How Heidegger Defends the Possibility of a Correspondence Theory of Truth with respect to the Entities of Natural Science

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How Heidegger Defends the Possibility of a Correspondence Theory of Truth with respect to the Entities of Natural Science1
Hubert L. Dreyfus
Science has long claimed to discover the relations among the natural kinds of the universe that exist independently of our minds or ways of coping. Today, most philosophers adopt an antirealism that consists in rejecting this thesis. Contemporary antirealists argue that the independence thesis is not just false but incoherent. Thus, these antirealists say they are as realist as it makes sense to be. Such deflationary realists, as I shall call them, claim that the objects studied by science are just as real as the baseballs, stones, and trees we encounter with our everyday coping practices, and no more.2 In contrast to deflationary realism, I shall defend a robust realism that argues that the independence claim makes sense, that science can in principle give us access to the functional components of the universe as they are in themselves3 in distinction from how they appear to us on the basis of our daily concerns, our sensory capacities, and even our way of making things intelligible.4
The deflationary and the robust realist positions are each part of the heritage that Heidegger has left us. Consequently, I shall, in my first section, present the deflationary realist’s arguments against independence. Then, in the second section, I shall show that, although Heidegger pioneered the deflationary realist account of the everyday, he sought to establish a robust realist account of science. In the third and final section, I shall draw on Saul Kripke’s account of direct reference to work out Heidegger’s account of formal indication, and using this worked-out version of Heideggerian rigid designation, I will argue that we do, indeed, have practices for achieving access to things that are independent of all our practices.
I. The Argument for Deflationary Realism

The argument for deflationary realism turns on the rejection of the traditional Cartesian view of human beings as self-sufficient minds whose intentional content is directed toward the world. Both Heidegger and Donald Davidson, a leading antirealist, reject this view and substitute for it an account of human beings as inextricably involved with things and people. Heidegger holds that human beings have to take a stand on who they are by dealing with things and by assuming social roles. Davidson thinks of human beings as language users who, in order to have any mental content of their own, must take up the linguistic conventions of their community. I call Heidegger and Davidson practical holists because they both claim that meaning depends ultimately on the inseparability of practices, things, and mental contents. Heidegger captures this idea in his claim that human beings are essentially being-in-the-world; Davidson makes the same point in his causal theory of meaning.

Both thinkers claim that their holism enables them to answer the Cartesian skeptic. Heidegger argues that, if human beings are essentially being-in-the-world, then the skeptical question of whether the world and others exist cannot sensibly be raised by human beings, and, as Heidegger asks, “Who else would raise it?”(Heidegger 1962: 246-247). Heidegger thus claims that any attempt to answer the skeptic is mistaken. The attempt to take the skeptic seriously and prove that we can know that there is an external world presupposes a separation of the mind from the world of things and other people which defies a phenomenological description of how human beings make sense of everyday things and of themselves. Davidson argues, on the basis of a logical reconstruction of the way people learn a language that, although people may differ concerning the truth of any particular belief, in order for a person to acquire a language at all that person must share most of the beliefs of those who speak the language and most of these shared beliefs must be true.
It follows that we cannot make sense of the question whether the totality of things could be independent of the totality of our practices or whether things are essentially dependent on our practices. To raise these questions meaningfully, requires thinking that we can conceive of the totality of things and of the totality of practices with sufficient independence from each other to claim that one is logically prior. But it turns out that we can get no perspective on our practices that does not already include things and no perspective on things that does not already involve our practices. Thus, practical holism seems to make unintelligible all claims about both things in themselves apart from our practices and the totality of practices apart from things. It seems that, since true statements about objects cannot imply either the dependence or the independence of objects vis á vis our practices, these statements must be understood as describing objects as they are in the only sense of “are” that is left, which is the “are” of ordinary situations. Thus we arrive at a deflationary view that repudiates both metaphysical realism and transcendental idealism.
Once the deflationary realist has argued that one cannot make sense of transcendental idealism or of metaphysical realism, he is able to accept the results of science at face value so long as he makes neither the robust realist’s claim that science gives us an account of the functional demarcations of the universe as it is in itself, on the one hand, nor the extreme constructivist’s claim that nature must be a cultural creation, on the other. When asked whether it makes sense to claim that things existed in nature before human beings came along and that they would have existed even if human beings had never existed, the deflationary realist can sound like a scientist, saying, on the basis of empirical findings, that of course it makes sense to claim that some types of entities were there before us and would still be there if we had never existed and others would not. But the Davidsonian practical holist says this on a background of meaning that makes any talk about nature as it is in itself incoherent.
II. Heidegger’s Attempt at Robust Realism

