What makes me separate from you?
Abstract: In this paper I have explored the question "What makes me separate from another person?" by considering it in three different ways: firstly in terms of religion and the supernatural; secondly through the discourse of Martin Heidegger and his notions of thrownness and Dasein; thirdly through the discourse of Particle Physics. Finally I considered what implications the conclusions that I reached from these explorations had for me personally and as a therapist.

Key Words:

God, reincarnation, thrownness, Dasein, Being/being, nothingness, death, anxiety, ontology, temporality, Being-being, the atom, fundamental particles, String theory, M theory.
Article Type: Essay
Subject: Reincarnation (Analysis)
Ontology (Analysis)
Nothing (Philosophy) (Analysis)
Author: Parry, David
Pub Date: 01/01/2010
Publication: Name: Existential Analysis Publisher: Society for Existential Analysis Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Society for Existential Analysis ISSN: 1752-5616
Issue: Date: Jan, 2010 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 1
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United Kingdom Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom
Accession Number: 288874129
Full Text: Introduction

The question I want to explore in this paper is: "What makes me separate from another person?" This question seems related to an experience I had some years ago while watching an ant going about its business. While watching this ant a statement emerged from me, to me, stating that "you [that is, I] could have been this ant". Spontaneously I also found myself responding to this statement by mouthing the words "and why not?" As soon as these communications emerged in my awareness it made intuitive sense to me. Having this realisation I then became aware of various ethical implications such as how could I justify hurting this ant in any way, if I could have been this ant. I also began to consider that if circumstances had been different and I could have been this ant then, by extension, I could have been another person or 'any-thing'. These musings have stayed with me since that time and they have finally led me to explore the question 'What makes me separate from another person?' The hope is that through exploring this question it will shed light on my initial intuitions that I had way back then.

How am I different from another person?

Firstly, I reflected upon the possible ways in which we apparently differ from one another. For instance is it our differing physical appearances, the descriptions and terms that we use to categorise and define one another (so often not of our own making and inherited); our subjectivity: our experience of being-in-the-world (-universe?) which is mine and separate from others and which, therefore, makes me separate from you?

God, the supernatural, reincarnation and fate

I next considered that our separateness is because a God/Gods (or some other supernatural force) somehow decreed and created me (1) to be me and you to be you. If this is so, then it would seem to follow that any child born with a life threatening condition or conditions; or born with something considered to be a restriction to their well being or potential for what is considered to be the norm in expected development, that this was also, preordained. Some religions such as, Buddhism (2) address this matter by proposing that we somehow deserve or are given our situation in life, due to something we did in our previous life/lives: we are re-incarnated. Both of these explanations, of how we came to exist, appear to, unequivocally, assign our individuality, as a person, to predestination whereby we are either, created and designed by a God or Gods; or exist due to the law of cause and effect, Karma (3).

Karma is the notion that our (previous and present) actions and whether they are intended to do good or harm to others (ourselves?) and the world, largely, determine the circumstances in which we find ourselves to be involved, in our present (and future existence?) existence. However, how ethical is it of a God/Gods to devise some situation by making you you and me me, each of us with our own circumstances as part of their 'Big experiment' and/or for some (not totally explained) purpose? Furthermore, not having personally any remembrances or inkling of having existed previously, it seems, I have no evidence to offer in support of reincarnation. The notion of reincarnation appears to be based on the premise that the universe is cyclical and consequently everything gets recycled and is, in a sense, reborn but how this logic makes it possible for a person to die and then be reincarnated in another existence or realm is unclear to me. Nonetheless, the notion that the implications of our actions (be they intended or not) impact on our present and future (4) and, in a sense live on after we die does seem reasonable and understandable. Moreover, if it is accepted that our actions have consequences (be they intended or not) for ourselves, others the world and beyond, then it does seem essential for us to question and reflect upon how much we contribute to our own and others' problems through our actions if we are to make any claims to being ethical.

The other possibility is that it is our fate to be who we are as individuals and separate from one another and to be born into our particular circumstances. But 'fate' is such an opaque notion that promises far less than it delivers. Martin Heidegger, perhaps, offered another interpretation of fate, in this context, with his notion that we are 'thrown' into existence.

Thrownness and Dasein

Heidegger's notion of thrownness is inextricably linked with Dasein:

As something thrown, Dasein has been thrown into existence. It exists as an entity which has to be as it is and as it can be.

(Heidegger, 1926:1962, p.321; H 276)

Thus Dasein has been thrown into existence and has to be as it is (in existence as Dasein) and as it can be (which implies it can choose how to be and therefore has possibilities).

Dasein's Origins and Destiny

But where did Dasein come from? Regarding the origins of Dasein, Heidegger writes,

In the first part of this sentence, from Being and Time, Heidegger refers to our origins (our whence) and our destination (our whither). Regarding our origins, presumably, Heidegger is referring to the twin explanations for these origins which are: firstly our religious-mystical beliefs about how we came to exist, that is, it was God's/Gods' will that we exist or we are some form of reincarnation; and secondly to our possibility for reason and to the fruits of such reason regarding our antecedents, such as Evolutionary theory; or more basically one's parentage. However, irrespective of whether Dasein is assured in its beliefs and rational explanations concerning its 'whither' and 'whence' it is nonetheless confronted by the phenomenological facts of the case, which are, that it exists. Moreover, it is the mood that Dasein finds itself in that brings it face to face with its existence and the enigma of its existence. It is, therefore, the potential and possibility to be aware of one's moods and presumably able to reflect on one's moods that are key characteristics of Dasein and which enable it to be its 'there', that is, aware and self aware. Or, is it that our moods somehow make us aware and self aware?; that awareness and self awareness somehow springs from our moods?


