Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Going Beyond Fragmentation 10 - Healing the split between Self and the World Continued

Looking a little closer at Heidegger's Thoughts:

My Housing Estate after a little Snow!
When we look closer at humankind's being-in-the-world, Heidegger says, we find that we are pulled all over the place by desires and worldly concerns to such an extent that we become inauthentic or untrue to our real self.  We are subject to what he calls the "Das Man,"  that anonymous social sphere of what "one" should do, say and think.  Then, the great unsettling question hits us - the thought of our own death, our own finitude, our own extinction.   Or as the great Scottish lexicographer Samuel Johnson put it: "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

The thought of our extinction focuses our mind, heart, soul or psyche - call it what you will here.  When I grasp the essential point that I am mortal or a being-towards-death, then and only then do I fully assume the responsibility for living my life as well.  In this sense, after sufficient contemplation of my mortality I accept who I am and choose to live out my life as authentically as I can.  Levine contends that there is an essential affinity here between Winnicott's thought and that of Heidegger. "The worldly character of Dasein is akin to the transitional space of which Winnicott speaks.  Just as authentic Dasein is in the world, so psychological life for Winnicott is carried out in the transitional space between self and other." (Levine, Poiesis, pp 36-37)

One cannot but agree with Levine's take on both Winnicott and Heidegger and it is his take, not mine, as I have only read theese latter two in secondary sources.  Our author insists that Winnicott's distinction between the true and false self-systems is similar to Heidegger's distinction between authentic and inauthentic existence.  Inauthentic existence is where I do not really know myself, or where much of me lies hidden from myself.  Hence, it is only when I experience a personal breakdown (in which I am confronted with my sheer mortality and finitude, that I can somehow find my own truth.  To be striving to please others, to do what society alone expects of me is to live according to what Heidegger calls "Das Man."  To do so I choose not to be, to live a lie or a sort of half-life, or half-death indeed, in which I do not confront the terror or experience the joy of existence.

Heidegger - Anti-semite Nazi, but good philosopher!!
In short, in keeping with the tenor of our last post what Winnicott and Heidegger are arguing against is a totally one-sided psyche, that is one either totally rooted in the interior life (subjectivist and even solipsist) or the polar opposite, a psyche which is rooted in exteriority or in the outside (objectivist, the daily routine, the routinized world of soul-destoying monotony.)  Rather, they are both arguing that it is in the between-space that real authenticity lies.  Once again interiority is the Romantic emphasis while exteriority is the Enlightenment emphasis.

The most important thing for Heidegger is the act of speaking one's own authentic truth, and he calls this the very poetry of existence.  In fact we all live a poetic existence when we are true to our real self.  We find our home in the world only when we make it our own by the power of our imagination.  Now this transformative activity he calls "poiesis" or "Dichtung."  In the later Heidegger poiesis is the act by which truth is placed in a work.

To be continued

1 comment:

michael- said...

Great post Tim. Heidegger sometimes seems like an inexhaustible source of insight.


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