Heidegger uses the word “Dasein” (which is usually translated as “being-there”) to refer to human beings that are being existent in the world amongst other things. Human beings, on the one hand, can only live in the physical tangible world and since “Dasein” also means “to be there”, “there” then corresponds to the world which human beings encounter in a day to day basis. And for Heidegger, no one can neglect the fact that the world is here, it is everywhere around us. Dasein is where a man can sense he himself is. It is an entity that exists and in which a human being is he himself.
Anything that can be called “yoursness” resides in Dasein so long that this Dasein is existent and only in this condition that makes the possibility of the authenticity and inauthenticity. Dasein, then, may be seen in two modes, authentic existence and inauthentic existence. Authentic existence is when people realize what they are and know that it is the case that every human being is a distinct entity. When these people come to grasp the idea that each human being is a distinctive entity, and that they have their own fate and responsibility to themselves, their concern for this world will no longer be focusing on the interest of the masses.
They will then soon realize their genuine potentiality in this world. Inauthentic existence, on the other hand, has a form of surrendering our existence to the existence in reference to others. We are not the only ones living in the world and that this “being-there” is not as blatantly as it is for “being-in-the world” is also a “being-with” phenomenon. And if we lose our sense of our potentiality and forget the idea that each human being is a distinctive entity, we might forget our own responsibility to ourselves. The “theyness” prevents the Dasein from realizing its very own accountability.
It is, therefore, in the authentic existence that man exists in the fullest sense because he is there for himself. In this state, the man is aware of him and properly understands his self. These then lead to the authenticity of life that was basically made out of nothing in the presence of dread. Those who are living in inauthentic existence experience fear as contrast to those who have authentic existence. Dread is the feeling that the latter experiences, and the two feelings are not of the same quality. Heidegger maintains that the feeling of dread is a genuine one when we are talking about existence.
No one knows exactly how it is being felt or what it is about but there is this assumption that dread arises from the bottom of the consciousness of a man who has self-created himself out of ‘nothing’. ‘Nothing’, then, becomes a crucial point in understanding existence for it posits the metaphysical question – why is there something rather than nothing. ‘Nothing’ is an accompaniment of being as opposed to the negation of it. If our “being-there’ is accompanied by ‘nothing’, and’ nothing’ then serves the background out of which everything comes to existence, then we are bound to think and contemplate about the nature of ‘nothing’.
And since we cannot have a full grasp of what ‘nothing’ is all about, then we sense this feeling of dread for there is uncertainty that we feel deep within and we are not comfortable with it. ‘Nothing’ serves as the light that enables us to see the other things that there exist with us. And it also acts as the dark that would help us clearly understand the light for ‘nothing’ assist us to the idea that we cannot grasp being if we are only looking at beings. The totality of one’s recognition of his existence, given that it is an authentic one, is marked by the feeling of dread which then serves as clue to the reality of ‘nothing’.
In Sarte’s notion of atheistic existentialism, the idea of God who is the master planner, the maker of all things here on earth has been relegated to the background. His idea presumes that there must be a being that exists before its essence and that this being did not come from whoever that comes before him. The idea of God is not substantial here compared to how religious sects have drawn their doctrines and philosophies. The fiction of human nature is not being taken into account here, i. e. that it is normal for people to commit mistakes, and man was doomed to be fallible.
In Sarte’s idea of existentialism, there should be no God to whom one can put blame all his mistakes or wrong decisions. There should be no God to put all the glory that any man has gained due to his success in whatever kind of endeavor. All actions are consequences of the decisions that man has made in any situation he has undergone. In the process of realizing one’s existence, there is also an accompanying realization of what humanity is because man discovers others through this process and then intuitively knows that their condition is just the same as what he has based upon what he can see in his existence.
When man thinks about himself as a man, he cannot neglect the idea that whatever it is that he is thinking about his self has a direct connection with that of the whole humanity. Man, in effect, can see that he has the capacity to do whatever it is that he wants to do so long as he takes into account that he is also responsible to the rest of humanity. He can make use of his own means in searching for the truth that is not just being given away as some sort of doctrine or rule by an authority, whether it is in a form of religious organization or of any political figure.
Man can justify his actions through his rationality and take care of his own interests as well as his responsibilities without seeing them as bondage from any tradition or convention. In this light, man finds his own worth through understanding the human condition and coming up with solutions to problems associated to it. In Sarte’s famous line “existence precedes essence”, the existence of a man as something that he should realize has a lot of great deal in presupposing what can he become and what it is that he wants. He can always make sense of his existence every time he realizes himself.
However, Sarte’s states that there is nothing so grandiose about realizing your existence and stopping at this realization. The essence of man does not end up in this kind of realization for he has to make his own life, and in doing so, his purpose, the totality of his actions can now become his essence. Man is plainly nothing without his purposes and actions. And when he discovers the fact that he is free from all parochial teachings, and from other various supernatural beliefs, he then asserts to himself that he is bound to be free and take full charge of his self.
He knows nothing as an excuse for any of his actions. He is alone and his responsibility is his self and the rest of humanity. There is no other way in which a man can find his purpose and create life but in first, realizing his own existence and then continuing this realization to another realization which in turn makes his essence.
Heidegger, M. Being and Time. Harper & Row, New York, 1962. Sarte, Jean Paul. Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (Translated by Hazel E. Barnes). Philosophical Library, New York, 1956.
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