Chapter 9: Science as projection

With the ‘problem’ of the “two tables” resolved, the artefactual nature  of essence established, and the issue of imposition as such clarified, a summary statement of the discussion up to this point can be made; then the role of “projection” in science, as understood by Heidegger, can be addressed.  For according to Heidegger, science, at its conceptual foundations, projectively understands the Being of nature in a specific way, and this projection belongs to its essence as a science, even as it circumscribes its intrinsic limits. Now, that science involves ‘projecting’ an ‘understanding of Being’ in some way is not denied.  In a limited sense, science at its root does involve something like projection.[1]  But Heidegger’s characterization of this projection as a “challenging imposition” can be called into question, especially in light of what has already been said about science, essence and imposition as such.  At issue then is the sense in which the projective understanding of Being in science necessarily ‘challenges’ nature in an ‘imposition’ that forecloses the self-emergence of natural ‘essence’—in other words, must science, as understood in Heidegger’s own terms, foreclose the possibility of poiesis, or does it open onto a poiesis even more authentic than the one he suggests?   A summary statement of the last two Chapters will bring this question into sharper focus.

First, as noted in Chapter 7, the so-called dual ontology of the table in the problem of ‘the two tables’ is itself an illusion.  There is, strictly speaking, only one table, the everyday perceptual table.  The scientific account of that table remains, for all its apparent ontological status, about the perceptual table; it is an explanation of that table, just one accommodating a broader nexus of a things standing in the widest possible set of interactions to one another, as they exist independently of the intents and purposes through which tables primarily encountered, used and appropriated.  Since “table” in this sense cannot be directly perceived as such—for in what else but from a human perspective is a table offered?—the scientific table is symbolically represented, and so the question of how the scientific table ‘relates’ to the real perceptual table amounts to asking how a symbol relates to that which it symbolizes (in this case, the symbolic scientific table to the real, every day table).  Whatever this relationship, both tables are real, with the apparently more fundamental ‘reality’ of the scientific table arising from the sense that the materials out of which that table are made remain “more than” the parochial human interests make of them as part of a table, i.e. those materials would continue to exists in interrelation with other existences were humans not around to use them.  Science, with its symbolic manipulations, provides a sense of and offers access to this non-parochial reality.  Through the symbolic manipulations of science, a reality beyond the natural limits of perceptual and experience is ‘touched upon,’ even as that “reality” remains an explanation of the irrevocably real of natively perceived objects and events.  The reality of the perceptually real table is the link required for any assertion that the scientific ‘table’ is real as well, much less allegedly more real.

Second, all essences, as artifacts of meaning emerging from the intents, purposes and uses of a speaking community, are in the strict sense artificial.  “Essence,” such as it is, represents not some apriori ‘entities’ (however qualified) or ‘bestowals of Being’ through which existents become what they are.  Instead, essences are meaningful causes and “consequences of certain natural events within the scheme of human activities,”[2] in so far as these meaningful causes and consequences are anticipated, experienced, and then enshrined in language.  So recurring to the example of before, an “essence” like “fire” is nothing beyond the convergence into one meaning the potentiality to be these varied causes and consequences, and as such it is both universal, in that the potential to be any of the consequences always precedes those actual consequences, and it is paticularizable, in that any given instance of using or appreciating fire will evoke a specific consequence or come about from a specific cause.  In this way, “essences” take on the four characteristics described so aptly by Heidegger, even as they can best be revealed in a “productive seeing” that draws them out of the implicit background of cognitive life, from whence they direct in a ‘disclosive looking’ all relationships with the beings they describe.   As artifacts of meaning, then, essences are “natural” only in the limited sense that the intents, purposes, and uses from which they derive are native uses and enjoyments, ones left uncircumscribed by special cognitive intents that examine them outside the context of their natural uses.  When contrasted with “natural” taken to mean ‘prior to a nexus of use and consequences’—i.e. as being something specific to existences outside all human scope—all essences are artificial.  In short, all essences are derived from that human scope.

Third, when seen in terms of their relationship to non-cognitive life, i.e. the primary experience in which all existences are given, all objects of cognition—be they everyday common nouns like “table,” “chair,” and “room,” or scientific objects like “atoms” and “forces”—are an imposition: they bring meaning to existences that are in the end foreign to their apprehended qualities, however afforded those meanings might be by these qualities as they are immediately experienced and recognized as such[3].   So by virtue of mediating between non-cognitive life and the intents and purposes of cognitive life proper, all cognitive objects “impose,” in so far as the purposes of cognitive life are not apriori circumscribed in the existences experienced simply as the existences that they are—an experience always in principle possible, not matter how difficult in practice for being buried beneath all the sedimentations of language and culture that is the established history of cognitive life.  In this sense, then, saying science “imposes” whereas everyday experience does not is simply a mistake—and equivalently, differentiating between poiesis as “self-emergence” and com-posing as “challenging imposition” in terms of imposition or not merely doubles down on this mistake under the obduracy of essence.  In the final analysis, it may or may not be that the genetic “imposition” subtending poiesis is more benign than the ‘higher order’ “imposition” subtending com-posing, once com-posing is denuded of all talk of ravishing, violation, exploitation, etc. once it is taken simply to mean ‘challenging imposition that fore-closes essence’[4] But in any case, since all cognitive life imposes on non-cognitive life meanings not native to it, poiesis as self-emergence of essence cannot be differentiated from science as imposition because, simply put, both impose, just at different genetic levels.

With these summary points in mind, the following question arises: if the perceptual table is the only real table per se, and if all cognitive life—daily or otherwise, including the cognitions of science—imposes on non-cognitive life in some way—be it a cognitive object or an essence as an artifact of meaning—at what level, in what way, and for what purpose does scienceimpose”—and more to the point, how is this imposition related to “apprehending an essence” in poiesis?  In other words, how does science “impose,” what does science “impose,” and why does science “impose,” and how might this imposition reveal an ‘essence’ of nature, as opposed to fore-closing any essence in advance through a challenging imposition in the Heideggerian sense (i.e. through com-posing denuded of all connotative intent to “ravish,” “exploit” and “hoard,” all dismissable connotations because com-posing as Heidegger describes it has nothing to do with science)?  In short, how should the projective understanding of the Being of nature at the ‘foundations’ of science be understood with respect to poiesis in the Heideggerian sense, or perhaps poiesis in another sense as well—a sense yet to be described?

To approach this question, recall that at the beginning of the last Chapter it was granted that in some respects science can be seen as a “challenging imposition” in the Heideggerian sense.  That is, taking everyday objects as nothing but “pointer readings” imposes on them a reductive, artificial structure—for they are clearly more than pointer readings.  Furthermore, running these objects as “pointer readings” through experiments that by design take them out of their native setting imposes on them a scheme that removes as much of their natural behavior as possible; experiments seek to control the natural and inevitable variability by subjecting natural objects and events to “trials by ordeal”—itself a rather imposing metaphor.  Finally, the results of these trials by ordeal are then taken to be more real than the original, everyday objects and events themselves; the reality of the everyday real is discounted in preference for scientific reductions, and this reduction imposes on ‘natural essence’ yet again by denying it very existence.  Essences, according to science, aren’t real because the objects they are essence of aren’t even real.  So in three ways, science imposes in a Heideggerian sense—i.e. it is a challenging imposition that fore-closes natural essence, one that forces nature into concealment instead revealing nature as it is.  Even if this imposition need not be com-posing because com-posing is not the essence of modern technology (as it is not), modern science under Heidegger still might bring to nature an challenging, impositional framework—“nature” as nothing but “a calculable nexus of forces”—that forecloses in pre-conception, execution, and conclusion natural essences from emerging in their own right.

But it is now asked: does science really “impose” in this way?  That is, does science impose in the Heideggerian sense—“impose” in a way that prevents nature’s essence from emerging; “impose” in a way distinguishable from the self-emergence of poiesis; “impose” in a way that even prevents the essence of commonplace things from emerging in our everyday commerce with them?  It has been argued indirectly so far that science does not, primarily by pointing out that both poiesis and everyday commerce with things, as with science, is genetically subtended by imposition in the strict sense of the term, i.e. by pointing that all cognitive meaning added to non-cognitive life represents “imposition” because it adds something new and foreign to the non-cognitive dimensions of experience, however positive and liberating that foreign addition be might be (like adding “love” to the scent of a rose!).  So even if—as already established—poiesis and daily comportment is indistinguishable from science with respect to imposition as such—i.e. if ‘poetic’ and daily practical cognition are not distinguishable from scientific cognition solely by imposition because all cognitive acts impose—it remains to be seen how scientific cognition ‘imposes’, what it ‘imposes’, and why it ‘imposes, particularly as this imposition relates to the commonplace, value-laden objects of daily life.[5]  Only with those details worked out can the consequences and limitations of Heidegger’s characterization of science as a challenging imposition be seen in its full light, and then challenged.  To that end the how, what, and why of projection in science is discussed in this Chapter, which is accordingly structured as follows.

