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Nearness and Da-sein:

The Spatiality of Being
and Time

Theory, Culture & Society

29(4/5) 3642
! The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0263276412448828

Peter Sloterdijk
University of Art and Design, Karlsruhe, Germany

This paper focuses on the latent spatial philosophy in Heideggers Being and Time,
highlighting a key aspect of the Heideggerian oeuvre that has mostly been overlooked
by commentators. It outlines the concept of an original spatiality of being that is
opposed to the philosophies of space in both physics and Cartesian metaphysics.
Through an elaboration of the essentially relational character of Da-sein, it is argued
that Heideggers vocabulary in Being and Time yields an onto-topology that shows
Da-seins primary spatial embeddedness in the world. Finally, the paper argues that
Heideggers concept of spatiality remained cursory due to its residual existentialist
focus. In this context, it attempts a re-evaluation of its intellectual trajectory within
the realm of the Spheres project.
Heidegger, space, spatiality, Da-sein, Sloterdijk, spheres, Spheres project

An essential tendency toward nearness lies in Da-sein. (Heiddegger,

1996: 98)
Only very few commentators on Heidegger have noted the nascent but
revolutionary treatise on being and space that underlies the sensationally
programmatic study of Being and Time. Under the spell of Heideggers
existential analytic of time, it has mostly been overlooked that the former
is grounded in a corresponding analytic of space and that both are fundamentally rooted in an analysis of movement. Therefore, we can find
entire libraries filled with studies of Heideggers onto-chronology, his
doctrines of Temporalizing (Zeitigung) and Historicity and read various
Corresponding author:
Peter Sloterdijk, University of Art and Design, Karlsruhe, Germany
Email: rektorat@hfg-karlsruhe.de



treatises on his philosophy of movement, or onto-kinesis. Concerning his

attempts at a theory of an originary making-room (Einraumen) of space
or onto-topology, however, we find nothing but scattered, unciteable and
pietistic paraphrases.
Heideggers analysis positively delineates the spatiality of Da-sein as
Approaching (Naherung) and Orientation (Orientierung) through two
destructive steps. The spatial concepts of both, vulgar physics as well
as metaphysics, must effectively be cleared away before the existential
analytic of Being-in (In-Sein) can be elaborated.
What does being-in mean? Initially, we supplement the expression
being-in with the phrase in the world, and are inclined to understand this being-in as being-in something. With this term, the kind
of being of a being is named which is in something else, as water is
in the glass, the dress is in the closet.. . . Water and glass, dress
and closet, are both in space at a location in the same way. This
relation of being can be expanded; that is, the bench in the lecture
hall, the lecture hall in the university, the university in the city, and
so on until: the bench in world space. These beings whose being
in one another can be determined in this way all have the same
kind of being-that of being objectively present-as things occurring
within the world. . . . In contrast, being-in designates a constitution
of being of Da-sein, and is an existential. But we cannot understand
by this the objective presence of a material thing (the human body)
in a being objectively present. . . . In stems from innan-, to live,
habitare, to dwell. An means I am used to, familiar with, I take
care of something. It has the meaning of colo in the sense of habito
and diligo. . . . Being as the infinitive of I am: that is, understood
as an existential, means to dwell near . . . to be familiar with. (1996:
By alluding to the Old German verb innan, to inhabit, Heidegger
quickly reveals the crux of the existential analytic of spatiality. What
he calls being-in-the-world means nothing other than to inn the world
in the verbal-transitive sense: to dwell in the world and to enjoy its openness through an initial attunement (Einstimmung) and expansion
(Ausgriff). Because Da-sein is always already a completed act of inhabiting the result of a primal leap into dwelling spatiality and existence
are inseparable. To speak of dwelling in the world does not mean to
presuppose a domestic relationship between existing beings and vast,
unbounded space: it is exactly this concept of being-at-home in the
world that must be questioned, as to simply accept this condition as a
fact would mean to fall back into the logic of container-physics that
needs to be overcome. All holistic philosophies and teachings of


