The Primordiality of Death in Heidegger’s Metaphysics

Martin HeideggerBowden’s Lecture and an Excerpt from Being and Time

THE PUBLICATION of Heidegger’s black notebooks has reinvigorated the nest of rodents that comprises Heidegger’s detractors; all of the archaic attacks on Heidegger (pictured), now renewed, flowing from the deep conviction that every aberrant thought about the philosopher has now been vindicated. His so-called supporters, those who aspire to dislodge him from fascism and explain away his anti-Semitism, persist in evincing their weakness of thought and feeling that is betrayed by their agreement with Heidegger’s enemies that the Jewish people are an innocent, faultless people, blissfully guiltless of any sin aside from being successful lawyers, doctors, educators, political reformers, and businessmen.

Even more wretched than either his enemies or his so-called supporters are those critics in nationalist and revisionist circles, who earn cheap points by feigning intellectual and moral superiority in denouncing him for his inaccessible philosophy.

Any real defense of Heidegger must contend with the full range of Heidegger’s opponents and those who claim to be his proponents. And it must proceed from an account of his life that places it in appropriate context: Heidegger’s support for Adolf Hitler at a time when academics and leftists were praising Stalin and Soviet socialism, his postwar, lifelong refusal to so much as even acknowledge the increasingly politically entrenched Holocaust narrative, and the fact that a man with these qualities proposed to reform our thinking by placing the individual firmly in relation to not only his own death, but crucially, the real prospect of the death of his own people, his nation, and ultimately his civilization.

After the war, Heidegger remained steadfast in his basic conviction that, whatever the ills or faults he viewed in it, National-Socialism was the rightful, historical path of the German people. It was the sole movement that viewed the German people as an historical entity, and which sought to reinvigorate the German people by making fundamental questions of existence the basis of its social order: The call to being, the summons to appropriate death, and a reconciliation with time by synchronizing past and future. This “people of the metaphysical middle,” which had been torn in two and divided between two regimes, both enemies, who nonetheless shared the same economized metaphysics.

I include the full length of Bowden’s talk, ‘Heidegger and Death’s Ontology,’ and include an excerpt from Being and Time concerning Dasein, death, and temporality. Too much has already been written on Heidegger’s thought to attempt yet another introduction. I have included the video and excerpt to affirm this site’s avowal of Heidegger’s persisting relevance to nationalist and revisionist thought. Heidegger’s prewar avowal of Hitler, his prescient understanding of encroaching multiculturalism, his postwar refusal to relent to accepted historical narratives, his calls for a renewed pre-modern relationship with sun, sea, and soil and a departure from atomized existence…each of these, and more.


Being and Time: Division II: Dasein and Temporality: Dasein as Being-Toward-Death


46. The Seeming Impossibility of Getting Dasein’s Being-a-Whole into our Grasp Ontologically and Determining its Character. The inadequacy of the hermeneutical Situation from which the preceding analysis of Dasein has arisen, must be surmounted. It is necessary for us to bring the whole Dasein into our fore-having. We must accordingly ask whether this entity, as something existing, can ever become accessible in its Being-a-whole. In Dasein’s very state of Being, there are important reasons which seem to speak against the possibility of having it presented [Vorgabe] in the manner required.

The possibility of this entity’s Being-a-whole is manifestly inconsistent with the ontological meaning of care, and care is that which forms the totality of Dasein’s structural whole. Yet the primary item in care is the ‘ahead-of-itself ‘, and this means that in every case Dasein exists for the sake of itself. ‘As long as it is’, right to its end, it comports itself towards its potentiality-for-Being. Even when it still exists but has nothing more ‘before it’ and has ‘settled [abgeschlossen] its account’, its Being is still determined by the ‘ahead-of-itself’. Hopelessness, for instance, does not tear Dasein away from its possibilities, but is only one of its own modes of Being towards these possibilities. Even when one is without Illusions and ‘is ready for anything’ [“Gefasstsein auf Alles”], here too the ‘ahead-of-itself’ lies hidden. The ‘ahead-of-itself ‘, as an item in the structure of care, tells us unambiguously that in Dasein there is always something still outstanding, which, as a potentiality-for-Being for Dasein itself, has not yet become ‘actual’. It is essential to the basic constitution of Dasein that there is constantly something still to be settled [eine ständige Unabgeschlossenheit]. Such a lack of totality signifies that there is something still outstanding in one’s potentiality-for-Being.

But as soon as Dasein ‘exists’ in such a way that absolutely nothing more is still outstanding in it, then it has already for this very reason become “no-longer-Being-there” [Nicht-mehr-da-sein]. Its Being is annihilated when what is still outstanding in its Being has been liquidated. As long as Dasein is as an entity, it has never reached its ‘wholeness’. But if it gains such ‘wholeness’, this gain becomes the utter loss of Being-in-the-world. In such a case, it can never again be experienced as an entity.

The reason for the impossibility of experiencing Dasein ontically as a whole which is [als seiendes Ganzes], and therefore of determining its character ontologically in its Being-a-whole, does not lie in any imperfection of our cognitive powers. The hindrance lies rather in the Being of this entity. That which cannot ever be such as any experience which pretends to get Dasein in its grasp would claim, eludes in principle any possibility of getting experienced at all. But in that case is it not a hopeless undertaking to try to discern in Dasein its ontological totality of Being?