First, Heidegger’s own account of science as objectification and “productive seeing” as hypothesis is used to contextualize the question of science as imposition in the benign sense, as contrasted with the Heideggerian sense of a ‘challenging that intrinsically forecloses.’  Specifically, science as described by Eddington (“schedule of pointer readings”) is revisited in alternative Heideggerian terms to show that the how of scientific impositions can be presented in a better light than com-posing, even when that term is taken in the modified, limited sense—a light in which the fact of “imposition” can be granted without any detriment to science, much one where it serve as a differentiating criteria from poiesis.  Second, once the how of “projection” is established with respect to any sense of ‘imposition,’ what is imposed in “projection” is addressed.  Specifically, Heidegger’s “calculable nexus of forces” is discussed in terms of the more fundamental aspects of disclosive looking that have been developed in modern science, aspects more essential to modern science than any sense of nature as ‘a calculable nexus,’ itself a trivial conclusion following from the four more fundamental logical and ontological shifts on which it depends.  Third, with how science “imposes” and what it “imposes” more clearly in view, why science “projectively” imposes is addressed.  Specifically, the principle goals of modern science are discussed relative the goals of ancient science, and the functional role of scientific objects is re-examined in light of these goals, particularly as they can related back to what is projected by science.   Lastly, the discussion of how, what and why of projection is summarized with respect to the question of poiesis, and the question of the utility of retaining “imposition” in any but the most trivial sense is examined.

The “how” of projection: objectification and hypothesis

In the introduction to his 1927-28 lectures on Kant, Heidegger describes science in terms objectification, i.e. the conversion of a pre-ontological understanding of Being into an explicit understanding that turns beings into objects as such.  Heidegger begins his account of the genesis of scientific objects by noting that prior to scientific knowing, “all comportment toward beings” is guided and elucidated by a “preconceptual and non-objectified” pre-ontological understanding of Being,[6] and that it is only through this pre-ontological understanding that beings are uncovered as the beings that they are.[7]  For the most part, this understanding of Being remains ‘practical,’ as it were, and under its auspices beings are uncovered and understood primarily for the ways in which they can be used and enjoyed.  But from out of this practically oriented, vague understanding of Being a scientific interest proper speaking can emerge, i.e. a cognitive interest in uncovered beings “already somehow accessible” can emerge from out of daily practical comportment towards them, such that beings are looked into not for the sake of how they are used and enjoyed but “for the sake of their being uncovered[8] as such.  Why this cognitive interest arises is not important for present purposes.[9]   What is important is that with this emergent cognitive interest comes a projection of Being different in kind from that of everyday comportment, for scientific projection, instead of simply using and enjoying, turns beings into an object.  In other words, what was “already somehow accessible” in a pre-ontologically understood way is taken up in a new projective understanding and given a determinate concept of Being.  Heidegger calls this determinate concept—this explicit conceptual determination out of a pre-ontological understanding of Being—objectification.   As he notes, “the genesis of a science originates in the objectification of a realm of beings, that is, in the development of an understanding of the constitution of the Being of the respective beings,”[10] such that “what is determined thus through objectification as a realm can now, as object, become a theme.”[11]  It is only through the objectification of the pre-ontological understanding of Being that beings as objects can arise, and this objectification marks the first step of any scientific investigation of beings.[12]

For present purposes, it can be noted that as an explicit determination of Being from out of pre-ontologically understood Being, objectification cannot but be an “imposition” in an important respect.  That is, in objectification a being is posited, and hence im-posed upon, everyday objects otherwise taken in the usual sense and context.  In other words, through objectification, objects are imposed into everyday meanings, in that they are determined to exist primarily, if not exclusively, in a certain way specific to the scientific interest in question.  In this way, the Being of the object, as Heidegger might say, is strictly correlative to the scientific interest itself and does not represent the Being of the being taken as such.  To take an example, a being as an object for physics exists primarily—if not exclusively—as an ‘extended body with mass,’ whereas the same being for sociology might exist as a ‘cultural artifact’—a different kind of object—and so on and so forth for each science for any given being, with each determination being itself different from the plain and simple thing take in its everyday sense (say a “table”).  In this manner, the Being of the object is always circumscribed specific to the scientific interest in question, and this circumscription imposes limits on the way the being can be as such through specific determinations that it might not otherwise take on.  This ‘super-adding’ a specific and inherently limiting determination of Being is almost by definition an “imposition” on a being, in that the explicit determination out of implicit, pre-ontological understanding imposes a limit to what a being as an object can be and still persist as an object with a specific kind of Being.  Without “imposition” in this restricting, delimiting sense, a being as such could never become a circumscribed object of a determinate kind suitable for scientific investigation.  Without imposition, a being could never become an object.

This “imposition” inherent to objectification raises an important question about the relationship between beings and objects, namely, in what sense is the determination of Being in creating an object imposed in a foreign way on the being that is objectified, as opposed to being “imposed” only in so far a pre-existing determination (however vaguely appreciated) is merely drawn forth and circumscribed within an native limit?  That is, what is the nature of the imposition as such in objectification?  Does it super-add a foreign determination of Being that the being otherwise doesn’t have, or does it merely call forth from pre-ontological understanding a determination of Being characteristic of the being itself?  On this crucial point, Heidegger is unclear, for he only notes that in scientific objectification, the being is compelled “to respond to the knowing which is making the inquiry,” such that “by responding to the question as to what, how, and whence beings are, they stand vis-a-vis the inquiry which reveals them”[13]—in other words, in “response” to objectification, the being is posited as an object, hence the im-position, or the ‘putting of the being into the position of an object’ in the first place.  But this mere restatement of what objectification is leaves what objectification does with respect to the Being of the being unaddressed.  That is, merely noting that beings respond to the imposition of objectification by becoming an object leaves unaddressed what they respond with—their own Being or a determination of Being entirely foreign to them.

For present purposes, it is assumed that by “response,” Heidegger means the only kind of ‘response’ the being could actually give to a question about its suitability for scientific research, to wit an ‘response’ as a specific determination of its own Being.  For how else would a Being respond to a circumscription of its Being, except by revealing some sense in which it can be said “to be”?  In any case, for present purposes, it is assumed that in responding to the imposition of objectification, beings are uncovered in their Being, just in a limiting and circumscribed way specific to the scientific interest.  So the “imposition” of objectification does not impose something foreign onto the being as it posits the being as an object; rather the imposition merely circumscribes for scientific purposes some attribute of its Being, and in this way the imposition uncovers the being in some respect, not foists on it some determination it couldn’t otherwise have (though the determination emphasized is one it might not otherwise have in a different mode of comportment).   For as Heidegger himself notes, “through such uncovering beings are [therefore] circumscribed, encompassed, and grasped” as the correlates of scientific research”[14]—leaving open the possibility that through this uncovering beings objectified still reveal their own Being in some essential way, just one not fully representative of them in their Being as such.

So to summarize briefly, science for Heidegger begins with the objectification of beings into objects, and as objects beings are made to “stand over against us”[15] in a projection that can’t but be ‘imposing’ in so far as their Being is narrowly circumscribed in a way specific to the science in question, not taken as it is as such.  This circumscribing, encompassing and grasping—the positing—is not the imposition of a ‘foreign attribute’ onto beings; it remains an uncovering of beings in some respect of their Being, and as such it requires simultaneously a projection of the Being of beings and an objectification of that Being.   To put the matter another way—one related to “productive seeing” and anticipating further discussion—only through a projection of Being as objectification is the ground out of which objects emerge established—or alternatively, beings are disclosed as the objects they are only against the background of the explicit projection of Being offered by objectification.  As Heidegger says with respect to this projection as objectification, “objectification is possible only on the basis and through the ontological […] projection and opening of the ontological constitution,”[16] such that in it “the basic constitution of those beings which are to become objects becomes intelligible”[17]  In effect, then, scientific objects only become possible in the apriori uncovering projection of objectification, such that in projective understanding scientific objects are both grounded and emerge as the objects they are.  In short, science for Heidegger is requires establishing a thematic field of beings as objects, and these objects are available only through grounding acts of projective understanding based in a pre-ontological grasp of their Being, just a grasp made explicit in objectification.

Three salient points emerge from this account of objectification as the basis of science.

First, as already indicated, as an explicitly scientific taking up of beings from their native disclosedness in everyday dealings (however vaguely their Being is understood in those dealings), objectification represents an imposition of some determination of Being on beings (an “essence”, as it were), however benign and necessary that imposition might be for science.  That is, the scientifically explicit projection of Being as the ground from which (or alternatively, as the background against which) beings become intelligible as objects is determined and assigned with a scientific purpose in mind and is therefore imposed, strictly speaking.  For a natural science like physics, beings objectified into objects ‘respond’ to this imposition perhaps less in accord with their own essence than in a philosophical science like ontology—and indeed, Heidegger says the objectification in science for the most part takes place “naively and without genuine knowledge of what happens,”[18] whereas the projection in ontology aligns with beings in their essence, an alignment that is the purpose of the philosophical critique of science.  But in any case, the projection of Being inobjectification” for the purpose of scientific knowing represents an imposition on beings otherwise experienced, uncovered, and pre-ontologically understood in their everyday, commonplace way, and much more on being understood in their way of Being generally.   This is not to say that the imposition isn’t fruitful for being an imposition as such, only that an imposition of an object onto pre-ontologically understood beings occurs in scientific projective understanding.

