Death and Philosophy

By Jeff Malpas; Robert C. Solomon | Go to book overview

10

DEATH AND METAPHYSICS

Heidegger on nothingness and the meaning of Being

Peter Kraus

The issue of death is central to understanding Heidegger’s lifelong enquiry into the ‘meaning of Being’. For Heidegger, however, death does not constitute a subject in itself and it would be wrong to say he developed a philosophy about death. Yet understanding his view of death is nevertheless the key to understanding Heidegger’s philosophy of Being. Moreover this cannot be done without also understanding the connection between death and nothingness. In understanding this connection, and the connection between nothingness and Being, we come to see the way in which understanding the meaning of Being, and with it metaphysics, itself depends upon an authentic grasp of death.


Authenticity and inauthenticity

Being and Time is the principal text in which Heidegger addresses the issue of death. In this work the quest to understand Being is approached through a study of the human way of ‘being-there’, to which Heidegger gives the name ‘Dasein’, and through an analysis of the structures of such ‘being-there’. He makes a famous distinction between authentic and inauthentic modes of Dasein. These two modes are best understood by thinking of ‘authentic’ as signifying that individual character of human being that is compromised by submersion in conventional behaviour and forms of life, which in turn are the result of unqualified conformity to inherited social structures. To be inauthentic means to live merely according to these pre-determined structures and to behave in accordance with everyday conceptions of appropriate social intercourse.

Heidegger denies that the terms ‘authentic’ and ‘inauthentic’ have ‘ethical significance’, claiming that they are purely descriptive, signifying two alternative modes of being a human being. The inauthentic mode covers up the true character of its own being, a being given recognition in authenticity. In Being and Time Heidegger ‘de-constructs’ Dasein from its ordinary inauthentic average everydayness to arrive at Being-towards-death as the determining feature of Dasein’s existence. Authentic Dasein accepts that authentic death is not an

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Death and Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Death and Philosophy 1
  • 2 - My Death 5
  • 3 - Against Death 16
  • 4 - On the Purported Insignificance of Death 22
  • 5 - Death and the Skeleton 39
  • 6 - Death, the Bald Scenario 50
  • 7 - Death as Transformation in Classical Daoism 57
  • 8 - Death and Enlightenment 71
  • 9 - Death and Detachment 83
  • 10 - Death and Metaphysics 98
  • 11 - Death and Authenticity 112
  • 12 - Death and the Unity of a Life 120
  • 13 - The Antinomy of Death 135
  • 14 - Death Fetishism, Morbid Solipsism 152
  • Notes 177
  • References 198
  • Index 203
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