“We didn’t come into this world — we grew out of it, in the same way that apples grow out of an apple tree. And if apples are symptomatic of an apple tree, I’m sure that after all, this tree apples — when you find a world upon which human beings are growing, then the world is humane, because it humans.” Alan Watts

This section of thought focuses primarily on whether or not we can make what are best characterized as “philosophical mistakes.” In order to determine whether this is possible, I rely on Martin Heidegger’s claimed distinctions between historical reflection and historiographical exploration and the implications thereof. This chapter is directly inspired by his thoughtful works set forth in the Basic Questions of Philosophy.It is oft claimed that people are capable of making the same philosophical mistakes that other before us have made. For this reason, we are told that we are to avoid independent thought and that we are to focus on the fateful mistakes or slight intellectual victories of those who came before us. This is devaluing to the human spirit and its capacity to understand the humanly perceived universe. We do not need history to confirm the existence of truth or falsity in philosophical revelation.

I am of the opinion that philosophy only arises from one’s mere human be-ing. As such, there is no need to regress into the past to understand what is now unfolding before me in my current and future being. The past is no condition (logical or otherwise) to understanding that one is human/contemplative being and, because of one’s humanness/contemplativeness, that there is a cognitive ability to reflect on our state of being human. Moreover, reliance on historiographical considerations is indicative of the belief in the notion of `philosophical mistakes’ — a notion that is based on a `correctness of the assertion relative to object’ basis for truth determination.

As a general matter, I believe that contemporary academic philosophy is so busy focusing on what was said in the past or how it was said that the academicians of philosophy have forgotten or overlooked what it was that was being talked about in the first place — our mere human be-ing (i.e., human existence). One need not be an academic historian, philosopher, linguist or logician to realize that we are human beings and, as such, carry within us the clues to the ground of our humanity inasmuch as we are a part of the ground.


It should be first noted that Heidegger claimed that philosophy has its power in establishing a goal for all of man’s reflection and to place a “hidden sovereignty” in the “history of man [emphasis added].” To wit, “The grandeur of man is measured according to what he seeks and according to the urgency by which he remains a seeker.” Nothing could be more true.

Natural science nor logical principles /methodology will place any such sovereignty in our history. In fact, science is a “disavowal of all knowledge of truth” according to Heidegger. The goal of science is a striving for a complete “technologizing in order to proceed to the end of their course, laid down for them so long ago.”

This inability of science to place a “sovereignty” in the history of man is for the reason that “truth” is a matter of the process of seeking at the level of the ground for our being — it is not a methodological progression from a set and determined point or accepted truth. We, in scientific thinking, seemingly forget that philosophy should “respect form less than substance.”As well, it is ostensibly forgotten that, “The incident follows the principal, and not the principal the incident.”Simply stated, scientific thinking is a mere incident of our human be-ing — science is seemingly a wholly empty concept without precedent human thought grounded in a beginning and/as future.

In this same vein, science also serves to act as a refutation against the simple claim that, “[The way human beings are] formed calls into being the phenomenon of light, and sound, and weight, and color, and smell. [emphasis added].” Simply stated, scientific thinking dictates that our be-ing acts as something subservient to the external regardless of the contention that there is an ultimate ground of being in which we and our empiricism are rooted.
Furthermore, “Truth” is not a mere matter of accepting that certain truths exist without reflecting upon the ground from which such `self evident’ or `a priori’ truths might arise.

The scientific disavowal of truth, by bald acceptance of certain `logical truths’ or `laws of nature’, is highly notable in the thinking of contemporary logician/linguist Willard Von Orman Quine.71 Notwithstanding, science posits no goal for all reflection as does philosophy in the Heideggerean sense — Heideggerean reflection constitutes a knowing by questioning itself without root in accepted truth or objectification.


Traditionally, philosophy has committed itself to establishing the `basic problems of philosophy’ or designated `branches of philosophical discourse’. These problems, branches or objectifications include logic, ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics and other objectified conceptsor accepted areas. Yet, as in science, these areas have been “frozen as questions, and it is only a matter of finding the answer or, rather, modifying answers already found, collating previous opinions and reconciling them.”

This designation of accepted areas of thought is a limiting factor in reflective thinking in that they bound the scope or range of philosophical questioning even though it is the very process of questioning that is perhaps the goal of philosophy. The accepted areas of inquiry are only afterthoughts to one’s or man’s initial coming into being and the reflective realization that one is a being and within being. However, it must be admitted that the positing of certain accepted areas of philosophical inquiry is not arbitrary or capricious in that such positing has a long history.

This traditional mode of philosophical inquiry has its ostensible roots in a `correspondence theory’ of truth and as such becomes a “problem of logic.” Yet, and quite appropriately I believe, “It could be that the presuppositions of all logic do not permit an original questioning of truth.” After all, even the basic propositions of logic originated in man and thus have a superseding ground — the ground from which man is compelled to question and posit logical principles in the first place or primordial sense.

To return to the ground, according to Heidegger, is to engage in an historical confrontation with Western philosophy. However, this can be no mere historiographical confrontation or, in other words, revisitation, perceived correction or collation of past thinkers’ world views or creations (as objectified). The historical and historiographical are conceptually different.

