In Sein und Zeit, Heidegger intended to ‘destroy’ the history of Ontology to rebuild it upon a new, sturdy foundation. It was not so much a destruction of all prior Ontology (destroy seems to be used jokingly), but more of a reflection over all the past enquiries into Being. To summarise quickly (and possibly somewhat crudely) what Heidegger was setting out to do; you cannot continue to maintain a structure on a broken foundation.
A young family acquires a house which is beginning to fall apart, they desire to renovate it, thus turning the house into a home. They continuously exhaust themselves but the walls they build fall down, the roof collapses – yet they continue on, confused as to why this keeps happening. Beneath their feet is the buildings foundation, cracked, crumbling and unstable. It shifts and collapses and so the building upon it continues to fall.
This illustrates the crisis of the Western Society; fractured, disintegrating, confused – terrified to reflect – continuing ahead at a million miles per hour and never reflecting, evaluating, examining what is going on around it. At some point we became scared of self-reflection, terrified of being alone with our thoughts. We surround ourselves with technology that keeps us constantly interacting; constantly stimulated; constantly in search of attention.
In Being & Nothingness Sartre separates ‘anxiety’ and ‘anguish’ preferring Kierkegaard’s definition to Heidegger’s – “Anguish is distinguished from fear, in that fear is fear of beings-in-the-world whereas anguish is anguish before myself.” 1 This sets the scene for the introduction of his theory of Mauvaise foi (Bad Faith). In Section 2 I propose that we have surpassed Sartre’s theory of Mauvaise foi and into a new realm. ‘despair-of-I-and-Other’
“Even the power plant with its turbines and generators is a man-made means to an end established by man.” 2 Technology did not gain this grip over man by itself, to be a means is to be in submission to the ends. The das Man (the ‘they’) is the supplier, creator, money-driven, power hungry force – it is their ends, their goals, that have driven society down this path, however, much like Sartre’s Mauvaise foi, Heidegger’s das Man has been surpassed. In Section 4 we will discuss how the ‘they’ has become the ‘them’.
- Social media can be characterised as both Idle-Talk and Mauvaise foi. For it is both a false representation of yourself, and only fragments of the personality projected; a projection of a Being which is neither you, nor an in-depth display of the fictional character in which you are pretending to be.
- A sign of moral decay: What would lead an individual to record an atrocity on their phone, as opposed to intervening? Cowardice? Preposterous! A Dasein is not made a coward! To be a coward is chosen. Is it better to record the terror and resign yourself to cowardice, or risk life and limb – to create a new reaction among the people, to set a new standard; fight back! I did! I may have died, I may have got injured, but I acted and so should you!
⸹2 – Anguish, Despair, Fear, Anxiety and Inauthenticity
The modern human can no longer form their own identity: The constant interconnectivity with the world around us, available to us through a little machine upon our person; always within arms-reach, provides us with an overwhelming – vast and ever expanding – selection of identities to pick from. In Sartrean terms we may view this as pre-programmed-essence. While a Dasein still contains a Nothingness which allows it the ability to freely choose itself, the option to choose has been detoured/negated by an ever growing herd (or herd plural as we shall show in ⸹3) imposing upon the Dasein a way in which it is now expected to-be.
The modern human is expected to make continuous decisions: Are you for or against our “cause”? Are you pro or against? Are you one of us or an enemy? – Left, or Right?! This is not to choose in the Sartrean sense, this is a hostile imposition. To not answer makes you an enemy, to disagree makes you an enemy. You are pre-conscripted into a culture war, this is an external force attempting to reverse existence precedes essence. In the words of Slavoj Zizek: “I already am eating from the trash can all the time. The name of this trash can is ideology. The material force of ideology makes me not see what I am effectively eating.” 3
The normal issues one would list: geopolitical tensions, capitalism, politics and so-on should be regarded as merely symptoms. The problem arises not from the external world, its foundation is within ourselves; the ‘I’. We must retrieve our Self and reclaim it as our own before we can help those around us. Our fear of reflection could be seen as a fear of alienation. The pressure of those around us to conform to their principles creates a Mauvaise foi while the true Self hides below – undiscovered. This is the factor that differentiates this new phenomenon from Mauvaise foi, the Dasein never actually knows its authentic Self, it never has the chance to be found for fear of being alienated from the various ideological driven herds swarming around and intimidating the Dasein. One of us, one of us, one of us…
This is the despair-of-I-and-Other. We have a synthesis of both anguish and fear. Scared to reflect and find the Self because the I is afraid to be alienated: “This distantiality which belongs to Being-with, is such that Dasein, as everyday Being-with-one-another, stands in subjection [Botmӓssigkeit] to Others. It itself is not; its Being has been taken away by the Others.” 4
To find your I is now to destroy oneself through self-reflection. This sounds extreme, dramatic and so-on, but it is not an over exaggeration in the slightest. To live your life in Mauvaise foi is to exist as if you are a Being-in-itself instead of for-itself, you have not lived your life as you, but as another. You have never stood back. You are a parent driving a car alone a stretch of road at 200ks an hour, chasing a destination that does not exist. In the backseat is a child, your Self – You. They are telling you to stop so you can go for a walk, they saw a lake, a mountain, a path, a garden. You have missed it all, you never stopped to wonder and ponder. You turned up the music to drown out the sound of your consciousness out of fear from alienation.
