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Time in Whitehead and Heidegger: Some Comparisons

by David H. Mason

David H. Mason is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 83-105, Vol. 5, Number 2, Summer, 1975. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Among the increasing number of persons who are persuaded of the importance of the thought of either Whitehead or Martin Heidegger few have tried to appropriate the thought of both. Only in the rarest instances have scholars seen fit to explore the possibility of a fruitful interchange between the fundamental ideas of these two seminal thinkers.1 This paucity of comparative scholarship is, perhaps, a function of the assumption that their modes of philosophizing are so different as to render the thought of the one completely irrelevant to that of the other. Also, so far as Heideggerians are concerned, the assumption may be reinforced by the belief that Whitehead is a part of the metaphysical tradition which Heidegger seeks to "dismantle"2 and thus to overcome. Even if this were the case, it would not be unprofitable to make comparisons, since Heidegger saw the tradition as including "positive possibilities" (SZ 22). Of course, such a comparison would disclose Heidegger’s conception of "Being" and of "time" as radically other than Whitehead’s. It is my conviction that this is not the case. But since it seems to be a genuine obstacle to further commerce, it should be removed at the outset. A careful examination of what Heidegger actually says about Being, time, and the need to dismantle the metaphysical tradition, combined with a clear grasp of Whitehead’s idea of the Being of actual entities and the nature of time that stems will aid considerably in that removal.

I. The Legitimacy of a Comparison

To understand Heidegger’s position we need first to read closely the Introduction to Being and Time, especially sections five and six: "The Ontological Analytic of Dasein as Laying Bare the Horizon for an Interpretation of the Meaning of Being in General," and "The Task of a Dismantling of the History of Ontology." Here Heidegger makes several important points which should be kept constantly in mind when reading Being and Time, and which, I believe, give legitimacy to the present enterprise.

First, Heidegger repeatedly asserts that the goal of his treatise is to work out the question of the meaning of Being in general -- the "Being of entities" (SZ 1, 5, 6, 11, 27). Secondly, he points to Dasein, the entity "which we ourselves are at all times," (SZ 7) as the entity by which we are to gain access to the meaning of Being. That is to say that by fully interpreting the entity which is ontically distinguished by the fact that "in its own Being [it] is occupied with this Being itself" (SZ 12), we are enabled to formulate the question of the meaning of Being most adequately. Having established the thesis that there is an essential relation between the ontological analytic of Dasein and the working out of the meaning of Being in general, Heidegger says: "We shall point to temporality as the meaning of the Being of the entity which we call Dasein" (SZ 17). Thus "temporality" (Zeitlichkeit), which is disclosed as the meaning of the Being of Dasein, becomes the guide to "time" (Zeit) as the horizon for any understanding of Being. He writes:

By holding fast to this connection, it shall be shown that that from which Dasein implicitly understands and interprets something like Being at all is time. This must be brought to light and genuinely conceived as the horizon for all understanding of Being and for any interpretation of Being. In order to allow this to be done with insight, it requires a primordial explication of time as the horizon of the understanding of Being in terms of temporality as the Being of Dasein which understands Being. (SZ 17)

Having made this point -- that the question of the meaning of Being must be understood in terms of time which can only genuinely be conceived in terms of temporality as the Being of Dasein -- Heidegger further reveals the need for loosening up a tradition which has hardened and which, therefore, blocks our access to the determination of Being (SZ 21, 22). He notes that in following the insight that the temporality of Dasein provides the clue to the meaning of Being we must take care to distinguish this idea of temporality from the traditional concept of time which, he believes, has persisted from Aristotle through Bergson. Reflecting on the fact that "time" has often functioned as an "ontical criterion" for distinguishing "realms of Being," he notes that, as thus conceived, the idea inevitably conveys the notion of being "in time" in contrast with the eternal which is "supratemporal" (SZ 18). Therefore, despite the fact that the idea of time has remained obscure or unanalyzed with respect to its ontological function, it has played a decisive role in traditional metaphysics as well as in forming ordinary concepts. Contrary to this haphazard treatment of so important a matter, Heidegger aims to "show that the central problematic of all ontology is rooted in a right way of seeing and explaining the phenomenon of time, and how this is to be done" (SZ 18). If Being itself, and not merely entities "in time," is to be conceived in relation to time, then, clearly, any so-called "nontemporal" or "supratemporal" entities must be understood as temporal in their very Being. Also, the temporality which is the primordial meaning of Being, must be understood as something positive and not as a privation. To be sure, Heidegger does not at this point indicate precisely what constitutes the positive element of temporality, but he establishes the imperative to treat temporality as coextensive with Being as such and to try to work out the idea concretely and thoroughly as an ontological category:

We will call the primordial determinate meaning of Being, and its character and modes of time, its temporal (temporale) determination. The fundamental ontological task of the interpretation of Being as such is conceived, therefore, as the working out of the temporality of Being. The concrete answer to the question of the meaning of Being is given first of all in the exposition of the problematic of temporality. (SZ 19)

It is clear to Heidegger that in the history of ontology the question of Being has never been critically formulated and interpreted with temporality as its fundamental problematic. In fact, he says that the only philosopher to have investigated the phenomenon of temporality extensively was Kant, who both neglected the problem of Being and took over the ordinary concept of time (SZ 23f). Even Greek ontology, which did interpret Being in the light of the problematic of temporality, failed to follow through with this insight. For Greek thinkers, by taking their clue from Dasein’s awareness of entities as "present-at-hand," understood time as "a pure ‘making-present’ of something" so that "time itself was taken as one entity among other entities" rather than as the meaning of Being in general (SZ 26). This entity, then, functioned primarily to distinguish ens finitum from ens infinitum. The Greek conception was given its most detailed expression in Aristotle’s Physics, which Heidegger believes to have "essentially determined all subsequent conceptions of time including Bergson’s" (SZ 26). Thus the whole metaphysical tradition needs to be loosened up or taken apart and examined until we arrive at the primordial "sources" of all conceptions of Being: "We understand this task as that which, by taking the question of Being as a guide, carries Out the dismantling of the transmitted stock of ancient ontology down to the primordial experiences in which the first, and subsequently the governing, determinations of Being were produced" (SZ 22). The positive aim of this dismantling process is achieved only by taking temporality as the clue to the meaning of Being and by endeavoring to work it out thematically.

Some of this language will be strange to Whiteheadians, but surely the guiding insight, namely, that Being in general is fundamentally temporal, will not. Whitehead neither divorces the question of the meaning of Being in general (the Being of entities) from the problematic of temporality, nor does time function, for him, as an entity which distinguishes realms of Being. To be sure, Whitehead distinguishes finite and infinite aspects of temporality, as does Heidegger, but neither man excludes temporality from any possible realm of Being. Of course, considerable exposition is required to clarify the precise sense in which each thinker understands the temporal constitution of any entity whatsoever and, thus, the sense in which time is said to derive from the meaning of the Being of entities. Yet it may be asserted intelligibly at the outset that the "concrescence of an actual entity, its act of becoming which constitutes its Being and which is the basis of physical time, is the Whiteheadian equivalent of "primordial temporality." When Whitehead remarks: "How an actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is... Its ‘being’ is constituted by its ‘becoming’" (PR 34f), he is not only establishing the basis for distinguishing the peculiar characteristics attaching to any entity; he is also, implicitly, declaring the general truth that any being is constituted by some kind of becoming.

Perhaps my remarks on the relation of Being, time, and Dasein have not penetrated to the heart of Heidegger’s position. Also, the very brief statement of Whitehead’s idea of the fundamentally temporal character of the Being of entities may fail to convince the Heideggerian that Whitehead has attained the radical reconception of Being and of time that is required. Nevertheless, I hope that the forgoing will have lent plausibility to the project which can only be fully justified by elaborating the several important ways in which, I believe, their concepts are comparable.

