Heidegger: On “Boredom”


In Chapter 1 of Part 1 of The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, after attempting to critique four interpretations of our contemporary situation (Oswald Spengler, Ludwig Klages, Max Scheler, and Leopold Ziegler) and the Nietzschean source of those interpretations, Heidegger views profound boredom “as the concealed fundamental attunement of the interpretations of our situation provided by the philosophy of culture” (74). Nevertheless, Heidegger finds that the means by which such a philosophy of culture interprets our contemporary “fails to take hold of us or even grip us” (75). In effect, any interpretation along this line—by a philosophy of culture—is mistaken about our contemporary situation, since it, according to Heidegger, ultimately, “unties us from ourselves in imparting us in a role in world history” (77). Because of this, Heidegger suggests that we must “seek a role for ourselves”—because, we have, in turn, “become bored with ourselves” (77). What, exactly, does Heidegger mean by “becom[ing] bored with ourselves,” if we can say that this is disclosed in boredom?

Perhaps, boredom, as a condition of “ourselves,” is a state-of-mind, or a mood of Dasein. If viewed this way, it becomes apparent that, through the mood of Dasein, the concept of boredom is a constitutive state-of-mind: boredom is a category of mood (i.e. anxiety), which is the grounding of our contemporary situation as a hermeneutical situation. The extent to which boredom becomes a profound boredom is rooted in this “situation”—contemporary and/or hermeneutical—as it comes to bear on “seek[ing] a role for ourselves” and what I would call the meaning of the fundamental attunement of Dasein as-it-is, or can-be, as-Da-sein. This brings Heidegger to the following question: “Do things ultimately stand in such a way with us that a profound boredom draws back and forth like a silent fog in the abysses of Dasein?”(77). In other words, if the fundamental attunement of Dasein, too, “draws back and forth like a silent fog,” what makes Dasein as-it-is, or can-be, as Da-sein is in the constitution of “the abysses of Dasein”—that is, what can be considered as the fundamental in-ness of “the abysses” that give rise, disclose, summon, or unconceal forms of boredom individually predicated on its manifestations of attunement.

In Chapters 2, 3, and 4, Heidegger outlines three forms of boredom respectively as “becoming bored by something,” “being bored with something,” and “profound boredom as ‘it is boring for one.’” Each of these forms of boredom are, according to Heidegger, characterized with respect to individual relationships with temporality—more specifically, though, in each of these forms of boredom, temporality exhibits a specific (or special) character that makes each form of boredom in a narrow sense and, then, more generally, makes each significant to the overall fundamental attunement of Dasein “as it is, or can-be, as Da-sein.” Heidegger poses the questionableness of boredom in terms of “awakening [the] fundamental attunement [of Dasein] as letting it be awake, [and] as guarding against it falling sleep” (78). This is announced in the title of Section 19, and suggests that this first form of boredom is foundational to the other two—that is to say, if we can assume that Heidegger begins with this first form as a means of building upon it the other two, not just as other manifestations (or forms) of boredom, but as oscillations of boredom. This makes Heidegger’s assertion about the fundamental attunement of Dasein “draw[ing] back and forth like a silent fog” grounded in an understanding of the oscillation of boredom. In this back-and-forth-ness, the attunement of Dasein is measured by the temporality of that back-and-forth-ness. The “questionableness” of this back-and-forth-ness is in the degree to which we can determine if the attunement of Dasein “pervades us or not” (79). What this means, then, as Heidegger argues, is that the need to escape boredom in a general sense—that is, more frankly, to not be bored, or become trapped in a state of boredom and so forth—does not truly happen authentically in the situations in which boredom is confronted, because there remains, for us, a not-knowing and not-being-acquainted with the essence of boredom ultimately tied “to the way in which we are, to our situation” (79). Boredom itself—as the essence of boredom—is so inextricably linked to our situations that there is: 1.) no way to actually escape it as an authentic act of resistance, and 2.) since it is relegated/regulated by time, difficult to know when boredom “pervades” us in its own authenticity.

In Chapter 5, Heidegger builds on the three forms of boredom by reconsidering the meaning of the question of profound boredom as the fundamental attunement of Dasein to critique a specific “being left empty” and a specific “being held in limbo,” which, taken together as “the most extreme demand on Dasein,” lead into “help[ing] bring to word that which Dasein wishes to speak about in this fundamental attunement” (167). In this “fundamental attunement,” there is something that “addresses us and summons us to action and to being [but also] we are to understand this word, i.e., to project the truth of fundamental attunement upon this essential content” (167). This word—upon which “[the] essential content” has the truth of fundamental attunement projected—becomes part and parcel of the manner in which metaphysical questioning is developed from the attunement of profound boredom. This word is “world”—and by way of metaphysical questioning, we must ask: what is world? Not only does “world” and “what is world?” both arise respectively as metaphysical/comprehensive thinking and metaphysical (comprehensive) questioning, but both, as centerpieces of Part II, disclose the “as a whole”-ness, when as-a-whole “manifests itself in profound boredom, as world” (169).

For Heidegger, since profound boredom in our contemporary Dasein contains a fundamental attunement to it, the profoundness—or the profundity itself—of boredom solicits a kind of questioning (metaphysical questioning, that is) that revolves around world, individuation, and finitude, but is rooted essentially/fundamentally in the essence of time. To arrive at this specific kind of questioning, we must take, first, “what it is that this profound boredom properly and really gives us to question” (170) the relationship/relatedness of world, individuation, and finitude. From this, Heidegger proposes we ask about the “necessity” of this relationship/relatedness “between expanse and extremity, between horizon and moment of vision, between world and individuation, and why does it arise?”—when the “it” we are speaking of is profound boredom (170). As a result, Heidegger concludes that “the fundamental attunement of boredom is rooted in the temporality of Dasein [and] the temporality of Dasein and thus the essence of time itself is the root of these three questions which in themselves, in their own peculiar unity and connection, express the fundamental question of metaphysics” (173). Heidegger furthers this by suggesting that this—the rooted-ness of questions concerning world, individuation, and finitude in the fundamentality of the question of metaphysics—“is what we have called the question concerning being: Being and Time” (173).

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