In these extracts Heidegger states that ontologically the term existentia refers to Being-present-at-hand. However, this term is totally inappropriate for entities of Dasein's character and instead the term existence will be solely allotted to Dasein. Therefore, only Dasein can be said to have an existence; and existence seems to be a qualitatively superior and different kind of Being, than Being-present-at-hand, which is presumably all that other entities can experience, that is, 'existentia'. Moreover, the 'essence' of this entity (Dasein) lies in its "to be" that is, its existence. It seems, therefore, that Heidegger is equating Being with existing or existence or at least as the site-designation (the, there) of Being.

Dasein and ontology

For Heidegger there is something, consequently, significant and unique about our (human) experience of Being that requires naming. In this regard,

In these extracts Heidegger begins by pointing out that Dasein is unique among entities because in its Being, Being is an issue for it; presumably this is why Heidegger describes human beings as ontological, that is with the possibility to be, concerned with ontology; that is, concerned about the meaning of entities; and because Being is an issue for Dasein it must therefore be a constitutive state of Dasein. It therefore follows that Dasein in its Being must have a relationship towards that Being, a relationship which is one of Being: perhaps the relationship which Heidegger is referring to is the way that we are and can be highly reflective on our-self, others, the world, the universe and our experiences. Moreover there is something peculiar (strange and remarkable) that Dasein with and through its Being, this Being is disclosed to it; and understanding of Being is itself characteristic of Dasein's being. Thus there is something about us as Daseins (humans) that enables us to understand Being. This understanding seems linked to what is for Heidegger, perhaps, our most telling and distinguishing characteristic, which is that it we are concerned about the meaning of Being (6) whereas other (living?) entities can presumably only have, to use Heidegger's word, ontic (non-ontological) concerns.


It is, therefore, as if we need to encounter (relate to?) the Being of entities other than Dasein as it opens up the possibility to clarify not only what it means for them to exist but also in so doing it raises our understanding and awareness of our own experience of Being. Therefore being-with other entities in some way contextualises our understanding of existence (what it involves and means to be?). As I reflected on this passage from Being and Time further, I became aware of how my understanding of Being was challenged by my encounter with the ant and how Heidegger's reasoning in this passage together with my own interpretation of his discourse has cast further light on this encounter.

Having cleared some of the ground regarding the 'what and how' of Dasein this seems a good place to return to exploring what Heidegger meant by the notion of thrownness for if the notion of thrownness can in some way be illuminated, then the 'what and how' of Dasein may also be further disclosed.

Thrownness, nothingness, death and anxiety

In this extract Heidegger defines Dasein "As being" something that has been thrown into its "there" (awareness of its existence) but not of its own accord. Consequently Dasein did not lay the basis (for its self) because it was thrown, not of its own accord into existence; and in the process delivered over to existence as the potentiality-for-Being which it finds to be burdensome as indicated by its mood.

And the mood that is most significant for Dasein is:

Anxiety according to Heidegger individualises Dasein because it makes it aware of itself and to such an extent that it somehow and in some way understands itself; and this understanding by extension enables it to, or provides it with, the possibility to project itself onto-into other entities and possibilities, for example, through being able to imagine and/or empathise. Thus anxiety or rather our experience of anxiety makes our understanding of thrownness possible (it is in some sense our understanding?) which is, that we have to be (and to be involves choosing, making decisions, taking/avoiding responsibility); and with this understanding comes the realisation that we are born to die: and this way-of-being is unique to being human. Furthermore,

The Self, therefore, can never be the basis of our existence because it also has not chosen to be, it has emerged due to Dasein's entry into and encounter with the world which is in the embodied form of Being, that is, the (human) form of Being which in turn is an (and can be a highly-) individualised way of being. Therefore, so as to be the Self, the Self has to take over as its own basis and become its basis even though it was not originally its own basis and it can never get that basis into its power. The corollary of this state of affairs is that Dasein is not itself and never can be itself because it was thrown and as such has to be what it is and can be, although it never can be what it was originally before it was thrown and became (self) aware due to finding itself in a mood.

Thrownness can, therefore, be interpreted as the way in which we experience our delivery-arrival-emergence into the world as embodied awareness. What is certain (or as certain as our own death) is that we are thrown into the world unconsulted (or as Heidegger writes "not of our own accord"). This phenomenal fact carries with it the possible implication that we are predetermined into existence through being thrown into the world by some 'force'. However this notion of thrownness could also be interpreted as a description of our origins, inasmuch as we are thrown into the world unconsulted and that chance and probability, that is, 'circumstances', did the 'throwing'. It is also possible that the notion of thrownness indicates and describes the randomness of finding that we experience being (Being) in the body and circumstances (historic time, family, society, culture) that we do.

With the notion of thrownness it seems, therefore, that Heidegger is referring to how we experience our arrival, our emergence, our delivery into the world and existence and also how we came to be, which is, we are (factically) thrown into existence. Heidegger, therefore, seems to have little to say about where we came from, our origins. Consequently he also appears to have little to say regarding what happens after we die, limiting his explorations, thinking and analysis of Being, as it were, to existence and the end of our existence is, presumably, the end of Dasein. Regarding these matters Heidegger writes:

So, it seems that Heidegger definitely thought that death was the end of Dasein, that is, its existence.

