The Incurious Seeker’s Quest for Meaning

Heidegger, Mood and Christianity

by Kevin Sludds (Author)
©2014 Monographs VIII, 259 Pages
Series: Religions and Discourse, Volume 57


The paradox within the title of this book refers to its principal theme, that of elucidating our innate capacity to transform/convert from an inauthentic everyday mode of being to an authentic one. This study provides an analysis of affect as a means of highlighting a number of key points of contact between the disciplines of philosophy and theology when addressing this topic. The author explores Martin Heidegger’s intimate connections with Christianity, firstly, by examining the close ties he and his family had to the Catholic Church and, secondly, from within his fundamental ontology as developed in Being and Time. Finally, he demonstrates through literary and comparative analysis the affinity that exists between a philosophy of facticity and Christian theology in their descriptions of humankind without faith or Dasein’s inauthentic existence.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: The Importance of Heidegger’s Confrontation with Christianity in his Early Career
  • a) A Staunchly Catholic Upbringing
  • b) Schooling and Catholic Endowments
  • c) Marriage and Apostasy
  • d) From Marburg to Todtnauberg
  • Chapter 3: The Incurious Seeker’s Quest for Meaning
  • a) Man without Faith and Dasein’s Inauthenticity
  • b) Primordial Thinking and Phenomenology
  • c) Being-in-the-world – Man’s Relation to Himself
  • d) Anxiety as a Primordial Mood (Grundbefindlichkeit) and Revelatory of God
  • e) Care (or the Being of Dasein) and Death
  • Chapter 4: Being-in-the-world, the Make-up of the World and Disclosure
  • a) Dasein’s Modes of Being
  • b) The Make-up of the World
  • c) Understanding as a Disclosive Feature of Dasein
  • d) Understanding and its Theological Links
  • e) Discourse and its Disclosive/Revelatory Role
  • Chapter 5: The Importance of Affective States at an Ontic Level, Fallenness and Christian Sin
  • a) The Role of Affective States in Animal Survival
  • b) The Role of Affective States in Human Survival
  • c) Affective Responses and Cultural Influences
  • d) Ontic-Cognitive Accounts of the Key Affect Guilt
  • e) Ontic-Cognitive Non-Moral Guilt
  • f) The Ontic-Cognitive Legal Definition of Guilt
  • g) John Rawls’s three Stages of Ontic-Cognitive Guilt
  • h) Distinguishing Ontic-Cognitive Guilt from the Associated Affective Responses Shame and Remorse
  • i) Fallenness and Christian Sin
  • Chapter 6: The Importance of Affective States at an Ontological Level and Ontological Guilt
  • a) The Significance of Moods in Being and Time
  • b) Mood’s Disclosive Power
  • c) From Ontic to Ontological Guilt
  • d) The Primordial-Ontological Meaning of Guilt
  • e) Dasein’s Thrown Ground Revealed by Mood
  • f) Rudolf Otto’s Analysis of Affect
  • Chapter 7: Inauthentic/Authentic Anxiety, Rudolf Otto and Anxiety’s Religious Revelations
  • a) Inauthentic Ontic-Cognitive Descriptions of Anxiety as So-called Objectless Fear
  • b) Authentic Ontological Anxiety
  • c) Rudolf Otto and Anxiety’s Religious Revelations
  • Chapter 8: Death and Heidegger’s Secularising of Christian Theology
  • a) Memento Mori or Death as the Ever-present Possibility of Being
  • b) Dasein-with and Death
  • c) Authentic Death
  • d) The Christian Understanding of Death
  • e) The Significance of Care’s Temporal Make-up
  • f) The Prominence of the Future Tense in Being and Time and Heidegger’s Secularising of Christian Theology
  • Chapter 9: Dasein’s Call to Authenticity and Misinterpretations of it
  • a) The Ontological Meaning of the Call of Conscience
  • b) From Guilt to Resoluteness
  • c) Dasein’s Bifurcation into Caller and Hearer of Conscience
  • d) How Conscience is Made Present
  • e) Misinterpretations of the Call of Conscience
  • i) Stephen Mulhall’s Account
  • ii) Charles Taylor’s Account
  • Chapter 10: Dasein’s Authentic Transformation, Contrasts and Christian Parallels
  • a) Authentic Dasein’s Transformed Temporality
  • b) Authentic Conscience as the Transforming Moment of Vision (Augenblick)
  • c) Awakening (Formal Indicators), Contrasts and Christian Parallels
  • Chapter 11: Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