We cannot cross out the ‘ahead-of-itself’ as an essential item in the structure of care. But how sound are the conclusions which we have drawn from this? Has not the impossibility of getting the whole of Dasein into our grasp been inferred by an argument which is merely formal? Or have we not at bottom inadvertently posited that Dasein is something present-at-hand, ahead of which something that is not yet present-at-hand is constantly shoving itself? Have we, in our argument, taken “Being-not-yet” and the ‘ahead’ in a sense that is genuinely existential? Has our talk of the ‘end’ and ‘totality’ been phenomenally appropriate to Dasein? Has the expression ‘death’ had a biological signification or one that is existential-ontological, or indeed any signification that has been adequately and surely delimited? Have we indeed exhausted all the possibilities for making Dasein accessible in its wholeness?

47. The Possibility of Experiencing the Death of Others, and the Possibility of Getting a Whole Dasein into our Grasp. When Dasein reaches its wholeness in death, it simultaneously loses the Being of its “there”. By its transition to no-longer-Dasein [Nicht-mehr-da-sein], it gets lifted right out of the possibility of experiencing this transition and of understanding it as something experienced. Surely this sort of thing is denied to any particular Dasein in relation to itself. But this makes the death of Others more impressive. In this way a termination [Beendigung] of Dasein becomes ‘Objectively’ accessible. Dasein can thus gain an experience of death, all the more so because Dasein is essentially Being with Others. In that case, the fact that death has been thus ‘Objectively’ given must make possible an ontological delimitation of Dasein’s totality.

Thus from the kind of Being which Dasein possesses as Being with one another, we might draw the fairly obvious information that when the Dasein of Others has come to an end, it might be chosen as a substitute theme for our analysis of Dasein’s totality. But does this lead us to our appointed goal?

Even the Dasein of Others, when it has reached its wholeness in death, is no-longer-Dasein, in the sense of Being-no-longer-in-the-world. Does not dying mean going-out-of-the-world, and losing one’s Being-in-the-world? Yet when someone has died, his Being-no-longer-in-the-world (if we understand it in an extreme way) is still a Being, but in the sense of the Being-just-present-at-hand-and-no-more of a corporeal Thing which we encounter. In the dying of the Other we can experience that remarkable phenomenon of Being which may be defined as the change-over of an entity from Dasein’s kind of Being (or life) to no-longer-Dasein. The end of the entity qua Dasein is the beginning of the same entity qua something present-at-hand.

Indisputably, the fact that one Dasein can be represented by another belongs to its possibilities of Being in Being-with-one-another in the world. In everyday concern, constant and manifold use is made of such representability. Whenever we go anywhere or have anything to contribute, we can be represented by someone within the range of that ‘environment’ with which we are most closely concerned. The great multiplicity of ways of Being-in-the-world in which one person can be represented by another, not only extends to the more refined modes of publicly being with one another, but is likewise germane to those possibilities of concern which are restricted within definite ranges, and which are cut to the measure of one’s occupation, one’s social status, or one’s age. But the very meaning of such representation is such that it is always a representation ‘in’ [“in” und “bei”] something — that is to say, in concerning oneself with something. But proximally and for the most part everyday Dasein understands itself in terms of that with which it is customarily concerned. ‘One is’ what one does. In relation to this sort of Being (the everyday manner in which we join with one another in absorption in the ‘world’ of our concern) representability is not only quite possible but is even constitutive for our being with one another. Here one Dasein can and must, within certain limits, ‘be’ another Dasein.

However, this possibility of representing breaks down completely if the issue is one of representing that possibility-of-Being which makes up Dasein’s coming to an end, and which, as such, gives to it its wholeness. No one can take the Other’s dying away from him. Of course someone can ‘go to his death for another’. But ‘that always means to sacrifice oneself for the Other ‘in some definite affair’. Such “dying for” can never signify that the Other has thus had his death taken away in even the slightest degree. Dying is something that every Dasein itself must take upon itself at the time. By its very essence, death is in every case mine, in so far as it ‘is’ at all. And indeed death signifies a peculiar possibility-of-Being in which the very Being of one’s own Dasein is an issue. In dying, it is shown that mineness and existence are ontologically constitutive for death. Dying is not an event; it is a phenomenon to be understood existentially; and it is to be understood in a distinctive sense which must be still more closely delimited.

50. Preliminay Sketch of the Existential-Ontological Structure of Death. From our considerations of totality, end, and that which is still outstanding, there has emerged the necessity of Interpreting the phenomenon of death as Being-towards-the-end, and of doing so in terms of Dasein’s basic state. Only so can it be made plain to what extent Being-a-whole, as constituted by Being towards-the-end, is possible in Dasein itself in conformity with the structure of its Being. We have seen that care is the basic state of Dasein. The ontological signification of the expression “care” has been expressed in the ‘definition’: “ahead-of-itself-Being-already-in (the world) as Being-alongside entities which we encounter (within-the-world)”. In this are expressed the fundamental characteristics of Dasein’s Being: existence, in the “ahead-of-itself”; facticity, in the “Being-already-in”; falling, in the “Being-alongside”. If indeed death belongs in a distinctive sense to the Being of Dasein, then death (or Being-towards-the-end) must be defined in terms of these characteristics.

We must, in the first instance, make plain in a preliminary sketch how Dasein’s existence, facticity, and falling reveal themselves in the phenomenon of death.

The Interpretation in which the “not-yet — and with it even the uttermost “not-yet”, the end of Dasein — was taken in the sense of something still outstanding, has been rejected as inappropriate in that it included the ontological perversion of making Dasein something present-at-hand. Being-at-an-end implies existentially Being-towards-the-end. The uttermost “not-yet” has the character of something towards which Dasein comports itself. The end is impending [stelit . . . bevor] for Dasein. Death is not something not yet present-at-hand, nor is it that which is ultimately still outstanding but which has been reduced to a minimum. Death is something that stands before us — something impending.

