In a recently published very short introduction to philosophical method, a British philosopher recounts an Italian continental colleague wondering about the Anglo-Saxon’s understanding of philosophy not being primarily confined to historical research and conduct. His line of thought proceeds as follows: “I am sometimes asked which philosopher I work on, as though that is what any philosopher must do. I reply Oxford-style: I work on philosophical problems, not on philosophers.” (Williamson, 2020, 103)
With regard to philosophical methodology, however, one’s understanding need not be confined to the exclusivity of either the formation of a problem or a purely reconstructive-historical approach. Rather, how problems and historicity are interwoven and, in particular, what counts as a contemporary problem is more often than not determined by a particular understanding of historical conjectures or, at a more abstract level, of historicity itself. A case in point is the work of Martin Heidegger, whose understanding of the relation between historicity and philosophical methodology is put to the test in the recently published dissertation of Karl Kraatz, Die Methodologie von Martin Heideggers Philosophie. Über die Grenzen der neuzeitlichen Wissenschaft und die Möglichkeiten der Philosophie. This work constitutes an exciting case in quarrels concerning the alleged irrationality of Heidegger’s work and questions over the absence of methodology. This discussion, arguably in place ever since the publication of Being and Time in 1927, becomes much more pronounced with the idiosyncratic later philosophy and culminate in Heidegger’s complicity, it is argued, with National-Socialism and his status as a main inspiration for the alleged ‘postmodern‘ destruction of reason and the legacy of the enlightenment. Notwithstanding the constructed character of some of these allegations, Kraatz’s work serves as a defense of Heideggerian philosophy against its harsher critics by offering a walkthrough of selected texts and lectures of the German philosopher’s oeuvre tied together by the questions of truth, justifiability, and cognition. Kraatz’s underlying premise is the ongoing continuity of Heidegger’s work, whose transition from Heidegger 1 to Heidegger 2 is less motivated by a fundamental ‘turn’ than by a deepening and radicalization of previous concerns. Die Methodologie von Martin Heideggers Philosophie serves, in this sense, as a reminder to envision the radicality and uncompromising – though by no means impeccable – impetus of its protagonist, all the while offering a compelling interpretation of Heidegger’s philosophy. To demonstrate the continuing allegiance of Heideggerian philosophy to justifiability, it is Kraatz’s aim to show its necessary thematization of the philosophizing I, something that he terms the “methodological necessity for the experience of individuation” (17, [methodische Notwendigkeit der Vereinzelungserfahrung]). The Heideggerian ontologization of the I and the connection of world to I constitute, for Kraatz, the fundamental thread running through the work of the German philosopher. In particular, it is the I’s avoidance of the full responsibility that is thereby conferred upon it that leads to the formation of various ‘defense mechanisms’, whose negativity is to be overcome to drive the process of philosophizing further (19). It is this thesis that will guide the author’s reconstruction of Heideggerian method throughout the book. Die Methodologie von Martin Heideggers Philosophie is comprised of four parts, with part two being further partitioned into a and b, and accordingly, they don’t amount to equal argumentative importance. I will provide a summary of each of the parts before going to comment more on the composition of Kraatz’s book and his reconstruction of Heidegger’s methodology.
