in the history
of philosophy which I identify as paradigmatic for empiricism.
That is clearly a biased way of proceeding. That I want to be an
empiricist is intimately connected with my preference for certain
philosophical moves or themes as against some others. When I
report characteristics of empiricism, I will include only those I

"In his 1986 Presidential Address to the American Philosophical Association,

Professor Kockelmans challenged me, in effect, to confront the metaphysics
implicit in empiricism. This challenge was further elucidated in our subsequent
correspondence. In response, I have been trying to re-<ievelop empiricism self-
critically so as to meet his challenge. The present paper has as companion my
"Against Naturalized Empiricism", but is self-contained. It is appropriate for me
here to acknowledge my great debt to Professor Kockelmans, whose writings I
read already in Dutch when I was an undergraduate, with no idea at all that I
would ever meet the author. To my good fortune, I not only met him but was
able to take two seminars he gave at the University of Pittsburgh when I was a
graduate student there. lowe much to his erudition and his gentle questing spirit;
for the past three years I have again been struggling with problems he posed for

T.J. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics. 309-335.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
310 Bas C. Van Fraassen

endorse, and neglect what I regard as common errors that past

empiricists have fallen into.2 The goal is to develop a philosophical
position which will share what is admirable in past versions of
empiricism and which is feasible today.

1.1 What is a philosophical position?

To be an empiricist is to take a certain kind of philosophical
position. But what is that? Typical examples that come to mind at
once (nominalism vs. realism with respect to universals, dualism
vs. monism on the mind-body question) are clearly views of what
we and the world are like. They say that certain kinds of beings
are real (universals, mind) and how they are related to each other.
To have such a view then is to believe something. If we take this
as the definitive cue we arrive at the following (meta)
philosophical principle:

Principle ZERO. For each philosophical position X there exists

a statement X+ such that: to have (or take) position X is to
believe (or decide to believe) that X+.

Not just any statement X+ will fit here of course. To believe that
there are flying saucers does not qualify as taking a philosophical
position. But perhaps the belief that there are monads or universals
or alternative possible worlds does so qualify.
If Principle ZERO is correct - and this is a big question, the
moment the principle has been formulated - then it must yield a
corollary for empiricism: there must be some statement E+ such

(NE) To be an empiricist = to believe that E+

I have given this corollary the mnemonic name "(NE)" for

"Naive Empiricism." That reveals at once, of course, that I do
not regard it as obviously correct (though naivete does not
disqualify one in philosophy). By implication then, I do not
advance Principle ZERO as obviously correct. We need to see
where all this leads us. The question we face is: what statement
could possibly play the role of E+ in (NE)?
Against Transcendental Empiricism 311

1.2 The role of empiricist dogma

If there is such a statement as E+ it is the dogma that sums up
empiricism. But what role would it have to play then?
Here I must draw on my view of the history of empiricism. It
has often enough been pointed out that in Aristotle's reaction to
Plato, we have an empiricist turn, though Aristotle was by no
means an empiricist all told. The nominalists at Oxford and Paris
in the 14th century, who destroyed medieval Aristotelianism from
within, are rightly seen as the beginning of what became 17th and
18th century empiricism in Britain and France. Kant was not an
empiricist, but his critique of all past metaphysics was, as I see it,
an improvement on the empiricist critique of rationalism. It was an
improvement in part because it identified the metaphysics
involved in British empiricism, which fell equal prey to that
It would be possible to continue in the same vein: what stands
out in these attributions of empiricist aspects of various
philosophies is that they are based not on dogma but on a critique.
What is similar is the form of critique, which calls us back to
experience from the enmeshing webs of theoretical reason. That is
not at all the same as the theorizing about experience which
typically accompanied it (and on which all these philosophers
differed from each other). Therefore, if we were to advance some
candidate for the role of E+, it would have to furnish the basis for
the critique which the empiricist rebels aimed at their targets in
At this point I can go no further without advancing some
opinion about the nature of those targets and the form of critique.
(This may be more revealing about my own philosophical
intuitions and predilections than about the history of philosophy,
for as a philosopher I look at that history with a very selective
eye.) The targets I take to be forms of metaphysics which (a) give
absolute primacy to demands for explanation, and (b) are satisfied
with explanations-by-postulate, i.e. explanations which postulate
the reality of certain entities or aspects of the world which were
not already evident in experience. The empiricist critiques I see as
correspondingly involving (a) a rejection of demands for
explanation at certain crucial points, and (b) a strong dis-
satisfaction with explanations (even if called for) which proceed by
312 Bas C. Van Fraassen

Suppose that, in a philosophical way, I do not understand

ethics or science or religion. It might be one thing to take me by
the hand and lead me into relevant experience. That might allow
me to acquire a deeper sense of insight into those aspects of
human existence. It would be quite another thing - and to the
empiricists of little or no value - to postulate that there are certain
entities or realms of being about which ethics (or science, or
religion) tells us a true story. Yet that is what philosophers have
often tended to do: to 'explain' ethics by the contention that ethical
principles are just the (putative) truths about Values, scientific
theories the putative true summary of the Laws of Nature, and
religious doctrines the putative true description of a divine, extra-
mundane reality. Such philosophical accounts tend to be backed up
with the assertion that unless we can think of the relevant text as
purporting to be a true story, there is no explaining or
understanding the subject at al1. 3 The empiricist response is to
deny firstly the value of any such 'explanation', and secondly the
reasons anyone might have for thinking it to be true, and then
furthermore to reject the legitimacy and appropriateness of that
demand for explanation itself.
If we now suppose that empiricism consists in belief in a
certain empiricist dogma E+, then E+ must be the basis for this
response. It appears to follow that E+ must entail either that the
postulated entities do not exist or that we cannot have any
information about them if they do - and in addition, I suppose,
contradict the claim that the subject is unintelligible if we do not
believe in their existence. So we must now inquire whether any
statement E+ can both play this role and be itself believable for the

1.3 First argument against dogma

The literature does disclose candidates for the role of
empiricist dogma, at least by way of slogans that carry the promise
of eventual replacement by full-fledged philosophical theories. One
such slogan which I have used myself 4 is

(*) Experience is our one and only source of information.

Here "information" is intended in its "success" or "endorsing"

sense. In a broad sense, soothsayers and the yellow press give
Against Transcendental Empiricism 313

us information, as do dreams and indeed any statement which is

not a tautology. The narrow sense here intended appears when we
say that of course we do not regard what soothsayers, the yellow
press, and dreams say as sources of information about the world.
Such a slogan cannot be attacked or defended as it stands; it
is at best a promising stand-in for something more precise. I will
try to argue that there is, however, no way to turn (*) into a
statement which will play the required role as empiricist dogma
and simultaneously be acceptable to the empiricist. For my first
argument I want to draw on our common knowledge of the logical
empiricist writings in the first half of this century to disclose some
of empiricism's implicit ideals.
Empirical science has always, for empiricists, been the
paradigm of epistemic rationality. This gives them a picture of the
ideal rational believer, whose epistemic life resembles that of
science" itself under ideal circumstances. As is well-known, the
required distinction between the scientifically-significant/
cognitively-meaningful and the remainder (to be classed with
superstition and metaphysics) proved extremely difficult to draw
in general. In practice, however, there is often little doubt about
particular cases. Let us introduce a name and short description for
people who would instantiate this ideal of rationality:

SOBER people are those whose beliefs include (even

implicitly) only (a) accepted scientific theories and hypotheses,
(b) what they themselves have observed, (c) conjectures which
the scientific community regards as capable of being put to the
test, and (d) whatever is logically implied by (a)-(c).

