Conjuncted: Gadamer’s Dasein

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There is a temporal continuity in Dasein. This is required for the revelation of a work of art through interpretation, both as understanding which already was, and as the way in which understanding was. Understanding is possible only in the temporal revision of one’s standpoint through the mutual relations of author and interpreter which allow the subject-matter to emerge. Here, the prejudices held by the interpreter play an important part in opening an horizon of possible questions.

Subsequent understanding that is superior to the original production, does depend on the conscious realization, historical or not, that places the interpreter on the same level as the author (as Schleiermacher pointed out). But even more, it denotes and depends upon an inseparable difference between the interpreter and the text and this precisely in the temporal field provided by historical distance.

It may be argued that the historian tries to curb this historical distance by getting beyond the temporal text in order to force it to yield information that it does not intend and of itself is unable to give. With regard to the particular text in application, this would seem to be the case. For example, what makes the true historian is an understanding of the significance of what he finds. Thus, the testimony of history is like that given before a court. In the German language, and based on this reason, the same word is used for both in general, Zeugnis (testimony; witness).

Referring to Gadamer’s position, we can see that it is in view of the historical distance that understanding must reconcile itself with itself and that one recognize oneself in the other being. The body of this argument becomes completely firm through the idea of historical Bildung, since, for example, to have a theoretical stance is, as such, already alienation; namely, dealing with something that is not immediate, but is other, belonging to memory and to thought. Moreover, theoretical Bildung leads beyond what man knows and experiences immediately. It consists in learning to affirm what is different from oneself and to find universal viewpoints from which one can grasp the thing as “the objective thing in its freedom,” without selfish interest. This indicates that an aesthetic discovery of a thing is conditioned primarily on assuming the thing where it is no longer, i.e., from a distance.

In this connection, we can extend critically Gadamer’s concept of the dynamism of distanciation from the object of understanding which is bounded by the frame of effective consciousness. This is based on the fact that in spite of the general contrast between belonging and alienating distance, the consciousness of effective history itself contains an element of distance. The history of effects, for Ricoeur, contains what occurs under the condition of historical distance. Whether this is either the nearness of the remote or efficacy at a distance, there is a paradox in otherness, a tension between proximity and distance which is essential to historical consciousness.

The possibility of effective historical consciousness is grounded in the possibility of any specific present understanding of being futural; in contrast, the first principle of hermeneutics is the Being of Dasein, which is historicity (Geschichtlichkeit) itself. In Gadamer’s view, Dasein’s temporality, which is the basis for its historicity, grounds the tradition. The last sections of Being and Time claimed to indicate that the embodiment of temporality can be found in Dasein’s historicality. As a result of this, the tradition is circularly grounded in Dasein’s temporality, while also surpassing its borders in order to be provided by a hermeneutical reference in distance.

We must study the root of this dilemma in so far as it is related to the sense of time. This is presupposed by historical consciousness, which in turn is preceded essentially by temporality. This inherent enigma in the hermeneutics of Dasein’s time led Heidegger to distinguish between authenticity and inauthenticity in our relation to time. The current concept of time can never totally fulfill the hermeneutical requirements. Ricoeur considered that time can be understood only if grasped within its limit, namely, eternity, but because eternity escapes the totalization and closure of any particular time, it remains inscrutable.

On the other hand, a text can be seen as temporal with regard to historical consciousness since it speaks only in the present. The text cannot be made present totally within an historical moment fully present-to-itself. It is in its a venir that the presence of the text transpires, which can be thematized as revenir (or) return.

Based on this aspect, each word is absolutely complete in itself, yet, because of its temporality, its meaning is realized only in its historical application. Nevertheless, historical interpretation can serve as a means to understand a given and present text even when, from another perspective, it sees the text simply as a source which is part of the totality of an historical tradition.

For Heidegger, the past character of time, i.e., the ‘pastness’ (passétité) belongs to a world which no longer exists, while a world is always world for a Dasein. It is clear that the past would remain closed off from any present were present Dasein not itself to be historical. Dasein, however, is in itself historical insofar as it is a possibility of interpreting. In being futural Dasein is its past, which comes back to it in the ‘how’. This is the ontological question of a thing in contrast to the question of the ‘what.’ The manner of its coming back is, among other processes, conscience. This makes clear why only the ‘how’ can be repeated. According to Ricoeur, history presents a past that has been as if it were present, as a function of poetic imagination. On the other hand, fictive narration imitates history in that it presents events as if they had happened, i.e., as if they occurred in the past. This intersection between history and fiction constitutes human time (le temps humain) whence an historical consciousness develops, where time can be understood as a singular totality.