II. Some General Similarities

We may begin the comparison by noting several loosely connected general convictions about time which Whitehead and Heidegger share and which they view as distinguishing their concepts from more traditional ones. In the first place both men reject the belief that time can be taken to distinguish realms of Being. This means, at least, that no distinction between what is temporal and what is nontemporal or eternal can be regarded as absolute. We noted Heidegger’s repudiation of this use of "temporality."3 It is well known that the refusal to exclude temporality from any realm of Being applies equally to Whitehead, who in his developed metaphysics introduced the concept of God as not only "primordial" (in the sense of being "complete" and "eternal"), but also "consequent upon the creative advance of the world" (PR 524).

In addition to this point on which our principals agree in departing from the tradition, both men repudiate any notion which treats time as having its status independent of the fundamental, temporal entities. For Heidegger, the chief spokesman for the ordinary view is Aristotle who regards time as "present equally everywhere and with all things" (Physics 218b). Aristotle further defines time as the "number of motion in respect of ‘before’ and ‘after,’" which is measured by the "now" which both divides the "before" from the "after," and yet makes them "continuous" (Physics 219b). Although time here is regarded as a function of motion, it is, nonetheless, conceived as independent of entities, especially the primordially temporal entity, Dasein. It is conceived as a continuum within which entities "in time" come into being and perish. Accordingly, it is designated by Heidegger, "within-timeness." But far from having any genuinely independent status, Heidegger says that "time as within-timeness arises from an essential kind of temporalizing of primordial temporality" (SZ 333).

Whitehead’s adversary in this respect is Newton who is even more explicit in asserting the independence of time from things "in time":

"Absolute, true and mathematical time, of itself and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything external" (NPN 17). Whitehead cites the Newtonian "receptacle theory" as illustrative of a common view that bits of matter occupy space and time, in contrast to his own view that time, together with space, matter, and causality, "ultimately refer to actual entities" (PR 111; cf. CN 66: "There is time because there are happenings and apart from happenings there is nothing").

A corollary of this idea is the insistence that "instants" or "nows" are not to be treated as concrete facts. Whitehead urges this point in all of his writings from the earliest Aristotelian Society paper of 1916, through Modes of Thought published in 1938. For example, in 1919 he writes:

It is admitted that the ultimate fact for observational knowledge is perception through a duration; namely that the content of the specious present, and not that of a durationless instant, is an ultimate datum for science. It is evident that the conception of an instant of time as an ultimate entity is the source of all our difficulties of explanation. (PNK 8)

He adds the immediate qualifier that the point of this polemic is not to banish entirely the notion of points and instants, but "to express the essential scientific concepts of time, space and material as issuing from fundamental relations between events and from recognitions of the characters of events" (PNK 8). As his thought develops and expands, it becomes clear that "the content of the specious present" is the ultimate datum, not only for science, but for metaphysics as well. This means that all final facts are unified occasions of experience and that it is from the ordering of these entities that points and instants" are derived.

Similarly, for Heidegger, the "now" is not to be confused with Dasein’s authentic present, called "the moment." The "now" belongs essentially to "time as within-timeness" (SZ 338) which, as we have seen, is a derivation from primordial temporality. Thus he says that the ordinary understanding, based on the notion of an independent time "in which" entities within the world occur, conceives time as "a series of nows which are constantly ‘present-at-hand’ slipping by and arriving instantaneously" (SZ 422). Heidegger also points out that such a "series of nows is continuous and without gaps. No matter how ‘far’ we press on in ‘the division’ of the now, it is always now" (SZ 423). This insight is reminiscent of Whitehead’s use of the Zenonian argument against continuous becoming (PR 105-07): both see that no concrete reality can be generated by the continuous succession of nonconcrete points and that there can be nothing distinctively temporal in such a conception. Nevertheless, both agree that there is validity in thus conceiving time as a derivative notion. On this point Heidegger writes: "The ordinary characterization of time as an endless, passing, irreversible series of nows originates from the temporality of fallen Dasein. The ordinary representation of time has its natural justification" (SZ 426). The justification is to be found in the ordering of public events and entities within the world.

The main point in the polemic of both thinkers, however, is that unless we reject the notion of "instants" or ‘nows" as primitive entities, we will seriously misconceive the entire notion of time.

III. The Primitive Entities as the Source of Derived Time

In view of these general similarities, at least with respect to what they reject, it seems that our efforts would be repaid by a closer inspection of their doctrines. Clearly, if time is said to be a function of the Being of the primary entities, we should analyze and compare the entities which each regards as primitive, the kinds of experience which are typical of the entities and which reveal their basic constitution, and their relations to the larger world.

For Whitehead the "final real things of which the world is made up" are "actual entities" which are "drops of experience, complex and interdependent" (PR 27f). Accordingly, they are also variously termed "events" (SMW and earlier), "concrete facts," "actualities," and "occasions of experience" (AI). They embody the intuition that reality is essentially a creative process rhythmically alternating between the "microscopic process" which constitutes the Being of any such entity ("concrescence") and the "macroscopic process" which is the supersession of these entities ("transition"). This intuition is summed up in the dictim: "The many become one, and are increased by one" (PR 32).

Although, when studying Whitehead, it is imperative to distinguish between the two types of process and the analysis pertaining to each of them, there is an essential connection between the two which may be viewed as a relation of dependence or derivation. There is an important sense in which any given entity depends on transitions from the actual world constituting its past. But that actual world is made up of actual entities which cast themselves forth. Thus, when analyzing the relationship of the two processes, it will be seen that the process of transition or the supersession of actual entities depends on and derives from the "genetic process" which is the concrescence of the entity and which constitutes its Being.

Some brief, but essential, remarks about the entity as an act of becoming may elucidate this claim. The entity is experienced as a creative synthesis and can be analyzed as a process. It derives, in part, from the objectified data of its past which it prehends and synthesizes in accordance with its "subjective aim." This is a unified process in which "the many become one." But even as a unified subject the entity essentially also refers beyond itself; it "perishes"4 with respect to its "subjective immediacy" into the status of an object for succeeding entities, and thereby, "the many are increased by one." Thus one "half" of the general process is "transition." This is creativity as "the throbbing emotion of the past hurling itself into a new transcendent fact" (AI 227). But this aspect of the process is dependent upon the other "half," the creative synthesis which constitutes the subjectivity of the actual entity.5

Physical time, as Whitehead conceives it, is the temporal order of the supersession of entities; it "makes its appearance in the ‘coordinate analysis,’ " namely, that pertaining to the relationship among entities. But time is not the measure of the synthetic process which constitutes the subjective immediacy of an actual entity; it derives from this, for, as Whitehead says, "physical time expresses some features of the growth, but not the growth of the features" (PR 434). Since time does not express the "growth of the features," i.e., the "genetic passage from phase to phase" (PR 434), the expression, "some features of the growth," must be meant to refer to features of the completed entity, that which has attained "satisfaction." Thus time -- or "physical time" -- refers to a certain ordering of the completed entity, which is an outcome of the "growth of the features."

