Being "Authentic": The Ethical Implications of Heidegger's Fundamental Ontology in Being and Time

Chang, Shae
Odin, Steve
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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Throughout his writings, especially in Being and Time (1927), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) denied that there is an explicit ethics in his system and that there are ethical implications to his account of inauthenticity. Nevertheless, he maintained that, although it lacks moral content, i.e. morally evaluative rules for action, his project of fundamental ontology lays down “the existential conditions for the possibility of any morality whatsoever” (BT 332/286). This ties into the necessity and importance Heidegger saw in his analysis of Dasein (what Heidegger calls the entities that we ourselves each are), namely that it is only in Dasein that Being is disclosed, and that all inquiries and all sciences that do not start from an analysis of human existence are fundamentally groundless and empty. In this project I will argue that, given the way authenticity functions in Being and Time as a clearly preferred mode of Being-in-the-world (as Being-towards-death) to that of inauthenticity, and given Heidegger’s claims that authenticity is a factical ideal of existence--one which is rooted in Dasein itself and not imposed upon it from the outside--and that Dasein’s mineness demands authenticity: ethical implications (by which I mean that it is something “good”, “preferred” for Heidegger that Dasein dwell in this mode) can be drawn from Heidegger’s account of authenticity, despite Heidegger’s own denial of an explicit ethics in his system. I will also argue that the ethical dimension in Heidegger is rooted in Dasein’s becoming master of its moods as that which allows Dasein to respond to the revelations of anxiety by either turning away to flee its Self (inauthentic) or turning towards to own its Self (authentic), rather than in Dasein’s so-called response to the conscience’s call to authenticity as a particular stance one must take on one’s own Being, or in a sense of “Being-with” (Mitsein) as other scholars, such as Vogel, have supposed. This project will involve an analysis of the concepts of Dasein, average everydayness, fallenness, fleeing, authenticity and inauthenticity, freedom, temporality, and dread in Heidegger’s early metaphysical system; a discussion of how everyday inauthentic Dasein becomes authentic as well as the tendency of authentic Dasein to fall back into inauthenticity after having already tasted the “unshakable joy” and “equinamity” of authenticity (BT 396/345, 358/310); an explanation for why Heidegger denies an ethical component in his system; and an argument for why this denial is incorrect by showing not only that Heidegger held authenticity up as an ideal mode of Being-in-the-world, but also that by exploring his claim that “Dasein can, should, and must, through knowledge and will, become master of its modes” (BT 175/136) and how this relates to authenticity. By exploring an often criticized and highly controversial aspect of Heidegger’s early thought, I will attempt to show that if any ethical implications to Heidegger’s early account of authenticity can be drawn, they must be rooted in whether Dasein can become the master of its moods, viz. that of anxiety, rather than either in Dasein’s so-called response to the conscience’s call to authenticity, or in “Being-with”, as other scholars have supposed.
57 pages
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