ToW #8 – Mon 4/22

“Bonus” ToW #8 (Mon 4/22): Give the best critical assessment you can of any of the ToWs posted on Heidegger (the last 2 ToWs, #7 and #6). Say why you think the point made is wrong — but don’t be a jerk about it.


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[Target: WK7, S10] Marty Heidegger’s point in which he defines the two modes of non-human being, ‘presence at hand’ and ‘readiness to hand’ seems convincing in my opinion. I accept Heidegger’s view for both sides. I agree Readiness to hand is primordial based on my view that it is through developed knowledge and familiarity of an object that it becomes useful, it becomes first instinct; also, presence at hand characterizes an object as one of substance to the world.

In their “Thought of the Week” for Week 7, Student 10 defends Heidegger’s account of the pre-ontological understanding of Being. They, along with Heidegger, hold that readiness-to-hand and present-to-hand are two distinction ways of being, and that readiness-to-hand is primordial. Readiness-to-hand refers to the way in which an entity can reveal itself as an object of potential action. This seems best accommodated by cases involving functional kinds. For instance, we understand a hammer (in using it), as an object which disappears in use, and fulfills the functional role that hammers play (driving nails). This is supposed to be contrasted with present-at-hand, in which we observe entities as objects of observation with dissolvable features (the hammer has a certain weight, the handle is wood, etc.). My worry is that it is not clear that this distinction is as meaningful as Heidegger needs it to be. In the case of a work of non-representational visual art (say, Pollock’s Cathedral), it seems like any account of the work’s functional role would be coextensive with its observational role. To engage with it according to its function is to be sensitive to decompositional features of it, and to be aware of the work without it disappearing from observation. While there are other cases in which objects seem to move in and out of modes of being, in this case, it seems like the object doesn’t move in and out of differing modes because the modes are equivalent. To understand the object in readiness-to-hand is to treat it as present-at-hand.

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[Target: WK7, S4] When we think on our experiences of objects, our thoughts about the object is not based on what intrinsically makes the object that object, rather they are about what we do or can do with the object. This is the distinction between readiness to hand and presence at hand. R2H is primordial in that it is how we first think of and distinguish objects as such. We do it instinctually and how we frame our interactions with all objects is primarily or originally based on its intrinsic use by us. Once we establish how we use an object, we can then step back an examine the object for what is really is, like examining its physical characteristics as an object in the world. This is why presence at hand is derivative. Think of our cell phones. When we first form thoughts about phones or our experiences with phones we think of how we use them; It is an object that lets me call or text people, it connects me to the internet, it allows me to stay connected with the people and things I need to be connected to. This description of a phone is it readiness to hand because I define the phone as how I use it or its function, which is the primary characteristics of what a phone it. However, when we step back an examine the phone for the physical presence at hand characteristics of the phone we notice that its made of glass and metal, it runs on electricity, it has microchips and computer stuff making it do the thing (I’m a philosophy major, I don’t understand technology). These characteristics are what actually makes the phone, but they are not what makes it a phone to me. What makes it a phone to me is the R2H characteristics of it being able to make phone calls and send texts.

In response to ToW #7, S4: I think this is a great explanation of how Heidegger frames his modes of being, however I disagree with the statements made. To say that our experience with objects is an interaction with what we can do or use the object for rather than just experiencing the object as the object, its intrinsic qualities, seems wrong. Think for example of seeing an animal in the wild; a scenario which most would be predisposed to only view, exist with the animal, etc. We would not, then, think of the animal as an object for use, or an object for engagement. There seems to be a lack in the account of modes of being for this type of encounter. Heidegger’s 3 modes seem to be insufficient for objects in which we do not interact. Does a cup in a different country that I will never interact with count as something R2H or P@H, or maybe not? What is the relationship between myself and the cup which I will never have an experience with? Also- are R2H and P@H modes of being based upon individual experience or would the fact that someone else interacts with that cup make it R2H/P@H?

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[Target: WK6, S7] Heidegger’s theory of mindless coping just makes sense. It is hard to describe, but when we picture ourselves doing these things or practicing these coping skills, we simply understand what he means by mindless. We have knowledge of these things but our knowledge is not about them as objective characteristics of the item, rather our knowledge is subjective to our interaction to them. Consider this keyboard I am tying on. If I try to imagine a keyboard, I do not think I will be able to tell you where all the letters and symbols are on it, but while I type this sentence, I know exactly where the next key I need to use is located without even looking away from the screen. I wouldn’t say I have objective knowledge of this keyboard, meaning I don’t know what it is made out of, I don’t know the dimensions of the keys, or the exact layout, and I have no understanding of the wiring that makes it work, but that doesn’t mean I don’t possess knowledge of the keyboard. The knowledge I possess of it is subjective to how I use it. Like I said, I know where the T is when I need to type a T. I know that each letter key is a square that is slightly bigger than my thumb, and that the space bar is reachable by both my thumbs while I type. The things I know are not what makes the keyboard a keyboard, but these things are what makes up my understanding of what a keyboard is and how it can be used by me. How we interact with most things is like this interaction with a keyboard. I may not know what makes it it, but I do know what allows me to recognize and understand it as an it.

I do not agree that Heidegger’s theory of mindless coping (skills) “just makes sense” on the basis of “we simply understand what he means by mindless.” When the student mentions their use of their keyboard, they state I wouldn’t say I have objective knowledge…but that doesn’t mean I don’t possess knowledge of the keyboard.” Not only do I think that this association doesn’t quite embody Heidegger’s theory, which posits that “mindless” coping skills are the basis of intelligibility, but I also don’t follow the idea of the use of the keyboard as particularly “mindless”. To touch-type is not to have unconscious access to information regarding the location of keys, but rather consciously instantaneous recollection of this information. I think it is important to note that one’s initial learning to type invariably requires attention; naturally, some amount of mindfulness is absolutely necessary to effectively interact with a keyboard, especially as it relates to language and is notably more complicated than many typical objects.

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Target: [WK7, S5] Option A: The worst thing about Heidegger’s distinction is that it is not entirely that clear or distinct. Both are seen as “basic” while one more basic than the other. It doesn’t help that the translation is not very simple. In a way, you could think about them as opposites. But I am not entirely sure that it should be taken that way. It seems that way though. With other examples, like the paraphernalia for ready to hand and things for the presence at hand, appear to be the same thing. So, the distinction could be a little more clear.

In response to student 5 for ToW#7: S5 claims that the biggest fault in Heidegger’s distinction between R2H and P@H is that the distinction is not clear enough and not distinct enough to emphasize that they are different when it should be framed as opposite or opposing. although I sympathize with this view, I do believe that is the wrong way to think of the distinction. R2H and P@H should be thought of as two kind of lens to view objects. They are not opposing each other as that objects can only be viewed through one or the other. Rather, it is possible and very likely for us to see objects through both lens at some point during our interactions with them. Although we can utilize both of these lens while experiencing objects, one more naturally occurs or is more primordial. Most often when we first interact with something, we interact through the R2H lens because we first see it how we use it and how it can be used by us. Most of the time, our initial interaction is not us gawking at it through P@H. However, both views are very possible and can and do occur about the same objects. It is wrong to assume the distinction between R2H and P@H means that they are opposites of each other and are completely separated from one another.