Second, this imposition via the projection of the Being of beings in objectification is indistinguishable for the most part from the hypothesis of “productive seeing,” as that term has already been discussed.  For recall that “productive seeing” as hypothesis requires “positing of what lies under as ground,” in that the ϑϵσις (thesis) as such is posited as the ground out of which an essence emerges, i.e. the thesis in effect is the ground for the essence of a being to emerge, thus enabling the being to emerge in an essential determination of its Being. [19]  In so far as this “posited ground” as ‘productively seen’ is another designation for “the projection of the Being of the beings,” hypothesis and objectification are alike in that both provide the ground (or thesis, or background) out of which beings or objects are made visible in their essence—or alternatively, in their Being.  As such both “hypothesis” and “objectification” share a common root—the projection of Being.  To be sure, with hypothesis as “productive seeing” of essence Heidegger has in mind a productive projection that allows the essence of a being to emerge as the essence that it is and not as a predetermined essence of an object in question, as allegedly occurs with objectification.  Nevertheless, as productive—i.e. as a bringing forth “which is itself grounded on what it brings forth, and in that way posits what is seen as ground”[20]hypothesis and objectification are indistinguishable.  Both operate through an apriori projection that acts as the basis for determining the “the constitution of the Being” of the respective beings or objects in question, so their difference hinges not on how this constitution is disclosed (for both require a projection that establishes the ground of disclosure) but more precisely on what is disclosed in the projection.  In other words, in each respectively a ‘natural’ or an ‘artificial’ essence disclosed, with “natural” referring to an essence native to the being in question, and “artificial” referring to a pre-determined and pre-conceived essence that forecloses the true essence of the being in question.  But in both cases, the disclosure occurs against a ground or background that is projected, and that background is the understanding of Being as such, thus the question arises: is the difference between hypothesis and objectification based on what is disclosed in the projection, not the how of projecting itself (for the latter always projects Being)?

Third, the question as just stated—namely, whether objectification in science differs from hypothesis in “productive seeing” by virtue of the kind of essence disclosed (i.e. ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’)—itself presupposes a false dichotomy, and it is false precisely because, as already noted, all essences are artificial, therefore the “essence” imposed by science is not distinguishable in principle from the “essence” disclosed in “productive seeing,” i.e. in poiesis or hypothesis.   The underlying question is instead merely when and how the imposition of meaning occurs.  In other words, as artifacts of meaning with a genetic origin in the development of a linguistic community, essences “natural” to the being itself or essences of objects as  “artificially” pre-determined for science are alike in kind as impositions and differ only with respect to when they are imposed, what is imposed and why it is imposed—and really, “imposed” here could simply be dropped in favor of simply saying taking “being as they are,” albeit in a circumscribed way, for “impose” is retained only to highlight the contrast with the Heideggerian sense of “imposition” as challenging foreclosure, i.e. for contrasting his false differentiation between “imposition” and “self-emergence.”   In any case, as a result of their genetic history, all essences ‘captured,’ or ‘compelled,’ or ‘productively seen,’ or ‘imposed’—whatever the term for apprehending them, whatever the mode—all these alleged kinds of essences equally determine beings to be the beings that they are in the strict sense of the term—i.e. in terms of being correlates of a projective understanding that delimits and circumscribes, meaning in effect that “productive seeing” as hypothesis and objectification in science are not just “for the most part” one in the same:  with respect to projection itself they are the same, and one only differs from the other by virtue of the specific projection  brought to light, not by projection as such as disclosing and bringing to light as such.  In other words, the how of projective understanding in which essence is apprehended is in all apprehensions one and the same, just as in genetic origin all essences so apprehended are one in the same.  In this respect, Heidegger is entirely correct to find in science an objectification of beings through an explicit projection of Being in terms of which entities are intelligible as such, and therefore made suitable for scientific inquiry.  But in missing the essential artificiality of all essence he fundamentally errs in finding in philosophical cognition, as ‘seeing an essence,’ something different in kind from scientific cognition, on the ground that the former uncovers the ‘essence of the being itself’ absent any ‘foreign impositions of meaning’ inherent in the later.  For there is simply no such distinction to be drawn with respect to meaning vis-à-vis the native significances of non-cognitive experience.  In short, there is no distinguishable philosophical “productive seeing of essence” as hypothesis either subtending scientific objectification or acting as an adjudicator over its operations because any essence is itself always already an “objectification,” just one genetically buried in a “complex history” of unavowed cognitive acts.  In terms of projectively explicating a pre-ontological understanding of Being—or alternatively, in terms of prospectively explicating the sedimented meanings latent in prior cognitive accomplishmentsobjectification and hypothesis are essentially the same.  One is simply done prospectively, whereas the other retrospectively.

With these three points in mind, Heidegger’s assessment of science as a challenging imposition can be re-examined.  That is, the Heideggerian reading of Eddington’s view of science, itself taken to be representative of a common view, can be re-examined in a more favorable light than the inherently negative sense of “challenging imposition” that forecloses essential knowledge, so long as the philosophical mistakes Eddington himself makes are also corrected—mistakes no doubt both representative of and encouraging many a misunderstanding of what science actually does, perhaps including Heidegger’s.[21]   This re-examination can be done entirely in Heideggerian terms for objectification and hypothesis, and as with showing how the view of essence here is compatible with his “essentiality of essence” and “productive seeing,” using his own terms in more appropriate way should once again support the explanation offered here.

For instance, what can a “schedule of pointer readings” mean with respect to how natural objects and events are uncovered with respect to their Being except to say that in their Being, beings are measureable?  Note that this is not to say in their Being, beings are only their measurements—though admittedly Eddington rhetorically suggests at times that this is so.  Rather it means that for the purposes of exact science, any entity can be measured—or equivalently, it must be measured—and therefore as a projection of that possibility, beings can be objectified in terms of quantitative measurement, as opposed to simply taking them in the qualitative experience that characterizes them either in non-cognitive life just as the beings they are, or in cognitive life properly speaking, where non-cognitive qualities are themselves taken up and hypostatized into stable properties of cognitive objects proper (as is done for the most part in daily life).  As a free possibility of Dasein—and for Heidegger, science is rooted in the freedom to projectively understand Being[22]—understanding beings in terms of only one possible manifestation of their Being, measurable quantity, would of itself provide the ground from which (or background out of which) beings emerge as potential objects of scientific investigation, and so long as the right purpose is circumscribed in advance, any “imposition” this pre-determining and de-limiting explication of their Being represents would be nothing more than recognizing the intrinsic limits of any understanding that  occurs within a horizon.  In any case, the delimiting “imposition” of scientific interest in objectification would be no more or less artificial with respect to a pre-ontological understanding of Being (i.e. the sedimentations of meaning over pre-cognitive life) than “productively seeing” beings in terms an “essence” which otherwise determines what the beings are in a more commonplace, every day way.  For with respect to the projective understanding that grounds them, both procedures are one in the same: even as the “essence” of an everyday being is ‘productively’ disclosable, so too is the being objectifiable, for in their whatness beings as the articles of daily life are at least potentially measureable, and so they can be transformed into an object with respect to exact science, i.e. physics.   As a free projection of the Being of beings, nothing apriori with respect to imposing as such arbitrates whether or not beings can be taken as “physical quantities” strictly “defined according to the way in which we actually recognize them when confronted with them, and not according to the metaphysical significance which we may have anticipated for them.”[23]  (It is this disavowed metaphysical importation that Eddington addresses with his rhetorical flourish of ‘pointer readings’ and “nothing more”). [24]   In short, with respect to being “impositional” vis-à-vis everyday experience or non-cognitive life, science is no more presumptuous or impositional in its projection of the Being of beings as measureable than everyday experience presumes not to project on them this way, especially since everyday experience—as can be easily noted— is rife with measurement and reckoning (like counting kids to make sure they are all there on a field trip, gauging how long it will take to drive from A to B, reading a speedometer on the car during the drive, telling time, and so forth…).  Exact science could be seen in Heideggerian terms simply as explicating a pre-ontological understanding of Being in terms of a scrupulous devotion to a standardized, abstracted form of the reckoning on which ordering in daily life is largely based, just with a different purpose in mind…and so forth.  Once the false dichotomy between essence as ‘native to the thing itself’ and essence as ‘artificially imposed in a preconception that forecloses that nativity’ is discarded with respect to their common root in an “imposition,” as it were, on non-cognitive life, Heideggerian terms like objectification, projection, and the understanding of Being all accurately describe what science actually does in circumscribing its objects.  In essence, science can be Heideggerian, once Heidegger’s fundamental error about projection and imposition is corrected, i.e. once the false nativity of essence is abandoned.

So measurement as such as “a schedule of pointer readings” need not be given the nefariously limiting sense of “challenging imposition” that Heidegger gives it because, simply put, the ascription is either trivially true in so far as all “impositions” of meaning for a specific purpose are intrinsically limited, or it represents a fundamental error, in so far as the intrinsic limitation is seen as a fore-closing of essence that might otherwise be revealed in some fundamentally different way, i.e. in some fundamentally different kind of cognition.  But to the contrary: with respect to the how of the projection of Being, measurement in science is no more or less a foreclosing of essence than the colloquial systems of reckoning and measurement used in everyday life, nor is it any more or less “impositional” in its objectification of beings into objects than that through which those “beings” of everyday life already are in themselves  established as cognitive objects in the first place, ones usefully appropriated and/or enjoyed under the auspices of vague understanding of their Being, as yet un-explicated by science.   In other words, with respect to the how of projection as such, all explication of the pre-ontological understanding of Being “imposes” on beings some determinate understanding of their Being, regardless whether or not the projection occurs in poiesis, hypothesis or scientific objectification—with the difference between them being whether the “imposition” is retrospectively brought to light (poiesis, hypothesis) or prospectively circumscribed (objectification).   To put the underlying issue in slightly different terms: all projective explication simultaneously discloses and fore-closes, in that it discloses one possible way of relating to beings in their Being even as it fore-closes others.   With respect to beings as apprehended in non-cognitive life, there is simply no ground for differentiating apriori between a non-impositional “productive seeing” of essence in poiesis that only discloses and an impositional fore-closing of “essence” in measurement that only fore-closes because as projective explications of the understanding of Being—to stick with Heidegger’s terms—both poiesis and measurement equally disclose and fore-close, just on different aspect of Being.  The potentialities and limits of both with respects to dis-closure and fore-closure are intrinsic to the very act of projective understanding and need no further elaboration through the fallacious parsing between a “challenging” imposing and “poetic” non-imposing.   With respect to the how of projection, there is simply no distinction between imposing” and “non-imposing” to be made, since projection by its very nature simultaneous imposes limits that disclose aspects, and vice versa.

