Monday 24 June 2024

"Thrownness" (Heidegger's Geworfenheit) is an existential fact of life

Heidegger is credited with having given a name - in German Geworfenheit, in English "Thrownness" - for the situation in which we already-find-ourselves in the world; that realization (which often happens during adolescence) that we are in an already-existing world - as if we had been thrown into existence, and must make of it what we can. 

Thrownness is, it seems to me, part of the development of consciousness - an aspect of the awakening of self-consciousness; which on the one hand is a separation from The World; and on the other hand the possibility of freedom. 

Thrownness can therefore be understood (and felt) as fundamentally negative-alienation or as positive-agency. 

Thrownness is, of course, both alienation and agency - the one cannot be without the other. But if there is meaning to thrownness, fundamentally one aspect must be primary, and the other secondary.

People react to the sense of thrownness in many ways, often (it seems) negatively - as when they complain "but I didn't ask to be born!" 

And when people react in that way, they seldom realize that by doing so they have already "begged the question"; in other words, by regarding thrownness as "not my fault" they have already assumed that their own life has no purpose or meaning. 

However, as always, the experience of thrownness is not a raw-fact; but brings with it its own interpretation - it arises in the context of a theory which gives meaning. 

Indeed; feeling that one has been "thrown" into the world willy-nilly, and without consent, to sink-or-swim; is embedded in a set of assumptions - which seem to me to point-at an unloving, or perhaps evil, deity who does the "throwing". 

More often, thrownness is supposed to be evidence for (or consistent with) atheism: an emotional subjective response to the operations of blind and indifferent material-causality and/or random chance.  

Yet, even for a theist who believes that this is a creation we inhabit, and that each living-soul has some purpose and meaning to his existence; there is an underlying existential aspect to this awakening into awareness of "me, here, now" - because it usually seems that creation is already up-and-running, and already has a divine purpose and "rules". 

We therefore find-ourselves confronted by a necessary choice: 

Do we, or shall we) personally approve-of, or do we instead reject, this ongoing creation in which we awake and find-ourselves?   

It seems to me important that we recognize this as a choice, and take personal responsibility for the way that we answer it.

Indeed; I think this is one of those choices that always gets answered in our lives: implicitly if not explicitly, unconsciously when not consciously...

That is: we shall always be taking either an adversarial or affiliative (negative or positive) attitude towards ongoing divine creation. 

Either choosing to join-with and be an ally to God; or else God's enemy. 

?Depicting Heidegger's personal response to his awakening to "thrownness"...


Laeth said...

the way I see it, there isn't a single person since the beginning of the earth who hasn't, in some way, asked to be born. undoubtedly, as happens here too, many times, it was a request made for the wrong reasons or with the wrong motivations.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Laeth - I agree; with the proviso that I think the nature of "asking" is different in pre-mortal spirits than in incarnates.

But I am sure that no pre-mortal spirit was ever incarnated without consent - and that-consent has been withheld in (probably) many instances - including the demons, but also God-aligned spirits such as some of the angels.

In other words, some beings prefer to remain never incarnated, for various reasons, good and bad.