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A Dissertation

Submitted to the Graduate School

of the University of Notre Dame

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


Michael J. Bowler, B.S., M.A.

Stephen Watson, Director

Graduate Program in Philosophy

Notre Dame, Indiana

July 2004
UMI Number: 3166474

UMI Microform 3166474

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Michael J. Bowler

While attention has been given to Heidegger's reappropriation of Aristotle, not

much has been given to the systematic philosophical import of this reappropriation and

the context in which Heidegger carried it out. In this dissertation, I undertake a

philosophical reconstruction of Heidegger’s hermeneutic reappropriation of Aristotle’s

notion of praxis as a mode of the being of life. This reappropriation is hermeneutic

insofar as it develops within a context in which the theoretical (objectifying)

interpretation of the very nature of philosophy has gained pre-eminence but has also

become questionable.

This context is the critical philosophies of the nineteenth century, particularly,

Neo-Kantianism (most importantly the work of Paul Natorp), Husserl's phenomenology,

and the historical philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey known as Weltanschauungphilosophie

(world-view philosophy). Standing in the considerable shadow cast by Kant's critical

project, these philosophers struggled to articulate a conception of philosophy that was

scientifically adequate. Critical to this issue is what status lived-experience (Erlebnis),

i.e., pre-reflective, pre-conceptualized, immediate experience, played in the foundation of

Michael J. Bowler
philosophy. Furthermore, this conception of philosophy had to find its place within the

architectonic of the positive sciences which, in the nineteenth century, found itself

divided between the Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften. According to

Heidegger, this latter requirement leads to two very different conceptions of philosophy,

namely, Husserl's "scientific philosophy" of phenomenology and the historically oriented

philosophy of Dilthey's world-view philosophy.

Heidegger believes that this betrays a crisis in the very nature and task of

philosophy itself. It is in this context that he engages in a hermeneutic reappropriation of

Aristotle's philosophy. Heidegger believes that through such a reappropriation the crisis

facing philosophy can be overcome. Specifically, Heidegger turns to Aristotle's

Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics in order to appropriate Aristotle's understanding of

the nature of scientific thought and the relation of this to its penultimate question, i.e., the

question of Being – a question that Heidegger believes modern critical philosophy has

covered over. Correspondingly he must turn to Aristotle's Physics in order to re-

articulate the activity and movement of thought in its questioning of Being and,

importantly, the relation of this to the praxis of life.


To my loving wife, Monica, whose invaluable support made all this possible.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.............................................................................................. v

INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................... 1


GEISTESWISSENSCHAFTEN ........................................................................... 18

I. Rickert and the Science of History................................................................. 19

II. Lask and the Intelligibility of Lived-Experience........................................... 44
III. Heidegger's Critique of Rickert and Lask...................................................... 50


I. Husserl's Presuppositionless Phenomenological Science............................... 59

II. From Originarily Presentive Intuition to Lived-Experience.......................... 73


I. Questioning and the Task of Knowledge..................................................... 109

II. Natorp's Analysis of the Task of Knowledge............................................... 127
III. The History of Knowledge and the Reconstruction of
Lived-Experience.................................................................................... 137


THROUGH HISTORICAL LIFE....................................................................... 156

I. Heidegger's Critique of Theoretical Reason and the Rise of Historical

Reason..................................................................................................... 157
II. Dilthey and the Critique of Historical Reason............................................. 183
III. Dilthey, Husserl, and the "World-riddle"..................................................... 203

REAPPROPRIATION OF PRAXIS.................................................................... 212

I. Towards a Hermeneutic Phenomenology: Beyond Scientific Philosophy

and Worldview Philosophy..................................................................... 218
II. Philosophy as Praxis..................................................................................... 295

CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSION................................................................................... 350

BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................................................................................... 359


I would first and foremost like to thank my advisor Stephen Watson. He invested

much work over a long period of time teaching me, guiding me through the graduate

program, and helping me complete this dissertation. His knowledge, skill, patience, and

friendship were invaluable not only for completing this dissertation but in my ability to

make it through graduate school all together. This dissertation is much better because of

his influence. He was also more than just an academic advisor as he helped me through

some personally difficult times. He is a mentor to me in more than just an academic

sense and I am forever grateful for all he has done for me.

In this respect, special mention must also be made of an early mentor of mine, a

good friend, and the person who first introduced me to and helped me appreciate the

work of Martin Heidegger: David McCarty. He has helped me in so many ways that I

will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to him.

I am also grateful for the time and effort that Karl Ameriks, Fred Dallmayr, and

Lenny Moss have invested in my education and as readers of this dissertation. I have

learned much from the classes I took from them and the conversations I had with them.

In addition, I would like to thank my friends and fellow graduate students: Phil

Bartok, Ingo Farin, Matt Halteman, Pat McDonald, Rob Piercey, and Manuel Vargas. It

was in conversations with them that I sharpened many of the ideas that have found their

way into this dissertation.

I would also like to thank my family for all they have done for me and for the

support they have given me over these many years. They too were a vital part of the

process of finishing this dissertation and obtaining my degree.

Finally and most importantly, the largest debt I owe and my utmost appreciation

go to my wife Monica. Without her help and support through these past few difficult

years I would have achieved little. I cannot imagine a more loving, caring, patient, and

dedicated wife than her and I thank God every day that he brought her into my life. I

dedicate this dissertation to her.


In the conclusion of his habilitation, Die Kategorien und Bedeutunglehre Des

Duns Scotus, Heidegger sets forth what, in his view, is the characteristic problem which

plagues much of the philosophy of the 19th and early 20th century. He says, “Philosophy

as a rationalistic construction detached from life is powerless - mysticism as irrational

experience is without a goal.”1 At this early stage in his career Heidegger believes that,

except for Wilhelm Dilthey, the critical, transcendental philosophies of the late 19th and

early 20th century, including the Southwestern and Marburg schools of Neo-Kantianism,

and the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl had detached philosophy from life or "living

spirit" by a process of theoretical rationalization. This rationalization of philosophy led

to a fateful misinterpretation of the medieval “worldview,”

If we keep in mind the deeper essence of philosophy as worldview, then

even the conception of the Christian philosophy of the Middle Ages as a
Scholasticism that stood in conflict with the mysticism of this period must
be exposed as a fundamental error. Scholasticism and mysticism belong
together essentially in the medieval worldview. The two pairs of
“opposites” – rationalism-irrationalism and Scholasticism-mysticism – do
not coincide with one another. And when one attempts to equate them,
such an attempt is based on an extreme rationalization of philosophy.2

Martin Heidegger, “The Theory of Categories and Meaning in Duns Scotus,” translated by Roderick
M. Stewart and John Van Buren, in Martin Heidegger, Supplements: From the Earliest Essays to Being and
Time and Beyond, edited by John van Buren (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), pg. 68.
Ibid., pg. 68.

Such a rationalization of philosophy, with its exclusive reliance on universal, abstract

concepts and its banishment of concrete, immediate lived-experience (Erlebnis) to the

realm of the “irrational” is incapable of giving an “authentic conceptual foundation” to

the “medieval worldview.” For example, the medieval concept of analogy is,

...the dominant principle in the categorial sphere of sensible and

supersensible reality, it contains the conceptual expression of the
particular form of inner Dasein that is anchored in a primordial,
transcendent relation of the soul to God and lived precisely in the Middle
Ages with an unusual reserve.3

The concept of analogy is the bridge between medieval scholasticism and mysticism, that

is, between a systematic, "scientific" account of reality and that reality as lived. Analogy

is the primordial concept through which the problem of the categories arose from the

lived-experience of “medieval man.” Without such a primordial connection between the

system of categories and life, the medieval system of categories, and for that matter any

system of categories, would be "unable to avoid the impression of a certain deathly


Already in his habilitation, Heidegger demonstrates his sensitivity to the

hermeneutic aspects of reading the history of philosophy. That is, in the habilitation he

reads the category problem - which is so central to Ancient and Medieval philosophy as

well as to modern critical philosophy - through the hermeneutic horizon of the

contemporary Neo-Kantian problematic of the dichotomy between rational, abstract, and

universal thought as opposed to irrational, concrete, immediate lived-experience. This

Heidegger, “The Theory of Categories and Meaning in Duns Scotus,” pg. 67.
Ibid., pg. 62.

hermeneutic horizon becomes increasingly sharpened in Heidegger's early thought by his

analysis of three figures who struggled to reconcile the two sides of this dichotomy:

Wilhelm Dilthey, the great proponent of worldview philosophy and of a critique of

historical reason - to whom Heidegger was doubtless exposed by his early mentor

Heinrich Rickert, Edmund Husserl, who expounded the radical, new “scientific

philosophy” of phenomenology, and finally, Paul Natorp, an important and sensitive

reader of Ancient philosophy in his own right, but also an important interpreter of Kant's

critical philosophy. The complexity of Heidegger’s hermeneutic appropriations have

often been missed.

Michael Friedman, for example, has recently argued5 that the split between the

continental and analytic traditions of contemporary philosophy can be fruitfully

understood by seeing the origin of this divide in very different responses to the debate

between the two major traditions of Neo-Kantianism, the southwest or Baden school,

which emphasized the "particularist," anti-rationalistic methodology of the

Geisteswissenschaften, and the Marburg school, which accepted as a methodological

principle the "universalism" and rationalism of the Naturwissenschaften. Most

significant in the present case, is that Friedman believes that Heidegger's early

philosophy is primarily a radical version of the "particularist" methodology of the

southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism. That is, Heidegger articulates a radically

"ontological" and historical form of the anti-rationalistic, "particularist" approach of the

Michael Friedman, A Parting of the Ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger (Chicago: Open Court
Publishing Company, 2000).

southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism.6 This, Friedman argues, is in part due to the

influence of Heinrich Rickert upon Heidegger, but, perhaps more significantly, also to the

thought of Rickert's student Emil Lask, upon whom Husserl's Logical Investigations had

a considerable impact. Though Friedman later defends his interpretation of Heidegger

against critics who call it "one-sided and selective" by pointing out that he never intended

"to tell the whole story about" Heidegger7, he still maintains that it is illuminating to see

Heidegger as radicalizing the particularist tendencies of the southwestern school by

means of his unorthodox reading of Kant wherein Heidegger attempts to "overcome the

overly 'rationalistic' philosophy he found in contemporary Neo-Kantianism - and to

supplant the remaining 'rationalistic' tendencies he found in Husserlian phenomenology

as well."8 Friedman goes on to further argue that "...according to Heidegger, [his reading

of Kant] implies that the traditional basis of Western metaphysics in logos, Geist, or

reason is definitively destroyed."9 Explicitly following Theodore Kisiel10, Friedman

Cf. Friedman, A Parting of the Ways, especially chapter 4. There Friedman argues that, "
dissolving the traditional philosophical distinction between "essence" and "existence" in the temporality of
Dasein, [Heidegger] is able to reinstitute a form of "direct realism" founded on Dasein's necessary "being-
in-the-world." This form of "direct realism" is very special, however, for Dasein's most fundamental
relation to the world is not a cognitive relation at all. Indeed, Dasein's most fundamental relation to the
world is one of either "authentic" or "inauthentic" existence, in which Dasein's own peculiar mode of being
(that is, "being-in-the-world") is itself either disclosed or covered over. Heidegger's version of "direct
realism" is thus only possible on the basis of the historical nature of Dasein, and so all truth is in the end
historical." (pg. 58).
Michael Friedman, "Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger: The Davos Disputation and Twentieth Century
Philosophy," European Journal of Philosophy 10, pp. 263 - 274.
Ibid., pg. 265.
For example, Theodore Kisiel, The Genesis of Being and Time (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1993) and Theodore Kisiel, "Why Students of Heidegger Will Have to Read Emil Lask," Man and
World 28, pp. 197 - 240.

emphasizes the central importance of Emil Lask - a student of Rickert who was also

profoundly influenced by Husserl's Logical Investigations - on Heidegger's early thought.

He says,

...the problematic [Heidegger] inherited from Rickert and Lask helps to

explain why Heidegger could not ultimately remain satisfied with
Husserl's conception of phenomenology. The problem arising so acutely
within the tradition of the Southwest School was precisely that of the
application of abstract formal-logical structures to concrete real objects of
cognition - the problem of the application of the categories in Kant's sense
to actual spatio-temporal objects. And this problem, it is clear, cannot be
solved within the framework of Husserl's conception of "pure
consciousness." For "pure consciousness," as we have seen, itself belongs
to the purely ideal realm of essences and is thus entirely independent of
the existence of any and all concrete instances, whether of consciousness
itself or of its objects of (empirical) cognition.11

It is by means of and through this problematic that Friedman and Kisiel see Heidegger's

early philosophy. Friedman continues,

Hence, if our problem is the relationship in general between the abstract

and concrete, ideal and real, formal and empirical realms, we need a
fundamentally new type of investigation that does not itself take place
within the entirely abstract ideal realm. We need a "subjective logic" with
a concrete subject. It is of course in Being and Time, completed ten years
later, that Heidegger finally works out such a "subjective logic" - the so-
called existential analytic of Dasein.12

In other words, Friedman believes that it is particularly illuminating to see Heidegger's

early philosophy as a radically new response to the Kantian problematic of the relation

between thought and sensibility.

Friedman, A Parting of the Ways, pg. 46.
Ibid., pg. 46.

A central thesis of this dissertation is to question this (not uncommon) reading of

Heidegger's early philosophy.13 Not only is Friedman's reading "one-sided and selective"

but rather than being illuminating, it is, in many respects, misleading with respect to

Heidegger's genuine problematic. Though certainly elements of Friedman's reading

appear in Heidegger and the late nineteenth and early twentieth century thinkers that

influenced his him, it is misleading to suggest that the Kantian problematic of the relation

between abstract thought and concrete sensibility was Heidegger's genuine problematic.

As we have just seen, even in his habilitation Heidegger understands his own project as

overcoming an extreme rationalization of philosophy, not as overcoming an extreme

rationalization of the proper object or subject matter of one conception of philosophy.

That is, the main problem with the aforementioned "Kantian" reading of Heidegger's

problematic is that it puts in place of Heidegger's true problematic, which is the nature or

"idea" of philosophy as such and the (traditionally dominant) rationalization of its nature,

a problematic that presupposes a critical understanding of the nature of philosophy and

sees Heidegger's project as addressing the pressing issue of this philosophy. Thus,

Heidegger's early philosophy is viewed as addressing the (epistemic) problem of the

relation between thought and sensibility and proposing a radical solution, namely, a

historicized, practical (and sometimes pragmatic) form of "direct realism" appropriate to

a historical, concrete subject. This leads to various "transcendental" interpretations of

A similar reading permeates the interpretations of Dreyfus, Okrent, Dahlstrom, Blattner, et. al.

Heidegger's early philosophy14 and, in the extreme, to the claim that Heidegger's

philosophy is a form of transcendental idealism.15

Heidegger describes his own early project as speaking to what he sees as a "crisis"

in the nature of philosophy itself brought about by two dominant and apparently

irreconcilable conceptions of philosophy, namely Dilthey's Weltanschauung Philosophie

and Husserl's "scientific" phenomenology. This characterization of the context and

problematic of his philosophy explicitly appears in Heidegger's works from 1919 up to

and just after Being and Time. However, it arises less determinately, though still

prominently, even as early as his habilitation. There he remarks that,

What is opened up in the concept of living spirit and its relation to the
metaphysical "origin" is an insight into its basic metaphysical structure in
which the uniqueness, the individuality, of its acts is joined together in a
living unity with the universal validity, the subsisting-in-itself, of sense.
Looking at this from the side of the objects involved, what stands before
us is the problem of the relation between time and eternity, change and
absolute validity, world and God, a problem that in terms of theory of
science finds itself reflected in history (formation of values) and
philosophy (validity of values).16

What is particularly significant here is that it is metaphysics and the "metaphysical

structure" of living spirit that informs Heidegger's understanding of the theory of science,

i.e., critical epistemology, not the reverse.

Heidegger affirms this problematic even more forcefully at an earlier point in his

habilitation when he says, "We cannot at all see logic and its problems in their true light

For instance, Hubert Dreyfus, Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time,
Division I (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1991).
William Blattner, "Is Heidegger a Kantian Idealist?," Inquiry 37, pp. 185 - 201 and William Blattner,
Heidegger's Temporal Idealism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
Heidegger, “The Theory of Categories and Meaning in Duns Scotus,” pg. 68.

if the context from which they are interpreted is not a translogical one. Philosophy

cannot for long do without its authentic optics: metaphysics. This signifies for theory of

truth the task of an ultimate metaphysically teleological interpretation of

consciousness."17 Again, the problematic is one of the very nature of philosophy insofar

as it has lost its "authentic optics: metaphysics." On the other hand, this is not a naive

return to a pre-critical metaphysics. In fact, Heidegger has little patience for this

approach, as he makes clear in a later context while discussing the title of his 1923

lecture course, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity18,

If ... one takes "ontology" to be a rallying motto for the now popular
attacks on Kant, and, more precisely, on the spirit of Luther and, in
principle, on all open questioning not frightened in advance by possible
consequences - in short, ontology as the alluring call to a slave revolt
against philosophy as such - then the title of this course is completely

Once more, Heidegger is clear that his is a hermeneutic project. Philosophy must find its

proper optic in metaphysics, or what he will later call "fundamental ontology," only with

respect to the present crisis facing the nature of philosophy itself, a crisis precipitated by

fundamental elements of Kant's philosophy.

Only when this problematic is apparent is it clear why Heidegger believes a

hermeneutic return to and appropriation of Aristotle's philosophy, and most importantly

Aristotle's conception of philosophy, is necessary. That is, this problematic gives

hermeneutic credibility to Heidegger's concern with the "fundamental question of

Ibid., pg. 65-6.
Martin Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, translated by John van Buren
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).
Ibid., pg. 1.

philosophy," i.e., the Seinsfrage, his emphasis on the very nature of the activity of

philosophy, and the "metaphysical structure" of the being who philosophizes (Dasein),

i.e., that being whose being is characterized by both nous (intuition or insight) and logos


Within the "Kantian" problematic that Friedman and others put forward,

Heidegger's hermeneutic appropriation of Aristotle seems, at best, out of place, and, at

worse, a naive, useless anachronism or a mere historical flourish. It is telling in this

regard that Friedman notes in his chapter on Heidegger that, "...Kant thereby also

subscribes to "direct realism" - to the view that we directly perceive external objects

outside ourselves in space in outer sense just as we directly perceive internal objects in

time in inner sense."20 This is indicative of Friedman's interpretation of Heidegger, not

simply because Friedman sees Kant as, in some sense, grasping the project of

fundamental ontology, but because he believes Heidegger's so-called direct realism is

reducible to something that Kant would find unproblematic and in fact, in some form or

other, would subscribe to himself.

Heidegger's hermeneutic return to and appropriation of Aristotle's notion of

philosophy is the subject of the last chapter of this dissertation, wherein I argue that

Heidegger appropriates from Aristotle the notion of philosophy as the fulfillment of the

praxis of life, i.e., an activity whose end or purpose is that very activity itself.

Heidegger's appropriation of Aristotle is, however, a hermeneutic appropriation, meaning

that the present crisis in philosophy - that between philosophy as worldview and

Friedman, A Parting of the Ways, pg. 60.

philosophy as rigorously scientific phenomenology - opens up for Heidegger an

understanding of philosophy not fully explicit, but rather dormant in Aristotle's thought,

and one that remains in tension even there. In the last chapter, I examine this crisis of

philosophy and show how Heidegger appropriates Aristotle's Metaphysics, Physics, and

Nicomachean Ethics. Beyond the standard interpretations of Heidegger's reading of

Aristotle21 as we will see, which emphasize the role of the Nicomachean Ethics, I argue

that Heidegger looks equally as much to Aristotle's Metaphysics and Physics as to his

Nicomachean Ethics for his appropriation of Aristotle's notion of praxis, especially with

regard to the being of Dasein. In his early thought, Heidegger turns, for the most part,

only to book six of the Nicomachean Ethics and, in that respect, principally for Aristotle's

discussion of the different modes of aletheia and nous.

In the course of this dissertation, I will argue that recently emerged texts22 provide

the context of Heidegger's problematic and are of fundamental importance for

For instance, Jacques Taminiaux, Heidegger and the Project of Fundamental Ontology, translated by
and edited by Michael Gendre (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), especially chapter 3:
"The Reappropriation of the Nicomachean Ethics: Poiesis and Praxis in the Articulation of Fundamental
Ontology", Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G.
Marshall (New York: Continuum, 1989), especially part II, II, 2 (B), "The hermeneutic relevance of
Aristotle", Franco Volpi, "Being and Time: A Translation of the Nicomachean Ethics?," translated by John
Protevi, and Walter Brogan, "The Place of Aristotle in the Development of Heidegger's Phenomenology,"
both in Reading Heidegger From the Start: Essays in His Early Thought, edited by Theodore Kisiel and
John van Buren (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994).
Specifically, Heidegger's lecture courses of 1919, "The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of
Worldview" (the "War Emergency Semester 1919" lecture) and "Phenomenology and Transcendental
Philosophy of Value," both in Martin Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, translated by Ted
Sadler (London: The Athlone Press, 2000). As well as, his lecture course of the winter of 1921- 1922,
Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle: Initiation into Phenomenological Research, translated by
Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001) and his lecture course of the winter of
1924-25, Plato's Sophist, translated by Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1997). Finally, Heidegger's ten-part lecture series, "Wilhelm Dilthey's Research and the
Struggle for a Historical Worldview," translated by Charles Bambach in Martin Heidegger, Supplements:
From the Earliest Essays to Being and Time and Beyond, edited by John van Buren (Albany: State
University of New York Press, 2002), pp. 147 – 176.

understanding his hermeneutic appropriation of Aristotle. To this end, the first four

chapters of my dissertation investigate and lay out this context by means of a number of

Heidegger's early lecture courses where he deals with the thinkers influential in his own

development, namely, the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism, including Lask

(chapter one), Husserl (chapter two), Natorp (chapter three), and Dilthey (chapter four).

I believe that focusing on the "Kantian" dichotomy between thought and

sensibility, though clearly evident to a greater or lesser degree in each of these thinkers,

can also lead to misunderstanding. I think it is much more illuminating and less

misleading to focus on each of the aforementioned thinker’s understanding of lived-

experience (Erlebnis), the importance of which was common to each of the

aforementioned figures - and, importantly, to Heidegger himself. In each case, their

different notion of and approach to lived-experience, and for Dilthey and Heidegger their

approach to life itself, represent well their own advancement of - or, perhaps, rejection of

- the Kantian project. Clearly, for each of them, lived-experience remained connected to

Kant’s dichotomy between thought and sensibility. And what is important, and what

interpreters such as Friedman miss, as Erlebnis is given scant mention in his book, is that

for each of them (with, perhaps, the exception of Rickert), lived-experience represented

the common origin, source, and principle of both thought and "sensibility." That is, the

thinkers most contemporarily influential to Heidegger had explicitly realized (in different

ways and to different degrees) that the Kantian dichotomy so central to Friedman’s

account was to have been overcome in the notion of lived-experience.

Where they differed was not over whether to side with rationalistic universalism

or anti-rationalistic particularism, but over the nature and validity of thought and

sensibility given that they have a common origin in lived-experience and the relation

between subjectivity as such and lived-experience. But since Friedman believes that only

Cassirer adequately overcame the dichotomy between thought and sensibility, everyone

else gets interpreted as, more or less, falling on one side or the other of this dichotomy.

For instance, Friedman says that, for Husserl, "pure consciousness ... itself belongs to the

purely ideal realm of essences and is thus entirely independent of the existence of any

and all concrete instances."23 But Husserl does not say this. He believes that the

phenomenological residuum, i.e., pure subjectivity or pure consciousness, consists of the

"stream of mental processes" (Erlebnisstrome) which has the "necessity of a fact

[Faktum]" and this is an "evidently indefeasible positing of factual existence


To this end, I spend much of the first four chapters of the dissertation tracing

these thinker's understanding of lived-experience, making note of the relation between

thought and "sensibility" within their notion of lived-experience and its relation to

subjectivity as such. In addition, I explain Heidegger's interpretation and criticism of

each thinker. This, I believe, effectively sets the context for understanding Heidegger's

own problematic and his hermeneutic appropriation of Aristotle. What follows is a

summary of these first four chapters.

Chapter one traces the very early influences on Heidegger’s thought, especially

Windelband, Rickert and Lask all of whom were representatives of the southwestern

Friedman, A Parting of the Ways, pg. 46.
Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy,
translated by F. Kersten (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1983), pg. 103.

school of Neo-Kantianism. The overriding issue in this context is their attempt to

formulate an adequate critique of the Geisteswissenschaften, which requires concepts that

are universal, but which are at the same time capable of capturing the individuality of

historical entities. These concepts are significantly and qualitatively different from the

concepts of the Naturwissenschaften, which are nomological in character and thus

abstract from individuality. In addition, the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism is

concerned with formulating a philosophy of value, i.e., a philosophy that relies on value-

related concepts. In most respects, Friedman’s account here does capture the explicit

concerns of the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism. But, Heidegger argues that the

value philosophy of the southwestern school is incapable of understanding how its value-

related concepts can ever be given in immediate lived-experience due to its infinitely

complexity. The question arises as to the source and ground of these concepts. Value

philosophy attempts to ground them in the science of psychology, but, as Heidegger

argues, this begs the question. Using Husserl’s Logical Investigations and Aristotelian

metaphysics, Lask attempts to overcome this deficiency by embedding universal concepts

(form) in lived-experience (matter). This too Heidegger sees as inadequate. However,

phenomenology, with its fundamentally new understanding of the role of intuition (which

Heidegger says Lask never fully understood in its true radicality) still represents a

possible approach to the issue. An important contribution of value philosophy remains.

That is, the notion that there is a form of generality, viz., a nexus (Zusammenhang), by

means of which it is possible to grasp an individual in such a way that the means by

which it is grasped is still general.

In chapter two, we turn to Husserl’s phenomenology and Heidegger’s early

critique of it for which he relies heavily on Natorp’s own critique. Heidegger sees in

Husserl the attempt to formulate an account of the givenness of generalities within

immediate lived-experience, namely categorial intuition. Through his analysis of

intentionality and intuition, Husserl is able to show how concepts can be given in lived-

experience without thereby sacrificing their universal meaning. That is, he avoids the

dichotomy between the immediacy of lived-experience and the universality of thought

that dominates much of the Neo-Kantian tradition. However, Husserl remains under the

dogmatic sway of the hegemony of theoretical reason vis-à-vis his understanding of

lived-experience. That is, though he set out to grasp the living character of intentionality

and intuition (we live through towards things) this is constrained by his dogmatic

acceptance that this is ultimately theoretical in character and thus objectifying. We

always intend, and thus intuit, objects – where Husserl characterizes objects as self-

contained unities of meaning. Because of this, for Husserl, even reflection upon lived-

experience itself is constrained by the requirements of theoretical reason. Therefore,

lived-experience itself must conform to the dictates of objectivity. As Natorp argues,

Husserl is incapable of grasping subjectivity just as it is given but must “till the stream”

of lived-experience. One consequence of this is that lived-experience contains no

inherent unity. Thus, by the time of the Ideas, Husserl is forced to posit the pure or

transcendental ego (the analogue of the Kantian unity of apperception) to perform this

function and at the same time must admit the transcendental ego is not given. But even

this is understood objectively. Ultimately, this leads Heidegger to claim that Husserl

never understood, or even questioned, the being of subjectivity, but took it for granted as

objectively given in reflection on lived-experience.

In chapter three we turn to Paul Natorp, whose influence on Heidegger has, in

large part, been neglected. Natorp rejects any “positivistic” approach to a critique of

reason, i.e., an approach that relies on subjectively given, evidential objectivities. Natorp

argues that objectivity is not evidentially given in immediate lived-experience, but rather

that the task of objectivity is given in the act of scientific inquiry. Thus, Natorp rejects

Husserl’s radicalized Cartesian approach to philosophy, which attempts to isolate

(through the phenomenological reduction) a privileged absolute givenness of

objectivities, namely, pure consciousness. All such evidentiary approaches, Natorp

argues, merely dogmatically presuppose given objectivities. Natorp argues that

subjectivity, rather than being a secure starting point of thought, is actually the end

product of the task of objectification embodied in scientific inquiry. Most importantly,

Natorp grounds his approach in a significant and, with respect to Heidegger, influential

analysis of the questioning involved in scientific inquiry – one which anticipates

Heidegger’s analysis of the three-fold structure of the Seinsfrage. Natorp explicitly says

that the only a priori is the task of knowledge, i.e., the task of objectification itself, which

ultimately results in the objectifying, lawful “reconstruction” of pure subjectivity. That

is, the telos of the task of knowledge is to objectify pure subjectivity such that it is made

intelligible (a task which Natorp says is “infinite”). However, Heidegger asks: if pure

subjectivity is not given (as Natorp believes) then what is to guide Natorp’s

“reconstruction” of it? Knowledge has become purely “constructive” and the subject is

an objectively constructed “fiction.” In this regard, Natorp raised the question of the

nature of subjectivity, but the being of subjectivity remains for him that of an object.

However, Natorp opens up an interesting question with respect to the nature of the

activity of philosophy and knowledge. That is, Natorp believes that the only given in the

science of knowledge (philosophy) is the task of knowledge itself, but, as I argue, Natorp

has no resources for understanding what this is. If we are given the task of knowledge

and from this are supposed to grasp the essential nature of science and, ultimately,

philosophy, we must understand what it is to be a task, what it is to question, what it is to

inquire. We need to understand what it means to be a subject that actively engages in and

pursues projects. This leads into issues that Dilthey raised in his methodological

reflections upon the foundations of the Geisteswissenschaft.

In chapter four, we look at Heidegger’s criticism of the theoretical, and

necessarily objectifying, approaches of Husserl and Natorp to philosophy, subjectivity,

and lived-experience. Dilthey, in his Weltanschauung philosophy, provides an account of

“subjectivity” that relies on concrete, intersubjective, historical unities or nexus

(Zusammenhang). These nexus are both manifested in and structure what Dilthey calls

“life.” They are not universal abstractions but are rather general, unifying contexts which

make meaningful the individual expressions of either an epoch or an individual person.

History and psychology attempt to interpret individual expressions by discovering the

respective historical or psychic nexus that lies behind such expressions. Life is the

medium in which such historical and psychical nexus are lived. Moreover, these

historical and psychic nexus are not understood by Dilthey to be mere “subjective”

structures, but objectivity itself is one moment within these nexus. In this way,

intersubjectivity is not an achievement of the subject but is inherent to life and lived-

experience. However, in an interesting exchange of letters between Dilthey and Husserl

and in Dilthey’s The Essence of Philosophy, we find that Dilthey does restrict these nexus

to the realm of life and still sees it as problematic as to how life (though intersubjectively

understood) and world can connect. This issue, Dilthey calls the “world-riddle” and

believes it to be the problem of metaphysics.




In this chapter I want to examine the development of Heidegger’s thought in his

engagement with his earliest Neo-Kantian predecessors. This engagement consists of a

critique of Neo-Kantian value philosophy and Emil Lask's development of it. First I shall

explain the value philosophy of the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism. This

school, and in particular Rickert, attempted to systematize a notion of "concept

formation" that would be appropriate to the Geisteswissenschaften. These concepts were

unlike those of the Naturwissenschaften insofar as they were not law-like, but still

capable of grasping the individuality of historical entities in a universal way. That is, by

means of a universal concept the particularities of history could be known. A central

characteristic of these concepts is that they are "value related," i.e., they make essential

reference to a value without asserting a valuation. In this way, the southwestern school

of Neo-Kantianism hoped to articulate a universal foundation for the


Importantly, Rickert attempted to ground these concepts in the factual science of

psychology and, by means of this, give them a solid foundation in a special science.

Heidegger argues that this attempt ultimately fails, because, according to value

philosophy's own tenets, the science of psychology must presuppose the value concept of

truth. More significantly, Heidegger argues that value philosophy's universalist approach

to knowledge makes concrete, immediate lived-experience as such inherently

unintelligible. It is Emil Lask, a student of Rickert who was profoundly influenced by

Husserl's Logical Investigations, who first made note of this problem and subsequently

attempted to ground universal concepts within immediate lived-experience by means of

his "Stockwerk" theory. Heidegger argues that Lask's theory, like Rickert's, is, in the end,

unable to capture in a non-dogmatic, critical fashion our understanding of immediate

lived-experience. However, tracing the influence of the southwestern school on

Heidegger, including his subsequent critique of it, is crucial for understanding the

trajectory of Heidegger's early thought.

I. Rickert and The Science of History

The classic statement of the issue that drove much of Neo-Kantian philosophy

influential to Heidegger is presented in Wilhelm Windelband's lecture "History and

Natural Science."25 In this lecture Windelband methodologically distinguishes the

natural sciences from the human sciences. Windelband argues that the natural sciences

are "nomothetic" or strive towards universal laws while the human sciences are

"idiographic" and try to capture the individuality of "processes and events." Windelband


Wilhelm Windelband, "History and Natural Science," translated by Guy Oakes, History and Theory,
19, pp. 165 – 185.

...we have before us a purely methodological classification of the
empirical sciences that is grounded upon sound logical concepts...One
kind of science is an inquiry into general laws. The other kind of science
is an inquiry into specific historical facts. In the language of formal logic,
the objective of the first kind of science is the general, apodictic judgment;
the objective of the other kind of science is the singular, assertoric

Rickert extends this analysis, making it "formally adequate." That is, he wants to

distinguish the sciences purely on formal grounds without presupposing anything about

their subject matter contrary to Dilthey’s distinction between the sciences that deal with

nature and those whose object is spirit.27 Rickert argues that common to both the natural

and human sciences is the use of generalized concepts, but whereas the nomothetic

method of the natural sciences use generalizations to acquire nomological laws the

idiographic method28 of the human sciences use generalizations to get at the individual.

Both methods however abstract from "the real," by which Rickert means, "the

immediately experienced or given reality in which we live our sentient existence."29

Rickert believes it is required of any science that it abstracts from "the real" since "the

real" itself is "infinite", i.e., there are innumerable aspects and relations within

immediately experienced reality.30 For example with regard to generalization in the

natural sciences, Rickert says,

Ibid., pg. 175.
Heinrich Rickert, The Limits of Concept Formation in Natural Science, translated and edited by Guy
Oakes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).
Although Rickert downplays the use of this term.
Ibid., pg. 39.
"As a complete empirical reality, Goethe is no "more complex" than any given fragment of sulfur in
its complete empirical reality. That is because the manifold of both realities is infinite." Ibid., pg. 57.

When we abstract from the individual configuration of things in natural
science, this does not bother us in most cases...We have no interest in the
fact that every leaf on a tree appears different from the leaves next to it, or
that no fragment of a chemical substance in a retort is exactly like any
other fragment of the "same" substance and will ever reappear.31

The natural sciences generalize in such a way that the individual is no longer part of its

concepts. It is not concerned with particular quarks, but with quarks as a kind and the

nomological laws which govern them. Rickert goes so far as to argue that, in its

complete logical articulation, the concepts of natural science should be devoid of

empirical content altogether to avoid the aforementioned indeterminacy of individualities

presented by empirical perception.

Even a description employing words with a general reference abstracts

from the perceptual manifold every single entity presents to us. In many
cases, however, the content of the concept is still represented by
perceptions. Yet, as we know, this sort of representation can actually be a
source of trouble in the context of scientific research. This is due to its
indeterminate manifold. Thus, as we were able to show, its elimination is
a further task that concept formation is obliged to confront. Once this task
is resolved by means of the definition of the concept, perception can no
longer render its content adequately. Should certain vestiges of perception
remain, they will tend to disappear as the process of concept formation
advances. And finally, if the logical idea of a theory in natural science is
attained, we will find that the content of its concepts contains nothing
more of that sort of perception that experience directly presents.
Therefore we can flatly claim that the complete logical articulation of a
concept in natural science depends on the extent to which empirical
perception or sense perception is eliminated from its content…The
meaning and purpose of natural science are to establish an opposition
between the content of concepts and the reality of sense perception as
rigorous as possible.32

Ibid., pg. 38.
Ibid., pg. 37.

It is true that in the practice of the natural sciences reference is made to perception and

the individual in many ways, for example, as the data from which general concepts are

abstracted and with which scientific hypothesis are tested, and of course in the

application of its nomothetic laws to the perceived world. Moreover, in practice the

concepts of natural science have empirical content of a very general sort though not “…of

that sort of perception that experience directly presents,” viz., perception of the purely

individualized sort. Rickert is trying to methodologically determine the nature of concept

formation in the natural sciences. Methodologically, the purpose and meaning of concept

formation in the natural sciences is to abstract completely from individuality so that these

concepts can become constitutive of universal, nomothetic laws. Consequently,

“…natural scientific concepts contain progressively less of the individual as well as of

empirical perception the more complete they become in a logical sense.”33 In this sense,

Rickert follows the ancient tradition, explicit in Plato and Aristotle, of perception being

directed towards the particular and thought towards the universal.

At first, this seems to present problems for Rickert’s view of natural science.

After all, this objection goes, does not the supremacy of the natural sciences with regard

to our knowledge of nature rest precisely on the fact that the method of the natural

sciences is eminently good at representing empirical reality itself? But if the content of

the concepts of natural science exclude concrete, particular empirical perception, i.e., if it

excludes the concrete individual from its nomothetic laws, has it not failed precisely in its

task to represent natural reality, which is after all always concrete and particular?

Ibid., pg. 37.

Consideration of this objection allows Rickert to get to the heart of his views on natural

science (and all empirical science for that matter.) It also gets to the heart of the Neo-

Kantian view that the task of science is not to reproduce reality, but rather to be valid.

Rickert argues that the objection is based on the “picture theory” of concepts.

The “picture theory” of concepts is that concepts are a mental “picture” of the reality they

represent. According to this view concepts are a mental reproduction of reality in the

mind whose “truth” is grounded in whether or not they accurately picture or reproduce

the reality they are meant to represent. Clearly, this theory is one version of the

correspondence theory of truth, i.e., veritas est adaequatio intellectus ad rem.

For Rickert, there are really two parts to this objection, a practical one and a

theoretical one. The practical objection is that if the concepts of natural science do not

reproduce reality how is it that natural science gives us a mastery of nature through its

power to predict the future course of events? Rickert’s answer to this objection is quite

simple. If the concepts of natural science were not general and did not exclude concrete,

individual reality it would not be possible to use them to predict future events. If the

concepts of natural science were mere reproductions of concrete, individual reality they

would be in Rickert’s words “useless,”

…If the concepts of natural science comprised the perceptual and

individual configuration of reality, then neither a practical orientation to
reality nor a prediction of its properties would be possible with the help of
these concepts…we can orient ourselves to reality only by means of the
simplification of reality that is undertaken in concepts. We must abstract
from its unique distinctiveness and particularity in order to find our way in
the real. Otherwise, the infinite manifold of its content eliminates any
possibility of orientation. If we did not have general concepts by means of
which we could simplify reality and thereby divest it of its bewildering

individuality and concrete actuality, in our practical conduct we would
stand helpless before reality.34

With regard to predicting future events and “orienting ourselves practically,” we should

not want the concepts of natural science to represent things in their particularity, rather

we need general concepts which apply equally to many distinct individuals so that in

recognizing similarity of cause we can infer similarity of effect. A concept which

represented a unique individual would be, in this case, useless. Science as a mental

reproduction of reality would be useless in its practical application.

However, implicit in the original objection is a theoretical objection based on the

truth of science and not its practical use. Science is supposed to give us knowledge of the

real. However, if reality is concrete and particular and the concepts of natural science are

abstract and general and, therefore, cannot represent the particular, in what sense does

science gives us knowledge of the real? Again, Rickert’s answer is quite simple. If the

concepts of science were reproductions of concrete particulars then science would not

qualify as knowledge at all. His answer to this objection applies not just to the natural

sciences but also to all forms of science.

It can be shown on the basis of general logical considerations that no

knowledge can possibly provide a reproduction. This is because every
knowledge claim must take the form of a judgment. In other words, it is
impossible, as this is usually expressed, for the truth of knowledge to
consist in the “agreement of the idea with its object.” The relationship
between an original and its copy will never obtain between reality and the
content of the judgments made about it…Knowledge of nature can only
undertake an analysis and transformation of empirical reality. That is
because the totality of this reality simply cannot be pictured: The attempt

Ibid., pp. 41 – 42.

to provide an exact reproduction of what has no limits is an absurd

Rickert’s answer to the objection relies heavily on the fact that for him “the real” is an

infinite manifold. Therefore, if science is possible and its concepts are to be useful they

must be general. This, however, leaves an open question: If scientific concepts are

general and “the real” is an infinite manifold, what is the relation between scientific

concepts and “reality”? Is the formation of scientific concepts mere caprice? Not so says

Rickert, but one must give up the idea that scientific concepts represent or reproduce

“reality.” Rather, the concepts of natural science do not represent reality but hold

“validly for individual reality.” Strangely enough this does not mean for Rickert that the

concepts of natural science do not represent something they simply do not represent

“reality,” viz., concrete particulars. In order to ground the objectivity of science its

concepts must represent something. They cannot represent “reality,” but they do

represent what “holds validly for reality.”

It is not enough simply to dismiss Platonic “conceptual realism” and reject

the view of concepts as pictures of real entities. The attempt to put
something new in its place is also necessary, something that can fulfill the
function that realism formerly served; namely, to ground the “objectivity”
of natural science. In the absence of such an attempt, it seems from an
epistemological standpoint that every systematic science based on general
concepts is suspended in midair without any foundation…another “object”
must take the place of the real entity whose perceptual content cannot be
comprehended by concepts. The concepts of the natural sciences are true,
not because they reproduce reality as it actually exists but because they
represent what holds validly for reality.36

Ibid., pg. 43.
Ibid., pg. 44.

For Rickert, as for most Neo-Kantians, the truth of judgments is grounded in validity and

not in correspondence with reality or representation of reality. In other words, truth is a

“teleological” notion and true judgments represent how things should be and not how

they are in “reality.” Another way this is commonly put is that truth and therefore

science are normative.

To sum up, for Rickert the concepts of natural science are general concepts which

do not represent or reproduce reality and necessarily so. If this were not the case, they

would be useless and constituting knowledge with them would be absurd. Furthermore,

the purpose and meaning of natural science is to produce nomothetic, i.e., universally

valid, laws of nature.

Natural science represents one half of the logical space of the methodology of the

sciences, viz., scientific study whose product is ultimately nomothetic laws. The other

half is the sciences that provide scientific knowledge of individuals, i.e., the human

sciences.37 Even the concepts of the human sciences do not represent or reproduce the

"real" individual in Rickert's sense of the real, i.e., the individual given in immediate

experience, since all empirical individualities are "infinite." That is, the human sciences

must also employ concepts which simplify the empirically given individual for, as with

the natural sciences, if its concepts represented every aspect of the empirically given

individual, its concepts would be merely “useless” repetitions of the infinitely complex

“reality” which, if it were even possible to have a concept of such a “reality,” could never

It is important to note that generalities are not the subject matter of the natural sciences but rather the
methodological approach used towards that subject matter. As we will see, for Rickert, any given
individual entity can be the subject matter of either science.

rise to the level of scientific knowledge of historical individuals. For even knowledge in

the human sciences consists of judgments which themselves are syntheses of general

terms. Whereas the natural sciences utilize general concepts for the purpose of producing

nomothetic laws, the historical sciences use general concepts to get at the individual. As

Windelband argues, the human sciences are “idiographic.” On the other hand, like the

natural sciences, the human sciences need to simplify in order that they may rise to the

level of scientific knowledge,

We know that the intensive infinity of every single process also poses
insuperable obstacles to a form of knowledge that proposes to represent
reality just as it really is. It follows that the historical disciplines, those
that do not fall within the natural sciences, are also obliged to undertake a
transformation and an analysis of the reality that is given to them. Here
too, however, the aim of this analysis can only be simplification by means
of a selection of what is essential and a synthesis of correlated elements
into valid concepts.38

The human sciences cannot deal with the infinite manifold that make up every empirical

individuality (“intensive infinities”) any more than the natural sciences can, rather one

must select the "essential" characteristics of it. Rickert writes, “…the perceptual and

individual configuration of reality is not encompassed by any science.”39 Rickert gives

the example of the historical study of Friedrich Wilhelm IV,

There is no doubt, however, that we could ascertain a multitude of facts

about a personality such as Friedrich Wilhelm IV that are historically
inessential under all conditions. Simply suppose that a historian possessed
a substantial number of letters written in the king's own hand. If he
concerned himself with the way the king distributed ink on the page, he
could fill volumes with the description of absolutely indubitable facts from

Ibid., pg. 50.
Ibid., pg. 50.

the past, but not even the most specialized specialist would maintain that
this qualifies as historical science.40

However, to make clear what Rickert means by “historical science” I must first

mention an important distinction Rickert makes between uses of the German words

“Geschichte” and “Historie.” Geschichte and Historie both translate as “history.” Like

the English word “history” both “Geschichte” and “Historie” can be used ambiguously to

refer either to the science or study of history and its subject matter. When the context

does not disambiguate the meaning, Rickert proposes to reserve Geschichte to refer to the

science of history and des Historischen to refer to its subject matter. However, des

Historischen can have a further ambiguity. On the one hand, it can be used to refer to the

subject matter of the science of history (Geschichte), i.e., historical individuals as

conceptualized by the science of history, or, on the other hand, des Historischen in its

“purely logical aspect” must “…be applicable to every part of the totality of empirical

reality whatsoever, insofar as reality is conceived as invariably consisting of individual

constructs.”41 Consequently, everything is historical in this sense, from Friedrich

Wilhelm IV to an individual atom. However, in the sense of des Historischen which

refers to the subject matter of historical science Friedrich Wilhelm IV is a historical

(Historischen) object while an individual atom is not. Rickert says, “From this

perspective, the totality of reality itself in its individuality becomes a “historical”

[“historischer”] process, even if there can be no total history [Gesamtgeschichte] as a

Ibid., pg. 72.
Ibid., pg. 54.

representation of this process.”42 Heidegger makes a similar, though importantly

different, distinction in, among other places, sections 6 and 72-77 of Being and Time.

Heidegger distinguishes between the sense of historical as it is used when one talks about

a “historical entity” and historical when it is used to refer to something found in the

concrete, individuality of the stream of lived-experience.

Rickert's distinction between the methodology of the natural and human sciences

is a "formal" distinction precisely because, in his view, it does not rely on any

presuppositions about the subject matter of these sciences. Everything given in

immediate experience is historical in the broad sense - both the objects of the science of

history and the objects of the natural sciences. And everything is capable of becoming

the subject matter of a natural science or a human science. The difference depends on

how it is being understood, i.e., whether it is seen as a mere instance of a general concept

subsumed under a universal law or whether it, in its individuality, is what is to be

understood through “individualizing” concepts. As an example, Rickert considers the

case of Goethe. Goethe can be seen as a poet, a minister, a person, etc. That is, Goethe

can become the object of a natural scientific study, i.e., he can be understood simply as an

instance of a general concept that applies equally to many individuals. The issue for

Rickert is what sort of concept formation is needed if we are to have a scientific study of

Goethe as a historical individual and not as a mere instance of a general concept, i.e.,

what sort of conceptualization is needed by the human sciences.

Ibid., pg. 54.

Again, all judgments use concepts and since judgments are constitutive of any

science whatsoever the human sciences must be constituted by judgments as well. In an

intimation of Russell’s thesis in “On Denoting,” Rickert considers the apparent

paradigmatic instance of referring to an individual through the use of a proper name and

argues, a la Russell, that even proper names are merely shorthand for a complex of

general concepts. This underscores Rickert's argument that all sciences must utilize

general concepts. Rickert writes,

Obviously, we do not contest the indispensability of a generality for all

scientific concept formation. Even a fleeting glance at a historical
representation shows that it too almost always consists of words that have
general meanings. It could not be otherwise, for these are the only words
intelligible to everyone. It is true that historical representations also
include proper names, and they seem to constitute an exception. Without
further specification of their sense, however, they mean something only to
someone who is acquainted on the basis of perception with the individual
designated or can reproduce this individual in memory. The historian
should never presuppose knowledge of such individual perceptions. If he
happens to posses this knowledge himself – which is possible only if
factual material and source material coincide – he can communicate it
only by specifying its content by means of words that have general
meanings. Thus proper names can appear in a historical representation
only as proxies for a complex of words with a general meaning; for only
then is the representation intelligible to everyone who hears or reads it.43

These “first generalities”44 as Rickert calls them are indispensable for any science

whatsoever. What is crucial for our purpose of understanding Heidegger’s criticism of

the Neo-Kantian project and his own early project of a pre-theoretical science is what

Rickert says next. That is, that without these “first generalities” no science is possible.

Ibid., pg. 79.
As opposed to the “second generalities” which are higher generalities used by the sciences to produce
systematic theories.

Consequently, there can be no science of immediate empirical experience or “concrete


But if this “first generality” – as we propose to call it – is indispensable to

all logical thought as such, then it is just as essential to a historical
representation as to concept formation in natural science. In the sense that
the elements of concepts and judgments are general, all scientific thought
must be articulated in general concepts. So if the task of rendering
nothing but individual contents is ascribed to history, then the concept of a
historical science would in fact be a contradiction in terms.45

Because all the objects of immediate empirical experience are “intensive infinities” there

can be no scientific understanding of them, since all science requires the use of general

concepts that select only certain finite features of the individual in order to make valid

judgments about them.

From Rickert’s perspective what has been said means that if there is to be a

science of the individual it must conceptualize its content differently from the natural

sciences. Laying out this other form of concept formation is essential for a philosophical

understanding of the human sciences,

The empirical perception of reality cannot be represented by any science,

because it remains infinitely diverse under all conditions. Thus it cannot
be reduced to any concept. But this does not hold true for individuality.
Although it is given to us perceptually, it does not follow that individuality
must remain identical with perception. The problem of concept formation
in history, therefore, is whether a scientific analysis and reduction of
perceptual reality is possible that does not at the same time – as in the
concepts of natural science – forfeit individuality, and yet also does not
produce a mere “description” of facts that cannot yet be regarded as a
scientific representation. In other words, we must now ask, from the
infinite manifold of the perceptual content of reality, can certain aspects be
accentuated and consolidated into scientific concepts in such a way that

Ibid., pg. 79.

they represent not what is common to a plurality of things and processes
but, rather, only what is present in one individual?46

In order to accomplish this, Rickert argues, we must realize that all individualizing

concepts of the type he proposes are “value related,” i.e., they conceptualize the

individual in such a way that characteristics of the individual are related to even more all-

encompassing values. Every entity capable of becoming the object of a human science is

located within a larger context of significance that makes the individual meaningful to

scientific understanding. This context of significance is a hierarchy of “value related”

concepts. However, this should not be understood exclusively in the sense of moral

valuation but rather in the broad sense of being significant for something else. Placing

the individual within the space of a larger context of significance, specifically by

understanding how an “essential” characteristic of this individual plays an important role

within this larger context, allows for a scientific conceptualization of the individual. It

allows science to relate this “concept” of the individual to other more over-arching

concepts and see their interdependence. For example, Goethe can be related to the larger

context of German Romanticism insofar as he is its greatest thinker. Both the idea of

Goethe as the greatest thinker of German Romanticism and the idea of German

Romanticism itself are individualized concepts, i.e., they are not concepts under which

other individuals can be subsumed, and so cannot be concepts to which universal laws

apply and, therefore, objects of natural science, but at the same time they are concepts

which anyone may understand even without immediate empirical experience of the

individuals they represent. They are also concepts that are related to one another and are

Ibid., pp. 78 – 79.

meaningful only with regard to one another. Specifically, Goethe as the greatest thinker

of German Romanticism is value-related to German Romanticism as a unique historical

process. Rickert calls these larger contexts of significance “historical nexus,”

…in historical reality, individuals are never isolated. All objects of

history are rather parts of a larger whole with which they stand in a real
nexus. As we have seen, the abstractions of natural science destroy this
nexus and isolate instances. History cannot proceed in this way. It
becomes the science of the unique, real event only by means of a
representation of the historical nexus.47

The individual is only scientifically meaningful if it is uniquely valuable to a historical

nexus. In this Rickert is carrying on the tradition of value philosophy found in both

Windelband and Dilthey. Put another way, as a mere instance of a general concept the

individual is practically meaningless, e.g., an individual quark or Goethe as an instance of

a poet. The individual becomes meaningful only insofar as it possesses a uniquely

valuable characteristic and is valuable with reference to something else, e.g., a historical

nexus. Rickert says,

We take note of uniqueness and have occasion to become explicitly aware

of it only when they are related to a value and thereby become indivisibly
unified in their uniqueness…This is why it sounds paradoxical to call
leaves or nuts individuals, even though – in the most general sense of this
expression – they are exactly as individual as the personalities of history.48

Because the methodology described here makes essential reference to value-relatedness,

Rickert says that the human sciences are “teleological.” Although he stresses that this is

not to be understood metaphysically in the sense of a telos. Rather, the teleological

character of the human sciences refers only to the fact that they make essential use of

Ibid., pp. 62 – 63.
Ibid., pg. 64.

values. Rickert says that concept formation in the human sciences has a “historical-

teleological moment.” He writes,

As a result of the new mode of distinguishing essential from inessential

aspects, the representation of the individual – and thus of the historical, in
the logical sense of this term – is shown to be possible. Moreover, it will
be shown that the formation of concepts with an individual content – or
individualizing concept formation, as we will call it – takes place only
through a theoretical “relationship” of historical objects to values, a
relationship whose nature we will have to define precisely. To that extent,
this sort of concept formation could also be characterized as
“teleological.” However, this historical-teleological moment has nothing
to do with the teleological concept of history that appears from time to
time and often has been quite justifiably criticized as unscientific. In
particular, here it is only a purely theoretical principle that can be in

That is, they are historical insofar as they are always situated within a historical nexus

and teleological insofar as this situatedness is grounded in a value-relation.

However, Rickert points out that "history is not a valuing science but a value-

relevant science."50 The two notions of individuality that have been described above, i.e.,

the individual per se, or the individual of immediate empirical experience, and the

individual as uniquely valuable within a larger context of significance, is not peculiar to

historical science. In fact, "every feeling, willing, and acting person" employs this as a

matter of course - this distinction is "self-evident" to anyone. As a practical matter, in

order to make one's way in the world one cannot rely exclusively on individualities.

Rather, everyone must, at times, abstract from the individuality of things and use general

concepts, i.e., in order to get around everyone needs to see distinct things as merely

Ibid., pg. 62.
Ibid., pg. 88.

different instances of one general concept, for example, seeing two distinct things as

merely two hammers and not focusing on what makes them the unique individualities

they are. Likewise, as a matter of course everyone as a practical matter sees certain

things as uniquely valuable for their present or future purposes within the larger nexus of

what is valuable to them and thus conceives them in their individuality just as the

historian does.

On the other hand, this latter conceptualizing of the individual is not scientific

because it is not theoretical, but rather practical. The human sciences do not judge

things to be valuable or not, i.e., it is not a practical discipline or a valuing science, rather

the concepts of the human sciences are “value-related.” No actual judgment concerning

the value of the individual is going on, but the individual is being connected to a larger

historical nexus as valuable for that historical nexus. The human sciences are not

concerned with whether the individual is good or bad, that can be done only within a

historical nexus. The human sciences are concerned only with the value-relation that

exists between an individual and a broader historical nexus.

On top of this, if conceptualization of the individual is to be scientific the value to

which the individual is related cannot stop at just any broader context of significance, but

must be related ultimately to a general value by which Rickert means a universal value.

Foremost in Rickert’s conception of a science is that it ultimately arrives at universal

concepts, i.e., concepts applicable to any context. The practical values which people use

to conceptualize individuals in their everyday, practical affairs are not scientific because

they are not universal but only apply directly to that person and usually only in a

particular context. For example, this particular book is necessary as a source for finishing

the chapter I am now working on. Being valuable to my larger project of finishing this

essay individualizes this book. If it is not valuable to any of my projects then it is

conceptualized merely as a book among many other books. Or, more generally, Rickert

employs the example that in all practical affairs people regard “psychic beings” as

individuals because psychic beings always have value within our practical projects, but

books or chairs or computers are not necessarily valuable in just such a way. However,

this individualizing conceptualization is not theoretical or scientific, but practical. It

becomes more theoretical the more universal the value is to which things are being

related. For example, though from a practical standpoint all “psychic beings” are

individuals in the sense described they are not all objects of a theoretical historical study.

Only by being related to a broader historical nexus do they become the object of

historical study, e.g., Goethe in relation to German Romanticism and, more generally, to

western history. Finally, individualizing conceptualization becomes scientific when the

ultimate value to which it is related is universal. Rickert sums it up this way,

…history is interested in only what – as we usually put it – has general

significance. This must mean that for history, the value with reference to
which objects become historical individuals must be a general value: in
other words, a value that is valid for everyone. All persons become
individuals in the strict sense by virtue of the fact that we relate every
human individual to some sort of value...If we compare a personality such
as Goethe with any average person, and if we ignore the consideration that
even the individuality of this average person means something with
reference to some value or other, it follows that Goethe is related to such a
person in the same way the Koh-i-noor diamond is related to a lump of
coal...the individual Goethe is an in-dividual in the same sense as the
individual Koh-i-noor: His distinctive status as an individual is valued by
everyone for its individuality.51

Ibid., pg. 89.

Thus there are two moments to scientific conceptualization in the human sciences

– that it is value-related and not valued as such and that the value to which it is ultimately

related is universal. This is why, though each “psychic being” may be considered an

individual from the practical standpoint they are not individuals for a scientific history.

Furthermore, the universal value necessary for the validity of the science of

history is not discovered but is rather presupposed by the science of history. A short

review of Rickert's argument will make this clear. Immediate empirical experience is

unrepresentable by any conceptualization. In Rickert's terms, immediate empirical

experience is "irrational." The subject matter of historical science, viz., historical

individuals, must literally be "selected" from immediate empirical experience through

individualizing conceptualization. Necessary for this is value-relatedness to some given

value. Without this pre-given value no individualizing concept is possible since it

individuates precisely on the basis of a value-relation. That is, the value opens up the

possibility for the scientific conceptualization of individuals. The universal value

necessary for scientific history ultimately makes possible all individualizing

conceptualization and therefore cannot be discovered or abstracted from immediate

empirical experience. Nor can it be found in the practical valuations of everyday

existence that contains no universal values. Rickert writes, unbiased conception should treat the question of the unconditional

validity of values as just as open as the question of the unconditional
validity of natural laws. In both cases, a supraempirical factor is

Ibid., pp. 106 – 107.

Therefore, this universal value must be a priori. In this way, Rickert believes he has

completed Dilthey's task of a ”critique of historical reason." That is, he has given the

necessary a priori conditions for any historical science whatsoever.

For Rickert and value philosophy generally, the key to discovering these ultimate,

universal values lay in empirical psychology, specifically, in the universal psychological

functions of thinking, willing, and feeling. The ultimate, universal values corresponding

to these functions are truth (for thinking), the good (for willing), and the beautiful (for

feeling). Human activity consists of thinking, willing and feeling and history is

comprised of concrete instances of these activities. The science of history consists of

relating individual acts of thinking, willing and feeling to the ultimate values of truth,

goodness and beauty.

Scientific activity itself is related to the ultimate, universal value of truth and is

that activity which strives to realize this normativity perfectly in opposition to other

activities which, though having the same goal, fall short (primarily for methodological

reasons), e.g., astrology or history as mere narrative. This is why Rickert argues that

there is a necessary connection between validity and value. Central to the Neo-Kantian

tradition is Lotze's distinction between being and validity. In this tradition, being is

(roughly) the way things are given in immediate, sensuous experience. From this one can

only derive facts. Validity is normative and is defined in opposition to being as the way

things should be rather than how they factually are. Idealities are valid while beings just

are. Valid laws then describe the ways things should be and can never be grounded

merely in the way things are given to consciousness in experience. In this way, valid

judgments escape Humean criticisms unlike abstractions based on immediate, sensuous

experience. Most importantly, as far as scientific understanding is concerned validities

are more universal than sensuous abstractions.

Thinking for Rickert consists of judgment and the goal of judgment is true

judgment. Science is the perfection of this human striving after the norm of truth and so

seeks after valid judgments rather than judgments based on mere abstractions from

sensation, which are ultimately defeasible. For this reason we can understand why

Rickert argues that science, as it achieves its perfection, will be less tied to sensuous

experience and more abstract and general, i.e., more universal. Also truth must be, for

Rickert, an a priori value, i.e., not itself grounded in immediate, sensuous experience,

because it is already presupposed in all judgment whatsoever.

In his 1919 lecture course The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of

Worldview53, the question that Heidegger focuses in on in his analysis of value

philosophy is how are these values given to consciousness? To avoid dogmatism there

must be some connection between these ultimate, universal values and concrete lived-

experience. However, for Neo-Kantians like Rickert, concrete lived-experience is

"infinite" and unintelligible and, therefore, there can be no direct, unmediated connection

between the ultimate values of truth, goodness, and beauty and concrete lived-experience.

In other words, discovering normative values through an analysis of the inchoate mass of

data presented by concrete lived-experience is not possible. For Rickert, with regard to

the issue of scientific knowledge and its ultimate value, the solution lies in looking to the

concrete, empirical sciences themselves which have already (to an extent) organized this

Martin Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 151.

mass of data into intelligible generalizations. That is, in the concrete, empirical sciences

we already have an instance of the very activity of consciousness making intelligible

immediate sensuous experience, which is in essence unintelligible. In the empirical

sciences we have an instance of the scientific activity of forming intelligible, general

concepts out of immediate, sensuous experience. But, when it comes to the normative,

universal value truth, the material that Rickert needs is not that given by just any

empirical science, but rather the concrete, scientific systematization of the concrete

processes of the formation of general concepts and judgments as studied by empirical

psychology. Rickert and most other Neo-Kantians (even if they were not motivated by

value philosophy and the thought of the southwestern school) believed that the method

necessary for discovering the most universal concepts of scientific knowledge is a

normative analysis of concrete, empirical psychology. That is, a normative analysis of

the scientifically systematized modes of human cognition.

Clearly, concrete, empirical psychology can only be the material for discovering

these values and not the foundation of these values because, for starters, empirical

psychology itself is in an on-going process of development. Furthermore, only certain

"essential" elements of empirical psychology are used to discover the universal,

normative concept of truth. With regard to its subject matter, empirical psychology is

indifferent to its truth or falsity. That is, empirical psychology studies the whole range of

psychic phenomenon including both concept formations and judgments which are true

and also those concept formations and judgments which are false. Value philosophy's

methodology is a normative analysis of the systematic judgments of empirical psychology

itself in the service of grasping a universal, normative concept of truth. Through a

normative analysis of the content of concrete, empirical psychology itself Rickert

believes one can discover a scientifically adequate, ultimate, normative concept of truth

thereby fulfilling the Neo-Kantian notion of philosophy as the science of science.

Heidegger argues that the methodology of value philosophy is incapable of

achieving the goal it explicitly sets for itself, namely, the scientific conception of the

ultimate value of science itself, i.e., truth. Its methodology is either superfluous or is

involved in a vicious circle which, as a theoretical methodology, it cannot allow. The

methodology of value philosophy claims to discover the norms of thought from an

analysis of concrete, empirical psychology. As Rickert admits, this first requires the

selection of the essential aspects of empirical psychology from which one can grasp the

norm embodied therein. However, these essential aspects of empirical psychology are

precisely those which manifest the normative, universal concept of truth value philosophy

is intending to grasp. How, Heidegger asks, is value philosophy to select these essential

aspects without already presupposing a definite conception of truth? Without this

conception the selection process would be blind, arbitrary and unscientific. However, if

this conception is somehow given in concrete, empirical psychology then value

philosophy and its methodology are superfluous and pointless because empirical

psychology itself will already have a scientifically adequate concept of truth. In fact,

concrete, empirical psychology is using some conception of truth by which it can

distinguish true judgments from false ones and classify them but, according to Rickert, it

is not in possession of a scientifically grounded conception of truth. That is, empirical

psychology already presupposes the universal, normative notion of truth but is not in

possession of a scientific conception of truth. If it were we would just look to empirical

psychology for a scientific conception of truth and value philosophy would be

superfluous. It is because empirical psychology itself cannot be the ground for our

universal, normative concept of truth that we require value philosophy.

But this ultimately means that the methodology of value philosophy is circular for

it presupposes precisely that which it intends to get, namely, a universal, normative

concept of truth. In order for it not to dogmatically assert an ungrounded conception of

normative truth, value philosophy attempts to discover this concept through a normative

analysis of concrete, empirical psychology, which itself generalizes and systematizes

lived-experience. In order to accomplish this, however, it must presuppose a concept of

normative truth which will allow it to separate the "essential" from the "inessential"

elements of empirical psychology which it can then analyze to grasp the very concept of

truth it is intended to discover. Value philosophy either dogmatically assumes an

ungrounded, but fully determinate concept of normative truth that then makes its

"methodology" superfluous or it presupposes its own end and thus finds itself in an

intolerable circle.

However, Heidegger notes that there is another possible path value philosophy

can take and that is that values are ultimately given in an original and originating form of

givenness. This givenness of values Heidegger calls a "worth-taking" (Wertnehmen).

The universal, normative concept of truth would then be given in an originary worth-

taking. This, however, is not a path open to Rickert because of his conception of lived-

experience. As previously mentioned, Rickert argues that lived-experience consists of

immediate, sensuous experience which consists of (ultimately) unintelligible, intensive

infinities. Rickert explicitly argues that no universalities are given in immediate,

sensuous experience and that this is precisely why scientific knowledge is not

representational. Essential to scientific knowledge is the formation of generalities which

make universalities possible but which cannot represent immediate, sensuous experience.

Therefore, for Rickert, the concept of a worth-taking as originary givenness of universal

values is impossible. On a more general level, this is also evident from the Neo-Kantian

separation between being and validity. Sensuous, immediate experience is "real", i.e., it

circumscribes being, whereas validities are "irreal" or non-being. This chasm between

being as "the real" and validity as "the irreal" makes a notion of worth-taking which

bridges the gap between them, i.e., an originary form of givenness of the irreal (validity)

in the real (being), impossible. In the end, value philosophy's only option is to give up its

methodology of grasping these concepts through an analysis of concrete, empirical

psychology and, since its notion of lived-experience cannot accommodate primordially

given universal values, it must admit that the ultimate, universal value of truth is imposed

by subjectivity upon lived-experience. Therefore, value philosophy ultimately progresses

no further than Kantian transcendental idealism in grounding the objectivity of primordial


Clearly, though, the impossibility for Rickert of a worth-taking rests primarily

upon a dogmatic, presupposed understanding of lived-experience itself, i.e., as

"infinitely" complex and ultimately unintelligible. This is a consequence of his

understanding of lived-experience as immediate, sensuous experience. Rickert is trapped

in a methodological vicious circle because of a dogmatic, presupposed understanding of

the nature of lived-experience itself.

