Jonah Swan's Reviews > Being and Time

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
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Jun 07, 2012

it was amazing

Athletes experience a fundamental way of being in the world that they often call "being in the zone." Larry Bird has been quoted as saying that he often didn't realize he had passed the basketball until a moment after he had actually passed it.

Martin Heidegger, father of the study of being, explains that we humans are enmeshed or absorbed in the world in ways that are more fundamental and deeper than our cognitive, intentional, or analytical ways of being; that we move about in the world without consciously guiding each and every step so to speak. We find ourselves opening the refrigerator door unthinkingly or arriving at work after a long drive without thoughtfully guiding our activity at each point along the way. We grab doorknobs, open doors, sit down on chairs, and so forth without cognitively thinking about our movements. We move about in the world seamlessly and effortlessly, not consciously or analytically.

To a trained athlete who has learned the art of a sport, the movements are habitual and instinctual, as when a baseball pitcher throws a fastball or when a batter steps up to the plate, swings, and hits the ball. It's only when an object isn't suitable for us that we actually become consciously aware of it, as for example, if someone were to surreptitiously swap out the ordinary baseball bat with a baseball bat that is too heavy to swing. At that point, the batter may pick up the bat, discover instantly that it isn’t suitable—that it’s too heavy—and would stare at the bat and begin to analyze the situation. Questions might arise in the batter's mind: “Is this someone else’s bat? Did someone play a joke on me? Did someone steal my bat? Where is MY bat?”

Most of the time, we do not analyze our everyday movements; we seamlessly move about in the world as well-accustomed inhabitants of this earthly space. This enmeshed activity is a fundamental way of being that is primary and deeper than our cognitive, intentional, and analytical states of being.

This way of being in the world is not entirely separate from the world as when one engages in detached analysis, studying or analyzing objects as through a microscope. Our enmeshed, non-cognitive activity shows us--discloses us--as inseparably part of the world.

This enmeshed existence in the world is a natural state of being for us. The world is like a wooden latticework and our lives grow as vines that weave themselves through the lattice. One cannot rip out the lattice without disrupting the vines; they have become a single interdependent whole and must be considered together and cannot be considered or analyzed separately and discretely. We have become part of the world and it has become part of us. More importantly, the interwoven nature of the vines and the lattice constitutes the most fundamental and primary way of being. All other states and ways of being are but stems and buds on the vine.

Why does this insight matter? In addition to opposing the Cartesian duality of inner and outer intentional content, Heidegger offers something that sticks. Heidegger matters because thousands of years of philosophical thought, beginning with Plato and culminating in Descartes, have posited humans as rational beings, separate and distinct from the world around us--thinking subjects studying the world of objects around us as though we lived our everyday lives as detached philosophers and scientists. Heidegger shows us that that we are in the world in ways that cannot be detached or extricated from the essence of our being. This enmeshed existence shows up when we do seek to analyze the world. Sometimes imperceptibly, this enmeshedness shows up in our inclinations and our leanings and prejudices to see the world in a certain way. Thus, even our analytical state of being grows out of this enmeshedness as buds on the vine, but we are often unaware of this when making our analysis.

Heidegger hits a home run because he places brackets on Cartesian thinking and appropriately limits the school of thought that seeks to comprehensively explain the human condition by objective reason and scientific inquiry. And yet, Heidegger misses so much on point and consequently, his analysis is incomplete, and in some cases, this incompleteness evidences an analysis that half reveals and half conceals our actual being in the world.
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02/03/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by Geoff (new) - added it

Geoff Lovely! From someone now seriously approaching this text - thank you.

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