Thrownness

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"Into this world we're thrown /
Like a dog without a bone"
(Jim Morrison, "Riders on the Storm", 1971)[1]

Thrownness (German: Geworfenheit) is a concept introduced by German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) to describe our individual existences as "being thrown" (geworfen) into the world. Geworfen denotes the arbitrary or inscrutable nature of Dasein that connects the past with the present. The past, through Being-toward-Death, becomes a part of Dasein. Awareness and acknowledgment of the arbitrariness of Dasein is characterized as a state of "thrown-ness" in the present with all its attendant frustrations, sufferings, and demands that one does not choose, such as social conventions or ties of kinship and duty. The very fact of one's own existence is a manifestation of thrown-ness. The idea of the past as a matrix not chosen, but at the same time not utterly binding or deterministic, results in the notion of Geworfenheit—a kind of alienation that human beings struggle against,[2] and that leaves a paradoxical opening for freedom:

[T]he thrower of the PROJECT is THROWN in his own throw. How can we account for this freedom? We cannot. It is simply a fact, not caused or grounded, but the condition of all causation and grounding.[3]

For William J. Richardson, Geworfenheit "must be understood in a purely ontological sense as wishing to signify the matter-of-fact character of human finitude".[4] That's why "thrownness" is the best English word for Geworfenheit. Other "attractive translations as 'abandon,' 'dereliction,' 'dejection,' etc. [...] are [dangerous because] too rich with ontic, anthropological connotations. We retain 'thrown-ness' as closest to the original and, perhaps, least misleading."[5]

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  1. ^ Critchley, Simon (June 29, 2009). "Being and Time, part 4: Thrown into this world". The Guardian (Manchester). Retrieved May 27, 2013. "As Jim Morrisson intoned many decades ago, 'Into this world we're thrown'. Thrownness (Geworfenheit) is the simple awareness that we always find ourselves somewhere, namely delivered over to a world." 
  2. ^ Richardson, William J. (1963). Heidegger. Through Phenomenology to Thought. Preface by Martin Heidegger. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.  4th Edition (2003). The Bronx: Fordham University Press. ISBN 0-823-22255-1; ISBN 978-08-2322-255-1. p. 37.
  3. ^ Inwood, Michael J. (1999). A Heidegger Dictionary. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. ISBN 0-631-19095-3; ISBN 978-06-3119-095-0. 
  4. ^ Richardson, William J. Heidegger. Through Phenomenology to Thought. p. 37. 
  5. ^ Richardson, William J. Heidegger. Through Phenomenology to Thought. p. 37. 

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