A Vulnerable World: Heidegger on Humans and Finitude


The notion of vulnerability comes from the Late Latin vulnerabilis, derived from vulnerare “to wound,” which comes from vulner-, vulnus “wound.” As the Merriam-Webster dictionary suggests, it is probably akin to Latin vellere, “to pluck,” and Greek oulē, “wound.” The Latin noun vulnus refers primarily to bodily wounds and moral hurts or emotional damages, but it also signifies a blow, a cut, or a bite, as well as an arrow or a projectile. Standard definitions of “vulnerable” list two main meanings: 1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; 2: open to attack or damage: assailable (vulnerable to criticism). Even this cursory look at the etymology of the term makes clear that the thinking of vulnerability pivots on the understanding of how that which is vulnerable comes to be constituted: in its existence, identity, or self and thus also in its proper boundaries.

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