A Short Discussion of Heidegger's Dasein (from Being and Time)
18 December 1998

To begin with, we must understand what Heidegger means when he talks about our being as "being-in-the-world."  This the first step in trying to unravel Heidegger.  He uses the German word Dasein to stand for "being-in-the-world," which, when broken down in to its grammatical components means "being there,"  where the "there" means the world, here and now, but also from the past towards the future.  It is a totality that can not be quantified by linear time, but must be more of an organic type of time, spherical in conception, and much closer to the natural, continuous, repetitive movements of nature.  What the Dasein relies on is the fact that its very 'nature' or 'essence (though Heidegger himself tends to not use words laden with such past history) depends upon how one 'be-s' in the world (the actions one takes, the thoughts one has, the people one surrounds oneself with--the actualities of the choices one has available to them and the choices one actually makes in being).  It is important here to note that "being-in-the-world" is the actual, living being who inhabits the earth, and whose Dasein is always his/her own.  It cannot be taken away, but it must be recovered, as Heidegger says, because of the nature of the world in which Dasein inhabits.  Thus Dasein is mine, and in this mine-ness, it is a 'project' that must come to reveal itself to me, through the uncovering that occurs by my actual, everydayness that we live in for the most part.

Dasein is the over-arching idea that seems to have greatest meaning for Heidegger because he goes on to completely base his entire architectonic upon a explication and further revealing of Dasein's 'essence,' which remains strictly within the lived world of experience.  Breaking apart the phrase 'being-in-the-world,' one notices the two different elements at play:  the 'being-in' and the 'world.'  Both of these are large, significant ideas for Heidegger.  'Being-in' means literally the here of being, the present formation at any one time.  The now of being.  The 'world' remains the canvas, so to say, or the totality of the entire projection upon which beings play their lives out on.  It is the entire horizon from which beings choose their 'being-in.'  There is a sense of practicality in Heidegger that seems very simple to understand once one goes past the difficult language that he employs.  But for me, I see the Dasein as being almost a mythic type of idea, where it appropriates some sort of grandeur to the rather absurd meaninglessness of life.  But the Dasein also seems to be much more intrinsically on the level of how one chooses to be, how one decides how to make their 'project.' For example, I have been thrust into the world not on my own choice.  But once I have been thrust out here I must now choose what I can become, my 'being-in' against all of the possible choices available to me.  It is wholly my own choice that I am here and now, that I am writing this paper, that I am in Arcata, that I am doing the things I do and being who I am.  This I important for Heidegger because it provides for him the different avenues he can take with his explication of Being.  It is also important to understand that being is always a question, always an inquiry into the possibility of choices.  This is because we already are, we are already 'being,'and in this manner "the meaning of Being must already be available to us in some way" (163). In this fashion, Dasein already understands the question being asked because it is the one who asks the question. Dasein's are the inquirers into the question that they already understand, and are the questioners themselves.  Heidegger stresses the importance of discerning the meaning of being through our everydayness, or more specifically "that this entity [dasein] can show itself in itself and from itself.  And this means that it is to be shown as it is proximally and for the most part in its average everydayness" (165).

In this everydayness, we see Dasein   as having a general state that it finds itself in, which is Care , or the German word Sorge.  In care we can see the division that dasein finds itself in this everydayness.  Heidegger splits 'care' up into two trajectories, one being 'concern,' the other being 'solicitude.'  The first component of 'concern' is that fact that one can be not only a being, a dasein, but one can also be for others, the strict sociality that dasein finds itself in its everydayness.  Heidegger calls society, other daseins, the "them."  Within  "concern" we can see that being here loses itself in the "them," it loses itself in what "they" say is right, wrong, yes, no; the mode of being here is in a sense determined by them, and concealed by them, thus removing being farther and farther from its essence as being mine.  Heidegger uses two distinctions for the split that "concern" takes, one of which is the "zuhanden," which means "to hand" and the other is the "vorhanden" which means "for hand."  These two words represent, or signify, how others see or perceive other beings-in-the-world, or what we "make" other people or entities in our interactions with them in the world, in our everydayness.  The zuhanden is, in a sense,  a mere instrumentality that we place upon other beings or entities. For example, a worker at a factory would most likely be seen by the owner of the factory as a mere worker, someone who gets paid to do something for someone else.  In this way, not only does the owner of the factory see the worker as a person, individual and free, but as a thing, almost a reification of the worker's being-in-the-world.  The owner of the factory only sees that worker as a worker.  Nothing else.  The same can be said about a computer, or a pencil, a cigarette, a cup, or any other entity with a use value attached to it.  And these meanings of entities or daseins are disclosed or revealed in the everydayness of being.  The unconcealment that occurs opens entities up to interpretation within the  possibilities that are available to entities.  For daseins, the possibilities are endless, while for specific entities like computers, or cups, or things with specific instrumentalities, these tend to have a much more limited scope on its possibilities.

