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Terms in Heidegger

  1. Mar 21, 2008 #1
    I'm just trying to figure out what ownmost means. as in "Dasein's ownmost possibility." is this like the actualization of all of Dasein's potentiality in death? Dasein's final possibility which is in each case mine and is the possibility of an end of possibilities? but is also a totalization? can someone simplify this or is it as big a concept as it seems?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 22, 2008 #2
    Let me take a stab at the OP question since there is not yet any response to what I find to be an interesting thread.

    From what I have read the "Dasein" concept of Heidegger appears to be similar (equal ?) to the "I think" part of Descartes Cognito--I think therefore I am. The Dasein is the only being that comes to realize (in a special moment in time) that it does think.

    The "ownmost" concept is what is possible (e.g., authentic) for an individual Dasein. So for example, your ownmost as an individual Dasein may be that you want to become a teacher in the future, or a medical doctor, etc. So, if you are in fact a teacher, then living your life as teacher = your Dasein ownmost possibility transformed to the actual as an authentic human being (but of course you have many such possibilities that interact at same moment to form the authentic you).

    Now, one ownmost possibility that you know you have in common with all other Daseins is death. That is, you not only know via Descartes that "I am" (at present), you also know that a time will come when "I will not be" (that is, when "I do not think")--and then you will become "non-being" (in future).

    But there is a second ownmost possibility that you also have in common with all other Daseins, that is, you know that at some time in the past (eg., before you came to be) you were "non-being".

    So, as a time line for the life of a Dasein:

    ....>..past (non-being)...>..present (being).....>..future (non-being)

    For Heidegger, the ontologic possibility of being is always prior to autual being (that is, his philosophy holds the priority of the possible over the autual). Thus death is nothing more than a return to the ultimate ownmost possibility of each Dasein (and all Dasiens collectively) of non-being, for when as a Dasein you actualize death, the result is that your Dasein being is transformed into the non-being from whence it came. This realization is what will free your mind from fear of death--it is the essence of the EXISTENTIAL MOMENT that comes to the mind of all Daseins at some random moment in time of their existence. Now, imo, many repress the message given to the consciousness by the unconsciousness at this moment in time because it often comes at an early age in humans (8-14 years old), hence the origin of the human need for religion. At 8 years old most still go to bed with Teddy Bear--mind not ready to understand death as ultimate Daseins ownmost possibility as reward for living life as a human being.

    Perhaps I have poor understanding of Heidegger and someone will correct my errors.
  4. Mar 22, 2008 #3
    alright. thanks. this is very helpful.

    here's where I'm at now.

    we take ownmost possibility to mean: that possibility which is most my own, most authentic to me.

    This possibility is death, or the possibility of no more possibilities.
    so we've now got a totality, something whole, something present at hand.

    but there is still a level of uncertainty to what this totality is. Death can never be present at hand for Dasein because

    1. my death is in every case mine
    2. I will not experience my death until I am no longer able to experience as Dasein.
    3. I cannot experience the death of the other

    so as an end of possibility, Death gives rise to a plurality of possibility for Dasein.
    It presents Dasein to itself to be scrutinized, investigated, and interpreted. "What is this unified whole that is/will be me?"

    For instance, it is because i will die that it is possible that i will be a teacher, or rather that I will interpret myself as a teacher.

    As a certainty it allows for uncertainty, for the mystery of life in a sense.

    Im curious though about what you said at the end of your post in regards to death being a reward for Dasein. If this were so why would we bother to keep living? Isn't this the kind of thinking Heidegger is trying to avoid? or were you refering to the inauthenticity of Christianity or something. I got a little bit confused there.
  5. Mar 24, 2008 #4
    Hello MikeButler:

    Take a look at this link:

    You are correct, I do not think the term "reward" would be correct for Heidegger, so I made an error in choice of terminology in my final statement.

    To me, death as a thing does not exist (only life), what exists is my ability as Dasein to realize that I both exist (in present) and will not exist (in future), thus I have freedom-from-death (my ownmost reward)--I think Heidegger would agree, but I am not sure.
  6. Mar 28, 2008 #5
    Thanks Rade
    this has been very helpful. the link especially.
  7. Apr 10, 2008 #6
    Hi I hope someone can reply to this, it's a very interesting topic and surely central to Heidegger.

    According to that link death is not the end of Dasein. Does this mean that to be dead is to be like something, like some people say "what is it like it be a bat?"? I'm not religious [in fact an atheist], but the question is motivated by my belief that death is un-understandable. If it is, then how are we to "grasp it fully", and live free towards death?

    From that article neither do I understand the difference between expecting and anticipating. In expecting we wait for death as an actuality, in anticipating death we are close to death as a possibility? But aren't all possibilities possible actualities? That goes back to the original question, if death is not a possible actuality, then what kind of possibility is it?
    What is it like to be dead?
  8. Apr 16, 2008 #7
    Let me try, but I am not an expect on Heidegger. If there is an expert on Heidegger that reads this thread, please contribute:

    I think the problem, LEM09 , is when you say this:

    "...but aren't all possibilities possible actualities..."?

    I think the answer Heidegger would give is "no". If what you say is true for Heidegger, then there would be no difference for him between "being at an end' and "being toward an end". He would claim that, when you live to "anticipate" being toward an end, rather than live to "expect" being at and end, then, as stated in the link paper:

    "[tJhe closest closeness which one may have in Being towards death as possibility, is as far as possible from anything actual" -Heidegger (Being and Time)

    So, you see, for Heidegger, all possibilities are NOT actualities, there is one that is as far from being actual as is possible, and that is the possibility of your "being toward death".

    As to your question...."what kind of possibility is death", I think Heidegger would answer, as stated in the paper (with my [] added):

    Being towards [an end]...[is the] possibility [that] is [the] 'anticipation' of this possibility" -Heideggar (Being and Time)

    So, death is a very specific type of possibility, it is the anticipation of the possibility of "being toward an end".

    As to your final question...."what is it like to be dead"

    I think Heidegger would answer, as stated in the paper:

    "Death is a way to be, not a way to end"-Heidegger (Being and Time)

    So, what you are asking yourself when you ask "what is it like to be dead"--for Heidegger you are then asking "what is it like for you to be alive". So, my understanding of Heidegger , to discover in your mind what "it is like to be dead", you must discover, what it is like for you, LEM09, to be alive (of course, only you can know this, only you can know what it is like for you "to be" dead as a way of being while you are alive).

    Perhaps I error, this was my best try to understand your questions.
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