Being and Time. A Brief Summary. The Martin Heidegger Being and Time (1927). Heidegger’s work offers a thorough critique of this ego-subjectivity.
A Brief Summary
Being and Time (1927)
Heidegger’s work offers a thorough critique of this ego-subjectivity.
The main metaphysical question in philosophy has been the question of “being.” What “makes it possible” for this (kind of) thing to be just the determinate and self-identical (kind of) thing it so definitely is, and that I can recognize it as being? What is the source or origin of a thing’s determinate identity, of its self-identical “Being,” as precisely the thing it is?
He noted that Descartes had divided being into three kinds of substances:
“Entities in need of no other entity.”
But this conception has some problems . . .
First, this is an odd account of “being” because it points to an “infinite difference.” It imagines that the “being” one finds in all three of these is the same . . . But how can that be?
Second, when Descartes speaks of “extensa” he points only to (in Heidegger’s words) “whatever substantial property belongs most pre-eminently to the particular substance.”
Third, “the kind of being which belongs to entities within-the-world is something which they themselves might have been permitted to present; but Descartes does not let them do so. Instead, he prescribes for the world its ‘real’ being, as it were, on the basis of an idea of being whose source has not been unveiled and which has not been demonstrated in its own right—an idea in which being is equated with constant presence-at-hand. (B&T, 129)
“Descartes has narrowed down the question of the world to that of Things of Nature as those entities within-the-world which are proximally accessible. He has confirmed the opinion that to know an entity in what is supposedly the most rigorous ontical manner is our only possible access to the primary being of the entity which such knowledge reveals.” (B&T, 133)
In this way of thinking, the res cogitans is not “the world” but the world is composed of all the “res extensa.”
Heidegger thought that the best way to get at the being question was to interrogate ourselves. We are that being —Dasein (Being-there).
For Heidegger Dasein is being that asks itself what being is.
Dasein is therefore a self-interpreting being; existence is self-interpretation.
Dasein is, first and foremost, the being that says “I.”
It has a sense of “mineness.”
In Being and Time Heidegger distinguished between three modes of being (with the understanding that “the being of entities ‘is’ not itself an entity”—p. 26):
Average everydayness is the normal mode of existence for Dasein. Living in this way it’s like my life is living me, not the other way around. But in certain moments I may be forced to reflect on why I am living in this way; if I resort to some kind of argument that it is somehow “necessary,” I am living as inauthentic Dasein because I’m sloughing responsibility off on some kind of higher power or principle. Such consolation is the defining mark of inauthenticity.
But most of Dasein’s existences is neither authentic or inauthentic, it is lived in average everydayness.
Heidegger thinks most conceptions of the subject go wrong by converting the subject into an object. He believes that the alternative is to see it as “Being-in-the-World.”
This environment is one in which Dasein is filled with things, not objects. (Pragmata, not res). A thing has meaning or significance in two sorts of assignments, or references:
first, it is what it is in terms of the projects(s) within which it appears
second, it is what is is in relation to other things also involved in such projects.
So things are Zeug, or gear, for the accomplishments of such projects. As Zeug it has a particular kind of being: readiness-to-hand. In Heidegger’s account, then, the being of a thing is given to it (as that particular kind of thing) by the holistic context of back-and-forth references created both by some project of Dasein and by the other things likewise involved in that project. . . Things always already are what they are as a result of their place within a referential totality of other things given alongside them.
Dasein would be this maker of meaning only if Dasein were itself the ‘pure individual’—the fully self-present, unitary entity—that could serve as the significance-granting subject, and it is not. We don’t normally think of Dasein this way because it seems to us that “I” stands alone, even if nothing else exists, and because Dasein’s individuality seems to offer a unique kind of perspective. But this is a flawed perspective. Dasein is always in relationship to other things. It is always in a world inhabited already by other beings. Normally I thoughtlessly make use of a whole tableau of public understandings to get through life forgetting that those things are there for anyone to do or use. The gear is for others, too. My language, words, and projects are not for me alone. Dasein is they-self.
The “call of conscience” is what happens when Dasein is shocked into the value of existence, the publicness of they. It understands its life is a life into which it has been thrown by various contingencies. This produces a kind of “uncanniness,” a feeling of not being at home, a groundlessness.
When this happens the inauthentic response is to make claims to some sort of metaphysical warrant for identifying oneself with some particular set of one’s constitutive social practices. It conceals one’s own contingency.
Authenticity would require acknowledging their Being as practices; that is as contingent ways of Dasein’s being that are always ranged alongside an indefinite number of other actual and possible ways of Dasein to Be. But most practices are self-concealing.