Part 1

Heidegger’s theory of experience: remaking Kant

i. The structure of Dasein and temporality

In Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Kant’s entire critical project undergoes a massive transformation. Heidegger argues that metaphysics can only occur concurrent with and in terms of the constitution of Dasein. Dasein is not equivalent to any traditional conception of the human subject. Roughly translated into English as “being-there”, Dasein signifies the mode of being particular to humans. “Dasein is an entity which does not just occur among other entities. Rather it is ontically distinguished by the fact that, in its very Being, that Being is an issue for it. But in that case, this is a constitutive state of Dasein’s Being, and this implies that Dasein, in its Being, has a relationship towards that Being––a relationship which is itself one of Being” (BT H12). What does this mean? First of all, it means that the primary fundamental characteristic of Dasein is that it is concerned with questions of ontology and metaphysics. Its very comportment within the world has these concerns with it at all times. “Dasein always understands itself in terms of its existence––in terms of a possibility of itself: to be itself or not itself” (Ibid.). So its structure is fundamentally imbued with a tendency to examine itself and question itself in relation to the world.

Furthermore, because Dasein’s ontic constitution is such that Dasein constantly exists ontologically––that is, thinking about Being––its entire experience of the world occurs in terms of an ontological investigation and engagement. This does not, however, denote the traditional model of the subject/object or subject/world opposition found in the work of Descartes, Hume, and others. Rather, the way in which Dasein and the world interact has far less of a stark distinction at work. First of all, as Heidegger says in Being and Time, “The person is not a Thing, not a substance, not an object” (Ibid. H48). Therefore, there is no absolute point at which we can designate personhood. It seems instead to be, as we have said, a sort of “being-there”. “Being-there” is a the mode of existence in which the being of Dasein is at all times at a certain point, existing within a state of affairs (the world) but not in the sense that it is an object with geometrical or geographical coordinates. Dasein is the space in which the world discloses itself to Dasein; furthermore, if we go back to Kant, we can think of Dasein somewhat in terms of inner sense, in that inner sense presents itself to us as appearance just like every other object we encounter.

Of course, Heidegger would object to this use of “appearance”, because (as we will see) he does not distinguish between an object as it appears and an object as it is in itself as Kant does. When “we designate this human entity with the term ‘Dasein’, we are expressing not its ‘what’ (as if it were a table, a house or tree) but its Being” (Ibid. H42). What we can draw from this comparison is that Dasein is as much function as it is phenomenon: it is existence as well as essence. In a sense, Dasein’s essence consists in the the questioning of existence and thus of Being. It can be open to itself and disclose itself to itself just as the world does. This is because the basic constitution of Dasein is to think and question ontologically, which necessarily implies that Dasein will view the world in terms of Being.

Heidegger calls Dasein’s constitution “being-in-the-world”. While he strives to prevent this term from being reduced to a piece of philosophical jargon, being-in-the-world means something like this: a situated mode of existence from which Dasein cannot be extricated, or even definitely distinguished. This holds in as opposite sense as well: the world as such cannot be conceived as entirely distinct from Dasein. Why is this? Because of the ontic constitution of Dasein, which is ontological, the world occurs to Dasein as a part of the ontic way Dasein has of existing within the world, which is to be ontological in thought and comportment. Also, Heidegger refers to Being-in-the-world as a kind of dwelling-in, or residing-in (Ibid. H54). Dasein and the world do not exist alongside one another; Dasein is not “in” the world in the same way that a hat is in a hatbox. There are no definite points at which Dasein ends and “the world” begins. Of course, we might unphilosophically say that Dasein ends where the skin of a human comes into contact with the air, but this is not what Heidegger is driving at. “Man is the site of openness, the there. The essent6 juts into this there and is fulfilled. Hence we say that man’s being is in the strict sense of the world ‘being-there’. The perspective for the opening of being must be grounded originally in the essence of being-there as such a site for the disclosure of being” (IM 205).

