Signs of the Turn

  • Johannes Achill Niederhauser


In hindsight we can already identify in Being and Time signs of the turn. Being itself is the aim of the investigation, and, as I noted above, toward the end of the book Heidegger himself wonders whether there needs to be an ontic foundation for an ontological investigation into being itself. The problem is, as Houlgate notes, that Heidegger presupposes that being always means “being of beings.” Instead of trying to think being directly this unchecked presupposition leads Heidegger to posit a being called Dasein which can investigate the being of beings (cf. Houlgate 2006: 105f). It is true that Heidegger in Being and Time says that “being” is always the being of some being. Yet, I do not fully endorse this reading, as this makes Heidegger sound too subjectivistic. I do not argue that Heidegger knew where his initial project would take him. But I would still hold to the initial claim of this part that Heidegger first has to establish a way to get over the subject-object-dichotomy—and the Cartesian understanding of being as presence-at-hand—in order to arrive at being itself outside the Cartesian matrix, which according to Heidegger none of the thinkers before him have been able to achieve. There is also to some degree emphasis on concealment in Being and Time which indicates that Dasein responds to certain possibilities of disclosure rather than being the centre and sole actor of disclosure. Take for example Being and Time’s interpretation of equipment. Heidegger does not approach equipment in an instrumental sense. Rather, the analysis of equipment looks at equipment in its own right and being. Equipment like a hammer withdraws into inconspicuousness after all. Thus, there is some degree of concealment and withdrawal at work here, too, and Dasein is not the sole actor of the occurrings of disclosure. If Dasein were the sole actor of disclosures, Being and Time would present a case of idealism. Nevertheless, Dasein’s understanding appears to take primacy and to lead Heidegger astray from considering being directly. In the introduction to this part, I have argued that Heidegger first needed to free Dasein from the subject-object-dichotomy and this is why Heidegger focussed on Dasein in Being and Time. That is to say Heidegger in this text focuses on the peculiar being that he will come to call the “shepherd of being” rather than the lord of beings. Of course, this is not to say that Heidegger knew where this path would lead him. The peculiar being, called human being, which at the dawn of modernity revolts against being must be put in its place again. Heidegger does so by showing that the existence of Dasein is radically predicated on its death, on its impossibility of being. Thus, to a certain degree Dasein is already in Being and Time dethroned and dethroned precisely by death. Hence readings, such as those of Houlgate and Magnus, which focus on Dasein as the primary source of disclosure fail to see what is already at stake in Being and Time: being itself.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Achill Niederhauser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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