Like Davidson, Heidegger answers the skeptic by showing that our practices and the everyday world are inextricably intertwined. Indeed, he argues at length that “Dasein is the world existingly.”(Heidegger 1962: 416)5 Moreover, Heidegger seems to agree with the deflationary realists that, while entities show up as independent of us, the being or intelligibility of entities depends on our practices. So any talk of things in themselves must be put in scare quotes. Thus, Heidegger says of natural entities:

It must be stated that entities as entities are ‘in themselves’ and independent of any apprehension of them; yet, the being of entities is found only in encounter and can be explained, made understandable, only from the phenomenal exhibition and interpretation of the structure of encounter.

(Heidegger 1985: 217)

And he seems even more deflationary when he adds:
Of course only as long as Dasein [human being] is (that is, only as long as an understanding of being is ontically possible), ‘is there’ being. When Dasein does not exist, ‘independence’ ‘is’ not either, nor ‘is’ the ‘in-itself.’

(Heidegger 1962: 255)

Joseph Rouse, in his book Knowledge and Power, sees the parallel between Heidegger’s and Davidson’s holistic answer to the skeptic and wonders why I fail to see that Heidegger must therefore be a deflationary realist. But, as I will now seek to show, in Being and Time Heidegger describes phenomena that enable him to distinguish between the everyday world and the universe and so claim to be a robust realist about the entities discovered by natural science. Moreover, he has the conceptual resources to turn this phenomenon into a persuasive defense of robust realism.
The first two phenomena Heidegger calls to our attention are two different ways of being. He points out that normally we deal with things as equipment. Equipment gets its intelligibility from its relation to other equipment, human roles, and social goals. Heidegger calls the equipmental way of being availability [Zuhandenheit]. But Heidegger also points to another equally important phenomenon; we sometimes experience entities as independent of our instrumental coping practices. This happens in cases of equipmental breakdown. Heidegger calls the mode of being of entities so encountered, occurrentness [Vorhandenheit]. Occurrent beings are not only revealed in breakdown but also revealed when we take a detached attitude towards things that decontextualizes or—in Heidegger's terms—deworlds them. In this detached attitude, we encounter occurrent entities as substances with properties.
This experience of the occurrent is still contextual and meaningful in a weak sense. Were it not for a world in which entities could be encountered, the question of whether there could be entities independent of our concerns could not be asked, and, more importantly, without our giving meaning to the occurrent way of being, the question of independence would not make sense. So Heidegger concludes that the being or intelligibility of even the occurrent mode of being depends on us: “[B]eing ‘is’ only in the understanding of those entities to whose being something like an understanding of being belongs.”(Heidegger 1962: 228 (with a minor translation correction)). But he still insists that, “entities are independently of the experience by which they are disclosed, the acquaintance in which they are discovered, and the grasping in which their nature is ascertained.”(Heidegger 1962: 228 (with a minor translation correction))
This amounts to the seemingly paradoxical claim that we have practices for making sense of entities as independent of those very practices. This intellectual gestalt figure can flip one of two ways depending upon whether one emphasizes the dependence on the practices or the independence from those very practices. It has thus led to a three-way debate in the scholarly literature over whether Heidegger is a robust realist, a transcendental idealist, or a deflationary realist.6 I’ve argued, using the above quotation from Being and Time to back me up, that Heidegger is a would-be robust realist (Dreyfus 1991). William Blattner has countered that Heidegger must be understood as a transcendental idealist and that, consequently, all the citations that seem to support robust realism, should be read as supporting merely empirical realism (Blattner 1994). David Cerbone has responded to Blattner with a reading in the spirit of Davidson in which Heidegger’s account of the inextricable involvement of human beings and the world commits him to the view that neither robust realism nor transcendental idealism is intelligible (Cerbone 1995).
In order to see more clearly why I claim that Heidegger is a would-be robust realist, we must return to the phenomenon of deworlding. As I said, Heidegger points out that in situations of extreme instrumental breakdown, we encounter things as occurrent, as independent of the instrumental world—that is, as having no essential relation to our everyday coping practices—and as all along underlying our everyday equipment.
[W]hat cannot be used just lies there; it shows itself as an equipmental thing which looks so and so, and which, in its availableness, as looking that way, has constantly been occurrent too.

