I was hoping to sleep in this morning but instead I wake to the pitter-pattering little feet of professional movers. Ah, summer moving season in a small Pittsburgh apartment building. I feel the vibrations of their footsteps underneath my formerly reposeful back. They're still working right now. Their walking route from the door to the moving truck conveniently passes right by my parked car-- so I'm waiting to find a nice floor-lamp shaped dent next time I go out....
Anyways, I'm awake, if not all too happy about it. So, here's my effort to fill the blank blog screen. I decided to start a few chapters back in my public library Sartre book, to the Introduction, which is helping me get a little background.
Starting on page 11...
Now let us turn to Heidegger. His problem is the ancient problem of Being. He has declared that he is not a philosopher of existence, but a philosopher of Being, and that his eventual aim is ontological. Heidegger considers the problem of existence solely to introduce us to ontology, because the only form of Being with which we are truly in contact (according to Heidegger) is the being of man. To be sure, there are other forms of Being for Heidegger: there is what he calls "the being of things seen," or scenes; there is the being of tools and instruments; there is the being of mathematical forms; there is the being of animals; but only man truly exists. Animals live, mathematical things subsist, implements remain at our disposal, and scenes manifest themselves; but none of these things exists.
In order that we ourselves may truly exist, rather than remain in the sphere of things-seen and things-used, we must quit the inauthentic sphere of existence. Ordinarly, due to our own laziness and the pressure of society, we remain in an everyday world, where we are not really in contact with ourselves. This everyday world is the domain of what Heidegger calls "the anyone" -- or what we might call "the domain of Everyman"--where we are interchangeable with each other. In this domain of "anyone," we are not conscious of our own existence. And an awareness of ourselves as existents is attainable only by traversing certain experiences, like that of anguish, which put us in the presence of the background of Nothingness from which Being erupts.
Kierkegaard insisted upon the experience of anguish, which he compared to dizziness, as a revelation of the possibilities which lie beyond. The Heideggerian anguish, however, does not lead to "mere possibilities," which are partial and relative non-entities, but to Nothingness, from which erupts everything that is, and into which everything threatens at every instant to crumple and collapse. This attempt to give reality to an absolute Nothingness (even were we to consider it mistaken) is one of Heidegger's most interesting ventures.
Naturally, this Nothingness is difficult to characterize. We cannot even say that it is, and Heidegger has invented a word, Nichten ("naughten") to characterize its action. Nothingness "naughtens" itself and everything else. It is an active Nothingness which causes the world which erupts from it to tremble to the foundations. One might say that it is the negative foundation of Being, from which Being detaches itself by a sort of rupture. Let us remark parenthetically that in a postscript to the tract in which Heidegger discloses his theory of Nothingness, he tells us that this Nothingness, differing from each and every particular thing which is , can be none other, at bottom, than Being itself -- for, he argues, what is there different from each thing that is, if not Being? Thus we reach by a different route the identification which Hegel had effected between Being and Non-Being. And this might suggest many problems; e.g., how can one say that it is solely through anguish that Being reveals itself, and that it is into Being that everything may collapse?
In any case, the experience of anguish reveals us to ourselves as out in the world, forlorn, without recourse or refuge. Why we are flung into the world, we do not know. This brings us to one of the fundamental assertions of the philosophy of existence: we are, without our finding any reason for our being; hence, we are existence without essence.