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Existential Analysis of Belief

Existential Analysis of Belief

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Published by Chris Harden
A paper I wrote working on my philosophy degree where I try to reconcile being an authentic human being while also subscribing to a belief system, in an existentialist context.
A paper I wrote working on my philosophy degree where I try to reconcile being an authentic human being while also subscribing to a belief system, in an existentialist context.

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Published by: Chris Harden on Nov 12, 2008
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An Existential Analysis of BeliefChris Harden
An approach to the understanding of human-being after the twentieth centurymust account for a shared dimension in which individual agents are always alreadysituated and hence oriented towards themselves and others. Sharedness, is essentialfor the overcoming of the empiricist encapsulation of meaning and experience into asingular isolated consciousness. The result of such an approach should never beunderstood as producing some general theory or formula for being. That is, in the questto understand and describe human-being one must be mindful to not themselvesencapsulate the potentiality of a questioning being as though such a being had anessence like that of an ordinary object in the world. Heidegger introduced the termDasein as a technical term to differentiate between the special kind of being of thehuman being and that of ordinary objects in the world. Heidegger was one of the first tosystematically approach the question of being with the particular interest of escaping thepitfalls of a Cartesian conception of the consciousness. I will begin with a briefreconstruction of Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein to show that he paints the picture of abeing always oriented towards the things in and of the world. My question will then bean analysis of the modes in which that orientation is shaped. I want to say that Daseinis a believing being, that Dasein is oriented towards the world in terms or its being or itsbelief structure. I, then, want to ask how such beliefs can be approached andunderstood as functioning in the Being of Dasein?Dasein according to Heidegger:
“Dasein is an entity which does not just occur among other entities
.
Rather it is ontically distinguished by the fact that in it’s very Being, that Being isan issue for it. But in that case this is a constitutive state of Dasein’s Being, andthis implies that Dasein, in it’s being, has a relationship towards that Being – arelationship which itself is one of being. This means further that there is someway in which Dasein understands itself in it’s being.” (Existentialism, Solomon,1974, Pg. 94 - reprinted from Being and Time)
Heidegger begins with a careful distinction between the being of the human beingof ordinary things in the world. Dasein as a being in the world as contrasted with a thingin the world is distinguished by the fact that it takes it’s own being to be an issue for it.Dasein is also understood to have some orientation towards itself. The ways in whichagents become oriented toward their being and themself become situated as a ‘being-in-the-world’ is what Heidegger calls existence. This technical term being-in-the-world isused to designate Dasein as a real being that understands itself in terms of its existenceand a being situated within a real world. The starting point of the analysis is the facticityof a being-in-the-world. Heidegger writes,
“We are ourselves the entities to be analyzed. The Being of any such entityis in each case mine. These entities, in their Being, comport themselves towardtheir being. As entities with such Being, they are delivered over to their ownBeing. Being is that which is an issue for every such entity.” (Existentialism,Solomon, 1974, Pg. 96 from Being and Time.)
This way of describing Being has two important consequences for Heidegger.One is that the essence of Dasein must not be understood as an ordinary thing in theworld. What Heidegger calls present-at-hand. The being of Dasein alone and is
 
