Da-Sein’s Body: Between Heidegger on Being and Anders on Having

Babette Babich

Fordham University


Reading between Heidegger’s 1927 Being and Time and Anders’ 1928 Über das Haben. Sieben Kapitel zur Ontologies des Erkenntnis, the current essay undertakes to raise Anders’ question of the body, quite specifically as Anders writes in his title chapter, subtitled, (Posse und Possessivum), “Wir haben ein Leib. Wir haben. [We have a body. We have.]” Exploring the erotic in this connection along with other still more ontic afflictions of the body, permits Anders to criticize Heidegger’s ‘pseudoconcreteness.’ A reading of Reiner Schürmann’s discussion of Heidegger, the question of the ‘who’ of Dasein but also the economic, via ‘Dasein as proprietor,’ allows a discussion, via Anders, of Heidegger on neediness.

“The body,” almost from the beginning, so Friedrich Nietzsche reflects towards the end of his own conscious, writerly life, in his 1888 Götzen-Dämmerung, Twilight of the Idols, has been trouble for philosophy: “infected with every error of logic there is,” the body has the impudence to behave “as if it actually existed!...” (Nietzsche 1981, 35) Interrogating the ‘Being-question’ as Heidegger poses this question as a forgotten question in Being and Time, “Dasein is an entity whose Being has the determinate character of existence” (Heidegger 1962, 34). Given that “Dasein is in itself ‘ontological’, because existence is determinate for it,” Heidegger’s ‘Being question’ turns out to be a question Dasein is exceptionally able to parse: “Dasein also possesses — as constitutive for its understanding of existence — an understanding of the Being of all entities of a character other than its own.” (Ibid.)

Fine and fair — Heidegger would seem to have covered both the ontic and the ontological. But indicting Heidegger’s “pseudo-concreteness,” Günther Anders objects that neither “toothaches” nor “sex” make an appearance in Being and Time.1 To be sure, Heidegger’s analysis presupposes bodily involvement, if not altogether straightforwardly (Theodore Kisiel spent several essays trying to unpack this),2 quite as part of Dasein’s very intentional and not less embodied possibilities of being-in-the-world, especially where Heidegger singularizes the inquiry (as opposed to distinguishing between kinds/types of Dasein), the very Being at issue for Dasein “is in each case mine.” (Ibid., 67)

In his 1928 Über das Haben, Anders thus follows Heidegger’s impetus: the body is key, reflecting that the body, quite as distinguished from ready-to or present-at-hand, things, made or natural, is “conditio sine qua non” (Anders 1928, 88).3 At issue for Anders is the phenomenological argument that the body is almost never in its ‘totality” a datum for consciousness per se: “body is simply had [Leib wird schlechthin gehabt].” (Ibid.) Anders’ questioning project of the meaning of having with respect to both Being and the body is not only phenomenologico-ontological but aesthetico-epistemological: concerned with appearance, quite specifically with feigning of fictions, illusion. Investigating what is given in what is represented as what it is not: the non-genuine [Unecht], Anders’ concern, via Husserl, is with artistic, lyrical-literary and musical perception.

The factical dimension that is Dasein’s So-sein is differentiated with regard to an array of particularities in addition to gender is not about its what but, as Heidegger explains, qua Dasein, “about its Being.” (Heidegger 1962, 67) For this reason, “one must always use a personal pronoun when one addresses it: ‘I am,’ ‘you are.’” (68) This would seem to point to the question concerning Dasein qua mitsein, that is being-with other Dasein, within the world.4

As Schürmann righly underlines, Heidegger never relinquishes the Being question in Being and Time. Thus

Das Dasein, i.e., the Being of humanity is in common as in philosophical ‘definition’ comprehended as ζῷον λόγον ἔχον, the living being whose being is essentially determined by the capacity for speech. (Heidegger 1962, 48)

To use today’s popular convention, Dasein’s pronouns, quite for the most part, are they/them.

