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Mulhall: Guilt and Conscience (§§54–60)

quarta-feira 31 de maio de 2017


(excertos de Stephen Mulhall  , Heidegger Being and Time  )


Heidegger’s reflections on death   have so far shown that Dasein  ’s Being  -a-whole   is ontologically possible, i.e. that this possibility   is consonant with the basic structures of Dasein’s mode of Being  . But it is one thing   to demonstrate that it is logically possible for Dasein to individualize   itself in an impassioned freedom   towards death, and quite another to show that, and how, this possibility can be brought to concrete   fruition in the everyday life   of a being whose individuality   is always already lost in the ‘they’. Accordingly, Heidegger next attempts to locate the ontic   roots   of this ontological   possibility – to identify any existentiell   testimony to the genuine realizability of Dasein’s theoretically posited authenticity  .

In its average   everyday state of inauthenticity  , Dasein is lost to itself. So, for it to achieve authenticity, it must find itself. But it can only begin to do so if it comes to see that it has a self   to find, if it overcomes its repression of its potentiality for selfhood  . In short, its capacity for authentic   individuality must somehow be attested in a way   which breaks through its average everyday inauthenticity. Heidegger claims that what bears witness to this possibility for Dasein is the voice   of conscience  . This existentiell phenomenon   is open to, and has been given  , a wide variety of interpretations – religious, psychoanalytical, socio-biological. Heidegger neither endorses nor condemns any of these, but rather explores the ontological or existential   foundations of the phenomenon to which they refer. His concern   is with what makes it possible for Dasein to undergo the experience   to which each of these interpretations lays claim. His suggestion is that this experience   is the existentiell realization of Dasein’s primordial   capacity to disclose   itself as lost and to call upon itself to attain its ownmost potentiality for selfhood.

As the term ‘call’ suggests, Heidegger thinks of the voice of conscience as a mode   of discourse   – a form of communication   that attempts to disrupt the idle talk   of the they  -self to which Dasein is ordinarily attuned, to elicit   a responsiveness in Dasein that opposes every aspect   of that inauthentic   discourse. It must therefore do without hubbub, novelty and ambiguity, and provide no foothold for curiosity  . Indeed, if it is transformed into the occasion for endless self-examination or fascinated, narcissistic soliloquies, this voice has been entirely lost, one more victim of the they-self  ’s repressions.

Dasein is its addressee, but its mode of address is not   determined by what Dasein counts for in the eyes of others, what its public   role and value   may be, nor by what it may have taken up as the right way to live its life. It addresses Dasein purely as a being whose Being is in each case mine, i.e. for whom genuine individuality is a possibility. Accordingly, its call is devoid of content  : it asserts nothing  , gives no information   about world   events, and no blueprints for living – it merely summons   Dasein before itself, holding up every facet of its existence  , each aspect of its life choices, for trial before its capacity to be itself. It calls Dasein forth to its ownmost possibilities, without venturing to dictate what those possibilities might or should be; for any such dictation could only further repress Dasein’s capacity to take over its own   life. In short, ‘conscience discourses solely and constantly in the mode of keeping silent  ’ (BT, 56: 318).

Who, then, addresses Dasein in this way? Whose is the voice of conscience? We cannot specify the caller’s concrete features, for it has no identity   other than as the one who calls; the summoner exists only as that which summons Dasein to itself. But this voice is one that Dasein hears within itself, and is usually understood as an aspect of Dasein itself; so can we not conclude that, in the voice of conscience, Dasein calls to itself? For Heidegger, matters are more complex. He agrees that the voice of conscience is not the voice of someone other than the Dasein to whom the call   is addressed, not the voice of a third party. But neither are Dasein-as-addressee and Dasein-as-addresser one and the same  . For the Dasein to whom appeal is made is lost in the ‘they’, whereas the Dasein who makes the appeal is not (and could not be, if its silent voice is to disrupt the discourse of the they-self). After all, on Heidegger’s account, part of Dasein’s lostness   in the they-self is its being lost to any conception of itself as lost, as possessed of a capacity for authentic individuality. This fits our everyday experience of conscience as a voice that speaks against our expectations and even against our will: its demands are ones to which we have no plans or desire to accede. But, then, the voice of conscience both is and is not the voice of the Dasein to whom it speaks – ‘the call comes from me and yet from beyond me’ (BT, 57: 320). How are we to make sense of Dasein’s passivity in relation   to this voice? How can its being the voice of Dasein be reconciled with the fact   that it is characteristically experienced as a call made upon rather than by Dasein?

This passive aspect of the voice of conscience suggests that it relates to Dasein’s thrownness   – that the voice of conscience is somehow expressive of the fact that Dasein is always already deliv­ered over to the task of existing, placed in a particular situation   that it did not choose   to occupy, but from which it must nevertheless choose how to go on with its life. This is Dasein’s fundamental uncanniness: the state in which it finds itself is never all that it is or could be, and so never something with which it can fully identify or to which it can be reduced – so that Dasein can never regard itself as domesticated, fully at-home with whatever state or form of life and world it finds itself inhabiting. It is from this thrownness into existential responsibility that the they-self flees; but the voice of conscience recalls Dasein to this fact about itself, and thereby throws the individual into an anxious confrontation with its own potentiality for genuine individuality. In short, the voice of con­science   is that of Dasein in so far as it ‘finds itself in the very depths of its uncanniness’ (BT, 57: 321).

