Monday 16 May 2016

Death and History

Posted by Király István
Death lays the foundations of human history. However, this is only one aspect of death.

Death does not only illuminate the historically articulated human life, so to speak 'externally' — or more precisely, from its end, from an indefinite and aleatory, 'retrospective' point of view, as a foreign and external element — but it continuously interweaves, and what is more, grounds it in its most essential aspects.

To such an extent that history probably exists precisely because there is mortal human life — which is to say, a mortal human being who relates by his life to death, to his being-like-death and mortality — also in a being-like way, and mode of being-like. In other words because there is such a life to which death — its own death — in all respects lends weight, challenge, pressure — grip! — over itself and for itself, and by this a continuous and unavoidable possibility to undertake.

So, the non-human, non-Dasein*-like life which is 'finite', and as such is always born, disappears, passes away, comes into being, extinguishes, changes and evolves ... well, this life actually does not, and cannot have a history — just as the 'inorganic' regions of being have no history in fact, only in a metaphoric sense. Which of course does not mean that this life is not in motion, in change — that it is unrelated with time, or does not 'possess' time with all the processes and 'events', necessary or incidental — in the sense of their happening and references. These of course are also in touch with human history as challenges, meanings and possibilities — which is, when and if there is a questionable meaning or a question referring to meaning. So they have a story, but do not have a history — to the extent that this story of beings devoid of history only becomes — or only can become! — a history of being by history.

In accordance with this reasoning, history exists in fact because there is human death, because there are beings who relate to death — explicitly or implicitly — in and with their being, in and with their mode of being, in a being-like way — for whom death, their own death is not a mere givenness, but — by the way they relate to it — is, in fact, a possibility.

Moreover, it is a possibility which, by its own 'substantive' happening, is dying — precisely by its dying but always beyond it. It is a possibility which derives — and constitutes and structures, articulates, permeates, colours — all of their other modes and possibilities of being. In other words, it opens them up really and truly, structures them open in — and precisely because of — its finitude. And by this, it also lends to these possibilities a well-defined importance, open towards, and from, this finitude, which also leads in fact to the articulation of these modes of being.

If the various modes and regions of human existence — as well as their birth and changes in time — can prove that their very existence, meaning and change is utterly unthinkable and 'absurd' without death, or that death plays a direct or indirect role in their coming into being or changes, then it is also proved that death grounds, originates, and constitutes history in the … essential, ontological sense.

*Dasein is a German word which literally means 'being there' or 'presence'.

Király V. István is an Associate Professor in the Hungarian Department of Philosophy of the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania. This post is an extract selected by the Editors, and slightly adjusted for the purposes of the blog,  from his new book, Death and History.


Keith said...

I see the unfurling of history, the arrow of time, and death—inextricably linked—as irresistible, irreversible correlates of entropy in the universe. (Here using ‘entropy’ more as a metaphor for the shift toward disorder, disunity, unpredictability, and decay than in its strict thermodynamic meaning.)

kiraly said...

Thanks Martin Cohen, thanks Thomas Scarborough, thanks Philosophical Investigations !!!

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Thank you, too, István. We ourselves did not recognise the true potential of this essay. Published this morning at 30 past GMT, it shot past our daily, weekly, and monthly rankings, to become our no. 4 post of all time. IN ONE DAY. And it is still going up.

docmartincohen said...

A thoughtful essay, indeed. and part of Király István's larger book project. It all reminds me of one of those gloom Biblical observations:

‘Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless.’

Unknown said...

Reading the essay it seems to me a bit as if I would read in the book "Being and Time" by Martin Heidegger...
Theo Olivet

kiraly said...

Thanks! My book is one DIALOG and with the Being and Time... But my analyses about the being of the past, of the future, of The Nothing, Never, Terrorism etc. it's entirely news...

For... more ... please visit my page:

Best regards!

kiraly said...

For the best information of the Visitors I reproduce here the little Excerpt... and the ANALYTIC CONTENT of the Book:

The analyses investigate the possibilities and foundations of a completely new philosophy of history, although outlined in dialogue with M. Heidegger. The fundamental questions the author asks are: Why, wherefrom is there history? Why are we humans historical? Why is there historiography? Primarily and ultimately, the response to each of these questions is: because we are MORTAL.

Accordingly, the first chapter tackles the possibilities and lays the foundations of an ontology of history. Built upon these, the second chapter analyses the being of the PAST and its existential characteristics – as NOT-BEING-ANY-MORE, as HAD-BEEN-NESS. Chapter three turns towards the FUTURE and analyses its existential characteristics as NOT-YET-BEING. Chapter four is an explicit return to the dialogue with Heidegger, which surfaces the main aspects of the essential belonging together of the fundaments and origins of philosophy and history. The Appendix is an applied philosophical research related to the previous subjects which examines the interlacements of DEATH and SECRET in the phenomenon of TERRORISM.


Human Finitude and History - Prolegomena to the Possibility of a “Philosophy of History” and Ontology of History

- Heidegger’s phenomenological interpretations of Aristotle
- Leviathan and the “human things”
- Being and Time – death and history

Excursus: The Human life on Earth

- History – Freedom – Death

“HAD-BEEN-NESS” AND PAST ¬¬¬– History and memory.
An Essay in applied philosophical dialogue with Martin Heidegger

Excursus nr.1: “The Nothing"
Excursus nr.2: On the "NEVER"
- A.) The temporality of the “phenomenon of guilt” in Heidegger’s work
- B.) The analysis of the “NEVER”

The Future, Or, Questioningly Dwells the Mortal Man…
Question-Points to Time

- The Future and its coming

HISTORIALITY – MORTALITY – FACTICITY. The Foundation of Philosophy and Atheism in Heidegger's Early Works - Prolegomena to an Existential-Ontological Perspective

Life – Death – Secret – Terrorism

Illustrations: Teodora COSMAN, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres, Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Philosophies of Being. I wonder István how you would reply to what is perhaps the core criticism:

that Being and non-Being are not categories, they are not predicators, they are not families of things, or whatever one should name them. The same is said to apply of course to existence and non-existence. Or to put it another way, such concepts are said to have no place in semantic networks.

Yes, it is a big question that I ask. Perhaps it would require another essay! I am surprised through your post incidentally, that the categories of Being and non-Being still resonate as they do today.

kiraly said...

Thanks Thomas,

It's not enough place here for one detailed response. But I can done for You the links to the full text of one of my essays: The Names of the Nothing: a.)
and b.)

All the Bests!

kiraly said...

I Agree and Thanks, Keith

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Thank you István for the papers. It is much appreciated. I was able to access ResearchGate so far (the connection is iffy in Africa), and this gave me a good idea of your foundations.

kiraly said...

If You have difficultis to acces my page and the full text, please one email address for the pdf to

docmartincohen said...

Yes, it reminds me of the debate in English language philosophy over 'is'...

kiraly said...

Yes, "is" as copula and "is" as (general and un-definit) attribute... But the essence of the problem rest existential-ontological. When I tell "Is the Himalaya" that is not only one constatation. Himalaya meant for us, humans, one culture, one alpinist challenge, one subject for more scientific research (geography, climatology, anthropology etc.) All of this is presents in the horizons of the "expression": "Is Himalaya"...

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