"Always already" is a strange phrase/concept I see cropping up everywhere in post-structuralist discourse, used by a wide variety of authors. I was curious as to its origin; Wikipedia says Heidegger popularized its use. But I don't know much about Heidegger, and Being and Time is too big to search through.

In what passage does Heidegger first employ the term? What work does it do in his description of Dasein? (This is equivalent, I think, to asking what it means that Dasein anticipates itself.)

3 Answers 3


It is hazardous to take upon oneself the interpretation of Heidegger. But I know his use of the phrase 'always already' and offer my explanation.

Dasein, taken as the presence or reality of a human being, is 'situated' right from the start. It is 'Being-in-the-world'. It is 'always already' situated in a socio-historically shared world (Mitwelt) into the norms and conventions of which it is initiated. It does not come into being gradually, passing through successive stages of development until it achieves its mature form. As soon as we are conscious of ourselves and our environment, it is 'always already' present.

From this 'always already' initial situated state, a human being self-constructs by projecting itself onto the possibilities of its world, or less obscurely and more specifically by entering into socially and historically 'possible ways for it to be', adopting socially and historically roles and relations, and interpreting its surroundings and itself in those surroundings in socially and historically possible ways.

Far more could be said but perhaps this gives you a slight first grasp of what this mysterious phrase 'always already' means.

Heidegger, M. (1962). 'Being and time' (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, trans.). New York: Harper & Row, p. 65.

Aret Karademir, 'Heidegger and Foucault: On the Relation Between the "Anxiety–Engendering–Truth" and "Being-Towards-Freedom"', Human Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Fall 2013), pp. 375-392.


To me, his description of Dasein represents that of some "omnipotent" being. One that is in a sense not effected by the physical world in my probably limited understanding. However to me what this translates to is a being that is everything and nothing in a sense inherently. He often noted that there is always a mood that "assails us" in our unreflecting devotion to the world. A mood comes neither from the "outside" or the "inside" but arises from "Being-in-the-world". Only with a mood, he notes, are we permitted to encounter things in the world.

This to me is a good example of the "Always already" mentality.

However, when he describes "Being-toward-death" he describes it more directly:

"Death is Dasein's ownmost (What makes Dasein individual), it is non-relational (nobody can take one's death away from one, or die in one's place, and we cannot understand our own death through the death of other Dasein), and it is not to be outstripped. The 'not-yet' of life is always already a part of Dasein."

Heideggerian goes on to say directly: "as soon as a man comes to life, he is at once old enough to die."

So to me as far as Heideggerian's ideals go, one of the most clear descriptions of this is death. One of the only things truly giving Dasein its own self. And one of the only things that is sure with its being.

I'm sorry I could not find his specific works. I hope this hit somewhere useful.

  • 1
    An Interesting answer. You first para seems correct to me and explains Heidegger's later endorsement of Dr. Suzuki's Zen. But I rarely see this interpretation presented as straightforwardly and clearly as you do here in the first para. . .
    – user20253
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 11:11

It is related to Heidegger's concept of "thrownness." We are thrown into an "always already" existing world. though the always already existing world into which we are thrown is not one of our making, the possibilities it presents to us are nonetheless greatly determined by our facticity.

  • 1
    Hello, and welcome to Philosophy.SE. The question is asking for a particular place where the phrase is setted in so that it becomes clear what to make out of it. This needs references. Hence, your post does not fully answer the question as stated and just reposting a deleted answer in different words does not make it more suitable. You may want to take the tour and read in the help center for getting an idea of how this site works.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 10:33
  • 1
    The OP is looking for something more specific as Philip Klocking mentioned. I usually figured if I don't have a link or specific reference I need to keep working on the answer. Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 13:31
  • Also, could you add sources to support your answer? Just in case someone wants to find more information.
    – lukuss
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 5:23

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