Perhaps all philosophy begins with an experience of contingency, a felt need for a justification or explanation that would provide a ground for something. The danger is that this project will drown the contingency in necessity, leading us to forget the original experience. Heidegger’s project is different. While respecting the impulse that drives us toward a primal source, he thinks of this source as an un-ground or abyss that is itself radically contingent. The effect is to heighten the urgency of the original experience rather than to cover it over.
However, Heidegger often implies that be-ing has to withdraw. This suggests an insight into a necessity which calls for an elucidation. But would an explanation of be-ing’s obscurity violate this obscurity? Would it impose crassly on the mystery? Perhaps not. It could be that, while respecting the esotericism of Heidegger’s text and his topic, we can reveal a few of the grounds for his claims. Be-ing’s self-concealment seems to have several modes, not all of which can be considered necessary or inescapable. Some seem to be contingent features of western history; others are intrinsic features of everydayness, but we can emerge from this everydayness, at least for a while; finally, some are inescapable aspects of be-ing itself and can never be overcome, even if we can glimpse the reasons why we cannot overcome them. This classification of modes of concealment will work well enough to allow us to carry out our search for grounds. Still, we should remember that the “traits”of be-ing are really straits—and that all necessity, Heidegger insists, is grounded in emergency. (As we will soon see, he even tries to find an alternative to the traditional doctrine of the modalities—necessity, actuality, and possibility.) Although we may detect some relative necessities, our thought must still be guided by an urgency and affliction that cannot he explained away by a theoretical scheme. The urgency is itself contingent: it stems from the experience of thrownness. If we were not thrown into an emergency, be—ing and being—there would never happen at all; then there would be no question of seeking necessities within this happening.