Derivative Dog

I’m announcing a new member of our family:



His name is Geordie and we picked him up from the pound yesterday. My husband and I had been talking about getting a dog for a long time now. I sort of promised him we’d do it, but I kept putting off the idea because I really wanted to travel, and having a dog makes that a lot harder. However, with traveling out of the picture for the near future and with my recent inability/lack of concern for keeping the house clean, I suddenly had a change of heart. “Wouldn’t it be so much nicer to do nothing with a do-nothing dog?” So I expressed my thoughts on the matter and the next day my husband came home announcing he had found our Skippy’s twin at the pound. Our dear little Skippy passed away a few years ago from old age. Here’s what he looked like:

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Skippy, a.k.a. “Skipperdoodle”, a.k.a. “rat face double fink”

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Skippy…we will always love you!

Sunday we snuck into the pound so that I could observe Skippy’s clone. (The pound was officially closed to the public, but I used to walk dogs there, so I knew how to get in.) By dog, there was Skippy reincarnated. We read his papers and found out that Skippy II had just arrived on Friday. I knew this dog would go fast. I’d only walked a handful of dogs that were potty trained and knew how to walk on a leash. This dog knew all of this, and much more. And he was small-ish and ragamuffin-y. No way he’d be around for long. Unfortunately I had an MRI on Monday at the same time when the pound opened, so there was nothing we could do but cross our fingers and hope that someone else wouldn’t get him in those two hours.

Well, we got him! But boy, we didn’t have much time to prepare. We took him home and didn’t even have dog food for him. So while my husband went back out to buy all the dog things, I stayed home and cuddled with my new friend.

I talked his big Dumbo ear off, I’m not gonna lie. I asked him if he minded that we kept comparing him to Skippy, and I apologized for occasionally flubbing his name. I said I hoped he wasn’t feeling “derivative.” “Is little Geordie-poo feeling derivative?” was how I put it. He replied that while he may look just a little bit like Skippy, he wasn’t nearly as “catty.” (How he could tell all this about Skippy from a photo, I don’t know.) I told Geordie that he clearly had a very different personality from Skippy’s, as was evidenced by his above-average cuddling, but since we were just getting to know each other, would it be all right if he could fill me in on his eating habits? For instance, would he ever go on a hunger strike for human food like our gourmet Skippy did? (Skippy always won those…he was a tiny dog and I always feared he’d die.) To which he replied, “Feel this. Do I look like I’ve ever gone on a hunger strike?” And I petted his soft belly. “Now check out that part under the collar,” he continued…”Yeah, there. Now behind the ear…”

Geordie’s perfect for us. He was given up by his owner because she had dementia. He’s clearly used to living with an older person…as is evidenced by his astounding ability to lie about:



I think lately my habits are not too far from an old lady’s, but I plan on walking him every day at least once around the neighborhood. This is something I need to be doing too, according to the physical therapist. Little Geordie’s put on some pounds from his sedentary lifestyle and at this point we are at about the same fitness level. He makes it around the loop, but by the end we’re both dragging. So we’ll go through this together!

But now, we nap. (He does run in his dreams. I suppose that counts for something.)


Heidegger’s Being and Time (Part II: Dasein)

In the last Heidegger post, I promised I’d address why Heidegger thinks that dualism (the mind-body problem) is predicated on a huge mistake that has carried through the whole history of Western philosophy. I will eventually. I’m putting that off until the next post…I hope you’ll stick around until then. I’m not promising anything, but I hope to make a video. I just downloaded iMovie into my iPad and I’m having fun learning how to use it, but as I said, no promises.

First we need to know a key term—Dasein. Dasein is what we would ordinarily call a human being or consciousness, but these are very poor word choices because they have connotations Heidegger would want to dispense with. I only offer this as something to hold onto briefly, a foothold or scaffolding which should later be taken away.

Normally the word Dasein would be translated into English as simply “existence” or “presence.” For Heidegger, the word takes on a special signification which can be better grasped if we take a look at its roots: Da-There, Sein-Being. Being There. When English speakers read Heidegger, the word is left untranslated to avoid confusion. For people like me who don’t speak German, it comes across in its foreignness as a technical term with a special meaning. I imagine it would be confusing for those whose native language is German, as they would simply think existence in the ordinary way. So perhaps English speakers have the advantage here. Dasein is to be taken as a special technical term.

What is Dasein? Heidegger says:

Dasein is an entity which in each case I myself am. Mineness belongs to any existent Dasein, and belongs to it as the condition which makes authenticity and inauthenticity possible…But these are both ways in which Dasein’s Being takes on a definite character, and they must be seen and understood a priori as grounded upon that state of Being which we have called “Being-in-the-world”…The compound expression ‘Being-in-the-world’ indicates in the very way we have coined it that it stands for a unitary phenomenon. This primary datum must be seen as a whole. (53)

Note: Authentic could mean “the mode in which I can discover Being” and inauthentic “the mode in which I flee from discovering Being.” These words do carry some of the usual connotations. But to keep things simple, just think: authentic=good, inauthentic=bad.

