In First Things, John Schwenkler remembers Hubert Dreyfus
What attracted Dreyfus to Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty was their account of a form of engagement with the world that is more basic or “primordial” than conceptual thinking. Concepts, as Kant observed, are necessarily general and universal, which raises the question of how these representations can relate meaningfully to particular things in the world. The dominant tradition in Western philosophy attempts to explain this with an epistemological account of how concepts arise and are justified—whereas Dreyfus argued that the most fundamental form of what Heidegger called “being-in-the-world” was the active response to opportunities for meaningful engagement with things. The point of hyphenating “being-in-the-world” is to emphasize that, at this level, there is not an agent or subject on one side, with objects in the world on the other. Rather, it is part of the very being of one who engages the world in this meaningful way that he or she is embedded in the world where it all takes place. There is no more basic form of existence—no disembodied thinking subject of Descartes’s Meditations, for example—out of which this orientation toward meaningful engagement arises.