From Essential Selections in 19th and 20th Century Philosophy, by James Fieser


Copyright 2014, updated 5/1/2015


Key terms:

Inauthentic existence: the they-self; the fallen self of every day existence, lost in the world of others (“the they”)

Authentic existence: the mine-self; the life that is owned by me; its existence is not justified in comparison with others (in contrast with inauthentic existence)

Dasein (being there): a human being; specifically first-person me as a human being; I have both an authentic and inauthentic component

Care: worrying about the future; it is the main attribute of Dasein, which includes the three attributes of facticity (past), fallenness (present), and existence (future)

Facticity (past): a factor in authentic existence concerning my past; I am thrown into the world without consultation and abandoned to chance factors, which limits my human possibilities

Fallenness (present): a factor in my inauthentic existence concerning the present, where I live in the world of others; I consider all human possibilities wide open; I fail to note my facticity (past) and existence (future); characterized by gossip, curiosity, and ambiguity

Existence (future): a factor in authentic existence concerning my future; my life’s possibilities are narrowed by authentic awareness of my impending death; I have the freedom and responsibility to transform

Being-in-the-world: I exist in the world by engaging in it, with no distinction between my inner consciousness and the outer objects of the world that are around me

Ready-to-hand: an involved use of a thing, e.g., a hammer that we use without theorizing about it; this is our primordial view of things

Present-at-hand: a theoretical observation of a thing, as a scientist might evaluate something

Question of Being: I investigate the notion of “being” by first understanding myself as a human being; get at the phenomena of my own human being as they show themselves through my immediate experience




The Study of Being is Neglected and Ridiculed (Sect. 1)

This question [of the meaning of Being] has today been forgotten. Even though in our time we deem it progressive to give our approval to 'metaphysics' again, it is held that we have been exempted from the exertions of a newly rekindled γιγαντομαχíα περì της ουσíας [i.e., battle of giants about being]. Yet the question we are touching upon is not just any question. It is one which provided a stimulus for the researches of Plato and 'Aristotle, only to subside from then on as a theme for actual investigation. What these two men achieved was to persist through many alterations and 'retouchings' down to the 'logic' of Hegel. And what they wrested with the utmost intellectual effort from the phenomena, fragmentary and incipient though it was, has long since become trivialized.

            Not only that. On the basis of the Greeks' initial contributions towards an Interpretation of Being, a dogma has been developed which not only declares the question about the meaning of Being to be superfluous, but sanctions its complete neglect. It is said that 'Being' is the most universal and the emptiest of concepts. As such it resists every attempt at definition. Nor does this most universal and hence indefinable concept require any definition, for everyone uses it constantly and already understands what he means by it. In this way, that which the ancient philosophers found continually disturbing as something obscure and hidden has taken on a clarity and self-evidence such that if anyone continues to ask about it he is charged with an error of method. . . .


Understand “Being” by Understanding Dasein, that is, one’s own Human Being (Sect. 2, 4)

If the question about Being is to be explicitly formulated and carried through in such a manner as to be completely transparent to itself, then any treatment of it in line with the elucidations we have given requires us to explain how Being is to be looked at, how its meaning is to be understood and conceptually grasped; it requires us to prepare the way for choosing the right entity for our example, and to work out the genuine way of access to it. Looking at something, understanding and conceiving it, choosing, access to it—all these ways of behaving are constitutive for our inquiry, and therefore are modes of Being for those particular entities which we, the inquirers, are ourselves. Thus to work out the question of Being adequately, we must make an entity—the inquirer—transparent in his own Being. The very asking of this question is an entity's mode of Being; and as such it gets its essential character from what is inquired about—namely, Being. This entity which each of us is himself and which includes inquiring as one of the possibilities of its Being, we shall denote by the term "Dasein". If we are to formulate our question explicitly and transparently, we must first give a proper explication of an entity (Dasein), with regard to its Being. . . .

            Dasein is an entity which does not just occur among other entities. Rather it is ontically distinguished by the fact that, in its very Being, that Being is an issue for it. But in that case, this is a constitutive state of Dasein's Being, and this implies that Dasein, in its Being, has a relationship towards that Being—a relationship which itself is one of Being. And this means further that there is some way in which Dasein understands itself in its Being, and that to some degree it does so explicitly. It is peculiar to this entity that with and through its Being, this Being is disclosed to it. Understanding of Being is itself a definite characteristic of Dasein's Being. Dasein is ontically distinctive in that it is ontological. . . .


Discover Dasein’s Primordial Experience by Destroying Traditional Metaphysics (Sect. 6)

We have shown at the outset (Section I) not only that the question of the meaning of Being is one that has not been attended to and one that has been inadequately formulated, but that it has become quite forgotten in spite of all our interest in 'metaphysics'. Greek ontology and its history . . . prove that when Dasein understands either itself or Being in general, it does so in terms of the 'world', and that the ontology which has thus arisen has deteriorated to a tradition in which it gets reduced to something self-evident —merely material for reworking, as it was for Hegel. . . .

