Tag Archives: ethics

III. Being and Time: Breakdown | Heidegger

Being, for Heidegger, is no longer a question of reduction, of building entities our of basic blocks. Instead, he delineates two modes of being: dealing with (Umgang) and cognition (Erkennen). He then directs us towards a way of being called existing which accounts for both of these modes of encountering beings in the world and having relations with them.

Heidegger will attempt to demonstrate that the “situated use of equipment (Heidegger’s term: essentially “something-in-order-to-do”) is in some sense prior to just looking at things and that which is revealed by use is ontologically more fundamental than the substances with determinate, context-free properties revealed by detached contemplation” (61). Being is revealed through use and action. This goes back to the idea that Dasein is not inner mental state, but rather its existence comes into being through they way it acts. “Dasein takes a stand on itself through its involvement with things and people” (61). 

So, we don’t just encounter things; we use things and manipulate them towards some ends, to get some activity done.

Equipment –“In the ‘in-order-to’ as a structure there lies an assignment or reference of something to something” (H 97). An “item” of equipment if what it is insofar as it fits into an equipment whole –> Logos “For something to function as equipment…there must be a nexus of other equipment in which this thing functions” (63). “Taken strictly, there ‘is’ no such thing as an equipment. To the being of any equipment there always belongs an equipmental whole, in which it can be this equipment that it is” (H 97). Availableness is Heidegger’s term for the way of being of those entities which are defined by their use in the whole (63).

We get to know things in terms of their functioning. “….our concern subordinates itself to the ‘in-order-to’ which is constitutive for the equipment we are employing at the time” (H 98). This mode of understanding, Heidegger calls manipulating. It is the hammering itself which uncovers the specific “manipulability of the hammer) (H 98). Reflecting on something like a hammer rather than using it would give one a second-hand, derivative understanding of it which Heidegger says is “positive” but not “primordial.”

When we use equipment in the regular order of things and it works how it is supposed to, it sort of disappears. [MT: Heidegger appears to characterize disappearance not by an absence but rather as something being so immediately available–so immediately present–that it disappears/ is transparent.] “The peculiarity of what is primarily available is that, in its availableness, it must, as it were, withdraw in order to be available quite authentically” (H 99).

“Not only is equipment transparent; so is the user” (66). The user’s everyday grasp of her environment is called circumspection. This activity is a kind of “sight” which does not involve deliberate awareness (66). Everyday skillful, masterful coping involves awareness but no self-awareness–no self-referential experience of acting in the sense understood by the representationalist model.

Comportment is not deliberate action, but neither is it mechanical. It differs from the last in 5 ways:

  1. Circumspection is a mode of awareness
  2. Comportment is adaptable and copes with the situation in a variety of ways
  3. Comportment reveals entities under aspects. [The person goes about his or her business (rather than deliberate, intentionality).]
  4. If something goes wrong, people and higher animals are startled.
  5. If the going gets difficult, we must pay attention and so switch to deliberate subject/object intentionality. (68-69).

Thus, Heidegger leaves open the possibility of deliberate intentionality at the moment of breakdown when normal coping is no longer possible.Three modes of disturbance:

  • conspicuousness (malfunction)
  • obstinacy (temporary breakdown)
  • obtrusiveness

“These progressively bring out both Dasein as a thoughtful subject and the occurrentness as the way of being of isolated determinate substances” (71). These breakdown moments (two of them: temporary breakdown and total breakdown -Dreyfuss’ terms) reveal two new modes of encountering entities and tw new ways of being of entities: unavailableness and occurrentness. The other kind of breakdownmalfunction, is a preview of the other two. We are going to go from available to unavailable.

Conspicuousness (malfunction) –“presents the available equipment in a certain unavailableness” (H 102-103). But, for most malfunctions, we already have ways of coping, so we can just readjust after an initial moment of being startled–and then move on. Transparent, circumspective can thus be quickly restored.

