Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Heidegger and the I

In section 26 of Heidegger's Being and Time:
When others are encountered, it is not the case that one's own subject is proximally present-at-hand and that the rest of the subjects, which are likewise occurents, get discriminated beforehand and then apprehended; nor are they encountered by a primary act of looking at oneself in such a way that the opposite pole of a distinction first gets ascertained. They are encountered from out of the world, in which concernfully circumspective Dasein essentially dwells. Theoretically concocted 'explanations' of the Being-present-at-hand of Others urge themselves upon us all too easily; but over against such explanations we must hold fast to the phenomenal facts of the case which we have pointed out, namely, that Others are encountered environmentally. This elemental worldly kind of encountering, which belongs to Dasein and is closest to it, goes so far that even one's own Dasein becomes something that it can proximally 'come across' only when it looks away from 'Experiences' and the 'centre of its actions', or does not as yet 'see' them at all. Dasein finds 'itself' proximally in what it does, uses, expects, avoids -- in those things environmentally ready-to-hand with which it is proximally concerned.

And even when Dasein explicitly addresses itself as "I here", this locative personal designation must be understood in terms of Dasein's existential spatiality. In Interpreting this we have already intimated that this "I-here" does not mean a certain privileged point -- that of an I-Thing -- but is to be understood as Being-in in terms of the "yonder" of the world that is ready-to-hand -- the "yonder" which is the dwelling-place of Dasein as concern.

W. von Humboldt has alluded to certain languages which express 'I' by 'here', the 'thou' by 'there', the 'he' by 'yonder', thus rendering the personal pronouns by locative adverbs, to put it grammatically. It is controversial whether indeed the primordial signification of locative expressions is adverbial or pronominal. But this dispute loses its basis if one notes that locative adverbs have a relationship to the "I" qua Dasein. The 'here' and the 'there' and the 'yonder' are primarily not mere ways of designating the location of entities present-at-hand within-the-world at positions in space; they are rather characteristics of Dasein's primordial spatiality. These supposedly locative adverbs are Dasein-designations; they have a signification which is primarily existential, not categorial. But they are not pronouns either; their signification is prior to the differentiation of locative adverbs and personal pronouns: these expressions have a Dasein-signification which is authentically spatial, and which serves as evidence that when we interpret Dasein without any theoretical distortions we can see it immediately as 'Being-alongside' the world with which it concerns itself, and as Being-alongside it spatially -- that is to say, as desevering and giving directionality. In the 'here', the Dasein which is absorbed in its world speaks not towards itself but away from itself towards the 'yonder' of something circumspectively ready-to-hand; yet it still has itself in view in its existential spatiality.