However, there is much that can impend for Dasein as Being-in-the-world. The character of impendence is not distinctive of death. On the contrary, this Interpretation could even lead us to suppose that death must be understood in the sense of some impending event encountered environmentally. For instance, a storm, the remodelling of the house, or the arrival of a friend, may be impending; and these are entities which are respectively present-at-hand, ready-to-hand, and there-with-us. The death which impends does not have this kind of Being.

But there may also be impending for Dasein a journey, for instance, or a disputation with Others, or the forgoing of something of a kind which Dasein itself can be — its own possibilities of Being, which are based on its Being with Others.

Death is a possibility-of-Being which Dasein itself has to take over in every case. With death, Dasein stands before itself in its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. This is a possibility in which the issue is nothing less than Dasein’s Being-in-the-world. Its death is the possibility of no-longer being-able-to-be-there. If Dasein stands before itself as this possibility, it has been fully assigned to its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. When it stands before itself in this way, all its relations to any other Dasein have been undone. This ownmost non-relational possibility is at the same time the uttermost one.

As potentiality-for-Being, Dasein cannot outstrip the possibility of death. Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein. Thus death reveals itself as that possibility which is one’s ownmost, which is non-relational, and which is not to be outstripped [unüberholbare]. As such, death is something distinctively impending. Its existential possibility is based on the fact that Dasein is essentially disclosed to itself, and disclosed, indeed, as ahead-of-itself. This item in the structure of care has its most primordial concretion in Being-towards-death. As a phenomenon, Being-towards-the-end becomes plainer as Being towards that distinctive possibility of Dasein which we have characterized.

This ownmost possibility, however, non-relational and not to be outstripped, is not one which Dasein procures for itself subsequently and occasionally in the course of its Being. On the contrary, if Dasein exists, it has already been thrown into this possibility. Dasein does not, proximally and for the most part, have any explicit or even any theoretical knowledge of the fact that it has been delivered over to its death, and that death thus belongs to Being-in-the-world. Thrownness into death reveals itself to Dasein in a more primordial and impressive manner in that state-of-mind which we have called “anxiety”. Anxiety in the face of death is anxiety ‘in the face of’ that potentiality-for-Being which is one’s ownmost, nonrelational, and not to be outstripped. That in the face of which one has anxiety is Being-in-the-world itself. That about which one has this anxiety is simply Dasein’s potentiality-for-Being. Anxiety in the face of death must not be confused with fear in the face of one’s demise. This anxiety is not an accidental or random mood of ‘weakness’ in some individual; but, as a basic state-of-mind of Dasein, it amounts to the disclosedness of the fact that Dasein exists as thrown Being towards its end. Thus the existential conception of “dying” is made clear as thrown Being towards its ownmost potentiality-for-Being, which is non-relational and not to be outstripped. Precision is gained by distinguishing this from pure disappearance, and also from merely perishing, and finally from the ‘Experiencing’ of a demise.

Being-towards-the-end does not first arise through some attitude which occasionally emerges, nor does it arise as such an attitude; it belongs essentially to Dasein’s thrownness, which reveals itself in a state-of-mind (mood) in one way or another. The factical ‘knowledge’ or ‘ignorance’ which prevails in any Dasein as to its ownmost Being-towards-the-end, is only the expression of the existentiell possibility that there are different ways of maintaining oneself in this Being. Factically, there are many who, proximally and for the most part, do not know about death; but this must not be passed off as a ground for proving that Being-towards-death does not belong to Dasein ‘universally’. It only proves that proximally and for the most part Dasein covers up its ownmost Being-towards-death, fleeing in the face of it. Factically, Dasein is dying as long as it exists, but proximally and for the most part, it does so by way of falling. For factical existing is not only generally and without further differentiation a thrown potentiality-for-Being-in-the-world, but it has always likewise been absorbed in the ‘world’ of its concern. In this falling Being alongside, fleeing from therefore constitutive for the existential conception of death. As regards its ontological possibility, dying is grounded in care.

But if Being-towards-death belongs primordially and essentially to Dasein’s Being, then it must also be exhibitable in everydayness, even if proximally in a way which is inauthentic. And if Being-towards-the-end should afford the existential possibility of an existentiell Being-a-whole for Dasein, then this would give phenomenal confirmation for the thesis that “care” is the ontological term for the totality of Dasein’s structural whole. If, however, we are to provide a full phenomenal justification for this principle, a preliminary sketch of the connection between Being-towards-death and care is not sufficient. We must be able to see this connection above all in that concretion which lies closest to Dasein — its everydayness.

51. Being-towards-death and the Everydayness of Dasein. In setting forth average everyday Being-towards-death, we must take our orientation from those structures of everydayness at which we have earlier arrived. In Being-towards-death, Dasein comports itself towards itself as a distinctive potentiality-for-Being. But the Self of everydayness is the “they”. The “they” is constituted by the way things have been publicly interpreted, which expresses itself in idle talk. Idle talk must accordingly make manifest the way in which everyday Dasein interprets for itself its Being-towards-death. The foundation of any interpretation is an act of understanding, which is always accompanied by a state-of-mind, or, in other words, which has a mood. So we must ask how Being-towards-death is disclosed by the kind of understanding which, with its state-of-mind, lurks in the idle talk of the “they”. How does the “they” comport itself understandingly towards that ownmost possibility of Dasein, which is non-relational and is not to be outstripped? What state-of-mind discloses to the “they” that it has been delivered over to death, and in what way?

