Fundamental ontology

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Fundamental ontology is defined in Martin Heidegger's Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics as “the metaphysics of human Dasein which is required for metaphysics to be made possible”.[1] It is an analytic of Dasein’s ontological constitution or being as a grounding of metaphysics. As Heidegger notes, it is an “ontological analytic of the finite essence of human beings which is to prepare the foundation for the metaphysics”.[2] Ontology is preceded or derived from an analysis of this being. As The Basic Problems of Phenomenology notes, “Ontology has for its fundamental discipline the analytic of the Dasein”.[3] This analysis not only grounds general ontology but also regional ontologies that ground ontic sciences. As Being and Time notes, the “fundamental ontology, from which alone all other ontologies can originate, must be sought in the existential analysis of Dasein”.[4] Thus, the chain of inquiry runs from Fundamental ontology, to general ontology, then a regional ontology and culminates in an ontic science. The possibility for such a science is granted from the fact that science in general is a mode of being of Dasein, and the comportive relation to the world that allows it access to other beings apart from itself (that further allows ontic sciences' relation to their beings ) is also its ontological constitution.The deduction of fundamental ontology can take its directive from Dasein’s priorities over other beings. These are “ontic... ontological…. and ontic-ontological[5]. The first two stem from Dasein’s constitution or structure (existentiality); the ontic (to quote Being and Time) being that “is defined in its being by existence”[6].. The second is the ontological clarity that in “its determination as existence Dasein is in itself "ontological””[7]. The above named structures necessarily intrude into general ontology as it unfolds and thus make Dasein the fundamental being and its ontology the fundamental ontology. This grants Dasein the privilege of being the being that is questioned first (in the phenomenological reduction). The third priority stems from two equiprimordial modes of being of Dasein; comportment in the world and preontological understanding of being as the “ ontic-ontological condition of the possibility of all ontologies”. Thus, Dasein can protrude into its priority from an ontological analysis of knowledge or science.


The idea of a fundamental ontology of Dasein, was inherently predetermined by Parmenides when he noted that "τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι (to wit) for the same thing is for conceiving as is for being”[8].. This equality of being and thought already shows that Dasein has a priority in relation to being. But the priority of Dasein as subject stems from Descartes who starts his first philosophy (which is how Aristotle defined the so called metaphysics) from a fundamental truth by deriving it from the ontological constitution of truth and knowledge as self certainty. In Descartes, a prior science or analysis of a fundamental ground from which all ontologies are derived is intimated. As he notes, he hopes, “building from the foundation . .. for the removal from below of the foundation necessarily involves the downfall of the whole edifice”[9]. It is in the Critique of Pure Reason that Dasein's priority is fully developed and themathized into an ontology that is fundamental. The designation of the Critique as a Transcendental critique notes its position and intentions . As a letter to To Johann Heinrich Lambert on September 2, 1770 notes "A quite special, though purely negative science, general phenomenology (phaenomologia [sic] generalis), seems to me to be presupposed by metaphysics"[10]. In Kant and Heidegger, fundamental ontology is a phenomenology of Dasein. This is the same idea presented in The Phenomenology of Spirit which was projected as the first part of the system of science. Here, fundamental ontology is presented as a pathway which "is the Science of the experience which consciousness goes through”[11]. This experience of consciousness deduces (to quote the Critique ) or “display the sources and conditions of its possibility,(ontology) and needed to clear and level a ground that was completely overgrown”[12]. To conclude with the phenomenology of Spirit, fundamental ontology grants ontology the “element of Science which is the pure Notion of Science itself, it must travel a long way and work its passage . . . [13]

The priorities of Dasein

It is pertinent to note here that fundamental ontology denotes the primal ontology of the entity that will prove itself thus; rather than the content of the entity. This is in line with part of the basic component of the phenomenological method called phenomenological reduction. This, to quote The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, is “the leading back or reduction of investigative vision from a naively apprehended being to being”[14]. As it if further elucidated “ontological investigation, always turns, at first and necessarily, to some being; but then, in a precise way, it is led away from that being and led back to its being”[15]. This can be seen from the unfolding of ontology and thus the first directive’s priority of Dasein. Ontology asks what is (to quote History of the Concept of Time: Prolegomena) “asked with the intention of doing investigative work”[16] . It is a theoretical question, and is thus behooved to conform to the formal structure of questioning as such. This are given both in Being and time and History of the Concept of Time: Prolegomena as being 1. What is asked for . . . 2. What is asked about . . . 3. What is interrogated”[17] .Ontology as an investigation, to quote Being and Time “first becomes lucid in advance with regard to all the above named constitutive characteristics of the question”[18]. Ontology or the question about being “asks about being. What does being mean?”[19]. But If being, (as Being and Time points out) is that “which determines beings as beings...” [20]: then the phenomenological reduction coupled with the second formal constitution of a question makes beings themselves to “turn out to be what is interrogated in the question of being”[21]. Being is determined by asking beings (entities in the most general sense) about their being. This means that “Beings are, so to speak, interrogated with regard to their being”[22]. Thus the third aspect that determines what is primarily (or fundamentally) interrogated obtrudes itself. The aporia starts with Aristotle's dictum that We speak in many ways of what is . If begins are interrogated and with equal validity, any being can be interrogated . But if a being were to have priority, it has to be deduced or let its priority manifest itself. It is here relevant to note that the two directives are hermeneuticical, that they help in understanding of the deduction only .In reality, (as it will soon appear) they presuppose each other and decay into one another.

