Logos, Muthos, Theos:
Heidegger’s Phenomenology and the Sacralization of Being

Larry Hatab

The essay “Building Dwelling Thinking” (1951) offers a classic example of the later Heidegger’s turn from philosophy to poetical thinking.1 Here the notion of dwelling is rendered not as a concept but a quasi-mythical constellation of the Fourfold: earth, sky, mortals, and deities. Earth, sky, and mortality are easy enough to grasp as the concrete abode of human beings in a finite world; but the presence of gods in a modern project of thought is surprising. Heidegger will frequently take up divinity in historical cases, but here the gods seem to be meant for us, as “messengers” arriving and withdrawing out of the “sacred power of the godhead” (heiligen Walten der Gottheit). In this way, the critique of humanism in LH is actually embodied by extra-human sacred beings and their disclosive function. In a secular age, we would likely understand deities in a symbolic or allegorical manner, yet that would not suit the tenor of Heidegger’s text. So, what is going on here?

In this essay I offer my own hermeneutical venture that sees a certain continuity between a “neopaganism” in the later Heidegger and the early phenomenology of being-in-the-world—where, I want to say, a “mythical” sense of Dasein is consonant with the primal condition of lived experience. Accordingly, the later appearance of the gods fits the early phenomenology in a more than symbolic manner—which, I argue, shows some resonance with what has been called “indigenous philosophy.”

Being and Time and the Phenomenology of Factical Life

In BT, the being of Dasein is designated as care (Sorge), which gathers the phenomenology of Dasein’s existence as a “whole” (SZ: 236-37), where all the specific concerns of Dasein’s worldly existence (caring about, caring for) come to a head in anxious being-toward-death (drawn from the negative connotations of “cares”), so that we care about the world because of a radical finitude, of the limits of things and in ourselves that generate an urgent interest in life’s possibilities. Such a negative-positive interplay in meaningfulness runs throughout Dasein’s existence, from everyday involvements to dramas of life and death. A core distinction of Heidegger’s early thought is that philosophy must not begin with theoretical postulates but rather “factical life” as it shows itself prior to philosophical reflection—the meaning-laden engagement with the affairs of life in their social, practical, and natural environments. A phenomenology of facticity demands an “absolute sympathy” toward pre-philosophical life (TDP: 92), which is striking because philosophy usually takes a remedial posture toward the everyday world and its deficits of rational precision.

Heidegger’s analysis of factical life begins with zuhanden practical dealings and the shift to vorhanden references. Too often this discussion is framed in terms of tools and disengaged objects, but the key feature is how such dealings are experienced at work and in their transitions (SZ: 69-70). Zuhandenheit is characterized as a “blend” of self and circumstance, as “concernful absorption” (besorgenden Aufgehen), which is a mode of being that runs throughout Dasein’s being-in-the-world—and is directly called an “existential” (SZ: 54). Vorhandenheit applies to a wide range of “reified” designations, from everyday descriptions of things to scientific constructs (see SZ: 69b). When a “breach” in a practice occurs, one now gives explicit attention to aspects of the practical environment and the personal significance of a project that has been interrupted (SZ: 74-76)—in typical language, “objective” and “subjective” elements that were recessed and not operative in the absorbed experience.

Two crucial points are evident here: first, explicit reified references to objective and subjective conditions are derived from an interrupted absorption (SZ: 437), and so they are not foundational; second, original absorbed dealings do not require reflective governance or philosophical explication for their kind of meaningful intelligence. Indeed, the very notion of Zuhandenheit as a concept must withdraw itself in an actual practice for it to be authentically at work (SZ: 69). Such is the importance of Heidegger’s notion of “formal indication,” of concepts that do not “define,” but rather point to factical experiences that show their own kind of sense, which formal concepts alone cannot capture (FCM: 293). The importance of concernful absorption is shown by its reiteration in the full scope of Dasein’s world (SZ: 56-57). Variants of besorgenden Aufgehen are deployed over 30 times in the text and are implicated in all basic features of factical existence: dwelling, Mitsein, referentiality, language, circumspection, disclosive truth, and temporality.2 In HCT (254), care itself is characterized as “absorbed in meaningfulness (Bedeutsamkeit).”

