Heidegger’s Greatest Hits

Heidegger had a genius for coining neologisms in order to fully express his world-shattering thinking. Some choice terms here taken (with care) from Dr. Roderick Munday’s “Glossary of Terms in Being and Time” and (with concern) from Wikipedia: Heideggerian Terminology. With all of these oddly used or just brand new (to me) terms, Heidegger can sometimes be difficult to access, but in those moments of clarity when I 'get it', he just moves the world on its axis, he just blows (my) me away!

1.1 Anxiety

  • When Dasein chooses being-toward-death, authenticity takes Dasein out of the "They," in part by revealing its place as a part of the They. But in so doing Dasein opens itself up to "angst," or "dread" - "anxiety."
  • There is not a distinct object for Dasein’s anxiety; it is rather anxious in the face of Being-in-the-world in general — that is, it is anxious in the face of Dasein's own self. 
  • Angst is a shocking individuation of Dasein, when it realizes that it is not at home in the world, or when it comes face to face with its own "uncanny" (German Unheimlich "not at home"). In Dasein's individuation, it is open to hearing the "call of conscience", which comes from Dasein's own Self when it wants to be its Self. This Self is then open to truth, understood as unconcealment (Greek aletheia). In this moment of vision, Dasein understands what is hidden as well as hiddenness itself. 

1.2 Authenticity and Inauthenticity

"Dasein’s absorption in the ‘they’ and its absorption in the ‘world’ of its concern, make manifest something like a fleeing of Dasein in the face of itself – of itself as authentic potentiality-for-being-itself." [Being and Time 184]
  • Authenticity and inauthenticity are what gives Dasein its definite character. 
  • Dasein is either Authentic or inauthentic, which, in the sense of my Being, means that I can chose and win myself, or conversely lose and never win myself or Dasein is Inauthentic, which means fleeing in the face of my Being and forgetting that I can chose and win myself.
  • When a particular Dasein talks about its Being, it is in each case "my Being". And because the essence of Dasein lies in its 'to be' it is also 'my to be'. Thus, we talk about Dasein's Being in terms of possibility rather than actuality. 
  • An authentic Being is its own measure, because it does not have to justify its existence by comparing it with anything else (indeed, how would it be possible for people step outside of their own lives to do this?)

1.3 Being

Breaking with the ontological tradition, Heidegger conceptualised Being into five characteristics:
  1. Dasein is a Being who understands that it exists, and what is more the Being of Dasein is, in part, shaped by that understanding.
  2. The above statement can be seen to serves as a working definition of the formal conception of existence. 
  3. Dasein exists and moreover Dasein and existence are one. For example if Dasein is 'the human Being' and existence is 'the world,' then Dasein and the world are one. The consequence of this is that Dasein and existence cannot be separated - even analytically separated.
  4. Dasein is also an entity which I myself am. In other words each one of us (as human Beings) defines existence in terms of our own existence, a concept that Heidegger terms Mineness. Therefore the only way that Being can be understood is as ‘My Being.' This applies even when Being and Dasein are considered in general.
  5. Mineness belongs to any existent Dasein, in the sense that how I regard 'my Being', creates the conditions that make authenticity and inauthenticity possible.

1.4 Being-in-the-world

Being-in-the-world underscores the fact that in Heidegger's philosophy 'Being' (the Being of Dasein) and 'the world' are not separate entities but must be grasped together. In this sense, there is no subject and object, nor is there any division between internal and external.

1.5 Being-toward-death

  • Being-toward-death is not an orientation that brings Dasein closer to its end, in terms of clinical death, but is rather a way of being, a process of growing through the world where a certain foresight guides the Dasein towards gaining an authentic perspective. 
  • Death is that possibility which is the absolute impossibility of Dasein. As such, it cannot be compared to any other kind of ending or "running out" of something. For example, one's death is not an empirical event. 
  • Death is Dasein's ownmost (it is what makes Dasein individual), it is non-relational (nobody can take one's death away from one, or die in one's place, and we can not understand our own death through the death of other Dasein).
  • The "not-yet" of life is always already a part of Dasein: "as soon as man comes to life, he is at once old enough to die." 
  • Death is determinate in its inevitability, but an authentic Being-toward-death understands the indeterminate nature of one's own inevitable death — one never knows when or how it is going to come. However, this indeterminacy does not put death in some distant, futural "not-yet"; authentic Being-toward-death understands one's individual death as always already a part of one.
  • With average, everyday (normal) discussion of death, all this is concealed. The "they-self" talks about it in a fugitive manner, passes it off as something that occurs at some time but is not yet "present-at-hand" as an actuality, and hides its character as one's ownmost possibility, presenting it as belonging to no one in particular. It becomes devalued — redefined as a neutral and mundane aspect of existence that merits no authentic consideration. "One dies" is interpreted as a fact, and comes to mean "nobody dies".
  • Authentic being-toward-death calls Dasein's individual self out of its "they-self", and frees it to re-evaluate life from the standpoint of finitude. 

