Re: Gravity and Light

On Tue, 16 May 1995, Chris Hargens wrote:

> Some comments: First, according to Heidegger,
> "_The "they" (das Man) is an existentiale; and as a primordial phenomenon,
> it belongs to Dasein's positve constitution_" (BT 167).
> "_Authentic Being-one's-Self_ does not rest upon an exceptional conditon of
> the subject, a conditon that has been detached from the "they"; _it is
> rather an existentiell modification of the "they"-of the "they" as an
> essential existentiale_" (BT 168).
> The point here I think is that das Man is always already there. As
> an "existentiale"-a defining feature of "existence" as such-it is
> ineradicable. As long as Dasein *is* Dasein,there is no self to detach or
> rip free. The "modification" that achieves authenticity, therefore, is not
> existential but existentiell. In other words, it is a modification that is
> achieved _within_ the structures of existence, not outside them.
> But what is this modification? In the above passage, Chris tells us that
> "according to the standard interpretation, authenticity comes when the
> individual rips himself free from the dominant interpretation of das Man
> through the confrontation with death and wanting to have a conscience."
> What is wrong with this "standard interpretation"? If this interpretation
> were to claim that "the individual rips himself free from" das Man itself,
> then this interpretation would be clearly opposed to what Heidegger himself
> has said. But this is not what is being claimed. What is being claimed is
> that the individual achieves authenticity when he/she "rips himself free
> from the _dominant interpretation_ of das Man" (my emphasis). This claim,
> it seems to me, is consistent not only with what Heidegger says in the
> above passages, but also with his treatment of the "everyday" versus the
> "existential conception" of death. The point here is not that Dasein frees

A good reply that requires some comment. The standard interpretation of
Being and Time is that it advocates a radical individualism against a
lostness in the tyranny of the public. The fame of the Das Man section
stemmed from its perceived criticism of the prevailing worthlessness of
the Weimar culture. The radical individualism translated fairly easily
into the french existentialist movement after the war, thereby retaining
this as the stardard interpretation of the work. Gadamer, Lowith,
Arendt, Marcuse, and Poeggeler among others can be referred to for this

Now whether it is correct is another thing. Your understanding does not
agree with the standard one, but with the publication of the Freiburg and
Marburg lecture courses, yours receives more support. If I will be
permitted to simplify things greatly, after the Great War Heidegger, like
many others, worried about the collapse of European values and
traditions, and sought ways to revitalize them. According to Heidegger,
traditions had become entlebt (or lived out), devoid of life, spirit, and
stuck in cold formulas. What was needed was a way to break the
encrustations built up into systems of philosophy through philosophy as a
way of living; one turns from philosophy to philosophizing. Although of
course hostile to the dominant neo-Kantianism of the time, Heidegger
could be seen as more revitalizing traditions than destroying them, to
give them life by factically living them (adopt them as one's own
existence). This would come close to your interpretation.

Now the problem. Das Man is obviously negative, just from the rhetoric alone
used in the section. Heidegger calls it a tyrant. Does it solve the
problem to merely incorporate the tyranny as one's own? (Is it possible to
appropriate an external tyrant?) What is the relationship between the
Destruktion of traditional categories and the tradition itself? How does
one revitalize a tradition by tearing it down? (Yes, I've read Gadamer's
objection to this reading, but I find Heidegger's deconstruction far more
destructive than Gadamer's, as his later rejection of metaphysics
shows.) Lastly, what is the relationship between existentiale,
existentielle, factical, and concrete in this case, when das Man looks
very concrete (lord, he complains about the press), in fact, a concrete
example of the Mitsein from the previous section? Or does he merely fall
prey to what many of his critics charge (see, for example, Arendt), that
he equated sociality with inauthentic and bad life and could never see
the positives of social existence? (It is not an accident that Arendt
attempted a revival of the public; she knew who her opponent was.)


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