In the first few pages of Being and Time Heidegger writes:

such an inquiry [into foundations]... still needs a guideline... it remains naive and opaque if... it leaves the meaning of being in general undiscussed (p12 SUNY Press).

I could agree scientists have to be concerned with foundations ("in biology... mechanism and vitalism"). And even that these are given by "preliminary research... interpreting these beings in terms of the basic constitution of their being... [As with e.g. Kant] working out what belongs to any nature whatsoever".

But, is it true that to decide upon a foundation we need an explicit study into what we mean by 'being'? Isn't that the entire issue at hand that he is trying to argue for: that "the meaning of Being" is an essential question (so he's begging the question).

I don't see how citing the crises of the sciences helps him! Has Being and Time helped mathematicians or scientists define their field? Are biologists at a loss because they haven't agreed on "the meaning of being"?

It seems unlikely to me, though I could see it may be of relevance in the philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind especially.

Has this question been addressed in the huge literature on Heidegger (or foundations), at all?

  • just feels like he's saying "even scientists don't know" and we're meant to be impressed that it's not just philosophers. i mean... – another_name Apr 27 at 3:35
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    That's what Heidegger held, "is it true" has no answer SE can give. Heidegger is well-known for his anti-scientific stance and "degeneration of logic into logistics" in mathematics, but even he revised his position in late years away from Husserlian foundationalism, which is still prominent in Sein und Zeit. – Conifold Apr 27 at 5:05
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    i don't see why it is in principle unanswerable by SE rather than as yet unanswerable? @Conifold – another_name Apr 27 at 5:24
  • Then why ask it this way, haven't we been over this multiple times? What would hypothetical answerer say? No, it's false because I believe in science? Or, yes, Heidegger is right and science lost its way? You've been doing better for a while, but now it's back to forum discussions. You may have a lot of good thoughts from reading Heidegger, but not all of them can be profitably shared here. – Conifold Apr 27 at 5:29
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    Actually, it was, but yes/no depends on the author, and that is not how you asked, is it. See Husserl and the History of Classical Foundationalism by Philipse, p.12. – Conifold Apr 27 at 7:42

This answer does not consider the question in terms of Heidegger, but more generally in terms of a philosophy of science or naturalism. Hence it is only partial.

If one thinks of science as a process of finding predictable patterns in objective data then this process has abstracted away subjectivity to look at a smaller, more manageable part of reality. As long as science stays there and recognizes the abstraction it has made, then it does not need to analyse Being, but if it claims that this abstraction is all of reality and what it abstracted away might be reducible to what it studies, then it has made a naive metaphysical commitment which needs to be challenged.

Some ways of challenging this would be the following:

  1. Alvin Plantinga's Evolutonary Argument Against Naturalism challenges a scientistic metaphysics that claims that naturalism is all there is. This position was earlier presented by C. S. Lewis in Miracles and Richard Taylor in Metaphysics. The belief in naturalism as all there is and evolution as the way we got where we are raises the question why our reasoning abilities are so accurate. Since they are accurate it is unlikely that naturalism is all there is.

  2. Gabriel Marcel in The Mystery of Being distinguishes between problems and mysteries. Problems are in the objective world of science where solutions can be found for them. Mysteries involve our subjectivity. By abstracting away our subjectivity we are able to look at reality as problems to be solved. This does not eliminate the need for a perspective that does not perform this abstraction but stays with the mystery of being.

  3. Michael Polanyi makes a distinction between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Science would by contained within the explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge would contain Popper's World Three since that world contains problems, theories and arguments. Polanyi's reminder is that this explicit knowing is rooted in tacit knowing, not the other way around. See "The Logic of Tacit Inference", Philosophy, 1966.

Objective science doesn't need to analyze being as long as it recognizes that its objectivity is not all there is. Anyone from any metaphysical persuasion can participate in these external knowledge problems of science because it is objective.

However, if those with a metaphysics claiming science is all there dominate science research, then science needs to step back enough to realize that science, naturalism, external knowledge is not all there is. Science has abstracted away perhaps the most interesting part of reality to achieve its technological usefulness.

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