Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Sara Heinämaa on presencing out of usefulness.
Heidegger confronts the Cartesian tradition, not by rejecting the concept of presence, but by redefining its relation to readiness-to-hand. He argues that instead of functioning as a stable foundation on which varying practical relations can be established, presence is a momentary modification of readiness, disclosed by interruptions or breaks in the nexuses of equipment: “the presence-at-hand of entities is thrust to the fore by the possible breaks in that referential totality in which circumspection ‘operates.’” We get, so to say, glimpses of presence-at-hand when equipments, use-objects, utensils, tools, and materials fail to serve their purposes in our concernful dealings with the world.

Equipment can lose its readiness in several different ways: it can be broken and become useless while still staying in a particular framework of practicality; it can also disappear, vanish, or “go missing” within the boundaries of this framework; and finally the whole framework of equipment can lose its pressing character when another, more urgent task demands our concern and attention. Heidegger introduces new concepts for the analysis of the types of interruptions that allow presence to show or announce itself: ready-to-hand entities can become conspicuous (auffallig), obtrusive (aufdringlich), or obstinate (aufsässig), and when any of this happens, presence-at-hand comes to the fore.
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