This is not a complete definition, since its meaning hinges on that

of "scientific," "observe," and "test." Like (*), it is more or less a
promise or stand-in of something envisaged as more precise.
Appealing to our common understanding, it certainly remains
vague; but perhaps no more vague than "bald people," "ethnic
group," or "socialist."
Being SOBER wouldn't make one an empiricist, or even a
philosopher, since this SOBRIETY does not require critical
reflection. Conversely, an empiricist need not be SOBER though he
must admire this SOBRIETY, or regard it as an ideal. From this it
follows that if an empiricist lists (It) - or some precisation thereof
314 Bas C. Van Fraassen

- as his dogma, then it must be something which can be believed

by all SOBER people. Indeed, the belief in (It) must then in some
way be the basis for the ideal status of this SOBRIETY.
So belief in (It) would at the very least not disqualify one from
being SOBER. In that case, if it is not a tautology then it must
belong to he class of scientifically or empirically respectable
statements described by (a)-(d). (If it is a tautology then everyone
is an empiricist, even the noxious metaphysician. I assume we can
discount that possibility.)
But now a new factor comes into play. One of the great virtues
empiricists claim for scientific rationality is exactly this:
disagreement does not make one unscientific. If any statement is
scientifically respectable, and it is not a tautology, then so is its
opposite. So if one SOBER person believes (It), and his sister
disbelieves (It) then she may be SOBER too.
We conclude therefore that if everything is well with (It), then
there can be SOBER people who believe the opposite. This is a
picturesque way of explaining that the epistemic rationality
admired by the empiricist does not preclude denial of (It).
But then, how could (It) provide the basis for the empiricist
critique? Its denial is compatible with what that critique leaves
standing even under conditions of ideal rationality. So it counts.
This argument is so general that we should conclude, it seems,
that there cannot be an empiricist dogma, in the sense of a
statement E+ such that (i) to be an empiricist = to believe that E+i
(ii) belief in E+ provides the basis for the empiricist critique of
metaphysics; (iii) E+ is not itself a victim of that critique. The basis
for my argument were the contentions, common at least to the
logical positivism and logical empiricist writings of this century,
that there is a distinguishable class of respectable candidates for
rational belief, and that direct contraries to those candidates are
also respectable candidates for rational belief. Since this sums up
a good part of the empiricist admiration for scientific rationality,
I think the conclusion is inescapable.

1.4 Second argument against dogma

In the first argument I did rely on an empiricist contention
that some empiricists too might challenge. That is the distinction
between the respectable candidates for belief (found in science and
in the reports of observation we ourselves make or endorse) and
Against Transcendental Empiricism 315

the propositions disqualified from such candidacy (as found in

noxious metaphysics and engendered by pseudo-problems in
philosophy). This distinction has an unfortunate history, since the
verification criterion of meaningfulness and other attempts at
demarcation of science (or of the cognitively significant) were one
and all failures. This history was intertwined with the equally
problematic attempt to distinguish between pure observation
language and theoretical or theory-infected discourse.
But with all this granted, we still must agree that if (*), or
some precisation thereof, qualifies as empiricist dogma, then it
must survive challenges of the sort which are typical of empiricist
critique. Suppose a soi-disant empiricist asserts

(*) Experience is the one and only source of information

I do not want to ask him how he knows this to be true. He has

the right to believe this, and take his stand as a (*)-believer, with
the proclamation that he is an empiricist and that (*) fills the
role of the empiricist dogma (E+ in formulation (NE) above,
which was the corollary to Principle ZERO). But I do certainly
want to raise the question: is (*) true? Is it really the case?
On empiricist grounds, how is this question to be answered?
To play the role of empiricist dogma, (*) cannot be a tautology and
the empiricist regards nothing as a priori except what logic can
prove. So (*) must be, if true, an a posteriori truth. Even the
empiricist may hold that there are facts about this world which are
epistemically inaccessible, that is, which it is in principle
impossible for science to disclose. But I take it that if (*) belongs to
those inaccessible propositions, then the empiricist is automatically
precluded from making it the basis for his critique. For then s/he
must regard views directly contrary to (*) as rational as well.
In the preceding paragraph I have once more drawn on what
I take to be common knowledge about empiricism. As I mentioned
before, this amounts not so much to a historical claim (though it
could easily be illustrated from historical sources), as a selection of
what I endorse in empiricism. If we accept all this as correctly
characterizing empiricism, then (*) needs to qualify as a scientific
hypothesis, accessible to scientific investigation. The empiricist can
then believe it, with the rider that he regards it as an empirical
hypothesis, which future empirical inquiry may confirm or
316 Bas C. Van Fraassen

disconfirm. (He also believes then that disconfirmation will not

happen, or at least would not happen in the long run under ideal
conditions of inquiry.)
But I submit that, if we make (II-) precise in a way that qualifies
it as a topic for scientific investigation, then it will not be able to
play the role of empiricist dogma. Specifically, the precise version
will either be so restricted in its domain and applicability that it
cannot function as the basis for empiricist critiques of metaphysics,
or else it will be such that any attempt at an empirical test will be
question begging.
What follows here will only be a summary of the arguments. 5
Consider firstly how (II-) could be disconfirmed. This could happen
in two ways. The first is that we find that experience fails to give
information. Imagine for example that we put a subject, Peter, in
a case with elephants, and when he comes out his opinions about
elephants do not fit the facts any better than before. The second is
that some information appears to be derived from a source other
than experience. For example, we put Peter into a sensory
deprivation tank and he emerges with new opinions about
elephants which fit the facts much better than did his prior
In both cases the disconfirmation is illusory, unless we
construed (II-) in a way the empiricist did not intend. That a certain
specific kind of experience (in a cage, say) gives no information
about a specific subject (elephants, for example) does not contradict
any conceivable empiricist dogma. The finding itself was
information derived from experience (being in an elephant cage
does not always improve opinion about elephants). Secondly, the
idea of a source of information is not reducible to mere change in
opinion in some fortuitously fortunate way. When Peter emerges
from the sensory deprivation tank with new opinions about
elephants, neither he nor his listeners have any new information
about elephants by scientific standards. H such experiments, plus
auxiliary investigation, reveal a correlation between the sensory
deprivation tank dreams or fantasies and the zoological facts then
that correlation is the new information found - but its source is the
observations of Peter's posterior state and of elephants, and the
collation of those two sets of observations.
Secondly, consider how (II-) might be confirmed. Suppose that
we find for a large variety of topics X and a large diversity of
Against Transcendental Empiricism 317

human subjects y that, in some carefully demarcated sense,

experience of X (by Y and possibly others) is the one and only source of
information concerning X for person Y. Can we generalize upon this
to support the unrestricted thesis (*)? Here we must think about
how this evidence was found. If this was a scientific inquiry, then
the findings were based on reports of experience by the
investigators. Moreover those investigators were required, by the
scientific community, to insert no data not derived from
observations in reproducible experimental situations. Therefore the
method followed was explicitly designed so as to throw no light
on whether (*) holds in the sub-domain formed by this scientific
inquiry itself.6 The inquiry itself may be fine and scientifically
respectable, but not as an inquiry into (*) construed with unrestricted

1.5 Pr<.>Spects for an alternative

Both lines of argument have led to the same dilemma. When
we have a candidate, such as (*), for the role of (E+) in (NE): to be
an empiricist = to believe that (E+). Then we find that it cannot be
simultaneously construed as a respectable belief for the empiricist's
ideal rational believer, and also as a basis for the empiricist's
critiques of metaphysics. Hence nothing can play that role. There
is as far as I can see only one way out of this dilemma: we must
deny Principle ZERO as a characterization of philosophical
positions ueberhaupt, and insist that they can take a different form.
The problem with naive empiricism appears to lie in the very
idea of (NE) itself, which entails that to be an empiricist must
consist in believing some statement about what the world is like.
But is there any other sort of alternative? I think that we have
throughout, though' implicitly, been dealing with philosophical
positions which cannot be captured in dogmas. In characterizing
the forms of metaphysics which empiricists attack, I emphasized
the demand for explanation and satisfaction with certain kinds of
explanation. For empiricists I listed rejection of explanation
demands, dissatisfaction and disvaluing of explanation by postulate.
Moreover I listed the empiricists' calling us back to experience,
their rebellion against theory, their ideals of epistemic rationality,
what they regard as having significance, their admiration for science
and the virtue they see in an idea of rationality that does not bar
disagreement. Notice that not a single one of these factors is a
318 Bas C. Van Fraassen

belief. The attitudes that appear in these lists are to some extent
epistemic and to some extent evaluative, and perhaps some
involve or require belief for their own coherence. But they are not
equatable with beliefs. Implicitly, then, we have already been
relying on a view of philosophy which belies Principle ZERO.
So here is a radical proposal: a philosophical position can
consist in something other than a belief in what the world is like.
Taking the empiricist's attitude toward science rather than his or
her beliefs about it as the more crucial characteristic, we are then
led to the suggestion: the alternative to Principle ZERO is that a
philosophical position can consist in a stance (attitude, com-
mitment, approach). Such a stance can of course be expressed, and
may involve or presuppose some beliefs as well, but cannot be
simply equated with having beliefs.

