Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nicolai Hartmann's Theory of the Relation between Being-There and Being-So

The distinguished German philosopher Nicolai Hartmann (1882-1950) investigates the relation between being-there and being-so in the second part of his Zur Grundlegung der Ontologie (1935, Toward the Foundation of Ontology).
      The Grundlegung (the Foundation) is the first of a four-volume series by Hartmann, dealing with ontology. The other volumes of the series are Möglichkeit und Wirklichkeit (1938, Possibility and Actuality), Der Aufbau der realen Welt (1940, The Construction of the Real World), and Philosophie der Natur (1950, Philosophy of Nature). Möglichkeit und Wirklichkeit is the only one of these volumes that has, as of 2013, been translated into, and published in, English.
      The Grundlegung is divided into four parts: (1) Vom Seinenden als Seienden überhaupt (Of "That Which Is" as "That Which Is," in General), (2) Das Verhältnis von Dasein und Sosein (The Relation between Being-There and Being-so), (3) Die Gegebenheit des realen Seins (The Givenness of Real Being), and (4) Problem und Stellung des idealen Seins (The Problem and Position of Ideal Being).
      Hartmann distinguishes between ways of being, modes of being, and aspects of being. Ways of being (Seinsweisen) include ideality and reality. Modes of being (Seinsmodi) include actuality, possibility, and necessity (and their negative counterparts, nonactuality, impossibility, and contingency). Aspects of being (Seinsmomenten) include being-so (Sosein) and being-there (Dasein).
      Hartmann also distinguishes between being and “that which is,” and thus between the ontological and ontic dimensions of philosophical inquiry. The difference between being (Sein) and “that which is” (Seiende) corresponds to the difference between truth and the true, actuality and the actual, reality and the real. The being of “that which is” may have many different particularizations of its way of being.1
      The distinction between being and "that which is" also corresponds to the distinction between being-there and "that which is there" (Daseiende), and between being-so and "that which is so" (Soseiende). 
      The central question with which ontology is concerned, “What is being qua being?” cannot therefore be confronted without also confronting the question, “What is ‘that which is’ qua ‘that which is’?”      
      In all of “that which is,” there are aspects of being-there and being-so.2 Being-there and being-so are interconnected and mutually complementary aspects of being. There is no being-there without being-so, and no being-so without being-there.3
      The being-there of “that which is” is constituted by the fact “that it is,” while the being-so of “that which is” is constituted by “what it is,” i.e. by its quiddity. Thus, being-there is the “that,” and being-so is the “what” of “that which is.”
      There is also being-there in being-so, and being-so in being-there. Being-there “in” something is the particular form of being-there of all being-so, while being-so is the being-there of something “in” something. However, being-there and being-so are not substances in which “that which is” inheres; rather, they are aspects or "moments" of being.4
      Being-there and being-so are indifferent to each other, insofar as it makes no difference to being-there whether being-so turns out in one way or another, and insofar it makes no difference to being-so whether being-there turns out in one way or another.5 However, being-there and being-so are not indifferent to each other, insofar as they are aspects of the same particular being and therefore share the same (ideal or real) way of being. Real being-there is always that of a real being-so, and real being-so is always that of a real being-there.6 Being-there and being-so can be indifferent to each other only if they belong to different ontological spheres, i.e. if being-so belongs to the ideal sphere and being-there belongs to the real sphere, or vice versa.
      Hartmann explains that the epistemological basis of the (misleading) appearance of separation between being-there and being-so is that real being-so may be a priori or a posteriori knowable, while real being-there is only a posteriori knowable. Thus, the boundary between aprioristic and aposterioristic knowledge does not correspond to the (apparent) boundary between being-there and being-so. From real being-so, aprioristic as well as aposterioristic knowledge is possible, while from real being-there, only aposterioristic knowledge is possible. Conversely, aposterioristic knowledge is possible from the being-so, as well as from the being-there, of “that which is,” while aprioristic knowledge is possible only from the being-so of “that which is.”7
      Aprioristic and aposterioristic sources of knowledge are also ways of givenness of “that which is.”8 Thus, there is a threefold superimposition of, or boundary relation between, (1) ways of givenness (aprioristic or aposterioristic) (2) ways of being (ideal or real), and (3) moments of being (being-there or being-so). Aprioristic knowledge is possible from ideal being-so, from ideal being-there, and from real being-so. Aposterioristic knowledge is possible from real being-so, and from real being-there. Real being-there can only be an object of aposterioristic knowledge. Ideal being (ideal being-so and ideal being-there) can only be an object of aprioristic knowledge.9


1Nicolai Hartmann, Zur Grundlegung der Ontologie, Second Edition (Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1941), pp. 40-41.
2Ibid., p. 92.
3Ibid., p. 128.
4Ibid., p. 134.
5Ibid., p. 112.
6Ibid., p. 114.
7Ibid., pp. 144-145.
8Ibid., p. 145.
9Ibid., p. 148.

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