II. Lask and the Intelligibility of Lived-Experience

According to Heidegger it is Husserl (even though he preceded Rickert) and Lask

(who was a student of Rickert and very much influenced by Husserl) who ventured

further into the structure of lived-experience in order to ground scientific knowledge.54

Both understood that the key to grounding scientific knowledge was to understand the

relation between lived-experience and the structure of judgment and, unlike, Rickert

realized that concrete, empirical judgments presupposed (objective) validity and that the

latter could not be inferred from concrete, empirical psychology through any

methodological tool. In other words, though Rickert did not succumb to psychologism,

he believed that it was possible to critically ground validity and truth through an analysis

of concrete, empirical psychology. Concrete, empirical judgments, however, already

manifest the oppositional structure of truth and falsity and Husserl and Lask realized that

any scientific methodology starting from concrete, empirical judgments would have had

to already presuppose truth and validity. That is, concrete, empirical judgments

necessarily refer beyond themselves to pre-given ideal meanings (Sinn) that ground the

validity and truth of the concrete, empirical judgments themselves.

For excellent and detailed studies of Lask's influence on the early Heidegger I recommend both
Theodore Kisiel's, The Genesis of Being and Time, especially Part I, sections 1 and 3, and his "Why
students of Heidegger will have to read Emil Lask." Excellent introductions to Lask's work include Steven
Galt Crowell, "Emil Lask: Aletheiology as Ontology," Kant-Studien 87, pp. 69 – 88, Karl Schuhmann and
Barry Smith, "Two Idealisms: Lask and Husserl," Kant-Studien 83, pp. 448 – 466, J.N. Mohanty, "Lask's
Theory of Judgment," in Phenomenology on Kant, German Idealism, Hermeneutics and Logic, edited by
O.K. Wiegand, R.J. Dostal, L. Embree, J. Kockelmans and J.N. Mohanty, pp. 171 – 188, and Gabriel
Motzkin, "Emil Lask and the Crisis of Neo-Kantianism: The Rediscovery of the Primordial World," Revue
de Métaphysique et de Morale 2, pp. 171 – 190.

In his "Phenomenology and Transcendental Value philosophy" Heidegger

acknowledges his own indebtedness to Lask.55 Lask, Heidegger says, "...proceeding from

the insights of the Logical Investigations went further than Rickert, without, however,

taking the step into phenomenology."56 What was this step towards phenomenology

which Lask took and Rickert did not? What is Heidegger's completion of this step into

phenomenology? Heidegger's final step into phenomenology involved a radical critique

of theoretical reason itself. Lask, on the other hand, did not go so far.

Lask gives a critique of the tendency in post-Kantian philosophy to subjectivize

the transcendental categories, which he attributes to a mis-identification of Kant's notion

of formal logic, whose subject matter is judgments, with transcendental logic, whose

subject matter is the application of the categories to sensuous intuition (objective

validity). This mis-identification, Lask argues, resulted in a overly subjectivized

understanding of the role of transcendental logic and its categories which, for example,

the Neo-Kantians treated as arising out of, or at least being equiprimordial with,

judgment and, consequently, subjectivity. It is not entirely clear that this Neo-Kantian

identification of formal logic and transcendental logic is a misinterpretation of Kant's

Critique of Pure Reason since Kant himself sometimes treats them ambiguously and, in

transcendental idealism, both the categories of understanding and sensuous intuition are

grounded in the subject. 57 Lask wanted to show that objective validity exists pre-

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 151.
Ibid., pg. 149.
Cf. Mohanty, "Lask's Theory of Judgment."

judgmentally in lived-experience.58 That is, Lask's project was to try to bring together

the Aristotelian notion of the categories as categories of being (objectivity) and the

Kantian doctrine of the categories as necessary for thought and judgment (validity) in

such a way that the two come together not in the subject but in the objects given in lived-

experience. In other words, Lask is concerned to show that there are real objective


Lask begins by criticizing Kant and Neo-Kantians like Rickert for being

dogmatic. Kant, Lask argues, failed to account for our knowledge of transcendental

forms. That is, Kant ignored his theory of knowledge his own critique of reason, his own
knowledge of the non-sensible transcendental forms (...) The sphere of
validity as the object of his own transcendental philosophy did not yet
count for him, so to speak.59

Because Kant only recognized the sensible and suprasensible realms of being and did not

recognize the realm of validity, i.e., the realm of truth to which being does not apply, he

could not account for our knowledge of the transcendental categories. Put another way,

for Kant something can only be given to consciousness through sensible intuition and

known through the imposition of the transcendental categories upon the given of sensible

intuition. However, the transcendental categories themselves cannot be given either in

sensible intuition or known through the imposition of transcendental categories (without

This idea is one of the profound influences that Husserl's Logical Investigations had on Lask.
However, Schuhmann and Smith ("Two Idealisms: Lask and Husserl," Kant-Studien 83) as well as
Heidegger (in the History of the Concept of Time) argue that by the time of his Idea I Husserl had back-slid
into subjectivity (as transcendental consciousness) himself.
From Emil Lask, Die Logik der Philosophie und die Kategorienlehre; Eine Studie über den
Herrschaftsbereich der logischen Form (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (P. Siebeck), 1911), as quoted and
translated by Crowell, "Emil Lask: Aletheiology as Ontology."

circularity). It is equally dogmatic, as well as an overly subjectivized analysis of

knowledge, to ground our knowledge of the transcendental categories in the forms of

judgment or the structural requirements of an already given body of knowledge, e.g.,

Newtonian science. Therefore, if our understanding of the transcendental forms is to rise

above mere dogmatism our knowledge of them too must be grounded. For Lask, this

grounding must take place in lived-experience itself. Though they are capable of being

considered separately by the knowing subject, being and validity form an essential unity

in lived-experience. Once separated, the category of being does not apply to validities

because, as I said previously, validity is not the way things are (being) but the way they

should be (validity). But, and this is where Lask takes a step towards phenomenology, if

we are to avoid being merely dogmatic, validity and being must both be founded in a

more fundamental unity, namely, that of lived-experience.

Taking his cue from Husserl's notion of categorial intuition, which is the intuition

of non-sensible eidos applicable to lived-experience, Lask argues that categories are

"lived through" rather than imposed on lived-experience. That is, lived-experience itself

is always logically structured. The categories are right there in lived-experience. For this

reason, Lask will say that we "live in the truth." This is how, for Lask, Aristotelian

distinctions come into play. Everything given in lived-experience, according to Lask, is a

"truth" insofar as every entity can been seen as a form-matter unity. For Aristotle and

Lask, the formal and material aspects of a thing are not two parts of a thing, but are rather

the thing itself. The formal and material aspects of a thing do not have being separate

from the unity that is the entity itself of which they are the form and matter. Of course,

the formal and material aspects of a thing can be considered separately. In fact, in

knowledge it is only the formal aspect which is at work, but form and matter are not two

distinct beings which together make up a third thing, viz., the entity itself. In lived-

experience the entity is always given in its unity. But, since each entity is a form-matter

unity, each entity is itself a "truth" since the formal aspect is precisely the categorial

validity of the entity. That is, the category is valid for the entity because it is the formal

aspect of the form-matter unity that is the entity itself. Lask says,

Individual objects are individual unities of meaning, individual "truths."

For truths as unities of theoretical meaning include the non-valid material
in addition to atemporal validity moments. Thus one may simply say:
space-time objects are truths, physical objects are physicalistic truths,
astral objects are astronomical, psychical objects are psychological truths,
etc. To be sure, truths, unities of meaning - not cognitions, judgments,
propositions; and further, truths in the paradigmatic sense, not in the sense
of being abstracted from scientific statements.60

The object itself is always a form-matter unity given in lived-experience and without both

a formal aspect and a material aspect there could be no object. Validity is the logical,

intelligible structure of beings alongside its material aspect, which falls under the

category of being. Therefore, Lask, while not reducing validity to being, has brought

being and validity together and overcome the “chasm” which has separated the two in

transcendental philosophy since Kant.

Furthermore, Lask understands his own theory to be a working out of an objective

understanding of Husserl's (and Brentano's) rediscovery of the intentional ("directedness-

towards") structure of all understanding. Form refers or points to matter insofar as form

is essentially incomplete and needs matter for its completion and this explains why

formal understanding is incomplete and requires material content for its completion.

Ibid., pg. 77.

Similarly, matter is indeterminate until it is determined by form in the same way that

empirical experience is unknowable until it can be brought under categories.61 Lask

wants to distance himself from more subjectivized understandings of intentionality by

grounding intentionality in his form-matter (or Stockwerk) analysis of the given of lived-

experience while at the same time preserving the force - though not the absolute

distinction - between being and validity found in the Neo-Kantian tradition. The latter

allows Lask to also distance himself from Aristotle's purely metaphysical interpretation

of the form-matter distinction, which amounts to reducing validity to being. Lask

describes his project as an "aletheiology," i.e., an analysis of the structure of truth that is

not grounded in the structures of knowledge (judgment), but rather lies in the very

givenness of lived-experience.

This position is obviously a critique of Rickert's value philosophy since, for

Rickert, the ultimate values themselves are a priori and supraempirical. This implies that

they cannot be given in lived-experience but, as previously noted, the very notion of an

individual entity presupposes an ultimate, universal value. Without such a value

experienced individuals are "irreal" intensive infinities that are incapable of being

understood. In this sense, Lask would say that Rickert is dogmatically presupposing

these ultimate values.62 For Lask, if we are to avoid this form of dogmatism all

categories need to be founded in lived-experience. Again, Lask does this by

I have glossed over many important intermediate steps in Lask's analysis to make the general point
In his "The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of Worldview," Heidegger notes that in his later
writings Rickert tried (ultimately unsuccessfully) to take into account Lask's criticisms.

appropriating Husserl's notions of intentionality and categorial intuition. In lived-

experience one "lives through" the categories and lived-experience itself would be

unintelligible without them.

However, for Lask, Husserl, Rickert and Kant, there is always an "illogical" and

unintelligible aspect to lived-experience. For Rickert, this is the intensive infinities of

immediate empirical experience and, for Lask, the ultimate, illogical material aspect of

all entities. A qualification must be made with regard to Lask's position however. Lask,

like Aristotle, conceives materiality functionally. That is, matter is always relative to

form. So, for any given thing, its matter too may be "formed." For example, Aristotle

says that the material aspect of a human being is the body that has been informed with the

form of humanity. But the material body itself is formed, i.e., it is comprised of parts

which themselves are structured and informed. However, when it comes to the category

of being, Lask says, its material correlate is unformed and truly "illogical."

III. Heidegger's Critique of Rickert and Lask

In his lectures of 1919, Heidegger makes an even more radical critique than Lask

of all post-Kantian philosophy. Heidegger criticizes the dogmatic ascendancy of

theoretical reason itself within modernity. Heidegger argues that the ascendancy of

theoretical reason within Kant and the Neo-Kantians produces an “absurd” circularity,

which is only apparently overcome by a “cunning trick of reason."

Philosophy after Kant recognized the need to be critical in order to avoid

ultimate, ungrounded, dogmatic presuppositions. As we have seen this drives Lask, using

Husserl, to go beyond Rickert’s ultimately dogmatic assertion of the universal values

required by validity to a grounding of these values in lived-experience through an

ultimate unification of the dichotomy between the Aristotelian notion of the categories as

the categories of being and the post-kantian notion of the categories as the categories of

the understanding. Lask argues that being and validity come together in the materially

individuated, hylomorphic entities given in lived-experience.

Heidegger argues that internal to theoretical reason itself lies the critical stance

which in the end becomes its undoing. In its internally necessary drive to justify and

ground itself theoretical reason must become critical. That is, it cannot dogmatically

assert its ground and justification because this, in the end, frustrates the very end internal

to theoretical reason, namely, an ultimate justification and grounding of all theoretical

knowledge. Beginning implicitly with Descartes and later explicitly with Kant the

ultimate foundation and justification necessitated by theoretical reason is grounded in

subjectivity. Descartes grounds knowledge within the certainty and immediacy of a

subject understood substantially believing that this ultimately fulfills theoretical reason's

need for an ultimate justification. Kant realized that the Cartesian subject was ultimately

just dogmatic metaphysics and, therefore, unjustified. Rather, the ultimate justification

for Kant lay in "experience," that is, the application of the categories of understanding

produced by spontaneous transcendental subjectivity to sensuous intuition. However, as

later commentators realized, it appeared that knowledge for Kant was entirely the product

of spontaneous transcendental subjectivity except for the flaccid activity of the

unknowable thing-in-itself that is the cause of the existence of the sensuous material of

intuition. These later commentators realized the ultimate impotence of this thing-in-itself

separate from subjectivity with regard to the foundation of knowledge and so jettisoned

the notion of a thing-in-itself in favor of the universal power of transcendental

subjectivity's spontaneity (Fichte). This, however, leads to the subject creating

knowledge by fiat, which hardly satisfies theoretical reason's essential need for a final

foundation and justification. Neo-Kantianism was motivated by the attempt to overcome

this subjectivization of knowledge.

Heidegger argues that theoretical reason cannot accomplish what it sets out to do,

namely, to provide its own ultimate justification. Theoretical reason cannot justify itself

without becoming either dogmatic or circular, rather theoretical reason itself must posit

something other than itself in which it finds its ground and ultimate justification.63 That

is, Kant saw dimly and implicitly the need for something outside of theoretical reason,

namely, the thing-in-itself. However, Kant's thing-in-itself is too far removed from

knowledge to play any useful justificatory role. Therefore, theoretical reason (as

manifested in Neo-Kantianism and Husserlian phenomenology) itself posits a strange

hybrid called "the given" in which its ultimate foundation and justification rests. I call it

a strange hybrid precisely because the "given" has theoretical import but at the same time

is ultimately other than theoretical reason and so (apparently) allows theoretical reason to

justify and ground itself non-circularly.

Heidegger argues that this positing of the given is the "cunning trick" of

theoretical reason because it covers over the fact that theoretical reason itself has posited

the given for its own purposes. It is important to note that the given is not lived-

experience but is in fact a theoretical deformation of lived-experience that presents itself

This gives substance to the importance of Brentano's "discovery" of and Husserl's refinement of
intentionality as the structure of consciousness. That is, consciousness' directedness towards something.

as lived-experience precisely to serve the justificatory purposes of theoretical reason. In

other words, theoretical reason appears to ground itself in lived-experience, a la Lask, but

in fact grounds itself in the given which is itself a theoretically deformed interpretation of

lived-experience. Heidegger says,

How do I live and experience the environmental? How is it 'given' to me?

No, for something environmental to be given is already a theoretical
infringement...'Given' already signifies an inconspicuous but genuine
theoretical reflection inflicted upon the environment.64

The hybrid character of the given, i.e., as other than theoretical reason and yet as ground

and justification for theoretical reason, explains why for all post-Kantian philosophy the

given has the dual characteristic of being both unintelligible and unknowable, i.e., other

than theoretical reason, and yet the seed of all intelligibility. In Rickert the unintelligible

aspect of the given is the "infinite" character of concrete, immediate sensuous experience

that is ultimately ungraspable by generalizations. In Lask it is the unintelligible and

unknowable character of the ultimate material element of experience, i.e., the material

correlate of being. Less clear with regard to Rickert is the justificatory aspect of the

given. As I mentioned, Rickert appears to fall back upon the subject as the ground and

justification of theoretical knowledge (which means he regresses back towards Kant) but

he does attempt (eventually unsuccessfully) to ground the ultimate, normative concept of

truth in the given, concrete, empirical science of psychology through his teleological

method. Lask's explanation of the justificatory aspect of the given lies in his Stockwerk

theory of experience. As was said, for Lask all objects of experience are hylomorphisms

of validity and being. That which is necessary to ground and justify knowledge (form) is

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pp. 74 – 75.

given in experience insofar as objects of lived-experience are essentially hylomorphic

unities the formal component of which can be abstracted by knowing consciousness in

order to make valid judgments. This duality between the intelligible and unintelligible

aspects of experience becomes more pronounced as it becomes interpreted according to

traditional metaphysics, i.e., it becomes the distinction between knowing subject and

known object and even more so as it becomes the distinction between a substantial

subject and substantial object creating an ever-more unbridgeable chasm between the


Though purporting to describe lived-experience, theoretical reason really deforms

lived-experience into the given for its own purposes. The given is the supposed

justification and grounding of theoretical reason in its other when in fact it is merely a

construction of theoretical reason itself and whatever justification it provides is viciously

circular and "useless." The viciousness of this circularity is that the given is the

justification and foundation of theoretical reason. Theoretical reason must ground itself

in lived-experience if it is not to become purely dogmatic, but in order to do so it must

deform lived-experience into the given to make it capable of playing the role it needs it to

play. Rather than faithfully describe lived-experience, i.e., rather than do

phenomenology, it has unknowingly imported what theoretical reason needs right into


Heidegger thinks there is nothing wrong with circularity per se and, in fact, thinks

that circularity is a necessary component of philosophy as primordial science itself. In

his lecture course “The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of Worldview”65 Heidegger

argues that all “primordial science” is essentially circular,

By their nature, ultimate origins can only be grasped from and in

themselves. One must forthrightly deliver oneself over to the circle which
lies within the very idea of primordial science. There is no escape from
this, unless from the start one wants to avoid the difficulty and make the
problem illusory through a cunning trick of reason (i.e., through a hidden

Authentic philosophy must “overcome” this circularity not by getting free of it but by

seeing it as essential to philosophy itself,

The circularity of self-presupposition and self-grounding, of pulling

oneself up by one’s own bootstraps out of the mire of natural life (the
Münchhausen problem of the mind), is not an artificial, cleverly
constructed difficulty, but is already the expression of an essential
characteristic of philosophy, and of the distinctive nature of its method.
This method must put us in a position to overcome the apparently
unavoidable circularity, in such a way that this circularity can be
immediately seen as necessary and as belonging to the essence of

The problem as Heidegger sees it is not circularity but that theoretical reason

itself cannot admit circularity. The theoretical notion of grounding and justification is a

logical relation. That is, If this, then that. The justification of the “that” is grounded in

the “this.” If the “this” includes the “that” already, then, from a theoretical standpoint, it

is no justification at all.

What is required, Heidegger argues in 1919, is a descriptive, by which he means

phenomenological, science of lived-experience. Whatever this phenomenological science

In Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy.
Ibid., pg. 13.
Ibid., pg. 14.

of lived-experience is it must be a pre-theoretical understanding of lived-experience, i.e.,

it “lets itself show itself in itself.” Heidegger argues that the phenomenological “method”

will provide us with the means for a “pre-theoretical primordial science.”

Lask went further towards phenomenology than Rickert insofar as Lask realized

the need to ground categories in lived-experience, but stopped short of realizing the real

essence of phenomenology. Whereas Rickert openly abjures immediate, sensuous

experience and consequently presupposes a priori, universal values, Lask attempts to

ground categories in lived-experience but does so by importing validities into lived-

experience through his form-matter analysis of lived-experience.

However, I think interpreters of Heidegger's early philosophy such as Kisiel and

Crowell place to much weight upon Lask's influence on Heidegger to the detriment of

Rickert's own substantial influence. For example, Kisiel argues that Lask's notion of

"living in the categorical" is the first step towards Heidegger's "worlding."68 I think it is

dangerous to overemphasis this. Against this, I have argued that Lask understands lived-

experience theoretically, i.e., as the given, and, as Heidegger says, this ultimately

represents the first step out of the environing world (Umwelt) and into the theoretical

sphere. Though Lask ventures further into lived-experience he brings the theoretical with

him to distort it. Heidegger's notion of the Umwelt is in important respects closer to

Rickert's "historical nexus" than Lask's lived-through categories. That is, Heidegger's

discussion of ever more general contexts of significance ultimately encompassed by the

environing world bears striking resemblances to Rickert's own presentation of the

Cf. Kisiel, "Why students of Heidegger will have to read Emil Lask."

generalities peculiar to the human sciences in contradistinction to the generalities of

natural science. Furthermore, though Lask in his Stockwerk theory delves much deeper

into the connection between lived-experience and what Rickert calls "first generalities",

i.e., generalities derived immediately from sensuous experience and necessary for any

judgment whatsoever, his universal form-matter analysis of thought and experience is

difficult to apply to the generalities appropriate to the human sciences the formation of

which was such an important issue for the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism. Is

German Romanticism the form to the material Goethe? Or vice-versa? German

Romanticism is the more encompassing whole of which Goethe is a significant part.

However, the relation of form to matter is not a relation of whole to part. For Lask, the

formal aspect of an object is its validity or more generally its intelligibility while the

material aspect is the concrete determination of this abstracted validity. Though Goethe

may be roughly seen as the concrete determination or embodiment of German

Romanticism, it is not the case that German Romanticism is the abstractable intelligibility

or validity of Goethe which is contained within the form-matter unity which is the real

Goethe because German Romanticism is a much broader intelligible structure of which

Goethe is a part and to which Goethe bears a value-relation (significance) towards. In the

same way, the world is not the ultimate intelligible form of all worldly things but is the

all-encompassing context of significance of everything worldly and to which everything

worldly bears a value-relation towards. Lask's Stockwerk theory does a poor job of

capturing the relation of significance that Rickert, Dilthey, and later, Heidegger were

struggling to articulate. Therefore, I think the attempt to see Heidegger's "worlding" as a

further development of Lask's "lived-through" categories is mistaken and that we should

not downplay the influence that Rickert had on Heidegger in this regard.

Part of what is required, from Heidegger’s perspective, is a renewed analysis of

Husserl’s phenomenological notion of intentionality and categorial intuition.

Intentionality is supposed to capture the concrete, living engagement which characterizes

lived-experience. It is to this to which we will turn to in the next chapter and to

Heidegger’s criticism of Husserl’s analysis of it.



In this chapter we sharpen the idea of a presuppositionless science, showing the

inadequacy of both Rickert's and Lask's view of philosophical science, using Husserl's

Logical Investigations and Ideas as our key. In the Logical Investigations Husserl

believes himself to have discovered the methodology of the truly presuppositionless

science of Phenomenology which is further elaborated but not radically changed in his

Ideas. Heidegger demonstrates that Husserl's phenomenology is incapable of

phenomenologically elucidating or analyzing the meaning of life and lived-experience.

This inability is shown to lie in the essence of theoretical reason as Husserl (and most of

modernity) conceive of it. That is, theoretical reason is incapable of phenomenologically

elucidating the meaning of these experiences because it presupposes objectification.

I. Husserl's Presuppositionless Phenomenological Science

What we saw in the last chapter was two versions of the attempt to ground science

itself, i.e., the science of science or what was commonly called "epistemology" in late

19th century philosophy. Both of these attempts fail to achieve a truly

"presuppositionless" science from the perspective of both Husserl and Heidegger and for

essentially similar reasons except that Heidegger's own understanding is more thoroughly

radical than Husserl's. This is due to the fact that both theories (and from Husserl's

perspective all pre-phenomenological philosophies) ultimately end up positing some

thing which grounds the very construction of the fundamental philosophical theories

themselves. This we pointed out in the last chapter was the notion of the "given" or what

Heidegger sometimes calls the "material pre-given." Neither of the Neo-Kantian theories

we looked at argued that the first principles in a deductive system were what were

ultimately given. Rather, both theories needed something upon which their respective,

ultimately constructive, theoretical scaffolding could rest. This was "the given" or the

"material pre-given." This, from Heidegger's perspective in 1919, amounted to no more

than a mere "theoretical" distortion of lived-experience. That is, "the given" is pre-

posited as both capable of grounding the universal generalities necessary for theoretical

reason (one sees this clearly in Lask's notion of form or the formal element in experience)

but at the same time "contains" more than this. This something "more" is precisely

posited as that which cannot be theoretically encompassed (one sees this in Rickert's

"intensive infinities" and Lask's notion of matter or the material element in experience.)

In addition, this very incapacity of theoretical reason to grasp an essential moment of the

given is itself a necessary requirement of the modern notion of theoretical reason itself

insofar as modern theoretical reason showed itself (through Kant) to be of necessity

critical. Theoretical reason must avoid dogmatism and so must ground itself. However,

it cannot justify itself by fiat, i.e., by merely asserting its own theoretical justification, for

this would ultimately lead to dogmatic rationalism. Therefore, it grounds itself in a

"given" which must be capable of grounding theoretical reason but at the same time

transcends the bounds of theoretical reason through its sensuousness.

A foundational science which proceeds in this manner Husserl argues is far from

presuppositionless. Rather, it posits beforehand precisely what it needs to justify its

further theoretical constructions. Moreover, and this is the crux of the problem from

Husserl's perspective, this positing is a factual or, more exactly, natural positing (i.e., a

positing in the form of positionality appropriate to the natural attitude). Having said this,

we must be careful to distinguish the way in which this is true. It is not that "the given"

has been posited as existing independent of consciousness. This is certainly not true for

Lask and is probably not true for Rickert, though, from Husserl's perspective, one would

like to know more about what sort of "consciousness" or "subjectivity" the ultimate

values of Rickert's system essentially relate to. It is not even true to say for Lask or

Rickert that "the given" is posited purely factually, for, in Lask, there is an "ideatic"

formal aspect of "the given" which is "abstracted" by theorizing about it and for Rickert

he explicitly describes these ultimate values, necessary for the understanding of

individualities, as being entirely "formal," that is, not containing any sensuous content at

all. For this reason, there is justification, especially in Lask's case, of arguing that neither

of these thinkers explicitly reduce the meaning of universal theoretical terms to

factualities as the much maligned psychologisms criticized in the prolegomena of the

Logical Investigations do. However, and this is why the way in which these thinkers go

wrong gets at the very heart of Husserl's phenomenological project, for both Rickert and

Lask lived-experience, in the sense of "the given," is the ultimate epistemological ground

and justification for all further theorizing while at the same time it includes within its

essential unity (and not just as a "mere appendage") a factual or natural moment which,

in Lask’s case, is the material component of lived-experience and, in Rickert’s case, is

the infinite, sensuous component of lived-experience. Lived-experience in the sense of

"the given" must be pre-supposed by these philosophies (though neither Rickert or Lask

is conscious of this) because according to their own requirements the very justification of

theoretical reason requires it.

From Husserl's perspective the problem is not, as it is for Heidegger, that lived-

experience has been radically deformed into its theoretical caricature, for in most respects

Husserl agrees with the aforementioned characterization of experience, at least from a

pre-phenomenological perspective. What has gone wrong, according to Husserl, is that

theoretical reason has found its justification in "the given" instead of pure intuition or

what is the same originally presentive intuition. One can suitably generalize an argument

that Husserl gives in the Ideas to cover this very problem. In section 19 of the Ideas,

Husserl says of empiricism, that

...empiricistic naturalism springs from the most praise worthy motives. In

contrast to all "idols," to the powers of tradition and superstition, of crude
and refined prejudices of every sort, it is a radicalism of cognitive practice
that aims at enforcing the right of autonomous reason as the sole authority
on questions of truth. But to judge rationally or scientifically about things
signifies to conform to the things themselves or to go from words and
opinions back to the things themselves, to consult them in their self-
givenness and to set aside all prejudices alien to them. Only another mode
of expression for just this -- so the empiricist believes -- is that all science
must proceed from experience, must ground its mediate cognition on
immediate experience.69


The essential fault in empiricistic argumentation consists of identifying or

confusing the fundamental demand for a return to the "things themselves"
with the demand for legitimation of all cognition by experience. With his
comprehensible naturalistic constriction of the limits bounding cognizable

Edmund Husserl, Ideas, pg. 35.

"things," the empiricist simply takes experience to be the only act that is
presentive of things themselves.70

Being an argument against empiricistic naturalism we cannot of course immediately

apply this to the present case (although much of it does apply straightforwardly to

Rickert), but it is instructive to look at how a more generalized version of the argument

does apply to both Rickert and Lask. In each case it applies differently, but both Rickert

and Lask fail to get to "the things themselves" as Husserl understands this. One could

say from the perspective of the Logical Investigations that Rickert's mistake is missing

the things themselves from the "subjective" side whereas Lask misses the things

themselves from the "objective" side. First we will look at Rickert, then Lask71.

For Rickert all concepts allow us to conceptualize and theorize about experience

which is merely sensuous experience and its intensive infinities. Concepts are

generalizations of this experience and there are two ways of doing this, through

universalized concepts which can act as components of nomological laws and as

individualizing concepts which express the value-relatedness of individuals. Clearly,

since Rickert philosophizes within the Neo-Kantian tradition he himself would not argue

that either of these generalizations have their genesis or origin with experience as

empiricistic thinkers would. For Rickert, both the concepts of natural science and the

human sciences find their origin in transcendental subjectivity. However, for reasons that

I pointed out in the last chapter, in order to avoid merely dogmatically positing either the

Ibid., pp. 35 – 36.
For an excellent overview of the relation between Husserl and Rickert, though with a different
emphasis, see John Jalbert, “Husserl’s Position Between Dilthey and the Windelband-Rickert School of
Neo- Kantianism,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 26, pp. 279 – 296.

nomological laws of natural science or the ultimate, universal values of the human

sciences Rickert must ultimately find some ground for the concepts in experience. Not

that they originate in this experience for they describe universal concepts which cannot

be abstracted (in the empiricist's sense) from experience, but rather their justification, i.e.,

their relation to experience or what makes them critically grounded, lies in the fact that

they make this mass of intensive infinities which make up immediate, sensuous

experience scientifically knowable.

That is, speaking somewhat loosely, the meaning of Rickert's formal

generalizations or universalizations is ultimately explicated in terms of their applicability

to immediate, sensuous experience. This led to a deformation of lived-experience into

theoretical givenness so that it could play this role. From Husserl's perspective this

precisely makes the mistake of (as I quoted above) "...identifying or confusing the

fundamental demand for a return to the "things themselves" with the demand for

legitimation of all cognition by experience." Given Husserl's argument against

psychologism in his Prolegomena to Pure Logic we can extrapolate to what he would say

in response to Rickert's Neo-Kantianism. That is, psychologism makes the mistake of

understanding all cognition as reducible to empirical psychology. For psychologism,

both the meaningfulness and origin of all cognitions are traced back to natural,

psychological categories. The problem with this is that it does not take things as they are

given. That is, it does not take things as they are meaningfully intended. It runs right

past the meaning-intentions of cognitions to their natural, psychological grounding. In

doing so, it misses the meaning-intention of cognitions altogether. Returning to the

"things themselves" for Husserl in the Logical Investigations is to pay strict attention to

how things are meaningfully given to consciousness. Psychologism misses the fact that

many of our cognitions (and all of our scientific cognitions) intend idealities. For

example, "red is a color." Husserl argues that the meaning expressed by "red is a color"

intends the idealities of redness and color and, if true, expresses an ideal law governing

these individual idealities. In other words, when we look at how "red is a color" is given

to consciousness, i.e., what its meaning-intention is, we can evidently see that it means

these idealities and the ideal law governing them. It is impossible, Husserl argues, to

ground these in natural, psychological facts or the categories "abstracted" from them for

these never get beyond factualities, that is, they never reach idealities. The

meaningfulness of assertions expressing idealities and ideal relations are utterly

misconstrued by psychologism.

This paying heed to the meaning-intentions of cognitions is what Husserl

understands by getting to the things themselves and is the foundation of phenomenology.

The meaning-intentions give the things themselves. That is, the meaning-intentions point

to the objectivity intended and the structure of the fulfillment necessary to ground the

knowledge of what is intended. For example, the meaning-intention of the expression

"Berlin" points to the objectivity intended and also the means of fulfillment, e.g. through

sensuous intuition. The meaning-intention of "Berlin" specifies factual fulfillment

through sensuous intuition. On the other hand, the meaning-intention of "redness" or

"triangularity", though equally pointing to the objectivity intended, specifies that the

means of fulfillment for these cannot be factual or sensuous, but categorial. That is, there

ultimately must be two types of intuition: sensuous intuition and categorial intuition. The

one cannot intuitively fulfill the meaning-intention of the other. In this sense, both

meaning-intentions and meaning-fulfillments give the things themselves. Of course, the

things themselves are most fully given in the fully fulfilled or intuited meaning-


Rickert we can see makes a mistake analogous to the mistake made by

psychologism. Although Rickert understands that the generalized concepts of both the

cultural and natural sciences are universal and have universal application, when it comes

to critically grounding these in "lived-experience" Rickert finds only immediate,

sensuous experience. That is, from Husserl's perspective, Rickert has presupposed that

lived-experience consists of immediate, sensuous experience and nothing else. This

leaves Rickert with only sensuous intuition to work with. Therefore, when it comes to

fulfilling the meaning-intentions of expressions of ideality Rickert is at a loss. Ultimately

then he critically grounds these expressions in immediate, sensuous experience which

leads to inevitable problems and inconsistencies. Lived-experience, therefore, is forced

to play the role of the ultimately incoherent hybrid that I called the theoretical "given" -

that is, it is both the ground of universal, theoretical reason and also of that which escapes

any cognition, viz., pure particularity or individuality.

However, anyone familiar with Husserlian phenomenology, will immediately

recognize that Rickert also lacks any robust sense of intentionality. Because of this,

Rickert makes the mistake of missing the things themselves, but from the "subjective"

side. For Rickert is ultimately trying to ground all expressions in immediate, sensuous

experience which is itself the self-contained (i.e., not intentional) stream of subjective

consciousness. This stream of subjective consciousness is, in Rickert's view, wholly

particular and "infinite." This presupposition about lived-experience forces Rickert to

miss "the things themselves.”

For Lask, so much influenced by the Logical Investigations, it is more difficult to

see where he went wrong. Lask ultimately attempts to ground the varied forms of

intuition in one unified lived-experience from which the factual and ideatic merely arise

depending one whether one is attending to the material or formal aspect of lived-

experience. Furthermore, for Lask the ground and justification of all thought lies in a

lived-experience which transcends either sensation or thought and which Lask describes

much of the time in the language of mysticism. Granted, Lask believes that lived-

experience itself is neither subjective nor objective. The very notions of subjectivity and

objectivity for Lask are derived from an ultimately unified lived-experience. The

important point however, is that for Lask there is ultimately one "intuition" of any object

of lived-experience or, put another way, there is only one ultimate mode of givenness of

any object of lived-experience (perhaps "mystical"), and the sensuous (factual) and

categorial (ideatic) intuitions which Husserl talks about are derived from this, i.e., are

merely two aspects or perspectives on one unified given of lived-experience. Lask argues

in this way because he ultimately desires to unify all categories of thought (validity) and


But, again, from Husserl's perspective this is to presuppose the way things are

instead of paying attention to the things themselves. As in the case of Rickert, Lask is

not paying close enough attention to the given meaning-intentions and what it intends.

From Husserl's phenomenological perspective, Lask, in his rush to unify the categories of

thought and Being, has collapsed together what is evidently separate, i.e., "real" (factual)

entities and ideal entities. "Berlin" intends a real, factual being and "redness" intends an

"irreal," ideal being. This, Husserl believes, is evidently given in the meaning-intention

of these expressions. Furthermore, each of these meaning-intentions has an objective

correlate, in one case the real, factual Berlin and in the other, the irreal, ideal redness. To

argue that these are mere derivations from an ultimate hylomorphic unity is to deny what

is evidently and immediately given. Husserl does believe that real, factual beings and

irreal, ideal beings can enter into relations of unification, i.e., redness can be instantiated

in a factual red thing by which they are intentionally unified (as expressed, for example,

by the expression "this thing is red"), but this unification does not destroy the evident

differences between them. Husserl would never argue that this difference could be

derived from some primordial unity. To do so would be to deny what is evidently given

in the meaning-intentions of each.

I said earlier that Lask makes the mistake of passing over the things themselves

from "the objective side" because, as we see, he does not make the mistake of trying to

ground all meaning in one form of subjective givenness as Rickert does, but rather tries to

ground both meaning and being in one absolute, unified, non-subjectified and non-

objectified, given.

In both cases, what was important was to take things as they are in themselves,

which we saw was to analyze them in terms of meaning-intention and meaning-

fulfillment. Both Rickert and Lask pass over the meanings as evidently given in

meaning-intentions and thus mistakenly attempt to fulfill these meaning-intentions in

immediate, sensuous experience (Rickert) or reduce them all to one unified, hylomorphic,

given lived-experience (Lask). However, as Husserl maintains, an evident distinction of

meaning given to consciousness is as certain and irreducibly distinct as the distinction

between color and sound. For instance, Husserl says,

What 'meaning' is, is a matter as immediately given to us as is the nature

of colour and sound. It cannot be further defined, it is ultimate in
description: whenever we perform or understand an act of expression, it
means something to us, we have an actual consciousness of its sense. This
understanding, meaning, enactment of sense, is not the hearing of the
spoken word nor the experiencing of some contemporaneous image. Just
as plainly as phenomenological differences between apparent sounds are
self-evidently given to us, so are differences among meanings likewise
self-evidently given. This is not of course the last word in the
phenomenology of meanings, it is only its beginning. One will have, on
the one hand, to pin down the distinction, fundamental for epistemology,
between symbolical, 'empty' meanings and meanings having intuitive
'fulfillment', and one will have, on the other hand, to devote study to the
essential kinds of meaning and to the modes in which meanings are
combined. This is the sphere of actual meaning-analysis. Its problems are
solved when we represent to ourselves the acts concerned and the things
given in them. Pure phenomenological identification and distinction,
combination and separation, as well as generalizing abstraction, will lead
us on to the essential species and forms of meaning: one will get down, in
other words, to the logically elementary concepts which are merely the
idealized forms of primitive semantic differences.72

That is, an analysis of meaning-intention is essential to any understanding of the things

themselves. Any reduction of evident meaning to something different is to deny this. Of

course, as I said, both analysis of meaning-intention and meaning-fulfillment is necessary

for an adequate phenomenological understanding. When Husserl characterizes

phenomenology as a presuppositionless science this is what he is after. A

presuppositionless science is one that presupposes no "viewpoints." These presupposed

"viewpoints" are precisely what causes one to "pass-over" evident distinctions of

meaning in favor of reduction to whatever category of meaning or being is privileged by

Edmund Husserl, Logical Investigations, translated by J. N. Findlay (London: Routledge, 2001), II,

such a viewpoint. For example, natural psychological categories for psychologism or

immediate, sensuous experience for Rickert. By taking each new category of cognition

in turn, being careful to analysis its meaning-intention and correlative meaning-

fulfillment, is the only way to be true to the things themselves. In other words,, we must

presuppose no "viewpoints" which are not themselves capable of evident

phenomenological grounding. Therefore, when Husserl comes to describe this "freedom

from presuppositions" he says,

An epistemological investigation that can seriously claim to be scientific

must, it has often been emphasized, satisfy the principle of freedom from
presuppositions. This principle, we think, only seeks to express the strict
exclusion of all statements not permitting of a comprehensive
phenomenological realization. Every epistemological investigation that
we carry out must have its pure foundation in phenomenology. The
'theory' that it aspires to, is no more than a thinking over, a coming to an
evident understanding of, thinking and knowing as such, in their pure
generic essence, of the specifications and forms that they essentially have,
of the immanent structures that their objective relations involve, of the
meaning of 'validity', 'justification', 'mediate' and 'immediate evidence',
and their opposites, as applied to such structures, of the parallel
specifications of such Ideas in relation to varying regions of possible
objects of knowledge, of the clarified sense and role of the formal and
material 'laws of thought' seen in their a priori structural connections with
the knowing consciousness etc.73

Only by paying attention to these immediately evident meanings and the structures of

fulfillment inherent in them can one avoid the mistaken reduction of meanings to some

foreign structure thereby avoiding mistaken notions of validity, truth, justification, etc.

Furthermore, it is only by strictly adhering to evident meanings that the realm of

idealities and the sciences which pertain to them are made once more available for

investigation and feasible in the face of the prejudice of psychologism. Finally, this

Ibid., Introduction to Volume II, part I, §7.

faithfulness to meanings evidentially given to consciousness will allow one to avoid

unjustified reductions of different types of meaning to one privileged sense of

meaningfulness as is clearly evident in Rickert and Lask. The meanings present in lived-

experience are not univocal and, therefore, their modes of fulfillment in intuition cannot

be univocal. Only by paying attention to this can one adequately see what knowledge

amounts to in all its forms.

This strict adherence to the analysis of the structures of meaning which is

essential to Husserlian phenomenology is precisely why Husserl argues that

phenomenology must be a descriptive rather than an explanatory science. Getting a

handle on precisely in what sense Husserl understands phenomenology to be descriptive

is a difficult issue74, but it is intimately tied to the evident givenness of meaning

structures we have been discussing. Certainly, a large part of what Husserl means by

phenomenology as a descriptive science as opposed to an explanatory science is that

phenomenological analysis does not account for the meaningfulness or intelligibility of

what it studies by deriving them or grounding them in structures external to the

phenomena under consideration. That is, a phenomenological account or analysis of a

structure analyzes it only in terms of that which is inherent to or internal to the unified

phenomena itself and the possibilities that this structure lays out. For example, Rickert's

analysis of universal generalizations does not descriptively analyze but rather gives an

explanation of them. Because Rickert misses the evident meaning-intentions of the

For a few different views, see John Scanlon, “Is It or Isn't It? Phenomenology As Descriptive
Psychology in the Logical Investigations,” Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 32, pp. 1 – 11, R.A.
Mall, “Phenomenology -- Essentialistic or Descriptive?” Husserl Studies 10, pp. 13 – 30, and Burt
Hopkins, “Phenomenological Self-Critique of Its Descriptive Method,” Husserl Studies 8, pp. 129 – 150.

idealities of science (i.e., their ideal nature) he therefore misunderstands what would be

necessary for their fulfillment (i.e., categorial intuition) and so attempts to account for

their justification in terms of their applicability to immediate, sensuous experience.

However, no reference is made to immediate, sensuous experience within the structure of

the idealities of science and, for Husserl, it is not possible that they make reference to

immediate, sensuous experience if they are to remain idealities. Therefore, Rickert is

forced to give an explanation of the meaningfulness of idealities in terms of something

totally foreign to them, i.e., immediate, sensuous experience. Rather, in a

phenomenological analysis of idealities it becomes apparent that the very meaning-

structures inherent to them necessitate a form of intuition separate from sensuous

intuition, viz., categorial intuition. Explanation always makes reference to something

external to what is to be explained. Description, or at least phenomenological

description, is always an analysis and "bringing to expression" of the structures inherent

to or internal to what is to be described. This is what Husserl means when he says,

Here and now, at the very moment that we significantly utter a general
name, we mean what is general, and our meaning differs from our
meaning when we mean what is individual. This difference must be
pinned down in the descriptive content of the isolated experience, in the
individually and actually performed general assertion. What things are
causally connected with such an experience, what psychological
consequences may follow from it, all this does not concern us. Such
things concern the psychology of abstraction, not its phenomenology...We
should not, however, see it as the essence of nominalism that, in its
attempted clarification of the sense and theoretical achievement of
universals, it loses itself in a blind associative play of names as mere
verbal noises; its essence lies in the fact that its attempted clarifications
overlook the peculiar consciousness exemplified in our living sense of the
meaning of signs, in our actual understanding of them, in the grasped
sense of our assertions, and also exemplified in correlative acts of

fulfillment, which yield us the 'true' Idea of the universal, the wholly
evident ideation in which the universal 'itself' is given to us.75

Generalizing upon this we can distinguish the explanatory sciences (or what Husserl calls

"theoretical explanation") from phenomenological description by reference to the laws

pertaining to each. Essentially, the laws of the explanatory sciences are not apodictic

because they merely attempt to indeterminately unify singular facts under universal laws

whereas phenomenological description expresses the necessary, universal structures

inherent in the meaning structures evidently given to consciousness.

Therefore, Husserl argues (and Heidegger takes this up) that phenomenology is

not a theory at all, but rather a pure methodology. In other words, phenomenology has no

substantive premises but merely embodies a methodology for apodictic description of

evident phenomenon. For Husserl it is in this sense that phenomenology is a

presuppositionless science.76

II. From Originarily Presentive Intuition to Lived-Experience

This taking of the thing as it presents itself - the process of getting "to the things

themselves" - is the very foundation of phenomenology and is clearly the "Archimedean

point" of its methodology. Both Husserl and Heidegger agree on this. However,

Heidegger, we will see, argues that Husserl distorted the things themselves by importing

theoretical presuppositions into his analysis of the way in which the things themselves

Husserl, Logical Investigations, II, §15(b).
For a general account of the presuppositionlessness of Husserl’s phenomenology see Teresa Reed-
Downing, “Husserl’s Presuppositionless Philosophy,” Research in Phenomenology 20, pp. 136 – 151.

immediately give themselves. For this reason, it is essential at this point that we look at

Husserl's analysis of the originary givenness of the things themselves to consciousness.

It is in virtue of this issue that Heidegger begins criticizing Husserl as well as the

predominance of theoretical understanding.

As far as Husserl is concerned, without phenomenological method one will

invariably fall prey to the temptation to explain the meaningfulness, and thus the

knowledge, of phenomena in terms of elements external and alien to the phenomena's

own appropriate meaning; a temptation clearly manifested in the tendency towards

psychologism which dominated the 19th century. In fact, the epistemological moment of

phenomenology can be viewed as an attempt to isolate the thing as it presents itself to

consciousness as given in its pure immediacy and excluding any presupposed theories or

judgments concerning it, such that the eidetic, intentional structures of this purified

phenomenon may be descriptively analyzed thus providing a grounded, scientific account

of its meaning. It is only in this way that the structure of knowledge, and specifically

scientific knowledge in the broadest sense, can be made evident. Husserl is explicit about

the importance of the notion of originarily presentive intuition to the entire project of


Genuine science and its own genuine freedom from prejudice require, as
the foundation of all proofs, immediately valid judgments which derive
their validity from originally presentive intuitions. The latter, however,
are of such a character as prescribed by the sense of the judgments, or
correlatively by the proper essence of the predicatively formed judgment-
complex. The fundamental regions of object [Die fundamentalen
Regionen von Gegenständen] and, correlatively, the regional types of
presentive intuitions, the relevant types of judgments, and finally the
noetic norms that demand for the establishment of judgments belonging to
a particular type just this and no other species of intuition: none of that
can be postulated or decreed from on high. One can only ascertain them
by insight; and, as before, that signifies disclosing them by originally

presentive intuition and fixing them by judgments which are faithfully
fitted to what is given in such intuition. It seems to us that that is how the
procedure actually free from prejudice, or purely objective, would look.
Immediate "seeing," not merely sensuous, experiential seeing, but
seeing in the universal sense as an originary presentive consciousness of
any kind whatever, is the ultimate legitimizing source of all rational

That is, only by evidently understanding the way in which something is given to

consciousness originarily are we ever going to come to know precisely what we can

know about it and how this is to be accomplished. Furthermore, it is only in this way that

we can make essential distinctions between the different structures of knowledge

appropriate to the different categories of beings that are given to consciousness and,

consequently, the different structures of knowledge appropriate to the different sciences,

i.e., the different forms of knowledge appropriate to the empirical natural sciences such

as empirical physics as opposed to those appropriate to the eidetic sciences such as pure

mathematics. Before any of this, however, one must be able to isolate the thing as it

immediately presents itself to consciousness or, as Husserl would put it, we must focus

on the thing as it is given in an "originarily presentive intuition (originär gebende

Anschauung)." This is absolutely foundational to the methodology of phenomenology as

embodied in its "principle of principles,"

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" actuality) 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. We see indeed that each <theory> can only again draw
its truth itself from originary data. Every statement which does no more
than confer expression on such data by simple explication and by means of

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 36.

significations precisely conforming to them is, as we said at the beginning
of this chapter, actually an absolute beginning called upon to serve as a
foundation, a principium in the genuine sense of the word. But this holds
especially for this kind of generical cognitions of essences to which the
word "principle" is commonly limited.78

Though it sounds complicated this originary presentive intuition is merely the way in

which an object of consciousness (i.e., an intentional object experienced in an "act" of

consciousness) is immediately "seen" and at first presented to this intending

consciousness. What is complicated is isolating this originary presentive intuition so that

only what is inherent to it as it originarily presents itself is under consideration because

there is always the danger of unwittingly including within it factors or elements which are

external to it, i.e., which are not really originarily present in the intuition. Once the

originary presentive intuition is properly isolated the next step is to descriptively analyze

its meaning or, more properly, its intentional structure (that is, its meaning-intention and

meaning-fulfillment in the Logical Investigations or its noetic-noematic structure in the

Ideas). This is clearly Husserl's intent in his discussion of clarification in the Ideas,

...making something clear to oneself consists of processes of two kinds

which combine with one another: processes of actualizing intuition and
processes of enhancing the clarity of what is already intuited.79

Between Husserl's writing of the Logical Investigations and his writing of the Ideas his

understanding of the methodology necessary for this phenomenological analysis is

deepened but one thing remains the same: the central role of "phenomenological

reflection [Reflexion]." Phenomenological reflection isolates the originary presentive

Ibid., pg. 44.
Ibid., pg. 156.

intuition in such a way that the inherent structures of this act can be made evident to

understanding. For Husserl, this phenomenological reflection on an act is opposed to the

"living-through [erlebt]" of an act. That is, every act of consciousness has its intentional

meaning that it is "directed towards" something. When one "lives-through" the act one is

actively and livingly directed towards the intended object. For example, when I am

looking to see if the bus coming down the street is the one I need to get downtown. In

this case I am “living-through” the intentional act the specific bus I need to get

downtown. I am absorbed in the intended object, i.e., the bus coming towards me, and

am not attentive to what conscious structures are necessary for this. In phenomenological

reflection, I modify my "living" attitude towards the act and instead reflect on the

structures of the act itself, e.g., the structures of meaning-intention and meaning-

fulfillment or noesis and noema. The act then is no longer lived-through, but is reflected


There are a couple of crucial points to be made. In the Logical Investigations the

ability to "live-through" an act towards its intentional object is what characterizes mental

(or "psychic") acts as such. That is, that an act is intentional and can thus be lived-

through is what makes it a "psychic" phenomenon as opposed, for example, to a physical

phenomenon. Physical phenomenon cannot be lived-through but they can be lived-

toward by living-through a psychic act which intends them. Husserl points this out to

distinguish his characterization of psychic phenomenon from others who characterize

psychic acts by their essential relatedness to consciousness or, more exactly, to an ego.

Husserl argues that in the immediate, living-through of a psychic act no ego is given,

rather the relatedness of an ego to its intended object mediated through the act arises only

in an "objectifying act of reflection" upon the act which makes it an object of

consciousness that is no longer lived-through but rather reflected upon. Once this

happens (reflection, that is) then there is a "descriptive change,"

In our description relation to an experiencing ego is inescapable, but the

experience described is not itself an experiential complex having the ego-
presentation as its part. We perform the description after an objectifying
act of reflection, in which reflection on the ego is combined with
reflection on the experienced act to yield a relational act, in which the ego
appears as itself related to its act's object through its act. Plainly an
essential descriptive change has occurred. The original act is no longer
simply there, we no longer live in it, but we attend to it and pass
judgement on it.
We must therefore avoid the misunderstanding which our present
discussion has just ruled out, that of treating relation to an ego as of the
essence of an intentional experience itself.80

Furthermore, the contents of reflection are founded upon the contents of the

"phenomenologically lived-through" acts,

Since, however, all characters of acts have their ultimate foundation in the
contents of outer sense, we note that there is an essential
phenomenological gulf in the field of sense.
We have principally to distinguish between:
1. the contents of reflection, those contents which are themselves
characters of acts or founded upon such characters;
2. the primary contents, those contents in which all contents of
reflection are either immediately or mediately founded.
These latter would be the contents of 'external' sensibility, which is
here plainly not defined in terms of some metaphysical distinction of
outward and inward, but through the nature of its representing contents, as
being ultimately foundational, phenomenologically lived-through
[erlebter] contents.81

Therefore, all content is ultimately founded in lived-experience [erlebnis]. That is,

according to Husserl, content arises either in the lived-through [erlebt] contents of acts or

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 101.
Ibid., pg. 304.

the contents of reflections founded upon these lived-through acts that, in reflection, are

no longer lived-through but are rather objectified.

By the time of the Ideas, acts as lived-through are termed "cogito". At first sight,

cogito includes all modes of intentional directedness of consciousness,

As the starting point, we take consciousness in a pregnant sense and one

which offers itself first, which we can designate most simply by the
Cartesian term cogito, by the phrase "I think." As is well known, cogito
was understood so broadly by Descartes that it comprised every "I
perceive, I remember, I phantasize, I judge, I feel, I desire, I will, " and
thus all egoical mental processes which are at all similar to them, with
their countless flowing particular formations.82

But there are (at least) two modifications of this cogito, namely it can be modified into

the "mode of actional [aktueller] advertence" or into the "mode of non-actionality

[Inaktualität]." When consciousness is actually adverted to something it "effects a

cogitatio,", i.e., through a cogitatio (or roughly an "act" in the terminology of the Logical

Investigations) consciousness actively intends something. For example, I am attending to

the bus coming down the street. This describes what in the logical Investigations is

termed "living-through" an act. I can reflectively regard this act, objectifying it and no

longer "living-through" it. In this way, I can study its imminent intentional structure,

We add the following: When living in the cogito we are not conscious of
the cogitato itself as an intentional Object; but at any time it can become
an Object of consciousness; its essence involves the essential possibility of
a reflective turning of regard and naturally in the form of a new cogitatio
that, in the manner proper to a cogitatio which simply seizes upon, is
directed to it.83

Ibid., pg. 68.
Ibid., pg. 78.

However, there are numerous cogitatio relative to which the cogito is not actionally

modified but rather which are non-actional with regard to the cogito. In an important

sense, these too are "there" in lived-experience. When the cogito is actionally adverted to

something this is always in the context of a background "halo" of non-actual cogitatio.

For example, when I am attending to the bus coming down the street there is also there in

the lived-experience things to which I am not attending but are "there" in such a way that

I could attend to them with a change of conscious regard such as the street, other cars and

buses, other people waiting for the bus, the sky, clouds, etc. It is an essential potentiality

of these cogitatio that are, relative to my present cogito, non-actionally modified that I

can (through a change of conscious regard) change this modification to one of actional

advertence and so attend to them,

At the one time the mental process is, so to speak, "explicit" consciousness
of its objective something, at the other time it is implicit, merely potential.
The objective something can be already appearing to us as it does not only
in perception, but also in memory or in phantasy; however, we are not yet
"directed" to it with the mental regard, not even secondarily - to say
nothing of our being, in a peculiar sense, "busied" with it.84

That is, in any "lived-through" experience there is not just the simple attending to a

something through an actional cogitatio, but rather there is always also a background, or

"halo" of potential cogitatio surrounding the actional cogitatio which by their very

essence are capable of themselves becoming actionally modified. However, the most

"pregnant" sense of cogito is actionally modified cogito. The background or "halo" of

potentially actional cogitatio is essentially derivative. That is, one only has a background

Ibid., pg. 72.

of potential cogitatio relative to an actional cogitatio which is the primary, pregnant sense

of cogito,

It is likewise obviously true of all such mental processes that the actional
ones are surrounded by a "halo" of non-actional mental processes; the
stream of mental processes can never consist of just actionalities.
Precisely these, when contrasted with non-actionalities, determine with the
widest universality, to be extended beyond the sphere of our examples, the
pregnant sense of the expression "cogito," "I have consciousness of
something," "I effect an act of consciousness."85

Furthermore, by the time of his writing the Ideas, Husserl no longer describes the

ego as related to the object intended as he did in the passage from the Logical

Investigations quoted above. Rather the ego "lives in" the cogito and cannot be outside

of this "living in." That is, as in the Logical Investigations, the primary content of

consciousness is grounded in "lived-through" acts or, in the language of the Ideas, the

actionally modified cogito. The reflective regard by which a phenomenological analysis

of the intentional structures of actional cogitatio (or "lived-through" acts) is performed is

made possible by phenomenologically reflection upon these actional cogitatio. At least

this is true if the analysis is to be grounded in evident intuition.

That is, these actional cogitatio or "lived-through" acts are in fact the originary

presentive intuitions. Having said this, I do not mean to suggest that these originary

presentive intuitions give their intentional object adequately. This may be true with

regard to immanent phenomena but not with regard to transcendent phenomena. The

phenomenological reflection upon actional cogitationes whose intentional object is

transcendent includes everything immanent to the cogitatio. That is, it includes the

Ibid., pg. 72.

adumbrations inherent to the noematic moment of the cogitatio as well as the sensuous

hyle, etc. Therefore, transcendent phenomena are given through multiple (and, in fact,

essentially an infinitely multiplicity) of originary presentive intuitions. These originary

presentive intuitions are then unified within the horizon of the intentional unity provided

by the intentional object of the cogitatio. Therefore, originary presentive intuitions of

transcendent objects never adequately give their intentional object. However, this does

not change the fact that they are the foundation for any phenomenological analysis.

Most important for our present purposes, is that foundational to

phenomenological method is the notion of the living-through of lived-experience. The

analysis of intentional structures which is the rock-bed of Husserlian phenomenology is

derivative upon the reflective regard that objectifies the lived-through acts of

consciousness. In fact, the characterization of consciousness as intentionality which

Husserl explicitly appropriates from Brentano is, for Husserl, founded upon this "living-

through" of experience. The initial characterization of intentionality as, essentially,

"directedness towards" needs further clarification. For example, given this, one may

think of intentionality as a relation between an act of consciousness and its intended

object - a relation which connects (perhaps essentially) the act of consciousness with

something else (its "intentional object"). Quite clearly, this is an inadequate

characterization of intentionality since many things which are not intentional (or at least

only derivatively intentional) bear an exactly similar relatedness to something. A good

Husserlian example of this is the notion of a "sign." A sign bears an essential relation to

what it signifies, it "points towards" the signified. A sign bears a “unidirectional”

relationship to what it signifies. What is the difference between the relation between sign

and signified and intentionality? If intentionality is merely a unidirectional relationship

between an act of consciousness and its intended object there is no essential difference

between them.

Obviously, I am pointing to Husserl's own discussion (in investigations I and II of

the Logical Investigations) of theories of consciousness and mental processes which see

them as either pictorial representations or images of external objects or as signs of

external objects. Husserl argues that these are wholly inadequate in accounting for the

intentional character of consciousness. A brief look at this discussion, will also make

evident that for Husserl intentionality is essentially characterized by the ability to live-

through intentional acts to their intended object. That is, intentionality itself is essentially


This aspect of intentionality is crucial to Husserl's criticisms of (for the most part)

modern theories of representational consciousness (broadly construed to include both

pictoral representations and signitive acts), i.e., the mistake of interpreting the object of

consciousness as what is immanent to consciousness. Both the pictoral representation

theory of consciousness and the view that conscious concepts are signs immanent to

consciousness are mistaken about the actual object of conscious acts. As Husserl

consistently and correctly points out when one is conscious of something, e.g., a bus, the

object which is before one's mind is the actual object, namely the bus. Being conscious

of something cannot be interpreted in a representationalist way, that is, it cannot mean

that what is immediately before consciousness is a "mental picture" of the thing or a sign

of it. As Husserl points out, on the surface these theories are condemned to an infinite

regress because if having before consciousness or attending to something necessarily

requires that there be a "mental picture" or signitive concept which consciousness really

attends to and through which it grasps the intended object then this mental picture or

signitive concept itself needs to be before consciousness or attended to by consciousness.

Which, in turn, requires that there be a "mental picture" or signitive concept of this

"mental picture" or signitive concept which is really before consciousness through which

consciousness grasps it and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Therefore, if there is not to

be an infinite regress, consciousness must be able to intend what is before it immediately

and directly, i.e., without a mediating representation or signitive concept. That is, neither

form of representationalism or, for that matter, any theory which grounds intentionality

mediately, can possibly capture true intentionality and moreover, if they are to avoid an

infinite regress, must presuppose immediate intentionality.

However, there is a deeper, phenomenological reason why these mediate theories

of intentionality are inadequate. That is, they mis-describe the phenomena of

intentionality altogether. When consciousness intends something, it intends that thing

and nothing else. The consciousness of the "subjective," noetic materials which are

included in my consciousness of something are intended by a wholly different, reflective

act of consciousness. Quite simply, there is an apodictic, descriptive difference between

one's consciousness of a bus and one's consciousness of the "subjective" components of

my experience of the bus. The latter is given in an act of reflective consciousness while

the former is "direct" consciousness of something external to consciousness. Or, as

Husserl puts it, the mistake of representationalism and all other mediate theories of

intentionality is that they interpret one's lived-experience of the bus as really a lived-

experience of the "subjective" components of the experience of the bus.

However, and this will be crucial for what I want to argue, for Husserl the

"subjective" components of the experience of the bus play a role in the direct, intentional

consciousness of the bus, namely, in intending the bus one lives-through these

"subjective" components of the experience to the bus itself. Previous theories of

intentionality mistakenly understood these "subjective" components as the intentional

object of the act, when in fact they are the "mechanisms" by which consciousness intends

the object. Husserl goes even further and argues that this ability of consciousness to live-

towards an object, i.e., intentionality itself, is a prerequisite of the signhood of a sign,

Signs are in fact not objects of our thought at all, even surrogatively; we
rather live entirely in the consciousness of meaning, of understanding,
which does not lapse when accompanying imagery does so. One must
bear in mind that symbolic thinking is only thinking in virtue of a new,
intentional act-character: this distinguishes the meaningful sign from the
mere sign, i.e. the sounded word set up as a physical object in our mere
presentations of sense. This act-character is a descriptive trait in the sign-
experience, which, stripped of intuition, yet understands the sign.86

Moreover, this implies that signs can only exist relative to beings capable of intentional

acts: "A thing is only properly an indication if and where it in fact serves to indicate

something to some thinking being. If we wish to seize the pervasively common element

here present we must refer back to such cases of 'live' functioning."87

Understood external to intentional consciousness the sign is itself a merely factual

being with factual properties much like any other physical or natural thing. Looked at in

this way, and only in this way, even the "subjective" or noetic components of a sign are

qualitatively no different than the "subjective" or noetic components of any other sensed

Ibid., pg. 210.
Ibid., pg. 184.

object. The qualitative difference that makes a sign a sign as opposed to a mere physical

or natural thing is that it can direct intentional consciousness to "livingly" intend the

object which it signifies and in this consists the meaningfulness of the sign,

The sensuous habit of an object does not change when it assumes the
status of a symbol for us, nor conversely does it do so when we ignore the
meaning of what normally functions as a symbol. No new, independent
content is here added to the old: we do not merely have a sum or
association of contents of equal status before us. One and the same
content has rather altered is psychic habit: we are differently minded in
respect of it, it no longer seems a mere sensuous mark on paper, the
physical phenomenon counts as an understood sign. Living thus
understandingly [Verständnis leben: italics mine] we perform no act of
presentation or judgement directed upon the sign as a sensible object, but
another act, quite different in kind, which relates to the thing designated.
It is in this sense-giving act-character - which differs entirely according as
our interest plays on the sensible sign or the object presented through it,
with or without representative imagery - that meaning consists.88

Importantly, this analysis of the sign applies equally to meaningful expressions generally

which, of course, is obvious from the fact that for Husserl signs are themselves

meaningful expressions. For, after all, Husserl conceives of all meaningful expressions

as he does meaningful signs as essentially indicative. That is, their meaningfulness lies in

the fact that they direct a "thinking subject" to intentionally direct itself towards some

intentional object be it an external object or state of affairs,

The above distinguished acts involving the expression's appearance, on the

one hand, and the meaning-intention and possible meaning-fulfillment, on
the other, do not constitute a mere aggregate of simultaneously given
items in consciousness. They rather form an intimately fused unity of
peculiar character. Everyone's personal experience bears witness to the
differing weight of the two constituents, which reflects the asymmetry of
the relation between an expression and the object which (through its
meaning) it expresses or names. Both are 'lived through' [erlebt], the
presentation of the word and the sense-giving act: but, while we

Ibid., pg. 209.

experience[erleben] the former, we do not live in [leben im] such a
presentation at all, but solely in enacting its sense, its meaning. And in so
far as we do this, and yield ourselves to enacting the meaning-intention
and its further fulfillment, our whole interest centres upon the object
intended in our intention, and named by its means. (These two ways of
speaking have in fact the same meaning.) The function of a word (or
rather of an intuitive word-presentation) is to awaken a sense-conferring
act in ourselves, to point to what is intended, or perhaps given intuitive
fulfillment in this act, and to guide our interest exclusively in this

Significant for this entire discussion is that what transforms a "mere expression" (or sign)

into a meaningful expression (or sign) is the fact that the thinking subject uses the sign to

enact "its sense." However, what characterizes the enacted sense - as is particularly

evident in the last quote - is that the thinking subject can "live in" [leben im] the enacted

sense where he can only live-through [erlebt] the "mere expression," that is the

expression as it is given sensuously in lived-experience. This living-in the expression is

precisely intentionality itself. The thinking subject lives-in the enacted sense, i.e., the

meaning, of the expression by living-towards the object intended. Intentionality itself, it

appears, is originarily given, i.e., it is an originary presentive intuition, in this concrete

living-in the intentional act and living-towards the intentional object. Of course for

Husserl this living-in the intentional act is certainly not an adequate phenomenological

understanding of intentionality for what is required for an adequate phenomenological

understanding of intentionality is not only the concrete, originarily presentive intuition of

intentionality but also the descriptive analysis of its essential structures, i.e., an apodictic,

eidetic analysis of its immanent structures. This analysis will not only explicate what

Husserl calls the intentional content of the intentional act, i.e., its noematic structure, but

Ibid., pg. 193.

it will also analyze all the "subjective" components of the intentional act, i.e., its noetic

structure, such as the "subjectively" sensuous components of the experience, i.e., the

hyletic data. All structures of consciousness, therefore, are lived-through and

intentionality is lived-in.