The range of zuhanden-vorhanden relations shoes a conceptual triad of concernful absorption, disturbance, and disclosive reference, which has a significant philosophical impact: Non-reflective absorption undermines subject-object ontologies and epistemologies (SZ: 55, 88), disarms radical skepticism (SZ: 203), and helps dissolve debates between internalism and externalism—because an absorbed practice is experienced “there” in an environment, not as an applied “mental state.” Meaning-laden practices subvert objectivism. Ever-occurring contraventions and their disclosive effects show an intrinsic finitude and the shortcomings in “positive” ontologies of permanence and stable thing hood (SZ: 74-75).3 Absorbed dealings with other persons show a baseline sociality (Mitsein) that limits individualistic models of selfhood.4 Central to Dasein’s factical finitude is its “thrownness,” the notion that a self is not a sovereign, autonomous subject, but rather a projection into conditions not of its own making or control, which means “never having power over one’s ownmost being from the ground up” (SZ: 284). In all, finite temporality, contingency, situatedness, and contextuality are given pride of place, all uncovered in immediate factical conditions that have been ignored or suppressed in traditional philosophy’s project of rational ordination.5

Authenticity and Inauthenticity

Given the philosophical importance of concernful absorption for Heidegger’s purposes, there is an unresolved tension in BT: The immersed condition of factical life is for the most part designated as “inauthentic” and “fallen.” The primary reason is that the fundamental “disruption” of anxious being-toward-death opens the possibility of authentic existence and serves as the gateway to fundamental ontology (which is given voice in WM with the correlation of being and nothing). In any case, it is the contrast between anxiety and factical absorption that drives the rhetoric of inauthenticity and fallenness—because, Heidegger says, being-toward-death is more primordial than absorption in the world, which is “drawn back” by anxiety (SZ: 184, 189).

Nevertheless, there is ambiguity in the text about inauthentic existence that is not resolved, especially given the philosophical muscle that Zuhandenheit and absorption bring to Heidegger’s strategies in the text. First, there are occasional warnings that inauthenticity, fallenness, and das Man should not be taken as deficient conditions (SZ: 43, 167, 176). Then in some analyses, Heidegger seems to qualify fallenness as a possible way of being—apart from a specific contrast with authentic existence: Average intelligibility is distinguished from “primordial” understanding and appropriation (SZ: 168); the disclosiveness of discourse (Rede) includes the possibility of becoming idle talk (Gerede) (SZ: 169-170), which forecloses getting to the ground (Boden) of what is discussed and conceals “genuine relations toward the world;” the circumspection of concernful absorption can uncover appropriate moments of action (SZ: 172-73); there can be more or less “genuine understanding” of things and Mitsein (SZ: 173-75). Passages such as these suggest worthy modes of existence that are neither connected with anxious being-toward-death nor expressive of something inauthentic—which might fit an undeveloped remark in the text about a manner of being “indifferent” with respect to authenticity and inauthenticity (SZ: 53).6

Finally, there is the question of authentic existence and what kind of life that involves, especially how it relates to inauthentic existence and absorbed facticity. It seems that there is a primary sense of “ontological” authenticity, which denotes the finitude of anxious being-toward-death, and which appears to mark inauthenticity as any kind of absorption. Then there is an “ontical” sense of authenticity, indicating an individual Dasein’s ownmost mode of being, its “resolution” of unique departures from the “conformist” power of das Man. Yet individuated authenticity cannot be an utter departure from inauthentic existence because authenticity is called a “modification” of inauthenticity (SZ: 130, 179). But what does modification mean? Presumably it would be something different from anxiety as such, some specific way of engaging the world. Would authentic existence depart from factical absorption? That seems not to be the case with authentic resoluteness (SZ: 298, 301). Moreover, anxious being-toward-death thrusts Dasein “right back” (gerade) to its occasions of concernful Zuhandenheit, toward “caring relations with others,” and engagement with factical possibilities (SZ: 298-99)—now presumably “educated” by finitude. Even apart from anxious being-toward-death, we saw earlier that the supposed fallenness of factical life can exhibit a deeper and enhanced comprehension of things, as opposed to the “flattened” character of average understanding.