⸹3 – Technology & Sartrean Freedom
There is nothing more detrimental to freedom than technology.
- “The war for freedom is fought on the internet” Says the whistle-blower living in confinement.
- When freedom of speech is no-more, freedom of thought will be next to fall – or has it already fallen?
- You are no longer free when everything you do is dependent on technology. You are no longer free when every detail of your life is online and up for grabs – up for grabs for both blackmail and marketers, for people to steal and people to use as a means to their financial ends. You surrender yourself and your identity, your transcendence and privacy. Your life is now beholden to the highest bidder.
⸹4 – ‘They’ Becomes ‘Them’
How has the ‘They’ been surpassed? Heidegger’s concept of the ‘They’ was more clearly expressed in Introduction to Metaphysics: “Europe lies in the pincers between Russia and America, which are metaphysically the same, namely in regard to their world-character and their relationship to the spirit.” 5 We should consider this from Heidegger’s view of the world – in an apolitical sense, leaving aside his National Socialist membership. Their ‘world-character’ and ‘relationship to the spirit’ is, as put by Nietzsche, decadence. The ‘They’ was the driving force of Liberalism and Capitalism, mass production, egalitarianism, atomisation of the individual (community spirit), and so-on. The ‘They’ in this sense is the elites, globalists and others who had gained influence in the political sphere. ‘They’ were those who geared everything in the direction that would increase their own profit.
Through this process the ‘They’ has expanded in size and is no longer purely an elite activity. Through social media anyone can become the influencing ‘They’. The owner of the social media company itself may be what Heidegger considers ‘They’, but the influencer is using that platform to then direct their ‘followers’ like a blue healer rounding up sheep. The creating of the platform for the individual to go from unknown to influencer creates a gateway to enlarge the ‘they’ in mass. And the public now splinter off into groups of opposing forces, never delving into themselves in search of the Self. Life is now conducted completely external to your physical-Being, the transcendental-Being is neglected and ignored. As each generation passes we fall further into the Abgrund (abyss):
“The meaning of Being can never be contrasted with entities, or with Being as the ‘ground’ which gives entities support; for a ‘ground’ becomes accessible only as meaning, even if it is itself the abyss of meaninglessness.” 6
Here we must separate from Sartre’s idea of an individual requiring Others around them to give credence to the project they are undertaking (project meaning one of the various modes of their everydayness). This not to deny this principle entirely, for you cannot call yourself a policeman without devoting oneself (Aufgehen) to the project; applying to be a policeman, passing training and so-on. But to escape despair-of-the-I-and-Other we must each separate from the various out-groups that have pre-imposed their ideals, principles, beliefs, etc. We must delve into our Dasein and rescue the I that hides within us. The lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison, once said in an interview while discussing freedom:
“There are different kinds of freedom — there’s a lot of misunderstanding … The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your senses for an act. You give up your ability to feel and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” 7
To revolutionise the public as whole we must first revolutionise our Self, liberate it from the confines; the cell inside our Dasein in which it is locked away. We must break from the influences that were imposed upon us by modern technology and constant interconnectivity that prevented us from self-realisation. Part of our own development has been impeded, we have never truly been able to be alone unless we revolt against the new technological, inorganic, synthetic society we live within.
