In his seminal essay The Origin of the Work of Art, Martin Heidegger advances a robust account of what is art, where the latter comes to acquire a distinctive privilege, along with poetry, as a locus for the disclosure of Truth. In this, Heidegger seeks to oppose the tradition’s overburdened conceptions of art cashed out in terms of objectual representation or sensible aesthesis, where the being of the artwork comes into bare presence through the act of an apprehending subject. Instead, Heidegger proposes that Truth be conceived fundamentally as unconcealment (aletheia), evincing a structure of incompleteness and withdrawal as co-constitutive of the ‘creative disclosing’ proper to the artwork. Only by unyoking Truth from its objectual framing does one escape the totalizing ambition under which the merely ontic enterprise of modern science, along with its political perversions, attempt a compulsive wresting of being and a thorough domination of Nature. These nefarious results which follow from our epoch’s ontological forgetfulness include the devaluation of artworks into mere objects for commerce and curatorial interest, but also the technocratic compulsion which accounts for both concentration camps and the fumigation of fields in agriculture. Prefiguring thus the latter diagnosis from Was Ist Denken? that “science does not think”, Heidegger dislodges the ‘ontic violence’ of objectual representation from Truth, and proceeds to argue that science does not reveal Truths. The task of rehabilitating an originary conception of Truth as unconcealment through an understanding of art becomes then of a piece with the overcoming proper to the technical dominance of modern reason, which thrives in an ever aggravating forgetfulness of Being. The movement from the earlier attempt at a fundamental ontology, still tethered to a vision of philosophy as (phenomenological) science, is thus progressively displaced in favor of the hermeneutic Destruktion of a post-metaphysical thought wherein science loses its prerogative before thought, along with the valence of objectual representation.
In explicit dissymmetry to this project, Hegel‘s ambitious project as delineated in his Encyclopedia Logic is explicitly articulated as an attempt to enact the elevation of common knowledge (Wissen) from the explicit cognition (Erkennen) of representational objects into the comprehensive science (Wissenschaft) of the dialectically imbued Concept. Far from signaling the straightjacket of our epoch’s waywardness before a rigidified and forgotten tradition or questioning, Hegel views philosophy’s task as one of securing the necessary logical continuity between thought and the real, which renders a direct complicity between logic and metaphysics, or the discursive presentation on being (ontology) and the world itself. Thus, while Hegel would agree with Heidegger in that philosophy’s task is first and foremost to prize philosophy free of the insufficiently developed conceptual baggage that comes with immediate representations, it is not the ‘technical’ unbecoming of calculating reason and its objectual occlusion which is to be overcome, but the incapacity of non-scientific reason to settle for merely contingent determinations on being which fall short of logical necessity, and thus of a properly scientific status.
For all their apparent divergences, however, we find at the heart of both theories a common sense of urgency towards conceiving truth as essentially untotalizable, and anchored on an unconquerable point of resistance. In Heidegger’s thinking, this kernel is the receding dimension of «The Earth», as the observe side of positive projection by Dasein in Worlds, within the unitary phenomenon of unconcealment. In Hegel’s system, this kernel constitutes the self-relating negativity of the Concept which, always affected by opposite determinations or contradiction, threatens to usurp the stable identitarian regime of epistemological representation in its rigid determination of objects in schematic form, contra Kant. The ‘truth’ of the Concept is thus nested in its primordial self-alienation which constitutes the spiraling movement into its manifold moments. We shall examine below how both thinkers see in withholding truth from a total deliverance to the stasis of representation not just a philosophical rectification of the tradition, but a consummation of a philosophy which had always ‘fallen short’ of its name.
And yet, while Heidegger still sees poetry and the poetic word as possessing the distinctive privilege of placing us before truth, disassociating science and philosophical thought, Hegel’s resolute system of the Concept finally insists on their continuity. This verdict finally separates the two thinkers, in spite of their fundamental agreement in understanding the structure of Truth as a dynamic movement, which remains incomplete and untotalizable. Our discussion, in short, will modestly attempt to trace the continuity between the methodological strategies which affect the ontological registers in the work of these two philosophers, through an understanding of how thought attempts to dislodge itself from the shackles of a tradition which has driven it to a forgetfulness of its deeper questions, or failed to rise to the dignity of a science worthy of the name.
I – Heidegger and the Artwork – Things, Thingliness, Truth
”In the midst of beings as a whole an open place occurs. There is a clearing, lighting. Thought of in reference to what is, to beings, this clearing is in a greater degree than are beings.” (Martin Heidegger –The Origin of the Work of Art)
At the outset of The Origin of the Work of Art, Heidegger subscribes to the task of unearthing the origin or ‘essence’ (Wesen) of art; prizing common conceptualizations of the latter free from the presuppositions handed down to us by the metaphysically invested tradition. This amounts to asking how art itself comes to acquire precedence in determining the relation between artist and artwork; or as Heidegger puts it: “In themselves and in their interrelations, artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names—art.” (OWA; Pg. 17) If the question about the origin of art as such comes to acquire methodological priority with respect to the subject of art, or the object (Ob-jekt) of art, it is precisely because an understanding proceeding from the dyad of subject-object relations already occludes a more fundamental determination which Heidegger deems as ‘essential’, i.e. which establishes “that by which something is what it is and as it is” (Ibid; Pg. 17)
. But since the investigation into the origin or ‘Nature’ of art must take the extant reality of artistic works as its beginning, we thereby enter a ‘hermeneutic circle’, where the essence of art is first inferred from the artwork, and yet the latter comes to be seen as determined by the former (Ibid; Pg. 18). This leads Heidegger into a propadeutic assessment of the traditional conceptions of art which obtain from the dominant tradition, in order to signal their limitations.
To do this, Heidegger first raises the question about the ‘thingly’ character inherent in all works of art, understood as a “self-evident element” which is brought to last or endure in a ‘presencing’ (Anwesen) which constitutes its artistic nature and endows it with a structure
: “It seems almost as though the thingly element in the art work is like the substructure into and upon which the other, authentic element is built.” (Ibid; Pg. 20) By the same token, the artist himself is not a mere ‘subject’ of representation who stands before the work, endowing it with its ‘thingly’ character. This is so since crucially “a man is not a thing.” (Ibid; Pg. 21) And since the ‘thingly’ element of the work cannot thus be squarely identified with the merely objectual representations of artworks the tradition provides, Heidegger first seeks to point towards the limitations inherent in the three prevalent conceptions of the work’s essence, which circulate around these misconceptions in a dominant manner (Ibid; 23-26):
1) The work as a mere thing/object – Under this conception, the work comes to be understood as a mere object or thing; which amounts to an ‘assemble’ comprised of a bundle of properties. These become then expressed in propositional form, i.e. subject-predicate attributions. Against this view, Heidegger underlines that the visibility of the thing must already precede predicative determinations, whose origin propositions are unable to express. Thus the ‘thing-structure’ reflected in the subject-predicate propositional form is said to derive from ‘a common source’ (Ibid; Pg. 22). This common source remains, however, shrouded in mystery.
2) The work as an aesthetic datum – Under this conception, the work comes to be individuated as a transparent Totality delivered over to our perception or sensibility, given as a distinctive unity synthesizing a ‘manifold of intuition’
. Against this view, which is paired to the former in producing a singular thing-concept of the work, Heidegger contests the putative transparency and completeness of the work as given in its presencing, claiming rather that “»In order to hear a bare sound we have to listen away from things, divert our ear from them, i.e. listen abstractly.”