For Heidegger:

Proximally, it is not ‘I’, in the sense of my own Self, that ‘am’, but rather the Others, whose way is that of the “they.” … Proximally Dasein is “they” and for the most part it remains so. (167)

Although it is Anders (the husband) as opposed to Heidegger (the lover) who invoked both sex and toothaches, Giorgio Agamben has reminded us we ought not read Heidegger apart from love5 and I have argued that love is inseparable from Heidegger’s complex relationship with Arendt.6 I will come back to Heidegger’s own disclosure of this claim as Ludwig Binswanger (1948) also advances it. Here, given the intersection of husbands/wives/lovers, Bazon Brock, the shock artist-philosopher, has informed the present author that Elfriede confided in him regarding Heidegger’s impotence. One may find this ludicrous and perhaps one should: given the source — Brock specializes in provocation as a Fluxus conceptual artist — but it is no more ludicrous/embarrassing as ontic bodily details go, than is Anders’ letter to the publisher [Suhrkamp] regarding Alma Mahler-Werfel’s autobiography (she of the famous ‘Alma Problem’ in Mahler scholarship) to check the report, ‘attested by his wife,’ here as an indirect source, of “Werfel’s bedwetting.” (Anders 2022, 47)

Brock’s gossip — I’ll come back to this — is an instance, ‘picture book’ or nearly, of Gerede, thus to be distinguished from Agamben’s classically hermeneutic reflection on love. What bears reflection, and I have written on this elsewhere as has, indirectly, Bill Richardson via Lacan and Marilyn Monroe (Babich 2019; Richardson 1987), Heidegger supposes himself to have explicated ‘love.’ The particularity of Heidegger’s voice is as personal and as reflexive as the tone of Bazon’s remarks. In his Zollikon Seminars, speaking to psychoanalysts and psychologists, Heidegger contends that he has been under- or misread, specifically by Binswanger who took up the notion of Dasein for his own purposes (Binswanger 1942) as Heidegger writes:7

You can see this from the fact that there is a ‘supplement’ to Heidegger’s gloomy care [düstere Sorge] in Binswanger’s lengthy book on the fundamental forms of Dasein. It is essentially a treatise on love, a topic that Heidegger has supposedly neglected. (Heidegger 1994, 115)8

The Body and Dasein as the Human: Who, then, is Dasein?

Is ‘Dasein,’ as Husserl claimed and as many today might also argue, simply another word for the human being? Does Dasein correspond to Heidegger’s (scholastically tinged) ‘anthropology,’ as Husserl charged and as it would take Anders to demonstrate (negatively)9 or Heidegger’s psychologism?10 For readers in a transhuman and posthuman era, such associations convict Heidegger of an unfashionable ‘humanism.’ We need to be cautious given the countercharge as this reigned for time, for the French humanist existentialists of Heidegger’s era, as Jean Beaufret wrote to Heidegger in a post-war letter, that Heidegger had failed to think the human to begin with.11

For his own part, Heidegger increasingly opted to hyphenate Da-Sein, foregrounding the shift from ‘existence’ as generically parsed to the specific ‘there’ — or even ‘here’ — of being.

In his brief lecture notes on Being and Time, Schürmann (2008) highlights what belongs to the being that is Dasein, that is: what this being has. It was this distinction inspired Husserl, to write “on the first page of his copy of Being and Time: ‘Ist das nicht Anthropologie?’” (56).

Critically opposing a reading of Heidegger in terms of philosophical anthropology, post-Jaspers and post-Sartre, yielding a “so called ‘ontology of human existence’” (ibid.) — i.e., reading Heidegger as most scholars tend to read him as existentialist (a designation Heidegger repeatedly refused), Schürmann, who is more careful than most, clarifies that

What Heidegger aimed at overcoming in Being and Time was the traditional understanding of man as one entity, one res, among others — endowed, not with chlorophyll as some plants, nor with wings or fins as some animals, but with “animal rationale.” Man is that living being that possesses reason (or speech, this this is the Latin version of Aristotle’s ζῷον λόγον ἔχων). Quite correctly, Being and Time was and continues to be seen as an attack against the uncritical division of things into those that are merely physical and those that also have a mind, into extended things and thinking things. (Schürmann 2008, 56).

