Heidegger’s Underdeveloped Conception of the Undistinguishedness (Indifferenz) of Everyday Human Existence

In Schmid Hans Bernhard & Thonhauser Gerhard (eds.), From Conventionalism to Social Authenticity : Heidegger’s Anyone and Contemporary Social Theory. Springer (2017)
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This chapter provides an interpretation of the early Heidegger’s underdeveloped conception of the undistinguishedness of everyday human existence in Being and Time. After explaining why certain translation choices of some key terms in this text are interpretively and philosophically important, I first provide a concise argument for why the social constitution interpretation of the relation between ownedness and unownedness makes better overall sense of Heidegger’s ambivalent attitude toward the social constitution of the human being than the standard existentialist interpretation of this relation. I then proceed to the heart of this chapter, which develops his inchoate conception of the undistinguishedness of everydayness by arguing that it specifies the third distinctive mode of concrete human existence in addition to ownedness and unownedness. Accordingly, I show how unownedness is actually a generic phenomenon with two distinct species, namely, undistinguishedness and disownedness, which are at once closely related to, but also differ in significant respects from, each other. Consequently, instead of taking for granted a one-dimensional and mutually exclusive opposition between ‘authenticity’ and ‘inauthenticity’, I argue that we should adopt a two-dimensional and more nuanced understanding of the relations among undistinguishedness, disownedness, and ownedness that intersects with Heidegger’s underappreciated distinction between genuineness and ungenuineness. After raising and replying to some objections to this interpretation of undistinguishedness, I conclude this chapter by briefly sketching three of its philosophical consequences and pointing out its potential as an important resource for contemporary social theories.

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Jo-Jo Koo
Duke University


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