Friday, August 10, 2007

B&T 7: Attunement, Understanding, Interpretation

Part 6

Now we’re getting to chapter 5 - Being-in as such. Da-sein’s relation to itself is mediated by its relation to the world, but this is not to suggest that being-in stands between present world and a present subject. Being-in is a unified phenomena. It is disclosure; a clearing, an illumination. There are three aspects to being-in as such: attunement, understanding and discourse. These are not three aspects that are separate things; they are equiprimordial. There are the interiority of each other.

Because being-in is not about a subjects relationship to objects around it, disclosure is not some kind of individual perspective; it’s not a mental state. There is only one clearing. The “Da” of Da-sein is its “Da,” but there is also the Da. Being there and the there of being. In my self disclosure, I am part of the disclosure of being in general. In Da-sein’s self-disclosure, it is a part of the disclosure of being in general. Being can only be disclosed through entities. That jargony paragraph hopefully helps clarify why the question of the meaning of being must “pass through” Da-sein, so to speak. In disclosing the world, in disclosing itself, Da-sein is a part of the disclosure of being.

Anyways, let’s talk attunement. Attunement is Heidegger’s ontological term for what would ontically be “mood.” It’s how you’re doing. Attunement is what makes things matter. It discloses things in a particular way. If you’re happy, than the world is a happier place. The trick is to understand that this isn’t some kind of projective psychology - you’re feeling happy and then you project onto the world your happiness. That would be an ontic psychological process; ontological attunement is disclosure. Da-sein is always already in a mood; if when you’re just relaxing, letting the wheels go round and round. In being in a mood, Da-sein is disclosed as that being which it is.

Disclosure doesn’t mean “known” as such. Da-sein actually usually avoids what is disclosed. Da-sein in fact flees from what is disclosed; what is disclosed is that Da-sein is thrown into the world. We always find ourselves in a mood; this is not the result of a seeking but rather a fleeing. We don’t encounter ourselves through rational reflection, because rational reflection is always directed to towards objects - Da-sein is not an objectively present object.

The primary discovery of the world is also through attunement — not the senses. It is because the senses belong ontologically to an attuned being that they can be “touched.” Hardcore empiricism is not able to banish mood; all it can do is flatten everything down to objective presence.

Heidegger’s big example of attunement is fear. He choose this for a specific reason that we’ll come across later. There are three aspects to fear. The first is “what” one is afraid of - it is a thing of whatever sort. A spider, a disease, a ghost. A fearsome thing. The second aspect is “fearing” itself; this clarifies what is fearsome. And why are we afraid? Because we are concerned in our being for our being. Only a being concerned with its own being can be afraid. What about animals? I have no clue.

What marks fear as attunement is that it discloses things in their ability to threaten.

So that’s attunement. Attunement is known ontically as mood; it isn’t the relation of a psychological subject to its world but rather an ontological disclosure. It is what discloses the world and Da-sein to itself; as such it is a part of the disclosure of being. It is one of the three equiprimordial elements of being-in.

The second element of being in is understanding. Like I’ve already said, Da-sein exists understandingly. Understanding is what discloses our possibilities as possibilities. This is not a cognitive process of making choices; it isn’t choosing between being a lawyer or doctor when you grow up. It discloses those possibilities in the first place. It’s also not an empty set of logical possibilities; we are always already in a possibility. We are always, in fact, projecting into possibilities. Da-sein always understands itself in terms of projects that it projects into. Because Da-sein projects forward, it is always ahead of itself. Ontologically speaking, Da-sein is always not yet. Primordially, Da-sein exists from the future. There is always something outstanding. Da-sein is the possibility of being free for... death! Death is Da-sein’s ownmost, not to be bypassed possibility, and it is unrelated to anything in the referential totality. It is what is always outstanding for Da-sein. A fuller explanation of this will remain outstanding for the time being.

Now, understanding always has its own possibilities. Understanding has the possibility of understanding itself - this is interpretation. Interpretation is understanding’s self-understanding.

Interpretation is also the actualization of possibilities that understanding discloses. Da-sein projects onto possibilities, then interprets itself as these possibilities. We take up the project of being students, then interpret ourselves as students with all the attendant frills that go with that; books, alcohol, etc.

What is interpreted, what has been explicitly understood, always has the structure of something as something. A table is explicity understood as a table.

Interpretation has a threefold structure: fore-having, fore-seeing and fore-conception. These, again, are all bound up with each other. The fore-having is the referential totality; it is the interpretation operating within that totality of reference which itself has already been understood.

When something is understood but still veiled, still unclear, still implicit, it becomes explicit through an act of appropriation - the fore-seeing. The fore-having reveals what is to be understood, the fore-seeing works specifically upon what is to be understood. This interpretation is already decided upon by a definite conceptuality - this is the fore-conception.

The interpretation of something as something is grounded in fore-having, fore-seeing and fore-conception. This is a circle, but it is not a vicious circle to be avoided; the trick is to enter the circle in the right way; this is why Heidegger had that whole discussion of the structure of the question at the beginning of the book.

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