(Ibid; Pg. 26) This way, Heidegger invites us to hear in the originary Greek notion of the hupokeimenon; a ‘ground’ which is not reducible either to the fully present object of representation, expressed by a conceptual propositional frame, or to the agency of a subject apprehending perceptual unities from subsisting matter.
3) The work as a dual determination of form and matter – Under this conception, the work is understood as a complex articulation between a primal material substratum (hyle) and form set visible before an apprehending subject through aspects (eidos)
. Against this conception, which already tracks back to the first two, Heidegger underlines the irreducibility or the dubious subordination of the being of tools (Zeug) with which Dasein engages in purposive practice to a makeshift distribution of form by matter. Rather, ‘usefulness’ can never be an additional property surreptitiously aggregated to the object, understood as a form-matter compendium. Quite the opposite; the ‘usefulness’ of these tool-beings are said to be ontologically fundamental with respect to such merely ontic dyadic, objectual determinations: “Such usefulness is never assigned or added on afterward to a being of the type of a jug, ax, or pair of shoes. But neither is it something that floats somewhere above it as an end.” (Ibid; Pg. 28)
Significantly, these three conceptions can be also said to tie in with three traditional conceptions of truth: a) as correspondence between proposition and fact, b) as subjective-conscious intentionality towards a unified object, or c) as the Idea which gives form to the bare givenness of matter in producing the being of the object. The issue must be thus that there is in the ‘Truth of the work’ something which resists objectification; and for this the usefulness of tools delivers the first clue (Ibid; Pg. 28). That is, all of these conceptions must already presuppose, Heidegger argues, that beings have already made themselves available to us, taking part amidst in usefulness for the comportments of Dasein, and evincing a structure intractable through the modality of objective representation.
Heidegger paves the way thus to a discussion of tool-beings or equipment (Zeug), extending on the famous ‘tool-analysis’ from Being and Time. What is crucial for us at this stage is simply to underline how for Heidegger the being of equipment challenges the objectual form of representation; construing the latter rather as a derivative function of the ‘breakdown’ or malfunctioning of the former
. In other words, whereas the traditional conceptions would have the ‘usefulness’ or serviceability of an entity as one more property or attribute, or as a contingent integration of such serviceability outside its strict determinations (a distinctio rationis, in the Scholastic sense), Heidegger deems the usefulness of tool-beings to be the ‘condition of possibility’ (to use Kant’s language) for objectual representation. This ‘more essential’ understanding pertaining to readiness-to-hand thus implies thus a kind of ‘mindlessness’ in act, where no ‘subject’ or ‘object’ occur whatsoever.
We should note that although Heidegger’s frequent examples of equipment involve man made ‘tools’, such as hammers or nails, the propriety of equipment does not pertain to a class or species of entities, since this would surreptitiously reintegrate them within the axes of objectual representation described above. The point is rather that present-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) objects of representation (Vorstellung) are individuated only as derived from the malfunction of ready-to-hand (Zuhandenheit) equipment (Zeug) in engaged practice. This is crucial, since it outlines for us the first crucial divergence, which will only become exacerbated as Heidegger drifts further away from the systematic attempt at a fundamental ontology, between the task of the positive ontic-regional enterprise of the sciences or scientific rationality, and the global-ontological scope of philosophy or metaphysics.
Already a few years later, in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, Heidegger will delineate more clearly the scope of this distinction. Metaphysics does not concern itself with a particular being (God, the animal, the human…), a stratified domain of beings like science does (biological, physical, social…), or even with all the different beings or domains of beings. Conceptual typologies are delegated to the secondary ontic enterprise expressed by scientific categories, while philosophy in turn unearths their ontological ‘ground’ or enabling conditions through comprehensive concepts (Heidegger: 1995, Pg 9)
. Philosophy occupies itself thus with the general phenomenon of worldhood, which provides the understanding of beings-as-a-whole, i.e. it thinks the unified, transcendental horizon for human being wherein a «clearing» (Lichtung) of beings are made manifest: “The fundamental concepts of metaphysics and the concepts of philosophy, however, will evidently not be like this [scientific understanding] at all, if we recall that they themselves are anchored in our being gripped, in which we do not represent before us that which we conceptually comprehend, but maintain ourselves in a quite different comportment, one which is originarily and fundamentally difference from any scientific kind.” (Ibid)
As fundamental, metaphysical comprehension (begreifen) becomes the condition of possibility for the rest of the sciences or merely ontic enquiries: “there are only sciences insofar as there is philosophy”, not the other way around.», or even more dramatically “…all science is perhaps only a servant with respect to philosophy.” (Ibid; Pg. 5) The ontological status of scientific phenomena is thereby deemed derivative from the transcendental structure of worldhood adequate to Dasein’s dwelling, and which it falls to philosophy to clarify. In this sense, if the being of equipment constitutes a philosophical enquiry proper, this is precisely because it cannot be the subject matter for a «regional science». That is, even if Heidegger earlier was more akin to associate the strict scientific method with the phenomenological enquiry producing fundamental ontology
The ‘readiness’ proper to the being of equipment is then not simply that of a set of man-made, useful entities, but rather shatters the individuating objectual frame of objects and properties described in propositional (apophantic) form altogether. Heidegger can thus claim that “Taken strictly, there ‘is’ no such thing as an equipment.”, but only an ‘equipmental-whole’ wherein subject and object are rendered indistinct (BT: Pg. 97). Dasein’s comportments (Verhalten) towards being as integrated and purposive practice thus trump Husserlian intentionality; as the latter remains tethered to the form of the object, however reduced to its logical form through successive reductions (epoche)
. Consequentially, it makes perfect sense to conceive of ‘natural’ beings as ‘taking part’ within ready-to-hand comportments, as long as we do not formally distinguish them from Dasein in act.
Heidegger’s famous depiction of Dasein as the ‘shepherd of being’ may be useful here, and unpacked: the guiding shepherd follows in unison with the herd of sheep an aim-oriented trajectory, mindlessly integrated and indistinct. Only when a sheep ‘diverts’ from the herd and interrupts the trajectory’s fluid migration, only when the stable functioning of the act breaks down, does the animal appear, as some-thing, as an object to be dealt with. The shepherd correspondingly appears thus as a subject, as an agent which quickly proceeds to reintegrate the sheep onto the undisturbed movement of the herd
At this juncture, it becomes evident that Heidegger’s understanding of essence (Wesen) problematizes the traditional (Scholastic) conception of the same in terms of ‘whatness’, i.e. the essence of an object is not a matter of ‘defining’ what it is. The latter already pertains to the derivation which sets-before the being qua object, and already loses the availability under which the being’s equipmentality comes to work. So if the task is to unearth the ‘essence of art’, this cannot entail the form of categorical determination. Crucial then becomes the disavowal of these merely ontic or objectual determinations of being, in favor of a properly ontological clarification of the same. It is clearly thus a question of the ontological difference between being and beings; between entities conceived as particulars, and being as that which precedes and grounds the being of particulars. We obtain here a series of distinctions: art’s essence or truth, which derivatively determines the artist as subject and the artwork object, is 1) not one distributed in the modality of that-being (Wasein); 2) equipment is not localizable as mere presence-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) but rather as the available, ready-to-hand (Zuhandenheit); 3) and the agent is not a ‘subject’ but a who existing there, locally engrossed in a purposeful engagement with beings in the world which is practical more than reflexive (Das-sein). If the objectification proper to representation thus occludes the being of the work of art it is thus because what withdraws from such a comprehension is not a being, or an ‘essential’ property which determines the content of the object propositionally. Rather, being qua thing simply dis-appears as a thing, while becoming grounded, ontologically.
