As I near the end of my class on Being and Time, I am of course confronted with the fact that the book is “incomplete” — a fact that my students periodically bring up, as if anticipating that after all their hard work, they will simply be left hanging. It is the case that the actual ending of the existing published text is anti-climactic: “Is there a way which leads from primordial time to the meaning of Being? Does time itself manifest itself as the horizon of Being?”
Yet let’s imagine that he hadn’t sketched out the “full” outline in the introduction, and let’s imagine that he’d followed those concluding questions with a remark saying that these are the questions that he would address in some future sequel rather than in what was going to be supposedly “the same” book. In that case, I don’t think the existing published text called Being and Time would jump out as us as “unfinished.” (Sorry for all the scarequotes, but I’ve been immersed in Heidegger all semester.)
Division One in particular seems relatively autonomous. Though the analysis of anxiety is a strangely foreign body in the text, and though the question of authenticity remains outstanding, the Division as a whole seems to make a cogent argument against reductionism and to deliver some genuine ontological “payoff” in the concluding sections on reality and truth. Division Two, though it initially seems a bit more disjointed, does follow up on the question of authenticity and uses it to get at the problem of temporality — and thereby back to the everyday. Throughout, he makes his characteristic move of accounting for how the limited “common sense” position on various metaphysical questions arises out of the constitution of Dasein as Heidegger describes it, and he does a great deal of analysis of other philosophers’ positions (Descartes on space, Kant on everything from handedness to the meaning of selfhood, Hegel on time, etc.).
So in short, he has an ontologically-oriented analysis of Dasein, leading to temporality, with plenty of “destruction” of the philosophical tradition along the way. Essentially everything that we could reasonably expect after reading the introduction (prior to section 8) is present in the text as it stands. It doesn’t completely accomplish everything Heidegger hopes to accomplish, but no single work of any author ever does that. Certainly the book at least puts us in a much better position to at least pose the question of the meaning of Being — it’s a concrete and decisive step forward in Heidegger’s research.
We also have the historical fact that Heidegger did indeed work through basically all the “content” that we would expect from the “remainder” of Being and Time in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics and the seminar Basic Concepts of Phenomenology. If Heidegger had been tormented by the sense that he had left a fragmentary torso of a book dangling in the wind, he could have finished it. The fact that he did not do so seems to me to indicate that it was complete enough for the man himself, so maybe we shouldn’t make a big deal about it being “incomplete.”