Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On the Essence of Truth--The Ground of the Possibility of Correctness

3. The Ground of the Possibility of Correctness
Heidegger next asks the question: “How can something like the accomplishment of a pregiven directedness [i.e. comportment] occur?” The answer lies in freedom: “To free oneself for a binding directedness is possible only by being free for what is opened up in an open region... The essence of truth is freedom.” This is a notion of freedom that has thus far been “uncomprehended” in the history of philosophy; most discussion of freedom is spoken of in terms of ‘freedom from’ (or ‘negative freedom’), leaving us with the question of what is freedom for (‘positive freedom’)? For Heidegger, this means that existential freedom is an ubiquitous but ‘unthought’ ontological assumption within philosophy. As an existential ground for truth, freedom in this sense must be present in every truthful utterance or proposition. But Heidegger is not claiming that freedom is “an unconstrained act” of giving or receiving a proposition, as if freedom were restricted to such actions. Rather, “freedom is the essence of truth”; just as comportment grounds the possibility of accordance, freedom is the ground for the possibility of comportment. Hence, “essence” means “the ground of the inner possibility of what is initially and generally admitted as known [i.e. correctness].”

Does Heidegger mean that truth is merely a subjective whim based on “human caprice”? [124] It appears as if truth has been “driven back to the subjectivity of the human subject,” losing its connection with the world. This possibility is strengthened when we readily admit that all sorts of falsehood--“deceit and dissimulation, lies and deception, illusion and semblance”--are attributable to humans. Previously, though, we defined truth in relation to accordance, so referencing the human basis of error seems irrelevant: “This human origin of untruth indeed only serves to confirm by contrast the essence of truth ‘in itself’ as holding sway ‘beyond’ man,” perhaps in some “imperishable and eternal” world. Truth seems to exist in some extra-human world, perhaps in the intellectus divinus or, as more recent theorists propose, in independently existing propositions/universals. But this resistance to freedom as the essence of truth “is based on preconceptions, the most obstinate of which is that freedom is a property of man.” Since “[e]veryone knows what man is,” any further questioning seems unnecessary. Here we see the same roadblocks that we had in relation to truth: stubborn “common sense” and an indifference to the question.

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Blogger Clark Goble said...

It seems to me that while Heidegger often does speak of truth and freedom in connection with humans that he also, especially in his latter works, goes the other direction. I think that the problem one faces in analyzing both truth and freedom is that both concepts are so wrapped up in the notion of an inner and outer that was introduced with Descartes. Heidegger wishes to move beyond that. So freedom can't be seen as either subjective or objective in the traditional senses of that term.

This, of course, is what leads many analytic philosophers to misunderstand and still try to force Heidegger into those traditional categories. (The same thing happens, unfortunately, with pragmatists like Peirce or Dewey)

4:14 PM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...

Within Heidegger's later philosophy, the notion of the opening (which man is) is important for two reasons: first, for man's 'creating a space' wherein being can enter and show itself as it is (freedom); second, a notion of being as physis in the sense of "upsurgent presence" ("On the Essence of Truth," 126). The opening that is man (through Ereignis) is empty and meaningless (a void) without being 'flowing' into that opening; to speak of a man that does not essentially belong to being and hence is in a world is meaningless (his argument against Descartes and Husserl's reduction). But similarly being is the primordially "ununcovered" (the "mystery") without the opening in which it can appear; not that it doesn't exist, but it cannot be spoken of without uncovering it within a space/world. Heidegger mentions this in the next section (which is almost ready for posting).

8:28 AM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

One should add that this sense of man is something Ricouer spent a lot of time analyzing and pushing beyond where Heidegger went, albeit via a return to the concept of self rather than a focus on Being.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Kevin Winters said...

Did you have a particular work in mind, like Oneself as Another? I wouldn't mind some further thoughts on that as I still haven't been able to get through it (though I love his Conflict of Interpretations).

10:55 PM  
Blogger Clark Goble said...

It's pretty much throughout all his works but especially his stuff after more or less being forced out of France which of course culminated in Oneself as Another. But you can find it in his earlier work, especially his stuff on symbols such as in The Symbolism of Evil. I think that Ricouer really saw this implication of the notion of Dasein as being very important.

I may blog a bit on it as I've been reading Imagination and Chance which is a comparison of Ricouer and Derrida. As you may know Ricouer was kind of Derrida's mentor but they then went very different ways over the role of metaphor writing what Ricouer described as "polemics" about each others positions. They end up with very different conceptions of signs and therefore hermeneutics and phenomenology despite many strong similarities.

11:45 AM  

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