David Good


The clearest summary of Heidegger’s thought in the Introduction to Being and Time is provided by Thomas Sheehan, who says:

Heidegger made the point by pressing his students on what it is they first encounter in their lived experience. Is it things? Objects? Values? No, he insisted, it is:

the meaningful [das Bedeutsame] – that’s what is primary, that’s what is immediately in your face without any detour through a mental grasp of the thing. When you live in the world of first-hand experience, everything comes at you loaded with meaning, all over the place and all the time. Everything is embedded in a meaningful context, and that context is what gives it meaning.[1]

Simply put, Sheehan’s quotation of Heidegger here is stating that the being (meaningfulness) of the world and the being (meaningfulness) of our a priori reception of it combine to constitute an ultimate experiential structure, Being (ultimate meaning).[2] For Heidegger, this is the universal human experience he means to uncover through his phenomenological hermeneutic. In his Introduction to Being and Time, Heidegger lays the groundwork for Being in Time by uncovering the necessary structures implicit in this human experience which he will use as components to form a hermeneutical ‘key’ to make explicit or ‘unlock’ or ‘decode’ Being. Because of the limits of this essay I have outlined only the primary, preliminary explication of the components that structure Heidegger’s hermeneutical key: Dasein, time and history.

[1] Hubert L Dreyfus and Mark A Wrathall, A Companion to Heidegger (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2007) 197.

[2] Dreyfus and Wrathall, A Companion to Heidegger, 196, 197.