We have a skill for being, an ability-to-be, one might say a power-of-being. Heidegger’s word for this is Seinskönnen. Understanding is the existential being of this skill for being. Understanding is the showing up of this skill for being, how this power exists for us.

Everything shows up for us in understanding, and as such, understanding is one of the two ways-of-being we are that makes up the clearing (mood is the other). Understanding is our competence to manage being, including existing as being-in the world. It is a basic mode of our being or what we call an existentiale.

In our daily life we use the word “understanding” to mean a type of cognitive behavior, some kind of knowing, handling or managing something. In this sense, what is commonly called “understanding” is a derivative phenomenon, an abstraction and simplification of the more fundamental capability for managing being that we are.

Here we examine that fundamental phenomena. The following is from §31 of Being and Time.

When we are talking ontically {that is about things, instead of about being}, we sometimes use the expression “understanding something” with the sense of ‘being able to manage something’, ‘being a match for it’, ‘being competent to do something’. In understanding, as an existentiale {a component of our existing}, what Dasein has such competence over is not a “what” but being as existing. The kind of being which Dasein has as power-for-being {as something which can bring being, something which implements and manages being}, lies existentially in understanding. Dasein is not something present-at-hand which possesses its competence for something by way of an extra { like a computer with a new software package }; Dasein is primarily being possible.  Dasein is in every case what it can be, and in the way in which it is its possibility. …

Possibility as an existentiale is the most primordial and ultimate positive way in which Dasein is characterized ontologically.

Understanding is the existential being of Dasein’s own skill-for-being; and it is so in such a way that this being discloses in itself what its being is capable of. [H144]

As a creature we have a skill for being. Understanding is the existential being of this skill for being. Understanding is the showing up of this skill for being.

Explaining, making assertions, and knowing, and many other phenomena are also based on understanding in this fundamental sense.

“Understanding is the existential being of our own potentiality-for-being, and it is this in such a way so as to disclose in itself what its being is capable of.” H144.

Understanding and Possibility

Possibility as an existentiale {a structural component of existing being in the world} is the most primordial and ultimate positive way in which in which Dasein is characterized ontologically. [H144]

This kind of possibility, possibility as a basis for existence, is not free liberty to adopt any and all possibility at will.  As thrown into the world with a mood, Dasein has always already gotten itself into definite possibilities. What this means is that Dasein is being-possible which has been delivered over to itself as “thrown possibility through and through”. But nonetheless, Dasein is also the possibility of being free for its ownmost ability-to-be, its ownmost skill-for-being. Its being-possible is transparent to itself in different possible ways and degrees.

The work of transformation makes this being-possible more transparent.

LEC folks, this is about the kind of possibility we are concerned with. And also the possibility of things in the world: how and why they show up as possibilities. Fundamentally things in the world are discovered (of course in the “there”) as related to our involvements, “freed for their own possibilities”. This happens in a more fundamental way than we normally explicitly notice.

Understanding as Disclosure (the “There”)

Basically stuff shows up for us as possibility. We as understanding discover things as the possibility that they are.

“As a disclosure, understanding always pertains to the whole basic state of being-in-the-world. As a skill for being, any being-in is a skill-for-being-in the world.” [H144] The world itself shows up as understandable, as having some possibile significance. When things in the world are freed for some involvement they are freed for their own possibilities. When the-ready-to-hand shows up for us in some involvement, we discover it in its serviceability, its usability, its detrimentality, some possibility for our involvement. Even the “whole of Nature as the unity of the manifold present at hand”, can only be discovered in some already disclosed possibility. [Even the theoretical essential meaninglessness of Nature sought in science discloses Nature in the “possibility of truth of science”, a recent development. Mostly we have layers, and layers of obscuring interpretation. Structure of interpretations that determines the disclosure that we are.



Understanding as projection

Coming soon. Deals with projection, horizons. Pressing into possibilities. The possibilities of things in the world;

Understanding as sight

In it’s projective character understanding makes up existentially what we call Dasein’s sight: the circumspection of concern with things, the solicitude of being with “other Daseins”, and the kind of “seeing” which is directed at being.

Again, more to come…

Understanding and Interpretation

Leave a Reply