The Role of Mood in Heideggers Ontology

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I will argue, however, that the mood of the ontologist, the one who sees and thematically treats the formal structures of Dasein, cannot reasonably be understood to be a mood of extreme crisis or breakdown. This will make clear exactly what is supposed to be disclosed in a ground-mood when understood methodologically as the mood of the ontologist. These concrete reference relations thus define how the hammer is involved with other entities, and so what a user must understand in order to treat it as a hammer. This, that it has an involvement [ Thus, each intraworldly item of equipment has exactly the same mode of being as every other: involvement, readiness-to-hand.

These label the most general category in a suitably broad sense of the term that allows us to grasp all particular items of equipment and particular teleological webs as items of equipment organized into webs. But, like involvements and teleological webs, practical identities are ontical and particular: they vary from person to person, place to place, and time to time.

So, for instance, to say that I am a professor, or parent, or citizen or a synthesis of all three and more besides , or even to follow Hamlet in asking whether I should be or not be at all, is to understand and deal with myself as a particular, determinate entity. When I, as a philosopher, see and say that my being as Dasein is care, I conceptualize myself in terms of a general, universal, a priori formor wayof being that also is instantiated in any other entity who understands entities as being. If, for instance, the head flies off the hammer a carpenter is using in the course of building a house, she may come to notice explicitly the various elements in the particular teleological web in which the hammer has its involvement: this broken hammer, these materials it was being used to work on, this house that these materials will compose, these buyers who will be upset by the delay, etc.

But all of this is still ontical : what is noticed are other particular entities and the totality of particular referential relations among them. Yes, but not in the way usually thought. To understand what he is saying in the passages that talk about the disruption of our practical activity, we do not need actually to be experiencing a hammer breaking, or any other particularexperience like it.


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In fact, such an experience, if it occurred while reading and thinking, would disrupt our understanding, not enable it. What we must be doing is imagining the relevant sort of experience, giving to ourselves the matter which we are interested in — of which we then reflectively ask ontological questions. Phenomenological ontology is, after all, a discipline , something one may work at, and so it requires one be able to pursue it, not just wait for the mood to strike.

What one is confronted by in breakdown is precisely not that which is formally shared by any and every Dasein. Second, by making an experience of massive breakdown a pre-condition for doing ontology, little room is left for seeing quite different and less disruptive sorts of experiences as provoking ontological questioning — simple curiosity or wonder about what is, for instance. And third, insofar as it bumps anxiety back to a prior, pre-philosophical experience, it leaves as an open question what the mood is of the philosopher who is actually contemplating being by recollecting her prior anxiety.

The idea is that, just as that disclosure depended on us reflecting on the breakdown of a teleological web, so too does the disclosure of the being of Dasein depend on reflecting upon the imagined experience of extreme breakdown. It is a crisis of the everyday. In the experience of angst, my ordinary life collapses — but not in the sense that it falls to pieces and I have to put it back together again.

Rather, my life collapses away from me. But unlike anxiety, angst has a positive valence. This breakdown is a legitimate revelation. Where I ordinarily see the myriad tasks ahead of me and the particular entities before me, in angst I see my life as a life, and the whole world as a world. Angst is an experience within a life that provides genuine ontological insight into what it takes to lead a life.

The coherence of their meaning is maintained, but one nevertheless comes to feel distanced from them. For having my life as a whole in view is analogous to the carpenter having her whole teleological web in view, or the one in breakdown having her whole life in view as a question.

Methodological Anxiety: Heidegger on Moods and Emotions - Oxford Scholarship

What is in view is in each case, despite its putatively global character, still a particular something that is — an entity. By contrast, being is, as we have seen, universal and formal: it is that on the basis of which particulars are grasped as the kinds of particulars they are. This means that we need to read whatever follows as focused not on any question about how or whether to live, but rather on this distinctly philosophical-methodological question of how it is possible to achieve a distinctly philosophical, i. It is a mood in which I find myself not in terms of what defines me within the teleological webs I inhabit via my particular practical identity, but simply in terms of the fact of my existing in such webs a world at all as a Dasein.

This does, admittedly, make it odd to call the mood in question anxiety , which invites confusing emotional distress with philosophical insight. Although I will not defend Heidegger in the face of this charge, it might still be helpful to consider briefly some of the reasons why he does not consider the embodied and physiological dimensions of mood. At the very least, this will help us understand why he contends albeit, mistakenly that an ontological approach within the context of fundamental ontology does not require such an account.

