Saturday, September 26, 2009

Being being Being being Being being

Heidegger points to death as the only thing that Daseins have as their own. We are constantly being confronted with other beings in the world and are forced to evalute their appearance and so it only makes sense that we would do the same for ourselves. And when confronted with the mortality of others, it seems likely that the mortality of the self would become more apparent. This sort of thinking seems to suppose that my being-in-the-world depends on other beings being-in-the-world. If we were to imagine a world without other beings, with no point of ontic reference (and therefore no ontological reference), then how would we come to understand ourselves at all?

It doesn't seems to me that there is much of a difference between Dasein and Mitsein, between being-in-the-world and the being-with-others. At what time in my life am I not being-with-others? Even when I am alone I have knowledge of the existence of other beings. And beyond that, I am around things that I percieve to be artificial, with designers, manufactuers and possible users which all contain references to other beings (ontic sites that disclose the ontological). Dasein, this being that discloses Being, might just be another way of giving an unidentifable designation, like that of a soul or essence. And perhaps Dasein is not like this because of it's mysterious nature. But if I can not really know what Dasein is, then can it exist at all to me in a functional manner? Maybe the Dasein is just a personal will, the ability to take in all the other beings being-in-the-world and being-with-others (which I really do think is the same thing) and not subscribe to a "they" ethic that can truncate or stifle you as an individual. But it seems that my designation in society, in the being-with-others, is one that allows for very little personal say and is deeply entrenched in the theyness that makes up our world.

So if I am always in the presence of other beings, in both direct and indirect ways, and am constantly confronted by other beings being-in-the-world, it seems as if my greatest source of angst and anxiety would be my own being, because I cannot fully know it, yet am confronted with it constantly. And while my death is my own most possisbility, the end of my Being and the only experience I can never share, anxiety about my own death is actually just anxiety about my own Being because no one, not even me, will ever really know it.


  1. I agree with your ideas about our inability to understand what Dasein is and our inability to be outside of the "they" mentality. Heidegger's distinctions seem good in theory, however, it seems that a true understanding of Dasein, and a completely authentic life is largely out of our grasp. Death, as you say, then is a sort of culmination of our larger inability to understand ourselves. We leave this world without much of an understanding of what we are, only a vague sense of what we are compared to others.

  2. Charlotte, I'll start by saying that out of all the authors we have read, I have struggled most with Heidegger's language. That said, I wonder if simply the doubts which you bring up confirm your existence as Dasien (or is it "a Dasien"?). According to Heidegger, Dasien is that being which has its own Being as an issue, and with that definition in mind, I wonder if in your struggle with what Dasien is, and, if my understanding of your post is correct, in the most basic sense, what it means to Be, you confirm that you in fact have your Being as an issue. If we take this to be true, that is that you are a being concerned with your own Being, then to me the rest of your post simply is a manifestion of the Angst of which Heidegger speaks; your own doubt in what it means to be, whether you "be-in-the-world" or "be-with-others" heightens the sense in which you also have no idea what it means to not be. Speaking on a personal note, this is the underlying theme behind most of my personal questions. If I do not understand my existence (at least in the current, i.e. physical, sense), how can I hope to understand what the outcome of this existence will be? In other words, how will choices I make now, in the life that I currently percieve as my own, affect some existence, if any, in another type of life? In the most basic sense, what does death mean for the "me" which I currently percieve? I agree with Hugh when he says that we leave this world with a vague sense of what we are, but I would say that this above all produces angst, since without an understanding of what we are, we have no clue whatsoever of what we will be when we no longer "are".

    To carry these thoughts into a response to your question regarding the distinction between Dasein and Mitsein, my first inclination is to say that, for Heiddeger, Dasein defines a being's concern for their future, while Mitsein more so encompasses a being's concern with the past and present. Admittedly the past, present, and future are intimately tied to one another. However, I think Dasein, insofar as it has its own Being as an issue, would be more concerned with the realm of possibilities for how that Being is disclosed, with the ultimate possibility (or lack thereof) being death. Mitsein, on the other hand seems linked to falleness and throwness more so than Dasien. Whereas Dasein has complete control over the pursuance of its own possibilities, Mitsein finds itself with others in a certain way that is precribed and predetermined, in a sense.

  3. I think, for Heidegger, Daesin and Mitsein are very closely related. One of the key differences though is that a daesin can be authentic or inauthenic--whereas, Mitsein cannot. Inauthenticity seems basically to be reducing yourself and your anxiety to the "they." You disregard your own anxiety and instead reduce yourself to some sort of lowest common demoninator with other beings-in-the world. For Heidegger though, it seems to me that what you do doesn't change a great you do it changes. Since you no longer expect to get any kind of deep final meaning about anything, you don't take up projects or activites with the hope that they will make some sort of sense out of your life or reveal your life's purpose; conversely, you aren't going to refuse to do any projects or activites because they are unable to give you that sort of deep, final meaning.

    This line of yours really got me thinking:
    "it seems that my designation in society, in the being-with-others, is one that allows for very little personal say and is deeply entrenched in the theyness that makes up our world."

    I agree, to me, it seems like authenticity only has a small bit of space. For example, if a businessman goes out to lunch, he could just have his tuna sandwich and soup, but if its a nice fall day outside with the leaves changing colors and he's authentic, he doesn't have to do what a "respectable" businessman would do...he can go outside and look at the sights. Though it seems like he can only do what one does...he can't go outside strip nude and start tying to make out with a tree, because a daesin doesn't do that. It seems like not trying to break out into the general, but instead responding to the particular, without concern for respectability or conformity, is what is vital for Heidegger. In this way, Heidegger seems possibly at odds with the more individualistic philosophy of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche(as well as Sartre most likely).

  4. It would be impossible for one to completely disassociate from the Mitsien because the Mitsien is necessary for life. Language, standard time, and social norms can all be regarded as "lowest common denominators" but they are essential to everyday interaction. I feel that while these are in a sense limiting, they do not affect one's authenticity. There are plenty of reasons that if one was authentic to himself he would still conform to some degree to the Mitsien.

  5. I have to agree with Cole, because those were my same thoughts as we learned about Heidegger. I feel that even if you disassociate from being with others, one can never truly escape their influence. If a person was completely left in solitude, how would they be able to know exactly who they were without interaction with others. It is through conversation, disagreement, and the decisions that we make with others- the interaction that leads us to a better understanding of our own self. As Heidegger points out, one can "fall prey" to society's ways, but in recognizing this one can also find himself.


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