A critical study of Heidegger’s existentialist phenomenology

Book Review: Langan, Thomas (1959), The Meaning of Heidegger: A Critical Study of an Existentialist Phenomenology Greenwood Press.
Thomas Langan presents his exegesis study of Martin Heidegger’s phenomenology with a critical discourse of Heidegger’s epistemology and ontology. For him, Heidegger frequently used the word ‘Standing-out’ for existence, which in English neologism can be translated as ‘Ecstasies’ or ‘Ecstatic’. Moreover, the fact cannot be denied that the writings of Martin Heidegger have a great impact on protestant theology, literary theory, existential philosophy and history in Europe. One of the important things in Heidegger’s work is the invention of new phenomenological method through which he re-discovered his ontology and epistemology. Whereas, Part I of the book deals with whole philosophical system of Martin Heidegger while Part II of the book deals with Heidegger’s existential philosophy. 

Phenomenology and Philosophical System

For Langan, the writings of Martin Heidegger failed to become popular because of Heidegger’s association with the Nazi party. For instance, when Nazis appointed Martin Heidegger as a rector at the Freiburg University, his philosophy dragged a lot of criticism from the academia. Especially, his opening speech at the Freiburg University caused a lot of confusion towards his ‘Nihilistic’ philosophy that does not allowed any kind of criticism against ‘Ism’. Moreover, the exiled philosophers under Nazis especially those of the Frankfurt school even coined the term ‘Heideggerism’ in opposition. 
According to Langan, there was also a huge confusion about Heidegger’s association with the Nazis especially regarding his relationship with National Socialist Movement. For Legan, Heidegger deserves the credit for the deconstruction of the history of the western philosophical traditions through phenomenology in a way ‘to surpass the metaphysics’ and ‘to stand beyond the evening of evening land’. Lagan iterates, there was no epistemology in the Heideggerian philosophy rather there was only Ontology—a fundamental ontology. Moreover, he developed a pure occidental tradition—when he completed his milestone work ‘Sein and Zeit’ or ‘Being and Time’ in 1927, during his lectureship at Marburg University. For Langan, it was Heidegger’s this milestone work that laid down the foundation of his phenomenology, which then Father of phenomenological school Edmund Husserl despised by calling it ‘ Philosophy without presupposition’. 
For Lagan, it was because of this milestone work; Martin Heidegger was named as the chair at the Freiburg University in 1928. In the same year, he completed another work ‘Kant and the problem of Metaphysics’ which contemplated a phenomenological criticism on the neo-Kantian traditions. He completed this at the Marburg University, which was a long center of the Kantian studies, where he produced his commentaries on the Kantian political traditions. Likewise, his first lecture after his work at the University of Marburg was ‘Was it Metaphysics?’—in which he addressed all the scientists. In this lecture, Martin Heidegger shared the ontological foundation of his work in the context of the finite being despite the fact that some philosophers criticized Heideggerian philosophy for not erecting ‘Fundamental Ontology’—the utter paradox regarding his phenomenology. 
On the contrary, for Langan, Martin Heidegger gave a new direction to the phenomenology by opposing some basic Husserlian principles. Likewise, he proposed new ideas and developed a new method for the destruction of history of ‘Ontology’. In this regard, in his writings, there can be seen a touchstone criticism against the philosophy of Hegel, Kant and Nietzsche. According to Heidegger, the pursuit of being requires the liberation from metaphysics by de-metaphysizing the truth contained in each position. For Langan, Heidegger developed a new position in philosophy that fits his existential notions of being. Likewise, if we put Heidegger in Heideggerian sense then Hegel becomes no more a Platonist and Kant no more a follower of Leibniz and Hume. 
Meanwhile, it does not necessarily mean that Heidegger is just Kierkegaard de-Christianized, Nietzsche systematized, or Hegel de-absolutized—for Langan, it would be foolish to say this! Because the philosophy of Martin Heidegger is perennial, which purely deals with the problem of being, existence and truth? In contrast, Heideggerian philosophy challenges those who have resource to a transcendental absolute as foundation for the conception of the world. He basically consolidates the Kantian attack on Metaphysics, Hegelian attack on the notion of Absolute and Nietzsche’s criticism on God—he put the notion of ‘God’ on the supreme test through his ontology. 
During his eight-day visit to France in 1955, he met with the leading philosophers of the day and delivered an outstanding lecture on ‘Phenomenology of spirit’, which compelled the French thinkers to stand on ‘feet and applaud for him’ besides disagreements with his philosophy. In the regard, for Langan, Martin Heidegger cannot be despised as one of the leading thinkers of the 20th century. 

