Home > Book Review, Philosophy > Notes on Heidegger: “Being And Time” – Dasein As Understanding.

Notes on Heidegger: “Being And Time” – Dasein As Understanding.

Now that we have briefly looked at what The Cambridge Companion had to say in regards to Heidegger’s views on Dasein, and truth, we shall now turn to his work, proper, in Being and Time.

Dasein as Understanding

Here Heidegger begins to discuss the “existential structures” of Dasein, beginning with “attunement”, which he states is one of those structures where “being” dwells, fundamentally and equiprimodrially (together, as in equally) with “understanding” which constitutes this being, in that: “Attunement has its understanding, even if only by suppressing it. Understanding is always attuned.” (Heidegger, p. 134, Being and Time, 1996). As we discussed in our previous post on Dasein we see that to Heidegger it means “being-there”, in this work he elaborates stating that Dasein is being-in-the-world, the world is it’s “there” and Dasein is “being-in” “there”: “Existing being-in-the-world as such is disclosed in the for-the-sake-of-which, as we called this discolsedness understanding.” (Heidegger, p. 134, Being and Time, 1996) Dasein then becomes to Heidegger, a being which is concerned about itself being-in-the-world.

Heidegger helps us understand, “understanding as an existential” further by stating:

… the thing we are able to do is not a what, but being as existing. The mode of being of Da-sein as a potentiality of being lies existentially in understanding. (Heidegger, p. 134, Being and Time, 1996)

Dasein is what is possible, not an objectively present addition with the ability to do something, it is always what it can be, but how it is is its possibility. Here Heidegger uses “possibility” in an existential sense, meaning not simply a logical possibility, but rather as a primordial and “ultimate positive ontological determination of Da-sein” that it takes care of the “world” (characterized in concern for others etc), it is always already present in this, but it is also the “potentiality of being itself, for its own sake.” Understanding is the “being” of such “potentiality of being” but is never objectively present, yet it is still with Dasein ontologically, Dasein is the way that it understands, it is aware of its potentiality of being, not from self-perception, but rather belongs to the being of the “there” which Heidegger states is essentially understanding. Attunement becomes important here again when Heidegger states that “understanding is attuned and attunement is existential surrendered to throwness” which we mention in our previous post on Dasein, being thrown is about context.

To Heidegger understanding contains another existential structure, that of  its “project”:

The project character of understanding constitutes being-in-the-world with regard to the disclosedness of its there as the there of a potentiality of being. Project is the existential constitution of being in the realm of factical potentiality of being. And as thrown, Da-sein is thrown into the mode of being of projecting. (Heidegger, p. 136, Being and Time, 1996)

Heidegger states from here that as long as Dasein “is” it will always understand itself in terms of possibilities (in the existential sense), thus as projecting, understanding “is the mode of being Da-sein in which it is its possibilities as possibilities.” (Heidegger, p. 136, Being and Time, 1996) Understanding can, says Heidegger turn primarily to the disclosedness of the world which would mean it interprets itself in the context of the world, or it can turn to the “for-the-sake-of-which” which means Dasein exists as itself. Understanding of existence becomes then an understanding of world, this is the nature of disclosedness. Project’s understanding existentially contains what Heidegger calls the “sight”of Dasein which he states is “primarily and as a whole related to existence transparency.” (p. 137) Heidegger warns of course that this is not a physical sight, but rather the “clearedness characterizing the discolsedness of the there”, and existential sight if you will, that lets “the beings accessible to it be encountered in themselves without being concealed.” (p. 138)

Heidegger finished this chapter by wrapping up what understanding is in relation to Dasein: in that

The disclosedness of the there in the understanding is itself a mode of the potentiality-of-being of Dasein. In the projectedness of its being upon for-the-sake-of-which together with that upon significance (world) lies the disclosedness in general. An understanding of being is already anticipated in the projecting upon possibilities. Being is understood in the project, but not ontologically grasped. Beings which have as the constituent of their being the understanding of being. What was asserted earlier dogmatically is now demonstrated in terms of the constitution of the being in which Da-sein, as understanding is its there. (Heidegger, p. 138, Being and Time, 1996)

As we wrap up we see that to Heidegger the existential structures of attunement and understanding characterize the “primordial disclosedness” (context) of being-in-the-world. In attunement Dasein has sight of its possibilities as itself, and as such “in the projective disclosure of such possibilities, it is always attuned.”

In our next post we will be looking at Understand and Interpretation, from Being and Time.


Heidegger, M. (1996). Being and Time. Trans Joan Stambaugh. Albany: SUNY Press. Pp. 134, 136, 137, 138.

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