Why do I fine this issue important? Degrees of conformism and disclosive comprehension allow that original conditions of factical life—absorbed engagement, practical intelligence, affective attunement, Mitsein, temporality, and historicality—are not automatically “inauthentic” and need not always fall prey to the ontological assumptions interrogated by Heidegger, especially atemporal permanence and objectivism. Yet such assumptions have had a significant effect even on everyday life in Western societies, which may account for Heidegger’s comprehensive rhetoric of inauthentic fallenness. A certain ubiquity of such ontological effects can account for Heidegger’s sweeping critiques of baseline modes of being in the West (technology, for example) and his openness to alternative pathways, beginning with his interest in “pre-philosophical” discourse in early Greek culture and leading to a “mythopoetic” turn in his later thought. The key point here is that there are factical ways of being-in-the-world that need not involve the ontological “oblivion” marking much of Heidegger’s rhetoric, and that can sidestep ambiguities about authenticity in BT.7 In other words, there are factical modes of existence apart from fugitive forms of reification, superficiality, and theoretical abstraction—for which an attribution of fallen inauthenticity seems inapt. In particular, I am interested in certain cultural possibilities—apart from Western forms—that are less susceptible to Heidegger’s ontological concerns.

Phenomenology, Myth, and Primitive Dasein

In LH, Heidegger announced the so-called “turn” in his thinking, concerning which I want to emphasize two points: 1) his early use of (formally indicative) concepts was misfiring because he was attempting something “more rigorous than conceptual thinking” (LH: 271); and 2) an ambiguity about Dasein is now resolved as an abandonment of subjectivity as a proper concept for human being (LH: 249). All along, Dasein’s existence was not subject-centered (SZ: 60); and now Heidegger offers a critique of “humanism” to clarify his “being-centered” emphasis, the “thrown” modes of dwelling that cannot be reduced to human constructs. The turn explains Heidegger’s later preference for “poetical” thinking over philosophical concepts; and an extra-human dimension of meaning explains his predilection for mytho-poetic tropes and a sense of the sacred embodied by divinities. Yet I want to argue that such a sacralization of being is consonant with Heidegger’s early phenomenology, which was even forecasted there by remarks about mythico-primitive Dasein and a surprising section at the very center of BT.8

Early in BT, Heidegger emphasizes the conceptual character of phenomenology, as distinct from “telling the story” (muthon), which would involve tracing the being of Dasein back to another being (SZ: 6). But after care is established as the ontological basis of Dasein in section 41, something odd follows in section 42 (SZ: 197-201). Heidegger declares there that Dasein does refer to human existence, but the analysis had to “change direction” from traditional definitions of human nature. He concedes that his existential interpretation can seem “strange”—and for this reason (deshalb), he will turn to a mythical story that is pre-ontological (and presumably less strange?). But more, the coming myth of care (Cura), drawn from the fables of Hyginus, is dubbed by the section heading a “confirmation” (Bewährung) of his ontological interpretation. Why is this needed? Because, we are told, “in this document (Zeugnis) Dasein is expressing itself ‘primordially,’ unaffected by any theoretical interpretation.” Heidegger then declares the historical importance of a pre-conceptual text for an ontological analysis:

If Dasein is “historical” at the ground of its being, then some documented evidence (Aussage) that comes from its history, and that is prior to any scientific knowledge, takes on a special importance (Gewicht). … The following document makes clear that our existential interpretation is not a mere fabrication (Erfindung), but as an ontological “construction” it is well grounded and sketched out in an elemental way (SZ: 197).

In the Cura myth, Heidegger finds that care is fundamental to human life, marking our “temporal sojourn in the world” (SZ: 199).9 Significantly, it is here that Heidegger establishes care as a single phenomenon with a twofold meaning: anxiousness and devotedness (SZ: 199)—which prepares the correlation of anxiety and its repelling “thrust” of Dasein into its world of concerns (FCM: 299), which is the core sense of Dasein’s thrownness.

