Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Heidegger’s ‘Worlds’. Inner Circle Seminar 265 (21 February 2021)

Early Freiburg Lectures (1919-25)
A 100th-anniversary revaluation
The self-world and other worlds
Why did Heidegger propose and then give up his three-worlds theory?

Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 265
Sunday 21 February 2021
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger at home in Freiburg

In the 1940s, the psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger described many idiosyncratic ‘worlds’ of his patients, such as Ellen West’s swamp world’, tomb world and aetherial world’; these undoubtedly were phenomenological descriptions of the patients actual experience. He also, though only for a short time, tentatively proposed a relatively constant triad of ‘worlds’ supposedly of more general application: Umwelt’ (‘around-world’), Mitwelt’ (‘with-world’), Eigenwelt’ (‘own world’). Half a century on, the existential therapist Emmy van Deurzen added a fourth: the ‘Überwelt’ (‘over-world’). These four ‘worlds’ have been taught in training institutes and regarded as an important part of existential therapy, at least in London, for more than thirty years. But do they really make sense as a way of understanding our being-in-the-world-with-others? How is it that, for example, personal relationships are assigned in one book to the Eigenwelt’ and in another book by the same author to the Mitwelt’? How could such relationships be restricted to one or other such partial world’ or dimensionrather than by their very nature embodying a shared search for wholeness that always already precedes and transcends such fragmentation into worlds?

As it happens, unmentioned by Binswanger and van Deurzen, presumably because the relevant lectures had not yet been published, Martin Heidegger had already, in his Freiburg lectures a hundred years ago, proposed a triad like Binswanger’s, though with ‘Selbstwelt’ (‘self-world’) rather than ‘Eigenwelt’  only to denounce it a few years later, even before he published Being and Time (1927), as misconceived. Today we shall explore Heidegger’s reasons for this early turn in his thinking. An ‘Überwelt’ would have been even more alien to him, implying a quasi-schizoid split-off world of ‘meaning’ and spirituality’, rather than meaning and spirit illuminating the one world in which we all live, move and have our being. In any case, we may ask, if there were to be an Überwelt, why not also an Unterwelt’ (underworld), as so powerfully documented throughout the millennia from ancient mythology to Freud and Jung? Of course, Heidegger, like Freud, acknowledged and alluded to such ordinary and familiar worlds as the work-world, the world of mathematics, the ‘classical world’, the dream-world’, the wish-world; but by 1927 he had firmly dismissed his own earlier schematic threefold of worlds’; and he wrote, definitively, in Being and Time: ‘The world of Dasein is Mitwelt.’

That is to say, our Mit-sein, our being-in-the-world-with-others, is not one ‘world’ or ‘dimension’ among others of being human. Rather, it is what being human is.

It is hoped that todays seminar will involve creative dialogue between those who have found it helpful and constructive to conceive experience in terms of a three- or four-‘world’ scheme and those who have found this an artificial and misleading conceptualisation.

It is hoped that this seminar will be at the venue specified below, but if necessary this will be an online seminar, using Zoom.

Venue: Durrants Hotel, 26–32 George Street, Marylebone, London W1H 5BJ
Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £140, others £175, some bursaries; coffee, tea, Durrants rock, mineral water included; payable in advance; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 208 888 6857 or: +44 (0) 7809 433250
E-mail: or:

For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

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