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Heidegger on the Struggle for Belongingness and Being at Home

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In 1840, Alexis de Tocqueville coined the term “individualism” to refer to the tendency for Americans to withdraw into their own desires and interests, thus weakening and diminishing the “habits of the heart” that bind a generation to the customs of their forebears and contemporaries. A problem, though, is that modern individualism undermines the very ideals—i.e. autonomy, equality, and freedom—that motivated it in the first place. Understood as a way of life, liberal individualism is permeated by alienation, estrangement, and thoughtless patterns of conformism. In what follows, I hope to show that hermeneutic phenomenology as developed by Martin Heidegger marks an important break from the modern liberal individualistic outlook. The point is to undercut the contrived interpretations of our current historical tradition in order to demonstrate that belonging to and sharing in the struggles of a generation are conditions for being human at all. This critique does not provide a panoptic or definitive account of the basis of a genuine community, but does give us a richer sense of place and purpose, beyond even what the current polis/political community designates (though it certainly includes it).

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Hiram College


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