Saturday, March 05, 2011

Heidegger and Evolution

Hello everybody,

In an attempt to stop bothering my supervisors (i'm not in care) and instead bother other people i would be interested in people's comments on essay ideas i have. I tried to be as original as possible which maybe a weakness, but anyhow, in the spirit of learning i'm putting my ideas 'out there' to be criticised. Let me know what you think or possible areas for development.

Here's an extract from an essay/idea i'm considering (apologies for the length)

I would like to argue that Heidegger’s philosophy of ‘Being and Time’ presents an intuitive framework for understanding ‘evolution’. Not just biological evolution but evolution as a process, a state of becoming. In the same way that simple single cell organisms become complex multi-cellular life, or that elementary particles become heavy metals, or that spinning hot balls of gases become clusters of galaxies, each has the potential for the other. I do not want to infer any teleology in this framework, i.e. that human intelligence was a necessary step or that some design is required. More in the Heideggarian sense that all things carry their evolutionary past with them to be projected into a potential future, that evolution is Being and being, in that objects that exist are a part of evolution and evolution as a system allows those things to exist or go extinct placing them in the background of nothingness. Heidegger’s ‘Dasein’, ‘being there’ and ‘being with’ applies to all things, he intended it only to refer to humans but I think it can be applied to all objects that are subject to evolution, that are in the world and by definition of evolution interact with their world. As a result of evolution objects carry with them the history of their ancestors and so are always ‘being with’ as well as ‘being there’. ‘Throwness’ is essentially an evolutionary idea, in that all things do not choose the fundamental aspects of their being, where and how they were created, what past they are created into, we do not control what events we run into or what events will shape us. In the same way that every human is thrown into a biography not of their choosing be it their country of origin, ethnicity, host language or sexual orientation so to generations of organisms are thrown into a process that chooses them but they did not choose.
This is just a first mashing of ideas so don't get hung up on the grammar.


  1. Will Large11:31 am

    Isn't the problem with this that Heidegger clearly distinguishes his method from science in the introduction to Being and Time?

  2. Jennifer9:22 pm

    Heidegger quite specifically denies Dasein to animals. It is strictly for humans. I'm currently working through Heidegger's work on animals in "The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics" and I find myself wondering if Heidegger would be able, at all, to take account of evolution because he sets up a permanent and absolutely impermeable divide between humans and animals. Human evolution seems to pose a problem to his formulation in this sense, because according to evolutionary theory (and a whole lot of evidence) humans fundamentally emerged as the beings they are from an "animal" state. This seems to conflict with his formulation of the permanence of the abyss between us. Perhaps there's a way to work through, or to use Heidegger towards an account of evolution, but I'm not sure he would have gone there.

  3. LARRY: I don't understand how some philosophers can philosophize in the bubble that, I would suggest, exists when said philosopher has nothing to say about how humans came to be in the first place, be it creationism, ID, Darwinian evolution or whatever. Perhaps that is what "pure" existentialism presumes that we don't know and/or that it doesn't matter that much. But yes, according to Barrett's "Irrational Man," a key difference between Sartre and Heidegger is that Sartre operates even more in a vacuum, in this regard, than Heidegger, who at least goes beyond the idea of a Cartesian freefloating consciousness (pour soi) and (says Barrett) grounds Dasein's existence in the embracing earthy arms of Being. But unlike Cassirer, Jung, or even Kant, it seems to me that Heidegger has little of any substance to say about the ramifications of such grounding...other than to say that rising above the pettiness of materialism entails the idea that a person becomes aware that one obtain authenticity, not through modeling the world or some transcendental world as science and Plato would respectively have us do, but to open ourselves up to the Call or perhaps messages that said Being (a kind of ersatz Godlike figure one might observe) is supposedly trying to relate to us about our true origins and nature...but again, Heidegger himself has little to say about what such an authentic relationship with Being would be like, and, given his end-of-life self-association with the spirit of Zen, ultimately, IMHO, has little to say except that is any more profound than the commonplace slogan that it is a good idea to meditate. But yes, his exclusion of animal consciousness is, I think, rather ironic, as if, despite his disavowal of metaphysical enterprises, has put on the blinkers that come with the territory of writing in an ivory tower, or in his case, dark forest.