If it is certainly true that Heidegger influences what becomes French existentialism together with thenand current trends in philosophical anthropology, Heidegger’s own project may be reduced to neither and hence Schürmann underlines that Heidegger’s concern exceeds “the philosophy of subjectivity.” (Ibid., 57) The same Schürmann who insists on using the term “man” in his notes, a term which was only in part automatic in his day (not every author did this), observes that “Dasein means that man cannot be understood without his world, and correlatively that the world is always man’s world.” (Schürmann 2008, 57).12

Dasein holds the key to Being and Time, at least so Heidegger argues (for the Being question) and substantively as Schürmann observes:

…out of the 83 sections of Being and Time, 75 deal with an analysis of what Heidegger calls “Dasein”, for which there seems to be no English equivalent. (Schürmann 2008, 57).

A tour de force of a paragraph elaborates what Heidegger does with the subject, by way of Kant and Hegel but also Schelling and Kierkegaard to remain us that

Dasein is thrown into the world, but there is no thrower. In its process (Vollzug), the subject, considered in itself, is now utterly finite. This, as we shall see, is the meaning of “wholeness or “totality” (Ganzheit). Ganzheit is not the sum total of traits belonging to Dasein, but its finite autonomy; its utter facticity, with no recourse to an infinite subject. Thus the title of Heidegger’s book, Being and Time, becomes clear. The meaning of the subject’s Being is time, the subject’s Being cannot be referred back to anything other than Dasein, out of which it would then “enter” into time. (57-58)

Sexless Dasein: Günther Anders on the Economy of Dasein as ‘Proprietor’

In sum, Anders offers an uncompromising critique of Heidegger’s thinking overall and specifically regarding the body (thus the language of the ‘pseudo-concrete”). Anders’ ad hominem criticisms regarding sex (and toothaches) foreground the limits of Heidegger’s philosophic reflections when it comes to Sorge, human concerns and human afflictions, emphasising Heidegger’s inattention to the socio-economic order where Heidegger, and this is for Anders the occasion of an unavoidable conceptual dissonance, emphasizes the very economic language of Sorge [care] in Being and Time. This plays into Anders’ Frankfurt School terminology of “consumption” in his writing of The Antiquatedness of Humanity [Die Antiquirtheit des Menschen], (1956 and cf., esp., 1980, 432) describing the human being as an ‘eater’ — indeed: precisely as, with menacing overtones, Yuval Noah Harari. The parallel with the globalist lingo of ‘useless eaters’ is neither an accident nor, to paraphrase the point if not the focus of Lacoue-Labarthe (1989). In the 1979 introduction to Anders’ second volume on The Antiquatedness of Humanity, writing on “the three industrial revolutions,” referencing a television ad for butter in the process, riffing on both Kant’s thalers and Heidegger’s ‘standing reserve, as a variation on the fictive philosophical ‘mountain of gold,’ Anders explains that,

99 percent of all products, most of them — even those scarcely to be named artificial, like the butter stacked high as a mountain of butter and which celebrates its easy digestibility — have a hunger to be consumed, since they can and dare depend solely on a corresponding human hunger. So that accounts can balance, i.e., so that production may continue, we have to manufacture and insinuate between the product and human, a subsequent product (of a second degree) called demand. Formulated from our perspective: in order to be able to consuming products we need to need them. However, since this necessity does not naturally arise in us (like hunger), we have to produce it; and this must be done by way of a specific industry, by means of which of particular means of production, mechanically produced for this purpose, and which are now third degree products. (Anders 1980, 16)13

With reference to Heidegger, Anders writes:

As a matter of fact, Heidegger’s trick consists in re-coining every possibilitas into potestas, every Möglichkeit into Macht. . . . It is very characteristic, indeed, that the words “Eigentum” (property) and “Eigentlichsein” (being proper, authentic being) stem from the same root. The “Dasein” that, according to Heidegger, first finds itself as stranded good (“cast into the world”) becomes authentic by making itself its own proprietor. (Anders 1948, 352)

As Anders explains in a footnote, “All want is wanting; thus sex, too.” (Anders 1948, 346; cf. Anders 1980, 432)

Accordingly, Heidegger’s Being-in-the-world manages to give us, hands or no hands, despite Heidegger’s reference to the very bodily orientation of houses and rooms and desks and windows in the world or to streets and railroad platforms exposed to the weather, does not highlight the body-as-lived by beings who actually ‘have’ bodies subject to “concupiscientia” and “toothaches.” Anders refers to sexuality to refer to everything enfleshed:

One is tempted to vary the famous French word “ni homme ni femme, c’est un capucin” into: “ni homme, ni capucin, c’est un Dasein.’” (Anders 1948, 349)

For Anders, the capuchin, the monkishness of Dasein is not nugatory:

Heidegger retires into the cloister of his own Self, in order to become "authentic Dasein"; since he does not know of any way of becoming “authentic” within a definite world, a society; since, on the other hand he can’t help continuing to live in this world which, so to speak, continues "in spite," it is bound to become “alien” to him: i.e., again and again it will have to “nichten” [vanish]. (Ibid., 345)

I said it was gnostic. The same concern, a Cartesian reflex, permits Anders to argue that Heidegger’s Dasein happens ‘never to sleep.’ (Ibid., 349)

Three decades later, Anders repeats the point, emphasizing in a footnote to the text already cited that the “economy [Wirtschaft]” is just as absent from Heidegger’s Being and Time “as hunger and sexuality,” now reducing (the still economically tuned) ‘care’ [Sorge] to “a gloomy ‘existential’” (1980, 432) [Remember Heidegger’s reference in the Zollikon Seminars to düstere Sorge.]

Anders had good reasons for his sustained conflicts with Heidegger given the triangle between himself and his former teacher with another of Heidegger’s students — they first met in Heidegger’s class — Anders’ ex-wife: Hannah Arendt. It is in this context that Anders’ metaphor reads Dasein as quasi-Augustinian “angel”— which last is exactly, and by Augustinian definition, sexless:

Nowhere is it mentioned that Dasein has (or is) a body; nowhere, that it has, as it was called in more than two thousand years of philosophy, a twofold nature. rather than a being as the human being had been for more than two thousand years of thinking. (Anders 1948, 348-349)

To all this there is also the question of erotic impotence likewise already broached above, as the Fluxus artist (and aesthetician-provocateur), Bazon Brock maintains to have been, as noted that he, in the way of third hand accounts, confided to the author concerning Heidegger’s ‘problem.’ On Brock’s account, Elfriede claimed not to have been especially worried about Arendt other than quite 'generally'. Here the clerical notion implicit in Anders account, an effective monkishness or derelict celibacy, intrudes. According to Elfriede, Heidegger after a bout of extreme illness, grippal, Covidial we could say today, recovered his health but not, as one is rarely the ‘same’ after recovering from any illness, his sexual potency. Such details support Heidegger’s qualms about biography but scuttlebutt (and this is that) can be useful when it comes to talking about the place of sex for Heidegger,14 whether one’s concern is with ‘sexing’ Dasein or casting aspersions as the agit-artist (i.e., Brock) suggests that Heidegger’s wife, after his death (thus the parallel above with Alma as Anders makes this, for which we surely need at least a Tom Lehrer song),11 maintained with respect to Heidegger who, rather like a rock star, is famed for having had a good number of infidelities (i.e., not just Arendt). This means that none of us will want to believe what Brock reports. As in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, we always go with the fiction. But the bodily fact of impotence would make no difference to his record infidelity and this should be emphasized. Sexual potency, orgasms and such, none of this, as most women are well-aware, both for their own part and on the part of their male companions, though this gets less attention, so discrete do women tend to be (when they are not Elfriede) in marriage, for better or for worse, or in the having/not having of an affair. As Paul Feyerabend writes in his posthumous memoir, Killing Time, being constitutionally incapable as he physician caused impotence (wounded during the war, they botched two surgeries), such ontic potency has nothing to do with having an affair or being married (Feyerabend would marry three times).

There is more.

In addition to abolishing, quite in addition to the ontological difference, the difference between body and spirit, Anders counts off the roster of Heidegger’s omissions: of “caritas, or friendliness, or duties, or the state” (Anders 1948, 349) For Anders, Heidegger’s Dasein is made to order for capitalist self-realization.