Now let us turn to Heidegger. His primitive entity is "Dasein," which is the human mode of Being and is that entity by which we gain access to the meaning of Being in general. We have noted that "temporality" -- or "primordial temporality" as it is frequently termed to distinguish it from ordinary time -- is the meaning of the Being of Dasein and is the guide for any genuine understanding of Being itself. But how does Heidegger arrive at this understanding of the meaning of the Being of Dasein? His analysis of Dasein begins with the observation that the first and most general characterization is that it is "Being-in-the-world" (SZ 53). This is its basic state and, as such, is indicative of a unitary phenomenon. Nevertheless, on analysis, it is found to be a complex unity. For "Being-in-the-world" is shown to be constituted by three modes, namely, "disposition," "understanding," and "fallenness." Moreover, these constitutive modes of Being of Dasein disclose it as fundamentally factical or thrown, as existential or projecting forward into its possibilities, and as present-with entities within-the-world. These three structural modes, as a unity, constitute Dasein’s Being as "care" (SZ 192). They also disclose the Being of Dasein as fundamentally temporal, that is, as a unity of Being-ahead-of-itself, Being-already-in, and Being-alongside. The "Being-ahead-of-itself" is the basis of Dasein’s futurity; the "Being-already-in" is the basis of Dasein’s "having-been." And out of the dynamic unity of the future and the past, the "thrown-projection" of Dasein’s Being, the present is generated: "We call this phenomenon which is unified as a future which makes present in the process of having-been, temporality. . . . Temporality is disclosed as the meaning of authentic care" (SZ 326).

This passage is taken from the focal section of Being and Time: "Temporality as the Ontological Meaning of Care" (SZ 323-31). It is the understanding of Dasein towards which the entire preparatory analytic has pointed, and it is on the basis of this interpretation of Dasein that other forms of temporality (e.g., the temporality of circumspective concern, Dasein’s historicity, the ordinary concept of time) get worked out. The point to be emphasized here is that Heidegger, like Whitehead, regards the entity which he interrogates as disclosive of the meaning of Being in general, and as primordially temporal, as the source of derived time.’ This does not mean that "Dasein" and "actual entities" are to be confused or regarded as interchangeable. Clearly, they are different-type entities representing different ways of approaching the task of uncovering the meaning of Being. We will defer until the end of the paper the problem of accounting for the differences. Still, the more we unpack their ideas the more we see that the two philosophers’ fundamental intuitions about the dynamic essence of Being converge and are reflected in the similar analysis which each makes of the entity he takes to be primitive. Also, to reiterate, each sees "ordinary" or "physical" time as having a derivative status, depending on the "temporality" or the "creative synthesis" which lies at the heart of the primitive entity.

IV. THE TEMPORAL CHARACTER OF IMMEDIATE EXPERIENCE

Additional important similarities are revealed by considering the analysis which each thinker makes of "immediate experience" as the source of our knowledge of temporality. It is apparent that there is a significant -- although perhaps not irreconcilable -- difference in what constitutes "immediate experience" for each man. This difference, too, will be treated below. For the present let us consider the similarities. Both reject the idea that the perception of ordinary objects or of "sense-data" is the most fundamental fact involved in immediate experience. These modes of experiencing the outer world are not thought to be illusory. They are, however, seen as derivative modes of experience and, when taken as primordial, are productive of inadequate and misleading views of time, of human Being, and of Being in general.

In this vein Heidegger maintains that although it is the case that "Being-in-the-world" is the fundamental state of Dasein, if we interpret our immediate experience primarily in terms appropriate to entities within-the-world by "falling prey" to the world of things, we misinterpret that experience. To experience ourselves as objects, which are primarily entities "present-at-hand," or even as tools, which are "ready-to-hand," is to falsify our fundamental mode of existence. The time which is appropriate to the mode of existence of "presence-at-hand" is derived "public time," which is characterized by a sequence of instantaneous "nows" and is, as such, measurable (SZ 411-20).

On the other hand, primordial temporality, as the meaning of Dasein’s Being, is disclosed in the immediate experience of such concrete phenomena as "anxiety," "guilt," and "conscience." We may neglect Heidegger’s analysis of "guilt" and "conscience," which merely corroborates the main point. But we should concern ourselves with "anxiety," which is, for Heidegger, a distinctive phenomenon in that it is a fundamental disposition which embodies and discloses all three horizons of existence (SZ 182). That "in the face of which" Dasein finds itself anxious is its facticity, its sheer thrownness. But more than this Dasein is anxious about its existence, its potentiality-for-Being. Existence, when thought through to the end, means Dasein’s own most particular "Being-towards-death." And by fleeing into the world of things Dasein attempts to evade itself in its most extreme possibility. Thus Dasein experiences itself as anxious about itself (SZ 187-88).

The experience of the various concrete, psychological phenomena reveals to Dasein its ontological nature as something like "resoluteness running-forward" (vorlaufende Entschlossenheit) (SZ 305). With this term Heidegger endeavors to summarize two distinguishable, but inseparable, possibilities of Being, namely, "wholeness" and "authenticity." By considering Dasein as a whole being, we are forced to see it, ultimately, as "Being-towards-death" as one’s most extreme possibility. Thus Dasein must be characterized as "running-forward to this possibility" (SZ 262). But also, to take over and make the most of one’s whole Being in terms of concrete facts and possibilities is to actualize that Being authentically or with "resoluteness" (SZ 306). Now, it is the experience of oneself as "resoluteness running-forward" which discloses to Dasein that it is temporal in its innermost Being. It is not something intrinsically other than itself that Dasein experiences immediately; it is its "Being-towards its own most distinctive potentiality-for-Being" (SZ 325). This experience, therefore, discloses Dasein as primarily futural, as "letting itself come toward itself." But it is always futural as "in the process of having-been" and, as such, generating the present (SZ 326). Resoluteness running-forward reveals Dasein in this way as fully temporal.

For Whitehead the immediate experience disclosed in the world of human Being is the experience of our present bodily state conforming to its immediate past, and to the vague world beyond, and anticipating its immediate future. Whitehead also recognizes that there is immediate perception of discrete "sense impressions" or "sense-data." But this mode of perception, called "presentational immediacy," merely surveys the contemporary scene; it "gives no information as to the past or the future" (PR 255). Thus when this mode of perception is assumed to be the sole -- or even the primary -- mode of experiencing the world, there can be no sense of time; we are caught in "the solipsism of the present moment." It is one of Whitehead’s great achievements to have insisted on the primitive character of the experience of "causal efficacy" (PR 125) and to have generalized this experience so that it is seen as a fundamental mode of experience attaching to all final individual actualities (PR 170-82, 252-54). Whitehead describes the immediate subjective experience as follows:

The sense of derivation from an immediate past, and of passage to an immediate future; a sense of emotional feeling, belonging to oneself in the past, passing into oneself in the present, and passing from oneself in the present towards oneself in the future; a sense of . . . modifying, enhancing, inhibiting, diverting, the stream of feeling which we are receiving, unifying, enjoying, and transmitting. (PR 271)

It is this immediate experience which, for Whitehead, reveals temporality to us. Indeed, this experience is not only the basis for our knowledge of temporality; the experience is temporal in the sense disclosed above, namely, that the present experience for any entity is of a creative synthesis of the given data of its past and the anticipation of being an object for subsequent entities. The immediate experience is of active passage. It is the basis for the metaphysical doctrine of "prehensions" or "vector feelings." Any such feeling is "from a beyond which is determinate and pointing to a beyond which is to be determined. But the feeling is subjectively rooted in the immediacy of the present occasion: it is what the occasion feels for itself as derived from the past and as merging into the future" (PR 247). Thus it is from this "temporal" experience that time is derived.

The investigation of the temporal character of immediate experience unveils another feature about which the analyses of the two men are remarkably close. They understand that the world is not merely in flux. Rather, a close inspection reveals an "intentional structure of experience."7 Neither man regards the intentionality manifested in existence as necessarily always explicit or cognitive.8 Nevertheless, they do find that the analysis of immediate experience reveals a definite aim at value (Whitehead) or meaning (Heidegger).