The question becomes then how art as such comes to be understood within this complex distribution, having unyoked ‘essence’ and being from the shackles of representation; and by using the clue of equipment. Heidegger takes as his lead example an anonymous painting by Van Gogh, which depicts a pair of peasant shoes. Beyond the explicit objectual content which merely gives us over to a pair of worn shoes, for Heidegger, the painting reveals the background of the peasant woman’s context in its holistic network of relations. Her dwelling above the rugged soil and her confrontation in the vast Openness of the fields, struck by the flagellating winds, are all part of the thick background that withdraws from the work’s explicitly objectual ‘content’. Heidegger’s description reveals the strife or tension between what he will distinguish as the earth and the world: “This equipment belongs to the earth and it is protected in the world of the peasant woman. From out of this protected belonging the equipment itself rises to its resting within-itself.” (OWA: Pg, 33) In addition to usefulness-serviceability, the shoes in the painting reveal a dimension of reliability in equipment, a grounding in which the dwelling of the peasant woman and her horizon of meaning is firmly placed. This way, Heidegger goes on to identify the world with the projective horizon of possibilities wherein Dasein dwells purposively as equipment becomes serviceable (Ibid). In Van Gogh’s painting, this would correspond to the holistic network of meaningful practices in which the shoes are integrated. The artwork, as a work, correspondingly fulfills this function of ‘delivering us over’ into the peasant woman’s dwelling-space. Thus the artwork transposes us into the World of the woman, while revealing itself in connection to usefulness or serviceability of beings for a given people and context.
Correspondingly, the Earth is structurally twofold: first, it designates the primordial dimension of reliability which simultaneously withholds or resists something from Dasein. In the painting, this can be found in the asymmetry between the depicted content of the shoes, and the receding background which illuminates it. Second, the Earth is the depth of being which withdraws or ‘self-encloses’ itself; the necessary back-ground upon which creative world-formation operates. The ‘self-enclosure’ of the earth is thus not to be equated with the abstract persistence of beings or objective entities; it rather designates the ‘being of beings’ which resists objectification and which founds it, as well as that from which Truth comes to happen for Dasein. The artwork thus discloses the being of equipment as the destitution of the subject-object dichotomy in the dynamic twofold strife between World and Earth, which Heidegger now calls the Truth of equipment as such: “Van Gogh’s painting is the disclosure of what the equipment, the pair of peasant shoes, is in truth. This entity emerges into the unconcealedness of its being. The Greeks called the unconcealedness of beings aletheia…” (Ibid; Pg. 35)
The artwork comes to be understood as a locus to disclose Truth conceived as un-concealment (Unverborgenheit), from the tense relation of strife between the World and the Earth. Heidegger expounds his analysis expressly through the example of the Greek temple, as paradigmatic of this non-representational quality in art, wherein the artist himself disappears and becomes “…almost like a passageway that destroys itself in the creative process for the work to emerge” (Ibid; Pg. 39) Just like the shoes reveal the peasant woman’s holistic world, the Greek temple comes to be a work precisely insofar as it discloses and unfolds in its being a historical horizon of possibilities common to a people and an epoch. So that “…to be a work means to set up a world.» (Ibid; 43) In it, the Gods’ presencing can be felt, the opening of all ontic possibilities, and the recession of being’s excess. It is not a ‘full presence’ that comes before Dasein (Vor-handen / Vor-stellung), but an asymptotic deliverance onto being, which can never be fully disclosed. The receding Earth grounds Dasein’s worldly dwellings by providing thus an asymptotic horizon of undisclosed possibilities, which remain untotalizable and inexhaustible, only ever progressively approached. The Gods are in the temple, before presencing, insofar as they index the recession of being in the Earth, as the precondition for Dasein’s being-in-the-world. The horizon opened by worldhood should be understood then as the possibility of the encounter with beings dwelling on the Earth.
At this point we should underline that it is not simply that objectual representation does not pertain to worldhood given its occluding nature, but rather that it is not its primary ontological dimension. It is merely the one which remains most alien to the ‘self-containment’ of being qua Earth, in un-concealment, since it thinks to possess full traction before being in its object by positing the object as something ‘grasped’ and enduring before a subsistent subject. It is merely the most reified conception of being as presence, which disjoins beings from their dynamic integration in worlds. But doing so of course renders invisible the receding background of immersion where serviceability, availability and reliability mark the dynamic strife of truth in the being of the entity, in equipment as well as ‘works’. Dasein’s being is then broadly construed as its factical transcendence onto beings in a World
: a) its throwness (Geworfenheit) into the Open encounter with beings (Offen) as ‘being-in-the-world’ (In-der-Welt-Sein); second, b) its dwelling in the earth which is ‘self-enclosing’ and which grounds it; and c) a projective (Entwurf) horizon which ‘lights up’ a clearing of possibilities which it creatively wrests from the withdrawing Earth: «World is the ever-nonobjective to which we are subject as long as the paths of birth and death, blessing and curse keep us transported into Being»
(Ibid; Pg. 43) Thus all ‘commercial’ or curatorial dislodging of creative works from their historical, worldly specificity, to exhibit them as a mere objects for contemplation, cannot but destroy their essential capacity to disclose Truth, according to Heidegger. By the same token, it is proper to the being of art to make Truth resonate as unconcealment, and awaken us from our ontic slumber. This creative dimension which opens up a space for the presencing of Truth as the world-earth strife is the prerogative of Dasein’s activity, and which is presupposed by all externalized objectifications of being as something merely present and not presencing: «But it is not we who presuppose the unconcealedness of beings; rather, the unconcealedness of beings (Being) puts us into such a condition of being that in our representation we always remain installed within and in attendance upon unconcealedness.» (Ibid; Pg. 50).
The role of the artist is thus not just to create the work as an object, but to preserve in its being this rift wherein truth comes into presencing, in the tension of un-concealment. The artistic work thereby serves as a sort of punctual concentration where on the one hand the creative projection of Dasein’s world-formation, and the grounding self-concealment of being as the Earth on the other, become palpable in their co-appropriateness. Thus to ‘set-to-work’ means to stand within the space of truth opened by the work, realizing that the latter is in such a strife, and that «…to create is to cause something to emerge as a thing that has been brought-forth.» (Ibid; pg. 58) This dynamic movement of creation and concealment obviously relates back to the link between equipment as incorporated within a nexus of possibilities, discursive or practical, and non-objectual being which withdraws from theorizing. The work in this way produces a ‘framing’ (Ge-stell) for the disclosure of truth; and not merely a presented form (morphe) for objects. Therefore, if the thing’s ‘thingliness’ is to be found in its ‘earthly’ dimension (in its concealment) as much as in its ‘worldly’ dimension (as disclosed usability or serviceability), then it is because Truth is precisely this unified tension between the two movements. And since the Earth’s recession does not index a set of invisible properties, essences or secret forms, that which conceals itself is precisely the void of being as such, its non-objectual depth: “The thing’s thingness does not lie at all in the material of which it consists, but in the void that holds.” (PLT; Pg. 167) If artworks have a capacity to disclose the dimension of Truth, then it happens as the works always articulate a world for a time, in which being’s dyadic strife is felt in all its historico-cultural weight. For Heidegger it becomes thus the prerogative of true art and the poetic word which is wed to it, to let unconcealment resonate in the work’s presencing.
