The concept of Dasein

I woke up today with a word in my head: Dasein. I went back to sleep thinking what an idiot I was. I could have begun the day by thinking of someone naked and female, but no. Being me, being myself, being there I had to think of Dasein.

The day passed in its usual way, casually, without consulting my convenience, and the word stayed with me. At last, driven to near madness by my obsession with that word, I stole a German-English dictionary – for the word was obviously German – and ran in a half-crouch to the nearest park, where I sat and allowed starlings to crap on me while I riffled through the illicit pages.

And of course I found it, the word – and was thrilled to dicover that it was my word. It had been created especially for me. I traded in the stolen book for a manual purporting to to be able explain philosophy to cretins and found something like this:

The concept of Dasein is to be found elaborated by Martin Heidegger in his Being and Time . It comes from the German term da sein, which literally means being there. Dasein can be used as a synonym for existence. But itapparently isn’t only existence. Dasein, you will be pleased to hear, is a being that is depends on its its temporality; it uses time in order to throw light on and to interpret the meaning of being.

About forty years later I stole a computer, and a modem, and the other bits an pieces necessary to access the Internet. Then I discovered the encyclopaedia known as Wikipedia. And before I knew the difference between my head and my arse, I was back with Dasein . . .

The reader is advised to scan the following paragraph very quickly with attention averted, and perhaps to take on food and drink in large amounts.


In the works of Heidegger, Dasein is a German word for a being that is capable of recursively comprehending the primal (ontological) authentic (ontic) nature of its own Being. Heidegger defined the term and concept of Dasein because he needed it to uncover the primal nature of “Being” which Aristotle and Kant left unexplored in their earlier ideas of ontology. As Nietzsche before him, Heidegger criticized the notion of substance, intertwining being and temporality.Dasein is a special entity in that it is simultaneously ontological (does) and ontic (is) in that its pursuit of itself is in fact the pursuit of the pursuit of itself; the primal nature of Dasein is authentic and recursive.


You need to know this in order to:

* Design and build a bathroom

* Keep your teeth healthy

* Pay your taxes on time

* Acquire enough spending money to chat up women

* Combat irritable bowel syndrome

* Know the difference between a spondee and a hemistich

* Design a flatfile database

* Give your old Fj Holden a thorough valve-grining

* Understand the nuances of the immigration Act

* Know the difference between a plane and a spokeshave

* Pick someone’s pocket without being caught

* Drink down a stubby while standing on your head

* Tell the difference between a stamp that’s adhesive and one you have to


* Compose a sonata

* Dissect a differential equation

* Precisely explain the difference between a moth and a butterfly

* Drive a nail in half a dozen strokes without bending it

* Fix a leaking tap

* Sort out your love affairs

* Sort out other people’s love affairs

* Beat the system

* Beat your head against a wall

* Beat a drum

* Beat – beat – beat . . .

Apart from these and a few other activities, you don’t need to know anything much about Dasein.

A note in the Introduction tells me that Heidegger was devoted to farming. I am trying to imagine an Australian farmer standing next to a reaper-and-binder that won’t start, holding in his hand a copy of Being and Time and staring towards the horizon as he dreams of taking a flame-thrower to “those fuckin’ crows”.