Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Two: "Being in the World": The Two-Fold Structure of Everyday Life

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Two: "Being in the World": The Two-Fold Structure of Everyday Life

Article excerpt


By focusing his ontological inquiry on everyday human existence (Dasein) and by extrapolating both the implicit understanding of being and Dasein's ontological relation to being from Dasein's everyday fields of meaning, Heidegger has no intention of claiming that his conclusions are thus limited to everyday frameworks of meaning. On the contrary, Heidegger wishes to extract from Dasein's everyday existence the ontological structures which constitute it, thereby uncovering the general meaning of being. Indeed, the ontological inquiry stems from everyday life, but its goal, however, is to reveal the fundamental, ontological structures embedded in it.

Throughout the philosophical tradition, the common answer to the question, "what is the essence of something?", resorted to the difference between the manner in which an object is perceived and that in which it exists in actuality. Another way of understanding this attitude relates to the claim that the world is constantly changing. If the world of phenomena is in constant flow, how are we to determine the essential properties of things? The underlying assumption here is that truth is constant, unchanging and determined, while the visible world is decreed transitory, even outright false. By approaching the question of the essence of things from this angle, we disjoin object and thing. Another way of construing the tension between a thing's appearance and its essence is manifest in the problem of multiplicity, that is, the legitimacy of conferring a single name upon a multitude of phenomena. What is the singular element which, though not necessarily integral to a phenomenon, still allows us to refer to a group of phenomena as such? Clearly, this is another occasion in which the truth or essence of a given object is perceived as external to it or beyond it.

Heidegger is not after a specific content which could serve as the essence of this or that phenomenon. Rather, he aims to uncover the very structure which sustains phenomena in general. He approaches the question of essence by considering it as part and parcel of the thing's field of appearance, in no way disjoining the thing as it appears from what it really is.11 In order to elucidate the merits of phenomenology as the appropriate method to disclose the ontological structure embedded in everyday life, Heidegger calls attention to the word's etymology (phenomenology being the logos of phenomena). The Greek Togos' could be translated in several ways: logic, judgment, idea, definition etc. Heidegger (1996) retraces the Greek origins, through which the root of the word Togos' carries the notion of language (Rede, in German) in the sense of speech or discourse: "Logos as speech really means deloun (ôriÀxmv), to make manifest 'what is being talked about' in speech" (p. 28).

By this he means that the fundamental purpose of dialogue is to communicate the subject of conversation, the being of that which is said, the manner in which this subject actually exists. Alternately, this could be explained in contrast to the notion that truth is the correlation between our assumptions or judgments about an object and the object itself. Heidegger argues that those who side with this solution for elucidating the meaning of discourse fail to notice the simple (or everyday) fact that judgment could apply to a certain object, or fail to do so, only after that object has been revealed as a being by the person performing the act of judgment.

The other part of the word, 'phenomenon', finds its origin in the Greek phainomenon, which is derived from the verbal infinitive phainesthai, "to show itself': "Thus phainomenon means what shows itself, the selfshowing, the manifest" (Ibid, p. 25). The phenomenon, as Heidegger describes it, is something revealed, and as such, must be construed as hitherto concealed. When we observe a particular phenomenon, we are necessarily taking part in a process through which it is revealed to us after having been hidden. …

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