With the reinstatement of the so-called “reduction” to measurement to its proper ontological place, so also goes experiment as “challenging imposition” in the Heideggerian sense as well (and not simply because even common sense experiments to solve problems, just as it reckons in understanding beings as measurable).  For neither is an imposition any more or less than brining out a potential, the two being one of apiece.  And with the dismissal off both—a grounded dismissal, to be sure—finally goes Heidegger’s view that science is some kind of uniquely “challenging imposition.”  Simply put, there is no ontological ground for parsing out a nefarious sense of “imposition,” challenging fore-closing notwithstanding, because all projective understanding simultaneously discloses and forecloses, leaving the line in the sand between them a matter of degree for specific purposes, not a distinction of kind.  The only sense of Heidegger’s “science as challenging imposition” left tenable is the sense in which for Eddington the reductions of science are more real than the objects and events of natural experience they purportedly describe.  But the exposure of that fallacy need not be reiterated, and in any event, as exposed, it certainly justifies no Heideggerian sense of “challenging imposition” inherent to science as such, simply because the discounting of the everyday real in favor of the scientific is not inherent to science as such, once science is properly understood.  In other words, it just won’t do to accept an error because it can be mapped onto another one, thus compounding both.  Instead, it is just best to reject science’s misunderstanding of itself (i.e. the assertion that everyday reality is an illusion) in order not to feed the Heideggerian bugbear that science ontologically imposes in a challenging foreclosure of ‘reality’ (what Heidegger calls the Being of a being, its “reality” as colloquially stated).  In any case, both characterizations of science are in error, at least as far as the how of projecting Being goes, for all cognition, scientific or philosophical or otherwise, projects in essentially the same way of simultaneously disclosing and foreclosing.

The “what “of projection: five logical and ontological shifts in modern science

With the underlying similarity in the how of projection between poiesis, hypothesis and scientific objectification established, attention now turns to what is deployed in the projective understanding of Being, with respect to the Being of nature as understood in science.  In one respect, the what of projection in science has already been indicated—quantitative measurement.  Clearly quantitative measurement as a “schedule of pointer readings” connected numerically[25] by physical laws represented by mathematical equations is close enough to ‘nature as “a calculable nexus of forces”’ for government work, so the equivalence is drawn here.  Clearly Eddington views physics largely in this way in The Nature of the Physical World, and as stipulated already, Heidegger’s characterization of science as this ‘calculable nexus’ is granted, despite its limitations as a descriptor of modern science as such.[26]  But even granting to Heidegger that science deploys a notion of nature essentially (i.e. in an imposed essence) as a “calculable nexus of forces” in a projection of nature’s Being, does this characterization of its essence capture anything beyond the most trivial description of what science uncovers?  Does it capture something essential about science as such, as Heidegger maintains, much less capture something that forecloses as such—a thesis that has already been rejected?

When understood in light of the revolutionary changes in ‘the understanding of the Being of nature’ modern science represents, nature as a “calculable nexus of forces” poorly describes both science’s methodological presumptions and its ontological shift away from ancient science—or perhaps more accurately stated, at best that characterization of modern science represents an outcome subtended by four much more fundamental shifts, shifts that ultimately give the designation “a calculable nexus forces” any meaning it might have.  Without these more fundamental changes, nature so designated would not even be conceivable, much less practicable in science, so elaboration of projective understanding of Being in science (such as it is; again, sticking to Heideggerian terms) should focus on those changes.  As elements of “disclosive looking,” they are more fundamental than “a calculable nexus of forces.”  These four shifts are: the shift from essences to accidents, the emphasis on homogeneity, the institution of relations, and the shift from final to “efficient” causes.[27]   As manners of disclosive looking fundamental to science, i.e. as projections of ‘the meaning of Being of nature,’ all four logical and ontological shifts essentially differentiate modern science from ancient science, and only in coming together in their collective meaning does nature become intelligible as “a calculable nexus of forces.”  As such, each shift is discussed in turn, followed by their convergence in a new understanding of science as uncovering nature not just as ‘a calculable nexus of forces’ but more principally as something no longer possessed of knowable ‘immutable properties.’  It is in this eventual rejection of fixed, immutable properties to be known by science that a “calculable nexus of forces” derives its only meaning—a point stressed by Heidegger but completely misappropriated by him as a ‘resignation’ of where science now stands (this so-called resignation mentioned in The Question Concerning Technology is discussed in turn).

Perhaps the most fundament ontological shift in ancient to modern science relates to the subject matter of science proper, i.e. in the object or nature of scientific knowledge itself.  Specifically, what for ancient science was an object of inferior knowledge—if even knowledge at all—became for modern science the only proper object of knowledge.  The shift is more than just a logical reversal; it represents as well a shift in the fundamental ‘disclosive looking’ of what is and how it can come to be known; again to use Heidegger’s terms, it required an ontological shift in the disclosure of Being as the object of true knowledge.  This shift is best described by discussing the ancients and moderns in turn.

For the ancients, the sole and proper object of scientific knowledge was real, immutable Being, a Being hierarchically arranged into fixed classes and kinds, the differentiating principles of which could be directly apprehended by a rational mind and then used in the syllogistic reasoning of demonstrative knowledge that in principle and practice comprise science itself.  The logical forms correlative to the subject matter of the ontology need not detain discussion here; of interest is the ontology itself, with its hierarchical and ordered universe of fixed, knowable kinds.  For the ancients, each kind was a unique substance, as it were, possessed of an essential nature, and that essential was as unchanging as the substance itself, with any change undergone—and all substances except the heavenly bodies could undergo change—indicating a lack of real Being, a lack not subject to rational knowing, for only what is in its unchanging state can be known in the strict sense.   So scientific knowing in the ancient world—Aristotle here representing the ancient world, as his metaphysics was the medieval and modern inheritance—was correlative to an understanding of Being in which real Being was disclosed as immutable, unchanging Being capable of rational apprehension as such.  With this ontology subtending it, science before modern times investigated nature for principles describing the way it did not change because change itself was never to be a subject of real knowledge.

Modern science simply rejected the primary stipulation of this ontology as a basis for real knowledge, in that it made change—ostensibly indicating a lack of Being, and therefore lacking knowability—the subject matter of science.  Again, the shift was not merely logical; it was ontological.  For the moderns, unlike for the ancients, the immutable and ‘unchanging’ in nature became the principles of change itself: principles of fixed, unchanging immutable Being constant itself as the object of science were replaced with immutable laws of change of fixed substances.  So for the moderns, a sense of ‘immutable’ Being was retained, in that substances had fixed properties necessary to their existence (the so-called primary qualities), but what for the ancients were accidental changes in these properties indicating a lack of Being became for the moderns necessary changes indicating immutability of an entirely new sort—an immutability to patterns of change itself.  In assigning real Being to change, the moderns ontologically reversed the ancient emphasis.  To deploy Heideggerian terms, for the moderns the disclosive looking subtending science’s ‘understanding of Being’ replaced ‘change as lack of immutable Being’ with ‘Being as immutable principles of change.’  In this way, moderns and ancient science differed essentially with respect to the disclosure of Being “sustaining and guiding” their hypothesis and objectifications, not just—as Heidegger himself indicates in “The Question Concerning Technology”—with their manner of experimental versus non-experimental knowing.

With this new emphasis on immutable principles of change in place as the true object of science as immutable, unchanging Being itself came a related emphasis on homogeneity versus heterogeneity, both with respect to nature itself and the kinds of change within in.  That is, for the ancients, both the kinds of natural substances (earth, fire, air and water, plus the heavenly) and the kinds of change undergone (differing movements tending to end in rest, like up and down, circular, etc.) were qualitatively different from one another, but for the moderns they were qualitatively alike.  Specifically, the five natural substances of ancients were reduced one homogenous kind (“matter”), and instead of moving in qualitatively different ways tending to a natural place of rest, matter stayed in motion unless compelled by some external force to rest, with motion itself homogenously conceived as “measured change of position in space occupying a measured amount of time.”[28]  So for the ancients Being was principle heterogeneous and understood in terms of quality, whereas for the moderns Being was homogenous and understood in terms of quantity—and measureable quantity at that.  Related to this shift was the fact that for the ancients, quantitative measurement could not yield real knowledge, since quantity was an accident of substance, not its immutable nature, but for the moderns, quantity was the only road to real knowledge, for quantity was precisely what changed under the immutable laws of change.  So again, the shift was as much ontological as logical, putting as it did a conception of ‘what is’ in place of ‘what could be known,’ and how it could be known.

