death), this should not be construed as an advance upon a goal. There is no end to the death we run to. We can neither escape it nor catch it. It is just this “endlessness” that calls for a rethinking of “end.” Death is not an “end” that we might reach in running ahead like this. The sense of “end” here has changed. The not-yet of Dasein names a relation to an end, to a limit, “just as Dasein constantly already is its not-yet as long as it is, it also always already is its end” (GA 2: 326/SZ 245). We should then hesitate before proclaiming Dasein to be at its end, where this end would be conceived of as an unyielding wall into which Dasein crashes back upon itself. Rather, Dasein is “at” its end only insofar as it is “towards” its end: “The ‘ending’ which we have in view when we speak of death, does not signify a being-at-an-end [Zu-Ende-sein] of Dasein, but rather a being-toward-the-end [Sein zum Ende] of this being” (GA 2: 326/SZ 245). Indeed, there is no other way for Dasein to be in a relation to its end and still be understood as existing. If Dasein did not construe ends in this way, it would actually be dead. Dasein can never be at its end, but can only be exposed to that end. Otherwise put, the only “end” of Dasein is found “at” its exposure. In being-toward-death being is everywhere exposed to death (“toward” as “exposed”).
It is common to think this death as a possibility for existence. To be sure, Heidegger names death “the sheer impossibility of existence” (GA 2: 339/SZ 255, tm), i.e., “the possibility of sheer impossibility-of-Dasein” (GA 2: 333/SZ 250, tm). But possibility itself is commonly taken to be directed at—if not always arriving at—actuality, and this thought must be derailed. It is the they that is always out to actualize its possibilities, to get them at its disposal, to have them present-at-hand. But this possibility of death is an impossibility—it is useless and cannot be directed toward any goal. With italics of his own, Heidegger can claim “As a possibility, the nearest nearness of being towards death is as far as possible from an actuality” (GA 2: 348/SZ 262). This possibility of impossibility is extremely far from actuality. It itself is the most extreme (äußerste) possibility. It is so extreme, in fact, that it cannot be actualized: “As possibility, death gives Dasein nothing to ‘be actualized’ [Verwirklichendes] and nothing which it itself could be as something actual [als Wirkliches]” (GA 2: 348/SZ 262, tm). We have seen above that death escapes the distinction of active and passive, traits we identified with the “reality” of the real. Without this tether in “actuality” death seems to likewise elude the distinction of the actual and the possible. For really, what sense does it make to speak of possibility when this has been severed from actuality, when the possibility itself is an impossibility?
It is the they who claims that death is possible for anyone at any moment, and to think that one has countered this strategy of willed ignorance