An Existential Analysis of Belief Chris Harden An approach to the understanding of human-being after the twentieth century must

account for a shared dimension in which individual agents are always already situated and hence oriented towards themselves and others. Sharedness, is essential for the overcoming of the empiricist encapsulation of meaning and experience into a singular isolated consciousness. The result of such an approach should never be understood as producing some general theory or formula for being. That is, in the quest to understand and describe human-being one must be mindful to not themselves encapsulate the potentiality of a questioning being as though such a being had an essence like that of an ordinary object in the world. Heidegger introduced the term Dasein as a technical term to differentiate between the special kind of being of the human being and that of ordinary objects in the world. Heidegger was one of the first to systematically approach the question of being with the particular interest of escaping the pitfalls of a Cartesian conception of the consciousness. I will begin with a brief reconstruction of Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein to show that he paints the picture of a being always oriented towards the things in and of the world. My question will then be an analysis of the modes in which that orientation is shaped. I want to say that Dasein is a believing being, that Dasein is oriented towards the world in terms or its being or its belief structure. I, then, want to ask how such beliefs can be approached and understood 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 is an issue for it. But in that case this is a constitutive state of Dasein’s Being, and this implies that Dasein, in it’s being, has a relationship towards that Being – a relationship which itself is one of being. This means further that there is some way 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 being of ordinary things in the world. Dasein as a being in the world as contrasted with a thing in 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 which agents become oriented toward their being and themself become situated as a ‘beingin-the-world’ is what Heidegger calls existence. This technical term being-in-the-world is used to designate Dasein as a real being that understands itself in terms of its existence and a being situated within a real world. The starting point of the analysis is the facticity of a being-in-the-world. Heidegger writes, “We are ourselves the entities to be analyzed. The Being of any such entity is in each case mine. These entities, in their Being, comport themselves toward their being. As entities with such Being, they are delivered over to their own Being. 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 the world. 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 term existence he reserves for Dasein alone and is understood in terms of possibility which already suggests a plurality of modes in which Dasein might become oriented towards itself. The second important consequence of this conception is that Being is in each case mine. Dasein in its Being has always the characteristic in each case of a mineness. The mineness of Dasein seems to be understood in terms of Dasein is always mine to be in one way or another. Heidegger also realized Dasein to be in a world and oriented towards a world of other Dasein, he writes. “. . . the world is always the one that I share with others. The world of Dasein is in a with-world. Being-in is Being-with others. Their Being-inthemselves 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 world oriented towards itself and other Beings-in-the-world. Much is implied in the notion of a situated Being in the world always oriented toward things in the world. The characteristic 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 a social 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. The question then is how we are to understand such modes of interaction in which Dasein builds 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 of a self-relation and a relation to others without any mention of how such relations are made 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 of language agents are concretely tied to a social world. We must then understand language as an intersubjective, transcultural medium in which agents are always situated. Heidegger writes, “Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells.” (The Existentialist Reader, MacDonald, 2000, from: Letter on Humanism.) Language thus understood as a shared medium becomes that medium through which the world is made intelligible to Dasein. It is through such an understanding that Dasein becomes oriented as Being-In-The-World. Language then is the building blocks through which Dasein constructs itself intelligibly as a Being for the world. Discourse then is conceived as the glue that binds such blocks together into a solid structure or foundation from which all Dasein operate. Heidegger writes, “As an existential state in which Dasein is disclosed, discourse is constitutive 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, the disclosure of the world is made possible of Dasein. Through such disclosure Dasein may then become oriented as Being-In-The-World. The world in its potentiality then begins to become apparent to Dasein. Such disclosure delivered to Dasein through discourse 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 situatedness of Dasein can be conceived in terms of a belief or some belief structure that is made intelligible by language and that orients Dasein towards the different aspects of the world in a particular way. This is what forms the background upon which Dasein may operate in the world and understand such a world. It is the collection of beliefs structures 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 informal assumption or premise that allows Dasien to orient itself towards itself and the world. A belief structure would then be one or more such assumptions or premise that are somehow thematically related. We can now see that Dasein as a Being always oriented towards the world does so in terms of a plurality of believing Being, or as Being oriented towards itself and the world through an understanding of an appropriation and/or creation of such beliefs and belief structures. I want to illustrate the plurality of such belief or belief structure with a simple example. Let us suppose that we want to understand a particular tree in some particular yard. This notion on the surface allows for many approaches, i.e. philosophical, mathematical, natural scientific, religio/spiritual, or simply in terms of building a nice tree house. In the philosophical approach there is the metaphysical questioning of the being of the tree, in analytics there is the questioning of ‘treeness.’ In mathematics there is a geometrical approach to the spatiality of such a tree, a statistical approach relating this tree to population norms of such a tree, and a calculus approach might provide ways of determining the mass and surface area as well as answering questions of optimization. In science we have purely physical approach, a biological approach, a medical-herbological approach, an ecological approach, a chemical approach through the chemistry of the tree, a quantum approach as to the behavior of its atomic structure, and also becomes far too vast to name. We have at first an Eastern approach, Hindu, Tao, Buddha, Shinto, Jain, Sekh, et cetera. A Western approach, Judaic, Christian, Islamic, et cetera. A pagan/shamanic approach of Tribal traditions, Wicca, Drudism, Neo-Norse, et cetera. All of which offer a large variety as to how plant life can be conceived as significant or relating to human life. Throughout such a plurality of modes, in which Dasein might be oriented towards things 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 is language and language use that allows us to understand, to participate, and become situated within a particular world-view. The second distinction is that no one particular belief or belief structure may claim to have direct access to some pure realm of objective or absolute reality. That is to say that each belief regardless of how formal or informal operates off some axiomatic premise or definition which has to be accepted as valid or given and for which there is no other justification according to the supposed rules for justification within that particular system. Since after Wittgenstien we must conceive of even a plurality of rationalism, then an argument based on rationality becomes useless since particular modes of rationality themselves depend on preconceived assumptions of what is rational. A major result of Wittgenstein’s generalization of rationality into modes of rule following is to bring forth the deceptive characteristic of consistency in rationalism. It is this characteristic that deceives us into falling into the trap of accepting an arbitrary

