Mitsein Freunden, Mitsein Liebe: A Reflection on Being-With

Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to Heidegger’s neologism mitsein, being-with. The reasons for this are varied, in part due to a doctoral seminar in which I was assigned a fair bit of Jean-Luc Nancy’s work. In another sense, my thoughts are due to a more personal realisation – an increasing conviction that the world in which I am a part, of which I am constitutive, is only so through the reality of others and that, to put it crassly, this is all there is. So this being where I am at, I wanted to pause during this time of term paper writing, conference paper abstracting and syllabi preparing to offer some honest (and cheesy) reflections on Heidegger’s mitsein. Specifically, I want to talk about being-with-friends and being-with-love and why the contingent nature of being-in-the-world increasingly causes me to grab ahold of those who constitute as particular mode of my being-with in-the-world.

So bear with me though my basic expositions of Sein Und Zeit. I realise we all think we know Heidegger and how the language works. However, if my classroom discussions indicate the reality of the real-world most of us religion folk still don’t know shit and just like to wax Heideggerian, usually hiding our ignorance of the text about 10 “dasein” references into a conversation with some comment about Heidegger being a Nazi piece of shit. Which to be fair…

Dasein is not Present-to or Ready-at (At least not in the Same way other things are)

Mitsein, Mitdasein, and Dasein itself, function within a particular understanding of the way in which the sheerness of actuality frames human life, the way in which existence works in an existential fashion to define being-in-the-world. For Heidegger, it is impossible to think the “I” without also thinking “world,” which in turn is impossible to conceptualize without also thinking oneself-with-others and with-entities. Oh, fyi other entities exist with dasein in one of two ways, either present-at-hand or ready-to-hand. This distinction is important for understanding what exactly Heidegger is on about when he begins describing the who being-with thing…and also for his discussion about what the hell “being-in” really means, which I think is pretty important and probably should have been placed earlier in the text…but whatever. We don’t have time for that here. Just know the two ways of being-alongside other entities exist and that to a degree dasein shares with them the characteristic of being present-at-hand…but that dasein is still totally different that those entities even with its being present-at-hand.

“Present-at-hand” denotes a particular way in which dasein is in-the-world with regard to entitles which are not itself. This is contrasted with that other way of being-in-the-world in which entities that are not dasein manifest as “ready-to-hand.” So before getting to that, you sort of have to know what the fuck Heidegger means with the whole being-in-the-world thing. In brief, “being-in,” the “being-in-the-world” of dasein, denotes not “being-in-something,” not “in-one-another-ness.” Rather, “Being-in” is the formal existential expression for the Being of Dasein, which has Being-in-the-world as its essential state.” That Being-in-the-world is dasein’s essential state means that for whatever dasein is, it is pure and simple; “the ‘essence’ of Dasein lies in its existence.”

The affirmation of dasein as such is its essence without transcendent qualification. Dasein is, meaning that it its being is univocal and co-constitutive of the world. This use is in contrast to the improper use of “being-in,” which typically renders as the world as something external to dasein. The improper rendering of ‘world’ makes it that in which dasein is said to be within, while still being sufficient in-itselfhood alongside other entities that exist in the same way. “There is no such thing as the ‘side-by-side-ness’ of an entity called ‘Dasein.” Dasein is simply in- insofar as dasein is, and the way in which dasein is-in distinguishes itself in the fact that dasein is that for which Being “is an issue for this entity in its very Being.”

Entities which are not dasein have two modes of being-in-the-world that are relative to dasein’s relationship to these entities: present-at-hand and ready-to-hand. To be fair to the OOO folks this is a pretty anthropomorphic way of characterizing such entities….and that is a point that clearly needed so many blogs, books and whatever devoted to it (hopefully the sarcasm is coming through). Anyways… Dasein is not characterized in a way that is completely equivocal with these two modes of being-in that characterise other entities. Rather, the aforementioned fact of “Being being an issue” conditions the way in which Dasein is said to share a present-at-hand relation to/in/as-the-world, rendering Dasein’s present-at-hand relation distinct.

Without diving into more boring-ass explorations of Heideggerian terminology, you can go look up the exact definitions for present-at-hand and ready-to-hand. Suffice to say that mitsein, or more precisely the “other(s)” to which dasein’s “being-in-the-world-with” (Mitdasein), refers exhibits the same sort of distinctive being-in-the-world that characterizes dasein.

