The Heideggerian Alternative: Part II


There are various different translations of the word befindlichkeit, e.g. disposedness, affectedness, state-of-mind, where-your-atness etc… None of them completely capture what Heidegger means without importing meaning that is not found in the original German text. Befindlichkeit roughly refers to “being found in a situation where things and options already matter“ (Dreyfus Being-In-The-World Commentary 168). We should not refer to a particular way Dasein finds itself in the world as befindlichkeit (this would instead be a stimmung/mood). Rather, befindlichkeit is a structural element of being-in. It is a kind of background on the basis of which things showing up as mattering is possible. Accordingly, befindlichkeit is an ontological existential condition that things always already matter to us.

A natural example of befindlichkeit is moods. Depending on what mood one is in, different aspects of the world show up. Furthermore, Dasein always finds itself thrown in some mood with things always already mattering. At any given moment one is asked “how is it going?” an answer is always found. Such an answer names a mood in which a Dasein finds itself in. If a Dasein responds “I’m great” then what shows up as mattering for it is perhaps the bright sunshine outside. “Dasein always has a mood”, and even the “balanced lack of mood….is far from nothing” (BT 173). Dasein can never conceive of the moment in which it is thrown into a mood. It is not in control of itself having a mood, nor what the global mood is. Mood is something that Dasein passively receives by way of itself being thrown into it.

Befindlichkeit “discloses Dasein in its throwness” (BT 175). Dasein’s being can show up as mattering to Dasein because of its befindlichkeit. In one sense, Dasein is already what it is, but at the same time it must constantly reach forward in the future to be what it is to be. Dasein is what it is because to some degree its moods and the past determine the way in which it finds itself (i.e. its-there). Nonetheless, it must still take a stand on its being (i.e. its ultimate-for-the-sake-of-which) by using the things in the shared world (i.e. the clearing) that show up as mattering (i.e. its-there), which to some degree is out of its control. Accordingly, Dasein’s essence is facticity because it must take a stand on its being, in light of it already-being-in-the-world. Dasein in this way is a kind of burden to itself (BT 173) because its being always shows up as mattering and impels Dasein to take a stand on it.

One might object that it is true that Dasein always has a mood, but that its mood is something that is within its own mind. Dasein is not in a mood, but the mood is in it and is projected onto the world. Accordingly, what shows up as mattering to a particular Dasein depends on that particular Dasein. Dasein is in complete control of what shows up as mattering since it is all within its own mind. In that way, all that exist are individual worlds within each Dasein’s mind. A response to this objection will shed light on how a Dasein can have its-there, and still be in the clearing, or have a shared sense of a shared world.

A mood is something that Daseins can experience individually and in a shared sense. To clarify how this is possible, we have to look closer at Heidegger’s use of the German word for mood. In Being and Time stimmung is translated as mood. It names any of the ways in which a particular Dasein can be affected (Dreyfus Being-In-The-World Commentary 169). Originally, stimmung in German referred to the tuning of an instrument. With this in hand, Heidegger’s use of stimmung suggests that they are like attunements in that a Dasein can tune into different aspects of it. What shows up as mattering depends on Dasien’s tuning into a stimmung. Accordingly, although the global mood around a man dying from cancer may be somber, the dying man may still find himself in a calm happy mood because he is tuned into that aspect of the global somber mood. What shows up as mattering may perhaps be having family in the final days of life. By way of tuning, Dasein can change its moods (BT 175) such that its individual mood may be qualitatively different from the global mood, but nonetheless still be in the shared global mood.

The dying man’s situation is not neutral, and Dasein does not project some inner representation it has within itself (e.g. its mood) onto the situation. Instead, the situation is a mood that has a limited range of aspects that can be tuned into by individual Daseins in different ways. Nonetheless, there are breakdown cases in which a Dasein cannot tune into a mood properly. For instance, a bipolar individual during a manic episode may not be able to tune into a mood properly. S/he may be extremely depressed or elated, despite there not being any such aspects in the global mood to tune into. This may suggest that moods are something that are internal. However, as Professor Dreyfus suggests, it would be a mistake to say that these breakdown cases reveal what is actually the case because they do not give us any insight into how we are in our everyday lives.

Just as it is possible for two Daseins to be in the same global mood, and yet have different things show up as mattering, it is also possible that two Daseins be in the same shared mood, and have the same things show up as mattering. This is evident in all the different experiences Dasein has with other Daseins on an everyday basis. Now we turn our attention to how we are to understand such Daseins are still in the same shared mood. We turn to the question of how Daseins with their own perspective of a shared mood, can still be in the same shared mood, or have a shared sense of a shared world. To do so we must look at how it is possible for a Dasein to take a stand on its being in the context of a shared mood. In doing so, we will see more clearly how Dasein has its-there, and is in the clearing. Furthermore, we will see why benfindlichkeit is necessary. To do that, let us further explore the case of the dying man.