The third difference between the ontology of the ancients and the moderns follows from the first two, namely, that “modern science is concerned with the institution of relations,” while ancient science was “based on a theory of nature which treated all relations […] as accidental”, i.e. as non-essential and therefore not an object of true knowledge.[29]  This ontological shift can best be seen in the way the very phenomena of change “sets the problems” of modern scientific inquiry, for the moderns sought to determine the immutable laws of change governing why a body would change from one place to another in a given amount of time—a “problem” that simply did not exist for the ancients because the cause of change was not a relation between two times and positions of one body; cause was descriptive of the entire process of change itself.  So for the ancients, a body was not caused per se to move in such and such a way; cause was the movement itself, qualitatively described in four terms, ending with its coming to place in a natural state of rest.   The nature of the movement itself was of no interest to the ancients because it indicated “inferior matter” and a lack of real Being.  But for the moderns, changing relations between independent substances was the principle target of science: science for the moderns was knowledge of the immutable laws governing these various instances of relational change.  Again, to use Heidegger’s terms, the moderns pre-ontologically understood Being in substances standing with respect to each other in terms of external relations, and thus they objectified beings into objects subject to immutable laws of change, whereas the ancients understood Beings in terms of interdependent inclusion and exclusion of fixed, immutable kinds, and thus they objectified beings onto objects internally related to one another as genus and species, with change within either representing inferior and accidental Being of no consequent interest.  Science as the science of relations thus brought together the previous two ontological and logical shift together under one umbrella, uniting them as it were in an understanding of mutable substances undergoing fixed kinds of change specifiable in terms of natural laws.

Finally, all three ontological shifts in the ‘disclosive looking’ fundamental to ancient to modern science converge in an important respect into the modern emphasis on “efficient” causes instead of the ancient emphasis on final.  For in conceiving beings in terms of changing external relations to one another subject to immutable laws, emphasis in for the moderns naturally turned from the fixed ends to which change was intrinsically directed to the ‘agent’ cause bringing about the change itself.   This focus on “efficient” causes as the ‘external agent’ of change at the expense of “final” causes first began in medieval dynamics and in physics culminated in Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.  But by Darwin’s Origin of the Species “final” causes had been expunged from all branches scientific inquiry, and where cause was discussed at all—an in many branches it was not—‘efficient’ cause reigned.  In place of the ancient emphasis on nature as a “qualitative, bounded and closed whole”[30] internally ‘related’ according to inclusion and exclusion of fixed kinds, modern science objectified nature into changing relations of independent substances, all subject to determinable laws, whether the cause of those laws was known or not.  With this fourth ontological shift, the early ‘metaphysics’—“metaphysics” meaning generally an apriori conception of Being—of modern science was finally laid.[31]  Modern science became ontologically different than ancient science, not just methodologically so.

With the four ontological shifts of modern science in place—namely, Being as change, homogeneity, relation, and efficient cause—Heidegger’s so-called “essential” characterization of modern science (nature as “a calculable nexus of forces”) can be understood in its proper light.  That is, it should be relatively obvious that nature as a ‘calculable nexus of forces’ first presupposes the ontological projections of the Being of nature as changing, homogenous, relational, and caused, for without these four elements of ‘disclosive looking’ subtending it, “a calculable nexus of forces” simply makes no sense—or at least, it doesn’t make the sense required to be an essential characterization, since essential, ontological characterizations clearly more fundamental underlay it.  Since modern science—in so far as it does so at all—can only see nature as a ‘calculable nexus’ if nature is first homogenous and relational, and subject to change according to causal laws, those ontological projections and not “a calculable nexus of forces” belong to its essence, such as “essence” is.   Furthermore, as already noted, nature as ‘a calculable nexus of forces’ simply does not describe science as such; it only describes, to some extent, physics, whereas the four subtending ontological determinations so far described are universal.  They describe all modern science almost equally well.  With these two limitations in mind, Heidegger’s “essential characterization” of modern science in terms of “a calculable nexus of forces” is at best incomplete, in that its meaning derives only from ontological shifts more fundamental to that “essence,” but at worst it more than incomplete, in that it represents a purely trivial iteration that scratches the surface of how some modern sciences objectify nature, an objectification requiring a fuller ontological scope in order to get to nature as an ‘calculable nexus.’  So the objection to Heidegger on science isn’t just that he’s wrong to characterize it the way he does per se; it’s that his characterization is incomplete, banal, and entirely trivial, even if it can be considered correct at all (as it is not for the vast majority of modern science).  For of course nature as “calculable nexus of forces” is the consequence of the objectification of nature in physics—Heidegger’s exemplary science.  But observing that is no more insightful than saying ontology takes Being as something that can be conceptually known—a characterization the early Heidegger would consider only trivially true as well, a triviality exposing an entire underlying ontological problematic.   In light of the four ontological advancements of all modern science, nature as ‘a calculable nexus of forces’ can be admitted true as far as it goes, even as it is rejected as an essential characterization precisely because in its triviality it essentially goes nowhere.

At this point in the discussion an summary characterization of all that has been said so far about Heidegger and science can be made, in that the path so far to making the just stated and rather obvious rejoinder to Heidegger’s so-called “essential thinking” on science—namely, that it is either inaccurate and just wrong or sort of right but entirely trivial—amounts to taking the “long way” as it were, to the conclusion, not the short way to what should be obvious to anyone familiar with what science actually does and how it actually works.  As “the long way” the discussion has taken Heidegger’s characterization of essence on its own terms, his characterization of science on its own terms, and his merging of the two into an “essence of science” as a “challenging imposition” on its own terms.  Then it has shown that since all “essence” is genetically speaking an imposition, just a different strata of “imposition” than science, one occurring at a different point in a “complex history” that is cognitive life, Heideggerian imposition as a ‘challenging foreclosure of essence’ simply makes no sense.  But that conclusion could have been reached by the shorter way stated at the beginning of the discussion.  That is, any reasonable reader looking for “essential insights” about science in “The Question Concerning Technology” would most likely just scratch her head at ‘nature as a ‘calculable nexus of forces’ and say “true enough, but so what?  That doesn’t mean that’s all it is.”  So why take the long way?  Why indeed, but in any case it has been taken, and as far as it goes it admittedly only counters Heidegger’s trivial observation with a rather trivial (though largely novel) observation of its own, namely, that essence, as an artifact of meaning, ‘imposes’ too on non-cognitive life, just as does establishing any cognitive object which is the basis of relating to and commencing with “beings” given simply as they are non-cognitively experience.  With this observation in mind, the long way merely points out there is no inconsistency in seeing science as an “imposition,” such as it is, and still asking: so what, what cognition isn’t “imposition” in some sense?  When isn’t meaning an “imposition” on the native significances of non-cognitive life, the life out of which all cognitive objects (the only objects with which we can have every day or scientific commerce with) emerge?  Once the essence of modern technology as com-posing imposing on science an unavoidable tendency to objectify in service of easier exploitation is discarded—as it should be discarded because com-posing cannot be the essence of modern technology, and modern science is not application of that essence—modern science as “challenging imposition” through a ‘calculable nexus’ becomes nothing more than a trivial iteration of what some science does—indeed, what any cognition does—coupled with negative normative claims masquerading as determinations of its essence.  Much more is to be said in Chapter 12 on the essentially normative dimensions of Heidegger’s ‘question concerning technology.’  For now it is only observed that the triviality of Heidegger on science should be at least partially evident at this stage of the dialectic engagement with his work on its own terms.  But if a final dialectical thrust to make the point clear is necessary, Heidegger’s own attempt to find confirmation of com-posing by citing ‘physics itself’ offers the proverbial last nail in the coffin of his irrelevance for any understanding of science.  For in his reference to Heisenberg in “The Question Concerning Technology” Heidegger demonstrates that he simply has no clue about the ontological significance of modern physics, much less about science in general—a “clue” beyond the misdirection that comes with attaching a false ontological significance to a trivial declaration of what physics more or less presupposes, contextualized with the normative menace of com-posing (again, the strictly normative nature of com-posing and poiesis is taken up in Chapter 12)

Late in his presentation, Heidegger refers to Heisenberg’s earlier lecture (he was a previous presenter at the festival at which “The Question Concerning Technology” was delivered), and in the reference he ostensibly finds support that the essence of science is the same as the essence of modern technology (as com-posing), and that even modern physics has come to this conclusion, albeit unconsciously, in so far as it sees nature as nothing but “a calculable nexus of forces”—a “nothing but” to such an extent that even physics has lost sight that it is a science of nature at all, as opposed to offering merely a picture of a ‘known-not-what’ reflected in its own image of data manipulation.  As Heidegger states, quoting in full:

If modern physics must increasingly resign itself to the fact that its representations are non-intuitive, this renunciation is not dictated by some commission of scientists. It is demanded by the holding sway of com-posing, which insists on disposability and sees in nature merely disposables. That is why physics, as much as it abandons the claim to represent self-standing objects–although this representation was indeed the scientific ideal until recently–can never renounce this one thing, namely that nature report itself as calculable and thus be disposable as a system of data. This system is thus determined by a causality that has changed once more. Causality now neither manifests the character of the active letting that brings forth, nor is it a type of efficient causality, and a fortiori it has nothing in common with the formal cause. Causality has shrunk, presumably, into a registering of challenged contents that are guaranteed to appear simultaneously or successively. To this would correspond the process of increasing resignation Heisenberg’s lecture has just depicted in such an impressive way.[32]

