a Heideggerian meditation

(This is the third in a series; see also a Hegelian meditation and a Husserlian meditation.)

This is a breath: in, out. Then another. It has a certain mood, first a bit anxious, then more relaxed.

What is going on here–really going on? People have disagreed, but they tend to use the same vocabulary even when they espouse incompatible theories. Their keywords include: subject, object, language, world, mind, nature, freedom, and necessity.

Just for example, perhaps some of the material called “air” is filling lungs while brain cells are generating a subjective impression of relaxation and suggesting the words “to breathe.”

This vocabulary seems to miss or obscure what it is happening here. The experience is not of oxygen; it is of breathing, which is intrinsically an activity with purpose and value. Being there (Dasein) always comes in a mood; affect is not merely added on. But the mood can shift, and the activity can change the mood. Unconscious, hurried respiration can become meditative breathing.

Dasein unfolds over time and is aware that it must end one day. It has not chosen to be but has been thrown into the world–obliged to breathe, to have a mood at each moment, to experience time, and to adopt a language with a history. Yet Dasein can choose to become aware of its temporality, its mortality, its concerns, and its attunements to the world.

Being-there with a breath affords these insights. Letting it be-there without the usual vocabulary of philosophy and science can show Dasein what it authentically has been and is.

So: what mood is there with this particular breath? If it is anxiety or boredom, that is real. Accept it, and then change it.

See also: joys and limitations of phenomenology; the sociology of the analytic/continental divide in philosophy; on philosophy as a way of life

This entry was posted in philosophy, Uncategorized on by .

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.