Life as Art
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Life as Art

Existence 2

Review of Concepts Relevant to Deleuze

Image by Didgeman from Pixabay


In Being and Time, Martin Heidegger focused on the question of being in terms of how we confront our own existence and the manner in which the world appears to us.

Dasein, being there, is the term Heidegger used to describe our condition as already being in the world.

We are not separate from the world, and the central mystery for us is our existence in the world.

The distinctive feature of human existence is the practical concern we each have for our life, and the lived reality of our being in a world not of our choosing.

Human existence is not just to be, but to care. There is something internal to existence beyond things. We are self-interpreting animals and the interpretation is constitutive of the interpreter.

Existence in This World

Heidegger asserts that our existence in this world is a shared and social one, and our primary task is that of becoming individuals, finding an authentic mode of personal existence.

We are continually forced to make choices without having any certainty as to the outcomes.

We are thrown into our commitments and are motivated by the experience of anxiety to become authentic, to embrace our projects as our own.

And through our projects, the world takes on meaning for us.

The Other

But the world is not created by our projects. There is an otherness to the world, a strangeness to the world.

The world includes other people, and we are revealed in the projects of others not just our own.

When I am engaged unreflectively in my projects, I am in a first person sense absorbed in the world. But when I am aware I am being looked at, watched, I am in a third person sense alienated from my own being.

My self-understanding already belongs to the world, is derived in the world, belongs to me, and yet does not belong to me.


Authenticity is the attitude in which I engage in projects as my own.

I only do something authentically if I choose to do it as my own, if I commit to it as my own; only then am I myself.

Authenticity is the transparency of being myself, a recognition of the responsibility of being who I am.

It is an integrity with which I commit to my projects, an integrity regarding a narrative of my life, a story of what sort of person I am. Authenticity is a mark of autonomy, my ability to choose who I am.


In Being and Nothingness, Jean Paul Sartre continued Heidegger’s project by asserting that freedom is the essential condition of human life, the freedom to choose our fundamental projects.

In a world in which there is no ground to our values, we must choose our projects and thereby create our values. But our freedom to create our own values in an otherwise meaningless world necessarily bases such freedom in anxiety, nothingness and absurdity.

We experience anguish as a result of being radically free, but continually separated from ourselves by nothingness.

Nonetheless, we must develop an authentic stance to our freely chosen values, for they assist us in completing our projects. We must continually re-choose, re-commit.

Existence Preceeds Essence

The values that shape my life are created through choices I make in life. This is who I become.

There is no inherent human nature, no essence of life. My identity is constructed by living life.

And so, existence not an instantiation of the essence of life. Existence comes first. “Existence precedes essence.


When I am geared into my projects, the character of the world is transparent to me, as is my meaning. When this passion fades, the world becomes absurd.

Freedom based in the anxiety of being forced to create meaning in an otherwise meaningless world tends to pull me away from my projects, resulting in a loss of the sense of who I am.

Faced with the possibility of my own extinction, I am spurred on to authentically engage in my projects. Commitment and engagement in my projects is the basis for an authentic, meaningful life.

Situated Character

But I do not commit to my projects in a social, historical or political vacuum. There is a situated character to my self-making.

We create our self in a situation we are born into. Our authenticity takes place in a social, historical and political setting.

Therefore, the authentic existence is one in which we commit to our projects in light of history and circumstance.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading!


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Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Becoming: A Life of Pure Difference (Gilles Deleuze and the Philosophy of the New) Copyright © 2021 by Tomas Byrne. Learn more here.



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Tomas Byrne

Tomas Byrne


Jagged Tracks Music, Process Philosophy, Progressive Ethics, Transformative Political Theory, Informed Thrillers, XLawyer