Being-There or Being-such
When reading continental philosophy, I often come across two different terms popular with two different groups of philosophers that mean, essentially, the same thing: “being-there” and “being-such.” The old guard of Heideggerians refer to being-there, or dasein, as the fact of being instantiated within a social world and biological state. These social and biological facticities- or facts of life given to us and not chosen by us- constitute our thrownness: the fact of our being thrown, or born, into worlds not of our choosing. The point of the terms facticity and thrownness is to emphasize our fatedness, our inability to choose those factors most important in the generation of who we are and who we become. These determining forces, being themselves outside our choosing, thus constitute the impossibility of freedom.
For Heidegger (and the Buddha), forlorness (anxiety for psychoanalysts and dukkha, or suffering, for Buddhists), or resignation, derives from vain attempts to become Other than what one is. Heidegger believed, not like Lao-Tzu and other Daoist thinkers, that the path of least resistance is becoming what one is. That is, one should be as they are without trying to become other. To live “there” within our realm of possibility, without trying to move ourselves into a realm of what we know to be personally impossible, is to live a fulfilled authentic life (Sartre’s doctrine). In fact, contemporary french philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy believes so strongly in the notion of being-there and recognizing one’s limitations, that he regards such recognition as the sole avenue toward freedom. That is, he understands freedom as freedom within a set of limitations.
Being-such, Giorgio Agamben’s favored term in “The Coming Community,” refers to a similar, yet slightly different concept than dasein. Being-such is being-as-one-truly-is, without incorporating intellectual categories into what one is. We are, we exist, but we believe we exist as this and not that. We are members of this or that political unit (citizens of some state), members of this and that geographical community (this state or territroy), members of this or that religious or non-religious group (ex. Christians, Atheists, Hindus, Christian scientists [which are really kind of neither, but I digress]).
In reality, the social world is a construction that exists first and foremost in the mind. Although social institutions do exist (e.g. court houses, parliament buildings, police offices, food shelters, etc.), the collective consciousness serves as their hypostasis. And do to this truth, their ontological reality is fills a null position.
Being-such means living without these social connections as parts of our internalized self, our self concepts. Rather, we must be, primarily, beings existing on a biological basis with social ties as a secondary extension of our being.
Being-there emphasizes our constrained existence and is a call toward living in regard to that constraint in order to escape the forlorness of Other positions. It is a call toward authenticity. Being-such emphasizes that our social facticity need not be as it is, and that through this realization, one opens up new horizons for becoming; becoming within our constrained state of being.