This close reading of sections near the beginning of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time (1926) is a direct sequel to ep. 32, which provides an overview of his project.
In this episode and 297, we read and discuss particular textual passages, so you can experience along with us what it’s like to read this text with its peculiar terminology and approach.
Here are the sections we read:
- Intro 1, sec. 1, “The Necessity for Explicitly Restating the Question of Being”, point 1, on why Being isn’t just the most universal concept. Heidegger here is responding to and building on the discussion of this issue in Aristotle’s Categories.
- Intro 1, sec. 2, “The Formal Structure of the Question of Being” asks “what is a question?” The ancient Greek touchstone for this is Plato, who argues that in order to ask a question at all, we must always in some sense already know the answer (or at least the type of answers that are available). This idea comes up in several of Plato’s dialogues (like the Meno), but we most recently played with this idea on the Philosophy vs. Improv podcast #28.
- Intro 1, sec. 4, “The Ontical Priority of the Question of Being.” The point of reading this is to clarify some of Heidegger’s terms: “Ontic” is about individual beings and their properties, and if we’re talking about the possibilities and projects of individual people, the adjective is “existentielle.” These terms contrast with “ontological,” which is about the study of Being itself, and the essential structures of human (Dasein) Being are called “existential.” For example, we as Dasein are essentially “Being-Unto-Death,” so that’s an ontological feature of the human condition: it’s existential for beings like us. But of course, we as individuals may or may not really be aware of our eventual deaths, and that awareness (or lack of it) is an existentielle feature of each of us as ontic, as individual beings. However, we only get an entry point into understanding the ontological via the ontic, which is to say we only understand Being by first considering the individual beings that we interact with in our lives, and so Heidegger calls that entry point “ontico-ontological.” Our attempt to lay down a definitive interpretation of these three terms (ontic, ontological, ontico-ontological) is surprisingly contentious.
This discussion includes Mark, Seth, Wes, and Dylan. Most of us read the Macquarrie & Robinson translation (buy it), though Wes helpfully provides a second translation for some parts from Joan Stambaugh. You may also wish to look at the interpretations by Hubert Dreyfus in Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time. Mark also recommends the audiobook version by Martyn Swain, which translates all the Greek other foreign language bits that Macquarrie does not.