Making our way back to what originally motivated this discussion, we can see

that for Husserl at least at this stage of the analysis has characterized originary presentive

intuition as consciousness' concrete living-in acts in living-through these acts and living-

towards the intended object, i.e., intentionality. Since what characterizes all of

consciousness is intentionality and, as we have seen, this itself is originarily given in

concrete living, we can say that all originary presentive intuition is ultimately concrete

"life" or lived-experience and defined by the lived relationships of living-through, living-

in and living-towards. In the Ideas, and I think specifically to avoid any association with

what was called "life philosophy" - which both Husserl and Heidegger agree

dogmatically asserts the primacy of an amorphous, irrational, and almost mystical notion

of "life" - Husserl uses the phrase "present in person" [leibhaftig gegenwärtig] or just "in

person" to describe this notion of originary presentive intuition, but the point is the same,

Presentiation refers back to perception in its own peculiar

phenomenological essence; e.g., as we have already noted before,
remembering something past implies "having perceived;" thus in a certain
fashion the "corresponding" perception (perception of the same sense-
core) is intended to in the memory, although it is not actually contained in
it. Precisely in its own peculiar essence, memory is a "modification of"
perception. Correlatively, what is characterized as past in itself is
presented as "having been present," thus as a modification of the "present"
which as the unmodified, is precisely the "originary," the "present in
person" of the perception.90

Husserl, Ideas, pp. 244 – 245.

This analysis of originary presentive intuition satisfies the requirement of any "genuine

science" that "Immediate "seeing," [Das unmittelbare "Sehen"] not merely sensuous,

experiential seeing, but seeing in the universal sense as an originally presentive

consciousness of any kind whatever, is the ultimate legitimizing source of all rational


However, as far as Heidegger is concerned, Husserl quickly sours the radically

new beginning instituted by his own phenomenological project by interpreting this

originary presentive intuition "objectively," i.e., by objectifying the contents of originary

presentive intuition. This becomes clear in Husserl's discussion of "mere presentation" or

the original givenness of the contents of consciousness in investigation five of the

Logical Investigations. In this it becomes clear to Heidegger that Husserl has externally

deformed the meaning of the contents of consciousness as lived.

Husserl's discussion of mere presentation in investigation five is an analysis of

Brentano's claim about intentionality that for consciousness objects must be presented in

a "presentation" and that all other modifications of that, e.g., judgmental, valuing, etc.,

are modifications of presentations. Husserl presents Brentano's position this way,

Brentano looks to what is graspably common to such instances [of

consciousness], and says that 'every mental phenomenon is characterized
by what the mediaeval schoolmen called the intentional (or mental)
inexistence of an object, and by what we, not without ambiguity, call the
relation to a content, the direction to an object (by which a reality is not to
be understood) or an immanent objectivity. Each mental phenomenon
contains something as object in itself, though not all in the same manner'.
[footnote: Psychologie, I, 115] This 'manner in which consciousness

Ibid., pg. 36.

refers to an object' (an expression used by Brentano in other passages) is
presentative in a presentation, judicial in a judgment etc. etc.92

Which amounts to

...the well-known proposition, used among others by Brentano to

circumscribe his 'psychical phenomena', that each such phenomenon - in
our terminology and definition each intentional experience - is either a
presentation or based upon underlying presentations. More precisely, this
remarkable proposition means that in each act the intentional object is
presented in an act of presentation, and that, whenever we have no case of
'mere' presentation, we have a case of presentation so peculiarly and
intimately inwoven with one or more further acts or rather act-characters,
that the presented objects become the object judged about, wished for,
hoped for, etc.93

Although Husserl agrees with Brentano that all the objects of consciousness must be

given to consciousness he disagrees with him that this is done in an act of consciousness.

Every act of consciousness for Husserl can be broken down into its "content" and

"quality," notions which Husserl refines and deepens in his further analysis, but which

roughly describe the respective object of the act and the way in which that object is given

to consciousness. For example, if I judge that the bus is red this act of consciousness has

a content, viz., the state of affairs of the bus being red, and a quality, viz., the judging of

this state of affairs. As Husserl understands Brentano, there are different types or species

of acts, namely, judgmental, wishful (among others), and especially presentative. The

presentations necessary for any consciousness whatsoever are peculiar acts of

consciousness, namely, presentative acts. These presentative acts are the foundations for

all other acts, or put another way, every other act of consciousness includes within itself a

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pp. 95 – 96.
Ibid., pg. 129.

presentative act by which the content of the original act is presented to consciousness.

The presentative act presents the object to consciousness and then this very same

identical object can be judged, valued, liked, surmised, etc.

As Husserl points out, there are problems with Brentano's analysis of presentative

acts. If All acts have a moment of content and a moment of quality then presentative acts

do as well. However obviously this will not do in the case of presentative acts for

presentative acts are that by which the object of consciousness, and that means the

content of acts, are presented to consciousness. But if the presentative act is a unity of

content and quality as is every other act then the content of the presentative act itself must

be given to consciousness before the presentative act can be enacted. But this is absurd

because then, given Brentano's analysis, this presentative act requires or includes a

further presentative act by which its content can be presented to consciousness and this

latter act is itself a unity of content and quality and requires a further presentative act and

so on and so forth ad infinitum. At some point the object or content of acts of

consciousness must simply be given to consciousness and in such a way that this

givenness is not a further act of consciousness.

Brentano, Husserl argues, though seeing the importance of intentionality, never

understood intentionality correctly as the originary givenness of the object of

consciousness, i.e., he never grasped the importance of the originary presentative

intuition of the contents of consciousness. Brentano fell into the psychologistic prejudice

of believing that the entirety of the contents of consciousness are immanent to

consciousness. This is why Brentano would assume that the givenness or "presentation"

of the object to consciousness is itself an act of consciousness. That is, Husserl argues

that there really is no intentionality (or "outer directedness") at all in Brentano's theory of

consciousness. Husserl argues that there is an ambiguity underlying Brentano's mistaken

belief that "mere" presentations are acts of consciousness. The phrase "mere

presentation" ambiguously refers to both the content of consciousness as well as the act

of taking of a certain form of "neutral" attitude towards an object. That is, an object can

be merely presented to consciousness in the sense that it appears before consciousness

without consciousness taking a "positive" stance towards the object, e.g., neither judging

it, nor doubting it, nor liking it, etc. This, Husserl says, is an act of consciousness which

has both a content and a quality and which may be transformed into a judgment or doubt,

etc. However, this act of consciousness is not the originary presentative intuition of the

object or content of consciousness which all acts presuppose and which Husserl has

argued cannot be an act of consciousness.

This highlights the absolute importance of originary presentative intuition for

phenomenology. The question Husserl asks is how is the content of consciousness

given? That is, what is this originary presentative intuition of the content of

consciousness. Husserl ultimately answers that the originary presentative intuition of

consciousness is the content of an act of consciousness or what he will more exactly call

the intentional content of an act of consciousness although, in the end, even further

refinements of this are needed which we need not go into here94. This means that the

originary presentative intuition is that whereby the content or object of acts of

consciousness is presented to consciousness. This identical content is a moment of many

Later in the Ideas this is the noematic moment of a noetic-noematic unity.

different acts of consciousness, e.g., judging, valuing, etc. Moreover, Husserl argues that

the content of the acts of consciousness cannot exist outside of the unity of an act of

consciousness, i.e., there are no originary presentative intuitions in the stream of

consciousness which are not part of a unified act of consciousness, but nonetheless the

content of consciousness is independent of these acts of consciousness in the specific

sense of independence laid out in investigation three of the Logical Investigations. What

is this independence? Simply, it is the fact that the content of consciousness remains the

same even when the other moments of the act in which it is a part are actually,

imaginatively or eidetically varied. That is, the content of a particular judgment remains

the same even if I consider modifying the quality of this act such that it becomes now

doubt instead of judgment or surmise instead of judgment, etc. In effect, the

independence of the content of an act of consciousness signifies that the meaning of the

content or, which is the same thing, the meaning of the object of the act of consciousness

is independent of the particular act of which it is the content. The identical intentional

object of an act of consciousness can appear in many different particular acts of

consciousness although this intentional object - as the content of an act of consciousness -

is not independent of acts of consciousness generally. Or, what amounts to the same

thing, every content or intentional object of an act of consciousness can only exist as a

moment of some act of consciousness or other.

This, however, is the point at which Heidegger argues that Husserl has objectified

the contents of consciousness and it is here that Husserl betrays the phenomenological

principle of principles of examining the meanings of consciousness just as they give

themselves without imposing external meanings upon them, i.e., without presupposing

any "standpoints." Originally, Husserl had characterized originary presentative intuition

as the concrete, lived-experience of the givenness or manifestation of things themselves

as lived-through, lived-in, and lived-towards. Now, however, originary presentative

intuition is the givenness of objects to consciousness as a moment in the unity of acts of

consciousness, but precisely in the sense of an independent, self-contained, unit of

meaning. That is, the objects given by originary presentative intuition by necessity, i.e.,

as a matter of apodictic certainty, must be capable of being identically repeatable in

other acts of consciousness and this requires that they are ultimately meaningful

regardless of the particular context in which they are found in lived-experience, i.e., for

Husserl, in the immanent stream of consciousness.

What characterizes objectivity itself as is clear from both the Logical

Investigations and the Ideas is that objects are identically repeatable in multiple

intentional acts of consciousness. More correctly, this unity of objects - that they are

capable of being identically repeatable contents in multiple intentional acts of

consciousness - characterizes the very unity and essence of intentional acts themselves,

i.e., that they are directed toward something, and, consequently, makes intentional acts


For this very reason, originary presentative intuition as Husserl now understands it

abstracts from lived-experience, that is, it abstracts from the concrete living-in that

characterized it previously because what is given in it is not lived-through but is rather

that which is capable of identically "appearing in" different concrete acts of living-

towards it, i.e., the concrete living-towards the intended that previously characterized the

originary presentative intuition of intentionality is, qua meaning, external to it.

Husserl himself is quite clear about the fact that - as given in lived-experience -

every object of consciousness is given only against a "background" of other experiences

and other experiential objects but that its meaning is independent of this "background."

For example quoting at length,

What does it mean to say we can form an idea of a content 'by itself' or 'in
isolation'? Does this mean, as regards the actually experienced contents of
the phenomenological sphere, that such a content can be freed from all
blending with coexistent contents, can ultimately be torn out of the unity
of consciousness? Obviously not. In this sense no contents are isolable,
and the same holds of the phenomenal thing-contents in their relation to
the total unity of the phenomena as such. If we form an independent idea
of the content head of a horse, we inescapably present it in a context, the
content stands relieved from an objective background that appears with it,
it is inescapably given with many other contents, and is also in a way
united to them. How then can this content be isolable in idea? The only
answer we can give is the following:
Isolability means only that we can keep some content constant in
idea despite boundless variation - variation that is free, though not
excluded by a law rooted in the content's essence - of the contents
associated with it, and, in general, given with it. This means that it is
unaffected by the elimination of any given arrangement of compresent
contents whatsoever.
This self-evidently entails: that the existence of this content, to the
extent that this depends on itself and its essence, is not at all conditioned
by the existence of other contents, that it could exist as it is, through an a
priori necessity of essence, even if nothing were there outside of it, even if
all around were altered at will, i.e. without principle.
Or what plainly amounts to the same: In the 'nature' of the content
itself, in its ideal essence, no dependence on other contents is rooted; the
essence that makes it what it is, also leaves it unconcerned with all other
contents. It may as a matter of fact be that, with the existence of this
content, other contents are given, and in accordance with empirical rules.
In its ideally graspable essence, however, the content is independent; this
essence by itself, i.e. considered in a priori fashion, requires no other
essence to be interwoven with it.95

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 9.

This manifests itself further in Husserl's characterization of the world in the Ideas. There

the world consists of all potentially intended objects,

The world is the sum-total of objects of possible experience and

experiential cognition, of objects that, on the basis of actual experiences,
are cognizable in correct theoretical thinking.96

In lived-experience the world is given as the potentially though not actually intended

objects in the "halo" or "horizon" always co-experienced with the experience of any

given object.

However, earlier I said that Heidegger argues that Husserl has distorted the

originarily given meaning of the things themselves and I must say exactly how.

According to the principle of principles of phenomenology we must understand the things

themselves just as they are originarily given to consciousness. That is, one must not

import external meaning-structures into one's analysis of the things themselves or, put

differently, must not presuppose any "standpoint" towards the things themselves. Has

Husserl really distorted the meanings of the originary presentative intuitions? It seems

so. If we think back to Husserl's later analysis of originary presentative intuition in his

discussion of "mere" presentation in investigation five of the Logical Investigations, he

argues that what is presented in originary presentative intuition is the contentful moments

of acts of consciousness which necessarily contain a moment of act-quality, e.g., the

content as judged, believed, valued, etc. Moreover, this requires that what is given by

originary presentative intuition must be identically repeatable in different concrete acts of

consciousness. In essence, the things given must be objectified. However, isn't this just

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 6.

the a priori imposition of an external meaning-structure upon originary givenness? The

content given in originary presentative intuition has now been forced externally to play a

specific role within acts of consciousness. This role requires the meaningfulness of the

content of consciousness to be self-contained and independent of the particular act of

consciousness and its act-quality. In other words, the meaningfulness of the content of an

act of consciousness cannot vary with context and cannot make essential reference to the

concrete lived-experience in which it is embedded. Importantly, Heidegger argues, this

requirement is not given internal to the originary presentative intuition itself but rather is

imposed on it from without according to the role it must play in acts of consciousness,

namely that it must be capable of being presented identically and repeatedly in different

acts of consciousness. Finally, this means that this content by necessity cannot make

reference to the lived-context in which it was originally presented. As Heidegger says,

Is this method of descriptive reflection (or reflective description) capable

of investigating the sphere of experience and disclosing it scientifically?
The reflection makes something which was previously unexamined,
something merely unreflectively experienced, into something 'looked at'.
We look at it. In reflection it stands before us as an object of reflection,
we are directed towards it and make it an object as such, standing over
against us. Thus, in reflection we are theoretically oriented. All
theoretical comportment, we said, is de-vivifying. This now shows itself
in the case of life-experiences, for in reflection they are no longer lived but
looked at. We set the experiences out before us out of immediate
experience; we intrude so to speak into the flowing stream of experiences
and pull one or more of them out, we 'still the stream' as Natorp says.
(Until now Natorp is the only person to have brought scientifically
noteworthy objections against phenomenology. Husserl himself has not
yet commented on these.)97

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 85.

One can see this from a different angle as well. As Husserl originally characterized it, the

originary presentative intuition is the lived-through act in living consciousness. In the

case of the intentional act, this living-through is characterized by living-in the act and

living-towards something, i.e., the "directedness to something" of intentionality.

However, in Husserl's final analysis of originary presentative intuition the privileged,

primary sense of living-towards something, i.e., the ultimate necessary foundation of any

meaningful living-towards, is that of "attending to it" theoretically such that it is capable

of being believed, judged, valued, etc. Is this originarily given? It appears that in lived-

experience, i.e., in the way one livingly engages with something, there are many different

possible modifications. Only one of these is "attending to it" theoretically. There are

many other possible lived engagements with something, for example, producing it, using

it, etc. Is the primacy of theoretical engagement given originarily? The primacy of the

theoretical attitude is driven by external theoretical considerations that privilege doxastic

acts of consciousness. Certainly this is an external modification of originary presentative

intuition and one that externally constrains or modifies its meaning. Husserl says that,

Acts must be present before we can live in them or be absorbed in

performing them, and when we are so absorbed (in various manners
requiring further description) we mind the objects of these acts...98

As far as Heidegger is concerned, Husserl has placed the last nail in the coffin of and

made a final betrayal of the principle of principles of phenomenology. For now acts of

consciousness are the condition of the possibility of living-in and not the other way

round. That is, acts of consciousness are the prerequisite for originarily presentative

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 118.

intuition. At this point the phenomenological project has become a transcendental

project. That is, phenomenology is giving a priori conditions for the possibility of

originary givenness rather than faithfully describing the things themselves.

Key to Husserl's objectification of all lived-experience is the necessity and

importance he gives to reflection (Reflexion) in the phenomenological method. Lived-

experience loses its living character or, in Heidegger's words, becomes "de-vivified"

(Entlebnis) because of Husserl’s belief that is only in reflection that the structures of

intentionality, meaning, truth, etc., become exhibited. Reflection necessarily transforms

what is lived into something merely "looked-at." Husserl believes that it is only when

something is reflected on and thus becomes an object to be described and

phenomenologically analyzed that its a priori structure is made manifest. Heidegger, in

part quoting Husserl, says:

...we did see something, namely life-experiences. We are no longer living

in the experiences, but looking at them. The lived-experiences now
become looked-at experiences. 'Only through reflectively experiencing
[erfahrende] acts do we know something of the stream of living
experience'.99 Through reflection [Reflexion] every living experience can
be turned into something looked at. 'The phenomenological method
operates entirely in acts of reflection'.100

This a priori structure given in reflection is then the transcendental condition of lived-

experience and living-in and living-towards as the previous quote from the Logical

Investigations makes clear.

Footnote in quoted text: “Edmund Husserl, Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und
phänomenologischen Philosophie, in Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, edited
by E. Husserl, Halle an der Saale 1913, Vol. I, p. 150.”
Footnote in quoted text: “ibid., p. 144”. Quote from Heidegger, "The Idea of Philosophy," pg. 83.

In Heidegger’s criticism of Husserl, we find a more general claim, viz., that the

theoretical comportment and theoretical reason itself is characterized by objectification.

Husserl's own interpretation of originary presentative intuition or "mere presentation" as

the self-contained, identical, repeatable content or unity of meaning, i.e., meaningful

unities whose meaning is not dependent on the context of their givenness in lived-

experience, is driven by and is indeed the first step towards theoretical knowledge whose

ultimate actualization is theoretical science. Simply put, theoretical knowledge

presupposes objects and requires objectification. Without this, Husserl argues,

theoretical science would not be possible, because all meaning and all givenness would

be essentially dependent upon particular, concrete lived-experience and, thus, incapable

of becoming intersubjective, much less universal. For, as we have seen, objectification

requires that the object be determinable as a self-contained unity in order that it can be

multiply judged, believed, etc. In other words, all meaning would be essentially tied to

the "here and now.” For Husserl, what is required for any scientific knowledge

whatsoever is lawfulness,

Scientific knowledge is, as such, grounded knowledge. To know the

ground of anything means to see the necessity of its being so and so.
Necessity as an objective predicate of a truth (which is then called a
necessary truth) is tantamount to the law-governed validity of the state of
affairs in question. To see a state of affairs as a matter of law is to see its
truth as necessarily obtaining, and to have knowledge of the ground of the
state of affairs or of its truth: all these are equivalent expressions.101

Essential to lawfulness is that it specifies a unitary connectedness between those things it

governs in such a way that its meaningfulness and, furthermore, its application, makes no

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 146.

reference to external factors. That is, laws specify in their entirety the connectedness

between what they govern and do so without reference to anything other than the

concepts which they govern and the connectedness they specify. A law which made

reference in its intrinsic meaning to something external to the connectedness intrinsic to

it and the concepts it governs would not be a law at all since this external factor would

play a role in determining the connectedness of the concepts being governed thus making

the law no law at all but merely a determining factor perhaps subsumable under a more

inclusive unity. Having said this, it is not the case that laws cannot bear external

relations to other laws or further unities. For certainly laws find themselves related to

other laws. In addition, the laws need not determine completely the concepts they govern

for other laws may bear on those same concepts, but in a different regard. The

importance of this is that the laws do not intrinsically refer to the context or conditions of

their particular, concrete realization. That is to say, a law determines the universal,

meaningful structure of the particular, concrete realizations of the law while the

particular, concrete context determines the particularity of a particular realization of the

law not the other way round. For example, the law of gravitation intrinsically regulates

or governs the interaction of any two bodies qua gravity in abstraction and does so

without making intrinsic reference to external laws which may govern the same concepts

in different regards, e.g., laws of electromagnetic interaction, or to particular realizations

of itself, e.g., to the gravitational interaction between any two particular, concrete bodies.

Particular realizations of the law of gravitation, e.g., the aforementioned gravitational

interaction between any two particular, concrete bodies, is governed or regulated by the

abstract, universal law of gravitation which is particularized by the particular, concrete

context, e.g., the spatio-temporal locations of the bodies, etc. The law of gravitation

makes the particular realization an instance of gravitational interaction, but the particular,

concrete context makes it this particular instance of gravitational interaction.

A necessary condition for lawfulness and what makes a law apodictic is that the

concepts which it governs be unitarily determined, i.e., that they have a self-contained

meaningfulness. Only then can a lawful connectedness between these concepts be made,

i.e., a connectedness that applies universally. If the concepts which are to be governed

have no self-contained, unitarily determined meaningfulness then no lawful

connectedness can be realized between the concepts since some external factor may

further determine the connectedness between them. This does not mean, however, that

the unitary determination of the concept in question must be simple since the concepts

governed by the law may themselves be complex, i.e., unities of simpler unitary

determinations. For example, this applies straightforwardly to laws of laws in, for

example, a theory of theories.

Furthermore, for Husserl, the unity of law, i.e., the univocal connectedness of

concepts, is itself the essence of what the law governs. An example will make this more

clear. Gravitation itself, i.e., the essence of gravity, is just the lawful connectedness

governing or regulating the interaction between bodies by which the notion of gravity is

originarily given. Put differently, gravity simply denotes a particular lawful connection

between bodies capable of gravitation interaction, i.e., physical bodies.

As I mentioned earlier, laws can bear external relations to other laws and these

external relations can be themselves governed by law, i.e., can be necessarily related. Of

course, from the perspective of these more general laws the relatedness existing between

the more specific concepts they govern, in this case more specific laws, is itself internal.

For Husserl, theory and the theoretical ultimately denotes governance according to a

unity of law or, as Husserl puts it, a "unity of explanation." A theory is defined by a

unity of law no matter how complex this unity may be. Theoretical unity is the

"essential" unity of any science as opposed to its "extra-essential" unity,

...What makes truths belong together in a single science, what constitutes

their unity of 'subject-matter' ["sachliche" Einheit]?
The principle of unity may be of two sorts, essential and extra-
The truths of a science are essentially one if their connection rests
on what above all makes a science a science: a science is, as we know,
grounded knowledge, i.e. explanation or proof (in the pointed sense).
Essential unity among the truths of a single science is unity of explanation.
But all explanation points to a theory, and has its goal in the knowledge of
the basic laws, the principles of explanation. Unity of explanation means,
therefore, theoretical unity, which means, on what was said above,
homogenous unity of legal base, and, lastly, homogeneous unity of
explanatory principles.
The sciences whose field is determined by the standpoint of theory,
of unity of principle, which embrace in ideal closure all possible facts and
general items whose principles of explanation have a single legal base, are
called, not very suitably, abstract sciences. The best name for them would
really be theoretical sciences...Following a suggestion of J. von Kries, one
could say, almost as characteristically, that these sciences are nomological,
in so far as their unifying principle, as well as their essential aim of
research, is a law.102

Clearly, any single theory must have a "homogenous unity of legal base" since the

ultimate concepts of the theory must bear a lawful, necessary connection between one

another to be included in a single theory. In other words, if the ultimate principles of a

theory were not so necessarily connected they would comprise different theories because

there would be no necessary connection between them. For example, if there were no

Ibid., pp. 147 – 8.

necessary, lawful connection between gravity and electromagnetism it would be absurd to

talk about one theory of gravity and electromagnetism.

The extra-essential unity which may unify a science is based on the "unity of the

thing" rather than the unity of law,

There are, in the second place, external standpoints which range truths
into one science: the nearest to hand is the unity of the thing in a more
literal sense. Once connects all the truths whose content relates to one and
the same individual object, or to one and the same empirical genus. This
is the case in regard to the concrete, or, to use von Kries's term, the
ontological sciences, such as geography, history, astronomy, natural
history, anatomy, etc. These sciences are also often called 'descriptive',
and this name is allowable, since the unity of description is fixed by the
empirical unity of the object or the class, and it is this descriptive unity
which, in the sciences here involved, determines the science's unity. But
the word should of course not be so understood as if descriptive sciences
aimed at mere description, which would contradict our guiding concept of

This unity is deemed "extra-essential" because this form of unity, i.e., the unity of the

thing as opposed to the unity of the law, "...leads to widely divergent, or quite

heterogeneous theories and theoretical sciences."104 However, the fact that Husserl uses

the term (borrowed from von Kries) "ontological" to describe these sciences should not

be confused with what in his Ideas is called "ontology." That is, it should not be

confused with the distinction between "formal ontology," which comprises the principles

and laws of objectivity given in a theory of theories or a "pure logic," and "regional

ontologies," which does bear a relation of similarity to the "ontological sciences" so

called insofar as a regional ontology describes the material aspect of the objectivities of

Ibid., pg. 148.
Ibid., pg. 148.

material sciences as described in the Ideas. What is important is that Husserl goes on to

argue that,

...the abstract or nomological sciences are the genuine, basic sciences,

from whose theoretical stock the concrete sciences must derive all that
theoretical element by which they are made sciences. Quite
understandably, it is enough if the concrete sciences attach the objects they
describe to the lower rungs of law in the nomological sciences, and at best
indicate the main direction of ascending explanation.105

That is, as far as "pure theory" is concerned and, consequently, as far as Husserl is

concerned in the Logical Investigations insofar as its project is to ground pure logic, the

objects of these "ontological sciences" are merely empirically interpreted instances of the

purely theoretical objects of pure logic. Husserl characterizes the purely theoretical

objects of pure logic as follows,

When, however, our purely theoretical interest sets the tone, the single
individual and the empirical connection do not count intrinsically, or they
count only as a methodological point of passage in the construction of
general theory. The theoretical natural scientist, or the natural scientist in
the context of purely theoretic, mathematicizing discussion, sees the earth
and stars quite indifferently from the geographer and the astronomer.
They are to him per se indifferent and count merely as examples of
gravitating masses in general.106

This, one will remember, is precisely how Rickert and Windelband characterize the

attitude of the nomological sciences with regard to individuality. Furthermore, the way

in which Husserl characterizes the ontological sciences closely resembles the idiographic

sciences as so called by Rickert and Windelband, although for Husserl they are by nature

Ibid., pg. 148.
Ibid., pg. 148.

to be reduced to the nomological sciences whereas Rickert and Windelband want to avoid

precisely that.

What is most important is that objectivity, as far as theoretical science is

concerned, is merely the "methodological point of passage in the construction of general

theory." This methodological point of passage, however, constrains Husserl's

interpretation of originary presentative intuition in such a way that, a priori, it must

necessarily have a self-contained, identical, repeatable content. As was mentioned

earlier, this is an external constraint on originary presentative intuition. That is, originary

presentative intuition is not understood as it meaningful gives itself “immediately” in

lived-experience but rather only in its role as required by the demands of theoretical

reason, i.e., by the role it plays within the ultimately lawful structure of theory. The

givens provided by originary presentative intuition is structured according to its ability to

provide objects capable of being subsumed under law, i.e., objects which are capable of

being instances of universal laws.

Certainly this does not mean, as it may appear, that the objects of theoretical

reason are contentless except for their ability to play this role. But ultimately their

content is circumscribed by theoretical reason which means that their content qua theory

consists of the multitude of laws of which they are an instance. For example, physical

objects are determined by the law of gravitation and, as such, they are made contentful

and, similarly, these same objects are further determined by many other laws.

Thus, Heidegger claims, Husserl does not stick to the things themselves but only

to the things themselves as interpreted according to the requirements of theoretical

reason, i.e., as objectified. Husserl has not violated, as he understands it, the requirement

of phenomenology to be free from presuppositions but this is only because he

understands freedom from presuppositions as freedom from any specific objective claims.

But this very interpretation of freedom from presuppositions is itself an exclusively

theoretical interpretation. With regard to this Heidegger says,

Making a presupposition means positing a proposition as valid. It does

not matter whether this validity is proven or unproven, but if I posit it
another proposition is also valid. So the 'pre-' refers to a relation of logical
ordering, a relation that holds between theoretical propositions ...
presupposition and presuppositionless have any meaning only in the
theoretical. If the theoretical as such becomes problematic, so also does
ambiguous talk of presupposition and presuppositionless. These belong
rather in the most constructive sphere of the theory of objects, a sphere
that is the derivative branch of the genealogy of meaning.107

Presupposition in Husserl's sense presupposes objectivity. That is, it becomes

tautological that the theory of theories is free from presuppositions since it itself is the

ground of objectivity.

However, all this does not mean that something is lacking in Husserl's critique of

psychologism or that Heidegger's critique points to a return to psychologism since

psychologism itself claims to ground the very same objectivity that Husserl attempts to

ground phenomenologically and does so by presupposing determinate objects, namely,

mental states of concrete empirical subjects. Clearly, psychologism already presupposes

objectivity in its attempt to ground the very notion of objectivity itself. Or, as Natorp

puts it, psychologism attempts to ground objective science in general through a particular,

objective science, i.e., psychology. This, Natorp says, is merely a "category mistake."

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 79.

The appearance that Husserl's project of founding theoretical reason relies solely

upon the mere meaningful givenness of the things themselves arises because of his belief

that objects qua objects are immediately and meaningfully given to consciousness "in

person," i.e., in lived-experience, when in fact Natorp and Heidegger argue that the

givenness of objectivity in Husserl is mediated by his theoretical concerns. For both

Natorp and Heidegger objectivity is an achievement of lived-experience and, for this

reason, is, at best, a comportment towards and, at worst, a distortion of lived-experience.

In Husserl's case it becomes a distortion of lived-experience for, as I previously argued,

Husserl ends up arguing that objectivity is a transcendental condition for the possibility

of life. For Heidegger, the question is: what is the motivation for objectification or how

is objectification itself meaningfully given in lived-experience?

Paul Natorp attempts an answer to this question and from the perspective of one

who adheres to the primacy of theoretical reason. Natorp saw more clearly and earlier

than Husserl (in 1887 -1888) the necessity of theoretical reason's return to lived-

experience, but in Heidegger’s view he too was ultimately unsuccessful because he sees

objectification as the necessary condition for any understanding of lived-experience. In

reviewing Natorp's theory we shall get a more complete understanding of the necessary

connection between theoretical knowledge and objectification Heidegger finds

permeating the philosophical tradition and also an account of the classical origin of this




In this chapter we shall acquire a better understanding of just how deeply

objectification lies at the foundation of theoretical reason. We shall do this through a

careful analysis of Natorp's argument for the primacy and necessity of an "objective"

foundation for knowledge in his 1887 essay "Über Objective und Subjective Begründung

der Erkenntnis (On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge)."108 In the

process many issues and points of methodology will arise which are crucially significant

for Heidegger's own early writings, especially the importance of questioning as

meaningfully distinct from judgment and its modalities and also the necessity of the

presupposition of objectivity for the task of knowledge, i.e., the recovery of Erlebnis.

I. Questioning and the Task of Knowledge

In his 1887 essay, “On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge"

and also in section 14 of his 1888, Einleitung in die Psychologie109, Paul Natorp seeks to

Paul Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," translated by Lois
Phillips and David Kolb, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 12, pp. 245 – 266.
Paul Natorp, Einleitung in die Psychologie nach kritischer Methode (Freiburg i.B., 1888).

understand scientific knowledge by mediating between the Neo-Kantian dispute as to

whether knowledge is grounded in objectivity or subjectivity. In these writings Natorp

deals from a theoretical perspective with the issue raised at the end of the last section, i.e.,

the relation between the objectification that Husserl and Natorp alike understand as a

necessary condition for any scientific knowledge whatsoever and subjectivity or, as

Natorp understands it, the appearance of objects in subjectivity. In examining this issue

and Natorp's response to it we shall get a much better idea of what Heidegger believes to

be at stake in the privileging and primacy of theoretical reason and his analysis of the

objectification which characterizes theoretical reason. It will be evident that, in this

regard, Natorp significantly influenced Heidegger's early thinking on these issues.

Natorp approaches the issue of knowledge in proto-phenomenological style. That

is, he wants to examine knowledge as it is given on its own without presupposing any

theories of knowledge, especially those theories which presuppose a "metaphysical" or

strongly substantive notion of subjectivity and objectivity. Rather for Natorp, as well as

for Husserl and Heidegger, subjectivity and objectivity are derivative notions. According

to Natorp, subjectivity and objectivity are notions derived from the unitary concept of

knowledge itself,

The expressions "objective" and "subjective" of course refer to the object

and the subject of knowledge. The law of the objectivity of knowledge
must be sought, and sought in knowledge itself. Knowledge, however,
shows itself from the start as two-sided: as "content" (as what is known or
to be known) and as "activity" (Tätigkeit) or experience (Erlebnis) of the
subject (as knowing). To be sure, in every knowing both relations are
present together and closely connected; there can no more be a known
without a knower than there can be a knower without a known.110

Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 248.

What is significant and important for our purposes in Natorp's theory is the intimate

connection between lawfulness, objectivity, and subjectivity in his analysis of knowledge

and specifically the dependence of his understanding of objectivity and subjectivity on

the nomological character of knowledge, a theme which we have seen runs through much

of Husserl's writings as well.

At the very beginning of his 1887 essay, Natorp stresses the importance of

lawfulness in the analysis of knowledge. Science in its essence intends to grasp

determining laws,

Each separate science or theory seeks laws for a limited and determined
range of appearances. Science, theoretical knowledge (Erkenntnis)
considered as a whole and as a unity, seeks to unfold a unified network of
laws, into which all particular laws for given appearances must fit.111

Moreover, the scientific understanding of knowledge, i.e., in the common nomenclature

of the time, logic, or what today is typically called epistemology, itself seeks laws.

Specifically, it seeks the lawful relation that exists between knowledge and its object,

Logic, the theory of knowledge, aims at displaying how knowledge forms

an inner unity through a process of composition according to laws...The
inner unity of knowledge must concern the object (Gegenstand) or, to be
more exact, the universal relation of knowledge to the object.112

Ultimately, this lawful relation between knowledge and its object is the subject of

Natorp's essay and he ultimately decides the Neo-Kantian dispute on the side of

objectivity rather than subjectivity but it will be extremely insightful to work through the

particulars of his argument for this.

Ibid., pg. 246.
Ibid., pg. 246.

Natorp begins by arguing that the notion of objectivity, from the perspective of

knowledge, is the unknown of an equation. That is, the object is the "not yet determined

X" of an equation whose known quantities are the data for knowledge. However, just as

in a mathematical equation where the unknown quantity is itself not totally unknown but

is pre-determined by the structure of the equation and the known quantities, so also is it

in the case of knowledge insofar as the object of knowledge is not totally unknown at the

start but is rather determined by the structure of knowledge, i.e., its lawfulness, and the

data for knowledge,

If we regard knowledge as a task similar to an equation to be solved, then

the object is the sought-for, not yet determined X which can only be
determined through the data. This X, however, is not totally unknown;
just as the X in the equation is itself determined in its significance
(Bedeutung) by its expressed relation to the known quantities. Even
before solving the equation of knowledge the significance of the object
must be determined by its determinate relation to the data for knowledge.
Otherwise the task of knowing the object would be not only unsolvable
but incomprehensible. Thus it is necessary that knowledge have an
original relation to the object if even the question concerning the object
and the demand for knowledge to agree with the object are to have a
specifiable meaning. And indeed, as the universal meaning (Sinn) of the
X is predetermined by the form of the equation, in the same way the
universal meaning of the object will be predetermined by that which we
call the "form" of knowledge.113

What is at first surprising in Natorp's approach to the question of the object of knowledge

is his insight into the very issue that plagued Husserl's approach to the question of

theoretical knowledge and its presupposition of objectivity. Whereas for Husserl

objectification is apparently given in originary presentative intuition - when in fact (as

became evident in our previous considerations) this was the result of external

Ibid., pg. 247.

considerations of the theoretical nature of givenness being smuggled into originary

givenness - Natorp understands from the outset that the essence of objectivity is only

accessible in and through the mediation of the unified complex of known object, the

"form" of knowledge and the data for knowledge (content). Husserl's phenomenology

suffers from what Heidegger calls a "naive trust in evidence,"

...nothing is more dangerous than the naive trust in evidence exhibited by

followers and fellow travelers [of phenomenology]. If it is the case that
our relation to the things themselves in seeing is the decisive factor, it is
equally the case that we are frequently deceived about them and that the
possibility of such deception stubbornly persists. Perhaps called once to
be the conscience of philosophy, it has wound up as a pimp for the public
whoring of the mind, fornicatio spiritus (Luther).114

Natorp's approach to the question of the objectivity of knowledge and its relation to the

content of knowledge is mediated directly through an understanding of the relation

between the two. More exactly, the givenness of the object of knowledge is

predetermined by the approach knowledge takes to the object as will become clear.

Striking evidence of this and of Natorp's influence on Heidegger comes from Natorp's

Logische Grundlagen,

The word 'Object', a Latin term which in literal German would be

'Gegenwurf' (that which is thrown over against) or, more freely rendered,
'Vorwurf' (that which is thrown ahead), stands as the almost exact
translation of the Greek 'pro-blema' (that which is thrown forward).... So
just as the x, y, etc. of an equation only have meaning in and for the
equation, on the basis of the meaning of the equation as a whole and in
relation to the known constant quantities ... so and only so is the great X of
knowledge, the object, comprehensible ... The basic sorts of relation which
makes knowledge possible are presupposed and already sketched in
advance in the 'Vorwurf' of knowledge, they are 'cast forward'
('entworfen'). The object of knowledge becomes a project, the thrown-

Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity.

over-against thrown-ahead (das Objekt der Erkenntnis wird Projekt, das
Gegenwurf Vorwurf)."115

Though Natorp is trying to capture the true spirit of Kantian philosophy there is already

much to distinguish Natorp from Kant. Natorp is insistent on the fact that he has

captured the essence and importance of the distinction between "transcendental logic"

and "formal logic" in Kant. He makes mention of the fact that many Kant interpreters of

his time understood Kant as arguing for the primacy of a "formal" analysis of knowledge,

i.e., an analysis of knowledge using only the resources of "formal logic" in the Kantian

sense in which no reference whatsoever is made to objectivity. This, Natorp points out, is

what Kant deemed only "the negative criterion of knowledge" and consists only of "the

simple lack of inner contradiction and the consistent connection of thoughts."116 On the

other hand, the analysis of knowledge given by Natorp (which he argues is in the true

spirit of Kant) makes essential reference to objectivity and thus requires a "transcendental

logic" or "'pure' logic,"

Even Kant, whose authority it is popular to claim in favor of a merely

"formal" logic, demanded for "pure" logic abstraction not from all relation
to the object, but only from specific relation to particular objects.117

The analogy with the not yet determined X of the equation of knowledge is brought out

well by this.

Paul Natorp, Die Logischen Grundlagen Der Exakten Wissenschaften (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner,
1910), pp. 32 – 3 as translated by Phillips and Kolb in footnote 11 of , "On the Objective and Subjective
Grounding of Knowledge," pp. 265 – 6, with my own additional translation of the complete last sentence.
Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 246.
Ibid., pg. 247.

But, as the analogy further makes clear, insofar as knowledge is an equation it is

essentially in need of completion and, to this extent, it becomes a project to be

undertaken. Natorp argues that this arises out of the essence of knowledge itself. That is,

no understanding of knowledge alone (transcendental or otherwise) will ever be in a

position to provide an adequate grasp of knowledge itself since by its very nature it is

incomplete, i.e., makes essential reference to the not yet determined X which is the object

of knowledge. Using Natorp's own analogy, an equation is meaningful in a qualitatively

different sense than, say, a judgment. A judgment is meaningfully complete and is in

need only of confirmation. The meaning of knowledge is essentially incomplete or

undetermined insofar as its very meaning includes the not yet determined X ("der große

X der Erkenntnis"). In Husserlian terms, the signitive intention or meaning-intention of

judgments and knowledge are qualitatively different insofar as the former is complete and

the latter is not. For example, the signitive intention of an equation such as "x=35" is

different than that of a judgment such as "the Reichstag is the seat of German

government." The signitive intention of the latter is internal to the judgment itself and

needs no external completion. The signitive intention of the former refers essentially to

something external, i.e., the not yet determined "x."

What this signifies is that the meaning of knowledge itself can never be confirmed

precisely because there is no complete signitive intention which corresponds to

knowledge itself. Put another way, assuming Husserl's analysis of truth as the

identification of signitive intention and intuition there can be no truth with regard to

knowledge itself. That is, there can be no truthful determination of the essence of

knowledge. One may argue in opposition to this that of course the meaning of

knowledge is completed by providing the not yet determined X that is the object of

knowledge, i.e., by the judgment which corresponds to the solution of the equation, just

as the meaning of the equation "x=35" is completed by providing the judgment which

corresponds to its solution, namely, "243=35". However, this will not do. The equation

"x=35" is solved by the quantity 243 and, thus, results in the judgment "243=35" but the

equation "x=35" and the judgment "243=35" have qualitatively different signitive

intentions and this is demonstrated by the fact that the meaning-intention of the judgment

"243=35" is complete and ready for confirmation whereas the meaning-intention of the

equation "x=35" is essentially incomplete and for this reason cannot be confirmed in any

evidentiary givenness. Furthermore, the transformation of the equation into a judgment is

clearly not the completion of the meaning of the equation but rather a qualitative change

in meaning. One may mistakenly think of the relation between equation and judgment on

the model of the relation between a "vague" judgment and a more "determinate"

judgment, such as in the case of the two judgments "There is a building which is the seat

of German government" and "The Reichstag which I toured yesterday is the seat of

German Government." However, the former judgment is not an equation (now

generalized beyond its merely mathematical connotation) precisely because it is complete

in its signitive meaning. What it denotes or refers to may require investigation but this

does not add to the signitive meaning of the judgment. Put differently, it is perfectly

capable of evidentiary confirmation without change in meaning, namely, by

demonstration that there is such a building. "x=35" is not capable of evidentiary

confirmation, although when it is meaningfully transformed into the judgment "243=35"

then it is capable of evidentiary confirmation. Or, again, "There is a building which is the

seat of German government" needs not be transformed into something more determinate,

viz., "The Reichstag which I toured yesterday is the seat of German government" in order

for it to be evidentially confirmed; it is already complete in its signification and thus can

be confirmed directly without transformation in meaning.

Similarly, we must also distinguish between equations and indexical sentences

such as "This building is the seat of German government." Husserl argues that the

signitive intention of "this" is not incomplete it is simply indeterminate, i.e., "this" has the

minimal signitive intention of "pointing to" or intending something - it simply requires an

external context to make what it intends determinate. The "x" of "x=35" is not like this,

i.e., it does not point to or intend anything. Rather, whatever incomplete, signitive

meaning it does have is fully contained in its unification with the equation in which it

appears. Its meaning is exhausted by its role as a placeholder for the completion of the

task or problem which the equation presents. That is, it is what the equation throws

ahead (Vorwurf) and it is comprehensible only in this regard. As was quoted above,

"...the x, y, etc. of an equation only have meaning in and for the equation, on the basis of

the meaning of the equation as a whole and in relation to the known constant quantities."

The equation presents a task or a problem while the judgment presents an object

(broadly construed) and this is a distinction of meaning. The task set forth by the

equation is brought to fruition in a judgment that corresponds to the solution to the

equation, but this judgment is not evidentiary confirmation of the equation since

evidentiary confirmation does not apply to tasks. Rather, instead of being confirmed,

tasks are brought to completion or fruition.

Knowledge, therefore, is understood by Natorp as a task whose fruition or

completion is the object of knowledge, i.e., the not yet determined X of the equation of

knowledge. Knowledge cannot be reduced to judgment, intuitively evident judgment or

even to the ideal collection or totality of intuitively evident judgments. However, this is

not to say that there is no connection between intuitively evident judgments and

knowledge for, as is clear from the above, intuitively evident judgment may be

understood in the context of the fruition or completion of the task of knowledge but

saying this is not to grasp the essence of the task which is knowledge, but rather its

completion or product. One may quibble here and say that what Natorp has described is

not really knowledge but rather knowing, but in this case it is clear that what Natorp

means by knowledge is merely the fruition or completion of the task of knowing. In this

case, what knowledge means can be understood only insofar as it is purpose or end

product of the task of knowing which leaves us right back where we started, i.e., with

trying to comprehend this task. That is, one cannot work back from the mere completion

of the task of knowing, namely, knowledge to the task of knowing itself. In just the same

way, one cannot work back from the completion of an equation, i.e., a determinate

judgment, to the equation itself because the comprehension of the task is not inherent in

its completion. For example, it is not inherent to the meaning of the judgment "234=35"

what equation this judgement is the solution to.

In this regard, we can see the radical difference between Natorp's interpretation of

Kant and that of his Marburg mentor Hermann Cohen. Cohen influentially argued that

Kant reasoned to the transcendental conditions of knowledge from the "fact of science"

which amounts to the determination of objects as present in the best science of the times,

namely, Newtonian science. Not only does this give the impression that Kant's

transcendental conditions are merely means to ground Newtonian science, but leads one

to believe that philosophy simply "follows behind" the sciences dutifully systematizing

its results. On this view, philosophy finds its niche by serving the formal, systematic

needs of the sciences. For Natorp this gets things backwards. In other words, proponents

of this view ground the theory of knowledge in the particular, objective determinations of

the special sciences rather than in an analysis of the task of knowledge itself. According

to Natorp, the theory of knowledge requires an account of how knowledge predetermines

objectivity per se in the task of knowledge. Cohen’s account of the theory of knowledge

works the other way round insofar as it attempts to ground knowledge, and thus

objectivity, in the particular determinations of objects put forward by the particular

objective sciences themselves. As we have seen, Natorp argues that this is not possible.

If we understand the object of knowledge as the not yet determined X of the

equation of knowledge this demonstrates how the task of knowledge itself predetermines

possibilities for the completion of its task and, therefore, predetermines possibilities for

the determination of objects, i.e., objectivity itself qua knowledge. What we cannot

determine in advance, and which we therefore cannot presuppose, is particular

determinations of objects themselves or how they can become manifest in knowledge -

this would be tantamount to understanding the "x" before understanding the equation in

which it appears, e.g., "x=35". What Natorp believes can be done and what he sees to be

the proper task of the theory of knowledge, i.e. logic, is to comprehend the equation that

is knowledge. That is, we can work out in general terms the relation between the yet to

be determined objects of knowledge and the data for knowledge from the task of

knowledge. Whether this in turn is what Kant truly meant to do is for Natorp not

important, because in the complex milieu that is Neo-Kantianism Natorp believes

disputes over the legacy of Kant have become "unedifying."

The important question is how is philosophy to approach knowledge, i.e., how is

it to approach the subject-matter of logic. Because knowledge itself is incomplete in its

signitive intention we cannot approach it "objectively," viz., as an object for study.

Knowledge itself is not an object to be studied, but, as we have seen, is a task and must

be understood as such. Knowledge cannot be approached in such a way that we

investigate its species or genus and then, a la Husserl, find the evidentiary conditions

which would intuitively fulfill its meaning intention. Rather, we understand knowledge

in its essence as a task by looking to what it "intends, seeks, and since [it] seeks,

presupposes." Questioning, Natorp suggests, is the expressive correlate of the task of

knowledge. No judgment could be the expressive correlate of the equation "x=35"

because the meaning of the equation is essentially incomplete while the meaning of any

judgmental expression is complete. The same holds true for any modality of judgment,

e.g., believing, doubting, etc. The proper, general expression of the meaning of the task

of knowledge is the question. For instance, "what is 3 raised to the power 5?", "what is

the seat of German government?" or "what is knowledge?" Question-expressions are

analogous to equations insofar as they have essentially incomplete meanings. Questions

are not capable of confirmation or disconfirmation without a change of signitive

intention, i.e., without "completing" their meaning and thus producing something other

than a question which has a specifically different signitive intention, e.g., a judgment or

one of its modalities. In other words, questions are expressions of tasks with respect to

which the very process of confirmation presupposes the completion or product of the

undertaken task in the form of judgment or one of its modalities.

Natorp, therefore, makes the transition from knowledge as an equation to

knowledge as scientific questioning. To discover the essence of knowledge one must

look to what is sought after in scientific questioning. What is sought after in scientific

questioning is objectivity. When one asks a question, as is also the case with equations,

the question is not devoid of meaning, rather what is sought after in the question,

analogous to the not yet determined X of the equation, is meaningful only to the extent

that it is given in the context of the relations and constants of the question. The very fact

that a question is asked necessitates that what is sought after in the question is

contextualized according to the terms of the question, i.e., the basic possibilities of its

determination are pre-given. As previously quoted, in the case of knowledge, "...The

basic sorts of relation which makes knowledge possible are presupposed and already

sketched in advance in the 'Vorwurf' of knowledge [as an equation]." So inherent to any

question whatsoever is a general relation between that which is sought after in the

question and that according to which it is questioned.

However, that which is presupposed in the question must not be confused with a

presupposed determination of that which is asked about in the question. That is, the

question does not express a degree of determination of the object with regard to what is

asked about it. If this were the case then the question would be indistinguishable from a

determinable but not fully determined judgment about the object and, as was said before,

this would make the question complete, though perhaps partially indeterminate, in its

signitive intention which is not possible if it is a question. This is a subtle yet crucially

important point. Let us return briefly to the analogy of the equation to make it absolutely

clear. "x=35" is, as we said, essentially incomplete in its signitive intention. The

meaning of the "x" in the equation is exhausted as the placeholder for the completion of

the task which the equation expresses. The relations and constants of the equations

constrain the possibilities of carrying out this task but they do not in the context of the

equation itself determine the "x." Through a qualitative change in meaning this equation

may be transformed into a judgment which does determine the fruition of the task

expressed by the equation, e.g., "the solution to the equation 'x=35' is a number identical

with 35." However, this latter judgment does not express a task the way the equation

does, it expresses a complete meaning capable of confirmation. Confirmation of this task

would itself be a task expressible by the question "Is the solution to the equation 'x=35' a

number identical with 35?" which is not identical to the judgment "It is true that the

solution to the equation 'x=35' is a number identical with 35.” The latter expresses the

completion or product of the former task.

Part of the upshot of this is that questions cannot be interpreted as expressing

proto-judgments or, more generally, questions do not express doxic modalities as beliefs,

doubts, and surmises do. Questions are qualitatively or, more exactly, specifically

different comportments or acts than are doxic modalities. In his Ideas Husserl did not

realize this and constantly conjoins question and doubt,

...The mode of "certain" belief can change into the mode of mere deeming
possible or deeming likely, or questioning and doubting; and, as the case
may be, that which appears and which, with regard to the first dimension
of characterizations is characterized as "originary," "reproductive," and the

like has taken on now the being-modalities of "possible," of "probable," of
"questionable," of "doubtful."118

Even up to the end of his life in the late 30's Husserl is still confounding questioning and


The phenomenon of questioning has its origin in the domain of modalized

certainty and is found there in close association with doubt. Like doubt, it
is originally motivated by events in the passive sphere. In this sphere a
disjunctive fluctuation of apprehensions corresponds to the intuitions
which are split in an intentional conflict; in the unity of the conflict, A, B,
and C are present to consciousness as united in their reciprocal opposition.
We cannot express this otherwise than by the words: for consciousness
there is "whether A, or B, or C is"; and we find this precisely in the
expression of the question and the doubt as acts, namely, as the content of
the question or of the doubt. We say, for example, "I question, I doubt,
whether A is." Therefore, what precedes the questioning, as, similarly,
what precedes the doubting in the passive sphere, is a unified field of
problematic possibilities.119

What we see in Husserl's analysis of questioning is the ever-present "evidentialist"

prejudice that all comportments or acts of consciousness require that some content or

other, no matter how vague, been pre-given before this comportment or act of

consciousness is possible. That is, even towards the end of his life, Husserl still accepted

the necessity of originary presentative intuition as mere presentation, i.e., as self-

contained, repeatable content before any possible comportment or act of consciousness

with regard to what is given. The only possible understanding of questioning that

Husserl could give is the one he does, namely that questioning presupposes a self-

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 250.
Edmund Husserl, Experience and Judgment, translated by James S. Churchill and Karl Ameriks
(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973), pg. 307.

contained, unified content or in Husserl's particular analysis, "a unified field of

problematic possibilities."

Husserl would agree that questions are not the type of things capable of

confirmation, but in Husserl's case this is not because the signitive-meaning of a question

is essentially incomplete, but simply because in the question the content is not yet

posited, i.e., in questioning the content, though determinate, is "neutralized",

Every possible content of judgment is thinkable as the content of a

question. In the question, it is naturally not yet an actual content; rather, it
is in the question only as a contemplated, a merely represented
(neutralized) judgment and is, as the content of the question, oriented
equally toward the yes and the no.120

Obviously, this implies what we just previously showed to be impossible for a question

namely that in a question that which the question intends is not positively pre-determined

in any way only the task is positively determined. That is, no implicit inherent meaning

has been imparted to the not yet determined X of the question. For Husserl however, this

is precisely what is going on. As he understands questioning, the possibilities of the

matter under question are pre-determined and this means determinate possible judgments

and answers are pre-determined by the question. In fact, these possibilities or, more

exactly, the "unified field of problematic possibilities" are the very content of the


Since the striving inherent in questioning is fulfilled in corresponding

judgments and is answered therein, it is obvious that the experience of the
forms of judgment which are suitable, parallel to the purport of the sense
of the questions, entails that the questioner already consciously anticipates

Ibid., pg. 309.

these possible answer-forms and that they already appear in the expression
of the questions themselves, as their content.121

The talk of "forms of judgment" and "answer-forms" here make it seem that Husserl may

be moving in the direction of our previous analysis of questions, however, for one, as is

clear from the previous quotations, what Husserl intends by the "forms of judgment" and

"answer-forms" is different possible (neutralized) judgments. This means that meaning

can never be in question but only the positing or neutralizing of pre-given, meaningful

judgments is in question. What then is to meaningfully distinguish the question from the

"unified field of problematic possibilities"? Put more starkly, what is to meaningfully

distinguish the question from the positing (in a judgment) of a "unified field of

problematic possibilities"? Husserl answers: nothing at all.

Certainly pressured by the success of Heidegger's own explicit emphasis on

questioning and its relation to the task or project of philosophizing, Husserl proposes his

own "practical" interpretation of the "striving" brought about by questioning. However,

because his own analysis of questioning reduces its content to a determined field of

problematic possibilities whose positability or neutrality is not determined by the

question but by judgment, there is no room in Husserl's phenomenology to give it any

original, independent meaning. Therefore his analysis of questioning "taken in a

completely general sense" appears to some of his later critics as further evidence that he

had slipped back into a deeper form of psychologism,

What is now the particular character of questioning as a peculiar active

mode of behavior of the ego? The passive, disjunctive tension of the
problematic possibilities (doubt in the passive sense), to begin with

Ibid., pg. 309.

motivates an active doubting, a mode of behavior which puts the ego into
an act-cleavage. This cleavage brings with it, on the basis of the essential
striving of the ego for the unanimity of its acts of position-taking, an
immediate discomfort and an original impulse to get out of this condition
and into the normal condition of unity. Thus arises the striving for a firm
decision, i.e., ultimately for an unfrustrated, pure decision. If this striving
does not remain a merely affective, passive propensity, if, on the contrary,
it is actively accomplished by the ego, it gives rise to a questioning.
Taken in a completely general sense, questioning is the striving, arising
from the modal modification, from the cleavage and obstruction, to come
to a firm judicative decision.122

Worse yet, given this analysis of questioning, how is there to be any question of

meaning? or objectivity? or the meaning of being? It appears that in its essence a

question is a process which leads to a "judicative decision" about a pre-given field of

problematic possibilities, but for any pre-given field of problematic possibilities, as

Husserl understands it, meaning and objectivity must be presupposed. That is, the pre-

given field of problematic possibilities are themselves individual, problematic possible

judgments and judgments themselves presuppose meaning and objectivity. Therefore,

the questioning of meaning and the question of objectivity lead to absurdity - they simply

cannot be formulated because, according to Husserl's analysis, they must already

determinately assume what they question.

For Husserl, meaning and objectivity are necessary conditions for any


Questioning is not itself a modality of judgment [since it is the striving

towards judicative decision], although naturally it is inseparable from the
sphere of judgment and cognition and belongs necessarily to logic as the
science of cognition and its objects, more precisely, as the science of
cognitive reason and its structures. And this because the life of judgment,
likewise that of rational judgment, is a medium of a wishing, of a peculiar

Ibid., pg. 308.

striving, or a willing, an acting, whose goal is precisely judgments, and
judgments of a special form. All reason is at the same time practical
reason, and the like is also true of logical reason.123

This makes it quite impossible for Husserl to approach the issue of knowledge,

objectivity, and subjectivity along the lines of Natorp and (with significant, radical

modifications) Heidegger.

To sum up, knowledge must be approached as a task, a task that is expressed

through questioning. Both objectivity and subjectivity as manifested in knowledge

(which we shall see is the only possible means of manifesting objectivity and subjectivity

according to Natorp) must always be understood in the context of the task of knowing

and can never be independently determined through evidentiary givenness.

II. Natorp's Analysis of the Task of Knowledge

Any understanding of knowledge accordingly must rely on an analysis of the task

that is knowledge. This in turn is understood according to an analysis of what is in

question in knowledge. This, Natorp says, has already been decided,

Finally, we are not seeking the general nature of the relationship between
the sought-for object and the data of knowledge. This has already been
decided, since what is being sought is the object, the "being" (Sein) which
is the ground that corresponds to the "appearance". Anyone who has
asked about an object will have known what the question seeks.
The data of knowledge are "phenomena" in the most general sense:
those appearances which are to be explained (erklären) by science, that is,
are to be traced back to the truth (Wahre) which appears in them. The
object should be the object for the appearance; the appearance should be
proven to be the appearance of the object. Here there is already expressed
an original relation of the object to what is given in knowledge which is
analogous to the relation of the X to the known quantities of the equation.

Ibid., pg. 308.

The meaning of this relation must be discoverable through analyzing what
the questioner about the object intends, seeks, and since he seeks,
presupposes. If every science inquires after the objective foundation
underlying each appearance of its truth, then every science must have
some concept of this foundation and of the grounding relationship of the
object to the appearance.124

Inherent in this very dense and complicated quote at the beginning of Natorp's article of

1887 is the most general structure of his approach to the question of knowledge.

Knowledge for Natorp is a task and, he takes it, a task that thinkers have and are actually

engaged in. Given our previous analysis we could also say that thinkers have questioned

scientifically. In order to ask the question of science though, something must be

presupposed, namely what the questioner about the object "intends, seeks, and since he

seeks, presupposes." An analysis of this is the only route open to an understanding of the

structure of knowledge itself because it is essentially a task, i.e., an equation to be solved.

In order to determine what someone is doing when they are engaged in the task of solving

an equation it is necessary to find out what are its variables, the unknown or not yet

determined, i.e., the sought for objects of knowledge, the constants, i.e., the data for

knowledge, and the relation between these two. In the case of knowledge, this last is the

relation of ground to grounded, between "being" (Sein) or the object of knowledge and

"appearance" or the data for knowledge. Knowledge is the grounding of the appearance

in being or, put more fully, the task of knowledge seeks a sense of objectivity such that

the object is seen to be the ground of the appearance and the appearances the appearance

of the object. That the object plays this role cannot be grounded in the mere sense of the

term "knowledge" for knowledge expresses a task and is not like, say, the term

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 247.

"Reichstag", which names an object. From the name, when properly understood, we can

grasp the object that it names, but knowledge itself does not statically name something,

rather it expresses a task. To understand the nature of knowledge is to see how it is to be

carried out. It was Plato, "or perhaps even the Eleatics", who first engaged in the task of

knowledge and it was they who first determined the significance of the object of


This significance of the object, of "being" differentiated from "appearing",

has been won for philosophy since Plato, or perhaps since the Eleatics.125

Again, it is important to distinguish what is being said here from a possible

misconception. Natorp does not understand this to mean that Plato or the Eleatics

determined the nature of some previously understood thing named "the object of

knowledge." To read it this way would make it appear that Natorp is accepting a purely

dogmatic determination of the object of knowledge as conceived a couple of thousand

years ago. This is not what is meant. The object of knowledge is itself only meaningful

in the context of the task which is knowledge. To understand it the former way would

mean that we had some knowledge of the object of knowledge before the task of

knowledge was ever conceived and practiced which is absurd. What Natorp means is

that Plato or the Eleatics "won for philosophy" the task of knowledge itself. That is, they

first conceived and practiced knowing itself. Plato or the Eleatics gave us the task of

grounding the "appearances." The not yet determined X of this equation, i.e., the fruition

or product of the task of knowing, is "being" or objectivity. For Natorp, these are not

meaningful outside of the context of knowing, i.e., we don't understand being or

Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 255.

objectivity before conceiving the task of knowledge, rather being and objectivity are

meaningful only as what is sought in knowledge. This is why Natorp says later,

apparently without argument, that "no object is given to us in any other way than in

knowledge. Thus the meaning and ground of objectivity are not available for

comprehension in any other way."126

It is interesting to note how Natorp's approach fulfills one of the criteria of

phenomenology, i.e., it apparently does not work from any preconceived standpoint or

theory. All standpoints and theories can only be seen as products of the project of

knowledge but never as knowledge itself. However, having said this does not mean that

the task of knowledge itself cannot be "given," it only indicates that the task of

knowledge is not one of its own products, although this is how many have mistakenly

understood it. For example, the question of whether I must know that I know before I

can know? What I know is a product of the process of engaging in the task of

knowledge. Knowing that I know would be to engage in the task of engaging in the task

of knowledge which is no different from simply engaging in the task of knowledge. It is

not until one wrongly conceives of knowledge as an object, namely as a state of affairs

involving the knower as objectified, or, in Natorp's words, as itself a product of

knowledge, that knowing that one knows becomes a problem. If one conceives properly

of knowledge as a task and not as an object there is no problem.

Ibid., pg. 253.

However, the task of knowledge itself has not been analyzed fully until it is

determined what is the objectivity which grounds the appearances. As a summation of

what is to come, Natorp says,

All scientific knowledge aims at the law. The relation of the appearance
to the law (the relation of the "manifold" of the appearance to the "unity"
of the law) must therefore explain the original relation to the object in all
knowledge. The interpretation of the appearance in accordance with laws
is taken as the objectively true interpretation.127

And as if to emphasis the point that was just previously made that this is not the result of

the products of knowledge but of the activity of knowledge itself, Natorp says,

We may take as impartially established this universal correlation between

law and object, ancient as it is in the history of philosophy and the
sciences. It has been established not through the whim or the passion for
system of this or that philosopher, but rather through the action of science
that everywhere constitutes the object in law.128

The question that Natorp proposes to answer in the bulk of the essay is "the

question of logical method" which amounts to the question: "Must the foundation which

logic is to give knowledge be achieved by objective or subjective methods?"129 What this

question boils down to is whether the objectivity of knowledge is to be grounded in

psychological laws of the knowing subject, i.e., is psychologism right?, or is it to be

grounded in the "content" of knowledge, i.e., in the laws that govern the objects of


Ibid., pg. 248.
Ibid., pg. 248, italics mine.
Ibid., pg. 248.

Natorp says that the second option, i.e., the objectivity of knowledge is grounded

in the laws pertaining to the object of knowledge itself, makes it appear "as if one were

explaining the same by the same." He ultimately rejects this objection but says that it

makes psychologism more attractive insofar as psychologism looks as if it is really

explaining objectivity because it is grounding it in something other than the objects of

knowledge themselves. However, Natorp quickly rejects this answer to the question of

logical method on grounds very similar to Husserl's rejection of psychologism, namely,

by pointing out that in knowledge no reference is made to the particular events or

occurrences happening in the particular psychological subject who knows. The relation

of object of knowledge to the data for knowledge does not make essential reference to the

psychological subject, even though knowledge always implies a knower,

In order to ascertain the general relation of knowledge and its object we

regarded knowledge as an equation to be solved; that is, we considered it
purely in terms of its objective content. We believed that we could answer
in advance the question of the meaning and ground of objectivity using
only that content which knowledge supposes when it confronts the object
as that which is to be known. In this connection there was no mention of
knowledge as activity or experience, or of the knower as subject. To be
sure, we readily conceded that there could be no "known" without a
"knower," that knowledge is only given in the experience of a subject, in
the consciousness of the knower. But as this relation to the subject is not
the point in question, it is not necessary for us to turn to this in answering
the question. Each appeal to the subject of knowledge and the way in
which consciousness participates in knowledge must on the contrary
appear to us from the start as a category mistake (metabasis eis allo

What is most interesting about Natorp's rejection of psychologism arises when it is

viewed in the context of what first suggested the superiority of the psychologistic

Ibid., pg. 249.

approach, namely, that it is not explaining the same by the same. Most generally,

psychologism is favored because of its reductive explanations. According to this

approach, explanation just is reduction. On the other hand, Natorp argues that this is not

genuine explanation at all, but is really just a category mistake, i.e., an instance of

equivocation, and he gives an account of explanation which is far closer to Husserl's

notion of phenomenology, i.e., an account of explanation that is ultimately descriptive

rather than reductive,

We can easily remove the appearance of explaining the same by the same
in seeking the ground of objectivity purely on the objective side of
knowledge. What grounds something not only must not, it can not belong
to another genus than what is grounded. It is usually said that the mere
reduction to law does not really explain a phenomenon, since after all it
simply repeats the given state of affairs in a universal expression.
Whoever says this must be understanding something very obscure by
explanation. The universal expression leading a particular back to a
universal pattern of occurrences contains just what has always been
understood by explanation.131

Science seeks objective validity with regard to its subject matter. Furthermore it is clear

that objective validity "signifies a validity independent of the subjectivity of

knowledge."132 Therefore, any interpretation which attempts to ground objectivity in

subjectivity is from the beginning mistaken, since it attempts to ground objective validity

in what is merely subjective validity. Natorp is arguing, as Husserl later will, that

regardless of the issue of whether scientific knowledge is possible (although both clearly

believe it to be so) any reduction of scientific laws to subjective, psychological laws

simply misses the very meaning of science itself. The activity of scientific understanding

Natorp, " On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 250.
Ibid., pg. 252.

is to discover the objective validity inherent to the particular subject matter of a science

or, in the case of logic, the objective validity in scientific theorizing itself. That this is the

case is not subject to the traditional epistemological issues surrounding the veracity of

scientific understanding but is, as we discussed earlier, given in an understanding of the

goal of the task of scientific understanding. Objective validity is what science is after and

no psychological foundation can provide this. The question remains: Is objective

validity achievable?

Objective validity as the grasping of the object distinct from its subjectivity, i.e.,

its relativity in relation to an individual subject to which the object appears, can be

understood in two ways. The first way is simply to understand objective validity as the

"being-in-itself" of the object. Natorp argues that the "being-in-itself" of the object is

itself an "enigma" (Rätsel) and helps in no way with regard to the present problem, but

merely begs the question insofar as if we understood what the "being-in-itself" of the

object truly signifies we would already understand the relation of the object of knowledge

to subjectivity,

The being-in-itself of the object is itself an enigma (Rätsel) and thus

cannot serve as a solution to our present enigma. If we understood what it
meant to say the object in itself is there independent of all subjectivity and
then is appropriated in our subjectivity by knowledge there would be no
problem in the knowing of objects or in the objectivity of knowledge.133

That is, an understanding of the "being-in-itself" of the object already presupposes

knowledge of the relation between the object as ground of appearance and subjectivity.

