Monday, October 24, 2011
In NDPR, Serena Parekh reviews Anne O'Byrne's Natality and Finitude; I-didn't-ask-to-be-born as the first thrownness.
O'Byrne begins with Heidegger and argues that he can be credited with the inception of natal thinking in the twentieth century. This is surprising, of course, since Heidegger's name tends to be almost synonymous with popularizing the importance of death for authentic existence. Nonetheless, for O'Byrne the concept of thrownness can be seen as a precursor to natality; indeed, she argues that his discussion of thrownness is one of the best-sustained considerations of natality. Our condition of thrownness, she argues, situates us as historical beings and introduces us to a world that is not of our own making and to a past that we have the impossible task of making our own. Unfortunately, Heidegger quickly subsumes natality under the future-oriented being-towards-death, and our natality, the fact that we are thrown into the world at birth, is overshadowed by our thrownness towards death. "For the most part, Heidegger conserves the deeply established philosophical fascination with death that has made it all but impossible to see natal finitude". In other words, though Heidegger pioneers and introduces natal thinking, it is quickly obscured by the more traditional concern for death. O'Byrne then turns to other thinkers -- Arendt, Nancy, and Dilthey -- who take up the task of thinking about the existential significance of natality that Heidegger initiated.
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