Dasein does not belong to the world; Dasein inhabits the world and makes the world become present to it. Furthermore, Heidegger places great importance on the fact that Dasein is “in each case mine” (Ibid. H42). Just as Dasein is not a subject or an object, it is not an alienated subject or object either. Dasein belongs in each instance to Dasein, to the individual human. Dasein, as that entity which questions and considers existence and Being, is its own questioning and its own existence. By being primarily ontological in its comportment toward the world, Dasein’s world is ontologically opened up. Heidegger values Kant’s work because the Copernican turn speaks to (at least some aspects of) the constitution of Dasein and its relation to the world. If the world occurs in conformity with the structure and mode of existence of Dasein, then the very structure of Dasein itself is the groundwork of any possible metaphysics.

Heidegger’s main concern, is the demarcation of Dasein's ontological status; this is what he calls a fundamental ontology. Because of the way in which Dasein and the world are related to one another, he believes that the ontological status of Dasein will show us the groundwork for any possible metaphysics. “By fundamental ontology is meant that ontological analytic of man’s finite essence which should prepare the foundation for the metaphysics ‘which belongs to human nature.’ Fundamental ontology is that metaphysics of human Dasein necessary if metaphysics in general is to be possible” (KPM 3-4). Heidegger looks to Kant’s section in the Critique of Pure Reason on schematism in the imagination, because he believes that Dasein is constituted temporally. In fact, time is only possible through Dasein and cannot be spoken of apart from it: the temporality of Dasein makes time, as such, possible. Sequence and simultaneity, historicity, and the anticipation of the future all go into the constitution of time itself.

Temporality is the primordial ‘outside-of-itself’ in and for itself. We therefore call the phenomena of the future, the character of having been, and the Present, the ‘ecstases’ of temporality. Temporality is not, prior to this, an entity which first emerges from itself; its essence is a process of temporalizing in the unity of the ecstases. What is characteristic of the ‘time’ which is accessible to the ordinary understanding, consists, among other things, precisely in the fact that it is a pure sequence of ‘nows’, without beginning and without end, in which the ecstatical character of primordial temporality has been leveled off. (Ibid. H329)

It is the temporality that emerges from the sequence of ‘nows’ and is constituted as time itself for us. For Heidegger, Dasein is temporal through and through. More than that, the basic ontological constitution of Dasein is time, which is what makes the world possible: “in so far as Dasein temporalizes itself, a world is to. In temporalizing itself with regard to its Being as temporality, Dasein is essentially ‘in a world’, by reason of the ecstatico-horizonal constitution of that temporality. The world is neither present-at-hand nor ready-to-hand, but temporalizes itself in temporality. It ‘is’, with the ‘outside of itself’ of the ecstases, ‘there’. If no Dasein exists, no world is ‘there’ either” (Ibid. H365). In other words, we perceive the world not as a foreign object that presents itself to us in its unambiguous totality. On the contrary, the world only occurs or is made possible insofar as we each occur as Dasein. This is why Heidegger emphasizes the role of time in Kant’s conception of both the inner sense and the original synthetic unity of apperception. Heidegger’s ontological turn in reading Kant springs from the way in which he sees the temporal constitution of the thinking subject as being the foundation not only for experience but also for metaphysics in general. What are the results of this turn? As we will see, it blurs the notion of the subject’s finitude in Kant’s philosophy, calling into question the notion of knowledge’s limitations. Also, it alters the relationships between intuition, the imagination, the understanding, and reason. The concepts of understanding and the principles of reason will be more strongly characterized as projections of the imagination based on a) experience and b) the thoroughly temporal constitution of Dasein. Finally, because of this reconfiguration of faculties, morality and freedom begin to take on a different sense.