            If the question of Being is to have its own history made transparent, then this hardened tradition must be loosened up, and the concealments which it has brought about must be dissolved. We understand this task as one in which by taking the question of Being as our clue, we are to destroy the traditional content of ancient ontology until we arrive at those primordial experiences in which we achieved our first ways of determining the nature of Being—the ways which have guided us ever since. . . . The destruction of the history of ontology is essentially bound up with the way the question of Being is formulated, and it is possible only within such a formulation. In the framework of our treatise, which aims at working out that question in principle, we can carry out this destruction only with regard to stages of that history which are in principle decisive.


Design of the Heidegger’s Project (Sect. 8)

The question of the meaning of Being is the most universal and the emptiest of questions, but at the same time it is possible to individualize it very precisely for any particular Dasein. If we are to arrive at the basic concept of 'Being' and to outline the ontological conceptions which it requires and the variations which it necessarily undergoes, we need a clue which is concrete. We shall proceed towards the concept of Being by way of an Interpretation of a certain special entity, Dasein, in which we shall arrive at the horizon for the understanding of Being and for the possibility of interpreting it; the universality of the concept of Being is not belied by the relatively 'special' character of our investigation. But this very entity, Dasein, is in itself 'historical', so that its ownmost ontological elucidation necessarily becomes an 'historiological' Interpretation. Accordingly our treatment of the question of Being branches out into two distinct tasks, and our treatise will thus have two parts:


Part One: the Interpretation of Dasein in terms of temporality, and the explication of time as the transcendental horizon for the question of Being.

Part Two: basic features of a phenomenological destruction of the history of ontology, with the problematic of Temporality as our clue.


Part One has three divisions

1. The preparatory fundamental analysis of Dasein;

2. Dasein and temporality;

3. Time and Being. [This division never appeared]

Part Two likewise has three divisions: [This entire part never appeared]

1. Kant's doctrine of schematism and time, as a preliminary stage in a problematic of Temporality;

2. The ontological foundation of Descartes' 'cogito sum', and how the medieval ontology has been taken over into the problematic of the 'res cogitans';

3. Aristotle's essay on time, as providing a way of discriminating the phenomenal basis and the limits of ancient ontology.




Throwness: Dasein is inexplicably Cast into the World (Sect. 29)

This characteristic of Dasein's Being—this 'that it is'—is veiled in its "whence" and "whither", yet disclosed in itself all the more unveiledly; we call it the "thrownness" of this entity into its "there"; indeed, it is thrown in such a way that, as Being-in-the-world, it is the "there". The expression "thrownness" is meant to suggest the facticity of its being delivered over. The 'that it is and has to be' which is disclosed in Dasein's state-of-mind is not the same 'that-it-is' which expresses ontologico-categorially the factuality belonging to presence-at-hand. This factuality becomes accessible only if we ascertain it by looking at it. The "that-it-is" which is disclosed in Dasein's state-of-mind must rather be conceived as an existential attribute of the entity which has Being-in-the-world as its way of Being. Facticity is not the factuality of the factum brutum [i.e., brute fact] of something present-at-hand, but a characteristic of Dasein's Being—one which has been taken up into existence, even if proximally it has been thrust aside. The "that-it-is" of facticity never becomes something that we can come across by beholding it.

            An entity of the character of Dasein is its "there" in such a way that, whether explicitly or not, it finds itself in its thrownness. In a state-of-mind Dasein is always brought before itself, and has always found itself, not in the sense of coming across itself by perceiving itself, but in the sense of finding, itself in the mood that it has. As an entity which has been delivered over to its Being, it remains also delivered over to the fact that it must always have found itself—but found itself in a way of finding which arises not so much from a direct seeking as rather from a fleeing. The way in which the mood discloses is not one in which we look at thrownness, but one in which we turn towards or turn away. For the most part the mood does not turn towards the burdensome character of Dasein which is manifest in it, and least of all does it do so in the mood of elation when this burden has been alleviated. It is always by way of a state-of-mind that this turning-away is what it is. . . .


Thrownness and Projection: Dasein Understands itself in Terms of its Possibilities (Sect. 31)

Why does the understanding—whatever may be the essential dimensions of that which can be disclosed in it—always press forward into possibilities? It is because the understanding has in itself the existential structure which we call "projection". With equal primordiality the understanding projects Dasein's Being both upon its "for-the-sake-of-which" and upon significance, as the worldhood of its current world. The character of understanding as projection is constitutive for Being-in-the-world with regard to the disclosedness of its existentially constitutive state-of-Being by which the factical potentiality-for-Being gets its leeway. And as thrown, Dasein is thrown into the kind of Being which we call "projecting". Projecting has nothing to do with comporting oneself towards a plan that has been thought out, and in accordance with which Dasein arranges its Being. On the contrary, any Dasein has, as Dasein, already projected itself; and as long as it is, it is projecting. As long as it is, Dasein always has understood itself and always will understand itself in terms of possibilities. Furthermore, the character of understanding as projection is such that the understanding does not grasp thematically that upon which it projects—that is' to say, possibilities. Grasping it in such a manner would take away from what is projected its very character as a possibility, and would reduce it to the given contents which we have in mind; whereas projection, in throwing, throws before itself the possibility as possibility, and lets it be as such.  As projecting, understanding is the kind of Being of Dasein in which it is its possibilities as possibilities.




