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HEIDEGGER’S PHENOMENOLOGY: AN ATTEMPT TO ARTICULATE THE

HIDDENNESS OF BEING
Joel C. Sagut

1. Heidegger criticizes Aristotelian Logic


Heidegger’s phenomenology rests on his criticism on the concept of truth which is
reduced to a mere product of predicative judgment. Heidegger criticizes the
understranding of the truth as adequatio. In his essay, On the Essence of Truth,
Heidegger observes that Western philosophy commonly equates truthfulness with
actuality. He says, “the true is actual”1 Furthermore, he says that “a statement is
true if what it means and says is in accordance with the matter about which the
statement is made.”2 Truth then rests in adequation, which is understood in two
senses. He says, “Being true and truth signify accord, and that in a double sense: on
the one hand, the consonance of a matter with what is supposed in advance
regarding it, and on the other hand, the accordance of what is meant in the
sentence with the matter.”3 In both senses then, truthfulness is reduced to
correctness, that is, the precision and fidelity of a proposition to the “state of
affairs” which it is supposed to express.

The doctrine on adequatio lies on the basic presupposition that Being has a fixed
essence that can be ascertained competely. Once the Being of a being is
ascertained by the mind, it must be correctly expressed, otherwise there will be
falsity rather than truthfulness. Heidegger again says, “it is equally obvious that
truth has its opposite, and that there is untruth. The untruth of the proposition is the
non-concordance of the statement with the matter. The untruth of the matter
signifies the non-agreement of a being with its essence. In either case, untruth is
conceived as non-accord, which falls outside the essence of truth. Therefore, when
it is a question of comprehending the pure essence of truth, untruth, as such an
opposite of truth, can be put aside.”4

Heidegger believes that the reduction of truth to mere correctnes and logical
predication is misleading. First of all, it presupposes the apprehension of a fixed
essence or idea, and truthfulness rests on the correct predication of ideas. But,
Heidegger has endeavored especially in the earlier part of his career to name the
temporality of Being. If Being is temporal, then it will follow that the Being of being
is not really fixed and ahistorical. Being rather unfolds/discloses through and in
time. Courtine would even speak of this Heideggerian project as a deconstruction or
destruction of logic. He says, “the destruction is applied essentially to the theory of
proposition, i.e., the traditional interpretation of the apophantic utterance (enonce)
as ‘saying something about something’ as predication which attributes a
determination, a predicate, to a subject.”5 For the Aristotelian tradition, the”copula”
of the statement is, in fact, considered to be the primordial and the proper place of
truth.

2. Heidegger criticizes Western metaphysics


Furthermore, Heidegger also contends that western metaphysics has succesfully
placed the original Greek understanding of Being into oblivion. Being has been
slowly replaced by the concept of presence and essence. He, for example, claimed
that the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle reduced Being into mere essence. Plato
reduced philosophy into metaphysics.6 Being is no longer the process of coming to
be. Rather, it was reduced to a complete but static presence of things. Being
becomes that which is common to all beings, hence Plato calls it as the Beingness
of beings or what is later known as the essence.

The entire philosophical tradition becomes an attempt to name Being as the


essence, even if essence has been substituted by many other names like Idea,
Substance, God, or the Spirit. Every era in the history of the West has become an
attempt to give a complete narrative about the Being of beings.

This leads to the Heideggerian critique of the entire metaphysical tradition as onto-
theological. This means that philosophy has already become concerned with the
search for the ground of being which is perceived as the source or the creator.
Hence, philosophy has become a science of both God - as the creator of beings, and
the giver of the Being of beings or that principle which is common to all things.7 The
God of onto-theology is just another objective reality that grounds the existence of
all other things. It is completely ‘present’ just like any other being even if it is the
first or the best in the gradation of things. Furthermore, the Being of beings is the
essence of things. As Plato would say, the meaning of a table is the Idea of table or
the tableness, outside the tableness of the table, that table cannot be.

With this, Being was reduced to a particular kind of being – even if in theology, it is
the first of all beings. Reducing philosophical thinking into a type of theology forces
philosophy to abandon its original vocation to think. Philosophy ceases to become
attentive to the unfolding of Being, rather, it becomes one of the empirical sciences,
albeit the one that is concerned with the first being - God.

Heidegger believes that this development contributes to the shift in philosophical


orientation. Philosophy, as onto-theological, has sought to grasp the essence of
things in order simply to manipulate and control them. This onto-theological
character of philosophy as metaphysics is in fact the necessary predecessor of the
control freak mathematico-scientific thinking8, which in turn results to the many
disasters of our modern time because of its incapacity to transcend the mere
physicality of things. The desire to control and to manipulate has become one of the
prejudicing elements of an onto-theological mind. With this, there is a need for what
he calls as ‘the task of destroying the history of ontology.’9

3. Heidegger’s way to phenomenology

To overcome the traditional logic of Western philosophy, Heidegger teaches that


truth does not only reside on proposition. Truth is not merely the adequation of the
mind and reality, or that of speech and the actual state of affairs. Rather, Heidegger
speaks of the truth as aletheia, as unconcealment or disclosure, and Lichtung as the
clearing or the open where Being manifests itself. Furthermore, Heidegger also
criticizes the reduction of Being to a mere essence.

