Heidegger’s Being and Time (Part III: Dualism)

I’ve been threatening to explain Heidegger’s views on why dualism is predicated on a mistake, and I’ve finally done it. Well, I let someone else do it while I held the camera.

UPDATE 2022: Here’s the same video as before, but hopefully with better sound quality:

Please don’t read my criticism below until after you’ve seen the video. (It won’t make any sense.)


If Heidegger could prove that presence-at-hand arises out of readiness-to-hand, that the world of purpose (teleology) which we inhabit is primordial, that the world of bare existences is dependent on the world of value, then he’s proven that dualism has been misguided. Heidegger shows how presence-at-hand could arise out of readiness-to-hand, but he doesn’t show that it must. The necessary connection is missing, and this weakens the whole of Heidegger’s project as I understand it.

As always, feel free to ask questions, offer criticisms, shower praise on Geordie and his exquisite performance, etc.


Me: Why is dualism predicated on a huge mistake that has carried through the whole history of Western philosophy?

Professor: Dualism is the view that there are two substances in the world, two kinds of being—mind and matter—and that somehow mind perceives matter, perceives the world. They are separate ontologically—that is, conceptually—but somehow they connect. When Heidegger addresses this problem, he doesn’t do it in the traditional kinds of terms that I just used. I think that the key to understanding him is in his idea of presence-to-hand [presence-at-hand] and readiness-to-hand. And the primacy of readiness-to-hand.

Presence-at-hand is what we modern Westerners think of as simply the way things are. They sit out there and fill up space and time and nothing else. Readiness-to-hand is the object in so far as it has value.

The only thing in philosophy that I know of that is like this is final cause in Aristotle, where objects have certain values insofar as they are good for certain purposes or created by those purposes. The value, then, is in the object. But here in Heidegger it is much broader than that and I don’t think Heidegger had very much respect for the Aristotelian final cause. It comes from the active involvement or engagement of Dasein—that is, human being—with the world. The world exists first as value-laden.

The mountain that sits there as a chunk of matter or worldliness is not simply a volume filled with stuff. It is an obstacle in a path, it is a goal to be climbed, it is a piece of beauty to be looked at and enjoyed. It is all kinds of values first—primordially—and then in Heidegger we subtract from it those values and thus come to the presence-at-hand. So that presence-at-hand is actually derived from readiness-to-hand, not the other way around. And I believe Heidegger refers to this by saying that presence-at-hand is a deficient mode of readiness-to-hand. First of all, it is there in Dasein’s active engagement with the world as a value-ful object, then we subtract the value and come up with the idea of present-at-hand, which he thinks we mistakenly put back into the object and try to imagine Dasein coming across something present-at-hand and adding value to it. That is dualism as Heidegger understands it. For him, it’s wrong.

An example of the relationship that Heidegger gives between present-at-hand and ready-to-hand is the idea of being broken. You start with the primordially-given ready-to-hand…say, a tool, which has a certain value imbued in its being, being good for hammering would be the value that’s in a, well, hammer. Then we are to imagine a hammer breaking, perhaps the handle breaks so that it’s no longer [something in German] ready-to-hand, it becomes now merely present-at-hand, sort of stupid. All I can do with it now is kick it.

Kind of like a car that doesn’t work anymore, the first reaction is to kick it. It just sits there, being, but no longer good for anything. And it is obviously bad for something, but its presence-at-hand comes forward and in this way the present-at-hand is derived from the ready-to-hand. And this is an example, I suppose, of what Heidegger means by presence-at-hand being a deficient mode of readiness-to-hand.

Me: What is Heidegger’s attitude towards science?

Heidegger’s attitude towards science is not that science is simply wrong or anything like that, but that science is a derivative activity that comes up with a purely theoretical view of the world, which it then superimposes back on the world, then imagines Dasein coming upon the world and tries to imagine how it can happen that Dasein knows the world. But in fact, according to Heidegger, Dasein was already there in the world with Being-in-the-world before any of that happened. Of course, the world that Dasein was “in,” so to speak, was a world of readiness-to-hand. Everything was ready-to-hand in one way or another. Either as an obstacle or a source of food—it was good for something or bad for something, let’s put it that way. Dasein was already there, with it in a primordial unity which is what he calls Being-in-the-world. Again, from that primordial unity Dasein has the capacity to withdraw itself from the world, and merely look at the world instead of using it or being engaged with it in some way. And that’s what science is.

