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Heidegger and Time
) is one of, if not the most influential philosophers to come from the phenomenological field of philosophy. His work
Being and Time
is often considered of the most influential pieces of philosophical literature of the 20th century. In this defining work of his career, Heidegger investigates the meaning of being as well as several other major phenomenological concepts such as time, being-in-the-world, and authenticity of being. Through this investigation of the meaning of being he uses new terms such as “Dasein”, “Being-towards-death”, and “Das Man” to explain his understanding of what Being means. What this wiki page is intended to do is explain and clarify some of Heidegger’s key concepts in such a way that they can be easily understood to the average student of philosophy. Following the explanations of these major concepts of Heidegger, they will be put into use to analyze the song “Time” by Pink Floyd. This song has numerous examples of Heidegger’s concepts, especially being-towards-death, Das Man, authenticity, and of course, time. By employing Heidegger’s terms to conduct an in-depth analysis of Pink Floyd’s Time, a deeper appreciation of the song as well as a more concrete understanding of his concepts will be formed.
Heidegger uses a whole new vocabulary of terms for describing what Being means. Being-in-the-world, Being-towards-death, Being-with, are all examples of what he calls “existentials”, or categories, of Being (Lecture Notes, April 19th, 2011). Heidegger even offers a new term for the word “being” itself- Dasein. Although this term doesn’t translate to English perfectly, it is, in general, Heidegger’s way of referring to a conscious human being. These new terms may seem confusing at first, but after some explaining of what they mean, one can better understand Heidegger’s views on the meaning of Being. One scholar said this about the understanding of Heidegger’s “Being”:
The awareness of Being is not some mysterious or mystical “insight” given only to a philosophic elite; it is not a kind of psychological experience that requires a certain kind of gymnastic to prepare ourselves for the ‘happy moment of truth.’ To be aware of the meaning of Being is as common as to be aware of our left ankle: we are aware of it when we look at it or think about it, and we are unaware of it when we don’t.”
So, then, let’s begin to examine Heidegger’s meaning of being so that we can understand it just as we understand out left ankle.
“Being-in-the-world” is a good place to begin in understanding the series of existentials that Heidegger offers.
The term “being-in-the-world” is used as a more specific and accurate description of the relationship between human beings and the world we live in. It begins with “the broadest of existential notions: The simple fact that I find myself
something—a world” (Gelven 52). This
that we all find ourselves in is a context, setting, background, or horizon of everything that is possible and all possible phenomena (Lecture Notes, March 15th, 2011). The world is the ultimate reality which we cannot escape, and therefore we are “in” it—hence “being-in-the-world.”
The world which we are always “Being” in is also filled with other Beings, or Dasein. This fact leads us to a second form of Being as described by Heidegger—“Being (Dasein)-with.” This “existential of Being” is based on the basic fact that in a very simple way we are all “profoundly connected with other people—we are sharing the world in an active way” (Lecture Notes, April 28th, 2011). So, simply put, we are all “Being-with” others who occupy the world that we are “Being-in.” Because of this we, part of the very meaning of our being comes from our unique and special relationships with everyone else in our world.
A final and very important aspect of our “Being” is that it is finite. We are all going to die some day. This is an inevitable fact of life which cannot be escaped. In this way, according to Heidegger, we are all “Beings-toward-death.” “We all know that we are going to die…Yet the full knowledge so easily escapes our awareness that occasional insights into its true character shock us and amaze us” (Gelven 143). Our knowledge of our existential “being-towards-death,” although it is ignored or kept out of mind for most of our lives, is unique to Dasein and what separates us from other animals. We are constantly aware, although not always consciously addressing, of our future lack of existence that is unchangeable and uncontrollable. Because of this continuous moving to our immanent non-existence, a major part of what it means to be is to “Be-towards-death.”
Time in phenomenology and specifically in Heidegger’s
Being and Time
is an essential aspect of understanding Being.
