Heidegger was very idiosyncratic. He ind…

Heidegger was very idiosyncratic. He indulged in extended word play, and employed his own spelling, vocabulary and syntax. One famous coining was Dasein: literally “to be there”. Dasein has no essence beyond what it can make itself be — i.e. no fixed nature or inveterate tendency. Man alone has Dasein, and he cannot escape it. Nor is there anything more fundamentally human, to which he can dedicate his life. The world is disclosed to us through and in Dasein: disclosed without mediation by concepts, propositions and inner mental states. Truth is Dasein’s disclosedness. We are “thrown” into the world. Heidegger rejected the correspondence theory of truth, and regarded as a scandal the continual attempt by philosophy to centre knowledge on mental processes.

What is this Dasein? Start with things in the world, said Heidegger: everyday things like tools, materials, workspace. Are they not there for a purpose, to do something? They do not exist in isolation, waiting for the philosopher to extract the essence “tool”, for instance, and then worry about enclosing and defining the term properly. Their complex relationships with other things (people and material objects) is what is most relevant about them, and this cuts across the usual boundaries of objective/subjective, animate/inanimate, or past/present/future. Time is not an abstract entity, something in which we are borne passively along, but an opportunity to do something. Or it is for us human beings who have Dasein (choice) and we therefore owe things in the world a duty of care (Sorge).

But if we continually define ourselves, we also change the way we regard the world. And that in turn redefines us. Nothing is innate, not even Dasein. Other things in the world (Seindes) may be relatively fixed but man is different. Above all he faces conscience, dread, awareness of death, all of which call man back to himself, to question his authenticity. Hence the importance of these in Heidegger’s writings, which he viewed ontologically, not merely matters of psychological or sociological explanation.{3}


Heidegger, Dasein, Being, presence, Tolle, philosophy, embeddedness, relatedness, authenticity,