More exactly, without presupposing knowledge itself any understanding of the "being-in-

Ibid., pg. 253.

itself" would be merely dogmatic and uncritical. This is why Natorp believes that it is

only through an investigation of the task of knowledge itself that we can have any

understanding of the "being-in-itself" of the object and its relation to subjectivity. We

can only critically understand subject and object through the unity that they comprise in

knowledge. Or, put another way, knowledge is the task which is the most conscientious,

systematic approach to objectivity and subjectivity. Natorp says,

Rather than starting from the object and proceeding to make subjective
knowing understandable in relation to the object, which after all is not
given but is in question, one must first take the standpoint of knowledge
and ask how knowledge itself understands objectivity, how knowledge
goes about confronting the object as independent of the subjectivity of
knowing, and what objectivity signifies for knowledge...To begin with,
"object" signifies that which knowledge stands over against. The meaning
and ground of this confrontation can best be communicated by knowledge
itself. For it is precisely knowledge's business to proceed with
consciousness, to know what it does and why. To question this
consciousness of knowledge about its own activity was the direction
indicated by our first considerations; this was the opinion of Kant when,
after many promising attempts by his predecessors, he made the demand
to prove the conditions and laws of objectivity out of consciousness, that
is, out of the consciousness of science.134

In this we see again Natorp's insistence that it is only through an understanding of the

activity of knowledge itself that we can attain any scientific understanding of subject and

object. Moreover, one can see here Natorp's own attempt to really come to grips with a

critical understanding of Kant's "thing-in-itself." Natorp rejects the way in which many

have understood the "thing-in-itself" as essentially beyond the reach of the critical

enterprise and as something to be rejected vis-à-vis Fichte and Hegel and many fellow


Ibid., pg. 253.

The shift in the critical project that takes place here I think is crucial to

understanding the influence of Natorp on Heidegger's early writings. That shift is from

understanding objectivity and subjectivity from either the perspective of the subject or

object but rather from the more primordial unity of knowledge of which the object and

subject are merely derivative. As the last quote makes evident this leads Natorp to search

for objectivity and subjectivity in the activity of knowledge. Understanding knowledge

qua activity and qua task is a much different enterprise than understanding knowledge as

an essentially static unifying relation of knowing subject to known object. What is

required is an understanding of the purpose or end of this activity. Natorp has shifted the

focus of the entire critical project from the subject, judgments, and transcendent objects

to the analysis of an activity, i.e., the task of knowledge. In this way Natorp has been

able to subsume within the critical project Kant's "thing-in-itself" without wholly

rejecting it as Fichte had done. At the same time the act of knowing is understood

without relying on Fichte's "voluntaristic" notion of this activity. He will do this by

analyzing the activity of knowledge at it is practiced, i.e., in its history, rather than

understanding it as the product of the will of absolute subjectivity. Natorp's theory also

contains Hegelian elements, namely the historical and progressive character of his

analysis, but he rejects Hegel's teleology of Absolute Spirit. Natorp's analysis, as we

shall see shortly, satisfies the common neo-kantian rejection of Hegel's Idealism while

simultaneously keeping an essentially historical analysis of knowledge and,

consequently, objectivity and subjectivity. Natorp's project maintains a progressive and

historical analysis of science and the goal of science without the "metaphysical" absolutes

of Hegel's system. At the same time it remains a critical enterprise insofar as it seeks to

ground objectivity, subjectivity and knowledge through an understanding of the activity

of science whose business, to paraphrase Natorp, is to critically understand objectivity,

subjectivity and the relation between them, i.e., to know "what it does and why." Finally,

science is seen to actively construct knowledge and objective validity rather than

passively conform itself to the sensibly given, i.e., to the appearances. Natorp shifts from

focusing on the things of science, most generally the subject/object dichotomy, to the

historical activity of science.

III. The History of Knowledge and the Reconstruction of Lived-Experience

Natorp says that "All scientific knowledge aims at the law."135 What scientific

inquiry seeks is the object as determined by law. Natorp argues that lawfulness is part of

the very meaning of knowledge and has been since the rise of modern science and

modern thought. What is important about lawfulness is that it characterizes the aim of

knowledge to bring about a unity within the manifold of appearances. That is, laws unify

the multitude of distinct appearances immediately "given" to consciousness. According

to this view, without unification there would be no knowledge at all for then we should

only have a mere succession of quite distinct appearances disconnected from one another.

However, Natorp argues, this was not always the view. The pre-modern conception of

knowledge (including the Ancients and Medievals) still realized the importance of the

unificatory function of knowledge but interpreted this metaphysically in the notion of the

universal, i.e., in the structure of genus and species. Plato, Natorp argues, realized that

Ibid., pg. 247.

knowledge essentially concerns itself with the relationship between the universal and the

particular or the participation of the sensuous particular in the Idea. Ideas were principles

of unity and were the condition for the possibility of knowledge,

The universal expression leading a particular back to a universal pattern of

occurrences contains just what has always been understood by
explanation. The synthetic connection of the unlimited manifold of
appearances in the unity of law, the bringing into unity (syllabein eis hen),
as Plato says (Theaetetus 147D)136, is what makes the phenomenon
understandable and so explains it. The essential point on which all
depends is that the explaining ground can never be in any other
relationship to that which is explained by it than that of universal to
particular, of law and recognized instance of the law.137

Natorp understands science as a progressively more adequate and universal

explanation of the particular, i.e., the appearances as given in subjectivity. In this regard,

Natorp believes this task to have started with the Ancient Greeks and evidence of his

assertion can be seen clearly in the ancient "paradox of the knower." The paradox of the

knower is, basically, if one is to come to knowledge about something one must already

have knowledge of it. That is, if one already knows what is being searched for there is no

need to come to know it, but if one does not know what is being searched for then there is

no hope of coming to know it for one does not know what one is looking for. This

paradox appears in Plato's Meno and precedes his "theory of recollection" (anamnesis),

Plato, Theaetetus, translated by Francis Macdonald Cornford, from Plato's Theory of Knowledge:
The Theaetetus and the Sophist (London, 1935), 147d: "THEAETETUS: Theodorus here was proving to us
something about square roots, namely, that the sides [or roots] of squares representing three square feet and
five square feet are not commensurable in length with the line representing one foot, and he went on in this
way, taking all the separate cases up to the root of seventeen square feet. There for some reason he
stopped. The idea occurred to us, seeing that these square roots were evidently infinite in number, to try to
arrive at a single collective term by which we could designate all these roots."
Natorp, " On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 250.

MENO: But how will you look for something when you don't in the least
know what it is? How on earth are you going to set up something you
don't know as the object of your search? To put it another way, even if
you come right up against it, how will you know that what you have found
is the thing you didn't know?
SOCRATES: I know what you mean. Do you realize that what you are
bringing up is the trick argument that a man cannot try to discover either
what he knows or what he does no know? He would not seek what he
knows, for since he knows it there is no need of the inquiry, nor what he
does not know, for in that case he does not even know what he is to look

Though Socrates calls this a "trick argument" he spends much of the rest of the dialogue

giving an account of how it is possible and this argument haunts much of the history of

philosophy though in different forms and is precisely what Kant believes requires a

"Copernican turn" in our understanding of knowledge. A Copernican turn is required in

order to understand how knowledge is possible starting from the mere chaos of pure

sensation. In Aristotle, we find an example of Natorp's claim that from the time of the

Greeks the solution lay in the relation between universal and particular,

We knew already that every triangle has the sum of its interior angles
equal to two right angles; but that this figure inscribed in the semi-circle is
a triangle we recognize only as we are led to relate the particular to the
universal...For how could we know in the full sense that the figure
contains angles equal to the sum of two right angles if we did not know in
the full sense whether it exists? Clearly we apprehend the fact not
absolutely but in the qualified sense that we apprehend a general principle.
Unless we make this distinction, we shall be faced with the dilemma
reached in the Meno: either one can learn nothing, or one can only learn
what is already known.139

Plato, Meno, translated by W.K.C. Guthrie, in Plato: The Collected Dialogues, edited by Edith
Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 80d-e.
Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, translated by G. R. G. Mure in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by
Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 71a 19 – 30.

In this regard, Aristotle points out the inadequacy of the reasoning behind what will

become Humean induction and the need for truly universal principles,

We certainly must not offer the explanation by which certain thinkers

attempt to solve the difficulty. Supposing that a man is asked "Do you or
do you not know that every pair is even?" When he says "Yes," his
opponents produce some pair which he did not know to exist, and
therefore did not know to be even. These thinkers solve the difficulty by
saying that they do not know that every pair is even, but only that such
things as they know to be pairs are even. But what they know to be even
is that which they have proved to be such, i.e., that which they have taken
as the subject of their premiss: and that is not everything which they know
to be a triangle or a number, but every number and every triangle, without

Natorp finds within the Greeks the beginnings of what for him is essential to all

knowledge, namely that it cannot begin solely with the particular, subjective appearance

but from the outset must begin with the universal or the law.

Modernity advanced beyond the Ancient and Medieval conception of the

universal insofar as they interpreted universality not metaphysically but, more correctly,

epistemologically, i.e., as embodying the universal, lawful connection of appearances as

given to consciousness,

...with Aristotle and even with the medieval scholastics, it was essentially
a question of the particular thing, or individual, and the universal of the
thing, or species. More recent philosophy, in as far as the vast reform of
the sciences since the start of modern times has not left it unaffected,
knows the universal essentially and originally under the form of law. The
thing is no longer the primary given, but rather first an unknown. As Kant
concisely summed up the basic result of modern science since Galileo,
things have dissolved into mere "relationships", although among these
there are some which are "independent and constant" and which from now
on must represent things for us. From now on it is primarily and

Ibid., 71a31 - 71b4.

essentially a matter of the universality of relation (which gives the concept
of law).141

What universal lawfulness means for objectivity and subjectivity is of crucial

significance for our discussion. Since it is inherent to the very meaning of knowledge

and science that it seeks after its object (Natorp's proto-notion of intentionality) and

because "all scientific knowledge aims at the law," Natorp argues that its object is simply

lawfulness itself. If we adhere to the meaning of knowledge itself without presupposing

any uncritical conception of objectivity we see that what it seeks after is laws and that,

therefore, these are the objects of knowledge. The true object of knowledge is neither

Platonic Ideas nor Aristotelian particulars, which are simply dogmatic, metaphysical

notions of objectivity, but rather laws which unify the manifold of appearances given to

consciousness. Natorp believes that this view is not totally alien to Ancient conceptions

of objectivity since even Aristotle conceived of substance as the unity that underlies

change and in fact the laws which Natorp believes knowledge is seeking are themselves

the unities that underlie the manifold, changing appearances.

However, we must qualify Natorp's position, since he argues that there are two

stages to objectification. The first stage is familiar from our discussion of Husserl's

notion of originarily presentative intuition. Before one can construct laws one must

already have things to which the laws apply. That is, the laws of science are not directly

applicable to the concrete, particular appearances present to an individual subject, but

rather they apply to intersubjective "things." A first stage of objectification is necessary.

The first stage of objectification is to distinguish the object of consciousness from the

Ibid., pg. 258.

multitude of its appearance in many different subjects. At one point Natorp speaks of this

objectification as if it were a fully determinate thing that is given, but what he primarily

means is that there must be a first stage of objectification which understands the object of

knowledge as the undetermined X. This indeterminate X is intersubjective, but is not yet

adequately determinate. This undetermined X is then scientifically objectified, or made

adequately determinate, by means of universal scientific laws. Although Natorp does not

have a fully developed notion of intentionality one can see striking parallels between his

view and Husserl's view of the intentional object as the undetermined X of reason in §131

of the Ideas. And, point in fact, there appears to be little substantial difference between

Husserl's and Natorp's views when we take into account Husserl's analysis of originarily

presentative intuition as presented in the last section. The first level of objectification is

carried out "naturally" in everyday life and is for the most part unconscious. This

naturalness causes one to assume that first something called the “subject” confronts the

“object” and only subsequently develops a new relation to the object called knowledge,

never realizing that objectivity (or knowledge) is the most natural of attitudes and

typically subjectivity is only secondary.

This first level of objectivity indicates that objectivity itself is an achievement of

the knowing subject. Natorp makes this clear in specifying the means by which

objectivity is produced, i.e., "abstraction." By this Natorp means abstraction from

subjectivity. However, Natorp notes that abstraction has both a negative and positive

connotation. The negative notion of abstraction consists of simply stripping away all

subjective aspects of the object. This is what "sensualists" mean by abstraction. Natorp

makes it clear that this form of abstraction will leave absolutely nothing left. However,

the positive notion of abstraction consists of “universalizing” the object from the

manifold of its subjective representations. This, Natorp argues, is the form of abstraction

that goes beyond the subjective appearance of the object without leaving those subjective

appearances behind but rather incorporating them as precisely those particulars that are

unified either by a “first objectification” or, subsequently, by universal laws. This form

of abstraction is an achievement of the knowing subject and, consequently, all objectivity

is in the end a construction. As Natorp also puts it the "positive facts" of science are not

datum given to consciousness but are already a result of the objectifying act of


This conclusion is prefigured in his original discussion of objectivity, subjectivity,

and knowledge. For Natorp argued that objectivity and subjectivity are derived from

knowledge rather than the other way around. It is only from the activity of scientific

knowledge that a critical, undogmatic notion of objectivity and subjectivity can be

derived. What does this indicate about subjectivity? If objectivity is a construction of

consciousness and represents the universal aspect of knowledge as embodied in law, then

what of subjectivity? Natorp argues that,

subjectivity signifies the relationship of the represented to the representer,

in so far as it is represented by him, that is, in so far as it forms the content
of his subjective experience. Subjectivity signifies the immediate
relationship to the ego.142

This immediate relationship to the ego is the concrete, individual, constantly changing,

and particular appearance to consciousness of the object of consciousness. Natorp says,

quoting Hobbes approvingly, that this is the "phenomenon of ultimate authority,"

Ibid., pg. 256.

The ultimate immediate appearance, however, the phenomenon of ultimate
authority, is nothing other than what is given on each occasion to a
determined subject in a determined situation. It is this which we must
name as what is ultimately subjective; there is absolutely nothing else by
which the concept of subjectivity could be positively determined, aside
from the appearing, the phainesthai itself, which, as Hobbes had already
stated, is both the most noteworthy and the most original of all

The concrete appearance given to a "determined subject in a determined situation" is

subjectivity itself. That is, in Natorp there is no pseudo-metaphysical reification of the

subject which Heidegger argues plagues Husserlian phenomenology. Subjectivity itself

is derived from the relation of knowledge, i.e., as the appearance both opposed to but

intimately related to the "being" which is objectivity or, put another way, the particular

that is ultimately subsumed in scientific knowledge under universal law. This latter

formulation is the critical, scientific understanding of objectivity and subjectivity and

makes adequate what Plato originally saw in the opposition between sensibility and


Furthermore, a scientific understanding of subjectivity is the end product of

scientific understanding rather than the beginning. Here again we see more of Natorp’s

anti-evidentialism insofar as he realizes that a complete and adequate grasp of the

appearances, i.e., lived-experience, is not possible but is rather the infinite task of

scientific understanding. Correspondingly, it is the objectification of subjectivity which

is the ultimate task of science. The ultimate task of science is to progressively determine

through universal law the infinite "chaos" that is immediate subjective experience. This

dual process of the construction of objectivity and "reconstruction" of immediate

Ibid., pg. 257.

subjective experience is what impresses Heidegger in 1919. This also reverses the order

of phenomenological investigation found in Husserl's Ideas, which is ultimately grounded

in the certainty of what is immanent to consciousness - a thesis that Heidegger loathed.

For Natorp, knowledge begins with transcendence (objectivity) and only later

reconstructs immanence. Subjectivity, or more correctly its objectification, is the

ultimate, but infinite task of scientific understanding. One can begin to understand why

Heidegger calls Natorp the "only person to have brought scientifically noteworthy

objections against phenomenology."144 Objectification is already a constructive

modification of immediate lived-experience. Natorp is explicit about this while Husserl

still believes himself to be merely engaged in the phenomenological description of what

is originarily given.

Additionally, Natorp contends that this reconstructive objectification of

subjectivity is the only possible way that subjectivity may be scientifically understood.

Using an argument already familiar to us from Rickert, Natorp argues that the only way

in which the pure particularity and concreteness of the appearance of beings to a

"determined subject in a determined situation" can be scientifically understood is through

general concepts. The positivist attempt to begin with this pure particularity and build

knowledge up from out of it is illusory. As Natorp asserts even the "this, here, now" is in

actuality a determination through concepts of "universal applicability,"

How do we grasp this ultimate concrete here and now appearing? It is to

be grasped, if at all, only when it is determined in concepts; but every such
determination occurs from the standpoint of the universal...If I say "it is
here, it is this, it is now", all these determinations aim at denoting the

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 85.

particular as particular, but they denote it only through determinations of
universal applicability. They classify the particular in the universal order
of space and time, an already presupposed order of things.145

In the end, the determination of the concrete, particular appearance of the object of

consciousness is the infinite task of determining the undetermined X and will never be

fully complete. Something shall always be left over, which indicates that the task of

scientific understanding will never end,

Yet when it [subjectivity] is grasped in concepts it is no longer absolutely

immediate and subjective, but has always already been objectified. The
level of pure subjectivity would be identical with the level of absolute
indeterminacy. On may reason back to this, as to the original chaos, but
one cannot lay hold of it in itself. The constructive objectifying
achievement of knowledge always comes first; from it we reconstruct as
far as possible the level of original subjectivity which could never be
reached by knowledge apart from this reconstruction which proceeds from
the already completed objective construction. In this reconstruction we, so
to speak, objectify subjectivity as such.

Natorp believes that he has resolved the critique of knowledge and, specifically, the

distinction between subject and object, into the relation between universal and particular,

which he argues has dominated philosophy since its inception. No longer is the issue of

knowledge dominated by ultimately dogmatic "metaphysical" assumptions about the

nature of subject and object and the relation between the two. The problem of knowledge

is a logical problem, i.e., the relation between law (the universal) and instance of law (the

particular). Moreover, Natorp believes he has made clear why objectivity and

subjectivity of necessity are correlated to one another. Since objectivity and subjectivity

are in truth law and instance of law they must be correlated with one another in the

simple sense that neither makes sense without the other.

Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 261.

Two last things about Natorp's view that have import when understanding

Heidegger's early writings. Given Natorp's notion that knowledge is essentially the

infinite task of determining the undetermined X through construction and reconstruction,

what could be meant by the a priori? The true a priori is not knowledge that is given

priori or coincident to all experience rather, for Natorp, what is prior to any

objectification and thus to any experience or theorizing is the task of knowledge,

Even if all determination is first the achievement of knowledge, one

cannot dismiss the reflection that something must be "given" before this
achievement, something subjectively original and immediate which is to
be determined and so first brought to objectivity.
In fact there is something given before the achievement of
knowledge, namely the task.146

The modern epistemological project has gotten it backwards for while assuming the

subject/object dichotomy it was attempting to find some "given" datum of knowledge

from which the subject could transcend itself and grasp the object. From Natorp's

perspective it misunderstood that all determination is an achievement and there can be no

"given" datum of knowledge if science is to be critical. What is given is the task of

knowledge from which subject and object are derived. Acquired scientific knowledge is

but a part of the achievement of carrying through this task.

Finally, and crucial I think for understanding Natorp's importance for Heidegger,

is that Natorp, in his review of the first volume of Husserl's Logical Investigations147,

argues that the critique of knowledge is metaphysics as first philosophy. While perhaps

Ibid., pg. 262.
Paul Natorp, "On the Question of Logical Method in Relation to Edmund Husserl's Prolegomena to
Pure Logic," translated by J.N. Mohanty in Readings on Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations, edited
by J. N. Mohanty (Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977), pp. 55 – 66.

speculative metaphysics was laid to rest by Kant, Natorp argues that the critical project

itself has a claim to the title metaphysics. While taking Husserl to task for arguing that

there are only two ways that pure logic may be done, either psychologistically or "as

theoretical, independent of psychology, formal and demonstrative,"148 Natorp wants to

argue that while he agrees that psychologism is fruitless he does not believe that "a purely

theoretical, demonstrative logic which is independent of psychology can simply be only

formal and cannot be in any sense material."149 It is not at all clear that Natorp's

characterization of Husserl's position is sustainable given the entirety of the Logical

Investigations, however what Natorp has to say here is based only upon the Prolegomena

to Pure Logic (as the rest of the Logical Investigations had not yet been published.) The

important point however is that Natorp believes that this position would lead one to

"resolve" metaphysics into logic and give it no separate status. On the contrary, Natorp

still finds a position for metaphysics as critique of knowledge,

One who holds it to be possible to ground a logic of objective truth purely

theoretically and independently, would not easily allow for the possibility
of a metaphysics besides it; he would rather maintain that metaphysics is
thereby resolved into logic, exactly as Kant said of the old 'ontology' that
it was 'resolved' into the 'Analytic of pure understanding' - completely
disregarding the fact that criticism of knowledge as fundamental
philosophical discipline has a well justified claim to the title of a πρώτη

This sums up nicely much of what Natorp is after in "On the Objective and Subjective

Grounding of Knowledge." That is, a reduction of the categories to the forms of

Natorp, "On the Question of Logical Method," pg. 55.
Ibid., pp. 55 – 56.

understanding, e.g., as the forms of judgment, in the end precludes the "objective"

grounding of knowledge as Natorp envisions it. This is what Natorp understands by the

"resolving" of metaphysics into logic, i.e., that all objectivity is ultimately resolved into

the forms of judgment and thus requires no "materiality." This is the idealistic move.

That is, idealism wishes to reduce all being to the logos, viz., the concept. Hegel's

panlogism is the penultimate attempt at this. However, here Natorp accuses both Husserl

and Kant of doing the same.

The issue in this case is the problem of grounding the ideal in the real, i.e., how

are the ideal meanings of Husserl's project to be realized in concrete, particular

subjectivity as they ultimately must if one is to give an account of our knowledge rather

than merely a rarified account of logical form. Husserl has forcefully argued that

psychologism may never ground pure logic and in so doing has opened a chasm between

the psychological and the logical, the a priori and empirical, and the formal and material,

There also remains unresolved, in Husserl, the opposition between formal

and material, a priori and empirical, and along with it that between the
logical and the psychological, the objective and the subjective; or, to put it
in one word and at the same time in his own terminology: the ideal and the
real. The material, empirical, psychological i.e. the 'real' remains an
uncomprehended, irrational surd.151

Natorp is pointing to his own view of the ultimate task of knowledge becoming the

process of determining, i.e., objectivizing, subjectivity. In the case of knowledge we are

after the being which grounds the appearances. There must be a necessary connection

between the two and that necessary connection is given in the task of knowledge itself.

On the idealist picture the subjective, material, empirical, and psychological, viz., the

Ibid., pg. 65.

'real', is left behind in favor of the ideal. This means, however, that the real has been left


Now while the author [Husserl] of the drama, in clear partisanship, sides
with the 'Ideal' and in this truly Platonic sense pays allegiance to
'idealism,' the 'real' remains alien, confused, and yet as a surd that cannot
be done away with. The 'idealism' however wanted to ground the real in
the ideal, the onta in the logoi; the same in Plato, Leibniz, in Kant...The
only intelligible consequence is: that the opposite of the objective, the
subjective, the quasi-object of psychology, appears the mere reverse, and
at the same time the 'reflection,' of the objective.152

Here Natorp makes reference to what earlier I called the problem of the "theoretical

given" and the problem that Heidegger makes reference to in his war emergency semester

lecture of 1919. That is, in order to remain critical idealistic philosophy must ground its

ultimate categories in something (this was Lask's criticism of Kant). Lived-experience

appears to be this ground, but lived-experience appears to be unintelligible and "infinite."

In fact the project of knowledge and science is specifically to bring this ultimately

unintelligible chaos into order. However, lived-experience must also in some way

contain what is necessary for the categories themselves so that there is some ground for

the particular categories that are valid as opposed to others. Thus, the theoretical given

must play two contradictory roles or, as Natorp puts it, it is the mere "reverse" of

objectivity (and is thus unintelligible) but at the same time the "reflection" of the

objective. Natorp steers clear of this problem insofar as the only given for him is the task

of knowledge and not some collection of "datum." Furthermore, it explains why others -

trying to find the ground of their ultimate categories starting from lived-experience or

subjectivity - find this ultimately contradictory "theoretical given" troublesome. As I

Ibid., pg. 66.

have said, Natorp believes it is a mistake to start from subjectivity rather subjectivity (or

the objectification and determination of subjectivity) is the end of the task of knowledge.

Just as consciousness naturally objectifies the appearances external to it, it also naturally

objectifies subjectivity when it is inclined to reflect upon it. Neither of these

objectifications is the determinations of scientific knowledge but rather our natural first

objectifications. If one naively starts one's philosophizing from subjectivity believing

this to be the first "datum" of philosophy one is already beginning naively with an

achievement of consciousness, i.e., with the naturally objectified subjectivity. This

naturally objectified subjectivity is both determined and indeterminate and so may appear

from two aspects, i.e., exactly the two contradictory aspects of the theoretical given.

What has happened is that an achievement of consciousness is taken as a grounding

datum when in fact it is already something naively worked over, i.e., objectified, by

consciousness and so is both determined and utterly indeterminate. Again, this for

Natorp is why knowledge must be grounded in objectivity rather than subjectivity.

With regard to the question of metaphysics, Natorp has resolved the notion of

objectivity and subjectivity into the relation between universal and particular with regard

to the task of knowledge. In the end, Natorp understands objectivity and subjectivity as

the necessary correlates of law and instance of law. However, this itself is entirely within

the realm of objectivity. In the task of knowledge pure subjectivity plays only the role of

that which is to be determined. The task of knowledge is ultimately working out the

structures of objectivity itself in the mediation between universal and particular (both

forms of objectivity.) For Natorp then critique of knowledge is not an epistemological

project if epistemology presupposes the distinction between subject and object. Rather,

critique of knowledge looks much more like working out the structure of being

(understood by Natorp as objectivity) in both its universal form and particular, concrete

instances. That is, in Natorp's eyes it is πρώτη φιλοσοφία.

Furthermore, his own history of the task of knowledge bears this out. That is, he

views his own philosophy as merely the culmination of what for him is the metaphysical

relation which ultimately dominates the history of metaphysics, viz., the relation between

universal and particular. Plato discovered the primacy of this relation for the task of

knowledge. Aristotle and Medieval philosophy misunderstood the relation by

hypostasizing the relata and modern philosophy up until Kant mistakenly accepted

dogmatic notions of subject and object upon which they attempted to graft the relation of

knowledge. Finally, we understand that universal and particular and subject and object

can be understood most properly only on the basis of the task of knowledge and through

the necessary correlates of law and instance of law. In the end, Natorp believes this is the

culmination of the "metaphysical" project instituted by Plato.

This furthermore helps one to understand the "realization of the ideal in the real"

in a way that does not yield to speculative metaphysical notions. Natorp ends his review

of the Prolegomena to Pure Logic with a thought which, though not elaborated upon, is

intriguing in light of Heidegger's later emphasis on temporality and the history of the

concept of time. Natorp believes that the concept of time allows us to bridge the gap

between the ideal and the real,

A bond, a logical connection must be set up between the super-temporal

being of the logical and its temporal actualization in the experience of the
mind, if the words 'Realization of the Ideal,' are not to remain an enigma, a
metaphysical locution of the most suspicious sort. If such a connection is
to be possible, then that can only be from the side of the super-temporal
and through the mediation of (in itself still super-temporal) the Concept of

Time itself. The 'realization' then means no more a mystical metaphysical
act, but a strictly intelligible logical transition from one mode of
consideration to another, which ultimately was already implicit in it. And
then it becomes first clear what the psychological truly 'is'...153

This concept of time itself must be super-temporal since Natorp believes that a logical

connection must be set up between the super-temporal and its temporal actualization.

Extrapolating from his earlier work "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of

Knowledge" we can interpret what he is saying here in terms of the relation between the

objective and the subjective. That is, there must be a connection between the objective

(the ideal) and the subjective (the real) which makes sense of the "realization" of the

former in the latter. The concept of time, i.e., the objective law of time, mediates

between the two and it, therefore, would be that by which the subjective is objectivized,

i.e., by which it would become "first clear what the psychological truly 'is'." For this

reason, the concept of time mediates between the primary dichotomies of "metaphysics,"

viz., the critique of knowledge. In other words, the concept of time mediates the

connection between universality and particularity, being and appearance. For Natorp

then, the history of the concept of time would be the history of metaphysics insofar as it is

the history of the mediation between the ultimate concepts of metaphysics. Ultimately,

the task of knowledge would be the task of working out the concept of time itself.

In his 1919 war emergency semester lecture, Heidegger states that Natorp's own

position is objectifying. That is, it is burdened by the same problems as Husserl's view,

though explicitly so. The objectifying nature of theoretical reason necessarily alters the

meaningfulness of lived-experience, i.e., it strips the object out of the context of lived-

Ibid., pg. 66.

experience in which it is found. Furthermore, Heidegger argues that Natorp, given his

own theory, can have no principle by which he reconstructs lived-experience. That is,

either it is simply an objectification of subjectivity carried out on the level of objectivity

with no regard for subjectivity or else some principle must be "given" which the process

of reconstruction can use to try and reconstruct lived-experience. However, as we shall

see in the next chapter, objectification and, thus, theoretical reason, can never capture

lived-experience in its concreteness and particularity.

The importance of Natorp's writings on Heidegger's early work is significant.

Many of the themes which will become central to Being and Time are raised by Natorp,

although in a very different context, including, the task of philosophy, the question of

Being, the historicality of critical philosophy, etc. Furthermore, Natorp charts a course

through the history of philosophy which Heidegger will later follow. That is, Kantian

and Neo-Kantian thought allowed for a more original appropriation of Greek philosophy,

Neo-Kantianism has its undeniable merits within the intellectual history of

the second half of the nineteenth century...The general investigation of the
history of philosophy, especially ancient philosophy, was carried out on a
higher plane of inquiry under the guidance of Kant's philosophy.154

In the next chapter we shall see why the objectification that is essential to theoretical

reason makes us incapable of understanding lived-experience in its concreteness. That is,

we shall look at Heidegger's critique of both Husserl and Natorp with the primary

emphasis being on the shortfalls of the theoretical approach to concrete, immediate lived-

experience. Philosophically, this critique leads Heidegger in the direction of the third

Martin Heidegger, What is a Thing?, translated by W.B Barton, Jr. and Vera Deutsch (Chicago:
Henry Regnery Company, 1967), pg. 60.

major influence in his early writings, viz., Wilhelm Dilthey. Dilthey, Heidegger argues,

finally saw what was primarily at stake, i.e., concrete life. Crucial to Dilthey's thought is

the need for a critique of hermeneutical thinking.




In the previous chapters we have seen Heidegger's early characterization of

theoretical reason and the objectification inherent to it. We saw this in two forms:

Husserl's evidentialism and Natorp's constructivism. In this chapter we shall examine

Heidegger's critique of both these forms of theoretical reason. Natorp's critique of

Husserl's evidentialism and his emphasis upon the task of knowledge leads to a historical

understanding of givenness. However, we shall see that Natorp ultimately cannot

account for the historicality of givenness, but dogmatically presupposes an objective,

theoretical understanding of thought. It is Dilthey and his "critique of historical reason"

with its emphasis on "life" that will play a significant part in overcoming the hegemony

of theoretical reason. In this way, Heidegger believes that Dilthey has moved farther

towards the "genuine problematic" than either Husserl or Natorp. On the other hand, we

shall see that though Dilthey has a much more nuanced articulation of life and lived-

experience he ultimately presupposes a naive view of the world, i.e., the "external world."

This is evident from a crucial exchange of letters between Husserl and Dilthey wherein

the problem of metaphysics and the sense of being plays a central role, one which

demonstrates that Dilthey lacks a genuine sense of the importance of intentionality and of

the importance of it for the question of being. Ultimately, Heidegger will argue that

Dilthey himself missed genuine life though he glimpsed it.

I. Heidegger's Critique of Theoretical Reason and the Rise of Historical Reason

We have already encountered aspects of Heidegger's 1919 lectures on "the Idea of

Philosophy." This important work is Heidegger's first foray into the depths of the nature

of philosophy through an engagement with Natorp and Husserl's theoreticized versions of

it and with the attempt by other thinkers to work out a critical methodology of the

Geisteswissenschaften present in the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism and (in the

background) Dilthey's attempt at a critique of historical reason. The crucial later part of

the course is a characterization and criticism of the theoretical approach to lived-

experience as well as an indication of the important notion of the environing world

(Umwelt). Although we have already seen aspects of it, we will first run through

Heidegger's critique of theoretical reason vis-à-vis its relation to lived-experience,

placing in close proximity both his criticism of Husserl and Natorp.

Following an extended critique of the inadequacy of the "value-philosophy"

preached by Neo-Kantian thinkers such as Heinrich Rickert and Wilhelm Windelband,

Heidegger writes in his Idea of Philosophy that,

We are standing at the methodological cross-road which will decide on the

very life and death of philosophy. We stand at an abyss: either into
nothingness, that is, absolute reification, pure thingness, or we somehow
leap into another world, more precisely, we manage for the first time to
make the leap [Sprung] into the world as such.155

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 53.

What is this nothingness that is "absolute reification" and "pure thingness" and why is a

leap into "the world as such" necessary? Heidegger argues that a common thesis of

modern theoretical thought is that lived-experience is ultimately unintelligible because it

is absolutely indeterminate. From the perspective of modern theoretical reason as it was

understood by most nineteenth century thinkers, i.e., from the perspective of theoretical

science (in both the form of Naturwissenschaft and Geisteswissenschaft), immediate,

concrete lived-experience is essentially incapable of being adequately grasped and

understood. In the wake of Kant, immediate experience (erlebnis) only becomes

intelligible mediately, i.e., by application of the pure, a priori forms of sensible intuition

and the categories of the understanding.

In the attempt to scientifically understand what is immediately given, namely,

concrete lived-experience, this itself becomes an enigma. One sees this clearly in

characterizations of immediate lived-experience such as Rickert's "intensive infinities",

Lask's "matter of thought", Husserl's infinitely diverse Abshauung, and Natorp's "absolute

indeterminate" or “pure subjectivity.” This is what Heidegger is alluding to when he says

that "absolute reification" and "pure thingness" lead ultimately to "nothingness." As far

as theoretical reason is concerned immediate lived-experience is nothing precisely

because, as these thinkers understood it, all thought requires generalities - by which they

mean universal concepts - and concrete, immediate lived-experience is inexplicable in

terms of these generalities and thus is, quite literally, unthinkable. Put another way, the

pure particularity, concreteness and individuality of immediate lived-experience forever

falls outside of the scope of the universal meanings essential to the generalized concepts

of science.156 Lived-experience becomes a veritable prima materia insofar as it becomes

literally unthinkable in itself and on its own terms.

Universal conceptualization, however, represents but one mode of the

objectification inherent to modern theoretical reason. Husserl and Natorp recognize a

more fundamental sense of objectification. According to them, something can only be

thought in so far as it is an object of thought, i.e., in so far as it is objectified. For

Husserl, this is the result of the requirement that what is thought must be intended, viz., it

must be capable of being the intentional unity underlying acts of consciousness.

Following Brentano, Husserl argues that the object of thought comprises the "sense core"

or the identical moment of meaning underlying any number of acts of consciousness.

The intentional object is given in an "originally presentive intuition" or a "mere

presentation" which itself forms an identical moment within many other possible

presentive intuitions. For example, I can make judgements about a particular diamond,

remember that diamond, wish for that diamond, etc. The objectivity of the diamond

consists in its ability to be the identical core of meaning among many different intentional

acts of consciousness. That the intended object is identical in diverse acts of

As we have seen, this is certainly evident in the thought of Heinrich Rickert, who was director of
Heidegger's habilitation and a premier representative of the "southwestern" or "Baden" school of Neo-
Kantianism. He writes, "…If the concepts of natural science comprised the perceptual and individual
configuration of reality, then neither a practical orientation to reality nor a prediction of its properties would
be possible with the help of these concepts…we can orient ourselves to reality only by means of the
simplification of reality that is undertaken in concepts. We must abstract from its unique distinctiveness
and particularity in order to find our way in the real. Otherwise, the infinite manifold of its content
eliminates any possibility of orientation. If we did not have general concepts by means of which we could
simplify reality and thereby divest it of its bewildering individuality and concrete actuality, in our practical
conduct we would stand helpless before reality." (Rickert, The Limits of Concept Formation in Natural
Science, pp. 41 – 2.)

consciousness implies that its meaning is independent and self-contained.157 This

identical, repeatable, self-contained core of meaning is the underlying unity that is the

object of thought. It is, in essence, objectivity itself.158 This meaning-character applies

equally to universals, i.e., eidetic structures. According to Husserl this notion of

objectivity is essential to all scientific understanding. He writes, "Immediate "seeing,"

not merely sensuous, experiential seeing, but seeing in the universal sense as an

originally presentive consciousness of any kind whatever, is the ultimate legitimizing

source of all rational assertions."159 The eidetic moments of the object as given, its

particular "mode" of objectification, are acquired through phenomenological analysis.

These eidos are higher-level or "founded" objectivities which are universally general and

further unify experience in the sense of determining objects as individual instances of

universal concepts (genus and species). Scientific knowledge in both its eidetic and

empirical form is founded upon the lawfulness of these eidetic universalities, which, in

William James, who was a great source of inspiration for Husserl (cf. Logical Investigations, Vol. II,
Investigation II, Chapter 5, appendix, fn. 12, pg. 302), reinforces this point: "...the distinction was drawn
between two kinds of knowledge of things, bare acquaintance with them and knowledge about them. The
possibility of two such knowledges depends on a fundamental psychical peculiarity which may be entitled
"the principle of constancy in the mind's meanings," and which may be thus expressed: "The same matters
can be though of in successive portions of the mental stream, and some of these portions can know that
they mean the same matters which the other portions meant." One might put it otherwise by saying that
"the mind can always intend, and know when it intends, to think of the Same"...This sense of sameness is
the very keel and backbone of our thinking...the law of constancy in our meanings...[is] the most important
of all the features of our mental structure." (William James, The Principles of Psychology, Vol. I (New
York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1950), pp. 459 - 460)
In his On the Origin of the Work of Art, Heidegger still characterizes objectivity or "thingliness"
along these lines: "...the thingly element of the thing [is] its independent and self-contained character."
(Martin Heidegger, On the Origin of the Work of Art, translated by Albert Hofstadter in Basic Writings,
edited by David Farrell Krell (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), pg. 150).
Husserl, Ideas, pg. 36.

turn, are founded on the original objectification that provides the objectivity of particular

intentional acts of consciousness (individual cogitations).

Like Husserl, Natorp too accepts a more fundamental level of objectification,

though he diverges from Husserl in important methodological respects. Specifically,

Natorp criticizes "evidentialist" or, as he calls them, "positivistic" approaches to

objective, scientific knowledge. That is, Natorp argues that objectivity is not

"immediately given." Objects are not immediately given in lived-experience (which

Natorp calls the "appearance" of being), but are rather constructions. Following the

traditional view of the Marburg school of Neo-Kantianism instituted by his mentor

Hermann Cohen and carried on by Natorp and subsequently by Ernst Cassirer160, Natorp

believes knowledge to be a task that is fulfilled in an ongoing process of progressively

determinate and refined objectifications of immediate, lived-experience. What is a priori

on Natorp's view is the task of knowledge rather than any "evidentially given"


The evidentialist approach to objective knowledge begins by grounding

knowledge in subjectivity. This view ultimately remains within the horizon of Cartesian

foundationalism. Natorp, consciously attempting to retrieve the "true spirit" of Kant,

criticizes any such evidentiary approach. Appearances or "positive facts" presuppose


For excellent treatments of Neo-Kantianism in general and more specifically the Marburg school of
Neo-Kantianism, see both Köhnke, Klaus Christian, The Rise of Neo-Kantianism: German Academic
Philosophy Between Idealism and Positivism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) and Willey,
Thomas E., Back to Kant: the Revival of Kantianism in German Social and Historical Thought (Detroit:
Wayne State University Press, 1978).

It is an error to believe that that ultimate concrete "here and now given" or
representation could be the ground of knowledge as the primary and sole
factor which includes (fassen) everything in advance...all expressions with
which the Positivist attempts to characterize his "positive fact" before any
universal conceptual determination - particularity and concreteness,
identity of place and of time, givenness (as content of consciousness, so
subjectivity) and, finally, positiveness itself (incontestable position
(Setzung)) - all these contain nothing but conceptual determinations,
indeed of the highest universality and abstractness...If it is not determinate
for us, then it cannot be the origin of knowledge for us, but it is only
determinate for us in so far as we have determined it, and this can only
happen through universal concepts.161

To this extent, later proponents of the theoretical construction of experience, e.g., Kuhn,

would find Natorp a sympathetic figure162. Evidentialism and positivism have turned the

task of knowledge "upside-down." They attempt to ground knowledge in subjectivity

when in fact this is utterly indeterminate and unintelligible without prior objectification.

A scientific understanding of subjectivity, i.e., psychology, is rather the ultimate goal of

the task of knowledge. Natorp writes,

Thus it becomes more and more clear that the "positive fact", the supposed
primary given, is much more that which is sought. One might even say it
is the ultimate goal. It is in the concept of this goal that the utmost is
demanded which could be achieved by knowledge in its final completion.
And this last has been made first, the sought-for has been taken for a
datum, so the task of knowledge has been turned upside-down. The
"positive fact" is spoken of as having been already determined, while
determination is always first the achievement of knowledge.163

Put another way, psychology is the final goal of science rather than the foundation for the

sciences as many nineteenth century writers believed, especially those concerned with

grounding the human sciences, e.g., Mill, Dilthey, and Rickert, among others. On the

Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pp. 261 – 262.
Though, of course, Kuhn would not be sympathetic to Natorp's view that science makes progress.
Ibid., pg. 262.

other hand, Natorp argues that the ego - or what Husserl will later call the "pure ego" -

understood as the "subjective center of relation for all contents in my consciousness" will

forever remain outside the grasp of objectification and therefore knowledge. Following

Kant, Natorp argues that the ego can never be its own object precisely because it

constitutes every object whatsoever of consciousness. Objectification of the ego would

already presuppose the ego itself. In the original edition of the Logical Investigations

Husserl strenuously argues against this position.164 However, he eventually agrees with

Natorp regarding the impossibility of objectively grasping the "pure ego."165

Differences notwithstanding, Husserl and Natorp agree to the extent that they both

assert that a "first objectification" is necessarily presupposed by theoretical knowledge.

Natorp argues that this first stage of objectification produces the first stage of

intersubjectivity, i.e., it produces a content which is not relative to any experiencing


We distinguish two types or stages of objectification. A certain

objectification is already present in the simple differentiation of the
"content" of a representation from representing as an "activity" (or better,
"experience") of the subject. The content abstracted from the activity
already signifies not merely that which is represented and thought by
someone or other at this time, but also that which is representable or
thinkable in the same way by anyone at any time. Raising what has been
represented one single time to what is to be universally so represented
already signifies a rise to the standpoint of the universal, namely universal
validity and thus objectivity.166

Husserl, Logical Investigations, Investigation V, chapter one, §8.
Cf. Husserl, Logical Investigations, Investigation V, chapter one, §8, footnote 1 and the "Additional
Note to the Second Edition" at the end of §8. Also, Husserl, Ideas, part II, chapter 4, footnote 10.
Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 257.

Husserl would have no objection to Natorp's characterization of this (theoretically

essential) first stage of objectification precisely because it corresponds so well to the

intentional object of originally presentive intuition. However, he would not agree that

this first stage of objectification necessarily leads to intersubjectivity. For Husserl, only

transcendent objectifications lead to intersubjectivity167 whereas particular, immanent

cogitations are never intersubjective. For this reason, phenomenology as a science can

only be an eidetic science. Though its "region," i.e., the region of pure consciousness, is

necessarily grounded in a single individual stream of consciousness, the

phenomenological essences discovered therein are universally valid and are therefore not

real (reellen) inherent moments of this single individual stream of consciousness and, for

this reason, these phenomenological essences are transcendent.

Keeping in mind that objectivity includes both individual objects and universals,

we can say that, for Natorp, as for Husserl, objectivity is necessary for all theoretical

knowledge and, therefore, all science.168 To sum up, first objectivities provide for

"In principle, only corporeal being can be experienced in a number of direct experiences, i.e.,
perceptions, as individually identical. Hence, only this being can, if the perceptions are thought of as
distributed among various "subjects," be experienced by many subjects as individually identical and be
described as intersubjectively the same." Husserl, Philosophy as Rigorous Science, translated by Quentin
Lauer, in Edmund Husserl, Husserl: Shorter Works, edited by Peter McCormick and Frederick Elliston
(Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981).
"The real beginnings and grounds of knowledge are instead always ultimate objective unities...These
together comprise and express in determinate ways the basic function of objectification: unification
(Einsetzung), the Kantian (also Platonic) "unity of the manifold". Only thus are the unequivocally
determinate "Phenomena" of the sciences (particularly the natural sciences) possible; only the phenomenon
which is determined in this way can be called a datum of knowledge and serve as a basis for further
determinations. Whoever seeks the object in appearance seeks such unequivocal determinations. Even
common representation seeks them; in its naming, in the unified meaning of words, it has at least an
analogy to those unities which ground the sciences. These basic scientific unities attempt to fulfill in a
more developed and durable way the same tasks which language fulfills sufficiently for the immediate
purposes of practical life." (Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 263).

intersubjectivity and "determinateness," while higher objectivities have increasingly

extensive applicability and unify experience to a greater extent due their increasing

universality. This was commonly viewed to be characteristic of all scientific

understanding by Neo-Kantians and phenomenologists alike.

Natorp and Husserl ultimately disagree as to whether knowledge begins with

transcendent objectivities (Natorp), i.e., with a theoretical construction, and works its

way back to "immanent" objectivities (subjectivity, appearances), which is equally a

construction though it is more specifically a re-construction, or whether knowledge

begins with immanent objectivities (Husserl), i.e., both individual cogitations and

phenomenological essences evidentially given to consciousness, and works its way back

to knowledge of "transcendent" objectivities.

In his 1919 lectures, Heidegger accepts Natorp's criticism of Husserl's position.

Heidegger first notes that reflection is absolutely essential to Husserlian phenomenology.

Reflection is that by which we have access to the acts of consciousness that are the very

subject matter of phenomenology. Husserl explicitly says as much when he writes, "The

phenomenological method operates exclusively in acts of reflection."169 Heidegger then

points to Natorp's critique of Husserl, saying,

All theoretical comportment, we said, is de-vivifying [entlebendes]. This

now shows itself in the case of life-experiences, for in reflection they are
no longer lived but looked at. We set the experiences out before us out of
immediate experience; we intrude so to speak into the flowing stream of
experiences and pull one or more of them out, we 'till the stream' as
Natorp says. (Until now Natorp is the only person to have brought

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 174.

scientifically noteworthy objections against phenomenology. Husserl
himself has not yet commented on these.)170

Natorp's critique points to the fact that reflection, because it objectifies a particular act of

consciousness for further phenomenological analysis, must isolate this act from its

"lived" original context in the "stream of mental processes [Erlebnisstromes]."171 This is

facilitated by the fact that cogitations are already unified by the structures of

intentionality evidentially "seen" in them upon phenomenological reflection.

Phenomenological reflection allows us to exclusively contemplate one mental process.

As Heidegger argues, the mental process reflected upon is re-moved (ent-fernt) from

lived-experience or, put another way, it is not lived, but contemplated. Theoretical

reflection is a process of de-vivification (Ent-leben). This is required if one is to

thematize it and subject it to phenomenological analysis and description.172 The result of

objectifying theoretical reflection is that "the tilled stream of lived-experiences now

becomes a series of individually intended objects."173

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 85.
"...we only allow [in phenomenological research] all these perceivings, judgings, etc., to be
considered, to be described, as the essentialities which they are in themselves, to pin down what is
evidently given with or in them...But on that account we do not reject them by not "taking them as our
basis," by not "joining in" them. They are indeed there, they also essentially belong to the phenomenon.
Rather we contemplate them; instead of joining in them, we make them Objects..." (Husserl, Ideas, pg.
For clear evidence that this accurately represents Husserl's position we need look no farther than his
Philosophy as Rigorous Science, "Herein remain excluded the ultimate "nuances," which belong to the
indeterminable element of the "flow," although at the same time the describable typology of the flowing
has its "ideas" [cogitations] which, when intuitively grasped and fixed, render possible absolute
knowledge." Husserl, Philosophy as Rigorous Science, pg. 182, italics mine.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 85.

One could reply on Husserl's behalf that this objection no longer applies after

Husserl's realization of the fundamentally important constitutive role of

"phenomenological time" or immanent temporality. Husserl himself maintains as early

as 1905 that the immanent stream of mental processes is structured according to

protensions and retentions. Thus, according to Husserl's own position, there appears to

be no real possibility of fixing on one mental process exclusively. However, this is not

Husserl's position. Rather, "inner time consciousness" constitutes the stream of mental

processes itself or, what amounts to the same, inner time consciousness and its essential

protentions and retentions give us the eidetic structure of the stream of mental processes

itself. This eidetic structure is not the eidetic structure of the individual real (reellen)

moments of the stream of mental processes, i.e., of individual cogitations. Husserl still

presupposes that these individual cogitations are capable of being objectively given, i.e.,

given in such a way that they make no essential reference to other cogitations.

Natorp would certainly have no problem with the objectification of the stream of

lived-experiences for he argues that this is precisely what is necessary for any scientific

understanding of it, viz., a scientific reconstruction of it. Natorp disagrees with Husserl's

view that reflection "evidentially gives" immanent ("subjective") cogitations just as they

are. The heart of Natorp's criticism of phenomenology is Husserl's evidentialistic

interpretation of the act of reflection.174 Natorp argues that, rather than presenting its

Later, in his Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, Heidegger makes the same point though
much more belligerently: "...nothing is more dangerous than the naive trust in evidence exhibited by
followers and fellow travelers [of phenomenology]. If it is the case that our relation to the things
themselves in seeing is the decisive factor, it is equally the case that we are frequently deceived about them
and that the possibility of such deception stubbornly persists. Perhaps called once to be the conscience of
philosophy, it [phenomenology] has wound up as a pimp for the public whoring of the mind, fornicatio
spiritus (Luther)." (Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, pg. 37).

object just as it gives itself, "reflection necessarily has an analytical, so to speak

dissective or chemically destructive effect upon what is experienced."175 For Natorp,

reflection as an evidential "immanent seeing" is a fiction. We cannot look "inside" to

discover subjectivity, rather knowledge of subjectivity arises as science progressively

reconstructs subjectivity precisely by making it objectifiably knowable through a

progressively complex structure of objectifications and relations.

Husserl has violated the "principle of all principles" of phenomenology, namely,

"that every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that

everything originarily (so to speak, in its "personal" actuality [leibhaften Wirklichkeit])

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."176 Husserl has breached the

principle of all principles by presupposing that the necessarily objectifying, theoretical

attitude of phenomenological reflection provides our primary access to the "things

themselves" while not realizing that this attitude in fact modifies the very meaning of the

Erlebnisstrome. More importantly, the special status Husserl affords to the theoretical

attitude with regard to the givenness of the things themselves is not itself given in

immediate lived-experience. For example, Heidegger argues that,

...we frequently, indeed for the most part, live environmentally

[umweltlich erleben] and experience in this way. However, a deeply
ingrained obsession with the theoretical greatly hinders a genuine survey
of the prevalent domain of environmental experience [umweltlichen

Quoting Heidegger quoting Natorp. The quote comes from Natorp's Allgemeine Psychologie nach
kritischer Methode (Tübingen: Mohr, 1912), Vol. I, p. 191 and is quoted by Heidegger on pg. 85 of
Towards the Definition of Philosophy.
Husserl, Ideas, pg. 44.

Erlebens]. The environmental experience is no spurious contingency, but
lies in the essence of life in and for itself; by contrast, we become
theoretically oriented only in exceptional cases.177

A consequence of Husserl's privileging of the theoretical attitude by making theoretical

reflection primary in phenomenological method is that he has imported the theoretical

requirements of objectivity into immediate lived-experience rather than taking lived-

experience just as it shows itself. More exactly, Husserl has imposed theoretical

requirements of objectivity upon immediate lived-experience "from the outside" so to

speak, all the while believing that this objectivity is merely discovered when the

phenomenologist merely "looks at" immanent, lived-experience. Husserl's evidentialist

project requires that there be a region of absolute certainty, viz., of adequate, evidential

self-givenness that is immediately "seen." Husserl argues that only in this way can we

avoid the free-fall into relativism and skepticism - embodied in his time by psychologism

and historicism.

This reformulation of the meaningfulness of lived-experience by objectifying

theoretical reflection extends beyond the immediate objects of reflection, i.e., immanent

acts of consciousness, precisely because phenomenology is that discipline which

articulates the very meaning of the things themselves both immanent and transcendent.

Thus the primacy of the theoretical attitude within phenomenological reflection reaches

out to and modifies the meaningfulness of the world itself. The world itself becomes

merely a collection of objects as Husserl himself explicitly says, "The world is the sum-

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 74. Italics mine.

total of objects of possible experience and experiential cognition, of objects that, on the

basis of actual experiences, are cognizable in correct theoretical thinking."178

There is a deeper level to Heidegger's critique of Husserl beyond the mere

objectification of lived-experience. Heidegger points out the importance of the role that

"seeing" or "contemplating" plays in the objectification of lived-experience by Husserlian


...reflection makes something which was previously unexamined,

something merely unreflectively experienced, into something 'looked at'.
We look at it. In reflection it stands before us as an object of reflection,
we are directed towards it and make it into an object as such, standing
over against us.179

Heidegger argues that objectification is a symptom of the fact that Husserl privileges the

standpoint of "merely looking at." This is no accidental or extrinsic feature of Husserlian

phenomenology, but is absolutely central to it. Reflection as "looking at" and

(evidentially) "seeing" is at the very core of Husserlian phenomenology. It is part of the

very idea of phenomenology as critique of knowledge,

...knowledge is the title for a highly ramified sphere of being that can be
given to us absolutely, and must be absolutely given to us in its details at
any particular time. So, those forms of thought that I actually realize in
thinking are given to me insofar as I reflect on them, accept them and posit
them in a pure act of seeing... Every intellectual experience, indeed every
experience whatsoever, can be made into an object of pure seeing and
apprehension while it is occurring. And in this act of seeing it is an
absolute givenness."180

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 6.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 84-5.
Husserl, Edmund, The Idea of Phenomenology, translated by Lee Hardy (Dordrecht, the
Netherlands: Kluwer, 1999), pg. 24.

Heidegger points out that in lived-experience we are primarily and for the most part not

merely "looking at" but living. The characteristically theoretical comportment of merely

"looking at" something is a relatively exceptional occurrence in lived-experience. To be

sure, "looking at" something is one possible mode of living, but when it becomes the only

phenomenologically legitimate mode of access to things and is privileged over all other

modes of living then living becomes a form of seeing rather than the other way round.

For Husserl, the objects of reflective "seeing", i.e., acts of consciousness, become the

necessary condition for life. He writes, "Acts must be present before we can live in them

or be absorbed in performing them, and when we are so absorbed (in various manners

requiring further description) we mind the objects of these acts..."181 Acts of

consciousness are, for Husserl, the transcendental conditions for life itself.

Having said this, however, does not imply that Heidegger believes that the

attitude of "practical activity" is our primary access to the things themselves as so many

interpreters have argued.182 Heidegger believes the issue is still one of the

meaningfulness of lived-experience. Heidegger is not reducing meaning to "practical

activity" or use (contra Wittgenstein), but is trying to find a means of meaningfully

articulating lived-experience as it gives itself, regardless whether in any particular

instance this is "practical" or "theoretical" or some other mode of lived-experience.

Heidegger remains within the context of the task of phenomenology, which is to take

things as they give themselves.

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 118.
For example, Dreyfus, Okrent, Rorty, et al.

Natorp's view is to a certain extent immune to this form of criticism because he

accepts that the objectification required by science is, in the end, a construction of science

and, ultimately, a reconstruction of immediate lived-experience or "pure subjectivity."

He argues that this construction is requisite for all scientific understanding and that the

scientific enterprise consists of making what is immediately indeterminate determinate,

i.e., a mediate understanding (objectification) of what is immediate (subjectivity). The

determination that results from the first objectification of immediate lived-experience

makes the object of thought intersubjectively accessible. Without scientific

understanding lived-experience would remain merely "subjective.” It would remain tied

down to the particular appearance of the thing to this subject here and now. Without

objectification immediate lived-experience and subjectivity is scientifically


Heidegger credits Natorp with trying to at least retrieve some understanding of

immediate lived-experience and, in this way, Natorp has a grasp of the genuine task of

phenomenology, i.e., of accessing immediate lived-experience as it gives itself. Natorp

believes that a scientific understanding of immediate lived-experience can only be

achieved through an objective reconstruction of lived-experience. Once knowledge has

achieved the apex of universality as it is embodied in universal, objective laws it can then

engage in a process of trying to reconstruct the particularity, individuality and

concreteness of immediate lived-experience by subsuming under universal law the

Cf. Natorp, “On the Subjective and Objective Grounding of Knowledge,” pg. 263.

innumerable individualities and relationships between individualities as manifest to

individual consciousness. Heidegger summarizes Natorp's position nicely,

Accordingly, Natorp says that there can be only a mediated apprehension

of experiences, and that working out the method of this mediate
apprehension, of genuine subjectification (the 'objectification' of the
subjective), is one of the most difficult problems. Phenomenology, with
its view that consciousness, life-experiences [Erlebnisse], can be
absolutely given, confuses a requirement with its only possible mode of
fulfillment. What is required, as the aim of knowledge, is the 'absolute'
presentation of experiences, analogous to that of objects. This does not
mean, however, that they are 'absolutely' attainable, immediately, but only
in and through mediation (double-meaning of 'absolute'). All
objectification is accomplished by the consciousness, i.e. by the
'subjective'. In this way Natorp already gives the problem a definite turn.
Objectification is determination, the subjective is what determines; it is
prior, 'this side of all determination'. Is it also prior to all possible

Natorp believes his theory represents in a scientifically adequate fashion the "double

movement" of philosophy from particularity to universality and then from universality to

particularity that was first conceived by Plato in the Republic. Heidegger also points out

the affinity of this method to Hegelian dialectic, especially in its requirement that all

knowledge of immediacy is mediated.185

As I have mentioned, by the time of his writing of the Ideas, Husserl has accepted

much of Natorp's position. Husserl's "pure Ego" [reines Ich] plays the role played by the

pure subjectivity in Natorp, i.e., that which determines, though in a way peculiar to

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 86.
"[Natorp's view is] The most radical absolutization of the theoretical and logical, an absolutization
that has not been proclaimed since Hegel. (Unmistakable connections with Hegel: everything unmediated
is mediated.) An absolutization that radically logicizes the sphere of experience and lets this exist only in
the logicized form of the concretion of the concrete - which concrete has meaning only in its necessary
correlation with the abstract, whereby, however, the logical is not left behind." Heidegger, Towards the
Definition of Philosophy, pg. 91.

phenomenology, viz., through "sense bestowal," and is at the same time incapable of

itself becoming on object of investigation,

...the Ego living in mental processes [das erlebende Ich] is not something
taken for itself and which can be made into an Object proper of an
investigation. Aside from its "modes of relation" or "modes of
comportment," the <Ego> is completely empty of essence-components,
has no explicatable content, is undescribable in and for itself: it is pure
Ego and nothing more.186

In other words, Husserl, following Natorp, is lead, somewhat reluctantly187, to admit an

utterly indeterminate "pole" of subjectivity. In this regard, Husserl finds himself in

agreement with Kant's words (though perhaps or perhaps not their sense188),

...the pure Ego would, however, seem to be something essentially

necessary...In every actional cogito the ego lives out its life in a special
sense. But all mental processes in the background likewise belong to it;
and it belongs to them...In Kant's words, "The 'I think' must be capable of
accompanying all my presentations.""189

Natorp recognizes the demand placed on scientific thinking to make its way back to

lived-experience and attempts to scientifically reconstruct lived-experience though his

view necessitates a determining ego that in its act of determination brings about

objectification and is never capable of becoming determined itself, i.e., something

analogous to Kant's "synthetic unity of apperception." It is unclear, however, whether the

determining subject is to be identified with "pure subjectivity," that which "one may

reason back to the original chaos" or, following Kant more closely, if it is to be

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 191.
It is telling that in a footnote to the last sentence of the quote just mentioned in Copy D of the Ideas
Husserl writes: "?!"
See Husserl's footnote to the following quote: "whether also <Kant's> sense I leave undecided."
Husserl, Ideas, pp. 132 – 3.

identified with the mere "I think" which accompanies all thought by its (necessary) act of

objective determination. In other words, is the determining subject the I that is the

individual series of the "here's and now's" or the transcendental I. This same ambiguity is

evident in Husserl as well insofar as he identifies the pure ego both as "das erlebende

Ich," viz., the living I of lived-experience, and also as the pure, simple unity that unifies

all moments of the stream of mental processes (Erlebnisstrome), i.e., the I of the "Ich

denke." Here again we see the tension between the grasping of "life" and grasping of

"thought" in the difference between the living I and the thinking or seeing I. In Husserl

and Natorp this tension takes the form of the tension between the acting I and the passive

"perceiving" I. This tension has been part of the very fabric of the history of philosophy

at least since Aristotle and his discussion of the distinction between the "active intellect"

(nous poetikos) and the "passive intellect" (nous pathetikos) in the notoriously obscure

chapter 5, book III of De Anima. The parallels run deep. Aristotle argues that nous

poetikos is "in its essential nature activity"190 much as we find in Kant's synthetic unity of

apperception and Fichte's reformulation of it. Additionally, in similarity to Husserl and

Natorp's characterization of the indeterminacy of the ego, Aristotle says that nous

pathetikos is devoid of essential forms (and therefore directly unknowable) so that it may

take on any intelligible form. However, this parallel, though applicable in large part to

Husserl and Natorp's ambiguous account of the ego still misses what is most important

for Heidegger, i.e., the ego as living I, or the being of the living human being traditionally

Aristotle, De Anima, translated by J. A. Smith in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard
McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 429b 19.

characterized as the zoon logon echon, the living being that has discourse, which will

become important later.

Heidegger argues that Natorp's method ultimately remains objectifying and thus,

in the end, remains a constructive modification of lived-experience that ultimately has no

resources for making its way back to immediate lived-experience. Heidegger maintains

that immediate lived-experience transcends Natorp's theoretical objectifications. Thus

Heidegger says, "Does and can the method of reconstruction achieve what it is supposed

to? No, for first of all it too is objectification. Natorp in no way shows that his method is

different from that of objectification. For reconstruction is also construction...and it is

precisely characteristic of objectification to be constructive, thus theoretical."191 In other

words, Natorp's method fails to capture immediate lived-experience in precisely the way

Husserl's does,

There is no danger of logic becoming psychology, but rather genuine

psychology becomes logic. This conforms to Natorp's ultimate idea of the
unified philosophical system as the utmost 'inevitable universalization of
the transcendental problem': the logic 'of the object-relation in general,
from which all these [logical, ethical, aesthetic, religious] particular
directions of knowledge, of object-positing, must proceed as necessary
emanations' (Natorp, 'Bruno Bauchs Immanuel Kant und die Fortbildung
des Systems des kritischen Idealismus', in Kantstudien XXII (1918), p.

Natorp, however, would agree with Heidegger to a certain extent. After all, he

unequivocally argues that all knowledge is constructive. For this reason "pure

subjectivity" or immediate lived-experience will always remain indeterminate,

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 90.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 91.

This objectification of subjectivity [in the process of reconstruction]
deserves to be called a constructed fiction much more than does that
construction on which "objects" rest, which grounds reality and overcomes
all fiction. Our task at first seemed to be to show how subjectivity could
be overcome in a non-fictitious concept of the object. Now objectivity
shows itself so impossible to overcome that it appears much more difficult
to salvage a proper non-fictitious significance for subjectivity.193

A deeper problem arises for Natorp's view. As Heidegger points out, if nothing is

"given" immediately, i.e., if all givenness is mediated, then,

From where is the standard for reconstruction to be obtained? Natorp

denies that the immediate can be given prior to all analysis. How can
reconstruction determine the complexion 'as it was given prior to
analysis'? (Natorp, Allgemeine Psychologie, Vol. I, p. 192.) And
supposing that it were determined, then, since all determination is logical,
it would again be objectified.194

That is, if all knowledge of immediate lived-experience (the "unmediated immediate") is

itself mediated by the objectification inherent to scientific reason then what guides

scientific reason in its reconstruction of immediate lived-experience? Natorp would have

to admit that immediate lived-experience certainly cannot be determined, i.e., objectified,

prior to all scientific analysis for every objectification results from scientific analysis.

Accepting that prior to analysis lived-experience was immediately given determinately,

i.e., already objectified, would be to admit the very "evidentialist" and "positivistic" view

that Natorp so effectively criticizes Husserl for holding. Heidegger thus ends his

explication of Natorp's method with the question: Is subjectivity also prior to all possible


Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 263.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 90.

Natorp's reconstruction becomes yet another construction. Reconstructed

subjectivity becomes, quite literally, a "fiction." One created by subjectivity. Though

Heidegger remarks that there are clear affinities between Natorp and Hegel, in this case

he appears to be pushing Natorp in the direction of an affinity with Fichte for whom the

"self posits itself," i.e., the self, in a purely spontaneous act of self-creation, produces a

"presentation" of itself which is the self, objectively construed. For example, Fichte

writes, "The self's own positing of itself is thus its own pure activity. The self posits

itself, and by virtue of this mere self-assertion it exists; and conversely, the self exists and

posits its own existence by virtue of merely existing...The self presents itself to itself, to

that extent imposes on itself the form of a presentation, and is now for the first time a

something, namely an object."195 As a self-proclaimed Neo-Kantian, Natorp will want to

resist being forced into this Fichtean corner for, after all, Neo-Kantians long to get "back

to Kant" and avoid the path taken by the intervening half-century of German Idealism.