Without the use of regulative principles of reason, we have to ask the questions: “how do we conceive ethical and moral life?” and “against or from what are we free?” Here we will turn to Heidegger’s reading of Kant in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics.

ii. Ontologizing Kant

Perhaps the most important aspect of Heidegger’s account in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics is his reassessment of the understanding and of reason. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant describes understanding as a faculty that is quite separate from sensible intuition. Reason is a faculty that regulates the understanding just as the understanding regulates intuition. Indeed, for Kant, the subject is above all a rational agent; reason is the ultimate arbiter (regulative and provisional though it may be) of the subject’s essence and functioning. For Heidegger, however, this is not the case. The concepts of understanding and the ideas of pure reason are founded in intuition, because Dasein itself is constituted as time, which is the a priori basis for any and all intuition and cognition. Also, contrary to Kant’s formulation, ideas of reason and the concepts of understanding do not unify experience in general. Because the understanding is itself made possible by the imagination, its ability to synthesize, its concepts, and the very notion that there is a disconnected manifold that must be synthesized are also projections of the imagination (KPM 67). On Heidegger’s reading, Kant mistakenly posited “not only the explication of pure concepts as elements of pure knowledge but the determination and justification of the essential unity of pure knowledge as well. In this way, logic came to have a unique priority over aesthetics even though it is intuition which is the primary element in knowledge as a whole” (Ibid. 70). Given Kant’s recurrent use of the themes of time and temporality, why did he do this? In Being and Time, Heidegger writes that

There were two things that stood in his way: in the first place, he altogether neglected the problem of Being; and, in connection with this, he failed altogether to provide an ontology with Dasein as its theme or (to put this in Kantian language) to give a preliminary ontological analytic of the subjectivity of the subject. Instead of this, Kant took over Descartes’ position quite dogmatically, notwithstanding all the essential respects in which he had gone beyond him. Furthermore, in spite of the fact that he was bringing the phenomenon of time back into the subject again, his analysis remained oriented towards the traditional way in which time had been ordinarily understood; in the long run this kept him from working out the phenomenon of a ‘transcendental determination of time’ in its own structure and function. Because of this double effect of tradition, the decisive connection between time and the ‘I think’ was shrouded in utter darkness; it did not even become a problem. (BT H24)

By “Descartes’ position”, Heidegger means that although Kant tried in the Critique to fundamentally question the traditional precepts of metaphysics, he did not even consider whether or not the notion of an absolute subject (the cogito ergo sum of Descartes) was something worth holding up to the light. In addition, because the question of Dasein or the subjectivity of the subject was not present to him, he could not have thought through Dasein’s relationship with time. Frank Schalow points out that “for Kant, the elevation of logic to a position formulating canons of though for the purpose of cognizing supersensible objects becomes the crowning presumption of rational metaphysics. For Heidegger, the very same development points to a similar danger of obscuring all the preparatory stages and the backdrop required to address being”(HKD 134). Just prior to that comment in Being and Time mentioned above, Heidegger also charges Kant with shying away from the realization that the productive synthesis of imagination and the ontological constitution of Dasein were at the very root of experience.

If Kant had gone all the way, so to speak, he would have had to concede that the world is not only perceived in conformity with the knowing subject’s way of knowing, but also actually made possible by that very mode of subjectivity. In that case, the regulative principles of pure reason would become not postulates of an unknown noumenal sphere, but rather projections thrown out by a Dasein that was creatively engaging the world in praxis of disclosure, not of gaining knowledge7 . It follows from this that Kant would have to scrap his entire moral and ethical theory. Therefore, Heidegger believes that Kant held back from fully investigating the role of the imagination in order to preserve his overall project. Had Kant been willing to leap over the abyss, perhaps he would have prepared an ontological analytic of Dasein, and things may have turned out quite differently. In any event, Heidegger is more than willing to finish the job, violent work though it may be8 .

If Heidegger’s task is to show the ontological underpinnings and implications at work in the Critique of Pure Reason, it comes out in the way that he views Kant’s sketch of the subjectivity of the subject. As we have said, the fundamental constitution of Dasein is temporal: Dasein, as the subjectivity of the subject (to revert momentarily to Kantian language) is time. Thus, because Kant argues that experience occurs according to the subject’s constitution, experience is inextricably linked to time and temporality. Furthermore, because time is the pure form of intuition, experience is fundamentally produced through intuition, even when it takes the form of conceptual determinations and logical propositions9 . Therefore, for Heidegger, experience and knowledge have their source in the imagination and schematism, which are grounded in explicit temporal determinacy, whereas the understanding and reason are declared by Kant to be exterior and superior to all determinations of time.