This is why the one who calls through the voice of conscience is definable by nothing more concrete than the fact of its calling: it is the voice of Dasein as ‘not-at-home’, as the bare there-Being (Da-sein  ) in the nothingness which remains when it is wrenched from its familiar absorption   in the world, and that world stands forth as the arena for Dasein’s projective understanding  . Nothing could be more alien to the they-self than the self that confronts its potentiality for authentic existence; nothing is more likely to be experienced by the they-self as at once within and without the self. And, since the voice of conscience is the voice of Dasein as thrown projection  , the voice which summons it from its lostness to confront its inescapably personal abandonment   to the task of existing, it can be thought of as the call of care  . In other words, the call of conscience is ontologically possible only because the very basis of Dasein’s Being is care.

This is Heidegger’s ontological explanation   for the ontical fact that the voice of conscience is often heard as accusing us, as iden­tifying the one it addresses as being guilty  . Conceptually, guilt   is connected with indebtedness   and responsibility. A guilty person is responsible for atoning for herself, making reparation for some deprivation or lack   that she has inflicted on others, which in turn presupposes that she herself is lacking   in something – that she has been, and is, deficient in some way, and is responsible for that deficiency. In short, being guilty is a matter of being responsible for, being the basis of, a nullity  . But then the ontic phenomenon of guilt rejects the fundamental ontological structure   of Dasein’s existence as thrown projection.

Through existing, Dasein realizes one of the existentiell possibilities that its situation determines as available to it; it acts on the basis of the particular state of self and world in which it finds itself. But, of course, it never has complete control over that state and the restrictions it imposes; the capacity for projective commitment must always be deployed from within some particular context or horizon  , and so could never wholly determine its structure: In being a basis – that is, in existing as thrown – Dasein constantly lags behind its possibilities. It is never existent before its basis, but only from it and as this basis. Thus ‘Being-a-basis’ means never to have power   over one’s ownmost being from the ground up. This ‘not’ belongs to the existential meaning   of ‘thrownness’. (BT, 58: 330) However, nullity is integral to Dasein’s capacity for projection as well as to its thrownness. For, in projecting   upon one particular possibility, Dasein thereby negates all other possibilities: the real  ­ization of any existentiell choice is the non-realization of all others. ‘Thus, “care” – Dasein’s Being – means, as thrown projection, Being­the-basis of a nullity (and this Being-the-basis is itself null)’ (BT, 58: 331). In short, human existence as such amounts to the null Being-the-basis of a nullity; Dasein as such is guilty.

The authenticity to which conscience calls Dasein is thus not an existentiell mode in which Dasein would no longer   be guilty  . Excuses or acts of reparation and reform might eradicate the ontic guilt of a specificaction, but ontological guilt, being a condition of human existence, is originary and ineradicable. Authenticity, rather, demands that one project   upon one’s ownmost potentiality for being   guilty. The aim is not to overcome or transcend guilt, since that would amount to transcending one’s thrownness; it means taking responsibility for the particular basis into which one is thrown and the particular projections one makes upon that basis, to make one’s necessarily guilty existence one’s own rather than that of the they-self. A readiness to take on responsibility in this way, to be indebted to oneself, amounts to a willingness to be appealed to by the voice of conscience – a readiness to make existential decisions   in the light   of one’s ownmost, authentic potentiality for Being-guilty. It amounts, in short, to choosing to have a conscience as opposed to repressing it. The response for which the voice of conscience is seeking   is thus not the adoption of some particular schedule of moral rights and wrongs, some specific calculus of debt and credit. The response it seeks is responsiveness, the desire to have a conscience. To cultivate such a desire is to put oneself in servitude to one’s capacity for individuality; it is to choose oneself.

Since wanting to have a conscience amounts to Dasein’s project­ing upon its ownmost potentiality for Being-guilty, we can think   of it as a mode of understanding. But, in the tripartite care-structure of Dasein’s Being, to every mode of understanding a particular state­of-mind and a particular mode of discourse belong. We saw that the announcement of Dasein’s uncanniness elicits anxiety  ; and, as the indefiniteness   of the call conscience makes and the response it demands makes clear, the mode of discourse which corresponds to this anxiety is one of keeping silent, of reticence  . The particular form of self-disclosedness that the voice of conscience elicits in Dasein is thus a reticent self-projection upon one’s ownmost Being-guilty in which one is ready for anxiety. Heidegger labels it ‘resoluteness  ’.

As a mode of Being-in  -the-world, resoluteness does not isolate Dasein or detach it entirely from its world. Rather, it returns Dasein to its particular place   in its world, to its specific concernful relations with entities and solicitous relations with others, in order to discover what its possibilities in that situation really are and to seize upon them in whatever way is most genuinely its own. Resoluteness is therefore inherently indefinite: if the concrete disclosures and projections which make it up must be responsive to the particularity of its context, then no existentiell blueprints for authenticity can arise from a fundamental ontology  . In fact, it is only through the disclosive understanding of a concrete act   of resolution that a particular context – hitherto volatilized by the ambiguity, curiosity and novelty-hunger of the they-self – is given existential definition at all. The constitution   of Dasein’s place in the world as a locus   of authentic existentiell choice – as what Heidegger calls a ‘situation’ – is thus not something resoluteness presupposes, but rather something it brings about. To be resolute involves not simply projecting upon whichever existential possibility from a given range is most authentically one’s own, but projecting one’s context as possessed of a definite range of existential possibilities in the first place. Resoluteness constitutes the context of its own activity.