MARTIN HEIDEGGERS PHENOMENOLOGY OF DEATH.pdf
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By Manuel B. Dy, Jr. Page 1
According to Heidegger, the being of man is a being-in-this-world. Man is primordially directed towards the world. And he has the power-to-be in the world. His being in the world consists in being alongside with things, the reayd-to-hand and the present-at-hand, what Heidegger calls “concern”, and in beign with others, “solicitude”. The being of man is Dasein, “There-being.” “There-being is the There of Being among beings – it lets beings be (manifest), thereby rendering all encounters with them possible.” By being in the world, by being involved in it. Dasein has the power to be. Once thrown into the world, Dasein realizes its own possibilities, it constantly actualizes its potentialities of existence. As such, man is always ahead of himself; in his being he is always ahead of what actually is. Being thrown into the world, he discovers himself there absorbed in things and people, and constantly realizing his own possibilities for being. This is what Heidegger calls ‘Care”, the fundamental structure of Dasein. The primary item in care, therefore, is the ahead-of-itself of Dasein. Dasein as project akways comports itself towards its potentiality for being. There is always something still ‘outstanding’ in man. As long as man exists in the world, his potentiality for being is never exhausted. According to Heidegger, there is always something to be settled yet in man. Man, as long as he IS, has never ereached his “wholeness”. Man always has an unfinished character. Man reaches wholeness in death. In death, man loses his potentiality for being, he loses his “there”. There is no more outstanding in man, everything is finished, settled for him. He is no longer being there. Page 2
What is death for Heidegger? How is death related to the being of man, and what is man’s attitude towards death? Since death is the transition of man from Dasein to no-longer-Dasein, there is therefore the impossibility of experiencing this transition. No one has ever come out from death to tell us about death. How then are we going to describe death? What is Heidegger’s phenomenology of death? Our first experience of death is the death of others. We see, hear, people die. IF man is a being with the other, will death of others give us the objective knowledge about death? But the death of another persosn, Heidegger argues, makes him no longer a person, but a thing, a corpse, although he may be the object of concern for those who remain behind. However, we have no way of knowing the loss of being that the dying man “suffers”. We never experience the death of another as he himself has experienced it. Even if, granted that it is possible for us to analyze the dying of others, we can substitute and represent the dying of any Dasein for another, will our representation be valid and justified? True, representation is one of the possibilities of man as a being with others but representation is always a representation in something. But in death, the totality of man is involved; it Is Dasein coming to an end. Dasein’s dying is therefore not representable. :no one can take the other’s dying away from him.” Death is always mine. It is a peculiar possibility of my being in which my own being is an issue. Mineness and existence are constitutive of death.
Death is therefore the possibility of man, a ‘not-yet’ which will be. And what Is peculiar in this possibility is that it has the character of no-longer Dasein, of no-longer-being-there, and belongs to the particular man, his very own, non-representable. We have said that as long as man exists, he lacks a totality, a wholeness; and this lack comes to its end with death. This lack of totality of man is not the lack of togetherness of a thing which can be completed by piercing together “entities” or parts. This totality and wholeness of man is a ‘not-yet’ of man which has to be. This ‘not-yet’ of man, moreover, is something that is already accessible to him. Dasein, as long as it is, is already its ‘not-yet’. This ‘not-yet’ of Dasein is not like the ‘not-yet’ of unripeness of the fruit. The ripeness of the fruit is the end of it’s lack of ripeness, the end of the ‘not-yet’… Page 3
…of the fruit. As long as the fruit is not ripe, it is already its not-yet. There is, however, a difference between the ripeness of the fruit and the death of man. With the fruit, the ripeness is the fulfillment of its being. In the case of man, on the other hand, in death, man may or may not arrive at his fulfillment. And hhere Heidegger throws a striking remark: Whatt is unfortunate is that “so little is it the case that Dasein comes to it’s ripeness only with death, that Dasein amy will have passed its ripeness before the end. For the most part, Dasein ends in unfulfillment…” Dasein therefore, as long as it exists, is already its end. The end of Dasein is not be understood as beingat-the-end but as being-towards-the-end. Heidegger’s phenomenology of death therefore is not a description of death of an after-life, but man as being-towards-his-end, a being-towards-death. If man is a being-towards-death, and his being in the wolrd has the fundamental structure of care, then the end of man must be clarified in terms of care, his basic state.