Being and Time
is the attempt to interpret Being in terms of the transcendental horizon of time” (Heidegger 27). It is time, therefore that is a kind of backdrop within all possible meanings of Being exist. Because of this, Being and time are always in relation to each other. According to Heidegger, this relationship is a reciprocal one: “Being and time determine each other reciprocally, but in such a manner that neither can the former—Being—be addressed as something temporal can the latter—time—be addressed as being.” (Heidegger 3) So although time and Being are necessary for one another, neither can be explained nor addressed in terms of the other. They are two separate entities yet they remain in constant relation to one another. In other words, time is the realm within all existentials of being can exist. Therefore, Being, without time, is not Being.
Within phenomenology there is a complex interpretation of time that includes three levels of understanding time which are important to distinguish to better understand Heidegger’s meaning and importance of time. The first stage is what we are most familiar with in our “everydayness”—world time. This is the realm of clocks, calendars, and other forms of measurable time increments. We live most of our lives by this time. The next level is internal or subjective time. This is our own personal experience of living through time, or the flow of our experiences (Sokolowski 130). The final and most important level in understanding our Being is internal consciousness of time. At this level, “the first beginning of things as phenomena is reached” (Sokolowski, 131). It is here that we have reached the core, or origin, of phenomenological existence— or Being.
So, why does Heidegger look at time and Being together? Because within time, we experience Being. The two are inseparable just as the world is inseparable from the “being-in-the-world.” “
Time is revealed as the Being of Dasein—i.e., what it means for Dasein to be is always to be in time” (Gelven 182). Therefore, a
ll possible meanings of Being, or existentials of Dasein, occur in terms of the “transcendental horizon of time” (Heidegger 3).
As already discussed, we as “beings-in-the-world” and “with-others” are fundamentally influenced by those around us. Our relationships and interactions with others are part of our Being. Sometimes, and for Heidegger almost always, this influence from the others is not a good thing for our Being. When we become mere followers, or blind sheep, of the nonspecific “others” and conform to their expectations without any thought, we are following “Das Man.” “Das Man” is Heidegger’s term for describing an impersonal and collective authoritative figure which we, as Beings, so often follow blindly (Lecture Notes, April 28th, 2011).
In our typical everydayness we let Das Man take over responsibility for our own Being. People build their entire lives around these cultural and society norms, such as getting a “good job”, starting a family at the “right age”, and collecting possessions of status, without really ever questioning them. In this way, we are not taking responsibility for our own Being, or self, but rather, are following what Heidegger calls the “they-self” (Gelven 52). When we follow Das Man, Heidegger says we are being inauthentic. This brings us to a final concept of Heidegger’s meaning of Being—authenticity.
AUTHENTIC VS. INAUTHENTIC SELF
According to Heidegger, we can never fully escape Das Man. When we do, however, we reach a state of momentary individual authenticity (Lecture Notes April 28, 2011). This authenticity is a moment of clarity when we take a step back from Das Man, take responsibility for our own Being, and clearly see our place as a Being in this world. It is in this moment of clarity that we reach the “mode of being in which one is aware of the significance of Being (Gelven 52).
Being and Time
, Heidegger’s analysis of one’s everyday existence reveals his understanding of two modes: authentic and inauthentic. As mentioned above when discussing Das Man, “
The inauthentic mode is characterized by a loss of self-awareness and abandonment to the impersonal prattle of the “they”. The authentic mode is characterized by the self, and is grounded in the
” (Gelven 69-70). In simpler terms, when we drift through life following the social and cultural norms without any real consideration of where they come from or what they mean to our Being, we are being inauthentic. In this mode we lose sight of the self and are swept up in our dealings with others. The authentic mode, therefore, is when we focus on our own meaning of Being, or Dasein, including our existential as “beings-in-the-world”, “beings-with-others”, and “beings-towards-death.” In fact, contemplating ourselves as being-towards-death is often what leads us to a momentary experience of individual authenticity.
