Dasein and Understanding (Martin Heidegger)

March 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

Being – There as Understanding (Hermeneutics)

‘State of Mind’ and ‘Understanding’ constitute Being.

Dasein: German word “Being”. But more: Being the ‘there’. By ‘there’ Heidegger is suggesting that the starting point for understanding conscious experience of the world is not ourselves, but the world. The world is not inferred, from the content of our minds. This is radically different to the tradition before him, dating back to Descartes in which it was generally discussed in terms of a subjective interaction with objective things (the starting point being our thought-matter). For Heidegger, understanding takes place against a background of significance in objects, and this is Being the ‘there’. It’s our capacity to be in that world of significant objects (a nail is significant to a hammer, to a house) in which any interaction with it takes place. Our capacities to hammer, to take aim, to stand, move or bend happen against the backdrop of the world. Being the there, could be seen as Being the situation in which directed activity is going on.

“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.” (Heidegger p217: Phenomenology and Understanding)

“This ‘knowing’ does not first arise from an imminent self-perception, but belongs to the Being of the ‘there’, which is essentially understanding. And only because Dasein, in understanding, is its ‘there’, can it go astray and fail to recognize itself. And in so far as understanding is accompanied by state-of-mind and as such is existentially surrendered to throwness.” (Heidegger p216: Phenomenology and Understanding)

Heiddegger differentiates two possibles uses of the word understanding:

1. as a fundamental existentiale, conceived as a basic mode of Daesin‘s Being.
2. in the sense of one possible kind of cognizing among others (as distinguished, for instance, from ‘explaining’). It must be interpreted as an existential derivative of that primary understanding which is one of the constituents of the Being of the ‘there’ in general.

As a fundamental existentiale, the thing we are understanding is not a what but a ‘there’: a Being or an instance of Being. Understanding is projection. Dasein is understanding, though already projected ‘there’. In this way, possibility is a point of difference between understanding and Dasein.

“As the potentiality-for-Being which it is, it has let such possibilities pass by; it is constantly waiving the possibilities of its Being, or else it seizes upon them and makes mistakes. But this means that Dasein is Being-possible which has been delivered over to itself – thrown possibility through and through.” (Heidegger p216, Phenomenology and Understanding)

What does he mean by “seizes upon them and makes mistakes”???

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