My first posts concerning the Heidegger Circle will deal with two papers, both by very talented Villanova graduate students, which were given on different days but share the theme of tracking changes in the status of the Ontological Difference throughout the course of Heidegger's work.
Raoni Padui's "From the Facticity of Dasein to the Facticity of Nature: Naturalism, Animality, and the Ontological Difference"
Raoni Padui presented a paper in which he highlighted Heidegger's difficulties in avoiding naturalism. Padui's paper involved carefully tracking instabilities in several of Heidegger's most basic distinctions and focused both on the changes which occur to those distinctions in the years immediately following Being and Time as well as the implications of these changes. My presentation here will, sadly, be woefully inadequate in capturing the detail, complexity and subtly of the transformations Padui maps. I confess to risking, then, dramatic oversimplification. The heart of the paper seemed to be that, in order to avoid a collapse into naturalism the likes of which Husserl had worked so hard to avoid, the distinctions between Being and beings, the Ontological and the Ontic, Dasein and animals, facticity and factuality and finally Being and beings must be maintained in the thought of Heidegger. These distinctions are seen to tie into the problem of naturalism when one recognizes Heidegger's own identification of traditional positivist discussions of "nature" as only working at the level of the Vorhandensein. If, then, the factuality of the Vorhandensein and the facticity of Dasein breaks down, for example in a failure to maintain an absolute distinction between the being of the animal and that of Dasein, then Heidegger risks slipping into a situation in which a complete explanation of Dasein can be executed at the level of biology for example through the analyses of neurophysiology which seem to collapse the Ontological Difference.
In making his argument Padui, amongst other things, draws on moments in Being and Time which I myself find suggestive for a different reason which I will discuss below. He also points out a rather striking moment in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic which has been covered over in translation. In Being and Time Padui directs our attention to the end of the work which, as has been widely noted, seems to call into doubt the very structure of distinctions Heidegger has worked so hard throughout this text to make clear. Padui focuses on the claim that "The distinction between the being of existing Dasein and the being of beings unlike Dasein (for example, objective presence) may seem to be illuminating, but it is only the point of departure for the ontological problematic; it is nothing with which philosophy can rest and be satisfied." (GA 2: 576/SZ 436-437) This shows that even at the time of Being and Time Heidegger had certain doubts about the absoluteness of the distinction between Dasein and beings. Then, in the 1928 Metaphysical Foundations of Logic Heidegger applies the word faktische, which is generally translated "factical" as it is derived from the word usually translated as "facticity" and reserved for descriptions of Dasein, to both Dasein and nature. In translation, however, this has been covered over by translating the first use of the word as factical and the second as factual. The quotation runs as follows:
"In other words, the possibility that being is there in the understanding presupposes the factical existence of Dasein [die faktische Existenz sed Dasein], and this in turn presupposes the factual extantness of nature [das faktische Vorhandensein des Natur]. Right within the horizon of the problem of being, when posed radically, it appears that all this is visible and can become understood as being, only if a possible totality of beings is already there." (GA 26: 199/156-157).
To summarize the thrust of Padui's reading of these passages, then, already in Being and Time Heidegger worries that the distinction between Dasein and beings might not be absolute and then, immediately following Being and Time, it is suggested that both Dasein and beings have facticity and, further, this shared facticity is discussed in terms of nature in some sense grounding Dasein's understanding ("...the possibility that being is there in the understanding presupposes the factical existence of Dasein and this in turn presupposes the factical extantness of nature..."). When we combined this with Heidegger's consistent difficulty in expressing the difference between animals and Dasein, as well as the problem of seemingly world-poor humans, we face the possibility of a spectrum from Dasein to animal to natural objects which opens up the possibility of naturalistic explanation and investigation into Dasein's being. All of this, similarly, is related to the metontology which Heidegger proposes in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic as a sister science to fundamental ontology which also consists of fundamental ontology's radical overturning through a shift to the problematic of the meaning of being in general, the meaning of being for the totality, rather than the development of dramatically different senses of being for Dasein and other beings.
These selected moments from the paper should allow us to discuss briefly some thoughts and responses to Padui's argument. In his comments, Pol Vandevelde suggested that Padui might be conflating several different distinctions which have different methodological and ontological standings. The distinction between the ontological and the ontic, or between Dasein and the Vorhandensein, are not the same as the Ontological Difference between Being and beings proper. Padui responded to this, in part, by admitting that these are not to be identified and he never intended to identify them. However, they are to be seen as interdependent and interrelated. The status of this debate seems particularly important, unfortunately I remember too little of Vandevelde and Padui's exchange to safely expand upon their engagement with the subject.