2. Husserl on the demarcation of science and philosophy

The denial of Principle ZERO engenders the suggestion that
philosophical positions can take the alternative form of attitudes
or stances taken rather than dogmas believed? This idea is certainly
linked - at least for me - with Husserl. I refer here to the
discussions of what he calIs the natural attitude or natural orientation
(Einstellung. a term also used for the tuning of a radio or focussing
of a lens). That we have been to some extent repeating his
statement of the problematique is certain.

2.1 Natural vs. philosophical thinking

Husserl's outline notes for The Idea of Phenomenology begin:

Natural thinking in science and everyday life is untroubled by the

difficulties concerning the possibility of cognition. Philosophical
thinking is circumscribed by one's position toward the problems
concerning the possibility of cognition. The perplexities in which
reflection about the possibility of cognition that "gets at" the thmgs
themselves becomes entangled: How can we be sure that cognition
accords with things as they exist in themselveS, that it "gets at
them"? What do things themselves care about our ways of

In the first lecture itself he elaborates this:

Against Transcendental Empiricism 319

What is taken for granted in natural thinking is the possibility of

cognition. Constantly busy producing results, advancing from
discovery to discovery in newer and newer branches of science,
natural thinking .finds no occasion to raise the question of the
possibility of cognition as such.9

That does not mean that science ignores cognition as a subject of

inquiry. Cognition appears as a subject within the scope of science;
in fact it does so in two ways:

To be sure, as with everything else in the world, cognition too will

appear as a problem in a certain manner, becoming an object of
natural investigation. Cognition is a fact in nature ... As any
psychological fact, it can be described according to its kinds and
internal connections, and its genetic relations can be investigated.
On the other hand, cognition is essentially cognition of what objectively
is; and it is cognition through the meaning which is intrinsic to it; by
virtue of this meaning it is related to what objectively is. Natural
thinking is also already active in this relating. It investigates in their
formal generality the a priori connection of meanings and postulated
meanings ...; there comes into being a pure grammar and at higher
stages a pure logic (a whole complex of disciplines owing to its
different possible limitations) ...lo

In our terms: the cognitive sciences (which form part of empirical

science) comprise both psychology on the one hand, and formal
syntax, semantics, and logic on the other.
So the philosophical questions which Husserl has in mind here
are not the questions answered either by psychology or by logic or
linguistics or studies in artificial intelligence. They are questions
which neither arise nor are addressed in a scientific context. If
forcibly introduced there, they change the context of discussion,
alter what is taken for granted. They invite the discussants to
reflect on exactly what they are doing; and that reflective activity
is incompatible with the doing, it would displace the questions at
issue there so far.
We are today quite familiar with a different view of
philosophy, namely that it is part of science. On that other view
we can also see this phenomenon of displacement of scientific
questions by philosophical questions. However, the latter are just
seen as scientific questions with different topics of concern.
320 Bas C. Van Fraassen

Suppose for instance we find a psychologist interested in learning

theory, who is running rats in a maze. We invite him to reflect on
the methodology followed in his lab. Rather than interrupt his own
research, he hands the question to a cognitive psychologist, who
proceeds to sit in as an observer and studies the rat running
research. After a while this cognitive psychologist produces a
model of information processing which, she claims, fits that
laboratory research. We raise questions about the mathematical
structure of that model, and ask about the general family of
models which she regarded as appropriate candidates here. Rather
than interrupt her own research she gives the question to a
mathematical psychologist...; and so forth. Quine's article
"Epistemology Naturalized" is in effect the proposal that the
fictional we, who kept raising "more fundamental" questions in the
above scenario, is engaged in the sole activity legitimate for
philosophy. But this we was raising scientific questions. Each
question was a factual question, to be answered through further
empirical or logico-mathematical research.
Are there other questions at all? Husserl's phrasing is
unfortunate here. For he might be read as raising very traditional
skeptical questions, when he concludes with:

So far we are still in the realm of natural thinking. However, the

correlation between cognition as mental process, its referent, and
what objectively is ... [are] the source of the deepest and most difficult
problems. Taken collectively, they are the problem of the possibility
of cognition. ll

It is quite clear however that Husserl is not proposing a slide back

into hoary disputes over the reality and knowability of the external
The results of logical and empirical investigation look like
answers to philosophical questions, at first blush, because the
linguistic forms are the same:

Is experience a source of information?

Yes, our cognitive science project has shown that it is, and we
now have statistical data about its reliability.
Against Transcendental Empiricism 321

There is something conceptually askew in this exchange. Realizing

that can easily lead one into a philosophical quagmire, like a search
for synthetic a priori propositions whose assumptions underlie all
empirical inquiry. But it needn't. The realization of how it is
conceptually askew can be followed instead by the reflection that
the question holds up, for critical reflection, our attitude toward
empirical science (which treats experience and only experience as
source of information) and its status for us. That attitude, whatever
it is, is unquestioned and unscrutinized in the contexts of projects
carried out under its aegis.
Questions are sometimes posed in the very form which they
are intended to sabotage or subvert, by showing the limits of all
questions of that form. "But are worldly possessions really worth
anything?" If taken at face value, that can be answered with "Well,
my house is worth a quarter of a million, my car about ten
thousand, ... " But that misses the point.

2.2 Orientations and intentional correlates12

It is possible to be stubborn and construe any philosophical
question as a factual question within the scope of science. If I ask
"What is art?" you may offer me books by an art historian, a
sociologist, and a psychologist. Each of these begins by delimiting
quite precisely its own topic and scope of inquiry, laying down a
demarcation of relevant vs. irrelevant questions. The relevant
questions (though different for these three authors) are factual and
are appropriate subjects for empirical and logico-mathematical
inquiry. But the question may have been intended differently. It
may for example have been meant as a request to help me arrive
at a settled attitude toward art, informed by an understanding of
many of its aspects (which indeed requires a good deal of factual
knowledge and personal acquaintance), which will then go some
ways toward defining my relationship with the world I live in.
Husserl writes as if there are only two possible orientations,
distinguished by the fact that in one, the possibility of cognition is
taken for granted and in the other not. In existentialist
phenomenology of the early post-war years, more than two
different orientations are distinguished by their intentional
correlates. The intentional correlate of such an orientation is a
world, in the sense in which we speak of the world of (or,
described by) physics. However, the connotation of the phrase "the
322 Bas C. Van Fraassen

world of physics" is too theoretical. When in that orientation, we

are immersed in it: we live in that world, its structure is the
structure manifest to us in our experience, we desire and
manipulate its objects, it provides the objective context for praxis.
"The world of the physicist" might be more accurate. Other
orientations correspond to the ways of seeing and living in the
world of a clinical psychologist, or artist or aesthete, or perhaps, a
religious individual or someone thoroughly politicized in a certain
ideology. Of course these worlds are abstractions, structures to be
discerned in experience. Not even the most radical physicalist can
pretend that the world depicted by physics is all there is to what
he or she is personally experiencing. On the other hand, the use of
such terms as "the world of the physicist" or "the world of the
aesthete" to denote the inteI).tional correlate of certain orientations
can also mislead. It is at best a temporary surrogate for the
phenomenological analysis needed to disclose those structures in

2.3 Presupposition versus orientation [stance]

There is an interpretation of what Husserl means that would
bring it to naught. He says that in the natural stance, the fact that
cognition is possible is taken for granted. Suppose this means:

