Martin Heidegger's notion of repetition and the problem of historical meaning

Janette Marie Hodge, Marquette University


This dissertation examines Martin Heidegger's response to a problem that has arisen as the result of our acknowledgement of history's role in shaping values and meaning: if values and meaning only derive their authority from the free wills of individuals or the conventions of historical peoples--that is, if they are not grounded in an absolute, ahistorical foundation--then it appears that they lack the measure that qualifies them as values and meaning in the first place. The search for the foundation that would ground normative standards constitutes the problem of historical meaning. By briefly tracing the source of the problem of historical meaning to the uniquely German approach to history, I show that the main issue behind the problem is whether there is an autonomy of method that is justifiable for the humanities as distinct from the sciences. I argue that the fundamental ontology that Heidegger works out in Being and Time leads to a resolution of this issue. Fundamental ontology reveals our primordial belonging to an everyday, historical world that is already always a context of meaning. Heidegger's analysis of this structure of human existence locates the source of historical meaning in our creatively appropriating our inherited world, a process that he calls "repetition." By continuing Hans-Georg Gadamer's appropriation in Truth and Method of the notion of repetition, I expand Heidegger's concept of intersubjectivity and offer it as the criterion for the retrieval of our past. I then explain how the relationship between intersubjectivity and repetition requires us to have responsibility to others as a condition for retrieving our particular cultural and historical circumstances. In the process I show that although Heidegger's notion of repetition does not imply a kind of relativism, it also does not succomb to a kind of transhistorical foundationalism.

Recommended Citation

Hodge, Janette Marie, "Martin Heidegger's notion of repetition and the problem of historical meaning" (1993). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9325681.