Now gravity of course is a scientific idea. And so the idea of gravity is for Heidegger derivative. Derivative, in what sense? Gravity is the idea that all pieces of matter anywhere in the world attract each other with a certain force. It would be closer to the original primordial experience to say something like…well to use the etymology of the word “attract”…that is, it’s not just a motion of two bodies towards each other, but a real attraction in which, in Aristotle’s terms or in old Greek terms, the bodies experience a kind of love. I’m sorry if that sounds romantic or hideously old-fashioned, but that would be closer to what Heidegger thinks. Though, I don’t think that Heidegger is saying that “love makes the world go ’round” or anything like that, but that the world is not simply matter in motion. The world can love, it can hate…it has all sorts of value-laden relations that are involved with motion. It’s just growth. Growth is a motion in Aristotle’s terms, and growth is a much richer concept than mere gravitational attraction.

Back to the mind-body problem:

So now if we’re trying to imagine this primordial unity of Being-in-the-world (in which the world is encountered as value-laden in myriad ways) and presence-at-hand (which is derived from that world), we can see that in order for presence-at-hand to emerge in that way, Dasein must have been already there in the world before it performed that feat of abstraction which lead to presence-at-hand. So Dasein was already there in the world before we separated Dasein and the world and then tried to figure out how to get them back together again. If we begin with the primordial unity of Being-in-the-world, according to Heidegger, we don’t have the mind-body problem. We have the unity of Dasein and the world, which he called, Being-in-the-world.

What do you think?

Join the discussion at philosophyandfiction.com

Thanks for watching!

46 thoughts on “Heidegger’s Being and Time (Part III: Dualism)

  1. Geordie’s great! But I’m afraid I had to give up on the video after a couple of minutes. The problem is mine, not yours. I have a severe hearing deficiency, and I couldn’t make out his words. I lose out on a lot of interesting YouTube videos because of that. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wondered about the sound on this. I filmed this in a very short time and didn’t consider the sound of the fountain in the background until it was too late. If I tried to increase the volume, the sound of the fountain increased too, and I had no way of isolating the tracks. Then I had to use the sound of the fountain to do audio transitions, otherwise there’d be this strange and sudden silence. So annoying!

      I think next time I’ll set everything up first before I get my husband to pontificate. He was in a hurry to get to the gym, so I had to film quickly. On top of the audio problems, I had uneven filming because of the fact that I was filming with an iPad propped up on a fat stack of books. The iPad kept falling over and it was all pretty obnoxious. Finally I just held onto it, but I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking it, so I finally just settled on making do with whatever I had.

      Well, it’s been a learning experience! I actually really enjoyed doing the editing, especially the parts toward the end where I film the car and Geordie.

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      • Making videos (or films) is a ton of fun! I remember my college film student days with a great deal of fondness. In the two minutes I watched, I did notice the editing and titles. Nice job!

        I didn’t hear the fountain — probably too high pitched for me. I could hardly make out the words! Audio is one of the toughest things to get right. Using the built in mike on the camera device usually gives poor results — you really want to “mic” the person talking. That’s about the only way to deal with background sounds. And, ideally, you want to shoot in a quiet location. Which usually means inside where you have more control. Shooting outside is tough! You might be surprised how many outdoor scenes from TV and movies have their dialog “looped” later on a sound stage. The giveaway is that, if the dialog audio of an exterior scene sounds good, it was probably looped. Of course, if they did a poor job and the lips don’t quite match, that’s a *dead* giveaway! 🙂


        • You know, getting the audio to match the video is damn near impossible for me. I’m sure there’s a way, but I haven’t figured it out. I originally planned on having a lot more images and videos with a voice over, but things got messy real fast. I made a real mess of things, then had to start over. I ended up scrapping a lot of ideas to make things simpler.

          A quiet location would be easier, but I had planned on filming with the mountain in the background (Heidegger spent his last years retreating into the mountains to write poetry, so I wanted to give a nod to that.) Then I got my husband out there and he complained about the sun in his eyes, so that plan had to be scrapped. So many variables!


          • A film project is invariably a series of multilevel, interlocked problems to solve! It really puts your problem-solving skills to the test. Just wait until you’re far out on location some day, your actors and crew are hot, tired, hungry, and cranky, and everyone’s looking at you with that “now what” look in their eyes… o_O


            • Oh my, I would just die if I had to deal with cracky people on top of it all! My husband was actually really easy to film once I got him positioned because I didn’t have to guide him much on what to say. I just asked a couple of questions, then he gave these nice mini lectures with wrap-ups and everything. Most people don’t speak that way, I certainly don’t. But I guess if you’ve spent a lot of time teaching, it comes second hand.

              It took me maybe an hour to film him, believe it or not, and most of that time was spent messing with the camera and trying to position it right.

              I might post a transcript of this, and hopefully next time I’ll do a better job with the sound, although I don’t have a microphone. I’ll probably film inside or do a separate track for the audio or something like that.

