Sunday, September 13, 2009

Presence and Ecstacy

As I've been saying, Jonathan Mayhew's take on Lorca's duende has given me a new way into Heidegger's analytic of Dasein. I'm reading Being and Time with fresh eyes, the scales having fallen from them if you will.

One problem, as I've already noted, with the idea of rendering Dasein simply as "presence" is that it makes the important distinction between existence (Existenz) and presence-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) seem less sharp. Dasein, after all, was supposed to be the entity that has existence, not mere presence-at-hand. The solution, it seems to me, is to render Vorhanden as "extant". This gives us a nice distinction between presence and extance, with the important notion of "the ecstases" (H. 329f.) to cover the distance between them.

Reading Being and Time in this light also makes it clear that the English "Dasein" offers the reader a sort of misplaced concreteness. "How are we," asks Heidegger, "supposed set our sights toward this entity, Dasein, both as something accessible to us and as something to be understood and interpreted" (H. 15). Compare: "How are we supposed set our sights toward this entity, presence, both as something accessible to us and as something to be understood and interpreted". In the standard translation it is all too easy to let "Dasein" name a mere "thing" (an"entity", after all); this is much harder when we use a word like "presence" ("existence" would have a similar effect). How, indeed, does presence become an "entity", a "thing", an "object" of inquiry? It is (or at least may be) precisely that tension that constitutes our ecstatic-horizonal being.


pensum said...

that, sir, seems to be a pretty darn good argument. i'm sure you're swimming upstream in heideggerian circles with such a notion but even after my initial reservations at your suggestion of translating dasein as presence this is a particularly good point. many thanks!

Thomas said...

Thanks. I'm slowly getting something together for a paper, perhaps. (Though not one to throw into the Heideggerian stream, perhaps.)

pensum said...

in case you haven't read it, i just came across this interview with Thomas Sheehan which i thought might interest you as he seems to have a similar view in regard to translations of Heidegger: Sheehan interview