Incomplete Intelligibility

‘In the language which is spoken when one expresses oneself, there lies an average intelligibility; and in accordance with this intelligibility the discourse which is communicated can be understood to a considerable extent, even if the hearer does not bring himself into such a kind of Being towards what the discourse is about as to have a primordial understanding of it. We do not so much understand the entities which are talked about; we already are listening only to what is said-in-the-talk as such. What is said-in-the-talk gets understood; but what the talk is about is understood only approximately and superficially. We have the same thing in view, because it is in the same averageness that we have a common understanding of what is said.’

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger, tr. John Macquerrie and Edward Robinson, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1962, I.5, §35 (H.167), p. 212

Das Gerede

It isn’t just us who are so temporary—it is all living beings, all living things—the animals, the trees, the clouds. They, too, exist briefly against the background of nothingness. Once we are aware that we, and all living beings, share this fragile state, we might learn to identify more with them, to recognize our kinship with all living things and with the Earth itself. They are like us, briefly alive against the backdrop of nothingness.

However, Heidegger is very aware of the way in which we hide from confrontation with Being, escaping into the warm folds of daily life, of society, and of what he termed its endless chatter, Das Gerede. We can imagine Das Gerede as an enormous pancake-like dough layer that smothers our connection with Being. Chatter is everywhere—it comes in via the airwaves, the media, our social circle—and it seeks to reassure us that trivia actually matters, that our jobs count, that what we are doing and thinking has importance. It hides us from the nature of Being in a world of death. So the task of philosophy is to remove us from the doughy comfort of chatter and introduce us, systematically, to the bracing concept of Nothingness.

Heidegger wants to free us from the pull of chatter, so as to focus on the intensity of existence.

– Courtesy of

Heidegger’s Geworfenheit

How do we find ourselves in the world, and how can find our freedom here?

As I already tried to show, Heidegger seeks to reawaken perplexity about the question of being, the basic issue of metaphysics. In Being and Time, he pursues this question through an analysis of the human being or what he calls Dasein. The being of Dasein is existence, understood as average everyday existence or our life in the world, discussed in the last entry. But how might we give some more content to this rather formal idea of existence?

Heidegger gives us a strong clue in Division 1, Chapter 5 of Being and Time, which is a long, difficult, but immensely rewarding chapter and where things really begin to get interesting. The central claim of this chapter – which is deepened in the remainder of Being and Time – is that Dasein is thrown projection (Dasein ist geworfener Entwurf). Let me try and unravel this thought.

Heidegger tends to advance his investigation in concept clusters. One cluster contains three concepts: state of mind, mood and thrownness. State of mind is a rather questionable rendering of Befindlichkeit, which William Richardson nicely translates as ‘already-having-found-oneself-there-ness’. OK, it’s not particularly elegant, but the thought is the human being is always already found or disclosed somewhere, namely in the ‘there’ of its being-in-the-world. This ‘there’ is the Da of Dasein.

Furthermore, I am always found in a mood, a Stimmung. This is mood in the strong Aristotelian sense of pathos, a passion of the soul or an affect, something befalls us and in which we find ourselves. The passions are not, for Heidegger, psychological colouring for an essentially rational agent. They are rather the fundamental ways in which we are attuned to the world. Indeed, musicologically, Stimmung is linked to tuning and pitch: one is attuned to the world firstly and mostly through moods. One of the compelling aspects of Heidegger’s work is his attempt to provide a phenomenology of moods, of the affects that make up our everyday life in the world.

This is another way of approaching his central insight: that we cannot exist independently of our relation to the world; and this relationship is a matter of mood and appetite, not rational contemplation.

Such moods disclose the human being as thrown into the ‘there’ of my being-in-the-world. As Jim Morrisson intoned many decades ago, ‘Into this world we’re thrown’. Thrownness (Geworfenheit) is the simple awareness that we always find ourselves somewhere, namely delivered over to a world with which we are fascinated, a world we share with others.

We are always caught up in our everyday life in the world, in the throw of various moods, whether fear, boredom, excitement or – as we will see in the next entry – anxiety.

But, Heidegger insists, Dasein is not just thrown into the world. Because it – we – are capable of understanding, we can also throw off our thrown condition. Understanding is, for Heidegger, a conception of activity. It is always understanding how to do something or how to operate something. Understanding is the possession of an ability (etwas können) and the authentic human is characterised by the ability or potentiality to be (Seinkönnen).

