Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics [425-27]

of comprehending something. I shall elucidate what I mean by this fundamental character of philosophical concepts as distinct from all scientific concepts by means of a particularly incisive example, namely the problem of death, and indeed human death. I have developed this problem of death in a quite specific context, which can be disregarded here, in Being and Time, §46ff. In a very rough and ready fashion we can say that human Dasein is in one way or another a being toward death. Man always comports himself somehow or other toward death, that is, toward his death. This implies that man can run ahead toward death as the most extreme possibility of his Dasein, and understand himself from that perspective in the most proper and whole selfhood of his Dasein. To understand Dasein means understanding how to go about being-there, Da-sein; it means being able to be-there. Understanding ourselves from out of this most extreme possibility of Dasein means acting in the sense of being exposed to the most extreme possibility. We described such running ahead in being free for our own death as Dasein's proper and authentic way of being a self, and distinguished the authenticity proper to existence from the inauthenticity of our everyday doings in which we are forgetful of ourselves. Even if we tear this problem out of its original context and simply consider the specific content and manner of its exposition, it should not be too difficult to grasp the decisive point here. And yet, misinterpretation constantly and repeatedly arises with predictable certainty. The reason for this does not lie in any lack of perspicacity on the part of the reader, nor in any lack of readiness to examine what has been presented, nor in this case, as I imagine, in any lack of incisiveness in the interpretation itself. Rather, it lies in the 'natural idleness' of the ordinary understanding in which each of us is caught up and which believes itself to be philosophizing when it reads and writes about, or argues with, philosophical books. With respect to the aforementioned problem, it proceeds in this way: if running ahead toward death constitutes the proper authenticity of human existence, then in order to exist properly man must be constantly thinking about death. And if he attempts to do that, then he will not be able to endure existence at all and the only way for him to achieve this authentic existence would be to commit suicide. But to seek the essence of the man's proper existence in suicide, in the annihilation of existence, is a conclusion that is as insane as it is absurd. Therefore the interpretation which was given above of authentic existence as a running ahead toward death is the purely arbitrary product of an intrinsically impossible conception of life. Where does the misunderstanding lie here? Not in the drawing of a false conclusion, but rather in the fundamental attitude, one which is not explicitly assumed but rather is there in our natural way of getting on with life. As a result we take such claims from the outset as a report about certain properties of man who also happens to crop up alongside the stone, the plant, the animal. A relationship toward death is present at hand within man. It is then asserted

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