(a) to be in the natural orientation is to have the

presupposition that cognition is possible
(b) to be in the philosophical orientation is to suspend this
(c) a presupposition is a belief (which is unquestioned, tacit,
implicit, not yet come to light,... )

In that case his view implies that the proposition that cognition is
possible is, so to say, a hidden axiom of all natural thinking. The
difference between being in the philosophical and in the natural
orientation is just that of thinking under different assumptions.
Could that be the right construal of Husserl's distinction?
Notice how it aligns with the construal of philosophy in Principle
ZERO: to take a philosophical position is to adopt a belief. The
category of belief is simply widened to the less committal attitude
of assumption, with the provision that assumptions can be
suspended (and perhaps temporarily replaced by rival
Against Transcendental Empiricism 323

assumptions, in the mode of supposition). In each 'overall'

orientation (natural, philosophical) we would then see many
subspecies formed in exactly the same way, by the adoption or
supposition of more specific assumptions.
This construal of Husserl's distinction is indeed an option, but
a very disappointing one. It brings us right back to the meta--
philosophical views that gave us Principle ZERO and the naive
empiricism of (NE). It is, in other words, not an option that will
lead us to a viable form of empiricism. If we did take that option
- let us call it the naturalizing option, for that is how I regard it -
we would formulate an "empiricist" view of what science is by
adding to the general assumption that cognition is possible a
specific one along the lines of (*):

(d) the way in which empirical inquiry relies, (and relies

solely) on experience for data shows that it presupposes
that experience is au fond the (one and only) source of

In that case we have come to the disconcerting conclusion that (*)

is a presupposition, and hence hidden axiom, of all empirical
science. And this would mean that to be in the natural orientation
(or indeed, to be a scientist) is to be in the very predicament in
which we located naive empiricism. For the whole of empirical
science would then rest on a belief whose truth is in principle, and
on pain of vicious circularity, beyond the reach of empirical
But the reasoning that leads us from Husserl's text to the
naturalizing option proceeds by several dubious rhetorical moves.
The first is to introduce the notion of presupposition to capture
what is meant by the idea that in the natural attitude, the
possibility of cognition is taken for granted. In other words, the
attitude is identified with a certain epistemic relation (persuasively
called "presupposition") to a putative factual proposition about
how we are related to the world. The second move is to assimilate
that relation of presupposition to assumption and supposition, thus
reducing the entire matter to very familiar stuff. The conceptual
autonomy of such notions as attitude, orientation, stance is thereby
lost or nullified. The better option will be to preserve that
324 Bas C. Van Fraassen

After insisting on this logical or conceptual independence of

two clusters of terms/concepts, I do want to raise a delicate issue
about their connection. I call the issue delicate, because on the one
hand it threatens to subvert or sabotage our project, but on the
other hand I know very well that I cannot discuss it adequately
here. For it is related to other issues in epistemology which I can
here only indicate obliquelyY
The issue is this. Empirical science does allow as data,
ultimately, only those drawn from experience. That is a crucial part
of the empirical, scientific method. But you cannot adopt this
method, and have confidence in it, without believing that this is
just the right thing to do. And that requires that you believe (*). So
(it seems) whatever else we are going to do about this, we have to
admit that science does involve that belief, whatever subtle
distinction we are going to make about presupposition, orientation,
What this threatens is an end run around any maneuvers
designed to replace naive empiricism with a more viable,
sophisticated variant. For the argument purports to show that
science involves or even rests on the belief that the naive empiricist
would take as dogma but which - as we have seen - empiricism
cannot regard as a candidate for rational belief. The objection
amounts to: a scientist cannot rationally rely on the scientific
method without believing in its adequacy, but any formulation of
that belief will be designated as either trivial, or scientifically
deniable, or noxiously metaphysical by the empiricist. This
problem has really been hanging over us from the beginning. If we
can't put it aside, that it will be no use trying to make something
of Husserl's demarcation without placing metaphysical assertions
at the foundations of science.
I want to answer this: to adopt a method (wholeheartedly)
requires on pain of incoherence that you have no belief entailing
its inadequacy (except for purposes you don't adopt it for!). This
limitation on what you cannot believe does have some implications
for what your opinion should be - it is not merely negative. But
the opinions that are logically forced on us, in this way, have no
content beyond what they are forced by. So the scientist's
confidence in his method adds no content to the confidence
(concerning specific purely empirical propositions) which he
reaches by means of that method. To put it briefly: the objection
Against Transcendental 'Empiricism 325

we face tries to capitalize on a logical point, but no logic can lead

from what a scientist believes qua scientist to something that is
beyond the reach of science.
It will be objected that even if adoption of or commitment to
a method cannot be equated with having the belief that this
method is adequate, nevertheless that belief is involved therein.
Other attitudes besides belief can involve belief, even inextricably.
The problem for empiricism will persist if some belief is involved
which empiricism regards as neither a logical tautology nor
empirically significant.14
In my view, we are not dealing here with belief but a
necessary illusion of belief. To point to what 1 have in mind here
(I can do no better now), let me mention the "preface paradox." It
may be tempting to think that reason and prudence require the
author of a book to say in his preface that some of what follows is
false. If he does that he will no longer be asserting the body of the
book, but only displaying it and claiming that most of it is true. If
he does want to assert it - and he may be perfectly warranted in
doing so, without having apodictic certainty that it is correct - he
is in a quandary. For if he says in his preface, honestly but not
tactfully "(I believe that) (unlike in other books) all of this is true"
he will sound incredibly arrogant. He should not add this
statement, but the logical point remains that he cannot assert
anything at odds with this statement while asserting the body of
the book. The only confidence this entails on his part, however, is
the rightfully earned confidence he has in each statement he wrote
in the body of the book. The paradox results from the
philosophical tendency to squash pragmatic implications into
semantic molds. The idea that adoption of a method must involve
a substantial belief (in the method's adequacy) of the very sort that
the method was designed to scrutinize critically, derives in my
view from a very similar philosophical confusion.

3. Empiricism revisited
It remains now to identify the empiricist stance, to isolate
those attitudes that characterize empiricist philosophical positions.
Best if 1 could do it in twenty-five words or less. But that 1 cannot
do. 1 conceive of this task as follows. Central to empiricism is a
certain attitude toward empirical science. But attitudes involve
concepts in some way, and are inconceivable without them; they
326 Bas C. Van Fraassen

also involve beliefs in some way and are not formulable without
them. Hence spelling out this central attitude involves also the
articulation of how science is to be conceived.
There must be some leeway: there are undoubtedly varieties
of empiricism, predicated on variations in this conception of
science. In addition there must be leeway for some variance in the
attitude toward science as conceived. Crucial will be the question:
just how much of science, which aspects, are valued so highly as
to set an ideal for practical and theoretical reason in general? How
much of actual science bears out this ideal and what is to be
ascribed to historical, cultural, and sociological accident? Most of
all: where is even this ideal to be left behind as no longer offering
adequate or relevant guidance? Empiricism is not meant to be
scientism or idolatry of science; it entails a critique of scientism in
the name of science. I will briefly address each of these points.

3.1 Attitudes not justified by beliefs

There is a certain bias toward Reason in most philosophy:
attitudes must be justified, their justification must be by something
other than attitudes, so attitudes must derive from beliefs - what
else? Isn't the alternative purely subjective preference? How
fortunate for us that this question has an exact parallel in skeptical
challenges to belief itself! That should undermine its appeal. If a
philosopher does accept that attitudes are legitimate or rational
only if justified by beliefs, he or she lands immediately in the
fact/value problem. For the belief says that things are thus or so,
while to justify an attitude it must establish that this attitude is
better than or superior to its rivals. The attempt to meet this
problem with the assertion that the relevant belief will be one
which is (based on, derivative from) genuine insight into value,
yields an immediate similar dilemma. Is the content of this insight
a factual proposition (about Values perhaps)? Or is having an
insight into value the same as valuing, having an evaluative
attitude (which is in some sense correct)? Obviously we land in a
circle either way. The only way out is to deny the initial bias:
rationality does not require our attitudes to be justified by beliefs.

