Heidegger

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Heidegger

Postby treysuttle » Wed Dec 04, 2002 3:03 pm

Heidegger has (imo) a quite interesting view, quite radical also within the context of the history of philosophy, of human nature.

In division one section 9 and 10 of Being and Time Heidegger sets the stage for what he calls the analytic of Dasein..which basically just means the study and understanding of the kind of beings that human beings are (I am going to be skipping around between these two sections because it seems to me they have to be read in this way to get at what is being said in each one individually...actually the whole book has to be read in this).

Heidegger rejects the classical (and prevalent throughout philosophy) view that human being essence is 'rational animal'. His reason for this is because this view, according to him, would pin down human beings in terms of a property that they have..i.e. 'rational'. What is false about this is not rationality...but that rationality is something we have that defines who we are..instead Heidegger thinks of rationality as one possible way that we can be....we are not rational beings...we can act rationally
(and non-rationally also). More difficult (as is almost always the case when Heidegger starts talking 'theology') is the theological definition that he offers (he writes this in latin) that basically man transcends himself towards God, and is in that sense created in God's image...that is a deep passage, but the issue for Heidegger is that it views human nature as something self-evident...and by this he means, in my reading, that this transcendence itself is not something that is 'put into question' meaning that the structure of its possibility and the phenomenology of its realization has not been explicated. There is definitly more there, but this is all Heidegger has to say about it at this point in the text.

On the other hand, Heidegger says that the essence of Dasein "lies in its "to be"" which means he is going to characterize human being dynamically...more along the lines of a 'process metaphysic' as opposed to a 'substance metaphysic'. Unlike "things" when we talk about the nature of human being, Heidegger says we are not talking about its "what" but about its Being...that is somewhat esoteric unless one keeps in mind the passage "they (referring to properties that we might attribute to the essence of Dasein) are in each case possible ways for it to be, and no more than that" and importantly "In each case Dasein is its possibility, and it 'has' this possibility, but not just as a property as something present-at-hand would". To come to terms with the being of human nature is to come to terms with those conditions, or in Heidegger's terms the 'structure' that makes possible the kind of possibility that we are. This turns out to be an inquiry into temporality way later on in the book.

Because we are possibility, Heidegger says that we can 'chose and win' ourselves or 'lose' ourselves. This is the famous authentic and inauthentic modes of being that is almost always central to existential philosophies in some form or another. Heidegger doesn't mean that inauthentic being is something 'negative'..as a matter of fact, he states we are almost always in the mode of inauthentic being. Inauthentic being is essentially the mode (or the way we exist 'towards' the world) we are in when we are 'lost in the moment' of acting...when we are just doing...whether it be working, playing, making love, cooking supper, sitting on the john, typing at the computer...our 'everydayness' as Heidegger puts it. Authentic being is an experience in which our being itself is in question...we become strongly aware that we are possibility...that we must chose ourself without anywhere of absolute foundations to turn to for help. We must act but without any guide other than our own self, we can do whatever is possible for us....that is open. Not just realizing that you could do whatever, but what it is that makes you the kind of being that can do whatever.

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Postby JP » Wed Dec 04, 2002 4:33 pm

Good post. I started a topic that touched on Heidegger's thoughts a while back, so you may like to dig it up and post your thoughts on it:

Reality, Truth and Pragmatism

If you're willing to overlook my somewhat melodramatic tone in that post, it seems like your grasp of Heidegger may help us with what we're talking about there.

Anyway, going back to your post, can you explain Heidegger's neutrality towards authentic/inauthentic life? I am more familiar with Satre for instance, and he argues that the inauthentic life - where we adopt a role and have a go at acting it out (he uses the waiter as an example) - is a form of self-deception or mauvaise fois and should be avoided. So my question really is, why does Heidegger see inevitablity (or value perhaps?) where Satre sees existential hypocracy? Is it just that the two have different conceptions of authenticity, or is Heidegger simply more attuned to the necessity of "everydayness"?

(Incidentally, just reading through your post, it really does give you a very clear picture of the influence Heidegger had in Satre's philosophy.)
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heidegger and sartre

Postby treysuttle » Wed Dec 04, 2002 5:05 pm

I think in Sartre also there is some enevitability of inauthenticity..I am thinking of his example of the homosexual...who turns out to be in bad faith whether he accepts his situation or not. Also, you of course have to do something...whether it be a waiter or even if it is just sitting in a blank room staring at the wall until you die.

I think what I am going to say about authentic and inauthentic here applies to both Sartre and Heidegger.

Neither philosopher is neutral on the issue, at least on the level that I think you are talking about it...but I don't think that authenticity ought to be thought of so much in terms of what you do...at least in the shallow sense of actions. For example, in Heidegger, you simply cannot escape historicity. You can try to get outside of some particular history or culture (like Derrida...to see the close of an epoch..but never see the close itself) but you are always in some history, some cultural situation, some educatational level, even some biological and psychological consitution...facticity to sum it up. Partly where the authenticity comes in at is ones 'perspective' on facticity. For example, you cannot escape historicity, but you can understand that you have taken up history as one of your own possibilities towards being, understand that you are not a slave to history, but that history is what it is because of you (this is part of Heidegger's non-linear view of temporality), and even more so, it is because of you that history is even possible in the first place. You realize that even if you are a waiter, that you have taken that up yourself as your possibility towards being, you recognize that you are chosing to act as the waiter as opposed to acting in some other way. In this sense, the acting as the waiter itself is an inauthentic way of being, but one can have an authentic comportment towards acting as a waiter according to their outlook on themselves and what it means for them to be a waiter...do you see what I mean there? It is a multi-level kind of thing, not an either/or situation. A purely inauthentic way of being might be to see your essence in terms of the specific actions that you chose...at least up until the point when you die, which is at least for Heidegger when the whole situation changes. And even moreso to see your situation as inevitable...which may be the worst kind of inauthenticity (although no less a way of being...which is the neutrality for Heidegger).