Chapter one acts as an introduction to Kraatz’s thesis, the individual’s retreat of being by way of various mechanisms of delusion or typification so as to yield a ‘happy consciousness’. This is developed primarily through a historical reconstruction of Heidegger’s early lectures and culminates with Being and Time. These reflections are ignited through the central problem of phenomenology: the self-reflective exploration of to what extent cognition is structured by its origin in factual life (30f). Tying together transcendental philosophy with an investigation of the structures of experience it is the question of the scientific nature of this enterprise that proved pathbreaking for the young Heidegger. Phenomenology’s primary subject matter, factical life, preserves character traits that are irreducible to conceptions of modern scientific rationality, for which, in conjunction with the reifying character of science and the corresponding mediocrity of the everyday, a particular method is necessary to philosophize adequately (38). Heidegger proposes an equivalence between the tendencies for typification (or the reification of daily life through routine and mundane monotony) and the continuous prevalence of the theoretical in life. Both cause the suppression of the I. This deadlock can be broken through the merger of a hermeneutic of facticity, or factical life, and a hermeneutic of the self so as to methodologically ground cognition and non-reified objectivity (47). It is the motivational character of the hermeneutic of facticity that elaborates the next step in the argument. Having located the common denominator in the suppression of the I, of which the aforementioned tendencies are examples, these typifications need to be removed to arrive at a true conception of self – a methodological requisite (54f). ‘Something’- as of yet unobtainable – causes the self to seek the bios theoretikos and to avoid self-knowledge, which, in this tradition, amounts to a proper knowledge of the world altogether (68). One can anticipate the central method of Heidegger in its relation toward recovering the I: destruction. Phenomenologically, destruction is accomplished by removing the layers of typification, which are of one common origin, and are the condition of possibility for reencountering the I. What initially sounds like armchair psychology becomes, however, more elaborated upon over the course of Heidegger’s philosophical development and it is to Kraatz’s credit that he pushes the texts for an actual rationale that ties the hermeneutic of the self and of facticity together in a convincing manner (106). It is the conception of the self’s relation to being that eventually enables the German philosopher to merge the hermeneutic of facticity with the self and, subsequently, the further identification of the tendencies for the suppression of the I with the reified status of life as antecedents to the suppressed I (108). The world’s dependence upon the being of the I accounts for the former’s transformation in terms of the configuration of the latter. In Being and Time, where these concerns are most explicitly developed, the method of destruction becomes initiated through the function of care, which drives the investigation further to the negativity of anxiety and being-towards-death (112). Anxiety’s undirected negativity reverses into a positive function, once Dasein grasps its individuation from das Man and can be authentically. This existential is, however, nothing more than the further realization of one’s being as being-towards-death (141). Kraatz puts this into perspective with the consciousness of Dasein’s empty groundlessness. The lack of Dasein is the fact that its thrownness amounts to nothing more than being-towards-death. Inauthentic Dasein takes flight from this realization through the described tendencies of typification, which constitutes its culpability (154). Conversely, if realized, these characteristics function as modes of foundation in the double sense for Heidegger. Because the world is functionally dependent upon the being of the self, whose access is phenomenologically obstructed, it has to be recovered by realizing its lack, which accomplishes destruction and sets the self free to found the disclosure of the world. In turn, the task is set for Dasein after accomplishing destruction to answer to being’s groundlessness through an authentic grounding of being, letting-be. Only the authentic realization of this relation can ground a true opening of sociality, justifiability for being and, in turn, community.
Kraatz’s reconstruction of Being and Time makes the case to conceive of uncanniness, anxiety and being-towards-death as inhabiting a productive negativity and is, in this sense, of quintessential methodological importance. It is, however, rather negligent of the role of temporality in this process. Insofar as being is time the inversion of the self is to be accompanied by the temporal ecstasies whose elaboration takes place at the end of the book. The precise role of Dasein’s temporal self-differentiation for the role of methodology are, given Kraatz’s concerns regarding his thesis of flight, however, underdeveloped. This significance has been elaborated upon in relation to methodological issues brilliantly by Karin de Boer’s Thinking in the Light of Time. Whereas Kraatz views the counter-ruinant tendency of anxiety and being-towards-death as experiences, de Boer manages to address the temporality of these functions as the opening up of the horizon through which the formal indications of these concepts can be attained (De Boer, 2000, 106ff). For instance, once destruction is initiated through the realization of being-towards-death, Dasein has already entered a mode of ecstatic temporality, being-ahead-of-oneself (De Boer, 2000, 110). This thematic focus notwithstanding, Kraatz’s account of the methodological position of these paragraphs is convincing. The ensuing manifold of conceptions of being is termed Seinsrelativität (being’s relativity), establishing Being and Time as the metaontological fundamental ontology, comprising different regional ontologies (165). Through it, beings remain relative to respective conceptions of the I. This is the methodological function granted to the self-knowledge, which is preceded by the yet ahistorical enforcement of destruction, the removal of the layers of typification, yielding disclosure.