In fact, Heidegger’s reevaluation of the relations between the faculties amounts to something of a deconstruction, in which he shows how the reverse of Kant’s hierarchy of the faculties is actually true. The pure concepts of understanding, for example, are a kind of representation put forth and developed out of intuition (KPM 56). Experience does not occur through a complex and dynamic relationship between two faculties, it is the result of a richly developed process that finds its source in intuition. “The question of the essential unity of ontological knowledge … is, at bottom, a question about the original unification of pure universal intuition (time) and pure thought (the notions)” (Ibid. 63) Heidegger posits an originary unity in knowledge, in an “always already” sort of way that is due to Dasein’s constitution as time.

The doctrine of schematism is where Heidegger locates the point from which unified experience and knowledge emerges. Schematism for Heidegger is a transcendental orientation of thought that, because temporally constituted and constitutive, allows the anticipation of possible futures and the reference to past events (both in Dasein’s personal history as well as its historical past) to meet and unify.

All conceptual representation is essentially schematism. Now, all finite cognition is, as thinking intuition, necessarily conceptual. Necessarily contained, therefore, in the immediate perception of a given thing, for example, this house, is the schematizing, preliminary insight into such a thing as a house in general. It is by means of this re-presentation alone that what is encountered can reveal itself as a house, i.e., can present the aspect of a given house. Thus, schematism takes place necessarily because our cognition is fundamentally a finite cognition. (Ibid. 106)

The finite subject thinks transcendentally not in terms of traversing the gap between itself and the world of objects; the finite subject transcends, because of time, particular cognitions to be able to think through possible experience and provide a general framework in which particular objects come to light and are properly cognized10 . Finitude appears in this sense as finitude in terms of possible cognition at a given time. The schematism of concepts provides the possibility of transcending that finitude by being able to temporally organize experience through the temporality of Dasein. Experience on this view is to be thought of more in terms of unfolding and coming to light. Because the concepts of understanding are dependent only on the a priori temporal constitution of Dasein and its intuition, judgments are never determinative but instead reflective (HKD 144).

Experience itself becomes a realm of “free play”, in which disclosure of the world is rather more open ended than Kant suggests in the Critique. Of course, because experience is coherent, we cannot assign total open-endedness to it. “Understanding is not only ‘projective’ it is also ‘factical,’ a concern which Heidegger had stressed all along in pointing to the ‘relational character’ of meaning and to its concretion in individual existence,” (Ibid. 148) writes Schalow. “This concretion guarantees that understanding is never simply a free-floating phenomenon insofar as it comes to be centered on one possibility or another … understanding can disclose existence as it comes to be instantiated in specific ways, or the disclosure can include the structural dimensions of existence” (Ibid.). How does this occur? The temporal structure of Dasein allows experience to become concrete in that its past experiences form a framework of possibility that projects into the future and always already provides a more or less unified field in which the world is disclosed. “The use of pure concepts as transcendental determinations of time a priori i.e., the achievement of pure knowledge, is what takes place in schematism” (KPM 114). It is in schematism, not in reason, that the world comes before Dasein as the world. Thus, experience does not correspond to a complete arrangement of knowledge that can never be completely cognized; experience corresponds to the world-disclosing orientation and activity of Dasein’s being-in-the-world.

Consequences and responses

i. The aftermath

Heidegger’s radical reinterpretation of Kant has, as I have said, certain consequences that pose serious questions not just about the nature of subjectivity but also about the possibility of moral thought and action. We have seen that on Heidegger’s reading reason is put in the background and redeployed as a production of pure intuition. The “network of involvement through which any human activity and the ends endemic to it” (HKD 101) becomes emphasized in Heidegger’s philosophy; Kant does not, on the other hand, consider the richness of Dasein’s situated consciousness of the world and in the world. “Put simply, reason and understanding put together form a branch of human nature whose unity stems from Dasein’s transcendence” (Ibid. 102). Because of this move, “the phenomenon of meaning becomes the phenomenon of Dasein” (C 59), and the moral architectonic of reason begins to come apart. Instead of being able to posit some moral ought, we are forced to concede that what is disclosed by Dasein’s activity in the world is for all intents and purposes what is true.

