Dasein’s Shadow and the Moment of its Disappearance


In his 1937 lectures, Heidegger searches for Nietzsche’s initial thought of “the Moment”. This paper mimics Heidegger’s pursuit of Nietzsche’s Moment by tracing Heidegger’s own early arrival at the Moment in Being and Time, published 10 years prior to his lectures on Nietzsche. Both Zarathustra and Dasein are chased in and out of an authentic relationship with the Moment by their own shadows, which disappear at midday. Dasein’s shadow is the being that is always closest-at-hand, the being in whom I lose myself in everyday care. Dasein forgets itself in inauthentically securing its identity in that which it cares for and that which it is not, darkness. Yet Dasein also confronts its own finitude in its negative double as it witnesses the daily dwindling of its shadow—the everyday passing away of time.

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  1. 1.

    As John Rose argues (2009), Heidegger desires a shift from the temporal framework that structures our historical epoch, which is dominated by metaphysical thinking, to an epoch structured by a new temporal framework; yet Heidegger himself admits that he cannot think “the moment” of this temporal shift from within time. Rose argues that the interruption of everyday time or the questioning of time is a temporality in itself and must be thought within time. Although I agree with Rose that Heidegger fails to think the Moment of the interruption of everyday from within time, I think this is because there is kind of temporality that cannot be represented in philosophical thought. It is precisely at the edge of philosophical thought—where metaphysical thinking fails—that the Moment is experienced (to say this differently, it is at this edge that Dasein temporalizes itself in such a way as to usher in a new relationship to everyday time). Heidegger pushes his own thinking to this edge by taking on the impossible task of representing Nietzsche’s moment. It is impossible to catch a shadow but the chase leads us unexpectedly into a new space that at first appears without definition because it lacks the contrast of darkness and light. It is necessary to try to think the unthinkable, to try (and to fail) to think the Moment from within a temporal framework in which it cannot appear.

  2. 2.

    In his recent article “Intersubjectivity of Dasein in Heidegger’s Being and Time” (2015), K. M. Stroh explores how Dasein overcomes the view of itself as a discrete individual (over and against other individual Dasein) by experiencing itself in the inauthentic community of the Everyone (or the Anyone/the They). Dasein’s absorption in the Everyone conceals a deeper way that Dasein may authentically speak in the collective first person without neutralizing the first person singular; and yet the experience of the everyone is also what allows Dasein to understand its inherent intersubjectivity. I parallel and extend this argument by exploring the temporality belonging to the Everyone: shadow-time. I show how the specific temporality of the Everyone is both the condition of community but also that which conceals the community’s being in care.

  3. 3.

    James Gilbert-Walsh (2010) offers an insightful discussion of the tension of attempting to think pre-discursive temporality through discursive thought. Gilbert-Walsh argues that Heidegger shows us that this impossible task is also a necessary pursuit if we are to understand the arché of time. Our very failure to represent an originary temporality, which evades discursive thought, interrupts our relationship to everyday time. As I argue Heidegger’s impossible task of representing Nietzsche’s philosophy of the moment—by extension, my own attempt to depict Heidegger’s philosophy of the moment—is a project that explores the tension between two temporal orders. A philosophical practice that knowingly sets itself up for failure opens itself to its own experience of the moment that occurs at the edge of these orders. Gilbert-Walsh turns to Heidegger to tease out this temporal glitch in the tension between discoursive and pre-discursive being. In the same spirit, I explore the temporal edge where the body and the shadow meet.

  4. 4.

    Trans. Capobianco 89: I use Capobianco’s translation because he translates die Lichtung as “lighting”. Strambaugh’s translation of die Lichtung as “opening” follows Heidegger’s claim in his later works that die Lichtung has nothing to do with lux even in its etymology. I follow Capobianco’s argument that in his early and middle works Heidegger clearly uses the illustration of light to characterize die Lichtung. However, I also argue, perhaps against Capobianco, that even if we are to translate Heidgger’s early use of die Lichtung as lighting, which I think is correct, the importance of clearing and spatiality is already of key importance in Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein’s relationship to the sun and Dasein itself as light.

