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Heidegger and Practical Philosophy

Shallow: Freedom, Finitude, and the Practical Self

The Other Side of Heidegger’s Appropriation of Kant

domingo 17 de dezembro de 2017

        

Extrato de Francois Raffoul   and David Pettigrew, Heidegger and Practical Philosophy  . New York: SUNY, 2002, p. 30-33.

        

With few exceptions, Heidegger concentrates his dialogue   with Kant   on appropriating the motifs of temporality and finitude   as outlined in the first Critique  . In a lecture course from 1928 entitled Phänomenologische Interpretation von Kants Kritik der reinen Vernunft  , which bears the name of Kant’s major work  , and in its sequel in 1929, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics  , Heidegger argues that Kant was on the threshold of recognizing that a prior orientation   to temporality governs any attempt to understand   being  . In his earlier lecture course Logik   (1926), Heidegger also appeals to Kant’s examination of our knowing   capacity, to the schematism of categories   and their root   in the transcendental   imagination, in order to address the possibility   of understanding   of being.8 Yet an almost deafening silence   emanates from these works about the import of practical reason and its key elements, including freedom   and responsibility.

While also accenting the Kantian problematic of temporality in the Basic Problems of Phenomenology  , Heidegger briefly examines Kant’s portrait of moral respect. In a section devoted to addressing   Kant’s rendition of the self   in its practical as well as its theoretical dimension, Heidegger remarks: “Respect reveals the dignity before which and for which the self knows itself to be responsible. Only in responsibility does the self first reveal   itself – the self not   in a general sense as knowledge   of an ego in general but as in each case mine, the ego as in each case the individual factical   ego” (GA24  , 193-94;BP, 137). In the process, Heidegger acknowledges that “Kant’s interpretation of the phenomenon   of respect is probably the most brilliant phenomenological   analysis of the phenomenon of morality that we have from him” (GA24, 188-89;BP, 133). This remark in turn prefaces Heidegger’s succinct attempt in the Kant book (covering only four pages) to show that human finitude shapes our moral self-consciousness  ,9 and hence that both [31] theoretical and practical reason have their origin in the time  -forming power   of the transcendental imagination.

Given   Heidegger’s overarching strategy to destroy the philosophical tradition  , the paucity of treatment of Kant’s moral philosophy   in the major works that comprise Heidegger’s dialogue with his predecessor throughout the 1920s may not be surprising. For Kant’s emphasis on the atemporal   origin of practical freedom would seem to exclude the motif of human finitude, which Heidegger identifies as the crux of his critical   appropriation   of Kant’s transcendental philosophy. While moral respect exhibits an experiential side that is open to phenomenological description, Kant relegates freedom as the “presupposition” of morality to a higher plane apparently divorced from any such treatment (GA3  , 168-70; KPM, 118-19). And just   as this presupposition appears inaccessible on phenomenological grounds, so the importance that an examination of freedom would have for bringing Kant’s thought as a whole   within the scope of Heidegger’s “destructive” task can hardly be denied. The attempt to chart the crossover between the issues of finitude, facticity  , and temporality and the apparently incongruent corollaries of moral governance, freedom, and praxis   would contribute to Heidegger’s effort   to map the topography of the question   of being in greater detail. Hence, we must welcome Heidegger’s effort in 1930 to extend his dialogue with Kant in order to include the basic thrust of his moral philosophy. Not only do these 1930 lectures rectify an omission in Heidegger’s treatment of Kant’s thought, but they also exemplify the manner of debate between the two as a mode   of Auseinandersetzung or “setting apart” and “placing in opposition” thinkers joined in their common concern   for the matter itself [die Sache des Denkens].

Two reasons stand out as to why Heidegger brings the topic of freedom into the foreground in his 1930 lectures on Kant. First, in 1929, Heidegger had already begun to address freedom as the pivot of all philosophical inquiry. As became evident in his essay “On the Essence   of Truth  ” (1930), he linked the phenomenal   dimension of unconcealment   (truth) with Dasein  ’s capacity to let be (freedom) (GA9  , 187-91; P, 143-47). Second  , Heidegger’s radical appropriation   of transcendental philosophy in the Kant book was as controversial as it was successful. This controversy came to a head in Ernst Cassirer  ’s review of the Kant book in 1930 and in his celebrated conversation with Heidegger at Davos in 1929. As Cassirer remarks in the “Davos Disputation,” “The extraordinary significance   of the schematism cannot be overestimated. The greatest misunderstandings in the interpretation of Kant creep in at this point  . In the ethical [Ethischen], however, he forbids the schematism. There he says: our concept   of freedom, etc. are insights (not bits of knowledge) which no longer   permit schematizing” (GA3, 267;KPM, 195). In prefiguring his claim from the 1930 lecture course on Kant, that freedom holds the key to philosophy, Heidegger defends his more radical portrayal of human praxis against Cassirer’s interpretation: “I spoke of a freeing in the sense that the freeing of the inner   transcendence   of Dasein is the fundamental character of philosophizing itself. The authentic   sense of this freeing. ... is to be found   in becoming   free for the finitude of Dasein” (GA3, 289;KPM, 203).

