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Dasein’s Quest for Truth

By: Rico D. Recoleto II

Introduction

The ability of reasoning has been a monopoly of man. Other entities such as brutes,
plants and among others cannot exercise their ability of cognition for they themselves have
their own limitations which made them incapable of rationalization. Man as rational,
continues to examine the truth at different angles in the physical and the metaphysical
realm. Philosophers in particular presented their own concept and notion of man as they
continue to understand the very nature and man’s quest for truth.

The quest for truth is a very big and controversial issue in philosophy. This calls back
during the time of Socrates when Protagoras tries to argue that truth itself is strictly relative
and that it is strictly dependent on the subject perceiving the object. Thrasymachus on the
other hand, believed that truth must be well founded by a person in authority who has
power and might for its strong implementation. The grand debate on the notion of truth has
come in its stage during the ancient period between Plato and Aristotle in whom the former
believes that truth is attained through the world of ideas and the latter argues that the
conformity of the intellect to the senses is the ultimate basis for truth. In the modern arena,
Descartes utilize doubt as a method in attaining the truth and firmly believes that
knowledge itself is innate. Contrary to Descartes is Locke whose ideas are dominantly
acquired through our senses. Kant, in a grand manner reconciled the controversial debate
between the rationalist and empiricist by adhering that truth itself is attained through the
united action of reason and experience in which he termed further as synthetic apriori.

Various and diverse versions on the notion of truth emerge during the contemporary
period like Hegel’s notion of Geist, Kierkegaard’s truth as subjective, Husserl’s
transcendental ego and many more. However, the aforementioned notions of truth are very
ontological in character. The dominance of the ontological approach of thinking is seemingly
out dated for still it does not answer the main tenets of the problem of truth. With this,
there is a call for a new way of thinking there by escaping from the suffocating language of
ontology. Interestingly, Martin Heidegger a German philosopher developed his own notion of
truth using the very nature of man’s existence in this world. For Heidegger, Dasein or man
is capable of addressing the fundamental questions about the phenomenon by living in an
authentic life.
This paper aims to conduct a brief and substantial exposition on Martin Heidegger’s
notion of Dasein and upon doing so, this paper will proceed to a discussion on the role of
Dasein for the unconcealment of truth.

Man as Dasein

Heidegger’s fundamental quest in philosophy is his reformulation of the answer to


the question of being. He maintains that knowing the reality must still be geared towards
being since being itself is the most fundamental and universal principle of reality. But such
case, Heidegger has a different approach in answering the question of being. Heidegger in
his introduction to Being and Time laments, “For manifestly you have long been aware of
what you mean when you use the expression “being”. We, however, who use to think we
understood it, have now become perplexed.” 1 Heidegger also believes that the question of
being has long been forgotten and misunderstood. The re-questioning of being leads to a
new flavour of the notion of being thereby overcoming the traditional notion of being that is
the being of entities. According to Heidegger, “This vague average understanding of being
may be so infiltrated with traditional theories and opinions about being that these remain
hidden as sources of the way in which it is prevalently understood.”2 Heidegger believes that
we are all familiar with the entities and the main question of being does not lie on
something that is, but what is it for something to be? Thus, “the being of entities ‘is’ not
itself an entity.”3 In connection to this, Heidegger points out the importance of this being
which is in conscious existence in this world and projecting its utmost possibility. Heidegger
suggests, “This entity which each of us is himself and which includes inquiring as one of the
possibilities of its being, we shall denote by the term ‘Dasein’”4 In as much as Dasein is
capable of asking questions it does not cease to project and understand its existence.

For Dasein to fully achieve his authentic goal, Heidegger enumerated four existential
features in which Dasein lives in this temporal world. First, to be Dasein means to be fully
thrown (Geworfenheit) into the world, aware and conscious of his own existence. Thus, the
essence of Dasein lies in its own existence in which in this case, Dasein is being-in-the-
world. Second, to be thrown into the world means to be conscious of one’s own project in

1
Paul Gorner, Heidegger’s Being and Time An Introduction, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007),
13.

2
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by: John Macquarrie et.al. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992), 25.

3
Ibid., 26.

4
Ibid., 27.
the future that is yet to be realized. Heidegger embraces the importance of understanding
(Verstehen) to exercise Dasein’s capabilities and potentialities. “Understanding is the
existential being of Dasein’s own potentiality-for-being; and it is so in such a way that this
Being discloses in itself what its Being is capable of.”5 Nonetheless, understanding plays a
vital role in Dasein’s authentic existence. Third, engaging in discourse (rede) helps Dasein
for his own project. This idea of meaningful talk is brought about by Dasein’s real existence.
Heidegger opines that, “Discoursing or talking is the way in which we articulate
‘significantly’ the intelligibility of Being-in-the-world.”6 Thus, when someone converses with
me, I do not hear just plainly words but a message. Lastly, Heidegger also acknowledges
that to be thrown into the world, one must experience falleness which pulls Dasein away to
its authentic goal of existence. Idle talk (Gerede), falleness (Verfallen), curiousity (Neugier)
and ambiguity (Zweideutigkeit) are among the inescapable factors of being-in-the-world. It
also leads into Dasein’s inauthenticity and the forgotteness of one’s being. However,
“inauthenticity does not mean anything like being-no-longer-in-the-world, but amounts
rather to a quite distinctive kind of being-in-the-world—the kind which is completely
fascinated by the ‘world.”7

