Please explain the meaning of following sentence:

As we are in this relation of one to the other and before the other, the tree and we are.

closed as off-topic by Drew, Jim, k1eran, user140086, NVZ Jul 20 '16 at 14:01

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


I found the sentence in quote by Heidegger from a postmodern philosophy book.

We stand outside of science. Instead, we stand before a tree in bloom, for example--and the tree stands before us. The tree faces us. The tree and we meet one another, as the tree stands there and we stand face to face with it. As we are in this relation of one to the other and before the other, the tree and we are. This face-to-face meeting is not, then, one of these "ideas" buzzing about in our heads.

The sentence literally states that both we and the tree exist, because we face the tree and the tree faces us. In a philosophical sense, both we and the tree have a shared existence, despite individual differences in how we experience that shared existence. Or something like that. I'm an engineer.

(The bold emphasis is mine; the italics are not.)


I'm not a Heidegger scholar, but I've taken classes on German philosophy and know that Heidegger's technical concepts of modes of encounter and of "being-in-the-world" are essential to his philosophy. So words like "are" as used here have a more specific definition than they does in normal prose. You probably want to see if you can find resources on his philosophy specifically. For example, try the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or even the Philosophy Stack Exchange.

It's been awhile since I took a class on this, but I believe that Heidegger argues that "being" or existence only emerges from the necesssary relations of objects. Thus the tree and the observer exist only in their relation to one another. This is in contrast to the classical conception of being (as epitomized by Descartes) as solitary and individual. For Descartes, and even Kant, the subject can never truly access the real "being-in-itself" of any object -- it is forever alienated from the world. Philosophers like Hegel and Heidegger believe the opposite: any concept of being or self only emerges through relations.

Again, I am not a Heidegger scholar and likely made some (possibly grave) mistakes in my interpretation of his philosophy. Treat it as semi-informed opinion and see if you can find a more qualified source.

PS: when posting questions in the future, please provide some context. That this sentence is from Heidegger completely changes how I interpret its meaning. Giving some of the surrounding sentences, as Tashus has done, is also incredibly helpful.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.