The avoidance of potential misunderstandings and the overall cohesion of the first chapter is the aim of the second. To do so, the need of the Heideggerian account of the relativity of being and his conception of the I to others is underscored. Clearly, the constitution of Dasein is not to be understood as a Tathandlung but binds the conception of a ground of being sui generis together with the concrete engagement of phenomenology. Kraatz deploys the notion of an originary synthesis so as to render intelligible the constitution of the self through being (173). The danger of circularity is managed through the notion of thrownness, which acts as an anchor towards facticity and responsibility. Keeping the original insight of transcendental philosophy, Dasein entertains a ‘theoretical’ and an ethical side to it. Kraatz subsequently draws on the work of fellow Heidegger scholar Steven Crowell to demonstrate Dasein’s sociality and the justifiability constitutive of normative claims, a characteristic allegedly lacking from Being and Time and one taken to be missing from Heidegger’s work generally. The being of the self is taken to be an essentially normative one, leading to the cultivation of a true ethical life and an ideally well-founded community on responsible conceptions of being and self by way of the truthful character of letting-be as disclosure (183ff). Because the I is the ground of the world in the sense of fundamental ontology, Dasein bears responsibility for the being of others, which Kraatz circumscribes, citing Crowell, with the dictum that care is prior to reason (182). Attention is drawn to the similarity of Adorno’s conceptions of a non-instrumental rationality and the interplay between contemplation and normativity and it is in this sense that responsibility functions as the properly a priori foundation for any rational discourse – at least as Kraatz, following Crowell, develops it (195). Against claims for the incoherent character of Heidegger’s work, Kraatz rather demonstrates that it renders legible the constitutive aspects of rationality and normativity altogether. This line of thought, again very much inspired by Crowell, appears almost Brandomian in intention as the making explicit of the conditions of possibility of normativity and rationality.
Part b of the second chapter elucidates on the notion of the relativity of being more broadly conceived and takes the published writings after Being and Time into account. Kraatz summarizes its content aptly by the “fact that the being of the world is dependent on the being of the I,” a move attainable through the ontologization of the I (165). Letting-be functions as a stand-in for the Heideggerian notion of truth as disclosure and ties the ethical and temporal-existential (‘theoretical’) sides together. In passing, Kraatz addresses the frequent strawman that labels Heidegger as a fatal relativist by both sketching out the merely potentially disagreeable properties of relativism and demonstrating how the transcendental approach avoids them. Through the accountability of Dasein, the Heideggerian self is rather the precise opposite of the threat the relativist bogeyman is supposed to embody. Rather, morality and rationality are jointly implicated in this fundamental approach (203). The remainder of the second part of chapter two is devoted to Heidegger’s philosophical development from the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, where the relation of the grounding self and the historicity of factical life is expounded. This is further developed through the metaphysical ontic, metontology, which asks fundamentally – ontologically after beings (221). Dasein’s self founds its own thrownness. So as to further thematize Dasein’s relation to thrownness, the modalities of ground take center stage. Sketching a theory of ontological constitution leaves Dasein as the placeholder for the responsibility of ground that is conferred upon it. This decision is described in inherently voluntaristic terms, as one toward transcendental freedom and ground. Hence, responsibility functions as a methodological concept, as it ties the decision towards freedom and the grounding function together (254ff.). As fundamentally tied to facticity this decision takes, however, not place in pure sphere of principles, but in the historical realm of freedom, leading to the formation of a “transcendental-ontological genealogy” (224). The thesis of the flight remains intact, largely unaltered. The tension between thrownness and transcendentality remains constitutive of the ensuing reflections, in particular the three-fold modality of ground or grounding. Part two is concluded with the transition to beyng-historical thought, wherein primary thrownness is attained by way of the event of beyng (283ff.). Accordingly, the responsibility and the concomitant culpability that is conferred upon Dasein is only potentialized: “It is now localized in the ontological dimension, which deals with the possibility of letting-be logical spaces of modalities” (286, [Sie wird nun in der ontologischen Dimension verortet, in der es um das Seinlassen und Nichtseinlassen von Möglichkeitsspielräumen geht].)
