Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of English Literatures, Philosophy and Language - Faculty of Arts


Martin Heidegger has been described as the philosopher of being. His work is a critique of the dualistic thinking of the metaphysical tradition, where being is regarded as a fundamental ground, and indubitable knowledge is prioritised over sensuous experience. Heidegger’s own view is that being is an absence of ground, and a dynamic process in which things emerge into presence from concealment. Whereas the tradition interprets being as a concept, Heidegger focuses on what he describes as “the experience of being.” His inquiry draws upon the medieval mystics’ relationship to God, and the Presocratic philosophers’ experience of wonder at the mystery of existence. In an attempt to understand being itself, Heidegger analyses the being of the human, “Dasein.” He argues that because we find ourselves thrown into the world and having to face the imminent possibility of death, we engage in a process of self-creation by projecting ourselves into possibilities. In his later work, Heidegger presents the idea that being and Dasein belong to each other, and can only be understood on the basis of an originary form of difference that is both a union and a separation. My theory is that the dualities structuring thought and language are a consequence of our existence as embodied, spatio-temporal beings, and that metaphysics is one of the ways in which that duality is expressed. I compare Heidegger’s notion of originary difference with the concepts of chōra in Plato, and the apeiron in Anaximander. The two Greek philosophers describe a dynamic, non-dual state of potential from which everything that exists is generated and sustained. Such a state is reflected in the interpretations of mystical experience, where subjects in various traditions throughout history have reported a sense of oneness in the apparent dissolution of the temporal and the spatial. In contrast to Heidegger’s later view that mysticism is an expression of metaphysics, I propose that mystical experience is a pathway to the experience of being.

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