As we shall see in the next of the paper, this will turn out to have a radical bearing on Heidegger’s conception of history, and by extension, of the historical situation. We shall briefly recapitulate how the work of Hegel offers an alternative account of truth which both challenges and expounds the former’s key critical insights.
II – Hegel and Representation: Cognition, Knowledge, Science.
«What is rational, is actual
What is actual, is rational»
G.W.F. Hegel – Preface to the Philosophy of Right (p.ixi)
As we saw above, Heidegger’s attempt to unyoke truth from the tradition required first and foremost to overcome the framework of representational rationality wherein being was equated to the object, the merely ‘present-at-hand’ correlate of thought for a subject. In similar spirit, Hegel’s The Encyclopaedia Logic proposes that although philosophy must indeed begin with a consideration of such ob-jects (Gegenstand) as given to us over in common sense cognition (Erkennen) this is only propadeutic in the way of elevating knowledge (Wissen) into the ‘comprehensive cognition’ proper to scientific thinking (Wissenschaft)
.While in immediate representation being remains contingently postulated, it falls to philosophy to produce the appropriate concepts to establish their actual logical necessity: «… in the order of time consciousness produces representational notions of ob-jects before it produces concepts of them; and that the thinking spirit only advances to thinking cognition and comprehension by going through representation and by converting oneself to it… that thoughtful consideration implies the requirement that the necessity of its content should be shown, and the very being, as well as the determinations of its ob-jects should be proved.»(H. EL, Pg. 24).
This ‘conceptually comprehensive’ cognition which exceeds representation must thus dislodge itself from the various «forms of thought» in which knowledge is commonly purveyed: feeling, intuition, representation, etc (Ibid. Pg. 25). The scientific valence of the philosophical concept is so uncompromising on this account that Hegel will even go as far as claiming that representational notions are ‘mere metaphors’ of these concepts. (Ibid). In this regard, we can already grasp a fundamental divergence with Heidegger, insofar as for the latter the valence of conceptual rationality must ‘in the last instance’ see itself as performing an ontological occlusion in contrast to the disclosing function of the poetic word, prized free from representation. Although both Hegel and Heidegger agree in that philosophical production generates the discursive necessity of being as opposed to mere objectual representation, for Hegel nothing is lost by virtue of the transcription to the concept. Quite the contrary, it is only within the scope of thought and ideality that the abstractions of immediate being and representation attain full-fledged actuality, i.e. logico-metaphysical necessity. As Hegel himself puts it: «… the genuine content of our consciousness is preserved when it is translated into the form of thought and the concept…the content of philosophy is actuality. The first consciousness of this content is called experience. Within the broad realm of outer and inner thereness a judicious consideration of the world already distinguishes that which only appearance, transient and insignificant, from that which truly and in itself merits the name of actuality.» (Pg. 28-29). Thus while Heidegger conceives that the coruscating abstraction of the concept and the object further removes one from the opening of being given over to immediate experience and against the mediation of subject-object relations, Hegel disavows immediacy as a merely transient abstraction which falls short of determining the ontological valence of the datum of representation. The enigmatic formula ‘the actual is rational’ therefore means: nothing escapes logical necessity, there is no gulf of ‘pre-conceptual’ being or ‘pre-ontological’ understanding through which emanates the positive actuality of the wealth of the possible, no ‘gift’ of being cleared in the open. The immediacy of that ‘inner and outer thereness’ is quickly deposed of as a trite banality for Hegel, in which the concept (affected by self-relating negativity) comes to sublate itself from its height of abstraction. Because logic qua scientific reason establishes the actuality of being, it will follow that all contingent determinations falling back on our unmediated ‘clearing onto’ the world amidst beings, as conceived in Dasein’s primordial ‘thrownness’, are shed off empty thoughts. More dramatically, Hegel allots such an elevation of the abstraction of experience as one of the ‘passions of the understanding’ which, given over to contingency and facticity, disassociate being and the Idea to the point of exacerbating its emptiest moment:
«But even for our ordinary feeling, a contingent existence does not deserve to be called something-actual in the emphatic sense of the word; what contingently exists has no greater value than that which something-possible has; it is an existence which (although it is) can just as well not be. But when I speak of actuality…I distinguish it clearly and directly, not just from what is contingent… but also, more precisely, from being-there, from existence, and from other determinations.
The notion that ideas and ideals are nothing but chimeras and that philosophy is a system of pure phantasms, sets itself at once against the actuality of what is rational… However, the severing of actuality from the Idea is particularly dear to the understanding, which regards its dreams (i.e. its abstractions) as something genuine» (Ibid: Pg. 30)
What is interesting here is that while, for Heidegger, the dismantling of the object of representation requires precisely such a removal from abstraction, delivered back from the presence of the present-at-hand to the holistic integration of worlds and of ready-to-hand equipment in purposive practice, Hegel’s sees the hermeneutic ‘peddling backwards’ into a point of originary disclosure as a literary embellishment of abstraction at its culprit. As such, those attempting to seize a ‘pre-conceptual’ or ‘pre-ontological’ domain for the understanding through conceptual means, that is, those who have too high a ‘regard for their dreams’, end up doing nothing but reifying the most barren of abstractions, disguising the inherent incoherence of their endeavor. Or, as Hegel puts it, «To want to have cognition before we have any is as absurd as the wise resolve of Scholasticus to learn to swim before he ventured into the water.» (Ibid: Pg. 34) Only the Concept in the pure thinking carried by the philosopher can establish by itself the necessity to legitimize the actual; everything else becomes mere moralistic prescription or metaphorical abstraction (Ibid). The ‘beginnings’ elevated by phenomenological embrace of the lifeworld, along purported restoration of an authentic attunement (Stimmen) by heeding to their call, are rather always «immediate, found, presupposed» and philosophy’s job is not to recuperate them, but to prize them free of their contingently established content through ‘speculative thinking’ (Ibid: Pg. 33). The relationship between the universals or genera and their wealth of particular determinations must then, through philosophy, follow intrinsically from the dialectical deployment of the Concept, and not externally or contingently (Ibid). Against the flattening of the subject- object dyad into the world through an account of purposive practice, Hegel’s contention is that «…while each of these moments does also appear as distinct, neither of them can be wanting, and they are inseparably bound together» (Ibid; Pg. 36).
But this must mean that that which merely appears as immediately given must in truth be always already, implicitly, affected by mediation, by its exact opposite. Thus Hegel anticipates the general operation of the dialectic’s logic, in which the identity of a being is at the same time affected by its opposite determination, and thus reverts into it before establishing the unity of its moments
. And just like the immediacy of Being reverts into Nothing, only to see itself sublated as the unity of Becoming, logico-metaphysical knowledge supersedes the immediacy of all sensible content to unearth its tacit mediation at work: «In this way, our knowledge of God, like our knowledge of all that is supersensible in general, essentially involves an elevation (Aufgehoben) above sensible feeling or intuition; hence it involves a negative attitude toward the latter as first and in that sense it involves mediation.
