Heidegger’s Being-toward-death [Sein-zum-Tode] reveals masculine privileging, writes Linnell Secomb. Writing not to negate but augment his ontology of death, Secomb finds that Heidegger’s formulation omits a diversity of experiences of death, particularly those of women and betrays incongruity with Heidegger’s Mitsein. Secomb writes that Heidegger’s description of death “as the end of Dasein, is Dasein’s ownmost possibility—non-relational, certain and as such indefinite, not to be outstripped[1] retreats to the philosophical tradition of writing of death as the end of a discrete cogito or isolative monad. The being-towards-death of Heidegger capitulates to gendered social expectation and inscribed meaning and experience as a masculinized valorization of death. By being ‘ownmost’ and ‘non-relational’, Secomb writes, there is a denial of the experience of mourning and experiencing one’s own death in the process of Being-with in the midst of death; existing in a process of dwelling with other’s deaths. There is an aspect of death being inter-relational and inter-subjective rather than isolated and atomistic.[2]

Another report of death can be revealed in the histories and stories of women whose stories avail another perspective on death; that through being-with the dying and dead bring a divergent picture of the nature of Mitsein. Secomb draws upon those to whom war has made widows and bereft of children, women who historically have outlived men, and the women in the lives of incarcerated men as illustrative of the gendered roles of women as commemorators, keepers of memory, grievers, and mourners.[3] Heidegger’s dismissal of the death of another is an affirmation of masculine experience and neglects what Secomb calls the ‘feminine death’ where Dasein is projected towards death within community and is wholly comprised of dwelling amidst the death of others and in their mourning. Secomb echoes Heidegger in that death, like all experience is second-hand but that mourning and dwelling with those who are dying mediates the relation and understanding of one’s own death. This feminine perspective says Secomb, creates an understanding of Dasein as an un-becoming.
To Heidegger’s three distinctive modes of death: perishing, demise, and dying, Secomb adds dispatch and dwelling-with-death. Perishing, which connotes the ending of any living thing, demise an inauthentic legal pronouncement of death, and dying which stands for the way that Dasein is towards death remain incomplete in their consideration of primordial Being-with. Dispatch refers to when another is not projected towards death, but through murder, violence, and the denial of their own possibilities of being towards death, the other has death sentenced unto them. When another’s projects are so violently neglected or impinged upon, their becoming and un-becoming are perverted within the being of Dasein. Dwelling-with-death is an authentic mode of existence whereby through Dasein maintains Mitsein with the dead through memory and commemoration, bringing death into an embodied immanence. While remaining authentic in Heidegger’s sense, this mode disavows isolative or non-relational existing; where one lives with the dead and dies with others.

[1] Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time trans. by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper and Row. 1962), 303.

[2] Secomb, Linnell. “Philosophical Deaths and Feminine Finitude” Mortality, Jul99, Vol. 4 Issue 2, p111-125, 1p; (AN 2134835), 111-113.

[3] Secomb, Linnell. “Philosophical Deaths and Feminine Finitude” Mortality, Jul99, Vol. 4 Issue 2, p111-125, 1p; (AN 2134835), 122.