3.2 Attitudes as involving belief

At the same time, attitudes and beliefs are inextricably
involved with each other. I cannot admire a person's honesty
Against Transcendental Empiricism 327

unless I believe that he is telling the truth, nor can I admire it if I

believe that the consequences will come at great cost to others and
none to him. It is to be expected therefore that if we isolate those
attitudes which characterize empiricism, we will find them
inextricably involved with certain beliefs. Since I take it that the
attitude toward science is central to empiricism, the centrally
involved belief must be a view of what science is.
Since I have addressed this question elsewhere, and since it
can only be answered by the very lengthy process of developing
an entire empiricistically palatable philosophy of science, I shall
not directly address it here. But I want to address two subsidiary
questions. One is how we should approach this subject of attitudes
involving beliefs. The other is what exactly is believed, in holding
a view as to what science is.
One of the· worst legacies, to my mind, of eighteenth century
British empiricism, is the Humean belief-desire psychology and
other quasi-mechanistic attempts to reduce psychological discourse.
Even when it is admitted that such discourse is irreducible, and
cannot be translated or replaced without loss into, for example,
physicalist idiom, the reductionist instinct persists. What of
'internal' reduction? Can all psychological concepts be reduced to
logical constructions from just a few - just belief and desire
perhaps? These are legitimate philosophical questions. The damage
occurs not when we ask whether such a reduction is possible, but
when we let the hope or assumption of its possibility infect our
thinking before it has been demonstrated. If, for example, we
implicitly require investigations in either ethics or aesthetics to
proceed within a certain such simplified psychology, or tacitly
impose that requirement as a touchstone of intelligibility, we are
in danger of laying waste entire philosophical regions of inquiry.
I do not believe that any such policy is an essential ingredient of
philosophy in general or of analytic philosophy, much less of
empiricism. I must admit, however, that many philosophers have
wittingly or unwittingly participated in such conceptual scorched
earth tactics.
I remark on this as a plea for investigation of the relations
between attitudes and beliefs (as well as goals, intentions,
commitments, forms of opinion other than belief) and so forth,
unconstrained by premature simplification. My plea extends to the
treatment of what science is. This belongs to a specific type of
328 Bas C. Van Fraassen

philosophical question that marks large areas of concern: What is

science? What is art? What is religion? What is law? Each such
question arises also, in similar form but with different intent,
within the special sciences: sociology, psychology, anthropology,
history. The game metaphor tends to set off the philosophical intent
of such questions, though not perfectly: what is the game of
science? What is winning and losing, what incurs penalties, what
are admissible/ good/ disastrous strategies? What is the point of the
game? What is the aim pursued, what is the criterion of success?
These questions are all posed in "folk-psychological" discourse,
irreducible to anything devoid of the concept of person. and I think,
equally irreducible to simplified questions about individual and
communal beliefs and desires alone. IS
In short, I expect that a very rich psychological idiom will be
needed to answer the questions: "how are beliefs involved in
attitudes?" and "what is the content of the involved beliefs?" This
contrasts sharply with the idea that an empiricist position might be
identifiable with a belief to the effect that there is a certain purely
semantic relation between scientific theories and facts (or between
scientific models and the empirical world).16

3.3 The central attitude: science as idealI7

For empiricism, science is the paradigm of human rationality;
empiricism advocates scientific method as the guide to life. Thus
baldly stated, it appears to have two terrible corollaries. The first
is that the empiricist stance is just what Husserl calls the natural
orientation, and hence the death of philosophy. The second is that
what is advocated implies intellectual submission to actual science,
which always has been, is now, and undoubtedly always will be
very imperfect, limited, Procrustean. So understood, empiricism
would be a sacrifice of the intellect and empiricists the running
dogs of scientific imperialism.
But that is not so. Being truly scientific necessarily involves a
skeptical attitude toward extant science, rejection of "scientism,"
and refusal to allow any intellectual scheme to keep us pinned and
wriggling on the walU8 Science has not advanced through
submission to its previous generations. The scientific method is the
skeptical method, with one difference: it allows (unlike the classical
skeptic) that it is also rationally permitted at any point to lay to rest
doubts one cannot disprove, and to "bet" on (accept, commit
Against Transcendental Empiricism 329

oneself to) a theory which goes infinitely far beyond any evidence
we could have.19 But in this, the intellect is not sacrificed, and
rational inquiry is not replaced by blind dogma, provided the step
taken is acknowledged as such. That means: to let such a step
display itself in the light of day, and not to pretend that it was
compelled (as opposed to: permitted) by reason.
This requires the possibility of a certain detachment, of
simultaneously having convictions while being capable of standing
back and assessing them critically. Is that possible at all? Perhaps
I have disarmed the second of what I called the two apparent
terrible corollaries; but what of the first? In the natural orientation,
questions as to the very possibility of cognition, or as to
presuppositions of one's current questions (and survey of possible
answers to those questions), are absent. The terminology betrays
us here, for it harks back toHusserl's dichotomy. There is in fact
a large panorama of possible orientations, in each of which some
presuppositions are investigable, but every one of which appears
blind to certain presuppositions when viewed from within another
orientation. Husserl pointed, for simplicity perhaps, to two extreme
poles, both impossible: the consciousness so immersed in things
that it cannot be troubled by pre-conditions of cognition, and the
opposite consciousness so philosophically free that its inquiry is
presuppositionless. In actuality, we are never at either extreme.
Here as elsewhere, Neurath's image applies of sailors rebuilding
their ship at sea.
There is another pressing need at this point. We need to spell
out just what an empiricist can believe about science, and I shall
address that in the next sub-section. But meanwhile, related to the
doubts and misgivings presently at issue is that science triumphant
would replace our present belief-structure/world-picture with
something truly unpalatable.20 Though Goethe put this in
Mephistopheles' mouth, who of us is not ready with "Grey, dear
friend is all theory, but ever green grows life's golden tree"? Or, to
shift the words of an English thinker from its original target to one
more threatening now:

That the glory of this world in the end is appearance leaves the
world more glorious, if we feel it is a show of some fuller
splendour; but the sensuous curtain is a deception and a cheat, if it
hides some colourless movement of atoms, some spectral woof of
330 Bas C. Van Fraassen

impalpable abstractions, or unearthly ballet of bloodless categories.

Though dragged to such conclusions, we cannot embrace them. Our
principles may be true, but they are not reality. They no more make
that Whole which commands our devotion than some shredded
dissection of human tatters is that warm and breathing beauty of
flesh which our hearts found delightful. 21

In the scientific orientation, I approach everything scientifically. If

I advocate that approach, do I advocate that when in love, I should
consciously keep in mind all of Masters and Johnson's questions
while on a walk with my beloved - and reflect on the
gravitational constant as the falling peach blossom petals fill the air
with the poignancy of their dying life?
No, that is ludicrous. The insinuation here is that a stance is
not limited, that a consciousness could just be a single stance
graven in stone. What one learns, apprehends, comes to see and
understand during that walk is real, and indeed, it is not among
the deliverances of scientifically disciplined experience. The right
advocacy of the scientific orientation is to advocate it only against
its direct rivals - the rival approaches to getting the same
information about the world by consulting superstition, spirits of
the dead, metaphysical argument, innate ideas, or the comforts of
explanation and other intellectual indulgences, where these go
beyond the test of experience. Love, whether of another or Other,
is not such a rival.