              I’m inspired to make more videos now. I think I’ll know better what to do next time. Maybe if I keep things simple, I’ll have a better product.

              Liked by 1 person

              • There’s definitely a lot to learn! Each project you use what you learned last time which allows for a whole new set of problems to learn from! 🙂

                It doesn’t surprise me that teachers would make good subjects (pun intended 🙂 ) here. They’re just doing what they do!

                Filming a “talking head” isn’t the most visually interesting thing one can do. It doesn’t really leverage the visual medium. A common tactic is lots of cut away shots to other footage just to liven things up.

                If you plan to do many of these, you might want to consider investing in a cheap mic you can use — they really make a world of difference in capturing audio.


                • Yeah, I got some of those shots in later in the video, but I couldn’t figure out how to get those cut aways in the middle of a clip without messing up the syncing later in the clip. I know there’s a way, and I was just having a brain fart. I actually managed to do it a few times, then I couldn’t figure out how I did it!

                  I might have to invest in better equipment if I decide I really want to get into this. I have a tendency to drop hobbies, so I’ll hold off and see how it goes.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds to me a bit Aristotelian or even pre-socratic. With some Fichte mixed in. In any case, weired :-).

    I think most of the universe has nothing to do with us. The mountain contains rocks and cracks and crystalites that will never be seen by a human being and never interact with us in any measurable way. But they exist. There was a time before we existed and there will be a time after we are gone. So the idea (if I understand this right) that the human experience is somehow primary or primordial, appears quite strange to me.

    The hammer as a hammer exists only in connection with the world of our perceptions and puposes and it is an interesting insight that this requires time. But to think that this human world is the primary one seems a mistake to me.

    One might describe how our abstract, “objectified” understanding of the world precipitates out of a more holistic experience centered uppon ourselves. There might be a primordial unity in our perception both as individuals and a cultures or as a species with a cultural tradition, but to equate that with what exists is a strange idea, at least for me. I would also think that dualism is wrong, but in a different way.

    But I like the format (especially with Geordie inside). And it is well explained. Good professor, who ever he is 🙂

    The world from Geodie Bear’s view must look very different, so readiness to hand and readiness to snout (or paw) must be very different. But you both share the same material world and you and Geourdie are part of it.

    It might be a good idea to provide a transcription.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for watching! I get what you’re saying about the strangeness of Heidegger’s position on existence. I find his story of primordial unity compelling, but inconclusive. Still, it’s an interesting account of how dualism comes about. I think it rings true, though where our ontological priorities ought to lie is still a question for me.

      My husband is the “in-house professor”…I’ll tell him you said that. He’ll be delighted. He’s retired now, but he can pontificate on certain philosophers on autopilot. He was a little annoyed with his response on gravity and Aristotle, though I don’t know why. But at that point, I had already gone too far in the editing and there was no going back. I think he felt there was too much emphasis on Aristotelian teleology, which he didn’t intend. Still, it’s easier to relate Heidegger to Aristotle than to talk about Heidegger in Heideggerian terms. He was going for a simple explanation.

      Now here’s my husband’s response to you. He’s speaking as if he were Heidegger defending himself: “Before Dasein abstracted itself from the world, it was already there. Therefore, before (in the primordial sense of “before”) the idea of a world existing independently of Dasein, Dasein was already there. Therefore, there is no world without Dasein.”

      I asked my husband “So then, everything’s subjective?” (I tried to imagine how you would respond, although I should just leave that to you!)

      He responded, “No. There is no “subjective” primordially.” Then he looked up at the ceiling and said, “I mean, yeah, sort of.” 🙂 Then he walked off to do some gardening.

      The word “primordial” is funny—it doesn’t mean anything historical. It’s not as if Heidegger’s talking about how we were as babies, or as a species, or anything like that. I asked my husband what it meant, and he said, “Oh, that’s the tricky one. It’s not time. It requires a lot of discussion.” So I can only tell you what it’s not at this point.

      Heidegger doesn’t want to reduce everything to mind rather than matter. That much is clear. Such a reduction would depend on the dualism that he’s trying to eradicate.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed the video and Geordie antics. Your husband has an excellent polished presence. I can tell he’s done his share of lectures. But yeah, I could have done without the fountain background noise, but I found it to be an excellent first effort!

    My initial reaction to this is to wonder if we’re talking ontologically or epistemologically, in other words, are we talking about what is, or what we can know? “readiness-to-hand” sounds like value laden subjective experience, which is the only way we can experience the world, while “presence-at-hand” sounds like theoretical objective reality.

