The Philosophy of Martin Heidegger: How Being is Connected to Nothing

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Being and the Nothing are the same. The ancient philosopher Lao-tzu believed that the world entertains no separations and that opposites do not actually exist. His grounding for this seemingly preposterous proposition lies in the fact that because alleged opposites depend on one another and their definitions rely on their differences, they cannot possibly exist without each other. Therefore, they are not actually opposites. The simple and uncomplex natured reasoning behind this outrageous statement is useful when trying to understand and describe Martin Heidegger’s deeply leveled philosophy of Being and the nothing. Lao-tzu’s uncomplicated rationale used in stating that supposed opposites create each other, so cannot be opposite, is not unlike Heidegger’s description of the similarity between the opposites Being and the nothing.

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Unlike Lao-tzu, Heidegger does not claim that no opposites exist. He does however say that two obviously opposite concepts are the same, and in this way, the two philosophies are similar. He believes that the separation of beings from Being creates the nothing between them. Without the nothing, Being would cease to be. If there were not the nothing, there could not be anything, because this separation between beings and Being is necessary. Heidegger even goes so far as to say that Being itself actually becomes the nothing via its essential finity. This statement implies a synonymity between the relation of life to death and the relation of Being to nothingness. To Heidegger, the only end is death. It is completely absolute, so it is a gateway into the nothing. This proposition makes Being and the nothing the two halves of the whole. Both of their roles are equally important and necessary in the cycle of life and death. Each individual life inevitably ends in death, but without this death, Life would be allowed no progression: The nothing does not merely serve as the counter concept of beings; rather, it originally belongs to their essential unfolding as such (104). Likewise, death cannot occur without finite life. In concordance with the statement that the nothing separates beings from Being, the idea that death leads to the nothing implies that death is just the loss of the theoretical sandwich's bread slices, leaving nothing for the rest of ever. The existence of death, therefore, is much more important in the whole because it magnifies the nothing into virtually everything. The magnification of the nothing serves as an equalizer between Being and nothing because Being is so robust and obvious that it magnifies itself. In this case, the opposites are completely reliant on each other, not only conceptually but physically.

Heidegger gives new meaning to Lao-tzu’s philosophy that opposites define each other when he tries to uncover the true essence and meaning of Being, and he reveals another level of intertwination between the nothing and Being. In order to define Being, it is mandatory to step outside of it, into the nothing because: Everything we talk about, mean, and are related to in such and such a way is in Being. What and how we are ourselves are is also in Being. Being is found in thatness and whatness, reality, the being at hand of things [Vorhandenheit], subsistence, validity, existence [Dasein], and in the there is [es gibt] (47). Heidegger is very adamant on the importance of unbiased judgments and definitions, and how could he possibly calculate the exact meaning of Being while viewing it from a state of Being? Thus it is necessary to step out into the nothing to fully comprehend Being. For this reason, human beings are the only beings capable of pondering the essence of existence and nonexistence. Dasein are the only creatures capable because they are held out into the nothing: Being and the nothing do belong together . . . because Being itself is essentially finite and reveals itself only in the transcendence of Dasein which is held out into the nothing (108).

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