Therefore, Natorp understands his reconstruction of subjectivity as an infinitely long,

progressive "determination of the indeterminate." The reconstruction is thus not suppose

to be a literal "fiction" but is, as far as possible, a progressively more adequate

approximation of immediate lived-experience.196 In this instance, Heidegger's criticism

seems absolutely correct. Natorp's anti-evidentialism precludes any unmediated

"givenness" of lived-experience and so what sense can be made of a progressively more

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Science of Knowledge, translated by Peter Heath and John Lachs (Meredith
Corporation: New York, 1970), Part I, § 1, pp. 97 – 98.
Natorp is explicit about this: "the constructive objectifying achievement of knowledge always comes
first; from it we reconstruct as far as possible the level of original subjectivity which could never be
reached by knowledge apart from this reconstruction which proceeds from the already completed objective
construction." (Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 263.)

adequate approximation of the "level of original subjectivity." Natorp appears to be

faced with two unacceptable options: either admit some sort of immediate givenness or

accept a Fichtean position.

In fact, Natorp seems to chart a middle path between these two insofar as he

admits that something is "given" a priori though it is not an objective fact or datum of

knowledge but is rather the task of knowledge itself. Natorp writes, "In fact there is

something given before the achievement of knowledge, namely the task. One might also

say: the object is given, namely as an X, something which is yet to be determined, not as

a known quantity."197 But is this really a middle path between evidentialism and Fichtean

voluntarism? With some justification one could say that Natorp has ultimately accepted

the Fichtean path since the a priori task of knowledge precedes all determination and

objectification and is, because of this, a non-theoretical absolute which would only

become accessible through some broadly construed form of Fichte's "intellectual


This intuiting of himself that is required of the philosopher, in performing

the act whereby the self arises for him, I refer to as intellectual intuition.
It is the immediate consciousness that I act, and what I enact: it is that
whereby I know something because I do it. We cannot prove from
concepts that this power of intellectual intuition exists, nor evolve from
them what it may be.198

Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 262.
Fichte, Science of Knowledge, second introduction, pg. 38.

On the other hand, perhaps Hegel plays a more significant part in Natorp's views.199

Natorp understands that the task of knowledge is a historical phenomenon arising first

among the ancient Greeks and progressively realizing itself in the history of scientific

thought. For example, Natorp makes reference to the theoretically important distinction

between being and appearance in the pre-Socratics, which became more adequately

understood according to the distinction between universal and particular in Plato and

which finally became most adequately understood according to the distinction between

universal law and individual instance of universal law in Modernity. That is, we know

what the task of knowledge is by means of its history. Though Natorp's presentation may

suggest this he could not have meant to ground our understanding of the essence of

knowledge in history for our means of grasping this history could not be a priori in the

way Natorp understands this.

In any case, if a "true" or "more adequate" reconstruction is possible then

certainly some form of "givenness" is necessary to guide it. But precisely because this

givenness must precede objective determination it must be pre-theoretical. The difficulty

facing Natorp is that since he accepts only theoretical understanding, which requires

determination through objectification, the (pre-theoretically) given task of knowledge is,

ultimately, unintelligible. In essence, if he avoids the Fichtean "solution" by means of

the givenness of the historical task of knowledge in what way can he understand the very

givenness of this task with the resources at his disposal, namely objectification and

Heidegger certainly believes so. For example he writes, "...the important philosophical school of the
'Marburgers' proceeds in a new direction, towards a dialectic which brings them into close proximity to
Hegel." (Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 33).

lawfulness? More distressing for his view is the fact that objectification and lawfulness

are the way in which we approach this task, but this approach is justified only by the task

of scientific thinking itself. Taking this course, Natorp is grounding the essence of

knowledge in a historical phenomena, viz., the history of the task of knowledge. No

universally valid grasp of the essence of knowledge is possible from the mere factual

history of humanity's attempt to know. In other words, this runs afoul of the criticism

that Husserl levels against Dilthey and Weltanschauung philosophy in Philosophy as a

Rigorous Science.200 It is interesting however that this approach would bring Natorp

closer to Dilthey and Weltanschauung philosophy. Natorp, however, does not appear to

see the problematic tensions in his presentation of the essence of knowledge. Rather,

Natorp mitigates the difficulty by sneaking objectivity in the back door for he explains

the task of knowledge itself in this way, "One might also say: the object is given, namely

as an X, something which is yet to be determined, not as a known quantity."201 The fact

is, the undetermined object, namely the "unknown X," is already objectified, it is simply

not known what object it is, i.e., its full determination. Thus, in the end, only the further

determination of the object of thought is within the horizon of the task of knowledge

"It is easy to see that historicism, if consistently carried through, carries over into extreme sceptical
subjectivism. The ideas of truth, theory, and science would then, like all ideas, lose their absolute validity.
That an idea has validity would mean that it is a factual construction of spirit which is held as valid and
which in its contingent validity determines thought. There would be no unqualified validity, or validity-in-
itself, which is what it is even if no one has achieved it and though no historical humanity will ever achieve
it...And even if spiritual formations can in truth be considered an judged from the standpoint of such
contraries of validity, still the scientific decision regarding validity itself and regarding its ideal normative
principles is in no way the affair of empirical science. Certainly the mathematician too will not turn to
historical science to be taught about the truth of mathematical theories...How, then, is it to be the historian's
task to decide as to the truth of given philosophical systems and, above all, as to the very possibility of a
philosophical science that is valid in itself?" Husserl, Philosophy as Rigorous Science, pp. 186 – 187.
Natorp, "On the Objective and Subjective Grounding of Knowledge," pg. 262.

whereas the determination of the object as object, namely, objectivity itself, is, as in

Husserl, presupposed.

If Natorp is to avoid dogmatically asserting the nature of knowledge ex nihilo,

then something must be given. The question is how is this something given? This brings

us full circle back to phenomenology. In Natorp's case this brings him right back to the

problematic that drove Husserl's own formulation of phenomenology as an eidetic

science. In light of the fact that both Natorp and Husserl see themselves as engaged in

the critique of knowledge what must be given a priori is the essence of knowledge, but

both Natorp and Husserl understand "essence" in the transcendental sense of universally

valid lawfulness.

What is significant about Heidegger's critical discussion of Husserl and Natorp is

that while he sees Natorp as overcoming limitations within Husserl's project, Natorp

himself is blind to the radical implications of his thesis that the task of knowledge is a

priori. Judgments, categories, static structures are no longer what is a priori. The

dynamic task of knowledge is. As I have argued, Natorp implicitly asserts that the

critical project is essentially historical. More fundamentally, since there is no objective,

evidential basis from which one can intuit the essence of knowledge (a la Husserl) this

subjective act of determination is a priori in the sense that it precedes givenness

altogether. It is a priori not primarily in the sense of being universally valid, but in the

transcendental sense of being the condition for the possibility of any experience

(Erfahrung), i.e., empirical knowledge202, whatsoever. That objectivity is the task of

Cf., Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Norman Kemp Smith (London:
Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1933) B147.

knowledge legitimates the subjective act of objectification which, in turn, legitimates

objective knowledge. Furthermore, the task of knowledge is never complete but is an

infinite project of the progressive objectification of ultimately indeterminate subjectivity.

We cannot grasp knowledge in its completion as a finished task. What is grasped is

knowledge in its purpose or its driving telos. Natorp seems to suggest that the telos of

scientific knowledge is manifested in the history of knowledge itself both in its origin and

also in its further refinement as it historically progresses. If scientific (theoretical)

philosophy just is critique of knowledge, as it is for much of post-Kantian philosophy,

then scientific philosophy just is the historical understanding of the task of knowledge.

II. Dilthey and the Critique of Historical Reason

In the end, Husserl and Natorp have no resources for performing such a critical

project. Because of the privileging of the theoretical attitude in their method all those

aspects that are unique to historical phenomena, e.g., knowledge, will or purpose, and

feeling or value, presuppose objectivity. For example, one knows something, one wills

something, values something, something is pursued, etc. In each case, the necessary

"something" is an object and an object known (given and determined). For this reason,

any understanding of the task of knowledge presupposes objectivity. For example, I may

understand that a task necessarily has a purpose or telos, but according to the theoretical

standpoint, this purpose or telos is necessarily the pursuit of some object. Thus, to look

to the task of knowledge for an understanding of the necessity of objectivity for

knowledge begs the question. The task of knowledge essentially presupposes objectivity.

In other words, unless we can broaden our perspective outside the theoretical attitude we

can never understand historical phenomenon but on the model of theoretical science. Or,

more to the point, we cannot understand the historical sciences (Geisteswissenschaft)

except on the model of the theoretical, i.e., objectifying, sciences. But precisely what is

necessary for a critique of knowledge is to acquire a scientific grasp of the historical task

of knowledge. What is needed is a critical understanding of historical science that does

not already presuppose objectivity. What is needed is a critique of historical reason.

Dilthey sets out to give such a "critique of historical reason" (Kritik der

historischen Vernunft) and is most well known as promoting Weltanschauung

Philosophie or "world-view philosophy." Dilthey argues that the human sciences refer to

human beings and have as their subject matter "lived-experiences, the expression for

lived-experiences and the understanding of these expressions." He says,

In attempting to go back to something ultimate that they [the human

sciences] have in common with one another, I find that all these sciences
refer to human beings, their relation to one another and to outer
nature...What, then, is common to all these sciences in their reference to
human beings, their relations to one another and outer nature? They are
all founded in lived-experience, in the expressions for lived-experiences,
and in the understanding of these expressions.203

For example, historical science (Historie) has as its subject matter historical lived-

experiences, expressions of history, e.g., historical texts, social structures (such as social

institutions like law), individuals (such as Goethe), etc., and our own understanding of

these expressions, i.e., history (Geschichte). Historical science attempts to scientifically

grasp historical lived-experiences that are not themselves "given," but are rather

Wilhelm Dilthey, "Studies Toward the Foundation of the Human Sciences," translated by Rudolf A.
Makkreel and John Scanlon, in Dilthey, Selected Works III: The Formation of the Historical World in the
Human Sciences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), pp. 91 – 2.

expressed in historical expressions (texts, institutions, etc.). It does this by interpreting

these historical expressions in the context of our understanding of the totality of these

expressions, i.e., our understanding of history. The human sciences attempt to

understand (verstehen) the expressions of lived-experiences by tracing them back to what

Dilthey calls the "life nexus" (Lebenszusammenhang), i.e., the "reality" that expresses

itself in these expressions. For example, in historical science the understanding of

historical expressions and the totality of these expression, i.e., history, consists of

interpreting them back into the life nexus that "produced" them or, more exactly, that

expressed itself in them.

It is important that these expressions of the life nexus not be confused with causal

effects. The life nexus is not the cause of some effect. Historical entities are expressions

that are expressed by a life nexus. In other words, the human sciences do not explain

(erklären) historical entities, they understand (verstehen) them. To think otherwise

would be to confuse the method of the human sciences with that of the natural sciences.

A life nexus and its expressions are related as thoughts are to their expression. That is, I

understand what somebody is thinking by interpreting his expressions. More exactly, I

grasp the lived-experience(s) that are expressed in his expressions by interpreting these

expressions based on my understanding of the totality of his expressions, i.e., in the

context of all his previous expressions. The ultimate and distant goal is to understand the

whole of his life nexus, i.e., the unified totality of his lived-experiences. The fact that

this understanding is a form of interpretation already indicates that the proper method of

the human sciences will be hermeneutic.

Doubtless, the physical or natural realization of expressions, e.g., the writing on

the page or the sounds that are made, are certainly caused by the individual doing the

writing or speaking. Explanatory psychology investigates these causal connections

between "mental life" and its physical or natural effects. Like any natural science it

investigates only causal structures. It does so by breaking experience down into

fundamental elements and unifying them according to causal contexts

(Kausalzusammenhangen). Dilthey argues that this is the common understanding of

explanatory science,

The distinction between explanatory sciences and descriptive sciences on

which we here rely corresponds to the common usage. By explanatory
science is to be understood every subordination of a domain of experience
to a system of causality [Kausalzusammenhang] by means of a limited
number of well-determined elements (i.e., the components of the system).
This concept characterizes the ideal of such a science, formed in particular
from the development of atomic physics. Explanatory psychology thus
seeks to subordinate the manifestations of mental life to a causal system
by means of a number of well-determined elements.204

Explaining the causal mechanism however does not give us an understanding of what the

person is trying to express, viz., what they mean. In fact, the causal mechanism may be

radically different for identical expressions. For example, if I am angry I can express this

through any number of different causal mechanisms, e.g., I can write on a piece of paper

that "I am very angry" or I can say that "I am very angry" or I can scream or I can make a

gesture of anger. In each case, the causal mechanism and the effect are quite different but

they all express the identical meaning. From each I can interpret that the person is angry.

Wilhelm Dilthey, "Ideas Concerning a Descriptive and Analytic Psychology," in Wilhelm Dilthey,
Descriptive Psychology, translated by Richard M. Zaner (The Hague, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff,
1977), pg. 23. Henceforth referred to as "Descriptive and Analytic Psychology."

There is, however, a more fundamental issue at stake. We have seen that for

Dilthey the subject matter of the human sciences is lived-experiences, expressions of

lived-experiences, and our understanding of these expressions. However, within the

human sciences a distinction must be made between psychology and the other human

sciences. This distinction rests on two modes of expression. By "subjective" expressions

is meant all those expressions that express one's own peculiar life-nexus, i.e., the totality

of one's own peculiar lived-experience. The scientific understanding of the life nexus of

individuals, what Dilthey calls a "psychic nexus," is the science of descriptive

psychology. The other human sciences have as their subject matter not the expressions of

an individual psychic nexus per se but "objective" expressions in "world-views." For

example, historical science has as its subject matter historical phenomena, which are not

expressions of an individual psychic nexus per se but are rather an intersubjective

expression of a world-view. The expression of a world-view is a culture (Bildung).

Thus, when I interpret historical expressions in historical science I understand the

historical world-view of which they are the expression. My hurried gait expresses my

desire to get something done quickly. My jumping away from a just discovered spider

expresses my fear of spiders. My utterance of "I am angry" expresses my anger. These

are all subjective expressions. On the other hand, a lecture on German Romanticism

expresses a world-view, a book on materialism expresses a world-view, etc.

It is more complicated than this, however. There is a fundamental connection

between psychic nexus and world-views. World-views are themselves a component of

human existence/life and, for Dilthey, this means that they are, ultimately, components of

a life nexus. That is, there are no world-views free-floating from human existence and

life. All world-views are grounded in human life and thus in a life nexus. Similarly,

every individual psychic nexus situates itself within a life nexus and becomes what

Dilthey calls an "acquired psychic nexus." Thus, psychic nexus are also similarly

components of a life nexus. Thus, the nexus of life has "subjective" and "objective"

components. The subjective component, namely a psychic nexus, is expressed in a

"subjective" expression and the objective component, i.e., a world-view, is expressed in

an "objective" expression.

Within a life nexus the psychic nexus and world-view mutually affect one

another. Each individual psychic nexus incorporates into itself a world-view that it

shares with many others and at the same time world-views are shaped and modified by

psychic nexus. Each individual human being is intimately tied to his environment and

the environment is itself shaped by individual human beings. For example, every

individual is situated within a historical context or historical epoch and at the same time

the historical context or epoch is shaped by individuals. This same interconnectedness

manifests itself on the level of expression. An individual can typically only realize

expressions by means of an already expressed world-view (a "culture") that creates the

intersubjective context for such expressions and a world-view is expressed ("cultures" are

produced) by means of individuals expressing that world-view. Thus, I can clap my

hands and thus express my pleasure or satisfaction with something only insofar as the

culture in which I find myself allows for this as an expression of pleasure or satisfaction.

Otherwise, i.e., if I exist in a culture for which clapping does not express pleasure or

satisfaction, I should not be expressing my pleasure or satisfaction by clapping since no

one (including myself) could interpret from the clapping of my hands that I feel pleasure

or satisfaction. Dilthey says,

In understanding we proceed from the coherent whole which is livingly

given to us in order to make the particular intelligible to us. Precisely the
fact that we live with the consciousness of the coherent whole, makes it
possible for us to understand a particular sentence, gesture or action. All
psychological thought preserves this fundamental feature, that the
apprehension of the whole makes possible and determines the
interpretation of particulars.205

Similarly, world-views cannot express themselves directly but only through the

mediation of individuals. That is, cultures are produced by means of the action of

individuals. For example, a legal system does not appear ex nihilo, but is produced by

the action of individuals.

I said earlier that typically an individual can only express himself from within the

context of a culture. For Dilthey, there are exceptional cases in which this is not true.

Life is creative, spontaneous, and "free." New world-views can be formed which later

become articulated through a new culture which in turn require individuals to express

themselves differently and, ultimately, produce a newly acquired psychic nexus. Life

produces new world-views by means of the exceptionally creative individual, i.e., the

genius. The exceptionally creative individual by the force of his "objective" expression

brings into existence a new world-view by embodying and bringing to expression the all-

encompassing unity of an epoch. Dilthey remarks,

What a rich source of instruction concerning the mysterious events which

give rise to a religious ensemble [Zusammenhang] in what we know of
Saint Francis of Assisi, of Saint Bernard, and especially of Luther!206

Dilthey, "Descriptive and Analytic Psychology," pg. 55.
Ibid., pg. 63.


Psychology recognizes the sovereignty of an acquired psychic nexus

determining every conduct and thought as the result of human
development. All human development can only constitute such a
sovereign nexus, adapted to the conditions of existence and producing a
whole which finds it significance in itself. Such would be the sense of
Napoleon's word regarding Goethe: "voilà un homme!" Character is only
one, but in truth the most important, aspect of this achievement. A soul
thus formed appears as one of the greatest among worldly realities, and it
is in this sense that Goethe designated the personality as the highest good
of human being.207

This individual expresses a new world-view by creating a new culture. In turn,

this individual recreates himself by means of incorporating the new world-view into a

new acquired psychic nexus. Thus, to those who remain in the context of the old culture

this person and his expressions are "obscure" but at the same time fascinating. They

struggle to acquire the new psychic nexus and incorporate the new world-view by

interpreting his "difficult" expressions. Though his expressions cannot be interpreted in

the context of the old culture and its world-view so they themselves must develop by

acquiring a new psychic nexus as well. This exceptionality of a creative individual can

arise within more or less general spheres. Thus, there are scientific geniuses who

"revolutionize" science, e.g., Einstein, or legal geniuses or artistic geniuses. These

geniuses "revolutionize" one component or other of a world-view. According to Dilthey,

it is by means of poetry and the exceptional poet that whole world-views change. This is

because Dilthey believes that great poetry is most expressive insofar as it encompasses

the whole of a life-nexus. The great poet encompasses the knowledge (science), will

Ibid., pg. 101.

(morality) and feeling (value) of a world-view. Goethe exemplifies the creative poet for

Dilthey as later Hölderlin will for Heidegger.

As a new world-view becomes incorporated into individual psychic nexus and is

expressed in a new culture the old culture becomes increasingly alien. The meaning of its

expressions (both on the level of culture and on the level of individuals) are no longer

"immediately" clear but become increasingly difficult to understand. The rupture

between one's present world-view and past world-views produces history, that is, the

attempt to understand the expressions of alien, past world-views. History itself can take

many forms, e.g., it can be history of science, history of literature, history of law, etc.

For example, history of science is the attempt to understand the expression of the

scientific component of past world-views. It is clear that for Dilthey history has an

intimate connection to the creativity, spontaneity and development intrinsic to life. If life

were static there would be no history as there would not be any past world-views and

cultures. However, the scope of the human sciences is broader than just history insofar as

one faces a very similar situation when confronted with a present alien culture.

We now come back to the question of the critique of historical reason. Dilthey

takes it as evident that we have historical knowledge and even a scientific understanding

of history. The question is: How is this knowledge possible? How can we come to a

scientific understanding of a historical world-view and of historical individuals when the

historical expressions of these (e.g., their culture) are alien to our own. Dilthey's answer

is not the one commonly given today, e.g., by Gadamer and others, namely that we can

do so because we are our history. Dilthey would not disagree with this claim as it is an

important part of his own view, but he does not think it is a sufficient transcendental

condition for a scientific knowledge of history.208

According to Dilthey, the common element of all world-views and psychic nexus

and their expressions is human existence (Dasein) or human life. Following the Kantian

trichotomy, Dilthey argues that all human life can be analyzed in terms of thought,

action, and feeling. Every aspect of human existence can be analyzed in terms of one or

more of these. The scientific study of these aspects of human existence is grounded in

psychology insofar as its object of study is the entirety of human life. It is therefore to

psychology that Dilthey looks to ground his critique of historical reason. Of course the

importance of psychology is not peculiar to Dilthey but runs throughout almost all of

19th century thought. What is peculiar to Dilthey is how he understands psychology and

its scope.

Dilthey makes a strong distinction between explanatory or constructivist

psychology and descriptive psychology. All explanatory sciences are based on

hypothesis. That is, the ultimate elements and unities of an explanatory science are not

given to consciousness, but are rather inferred hypotheses or constructions based on an

attempt to unify the data of sensation. For example, atoms and their causal relations are

not given in experience but are hypothesis that are inferred from the multitude of

sensation and are used to explain and unify the phenomenon. All science is searching for

a unifying principle. The natural sciences, according to Dilthey, achieve this through

their elements and causal relations.

Gadamer himself would most likely agree with Dilthey. However, because of Heidegger's influence,
he sees no need to transcendentally ground a scientific knowledge of history.

A descriptive and analytic science, on the other hand, begins with a unified nexus

that is immediately given to consciousness. It then proceeds to work out the moments of

this unity. Thus, descriptive sciences understand (verstehen) rather than explain

(erklären) their subject matter. Dilthey argues that the human sciences and in particular

descriptive psychology is just this sort of science,

The human studies are distinguished from the sciences of nature first of all
in that the latter have for their objects facts which are presented to
consciousness as from outside, as phenomena and given in isolation, while
the objects of the former are given originaliter from within as real and as a
living continuum [Zusammenhang]. As a consequence there exists a
system of nature for the physical and natural sciences only thanks to
inferential arguments which supplement the data of experience by means
of a combination of hypotheses. In the human studies, to the contrary, the
nexus of psychic life constitutes originally a primitive and fundamental
datum. We explain nature, we understand psychic life. For in inner
experience [innere Erfahrung] the processes of one thing acting on
another, and the connections of functions or individual members of
psychic life into a whole are also given. The experienced [erlebte] whole
[Zusammenhang] is primary here, the distinction among its members only
comes afterwards.209

This, importantly, Dilthey connects to the fact that descriptive psychology is ultimately

grounded in lived-experience,

In the [natural sciences], all connectedness [Zusammenhang] is obtained

by means of the formation of hypothesis; in psychology it is precisely the
connectedness which is originally and continually given in lived-
experience [Erleben]: life exists everywhere only as a nexus or coherent

Since the human sciences themselves are grounded in lived-experience and descriptive

psychology this feature extends as well to them. They too are ultimately grounded in an

Dilthey, "Descriptive and Analytic Psychology," pp. 27 – 8.
Ibid., pg. 28.

immediately given unified nexus. Most important is the connection between this and

Dilthey's attempt to give a Kantian critique of the human sciences.

Since the unity necessary for descriptive psychology is immediately given and is

not a hypothesized unity it is capable of grounding a critique in a way that no natural

science can, e.g., explanatory psychology. Because explanatory psychology utilizes

hypothetical unities any attempt to give a critique by means of explanatory psychology

would be hypothetical itself. A genuine critique could not rest on a hypothesis for then

the very conditions for the possibility of knowledge and experience would be capable of

being overturned by further knowledge and experience for which the critique itself gives

the necessary conditions, which is absurd. As Dilthey laments, "Hypotheses, everywhere

only hypotheses!"211 A more direct way to put the point is to say that any critique must

be grounded in understanding and never in explanation.

Dilthey argues that the theory of knowledge faces a similar problem. Since any

theory of knowledge is going to make some reference to psychology this psychology

cannot be explanatory but must be descriptive. If it attempts to ground knowledge

through hypothetical explanations it will face the absurdity of being merely a

hypothetical account of knowledge which again can be overturned by experience itself,

Thus present-day science is caught in the following dilemma, which has

contributed enormously to the development of skepticism and a superficial
and sterile empiricism, and thus to the increasing separation of life from can connect the latter two disciplines [the theory of
knowledge and the human sciences], in that they both require
psychological bases, even though these bases are considerably different in
extent and depth. Certainly, the theory of knowledge occupies a
completely different place in the system of the sciences than do the human

Ibid., pg. 27.

sciences. It is impossible to make a psychology the premise for the theory
of knowledge. However, the same dilemma also exists in another form for
the theory of knowledge: can it be established independently of all
psychological presuppositions? And, in the event that this would not be
the case: what would be the consequences if epistemology would be based
on an explanatory psychology? The theory of knowledge arose from the
need to secure a firm ground in the midst of the ocean of metaphysical
fluctuations, a generally valid knowledge of at least some scope. Were it
to be uncertain and hypothetical it would vitiate its own goal.212

Certainly, one can understand why Dilthey saw a strong affinity between Husserl's work

and his own.213 Not only on the more superficial level of their common struggle against

psychologism and the attempt to ground a theory of knowledge through the natural

sciences, but more importantly in the fact that they both believed that any critique of

reason must be grounded in what is immediately given, i.e., in understanding and not

explanation. However, we can also see how misguided was Husserl's attempt to

characterize Dilthey's philosophy as "historicism" and his claim that Dilthey's thought led

to skepticism and relativism.214

Ibid., pp. 29 – 30.
Cf. Martin Heidegger, "Wilhelm Dilthey's Research and the Struggle for a Historical Worldview,"
translated by Charles Bambach in Heidegger, Supplements: From the Earliest Essays to Being and Time
and Beyond, pp. 147 – 176. Hereafter cited as Heidegger, "Wilhelm Dilthey's Research." On page 154
Heidegger remarks, "Perhaps this [a new strain in Dilthey's thought] can be traced back to the effect of
Husserl's Logical Investigations, which Dilthey read at that time and called an epochal work, holding
seminars on it for years with his students."
Husserl's criticism runs thus: "Of course, Weltanschauung and Weltanschauung philosophy are
cultural formations that come and go in the stream of human development, with the consequences that their
spiritual content is definitely motivated in the given historical relationships. But the same is true of the
strict sciences. Do they for that reason lack objective validity? A thoroughly extreme historicist will
perhaps answer in the affirmative. In doing so he will point to changes in scientific views - how what is
today accepted as a proved theory is recognized tomorrow as worthless, how some call certain things laws
that others call mere hypotheses and still others vague guesses, etc. Does that mean that in view of this
constant change in scientific views we would actually have no right to speak of sciences as objectively
valid unities instead of merely as cultural formations? It is easy to see that historicism, if consistently
carried through, carries over into extreme sceptical subjectivism. The ideas of truth, theory, and science
would then, like all ideas, lose their absolute validity. That an idea has validity would mean that it is a
factual construction of spirit which is held as valid and which in its contingent validity determines thought.

Dilthey does not attempt to ground validity in history. Quite to the contrary,

Dilthey grounds his own critique in historical human existence. That this latter is not the

history of humanity is clear from Dilthey's emphasis upon inner experience and the

psychic nexus, which embodies all those characteristics of spiritual existence that are

evident in immediate, concrete lived-experience in its unity. This nexus is immediately

given as a whole and forms the basis of all cognition. Dilthey remarks,

But the relationship of psychology with epistemology are also quite

different from those which it has with any other science whatever, be it
mathematics, the sciences of nature that have mathematical structure, or
the logic postulated by Kant. The psychic nexus forms the basis of
cognitional processes; one can therefore study the latter and determine its
capacities only in the framework of this coherent nexus. Now, we have
seen that the methodological advantage of psychology derives from the
fact that this psychic continuum [Zusammenhang] is given to it in an
immediate and living manner, as lived reality. The lived-experience
[Erlebnis] of this continuum is at the basis of every apprehension of
spiritual, historical and social affairs. More or less brought into the light,
analyzed, probed, the history of the human studies rests precisely on this
lived nexus which it gradually raised to full consciousness. It is beginning
from here that one can also resolve the problem of the relationship of
epistemology and psychology. The basis of the theory of knowledge lies
in the living consciousness and universally valid description of this
psychic nexus. The theory of knowledge has no need of a perfectly
elaborated psychology, but every established psychology is still only the
scientific completion of what also forms the substrate [Untergrund] of
epistemology. The latter is a psychology in movement; to be sure, in
movement towards a determined end [bestimmten Ziele]. It rests on a self-
reflection [Selbstbesinnung] which includes psychic life examined in its
entire scope - questions of universal validity, truth and reality are only
determined according to their sense.215

There would be no unqualified validity, or validity-in-itself, which is what it is even if no one has achieved
it and though no historical humanity will ever achieve it." (Philosophy as Rigorous Science, pp. 186 – 7).
Dilthey, "Descriptive and Analytic Psychology," pg. 35. The last sentence reads in German: "In der
Selbstbesinnung, welche den ganzen unverstümmelten Befund seelischen Lebens umfaßt, hat sie ihre
Grundlage: Allgemeingültigkeit, Wahrheit, Wirklichkeit werden von diesem Befund aus erst nach ihrem

Here we can see all of the elements embodied in Rickert, Husserl, and Natorp's attempt at

a critique of reason without the objectification and universalizing abstraction they

contain. That is, there is the necessity of grounding psychology in concrete, immediate

lived-experience. This is guaranteed by the immediately given, lived unity of the psychic

nexus. This lived unity is not an object but the "coherent nexus" through which all

cognitions are understood. The psychic nexus is also individuating in the way Rickert

describes the concepts of the human sciences. That is, it is not a universal abstraction.

Each individual possesses their psychic nexus. All of this is the subject matter for

psychology. When Dilthey turns to the theory of knowledge, i.e., the general critique of

knowledge rather than merely that of the human sciences, we see both self-consciousness

(Selbstbesinnung) and movement or development. This brings together two fundamental

elements of Husserl and Natorp's critique of reason.

As we have seen, reflection (Reflexion) is essential to phenomenology. It is only

through the power of reflection that Husserl believes we can give a phenomenologically

adequate theory of knowledge. Heidegger argues that this is a mere "looking-at" which

de-vivifies the living character of lived-experience. Dilthey, on the other hand, relies on

the engaged, non-objectifying action of self-consciousness. Clearly this is not merely

looking at the psychic nexus, for he argues that this is the foundation of a theory of

knowledge that is "a psychology in movement." Every "established psychology" is

merely a substrate of this unfolding psychology in movement. That is, Dilthey captures

the developmental aspect characteristic of Natorp's theory of knowledge. However,

Dilthey brings Husserl and Natorp together. Husserl's epistemology lacks development

insofar as his critique ultimately rests (at this stage in his writings) in a static eidetic

science. Natorp's epistemology lacks immediate givenness insofar as he argues that all

givenness is mediated.

There is an essential developmental aspect to Dilthey's theory of knowledge and

his psychology. We are always on the way to a "complete" theory of knowledge, any

stage of which is embodied in the self-consciousness of that stage. This development is

the result of the development of the psychic nexus in individuals and the resulting change

in the "established psychology." However, this development of the psychic nexus is not

the same as Natorp's ever progressive objectification of subjectivity. Rather, the

development is a finer articulation of the immediately given nexus,

...the structural nexus does not grow together from discrete operations, but
rather what occurs is that an even finer articulation is differentiated out of
it, and behind this nexus one cannot go...we find in the psychic structural
nexus a unitary subject of psychic development.216

Because the psychic nexus is essentially developing, part of the very process of

understanding the psychic nexus is to trace this development. This development is

history. So, for Dilthey, there is an intimate connection between psychology and history.

In order to do the former one must engage in the latter,

Man does not apprehend what he is by musing over himself, nor by doing
psychological experiments, but rather by history. This analysis of the
products of human spirit - destined to open for us a glance at the genesis
of the psychic nexus, of its forms and its actions - must, in addition to the
analysis of historical products, observe and collect everything which it can
seize of the historical processes wherein such a nexus becomes

Dilthey, "Descriptive and Analytic Psychology," pg. 104.
Ibid., pg. 63.

Furthermore, Dilthey argues that because the process of development for the psychic

nexus is the further articulation of the unitary "structural nexus" of psychic life and not a

causal, physical development one can never predict what the next stage of psychic life

will be but can only afterwards infer the motives that lead to it,

Seen more closely, the nature of psychic development, different from that
of physical development, presents first of all a negative character. We are
incapable of predicting, in effect, what in the unfolding of psychic life will
follow a given state. It is only subsequently that we can disengage the
reasons for what has happened. We cannot predict the acts from their
motives. We can analytically ascertain the motives only after the
acts...Historical development, moreover, shows the same character, and
precisely in the great creative periods an enhancement comes about which
cannot be derived from the previous stages.218

Unmistakably, there are strong Hegelian overtones in Dilthey's understanding of history

and the development of the psychic nexus. However, Dilthey is careful not to include the

"metaphysical" elements of Hegel's philosophy.

Dilthey has provided both a psychology, a critique of historical reason, and, using

the latter two, a theory of knowledge that is grounded in the immediacy of concrete lived-

experience. Also, it is not objectifying or "theoretical" but hermeneutic. In this way, he

has avoided abstracting the "subject" from concrete life. In other words, lived-experience

is not just of objects and universal concepts, and the subject does not become the

transcendental subject that merely unifies consciousness as its subjective pole. This

avoids what plagued Husserl and Natorp's views. Furthermore, he has given an account

of the concrete individual in its entirety. That is, the subject for Dilthey is not merely the

knowing subject but also the willing and valuing subject. Moreover, this means that

Ibid., pg. 104.

willing and valuing do not simply presuppose knowing, viz., an object of knowledge.

The three are each interrelated in the psychic nexus. In addition, Dilthey has also grasped

the historical nature of the human being. Our understanding is essentially a historical

understanding. Or, put another way, thought is always situated. As we shall see, this had

a considerable influence on Heidegger. Finally, and perhaps most important in relation to

Heidegger's criticism of Husserl, Dilthey has done away with a merely reflective

understanding. That is, he too moves in the direction of Natorp in seeing that our

understanding of ourselves is not immediate but mediated, insofar as it develops over

time. However, unlike Natorp, Dilthey has the tools for understanding this mediated self-

consciousness, viz., his critique of historical reason. For all these reasons one can see

how attractive Dilthey's views would have been for Heidegger given his criticism of

theoretical reason vis-à-vis immediate, concrete lived-experience.

One final aspect of Dilthey's views is worth noting. This is Dilthey's view on the

possibility of intersubjective understanding. Interpretation for Dilthey is based on what

he calls reliving (Nacherleben). In essence, one understands an expression of whatever

kind by reliving the psychic nexus that produced it. That is, one reproduces in one's own

psychic nexus to the best of one's ability the relevant aspects of the psychic nexus that

produced the expression. This does not mean that one must get angry in order to

understand another's expression of anger, but one can only understand another's

expression of anger because being angry and expressing it in the way it has been

expressed by the other is part of one's own lived-experience or psychic nexus. Similarly,

I understand a story that is told to me because the expressions used to express the story

produce in me the proper cognitions, i.e., the same as the other has in his psychic nexus.

Clearly, Dilthey's view of understanding and intersubjectivity requires a certain

degree of homogeneity in the psychic nexus of the one who expresses and the one who

understands the expression. The degree of homogeneity determines the level of

understanding, i.e., the ability of the interpreter to relive what is expressed. This

homogeneity is effected by similarities in the formations of the respective psychic nexus,

i.e., in how the psychic nexus were "acquired." According to Dilthey there are roughly

two aspects of homogeneity in psychic nexus. The first is that everyone shares the same

external world. The second is one's culture. Dilthey explains intersubjectivity thusly,

The acquired nexus of psychic life which is encountered in the developed

human being and includes equally the images, concepts, evaluations,
ideals, firmly developed volitional orientations, and so forth, contains
constant connections which recur uniformly with all human individuals,
along with those which are peculiar to one of the sexes, a race, nation,
social class, and the like, and in the end to a single individual. As all men
have the same external world, they all produce in themselves the same
numerical system, the same grammatical and logical relations. As they
live in the midst of relations between this external world and a common
structural psychic nexus, there occur the same ways of preferring and
choosing, the same relationships between goals and means, certain
uniform relations of values, certain similarities regarding the ideal of life,
where it appears. The Schleiermacherian and Hegelian formulas of the
identity of reason in all individuals, the Schopenhauerian formula of the
identity of the will in them, express these facts about affinity in
metaphysical abstraction.219

In this way, we can see how strong the emphasis upon context and the environment is in

Dilthey's analysis of the psychic nexus. For example, rather than grounding the identity

of reason in the ability of consciousness to grasp idealities (e.g., Husserl) Dilthey grounds

it in the fact that everyone shares the same external world. Once again, his analysis

focuses on what is concrete and lived and refuses to analyze consciousness from the

Ibid., pg. 106.

perspective of a transcendental ego. The sense of immanence and transcendence so

prevalent in Husserl and Natorp is absent from Dilthey's analysis. Psychic life is always

situated concretely and the analysis of intersubjectivity and meaning is grounded in

situated, concrete contexts. Dilthey avoids precisely the criticisms that Heidegger levels

against Husserl and Natorp's views. As we shall see, Dilthey's analysis of the psychic

nexus and its environment had a profound influence on Heidegger's own early analysis of

the environing world (Umwelt). However, there are two aspects of Dilthey's view that

Heidegger early on brings into question. Though Dilthey's view avoids the strong sense

of immanence present in Husserl and Natorp's understanding of subjectivity there is in

Dilthey a distinct "inside" and "outside" to the psychic nexus. So much so that the

psychic nexus is ultimately a self-contained entity that incorporates into itself that which

is outside of it (the external world and culture). Connected with this is that Dilthey's

account of the psychic nexus lacks intentionality, the defining characteristic of

consciousness for Brentano and Husserl. Heidegger works to overcome both of these

shortcomings in Dilthey's views.

With regard to the latter shortcoming, namely the lack of intentionality in

Dilthey's account, it will be very instructive to briefly look at the exchange of

correspondence between Dilthey and Husserl. This exchange was occasioned by

Husserl's criticism of Dilthey in his Logos essay. What is most interesting about this

exchange in relation to Heidegger's work is that it concerns their very different

understandings of the nature of metaphysics and its role in their respective philosophies.

III. Dilthey, Husserl, and the "World-riddle"

Dilthey and Husserl are in agreement that the theory of knowledge must allow for

universally valid knowledge, but Dilthey argues that this precludes there being a

metaphysics "which would attempt to conclusively express the world's coherency by

using an interconnection of concepts."220 As Dilthey goes on to maintain this is the result

of the fact that only the immediately given unity of the psychic nexus may unify all our

experience whether it be our knowledge of reality or our will, etc. In Dilthey's view,

metaphysics violates this by attempting to unify the world through a system of concepts

that themselves do not presuppose the unity of the psychic nexus or which transcend the

psychic nexus. Dilthey believes that all metaphysical concepts are in flux and have their

own history.221 Metaphysics is an attempt to overcome the "world-riddle," i.e., the issue

of the unity between life and world. This attempt produces an inner contradiction in the

very nature of metaphysics which in turn leads to its ceaseless flux,

Metaphysics has spread out in an immeasurable wealth of forms. It goes

restlessly forward from possibility to possibility. Satisfied with no form, it
changes each into a new one. A hidden contradiction in its very essence
crops out again in each of its creations, forcing it to drop the given form
and look for another. For metaphysics has a remarkable duality. It aims
to solve the riddle of the world and of life, and it aims to be universally
valid...From the start it presupposes that in the mystery of life there is a
point accessible to rigorous thinking...Where shall we strike this point, at
which conceptual knowledge and its object, the world-riddle, are united,
and at which this singular world-order not only allows us to perceive
particular regularities of occurrence, but becomes intelligible in its
essence? It must lie beyond the field of the particular sciences and beyond

See Dilthey's letter to Husserl dated June 29, 1911 in "The Dilthey-Husserl Correspondence," edited
by Walter Biemel and translated by Jeffner Allen in Edmund Husserl, Husserl: Shorter Works, pp. 203 –
For Dilthey's account of metaphysics see Wilhelm Dilthey, The Essence of Philosophy, translated by
Stephen A. Emery and William T. Emery (New York: AMS PRESS, 1969), second part, III. 3.

their methods. Metaphysics must rise above the reflections of the
understanding to find its own object and its own method.222

What is of particular interest in this passage is that the problem of metaphysics is, at

bottom, the problem of intentionality. Though Dilthey would not put it this way, from

Husserl's perspective they are clearly one and the same problem. Though Dilthey

conceives the issue from a much broader perspective than Husserl. Dilthey believes that

metaphysics attempts to unify life in its totality and the world, at points though he

characterizes the problem more narrowly along Husserlian lines, viz., the unity between

"conceptual knowledge and its object."

Dilthey understands the world to be the "world-order." The world is the "external

world" that every psychic nexus shares. The product of this commonality of environment

captures the unity of reason that Hegel and Schleiermacher glimpsed in metaphysical

abstractness but not concretely. On the other side of the world-riddle is life, i.e., the

psychic nexus. The psychic nexus is immediately given to us in lived-experience and is

the unity of all psychic life, including thought, will, and value. Metaphysics, Dilthey

argues, is the attempt to coherently describe this nexus completely and as a unity through

a system of concepts. This, Dilthey argues, is impossible. The attempt to do so either

fails or if it (apparently) succeeds it destroys the psychic nexus itself,

The causal knowledge of reality; the feeling of value, meaning, and

significance; the volitional attitude containing within itself the goal of
conduct and the principle of obligation: these are various general attitudes,
combined in the structure of mind. Their mental relation is revealed to us
in lived-experience; it is one of the ultimate facts of consciousness within
reach of introspection. The subject has these various attitudes toward
objects; one cannot go back behind this fact to a reason for it. So the

Dilthey, The Essence of Philosophy, pp. 64 – 5.

categories of being, cause, value, and purpose, originating as they do in
these attitudes, can be reduced neither to one another nor to a higher
principle. We can comprehend the world by only one of the basic
categories. We can never perceive, as it were, more than one side of our
relation to it, never the whole relation as it would be defined by the
systematic unity of these categories. This is the first reason for the
impossibility of metaphysics: to succeed it must always either unite the
categories sophistically or distort the content of our consciousness.223

The history of metaphysics according to Dilthey is the history of privileging one of these

basic categories of psychic life over the others for the purpose of comprehending the

world in its totality. More strongly, Dilthey argues that the unity of the world can only be

comprehended by emphasizing one of the basic categories, or comportments, of psychic

life. For example, Hegel privileges thought, whereas Schopenhauer privileges the will.

What is privileged produces their respective "metaphysics." The weight of the problem

for Dilthey lies in the nature of the psychic nexus and the life nexus, i.e., that it is

essentially a diversity in a unity. Dilthey's concern with this aspect of psychic life is

present in the essay on descriptive and analytic psychology,

It is impossible to derive from inner states, qua particular invariable units

the reciprocal interplay of the uniform operations of comparison,
judgment, preference, formation of ideals, as it is to present the velocity of
a body as the sum of the velocities of its parts. This is the way it is, and
no artifice of materialistic theory can conceal it: these operations require
as their condition an original nexus, a unity which is not put together out
of separate elements and functions...But the nature of the unity which it is
necessary to admit as the condition of psychic processes is totally
unknown to us. The inquiry into it goes beyond the limits of our

Ibid., pg. 65.
Dilthey, "Descriptive and Analytic Psychology," pg. 104.

By what means, Dilthey is asking, could we possibly comprehend this "original nexus"?

It cannot be by means of thought, will, or value as each of these are intelligible only by

means of their place within the original nexus of the psychic unity. On the other hand,

the psychic nexus structures all that is given so any account that would attempt to make

sense of it in categories that transcend those of the psychic nexus (e.g., thought, will, and

value) would be mere speculation without an evidentiary basis. That is, it would be

uncritical, speculative metaphysics. The fact is though we still attempt to do so and the

history of this attempt is the history of metaphysics. All metaphysical categories,

however, are merely the result of privileging one or more of the given categories of the

psychic nexus and so can never really transcend the psychic nexus. The Kantian

influence on Dilthey in his discussion of the problem of metaphysics is unmistakable.

For Heidegger, Dilthey's discussion of the problem of metaphysics would

immediately bring to mind Aristotle's much more general discussion of the problem of

the science of being, viz., Aristotle's problem of metaphysics. That is, how is there to be

a science of being when being itself is ultimately a unity in diversity. There are

fundamental categories of being that are unified by being, but at the same time there

seems to be no way to give an account of being that does not presuppose being itself.

The problem of the unity of the categories of being is analogous to Dilthey's own

problem of the unity of the categories of the psychic nexus insofar as the categories of

being are supposed to exhaust being yet at the same time they are irreducible to one

another and any attempt to unify them univocally fails. Every science for Aristotle

requires a univocal concept and its differentiae. With these we can give an account of the

subject matter of a science. As Aristotle points out, however, being is unusual insofar as

any of its proposed differentiae must also have being. In every other science the genus

and its differentiae do not have this character. For instance, when we differentiate

animality according to the rational and irrational we do not face the problem that

rationality is itself an animal. However, being (as with unity) cannot be a genus insofar

as it cannot have true differentiae,

There will, then, be as many principles of things as there are primary

genera, so that both being and unity will be principles and substances; for
these are most of all predicated of all existing things. But it is not possible
that either unity or being should be a single genus of things; for the
differentiae of any genus must each of them both have being and be one,
but it is not possible for the genus taken apart from its species (any more
than for the species of the genus) to be predicated of its proper
differentiae; so that if unity or being is a genus, no differentia will either
have being or be one.225

Dilthey, significantly, points to the existence of this problem in concrete, immediate

lived-experience. It then arises as a problem of the unity of life. Any account of the

unity of life or the "original nexus" faces the same problem.

Husserl, in typical fashion, attempts to solve the problem eidetically. He argues

that within the critique of reason there is a perfectly valid notion of metaphysics, though,

for sure, it is grounded in the structure of intentionality and thus does not "transcend"

consciousness but is constituted by consciousness. Dilthey overlooks this possibility

because of his lack of a substantial, i.e., phenomenological, notion of intentionality.

Dilthey points out that metaphysics must rise above understanding and have an object

and method all its own. Of course, this is precisely how Husserl characterizes

phenomenology. In his response to Dilthey, Husserl brings out that his own

Aristotle, Metaphysics, translated by W. D. Ross in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard
McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 998b 18 – 26.

phenomenology is designed precisely to meet the problem of metaphysics, i.e.,

investigating the nature of the unity between the world, on the one hand, and

consciousness on the other. The world-riddle is solved by the investigation of

intentionality or, what amounts to the same, phenomenology.

Husserl argues that the being of the world is made intelligible by relating it to the

phenomenological doctrine of essences. Husserl does not intend to discover the being of

the world in its particularity as this is the province of the natural sciences, rather

phenomenology investigates being and, for Husserl, this means it deals with essences or

eidos, i.e., validity,

Thus, the entire sphere of corporeal nature is - a priori - a sphere of

relativities. But insofar as it is "being," and consequently, the correlate of
empirical validity, it stands under ideal laws, and these laws delimit the
sense of this being (i.e., the sense of the truth of the natural sciences), as
something that is relative in principle, and, nevertheless, identical in its

For this reason every "science of existence" (Daseinwissenschaft) turns into metaphysics,

Every science of existence [Daseinwissenschaft], for example, the science

of physical nature, or science of the human spirit, etc., turns eo ipso into
metaphysics (according to my concept), insofar as it is related to the
phenomenological doctrine of essences and undergoes, from its origins, a
final clarification of sense, and thus a final determination of its truth

But this does not really get at the heart of the problem of metaphysics. That is, it does

not really deal with the "world-riddle." What is the unity that underlies the world and life

in its totality? Husserl focuses solely on the question of what unifies conceptual

Husserl's letter to Dilthey dated June 29, 1911. In "The Dilthey-Husserl Correspondence," pp. 205 –
Husserl's letter to Dilthey dated July 5/6, 1911. In "The Dilthey-Husserl Correspondence," pg. 206.

knowledge and its object? The solution to this, Husserl believes, lies in the

phenomenological study of intentionality and correspondingly the phenomenological

concept of truth,

The truth which is thus expounded, for example, the truth in natural
science, regardless of how limited and relative it may be from another
point of view, is ultimately a component of "metaphysical" truth, and its
knowledge is metaphysical knowledge, namely, ultimate knowledge of
existence [Dasein]. The idea that a metaphysics in this sense is necessary
in principle - vis-à-vis the natural and human sciences which have arisen
from the great labor of modern times - has its origin in the fact that a
stratification is rooted in the essence of knowledge and that, connected
with it, there is a two-fold epistemic attitude: on the one hand, the attitude
can be purely directed toward being, which is consciously intended and
which is thereby through and given in appearance; but on the other hand,
the attitude can be directed to the enigmatic essential relations between
being and consciousness.228

The latter is the true subject matter of phenomenology. As Husserl is wont to do this

latter discipline is eidetic as well. Thereby Husserl hopes to solve the problem of the

world-riddle that Dilthey believes is intractable. However, the way Husserl presents it

here, he clearly believes this is not an issue of metaphysics traditionally understood,

because it investigates the "relations between being and consciousness," consciousness

supposedly lying outside of, though necessarily correlated, with being. This is not

entirely correct as is evidenced in his Ideas wherein consciousness is "absolute being" in

which is constituted all derivative being. However, even this "absolute being" is

constituted by the transcendental ego and in the flow of inner time consciousness.

Two aspects of this debate are particularly important for our further discussion.

First, and this is consistent with Heidegger's critique of Husserl, Husserl understands the

Ibid., pp. 206 - 7.

problem of metaphysics only from the viewpoint of knowledge. In his response to

Dilthey he appears to disregard or at least does not realize that for Dilthey the "world-

riddle" is grounded in the relation between world and life in its totality. Part of Dilthey's

very criticism of metaphysics is that it privileges one aspect of psychic life over others in

our comprehension of the world. Husserl privileges theoretical thought. Dilthey argues

that this places Husserl's metaphysics within one particular tradition of metaphysical

thought. In this case, it necessarily leads to a "platonized" metaphysics. Ironically,

Husserl agrees! Husserl accepts the "platonic" character of his thought, as long as

"Platonism" is properly understood,

Repeatedly particular offense has been caused by the fact that, as

"platonizing realists," we set up ideas or essences as objects and ascribe to
them, as to other objects, actual (veritable) being as well as, correlatively
with this, the possibility of being seized upon by intuition - just as we do
in the case of realities...If object and something real, actuality and real
actuality, have one and the same sense, then the conception of ideas as
objects and actualities is indeed a perverse "Platonic hypostatization." But
if, as in the Logische Untersuchungen, the two are sharply
separated...what offense can remain - except one which stems from
obscure prejudices?229

In this regard, Husserl seems to vindicate Dilthey's own understanding of the nature of


Second, and more important, is that in this exchange we can see the general

outline of Heidegger's own problematic of the question of being. As we have seen,

Heidegger takes up in many respects Dilthey's criticism of Husserl's (and Natorp's)

approach to lived-experience. That is, the approach Husserl and Natorp take towards

lived-experience is exclusively bound up with the fact that they emphasize merely our

Husserl, Ideas, pp. 40 – 1.

theoretical comportment towards the world and their metaphysics bears the distinct stamp

of this. But, furthermore, though Heidegger uses Dilthey's problematic concerning the

nature of metaphysics, at the same time he attempts to draw in Husserl's insight into the

nature of intentionality. That is, Dilthey assumes (in a sense) an absolute distinction

between world and life and this produces the intractability of the problem of metaphysics,

namely, the "world-riddle." What Dilthey lacks is the absolute interconnection of world

and life, viz., intentionality. Moreover, or perhaps because of this, Dilthey never takes

seriously the notion of world but understands it along the lines of the "external world."

Husserl has a substantial notion of intentionality and also a corresponding sense of being

but disregards or simply misses the problem of life. In his lectures on the history of the

concept of time, Heidegger will accuse Husserl of merely presupposing the being of

consciousness.230 But what is the being of consciousness itself? More fundamentally,

what is the being of intentionality? These issues pervade Heidegger's discussion of the

environing world (Umwelt) his 1919 lectures as well as the importance of the question of

the being of human life (Dasein) in his writings during the early 20's and in Being and

Time. We will examine these issues in the next chapter and in the process interpret

Heidegger's project of a hermeneutic phenomenology, i.e., fundamental ontology.

Cf. Heidegger, The History of the Concept of Time, translated by Theodore Kisiel (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1985), §11 - §13.



In his work up to Being and Time, Heidegger moves within the themes that have

arisen within the previous chapters, namely the issues that concerned the southwestern

and Marburg schools of Neo-Kantianism, the phenomenology of Husserl, and the

Weltanschauung philosophy of Dilthey. Paramount of his concerns is his attempt to

break the hegemony of a theoretical approach to lived-experience and life itself. This

presupposes an exclusively objectifying and epistemological approach to life and lived-

experience. As a result, the crucial notions of world and life, i.e., the components of the

“world-riddle,” are exclusively conceived objectively, in the case of the former, and

subjectively, in the case of the latter. Heidegger's thinking up to the late 20's is

influenced significantly by the attempt to rethink these two crucial notions of world and

life beyond the critical, epistemological dichotomy of subject and object. In the course

of the development of Heidegger's thought he comes to a growing awareness of the

significance of hermeneutics and of Dilthey's focus on life in his own articulation of

phenomenology and the question of Being, though without disregarding the contributions

of Neo-Kantianism (especially Natorp) and Husserl. As we will see, Heidegger will turn

to Aristotle for guidance in resolving the issues bequeathed to him by late nineteenth and

early twentieth century thought. The result is a more primordial (hermeneutic)

phenomenology and, reciprocally, a probingly original appropriation of Aristotle's

thought that avoids being a simple, straightforward return to Aristotle which would

disregard Heidegger's own philosophical situatedness, particularly the unique

philosophical contributions of Natorp, Husserl, and Dilthey. This latter problematic is

exemplified in the "crisis" that philosophy finds itself in the late nineteenth century,

namely, the debate between two competing notions of philosophy - worldview

philosophy and scientific philosophy. Heidegger resolves this crisis by means of his

appropriation of Aristotle's analysis of life and thought, both of which Aristotle

understands as characterized by movement of a particular kind, i.e., as praxis. This

appropriation allows Heidegger to conceive of the crisis of philosophy not as a debate

between two "schools" or theories of what philosophy pursues, but as an inability to

understand the activity of philosophy itself, i.e., philosophizing, its relation to life and

thought, and its guiding question, viz., the question of the meaning of Being. Heidegger

variously indicates this inability among modern thought to see the genuine issue at stake

as a lack of understanding or inquiry into the being of subjectivity or the being of life.

Thus, an important aspect of Heidegger's appropriation of Aristotle revolves around the

latter's characterization of the being of human being as Zoon echon logon. In this

chapter, we will examine the development of Heidegger's thought in his engagement with

nineteenth century, post-Kantian philosophy and in so doing I want to emphasize the

importance of Heidegger’s return to Aristotle and the issue of the very nature of the

activity of philosophizing itself.

In his lectures of 1919 and in the early 1920's, Heidegger ultimately attempts to

overcome the "world-riddle." That is, he attempts to overcome Dilthey’s distinction

between life and world as presented in the last chapter. This requires a more radical

understanding of world and of life.

At this point, at least schematically, we can say that, of all the thinkers we have

discussed, Heidegger believes that Dilthey gave the most robust analysis of concrete,

immediate lived-experience. Most significantly, he avoided the trap of a purely

theoretical approach to human existence and to life. However, Dilthey's analysis is

skewed towards the critique of the human sciences. This leads him to overly emphasize

what he calls "inner experience." That is, he is keen on analyzing historical human lived-

experience, but he still maintains a particularly uncritical view of the world and

intentionality. Husserl makes intentionality the focus of his analysis of lived-experience,

but comes at it purely from the perspective of the theoretical which ultimately alienates

intentionality from life and lived-experience. His analysis of lived-experience is the way

in which it appears in immanent reflection, not as it is lived. The most evident sign of

this alienation is his identification of "absolute being" and consciousness or, more

exactly, pure subjectivity. His fervent reliance on immanent reflection and theoretical

objectivity leads him to have a purely objectified understanding of both the world, the

self, and life. Furthermore, his overarching theoretical approach leads him to a rather

naive view of what is absolutely given to consciousness, namely, acts of consciousness.

Husserl is so focused upon saving objective theoretical knowledge that the nature of our

intuition of consciousness through immanent reflection, the very bedrock of his

"foundationalism," is rather dogmatically presupposed. This Heidegger believes belies

the latent Cartesianism in Husserl's metaphysics and epistemology. Nevertheless,

Husserl recognizes the importance of intentionality and, therefore, avoids falling into

either a naive realism or simplistic idealism.

Natorp is an important bridge figure between Husserl and Dilthey, though he too

presupposes the absolute authority of the theoretical attitude. Natorp approaches the

issue, as Husserl does, purely from the perspective of theoretical knowledge, however, he

has a far more profound sense of the problem of subjectivity and how it is given in

experience, namely, that it is the final end and purpose of the task of knowledge. Natorp

checks Husserl's evidentialist interpretation of experience, while Dilthey has the most

nuanced view of concrete, immediate lived-experience and of human life. The reason I

say the Natorp is an important bridge between Husserl and Dilthey is that, unlike Husserl

and analogous to Dilthey, Natorp argues that objectivity is a historical process and is

grounded in the history of the task of knowledge. In this way, objectivities are not

evidentially given but develop within the history of knowledge. In addition, Natorp

argues that knowledge does not begin with immanent subjectivity but in what may be

called “external objectivities.” The “externalization” or objectification of subjectivity is

rather the final goal of the task of science. We understand ourselves as (peculiar)

external objectifications.

Given this confluence of motivations, one would expect that the notions of world,

life, and intentionality would play a large role in Heidegger’s own philosophizing up to

the mid 1920's. This is in fact the case. In his 1919 lectures, "The Idea of Philosophy,"

Heidegger spends a significant amount of time upon two lived-experiences that he

believes are fundamental. These are the experiences of the question "is there

something?" ("es gibt etwas?") and the environing world (Umwelt). In addition, he

emphasizes the importance of seeing each of these experiences with respect to their

situatedness in concrete life. We shall first look at Heidegger's analysis of these two

experiences. These two experiences set the stage for Heidegger's own thinking upon the

issue we have just discussed concerning the "world-riddle," i.e., the nature of life,

intentionality, and the world.

Most importantly, as we saw at the end of the last chapter, this is the problem of

metaphysics for both Dilthey and Husserl (though Husserl does not seem to think it much

of a "riddle"). Heidegger's own analysis of the problem marks a significant shift from the

exclusively theoretical and epistemological approach to philosophy that dominates much

of post-Kantian philosophy to a retrieval of the more authentic approach to the question

of being. The theoretical approach has distorted the true problematic to the point that it

becomes utterly insoluble.

Husserl believes that the problem of being is the problem of the relation between

being and consciousness, i.e., being as the correlate of consciousness. Natorp argues that

the problem of being is the problem of the relation between being and appearance which

he claims has been the at issue since philosophy's beginning. And Dilthey contends that

the problem of being is the "world-riddle," namely, the relation between life and its

relation to the "external world." On the other hand, the problem of being for the Ancients

and Medievals is the problem of the relation between being and beings. The distinction

between these quite different approaches to the problem of being is evident in

Heidegger's analysis of world, life, and intentionality.

Heidegger argues that life and world are inextricably linked. In differing respects,

this is also true of the thinkers we have previously looked at, though at a certain point

they are lead away from any genuine understanding of this because of their theoretical

approach to lived-experience. As we saw in chapter two, Husserl originally characterizes

intentionality as the "living through" to something. Natorp argues that the true end of the

task of knowledge is to reconstruct immediate, concrete lived-experience ("pure

subjectivity"). And Dilthey grounds all understanding in historical life. Though

Heidegger believes that Dilthey went furthest towards discovering the structures of life he

missed the crucial issue of the being of life and precisely because he was too caught up in

critical epistemological concerns.

Heidegger's concern with the being of life leads him back to Aristotle's

understanding of life as praxis, an activity whose end is the activity itself, but now under

the auspices of the relation between philosophy and life. Heidegger writes in Being and

Time that,

...if we understand it rightly, in any serious and scientifically-minded

'philosophy of life' (this expression says about as much as "the botany of
plants") there lies an unexpressed tendency towards an understanding of
Dasein's Being. What is conspicuous in such a philosophy (and here it is
defective in principle) is that here 'life' itself as a kind of Being does not
become ontologically a problem.231

In the end, we shall see why Heidegger believes this.

Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York:
Harper and Row, 1962), pg. 72.

I. Towards a Hermeneutic Phenomenology: Beyond Scientific Philosophy and

Worldview Philosophy

In his writings up to the late 20’s Heidegger characterizes his own work on the

“essence” of philosophy by means of the debate between two apparently different and

competing views of philosophy: Scientific philosophy and worldview philosophy.232 In

many ways, Heidegger is working within the problematic that Husserl sets out in his

lecture “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,” wherein Husserl is keen to avoid

subordinating philosophy to the natural sciences or reducing it to (what he sees as) the

historicism of worldview philosophy. In 1919 Heidegger says that worldview

philosophy represents the “limit of the critical science of value.”233 Therefore, Dilthey’s

work, though earlier, perfects the value-philosophy of the southwestern school of Neo-

Kantianism that was so influential one Heidegger's early philosophical development.

However, as we have seen, worldview philosophy still does not satisfy Heidegger insofar

as he is still concerned with issues that arise in Husserl’s phenomenology and also in the

critical enterprise of the Marburg school of Neo-Kantianism, specifically, in Natorp’s

work. Especially throughout his writings in the first two decades of the twentieth

century, Heidegger is concerned to unify these two traditions through a radical rethinking

of both traditions.

Cf. the introduction to Heidegger's 1919 lectures “The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of
Worldview,” chapter one of The History of the Concept of Time, and the introduction to The Basic
Problems of Phenomenology, translated by Albert Hofstadter (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
Heidegger, “The Idea of Philosophy and the Problem of Worldview,” § 1, (b), in Heidegger,
Towards the Definition of Philosophy.

For instance, in his 1923 lecture course, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity,

Heidegger presents in stark contrast the two driving forces of late 19th century thought,

namely, "historical consciousness" and "philosophy" (scientific philosophy).234 These

two aspects of late 19th century thought are most clearly manifested in its reflection upon

the nature of the special sciences, that is, in debates about the respective methodologies

of the Geisteswissenschaften and the Naturwissenschaften. None of the figures that we

have looked at in detail fall neatly on one side or the other of the philosophical debate.

There is considerable overlap. This is true for the southwestern school of Neo-

Kantianism insofar as both Windelband and Rickert, though explicitly concerned with

concept formation in the Geisteswissenschaften, are at pains to maintain the universalism

characteristic of all theoretical sciences and avoid any hint of historicism. It is also

evident in Dilthey (to an extent) insofar ad he still views his own later project as an

attempt to give a critique of the Geisteswissenschaften and is therefore concerned with

grounding these sciences in the universal typologies of his own "descriptive psychology."

This is also true of those figures who tended to emphasize the natural sciences. Natorp,

for example, allows for the historical development of lawfulness so essential to the

natural sciences. Husserl does not fit into either tradition so easily (as is also the case

with Dilthey), since his phenomenology is meant, at least in purpose, to be a universal

methodology and not a universal theory, though, of course, he tends, if only by

background alone, to model his methodology on the pure theoretical sciences. As

Heidegger remarks in Being and Time, these debates have become all the more urgent

Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, §7 and §8.

given the radical upheaval in the "basic concepts" of the special sciences that occurred at

the beginning of the 20th century. To put a point on the philosophical issues that this

upheaval raises, he says that, "In such immanent crises the very relationship between

positively investigative inquiry and those things themselves that are under interrogation

comes to a point where it begins to totter."235 From the perspective of methodology, the

division between philosophical approaches to the sciences in the latter half of the 19th

century can be roughly divided into those that rely on "historical consciousness" and

those that rely on "scientific philosophy." There are, however, many further wrinkles in

this debate, the majority of which are grounded in the fact that each of these traditions

consciously situate themselves within Kantian and post-Kantian thought. In this respect,

however, even though they may have significant and deep disagreements, each tradition

is still primarily concerned with epistemological concerns, i.e., with understanding

knowledge. For instance, the division between subject and object is thoroughly at play in

their thinking. One can roughly characterize the different approaches as either

objectifying subjectivity - Husserl, Natorp, Rickert, and Windelband come to mind - or

subjectifying objectivity, which, in many respects, captures Dilthey's thinking. On the

other hand, one could equally categorize these different approaches along the lines of the

traditional Kantian distinction between theoretical reason and practical reason. This

requires a different arrangement of these thinkers, namely, Husserl and Natorp emphasize

the theoretical aspects of Kantian thought and Rickert, Windelband, and Dilthey highlight

the practical aspects. Though, as before, there is considerable overlap. Finally, and more

Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 29.

importantly for our purposes, a common characteristic of each of the figures we have

looked at is a deep concern with the nature of lived-experience.

What is certain is that Heidegger's thinking emerges in a time where philosophy

is facing an upheaval in its own "basic concepts," analogous to the upheaval in the special

sciences. Philosophy faces its own methodological crisis. Yet, as Heidegger will argue

in 1922, this crisis has been long in the making. Heidegger traces its explicit origin back

to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and his division of the "dianoetic virtues" into sophia

and phronesis. Heidegger remarks in 1922, "sophia [wisdom], i.e., authentic

understanding that consists in looking at..., and phronesis [prudence], i.e., circumspection

in the care for human well-being, are interpreted as the authentic modes of actualizing

nous [intellect], i.e., of pure and simple perceiving as such."236

In his lectures of 1919, Heidegger sees phenomenology as particularly well-suited

to mitigate this crisis because, as he says there, "...the problem of method is more central

in phenomenology than in any other science."237 Although Heidegger sounds a

cautionary note for those who would attempt to find a method for all the sciences or who

would import into phenomenology a method from "outside." He says, "For our problem,

the basic bearing of phenomenology yields a decisive directive: not to construct a method

from outside or from above, not to contrive a new theoretical path by exercises in

dialectic."238 In addition, Heidegger is interested in resolving the crisis in philosophy

Martin Heidegger, "Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: An Indication of
the Hermeneutical Situation," translated by John van Buren, in Martin Heidegger, Supplements: From the
Earliest Essays to Being and Time and Beyond, pg. 129.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 93.
Ibid., pg. 93.

through research into philosophy's distinctive "scientific" nature. Heidegger believes that

this will be accomplished only through investigation into the nature of a non-theoretical,

primordial science. This too influences his decision to resolve the crisis through

phenomenology, particularly given the impact that Husserl's 1911 lecture on

"Phenomenology as Rigorous Science" had on Heidegger's early thought. Most

significantly, its strong repudiation of Dilthey's supposed historicism. On the other hand,

Heidegger's own understanding of phenomenology radically differs from Husserl's. This

is in large part the result of Natorp's critique of Husserl and the influence of both Dilthey

and Baden Neo-Kantianism on Heidegger's early thought. By the early 1920's Heidegger

has recognized the serious limitations of attempting to resolve the crisis in philosophy

"scientifically." Although, many aspects of his earlier attempts to resolve the crises

remain fundamental to his later thought. What he does not relinquish is the task of

articulating a hermeneutic phenomenology, which, as the name suggests, primordially

unifies historical consciousness and scientific philosophy. Before we look at Heidegger's

1919 lectures we need to investigate what he takes to be the fundamental directions of

scientific philosophy and worldview philosophy.