    If he’s saying that we can only know the objective world through our value laden subjective perceptions, then that sounds right to me. If he’s saying that the objective world ontologically arises from subjective experiences, that sounds like idealism. If he’s saying something completely utterly different from either of these, then I’m back to my usual frustration with continental language 🙂


  4. I’m afraid I’m about to frustrate you. 🙂 Heidegger’s definitely doing ontology. Heidegger’s neither an idealist nor a realist because these depend on dualism:

    “Heidegger is more accepting of idealism, but only so that he may press through idealism and go beyond the debate between realists and idealists altogether. Ultimately, therefore, the dichotomy between realism and idealism is not a helpful one for understanding Heidegger, and we must similarly force ourselves to think beyond both it and its underlying philosophical presuppositions…We must be cautious, therefore, about thinking of Heidegger as an idealist. In failing to clarify its ontological basis, idealism has, along with realism, obscured the ontological difference between being and entities. Yet where realism was guilty of conflating the independence of natural objects with their being, idealism conversely confused the dependency of being with entities, that the entities themselves were seen as dependent on human understanding. It is this second move that causes Heidegger to speak critically of idealism: “if ‘idealism’ signifies tracing back every entity to a subject or consciousness…, then this idealism is no less naive in its method than the most grossly militant realism.””

    This quote came from this article: http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/hrp/issues/1991/Stepanich.pdf

    We’re used to thinking that the world as presented to us is different from the world as it is in itself. Heidegger uses the readiness/presence distinction to show how this dichotomy came about, and also to show that both modes are within our grasp (although in differing degrees). The idea that there’s something “out there” entirely beyond our grasp stems from pushing the presence-at-hand thinking to an extreme.

    In Kant, things in themselves are not knowable. Heidegger, on the other hand, is saying we come to know the “objective” world through our “subjective” experience, but for him, “objective” is always knowable as a deficient mode, as presence-at-hand. The “objective” is never entirely out of our reach, the way it is in Kant. Another way of putting it is to say that we CAN know things “in themselves” (if we take over this phrase from Kant), since these are just entities present-at-hand. So for Heidegger, science might be called a study of things “in themselves.”

    I don’t think Heidegger would say “If I die, the world dies with me.” I think the fact that things present-at-hand are knowable is an important point, even if they are seen as “deficient”. We can’t ignore that what appears in a sort of “independent” mode carries with it the meaning that it will subsist when we die. But then we want to ask, “But WILL it subsist when I die? How do I know?” and these are questions Heidegger might say are misguided or maybe even meaningless (not sure about the latter). That article above gets into these sorts of questions in the first few paragraphs.

    I hope this makes sense! Sorry to go on and on…I’ve got a lot of time on my hands right now. 🙂


    • Thanks for the explanation, and for the article link. I ended up reading the whole thing (I had to do it in stages). I’m not clear how either idealism or realism require dualism. (I assume we’re talking about substance dualism here.) It seems like either would be compatible with monism, whether it be idealistic or materialistic.

      On the distinction between being and essence, I think it depends on what we mean by “being”. Heidegger seems, to me, to be maybe using it as (or conflating it with) “meaning”, something it seems both idealists and realists would agree that only conscious entities can provide. But “being” to me means “existence”. Of course, as you strip away an object’s meanings (its use as a hammer, wood, metal, atoms, etc), you leave less and less, until you either hit a brute layer of independent existence (perhaps fermions and bosons) or you never do. But it sure seemed like the rock that hit my windshield the other day had an independent existence.

      On the distinction between Kant and Heidegger on being able to know objective reality, I think a lot depends on how we define “knowledge”. I suspect that Kant is talking about an absolute certitude when he talks about it being unknowable, whereas Heidegger may be talking more pragmatically as holding beliefs with a high probability of approximating objective reality. I’d be curious if either one of them were explicit about that.

      “But WILL it subsist when I die? How do I know?”
      It’s worth noting that, *subjectively*, unless we somehow survive beyond the world, the world will never end, because we’ll never experience death. (Consider that you never actually experience losing consciousness, only regaining it.)


      • I think in a strict sense, idealism and realism don’t require dualism. I suppose I meant that when we think of one or the other, we tend to relate these terms to each other by comparison. There’s the world, there’s the subject or consciousness, either the world is “in the mind” or it’s not. But yeah, strictly speaking, you’re right. We have a tendency to think of monism as a reduction to either mind or matter, but Heidegger is (according to him) doing neither.

        The meaning of being is precisely what Heidegger’s trying to get at. For him, meaning and being are likely to seem conflated, and maybe they are. The stripping away of meaning to uncover being is what happens in the mode of presence-at-hand, and this is where Heidegger thinks our priorities are misguided (or can be misguided). For him, being is not something found once meaning has been stripped away, but it’s there all along. He questions why we feel the need to strip away meaning to find “brute existence”.