However, how justified is it to differentiate, with the term Dasein, between our and other entities' experience of Being. This differentiation seems to rely on the proposition that the being of the human experience of Being is qualitatively and significantly different from other entities'or beings' experience of Being. This conclusion stems mainly from Heidegger's assertion that we are the only form of being that can and does question and understand Being. Dasein is therefore, it seems according to Heidegger, a (distinct) form of being and not (perhaps) a variation on the theme of Being. However, is it more phenomenologically accurate to say that: a) there are different forms of Being or b) there are variations on the theme of Being, or can both descriptions be accurate? The question which therefore emerges in this paper, as it did for Heidegger, is for the need to try to clarify whether 'Being/being' can be differentiated from 'Being/being'?

Regarding this matter Heidegger wrote:

If being is not itself a being, how then does it nevertheless belong to beings, since, after all, beings and only beings are? What does it mean to say that being belongs to beings? ... We must ... bring out clearly the difference between being and beings....

(Heidegger, 1982-1988, p.17)

Clearly Heidegger thought that there is a fundamental difference between beings and being, which is, that while being belongs to every being, being is not itself a being. Perhaps, for the reader, one of the key difficulties of understanding the discourse by Heidegger concerning the matter of being is in the way that he writes being: for example in the sentence "We meet with a being's being in the understanding of being." (Ibid, p, 18) it seems that the term 'being', is used in three apparently different senses: the first two senses involve the being of a being, these are, respectively, the 'how' and the 'what' of the being, then there is the understanding of being (existence-existing?). A further difficulty is that Heidegger sometimes writes being with a capital B and not at other times, without explaining precisely why: for example in the sentence:

But if the variations of Being are to be Interpreted for everything of which we say, "It is", we need an idea of Being in general, and this idea needs to have been adequately illumined in advance.

(Heidegger, 1926-1962, p.382; H 333)

In an attempt to make these distinctions clearer and simpler I will use the term Being as a way of referring to whatever 'it' is and being as a way of referring to the forms/variations of being (that is, the 'what' and the 'how') that Being 'belongs to'.

Having tried to justify why there is a need to distinguish clearly between Being and being I will now return to the discourse of Heidegger. According to Heidegger:

Every being is something; it has it's what and as such has a specific possible mode of being.... Can the reason every being must and can have a what, a ti, and a possible way of being be grounded in the meaning of being itself, that is to say, Temporally? Do these characteristics, whatness and way-of-being.... belong to being itself? "Is" being articulated by means of these characteristics in accordance with its essential nature?

(Heidegger, 1982-1988, p.18)

In this extract Heidegger states that every being is something (that is, it has its specific characteristics). Furthermore, it (that is, this some-thing) has its what (ti) and as such has a specific possible mode of being: for example a human being has a distinctive what-ness its 'ti' and also and presumably because of this distinctive what-ness it therefore has distinctive possible ways of being. Heidegger then asks whether the reason every being must and can have its own what-ness and way of being is grounded in the meaning of being itself that is to say Temporally? But what did Heidegger mean by the term 'Temporally' in this context?


For Heidegger there is, therefore, something highly significant about our relationship and understanding of time that is, our sense of time or more accurately our sense of Temporality. This relationship involves the apparent unity of our past (the having been) our now (en-presenting) and (to look forward to the) future: it therefore involves the way in which we are able to retain (have memory) and connect our having been (the having been) with our sense of now whilst being able to project our understandings into-onto the future of possibilities and likelihoods; and this way of being separates us from the way in which other forms of being relate to and understand their experience of time. Moreover, whereas other entities such as a rock exist in time we are temporal beings because our existence and way of being is informed by the fact that we are aware that we have been thrown into existence and born to die. Our relationship with and understanding of time thus provides and discloses our special understanding of being/Being. Thus Being in Heidegger's terms seems to mean to exist and our special understanding of Being reveals and illuminates its essential nature which is time, that is Being is there in time, they are inextricably implicated hence it could be written as Being-Time.


But the question still remains, what is meant by and how can we interpret the word Being?

At this stage of the paper I became uneasy that I may have misinterpreted what Heidegger meant when he used the term Being: could it be that he was referring to it as meaning how all entities experience existing? My uncertainty led me to conclude that there is a need for some further distinctions regarding the term Being. Firstly there is the distinction that I have just mentioned which is that being can be used to refer to the experience of everything that exists including the existence of human beings, that is assuming that being, that is to exist, can be understood to contain universalities and that these features (or some or most of them?) are shared by all entities. Ontology on these terms would involve trying to understand the meaning of existing-existence (that is assuming that there is justification to differentiate between existing and existence and that such a differentiation can be achieved). Secondly there is the experience of being (existing) as experienced by the individual. Then there is the experience of being that is experienced by the particular form of being experiencing it; and lastly there is Being that is the basis (the a priori) of all forms/variations of being, that is assuming, that there is such a 'whatever it is'. However instead or writing 'whatever it is' I will tend to use the term Being as it is less grammatically cumbersome. As understood in these terms, beings would emerge from Being. Being would transcend every form/variation of being because it is the fundamental and unifying condition of 'all that is' in the universe. Being and being are therefore intimately related hence (and following Heidegger's convention) their need to be connected by a hyphen, thus Being-being; and because Being (it would seem) always precedes the form of being that it emerges into and becomes and therefore shows itself to be in, it will be written as Being-being.

