My ownmost way
Sunday, 29 December 2019 at 10:13
Conscience demands that I step back from my myopic concerns, out of whatever activity happens to occupy me at present, and see things from the perspective of my whole life.
But resisting the temptation to understand myself in terms of the narrower contexts of current practices, means that I must first have a conscience.
To have a conscience means that I must first be conscious, must first be awake, which raises a question for discussion elsewhere about what awakens us.
To be mired in the narrower contexts of current practices, be they be those of a businessman or academic or nurse or musician or engineer etc. is to live unconsciously, without the call of conscience.
To live without conscience is to be lost to the moment in a state of animality.
Such a state is one of inauthentic being. In other words it is not being.
I believe that it was in the context of such an understanding that Heidegger wrote:
Only man dies. The animal perishes. It has neither death ahead of itself or behind it. (Heidegger, The Thing)
We have no higher authority for our ability-to-be than our own death.
Heidegger derived a commitment to authenticity from the fact of conscience. But he also relied on a distinct but related commitment to act in the light of a whole context bounded by death.
Conscience blocks the slide towards conformity and does not allow individuals the reassurances that the anyone promises.
I am under normative pressure to behave, even rebel, as others do.
BUT …the call of conscience does not allow me this luxury.
Conscience comes between my being and not-being
But what is my being? Who, in other words, am I?
Heidegger leaves the question unanswered. In a way he rightly closes the door, because the answer has to come from each of us individually.
I can gather from reading Heidegger that I might be being for me, or being until death (always wrongly translated as being-toward-death).
But I must decide what constitutes being in my ownmost way.
© John Dunn.
Ownmost authenticity and Heidegger
Tuesday, 24 December 2019 at 17:52
We all project ourselves to the world in one way or another, through our activities, jobs, vices etc.
What would it mean to project yourself in full, so that what you projected was not just some part of yourself, not just this or that part of your life, but all of yourself, your whole life?
To achieve such wholeness would be what it means for your projection to be, to coin an expression of Heidegger’s, ‘ownmost’.
When an individual projects into its ownmost possibility, all his relations to any other have been dissolved.
Such an ownmost state is what Heidegger meant by authenticity.
No fact about me, and none of my ongoing commitments and life pursuits fully determine who I am and what I am to do.
Death represents a boundary within which there is room for countless possibilities, but does anyone want wholeness? Why try to be authentic?
Conscience is a feature of existence that we recognise as given in human life.
There is a call to authenticity that each of us experiences in conscience and guilt.
It follows that the call of conscience calls us to be whole within the boundary that death offers.
But choosing one projection, be it that of a businessman or academic or nurse or musician or engineer etc. requires not projecting into other possibilities, of turning down other possible ways of being, whereas being authentic amounts to a being a unified whole.
What it means to be an ownmost self is not just to act but to achieve a maximal degree of integration amongst one’s projections.
Conscience demands wholeness of each human individual, i.e. to be an ownmost self, to be authentic.
There is a danger that what an individual gives expression to in his projection is not the individual himself, but rather the generic self that engages in shared practises with others.
However, conscience calls me to answer, through my actions, the question of what matters tome, and it does not let me look to the public interpretation for an answer
In fact there is no predetermined model of authenticity to which I can appeal.
© John Dunn.
The ‘they’ and its mindless chatter
Sunday, 15 December 2019 at 10:03
I left my last blog questioning whether the active and passive oppositions to Spinozism could ever be reconciled. I characterised Heidegger’s philosophy as essentially passive, presenting man metaphorically as the ‘clearing in the wood across which being fleetingly passes’. This is true, but the ‘clearing’ needs protecting and here lies the active element in Heidegger’s philosophy.
The human Dasein can only be ‘true’ while it is actively Being-discovering.
Beings that we can find in the world can only ‘be’ in a secondary mode, i.e. as being-discovered. They can only make a claim to uncoveredness.
Their fundament is the Being-discovering of the human Dasein.
The being-true of a discovered being is only possible as being discovered by human Dasein as being-in-the-world.
If the human being is really being-in-the-world, then this entails that the world itself is part of the fundamental constitution of what it means to be human. That is to say, I am not a free-floating self or ego facing a world of objects that stands over against me.
Rather, for Heidegger, I am my world. The world is part and parcel of my being, of the fabric of my existence.
I am porous to the world.
The mode of being of Dasein is characterised by the possibility of both authenticity and inauthenticity.
In the mode of the ‘they’, of obstruction of gossip, Dasein is in untruth.