        You know, I’m not sure about the level of certainty in Kant vs. Heidegger. I suspect you’re right about Kant, but I just don’t recall Heidegger talking about probability or anything like that.

        Interesting thought about the world never ending. Since we don’t experience death (only dying) it does make sense that we won’t experience the world ending either. It’s a strange thing to think about. It seems to me like the world would not really end or subsist, subjectively. The question disappears at that point. Heidegger talks a lot about “bringing death closer” as a way of uncovering “authenticity”…I can’t say I understand what he’s getting at here, but I wonder if the question of the world ending or subsisting has something to do with what he’s getting at.


        • Well, I do have to say that this discussion has given me insights into Heidegger’s ideas. Thank you!

          But Heidegger’s stance seems to be that science is making a mistake by focusing on presence at hand. In some ways, it seems to be an argument against reductionism. But it seems to me that there’s no fine line between presence at hand and readiness at hand, but layers of understanding. If I want to understand quantum mechanics, then it totally makes sense to me to remove all the readiness at hand to get at it. If I want to understand economic theory, then a lot less readiness at hand needs to be removed. They operate at different levels of understanding.


          • I do see the readiness-to-hand/presence-at-hand distinction as a kind of continuum really. I don’t know that Heidegger says this, but that’s how I make sense of it. I think that example of brokenness is just an initial layer of seeing objects “in-themselves”, but of course we can go much further than this. I think along the same lines that you do as far as this goes…we only need to strip away so much for economic theory, but for physics, we strive to strip away all readiness-to-hand.

            I don’t know whether Heidegger would say science itself is making a mistake in focusing on things present-at-hand—this is what it does, after all—but he might say there’s no way of uncovering being authentically in that way. What is science doing then? Is it uncovering reality? For him, no. I don’t think he’d have a problem with science if it’s seen as providing a different sort of investigation that does not constitute reality. After Being and Time he wrote about technology, and I haven’t read that. I think it’s pretty disparaging, but I don’t think he’d say that science offers no benefits or that one should not do science or anything like that. He’d be a fool to say that no good comes of it, since clearly technology provides benefits.

            My criticism of Heidegger has to do with his prioritization of readiness-to-hand. His account of how things are seen as present-at-hand seems plausible, and it may very well be true that the unity of “subject” and “the world” comes first, but I don’t think he makes the case that we ought to prioritize that unity to uncover being. He may be right, but he hasn’t made the case, it’s not decisive.

            I see this part of Being and Time as an interesting way to think about the origin of this idea of “things in themselves.” I find his account plausible and even compelling, but only without the implications and conclusions that Heidegger draws from it. Which means I don’t think he’s actually solved the problem of dualism, but has recast the question in a new light. To me, these two modes of looking at the world—scientifically and teleologically (I’m using this term loosely)—are simply there, regardless of which came first. I’m not sure how these ought to be prioritized or whether they ought to be, even if he’s right that the teleological constitutes the scientific.

            But in philosophy, casting the question in a new light is a big deal. Heidegger turns us away from asking the question of how we come to know things “in-themselves” to why we ask such questions. We question the question.

            Thanks for engaging on this topic! I imagine Heidegger is not really your cup of tea, but at least now you’ll be able to surprise the philosophers in the room at the next cocktail party! (Actually, I’m sure you do this already, and in pretty much all subject matters.)


            • Unfortunately, I don’t get to attend many parties where philosophy is discussed. At the social gatherings I usually attend, I count myself lucky if there’s someone there who wants to talk about anything intellectual (computers are usually the best I can hope for).

              You’re probably right that Heidegger isn’t my cup of tea, although I’m less dismissive of him after your posts. I think maybe he has an insight into how much of our reality is mentally constructed, a view that’s hard to disagree with if you’ve ever read any cultural anthropology. (Although I think those who dismiss objective reality are getting carried away.) But I remain uneasy with his use of obscurant language, but I won’t rehash that 🙂


              • I’m in the same boat as far as social gatherings go…I suppose that’s what makes blogging so important to me. The wonders of technology make it possible to have meaningful interactions with people all over the world, and simply jump right into some topic you’d never get to talk about at a party. I think about this all the time and how lucky I am to be living in this age.

                I’m glad you got something out of these Heidegger posts. I’m uneasy with his language too, but this time around I found it much easier to take since I knew what I was looking for (and didn’t have to read and digest it in a short amount of time, as I did for class.)


                • Very much agreed on this age and the appeal of blogging. I still marvel at the fact that we can interact with people with similar interests from all over the world. The internet feels like it’s going to eventually have a similar effect to inventions like the printing press, alphabets, or writing.

