Tag Archives: unavailableness

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.

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