Although Heidegger’s aim is to work out an ontology, it seems important to him that ontological understanding be first shown in a pre-ontological form of myth. More, even with Heidegger’s delimitation of BT as a conceptual analysis, the text also brings in a pre-conceptual validation of the analysis—likely because the lived imagery of stories is closer to factical life than are concepts. Such an outreach to pre-conceptual understanding is not limited to textual documents. The formal character of the conceptual account is indicative of any human culture: Even mythical Dasein is constituted by care and being-in-the-world—wherein Dasein lives out of a myth’s disclosive force (SZ: 313). Moreover, at one point Heidegger talks about the mutual benefit of phenomenology and the study of “primitive” Dasein, because:

“primitive phenomena” are often less concealed and complicated by extensive self-interpretation on the part of the Dasein in question. Primitive Dasein often speaks to us more directly out of a primordial absorption (ürsprunglichen Aufgehen) in “phenomena.” The mode of conception that perhaps seems clumsy and crude to us can be a positive inducement for a genuine elaboration of the ontological structures of phenomena (SZ: 51).10

But right away Heidegger adds that such a study should avoid the inadequate assumptions that hinder ethnological research.11 And notice that here absorption entails something genuine, which relates to my earlier concerns about the ambiguity of fallenness.

In a footnote (SZ: 51), Heidegger alludes to Ernst Cassirer’s study of mythical thought.12 He lauds the work’s importance for ethnological research, but its Kantian framework lacks a “more primordial” phenomenology that can better guide the study of mythical cultures. In 1928, Heidegger published a review of Cassirer’s book.13 There he again praises the book but questions its reliance on a scheme of consciousness giving form to experience, rather than “a radical ontology of Dasein.” He then offers his own reflections on myth, which echo the remarks about primitive Dasein in BT, especially its “primordial absorption” in phenomena. He says in the review that mythical Dasein is constituted by “thrownness,” a non-subjective, non-reflective “being-delivered-over” to the world, where Dasein is “overwhelmed” by the appearance of something “suddenly extraordinary”—with Dasein fundamentally “belonging to” such occurrences. Near the end of the review, Heidegger poses some questions that suggest not only the legitimacy of studying myth, but also its relevance for ontology:

In what way does myth in general belong to Dasein as such? In what respect is myth an essential phenomenon within a universal interpretation of being as such and its modifications?

An anticipation of Heidegger’s later turn to mythopoetic thinking is surely evident here.

The Sacred and the Profane

Understanding a mythical culture can be facilitated by Cassirer’s use of the sacred-profane distinction: The sacred need not mean something supernatural or otherworldly, but simply something extraordinary; and the profane need not mean something sacrilegious or secular, but simply ordinary experience. In Heidegger’s language, the sacred would indicate a “disruption” of the profane that is meaning-disclosive and that exceeds ordinary comprehension—which is how Heidegger characterizes primitive Dasein in HCT (155-56). So, a mythical culture can readily understand what we call empirical reality; yet significant meanings arise from an extra-human power, which elicits reverence, gratitude, and deference to a mystery—an inceptual “myth of the given.” Accordingly, a myth is not a groping attempt at “explanation,” but rather a presentation of something meaningful that cannot be explained in ordinary (profane) terms.14 The virtue of the sacred-profane distinction is that it can reflect a single immanent world with two dimensions.15 And mythical narratives depict a factical engagement of human beings with sacred occurrences, especially divine-human encounters.

This is how Heidegger’s phenomenology of concernful absorption, disruption, and referential disclosure can well fit the sacred-profane interplay in a mythical world, along with its factical consequences. Pre-reflective facticity, which theoretical reason deems inadequate for knowledge, is not only necessary for Heidegger’s methodology; it also saves primitive cultures from demotion because of an insistence on rational ordination. That is why Heidegger calls his Dasein analytic “just the right presupposition for understanding the primitive” (HCT: 155)—and myth as well. Heidegger’s later turn to mytho-poetic tropes aligns with his coordination of muthos and logos as “the same” (WHD: 10), contrary to logocentric dismissals of myth that first took shape in Greek philosophy.16 What can coordinate Heidegger’s early phenomeno-logy and his later mytho-theo-logy are the following: 1) a narrative facticity of concernful being-in-the-world, which is not governed by abstract theoretical reason; 2) a disclosure of meaning that is not grounded in human subjectivity; 3) a dialectic of ordinary absorption in the world and extraordinary disruptions that are meaning-disclosive; and 4) a sense of the sacred that combines devotedness to the world and an anxious limit to human comprehension—matching the aforementioned dyadic unity of care (SZ: 199).

