Lee Braver (Ed): Division III of Heidegger’s Being and Time. The Unanswered question of Being

Emily Hughes


Division III of Heidegger's 'Being and Time': The Unanswered Question of Being Book Cover Division III of Heidegger's 'Being and Time': The Unanswered Question of Being
Lee Braver [Ed]
The MIT Press
Hardcover $45.00

Reviewed by: Emily J Hughes (University of New South Wales)

Division III of Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’: The Unanswered Question of Being is a collection of 16 essays edited by Lee Braver. Authored by a range of prominent Heidegger scholars, the collection takes as its point of departure the fact that Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time — “an extraordinary book…widely acknowledged as one of the great works of twentieth-century philosophy” (1) — is an unfinished work.

As many of the essays in this collection iterate, Being and Time, as Heidegger originally conceived it, was to be composed of two Parts of three divisions each.

Part One: the Interpretation of Dasein in terms of temporality, and the explication of time as the transcendental horizon for the question of Being.

Part Two: basic features of a phenomenological destruction of the history of ontology, with the problematic of Temporality as our clue.[i]

In 1926 Heidegger was under consideration for the chair of philosophy at Marburg University. With his drafts of Being and Time not yet completed, but under pressure to redress his “not very large literary accomplishments,”[ii] Heidegger made preparations to print the ‘First Half’ of Being and Time in the 1927 Edition of Husserl’s Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung. This ‘First Half’ should have contained Part One:

Division I: The preparatory fundamental analysis of Dasein

Division II: Dasein and temporality

Division III: Time and Being[iii]

However, after “friendly but lively disputes” with Jaspers in December of 1926, Heidegger became uncertain about the “comprehensibility” of the third division,[iv] and so, it was held back. Part One Division III, and Part Two were never published.

As the segment of Being and Time that was supposed to provide the ‘answer to the question of Being,’ the incompletion of Division III in particular introduces a profound ambiguity or uncertainty into Heidegger’s path of thinking, one that Heidegger scholarship has long struggled to resolve. Why did Heidegger never publish Division III? Did he complete the project, or reach aporia so insurmountable that the project was necessarily abandoned? The way in which one interprets the incompleteness of Division III has important implications for the way in which one understands Heidegger’s path of thinking as a whole.

The essays in this collection are given a difficult task, namely, as Braver writes in the Introduction: to “produce a secondary literature on a nonexistent primary work,” to “write about a work unwritten,” and thus “to create a book about a part of a book that is not” (1). In taking on this task, the collection as a whole makes an important contribution to Heidegger scholarship. It does so by carefully reconstructing some of Heidegger’s most dense and difficult thinking — in particular his incomplete attempts at thematizing time as the transcendental horizon for the question of Being — and by subjecting this thinking to rigorous critical interpretation.

The subject matter of this book is difficult. Because Division III is an unwritten work, the reader is perhaps more closely reliant upon the different interpretive reconstructions being put forward in each essay. Understanding the differences between these interpretations, without being able to orient oneself with the primary text, has the potential to be somewhat disorienting. The way in which the book is organized does not make the subject matter more accessible. The essays are sequenced alphabetically, and are thus not cohered or grouped according to any underlying thematic structure. There are no waymarkers. Given these challenges, this collection will be most rewarding for those readers who have at least some prior understanding of Heidegger’s Being and Time, and of the philosophical questions at stake in both Heidegger’s philosophy, and in contemporary Heidegger scholarship more generally.

In the review that follows, I will give an overview of each of the essays included in the collection, with some brief concluding remarks.

In the ‘Introduction,’ Lee Braver maps out four possible “conceptual obstacles” that may have prompted Heidegger to leave Being and Time unfinished. These are: ‘Subjectivism,’ ‘History,’ ‘Metaphysics or the Forgetfulness of Being,’ and ‘all of the above.’ Though the way in which Braver sets up these conceptual obstacles is very much grounded in his particular reading of Being and Time — namely as a work of transcendental phenomenology, profoundly influenced by Kant — the majority of essays will go on, directly or indirectly, to refute or reinforce one or other of these concerns. In this way, his Introduction does give a good sense of the philosophical questions at issue in the collection.


Chapters 1 and 2 are both contributions by Alain Badiou. Chapter 1 ‘Heidegger’s Parmenides’ is adapted from the lecture transcript of the October 29 1985 session of a seminar Badiou gave on Parmenides, translated here into English for the first time. In this lecture, Badiou calls into question Heidegger’s reading of Parmenides as the thinker who first thinks the connections and irreconcilable differences between both being and non-being, and being and seeming, and, in so doing, brings about the “originary condition of philosophical discourse” (27). Sketching his own interpretation of paternity and parricide in Plato, Badiou argues that whilst “Parmenides is in fact the founder of philosophy,” it is “not for the reasons that led Heidegger to assign him this role” (34–35).