However, his treatment of the body throughout the Zollikon Seminars still remains quite superficial, lacking the philosophical depth, breadth, and sophistication that we would expect given the gravity of the problem and the centrality that embodiment plays in our existence in the world. Nevertheless, Heidegger still falls terribly short of achieving any kind of embodied complement to his fundamental ontology in general and to his account of mood in particular.

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Because psychology tends to focus on the physiological dimension of mood — in particular, its causes — it fails to consider, and therefore cannot engage with either the ontological structure or the first personal experience of mood. For Heidegger, mood cannot be given scientifically; rather, science already presupposes it even if science fails to acknowledge this point. His point is that not only is psychology overly concerned with the physiological dimension of mood to the exclusion of considering the kind of beings who experience mood, but that it is not interested in examining what is most fundamental to mood, namely its disclosive structure of human existence.

How do we measure sadness? Evidently, one cannot measure it at all!

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Why not? If one approached sadness with a method of measuring, the very approach would already be contrary to the meaning of sadness. Thus, one would preclude sadness as sadness beforehand.

Martin Heidegger on the Nothing, Not, and Negation - Philosophy Core Concepts

As a result, we become blind to the qualitative experience of the phenomena. Such methods either ignore or assume to already know the ontology of mood and emotion and instead focus on a derivative account obtained from the measurement. This is a problem because it does not get at what many would consider to be a more or at least, equally fundamental dimension of mood and emotion , namely, the experience of them.

Any robust multi-level account of mood would require both an embodied phenomenological and a physiological account of the lived experiences of mood. However, for me to develop such an account here goes beyond the scope of this paper. Let me conclude by discussing why such an account is one that is worth holding on to even if it requires further development.

I set out the problems as follows: 1 There is no consensus regarding what moods are, how they should be defined, or how or whether they differ from emotions, feelings, or dispositions; 2 Insofar as there is no standard definition of mood and there is no widely established demarcation between mood and emotion, it is unclear whether most studies that claim to be examining mood are doing so at all; 3 The working concept of mood in both the first generation of empirical work and also in more recent studies is basic, unsophisticated, and crude; 4 Most experiments that claim to study moods fail to account for and engage with the possibility that moods are more complex modes of existing than short-lived positively or negatively valanced states that can be induced or caused in an artificial environment; and 5 Most mood studies are not concerned with the personal level of what it feels like to be in a mood or of what being in a mood reveals to the one who is in it.

Once cleared up, his account in fact helps to illuminate the fact that emotions and moods as they are experienced in the world are messy. His account presents a more phenomenologically accurate one than many of the more tidy analytic accounts that, although conceptually precise, in the end fail to map on to the phenomena.

What is worth holding onto and indeed, developing further, is the idea that moods are ontological-existential markers that have a disclosive, revelatory dimension. Third, if a Heideggerian account of mood were to become operative in empirical work on mood, then the problem of atomization of moods could be overcome. Insofar as moods constitute who we are at any given moment, they cannot be studied in isolation from a person as a whole.

Finally, because a most basic part of a Heideggerian account of mood is the fact that moods are revelatory of how one is faring in the world, it makes good on the problem of failing to account for the first-personal dimension of accounting for what it is like to be in a mood. The former is the mode through which the latter is experienced. For discussions that problematize the standard definitions of mood and emotion and provide alternative understandings, see Damasio , Ekman , Forgas , Griffiths , Izard , Lazarus , Prinz Also see Crowell , All references will refer first to the English and then the German pagination.

Although some might have misgivings about this methodological move, in order to argue that his account of mood can be applied beyond its role in his fundamental ontology, we must liberate it from its specific, technical role within his project. From a feminist perspective, see Chanter ; Rodemeyer Cerbone provides a helpful discussion of the problem of the body in early Heidegger and Aho attempts to defend Heidegger from this charge.

Martin Heidegger

Rather, his claim, especially in the Zollikon Seminars, is that an ontological-existential, phenomenological approach gets at something more basic to human existence than psychology does. References Aho, K. Blattner, B. London: Bloomsbury Academic Publishers. Bridgman, P. The Logic of Modern Physics.

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