PHIL-521 Being & Time
Fall for 2017-2018
Gadamer described the effect of the publication in 1927 of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time: “it fell like a bombshell upon Europe.” Being and Time is indeed one of the most influential contributions to philosophy of the 20th century. In this course we will proceed systematically through Being and Time, seeking to understand Heidegger’s basic moves, his motivations, and the implications of his views for our philosophical concerns.
Because both the text is so difficult and this seminar will proceed at a graduate level, we will not be able to work through the entire book. We will at most make it through to §64 – the last section before Heidegger dives into the topic of “originary temporality.” We will, moreover, have to skip various bits along the way.
We will pay special attention to Heidegger’s attempt to overturn the subjectivistic tradition in modern philosophy and reconceive human life as “being-in-the-world.” Although we will discuss Heidegger's general conception of ontology – the first chapter of the introduction to B&T is about ontology – we will focus on his proposed revision of the ontology of “Dasein” (his technical term referring to human beings) and its philosophical implications. According to his account, a fundamental “familiarity with the world” is more basic than cognition or knowledge. We understand the world primarily through our skills and abilities for going about our business in the world, rather than through a stock of knowledge or an implicit theory. Division I of Being and Time develops this vision and explores some of its implications for traditional philosophical problems, such as skepticism, the nature of truth, realism/idealism, and the relation between common sense and science.
Division II of Being and Time turns to some of the classical existentialist themes for which the treatise is known: his reconception of death, guilt, and conscience so as to generate a vision of resoluteness or authenticity that serves as the ideal he offers for human life. It is not exactly a moral vision, since moral considerations are decidedly secondary within it. In fact, Heidegger claims that authenticity is more fundamental than morality because a condition for the possibility of it. We will have to move through these parts of the text a little more quickly than is ideal, but we shall not forsake them!
Enrollment is restricted to grad students in the Philosophy Department. I will consider requests from grad students in other departments or at Consortium universities on a piecemeal basis.
Required work: three 2,000 word papers spaced roughly equally throughout the term. For students with more background in Heidegger, I will permit (but not require) the final two papers to be combined into a single 4,000 word paper due at the end of term.
Prerequisites: Permission of instructor and department chair.
Other academic years
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