Dasein’s intentional activity as Being-in-the-world is first disclosed in its "circumspective concern" for entities within-the-world. That is to say that Dasein first encounters these entities not merely as present-at-hand, but as ready-to-hand or as having a function. Dasein thus engages its world with a purposive, or what Heidegger calls an "in-order-to," character (SZ 352-55). The purposiveness which is manifested at the level of Dasein’s ontic relations with other entities is also reflected at the ontological level, where, as we have insisted, primordial temporality is said to be the meaning of Dasein’s Being. And "meaning" is, for Heidegger, a teleological concept.9 An entity does not receive its meaning from intellectual concepts or from ostensive referents within-the-world. The meaning of an entity lies within it, but signifies its "Whereunto. (SZ 324). This is what is primarily at issue in the contention that, although the temporal ecstasies are equiprimordial, the future has preeminence (SZ 329). The running-forward, even toward my own most particular and most extreme possibility, is neither "free-floating" nor is it sheer recklessness. It is the aim at authentic and whole existence. My death, of course, is the ultimate Whereunto which gives my Dasein meaning in every moment of its factical existence.

For Whitehead the fundamentally intentional character of immediate experience is expressed in the doctrine of the vector character of prehensions; they "feel what is there and transform it into what is here" (PR 133). It should be noted, by way of elaboration, that there is a subject of the prehensions, namely, the present concrescing occasion, which has a "subjective aim" at value. Also, there is intensity of value-attained in the "one complex fully determinate feeling . . . termed the ‘satisfaction"’ (PR 38). Hence, the process which constitutes the act of becoming is characterized as "teleological": "An occasion arises as an effect facing its past, and ends as a cause facing its future. In between there lies the teleology of the Universe" (AI 249). For Whitehead, then, it is clear that the primary meaning of intentionality is the aim at value in each actual entity, or, as he sometimes says, the aim at "intrinsic importance for itself" (MT 159). But just as his strong doctrine of "final causation" as residing in the subjective immediacy of an entity is balanced by a doctrine of "efficient causation" between entities, so there is a further dimension to intentionality. For every entity embodies the necessity that it be significant beyond its present immediacy. Thus the intentional character of the general process, the fact that it is creative advance rather than mere passage, is disclosed in the alternation between the final causation within each entity and the efficient causation between entities. Moreover, it is inconceivable to Whitehead that the process merely dissipates. The value attained in the process accrues and is retained in the ever-expanding totality, namely, the "consequent nature of God" (PR 523-33). But such retention of attained value does not add to the particular value-experience. Thus, for Whitehead, the notion of "teleology" refers, primarily, to the subjective immediacy of each actual entity, and only secondarily to the process as a whole.

In the thought of both men, then, the understanding of the primary entity under consideration requires reference to other entities in its world -- objects for it. Yet its ultimate meaning is discerned in terms of its living towards its own most particular end, which is, ultimately, the achievement of itself for itself. This double reference of intentionality may better be grasped with the elaboration of the ideas which White-head and Heidegger work out in respect to uniqueness and internal relatedness.

V. The Temporal Uniqueness of the Primitive Entities

An essential element in the concept of time as developed in the thought of both philosophers is that the fundamental entities from which time is derived retain a specific kind of temporal uniqueness. For Heidegger this is expressed powerfully in the notion of "Being-towards-death" as my own most distinctive potentiality-for-Being. The distinctive character of death is grasped not in the fact that "all men are mortal" or even that "one day I too must die." Rather, the distinctive quality of death is that it radically individualizes Dasein. It is not an end at which Dasein ceases, but "a way of Being in which Dasein is towards death" (SZ 247). Moreover, "Death is, insofar as it ‘is,’ essentially always mine. Indeed it signifies a peculiar possibility-of-Being in which the Being of one’s own Dasein is at stake" (SZ 240). Heidegger acknowledges that one is anxious in the face of his own particular death and so "flees" from it by generalizing death or even by pretending that ‘The deceased has passed on." But we cannot completely eradicate the "absolute, certain and insurpassable" possibility of my Dasein, the death which pervades my Being. Death "stalks" us all the more (SZ 258-59). Thus our efforts should be directed towards the attempt to authenticate our existence by constantly "running-forward" to our own particular death. In thus facing squarely this most extreme possibility of my Being, I have "freedom-towards-death" (SZ 266). In either case, however -- whether I am existing authentically or inauthentically -- death is inevitably mine and, as such, discloses my uniqueness.

Whitehead’s way of expressing the uniqueness of each actual entity does not call forth in us the same kind of intense emotional response as does Heidegger’s discussion of Being-towards-my-own-death. But formally it is very similar. In fact, the doctrine is enunciated in connection with the notion of the "perishing" of occasions, and it is in terms of "perishing" that we shall try to understand it. What Whitehead intends by perishing" is not unambiguous and has occasioned a vigorous debate among his interpreters.10 Yet it is fundamental to his thought. Therefore, we shall attempt a clarification. Two essential characteristics of actual occasions should be kept in mind in efforts to determine the meaning of perishing, namely. "attainment" and "significance."

By insisting on the significance of perished occasions Whitehead intends to affirm that the past is not lost; it remains "stubborn fact" conditioning present occasions. He reminds us that "‘perishing’ is the assumption of a role in a transcendent future. . . [It] is the initiation of becoming. How the past perishes is how the future becomes" (AI 305). Thus the notion of perishing should be construed, first, in its essentially relative sense as perishing "into the status of an object for other occasions" (AI 227; my emphasis). A "past" entity is not a nonentity; it lives as objectified in the present and so retains "objective immortality" (PR 44, 71, 125). This aspect of the perishing of occasions is necessary for there to be causation and memory (PR 365, AI 227). On the other hand, there is what might be called the "essentially absolute" sense of perishing: the "perishing of immediacy" with the attainment of a determinate and completely unique status by each actual occasion. Without this aspect the process might be construed as a sheer, characterless flow, a continuous becoming, rather than a creative advance. The entire process comprises the rhythmic alternation between the microscopic process (concrescence), which constitutes the subjective immediacy of each occasion, and the macroscopic process (transition), by which that occasion becomes an element in the concrescence of subsequent occasions (PR 326). Thus Whitehead writes: "The process of concrescence terminates with. the attainment of a fully determinate ‘satisfaction’. . . Completion is the perishing of immediacy" (PR 130). Clearly, if the discussion of "significance" is to the point, the "perishing of immediacy" cannot mean that the past is lost. Therefore, it must mean that in attaining determinate status the subjectivity of that entity cannot be added to: "No subject experiences twice," Whitehead says in this vein (PR 43). Thus it is in the present immediacy, the becoming of an actual occasion, that its uniqueness resides. He also says that "actual entities perish, but do not change; they are what they are" (PR 52). Obviously, then, as each entity perishes with respect to its subjective immediacy, adding itself to the transcendent world, its own uniqueness is established; nothing more can be added to it.

The doctrine can, perhaps, be elucidated by contrasting Whitehead’s system with that of a static world lacking any essential newness. We may readily conceive such a system in which each atomic entity is unique, but in which molecular "differences" are attained only by rearranging the atomic entities, which themselves neither become nor perish; they simply are. In Whitehead’s formulation, however, the uniqueness of each entity or occasion is essentially linked with its genuine novelty. Each occasion embodies creativity: it conforms to its past, but in synthesizing its given world and the relevant possibilities presented to it, it forms a new creation. Finally, in attaining determinate satisfaction, it adds itself to the creative advance. Again, we have an example of the intuition that "the many become one, and are increased by one." Also, the combination of uniqueness and novelty in each entity is the basis, in Whitehead’s thought, for the essential "irreversibility of time" (IS 244).