  5. 5.

    Heidegger returns to develop the theme of spatial-bodily relationships in his 1949 Bremen Lectures. His lecture “Positionality” specifically explores how authentic and non-authentic existence is the result of the way Dasein stands in a gathering of spatial relationships including the sun, human and nonhuman bodies, and their shadows.

  6. 6.

    Aho identifies this way that Dasein holds itself open as the original space of the play of time [Zeit-Spiel-Raum]. Through this daily practice of profound leisure, Dasein actively makes itself the clearing where beings can come into play: “Leisure re-connects us with wonder (Erstaunen) as the original temperament of Western thought. In leisurely wonder, the authentic self does not seek to instrumentally control and master being but calmly accepts the unsettledness of being and is, as a result, allowed into the awesome openness of clearing (Lichtung) that lets beings emerge-into-presence on their own terms” (2007: 219). Aho sharply argues that our technological busy-ness accelerates our tempo alienating us from this originary sense of leisure. While Heidegger is clearly concerned with the way technologically locks us into a pace that is too rushed for Dasein to be called up into an authentic encounter with another, it is interesting that he also highlights Dasein’s busy-ness in pre-technological existence. As we see, everyday time is necessary for relationships of care; yet this way that Dasien holds itself open to encounter another in time always risks (and has always risked) concealing the reason for arranging time in such a way that another may depend on us. The space of play and play of time is originally wrapped in shadows. Noonday leisure can only be born unexpectedly out of the inauthentic frantic play of shadow time. As Aho notes, ontological play must not be conceived as a vacation from the busy-ness of everyday life. Instead the spirit of leisure transforms our stance to everydayness: the way we stand in the everyone and the way we are There for others. One could say that the spirit of leisure is what also enables us to temporalize ourselves in a way that understands the care of time for the sake of the care of the beings we encounter in time.

  7. 7.

    At first Dasein makes use of this handy organization of time in order to hold itself open for the unexpected. But in this process of making ourselves available for others in the future, we risk becoming more devoted to upholding our schedule than to those for whom we originally held time open. Our focus becomes the perpetuation of a certain daily organization of time. When others do not appear as planned, or appear as unplanned, they threaten to disrupt this perpetuation of time as scheduled. As Rose explains, time loses its extemporaneous character and becomes driven by both permanence and perpetuation: “Our thinking is locked into this one relation to being. Our own perpetuation and the perpetuity of the world-as-reserve mutually implicate each other in the ground of being permanent” (2009:174). The contemplation of the first emergence of everyday time—Dasein’s discovery of its shadow—allows us to question the way we force beings to appear according to schedule. In Rose’s words, to call time into question is to “safeguard the future by not trying to make it like the past” (2009:173).

  8. 8.

    See Dorfman (2014) and Zupančič (2008) for two insightful and complementary accounts of these two kinds of repetition.


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This essay was first presented at a meeting of the Heidegger Circle in May 2014. I am very grateful for the conversations and feedback I received at this meeting. The article was developed further through a 2014-15 U.S. Fulbright grant to Slovenia under the mentorship of Dr. Alenka Zupančič whose book The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Two provides tremendous inspiration for this research. I would also like to thank Robert Leib for his resolute friendship: for reading multiple drafts of this paper and for restoring my house after the fire so that I would have time for philosophical thoughts about the play of light and shadows.

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Correspondence to Rachel Aumiller.

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Aumiller, R. Dasein’s Shadow and the Moment of its Disappearance. Hum Stud 40, 25–41 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10746-016-9403-7

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  • Heidegger
  • Nietzsche
  • Temporality
  • Everydayness
  • Authenticity
  • The Moment
  • The Everyone