Obstinacy (temporary breakdown) –Something blocks an ongoing activity and that which was transparent is made manifest. Now, we act deliberately, paying attention to what we are doing. When deliberative activity is also blocked, then one is forced into deliberation–reflective planning. “The scheme peculiar to [deliberating] is the ‘if-then'” (H 410). Long-range planning is envisagingHeidegger thus shifts focs from a being to Dasein’s ways of understanding/ coping with. 

Contra the representationalist model, deliberation is not a purely mental, theoretical state without reference to the world. Even when people make plans, they do so against a background of involved activity (74). “Thus, understanding is not in our minds but in Dasein–in the skillful ways we are accustomed to comport ourselves. Thus even when mental content such as rules, beliefs and desires arise on the unavailable level, they cannot be analyzed as self-contained representations as the tradition supposed. Deliberative activity remains dependent upon Dasein’s involvement in a transparent background of coping skills” (75).

-not finished-

*This is the text I’ve been using to help me through Heidegger: Dreyfus’ Being in the World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

To Think With

There are some great videos out on the interwebs, so here are few of what I’ve been watching, thinking about as I report the terror war(s). Oh yes – and there’s David Harvey, just because.

Critique of Humanitarian Reason | Didier Fassin:

Video of the House Judiciary Committee Hearing on drones here and witness testimonies here.

The Everwhere War | Derek Gregory

The Everywhere War – RT with Derek Gregory – 10 November 2011 from Forensic Architecture on Vimeo.

Reading Marx’s Capital | David Harvey:

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

NYT’s reporting puzzles

Oh, NYT, why must you tempt me with your strange tales of stranger lands.

1) PALESTINE. Ethan Bronner’s article which was the lead story this morning, “Palestinians Try a Less Violent Path to Resistance” is an example of a lie reproduced as news. Putting the latest peaceful Palestinian boycott campaign in faux context, Bronner writes, “The new approach still remains small scale while American-led efforts to revive peace talks are stalled.” He  falsely continues to imply throughout the rest of the article that noviolence is “limited” or alien to Palestinian soil:

Nonviolence has never caught on here, and Israel’s military says the new approach is hardly nonviolent. But the current set of campaigns is trying to incorporate peaceful pressure in limited ways.

Except that well, nonviolence–whilst perhaps a novel idea to a reporter whose son serves in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)–is nothing new for the Palestinians. The 1980s intifada was a deeply civil society based rebellion with Palestinian labour unions, businessmen and students involved in mass forms of nonviolent protest. Although initially uncoordinated, an ad hoc leadership committee called the Unfied National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) soon rose up increasing its numbers with workers who joined as the IDF attacked Palestinian businesses. The bourgeoisie and Palestinian businessmen, increasingly burdened by the new taxes Israel was imposing, followed through with commercial strikes and non-payment of taxes. Further, steel_puzzle_sphere_1Ariel Sharon’s incendiary move to shift his home to Jerusalem sparked “the shopkeepers war”, a cat and mouse game where the IDF repeatedly forced shopkeepers to open their shops and they in turn repeatedly went on strike. There was stone throwing by youth (if you can call that violent when they’re throwing them at tanks and soldiers) too and murders of alleged collaborators, but the bulk of the population took part in mass civil disobedience and other forms of nonviolent protest. That was the Palestinian intifada in the 1980s, and it attests to the strength and resilience of Palestinian civil society. The effects of that movement dissipated because of the Oslo Accords which circumvented the successes of the intifada rather than build upon them.

Contrast that form of resistance with the occupying army. Raphael Eitan, then Israel’s chief of staff, said “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Menachim Begin, who would later win the Nobel peace prize with Arafat (a venerable tradition which Obama has rightly joined) referred to Palestinians as “beasts walking on two legs”.

By contrast, check out this excellent piece by friend and reporter Don Duncan on forms of Palestinian resistance. See examples of what Don’s talking about here and there.