Now this point invites comparison with Heidegger since he has linked the irreversible character of time to the ordinary concept of time as a series of nows" endlessly passing by (SZ 426). Despite this clear connection, it does not mean that time is not essentially irreversible, or that Dasein’s temporality is not essentially unidirectional. Primordial temporality temporalizes itself primarily in terms of the future. To be sure, Dasein is said to extend itself into its past in the sense that it takes over its fate, but it always does so only in terms of its potentiality. One’s facticity can always be understood anew in the light of the Whereunto which gives meaning to one’s own Dasein -- a notion that is not unlike the Pragmatic way of defining an event in terms of its results -- but we can never change the past. Heidegger is clear on this point. He observes that if the "series of nows" were primordially infinite there would be no basis for the conviction that time is irreversible. But the conviction does have a firm basis in that it is a faint reflection of primordial temporality: "The impossibility of this reversal has its basis in the derivation of public time from the temporality whose temporalizing is primarily futural and which ‘goes’ ecstatically towards its end such that it already ‘is’ towards its end" (SZ 426). Thus, implicitly at least, Heidegger sees time’s irreversibility as an expression of the way he conceives the uniqueness of the fundamental entity.

Another objection to the comparison of the two ways of conceiving uniqueness may stem from the realization that whereas Whitehead treats the "novelty" of an entity as fundamental, signaling a kind of "authenticity," Heidegger views "novelty" or "the new" as an attraction for "curiosity" which is an inauthentic mode of understanding (SZ 172). Thus, far from establishing one’s own most particular identity, the quest for novelty reinforces the habit of living in terms of the "they" which can never die, a mode of Being which is based on being present-with entities within-the-world. This is not a very serious objection, however, since its strength derives from playing off one man’s use of a word (novelty) against the other’s, rather than from comparing their ideas. Clearly, both Whitehead and Heidegger ascribe a kind of temporal uniqueness to their fundamental entities.

A more serious objection might be that it seems wholly inappropriate to speak of "perishing" as the "initiation of becoming" in the same context with the radical finitude of Heidegger’s "Being-towards-death." It is agreed that the two notions evoke wholly different emotions in us, particularly since Heidegger’s insistence on finitude seems to preclude an entity from passing beyond itself, whereas for Whitehead the past is saved as it becomes "objectively immortal." However, there is less substantial difference here than seems at first to be the case. The ultimacy of the finitude depends on whether one is "on the inside," as it were, or on the outside" of the entity in question. That is to say, Whitehead ascribes radical finitude to the process constituting the subjective immediacy of an entity, and Heidegger, on the other hand, acknowledges that in any instance my own most particular Dasein is superseded. In fact, in the very context of affirming that primordial temporality is finite, Heidegger raises the question: "In spite of my own no-more-Dasein ‘does not time go on?’ And cannot an unlimited number of things lie ‘in the future’ and come forth out of it?" To these questions he responds: "The questions are to be answered affirmatively. Despite this they contain no objection to the finitude of primordial temporality" (SZ 330; my emphasis). It becomes clear from this statement that the finitude of primordial temporality does not preclude the unlimited character of the future or of the significance of any instance of finite Dasein beyond itself. Indeed, the clear implication of Heidegger’s discussion of Dasein’s "fate," as the resolute taking-over of possibilities handed down to it, is that finite Dasein is not lost but becomes the ground of the fate of a subsequent case of Dasein (SZ 383-85).

Thus it is apparent that for both philosophers, uniqueness and an authentic form of novelty are affirmed together with ongoingness. In different ways, with differing emphases, continuity and atomicity are held together in a dynamic tension. The continuity is that of relatedness.

VI. A Modified Doctrine of Internal Relations

We must now draw out the comparison further by showing that and how the thought of both men requires that the individuality of each concrete entity always be understood within the framework of what we may call a modified doctrine of internal relations. To be sure, neither thinker asserts that entities have only internal relations to other entities, or, what this comes to, that all entities are mutually and symmetrically interdependent. The latter view entails sheer monism so that the universe is tantamount, m Hartshorne’s phrase, to "a vast tautology" (CSPM 82). But this has already been excluded by the view of time as irreversible and the notion that potentiality essentially enters into the constitution of each new entity; on this view entities can never be wholly dependent upon their given world for the determination of their unique status. Nevertheless, the opposite error of supposing that all entities are mutually independent is positively excluded. The belief that an entity s relations are purely "external" or "accidental" to it presupposes a theory of subjects as enduring substances which both men have rejected and replaced (cf. PR, part II, chapter VII, and SZ, division one, chapter 3). Thus both Whitehead and Heidegger insist that an entity’s relations to its world enter into, and partially determine, the nature or determinate status of that particular entity.

Whitehead expresses this conviction most obviously in that he calls his mature thought the "Philosophy of Organism" (PR v). This title is meant to indicate not only that the actual entities themselves are organisms, but that "the community of actual things is an organism" (PR 327). The general term Whitehead uses for this community is "nexus," which is defined as "a set of actual entities in the unity of the relatedness constituted by their prehensions of each other, or -- what is the same thing conversely expressed -- constituted by their objectifications in each other" (PR 35). Some care is required in reading this. As we mentioned, there is not an absolute symmetry of relations among actual entities because of the continuous emergence of new entities. Thus the predominant mode of relatedness is that of present to past or the objectification of past entities in the present entity. There are extensive relations with contemporary entities, but these relations are not internal in the sense of being causally efficacious. Likewise, an entity is related to its future "entities" in the sense that there must be supervening entities which must conform to it. But neither present nor future entities enter into a given entity conditioning its particular nature the way past entities do. Of course, each entity is also partially self caused. But, although every entity gives its own constitution the stamp of individuality, no entity can exist in isolation (PR 42, RM 104, MT 151).

Heidegger’s commitment to this point also requires some elaboration. The most immediately obvious fact about Dasein, he maintains, is that the "fundamental constitution" or "ground-state" (Grundverfassung) from which the entire analysis of Dasein takes its rise is "Being-in-the-world" (SZ 52f). Since this is a "unitary phenomenon," but one with several constitutive elements, it follows that "the world" is understood somehow as an ingredient in the Being of Dasein.

In order to better understand that and how Heidegger conceives Dasein as constituted by its relations, therefore, we should try to unpack his notion of "the world." The first, most important point to make is that "the world" is not essentially something other than Dasein: "It is a character of Dasein itself" (SZ 64). When Heidegger speaks of the world as "that ‘wherein’ a factical Dasein ‘lives’ as Dasein," he specifically rules out the possibility that the "wherein" is to be understood simply as the complex of those mere "things" or entities present-at-hand which surround Dasein, but which are not Dasein (SZ 65). Thus, in analyzing "worldhood" as a function of Dasein’s primordial temporality, he says: "The world is neither present-at-hand nor ready-to-hand, but rather temporalizes itself in temporality. It ‘is’ ‘there’ with the outside-itself of. the ecstasies. If no Dasein exists, no world is ‘there’ either" (SZ 365). As the "Da" (there) of Dasein, then, the world is inextricably bound up with the temporal dimensions of Dasein; it constitutes the temporal horizons (future, past, present) into which Dasein essentially exists.

Once this point is grasped, however, it should be balanced by the contrasting point, namely, that "the world" is not to be construed as the mere "projection" of an essentially "worldless subject," thus having no reference to the entities within-the-world. "The world," here conceived as a dimension of Dasein’s Being into which it projects itself, includes all of Dasein’s relations with entities both present-at-hand and ready-to-hand. Dasein is not exhausted by these relations, but is essentially inclusive of them. Richardson points out that it is the encounter with "things" and "instruments" on the ontic level that discloses to Dasein that it is already ontologically oriented towards a "world." Thus, he says, the world "is the existential dimension of There-being (Dasein) by reason of which is pre-disclosed the matrix of relations which constitute Total Meaningfulness, within which There-being may encounter beings under the guise of purposeful instruments" (HPT 58). This way of putting the matter has the merit of making it clear that the "matrix of relations which constitute Total Meaningfulness" for Dasein is thus essential to its Being, but not wholly determinative of it.