Another way of exploring this reasoning is by considering that if it is accepted that Dasein did not choose to be then it also follows that Dasein could not choose the form of being that it emerged as, that is as Dasein. If this is so then no entity can be said to have chosen to be in the existent form that it is. Therefore our sense of individuality only emerges in the circumstances that we find ourselves involved in as the form of being that we are, for example as an embodied human being. If this is so then there is no 'me' waiting to be born my sense of 'me-ness' only emerges through my thrownness in the form of being and in the circumstances that I find myself involved in. Does this mean, therefore, that prior to its emergence as whatever form of being that 'it' emerges as, that there is some unknown phenomenon/a (Being?) that has the potential and possibility to become whatever form of being that it does through chance, circumstance and probability? This latter conclusion allows for Being to become whatever form of Being-being that it does through 'its' thrownness (emergence) into the world, for example, as Being-being-chimpanzee. Therefore if it is accepted that prior to its thrownness Being is a non-specific possibility-potentiality to become whatever form of Being-being that it does through circumstance then it also follows that all forms of being share this as the basis for their being.

Or can, for example, Dasein only ever be Dasein? In that case, it is predetermined to be Dasein even if the precise circumstances under which this predetermination occurs are unclear. Although it could be argued that, obviously, one's parentage determines the form of Being that emerges into the world. But is that so?

One of the ways in which these questions can be explored and investigated is by considering if there are other entities or forms of Being-being on this planet that seem to share the characteristics that Heidegger attributed (uniquely) to (and are associated with) Dasein and which thereby, according to Heidegger's reasoning and analysis, make the designating of an entity as 'Dasein' necessary. Then, if such findings emerged, it would challenge Heidegger's claim as to Dasein's uniqueness and necessity and in the process could cast light upon the notions of Being and being.

To begin, from what we are currently discovering and perhaps rediscovering and acknowledging about other animals' awareness of themselves, for example, chimpanzees and dolphins (Janik et al, 2006; Reiss & Marino, 2001) (8) is that: it is not only the human form of Being-being that is individualised through coming into Being-being, although it does seem reasonable to say that no other entity or form of Being-being on this planet, apparently, has the possibility for such penetrating and intense self awareness (and therefore individuality and awareness of others) and powers of reflection that our human form of Being-being seems to have. In this regard, all that can really be asserted is that we human beings, as far as we have thus far found out, have the most potential for and possibility of, awareness and reflection as compared with other forms of Being-being on this planet; and that this awareness enables and is intimately linked to, our sense of individuality (separateness). There is also evidence accumulating from observing and interpreting the actions of other forms of Being-being that challenges the view that we have ways of being that are solely and uniquely ours (Kenneally, 2008) (9).

Is it therefore reasonable and descriptively adequate to conclude that as Being, apparently, becomes more complex in its configurations as Being-being that the possibility for the intensity of (self) awareness and reflection also increases?: this line of reasoning is based on the premise that the human form of Being-being is more complex in its configurations than any other form of Being-being that we are aware of. If this is so, then it also seems reasonable to say that Being has emergent and potential properties-possibilities that in circumstances (that may not be fully understood) whatever 'it' is and 'it' may not be an 'it' as we traditionally understand this notion/concept (for example in being able to define, isolate and describe) 'it' becomes self-aware? (that is, aware of itself). This would seem to be so and not only that, for it would also seem to be so that, this form of self awareness once it has become sufficiently or has the possibility to become sufficiently self aware of its Being-being, that Being and its being become an issue for it. This conclusion is supported by Heidegger's reasoning that due to Dasein finding itself in some mood it has the possibility to realise that it can never be its own basis because it realises that it was thrown into existence and consequently is unsure of its origins and identity. However, it cannot be concluded from this reasoning that our form of Being-being is the only form of Being-being that has the problematic of thrownness to negotiate. In fact, it would seem that thrownness is an inevitable feature of all forms of Being-being and Being in general, in the sense that Being it seems is (as far as we know) always in the process of change (no matter how rapidly or slowly) and therefore becoming without being able to choose what it will become and is going to become. It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that no form of Being-being actually chose to be as it is and can be said to be its own original basis in the Heideggerian sense. Perhaps, therefore, the distinguishing feature between our experience as beings in their thrownness and other forms of being in their thrownness is that we have found ways through our respective languages to share our experiences of thrownness with one another, whereas we have not found, as yet, that we have been able to do this with other living entities. Or, to say it another way, just because other living entities, apparently, cannot tell us if they are experiencing their thrownness as beings as we possibly do, this does not necessarily mean that they do not; and more specifically it does not necessarily mean that they (or at least some of them) are not aware that they are born to die and experience anxiety and unease at this prospect, no matter how dimly it is experienced.

Being and physics

From a Physics perspective the basic form of Being-being is the atom with sub atomic particles being the most fundamental, as far as we know; although it maybe that some or all of these known sub atomic particles are in turn constituted by or have emerged from an as-yet-to-be-discovered constituent or constituents such as String theory or M theory allows for and necessitates (10). Therefore trying to find the end point, that is, the essence of Being or how Being, as it were, came to be is proving illusive, despite our evidence base regarding the theory of the big bang (11) .

It could be said, therefore, that sub atomic particles are forms of Being-being and this statement would particularly apply if they are found to be constituted by or to have emerged from some other whatever 'it' is. Furthermore, apparently, the whole of the universe that we are in (as far as we know) consists of atoms and therefore sub atomic particles (there is however doubt and debate regarding the constitution of dark matter and dark energy which seems to make up most of the universe) (12). Is it therefore reasonable to conclude that the way that atoms or more precisely sub atomic particles and whatever dark matter and dark energy consist of and the identified forces of the universe (13) all interact, that these are, as far as we are currently aware, the best candidates for the fundamental constituents ('building blocks') of Being? This is even though we apparently need another field-particle such as the Higgs-Boson (14) to explain how particles acquire their mass and therefore have the potential to become matter-entities.