We should be clear to read the implicitly anti-Kantian gesture indicated here by the appeals to intuition and sensibility. The point Hegel seeks to underline, and which applies to Heidegger as well, is that the factical ‘givenness’ of the representational form of experience, tethered to sensuous receptivity, is irremediably external to thinking if merely assumed as a given datum ‘without reason’. Thus the facultative split in the Kantian edifice, which separates the understanding from intuition as the two ‘species’ of representation, cannot but reproduce the externality of the universal (categories) with regard to its particularizing sensible content, which then become contingently stapled one to the other as schematic instantiations of the objects of experience. Similarly, with Heidegger, although the horizonal, ecstatic transcendence of Dasein’s projection is the condition of possibility for worlds and the clearing of beings as a whole, this enabling condition must be itself unconditioned, i.e. Dasein’s facticity (Fakticitat) entails that it is thrown ‘without reason’ into the world, capable of the anxiety before being’s non-latency in the Open.
The result is that while metaphysical concepts may clarify the necessary structure for the encounter with beings, it is no less true that the contingency of the transcendental with respect to its object remains, just as the opaque externality of the Earth targets a non-objectivizable excess to Dasein’s world-disclosing capacity. This way, the ontological difference between being and beings, and the former’s incommensurability to ontico-scientific rationality cannot but remain an ideal reinstatement of the contingently posited relation between transcendental subject along its phenomenal objects, and the non-experiential noumenal object. Only this time it is cashed out in terms of Dasein’s world-disclosure as a clearing of beings, and the transcendence of the Earth’s asymptotic and abyssal recession as the ground of being. This ideal co-appropriation of being and thought remains fully ideal since it locates the transcendence of being within the experiential horizon opened by Dasein’s transcendence onto beings. Such a transcendence is, just as Hegel remarks apropos Kant’s ‘spontaneity of thinking’, then simply presupposed as an a priori factum for thought, falling short of the necessity proper to philosophico-scientific thought. In this regard, the disclosing transcendence of Dasein repeats the Kantian gesture of locating the ‘noumenal’ transcendence of the object as a formal distinction (distinctio formalis) within the objectivating transcendence of the subject and its intra-experiential content
. Ray Brassier (2011) develops this line of thought in fuller detail.
«Being conditions the entity, but Being itself, i.e. the formal reality of objectivating transcendence, is also conditioned by the entity. It is the relation of objectivation itself, the transcendence of the a priori insofar as it conditions the presence of «beings as such and as a whole», which is now reduced to the status of an immanent factum: and a priori fact of reason…
The reality of appearances, understood as the mode in which they are given prior to being objectivated, is constituted by the transcendence intrinsic to the entity (or phenomenon) itself. This transcendence is the unobjectivizable dimension immanent to the entity as such in its formal distinction from the present-at-hand object of representation, whether interpreted in terms of the determinate, particular object, or the ideal category of the object in general (Objekt überhaupt). It is obscurely prefigured by the metaphysical distinction between essence and existence, usually glossed in terms of the difference between what something is, and that it is. As we saw above, while the former is conceptually determinable, the latter is a symptom of something in the difference between possibility and actuality that resists conceptual determination.» (Brassier, 2011, pgs. 9-10)
The Earth as the receding polar counterpart of the Worldly horizon, then, localizes immanently within the horizon of experiential possibilities an excessive dimension which establishes its actual ‘grounding’ as it were, by virtue of its unobjectivizable transcendence, Dasein’s dwelling on an abyssal Earth. Thus Heidegger can claim that in the passage from the possible to the actual «… this transition is to be understood, not in the sense that the possible relinquishes a way of being, but rather in the sense that it first of all receives a being.» (Heidegger, 1988: 98) The ground of the Earth is the ‘gift’ of being upon which Dasein’s horizonal disclosure of possibilities sets to work. And since this element of productivity is rendered entirely correlative to Dasein’s projective disclosure of worlds, endowing a particular prerogative to the production of the poetic word (poiseis), only existence can guarantee the full actualization of the givenness of being’s proper abstraction. While the Earth grounds Dasein’s possibility for worlds, the latter is the ‘shepherd of being’, its ‘caretaker’, insofar as existence endows it with the productivity needed to fully actualize being as the ground into the vast expanse of beings.
Yet under strict Hegelian scrutiny this obdurate appeals to an unobjectivizable transcendence continues to ring hollow, in virtue of the gratuitous facticity endowed to Dasein’s transcendental status. In this regard Hegel’s diagnosis against the critical autonomy of immediacy and experience in a way reiterates the criticism Kant already leveled against classical metaphysics. Insofar as metaphysics remains incapable of properly deducing the categories which give way to the objects of experience, philosophy falls short of its name by failing to secure the necessity between the empirical and the transcendental, the universal genera which provide the determinations and its manifold particular contents which actualize them. That is, if the determination of the empirical can only be legitimated a priori by an arbitrarily posited categorical framework for objective individuation, then critique has merely transposed the arbitrariness of dogmatic metaphysics into the agency of the transcendental subject. Indeed, this seems to be Hegel’s own contention when claiming that for Kant experience is endowed with necessity, but it is factically given as the necessity/universality of appearances within the ‘spontaneity of thinking’
. But because it ventured to neatly separate the subject and the object, and initiate a preliminary study into the faculty of knowledge («pure reason»), critical philosophy attempted, like we indicated above, to not go into the water until it had learnt to swim (Ibid: Pg. 82).
The facticity of the transcendental and the understanding which predates on the immediacy of intuited content as an external datum thus appears as an gratuitous presupposition. But if, as phenomenological wisdom would have it, immediate experience is the source of all philosophical meditation and the content of representation, then this can only be insofar as thinking has always already affected it with mediation, the stigma of contradiction or negativity, and so that both the object and the subject must bear the mark of their respective polar opposites
. Thus no propadeutic enquiry into the faculty of the understanding or pure reason inflecting reflection on the ‘transcendental subject’ could neatly disentangle itself from the object, just like the latter cannot be understood without the mediation by the subjective. The putative immediacy of experience, bereft from all thought, constitutes the height of abstraction in critical philosophy we indicated above apropos Heidegger’s avowal of a pre-ontological understanding in worldhood: «We can say that philosophy owes its first beginning to experience (to what is a posteriori). But that is not saying very much, for thinking is in fact essentially the negation of something immediately given… thinking’s own immediacy (that which is a priori) is inwardly reflected and hence inwardly mediated; it is universality, the overall being-at-home-with-itself of thinking.» (EL: Pg 36) The purported formal emptiness of the categories, quilted in by the ‘givenness’ of the sensible manifold is thus resisted by Hegel, who insists on the contrary that the categories themselves must be taken, not as formal husks void of content, but as the determinate content of the objects themselves: «To assert that, by themselves the categories are empty is unfounded, because they have a content in any case, just by being determinate.» (Ibid: Pg. 86)
In similar spirit, we could suggest that the so called ‘occlusion’ of the vorhandenheit upon the realm of being, its ‘merely derivative nature’, and so also the purely abstract status of the scientific ‘ontic’ domain, would all be for Hegel supervening on a gratuitous depreciation by appeals to the non-conceptual non-latency of being’s unconcealment. But this is merely to repeat Kant’s critical unilateral inflection of the object into the subject in phenomenological form. Even if the phenomenon is nested within Dasein’s transcendental horizon, this is still only insofar as these remain tethered to the unobjectivizable Earth, which ultimately indexes the ontological remove of all scientific cognition-objectification.
