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

Heidegger would object to traditional accounts of everyday activity such as those found in Aristotle's discussion of the practical syllo-gism and in contemporary philosophies of action such as Donald Davidson's, which hold that we must explain an action as caused by the desire to reach some goal. Heidegger, as we have seen, would also reject John Searle's claim that even where there is no desire, we must have in mind conditions of satisfaction, so that the experience of acting contains within itself a representation of the goal of the action. According to Heidegger, to explain everyday transparent coping we do not need to introduce a mental representation of a goal at all. Activity can be pU1posivewithout the actor having in mind a purpose. Phenomenological examination confirms that in a wide variety of situations human beings relate to the world in an organized purposive manner without the constant accompaniment of rep-resentational states that specify what the action is aimed at ac-complishing. This is evident in skilled activity such as playing the piano or skiing, habitual activity such as driving to the office or brushing one's teeth, un thinking activity such as rolling over in bed or making gestures while one is speaking, and spontaneous activity such as jumping up and pacing during a heated discussion or fidgeting and drumming one's fingers anxiously during a dull lecture. In general, it is possible to be without any representation of a near-or long-term goal of one's activity. Indeed, at times one is actually surprised when the task is accomplished, as when one's thoughts are interrupted by one's arrival at the office.  (p.93)


Heidegger, Skill, Technology, Space, Dasein



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