Nonetheless, regardless of what the basis for Being is, 'it', that is whatever 'it' is, appears to have the possibility and potential to become whatever 'it' can become through chance (circumstance) and probability (evolution?) (15). What we are clearer about is that everything in the world consists of atoms (although where and when dark matter and dark energy precisely make their presence felt is debatable). As this is so, then it is possible to reason that as atoms (and by implication sub atomic particles) become more complex in their configurations and if the human form of Being-being is the most complex configuration of atoms that we are aware of, then to repeat the earlier conclusion: it seems reasonable to say that as Being becomes more complex in its configurations as Being-being then, in circumstances which are not yet and may never be totally definable Being as Being-being has the potential and possibility to become self-aware and reflective. Or, to say it another way the possibility for the intensity of self-awareness and reflection seems to increase as Being becomes more complex in its configurations as Being-being.

How are we or are we able to understand Being?

The next question to be explored is how are we or are we able to understand Being? One way of answering this question is, if the reader accepts that all forms of being have emerged from Being, then it would seem to follow that our primordial understanding of Being and of other forms of being is because we are part of other forms of Being-being (just as they are part of us); in the sense that, we all have Being as our basis for Being-being and we share this affinity. But the big distinction between us and other forms of Being-being seems to be that, because of our potential and possibility for such intense self and other and world awareness we can be (more?), aware of this fact; and therefore have the possibility to make more use of, for example, our sympathetic responses. There is also a further implication of this awareness which is that we also have the possibility to realise that when we die it will only be in this individualised form of Being-being, as our atoms thereafter will be available to become whatever form or forms of Being-being that follow our death; and in this sense we are offered the prospect of a form of reincarnation, immortality or infinity depending, that is, on the future of the universe (or the part of the universe that we have found ourselves to be involved in) or, if there are any, multi-verses.

Therefore, when we die, we have the possibility to become part of everything that follows our death and if this is so, logically it follows that when we were born we emerged from everything that had existed up till then or at least we had the possibility to have emerged from everything that had existed up till then; these lines of reasoning are based on the notion that time is linear. Therefore, when we die, our atoms will have the possibility to become part of everything that exists in the universe or at least part of everything that exists on earth. Our atoms will therefore have the possibility to become part of any form of Being-being that through circumstances emerges after our death; and once we are in the world (or universe?) it probably seems to us as though we could only be the form of Being-being that we are. Although, perhaps, we are the only form of Being-being on this planet that can imagine, contemplate and consider that if the circumstances that led to our thrownness into the world had been different then we could have emerged as any form of Being-being.

We are also, perhaps, more importantly, due to our possibility for self-other-world awareness able to realise that we are inextricably part (as well as apart?) of everything in the world and the universe. That it is, apparently, just a matter of chance and probability (possibility) that I emerged into the world in the embodied form of Being-being that has traditionally been named as 'human' and not as some other form of Being-being, that is, anything we can say 'it' is. As such our thrownness into the world in the form of Being-being-human does not, therefore, confer on us any claims to superiority over other forms of Being-being; although ethically due to our potential and possibility for such intense self-other-world awareness and reflection this can weigh heavily on us because we can contemplate, imagine, consider and talk about the impact that our actions and inactions have had and are having on other forms of Being-being, let alone ourselves.

Furthermore, if we accept that regardless of our realisations regarding our thrownness towards death, death will only be the end of this form of Being-being; and that our atoms will, after our death, be available to become whatever they do through chance, probability and circumstance; we are therefore faced with the inevitable conclusion, it seems, which is that we are destined to be (in some form-someway- somehow) because that is how Being (apparently) is: it is always, it seems in the process of change and becoming, there is apparently, no way out of this conclusion until the end of time (in this context time is interpreted as meaning change and it, that is time, has been the index by which we have traditionally tried to understand, capture and tame change).

Do these conclusions have any implications for our work with our clients?

It seemed essential for me as a person and therapist to try to be clearer regarding my understanding of my origins and destiny and how such understanding impacted upon my ethical relationships with myself, other people and other forms of Being-being. This is particularly so as the explanations that I have been exposed to such as those provided by religion, reincarnation, the supernatural and fate have always seemed to me unsatisfying emotionally-intuitively-intellectually. My explorations and thinking therefore regarding the question "What makes me separate from you?" has raised my awareness of some issues concerning the terms Being-being and how they can impact upon my relationship with myself, my client, the world and beyond. It has therefore offered me another way of interpreting and understanding existence that has made me feel part of everything and closer to people. Although whether you, the reader, feel this way too after reading my reasoning and conclusions has to be up to you. These explorations have also helped me to realise that because we are the most complex configuration of Being-being that we are aware of, then by extension we have the most possibility to be most aware and understanding of the problematics of Being-being. It also appears that my intuitive remark to myself saying that 'I could have been an ant if my circumstances had been different' is also supported. Finally I want to thank Martin Heidegger for his original notions of 'thrownness' and 'Dasein' (16) because without them and his thinking and explorations about Being/being I am not sure how I would have gone about the task of exploring my initial communications that I had with myself regarding that ant.


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Heidegger, M., (1927/1962). Being And Time. Trans. Macquarrie, J. and Robinson, E.). Oxford UK and Cambridge U.S.A: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Heidegger, M. (1927/1982, 1988). The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Translation, Introduction and Lexicon by Hofstadter, A. Revised Edition. Indiana University Press. A Midland Book.

Hoefer, C., Causal Determinism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy first published Thu Jan 23, 2003; substantive revision Tue Apr 1, 2008. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/ (viewed on line 8-03-09)

Janik, V.M., Sayigh, L.S. and Welles, R.S. (2006) S. Signature whistle shape conveys identity information to bottlenose dolphins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) May 23, vol. 103 no. 21 8293-8297

Kenneally, Christine (2008) So you think you're Unique. New Scientist 24th May. Pp,29-34.

