ARVINDUS

Contemplationam

Being and Change: Implications of Heidegger's Thought

BEING AND CHANGE: IMPLICATIONS OF HEIDEGGER’S THOUGHT

Introduction

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) is considered to be one of the most important Western philosophers of contemporary times.1 He is probably considered important because since the presentation of his works the academic landscape has been in full bloom with interpretations, commentaries and critics on his works, and this in fields way beyond philosophy.2 The list of secondary literature on Heidegger’s thought has become immense in length, and is still growing steadily. This steadily growth is probably also continuing because regularly still new primary literature is being published. Not all his writings have yet found their way to the public. Two types of commentaries on Heidegger’s work may be distinguished here, namely ‘interpolating’ and ‘extrapolating’ commentaries. Interpolating commentaries can be considered to be sole interpretations and explanations of Heidegger’s thought. They move only within Heidegger’s thought. Extrapolating commentaries take in general Heidegger’s thought as a base, but leave this thought to relate it to other thoughts. The present contemplation may be considered to be of the first type. This contemplation, if falling under any category, will fall under the category of being an interpolating commentary. We only set out to interpret and understand Heidegger’s thought, without desiring to relate it to other thoughts or to use his thought as a justification for one or the other thesis.

So why undertaking an interpretation on Heidegger’s thought? Do the many interpretations and interpolating commentaries not yet suffice? This question can be answered with a respectful ‘no’. Respectful, because this contemplation is not aiming to come even close to the analytic skills by which many of the academic analysis’s are made. But ‘no’ because present analysis’s have not yet thematized a certain consequence in Heidegger’s thought. This is not blameworthy because even Heidegger himself has kept this consequence in his thought untouched. Thus it is a consequence that stays as yet unrevealed, both in the secondary and primary literature. But a consequence of an explication that itself is not explicated must be an implication. This should make the title of this contemplation, ‘Being and Change, Implications of Heidegger’s Thought’, understandable. The subtitle of this title reads: ‘Implications of Heidegger’s Thought’. In this subtitle it is presented that there are certain implications to be found in Heidegger’s thought. And the head title tells us to what these implications lead us. Namely to being and change. Reading ‘Being and Change’, the head title presents the prime subject of this contemplation. It is the special relation between being and change that makes out the regarded consequence in Heidegger’s thought, which has remained veiled throughout many years of interpreting. Indeed have relations between being and change been addressed plenty enough, both by Heidegger and his interpreters. However consequences of the to be contemplated implications for the relation between being and change are more far-reaching than has been explicated so far.

So the tasks to be set ahead are the following. First an idea must be given of Heidegger’s thought. It is not needed to give a full account of the entirety of his thought. Only a short treatise of those concepts is needed which carry within them the aforementioned implications. A wider insight in Heidegger’s thought may be gained by studying and contemplating the already available literature. Then, when the for this contemplation necessary concepts have been touched, the relevant implications must be pointed out. It is this which eventually must lead to the head goal of this contemplation. Namely to the unveiling of a consequence in Heidegger’s thought, which concerns a deep going relation between being and change. It is the contemplating of this relation towards which we set sail.

Heidegger’s Thought

Heidegger himself would have probably been happy to see that his oeuvre is generally referred to with the term ‘Heidegger’s thought’, rather than ‘Heidegger’s philosophy’. Because even though he held high academic positions in philosophy, he himself considered his work to be not philosophy anymore, naming it ‘thought’ instead.3 For Heidegger wanted to break with more than two thousand years of Western philosophical tradition. Heidegger wanted to resist this tradition because it treated being as if it were some sort of being or thing. Being may be treated by the tradition as the highest and most complete thing, but Heidegger wants to point out in his thought that being is not a thing.4 That tradition treats being as a thing means that it has forgotten the true meaning of being. And more; satisfying itself with the answer that being is some sort of highest being or thing, Western philosophical tradition has seized even to ask the question for the meaning of being. And Heidegger wants to take up this question. Thus he explicates the need for raising the question of being.5 It is this question of the meaning of being that is being asked throughout the entirety of his thought.6