Heidegger argues that in order to overcome the onto-theological trait of


philosophical thought, there is a need to initiate the destruction of metaphysics,
which for him is not an authentic philosophy. He then calls for a step-back – a return
to the original character of thinking, which is reflective and meditative rather than
calculative. Philosophy needs to step-back to its original vocation to reflect on the
disclosure of Being rather than on the objectifying grasp of a being.

Heidegger contends that the Being of beings can never be fully objectified. He says
that Being cannot be identified with the essence of a thing because it would not be
possible to absolutely speak of a final essence of things. Being is always temporal,
hence Heidegger relates being and time. Being discloses or unfolds itself in time.
We could never grasp ‘being’ apart from its temporality. Furthermore, if Being is
temporal, it also means that every disclosure may only be perspectival. When we
bring something into the fore, other things will recede into the background. Hence,
Heidegger argues that Being always left something unsaid and hidden. Being would
always have a ‘reserve’.10

Hence, the task of this new way of thinking (philosophy) is to uncover the
hiddenness of Being. There is always something that can be said and discovered
because in every utterance there would always also be the concealment of Being.
Philosophy then necessarily becomes reflective. It becomes a patient paying
attention to Being’s simultaneous ‘unfolding’ and ‘concealment’. It awaits and is
awed by Being’s every disclosure because such would always be fresh and new. At
the same time, philosophy is also aware that every temporal revelation is
incomplete. There always remains something hidden, and such would always be an
invitation for further reflection.

Hence, a phenomenon, as an object of perception, may not be really fully given.


Commenting on Heidegger’s thought, Courtine says, “The phenomenon, in the
phenomenological sense, is precisely that which does not show itself first of all and
for the most part.”11 Courtine continues that “it is because phenomena are not
given that we need phenomenology, or better, that we need work and research in
phenomenology.”12

4. Heidegger on aletheia and the “appearing”

Heidegger’s departure from the phenomenology of Husserl is visible as early as the


publication of the Being and Time (see Section 7).13 Gadamer speaks of Heidegger’s
innovation within the Husserlian program. Gadamer says, “As Heidegger named and
elucidated the concept of phenomenology in the introduction of his own first work, it
could almost be read as a simple variation on Husserl’s methodological program.
Yet, in spite of this, a new accent was heard by virtue of the fact that Heidegger, in
a paradoxical emphasis, did not introduce the concept of phenomenology from the
direction of its givenness, but rather, from its “ungivenness, its hiddenness.”14

Central to Heidegger’s philosophy is his reflection about the aletheia of Being, as


the simultaneous disclosure and concealment of Being. Heidegger posits that in
determining the nature of the thing, as the object of which phenomenology (as a
particular method of ontology) is concerned, it is important to realize that there is
something in a being that is hidden and concealed. Heidegger even claims that
there are three types of hiddenness: (1) as that which does not show itself at all or
that which is undiscovered, (2) as that which is covered up, and (3) as that which is
disguised. The undiscovered refers to that concealment of Being Itself, the
voluntary withdrawal of Being Itself. Covering up further refers to the forgettenness
of a phenomenon – these means that a phenomenon may deteriorate in time and
may be forgotten. There is however a possibility that those which have been
covered may still be uncovered in time. Lastly, the most dangerous type of
hiddenness is the disguising. Heidegger claims that it is “here where the
possibilities of deceiving and misleading are especially stubborn.” 15 There is danger
especially “when the disguises are built into a system. For when they have been
bound constructively into a system, they present themselves as something “clear”
requiring no further justification, and thus can serve as the point of departure for a
process of deduction.”16 Hence, the disguise proliferates and infects many minds.

Thus, Heidegger proposes phenomenology as the method through which


hiddenness is taken into consideration and hopefully overcome. Overcoming
hiddenness, especially the sense of disguise, is particularly important. But if
phenomenology is defined as the “study of phenomenon,” it is important to discuss
what do we really mean by phenomenon. He defines the phenomenon as that which
shows itself in itself.17 Phenomenon, according to Heidegger, can be viewed in two
ways: (1) as that which shows itself, (2) or as a semblance. A phenomenon is that
which “announces itself through something that shows itself.” In this sense then, a
phenomenon is both a bringing forth, and a concealment. It brings something into
the open – the announcing of itself, while at the same time, it conceals that which is
announced by the phenomenon.