Part three carries this walkthrough almost seamlessly forward. Kraatz’s reconstruction commences until Contributions to Philosophy, where these issues are elaborated in a new manner. Relatively little attention is devoted to Heidegger’s second major work regarding its composition and re-formulation of older investigations. The distinction between the ontological and historical dimension of the event, so central to Contributions to Philosophy, appears somewhat flimsy and neither the terminological shift from Dasein to Da-sein is mentioned or explained. (Heidegger, 2012, passim) Rather, convinced to have demonstrated the possibility to move past these shifts and accentuations, Kraatz devotes his attention almost exclusively to the diagnostical parts in Heidegger’s book. Clearly, paragraphs on machination serve more than a cursory function, something that Kraatz acknowledges when he speaks of them as methodological (294). Subsequently, Dasein is stripped of its (however weak) voluntarism and the relativity of being reconfigured as the release of beyng in historical epochs or conceptions. This later conception aims at filling out all possible onto-logical spaces while itself remaining mostly obscured or, as Heidegger would say, withdrawn. Kraatz devotes comparatively little attention to the historicization of truth this conception accomplishes, other than by way of invoking the transcendental ontological genealogy, but no attention is devoted to whether this undertaking might be in need of new methodological underpinnings other than remaining relative to the self. Taking only Heidegger’s ‘critical accomplishments’ into account, the fourfold or the later seminars in Thor and Zähringen are not mentioned at all. Having conceptualized beyng as the totality of all logical spaces of possibility he continues his critique of the tendencies of typification, the now historical configuration of modernity, to prove the continuity of destruction and its relevance for the self as method (286). Individuation, which the aforementioned process is to accomplish, pushes forward into the concrete, historical situation which can then, presumably, be transformed (288ff.). Kraatz follows Heidegger in declaring modern science as the best possible option for Dasein to conduct its flight successfully. The method deployed mirrors in this respect the one already used beforehand: demonstrating that an otherwise merely negative aspect of analysis is, in fact, crucial to an elaborated issue or could not have been adequately theorized at all were it not to be counter-posed through its negation
Having demonstrated the need for the self to take flight from the ontological responsibility the ground (beyng) confers upon it, modern science and modernity, whose essence the former is supposed to constitute, come into the picture. The ground of all regional ontological spaces – beyng – and the accompanying culpability and responsibility are too much for the lacking being that the I is and, accordingly, invents a mode of worldmaking that obscures this characteristic (278). Kraatz terms this product the ‘implicit ontology’ that underlies modern science and that becomes further obscured as it progresses (308). While the author admirably demonstrates the overall cohesion of said critique in the greater context of the Nietzsche lectures and attempts to relate enframing to the formation of data-science as the pinnacle of that process, the chapter appears rather tame in comparison to its precursors both in terms of significance for the book’s overall topic and contribution to scholarship (385ff). It acts, rather, as an exemplary demonstration of the possibility of this beyng-historical destruction, tying together the critique of technology or machination with the reading of Nietzsche as the closure of metaphysics and the advent of modern science. Though admirable in depth and rigor, it does rather little in comparison to push the investigation of methodology further in thematic terms.