3.4 Detachment and conditionality in belief

I have left till last something that I regard as a serious research
problem. In describing what empiricism admires in science I have
emphasized the ideal of an epistemic attitude which is indeed
belief but incompatible with dogmatism. If the empiricist is right
then acceptance in science, of theories and hypotheses, does
involve belief, but undogmatic belief. The beliefs are held, but with
a certain detachment. Is such detachment possible? This question
masks a paradox that has, in my view, seriously undermined past
attempts to develop atl empiricist epistemology. The important and
outstanding research problem I see is to fashion a conception of
belief which makes this empiricist admiration for science
intelligible and tenable.
Against Transcendental Empiricism 331
In. my own view of science, acceptance of a scientific theory
involves not the belief that this theory is true, but only that it is
empirically adequate ("saves the phenomena"). Less than full
acceptance involves similarly attenuated opinion as to the theory's
empirical adequacy. But these opinions still go very far beyond the
evidence we have. They involve many beliefs about observable
facts elsewhere and e1sewhen. Such beliefs will equally be hostage
to the fortunes of future experience. Here is the empiricist's
admired attitude: with respect to such beliefs, I must display a
certain arnOT fati. If they become very unlikely in view of new
experience then (this must be my resolve) I shall not hold on to
them at all costs, but revise my position.
The resolve to allow all one's beliefs to be hostage to the
fortunes of future experience, empiricism sees as crucial and
central to scientific method. Moreover, empiricism holds this up as
an ideal for us with respect to all our beliefs and opinions (and
indirectly, through their vulnerability to changes in opinion, also
our attitudes generally). But how could this sort of resolve possibly
be anything more than empty posturing?

1. I fully believe that all crows are black.

2. I will give up the belief expressed in 1 if I ever see a
white crow.

Here 2 is surely a promise (or better, it expresses a resolve or

decision) as well as a prediction. But what is the cost of this
promise to the speaker? In. 1 we see by implication that this
speaker fully believes that he will never see a white crow. As a
prediction, 2 is vacuous and as a promise it is therefore costfree,
to this speaker. Hence if 2 claims a paramount virtue, it is nothing
but empty posturing. It is quite like the promise "If I become a
hippopotamus, I will be gentle."
But this indictment rests on a picture of belief and opinion that
is too Simple-minded. I submit that our straightforward opinions
("1 believe that X", "It seems very likely to me that Y") are but the
tip of the iceberg of our epistemic position. Nine-tenths of this
iceberg consists in what we believe under suppositions, including
those contrary to our beliefs tout court. The same conditionality
attaches to all our attitudes, resolves, decisions, and intentions in
a similar way.'12
332 Bas C. Van Fraassen

Rather than proceed with this as a general topic in

epistemology, I will immediately illustrate this with the beliefs
about what science is that are involved in the empiricist attitude
toward science. Empiricism certainly includes a belief that the
actual cultural phenomenon everyone refers to as science involves
centrally theoretical activity whose most important criterion of
success is accordance with the data. Suppose now that I, who have
both this attitude and that factual belief, am deprived of the latter.
This could happen if sociologists of science were to convince me
that this criterion is systematically overridden by, and does not
override, other criteria of success. I would no longer be able to say
that empirical adequacy is the point of the game of science actually
played (and so-called) in our culture. One option for me would be
to say that today we have no genuine science (and perhaps we
never did). Instead, I take it, my resolve (as I see it today) requires
that I relinquish my belief about science, and re-evaluate my
attitude: perhaps it should still be one of admiration, perhaps not.
Would this mean then that I would give up my philosophical
position? In a strict sense, yes, of course. But what this hypothetical
scenario draws more attention to is the layered, hierarchical
structure of both beliefs and attitudes. I can suppose that some of
my beliefs are false, and then consult myself to see what follows
for me, and what my attitude would be, under that supposition.
To some extent, my present position must be identified with the
implicit answers I have to questions raised under suppositions
contrary to what I hold now. I have conditional beliefs and other
attitudes as well as simple ones. In some scenarios only a very
little of my present position is demolished, under others quite a
To continue the above imaginary scenario, consider two
options. I may react with: I value science so highly and for so
many reasons independent of (my belief in) its search for
empirically adequate theories, that I would take whatever the
sociologists revealed to me as the true paradigm of rational
inquiry. Alternatively I may react with: my paradigm of rational
inquiry is science as I presently conceive of it (which subordinates
all other criteria to "fit" with respect to the observable
phenomena). Therefore I would then cease to say that science
embodies rational inquiry (even imperfectly), and maintain that it
should not have its common, current role of guiding factual
Against Transcendental Empiricism 333
opinion. In each case, I have maintained the more basic part of my
position; but my position turned out to be quite different in these
two cases. The difference appeared only when I confronted certain
hypothetical questions.
In fact, of course, I take it that the second option reveals that
the position I had was a form of empiricism. What is maintained
here is a certain attitude, expressed by saying that I regard a
certain approach to factual questions as paradigmatically rational.23
334 Bas C. Van Fraassen


1. This section contains two lines of argument for a common conclusion. The
first I have previously presented in my "Carnap on Logic and Ontology"
(unpublished ms. of 1991), and the second in my "Against Naturalized
Empiricism," in P. Leonardi and M. Santambrogio, eds. On Quine (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1993).
2. For a critique of historical empiricism by a contemporary empiricist, see
Reichenbach's "Rationalism and Empiricism: An Inquiry into the Roots of
Philosophical Error," in H Reichenbach, Modern Philosophy of Science (London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1959).
3. A fourth example is the assertion: if mathematics is not the true
description of a platonic realm of abstract entities, and also does not just consist
of logical tautolOgies, then you can't explain why it is useful for science.
4. See my "Empiricism in the Philosophy of Science," in P.M. Churchland
and c.A. Hooker, eds., Images of Science: Essays on Realism and Empiricism, with a
Reply 1Jy Bas C. van Fraassen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 245-
5.. See my "Against Naturalized Empiricism."
6. This is not nearly enough for a good argument, and I refer to "Against
Naturalized Empiricism" for the version of this argument which I consider
7. The word stance has been given recent currency in analytic philosophy by
Daniel Dennett's use of the term ("intentional stance," "physical stance") and I
believe that my usage here is consonant with his very suggestive exploitation of
that term. See especially D. Dennett, "Intentional Systems," Journal of Philosophy
68 (1971), pp. 87-106; and, by the same author, The Intentional Stance (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 1987). In the English translation of Husserl's Ideen I, the term is
"standpoint," with "orientation" reserved for spatial perspective (for example,
section 150).
8. E. Husserl, The Idea of Phenomenology, trans. W.P. Alston and G.
Nakhnikian (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964). These lectures were given by
Hussed in GOttingen in 1907.
9. Ibid. p. 15.
10. Ibid. p. 15.
11. Ibid. p. 15.
12. Compare Joseph J. Kockelmans, Phencmienology and Physical Science
(pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1966), chapters nine and ten.
13. I have made a start in this in my "Belief and Will," Journal of Philosophy 81
(1984), pp. 235-56, and gone somewhat further in by "Belief and the Problem of
Ulysses and the Sirens," Philosophical Studies, forthcoming. But these are tentative,
first steps.
14. See my "Empiricism in the Philosophy of Science," for a critique of the
approach to methodology which attempts to ground it in belief in the conditions
of its adequacy. I regard this as an often instantiated recipe for disaster in
Against Transcendental Empiricism 335
15. By psychological discourse I do not mean only descriptions of 'mental'
states and events; I mean discourse in which concepts of persons and personal
agency and/or their cognates are expressed. The word "game" for example
belongs to such discourse and not to physical discourse. Epistemology is entirely
carried on within psychological discourse, in this sense.
16. Empiricism does involve the view, I think, that when a scientific theory is
accepted, that involves a belief of just that sort.
17. See also my "The World of Empiricism," forthcoming in the proceedings
of the Erasmus Foundation Conference on Science in the Modem World, 1992.
18. Analogue: being truly religious necessarily involves a skeptical attitude
toward all extant religious institutions and to any intellectual scheme in human
19. This is ambiguous: while e.g. "All swans ever to exist, past, present and
future, are white" goes beyond any evidence we could have at any point in time,
it does not go beyond checkable facts about observable things.
20. A misgiving not exactly defused by scientific realists: see Paul Churchland,
Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1979). See further my review thereof in Canadian Journal of Philosuphy 11
(1981), pp. 555-67; and my "On the Radical Incompleteness of the Manifest Image
(Comments on Sellars)," Proceedings of the Philosuphy of Science Association [1976],
Volume IT, eds. F. Suppe and P. Asquith (East Lansing, Mich: Philosophy of
Science Association, 1977), pp. 335-43.
21. F.R. Bradley, Principles of Logic, 2nd edition, 2 volumes (London: Oxford
University Press, 1922), vol. ill, chapter 2, section iv.
22. It is very important not to confuse "I believe that X, on the supposition
that A" with "I would believe that X, if A (or: if I came to believe that A)." The
conditionality of propositional attitudes is in general irreducible to construals in
terms of unconditional propositional attitudes.
23. It should be added of course that I can have this attitude while also
regarding the scientific approach as limited in scope (in a way that is certainly
connected to the accordion-like character of the word "factual").