Fallenness Typified by Idle Talk, Curiosity and Ambiguity; not a Fall from a Higher State

Idle talk, curiosity and ambiguity characterize the way in which, in an everyday manner, Dasein is its 'there'—the disclosedness of Being-in-the-world. As definite existential characteristics, these are not present-at-hand in Dasein, but help to make up its Being. In these, and in the way they are interconnected in their Being, there is revealed a basic kind of Being which belongs to everydayness; we call this the "falling" of Dasein.

            This term does not express any negative evaluation, but is used to signify that Dasein is proximally and for the most part alongside the 'world' of its concern. This "absorption in . . ." has mostly the character of Being-lost in the publicness of the "they". Dasein has, in the first instance, fallen away from itself as an authentic potentiality for Being its Self, and has fallen into the 'world'. "Fallenness" into the 'world' means an absorption in Being-with-one-another, in so far as the latter is guided by idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. Through the Interpretation of falling, what we have called the "inauthenticity" of Dasein may now be defined more precisely. On no account, however, do the terms "inauthentic" and "non-authentic" signify 'really not', as if in this mode of Being, Dasein were altogether to lose its Being. "Inauthenticity," does not mean anything like Being-no-longer-in-the-world, but amounts rather to a quite distinctive kind of Being-in-the-world—the kind which is completely, fascinated by the 'world' and by the Dasein-with of Others in the "they". Not-Being-its-self functions as a positive possibility of that entity which, in its essential concern, is absorbed in a world. This kind of not-Being has to be conceived as that kind of Being which is closest to Dasein and in which Dasein maintains itself for the most part.

            So neither must we take the fallenness of Dasein as a 'fall' from a purer and higher 'primal status'. Not only do we lack any experience of this ontically, but ontologically we lack any possibilities or clues for interpreting it. . . .

            Idle talk discloses to Dasein a Being towards its world, towards Others, and towards itself—a Being in which these are understood, but in a mode of groundless floating. Curiosity discloses everything and anything, yet in such a way that Being-in is everywhere and nowhere. Ambiguity hides nothing from Dasein's understanding, but only in order that Being-in-the-world should be suppressed in this uprooted "everywhere and nowhere".


Fallenness involves the Tempting Tranquilization that All Possibilities are Open

By elucidating ontologically the kind of Being belonging to everyday Being-in-the-world as it shows through in these phenomena, we first arrive at an existentially adequate determination of Dasein's basic state. Which is the structure that shows us the 'movement' of falling?

            Idle talk and the way things have been publicly interpreted (which idle talk includes) constitute themselves in Being-with-one-another. Idle talk is not something present-at-hand for itself within the world, as a product detached from Being-with-one-another. And it is just as far from letting itself be volatilized to something 'universal' which, because it belongs essentially to nobody, is 'really' nothing and occurs as 'Real' only in the individual Dasein which speaks. Idle talk is the kind of Being that belongs to Being-with-one-another itself; it does not first arise through certain circumstances which have effects upon Dasein 'from outside'. But if Dasein itself, in idle talk and in the way things have been publicly interpreted, presents to itself the possibility of losing itself in the "they" and falling into groundlessness, this tells us that Dasein prepares for itself a constant temptation towards falling. Being-in-the-world is in itself tempting.

            Since the way in which things have been publicly interpreted has already become a temptation to itself in this manner, it holds Dasein fast in its fallenness. Idle talk and ambiguity, having seen everything, having understood everything, develop the supposition that Dasein's disclosedness, which is so available and so prevalent, can guarantee to Dasein that all the possibilities of its Being will be secure, genuine, and full. Through the self-certainty and decidedness of the "they", it gets spread abroad increasingly that there is no need of authentic understanding or the state-of-mind that goes with it. The supposition of the "they" that one is leading and sustaining a full and genuine 'life', brings Dasein a tranquillity, for which everything is 'in the best of order' and all doors are open. Falling Being-in-the-world, which tempts itself, is at the same time tranquillizing.


