Continental Philosophy

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Lecture 2 - Martin Heidegger - What is the Meaning of Being?

Last week we looked at some of the core elements of Husserl’s phenomenological method: natural attitude, bracketing (epoché), reduction and intentionality. The last concept, intentionality, was the one I said was of the most significance for Martin Heidegger. Intentionality, Husserl’s idea that all consciousness is consciousness of something, became for Heidegger an insight of the first importance. This was because Heidegger saw the ‘worldliness’ of thought, consciousness, as of the utmost significance. What philosophy really needs to do, is not to focus on subjects and objects, but to make sense of the human being’s place in the world, or our being-in-the-world. There is a reversal at stake here. In many ways, Heidegger’s masterwork Being and Time is a 20th Century reflection on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Heidegger is interested in understanding philosophy in a practical sense rather than a purely theoretically (theoria and phronesis). Although this distinction is never clear cut, for reasons we will go into, Heidegger wants to understand what the human being is, and to do this we need to tackle that question from the perspective of human’s practical everydayness. And this means we need to ask ourselves what he means by the term ‘Being.’


These lectures are brought to you by Staffordshire University's Philosophy team. Come study on our MA in Continental Philosophy via this link. Or, join our MA in Philosophy of Nature, Information and Technology via this link. Find out more about me here.


More Episodes

2/17/2023

Henri Bergson on Creative Evolution

In Henri Bergson’s bestselling 1907 book Creative Evolution (Évolution créatrice in French), Bergson attempts to make his theory of duration speak to evolutionary science. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution would seem to be diametrically opposed to what we have heard of Bergson to date. Evolution has space and environment emphasised over time, we see deep, long, quantified time emphasised over duration, and we see emphasis on external material determinants rather than inner purposiveness. Bergson though thinks that this basic Darwinian picture is somewhat lacking and needs to be supplemented with a philosophical theory. And that is what Creative Evolution is, it is a philosophical theory which makes material evolution intelligible. Creative Evolution itself then – and these are the themes I turn to in this lecture – offers a fortified theory of evolution, where what Bergson calls finalist and teleological forms of life are consolidated with a Bergson’s own theory of futural direction. As well, Bergson suggests evolution requires a theory of the unconditioned (free) emergence of organisms. And finally, Bergson wants to challenge our picture of evolutionary development. We typically take the development and change of matter to be ordered, quantitative and measured over time. Bergson thinks in doing so, we conceal the necessity of disorder and contingency for the emergence of life. Bergson’s idea is that, free, and unpredictable creativity is a necessary condition of evolutionary change. So, to be clear, Bergson on this own terms, is not repudiating evolutionary change he is perfecting it.
2/11/2023

Henri Bergson on Matter and Memory

In the last lecture I spoke about Bergson’s radical distinction between space and time, quality and quantity, duration, and extension. In another of Bergson’s major works Matter and Memory Bergson builds on the insights of his earlier work, this time in the context of memory. Now, when we think of memory, usually we consider it to be a psychological concept. It is a type of thinking located in the mind pertaining in some way to a retrieval of the past. Bergson thinks this is true, but only tells a very small part of the story. In fact, Bergson actually thinks that memory, and the way it works is indicative of something much deeper, broader, and metaphysically more interesting. So, Matter and Memory offers us an exploration of how the relationship between time, matter and memory unfolds. More specifically, Matter and Memory offers fresh and detailed descriptions of different types of memory. For example, Bergson talks about the function of body memory or habitual and muscle memory. As well, he talks of things like episodic memory, processual and memory-image. In this lecture, I aim to explain the ways Bergson’s account of memory maps onto his theory of duration. Doing so will allow me to explain how he conceives of the operation of memory, how Bergson thinks the mind relates to the body, and how conscious memory relate to unconscious bodily memory in the form of habit. But also, how the mind is always more than just mind!