For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Being-in-the-world: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I

by Dreyfus, Hubert L (1991)


Being-in-the-World is a guide to one of the most influential philosophical works ofthis century: Division I of Part One of Being and Time, where Martin Heidegger works out an originaland powerful account of being-in-the-world which he then uses to ground a profound critique oftraditional ontology and epistemology. Hubert Dreyfus's commentary opens the way for a newappreciation of this difficult philosopher, revealing a rigorous and illuminating vocabulary that isindispensable for talking about the phenomenon of world.The publication of Being and Time in 1927turned the academic world on its head. Since then it has become a touchstone for philosophers asdiverse as Marcuse, Sartre, Foucault, and Derrida who seek an alternative to the rationalist Cartesian tradition of western philosophy. But Heidegger's text is notoriously dense, and hislanguage seems to consist of unnecessarily barbaric neologisms; to the neophyte and even to thoseschooled in Heidegger thought, the result is often incomprehensible.Dreyfus's approach to thisdaunting book is straightforward and pragmatic. He explains the text by frequent examples drawn fromeveryday life, and he skillfully relates Heidegger's ideas to the questions about being and mindthat have preoccupied a generation of cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind.Hubert L.Dreyfus is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Key Passage

We have a skilled, everyday mastery of equipment and of ourselves. We know how to hammer and the point of our hammering. More generally, each of us knows how to be that particular for-the-sake-of-which each of us is-father, professor, etc. We are skilled at existing. "In understanding, as an existentiale, that which we have such competence over is not a 'what,' but being as existing" (183) [143] . Moreover, we are such skills. "Dasein is not something occurrent which possesses its competence for something by way of an extra; it is primarily its ability to be. Dasein is in every case what it can be" (183)[143]. But skillful coping cannot be exactly what Heidegger wants to call attention to with the existentiale called understanding, since coping covers all aspects of our activity in the current situation. What Heidegger wants to distinguish as understanding is one out of three aspects of what makes the current activity of dealing with things possible. He has so far introduced affectedness: what I am doing matters. Now he adds understandinf5-I know how to go about what I am doing, I am able to do what is appropriate in each situation. And just as affectedness reveals things as threatening, or interesting, and possibilities as indifferent, attractive, etc.; understanding reveals some actions as doable, as making sense, and others as not, or, better, it does not reveal these other possibilities as possibilities at all. (In chapter 13 we shall see that falling, the third structural condition of my current activity, singles out my absorption in what I am doing.)  (p.185)


Heidegger, Skill, Technology, Space, Dasein



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