There is a repetition in the printed version but what is important are the gnostic elements and Anders reminds us that Heidegger’s account is very Horatio Alger:

It should be noted, however, that Heidegger’s description, as it stands, presupposes that “Dasein” comes to the world as a nobody, and that, what happens to it, is up to none but to itself — in short: it applies to the historical type of the self-made man, not to man in general — though to a self-made man who has no longer the opportunity to rise in the world, thus to an acosmistic selfmade man. (Anders 1948, 353)

Anders began, this should be emphasized as it is easy to miss, as an over-enthusiastic Heideggerian, to the extent, this can happen with students, of annoying Heidegger with his enthusiasm, and to some extent, so I would argue (Babich 2022), Anders remained so in spite of his negativity. Thus Anders offers a reading of Heidegger that varies Husserlian intentionality (a Husserlian move) by using the example note above of hunger and its manufacture.

As he develops his reflections, Anders reminds us that the word of God, to which Israel and the entire Judaeo-Christian world have been listening for millennia is no kind of disembodied speech but using acoustic terminology, Anders offers a phenomenology of listening, to speak of listening, zuhören to what is a ‘telephone voice’ (here there are overtones with owning and belonging).16 As Anders muses, desire qua desire is difficult to maintain quite as Jacques Lacan underlined in his seminars in Paris: an imperative something.17 With respect to desire, Anders writes: “So far as a creature is ‘needy’ (and that it is constantly, since it depends on world), it has not what it should have.” (Anders 1948, 347) This is of course related with considerable, if idiosyncratic, humour (and considerable early Frankfurt School insight) regarding where Heidegger begins and ends: “before economy and machine: in the middle ‘Dasein’ is sitting around, hammering its ‘Zeug’ and thereby demonstrating ‘Sorge’ and the renaissance of ontology.” (Ibid.)

This difficulty, referring to “economy and machine,” yielded the strangely necessary and inherently ambiguous prayer as Anders repeats it: “Give us this day our daily hunger.” (Anders 1980, 16) Today’s economy is a consumer’s economy of end products “which are no longer means of production, but means of consumption, that is: means as such that are consumed by being used up, like breadstuffs or grenades.” (Anders 1980, 15) The age of surveillance — we call that AI today but that is just your laptop, your cell-phone, the smart meter in your home and the street lamp on your street — is simply the latest iteration. Beyond the routine contradictions of capital as might be noted by Marxists of the day (then and now), what was evident especially in the United States as in postwar Western Europe, animating Herbert Marcuse’s notion of “repressive desublimation,” entailed that, for Anders, a concerted “effort to maintain production via consumption, at least in capitalism is today’s ‘concern’ [‘Sorge’],” a concern he could attribute to Heidegger “as an existential melancholy.” (Ibid.)18

1 See Anders 1948 but see also Anders 1980. There has been some reception of Anders’ remark not usually, alas, leading scholars to undertake to read Anders more broadly but for their own purposes as the suggestion that there might be no sex in Heidegger is salacious enough. See Sommer 2007 who foregrounds the religious capuchin orders by emphasizing Anders’ indictment of Heidegger as a «paulinisme sécularisé» and Drouillard 2018 as well as Babich 2022; 2019.

2 See for example Kisiel 2002 and, latterly, 2014 which, intriguingly, Kisiel took to instantiate things as seemingly non-corporeal as GPS but which as Anders himself would also emphasize can completely captivate bodily being in the world such that even pre-GPS Anders argued that a couple walking alongside the Seine or the Hudson (his example) with a transistor radio were on a ‘radio leash,’ as if they were dogs following a signal. See my “Transistor Radios and Media Überveillance: From Anders’ ‘Radio-Leash’ to Contact Tracing” in Babich 2022, 168f.

3 Acknowledging his debt to Anders (as Stern), Gabriel Marcel takes this up for his own different purposes in Être et avoir (Marcel 1949).

4 Today we could say that what is at stake is Dasein’s pronouns quite in addition to Dasein with and alongside natural (present at hand) and natured (ready to hand) things in the world. For Heidegger, “We perceive presencing in every simple, sufficiently unprejudiced reflection on things of nature (Vorhandenheit) and artifacts (Zuhandenheit). Things of nature and artifacts are both modes of presencing.” Heidegger 1972, 7.

5 Agamben 1999 and see too Perrin 2009.

6 See Babich 2006 and 2011 as well as Babich, “Speaking of Hannah” in 2010.

7 The phenomenological approach to psychotherapy had already been broached as early as 1912 by Jaspers (1968).

8 Heidegger distinguishes his approach from competing approaches taking their inspiration from his notion of Dasein, to ask himself, with reference to himself, whether “Binswanger’s ‘psychiatric Daseinsanalysis’ forms a section of Heidegger’s analytic of Dasein?” (Heidegger 1994, 115), contending that Binswanger himself had been compelled to admit that “he misunderstood the analytic of Dasein,” (ibid.) a ‘happy fault’ that Binswanger assessed as a “productive misunderstanding” (ibid.; cf. here as well Binswanger 1958, Brencio 2015, Schrijvers 2017, and, again, Babich 2019).

9 Stern/Anders 1937. See also the compilation of Anders’ writings on philosophical anthropology edited by Christian Dries and Henrik Gätjens, Anders 2018 as well as, for discussion, Bajohr 2019 and for a related essay, Bajohr 2011.

10 See for the relation between these charges Babich 2022b.

11 See Heidegger’s 1946 “Brief über dem Humanismus” (1967, 311-360) Of course, as is quite well known if not always adumbrated in context, a context which would also require reference to Jean Wahl and Marcel in addition, as noted, to Anders, and, latterly Michel de Certeau, the background for Beaufret’s invitation to Heidegger to reflect on this challenge was Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. For a discussion of French existentialism in connection with Heidegger see Kleinberg 2005 as well as Babich 2016.

12 Where Schürmann speaks of ‘man’ rather than the human — just as scholars have spoken for centuries — what would be altered supposing Dasein to be not ‘man,’ in generic sense, but ‘woman’? See the contributions to Patricia Glazebrook’s edited collection on this question: forthcoming.

13 With reference to ‘consumer society,” Jean Baudrillard’s speciality concerned such “third degree products” (see Baudrillard 2008) and Theodor Adorno speaks of the “culinary” with respect to mediatic culture, while Anders foregrounds the economic dimensionality of ontology.

14 14 Cf. for a different parallel, Baudrillard’s 1988 ‘Necrospective’ emphasizing the irrecusable “too late” of either verification or historical understanding/contextualization: Baudrillard 2014, 18.

15 See the epigraph from Tom Lehrer, cited with the author’s permission, in Babich 2011/2012, 115.

16 See for references, Babich 2022, 139ff. Note too that Merleau-Ponty emphasizes this phenomenon of voice (with specific reference to the radio, for references and discussion, see Babich 2017). And see, if and despite his reference to television, he does not refer to either Arnheim or Anders or Adorno on radio, Goldblatt 1993.

17 To date, Anders’ reflection on being and having have yet to be unpacked in relation to Lacan. Anders publishes Über das Haben a year after Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit. And later, in a footnote to his essay on Heidegger’s “pseudoconcreteness,” Anders writes: “Primarily Heidegger sees the feature ‘being in the world,’ but hardly the distances from the objects which have not been invented by mediocre philosophers but that exist on the strength of ‘individuation’ separating one being from the other, and on the strength of ‘hunger,’ which has to bridge a metaxu in order to ‘have’ and to ‘be.’ Entirely suppressed by Heidegger is the third fact that “Dasein” is (part of the natural) world. Only by simultaneously dealing with the three features: Being in, being in distance, and being a part of the world, can one claim ontological completeness.” Anders 1948, 348. See, Babich 2022 for discussion of Anders 1934- 35. The reference complex is elusive not only because contemporary scholars are as inclined to overlook footnotes as they are to reference others but also because the text was originally published under Anders’ given name: Günther Stern. These days Anders gets some attention because the text in question was translated by Lévinas just as other scholars note that Deleuze refers to a certain “Stern.”

18 It should be noted as an indirect precipitate, via Levinas, of Anders’ language of having, Alphonso Lingis who explains in his Deathbound Subjectivity, “being given a being to have, being committed to its potentiality, is the impotence of power. It is the failing, the guilt of having been born.” Lingis 1989, 115.


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Babette Babich - Da-Sein’s Body: Between Heidegger on Being and Anders on Having
for The Heidegger Circle Annual Meeting, Boston University, May 2023.
Original PDF.