Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Slouching Towards Division II: Recapitulating Being-In

I've already presented a summary of the first half of Martin Heidegger's Being and Time; you can see a link to it on the side bar. Last semester I had to present on Division II to a class that I was certain hadn't read B&T, so I tried to set up Division II with some discussion of Division I. This next series is, you guessed it, that presentation. I'll just include it under the Being and Time label.

What I’ll do with this presentation is go over some material from Division I, setting up terms, and then move to Division II, re-reading those terms temporally.

So last week we already discussed how Da-sein is the entity that we must inquire into in order to ask after the meaning of being. This is because it already has something like an understanding of being, a pre-ontological understanding of being. This understanding is a way of being; this isn’t a question of epistemology. We understand the “is” without being able to conceptually define it. This is what makes Da-sein different from other beings - we are concerned in our being about being. Da-sein is related to existence understandingly; the structures by which we do this are existential structures. You might hear echos of Kant’s a-priori transcendental structures here.

Da-sein understands itself in terms of existence, as well. It understands itself through possibilities that come to it through various means; these are existentiell possibilities. These are the possibilities we understand ourselves through; it is an existentiell possibility to be a student.

Rephrased, existentiells are our projects. The stuff we do. They are ontic characteristics specific to Da-sein. Existentials, on the other hand, are what you might think of as our ontological side; the way(s) in which we exist understandingly. One example is mood, attunement.

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 a 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.

Now, 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. In being in a mood, Da-sein is disclosed as that being which it is.

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.” Heidegger himself will suggest a comparison with Kant’s intuitions; we do not have spacial or temporal intuitions because we have the five sense. Kant’s intuitions are, if this can be said, a non-sensual form of sensibility.

Heidegger’s big example of attunement is fear. 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.

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.

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

The final aspect of being in is discourse. This isn’t language - it is the ontological condition of language. That which is disclosed by attunement and understanding is articulated by discourse. Discourse is a shared event; the listener understands the speaker because they are articulating meaning that is already there. Spoken disclosure is to share what is disclosed.

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