Tempting Tranquilization prevents Dasein’s Authenticity and creates Alienation and Entanglement

However, this tranquillity in inauthentic Being does not seduce one into stagnation and inactivity, but drives one into uninhibited 'hustle'. Being-fallen into the 'world' does not now somehow come to rest. The tempting tranquillization aggravates the falling. With special regard to the interpretation of Dasein, the opinion may now arise that understanding the most alien cultures and 'synthesizing' them with one's own may lead to Dasein's becoming for the first time thoroughly and genuinely enlightened about itself. Versatile curiosity and restlessly "knowing it all" masquerade as a universal understanding of Dasein. But at bottom it remains indefinite what is really to be understood, and the question has not even been asked. Nor has it been understood that understanding itself is a potentiality-for-Being which must be made free in one's ownmost Dasein alone. When Dasein, tranquillized, and 'understanding' everything, thus compares itself with everything, it drifts along towards an alienation in which its ownmost potentiality-for-Being is hidden from it. Falling Being-in-the-world is not only tempting and tranquillizing; it is at the same time alienating.

            Yet this alienation cannot mean that Dasein gets factically torn away from itself. On the contrary, this alienation drives it into a kind of Being which borders on the most exaggerated 'self-dissection', tempting itself with all possibilities of explanation, so that the very 'charactcrologies' and 'typologies' which it has brought about are themselves already becoming something that cannot be ' surveyed at a glance. This alienation closes off from Dasein its authenticity and possibility, even if only the possibility of genuinely foundering. It does not, however, surrender Dasein to an entity which Dasein itself is not, but forces it into its inauthenticity—into a possible kind of Being of itself. The alienation of falling—at once tempting and tranquillizing—leads by its own movement, to Dasein's getting entangled  in itself.


Fallenness is a Downward Plunge into Inauthentic Everyday life of the They

The phenomena we have pointed out—temptation, tranquillizing, alienation and self-entangling (entanglement)—characterize the specific kind of Being which belongs to falling. This 'movement' of Dasein in its own Being, we call its "downward plunge". Dasein plunges out of itself into itself, into the groundlessness and nullity of inauthentic everydayness. But this plunge remains hidden from Dasein by the way things have been publicly interpreted, so much so, indeed, that it gets interpreted as a way of 'ascending' and 'living concretely'.

            This downward plunge into and within the groundlessness of the inauthentic Being of the "they", has a kind of motion which constantly tears the understanding away from the projecting of authentic possibilities, and into the tranquillized supposition that it possesses everything, or that everything is within its reach. Since the understanding is thus constantly torn away from authenticity and into the "they" (though always with a sham of authenticity), the movement of falling is characterized by turbulence.

            Falling is not only existentially determinative for Being-in-the-world. At the same time turbulence makes manifest that the thrownness which can obtrude itself upon Dasein in its state-of-mind, has the character of throwing and of movement. Thrownness is neither a 'fact that is finished' nor a Fact that is settled. Dasein's facticity is such that as long as it is what it is, Dasein remains in the throw, and is sucked into the turbulence of the "they's" inauthenticity. Thrownness, in which facticity lets itself be seen phenomenally, belongs to Dasein, for which, in its Being, that very Being is an issue. Dasein exists factically. . . .


Fallenness is Essential to Dasein, but Does not Presume Human Corruptness

The phenomenon of falling does not give us something like a 'night view' of Dasein, a property which occurs ontically and may serve to round out the innocuous aspects of this entity. Falling reveals an essential ontological structure of Dasein itself. Far from determining its nocturnal side, it constitutes all Dasein's days in their everydayness.

            It follows that our existential-ontological Interpretation makes no ontical assertion about the 'corruption of human Nature', not because the necessary evidence is lacking, but because the problematic of this Interpretation is prior to any assertion about corruption or incorruption. Falling is conceived ontologically as a kind of motion. Ontically, we have not decided whether man is 'drunk with sin' and in the status corruptionis [corruption], whether he walks in the status integritatis [purity], or whether he finds himself in an intermediate stage, the status gratiae [grace]. But in so far as any faith or 'world view', makes any such assertions, and if it asserts anything about Dasein as Being-in-the-world, it must come back to the existential structures which we have set forth, provided that its assertions are to make a claim to conceptual understanding.

            The leading question of this chapter has been about the Being of the "there". Our theme has been the ontological Constitution of the disclosedness which essentially belongs to Dasein. The Being of that disclosedness is constituted by states-of-mind, understanding, and discourse. Its everyday kind of Being is characterized by idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. These show us the movement of falling, with temptation, tranquillizing, alienation, and entanglement as its essential characteristics.

            But with this analysis, the whole existential constitution of Dasein has been laid bare in its principal features, and we have obtained the phenomenal ground for a 'comprehensive' Interpretation of Dasein's Being as care.




