The Philosophy of Dasein

Dasein is a German word that means existence. It can also be deconstructed into its two parts of Da, which refers to there, and sein, which means being. I will use the latter interpretation to examine how humans interact in the world. There are several philosophers that have used this world to build a conceptual model of how and why we exist. Amongst them are Georg WF Hegel, Martin Heideggar and Karl Jaspers. All of these individuals had very different theoretical perspectives regarding this term. Heideggar held that in order to understand the meaning of being or existing there was only one logical position from which to start.  The viewpoint would be from what we know best, that is from the human perspective. He, therefore, uses the word Dasein to describe the way in which humans experience being in the world. The difficult part of this concept is to understand that he is not talking about being as an entity necessarily. That is, there is the entity known as a “being” in noun form, and then there is “being” in the form of a verb. The word Dasein is the how a human exists used in both forms here. It is the way an entity (noun) is being or exists in the world. As confusing as this can be for many it hopefully can be recognized as worthwhile to consider with a little reflection on the vast number of readings available elsewhere.

The reason for choosing this device of Dasein is to explore how we interact with the world. First and foremost is that it is a unique interpretation of how a human exists in relation to the world. To put this in perspective, let’s start with a different viewpoint of great historical significance. Rene’ Descartes was a great thinker and contributor to many fields, including math (co-ordinate systems) and the development of science. Descartes developed a framework of thinking known as Cartesianism. For our purposes, the focus will be on one particular school of thought, dualism.  Dualism is the division of mind and body, and also a separation of entities into subject and object. That is, a person is a subject and distinctive from the world and the objects contained within its realm. It goes one step further to create a division within each individual as well, the dualistic notion of mind and body. This perspective reinforces the notion that the world, both within and without, is separated repeatedly on all levels. A very reductionist approach if any, with significant ramifications in terms of how we relate to ourselves and our environment. It can leave us with the sense that the world is one of discontinuity. In Gestalt psychology, it is suggested that the whole is greater than the sum of its part. That is what the concept of Dasein can bring to light.

The concept of Dasein can be utilized to picture that our being is always part of the world in which we inhabit. There are no subdivisions between a human and its environment. Dasein only exists in relation to the world, and the world, as we experience it only exists in relation to the entities that inhabit its space-time. Therefore, every individual experiences the world as part of itself. There is no reason as we experience the world outside ourselves to lack recognition of our interdependence. This is not to suggest that we do not have some physical distinction between ourselves and other entities. Obviously, there must be physical qualities that separate things from one another.  Without physical barriers or borders, there would be no means by which to distinguish one thing from another. So it is duly recognized that physical materials distinguish but do not, maybe using a different word, disengage us from the world.

Further, Dasein allows for a mechanism to explain how we come to learn the set of skills necessary to improve our performance in life and competition. Think of when you are first learning a new athletic technique. There is a struggle to understand how the body should move and coordinate itself. This is the novice stage. With increased practice, the tasks become easier.  Eventually, given enough time some of our advances to a level of competence or even more rare, an expert level. This can be witnessed amongst a myriad of activities ranging from athletics to music to carpentry. Heideggar would say at the beginning of each novel task, there is a distinction between an individual and the tools and activity in which it engages. However, this distinction slowly fades as Dasein begins to recognize its engagement.

As we become more skilled in any function, it just flows. You become one with e activity. It can feel as though it is just effortless. Another amazing recognition can take place. The perception of time is altered. A state is reached where you can feel one with the instrument or physical environment in which you are embedded. It sometimes can feel as though time just ceases to exist. Why is this the perception? It has something to do with the sensory apparatus we possess for certain. However, it has to be much more. How to explain the psychological aspects? Could it be that when we are in sync with the world that time perception stops? Is this the state of oneness endurance athletes encounter? This is not to discount the physiological aspects but as an attempt to consider additional considerations.

Another important aspect of time can be gleaned from the concept of Dasein. Time is often divided into the past, present, and future. This division can create neglect or a lack of appreciation of how they are merged. Consider how the present is always dictated by past events. Think next as to how humans are often concerned primarily with the future. Heidegger suggested this was key to understanding our present state. Humans are always moving toward the future and are always constituted by the past. Gadamer refers to this process as a fusion.

Let’s now place the concepts into the function of running. Where you find yourself currently in terms of your performance and physical conditioning is a direct result of your past. It depends on your training, mental preparation, equipment, and physical running surfaces. There is no way to escape this situation. If you are concerned and dedicated to your health and performance, this involves the future you. What you project in terms of goals is an example of what you hope to be. Thus, Dasein is the individual’s composition of all three elements of how time is universally recognized.

Dasein concern with its present self, thru its reflections forward and backward in time, allows for it to consider its potential self. It can see where it was and hopes to be. One way to objectively measure potential is by means of technology that can capture a picture of how we are moving in the world. What type of physical forces are you experiencing by running? These forces will dictate how the biological material from which you are composed are adapting, or not, to the loads you are placing on them. The pictures captured can be considered a disclosure of existing within the world.

How do we capture these forces? Traditionally this type of data is collected within a lab or clinic setting. It is measured with instruments such as force plates and pressure sensors. Also in included are high-speed cameras and tools that capture electrical signals from the muscles. These can be great tools for data collection, but the data has to still be analyzed and interpreted by individuals trained within certain conceptual models. The models used dictate the form of programs suggested for training or rehabilitation.

The technology my team and I are designing does capture a portion of this reality. It discloses how each individual Dasein is interacting with the world. This is captured in a dynamic fashion that allows a multitude of spacial dimensions to be observed. It captures the symmetry of the individual as they run. The patterns being generated can help to determine if running should be continued or ceased. It is a tool for continuous real-time feedback. Its potential for helping us to understand our oneness with the environment holds much promise.

In summary, this section is an attempt to introduce a conceptual model of how humans move and interact with the world. It suggests that there is no separation between the world and its entities. The interaction is always dynamic, never static. The two are interdependent. Without the individual, the world as we know does not exist metaphorically. Likewise, the individual is expressed and developed by its need to be engaged with its environment. Additionally, it is helpful to recognize that the way the world is divided by certain disciplines can be helpful to a degree. But when we do not see the whole from the parts we may be losing the deeper meanings that the world is willing to disclose. These concepts will be significantly more utilized in the last few chapters when the new technology is described and explained in a more visual and practical format.

This excerpt was written by our Founder & CEO, Sean Roach DPT, Ph.D., MSC.

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