Textual evidence for direct or "naive" realism in Being and Time era Heidegger

I’ve been gathering quotes in preparation for my master’s thesis. I will admit that I am deliberately reading into the texts to find quotes to support my position, but the textual evidence for direct realism is overwhelming. It seems to me that the only way to falsify my position would be to show that the translations, particularly in Basic Problems, are somehow misleading. However, I believe that any attempt to falsify my thesis will need to provide an equally parsimonious framework to capture the essential structure of Heidegger’s thought. In my opinion,  reading Heidegger in terms of direct realism makes his system coherent and intelligible while making the least metaphysical assumptions.

Quotes Supporting Direct Realism in Basic Problems of Phenomenology

“The window, however, surely does not receive existence from my perceiving it, but just the reverse: I can perceive it only if it exists and because it exists. In every case, perceivedness presupposes perceivability, and perceivability on its part already requires the existence of the perceivable or the perceived being…This extantness, or existence, belongs to the extant, the existent, without its being uncovered. That alone is why it is uncoverable” (BP 49)

“What we concisely call perception is, more explicitly formulated, the perceptual directing of oneself toward what is perceived, in such a way indeed that the perceived is itself always understood as perceived in its perceivedness…This directedness-toward constitutes, as it were, the framework of the whole phenomenon ‘perception’” (BP 57)

“To say that I am in the first place oriented towards sensations is all just pure theory. In conformity with its sense of direction, perception is directed toward a being that is extant. It intends this precisely as extant and knows nothing at all about sensations that it is apprehending” (BP 63)

“I cannot and must not ask how the inner intentional experience arrives at an outside. I cannot and must not put the question in that way because intentional comportment itself as such orients itself toward the extant. I do not first need to ask how the immanent intentional experience acquires transcendent validity; rather, what has to be seen is that it is precisely intentionality and nothing else in which transcendence consists” (BP 63)

“The statement that the comportments of the Dasein are intentional means that the mode of being of our own self, the Dasein, is essentially such that this being, so far as it is, is always already dwelling with the extant. The idea of a subject which has intentional experiences merely inside its own sphere and is not yet outside it but encapsulated within itself is an absurdity which misconstrues the basic ontological structure of the being that we ourselves are.” (BP 64).

“A window, a chair, in general anything extant in the broadest sense, does not exist, because it cannot comport toward extant entities in the manner of intentional self-directedness-toward them” (BP 64)

“the intentional constitution of the Dasein’s comportments is precisely the ontological condition of the possibility of every and any transcendence…The Dasein, comports existingly toward the extant” (BP 65)

“On the contrary, implicit in the sense of perceptual apprehension is the aim to uncover what is perceived in such a way that it exhibits itself in and of its own self…Perceiving uncovers the extant and lets it be encountered in the manner of a specific uncovering” (BP 69).

“Perceiving is a release of extant things which lets them be encountered. Transcending is an uncovering” (BP 70)

“Or can it be shown that something like an understanding of extantness is already implicit in the intentionality of perception, that is, in perceptual uncovering?” (BP 70)

“in opposition to the subjectivist misinterpretations that perception is directed in the first instance only to something subjective, that is, to sensations, it was necessary to show that perception is directed toward the extant itself” (BP 71)

“In this understanding, what extantness means is unveiled, laid open, or, as we say, disclosed” (BP 71)

“it is implicit in the basic constitution of the Dasein itself that, in existing, the Dasein also already understands the mode of being of the extant, to which it comports existingly, regardless of how far this extant entity is uncovered and whether it is or is not adequately and suitably uncovered” (BP 71)

“the disclosure of extantness belongs to this comportment, to the Dasein’s existence. This is the condition of the possibility of the uncoverability of extant things.” (BP 71)

“The Dasein’s comportments have an intentional character and that on the basis of this intentionality the subject already stands in relation to things that it itself is not” (BP 155)

“For the Dasein, with its existence, there is always a being and an interconnection with a being already somehow unveiled, without its being expressly made into an object” (BP 157)

“The Dasein does not need a special kind of observation, nor does it need to conduct a sort of espionage on the ego in order to have the self; rather, as the Dasein gives itself over immediately and passionately to the world, its own self is reflected to it from things…This is not mysticism and does not presuppose the assigning of souls to things. It is only a reference to an elementary phenomenological fact of existence, which must be seen prior to all talk, no matter how acute, about the subject-object relation” (BP 159)

“Nevertheless, the walls [in a lecture hall] are already present even before we think them as objects. Much else also gives itself to us before any determining of it by thought. Much else – but how? Not as a jumbled heap of things but as an environs, a surroundings, which contains within itself a closed, intelligible contexture” (BP 163)

