The Ownmost Possibility
To Heidegger, the realization of oneís possibilities is the key to an authentic existence, but oneís existence implies possibilities, whether realized or not. We may submit ourselves to absorption in others and deny the possibilities of our being, but they are still there." As long as it is, Dasein always has understood itself and always will understand itself in terms of possibilities." (section 31). Therefore, the two inevitable forces of the human condition are thrownness, which determines the future possibilities, and projection, which is the way we understand ourselves through those possibilities.
The particular feature of death is that it is "the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein." According to Heidegger, that makes it the only possibility which we cannot neglect to understand as our own. Death cannot be submerged in our involvement with the "they," and therefore we cannot be inauthentic in a consideration of our own death. What is our ownmost is that which forces us to fully realize the potentiality of our own being through the impossibility of relating it to any other Dasein.
Despite the fact that there are structures originating in society to make us not consider death as our ownmost possibility, we cannot conceive of it in any other way. Therefore, when one views oneself as a being-towards-death, one takes a step towards authenticity, because death forces us to acknowledge its possibility as purely our own. Death is the moment when all our connections are undone, so to speak, and there is no wall of public opinion to protect us from facing ourselves.
Once we acknowledge the possibility of death, inauthentic existence should become much harder, because we have realized that there comes a time when we must face the music alone, and we must understand ourselves towards that end, not as mere falling projectiles, but as beings possessing agency and capable of conscious projection. In facing death, we learn how to better live.
Itís hard to dispute the fact that death is something we have to face alone. The only assurances in the world are that weíre born alone and we die alone. However, death viewed as a possibility seems to be a tad tenuous, because in surveying oneís possibilities it is not customarily dwelled on, because it is the only terminal condition, possessing no depth or branching. That is, whether or not I choose to write this paper, tomorrow Iíll have subsequent possibilities, but if Iím dead, thereís hardly a need to think about what will happen the day after. Therefore, if I consider my own self in terms of possibilities, death seems to be bracketed out as a special case, rather than an avenue of consideration about my own self.
Heidegger would attribute that to an influence of the "they," of course, but it does not seem like there is anything much to think about death as a termination. Furthermore, if one views himself in terms of the "they," it is possible for death to be subjected to the same subjugation to inevitability and immersion in a collective that any event in life is. For example, people often think of suicide "just to show them," in terms of provoking a posthumous appreciation. There seems to be very little understanding of the self as itself within that sort of view towards death.
Of course, this might be attributable to a partial ontological understanding of death, rather than any sort of pre-ontological understanding of a personal death, but it is not even the most extreme case. For some, death is not a termination in any sense of the world, but an absorption of the self into some other state of being. For example, when a Christian considers death, it does not seem to be an act of individuation, but of joining.