Dreyfus and Haugeland on Heidegger and Authenticity
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- Henschen, T. Hum Stud (2012) 35: 95. doi:10.1007/s10746-012-9212-6
This paper tries to read some structure into the perplexing diversity of the literature on Heidegger’s concept of authenticity. It argues that many of the interpretations available rely on views that are false and cannot be Heidegger’s. It also shows that the only correct interpretation of Heidegger’s concept of authenticity emerges from a synthesis of Dreyfus’ later interpretation and Haugeland’s interpretation of this concept. A synthesis of these interpretations yields an interpretation, according to which Dasein’s being is authentic only if it is capable of using tools or language in radically new ways.
KeywordsHeideggerAuthenticityDreyfusHaugelandWorld transformationOntological heritage
authenticity is a specific way of life in which Dasein’s basic structure—the historicity and publicness of its possibilities—is perspicuously revealed (Cf. Dreyfus 1991: 301–304), that
Dasein’s authentic existence is conditioned by a visionary moment in which Dasein’s life stretches out before it in its temporal structure (Cf. Guignon 2000: 85–89), that
authentic disclosedness is a perpetual struggle against the reifying and banalizing forces inherent in discursive practice (Cf. Carman 2000: 24–25), that
authenticity is the mode of the understanding of a competent performer or cultural master (Cf. Dreyfus 2000a), or that
Dasein is authentically disclosed only if it realizes the cultural and historic character of its ontological heritage and if it acts upon this character in an appropriate way: if it is ready to give up on its ontological heritage at any time while factually retaining it as long as possible (Cf. Haugeland 2000).
Interpretations of Heidegger’s concept of authenticity diverge so much that it is hard to believe that they all emanate from the same text.
authenticity depends on a philosophical insight into Dasein’s existential structure, that
Dasein’s existentiell possibilities are necessarily public, that
Dasein’s being can be in the mode of everydayness without being either authentic or inauthentic, that
practical meaning is ontologically prior to linguistic meaning, and that
authenticity does not require any deviations from public standards.
Because most of these views are widespread in the literature on Heidegger, it won’t be immediately clear to everybody why they are supposed to be false and not Heidegger’s. In what follows, however, I will take great pains to give good reasons for the claim that they are false and not Heidegger’s.
I will also try to show that while interpretations (1)—(3) rely on at least two of (a)—(e), interpretations (4) and (5) presuppose only one of them: while (4) relies on (d), (5) presupposes (e). And I will argue that the only adequate interpretation of Heidegger’s concept of authenticity emerges from a synthesis of (4) and (5). A synthesis of (4) and (5) amounts to a combination of a peculiar kind—to a combination in which both interpretations are inconsistent with and eliminate the false view on which the other interpretation relies: the view that authenticity does not require any deviations from public standards is eliminated by Dreyfus’ interpretation of authenticity as mode of the understanding of the competent performer or cultural master; and the view that practical meaning is ontologically prior to linguistic meaning is eliminated by Haugeland’s description of a tendency toward publicness and inauthenticity as a generalized tendency toward normality in science: if a tendency toward publicness and inauthenticity is the generalization of a tendency toward normality in science, practical and linguistic meaning stand side by side; there is no priority of (the intention of) a context of references of a tool over (the intention of) the linguistic meaning (the meaning of theoretic terms, for instance) or the other way around.
The first part of what follows will introduce the interpretations (1)—(5) of Heidegger’s concept of authenticity. The second part will discuss the views (a)—(e) and identify the interpretations relying on these views. In the short concluding section, I will argue that an adequate interpretation of Heidegger’s concept of authenticity emerges from a synthesis of Dreyfus’ later and Haugeland’s interpretations of this concept. I will also point out that the interpretation emerging from this synthesis coincides with an interpretation that I develop elsewhere: with an interpretation of authenticity in terms of originality.2
Five Interpretations of Heidegger’s Concept of Authenticity
Owning up to One’s Nothingness
Dreyfus’ early interpretation starts out with an analysis of what each of us is: of Dasein’s existential structure. According to Dreyfus, this existential structure consists of “two aspects of […] nothingness […]—that Dasein has no possibilities of its own and that it can never acquire any” (Dreyfus 1991: 305). The possibilities that Dreyfus is referring to are existentiell possibilities, i.e. practical abilities to use tools or language. That Dasein has no possibilities of its own and that it can never acquire any implies that it can never have any practical abilities to use tools or language that no other Dasein has: “Heidegger seeks to show that the shared public world is the only world there is or can be. Dasein cannot invent totally unique meanings and motivations” (Dreyfus 1991: 301). In this sense, Dreyfus believes, Dasein is ‘nothing’. There is no defining characteristic by which Dasein could be distinguished from other Dasein: “Dasein can never take over these impersonal public possibilities in a way that would make them its own and so give it an identity” (Dreyfus 1991: 304–305).
