Heidegger's Reading of Descartes' Dualism Essay

Heidegger's Reading of Descartes' Dualism Essay

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Heidegger's Reading of Descartes' Dualism


ABSTRACT: The problem of traditional epistemology is the relation of subject to external world. The distinction between subject and object makes possible the distinction between the knower and what is known. Starting with Descartes, the subject is a thinking thing that is not extended, and the object is an extended thing which does not think. Heidegger rejects this distinction between subject and object by arguing that there is no subject distinct from the external world of things because Dasein is essentially Being-in-the-world. Heidegger challenges the Cartesian legacy in epistemology in two ways. First, there is the modern tendency toward subjectivism and individualism that started with Descartes' discovery of the 'cogito.' Second, there is the technological orientation of the modern world that originated in the Cartesian understanding of the mathematical and external physical world.

Descartes stands at the beginning of modern philosophy and Heidegger accepts Descartes' role in the history of metaphysics. Descartes is the first thinker who discovers the "cogito sum" as an indubitable and the most certain foundation and thereby liberates philosophy from theology. He is the first subjectivistic thinker in the modern philosophy and he grounds his subjectivity on his epistemology.

The orientation of the philosophical problems with Descartes starts from the "ego" (the "subject") because in the modern philosophy the "subject" is given to the knower first and as the only certain thing, i.e., the only "subject" is accessible immediately and certainly. For Descartes, the "subject" (the "ego", the "I", "res cogitans") is something that thinks, i.e., something that represents, perceive...


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...icture", The Question of Technology and Other Essays. Trans. by William Levitt. (New York: Harper and Row Pub., 1977.), 127.

(27) Bernard Charles Flynn, "Descartes and the Ontology of Subjectivity", Man and World, (Vol. 16, No: 1, 1983), 10.

(28) Ibid., 10.

(29) Ibid., 14.

(30) Ibid., 14.

(31) C. D. Keyes, "An Evaluation of Levinas: Critique of Heidegger" Research in Phenomenology. (Vol. II, PP 121-142, 1972), 131 and Martin Heidegger, Being and Time 46.

(32) Ibid., 131.

(33) Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology, 119.

(34) John Richardson, Existential Epistemology: A Heideggerian Critique of Descartes Project, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 91.

(35) Aristotle, Physics Book IV The Basic Works of Aristotle. Ed. and Intr. by Richard McKeon. (New York: Random House, 1941.), 219b.

(36) Martin Heidegger, Being and Time , 376.

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