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Why must the question of being be raised again?

For Heidegger, the whole of Being and Time is concerned primarily with one question, what is the meaning of being? A question that for Heidegger has been woefully overlooked through most of Western philosophy until the 20th century. Nevertheless it is questionable why should need to examine being, in some prevalent sense it appears to be self-explanatory. This is noted by Heidegger in the prologue of Being and Time But are we nowadays even perplexed at our inability to understand the expression 'Being'? Not at all, the dismissal of being as a concept requiring explanation necessarily needs to be overturned, and an investigation into understanding the meaning of the concept reawakened. Heidegger describes how the concept of being has been abandoned since Aristotle and Plato, On the basis of the Greeks' initial contributions towards an Interpretation of Being, a dogma has been developed which not only declares the question about the meaning of Being to be superfluous, but sanctions its complete neglect. The concept of being at once for Heidegger is universally known yet incredibly undeveloped, regarded by him as one of the most emptiest of concepts. The lack of investigation into being is a problem therefore that needs to be clarified, it is something that no ontological investigation can overlook. If the process of examination of being has been flawed or too reliant on tradition, the presuppositions behind these mis-examinations has to be exposed, and a process of discovery into the correct meaning of being undertaken, this is part of the discipline that is philosophy. Frede points out Heideggers identification of Aristotle and his doctrine of a manifold of meanings of being that came to dominate Western philosophy, that it is Aristotle's doctrine of the categories of beings that Heidegger refers to when he presents his view of the historical development of Western thought that ended in complete forgetfulness of the question of being. Aristotle distinguished between substance and attributes of substances, these categories being distinctions in the nature of things. Aristotle's theory of the natural structure of reality is based upon the primacy of substances, naturally existing independent entities, to be then either means to be a substance or one of the attributes of a substance, as such there is no unified sense of being that could be predicated of items in all categories. There is only an "analogy of being" to indicate the centrality of the substance, without permitting a univocal definition of the term "being." The conception of being across Western philosophy has been gathered around the notion of substantiality, with substance remaining the central term in ontology. This framework has thus kept the concept of being empty and devoid of any deeper meaning. However it is at this point possible to question whether this framework has produced any negative impact on our notion of being, which has served what can be seen as functional purpose in investigation, for Heidegger to provoke further investigation, it is necessary to identify how the concept of being is lacking in any particular regard, and whether further investigation can reveal anything further that can aid in a functional or pragmatic regard. One can argue that such classifications of categories have lead to impoverished theories, such as the Cartesian dichotomy between body/nature and mind, or in medieval theology the distinction between essence and existence, however it's shortcomings still need to be pointed out as a concept in itself. In the introduction to Being and Time, three presuppositions are thus pointed out to demonstrate the emptiness of the concept of being, so that one can move on to a more detailed investigation. Heidegger first points out the maintained belief that being is the most universal concept, we have an understanding of being that is included in conceiving anything which one apprehends in something which is. However Heidegger points out the universality of being cannot be described