Although Heidegger is interested only in the existential structure of Dasein, […] he nonetheless needs an existentiell story […] since he admits that there is no way to approach the general structure of Dasein except by spelling out a specific way of life in which that basic structure is perspicuously revealed. Heidegger calls the way of life that provides existentiell access to Dasein’s makeup ‘authenticity’. It is a way of life that consists of Dasein’s owning up to what it really is, rather than covering up or disowning the anxiety occasioned by its unsettledness. (Dreyfus 1991: 303–304)
The way of life perspicuously revealing Dasein’s existential structure is further specified as anxiety of death. Death, Dreyfus claims, is Heidegger’s “illustration of Dasein’s essential structural nullity, viz., that Dasein can have neither a nature nor an identity, that it is the constant impossibility of being anything specific” (Dreyfus 1991: 312). And anxiety of death reveals that one is dying in this peculiar sense: “Anxiety reveals that the self has no possibilities of its own” (Dreyfus 1991: 304–305).
The Pure Apprehension of a Well-Crafted Story
Dasein does not ‘await’ death as some future ‘occurrence,’ but instead ‘runs forward’ toward it by living in a distinctive way. Instead of tumbling into the frenzy and preoccupations of day-to-day existence, the individual who faces up to death lives each moment as part of the totality of life, and carries forward the past as part of a coherent, cumulative narrative. In contrast to the dispersal and endless ‘making-present’ of everydayness, such a life is authentically futural to the extent that it clear-sightedly faces up to the inevitable truth of its own finitude and lives each moment as an integral component of the overall story it is shaping in its actions. In this authentic ‘living-forward’ toward the end, one is resolute in the way one takes up the task of living to which one is ‘delivered over’ by acting in a focused, coherent way (Guignon 2000: 89).
The coherent and cumulative narrative, as part of which authentic Dasein lives any moment of its life, is thought of as “a well-crafted story” with “a beginning, a development, and an ending that gives the whole its point” (Guignon 2000: 85). And facing up to the inevitable truth of its own finitude is described as a visionary moment in which Dasein’s life stretches out before it in its temporal structure: “In becoming authentic, the barriers created by self-deception and dispersal in everyday ‘falling’ are torn down, and Dasein is brought into a ‘moment of vision’ in which the whole life—stretched out from beginning to end—is transparent in its temporal structure” (Guignon 2000: 89).
Struggling Against the Reifying Forces of Discursive Practice
Carman proposes to steer a middle course between Guignon’s “overly robust or metaphysically optimistic account of the ontological structure of the self” and Dreyfus’ “overly impoverished or pessimistic conception of authentic existence” (Carman 2003: 271). Like Dreyfus Carman believes that there is no alternative to understanding “the deep structure of human existence as falling, thrown projection” (Carman 2003: 276). Dasein cannot acquire any existentiell possibilities that no other Dasein has. And since it cannot acquire any such possibilities, there cannot be any interpretations, i.e. realizations of these possibilities, that deviate from the normative standards of das Man: “Dasein finds itself and its world always already interpreted, and moreover finds its own interpretations conditioned by and permanently indebted to the anonymous social normativity governing intelligibility at large, a normativity that Heidegger calls das Man” (Carman 2000: 19). Especially linguistic interpretations or discourse are realizations of existentiell possibilities that cannot be owned by any Dasein exclusively: “[I]f interpretation is itself a kind of practical comportment, and if it is conditioned by the discursive dispositions and habits into which we are socialized, then it is no wonder that we find ourselves in our very comportment spontaneously and constantly reliant on the interpretations always already at work in the social world that gave rise to those dispositions and habits in the first place” (Carman 2000: 19).
There is no alternative to expressing and communicating one’s understanding in the given idiom of one’s social and cultural milieu. To make sense of oneself at all is to make sense of oneself on the basis of the banal, indeed flattened out and levelled off, language of das Man. And yet to settle on some generically intelligible, and so more or less normatively sanctioned, interpretation of oneself in one’s being is precisely to forego, or even to evade one’s own factical particularity. […] Interpretation has no choice but to accommodate and exploit the prevailing criteria of intelligibility, which means at least to some extend trading the irreducible particularity of one’s own factical situation for generally adequate, but always more or less loosely fitting means of expressing and communicating it. (Carman 2000: 21)
a perpetual struggle against the reifying and banalizing forces inherent in discursive practice. Authentic existence is thus constituted by the very forces against which it has to push in its effort to grasp itself in its facticity. […] [A]uthenticity consists in nothing over and beyond our ongoing resistance to the banalizing, levelling pressures that pull us away from an explicit recognition of the ‘mineness’ at the center of our existence. At the same time, there is no such thing as a pure apprehension of existence as one’s own outside of the mediating conditions of discursive practice. Falling, then, does not by itself compromise the potential authenticity of Dasein’s interpretive response to it. (Carman 2000: 24–25)
It is not entirely clear on what grounds Carman could justify his claim of Dasein’s factical particularity. But it is possible that he would even reject any calls for justification of this claim. He might want to point out that Dasein’s factical particularity cannot be communicated, after all.