Now at first glance the references in this passage to com-posing as the cause for physics’ resignation can be rejected simply because com-posing as the essence of modern technology can be rejected.  Once rejected, though, Heidegger’s idea that modern science is so wrapped up in its own objectifications that it is no longer a natural science at all remains.  Instead of providing knowledge of a nature that reveals itself, modern physics instead relies on a mere “representation” of “the-physicist-knows-not-what”—to borrow Rojcewicz’s interpolation on Heidegger’s behalf.[33]  In other words, according to Heidegger, because of its essence as a challenging imposition—again, the cause of this imposition in com-posing is ignored only to strengthen Heidegger’s point about imposition as such—science has even lost sight of what it challenges and imposes upon, and he finds evidence of this loss in Heisenberg’s admission that ‘physics must increasingly resign itself’ to the fact that its representations are ‘non-intuitive’.  For context on what Heidegger is referring (recurring to Rojcewicz again), Heisenberg himself says (again quoted in full):

We [physicists] have resigned ourselves to the situation just described, since it turned out that we could represent mathematically and say in every case, dependably and without fear of logical contradiction, what the result of an experiment would be. Thus we resigned ourselves to the new situation the moment we could make dependable predictions.  Admittedly, our mathematical formulas no longer picture nature but merely represent our own grasp of nature.  To that extent, we have renounced the type of description of nature that was customary for centuries and that had been valid as the self-evident goal of all exact natural science.  Even provisionally, we cannot say more than that in the field of modern atomic physics we have resigned ourselves, and we have done so because our representations are dependable.[34]

Now, Heidegger implies—and Rojcewicz following him explicitly states—that Heisenberg’s ‘resignation’ that modern physical concepts like “electrons,” “protons,” and “neutrons” etc. no longer correspond to the “description of nature that was customary for centuries” in any kind of intuitive way means that physics has given up being a physics of nature as such, in that physics itself recognizes that it is no longer about nature or reality per se but instead is solely an practical instrument for making predictions of an indeterminate “reality” as a “we-know-not-what,” predictions that are only more or less regular patterns in data, without being ascribable to actual causes.  In other words, since physics, as has already been pointed out with respect to Eddington, has given up putting “entities” on a waiting-list to later determine what their reality might be and instead uses symbols as it objects as the “only possible alternative” to ontological claims, [35] this means that physics has given up all pretentions to real knowledge or knowledge of anything causal about nature, and instead is content to order data in terms of computation and prediction, and nothing more (and even worse than that, according to Rojcewicz, the so-called “causes” it finds in the data are merely “customary”[36]).  In Heisenberg’s resignation Heidegger (and Rojcewicz on his behalf) would thus find an admission of sciences’ impotence to reveal “essential connections” or “real causes” in nature all, yielding instead only customary knowledge of regularities observed in data.  In short, according to both Heidegger and Rojcewicz, Heisenberg is said to admit that physics (and by extension science) isn’t knowledge of nature at all, only a mere instrument for making reliable predictions—and to boot, predictions anticipated in data representing it-knows-not-what, without knowledge of why the predictions work.

The imputation to Heisenberg of a purely instrumental understanding of science as something so artificial and imposing (for Heidegger, composing) that it doesn’t even pretend to reveal real, natural relations or causes is, simply put, ridiculous.  As a misreading it’s not even wrong.  First, Heisenberg never renounced the idea that physics describes real nature in some way, for in his refutation of the pragmatic instrumentalism that Heidegger (and Rojcewicz) impute to his ‘resignation,’ as it were, Heisenberg specifically states that whether the theoretical entities in modern physics “correspond to reality can only be decided empirically.”[37]  Obviously, if the correspondence can only be decided empirically, some possible correspondence must be possible; therefore some real knowledge of nature must exist, at lest potentially.  And of this potential correspondence and the existence of real knowledge of nature, Heisenberg goes on to note that the “whole subject” of the relationship between physics and reality is “extremely difficult to put into words,” but he does offer that in confirming the conceptions of physics—when and if it happens—“we are quite suddenly brought face to face with a relationship that has always existed, and that was quite obviously not invented by us or by anyone else.”[38]  So real knowledge of real physical relations is possible for Heisenberg, however difficult determining the proper sense of “reality” might be.  Given this clear faith in physics as knowledge of nature, not as mere manipulation of data as representations of ‘we-know-not-what,’ what can the ‘resignation’ Heidegger refers to—the resignation described by Heisenberg himself—really mean?  What are modern physicists, following Heisenberg, resigned to?

Simply put, Heisenberg and modern physicists have abandoned two interrelated ontological commitments; they are “resigned,” as it were, to their abandonment.   First, modern physicists after relativity and quantum theory have abandoned the idea that “individual natural processes can be isolated from their context” in such a way that “man’s intervention in nature could be ignored in principle, if not in practice.”[39] And second, and correlatively, modern physicists have abandoned the idea that this isolation reveals fixable, determinate properties of substances, i.e. a “nature ‘in-itself’.”  In other words, by the resignation of physicist’s Heisenberg does not mean to imply that physics is no longer about nature, or that it cannot achieve real knowledge of natural relations; he clearly thinks it can.  Instead he simply means that physicists can no longer see themselves as “merely observers” and not “also actors” with respect to knowing these natural process and causes; that consequently “the natural laws formulated mathematically in quantum theory no longer deal with the elementary particles [in] themselves but [only] with our knowledge of them.”[40]  Or to put the same issue in Eddington’s terms, physics is concerned not with ‘nature as it is in-itself as such’ but only with nature in so far as it is knowable—a knowability that requires cognizance of the functional role scientific instruments and objects play in the enterprise of knowing.[41]  Heisenberg goes on to describe the resulting “intereffect of technology and science” in any attempt to know nature as an actor within it, but the underlying point is the same: modern physics has not abandoned its goal of real knowledge of real natural processes, resigned in effect to merely manipulating data and forecasting predictions.  It has merely become more circumspect regarding the relationship between the necessary tools in knowing itself (instruments and symbolization) and the kind of knowledge that can be expected using them—shifting, in effect, the ontological question of scientifically determined reality versus everyday reality into a functional question of how symbolic representations of everyday reality serve as a means to better understand that reality in its natural interactions, i.e. how they serve as a means to understanding its interactions with surrounding things—or in a word, to better understand nature.   With his ‘resignation’ Heisenberg self-consciously—and not with a sense of reflective irony—arrived at the ontological interpretation of science described in both Chapter 7 and the preceding sections of this Chapter, with the added stipulation that how nature can come to be known affects what is known in the attempt.  In this respect, Heidegger (and Rojcewicz elaborating for him) completely misrepresents Heisenberg’s ‘resignation’ to support his own ontological mis-interpretation of science.   In short, when it comes to Heisenberg and the stance of modern physics has taken with respect to reality after relativity and quantum theory, Heidegger just has no idea what he is talking about.

This digression into Heidegger’s gross misrepresentation of Heisenberg can serve as a segway into the fifth (and most recent) ontological development of what science ‘projects’ in its understanding of ‘the Being of nature,’ namely, the ontological indeterminacy of the concepts it deploys.  While modern science differs from the ancients in that it objectifies nature in terms of change, homogeneity, relations, and cause, prior to the early 20th century it still retained some notion of substance possessing fixed, determinate properties, properties that if not the subject matter per se of science were nevertheless posited in pursuit of that subject matter.  For instance, although Newton in his dynamics understood gravity to be the cause of measurable change in both moving bodies on earth and in the heavens (hence homogeneity), he nevertheless conceived of matter as a substance possessing fixable, determinate properties like mass and extension, and space and time as a fixed, absolute arena and medium in which change occurs, and so forth.  In short, although knowledge of these fixable properties of substances and events was not the sin qua non of science—relations of change of those properties was—nevertheless science posited these substances with their fixable properties as the ultimate substrates of science, i.e. as the entities to which scientific concepts refer .  So bodies had fixed mass, not just an operational sense of ‘mass as a measurement’; measurement, as it were, measured a real property, “mass.”  And so on and so forth.  It is precisely this ontological presumption that Eddington described as a “waiting-list,” a list on which entities were placed until the way in which they are substantially real could be determined—a list which was abandoned when science realized there was no advantage to “removing the suspense” of in what way “electrons,” “fields”, etc. are real, i.e. how the measurements corresponded to real properties of real substances.  As already noted, abandoning this waiting list allowed science to progress ontologically away from positing substances independent of all acts of knowing and instead toward a functional understanding of nature as measured relations, i.e. a understanding of nature in terms of a reality as knowable.[42]  This final ontological determination of nature’s Being as knowable relative to acts of knowing and not determinately known in-and-of-itself represents science’s most recent ontological step, a step noticed in 1927 in part by Eddington and in 1928 in full by Dewey (not coincidently, perhaps, in the same public lecture series).[43]  In any case, as Dewey described so well the what of science’s ontological commitments (or not), discussion now turns to him again for science’s why of projection, i.e. for an account of the aims of science, and the context it establishes for reaching those aims.

The “why” of projection: science’s functional commitments ontologically understood

Thus far it has been shown how and what science projects in its understanding of ‘the Being of nature,’ both with respect to science as such and with respect to Heidegger’s characterization of science a ‘challenging imposition.’  With respect to both how science projects and what it projects, Heidegger’s characterizations have been seen as defective, the former because it overlooks that all explicit projection of Being, be it hypothesis, poiesis, or objectification, requires ‘imposition’ at some point in the strict sense of the term, and the latter because nature as ‘a calculable nexus of forces’ is at best a trivial characterization of what some science does in light of far more important ontological commitments characteristic of them all.  With how and what discussed, it remains to be see why it projects—that is, why does science project an understanding of the Being of nature as change, homogeneity, relations, and cause?  What does science hope to accomplish by objectifying nature the way it does, and how does the aim of this objectification differ from the objectification of nature in ancient science?

