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Existentiell and existential are necessary discursive concepts used in the fundamental ontology of Dasein; whereby the former (ontic-existentiell) describes its ontic characteristics whilst the latter is an ontological-existential interpretation of the former[1]. This, in its perspicuity is presented in Being and Time in "The Ontic Priority of the Question of Being"[2]. Therein, Dasein's priority and with it the need for different discursive concepts shows itself.


Heidegger did not coin the term "existentiell". The common German word "existenziell" is usually translated into English as "existential". However, in Heidegger's works, he coined the German word "existenzial", giving it a meaning distinct from the common German word "existenziell". In English translations of Heidegger, then, the German "existenziell" is transliterated as "existentiell" in English, and the German word "existenzial" is transliterated as "existential", each word having its own technical meaning specific to Heidegger.


The two terms; ontic-existentiell and ontological-existential are related in that an ontic determination is inherently ontological. As an example, the ontic distinction of Dasein that “in its being this being is concerned about its very being (as a) determination of being of Da-sein... lies in the fact that it is ontological[3]. Dasein's distinction makes its being (existence’s) “essential definition not to be accomplished by ascribing to it a "what" that specifies its material content” [4]. Being and Time as a question of being preceded by fundamental ontology had realized that “What is primarily interrogated in the question of the meaning of being is that being which has the character of Da-sein”[5]. This means that, since existence defines Da-sein, "the ontological analysis of this being always requires a previous glimpse of existentiality”[6]. Dasein can relate to it in an ontic-existentiell or ontological-existential manner. The ontic-existentiell relation “is an ontic "affair" of Da-sein ... in the manner of seizing upon or neglecting such possibilities ... only through existence itself”[7]. From this one derives an “existentiell understanding”[8]. Thus, an existentiell is an ontic understanding or characterization of existence.

The second relation regards the “theoretical transparency of the ontological structure of existence ... [and] aims at the analysis of what constitutes existence”[9]. Its understanding is rather existential. It is important to note that “Because these explications are defined in terms of existentiality, we shall call the characteristics of being of Da-sein existentials. They are to be sharply delimited from the determinations of being of those beings unlike Da-sein which we call categories.”[10]. The above understanding is limited to Dasein alone due to its qualitative distinction from other beings. It cannot be used to describe an ontic understanding of beings in the world nor it addresses the facts about things in the context of the world. They are limited to Dasein and Dasein alone. It should be kept in mind that “Existentials and categories are the two fundamental possibilities of the characteristics of being. The being which corresponds to them requires different ways of primary interrogation. Beings are a who (existence) or else a what (objective presence in the broadest sense).”[11]


Being and Time notes that "the roots of the existential analysis, for their part, are ultimately existentiell -they are ontic"[12]. This means that an existential analysis derives its directives from an existentiell and it is itself grounded in an existentiell character of Dasein.

See also


  1. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 17.
  2. ^ Heidegger 1927, p.9.
  3. ^ Heidegger 1927, p.17.
  4. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 10.
  5. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 37.
  6. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 11.
  7. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 10.
  8. ^ Heidegger 2009, p. 10.
  9. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 10.
  10. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 42.
  11. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 42.
  12. ^ Heidegger 1927, p. 11.


  • Martin, Heidegger (1927). Being and Time.
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