Competent Performance and World Transformation
Heidegger says that Division I of Being and Time provides a phenomenology of average everydayness and so will have to be revised in the light of the authentic way of being he describes in Division II. […] Focusing exclusively on Division I did, indeed, lead me to make at least one serious mistake. I overlooked warnings, scattered about in Division I, that the average intelligibility described there would later be shown to be an inferior form of understanding, in contrast to a richer more primordial kind of understanding described in Division II. (Dreyfus 2000a: 155–156)
The superior form of understanding always emerges from the public average intelligibility: “[T]his higher intelligibility must somehow be based on and grow out of the average intelligibility into which everyone is socialized” (Dreyfus 2000a: 157). But it is more primordial in the sense that is it only possibly and not factually shared: “The whole point of intelligibility is that it be shared or at least shareable, if not by all rational creatures, at least by those brought up in a given culture or form of life. So, I simply denied that for Heidegger there could be any higher intelligibility than that in the public practices […]. I’ve since come to see that I was wrong” (Dreyfus 2000a: 156).
With enough experience with a variety of situations, all seen from the same perspective but requiring different tactical decisions, the competent performer seems gradually to decompose this class of situations into subclasses, each of which share the same decision, single action or tactic. This allows an immediate intuitive response to each situation. […] As a result of accepting risks and a commitment to being better than average, the virtuoso in living, develops the capacity to respond appropriately even in situations in which there are conflicting concerns and in which there seems to those looking on to be no appropriate way to act (Dreyfus 2000a: 160).
Since the disposition to respond intuitively and appropriately is acquired through experience and practice, it is evident that the understanding of the competent performer is not any metaphysical or private understanding, but an understanding always growing out of the public and average understanding of one’s community: “Given the phenomenology of skill acquisition, it should be clear that the concrete Situation does not have some special metaphysical or private kind of intelligibility cut off from the everyday. Rather, intelligibility for the phronemos is the result of the gradual refinement of responses that grows out of long experience acting within the shared cultural practices” (Dreyfus 2000a: 161–162).
Of course, there may be several wise responses. Indeed, on my account, the idea of a single correct response makes no sense since other virtuosi with different funds of experiences would see the matter differently, and even the same phronemos would presumably respond differently once he had had more experience and therefore could discriminate a richer repertoire of situations. (Dreyfus 2000a: 160–161)
The possibility of several appropriate expert performances in situations of a particular type indicates that competent performers are not bound by any rules that decide which of the expert performances are correct in situations of that type. And since they are not bound by any such rules, expert performers cannot give reasons for the way they act: “[E]xpert response is immediate […]. Also, […] since there are no rules that dictate that what the phronemos does is the correct thing to do in that type of situation, the phronemos, like any expert, cannot explain why he did what he did” (Dreyfus 2000a: 162).
Just as the competent performer or expert the world transforming master understands to respond intuitively and appropriately to situations in which bystanders do not necessarily see the possibility of appropriate action. And just as the competent performer or expert the world transforming master acquires this understanding by decomposing a particular type of situation into ever more subtypes with increasing experience. Thus it is true that not only the understanding of the competent performer but also that of the world-transforming master is not a metaphysical or private understanding, but an understanding always growing out of the public and average understanding of a community. What the understanding of the expert and that of the world-transforming master are different in, is that it is only the world-transforming master who changes a whole generation’s understanding of a particular issue. His understanding is superior in the sense that it somehow goes beyond even the situational understanding of the competent performer: “Such an innovator is so radical that he transforms his generation’s understanding of the issue facing the culture and produces a new authentic ‘we’. He thus goes beyond not only the banal general understanding of his peers, but even beyond the Situational understanding of the phronemos. We could call such a fully authentic history-making Dasein a cultural master” (Dreyfus 2000a: 167).
Dreyfus takes the superiority of world transforming understanding to be indicative of different degrees of authenticity. Expert understanding, he says, is richer and deeper than public average understanding, but not yet fully authentic: “Such a person’s understanding of his society is richer and deeper than the average understanding and so he is generally more effective. But he is not yet fully authentic” (Dreyfus 2000a: 166). Fully authentic is only the understanding (or way of acting) of the world transforming master (or the master himself). While both, expert and world transforming master, can be said to be authentic in that they face anxiety, it is only the world transforming master who not only faxes the anxiety of guilt but also the anxiety of death: “Besides the effective coping of the phronemos, made possible by an expert grasp of the concrete Situation, there is a fully authentic way of acting […]. This authentic way of acting is a more complete form of resoluteness in which Dasein not only faces the anxiety of guilt, […] but, furthermore, faces the anxiety of death” (Dreyfus 2000a: 166). When facing the anxiety of guilt, Dasein realizes “that its identity and social norms are thrown rather than grounded and so have no final authority”. When facing the anxiety of death, Dasein recognizes that it “has to be ready at all times to die, i.e. give up its identity and its world altogether” (Dreyfus 2000b: 166). And according to Dreyfus, recognizing that one has to be ready at all times to give up one’s identity and world altogether is a precondition of one’s authenticity (or of that of one’s way of acting).
