1. There is something slightly artificial about Heidegger's choice of the entity to be questioned (i.e. ourselves). We must avoid any suggestion that the being of human beings is to serve as the model for the being of all other entities. The real ground for his choice is that what distinguishes our being from that of other entities is that it includes an understanding of being. Dasein is not an entity from which the meaning of being is to be abstracted [or 'read off'] it is what he calls the 'place of the understanding of being'. (Gorner 22)

2. However, such [ontic-type] theory building itself depends upon taking for granted certain basic ways in which the given discipline demarcates and structures its own area of study; and those foundations tend to remain unthematized by the discipline itself, until it finds itself in a state of crisis. Relativity theory precipitated such a crisis in physics... Such conceptual enquiries are not examples of theories that conform to the standards of the discipline, but rather explore that on the basis of which any such theory could be constructed, the a priori conditions for the possibility of such scientiic theorizing In Heideggerian language, what they reveal are the ontological presuppositions of ontic enquiry. (Mulhall 4)

3. [Is] Heidegger making mere things dependent on equipment, and isn't this simply absurd? Equipment becomes equipment by mere things being given functional properties by human beings. The dependence is the other way round. But this supposes that what H is talking about is ontic dependence, the dependence of one sort of entity on another sort of entity. In fact he is talking about ontological dependence. Presence-at-hand is dependent on readiness-to-hand in the sense that the understanding of presence-at-hand presupposes the understanding of readiness-to-hand. The relationship is one between understandings of being, not between entities. (Gorner 46-7)

4. If Heidegger is right about the primacy of engaged having-to-do-with over mere perception, then a traditional philosophical problem -- that of our knowledge of the external world -- simply does not arise. What Heidegger means by 'world' is not external anyway. It is an existential, a structure of Dasein's being. What are external, in the sense of being other than Dasein, are ready-to-hand and present-at-hand entities. If the primary mode of access to entities is perceptual, then the scepticism about the existence of external objects is possible. But if perception is dependent on engaged having-to-do-with, then scepticism about entities other than Dasein makes no sense. (Gorner 50).

5. Contrast such having-to-do-with or engagement, which ... is the primary mode of comportment to things, with merely looking at things (perception) ... Traditionally this has been treated as though it were the basic relation we have to things and the foundation of all the rest... A striking thing about Heidegger is that he reverses the traditional order of priority. We are first and foremost engaged with entities. Mere perception of entities arises when engagement is held in abeyance. Perception is a modification of engaged having-to-do-with, what he calls a deficient mode of concern (61). (Gorner 39)

6. Knowing what it is for something to be a hammer is, among other things, knowing all [the indefinite number of other tasks that a hammer can be used to perform, of other objects that might be used instead of a damaged hammer or adapted so as to be usable in these ways...]; and knowing all this is an inherently open-ended capacity -- one which cannot be exhausted by a finite list of precise rules whose application from context to context is transparent. Our practical activities always engage with and are developed in specific situations, but there is no obvious way of specifying a closed set of all the possible ways and contexts in which our knowledge of a hammer and its capacities might be pertinently deployed. Insofar as any attempt to reduce readiness-to-hand to presence-at-hand necessarily involves reducing our understanding of an object's serviceability to a grasp of a finite set of general rules together with a precise specification from a finite set of situations in which they apply, then it is doomed from the outset. (Mulhall 56)
Written on January 8, 2009