← 0 | 1 → CHAPTER 1


In this book I will address as my principal concern the question of man’s1 (and Dasein’s) ability to move from an inauthentic mode of being to an authentic one. This primary consideration takes two forms: firstly, a focus on the vital role of affective states at an (inauthentic) ontic-cognitive level and, secondly, their part in man/Dasein’s capacity to transform (or convert) itself to an (authentic) ontological/theological level. The former necessitates both the detailing of ontic-cognitive accounts of emotion/mood analysis2 and, more creatively, providing original critiques of the work of philosophers William Lyons, Stephen Mulhall and Charles Taylor. I use Lyons’s contemporary and influential3 causal-evaluative theory as a stalking horse, so to speak, a means of demonstrating the short-comings of this approach when it comes to explicating the highly complex mood objectless fear. Though approaches such as Stephen Mulhall’s and Charles Taylor’s come closer to a more profound grasp of the meaning of this ontologically vital affect, I argue they too fall short of offering us an accurate description, being over-keen to unearth a cognitive dimension to its description while the former also remains insensitive to the subtleties of Heidegger’s unique language. Finally, I contend that Heidegger’s understanding of moods ← 1 | 2 → illustrates a distinct tendency in Being and Time to secularise Christian concepts such as guilt, fallenness, conscience and death.

This study begins by setting out some key biographical details of Heidegger’s youth that were to lay the foundation of many of his core beliefs, attitudes and insights for the rest of his long life. The influence of Christianity on the young philosopher is examined by scrutinising the intimate links he had to the Catholic Church. I detail the staunchly Catholic family from which he came, his life in the sexton’s house of a small town, his activities as an altar-boy (and junior campanologist) and the trauma of his family’s ‘eviction’ by Old Catholics during the Kulturkampf. I note the crucial assistance he received with his studies from the parish priest of Messkirch, Fr. Brandhuber, and the support he got from local man (and prefect of the Studienhaus St. Konrad) Fr. Gröber when he first became a boarder at his seminary in 1903. I describe how by 1909 Heidegger had entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus, at Tisis, and expand on how ill health resulted in his being rejected by the Jesuits (a problem later characterised as a ‘nervous heart condition’). Undeterred, Heidegger was to later successfully gain a place at the seminary Freiburg Borromaeum, where he was taught by Carl Braig, a man under whose influence he joined a faction of the Catholic Church that was steadfastly anti-modernist, the League of the Grail. It was during this period that Heidegger had his first work published in the conservative journals, Allgemeine Rundschau and Der Akademiker. And I record the tumult that must have accompanied his second failed effort to reach priesthood when, on similar grounds to the Jesuits, he received the news that confirmed, “there was very little prospect of my being able to serve later in the church” (Ott, 1994, 65).

I make clear in Chapter 2 that despite Heidegger’s later rejection of the ‘system of Catholicism’ he never rejected ‘Christianity per se,’ and I relate how it continued to feature in his thought both actively and philosophically in his early career and, later, rather more passively and contemplatively. I portray, with broad brush strokes, Heidegger’s struggle to cobble together an income, the completion of his doctorate, his marriage to a Lutheran girl (Elfriede Petri), the birth of their two sons and his move to Marburg. I offer an account of his apostasy as being part of a larger pragmatic metamorphosis away from the characterisation of him as a ‘Catholic philosopher,’ ← 2 | 3 → to a point where his mentor Edmund Husserl, writing to Rudolf Otto, believed he had ‘converted to Protestantism.’ Though this belief was untrue, the comment, I suggest, reveals something of Heidegger’s deep desire to break-free of the compartmentalisation of him in narrow Catholic terms.

Heidegger’s profound attachment to Swabia is discussed, not just from the period while he was in Marburg and was homesick, but from the perspective of his lifelong and heartfelt belief in the majesty and power of the Black Forest to create an atmosphere of insight that could “open up the vastness of the sky and at the same time be rooted in the dark of the earth” (Thought Experiences, 1983, 38). Despite being a charismatic teacher, Heidegger was always far more content living among the country folk of the small towns and villages such as the one he was born in than lecturing in Marburg. And I observe, without surprise, that it was in his cabin in Todtnauberg, amidst the countryside and pathways of the woods and mountains of that beloved and beautiful spot, that Being and Time was written; a place where, for Heidegger, life itself “appears to the mind as something pure, simple and immense” (Ott, 1994, 125).