Taking Over Responsibility for One’s Ontological Heritage
Finally, Haugeland’s interpretation states that authenticity and inauthenticity (or ownedness and unownedness, in Haugeland’s words) are modes of Dasein’s disclosedness. Inauthentic disclosedness, Haugeland says, is what Heidegger refers to by ‘publicness,’ while authentic disclosedness is what he calls ‘resoluteness’: “The difference between ownedness and unownedness is a difference in the modes of disclosedness. Unowned disclosedness (the default) is called publicness; owned disclosedness (Dasein’s distinctive possibility) is called resoluteness” (Haugeland 2000: 63). Haugeland points out that a tendency toward publicness or unownedness is a basic characteristic of Dasein which Heidegger also refers to by ‘falling’: “Falling is the basic characteristic of Dasein that, in each case, it inevitably tends toward unownedness—specifically, unowned disclosedness (publicness)” (Haugeland 2000: 63). And falling is to be characterized as a generalization of a tendency toward normality in science: “In the special case of scientific Dasein, fallenness (unownedness) is exactly what Kuhn calls normality (as in: normal science). So falling is a generalization of the tendency toward normality in science” (Haugeland 2000: 63).
Haugeland remarks rather en passant that for Heidegger ‘unownedness’ or ‘normality’ were synonymous with ‘everydayness’. He also sees the necessity of their being something like a push toward authenticity: “Given this essential tendency toward unownedness or normality (what Heidegger also calls everydayness), there must also be some push in the opposite direction, if there is ever to be anything else” (Haugeland 2000: 63). Since he regards falling as a generalization of a tendency toward normality in science, he might somehow be expected to interpret this push as a generalization of the introduction of a new paradigmatic theory. His interpretation of this push is a different one, though. According to him, Dasein pushes toward authenticity if it takes over responsibility for its ontological heritage, i.e. if it reawakens the question of being and holds itself free for taking it back: “Owned Dasein, as taking over responsibility for its ontological heritage, no longer takes it for granted. It reawakens the question of being—as its ownmost and sometimes most urgent question. In other words, it holds itself free for taking it back” (Haugeland 2000: 72).
Holding oneself free for taking back one’s ontological heritage does not necessarily result in the abandonment of this heritage. There are circumstances, under which the abandonment of one’s ontological heritage may even appear irresponsible: “Since most apparently discovered impossibilities are merely apparent, it would be wavering and irresponsible (‘irresolute’) to give up too soon—that is, so long as there is any way that it might responsibly be avoided” (Haugeland 2000: 74). The point is that sticking to an ontological heritage (like a scientific paradigm) without seeing its transitory and historical character may be irresponsible, too: “‘Refusing to accept’ intransigent impossibilities […] is bullheadedly refusing even to see—blinding oneself. Existentially, that kind of refusal—running away and hiding—is irresponsible” (Haugeland 2000: 73–74). For Haugeland, Dasein is resolute (or authentically disclosed) only if it realizes the cultural and historic character of its ontological heritage and if it acts upon this character in an appropriate way: if it is ready to give up on its ontological heritage at any time while factually retaining it as long as possible.
Five Erroneous Views
Authenticity as Depending on a Philosophical Insight into Dasein’s Existential Structure
Although Heidegger is interested only in the existential structure of Dasein, […] he nonetheless needs an existentiell story […] since he admits that there is no way to approach the general structure of Dasein except by spelling out a specific way of life in which that basic structure is perspicuously revealed. Heidegger calls the way of life that provides existentiell access to Dasein’s makeup ‘authenticity’. It is a way of life that consists of Dasein’s owning up to what it really is. (Dreyfus 1991: 303–304)
The same view is held by Guignon who claims that “[i]n becoming authentic, the barriers created by self-deception and dispersal in everyday ‘falling’ are torn down, and Dasein is brought into a ‘moment of vision’ in which the whole life—stretched out from beginning to end—is transparent in its temporal structure” (Guignon 2000: 89). This view is also expressed by Carman who states that authentic existence ‘uncovers’ or ‘casts light on’ the primordial structures of Dasein: “[T]he authentic mode of existence, which is ontically contingent, is authentic precisely in its ability to uncover or cast light on the primordial structures of being-in-the-world that obtain whether Dasein exists authentically or inauthentically” (Carman 2003: 276).
The view that authenticity depends on a philosophical insight into Dasein’s existential structure has to be criticized in an at least threefold respect, though. The first more formal criticism is directed against the use of expressions like ‘way of life,’ ‘own up to,’ ‘moment of vision,’ ‘is transparent,’ ‘reveal,’ ‘uncover,’ and ‘cast light’. Regardless of whether these expressions are introduced or only borrowed from Heidegger – their reference and semantic content are far from clear. It remains totally obscure whether revealing, owning up to, uncovering, casting light on Dasein’s existential structure or its becoming transparent are intentional acts with cognitive content, necessary conditions of such acts (i.e., affectedness and existentiell understanding), or even some kind of mystical experience.
The second criticism points out that the view that authenticity depends on a philosophical insight into Dasein’s existential structure is in conflict with Heidegger’s thesis of the hermeneutic situation of the interpreter.5 Heidegger developed this thesis in the early 1920 s and held onto it throughout his career. This thesis states that all interpretation (ranging from the circumspective use of tools to philosophical knowledge, from the perception of outer objects to judgements about theoretic entities) is dependent on the factual historic situation into which the interpreter is thrown. This dependence of all interpretation on the interpreter’s factual historic situation implies that anything that counts as successful use of tools or true justified belief depends for its success or truth on the historical circumstances under which tools are used or beliefs accepted as true.
