Waggish

Information

This article was written on 09 Apr 2012, and is filed under Quotations.

Current post is tagged

, , , , ,

Related posts

No related posts.

Gilbert Ryle on Heidegger’s Being and Time

Arch-analytic Gilbert “Category Mistake” Ryle reviewed Heidegger’s Being and Time sympathetically on its publication in 1928. It is a beautifully clear statement of the methodological parting of the ways that was then taking place. The philosophical concerns, however, are similar, as are their attempts to get away from subjective psychology.

I’ve excerpted the best bits as well as his punchy conclusion.

This is a very difficult and important work, which marks a big advance in the application of the ‘Phenomenological Method’—though I may say at once that I suspect that this advance is an advance towards disaster.

[Heidegger contends that traditional ontological categories] cannot supply the terms in which we are to unpack the Meanings for which we are looking, for they are at least under suspicion of being metaphorical. Phenomenology is Hermeneutic and the categories which are the untested framework of our everyday world are among its primary interpretanda.

As a practical consequence of this view Heidegger imposes on himself the hard task of coining, and on us the alarming task of understanding, a complete new vocabulary of terms—mostly many-barrelled compounds of everyday ‘nursery’ words and phrases—made to denote roots and stems of Meaning more primitive than those in which Plato, Aristotle and subsequent scientists and philosophers have so taught us to talk and think, that we, by the strong force of habit, have come to regard as ultimate and pivotal ideas which are in fact composite and derivative. Heidegger’s ontological Phenomenology is to turn our eyes back again to contemplate with a new method and a new clarity the springs of Meaning from which flow our most familiar and most ‘homely’ conceptions and classifications. The principle on which he seems to be designing his new terminology is, I should judge, the hypothesis that certain ‘nursery’ words and phrases have a primitiveness and freedom from sophistication which makes them more nearly adequate expressions of really primitive Meanings than the technical terms which science and philosophy in the course of a long development have established.

The hypothesis seems to me a perilous one, for it is at least arguable that it is here, and not in the language of the village and the nursery, that mankind has made a partial escape from metaphor.

(I must leave till later my further and fundamental objection that all these so-called ‘primitive’ attitudes or ways of ‘being-an-I’ really involve knowledge, which knowledge necessitates universals and categories upon which the Analysis of Dasein throws—and can throw—no light at all.)

And this leads to dangerous results in the practice of the phenomenological method; it leads to them here in Sein und Zeit. For the presence of knowledge of some reality (which is surely present in any and every conscious experience) though it is not explicitly recognised is surreptitiously imported as well into such terms as ‘understanding’ and ‘illumination’ as into the countless nursery-terms which Heidegger is trying to build up into a new philosophical vocabulary.

I think, too, that it can be shown that the only reason why Heidegger’s Hermeneutic of ‘Dasein’ takes or promises to take the form of a sort of anthropologistic Metaphysic (smelling a little oddly both of James and of St Augustine) is because Heidegger presupposes that the Meanings which his Hermeneutic is to unravel and illuminate must be in some way man-constituted.

But though I deplore the damage wrought upon his Metaphysics by the presuppositions which Heidegger has unconsciously inherited, I have nothing but admiration for his special undertaking and for such of his achievements in it as I can follow, namely the phenomenological analysis of the root workings of the human soul.

He shows himself to be a thinker of real importance by the immense subtlety and searchingness of his examination of consciousness, by the boldness and originality of his methods and conclusions, and by the unflagging energy with which he tries to think behind the stock categories of orthodox philosophy and psychology.

And I must also say, in his behalf, that while it is my personal opinion that qua First Philosophy Phenomenology is at present heading for bankruptcy and disaster and will end either in self-ruinous Subjectivism or in a windy mysticism, I hazard this opinion with humility and with reservations since I am well aware how far I have fallen short of understanding this difficult work.

Sein und Zeit, it is worth mentioning, is most beautifully printed and the pages have generous margins.