Being and Time

The question for the meaning of being is being asked throughout the entirety of Heidegger’s oeuvre. The first time that the need for this question is explicated by Heidegger (and received en masse) is in 1927 in his magnum opus ‘Sein und Zeit’ (Being and Time). It is here also that after the announcement of its need the question is raised.7 In this work Heidegger tries to gain access to the meaning of being through the being of the questioning being, through the being of the being par excellence asking for the meaning of being. In Being and Time Heidegger wants to gain access to the meaning of being by undertaking an analysis of (the) human being.8 It is here in a way where the expedition of Heidegger’s thought begins. Heidegger finds a start of his analysis of human being by indicating this being terminological as ‘Dasein’.9 ‘Dasein’ is an ordinary German word that gets (as many words) an extraordinary meaning in Heidegger’s thought. To translate the word as ‘being-there’ (‘da’ means ‘there’ and ‘Sein’ means ‘being’) seems proper. For in ordinary German the word indicates the existence of something, and then especially personal existence.10 Now to name human being ‘being-there’ gives a first indication of how Heidegger thinks about the way a human is. A human is there. The most primal of human being is that he is in-the-world [in-der-Welt].11 Being-there is being-in-the-world. He is always with things and with others. This is so due to the fact that the inner-worldly [innerweltlichen] beings are disclosed [erschlossen] for the being-there. That the things in the world are disclosed to the being-there means that they are understood by the latter.12 So the being-there is in-the-world with the inner-worldly encountered things because he has an understanding of these things. These things have meanings for the being-there. But that he can understand the being of these things is only because he has a more prime understand of being itself. It is a prime condition of the being-there to always have an underlying understanding of being.13

The word ‘underlying’ in the previous sentence has been chosen consciously. For that the understanding of being is underlying the understanding of beings is of great importance in Heidegger’s thought. Beings are only by grace of being itself. And thus equal-originally [gleichursprünglich] understands the being-there beings only thanks to an underlying understanding of being. That this understanding is underlying means that it is not on the foreground. It is as the horizon, against which all particular things are understood. Looking at the skyline of a city, to take an example, we may distinguish this and that particular building. But this distinguishing takes place against the background of the horizon of the entire skyline. So it are the particular things that are dominantly on the foreground in the being-there’s average everydayness [durchschnittlichen Alltäglichkeit], and not the underlying being itself.14 The specific way in which these particular beings are understood derives the being-there from the general public opinion (named by Heidegger ‘das Man’, which is translatable as ‘the they’).15 In this mode or state of being, the being-there is considered by Heidegger to be unauthentic [uneigentlich].16 It designs or projects [entwerft] the inner-worldly things and equal-originally itself out of the average everydayness of the they.

However Heidegger considers it not to be necessary for the being-there to always be unauthentic. It can also be in a state of authenticity. In this state the particular things with their average meaning sink away to the background, and this then gives room for being itself to come to the foreground. This happens at the moment of anxiety [Angst],17 where the being-there anticipates its own death. When anticipating its own death the being-there anticipates its own uttermost possibility. For at that very moment it anticipates the entirety and the wholeness of its life, from birth to death. Further than death do its possibilities not go. And thus anticipating its uttermost possibility it is taken back from the they, from which the being-there had been projecting its possibilities up till then. In anxiety the being-there projects itself, and equal-originally the world in which it always is, in an authentic way. And in this the everyday meaning of things have sunk away, disclosing being itself.

So far the analysis has shown how at the surface of the being-there’s being it is unauthentically lost in the from the they derived meanings of particular beings. We also saw how being is underlying this surface of particular and meaningful beings. A being that comes to the foreground when the being-there anticipates its own death in the state of anxiety. A state where the average everyday surface of meanings sinks away and where the being-there is authentically projecting itself at its own uttermost possibilities. And with projecting itself thus, the being-there is resolved [entschlossen], because it chooses determined for its own possibilities.