The inability of critical philosophy to dialectically deduce the possible content of the object from the Concept itself thus prevents it from realizing that this immanent contradiction within thought renders it sufficient, with no needs to appeal to an ephemeral outside. Once contradiction and radical negativity shows to infect thought from the start, it is shown thus as the base ontological principle or sufficient reason for the Concept as realizing the Idea. In the Kantian account, antinomies reduce contradictions to mere possible schemas of objects, within the specific domain of what Kant called ‘cosmological objects’. These, however, remain relatively independent, and merely form distinct classes designating possible instantiations of contradictory objects. Against this, contradiction must be for Hegel developed so that we can see that its “…true and positive significance is that everything actual contains opposed determinations within it, and in consequence the cognition and, more exactly, the comprehension of an object, amounts precisely to our becoming conscious of it as a concrete unity of opposed determinations.” (Ibid, Pg. 93).
We may summarize Hegel’s contention as saying that contradiction cannot merely be a set of possible, purely logical schemas on the basis of a presupposed categorical framework. The object is not merely contradictory insofar as it finds itself in possible «antinomic» individuation with respect to certain categories. Rather, the primacy of contradiction entails that the latter is not just logical but also constitutively metaphysical or ontological; the gap between the universal and the particular indexes that which is metaphysically real, the ‘between the two’ as self-relating negativity. Contradiction comes to install itself from the start and all-pervasively, so that it will not be a possibility of logical reason alone, but a real necessity, shown by the dialectic, as well. The Kantian impasse is finally that of subordinating contradiction to the categories and thus to the understanding.
”It may also be remarked that, as a result of his failure to study the antinomy in more depth, Kant brings forward only four antinomies. He arrives at them by presupposing the table of categories just as he did in the case of the so-called paralogisms.
While doing this he followed the procedure, which became so popular afterwards-, of simply subsuming the determinations of an ob-ject under a ready-made schema, instead of deducing them from the Concept…[but] antinomy is found not only in the four particular ob-jects taken from cosmology, but rather in all objects of all kinds, in all representations, concepts, and ideas.” – (Ibid: Pg. 92)
We must be clear to differentiate the scope of the manifold concepts “within which” antinomies are found in pure reason, from the general claim according to which contradiction functions as a general principle of the Concept, i.e. the logico-metaphysical motor of the dialectic which leads from the immediacy of Being to the full historical movement of the Spirit. Thinking is then deserving of the name of an ‘active universal’ insofar as it enacts the process whereby actual necessity is established in all of the Concept’s moments, and in which the externality of thought with respect to being is overcome: «The Logical is to be sought in a system of thought-determinations in which the antithesis between subjective and objective (in its usual meaning) disappears.» (Ibid; Pg. 56)
In that regard, we should not understand Hegel’s dissolution of the gap between subject and object to mean that they will be rendered indistinct in a ‘synthesis’. Rather, they will be shown to be mutually implicating, as opposite determinations, which will be presented as moments in the Concept’s self-deployment. By the same token, every concept or universal determination will be affected by its opposite, and so it will contain within itself a moment of ‘untruth’ in not fully coinciding with its particularizations. Insofar as every positive determination is finitely given, «…all finite things, however, are affected with untruth; they have a concept but their existence is not adequate to it.» (Ibid) This gap between the universal and the particular is what allows us to see how the subject contains in itself the objective determination which was merely a contingent externality for critical philosophy and a blinding derivation in Heidegger’s account. Similarly, it allows us to see how the object in itself is not the mere synthesizing of the transcendental form endowed by the understanding and a factum operating upon the passivity of empirical intuition as a datum. This is done by subverting the identitarian, static regime of ontic individuation in favor of nesting contradiction at the heart of every finite conceptual determination.
However, the role of philosophy is not just to isolate the finite, nested antitheses proper to beings (which belong still to the faculty of the understanding). More importantly, the sublation of the nested antitheses at the ‘higher level’ of mediation, allows logic to specify further the objects of thought by the latter’s speculative means (which belongs to Reason properly speaking, and so to infinite thought). In this regard, Hegel sees a putative advantage already in classical metaphysics over modern critique, since it ventured to think of the determinations of being-in-itself as inseparable from thought, thus resisting the severance occasioned by the transcendental «philosophies of access»
. However, its fault lied in thinking that objective determinations could simply yield the determinations of thought uncritically, and therefore it did not supersede the dimension of the understanding, and thus of finite thought. Thought’s infinity, enacted by its unyoking from the understanding and ascending to Reason, thus involves realizing the immanent (rather than transcendent) co-determination of thought on being, thinking and its object. Or rather, in philosophy, one cannot think anything but thinking itself; since thought becomes its own object: «Hence, the finite subsists in its relation to its other, which is its negation and presents itself as its limit. But thinking is at home with itself, it relates itself to itself, and is its own ob-ject. Insofar as my ob-ject is a thought, I am at home with myself. Thus the I, or thinking, is infinite because it is related in thinking to an ob-ject that is itself… If thinking thinks itself, then it has an ob-ject that is at the same time not an ob-ject, i.e. an ob-ject that is sublated, ideal.» (Ibid: Pg. 67) This infinitude must be immanently determined within the antithetical positivity of the finite, since if it were merely posited externally to it, then it would pose a limit to it, reactivating the spurious infinity of dogmatic metaphysics and of religious reifications of the ‘highest being’. Or put in Hegel’s own words: «Genuine cognition of an ob-ject, on the other hand, has to be such that the ob-ject determines itself from within itself, and does not acquire its predicates in this external way.» (Ibid).
The infinite displacement of being’s determinacy over and into opposite determinations, then achieving sublating antithesis, is immanent to the Concept alone. And so all poetic appeals to the world-disclosing function by non-conceptual means, in sight of reintegrating thought to its ‘world’ cannot but be seen from the Hegelian perspective as a desperate reification of immediate being-there or absolute abstraction as a finite externality of sorts. In its Heideggerean version, this would amount to the abstraction of the Earth set against to the finite transcendence of Dasein’s temporal-horizonal being-there. In this regard one might anticipate that for Hegel the Heideggerean gesture of localizing the ‘realist’ locus for metaphysics on the receding Earth, thematized to actuality and set-to-work in the poetic act and in the artwork, attempts a mystical evacuation of the pervasiveness of the Concept. For, after all, the worldly expanse, the ‘there’ reserved for the artistic and foreclosed for the artisan, is paired by Hegel to the dogmatic lure which remains unworthy of the Idea: «Being-there is in no way a merely positive determination, but one that is to lowly for the idea, and unworthy of God.» and so that attributions of transcendence in such a manner offer «… a restricted content, and they show themselves to be inappropriate to the fullness of the representation (of God, nature, spirit) which they do not at all exhaust.» (Ibid: Pg. 68). Although Hegel shares the Heideggerean suspicion against the merely predicative form of propositional truth, he would nevertheless insist that the quasi-poetic ruminations on art and religious temples, in the process of seeking to index the Earth’s receding ground, remains a surreptitious moment of predicative attribution obscuring through metaphoric bombast the arbitrariness of its external delimitation. The real means toward overcoming sedentary finite representation consists rather in locating within the Concept’s immanence the capacity of opposite determinations, or contradiction as such, in order to dynamically set it in motion. Representational correctness is supplanted by dialectical truth only when the Concept sublates the antithetical placing of terms and shows their co-determination as a unity, or their mutual implication: «…these determinations are not valid when they are isolated from one another, but only when sublated…since the Concept is something-concrete and since it is itself every determinacy without exception, it is essentially, and within itself, a unity of distinct determinations» (Ibid: Pg. 70).