1.6 Care 

A fundamental basis of our being-in-the-world is, for Heidegger, not matter or spirit but care:
Dasein's facticity is such that its Being-in-the-world has always dispersed itself or even split itself up into definite ways of Being-in. The multiplicity of these is indicated by the following examples: having to do with something, producing something, attending to something and looking after it, making use of something, giving something up and letting it go, undertaking, accomplishing, evincing, interrogating, considering, discussing, determining. . . .
All these ways of Being-in have Care, or concern (Sorge, care) as their kind of Being. Just as the scientist might investigate or search, and presume neutrality, we see that beneath this there is the mood, the concern of the scientist to discover, to reveal new ideas or theories and to attempt to level off temporal aspects. Care is synonymous with Dasein because Being-in-the-world belongs essentially to Dasein.

1.7 Clearing

In German the word Lichtung means a clearing, as in, for example, a clearing in the woods. Since its root is the German word for light (Licht), it is sometimes also translated as "lighting," and in Heidegger's work it refers to the necessity of a clearing in which anything at all can appear, the clearing in which some thing or idea can show itself, or be unconcealed. Being, but not beings, stands out as if in a clearing, or physically, as if in a space. Thus, Hubert Dreyfus writes, "things show up in the light of our understanding of being."

1.8 Dasein

  • Dasein is a German word and is sometimes translated as "being-there" or "being-here" (da combines in its meaning "here" and "there", excluding the spatial-relational distinction made by the English words; Sein is the infinitive, "to be"). 
  • When addressing Dasein, the personal pronouns: "I", "you" and "us" should always be used. 
  • A Dasein is then a new coinage for a human being that is there, in a familiar world, and in a mood. 
  • Dasein is a way of being involved with and caring for the immediate world in which one lives, while always remaining aware of the contingent element of that involvement, of the priority of the world to the self, and of the evolving nature of the self itself. Its opposite is the forfeiture of one's individual meaning, destiny and lifespan, in favour of 
  • Language, everyday curiosity, logical systems, and common beliefs obscure Dasein's nature from itself. Authentic choice means turning away from an (escapist) immersion in the public everyday world – the anonymous, identical, collective world of the They and the Them, to face Dasein, one's individuality, one's own limited life-span, one's own being. 
  • The concept of Dasein provides a stepping stone in the questioning of what it means to be – to have one's own being, one's own death, one's own truth.

1.9 Destruktion

Destruktion is Martin Heidegger on philosophy as the task of destroying ontological concepts, in other words also including, ordinary everyday meanings of words like time, history, being, theory, death, mind, body, matter, logic and so on:
When tradition thus becomes master, it does so in such a way that what it 'transmits' is made so inaccessible, proximally and for the most part, that it rather becomes concealed. Tradition takes what has come down to us and delivers it over to self-evidence; it blocks our access to those primordial 'sources' from which the categories and concepts handed down to us have been in part quite genuinely drawn. Indeed it makes us forget that they have had such an origin, and makes us suppose that the necessity of going back to these sources is something which we need not even understand. (Being and Time, p. 43)
Heidegger’s destruktion of ‘tradition’ is, however, a positive act, helping us to “stake out the positive possibilities of that tradition”

1.10 Mood

  • Dasein is brought before its Being as "there" in a mood. “... A mood makes manifest 'how one is, and how one is faring' ... In this 'how one is', having a mood brings Being to its "there". (Heidegger 1980, 172-3)
  • A mood assails us. It comes neither from 'outside' nor from 'inside', but arises out of Being-in-the-world, as a way of such Being. 
  • Mood for Heidegger is the first intimation we get of being a creature that cares about its own existence rather than something that merely exists (Heidegger, 1980, pp. 172-3).
  • Having a mood is not related to the psychical and is not itself an inner condition which then reaches forth in an enigmatical way and puts its mark on Things and persons. The mood has already disclosed, in every case, Being-in-the-world as a whole, and makes it possible first of all to direct towards something. This is shown by bad moods. In these, Dasein becomes blind to itself, the environment with which it is concerned veils itself, the circumspection of concern gets led astray.
  • We are never free of moods