In his lectures of 1919, Heidegger follows Husserl in his attempt to discover a

primordial science [Urwissenschaften]. In 1919, Heidegger is focused on Rickert and

Windelband's attempt to ground a critical, scientific "worldview philosophy." In

opposition to historicist interpretations of worldview, this requires bringing worldview

philosophy in line with transcendental philosophy. Heidegger says,

Worldview is not actually identical with the task of

scientific philosophy. As the science of value, the task of scientific
philosophy is the system of values, and worldview stands right at the limit
of philosophy...worldview [is] the limit of scientific philosophy, or

scientific philosophy, i.e., the critical science of value, as the necessary
foundation of a critical scientific worldview.239

The connection between philosophy and worldview is not idle speculation either as, "the

history of philosophy shows that, however diverse its forms may be, philosophy always

has a connection with the question of worldview."240 The issue is how the two are

connected. Heidegger starts with the two traditional stances towards this connection, the first case worldview is defined as the immanent task of

philosophy, that is, philosophy as in the final analysis identical with the
teaching of a worldview; in the other case worldview is the limit of
philosophy. Philosophy as critical science is not identical with the
teaching of a worldview.241

We have just looked at the stance of worldview as the limit of philosophy, i.e., the

creation of a critical, scientific worldview. This stance is held by those who see

philosophy as a preeminently theoretical enterprise, namely, Rickert, Windelband,

Natorp, and Husserl. With regard to Rickert and Windelband, this is obvious from what

has been said in Chapter one. For Natorp and Husserl it is a bit more complicated.

Because they adhere to value philosophy, Rickert and Windelband maintain that,

"philosophy remains within the realm of consciousness, to whose three basic kinds of

activity - thinking, willing and feeling - there correspond the logical, ethical and aesthetic

values..."242 However, Natorp and Husserl also see philosophy as the production of a

critical, scientific worldview, even though their respective philosophies would not be

Ibid., pp. 8 - 9.
Ibid., pg. 9.
Ibid., pg. 9.
Ibid., pg. 8.

characterized as value philosophy, insofar as neither of them believe values are ultimate

in philosophy. As proof of this, one needs only to bring to mind Husserl's critique of the

normative approach to logic in the prolegomena to his Logical Investigations and

Natorp's insistence upon the primacy of the nomological. Nevertheless, both Husserl and

Natorp see their philosophies as providing the universal foundation for any comportment

whatsoever, whether it be logical, ethical or aesthetical. Dilthey is the more interesting

case when it comes to the question of the scientific nature of worldview. In his

descriptive psychology he tends to argue that worldviews are merely expressions of

underlying psychological nexus, which in turn is the subject matter of the science of

psychology. Thus, the science of psychology will eventually provide us with a critical,

scientific worldview. On the other hand, in his more mature thinking, e.g., The Essence

of Philosophy, we saw that he thinks that any attempt to provide a unified categorization

of worldview - "metaphysics" - is ultimately doomed to fail, insofar as it invariably

emphasizes one aspect of worldview - either truth, will, or feeling - to the exclusion of

the others. This represents the other stance toward worldview philosophy, namely,

worldview as the immanent task of philosophy: "Philosophy and worldview mean

essentially the same thing, but worldview brings the nature and task of philosophy more

clearly to expression. Worldview as the task of philosophy: therefore a historical

consideration of the manner in which philosophy performs this task."243 This represents

the stance towards the methodology of philosophy that relies on "historical


Ibid., pg. 7.

The question is whether a critical, scientific worldview is the final product and

realization of philosophy or whether philosophy and worldview mean the same thing, but

worldview expresses the task of philosophy better, i.e., worldviews are the historical

manifestation of the task of philosophy. Heidegger ultimately goes beyond this

dichotomy, but this dichotomy is fundamental in coming to grips with Heidegger's own

view of philosophy. Furthermore, the question of the connection between philosophy and

worldview is not just limited to Heidegger's very early thinking. As late as the summer

of 1927, Heidegger still sees his own thinking as ultimately coming to grips with this

connection.244 His understanding of this connection is fundamental to his own

hermeneutic phenomenology.

To elucidate the connection we need to look at Heidegger's understanding of the

goal of primordial science, precisely because scientific philosophy and worldview

philosophy self-consciously see themselves as primordial science. What is a primordial

science? Heidegger characterizes it this way,

In whatever way one initially takes the concept [of primordial science], it
means something ultimate or, better, original, primordial, not in a temporal
sense but substantively [sachlich], first in relation to primary grounding
and constitution: principium. In comparison with primordial science,
every particular scientific discipline is not principium but principatum, the
derivative and not the originary, the sprung-from [Ent-sprungene] and not
the primal spring [Ur-sprung], the origin.245

To understand what Heidegger means it must be kept in mind that his view of

primordiality is influenced by Aristotle's notion of arche. Arche means both a primary or

Cf. the introduction to his The Basic Problems of Phenomenology.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 20.

basic premise, a "first principle," and an originative source. For example, in the

Posterior Analytics, Aristotle says,

... If, therefore, it is the only other kind of true thinking except scientific
knowing, intuition will be the originative source [arche] of scientific
knowledge. And the originative source of science grasps the original basic
premises [the arche], while science as a whole is similarly related as
originative source to the whole body of fact [pragma].246

Primordial science is the originative source, i.e., the principle, of all further principles.

Because of this, it is the source from which all the other special sciences arise

[entspringen]. It is, to use Husserl's phrase, "the principle of all principles." However, in

the early twentieth century, there were two distinct and competing versions of the

principle of all principles, namely, Husserl's and that of value philosophy. We saw in

chapter two that Husserl grounds the principle of all principles according to the dictates

of theoretical reason and, therefore, in objectivity. Value philosophy, on the other hand,

argues that the principle of all principles should be grounded in practical reason,

The doctrine of the primacy of practical reason, the founding of theoretical

scientific thought in practical belief and will to truth, became the
fundamental philosophical conviction of the philosophy of value and
conditioned its whole development into a more scientifically exact

Because of this, Heidegger believes that Fichte's philosophy was the most influential in

the formulation of the philosophy of value.

The need to discover a legitimating, primordial source of thought is what leads to

the search for a primordial science. In chapter one, we saw Heidegger's criticism of value

Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, 100b 11 – 17.
Martin Heidegger, "Phenomenology and Transcendental Philosophy of Value," translated by Ted
Sadler in Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy.

philosophy's attempt to be primordial science. The serious contenders in Heidegger's

mind are phenomenology (though keeping in mind Natorp's critique) and Dilthey's

worldview philosophy. Heidegger believes that what really is at issue is not whether to

choose one or the other version but that an understanding of primordial science requires

taking into account what each of these two very disparate traditions have to say about it.

For if philosophy truly aspires to be primordial science it must be the source of both

science and historical consciousness. Heidegger believes that the "basic concepts" of

each (world, life, intentionality, and intuition) need to be reappropriated through a new

and radical understanding of each. One basic concept which is even more primordial

than those just mentioned and which is fundamental to each tradition, but which is never

thoroughly examined just on its own and in a radical way, is lived-experience. Both

Husserl and Dilthey were in fact oriented in this direction; Husserl in his understanding

of intentionality as "living-towards" something and Dilthey in his notion of worldview as

the penultimate expression of the meaning of lived-experience. And, though Husserl and

Dilthey were central in moving this problematic forward, Heidegger realized early on that

neither of these thinkers adequately grasped the nature of life and lived-experience,

especially with respect to these as the primordial source of both intentionality and world.

They did not understand how intentionality and world emerge in and from life.

If philosophy is to be primordial, it must be an ultimate, unifying origin. In this

way, philosophy will not only be able to alleviate its own crisis, but also the crisis within

the special sciences, especially the deep division between the Geisteswissenschaften and

the Naturwissenschaften. Importantly, according to Heidegger this crisis is not merely an

"epistemological crisis" or, more precisely, is not an exercise in critical theory of

knowledge, i.e., "how subjective conditions of thought can have objective validity."248

This question has dominated the discussion but it is not a primordial question as it

presupposes the sense and meaning of subjectivity and objectivity. And though modern

philosophy grappled with the nature of objectivity, it almost invariably took subjectivity

for granted while simultaneously making it absolutely foundational. Natorp's great

contribution to the debate was turning this on its head. He made subjectivity

questionable by grounding the theory of knowledge in objectivity per se. Natorp's

influence upon Heidegger is evident in Heidegger's criticism of both Husserl and Kant,

namely, that they never raised the question of the being of subjectivity.249

An analysis of Heidegger's understanding of the guiding thesis of phenomenology

will help elucidate Heidegger's own thinking. In Heidegger's view Husserl moved the

problematic of scientific philosophy forward by noticing the importance of intuition as

the legitimizing source of all thought and by distinguishing in the Logical Investigations

between two forms of intuition - sensible and categorical - as dual sources of legitimation

with very different characters. Empirical or sensible intuition, as in Kant, is the source of

the objects of thought, while categorical intuition is the source of the unity of thought

insofar as it provides an unmediated sense for the eidos and logical connectives of

thought. Husserl broke down the last vestiges of the empiricist tradition that identified

intuition and sensibility and which still held sway over Kant. In the course of the

development of his thought, Husserl was able to articulate more generally the

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pg. 124, A89, B122.
For Heidegger's critique of Husserl in this regard see History of the Concept of Time, §11-13 and,
with respect to Kant, Being and Time, ¶ 6.

foundational role of intuition in phenomenology. In his principle of all principles Husserl

proposes a methodology for primordial scientific philosophy. Husserl believes that

phenomenology is able to offer the originative source (arche) of all the principles of the

special sciences. Every originary presentive intuition is a legitimatizing source of


However, Husserl argues that originary presentive intuitions are not to be had in

the natural attitude. Rather, it is to be found in the residue of the phenomenological

reduction, i.e., pure subjectivity or pure lived-experience ("the stream of mental

processes"). Transcendent objects are never originarily given "in person.” Pure

subjectivity is the subject matter (Sache) of phenomenology. Pure subjectivity and all its

intentional structures are immanent. Husserl argues that pure subjectivity is the "primal

region" and is "absolute being." This primal region is intuitively and originarily given

“in person” through immanent reflection. Through the eidetic reduction of pure

subjectivity the eidetic structures of pure lived-experience are intuited by way of essential

intuition (Wesenanschauung). This supplies the unity of all thought, i.e., objectivity per

se. In this way, Husserl believes he has found the universal, legitimizing source of all

thought within the phenomenological explication of pure subjectivity.

However, "no reduction can do anything" to the pure Ego or its lived-

experiences.250 Why this is so explains what Husserl means when he claims that pure

subjectivity is absolute being and also makes crystal clear his essentially theoretical and

epistemological approach to all philosophical problems. In reflection upon my pure Ego

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 191.

I seize upon the absoluteness of my lived-experiences. They are “absolute” in the sense

that “it is countersense” that they not exist,

If reflective seizing-upon is directed to a mental process of mine, I have

seized upon something absolute itself, the factual being [Dasein] of which
is essentially incapable of being would be a countersense to
believe it possible that a mental process given in that manner does not in
truth soon as I look at the flowing life in its actual present and,
while doing so, apprehend myself as the pure subject of this life [the pure
Ego], I say unqualifiedly and necessarily that I am, this life is, I am living:

This is only true of reflective intuition, namely, “a perception of something immanent

[etwas wie immanente Wahrnehmung]”252. This immanent perception of the stream of

lived-experiences is the only originary intuition. Therefore, immanent perception

(reflection) is the originary source required by phenomenology. What is peculiar to

immanent perception is that what it provides is “the necessity of a fact [Faktums],”

...[the necessary existence of lived-experiences] does not imply that the

necessity of the being of this or that present mental process [des jeweiligen
aktuellen Erlebnisses] is a pure essential necessity, that is: a pure eidetic
particularity subsumed under an eidetic law; it is the necessity of a fact
[Faktums], and is called so because an eidetic law [the law of immanence,
i.e., that everything immanently perceived is absolute] is involved in the
fact and indeed, in this case, involved in the existence [Dasein] of the fact
as fact.253

It is important to take note that Husserl is distinguishing two types of facts. The “facts”

(Tatsache) of the "sciences of matters of fact" (Tatsachenwissenschaften) are

"contingent" facts, which means for Husserl that these may be overturned by further

Ibid., pg. 100.
Ibid., pg. 101.
Ibid., pg. 103.

experience. A "necessary fact" (Faktum) of reflection is unimpeachable because it cannot

be negated by further experience. The idea here is that since a Faktum is a moment of the

stream of lived-experience itself, what possible further experience could bring it into

question? Such a necessary fact could certainly be subsumed under different unities, but

this would never negate the fact itself. What is more important, is that Husserl’s analysis

of the absoluteness of lived-experience makes essential reference to temporality. The

absoluteness of any given lived-experience is grounded in the fact that it has occurred

and that no future experience could negate it.

What unifies the stream of lived-experiences? The pure Ego which is in every

case mine. It unifies and individualizes lived-experiences as mine. Furthermore, the pure

Ego is that by which acts are lived. However, the "living I" transcends

phenomenological analysis. 254 It cannot be intuited. I cannot intuit the pure ego,

because it cannot be objectified and has no essence components. Husserl says the pure

ego is "a transcendency of a peculiar kind - one which is not constituted - a

transcendency within immanency."255 At the limit of phenomenological reflection,

Husserl is forced to turn back to the concrete and the particular, i.e., to the pure Ego

which in each case makes pure subjectivity mine. At the limit of phenomenology lies the

"life" of the pure Ego. The pure Ego lives by "livingly being busied with," "livingly

directed toward," "livingly suffering from," etc. Therefore, intuition is not the only or

primary source, the source of intuition itself is life and the lived world.

Ibid., pg. 191.
Ibid., pg. 133.

The real thrust of Heidegger's criticism of Husserl is that because intuition is

always intuition of an object (which Husserl uncritically appropriates from Kant),

reflective intuition of the stream of lived-experience necessarily precludes any grasp of

life itself or the lived world, the originary sources of the stream of lived-experience itself.

Natorp believed that an objective reconstruction of this substratum (as an infinite task)

can asymptotically approach this "pure subjectivity," but as Heidegger notes this

reconstruction is still objectifying so how can it reconstruct the very source of


As we saw in the last chapter, Dilthey believes he and Husserl are in complete

agreement. One can understand why Dilthey would sympathize with Husserl's work. For

Dilthey's own notion of Weltanschauung is also an attempt to break free of Kant's

identification of intuition and sensibility and to find a different, more inclusive, and more

extensive legitimizing source of thought. The question is how is a “world” intuited?

However, before entering upon this question, another question must be answered,

namely, what is a “world”? This brings into focus the question of meaning (Bedeutung)

and expression (Ausdruck). One of Husserl’s profound insights in investigation six of the

Logical Investigations is that meaning fulfillment (intuition/evidence) is eidetically

correlated with meaning intention. It is this insight that requires Husserl to extend the

notion of intuition beyond mere sensuous intuition. The meaning intention of “snow”

and “white” in the judgment “snow is white” is capable of being evidentially fulfilled in

sensuous intuition, but what about “is.” “Is” is meaningful and therefore it too has a

meaning-intention. However, this meaning-intention is incapable of being fulfilled in

sensuous intuition. Husserl realizes that this meaning-intention can only be fulfilled by

means of another form of intuition. The only other alternative, Husserl believes, is that it

is merely the result of the activity of the subject and therefore has no "absolute" validity,

that is, it is there by the mere caprice of subjectivity. The “is” of "snow is white" is

simply the subject contingently connecting “snow” and “white.” In the Logical

Investigations, categorical intuition provides the intuitive fulfillment of the meaning-

intention of "is." The form of Husserl’s argument purportedly demonstrating that there is

categorical intuition presupposes that meaning-intention guides intuition. That is, it is

because there is something meaningful that cannot be fulfilled in sensuous intuition that

we need to posit categorical intuition. This signifies that it is meaning that determines

and characterizes the intuition that is capable of fulfilling it. Meaning determines the

how and the what of intuition. It is meaning that determines the source and legitimacy of

thought. Intuition simply “fills in” meaning.

This raises a second serious lacuna in Husserl's thought. Namely, how are

meanings [Bedeutungs] themselves given? This is a crucial question because Husserl's

very understanding of truth is at stake. In a way, Husserl himself provides the argument

that there can be no meaningless intuition. Intuition must always be guided by a

meaning-intention as intuition is always correlated with the meaning-intention it is

capable of fulfilling. If it is not guided by a meaning-intention then intuition is, so to

speak, "blind." Put another way, consciousness must be guided by a meaning-intention in

order to "look" for the correct form of intuition that would provide the appropriate

fulfillment. Is this not the explanation of the failure of psychologism? The source of this

failure is not primarily a lack of intuition, but a misunderstanding of the meanings

involved in thought.

Husserl never quite develops a position as to the original source of meaning.

Dilthey, however, has much to say about the relation between, on the one hand, meaning

and expression, and on the other, life and lived-experience. Most importantly, he

presents an account of our access to lived-experience that is quite different from Husserl's

and is, as we shall see, influential on Heidegger's own early thinking. In notes from 1907

and 1908 for a proposed large work on Poetics entitled, "Fragments for a Poetics," 256

Dilthey explains in summary form many of the themes that had already dominated much

of his earlier thought. Here he argues that life, not lived-experience, is absolute. Lived-

experiences are particular unities in life. We have these lived-experiences immediately,

unlike objectivities or the processes posited by natural science. Lived-experience is not

mediately given but is, rather, immediately possessed. This is accomplished through

"reflexive awareness" [Innewerden]. Though the translation "reflexive awareness"

certainly captures a sense of being aware or cognizant of something, we should not lose

sight of the essential aspect of becoming also inherent to Innewerden. Innewerden means

for Dilthey a self-becoming through which something is "there-for-me" [für-mich-da],

A lived-experience is a distinctive and characteristic mode in which reality

is there-for-me [Realität für-mich-da ist]. A lived-experience does not
confront me as something perceived or represented; it is not given to me,
but the reality of lived-experience is there-for-me because I have reflexive
awareness of it, because I posses it immediately as belonging to me in
some sense. Only in thought does it become objective.257

Wilhelm Dilthey, "Fragments for a Poetics," translated by Rudolf A. Makkreel in Wilhelm Dilthey,
Poetry and Experience, edited by Rudolf A. Makkreel and Frithjof Rodi (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1985).
Ibid., pg. 223.

For Dilthey, and unlike Husserl, lived-experience is not something that I reflect

[Reflexion] upon and which is given to me through an immanent perception that

guarantees its absolute being. I posses a lived-experience. Even Husserl has some sense

of this but reverses the order, i.e., there is first a "perceptual seizing upon, taking hold of"

[wahrnehmende Erfassen, Ergreifen] which is then "according to an eidetic necessity"

transformed into a "having in one's grip" [im Griff haben].258 There is an underlying

sense here of possessing something, but it is not immediate, rather the "having in one's

grip" is mediated through a "perceptual seizing upon, or taking hold of." Having in one's

grip is the result of the pure Ego spontaneously adverting is "ray" of attention through a

lived-experience. What one can have in one’s grip has already been given and structured

by an act of consciousness. The pure Ego can, by means of reflection, make a lived-

experience (and mediately it's object) mine, but only insofar as it is given to me as mine

in reflection, i.e., insofar as I am given the lived-experience as eidetically related to my

pure Ego. But the living pure Ego is never really part of my lived-experience as such.

To the extent that it can be, it is so only in retention, i.e., in having just reflected upon,

wherein it is no longer the living pure Ego but merely one of its comportments. This is

why the pure Ego is utterly mysterious to Husserl. As living towards something it is

never capable of being grasped in its living, i.e., in what Husserl calls its ”living now."

Dilthey overcomes this problem because lived-experience is already a unified "structural

nexus" in life. No transcendent or transcendental pure Ego is required to unify lived-

experience, because lived-experience is no longer conceived objectively, i.e., it is no

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 291.

longer a collection of individual objectivities in need of unification from outside – lived-

experience just is a unified nexus. That is, Dilthey does not believe that lived-experience

is grasped by objectifying reflection, which would “till the stream of experience” in the

way that Natorp criticizes Husserl of doing. In addition, particular lived-experiences are

not individuated by their object but by being related to such a structural nexus, a

particular ordering of life: "Everything that I experience [Erlebte] or could experience

[Erlebbare] constitutes <a nexus or system>. Life is a process which is connected into a

whole through a structural system which begins and ends in time."259

Dilthey's example of the grief suffered as a result of the death of a loved one

illuminates this,

The expression "lived-experience" designates a part of this course of life.

As such it is a reality that manifests itself immediately, that we are
reflexively aware of in its entirety, that is not given and not thought. The
death of a loved one involves a special structural relation to grief. This
structural relation of grief to a perception or a representation, referring to
an object about which I feel grief, is a lived-experience...This lived-
experience is delimited from other lived-experiences by the fact that as a
structural nexus of grief, of perceiving or representing what the grief is
about, and of an object to which the perception refers, it constitutes a
separable immanent teleological whole.260

Lived-experience is a structural relation between a way in which something can be there-

for-me and an object. This as a whole is a "structural nexus." That is, the lived-

experience of grieving for a dead loved one is a structural nexus that is determined by

grief and whose object is what is grieved about. Grieving is a mode of life and grief is

always one's own. The object of grief is only in relation to the immanent teleological

Dilthey, "Fragments for a Poetics," pg. 223.
Ibid., pg. 224.

whole of grief. More generally, an object is only in relation to an immanent teleological

whole that forms a structural nexus. The object of grief is “real,” but grief is always

one’s own, i.e., one grieves. This is what Dilthey means when he says that lived-

experiences are immediately possessed. This is to be contrasted with Husserl's

understanding of lived-experience in which an object is perceived and then in reflection

the pure Ego perceives the object as perceived as one's own or mine. More concretely,

Husserl would argue that I grieve over the death of a loved one and that this becomes

mine when I reflect and see that the grief over the death of a loved one is mine. That it is

mine is mediately given to me through reflection. Dilthey reserves the term Erfahrung

for the “objective” moment of life, i.e., life insofar as it is directed toward an “external”

object. Erlebnis is the structural nexus of an immanent teleological whole that is a unity

of life itself. Finally, it is understanding (verstehen) that grasps these immanent

teleological wholes, since understanding, as opposed to explanation, is the mode of

thought that grasps the interrelation of the parts of an already present unified whole as

was discussed in the last chapter.

Dilthey also argues that "the concept of the present does not ascribe any

dimensions" to lived-experiences. A lived-experience always includes a structural nexus

that transcends the present and includes the past and future. For example, the grief of the

death of a loved one is a structural whole that unifies a whole series of experiences most

of which are not "present,"

...lived-experience designates a part of the course of life in its total reality

- a concrete part which from a teleological point of view possesses a unity
in itself. Because the concept of the present does not ascribe any
dimensions to it, the concrete consciousness of the present must include
the past and the future. Therefore lived-experience is not merely

something present, but already contains past and future within its
consciousness of the present.261

What, then, distinguishes the present from the past and future for Dilthey? Dilthey

argues that the present is what is “filled” with reality [Realität],

It is the nature of the present to be filled or ful-filled [Erfüllen] with reality

... This being ful-filled with reality is what remains constant in the
advance of time, whereas the content [Inhalt] of lived-experience is
subject to change. This advancing process of being ful-filled with reality
can be a living experience in contrast to a representation of a past or future
lived-experience. Thus we say that we always live in the present.262

What Dilthey means by this is that reality is a continuity that in itself contains no

determinations, no distinctions. A perhaps more simplistic way to put the point is that

reality is "pure filler." Reality per se is never directly experienced. Rather, reality is only

the ful-filling of an experience. As pure filler reality must be correlated with what is

filled. What is filled is some lived-experience. This is only "experienced" as a moment

of a lived-experience. This is why Dilthey can say, "[A] structural nexus appears in me

as a reality, and everything that it contains of reality is lived-experience."263

Furthermore, Dilthey, unlike Husserl and Natorp, articulates a notion of reality

that is not grounded in objectivity, but rather in life and lived-experience itself.

According to Dilthey, reality is not the importation of the fullness of an objectivity into

lived-experience (a la Husserl), but is rather the fullness of lived-experience itself. That

is, reality is not the fulfillment of the death of a loved one (an objective state of affairs),

Ibid., pg. 225.
Ibid., pg. 225.
Ibid., pg. 224.

but rather reality is the fulfillment of the grieving over the death of a loved one (a lived-

experience). Dilthey says, "everything that is there for us as the fulfilling of time and

thus as the fullness of life is such only in this present."264 The index for the present is not

a "present object" but the ful-filling of lived-experience. Every lived-experience,

however, has its own appropriate present depending on the type of lived-experience it is.

The present of grieving over a loved one may be "measured" in days, weeks, months or

even years. For instance, the present could be the intense grief I feel over my loved one's

passing. The immediate past of this lived-experience is the shock I felt a day ago in

finding out about their passing. This is how this lived-experience of grief is ful-filled

with reality. This is quite different than the present of the lived-experience of watching

the clock during an excruciatingly boring lecture in which the ful-filling of reality is each

tick of the second hand. Lived-experiences are intertwined within one another as well.

This brings forth quite clearly the way in which the present is essentially tied to lived-

experience. For example, as I grieve I can be at work on some menial tasks. As my

lived-experience changes from grief to the menial task and back again the present

changes with it from the days of grieving to the hours I am spending on this menial task,

etc. Reality ful-fills this present relative to the lived-experience being ful-filled. Thus,

Dilthey can say with Augustine that, “Therefore, I see that time is a kind of distention.”265

The present [Gegenwart], however, must be distinguished from presence

[Präsenz] in Dilthey's thought. Whereas the present, as we have seen, is the filling up of

Ibid., pg. 225.
Augustine, The Confessions, translated by John K. Ryan (New York: Doubleday, 1960), book 10,
chapter 23.

a lived-experience by reality, presence is a relation among lived-experiences themselves.

Presence is the “force” that past lived-experiences can have on a present lived-

experience. Presence, therefore, should not be confused with the present. Presence is

essentially a hermeneutic notion, i.e., how the past becomes incorporated with the

present, the structural nexus of this temporal course, that which, although past,
endures as a force in the present receives a peculiar character as
presence....This word “presence” indicates that when a component of the
structural nexus of lived-experience recedes into the past, but is
experienced as a force reaching into the present, it obtains a peculiar
relation to the present in our lived-experience, namely, that of being drawn
or incorporated into it.266

This adds a new hermeneutic element into the determination of lived-experiences.

Dilthey finalizes the determination of lived-experiences by adding,

Lived-experience is determined by presence and by qualitatively

determinate reality. The qualitative aspect of lived-experience is
something totally different from that of a natural object. In the latter the
quality is apprehended in relation to that whose quality it is. In lived-
experience there is only this qualitatively determinate reality and nothing
exists for us behind it.267

This qualitatively determinate reality, namely the filling up of lived-experience with

reality according to its structural nexus, is the present. Presence is the incorporation of

past lived-experiences into this present lived-experience. Dilthey explains this idea by

mentioning how going to a museum in Munich and looking at Dürer’s painting of The

Four Apostles becomes a lived-experience. He says, “I cannot claim, however, that this

whole lived-experience lies in the picture or even in that which I focus on as meaningful.

Dilthey, “Fragments for a Poetics,” pg. 226.
Ibid., pg. 226.

Rather it includes its context, or milieu, etc., in short, the whole reality that constitutes the

lived-experience. What I focus on in the apperception of lived-experience is a partial

selection; it may already be an interpretation.”268 Furthermore, when I leave the painting

and come back again, this too becomes part of the same, rich lived-experience. Lived-

experiences, Dilthey says, “are related to each other like motifs in the andante of a

symphony: they are unfolded [entwickelt] (explication) and what has been unfolded is

then recapitulated or taken together (implication)...However far apart the individual

experiences of visiting the museum may be, something is explicated in them, and finally

we obtain the total fullness of the last lived-experience in which an implication or

recapitulation is realized – a complete lived-experience is constituted.”269

This represents for Dilthey the hermeneutical movement of life, the ever

unfolding and recapitulation of lived-experiences into a whole, rich lived-experience.

The entire lived-experience is itself made of parts that are themselves lived-experiences.

The entire lived-experience is unfolded in the unfolding of its parts such that each part is

“recapitulated or taken together” in relation to the whole as having a presence in the

whole. What is peculiar about Dilthey's characterization of lived-experience is that there

is no particular role for the future to play. We have just seen that he says that lived-

experience is "determined by presence and qualitatively determined reality." What is the

role of the future in lived-experience? Does it play any significant role at all? The lack

of such a role for futurity will be a major component of Heidegger's criticism of Dilthey's

Ibid., pg. 226 – 7.

understanding of life and lived-experience, namely, that Dilthey edges perilously close to

a historicist account of the nature of life and lived-experience by conceiving it primarily

(if not exclusively) with respect to the past and present (i.e., presence) and disregarding

life's futurity and, therefore, its essential possibilities.

Dilthey goes on to argue that the unities of lived-experience that we have

mentioned are the meaning [Bedeutung] of lived-experiences. That is, a structural nexus

is a meaning. Since all lived-experiences are particular unities in life, Dilthey says that

meaning is a category of life. All things are meaningful only insofar as they are related to

one or another structural nexus of life. Dilthey says, “the meaning of life is the unity of

the totality of the parts and the value of the individual parts. This unity lies in the nature

of life. Thus meaning is a category obtained from life itself.”270

What of the hallmark of Dilthey's philosophy, i.e., worldview? Worldviews, as

we have seen, are complete, unified expressions of life. This is connected to lived-

experience insofar as expressions are public manifestations of lived-experience. Dilthey

argues that, "we naturally gather lived-experiences that have been fixed by their

expressions into a system, which is then completed as a memory system, as conduct of

life and totality of life. Illusion and its dissolution, passage from passion to reason, etc.:

this kind of completing process takes place in poetry, in conversations about our

experience of life, in a philosophy of life."271 The completion of the expressions of lived-

experience lies in a system, i.e., a worldview. In a way lived-experience does this itself,

Ibid., pg. 230.
Ibid., pg. 228.

Lived-experience generates its own expressions. The latter are found in
literature, etc. These relations always contain a relation of subject and
object. In language, this relation manifests itself as an intuition or concept
(judgment) of objects, a feeling about, an intention to, etc. In each of
these expressions there is a relation which exists between a state of a
subject and an object. This in turn makes possible the objectification
process, which then gives us objects designated by a positive value, a
positive judgment, or a direction of will...whereas a fixed delimitation was
not possible for lived-experiences, this can be found for expressions and

In 1923, when Heidegger is characterizing historical consciousness it is clear that he has

Dilthey in mind. Heidegger describes the subject matter of historical consciousness in

the following way. “As what is now past Dasein being grasped in advance in these

disciplines?...they are being encountered as “expression,” as objectifications of the

subjective, of the life of a culture (the soul of a culture) which presses forth into form in

these objectifications.”273

We are now in a position to see the philosophical significance of Heidegger’s

1919 lecture. Specifically we are in a good position to understand the way in which

Heidegger will approach the lived-experience of intentionality and the environing world

(Umwelt). The last chapter ended on these two aspects of the problem of metaphysics

that arose in the correspondence between Husserl and Dilthey. Intentionality and the

environing world are the fundamental lived-experiences by means of which Heidegger

understands primordial science in his 1919 lecture, “The Idea of Philosophy.” This

lecture is important because the issues raised in it remain throughout Heidegger's

Ibid., pg. 229.
Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, pg. 29.

philosophizing up to (and beyond) Being and Time and will give us a better

understanding of what he means by hermeneutic phenomenology.

Heidegger argues that although Husserl deepened Brentano's analysis of

intentionality he still views it entirely from within a theoretical framework. As we saw

last chapter, Husserl’s notion of intentionality bridges the gap between consciousness and

its object and is to be taken as a phenomenological unity of the noetic and noematic

moments of each. The whole analysis though is geared towards the givenness of an

object to a subject and so finds itself squarely within a theoretical, and more specifically,

epistemological framework. Because of this Heidegger argues it is no longer a living-

through but is merely a "looking at." In considering the lived-experience of the question

"is there something?" [es gibt etwas?] Heidegger wishes to recapture what intentionality

primordially is and its relation to life and the environing world. In addition, this question,

as we shall see, is the precursor to the Seinfrage, the question of Being.

Heidegger begins by disabusing the question of its theoretical interpretations.

Heidegger attacks the theoretical analysis of the question with respect to both the noetic

and noematic side of this interpretation. With respect to the noetic side, Heidegger

demonstrates, first and foremost, that an Ego (Ich) is not directly given in the lived-

experience of the question. With respect to the noematic side, Heidegger shows, that

what is questioned, namely, something in general, is not an object. Thus, we should not

follow Husserl in believing that all lived-experience is directed towards an object. In

addition, he will argue that no individual psychic nexus a-la Dilthey is given in this

fundamental lived-experience.

In good phenomenological fashion he cautions that we must stay close to the

simple meaning of the experience without importing interpretations or theories into the

lived-experience which are not explicitly "given" in the question. Moreover, Heidegger

says, "This question was deliberately chosen in order to minimize pre-judgments."274 In

this way he wants to avoid any rash objectification of the experience and wants to

understand the experience just as it is lived. Immediately one can see that Heidegger

removes the experience from an exclusively epistemological context. That is, for Natorp

and Husserl the "something" could only be understood from the perspective of the

something of knowledge, namely, an object. Here we are only considering whether there

is something not whether something is known. Consequently, a knowing subject need not

be posited along with the lived-experience of the question. Heidegger writes,

We wish to respond to the simple sense of the question, to understand

what it implies. It is a matter of hearing [herauszuhören] out the motives
from which it lives. The question is lived, is experienced [Die Frage ist
erlebt]. I experience [Ich erlebte]. I experience something vitally [Ich
erlebe etwas]. When we simply give ourselves over to this experience, we
know nothing of a process passing before us [Vor-gang], or of an
occurrence. Neither anything physical nor anything psychic is given. But
one could immediately object: the experience is a process in me, in my
soul, therefore obviously something psychic. Let us look at it carefully.
This objection is not to the point, because it already reifies the experience
rather than taking it as such, as it gives itself.275

Thus, Heidegger cautions against importing any objectification into the lived-experience

of the question. That is, nothing should be inferred with regard to what is thought to be

necessary for the question, e.g., the psyche that questions, etc. This is only a

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 54.
Ibid., pg. 55.

presupposition of the objectivizing, theoretical attitude. As far as the question is

concerned these are mere hypotheses.

The question is lived-through and if we are to understand the sense of the question

as it is in itself "it is a matter of hearing out the motives from which it lives." Though

Heidegger does not dwell on it, this is crucially important. He goes on to say,

No misunderstanding must creep into the word 'motive'. To hear out

motives does not mean to search out causes of emergence or reifying
conditions [Be-dingungen], it does not mean to search out things which
explain [erklären] the experience in a thingly way and within a thingly
context. We must understand [verstehen] the pure motives of the sense of
the pure experience.276

There is more going on here than simply Heidegger's attempt to fend off an objectified

interpretation of lived-experience. It indicates Heidegger's rejection of Husserl's

understanding of motivation. If one "hears out" motives in this case, then these motives

are certainly not grasped through reflection. Moreover, in this case the motives are not to

be "seen" even in the broadest sense. Most importantly, the motives are to be heard and,

therefore, before being heard, must be expressed. The "pure motives" are inherent to the

meaningful expression of the question that goes along with the lived-experience of the

question. That is, the motive is not to be explained by means of its constitution within

pure subjectivity through reflection, i.e., by searching out the imminent "cause" of the

emergence of the question. This approach inevitably leads to the objectification (in a

"thingly way") of the motive and thus the meaning of the lived-experience of the

question. One must look to the unified nexus that that is expressed in the lived-

experience of the question, i.e., the "anything whatsoever," rather than constituting the

Ibid.,, pg. 55.

meaning of the "anything whatsoever" by means of reflection on past lived-experience.

This is why we must understand [verstehen] the motives and cannot explain [erklären]

them in a "thingly way" as Husserl does.277

In addition, the question cannot be motivated from the "noematic" side of lived-

experience since what is interrogated, namely, the "anything whatsoever" [etwas

überhaupt], transcends any horizon of motivated possibilities. The "anything

whatsoever" that is questioned cannot be given in experience or even in possible

experience. As Husserl himself argues, "It is inherent in the essence that anything

whatever which exists in reality [was auch immer realiter ist] but is not yet actually

experienced can become given and that this means that the thing in question belongs to

the undetermined but determinable horizon of my experiential actuality at the particular

time."278 That the "anything whatsoever" cannot be given in this way seems clear

because the "undetermined but determinable horizon" of actual and possible experience

places eidetic limits on what can be experienced in this way and is, to this extent, always

more determinate than "anything whatsoever." In other words, in its very sense the

"anything whatsoever" transcends actual and possible experience. No experienced or

experienceable thing is questioned, “It is asked whether there is something. It is not

asked whether there are tables or chairs, houses or trees, sonatas by Mozart or religious

powers, but whether there is anything whatsoever.”279

Cf., Husserl, Ideas, §47.
Husserl, Ideas, pg. 107.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 57.

Of course perhaps Husserl could counter that this still leaves open the possibility

that the "anything whatsoever" is given by means of a basic, fundamental essential

intuition. Heidegger considers this possibility, "What does the ‘anything whatsoever’

mean? Something universal, one might say, indeed the most universal of all, applying to

any possible object whatsoever. To say of something that it is something is the minimum

assertion I can make about it."280 Therefore, the sense of "anything whatsoever" is that of

the most general eidetic determination that can be given of an object. This represents the

bare minimum of motivational content that anything whatsoever has and it is the least

determinate of all the “undetermined but determinable” horizons that any object may

motivate. However, Heidegger argues that this interpretation does not capture the sense

of “anything whatsoever.” Heidegger notes that,

...the meaning of something, primitive as it appears to be, shows itself in

accord with its sense as motivator of a whole process of motivations. This
is already suggested by the fact that, in attempting to grasp the meaning of
'something in general', we return to individual objects with particular
concrete content.281

The “anything whatsoever” cannot be motivated in any given object insofar as all by

itself it motivates the totality of motivations for some concrete object. That is, far from

being the most general and least specific motivational content, the meaning of "anything

whatsoever" always points to individual, concrete objects. For example, it motivates the

chair, the table, the sonata by Mozart, etc. The difference between the "something in

Ibid., pg. 57.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 57. Heidegger holds on to this theme in Being
and Time as well. For example, "One may, however, ask what purpose this question is supposed to serve.
Does it simply remain - or is it at all - a mere matter for soaring speculation about the most general of
generalities, or is it rather, of all questions, both the most basic and the most concrete?" (pg. 29).

general" and the most universal eidetic "concept" is that the latter does not properly

motivate any particular object, but only motivates further, more specific, determinations

that would perhaps eventually motivate a particular object. The "something in general"

means directly and immediately any particular object.282

Moreover, any objectivity, no matter what its level of theoretical universality or

particularity, is indicated by "anything whatsoever." The meaning of the latter falls

completely out of the sphere of theoretical objectification,

Does not every theoreticized level of reality, in respect of the particular

items of reality belonging to it, allow for the judgement, 'it is something'?
And does not this ultimate theoretical characterization of the bare
something in general fall out of the order entirely, such that any and every
level can motivate it?283

The "something in general," therefore, transcends all actual and possible experience.

This raises a problem, "In the final analysis it belongs to the meaning of 'something in

general' to relate to something concrete, whereby the meaningful character of this

'relating' still remains problematic."284 This problem lies at the heart of Aristotle's

discussion of being. In the Physics, he asks rhetorically, "For who understands 'being

itself' [auto to on] to be anything but a particular substance [on ti einai]?"285 Aristotle

uses the typical Platonic construction of using auto to name the form of something, in this

We have here already begun to broach the problem of Heidegger's "particularism" which Michael
Friedman brings to the foreground in his book A Parting of the Ways. Cf., Friedman, A Parting of the
Ways, especially chapter 4.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 96.
Ibid., pg. 57.
Aristotle, Physics, translated by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited
by Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 187a 8 – 9.

case the form of being or being-itself. Being-itself is always a particular existing thing,

more literally, "an existing this" [on ti einai]. Heidegger's later notion of the "ontological

distinction" between Being and beings develops this peculiar relation between the

"something in general" and a particular, concrete object. The "something in general"

cannot be captured by or motivated in any concrete thing, as Being cannot be captured by

or motivated in any being. On the other hand, the "something in general" is always

related to some concrete object, just as Being is always the being of a being. The issue

that is raised here in 1919 is the forerunner of the fundamental relation between Being

and beings that dominates Heidegger's concerns in the latter half of the 1920's, but which

is only formulated explicitly in his Basic Problems of Phenomenology. He says,

Being is essentially different from a being, from beings. How is the

distinction between being and beings to be grasped? How can its
possibility be explained? If being is not itself a being, how then does it
nevertheless belong to beings, since, after all, beings and only beings are?
What does it mean to say that being belongs [gehört] to beings?286

Heidegger's response relies on the exchange between Dilthey and Husserl concerning the

"world-riddle." In the last chapter, we saw that Husserl's response to this question was

that the question of being is the question of how objects relate to consciousness, i.e., the

problem of intentionality.

However, Heidegger argues that Husserl's conception of intentionality is not

given in the simple sense of the question "Is there something?" Heidegger considers and

rejects the thesis that in the experience of the question we find an "I comport myself"? In

Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology, pg. 17.

this case, we comport ourselves questioningly towards something. Heidegger argues that

if we stick precisely to what is given in the experience, we do not find even this,

'I comport myself' - is this contained in the sense of the experience? Let
us enact the experience with full vividness and examine its sense. To be
sure, it would be no ill-conceived reification and substantification of the
lived-experience if I said that it contained something like 'I comport
myself'. But what is decisive is that simple inspection [Hinsehen] does not
discover anything like an 'I'. What I see is just that 'it lives' [es lebt],
moreover that it lives towards something, that it is directed towards
something by way of questioning, something that is itself questionable...I
do not find anything like an 'I', but only an 'ex-perience [Er-leben] of
something', a 'living towards something'.287

Heidegger argues that in the simple sense of the question there is no 'I' whatsoever,

whether it be Husserl’s pure Ego or something analogous to Dilthey's non-objectified

psychic nexus. The question radically excludes any of the traditional candidates for the

subject of experience. In an important sense we can see how Heidegger is getting back to

Brentano's original characterization of intentionality as simple directedness towards. The

importance of Brentano's invocation of intentionality, which Husserl obscures, is that

intentionality was the defining character of the psychical as opposed to the physical.

Broadening this thesis, if intentionality defines the subjective (in the broadest sense to

include consciousness, the psychical, etc.) then an account of intentionality cannot

presuppose a particular conception of the subject, because it is what defines subjectivity

itself. Subjectivity is that which is intentional, not the other way round. Therefore, in

this fundamental question we experience "intentionality" in its most primordial form.

However, there are important distinctions still to be made. These distinctions will

shatter the primordiality of the subjective in traditional accounts of intentionality. In the

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pp. 55 – 7.

experience of this fundamental question there is no subject at all. There is a relation to

myself as experiencing the question, but this does not imply that there must be an "I

comport myself," the most general traditional characterization of intentionality. With

respect to this relation between experience and the one who experiences, Heidegger

argues that " has a now, it is there [es ist da] - and is even somehow my experience. I

am there [dabei] with it, I experience it vitally, it belongs to my life..."288 Therefore,

lived-experience does not require that we posit an "I" that experiences, rather lived-

experience bears a relation to oneself, namely, that the experience belongs to my life.

There is much in what Heidegger says that arises again in the Dasein Analytik of Being

and Time, namely that Dasein is not "in" the world, but is being-alongside (sein bei) the


An important aspect of Heidegger's criticism of the interpretation of lived-

experience that imports an "I' into the experience of this fundamental question is his

understanding of what such an interpretation does to the experience itself. In this, the

lived-experience is no longer simply "there," but is already the positing of some object in

relation to a subject. The lived-experience of necessity becomes objectified. Heidegger

says, "I ask: 'Is there something?' The 'is there' [gibt es] is a 'there is' [es geben] for an 'I',

and yet it is not I to and for whom the question relates."289 As such, the theoretical

attitude towards the question prevents any authentic grasp of the sense of the question.

As objectified, the theoretical interpretation of the question presupposes a questioning

Ibid., pg. 58.
Ibid., pg. 58.

subject and a questioned object. In addition, the question presupposes some already

given doxastic attitude towards what is questioned. The question "Is there something?" is

not a question about an indeterminately specified, but pre-given object. On this view, the

question is directed towards a sought-after answer, but in its very specification the answer

is presupposed, i.e., there already is "something," namely, an indeterminately specified,

but pre-given object. According to this interpretation, the question is absolutely

superfluous. However, Heidegger believes this leads one away from the simple meaning

of the question and towards objectivity.290

Following Natorp's analysis of the question, Heidegger argues that what stands in

question is not the something, but rather the "there is" (es gibt),

In this experience something [etwas] is questioned in relation to anything

whatsoever [etwas überhaupt]. The questioning has a definite content:
whether 'there is' a something, that is the question. The 'there is' [es
geben] stands in question, or, more accurately, stands in questioning. It is
not asked whether something moves or rests, whether something
contradicts itself, whether something works, whether something exists,
whether something values, whether something ought to be, but rather
whether there is something.291

This question is in fact the fundamental question of all questions, because every other

question presupposes some determination of the "there is" (es gibt). That is, with respect

to any other question, we have already taken up a "comportment" towards what is

For instance, Heidegger says: "What do 'questioning' and 'questionability' mean?...If I bring this
experience to full givenness in its full sense and meaningful motives, can the essence of 'questionable' and
'questionability' be understood in an appropriate way? It is tempting to interpret the comportment of
questioning in relation to a sought-after answer. Questioning comportment is motivated, one might say, by
a desire to know. It arises from a drive for knowledge which itself originates from θαυµάζειν, astonishment
and wonder. If we were now to follow such interpretations and 'explanations' [Erklärungen], we would
have to turn away from the simple sense of the experience; we would have to abandon the idea of holding
on clearly to just what is given to us." Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pp. 57 – 8.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg 57.

questioned. In other words, of something that "is there" for me, I can ask of it, whether it

moves or rests, etc. What is "in question" or "in questioning" is the potentiality for lived-

experience as such. That is, what is in question is the "is there" that is essential to

Dilthey's analysis of lived-experience as the way in which something is there for me (für-

mich-da ist). Just as any object is motivated by the "something in general" so too any

lived-experience is motivated in the "is there." As with the "something in general," the

"is there" transcends all actual or possible lived-experiences, e.g., something is valued, or

something is grieved over, etc. This is of vital importance because, as Dilthey argues,

lived-experience is that by which something is possessed by oneself. Therefore, the "is

there" is the pure transcendent potentiality for lived-experience as such and,

consequently, for one's possession of lived-experiences.

What the fundamental question "is there something?" indicates is the transcendent

ground or source (arche) of both objectivity and subjectivity. Examining the

counterparts of this source in Husserl and Dilthey will further our analysis. According to

Husserl, the source of transcendent things, though not transcendence per se, is the

surrounding world (Umwelt). He says, "An object existing in itself is never one with

which consciousness or the Ego pertaining to consciousness has nothing to do. The

physical thing is a thing belonging to the surrounding world [Das Ding ist Ding Der

Umwelt]..."292 It is by means of the surrounding world that transcendent objects are "there

for me." However, the surrounding world itself is grounded in the actual immanent

lived-experiences of the pure Ego. Therefore, according to Husserl, the source of the "is

Husserl, Ideas, pg. 106.

there" is immanent subjectivity. Because of this, Husserl argues that transcendence per

se is merely a mode of immanence, i.e., a certain type of immanence. There is no "thing-

in-itself." Put differently, in the natural attitude I actually live "transcendently" but the

source of this is not transcendent at all.

Dilthey's views about the natural attitude are a bit more complicated. Dilthey

correctly sees that lived-experiences must belong to me and that through these lived-

experiences something is there for me. Reflection (Reflexion) will never capture this,

i.e., I cannot merely observe that things belong to me. I must appropriate them into the

structural nexus that is an individual life. Objectivity is derivative of this. Lived-

experiences are unified in life not through objects. Dilthey says, "The meaning

[Bedeutung] of things is already inherent in them. The meaning of relations of life.

Natural attitude."293 There is thus an obvious connection here between Dilthey and

Husserl. In a certain way, both Husserl and Dilthey can agree on the fact that the

meaning of things is inherent in them in the natural attitude. However, Husserl argues

that these meanings are constituted in pure subjectivity. It is only in reflection that these

meanings become explicit. In the natural attitude I am concerned with things, not

meanings. Dilthey argues however that the meanings of things are inherent (Immanenz)

in them. No constitution of meaning is necessary. Nevertheless, this does not signify

that the meanings are entirely explicit in the natural attitude. Dilthey argues that in the

natural attitude, rather than being absorbed with things, we are absorbed with "chasing

after goals." In Husserl and Dilthey's views of living in the natural attitude we see the

Dilthey, "Fragments for a Poetics," pg. 230.

difference between theoretical transcendence and practical transcendence. According to

Husserl we live transcendently by living towards things and according to Dilthey we live

transcendently by living towards goals. In the case of each, we discover "meaning" by

stepping back and disengaging from such transcendent living, by not being engaged in

life. Dilthey states that,

If we step aside from our chasing after goals and calmly turn in upon
ourselves, then the moments of our life appear in their significance. This
is the natural view of life...The meaning of an event lies in the fact that its
causal nexus at the same time produces a value. For the man of action,
value lies in a goal, for the poetically inclined, value lies in every moment
of life.294

For both Husserl and Dilthey we must disengage ourselves from life and from the natural

attitude to apprehend meaningfulness. In Husserl's case, the phenomenological epoche

brackets transcendence and the natural attitude. For Dilthey as well, transcendence lies in

the natural attitude. This is the attitude in which we are chasing after goals. In this

engagement we act towards a goal that is transcendent. Disinterest allows us to grasp the

meaning of life. This, for Dilthey, is the "...passage from passion to reason, etc.: this kind

of completing process takes place in poetry, in conversations about our experience of life,

in a philosophy of life."295 This process is no longer one of valuation, but rather of seeing

interconnections between these values. Dilthey argues that,

...every abstract value theory is [useless] for understanding the poet. It is

not a question of differentiating values, but of their inner (structural)
relations to each other and to the individual as a totality and to life as such
a totality; not evaluations, not relations of subordination, but rather
relations which lie in the real inner qualitative relations of parts to the

Ibid., pg. 230.
Ibid., pg. 228.

whole. The main concept here is the qualitative relation as based on the
qualitative determinateness of lived-experience.296

Dilthey replaces the theoretical philosophy of value with a philosophy of life, i.e., a

hermeneutic understanding of the totality life that articulates the nexus of relations that

make up its whole and part. Dilthey thinks that this can be accomplished only by

disengaging from life and approaching lived-experience from an attitude of disinterest.

Dilthey says, "It is important to approach lived-experiences disinterestedly. This is as

much the case in philosophy, etc. as in poetry. Disinterested means

impersonal...Disinterestedness is thus not only a property of aesthetic impression, but

also of the lived-experience of the creative artist. Thus Kant stands corrected."297

Both Husserl and Dilthey discover meaning in immanence which for each means

disengaging from lived-experience itself so that it may become the object of inquiry.

Certainly they come at this from two entirely different perspectives. By disengagement

and disinterest Husserl understands the phenomenological epoche whereby doxic

attitudes towards transcendent existence are bracketed. This is ultimately subordinated to

the goal of discovering (or perhaps better constituting) the eidetic, theoretical

superstructure of genus and species which captures the essence of lived-experience. For

Dilthey, disinterest is the result of disengaging oneself from "chasing after goals," i.e.,

from realizing values, in order to survey the totality of life and its nexus of interrelated

whole and parts.

Ibid., pg. 231.
Ibid., pg. 227.

It seems, therefore, that in an important sense, both Husserl and Dilthey end up in

essence at the same place, namely, at the objectification of lived-experience. Both

Husserl and Dilthey argue that philosophical thought is grounded in immanence, though

for both we live in the environing world wherein we experience transcendence whether in

the form of transcendent objects or transcendent values. In addition Husserl and Dilthey

agree that philosophical insight or creativity requires a disengaged perspective. We must

"stand back" from life and view lived-experience. For this reason, neither understanding

of philosophy is essentially historical. To be fair, both positions acknowledge that time is

inherent to lived-experience; for Husserl in the form of the protentions and retentions of

internal time consciousness and for Dilthey in presence and the unity of the "qualitative

determination" essential to lived-experience. However, for both thinkers the peculiarly

philosophical attitude is disengaged from historical life.

Both positions have historical precedent in Aristotle's analysis of the rise of

philosophical thought as portrayed in book I of his Metaphysics. Here Aristotle argues

that philosophy begins with "wonder" and is not pursued for a utilitarian end. Philosophy

is not a "productive science." Philosophy must stand back from life and lived-experience

to view it in an "unbiased" way.

One of the most crucial aspects of Heidegger's analysis of the lived-experience of

the question "is there something?" - and significant, granted his reliance upon Aristotle

for a clue to the hermeneutic complex - is to challenge this very approach to philosophy.

As we have seen the very sense of the question resists any attempt to discover this sense

immanently. Either aspect of the question, namely the "something in general" and the "is

there," transcends lived-experience. That is, the something in general transcends any

actual or possible experience and the "is there" transcends any "qualitative determination"

of lived-experience. The question questions whether there is something, not whether

there is a chair, or table, or any species or genus, or any particular objectivity. In

addition, the question questions whether there is something, not whether something is

valued, or judged, or exists, etc. The sense of the question is utterly transcendent. There

is simply no way to capture this sense by a philosophical end-run through immanence.

However, I livingly experience the question, it is in some sense mine, it is part of my life.

The mistake that Husserl and Dilthey make is to think that only by disengaging

from life and thematizing lived-experience does one capture the disinterest and

indifference required for philosophy. It is not at all clear that this is what Aristotle means

when he says that philosophy begins in wonder, though, admittedly, it is an interpretation

that, in a certain sense, Aristotle himself inspires because of his contention that

philosophy must think only of that which is eternal and the best. Heidegger, on the other

hand, wants to understand the living experience of this fundamental question. He argues

that this does not rule out indifference. Heidegger claims that there are two forms of

indifference, total indifference and critical indifference.

Heidegger formulates this distinction in relation to the work of Windelband.

Heidegger states that, according to Windelband,

Total indifference occurs where nothing at all is judged, with all

'representational processes' which happen without reference to truth-value;
logic does not take these in any way into account, for logical
investigations always presuppose 'the relation of representational
connections to the evaluation of truth'. Only the question belongs here; in
it the representational connection is realized. It is brought into relation to
truth-evaluation, but the latter is not itself carried out.298

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 134.

In critical indifference one "has already gone through the question and where neither

sufficient reasons for denial nor sufficient reasons for affirmation have been given. This

'state of uncertainty' finds expression in the 'so-called problematical judgement'."299 The

lived-experience of the question "is there something" is an attitude of total indifference,

i.e., the relation of "is there" to something is "realized" without answering whether there

is something or not. The latter, namely answering whether there is something or not,

occurs in critical indifference in which it is problematic whether there is something or

not. This Heidegger says, quoting Windelband, is "a real act of knowledge." For in the

problematic judgement it "is affirmed that nothing is to be asserted!!"300 For Heidegger,

the move through total indifference to critical indifference is the theoretical and

epistemological move. In critical indifference one is concerned whether one should

judge, i.e., whether one should evaluate. This is an epistemological concern - what is the

evidence necessary to judge so-and-so. This applies equally to Husserl's and Dilthey's

project. In fact it applies to any critical project. The move through the question to the

problematic judgement leads critical philosophy to believe that philosophy must be

founded upon apodictic judgements. In other words, mistaking the total indifference

inherent to philosophy with critical indifference leads to the belief that philosophy is the

search for apodictic judgements. This is because only apodicticity or certainty is a

solution to the problem of radical critical indifference. Furthermore, it is believed, that

only in immanence is such apodicticity discovered.

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 134.

As we have seen with Natorp, on the other hand, it is not a matter of moving

through the total indifference of the question to the critical indifference of the

problematic judgement. Rather, the connection is realized in the question is a task. The

task is not the attempt to discover evidence that will convert the problematic judgement

into assertion. Rather the task indicates the continuing determination of what is in

question. In the case of the fundamental question "is there something?" what is in

question is the "is there" in relation to "anything whatsoever." If one moves through total

indifference of this question to the critical indifference of the problematic judgement the

question "appears insignificant and even miserly."301 This apparently obvious move from

the question to the problematic judgement is precisely why the question seems so

unimportant, i.e., the evidence for asserting the positive moment of the problematic

judgement "whether there is something or not" is anything whatsoever. The evidence is

so minimal and insignificant that it belies the fundamental importance of the question and

total indifference, namely, the relation between the "is there" and the something in

general. The question is forgotten because it is apparently so easily and obviously

answered. Show me anything whatsoever and I can assert that "there is something."

Nevertheless, the simplicity of even this obvious answer is only apparent. The entire

Cartesian legacy is embodied in this "insignificant and miserly" move from total

indifference to critical indifference, from the question to the problematic judgement and

finally to apodictic assertion. For it is not just anything that can be shown to me which

will satisfy critical indifference, but only that of which I can be certain. Whatever is

Ibid., pg. 53.

shown to me I must be certain about, otherwise the problematic judgement remains. Any

doubt that creeps in will reawaken the problematic judgement whether there really is

something or not. Critical philosophy is driven into immanence because only there can

we be absolutely certain. For example, I cannot be certain that there is a chair, but I can

be certain that there is the appearance of the chair. This shows that there is something,

but only an immanent appearance. Genuine transcendence is lost in the move from total

indifference to critical indifference. Questioning indicates transcendence, whereas the

problematic judgement obscures it by focusing one's attention on evidence. In this

respect, Natorp, consciously or not, clings desperately to transcendence by emphasizing

the task posed by the question of knowledge and discounting any "positivistic" or

"evidentialist" understanding of the ground of knowledge.

Heidegger does not wish to disregard critical indifference or the critical attitude,

but wants to understand it as derivative from total indifference, i.e., "The question is the

preliminary stage [Vorstufe] of the judgment, if one sees its nature in the evaluation

(decision on value)."302 The thrust of Heidegger's analysis is to resist the temptation

towards the critical interpretation of the nature of philosophy. That is, to resist mistaking

the indifference of philosophy with critical indifference. Part of Heidegger's task is to

understand how transcendence is experienced rather than trying to find evidence for

something transcendent. In the very opening of part two of his 1919 lecture "The Idea of

Philosophy," entitled "Phenomenology as Pre-Theoretical Primordial Science," he says


Ibid., pg. 134.

Already in the opening of the question [Frage-ansatz] 'Is there...?' there is
something. Our entire problematic has arrived at a crucial point, which,
however, appears insignificant and even miserly. Everything depends on
understanding and following this insignificance in its pure meaning...303

This indicates that in the total indifference of the utterly transcendent question "Is there

something" there already is something. There is the lived-experience of the question "Is

there something?" In his more mature thought, Heidegger will indicate this with Dasein,

the being who questions. For example, in Being and Time,

Thus to work out the question of Being adequately, we must make an

entity - the inquirer - transparent in his own Being. The very asking of
this question is an entity's mode of Being; and as such it gets its essential
character from what is inquired about - namely, Being. This entity which
each of us is himself and which includes inquiring as one of the
possibilities of its Being, we shall denote by the term "Dasein".304

What "is there" in the question is not an immanent realm of certainty but a conditioned

transcendence, since in order for the question of Being to be asked, i.e., in order for it to

be livingly experienced, there must already be a conditioned transcendence. Put another

way, the question of transcendence cannot be asked upon a ground of immanence. The

question is rather an intensification of an already determined transcendence. In 1919,

Heidegger sees this conditioned transcendence in the "natural attitude" of both Husserl

and Dilthey and more importantly Heidegger sees it in the environing world (Umwelt).

The environing world is where transcendence is lived, not absolutely but determined

according to world. It is within the environing world that the question of Being arises.

Heidegger attempts to delve into the environing world itself to analyze the experience of

Ibid., pg. 53.
Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 27.

transcendence. Later Heidegger will characterize this conditioned experience of

transcendence as pre-understanding of Being. This pre-understanding is the lived-

experience of transcendence,

...we always conduct our activities [bewegen - move] in an understanding

of Being. Out of this understanding arise both the explicit question of the
meaning of Being and the tendency that leads us towards its conception.
We do not know what 'Being' means. But even if we ask, 'What is
"Being"?', we keep within an understanding of the 'is', though we are
unable to fix conceptually what that 'is' signifies. We do not even know
the horizon in terms of which that meaning is to be grasped and fixed. But
this vague average understanding of Being is still a Fact [Faktum].305

What is this vague average understanding of Being? Already there is something peculiar

about it insofar as it is a Faktum and not a Tatsache. It is not going to be a datum of one

of the positive sciences, not even history. Rather, the Tatsachen of the positive sciences

are derivative with respect to this Faktum. Heidegger's analysis of the environing world

attempts to capture what both Husserl and Dilthey saw but could not quite understand,

i.e., the "natural attitude." For Husserl, this is the way in which transcendent objects are

there for us in natural and naive positing and for Dilthey it captures the "man of action"

who is "chasing after goals."

Both of the experiences that Heidegger considers in 1919 are designed to bring

into focus the difference between these experiences as they are lived in opposition to their

theoretical equivalent. As we have seen, according to Heidegger lived-experience must

be objectified before it is available for theoretical reflection, which means it first must be

deformed from the way in which it is lived. The lived ground of meaning as far as

Ibid., pg. 25.

Heidegger is concerned has become alien to thought itself. Theoretical reason claims that

the world as "looked at" is the world itself.

Heidegger argues that this deformation of the world is itself merely the by-

product of the theoretical and epistemological attitude. There are two aspects to this

attitude. The first is that the world is characterized in relation to the knowing subject.

The world is what stands over against the "I." The world is the totality of objects that the

subject can actually or possibly comport itself towards. In this sense, the world becomes

a mere aggregate of objects. This aggregate is characterized as a horizon whose

determination is grounded in the immanent motivational structure of pure subjectivity.

The second is that the world as lived in concrete lived-experience, i.e., the environing

world, is unknowable. That is, if the world is to be known, then it, like every other object

of knowledge, can only be known properly by standing back from it, by not being

engaged in it and by conceptualizing it. That is, it must be objectified according to the

dictates of theoretical reason if it is to be known.

The first stage of the theoretical process of determining the meaning of the world

is to examine how the world is "given." How is the world "immediately" given. Tables

and chairs and all sorts of objects are given to us. One looks around and sees objects.

Though, as modern philosophy points out, these are not "immediately" given to us.

Rather, when one stands back from our engagement in the world, what is given to us is an

adumbration of an object, a certain perspective on the object. In fact, no objects are

immediately given at all. Adumbrations are immediately given and through these

adumbrations and the motivated horizon of the stream of lived-experiences objects and

possible objects of experience are intended. In a further abstraction the motivated

horizon of all objects and possible objects of experience are brought into view. This is

the meaning of the environing world. The environing world is this meaningful world

manifested in reflection as it is lived-through in "naive" experience, i.e., the "world" of

the natural attitude. The meaning of the environing world is constructively constituted

according to the objective requirements of theoretical. This objectified world and the

objects within it are what Heidegger will later call the "present-at-hand" (Vorhandenheit).

However, this is the environing world understood from the perspective of the limitations

imposed upon "givenness" by the theoretical, reflective attitude. This is the reason

Heidegger writes, "'Given' already signifies an inconspicuous but genuine theoretical

reflection inflicted upon the environment. Thus 'givenness' is already quite probably a

theoretical form, and precisely for this reason it cannot be taken as the essence of the

immediate environing world as environmental."306

What the world signifies is identified with the world as it is conceptualized in

theoretical reflection rather than the lived "immediate environing world." Standing back

from lived-experience and merely "viewing it" forces one to construct a world that is an

aggregate of distinct actual and possible objects of objective experience. The world

becomes a collection of actual and possible objects connected by relations which

themselves are objects (broadly construed), either individual relations between individual

objects or relations of genus and species of individual objects or even objective goals and

values. By relaxing our indifference with regard to this world and its objects, we "busy"

ourselves with them and become engaged in the world. We stop concerning ourselves

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 75.

with the meaning of the world and live in it. Living in the world is the change in attitude

from indifference to its opposite, concern.

However, the indifference in this case is critical indifference, it is not the total

indifference of lived questioning. Therefore, the opposite of indifference in this case is

not concern, but critical concern, i.e., the positive sciences. Critical indifference makes

evident the relation between thought and evidence, while in critical concern this universal

relation is concretely worked out by the positive sciences. The attitude of critical

indifference grounds the intrinsic meaning of the relation of thought to evidence, i.e.,

truth. In order to grasp the relation of thought and evidence, the attitude of critical

indifference can only properly be directed towards what is immanent. To direct oneself

towards what is transcendent, i.e., what surpasses immanence, requires a change of

attitude, from critical indifference to critical concern.

From the perspective of the theoretical attitude, transcendence is meaningful only

upon the basis of immanence though it is, simultaneously, directed towards what

surpasses immanence, e.g., actual objects and values, and therefore can only properly be

carried out hypothetically. Critical concern is critical indifference put into "actual

practice." It is concretely working out the actual structures of the relation of thought and

evidence as manifested in lived-experience. For this reason non-scientific "concern,"

namely everydayness, is subordinated to scientific concern. If not so subordinated,

everydayness is "naive." This is why, from the perspective of the theoretical attitude, the

most "proper" mode of living in the environing world is science.

