On Martin Heidegger’s Destruktion.

This was originally written as a two-page homework paper in partial fulfillment of the requirements for PHIL 2153. I stayed up until 4 in the morning dwelling on Heidegger’s luring enigma, whatever that means.


The closing paragraph in Section 6 of Being and Time, if not the entire section, addresses the possibility of an answer to a question that has been in existence since time immemorial; the possibility of arriving at a destination no philosopher has yet ever to set foot or sail; the possibility of a philosophical ‘re-awakening’ that may shed some light on the perennial problem of the question of Being.

Such re-awakening, in Heideggerian philosophy, is recognized under the term Destruktion. The idea of Destruktion or de-struction of the history of ontology is that of the dismantling of the previously “transmitted conceptual apparatus” that has accumulated and settled into fixed objective traditions, a clearing away of the path that has been littered by philosophical dogmatism, if not by arrogant assertions of answers that has for itself never experienced the questions. The problem with tradition, according to Heidegger, is that “when tradition thus becomes master, it does so in such a way that what it ‘transmits’ is made so inaccessible proximally and for the most part, that it rather becomes concealed. Tradition takes what has come down to us and delivers it over to self-evidence; it blocks our access to those primordial ‘sources’ from which the categories and concepts handed down to us have been in part quite genuinely drawn.”

The task of the Destruktion of the history of ontology is to reveal what was hidden, to show what was concealed, in Heideggerian language ‘to make the implicit, explicit’ and to re-awaken philosophy from its slumber by breaking down the walls of philosophical tradition in order to gain access to primordial sources of knowledge.

“If the question of Being is to achieve clarity regarding its own history, a loosening of the sclerotic tradition and a dissolving of the concealments produced by it is necessary.”

Moreover, according to Heidegger, the de-struction of the history of ontology does not consist in the abandonment or desertion of philosophical traditions nor is it classified as a project of negation. The de-struction of the history of ontology is a positive project that seeks to free up the possibilities of philosophy not only by undermining the self-evidence of philosophical traditions but also by disclosing the primordial sources from which knowledge is drawn.

But what does it mean to break yet another philosophical tradition and discover a whole new horizon for a set of whole new ideas? Isn’t such a ‘breakthrough’ been done before by the colossal names of Descartes, Kant, and Hegel, to name a few? What differentiates Heidegger’s notion of Destruktion from other philosophical contributions is its primary focus on the formulation of the question of Being. For Heidegger, the de-struction of the history of ontology essentially belongs to the formulation of the question of Being. Through the process of de-struction can the “concrete possibility of bringing phenomena of existence into view and specifying them in genuine conception truly manifest itself” and through it will the question of Being be properly formulated and addressed.

“In this field where ‘the matter itself is deeply veiled,’ any investigation will avoid overestimating its results. For such inquiry is constantly forced to face the possibility of disclosing a still more original and universal horizon from which it could draw the answer to the question ‘What does Being mean?’ We can discuss such possibilities seriously and with positive results only if the question of Being has been re-awakened and we have reached the point where we can come to terms with it in a controlled fashion.”
— §6, Being and Time.

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