Meditations on Dasein in David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress In §43 of Being and Time, Heidegger attempts to demonstrate that external-
world scepticism, i.e., doubts about the objective existence of a world outside of human consciousness, is self-defeating. While even Kant, he notes, had made an ill-fated effort to overcome this “scandal of philosophy,” Heidegger scoffs at the long line of attempts at refutation, viewing “the fact that such proofs are expected and attempted again and again” as the real ‘scandal’ here. In turn, the section serves Heidegger as an opportunity to reiterate his key phenomenological claims: that Dasein is being-in-the-world [In-der-Welt-sein]; that we are always already involved with “external” things; and that the rationalist tradition, as represented by Descartes and his successors, goes wrong in shattering this “primordial phenomenon of being-in-the-world” when it asks, sceptically, how “the isolated subject” can be “joined together with a ‘world’.” In fact, the entire modern preoccupation with alienation and loneliness, Heidegger insinuates, can be traced back to this ‘original sin’ of rationalism. Several decades later, when the writer Ann Beattie read the manuscript of David Markson’s 1988 novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress, she was “floored” by Markson’s fictional exploration of precisely this kind of existential solitude, describing the text as “the most intense, really visceral, rendition of loneliness that I’ve ever encountered.” Beattie’s report of her reading experience, then, raises the question of Markson’s indebtedness to Heidegger. […]

READ MORE: Heidegger in the Literary World – Variations on Poetic Thinking (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021)