This thesis of the hermeneutic situation of the interpreter is most clearly expressed in Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation, a text from 1922. In this text, the factual historical situation into which any interpreter is thrown is characterized as defined by “a determinate interpretedness which has been handed down” (PIRA 363) to the interpreter. Here, Heidegger claims that even philosophical knowledge “necessarily makes its own beginning within its own factical situation, and it does so within an already given particular interpretedness of factical life which first sustains the philosophical hermeneutic itself and which can never be completely eradicated” (PIRA 369–370).
But the thesis of the hermeneutic situation of the interpreter is also expressed in Being and Time when it is said that what the interpreter takes to be the semantic content of a philosophical text is nothing but an “assumption” of the interpreter: “If, when one is engaged in a particular concrete kind of interpretation, in the sense of exact textual Interpretation, one likes to appeal to what ‘stands there,’ then one finds that what ‘stands there’ in the first instance is nothing other than the obvious undiscussed assumption of the person who does the interpreting” (BT 192). This thesis is further alluded to in Heidegger’s characterization of authentic disclosedness as ‘historiological truth’: “The possibility and the structure of historiological truth are to be expounded in terms of the authentic disclosedness (‘truth’) of historical existence” (BT 449).
In fact, it is clear that Heidegger adhered to this thesis even toward the end of his career. In a lecture delivered in 1962, he argues that philosophers do not choose among the different characterizations of being “as idea and as the koinonia of the Ideas, […] as position, […] as the absolute concept, […] as the will to power” (TB 9), but always already operate with them. He says that the history of being is a “destiny of Being,” and that in “the sending of the destiny of Being, […] there becomes manifest […] Ereignis, the event of Appropriation” (TB 20).
Heidegger’s continuous adherence to his thesis of the hermeneutic situation of the interpreter indicates that authenticity cannot be interpreted as depending on the (existentiell possibilities to perform the) intentional act of believing that Dasein’s existential structure is Dasein’s disclosedness, that Dasein’s disclosedness is composed of existentials, etc. The belief that Dasein’s existential structure is Dasein’s disclosedness, etc. depends for its truth on the historical circumstances under which its truth is accepted. Authenticity, by contrast, is a mode of Dasein’s being: in order to be authentic, Dasein’s being cannot depend on the historical situation in which the belief that Dasein’s existential structure is Dasein’s disclosedness, etc. is accepted as true. It must be possible for Dasein’s being to be authentic under a great many other historical situations, too.
The third criticism is a reminder that non-philosophers and even non-Heideggerian philosophers would be excluded from being authentic if authenticity was dependent on the (existentiell possibilities to perform the) intentional act of believing that Dasein’s existential structure is Dasein’s disclosedness, etc. Heidegger has no intention to reserve authenticity for philosophers or even philosophers who are eager to follow him at every turn. He certainly wants to include artists, scientists, sportsmen and politicians who excel at what they do to such a degree that they are capable of introducing new ways of using tools or language.
It might look as if authors like Dreyfus, Guignon and Carman could easily respond to the last two of these criticisms by pointing out that what they mean is not that authenticity adheres to some kind of intentional act (or the existentiell possibilities to perform it) but to a way of life, a moment of vision, an ability to uncover or shed light on something. If this is pointed out, however, the first criticism will reemerge. Dreyfus, Guignon and Carman owe a clear explanation of what they mean when using terms like ‘way of life,’ ‘moment of vision,’ ‘is transparent,’ ‘reveal,’ ‘uncover,’ and ‘cast light’. And my suspicion is that there is no such explanation.
The Necessary Publicness of Existentiell Possibilities
The second view says that Dasein’s existentiell possibilities are necessarily public. Carman holds this view when saying that there “is no alternative to expressing and communicating one’s understanding in the given idiom of one’s social and cultural milieu” (Carman 2000: 21). And Dreyfus ascribes it to Heidegger when claiming that he “seeks to show that the shared public world is the only world there is or can be. Dasein cannot invent totally unique meanings” (Dreyfus 1991: 301). The view that Dasein’s existentiell possibilities are necessarily public is sometimes justified by the claim that Wittgenstein held a similar position. It is suggested that Wittgenstein believes “that the meaning of any given expression remains indeterminate in the absence of something like a practice, a custom, an institution” (Carman 2003: 248). Wittgenstein is further held to insist that linguistic expressions could not be used by anybody who is the only person to know their meanings: “[L]anguage use not only takes place in the public domain; language itself is not the property of any individual either […]. There is no such thing as a private language, Wittgenstein insists, and so none of us can design or choose in an original or individual way the fundamental norms that mediate our membership in a human community” (Olafson 1994: 47).