“Until the ontology of the Dasein is made secure in its fundamental elements, it remains a blind philosophical demagoguery to charge something with the heresy of subjectivism” (BP 167)

“no reason can be adduced that makes it evident that a Dasein necessarily exists” (BP 169)

“World is only, if, and as long as a Dasein exists. Nature can also be when no Dasein exists” (BP 170)

“intraworldliness does not belong to the being of the extant, or in particular to that of nature, but only devolves upon it. Nature can also be without there being a world, without a Dasein existing…The being of beings which are not a Dasein has a richer and more complex structure and therefore goes beyond the usual characterization of that extant as a contexture of things” (BP 175)

“Such a being, for example, nature, does not depend in its being – that and whether it is a being or not – on whether it is true, whether or not it is unveiled and encountered as unveiled for a Dasein” (BP 219)

“For nature to be as it is, it does not need truth, unveiledness” (BP 221)

“How can the being of a being, and especially the being of the extant, which in its essential nature is independent of the existence of a Dasein, be determined by uncoveredness?” (BP 222)

Quotes Supporting Direct Realism in Being and Time

“Readiness-to-hand is the way in which entities as they are “in themselves” are defined ontologico-categorially. Yet only by reason of something present-at-hand, ‘is there’ anything ready-to-hand” (SZ 71)

“In such in interpretation, the way in which the entity we are interpreting is to be conceived can be drawn from the entity itself, or the interpretation can force the entity into concepts to which it is opposed in its manner of being” (SZ 150).

“The present-at-hand, as Dasein encounters it, can, as it were, assault Dasein’s Being; natural events, for instance, can break in upon us and destroy us” (SZ 152)
“Our everyday environmental experiencing, which remains directed both ontically and ontologically towards entities within-the-world…” (SZ 181)

“Entities are, quite independently of the experience by which they are disclosed, the acquaintance in which they are discovered, and the grasping in which their nature is ascertained” (SZ 183).

“As we have noted, Being (not entities) is dependent upon the understanding of Being, that is to say, Reality (not the Real) is dependent upon care” (SZ 212)

“Being (not entities) is something which ‘there is’ only in so far as truth is. And truth is only in so far as and as long as Dasein is” (SZ 230).
“…the world does not ‘consist’ of the ready-to-hand” (SZ 75)

“Previously letting something ‘be’ does not mean that we must first bring it into its Being and produce it; it means rather that something which is already an ‘entity’ must be discovered in its readiness-to-hand, and that we must thus let the entity which has this Being be encountered” (SZ 85)

“The ‘Nature’ by which we are ‘surrounded’ is, of course, an entity within-the-world; but the kind of Being which it shows belongs neither to the ready-to-hand nor to what is present-at-hand as “Things of Nature’”(SZ 211)

“But the fact that Reality is ontologically grounded in the Being of Dasein, does not signify that only when Dasein exists and as long as Dasein exists, can the Real be as that which in itself it is” (SZ 212)

“When Dasein does not exist…entities will still continue to be” (SZ 212)

“Dasein’s Being becomes ontologically transparent in a comprehensive way only within the horizon in which the Being of entities other than Dasein – and this means even of those which are neither ready-to-hand nor present-at-hand but just ‘subsist’ – has been clarified” (SZ 333)



Filed under Heidegger, Philosophy

2 responses to “Textual evidence for direct or "naive" realism in Being and Time era Heidegger

  1. Fantastic.

    Just to be clear, neither Harman nor myself dispute that this era Heidegger contains a lot of stuff that presupposes direct realism. Our claim is rather that it also contains a lot of stuff inconsistent with direct realism. I don’t think Harman has a sustained discussion of why Heidegger has this tension, but I think it’s clearly the tension between his anti-neo-Kantianism (he was writing against his teachers Rickert and Windelband, again see the 1919 lecture that contains what would become the Vorhandenheit/Zuhandenheit distinction, how this morphed into the relevant part of History of the Concept of Time, and then Division 1 of Being and Time) on the one hand and the somewhat baleful influence of Husserl on the other.

  2. Gary Williams

    Dr. Cogburn,

    I think a lot of Heidegger scholars have it backwards in trying to make sense of these texts. Instead of trying to make sense of his direct realism in terms of his idealism, they should be making sense of his idealism in terms of his direct realism. That is, the inconsistencies are strange when seen in terms of an idealist Heidegger sometimes saying realist things, but quite understandable when seen in terms of a realist Heidegger sometimes saying idealist things.

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