How do we live authentically? Since the dawn of philosophy, thinkers have posed questions such as
“Does this plank exist?” or “Does God exist?” But 20th century philosopher, Martin Heidegger, thought that before questioning whether something exists, we must first ask
“what is the meaning of being?” In his notoriously difficult book,
“Being and Time”, Heidegger introduced the concept of the human being as Dasein. Dasein is that
being that stands back from everyday consciousness and recognizes its own being. Dasein asks
the question: what does it mean to “be?” At first, however, Dasein does not distinguish
himself from the world around him. He is completely immersed in it,
or what Heidegger calls “being-in-the-world” But how does this relate to authenticity?
Living authentically involves, in part, Dasein’s understanding of itself as something that exists, and potentially doesn’t exist. Here’s one way to think about it. We carry on with our everyday activities
out of habit, we do things but do not consciously consider THAT we are doing them. For example,
a craftsman uses his hammer every day without thinking of it as an object independent from
himself – until something goes wrong. When the hammer breaks, I come to look at it as an object that exists separately from myself. This is one way that Dasein becomes
aware not only of THINGS not being, but also the possibility of Dasein’s OWN not being – that is, Death. Living with the awareness of one’s own NOT-being is a crucial
element of living authentically, because it has to do with what
Heidegger calls my “Ownmost.” Think of it like this; nobody else can die MY death.
I cannot share it with anyone. It is mine, and no one elses. You see, the authentic Dasein is constantly
aware of MY existence as MY OWN – to be defined by myself, and not others.
The inauthentic Dasein lives lacking such awareness.
When one’s everyday activities are lost in the mindless grind of the “public,” and
allows one’s self to be socially constructed, authenticity is lost – one becomes lost in the “they.” But that’s not to say that one must isolate
one’s self in order to live authentically. Authentic living is more of an attitude, an attitude towards confronting
one’s own mortality, seizing one’s existence, And making it one’s own