Being-towards-death and Care Heidegger defines care as “ahead-of-itself-Being-already-in (the world) as Being-alonside entitites which we encounter (within-the-world)”. Care, in other words, has the following chracterisitics of Dasein’s being: existence, in the ‘ahead-of-itself’; facticity, in the ‘Being-already-in’; and falling, in the ‘Being-alongside’. Beig-towards-death must be understood in these terms. Man, in being ahead of himself, as project, comes to the disclosure of his extreme possibility; the possibility that he will no longer be “there”. Death is the uttermost ‘not-yet’ of man, something towards which he comports himself. Death is not just something that happens to man; it is something that is impending. The impending is not that of a coming of a storm, or the arrival of a friend, or a journey one is going to undertake. The impending of death is distinctive, because it is the possibility which is ownmost; death is mine, something that I have to take over myself. In death, I stand before myself in my ownmost potentiality for being, because the issue in death is no other than my being in the world. Death is the possibility of my no-longer-possible, of no-longer-being-able-to-be-ther; the possibility… Page 4
…of being cut off from others and from things. And this possibility is the possibility that must be, something that I cannot outstrip. My being ahead of myself in my project towards the world with all it’s possibilities reveals to me my uttermost possibility, distinctively impending, because this possibility is my ownmost which cuts me off from others (non-relational) and which I cannot outstrip.
The possibility of my absolute impossibility is not just obtained in my rare moments. As soon as I am born into the worl, I am already thrown into this possibility. I may not be aware of it but the hact that I exist in, I exist with the possibility of fraht. This possibility is revelaed only in the basic mood of man, anziety, in the experience of dread wherein man comes face to face with his potentiality for being. Anxiety is not fera, because fear is concerned with something determinate which threatens my immediate involvement of things. Anxiety is of something indeterminate; what I dread is not an entity, but the world itself, my being-in-the-world. Many indeed are ignorant of death as the possibility which is ownmost, non-relational and cannot be outstripped. They are engrossed in the immediate concern with things, thus covering up their ownmost being-towards-death, fleeing in the face of it. But the fact remains that they are being-towards-death, the man is dying even in his ‘fallenness’, in his being absorbed in the everyday world of concern. Let us describe further this fallenness of being-towards death.
Everyday Being-towards-death – Inauthencity In the publicness of every day’s concern, death is known as a mishap that frequently occurs. The self of the public, the ‘impersonal’ they talk of death as a ‘case of death,’ an event that happens constantly. The ‘they’ hides death by saying, “People die…one of these days one will die too, in the end; but right now it has nothing to do with us.” The ‘they’ realize that death is something indefinite that must arrive ultimately but for the moment, the ‘they’ says, it has nothing to do with us. It is something not yet present at hand, and therefore offers no threat. The ‘they’ says, “one dies”, but the one is nobody, no one will claim that that is I. In this way, the ‘they’ levels off death, makes it ambiguous, and hides the true aspect of this possibility, the mineness, non-relational, and that which cannot be outstripped. Page 5
This inauthentic mode of man of being-towards-death. He loses himself in the ‘they’ and forgets his distinctive potentiality for being. The ‘they’ has a very nice way of hiding the true nature of man’s beingtowards-the-end. When a person is dying, the ‘they’ talks him into the belief that he will not die, that he will recover his normal state of tranquilized everydayness. By tranquilizing death, the neighbors console the dying person and of course themselves. The normal carefreeness of everyday concern must nit be disturbed. To start thinking about death is considered by the ‘they’ as a sign of cowardice, of fear, of insecurity. According to the they, the attitude to the fact that one dies is of indifferent tranquility. For Heidegger, this indifferent tranquility of course means alienation of man from his ownmost non-relational potentiality for being-towards death. Everyday being-towards-death is therefore a “falling”, a constantly fleeing on the face of death. They everyday man is constantly evading death, hiding it and giving new explanations for it. Actually, the everyday man even in his falling attests to the fact that he is a beingtowards-death, although he assures himself in the inauthentic, impersonal ‘they; that he is still living. Even in the mode of tranquilized indifference towards his uttermost possibility of existence man still has his ownmost potentiality for being an issue. The impersonal ‘they’ is also certain of death. The ‘they’ says, “Death certainly comes, but not right away”. The ‘but’…is at the same time a denial of certainty. This is the ambiguous attitude of the ‘they’ with regards to the certainty of death. However, this certainty of the ‘they’ seems to be only an empirical certainty derived from several cases of other people’s death. As long as man remains on this level of certainty, death can never really become certain for him.
But, though man may seem, to talk only of this empirical certainty of death in public, he is really at bottom aware of another higher certainty than that of the empirical, and this is the certainty of one’s own death. The inauthentic man, however evades this higher certainty in carefreeness, in an air of superior indifference. He stops worrying about death and busies himself of the urgency of concern, deferring death as “sometime later.” Thus, he covers up also the fact that death is possible at any moment, the indefiniteness of death… Page 6
…which goes with its certainty. The inauthentic man confers a kind of definiteness upon the indefiniteness of death by intervening it with urgent matters of the everyday. However, inasmuch as he flees from death, the everyday man actually derives his certainty of death from the fact that being thrown into the world is being-towards-death. Death is ever present in the very being of man. What, on the other hand, is the authentic being-towards-death?