Death of Others is not the Same as One’s Own Death

The 'deceased' as distinct from the dead person, has been torn away from those who have 'remained behind', and is an object of 'concern' in the ways of funeral rites, interment, and the cult of 'graves. And that is so because the deceased, in his kind of Being, is 'still more' than just an item of equipment, environmentally ready-to-hand, about which one can be concerned. In tarrying alongside him in their mourning and commemoration, those who have remained behind are with him, in a mode of respectful solicitude. Thus the relationship-of-Being which one has towards the dead is not to be taken as a concernful Being-alongside something ready-to-hand  . . . . Death does indeed reveal itself as a loss, but a loss such as is experienced by those who remain. In suffering this loss, however, we have no way of access to the loss-of-Being as such which the dying man 'suffers'. The dying of Others is not something which we experience in a genuine sense; at most we are always just 'there alongside'. . . .

            Dying is something that every Dasein itself must take upon itself at the time. By its very essence, death is in every case mine, in so far as it 'is' at all. And indeed death signifies a peculiar possibility-of-Being in which the very Being of one's own Dasein is an issue. In dying, it is shown that mineness and existence are ontologically constitutive for death. Dying is not an event; it is a phenomenon to be understood existentially; and it is to be understood in a distinctive sense which must be still more closely delimited. . . .


Death as revealed in the Three Aspects of Care: Existence, Facticity, Falling

We have seen that care is the basic state of Dasein. The ontological signification of the expression "care" has been expressed in the 'definition': "ahead-of-itself-Being already-in (the world) as Being-alongside entities which we encounter (within-the-world)". In this are expressed the fundamental characteristics of Dasein's Being: existence, in the "ahead-of-itself"; facticity, in the "Being-already-in"; falling, in the "Being-alongside". If indeed death belongs in a distinctive sense to the Being of Dasein, then death (or Being-towards-the-end) must be defined in terms of these characteristics.

            We must, in the first instance, make plain in a preliminary sketch how Dasein's existence, facticity, and falling reveal themselves in the phenomenon of death.


My Impending Death is Mine Individually, Cannot be Shared, and is Inevitable

The Interpretation in which the "not-yet” [i.e., a future event]—and with it even the uttermost "not-yet", the end of Dasein—was taken in the sense of something still outstanding, has been rejected as inappropriate in that it included the ontological perversion of making Dasein something present-at-hand [i.e., disinterested bare facts for theorizing]. Being-at-an-end implies existentially Being-towards-the-end. The uttermost "not-yet" has the character of something towards which Dasein comports itself. The end is impending for Dasein. Death is not something not yet present-at-hand, nor is it that which is ultimately still outstanding but which has been reduced to a minimum. Death is something that stands before us—something impending. . . .

            Death is a possibility-of-Being which Dasein itself has to take over in every case. With death, Dasein stands before itself in its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. This is a possibility in which the issue is nothing less than Dasein's Being-in-the-world. Its death is the possibility of no-longer being-able-to-be-there. If Dasein stands before itself as this possibility, it has been fully assigned to its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. When it stands before itself in this way, all its relations to any other Dasein have been undone. This ownmost non-relational possibility is at the same time the uttermost one.

            As potentiality-for-Being, Dasein cannot outstrip the possibility of death. Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein. Thus death reveals itself as that possibility which is one's ownmost [i.e., mine individually], which is non-relational [i.e., cannot be shared], and which is not to be outstripped [i.e., it is inevitable]”. As such, death is something distinctively impending. Its existential possibility is based on the fact that Dasein is essentially disclosed to itself, and disclosed, indeed, as ahead-of-itself. This item in the structure of care has its most primordial concretion in Being-towards-death. As a phenomonon, Being-towards-the-end becomes plainer as Being towards that distinctive possibility of Dasein which we have characterized.


Facticity (Past): Thrownness of Death revealed through Anxiety, not explicit Knowledge

This ownmost possibility, however, non-relational and not to be outstripped, is not one which Dasein procures for itself subsequently and occasionally in the course of its Being. On the contrary, if Dasein exists, it has already been thrown into this possibility [of death]. Dasein does not, proximally and for the most part, have any explicit or even any theoretical knowledge of the fact that it has been delivered over to its death, and that death thus belongs to Being-in-the-world. Thrownness into death reveals itself to Dasein in a more primordial and impressive manner in that state-of-mind which we have called "anxiety". Anxiety in the face of death is anxiety 'in the face of that potentiality-for-Being which is one's ownmost, nonrelational, and not to be outstripped. That in the face of which one has anxiety is Being-in-the-world itself. That about which one has this anxiety is simply Dasein's potentiality-for-Being. Anxiety in the face of death must not be confused with fear in the face of one's demise. This anxiety is not an accidental or random mood of 'weakness' in some individual; but, as a basic state-of-mind of Dasein, it amounts to the disclosedness of the fact that Dasein exists as thrown Being towards its end. Thus the existential conception of "dying" is made clear as thrown Being towards its ownmost potentiality-for-Being, which is non-relational and not to be outstripped. Precision is gained by distinguishing this from pure disappearance, and also from merely perishing, and finally from the 'Experiencing' of a demise.


