Heidegger, Levinas, and Dwelling, Home, Houses, and Homelessness

Heidegger, Levinas, and Dwelling, Home, Houses, and Homelessness

Martin Heidegger is a popular modern philosopher influenced among others by by Edmund Husserl, and the popular and controversial Frederich Nietzsche. His atheistic philosophy focus on direct experience, inspired by the pragmatic phenomenology of Husserl and the concepts, trends, iconoclasm and revisionism of Nietzsche.

Within Heidegger most well known work, Being and Time, Conceptions of "home" have a multiplicity of meanings. Being and Time is very German and architectronic, and bases it's meaning on key terminology which will be briefly explained in this essay. Home can mean one's house, or any place where one lives. It can also mean a town, a city, a country, or planet, or even all of existence. In his analysis of being-in-the-world, Martin Heidegger works through the meaning of "being-in" as such -

'In' is derived from"innan"-"to reside', "habitare","to dwell" (sichaufhal­ ten]. 'An' signifies "I am accustomed", "I am familiar with", "I look after something".2 It has the signification of"colo" in the senses of "habito" and "diligo". The entity to which Being-in in this signification belongs is one which we have characterized as that entity which in each case I myself am (bin]. The expression 'bin' is connected with 'bei', and so 'ich bin' ['I am'] means in its turn "I reside" or "dwell alongside" the world, as that which is familiar to me in such and such a way.3 "Being" [Sein], as the infinitive of 'ich bin' (that is to say, when it is understood as an existentiale), signifies "to reside alongside . . .", "to be familiar with . . .". "Being-in" is thus the formal existential expression for the Being of Dasein, which has Being-in-the-world as its essential state.... 'Being alongside' the world in the sense of being absorbed in the world' (Heidegger 80)

Being-in-the-world (or existence in the world) has primarily part of its structure as understanding. In Being and Time Heidegger continues to work out the structure of being-in-the-world as understanding and using objects as things or as tools, as phenomenon subject to scientific analysis or as implements which we use to reside in the world. Primarily the world has "meaning" which is given to it by us as perception, as we "dwell alongside" the world, or are "familiar" with it. "Familiarity" connotes an "at home-ness" of something, or being comfortable with something, such as with an object in our house which we use to live. Being "unfamiliar" with something connotes a "not at home-ness" of something, such as when we visit the home of another and clumsily use their equipment since we are not familiar or used to it. "Getting used to" things or "finding one's footing" is a characteristic of being somewhere or someplace that we are unfamiliar with, such as in an unfamiliar land, with unfamiliar people, or in an unfamiliar place, where we are "not at home.

In anxiety one feels 'uncanny'.1 Here the peculiar indefiniteness of that which Dasein finds itself alongside in anxiety, comes proximally to expression: the "nothing and nowhere". But here "uncanniness" also means "not-being-at-home" [das Nicht­ zuhause-sein]. In our first indication of the phenomenal character of Dasein's basic state and in our clarification of the existential meaning of "Being-in" as distinguished from the categorial signification of'insideness', Being-in was defined as "residing alongside . • .", "Being-familiar with • • •"11 This character of Being-in was then brought to view more concretely through the everyday publicness of the "they", which brings tranquillized self-assurance-'Being-at-home', with all its obviousness-into the average everydayness of Dasein.111 (Heidegger 233)


in each case an "I"-not Others-is this entity. The question of the "who" answers itself in terms of the "I" itself, the 'subject', the 'Self'.1 The "who" is what maintains itself as something identical throughout changes in its Experiences and ways of behaviour, and which relates itself to this changing multiplicity in so doing. Ontologically we understand it as something which is in each case already constantly present-at-hand, both in and for a closed realm, and which lies at the basis, in a very special sense, as the subjectum. As something selfsame in manifold otherness,2 it has the character of the Self. Even if one rejects the "soul substance" and the Thinghood of con­ sciousness, or denies that a person is an object, ontologically one is still positing something whose Being retains the meaning of present-at-hand, whether it does so explicitly or not. Substantiality is the ontological clue for determining which entity is to provide the answer to the question of the "who". Dasein is tacitly conceived in advance as something present- at-hand. This meaning of Being is always implicated in any case where the Being of Dasein has been left indefinite. Yet presence-at-hand is the kind of Being which belongs to entities whose character is not that of Dasein. (Heidegger 150)