My sloppy interpretation of the quote above: I am always in the world in a unified way. But by “in” I don’t mean that “I” am in the world as water is “in” a glass. As Heidegger puts it, “There is no such thing as the ‘side-by-side-ness’ of an entity called ‘Dasein’ with another entity called the ‘world'” (55). Such a relationship is spatial and relies on that mistake I’ve been alluding to.

As Heidegger says: “It is not the case that man ‘is’ and then has, by way of an extra, a relationship-of-Being towards the ‘world’—a world with which he provides himself occasionally.” (57).

So much for Dasein for now. There’s a lot about Dasein that I’ve excluded, but I figure this is enough to take in for now.

In the first post, I explained that Heidegger’s project in Being and Time is to uncover the meaning of Being. I explained that Heidegger simply does away with noumena and radically asserts that we can know Being phenomenologically, although its meaning eludes us.

Why does Heidegger say that Being is veiled or hidden from Dasein? 

When we want to inquire into what something is, we tend to look for a definition.

In order to come up with a definition, we seek a genus and species. We want to know how the thing in question is like a certain group of things and how it is at the same time distinguished from those things. Definitions always express a relationship to other entities.

However, Being cannot be defined—there’s nothing broader than Being, so we have no way of offering a genus for a definition, there’s no greater category to which “Being” belongs. Being is not a category to be broken up. Being is not an entity.

Being can be discovered, but because it can’t be defined, it cannot be assessed or judged retrospectively.

We fail to apprehend Being because we are for the most part caught up in the things in the world. This state is what Heidegger would call “average everydayness” and it’s for the most part inauthentic. Our average everydayness gives rise to the problem of dualism.

Thanks for reading! Your comments make this work worthwhile!

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (Not a Heidegger Post)

One of the best things about living in Tucson (besides the Literary Festival and the desert itself) is the Gem Show, which comes every year in February and lasts about two weeks. And of course, being Tucson, the whole set up must be funky.IMG_2048

Vendors and buyers from all over the world come to take over the city. I mean that literally. The show is not in one location, but scattered all over, sprawling far into the east side. If there’s a defunct lot somewhere, you can be sure to see a few tents camped there. Vendors frequently set up shop in motel rooms, leaving the doors open for all to enter. (It always feels so creepy…often times people will leave their hotel trash scattered amongst their wares. Let me tell you, the vendors do not eat well.) Food trucks appear to feed the masses, parking lots fill up, shuttles run back and forth. The whole thing is kind of chaotic, like a carnival. Although I try to make it each year, I’ve really only seen maybe 1/10th of the show, if that. I haven’t seen any of the precious stones (apparently there’s the sapphire trail, the emerald trail, etc.) because I’m more interested in fossils.

Even if you’re not into starting a fossil and/or mineral collection, you can always come to admire the amazing specimens. (These are actually not the most amazing ones…but I was in a mighty rush to get home this year and I barely remembered to take photos to show you. I wish I had thought to take these with someone standing next to them so you could see the scale of how huge they are):

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These two amethysts in the picture above are probably two feet taller than me…so about seven feet tall. Wouldn’t that look outstanding in an entryway? I’d feel like queen coming into my castle. The ammonite sculpture in the photo to the right is about six feet tall and far wider than my arm span.

Last year I spent days wandering around, picking out beads, admiring fine specimens, listening to people haggle in foreign languages. This year I had to limit myself to my quest to find a Himalayan salt lamp which I promised my friend I’d get her. (We were admiring one in Oklahoma that was priced five times higher than what I can get here.) The one I got her is a little bigger than mine (below). And if you run out of salt, you can just scrape some off your lamp and put it in your food:


While those really nice fossils above are pricey, there’s a lot here that’s super cheap. The salt lamp above was ten bucks (and the vendors will say it purifies the air…wellllll…anyways, it’s neat-looking). You want a palm-sized trilobite to give to the kids? Two bucks. A bead with a fossil in it? One dollar:


Other things we bought in the past:




IMG_2065These were a little more of a splurge…but I couldn’t be happier to have this smiling crocodile in my living room.

Even though prices are already reasonable, you must haggle, just because…if you don’t haggle, you’re a sucker. And if you don’t haggle, there’s a chance the other vendors will hear you and they’ll price accordingly. So you’ve got to play the game. That’s half the fun.

Of course, if you buy in bulk, you get a better deal and more bargaining leverage. But a lot of the show is open to the public for those not looking to resell. You can also get amazing functional things made out of fossils, like this sink (left):



Or this table:






Or this Kleenex box holder:


Or this…thing. Whatever it is:


Or you can do what we’ve done and incorporate fossils and stones into the shower walls like a mosaic (terrible photo, I know):


While I’d never really been interested in such things before, it feels like the right thing to do now that we live in Tucson. Our bathroom now has a fossil theme, which provides just the right amount of Tucson-funk for our Santa Fe style home. It sort of goes along with having a beehive fireplace, Saltillo tile, and a backyard made up of landscape rock and stepping stones rather than grass.

