to exist. Each of us is thrown into a concrete heritage, inhabits a meaningful world, and projects possible ways to act in terms of some ultimate “for-the-sake-of-which”—a possibility that provides the raison d’être for one’s choices and in terms of which one’s meaningful world is structured (SZ, 84). However, we ordinarily forget and even avoid this ultimate possibility; it is easier to sink into everyday inauthenticity, and simply take one’s world and one’s identity for granted.

Being and Time formalizes this human predicament by defining Dasein as the entity whose own Being is an issue for it (41–2). That is, we are always, either deliberately or by default, taking a stand on our own Being and deciding how to exist. We thus have a relation to our own Being that other entities seem to lack. But our relation to ourselves also affects our relation to all other entities: we exist by Being-in-the-world, and we encounter other entities within the world, so the question of how to exist marks our interpretation of entities other than ourselves (12–13). In short, I care about the Being of all beings in terms of how I care about my own Being. What beings signify to me depends on who I take myself to be.

One can gain insight into one’s own Being, and ultimately into Being as such, only by lifting oneself out of everyday, anesthetized comfort and coming to grips with who one is. Heidegger thus says that Dasein is a “who,” not a “what” (45). A general definition of the human species fails to yield insight into how any individual is existing; we must ask who the person is, that is, which defining possibility he or she is pursuing. Furthermore, because Dasein is always Being-with, we can infer that the question “Who am I?” implies the further question, “Who are we?”—a decision about the destiny of a people. Every generation must discover its destiny, Heidegger writes laconically, through “communicating and struggling” (384).

Heidegger begins to address the communal dimension of identity more explicitly in the 1929–30 lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. Here he carries out an exhaustive first-person-singular phenomenology of boredom, and then makes a surprising leap into the first person plural: he identifies “profound boredom” as the defining mood of “our” time (GA 29/30, 239–49/FCM, 160–7). In this condition, nothing seems urgent; the question of who we are has not come alive for the community. Heidegger’s bold step into cultural critique anticipates the hazardous commitments of the decade to come, when he will often refer to die Not der Notlosigkeit, the urgency of the lack of urgency (e.g. GA 45, 183/BQP, 158).

The courses of the next few years evince Heidegger’s desire to address the question of who “we” are on the basis of a concrete place, time, and community rather than in the name of an abstract “humanity” or “Dasein.”

In The Essence of Human Freedom (1930), Heidegger argues that the concepts of negative and positive freedom both invite reflection on the general question of what it means to be (GA 31, 6–7, 30–1/EHF, 4–5, 22–3). But he does not subordinate the problem of freedom to the problem of Being: to the contrary, the question of Being itself is a “problem of freedom,” not only theoretically but in a concrete sense, since it requires one to “become essential in the actual willing of [one’s] own essence” (GA 31, 303/EHF, 205).1

The philosophical tradition, in Heidegger’s view, has failed to engage the problems of freedom and Being deeply enough. He attempts to reveal “what remained un-happened” in the tradition (GA 34, 322/ET, 228) through readings of key texts such as the Critique of