chapter  4
18 Pages

Ground, Background, and Rough Ground

Dreyfus, Wittgenstein, and Phenomenology
WithDavid R. Cerbone

This chapter critically examines Hubert Dreyfus’s Heidegger-inspired notion of a background understanding (of being), which functions, according to Dreyfus, so as to be largely inaccessible to any kind of reflective comprehension or description. Dreyfus’s emphasis on the inaccessibility of the background raises serious questions about the viability of phenomenology on this front, as well as the more general possibility of reflectively criticizing one’s (basic) ways of making sense of things. Drawing upon ideas from the later Wittgenstein, I offer a more deflationary conception of the background that dispels the air of mystery in Dreyfus’s conception of the background while also providing an account of what makes such a sense of mystery so alluring.