This outlines the limit of the Heideggerean drama against science and technology, in favor of poetry and art. And surely it also precipitates the later Heidegger’s wholesale deposition of philosophy as complicit with metaphysics, now squarely allotted against ‘thinking’ as such. Already in OWA, the artwork, and not scientific speculation or metaphysics, is the site of preservation where this tensional split is ‘set-to-work’ in its having appeared there, through the createdness of world-forming Dasein. Science, the handmaiden of poetry and philosophy, crucially «is not an original happening of truth, but always the cultivation of a domain of truth already opened, specifically by apprehending and confirming that which shows itself to be possibly and necessarily correct within that field. When and insofar as a science passes beyond correctness and goes on to a truth, which means that it arrives at the essential disclosure of what is as such, it is philosophy.”
(Ibid; Pg. 60) For both poetry and art, as we have seen, testify to the holistic framework of relations and possibilities which structures worlds. That this possibility could only emerge apart from science’s coruscating forgetfulness, and only in the ‘thinking’ of truth under which art, poetry and philosophy are siblings, underlines Heidegger’s ultimate antipathy to the object, to cognition and representation as complicit with the unthinking scientific method.
For it is clear that Heidegger’s sustained attack on conceiving being from representation’s emptying occlusion of being articulates more generally what he deems to be the ‘destiny’ of the Western historical development, leading down the spiral towards the technical domination of nature’s non-objective givenness. The occlusion of truth in favor of objectual presence cannot but render invisible the primordial strife between the Earth and the World in which art and philosophical thinking stand to presencing. It is in fact the compulsion to ‘wrest’ beings without limitation that accounts for the modern derail of Man as ‘standing-reserve’ (Ge-Stell); the technological obsession to render or ‘frame’ nature, rendering it available and fixed before man through representation:
“That context is essential, because related to the destiny of Being. Framing, as the nature of modern technology, derives from the Greek way of experiencing letting-lie-forth, logos, from the Greek poiesis and thesis. In setting up the frame, the framework—which now means in commandeering everything into assured availability—there sounds the claim of the ratio redderpda, i.e., of the logon didonai, but in such a way that today this claim that is made in framing takes control of the absolute, and the process of representation—of Vor-stellen or putting forth—takes form, on the basis of the Greek perception, as making secure, fixing in place.” (Ibid Pg; 83)
The ‘triumphalist’ dialectic of the Absolute thus finds a curious inversion in Heidegger’s thinking. Representation’s proliferation only exacerbates the movement of forgetfulness already implied in the derail of the first Greek beginning of metaphysics, where being was equated to the aspect of presence in the Idea. The calamitous aftermath of this forgetting of being devolves thus in the conversion of art into a commercial issue, of philosophy into mere science, and all ontology into ontics
Under the oblivious reign of technology, impervious to the call of being, man’s destiny seems apocalyptically sealed, so that in the end “only a God can save us!” For Heidegger thus, the hopeless recipe against the maledictions of technology and science imply a certain passivity, rather than cognitive activity, perhaps leading to «three hundred years of silence» and an attitude of ‘releasement’ (Gelassenheit), prescribed to undo the damage performed by the tradition. If we understand the presencing of the Gods as the ‘situatedness’ of Dasein before truth as unconcealment, making up a historical destiny, then we can understand that Heidegger’s call for the Gods’ return in sight of their ‘flight’ signals the requirement to recuperate the Truth-disclosing and world-inaugurating ambition of art and poiesis, away from science and techne. If poetry is wed essentially to art and Truth, Heidegger argues, it is in the original Greek sense in which poiesis, lets what is present come forth into unconcealment, and thereby articulates a historical world. The predicament is clearly laid for us:
“For now the melting down of the self-consummating essence of the modern age into the self-evident is being accomplished. Only when this is assured through world views will the possibility arise of there being a fertile soil for Being to be in question in an original way – a questionableness of Being that will open ample space for the decision as to whether Being will once again become capable of a god, as to whether the essence of the truth of Being will lay claim more primally to the essence of man. Only there where the consummation of the modern age attains the heedlessness that is its peculiar greatness is future history being prepared.” (QCT; Pg. 153).
Against the fatalist drama of the perils of technological reason, Hegel’s predicament stands as remarkably modern in turn: philosophy only exist as science, and it has yet to rise to become worthy of that name. The supposition of a non-latent reservoir of unobjectivizable and transcendent being is the truly occluding gesture, which veils the Concept’s self-relation and thinking’s immanent pursuit with regards to itself: «But is it easy to see that, even if it is taken in its totally abstract sense, the Concept includes being within itself. For however, the Concept may be further determined it is itself minimally the immediate relation to itself that emerges through the sublation of its mediation, and being is nothing but that… for thought, nothing can have less import than «being». (Ibid: Pg. 94). Mediation does not trump immediacy, but explains it; conceptuality does not occlude the purity of being, it actualizes it and determines it (Ibid: Pg. 115)
. This ultimately renders the division between the two philosophers and wherein they locate truth: either on the side of the unobjectivizable being onto which only caring creation in the setting-to-work of art and poiesis harbors the hope of a non-conceptual thinking that restores a primordial innocence, or on the side of the Concept’s self development, by its own, strictly immanent means.
References/Cited Works/ Bibliography
1. Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
2. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 1962.
3. Heidegger, Martin. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, translated by Alfred Hofstadter, Indiana University Press, 1982.
4. Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, translated by William McNeil and Nicholas Walker, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
5. Heidegger, Martin. What is Called Thinking?, translated by J. Glenn Gray, Harper and Row, 1968.
6. Heidegger, Marin. Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper and Row, 2001.
7. Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology, translated by William Lovitt, Harper Torchbooks.
8. Hegel, G.W.F. The Encyclopaedia Logic, translated by Theodore Garaets, H.S Harris, W.A Suchting, Hackett Pub, 1991.
The German word for ‘object’ generally has two possible translations: Objekt and Gegenstand. Although these two distinct terms differ little in meaning, both in common German and in Heidegger’s account, it will turn out to be a weightier distinction for Hegel, as we shall see below. Provisionally, it should be remarked Objekt is usually paired with Subjekt to as to emphasize the former’s relation of ‘standing against’ the latter, and thus of the correlation between the two terms. Heidegger’s use of begegnen is often also used to illuminate how ‘beings encounter us within the world (B&T: Pg. 44), which derives from gegen as «coming-up-against», to «en-counter», or confront (LXV, 269). For Heidegger Gegenstand will also tend to be used to underline the object’s temporal dimension, as overdetermined by the presence, or the present For a discussion on these usages see Inwood (1999).
A possible definition of presencing is given on his essay Science and Reflection: “We think presencing as the enduring of that which, having arrived to un-concealment, remains there.” (QCT; Pg. 161) The connection between this term and Heidegger’s account of Truth as unconcealment is developed below.