We can say that both the dying man and his wife are in a shared stimmung. When the dying man initially hears of his imminent death, his whole existence in a sense is thrown out of place. He finds himself thrown into a new stimmung. What seemed important to him no longer seems important. His goals and aspirations quickly vanish, and he is left there mystified. Those closest to him, his wife and his children, are found there with him. For the dying man and his wife, what shows up as mattering now is perhaps making arrangements for the funeral, their family’s future after medical expenses, etc…

Within this context of death and change the dying man and his wife are forced to take a new stand on their being. The ultimate-for-the-sake-of-which for the wife is no longer being a spouse, and for the dying man it is no longer to be a husband. Within the contextual whole they find themselves in, we can include the mood, everything within the hospital environment (e.g. doctors, nurses, the building, etc.), everything within the family unit (wife, children, parents, etc..), and all sorts of ready-to-hand equipment (e.g. morphine, beds, money, etc). Out of this contextual whole, certain things show up as mattering. With what shows up as mattering, the dying man and his wife must take a stand on their being.

The things that are used by the dying man and his wife in order to take a stand on their being is only what it is because of Dasein realizing or projecting possibility such that they can be used as such (e.g. the use of equipment). The doctor’s identity as a doctor (and for that matter all Dasein’s identities) is only possible in relation to his ultimate-for-the-sake-of-which, which is only possible in relation to a range of other equipment, which is only possible in relation to other Dasein and the equipment that allows them to take a stand on their being. The dying man can only take a stand on his being because he finds himself with other Dasein in a world that is already intelligible and that already matters. Accordingly, the doctor (or Dasein in general) and equipment is usable only in relation to the shared world which is already intelligible and which already matters. The dying man and his wife can only take a stand on their being in relation to each other (along with other Dasein) and the contextual whole in which they find themselves in.

All of the above regarding the dying man and his wife taking a stand on their being is only possible due to their befindlichkeit and stimmung that allow the same things to show up as mattering to both of them. What shows up as mattering most primordially is their being. Furthermore, without befindlichkeit and stimmung nothing would show up as mattering. Without befindlichkeit we would not be able to say that there is a contextual whole in which the dying man finds himself in. Moods would have no affect on Dasein. Know-how would be irrelevant. The one (das man) would be irrelevant. Equipment or the ready-to-hand would be impossible. The world would be non-intelligible. The clearing and Dasein’s its-there would be impossible. The reason why things show up as mattering in the way that it does is because of the dying mans situation and of course befindlichkeit.

Dasein can only take a stand on its being if its being shows up as mattering. In the dying man’s case, his imminent death creates a mood in which his being shows up as mattering, and in which other Dasein are forced to take a stand on their being (e.g. the doctors and the dying man‘s wife). The dying man’s situation (i.e. Dasein’s its-there revealed because of benflichkeit) makes possible the use of the shared world. In other words, Dasein finds itself always already in its-there, which impels it and other Dasein to take a stand on their being. In order to do so, they must use what is found in the shared world or the clearing (e.g. ready-to-hand equipment). However, the ready-to-hand equipment in the shared world is only possible in relation to projecting possibility; and projecting possibility is only possible in relation to befindlichkeit. If equipment or options, which are already intelligible, did not show up as already mattering, Dasein would not be able to project possibility, nor take a stand on its being.

What the above analysis has shown is that Dasein is always in the shared world. Dasein must always be with other Dasein in the shared world in order for it to take a stand on its being (i.e. in order for it to be Dasein). Without the shared world, Dasein cannot take a stand on its being, and cannot have its-there. Accordingly, in order for Dasein to have its own perspective of the world (i.e. its-there) at all, it must be in the shared world (i.e. the clearing), and the shared world and Dasein’s being can only show up as mattering because of befindlichkeit. Accordingly, Dasein’s shared sense of a shared world is understandable only in relation to Dasein with other Daseins’ being showing up as mattering such that they must take a stand on it collectively. Understanding Dasein’s shared sense of the shared world, is then only understandable in terms of Dasein-with. This means that only in relation other Dasein in the shared world can any Dasein take a stand on its being. And as I hope to have shown, this is also only possible on a background of things showing up as mattering (i.e. befindlichkeit). Accordingly, befindlichkiet enables Dasein to have its-there, and forces Dasein to be in the clearing.

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