Heidegger's Original Grundproblem
Eventually I will post something on this wonderful poem by Shelley (see the post antecedent to this one), and also my thoughts on John Sallis's reference to it in the prolusion to his Force of Imagination. But today, I’m thinking with Heidegger. I recently acquired Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie—not the 1928 post-SZ lecture—but the early 1919/1920 winter semester course of the same name.
In true Heidegger fashion, the work kicks off with an introduction to the Grundproblem itself: phenomenology. What I find interesting in particular about this introduction, this “pre-indication of phenomenology” as he calls it, is its immediate statement in terms that, at first blush, are those of transcendental idealism. Phenomenology, Heidegger says in his opening remarks, is “the primordial science of the absolute origin of spirit [Geist.]” Phenomenology is an original science of life as it is “in and for itself.” For this reason, one might think that the problem of phenomenology, as Heidegger broaches it, is the problem of idealism, a problem which perhaps could be stated as being one of determining and establishing an identity between two seemingly disjunctive and mutually exclusive elements, e.g., the “in and for itself.” But this would be a mistake.
If we look carefully at the way Heidegger states the problem, he emphasizes two words: “the primordial science of the absolute origin of spirit [Geist.]” These two words belong together and indicate the same point: the phenomenologist in Heidegger’s sense is not concerned with spirit per se, but with its unique origin.
Here we get a glimpse of the fundamental problem of phenomenology. As a primal science, phenomenology must develop its idea from out of an original relationship to its origin, i.e., its being a manifestation of life "in and for itself", and at the same time, ground this idea in what is prior to it itself, i.e., in what is more original than the idea itself. In other words, it is not sufficient to say that life manifests itself in itself and for itself and then develop the objective of primordial science from out of a fundamental and irreducible manifestation or identity of difference. The primal scientist rather asks about what first of all initiates or gives rise to this difference in and for life itself. The original struggle of phenomenology is that, in reaching for this origin, in developing its idea as a primordial science [ursprungliche Wissenschaft], it must think against its own idea. Hence, phenomenology as primordial science must at once assume an identity—its self-manifestation or manifestation of self—which, in articulating and expressing itself, yet serves only in an indicative function. This identity points towards what, in itself, is earlier than the phenomenon of identity and gives rise to it. Phenomenology as the primordial science of the origin of spirit, is the science of the non-identical in its identity as non-identical, and as what gives rise to this identity even as it withdraws or falls back [zurückfällt] into itself.