Authentic Being-towards-death The authentic response of man in his awareness of being-towards death is not of evasdion, of covering u death’s true implications, nor of giving new expalnations for it. Man msut face the possibility of death as his possibility, the possibility in which his very existence is an issue. Facing the possibility is not actualizing, that is, bringing it to happen. That would be suicide, and suicide demolishes all the potentialities of man instead of bringing them into a whole totality. Nor does it mean that man must brood over death, calculating it: for death is not something one can have at one’s disposal. The authentic being-towards-death is an anticipation of this possibility. By anticipation, man comes close to death, not by making it actual but by understanding it as a possibility of impossibility of any existence at all for him. Anticipation reveals to man that death means the measureless impossibility existence. This projection of his utmost impossibility will provide him with a vision of his own present existence, the latent possibilities lying before him. In authentic being-towards-death, man realized that death is his ownmost possibility, and thus the awareness comes to him of his potentiality for being, for fulfilling himself, his own being. He must therefore wrench himself away from the impersonal ‘they’ and make an individual alone. Death individualizes man, because death does not belong to everybody, but to one’s own self. This individualizing by death reveals the ‘there; of man, his being alongside-things (concern) and his beingwith-others (solicitude). It reveals to man that his concern and solicitude is nothing when his ownmost potentiality for being… Page 7
Is itself an issue in death. Authentic being-towards-death does not mean, however, cutting oneself from all relationships; rather it means projecting oneself upon his ownmost potentiality for being, rather than a possibility of the ‘they’ self. Death is known to the authentic man as non-relational and with this awareness, he as it were understands and chooses his possibility of relations in the light of the extreme possibility of death as non-relational. The authentic man does not outstrip death. His anticipation does not evade death: rather it accepts this possibility. In accepting death as possibility man frees himself. This is to mean that man, by anticipation,
is free for his own death; he is delivered from becoming lost in the possibilities. While before in the “theyself”, he was secure in the impersonal but dictated by it, now in anticipation in accepting death as his extreme possibility, man for the first time, can understand and choose among the possibilities in the light of this extreme possibility. In authenticity, man guards himself from falling into the ambiguous ‘they’ and he is not free to be himself, the person he himself wants to be. His possibilities are now open before him, determined by his end and understood, thus as finite. In anticipation of death as non-relational, man gains an understanding of his potentiality-for-being of others. Since anticipation of this possibility which is not outstripped opens to man all the possibilities for making himself, man now comes to grips of his wholeness in advance. He is now open to the possibility of existing as a whole potentiality-for-being. The certainty of death does not have the character of certainty, which is objective, of the present-at-hand. The certainty of death corresponds to the certainty of being-in-the-world. Thus, when the authentic man holds death for true, what is demanded from him is not just one definite kind of behavior, but full authenticity. In anticipation, man makes certain first his ownmost being in its totality. The indefiniteness which goes with the certainty of death calls for authentic Dasein to open itself to the constant threat arising from its being ‘there’, a being in the world. The state of mind that is open to this constant threat is anxiety. In anxiety, man comes face to face with the ‘noting’ possible impossibility of his existence. What he is anxious about is no other than his potentiality for being. Page 8
Anxiety individualizes man, and it individualizes him, makes him become certain of the totality of his potentialit for being. This authentic being-towards-death is essentially anxiety. Heidegger summarizes this authentic being-towards-death in the following words: Anticipation reveals to Dasein it’s lostness in the the-self, an bring it face to face with the possibility of being itself, primarily unsupported by concernful solicitude, but of being itself, rather, in an impassioned FREEDOM TOWARDS DEATH – a freedom which has been released from the illusions of ‘they’, and which is factical, certain of itself, and anxious.
Karl Rhaner’s Notion of Death Heidegger’s freedom towards death seems to reach a theological development in Karl Rahner. For Rahner, death is not merely something that occurs to man, an event that overtakes him, nor is it an evil that befalls him unexpectedly. Death, for Rhaner, is an act of man, an act of self-affirmation in regards to this acceptance or refusal to be his authentic self. In death, there is no longer any concupiscence on the part of man. By concupiscence Rahner means the evil that lessens the power of man to choose between good and evil; it is the power that prevents man from making a total commitment to either good or to evil. Because of concupiscence, man never makes a total final commitment to the good or to the evil in the course of his life. It is only at death, that his commitment reaches his climax. Death brings a kind of finality, a definity to the life-long decision of man with regards to his destiny. Death should not be taken as an isolated point in the life of man. Rather, it is to be taken as the culminating point of his life, the point where he finally reaches a fulfillment, a totality. Death, in other words is not to be isolated from the other free acts of man; it is understood and I becomes significant only if it is considered against the background of the totality of man’s life. Because in death, the very issue is nother than man’s total being, his total commitment.
As such, death should therefore be present in every free act of man. Every free act of man should carry an awareness of his fulfillment to a commitment, a realization that this one free act helps to build a total decision of his whole being to the good (or to the bad). The very presence of death is in the very being of man. The anticipation of death brings man face to face with the possibility of being itself in an impassioned freedom towards death with the possibility of making an active consummation from within the totality of his being.