It is sometimes admitted that Wittgenstein limits his investigations to linguistic meaning and the communal use of language. But he is also said to think of language use as a special case of the use of tools and to interpret the use of tools as a case of rule following. Consequently, he is sometimes taken to imply that the average public understanding of how to use tools or language is the only kind of understanding there is: “For both Heidegger and Wittgenstein, […] the source of the intelligibility of the world is the average public practices through which alone there can be any understanding at all. […] What we share is simply our average comportment. Once a practice has been explained by appealing to what one does, no more basic explanation is possible” (Dreyfus 1991: 155).
It is doubtful, however, whether Wittgenstein can be held to claim the necessary publicness of understanding. It is true that some of his remarks in the Philosophical Investigations stress the necessarily social or public character of understanding.6 But when a more integrated interpretation of Wittgenstein’s late philosophy is considered, it soon becomes clear that he cannot be said to believe that the average public understanding of how to use tools or language is the only understanding there is. Baker and Hacker, for instance, observe that “there seems to be no conceptual obstacle to imagining that Crusoe might frame novel rules (in English) for his own purposes and follow them as well as following rules that he had earlier mastered in England. Why should he not invent and play a new form of patience? Or even develop a new branch of mathematics (set theory or the predicate calculus) and write a treatise on it” (Baker and Hacker 1985: 173). And they conclude from this observation that “in this sense of ‘private’ there can be no doubt that Wittgenstein countenanced the possibility of following rules privately” (Baker and Hacker 1985: 173).7
When it is questionable whether Wittgenstein believes that Dasein’s existentiell possibilities are necessarily public, it remains equally doubtful whether Heidegger can be said to hold this belief. Existentiell possibilities are practical abilities to use tools or language. Experts who excel at what they do are capable of using tools or language in radically new ways. And if they are capable of using tools or language in radically new ways, they have existentiell possibilities that no one else has. These possibilities may be said to be necessarily public in the sense that other people can be taught to have them, too. But when Dreyfus and Carman express the view of the necessary publicness of existentiell possibilities, they mean to say that it is factually impossible for anyone to have existentiell possibilities that no one else has.
The Disparateness of Everydayness
[a] particular Dasein can take a stand on itself by relating to […] its possibilities in three ways […]. Dasein can own up, disown, or fail to take a stand on its unsettling way of being. […] Heidegger calls choosing itself or owning up Dasein’s authentic (eigentlich) way of being, and seeming to choose while disowning, Dasein’s inauthentic (uneigentlich) way of being. He calls the third mode, in which Dasein exists most of the time, the undifferentiated mode. (Dreyfus 1991: 26–27)
The same view is held by Carman who claims that authenticity “obviously functions as an evaluative term describing a desirable or choice-worthy mode of existence; it is something good. Under this normative aspect, Heidegger distinguishes not two but three possibilities […]. Modal undifferentiatedness, or indifference between authenticity and inauthenticity is […] neither good nor bad, but neutral” (Carman 2005: 286). The problem with this view is that it is based on conflicting textual evidence. It is true that Heidegger states in the beginning of the existential analytic that Dasein exists in the mode of authenticity or inauthenticity “or else […] is modally undifferentiated” (BT 78), i.e., exists with the “undifferentiated character of […] everydayness” (BT 69). But it is also true that in the beginning of the existential analytic the goal of this analytic is described as an interpretation of Dasein “with the […] undifferentiated character of […] everydayness” (BT 69), while retrospectively the fore-having of this interpretation is said to have “never included more than the inauthentic Being of Dasein” (BT 276). As long as it cannot be decided on purely textual grounds whether Heidegger believed that Dasein’s existence could be in the mode of everydayness without being either authentic or inauthentic one has to drop back to Heidegger’s more general thought. And I think that it follows from his more general thought that one may bracket the modal difference of Dasein’s existence for the purpose of philosophical analysis but that it is factually impossible for Dasein to be in the mode of everydayness without being either authentic or inauthentic.
The Ontological Priority of Practical Over Linguistic Meaning
The fourth view states that practical meaning is in some sense prior to linguistic meaning. This view appears to be expressed in Heidegger’s remarks that the assertion is a derivative mode of interpretation (cf. BT 195), and that “the primordial ‘as’ of circumspective interpretation” is levelled “to the ‘as’ with which presence-at-hand is given a definite character” (BT 201). A number of authors interpret these remarks as stating that the capacity to use a particular kind of tools, assertions, is a necessary condition of the capacity to intend things conceptually (Cf. Brandom 1983: 404, Okrent 1988: 131ff). Even though this statement appears roughly true, it cannot be taken to be synonymous with Heidegger’s remarks. What these remarks imply is that the full context of the references of a tool cannot be intended except by using it circumspectively.8
Given the availability of rich descriptions of […] everyday know-how, […] couldn’t analytic philosophers profit from pursuing the question of how these nonconceptual capacities are converted into conceptual ones […]? Conversely, phenomenology needs help from the analysts. Phenomenologists lack a detailed and convincing account of how rationality and language grow out of nonconceptual and nonlinguistic coping. Heidegger made a start […], but he didn’t live to work out the details. […] The time is ripe […] to begin the challenging task of showing how our conceptual capacities grow out of our nonconceptual ones. (Dreyfus 2005: 61)9
This interpretation, however, cannot be right. It may be true that the meaning of terms denoting particular types of tools (such as hammers) is a thematized version of the context of references of a tool (of a hammer, for instance). But theoretic terms and many other terms denoting the present-at-hand do not stand for anything that could be used circumspectively. Therefore, the meaning of these terms cannot be a thematized version of the context of references of a tool.