[32] For Heidegger, freedom and finitude are essentially interdependent, even though Kant suggests otherwise in relegating practical freedom to the infinite   realm of things   in themselves. But since Kant’s analysis of freedom revolves around ethical action  , and his practical philosophy provides the entryway for Heidegger’s discussion   of freedom, the latter must reopen the question of ethics   as well. Insofar as the possibility of ethics   hinges on freedom, and freedom unfolds as a finite dimension of human existence  , ethical inquiry also must proceed from a finite orientation. As Heidegger remarks to Cassirer:

This concept of the [Categorical] Imperative as such   shows the inner relation   to the finite creature . . . . This inner relation, which lies within the Imperative itself, and the finitude of ethics, emerges from a passage in which Kant speaks of reason as self-supporting, i.e, of a reason which stands purely on its own   and cannot escape into something eternal or absolute, but which also cannot escape into the world   of things. [The] essence of practical reason . . . [lies in] being open to others. (GA3, 279-81; KPM, 196-97)

As becomes evident in his disputation with Cassirer, Heidegger addresses the issue of freedom according to a double gesture that retrieves the crux of Kant’s analysis while deconstructing its metaphysical underpinnings. In light   of a strategy of “repetition  ” practiced in Being and Time  , Heidegger upholds Kant’s claim that ethics depends on a prior insight into the nature   of freedom. And yet at the same   time Heidegger maintains that it is necessary to address not only how ethics depends upon prior metaphysical assumptions concerning freedom, but that it is equally important to question   the roots   of that metaphysics. This doubling of the question would offset two levels of forgetting   that occlude Kant’s insights into the possibility of ethics: (1) the privileging of one dimension of time in order to understand being, namely, the present, so that its idealized form or eternity   marks the origin of freedom (i.e, an unconditioned will) and (2) the truncation of time as a series of nows in contrast to eternity, in such a way   that the realm delimited by the former or nature stands in stark opposition to the domain circumscribed by the latter or freedom.

Rather than to make the concern   for freedom an afterthought of the metaphysics of presence  , as Kant does, Heidegger addresses freedom as housing a set of issues that brings into question the temporal   determination of being  . Freedom must now be defined in its alliance with finitude rather than in opposition to it, in kinship with the ecstatic   trajectory of temporality (transcendence) versus the stasis of time as eternity. Thus Heidegger dismantles the remnants of Kant’s archaic cosmology  ; this cosmology pits the eternal realm of freedom against the transient realm of nature, while assuming a schism between the former as the haven ofvalues and the latter as the haven of fact  . Freedom then reemerges as a power or force in which we participate, insofar as we belong to   the dynamic process whereby nature embodies [33] the tension of unconcealment-concealment  . Correlatively, Heidegger dismantles the elements of Kant’s obsolete rational psychology  ; rational psychology construes the self as a privileged agent separated from the flux   of experience   and defines its “power” indeterminately as the abeyance of any external influence by natural events, as an uncaused cause   or as pure spontaneity. Instead, the self is a participant in the larger process of unconcealment. Hence, the agency proper to the self or freedom reemerges as a power with which Dasein is endowed, rather than a capability it possesses.

In his 1930 lectures on Kant, Heidegger summarizes his destructive retrieval of the concept of freedom in this way. “Freedom ceases to be a property of human being,” and instead “man becomes a possibility of freedom” (GA31  , 134). Put in other terms, Dasein becomes the “manager” of freedom, the vehicle for the distribution of its power, rather than its possessor (GA31, 134-35). This radical change   in the proprietorship of freedom becomes fundamental for Heidegger. The solitary self ceases to be the sole benefactor/possessor of freedom, but Dasein receives freedom as belonging   to a relationship (i.e., through its partnership with being). Because freedom arises in conjunction with being, the discharge of the power to be free occurs through the nexus of relationships, including Dasein’s being with others, which comprises its worldly existence. Dasein receives the power of freedom through its readiness to reciprocate for this gift of being – the openness I already am – through the selfs willingness to safeguard   freedom for the benefit of others.

Through his destructive retrieval of Kant’s practical philosophy, Heidegger undertakes a displacement of the subject   as the agency of moral choice  . But we should not then conclude, as others have, that he leaves no room for moral decision   making and the practical self embodying this freedom. On the contrary, Heidegger reopens the question ofhow the selfcan engage in praxis, can exercise choice, and can display responsibility. And this questioning, which “overturns” ontology   in favor   of a new set of issues that stems from Dasein’s situatedness among beings, accompanies Heidegger’s attempt to address the possibility of ethics. As he remarks in his 1928 lectures on the foundations of logic:

As a result, we need a special problematic which has for its proper theme beings as a whole [das Seiende im Ganzen]. This new investigation   resides in the essence of ontology itself and is the result of its overturning [Umschlag  ] . . . . I designate this set of questions metontology  . And here also, in the domain of metontological-existentiell   questioning, is the domain of the metaphysics of existence (here the question of an ethics may properly be raised for the first time). (GA26  , 199; MFL, 157)


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