Horizon in hermeneutics

In hermeneutics, there is no God’s point of view, but only a relative perspective determined by a spatially and temporally determined horizon in the being-towards-death of Dasein. Transcendence, in hermeneutic understanding, does not imply absence of a horizon, but Dasein‘s existential ecstasis in what Heidegger in Contributions to philosophy calls “time-space”, implying the primacy of time. Horizon, in turn, implies the essential truth of interpretation in the mode of being that is called Dasein, that each and everyone of us is, even before we are aware of ourselves as existents called humans, which distinguishes us from all other living things on earth. This means that in hermeneutics pure and simple, it does not matter whether we are humans, angels or demons, or even the linguistically indeterminate gavagai; we are first and foremost horizonally determined Dasein.

Hermeneutics as pointing

In Parmenides, Heidegger muses on the ancient Greek experience of daimonion as the pointing to by the uncanny to that region of being that escapes the ordinary – in the language of fundamental ontology of Being and time, it is the authenticity of being that escapes the everyday, the “they” as the one and the everyone, the idle gossip: the fallenness of inattentive being in its forgetfulness of being (Seinsvergessenheit). 

In my PhD thesis, The fourfold of the “godding”, I argue that hermeneutics, if we are to respect the authenticity of the original Greek understanding of being, is none other than daimonion itself. As daimonion, hermeneutics takes us beyond the signification of the ordinary to a whole new level of understanding, hence of saying and experiencing, that illuminates our mind: indeed Heidegger, in Parmenides, mentions, but with a curious restraint, as if mindful of a dangerous slippage in philosophical language, that the Greeks experienced daimonion as shining. Through shining, being is illuminated; only then is there a true understanding of being, because ontological difference between being and beings has already taught us that being cannot be grasped merely as this or that being. Socrates famously confessed that he could not do philosophy without daimonion, despite the fact that it is not founded upon reason, when philosophy itself is built upon reasoning. In other words, philosophy is primordial to something other than itself. 

By bringing hermeneutics into the rational (academic) program of qualitative studies in nursing, which in essence surpasses the rationalism of metaphysics by taking as its subject matter the lived experience of Dasein, what is being pointed to? 

Ousia as an ontological problematic

The life goal of Heidegger’s works is to free our thinking (Denken), in thinking about being (Sein) and beings (Seiende) and the hermeneutic space in the ontological difference between the two different understandings of being (Sein), from the illusions of ousia in Greek metaphysical thinking about being (Sein). In other words, by reading Heidegger and trying to understand him, the German philosopher appeared to promise us a philosophical freedom that before him was unknown in the history of Western philosophy. Dasein, as the embodied place and time of understanding of being (Seinsverständnis), becomes synonymous with freedom and liberation in its potentiality-of-being (Seinkönnen).

In nursing, given that care (Sorge) about being (Sein) is primordial to the humane and professional care (Pflege) that it provides to the sick and the suffering, the question of being (Seinsfrage) enters into the everyday discourse and practice of a nurse’s work. Hermeneutically speaking, this is potentially existentially liberating for both the nurse and the patient, if the Gadamerian notion of the fusion of horizons in mutual understanding of each other’s Dasein is attained in the ecstasis of time in the hermeneutic circle.

Is the question of freedom, namely in the form of liberation of understanding of being, consciously included in the methodology of “qualitative” studies in nursing that are becoming a research paradigm in its own right? Is not this liberation then, without avoiding philosophical controversy in nursing theory, opposed to the metaphysics of ousia, manifest today as the positivism in the substantialist reduction of being? 

Lethe and aletheia in occultism

While thinking – reflection as well as contemplation – 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) or the belief system of the faithful (Gläubige).

What distinguishes religion from philosophy is that the former cannot exist without distinct sets of practices, most of which can come under the category of ritual. Others relate to charity, such as the performance of good deeds in society to help the poor, the sick and the oppressed. Religions that involve magic in their beliefs and rituals can be said to have an occult dimension – the truth of magic is hidden from public view. Occultism, while leading to aletheia in personal as well as group experiences, is to the common perception lethe; and this serves a protective role, given that practitioners of magic are usually misunderstood in society and were even persecuted in various periods of history.