The view that the meaning of a term denoting entities or classes of entities is always a thematized version of the context of references of a tool is presupposed by Dreyfus’ characterization of the expert’s and cultural master’s responses as intuitive and immediate, however. This characterization would be adequate if the meaning of a term denoting entities or classes of entities was always a thematized version of the context of references of a tool. If the meaning of such terms were always a thematized version of the context of references of a tool, conceptual and reflective responses would always reduce to intuitive and immediate responses. It would, therefore, be redundant to say that the expert’s and cultural master’s responses are intuitive and immediate or conceptual and reflective. But the meaning of a term denoting entities or classes of entities isn’t always a thematized version of the context of references of a tool. Consequently, Dreyfus’ characterization of the expert’s and cultural master’s responses as intuitive and immediate cannot be said to be adequate. In order to be adequate, it would have to be supplemented with an account of the intentionality of Dasein inventing linguistic meaning by redefining linguistic expressions that do not denote anything that could be used circumspectively.
The Necessary Conformity to Public Standards
Finally, the fifth view suggests that authenticity does not require any deviation from the public standards of das Man. This view is implied by what most commentators say when they develop interpretations like those discussed in 2. The only commentator rejecting this view is Dreyfus. His rejection of this view becomes most explicit in his reply to Haugeland: “[F]or Heidegger, Dasein is lost in the one whenever it follows the public standards, whether or not it is resolutely ready to give them up. For Heidegger, when one is resolute one does not respond in the standard way at all” (Dreyfus 2000a: 316). What reasons do we have to follow Dreyfus and abandon all other commentators? The reasons, I think, are at least two.
resoluteness […] becomes the repetition of a possibility of experience that has come down to us. […] But […] repetition does not let itself be persuaded of something by what is ‘past’ […]. Rather, the repetition makes a reciprocative rejoinder to the possibility of that existence which has-been-there. But when such a rejoinder is made to this possibility […], it is at the same time a disavowal of that which in the ‘today’ is working itself out as the ‘past’” (BT 437-8).
I cannot think of any interpretation that captures the sense of these passages better than Dreyfus’ interpretation, according to which an authentically existing Dasein transforms its generation’s understanding of the issue facing the culture and produces a new authentic ‘we’. An authentically existing Dasein adopts the existentiell possibilities of the past, while at the same time developing new existentiell possibilities to meet the requirements of the situation of its present.
The second reason is that we couldn’t explain Heidegger’s excessive use of new terminology if we held on to the view that authenticity does not require any deviation from the public standards: we couldn’t explain why he introduces so many artificial expressions like ‘being-in-the-world’ and ‘being-toward-death,’ and why his use of ‘Dasein,’ ‘self,’ ‘truth,’ ‘death,’ ‘conscience,’ ‘time,’ etc. deviates so much from the traditional use of these expressions. In a lecture from 1925 he remarks that if he is “forced here to introduce ponderous and perhaps inelegant expressions, it is not a matter of personal whim or a special fancy for my own terminology, but the compulsion of the phenomena themselves” (HCT 151). In the same lecture he maintains that a language has its authentic being, “only as long as new correlations of meaning and so – although not necessarily – new words and phrases accrue to it from understanding” (HCT 271). Heidegger makes an excessive use of new terminology because he thinks that a use of new terminology that is compelled by the phenomena themselves is authentic language. And how could this use be authentic language if authenticity didn’t require any deviation from public standards?
I would like to conclude by pointing out that, to my mind, the only adequate interpretation of Heidegger’s concept of authenticity emerges from a synthesis of Dreyfus’ later interpretation and Haugeland’s interpretation of this concept. A synthesis of both interpretations amounts to a peculiar kind of combination: to a combination in which both interpretations are inconsistent with and eliminate the false view on which the other interpretation relies. Haugeland’s view that authenticity does not require any deviations from public standards is eliminated by Dreyfus’ interpretation of authenticity as mode of the understanding of the competent performer or cultural master. And Dreyfus’ view that the meaning of a term denoting entities or classes of entities is always a thematized version of the context of references of a tool is eliminated by Haugeland’s description of a tendency toward publicness and inauthenticity as a generalized tendency toward normality in science: if a tendency toward publicness and inauthenticity is the generalization of a tendency toward normality in science, practical and linguistic meaning stand side by side; there is no priority of (the intention of) a context of references of a tool over (the intention of) the linguistic meaning (the meaning of theoretic terms, for instance) or the other way around.