Sein and Zeit-Being and Time 

According to Langan, through ‘Sein and Zeit’, Martin Heidegger laid down the foundation of his existential philosophy and discovered a new direction for the Ontology. Heidegger’s primary objective was to redefine the western philosophical traditions by de-metaphysizing the domain of occidental philosophy. Basically, he developed a climate in which the question of being was ‘re-opened based on new Ontological and epistemological grounds. For Langan, Heidegger’s Ontology went beyond the Hegelian ‘totality’ of things and beyond Nietzsche’s notion of ‘God is dead’. Moreover, he challenged these notions with the concept of finite being and did not go beyond the world. For Langan, Heidegger invented the following methodologies:
  • Human intelligence is a source of intelligible light, horizon and time is necessary to interpret the history of philosophy, the fate of historical questioning about being.
  • The fundamental of being is ‘Dasien’ due to the nature of existence. 
  • The exposition of essence of the existence as the fundamental being and the exposition of the course of history as the revelation of being in ‘Dasien’. 
For langan, Martin Heidegger’s milestone work ‘Sein and Zeit’ can be divided into parts: the first part seeks the Phenomenological analysis to achieve the methodical exposition of the fundamental reality of existence, which refers to a temporal horizon within which things in the world came to have meaning and hence, came to be in time. Moreover, the title of the first part of ‘Sien and Zeit’ is the interpretation of the German term ‘Dasien’ in terms of [Auf], which means temporality and the explanation of time as the transcendental horizons of the question concerning being. Perhaps, the Heideggerian Ontology laid down the analytical basis of the ontology of the history. Thus, in this way phenomenology of ‘Dasien’ history became a critique of the occidental tradition, which failed to interpret the basic tenets of the Dasien.
Basically, the first part contains two sections: the first section is entitled as ‘the preparatory fundamental analysis of ‘Dasien’’, which reiterates the phenomenological exposition of Dasien as the founder of the temporal world. Whereas, the second section is entitled as ‘Dasien and temporality’, which shows the phenomenological expositions of Dasien in projecting the world horizons, found in history. 
On the contrary, the second part of the book contains a proposed ‘destruction of the historical destiny of ontology’ –it is all about the de-metaphysization of history and interprets things that are as itself something—a God, an idea and the absolute ego. Basically, the whole second part of the book ‘Sein Und Zeit’ contains the phenomenological destruction of history, which is the very touch of the chasm of Nihilism that dragged a lot of criticism towards his work. For Langan, it was the with concept of the finite being Heidegger developed the concept of finite Dasien through which he substituted phenomenology for metaphysics and destines philosophy in the context of finite being. 

Martin Heidegger and Existentialism

The phenomenology of Martin Heidegger influenced the existentialist philosophers in France especially, the Jean Paul Sartre’s famous work ‘L'Être et le néant: Essai d'ontologie phénoménologique’ or ‘Being and Nothingness’, was based on the writing of Heideggerian philosophy. For Langan, Heidegger’s explanation of Dasien and temporality was totally cryptic in nature, which contributed to the explanation of essence of being. Basically, he raised the question of the nothingness of the finite freedom of the Dasien and proposed the engagement of knowledge only in terms of freedom. For Heidegger, both will and knowledge are bound together in a single reality of the ‘Dasien’—what he contemplated philosophy is both scientific and passionate. As Heidegger said: “There is no science without passion, no passion without intentionality, no freedom without knowledge, no life without poetry, and no poetry without truth’.
Thus, for Langan, the nature of Heideggerian phenomenology is integrated with existential phenomenology, which is all about the explanation of time as a transcendental horizon of the questions concerning being. Moreover, he discovered the concept of finite being, whose ontological basis counters Cartesian ‘abstract agent’ by reckoning it as ‘inauthentic’ while ‘Being’ as ‘authentic’. However, the concrete determination of daily existence reveals the double faced ontological structure of the ‘Dasien’—the inauthentic existence hides the real meaning of time as the expression of being. According to Langan, from the interplay of later two Heidegger discovered the drama of history—History in possession of itself or history losing itself in the tragedy of inconsistent and unguided destinies. 


It is a vivid fact that at the root of every philosophy of being lays a conception of how the knower relates himself to the things known. For instance, realism is historically distinguishable from idealism because the former conceives the true relationship based conformity of the intellect with the reality shown by the presence of things while the latter conceives the relationship through the internal discovery of the ideals. Philosopher Thomas Langan gave his best efforts to rediscover the importance of Heideggerian philosophy, which has contributed at the larger scale to German phenomenological school. 
In contrast, the Heideggerian philosophy is neither idealistic nor realistic rather it is beyond the traditional metaphysical opposition of realism-idealism. His phenomenology has undercut the root of metaphysical dichotomies that has plagued the western thought since Plato—the very opposition of subject and object. For Heidegger, the proper understanding of the word ‘Dasien’ lies in the phenomenon of human concern for things. Thus, men relationship with other men or things or objects involves certain intentions of concerns and of meaning. For Heidegger, ‘Dasien’ world is the world of meaning involving the only kind of being that is capable of regrouping, grouping, relating, using and willing things.