In the Critique Kant has already argued for humility in discussing the demands of the ideas of pure reason insofar as we cannot make determinative judgments about them because they are beyond the grasp of possible experience, but Heidegger’s reinterpretation changes Kant’s formulation in such a profound way that cleaving to the ideas of reason for moral regulation would seem to have to involve some sort of ironic acceptance of them. Is this possible or even desirable? On the contrary, I would argue that an “ironic” approach would ignore the new possibilities of moral thought that open up because of Heidegger’s work. That being said, the disappearance of a transcendental architectonic underlying moral and ethical thought is no minor problem. In what ways can we retrieve morality and ethics after Heidegger? First, it would seem that we could argue against the entire project, following Pierre Kerszberg (who follows the criticisms put forth by Ernst Cassirer). We can, on the other hand, try to keep working with the Heideggerian reading and move beyond it by developing it as well as exposing its faults.

ii. Answering Heidegger

In the essay “Being as an idea of reason: Heidegger’s ontological reading of Kant”, Pierre Kerszberg argues that Kant’s infinite leap of the finite subject is the grounds upon which originary experience is set. “Instead of interpreting any regressive movement toward ultimate conditions of possibility as an opening toward a more originary domain, we will have to interrogate the regression as if it were an originary domain to itself” (BIR 40). Kerszberg seems to adopt the stance that the constant and persistent incompletion of experience is the primary ontological mode of existence, not the world-disclosing activity of Dasein. The early Heidegger, says Kerszberg, cannot account for things like mistakenness and error: he simply assigns those things to different possible modes of Dasein in relation to Being. Heidegger puts illusion under the heading of Dasein’s being; Kant thinks that being deceived by illusion is a necessary consequence of the subject’s finitude. For Heidegger, illusion is bound up in an orientation of Dasein; for Kant, illusion is produced by the inadequacy of the subject’s powers in the face of a world that outstrips it. Of course, Kerszberg still has to reckon with the importance of the Copernican turn for Heidegger: if Heidegger is right about it, then Kerszberg has to figure out a way in which to account for positing a world beyond the finitude of the subject towards which the subject can orient itself and try to engage. Kerszberg argues that because of the Copernican turn, “the self can … only attempt desperately to reconnect itself to the whole and this attempt is, of course, doomed to fail” (Ibid. 51).

The fact that this attempt is ongoing and is bound up in Kant’s critical philosophy notwithstanding, Heidegger’s reading does seem convincing. More to the point, Heidegger’s account of the structure of subjectivity in Kant seems to hit the nail on the head more than Kerszberg’s does. Kerszberg seems to think that Heidegger’s formulation of Dasein implies an isolated and solipsistic mode of subjectivity (Ibid. 58), but to my mind, Dasein reveals a type of embodied existence which does not determine the world by some act of free will, but which occurs in the world in a way that softens the distinction between subject and object. Because Dasein’s structure is a priori in that “always already” kind of way, it cannot be privileged with the absolute power of imbuing meaning that it might have if it were a subject of the Cartesian sort. Therefore, when Kerszberg says “something that occurs outside me always assails me from within myself” (Ibid.), it is hard to see how exactly his point differs from Heidegger’s. The inside/outside distinction of Dasein is already so blurry that in effect, anything assailing Dasein from the outside also occurs from the inside in a certain sense.

If we are to follow Heidegger’s reading, how are we to revive the discussion of morality and ethics? Schalow argues that because of the way in which experience is concretized for Dasein not only by its personal experience but also by the history that it inherits as well as the mode of existence it shares and inhabits with others, ethics can be discussed in terms of comportment. Schalow writes,

With his analysis, Heidegger comes closest to removing the Kantian notion of praxis from an overly narrow, rationalistic view of morality, or, conversely, of developing a view of ethics to accommodate a more extensive way of manifestation than what simply privileges the human. As the key to this approach, Heidegger recovers a deeper unity between freedom and the world; he does so in a way which is faintly visible in Kant’s resolution of the third antinomy11 and which thereby marks the more expansive opening of human praxis as such. (HKD 298)

