In Existential philosophy, the concept of Thrownness (G. Geworfenheit) describes the condition of a person’s individual existence upon being thrown (geworfen) into the absurdity of the material world.
The philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) used the term Geworfenheit (“Thrown-ness”) to denote the existential condition of Dasein (“being there”) as the inscrutable sense that a person was thrown into life; arbitrarily born into a given family, within a given culture, at a given moment in human history. That the past, through Sein-zum-Tode (Being-toward-Death) is a part of the condition of Dasein; therefore, thrown-ness is the person’s awareness and acknowledgment of the arbitrary nature of being there in the present time, with the attendant frustrations, sufferings, and demands that he or she did not choose to bear, such as social conventions, kinship, and duty. That the past is a psychological matrix which is not chosen, but, simultaneously is not deterministic of his or her personal identity, which results in the condition of Geworfenheit — the social alienation against which the human being struggles, which, paradoxically, leaves an opening towards freedom:
The thrower of the project is thrown in his own throw. How can we account for this freedom? We cannot. It is simply a fact, not caused or grounded, but the condition of all causation and grounding.
The philosopher William J. Richardson said that Geworfenheit, the condition of being there by accident, “must be understood in a purely ontological sense, as wishing to signify the matter-of-fact character of human finitude.”That the word Thrown-ness is the most accurate translation of Geworfenheit to English, because “[other] attractive translations, such as ‘abandon’, ‘dereliction’, ‘dejection’, etc. . . . Are [inaccurate for being] too rich with ontic, [and] anthropological connotations. We retain [the word] Thrown-ness as closest to the original, and, perhaps, least misleading [English translation].”
In The Principle of Hope (1954–1959), Ernst Bloch presents an anti–Heideggerian interpretation that correlates the human, existential condition of thrown-ness with the life of a dog: “[Hope] will not tolerate a dog’s life, which feels itself only passively thrown into ‘What is’, which is not seen through, even wretchedly recognized.”The musical band The Doors presented Bloch’s correlation of thrown-ness and Hope in the song Riders on the Storm (1971): “Into this world we’re thrown / Like a dog without a bone”, which lines refer to the existential condition of thrown-ness presented by M. Heidegger. In 2009, the philosopher Simon Critchley introduced a column with a Thrown-ness quotation from the song Riders on the Storm: “As Jim Morrison intoned many decades ago, ‘Into this world we’re thrown’. Thrown-ness (Geworfenheit) is the simple awareness that we always find ourselves somewhere, namely delivered over to a world.” In Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design (1986) the computer scientist Terry Winograd and the engineer Fernando Flores present an application of Thrown-ness to the field of software design, from the perspective of phenomenology.
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As Jim Morrison intoned many decades ago, 'Into this world we're thrown'. Thrown-ness (Geworfenheit) is the simple awareness that we always find ourselves somewhere, namely delivered over to a world.