Lemonick M.D., (2006) The Unraveling of String Theory. Time Magazine 14th Aug. Available URL: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1226142,00.html?pro moid=googlep (Viewed on line 16-09-08).

NOVA Science Programming On air and on Line: The Elegant Universe: series host Brian Greene. Available URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/ (Viewed and Listened to 8-0908)

Reiss, D. and Marino. L, (2001). Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: A case of cognitive convergence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS May 8, Vol 98 no 10 5937-5942.

Religion & Ethics-Christianity, BBC website. Available URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/index.shtml (Viewed on line 25-09-08.)

Steinhardt, P.J. and Turok, N. (2007) Endless Universe, beyond the Big Bang. Doubleday. New York.

Williams, R. This is the transcript of an interview between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger. The Guardian, 21 March 2006. Available URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/mar/21/religion.uk (Viewed on line 2-10-08).


(1) In an interview for the Guardian Newspaper with Alan Rusbridger the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is reported as saying:

I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories. Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it's not a theory alongside theories. It's not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said well, how am I going to explain all this ... 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ...'

Rowan Williams in The Guardian, 21 March 2006 [author's emphasis]

At the BBC website Religion & Ethics-Christianity the main points of creationism are defined as these:

* All life was created by the actions of God

** Some Creationists say God did this in a single creative event

** Some Creationists don't limit creation to one event

* All the forms of life existing today were created by the actions of God

* The organisms created by God can't produce new forms of organism only God can do this

* The most common theory follows the accounts in the Biblical Book of Genesis, but most religions have their own creation story

* Modern creationism uses scientific evidence to support scripture

* Most scientists say the creationism theory is false and unscientific Creationism in depth: Creationism teaches that:

* everything in the universe has God as its ultimate cause

* the nature of life on Earth is the direct result of God's creative actions

An alternative way of putting the same idea is:

* the universe and everything in it could not have come into being without a supreme being causing it to happen

Creationism is largely based on religious belief, but gains much support from what its protagonists see as the failures of other theories to explain the evidence properly. Please note that: Different religions and cultures have different creation theories, but this article deals with the Jewish/Christian version.

(2) At BuddhaNet [A] Basic Buddhism Guide Takashi Tsuji writes "On Reincarnation":

What Reincarnation is Not

Thus it seems that the notion of reincarnation is a parable that was used by the Buddha to show people that their deeds, that is their volitional acts, have consequences not just for others, the world and beyond but also for themselves in 'some future' existence.

However on the BBC Radio Programme 'In Our Time: The Buddha', Peter Harvey Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Sunderland states that:

[The Buddha teaches us that] ... its not just the question of many past lives its the idea of innumerable past lives in various levels and forms perhaps as a human being perhaps as some kind of animal perhaps as some kind of ghost perhaps in a hell realm for a while or perhaps in one of many heaven realms for a while..the idea of various forms of beings, a kind of solidarity of different beings..beings can move across different realms according to the quality of their action..

(3) The Buddhist notion of reincarnation is inextricably linked to the notion of Karma which can be summarised as follows:

As we sow, we reap somewhere and sometime, in this life or in a future birth. What we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past.

Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

Or, as the Buddha, apparently, said,

We are the heirs of our own actions

Both of these statements can be found at: The Theory of Karma by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw at BuddhaNet Basic Buddhism Guide.

(4) The past is always open to re-interpretation, thus while we may not be able to change what happened we can change how we interpret and understand it.

(5) In the footnotes of page 32 of Being And Time the translators write:

(6) Regarding the distinction between understanding and meaning Heidegger wrote in Being and Time:

When entities within-the-world are discovered along with the Being of Dasein-we say that they have meaning [Sinn]. But that which is understood, taken strictly is not the meaning but the entity, or alternatively, Being and Time.

(Heidegger, 1926-1962, p.192; H, 151)

(7) In the following extracts from Being And Time Heidegger discusses his notion of facticity:

Yet every Dasein always exists factically ... Dasein's facticity, however is essentially distinct from the factuality of something present at hand ... Existent Dasein does not encounter itself as something present at hand within-the-world.

(Ibid, p.321; H, 276)

Whenever Dasein is, it is as a Fact; and the factuality of such a Fact is what we shall call Dasein's "facticity"....

The concept of "facticity" implies that an entity 'within-the world' has Being-in-the-world in such a way that it can understand itself as bound up in its 'destiny' with the being of those entities which it encounters within its own world.

(Ibid, p.82, H, 56)

For Heidegger whenever Dasein is, it is as a Fact. However, although it is a fact there is, nevertheless, a need to define and distinguish the way in which Dasein is a Fact. For Heidegger this need is based on the notion that Dasein is an entity within-the-world that has Being-in-the-world in such a way that it can understand itself as bound up in its own destiny with the being of those entities which it encounters within its world. Thus the term factuality is not appropriate for the way that Dasein is as a Fact in-theworld; and as such Heidegger prefers the term facticity so as to represent this significant difference between the way that Dasein is in the world as compared to other entities.

8) In a study of bottlenose dolphins the researchers write in their abstract that:

These bottlenose dolphins thus appear to be sufficiently aware to have a sense of self and to such an extent that they feel a need to name it. Another intriguing feature of this phenomenon is that the dolphins appear to name themselves whereas humans appear to, name their infants.

In signature whistle development, an infant appears to copy a whistle that it only heard rarely and then uses a slightly modified version as its own signature whistle..

(Ibid, p.8295). V.M. Janik, L.S. Sayigh and R.S.Welles (2006).

