I’ve mentioned that I’ve been going through Being and Time with a student volunteer, in anticipation of teaching it. Yesterday we went over chapter 5 of the first division, “Being-in-the-World as Being-With and Being-One’s-Self. The ‘They,'” and there was a line that I found somewhat puzzling (in bold):
The world not only frees the ready-to-hand as entities encountered within-the-world; it also frees Dasein — the Others in their Dasein-with. But Dasein’s ownmost meaning of Being is such that this entity (which has been freed environmentally) is Being-in in the same world in which, as encounterable for Others, it is there with them. We have interpreted worldhood as that referential totality which constitutes significance (Section 18). In Being-familiar with this significance and previously understanding it, Dasein lets what is ready-to-hand be encountered as discovered in its involvement. In Dasein’s Being, the context of references or assignments which significance implies is tied up with Dasein’s ownmost being — a Being which essentially can have no involvement, but which is rather that Being for the sake of which Dasein itself is as it is.
Die Welt gibt nicht nur das Zuhandene als innerweltlich begegnendes Seiendes frei, sondern auch Dasein, die Anderen in ihrem Mitdasein. Dieses umweltlich freigegebene Seiende ist aber seinem eigensten Seins-sinn entsprechend In-Sein in derselben Welt, in der es, für andere begegnend, mit da ist. Die Weltlichkiet wurde interpretiert (§18) als das Verweisungsganze der Bedeutsamkeit. Im vorgängig verstehenden Vertrautsein mit dieser läßt das Dasein Zuhandenes als in seiner Bewandtnis Entdecktes begegnen. Der Verweisungszusammenhang der Bedeutsamkeit ist festgemacht im Sein des Daseins zu seinem eigensten Sein, damit es wesenhaft keine Bewandtnis haben kann, das vielmehr das Sein ist, worumwillen das Dasein selbst ist, wie es ist.
(M&R translation; Section 26; Heidegger’s page 123)
So on the one hand, we have this network of relations (significations, assignments), and on the other hand, something which “can have no involvement.” Musing over it without the benefit of the German text in front of me, I figured that it meant “involvement” precisely in the network of significations, and it does appear that Bewandtnis literally means “explanation” (so that “can have no involvement” would be more of a paraphrase, albeit perhaps not a very felicitous one) — Stambaugh has “a being which cannot be in a relation of relevance” for the bolded phrase.
Hence Dasein’s ownmost meaning of Being does not participate in the network of signification, etc., that we might normally associate with the term “meaning.” Here an analogy with Meister Eckhart occurred to me — there are many passages where he emphasized the fact that there’s no answer to the question, “Why do you want to live?” I want to live because I want to live. Similarly, the search for meanings in the sense of explanations (in the style of “that boat is out there because X. had it made and wants to use it for Y., etc.”) ends. In other words, “Dasein’s ownmost meaning of Being” cannot be interpreted like another entity in the world — which we already knew. But does that make “Dasein’s ownmost meaning of Being” a kind of master signifier or quilting-point for the totality of reference, etc. — a constitutive exception that founds the realm of relevance while being excluded from it?
This formulation also seems to imply an underlying individualism, which has been pointed out by Nancy: “Sure, sure, Dasein is always-already Being-With, but if you want to get at what Dasein really is, you need to get past all that.” The hugely negative and even cynical tone of this chapter (which is one of the things that makes it so appealling, actually!) also contributes to that. The persistent references to what is Dasein’s “own” (a more literal translation of what’s familiar to English-language readers as the “authentic,” eigentlich; I take this point from Nancy as well) or “ownmost” also seem to point toward an underlying individualism — and indeed, such a formulation seems like it would almost inevitably mislead one into thinking of “Dasein’s ownmost meaning of Being” precisely as an object present-to-hand (i.e., as property or as waiting to be appropriated).
Is he undertaking a kind of “deconstruction” of the notion of ownership here? After all, we know that Dasein’s “ownmost potentiality of Being” is precisely death, the moment at which it will cease to exist, will have no Being at all (as Dasein). What is most my own is so radically inappropriable that there will no longer be an “I” to do the appropriating. Similarly, my “ownmost meaning of Being” is a kind of unaccountable brute fact that may be similarly inappropriable in the sense that I can’t “take credit” for it — the fact that I exist in this network of significations and assignments.
If this is what is going on, I wonder if the convention of translating eigentlich as “authentic” might be doubly misleading insofar as it makes the slippage into individualism more likely — if you don’t notice the weird ambivalence of what is “one’s own” and instead have only an unqualifiedly “good” term like authenticity to work with, the deconstructive tension is undermined and you get toward more of a stereotypically existentialist quest to penetrate down to your “authentic self” that is unmediated by others, by language, by cliche, etc., etc.
What do you think?