Now with the mentioning of ‘anticipation’ already a deeper level in Being and Time is touched. As Heidegger’s analysis proceeds, he shows how in his thought time is underlying being (just as being is underlying beings). That the being-there projects itself (and equal-originally the world) at its possibilities means that an anticipation towards the future takes place. In this sense the being-there is always futural [zukünftig] and with that also temporal or timely [zeitlich]. For whether projecting itself and the world unauthentically or authentically; projecting implies anticipating possibilities, and anticipating possibilities means anticipating future. So in the being-there’s futurality does Heidegger in Being and Time find the outmost horizon of the being-there’s being.

Now it should be made clear that even the authentic projection of the being-there is not inspired out of some sort of metaphysical level. The being-there is, be it unauthentically or authentically, always thrown [geworfen] from its own personal context and tradition.18 And it is from there that the being-there is also thrown into its projection. The being-there’s thrownness always determines its projection, a projection which can be derived from the they or which can be the being-there’s uttermost own possibility.19 This projecting of the uttermost own possibility is what Heidegger also refers to as ‘fate’ [Schicksal]. This thought is understandable, because what else can one’s uttermost own possibility be than one’s fate? A fate which is thus befitting the being-there’s thrownness. It is this fate that Heidegger thinks to be authentic historicality [Geschichtlichkeit].20 In the state of being of authentic historicality, the being-there takes up its own thrownness, projecting it anew, so to speak. (Lost in the everydayness the being-there does not take up its very own thrownness, though it is thrown nevertheless). Heidegger links the being-there’s fate with historicality through what he calls ‘destiny’ [Geschick]. For the being-there exists not alone in the world, but always with others. And this whole of individual fates (not the sum of them) make out the destiny of a people,21 shaping eventually their history. Thus do the whole of fates of a people, their destiny, shape their history.

Later Works

The term ‘later works’ is used to refer to Heidegger’s thought of after Being and Time. This thought has been partly published under the shared name of ‘Gesamtausgabe’ (‘Collected Works’ in English), and every year still new publications are presented to the public, adding even more body to the already massive amount of volumes. It speaks to itself that where Being and Time in the previous paragraph has been treated already in an extremely condensed way, the treatise under this paragraph of the many volumes of Heidegger’s later works shall leave even more subjects untouched. This is not a problem as long as the relevant subjects for this contemplation are brought to the fore. For after all the goal of this contemplation was not to elaborate on the entirety of Heidegger’s thought.

So how does Heidegger proceed after Being and Time? Basically his theme stays the same. Being is never a being or a thing.22 But his approach towards being is opposite to that of Being and Time. Where in Being and Time Heidegger analyzes his way from the being-there to being, there does he in his later works take being itself as starting point,23 relating it back to the being-there. One of the key concepts in thematizing this relation in Heidegger’s later works is ‘Ereignis’. ‘Ereignis’ is a ordinary German word carrying the meaning of ‘event’. However just like ‘Dasein’ does ‘Ereignis’ get an extraordinary meaning in Heidegger’s thought. Basically Heidegger uses the term ‘Ereignis’ to indicate an event where being reveals itself to the being-there. For Heidegger hears in ‘Ereignis’ the German word ‘eignen’ resounding, meaning ‘to appropriate’. So at the event of ‘Ereignis’ being appropriates the being-there, and the being-there appropriates being, so to speak.24 So besides as ‘event’ is ‘Ereignis’ by Heidegger scholars also often translated as ‘appropriation’. But there is even a third translation possible. In ‘Ereignis’ resounds for Heidegger also the word ‘eigen’, meaning ‘one’s own’. Thus as a third translation ‘enownment’ is regularly used. For at the event of ‘Ereignis’ does being become the being-there’s own. In German it is easy for Heidegger to relate this ‘Ereignis’ to the ‘Eigentlichkeit’ [authenticity] of Being and Time, because both words contain ‘eigen’. Both these forementioned terms regard the same moment, though one is thematized from the perspective of the being-there and the other from the perspective of being itself. And because in Being and Time it is clear that the being-there is not always in a state of authenticity, so does Heidegger think the same in his later works. Generally the being-there is lost in the meaningful things of the world, forgetting being.25 Generally the enownment-event is not occurring.