In another study of bottlenose dolphins the researchers write:

The ability to recognize oneself in a mirror is an exceedingly rare capacity in the animal kingdom. To date, only humans and great apes have shown convincing evidence of mirror self-recognition. Two dolphins were exposed to reflective surfaces, and both demonstrated responses consistent with the use of the mirror to investigate marked parts of the body. This ability to use a mirror to inspect parts of the body is a striking example of evolutionary convergence with great apes and humans.

(2001, p.5937). Diana Reiss and Lori Marino (2001).

(9) In the article, 'So you think you're Unique' (2008) Christine Kenneally presents and discusses evidence that shows that six 'uniquely' human traits have been found in animals.

(10) In the BBC TV programme 'The Big Bang Machine' Prof Brian Cox reports that we are currently aware of sixteen types of fundamental particles (2008). The following articles on 'String Theory' are very accessible in their overview of it.

(11) The evidence base for the 'Big Bang Theory' and its limitations are discussed in the following programmes:

(12) In the BBC radio programme 'In Our Time' host Melvyn Bragg discusses 'Dark Energy-A force for breaking the universe apart' with Prof Sir Martin Rees, Caroline Crawford and Sir Roger Penrose. Broadcast 17th March 2005

(13) The identified forces of the universe are the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, Gravity and electromagnetism.

(14) In the BBC radio programme 'In Our Time' host Melvyn Bragg discusses 'The HIGGS BOSON (The God Particle)' with Jim Al-Khalili, David Wark and Professor Roger Cashmore. Broadcast 18th November 2004.

The themes of notes 10-14 can also be listened to online at these web sites: Big Bang Audio Archive page: BBC Radio page online.

NOVA Science Programming On air and on Line: The Elegant Universe: series host Brian Greene.

The 'In Our Time' and 'Frontiers' programmes can be listened to online at: Big Bang Audio Archive page: BBC Radio page online.

(15) The question of how Being (that is, whatever 'it' is) appears to have the possibility and potential to become whatever 'it' can become through chance (circumstance) and probability (evolution?) raises the inter-related question of causal determinism (cause and effect). This philosophical and empirical question involves the notions of determinism and indeterminism as well as the problem of how to reconcile these apparently incompatible ways of understanding and explaining phenomena. Part of this problem involves why and how atomic and subatomic particles appear to follow deterministic rules whereas the universe of entities appears to involve probability, chance and circumstance: in physics this problem is known as the 'Measurement Problem'. Carl Hoefer provides an interesting and informative overview of the notions determinism and indeterminism in his paper 'Causal Determinism' which includes a section on the 'Measurement Problem'.

(16) In the footnotes to page p27 the translators of Being And Time write:

David Parry is an existential counselling psychologist. His interests include 'awareness of Being-being' and 'the therapeutic relationship'. He is in private practice and can be contacted at: davidparrypsy@hotmail.com
Even if Dasein is 'assured' in its belief about its 'whither', or
   if, in rational enlightenment, it supposes itself to know about its
   "whence", all this counts for nothing as against the
   phenomenological facts of the case: for the mood brings Dasein
   before the "that it is" of its "there ", which as such, stares it
   in the face with the inexorability of an enigma.

   (Ibid, p.175; H136).

The 'essence' ["Wesen "] of this entity lies in its "to be "
   [Zu-sein]. Its Being-what-it-is [Was-sein] (essentia) must, so far
   as we can speak of it at all, be conceived in terms of its Being
   (existentia).... ontologically, existentia is tantamount to
   Being-present-at-hand, a kind of Being which is essentially
   inappropriate to entities of Dasein's character. To avoid getting
   bewildered, we shall always use the Interpretative expression
   "presence-at-hand" for the term 'existentia', while the term
   "existence", as a designation of Being, will be allotted solely to
   Dasein.... So when we designate this entity with the term 'Dasein',
   we are expressing not its "what" (as if it were a table, house or
   tree) but its Being.

   (Ibid, p.67; H 42)

Dasein is an entity that does not just occur among other
   entities.... it is ontically distinguished by the fact that, in its
   very Being, that Being is an issue for it. But in that case, this
   is a constitutive state of Dasein's Being, and this implies that
   Dasein, in its Being, has a relationship towards that Being-a
   relationship which itself is one of Being. (5) And this means
   further that there is some way in which Dasein understands itself
   in its Being,.. It is peculiar to this entity that with and through
   its Being, this Being is disclosed to it. Understanding of Being is
   itself a definite characteristic of Dasein's Being. Dasein is
   ontically distinctive in that it is ontological.

      Here "Being ontological" is not yet tantamount to "developing an
   ontology". So if we should reserve the term "ontology" for that
   theoretical enquiry which is devoted to the meaning of entities,
   then what we have in mind in speaking of Dasein's
   "Being-ontological" is to be designated as something
   "pre-ontological". It does not signify simply "being-ontical",
   however, but rather "being in such a way that one has an
   understanding of Being.

   (Ibid, p.32; H 12.)

As Being-in-the-world, Dasein exists factically (7) with and
   alongside entities which it encounters within-the-world. Thus
   Dasein's Being becomes ontologically transparent in a comprehensive
   way only within the horizon in which the Being of entities other
   than Dasein-and this means even of those which are neither
   ready-to-hand nor present-at-hand but just 'subsist'- has been

   (Ibid, p.382; H 333)

As being, Dasein is something that has been thrown; it has been
   brought into its "there" but not of its own accord. As being, it
   has taken the definite form of a potentiality-for-Being which has
   heard itself and has devoted itself to itself, but not as
   itself.... To this entity it has been delivered over, and as such
   it can exist solely as the entity which it is; and as this entity
   to which it has been thus delivered over, it is, in its existing,
   the basis of its potentiality-for-Being. Although it has not laid
   that basis itself, it reposes in the weight of it, which is made
   manifest to it as a burden by Dasein's mood.

