Dasein

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Heidegger is a notoriously heavy read – and a controversial one, given he lived in Germany through two world wars and after. His concept of Dasein – the world as perceived and lived in by humans has made me think though.

It’s easy to imagine there’s a world without us. Of course there is. Surely? A world of maths, logic, science and mindless physical processes. Not to mention a less thought-filled living world of birds and beasts – nature red in tooth and claw.

So what’s so special about humans that Heidegger says we define our very own universe? I think I get his point. Everything we see, refer to, understand and know is in fact self-referring – it is based on human experiences, human timescales, human sensory apparatus and the human scale.

We can’t truly understand or describe the world from the point of view of an ant, let alone from the perspective of a celestial body. But a celestial body is dead, so it has no perspective surely? If I read Heidegger right – I think it does.

Knowledge, wisdom, trial and error, mindless and mindful – the course of the universe is to record more and more information in itself including embodied intelligence – information stored in physical forms.

In the same way as an ant contains within it information about carbon-based life, geological time and the process of evolution; even the most basic planet contains information about the elements, supernovae and stellar aeons which led to it.

From the blinding simplicity of the Big Bang to the unimaginably vast store of data which is a galaxy – let alone a universe of them – the course of ‘life’ has been captured, recorded, embodied and stored in both vast and minuscule stores of accumulated ‘relevant complexity’ – in effect: information.

As Heidegger suggests, our mentally comprehensible portion of this recorded information is determined by our embodied human faculties and timescales. But for the ant or the celestial body the ‘recording’ is at vastly different scales. Dasein or the ‘human universe’ is but a tiny portion of this. And what each of us sees and understands of it, is but the portion lit by our own tiny flickering candle.

That we see and understand even that much, is an accident of stellar and evolutionary history – our tiny illuminated moment in space and time. But for each of us it is a very fortunate and beautiful one. And Heidegger invites us to live it to the full.

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2 Responses to Dasein

  1. pauladkin says:

    Very good post, thank you. But, if the Universe stores information, why does it do this? Could we assume that there might be a reason for this storing? And if there is a reason for storing information might it not be in order to have that information uncovered? An uncovering that a non-perceiving Universe cannot do, and so the Universe needs to create a means for that uncovering to come about. It must create that which is able to perceive and understand what it perceives in order to understand the information stored. This implies that life and the Sapien species that life on Earth has evolved into, are not mere accidents of molecular change, but actually willed by the information storing Universe in order to allow itself to be deciphered, and through this deciphering Exist in the meaningful way of Being known.

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