Martin Heidegger's Being and Time: Idle Talk

Topics: Martin Heidegger, Existentialism, Being and Time Pages: 5 (2020 words) Published: October 12, 2008
In Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, we find an extensive and serious discussion of a structural account of falling and the phenomena of which it is constituted. Heidegger begins this account with the phenomenon he calls idle talk. Idle talk is characterized as the perversion of the act of disclosing as it is in communication and the subsequent uprooting of Dasein’s understanding of the world. This characterization of idle talk is followed by an analysis of the phenomenon that is Dasein’s motivation towards such an act of disclosing. This motivating phenomenon which Heidegger lays out as a tendency towards finding truth in a mere beholding of the world is called curiosity. Lastly, Heidegger characterizes the resulting intelligibility of the one as ambiguous since everything is made intelligible to everyone. Such ambiguity is also described as the leveling of intelligibility. These distinct phenomena are wound together to form a coherent existential analytic of the everyday being of Dasein and how the relationship between one’s own authentic self and the ‘they-self’ operates in the disclosure of significance to Dasein. My goal in this paper will be to thoroughly explicate the meaning of Heidegger’s theory of idle talk while clarifying the role it plays in the structure of falling and the existential role it plays in the disclosure of Dasein and entities in the world. Heidegger characterizes idle talk as a mode of falling, which is one of the four fundamental structures of being-in (the other three being discourse, attunement and understanding). Idle talk can be sometimes confused as a constituent part of discourse because of the everyday use of the terms. Discourse can make itself manifest through language in speech and writing thus disclosing some given interpretation of some entity through discernable communication. In this way, discourse is very similar to idle talk but where the two depart from one another in structure is in the source of disclosure. Discourse makes manifest the already existing articulation of the referential whole of the ready-to-hand. Idle talk discloses no such articulated structure, but instead discloses entities as present-at-hand while in some cases glossing over the articulated structure or even making it up entirely in the most extreme cases. Whereas discourse suffers the inherent present-at-hand nature of language, it makes the most of what is available in order to disclose entities in the world given this barrier. Idle talk makes no such effort because genuine disclosure of these entities is not its foremost goal. Ordinarily, we can understand the terms Heidegger uses, like “idle”, without referring to analytically refined conceptions or esoteric jargon. This is not by accident, as crucial to Heidegger’s hermeneutic approach is that he incorporate meanings of words as they are encountered in non-theoretical, every day coping. Indeed, the term “idle” is meant to evoke our intuitive notions of rest and the lack of activity. However while Heidegger’s philosophical approach is geared toward a primordial understanding of our being-in-the-world, his ideas are so radical and original that they play a decisive role in how any reader of Being and Time, upon reading the book, goes on to experience and understand the world. This is particularly evident with the term “idle”, because the contrast between rest and activity has heavy implications on how Heidegger characterizes the fundamental modes of Dasein’s Being; presence-at-hand and ready-to-hand. When one is partaking in the circumspective involvement of concerned activity a level of understanding is attained that could be not be attained in any other way. We can see here how the type of understanding that is yielded in any other fashion (absent of active involvement) would parallel such a term as idle talk. But as we will later see, the leveled understanding that is offered up in idle talk is constantly perpetuated in the act of...
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