I found Padui's paper very interesting and suggestive. It played on tensions in Heidegger's work which I myself find very important and, at times, either promising or troubling though for reasons rather different from those suggested by Padui. I would like to take a little bit of time to offer other avenues for interpretation potentially opened up by some of the texts Padui focuses on. The quotation Padui draws from the end of Being and Time is immediately preceded by one I often dwell upon: "...can one provide ontological grounds for ontology, or does it also require an ontical foundation? and which entity must take over the function of providing this foundation?" (SZ 436) I must confess that reading these passages in the past it never occurred to me to be concerned that Heidegger might be risking a fall into naturalism here because I don't find that the ontic is haunted by the characteristics of the natural. Similarly, the ontic is also not to be identified exclusively with the Vorhanden. The Zuhanden, as well as any specific for-the-sake-of-which of Dasein, all are ontic (at least in a sense, I myself tend to take the distinction to be rather more fluid than I feel is commonly accepted). It seems to me that only a nature reduced to the Vorhanden, a move Heidegger insists in Being in Time is derivative and deceptive, could raise the problem of a naturalistic explanation of Dasein. Rather, when concerned that ontology might have an ontic ground or that the being of Dasein might not be absolutely distinct from the being of beings I hear Heidegger problematizing the seemingly transcendental terms he has used throughout Being and Time in favor of the historical perspective which will follow later and (arguably) also preceded Being and Time. What if certain seemingly ontic events must open up the being of beings for Dasein in order for ontology to be possible? (Doesn't anxiety, for example, play this role and might there not be world-historical examples that play the role of anxiety for a collective tradition or community?) What if the being of Dasein and beings share a ground, not in objectified nature but in historical worlding? This is not necessarily to argue against Padui's own interpretation of Heidegger's concerns at the end of Being and Time, Heidegger himself gives us precious little to work with there.
We can also problematize a bit Heidegger's discussion of metontology in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic on which Padui focuses. How are we to understanding this overturning of fundamental ontology, which shifts from a focus on Dasein as the representative entity to be investigated in order to explicate an understanding of Being, into a metonology focused on beings as a totality upon which Dasein in some sense depends? Do we have here the danger of an explanation of Dasein in terms of mere Vorhanden nature? Heidegger tells us a bit more about the turn, or overturning, he has in mind here:
"Fundamental ontology is this whole of founding and developing ontology; the former is 1) the analysis of Dasein, and 2) the analysis of the temporality of being. But the temporal analysis is at the same time the turning-around [Kehre], where ontology itself expressly runs back into the metaphysical ontic in which it implicitly always remains. Through the movement of radicalizing and universalizing, the aim is to bring ontology to its latent overturning. Here the turn-around is carried out, and it is turned over into the metontology." (GA 26: 201/158)
This quotation seems to provide support to neither my history focuses anti-transcendental reading of changes in Heidegger's views nor Padui's concern with a collapse into naturalism. Metontology deals with the being of beings generally, the being of the totality of beings amongst which is indeed included Dasein, and it does so by taking the temporality uncovered as the being of Dasein as its clue to the being of all beings. This seems to line up very nicely with the general project of Being and Time, indeed taken in this sense it is little more than a restatement of the general outline of what the completed project was intended to look like. When we consider the rejection of standard conceptions of time by Heidegger we do face some rather difficult questions, for example how can the being of beings in general be thought in terms of thrown-projection without simply offering a transcendental ground for beings on Dasein's temporality? This seem one way to consider the fundamental problematic Heidegger's thought found itself having to address in order to arrive at a concept of the History of Being not founded on Dasein but rather upon Being itself. But whether temporality as the being of the totality of beings is understood in a transcendental Dasein-centric way or in a non-transcendental historical or (horror) metaphysical way it seems nowhere susceptible to a collapse into naturalism.
The question then seems to be, not whether there is a potential indistinction between Dasein and animals, the being of Dasein and the being of beings or the ontological and the ontic (I suspect there are potentially such indistinctions) but rather whether there is an indistinction between the Vorhanden and the Zuhanden. It seems to me that the focus on temporality as the being of beings conclusively foreclose their consideration as objective Vorhanden even if the extantness of nature is the presupposition of the existence of Dasein. The extantness of nature is precisely factical, and not merely factual, precisely in the sense that it is temporal and thus better understood on something like the model of the Zuhanden than the Vorhanden despite the exceptionally difficult questions this raises for an ambition to think Being without a transcendental reliance upon Dasein. What we may see here, then, is Heidegger's early attempt to think nature as Phusis rather than the objective Vorhanden "nature" of the natural sciences.
I will turn to the question of the status of the Ontological Difference in Heidegger's later work in my next post which will focus upon Christopher Ruth's "Dwelling and the Ontological Difference".