Heidegger 1962: 102-103 (my italics) 7

Nature is thus revealed as having been there all along. In such cases, Heidegger holds, “The understanding of being by which our concernful dealings with entities within-the-world has been guided has changed over.”(Heidegger 1962: 412 (Heidegger’s emphasis))8 Our practices for coping with the available are significantly different from our practices for dealing with the occurrent. Thus, Heidegger understands this changeover from dealing with things as available to occurrent as discontinuous. This discontinuous changeover is crucial for Heidegger’s answer to deflationary realism.
The radicality of this discontinuity is often hidden by inadequate phenomenological descriptions of breakdowns. When a hammer is so heavy that the carpenter cannot use it, it is then experienced as too heavy. But since being-to-heavy is context-dependent, it still presupposes the equipmental nature of hammers. But breakdown can be so severe that all that is left in experience is a mere something—“just occurrent and no more”(Heidegger 1962: 103)—whose properties are not connected to its function in any intelligible way and are thus beyond everyday understanding. Heidegger claims that, among other experiences, anxiety gives us access to this unintelligible occurrent. “Anxiety,” he writes, “discloses . . . beings in their full but heretofore concealed strangeness as what is radically other.” (Heidegger 1977: 105)9
Of course, the uninterpreted beings experienced as radically other are not theoretical entities. Heidegger knows that for us to have access to theoretical entities the beings revealed in total breakdown must be recontextualized or reinterpreted in theoretical terms. Heidegger is thus clear that the data used by science are theory-laden. He says, “The ‘grounding’ of ‘factical science’ was possible only because the researchers understood that in principle there are no ‘bare facts.”(Heidegger 1962: 414.) He is, unfortunately, not clear how these theory-laden data are supposed to be related to the radically other that is revealed in extreme breakdown; that is, he is not clear about how theoretical recontextualization is supposed to work.10 The important thing for him is that theoretical entities are taken to be elements of nature, that is, of a universe that is anterior to and independent of our everyday mode of making sense of things. In this important sense, science is, according to Heidegger, about the incomprehensible. He writes:
Nature is what is in principle explainable and to be explained because it is in principle incomprehensible. It is the incomprehensible pure and simple. And it is the incomprehensible because it is the “unworlded” world [i.e. the universe], insofar as we take nature in this extreme sense of the entity as it is discovered in physics.

(Heidegger 1985: 217-8)