Modern science differs from ancient science with respect to the aims of its objectifying projection of Being in three ways.  First it differs with respect to the problems it poses, that is, with where it begins.  Second, it differs with respect to the kinds of explanations sought once scientific problems are formulated.  And third, it differs with respect to the scope of the explanations derived, or alternatively, with respect to each explanations’ reach.  Each difference is discussed in turn.

With respect to how scientific questions begin, modern science differs with respect to ancient science in that the former takes as its starting point what the later takes as finalities to be used in further explanations, namely, the qualities and events as natively perceived.   That is, in its most basic “essence,”—to continue using Heideggerian terms—modern science projects an understanding of the Being of nature as an objectification in order to understand the conditions and causes of perceived qualities and events, as opposed to simply taking those qualities and events as the finalities they happen to occur and using those ‘finalities’ as explanatory terms in other descriptions of causal change.  Following Dewey, this shift from taking qualities and events as perceived for granted as finalities to be used in further explanations to taking these qualities and events as themselves something to be explained can be further specified as the shift from taking qualities and events ‘as they happen’ to seeing these events, objects and qualities as data.[44] “Data” of course in this context cannot be computer data in the sense we refer to data today; nor is it simply “data” in the sense of measurements, i.e. the ‘data’ like mass, length, velocity, and time, etc.  Instead, to take an object as data means to take it as “subject matter for further interpretation,” as “something to be thought about,”[45] not simply something to be taken ‘as it is’ and then used as a term in other explanations.  Thus instead of simply taking qualities and events as they happen in direct experience, then using those qualities as “self-evident matter with which to explain [other] phenomena” [46] (as ancient science did), modern science takes the qualities and events as directly experienced to indicate problems, i.e. as “challenges to inquiry and judgement” with respect to the causal “connections and interactions” that sustain them.[47]  In short, modern science takes the qualitative dimensions of everyday perceptual life as “the materials of problems and not of solutions”[48] This shift from ‘explanatory matter’ to ‘posing problems’ is both subtle and important, and it bears some emphasis in an example illustrating the shift in the kind of scientific explanation sought once a scientific problem was formulated.

To set up the example, recall that for ancient science, qualities like “hot” and “cold” and “wet” and “dry,” as observable qualities, were not just taken to be simple properties of wet and dry or hot and cold things.  Rather as observables they were used as explanatory terms (“active quantities”) in classifying the changes and transformations in nature itself, specifically the changes and transformations among the four terrestrial elements (earth, fire, air, and water).  So consider ‘boiling water.’  For the ancients, the explanation for boiling water went something like this: heating the water draws the “wetness” as water/air out of the ‘cold and wet’ water and transforms it to air as ‘hot and wet,’ leaving a substance that is ‘heavier’ (more ‘earthy’) than before (the remaining water), thus the ‘lighter’ air moves up (since that is the natural resting place for lighter elements)—and so forth; the example could be multiplied to include virtually any natural transformation.   This example is not intended to recollect the naiveté of ancient science—though it was honorifically naïve.  Rather it is to point out that what ancient science took as finalities (hot, cold, wet dry, heavy, and light) to be used in an explanation modern science takes as starting points, as the very phenomena to be explained.  In other words, with boiling water, the aim for the ancients is explaining that adding heat draws the ‘cold wetness’ out of water and turns it into ‘hotter wet’ air; it described the process in the language of causes.  By contrast the issue in boiling water for the moderns is explaining why adding heat causes the water to boil, thus turning the liquid water into vapor; it sought an actual cause, not just a re-description of the process in terms of the language of causes.  In the latter case, obvious qualities of pre-boiled water (“wetness” and “coldness”) are used as causal principles to explain the transformation once water is heated (steam being “hot and “wet”); in the former case, these qualities are precisely what need to be explained.  In other words, unlike ancient science—which simply uses differing proportions of “wetness” and “heat” as the causal explanation itself—modern science asks “why does heat transform ‘wet’ liquid water into ‘wet’ water vapor,” i.e. it seeks the cause for the transformation in something external to the process itself.  In short, instead of explaining a phenomenon like boiling water in terms of its own heterogeneous elements—and thus ultimately doing little more than using those very elements to re-characterize the process itself in causal terms—modern science seeks an explanation that brings “under identical principles” the qualitative heterogeneity that is observable in the first place—that is, it seeks to explain precisely what ancient science used as terms in the explanation.  This difference (however subtle) doesn’t simply mark a shift in method with respect to the way scientific problems are posed: rather it marks a fundamental change in the aim of scientific explanations, i.e. a fundamental change in what an explanation is.   For the ancients, explanations amounted to little more than re-descriptions of change in terms of the directly experienced qualities undergoing the change, terms that were recast into a discourse describing the intrinsic process of the four causes playing itself out.  For the moderns, the heterogeneity of those directly experienced qualities is precisely what needs to be explained by invoking “identical principles” that represent causes in addition to the observed change.  In the former case, nothing is really explained; it is only re-described into causal terms.  In the latter case, the explanation contains an account of the cause of the change, not just a re-description of the change itself in the language of causes.  With respect to the aim of the explanation, the very concept of cause differs.

A complete account of this conceptual shift in the meaning of “cause” would amount to a complete account of what constitutes a scientific explanation, which is beyond the scope of this book (the issue is expanded in Chapter 11, however).  Suffice it to note that what for the ancients was “taken as satisfying the demands of knowledge, as the material with which to frame solutions, became [for the moderns] something which set problems.[49]  Or to put the matter similarly, what ancient science took to be the terms in causal accounts the moderns took “as offering a challenge to thought,” something to be known,” rather than simply being “the objects of knowledge” itself cast into the discourse of causes.[50]  In this respect, modern science marks a fundamental shift away from understanding directly experienced heterogeneous qualities and values through re-descriptions in their own terms toward “a search for those relations upon which the occurrence of real qualities and values depends.”[51] In contrast to ancient science, then, modern science is “concerned with the happening of these experienced things,” in so far as “the conditions and consequences of their happening”[52] can be described.   In short, what the ancients took as the terminus of knowledge and explanation the moderns took as the beginning, and with respect to this difference the kind of explanation had to differ as well.  With the advent of modern science, the fundamental aim of science and knowledge shifted from re-descriptions of events into a causal language using as terms the very heterogeneities to be accounted for toward explanations of events in terms of “identical principles” designating the “conditions and causes” of qualitative heterogeneity as such—with “conditions and causes” referring to external “constant modes of natural operation” and “conjunctions of circumstances and conditions”[53]as the reason for the change in question, as opposed to so-called ‘internal principles of change unfolding of itself.’  With respect to aims, then, modern and ancient science differed with respect to how it posed problems and the kind of explanation sought in their solution.

So the aim of science—its why of its projective understanding—radically shifted both with respect to the beginning of scientific problems (“qualities” and “events” as directly perceived) and with respect to the nature of scientific explanations (accounts of their “conditions” and “causes”), but it also shifted in a third way, namely, with respect to the reach of the explanations themselves.  That is, not only does modern science take directly experienced qualities and events as data to be taken up and investigated, as representing problems to be explained in term of their causes; the explanations sought in the investigation changed with respect to “scope”—or alternatively, the reach of explanations changed.[54]  Specifically, in ancient science, for all its demonstrative knowledge of immutable Being, scientific explanation explained change in terms of unaided perceptual experience; its accounts were limited to describing objects, events, and change from a parochial, human perspective.  By contrast, modern scientific explanations aim to the experienced qualities and events of direct experience in terms not limited to human perspectives and actions.  Instead, modern science seeks to explain qualities and events as experienced in terms of their “connective operations,”[55] i.e. in terms of the “continuum of relations and interactions”[56] with other natural objects and events, irrespective of whether or not those objects and events are, or even can be, perceived in unaided perception.  In seeking these “natural interactions”[57] of the causes and consequences of experienced qualities and events, science seeks explanations “out of relation to any particularized experience[58]—i.e. the scientific object in modern science represents “an indefinite multitude of possible relations among concrete things,”[59] not the object or event solely—or even primarily—as directly experienced or even experiencable as such.   In expanding the reach of explanations to include natural interactions irrespective of how or why those interactions are taken up in human intents and purposes, modern science redirected inquiry away from implicit reliance on experienced qualities as explanatory factors (like “hot,” “cold”, “wet” and “dry”) and toward explicit development of new conceptual materials in causal explanations of those heterogeneous factors themselves (“waves,” ”rays,” “fields,” etc.)  With this expanded explanatory reach, science shifted its aim from re-describing nature as it is experienced to explaining nature in terms of its own “natural” interactions, conditions, and causes.  In short, once scientific problems were posed in a new way, new kinds of explanations were sought, and these new explanations included a new aim as well, namely, an appreciation of nature-as-such from a distinctly inhuman perceptive, i.e. from a non-parochial perspective limited to native capacities to perceived objects and events.  That this shift in scope of explanations requires technology will be discussed shortly. For now it is merely observed that modern science, unlike ancient science, sought explanations that differed not just in kind as causal explanations, instead of being just re-description in terms of cause; it equally sought explanations the reach of which extended beyond anything human beings could ever experience in natural perception.   By extending the reach of explanations, science in effect changed the why of its projections—to wit, to explain nature as though human beings were not in it.