With these important thoughts in mind we may now proceed into a discussion of what history and historiography might be and what role they play in our positing of the goal of philosophy.


Historical reflection relates to questioning at the level of the `simple’ or that which in its mere being compels us to extend our thinking about being, to elaborate, to reason and posit, and to depart from that which prompts our questioning being. It is not a revisiting of accepted truths or beginning posits as abstracts.

This `simple’ is the ground of/for/underlying truth under any standard of determination or comparison for determination of the `true’ versus the `false’. However, this `simple’, because of our firm ostensible rooting in accepted truths of logic and the like, is not as conspicuous as one might desire. Yet this `simple’ is what brings us to the “arena of the necessary” in terms of the goals and aspirations of humanity.

“We have to strive for a genuine experience of what is compelling us toward the question of truth.”What is meant by a “genuine experience” is an experience that is unadulterated and unaffected by our ready acceptance of logical/analytical/scientific truths or historiographical objectifications. Man as history (or “a being that perceives beings” and engages in the process of future-ing), and beyond mere `correctness’, relates to a unitary openness toward all that is `being’ as things (the questioned), the questioner, the region between the questioner and the questioned, of the questioner relative to that which is questioned, and between questioner and fellow questioner. “This openness is therefore the ground of the possibility of correctness and as this ground it is something worthy of questioning and inquiry.”

Historical reflection is the destination of a road which is defined by the creative or revolutionary question of truth that asks about truth as the essence of that which is true — this road is the “return to openness as the ground of correctness.”This questioning is searchful and permeating in nature in that it is fueled by a desire to pursue that which is “correct in the sense of that to which all commission and omission and all judgments about things are connected in advance, that to which our historical humanity is attached. [emphasis added].” The question seeks to find the essence of `true’ and not a mere abstraction of what it is to be true.

In historical reflection we are seeking the event-ing process within human history (as the course of events) and not the mere events precipitated by being and the essence underlying human event-ing. History is the happening or event-ing as the unfolding of the future.87 After all, “The future is the beginning of all happening.”

For this reason, however, the beginning is concealed inasmuch as the future is yet to unfold and remains concealed.History is now future and, thus, beginning. As such, “This does not allow itself to be “considered” [or “explored”]; instead, we must “reflect” on it. We have to be concerned with the meaning, the possible standards, the necessary goals, the ineluctable powers, and that from which all human happenings begin.”With all of this said, it must be noted that historical reflection is bound to the past more stringently than historiography in that such reflection remembers that “the past is one and the same as the future . . . ” As well, according to Heidegger, historiography is not dispensable or useless in that we are supposed to protect ourselves and our revolutionary historical reflection from “an often ignorant and weak limitation of the past . . . ”

Historiography can take place in an exploratory revisitation of the thinking and world views of past thinkers and tradition(s) of thought or can take the form of an exploratory consideration of the past “from the viewpoints and according to the standards of the living present. In doing so, the past is loosened from its frozen state and is related to the present and made contemporary.” However, one is not assured that present thinking can, in any way, be commensurate or comparable to the past. “[T]radition,” is not a foundation. Nevertheless, the present may only be a conglomerate of all that was and, in this sense, is as frozen as the past itself.

In the above light, the appearance of human progress becomes an intoxicating distraction away from the ground of our truth seeking being. Yet, progress is only a further extension of the artifices/objectifications of man that have already been projected or abstracted out of a forgotten ground. Historiographic explorations are not geared toward the finding of a meaning in being or the original/genuine experience of a questioning state — the event-ing within being. These explorations merely serve to discover springboards or significant events for `new’ extensionally based thought in the present.

This “extension” from basic posits and presupposed logical/analytic truths, at the `core’ of an ontology, is highly glorified in the analytic tradition of Willard Von Orman Quine.The finding of a particular event (For example: The initial act of positing of the statement, “All `A’s are `A’s,” now objectified as an analytically true statement) now becomes an accepted object, objectification, abstraction, truth or beginning of truth as opposed to reflection on the process of event-ing that brought about the evented posit in the first place.

Heidegger has stated that, “The return to the Aristotelian doctrine is not to be a mere historiographical consideration but a historical reflection.” We are to seek the ground for Aristotle’s “positing of the correctness of the assertion as the essence of truth . . . ” Further, we are told by Heidegger as follows: “Historical reflection will question the basic experience and basic conception of the Greeks, or of Aristotle in particular, about “nature,” the body, motion, place, and time. And historical reflection will recognize that the Greek and the Aristotelian basic experience of nature was of such a kind that the velocity of the fall of heavy and light bodies and their belonging to a certain place could not have been seen otherwise or determined differently than they were. A historical reflection will realize that the Greek theory of natural processes did not rest on insufficient observation but on an other — perhaps even deeper — conception of nature that precedes all particular observations.”