Thought from the perspective of being instead of the being-there Heidegger also re-thinks historicality. The German word ‘Geschick’, earlier translated as ‘destiny’, is now read as ‘Ge-schick’. With ‘schicken’ carrying the meaning of ‘sending’, Heidegger now thematizes that historicality is a sending of being.26 Being sends itself to the whole of a people, and it does this either veiled or unveiled. This means that if being sends itself veiled, that the people to which being has sent itself thus will not relate to being as it is. Only when being sends itself unveiled may a people relate to being just as it is. So when being sends itself veiled, a people may conceive being as if it were a highest being or thing. This is what happened in more than two thousand years of metaphysical tradition, which Heidegger criticizes so often in his work. Being sent itself veiled, determining thus history.

Implications of Heidegger’s Thought

That Heidegger raises the question of being from the perspective of the being-there in Being and Time and from the perspective of being in his later works means that two different approaches to that question can be distinguished in Heidegger’s oeuvre. Heidegger himself also referred to this turn [kehre] in his thought.27 But he also made clear that he himself did not think in terms of two completely different ways of thinking. He considered his thought in Being and Time and that in his later works to be complimentary to each other.28 And indeed do the in this contemplation thematized concepts seem to complement each other.

In the average everydayness the being-there is lost in the meaningful particular beings in the world, by which being is veiled. These meanings the being-there derives from the they. In this they, the being-there is thrown. Its own thrownness however is veiled by the they, exactly due to the meanings of particular things. So the being-there is thrown in an oblivion of its own thrownness. This thrownness thanks the being-there to the situation that it is always being brought up in a tradition that is already there. But this tradition is a sending of being itself. Thus the being-there’s thrownness is a sending of being. In the being-there’s everydayness being has sent itself veiled by throwing the being-there in the they. However being may send itself also unveiled. Then the being-there is thrown in a state of anxiety. In this state of being, the being-there anticipates its own death. A death that is equal-originally with the death of the meaningful world. And in this authentic state of being the being-there takes up its own thrownness, projecting itself to its uttermost own possibilities. So the unauthentic or authentic state of being of the being-there and of a people as a whole is a sending from being itself. In this way seen, does Being and Time seem to be an account of the happening of history on an individual scale.

Now it is tempting to thematize the state of authenticity as a gap in the everyday state of unauthenticity. In such an interpretation authenticity is seen as an interval between two states of unauthenticity, comprising together three moments. In the first moment then the being-there is unauthentic. It is lost in the they and in the there from derived meanings of the inner-worldly beings. Then at the second moment the being-there is taken back from its lostness, and brought before its own being. In this moment it resolvedly decides about its own uttermost possibilities, projecting itself thus. And in this projection the being-there returns again to the world of the they, losing itself in this third moment again in the projected meanings of the inner-worldly things.

Thematizing authenticity thus, it is placed on a timeline where it follows and precedes states of unauthentnicity in a chronological way. But it seems that this has not been the thought of Heidegger. Heidegger analyzes the structures that underlie the being-there’s being, calling them ‘existentiels’ [existentialen].29 And basically all special terms that Heidegger introduces should be understood as such an existentiel. Average everydayness is an existentiel of the being-there. Unauthenticity is an existentiel. And so is the understanding of meaningful beings. So it is only coherent that when the understanding of beings is an existentiel, and when being underlies this understanding of beings, that the understanding of being should be an existentiel also. It is only coherent to see authenticity as an underlying existentiel of unauthenticity as an existentiel.

