In Being and Time, Heidegger claims that an analysis of Dasein is preparatory in that it is guided by the task of working out the question of being. In particular, its purpose is to "uncover the soil" upon which the question of being can properly be posed and ultimately answered. What is the soil this analysis reveals?

Heidegger contends to aim at a "new beginning" that will endure the primordial experiences of Being. However, is it the case that he has a Greek notion of time which entails looking backward as a way of moving forward?

3 Answers 3


I believe the soil in question is translated elsewhere as 'ground', and is described in Heidegger's 1929 treatise "On the Essence of Ground".

And no, I don't think he intends any reference to the greek circular notion of time.

Attaching a couple of quotes from the beginning and near the end of the above mentioned essay (only 39 pages in its entirety), to give a flavour of the concepts under discussion :-


The "principle of reason" as a "supreme principle" seems to preclude from the very outset anything like a problem of ground. Yet is the "principle of reason" an assertion about ground as such? As a supreme principle, does it reveal at all the essence of ground? The usual, abbreviated version of the principle states: nihil est sine ratione, nothing is without reason. Transcribing it positively, this states: omne ens habet rationem, every being has a reason. The principle makes an assertion about beings, and does so with regard to something like "ground." Yet what constitutes the essence of ground is not determined in this principle. It is presupposed for this principle as a self-evident "idea." However, the "supreme" principle of reason makes use of the unclarified essence of ground in yet another way; for the specific character of principle belonging to this principle as a "grounding" principle, the character of principle belonging to this principium grande (Leibniz) can after all be delimited originarily only with regard to the essence of ground.

... we shall now discuss briefly whether anything, and if so, what, has been attained with regard to the problem of the "principle of reason" through our attempt at shedding light upon the "essence" of ground. The principle means: every being has its reason [ground]. The exposition we have given first of all illuminates why this is so. Because being, as understood in advance, "intrinsically" grounds things in an originary manner, every being as a being in its own way announces "grounds," whether these are specifically grasped and determined in an appropriate way or not. Because "ground" is a transcendental characteristic of the essence of being in general, the principle of reason [ground] is valid for beings. Ground, however, belongs to the essence of being because being (not beings) is given only in transcendence as a grounding that finds itself in a projecting of world.

Furthermore, it has become clear with respect to the principle of reason [ground] that the "birthplace" of this principle lies neither in the essence of proposition nor in propositional truth, but in ontological truth, i.e., in transcendence itself.

-- Pathmarks, The Essence of Ground, M. Heidegger, trans. W. McNeill

So in my loose understanding, existential beings transcend the extant being of their component material (which is the ontological difference), and as a property of transcendence they (or somatic bodies in general) need to operate according to reason (or rationality), and it is this principle that is the ground.

  • I was under the impression that Heidegger preferred the Abgrund (groundless ground), in Schelling's sense ("transcendence itself"), over rationality which he always seems to attack. He does find the PSR of Leibniz crucial and I think that is the reference here. The circular notion for the Greeks I believe represents perfect motion like in Aristotle. With such heavy emphasis on fate, Heidegger and the Greeks play on temporality with the past as future and future as past. My focus is on Being and Time's authentic resoluteness as the primordial experience of Being. Mar 16, 2014 at 21:57
  • Heidegger wants us to "return" from the "forgetfulness of Being" as begun with Plato; the covering over of Being and onto-theology. But his source is Heraclitus and other pre-Socratics for this primordial appropriation. How much of this listening to the call of Being is nostalgic and wants to imitate the Hellenic? I guess what we are asking is about what does Heidegger mean by "a new beginning." Mar 16, 2014 at 22:01
  • I'd guess he wants to revolutionise ontology, (pun intended). Mar 17, 2014 at 0:01
  • Right, I like the pun. How revolutionary was it would be my immediate response. Heidegger is a strong-arm of philosophy but I wonder how much of this is bark without bite. The more I investigate his writings the more it looks like philosophical grandstanding...lol Mar 17, 2014 at 3:47

I take it that for Heidegger the soil is the state of consciousness. In other words, the recognition that we think as conscious of but fail to recognize that the backdrops are time and space. And that these are our backdrops because we are mortal.


Being and Time analysis are conducted in terms of transcendental philosophy and I always understood that statement as finding the conditions which allows something to happen. That is why Heidegger begins with the analysis of the being that can pose the question of Being. By analysing Dasein he wants to find the conditions that are required for asking the question of Being. So the soil that is uncovered in Being and Time is being of human being (finite, characterized by care) which is based on time (but not in physical sense of the clock).

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