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2012-04-07
Thematization and Transcendence - Geven's Commentary to Heidegger's Being and Time
Hi everyone,

I hope that someone can give me a hint in the right direction with this question: In analyzing the issue of thematization in Being and Time, Michel Gelven states that the necessity for Dasein to transcend the entities that it thematizes has an strongly Kantian "family resemblance" (p.195). For thematizing to occur at all, -he says- that which does the thematizing cannot be a part of that which is thematized.

My problem is that I still can't understand why this reading is required for understanding the necessity for Dasein to transcend the entities that it thematizes. Is this correct at all? to render the necessity for dasein to transcend as this prohibition "not being part of what is thematized"? Also where does this problem can be seen in Kant?

For me this necessity points to the inseparability of being and understanding, specially regarding the necessity of a horizon for the showing of entities. Because if the reading of Gelven is right how could the Analityc be possible at all, if Dasein thematizes it self how can he not be part of what is thematized.Can any one tell me where can I found this problem on Kant, and where can I found information relating to the problem of transcendence in modernity -other than Heidegger.

Thank you so much!

2012-04-09
Thematization and Transcendence - Geven's Commentary to Heidegger's Being and Time
Reply to Juan Peréx

The necessity for Dasein to transcend the entities that Being and Time thematizes doesn't come directly from Kant, but from Heidegger's former theology teacher Carl Braig. When at the beginning of Being and Time Heidegger asserts that "being cannot be derived from higher concepts by way of definition, and cannot be represented by lower ones," (Das Sein ist definitorisch aus höheren Begriffen nicht abzuleiten und durch niedere nicht darzustellen – SZ 4/BT 3), he is repeating almost word for word what Carl Braig had already written three decades earlier in Vom Sein: Abriß der Ontologie: "Being cannot be derived from higher concepts and is not representable on the basis of lower ones." (Aus höheren Begriffen ist der des Seins nicht ableit- und aus niedrigern ist er nicht darstellbar – Braig, Vom Sein, 22).

On that topic, please see my recent paper: Being, History, Technology, and Extermination in the Work of Heidegger, The Journal of the History of Philosophy, vol.50, n°1 (2012), 111-130.

Emmanuel Faye

Professor of Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

University of Rouen


2012-04-22
Thematization and Transcendence - Geven's Commentary to Heidegger's Being and Time
Reply to Juan Peréx
I'm no expert, and I may be misinterpreting your question, so let me break the relevant section into two parts.

(1) "In analyzing the issue of thematization in Being and Time, Michel Gelven states that the necessity for Dasein to transcend the entities that it thematizes has an strongly Kantian "family resemblance" (p.195)."

(2) "For thematizing to occur at all, -he says- that which does the thematizing cannot be a part of that which is thematized."

If we clarify the second point, the first will be made clearer. Thematizing is Heidegger's general word for cognitive/conceptual thinking, as opposed to unreflective coping. So, we can reword statement (2) as: "For thinking to occur at all, -he says- that which does the thinking cannot be a part of that which is thought." Here, Heidegger is saying that Dasein (human being) is more than thought. This can be construed in the trivial sense that we need flesh, bone, brain, etc. to be alive and maintain our thoughts, but Heidegger is making the bolder claim that the essence of what it is to be human is not encapsulated by conceptual capabilities. We are more than thinking things and we could not even think if we did not have a more basic way of relating to the world that is itself not something that can be captured thematically.

Heidegger calls this more basic relation, understanding (I'll use understanding1 to designate this technical term). Bill Blattner (Heidegger's 'Being and Time': A Reader's Guide, 2007) has a great example when he points us to Nike's advertising line, "Bo knows baseball." Blattner explains that when we say "Bo knows baseball," we do not mean that Bo Jackson just knows certain facts and rules about the sport of baseball and its history. Bo knew how to play baseball and he knew how to play it really well. This type of knowledge cannot be grasped by thematic concepts, which is why you cannot teach someone to be a better baseball player by simply telling s/he how to hold their arms when s/he swing or how to throw a ball, or how to react in a given situation, etc.

Heidegger argues that understanding1 is something that is not done justice through concepts, since understanding1 also consists of background practices and skills that cannot be made totally explicit. Furthermore, the activity of thematizing draws on our understanding1, rather than making understanding possible. In this sense, Heidegger presciently foreshadows Wittgenstein's Use Theory of Meaning, since he is holding that pragmatics precedes semantics. 

Much of this is made clearer by paying attention to the frame problem in artificial intelligence. Representationalists could not program relevance and significance into machines, meaning that the machines would get hung up over which inferences mattered and which did not in a given situation. This is because the relevant facts are dependent on the context and there is no rule for detecting what is relevant and what is not across a variety of dynamic environments. We face no such problem because we humans do not have to distinguish what is relevant from what is irrelevant. Instead, our way of grasping the world is filled with significance from the ground up.

So, given that we now understand what is meant by statement (2), we can understand Gelven's claim from statement (1) that "the necessity for Dasein to transcend the entities that it thematizes has an strongly Kantian "family resemblance" (p.195)."

Kant's method emphasized conditions of possibility (e.g. space and time) and in a way, Heidegger is adopting a variation of Kant's method when he argues that understanding1 is the condition of the possibility of thematizing. When Gelven says that Dasein transcends the entities that it thematizes, I suspect he simply means that our way of being encompasses more than thinking (conceptual rules, symbolic manipulations, etc.).

I hope I've clarified your question.