Heidegger Journal 3

Journal #3 (2/20/04)

When Heidegger speaks of phenomenology, he is taking Husserl’s illuminations and carrying particular ones further along the path he sees laid out in front of them. It is an effort at the redemption of ideas that have not been carried to their full conclusion. Husserl ends up with this idea of pure consciousness and his phenomenology was essentially aimed at the study of this consciousness. However Heidegger has deep reservations and many criticisms about this notion of pure consciousness– the purity of it seems to be ethereal and too idealistic to be taken seriously. He doesn’t think that it is possible for a human to be able to take hold of this pure consciousness in order to investigate it because we are always and in every way bound up within our context. “The possibilities and destinies of philosophy,” he says in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, “are bound up with man’s existence, and thus with temporality and with historicality” (p.20). The fact that we are temporal beings whose consciousness and very essence is in every way tied to both the past and the future must be taken into account when we examine that consciousness.

It is because of this that when Heidegger picks up Husserl’s ‘phenomenological reduction’ it is with a new sense of the term, and thus a more careful process aimed at a different and more particular goal develops. As he states, “we are thus adopting a central term of Husserl’s phenomenology in its literal wording though not in its substantive intent” (p.21). Rather than being led step-by-step backward toward a pure consciousness in the transcendental realm, this reduction is a three-part engagement of the entire being in be-ing and reflection upon that being.

Heidegger names these three key components of the phenomenological method as reduction, construction, and destruction. Phenomenological reduction is a leading back of the being to its be-ing, and for this it is necessary “that we should bring ourselves positively toward being itself” (p.21). According to Heidegger, being “must always be brought to view in a free projection” and “this projecting of the antecedently given being upon its being and the structures of its being we call phenomenological construction” (p.22). Be-ing does not appear, per say, or present itself like an object; it must be walked with and experienced (thus the bringing of ourselves positively toward it). As for destruction, there have always been ideas of what ‘being’ is, and from the earliest days of antiquity to today they have formed the basis for any research into its constitution and meaning. Heidegger wants to start with the use of these traditional notions and then strip them from us in a critical process, “deconstruct[ing them] down to the sources from which they were drawn” (p.23). This process goes hand in hand with the ‘reductive construction of being’, and ‘assures the genuine character of [the resulting] concepts’ (p.23).

These components illustrate the changing emphasis Heidegger wants to make in the study of consciousness, each acknowledging that consciousness is deeply and fundamentally affected by its temporality and unavoidably historical nature. Heidegger’s phenomenology embraces humanity’s temporal nature and works with it– through it– (as well as selectively and cautiously against its weaknesses) to create a corrective phenomenology that works in concert with the world as it is.

c. Mary Kathryn Gough, 2004

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