                  Liked by 1 person

  5. Great editing! I wish I had even half of those skills.
    As to the philosophy, it sounds to me as though he’s saying with Protagoras that “man is the measure of all things.” Because there is no readiness to hand without Dasein. The other thing I am reminded of is Empedocles’ concept of love as a force that brings things together.
    I would certainly disagree with the idea that “growth” is a richer concept than the theory of gravitational attraction. The theory is so inferentially rich that it explains vast numbers of things about the universe. It is the scientific version of Empedocles’ “love.” The concept of “growth” in and of itself has no explanatory power.


    • I don’t think Heidegger would say “man is the measure of all things”, but it does seem like that’s what he said based on this video. Although, if we can take out “man” as some kind of entity in the world existing “side-by-side” other entities, perhaps we wouldn’t be too far from what Heidegger meant. The world and Dasein “come together” in a unity that’s really hard for us to grasp.

      I think gravity is certainly rich in a different way. And your point that it’s the scientific version of Empedocles’ love makes a lot of sense to me.

      My husband’s response:

      “Gravity is the idea that two masses anywhere in the universe will move toward each other. This in a simple mechanical way. Growth is the idea of self-fulfillment, the moving of a thing towards its own complete expression. It seems clear to me that the latter is a far richer concept even if it does not have the explanatory power of gravity. The analogy to the pre-socratics is correct, but a) it’s just my interpretation of Heidegger and b) I’m not sure it’s not a misrepresentation of Heidegger. I don’t know anywhere where he actually says that gravity is better understood as some form of love.

      But gravity in Newton is not a form of pre-Socratic love or eros. There is no desire implied by gravity. Newton was criticized by contemporaries for his notion of gravity (action at a distance) because it seemed to them mysterious and perhaps rather like eros, but Newton denied this to my knowledge. In fact, Newton said, “I don’t throw out hypotheses,” meaning he offered no explanation of action at a distance, but merely a description of its mechanical (mathematical) operation.

      But Heidegger was enraptured by the pre-Socratics.”

      The editing did take a while to do, but that’s because I just started doing this. I don’t think I would have bothered to get into this if I didn’t have iMovie, which makes things a lot simpler. There’s still a lot that I have to learn about it. I bet you’d do fine with it if you wanted to make your own videos. It’s fairly intuitive and the app was only $5! But really, if I can do it, you can do it. I would just caution you that the app takes up a lot of space, which is why I took it off my laptop and put it on my iPad, which has a lot of space on it.

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      • Thanks for the response (and the tips on iMovie). I agree that there was nothing erotic in Newton’s gravity, LOL. He discovered a physical law of the universe which the pre-Socratics had intuited but without the ability to understand how it worked.
        It seems ironic to me that Heidegger and modern science agree in rejecting dualism. They go about it in very different ways and arrive (if I understand the argument correctly) at opposing forms of monism.


        • What? You don’t find gravity sexy? 🙂

          It is interesting how the problem of dualism has created so many responses to it. Unfortunately I find problems with all the responses, and dualism itself! It’s like once we’ve solved one problem a new one arises. Dualism has the virtue of being common sensical. It’s so much easier to talk about having a mind and a body and these two things operate on each other, usually in harmony, but sometimes in conflict.

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  6. Tina, this is a marvellous idea, to feature a video alongside your words. It offers an additional way of entering into your more challenging subject matters, and which I, for one, found most helpful. I can see that care and thought were put into the editing process, such as to strengthen the uptake of ideas. Your imagery of the falling water in the discussion on gravity, the bees and lavender on attraction, and the red roses on romantic love are but three examples. Geordie rather grabbed my attention throughout, and you were right to credit him as ‘starring’ when the credits rolled (you could have added ‘peeing’) – I hope the co-star wasn’t too miffed at this! What is the music may I ask – Gigli?

    Is it relevant to suggest that Presence-at-Hand occurs only because our minds’ evolved to conceive in terms of a perceiving subject which stands in contradistinction to what it in turn conceives of as an objective and object-laden world ‘out there’ – the world The Professor describes as standing without yet any apparent value, occupying time and space purposelessly? And this apparent (though not actually discrete) subject regards itself as beginning and ending within spatial and temporal limits. Outside of what the mind, configured as this subject, regards as these limits and being contained within them, all is then regarded as the object-laden world. The entirety of this occurs and issues out of the value/function, or Readiness-at-Hand, of what we think of as mental faculty. Is it not this mental faculty alone that forms the apparent (perceiving) subjectivity and apparent (perceived) objectivity of Dualism, and which stands as a false distinction in Heidegger’s Primordial Unity or Being-in-the-World? Heidegger seems to reject Dualism as for him it infers that will and interpretation must obtain and be added in order that value/function may exist [see video 3’40” thru 3’50”] and he instead asserts the contrary: that value/function pre-exist with Being-in-the-World prior to the exercise of will or interpretation. So for him, the erroneously conceived subject believes it must be involved in the creation of any value/function, whereas in fact, it was there already. All I am doing here is throwing subjectivity/objectivity into the mix, but I think Heidegger side-stepped, what are in any case, these ultimately false categories, didn’t he?