Often times, it is thinking about our death and mortality that wakes us up from our sleepwalking state of inauthenticity (Lecture Notes April 28th, 2011). When we are reminded of our own mortality, we become more concerned with our own self, our own Being, than with following the rules of Das Man. According to Heidegger, the most important aspect of death is that “one’s awareness of death can focus one’s attention on the self as it belongs to the individual Dasien—i.e., the authentic self” (Gelven 144). So, our own death-awareness is one of the few things that can somehow wake us up and open our eyes to the question of what it really means to be.
Now that we have covered some of the major concepts of Heidegger’s
Being and Time
we can use them to analyze the song Time. The following analysis is meant to solidify the understanding of the above concepts by providing examples of them throughout the song’s lyrics. The analysis will also, therefore, lead to a deeper appreciation and understanding of the song itself.
The analysis will dissect the song line by line, addressing all of the major concepts discussed above along the way.
TIME by Pink Floyd
The song begins with clocks chiming and ticking. The introduction is also drawn out over about two and a half minutes. The clock noises are representative of world time as it is measured by clocks. The length of the introduction may seem long to some people or short to others. This is an example of internal subjective time.
Ticking away the moments that make up the dull day, you fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town, waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
“Ticking away” is again referencing clock time. Living inauthentically and going through life following Das Man can be understood as “fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.” The “someone or something to show you the way” can definitely be interpreted as Das Man. Rather than taking responsibility for your actions and Being you are waiting for society to show you how to be.
Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain. And you are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
Experiencing the phenomena of the sunshine and the rain are pointing at the “being-in-the-world” concept. Feeling young and that life is long is directly related to “being-towards-death.” When you are young you have plenty of time to kill and don’t think about your future non-existence. And then you find that ten years have passed, which you may have experienced them slowly in your internal subjective time, and you have to start taking responsibility for your life. Das Man didn’t tell you when to run and now you have to catch up with the pack.
The solo portion of the song, in terms of Heidegger’s concepts may be seen as symbolic of a moment of individual authenticity. The term solo even points to the Being of the individual rather than being caught up in Das Man. So, this solo is a moment of realization of Being and clarity of one’s place in the world.
And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking. Racing around to come up behind you again.
After the moment of clarity and during the mode of authenticity you are trying to make up for lost time and catch up. Essentially you are trying to become the Being that you really want to be.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older, shorter of breathe and one day closer to death.
This last line is clearly symbolic of being-towards-death. We are all constantly moving “one day closer to death” as part of our Being.
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.
In the first line here the song is again referencing internal subjective time by saying that every year seems to get shorter and you don’t seem to “find the time” to change who you want to be. Your plans to do so “come to naught” as you fade back into inauthentic Being. Then, at the end, the time is gone and, although you may have wanted to make an authentic change to your Being, you seem to have forgotten the “something more” you had to say.
(Breath Reprise) Home, home again. I like to be here when I can. When I come home cold and tired, it’s good to warm my bones behind the fire. Far away across the fields, the tolling of the iron bell calls the faithful to their knees to hear the softly spoken magic spell.
Although just mere speculation, “home” here may be representing settling back into the inauthentic existence of the “they-self” which is where, according to Heidegger, we spend most our lives. The final line may be referring to the church bells ringing, bringing the “faithful to their knees” and the softly spoken “magic spell” may be religious teaching about death and the afterlife that calms people fears and gets them to stop worrying about death, thus taking them back to the inauthentic mode. (Perhaps I am reading too much into this final section of the song, which is actually a reprise of a previous song on the album, but the connections to Heidegger’s concepts seemed worth exploring.)
Heidegger’s analysis of the meaning of Being is certainly a complex and often times confusing phenomenological look at human existence. Hopefully this explanation of some of his key concepts has helped make his
Being and Time
more manageable and understandable. Also, by implementing his concepts to analyze a song about time, perhaps these concepts will now make more sense as well as lead to a deeper understanding of the song itself.
A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time.
New York: Harper & Row, 1970.
On Time and Being
. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
Lecture Notes from April 19th, and 28th, 2011.
Pink Floyd. Classic Albums: The Making of Dark Side of the Moon. (DVD)
Introduction to Phenomenology
. New York: Cambridge University Press,
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say
Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.
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