But if we see Heidegger’s thought as being one, then the above view of authenticity in relation to unauthenticity also has consequences for the way we should view the history of being. The enownment-event should then also be viewed as an existentiel, corresponding with the existentiel of authenticity. An existentiel that is underlying the everydayness in which being sends itself veiled. Being, sending itself veiled, is veiling that being is sending itself unveiled. The unveiled sending of being is the existentiel underlying the existentiel of the veiled sending of being.

Being and Change

In the previous paragraph it was brought to the fore that authenticity should not be seen as a mere interval of two modes of unauthenticity, but that it should be seen as an underlying existentiel. And in this existentiel is contained the existentiel of being taken back from the lostness in the meanings of beings, and also the existentiel of projecting one’s own uttermost possibility. So in the existentiel of authenticity the being-there is taken back from everydayness, but is, projecting, also returning to the everydayness. Now since authenticity is an underlying existentiel of unauthenticity, is an underlying existentiel of this everydayness, should the being taken back from and returning to the everydayness not be seen as an interval between two different states of everydayness. Rather should it be seen as underlying these two different states of everydayness. After all; the horizon of the skyline of a city, to return to our earlier example, is never a gap between two buildings. It is that which underlies these buildings. But when no break in time is there between two non-identical unauthentic states, while authenticity is still underlying this movement from one unauthentical state to another, then authenticity should be understood as the change of unauthenticity. And equal-originally can this thought be applied to beings and being. When no interval between two different meaningful worlds, consisting of meaningful beings, is there, and when being is underlying the movement from one of these worlds to another, then being must be understood as the change of these worlds with their inner-worldly beings. Then being must be understood as the change of beings.

This thought also fits in a larger picture. Heidegger thinks in Being and Time that temporality or timeliness is underlying being. For at the root of the being-there’s being lies its futurality. Now when being is thought of as change, then it is also coherent to think of temporality or timeliness as underlying the change of beings. A thought which in the everydayness would be understood as time being the factor underlying change. So contemplating along the above lines it must be concluded that if Heidegger’s thought is thought out consequently, then the being of beings must be understood as the change of beings. Then it must be concluded that according to Heidegger’s thought, being »is« change.

