Heidegger’s Concept of Phenomenology

  • Burt C. Hopkins
Part of the Contributions to Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 11)


Heidegger’s concept of phenomenology is inextricably bound up with his understanding of ontology. “Only as phenomenology, is ontology possible” (BT, 60/35). His understanding of ontology is guided by the insight that the question concerning its theme, Being (Sein), “has today been forgotten” (BT, 21 /2). It has been forgotten in the sense that Being is understood, without more ado, as the most universal, undefinable, and self-evident concept.


Formal Concept Preliminary Concept Phenomenological Reduction Ontical Status Ordinary Concept 
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  1. 1.
    The Gegenständen (objects) at issue here are of course not understood by Heidegger in terms of the traditional Vorhandensein (being-present-athand) of entities, which he will exhibit in terms of what he takes to be their unoriginal perceptual or epistemological grasping (erfassen). Thus Heidegger’s references to either the ‘Being of entities’ or ’the meaning of Being as such’, as the “thematic object” (BT,49/27) of his investigation, are potentially misleading if his fundamental concern with “reawakening” an understanding for the meaning of the question about the meaning of Being, which guides his characterization of the derivative status of the traditional understanding of ’objects’ (in terms of their Vorhandensein),is not attended to.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Heidegger’s account here of the shift in the ‘cognizant seeking (Suchen)’ involved in any questioning, from a ’seeking for an entity with regard to the that and how of its being’, to one which ‘can become an investigating’ that unfolds the character of that which is questioned about, is crucial for philosophically appropriating his understanding of the phenomenological task of fundamental ontology. This is the case, since the latter (as will become apparent below) is understood by Heidegger not simply in terms of a seeking for the ’that’ and ’how’ of entities, but rather, in terms of the investigation into the character or structure of the ’that’ and ’how“ of entities.Google Scholar
  3. To my knowledge, there has not been any reference to this distinction, let alone discussion of its significance, in the literature. See for instance: Rudolf Bernet, “Husserl and Heidegger on Intentionality and Being,” op. cit.; John C. Caputo, “Husserl, Heidegger and the Question of a ‘Hermeneutic’ Phenomenology,” op. cit. and “The Question of Being and Transcendental Phenomenology,” in Radical Phenomenology: Essays in Honor of Martin Heidegger,ed. John Sallis, (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1978), pp. 84–105; Frederick Elliston, “Phenomenology Reinterpreted: From Husserl to Heidegger,” op. cit.; Hans-Georg Gadamer, “The Hermeneutics of Suspicion,” op. cit., “The Phenomenological Movement,” op. cit., Truth and Method,op. cit.; Ray Hart, “Heidegger’s Being and Time and Phenomenology,” op. cit.; Friedrich-Wilhelm von-Herrmann, op. cit.; Theodore Kisiel, “Heidegger (1907–1927): The Transformation of the Categorial,” op. cit.; J.N. Mohanty, “Consciousness and Existence: Remarks on the Relation Between Husserl and Heidegger,” op. cit., “Transcendental Philosophy and the Hermeneutic Critique of Consciousness,” op. cit.; James C. Morrison, “Husserl and Heidegger: The Parting of the Ways,” op. cit.; Paul Ricoeur, “The Critique of Subjectivity and Cogito in the Philosophy of Heidegger,” in Heidegger and the Quest for Truth,ed. Manfred S. Frings, (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968), pp. 62–75, “Existence and Hermeneutics,” op. cit., “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” op. cit., and “The Task of Hermeneutics,” op. cit.; Richard Schacht, op. cit.; Francis F. Seeburger, “Heidegger and the Phenomenological Reduction,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research,36, (Dec. 1975), pp. 212–221; Timothy J. Stapleton, Husserl and Heidegger: The Question of a Phenomenological Beginning,op. cit.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    The illumination of the Faktum of this initially ‘average and vague understanding of Being’, by the ’developed concept of Being’, is characterized in Heidegger’s lecture course given in the Summer of 1927 (referred to below as BP),in terms of the “free projection” towards “Being and structures of Being,” which guides the thematization of this initial Faktum. This is discussed in detail below in § 46.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    It is interesting to note here that Heidegger’s ontological project involves not only the problem of securing philosophical access to Being and its meaning, but that from out of this very project the problem of securing access to an entity, viz., Dasein, also emerges as problematic. Indeed, the propaedeutic function of fundamental ontology, and its analytic of existence, involves precisely the issue of unfolding this entity ‘in itself and from itself’—which is to say, of securing philosophical access to it. The failure to attend to the multidimensionality of Heidegger’s working out of the project of ontology results in the misguided attempt to understand the analysis of Dasein within the context of ’philosophical anthropology’. In other words, proper attention to Heidegger’s account of his ontological project should make it clear that he is interested in ’human being’ only insofar as its mode of being (existence) is involved in illuminating Being and its meaning.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Heidegger’s distinction between the ‘preliminary concept’ and ’idea’ of phenomenology, and the phenomenologically methodological and ontological implications of this distinction, has been almost entirely ignored by the literature. Even usually careful readers such as Gadamer and von Herrmann pass over this distinction in silence.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Rede should not be identified all too easily with speaking, discourse and the like. Therefore, to the extent that my discussion and its context allow, I leave the word “Rede” untranslated in the text.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    The relevance of securing genuine access to the manifestation of entities in the mode of the ‘ordinary concept of phenomenon’, in order to likewise secure genuine access to the manifestation of the Being of entities in the mode of the ’phenomenological concept of phenomenon’, is often missed in the literature. Hence, in such cases, the phenomenological problematic of attaining the proper access to Dasein, qua its manifestation as an ‘ordinary phenomenon’, in order to secure access to the manifestation of Being in the mode of the ’phenomenological concept of phenomenon’, is also missed. The results of this omission, apart from the issue of adequately appropriating the phenomenological formulation of Heidegger’s thought, present serious problems with respect to the responsible consideration of Heidegger’s ’phenomenological’ critique of the status of intentionality in Husserl. This is the case, since the basis of this critique is to be found in his claim that Husserl has not secured sufficiently radical access to the intentional entity (i.e., in terms of its manifestation as an ordinary phenomenon) and that, therefore,access to the phenomenon of the intentional Being of this entity is precluded. (See §§ 51–52 below).Google Scholar
  9. For instance, according to Bernet, “The entity considered in the ‘how of its being intended’ is not something other than the ’entity-in-itself’; rather, it is precisely this entity insofar as it is is interrogated in its intentional appearing according to its mode of being” (op. cit., p. 139). Here and elsewhere in Bernet’s discussion there is no mention of access to the entity, and hence to its ’mode of being’, as something that is an issue for phenomenology. Which is to say, Bernet’s discussion leaves entirely out of account the ‘hermeneutical’ context of Heidegger’s formulation of phenomenology.Google Scholar
  10. Also, Caputo writes: “The being [entity] becomes a phenomenon for Heidegger only when we grasp it in its Being. The simple and determinate grasp of a particular being [entity] is nothing phenomenological, but a mere naivete of natural common sense” (“The Question of Being and Transcendental Phenomenology,” op. cit., p. 89).Google Scholar
  11. And in Morrison: “Being, then, is the proper theme (Sache) of phenomenon of phenomenology… This contrasts radically with Husserl. For him, the phenomena of phenomenology are beings [entities]” (op. cit., p. 52).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Burt C. Hopkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySeattle UniversityUSA

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