In the publicness with which we are with one another in our everyday manner, death is ‘known’ as a mishap which is constantly occurring — as a ‘case of death?’. Someone or other ‘dies’, be he neighbour or stranger [Nächste oder Fernerstehende]. People who are no acquaintances of ours are ‘dying’ daily and hourly. ‘Death’ is encountered as a well-known event occurring within-the-world. As such it remains in the inconspicuousness characteristic of what is encountered in an everyday fashion. The “they” has already stowed away [gesichert] an interpretation for this event. It talks of it in a ‘fugitive’ manner, either expressly or else in a way which is mostly inhibited, as if to say, “One of these days one will die too, in the end; but right now it has nothing to do with us.”

The analysis of the phrase ‘one dies’ reveals unambiguously the kind of Being which belongs to everyday Being-towards-death. In such a way of talking, death is understood as an indefinite something which, above all, must duly arrive from somewhere or other, but which is proximally not yet present-at-hand for oneself, and is therefore no threat. The expression ‘one dies’ spreads abroad the opinion that what gets reached, as it were, by death, is the “they”. In Dasein’s public way of interpreting, it is said that ‘one dies’, because everyone else and oneself can talk himself into saying that “in no case is it I myself”, for this “one” is the “nobody”. ‘Dying’ is levelled off to an occurrence which reaches Dasein, to be sure, but belongs to nobody in particular. If idle talk is always ambiguous, so is this manner of talking about death. Dying, which is essentially mine in such a way that no one can be my representative, is perverted into an event of public occurrence which the “they” encounters. In the way of talking which we have characterized, death is spoken of as a ‘case’ which is constantly occurring. Death gets passed off as always something ‘actual’; its character as a possibility gets concealed, and so are the other two items that belong to it — the fact that it is non-relational and that it is not to be outstripped. By such ambiguity, Dasein puts itself in the position of losing itself in the “they,” as regards a distinctive potentiality-for-Being which belongs to Dasein’s owninost Self. The “they” gives its approval, and aggravates the temptation to cover up from oneself one’s ownmost Being-towards-death. This evasive concealment in the face of death dominates everydayness so stubbornly that, in Being with one another, the ‘neighbours’ often still keep talking the ‘dying person’ into the belief that he will escape death and soon return to the tranquillized everydayness of the world of his concern. Such ‘solicitude’ is meant to ‘console’ him. It insists upon bringing him back into Dasein, while in addition it helps him to keep his ownmost non-relational possibility-of-Being completely concealed. In this manner the “they” provides [besorgt] a constant tranquillizalion about death. At bottom, however, this is a tranquillization not only for him who is ‘dying’ but just as much for those who ‘console’ him. And even in the case of a demise, the public is still not to have its own tranquillity upset by such an event, or be disturbed in the carefreeness with which it concerns itself. Indeed the dying of Others is seen often enough as a social inconvenience, if not even a downright tactlessness, against which the public is to be guarded.

But along with this tranquillization, which forces Dasein away from its death, the “they” at the same time puts itself in the right and makes itself respectable by tacitly regulating the way in which one has to comport oneself towards death. It is already a matter of public acceptance that ‘thinking about death’ is a cowardly fear, a sign of insecurity on the part of Dasein, and a sombre way of fleeing from the world. The “they” does not permit us the courage anxiety in the face of death. The dominance of the manner in which things have been publicly interpreted by the “they”, has already decided what state-of-mind is to determine our attitude towards death. In anxiety in the face of death, Dasein is brought face to face with itself as delivered over to that possibility which is not to be outstripped. The “they” concerns itself with transforming this anxiety into fear in the face of an oncoming event. In addition, the anxiety which has been made ambiguous as fear, is passed off as a weakness with which no self-assured Dasein may have any acquaintance. What is ‘fitting’ [Was sich . . . “gehört”] according to the unuttered decree of the “they”, is indifferent tranquillity as to the ‘fact’ that one dies. The cultivation of such a ‘superior’ indifference alienates Dasein from its ownmost nonrelational potentiality-for-Being.

But temptation, tranquillization, and alienation are distinguishing marks of the kind of Being called “falling”. As falling, everyday Being-towards-death is a constant fleeing in the face of death. Being-towards-the-end has the mode of evasion in the face of it — giving new explanations for it, understanding it inauthentically, and concealing it. Factically one’s own Dasein is always dying already; that is to say, it is in a Being-towards-its-end. And it hides this Fact from itself by recoining “death” as just a “case of death” in Others — an everyday occurrence which, if need be, gives us the assurance still more plainly that ‘oneself’ is still ‘living’. But in thus falling and fleeing in the face of death, Dasein’s everydayness attests that the very “they” itself already has the definite character of Being-towards-death, even when it is not explicitly engaged in ‘thinking about death’. Even in average everydayness, this ownmost potentiality-for-Being, which is non-relational and not to be outstripped, is constantly an issue for Dasein. This is the case when its concern is merely in the mode of an untroubled indifference towards the uttermost possibility of existence.

In setting forth everyday Being-towards-death, however, we are at the same time enjoined to try to secure a full existential conception of Being-towards-the-end, by a more penetrating Interpretation in which falling Being-towards-death is taken as an evasion in the face of death. That in the face of which one flees has been made visible in a way which is phenomenally adequate. Against this it must be possible to project phenomenologically the way in which evasive Dasein itself understands its death. . . .

