The Nature of Nothing in Heidegger's Phenological Ontology.

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Unah, I.J
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University of Lagos
The objective of this study is to expound and amplify the thesis that "Even Nothing is Something". The thesis itself is one of the far-reaching consequences of Heidegger's phenomenological ontology. Ontology, for Heidegger, is the science of the Being of entities. The task proper to ontology is the exhibition of the general structures of the world. Phenomenology is the method of exhibiting entities as they are without preconceptions. The outstanding phenomenon of phenomenological thought for Heidegger is the Being of entities. Now if ontology is the inquiry into the general profiles of entities, and if phenomenology is the orientational habit of letting the Being of entities be seen, one can understand why Heidegger insists that "Only as phenomenology is ontology possible". But if ontology is possible only as phenomenology, are we to take it that all forms of ontology are phenomenological in character? If all forms of ontology are phenomenological in character, what is novel about Heidegger Being-talk? Heidegger is called upon to speak for himself in a phenomenological manner. By letting Heidegger speak for himself, we find that there is a sense in which ontology does not qualify as phenomenology and another sense in which ontology is phenomenology. A form of ontology (the traditional brand) which understands an assent only as an "object" cannot qualify as phenomenology. But the ontology (Heidegger's) which understands an assent as an "object" easily qualifies as phenomenology. In the Heideggerian sense of ontology an entity is exhibited in aspects. As "ejects", entities show themselves exactly as they are. Now the "thing in itself" which has perplexed traditional ontology is revealed in the conception of Being as an "eject", that is, as that which manifests itself as it is in profiles. This is the novelty of Heidegger's concept of Being: That a being exhibits itself, not as static, fixed object, but as eject, as that which spills forth in aspects, as that which shows itself as it is in itself in profiles. This dynamic conception of Being as "ejects" rather than as "objects" has a capacity of defrosting the frozen metaphysical tradition, of radicalizing metaphysics which hitherto has distorted "Nothing" out of its original nature. And phenomenology shows, by the doctrine of intentionality, that whatever is thought of by the mind or that whatever image or aspect of objects the human imagination produces must, in one form or other, be true about the world. In other words, the mind cannot think of nothing where nothing is taken to mean "not anything". Whatever the mind thinks about must be something meant or intended by the subject. Hence "nothing" must in some sense be something. Yes, it seems a pointless triviality to talk about nothing. Science frown at it. Logic would have none of it. Kant recoils from it in the Trancendental imagination because it threatens to overturn the supremacy of logic. But Heidegger would pursue it unflinchingly because there - in Nothing as Dasein's transcendence - lies the true source of man's natural propensity towards metaphysics. And metaphysical thought had far-reaching consequence since it usually informs social, economic, political, ethical, religious and even scientific preoccupations Our task in articulating Nothing, therefore, is to confront the decisive question of our era: the question of intolerance of opinion, of totalitarian tendencies, of fanaticism and war. Thus, if we want to mellow down the bellicose temperament of mankind, if we want to overcome the "threats of nihilism and gadgetry:, and if we want to show respect for the distinctively human, we have to insist that even nothing is something.
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Ontology , Phenomenology , Nature
Unah, I.J (1988) The Nature of Nothing in Heidegger's Phenological Ontology. University of Lagos School of Postgraduate Studies Phd Thesis and Dissertation Abstracts. 351pp.