In Chapter 2 ‘Metaphysics without Metaphysics,’ Badiou calls Heidegger’s ‘hermeneutic antimetaphysical position’ into question, arguing that — “in the suspension of the meaning of an indeterminate that is simply left to the historical contingency of its arrival” — it is in fact an “archi-metaphysical” position (45). Calling by contrast for the “continuation of metaphysics” (39), Badiou aligns himself with the “courageous argument” of the dialectical antimetaphysical position (a ‘metaphysics without metaphysics’), because it “tries to break away from the transcendent indeterminacy where metaphysics prospers, without falling into the promises or moralisms of archi-metaphysical finitude” (50).

The decision to include Badiou’s two texts at the beginning of a collection focused upon Division III of Heidegger’s Being and Time is an interesting one. By calling into question both Heidegger’s interpretation of being and non-being in Parmenides, and his critique of metaphysics, Badiou’s texts undoubtedly serve to open up the questionability of some of the most fundamental theses in Heidegger’s philosophy. Yet neither of Badiou’s texts makes any reference to Being and Time, nor to the question of ‘Time and Being’ in Division III. As such, the quite specific aim of the book, as it is set up in the Introduction, is almost immediately obscured.

In Chapter 3 ‘Turning from a Given Horizon to the Givenness of Horizons’ Lee Braver develops a hypothesis that he calls the “Overstuffed Division Theory.” According to Braver, when Being and Time is understood as a work of transcendental phenomenology (57) that aims to “take up Kant’s project and do it right” (63), it is possible to see that the drafts of Divisions II and III of Being and Time are in fact contained — albeit in a “rushed and disorganized way that’s hard to recognize” (60) — in the published version of Division II. I find Braver’s ‘Overstuffed Division Theory’ to be reductive, in part because I find the transcendental interpretation underpinning it to be problematic. But if one grants the underlying interpretation, the theory itself is not implausible. Braver sets it out in a very clear, systematic way, and demonstrates how his interpretation — carried to its logical end — might indeed come to the conclusion that Heidegger completed Being and Time.

In Chapter 4 ‘The End of Fundamental Ontology,’ Daniel Dahlstrom aims to reconstruct the main theme of Division III, and to argue that its failure represents the end of fundamental ontology. Dahlstrom here gives a very clear account of both the three-fold ecstatical “timeliness” (Zeitlichkeit) of Dasein’s being-here given in Being and Time, and the incomplete sketch of the horizonal schema of ontological ‘Presence’ (and ‘Absence’) given in Basic Problems of Phenomenology. For Dahlstrom, Heidegger fails to clarify the relation between the transcendental projection and the horizon, between the timeliness of Dasein and the temporality of being, which means, ultimately, that Heidegger fails to demonstrate how “temporality is the sense of being as such” (97). In an interesting formulation of a transcendental interpretation, Dahlstrom notes briefly that this failure is grounded in Heidegger’s “overreaching attempt to combine, in a fundamental ontology, the two traditional meanings of ‘transcendental’: medieval and modern, i.e., Scotistic and Kantian meanings, respectively” (100, Note 9). Dahlstrom’s reconstruction is immensely valuable as a clear and concise exposition of Heidegger’s difficult sketch of horizonal temporality.

In Chapter 5 ‘The Place of Division III in Heidegger’s Plan for Being and Time: Part One as Discovering a ‘Clue’ and Part Two as Giving the Answer,’ Charles Guignon argues that Division III was “a way to move beyond the temporality (Zeitlichkeit) of Dasein to time itself…(Temporalität)” (109) and thus toward the ‘horizon of intelligibility.’ Yet, referring to Heidegger’s 1949 ‘Letter on Humanism,’ Guignon considers that the division was held back because it “failed in the adequate saying of this turning and did not succeed with the help of the language of metaphysics.”[v] This failure prompted a “radical shift” or turn in Heidegger’s thinking, which for Guignon, culminates in the Contributions to Philosophy. This is a brief essay, and whilst it does not attempt a particularly innovative interpretation, it maps out clearly the prevailing account of the trajectory between Being and Time and the Contributions, between the transcendental-phenomenological and the being-historical in Heidegger’s path of thinking.

