Das Man and Distantiality in Being and Time

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 55 (3):289-306 (2012)
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Heidegger's discussion of das Man (often translated as "the 'They'") in Being and Time is notoriously inconsistent, and raises a number of interpretative issues that have been debated in the secondary literature. This paper offers two arguments that aim to make for a consistent and charitable reading of das Man. First, unlike Dasein, das Man's way of being is not existence: das Man lacks Dasein's particularity (it offers only general norms, and cannot address Dasein's unique situation), unity (das Man is not a unified set of norms, but rather an often inconsistent one) and distinctness (the boundary that fixes the concept of das Man is fuzzy). Second, this paper proposes that we read das Man as standing in contrast with Abständigkeit, or distantiality. Das Man is the socially constituted set of norms that we necessarily belong to, and distantiality is the equally inescapable difference that sets us apart from others. Together, they provide a framework within which Dasein is constituted by norms without inhibiting the possibility of authentic existence



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David Egan
Hunter College (CUNY)

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