Since the text can be viewed temporally, interpretation, as the work of art, is temporal and the best model for hermeneutical understanding is the one most adequate to the experience of time. Nevertheless, against Ricoeur, Gadamer found the identity of understanding not to be fixed in eternity. Instead, it is the continuity of our becoming-other in every response and in every application of pre-understanding that we have of ourselves in new and unpredictable situations. On this issue, it can be asked whether there is a way to reconcile Gadamer and Ricoeur on the issue of hermeneutical temporality.

The authentic source in the eternal return to Being can be discovered in Heidegger’s position: the eternal repetition of that which is known as that which is unknown, the familiar as the unfamiliar. The eternal return introduces difference which is disruptive to our conceptions of temporal movement. However, identity and difference must be destabilised in favor of the performance of a new concept of hermeneutics. In this a temporal event requires that one cross over to another hermeneutics of time that cannot be thought restricted only in temporalization since it is beyond when one begins. This concept is called by Heidegger the nearness of what lies after.

In addition, understanding is to be taken not as reconstruction, but as mediation in so far as it conveys the past into the present. Even when we grasp the past “in itself,” understanding remains essentially a mediation or translation of past meaning into the present situation. As Gadamer states, understanding itself is not to be thought of so much as an action of subjectivity, but rather as the entering into an event of transmission in which past and present are constantly mediated. This requires not detaching temporality from the ontological preconception of the present-at-hand, but trying to distinguish that from the simple horizon phenomenon of temporal consciousness. The event of hermeneutics never takes place if understanding is considered to be defined in the arena of the temporalization of time in the past in itself. 

Gadamer sees one of the most fundamental experiences of time as that of discontinuity or becoming-other. This stands in contrast to the “flowing” nature of time. According to Gadamer, there are at least three “epochal” experiences that introduce temporal discontinuity into our self-understanding: first, the experience of old age; second, the transition from one generation to another; and finally, the “absolute epoch” or the new age occasioned by the advent of Christianity, where history is understood in a new sense. 

The Greek understanding of history as deviation from the order of things was changed in medieval philosophy to accept that there is no recognizable order within history except temporality itself. (Nonetheless, the absolute epoch is not to be taken merely as similar to a Christian understanding of time, which would result in a technological conception of time in terms of which the future is unable to be planned or controlled.) The new in temporality comes to be as the old is recalled in dissolution. In recollection, the dissolution of the old becomes provocative, i.e., an opening of possibilities for the new. The dissolution of the old is not a non-temporal characteristic of temporalization.

Of Phenomenology, Noumenology and Appearances. Note Quote.

Heidegger’s project in Being and Time does not itself escape completely the problematic of transcendental reflection. The idea of fundamental ontology and its foundation in Dasein, which is concerned “with being” and the analysis of Dasein, at first seemed simply to mark a new dimension within transcendental phenomenology. But under the title of a hermeneutics of facticity, Heidegger objected to Husserl’s eidetic phenomenology that a hermeneutic phenomenology must contain also the theory of facticity, which is not in itself an eidos, Husserl’s phenomenology which consistently holds to the central idea of proto-I cannot be accepted without reservation in interpretation theory in particular that this eidos belong only to the eidetic sphere of universal essences. Phenomenology should be based ontologically on the facticity of the Dasein, and this existence cannot be derived from anything else.

Nevertheless, Heidegger’s complete reversal of reflection and its redirection of it toward “Being”, i.e, the turn or kehre, still is not so much an alteration of his point of view as the indirect result of his critique of Husserl’s concept of transcendental reflection, which had not yet become fully effective in Being and Time. Gadamer, however, would incorporate Husserl’s ideal of an eidetic ontology somewhat “alongside” transcendental constitutional research. Here, the philosophical justification lies ultimately in the completion of the transcendental reduction, which can come only at a higher level of direct access of the individual to the object. Thus there is a question of how our awareness of essences remains subordinated to transcendental phenomenology, but this does not rule out the possibility of turning transcendental phenomenology into an essence-oriented mundane science.

Heidegger does not follow Husserl from eidetic to transcendental phenomenology, but stays with the interpretation of phenomena in relation to their essences. As ‘hermeneutic’, his phenomenology still proceeds from a given Dasein in order to determine the meaning of existence, but now it takes the form of a fundamental ontology. By his careful discussion of the etymology of the words “phenomenon” and “Logos” he shows that “phenomenology” must be taken as letting that which shows itself be seen from itself, and in the very way in it which shows itself from itself. The more genuinely a methodological concept is worked out and the more comprehensively it determines the principles on which a science is to be conducted, the more deeply and primordially it is rooted in terms of the things themselves; whereas if understanding is restricted to the things themselves only so far as they correspond to those judgments considered “first in themselves”, then the things themselves cannot be addressed beyond particular judgements regarding events.