VII. The Treatment of the Present

Finally, in this comparison it is well to note that in both philosophers’ concepts of time the genuine present must be grasped as a unified "specious present" which is inclusive of a causal past and an open future. This point may be seen to follow from the fact that time is understood to derive from concrete entities, together with the correlative point that instants or nows must be rejected as concrete entities. Since, however, their concepts of time diverge so radically from the ordinary concepts, this point should be elaborated.

The notion of the present as a "specious present" is at the heart of Whitehead’s reflections on the nature of time from its earliest formulations onwards. For example, in The Concept of Nature, in the course of his criticism of the theory of time as "a moving knife-edge, exhibiting a present fact without temporal extension," he insists that the immediate present discloses "no sharp distinction either between memory and the present immediacy or between the present immediacy and anticipation. The present is a wavering breadth of boundary between the two extremes" (CN 68f). In the development of his thought the idea of the extended present, as having continuous relations with its past and its immediate future, is retained, but greater precision is applied to the notion of the atomic character of the specious present. This work issues in the epochal theory of time (SMW 181-86, "Time" in IS 246, PR 53, 105-07, 434-35) ,11 in which Whitehead maintains the atomicity of the present occasion -- the discontinuity of its process of concrescence from that constituting the subjective immediacy of other occasions -- together with the continuity of its "extensive relations" -- those of the occasion as a concrete, determinate entity to other entities. In the developed theory the present immediacy is a concrescence of many data, both of past entities and of possibilities, but it is not to be conceived merely as a function of these data -- a sheer product or a reordering of determinate data (Pols 113f). It is a unified subject which modifies its data. This synthesizing activity constitutes the "subjective immediacy" of the occasion, and each subject embodies a unique perspective. Therefore, while the present, is "momentous" or temporally all-at-once, it is not "instantaneous, which would entail its non-actuality. As Whitehead says: "This immediacy is its moment of sheer individuality bounded on either side by essential relativity. The occasion arises from relevant objects, and perishes into the status of an object for other occasions. But it enjoys its decisive moment of absolute self-attainment as emotional unity" (AI 227). The present, therefore, is the entity in its role as subject; it is comprised of the relevant data from its causal past and the possibilities constituting its future, but it is not exhausted by these "objective" factors. The decisive factor which yields the uniqueness of every present is the free, self-determining activity of the subject itself.

In Heidegger’s major work the elucidation of the character of the present is obscured somewhat by the emphasis given the primacy of the future.12 Moreover, most of his attention in regard to the present is given to explicating the inauthentic present, the fleeing from one’s potentiality-for-Being into the presence of entities merely present-at-hand. As Being-present-with entities, Dasein constantly moves from one thing to another, and so is "abodeless." It has a home neither with itself, in its throwness and projection, nor with the entities within the world. But, as Heidegger says, "this mode of the present is the most extreme contrary phenomenon to the moment. In the former case Dasein is everywhere and nowhere. The moment brings existence into the situation and discloses the authentic ‘there’" (SZ 347).

The present, in general for Heidegger, arises from an interplay of the future and the past. Thus he writes: "Coming back to itself futurally, resoluteness brings itself into the situation by making-present. Having-been arises from the future, indeed such that the future, which has been (better, is in the process of having-been), releases from itself the present" (SZ 326) This seemingly obscure statement intends to reveal the essential connection that obtains between one’s future and one’s past, as generating one’s present; the relation that is maintained between the genuine openness to potentiality and the acceptance of one’s given condition, which is the authentic present. This connection is intrinsic to Dasein’s Being. Dasein can, to be sure, attempt to escape the risks entailed by this Being by dispersing itself into the "they-self" of the masses or, as we noted above, by affirming its presence only by being present-with the merely objective entities. However, Dasein also always has the power to call itself back to its own Being, its true temporality, and so to realize its authentic present by holding its future and past in a unity. Heidegger writes: "In resoluteness the present is not only brought back from the diversions with the things of its closest concern, but is held in the future and having-been. That which is held in authentic temporality, hence the authentic present we call the moment (SZ 338). The moment, thus, is no illusion, nor is it the ever more precise ideal of an instantaneous now; it is in no way understood as a "moving knife-edge" between the past and the future having no reality of its own. Rather, the moment is described as Dasein being "pregnant" with the future (SZ 427), or, as Heidegger also says, it is a "rapture held in resoluteness towards those circumstances encountered in the situation of concernful possibilities" (SZ 338).

From these statements it becomes increasingly apparent that the authentic present is conceived by Heidegger as a unified whole comprising the totality of Dasein’s factical existence at each moment. It is unified and yet it is dynamic. Arising out of the polarity of having-been and the future, the present, of necessity, is a specious present which drives beyond itself. Therefore, just as the present cannot be clarified in terms of the instantaneous now, neither can it be equated with "eternity" as a "standing now" (SZ 338, n.1; 427, n.1).

The concept of the dynamic unity of the present Dasein is elaborated in Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein’s historicity. Dasein’s Being as historical is called its "happening." The idea of Dasein as "happening" indicates that it "stretches itself" between birth and death as a unified self. But "birth" is no more to be understood as something no-longer present than is "death" to be understood as something not-yet-present. Rather, as a factically-existing entity, Dasein exists such that both "ends" enter into, and provide structural meaning for, the present entity: "In the unity of throwness and Being-towards-death, which one flees or runs-forward to, birth and death ‘cohere’ according to Dasein’s nature. As care, Dasein is the ‘between’" (SZ 374).

These remarks lead us to the view that Heidegger, as well as Whitehead, understands the present as a coalescence of past and future such that it is a "specious present" and that he conceives the authentic present as a unified whole with the integrity of its own subjectivity.

VIII. Their Differences Evaluated Especially in the Light of the ‘Reformed’ Subjectivist Principle

Throughout this comparison we have noted several points of doctrine essential to their concepts of time on which Whitehead and Heidegger show remarkable agreement: their rejection of traditional concepts of time; their insistence on the derivation of time from the nature and relations of the fundamental entities, which themselves are construed as essentially active or primordially temporal in their Being; their clarity about the correlative idea that nows or instants are not to be treated as primary natural entities, but are abstractions appropriate to the derived time; their analysis of immediate experience as the source of the disclosure of the fundamentally temporal character of Being; their working out of a specific kind of temporal uniqueness ascribed to the primary entities; their requirement of a modified doctrine of internal relations; their understanding of the present as a kind of specious present.

This comparison does not, by any means, exhaust their theories. But it does reveal considerable agreement despite their divergences in background and in the modes of philosophizing. I believe that on all of the above points the thought of each complements and reinforces that of the other. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that some genuine differences of substance and method have been uncovered and that these differences may point to a deeper and more fundamental difference between the way each philosopher conceives the question of Being. We cannot ignore these differences. We can, however, endeavor to understand just what they are and what they entail and so see them as less than fatal to any projected dialogue between the two modes of thought.

In the first place we noted the obvious difference between an actual entity" and the human entity, "Dasein." Actual entities, as occasions of experience, are not confined to the human mode of Being. Rather, they are the building blocks of the entire universe: "Actual entities . . . are the final real things of which the world is made up . . . drops of experience, complex and interdependent" (PR 27f). "Dasein," on the other hand, is that Being which "we ourselves always are," and which Heidegger radically distinguishes from entities merely present-at-hand or those ready-to-hand (SZ 41f, 68-71). Secondly, this difference is heightened by noting the different kinds of immediate experience to which each thinker appeals as the source of our knowledge of temporality. The experiences on which Heidegger focuses as disclosive of primordial temporality are ones which are distinctively human and psychological. The experiences to which Whitehead points as revelatory of the temporality of occasions of experience, although "non-sensuous," are inevitably bodily experiences. A third difference, which is intimately related to the first two, is the apparently wide divergence which we noted between the notions of "perishing" and "Being-toward-death."