Notes
  1. Charles B. Guinon, ‘Introduction’, in: Charles B. Guinon (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / New York / Oakleigh, 1993, p. 1.
  2. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark A. Wrathall (editors), A Companion to Heidegger, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Oxford, Carlton, 2005, p. 1.
  3. Martin Heidegger, Wegmarken, Gesamtausgabe, Band 9, Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, 1967, p. 364, translated. “The coming thought is not anymore philosophy, […].”
  4. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 1927, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen, 1967, p. 6, translated. “The being of beings »is« itself not a being.”
  5. Ibidem, p. 1, translated. “And thus is it a matter to raise again the question for the meaning of being.”
  6. Dorothea Frede, ‘The question of being: Heidegger’s project’, in: Charles B. Guinon (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / New York / Oakleigh, 1993, p. 43.
  7. Stephan Mulhall, Heidegger and Being and Time, Routledge, New York, 2005, p. 1.
  8. Sein und Zeit, p. 7, translated. “Working out the question of being means thus: making a being – the questioning – transparent in its being.”
  9. Ibidem, translated. “This being, that we are ourselves always and that among other things has the being-possibility of questioning, we understand terminologically as being-there.”
  10. Michael Inwood, A Heidegger Dictionary, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford / Massachusetts, 1999, p. 42.
  11. Sein und Zeit, p. 54, translated. “Being-in is accordingly the formal existential expression of the being of being-there, that has the essential state of being-in-the-world.”
  12. Ibidem, p. 86, translated. “The foregoing disclosing of that, on which the releasing of the inner-worldly encountered follows, is nothing other than the understanding of world, to which the being-there itself as being already always relates.”
  13. Ibidem, p. 12, translated. “Understanding of being is itself a condition of being of the being-there.”
  14. Ibidem, p. 44, translated. “Also in that is its being in a certain way the matter for the being-there, to which it in the modus of average everydayness relates, and be it only in the modus of a flight for that and the forgetting of his.”
  15. Herman Philipse, Heidegger’s Philosophy of Being, A Critical Interpretation, Princeton University Press, Princeton / Chichester, 1998, p. 26.
  16. Sein und Zeit, p. 128, translated. “One is in the modus of dependance and unauthenticity.”
  17. Ibidem, p. 187, translated. “In the anxiety sinks away the around-worldly at-handly, in any way the inner-worldly being(s).”
  18. Charles B. Guignon, ‘Heidegger’s “Authentnicity” Revisited’, in: Hubert Dreyfus, Mark Wrathall (editors), Heidegger Reexamined. Volume 1. Dasein, Authentnicity and Death, Routledge, New York / London, 2002, p. 331.
  19. A Heidegger Dictionary, p. 218.
  20. Sein und Zeit, p. 385, translated. “Only that being that essentially in its own being is futural, such that it, free for its death, crashing at it, can let itself be thrown back at its factical there, that means; only that being, which as futural is equal-originally has-beened, can pass down the inherited possibility to take over its own thrownness, and be immediately for »its time«. Only authentic temporality, that at the same time is finite, makes such a thing like fate, that means; authentic historicality, possible.”
  21. A Heidegger Dictionary, p. 68.
  22. Martin Heidegger, Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung, Gesamtausgabe, Band 4, Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, 1981, p. 41, translated. “Being is never a being.”
  23. George Pattison, The Later Heidegger, Routledge, London / New York, 2000, p. 12.
  24. A Heidegger Dictionary, p. 57.
  25. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Wahrheit, Gesamtausgabe, Band 36/37, Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, 2001, p. 133, translated. “Man in the everydayness loses himself self-forgotten in the pressing forward of things.”
  26. A Heidegger Dictionary, p. 68.
  27. Ibidem, p. 8.
  28. Hubert Dreyfus, Mark Wrathall (editors), ‘Series Introduction’, in: Heidegger Reexamined. Volume 4. Language and the Critique of Subjectivity, Routledge, New York / London, 2002, p. viii, ix, note 1.
  29. Sein und Zeit, p. 12, translated. “The relations of these structures we name the Existentielness.”
Bibliography
  • Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark A. Wrathall (editors), A Companion to Heidegger, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Oxford, Carlton, 2005.
  • Hubert Dreyfus, Mark Wrathall (editors), ‘Series Introduction’, in: Heidegger Reexamined. Volume 4. Language and the Critique of Subjectivity, Routledge, New York / London, 2002.
  • Dorothea Frede, ‘The question of being: Heidegger’s project’, in: Charles B. Guinon (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / New York / Oakleigh, 1993.
  • Charles B. Guignon, ‘Heidegger’s “Authentnicity” Revisited’, in: Hubert Dreyfus, Mark Wrathall (editors), Heidegger Reexamined. Volume 1. Dasein, Authentnicity and Death, Routledge, New York / London, 2002.
  • Charles B. Guinon, ‘Introduction’, in: Charles B. Guinon (editor), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / New York / Oakleigh, 1993.
  • Martin Heidegger, Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung, Gesamtausgabe, Band 4, Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, 1981.
  • Martin Heidegger, Sein und Wahrheit, Gesamtausgabe, Band 36/37, Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, 2001.
  • Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 1927, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen, 1967.
  • Martin Heidegger, Wegmarken, Gesamtausgabe, Band 9, Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, 1967.
  • Michael Inwood, A Heidegger Dictionary, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford / Massachusetts, 1999.
  • Stephan Mulhall, Heidegger and Being and Time, Routledge, New York, 2005.
  • George Pattison, The Later Heidegger, Routledge, London / New York, 2000.
  • Herman Philipse, Heidegger’s Philosophy of Being, A Critical Interpretation, Princeton University Press, Princeton / Chichester, 1998.