The point is not that the phenomenon of total breakdown, theoretical inspection, or anxiety gives us sufficient grounds for believing in the independent existence of natural things none of whose properties we understand. Although the quotation may suggest this, we shall see that the phenomenon of total breakdown cannot supply such grounds. What the phenomenon of total breakdown supports is the more minimal claim that nature can be experienced as independent of our coping practices and as underlying everyday things. If we had only the “available” mode of encountering entities, we could never encounter entities more independent of our coping practices than particular hammers are. But, if Heidegger is right, we can deworld such entities and be led to see them as occurrent components of the universe.
Heidegger clearly wants to embrace robust realism, for he exceeds the limits of deflationary realism when he writes: “[T]he fact that reality is ontologically grounded in the being of Dasein, does not signify that only when Dasein exists and as long as Dasein exists, can the real be as that which in itself it is.”(Heidegger, 1962: 255. My italics.)
We are now in a position to see that, in defending a robust realism concerning scientific entities, Heidegger makes two significant moves which, although they seem to be the right way to proceed, do not, as Heidegger presents them, fully succeed in supporting robust realism.
1. Heidegger points to two special attitudes (confronting equipmental breakdown and anxiety) that, on the face of it, break out of our everyday, equipment-using practices. Since Heidegger bases his account of meaning on equipment-using practices, he concludes that such special attitudes, by “deworlding” entities, break out of our everyday meanings altogether and give us access to the “incomprehensible” as it is in itself. But, if one has a broader conception of everyday meaning that includes merely perceiving things outside of use-relations, such a “switchover” would not get one outside the everyday.
2. Heidegger contends that the switchover he describes gives us beings that can be recontextualized in a theory that makes no reference to our everyday practices. But he has no account of how the meaningless beings revealed by breakdown can serve as data for science nor what sort of practices could be left after the switchover that would allow dealing with the incomprehensible while leaving it independent of all our practices. That is, in showing we can encounter things shorn of their everyday functionality, Heidegger has not shown that we can encounter them as independent of all our practices for making things intelligible. There are still the very peculiar practices of making them intelligible as unintelligible.11
In addition, when Heidegger later investigates how scientific research as an institution works, Heidegger claims that research is based on what he calls the projection of a total ground-plan (Heidegger 1977b). Research, he claims, is a modern way of studying nature that proceeds by setting up a total theory of how nature works and then dealing with the anomalies that show up when the theory is assumed to cover all phenomena. Thus, normal science has, for Heidegger, the ongoing job of trying to account for anomalies, while revolutionary advances in science occur when resistant anomalies lead scientists to propose a new ground-plan.12
What is essential for modern science as research, then, is its totalizing claim. Heidegger argues that this totalizing claim is the modern version of the series of totalizing claims about the beingness of beings that have characterized our metaphysical culture perhaps since Anaximander, certainly since Plato. Thus a pervasive cultural practice of just the sort that the deworlding and recontextualization of the incomprehensible were meant to exclude turns out to be fundamental to Heidegger’s account of modern scientific research as an institution. This acknowledgment of the cultural practices of research would seem to undermine robust realism.13
We shall soon see, however, that the practices of research could, nonetheless, constitute an institution that could intelligibly be said to get at the functional components of the universe as they are in themselves. To save his robust realism, Heidegger would have to argue that, although the practice-based structure of encounter that gives us access to entities depends on us essentially, what we encounter only contingently depends on this structure. Then both our everyday and our scientific practices, although ineliminable from an account of the entities revealed by science, could be understood, not as constitutive practices, but as access practices allowing “genuine theoretical discovering” (Heidegger 1962: 412)
To do this Heidegger would need, to begin with, to find a practical form of non-committal reference that could refer to entities in a way that both allowed that they could have essential properties and that no property that we used in referring to them need, in fact, be essential. It turns out that Heidegger had discovered such a practice in facing a different problem. In the 1920s he realized he wanted to talk about important features of human being and yet he could not claim at the beginning of his investigation that these were essential ones. This methodological requirement put him in opposition to Husserl in two related ways: Husserl held that (1) general terms refer by way of the essential features of the types the terms referred to and (2) that one could have an immediate eidetic intuition of essential structures. Since Heidegger saw that his hermeneutic method deprived Husserl’s eidetic intuition of any possible ground, he needed some other way to approach the essential structures of human being. How could he refer to kinds without knowing their essential features?
To solve this problem Heidegger developed an account of “non-committal” reference made possible by what he called formal indicators or designators (formalen Anzeige). Non-committal reference begins with contingent features and arrives at essential features, if there are any, only after an investigation.14 Heidegger explains:
The empty meaning structure [of the formal designator] gives a direction towards filling it in. Thus a unique binding character lies in the formal designator; I must follow in a determinate direction that, should it get to the essential, only gets there by fulfilling the designation by appreciating the non-essential.”