The vorhanden of 'concern' specifies how one can perceive entities or daseins as "present-at-hand" as Heidegger calls them.  This is when we objectify things and perceive their qualities, their specifics in composition, form, style, as if we were scientist looking through a microscope at a bug, or a molecule, and describing the parts with a very specific intent or detachment.  This allows a detachment that is not true to the actual being-in-the-world of an entity or a dasein .  The "present-at-hand" show themselves as being not for themselves, as in the mineness of dasein, but are there for the sake of our own knowing of the world.  This type of knowing is the scientific, objective knowledge that leads to certain detachments that are, or seem, necessary for progress, as science would have it.  But in a sense, this is the type of objectification that Heidegger is trying to get past, trying to "destroy."

The other side of Sorge is "solicitude."  For Heidegger, this is the being-with them that he sees as being intregal to our everydayness of dasein.  Being-with (mitsein) is how being spends most of its existence, within the other, within and through the "them" of society.  Immediately after we were born, we are thrust into the "them" of the everydayness of being.  We go to work or school, we be with others, we talk and watch others, we eat with others, life is spent being with others.  In this way, dasein's essence is inextricable from an understanding of the other.  "This means that because Dasein's Being is Being-with, it understanding of Being already implies the understanding of Others," (172).  Thus, our own understanding of ourselves is linked with our being-with others in the world.  As Heidegger remarks, "knowing oneself is grounded in Being-with" and in this way, Heidegger feels as though we ultimately rest notions about the meaning of our own Being as being-with them and within them (172).  For example, a child grows up in a family.  As a child, it still does not know about certain ways to be, and must be introduced to them.  Thus, when a child comes home late from an evening out with friends, say two hours past curfew, he then learns what happens when he disobeys his parents' rule about coming home late.  He gets grounded  and cannot go out for the next week.  This is a lessen learned by the child through them, the parents.  Later on in life, choices are made, and we are all guilty of this, that are made with only "them" in mind, and not our own beings.  Most of the time we make choices with the "them" in our minds because we are social animals, and we strive off of the recognition we receive from others, be it good or bad, we position ourselves for the most part through "them."  In this type of relationship, not only are we concealing even more the truth of the meaning of being, but we are allowing other's being to take priority in our own meaning of being, instead of revealing and unconcealing the truth of our own being.

The structure of these basic states of dasein are disseminated to us through our disclosedness within time, which for Heidegger, as was said before, is not linear at all.  Being has been covered up and concealed all throughout the history of philosophy.  Heidegger wants to disclose this concealing and get to the true meaning of Being.  And for him this can only be done through a disclosedness of being through a temporality that is essentially different than linear time.  Time reveals itself to us, according to Heidegger, within the structure of dasein as it is with Care.  This structure is the temporality split into three distinct phases that come together to form a whole which allows disclosedness to occur, and a truer meaning of Being allows itself to be revealed.  The three phases are "existentiality," "facticity," and "falling."  "Existentiality" is the mode of being which is constantly ahead of itself, in that it concerns itself with the futurality of its own being-in-the-world.  This phase is one that we are constantly thinking about, constantly planning for, and constantly pointed towards.  It is ultimately dasein's being towards death, being towards the finality that seems final to us because that is the prescription that is given to us by "them."  They prescribe for us how to be towards death and  to fear it, when in fact being towards death is the actual reality of being-in-the-world. "Facticity" is what Heidegger calls the "being-already-in," or the past.  Since the past is already "behind" us, it remains fact because it already happened and it cannot be changed.  It is as if the old saying, "no use crying over spilled milk" takes on a philosophical significance.  "Facticity" is a state in which dasein realizes its past as  being already in the mind or in one's memory banks so to speak.  It is a reminder of one's being at a certain time, place, and mood which projected forth from it the "existentiality" of its future.  Thus "facticity" and "existentiality" are linked very close together by the common thread of influencing one another.  The middle, or nowness of dasein , is in its "falling."  "Falling" for Heidegger is the present state of dasein, which is wholly seen through the being-alongside of other daseins.  This being-with and alongside with makes up now choices and actions of entities.  One acts a certain way, chooses a certain meaning of being for a certain point due to its relationship to "them."  Because we are always falling, or fallen into "them," in to the "das man" , the everyday man that we are and that we connect with.  "Falling" then  is the third component that connects up with "existentiality" and "facticity" to form the temporality that provides dasein with the structure from which it discloses itself in average everydayness within the world .

