Heidegger, fenomenologia, hermenêutica, existência

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Bret Davis (2007:40-42) – resoluteness and will

quinta-feira 17 de janeiro de 2019

The complexity of the question — and the ambiguity of the answer — regarding the role of the will in Being and Time   fully emerges when we look at what is said to characterize Dasein  ’s most proper way of being: Entschlossenheit   (usually rendered as “resoluteness,” but it shall soon become apparent why I leave this term untranslated). “In Entschlossenheit we have now arrived at that truth of Dasein which is most primordial because it is authentic” (SZ 297). But what is Entschlossenheit? It is first defined as the existential name for that “existentiell choosing to choose a kind of being-one’s-self” (SZ 270); however, as we shall see, this voluntaristic-sounding “choosing to choose” must in the end be thought together with the other central notions of anxiety, running ahead to one’s own death, and willing-to-have-a-conscience.

Initially at least, the term “resoluteness,” like “projection” and “choosing,” conveys what appear to be undeniable and ineradicable overtones of willfulness. And yet on closer examination of the term, this initial impression becomes questionable. For Heidegger Entschlossenheit is intimately related (see 297) to the notion of Erschlossenheit   (disclosedness). This notion of dis-closing in turn is related to Heidegger’s conception of truth as a-letheia, “unconcealment” or “unhiddenness” (Entborgenheit  , Unverborgenheit). Thinking of unconcealment in terms of a “clearing” (Lichtung  ) ultimately leads him to think truth “topologically” as the “location” (Ortschaft) or “locality” (Örtlichkeit) of being (GA15  :335/41). It is this “topology of beyng” that we find in his later thinking of the region (or the open-region, die Gegnet) and the Open (das Offene) as that place of the revealing/concealing of beings wherein mortal humans most properly dwell. Hence, the later Heidegger defines or redefines (that is the question!) Entschlossenheit in this context as “the specifically [eigens] undertaken self-opening of Dasein for the Open” (GA59  /81).

Etymologically, Entschlossenheit derives from the word schließen (to close, shut, fasten) and the prefix ent-, indicating opposition or separation; hence entschließen is said to have originally meant “to open, unlock.” [1] The term Entschlossenheit would therefore “literally” mean “to be un-closed or opened-up” (aufgeschlossen). That Heidegger reads the term in this manner [41] in his later writings is clear from such passages as the following, where Entschlossenheit finds its place (gets reinterpreted?) in a philosophy of Gelassenheit  : “As letting beings be, freedom is intrinsically the resolutely open bearing that does not   close up in itself [das entschlossene, d.h. das sich nicht   verschließende Verhältnis  ]” (GA9  :194/149). The later Heidegger often hyphenates the word as Ent-schlossenheit, stressing this etymologically original ecstatic meaning.

But is this “being opened-up” unequivocally the sense of Entschlossenheit already intended in Being and Time? Let us consider for a moment the other, modern, everyday, if etymologically non-original, sense of the term. While originally meaning to open or unlock, from around the sixteenth century, entschließen came to be used (with the reflexive sich) in the sense of “to decide, reach a decision.” The perfect participle entschlossen then came to mean “resolute,” and the noun   Entschluss to mean “decision or resolution,” a matter of a “decision of will” (Willensentscheidung) to carry out a certain intention  . [2] What would be unlocked, in a usual modern understanding, would not be the doorway to a region of non-willing, but rather one’s own barrier of indecisiveness concerning what one willed to do. There is in fact another sense of the prefix “ent-” that supports this modern understanding, namely as “indicating the establishment of the condition designated by the word to which it is affixed.” [3] If read in this usual modern sense, Entschlossenheit would mean “the establishing of a closing off,” that is, a rejection of other possibilities in a firm grasping of a particular one. In the context of Being and Time, Dasein would, in freeing itself from its everyday deference to the they, resolutely choose its own possibility of being. This would clearly seem to imply a comportment of willing.

And yet, in a conversation with John Sallis   in 1975, Heidegger reportedly strongly protested against relating Entschlossenheit to the will. Stating unequivocally, “It has nothing to do with the will,” he suggested instead that Entschlossenheit be understood in the sense of Geöffnetsein. [4] Which reading is correct? Is Entschlossenheit a resolute willing of one’s own potentiality-for-being, or is it an un-locked open(ed)ness to being?

In fact, I shall demonstrate, in the context of Being and Time there are not only two, but four possible ways of reading the term:

1. The notion of Entschlossenheit in Being and Time is — despite later developments in Heidegger’s thinking and despite his later selfreinterpretations — a matter of willful resolve.

2. Despite certain misleading expressions in Being and Time, which can be attributed to “the metaphysical residues” inappropriate to the “original experience” behind the text  , the term Entschlossenheit already [42] exclusively refers to the later Heidegger’s “non-willing” explanations of Ent-schlossenheit.

3. The inconstancies between the various connotations of Entschlossenheit in Being and Time are irresolvable. It contains undeniable elements of will, while in other respects foreshadowing his later thought of Gelassenheit.

4. The ambiguity of Entschlossenheit is rather that of a dynamic ambivalence, where authentic Dasein not only wills to resolutely choose its possibility of being, but also resolves to repeat an interruption of this willing. (p. 40-42)


[1See Inwood, A Heidegger Dictionary, 186ff.; and Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen, 5th ed. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 2000; Berlin: Akademie, 1993), 288.

[2See Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen, 288.

[3See John Sallis’s translator’s footnote in Pathmarks, 373. Sallis, however, stresses that Heidegger here (the note is appended to the line quoted from “On the Essence of Truth” in my previous paragraph) does not take the prefix in this [317] sense, but rather as privation. Thus entschlossen signifies in that text, Sallis writes, ‘just the opposite of that kind of ‘resolve’ in which one makes up one’s mind in such a fashion as to close off all other possibilities: it is rather a kind of keeping un-closed.” This is certainly true of the term in this later text (published in 1943). The question for us at the moment is whether, or rather to what extent, the term already unambiguously had this meaning in Being and Time.

[4Sallis’s conversation with Heidegger was recorded in a notebook dated June 2, 1975, and the comments cited here were related to me in personal correspondence, dated August 26, 1996.