Myth and Meaning

Heidegger’s concept of unconcealment depicts disclosive truth as a process of emergence that is intrinsically braided with concealment, which thereby cannot be reduced to any product of the process. Accordingly, disclosure includes a baseline mystery. The historicality of being, for Heidegger, includes myth (SZ: 197)—if only for the fact that all human cultures have begun in a mythical mode. Myths tell a story of how the world and elements of culture first came to be.17 What is “before” this primal emergence is something sacred that remains concealed to full human comprehension, which was recognized in Greek thought.18 And it should be noted that each quadrant of Heidegger’s Fourfold includes a mode of concealment.19

If we take seriously the historicality of being, an original mythical mode of disclosure cannot be characterized in terms of objectivity or subjectivity, which are modern categories with their own historical appearance that cannot be retrofitted to myth without cancelling its “reality” as something lived.20 Heidegger’s notion of dwelling in both BT and BDT is a phenomenology of disclosure preceding binary categories of objectivity and subjectivity; and so a mythical world of meaningful life is a mode of dwelling immune to critique by a standard of scientific objectivity.21 What Heidegger calls “living” a myth (SZ: 313) cannot be translated into subjective and objective categories—even as a symbol or allegory of something different from actual belief in a sacred dimension.22 Here is where Heidegger’s concept of being-in-the-world is crucial. The meaning of a myth cannot be confined to its specific narrative content, as something simply heard or read. It must be understood in its centrifugal force, how it “works out” into a world of cultural effects—in practices, rituals, affective attunement, artworks, ethical norms, and especially educational transmission. The “story” by itself has no more meaning than a “concept” apart from its application to experience.23

Phenomenology and Indigenous Cultures

I have been arguing for the importance of concernful absorption in Heidegger’s phenomenology, as a mode of dwelling (SZ: 54) that blends self and circumstance, an Umwelt of animated being-in-the-world, which precedes and makes possible reflective delineations of subjectivity and objectivity, and which opens critical space to challenge “unilateral” ontologies, such as a care-less objectivism or a humanistic subjectism—both of which are implicated in the hubris of modern technology. Absorption also gives us the habits of life, which are not thoughtless routines but the know-how of factical intelligence that does not need scientific explanation or rational governance. Habituation can take many forms: sensory, motor, social, and cognitive—the last of which is important for my purposes because rational ordination can itself become an absorbed lens that is blind to the kind of phenomenology advanced by Heidegger.24

I have also argued that Heidegger saw the virtue of primitive and mythical cultures—precisely because of their absorption in modes of existence ungoverned by theoretical reason. Accordingly, I see Heidegger’s thought offering distinctive pathways for engaging what has been called indigenous philosophy in the wake of Western colonialism.25 Aside from the obvious crimes of colonialism, the notion of absorbed “lensing” can help address how and why Western contact with indigenous peoples was so easily inflected by a supremacist mentality, especially when self-perceived as sincere paternalism.

What my Heideggerian venture allows is a reordering of assumptions that turns the tables on Western supremacism and lauds the “primordial dwelling” of indigenous cultures. What is needed is a point-by-point coordination of factical phenomenology with the prescientific character of indigenous life: in matters of zuhanden know-how, affective attunement, Mitsein, referential holism, temporality, and historicality—all gathered by a mythical sense of the sacred, which is needed to distinguish the “spiritual” character of indigenous stories from a more general sense of narrative. In the case of Native American cultures, there are specific elements that are noteworthy, especially ancestral historicality, care for the land, and an ecological holism of human beings blended with nature, locality, and nonhuman life forms—all of which are pertinent to the current climate crisis as a preconceptual mirror of Heidegger’s challenge to modern technology.

Heidegger’s thought adds something important to this discussion: His critique of scientific rationality and technicity concerns their presumption of fundamentality and universal scope, not their disclosive possibilities as such. Indeed, the early phenomenology advanced the legitimacy of scientific thinking—but grounded in, and derived from, the care structure of Dasein’s factical life.26 Accordingly, “decolonization” need not involve an anti-Western binary or a romanticized indigeneity. Rather, post-colonial thought can work with overlaps between, and coordinations of, indigenous and Western worldviews, to the possible benefit of both—but ever-cognizant of the heinous effects of Western unilateralism.

