Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Repeating Heidegger's Analysis of Everydayness: The Question of Being and the Latent Concern for Materiality

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Repeating Heidegger's Analysis of Everydayness: The Question of Being and the Latent Concern for Materiality

Article excerpt

One of the ways in which philosophy differs from all other disciplines is through its explicit concern for "beginnings." However, what distinguishes Heidegger from his predecessors-whether Plato or Aristotle, Descartes or Kant, Hegel or Husserl-is his search for the least presumptuous of all beginnings, the pre-philosophical backdrop from which the tendency to philosophize first originates. In Heidegger's case, philosophy must begin where we already are, that is, almost paradoxically, where a concern for its task recedes, namely, in "everyday" existence. But is the concept of "everydayness" which Heidegger outlines in the first division of Being and Time set in granite, or instead is it open to revision as the historical circumstances of the inquirer changes?1 Before attempting to answer this question, we must recall that part of what is involved in the self's facticity is its embeddedness in a culture oriented toward change and development.

In light of this observation, I will attempt to show that a revision of Heidegger's analysis of everydayness is not only possible, indeed it is necessary. For this revision fulfills an explicit hermeneutical mandate of retrieving the point of departure for ontological inquiry, that is, of "repeating" the earlier analysis in order to uncover its presuppositions within a wider historical context. As Heidegger states at the conclusion of Being and Time-quoting an earlier passage-"philosophy is `universal phenomenological ontology, and takes it departure from the hermeneutic of Dasein, which, as an analytic of existence, has made fast the guiding-line for all philosophical inquiry as the point where it arises and returns."2

The fact that we are immersed in history means that the variables which govern our consideration of the equipmental whole of everydayness may be much different than those which first led Heidegger to undertake such a phenomenological analysis in the 1920s. The facticity that distinguishes us who live in the "information age" of computers and e-commerce is different from that which defined our predecessors who inhabited the industrialized realm of typewriters and corner markets. If everydayness is simply the routine by which we adapt to changes in techne, then awareness of the global character of this change defines modern technology as such. Thus the techne of technology and of everydayness are two sides of the same coin, insofar as the latter maps on a global scale the practical dealings that preoccupy us in the immediate proximity of our everyday environment. For Heidegger, then, the question of technology springs from the soil of everydayness; and, conversely, a change in our experience of technology-the historical unfolding of its possibilities-requires altering our concept of the everyday world of equipment. Insofar as Heidegger equates the techne of technology with production, which in turn comes to light in its nascent form in the everyday work-world, a change in the face of contemporary technology implies another axis along which the significance of equipmental relations unfolds. Given this new axis of the work-world, the basic modus operandi of everydayness is no longer production but exchange.

I will begin by showing how the issue of exchange remains latent in Heidegger's critique of "productionist metaphysics" as providing the Gestalt for proliferating technology on a global scale.3 Then I will establish how "exchange" has an ontological meaning, which in turn can be interpreted in light of the dynamics of the disclosure of being itself. Finally, I will argue that reintroducing economic issues compensates for Heidegger's neglect of them, insofar as it interweaves the concern for our condition as embodied beings into the composition of everydayness. For this reintroduction yields the key to retrieving his earlier analysis of the everyday work-world-where embodiment becomes as much a dimension of "world" as it is of the "there"-albeit now recast in light of his insight into technology. …

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