In Chapter 6 ‘The Beings of Being: On the Failure of Heidegger’s Ontico-Ontological Priority,’ Graham Harman attempts to “link Heidegger’s incomplete three divisions of Being and Time, Part One” (119) with the “three types of priority of the question of being: the ontological, the ontical, and the ontico-ontological” (124–25). For Harman, whilst the ontic and ontological priorities of the question of Being correspond to Divisions I and II respectively, the ontico-ontological priority — which pertains to the ‘Being of the entities of a character other than [Dasein’s] own’ (128) — constitutes “the missing subject matter that would have made up Division III” (125). This means, “a finished Division Three would have given us a new theory of beings” (128), “something more like a noumenology of things” (130). Harman’s chapter is interesting, but the decision to ground the three divisions in the three types of priority of the question of being — after a detour through three-folds in Hegel and Husserl — may feel arbitrary to those unfamiliar with his work on object-oriented ontology.

In Chapter 7 ‘The Antinomy of Being and the End of Philosophy,’ Karsten Harries engages Heidegger’s attempt to ground the question of Being in original time (136–37). For Harries, this “attempt to grasp the essence of Being here suffers a shipwreck,” namely the “antinomy of Being, which forces us, on one hand, to think Being relative to Dasein, and on the other, as transcending Dasein” (139). The antinomy arises in the fact that “any attempt to lay hold of that originating ground threatens to transform it into a being, such as God, and must inevitably fail” (139). It is this antinomy that prompted Heidegger away from the “still familiar landscapes of neo-Kantianism and transcendental phenomenology,” into the bewildering and unfamiliar: the question of Being understood in terms of the history of Being (140). Like Dahlstrom’s essay, Harries’ essay is very helpful in thinking the dissonance arising between the transcendental projection and the horizon, again confronting the problem of the relation between Dasein and Being. I wonder to what extent Heidegger wanted his fundamental ontology to be a fundamentum inconcussum?

In Chapter 8 ‘The Drafts of Time and Being: Division III of Part One of Being and Time and Beyond,’ Theodore Kisiel aims primarily to “reconstruct Heidegger’s various efforts toward drafting the Third division immediately after the completion of the ‘First Half’ of Being and Time” (150), and thus to conceptualise time as the transcendental horizon for the question of Being. Kisiel does this through a careful textual analysis of both Heidegger’s published works — moving systematically through The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (152–56), The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic (156–58), The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics (160–61 and 168), and The Introduction to Philosophy­ (162–63) — and his unpublished works — drawing upon handwritten marginalia, draft manuscripts, correspondence and archival notes. Like Dahlstrom’s essay, Kisiel’s reconstruction is immensely valuable as a clear and concise exposition of Heidegger’s difficult attempts to think through time as a transcendental horizon. In many ways, Kisiel’s essay would be a good opening to the book as a whole.

In Chapter 9 ‘On Being as a Whole and Being-a-Whole,’ Denis McManus considers whether the manifold senses of Being inherent in Heidegger’s ontological pluralism, “Zuhanden, the Vorhanden, and other Dasein,” can in fact be unified into the concept of Being in general (178), within his “discussion of authenticity” (176). In so doing, McManus considers the way in which the “formal structure” of Dasein’s “wholeness” might be the means through which “Being in general” is disclosed (181–88). This essay covers a lot of ground and, though it is well worked out, the emphasis placed upon explicating Dasein’s Being-a-whole means that the significance of the question of Being in general gets somewhat diminished. As an aside, I wonder what role, if any, Being as such has to play in the conception of Being in general, or Being as a whole discussed here?

In Chapter 10 ‘What is Missing? The Incompleteness and Failure of Heidegger’s Being and Time,’ Eric S. Nelson considers the very idea of fragmentariness and failure, as Heidegger himself interprets it. Whether as: an “inability to overcome the limitations of metaphysics” (199–201), as a “methodology or way,” as a “woodpath” (Holzwege) rather than an “abrupt end,” or as “a limited and yet still promising step that can be returned to an renewed in another direction” (203–04). According to Nelson, Heidegger’s divergent self-interpretations of failure should not be grounded in transcendental or pragmatic interpretations — which “appear to miss elements of Heidegger’s project as well as the twisting journey of his thinking” (211) — but, following the hermeneutical strategy of Dilthey or Misch, in the “conditions,” “contexts,” “epochal and generational complexities and complicities” of “a life” (206–10). This hermeneutic strategy remains underdeveloped in Nelson’s essay and is thus more of a sketch than an argument. Nonetheless, Nelson’s essay makes an important contribution to this collection, precisely because he remains with the idea of fragmentariness and failure itself, and thus, perhaps more than any other contribution, attempts to think that which is unthought within the incompleteness of Being and Time.