as a class or genus, the 'universality' of Being 'transcends' any universality of genus. Aristotle acknowledged this, knowing this transcendental universality as a unity of analogy, but even though he put the problem of being in a different light for Heidegger, he failed to clear up the categorial interconnections and this manifests itself in the understanding of being until the 20th century. That being is the most universal concept does not make it the clearest for Heidegger, rather the darkest. Secondly, deduced from its universality it has been maintained that the concept of being is undefinable. Being cannot be conceived as an entity, nor derived from higher concepts a prior. Despite its undefinability, there is no elimination of the question of the meaning of being, simply we cannot present being as definable in traditional logic. The third presupposition Heidegger presents is that it is held that 'Being' is of all concepts the one that is self-evident. Whenever one makes an assertion some use is made of being, with these expressions seemingly being intelligible. However in these assertions we have an average kind of intelligibility, which merely demonstrates that this is unintelligible, we have surrounded ourselves with an understanding of being without a clear meaning of being itself, proving for Heidegger it is necessary to raise the question of being again. Heideggers three pronged exposure of the strange simplicity we have assigned to the concept of being accurately reinforces his view that it requires additional explication. Ultimately he points out that when it comes to think about ontology, for Heidegger the traditional treatments have failed to distinguish between two kinds of questions we can ask: the ontic question that asks about the properties of things, and the ontological question that asks about the ways or modes of being. Thus an ontological inquiry into human being then will not look at the properties possessed by humans, but rather the structures that make it possible to be human, leading to Heidegger's conception of the human mode of existence dasein. But it is still possible to question what such a concept can tell us, and why it is needed if in an ontic role it spreads little into the theories of understanding the world that we already possess. However it is pertinent to push the problems of a simple understanding of being as relating to some of the continual problems that afflict conceptual theories of the world. As mentioned before, the development of Western philosophy orienting itself towards being as reality or thinghood, making the world a sum total of independently existing entities can account for many of the difficulties philosophers have been unable to solve, difficulties especially not solved by subject-centered philosophies of the Cartesian-Kantian tradition and that still exist today. For Heidegger, if there are basically two separate entities of subject and object that occur side by side the problem of how contact occurs between a thinking subject and an independently occurring world remains an insoluble problem. Kant for example, left the main feature of ancient ontology intact, the centrality of substance, the independent thing that existences through time remained the fundamental building block of all reality. In particular Kant's attempt to prove the existence of an external world is under Heidegger's view, a indication that Kant did not rigorously question the basis of traditional ontology enough. In turn, the idealist seems to be condemned to immanentism, the problems of explaining the transcendence of objects in relation to our minds in a way that makes sense. Heidegger thus argues that these problems only if one posits a fundamental rift between the isolated mind and an independently existing realm of objects, while this seems to be a natural presupposition, Heidegger

labels it the result of the philosophers mistaken stance and a splitting asunder of the phenomena. The ontology of merely existing things is therefore cut back by Heidegger, arguing that occurrence alongside is the only available ontological category to avoid that split. We should understand ourselves as beings with a world that is characterised as a being among. Therefore we can take Heidegger's view to quite a radical extreme and while it possible to disagree with Heidegger ultimately his argument is to determine not an immediate an answer but to demonstrate the need to investigate being and to pull into focus the ontological priority of the question of being. In Heidegger's perspective progress in many areas has been slowed by the demarcation of subject and object, that new questions of being are arising and need to be addressed. In biology there is an awakening tendency to inquire beyond the definitions which mechanism and vitalism have given for "life" and "organism", and to define anew the kind of Being which belongs to the living as such or in theology beginning to understand once more Luther's insight that the 'foundation' on which its system of dogma rests has not arisen from an inquiry in which faith is primary, and that conceptually this 'foundation' not only is inadequate for the problematic of theology, but conceals and distorts it. Heidegger points out how science has naturally followed the philosophical trail blazed by Aristotle and Plato, that ontological inquiry is primordial and can lead the sciences to more than without it. The question of being therefore ascertains the a priori conditions that science relies on to examine entities in a particular way, and also for the ontologies that provide the ontical foundations for the sciences themselves. Without this question it is nave and opaque for the sciences to research into the being of entities if it fails to discuss the meaning of being in general. Nevertheless it is at this point we can call the scale of Heidegger's investigation into question. He correctly raises the problems that science and mathematics face in investigating concepts of which philosophical clarity has not been determined. Such conceptual problems can be perceived in modern quantum physics. However it is wrong to perhaps say science is limited in any respect by the absence of these questions of being. Certainly in areas such as scientific investigation into the processes of consciousness such questions are very pertinent but in cases of abstract mathematics, the subject/object divide is not considered, rather similarly with physics and chemistry abstract frameworks are postulated to discerned data, a process that has reached a level of having to incorporate our own limits of presence within the world. Whether or not Heidegger's elevated questioning of being can have said to determined a path to such ways of thinking is debatable, but is similarly difficult to argue that without them science could not have progressed in the way it has. Such considerations however do not completely detract from the importance of Heidegger's aim. The continued problems observed in the ontology derived from Aristotle mean that irregardless of whether such subject/object divisions are valid and necessary there is a burning importance to examine and develop the fundamental concept of being in an attempt to alleviate or even simply gain insight into the possible nature and form of being itself. In this respect while Heidegger's overall project or schema might have failed as an complete account, certainly the concept of being is illuminated further by the questioning of the basic ontology behind the history of Western philosophy.

Daniel Anthony