Though as Heidegger argues this simply confirms the starting point. That is, this

view of the world takes the positive sciences themselves as its guide. Husserl and

Dilthey certainly take this approach. They are concerned not with the everyday

environing world, but with the environing world as it is approached in the sciences. The

fact that Husserl emphasizes the natural and mathematical sciences and Dilthey the

human and cultural sciences creates the illusion that there is a fundamental difference

between their respective philosophies. When, in fact, there is no fundamental difference

at all. They both start with the view that the purpose of philosophy is to ground the

positive sciences, that is, it is to be critical theory of knowledge.

That critical indifference and critical concern is essentially oriented towards

immanence leads Heidegger to conclude that the two dominant critical approaches to "the

epistemological question of the reality of the external world," namely, critical realism and

critical-transcendental idealism, are inherently incoherent. More importantly, this failure

reveals the inability of any theoretical approach to capture the environing world as it is

immediately experienced. Heidegger remarks that,

When I attempt to explain the environing world theoretically, it collapses

upon itself. It does not signify an intensification of experience, or any
superior knowledge of the environment, when I attempt its dissolution and
subject it to totally unclarified theories and explanations.307

Both critical realism and critical-transcendental idealism attempt to grasp the reality of

the external world, and thus the environing world, by grounding it in immanence.

However, as we have seen, this is not possible. Though one can give a sense and

meaning to "transcendence" by means of the way it is given in immanence, this of course

is not to experience transcendence, but merely to construct transcendence.

Ibid., pg. 73.

For Heidegger, the fundamental question of philosophy, namely the question of

Being, signifies utter transcendence both in respect of what is under interrogation and

how it is to be interrogated. With regard to such a seemingly basic and simple question

the approach through immanence is not only hopeless, but a stumbling block. It is a

stumbling block because it collapses our immediate experience of the transcendent, i.e.,

our experience of the environing world in the "natural" attitude, into the utterly alien

world given (or constituted) in immanence. The environing world from this perspective

is naive, unrefined, and more importantly, not even a legitimate object of knowledge, i.e.,

properly nothing. In this way, our immediate experience of the transcendent has been


Any understanding of immediate, lived-experience and with it the concrete, lived

environing world that I am constantly engaged with in everyday life has become

impossible. The world and things within the world are no longer "encounterable" and do

not "touch" me. "The object, being an object as such, does not touch [berührt] me."308

From the standpoint of the objectified world, as it is posited by theoretical understanding,

my relation to objects in the world is forever mediated through a third thing, viz., a

relation. Moreover, this must be the case because, in an objectified world, I and the

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 62. This theme emerges explicitly in Being
and Time as well. For example, "...'The chair "touches" ['berührt'] the wall'. Taken strictly, 'touching' is
never what we are talking about in such cases, not because accurate re-examination will always eventually
establish that there is a space between the chair and the wall, but because in principle the chair can never
touch the wall, even if the space between them should be equal to zero. If the chair could touch the wall,
this would presuppose that the wall is the sort of thing 'for' which a chair would be encounterable. An
entity present-at-hand within the world can be touched by another entity only if by its very nature the latter
entity has Being-in as its own kind of Being...When two entities are present-at-hand within the world, and
furthermore are worldless in themselves, they can never 'touch' each other, nor can either of them 'be'
'alongside' the other." (Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 81 – 82.)

object of my regard are distinct objects and are thus meaningfully independent and self-

contained. Theoretical reason must posit a third object, which is itself meaningfully

independent and self-contained, to represent my engagement with the object of my

regard. The meanings of these three things are not essentially interconnected but are

rather brought together in a "synthetic unity." This synthetic unity does not affect the

inherent meaningfulness of its "component parts", but is rather brought in "from the

outside" to connect together the component parts. An indication of this is that the

identical components can enter into different synthetic unities while remaining essentially

the same. "Transcendence" is to be mediated through this intermediate third thing, but

only if I live through it. But it is precisely this living through that is in question. I live in

the environing world, but this has been collapsed into a world in which life has been

removed, i.e., the objectified world. If things are to be "encountered" this cannot be

mediated through yet another object with its own inherent meaning. The objectified

world constructed by theoretical reason is not the world in which we livingly and

transcendently encounter and engage with things.

The environing world, as Heidegger understands it, must allow for meaningful

engagement without divisive objectification. That is, there must be some context or

"space" [Platz] in which myself and entities are meaningfully "located." Although,

Heidegger is careful to point out that this should not be theoretically construed along the

lines of a space which "contains" myself and entities as one present-at-hand thing can

contain another.309 This space or context of transcendent engagement and encountering

For instance, in §12 of Being and Time Heidegger says, "What is meant by "Being-in"? Our
proximal reaction is to round out this expression to "Being-in 'in the world'", and we are inclined to

is Heidegger's notion of the "environing world" which later develops into his notion of

Being-in-the-world. This is the world which makes possible all of our transcendent

comportments by being the setting and context of those comportments, regardless of

whether they are theoretical or "practical," etc.

In 1919 Heidegger attempts to articulate the immediate lived-experience of our

encounter and engagement with the world, or as he calls it, the environmental experience

(Das Umwelterlebnis). However, he is uncomfortable using the expression lived-

experience. He comments that, "The term 'lived-experience' [Erlebnis] is today so faded

and worn thin that, if it were not so fitting, it would be best to leave it aside."310 Soon

after his 1919 lectures he drops the expression lived-experience and replaces it with the

less philosophically worked-over expression, "everydayness" (Alltaglichkeit).

"Everydayness" indicates the way in which I encounter things in the environing world as

they manifest themselves in immediate, everyday experience. That is, this is the way the

world strikes us prior to reflection or scientific comportment. Choosing this term helps

Heidegger indicate the immediacy of life without worrying about external, philosophical

standpoints being smuggled in, which is a likely possibility when one uses an expression

like "lived-experience" which had become such an integral part of the philosophical

climate of the second half of the nineteenth century.

understand this Being-in as 'Being in something' ["Sein in . . ."]. This latter term designates the kind of
Being which an entity has when it is 'in' another one, as the water is 'in' the glass, or the garment is 'in' the
cupboard. By this 'in' we mean the relationship of Being which two entities extended 'in' space have to
each other with regard to their location in that space...All entities whose Being 'in' one another can thus be
described have the same kind of Being - that of Being-present-at-hand - as Things occurring 'within' the
world." (pg. 79).
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 55.

Heidegger's example of our everyday experience of the environing world in his

1919 lectures truly shows how mundane, i.e., how "everyday", the experience is that he is

trying to indicate. Heidegger uses the experience of coming into a lecture hall. He first

contrasts the theoretical interpretation of this experience with how we experience it in its


You come as usual into this lecture-room at the usual hour and go to your
usual place. Focus on this experience of 'seeing your place', or you can in
turn put yourselves in my own position: coming into the lecture-room, I
see the lectern. We dispense with a verbal formulation of this. What do 'I'
see? Brown surfaces, at right angles to one another? No, I see something
else. A largish box with another smaller one set upon it? Not at all. I see
the lectern at which I am to speak. You see the lectern, from which you
are to be addressed, and from where I have spoken to you previously. In
pure experience there is no 'founding' interconnection, as if I first of all see
intersecting brown surfaces, which then reveal themselves to me as a box,
then as a desk, then as an academic lecturing desk, a lectern, so that I
attach lectern-hood to the box like a label. All that is simply bad and
misguided interpretation, diversion from a pure seeing into the

This is what my immediate lived-experience of the environing world looks like from the

perspective of immanent reflection. In this description Heidegger remains close to

Husserl's own description of what "immediate" experience is. That is, I experience the

world through adumbrations which through a "founding interconnection" become unified

into an object, a thing. Heidegger's description of this inauthentic grasp of the environing

world remains in his writings through the 1920's. In 1923, in his lecture course

Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, Heidegger is even more brazen, though still not

explicit, about mimicking Husserl's own descriptions.312 He describes it as the way the

Ibid., pg. 60.
Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, §19.

things are given "in the flesh" or "in person" [leibhaft] which is Husserl's phrase. In

1923, Heidegger also traces this description to the influence of Greek philosophy,

Like all traditional ontology and logic, [this] description stands within the
unchecked sphere of influence of the fate which with Parmenides was
decided for our intellectual history and the history of our Dasein, i.e., for
the tendency of their interpretation: ... "perceptual mean-ing
[vernehmendes Vermeinen] and being are the same."313

Moreover, this is the way in which the world looks from the perspective of critical

consciousness. That is, it is the world as it is seen and, as such, could be evidence for a

judgment. This too Heidegger traces to its Greek origin,

What is perceived in perceptual mean-ing is nothing other than beings-

which-are-there [Daseinde] in the authentic sense, i.e., authentic being has
as its appropriate mode of access and apprehension perceptual mean-ing,
"thinking," theoretical apprehension, science, and is for the Greeks "what
is always already there" as such (By the way: intentionality - no accident
that today Husserl is still characterizing the intentional as the "noetic.").314

The origin of critical indifference lies in the reduction of authentic being to beings-

which-are-there to perception. Put another way, nous is reduced to the nous of episteme.

The nous of phronesis, is gradually subsumed under the nous of episteme. Phronesis is

the mode of human understanding that grasps life according to its own terms. For

Aristotle, phronesis has as its proper object human life in its particularity as opposed to

the universalities that are the object of episteme. Given this, the subordination of the

nous of phronesis to that of episteme results in the neglect of the living character of life

and lived-experience or, worse yet, the outright deformation of life and lived-experience.

Given Dilthey’s influence on Heidegger’s early thought and the former’s emphasis on the

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 70.
Ibid., pg. 70.

relation between life and world, the problem of the relation between these two forms of

nous is paramount in Heidegger’s thought. In this instance, Heidegger is concerned with

the objectification of phronesis produced by its subordination to episteme, most

especially in the value philosophy of the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism.

Heidegger remarks that, "The total domain of what is real can accordingly be divided into

two realms: things in nature and things of value - and the latter always contain the being

of a natural thing as the basic stratum of their being."315 Dilthey went some way towards

overturning this relation of subordination. However, reality for Dilthey still remains the

"filling up of the present" of lived-experience. Transcendence still remains constrained to

immanental structures of lived-experience.

Heidegger contrasts the aforementioned description of our lived-experience of the

lectern with the everyday experience of the lectern,

I see the lectern in one fell swoop, so to speak, and not in isolation, but as
adjusted a bit too high for me. I see - and immediately so - a book lying
upon it as annoying to me (a book, not a collection of layered pages with
black marks strewn upon them), I see the lectern in an orientation, an
illumination, a background...In the experience of seeing the lectern
something is given to me from out of an immediate environment
[Umwelt]. This environmental milieu (lectern, book, blackboard,
notebook, fountain pen, caretaker, student fraternity, tram-car, motor-care,
etc.) does not consist just of things, objects, which are then conceived as
meaning this and this; rather, the meaningful is primary and immediately
given to me without any mental detours across thing-oriented
apprehension. Living in an environment, it signifies to me everywhere and
always, everything has the character of world. It is everywhere the case
that 'it worlds' [es weltet], which is something different from 'it values' [es

Ibid., pg. 68.
Ibid., pg. 61.

The last contrast that Heidegger makes between "it worlds" and "it values", is important

for discerning the way in which he understands the "it worlds" and the world. Heidegger

contrasts his notion of "it worlds" from "it values" to distinguish what he is doing from

"value philosophy", especially as it was understood in the "southwestern" or Baden

school of Neo-Kantianism. The values in this school are the "abstract values" that

Dilthey abjures in favor of the concrete qualitative determinations of lived-experience.

These abstract values are beholden explicitly to critical consciousness. As we saw in

chapter one, Heidegger sharply criticizes value-philosophy for its inability to specify how

these values are manifested within lived-experience. Dilthey grounds them within the

structure of life, although as we have seen they are still immanental structures.

Although Heidegger distances himself from value philosophy he in fact

appropriates an important distinction common to this school, namely, the distinction

between the "universalizing" form of generalization found in the mathematical, natural

sciences (Naturwissenschaften) and the "individuating" form of generalization found in

the human sciences. The form of generalization proper to the natural sciences prescinds

from its individual instances, i.e., the general concept or essence "abstracts from" the

individuality of its instance. For example, the universal concept "atom" or "atomness"

makes no essential reference to individual atoms. This form of generalization finds

expression in the notion of genus and species. There is another form of generalization

however that is not abstract but which remains at the level of concrete individuality.

According to the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism this is the form of

generalization at work in the human sciences. For instance, German Romanticism is one

of these concrete generalities. While German Romanticism is certainly more general

than, say, someone who lived through this period of history, e.g., Goethe, it is at the same

time individual and concrete. That is, it is senseless to talk of German Romanticisms as

if it were some sort of genus or species. German Romanticism is a general notion that

unifies many distinct things, e.g., individuals such as Goethe, institutions, historical

occurrences, literary productions, etc., while simultaneously remaining concrete and

particular. Moreover, it too can "fall under" more general notions, e.g., European

Romanticism. Rickert, undoubtedly under the influence of Dilthey, calls a generalization

of this form a "nexus" (Zusammenhang) or a "historical nexus". Rickert remarks, "…in

historical reality, individuals are never isolated. All objects of history are rather parts of

a larger whole with which they stand in a real nexus. As we have seen, the abstractions

of natural science destroy this nexus and isolate instances. History cannot proceed in this

way. It becomes the science of the unique, real event only by means of a representation

of the historical nexus."317 Heidegger often uses the term "referential totality"

(Verweisungszusammenhang) to describe the analogous idea in his own thought.

Heidegger distances himself however from the southwestern school of Neo-Kantianism

because Windelband and especially Rickert interpret these nexus theoretically. That is,

they still ultimately view a nexus as an abstraction from concrete, immediate lived-

experience though they see them as abstractions of a particular kind, namely, those that

inherently contain "value."

However, Heidegger recognizes an important aspect of value-philosophy that

escapes both its own representatives and Dilthey. In Heidegger's description of the

Rickert, The Limits of Concept Formation in Natural Science, pp. 62-3.

everyday environing world, these nexus are transcendent. That is, they are not

coordinated with a critical subject, either a transcendental "I" or a psychic nexus. That

the lectern is "adjusted a bit too high for me" or that the book "is annoying to me," is

neither a value predicate that a transcendental I superimposes upon a natural object nor is

it an immanent qualitative determination that unifies my lived-experience of the lectern

or book. The former only appears within theoretical reflection (Reflexion) and the latter

within reflexive awareness (Innewerden). The lectern as adjusted a bit too high for me,

the book as annoying, the lecture room, the university building, etc., are there in “one fell

swoop.” These are nexus that are immediately there in the transcendent environing


Heidegger's notion of the environing world is a nexus in the way just described.

In fact, it is the most general nexus for that which is not Dasein. The environing world is

the nexus in which all life "takes place" including all “comportments” toward the world.

For this reason, it cannot be objectified, i.e., it cannot be made an object of theoretical

reflection. Rather, every theoretical comportment towards the world takes place "within"

this nexus, as well as "practical" comportments, "social" comportments, etc. Moreover,

the environing world is not an abstraction. It is particular, individual, and concrete. The

environing world is “there” immediately in the natural attitude. Whenever one is

engaged in the world, whenever one encounters the world, the environing world is

"there." The environing world is the world that Dasein lives in.

The experience of the environing world is not distinct from the experience of the

question “Is there something?” The two are connected in a crucial respect. That is, “in

the experience of seeing the lectern something is given to me from out of an immediate

environment...the meaningful is primary and immediately given to me without any

mental detours across thing-oriented apprehension.” In environmental experience

something is given to me from out of the environing world. The structural nexus of the

environmental milieu is the meaning. That is, the meaning of the lectern is inseparable

from the structural nexus in which it is located. Even speaking in this way is misleading

as the lectern and “its meaning” are not distinct entities. Living in the environing world

is living in meaning. Heidegger has displaced the critical distinction between

transcendent objects and immanent meanings. Meaning in lived environmental

experience is transcendent.

What has happened to intentionality? In the lived environing world is there no

authentic distinction to be made between meaning-intention and meaning-fulfillment?

Something is seen, Something is adjusted a bit too high for me, Something is annoying to

me. The theoretical and critical attitude can only interpret the something as an object.

The “there for me” also becomes objectified, i.e., it is the “I.” I intend objects. This is

the crux of the theoretical and critical attitude, namely, an I over against an object. In

this process of objectification and theoretization critical indifference is achieved, i.e.,

there is thought (the “I”) and evidence (the object as given in intuition). For Heidegger

this process is lived. It happens in life. However, this process is a structure of life whose

goal is de-vivification (ent-leben). One critically “steps back” from living and from life.

This is not the first step back from life however. There is a subtle distinction in

attitude between total indifference and critical indifference. In the experience of the

question "is there something?" there is no "I" though in some sense the question is there

for me. When "it worlds" I am always there in the sense that it worlds for me, e.g., the

lectern is my proper place in the lecture-room, the book is annoying to me. Heidegger

says that, "only through the accord [Mitanklingen] of this particular 'I' [jeweiligen

eigenen Ich] does it experience something environmental, where we can say that 'it

worlds'."318 Again, in this Heidegger exhibits the influence of Dilthey insofar as the latter

argues that in lived-experience I possess myself - the lived-experience is a way for

something to be there-for-me. Heidegger is attempting to articulate what in the 1920's

will be a very important theme of his work, viz., Dasein is its Being-in-the-world. Lived-

experience is not a process that passes before me but is an event of appropriation

(Ereignis),319 it makes something one's own. Heidegger argues that,

In seeing the lectern I am fully present in my 'I'; it resonates [schwingt]

with the experience, as we said. It is an experience proper to me [eigens
für mich] and so do I see it. However, it is not a process [Vorgang] but
rather an event of appropriation...Event of appropriation is not to be taken
as if I appropriate the lived-experience to myself from outside or from
anywhere else; 'outer' and 'inner' have as little meaning here as 'physical'
and 'psychical'. The experiences are events of appropriation in so far as
they live out of one's 'own-ness', and life lives only in this way.320

On the other hand, in the experience of the question "is there something?" I myself am

not to be found. The "anything whatsoever" does not "world." Though this is my

experience I do not resonate with the “anything whatsoever.” Heidegger says the

question forces back my I. Though this can take subtly different forms. In theoretical

objectification my I is forced back but is forced back in such a way that it is “firmly

fixed,” i.e., it becomes an I, for example, Husserl's pure Ego or Kant's unity of

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 62.
This term will become especially important in Heidegger’s later work.
Ibid., pg. 63-4.

apperception. It is a content-less I that accompanies all theoretical comportments. This

is the result of the process of de-vivification. In addition, objectivity per se is the firmly

fixed counterpart of the theoretical I. This is the utterly rarified highest genus of the

process of theoretical abstraction. Heidegger remarks that this is “...the utterly empty and

formal character of the objectified ‘something’. In this all content is extinguished, its

sense lacks all relation to a world-content be it ever so radically theorized. It is the

absolutely world-less, world-foreign; it is the sphere which takes one’s breath away and

where no one can live.”321 This is consistent with the initial dogmatic characterization of

Being in Being and Time that takes it to be the “most universal and the emptiest of

concepts” which is “rooted in ancient ontology itself.”322

However, there is another way in which the “anything whatsoever” can force back

my I. In this case it is the utterly transcendent something that forces back my I. This is

not the result of an intensification of abstraction but rather it is an intensification of the

transcendence of the environing world to the point where both myself and the environing

world are forced back not through a firm fixing of the “anything whatsoever” but through

total indifference. This is utterly transcendent something is what Heidegger calls the

“pre-worldly something.” He distinguishes this from the “worldly something.” The

worldly something is something that “worlds.” Heidegger also calls this the “formally

objective.” He says that it is,

...not simply bound to the theoretical sphere, the domain of objects as

such. The range of possible formally objective characterizations is

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 95.
Heidegger, Being and Time, ¶ 1

obviously greater...The environmental is something; what is worth taking
is something; the valid is something; everything worldly, be it, for
example, aesthetic, religious or social in type, is something. Anything that
can be experienced at all is a possible something, irrespective of its
genuine world-character. The meaning of ‘something’ is just ‘the
experienceable as such’.323

The formally objective something is the pure possibility of transcendent lived-experience,

it is the worldly as such. It is the transcendent counterpart of Dilthey’s immanental

qualitative determination of lived-experience as such. It is the unifying totality of

transcendent lived-experience as such. Dasein’s living towards the worldly something

Heidegger calls concern (besorgen),

...having to do with something, producing something, attending to

something and looking after it, making use of something, giving
something up and letting it go...All these ways of Being-in have concern
as their kind of Being...the expression ‘concern’ will be used in this
investigation as an ontological term for an existentiale, and will designate
the Being of a possible way of Being-in-the-world...Because Being-in-the-
world belongs essentially to Dasein, its Being towards the world [Sein zur
Welt] is essentially concern.324

This of course is to be distinguished from critical concern whose foundation never goes

beyond immanence, i.e., the dichotomy of thought and evidence. Dasein's concern goes

out towards the worldly something and, because of its transcendence, it is improperly

understood if it is understood within the dichotomy of thought and evidence. However, it

is still meaningful in the way previously specified. That is, its meaning is grounded in

the structural nexus of the environing world and the more specific nexus therein. It is for

this reason that Being-in as such is characterized by befindlichkeit (situatedness or state-

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 97.
Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 83-4.

of-mind) and understanding (verstehen) in Being and Time. This carries Dilthey’s

insights into our grasp of lived-experience beyond immanence and a theory of


In addition, Heidegger argues that there are "two fundamentally different sorts of

the theoretical."325 The immanent theoretical something is the most general abstraction

of the process of de-vivification. On the other hand, within the environing world lies

critical concern. This attitude has as its object the worldly something though purely

through the perspective of merely "looking at it." This is not yet de-vivification. The

something as merely "looked at" still remains within the purview of concern, though only

as a critical and epistemological attitude or comportment. Nevertheless, it remains a

structure that unifies lived-experience and transcendently so. Critical indifference, on the

other hand, excludes the concernfulness of critical concern and thus makes problematic

any form of genuine transcendence. Because of this, the attitude of critical indifference

subordinates ontology to theory of knowledge. It simultaneously limits and determines

the status of metaphysics and ontology. Being is reduced to the critical notion of the

"real." As critical, the real (and a fortiori Being) is that which can be thought, namely,

that which can be determined within and by the theoretical structures of de-vivification,

i.e., genus and species.

This critical indifference produces the problem that vexed post-Kantian thought,

especially in the Neo-Kantian tradition. This is the problem of “determination before

thought” that arose again and again in our exposition of the Neo-Kantians, Husserl,

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 96.

Natorp, and Dilthey. If determination is ultimately a product of the transcendental

subject then determination is not grounded in lived-experience but is imposed on it from

without. This leads Lask to question the justification of the transcendental categories

themselves. Heidegger’s analysis of the environing world, especially the worldly

character of critical concern, solves the problem of “determination before thought.”

Heidegger says, “Theoretically I come out of experiencing as from a provenance;

something experienceable is still brought along from this experiencing, with which one

does not know what to do, and for which the convenient title of the irrational has been

invented.”326 It was not until Heidegger had broken the hegemony of the theoretical

attitude that the puzzle of determination prior to theoretical determination could be


The worldly something is always already meaningful. In fact, it is the pure

potentiality for meaning insofar as every unified, total nexus of lived-experience lives

towards a worldly something. However, the lived-experience of the question “is there

something?” expresses a transcendence that transcends the worldly something. This is

because of the total indifference that accompanies this fundamental question. The pre-

worldly something arises in an attitude of indifference that transcends even this worldly

something. Total indifference does not mean that one “steps back” from the world, but

that transcendence has become so intensified that one has transcended the world to such

an extent that concern no longer is possible. Nevertheless, the pre-worldly something

still has a connection to life. It is in fact the “highest potentiality of life,”

Ibid., pg. 99.

The indifference of the ‘anything whatsoever’ in regard to every genuine
world character and every particular species of object is in no way
identical with de-vivification...It does not mean an absolute interruption of
the life-relation, no easing of de-vivification, no theoretical fixing and
freezing of what can be experienced. It is much more the index for the
highest potentiality of life. Its meaning resides in the fullness of life itself,
and implies that it still has no genuine worldly characterization, but that
the motivation for such quite probably is living in life. It is the ‘not-yet’
[Noch-nicht], i.e. not yet broken out into genuine life, it is the essentially

As is clear from the above text, the pre-worldly something is also not an intensification of

actualization. Rather it is the pure potentiality of world. The environing world is, in fact,

one mode of the determination of the pre-worldly something. Living is always

transcendent. It is necessarily a living towards. The absolute intensification of life is

living towards the pre-worldly something. However, one can also relax this

intensification (which is the everyday way of living) and live towards a worldly

something. This form of life is concern. That is, the worldly something is the pre-

worldly something as concernfully lived towards. Heidegger remarks that, “...the sense

of the something as experienceable implies the moment of ‘out towards’ [auf zu], of

‘direction towards’ [Richtung auf], ‘into a (particular) world’ [In eine (bestimmte) Welt

hinein], and indeed in its undiminished ‘vital impetus’.”328 This is the way in which one

experiences transcendence in everydayness, e.g., living in the environing world.

The pre-worldly something, unlike the worldly something of concern, is not

meaningful as such. In the question “is there something?” the pre-worldly something is

not meaningfully intended as what “is there.” The pre-worldly something by its very

Ibid., pg. 97.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 97.

nature transcends meaning. However, it does not transcend meaning in the sense that it is

“meaningless“ or that it excludes “meaning” rather it is the potentiality for

meaningfulness as such. In lived-experience one lives toward something worldly and,

therefore, meaningfully. Or, put another way, the worldly something is the pre-worldly

something as meant.

Is the pre-worldly something experienced at all? In 1919, Heidegger says that it

is. The pre-worldly something is experienced in the lived transition between "worlds" or

in a particularly intensive living within a world. He says,

The 'something' as the a basic phenomenon that can be

experienced in understanding, e.g., in the living situation of gliding from
one world of experience to another genuine life-world, or in moments of
especially intensive life; not at all or seldom in those types of experience
that are firmly anchored in a world without reaching, precisely within this
world, a much greater life-intensity.329

The pre-worldly something is the potentiality for any "worlding" whatsoever. In this

sense, the pre-worldly something “underlies” the transition from one world to another. In

this sense, and after Dilthey, the pre-worldly something is the potentiality for history,

since it is the “unity” that underlies history understood as the movement that expresses

itself in a worldview. This movement is what Dilthey means by life. Thus life is

essentially correlated with the pre-worldly something as that which life is living towards.

For this reason, the relation between the worldly something and the pre-worldly

something is hermeneutic. We already have seen that Heidegger, following Dilthey,

connects meaning with the structural nexuses of lived-experience, though for Heidegger

these are transcendent nexus. A world is the most general nexus of meaning. It

Ibid., pg. 97.

encompasses all more specific nexus, e.g., historical, practical, scientific, religious, etc.

Heidegger argues that the “universality” of word meanings is grounded in its worldly

character. This “universality” clearly does not have its theoretical connotation of

applying univocally in all contexts. Rather, the “universality” of word meanings is

grounded in the fact that words are expressions within the world whose meaning is

derived from the world. One does not need to search around in the realm of immanence

to discover what an expression means. Rather, since one lives “in” the world, meanings

are directly there for one and expressions merely signify these meanings. This does not

mean that expressions are always “clear” and “obvious.” It simply means that

expressions are meaningful directly. Heidegger says, “universality of word meanings

primarily indicates something originary: worldliness [Welthaftigkeit] of experienced

experiencing [erlebten Erlebens].”330 Thus, “Signification [Bedeutungsmäβiges]

therefore, linguistic expression [Sprachausdruck], does not need to be theoretical or even

object-specific, but is primordially living and experiential, whether pre-worldly or

worldly.”331 Meaning and expression for Heidegger are no longer exclusively grounded

within immanence. As worldly, expressions and meaning are always already

transcendent, because everything worldly is situated and grounded within the meaningful,

transcendent nexus that is the world. Specifically, expressions are no longer mere

vehicles for the transmission of immanent thoughts. Whereas for Husserl (and many

other thinkers) the intersubjectivity and universality of meanings are the result of their

Ibid., pg. 99.
Ibid., pg. 98.

non-worldly character, for Heidegger it is their worldly character that makes both

intersubjectivity and universality possible. Why is this hermeneutic?

The “worldliness of experienced experiencing” is central to the hermeneutic

character of all meaning and all expressions. In lived-experience one always lives out

toward the pre-worldly something meaningfully by means of the environing world.

However, this does not capture the origin of the worldly itself. Rather,

What is essential about the pre-worldly and worldly signifying functions

[Bedeutungsfunktionen] is that they express the characters of the
appropriating event [Ereignischaraktere auszudrücken], i.e., they go
together (experiencing and experiencing experienced) with experience
itself, they live in life itself and, going along with life, they are at once
originating and carry their provenance in themselves. They are at once
preceptive [vorgreifend] and retroceptive [rückgreifend], i.e., they express
life in its motivated tendency and tending motivation.332

The pre-worldly signifying function expresses the meaningful appropriation of the pre-

worldly something as world. The worldly signifying function is the meaningful

appropriation of the world as something worldly. That is, world originates in the living-

experience (the appropriation) of lived-experience itself. In lived-experience lies the

meaningful, transcendent structural nexuses of the world. The living-experience of lived-

experience is the meaningful, transcendent structural nexus of lived-experience itself, i.e.,

the meaningfulness of the experienceable as such or the worldly something. As lived-

experience is inherently the structural unity of what is experienced in lived-experience,

then the living-experience of all such lived-experiences is the total, transcendent

structural unity of all lived-experiences, i.e., world. This is the transcendent equivalent of

Husserl's immanent reflective (Reflexion) consciousness and Dilthey's immanent

Ibid., pg. 99.

reflexive awareness (innewerden). Though it certainly has more in common with

Dilthey's notion than with Husserl's. This is evident in the fact that both signifying

functions express the character of the event of appropriation rather than an imminent

"looking at." The characters they express are the meaningful appropriation of the pre-

worldly something in all lived-experience and the meaningful appropriation of that very

meaningful appropriation. These are the respective natural, transcendent versions of

Dilthey's immanent lived-experience and worldview.

One can see in this the essential hermeneutic relation of whole and part as well as

the circularity characteristic of hermeneutic appropriation. In 1919, Heidegger says that

this shows itself in understanding (verstehen), i.e., in hermeneutical intuition,

The empowering [bemächtigende] experiencing of living experience that

takes itself along is the understanding intuition, the hermeneutical
intuition, the originary phenomenological back-and-forth formation of the
recepts and precepts from which all theoretical objectification, indeed
every transcendent positing, falls out.333

What Heidegger understands by the hermeneutic character of the experiencing of lived-

experience is now evident. It is the "empowering experiencing of lived-experience."

"Empowering," though perhaps a more literal translation, is perhaps a misleading

translation of bemächtigen if we rightly want to show the influence of Dilthey on

Heidegger's thinking and wish to meaningfully connect hermeneutic intuition to Ereignis.

What Heidegger intends is the "seizing hold of" or "possessive" character of hermeneutic

intuition. Heidegger’s use of the term "intuition" here is perhaps unfortunate since this

notion remains tied to Husserl's phenomenology. Heidegger stops using it after 1919.

Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 99.

However, as is evident from Heidegger's association of hermeneutic intuition with the

"originary phenomenological back-and-forth formation of recepts and precepts" his

thought is still intimately united to the project of phenomenology, though as he

understands it. He is in fact attempting to capture the essence of phenomenology though

stripped of its theoretical and immanental character. Here, and throughout much of his

early thought, he is attempting to reappropriate phenomenology by means of

hermeneutics. Heidegger remarks that,

The fundamental methodological problem of phenomenology, the question

concerning the scientific disclosure of the sphere of lived-experience,
itself stands under phenomenology's 'principle of principles'. Husserl
formulates it thus: 'Everything that presents itself [darbietet]...originarily
in "intuition" is to be taken [hinzunehmen] it gives itself [als
was es sich gibt].' ... If by a principle one were to understand a theoretical
proposition, this designation would not be fitting. However, that Husserl
speaks of a principle of principles [Prinzip der Prinzipien], of something
that precedes [vorausliegt] all principles, in regard to which no theory can
lead us astray, already shows ... that it does not have a theoretical

The “principle of principles” is what offers itself [darbieten] in the event of appropriation

[Ereignis]. What offers itself is the pre-worldly something, i.e., Being. It offers itself

always as a pure potentiality that is determined. The way it offers itself is as “is there”

[es gibt], i.e., determination per se. The result is the worldly something, i.e., the meaning

of Being. This is accomplished by Ereignis, a making one’s own of the pre-worldly

something. The character of Ereignis is already latent in Husserl’s hinzunehmen, that is,

the developing of the “towards which” that is towards the pre-worldly something. This

Ibid., pg. 92.

developing of the “towards which” happens in understanding by means of hermeneutic

intuition. This developing of the towards which is what Heidegger calls “life.”

The principle of all principles pre-interprets [vorausliegt] principles. It does not

just "precede" all principles it is the pre-interpretation of all principles. For instance, in

the theoretical attitude, the principle of all principles is objectivity, i.e., the pre-worldly

something is pre-interpreted as objectivity. Theoretical thought then proceeds to further

determine objectivity according to its principles. In the practical attitude, the pre-worldly

something is pre-interpreted as value, which is then further determined according to its

principles. Similarly, in the aesthetic attitude, the pre-interpretation is "feeling."

However, these are merely illustrative examples drawn from Neo-Kantian thought. They

by no means exhaust the pre-interpretation of principles. Dilthey's insight was to

recognize a unified total pre-interpretation of principles, that is, worldview. Although,

even he dissolved this insight into the categories of post-Kantian thought, namely, the

theoretical, practical, and aesthetic.

Heidegger’s understanding of the principle of principles breaks free of all

theoretical, objectifying, immanental interpretations of it. In this latter sense, the

principle of principles is understood as the eminently epistemological and critical

principle. In this sense, the principle of principles is the source of all possible knowledge,

namely, what appears as such, or equivalently, immanence. Natorp understood this

epistemological project more fundamentally than any of his contemporaries, for he

understood that the principle of principles is the appearance of objectivity as such - all

particular appearing objectivities being derivative and secondary to this. Though he did

not realize it, he was on the way to the worldly character of the theoretical project as

such. For, as we saw in chapter three, he recognized the historical character of this

project, though he could not appropriately understand or assimilate this because of his

own critical stance. He glimpsed what transcended the critical stance, but could not

himself transcend his own critical stance. In similar fashion, Dilthey, though coming out

of the provenance of the Geisteswissenschaften, saw more clearly than Natorp the

historical nature of thought, though again he himself was unable to transcend his own

critical “historical” stance.

In hermeneutic fashion, Heidegger avoids the theoretical and critical

interpretation of the principle of all principles through his engagement with Greek

philosophy, especially Aristotle. For Heidegger, the principle of all principles is to be

understood in Aristotle’s sense of the primordial arche – the originary source. This

explains on Heideggerian grounds the fundamental importance of prima philosophia for

Aristotle, namely, whether there can be a science of Being. Aristotle correctly sees the

fundamentally peculiar nature of this science. Unlike the special sciences it cannot

presuppose a univocal genus because all determinations of this genus, i.e., its differentia,

would have being. Aristotle recognizes that Being and its determinations transcend the

structural hierarchy of genus and species. Both Being and its determinations are,

therefore, “theoretically” problematic. The theoretical and critical stance is able to

bypass this issue only because it is ignorant of it. The issue becomes one only of

knowledge, i.e., the theory of science itself. It does not recognize the peculiar nature of

the science of Being and, therefore, is able to reduce it down to the general theory of

science. The meaning of Being, in this case, is the meaning that being can have within

the theory of science. Because of this, Being is reduced to objectivity as such and the

meaning of this is grounded in the transcendental subject, that is, it is grounded in a


For Heidegger, the meaning of Being or, in 1919, the event of appropriation of the

pre-worldly something, is the originary arche of all principles. The principle of all

principles and the principles themselves are not universal transcendental structures of

experience, but are, respectively, the “natural” movement of life toward the originary

source and meaningful expressions of this movement, namely, lived-experience which

culminates in a primordial expression of this movement, i.e., the hermeneutic articulation

of a world-view. The latter is a unifying, total expression of the world. All of this

explains why Heidegger says that the principle of all principles is,

...the primordial intention of genuine life [wahrhaften Lebens – “truthful

life”], the primordial bearing [Urhalten] of life-experience and life as
such, the absolute sympathy with life that is identical with life-experience.
To begin with, i.e., coming along this path from the theoretical while
freeing ourselves more and more from it, we always see this basic bearing.
The same basic bearing first becomes absolute when we live in it - and
that is not achieved by any constructed system of concepts, regardless of
how extensive it may be, but only through phenomenological life in its
ever-growing self-intensification.335

Here we clearly see this movement that "goes along with life." The primordial intention

of truthful life is the hermeneutic appropriation of Being - the primordial "towards

which" that is made one's own [Ereignis] through lived-experience by the hermeneutic

relation between the structural totality of lived-experience, i.e., world, and the lived-

experiences themselves. This is the primordial bearing of life-experience and life.

Ibid., pg. 93.

This hermeneutic appropriation is for Heidegger, as it is for Dilthey, the

understanding that functions in the interdependence between a contextualizing whole and

its contextualized parts. For example, the relation between a word and the sentence in

which the word appears. And the relation between particular notes and a particular

movement of a symphony, etc. Each word is meaningful only by means of its

contextualization within a more general, comprehensive structural nexus, e.g., a sentence

or a language, and vice-versa.336 Similarly, a note is heard always within the structural

nexus of, for example, a movement in a symphony, and likewise with this movement and

the whole symphony. Similarly, the lectern, blackboard, and desks are understood within

the general structural nexus of the lecture hall and vice-versa, the lecture hall within the

university and vice-versa, etc. These are not static structures however. Hermeneutic

understanding is a movement and essentially so. This is clear in the first examples we

gave. Each word of a sentence is always understood on the basis of the totality which

includes what has been read, what is being red, and what will be read. In the hearing of

music also there is this back-and-forth movement of hearing. Understanding is no

different. It is a dynamic structural totality.

Heidegger mentions that the primordial bearing of life is always seen, even from

the theoretical perspective. This is shown in the fact that Husserl "sees" the environing

world in the natural attitude [natürlichen Einstellung] even though he attempts to escape

For example, Dilthey writes, "...according to the relationship between the expression of life and the
spiritual meaning which exists within this common context, the spiritual meaning which belongs to the
expression of life is simultaneously brought to completion with its insertion into a common context. A
sentence is intelligible by virtue of the common context which exists, within a linguistic community,
through the meaning of the word and the grammatical forms as well as the sense of the syntactical
arrangement." (Wilhelm Dilthey, "Other Persons and Their Expressions of Life," pg. 127).

it by means of the epoche. Dilthey sees it when he says, "...when we step aside from our

chasing after goals and calmly turn in upon ourselves...then the moments of our life

appear in their significance."337 This he calls the natural view of life [natürliche Ansicht

des Lebens]. In each case the primordial bearing is seen, but not lived. In the theoretical

attitude one steps back from life by attempting to step out of life - one attempts to halt the

movement of life in order to capture it in static structures. The basic bearing becomes

absolute only when it is lived. That is, it becomes something transcendent when one

lives in it. Phenomenological life, Heidegger says, is this basic bearing in "its ever-

growing self-intensification." In this ever-growing intensification we intensify

transcendence, i.e., we increasingly lived towards Being, the pre-worldly something.

Because of this, the "primal habitus of the phenomenologist cannot be appropriated

overnight, like putting on a uniform, and it will lead to formalism and concealment of all

genuine problems if this habitus is treated merely mechanically in the manner of a

routine."338 The primal habitus of the phenomenologist is identical with life in its ever

increasing intensification. A question that this raises, and that we are now in a much

better position to address, is: what is the being of life itself? Specifically, what is the

being of human life (Dasein)? It is to Heidegger's analysis of these questions that we

turn to next. In doing so, we will deepen Heidegger's analysis.

Dilthey, "Fragments for a Poetics," pg. 230.
Heidegger, Towards the Definition of Philosophy, pg. 93.

II. Philosophy as Praxis

Both Aristotle and Kant progressed far enough in the questioning of being to have

glimpsed the problem of the categories. For them this problem consisted of the unity of

the categories themselves. For both as well, the categories articulate the structure of the

limits of the experienceable as such. They were quite conscious of the peculiar nature of

the unity of the categories. Aristotle recognized that the unity of Being is quite different

from that of the categories, i.e., generic unity. Kant did as well.

Kant recognized that the unity of the faculty of reason is a different type of unity

from those of the faculty of understanding. The unities of the faculty of understanding

are rules by which appearances are unified. The unity of the faculty of reason unifies the

rules of the understanding. The latter unities, i.e., the principles of reason, are, for Kant,

principles in the proper sense of the word. He argues that,

The understanding can, then, never supply any synthetic modes of

knowledge derived from concepts; and it is such modes of knowledge that
are properly, without qualification, to be entitled 'principles'. All universal
propositions, however, may be spoken of as 'principles' in a comparative

Insofar as they are not applicable to appearances per se but to the understanding, they are

transcendent and unconditioned, i.e., they can never be given in experience. Properly

these are to be understood as regulative rather than constitutive principles. As regulative

principles they drive reason onwards toward a “systematic unity of the manifold of

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pg. 302, A301, B357 – 8. Kant goes on to elaborate this:
"Understanding may be regarded as a faculty which secures the unity of appearances by means of rules, and
reason as being the faculty which secures the unity of the rules of understanding under principles.
Accordingly, reason never applies itself directly to experience or to any object, but to understanding, in
order to give to the manifold knowledge of the latter an a priori unity by means of concepts, a unity which
may be called the unity of reason, and which is quite different in kind from any unity that can be
accomplished by the understanding." (pg. 303, A302, B359).

empirical knowledge in general, whereby this empirical knowledge is more adequately

secured within its own limits and more effectively improved than would be possible, in

the absence of such ideas, through the employment merely of the principles of the

understanding.”340 Understood in this way, these regulative principles represent an

immanent task, i.e., the unification of all empirical knowledge. Even for Kant, however,

these principles have a very peculiar character that is not shared by the principles of the

understanding. The understanding can only be properly employed with reference to

experience. Therefore, the principles of the understanding are inapplicable to what

transcends experience. Regulative principles, on the other hand, appear to posit real

transcendent unities which are unconditional, e.g., an ens realissimum. The regulative

principles should not be understood in this way however,

They ought not to be assumed as existing in themselves, but only as

having the reality of a schema – the schema of the regulative principle of
the systematic unity of all knowledge of nature. They should be regarded
only as analoga of real things, not as in themselves real things.341

Kant understands (in his own way) that regulative principles understood with regard to

their object attempt to grasp the relation between the worldly and the pre-worldly,

namely, transcendence,

Since, therefore, the absolutely necessary is only intended to serve as a

principle for obtaining the greatest possible unity among appearances, as
being their ultimate ground; and since...we can never reach this unity
within the world, it follows that we must regard the absolutely necessary
as being outside the world.342

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 550 – 1, A671, B699.
Ibid., pg. 552, A 674, B 702.
Ibid., pg. 516, A 617, B 645.

Kant, however, understands real transcendence as a real, actual object. That is, the

transcendent correlate of the regulative idea that lies “outside the world” could only be

the absolutely necessary, unconditioned ens realissimum which can never be experienced.

Therefore, since I can only objectively employ the regulative ideas as the unconditioned

condition of appearances and because this is utterly beyond the faculty of understanding,

the regulative principles cannot be objective – “They may, however, be regarded as

subjective principles of reason.”343 That is, they guide the movement of subjective

thought towards a final unification that it can never actually realize. They describe, as

Natorp saw, the task of thinking rather than its object. Dilthey was able to broaden this

task beyond mere theoretical objectivity to a worldview that no longer unified merely

experience (Erfahrung) but the entirety of lived-experience (Erlebnis). Neither, however,

was to understand this task transcendently, but only immanently and subjectively as Kant


Heidegger believes that Kant eyes something beyond this, but he “shrinks back, as

it were, in the face of something which must be brought to light as a theme and a

principle if the expression “Being” is to have any demonstrable meaning [Sinn].”344

Specifically, Kant argues that when we think the object of a regulative idea,

We remove from the object of the idea the conditions which limit the
concept provided by our understanding, but which also alone make it
possible for us to have a determinate concept of anything. What we then
think [denken] is a something [ein Etwas] of which, as it is in itself, we
have no concept whatsoever, but which we none the less represent

Ibid., pg. 515, A 616, B 644.
Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 45.

[denken] to ourselves as standing to the sum of appearances in a relation
analogous to that in which appearances stand to one another.345

What is this “thinking” of something of which we have “no concept whatsoever”?

Alternately, what is “thinking” when it has no concepts? Furthermore, what does it mean

that we think of this something as “standing to the sum of appearances in a relation

analogous to that in which appearances stand to one another”? These two aspects in

which we think this “something” indicate the movement of thought towards what

transcends conceptualization and how we try to in fact conceptualize it. The former is,

according to Kantian philosophy, simply beyond thought itself. It is the “thing-in-itself”

that came under such withering criticism immediately after Kant and was ridiculed as the

last naive vestiges of dogmatic metaphysics in his philosophy. It was to the latter that

many philosophers after Kant (and in many respects Kant himself) exclusively turned,

i.e., to understanding the way in which we think of something as the unity of the sum of

appearances. In this turning, the last remnants of transcendence were surrendered to

immanent subjectivity. Most philosophers following Kant were careful not to think this

unity of the sum of appearances in the same way in which appearances stand to one

another, but they were unwilling to consider that we can properly think of something

which in itself we have no concept whatsoever.

Heidegger focuses on the “metaphysical” nature of Kant’s thought, rather than the

epistemological interpretation. In this regard, Heidegger argues that, “the positive

outcome of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason lies in what it has contributed towards the

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pg. 552, A 674, B 702.

working of what belongs to any Nature whatsoever, not in a ‘theory’ of knowledge.”346

Heidegger focuses on the question of how we can think of something that in itself we

have no concept whatsoever and, at the same time, think it in such a way that it is the

unity of the totality of experience. This question of course represents the fundamental

question of his 1919 lectures, viz., "Is there something?"

The pre-worldly something, i.e., Being, cannot be meaningfully intended. As

utterly transcendent it is the pure potentiality for world and, thus, for meaning. The

question arises as to what is the relation between the world and the pre-worldly

something or between the meaning of Being and Being? The answer, Heidegger

believes, lies in living discourse [Rede], though this certainly should not be understood

solely as a “vocal proclamation in words” which is merely discoursing “when fully

concrete.”347 Rather, discourse is Heidegger’s own appropriation of the Greek logos with

respect to the task of phenomenology.348 He says, “Logos as “discourse” means rather

the same as deloun: to make manifest what one is ‘talking about’ in one’s discourse.”349

Heidegger sees this as the answer that Aristotle gave to the question. Kant argues that the

answer to the question of Being is the regulative idea of the unity of the sum of

appearances. Aristotle, on the other hand, was not concerned to give a transcendental

account of the unity of Being, i.e., one that merely specifies the limits of the thinking of

Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 31.
Ibid., pg. 56. The full quote is: “When fully concrete, discoursing (letting something be seen) has
the character of a speaking [Sprechens] – vocal proclamation in words.”
Cf. Being and Time, ¶ 7, B.
Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 56.

the unity of all thought. Rather, Aristotle was concerned to move forward toward a

positive account of the unity of Being, i.e., he was interested in the problem of the

science of Being distinct from and constitutive of the special sciences. Heidegger

believes that Kant, for all his insight, fell short of this fundamental ontological task,

The question of Being aims therefore at ascertaining the a priori

conditions not only for the possibility of the sciences which examine
entities as entities of such and such a type, and, in so doing, already
operate with an understanding of Being, but also for the possibility of
those ontologies themselves which are prior to the ontical sciences and
which provide their foundations. Basically, all ontology, no matter how
rich and firmly compacted a system of categories it has at its disposal,
remains blind and perverted from its ownmost aim, if it has not first
adequately clarified the meaning of Being, and conceived this clarification
as its fundamental task.350

Kant still took his cue to the task of metaphysics from the objectivity required by the

ontical sciences. From this starting point he could only have conceived of this task along

the lines he actually did. That is, the task of metaphysics is to specify the limits of the

categories required by the ontical sciences.

Aristotle, on the other hand, understood the problem of metaphysics as the

articulation of the primary origin and principle (arche) “underlying” the categories. This

he understood as the question of whether there could be a legitimate science of Being,

namely, a proto philosophia. Aristotle’s answer to this question is of crucial importance

for Heidegger’s own understanding of philosophy. Aristotle’s discussion of this question

reaches its climax in Book IV of his Metaphysics.351 His first task is to distinguish the

Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 31.
Aristotle, Metaphysics, translated by W. D. Ross in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard
McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941).

science in question from the “so-called special sciences; for none of these others treats

universally of being as being. They cut off a part of being and investigate the attribute of

this part; this is what the mathematical sciences for instance do.”352 This “attribute” that

Aristotle talks about is for Heidegger the “basic concept” (Grundbegriff) that guides a

positive science. He says,

The basic structures of any such area have already been worked out after a
fashion in our pre-scientific ways of experiencing and interpreting that
domain of Being in which the area of subject-matter is itself confined.
The ‘basic concepts’ which thus arise remain our proximal clues for
disclosing this area concretely for the first time.353

“Higher” than these basic concepts and attributes are the categories. Aristotle and

Heidegger do not understand these transcendentally. They are not basic unifications of

experience that are further determined according to the special sciences. That is, they do

not represent epistemic structures that, by lying behind the empirical sciences, make

possible those sciences themselves. An indication of this in the text from Heidegger just

quoted is that he says that the basic concepts arise out of “pre-scientific ways of

experiencing and interpreting that domain of Being.” A transcendental understanding of

the categories see them not as pre-scientific, but as the fulfillment of science, i.e., the

theory of knowledge or, alternatively, the science of science. An indication that Aristotle

also does not understand the categories transcendentally is that “substance, in the truest

and primary and most definite sense of the word, is that which is neither predicable of a

subject nor present in a subject; for instance, the individual man [tis anthropon] or horse

Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1003a 20 – 25.
Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 29.

[tis hippos]."354 Clearly, substance in the truest and primary sense of the word is not a

condition for the possibility of science. In fact, because scientific knowledge always

concerns the universal for Aristotle, primary substance is not even the object of science.

The same applies to being itself. In his Physics355, Aristotle asks rhetorically, "for who

understands 'being itself' to be anything but a particular substance [ti einai - some

being]?"356 It is interesting then to note how Aristotle understands the way in which the

sciences "cut off" a part of being to inquire into it. Aristotle in the quote from the

Metaphysics mentions Mathematics as an example. In the Physics he talks more about

the object of Mathematics and its relation to substance. He says,

Now the mathematician, though he too treats of these things [surfaces,

volumes, lines, and points], nevertheless does not treat of them as the
limits of a physical body [phusikou somatos]; nor does he consider the
attributes indicated as the attributes of such bodies. That is why he
separates them; for in thought they are separable from motion, and it
makes no difference, nor does any falsity result, if they are separated.357

Mathematics, as well as the other special sciences, investigates an attribute of primary

substance. For Kant, as well as for Husserl, asserting that something is a substance is the

least that one can assert of it. For Aristotle, the designation of primary substance is the

most that one can say of something, all else being separations from this primary


Aristotle, Categories, translated by E. M. Edghill in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard
McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 2a 11 – 13.
Aristotle, Physics.
Aristotle, Physics, 187a 8 – 9.
Ibid., 193b 32 – 36.

What about the "science of being qua being"? Is there such a science? If “being

itself” simply means some particular being and science always concerns the universal

(katholou), then how can there be a science of being qua being? For Aristotle, a science

requires that there be something to unify it. Famously, Aristotle says that there can be a

science of being because, although “being is said in many ways” [to de on legetai men

pollachos] it is always said “towards one and some one nature” [pros hen kai mian tina

phusin]358. Similarly, “everything which is healthy is related to health, one thing in the

sense that it preserves health, another in the sense that it produces it, another in the sense

that it is a symptom of health, another because it is capable of it.”359 Therefore,

...there are many senses in which a thing is said to be, but all refer to one
starting-point [archen]; some things are said to be because they are
substances, others because they are affections of substance, others because
they are a process towards substance, or destructions or privations or
qualities of substance...360

Our interest lies in the way in which Heidegger appropriates this discussion. What is the

starting-point [archen] of our researches into being? In what way is being discussed in

many ways but towards one and some one nature?

First, we must understand nature not in the modern way it is understood, i.e., in

opposition to the self or the subject. We must understand it in the Greek way as

exemplified by Aristotle. Aristotle says that, “nature is a source or cause of being moved

and of being at rest in that to which it belongs primarily, in virtue of itself and not in

Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1003b 33 – 34.
Ibid., 1003a 35 – 1003b 1.
Ibid.,, 1003b 2 – 9.

virtue of a concomitant attribute.”361 Furthermore, nature is primarily "the end (telos) or

'that for the sake of which' (heneka)."362 The starting-point and the nature of the science

of being, although related, are different. For Aristotle, the starting-point of the science of

being is substance (ousia). However, what allows there to be a science of being is that

being is said in such a way that it is towards one and towards some one nature. That is,

discourse upon being is towards one and is a source or cause of being moved and of

being at rest.

As Heidegger interprets Aristotle, the starting-point of the science of being, i.e.,

ousia, is the domain of objects produced and that, as produced, are capable of being

manipulated. Heidegger writes,

The domain of objects supplying the primordial sense of being was the
domain of those objects produced and put into use in dealings. Thus the
toward-which this primordial experience of being aimed at was not the
domain of being consisting of things in the sense of objects understood in
a theoretical manner as facts but rather the world encountered in going
about dealings that produce, direct themselves to routine tasks, and use.363

That is, Heidegger claims that the primordial sense of being for Aristotle was the sense of

being of things in the environing world, namely, worldly things. It is specifically not a

theoretical grasping and addressing of objects in the theoretical sense. It is not being

manifested in critical concern, but in worldly concern. Aristotle’s starting point is

transcendence. Heidegger goes on to argue that Aristotle’s primordial sense of being,

Aristotle, Physics, 192b 22 – 23.
Ibid., 194a 28.
Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: An Indication of
the Hermeneutical Situation,” pg. 127.

ousia, is determined in relation to the environing world, i.e., ousia is a worldly something

of lived-experience,

With the objects it addresses, legein takes beings in their beingness (ousia
[substance]) of their look into true safekeeping. But in Aristotle and also
after him, ousia still retains its original meaning of the household,
property, what is at one’s disposal for use in one’s environing world.364

In an important sense this is as far as theoretical philosophy had progressed. With the

exception of Dilthey, the tradition understood possession in the sense proper to the

theoretical subject, viz., knowledge. Dilthey, however, understood possession much

more broadly as lived-experience, whose qualitative determinations are not exclusively or

primarily theoretical knowing. On the other hand, ousia does not exhaust the manifold

ways in which being is spoken of. It is but one of the categories of being.

The crux of Heidegger's appropriation of Aristotle's discussion of the science of

being is the manifold ways of speaking of being. For Heidegger, being is not possessed

by means of ousia, since substantiality is only one of the ways or approaches to being.

According to Aristotle, the manifold ways of discoursing upon being are focused upon

one primary way of addressing being, ousia. However, as we have seen, primary ousia

itself is a way of addressing being, not being itself. More precisely, primary ousia, i.e.,

the worldly something, is itself a possession of " mian tina phusin" (some one nature).

The saying of being is toward one (pros hen) and toward some one nature. The question

becomes what is the "some one nature" towards which the saying of being is toward. Or,

as we have seen, since nature is in its primary sense an internal principle of movement,

towards what some one internal principle of movement is the saying of being towards?

Ibid., pg. 128.

The expressions of being per se, e.g., "ousia," are not internal principles of movement. In

themselves they are a way in which movement comes to a stand in the soul. In Aristotle's

famous metaphor about the soul's movement toward knowledge,

We conclude these states [hexis] of knowledge are neither innate in a

determinate form, nor developed from other higher states of knowledge,
but from sense-perception. It is like a rout in a battle stopped by first one
man making a stand [stantos] and then another, until the original
formation (arche) has been restored. The soul is so constituted as to be
[uparche ousa - begins to exist by being] capable of this process...When
one of a number of logically indiscriminable particulars has made a stand,
the earliest universal is present in the soul.365

Indirectly this gets at the heart of the issue that concerns Heidegger.

For Aristotle, the discourse on being is a hexis, i.e., a "having," "possessing," or

"habit," of the soul. This is to be sharply distinguished from a related Greek word, echon,

"to have or possess something.” As Heidegger points out in many contexts, Aristotle

understands man as zoon logon echon, i.e., a living being which possesses discourse.366

Logon is not a hexis of human being, but is an echon. Aristotle's discussion of the

distinction between these is significant and illuminating. Aristotle says that echon has a

number of meanings, the most important of which are: (1) an active sense, "to treat a

thing according to one's own nature [tropon kata ten autou phusin] or according to one's

own impulse; so that fever is said to have a man, and tyrants to have their cities, and

people to have the clothes they wear"367 and (2) a passive sense, "that in which a thing is

present as in something receptive of it is said to have the thing; e.g. the bronze has the

Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, 100a 9 – 16.
For example, Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, chapter 2 and Heidegger, Being
and Time, ¶6.
Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1023a 8 – 11.

form of the statue, and the body has the disease."368 The active sense of echon is a tropon

kata ten autou phusin, i.e., it is to have something in a direction, way, or approach

(tropon) that is in accordance with one's own nature. Thus, human being (as Zoon logon

echon) is the living being who essentially possesses discourse as a direction, way, or

approach in accordance with its own internal source of motion, i.e., its "for the sake of

which." However, one should not discount the passive sense of echon either, especially

in light of the importance of this aspect to Heidegger's further analysis of Dasein. That

is, human being is the living being that possesses discourse as "something receptive of it"

as the "bronze has the statue" or the "body has the disease." In this passive sense, human

being possesses discourse as its "for the sake of which." This ambiguity in Aristotle's

definition of man, namely, man as having discourse both as the way or approach to its for

the sake of which and as having discourse as its for the sake of which, is an ambiguity

which Heidegger plays off of in his own analysis of Dasein.

Hexis has an analogous, though quite different meaning, from echon. Aristotle

says that hexis means,

A kind of activity [energeia] of the haver [echontos] and of what he has

[echomenou] - something like an action [praxis] or movement [kinesis].
For when one thing makes [poie] and one is made [poietai], between them
is a making [poiesis]; so too between him who has [echontos] a garment
and the garment which he has [echomenes] there is a having [hexis]. This
sort of having [hexis], then, evidently we cannot have [echein]; for the
process will go on to infinity, if it is to be possible to have the having of
what we have.369

Ibid., 1023a 11 – 13.
Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1022b 3 – 10.

A hexis for Aristotle is a possessing or having that itself cannot be possessed. It is the

movement (praxis or kinesis) that is having itself. Importantly, this activity or movement

is not categorical, i.e., it is not directed towards ousia. This is explicit in Aristotle's

understanding of the categories insofar as echon is one of the categories, but hexis is

not.370 That is, one has something, an ousia, and is had by an ousia. However, the very

having itself is a hexis that is “between” these. Interestingly, production (poiein) is

likewise one of the categories, since only an ousia can be produced. However, neither

action (praxis) nor movement (kinesis) is a category. That is, praxis and movement are

utterly different from poiesis, i.e., producing which has its telos in an ousia, what is to be

produced. For Aristotle, a praxis is a movement in which the end or “for the sake of

which” is the praxis itself,

Since of the actions which have a limit none is an end but all are relative
to the end, e.g., the removing of fat, or fat-removal, and the bodily parts
themselves when one is making them thin are in movement in this
way...this is not an action or at least not a complete one (for it is not an
end); but that movement in which the end is present is an action. E.g. at
the same time we are seeing and have seen, are understanding and have
understood, are thinking and have thought (while it is not true that at the
same time we are learning and have learnt)...At the same time we are
living and have lived well.371

Praxis transcends the categorical structure centered on ousia. For Aristotle, the activities

of life, seeing, understanding, and thinking are all praxis.

Therefore, when Aristotle says that man is the living being (Zoon) that possesses

(echon) discourse, this is a definition of man that is substantial, i.e., a definition of the

Cf., Aristotle, Categories, chapter 4.
Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1048b 18 – 24.

substance human being. Man is the ousia that has discourse as something possessed

(either in the active or passive sense). The living character of this being as praxis, then,

has been subordinated to the categorical structures of thought. In other words, Aristotle

says that man is a living being, but when it comes to defining man, he gives a substantial

definition. Because of this, discourse has become a possession of a substance and the

connection of discourse to being is covered over. Heidegger argues that,

The domain of being consisting of objects of dealings (poioemenon [what

has been produced], pragma [a thing done], erlon [a work], kineseos [what
has been set in motion]) and the mode of addressing these objects in such
dealings, namely, a particular "logos" or more precisely the objects of
such dealings in the how of their being-addressed, mark out the forehaving
from which Aristotle drew the basic ontological structures and also the
modes of addressing and defining for approaching the object "human

The crucial aspect of what Heidegger argues here is that Aristotle took his cue for the

analysis of human life from a particular "logos." Namely, that logos for which being is

primarily ousia. In this way, both human life and discourse are understood substantially.

A human being is therefore understood as a substance that deals with, produces, and uses

substance, and does so primarily by manipulating and using speech. At the same time,

however, Aristotle glimpses something transcending this, namely, the activity of

discoursing about being - of which ousia is but one particular manifestation. Aristotle,

however, does not directly grasp life itself (praxis) and its relation to being, discourse,

and world.

Heidegger, " Phenomenological Interpretations in Connection with Aristotle: An Indication of the
Hermeneutical Situation," pg. 128.

This, I believe, is the issue that Heidegger sees Dilthey raising again in the

"world-riddle," the relation between and essential inseparability of the generality of the

world and the particularity and concreteness of life.373 However, Heidegger argues that

Dilthey too misunderstood the question of being and the question of the meaning of

being, particularly as it related to life. Dilthey is not alone in this. He in fact freed up

many essential structures of human life that had lain dormant since Aristotle. Dilthey had

taken the modern discussion of human life from its confinement to transcendental

subjectivity and towards lived-experience and life itself. Modern philosophy, on the other

hand, only intensified Aristotle's substantival interpretation of human being. Heidegger

strongly criticizes both Kant and Husserl's lack of insight into the being of "subjectivity,"

that is, their failure to provide an "ontology of Dasein." Heidegger argues that modernity

understands the human being primarily and exclusively as subjectivity, i.e., as a

substance that knows. That is, when it comes to understanding human life, modernity

interprets it in accord with Aristotelian ousia, i.e., it is a subject of predicates, though in a

peculiarly modern epistemological sense. Heidegger argues that,

Kant adopts [the] definition of the ego as res cogitans in the sense of
cogito me cogitare except that he formulates it in a more fundamental
ontological way. He says the ego is that whose determinations are
representations in the full sense of repraesentatio. We know that
“determination” [Bestimmung] is not an arbitrary concept or term for Kant
but the translation of the term determinatio or realitas. The ego is a res,
whose realities are representations, cogitationes. As having these
determinations the ego is res cogitans...The ego which has the
determinations is, like every other something, a subjectum that has
predicates. But how does this subject, as an ego, “have” its predicates, the

That this is such an important issue for Heidegger places in doubt any straightforward “particularist”
reading of Heidegger, for instance, that of Friedman, et. al.

representations?...The having of the determinations, the predicates, is a
knowing of them.374

What is central to Heidegger's analysis of the Kantian subject is that it possesses (echon)

representations. This is a development of Aristotle's own analysis of human being as

Zoon echon logon, wherein echon logon has been interpreted as possessing

representations rather than discourse. The modern subject possesses its attributes by

means of self-consciousness, "The ego is a subject in the sense of self-consciousness.

This subject not only is distinct from its predicates but also has them as known by it,

which means as objects. This res cogitans, the something that thinks, is a subject of

predicates and as such it is a subject for objects.”375 This is the culmination of the

modern ontological interpretation of the theoretical ego.

In what way does the ego have its predicates? The ego has its predicates

(representations) by knowing them. Therefore, the activity of knowing is the hexis

characteristic of the modern subject. Knowing is the peculiar praxis and kinesis of the

modern theoretical subject. Once again, we see how influential Natorp's insight into the

modern problematic embodied in the critical project was to Heidegger. Natorp

understood that knowledge was the preeminent task, activity, and movement of the

modern conception of the self. However, this understanding of human being could only

go as far as knowledge could allow. It could never understand the peculiar human

activity of first philosophy because it presupposes a particular dominant "logos," i.e.,

ousia. Modern philosophy did not even go this far however, because it understood the

Martin Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, pg. 126.

movement of knowledge as distinct from the subject. The subject had a role to play but

only as that which underlies the movement of knowledge,

The subject concept in the sense of subjectivity, of egohood, is connected

in the most intimate way ontologically with the formal-apophantic
category of the subjectum, the hupokeimenon, in which at first nothing at
all of egohood is present. On the contrary, the hupokeimenon is the extant,
the disposable. It is because the ego is the subjektum proper or, in Greek,
the substance proper, hupokeimenon, for the first time explicitly in Kant,
even though prefigured in Descartes and above all in Leibniz, that Hegel
can say that the true substance is the subject or the true meaning of
substantiality is subjectivity. This principle of the Hegelian philosophy
lies in the direct line of development of the problems of modern

Subjectivity is understood as the unity underlying the movement of representations. It is

the "unity of apperception," the "I think." Ultimately, it is the unity underlying the very

movement of knowledge and as all other substances are constituted in the objectivity of

knowledge it is substance par excellence. In light of this ontological interpretation it is,

from an epistemological perspective, also the ultimate hupothesis as well. That is, it is

something that cannot be given but must be presupposed. As hupokeimenon, the subject

is understood to be the “matter” underlying modifications of form. The movement itself

and its "for the sake of which" is secondary to the matter, viz., the subject.

Heidegger, on the other hand, attempts to understand the activity of articulating

the meaning of being. Beyond Dasein’s activity of possessing worldly entities, viz.,

being-in-the-world, what is the intensification of life that allows Dasein to question the

meaning of being? This is Heidegger’s genuine appropriation of Aristotle’s thought - but

Heidegger’s approach to this issue involves a hermeneutic that is illuminated not only by

Ibid., pg. 127.

Aristotle’s thought, but one which is deeply influenced by his reading of Husserl, Natorp,

and Dilthey and their approaches to this issue. Approaching Aristotle’s philosophy from

the perspective of transcendental phenomenology, what is most problematic is Aristotle’s

claim that the science of being relies on the “addressing and discussing” (legein) of

being. This is problematic because, from the perspective of transcendental

phenomenology, we are supposed to find a immanent correlate of such discourse and in

this discover the meaning of being. Aristotle’s account of the science of being does not

conform to this. Though the primordial sense of being may have arisen for Aristotle from

out of the beings of our dealings, the activity of proto philosophia relies upon our ways

of actually addressing and discussing being. Aristotle’s approach is, however, not totally

alien to phenomenology.

