The fundamental concept of Being and Time (Heidegger’s magnum opus) is the idea of Da-sein or “being-there”, which simply means existence, it is the experience of the human being.
The world is full of beings, but human beings are the only ones who care about what it means to be themselves.
“A human being is the entity which in its Being has this very Being as an issue.”
Dasein and human beings are interrelated, without one another, there is no being and no meaning. Existence only exists within our being, and the reality without our being is irrelevant.
If a volcano were to erupt without us being there, would it actually have happened? Heidegger would tell us that it would simply be irrelevant.
“We are ourselves the entities to be analysed.”
Dasein is what is common to all of us, and it is what makes us entities.
Dasein is then not a disembodied, transcendent being, but rather the experience of being that is peculiar to human beings, an inherently social being that already operates with a pre-theoretical grasp of the a priori structures that make possible particular modes of Being.
Heidegger stresses it to be pre-theoretical because a theoretical structure would prevent us from seeing things as they are in themselves. This perspective can then allow things to show as they are in themselves and not through some kind of lens.
He associates Dasein as “Being-in-the-world”, they are often used hand-in-hand. Being-in-the-world is an existential concept that emphasises human existence as a state of living with a highly meaningful orientation. Each individual has a unique destiny to fulfil in this world.
This is an essential characteristic of Dasein. It is defined as an a-priori structure being “grounded” in the state of Being.
Being-in-the-world is Heidegger’s replacement for terms such as object, subject, consciousness, and world.
As mentioned before, Dasein is not a Being that can be observed, how can we then understand it? Heidegger would tell us to study beings, and especially what it is like to be a human being.
We need to look at what is unique about our situation as human beings. But what makes Dasein different from all other beings: rocks, plants, and animals?
To answer this, we must look into the various features of Dasein. These features always remain the same regardless of what time period it is in the world: whether its 1000 B.C. or the 21st century.
Feature 1. Being as an issue
The first feature of Dasein is that it is a “being as an issue for it”. It takes its own being as an issue; for it is ontological being. In other words, it asks questions about its own existence, it is always confronted with the question “what shall I be today, tomorrow or next year?”.
And these questions are to be answered by oneself, he calls it “mineness”. We have no other way of experiencing ourselves or the world as being in any other mode than our own existence.
Feature 2. Care
The second feature is “care or concern”. We not only find ourselves in the world, but we care about it as Being-in-the-world. Heidegger uses the word “care” as a technical term which has to do with our engagement with the world for various purposes.
Things are meaningful by themselves; meaning is not an add-on to existence, but rather the definition of existence. In other words, we are embedded in meaning, and there is no exit from making sense of one’s life.
To be a Dasein is to always be doing something and pointing towards something, to be a being that is constantly engaged in doing tasks that we care about. Therefore, the essence of Dasein is its existence. We are instantly turned into the structures of everydayness and being-in the-world.
What is important is that Dasein is its possibilities, it needs some context within which to work these out. In our case, as the beings that are being analysed, that context is the kind of world we find ourselves in.
Heidegger concludes that “care” is the primordial state of Being as Dasein strives towards authenticity.
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Greatest Philosophers in History | Martin Heidegger
This video explores Heidegger’s key terms as an introduction to his philosophy. Most importantly: Being-in-the-world, ready to hand and present-at hand, facticity, thrownness, existentiality, fallenness, Das Man, temporality, being-toward-death and the fourfold.