Heidegger and appropriating nihilism: Reconstructing Dasein from moral relativism to supererogatory obligation

Darrin Anthony Madis, Purdue University


The purpose of this project is to reconsider Heidegger's Being and Time as a response to nihilism by reconstructing his existential analysis from a strengthened and expanded interpretation of mitsein as the primary ontological foundation of Dasein. I argue that the philosophy of Being and Time answers the challenge of nihilism if mitsein is considered as the primary ontological structure of Dasein because authenticity then becomes a mode of being-with-others that morally obligates authentic individuals to each other. Contrary to traditional interpretations of authenticity that yield moral relativism, I present an interpretation that discovers a postmodern conception of self in Heidegger that opens up the possibility for fundamental and supererogatory obligation to the other. The nature of the authentic self in Heidegger is expressed as a temporal or ecstatic unity that is factically determined by what his fundamental ontology reveals as the phenomena of transcendence, or the "structure of care." Since the care structure of Dasein is expressed as mitsein, or being-with-others, I argue that the authentic self must be understood as fundamentally being-with-others. Furthermore, this reveals the self to be constituted by others; the self is the temporal and ecstatic unity of concern for others in one's world. Then, drawing on research, I offer some characteristics of constitutive, authentic concern for others to try and clarify how being authentic must entail certain attunements and actions that render authentic Dasein morally obligated to others. This moral responsibility for the other is not temporally limited to the present and ultimately suggests an ethic of authenticity that is supererogatory. However, if such an ethic can be developed from reconstructing Heidegger's notion of authenticity from an elaborated conception of mitsein, I argue in the last chapter that Heidegger's exposition of the historicality of Dasein, especially his ideas of heritage and destiny, becomes inconsistent. Heritage and destiny, as they constitute the historicality of Dasein, would have to be radically altered to reflect the ethic of authentic mitsein.




McBride, Purdue University.

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