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Re: [existlist] Existence and Essence

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  • eupraxis@aol.com
    JIm, Thank you for reminding me (us) of Heidegger s influence on Sartre (possibly) in that regard. As you may know, when Sartre and Co. were imprisoned by the
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 4, 2008

      Thank you for reminding me (us) of Heidegger's influence on Sartre
      (possibly) in that regard. As you may know, when Sartre and Co. were
      imprisoned by the Nazis, they were permitted only German texts, which
      suited many of them as just fine (or so the story has been told). Thus
      the post-War French theorists were utterly trained in thinkers like

      But, I may not have been understood. You are actually singing my song
      here. My point was that the dyad can only have been understood in
      precisely that way. The Heidegger quotes only underscore that point.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: jimstuart51 <jjimstuart1@...>
      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Tue, 4 Mar 2008 11:49 am
      Subject: [existlist] Existence and Essence


      Let me pull together what some of you have written about existence and


      Louise (43848): Let's see, first of all you say we were discussing

      precisely Sartre, then you quote Mary's response to Joe which invokes

      existentialism in

      general. Am I missing something here, or is this not at least implying

      that Sartre is the only permitted authority regarding the

      interpretation of essence/existence? In regard to his own works, fair

      enough, but the original post referred to an existence/essence unity

      (without even mentioning Sartre) which, so far, sounds to me like an

      unexplained, unexamined article of faith. I should really like to

      understand its provenance. [end]

      Wil (43849): No, I think you're missing something here. Can you name

      another existentialist author who uses that dyad who is either not

      referring to Sartre, or who is using the dyad in some other novel way?

      And in any case, whenever such a dyad ("existence/essence") is used

      without any special proviso, wouldn't one understand those terms in

      their usual sense, especially in a philosophical list? Finally, can

      you show me another meaning to these terms that would be readily


      I don't think you would have an easy task with any of that. [end]

      Jim (now): Well, to take up your challenge, Wil, Heidegger writes on

      the first page of "Being and Time":

      "The essence of Dasein lies in its existence." (Macquarrie & Robinson

      trans, p. 67)

      Heidegger explains this statement in the following text:

      "Accordingly those characteristics which can be exhibited in this

      entity are not `properties' present-at-hand of some entity which

      `looks' so and so and is itself present-at-hand; they are in each case

      possible ways to be, and no more than that. …

      In each case Dasein is mine to be one way or another. Dasein has

      always made some sort of decision as to the way in which it is in each

      case mine [je meines]. That entity which in its Being has this very

      Being as an issue, comports itself towards its Being as its ownmost

      possibility. In each case Dasein is its possibility, and it `has' this

      possibility, but not just as a property [eigenschaftlich], as

      something present-at-hand would. And because Dasein is in each case

      essentially its own possibility, it can, in its very Being, `choose'

      itself and win itself; it can also lose itself and never win itself;

      or only `seem' to do so. But only in so far as it is essentially

      something which can be authentic – that is, something of its own – can

      it have lost itself and not yet won itself." (pp. 67-8)

      Heidegger's view as expressed here seems to coincide approximately

      with Sartre's view which he summarises in his slogan "existence

      precedes essence".

      So it looks like Heidegger had the original idea, and Sartre took it

      over without much modification, if any.

      Heidegger, in fact, takes the idea over from Kierkegaard who argues

      that the subjectively existing individual is continually in the

      process of becoming.

      In fact the idea that the human individual is pure existence, without

      an essence seems to be common ground to all the four most prominent

      existentialists – Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre.

      Wil is right that Sartre's slogan "existence precedes essence" is most

      well known, but as Mary originally stated in her post 43828 "the

      existence/essence unity" is one of the defining marks of

      existentialism in general.

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