Saturday, September 09, 2006

Disclosedness and Discoveredness

“Disclosedness” and “Discoveredness” are two inter-connected and inseparable concepts that together form (respectively) the higher and lower level access functions of “being-in” in general: understanding, disposedness, and discourse. In light of being constituted by this threefold structure, any human agent will for that reason intelligibly show up as a self-defining ability to be a social role within his or her practice. Now the notion of “discloses” denotes the particular higher level familiarity with a closed holistic web of equipment and reference relations (i.e. social norms) that constitutes our sense for a particular background practice. On the other hand “discovers” denotes the particular lower level coping with particular equipments and particular people that shows up on the foreground of our everyday business in the world.

My Attempt To Understand "Being-In" part 1, Understanding

. This term describes an enabling condition for the possibility of any human agent's ability to deal with things and people within the context of his background practice (e.g. teaching, parenting, and so on). To elaborate, Heidegger claims that any particular human agent will always already have been defined in terms of his ability to dwell in a particular background practice on account of which all his various activities are given point, organization and resonance. The exhibition of this self-defining ability characteristic in the agent's coping activities, to roughly put, is what endows him with a definite personal identity (e.g. being a teacher, being a mother, and so on). Now moving on, Heidegger’s terminology for these necessary conditions that make possible both abilities and personal identities in general are as follows: understanding, disposedness, and telling. In this section, I will review these items and in so doing elaborate the structure of being-in.

Heidegger uses the word “understanding” to describe one dimension of our ability to be members of any form of life . For convenience’s sake, I will use the term know-how to capture this phenomenon since I believe it provides a better description than Heidegger’s “understanding.” So for example if I know-how to be a math teacher, then it would customarily follow that I also know-how to use a math book to teach algebra within the confines of a classroom to a group of math students. It is in light of this know-how that I am able to be a competent member of the community of teachers that I identify with. As it happens, my ability to be a teacher also gives organization, focus and point to my activities in such a way that they are always already in some manner arranged within its background. In this case, Heidegger would claim that I am defining myself in terms of my ability to be a teacher. This in general is the understanding. But there is far more to this preliminary description that needs to be filled. To do this, I will turn to Dreyfus’ distinction between higher and lower level know-how

Higher level know-how is our sense for the background practice against which we intelligibly cope with particular things and people that show up in the vicinity of our current sensory field. The background could perhaps best be defined as any holistic web of normatively ordered equipment relations (i.e. social norms) that constitutes the content of any form of life and of which an agent must familiarize with if he is to be a competent member of his form of life. Now what gives weight to the web is the fact that the normatively ordered relations provides each item of equipment that the competent agent manipulates a functional role to play in relation to the entire scheme of equipments. To have a sense for the background then is to precisely have a familiarity with this equipmental web of functional relations—what Heidegger calls, “significance.”

So in this view, if we consider a particular background form of life, i.e. a closed web of equipment relations (significance) in play such as a carpentry workshop, a possible chain of relations can take up the following order: this hammer appropriately bears on these nails, these nails appropriately bears on these pieces of wood, these pieces of wood appropriately bears on other pieces of wood, all of which are purposively organized and assigned to the task they are appropriate for, namely constructing a kitchen table for-the-sake of being a carpenter. It is to the content of this for-the-sake-of-which that I for example must have a self-defining ability to be for (i.e. self-understanding) if I am to be able to have a familiar openness to the normative web of relations against which I cope with things (i.e. understanding entities as entities) in my background practice.

Lower level know-how is the
intelligible coping with particular things and people we engage in against the context of our background practice. Generally speaking, if an agent is competent with being in his practice, then his ability will be sufficient to provide him with a sensitive familiarity with the background on the basis of which he effectively engages in involved and absorbed coping with things and people that show up unobtrusively in the foreground of his practice. So for example, take the case of my previous example of the skilled carpenter. Given that this agent is capable of being a carpenter (self-understanding), it follows from this that he is sensitive to the holistic web of relations (social norms) that constitutes his familiarity with his background practice. It is because of this that the agent will for the most part manipulate his equipments in an engaged, absorbed, and non-attentive manner (understanding entities as entities) unless of course, something happens to disrupt his ongoing flow. This is what lower level know-how refers to.

Why I Started This Blog

Ever since I've started reading Heidegger' Being and Time a year ago, my main problem with his work has always rested on the inaccessibility of his language. For example, what does Heidegger mean by "being", what does Heidegger mean by "being-a-basis", and so forth. With the exception of Dreyfus', Blattner's, Wrathall's and Haugeland's commentaries and essays on Heidegger, none of the secondary sources has provided me with much help in this department. Rather than trying to make Heidegger more accessible, most commentators more often than not simply write their essays within the framework of Heidegger's queer use of language without even seeking to sufficiently clarify what Heidegger means by his use of certain crucial terms. My blog for this reason will be dedicated to addressing these problems by attempting to translate and elaborate his obscure prose into a more accessible and philosophically useful language. In this way, I hope to better understand or should I say Disclose Heidegger.

Friday, September 08, 2006