We must fight relentlessly for the truth of Dasein (Being-discovering). This means fighting to extricate ourselves from the grip of the ‘they’ and its mindless chatter. This is essentially the active element of Heidegger’s philosophy, an active protection of the ‘clearing’.
Hiding itself is a characteristic of Being. In the hiding-itself of Being, human Dasein is hidden for itself in the mode of untruth i.e. locked in the grip of the 'they'.
Truth 'is given' only as long as there is Dasein.
Thus the claim that there could be ‘eternal truth’ has to be reconfigured in terms of being-towards-death that is human Dasein.
The possibility of truth (authenticity) and untruth (inauthenticity) belongs to human Dasein as being-in-the-world.
We cannot exist independently of our relation to the world and this relationship is a matter of mood, appetite and passion, amongst which wecan count love. It is not rational contemplation, not a standing back and observing.
The being of human Dasein and truth are synonyms. There is a dialectical relationship between the two.
© John Dunn.
Wednesday, 11 December 2019 at 20:48
You may not know it, but you are probably a Marxist. Marxism is the basis of all the so-called Left and Right political and philosophical creeds of our time -anarchism, communism, socialism, liberalism, libertarianism and conservatism. Marxism grew out of Spinozism. The modern world to this extent is a Spinozist world - a world obsessed by oneness, wholeness, togetherness.
Spinoza understood man to be a mode of existence of the one and infinite originating Substance.
In my reading I have been immersed in two views opposed to the Spinozist-Marxist.
The first I will describe as the Renaissance and Romantic standpoint, with a philosophy of man and his apartness from nature, in the sense of being a repetition of the divine in terms of having the capacity for creative imagination and impact upon the cosmos. Dante has Beatrice explain the position in Paradise I. "Just as form is sometimes inadequate to the artist’s intention, because the material fails to answer, so the creature, that has power, so impelled, to swerve towards some other place, sometimes deserts the track." In other words, within the description of the order of the cosmos, Beatrice emphasises that human beings are the odd ones out, with the power to deviate from the cosmic order.
The second opposing view is that of Heidegger who emphasised that death is the defining factor in what it means to be human. As the end point, death delimits the bounded place within which being appears. "Only man dies. The animal perishes. It has neither death ahead of itself or behind it." (Heidegger, The Thing.) Between his birth and death, man is the clearing in the wood across which being fleetingly passes.
The first is an active standpoint, the second is passive. Can they be reconciled as a common opposition to Spinozism?
© John Dunn.
Dwelling place of being
Sunday, 8 December 2019 at 20:31
“Only man dies. The animal perishes. It has neither death ahead of itself or behind it.” (Heidegger, The Thing)
To be capable of death is the defining characteristic of being human.
Only man has the externality of death as a boundary.
Human beings dwell within this boundary.
Death is the place within which to dwell.
Place cannot be understood with the old transcendental mode of thinking
This is not place that contains appearances like a box holds chocolates. To think in such a way is sacrilegious.
“As the shrine of Nothing, death harbours within itself the presencing of Being. As the shrine of Nothing, death is the shelter of Being.” (The Thing)
Death is the shelter of being - the boundedness of being.
It takes a holy place for that which is holy to appear, holy in the sense of meaning real and authentic.
One cannot make the authentic as such, a place must be made in which to wait for the divinities. Authenticity had nothing to do with making gods or worshiping idols. These belong to the old metaphysical way of thinking.
The divinities are being. The appearance of being cannot be presupposed.
To see death as the mere liqidation of the physical is to succumb to the enframing power of technology, which turns human beings into human resources or commodities.
To see death in this way takes away death.
It reduces man to the status of animal
It deconstructs the dwelling place of being.
It suppresses the appearance of being.
It leaves us with nothing.
© John Dunn.
Monday, 2 December 2019 at 17:01
The use of the present tense by historians is no accident.
We live in the first era without a history - a timeless time of self-absorption in technological activity.
The fashionable newspeak of historians highlights the radical forgetting of historical time in society as a whole.
We are familiar with the impact of globalisation in a two-dimensional sense i.e. the erasure of difference and the imposition of a uni-culture or non-culture.
Well there is another less familiar dimension in which a similar pattern of differential erosion has occurred - that of historical time.
Heidegger's notion of the Gestell, a unity that orders the structuring of our experience, attitudes, values, and manner of engagement with the world, but is nevertheless not itself a thing, has extended its grip in a 3-dimensional way.
We all reside within a ‘timeless time’ conditioned by the precision of the self-absorbed immediacy of technological activity. Ironically, it is a timeless time promoted openly by historians.
© John Dunn.