What can we draw from this? That we can still discuss morality and ethics in the constant unfolding of experience against a) the backdrop of possible futures that our past projects ahead of us, b) that backdrop’s availability to us for critical evaluation, which will make our possible futures more rich the more they are opened up through reinterpretation and discussion, and c) the recognition of life’s constant and vivid activity, into which we are always already inserted. In his thought, Heidegger hearkens back to the Greek notion of physis, which he would like to revive and put in place of stable existence and instrumental rationality. “Physis is the process of a-rising, of emerging from the hidden, whereby the hidden is first made to stand” (IM 14); Schalow thinks that in looking to this process of a-rising, we can find a new space in which to negotiate the structures of human relations:

Humanity’s inclusion within the broader compass of physis not only restores the “weightedness” of things; reciprocally, it may also liberate man from the grip of instrumentalism which reduces him to the demeaning status of what Arendt described as the “laboring animal”. The area of decision is no longer to be identified with a human will, but, on the contrary, implies the unfolding of humanity’s ability to heed or respond both to current and still-imminent ways of disclosure. (HKD 302)

This assessment is, I think, quite appropriate; given Heidegger’s conception of Dasein as primarily fuelled by the imagination and its power to conceive of possible experiences, it is not rash to downplay the legislative power of reason and look to the concrete and vibrant sphere of human life (or praxis, which implies the multiplicity of human activities and ways of being) and thought as it unfolds in order to think about morality. Nonetheless, it is clear the dialogue between Kant and Heidegger is by no means settled. Even in the second preface to Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics that was inserted many years after its publication, Heidegger admits that he was mistaken in many ways. If there is one objection that comes to mind in defense of Kant, it is to question Heidegger’s notion that mistakenness comes from an inauthentic interpretation of Being (which is a possible mode of Dasein anyway) and requires –– not surprisingly –– the authentic interpretation, which will allow Being to reach fruition. On this reading, Kant’s notion of the impossibility of completeness comes back to us as appealing in that is brings with it a sense of urgency and immediacy of trying to do the right thing. Is Heidegger’s version of things only to be seen in its proper light when we consider the realities of ethical decision making as they come about in real life, or does Kant’s notion of aspiring to an impossible (yet only provisionally postulated as a regulated principle) morality as such bear down on us with more force? Is the premise of an ought destined to paralyze us into overly instrumental thought that cannot cope with the contingencies of life?

To be sure, this is a problem worth continuing to think about; Heidegger’s own thought would seem to advise against merely taking his ideas on as the new moral legislation. Also, we should perhaps not look at his reformulation of Kant as a criticism as much as a retrieval or rehabilitation; this is not necessarily meant in the sense that Kant’s project is limping, but that (following Kant’s ethos of critical thought) it deserves to be reinvigorated by an investigative and critical re-reading. Indeed, constant re-readings can always lead us to considering new possibilities. As Schalow puts it, “The obvious advantage of the Kantian approach lies in directly affirming a detailed notion of the good and of the responsibility presupposed in it” (Ibid. 303); on the other hand, Heidegger emphasizes the notion of personal responsibility in relation to situated and world-conscious existence.

It seems certain, however, that Heidegger’s work is carried out very much in a Kantian spirit (although most certainly given a distinctly Heideggerian spin): “Kant’s moral analysis proves insightful because it uncovers an adjacent set of issues––self-concern, self-disclosure, factical comportment, etc.––whose points of integration arise retroactively through a phenomenological inquiry into being-in-the-world” (Ibid. 276). To conclude, then, I would suggest that a fruitful philosophical project concerning the status of morality, ethics, and freedom, could be carried out in the continuing study of the relationship between Kant and Heidegger (as well of each of these writers in their own right, of course). Between the two, there are tensions and points of convergence that provoke serious consideration of problems we face not only in terms of interpreting philosophical thought, but also in terms of every day life and relating to ourselves and others.