(Heidegger 1985: 33. Translation by Hubert L. Dreyfus with Hans Sluga)

Thus, Heidegger held that reference need not commit one to any essential features; rather, it binds one to investigate, in whatever way is appropriate to the domain, which features, if any, of an object referred to by its inessential features are essential. Heidegger continues:
[We must] make a leap and proceed resolutely from there! . . . One lives in a non-essential having that takes its specific direction toward completion from the maturing of the development of this having. . . . The evidence for the appropriateness of the original definition of the object is not essential and primordial; rather, the appropriateness is absolutely questionable and the definition must precisely be understood in this questionableness and lack of evidence.15

(Heidegger 1985: 34-35)

Although he never used this idea of non-committal reference to defend his realism, this methodological principle—that one can designate something by its contingent properties and then be bound by that designation to research its essential properties—would have allowed Heidegger to use the switchover to the occurrent and its properties to show how access practices can break free of everyday meaning. One could consider the properties, revealed by theory-driven practices after the switchover, to be strictly contingent properties of the entities revealed—properties that could serve as a way of designating entities whose essential properties, if any, would have to be discovered by further investigation. The practices of investigation too would be considered contingent rather than constitutive
Thus, Heidegger has the basic resources to answer the objections that he can neither get outside everyday practices (in a broad sense) nor culturally determined practices. But he does not use these resources. To do so he would need to admit that our everyday skills survive the switchover and that, indeed, they are necessary for (1) identifying the occurrent entities that the detached attitude reveals and (2) working data over in labs so that they can be taken as evidence for the essential properties of theoretical entities. He could then add that none of these practices, however, was essential to what was revealed in the laboratory. For, after the switchover, everyday practices, as well as the practices of the scientific institution, would be themselves experienced and deployed as questionable or contingent, and so the entities encountered could, in principle, be encountered as essentially independent of us. Heidegger seems to say just this in an interesting passage in Basic Problems:
Intraworldliness does not belong to the essence of the occurrent things as such, but it is only the transcendental condition . . . for the possibility of occurrent things being able to emerge as they are [in themselves].

(Heidegger 1982: 194)

III. The Phenomenological Argument for Robust Realism

For the most part, we encounter people, equipment, and even natural things as both perceptually and instrumentally familiar and inextricably bound up with our everyday practices. We can, however—though we do it rarely—encounter things and even people in an attitude of unfamiliarity. A trivial instance of encountering something in this attitude can be produced quite easily. If we say a familiar word over and over, we eventually hear the word switch over into a strange acoustic blast. Let’s call this experience defamiliarization and the way of being it gives access to the strange.16

Defamiliarization is the breakdown of everyday coping, and all that remains of intelligibility after defamiliarization are coping practices that enable us to identify things in a non-committal, contingent, prima facie not fully adequate way. Access to entities independent of our practices for making them intelligible is thus secured by a radical switchover in the role played by everyday practices so that they become contingent practices for identifying objects. If we were to engage in the investigation of the relation between the strange thing and its everyday mode of being, we might be able to describe it in terms of sufficient features to reidentify it, but we cannot even be sure of that. Hence, our everyday practices are understood as inappropriate for defining what shows up. As Heidegger puts it “the appropriateness is absolutely questionable and the definition must precisely be understood in this questionableness.”
Reference here works as Saul Kripke describes the working of rigid designation, particularly the rigid designation of samples of a natural kind (Kripke 1980). So, to take two of Kripke’s examples, I start by investigating some shiny golden-colored stuff and eventually find out that its essence is to have an atomic weight 197. Or, I contingently identify lightning as a flash of light in the night sky and eventually find out that it is an electrical discharge. Thus something is designated by a description or by a pointing that is not taken to get at the thing’s essence17 and such a pointing or description leaves open the possibility that investigation may discover the thing’s essence. As we have seen, Heidegger calls this mode of reference “non-committal formal designation” and says it is empty but binding.
The practice of rigid or formal designation, as I have described it, shows that we do, indeed, have practices that enable us to read the paradox of practices for gain access to things independent of those very practices in a robust realist way. Moreover, we can make sense of the strange as possibly having some necessary unity underlying the contingent everyday properties by which it is identified.18 This unity is enough to make intelligible the notion of a natural kind whose essence is independent of our ways of making things intelligible.19


Blattner, W. D., (1994), ‘Is Heidegger a Kantian Idealist?’ in Inquiry 37: 185-201.

______________, (1995), ‘Decontextualization, Standardization, and Deweyian Science’ in Man and World 28.

Cerbone, D. R., (1995) ‘World, World-entry, and Realism in Early Heidegger’ in Inquiry 38.