   (Ibid, p.329-330; H 284)

Anxiety [which]..individualizes Dasein for its own-most
   Being-in-theworld, which as something that understands, projects
   itself essentially upon possibilities.

   (Ibid, p.232; H 188)

   [And].... The "nothing" with which anxiety brings us face to face,
   unveils the nullity by which Dasein, in its very basis, is defined;
   and this basis itself is as thrownness into death.

   (Ibid, p.356; H 308.)

The self, which as such has to lay the basis for itself, can never
   get that basis into its power; and yet, as existing, it must take
   over Being-a-basis.

   (Ibid, p.330; H 284)

   ... "Being-a-basis" means never to have the power over one's
   ownmost Being from the ground up. This "not" belongs to the
   existential meaning of "thrownness" ... The character of this
   "not", as a "not" may be defined existentially: in being its Self,
   Dasein is as a Self, the entity that has been thrown. It has been
   released from its basis, not through itself but to itself, so as to
   be as this basis.

   (Ibid p.330; H 284-285)

In its death, Dasein must simply 'take back' everything.

   (Ibid, p.356; H 308.)

The term "Temporality" is intended to indicate that temporality, in
   existential analytic, represents the horizon from which we
   understand being. What we are enquiring into in existential
   analytic, existence, proves to be temporality, which on its part
   constitutes the horizon for the understanding of being that belongs
   essentially to the Dasein.

   (Ibid, p.228)

The distinction between being and beings [ontological difference]
   is temporalized in the temporalizing of temporality.

   (Ibid, p.319)

   Temporality temporalizes itself in the ever current unity of
   future, past [having-been-ness], and present.

   (Ibid, p.266)

A gross misunderstanding of [and] about Buddhism exists today,
   especially in the notion of reincarnation. The common
   misunderstanding is that a person has led countless previous lives,
   usually as an animal, but somehow in this life he is born as a
   human being and in the next life he will be reborn as an animal,
   depending on the kind of life he has lived. This misunderstanding
   arises because people usually do not know-how to read the sutras or
   sacred writings. It is said that the Buddha left 84,000 teachings;
   the symbolic figure represents the diverse backgrounds
   characteristics, tastes, etc. of the people. The Buddha taught
   according to the mental and spiritual capacity of each individual.
   For the simple village folks living during the time of the Buddha,
   the doctrine of reincarnation was a powerful moral lesson. Fear of
   birth into the animal world must have frightened many people from
   acting like animals in this life. If we take this teaching
   literally today we are confused because we cannot understand it
   rationally. Herein lies our problem. A parable, when taken
   literally, does not make sense to the modern mind. Therefore we
   must learn to differentiate the parables and myths from actuality.
   However, if we learn to go beyond or transcend the parables and
   myths, we will be able to understand the truth.

Reincarnation is not a simple physical birth of a person; for
   instance, John being reborn as a cat in the next life. In this case
   John possesses an immortal soul which transforms to the form of a
   cat after his death. This cycle is repeated over and over again. Or
   if he is lucky, he will be reborn as a human being. This notion of
   the transmigration of the soul definitely does not exist in

This passage is ambiguous and might also be read as: "and this
   implies that Dasein, in its Being towards this Being, has a
   relationship of Being."

This study demonstrates that bottlenose dolphins extract identity
   information from signature whistles even after all [their] voice
   features have been removed from the signal. Thus, dolphins are the
   only animals other than humans that have been shown to transmit
   identity information independent of the caller's voice or location.

   (2006, p.8293)

Hanging the Universe on Strings, by Natalie Angier, (2005). The
   Unraveling of String Theory, by Michael. D. Lemonick (2006). String
   theory and M theory are discussed in 'The Elegant Universe' series
   host Brian Greene. NOVA Science Programming On air and on Line.

BBC TV 2008 'The Big Bang Machine': presenter Prof Brian Cox. In
   this programme Brian Cox reports that it is unlikely that
   scientists will be able to re-create conditions that were present
   at the moment of the big bang because given our present knowledge
   and technology it would take a collider the size of our galaxy to
   recreate such conditions. (B. Cox 2008). Therefore we cannot really
   test any of our theoretical models of how the universe came into
   existence although we can with technology such as the Hadron
   Collider look for evidence that is consistent or inconsistent with
   these models.

   BBC TV 'Atom' (2007): Professor Jim Al-Khalili's three-part series
   in which he tells the story of the discovery of the atom Online at
   BBC Radio 4, the 'Big Bang Audio Archive' page features:
   'Frontiers-Before the Big Bang' (the date for the initial broadcast
   for this programme is not listed on this website). This programme
   describes and critically discusses a New Cosmological theory about
   the birth of the cosmos in which the notion of a cyclical universe
   is theorised by Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok (2007).

..in the relatively rare passages that Heidegger himself breaks it
   [Dasein] up with a hyphen ('Da-Sein') to show its etymological
   construction: literally 'Being-there'. Though in traditional German
   philosophy it may be used quite generally to stand for any kind of
   Being or 'existence' which we can say that something has (the
   'existence' of God for example), in everyday usage it tends to be
   used more narrowly to stand for the kind of Being that belongs to
   persons. Heidegger follows the everyday usage in this respect, but
   goes somewhat further in that he often uses it [Dasein] to stand
   for any person who has such Being, and who is thus an 'entity'
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