Chapter four ties the aforementioned questions over methodology and justifiability together. Refuting the influential claims of the irrational character of Heideggerian philosophy made by Habermas in the Philosophical discourse of modernity acts as the threshold for setting Heidegger’s philosophy and functions as a summary and conclusion of the survey – something that is achieved thoroughly and convincingly. To recap, Heidegger’s method is conceptualized as a process of individuation through the mechanism of an experience of destruction which aims at removing layers of said experience and enables a formal indication of different concepts. The conceptuality of philosophical cognitions is thus not abandoned; Heidegger merely transforms the concept sufficiently so as to yield a different understanding of experience and of itself. What it achieves is a conceptual demonstration of the freedom of Dasein. Kraatz frames this as individuation and the struggle of a self toward existential orientation or, more negatively, the avoidance of that experience. The later Heidegger’s chief merit lies in historicizing that experience or relation between Dasein and its ontological epistemology by making recourse to an inaccessible origin or absolute ground, beyng. As has been mentioned, the different ‘negative’ instances of typification drive the analysis itself forward as ‘obstacles’ to be overcome and are, in this sense, themselves of methodological relevance, as Kraatz repeatedly insists with regard to, for instance, modern science. For the author, the innovation and radicality of the German philosopher lie thus in the possibility to provide justification of both practical and theoretical instances while avoiding the counter-intuitiveness and abstraction of more traditional framings of transcendental philosophy. Against what might be perceived as an all-too sympathetic approach, Kraatz does lament the tendency of Heidegger to largely abstain from clarifying these methodological and grounding theoretical attitudes as well as his continuing denial to expose oneself to criticism from other philosophical positions. While this abstinence is philosophical it does make for appearance of esotericism and a secret doctrine.
While Kraatz’s book is admirable for its insistence for justification towards and competence of Heideggerian philosophy, what remains missing, however, is an explicit reconstruction of the Heideggerian methodology within the greater context of historical approaches to the subject. Although a brief paragraph addresses the “historio-philosophical place of Heidegger’s philosophy” (416) this glance refers only to Husserl and, given the similar thematic of a critique of reified life, developments from the Frankfurt school. This is all the more surprising given the title of the chapter. In the following one, Kraatz once again reiterates the basic concepts of Heidegger’s philosophical methodology cognition, truth and justifiability. An elaboration of the extent to which the method of the German philosopher is to be conceived of as a radicalized version of neo-Kantianism, phenomenology or existentialism would have shed light on its novelty. This would involve a negotiation of these different forms of philosophy and their respective methods, read with recourse to Heidegger’s engagement with the former two and how he remains potentially indebted to them. Despite the fact the Heidegger’s philosophical development marked of course decisive breaks with both Neo-Kantianism and phenomenology it would have been interesting to see the extent to which his attempt of releasing himself from the metaphysical tradition was eventually reflected in his approach to methodology. This concerns in particular the Neo-Kantian notion of a history of problems whose similarity to the ‘history of beyng’ is rather apparent. This omission is all the more unfortunate given the various programmatic titles of Heidegger’s lecture courses and publications such as The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, and the frequent invocation of philosophy as ‘questioning’. This reflects in the last instance Kraatz’s own concept of methodology, which, although frequently invoking the triad of justifiability, cognition and truth, does not seem to take this aspect of Heidegger’s philosophy worthy of further investigation. Hence, terms such as ‘problem’ or even the more Heideggerian ‘question’ are largely absent in terms of thematic concern. Guiseppe Bianco contraposes this difference and similarity succinctly:
Heidegger’s philosophy started to be dominated by a series of structuring oppositions: he juxtaposed the Neo-Kantian conception of the history of problems (Problemgeschichte) with his history of being (Seinsgeschick), and philosophical “problems” (Problemen) with a set of ontological “questions” (Fragen). In a regressive series he related the “guiding question” (Leitfrage) proper to philosophy qua metaphysics (“what is the being of entities?”) to a “basic question” (Grundfrage) concerning the ground of metaphysics (“what is the meaning of being?”), which he then related to a final “ontological question” (Seinsfrage) concerning being (“what does it mean to be?”). […] Heidegger’s dual operation of the “repetition” (Wiederholung) of problems and “destruction” (Destruktion) of concepts inherited from the philosophical tradition consisted in the syncretism of religious hermeneutics and philology, resulting in an erudite but mostly uncontrolled appeal to etymology. This method attempted to remove (from the Latin de-struere) layers (or strues) that, through time, ossified as concepts, in order to return to “original experiences” and “grounding questions.” (Bianco, 2018, 20f.)