Heidegger seems to have Kant implicitly in mind here.
As we shall see below, this contestation against the unified ‘thing-concept- will turn out to be a crucial point of contention also for Hegel; who already prefigured Heidegger in denying the objectual totalization of Truth in the way of affirming the latter’s fundamental incompleteness or excessive character with respect to mere objectivity of its specific moments or instances.
The essential referent left implicit for this conception would be, of course, Aristotle, who in a certain way already indexed the first two iterations and thus serves as a pivotal moment in the tradition’s understanding of the artwork.
For reasons of space, we cannot undertake a thorough review of how this process occurs in Heidegger’s account. Let us just note here that the breakdown of ready-at-hand equipment occurs in three successive stages, leading to bare reflexive abstraction from a primary dimension of engaged practice. Usefulness and serviceability withdraw and equipment is reduced to the form of an extant object (Vorhandenheit): conspicuousness, obtrusiveness, and obstinacy. It is this latter ‘objectual’ form which roughly corresponds in Heidegger’s account to the object or representation indexed earlier in three varieties. It is thus, for Heidegger only the most derivative, or abstract stage wherein the indistinction in act between Dasein and tool-beings qua an equipmental-whole is severed. For the details, see Being and Time: Part I; Chapter I.
The ‘comprehensive concepts’ here will thus seem closely knit to Hegel’s own determination of philosophy as comprehensive cognition. The ‘comprehensiveness’ at stake here concerns in both thinkers the establishing of the necessity of these concepts, i.e. their proper philosophical deduction, which elevates them from arbitrary/contingent determinations.
For Heidegger’s more confident association of philosophy and in particular phenomenology with the scientific method, see in particular his lecture course The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (1927).
The polemic with Husserl is implicit in Being and Time.
This complicates certain accounts of Heidegger’s tool-analysis from a pragmatic framework; and specifically some readings which purport to find in the realm of readiness-to-hand a second kind of intentionality, supplementing the traditional vector of consciousness intending its objects. For an example of this approach see Dreyfus (1990)
Heidegger crucially appropriates the concept of facticity from Kant (Faktizität), where the latter is to be understood as the ‘lack of reason’ for the being of transcendental conditions of disclosure. Thus while for Kant the categories are the necessary conditions of possibility for all ontic transcendence, these categories are themselves ‘without reason’, i.e. we cannot know why there are only twelve rather than thirteen categories, etc. Similarly, for Heidegger, while Dasein’s ecstatic transcendence allowing the clearing of the world is the condition for the encounter with beings, this ecstatic transcendence is properly factical, and as such is simply a situation onto which Dasein is ‘given over’. Thus the complicity with terms such as ‘thrownness’ (Geworfenheit) which index this horizon of unobjectivizing transcendence which remains itself unobjectiveable.
It is my wager that one of Hegel’s most remarkable challenges to Kant, and by extension to Heidegger, lies precisely in his rejection of facticity as a kernel ‘without reason’ that resists conceptual appropriation, either to open the space for practical reason to glorify noumenal freedom, or the space for the ‘morning of the world’ of the poetic word. For Hegel, contradiction establishes itself as the ‘sufficient reason’ which from the very start guarantees and secures the full-fledged deployment of the dialectic with logical necessity, so that immediacy can by itself unfold itself into its other by including opposite determinations within it; just like Being as a first figure of thought becomes indiscernible from Nothing and reverts to it, both already implying the unity of Becoming, etc. See Malpas (2003), Pg. 110; Heidegger B&T: Pg. 82, Meillassoux (2006), Pg. 35-46.
Significantly, since the horizon for the disclosure of beings is a feature of worldhood, and since the latter is properly the transcendence proper to Dasein’s being (its being-in-the-world as ekstatico-horizonal transcendence) it follows that animals and plants have no world (OWA; Pg. 43). In this Heidegger retracts his more ambiguous formulation from 1930 in his lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics in which it was expressed rather that the animal was “poor in the world”; which remained, as Ray Brassier (2007) has indicated, a ‘desperate sophism’ since at a loss for horizonal transcendence for which beings are no worldhood can obtain either.
As should be apparent, for here it is Gegenstand which is translated as ‘ob-ject’, while Objekt remains translated as simply object. Although for Heidegger this distinction had limited philosophical interest, for Hegel it plays a more substantive role. For the latter, Objekt pertains to a logical category, proper to the pure thinking advanced by philosophy, while Gegenstand comes to stand for the ordinary objects of experience. Thus when Hegel wages against the ‘ob-ject’ it should be understood that he sets against the ‘common object of experience’ which comprises the bulk of representational determinations of the object given to us by common sense and the tradition. These knowledges (wissen) obviously fall of the scientific cognition (Wissenschaft) which gives over the pure form of the object as a component within the dialectic. See the translator’s pertinent notes in EL: Pgs. xxii, xxiii.
This is what is generally meant when tracing the passage of the in-itself to the for-itself, and then in the in-and-for-itself as the synthesized alternation of being. From the immediacy of being in-itself we move into the self-alienation of being into its other, which implies already mediation and relation; only to show the mutual implication of one concept into the other as a self-supporting unity. Let us simply recall in passing the initial moment of the Logic which reproduces this movement: Being passes over onto Nothing, and their in-distinction becomes then sublated in the unity of Becoming: B ®N ® B .«. BC. The same movement repeats itself to determine the entire wealth of determinations from this initial moment of abstraction.
Although the translators use elevation for Aufgehoben I have chosen to stick to the more standard (by now) sublation.
For a discussion on the three kinds of Scholastic distinction, and their pertinence apropos the essence-existence dyad, its effect on the Kantian edifice, and the prefiguring of the ontological difference, see Heidegger’s Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988, pgs/. 88-99.
Hegel writes: «»Critical philosophy holds on to the factum that universality and necessity, being also essential determinations, are found to be present in what is called experience. And, because this element does not stem from the empirical as such, it belongs to the spontaneity of thinking, or is a priori. The thought-determinations of concepts of the understanding make up the objectivity o the cognitions of experience…Bu the critical philosophy extends the antithesis in such a way that experience in its entirety falls within subjectivity, i.e. both of these elements together [subjectivity and objectivity] are subjective, and nothing remains in contrast with subjectivity except the thing-in-itself» (Ibid: Pg. 81).
Thus, this is not to say that it would be possible to think of an object without ‘categories’ or individuating distinctions; since this would render the concept of an object paradoxical. Rather, what Hegel means is that «Although the categories… pertain to thinking as such, it does not at all follow from this that they must therefore be merely something ours, and not also determinations of objects themselves.» (Ibid: Pg 86). Thus
The expression is Graham Harman’s. See his Tool Being: Heidegger and the Carpentry of Things (2004).
This surely anticipates Heidegger’s extraordinary statement from Was ist Denken? that «science does not think.»
And for Heidegger it is specifically this forgetfulness of being through ‘technical reason’ that accounts for the political disasters of National Socialism where, as in his infamous statements from 1949, concentration camps were equated ‘essentially’ to fumigation fields: “Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, the same thing in its essence as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same thing as blockades and the reduction of countries to famine, the same thing as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs.» (Heidegger 1949; Pg 64)
In that regard, it should become apparent that Hegel’s rationalism anticipates the Sellarsian rejection of the Myth of the Given. See Sellars Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (1957).