Dasein also finds itself not only disclosing itself within time and temporality, but it finds methods which allow it to be in the world and within this being discloses itself with practical concerns as well.  These are understanding, mood, and discourseUnderstanding is an projection of one's being towards the future in that it "understands" what must be done to achieve certain projections of itself that being has.  Thus if I want to be a doctor, I have to follow a certain path which would lead my being in its projection futurally towards being a doctor.  But this also has to do with the mood that I find myself in as well.  Mood is nothing one can choose and it remains something that is inspired by actions we take and projection we make.  Thus if I wake up in the morning all pissed off, there is nothing I can really do about it except analyze it and try to figure a way out of being pissed off, if I want to be not pissed off.  In this sense, we can only react to moods and cannot really control how we come to be in moods.  The German language has a great way of saying this, "Wie befindst du?" or how do you find yourself?  This is an interesting question because there really is not an English equivalent. One can say "what's up" or "how's it going," but one does not really say, "How do you find yourself today?"   Both of these, understanding and mood, seem to have significance when we talk about discourse.  This not only includes language, but symbolic meaning, art, poetry, and rhetoric.  Discourse becomes the "house of Being" or where Being dwells in its everydayness.  Since we are with and in "them" all the time, and we disclose ourselves in accord with "them" in everyday matters, we find ourselves using the discourse that is used by "them" necessarily.  What would one do without language?  How would one communicate with others?  Language and creativity, representation are necessary to find the disclosure and unconcealedness that Heidegger is trying to get at when he questions the meaning of Being.  And this question can only be explained through language itself.  Thus we find ourselves forever in "them" even when we are trying to get out of "them", to find our true Being.  One wakes up to find oneself in a mood, and must describe this mood to someone through language, or action or inaction, which are themselves symbolic determinations of Being.  When one is at work, one must conform to the discourse that is provided and structured by "them" that makes that symbolic world work and exist.  The family is another example, and for me was the penultimate method for me to recognize my Being, though it was through the language of "them." The intent was obviously not malicious on my parents' account, but they too were conditioned by "them."  The historical and temporal facticity of "them" is essential in understanding all the rest of the methods in which one realizes, unconceals their own meaning of Being.  The linking of temporality, with different modes of Being, and with the different methods of disclosedness makes for a difficult relationship of one to themselves.  One is always having to try to dig deeper to get at a truth, but the more outsides one goes through, the more outsides one discovers in the perpetual discovery process in determining the meaning of Being.

All of this leads to the question of what Heidegger is trying to do in attempting to answer the question of the meaning of Being.  In a sense he is digging through the levels and barriers that have been set up by "them" and by the history of ontology since the beginning of philosophical reflection on the topic of what it means to be. (Heidegger finds that the pre-Socratics like Parmenides and Heraclitus provide truer, more "essential" accounts of Being--but these have been lost through the metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle).  For Heidegger, this means getting out of the subject/object relationship that has infested and covered over the real meaning of what it means to be.  The Cartesian Dualism neatly set up the structure of Being as rather simple and atomistic, a mechanical reproduction of the scientific method.  One not only splits oneself apart to come to understand the question of being, but one most of the time throws away this question altogether for more esoteric questions along the lines that if this computer exists then I must also exist inbeing able to employ it for specific purposes.  The dualism sets reality apart, and covers over the essential nature of being which is the fact that no one is really right and that the search for meaning must take the prime importance in one's life if one is to live authentically in the world.  But as Heidegger has shown, this authenticity is often and for the most part covered over by "them" and through "them" to the point of forgetfulness of what it means to be.  The dualism allows us to become detached from what is really real and what is not, or what is presumed to be real by "them."  The "I think, therefore I am" reality is not a reality because it sets one upon not even questioning the fact of how one thinks, why one thinks, and what the relationship between thinking and Being are. Descartes method of just accepting the fact of Being is a mistake for me and for Heidegger as well, because as we have seen in the Twentieth century, the irrationality of man seems to be much more prominent in actually destroying the reality it assumes, more so than trying to figure out what this reality really is all about and in that way what the meaning of Being really is.

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