Authenticity, das Man, and Ethics -Review of Being and Time Written by Heidegger
Ordinarily, there are several attitudes towards to death. According to biology, death is the end of life. When life comes to an end, death is a kind of activity. If we consider the birth as the beginning, the death is the ending. The process of living is not such important. After death, there is nothing. Another attitude is about the existence. A person exists on the world when he comes to the birth, and he doesn’t exist after death. However, the world always exists no matter the person exists or not. The world is a kind of unique existence and independent with human beings. In the daily life, when we know someone’s death, it might be something unfortunate, we might be sad and worried, but actually it’s not we die eventually. Because of the uniqueness of death, we did not really regard it as a threat. In another word, someone dies just means that the activity named ‘death’ exists, but it doesn’t mean that I’m death. When our parents, friends or someone close die, we say we should overcome death more than we say we should accept death. Traditionally, when understanding death, people are just evading. Although everybody knows that death is inevitable, people know nothing about death. After all, no one has experienced death and no one can predict death.
It might not be applicable in contemporary society. In biology, the heart stops beating is called death, however, lots of people think that a person live forever if someone remembers him. If there is someone still remembers him, it means that what he said or what he did has influenced the other people. In this way, his spirit will exist, even if the human body doesn’t exist anymore.
Heidegger thinks Being-towards-death is essentially anxiety. Anxiety and fear are important emotions. When people are fear and anxiety, because of helpless, they will come back to the most authentic state. After feeling and understanding ego, people will accept their own existence. If people are stunned when facing the death, then contrarily, fear and anxiety allow us to be authentic when facing the death, to find another possibility, so that to become a free existence.
Death is a kind of potentiality-for-Being, thus Dasein cannot outstrip the possibility of death. Heidegger also says that death is the possibility of the impossibility of Dasein. When Dasein meets dangers which may lead to death, then death becomes a possibility for Dasein. Also, because of the principle of Being-towards-death, then Dasein faces the most authentic possibility. We may also say that death is kind of debt of Dasein. Only when death happens, the debt is paid off. Death is not a certain activity at some time, because once death happens, Dasein will come to an end. The existence of Dasein will disappear and thus the existence of death is eliminated. Death reveals as that possibility which is one’s ownmost, which is non-relational, and which is not to be outstripped. Talking about the impending death doesn’t mean that we know death is inevitable and generate negative emotion. In fact, death is the only thing that nobody can take away. Dasein will understand the uniqueness and irreplaceability from death, and become independent from people. Dasein who follows Being-towards death, may have the possibility of being freer.
Worried about the future, or always beware of the harm of others, in such a social environment, it is inevitable to lose our authenticity. At the same time, hiding our true thinking, stop talking out our real thoughts, gradually become the being of nonauthenticity. Heidegger describes these kinds of Dasein as ‘they’.
When talking about death, we can re-consider the meaning and value of the individual’s existence. In other words, what we need is to be the most authentic one, reject the control of others, and it is our own ideas to establish our own unique personality. It is an effective means to use the possibility of death to break away from ‘they’. When facing towards inevitable death, we choose to face and accept, this is what Dasein can experience about existence.
I agree that consciousness of one’s death is an authenticating experience. Dasein will die eventually, the death of creatures will remind us the limit of time. If we can live forever, then we may not work efficiently. We should create the magnificence and nobleness of life in the process of limited life. Only if we can understand the existence of death and taking death as an indispensable part of life can we face death bravely. We need to know the fragility and limit of life, then we will plan our lives and live at leisure. Death is not only the ending of human beings, but also the starting point for constructing human values. It is with death that human beings will think about the value and meaning of existence, and it is precisely because of the destruction of death that there is a splendid life.
Heidegger, M. Beng and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. Harper, 1962.