While it would seem unfair to demand a properly historical recontextualization of Heideggerian method in the overarching trajectory of early twentieth century philosophy from a book whose primary concerns are exegetical, such an undertaking would perhaps, with the advantage of hindsight, make of Heidegger a more conventional and, in turn, more a comprehensible author. While Kraatz does achieve an eventual tying of the philosophy of Heidegger with the themes of rationality and reasonability it remains open whether historicizing him would not have been the more fruitful approach rather than to provide textual coherence. This circumstance is reflected in the literature the author draws primarily on: with the few exceptions of avowed names of Heidegger scholars or pupils the book makes reference primarily to the quasi-analytical reconstruing of Heidegger in certain places of Germany and the United States. Crowell is a case in point here. This fact is not necessarily one to be lamented – it just puts Heidegger closer to someone like Brandom than, say, Derrida.
This criticism notwithstanding, Kraatz’s study is remarkable in its rigor, clarity and cogency. Whether one concurs with Kraatz’s central thesis that Heideggerian philosophy ultimately occupies a therapeutic, almost ‘eudaimonic’ relevance for the self or not, his reading is remarkably coherent in terms of exegesis and formulates a new approach in Heidegger scholarship. Although the later part of the oeuvre is put in second place pursuing the outlined approach and devoting an independent study of it might shed even more light on the constructive part of Heidegger’s work and Kraatz’s reconstruction. While the aspect of methodology proper is primarily viewed in the purview of destruction and its relation to the negativity of the tendencies of typification, or their methodological position, the account exposes various options for developing its approach further and in different directions. The book constitutes a valuable resource concerning the legacy and continuing relevance of its subject and puts a challenge to all those negligent approaches and readers who dismiss Heideggerian philosophy out of hand because of its mere appearance.
Bianco, Guiseppe. 2018. ‘The Misadventures of the “Problem” in “Philosophy.” Angelaki 23 (2): 8-30.
De Boer, Karin. 2000. Thinking in the Light of Time. Heidegger’s Encounter with Hegel. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Feher, Istvan M. 1997. ‘Die Hermeneutik der Faktizität als Destruktion der Philosophiegeschichte als Problemgeschichte. Zu Heideggers und Gadamers Kritik der Problembegriffes.’ Heidegger Studies 13: 47-68.
Heidegger, Martin. 2012. Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Kraatz, Karl. 2020. Die Methodologie von Martin Heideggers Philosophie. Über die Grenzen der neuzeitlichen Wissenschaft und die Möglichkeiten der Philosophie. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.
Williamson, Timothy. 2020. Philosophical Method. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Feher provides an elaboration of the preference of questions over problem for Heidegger’s methodology, although this issue would need to be configured differently for the later philosophy.
In the academic year of 1964-65, Derrida taught two courses at the École Normale Supérieure: an agrégation course on ‘The Theory of Signification in the Logical Investigations and Ideen I’ and ‘Heidegger: The Question of Being and History’. Having fulfilled his curricular obligations with the former, it was Derrida’s own interests that governed the choosing and development of the latter. This volume, painstakingly transcribed and translated from Derrida’s own handwritten notes, therefore provides a glimpse into some of the earliest workings of Derrida’s thought.