Gilbert Ryle, “Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit” (1928)

In his essay, “Analyzing Heidegger: a history of analytic reactions to Heidegger,” Lee Braver has also remarked on the value of this review, complimenting Ryle’s sympathy toward Heidegger and pointing out their shared concerns. I think Braver makes too much out of some lingering Kantianism in Ryle’s terminology with which he tries to show that Ryle later embraced a position he’d criticized Heidegger for; but from a Heideggerian standpoint I can see why Braver says this.

For my part, I might like Ryle’s Heidegger more than most other versions I’ve encountered (Dreyfus’s, say).

4 Comments

  1. Lee Braver
    16 April 2012

    Hi–thanks for the mention. Can you explain a little more what you mean by “Kantianism?” I wanted to say that Ryle criticizes a specific idea in Heidegger that his later work focuses on, namely, that we can have a know-how that isn’t based on a knowing-that.

    You might be interested in my latest book, _Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger_
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0262016893

  2. David Auerbach
    25 April 2012

    Sorry, that off-the-cuff remark deserved more elaboration. I’ll say right off that I think that the shift you point out is definitely there, but I feel that the essence of Ryle’s critique of Heidegger stands even under Ryle’s later position.

    The relevant passages of Ryle are:

    “I may here interject that Heidegger seems to be confusing what is anthropologically primitive with what is logically primitive. It is perhaps a fact of human nature that I begin by being interested in things for what I can or can’t do with them and only later do I want to know as a scientist what they are. But the former attitude involves equally with the latter the knowledge of things as having attributes and relations, though in infancy I restrict my interest to a few of those attributes and relations, namely those which bear on my business.

    “(I must leave till later my further and fundamental objection that all these so-called ‘primitive’ attitudes or ways of ‘being-an-I’ really involve knowledge, which knowledge necessitates universals and categories upon which the Analysis of Dasein throws—and can throw—no light at all.)”

    and

    “For the presence of knowledge of some reality (which is surely present in any and every conscious experience) though it is not explicitly recognised is surreptitiously imported as well into such terms as ‘understanding’ and ‘illumination’ as
    into the countless nursery-terms which Heidegger is trying to build up into a new philosophical vocabulary.”

    Clearly Ryle speaks of knowledge in the full “knowing that” Kantian sense here, as seen in the first passage. So there I must concede your point, for Ryle certainly rejected those requirements later. But they do not seem to be essential to his criticism here. Ryle’s seeming retreat seems to me to be more a matter of rephrasing what that “background” “knowledge” is, rather than an shift to a greater embrace of Heidegger’s position.

    When Ryle says in Concept of Mind, “[Knowing how's] exercises are observances of rules or canons or the applications of criteria,” I believe he is there referring to exactly the sort of dispositional “knowledge” that he faults Heidegger for rejecting. For Ryle, the appropriate Stimmung would not be not enough.

    The essence of his fundamental criticism of Heidegger seems to me not to be that relational knowledge must remain primary, but rather that Heidegger is putting forth an unwarranted foundational position for his “know-how” as independent of any concept possession whatsoever, in a similar way that the attack on the myth of the given criticizes the foundational position of raw sense data. I think that even later Ryle tacitly accepts that possession of concepts underpins intelligent practice *even in the absence of cognition*: in dispositions, for example. Later Ryle, I think, could argue that theorising and propositional knowledge are secondary to practice, but that possession of concepts is still fundamental.

    So when Ryle says at the end of the critique:

    “And if we like to call things that we know ‘correlates of acts of knowing’, we must at least recognise that the analysis of what those things are is not in the least degree forwarded by an analysis of our acts of knowing them, but only by getting to know still more about the things themselves.”

    If “things we know” is replaced by “dispositions,” I believe the critique stands with regard to *analysis*.

  3. ben w
    26 April 2012

    Too bad that Ryle wasn’t equally generous with Merleau-Ponty on their meeting, when the latter asked the former something like, “we’re working on the same problem, aren’t we?” and the former replied: “no.” When even if they aren’t concerned with the same thing, they are clearly concerned with similar</em. things.

  4. David Auerbach
    26 April 2012

    Rather ironically, the similarly hard-nosed (if not more so) Marjorie Grene held up Merleau-Ponty as one of the very few philosophers deserving of respect! (I’m very fond of Merleau-Ponty, more so than Heidegger actually.)

Leave a Reply