In Martin Heidegger's single minded pursuit of the meaning of Being, he repeatedly dismissed epistemology as short-sighted, inept, and useless. In turn, much of the criticism of Heidegger has centered on the alleged lack of a sufficient epistemological justification for his own claims. Thus, the only possible relationship between Heidegger and epistemology seems to be one of mutual condemnation. This thesis challenges this notion.
In Heidegger's view, epistemology is the expression of a reductionistic ontology that infuses the whole Western tradition. Thus, epistemology reduces all Being to mere presence, and forces all knowledge to conform to a single standard. Heidegger condemns epistemology because he can tolerate neither its inadequate ontological premises nor its arrogant epistemological conclusions.
To avoid these limitations, the early Heidegger (H I) wanted to found ontology through a phenomenological exhibition of the transcendental structures that make it possible for man to understand Being. The understanding of Being is itself the possibility condition of all forms of knowledge. Therefore, H I was also attempting to found epistemology. Phenomenological "sight" was to provide the knowledge necessary for this founding.
However, the later Heidegger (H II) made an epistemological leap away from knowledge as phenomenological sight and into knowledge as artistic insight. Unconcerned to found either ontology or epistemology, he wished only to reflect poetically on Being. Such reflective knowledge of Being, like artistic insight, needs no justification because it makes no truth claims. It merely expresses personal faith-like insights that are intended to be illuminating and thought provoking.
In my opinion, H I's attempted transcendental grounding of knowledge failed, and H II's thought creates an unnecessry dichotomy between artistic insight and all other forms of knowledge. But one may still gain insights from Heidegger that are relevant to epistemology. H I shows the necessity of placing any discussion of knowing within the full context of human existence as a whole. H II shows the unavoidability of holding certain faith-like basic convictions that comprise the frame within which we experience and know our world. These insights provide a promising starting point for the development of an epistemology broad enough to cover religious, aesthetic, and ethical knowledge as well as scientific knowledge.