Here we see modern terminology emerging, as Heidegger talks about otherness (he generally does not talk about otherness as such. Levinas goes into this subject much further). In general although Heidegger rejects the Cartesian positing of a "soul substance" he still recognizes that Dasein posits a "self" or "I" as a substance or something "present-at-hand" which is a phenomenon interpreted by Dasein by way of Dasein. He contrasts the "Same" with the "Other", which is a more experiential and grounded interpretation of the self rather than assuming a "soul substance". In my opinion, by way of memory, we my be able to posit the soul-substance as being there "beforehand", but Heidegger doesn't go into this question. In any case, Being consists of change, manifold otherness, and chaos, and is ordered by Dasein which emerges from nature as a "self" which is "self-same", and in this way maintains itself alongside the world. In this sense it "dwells" in nature, by creating a structure and a "home" which maintains its very integrity by way of familiarity and understanding. The image of a ship tossing about in a stormy ocean has been a centuries-long representation of this principle whereby Dasein maintains itself in its sameness at odds with otherness. Without this principal of individuation, or dwelling, Dasein would dissolve into nature and being, into the subconscious, etc.

Dwelling is what makes our very existence possible, according to Levinas. In the example of primitive man, man is always threatened by hostile animals, bad weather, and other unpredictable elements in nature. A home is what orders these elements and takes them under control, by placing walls, tools, and other devices to help us subjugate nature. Dasein is that being for which being is an issue - and, being aware of our own mortality, we take steps to preserve it. Dwelling is part of an apparatus which allows us to exist in the world.

It does not flee in the face of entities within-the-world ; these are precisely what it flees towards-as entities alongside which our concern, 1' Befindlichkeit, sowurdefrihi ergesagt, machtoffenbar, "wieeinemist". Inder Angst ist einem "unheimlich" .' While 'unheimlich' is here translated as 'uncanny', it means more literally 'unhomelike', as the author proceeds to point out. lost in the "they", can dwell in tranquillized familiarity. When in falling we flee into the "at-home" of publicness, we flee in the face of the "not-at­ home" ; that is, we flee in the face of the uncanniness which lies in Dasein -in Dasein as thrown Being-in-the-world, which has been delivered over to itself in its Being. This uncanniness pursues Dasein constantly, and is a threat to its everyday lostness in the "they", though not explicitly. This threat can go together factically with complete assurance and self­ sufficiency in one's everyday concern. Anxiety can arise in the most innocuous Situations. Nor does it have any need for darkness, in which it is commonly easier for one to feel uncanny. In the dark there is emphatic­ ally 'nothing' to see, though the very world itself is still 'there', and 'there' more obtrusively. (Heidegger 233)

For Heidegger being "at home" involves being with others, which has a kind of tranquility and leveling down effect as the "they" takes over Dasein's being for it. Although many people claim that Heidegger does not have a pejorative view of the "they", it's difficult to ignore the pejorative connotations of the terminology he uses. It's my opinion that Heidegger is a champion of individuality, authenticity, and self-determination, similar to Nietzsche.

Thus the particular Dasein in its everydayness is disburdened by the "they". Not only that ; by thus disburdening it of its Being, the "they" accommodates Dasein [kommt . . . dem Dasein entgegen] if Dasein has any tendency to take things easily and make them easy. And be- cause the "they" constantly accommodates the particular Dasein by dis­ burdening it of its Being, the "they" retains and enhances its stubborn dominion. (Heidegger 165)

The "they" has its own ways in which to be. That tendency of Being­ with which we have called "distantiality" is grounded in the fact that Being-with-one-another concerns itself as such with averageness, which is an existential characteristic of the "they". The "they", in its Being, essentially makes an issue of this. Thus the "they" maintains itself factic­ally in the averageness of that which belongs to it, of that which it regards as valid and that which it does not, and of that to which it grants success and that to which it denies it. In this averageness with which it prescribes what can and may be ventured, it keeps watch over everything exceptional that thrusts itself to the fore. Every kind of priority gets noiselessly sup­ pressed. Overnight, everything that is primordial gets glossed over as something that has long been well known. Everything gained by a struggle becomes just something to be manipulated. Every secret loses its force. This care of averageness reveals in turn an essential tendency of Dasein which we call the "levelling down" [Einebnung] of all possibilities of Being. (Heidegger 164)