    I don’t get how Readiness-to-Hand reduces to Presence-at-Hand by virtue of ‘brokenness’ Tina. Whatever is broken can still have value/function beyond being able to kick it, surely? I suppose you are saying as much yourself in your criticism when you suggest that Heidegger doesn’t prove how Presence-at-Hand arises out of Readiness-to-Hand, but merely shows how it could. Still then, the brokenness principle seems like an idea that doesn’t hold water. What’s more, it seems to contradict the very idea of a Primordial Unity, and surely Presence-at-Hand or bare existence must be subsets of this unity, otherwise there can be no such unity – things can’t step outside of it by being broken or seemingly useless, or for that matter, as discrete things at all.


    • Ha! So you noticed. I love that. I was so thoroughly tickled when he lived up to his part in all this. Another funny thing: just as Geordie crosses the screen in the lower bottom right hand corner, at around 7:35 when my husband says “Look at the world”, Geordie hears something we don’t. I found this out while I was editing this…I kept playing that part over and over and he’d bark or growl at that spot every time. Even if I did it ten times in a row, he never caught on that it was a sound from the movie.

      The first was Mozart’s “Un Moto Di Gioia” (I believe sung by Kathleen Battle) and the second was indeed Gigli (I always pronounce it “jiggly”, which makes me giggly). O Dolce Incanto.

      As to your question about whether presence-at-hand comes from perceiving ourselves as subjects, I’m not sure what comes first for Heidegger. I think—and I’m going on a limb here—he’d say we see first objects in a stripped down sense before seeing ourselves as objectified, but I don’t know that he actually addresses which of these two comes first. Maybe presence-at-hand and the objectifying of ourselves as beings (entities) in the world come at the same time?

      I think you’re safe in informally bringing subjectivity/objectivity into the mix, especially since you realize the problem he had with these terms.

      I think I get your problem with presence-at-hand, but I’m not sure. In any case, I’ll give it a shot and hope that I’m answering your question.

      I think if we take the brokenness example, we see that we’re only at one level of stripping down. When something breaks, sure, there are other things to do besides kick it (my mother had a knack for repurposing broken things) but the point is we see the object at some level as just some-thing that has lost its value (to some degree), and we’re made aware of its losing its value and begin to question where that value came from. This is very far from a Kantian “thing-in-itself” since this present-at-hand object is still actually a subset of the unity, as you say. So perhaps the presence-at-hand of a broken object is not yet “bare existence” in the extreme and strict sense, but maybe what is meant is that the broken object sends us in that direction of stripping away meaning to find the bare object. When we head in this direction for a long while, we come to this Kantian idea of things-in-themselves which we can’t ever experience, by definition. Full-blown dualism isn’t quite what we experience in the brokenness example, at least not as I see it. It might be called a weak dualism or maybe even the illusion of dualism. I don’t know that Heidegger actually says all of this, but I’ve wondered about the same thing and this is what I’ve come up with. Heidegger certainly wouldn’t want to break up the unity in a real sense.

      My criticism of Heidegger is that someone could say that readiness-to-hand did not come first. Heidegger simply asserts that it does. So someone could assert the opposite—that first things are value-less and then we come along and add value to them. I think Heidegger’s account makes sense when we come across the word “primordial” and think about young children or a pre-scientific era or something like that, but that word doesn’t actually mean “primordial” in a time sense. It’s not clear what he means by it. I think if you strip away the usual meanings of “primordial” you come to a simple assertion that readiness-to-hand comes first, and this without the historical-time context that I think readers leap to in giving his account plausibility (I know I did). It’s also not clear that readiness-to-hand comes first logically…I don’t think Heidegger meant that. So I keep asking, in what sense does readiness-to-hand come first? Is this more than an assertion?

      Liked by 1 person

      • “. . . someone could assert the opposite—that first things are value-less and then we come along and add value to them.” How might that work in practice Tina; how do I, as an erroneously conceived subject, ‘inject’ value into a thing? To me, it seems we always must begin with the (so-called ‘primordial’) value/R.T.H. of the mind – if I can use that vague term – without which, there can never be any value-less/P.A.H. thing to apprehend. If we allow for an apprehending mind, which is Being-in-the-World (yes?), doesn’t its existence prove how Presence-at-Hand arises out of Readiness-to-Hand? Dammit Tina, I need another Readiness-to-Paw Geordie video after all this!