Davidson, D., (1991), ‘Three Varieties of Knowledge’ in A. J. Ayer: Memorial Essays, Royal Institute of Philosophy, supplement 30, A. Phillips Griffiths (ed), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

______________, (1984), ‘On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme’ in Inquires into Truth and Interpretation, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Dreyfus, H. L., (1991) Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time, Division I, Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press.

Fell, J. P., (1992), ‘The Familiar and the Strange: On the Limits of Praxis in Early Heidegger’in Heidegger: A Critical Reader, Hubert L. Dreyfus & Harrison Hall (eds), Oxford: Blackwell.

Fine, A. (1986) The Shaky Game, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Føllesdal, D., (1986), ‘Essentialism and Reference’ in The Philosophy of W. V. Quine, vol. 18 The Library of Living Philosophers, La Salle, Ill.: Open Court

______________, (l996) “Conceptual Change and Reference,” Cognitio humana—Dynamik des Wissens und der Werte, XVII Deutscher Kongreß für Philosophie, Leipzig, 23-27 September 1996, Vorträge und Kolloquien, Herausgegeben von Christoph Hubig.

Heidegger, M., (l959), Introduction to Metaphysics, Yale University Press.

______________, (1962), Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson , New York: Harper.

______________, (1984), Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

______________, (1985), The History of the Concept of Time, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

______________, (1977), ‘What Is Metaphysics’ in Basic Writings, trans. David Farrell Krell, New York: Harper.

______________, (1977b), ‘The Age of the World Picture’ in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt, New York: Harper Torchbooks.

______________, (1977c), ‘Science and Reflection’ in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt, New York: Harper Torchbooks.

______________, (1982), The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans. Albert Hofstadter, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

______________, (1985), Gesamtausgabe, Band 61, Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles, Frankfurt, Germany: Vittorio Klostermann.

______________, (1996) Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh, Albany: State University of New York.

Kripke, S. A., (1980), Naming and Necessity, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Kuhn, T. (1970), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 2 edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Malpas, J. E., (1992), Donald Davidson and the Mirror of Meaning, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rouse, J. (1987), Knowledge and Power: Toward a Political Philosophy of Science, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

______________, (1996), Engaging Science: How to Understand Its Practices Philosophically, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Searle, J., (1995) The Construction of Social Reality New York: The Free Press

1 I would like to thank the following people who helped me work out my position, in many cases by arguing against it and writing detailed criticisms: William Blattner, Taylor Carman, David Cerbone, Donald Davidson, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Sean Kelly, Lisa Lloyd, Jeff Malpas, Stephen Neal, Joe Rouse, Ted Schatzki, Charles Spinosa and Mark Wrathall.

2 Three crucial essays for the deflationary realist position are: Donald Davidson, ‘Three Varieties of Knowledge’ in A. J. Ayer: Memorial Essays, 1991: 153-166; Donald Davidson, ‘On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme’ in Inquires into Truth and Interpretation , 1984: 183-198, and Donald Davidson, ‘The Inscrutability of Reference’ in Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation ,1984: 227-241. For an independently developed account of deflationary realism, see Arthur Fine’s description of what he calls the Natural Ontological Attitude in The Shaky Game . Jeff Malpas and Joseph Rouse have generalized Davidson’s arguments concerning the relation of beliefs to things to cover the relation of all coping practices to things. Malpas and Rouse have also tried to show, contrary to my view, that Martin Heidegger is a deflationary realist. See J. E. Malpas, Donald Davidson and the Mirror of Meaning and Joseph Rouse’s two books: Knowledge and Power: Toward a Political Philosophy of Science, and Engaging Science: How to Understand Its Practices Philosophically .

3 When I speak of “things in themselves,” I am not referring to Kant’s notion of things independent of any conceptual scheme and hence unknowable but rather to the knowable functional components of the universe. Some have thought that a belief in natural kinds requires that the “lines” in the universe between one kind and another must be sharp. I, however, assume that one needs only to be able to distinguish sharply between paradigm cases of kinds in order to describe the universe as divided into natural kinds.