Finally, the pre-philosophical world of Greek myth can be seen in a more favorable light as the West’s own indigenous beginnings; and the advent of philosophical reason overriding its mythical beginnings can be called the West’s own self-colonization. Most relevant to Heidegger’s thinking is the philosophical departure from the care-laden finitude animating Homeric and tragic poetry and presaging the “mortal” quadrant of the Fourfold. In Homer, death is recognized as the ultimate fate of human beings.27 Hades is the place of dead souls, a shadow-world lacking conscious awareness and having no attraction for humans and gods alike.28 This place of death is described as “forgetting” or “covering over” life.29 We can interpret Hades as giving a “presence” to the “absence” of life, something more than “nothingness” and thus more vividly counterposed to life. Accordingly, human existence is marked in contrast to death and the immortal gods, thereby “thrown” (by the repulsion of Hades) into the importance of life on earth—“between” death underground and deathless deities. Most telling in this respect is Odysseus turning down an offer of immortality in favor of his return home (Book 5 of the Odyssey)—this after he had witnessed the stark reality of Hades. Here is a story of being-toward-death, of care for the world in its finitude, a story contravened in different ways by Greek philosophers and the subsequent Western metaphysical tradition—but preserved in myth.30

1 The following abbreviations will be used: BDT = “Building Dwelling Thinking,” BP = Basic Problems of Phenomenology, BT = Being and Time, FCM = Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, HCT = History of the Concept of Time, LH = “Letter on Humanism”, MFL = Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, OHF = Ontology, The Hermeneutics of Facticity, SZ = Sein und Zeit, TDP = Towards the Definition of Philosophy.

2 See SZ: 54-57, 68, 70-71, 82, 125, 129, 161, 211, 223-25, 325, 354.

3 As Heidegger says in BP, “everything positive becomes particularly clear when seen from the side of the privative,” a negativity shown in the ever-occurring contingency of existence, its being “otherwise” to our expectations and interests (OHF: 76-77).

4 The “problem of other minds” never arises in social practices that presume “co-minded” engagement.

5 Reified vorhanden references such as “belief,” “object,” and “representation,” are not false, but they are derived from immersed conditions that do not operate overtly with such delineations. Typical philosophies reverse engineer lived experience and claim that reified references are what make the experience possible, which a phenomenology of concernful absorption renders suspect. Learning a new practice does involve referential delineations, but when the practice settles into second nature facility, the delineations recede. Hubert Dreyfus has given extensive analyses of what he calls “absorbed coping.” See Being-in-the-world: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time, Division I (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991). In another essay, he says that references and rules are like training wheels in learning how to ride a bike, which in time are no longer needed, but which typical theories think are still there. See “Overcoming the Myth of the Mental,” Topoi 25 (2006), 43-49.

6 Nevertheless, some confusion is illustrated on SZ: 179, which suggests that Dasein’s facticity simply is inauthentic fallenness; while at the same time, authenticity is a “modified grasp” of factical everydayness. Also, at one point in the text (SZ: 43-44), everydayness is associated with inauthenticity, while also bearing “pregnant structures” that match “ontological determinations of an authentic being of Dasein.” A possible resolution could be that everydayness and inauthenticity are not coextensive, but this is not overtly stipulated in the text.

7 Surely Heidegger’s preoccupation as a thinker was articulating some kind of primal notion at the heart of things, from “being as such” to post-ontological origins such as Ereignis and Lichtung. Yet his early phenomenology of facticity has much rich potential for exploring an “ontical” philosophy of specific modes of being, which Heidegger named “metontology” in MFL. Some Heidegger scholars have followed through with important work on different topics drawn from Division One of BT. Some examples: concernful absorption (Hubert Dreyfus); Zuhandenheit and Vorhandenheit (Denis McManus); affective attunement (Lauren Freeman); Mitsein (Frederick Olafsen); perception (David Levin ); truth (Mark Wrathall); ethics (Lawrence Hatab); politics (Leslie Paul Thiele); technology (Michael Zimmerman)

8 Section 42 out of a total of 83.

9 The Cura myth, incidentally, displays a constellation of images that fits (portends?) the Fourfold

10 The term “primitive” here and in my usage does not connote something “backward,” but rather primal and original.

11 The very categories of scientific research will create an undue “translation” of pre-scientific phenomena that misses or distorts their factical reality as lived in a meaningful world. Telling examples are found in early 20th century studies of illiterate peasants : Alexander Luria, Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations, trans. Martin Lopez-Morillas and Lynn Solotaroff (Harvard University Press, 1976), where questions about logical classification and personal character, for instance, were answered in pragmatic or social terms, which researchers often called “refusals” or “failures.”

