Death and Philosophy

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

11

DEATH AND AUTHENTICITY

Julian Young

Nothing concerning Being and Time1 is better known than that it talks a great deal about death, and about authenticity, and that the two discussions are intimately linked. But just what is the connection between the two phenomena that Heidegger proposes? Here is a familiar account of the discussion that runs from about §27 to about §60, a discussion in which (if anywhere) the answer to this question is to be found.

The individual, ‘Dasein’, is, suggests Heidegger, complex. It comprises an ‘I-self’ and a ‘One-self’. Mostly it is inauthentic. Its actions, that is, are ‘driven’, determined, not by autonomous choice but by public opinion, by, as Heidegger calls it, das Man—‘the They’ or (better) ‘the One’. In inauthenticity the One becomes the self. In thought, feeling, desire, judgement and action the I-self is ‘dissolve[d]’ 2 away so that one becomes a mere function of the One, a pure conformist: ‘we take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as One does; we read, see, and judge about literature as One sees and judges; likewise we shrink back from the “great mass” as One shrinks back; we find “shocking” what One finds shocking’. 3

The reason we are mostly inauthentic is twofold. First we are subject to a ‘levelling’ pressure from the One, a pressure to conform. Das Man seeks to exercise a kind of ‘dictatorship’, 4 to ensure that each individual remains ‘average’. But second, the individual itself has a distinct inclination to go along with the demand for averageness, to think, act and feel as a function of the One. For we are subject to an intense concern for our ‘distantiality’, 5 a concern that we should never stray far from social norms. This might be regarded as simply a brute fact—as social beings we just are norm-followers—but is not so regarded by Heidegger. Our concern to submit to the pressure to conform is based on the pay-off that we receive: giving in to the pressure is ‘tranquillizing’ 6 since in becoming a function of the One one is ‘disburdened’ 7 of a disturbing weight which anyone who lives as an ‘I-self’, as an individual, must bear. This weight, says Heidegger, is death; the inexorable mortality of every individual. In its most fundamental description, therefore, inauthentic life is a flight from death.

But while ‘tranquillized’ inauthentic life is not properly tranquil, for the I-self, though repressed, is not eradicated. It makes its claim on Dasein’s being,

-112-

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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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