So, the human being is not just a being defined by being thrown into the world. It is also one who can throw off that thrown condition in a movement where it seizes hold of its possibilities, where it acts in a concrete situation. This movement is what Heidegger calls projection (Entwurf) and it is the very experience of what Heidegger will call, later in Being and Time, freedom. Freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept. It is the experience of the human being demonstrating its potential through acting in the world. To act in such a way is to be authentic.’

– Critchley. S. (2009, June 29) Being and Time, part 4: Thrown into this world The Guardian. Retrieved from The Guardian website.

The Happening of Truth

‘Heidegger believed that art was an alternative way of discovering the truth about the world and Nature.

“Art is the happening of Truth. It discloses Being without making it into a classifiable entity.”

In his essay “The Origin of the Work of Art” (1935). Heidegger turned to a painting of shoes by Van Gogh to explicate his point about art as “the happening of truth”:

“A pair of peasant shoes and nothing more. And yet – From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth … In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field.”

Heidegger’s argument is that Van Gogh’s painting re-creates the lived context of the peasant’s life. Because the painting achieves this, Heidegger concludes:

“Van Gogh’s painting is the disclosure of what the equipment, the pair of peasant shoes, is in Truth.”

Heidegger’s reading of Van Gogh’s painting is part of the tradition of hermeneutics, in which the work of art is seen as a clue or symptom for a wider sense of reality.’

– Kul-Want. C. (2012) Aesthetics London, United Kingdom: Icon Books p. 98-100

Conversations: Art

Dear Lysandra, do you think there are things “we are aware of” about both ourselves and the outside world that are ‘unexpressable’ in terms of words or anything similarly conventional?

I think there are. It seems probable that these unexpressable things may only be expressed (or perhaps merely approximated) by something unconventional – something out of the ordinary, unique even.

Perhaps these things can be rightly called Art?

Quite, with this in mind I prefer Heidegger’s view “Art is the happening of truth”. That is to say, Art can establish that which is implicit; it is the disclosure of intelligibility in time.

See other: Philosophical Conversations


A river in Hades whose waters caused forgetfulness. It was on the banks of another Underworld river called the Styx that the shades, or ghostly remains, of the dead congregated to seek passage to the Afterlife.

Unless they bribed Charon to ferry them across the stream, they wandered aimlessly on the near bank forever. But those who made it across the Styx did not have much more to anticipate. Once they had drunk from the waters of Lethe, they were left with nothing to reminisce about for eternity. The Lethe had therefore been dubbed the stream of oblivion; the others were the Styx, Akheron, Pyriphlegethon and Kokytos.

‘He [Aithalides, son of Hermes, gifted with unfailing memory] has long since been lost in the inexorable waters of the Akheron, yet even so, Lethe (Forgetfulness) has not overwhelmed his soul [ie unlike the other dead he remembers his past lives and retains his memory in the underworld].’

– Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 642 ff (trans. Rieu) (C3rd C.E.)

In modern philosophy, Martin Heidegger used the term lēthē to symbolize the “concealment of Being” or “forgetting of Being” that he saw as a major problem of modern philosophy. Examples are found in his books on Nietzsche and Parmenides.

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In 2007, Esquire Magazine named Gianni Agnelli (1921-2003), the Italian industrialist and head of the car giant Fiat, one of the five best dressed men in the history of the world, alongside Gary Cooper, Beau Brummell, Edward VIII and Pope Pius V (1504-72), who is by many supposed to be the inspiration for character Santa Claus.

Deutsch: Friedrich Ludwig Jahn

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn

All centipedes are predators. They kill their prey with poisonous claws attached to their heads. The Giant Centipede is 30cm long and kills small mammals and reptiles. It is extremely painful to be bitten by one.

In 1811, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) invented gym. A German nationalist known as the Father of Gymnastics, he invented the parallel bars, the rings, the balance beam, the vaulting horse and the horizontal bar.

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was of peasant stock and was persistently mistaken by both students and colleagues at Marburg University for either a janitor or a heating engineer.

Martin Luther (1483-1546), the man who is often credited with starting the Protestant Reformation, was the son of a miner. He was a law student at Erfurt University in July 1505 when he was struck by lightning and thrown to the ground. Seeing this as a sign from God, he vowed on the spot to become a monk, which he did two weeks later.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Existential Fear

‘This desire for an adequate life – for-filling one’s own potentials, of the relative highest values, by doing that for what one is ‘destined’ to do – does not concern life-problems as much as the deepest meaning of existence. This fear, coming from the feeling ‘being thrown in the existence’, as explained by Kierkegaard and Heidegger, the ‘existential fear’ and the realisation of being guilty of missing the right direction – these feelings are more and more common today.’

– Bühler C. 1962. Psychologie in de Moderne Wereld [Psychology in the Modern World] Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier (1971) p. 389