Given through nine sessions, this lecture course is concerned with rendering apparent the essential link between being and history (referred to as ‚historicity,‘ to avoid confusion with the academic discipline and actual world history) throughout Heidegger’s thought. As to it’s broad construction, sessions one-through-six of the lecture series constitutes an introduction to the titular concepts, Heidegger’s approach, and an account of the ways in which Heidegger breaks from two other prominent philosophical reflections on historicity – those of Hegel and Husserl. Sessions six-through-nine feature Derrida’s examination of the role of historicity in Being and Time (henceforth BT) as well as Heidegger’s corresponding critique of Western thought.
In his introductory session, Derrida focuses on the use of the word ‚being‘ in his course title over that of ‘ontology’. He forwards the view that Heidegger’s destruction (Destruktion) of the history of ontology (initiated in BT) develops into the rejection of the very notion of ontology itself as Heidegger’s thought matures. This session also features the first of many comparisons with Hegel. Here Derrida clarifies Heidegger’s method of Destruktion by contrasting it with Hegelian dialectical refutation (Widerlegung). He demonstrates that whilst Hegelian Widerlegung gathers up and sublimates its previous elements in the process of producing a higher philosophy (3), Destruktion is a ‘deconstruction’ or ‘solicitation’ that reveals what is hidden within the structures of philosophical thought (9).
In his second lecture, Derrida turns to the place of the term ‘history’ in his course title. He explains that Heidegger is perhaps the first philosopher to identify an essential relation between being and history and highlights two basic ‘assurances’ (41) that betray the essential historicity of being. First, the fact that we are ‘always already’ linguistically familiar with the meaning of being in some preliminary fashion (42-3). Second, the fact that Dasein is the being that is interrogated (Befragtes) within the question of the meaning of being (46).
In session three, Derrida pauses to explore an implication of the first assurance just outlined: the connection between being and language. As he examines the role of metaphor in Heidegger’s thought, Derrida masterfully decodes the famous Heideggerian statement that ‘language is the house of being’ (57-9). Derrida suggests that, on Heidegger’s view, metaphor obscures the meaning of being and that a proper, poetic language capable of directly speaking being should eventually arise (62-3).
Session four opens with a lengthy analysis of Heidegger’s seemingly innocuous reference to the Befragtes as a text on which the meaning of being is to be read (77-84). Derrida then shifts back to focus on the second assurance of being’s historicity: the identification of Dasein as Befragtes. Derrida explicates the two principal reasons for this identification: first, the fact that Dasein is itself the being that poses the question of being (85); second, that through this questioning Dasein comes closer to its own essence (85-6). He then highlights the problem of the hermeneutic circle: the objection that we cannot identify Dasein as the being through which we will gain access to the meaning of being without first enjoying this access (86). Derrida argues that not only is this objection unproblematic, but that it emphasises the very historicity of being that Heidegger is working to reveal insofar as it demonstrates ‘the impossibility of a pure point of departure’ (90) for philosophical thought. This session closes with the beginning of a lengthy account of the differences between Hegel’s, Husserl’s, and Heidegger’s respective reflections on historicity. Here, Derrida contrasts Heidegger’s view that being is essentially historical with Hegel’s view that historicity depends on state, culture, memory, and consciousness (99-104).
Continuing this juxtaposition through session five, Derrida now brings in Husserl, who he suggests has a comparable account to Hegel’s insofar as they both assume a primary distinction between the historicity of culture and the non-historicity of nature (105). Derrida embarks on a perhaps unnecessary and tangential comparison of Hegel and Husserl (105-113) before beginning to account for the ways in which Heidegger breaks from the Husserlian account (114-126).
It is clear that Derrida struggled with timing toward the end of session five, leaving him to finish his survey of Heidegger’s breaks with Husserl in the sixth session (127-133). The most significant of these breaks is the fact that, for Heidegger, the Husserlian account constitutes a ‘worldview’ (129) – that is, a representation of the totality of beings. Derrida points out that, for Heidegger, the idea that philosophy offers such a worldview (Weltbild) has its origins in Plato. Heidegger therefore sees Husserl as part of the metaphysical tradition he is trying to deconstruct (130-1). Derrida now shifts to his analysis of BT, wherein he demonstrates that reflection on Dasein’s relation to its birth and death reveals the prejudice which has hitherto blocked any proper recognition of historicity: the privileging of presence and the present (137). Rejecting this prejudice, Heidegger suggests that birth and death are not events no longer or not yet present. Rather, they coexist in Dasein insofar as Dasein is the continuity (Erstreckung) between them (148).
