Notes on ‘Why is Being not a being’ in Heidegger’s Being and Time argument?

May 26 2020

Notes on Why is Being not a being? Good Question.

[My responses to this question from discussion of Heidegger Being and Time reading group on Continental Philosophy discord server. See]

Being as an Entity is God, i.e. the supreme entity that creates all others in the Western tradition. God as the Supreme Being is the subject of what Heidegger calls OntoTheology which a way of summarizing the Western tradition which says you cannot separate Ontology and Theology in the Western tradition. God is Transcendent and is Being as Transcendent. It was Plotinus that said that the One was beyond Being, i.e., that there is an Absolute beyond Being. This of course raises the specter that God as Supreme Being is something lower than the Absolute and this in fact is the Duality of the Divine in Gnosticism. Heidegger does not consider Being as a being because that would make his work Theology rather than Ontology. This is the confusion that Spinoza embraced when he thought that the Universe was God. Spinoza identified the Supreme Being and the Cosmic oneness and thus embraced Pantheism. One way to solve this kind of problem is to distinguish the Absolute from God in the sense of Supreme Being who might be identified with the Kosmos. It was a way to create a rational picture of God and to avoid the pitfall of trinitarianism and the whole problem of the fundamental vagueness and unscientific nature of the Bible. The Absolute in a way is the dual of Dasein. The absolute is a way to avoid the problem of Spinoza of confusing the Kosmos as Creation the Creator. The absolute is the focus of negative theology which says we can only say what God is not, not what God is, so God is absolutely transcendent. Not relative to other “persons” or avatars within the trinity, not relative to its creation. What God would have been on his own before creation of the Kosmos. The absolute is a way to get rid of the dualities of theology, like Creation/Created that was the pitfall that Spinoza wanted to overcome by just identifying them. Dasein is a way of getting over the duality between Subject and Object that was a problem for Husserl.

Ok, I will try again. I would argue that Being is not a universal as presupposed by Heideggrer in B&T and by the Western tradition in general. Being is only in Indo-European Languages. People who would distinguish Being from beings, i.e. uphold Ontological Difference, are assuming it is a Universal as well as Abstract for the most part and that beings is neither particular or concrete. But if it is not universal that means there are other Standings, or instance existence (Wujud) which are in various varieties as existentials in other languages that are not Indo-European. But this also implies that there is a Genus of Standings which are differentiated into different species of Standings like Existence and Being and perhaps others. This has bearing on you question. Because a basic assumption of Fundamental Ontology is that not only is a being different from Being (Big B) but also Being is a universal, and is abstract rather than concrete and particular. And this does not even touch the assumption that we are using a Set-like frame rather than masses to understand Being. In India they use pervasion logic and for them Being is a mass like the Sea in which there are instances of beings within it. And that is why Emptiness which is the denial of Being is also seen as pervasive cancelling out ‘Sat’ with the fundamental denial of Being. If you extend beyond the Western worldview our vision of the place of Being within the Western worldview then we start seeing that Being has limitations not contemplated by Heidegger in B&T and which makes us think perhaps it is more like an abstract entity than or at least like a generalization that has exceptions. But in fact from a linguistic point of view Being itself is an exception among languages.

Existentials are the Rule in languages and Being is the exception only appearing as a standing in Indo-European languages. But at most this makes Being a Generalization or an Abstraction not concrete as either a particular nor an instance.

But you are jumping ahead because Heidegger himself questions whether ontological difference holds in his Contributions. Beyng is considered Onefold, Strange and Unique. In it Ontological difference breaks down and there is no entity nor either the normal abstraction or generalization.

Heidegger himself questions whether Being is a being, and eventually decides that just like he had to get rid of the duality between Subject and Object with Dasein he also has to get rid of the duality between Being and being.

But no where would Heidegger say that Being is a being because that is tantamount to saying that this being is God in Ontotheology, ah but that is what the avatar of Christ is, oops.

The position that you are giving here that Being is a being is what Plato in the Sophist calls the Men of Earth who only believe in what is in their hands, they are the uninitiated. The initiated are either those like Heraclitus initiated into the lesser mysteries believe in the unseen and think it is flowing. Those initiated into the greater mysteries are like Parmenides or Zeno and believe in the unseen and think it is static. The Sophist is the Hierophant who says we need change and changelessness at the same time, which is supra-rational and is like the WorldSoul which is a moving image of Eternity in time. The Hierophant knows about the fact that there is a third kind of Being as Plato says in the Timaeus (Chora, receptacle) which is like the DifferAnce of Derrida, i.e. differing and deferring. What we will find out as we go along is that there are Meta-levels of Being and present-at-hand and ready-to-hand are only the first two of these meta-levels and Fundamental Ontology in Continental Philosophy has identified several others of which the third is what Plato recognized and Derrida focused on in his Philosophy and which Heidegger called Being (crossed out).