The deduction can start from the ontic-ontological priority or the analysis of the constitution of knowing that will ultimately allow the other priorities to manifest. The question of being asks about the meaning of being. In it, it “seeks an answer which determines something which is somehow already given in the very questioning”[23] .The question is not if being “exists” but what is meant by being. To quote the elements of right, Science (meaning philosophy) can determine a being with regard to “ content, the necessity of the thing [Sache] in and for itself, and with regard to form, the nature of the concept”[24]. The latter is the aim of ontology and is thus “called a question of definition”[25] ; for it seeks for the meaning or the form of being for a being and not its extantness. But questioning as “a knowing search for beings in their thatness and whatness"[26]is in itself a mode of being “of a particular being, of the being we inquirers ourselves in each case are”[27]. The question self implicates ; meaning of is a meaning of, for a being.Knowing in itself or more so “knowing the world is a mode of being of Dasein such that this mode is ontically founded in its basic constitution, in being-in-the- world”[28]. If beings are to be questioned the are to be accessed in the world . This means that Ontologies which have beings unlike Da-sein as their theme are accordingly founded and motivated in the ontic structure of Da-sein itself”[29]. But “The question of being demands that the right access to beings be gained and secured in advance with regard to what it interrogates”[30] It is thus paramount to asks for the right mode of access to the being prior to the question of being itself.

From the ontical fact that the questioner in questioning about being has a double relation to being can offer a summary of the priorities. Since Dasein in its very being (existence), has “a relation of being to this being . . .[the] Understanding of being is itself a determination of being of Da-sein”[31]. It is constituted ontologically to have a relation to being and beings for “Knowing is a mode of being of in-being”[32]. But this means that if any being even Dasein itself were to be implicated in the phenomenological reduction as what is interrogated, a prior analysis of “right sort of access to the entity in order to bring out the sense of being” [33] is nothing but an analysis of Dasein. To quote Being and Time “Thus, fundamental ontology, from which alone all other ontologies can originate, must be sought in the existential analysis of Da-sein”[34]. A lapidary conclusion will be that In ontology Da-sein is not only the primary being to be interrogated; in addition to this it is the being that always already in its being is related to what is sought in this question. But then the question of being is nothing else than the radicalization of an essential tendency of being that belongs to Da-sein itself, namely, of the pre-ontological understanding of being[35].

Relationship with Dasein

Human beings are in a privileged position to understand Fundamental Ontology for they are both ontically and ontologically distinct from other beings. They are thus constituted as comportive or intentional. This means that not only are they able to comport to beings but they can thematize the relation and beings themselves. The question about being, like all its comportments  is a concern of  Dasein. But in ontology, Dasein proves itself to be the fundamental being to be questioned. The priority means “the question of being means to make a being-he who questions-transparent in its being”[36].. Also, the preontological ontical understanding and ontological relation to being and beings grounds or is radicalized into ontology. To quote Being and Time, it is “ From this (preontological constitution that) grows the explicit question of the meaning of being and the tendency toward its concept”[37].

See also


  1. ^ Heidegger 1997, p. 1.
  2. ^ Heidegger 1997, p. 1.
  3. ^ Heidegger 1988, p. 19.
  4. ^ Heidegger 2010, p. 12.
  5. ^ Heidegger 2010, p. 11.
  6. ^ Heidegger 2010, p. Ibid.
  7. ^ Heidegger 2010, p. ibid.
  8. ^ Parmenides 2009, p. 54.
  9. ^ Descartes 1960, p.113.
  10. ^ Kant 2007, p.10:98.
  11. ^ Hegel 1977, p.§36.
  12. ^ Kant 1999, p.Axxi.
  13. ^ Hegel 1977, p.§27.
  14. ^ Heidegger 1988, p. 21.
  15. ^ Heidegger 1988, ibid.
  16. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 144.
  17. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 145.
  18. ^ Heidegger 1927,4.
  19. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 143.
  20. ^ Heidegger 1927,5.
  21. ^ Heidegger 1927, ibid.
  22. ^ Heidegger 1927, ibid.
  23. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 144.
  24. ^ Hegel 1991, p. 27.
  25. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 144.
  26. ^ Heidegger 1927,3.
  27. ^ Heidegger 1927,6.
  28. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 161.
  29. ^ Heidegger 1927,11.
  30. ^ Heidegger 1927,5.
  31. ^ Heidegger 1927,10.
  32. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 161.
  33. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 145.
  34. ^ Heidegger 1927,11.
  35. ^ Heidegger 1927,12.
  36. ^ Heidegger 1927,6.
  37. ^ Heidegger 1927,4.


  • Fredrich, Hegel (1991). "Elements of the Philosophy of Right (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)"
  • Fredrich, Hegel (1997). "Phenomenology of Spirit"
  • Immanuel, Kant (1999). "Critique of Pure Reason (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant)"
  • Immanuel, Kant (2007). "Correspondence (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant)"
  • Martin, Heidegger (1997). “Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics
  • Martin, Heidegger (1988). “Basic Problems of Phenomenology”
  • Martin, Heidegger (1927). “Being and time”
  • Parmenides (2009). "Fragments of Parmenides (Parmenides, 2009)"
  • Rene Descartes (1960). "The Rationalists: Descartes: Discourse on Method & Meditations; Spinoza: Ethics; Leibniz: Monadology "
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