Francey Russell

The Space of Pathos: Meaning, Anxiety and Ethics in Being and Time

In this paper, I suggest that Heideggerian Angst, as the fundamental form of existential suffering, poses a unique opportunity for ethics: while ordinarily, we work to prevent, ease, or make sense of human suffering, in the case of Angst, Heidegger asks us to respond to or care for suffering without working to alleviate it. Rather than insisting on making Angst meaningful (as a form of alleviation), a Heideggerian ethical relationship would involve tolerating slippages in sense and allowing the other the robustness of her experience of contingency: I will not force you to structure your experience in accordance with the coordinates of meaning that structure mine, rather I will give you the space to undergo the fragility of your world in order to find it anew.  We could call this allowing the other the space of pathos.  I will suggest that in granting the space of pathos, we acknowledge both our vulnerable openness to on the other (disclosed through our resistance to allowing the other their Angst) and the painful fact of our separateness (revealed in the other’s sudden loss of familiarity with our shared world of sense). This granting is properly ethical insofar as it represents a resolute practice of attending to the existential needs of the other, an authentic form of Being-with.