  1. “Praxis” denotes sets of practices that go into human/social modes of existence. We might include in this concept things like social traditions, modes of criticism, cultural dialogues, and so on.
  2. Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes this notion of sensation or sense data as “the experience of an undifferentiated, instantaneous, dotlike impact” (PP 3), and subsequently calls it into question, arguing that this neither makes sense (except perhaps within the context of some theoretical discourse) nor corresponds to anything we can identify phenomenologically. Sensation for Merleau-Ponty always already occurs within and against a certain field or context; on the largest scale, that context is the world in which we are situated. “we are caught up in the world and we do not succeed in extricating ourselves from it in order to achieve consciousness of the world. If we did we should see that the quality of pure sensation is never experienced immediately, and that all consciousness is consciousness of something” (Ibid. 5). This speaks to what we will later be investigating in Heidegger: Dasein, a being that is always a being-in-the-world and is never opposed to or separated from the world. The relationship between intuition and concepts will be complicated in order to conceive experience as always already situated in a consciousness that is always consciousness of the world as much of as of itself. There is no pure experience, no pure consciousness, and no stark opposition between the two.
  3. It is important here to remember that Kant emphasizes that we can only know things as they appear to us and not as they are in themselves. Presentations given in intuition are only appearances; the concepts of understanding can only apply to appearances and not to some internal or perhaps “metaphysical” configuration of cognized objects. In other words, we can only cognize objects as they appear; for Kant, we cannot go beyond that to comment on what they are independently of our cognition of them. Echoing this argument 140 years after the Critique of Pure Reason, in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein writes: “Objects can only be named. Signs are their representatives. I can only speak about them: I cannot put them into words. Propositions can only say how things are, not what they are” (TLP 3.221). This takes a linguistic bent that Kant never explores to any great depth, but the sense is similar. If concepts of the understanding are formed propositionally (and it seems that upon reflection that this has to be the case: the understanding provides the logical form according to which cognition occurs with presentations given in intuition. Logic must take some propositional form or another. This implies that language plays a role in cognition at least to some degree), then cognition also entails an act of naming or providing a propositional marker that signifies an object. Following Kant, then, Wittgenstein asserts that objects can be given a sign to identify them, but cannot be captured in those signs. Beyond appearance, we might say that we have no access to the being of objects.
  4. Without complicating the discussion too much, we should recall that space and time are both pure intuitions in Kant’s transcendental philosophy. This means that they are the conditions of possibility for all empirical intuitions. Intuitions of magnitude or extension, for example, can only happen because of the pure intuition of space as such. Similarly, any intuitions of simultaneity or sequence presuppose the pure intuition of time or temporality. What is important here––and this will be central for Heidegger in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics––is that the pure intuition of time will ultimately determine even the pure intuition of space, because the subject itself is has time as its form, and it is only in terms of the subject that the pure intuition of space can even occur. The unity of apperception, which appears synthetically in the act of synthesizing the inner sense, is therefore also temporally constituted. This will be of use to Heidegger in his attempt to employ Kant’s philosophy to his own theories about experience, Dasein, and being-in-the-world.
  5. Moreover, these two syntheses alone can perhaps be read as important to Heidegger’s work. In Being and Time, Heidegger writes, “in its factical Being, any Dasein is as it already was, and it is ‘what’ it already was. It is its past, whether explicitly or not. And this is so not only in that its past is, as it were, pushing itself along ‘behind’ it, and that Dasein possesses what is past as a property which is still present-at-hand and which sometimes has after-effects upon it: Dasein ‘is’ its past in the way of its own Being, which, to put it roughly, ‘historizes’ out of its future on each occasion. Whatever the way of being it may have at the time, and thus with whatever understanding of Being it may possess, Dasein has grown up both into and in a traditional way of interpreting itself: in terms of this it understands itself proximally and, with a certain range, constantly. By this understanding, the possibilities of its Being are disclosed and regulated. Its own past-––and this always means the past of its ‘generation’––is not something which follows along after Dasein, but something which already goes ahead of it” (BT H20). If we consider this passage in relation to the productive and reproductive syntheses of imagination (provided we are willing to seriously entertain Heidegger’s reformulation of Kant’s transcendental philosophy) we might begin to ask the question of what relationship the productive has with the reproductive synthesis, and further ask whether or not the reproductive synthesis has no place in transcendental philosophy, as Kant says. In what way might the reproductive synthesis of imagination condition or lay the way for what is possible in the productive synthesis of imagination? An entire paper could be devoted to this question, which is cannot fully be addressed in our current discussion.
  6. “Essent” is a term in An Introduction To Metaphysics that was created by translator Ralph Mannheim (according to Mannheim, at least), who wished to avoid confusion between the terms “Being” and “being”. “Being”, of course, refers to Being or existence as such, whereas “being” (or “essent”) refers to an individual object or entity. So while a dog is a being, the Being of a dog is that of which the dog ontologically consists.
  7. Although disclosure carries with it a certain mode of understanding, it is not what Kant had in mind. The knowledge of Kant’s philosophy consists in coming to apprehend––within the limits of possible experience––what we can know about the world. For Heidegger, the phrase “what we can know about the world” does not make sense insofar as there is no hidden store of knowledge to which we can aspire to master. Understanding and knowledge is essentially bound up with self-understanding and is therefore not the result of a finite subject’s transcendental movement, as in Kant. The problem of finitude for Heidegger recedes into the background, as there is no intraversable gap between the finite subject and objects of knowledge.
  8. It can be––and has been––argued that Heidegger’s interpretation is violent in that he purports to know Kant’s project better than Kant did himself. As Claude Piché humourously points out in the essay “Heidegger and the Neo-Kantian Reading of Kant”, Heidegger may have remarked that Neo-Kantians like Hermann Cohen were violent in their interpretations, but “to anyone familiar with the hermeneutical precepts at work in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, this need not be seen as a rebuke” (HN 181).
  9. If we bear in mind the notion that consciousness is always already a “consciousness-of”, we can further postulate the way in which intuition produces unified experience: “Allowing the manifold to be encountered, intuition does presuppose a certain activity, namely ‘the taking aim at something, in virtue of which’ the manifold of the senses can be articulated at all as ordered or as lacking order. The activity of ‘taking aim at’ is unthematically implicated in intuition” (PT 91).
  10. Pierre Kerszberg puts it this way: “Heidegger’s notion of transcendence … which Heidegger equates with time itself is that … Dasein moves beyond itself while remaining confined to its own finitude” (BIR 37).
  11. This is the antinomy that questions the conflict between the subject’s moral freedom, which can bring about its own determinations and causal chains, and the universal laws of nature, which determine everything in the world of appearances (CPR B473).