The doctrine of the thing-in-itself entails the possibility of a continuous transition from one aspect of a thing to another, which alone makes possible a unified matrix of experience. Husserl’s idea of the thing-in-itself, as Gadamer introduces it, must be understood in terms of the hermeneutic progress of our knowledge. In other words, in the hermeneutical context the maxim to the thing itself signifies to the text itself. Phenomenology here means grasping the text in such a way that every interpretation about the text must be considered first as directly exhibiting the text and then as demonstrating it with regard to other texts.

Heidegger called this “descriptive phenomenology” which is fundamentally tautological. He explains that phenomenon in Greek first signifies that which looks like something, or secondly that which is semblant or a semblance (das scheinbare, der Schein). He sees both these expressions as structurally interconnected, and having nothing to do with what is called an “appearance” or mere “appearance”. Based on the ordinary conception of phenomenon, the definition of “appearance” as referring to can be regarded also as characterizing the phenomenological concern for the text in itself and for itself. Only through referring to the text in itself can we have a real phenomenology based on appearance. This theory, however, requires a broad meaning of appearance including what does the referring as well as the noumenon.

Heidegger explains that what does the referring must show itself in itself. Further, the appearance “of something” does not mean showing-itself, but that the thing itself announces itself through something which does show itself. Thus, Heidegger urges that what appears does not show itself and anything which fails to show itself can never seem. On the other hand, while appearing is never a showing-itself in the sense of phenomenon, it is preconditioned by something showing-itself (through which the thing announces itself). This showing itself is not appearing itself, but makes the appearing possible. Appearing then is an announcing-itself (das sich-melden) through something that shows itself.

Also, a phenomenon cannot be represented by the word “appearance” if it alludes to that wherein something appears without itself being an appearance. That wherein something appears means that wherein something announces itself without showing itself, in other words without being itself an “appearance” (appearance signifying the showing itself which belongs essentially to that “wherein” something announces itself). Based upon this argument, phenomena are never appearances. This, however, does not deny the fact that every appearance is dependent on phenomena.

Harmonies of the Orphic Mystery: Emanation of Music

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As the Buddhist sage Nagarjuna states in his Seventy Verses on Sunyata, “Being does not arise, since it exists . . .” In similar fashion it can be said that mind exists, and if we human beings manifest its qualities, then the essence and characteristics of mind must be a component of our cosmic source. David Bohm’s theory of the “implicate order” within the operations of nature suggests that observed phenomena do not operate only when they become objective to our senses. Rather, they emerge out of a subjective state or condition that contains the potentials in a latent yet really existent state that is just awaiting the necessary conditions to manifest. Thus within the explicate order of things and beings in our familiar world there is the implicate order out of which all of these emerge in their own time.

Clearly, sun and its family of planets function in accordance with natural laws. The precision of the orbital and other electromagnetic processes is awesome, drawing into one operation the functions of the smallest subparticles and the largest families of sun-stars in their galaxies, and beyond even them. These individual entities are bonded together in an evident unity that we may compare with the oceans of our planet: uncountable numbers of water molecules appear to us as a single mass of substance. In seeking the ultimate particle, the building block of the cosmos, some researchers have found themselves confronted with the mystery of what it is that holds units together in an organism — any organism!

As in music where a harmony consists of many tones bearing an inherent relationship, so must there be harmony embracing all the children of cosmos. Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics is a book by Frank Wilczek, an eminent physicist, and his wife Betsy Devine, an engineering scientist and freelance writer. The theme of their book is set out in their first paragraph:

From Pythagoras measuring harmonies on a lyre string to R. P. Feynman beating out salsa on his bongos, many a scientist has fallen in love with music. This love is not always rewarded with perfect mastery. Albert Einstein, an ardent amateur of the violin, provoked a more competent player to bellow at him, “Einstein, can’t you count?”

Both music and scientific research, Einstein wrote, “are nourished by the same source of longing, and they complement one another in the release they offer.” It seems to us, too, that the mysterious longing behind a scientist’s search for meaning is the same that inspires creativity in music, art, or any other enterprise of the restless human spirit. And the release they offer is to inhabit, if only for a moment, some point of union between the lonely world of subjectivity and the shared universe of external reality.