Finally, we must ask again whether or not these differences of substance and method point to a deeper and more fundamental difference between each man’s vision of reality, and thus of what each takes to be the basic task of philosophy. The issue can be framed in terms of a Heideggerian question: "Is not Whitehead’s metaphysics initiated from an analysis of entities which are ‘present-at-hand’ and thus a part of the tradition which Heidegger considers his task to overcome?" The initial treatment of Heidegger’s position vis-à-vis the tradition was an attempt to put the issue in the proper perspective. And the subsequent analysis should have lessened the force of the question. But if we cannot satisfactorily account for the remaining differences, the nagging suspicion that their concepts are not comparable will remain.

We may endeavor to meet the challenge implied by these differences by taking them in the order of their difficulty, beginning with the least difficult. The second and third differences which we listed, those between the kinds of phenomena appealed to and between "perishing" and "Being-towards-death," seem not to be as decisive as they initially appear. Thus, while Heidegger appeals to such phenomena as anxiety, guilt, and conscience to disclose Dasein as "resoluteness running-forward," there is no cogent reason for believing that these psychological phenomena must be divorced from Dasein’s physiology." Certainly one’s resolute running-forward is distinctively mine, which includes the particularities of one’s special physiological traits. More importantly, Heidegger’s treatment of the "self" as grounded in the "care-structure" of Dasein, rather than as an isolated "I" or a "worldless subject," implies that the self is a "child of the world."14 Similarly, it is clear that Whitehead’s essentially physiological experience is never devoid of "mentality" and so of psychological implications in the human percipient.

In discussing the uniqueness of the fundamental entities we saw that the apparently divergent notions of "perishing" and "Being-toward-death" are not as unlike as they seem. For while Heidegger insists on the radical finitude of primordial temporality, he acknowledges the infinitude of time which is generated by primordial temporality. On the other hand, while Whitehead seems to emphasize the essentially relative aspects of perishing -- the role of the objectified entity in the transcendent future -- still he does insist on the finitude of every act of becoming; there is a determinate outcome, a completion. Thus the two philosophers seem to emphasize differing aspects of the same complex phenomenon.

Despite having weakened the strength of these apparent differences we cannot escape the important difference that springs from the choice of different fundamental entities. Since for Whitehead all final individuals are subjects -- and apart from subjects there is nothing -- then the creative synthesis, which is the basis for physical time, is essential to the constitution of all actual entities. The "reformed subjectivist principle" and the move from human percipient occasions to all final individuals is fundamental to Whitehead’s whole enterprise. But for Heidegger entities within-the-world are usually treated as temporal only in a secondary and derived sense. Dasein is primordially temporal, and so, it seems, is Being. Thus it would seem improper to distinguish various realms of Being by reference to "time" which is the "first name of the truth of Being" (EDS 215). Heidegger seems unwilling or incapable of adhering consistently to his greatest intuition: that Being is fundamentally temporal; that Being makes the approach to entities; that Dasein is a distinctive entity in that it discloses Being, but does not posit Being. Therefore Heidegger’s principles do not preclude the Being of entities other than Dasein as primordially temporal. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that he treats them as only secondarily temporal. He is, for example, curiously reticent about the human body despite our contention that there is no reason, in principle, for separating psychology from physiology. Moreover, it is clear that he thinks of "nature" as temporal only in the sense in which "tools" and "the natural environment are the "soil of history" (SZ 381). That is to say that entities ready-to-hand and present-at-hand are considered temporal only insofar as they form a part of Dasein’s world. We do not have to reject the wonderfully rich analysis of the temporality of circumspective concern and the derivation of "within-timeness" as the source of the ordinary concept of time in order to reject the unwarranted conclusion that these entities can only be temporal in a secondary sense. It would seem proper to claim that insofar as entities function as the "world" of Dasein they can be conceived as secondarily temporal, but that no entity can ever be conceived as exclusively a function of Dasein and, thus, as only secondarily temporal.15 Therefore we should not allow what seems to be a failure on Heidegger’s part to follow consistently his own deep insight concerning the fundamentally temporal character of Being to keep us from his amazingly fruitful analysis of primordial temporality. We may say, then, that the whole of reality is fundamentally temporal, that every actual entity is primordially temporal, but that the human reality, as more complex, more fully integrated, and more readily accessible to our inspection, is particularly revelatory of the full structure of the temporality of Being.

Perhaps this attempt to bring together Heidegger’s fundamental insight and Whitehead’s "reformed subjectivist principle" has taken us some distance in answering the question about the validity of comparing the two philosophers at all: Is not Whitehead a part of the metaphysical tradition which Heidegger seeks to dismantle? Our answer to this question, then, is, no. The account given at the outset of Heidegger’s understanding of the tradition and of his task should have prepared the way for this conclusion. Also, the account given of Whitehead’s analysis of actual entities should disabuse us of the idea that he begins his analysis of Being from entities which are present-at-hand. And if the argument that the "reformed subjectivist principle" is to be considered basic has cogency, then it would seem that Whitehead has achieved Heidegger’s stated aim, namely: "The concrete working out of the question of the meaning of Being" with the provisional goal of "the interpretation of time as the possible horizon for any understanding of Being at all . . ." (SZ1).

Of course, the possibility remains that I have misunderstood and misrepresented Heidegger’s position. If that is the case, the appeal for this project must be to Heidegger himself, who defended his interpretation of Kant as a "thoughtful dialogue between thinkers" which is "bound by other laws" than those of historical inquiry (KPM xxv). Thus the criticism of Heidegger in the last several paragraphs has been a kind of dismantling of his thought from the insight of the reformed subjectivist principle. Heidegger’s own vision of the temporal character of Being remains strong. There is, however, more of Kant in the exposition than he knows or than his insight allows for.

 

References

CSPM -- Charles Hartshorne. Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method. LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1970.

EDS -- Walter Kaufmann, ed. Existentialism: From Dostoevsky to Sartre. Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1956. For Martin Heidegger, "The Way Back Into the Ground of Metaphysics."

HPT -- William J. Richardson, S.J. Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought, with a Preface by Martin Heidegger. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967.

KP -- Martin Heidegger. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, trans. by James S. Churchill, with forward by Thomas Langan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962.

NPN -- Isaac Newton. Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, ed. H. S. Thayer, with Introduction by J. N. Randall, Jr. New York: Hafner, 1965.

Physics -- Aristotle. "Physics," The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.

Pols -- Edward Pols. Whitehead’s Metaphysics: A Critical Examination of Process and Reality. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967.

SZ -- Martin Heidegger. Sein und Zeit. 11th Edition. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1967. English translations are the author’s own.

 

Notes:

1 The only clear published exception to this lacuna that I know of is Calvin O. Schrag, "Whitehead and Heidegger: Process Philosophy and Existential Philosophy." Dialectica 13/1, 42-56. Several recent doctoral dissertations have attempted to bring the two thinkers into dialogue: W. K. Teo, "Heidegger on Dasein and Whitehead on Actual Entities," Southern Illinois 1969; D. F. Lewis, "The Notion of Time in the Cosmology of A. N. Whitehead," Southern Illinois, 1970; David R. Mason, "A Study of Time in the Philosophies of Alfred North Whitehead and Martin Heidegger With Implications for a Doctrine of Providence." Chicago, 1973.