In Chapter 11 ‘From the Understanding of Being to the Happening of Being,’ Richard Polt aims to demonstrate that, in the attempt to “reveal time as the horizon for the understanding of being,” Heidegger was brought “to questions about the origin of time that could not be raised within the transcendental framework of that temporal ontology” (220). According to Polt, these new questions prompted Heidegger — from ‘the understanding of being to the happening of being’ — to think about the origin of time an eruptive “event that founds Dasein’s time,” that is Ereignis (220). Polt’s essay is one of the most compelling in the collection. His tracing of the trajectory from the understanding of being to the happening of being, through a subtle account of Heidegger’s nonsubjectivist transcendentalism, brings to the fore that which is fundamentally at issue in Division III, namely, the origin of time an eruptive “event that founds Dasein’s time.” I wonder to what extent we could understand Heidegger’s conception of Augenblick­ in Being and Time as an attempt (correlate to Ereignis) to think about ‘the origin of time as an eruptive event that founds Dasein’s time?’ That is, though it remains underdeveloped in Being and Time, could Augenblick be oriented towards the happening of Being, and thus constitute an entry into time?

In Chapter 12 ‘The Incompletion of Being and Time and the Question of Subjectivity,’ François Raffoul argues that the “failure” of Being and Time should be understood as an “interruption.” For Raffoul, this interruption was motivated by the attempt to overcome that which led to the “subjectivist misunderstanding” of Being and Time (249), namely: “the language of subjectivity” (250). This overcoming leads to a turning that — because it is inherent to the question of being itself — is already operating within Being and Time. This turning — “from the subjectivistic horizon to the belongingness to the truth of be-ing (Da-sein) (254) — “ultimately names the ‘relation’ of Dasein to being,” such that Da-sein “now designates the belonging-together of the human being and Being” (255). Raffoul’s essay too, is one of the strongest in the collection. By separating out subjectivism from Heidegger’s construal of the language of subjectivism (a distinction others collapse), Raffoul gives a convincing argument that Dasein should be understood in “direct opposition to the classical determination of the subject as self-consciousness, to the immanentist conception of subjectivity” (246). Further, Raffoul brings to light the critical fact that — however obscured by the language of subjectivity — Being and Time is grounded in the ‘belonging together’ of Dasein and Being, a reciprocal relation, in which neither can be collapsed into the other.

In Chapter 13 ‘Did Heidegger Ever Finish Being and Time?’ Thomas Sheehan argues that “once one sees what Heidegger’s basic question was” (the question of what makes the meaningful presence of things possible) “and was not” (the question of being) “it becomes clear that he did complete the task he set for himself in 1926” (260–61). Sheehan’s essay aims to “sketch out diachronically the fulfillment of the ‘being and time’ project from 1926 to 1976” (261). He does so by mapping a trajectory through the transcendental project of Being and Time, the failure of this project in Basic Problems of Phenomenology, and the completion of this project from ‘On the Essence of Ground’ onwards. This meticulously constructed essay constitutes a rich elaboration of Sheehan’s interpretation of Heidegger. Like Dahlstrom and Kisiel’s chapters, it gives a clear and concise exposition of Heidegger’s difficult attempts to think through time as a transcendental horizon, which is immensely valuable. As with Braver’s chapter above, I find Sheehan’s theory to be reductive, in part because I do not consider Heidegger’s fundamental question to be focused on what makes the meaningful presence of things possible. But if one grants the underlying interpretation, the theory itself is internally coherent, and sets out clearly and concisely how one might logically conclude that Heidegger did in fact finish the project of Being and Time.

In Chapter 14 ‘The Failure of Philosophy: Why Didn’t Being and Time Answer the Question of Being?’ Iain Thomson argues that the ‘question of being’ in Being and Time was “deeply misguided” because it was grounded in “ontotheology,” that is, “the dual metaphysical ambition to ground the entire intelligible order from its innermost (ontological) core to its outermost (theological) expression” (288). For Thomson, this ontotheological ambition failed when the “dynamic phenomenological ‘presencing’” (299) of time revealed that it could not be the “single, unchanging ontological ground beneath all things” (296). Thomson’s article demonstrates an interesting application of the ontotheological interpretation of Heidegger to the incompleteness of Being and Time. For those unfamiliar with Heidegger’s complex and contested engagement with ontotheology (something Thomson takes up in more depth in his other works), the presupposition that Heidegger’s Fundamental Ontology was in search of ‘stable, permanent, ahistorical conditions of possibility,’ as it is represented here, feels somewhat thin.

