"Thoughtlessly random, common, everyday existence"

Oh, how I love Hofstadter’s translation of Basic Problems of Phenomenology! Here, Heidegger achieves his greatest clarity in phenomenological description. The nature of Dasein’s primary mode of self-understanding is perhaps never illustrated more beautifully than in section 15. “When we say the Factical Dasein understands itself, its own self, from the things with which it is daily concerned, we should not rest this on some fabricated concept of soul, person, and ego but must see in what self-understanding the factical Dasein moves in its everyday existence.”

Here we can see that our most basic level of self-understanding must be differentiated from self-consciousness, which is introspective in nature, turned “inwards” towards a functional landscape of memory and imagination. Counter-intuitively, self-consciousness is not genuine, not actual, in the sense that inauthentic existence is. “The genuine, actual, though inauthentic understanding of the self takes place in such a way that this self, the self of our thoughtlessly random, common, everyday existence, “reflects” itself to itself from out of that to which it has given itself over”. Thus, we need to rid ourselves of any pejorative connotation for inauthenticity, for

Being lost [into the they-self]…does not have a negative, depreciative significance but means something positive belonging to the Dasein itself….This inauthentic self-understanding of the Dasein’s by no means signifies an ungenuine self-understanding. On the contrary, this everyday having of self within our factical, existent, passionate merging into things can surely be genuine.

We are thus caught up in things in the broadest sense, with families, friends, projects, jobs, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, the ground, the sky, the very medium of light itself. “The Dasein must be with things.We have also already aheard that the Dasein’s comportments, in which it exists, are intentionally directed-toward.The directedness of [Dasein’s] comportments expresses a being-with[amidst] that with which we have to do, a dwelling-with, a going-along-with the givens.”

But, prima facie, the nature of intentionality is ambiguous in respect to the ontological structure of subjectivity. We can state, however, that “the Dasein does not “transport” itself to things by leaping out of a presumably subjective sphere over into a sphere of objects. But perhaps we have before us a “transposition” of a peculiar sort.” What then is the fundamental ontological constitution of human intentionality? Heidegger claims that “Transcendence is a fundamental determination of the ontological structure of the Dasein. It belongs to the existentiality of existence. Transcendence is an existential concept.” Moreover, “intentionality is founded in the Dasein’s transcendence”.

Understanding this last phrase is crucial. Intentionality is the hermeneutic “rift-design” which carves up the world through language and the “discovery” or “uncovering” of entities as entities, that is, in terms of worldliness. For all we know, this is unique to humans. However, I think transcendence is something shared by all living organisms; it underlies our bodily-experience in a real world. Transcendence is thus more fundamental than intentionality because we must first be situated within an environment before we can categorially interpret it through intentional comportment.  When sitting in a lecture hall, “[T]he walls are already present even before we think them as objects. Much else also gives itself to us before any determining of it by thought. Much else-but how? Not as a jumbled heap of things but as an environs, a surroundings, which contains within itself a closed, intelligible contexture.” Thus, Heidegger falls in line with classic empiricist thinking with the important caveat that he allows for qualitative cognitive development through language learning, allowing for a “determination” of objectivity through linguistically structured categorial intuition, the “casting-forth” of a world according to our understanding of being.

Moreover, the primary mode of inauthenetic self-understanding within an enviromental contexture is known as “circumspection”. “[C]ompletely, unobtrusive and unthought, is the view and sight of practical circumspection, of our practical everyday orientation. ‘Unthought’ means that it is not thematically apprehended for deliberate thinking about things. Circumspection uncovers and understands beings primarily as equipment.”

Thus, the nature of primordial self-understanding has become clear. “The Dasein does not need a special kind of observation, nor does it need to conduct a sort of espionage on the ego in order to have the self; rather, as the Dasein gives itself over immediately and passionately to the world, its own self is reflected to it from things”.  “First and mostly, we take ourselves much as daily life prompts; we do not dissect and rack our brains about some soul-life.”


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