by Pierre Kerszberg

One of the most interesting, but also most perplexing, features

of modem physical science is its tendency to repeatedly
reconstruct itself. This unending activity of reconstruction is not
just a matter of superficial technical adjustments necessitated by
progress in the development of science's abstractive procedures.
What is at stake in any instance of reconstruction is the primary
ground of experience itself. Copernicus, Newton, or Einstein
(choosing three of many possible examples) each represent, in
their work, a new attempt to shed light on this ground, to bring
it into view from a different perspective. Our interest is not so
much in what physicists make of this empirical ground, and
how they use it, as in what is actually meant by the act of
putting this ground to the test.
This is an interest motivated by the development of physical
science in our own time. The rise of relativity theory in the early
years of the 20th century marks a reconstruction supposedly so
fundamental that even such an elementary experience as that of
becoming is called into question. In a popular exposition of his
work Einstein said that relativity theory literally suspends our
notions of change and becoming.1 He goes on to claim that this
suspension should not be thought of as definitive, but merely
preparatory; but at the same time he argues that the notions of
change and becoming are thoroughly complicated by relativity
theory, and that it is "more natural" to think of physical reality as
four-dimensional existence without evolution. It would not be an
overstatement to say that the most pressing problems raised by the
development of physics in our century have been determined by
this single question: Is it possible to recover becoming without
offending the natural rights of the primary ground of experience?
(And if so, how?)
It is not necessary to investigate the finished theory to find
complication. Even at the preliminary level there is complete lack
of consensus as to what physics is about. Let me compare two
brief statements from authors who have contributed greatly to
shaping our ideas on the subject. The first is from Stephen
T.1. Stapleton (ed.), The Question of Hermeneutics, 337-361.
© 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
338 Pierre Kerszberg

Hawking's recent bestseller on the history of time, in which an

attempt is made to justify a theoretical account of the beginning of
the universe that goes beyond relativity. Pointing out the similarity
between Newton and Aristotle as far as the conception of absolute
time goes, he writes: "Tune was completely separate from and
independent of space. This is what most people would take to be
the commonsense view." 2 In his own view, the natural sense of
becoming may well have to be suspended definitively, owing to
the existence of non-spatiotemporal singularities out of which all
known physical action emerges. At the other extreme, when in
1908 Hermann Minkowski set about the task of formalizing
Einstein's concept of the relativity of simultaneity in terms of
group theory, he rejected space and time as two separate absolutes
in order to give expression to the allegedly counter-intuitive
four-dimensional continuum of space and time. He justified such
formalization in the following terms: liThe objects of our
perception invariably include places and times in combination.
Nobody has ever noticed a place except at a time, or a time except
at a place."3 Within the continuum, however, for time to stand on
an equal footing with space it would have to be turned into an
imaginary quantity; and so time loses its traditional sense of
naturalness. From Minkowski to Hawking, from the birth act of
what has since been hailed as classical relativity, to the latest in
quantum relativity, the natural world appears to have been
reconstructed in such a way that immediate, or commonsense,
knowledge is gradually denied any validity as foundation. This is
not so much because all reference to intuitive knowledge is left out
as because the many ways of articulating its relationship to the
being of the natural world are responsible for mutilating, with
seeming harmlessness, what we understand by such knowledge in
the first place.
As the comparison shows, the sense in which mathematical
physics justifies indissoluble spatiotemporality as a true feature of
the world is determined by a reference to commonsense
experience. Contemplating each reconstruction undertaken by
modem physics in the successive stages of its development, we
could rest satisfied by attending to those many ways in which
intuitive knowing relates to the being of nature as postulated by
these theories. But the outright clash between the two statements
that inaugurate the contemporary comprehension of this being
Being and Knowing 339

shows to what extent any possible extended experience of the

world must depend on the very variety of ways whereby the
intuitive ground of knowledge opens itself up to the ideally
constructed worlds of science. We are led to suspect that the
changing patterns of physical science do have something in
common with the multiplicity of senses pertaining to intuitive
experience. Following this train of thought it appears that, in the
application of mathematical symbolism to the natural world, the
layer of immediately intuitive experience should be spelt out in
accordance with the presupposition that, among its primary
functions, it has a form of understanding of the being aimed at in
the theoretical sciences. That is, we need an epistemology which
would be based on the fact that every human experience of the
world is necessarily connected with something existing, whether
this something is "subjective" or "objective," whether it is given
immediately or mediately. The point is not to decide who, of
Minkowski or Hawking, has found the right justification for
accepting or rejecting the link between space and time which
characterizes our primary experience. Rather, if from the outset we
adopt a connection of the intuitive ground of all knowing to the
being of the natural world, a connection that in some way
constrains the reconstructing activity of physics, we allow this
being to spring forth from within our primary experience. This
would have the effect of bestowing upon this being the very
freedom that the primary experience enjoys by virtue of its
pliability at the mercy of the next best available theory.
How can we advocate such an epistemology? Husserl opened
the path when, in the Crisis of European Sciences, he attempted to
describe, with scientific rigor, those structures of the life-world that
lend themselves to idealization and abstraction in science and
scientific philosophy. But he did so by explicitly closing off the
subjective territory of the life-world within itself,4 basing this move
on the claim that the life-world is in explicit opposition to the
"subjective-relative" that determined Einstein and others to take on
an "objective task" (Crisis, 126). Husserl sought to reverse this
contrast by deploying objective science itself as belonging to the
life-world, which from then on is a territory large enough to be
closed off. Husserl then claims that all theoretical results have the
character of valid components of an extended life-world (Crisis,
130-1). As long as epistemology fails to operate this way, Husserl
340 Pierre Kerszberg

argues, natural science will continue to dominate the territory of

intuition instead of learning about being by working in tandem
with iti and so nothing would be changed to the view that
"everything is decided in advance as pure mathematics and as
nature itself" (Crisis, 265). That is, mathematical physics would still
justify its open-endedness by completely abusing intuition's
prerogatives about being. I shall argue that the development of
physics cannot be seen as a simple outgrowth of the structures of
the life-world, not so much b~ause it is absolutely unable to fix
the meaning of those structures as because it itself is burdened by
certain structural features that reflect the original openness and
ductility of the life-world. In this sense, the impossibility of closing
off the territory of the life-world is paralleled by the fact that
physics is not cut off from those ultimate presuppositions
(borrowed from intuitive experience) that underlie all possible use
of mathematical symbolism to understand the natural world. As it
turns out, the notion of presupposition which will emerge is
closely connected with that of becoming in relativity and
post-relativity physics. Husserl grants the indissoluble spatio-
temporality of the world precisely the status of a bridge between
the pre-scientific and the scientific worlds (Crisis, 139-40). Husserl
also argues that "the empirical talk of natural scientists often, if not
for the most part, gives the impression that the natural sciences are
based on the experience of objective nature" (Crisis, 128-9), which
he believes is a confusion of the sense of experience itself since the
objective can never become part of an authentically subjective
experience. There is, however, at least one exception of great
importance: in one of his most striking arguments, Arthur
Eddington, the physicist and philosopher of relativity and
quantum mechanics, set down the foundation for the brand of
speculative epistemology that we advocate here. Let us follow the
central problem underlying his argument about space, and, in the
spirit of the relativity theory, let us extend it to time.