1.11 Present-at-hand

  • With the present-at-hand one has (in contrast to “ready-to-hand”) an attitude like that of a scientist or theorist, of merely looking at or observing something. In seeing an entity as present-at-hand, the beholder is concerned only with the bare facts of a thing or a concept, as they are present and in order to theorize about it. This way of seeing is disinterested in the concern it may hold for Dasein, its history or usefulness. 
  • This attitude is often described as existing in neutral space without any particular mood or subjectivity. However, for Heidegger, it is not completely disinterested or neutral. It has a mood, and is part of the metaphysics of presence that tends to level all things down. 
  • The present-at-hand, as a present in a "now" or a present eternally (as, for example, a scientific law or a Platonic Form), has come to dominate intellectual thought, especially since the Enlightenment. Heidegger sets out to accomplish the Destruktion (see above) of this metaphysics of presence..

1.12 Ready-to-hand

  • In almost all cases we are involved in the world in an ordinary, and more involved, way. We are usually doing things with a view to achieving something. Take for example, a hammer: it is ready-to-hand; we use it without theorizing. In fact, if we were to look at it as present-at-hand, we might easily make a mistake. Only when it breaks or something goes wrong might we see the hammer as present-at-hand, just lying there. 
  • Importantly, the present-at-hand only emerges from the prior attitude in which we care about what is going on and we see the hammer in a context or world of equipment that is handy or remote, and that is there "in order to" do something. 

1.13 Thrownness

  • Our own individual existences as "being thrown" into the world. For William J. Richardson, Heidegger used this single term, "thrown-ness," to "describe [the] two elements of the original situation, There-being's non-mastery of its own origin and its referential dependence on other beings" 
  • Thrownness is the largely uninterrogated condition of everyday existence that is always coloured by a mood of one kind or another. 

1.14 'The One' / 'the They'

  • One of the most interesting and important 'concepts' in Being and Time is that of Das Man, for which there is no exact English translation; different translations and commentators use different conventions. It is often translated as "the They" or "People" or "Anyone" but is more accurately translated as "One" (as in "'one' should always arrive on time"). Das Man derives from the impersonal singular pronoun man ('one', as distinct from 'I', or 'you', or 'he', or 'she', or 'they'). Both the German man and the English 'one' are neutral or indeterminate in respect of gender and, even, in a sense, of number, though both words suggest an unspecified, unspecifiable, indeterminate plurality.
  • Heidegger refers to this concept of the One in explaining inauthentic modes of existence, in which Dasein, instead of truly choosing to do something, does it only because "That is what one does" or "That is what people do". Thus, das Man is not a proper or measurable entity, but rather an amorphous part of social reality that functions effectively in the manner that it does through this intangibility.
  • Das Man constitutes a possibility of Dasein's Being, and so das Man cannot be said to be any particular someone. Rather, the existence of 'the They' is known to us through, for example, linguistic conventions and social norms. Heidegger states that, "The "they" prescribes one's state-of-mind, and determines what and how one 'sees'".
  • To give examples: when one makes an appeal to what is commonly known, one says "one does not do such a thing"; When one sits in a car or bus or reads a newspaper, one is participating in the world of 'the They'. This is a feature of 'the They' as it functions in society, an authority that has no particular source. In a non-moral sense Heidegger contrasts "the authentic self" ("my owned self") with "the they self" ("my un-owned self").

1.15 Time

  • The authenticity of individual Dasein cannot be separated from the "historicality" of Dasein. On the one hand, Dasein, as mortal, is "stretched along" between birth and death, and thrown into its world, that is, thrown into its possibilities, possibilities which Dasein is charged with the task of assuming. On the other hand, Dasein's access to this world and these possibilities is always via a history and a tradition. 
  • “Time is primordially the horizon of the understanding of Being. Time exists as the Being of Dasein, which understands itself through temporality.”
  • The outcome of Heidegger's argument is the thought that the being of Dasein is time (though the project remained uncompleted…)

1.16 Worldhood

'Worldhood' is an ontological concept, that stands for the structure of one of the constitutive items of Being-in-the-world.