52. Everyday Being-towards-the-end, and the Full Existential Conception of Death. In our preliminary existential sketch, Being-towards-the-end has been defined as Being towards one’s ownmost potentiality-for-Being, which is non-relational and is not to be outstripped. Being towards this possibility, as a Being which exists, is brought face to face with the absolute impossibility of existence. Beyond this seemingly empty characterization of Being-towards-death, there has been revealed the concretion of this Being in the mode of everydayness. In accordance with the tendency to falling, which is essential to everydayness, Being-towards-death has turned out to be an evasion in the face of death — an evasion which conceals. While our investigation has hitherto passed from a formal sketch of the ontological structure of death to the concrete analysis of everyday Being-towards-the-end, the direction is now to be reversed, and we shall arrive at the full existential conception of death by rounding out our Interpretation of everyday Being-towards-the-end.

In explicating everyday Being-towards-death we have clung to the idle talk of the “they” to the effect that “one dies too, sometime, but not right away.” All that we have Interpreted thus far is the ‘one dies’ as such. In the ‘sometime, but not right away’, everydayness concedes something like a certainty of death. Nobody doubts that one dies. On the other hand, this ‘not doubting’ need not imply that kind of Being-certain which corresponds to the way death — in the sense of the distinctive possibility characterized above — enters into Dasein. Everydayness confines itself to conceding the ‘certainty’ of death in this ambiguous manner just in order to weaken that certainty by covering up dying still more and to alleviate its own thrownness into death.

By its very meaning, this evasive concealment in the face of death can not be authentically ‘certain’ of death, and yet it is certain of it. What are we to say about the ‘certainty of death?

To be certain of an entity means to hold it for true as something true. But “truth” signifies the uncoveredness of some entity, and all uncoveredness is grounded ontologically in the most primordial truth, the disclosedness of Dasein. As an entity which is both disclosed and disclosing, and one which uncovers, Dasein is essentially ‘in the truth’. But certainty is grounded in the truth, or belongs to it equiprimordially. The expression ‘certainty’, like the term ‘truth’, has a double signification. Primordially “truth” means the same as “Being-disclosive”, as a way in which Dasein behaves. From this comes the derivative signification: “the uncoveredness of entities”. Correspondingly, “certainty”, in its primordial signification, is tantamount to “Being-certain”, as a kind of Being which belongs to Dasein. However, in a derivative signification, any entity of which Dasein can be certain will also get called something ‘certain’.

One mode of certainty is conviction. In conviction, Dasein lets the testimony of the thing itself which has been uncovered (the true thing itself) be the sole determinant for its Being towards that thing understandingly. Holding something for true is adequate as a way of maintaining oneself in the truth, if it is grounded in the uncovered entity itself, and if, as Being towards the entity so uncovered, it has become transparent to itself as regards its appropriateness to that entity. In any arbitrary fiction or in merely having some ‘view’ [“Ansicht”] about an entity, this sort of thing is lacking.

The adequacy of holding-for-true is measured according to the truthclaim to which it belongs. Such a claim gets its justification from the kind of Being of the entity to be disclosed, and from the direction of the disclosure. The kind of truth, and along with it, the certainty, varies with the way entities differ, and accords with the guiding tendency and extent of the disclosure. Our present considerations will be restricted to an analysis of Being-certain with regard to death; and this Being-certain will in the end present us with a distinctive certainty of Dasein.

For the most part, everyday Dasein covers up the ownmost possibility of its Being — that possibility which is non-relational and not to be outstripped. This factical tendency to cover up confirms our thesis that Dasein, as factical, is in the ‘untruth’. Therefore the certainty which belongs to such a covering-up of Being-towards-death must be an inappropriate way of holding-for-true, and not, for instance, an uncertainty in the sense of a doubting. In inappropriate certainty, that of which one is certain is held covered up. If ‘one’ understands death as an event which one encounters in one’s environment, then the certainty which is related to such events does not pertain to Being-towards-the-end.

They say, “It is certain that ‘Death’ is coming.’ They say it, and the “they” overlooks the fact that in order to be able to be certain of death, Dasein itself must in every case be certain of its ownmost nonrelational potentiality-for-Being. They say, “Death is certain”; and in saying so, they implant in Dasein the illusion that it is itself certain of its death. And what is the ground of everyday Being-certain? Manifestly, it is not just mutual persuasion. Yet the ‘dying’ of Others is something that one experiences daily. Death is an undeniable ‘fact of experience’.

The way in which everyday Being-towards-death understands the certainty which is thus grounded, betrays itself when it tries to ‘think’ about death, even when it does so with critical foresight — that is to say, in an appropriate manner. So far as one knows, all men ‘die’. Death is probable in the highest degree for every man, yet it is not ‘unconditionally’ certain. Taken strictly, a certainty which is ‘only’ empirical may be attributed to death. Such certainty necessarily falls short of the highest certainty, the apodictic, which we reach in certain domains of theoretical knowledge.

In this ‘critical’ determination of the certainty of death, and of its impendence, what is manifested in the first instance is, once again, a failure to recognize Dasein’s kind of Being and the Being-towards-death which belongs to Dasein — a failure that is characteristic of everydayness. The fact that demise, as an event which occurs, is ‘only’ empirically certain, is in no way decisive as to the certainty of death. Cases of death may be the factical occasion for Dasein’s first paying attention to death at all. So long, however, as Dasein remains in the empirical certainty which we have mentioned, death, in the way that it ‘is’, is something of which Dasein can by no means become certain. Even though, in the publicness of the “they”, Dasein seems to ‘talk’ only of this ’empirical’ certainty of death, nevertheless at bottom Dasein does not exclusively or primarily stick to those cases of death which merely occur. In evading its death, even everyday Being-towards-the-end is indeed certain of its death in another way than it might itself like to have true on purely theoretical considerations. This ‘other way’ is what everydayness for the most part veils from itself.