In Chapter 3 I proceed by taking my initial steps towards an analysis of Heidegger’s key concept ‘inauthenticity’ (or man living without faith in Christian terms), under the heading The Incurious Seeker’s Quest for Meaning. This paradoxical heading highlights two major topics addressed throughout this book: a) Dasein/man’s inauthentic mode of fallenness, and b) Dasein/man’s search (or questioning of itself) for meaning and transformation to authenticity (or faith). This title is also a means of drawing attention to a number of fundamental contrasts that underscore both Christian and Heideggerian expressions of thought; including, light-darkness, damnation-salvation, facticity-possibility and ontic-ontological. I go on to ask, Does there exist a lacuna in Heidegger’s account between Dasein’s ontic way of being (das Seiende) and its ontological authentic Being (das Sein), which allows for holy Being (or God) to be discerned? I isolate for examination a number of points of contact between the Heideggerian and Christian understanding of fundamental terms related to our everyday inauthentic-ontic state ‘fallenness,’ including guilt, anxiety, the call of conscience and responsibility. I argue, there is a clear affinity between Heidegger’s philosophy of facticity and Christian theology; between, for ← 3 | 4 → instance, sinfulness as man’s falling away from himself (i.e. a movement away from God) and Dasein’s tranquillised familiarity in the embrace of its concernful-solicitous activities in the ‘they’ (das Man), noting, importantly, Heidegger’s acknowledgement that the early Christian notion of the world was “a source of his own ideas” (Crowe, 2006, 73).

Inauthenticity we are told in Being and Time “denotes a way of Being in which man may go astray … but in which he need not necessarily and constantly always go astray” (BT, 1992, 303). In a similar, though distinct vein, I highlight how the Christian response to man’s falling is an explicit soteriological message of hope, and register the fact that where Heidegger’s description of authenticity appears to be defined in negative terms, that is, as our not being inauthentic, becoming thus a type of phantom concept (i.e. existing merely as a means of defining what it is not) and, therefore, holds none of the positive promise of religious faith. In an incipient way, I spotlight Heidegger’s recognition that it is our moods and not what I term ‘utility’ (i.e. calculative or theoretical) thinking that orientates us and it is ‘complex moods,’ as distinct from ‘simple emotions,’ that Heidegger is concerned with when discussing primordial thinking and phenomenology.

I expand on Heidegger’s insistence that fallenness is not a disparaging term and, though I argue in Chapter 5 that this point can stretch credulity somewhat, nevertheless, I show how just as Dasein’s ‘mineness’ could not exist without ‘Dasein-with-others,’ so authenticity would be vacuous without its counterpoise. In this chapter of foundation laying, I move on to offer a preliminary discussion of anxiety as a primordial mood and, potentially, revelatory of God, and I explain the need for Heidegger to use the term ‘situatedness’ (Befindlichkeit) instead of ‘mood’ (or what Macquarrie and Robinson ineffectively call ‘state-of-mind’). I describe anxiety’s disclosive capacity to illuminate Dasein’s Being, its possibilities and its bound thrownness as mirroring something of the Biblical expression “[a] stranger and exile on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). And I note Heidegger’s consideration that “it is no accident that the phenomena of anxiety and fear … have come within the orbit of Christian theology, both ontically and … ontologically” (BT, 1992, 492). I explain anxiety’s profound importance as a means of uncovering the inescapable facticity of our existence, an alien ‘sense’ of deracination, of being uprooted and the prime reason why ← 4 | 5 → traditionally existentialism has been considered a philosophy of nihilism. From a theological perspective, I illustrate how anxiety is revelatory of God and how religious awe is rooted in anxiety and used by Rudolf Otto as an exemplary example of the numinous’ disclosure in an affective state.

In the final sub-section of Chapter 3, I begin to explore the most all-embracing concept developed in Being and Time, the concept that allows for the uncovering of the meaning of Being as a whole, i.e. ‘care.’ I show how temporality in the structure of the Being of Dasein delineates it further from everything else in-the-world; for Dasein by projecting into the future and through thrownness having already been, takes time with it; I explain that though nonhuman animals and inanimate objects have a past, only Dasein is its past. I register the importance of anxiety to care and its triune temporal dimensionality as well as offering some introductory remarks concerning death and how “Dasein too can end without authentically dying, though on the other hand, qua Dasein, it does not simply perish” (ibid., 1992, 219). This topic will have significance for us in my later exploration of the links between anxiety and death in Chapter 8.