This is the famous reflection on two tables, the familiar and the
scientific, that Eddington proposed shortly after the formalism of
the quantum theory had been set down. 5 In this reflection,
Being and Knowing 341

Eddington rejuvenates Aristotle's profound observation, that there

is science of the general only, by confronting recent progress in
scientific knowledge. The familiar world, he says, is the one
"which spontaneously appears around me when I open my eyes."
What do I see? I see this table, but by scratching at its surface, I
quickly discover that already at that superficial level what is
actually meant by such a thing as a familiar table is quite unclear.
It has a certain number of easily discernible properties: size, color,
shape, etc., which will certainly not be described in exactly the
same way by everybody; for instance, there could always be some
disagreement over the exact color. There are, however, other
properties about which agreement may be expected: as the number
of legs, the kind of material, etc. If we succeed in distinguishing
between these properties which might change from those that could
not change, will we have in any way clarified the question of what
we mean by this table in particular? Eddington says he does not
want to consider how much of a familiar table is subjective
(changeable) and how much objective (unchangeable). The point
is not that his problem lies elsewhere. His argument is that any
way of distinguishing the changeable from the unchangeable takes
us beyond the table as this table. Unchangeable properties belong
to a class of tables (having four legs, etc.) while changeable
properties do not seem to go much beyond the sphere of private
subjectivity. We are led to admit that if, after all, this particular
table preserves an identity of its own, then we should be able to
define what all familiar tables have in common. But this is also
where our powers of investigation seem to give out: we fall back
upon the familiar table we started with, because we can hardly say
anything more than that the familiar table looks like a familiar
table. Consequently, in order to make sense of what the table is as
a thing in its own right (or intrinsically), we must postulate
something totally mysterious as a constitutive feature: its
substance. Substance, in this sense, is totally mysterious because it
is not something physically definable in terms of, say, resistance to
my leaning upon it. It is substance in the sense of what makes it
a thing a such, not a thing with size, color, four legs, etc. We arrive
at a strange conclusion: substance rescues familiar experience from
Can we get help by shifting from familiar to scientific
experience? Table no. 2 is the table as an object of scientific
342 Pierre Kerszberg

investigation, distinct from its immediate familiarity. We now

penetrate the surface a little more deeply. Science tells us about
deep-lying atoms and fields of forces. The idea arises that perhaps
a complete scientific description of the table will enable us to do
away, for once and for all, with the mysterious substance which,
apparently, only reflects the limitations of familiar understanding
and does not explain anything. What is it that we explain about
the table as an individual entity when scientific concepts are
brought into play? Our additional knowledge has to do with the
transformations the table can undergo or be subjected to. For
instance, the way it is transformed into smoke under the action of
fire. More generally, we know the influences, or connections
between things belonging to certain categories of things, including
the possible dependency upon measurement and apparatuses of
measurement. There is no use in trying to investigate the substance
of a thing - what it intrinsically is as an individual entity - by
breaking down table no. 1 into its more minute constituents or
widening its dependency upon measurement. This simply begs the
question. The substance of electrons (or quarks, as today's particle
physics would have it) would remain as mysterious as the
substance of our original and familiar table; the mystery of
substance would just be pushed further away from the field of
immediate perception. The familiar table owes its original
simplicity to its being a strange compound of objective external
nature and mental imagery (colors, etc.) which is
consciousness-dependent. We thought that for any thing to be
granted the status of scientific objectivity in the first place, it would
have to be abstracted from what makes it essentially familiar. But
precisely by virtue of the strangeness of the originally simple's
compound nature, we can never know what "in reality" gets
abstracted from what. The boundary between the realm of
consciousness and the realm of independent external nature is
doomed to remain indeterminate.
We are unable to separate table no. 1 from table no. 2 in terms
of what makes a table just what it is and not something else. This
is so at least as far as our conceptions are concerned. A difference
begins to emerge if we shift to questioning with relation to our
capabilities for intuition. Let us begin with the spatial features of
the table. There is no ambiguity in talking about the familiar table
''being there": it stands before our eyes, and therefore it is always
Being and Knowing 343

seen from a certain perspective. But the scientific table is not

merely a perspective of a table; reference to measurement ensures
that the changeability due to perspective is eliminated. The
scientific table is "really there" - to be sure, not in the sense that
as a thing it interacts with consciousness but in the sense that it
interacts with another "objective" thing, the apparatus of
measurement for instance. However, in the process we lose the
familiar understanding of "there." One might be tempted to think:
why isn't the scientific table a swarm of atoms located just there,
where the familiar one is? nus, in fact, is certainly not in dispute.
But in the scientific description we are told something about the
"reality" of this "there": it is a "there" which is invariant, not a
perspective. 1his is not so innocuous as it may seem. As Eddington
puts it, table no. 2 "is really there - wherever 'there' may be." The
scientific description can never be a description of this familiar table
because it is impossible to find any trace of the original sense of
"there" in the new scientific description. All we can do is surmise
that the two descriptions will coincide in all other relevant
respects. In other words, the scientific table abstracts from the
familiar sense of space just as it removes the illusion of
substantiality. In the scientific description, it does not matter
whether the table is "here" or "there," since this is totally
accidental and cannot belong to the intrinsic features of the thing
itself. But Eddington has just said that substance had to be
postulated because we cannot know a thing in terms of what
makes it what it is. We do not know what "there" may be, and yet
we assume that it cannot belong to the intrinsicality of a thing-
which is precisely what we do not know either. Just as in the case
of the familiar table, we have clarified the question of the
intrinsicality of this table only by relying on some external relation:
this is the price we pay for abandoning the mysterious substance.
Space definitely plays a strange role. What kind of entity is it,
if it is- neither a thing nor a nothing? Each table seems to have its
own truth, and so what is the truth that mediates between the two
tables? Is there something like a third table according to which
both table no. 1 and table no. 2 are true in their own way and
represent something like a variation of this superior truth? Isn't the
third table holding the key to substantiality? It is precisely because
all things are immersed in space, which mediates between the two
tables without fixing them in their respective meaning, that we are
344 Pierre Kerszberg

urged not to prejudge the question of the ultimate identity

between world no. 1 and world no. 2. The two truths are, for us,
so many separate worlds, even though it is obvious that there
must be some link between them. In Eddington's words: the world
of physics has become a world of shadows, that is, it does have a
connection with the familiar world which, however, remains in the
dark and cannot be known by any means whatsoever. Space is
responsible for this separation; there is no way of recovering either
one of the meanings of location (familiar or scientific) by starting
from the other. So much so that, in locating a thing in accordance
with the scientific sense, we only use symbols (mathematical
functions), which have no necessary root in natural spatiality. The
upshot of this analysis is that modern physical science is in foreign
territory, dealing with things which are ultimately unknowable in
terms of the familiar experience of things being "there," no matter
how sophisticated and detailed our actual penetration beneath the
surface of appearances may be.
Eddington's argument reflects the nature of the transformed
way of thinking and experiencing the world that arose with the
dawn of modem physical science. Indeed, with the Galilean
mathematization of nature, a revolution occurred that turns out to
be symmetrical to the revolution undergone by metaphysics. Kant
expressed this by means of an analogy with Copernicus.6 Before
this revolution, it was metaphysics that was in foreign territory,
dealing as it did with the shadows of what lies beyond experience
(the three Ideas of Reason: the soul's destiny, the universe, God),
but now only metaphysics is equipped to deal with experience (in
Kant's words: the conditions of possibility of experience are also
the conditions of the objects of experience), while physics in its
post-Newtonian development has come to deal with a world of
shadows and symbols. Obviously enough, then, if Eddington's
argument has any validity, the need arises to account for the
possibility of sense in mathematized natural knowledge by
unearthing what is required to sensibillze its relevant concepts;
these concepts may vary from one physical theory to another, but
never so drastically as to modify the general terms of the
metaphysical task outlined by Kant.
Now, with the development from Newtonian to relativistic
and quantum physics, is it so positively clear that such
sensibilization remains a problem only for metaphysics? Eddington
Being and Knowing