In our 'description' of that environment which is closest to us-the work-world of the craftsman, for example,-the outcome was that along with the equipment to be found when one is at work [in Arbeit], those Others for whom the 'work' ["Werk"] is destined are 'encountered too'.2
If this is ready-to-hand, then there lies in the kind of Being which belongs to it (that is, in its involvement) an essential assignment or reference
to possible wearers, for instance, for whom it should be 'cut to the figure'. Similarly, when material is put to usc, we encounter its producer or 'supplier' as one who 'serves' well or badly. When, for example, we walk
along the edge of a field but 'outside it', the field shows itself as belonging II8 to such-and-such a person, and decently kept up by him; the book we have used was bought at So-and-so's shop and given by such-and-such 1 '. . . die Standigkeit des Selbst ebensosehr wie seine mogliche "Unselbstandigkeit" . . .' The adjectiw: 'standig', which we have usually translated as 'constant' in the sense of 'permanent' or 'continuing', goes back to the root meaning of 'standing', as do the adjectives 'selbstandig" ('independent') and 'unselbstandig' ('dependent'). These con­cepts will be discussed more fully in Section 64 below, especially H. 322, where 'Un­ selbstandigkeit' will be rewritten not as 'Un-selbstandkeit' ('failure to stand by one's Self') but as 'Unsclbst-standigkeit' ('constancy to the Unself'). See also H. 1 28. (The connection with the concept of existence will perhaps be clearer if one recalls that the Latin verb 'existere' may also be derived from a verb of standing, as Heidegger points out in his later writings . a person, and so forth. The boat anchored at the shore is assigned in its Being-in-itself to an acquaintance who undertakes voyages with it; but even if it is a 'boat which is strange to us', it still is indicative of Others. The Others who are thus 'encountered' in a ready-to-hand, environ­mental context of equipment, are not somehow added on in thought to some Thing which is proximally just present-at-hand ; such 'Things' are encountered from out of the world in which they are ready-to-hand for Others-a world which is always mine too in advance. In our previous analysis, the range of what is encountered within-the-world was, in the first instance, narrowed down to equipment ready-to-hand or Nature present-at-hand, and thus to entities with a character other than that of Dasein. This restriction was necessary not only for the purpose of simpli­fying our explication but above all because the kind of Being which belongs to the Dasein of Others, as we encounter it within-the-world, differs from readiness-to-hand and presence-at-hand. Thus Dasein's world frees entities which not only are quite distinct from equipment and Things, but which also-in accordance with their kind ofBeing as Dasein themselves­ are 'in' the world in which they are at the same time encountered within­ the-world, and are 'in' it by way of Being-in-the-world.1 These entities are neither present-at-hand nor ready-to-hand ; on the contrary, they are like the very Dasein which frees them, in that they are there too, and there with it. So if one should want to identify the world in general with entities within-the-world, one would have to say that Dasein too is 'world'. (Heidegger 153)

Habitation can be interpreted as the utilization of an "implement" among "implements". The home would serve for habitation as the hammer for driving in of a nail or the pen for writing. For it does indeed belong to the gear consisting of things necessary for the life of man. It serves to shelter him from the inclemencies of the weather, to hide him from enemies or the importunate. (Levinas 152)

Levinas also introduces the concept of "enjoyment" which is taking pleasure in the simple existence and usage of something such as a tool which is ready-to-hand. These things don't only exist within a finality of a system of economy or production.

The recollection necessary for nature to be able to be represented and worked over, for it to first take form as a world, as accomplished as the home. Man abides in the world as having come to it from a private domain, from being at home with himself, to which at each moment he can retire. He does not come to it form an intersideral space where he would already by in possession of himself and from which at each moment he would have to recommence a perilous landing. But he does not find himself brually cast forth and forsaken in the world. Simultaneously without and within, he goes forth outside from an inwardness. Yet this inwardness opens up in a home which is situated in that outside - for the home, as a building, belongs to a world of objects. But this belongingness does not nullify the bearing of the fact that every consideration of objects, and of buildings too, is produced out of a dwelling. Concretely speaking the dwelling is not situated in the objective world, but the objective world is situated in relation to my dwelling...the event of dwelling exceeds the knowing, the thought, and the idea in which, after the event, the subject will want to contain what is incommensurable with a knowing. (Levinas 152)