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

The world, i.e., the interlocking practices, equipment, and skills for using them, which provides the basis for using specific items of equipment, is hidden. It is not disguised, but it is undiscovered. So, like the available, the world has to be revealed by a special tech-nique.12 Since we ineluctably dwell in the world, we can get at the world only by shifting our attention to it while at the same time staying involved in it. Luckily for the phenomenologist, there are special situations in which the phenomenon of world is forced upon our awareness: -"To the everydayness of being-in-the-world there belong certain modes of concern. These permit the beings with which we concern ourselves to be encountered in such a way that the worldly character of what is intraworldly comes to the fore." (102) [73] -The discovery that a piece of equipment is missing, on Heidegger's account, reveals the workshop as a mode of the world. The disturbance makes us aware of the function of equipment and the way it fits into a practical context: -"When an assignment to some particular "towards-this" has been. circumspectively aroused, we catch sight of the "towards-this" itself, and along with it  everything connected with the work-the whole "work-shop"-as that wherein concern always dwells. The nexus of equipment is lit up, not as something never seen before, but as a whole constantly sighted beforehand in circumspection [i.e., as already taken account of in our transparent everyday coping]. With this whole, however, the world announces itself. (105, my gloss in brackets) [74-75]" -If we can't get back to work, we are left helpless, and in asking if we can abandon our project, the point of our activity becomes apparent to us. (p.99)


Heidegger, Skill, Technology, Space, Dasein



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