Fallenness (Present): Every-Day Inauthentic Evasion of Death

Being-towards-the-end does not first arise through some attitude which occasionally emerges, nor does it arise as such an attitude; it belongs essentially to Dasein's thrownness, which reveals itself in a state-of-mind (mood) in one way or another. The factical 'knowledge' or 'ignorance' which prevails in any Dasein as to its ownmost Being-towards-the-end, is only the expression of the existentiell possibility that there are different ways of maintaining oneself in this Being. Factically, there are many who, proximally and for the most part, do not know about death; but this must not be passed off as a ground for proving that Being-towards-death does not belong to Dasein 'universally'. It only proves that proximally and for the most part Dasein covers up its ownmost Being-towards-death, fleeing in the face of it. Factically, Dasein is dying as long as it exists, but proximally and for the most part, it does so by way of falling. For factical existing is not only generally and without further differentiation a thrown potentiality-for-Being-in-the-world, but it has always likewise been absorbed in the 'world' of its concern. In this falling Being alongside, fleeing from uncanniness announces itself; and this means now, a fleeing in the face of one's ownmost Being-towards-death. Existence, facticity, and falling characterize Being-towards-the-end, and are therefore constitutive for the existential conception of death. As regards its ontological possibility, dying is grounded in care.

            But if Being-towards-death belongs primordially and essentially to Dasein's Being, then it must also be exhibitable in everydayness, even if proximally in a way which is inauthentic. And if Being-towards-the-end should afford the existential possibility of an existentiell Being-a-whole for Dasein, then this would give phenomenal confirmation for the thesis that "care" is the ontological term for the totality of Dasein's structural whole. If, however, we are to provide a full phenomenal justification for this principle, a preliminary sketch of the connection between Being-towards-death and care is not sufficient. We must be able to see this connection above all in that concretion which lies closest to Dasein—its everydayness. . . . .

            The "they" [of everydayness] is constituted by the way things have been publicly interpreted, which expresses itself in idle talk. . . . This evasive concealment in the face of death dominates everydayness so stubbornly that, in Being with one another, the 'neighbours' often still keep talking the 'dying person' into the belief that he will escape death and soon return to the tranquillized everydayness of the world of his concern. Such 'solicitude' is meant to 'console' him. It insists upon bringing him back into Dasein, while in addition it helps him to keep his ownmost non-relational possibility-of-Being completely concealed. In this manner the "they" provides a constant tranquillizalion about death. At bottom, however, this is a tranquillization not only for him who is 'dying' but just as much for those who 'console' him. And even in the case of a demise, the public is still not to have its own tranquillity upset by such an event, or be disturbed in the carefreeness with which it concerns itself. Indeed the dying of Others is seen often enough as a social inconvenience, if not even a downright tactlessness, against which the public is to be guarded. . . .



Being-towards-death is grounded in care. Dasein, as thrown Being-in-the-world, has in every case already been delivered over to its death. In being towards its death, Dasein is dying factically and indeed constantly, as long as it has not yet come to its demise. When we say that Dasein is factically dying, we are saying at the same time that in its Being-towards-death Dasein has always decided itself in one way or another. Our everyday falling evasion in the face of death is an inauthentic Being-towards-death. But inauthenticity is based on the possibility of authenticity. Inauthenticity characterizes a kind of Being into which Dasein can divert itself and has for the most part always diverted itself; but Dasein does not necessarily and constantly have to divert itself into this kind of Being. Because Dasein exists, it determines its own character as the kind of entity it is, and it does so in every case in terms of a possibility which it itself is and which it understands. . . .

            Being-towards-death is essentially anxiety. This is attested unmistakably, though 'only' indirectly, by Being-towards-death as we have described it, when it [inauthentically] perverts anxiety into cowardly fear and, in surmounting this fear, only makes known its own cowardliness in the face of anxiety. . . .


Existence (Future): Authentic Anticipation of Death Frees me by Narrowing my Possibilities

The ownmost, non-relational possibility is not to be outstripped. Being towards this possibility enables Dasein to understand that giving itself up impends for it as the uttermost possibility of its existence. Anticipation, however, unlike inauthentic Being-towards-death, does not evade the fact that death is not to be outstripped; instead, anticipation frees itself for accepting this. When, by anticipation, one becomes free for one's own death, one is liberated from one's lostness in those possibilities which may accidentally thrust themselves upon one; and one is liberated in such a way that for the first time one can authentically understand and choose among the factical possibilities lying ahead of that possibility which is not to be outstripped. Anticipation discloses to existence that its uttermost possibility lies in giving itself up, and thus it shatters all one's tenaciousness to whatever existence one has reached. In anticipation, Dasein guards itself against falling back behind itself, or behind the potentiality-for-Being which it has understood. It guards itself against 'becoming too old for its victories' (Nietzsche). . . .