Everydayness does not dare to let itself become transparent in such a manner. We have already characterized the every-day state-of-mind which consists in an air of superiority with regard to the certain ‘fact’ of death — a superiority which is ‘anxiously’ concerned while seemingly free from anxiety. In’ this state-of-mind, everydayness acknowledges a ‘higher’ certainty than one which is only empirical. One knows about the certainty of death, and yet ‘is’ not authentically certain of one’s own. The falling everydayness of Dasein is acquainted with death’s certainty, and yet evades Being-certain. But in the light of what it evades, this very evasion attests phenomenally that death must be conceived as one’s owrimost possibility, non-relational, not to be outstripped, and — above all — certain.

One says, “Death certainly comes, but not right away”. With this ‘but . . .’, the “they” denies that death is certain. ‘Not right away’ is not a purely negative assertion, but a way in which the “they” interprets itself. With this interpretation, the “they” refers itself to that which is proximally accessible to Dasein and amenable to its concern. Everydayness forces its way into the urgency of concern, and divests itself of the fetters of a weary ‘inactive thinking about death’. Death is deferred to ‘sometime later’, and this is done by invoking the so-called ‘general opinion’ [“allgemeine Ermessen”]. Thus the “they” covers up what is peculiar in death’s certainty — that it is possible at any moment. Along with the certainty of death goes the indefiniteness of its “when”. Everyday Being-towards-death evades this indefiniteness by conferring definiteness upon it. But such a procedure cannot signify calculating when the demise is due to arrive. In the face of definiteness such as this,’ Dasein would sooner flee. Everyday concern makes definite for itself the indefiniteness of certain death by interposing before it those urgencies and possibilities which can be taken in at a glance, and which belong to the everyday matters that are closest to us.

But when this indefiniteness has been covered up, the certainty has been covered up too. Thus death’s ownmost character as a possibility gets veiled — a possibility which is certain and at the same time indefinite — that is to say, possible at any moment.

Now that we have completed our Interpretation of the everyday manner in which the “they” talks about death and the way death enters into Dasein, we have been led to the characters of certainty and indefiniteness. The full existential-ontological conception of death may now be defined as follows: death, as the end of Dasein, is Dasein’s ownmost possibility —  non-relational, certain and as such indefinite, not to be outstripped. Death is, as Dasein’s end, in the Being of this entity towards its end.

Defining the existential structure of Being-towards-the-end helps us to work out a kind of Being of Dasein in which Dasein, as Dasein, can be a whole. The fact that even everyday Dasein already is towards its end — that is to say, is constantly coming to grips with its death, though in a ‘fugitive’ manner — shows that this end, conclusive [abschliessende) and determinative for Being-a-whole, is not something to which Dasein ultimately comes only in its demise. In Dasein, as being towards its death, its own uttermost “not-yet” has already been included — that “not-yet” which all others lie ahead of. So if one has given an ontologically inappropriate Interpretation of Dasein’s “not-yet” as something still outstanding, any formal inference from this to Dasein’s lack of totality will not be correct. The Phenomenon of the “not-yet” has been taken over from the “ahead-of-itself”; no more than the care-structure in general, can it serve as a higher court which would rule against the possibility of an existent Being-a-whole; indeed this “ahead-ofitself” is what first of all makes such a Being-towards-the-end possible. The problem of the possible Being-a-whole of that entity which each of us is, is a correct one if care, as Dasein’s basic state, is ‘connected’ with death — the uttermost possibility for that entity.

Meanwhile, it remains questionable whether this problem has been as yet adequately worked out. Being-towards-death is grounded in care. Dasein, as thrown Being-in-the-world, has in every case already been delivered over to its death. In being towards its death, Dasein is dying factically and indeed constantly, as long as it has not yet come to its demise. When we say that Dasein is factically dying, we are saying at the same time that in its Being-towards-death Dasein has always decided itself in one way or another. Our everyday falling evasion in the face of death is an inauthentic Being-towards-death. But inauthenticity is based on the possibility of authenticity. Inauthenticity characterizes a kind of Being into which Dasein can divert itself and has for the most part always diverted itself; but Dasein does not necessarily and constantly have to divert itself into this kind of Being. Because Dasein exists, it determines its own character as the kind of entity it is, and it does so in every case in terms of a possibility which it itself is and which it understands.

Can Dasein also understand authentically its ownmost possibility, which is non-relational and not to be outstripped, which is certain and, as such, indefinite? That is, can Dasein maintain itself in an authentic Being-towards-its-end? As long as this authentic Being-towards-death has not been set forth and ontologically defined, there is something essentially lacking in our existential Interpretation of Being-towards-the-end.

Authentic Being-towards-death signifies an existentiell possibility of Dasein. This ontical potentiality-for-Being must, in turn, be ontologically possible. What are the existential conditions of this possibility? How are they themselves to become accessible?

53. Existential Projection of an Authentic Being-towards-death. Factically, Dasein maintains itself proximally and for the most part in an inauthentic Being-towards-death. How is the ontological possibility of an authentic Being-towards-death to be characterized ‘Objectively’, if, in the end, Dasein never comports itself authentically towards its end, or if, in accordance with its very meaning, this authentic Being must remain hidden from the Others? Is it not a fanciful undertaking, to project the existential possibility of so questionable an existentiell potentiality-forBeing? What is needed, if such a projection is to go beyond a merely fictitious arbitrary construction? Does Dasein itself give us any instructions for carrying it out? And can any grounds for its phenomenal legitimacy be taken from Dasein itself? Can our analysis of Dasein up to this point give us any prescriptions for the ontological task we have now set ourselves, so that what we have before us may be kept on a road of which we can be sure?

