Four Things and Two Practices: Rethinking Heidegger Ex Oriente Lux

Comparative and Continental Philosophy 4 (1):53-74 (2012)
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Abstract

This article re-orients Heidegger's analyses of things to cast light on two distinct ways of relating to things, one at the root of technological use and the other crucial to artistic creation. The first way, which we may call instrumental practice, denotes the activity of using something to accomplish some goal or objective. This practice underlies the analysis of use-things [Zeuge] that Heidegger presents in Being and Time. Heidegger's contribution there is twofold: to show how understanding things as zuhanden, there for us, is prior to taking things as objects in "nature," and to clarify how the "phenomenon of the world" can show itself when a useful thing becomes dysfunctional. But Heidegger's focus on the thing as zuhanden leaves in the dark a second kind of practice that we engage in when we relate to things, the practice of attending to an activity for its own sake, as I illustrate by the using or making of four things: the hammer, the Daoist cook's cleaver, the Daoist-inspired empty jug or Krug, and the Japanese calligrapher's brush. Heidegger's dialogue on Gelassenheit anticipates but also cuts short this practice of attention: gelassenes Denken—the thinking that lets go of representations and expectations and simply lets things be—promises to open a way to experience our essential nature [Wesen], but the dialogue's focus on things as already there or already made distracts from the practice of attention that goes into the art of making things like jugs. By re-orienting Heidegger's thinking we are able to recast the question of technology: can the practice of attention performed for its own sake—caring for things simply to care for them, caring for the surrounding world simply to care for it—help salvage not only the environment but the very essence of being human?

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John Maraldo
University of North Florida

References found in this work

Sein und Zeit.Martin Heidegger - 1928 - Annalen der Philosophie Und Philosophischen Kritik 7:161-161.
Matter and Memory.Henri Bergson - 1912 - Mineola, N.Y.: MIT Press. Edited by Paul, Nancy Margaret, [From Old Catalog], Palmer & William Scott.
Matter and Memory.Henri Bergson - 1894 - New York: Zone Books. Edited by Paul, Nancy Margaret, [From Old Catalog], Palmer & William Scott.
Being and Time: A Translation of Sein Und Zeit.Martin Heidegger - 1996 - State University of New York Press.
Sein und Zeit.Martin Heidegger - 1981 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 14 (1):57-58.

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