4 The question—whether the idea of an essential structure of the universe independent of our practices for investigating it makes sense—can be taken up without regard to other important discussions of the natural sciences. I, therefore, do not take a stand on: (1) whether unobservable entities are real (the question of instrumentalism), (2) whether events in the universe are lawful throughout or exhibit a degree of randomness (the question of determinism), and (3) whether there are good arguments for metaphysical realism based solely on conceptual analysis. See, for instance, John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality 149-197, where he argues for the conceptual necessity of brute facts which are discovered, not constituted.

5 When Heidegger speaks of everyday practices or everydayness, he generally means instrumental coping practices or these practices and what we encounter through them. When I speak of everyday practices, I refer more broadly to our familiar ways of encountering things in general, including therefore our familiar perceptual way. The only practices that I deal with in this paper as non-everyday are encounters with what I call the strange and scientific practices. More broadly, for me institutional practices including scientific, religious, and certain aesthetic practices whose intelligibility is founded on non-everyday experiences count as non-everyday practices. When, however, I explicitly describe Heidegger’s views, I shall use the term “everyday” as he uses it.

6 Heidegger himself seems to be conflicted on the subject. Eight years after his seemingly realist stand in Being and Time, he writes in Introduction to Metaphysics, (Yale University Press, l959): “Strictly speaking we cannot say: There was a time when man was not. At all times man was and is and will be, in so far as time temporalizes itself only insofar as man is.” (Heidegger 1959: 71) This claim follows from the argument, already in Being and Time, that without Dasein there would be no before and after. But Heidegger also says in a lecture given in l928 and published in l978:

The question of the extent to which one might conceive the interpretation of Dasein as temporality in a universal-ontological way is a question which I am myself not able to decide—one which is still completely unclear to me. (Heidegger 1984: 210.)

I think Heidegger should have realized that the occurrent time of nature escapes idealism since it can be understood not in terms of our everyday sense of a before and after but only as an asymmetrical ordering of states.

7 In his later marginal notes, Heidegger adds that this revealing of the occurrent does not require either actual breakdown or an active disregard of the use aspects of equipment but can also be arrived at by training oneself to focus on properties of entities in a way that is not directly related to our coping activity. See Martin Heidegger, 1996: 57, note.

8 Rouse rightly thinks that “Heidegger is disturbingly vague about the changeover which is said to occur” (Rouse 1987: 74-75).

9 Joseph P. Fell develops this point in his “The Familiar and the Strange: On the Limits of Praxis in Early Heidegger,” (Fell 1992: 65-80).

10 Rouse is again right in demanding Heidegger be more specific on this point. One could ask, for example, by what skills do the scientists interpret their data and, if skills are required, how the scientist have the right to claim that the theoretical objects confirmed by their data are independent of all human activity?

Though Heidegger is a realist with respect to natural entities, he is not a reductionist, or naturalist. He argues at length in Sections 19, 20, and 21 of Being and Time that our practical ability to disclose ways of being, and thus to discover beings, cannot be understood in terms of the occurrent, and that therefore the occurrent, even recontextualized in a successful science of nature, could not provide the fundamental building blocks of reality. Natural science can tell us only what is causally real, it cannot account for our ability to make intelligible various ways of being, thereby disclosing various domains of being or realities, one of which includes the entities described by physical science. Thus science cannot be a theory of ultimate reality. This is Heidegger's reason for rejecting reductive realism. He says: “Realism tries to explain reality ontically by real connections of interaction between things that are real. . . . [But] being can never be explained by entities but is already that which is ‘transcendental’ for every entity” (Heidegger 1962: 251).

11 Thus, Rouse can reasonably object that:

It is not that such things, which Heidegger calls “present-at-hand,” [occurrent] exist independent of the behavioral responses of persons within a configuration of practices and functional equipment. It is that the appropriate behavioral responses to them are carefully shorn of any functional reference.

(Rouse 1987: 74)

12 Heidegger in 1938, thus, anticipates Thomas Kuhn’s account of normal science in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Heidegger also already recognized in Being and Time that science progresses by means of revolutions. “The real ‘movement’ of the sciences takes place when their basic concepts undergo a more or less radical revision ....” (Heidegger 1962: 29).

