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  • Heidegger for Beginners
  • Simon Critchley (bio)

‘It’s not always easy being Heideggerian’

Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?

I have two questions in this paper. Where should one begin with Heidegger? And why should one begin philosophizing with Heidegger rather than elsewhere? I will turn to the second of these questions in detail presently, but let me begin by giving the most formal of indications as to how I answer the first question.1

The beginning of Heidegger’s philosophy is phenomenological. That is, Heidegger’s thought begins as a radicalization of Husserlian phenomenological method. To make good on this claim, I give a reading of the Preliminary Part of Heidegger’s important 1925 lecture course, Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs, a text that I see as the buried phenomenological preface to Sein und Zeit.2 Rejoining Heidegger’s magnum opus to its phenomenological preface, permits one, in my view, to clarify the philosophical presuppositions that are required in order for Sein und Zeit to begin. That is, in order for the question of the meaning or truth of being to be raised as a matter of compelling philosophical interest, and not as some magical and numinous vapour.

My basic premise, to echo one of Heidegger’s reported remarks from the 1962 Protokoll to the seminar on Zeit und Sein, is that ‘In der Tat, wäre ohne die phänomenologische Grundhaltung die Seinsfrage nicht möglich gewesen’ (‘Actually, without the basic phenomenological attitude, the question of being would not have been possible’).3 If this is true, then it means that the interpretation of the Prolegomena assumes great importance, for it is there that Heidegger’s radicalization of phenomenology is systematically presented as part of a critical confrontation with Husserl and not gnomically intimated as the novice to Sein und Zeit often feels in reading the crucial methodological Paragraph 7 for the first time.

The reading of Husserl is dominated by a double gesture which permits Heidegger both to inherit a certain understanding of Husserl, whilst at the same time committing an act of critical parricide against him, what von Herrmann sees as the ambiguity of speaking against Husserl in Husserlian language.4 Let me quickly sketch the first moment of this double gesture. For Heidegger, there are three essential discoveries of Husserlian phenomenology: intentionality, categorial intuition and the original sense of the a priori. These discoveries are linked together in what we might call a ‘nesting effect’, where intentionality finds what Heidegger calls its ‘concretion’ in categorial intuition, whose concretion is the a priori, which provides, in turn, the basis for a new definition of the preliminary concept (Vor-Begriff) of phenomenology itself, a definition that is only accidentally modified in Paragraph 7 of Sein und Zeit. I believe that this definition of phenomenology remains at least formally determinative for the rest of Heidegger’s philosophical itinerary

To put this into a schema: intentionality + categorial intuition + the apriori = the preliminary concept of phenomenology. It should be noted that the condition of possibility for Heidegger’s concept of phenomenology is a certain understanding of the intentionality thesis. That is, for Heidegger - like Husserl - intentionality is the essential structure of mental experience, insofar as it has the character of ‘directing itself towards’ (Sich-richten-auf) objects, things or matters. However - unlike Husserl - the fundamental quality of intentionality is not located in the contemplative immanence of consciousness, but is rather Da, it is had there, outside, alongside things and not divorced from them in some mental capsule full of representations.(SuZ 62) Heidegger’s handling of the intentionality thesis therefore permits him to make the passage from Bewußtsein to Dasein, from theoretical consciousness to practical being-there, in a reading of Husserl which, beneath the apparent generosity, ultimately works against the latter’s intentions. That is, under the surface of the exposition in the Prolegomena, Heidegger has already insinuated an anti-Husserlian, pre-theoretical model of intentionality, what one might call a phronetic intentionality.5 However, although intentionality is the essential structure of mental experience, it is not the original or a priori structure, which is given in the analysis of categorial intuition. That is, the doctrine of categorial...

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