And if you’re not into fossils and minerals, beads and random things, you can always people watch. The characters abound. This is Tucson after all.

What, if anything, do you collect?

Do you incorporate regional-local things into your home, and if so…tell me about them!

Heidegger’s Being and Time (Part I: Phenomenology)

The point of Being and Time: To properly formulate the question, What is being? so as to draw forth its meaning.

The process of reading B&T is sort of like being zoomed in on a pixel of a photograph and slowly zooming out to see the context. Which explains why my first reading in college was so infuriating—I had no sense of where things were going, I had no context for understanding. Now that I’m on my second reading I hope I’ll be able to provide some of that context as I start from the beginning, although a blog post is certain to be inadequate. Maybe, though, it will be a jumping-off point for further reading.

Well, let’s start with some terminology. (With this I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg, and even so we may not get any farther in this post):

phenomena: Heidegger often seeks the meaning etymologically, so we, too, will go back to the Greek: φαινόμενoν (phainomenon) which he takes to mean “to bring something to light.” “φαινω” (phaino) is closely related to φῶς (phos), which means “light.” He calls phenomena

“the totality of what lies in the light of day or can be brought to the light—what the Greeks sometimes identified simply with τὰ ὄντα (ta onta, entities)” (29).

So here we already see that phenomena is tied to beings or things. As if all we needed to do was turn on the light. But how did Being remain in the dark until Heidegger came along? Well Heidegger’s answer is that we’ve been asking the wrong questions. The mind-body problem has never been a legitimate problem.

The study of Being will turn out to be possible only through phenomenology. This is a radical claim.

Heidegger defines phenomenology as: “to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself”…aaaaannnnd…this is when we try not to throw the book against the wall in despair. Or we go ahead and throw it just to vent…

Why all the verbiage?

Well, he’s being careful here. Phenomena can be challenging. Sometimes phenomena present themselves in a straightforward way, like this coffee mug before me. Other times phenomena point outside themselves, like a symptom pointing to a disease. For instance, a runny nose, a cough, etc. are indicative of something behind them, causing them; namely, a cold. So the reason Heidegger adds “in the very way in which it shows itself” is because appearances can be taken to mean a mere semblance. In other words, it can reveal itself as something which it is not. (29)

We have thus far two kinds of phenomena:

a) “appearances” that show themselves

b) “appearances” that, in showing themselves, show what they are not. Symbols, metaphors, symptoms, illusions, and indicators are all in this category.

The latter is constituted in the former. Without straightforward appearances, there would be no indicators. The latter are in a reference-relationship to the former (31).

Then there’s another kind of phenomenon:

c) “appearances” “brought forth” that do not make up the real Being of what it brings forth, but constantly keep the thing it announces veiled (30).

c) sounds mysterious. I think I know where he’s going with this, but I would only be guessing. For now let’s just take Heidegger’s definition of phenomenology at face value—as that which shows itself in the very way in which it shows itself. Soon we will see how his phenomenology is distinguished from Husserl’s, which I discussed more fully here.

In order to understand Heidegger’s stance on phenomenology, we need to know what noumena is: It’s an unknowable thing-in-itself, which cannot be experienced. The word is often used in opposition to phenomena and is a term used by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason. There, Kant gives examples of noumena: God, the soul, freedom, and objects as they exist ‘in-themselves,’ apart from our experience of them. For Kant, noumena is ‘behind’ phenomena in a causal relationship, but noumena are never directly experienced.

It helps to take the phenomena/noumena divide into the context of phenomenology. While Husserl ignores noumena, simply setting it aside in order to focus on the phenomena, Heidegger outright rejects noumena in order to find the meaning of Being phenomenologically. Imagine it like this:


phenomena    [noumena]



phenomena     noumena

Husserl explicitly turns away from the question of being itself in merely bracketing noumena (in the earlier post on Husserl, the thing bracketed was designated “the natural attitude,” but it amounts to the same thing). His phenomenology is simply not concerned with things as they are “in themselves” in the Kantian sense. Husserl wants only to describe the phenomena as it appears, taking no positive stance on noumena.

Heidegger makes a positive claim: Being itself and its meaning can be disclosed to us. It’s not something “out there” beyond experience causing our experiences. Dualism (the mind-body problem) is predicated on a huge mistake that has carried through the whole history of Western philosophy (of which more in future posts).

For Heidegger, being is hidden, but only because we don’t pose the question of being properly, not because it is inherently inaccessible. Phenomena never lie. Nothing is hidden behind the phenomena.

In the next post I’ll discuss the mistake we are inclined to make in posing the question of being, and why we make this mistake.

Another thing. This post took me for-freaking-ever to write. And this was the easy one. So the next post may not come too rapidly…although hopefully I’ll gain some direction from your comments.