Heidegger is also aware of the temporality of human existence, Dasein as being


thrown into the world will soon have to experience death and each day, we are moving
towards our own finitude. This calls Dasein to make use of his time as he still exists in this
world. But this constant moving closer towards nothingness or death brings Dasein to a
feeling of anxiety (Angst). This alienates man from his own being since it offers that life
itself is an ultimate crashing to the unknown. Anxiety destroys our authentic discourse that
leads Dasein wallow into idle talk which gradually decreases his authenticity. This feeling of
anxiety compels Dasein to show his care (sorge) towards his fellow Dasein. Heidegger
concludes that the being of my being is essentially care.

Dasein’s Quest for Truth

Coming up with an authentic existence of Dasein, Heidegger shifted his focus to


hermeneutics. Heidegger’s hermeneutics is still centered on Dasein wherein he utilizes

5
Ibid., 184.
.
6
Ibid., 162.

7
Ibid., 220.
interpretation in his continual quest in answering his ultimate philosophical project –What is
being? For him, the question what is being has a reflexive structure because to ask “What is
being” is to ask about the questionnaire. Heidegger highlights the importance of the
question of Being for this leads him to a radical method in answering the question. 8
Heidegger then proceeds to his Hermeneutic phenomenology by defining it in a grand
classical manner. Phenomenology then comes from the Greek word “phainomenon” and is
derived from the Latin verb phainestai which means to show itself or to make manifest.
Thus, phainomena is a kind of showing or bringing into appearance of something as it is in
its manifestness. On the other hand, logos is strictly define as speech. As speech, it is
literally means de loun which means –to make manifest what is being talked about (apo
phainestai). Phenomenology therefore is to let what shows itself be seen from itself just as
it shows itself from itself (apo phainestai ta phainomena).9

By defining phenomenology in the said manner, Heidegger believes that


phenomenology has a character of “hermenuein” that leads Dasein to his special task which
is to interpret. Since phenomenology is apo phainestai ta phainomena, interpretation plays
a vital role in the laying open of the essence of things (auslegung). The primary function of
interpretation is to let things be unconcealed (alethes). But prior to interpretation,
Heidegger highlights understanding as a fundamental tool in interpretation because through
this, understanding is actualized. In this case, Heidegger reverses the bipolarity of
interpretation by claiming that understanding is prior to interpretation. Understanding is
always something projecting in advance (entwurf). Thus, when you actualize your
understanding, you interpret and as you interpret you gain deeper understanding. In
interpretation, truth and meaning unveils in a manner that we do not give meaning to
things but rather things show themselves because the very essence of deeper
understanding lies on the power of things to manifest itself.

Moreover, things show themselves in as much as they unfold the truth of their being.
In this regard, Heidegger rejected Aristotle’s adequatio rei et intellectus as a standard for
truth because this no longer unfolds and reveals the true meaning of being. For Heidegger,
truth is aletheia, the unforgetfulness, unconcealment and the unfolding of truth. In this
case, it is not us who come to thoughts, but thoughts come to us. In order for truth to
uncover its very essence, Heidegger highlights the meditative way of thinking which

8
For Heidegger, there are four aspects of the question of being. What is asked about? (das Gefragte), What
is the question to be formulated? (das Erfragte), What is interrogated? (das Befragte) and Who is the
questionnaire? (das Fragende).

9
Paul Gorner, Heidegger’s Being and Time An Introduction. 101.
proceeds by way of questioning to let things disclose themselves. This is because
questioning results into a releasement of being (Gelassenheit). Nonetheless, Heidegger’s
hermeneutic phenomenology calls Dasein for a non-stop questioning because this leads
truth to unfold (aletheia). Heidegger believes that things release the truth of their being by
means of language because language is the house of being. Dasein as an interpreter stands
for a hermeneutical relationship towards the phenomenon since Dasein is the message
bringer and the enunciator of being.

Conclusion

Heidegger’s philosophy revolves around the realm of existentialism and


phenomenology. The question of being leads him to develop his notion of Dasein who is
thrown into the world. Being thrown into the world necessarily follows that Dasein exist in
time projecting his lifetime existence. To find meaning in this world, Dasein must
understand his own possibilities as he meets other entities. This led Dasein to his role which
is to unconceal the meaning of things by way of discourse so that the truth of things will
slowly disclose. Dasein here plays a challenging and special role.

As being which is thrown into this world, we are also invited to take the challenge.
We cannot deny the very fact that we are the best creation in this world and failing to
acknowledge this fact is a denial of the being of our being. We are here in this world to
transcend into our utmost possibility by unconcealing the truth of being and to show our
care in one way or another.