Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring, Week 1 Meeting -- Part IV


These examples of the death of dasein should make it clear that death is not an event. As Heidegger says, death is only in being-towards-death. Death, as the breakdown of a way of life, consists in realising that you can't go on living that way of life, that you can no longer project entities onto those possibilities that constitute your understanding of being. This can be contrasted to the biological event of perishing, in which there can be no such realisation of an inability to go on (or for which such realisation is irrelevant). The death of dasein happens only when the breakdown of the understanding of being is confronted – when you confront the fact that your understanding of being might be a misunderstanding.

Accordingly, being-towards-death is a matter of existing in the face of the possibility that one might have misunderstood being all along. To put it another way, it is understanding that one’s understanding of being is finite, and living one’s life in light of this understanding. One form this way of living can take is taking responsibility for the viability of one’s way of life. This does not mean that you take it as your job to ensure that the way of life continues to be viable no matter what, but rather that you take it as up to you to tell whether or not it remains viable (i.e. whether or not you can keep living it).

This is (at least a hint at) 'authentic' being-towards-death. Prof. Haugeland – and Kate and Nate – think that since the term 'authentic' usually means 'real' or 'genuine,’ this word can give the wrong impression about what Heidegger means by ‘eigentlich.’ (Not only do 'real' and 'genuine' belong to the vocabulary of the present-at-hand, but they also imply that 'inauthentic' cases of dasein are somehow fake or counterfeit.) We prefer to translate 'eigentlich' as 'owned' (picking up on its root ‘eigen,’ 'own'). (Thus uneigentlich dasein is unowned or disowned.) The vocabulary of 'ownedness' connects to the in-each-case-mineness of dasein, since it implies that someone has taken over dasein as his or her own, as ‘mine.’ This 'taking over' ("on purpose mineness") is a modification of 'in-each-case-mineness' (which applies to both owned and unowned dasein). It consists in making dasein, my way of life, my own in the sense that I take responsibility for it and won't put up with things not making sense in it, with incompatibilities or “contraries” in my understanding of being. So for dasein to be one's own 'on purpose' is for one to commit to both trying to keep one's way of life (and the understanding of being it embodies) still viable when things go awry, and recognising when things are going awry because that way of life is no longer viable.

No comments: