roughly, be reduced to a recipe. It is thus an ability a robot could exercise. But trying is not like that; rather, it involves holding myself to more or less obscure measures of success or failure pertaining to a way of being. Because I am doing things for the sake of being a carpenter – because what it means to be a carpenter is at stake in what I am doing – the norms appropriate to making a birdhouse come into play in contrast to those that would come into play were I to be doing the very same things for the sake of being an artist, or a demolition expert, or some other practical identity. Such “trying” is what Heidegger calls “understanding”: competence over being as existing (GA 2, p. 190/143/183).5
Where do the measures of such trying come from? Heidegger argues that to try to be something it is not enough that I form the intention to do so; I must be able to be it, and I must be with others in a public world where such behavior is familiar as trying to be it. Thus Dasein does what “one” does, because if it did not it would not count as doing anything at all. Of course, doing what one does is not a recipe (though das Man, according to Heidegger, tries to make it such), but I cannot try to be a father unless I am beholden to some measure of what “a” good father is, what any good father should be. And I cannot give content to any measure that would deviate entirely from what others do – “others” from whom “for the most part” I do “not distinguish [myself]” (GA 2, p. 158/118/154). What it means to be a father or teacher is not mine alone to decide, but only together with those others with whom I am. h us to have any practical identity (to be able to be anything in particular) is to act as the one-self (man-selbst); the normal is the normative to this extent. “Dasein is for the sake of the ‘one’ in an everyday manner, and the ‘one’ itself articulates the referential context of significance” (GA 2, p. 172/129/167). But as we have seen, this means that my practical identity is myself without being I myself, and thus any account of world as a space of meaning which stops with practice will be incomplete, since it will not reach that being whose own being (I myself) is at issue.
To see this, recall the distinction between Dasein’s being at stake in existing and life’s being at stake in a struggle for survival. In the former case, but not the latter, the stakes are determined only insofar as I make myself beholden to a measure of success or failure – and that means, to act not only in conformity to such a measure (as the animal acts in conformity to
5 My approach to these matters is deeply indebted to John Haugeland’s work. For further discussion, see Crowell, “Competence Over Being as Existing: The Indispensability of Haugeland’s Heidegger” (unpublished manuscript).