Could you summarize what issue in Heidegger you would like me to try and address to help ya'll out?

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Postby JP » Thu Dec 05, 2002 6:30 pm

Sorry. I think your description of (in)authenticity there does justice to both Satre and Heidegger. I suggested that Satre decried the "inauthentic" life, but I really did get inauthenticity and "mauvaise fois" (bad faith/self deception) mixed up I think. Without professing to be an expert on Satre, I don't think his idea of mauvaise fois is quite the same as either his own nor Heidegger's conception of inauthenticity. Inauthenticity (for Satre anyway) has to do with "role-playing" or "acting as one is not" (I'm not sure that he would agree that the acts of "everydayness" are inauthentic though) and as such, the inauthentic individual is one who subverts his essence (his self-defined facticity?) to the point where his actions appear dishonest, or subservient to some other "essential" being. The waiter is inauthentic because his actions are not his own, then, but those of the essence of a "waiter" (the concept of a waiter, for Satre, would be akin to that of a chair - a mere object - the essence of which preceeded "it's" existence).

Mauvaise fois for Satre though, is no longer acting as one is not (as in the case of inauthenticity) but rather being as one is not. I think Satre's own description of mauvaise fois is the state where "one is not that which one is, and one is that which one is not". Now I'm not sure how Satre would define what "one is" for all that, though - like your explanation of Heidegger's philosophy - I'm sure it would have to do with the historicity that one has developed predominantly through one's own history of choices, and the facticity that one has been dealt (one's circumstance, situation) that one may have had little say in at all.

Anyway, I doubt Satre would have any problems with one becoming a waiter, so long as one did not substitute one's own self-preceived facticity, nor one's own essense for that of the waiter. If the waiter (or the person assuming the role of the waiter at least) were to define himself in terms of whatever the "essence" of a waiter may be (as opposed to his own essence), then he is committing mauvaise fois, merely avoiding himself, becoming "what he is not" and thus becomes "nothing" (as he becomes the nullification of his own being - what he is not).

Now obviously Satre's conception of Nothing in this sense is different to that of Heidegger's, but so long as I understand what Satre was getting at, then he opposed the nature of a life of bad faith because it leads to self nullification. I suppose inauthenticity, to return full-circle, must thus be the path towards bad faith - the only path I suppose. Inauthenticity is, then, an essential facet of the life of self-deception.

However, even though I've never read Satre say it explicitly, I suppose it could be assumed that one could live an inauthentic life without also living in self-deception. That is, one could act the inauthentic role of a waiter, yet still be living in good-faith, so long as one wasn't to define oneself in terms of this waiter's facticity/essence (I'm struggling to think of the right term)?

Hmmmm... better gimme some more time to mull all this over. :D

For example, in Heidegger, you simply cannot escape historicity. You can try to get outside of some particular history or culture (like Derrida...to see the close of an epoch..but never see the close itself) but you are always in some history, some cultural situation, some educatational level, even some biological and psychological consitution...facticity to sum it up.


Reminds me of something Satre once said:

"While one is never free from one's situation, one is always responsible for what is made of one."

Heidegger too, then, sees that human facticity can be transcended - a key element of existential thought. Ironically, this was also the doctrine he tried so hard to separate himself from. :D

You realize that even if you are a waiter, that you have taken that up yourself as your possibility towards being, you recognize that you are chosing to act as the waiter as opposed to acting in some other way.


But I suppose the issue is that you really don't have that much choice in being a waiter, as the "essence" of the waiter is already defined for you. You can either act the waiter (inauthenticity) or attempt to become the waiter (mauvaise fois) but in either sense, the actions you commit are not yours and thus the choice to "act as" or "be" a waiter are pre-defined and, once again, not yours.

Of course, the choice to surrender yourself to the inflexibility of the role of the waiter was yours alone, but once this choice is made, "your possibility towards being" is pre-determined and thus you have decided to define your essence ahead of your existence, and there is an element of bad-faith in that.

Although.....

Bad-faith = being what one is not = self-nullification = nothingness = possibility towards being (Dasein).... ?

Have a feeling I'm just exploiting the different definitions the two have of Nothingness there though. :lol:

Anyway, there's some other stuff there I want to reply to, but that's going to have to wait until tomorrow, cos it's tired and I need a bed.....
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Postby treysuttle » Fri Dec 06, 2002 12:04 am

Sartre says that we are what we are not and we are not what we are...that follows from Sartre's view of consciousness...that is all of us, Sartre, the waiter, anything that has or is consciousness in Sartre's conception of the term. Only being-in-itself is what it is.

Bad faith results from denying one's own freedom and responsibility. It is essentially like lying to one's self, but it can also be where one tries to avoid chosing...like the girl who has a guy take hold of her hand and she wants to pretend that there is nothing romantic about that.

I am not sure we can say regarding any person that their essence precedes their existence can we...at least in Sartrean terms. For someone to believe this would be a form of bad faith for Sartre. I would agree that inauthenticity for Sartre may be something like trying to live in accordance with an essence that one does not see as a product of one's own volition...that would make sense anyway.

Even when it comes to essences of objects and the essences that we create, I don't think essences mean quite the same thing in both cases. If there is some overlap and some ambiguity there, that would make for good research.

However, I have not read text where Sartre explicitly discusses authenticity. I will have to look that up. I am familar with his stuff on bad faith, which I think is as I characterized it above. My knowledge of authenticity and such is primarily from Heidegger.

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