understood as an ordinary thing in the world. What Heidegger calls present-at-hand.The being of Dasein must be understood in terms of its potential to be. The termexistence he reserves for Dasein alone and is understood in terms of possibility whichalready suggests a plurality of modes in which Dasein might become oriented towardsitself.The second important consequence of this conception is that Being is in eachcase mine. Dasein in its Being has always the characteristic in each case of amineness. The mineness of Dasein seems to be understood in terms of Dasein isalways mine to be in one way or another. Heidegger also realized Dasein to be in aworld and oriented towards a world of other Dasein, he writes.
“. . . the world is always the one that I share with others. The world ofDasein is in a with-world. Being-in is Being-with others. Their Being-in-themselves within-the-world is Dasein-with.” (Existentialism, Solomon, Pg. 100,from Being and Time.)
In this we have a broader view of the Being of Dasein as a Being in a worldoriented towards itself and other Beings-in-the-world. Much is implied in the notion of asituated Being in the world always oriented toward things in the world. Thecharacteristic of mineness in each case of Dasein implies its potential to choose itself,to be itself, or to not be itself, and to do so im one way or another. Dasein-with is asocial Being that interacts through a plurality of modes among which it must choose.This ability to choose, to interact, to participate is essential to Dasein-with. Thequestion then is how we are to understand such modes of interaction in which Daseinbuilds itself up and is built up-in and thereby situtated in a particular way.Much has been said of tendencies of the Being of Dasein that imply elements ofa self-relation and a relation to others without any mention of how such relations aremade capable. A basic element implied in both relationships is that of dialogue.Internal dialogue lays the foundation for the entire social world. Through the use oflanguage agents are concretely tied to a social world. We must then understandlanguage as an intersubjective, transcultural medium in which agents are alwayssituated. Heidegger writes,
“Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells.” (TheExistentialist Reader, MacDonald, 2000, from: Letter on Humanism.)
Language thus understood as a shared medium becomes that medium throughwhich the world is made intelligible to Dasein. It is through such an understanding thatDasein becomes oriented as Being-In-The-World. Language then is the building blocksthrough which Dasein constructs itself intelligibly as a Being for the world. Discoursethen is conceived as the glue that binds such blocks together into a solid structure orfoundation from which all Dasein operate. Heidegger writes,
“As an existential state in which Dasein is disclosed, discourse isconstitutive for Dasein’s existence.” (Being and Time, Translated: Macquarrie &Robinson, 1962.)
It is then to be understood that through the use of language and in discourse, thedisclosure of the world is made possible of Dasein. Through such disclosure Daseinmay then become oriented as Being-In-The-World. The world in its potentiality thenbegins to become apparent to Dasein. Such disclosure delivered to Dasein throughdiscourse allows Dasein to pick up a particular understanding of itself nad the world; this
 
then situates Dasein in a particular way towards itself and the world. The situatednessof Dasein can be conceived in terms of a belief or some belief structure that is madeintelligible by language and that orients Dasein towards the different aspects of theworld in a particular way. This is what forms the background upon which Dasein mayoperate in the world and understand such a world. It is the collection of beliefsstructures that form. What some would call, the world-view of that particular Dasein.Belief is meant here as more of a technical term to specify an formal or informalassumption or premise that allows Dasien to orient itself towards itself and the world. Abelief structure would then be one or more such assumptions or premise that aresomehow thematically related. We can now see that Dasein as a Being always orientedtowards the world does so in terms of a plurality of believing Being, or as Being orientedtowards itself and the world through an understanding of an appropriation and/orcreation of such beliefs and belief structures.I want to illustrate the plurality of such belief or belief structure with a simpleexample. Let us suppose that we want to understand a particular tree in someparticular yard. This notion on the surface allows for many approaches, i.e.philosophical, mathematical, natural scientific, religio/spiritual, or simply in terms ofbuilding a nice tree house. In the philosophical approach there is the metaphysicalquestioning of the being of the tree, in analytics there is the questioning of ‘treeness.’ Inmathematics there is a geometrical approach to the spatiality of such a tree, a statisticalapproach relating this tree to population norms of such a tree, and a calculus approachmight provide ways of determining the mass and surface area as well as answeringquestions of optimization. In science we have purely physical approach, a biologicalapproach, a medical-herbological approach, an ecological approach, a chemicalapproach through the chemistry of the tree, a quantum approach as to the behavior ofits atomic structure, and also becomes far too vast to name. We have at first anEastern approach, Hindu, Tao, Buddha, Shinto, Jain, Sekh, et cetera. A Westernapproach, Judaic, Christian, Islamic, et cetera. A pagan/shamanic approach of Tribaltraditions, Wicca, Drudism, Neo-Norse, et cetera. All of which offer a large variety as tohow plant life can be conceived as significant or relating to human life.Throughout such a plurality of modes, in which Dasein might be oriented towardsthings in the world, there are two important distinctions that are characteristic of each.The first is that all are made possible or intelligible by language. As we have seen it islanguage and language use that allows us to understand, to participate, and becomesituated within a particular world-view.The second distinction is that no one particular belief or belief structure mayclaim to have direct access to some pure realm of objective or absolute reality. That isto say that each belief regardless of how formal or informal operates off some axiomaticpremise or definition which has to be accepted as valid or given and for which there isno other justification according to the supposed rules for justification within thatparticular system. Since after Wittgenstien we must conceive of even a plurality ofrationalism, then an argument based on rationality becomes useless since particularmodes of rationality themselves depend on preconceived assumptions of what isrational. A major result of Wittgenstein’s generalization of rationality into modes of rulefollowing is to bring forth the deceptive characteristic of consistency in rationalism. It isthis characteristic that deceives us into falling into the trap of accepting an arbitrary

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