If you have not heard Rick Roderick lecture you are in for a treat with these lectures that explore how the self our conception of the human has morphed during the 20th century. These are the second set of lecture in the series on Heidegger and the Rejection of Humanism.
- Heidegger developers a powerful account of meaning by recasting traditional talk of the self and the human into an analysis of “Dasein”, literally “being there”. He hopes to discard much of the baggage of the philosophical past in a kind of “deconstruction” that has, and continues to be, very influential with thinkers as diverse as Derrida, Macuse, and Sartre.
- We should not let Heidegger’s infamous connect to fascism blind us to his real insights. It is sad, but true, that even very bad people may have important things to teach us.
- Heidegger does not begin with a “method”. He begins by beginning. He offers a hermeneutic of Dasein, or the historical and cultural self. A hermeneutic is a narrative, a story , whose humans are always already interpreting beings and, from this, the analysis of Dasein can begin.
- In “Being and Time”, Heidegger is guided by the distinction between Being and being. The only priority of human being or Dasein is that we are the beings that ask the question concerning the meaning of Being (what does it all mean?). He is no “humanist”, rather it is Being that draws his concern toward Dasein which he proceeds to analyze across the dimension of time.
- Humans relate to the past by being “thrown” into a world. This means we are socialized and have a language and a view of the self already. Thus, it is impossible to begin without a structure of prejudices as built into our culture and our history.
- Humans relate to the present as “being at home in or not being at home in”. This means that we try to find a satisfying place view of ourselves and out world.
- Humans relate to the future as “being ahead or ourselves” or “on the way to”. This means that we formulate projects and make plans. The fundamental structure thus revealed is that humans are beings who care, who have concern. This can be seen in what they build and do even more than in what they say or think.
- Anxiety before death is the fundamental human mood, since death is the end or our projects and our concern. For Heidegger, authentic existence must not “flee from” this insight into the unthinking mass of people (the “they”), but rather use this insight to give meaning and purpose to our projects. Such projects are “free for” and “free from” the stifling yoke of conformity to “the they” or what other people think.
- Against Heidegger’s powerful account of being human it can certainly be argued that “authenticity” is too abstract as a means to measure our projects. One can be an authentic Nazi , for example, just as well as an authentic Christian. Heidegger gives us absolutely no grounds for choosing one over the other.
- Authenticity will be important in our account of the self, as will care and concern with a project, but it will not be enough to save the self under siege as the case of Heidegger himself makes clear.