Hermeneutics, historicity, ethics

Through Husserl, the phenomenological movement was born in German academic philosophy as a reaction against the Bodenlosigkeit of transcendental philosophy that dominated academia between the 1860s and the early 20th centuries, which was characterised by the prioritisation of epistemology over ontology. For a phenomenologist, in order to give back philosophical thinking the flesh that it once wore in the times of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the uncovering of the hermeneutic circle as a moment of aletheia in the fundamental ontology of Dasein, heralded by Heidegger in Being and time, was a nod to the importance of the historicisation of temporalised existence of Dasein, culture and civilisation in the meaning of being.

The greatest contribution of Gadamer, who was closely involved with the lineage of the phenomenological movement right from its beginnings until his death in the 21st century, was in the area of ethics: thus fulfilling an unwritten part of his teacher’s magnum opus, Being and time. Ethics concerns itself with the meaning of the good, and by virtue of this, it essentially forms a philosophical ground that brings about the unity of theory and practice. Ethics is practical philosophy (Gadamer, 1991, p. 15) in Dasein‘s inherent ability to intuit the good in its inalienable embodiment and immersion in the Mitdasein of its being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein).

 

Reference

Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1990). Gadamer on Gadamer. In Gadamer and hermeneutics (Hugh J Silverman, Ed; B Schaaf and G E Aylesworth, Trans.), pp. 13-19. New York & London: Routledge.

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Qualitative research and systematic review (systematische Übersichtsarbeit)

The subjectivity of both a researcher and her research subject respectively forms the subject matter of qualitative research. The context of subjectivity, phenomenologically manifest as lived experience, can be interpretively pushed towards frontiers of knowledge that quantitative research, by its very definition, seeks to avoid. By virtue of its inherent capability, qualitative research can tackle the complexity of the universal phenomenon of Lebenswelt which at the same time is highly particularised via the Dasein of the researcher and the research subject respectively. In other words, qualitative research has existential pontentiality as its hallmark.

“Hermeneutic phenomenology”, “interpretive phenomenology”

Hermeneutics and phenomenology are described as two related holistic methods currently used in qualitative research in social and health sciences. The two terms are combined in usage – hermeneutic phenomenology or interpretive phenomenology (given that hermeneutics is a Geisteswissenschaft of interpretation) – and researchers who apply them invariably claim that the philosophical foundations of what they do are justified through the ground-breaking works of German philosophers Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer (the latter was a student of the former). 

Time and fore-conception

Hermeneutics is based upon the historicity of Dasein as a being that has its own being as its primary issue. To be historical is to be temporal, i.e., to exist and to project in time. Hence hermeneutic circle necessarily involves the fore-conception (Vorgriff) of time and the temporal, i.e. temporality as such. For ontology to be able to tackle the task of the historicity of being, it needs to first and foremost look at what it means to be temporal. For Heidegger, the clue to this investigation is found in none other than Dasein itself (Heidegger, 2011, Chapter 1).

Dasein, as temporal being (Zeitlichsein), is its factical being-in-the-world – the fore-having in hermeneutic circle. The fore-conception of time in Dasein therefore goes hand in hand with its fore-having in the “worlding” of its being.

Dasein, existing in time, has a unique mode of being that Heidegger calls “Jeweiligkeit”. Through Dasein, the universal passage of time is characterised by the particularity of this or that human Dasein in the facticity of his or her being-there – but not forever. God does not have Dasein. Jeweiligkeit as a mode of being is hence the opposite of God’s eternal being. If existence can only be understood qua being-in-the-world as temporal, then in the phenomenological sense, God does not exist. By this it is meant that the temporal-historical question of existence does not apply or relate to God. In other words, God is something else altogether. Hence the incarnation of God qua Dasein in the form of the historical figure of Jesus Christ is the central tenet of the Christian religion that differentiates it from other faith traditions. In Jesus, God partook in history. In contrast, the indigenous, pre-Christian religions of Europe did not place the divine in history, but in mythology. Mythology is not temporal, even if its indigenous telling, e.g. in the form of sagas (Sagen) in pre-Christian Nordic religion, took place in time qua Dasein and was conditioned by Dasein‘s mortality as being-towards-death (Sein zum Tode). Being indigenous, Nordic paganism could only live through its adherents. If the Nordic Volk dies out, the religion itself ceases to exist, too. (Hence the “folkish” debate is a real question in the revival of Nordic and other forms of European paganism in today’s society.) Christianity, on the other hand, can be resuscitated through its sacred texts even after all Christians have passed away. It is a religion of the book – hence hermeneutics in the sense of the interpretation of sacred texts. Pagan hermeneutics, however, can operate non-textually, such as through oral transmissions, archaeological artefacts and ritual practices, for as long as the Volk of its original adherents continues to exist in unbroken lineages through the generations: it involves the living transmission of the pagan Mitdasein.

 

References

Heidegger, Martin. The concept of time. Translated by Ingo Farin with Alex Skinner. London: Continuum, 2011.

Language as remembrance

Anyone who has studied Heidegger with mindfulness (Besinnung) will appreciate the heroic efforts at which the German philosopher struggled against the forgetting of being (Seinsvergessenheit) in the Western metaphysical tradition.
In his postwar works, Heidegger placed great emphasis on the power of language as a gathering place of what forgetting of being is not, i.e., remembrance of being. Being is retrieved (wiedergeholt) from memory (Gedächtnis) in the uncovering that is the clearing of being (Lichtung des Seins) that language can guide us to, even if the philosophical signposts (Wegweiser) are not readily found in the obscure wooded paths (Holzwege) that have to be travelled in Dasein‘s daily struggle – if mindfulness has been invited into its being with itself and others – against the collective amnesia of the question of being in the “they”, das Man.

Fore-having in hermeneutic circle

Fore-having (Vorhaben), a component of hermeneutic circle, is not given a detailed explanation in Being and time. In Ontology: the hermeneutics of facticity, which is based on a lecture course and lecture notes written by Heidegger in 1923, four years before the publication of Being and time, we get more clues as to what the German philosopher really meant by fore-having. It turns out that fore-having is the factical being-in-the-world of Dasein – factical in that Dasein is there, is a there-being – and hence relates to the “worlding” of Dasein as a non-solipsistic being who is interrelated with others and all that is accessible to its senses in regard to other forms of beings on earth.

The “worlding” of my being as Dasein is my fore-having in hermeneutic circle; understanding and interpretation, the two fundamental aspects and issues of hermeneutics, stem from this facticity. And as Heidegger elucidates in Being and time, the phenomenon of Jemeinigkeit indicates that Dasein is first and foremost mine. This substitutes the vexing problem of “consciousness” in the dualistic schema of traditional metaphysics, which Husserl, the founder of the phenomenological movement, was himself unable to disentangle himself from.

Gnosis in lived experience and formation of articles of religious faith

While thinking about being (Sein) is present and integral to both philosophy and religion – and I include occultism, many forms of which use magic, in the latter -, philosophers do not appeal to faith (Glaube). The religious do; and dependent on which faith they adhere to, non-negotiable statements about their faith which are all shared by the faithful in a particular faith makes religion completely distinct from philosophy (it is in this sense that Buddhism is a religion, not a philosophy). These unalterable statements constitute the beliefs (Glaube) of the faithful (Gläubige).