13 Indeed, Rouse holds that later Heidegger gave up the realism of the Being and Time period. He notes Heidegger's Kuhn-like remark back in 1938:

[We cannot] say that the Galilean doctrine of freely falling bodies is true and that Aristotle's teaching, that light bodies strive upward, is false; for the Greek understanding of the essence of body and place and of the relation between the two rests upon a different interpretation of entities and hence conditions a correspondingly different kind of seeing and questioning of natural events. No one would presume to maintain that Shakespeare's poetry is more advanced than that of Aeschylus. It is still more impossible to say that the modern understanding of whatever is, is more correct than that of the Greeks. (Heidegger 1977b: 117.)

Here Heidegger is obviously trying to counter the claim that Galileo has refuted Aristotle. But he is not doing so, as Kuhn does in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by holding that neither theory is true of nature, but rather by holding that both are true. This could be the innocuous observation that both are "illuminating," but in the context of another of Heidegger’s remarks, viz. “that what is represented by physics is indeed nature itself, but undeniably it is only nature as the object-area, whose objectness is first defined and determined through the refining that is characteristic of physics” (Heidegger 1977c: 173-174.), it must be the stronger claim that different theories can reveal different aspects of nature. Of course, if one thinks of Aristotle's theory of natural place as an account of physical causality meant to explain, for example, why rocks fall, in the same sense that modern physics claims to explain that phenomenon, his position is untenable. On that account modern physics, as far as we know, would be right and Aristotle would simply be wrong. It may well be, however, as Heidegger holds, that Aristotle and Galileo were asking different kinds of questions, and so each could be right about a different kind of causality.

14 See e.g. Being and Time where Heidegger speaks of “a non-committal formal indicator, indicating something which may perhaps reveal itself as its ‘opposite’ in some particular phenomenological context....” (Heidegger 1962: 152) Henceforth I will translate Anzeige as “designator” rather than “indicator.”

15 What Heidegger presumably has on his mind here when he says that the phenomenological given is absolutely questionable is the fact that any interpretive investigation has to being with everyday experience which is likely to be distorted both by individual fleeing and by the tradition. Yet the investigator has to begin where he is and can only hope gradually to work himself out of cover-ups and distortions. The recognition that it is necessary to start with the contingent and distorted if one wants to get to the essential, explains Heidegger’s enigmatic remark in Being and Time concerning the hermeneutic circle: “What is decisive is not to get out of the circle but to come into it in the right way.” (Heidegger 1962: 195)

16 Of course, not all encounters with the strange are alike, and I am not describing the unfamiliar in all its forms. Aesthetic wonder which gives us extraordinary things that are sublime does not give us strange things of the sort I am concerned with here, nor does the religious awe that gives us an experience of a radically other being, nor philosophical wonder that takes us outside the ordinary so we can relate ourselves to the everyday as a whole.

17 I do not believe that the necessity involved in making claims about essences requires claims about David Lewis’s possible worlds. Dagfinn Føllesdal, for instance, argues for a form of rigid designation much like Kripke’s only with an even more minimal ontology. For Føllesdal, considerations of “all possible worlds” are resolved into considerations about objects which our language enables us to keep track of although we have many false beliefs about the objects, do not know many of their properties. and do not know how their properties will change over time. (Føllesdal 1986: 97-113, esp. 107. Kripke 1980: 15-21).

18 The claim that essentialism follows from rigid designation is argued by all who care about rigid designation. For the claim closest to mine, see Føllesdal, 1996: 356-359.

19 A realist science would have to make sure that it had practices for seeking the essences of objects in its domain that did not depend on everyday cannons of what makes sense. Such a realist science could separate itself from the everyday by granting full autonomy to a discipline of puzzle-solving within the theoretical projection. Under such a regime, a solution that solves a puzzle, no matter how perceptually and intellectually counterintuitive, would have the power to force scientists to abandon even their current principles of intelligibility. Quantum physics is a case study of long-accepted principles of intelligibility being cast aside. That solutions to puzzles create more puzzles suggests that puzzle solving is the activity of letting the nature of the universe guide conceptions of it away from human ways of conceiving toward a view from nowhere, appropriate to the universe as it is in itself.

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