Heidegger argues that all meaning and all expression are lived, i.e., are worldly.

Given that being, i.e., the pre-worldly something, transcends the worldly, how can we

meaningfully discuss it? The answer lies in the fact that living discourse [Rede] is not

limited to what is meaningful. To bring this to the surface we need to turn to Husserl's

analysis of meaning and expression. At the very beginning of his discussion of

expression and meaning, Husserl makes a distinction that is fateful both in the

development of his thought, but also for its impact on Heidegger. Husserl remarks that

"Every sign (Zeichen) is a sign for something (etwas), but not every sign has 'meaning', a

'sense' that the sign 'expresses'."377 There are two types of signs, i.e., those that are

Husserl, Logical Investigations, investigation I, §I.

merely indications [Anzeichen] and which do not express anything378 and those that have

both an indicative and signitive function [Bedeutungsfunktion]. Husserl mentions as

examples of the former, a flag as the sign of a nation, Martian canals as signs of the

existence of intelligent beings, etc. These, Husserl believes, do not express anything

because they have no meaning (Bedeutung). Like facial expressions, to another these

purely indicative signs "...'mean' something to him in so far as he interprets [deutet] them,

but even for him they are without meaning in the special sense in which verbal signs

[sprachlicher Zeichen] have meaning: they only mean in the sense of indicating."379

Examples of the latter, i.e., signs that have both an indicative and signitive function,

would be any meaningful expression of living discourse. In other words, these are signs

whose purpose is to communicate meaningfully with another. Meaning, however, is a

broader notion than that which pertains to these latter signs, insofar as expressions can be

meaningful without indicating anything. Husserl's analysis of this is crucial,

If, as one unwillingly does, one limits oneself to expressions employed in

living discourse [Rede], the notion of an indication seems to apply more
widely that that of an expression...[however] To mean is not a particular
way of being a sign in the sense of indicating something. It has a narrower
application only because meaning - in communicative speech - is always
bound up with such an indicative relation, and this in turn leads to a wider
concept, since meaning is also capable of occurring without such a
connection. Expressions function meaningfully even in isolated mental
life, where they no longer serve to indicate anything.380

Husserl says, "For signs in the sense of indications (notes, marks etc.) do not express anything,
unless they happen to fulfill a significant as well as an indicative function," (Logical Investigations, pg.
Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 188.
Ibid., pg. 183.

Here in embryo lies Husserl's argument for the banishment of meaning to the realm of

immanence and his rejection of indication in favor of intentionality, because meaning,

even in communication, is so only for a thinking subject. In other words, even in living

discourse, the spoken words are not meaningful apart from a thinking subject who enacts

their meaning, that is, only insofar as they indicate to another the “thoughts” of the

speaker. Husserl says,

...all expressions in communicative speech function as indications. They

serve the hearer as signs of the ‘thoughts’ of the speaker, i.e. of his sense-
giving inner experiences, as well as of the other inner experiences which
are part of his communicative intention. This function of verbal
expressions we shall call their intimating function. The content of such
intimation consists in the inner experiences intimated.381

Indication is not properly meaningful though it may be a means of producing such


Because of this, indication is not an instance of intentionality at all, though in

communication it may occasion in a thinking subject a sense-giving act which itself is

meaningful and intends an object. Husserl remarks that,

If we seek a foothold in pure description, the concrete phenomenon of the

sense-informed expression breaks up, on the one hand, into the physical
phenomenon forming the physical side of the expression, and, on the other
hand, into the acts which give it meaning and possibly also intuitive
fulness, in which its relation to an expressed object is constituted. In
virtue of such acts, the expression is more than a merely sounded word. It
means something, and in so far as it means something, it relates to what is

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 189.
Ibid., pp. 191 – 192.

Most significantly, Husserl argues that the essence of indication lies in a motivational

structure of consciousness. He says that,

A thing is only properly an indication if and where it in fact serves to

indicate something to some thinking being. If we wish to seize the
pervasively common element here present we must refer back to such
cases of ‘live’ functioning. In these we discover as a common
circumstance the fact that certain objects or states of affairs of whose
reality someone has actual knowledge indicate to him the reality of certain
other objects or states of affairs, in the sense that his belief in the reality of
the one is experienced (though not at all evidently) as motivating a belief
or surmise in the reality of the other. 383

The motivational connection that indication produces is not in itself a meaningful unity,

though through a further sense-giving act such a meaningful unity could be constituted.

For this reason, Husserl argues that indications and indicative connections “lack insight.”

If the merely indicative connection is transformed into a meaningful connection by means

of a further sense-giving act then this latter connection is capable of leading to insight,

namely, intuitive fulfillment. Having said this, the indicative relation is not to be reduced

to a mere “association of ideas” a la modern empiricism.384 Rather, the indicative

relation is grounded in what is motivated by past experience, i.e., “that certain things may

or must exist, since other things have been given.”385 Importantly, the difference between

indication and the theory of the association of ideas of modern empiricism is that

indication can be “creative” and “productive” and so is not merely a “reactivation” of

dormant though present ideas. Indications include associations which operate

Ibid., pg. 184.
Cf., Husserl, Logical Investigations, investigation I, chapter one, §4.
Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 184.

“creatively, and produce peculiar descriptive characters and forms of unity.”386 This is

important for the connection it makes to Dilthey’s understanding of lived-experience, and

also to the central importance of motivation in lived-experience, namely, as creative and


On the other hand, indicative relations can play no foundational role within

Husserlian phenomenology and, correspondingly, in a genuine scientific philosophy,

because this is conceived as an eidetic science (though of course phenomenology will

give an eidetic account of the relation of indication). Phenomenology, according to

Husserl, can only rely upon meaningful connections and intuitive insight, i.e., on

immanent structures of consciousness. This is the only way that meaning, intentionality,

and objectivity could remain intact after the phenomenological epoche. Having said this,

it is not the case the Husserl had slipped back into psychologism.387 In other words, I do

not mean to suggest that for Husserl what is meant or intended in all cases is something

immanent. Quite to the contrary, one of the hallmarks of Husserl's philosophy (even in

the Logical Investigations) is that in most cases (e.g., in non-reflective acts) the "inner

experiences" and thoughts of a thinking subject are precisely not moments of the meaning

of an act of consciousness - this is at bottom the crux of psychologism's

misunderstanding of meaning. Rather, for Husserl, the thinking subject is the source of

meaning as such, not a moment thereof or of its intended object. One can meaningfully

Ibid., pp. 186 – 7.
Though many of the critics of the Logical Investigations thought so and Husserl himself notes that
the language used in the Logical Investigations tends to suggest as much. For example, his reference to
"inner experiences" which Husserl argues, properly understood, is not psychologistic.

intend "transcendent" objects, though the meaning intention itself is "constituted" in an

act of consciousness. Heidegger goes much further and argues that meaning is not

constituted in the thinking subject or, more exactly, pure subjectivity.388 The source of

meaning is Being-in-the-world. That is, meaning (and intentionality) as such is not

immanent, but transcendent. This issue is, of course, complicated by the fact that in

Being and Time meaning and transcendence is ultimately grounded in Dasein only one of

whose existentiale is Being-in-the-world.389

Heidegger emphasizes the transcendent character of indication. Following

Dilthey, he believes that there are no expressions that are "isolated in mental life.”

Expression for Heidegger is always living discourse (Rede). In other words, expressions

are essentially both meaningful and indicative, meaningful insofar as they have a worldly

character and indicative of either a worldly something or the pre-worldly something.

Since Dasein is, ontologically, being-in-the-world, Dasein’s expressions are worldly and,

therefore, both meaningful and indicative and transcendentally so. For instance, contrary

to Husserl, the expression “the cat is on the mat” is meaningful insofar as the expression

has a worldly character and indicates a worldly something. This expression does not

indicate the “inner experiences” or “thoughts” of the one who expresses it, but the

worldly something that is the cat on the mat. Husserl believes that the expression

indicates an inner experience or thought which, when enacted by a thinking subject, is

This, of course, does not mean that the source of meaning transcends Dasein, but Dasein is not
reducible to "pure subjectivity."
While Dasein always finds itself within a totality of involvements and hence the significative context
that makes up worldhood, such a totality is ultimately significant in terms of its own project. Hence,
strictly taken “only Dasein can be meaningful or meaningless.”

capable of intending an objective state of affairs (“the cat is on the mat”) which could be

meaningfully fulfilled through intuition.

For Heidegger, even at the pinnacle of the intensification of life, i.e.,

phenomenological life, life expresses itself. It expresses itself as world. What is the

meaning of world? We have already looked at this. The meaning of such an expression

is the total, unified nexus of lived-experience. More importantly, what does world

indicate? It indicates the pre-worldly something, i.e., being. In 1922, Heidegger calls

this kind of expression, a "formal indication." It arises in the context of Heidegger's

analysis of philosophical definition,

A philosophical definition is one of principle [Die philosphische

Definition ist eine prinzipielle], so that philosophy is indeed not a "matter
of fact" ["Sache"]; "possessing in principle." Therefore this definition
must be one that "indicates": what is at issue; that is only a more precise
explication of the specific character of a principle. The philosophical
definition occasions a pre-"turning" to the object, such that I do indeed not
“turn” to the content. The definition is “Formally” indicative – the “way,”
the “approach.” What is pre-given is a bond that is indeterminate as to
content but determinate as to the way of actualization.390

Philosophical definition is living discourse at the limit of the meaningful. It is the living

discourse that transcends world and meaning as such. It can only accomplish this

through indication. Specifically, it signifies a worldly something, but as living discourse,

it also simultaneously indicates the pre-worldly something.

In its primordial form, philosophical definitions are the categories (kategorein) of

being, namely the primordial living discourse which indicates (kategoreo) being. As we

have already seen, this is how Aristotle understands the categories. For example, he

Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle: Initiation into Phenomenological
Research, pp. 16 – 7.

argues that the discourse or saying of substance is primarily some particular substance,

e.g., some man or some horse. The latter is not discourse but some being. Beings are

possessed by humans by means of discourse, primarily through the category of substance.

Discursive thought is the way in which human beings possesses beings and ultimately

relies on the categories. Significantly, Aristotle says that thought is always of the

universal (kathalou). Modern philosophy interpreted the universal as an abstract

(immanent) meaning. On the other hand, when Aristotle explains what he means by a

universal it is clear that he has a quite different understanding of universals. A Universal

is a particular form of discourse. He says, “By the term ‘universal’ I mean that which is

of such a nature as to be predicated [kategoreisthai] of many subjects.”391 That is, a

universal is a term which indicates many subjects. It is not an immanental unity of

meaning under which individuals are subsumed as particular instances. For Aristotle,

even universals are what they are only as they are employed in living discourse.

The notion of a philosophical definition plays a significant role both in

Heidegger’s understanding of phenomenology, but equally so in Aristotle’s conception of

philosophy and science. All scientific knowledge for Aristotle consists in demonstration

from first principles. However, the first principles are themselves indemonstrable. It is

by means of definitions that the first principles are acquired. For, “the basic premisses of

demonstrations are definitions, and it has already been shown that these will be found

indemonstrable,” therefore, “the primary truths will be indemonstrable definitions.”392

Aristotle, On Interpretation, translated by E. M. Edghill in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by
Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 17a 38 – 39.
Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, 90b 23 – 27.

Aristotle goes on to argue that, “definition is an indemonstrable statement [logos] of

essential nature.”393 The "primary truth" of a philosophical definition certainly cannot,

Aristotle believes, be the truth that applies to judgments, since the latter are all synthetic

combinations that presuppose the categories and so have a derivative sense of truth. For

instance, Aristotle remarks in the Categories that,

Expressions which are in no way composite signify substance, quantity,

quality, relation, place, time, position, state, action, or affection...No one
of these terms, in an by itself, involves an affirmation; it is by the
combination of such terms that positive or negative statements arise. For
every assertion must, as is admitted, be either true or false.394

However, Aristotle distinguishes between the sense of "true" whose contrary is error and

another sense of "true" whose contrary is not error, but ignorance. This latter sense of

"true" is "primary truth" which "causes derivative truths to be true [and which] is most that as each thing is in respect of being, so is it in respect of truth"395 and which

was later known in the tradition as "transcendental truth." Moreover, truth at this primary

level, according to Heidegger, also cannot be an identification of meaning intention and

meaning fulfillment, for the definition lies at the limit of the experienceable as such. No

meaningful fulfillment is possible, though there is a connection to meaning intention.

Heidegger says,

With respect to an indicational or referential characteristic, the

determination "formal" signifies something decisive! Object "emptily"
meant: and yet decisively! Not arbitrarily and without a sound approach,

Ibid., 94a 11.
Aristotle, Categories, 1b 25 - 2a6.
Aristotle, Metaphysics, 993b 26 – 31.

but precisely "emptily" and determinative of direction: indicative,

At the limit of the experienceable as such the meaning of living discourse is necessarily

the object "emptily" meant, i.e., there can be no fulfilling experience. However, as with

Husserl, the emptily meant provides direction, the way and the approach, for "intuition."

At the level of philosophical definition, truth is, as Heidegger says, an "uncovering"

(entdecken). What is uncovered however is not an experienceable something. Rather,

what is uncovered is an indication, i.e., the way or approach, towards being. The only

"fulfillment" possible in this case is the movement that moves along the approach

towards what is indicated.

In the case of first philosophy this movement has no "limit," it has no ending point

by which the movement is completed. One can never reach what is indicated, namely

being, insofar as Heidegger has claimed that it is the pure potentiality for the "it worlds."

But as such, it must be understood as a praxis. In the philosophical definitions of first

philosophy, there simply is no object that is indicated, or put differently, the

philosophical definition indicates "worauf es ankommt" - what is at issue or what matters.

However, this praxis (as all praxis) has subordinate movements (kinesis) that do reach

completion and have a “limit.” These are movements reach their completion in the

possession (echon) of something, but this possessing can only be understood within the

over-arching praxis that they are subordinate to. In this possessing something “comes to

a halt,” that is, has reached completion in something that is external to the movement.

Although, the movement also comes to a halt. That is, the possessing that results

Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, pg. 26.

contains both something possessed and that which possesses it. The movement itself is

not possessed (echon) but is a state or disposition (hexis) of the praxis to which the

movement belongs. In the case of the praxis of first philosophy these movements result

in the possession of particular logos which in living discourse indicates being. The

possession of the logos is not a praxis, but a movement belonging to a praxis. The most

general form of this movement is the possession of a "world." And this movement can

result in a further productive movement (poiesis) that produces, by means of an

articulation of the world, a worldview. The possession of a "world" is what Heidegger,

following Dilthey, understands by meaning. Life possesses a "world" and in living

discourse produces a worldview that is historical and intersubjective. This is the extent to

which Dilthey understood life, both in relation to its peculiar movement and its meaning.

The movements of life are lived-experiences. For instance, Dilthey asserts that, “lived-

experience provides the basis for religion, art, anthropology, and metaphysics. We must

not only accept these experiences as they come, but generate and multiply them.”397 He

understood that the products of lived-experience are expressions, “lived-experience

generates its own expressions. The latter are found in literature, etc.”398 He also saw the

that lived-experience is the “between” of possessor and possessee. He says, “these

expressions always contain a relation of subject and object. In language, this relation

manifests itself as an intuition or concept (judgment) of objects, a feeling about, an

Dilthey, “Fragments for a Poetics,” pg. 223.
Ibid., pg. 229.

intention to, etc.”399 Finally, he recognized the intimate connection between meaning

(the totality of lived-experience) and the nature of life. He argues that, “the meaning of

life is the unity of the totality of the parts and the value of the individual parts. This unity

lies in the nature of life. Thus meaning is a category obtained from life itself...The

meaning of things is already inherent in them. The meaning of relations of life. Natural


Heidegger saw that Dilthey recognized the importance of life and its structures,

but Heidegger argues that, “Dilthey managed to draw attention to certain structures in

life, but he never formulated the question of the reality of life itself, namely, what is the

sense of the being of our own Dasein?”401 Life is for Heidegger, as it was for Aristotle, a

praxis. Dilthey had drawn attention to certain structures of life, but he had not

understood the nature of life itself, i.e., the internal principle of the movement of life as

praxis. Dilthey had seen the subordinate movements of life (lived-experiences), the

“products” of lived-experience, viz., worldview, and the unified totality of lived-

experience (meaning). However, he did not see that these movements were states or

dispositions (hexis) of the philosophical praxis that is life, namely, the phenomenological

habitus. The connection between the praxis of philosophy and life was brought to

Heidegger’s attention by the correspondence between Count York and Dilthey.

Heidegger says that Count York was already on the way to “...raising up ‘life’ into the

Ibid., pg. 230.
Martin Heidegger, “Wilhelm Dilthey’s Research and the Struggle for a Historical Worldview,” pg.

kind of scientific understanding that is appropriate to it.”402 For York, “to philosophize is

to live.” This points to the essentially active nature of philosophy as praxis and

distinguishes it from every other positive or ontic science. Heidegger remarks,

In discussing the question, "What is philosophy?", we are accustomed to

say: the question should not be posed in this form; we can only state what
"philosophizing" is. We cannot teach and learn philosophy but only
"philosophizing."...With regard to biology, we can speak of "pursuing
biology," but we have no corresponding word "biologize." Nor is there a
word "philologize" to correspond with "philology." We can form such
words, but we recognize immediately that the term "philosophize"
expresses "more." It does not mean "to pursue philosophy," "to busy
oneself with philosophy."403

The positive sciences, grounded as they are in regions of being and, therefore, in an

already articulated sense of ousia, are movements, not praxis, and so have a determinate

limit, namely the very region of being they investigate. Philosophy, as the questioning of

the meaning of being, is the praxis to which the movements of the individual positive

sciences belong. This is why one can pursue biology, but cannot "biologize", i.e.,

biology has an end or purpose in subject matter that one pursues and which is not a

praxis. And, although one can pursue philosophy, this is precisely the derivative form of

philosophy that is ignorant of the question of the meaning of being. If philosophy is

understood merely as one pursuit among many, then the praxis indicated in

“philosophizing” is lost. This tendency to cover over the nature of philosophizing by

pursuing philosophy is, however, “built into” philosophizing itself, since the praxis of

Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 454. Heidegger quotes York here: “If philosophy is conceived as a
manifestation of life, and not as the coughing up of a baseless kind of thinking (and such thinking appears
baseless because one’s glance gets turned away from the basis of consciousness), then one’s task is as
meagre in its results as it is complicated and arduous in the obtaining of them. Freedom from prejudice is
what it presupposes, and such freedom is hard to gain.”
Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, pp. 33 – 4.

philosophizing is realized in the very movements that are the manifold pursuits and

dealings that are closest to us in everyday living. There is a tendency to understand

philosophy from out of these everyday pursuits and dealings, even perhaps as the

“highest” and most “noble” of these pursuits. But even if philosophy is understood to be

the highest and most noble of pursuits, this still misses the authentic nature of

philosophy, i.e., philosophizing. The former understanding of philosophy, namely, as the

highest and most noble of pursuits, saturates the historical, self-reflexive interpretation of

philosophy. Philosophy is understood merely as the pursuit of the categories. The

categories become philosophy’s limit. And as there can be no higher or more noble

pursuit than philosophy the very activity of philosophy is, therefore, understood

according to the categories. In other words, philosophizing itself, the human being in its

robust nobility and highest realization, is subsumed under its own categories, primarily

ousia. This remains a worldly, i.e., a world-bound, understanding of life and Dasein.

Dilthey, to his credit, goes beyond a substantival view of the human being, but never sees

further into the nature of life as philosophizing than the movement that is the production

(poiesis) of a worldview.

Heidegger attempts to inquire more primordially into what Dilthey and York have

already glanced at, i.e., philosophy as the fundamental praxis of life, namely,

“philosophizing.” What Heidegger believes is necessary is a new understanding of life

that is not tied to the traditional, worldly categories grounded in ousia. New categories

are needed, categories of life. These categories are, as are all categories, indications of

something. They are to be discovered in the living discourse on “life” and “to live.”

However, a distinction is to be made between the categories of life and worldly

categories. The former are Grundkategorien (”fundamental” or “basic” categories).

Heidegger also calls these “phenomenological categories.” The categories of the world

are derivative in relation to these basic categories.

By 1922 Heidegger has already begun to identify Dasein and life.404 Heidegger

states that in the terms "life" and "to live," "a peculiar prevailing sense now resounds: life

= existence, "being" in and through life [Leben = Dasein, in und durch Leben

»Sein«]."405 The "way" or "approach" to being is in and through life. Furthermore, "to

live" has both an intransitive and transitive sense. Heidegger explains that these two

sense of "to live" are,

1. To live, in an intransitive sense: “to be alive,” “to really live” (=to live
intensely), “to live recklessly, dissolutely,” “to live in seclusion,” “to live
half alive,” “to live by hook or crook.” 2. To live, in a transitive sense:
“To live life,” “to live one’s mission in life”; here for the most part we
find compounds: “to live through [durchleben] something,” “to live out
[verleben] one’s years idly,” and, especially, “to have a lived-experience
[erleben] of something.”406

These two senses of “to live” correspond to the two of sense of "nature" (physis) that

Aristotle lays out in the Physics, i.e., nature as “matter” and nature as the “for the sake of

which.” Heidegger appropriates these two aspects within his own Dasein Analytik. They

will become two major aspects of his fundamental ontological analysis of Dasein: Being-

in-the-world and concern (Besorge). In addition to these, there is also a third sense of

"life," the relational (Bezugssinn) sense. This corresponds to care (Sorge).

Cf., Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, part III.
Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, pg. 64.
Ibid., pg. 63.

The expression “to live” in its intransitive sense indicates world. It is the content

of life. Heidegger says that the intransitive sense of “to live,”

Takes explicit form in phrases such as to live "in" something, to live "out
of" something, to live "for" something, to live "with" something, to live
"against" something, to live "following" something, to live "from"
something. The "something," whose manifold relations to "living" are
indicated in these prepositional what we call
"world."...The phenomenological category, “world,” immediately names –
and this is crucial – what is lived, the content aimed at in living, that
which life holds to...World is the basic category of the content-sense in the
phenomenon, life.407

The sense of “world” is not some world. The difference is crucial. World is a basic

category of life that, in every case, primarily indicates what is lived, the content of life

and what brings life "to a halt." It indicates both the starting-point and the completion of

a movement (kinesis) of life, not the praxis of life. The intransitive sense of “to live”

corresponds to Dasein as being-in-the-world, i.e., the being of the comportment of

Dasein to that which does not have the being of Dasein. Being-in-the-world is a state or

disposition (hexis) of Dasein, or what Heidegger calls an existentiale. Dasein has being-

in-the-world in such a way that it cannot possess (echon) this having, though Dasein can

possess a world. Or, put differently, Dasein is being-in-the-world in the sense that this

being-in-the-world is a movement that Dasein is, but at the same time it is a movement

that has a limit, namely, a particular world.

This captures the movement of Dasein as being-in-the-world, but how is the latter

actualized? It is realized in a particular world, i.e., a particular living expression of its

being-in-the-world. A particular world brings the movement of being-in-the-world to a

Ibid., pg. 65.

halt insofar as it is a product of that movement. A world is a product of life, namely, it is

the product of the attempt to express - as a particular for of discourse - the totality of a

particular stage of the movement of being-in-the-world. A particular world indicates the

movement of being-in-the-world, but its meaning is the product of this movement,

namely, a particular world. A particular world here means a particular stage of “nature”

in the Greek sense of this term, phusis, in contradistinction to the modern sense of the

term "nature," or the totality or aggregate of all "things." Each particular world does give

a meaning to “human being” but only insofar as the latter is understood as a natural

object. For example, one can talk about the Greek view of nature, or the Medieval

Christian view of nature, or the modern scientific view of nature, etc. These are

particular historical worlds.

A particular world is, in fact, always a particular historical and "intersubjective"

world, and not just in the sense of a "past" world. Rather, a particular world is always

historical because it is essentially a bringing to a halt of a movement of life. Heidegger

makes this clear when he distinguishes the basic category of world from the traditional

interpretation of world as "cosmos," etc.,

To understand this concept [World], we need to keep in view our way of

approaching its determination. Our approach springs from the
phenomenological interpretation of the phenomenon, "life," and is
articulated through the intransitive and transitive senses of being in, out of,
for, with, and against a world. What we have here, then, is not the
proposal and designation of some incidentally chosen particular reality
(e.g., the cosmos of nature) as world, i.e., as a place wherein living beings
happen to be found. On the contrary, we are determining the concept of
world precisely by beginning with the phenomenon indicated in the verb,
"to live,"...408

Ibid., pg. 65.

A particular historical world, is something possessed by life in its movement of being-in-


The articulation of a particular world, viz., a particular view of nature, is what has

traditionally been regarded as the specification of the categories. This is why Heidegger,

as we have seen, said that the “positive outcome” of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason,

“lies in what it has contributed towards the working out of what belongs to any Nature

whatsoever, not in a ‘theory’ of knowledge. His transcendental logic is an a priori logic

for the subject-matter of that area of Being called “Nature”.”409 The same could be said

of Aristotle’s treatise on the Categories. Heidegger argues that the categories understood

in this sense are interpretive determinations of the basic category of life, “world” or, in

Being and Time, “the worldhood of the world.” Heidegger remarks that,

If the basic category, “world,” is determined more precisely in some

respect, then this determination is carried out categorially, in new
categories which arise and can be experienced in the actualization of the
interpretation executed in, for, and out of factical life. Categories can be
understood only insofar as factical life itself is compelled to

That a particular world is a stage of life certainly should not be understood in a sense that

prescinds from life. It is a stage of life in the same sense in which what is learnt in the

movement of learning is a stage of learning, i.e., it is a completion of a movement whose

“for the sake of which” remains determinative of the nature of the stage itself. What is

learnt - understood as the completion of a movement of learning - has its “matter," viz.,

what was learnt before, and is caught up in the “for the sake of which” of the movement

Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 31.
Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, pg. 66.

of learning such that it too will be “material” for further learning. The movement of

being-in-the-world is similar to this. The stages of the movement of being-in-the-world,

i.e., particular worlds, is what Heidegger calls facticity or factical life. The concrete

working out of the basic category of life, "world," is the existentiell of Dasein.

Heidegger states that, "The question of existence never gets straightened out except

through existing itself. The understanding of oneself which leads along this way we call

"existentiell". The question of existence is one of Dasein's ontical 'affairs'."411

On the other hand, world is but one of the basic categories of life. Though Kant

positively worked out "what belongs to any nature whatsoever," Heidegger argues that he

"shrunk back" from investigating the other basic category of life, care. Heidegger quotes

Kant from the Critique of Pure Reason: "This schematism of our understanding as

regards appearances and their mere form is an art hidden in the depths of the human soul,

the true devices of which are hardly ever to be divined from Nature and laid uncovered

before our eyes." To which Heidegger adds, "Here Kant shrinks back, as it were, in the

face of something which must be brought to light as a theme and a principle if the

expression "Being" is to have any demonstrable meaning."412 What Heidegger is

pointing at is the "relational" sense of the expression "life." The basic category of world

captures the intransitive sense of “to live” because it has no direct object. World, a

particular historical world, and its derivative categories (e.g., ousia, etc.) are analogous to

Aristotle’s “secondary substance.” They indicate (more or less directly) the completion

Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 33.
Ibid., pg. 45.

of the movement of life and its products, but always in relation to bringing life to a

“halt.” They indicate the content (Inhalt) of life. They do not directly indicate life itself

as praxis, namely, Dasein’s Existenz. The transitive/relational (Bezug) sense of “life”

indicates the latter, the praxis of life. As relational this sense indicates a “between.”

Finally, it represents Heidegger’s appropriation of the Greek term “hexis,” specifically as

Aristotle defines it in the Metaphysics: “between him who has (echon) a garment and the

garment which he has (echon) there is a having (hexis).”413 It is transitive in each sense of

this word: having a direct object, characterized by transition, and a unified relational

closure, e.g., transitive closure. In its broadest sense the relational sense of life formally

indicates care, “caring, indicated formally, and so without laying claim to it: the basic

relational sense of life in itself...In its broadest relational sense, to live is to care about

one’s “daily bread.” Heidegger says that, ““Privation” (privatio, carentia) is both the

relational and the intrinsic basic mode and sense of the Being of life.”414 Life is praxis

because its being is intrinsically “privation,” incompleteness. Hearkening back to

Ancient concepts, we could say that life is intrinsically becoming – a being that is

between being and non-being. The very purpose of Aristotle’s treatise on movement, the

Physics, is to understand becoming in such a way as to resurrect it from the oblivion of

non-being into which it had sunk because of Parmenides’ absolute dichotomy between

being and non-being. Every movement exists because of a privation with respect to

Aristotle, Metaphysics, book V, chapter 20.
Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, pg. 67 – 8.

something’s own proper nature.415 The essence of movement is the attempt to overcome

this privation. If this overcoming succeeds then movement ceases and it comes to rest. If

privation is intrinsic to something’s own proper nature, then movement never ceases, i.e.,

this movement is a praxis. However, intrinsic privation is not total and utter privation, it

is rather part of the nature of something whose being is such that it can always be “filled”

with more, that is, persistent potentiality. This, Heidegger argues, is the ancient sense of

“care.” He famously quotes Seneca: “Among the four existent Natures (trees, beasts,

man, and God), the latter two, which alone are endowed with reason, are distinguished in

that God alone is immortal, while man is mortal. Now when it comes to these, the good

of the one, namely God, is fulfilled by his Nature; but that of the other, man, is fulfilled

by care...”416

To live is, in its broadest relational and transitive sense, caring in the context of

the intrinsic privation that is the basic mode of the Being of life. This second basic

category of being has an essential relation to the first. Understanding this relation will

give us insight into how Heidegger understands care. Heidegger states that,

living, in its verbal meaning, is to be interpreted according to its relational

sense as caring: to care for and about something; to live from [on the basis
of] something, caring for it ... What we care for and about, what caring
adheres to, is equivalent to what is meaningful. Meaningfulness is a
categorial determination of the world; the objects of a world, worldly,
world-some objects, are lived inasmuch as they embody the character of

Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, book V, chapter 22.
Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 243.
Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, pg. 68.

Dilthey argued that meaning is a “unity of the totality of the parts” of life. Heidegger

goes much further now that he has seen life as praxis. World for Heidegger is but the

completion a movement of life, thus it is one “part” of life. What is the “unity of the

totality” of such parts? First we should answer the question, what is the “totality” of such

parts? In the case of life, to the extent that life has a totality, the “totality” of its

movements as the praxis that is life, it is insofar as each movement is “for the sake of”

the praxis of life. Of course in this case “totality” does not mean a determinate, actual

totality. The latter could only be a completion of movement. The totality in this case is

the totality of a praxis, which is nothing other than the praxis itself as intrinsic privation.

What unifies this totality? Caring - the relational sense of “to live.” But this requires

further explanation.

Heidegger maintains that what we care for and about and what care adheres to is

equivalent to what is meaningful. But we have just seen that what is lived is the basic

category of “world”, that is, the content of life. Thus, “if the noun, “life,” is understood

in its relational sense, which is in itself rich and of a manifold referentiality, then the

corresponding content can be characterized as “world.””418 More specifically, however,

“Meaningfulness is a categorial determination of the world.” That is, “world” is

meaningful inasmuch as it indicates and what it indicates is some world. Analogously,

we saw how for Aristotle the categorial determination of “substance” indicates some

substance. However, this does not signify that there are three things, viz., “substance,”

some substance, and a meaning. Meaning is not a third thing but the “between” of the

Ibid., pg. 65.

category substance and some substance, i.e., meaning is the activity of indicating.

Similarly, “world,” as categorially determined, means some world. The categorial

determination of “world” is the activity of indicating some world. In every case,

indicating just is the movement from content towards some being. This, furthermore, is

what is called meaningfulness. This meaning of world is a living from World towards

some world. This relational sense of “life” is care. It is the hexis between the intransitive

sense of “to live,” world, and the transitive sense of “to live,” to live towards something,

i.e., concern (be-sorgen). The categorial determination of “world” is a world that is

lived, and this living is a living towards something. Concern is the “natural,” living

analogue of Husserl’s immanental, theoretical “intentionality.” As we saw in chapter

two, Husserl had characterized intentional as such a living towards, but his grasp of the

being of this was hampered because of his own over-riding theoretical concern for

universal structures of immanent consciousness.

Living towards something in care is an encountering (begegnen): meeting with

something, facing something. Experience (Erfahrung) is just such an encounter.

Heidegger states that,

The world and worldly objects are present in the basic mode of life as
relational, namely, caring. An act of caring encounters them, meets them
as it goes its way. The objects [Gegenstand] are encountered
[Begegnung], and caring is an experience of objects in their respective
encounterability...experience is the basic mode of going out toward them,
meeting them.419

Here Heidegger uses the interplay between Gegenstand, what stands over against,

namely, the object, and begegnen, encountering. Heidegger says, “every experience is in

Ibid., pg. 68.

itself an encounter and indeed an encounter in and for an act of caring. The basic

character of the object is therefore always this: it stands, and is met with, on the path of

care; it is experienced as meaningful.”420 However, these should not be understood as

two separate things. Rather, as with every analysis of the being of living, encountering is

a movement that is directional, namely, it indicates. However, the being of the object of

a movement of encountering is what it is only within this movement. The object is not

there waiting to be encountered, rather the object is as such only as indicated in an

encountering. Every movement of encountering is itself subordinated to the movement

of care. As we have seen in any number of Heidegger’s other analyses, encountering is a

movement that is a moment of a praxis. In this case, instances of encounter are particular

movements within the praxis that is caring. Concern is a movement that is subsequent to

the movement(s) of encountering. That is, one concerns oneself with something only

once it has been encountered. The object is the completion of the movement of

encountering and, when complete, life can concern itself with it. Thus, Heidegger will

say in 1923,

These beings-which-are-there [Das Daseiende] are being encountered in

the how of their being-of-concern, i.e., in their there [im Da] which has
been placed into concern. In its pronounced sense, being-of-concern and
being-attended-to means being-finished: when care has finished with it
and made it ready, when it stands there at our disposal – precisely then is it
for the first time something we are concerned about and attend to in the
proper sense.421

The completion of the movement of encountering is replaced by a movement of concern.

Ibid., pg. 68.
Heidegger, Ontology: The Hermeneutics of Facticity, pg. 78.

Moreover, Heidegger argues that caring always exists in a direction, “The whole

of life, in every case in a world, can be actualized in markedly distinct directions. The

distinctive directions of caring set into relief respective specific worlds of care

[Sorgenswelten].”422 There are three such directions of care, that is, three “living

worlds.” These are: (1) one’s own world (Selbstwelt), wherein the “self” is encountered,

(2) the shared world (Mitwelt), in which others are encountered, and (3) the surrounding

world (Umwelt), in which things are encountered, i.e., dealings, pragmata. Neither of

these lived worlds is more primordial than another, though one’s own world is the

“customary” one. The shared world is “encountered in “part” in one’s own world, insofar

as a person lives with other people, is related to them in some mode of care, and finds

himself in their world of care.”423 Finally, the surrounding world is such that “within

one’s own world as partaking of the shared world, there is immediately co-present the

surrounding world, a circuit of objects which are, as regards content, of quite different

characters of meaningfulness...they do not possess the ontological character and the

“what” of that which pertains to the shared world, namely, human beings, i.e., objects

that can take in care, and have in care, a world.”424 The reason that none of these worlds

is more primordial than another is that they are simply different directions of factical life.

In factical life, one living world may stand out in relief more than another. However,

these lived worlds are not distinct worlds existing apart from one another, rather each of

Heidegger, Phenomenological Interpretations of Aristotle, pg. 70 – 1.
Ibid., pg. 72.
Ibid., pg. 72.

these lived worlds “can be encountered in various ways in the factical living of a concrete

life-world [Lebenswelt].”425 These three lived worlds and the concrete life-world are the

meaning, that is, are categorial determinations, of the basic category of world in the

praxis of care. In addition, they each have their derivative theoretical interpretations as

well, e.g., subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and objectivity. In Heidegger’s characterization

of the surrounding world, we see Natorp’s influence. It was Natorp, as I explained in

chapter three, who realized that the movement towards objectivity is first grounded in the

interplay of pure subjectivity and intersubjectivity. Husserl failed to see this inasmuch as

his notion of the surrounding world was grounded purely in subjectivity, i.e., one’s own

self, and thus he had to struggle (many think unsuccessfully) to articulate any significant

notion of intersubjectivity.

What Heidegger believes that he has articulated in the preceding analysis is

Dilthey’s philosophy of worldview though now properly understood in relation to the

being of the praxis that is life, which Dilthey glimpsed but failed to grasp. To this extent

we are in a much better position to understand Heidegger’s analysis of philosophy. In the

beginning of this chapter, I explained how Heidegger understood the crisis of philosophy

in his time as the attempt to mediate between two competing notions of philosophy,

namely, worldview philosophy and scientific philosophy. Dilthey is the consummate

representative of the former and Husserl of the latter. Heidegger sees in phenomenology,

properly understood, the “solution” to this crisis.

Ibid., pg. 73.

Again, Heidegger turns to Aristotle for guidance, not simply for Aristotle's

answer, as we have seen, but in the sense of a hermeneutic clue, and, thus, reciprocally to

the thought of Husserl, Natorp, and Dilthey which set the stage and motivates

Heidegger's retrieval of Aristotle. We have seen in detail Heidegger’s analysis of

“world” that plays such an important role in worldview philosophy. What is

characteristic of scientific philosophy? Scientific philosophy, following Husserl, is

characterized by “intuition.” Even Dilthey was influenced by Husserl in this regard,

though he emphasizes a particular intuition, i.e., Welt-anschauung. Nous (intuition) is

also central to Aristotle's view of our ability to “scientifically” grasp the arche of

episteme. The latter is accomplished only through nous. In the Posterior Analytics

Aristotle argues that, will be intuition that apprehends the primary premisses - a results

which also follows from the fact that demonstration cannot be the
originative source of demonstration, nor, consequently, scientific
knowledge of scientific knowledge. If, therefore, it is the only other kind
of true thinking except scientific knowledge, intuition will be the
originative source of scientific knowledge.426

However, we should pay careful attention to why Aristotle thinks so. His argument in the

Posterior Analytics runs, "no other kind of thought except intuition is more accurate than

scientific knowledge, whereas primary premisses are more knowable than

demonstrations, and all scientific knowledge is discursive [meta logou]."427 It is because

scientific knowledge is meta logou - within discourse - that intuition is the originative

source (arche) of scientific knowledge. This applies more broadly than just episteme

Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, 100b 13 – 15.
Ibid., 100b 7 – 10.

however. In Nicomachean Ethics, book VI, chapter 6, Aristotle argues that not only

episteme, but also phronesis (practical wisdom) and sophia (philosophy) are meta logou,

because each of these involves demonstration which is essentially meta logou. Aristotle

argues there must be more than mere discourse. This is evident in his analysis of the

categories (fundamental discourse) inasmuch as the categories are meaningful insofar as

they indicate some substance an a particular way. What is this indication? What is the

primary source from which episteme, phronesis, and sophia spring? This is a question

relevant to both Aristotle and Heidegger. Aristotle argues that nous is an originative

source and that nous grasps the first principles. We see the same ambiguity of arche

(originative source and first principle) in nous, because nous is that by means of which

we have arche. This ambiguity in nous is, for Aristotle, a necessary aspect of nous only

inasmuch as it is realized in human beings, namely Zoon echon logon. It is because

logon is essential to human beings that our nous is dianoein, i.e., a thinking through or

thinking by means of. In our case, nous is thinking mediated by and through discourse

(logos). Heidegger makes this plain in his own analysis of Aristotle, must be said that nous as such is not a possibility of the Being of man.
Yet insofar as intending and perceiving are characteristic of human
Dasein, nous can still be found in man...This nous in the human soul is not
a noein, a straightforward seeing, but a dianoein, because the human soul
is determined by logos. On the basis of logos, the assertion of something
as something, noein becomes dianoein.428

Put differently, in human Dasein, nous is always a movement. Nous as such, using

Aristotle's metaphor, is reserved for the gods. Nous is yet another hexis of the praxis that

is life, namely, dianoein. The living that is Dasein is, in its full realization, a nous echon

Martin Heidegger, Plato's Sophist, pg. 41.

logon. As I have argued, Heidegger believes that dianoein is the movement of indication

by means of and through logos. At some level, Husserl recognized this. He remarks that,

“a thing is only properly an indication if and where it in fact serves to indicate something

to some thinking being. If we wish to seize the pervasively common element here

present we must refer back to such cases of ‘live’ functioning.”429 However, Husserl did

not grasp the connection between indication and intuition, because between the “how”

and “what” of indication he placed “meaning,” which Husserl understood as immanent

noetic and noematic structures constituting intentionality. Both noema and noesis are

immanent structures of pure subjectivity. Only something meaningfully intended could

be intuited, that is, intuition is subordinated to the evidential function of fulfilling an

already determinate meaning intention. Thus, nous (intuition) was reduced to its role

within critical indifference and concern, namely, as possessing only an evidential

function. For this reason, it was understood by Husserl from an entirely immanent


Given the above analysis, we can see how radical a departure Heidegger makes

from Husserl’s notion of intentionality. For Heidegger, meaning is not “between” the

“how” and “what” of indication as a mediating element constituted in the purely

immanent structures of noesis and noema. Dilthey was the most recent figure to break

down this dogmatic antithesis of “form and content.” He says, “...categories are abstract

concepts that refer to something living that is incontestably a relation [Beziehung], which

can then be designated as a function, insofar as together with other basic relations it is

Husserl, Logical Investigations, pg. 184.

referred to a whole .... Kant’s antithesis of form and content can be ruled out here....”430

The difference is made clearer when one understands Husserl and Dilthey’s very different

uses of the term “function” (Funktion). Husserl talks about a “living function,” but he

means by “function” what Sigwart meant. Husserl says, “Sigwart always talks of our

thought and its functions, where he is trying to characterize logical necessity, with its

ideal legality, as opposed to psychological contingencies. Pure laws like that of

contradiction or sufficient ground, are constantly called ‘laws of functioning’ or

‘fundamental forms of the movement of our thought.’”431 Dilthey, on the other hand,

clearly uses “function” in the sense of a capability or task, which designates a relational

sense of living. Heidegger captures this relationality of life through his analysis of care.

Heidegger agrees with Dilthey that the Kantian “antithesis of form and content” can be

ruled out here. Indication for Heidegger is the movement from a content (living

discourse, world) towards some being. This movement cannot be understood as an

instance of a universal, abstract law which ultimately provides the rational intelligibility

of the movement. In other words, one cannot distinguish between the form and content

of this movement, understood respectively as an essential, abstract, formal moment in

contradistinction to concrete, particular, material content. The “content” as Heidegger

and Dilthey understand it, i.e., world, contains, in a sense, both general (“formal”) and

particular (“material”) moments, e.g., in a worldview, but in such a way that these are not

Dilthey, “Fragments for a Poetics,” pg. 230. Of course, there is certainly an issue as to whether this
antithesis really exists for Kant, but that there was such an antithesis in Kant is a common view in the Neo-
Kantian tradition.
Husserl, Logical Investigations, Prolegomena, §39, pg. 84.

antithetical to one another but are co-present in, and can be understood only as derivative

from, the unified nexus of world. With respect to the “content” and what is indicated,

there are no, strictly speaking, immanent structures here. The entire complex has a

worldly character and, thus, from what we have seen is transcendent.

However, Dilthey as well did not genuinely and primordially grasp the nature of

intentionality and intuition. This is why his worldview philosophy was always in danger

of becoming historicism. In essence, he had failed to understand the “scientific” nature

of philosophy, namely, nous. Dilthey understood only the dialectical (dialektikos)

moment of philosophy, and here missed the achievement of nous, namely, truth as

aletheia. For Dilthey, thinking was only dialego (through discourse). Philosophy is

more than this, as Aristotle pointed out: “For purposes of philosophy we must treat of

these things according to their truth, but for dialectic only with an eye to general opinion

[doxa].”432 In essence, Dilthey did not grasp that philosophizing is aletheia.

Husserl, on the other hand, did understand the central importance of truth for

scientific thought. An analysis of truth was the culmination of his Logical Investigations.

He, of course, analyzed this in terms of the two “sides” of intentionality, viz., meaning

and intuition. Because of the limitations Heidegger finds in Husserl’s notion of truth,

namely, that it is understood as the unity of thought and evidence and, thus, entirely from

within a critical, epistemological framework, Heidegger fundamentally reworks Husserl’s

analysis of truth in his own understanding of the fundamental concept of aletheia.

Aletheia, Heidegger believes, is the movement that takes place “between” logos and

Aristotle, Topics, translated by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by
Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 105b 30 – 32.

nous. Heidegger points out that here are four modes or approaches to aletheia for human

beings, each of which are both dialego and dianoein, both mediated through logos and

mediated through nous. These are techne, episteme, phronesis, and sophia. Nous is also

a mode, in fact the penultimate mode, of aletheia, but as we have seen, this is

inaccessible to the form of living that is human being, i.e., Zoon echon logon, because all

the modes of nous appropriate to human beings are dialego – through discourse. Dasein

is limited to one of the previous four modes of aletheia as only these are dialego. Techne

is a movement through logos toward production, use, manipulation. Episteme is a

movement through logos toward “what cannot be otherwise,” what is invariable.

Phronesis is a movement through logos toward what is variable, “what can be

otherwise.” More specifically, phronesis is the movement toward life. This mode of

aletheia is particularly important for Heidegger since he argues that the being of life and

lived-experience, as well as subjectivity, was of particular concern to Husserl, Natorp,

and especially Dilthey, and rightly so, but that they struggled unsuccessfully to articulate

the proper approach to the issue. Phronesis was passed over as a candidate for such an

approach because of the hegemony of the theoretical, epistemological approaches within

modernity. Sophia is “genuine understanding.” We will have to look closer at this latter

mode of aletheia. Nous is indicative movement and is the “for the sake of which” of

aletheia. However, nous is always from something (logos or world) and towards

something, some being. Nous is always “on the way” towards some being insofar as it is

the movement of indication. That is, as Heidegger will understand this in Being and

Time, nous is Dasein’s projecting (Entwurf) of Being from out of its facticity. Therefore,

nous never actually acquires the being that it is on the way towards. Rather, the

completion of the movement of nous is yet another logos that indicates. That is, the

completion of nous sets yet another movement in motion – yet another movement

between a logos and the corresponding nous. The praxis of this movement is aletheia for

which each individual movement is a state or disposition.

The nous of phronesis is, in total generality, the being of life, i.e., some

movement or praxis. What, on the other hand, is the nous of episteme? Aristotle says

that its nous is “what cannot be otherwise” or what is invariable. Aristotle thinks that the

is some “universal.” Much of the history of philosophy follows him in this. More often

than not, though, “universal” is understood as eidos, or an ideal meaning. Significantly,

Husserl realized that grasping the universal requires a peculiar form of intuition, viz.,

“categorial intuition.” Heidegger believes that this was an important step forward for in

the history of thought. However, Husserl misses the true object of categorial intuition,

because he misunderstood the nature of a category. A category is a logon that indicates.

Categorial intuition, as Husserl understands it, is not an indication, but something that

one can possesses. According to Husserl, categorial intuition is the fundamental intuition

of all scientific thought. Instead, Heidegger understands the nous of episteme along the

lines of his own fundamental appropriation of Aristotle. The nous of episteme is the

indicating of factical logos itself. These are certainly not “ideal” entities. Rather, they

are factical. Put another way, the nous of episteme is the indicating of the from which of

thought, most generally, world as the content of life. There is at least one affinity

between Heidegger and Husserl’s view. This is that both see episteme as grappling with

content. Husserl understands the “content” of thought immanently, namely, as ideal

meanings. Heidegger understands the “content” of thought as factical, transcendent

content, e.g., world. Of course, one should not interpret this to mean that the “sciences”

investigate the basic category of world. In fact, each of the positive sciences investigate

one categorial interpretation of the basic category of world.

From this it also becomes clear why Heidegger would argue that the mode of

aletheia of episteme is derivative with respect to phronesis. For as we saw before, a

particular historical world (including one’s own factical world) and its derivative

categories, is merely the completion of a movement of care. Episteme understood

properly within the context of factical life is always “after the fact” of a completion of the

movement of care that “produces” a particular historical world and its derivative

categories. Granted Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle, motivated as we have seen by his

analysis of Natorp, Husserl, and Dilthey, even Aristotle’s “science of being” is properly

an episteme. Its subject matter, however, is the interpretive categories of the basic

category of world. This is why, with respect to the positive sciences and the critical,

epistemological projects of Neo-Kantianism, Dilthey, and Husserlian phenomenology,

metaphysics is always in danger of being vacuous and superficial. It tends to appear

totally devoid of any significant application or employment within the world. This

impression is, in one way correct, but only if it is viewed from the perspective of “actual”

results. It has no application with respect to the positive sciences, but only because the

positive sciences presuppose it unthematically. Among the positive sciences it is the

most “rigorous” because it is the most fundamental. The science of being is not,

however, what Heidegger means by fundamental ontology.

Heidegger believes that Dilthey, most fully among his contemporaries,

understood the true nature of science - even more so than Husserl. Science is,

fundamentally, worldview. That is, all the positive sciences presuppose a world. Husserl

did not recognize this until perhaps around 1931 with his Crisis of the European Sciences

wherein the Lebenswelt takes on explicit significance.433 As we saw, Heidegger

recognized the importance of the Lebenswelt as early as 1922, but he also understood that

the aletheia of the life-world is phronesis. This is something that Husserl and Dilthey

could never recognize. Now we can see what it would mean for worldview philosophy to

be scientific and for scientific philosophy to be worldview. But, there is a mode of

aletheia that is even more primordial than this, namely, sophia.

As an ontical matter, sophia takes place, as Aristotle says only, when one is at

leisure, “for it was when almost all the necessities of life and the things that make for

comfort and recreation had been secured, that such knowledge began to be sought.”434 In

its ontological significance, Dilthey is perhaps more explicit: “If we step aside from

chasing after goals and calmly turn in upon ourselves, then the moments of life appear in

their significance.”435 For in philosophy we transcend the lifeworld. By turning towards

the praxis of life itself – we turn towards aletheia itself. Though, as is clear from the

above, this does not mean that we “escape” from life. It is rather an intensification of

life. The traditional view of philosophy is that its subject matter “transcends” life, e.g.,

that it is outside the world. Because of this, one needs to “escape” from the confines of

life to get at it. On the other hand, according to Heidegger, philosophy is the

Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of the European Sciences, translated by David Carr (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1970), especially Part III, A.
Aristotle, Metaphysics, 982b 23 – 24.
Dilthey, “Fragments for a Poetics,” pg. 230.

intensification of life. It is philosophizing. And philosophizing just is the praxis of life.

It is the hexis between logos and nous for which there is no completion. From out of

living discourse comes the movement of nous which comes to completion in a further

living discourse and so on and so forth. This is the “original back-and-forth motion of

phenomenology.” There is no limit of this activity, i.e., the for the sake of which of

philosophizing is philosophizing. Aletheia, as uncovering, is this process seen as

dialogos and dianoia. Though what is uncovered in aletheia is not some parcel of

knowledge, some possession. Rather, the praxis itself is “uncovered” but this uncovering

itself can only be “accomplished” in the praxis itself. This explains why Heidegger

remarks that, “Dasein is ‘in the truth’. This assertion has meaning ontologically. It does

not purport to say that ontically Dasein is introduced ‘to all the truth’ either always or just

in every case, but rather that the disclosedness of its ownmost Being belongs to its

existential constitution.”436 This, therefore, is the primordial notion of aletheia and

correspondingly of logos and nous. However, this does not rule out, that there are

“truths” and particular living discourses and particular sightings. Rather, each of these

are simply movements within the praxis of aletheia, i.e., Dasein. The former are

“factical life” or Dasein’s facticity. Before even these, however, are the basic categories

of life, i.e., world and care.

Heidegger sees in the expression “phenomenology” a statement of philosophizing.

That is, “This expression does not characterize the what of the objects of philosophical

Heidegger, Being and Time, pg. 263.

research as subject-matter, but rather the how of that research.”437 In pulling apart this

expression, we get the two moments of aletheia, namely, dianoia and dialogos. As to the

former, Heidegger remarks that, “”Phenomenon”, the showing-itself-in-itself, signifies a

distinctive way in which something can be encountered.”438 And with respect to the latter

he says, “The logos lets something be seen (phainesthai), namely, what the discourse is

about.”439 What expression indicates the praxis of philosophizing? Heidegger answers,

“With the question of the meaning of Being, our investigation comes up against the

fundamental question of philosophy. This is one that must be treated

phenomenologically.”440 However, there is still a more primordial question which

provokes the question of the meaning of being, namely, the question of Being. This

question, however, is reserved for the gods, since human philosophizing is limited to

nous dialego (“sight” through discourse).

Ibid., pg. 50.
Ibid., pg. 54.
Ibid., pg. 56.
Ibid., pp. 49 – 50.



The complexity of Heidegger’s account has become apparent. Ill-conceived as a

simple phenomenology or a simple return to Aristotle, Heidegger's project of a

fundamental ontology and his analytic of Dasein is also insufficiently grasped conceived

simply within a "Kantian," or more exactly, a Neo-Kantian problematic of the relation

between thought and sensibility and, correspondingly, between rationalistic

"universalism" and anti-rationalistic "particularism." That is, an epistemological

problematic, even if it is "ontologized," is inadequate to the project that dominates

Heidegger's thought from his habilitation up to and including Being and Time. In fact, I

have argued that it is quite the opposite. His project of fundamental ontology as

hermeneutic phenomenology must be understood not only with reference to its Neo-

Kantian context but equally its appropriation of Aristotle's science of being or proto

philosophia - with the result that it sheds new light on both.

That Aristotle understands metaphysics to be first philosophy is crucial to

Heidegger's hermeneutic appropriation of it as this appropriation is situated in the context

of what Heidegger believes to be a crisis that faces philosophy itself. Namely, there are

two competing, but apparently irreconcilable, views of philosophy; philosophy as

worldview and scientific philosophy or phenomenology. The former is based on

historicality or logos and the latter is grounded in intuition or nous. The terms of this

crisis are founded upon and precipitated by Kant's critical philosophy and its continuing

development. In Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this crisis

came to a head in philosophies and philosophers who still positioned themselves within

the greater tradition of the critical enterprise first inaugurated by Kant and which played

such a formative role in Heidegger's early thought. The thought of this period was

dominated by a heightened and sharpened preoccupation with the already pervasive

theoretical and, in most cases, epistemological approach of modern philosophy. We have

seen that Heidegger had overcome this preoccupation, though not by means of a

dialectical Aufhebung but by means of a hermeneutic appropriation of Aristotle’s

philosophy. That is, the development, and resulting crisis, of the critical enterprise had

opened an avenue of questioning that Heidegger directed towards Aristotle’s

understanding of the nature of philosophy, the role of first philosophy, and the being that

philosophizes. Only within this new possibility of questioning was a hermeneutic

reappropriation of Aristotle available.

In particular, the crisis facing (critical) philosophy in the late nineteenth and early

twentieth century was the result of the critical project of grounding the positive sciences -

both the Geisteswissenschaften and Naturwissenschaften – which themselves were

undergoing upheavals in their “basic concepts.” It is this concrete historical context that

legitimizes Heidegger’s reappropriation of Aristotle’s first philosophy and allows him to

“reawaken” its guiding question, namely, the question of being. That is, critical

philosophy’s attempt at and, in Heidegger’s view, failure to articulate a unified science of

the sciences opens up the possibility of a new retrieval and understanding of Aristotle’s

own hesitation concerning and gradual acceptance of the possibility of the science of

being. The close connection between the science of being and the special sciences is

already explicit in Aristotle. He says, “There is a science which investigates being as

being and the attributes which belong to this in virtue of its own nature. Now this is not

the same as any of the so-called special sciences; for none of these others treats

universally of being as being. They cut off a part of being and investigate the attribute of

this part.”441 Heidegger repeats this connection, most explicitly in Being and Time.

Aristotle, however, straightaway transforms the question of Being into the

question of the science of Being. Relative to critical philosophy, and especially relative

to the philosophies of Natorp, Husserl, and Dilthey, the nature, character, and possibility

of science is, for Aristotle, unproblematic. Since he was laying the foundation of

something new, Aristotle could approach science free from a standing tradition of already

ongoing work in science and an already present body of “scientific knowledge.” That is,

for Aristotle, scientific work could be made to conform to the idea of science. Obviously,

the same could not be said with respect to philosophy itself as Aristotle is situated within

a tradition of philosophical work and a tradition of the questioning of being. Within the

context of this tradition, his own novel approach to the question of being is mediated

through the new, systematized notion of science that he himself articulated. Being

remained questionable for Aristotle, but at such an early, originary stage, science was not

yet questionable. In other words, Aristotle reduced the question of being to the problem

of the science of being.

Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1003a 20 – 25.

Aristotle could not have foreseen the tension that would arise between the idea of

science and the work of the special sciences and that dominated much of the critical

enterprise, particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The work and products

of the special sciences had taken on a life of their own and, therefore, it was no longer

possible to compel them to conform to the philosophical idea of science. The idea of

science, i.e. the very nature and ground of science, had become questionable, though

there was no doubt as to the factual possibility of science, the success and vitality of the

special sciences attested to that. Kant’s genius, in this regard, was to explicitly articulate

the task at hand in the question of science, namely, the legitimacy and applicability of

thought in relation to sensibility. Attempts by many Neo-Kantians, e.g., Rickert, and

others, e.g., Mill, to ground the idea of science in the factual achievements of the special

science of psychology were inadequate to this task for they presupposed that

questionability of science was to be answered by one factual special science.

However, the emergence of philosophical and critical reflection upon the

Geisteswissenschaften in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the ensuing

methodological debate and division between the Geisteswissenschaften and the

Naturwissenschaften made impossible any straightforward route through the factuality of

science to the idea of science. In retrospect it might be said that whereas Kant could look

to a relatively unified scientific enterprise, the critical philosophers of the latter half of

the nineteenth century were faced with a highly fractured scientific discipline. In many

respects this was a good thing as it broke the spell that the factual science of psychology,

which could fall on either side of the divide, had upon critical philosophy – and even

though Husserl and Dilthey flirted with psychology as the foundational science each

radically reworked in such a way that it was not to be identified with the factual science

of psychology. A product of this development was that Husserl and Dilthey faced the

question of science on its own terms.

Their philosophies set the stage for the crisis in philosophy that Heidegger sought

to diagnose. As we have seen, this crisis in philosophy was a crisis within the critical

enterprise construed within the Neo-Kantian framework and, thus, was a crisis involving

the idea of philosophy in relation to science. For this reason, the question of being, first

philosophy, and a return to Aristotle, were not seen by Husserl or Dilthey as viable (or

even recognized) approaches to resolving the crisis. Rather, still ensconced within the

critical approach to philosophy, they looked to lived-experience, i.e., the critical moment

of life, for a theoretical solution. However, as Heidegger emphasizes, Dilthey glimpsed

the more primordial issue of life itself but he was unable to break free from the critical,

epistemological horizon which prevented him from investigating the being of life. From

this perspective, the crisis facing critical philosophy in the latter half of the nineteenth

century involved the questionability of science, not the questionability of being.

What has just been said is important for understanding Heidegger’s project

because, the crisis facing philosophy in the latter half of the nineteenth century is not a

crisis that Aristotle could have foreseen or would have necessarily even recognized. The

idea of science was, for him, unproblematic on its own terms. This is not to say that the

character and possibility of science was obvious in Aristotle’s time, rather the issue for

Aristotle was to systematically articulate it for the first time, as has been said. Granting

this, Heidegger believes that the terms of the crisis of philosophy that the critical

enterprise faced, has its ultimate origin in the historical development of Aristotle’s

conception of science. Aspects of Aristotle’s conception of science that were particularly

significant and influential in the further development of the notion of science is that it is a

theoretical discipline as opposed to a productive/practical discipline, that science is a

function of reason (logos) and, thus, concerns what is universal, and that science is to be

grounded in intuition (nous) which is intimately connected to experience. More

importantly, as we have seen, critical philosophy presupposes Aristotle’s articulation of

being which primarily indicates substance – a notion that developed within the theoretical

enterprise into objectivity per se. It is in this light that Heidegger’s claim that the

question of being has been forgotten and needs to be renewed becomes intelligible. Still,

this is not just a claim about modern critical philosophy in the nineteenth century, but to a

degree applies to Aristotle as well insofar as he understands metaphysics as the science of

being qua being. Aristotle questions being but reduces the question straightaway to an

unquestioned idea of science, while modern critical philosophy questions science but

never questions the traditional (i.e., Aristotle’s) articulation of being, that is, that the

primary sense of being is substance or, later, objectivity as such. This historical situation

makes clear Heidegger’s project of a hermeneutic reappropriation of Aristotle.

Significantly, it also makes clear why Heidegger believed that renewing the question of

being in his time required raising the question of the meaning of being. As was made

clear in the course of this dissertation, the questionability of science in the latter half of

the nineteenth century (and most explicitly in Husserl and Dilthey) became centered on

the question of meaning, though in very different senses.442 That is, the attempt to

This becomes fully explicit in Husserl and Dilthey, but one could see it also in the thought of Frege
and Wittgenstein.

ground scientific thought in the factual functioning of the concrete, factual psychological

subject had been shown to be inadequate to the task at hand and in place of this attempt

was put the task of grounding scientific thought in meaning as constituted by the

transcendental subject (Husserl) or the historical subject (Dilthey). Heidegger’s project

of fundamental ontology is thus the questioning of the meaning of being insofar as it is

motivated by the renewal of Aristotle’s questioning of being in the context of the

development of the critical project and its resultant questioning of science.

Having emphasized that Husserl and Dilthey play a central role in Heidegger’s

hermeneutic retrieval of Aristotle, I do not wish to disregard the importance contribution

of Natorp that was discussed in chapter three. Of the three, Natorp, perhaps unwittingly,

comes closest to reawakening the question of meaning of being though still within the

critical project. That is, Natorp recognized that science is a task which is fundamentally

characterized by questioning. More specifically, science is characterized by the

questioning of objectivity per se. Natorp recognized that the foundation of science

(knowledge) was in question and proceeded to ground science itself in the question of

objectivity. In other words, the question of objectivity circumscribed the task of science,

namely, the infinite project of complete and total objectification. Doubtless, Natorp, as

Heidegger, was profoundly influenced in this regard by his reading of Plato and Aristotle.

In fact, Natorp’s critical grounding of science is but one step removed from Heidegger’s

project of fundamental ontology, though it is a large step. What prevented Natorp from

explicitly confronting the question of being, was what prevented the Neo-Kantians,

Husserl, and, in important respects, Dilthey from it, namely, the strangle-hold that the

theoretical, critical approach had upon their view of philosophy per se with the result that

Natorp was unable to make sense of the task or activity that underlies science.443

As I have argued at length in this dissertation, Heidegger believes that the

hallmark of the theoretical approach to philosophy is its underlying and unquestioned

ontology of objectivity – the theoretically intensified version of Aristotle’s own substance

ontology with respect to the being of the categories. This prevented each of the thinkers

discussed in the first four chapters of this dissertation from properly grasping what each

in their own way was pointing towards, i.e., life. Most of these thinkers never saw deeper

than lived-experience, and even at that level could not authentically grasp its living

character, with the result that lived-experience remained detached from the movement of

life and was inevitably understood in an objectifying, theoretical manner. This is why

Dilthey played such a prominent role in Heidegger’s early thought as Heidegger believes

that he more than any of the others glimpsed life itself. It was Dilthey, as well as

Husserl, who set the stage for Heidegger’s hermeneutic reappropriation of the other than

categorial senses of being in Aristotle’s philosophy, namely, being as actuality and

potentiality and being as truth. These were certainly familiar to Heidegger from his

reading of Brentano’s thesis on the subject, but the importance of their neglect by the

In Being and Time, Heidegger argues that, considered ontically, the positive sciences have the
manner of Being of Dasein. He says, "Science in general may be defined as the totality established through
an interconnection of true propositions. This definition is not complete, nor does it reach the meaning of
science. As ways in which man behaves, sciences have the manner of Being which this entity – man
himself – possesses." (pg. 32) Ontologically, fundamental ontology provides the ground for the positive
sciences. Heidegger says, “The question of Being aims therefore at ascertaining the a priori conditions not
only for the possibility of the sciences which examine entities as entities of such and such a type, and, in so
doing, already operate within an understanding of Being, but also the possibility of those ontologies
themselves which are prior to the ontical sciences and which provide their foundation. Basically, all
ontology, no matter how rich and firmly compacted a system of categories it has at its disposal, remains
blind and perverted from its ownmost aim, if it has not first adequately clarified the meaning of Being, and
conceived this clarification as its fundamental task.” (pg. 31).

tradition and their secondary status (to categorial being and substance) even in Aristotle’s

Metaphysics was not apparent to Heidegger until his encounter with Husserl’s

fundamental reworking of truth in the Logical Investigations and Dilthey’s emphasis on

the movement, activity, development, and possibility inherent to life, and the unity of

these in the praxis of philosophizing. These made possible, alongside his reappropriation

of the Metaphysics and Organon, Heidegger’s hermeneutic retrieval of Aristotle’s

Physics and De Anima (on movement, activity, and life) and book six of his

Nicomachean Ethics (on aletheia).

In this dissertation, I have put in doubt readings of Heidegger’s project of

fundamental ontology that see it as a modification or simple radicalization of the critical

project, e.g., Friedman. These readings have been placed in doubt both because they

misinterpret the genuine context of, significance of, and need for the reawakening of the

question of being in Heidegger’s project of fundamental ontology and because they

afford little hermeneutic plausibility to Heidegger’s retrieval and reappropriation of

Aristotle’s work. With respect to the latter, I have also demonstrated why it is wrong to

put undue emphasis upon Heidegger’s reading of the Nicomachean Ethics, e.g.,

Taminiaux, to the exclusion his equally important readings of the Metaphysics and

Physics, among others. Recognizing and making explicit these aspects of Heidegger’s

project of fundamental ontology helps us greatly in understanding the path of his thinking

from the habilitation to Being and Time and the dialogue with its origins. The result is no

more simply Neo-Kantian than it is neo-Aristotelian, no more simply phenomenological

than it is the investigation of a historical science, i.e., the Geisteswissenschaft - and, in the

end, it sheds light on all of these.


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