The term "freedom toward death" appears in Heidegger's Being and Time, e.g. p255

to be itself in the passionate anxious freedom toward death, which is free of the illusions of the they, factical, and certain of itself.

Notwithstanding my impression that "concern that takes care" is a virtue, and not the basis of being lost in the they self, as that very page seems to suggest, I am reluctant to think about the goal of philosophy etc. in terms of freedom. Mostly because freedom seems like a political goal, not one for individuals to realise, at least given our current social make up.

So, is there a way of explaining "the characteristic about authentic, existentially projected being-towards-death" (again, p255), which steers away from the ideal of "freedom"?

1 Answer 1


I think you're misunderstanding what's going on in this passage. The "freedom" Heidegger speaks of here isn't what I understand by "freedom" in a particularly political sense (at least not in the first instance). Heidegger's use of the word "freedom" here derives from the conversations in German philosophy of his time. Pertinent to this is Schelling's Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, where Schelling writes that "free is what acts only in accord with the laws of its own being and is determined by nothing else either in or outside itself." Freedom, in this sense, is the capacity to be what one is.

A key to understanding what Heidegger means by freedom is in §40 (p. 182), where he writes:

Anxiety reveals in Dasein its being toward its ownmost potentiality of being, that is, being free for the freedom of choosing and grasping itself. Anxiety brings Dasein before its being free for ... (propensio in) the authenticity of its being as possibility which it always already is.

Freedom [Freiheit] here isn't a goal, its more precisely a characteristic of Dasein that it always already is. The freedom in question is its freedom to choose and grasp itself [Sich-selbst-wählens und -ergreifens], i.e. to take itself up as it is. Hence, in the same passage he writes:

But, at the same time, it is this being to which Dasein as being-in-the-world is entrusted.

In short, the freedom at stake isn't "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants" (or something along those lines) but rather the freedom to be what one always already is. This freedom is the condition for the possibility of their being something like "authentic, existentially projected being-towards-death" at all. More precisely, this "freedom" is the condition of possibility of the authentic / inauthentic relationship that Dasein can have with itself. Thus, in §41 / p.185, he writes:

Being free for its ownmost potentiality-for-being, and thus for the possibility of authenticity and inauthenticity, shows itself in a primordial, elemental concretion in anxiety.

One can object that "freedom" isn't what is at stake here. Very well, but that's to use another conception of freedom from the one Heidegger develops throughout Being and Time.

  • i don't appreciate people STARTING answers with unhelpful and short sighted put downs, but cheers
    – user6917
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 2:08
  • more congenially, when you say the freedom to "choose and grasp" itself, and to "be what one is", it's not obvious what this unpacks as. i can't quite imagine, besides perhaps the freedom from the they self, disabusing ourselves of the illusions that idle talk etc.creates
    – user6917
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 2:21
  • 1
    @MATHEMETICIAN: I apologise for the tone. I didn't intend it to be a put down.
    – ig0774
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 7:40
  • Freedom, as I see it, is the condition for the possibility both of being captured by idle talk, the they-self, etc. and for being free from them. It's the principle by which Dasein is able to individuate itself. Idk if that helps though...
    – ig0774
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 7:53
  • no problem whatsoever :)
    – user6917
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 11:22

You must log in to answer this question.