And for the love of god, Bronner, get a clue.

2) PAKISTAN. Sabrina Tavernise lends that special Alice-in-a-wonderland feel to her reporting on a potentially historic amendment that is making its way through the Pakistani parliament right now. If passed, it would strip the President of powers that the position has accrued over the years due to revisions to the constitution by unaccountable politicians and dictators. Tavernise is quick to manipulate the story about a significant positive political change in Pakistan into the “chaos theory” narrative the western media has reserved for Pakistan. She writes:

On paper, the changes restore the country’s democracy to its original form — a parliamentary system run by a prime minister — and undo the accumulated powers that the country’s military autocrats had vested in the presidency. (emphasis mine.)

But this is Pakistan — a chaotic, 62-year-old country, where no elected government has ever lasted a full term and the rule of law is often up for grabs — and it is far from certain that in practice the new laws will be respected. (emphasis mine.)

Down the hole, Alice goes. This is Wonderland and things don’t ever change here. Never ever ever. Never ever? Not ever. Get it?

Last year, Tavernise brought us this lovely liner regnant with Orientalism: “On a spring night in Lahore, I came face to face with all that is puzzling about Pakistan.” Wow, where? Was it at the intersection of Ignorance and Hubris? Try and get off that. It’s really overcrowded.

3) WIKILEAKS. Two days ago, Glenn Greenwald caught the NYT in a mistake, and now the paper appears to be at it again trying to damn the investigative website Wikileaks. Greenwald then noted that reporter “Elisabeth Bumiller strongly implies that WikiLeaks failed to release the full video and instead selectively edited it.” The mistake found its way into a Weekly Standard opinion piece which denounced the website for failing to release the full video. Unfortunately, for the Standard, Wikileaks had released the entire video from the start. The NYT corrected its mistake online without ever acknowledging that it had made one. The Standard‘s Bill Roggio also corrected his mistake and acknowledged it explicitly online. All that was two days ago. Now today, NYT‘s article on Wikileaks “Iraq Video Brings Notice to a Web Site“, again implies bad practise by Wikileaks:

The Web site also posted a 17-minute edited version, which proved to be much more widely viewed on YouTube than the full version. Critics contend that the shorter video was misleading because it did not make clear that the attacks took place amid clashes in the neighborhood and that one of the men was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade.

But, Wikileaks posted the entire unedited video and has done so from the start. That’s something that media organizations rarely do, if ever. When’s the last time you saw an unedited video at CNN or unedited notes for an article at NYT? Second, what unnamed critics is the NYT referring to here? The Weekly Standard already corrected its mistake, and anyone else who has criticized the shorter version of the video has only been able to do so precisely because the full-version is also available. It’s just a bizarre paragraph coming as it does on the heels of the earlier Bumiller article. The NYT, btw, is absent from Wikileaks list of its supporters which does include the LA Times, Hearst Corporation, Gannett (publishers of USA Today), the Associated Press, among other journalistic bodies.

4) PAKISTAN. The Lede blog posted live video footage of the bomb blasts at the US Consulate in Peshawar (h/t jdw) and then noted:

Readers who watch the footage from Pakistani television above may notice one sign of how routine bombings have become in the country. At one stage, as images of the latest attack were broadcast, the crawl at the bottom of the screen gave updates on a celebrity drama, the planned marriage of a Pakistani cricket star, Shoaib Malik, to an Indian tennis player, Sania Mirza.

When a commenter called out the blog’s writer, Robert Mackey on his spurious concluson based on news tickers which are equally random everywhere else, he responded saying, “I explained in the post what the point of the the trivial news in the crawl seemed to be to me. I made no statement that this sort of trivia was unique to Pakistan and not found in most if not all other countries.” Even to Mackey his response must sound lame; it’s certainly not an answer.

Here’s a snapshot of CNN vs. al-Jazeera on the day the Wikileaks video was posted. Pots and kettles. Enough said.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,