Theory, Culture & Society 29(4/5)

mothers-womb-immanence fail at exactly this task and are thus reified

into pious forms of half-baked thought. Nor is the house of Being a
simple cubicle that existing beings enter into and exit out of. Its structure
is more akin to a globe of care (Sorge) in which Da-sein has spread in its
ex-stasis (Auersichsein). Heideggers radical phenomenological attention
delegitimizes both the century-old realms of container-physics and metaphysics alike. Man is never simply an animate creature in its environment
or a rational entity in the house of heaven. Nor is he the devotional being
of Gods creation. Consequently, the ecological chatter that emerged in
the 1920s is just as much subjected to a phenomenological critique:
Biology thinks just as little as any other standard science. The saying
used so often today, Human beings have their environment, does not
say anything ontologically as long as this having is undetermined
(1996: 54). But what is meant by the environ of environment
(Umhaften der Umwelt)?
According to what we have said, being-in is not a quality which
Da-sein sometimes has and sometimes does not have, without which
it could be just as well as it could with it. It is not the case that
human being is, and then on top of that has a relation of being to
the world which it sometimes takes upon itself. Da-sein is never
initially a sort of a being which is free from being-in, but which at
times is in the mood to take up a relation to the world. This
taking up of relations to the world is possible only because, as
being-in-the-world, Da-sein is as it is. This constitution of being is
not first derived from the fact that besides the being which has the
character of Da-sein there are other beings which are objectively
present and meet up with it. These other beings can only meet up
with Da-sein because they are able to show themselves of their own
accord within a world. (1996: 5354)
Conventional thinkings existential blindness to space manifests itself
in the old worldview that integrates man more or less seamlessly into an
all-encompassing realm of nature, thought as cosmos.1 In modern
thought, Descartes division of substance into a thinking and an extensive part gives the clearest example of the unwillingness to question the
place of their coincidence. Because Descartes reduces spatiality to the
aggregates of body and thing that become the only bearers of extension, the question of the meeting-place of thinking and extension cannot
arise. The thinking thing remains a worldless entity that appears to have
the capacity to occasionally enter into relations with things in extension.
The res cogitans thus seems akin to a ghostly hunter who goes on the
prowl in the land of cognizable extension just to withdraw again into his
worldless fortress of no extension. Heidegger counters this with an



originary being-in of Da-sein in the sense of being-in-the-world. Even

cognition is only a specific mode of dwelling in the spaciousness
(Geraumigkeit) of the world that is opened through circumspect heedfulness (Besorgen):
In directing itself toward . . . and in grasping something, Da-sein
does not first go outside of the inner sphere in which it is initially
encapsulated, but, rather, in its primary kind of being, it is always
already outside together with some being encountered in the world
already discovered. Nor is any inner sphere abandoned when
Da-sein dwells together with a being to be known and determines
its character. Rather, even in this being outside together with its
object, Da-sein is inside, correctly understood; that is, it itself
exists as the being-in-the-world which knows. Again, the perception
of what is known does not take place as a return with ones booty to
the cabinet of consciousness after one has gone out and grasped it.
Rather, in perceiving, preserving, and retaining, the Da-sein that
knows remains outside as Da-sein. (1996: 58)
In his positive statements on the spatiality of Da-sein, Heidegger specifically highlights two of its characteristics: de-distancing (Ent-fernung)
and directionality (Ausrichtung):
De-distancing means making distance disappear, making the
being at a distance of something disappear, bringing it near.
Da-sein is essentially de-distancing. . . . De-distancing discovers
remoteness. . . . Initially and for the most part, de-distancing is a
circumspect approaching, a bringing near as supplying, preparing,
having at hand. . . . An essential tendency toward nearness lies in
Da-sein. (1996: 978; emphasis in original)
In accordance with its spatiality, Da-sein is initially never here,
but over there. From this over there it comes back to its here.
(1996: 100)
As being-in which de-distances, Da-sein has at the same time
the character of directionality. Every bringing near has
always taken a direction in a region beforehand from which what
is de-distanced approaches. . . . Circumspect heedfulness is a directional de-distancing. (1996: 100)
Letting innerworldly beings be encountered, which is constitutive
for being-in-the-world, is giving space. This giving space, which


Theory, Culture & Society 29(4/5)