According to the interpretation that emerges from this synthesis, authenticity is the mode of the understanding of a competent performer or cultural master whose responses are not necessarily intuitive and immediate. Heidegger’s favorite example of an authentically existing Dasein is Newton. He describes Newton’s situation as that of a scientific crisis to which he responds by formulating the three laws of motion. This formulation, however, cannot be conceived of as an immediate and intuitive response of a cultural master dealing with tools. It rather has to be thought of as a conceptual and reflective response of an outstanding theorist: it “could be carried through only with complete mastery of the tradition of medieval as well as ancient science of nature. This demanded an unusual breadth and certainty of conceptual thought and finally a mastery of the new experiences and modes of procedure” (WT 65). According to Heidegger, authenticity cannot be restricted to the mode of the understanding of a competent performer or cultural master dealing with tools. For him, authenticity is the mode of the understanding of a competent performer or cultural master whose responses are either immediate and intuitive or reflective and conceptual.
I should also like to point out that the interpretation emerging from a synthesis of Dreyfus’ later interpretation and Haugeland’s interpretation coincides with an interpretation that I develop elsewhere: with an interpretation of authenticity in terms of originality. ‘Originality’ is taken to denote a mode of Dasein’s existence, disclosedness, being-with, understanding and affectedness. Dasein’s understanding, for instance, is regarded as original if it is the understanding of a competent performer of world-transforming master who is capable of using tools or language in radically new ways.10
It is questionable whether the customary translation of the German Eigentlichkeit by the English ‘authenticity’ is fortunate. In what follows, however, I shall not elaborate on the questionability of this translation and will simply maintain the use of the term ‘authenticity’.
See my “Heidegger on Authenticity” (forthcoming). Both my “Heidegger on Authenticity” and the present paper arrive at similar conclusions but go different ways to establish these conclusions. My “Heidegger on Authenticity” concludes that Heidegger’s concept of authenticity is best interpreted in terms of the concept of originality and derives this conclusion by providing a textual analysis of central passages of Being and Time and related texts. The present paper, by contrast, concludes that an adequate interpretation of Heidegger’s concept of authenticity emerges from a synthesis of Dreyfus’ later interpretation and Haugeland’s interpretation of this concept and attempts to establish this conclusion with the aid of a discussion of existing interpretations of this concept (and especially the ones brought forward by Dreyfus and Haugeland).
Carman criticizes early Dreyfus’ interpretation in Carman (2000) and Guignon’s interpretation in Carman 2000: 271–273. Later Dreyfus criticizes early Dreyfus’ interpretation in Dreyfus (2000). Individual criticisms of all five interpretations can be found in my Henschen (2010).
Guignon himself acknowledges that his interpretation of authenticity is in conflict with this thesis. He states that his interpretation runs “counter to the awareness of wordliness and thrownness that is central to Being and Time” (Guignon 2000: 91). But instead of giving up on this interpretation, he believes the project of Being and Time to be defective in that it grounds “all ontology in something like the total transparency of self to self” (Guignon 2000: 91). It is well known that Heidegger himself regarded his project of Being and Time to be defective in a number of ways: one is with respect to its alleged anthropocentrism (cf. B 300f.), another is with respect to its concept of truth (cf. EPTT 446). It is questionable, however, whether it can be interpreted as being defective in the way envisaged by Guignon.
He suggests, for instance, that someone directs himself by a signpost “only in so far as there exists a regular use of signposts, a custom” (PI §198). He also repeatedly emphasizes the importance of training, drill and exercises in inculcating techniques within groups of people (PI §§189, 208). He, finally, explicitly mentions the social character of a language: the very possibility of a language, he says, rests on an agreement among speakers in definitions and judgements (PI §242).
As is well known from Baker and Hacker (1984), Baker and Hacker are quite critical of Kripke’s interpretation of Wittgenstein. But even according to Kripke’s interpretation, we cannot say that Wittgenstein believed in the necessary publicness of understanding. Like Baker and Hacker Kripke examines the case of physically isolated individuals like Robinson Crusoe. The dire situation of this particular individual can easily be thought of as leading it to invent new ways of using tools or language to hunt or name species that had been unknown before. But when inventing new ways of using tools or language, Crusoe obviously introduces new rules of using tools or language. Accordingly, Kripke’s conclusion is not that he does not follow any rules when using tools or language in this newly invented way: “Does this mean that Robinson Crusoe, isolated on an island, cannot be said to follow any rules, no matter what he does? I do not see that this follows” (Kripke 1982: 110). What Kripke’s conclusion states is that Crusoe cannot be said to be able to justify his belief (i.e. to know) that he follows any rules when using tools or language in a newly invented way. He cannot justify this belief unless he is included in some sort of community and able to teach his newly invented ways of using tools or language to other people who may then set up criteria for rule following which enable them to judge whether someone follows a rule or not: “What does follow is that if we think of Crusoe as following rules, we are taking him into our community and applying our criteria for rule following to him” (Kripke 1982: 110). Kripke also points out that the fact that physically isolated individuals do not know whether they follow any rules is no reason to panic:“[C]onsider what is true of one person considered in isolation. The most obvious fact is one that might have escaped us after long contemplation of the sceptical paradox. It holds no terrors in our daily lives; no one actually hesitates when asked to produce an answer to an addition problem! […] The entire point of the sceptical argument is that ultimately we reach a level where we act without any reason in terms of which we can justify our action. We act unhesitatingly but blindly” (Kripke 1982: 87).
See my “Heidegger on Authenticity” (forthcoming).