is, it is an enabling prerequisite for the main topic to get off the ground, but it is not itself part of that topic.

As already mentioned, Heidegger’s main topic is “the being- question.” The reason dasein gets so much attention is that, more or less by definition, it is the entity that embodies an understanding of being. But it is crucial to appreciate that this is not a stipulative definition of, say, the term “dasein.” When Aristotle “defined” man as the talking animal or, again, as the po litical animal, he was not laying down necessary and sufficient conditions for the correct application of a predicate. Rather, he was attempting to spell out, in a compelling and illuminating way, what is most characteristic of these conspicuously peculiar entities. And that, I suggest, is what Heidegger is up to as well, but with an additional level of analysis.

Dasein is neither people nor their being but rather a way of life shared by the members of some community. It is ways of life, in this sense, that have the basic structure of being- in- the- world. (People certainly do not have that structure—they are intraworldly.) Insofar as there is an understanding of being, it is embodied, initially and usually, in such a way of life—which is then dasein. And this is why Heidegger is so interested in anxiety, being-toward-death, and conscience, each of which individualizes dasein. The resulting individualization is what he calls authenticity or ownedness. Dasein, and more particularly the understanding of being that it embodies, is owned by some individual person— in the sense of taking responsibility for its tenability.

A pretty good analogy, one that Heidegger himself mentions several times, is language. Languages are, of course communal, but they are not to be identified with the communities in which they are spoken or with the individual speakers who speak them. Rather, languages are communally shared “ways of speaking.” Similarly, dasein is a communally shared way of living of a specific sort—namely, one that embodies an understanding of being.

With these preliminaries in place, we can now turn to Brandom’s exegetical arguments in more detail. He introduces his main thesis with a ‘layer cake’ metaphor. Each layer is a kind of being: dasein on the bottom, availability in the middle, and occurrentness on top. (Remember: he understands dasein as the being of people.) The idea is that the higher layers clearly presuppose those below them: availability is unintelligible without dasein, and so on. But whether the lower layers similarly presuppose the upper ones is less obvious. He grants, however, that dasein is unintelligible without availability, so the only remaining question is whether these two