12 Volume 2 of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms.

13 The review is included in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics 5th edition, trans. Richard Taft (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), 180-190.

14 As Wittgenstein puts it, belief in God does not stem from a desire for causal explanation; rather, it expresses an attitude toward all explanations: Remarks on Colour, trans. Linda McAlister and Margarete Schuttle (UCal Press, 1977), 58.

15 The immanence of the sacred-profane distinction is nicely illustrated by the Latin word pro-fanum, literally the space before a sanctuary, where entry and exit show the alternating exchange between sacred and ordinary dimensions.

16 In Greek, muthos and logos shared several meanings, especially in terms of speech. A general sense of logos could be called “speech that makes sense to an audience” (G.R.F. Ferrari, “Logos,” Classical Papers, Berkeley, CA, 1997)—which can surely apply to mythical stories. And in Homer, there is a pattern wherein variants of muthos connote the authoritative speech of someone in power, and logos the speech of someone lacking power. See Bruce Lincoln, Theorizing Myth (University of Chicago Press, 1999), Chs. 1-2.

17 See Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper and Row, 1968).

18 Hesiod’s Theogony is not a “creation” myth, because the first gods simply appear (108), the source of which is not indicated. And Plato called myth a telling of something ultimately beyond all telling (Timaeus: 28-29).

19 Earth and underground, sky and night, the gods and withdrawal, mortals and death

20 From a modern standpoint, the “subjective” projection of human characteristics onto an “objective” natural world (anthropomorphism) can be deemed false—even if salvaged by an allegorical reading that nevertheless dismisses immediate identification with the meaning of a myth.

21 Heidegger’s account of building and dwelling can be considered a richer picture of Zuhandenheit: the example of a bridge in BDT shows much more than simply a technical product; the bridge sets up directional perspectives for its use and significance. And Heidegger shows how scientific and mathematical conceptions of space are derived from the directional sense of bridge usage through gradual modes of abstraction. A comparable process of time designations is given in BT (section 80), moving from day and night to positions of the sun to measures of a sundial to clock time to abstract quantification.

22 The muthos of Christianity, for example, is something quite real—absorbing—to a believing Christian. Plato’s critique of poetry in the Republic was not simply about a representational “imitation” of low-grade objects, but primarily the mimetic identification of audiences with poetic performances, which is one of the meanings of mimēsis in Greek.

23 We might borrow from Kant and say that a myth apart from its cultural effects is “empty,” while a culture without a myth is “blind.” The absorbed character of living a myth can be drawn from Heidegger's discussion of primitive “signs” in BT (SZ: 82): a sign for primitive Dasein is not a “representational” relation because it is “identified” with what it indicates; it is absorbed in an immediate mode of being-in-the-world. Likewise, a myth should be “identified” with its cultural effects. See Walter Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual (University of California Press, 1979), 22-23. In this regard, there is a twofold sense in which formal indication can apply to a myth: 1) pointing to its narrative meaning, without translating it into something extra-mythical; and 2) pointing to its cultural effects.

24 Heidegger admits that beginning with everyday life may seem “obvious” and thereby lack philosophical interest or relevance; but such obviousness has an ontological significance that heretofore has not been properly grasped (SZ: 54-55).

25 “Indigenous” has been typically defined in contrast to “settlers.” But it can have a more basic meaning as “natural,” as embedded in the natural world apart from abstract “a priori” categories. In addition, indigenous cultures are primarily “oral” societies, rather than literate cultures with “written” disengagement from natural language and speech.

26 See especially section 69b of SZ, and WM for the derivation of science from being-in-the-world and anxious wonder.

27 IL 6.146-49, 16.855; OD 13.59-60.

28 OD 11; IL 20.64-65, 23.104

29 IL 16.776, 855.

30 Plato, for instance, wanted to tell a different story than Homer, as illustrated in the Phaedo and Republic, where the prospect of immortality transforms the repulsion of Hades into an attraction and moral rectification (Phaedo 80dff). The myth of Er in the Republic is specifically counterposed by Plato to the tale of Odysseus witnessing Hades (614b). In the bargain, the myth of Er has Odysseus as the last soul to choose an afterlife—wherein he repudiates his heroic life in favor of an unassuming, quiet existence (620c). Here the affirmation of mortality is reversed.