            We may now summarize our characterization of authentic Being-towards-death as we have projected it existentially: [authentic] anticipation [of death] reveals to Dasein its lostness in the [every-day inauthentic] they-self, and brings it face to face with the possibility of being itself, primarily unsupported by concernful solicitude, but of being itself, rather, in an impassioned freedom towards death a freedom which has been released from the Illusions of the "they", and which is factical, certain of itself, and anxious.


TECHNOLOGY (The Question Concerning Technology, 1953)


Technology Challenges Nature by Unlocking and Storing its Concealed Energy

What is modern technology? It too is a revealing. Only when we allow our attention to rest on this fundamental characteristic does that which is new in modern technology show itself to us.

            And yet the revealing that holds sway throughout modern technology does not unfold into a bringing-forth in the sense of poiesis [i.e., poetry]. The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging, which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such. But does this not hold true for the old windmill as well? No. Its sails do indeed turn in the wind; they are left entirely to the wind’s blowing. But the windmill does not unlock energy from the air currents in order to store it. In contrast, a tract of land is challenged into the putting out of coal and ore. The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit. The field that the peasant formerly cultivated and set in order appears differently than it did when to set in order still meant to take care of and to maintain. The work of the peasant does not challenge the soil of the field. In the sowing of the grain it places the seed in the keeping of the forces of growth and watches over its increase. But meanwhile even the cultivation of the field has come under the grip of another kind of setting-in-order, which sets upon nature. It sets upon it in the sense of challenging it. Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry. Air is now set upon to yield nitrogen, the earth to yield ore, ore to yield uranium, for example; uranium is set upon to yield atomic energy, which can be released either for destruction or for peaceful use.

            This setting-upon that challenges forth the energies of nature is an expediting, and in two ways. It expedites in that it unlocks and exposes. Yet that expediting is always itself directed from the beginning toward furthering something else, i.e., toward driving on to the maximum yield at the minimum expense. The coal that has been hauled out in some mining district has not been supplied in order that it may simply be present somewhere or other. It is stockpiled; that is, it is on call, ready to deliver the sun’s warmth that is stored in it. The sun’s warmth is challenged forth for heat, which in turn is ordered to deliver steam whose pressure turns the wheels that keep a factory running. The hydroelectric plant is set into the current of the Rhine. It sets the Rhine to supplying its hydraulic pressure, which then sets the turbines turning. This turning sets those machines in motion whose thrust sets going the electric current for which the long-distance power station and its network of cables are set up to dispatch electricity. In the context of the interlocking processes pertaining to the orderly disposition of electrical energy, even the Rhine itself appears as something at our command. The hydroelectric plant is not built into the Rhine River as was the old wooden bridge that joined bank with bank for hundreds of years. Rather the river is dammed up into the power plant. What the river is now, namely, a water power supplier, derives from out of the essence of the power station. In order that we may even remotely consider the monstrousness that reigns here, let us ponder for a moment the contrast that speaks out of the two titles, “The Rhine” as dammed up into the power works, and “The Rhine” as uttered out of the art work, in Hölderlin’s hymn by that name. But, it will be replied, the Rhine is still a river in the landscape, is it not? Perhaps. But how? In no other way than as an object on call for inspection by a tour group ordered there by the vacation industry.

            The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging-forth. That challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked, what is unlocked is transformed, what is transformed is stored up, what is stored up is, in turn, distributed, and what is distributed is switched about ever anew. Unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing, and switching about are ways of revealing. But the revealing never simply comes to an end. Neither does it run off into the indeterminate. The revealing reveals to itself its own manifoldly interlocking paths, through regulating their course. This regulating itself is, for its part, everywhere secured. Regulating and securing even become the chief characteristics of the challenging revealing.


Standing Reserve: Energy is put on Standby for Further use

What kind of unconcealment is it, then, that is peculiar to that which comes to stand forth through this setting-upon that challenges? Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. We call it the standing-reserve. The word expresses here something more, and something more essential, than mere “stock.” The name “standing-reserve” assumes the rank of an inclusive rubric. It designates nothing less than the way in which everything presences that is wrought upon by the challenging revealing. Whatever stands by in the sense of standing-reserve no longer stands over against us as object.

            Yet an airliner that stands on the runway is surely an object. Certainly. We can represent the machine so. But then it conceals itself as to what and how it is. Revealed, it stands on the taxi strip only as standing-reserve, inasmuch as it is ordered to ensure the possibility of transportation. For this it must be in its whole structure and in every one of its constituent parts, on call for duty, i.e., ready for takeoff. (Here it would be appropriate to discuss Hegel’s definition of the machine as an autonomous tool. When applied to the tools of the craftsman, his characterization is correct. Characterized in this way, however, the machine is not thought at all from out of the essence of technology within which it belongs. Seen in terms of the standing-reserve, the machine is completely unautonomous, for it has its standing only from the ordering of the orderable.)