we call making room, frees things at hand for their spatiality. . . . As

circumspect taking care of things in the world, Da-sein can change
things around, remove them or make room for them only
because making room understood as an existential belongs to
its being-in-the-world . . . the subject, correctly understood
ontologically, Da-sein, is spatial. (1996: 103)
Who at this point would have expected a main argument to follow
this mighty prelude remains gravely disappointed. The existential whereanalysis abruptly gives way to an existential who-analysis without any
further mention of the thread that Heidegger had only begun to unravel.
Following this thread further would have inevitably revealed the manifold universes of existential spatiality that gain a renewed thrust through
the terminology of spheres. The inhabitation of spheres, however, cannot
be fully explicated as long as Da-sein is understood as having an essential
tendency towards solitude.2 The analytic of the existential where
demands that all suggestions of and allusions to essential solitude are
bracketed in order to gain reassurance of the deep structure of an accompanied and complemented Da-sein. In the face of this task, the early
Heidegger problematically remained an existentialist. His hasty turn
towards the who-question leaves us with a lonely and weak hystericheroic subject that always believes itself to be the first to die and that
remains miserably ignorant concerning its embeddedness within relations
of intimacy and solidarity. Such a hypertensive who in an uncertain
where can indeed experience unpleasant surprises when it tries to bind
itself to the next best nation it finds.
When Heideggers imperial enthusiasm sought fulfilment and grandeur
in the national revolution, it became clear that an existential authenticity (Eigentlichkeit) that doesnt radically clarify its position easily turns
delusional. From 1934 onwards, Heidegger knew, if only implicitly, that
he had been carried away in his engagement in the national-socialist
awakening. In it, time had effectively turned into space. Whoever
enters into this vortex lives in a different sphere, on a different stage in
an impenetrable inner space while he appears to be right here in the
present. Heideggers later work discreetly draws the conclusions from
this lapse. The betrayed volkisch revolutionary does not expect much
of lived history anymore; he retires from the worldly game of powers.
Instead, he seeks salvation in more personal exercises in self-intimacy.
With tenacity, he remains in his anarchic province and hosts organized
tours through the house of being and through language like a magical
concierge equipped with heavy key chains, always ready to give
Daedalean advice. In emotional moments he conjures up the
Parmenidean holy globe of being as if he tired of historicity and returned
to the eleatic. Heideggers late work continues to repeat the ever-same
wary figures of an original deepening of thought without ever again



reaching the point from which the question of an originary, always

already shared making-room of the world could have been fruitfully
The Spheres project can be seen as an attempt to salvage from oblivion
a certain element of the project of Being and Space that remained trapped
in Heideggers early work. We hold the opinion that through a theory of
couplings, of genius and of complemented existence, we can save all there
is to save from Heideggers interest in rootedness. To have established a
ground in the existing duality: this much nativity or anchorage in the real
must be kept even if philosophy intently pursues its indispensable separation from the empirical community. The contemporary task for thinking, then, is to rework the tension between autochthony (ab ovo or
starting from community) and release (starting from death or infinity).
Translated by Peer Illner

1. In his analytic of place, Aristotle had already fantastically approached the
problem of an existential topology even if for him being of something in
something else couldnt have been addressed as an existential problem. In
Physics Book IV, we find the following explanation of the eight different
significations of in: The next step we must take is to see in how many
senses one thing is said to be in another. (1) As the finger is in the
hand and generally the part in the whole. (2) As the whole is in the
parts: for there is no whole over and above the parts. (3) As man is in
animal and generally species in genus. (4) As the genus is in the species
and generally the part of the specific form in the definition of the specific
form. (5) As health is in the hot and the cold and generally the form in
the matter. (6) As the affairs of Greece centre in the king, and generally
events centre in their primary motive agent. (7) As the existence of a thing
centres in its good and generally in its end, i.e. in that for the sake of
which it exists. (8) In the strictest sense of all, as a thing is in a vessel, and
generally in place. One might raise the question whether a thing can be in
itself, or whether nothing can be in itself everything being either nowhere or
in something else (Aristotle, 1930: 56).
2. This remains the case in Heideggers most significant lecture course in
Freiburg, from the winter term 192930. On a notice-board of the institute,
Heidegger had written Singularisation (Vereinzelung) instead of Solitude in
the title (Heidegger, 2001).

Aristotle (1930) Physika, trans. R.P. Hardie and R.K. Gaye. Oxford: The
Clarendon Press.
Heidegger, M. (1996) Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh. Albany: SUNY
Heidegger, M. (2001) The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World
Finitude Solitude. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


Theory, Culture & Society 29(4/5)

Peter Sloterdijk is a German philosopher, cultural theorist and writer. He

is the director of the University of Art and Design, Karlsruhe, professor
of philosophy and media theory and visiting professor at Bard College,
New York, the Colle`ge International de Philosophie (Paris) and E.T.H
(Zurich). He currently co-hosts the German TV show Im Glashaus. Das
Philosophische Quartett. The trilogy Spheres is Sloterdijks magnum
opus, which develops several Heideggerian themes in the context of the
history of modernity and globalization. The present article is taken from
a second and previously untranslated book on Heidegger.
Peer Illner is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College,
London. He has studied sociology, media studies and art theory at
Concordia University, Montreal, and Goldsmiths College, where he
completed a dissertation on the topic of education and systems of measure and an AHRC-funded research-project on pedagogies of the
Enlightenment, focusing on Kant and Heidegger. He is currently working on a project entitled The History of Theory in collaboration with
Humboldt University, Berlin.