Heidegger on Anxiety, Nothingness and Time:How Not to Think Authenticity Inauthentically


In his work through the early 1930’s, Heidegger determines what it means to be an authentic self through fundamental attunements such as anxiety, boredom, uncanniness and guilt, and equi-primordially via understanding and thrown projection. The way that attunement and understanding structure authentic disclosure of being involves paradoxical gestures juxtaposing meaning and meaninglessness, presence and absence, affirmation and negation, possibility and reality, holism and individuation, normativity and own-ness. The key to navigating and unifying this tangle of contradictory moments, as Heidegger reminds his readers, is in understanding the dynamics of temporality. In this paper I discuss common ways that contemporary readers of Heidegger render authenticity inauthentic by interpreting such tropes as anxiety, the self and the nothing by reference to what Heidegger calls the ordinary conception of time, the sequential emerging, lingering and passing away of beings. Thought via ordinary time, nothingness opposes itself to presence, making authentic anxiety appear similar to depression as the breakdown of possibilities. I contrast these readings with my interpretation of authentic temporality, and explain how my reading of time changes the way the authentic self, attunement and projective understanding disclose themselves. In choosing the particular authors that I cite in support of my representation of inauthentic interpretations of authenticity, I do not mean to imply that these writers are united in their approaches to Heidegger. On the contrary, they differ amongst themselves concerning many aspects of his thinking. My purpose is to highlight what I take to be key points of intersection among their differing accounts.

Author's Profile

Joshua Soffer
University of Chicago


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