Heidegger's Investigation of Death: Human Finitude and the Final End
Magid, Oren Michael
In this dissertation, I put forward a novel interpretation of Heidegger's investigation of death in Being and Time before arguing that death serves to ground the intelligibility of human existence. I show that in situating Heidegger's use of `death' with respect to what interpreters identify as its ordinary sense - passing away - they fail to distinguish between two ordinary senses of `death.' `Death' ordinarily refers to either passing away or the non-existence that follows. I argue that the latter, existentially understood, is what Heidegger means by `death.' This non-existence is not a lack or empty nothingness, but an understanding of oneself and the full span of one's existence as having passed. On my interpretation, Heidegger's claim that we are always `being towards death' means that, prior to passing away, we always make sense of ourselves and our existence on the basis of a glimpse ahead to when we will have been born, have existed, and have passed away - when we will be dead. I argue that such glimpses ahead include and integrate the whole of one's existence, grounding and unifying all more particular, determinate self-understandings, which themselves serve to ground the intelligibility of everyday existence. I then argue that for Heidegger, Dasein's `finitude' labels the way it makes sense of itself and the world from the possibility of death as the final end of its disclosive being-in-the-world. Thus, Heidegger's investigation of death manifests neither a morbid concern with life's end, nor a merely arbitrary connection to what we ordinarily mean by `death.' Instead, Heidegger dialectically distinguishes between ordinary senses of `death,' offers us an existential way of understanding one of these ordinary senses, and shows how death, so understood, grounds and unifies the intelligibility of existence.
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