            The fact that now, wherever we try to point to modern technology as the challenging revealing, the words “setting-upon,” “ordering,” “standing-reserve,” obtrude and accumulate in a dry, monotonous, and therefore oppressive way, has its basis in what is now coming to utterance.


Humans Drive Technology Forward, but we become Subordinate to Technology’s Challenges

Who accomplishes the challenging setting-upon through which what we call the real is revealed as standing-reserve? Obviously, man. To what extent is man capable of such a revealing? Man can indeed conceive, fashion, and carry through this or that in one way or another. But man does not have control over un-concealment itself, in which at any given time the real shows itself or withdraws. The fact that the real has been showing itself in the light of Ideas ever since the time of Plato, Plato did not bring about. The thinker only responded to what addressed itself to him.

            Only to the extent that man for his part is already challenged to exploit the energies of nature can this ordering revealing happen. If man is challenged, ordered, to do this, then does not man himself belong even more originally than nature within the standing-reserve? The current talk about human resources, about the supply of patients for a clinic, gives evidence of this. The forester who, in the wood, measures the felled timber and to all appearances walks the same forest path in the same way as did his grandfather is today commanded by profit-making in the lumber industry, whether he knows it or not. He is made subordinate to the orderability of cellulose, which for its part is challenged forth by the need for paper, which is then delivered to newspapers and illustrated magazines. The latter, in their turn, set public opinion to swallowing what is printed, so that a set configuration of opinion becomes available on demand. Yet precisely because man is challenged more originally than are the energies of nature, i.e., into the process of ordering, he never is transformed into mere standing-reserve. Since man drives technology forward, he takes part in ordering as a way of revealing. But the unconcealment itself, within which ordering unfolds, is never a human handiwork, any more than is the realm through which man is already passing every time he as a subject relates to an object.

            Where and how does this revealing happen if it is no mere handiwork of man? We need not look far. We need only apprehend in an unbiased way That which has already claimed man and has done so, so decisively that he can only be man at any given time as the one so claimed. Wherever man opens his eyes and ears, unlocks his heart, and gives himself over to meditating and striving, shaping and working, entreating and thanking, he finds himself everywhere already brought into the unconcealed. The unconcealment of the unconcealed has already come to pass whenever it calls man forth into the modes of revealing allotted to him. When man, in his way, from within unconcealment reveals that which presences, he merely responds to the call of unconcealment even when he contradicts it. Thus when man, investigating, observing, ensnares nature as an area of his own conceiving, he has already been claimed by a way of revealing that challenges him to approach nature as an object of research, until even the object disappears into the objectlessness of standing-reserve.

            Modern technology as an ordering revealing is, then, no merely human doing. Therefore we must take that challenging that sets upon man to order the real as standing-reserve in accordance with the way in which it shows itself. That challenging gathers man into ordering. This gathering concentrates man upon ordering the real as standing-reserve.


Questions for Review

1. What, for Heidegger, are some current criticisms about the study of metaphysics and what his is response?

2. Explain Heidegger’s related conceptions of facticity, thrownness and projection.

3. Explain Heidegger’s related conceptions of fallenness, tempting tranquilization, alienation, and the downward plunge.

4. According to Heidegger, how do human beings conceive of death from the three aspects of care, namely, (1) facticity/thrownness, (2) fallenness, and (3) existence?

5. In what ways, according to Heidegger, to “the they” inauthentically evade death in their everyday lives?

6. In his essay on technology, explain Heidegger’s notions of the unlocking of energy and the standing reserve.


Questions for Analysis

1. Carnap argues that the metaphysical statements in Heidegger’s writings “have no meaning, they say nothing, and are mere pseudo-propositions.” Defend Heidegger against Carnap’s attack by selecting a particular discussion from Being and Time and showing how it might have empirically verifiable meaning in Carnap’s sense.

2. Heidegger argues that fallenness does not presume human corruption and that it issue of human fallenness is “prior to any assertion about corruption or incorruption.” One way of looking at this is that, in theological terms, Adam in the Garden of Eden was “fallen” in Heidegger’s sense even before he bit the apple and became corrupt. Defend or refute the claim that Heidegger is wrong and that his conception of fallenness is incompatible with the conception Adam’s state of purity prior to biting the apple.

3. In his discussion of the “tempting tranquilization” of fallenness, Heidegger writes that idle talk and ambiguity in the everyday world of the “they” deludes us into thinking that all possibilities remain open for us. He writes, “Idle talk and ambiguity, having seen everything, having understood everything, develop the supposition that Dasein's disclosedness, which is so available and so prevalent, can guarantee to Dasein that all the possibilities of its Being will be secure, genuine, and full.” Explain his point and criticize it.

4. A critic might argue that Heidegger’s conception of the every-day inauthentic evasion of death is a pure fabrication. Explain Heidegger’s point, develop this criticism against Heidegger’s point, and discuss how Heidegger might respond to the criticism.