Saulius Geniusas

The Question of Ethics in Heidegger's Being and Time

The following investigation addresses the relation between fundamental ontology and ethics. I argue that in Heidegger's Being and Time, one can discern two sharply contrasting tendencies: the anti-ethical and the ante-ethical tendencies. I further show that after the publication of Being and Time, Heidegger himself provides two alternative ways to dispel such an ethical incongruity: (1) In his lecture courses immediately after the publication of Being and Time, Heidegger suggests that the tension between anti- and ante-ethics can be overcome by means of abandoning the ante-ethical tendency and sharpening the anti-ethical stance. (2) In his later writings, particularly in the "Lecture on Humanism," Heidegger argues that fundamental ontology is neither anti-ethical nor ante-ethical; it rather is "originary ethics" itself. I maintain that neither of the proposed solutions is satisfactory. I further contend that no solution to the conflict is called for. It is rather promising to return to the phenomenological description of two conflicting ethical tendencies in Being and Time. This description entails a profound insight, viz., the insight that the ethical life of subjectivity is incontestably and inescapably torn between ethical regulations and moral motivations. Thus according to my central thesis, Heidegger's phenomenological contribution to the ethical problematic consists in disclosing the ethical life of subjectivity as split between two extremes, between which no resolution is possible.