2 This is Robinson’s translation of "Destruktion." It seems clear in the context that Heidegger saw his task as that of "shaking down" and getting to forgotten roots of western thought -- to our "primordial experiences" -- rather than "destroying" all that has gone before. See James M. Robinson and John B. Cobb. Jr., eds. The Later Heidegger and Theology (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), p. 9.

3 Cf. Schubert M. Ogden. "The Temporality of God," The Reality of God and Other Essays (New York: Harper and Row, 1966). pp. 143-63.

4 See the discussion of the temporal uniqueness of entities below.

5 The question about the nature of "genetic successiveness" and the relation of the "genetic process" to the "process of transition," which constitutes physical time, is currently the subject of considerable debate. The major positions are set forth in articles by John B. Cobb, Jr., Edward Pols, and Lewis S. Ford in The Southern Journal of Philosophy 7/4 (Winter. 1969-70), 409-25, and by Robert Neville and Lewis S. Ford in PS 1:194-209.

6 It should be clear that the phrases "disclosive of Being in general" and "source of derived time" do not mean that Dasein posits either "Being" or "time" as if these were something like mind-dependent concepts. Rather, the meaning is, in the first instance, that Dasein is the entity which is distinctive among all entities precisely in that it is essentially concerned with the question of its own Being, and that question, thought through, raises the question of the meaning of Being. Thus the interpretation of the meaning of Being is to be worked out through the Fundamental Ontology, the "existential analytic of Dasein" (SZ 12-15). In the second instance the meaning is that, as the meaning of the Being of Dasein, primordial temporality is seen to be the basis for understanding all other modes of temporality and is, in fact, the ontological ground of other modes of temporality or concepts of time.

That "primordial temporality," as the meaning of the Being of Dasein, is to be sped as the obvious key to the meaning of Being in general is not clearly affirmed, but is, rather, suggested in the brief section which concludes the published part of Being and Time. Although Heidegger is hesitant to conclude positively that he has taken the only way which lays bare the meaning of Being, he does assert that he has sought a way to clarify the fundamental ontological question and has gone some distance along that way. Moreover, the final sentences of the work, framed as questions, suggest that Heidegger believes that the interpretation of primordial temporality as the meaning of the Being of Dasein leads to time as the meaning of Being. I believe that the now published "Zeit und Sein" bears strong evidence that, with some obvious modifications, the "time" which is here spoken of as the "heart-of-the-matter" (Sachverhalt) of Being is modeled on Dasein’s primordial temporality. See Martin Heidegger, "Zeit und Sein," Zur Sache des Denkens (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1969); English translation by Joan Stambaugh: Martin Hcidegger, On Time and Being (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).

7Calvin O. Schrag, Experience and Being: Prolegomena to a Future Ontology (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1969). chapter 3. This work shows some affinity with the thought of both men.

8 This is obviously true for Whitehead (cf. PR 243-46). While it is less obviously true for Heidegger, it is clearly the case that the "understanding of Being" or the "pre-ontological understanding of Being" which is the ontically distinctive characteristic of Dasein is not always "explicit" or "thematic." Thus Heidegger says that it is out of "the understanding of Being" in which Dasein always comports itself "that the explicit question of the meaning of Being and the tendency towards its conceptualization arises" (SZ 5, my emphasis; also, cf. SZ 12, 15, 143 ff).

9 The inability to understand Heidegger’s concept of "meaning as a function of its "primordial temporality," and, specifically, to connect it with the notion of Dasein’s "Whereunto," is one of several reasons why Richard Schmitt’s Martin Heidegger on Being Human: An Introduction to Sein und Zeit (New York: Random House, 1909) must be judged a failure. Schmitt endeavors to force Heidegger’s thought into a Husserlian mold and so to conceive "meaning" in terms of language, explication, reference, and functioning (73-102). However, he neglects the two key passages (SZ 151, 324f) in which Heidegger specifically explicates his concept of meaning.

10 For Whitehead’s own assessment of the importance of this idea see his "Response" to remarks at his 70th birthday: "Almost all of Process and Reality can be read as an attempt to analyze perishing on the same level as Aristotle’s analysis of becoming. The notion of the prehension of the past means that the past is an element which perishes and thereby remains an element in the state beyond, and thus is objectified. That is the whole notion." (IS 218). For differing interpretations of "perishing" see: (a) William A. Christian, An Interpretation of Whitehead’s Metaphysics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), pp. 319f. Christian seems to regard "perishing" literally so that past occasions are no longer "actual," and so cannot serve as "reasons" for their givenness for a particular concrescing occasion. Also. Donald W. Sherburne, A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966), p. 190, says that occasions which have perished are "no longer actual, being instead, objectively immortal, drained of actuality." (b) On the other hand, Charles Hartshorne, "Whitehead’s Novel Intuition," Alfred North Whitehead: Essays on his Philosophy, ed. by George L. Kline (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 22, believes that "perishing" is an "unfortunate" metaphor, "implying that the entity is dead" which contradicts the final metaphysical insight that in God "there is no loss, no obstruction" (PR 524). Thus, for Harts-horne, if "perishing" is to be used at all, it cannot be used to indicate a loss of actuality or a diminution of what has been attained. "Actuality" is an increasing whole, inclusive of past and present.

11 Two important recent articles concerning the epochal theory are: V. C. Chapell, "Whitehead’s Theory of Becoming," Kline (ed.) op. cit., pp. 70-80, and a rebuttal of Chapell by David A. Sipfle, "On the Intelligibility of the Epochal Theory of Time," The Monist 53/3 (July, 1969), 505-18. Also, the articles by Cobb, Pols, Ford, and Neville cited in note 5 above extend the debate considerably.

12 However, in the later works the notion of Being as "presence" is stressed. "Presence" (Anwesen) here is not construed as an instantaneous present, such as would characterize the "nows" of ordinary time and which is used as a quantitative measure for the entities present-at-hand. It is, rather, an interplay and a dynamic unity of the three temporal dimensions. As such it is called a "fourth dimension. See Zur Sache des Denkens, p. 16. For a particularly helpful elucidation of "Zeit und Sein," its relation to Being and Time, and especially the notion of "Presence," see Joseph J. Kockelmans, "Heidegger on Time and Being," The Southern Journal of Philosophy 8/4 (Winter, 1970), 319-340, esp. 334f.

13 Although I find myself in accord with much of Hans Jonas’s criticism of Heidegger’s thought, particularly the later thought, I would rather contend that "no philosophy of nature does issue from Heidegger’s thought" than, as Jonas puts it, no philosophy of nature can issue from Heidegger’s thought." Cf. Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life: Towards a Philosophical Biology (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), Tenth Essay, "Heidegger and Theology," p. 253, note 16. The main reason for this judgment is given in the last few pages of this essay.

14 In arguing that Kant had not fully overcome the Cartesian ontology, Heidegger writes: "For even the starting-point (I think ‘something’) is ontologically vague, because the ‘something’ remains indefinite. If we understand, here, an entity within-the-world, then there is the tacit presupposition of the world; this phenomenon precisely co-determines the state-of-Being of the ‘I’ if indeed it is able to be something like an ‘I think something.’ In saying ‘I’ Dasein expresses itself as ‘Being-in-the-world’" (SZ 321).

15 In this connection it is instructive to note Heidegger’s charge that Hegel’s concept of time is guided by its "systematic locus," namely, in the "philosophy of nature." Thus, he says, the concept of time is bound to be guided by the traditional notion of time as a series of "nows" (SZ 428f). This argument could be turned against Heidegger. Since his analysis of temporality is guided by the temporality of Dasein, there could be, despite his insistence to the contrary, a "subjective bias" by which he distinguishes realms of Being. My contention is that the "systematic locus" of the discussion of temporality need not guide or limit the concept if one’s principles allow him to generalize his fundamental concepts.


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