Monday, October 5, 2009

Here is a sampling of my paper that I will be presenting at Seattle University for the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). I won't bore you to death with the whole thing, and I'm likely to revise it between now and then.

Please feel free to make any comments toward revision as the paper will greatly benefit from your input.

Profound boredom, according to Heidegger, is an attunement – one of several nuances of the term Befindlichkeit other translations could include mood or state of mind – from which we find ourselves in this world. It's perhaps more widely understood, from his Being and Time, that an attunement of anxiety is the fundamental state from which we understand our being-in-the-world (Dasein). This anxiety leads one to a state of self care so as to cultivate our being-in-the-world (Dasein), but this strategy of self-care has lead to some strong arguments against Heidegger as the care of the self is ultimately only caring for oneself. Unlike this anxious attunement, profound boredom reveals our thrownness in the world as an event of mutual determinacy. It is not that I am bored profoundly, but that in this state I come to be aware that the universe itself is profoundly uninterested in me. It's hard for me to read the phrase profound boredom and not think also of John Berryman's collection The Dream Songs, from which I've taken part of the title of this paper. Berryman was an epic drunk; and shortly after winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Dream Songs, he threw himself off the Washington Bridge into the Mississippi River. As Heidegger put it in his 1929-30 lecture course on the Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, our attunement to the world is how we find our selves in the world, and ultimately these attunements provoke us into a state of poetic dwelling in the world. Perhaps it is appropriate to then begin our thinking about addiction by invoking Berryman here.
Dream Song 141

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

In the pronouncement that, “I am heavy bored,” is the reader forgiven for wondering if perhaps Berryman's alcoholism and jumping to his death were not related to this kind of boredom as perhaps an attunement or a fundamental state of receptivity to the world? Could it be that addiction's recovering, the covering over of “addiction” practices seek to cover over the experience of profound boredom? Berryman's poems speak a language of irrecoverable loss; this language is simultaneously dependent upon loss as the origin of ontology, as Schwieler has pointed out, making both ontology and poetry possible.2 This pervasive mood is how one finds oneself in Berryman's poetry, as Heidegger has argued as well. The history of addiction discourse is also the history of the will; as Derrida asks, how can we not write about addiction? Both concepts in the modern era have developed primarily in a negative relation to each other. Heidegger gets hooked on Schelling's talk of the will3 and after a significant binge he decides that beyond talk of volition and cognition there is also running in the background moods or attunements.

From Schelling, perhaps, has come the modern pursuit of will with his announcement that, “Will is original being and to it alone all predicates of being apply,” and with will is its handmaiden, cognition. As Clark so nicely put it, “If modernity suffers from an 'epidemic of will' that is indissociable from an 'epidemic of addiction and addiction attribution' ... then Frederich Schelling is patient zero.”4 Heidegger's relationship to Schelling's thinking is of course indispensable to understanding more fully Heidegger's own thought, however it cannot be properly treated here and I refer you to Clark's excellent essay referenced in the notes. Suffice it to say that Heidegger's engagement with Schelling leads him to extend Schelling's philosophy of time and move beyond rationalist and voluntarist thinking into dispositions.
Central to Heidegger's thinking is the German word Befindlichkeit as in the common way of asking “How are you?” is, “Wie befinden Sie sich?” This literally says, “How do you find yourself?”5 Befindlichkeit, then, as a disposition or mood is how we find ourselves in the world. Heidegger states, in Being and Time, that our moods are not simply accompanying the “higher faculties” of will and cognition but rather disclose our “there-ness” in the world, our “Being-In As Such” as Chapter V of the first division is entitled. Our Being-In, according to this theory of moods, includes two moments: understanding (Verstehen) and our findedness (Befindlichkeit). Heidegger states that, “What we ontologically designate by the term “findedness” is ontically quite familiar and everyday: the mood, the Being-attunded.”6 Our attunements place us factically in an existential situation. So what is the facticity
1Berryman, John. The Dream Songs. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux. 1969.
2Schwieler, Elias. Mutual Implications: Otherness in Theory and John Berryman's Poetry of Loss. Umeå: Moderna språk, 2003. 31.
3Clark, David L. “Heidegger's Craving: Being-on-Schelling.” Diacritics, Vol. 27, No. 3, (1997), pp. 8-33.
4Clark, David L. “Heidegger's Craving: Being-on-Schelling.” Diacritics, Vol. 27, No. 3, (1997), 10.
5Gendlin, Eugene T. “Befindlichkeit: Heidegger and the Philosophy of Psychology.” Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry: Heidgger and Psychology. Vol. XVI, Nos. I, 2 & 3, 1978-79. Found at
6Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper Collins. 1962. 172.


  1. Quite evidently, the Glossory said that "attunement" as translated by Mcneill & Walker comes from "Stimmung" instead of "Befindlichkeit" as in SuZ.

  2. Thanks, liumx, for reading this and offering your comments!

    Actually, according to de Beistigui (Thinking with Heidegger: Displacements) the phrase is Grundstimmung. That said, I feel like I am not incorrect to speak of attunement in the way I am above. Perhaps, as a piece of Heidegger scholarship, I am sloppy in collapsing the terms Stimmung (attunement) and Befindlichkeit (?state-of-mind? disposition? apprehension?); but, what Heidegger has stated is that our moods (Stimmung)- how we apprehend (Befindlichkeit) the world around us- reveal to us ourselves-as-a-relation-to-the-world (Dasein).

    The aim of the above paper is not to expand our understanding of Heidegger's philosophy, per se, but to introduce some of Heidegger's thinking to how we in the U.S. think about addiction. I think that I will revise the paper in light of this discussion. I am not at all fluent in German and I am not at all a Heidegger scholar, so I am sure that my reading of Heidegger is lacking in some ways.

    If you'll notice, I have posted the remainder of the paper. If you care to offer some thoughts on the paper as a whole, I'd greatly appreciate your input.