Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dasein as Attention: The Metaphysics of the Effort of Presence
by Berger, Lawrence A., Ph.D., The New School, 2016, 191; 10195574
Abstract (Summary)

Heidegger argues that metaphysics has historically taken the meaning of Being to be constant and enduring presence. He puts this into question and inquires into the basis for the production of such presence. The claim of this dissertation is that attention as human presencing plays an essential role in the process, in that it is how we participate in Being, the gathering and relational context for all that is made manifest. In this regard, I argue that Dasein, Heidegger’s conception of the essence of the human being, can be understood as attention. I show that extraordinary attentiveness is the being (Sein) of the clearing (Da), which enables the constancy of the Da. This in turn is the basis for the constancy of the entities that are made manifest in the clearing. The implication is that attention and Being are intimately related, as the basis for the enduring presence and order that is typically taken to be what is ultimately real.

For Heidegger, Being is presencing and gathering/ordering. It is not a collection of objects, or a highest genus, but rather essentially involves effort and force, which is characterized in terms of a standing and holding that holds beings in readiness, a stillness in which things are held in a tension. My argument is that attention is exactly this sort of effort. The implication is that in order to understand the meaning of Being, we can look to attention and see what the associated effort is: It is a staying-with, a withstanding, a holding in readiness, a stilling. We can gain insight into what Being is, and participate in it directly, by performing this sort of ontological effort.

Attention, as human presencing, is how we relate to and participate in all that is. As the steadfastness of Dasein, it is a standing and holding, a staying with things that serves to stabilize and orient human activity in the course of the everyday. I conclude that attention, as the central organizing phenomenon of human existence, is intimately related to the central organizing principle of all that is (Being).

The effort of acute and sustained attentiveness (Achtsamkeit , or mindfulness) is associated with the spiritual disciplines, and I show that Heidegger is squarely placed within this tradition, given that for him Achtsamkeit is essential for the manifestation of the divine. This means that for Heidegger, Achtsamkeit offers the possibility of Divine-Presencing-in-the-World, or world resacralization. Indeed, the calling of Dasein is to preserve the truth of Being in worldly entities, where the supreme truth of Being is the manifestation of the divine.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nikulin, Dmitri
Commitee: Bernstein, Richard J., Dodd, James, Hirst, William
School: The New School
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 78/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Attention, Heidegger, Ontological effort, Ontological movement
Publication Number: 10195574
ISBN: 9781369564013
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