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Martin Heidegger “The Possible Being-a-Whole of Dasein and Being-toward-Death”

Heidegger, Martin 2010. Being and Time. Albany: State University of New York Press.


Division Two. Dasein and Temporality

Chapter One. The Possible Being-a-Whole of Dasein and Being-toward-Death



A constant unfinished quality thus lies in the essence of the basic constitution of Dasein. This lack of wholeness means that there is still something outstanding in one’s potentiality-for-being. (226)


Eliminating what is outstanding in its being is equivalent to annihilating its being. As long as Dasein is a being, it has never attained its “wholeness”. (227-228)



The end of the being qua Dasein is the beginning of this being [Seienden] qua something merely present. (229)


Death does reveal itself as a loss, but as a loss experienced by those remaining behind. However, in suffering this loss, the loss of being as such, which the dying person “suffers”, does not become accessible. We do not experience the dying of others in a genuine sense; we are at best always just “near by”. (230)


We are asking about the ontological meaning of the dying of the person who dies, as a potentiality-of-being of his, and not about the way of being-with and the still-being-there of the deceased with those left behind. (230)


No one can take the other’s dying away from him. […] Insofar as it “is”, death is always essentially my own. […] Dying is not an event, but a phenomenon to be understood existentially in an eminent sense still to be delineated more closely. (231)


In “ending”, and in the being a whole of Dasein which is thus constituted, there is, according to its essence, no representation. (231)



  1. As long as Dasein is, a not-yet belongs to it, which it will be – what is constantly outstanding.
  2. The coming-to-its-end of what is not-yet-at-an-end (in which what is outstanding is, according to its being, removed) has the character of no-longer-Dasein.
  3. Coming-to-an-end implies a mode of being in which each and every actual Dasein simply cannot be represented by someone else. (233)


[…] to be outstanding means that what belongs together is not yet together. (233)


Dasein always already exists in such a way that its not-yet belongs to it. […] The not-yet that belongs to Dasein, however, not only remains preliminarily and at times inaccessible to one’s own or to others’ experience, it “is” not yet “real” at all. (234)


Correspondingly, Dasein, too, is always already its not-yet as long as it is. (235)


Ending does not necessarily mean fulfilling oneself. It thus becomes more urgent to ask in what sense, if any, death must be grasped as the ending of Dasein. (235)


[…] just as Dasein constantly already is its not-yet as long as it is, it also always already is its end. The ending that we have in view when we speak of death, does not signify a being-at-an-end of Dasein, but rather a being toward the end of this being. Death is a way to be that Dasein takes over as soon as it is. (236)



In the broadest sense, death is a phenomenon of life. Life must be understood as a kind of being to which belongs a being-in-the-world. (237)


Within the ontology of Dasein, which has priority over an ontology of life, the existential analytic of death is subordinate to a characterization of the fundamental constitution of Dasein. We called the ending of what is alive perishing. […] Dasein, too, can end without authentically dying, though on the other hand, qua Dasein, it does not simply perish. We call this intermediate phenomenon its demise [Ableben]. Let the term dying [Sterben] stand for the way of being in which Dasein is toward death. (238)


The existential interpretation of death is prior to any biology and ontology of life. (238)


The ontological analysis of being-toward-the-end, on the other hand, does not anticipate any existentiell stance toward death. If death is defined as the “end” of Dasein, that is, of being-in-the-world, no ontic decision has been made as to whether “after death” another being is still possible, either higher or lower, whether Dasein “lives on” or even, “outliving itself”, is “immortal”. […] The this-worldly, ontological interpretation of death comes before any ontic, other-worldly speculation. (238)



The end is imminent for Dasein. Death is not something not yet objectively present, nor the last outstanding element reduced to a minimum, but rather and imminence [Bevorstand]. (240)


Death is a possibility of being that Dasein always has to take upon itself. With death, Dasein stands before itself in its ownmost potentiality-of-being. In this possibility, Dasein is concerned about its being-in-the-world absolutely. Its death is the possibility of no-longer-being-able-to-be-there. When Dasein is imminent to itself as its possibility, it is completely thrown back upon its ownmost potentiality-of-being. Thus imminent to itself, all relations of to other Dasein are dissolved in it. This nonrelational ownmost possibility is at the same time the most extreme one. As a potentiality of being, Dasein is unable to bypass the possibility of death. Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein. Thus death reveals itself as one’s ownmost, nonrelational, and insuperable possibility. As such, it is an eminent imminence. Its existential possibility is grounded in the fact that Dasein is essentially disclosed to itself, and it is disclosed as being-ahead-of-itself. This structural factor of care has its most primordial concretion in being-toward-death. Being-toward-the-end becomes phenomenally clearer as being toward the eminent possibility of Dasein which we have characterized. (241)


