December 05, 2004

Heidegger & world disclosure

I want to continue to explore this article by Nikolas Kompridis entitled, 'Heidegger's Challenge and the Future of Critical Theory.' In the previous post I outlined the way that though Habermas had renewed critical theory this had been done at the expense of a very negative reading of the German philosophical tradition from Nietzsche to Adorno.

In this post I will continue the philosophical conversation between critical theory, Habermas and Heidegger through Heidegger's category of world disclosure, or the disclosure of being through human understanding and concern.

Kompridis provides a useful account. He says that Heidegger's various analyses of the phenomenon of world disclosure (of In-der-Welt-Sein, Lichtung, Gestell, and Ereignis) represent his central contribution to 20th century philosophy. He then spells this out:

"Through these analyses Heidegger developed an original critique of, and an original alternative to, the representationalist epistemology and the naturalistic ontologies of modern philosophy. He marshalled important new arguments (both transcendental and hermeneutic) against mentalistic accounts of intentionality, against views of agency as disembodied and disengaged, and against "deworlded" conceptions of objectivity and truth. In Being and Time and in The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Heidegger argued that prior to confronting the world as though it were first and foremost a physical object, or as though it were identical with nature, prior to establishing explicit epistemic relations to the world "out there," we always already operate with a pre-reflective, holistically structured, and grammatically regulated understanding of the world."

And so our theoretical understanding of the world always refers back to, as much as it draws upon, a concerned practical involvement with what we encounter in the world. The notion of world disclosure refers, in part, to this ontological preunderstanding --- or understanding of "being."

In Being and Time Heidegger argues that the world is pre-reflectively disclosed to us; yet, in another, the world is disclosed through us: it is we who make its disclosure possible. Disclosure, therefore, involves both receptivity and activity; both openness to, and engagement with, what is disclosed. In the subsequent changes that develop into his later philosophy, Heidegger's account of world disclosure takes a "linguistic turn". Kompridis says:

" Breaking with the conception of language in Being and Time, where language (Rede) opens up or uncovers in a different light something which has already been disclosed independently of language (through concerned involvement with what we encounter in the world), the later Heidegger attributes to language a "primordial" (ürsprunglich) world-disclosing function. It is language which first discloses the horizons of meaning in terms of which we make sense of ourselves and the world. .... Heidegger not only lingustifies disclosure, he historicizes it as well, making possible accounts of the formation and transformation of historical epochs by tracking changes in ontologies (changes in the 'understanding of being')."

It is here that we find the point of issue. Habermas and other critics Habermas claim that Heidegger absolutize linguistic world disclosure, robbing human agents of their critical and reflective capacities.

Habermas argues that appeal to world disclosure, in order to describe and explain processes of semantic and cultural change involves, a devaluing of reason, everyday practice, and philosophy. What is more world disclosure, says Habermas , provides the skeptical critics of modern reason with a fatalistic or ecstatic "refuge in something wholly Other".

Behind Bataille sits Heidegger!

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at December 5, 2004 02:19 PM | TrackBack


You are spot on here. This is the crucial issue between Habermas and Heidegger.

"It is here that we find the point of issue. Habermas and other critics Habermas claim that Heidegger absolutize linguistic world disclosure, robbing human agents of their critical and reflective capacities."

The ambiguity in Habermas' critique of Heidegger is his inability to differentiate between the notion of "agency" as "factual" vs notion of agency as "normative." Having forgone this distinction Habermas accuses Heidegger of 'decisionism' in his early period, while of 'fatalism' in his later period. Habermas might be right but I think he should have made the distinction between "factual" and "normative" analysis anyhow.

Posted by: Ali on December 5, 2004 03:15 PM

yeah I know the Heidegger/'decisionism' claim re his early period.It refers to authenticity section in Being and Time, and roughly says that the its formalism makes it ethically indiscriminate and open to the (very real) dangers of political decisionism.This means that ther is no normative meaning, but only an existential meaning. We wallow in the wasteland of nihilism.

The 'fatalism' of his later period claim is a reference to an ecological letting be as a response to modernity's violence of treating everything as nothing but a resource.

But strands can read as Heidegger has little to offer by way of ethics. Heidegger spells danger in ethics.

That reading ignores the ethos of “caring” in Being and Time or, more precisely in the latter texts “poetically dwelling” that fosters a turn in the world of modernity.

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson on December 6, 2004 09:34 PM

I think you are both crazy and insane. but that is just my 2 cents.

Posted by: Pete Wilson on February 3, 2005 08:32 AM
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