These three shifts in aims of science with respect to the way problems are posed, the kind of explanations sought, and the reach of explanations found—i.e. this shift in why ‘the Being of nature’ was projected as it was (again to stick with Heidegger’s terms)—is intimately related to what was projected in modern science vis-à-vis the ancients.  For as already indicated, modern scientific explanations seek to explain heterogeneous elements “under identical principles,” thus indicating that its projection of Being is ‘nature as homogenous.’  In this specific example, the ‘homogeneity of nature’ can be seen in the modern explanation for why water boils, for in the account, water boils because the heat speeds up the motion of molecules to such an extent that those molecules enter a gaseous state differing from the liquid state only by velocity of molecular water.  Unlike the ancient explanation, where the water changes into new element (air), the modern explanation asserts that the water does not change from water; it remains water, just in a different state, one dictated by molecular motion—thus homogeneity is asserted where heterogeneity exists.  Additionally, this change itself is a proper subject for science (for the ancients, the boiling of water is something to be descried but not known per se), even as the change is the result of extrinsic relations (independent molecules interacting) caused by an agency external to the change itself (heat is the ‘efficient’ cause that speeds up the molecular motion).   In all four respects, then, the aim of the modern scientific explanation of boiling water is intimately dependent on what is projected about nature.  In other words, the why of scientific objectification is as much dependent on what is projected as what is projected serves the why.  The what and why of the projection of Being mutually serve one another in modern science.

With this mutual dependency in mind, the functional  role as opposed to the ontological status of scientific objects can be again be appreciated, this time with respect to the shift from the ontological determinacy of the of what is projected about nature in ancient and early modern science to the ontological indeterminacy of modern scientific objects.  For as noted already, the fifth logical and ontological shift from ancient to modern science meant abandoning the remaining ontological commitment of the ancients, namely, that the true test of scientific objects was the degree to which they reflected determinate, fixable properties of independent substances, as opposed to being operationally defined in terms of how we in fact relate to the ‘substances’ in question.   In other words, science moved from assessing its objects by “the degree in which [they] approximate a grasp of what is antecedently fixed in existence,”[60] and toward seeing them as “belonging to our intellectual apparatus of dealing with antecedent existence.”[61]  Recurring to Eddington’s “waiting list,” the ontological indeterminacy of the objects on the waiting list was allowed to stay suspended as analogies to everyday reality for those objects were no longer sought.  Instead, scientific objects were appreciated for their functional role in explanations of real existence, with their own ontological status itself remaining secondary to that explanatory role.  As also noted with respect to Heisenberg, this functional role is not to say that scientific objects like “electrons,” “protons” and “neutrons” don’t exist as much as it is to say that their role in explanations does not require a determinate sense of how they exist, i.e. their ontological status, however indeterminate, is secondary to their primarily functional role, and the questions as to how they exist can be set aside as surely as the conviction that in some sense they do cannot.   In short, by assigning to scientific objects a functional role as opposed questioning their ontological status, science liberates it conceptions from the ontological drag of faithfully representing nature as determinately known in-and-of-itself and frees them for a role in explanations of nature as knowable relative to acts of knowing.  Nothing in this functional assignment says that scientific objects are not real, or that they do not enter into “real” explanations of real nature.  It merely asserts that the everyday understanding of reality need not and indeed cannot be decisive for the sense in which they do exist, even as their functional role in explanations suggests that they do, perhaps to such an extent that better explanations in the future may eventually ‘clear up’ any ‘as yet indeterminate’ ontological status.

With the how, the what, and the why of projection in science established, and the functional role of scientific concepts clarified with respect to its ontological commitments examined, the question of “imposition” as such with respect to poiesis versus objectification in the projective understanding of Being in science can now be conclusively re-assessed.  Specifically, it is asked: since poiesis, hypothesis, “productive seeing” and objectification all impose essence or meaning with respect to the non-cognitive experience in which beings are primarily given, to what end is it even necessary to discuss science or any cognitive endeavor in terms “imposition” at all, as has been done so far to facilitate dialectical engagement with Heidegger on his own terms?  That is, if all cognitive life imposes in an essential way, why retain “imposition” as a term of the discussion of science, projection, objectification, and poiesis, particularly as the four relate to one another?  Why use it in further discussion?

Why indeed.  Since “imposition” as the differentiating criteria between poiesis, hypothesis, “productive seeing” and objectification simply makes no sense, the term can finally be dropped altogether, and its place it is simply concluded that Heidegger’s differentiation between scientific cognition as objectification and philosophical cognition as “productive seeing” of essence (hypothesis or poiesis) by the criteria of imposition—challenging or otherwise—is at best trivial, in that it merely reiterates a necessary component of all cognitive life, or at worst erroneous, in so far some kind of cognition—or apprehension, seeing, taking up, whatever the term—is presumed to occur absent any prior imposition.  But no such imposition free cognition exists because “imposition” in the strict sense of the terms is a necessary component of all cognitive life, is a necessary component of all doing and knowing with respect to beings, and it merely occurs in for different reasons at different times with respect to the way “beings”—or rather qualitatively distinct existences—are always already pre- given in the primacy of direct, non-cognitive experience.  The very notions “meaning” and “essence,” no matter when and how they are apprehended, presume an imposition in the literal sense, and as such all force to Heidegger’s characterization of science as “challenging imposition” withers, particularly when projection in science is examined with respect to how it occurs and what gets projected.    Simply put, there is no basis in the notion of projection as objectification to say that in essence or principle by virtue of imposition science differs from poiesis.

Since Heidegger’s characterization of science as a ‘challenging imposition’ on nature that conceals its essence rather than reveals it simply makes no sense, is it not possible that science does in fact reveal the “essence” of nature, that in science nature reveals itself, as opposed to being imposed upon in such a way that it yields up a ‘false front’, as it were, as Rojcewicz faithfully suggests on behalf of Heidegger?  In other words, is there perhaps another sense—a more authentic one—in which science is poiesis, albeit a poiesis of an as yet undescribed kind?  The next Chapter fulfills this possibility by examining how nature reveals itself in a quintessentially modern scientific discovery, the discovery of atmospheric pressure.  For in that discovery is exemplified the proper relationship between science and technology, even as the essence of science as discovery—and hence as the self-emergence of new knowledge—comes to light.  In other words, science can be seen as poiesis even in Heideggerian terms, once the proper correction to those terms are made, and to that end discussion now turn to experiment, atmospheric pressure and the relationship of “essential seeing” to both.

[1] Although it is not denied, Heidegger’s so-called ‘projective understanding of the Being of nature’ at science’s conceptual foundations is better understood functionally as the deployment of conceptual subject matter pursuant to the solution of scientific problems.  That his deployment requires some ‘understanding of Being’ cannot be doubted, though the relevance of ontology to that understanding—as Heidegger understands it—can.  For present purposes, Heidegger’s position is engaged in the strongest possible light in order to establish its intrinsic weaknesses all the more clearly.  Hence ‘projective understanding of Being’ is retained, even as better conceptualizations of the logic and ‘ontology’ of modern science exist (see Dewey, Logic: Theory of Inquiry for a comprehensive statement, or How We Think, Chapter ()  for a more direct one).

[2] EN 158.  See also 160, where “in any sense in which the conception of essence is legitimate, these human consequences are the essence of natural events.”

[3] And there can be little doubt that the significant relations of these non-cognitive qualities are extensive….


[5] Again, it is stressed that the language of “impose” is kept in concession to the terms in which Heidegger frames the issue. It is acknowledge that the sense of “imposition” here is trivial, but delving into such trivialities is necessary when dialectically engaging the later Heidegger.

[6] 17

[7] “Both scientific and prescientific comportments are a knowing in the sense of uncovering what is preciously concealed, of revealing of what was previously covered up, of disclosing what so far was closed off.” p. 18.

[8] 18

[9] (Heidegger gives a genetic account in Chapter x of Being and Time)

[10] 20

[11] 20

[12] It is noted in passing that this objectification into objects is, but for the emphasis on Being, nearly an exact parallel to what has already been described as the institution of the cognitive object.  See Chapter [], pp.

[13] 19

[14] 19


[16] 25

[17] 20.

[18] 20



[21] That this is not the case is addressed in the final chapter.

[22] 15

[23] NPW 128

[24] 130


[26] P. 81 above.

[27] The discussion that follows is an elaboration of Dewey’s points in Chapter 5 of Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, pp. 94-98.

[28] Logic 95.

[29] Logic 96

[30] Logic 98

[31] For a brilliant account of the ‘metaphysical assumptions’ of modern science, see Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science

[32] QCT,. Cited in GT. What follows is structured almost entirely after Rojcewicz.

[33] GT, p.

[34] GT, from 120-121

[35] NPW 125

[36] GT

[37] PaB, 98

[38] 99

[39] PCN, 8, 12

[40] 15, 16, emphasis added.

[41] NPW,

[42] PHW 114-5, 134

[43] The Quest for Certainty followed Eddington’s lectures by one year and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle by two.

[44] QC 79.

[45] 80


[47] QC 213

[48] 83

[49] 80

[50] 81

[51] 83

[52] 84

[53] Logic 251

[54] For a detailed account of “reach,” see David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity, chapter x.


[55] 214

[56] QC 191

[57] 191, emphasis added

[58] 190, emphasis added

[59] 190

[60] QC 164

[61] 162

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