Establishing the conditions for the possibility of establishing the conditions of possibilities

This morning I’m kicking Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics to the curb and starting Peter-Paul Verbeek’s What Things Do. It’s funny, but not entirely a coincidence, that this books starts out attacking Heidegger’s anti-technological views. I suppose I’ll mark my book transition by joining in with a few parting shots at Heidegger.


When philosophers go transcendental and start establishing the conditions for the possibility of actual things, something deep and stubborn in my temperament rejects the self-understanding of such efforts.

By my understanding, actuality alone establishes possibilities.

When we establish the conditions for the possibility of some thing, all we really establish is a way to conceptualize the possibility, which is far from the same as proving the actual existence of the possibility.

I am cannot see how “What are the conditions for the possibility of x?,” isn’t better expressed as “How can I conceptualize x?,” perhaps with the qualifier “…so it has intuitive immediacy for me and people who think like I do?”

What am I missing here?


A related point: Heidegger’s claim that not being is a possibility for an actual thing is profoundly doubtful. A being can change radically so that it is for us no longer what it was, but that has far more to do with how we conceptualize beings than it does the being’s being. Unless we are solipsists… and this is the crux of the matter, isn’t it?


I’ve heard it said that solipsism is easier to assert than to live. I disagree. I think many people — maybe most people — live solipsistically, while asserting the existence of an objective truth that exists beyond their subjective experience. This is practically inevitable if we treat truth and reality as alike — if not in substance, in correspondence — and if not certainly, in principle, possibly. In other words, even a fallibilist non-idealist can, for all practical purposes, live solipsistically.

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