  • Heidegger, M. An Introduction to Metaphysics (IM), trans. R. Manheim. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959.
  • ––––––––––– Being and Time (BT), trans. J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson. 1926; New York: Harper and Row, 1962.
  • ––––––––––– Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (), trans. J.S. Churchill. 1929; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1965
  • Kant, I. Critique of Pure Reason (CPR), trans. W.S. Pluhar. 1781; Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1996.
  • Kerszberg, P. “Being as an Idea of Reason: Heidegger’s Ontological Reading of Kant” (BIR), in Heidegger, German Idealism, and Neo-Kantianism, ed. Tom Rockmore. New York: Humanity Books, 2000.
  • Krois, J.M. Cassirer: Symbolic Forms and History (C). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.
  • Merleau-Ponty, M. Phenomenology of Perception (PP), trans. C. Smith. New York: Routledge, 1962.
  • Piché, C. “Heidegger and the Neo-Kantian Reading of Kant”(HN), in Heidegger, German Idealism, and Neo-Kantianism, ed. Tom Rockmore. New York: Humanity Books, 2000.
  • Schalow, F. The Renewal of the Heidegger-Kant Dialogue (HKD). Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
  • Vasterling, V. “The Problem of Time: Heidegger’s Deconstructive Reading of Kant in Volume 21” (PT), in Heidegger, German Idealism, and Neo-Kantianism, ed. Tom Rockmore. New York: Humanity Books, 2000.
  • Wittgenstein, L. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP), trans. D.F. Pears & B.F. McGuinness, 1921; New York: Routledge Classics, 2002.

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