From the standpoint of historical reflection, the advanced modern science of nature is not a whit more true than the Greek; on the contrary, at most it is more untrue, because it is altogether caught in the web of its own methodology, and notwithstanding all its discoveries, it lets escape what is genuinely the object of these discoveries: namely nature, and man’s relation to it, and man’s place in it.”When reflecting on these comments by Heidegger, I am compelled to ask myself the following questions:

● Am I required to be a historian to be a philosopher or theologian?
● Am I required to even know about Aristotle to be a philosopher?
● Are there philosophical or theological mistakes to be avoided?
● What is a philosophical mistake or ignorance?
● Can I avoid philosophical errors/ignorance, if there be such things, by engaging in philosophical-historiographical explorations?
● Isn’t my contemplative be-ing enough of a basis for philosophical thought?
● Is it not possible for God to speak directly to me and others? Did God stop speaking at some point?

To each of these questions, excepting the last, I answer with a resounding “NO!!!”.

Seemingly, even Heidegger has objectified the seeking process of the Greeks and placed it on par with historiographical consideration. Heidegger seems to be further overlooking the ostensible reality that Aristotle, as a man/human being, shouldn’t be said to have a different essence in form or substance than Heidegger himself, the reader of this chapter, or myself. Should one assume that each individual thinker has an individual essence as a conditional to being a `seeking being’? Am I to presuppose that there are millions upon billions of individual essences having come into being and now having passed from being before I came along?

We each, in our mere be-ing, have the faculty to seek the ground of our individual existence since our thinking is within our existence — a human existence — a questioning existence. That I question is enough to compel me to the belief that I am capable of philosophizing. Inasmuch as one’s mind may only be a tool — it is a tool that forges existence. For what else does the tool have to work upon? Moreover, it may be very well that we cannot describe the tool itself or the exact nature of the substance (existence) being worked upon, but we can describe our experience of using the tool and the effect or lack of effect that it had upon/within existence.

I fail to see how an understanding of Aristotle or another’s traditional thought is necessary to historical reflection. Each human in the present is no less a part of the future as history than Aristotle, Heidegger or any other human thinker. We cannot speak of any objective qualities to Aristotle’s thinking or mind processes in that we only have left an objectification of his thinking — an edifice based upon historiographical considerations and mere speculation on history. Instead of attempting to step into his mind’s be-ing, perhaps we should each step into our own mind’s be-ing — we are just as close to the ground of our being as those who preceded us.

It is ludicrous to assume that those wholly unfamiliar with philosophical tradition are less capable of philosophizing and directing their thought toward the ground of being and truth. Such criticism of the unlearned smacks more of academic egocentricity than of being on the road to truth as the essence of that which is true. Perhaps, by Heidegger’s own arguments, such unlearned persons would be closer to the truth than those well versed in philosophy since such a person would have less undoing to perform in terms of appropriately excising themselves of the metastatically cancerous tumors of thought associated with accepted philosophical tradition, accepted philosophical posits, and a keen sense of the history of philosophy.

As indicated above, Heidegger felt that historiographical consideration was important for avoidance of ignorance and weak limitations of the past. This claim wrongfully presupposes the notion of the possibility of philosophical mistakes or weakness.

I dare submit that such a notion is a preposterous one. Against what standard shall we say that one has made a `philosophical mistake’ or is `philosophically ignorant’? Shall our standard be based on a `correspondence theory of truth’ relative to the objects or objectifications of the field of logic (of which we have already rejected out of hand)? Or shall our standard of correctness be based on one’s being? If so, whose be-ing shall be the determinate one? May I not be in possession of an unverified truth? If the ground has not yet been uncovered/unconcealed, how shall I know of the falsity of a philosophical claim or the presupposed ignorance underlying such a claim? Does Heidegger not commit us all to the possibility of universal ignorance in philosophical questioning?

Inasmuch as there have been many a night where I laid my head to rest with a serious and unresolved problem in mind and awoke to a workable `true’ answer without a clue as to whether it was logically based or not, I am convinced that philosophical truths may be gained in the same conceptual fashion. Such concealed methodology(ies), if there be such a thing, to determining truth often exist without explanation or need of explanation. Being itself becomes the definiens, methodology and explanandum.

I have long been of the opinion that books can prove to be an obstruction to philosophy as a search for the ground of being and truth. I have been of this opinion for the simple reason that study of what `was’ requires a rather unfortunate regression and diversion away from that which prompted me to question in the first place. This regression is a denial of my own ability to think on a par with Aristotle or others although realizing that we are/were all human and that philosophical thought on what is true is probably grounded somewhere near (metaphorically speaking) to the same place the shared commonality of all questioning men is located. I would rather not spend the time on regressing into thoughts about what tradition dictates to be the commonality amongst myself and others.

Before me unfolds an incredible world, full of millions of minds and events and an ever present event-ing process, providing a source by and through which I may make such grandiose considerations about the ground of truth and being — I may even find instructive commonalities among those who are amongst me in my be-ing. I refuse to relegate my contemplative being-ness to the ink-on-paper objectifications of the `great thinkers’ and only arrogance could compel me to believe that `I think like them’. The quite humble realization that I am a questioning being, in my own process of be-ing, and the occasional fervor with which I question is enough to compel me to believe that I am engaged in historical reflection and future-ing.