Realistically Heidegger was at least vaguely a theist, which is rather contrary to the existentialist mind set of humanism, but his point was still existential and in his early work, at least he attempted to clearly deduce a way of stressing the need for the individual to seek answers through thought and identity, it was only in his later work that he stressed the transcendence of practical thought. To some degree as Flynn puts it Heidegger challenged the existentialists to stop losing the forest for the trees, by over emphasizing the concrete and practical examination over the whole of the greater "being." Yet, he also stresses that we are simply because we exist in the world with practical concerns of the every day and that to some degree this makes us universal to one another and therefore responsible for understanding self and society. (Flynn 51-54)
According to Heidegger the ontological pursuit is what separates Dasein (man) from other beings, as he is according to Heidegger the only known being who is and should be "concerned about its very Being." (Krell 53) This ontological pursuet of understanding the self and society is the core of his difference from other beings as well as the core of his universality with his fellow Dasein. (Krell 53-54) if the Dasein rejects this ontological pursuit he has rejected his society and has lost the ability to understand himself. The lived experience of Dasein is therefore the translation of the ability of this Being to understand and experience his life through existential thought, with the inclusion of Heidegger's defined constitution of existential thought. (Flynn 54-55)
For Heidegger the experience of ontological pursuit, as it applies to the lived experience of Dasein determines a culmination of an understanding of Being. Dasein is in fact according to Heidegger the primary object of interrogation and the source from which all access to understanding will be derived. (Krell 57) "Dasein tends to understand its own Being in terms of that being which it is essentially, continually, and most closely related -- the "world." In Dasein itself and therewith in its own understanding of Being,...the way the world is understood is ontologically reflected back upon the interpretation of Dasein." In other words, Dasein can understand self only in terms of the immediate environment (or the perception of it) including but not limited to society and self, as this is the only alternative known to him. There is no alternative universe for the being to discover and place himself within, in any real way of understanding that can define his Being. This statement in and of itself defines Heidegger as an existentialist, regardless of his theist leanings, as this would seem to negate the idea of "heaven" or paradise, unless such was to be found in this world. Though it could also be said that it is not contrary to theism because the ideal could be carried to an alternative environment i.e. heaven when such is needed.
The quest of the ontological discovery of self through interpretation of the immediate world is a demonstrative example of exactly what existentialism is, at its core. The quest to understand a concept like "Being" is therefore the quest with which universality is achieved. All individuals seek the answers of Being and therefore exhibit the need to do so to survive in the environment. Heidegger stresses that human responsibility is such that these two questions that or self and Being will never be divorced from one another as this is what in a sense makes us human and existent. (Flynn 54-55) This would also seem to challenge the individuality of existentialism, and yet it is also clear that Heidegger does not attempt to place all individuals in the same "world" only in the same process of understanding and therefore the quest is not going to have the same outcome for everyone.
Within Heidegger and many of the other existential seekers of the definition of Being there is a sense that the quest of the definition of Being is as important, if not more important than the being or the Being. As definitions of terms show us, abstract concepts that have universal acceptance but lack universal application or understanding are likely to continue to guide the world, especially within the order of higher thought. Concepts like, love, truth, honor, justice and of course Heidegger's Being to some degree defy clear definitions as they are both universal and yet in a practical sense completely transient to culture, place and time. It would seem that the goal of defining Being or the quest of it is both universal and individual and that a full understanding of self and society, no matter the environment is only partial at any given time. The quest is bound to fail, as the term Being and the state of Being are as transient as any other abstract concepts, yet it is also clear that the quest is the goal, not an end and that seeking "your truth" is to some degree a success, no matter if it is determined to be "right," or "wrong" for another. The determination of Being is therefore abstract enough that there will likely never be a common ground, other than the quest itself and that this is the core of the success of the quest. In a sense as long as the quest is waged, the success is inevitable.
Heidegger's angst is twofold according to Flynn is that Dasein exhibits the tendency to forgo discovery of self at the expense of the mundane and as I will expound on later delving to deeply into thought (metaphysics, meaning, the existence of being...) negates the authentic by eliminating the humanity of living within the life we find ourselves in. That we as individuals get completely caught up in the running of our daily lives and simply ape the actions of others, rather than exploring our own path toward understanding of self, society and our place in it. (Flynn 70) This angst is universal as many believe that those who are allotted the time, away from everyday concerns also lack the everyday experiences that cause question and challenges. Heidegger makes clear that an individual must have both the experiences of the trials and tribulations of the lived experience of Dasein and the desire to apply these experiences to the quest of ontological discovery in order to fulfill their ultimate role in society and more importantly to develop the self. So, the fact that Heidegger stresses the fact that we are first and foremost "in the world" also becomes the greatest downfall of the individual as being in the world can be assumed and universal it also has the tendency to reduce the time one has to discover the quest for Being and the answers to self-awareness that we need to discover. (Flynn 23) Additionally, for Heidegger the idea was to find a balance as he also criticized many philosophers for concentrating to heavily on "metaphysical questions of essence and existence, cause and effect, subject and object, and theories of human nature." (Flynn 51) the Heidegger concept was then to take personal responsibility for finding the definitions of Being through the experiences of life, as it is lived, while assuming certain issues to be irrelevant or given and therefore not worth to much thought, existence itself is a good example.
Heidegger also laments the fact that the humanistic definition of man is one of an animal with the gift of speech; this to him is an affront to man, and an underestimation of his worth. He laments that humanism allows a mechanistic society where man is defined only by his utility. (Flynn 51) There are others who agree with Heidegger on this note and develop ideals about man that give him a higher order goal and plan. The angst of belittling man to that of an animal who walks, talks and thinks is a simple mathematical assault on his position as the primary source and reason for the ontological quest. (Krell 57) if man is simply an animal then how is he or she different from and capable of reason and discovery and why then is he or she able to make decisions associated with self and society that are moral, good and true, or even immoral, bad and untruthful. The finite lives of individuals designate that man must not be culled down to his or her lowest common denominator, the fact that he eats, breaths and lives within this world, as an animal but must also be given his due credit as a thinking living being that in and of him or herself constitutes, Being at it core and is capable of understanding such. (Krell 62)
Heidegger believes this human tendency to ignore the broader questions at the expense of the mundane and focus on fundamental questions that…