The existential conception of death has been established; and therewith we have also established what it is that an authentic Being-towards-the-end should be able to comport itself towards. We have also characterized inauthentic Being-towards-death, and thus we have prescribed in a negative way [prohibitiv] how it is possible for authentic Being-towards-death not to be. It is with these positive and prohibitive instructions that the existential edifice of an authentic Being-towards-death must let itself be projected.

Dasein is constituted by disclosedness — that is, by an understanding with a state-of-mind. Authentic Being-towards-death can not evade its ownmost non-relational possibility, or cover up this possibility by thus fleeing from it, or give a new explanation for it to accord with the common sense of the “they”. In our existential projection of an authentic Being-towards-death, therefore, we must set forth those items in such a Being which are constitutive for it as an understanding of death — and as such an understanding in the sense of Being towards this possibility without either fleeing it or covering it up.

In the first instance, we must characterize Being-towards-death as a Being towards a possibility — indeed, towards a distinctive possibility of Dasein itself. “Being towards” a possibility — that is to say, towards something possible — may signify “Being out for” something possible, as in concerning ourselves with its actualization. Such possibilities are constantly encountered in the field of what is ready-to-hand and present-at-hand — what is attainable, controllable, practicable, and the like. In concernfully Being out for something possible, there is a tendency to annihilate the possibility of the possible by making it available to us. But the concernful actualization of equipment which is ready-to-hand (as in producing it, getting it ready, readjusting it, and so on) is always merely relative, since even that which has been actualized is still characterized in terms of some involvements — indeed this is precisely what characterizes its Being. Even though actualized, it remains, as actual, something possible for doing something; it is characterized by an “in-order-to”. What our analysis is to make plain is simply how Being out for something concernfully, comports itself towards the possible: it does so not by the theoretico-thematical consideration of the possible as possible, and by having regard for its possibility as such, but rather by looking circumspectively away from the possible and looking at that for which it is possible [das Wofür-möglich]. . . .

But Being towards this possibility, as Being-towards-death, is so to comport ourselves towards death that in this Being, and for it, death reveals itself as a possibility. Our terminology for such Being towards this possibility is “anticipation” of this possibility. But in this way of behaving does there not lurk a coming-close to the possible, and when one is close to the possible, does not its actualization emerge? In this kind of coming close, however, one does not tend towards concernfully making available something actual; but as one comes closer understandingly, the possibility of the possible just becomes ‘greater’. The closest closeness which one may have in Being towards death as a possibility, is as far as possible from anything actual. The more unveiledly this possibility gets understood, the more purely does the understanding penetrate into it as the possibility of the impossibility of any existence at all. Death, as possibility, gives Dasein nothing to be ‘actualized’, nothing which Dasein, as actual, could itself be. It is the possibility of the impossibility of every way of comporting oneself towards anything, of every way of existing. In the anticipation of this possibility it becomes ‘greater and greater’; that is to say, the possibility reveals itself to be such that it knows no measure at all, no more or less, but signifies the possibility of the measureless impossibility of existence. In accordance with its essence, this possibility offers no support for becoming intent on something, ‘picturing’ to oneself the actuality which is possible, and so forgetting its possibility. Being-towards-death, as anticipation of possibility, is what first makes this possibility possible, and sets it free as possibility.

Being-towards-death is the anticipation of a potentiality-for-Being of that entity whose kind of Being is anticipation itself. In the anticipatory revealing of this potentiality-for-Being, Dasein discloses itself to itself as regards its uttermost possibility. But to project itself on its ownmost potentiality-for-Being means to be able to understand itself in the Being of the entity so revealed — namely, to exist. Anticipation turns out to be the possibility of understanding one’s ownmost and uttermost potentiality-for-Being — that is to say, the possibility of authentic existence. The ontological constitution of such existence must be made visible by setting forth the concrete structure of anticipation of death. How are we to delimit this structure phenomenally? Manifestly, we must do so by determining those characteristics which must belong to an anticipatory disclosure so that it can become the pure understanding of that ownmost possibility which is non-relational and not to be outstripped — which is certain and, as such, indefinite. It must be noted that understanding does not primarily mean just gazing at a meaning, but rather understanding oneself in that potentiality-for-Being which reveals itself in projection.

Death is Dasein’s ownmost possibility. Being towards this possibility discloses to Dasein its ownmost potentiality-for-Being, in which its very Being is the issue. Here it can become manifest to Dasein that in this distinctive possibility of its own self, it has been wrenched away from the “they”. This means that in anticipation any Dasein can have wrenched itself away from the “they” already. But when one understands that this is something which Dasein ‘can’ have done, this only reveals its factical lostness in the everydayness of the they-self.

The ownmost possibility is non-relational. Anticipation allows Dasein to understand that that potentiality-for-being in which its ownmost Being is an issue, must be taken over by Dasein alone. Death does not just ‘belong’ to one’s own Dasein in an undifferentiated way; death lays claim to it as an individual Dasein. The non-relational character of death, as understood in anticipation, individualizes Dasein down to itself. This individualizing is a way in which the ‘there’ is disclosed for existence. It makes manifest that all Being-alongside the things with which we concern ourselves, and all Being-with Others, will fail us when our ownmost potentiality-for-Being is the issue. Dasein can be authentically itself only if it makes this possible for itself of its own accord. But if concern and solicitude fail us, this does not signify at all that these ways of Dasein have been cut off from its authentically Being-its-Self. As structures essential to Dasein’s constitution, these have a share in conditioning the possibility of any existence whatsoever. Dasein is authentically itself only to the extent that, as concernful Being-alongside and solicitous Being-with, it projects itself upon its ownmost potentiality-for-Being rather than upon the possibility of the they-self. The entity which anticipates its non-relational possibility, is thus forced by that very anticipation into the possibility of taking over from itself its ownmost Being, and doing so of its own accord.