In a very lucid text, Wilczek and Devine show us that the laws of nature, and the structure of the universe and all its contributing parts, can be presented in such a way that the whole compares with a musical composition comprising themes that are fused together. One of the early chapters begins with the famous lines of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler, who in 1619 referred to the music of the spheres:

The heavenly motions are nothing but a continuous song for several voices (perceived by the intellect, not by the ear); a music which, through discordant tensions, through sincopes [sic] and cadenzas, as it were (as men employ them in imitation of those natural discords) progresses towards certain pre-designed quasi six-voiced clausuras, and thereby sets landmarks in the immeasurable flow of time. — The Harmony of the World (Harmonice mundi)

Discarding the then current superstitions and misinformed speculation, through the cloud of which Kepler had to work for his insights, Wilczek and Devine note that Kepler’s obsession with the idea of the harmony of the world is actually rooted in Pythagoras’s theory that the universe is built upon number, a concept of the Orphic mystery-religions of Greece. The idea is that “the workings of the world are governed by relations of harmony and, in particular, that music is associated with the motion of the planets — the music of the spheres” (Wilczek and Devine). Arthur Koestler, in writing of Kepler and his work, claimed that the astronomer attempted

to bare the ultimate secret of the universe in an all-embracing synthesis of geometry, music, astrology, astronomy and epistemology. The Sleepwalkers

In Longing for the Harmonies the authors refer to the “music of the spheres” as a notion that in time past was “vague, mystical, and elastic.” As the foundations of music are rhythm and harmony, they remind us that Kepler saw the planets moving around the sun “to a single cosmic rhythm.” There is some evidence that he had association with a “neo-Pythagorean” movement and that, owing to the religious-fomented opposition to unorthodox beliefs, he kept his ideas hidden under allegory and metaphor.

Shakespeare, too, phrases the thought of tonal vibrations emitted by the planets and stars as the “music of the spheres,” the notes likened to those of the “heavenly choir” of cherubim. This calls to mind that Plato’s Cratylus terms the planets theoi, from theein meaning “to run, to move.” Motion does suggest animation, or beings imbued with life, and indeed the planets are living entities so much grander than human beings that the Greeks and other peoples called them “gods.” Not the physical bodies were meant, but the essence within them, in the same way that a human being is known by the inner qualities expressed through the personality.

When classical writers spoke of planets and starry entities as “animals” they did not refer to animals such as we know on Earth, but to the fact that the celestial bodies are “animated,” embodying energies received from the sun and cosmos and transmitted with their own inherent qualities added.

Many avenues open up for our reflection upon the nature of the cosmos and ourselves, and our interrelationship, as we consider the structure of natural laws as Wilczek and Devine present them. For example, the study of particles, their interactions, their harmonizing with those laws, is illuminating intrinsically and, additionally, because of their universal application. The processes involved occur here on earth, and evidently also within the solar system and beyond, explaining certain phenomena that had been awaiting clarification.

The study of atoms here on earth and their many particles and subparticles has enabled researchers to deduce how stars are born, how and why they shine, and how they die. Now some researchers are looking at what it is, whether a process or an energy, that unites the immeasurably small with the very large cosmic bodies we now know. If nature is infinite, it must be so in a qualitative sense, not merely a quantitative.

One of the questions occupying the minds of cosmologists is whether the universal energy is running down like the mechanism of an unwinding Swiss watch, or whether there is enough mass to slow the outward thrust caused by the big bang that has been assumed to have started our cosmos going. In other words, is our universe experiencing entropy — dying as its energy is being used up — or will there be a “brake” put upon the expansion that could, conceivably, result in a return to the source of the initial explosion billions of years ago? Cosmologists have been looking for enough “dark mass” to serve as such a brake.

Among the topics treated by Wilczek and Devine in threading their way through many themes and variations in modern physics, is what is known as the mass-generating Higgs field. This is a proposition formulated by Peter Higgs, a Scottish physicist, who suggests there is an electromagnetic field that pervades the cosmos and universally provides the electron particles with mass.

The background Higgs field must have very accurately the same value throughout the universe. After all, we know — from the fact that the light from distant galaxies contains the same spectral lines we find on Earth — that electrons have the same mass throughout the universe. So if electrons are getting their mass from the Higgs field, this field had better have the same strength everywhere. What is the meaning of this all-pervasive field, which exists with no apparent source? Why is it there? (Wilczek and Devine).

What is the meaning? Why is it there? These are among the most important questions that can be asked. Though physicists may provide profound mathematical equations, they will thereby offer only more precise detail as to what is happening. We shall not receive an answer to the “What” and the “Why” without recourse to meta-physics, beyond the realm of brain-devised definitions.

The human mind is limited in its present stage of evolution. It may see the logical necessity of infinity referent to space and time; for if not infinity, what then is on the other side of the “fence” that is our outermost limit? But, being able to perceive the logical necessity of infinity, the finite mind still cannot span the limitless ranges of space, time, and substance.

If we human beings are manifold in our composition, and since we draw our very existence and sustenance from the universe at large, our conjoint nature must be drawn from the sources of life, substance, and energy, in which our and all other cosmic lives are immersed.

As the authors conclude their fascinating work:

“The worlds opened to our view are graced with wonderful symmetry and uniformity. Learning to know them, to appreciate their many harmonies, is like deepening an acquaintance with some great and meaningful piece of music — surely one of the best things life has to offer.”