mode of orientation for absolute objective reality. Take mathematics as a synthetic, highly formalized system which orients Dasein towards the world in a particular way. The consistency is most evolved in such an example but its evolution is the least mysterious. The consistency is such that agents are usually quick to defend its objectivity. Mathematical systems are axiomatic systems. Essentially each can be broken down into sets of axioms, definitions, lemmas, theorems, and corollaries. The axioms are formalized assumptions necessary to the operation of the whole system. Axioms are not justified but always assumed. Definitions then set out terminology and jargon and lay out the basic pieces or types of pieces (objects) to be dealt with by that system. These axioms and definitions are then accompanied by formalized rules of nomenlogical deductions which allow for the production of lemmas and then full fledged theorems which themselves have direct corollaries. It is here when the rigor of mathematics takes shape and where the consistency becomes the most blinding. Much work goes into proving theorems and the student is impressed with being able to reproduce such results, but what is missed is that all that take part here are trained to all share the same assumptions and preconceptions. This consistency is often mistaken for objectivity. Since mathematical systems, even though highly formalized and therefore consistent, are all based on assumptions (axioms) which require agents to accept some given with no justification, and is clearly only possible through language, then even mathematics can be conceived in terms of a belief system or structure. Since a belief or a belief structure cannot claim to have privileged access to some realm of objective or absolute reality and cannot be justified according to some brand of rationality then a belief or belief structure cannot ultimately justify itself with regard to the content of such structures. How are belief and belief structures, which are orient Dasein towards itself and the world to be approached? If there is no suitable transcendental abode from which agents can look down upon the things in the world how then are such belief structures to be justified? The answers lie in the pragmatic approach. If beliefs cannot be judged by content or by appeal to some form of rationality then all that is left is a careful analysis of the real effect of such belief in the life of Dasein. Mathematics, for example, may not have anything to do with reality but can nonetheless be justified pragmatically in terms of its usefulness in describing the world in a particular way an in solving real problems in the world. What is critical is that in each case of Dasein there is mineness and there is no indifference to this. The plurality of beliefs and belief structures offers Dasein a multitude of perspectives towards any given instance. It is then to Dasein to deal with the various competing schemes and in each instance judge their usefulness in the application of such and such a scheme.

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