We continue from ep. 296 with our close reading on Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927), covering in this part of the discussion chapter 1. Featuring Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth.
This selection (aka section 9) covers existence (in German, Existenz) vs. existentia. The former is Dasein’s (humanity’s) specific way of being, which involves possibility and thus choice. H was in this use an “existentialist,” even though this was a label that he rejected.
The latter is the ontological category which H calls “present-at-hand” (or in the translation Wes has, “objective presence”) an object laid before us to be focused on. This is what objects as science studies them are, and Aristotle’s ontology assumed that everything that exists can be looked at in this way. This is the key ontological error that Being and Time is supposed to address, and it’s the same thing as the allegation that our modern intellectualism has fallen thoroughly into scientism: Yes, of course there is an appropriate context for describing the world as a set of objects and trying to figure out the relations between these objects. That context is applied science, when we’re trying to manipulate the world to make it do what we want. But despite science’s pretensions, the “view from nowhere” that describes the world in this way does not allow us to fundamentally understand the world. Prior to this process of abstracting the world into “things,” we find ourselves in our own bodies, already out acting in the world, and so H describes this “world” as fundamentally a background to such action, something taken for granted in our “average everydayness.”
We get into the details of this: Is being present-to-hand really a “view from nowhere”? Does the Being of Dasein really involve freedom and choice in the way we might think? What do “mineness” (i.e. Dasein is fundamentally individuated: my Being is mine) and authenticity really mean in this context, given that the whole point of existentialism is that we don’t (as a species or as individuals) actually have an essential nature which then might or might not show itself? Is H even really an existentialist?
In parts two and three of this discussion, we’ll get more into the passages where H describes what this “worldhood” consists of and how its elements prior to their objectification as “present to hand” are instead “ready to hand” as tools or appendages of our action, not actually focused on as distinct objects as we go about our business.