Lethe provides a favourable environment for personal involvement and commitment as a neophyte. In occultism, not only is magic to be learnt and harnessed, the neophyte and his or her teacher also have the high expectation of attainment of gnosis in the former, so that spiritual progress can be made in a particular occult system. Even more so than magical prowess, it is gnosis that makes an occultist truly special, who will in fact experience it as the apex of his or her Dasein.

Mayer (2013):

Because the adherents of modern paganism try to fill gaps in their reconstructions of traditional religions with their personal (or shared) religious experiences, the concept of UPG actually permits the creation of fragments of new religious dogma out of EE.

Spirituality in nursing: patients who are occultists

Using hermeneutics, the holism of the person in the patient is what the hermeneutically-aware nurse has in mind in the care (Pflege) that she provides – nursing care being one form of existential care (Sorge) highlighted by Heidegger in Being and time as the determination of Dasein‘s temporal thrownness (Geworfenheit) in being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein). Sorge being primordial to Pflege, it is not surprising that when it comes to the wholeness of a patient under her care (Pflege), especially in the case of palliative care where something very personal such as the spirituality of the patient in his or her nearness to death becomes the main question of being (Seinsfrage) in palliative hermeneutics, the phenomenological interplay between the hidden and the unconcealed comes to the fore of the mutual experience of the nurse and the patient. 

This hermeneutic situation is particularly challenging when a patient is an occultist who does not follow any of the mainstream religions represented in hospital chaplaincy. Given the highly personal nature of death – Heidegger describes death as the true individuation of Dasein in Being and time, integral to the authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) of its being -, it behoves nurses to understand and appreciate alternative spirituality such as occultism. The occult, in essence, is the hidden, and challenges the assumption of aletheia in our everyday comportment to the world. The occultist believes that he or she lives with hidden forces that can be controlled to a certain extent through magic, which, apart from its arcane knowledge and practice, also places great emphasis on the will power of its practitioner. 


Of darkness within

Why in mainstream religious and spiritual traditions, dwelling within entails bathing one’s soul in light? A world-weary soul wants nothing more than sleep; and sleep can take place in the dark – the absence of light. Yet this absence is not the absence of being (Sein) as such.

The hidden, or the darkness within

If being (Sein) reveals its truth by way of aletheia or disclosure of phenomena, i.e., the visible world, then the light that makes the being of beings (Seiende) accessible to human perception also needs the contrast of its opposite: the lethe or hiddenness of darkness. The light and the dark both make up the measure of being: a notion that was once best understood by the ancient Greeks, who for them even the gods existed within this measure (metra), and like the mortals, fate was allotted to them.



Heidegger and Heraclitus

When Heraclitus states that individuals have their own understandings even if through their being they are in fact participating in divine logos, which operates on a cosmic scale, Heidegger, as a keen reader of the elusive sayings of this pre-Socratic philosopher of Ephesus, must have found a genuine affinity with his own reflections on the meaning of being (Sein). Translated into the terminology of fundamental ontology in Being and time, Heraclitus is effectively saying that the understanding of being (Seinsverständnis), which is essential to the phenomenon of understanding, can only take place as Dasein. Beyond Dasein, being (Sein) becomes the ineffable and cannot be understood. Perplexity takes the place of understanding; perhaps also awe; and wonder. Dasein, in its authenticity, is circumspect about its own finitude – which is temporalised as being-towards-death (Sein zum Tode).

Heraclitus goes as far as saying that there is no difference between life and death, for both are but transmutations of the one and the all. In metaphysics, the all-encompassing is being (Sein) itself. Being is being, but gathers different beings (Seiende): as Heraclitus puts it, the name of the river is the same, but its water is not. Heidegger’s discovery of the ontic-ontological distinction in his notion of the ontological difference in Being and time is essentially founded upon a Heraclitean inspiration.

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).



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.

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.