"Heidegger's Ontology of Work"
by Blok, Vincent (2015)
In this chapter, the author shows that Heidegger's ontology of work in the 1930s is already prefigured in Being and Time. With this, the question arises how this prefiguration of the "total" work-character in Being and Time is related to the ontology of work in the 1930s. As Heidegger characterizes human dealing with the world indeed as being-at-work in the work-world, but this inclusiveness of our being-in-the-world is not total. Heidegger's conceptualization of care in terms of work makes clear that Junger initially did not have a negative influence on Heidegger's thought at the beginning of the 1930s, as suggested by Michael Zimmermann, namely the stimulus to develop an alternative for the technological future forecasted by Junger. Heidegger's use of the concept of work in the period 1930–1934 is definitely positively inspired by Junger, although not necessarily completely the same as Junger's.
In a lecture about the Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy in the same period (1924), this world of equipment and work is explicitly con-nected with the concept of work. In his productive appropriation 12 of Aristo-tle’s basic concepts, Heidegger explores what primarily encounters us in the world: “A being thus in the world is there and can, as dunamis, at the same time be something usable. Dunamis, ‘not yet,’ can mean: is usable for . . ., transformable into. . . . This being that is there thus, as there completed and usable for . . . is characterized by the dichoos as a being.” 13 We encounter here not only Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle’s concept of dunamis, but also an early formulation of his own analysis of equipment in Being and Time: the leather is usable for shoes, it can become a shoe, like timber can become a table. On the one hand, we encounter the readiness-to-hand of equipment in this ability-to-be of timber; timber is usable to make a table or—in terms of Being and Time—a useful piece of equipment in order to make such a table. On the other hand, precisely this ability-to-be is under-stood as being-in-work ( in-Arbeit-Sein) of the table; the being-serviceable for . . . or usable for . . . 14 of ready-to-hand equipment is thus understood here as being-in-work of equipment. This being-in-work is according to Heidegger not only “thought” by us but also a way of being, namely the way the timber primarily encounters us in the environment in its usefulness for or serviceability as a table.As in Being and Time, Heidegger argues in this lecture as well that the being-in-work of ready-to-hand equipment does not only concern instru-ments and handicrafts, but is extended to the whole of nature: “The her-meneutic fact of the matter: I and you, we are not concerned with it [the being-in-work of beings], and yet it is there, it happens, is concerned with itself, is there arising, and the like—to come from itself into presence and, e.g. to rest therein—reality. Phusis characterizes a being that is: to be in itself the worker of itself.” 16 Here we encounter therefore the work-character of the ready-to-hand world in which we are at home as worker. As in Being and Time, this work-character is extended to the whole of the world of practice, i.e., this work-character determines beings in the whole. As our dealing geared to equipment in Being and Time is included in the work-world, so is the work-character of the world also in this lecture understood in relation to human being as worker. As equipment only is in our dealing geared to equipment and in our focus on its work, so is the relation with timber here characterized in the following way: the timber is originary at work, provided that the carpenter has it in hand. “What is able-to-be (the wood lying before in the workshop), that is in work, is there as able-to-be precisely when it is taken up into work.” 17 The whole of nature is therefore being-at-work—the phusis is “worker of itself”—but originarybeing-at-work is nature precisely in our dealing with it: “In work, one has the surrounding world (also that which is of interest, and the like). We are concerned with the surrounding world in hand.” 18 Work is thus understood in a relational way, as the unity of the being-at-work of the work-world and human work with regard to this world, and concerns therefore the appear-ance of the world as being-at-work and our human responsiveness to the world of work as worker. Also in Being and Time, our dealing geared by equipment is explicitly called “work”; the work-world “is found when one is at work,” 19 we meet other people “at work,” etc. 20 It is precisely this handling or working with equipment with regard to the works of labor, which is called being-in-the-world by Heidegger. (p.65)
KeywordsHeidegger, Ontology, Pragmatism, Relationality, Being, Junger, Zimmermann
ThemesOn Jünger, On Heidegger
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