In Chapter 15 ‘Being and the Sea: Being as Phusis, and Time,’ Katherine Withy considers (following Sheehan) that “Being and Time was supposed to address the question of the sense of being,” which for Withy, “is to make sense of both how it shows itself and how it hides itself” (311). Engaging Heidegger’s interpretation of the opening strophes of the choral ode from Sophocles’ Antigone — as given in the Introduction to Metaphysics — Withy argues that where Divisions I and II of Being and Time can be seen analogously to illuminate both ‘being as a living thing,’ and ‘being as the earth,’ Division III “falters when it tries to reach being as the sea” (312), which means it fails to capture the “image of being’s simultaneous granting and withholding” (312). This faltering is for Withy grounded in Heidegger’s failure in Division I to recognize that, “to be falling is for being to withdraw even as entities show up in their being” (322). As a result, Heidegger “neglects the critical finitude in sense-making” (325) in Division II, such that Division III is unable to think the withdrawal of being. As such, for Withy, “the story of falling should have been the story of being’s withholding” (319). This is a very interesting essay and the connection between being’s self-withholding, and being as the sea is an insightful one. I wonder though if there is a conflation here between the withdrawal of being and the forgetting of being. Is it that being is ‘withdrawn’ (at the ontological level of the Nothing/ Being, Absence/ Presence, Enteignis/ Ereignis) in falling, or is it not rather ‘forgotten’ in the midst of Dasein’s distracted immersion in the world?

In Chapter 16 ‘Was There a Turn in Heidegger’s Philosophy?’ Julian Young argues that there was indeed a turn in Heidegger’s philosophy, which was precipitated by fact that Being and Time “not only deploys the language of metaphysics’ but actually is a form of metaphysics” (333). Because Heidegger was unclear around the difference between “sense” and “reference” in his question of the meaning of Being (335), Young argues that Being and Time, “misses being’s double transcendence, the fact that it transcends both beings and the being of being” (336), and thus collapses into metaphysics. Given that metaphysics for Heidegger denotes the forgetting of the meaning of being, Being and Time, Young argues, “ends up betraying its fundamental impulse,” and comes to a “dead-end” (333). It is this that prompts the turn in Heidegger’s thinking, from metaphysics to “meditative thinking,” the “return to the point at which Being and Time started but then lost sight of” (333). Young’s essay is important in that it calls into question Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics. Yet his assumption that Heidegger’s use of the ‘language of metaphysics’ necessarily confirms Being and Time as a form of metaphysics feels too hasty. I would consider that this is not self-evident, and needs to be better demonstrated from within the framework of Heidegger’s own thought (rather than through recourse to thinkers like Frege).

To conclude: As some of the essays in this collection note, Heidegger directs us to two quite different texts to help us better understand the (incomplete) project of Being and Time: the Basic Problems of Phenomenology and the Introduction to Metaphysics.[vi] Many of the essays in this collection work closely with the relation between Being and Time and the first of these texts, Basic Problems of Phenomenology. As a result, they are overwhelmingly oriented towards the question of Dasein’s transcendental understanding. I cannot help but wonder how differently we would understand the incompleteness of Being and Time if the essays were to work instead with the relation between Being and Time and the Introduction to Metaphysics? If the inquiry was oriented not to the question of Dasein’s transcendental understanding, but to the question of Dasein’s Being-disposed through fundamental attunements, to the Nothing? Perhaps this remains to be seen. Irrespective of that which perhaps still remains unthought, Division III of Heidegger’s Being and Time: The Unanswered Question of Being makes a very important contribution to Heidegger scholarship. It is thoughtful, thought-provoking, and I would recommend it to scholars working in any area of Heidegger’s thought.



[i] M Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. J Macquarrie and E Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1962), 63/ GA SZ, 39.

[ii] T Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 480.

[iii] Heidegger, Being and Time, 64/ GA SZ, 39.

[iv] Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time, 486.

[v] M Heidegger, “Letter on ‘Humanism’,” in Pathmarks, ed. W McNeill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 249–50/ GA 9, 159.

[vi] See M Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans. A Hofstadter (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 1, Note 1/ GA 24, 1, Note 1 and the Author’s Preface to the Seventh German Edition of Heidegger, Being and Time.


Heidegger, M. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Translated by A Hofstadter. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

———. Being and Time. Translated by J Macquarrie and E Robinson. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1962.

———. “Letter on ‘Humanism’.” Translated by F.A Capuzzi. In Pathmarks, edited by W McNeill, 239–276. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Kisiel, T. The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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