The ownmost, non-relational possibility is not to be outstripped. Being towards this possibility enables Dasein to understand that giving itself up impends for it as the uttermost possibility of its existence. Anticipation, however, unlike inauthentic Being-towards-death, does not evade the fact that death is not to be outstripped; instead, anticipation frees itself for accepting this. When, by anticipation, one becomes free for one’s own death, one is liberated from one’s lostness in those possibilities which may accidentally thrust themselves upon one; and one is liberated in such a way that for the first time one can authentically understand and choose among the factical possibilities lying ahead of that possibility which is not to be outstripped. Anticipation discloses to existence that its uttermost possibility lies in giving itself up, and thus it shatters all one’s tenaciousness to whatever existence one has reached. In anticipation, Dasein guards itself against falling back behind itself, or behind the potentiality-for-Being which it has understood. It guards itself against ‘becoming too old for its victories’ (Nietzsche). Free for its ownmost possibilities, which are determined by the end and so are understood as finite [endliche], Dasein dispels the danger that it may, by its own finite understanding of existence, fail to recognize that it is getting outstripped by the existence-possibilities of Others, or rather that it may explain these possibilities wrongly and force them back upon its own, so that it may divest itself of its ownmost factical existence. As the non-relational possibility, death individualizes — but only in such a manner that, as the possibility which is not to be outstripped, it makes Dasein, as Being-with, have some understanding of the potentiality-for-Being of Others. Since anticipation of the possibility which is not to be outstripped discloses also all the possibilities which lie ahead of that possibility, this anticipation includes the possibility of taking the whole of Dasein in advance [Vorwegnehmens] in an existentiell manner; that is to say, it includes the possibility of existing as a whole potentiality-for-Being.

The ownmost, non-relational possibility, which is not to be outstripped, is certain. The way to be certain of it is determined by the kind of truth which corresponds to it (disclosedness). The certain possibility of death, however, discloses Dasein as a possibility, but does so only in such a way that, in anticipating this possibility, Dasein makes this possibility possible for itself as its ownmost potentiality-for-Being. The possibility is disclosed because it is made possible in anticipation. To maintain oneself in this truth — that is, to be certain of what has been disclosed — demands all the more that one should anticipate. . . .

Holding death for true (death is just one’s own) shows another kind of certainty, and is more primordial than any certainty which relates to entities encountered within-the-world, or to formal objects; for it is certain of Being-in-the-world. As such, holding death for true does not demand just one definite kind of behaviour in Dasein, but demands Dasein itself in the full authenticity of its existence. In anticipation Dasein can first make certain of its ownmost Being in its totality — a totality which is not to be outstripped. Therefore the evidential character which belongs to the immediate givenness of Experiences, of the “I”, or of consciousness, must necessarily lag behind the certainty which anticipation includes. Yet this is not because the way in which these are grasped would not be a rigorous one, but because in principle such a way of grasping them cannot hold for true (disclosed) something which at bottom it insists upon ‘having there’ as true: namely, Dasein itself, which I myself am, and which, as a potentiality-for-Being, I can be authentically only by anticipation.

The ownmost possibility, which is non-relational, not to be outstripped, and certain, is indefinite as regards its certainty. How does anticipation disclose this characteristic of Dasein’s distinctive possibility? How does the anticipatory understanding project itself upon a potentiality-for-Being which is certain and which is constantly possible in such a way that the “when” in which the utter impossibility of existence becomes possible remains constantly indefinite? In anticipating [zum] the indefinite certainty of death, Dasein opens itself to a constant threat arising out of its own “there”. In this very threat Being-towards-the-end must maintain itself. So little can it tone this down that it must rather cultivate the indefiniteness of the certainty. How is it existentially possible for this constant threat to be genuinely disclosed? All understanding is accompanied by a state-of-mind. Dasein’s mood brings it face to face with the thrownness of its ‘that it is there’. But the state-of-mind which can hold open the utter and constant threat to itsetf arising from Dasein’s ownmost individualized Being, is anxiety. In this state-of-mind, Dasein finds itself face to face with the “nothing” of the possible impossibility of its existence. Anxiety is anxious about the potentiality-for-Being of the entity so destined [des so bestimmten Seienden), and in this way it discloses the uttermost possibility. Anticipation utterly individualizes Dasein, and allows it, in this individualization of itself, to become certain of the totality of its potentiality-for-Being. For this reason, anxiety as a basic state-of-mind belongs to such a self-understanding of Dasein on the basis of Dasein itself. Being-towards-death is essentially anxiety. This is attested unmistakably, though ‘only’ indirectly, by Being-towards-death as we have described it, when it perverts anxiety into cowardly fear and, in surmounting this fear, only makes known its own cowardliness in the face of anxiety.

We may now summarize our characterization of authentic Beingtowards-death as we have projected it existentially: anticipation reveals to Dasein its lostness in the they-self, and brings it face to face with the possibility of being itself, primarily unsupported by concernful solicitude, but of being itself, rather, in an impassioned freedom towards death — a freedom which has been released from the Illusions of the “they”, and which is factical, certain of itself, and anxious.

* * *

Source: Ur-Fascist Analytics

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1 Comment

  1. Richard Peak
    2 May, 2015 at 12:36 pm — Reply

    Isn’t this about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? None of us can really confront our own death, until it actually occurs. Until then, we must strive to prevent the death of our race, which can actually be prevented.

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