II. Being and Time: Disinterested Knowledge | Heidegger

Heidegger critiques the concept of disinterested knowledge, the idea that one can retreat from the world in order to quietly deliberate in isolation to discover the true Being of being. In fact, Heidegger argues, the detached, reflective stance is derivative in character.

Traditional representationalist framework: perceive perspectives –> synthesize perspectives into objects –> assign objects a function on the basis of their physical properties. Manipulate tools that already have a meaning in the world which is itself organized in terms of purposes. Theory is prior to practice.

Heidegger: “This is the way in which everyday Dasein always is: when I open a door, for instance, I used a doorknob. The achieving of phenomenological access to the beings which we encounter, consists rather in thrusting aside our interpretive tendencies, which keep thrusting themselves upon us…and which conceal not only the phenomenon of such ‘concern,’ but even more those beings themselves as encountered of their own accord in our concern with them” (H 96).  Rather than an interpretive act, it’s a habituated practice in which we engage.

Merely staring at things or just contemplating the tools and equipment that we use/manipulate does not get us any closer to being. “Heidegger thus inverts the tradition and sees detached contemplation as a private modification of everyday involvement” (47). Contra the traditional view of practice which assumes that action must be explained in terms of beliefs and desires, Heidegger denies that intentionality is mental. Instead, Heidegger uses the term “comportment which has the structure of directing-oneself-toward. Comportment refers to our directed activity without mentalist overtones. The mental, Heidegger argues, is a construction of the theorist rather than a true description of the phenomenological. Comportment or intentionality is characteristic not of consciousness but of Dasein.

Heidegger will go on to show that:

  1. “intentionality without self-referential mental content is characteristic of the unimpeded mode of Dasein’s everyday activity, whereas mental-state intentionality is a derivative mode.
  2. both these modes of directedness (ontic transcendence) presuppose being-in-the-world, a more originary transcendence” (59).
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