Ex-sistence as Openness

entails that the responsibility for choosing how I am to live rests exclusively with me and with no one else. I have a choice: I can either embrace my dynamic and mortal structure as ex-sistence, along with all that it entails, or I can flee it. When (personal) ex-sistence embraces its (structural) ex-sistence, Heidegger says, one is “authentic,” the self-responsible author of his or her own finite life. When ex-sistence flees its ex-sistence, it is “inauthentic,” insofar as it refuses to fully understand and embrace itself and “become what it already is.”32 (See the following chapter.)

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Heidegger did not pull out of thin air his notion of ex-sistence as possibility: ahead and open. Rather, some of that can be glimpsed in ovo by comparing what he had to say about life in general, and animal life in particular, with what he holds regarding ex-sistence. As we broach the centrality of human openedness with regard to intelligibility as such, we begin with a discussion of four aspects of life as Heidegger presents them in his 1929–1930 course, “Basic Problems of Metaphysics.”

1. Life as possibility and self-disclosure.

For Heidegger as for Aristotle, life, whether it be the ζωή of plants and animals or the βίος of human beings, is necessarily bound up with possibilities of itself. Life in general is an Entheben in das Mögliche: a being lifted up and away into the possible. Life’s actuality is to be caught up in possibility.33

In the last analysis, potentiality and possibility belong precisely to the essence of the [living thing] in its actuality, in a quite specific sense.34

In its most basic form, life is a natural drive to be underway to more of itself, an ongoing unfolding of itself (Sich-zeitigung) so as to appear in a new εἶδος, which in turn generates ever more possibilities, including its ever-present possibility of death.35 Insofar as life consists in constantly bringing forth

32. SZ 145.40–41 = 186.4–5, implicitly referring to γένοι’ οἷος ἐσσί μαϑών: Pindar, Pythian Odes II, 72 (also GA 40: 108.26–28 = 111.12–14). For Heidegger, “inauthenticity” is a matter of being alienated from one’s essence: SZ 281.20–21 = 326.30: “das ‘Wesen’ nicht trifft.”
33. GA 29/30: 528.4 = 363.19: Entheben; 321.26–30 = 220.3–6: Möglichkeit-Haben . . . nicht anderes ist als dieses; 343.22–24 = 235.42: Fähigkeit gehört zum Wirklichsein.
34. GA 29/30: 343.18–20 = 235.38–40.
35. GA 29/30: 331.1 = 226.31: Drängen zu; 334.1–3 = 228.33–35: treibt sich; Vorgetriebensein; 335.25–26 = 230.5–6: Hineintreiben zu. (As noted in chapter 3, Zeitigung or Sich-zeitigung should never be translated as “temporalization” but always in terms of unfolding and opening up.)

Thomas Sheehan - Making Sense of Heidegger