In session seven, Derrida acknowledges the ‘running out of breath’ (153) of BT with respect to its analysis of historicity. He suggests that the thematic of temporality, as the origin of historicity, is what obscures any further results. Looking for clues as to the specific difficulties, Derrida exposits the later material of BT and identifies the terminology of (in)authenticity as something dropped in later works (168). Moreover, Derrida highlights Heidegger’s identification of the assumption that underlies various inadequate conceptions of historicity: the centrality of the human subject (170). Derrida makes clear that Heidegger is moving us away from the idea that there is a historical subject to whom events happen to the idea that subjectivity is supervenient upon already historical ek-sistence (175).
Not wanting to dismiss BT, in his eighth session Derrida explores its final chapters for any original concepts that might pertain to and differentiate historicity from its originating temporality. He examines the concepts of ‘auto-transmission’ (Sichüberlieferung) (180), which describes temporality, ‘resoluteness’ (Entschlossenheit) (185), through which temporality and historicity become authentic, and ‘being-toward-death’ (188). This latter concept leads Derrida to an evaluation of Alexandre Kojève’s suggestion that there exists a relation of analogy between Heidegger and Hegel with respect to their reflections on freedom and death. Derrida is unsympathetic to this view, arguing that Hegel’s and Heidegger’s accounts are ultimately inconsonant because Hegel’s conception of temporality is, for Heidegger, inauthentic ‘intra-temporality’ (194-201). Finally, Derrida strikes upon what he believes to be a concept uniquely characteristic of historicity in BT: repetition (202).
In his final session, Derrida explicates Heidegger’s derivation of world history (Welt-Geschichte) and historical science from the historicity of Dasein (206-214). This involves a digress through Nietzsche and his relation to Hegel (215-221). Derrida then makes some conclusory remarks. He indicates the direction of Heidegger’s later thought and further emphasises the role of metaphor, suggesting again that, for Heidegger, the gradual deconstruction of metaphoricity will instigate a new language through which we could come into direct contact with being and in which the designation ‘being’ would itself be obsolete (223). Finally, in a comment that presages his own subsequent work, Derrida claims that the ultimate problematic for Heidegger will be that of difference (225).
It is evident that this course yields some of Derrida’s earliest reflections on ideas that would later come to define his mature thought: such as deconstruction, writing, trace, metaphysics of presence, binary opposites, and difference. Moreover, this is one of the most readable and accessible of Derrida’s works. He is clearly a gifted exegete, rendering much of Heidegger’s complex text transparent. His thoroughness as a scholar is also clear to see, given his numerous insightful comparisons with Hegel; not to mention the fact that only the first division of BT was available in French at the time of this course (and then only for a few months). As such, most of Derrida’s references to Heidegger were his own translations and this course likely provided an initial exposure amongst its attendees to much of Heidegger’s thought.
There are, however, some weaknesses that could be addressed. Although Derrida readily admits it (222), the tone of this course remains preparative throughout and the reader never feels as though they are getting to the heart of this essential relation between being and historicity. The transition between sessions five and six is awkward; it would also have been beneficial to see more on the distinction drawn between metaphor and poetry in session three – especially given the import Derrida assigns to it. Also, there are moments when the relevance of Derrida’s reflections on the relations of Husserl and Nietzsche to Hegel come into question. Finally, whilst there is the occasionally inconvenient ‘[illegible word]’ notation, this frustration more rightly serves as a testament to the immediacy of our access to Derrida’s thought and as a credit to the translators.