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Martin Heidegger

First published in 1927
Now in Martin Heidegger, Zur Sache des Denkens (GA 14), ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 2007), 125–26
Translated by Ian Alexander Moore

Ever since antiquity, the fundamental effort of philosophy has aimed at understanding and conceptualizing the Being of entities. The categorial [i.e., ‘by way of categories’]interpretation of the understanding of Being is the actualization of the idea of scientific philosophy as universal ontology. In every experience of beings, “Being” is also understood in advance, even if this is not made explicit. Such an understanding of Being is proper to the entity that we ourselves are—to Dasein. All concrete ontological investigation that has Being as its theme must have issued from an indeterminate, vulgar [i.e., ‘commonplace’] understanding of Being. It requires clarification about whence something like Being is at all understandable. Only the prior clarification of the horizon for every understanding of Being furnishes ontology with a secure course. The treatise on “Being and Time” poses for itself the fundamental-ontological task of uncovering the horizon of the understanding of Being. It attempts to demonstrate that“time” serves as such a horizon.

If the understanding of Being belongs to Dasein, then it [i.e., the understanding of Being] must be able to be explained, with respect to its structure, its conditions, and its possibilities, by an analysis of this entity [i.e., Dasein]. The analytic of Dasein attempts to shed light on the latter’s fundamental constitution by way of an ontological interpretation of the essential phenomena of existence (conscience, death, guilt). It unveils temporality, in which the historicality of Dasein is at the same time rooted, as the ontological condition for the possibility of the existential constitution of Dasein. The explication of temporality leads to a more originary concept of time, on the basis of which the vulgar and traditional concept emerges as a necessary offshoot. If the Being of Dasein is grounded in temporality, then the understanding of Being which belongs to the essential constitution of this entity is also possible only the basis of “time.” It is therefore necessary to show how “time” functions as horizon for the understanding of Being. If, in this way, the fundamental question of ontology, namely, that concerning the meaning of Being in general, receives its answer, then, proceeding from this, it must become possible to grasp in a more radical fashion the impetuses and tendencies of scientific philosophy from antiquity to Hegel. What is positive in the tradition comes into its own when, at the same time, it is understood in its limits and their necessities. The appropriation of the ontological tradition is accomplished by way of the proof that, ever since antiquity, time has functioned as the implicit horizon for the ontological problematic—the “a priori” is, for example, a “temporal” concept—and by way of the justification for why time, as horizon for the understanding of Being, was nevertheless able and had to remain covered up until now. – The present first half of the treatise leads the investigation up to the interpretation of Being and its possibilities on the basis of the time that lies in the temporality of Dasein.

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