Furthermore, Heidegger claims that the logos of phenomenology should be


understood in its original Greek sense. Although logos - starting from the
Aristotelian logic of predication – is already viewed as correctness, Heidegger
contends that the logos of phenomenology is understood in the sense of taking a
thing “out of its hiddenness.”18 Phenomenology will then be “undestood as a work of
showing, of bringing to light, which must ever and again struggle against the
tradition and its obfuscation; one must ever and again rediscover, draw forth from a
withdrawal, prevail over obfuscation, and fight against deterioration and
degeneracy, in order to find again the “giving” originality, the living source.”19

5. Discourse as a phenomenological method

This could perhaps be the reason why Heidegger’s phenomenology is always


related to language. Heidegger believes that logos may be understood as discourse.
In a discourse, there is an attempt “to make manifest what one is talking about.” 20 A
real discourse is an explicit attempt to go into the thing itself by articulating the
hiddenness of being which could have been left in oblivion if the discourse is
reduced into a monologue. If a discussion is dominated by propositional
pronouncements which enjoy privileged positions compared to others, real discouse
could hardly happen and there is no real phenomenology. Heidegger’s critique
against the deductive Aristotelian logic lies precisely in the latter’s privileging of
certain universal propositions which are already taken as the “truth” even without
the needed verification of these ideas and judgments to the things themselves.

Heidegger’s phenomenological method, according to Courtine, “consists in making


evident the primary articulations of signifying or significance which is directly linked
to Being-in-the-world... in and through an original type of discursivity, which does
not have to be expressed in either words or sentences.” 21 Heidegger contends that
“repetition” does not have to be a mere endeavor to parrot, which in effect, simply
covers up that which it parrots.22 Phenomenological repetition is rather an act of
“rediscovering the original power of saying and its function as ‘opening’ beyond the
fixed formulae of a mechanical repetition”23 – a parrotting.

Hence, for Heidegger, phenomenology can only be made possible through


reflective-meditative thinking. It is an antidote to the manipulative-calculative
tendency of onto-theological metaphysics, which he blames as responsible for the
many abuses in our time. Metaphysical thought is tyrranical in the sense that it
blocks real reflection on the actual state of affairs or the things-in-themselves. Even
if ideas recur in time - as one idea is highlighted by a particular culture in a
particular time, and may be forgotten by another culture or generation at another
time – phenomenological method, which is characterized by meditative-reflective
thought, assures that even the repetition of ideas will still always be fresh and new.

Heidegger qualifies Husserl’s phenomenology through the communal effort of


bringing Being into the open via discourse. Every attempt to speak about the thing
is authentic as long as they are born out of a sincere attempt to encounter the thing
in itself. But a particular person’s desire to articulate the Being of beings will always
be perspectival, and hence there is a need to bring the issue into the open – the
clearing – and allow a possible discourse. Only in an authentic discourse where the
repetition of concepts cease to become mere parrotting. Discourse, as reflective-
meditative discussion of the issue, recognizes the temporality of Being.
1 Martin Heidegger, “On the Essence of Truth,” in Basic Writings, trans. David Farrell Krell. (London:
Routledge, 1977, p. 117). Henceforth, this book shall be referred to as BW.
2 BW, 117.
3 BW, 117.
4 BW, 119.
5 Jean-Francois Courtine, “Phenomenology and/or Tautology,” trans. Jeffrey Libbet in Reading Heidgger:
Commemorations, John Sallis, ed. Indianapolis: University Press, 1993, p. 244.
6Martin Heidegger himself says in the End of Philosophy trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper and
Row, 1973), p.4 that ‘In the beginning of its history, Being opens itself out as emerging (physis) and
unconcealment (aletheia). From there, it reaches the formulation of presence and permanence in the sense
of enduring. Metaphysics proper begins with this.’ Furthermore, Charles Guignon, in his ‘Introduction’ for the
Cambridge Companion to Heidegger ed. Charles Guignon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993),
p.18, adds that ‘As a result to the first dawn of history, being comes to be thought of as what endures, what
is permanent, what is always there. It is the continuous presence of the substance (ousia) that which remains
through all changes... Because Plato inaugurated this interpretation of beingness, the entire history of
metaphysics can be called ‘Platonism’.’
7Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper and Row, 1969),
p.54.
8Max A. Myers. ‘Towards what is religious thinking underway?’ in Deconstruction and Theology (New
York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1982), p. 119.
9Martin Heidegger. Being and Time trans. John Macquarrie and Edwad Robinson (Tubingen: Neomarius
Verlag, 1963), p.41.
10 Myers, ‘Towards what is religious thinking underway?’, p.138.
11Courtine, p.245.
12 Ibid.
13 Being and Time, pp. 49-63.
14 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Heidegger’s Ways, New York: State University of New York Press, p. 123.
Gadamer further added, “It proved not to have been in vain that Heidegger had understood the idea of
phenomenology and as a discovery that had to be wrested from hiddnness.
15 BT, p. 60.
16 BT, p. 60.
17 BT, p. 51.
18 Cf. BT, p. 56.
19 Courtine, p. 245.
20 BT, p.56.
21 Courtine, p.244.
22 Cf. Courtine, p. 245.
23 Courtine, p.246.