Anxiety about death must not be confused with a fear of one’s demise. It is not an arbitrary and chance “weak” mood of an individual, but, as a fundamental attunement of Dasein, it is the disclosedness of the fact that Dasein exists as thrown being-toward-its-end. (241)



Temptation, tranquilization, and estrangement, however, characterize the kind of being of falling prey. Entangled, everyday being-toward-death is a constant flight from death. Being toward the end has the mode of evading that end – reinterpreting it, understanding it inauthentically, and veiling it. (244)



If “one” understands death as an event encountered in the surrounding world, the certainty related to this does not get at being-toward-the-end. (246)


The entangled everydayness of Dasein knows about the certainty of death, and yet avoids being-certain. (247)


The full existential and ontological concept of death can now be defined as follows: as the end of Dasein, death is the ownmost, nonrelational, certain, and, as such, indefinite and insuperable possibility of Dasein. As the end of Dasein, death is the being (Sein) of this being (Seienden) toward its end. (248)


The phenomenon of the not-yet has been taken from the ahead-of-itself; no more than the structure of care in general can it serve as a higher court that would rule against a possible, existent wholeness; indeed, this ahead-of-itself first makes possible such a being-toward-the-end. (248)



First of all, we must characterize being-toward-death as a being toward a possibility, toward an eminent possibility of Dasein itself. […] Being out for something possible and taking care of it has the tendency of annihilating the possibility of the possible by making it available. (250)


Obviously, being-toward-death, which is now in question, cannot have the character of being out for something and taking care of it with a view toward its actualization. For one thing, death as something possible is not a possible thing at hand or objectively present, but a possibility-of-being of Dasein. Then, however, taking care of the actualization of what is thus possible would have to mean bringing about one’s own demise. But by doing this Dasein would deprive itself of the very basis for an existing being-toward-death. (250)


But being toward this possibility, as being-toward-death, should relate itself to death so that it reveals itself, in this being (Sein) and for it, as possibility. […] The nearest nearness of being-toward-death as possibility is as far removed as possible from anything real. The more clearly this possibility is understood, the more purely does understanding penetrate to it as the possibility of the impossibility of existence in general. As possibility, death gives Dasein nothing to “be actualized” and nothing which it itself could be as something real. It is the possibility of the impossibility of every mode of behaviour toward …, of every way of existing. (251)


The ownmost possibility is nonrelational. Anticipation lets Dasein understand that it has to take over solely from itself the potentiality-of-being in which it is concerned absolutely about its ownmost being. Death does not just “belong” in an undifferentiated way to one’s own Dasein, but it lays claim on it as something individual. The nonrelational character of death, understood in anticipation, individualizes Dasein down to itself. This individualizing is a way in which the “there” is disclosed for existence. (252)


Because anticipation of the insuperable possibility also disclosed all the possibilities lying before it, this anticipation includes the possibility of taking the whole of Dasein in advance in an existentiell way, that is, the possibility of existing as a whole potentiality-of-being. (253)


In anticipating the indefinite certainty of death, Dasein opens itself to a constant threat arising from its own there. Being-toward-the-end must hold itself in this very threat, and can so little phase it out that it rather has to cultivate the indefiniteness of the certainty. […] But the attunement which is able to hold open the constant and absolute threat to itself arising from the ownmost individualized being of Dasein is anxiety. In anxiety, Dasein finds itself faced with the nothingness of the possible impossibility of its existence. […] Being-toward-death is essentially anxiety. (254)


What is characteristic about authentic, existentially projected being-toward-death can thus be summarized as follows: anticipation reveals to Dasein its lostness in the they-self, and brings it face to face with the possibility to be itself, primarily unsupported by concern that takes care, but to be itself in the passionate anxious freedom toward death, which is free of the illusions of the they, factical, and certain of itself. (255)

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