I have a fairly strong background in math and programming as it is my daily work. I have recently started getting interested in philosophy and often has the habit of drawing analogy between philosophical constructs and mathematical concepts. What is an intuitive way of thinking about "Being" in that context?

Does it help to think of "Being" as the action of a class template being realized as an object and that the very act of taking realization is the "Being" part of it?

Or does it help to think of this as the process of generation of samples from a random variable?

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    Heidegger's Being (in the world) is a replacement for terms such as subject, object, consciousness, and world. For him the split of things into subject/object, as is found in the Western tradition and even in language, must be overcome. So a mere class template instantiation or random variable sampling is short of his metaphysics. Also there is always a Heideggerian basic-level mood that assails the being in our unreflecting devotion to the world and comes neither from the outside nor from the inside, but arises from said Being in the world. It's like event driven design pattern of software... Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 23:23
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    Neither. The "Being", on Heidegger's view, is not meant to solve the problem of universals, i.e. to explain what it is that beings (entities) share, see SEP. He rather conceives explaining the "meaning of Being" as tracing how Dasein (the primordial I) comes to posit entities, not "discover" their nature. It is a mix of instrumental and experiential, in first person and historicized. Third person projections, like class templates and random variables, that are meant to relate general to particular "objectively", completely miss the mark.
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 3:24
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    In case it's not clear from the two preceding comments, computer programming analogies have limited applications in philosophy. If it helps any, you should consider that the human 'machine' (as it were) is decidedly an analog computer: a decidedly different construct from a programmer's perspective. Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 18:07
  • You will have to get away from these abstractions with Heidegger, I think. You will need to get way back to banks of the Nile as a surveyor. Back even before Pythagoras. Back before math was “hypostatized”. You will have to get your boots dirty.
    – Gordon
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 1:23
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    @Gordon Thanks. I am struggling to set aside the way I have been trained to think about problems in general, the modern way of "rationalizing" and connecting to science. That advice helps. Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 21:35

2 Answers 2


I think it is interesting to trace Heidegger's reflexion on Being back to Husserl work. Heidegger was Husserl's student and kept reading and studying the Logical Investigations, even after Husserl himself turned is back on them.

Heidegger speaks about Husserl example sentence (LI 6): "I see that this paper is white". Briefly, as we both understand this sentence, we have an understanding of every part of it. In particular, we have an understanding of the verbe "is" and with it a first relation to Being. In the report of Zähringen Seminar, we find (GA 15, p.378):

Um die Frage nach dem Sinn von Sein überhaupt entfalten zu können, mußte das Sein gegeben sein, um bei ihm seinen Sinn zu erfragen. Husserls Leistung bestand in eben dieser Vergegenwärtigung des Seins, das in der Kategorie phänomenal anwesend ist. Durch diese Leistung, fährt Heidegger fort, hatte ich endlich einen Boden : » Sein« ist kein bloßer Begriff, ist keine reine Abstraktion, die sich auf dem Weg der Ableitung ergeben hat.

Which loosely translates to:

In order to be able to develop/deploy the question in direction of the meaning of Being, Being needed to be given so we could question its meaning. The achievement of Husserl lies in this very bringing of the present of Being which comes phenomenally to light in the category. Through this achievement, continues Heidegger, I finally had a ground: "Being" is not a bare concept, it is not a pure abstraction that was produced along the deductive way.

So what appears first is that what is investigated is not a concept but our relation to Being which is here, before all, the relation to a word. Before it (Being) being a concept, if even it can be seen as a concept, it is a word with which the Dasein has an untold relation. And this is the ground on which Being and Time is built (GA2 p.7):

Der Sinn von Sein muß uns daher schon in gewisser Weise verfügbarsein. Angedeutet wurde: wir bewegen uns immer schon in einem Seinsverständnis.

The meaning of Being must then be accessible to us in some way. As suggested: we always move ourselves in an understanding of Being.

From there, we understand how the common mathematical thinking is reverted: first does not come a definition or a way of thinking of objects but a word. And this word, as a part of the language of the Dasein, is held in some kind of relation with the latter. So, taking a slight advance in the later Heidegger, elucidating "the meaning of Being" now means eludicating the relation of the Dasein with (the word) 'Being' and eventually (in the later works) with language itself. And in any case, this can only be conducted through a study of Dasein (this is the part of Being and Time called the existential analytic).

So, to come back to your question, it appears clearly now that such attempt to give mathematical intuition of Being would totally erase the existential part, that is the part that relates to the Dasein in its relation to itself and in particular to Being. And for further reading, I would advise the §2 of Being and Time in which is exposed the aim and path of the work, as well as the Zähringen Seminar (given way later) which is by its nature quite more pedagogical.


What you are describing as a class template is essence, and the base class template would be an essence without any predicates: pure nothing. This is, in circuitous fashion, what Heidegger says being is, but not so fast. . . . He says being is nothing, but he also says being is the clearing — the illuminated Da. How can this be nothing? Because it is the clearing prior to perception (and misperception). Misperception comes about due to misrepresentation or camouflage, "refusal and obstructing" (see below GA5). Humans operate in the interpretation of the clearing, amongst beings; the clearing itself (being) is prior to interpretation and is effectively nothing. Nevertheless, Kant described the uninterpreted field as intuition without thought (die gedankenlose Anschauung, A111) which I would perhaps not describe as nothing. However it would be before all thought and instantiation of subjectivity, so I would not be there to describe it as anything. (Thanks to Tang Huyen for insights.)

GA65 Contributions to Philosophy (of the Event) 1936-40, 270 The essence of beyng, page 381:

Beyng is nothing "in itself" and nothing "for" a "subject." Only beingness can appear as this sort of an "in itself" and can do so only in the form of an effete φύσις [phusis/nature], i.e., as ἰδἐα, the Καθ' αὐτo ["for itself"], something represented, an object. An extreme confinement in objectivity befalls all attempts to find "being" and its "determinations" (categories) in the manner of something objectively present.

GA9 Pathmarks, Letter on “Humanism” (1946) pages 252-253

metaphysics recognises the clearing of being either solely as the view of what is present in “outward appearance” (ἰδἐα) or critically as what is seen in the perspect of categorial representation on the part of subjectivity. This means that the truth of being as the clearing itself remains concealed for metaphysics. [163] However, this concealment is not a defect of metaphysics but a treasure withheld from it yet held before it, the treasure of its own proper wealth. But the clearing itself is being. Within the destiny of being in metaphysics the clearing first affords a view by which what is present comes into touch with the human being, who is present to it, so that the human being himself can in apprehending (νοεἴν) first touch upon being (θιγεῑν, Aristotle, Metaphysics Θ, 10). This view first draws the perspect towards it. It abandons itself to such a perspect when apprehending has become a setting-forth-before-itself in the perceptio of the res cogitans taken as the subiectum of certudio.

GA5 Off the Beaten Track, The Origin of the Work of Art (1935-1936) page 31:

the clearing is pervaded by a constant concealment in the twofold form of refusal and obstructing. Fundamentally, the ordinary is not ordinary; it is extra-ordinary, uncanny [un-geheuer].

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