Father William J. Richardson on Marilyn Monroe's meaningfullessness.
The nub of Heidegger's analysis of the world that Dasein finds itself "in" lies in a distinction between (1) the network
of people and things that surround us and make up the various intertwining segments of our daily lives (professional,
personal, social, etc.) and (2) the larger context, the broader horizon of pervasive meaningfulness within which
everything that is is encountered and takes its meaning. The former we can refer to as "my" "world" or "your" "world,"
or as one's" own" "world," or the" ontic" "world" (from Greek ὄντα meaning the plurality of what is)—in short, a
"world" made up of beings, even if taken in their totality. The latter is for Heidegger the world as such. Marilyn
Monroe's "own" world on that last desperate day, for example, included the bed, the telephone, the four walls of
her messy room, the pills, the swimming pool outside, the people she spoke with (e.g., Greenson) or did not speak
with (e.g., Bobby Kennedy), the millions of fans who knew her only on the screen. All these beings had a meaning
for her in one way or another, but a larger pattern was always already functioning to make that meaning possible.
We become aware of that larger pattern, Heidegger argues, when something goes wrong in our own familiar world of
every day. Suppose, for example, you were having a crucial telephone conversation with someone like Marilyn and for
whatever crazy reason you were cut off. It would be easy to realize how complex was the skein of people this involved
in that moment. Obviously the patient herself with all her tangled relationships would be implicated, but consider
the phone itself and all that it involves. First there is the human world that invented it, then produced it. Then
there is the physical world out of which it is fashioned, contributing resources that gestated for thousands of years,
then the laws of the electromagnetic world reaching out beyond the stars to permit it to function. Yet all these
numberless factors do not suffice to make the telephone work, for they presuppose something furthersome all-pervasive
pattern of meaningfulness that permits them to interrelate in some meaningful way. It is this web of beings plus
the matrix that lets them be meaningful that is disclosed in the moment of breakdown. It is the matrix itself that
Heidegger understands by the world, and since the analysis is made by Dasein and for Dasein, Dasein is its ultimate
point of reference.
"Heidegger and the Problem of World