⸹5 – ‘Man & His Technics’
Those of us living in Western society are told that technology is good for us. It allows us to be free, to communicate whenever we want; to learn about the world and expand our mind; it will replace mundane jobs and allow us to pursue our own creative interests, etc. These all sit within the gap between truth and lies. Technology would allow us to do all these things, but they are all manipulated in a way to meet the ends of others instead of our own.
Social media and mainstream news only broadcast in accordance with their own political positions, thus restricting the public’s freedom through carefully presented idle talk, allowing you to only know what they want you to know. This is conditioning your Being, manipulation through the same technology ‘intended’ to give you freedom. But I bring you good news, my friend, we can all be free!
⸹ Conclusion, Redemption & The Cave
The modern man resembles the prisoners of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. They know nothing else, they are confused and Self-less. There is a slight twist, however, they are trapped inside two separate caves. In one cave there lies the true-Self, the true-undiscovered-I; all alone. In the second cave is their false-Self, the Mauvaise foi in which they project as their everyday-Dasein. In this cave is this inauthentic-Dasein which is being-alongside-everyone. We cannot say that this Dasein is Being-in-the-world, for it is in a cave, trapped in falsehood with the rest of the inauthentic Dasein’s who are beginning to live and die never knowing the true-undiscovered-I.
In Plato’s Allegory there is a group of prisoners chained to a short wall inside a cave. From the other side of this wall, light moves from torches and illuminated the other wall in front of them, and as people walk along, chatting and carrying objects these prisoners see shadows projected, and the noise from those making the shadows reverberates around the cave walls. These shadows for them become Beings, for they know no other existence. They cannot even turn their heads to see the other prisoners, they have been in this way their entire lives. This is the essence of the modern man, the Nothingness is shrinking, the Freedom is fading.
VII. George Orwell’s 1984 becomes increasingly more relevant, it could never be an overused example of the direction we are heading in. Why? Because nobody could ever refute that argument, it could never be logically countered in debate.
The technology we believe to set us free has instead lead us down a cave. Not just the general public, but the ‘they’ of Heidegger’s age, followed by the ‘them’ of the 21st century. Nobody of any position on the global hierarchy has been free, for we have created a beast that we have less and less control of. We turned the planet into a means for our own end, and then turned ourselves into a means. The technology we create becomes more and more powerful, we lie in a strange zero-point where us and technology are both a means which uses each other – one of us must move into the position of the ends.
“All things organic are dying in the grip of civilisation. An artificial world is permeating and poisoning the natural. The civilisation itself if becoming a machine that does, or tries to do, everything in mechanical fashion … we cannot look at a waterfall without mentally turning it into electric power … we cannot look at the beautiful old handwork of an unspoiled primitive people without wising to replace it by a modern technical process.” 8 – Oswald Spengler
There is two caves, your true-Self and your despair-of-I-and-Other. The caves are the technology which we must break free from. We must look inside ourselves and release our true-Dasein, we must break free of our dependence on technology and re-designate it as a Technic; a tool. We must have a revolution of the Self before a revolution of the world. Much like Winston in 1984 we are scared of being ourselves around Others for fear of alienation, though – at the moment – it would not result in our deaths if we choose to go against the them. If we were all to reflect on our-Self, reflect on our world; to recover our individual Dasein, we could then look again at where we are, what we have done, where we have gone wrong.
What sort of creature creates devices to destroy itself? Is the undiscovered-I playing a role, do we deep down know we have, in trying to become Gods ourselves, wandered down the wrong path? It is entirely possible, we know that slave labour produces our objects, we know we are all guilty in using those in poverty to our advantage. The undiscovered-I is trying to tell us something, listen to him.
- Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2003), Pg. 53.
- Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, (USA: Harper Collins, 2013), Pg. 5.
- Slavoj Zizek on “They Live” [Video]. (Christian G, 4th August 2014) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVwKjGbz60k>, accessed 20 Jul. 2018.
- Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, (USA: Harper Collins, 2008), Pg. 164.
- Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics 2nd Edition, (USA: Yale University Press. 2014), Pg. 50.
- Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, (USA: Harper Collins, 2008), Pg. 194.
- Lizzie James, ‘Jim Morrison: 10 Years Gone’, goldengalaxies.net (PDF from ‘Creem Magazine’ interview in 1981), < http://goldengalaxies.net/Quasar/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Jim-Morrison-Interview-With-Lizzie-James2.pdf> Pg. 1. Para. 6.
- Oswald Spengler, Man and His Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life, (USA: Greenwood Press, 1932) Pg. 48.