Mitsein vs. Zusammensein

I now want to begin to lay the cheese on thick. The neologism Mitsein is distinct form othe German formulations of being-together insofar as mitsein embodies the sort of sheer affirmative content of dasein’s being-in-the-world, insofar as this denotes a contingent way of being a co-constituent of the world (again, dasein is not like really in something external to its essence…which is existence).

Mitsein is contingent being-with, there is no prescriptive necessity behind it, only the content of the world its encounters and creates. An existential recognition of contingency, then, forms the basis by which one may distinguish between zusammensein, which can entail ‘togetherness,’ and mitsein. Since mitsein embodies the content of dasein, mitsein entails a way of being with other in which one is bound inextricably to the other, this being-with forming a kind of immanent transcendental condition by which dasein’s being-in-the-world is made intelligible to itself. What we share is that we are and this fact is inescapably the constant that frames our reality.

I am. We are. That is Enough.

Ernst Bloch’s refrain from The Spirit of Utopia resonates through me when I think about what it means to be-with. I am with my friends, they constitute the way in which my being-in is my own, the mineness of my present-at-hand being-in-the-world. Similarly, though with a different register of force and intensity at a certain point, my partner and I find ourselves being-with-love, the more accurate description of being-in-love insofar as the being-with identifies love as having to be within the context of a relation with-the-other. In both cases mitsein is enough. In both cases mitsein is all that there is.


3 thoughts on “Mitsein Freunden, Mitsein Liebe: A Reflection on Being-With

  1. Hey Luke,

    Hope you’re well, my friend. I’ve never understood what continental folks (it’s Deleuze who starts it, I think?) mean by Heidegger’s doctrine of the univocity of being. It often sounds to me like it’s being used as a synonym for “immanence” or something like that, but it’s difficult for me to see what’s going on. Could you help me out on this?

    Just to give some extra context for where I’m coming from:

    If the univocity of being means that the predicate “being” (i.e. “is”, “are”, etc.) means the same thing in the same respect regardless of *what it is predicated of* (e.g. “a dog *is*”; “Dasein *is*”), then clearly Heidegger doesn’t hold this position. As you say yourself, Heidegger talks about Dasein’s unique mode of being as In-der-Welt-sein, etc., not to mention the ontological difference between Sein and Seienden. It seems correct to say that “Sein ist” and “ein Seiendes ist” (if my German is right, at least), but if the “ist” doesn’t mean the same thing and the same respect, then I don’t see how being is univocal, for Heidegger.

    But I’m guessing that when Deleuze talks about the univocity of being, he doesn’t mean this…

    Cheers, man.

    • Hey Josh good to hear from ya,

      I think this is where Heidegger gets a bit tricky with regard to how Dasein differs to other entities in each’s present-at-hand Being-in relationship. The core of it seems to be back in the first two sections where Heidegger, describing the inquiry he seeks to undertake, renders Dasein as the entity appropriate for investigation – Dasein has ontological and ontic priority within the inquiry. Roughly, that priority seems to work itself out in the text, as you know, through the appearance of language such as dasein’s “mineness.” The common relation that other entities and dasein share in their present-at-hand relation-in-the-world does not negate this mineness that is always there for dasein, nor does dasein’s mineness negate the fact of being present-at-hand as a sort of basically common feature of entities without qualification. The baseline is being-in, but entities are still distinguishable as entities. The question I think is whether or not univocity implies the impossibility of difference, or distinction of entities in this way. I obviously think that question misses what univocity is saying, insofar as it tries to import the conditions of analogical metaphysics onto univocal descriptions. Where I think Heidegger does not get off the hook here is with regard to charges that he does not really escape being an idealist or something. What do you think?


      • I am interested in this discussion, but I think I would have to do a lot more work to understand what univocity (or analogy, for that matter) is supposed to mean for this Deleuzean Heidegger. Have you looked at Phillip Tonner’s book on the subject? His thesis is that Heidegger’s understanding of being is univocal because it is always understood in terms of temporality. The latter point seems right to me, but it’s not at all clear that temporality is a univocal concept, for Heidegger. Sorry for yanking the discussion away to another text.

        Also, could you shed some more light on what it means to “import the conditions of analogical metaphysics onto univocal descriptions”?

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