Chapter 4 sees an expansion of my analysis of the key concepts in this study. Firstly, I focus on Heidegger’s understanding (influenced, as I mentioned, by Christian thought) of the ‘world,’ and use a number of original tables to illustrate its meaning: ‘The Make-up of the World,’ ‘The Disclosiveness of the World’ and ‘Care’s Structure.’ I distinguish between Dasein’s being-in-the-world as present-at-hand (Vorhandensein) and ready-to-hand (Zuhandensein) modes of being. The latter refers to Dasein’s closeness when encountering entities in-the-world, the former a more objectified and theoretical means of grasping the world’s meaning, a fact that reflects my earlier focus on utility versus primordial thinking, something which, in turn, leads to two approaches when addressing the question of the meaning of Being (or the meaning of life) more broadly, the ontological-affective-phenomenological analysis and the Christian-theological analysis.

In order to reveal the depth of Heidegger’s thought on the topic of modes of being, I go on to detail their corresponding temporal equivalents, something which is made overt when entities in our everyday ready-to-hand life breakdown: a) conspicuosness-damage-future, b) obstruction-absencepresent and c) obstinacy-obstacle-past. I illustrate how readinness-to-hand ← 5 | 6 → and presence-at-hand make-up Dasein’s constitutive state of Being-in-the-world, though I emphasise that this Being-in is, in fact, a means of standing out (ek-sisto). For Dasein is not simply in-the-world in some categorical sense as other entities are, but has an ‘awareness’ and transcendence of the world which is wholly unique to it. Being cannot, then, be viewed as a being, as something that merely is; for Being, as the condition of being, cannot be the same as anything that is. Nevertheless, I go on to show how Dasein can, and does, become engrossed with its everyday concerns and rests, for the most part, in ontic-fallenness. Such conformism is the closing off of more meaningful possibilities for Dasein as it adopts a mindset of indifference, “the Self of everyday Dasein is the ‘they’-self” (ibid., 1992, 167).

Given this fact, and the links to Christian thought concerning fallenness, I delve further at this point into what I call ‘ontic-fallenness-sin,’ in a manner that draws both approaches together while remaining cautious of the danger of making superficial comparisons between, for instance, the diluvian theological myth and Heidegger’s use of the term Verfallenheit (i.e. fallenness). Nonetheless, I discuss the root similarities of Heidegger’s notion of fallenness (idle talk, curiosity and ambiguity) and St. Augustine’s description of man’s fallen state or inherent flaw (i.e. concupiscence) and Luther’s use of this term. I argue, that the relevance of Heidegger’s account of falling (and world), from a religious perspective, is explicit. For even in the person of faith who is drawn to the promise of eternal peace, the ‘they’ will still act as a resisting force to conversion, a reminder, I suggest, of Kierkegaard’s metaphor of ‘spiritual inertia.’ I conclude this chapter with an examination of the central terms ‘understanding’ and ‘discourse’ (i.e. key disclosive features of Dasein) and note that for both religious, and non-religious thinkers, falling exposes the constituitively enigmatic core of human existence.

To build a platform for my assessment of emotions/moods at an ontological level, I describe in Chapter 5, firstly, the ontic reasons for considering affective states important to human survival. Attention is placed not simply on human evolutionary traits but on the cultural influences which account for the number and type of emotions/moods we display. By so doing, I will be in a position in succeeding chapters to fully enunciate Heidegger’s ontologically key account of moods (specifically with reference to guilt ← 6 | 7 → and objectless fear) and, within this chapter, to draw specific comparisons and contrasts with the Christian/theological understanding of them. By starting to explore the issue of an ontic-cognitive understanding of the role of affective states in our lives I: a) provide a description of the ontic-cognitive analysis of emotions/moods which is an essential stepping stone to my critique of the philosophers William Lyons and Stephen Mulhall; and b) I reflect on the notion of cultural conditioning of emotions/moods as set-out by Charles Taylor, and demonstrate how to his mind all affective states tell us something about the ‘world,’ an assessment with which I will have reason to disagree.


VIII, 259
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (February)
paradox philosophy theology
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. 259 pp.

Biographical notes

Kevin Sludds (Author)

Kevin Sludds is an award-winning poet and philosopher. He is Head of Department of General Studies at Baze University, Abuja, Nigeria. He is also the author of Emotions: Their Cognitive Base and Ontological Importance (Peter Lang, 2009).


Title: The Incurious Seeker’s Quest for Meaning
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