To me these arguments are moot because Being itself is paradoxical, if not the ultimate paradox in the Western worldview, so any argument about the status of Being differentiated from beings is going to be inherently contradictory. That is why I said it was an aporia. And that is why Russell’s Ramified Higher Logical Type Theory is the way to reveal the Meta-levels of Being which are classes or kinds of Being which are in fact discovered by Continental Philosophy and the beginning of that is Heidegger’s distinction between Pure Being (present-at-hand, nb. Parmenides) and Process Becoming in Action (ready-to-hand, nb. Heraclitus). This is my own nomenclature and interpretation. But it disarms analytical philosophy type arguments because it admits from the outset that this Metaphysical Principle of Being is itself ultimately paradoxical if not absurd, and in fact it goes to the extreme of being intrinsically impossible to make this distinction which Heidegger admits in Contributions when he defines Beyng violating Ontological Difference himself. Russell’s Higher Logical Type Theory was meant to deal with Paradoxes and so we can apply it to Being generating categories and types in a ramified hierarchy. But it turns out this is finite rather than infinite as Heidegger feared when he discovered Being crossed out (Hyper Being). But Godel shows that in spite of this compartmentation it was impossible to prevent contamination in Formal Systems and so basically everyone gave up and resorted to Simple Types. More recently mass-like topological factors have entered the universe of discourse of type theory establishing Homotopy Type Theory based on the Univalence conjecture. In terms of Analytical Philosophy a similar move to that of Heidegger by an Analytical Philosopher is Puntel, Lorenz B. Structure and Being: A Theoretical Framework for a Systematic Philosophy. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 2013.

But you bring up a good point for the whole group to discuss. Heidegger would say that you cannot even frame your question without pre-ontological understanding of Being by dasein.

The fact that you are framing your question shows that Being is an issue for you, and thus that you are a dasein from Heidegger’s point of view as we shall see.

I thought of another possible answer to your question which I agree that Heidegger does not answer, but only assumes as we shall see, i.e. that Being is different from beings. This question of Being becomes pressing if you read Formal and Transcendental Logic by Husserl because he does not explain where Being comes from in S is P within logic. This book came later than Being and Time I believe (1929). But Heidegger could have known it is was in the works. Its effective silence on what is Being raises the question implicitly about the nature of Being as connector between S and P. But the point is that To Be is a verb. The noun Being is derived from the verb. The noun is a reification nominalized verb from To Be. Thus when we say that S is P, the S here would be a being, i.e. a reified substantiated product of a grammatical operation. that turns the To Be into a noun that is a signifier indicative of Being. and we can see that as Being is a being, i.e. Being appears as a being. Or we could say beings are Being, reversing the proposition.

Either way we are substituting beings and Being into the propositional form with the unexplained IS mediating between them as a verb. But we can also just say Being is in the form of beings. or beings are in the midst of Being (as world) embodying Being in concrete form as instances or particulars or entities of some other nature. The upshot of all this is that the difference between Being and beings is Logical and Grammatical. But fundamentally Being is a verb to be and it is the verbal form that is different from the beings or the Being as reified generality, or supposed universal, or as abstraction against the background of the concrete. Being is different from beings as mediated by the verb To Be within the proposition. And from this point of view if we take Set theory as our model then Being is like the Set of All sets and beings are like the various elements that can be in the set and the is is some version of membership, a rarified kind of having. Note in Indo-European languages the roots for both Being and Having are the most fragmented. So there is some kind of internal relation between Being and Having in Indo-European languages. This is to say that possession of private property and the perpetuity of ownership fi simple is claimed to be eternal, i.e. perduring forever and this relation is inscribed at the core of the worldview as Natural Law of Mine and Yours as Kant says.

Or if we take Mass theory as our basis (as in Geometry and Topology) then Being is the mass and beings are the instances, and Being pervades the beings via the To Be that mediates. The key is that the Being and beings or S and P are reifications of the To Be that mediates. Set with its membership function can be seen to be on the side of Having. And that would suggest that Being and beings as Mass and Instance are on the side of Being originally. And this is emphasized by the fact that in India they used Pervasion logics primarily rather than Syllogistic logic in Greece and Europe. So you get Paradox on the Being has beings or a being has Being side. But on the To Be side of the duality you have pervasion which is known in Greece as participation in one direction and ousia in the other relating essences to attributes.

This would explain why there is the internal relation between Being and Having in Indo-European languages because it relates to the Set/Mass divide. And if that is the case then really we should be considering pervasion logics rather than syllogisms. Pervasion logics are basically Venn diagrams. It means that beings are instances of the mass of Being. And this explains where ousia and participation come from in Plato as the description of essences mediating ideal forms and copies. And this turns into the answer that beings are the copy and the ideal form is Being, and that the being participates in Being while the being embodies Being through ousia in the other direction. And this suggests that the To Be of the proposition is the essence that mediates forms and copies. Form in this case is a Mass and copy in this case is an instance with a pervasion relation between them. And this would imply that Being is a being by a pervasion relation, but if we switch to having then we get the paradoxes of Set theory. So just like the difference between Category Theory and Set Theory. Category Theory does not generate paradoxes. So to Being as Mass does not generate paradox but instead gives essences.

This argument will need to be fleshed out and inspected for coherence. But it basically says that the idea that Being is really a being is a fallacy of misplaced concreteness. The real Being is the To Be between S and P in the statement *S is P *and not the reifications of Being and beings that fill in the variables S and P which are reifications from nominalization of the verb. But it also says that we need to go outside the set-like prejudice of our worldview and realize that paradox comes from that set like presupposition and that the underlying basis of Being is mass, and that is precisely what appears in internal relations between properties within a substance that defines an essence.

This argument explains why there is the difference between the internal relations that are pervasive and the set like differences between different beings within the world that are different substances. This has from the very beginning thrown philosophers for a loop within the Western tradition. It explains where the Essence comes from that mediates between the forms and copies and why there are relations between ousia and participation between forms and copies. And it explains why Being and beings are not the real issue, it is really the connecting To Be within S is P that is the key and this is what Heidegger calls the ecstasy of existence, i.e. the projection of P onto S, i.e. attributes onto substance, predicate onto subject. In other words, this theory explains a few things that otherwise would remain without explanation within our tradition. 







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