Monday, July 26, 2010

Being's Poem asked Graham Harman some questions, to which he responded.
[M]y claim in Tool-Being is not that I understood Heidegger’s own personal secret meaning, but that I understand his great thought experiment (the tool-analysis) better than he does.

It is absolutely true that there is no such thing as “an” equipment in Heidegger’s opinion. There is really only one global piece of equipment, with everything assigned to everything else, and ultimately for-the-sake-of human Dasein. What I have shown is that there could never be any malfunctioning equipment in that case, and we have a reductio ad absurdum. Everything would be totally exhausted by its current usefulness, without excess. And this is why I think that Zuhandenheit cannot be read either as usefulness or as referential assignment. The real meaning of Vorhandenheit is not independence from relation as Heidegger seems to think, but the opposite: the Vorhanden is that which exists only in relation. Consider Heidegger’s several kinds of Vorhandenheit: Husserlian phenomena, broken equipment, physical matter as conceived by the natural sciences. All of these exist only as the correlates of someone perceiving, calculating, or measuring them. Hence, useful “tools” in the everyday sense are actually just another example of Vorhanden. The difference between unconsciously used and consciously observed turns out to be a meaningless distinction. The only way to read Zuhandenheit meaningfully is as the non-relational reality that withdraws from all purposes.
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