        • If Heidegger’s Dasein/Being-in-the-world unity is already established, then certainly it follows that presence-at-hand is derivative of that unity. I just mean someone who doesn’t agree with Heidegger at all could just assert that he’s got it all backwards.

          For my part, I’m not inclined to contradict him at this level. I find the unity of Dasein and the world too compelling. But I do question prioritizing readiness-to-hand. It may come first (in whatever sense) but I see both modes more neutrally. In another response, I called readiness-to-hand “teleological” and I meant that in a loose sense, not necessarily Aristotelian. I called presence-at-hand “scientific”. I think the latter is constituted in the former, but that in itself doesn’t tell us how we ought to prioritize these modes in a revelatory sense. It could very well be that going down the present-at-hand road (the scientific road) is the best if we want to uncover being—I make no claims really. It could also be that they are both equal.

          I actually prefer Husserl’s phenomenology for its neutrality in this regard.

          Readiness-to-paw…yeah, that’s where priorities ought to lie!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Geordie is cute as always, and I think the professor does an exquisite job explaining Heidegger.

    I think Heidegger is trying to make the argument that the condition of possibility of presence at hand is the world experienced in terms of readiness to hand, such that we cannot have presence at hand without readiness to hand preceding it. But you do raise the very important question of why this is necessarily the case, and while I find the Heideggerian view intutive and plausible, I don’t think there is a knock down argument in favour of the necessary dependence of present to hand and readiness to hand. For me what supports the Heideggerian view that we first experience things as readiness at hand, and move to presence at hand, is ultimately theoretically driven reflection on embodied experience. In this sense I tend to see the phenomenological and scientific as more mutually supportive forms that disclose distinct elements of reality, rather than the latter being a deficient form of the former.

    That said even if presence to hand is necessarily dependent on the existence of readiness at hand. This dependency would not prove the ontological priority, but rather the temporal priority of readiness at hand. In a purely temporal sense it may be true that presence at hand cannot arise without readiness at hand, but this does not mean that the latter is more important, or that dualism is a mistake. The world as presence at hand may not be able to arise without readiness at hand, but the world as presence at hand is logically conceivable apart from readiness at hand, so the priority does not seem to necessarily speak to the fundamental nature of reality, unless we already accept that readiness at hand is fundamental.


    • Yes! I agree. I think this is why I’ve always preferred Husserl’s phenomenology because that prioritization is not there; he remains carefully neutral. In him I see the mutual support of phenomenology and scientific understanding.

      I think Heidegger’s prioritization of readiness-to-hand does make a lot of sense if we take his account temporally, but I think he meant to go further than that, which is where I think he oversteps his case. Still, it’s an interesting and intuitive account, even if it isn’t a slam dunk argument.

      Thanks for watching the video!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for including a transcript! I rarely am in a position to use sound, so this was a life-saver!

    I agree with your criticism, although I think Heidegger’s point is still very interesting. It also reinforces how our own agendas (tied in with the self) structures the world we see (we see the world as we are, not as it is).

    I would have liked more easily differentiable terms than “presence-at-hand” and “readiness-at-hand”. Also, when you look to your own experience upon perceiving something, do you notice a moment when you are aware of sensory data, but not of any valuations? If so, that would argue against his claim (unless I missed something). This isn’t to argue that the subtracting of values doesn’t occur, but rather that it is an attempt to recover this “pre-valuation perception”.


    • Thanks to the first commenter, I realized that a transcript would be a good idea and worth the effort. I know I didn’t do a great job with the sound and that this would make the post more accessible. Plus, I know sometimes I’m just in a big hurry and I don’t want to watch a video. It’s much faster to just read the content.

      I agree that Heidegger’s point is interesting. I find his account quite plausible, actually, I just don’t draw the same conclusions from it that he does. But I remembered this section of Being and Time even after I had pretty much dismissed Heidegger, and I thought it was worth going back to since it stuck in my head.

      As for Heideggerian terminology, I would like to get rid of a lot of it too. I guess in German it doesn’t seem so clunky, but all those hyphenated expressions get pretty confusing for me too.

      I don’t know what Heidegger says about becoming aware of sensory data. I imagine that that process is similar to the “brokenness” example because there you’re taking the unity and dissecting it. When you’re using an object such as a tool, you’re in a way seeing through it to the thing you want to accomplish rather than seeing IT as an object in the world, an entity. Seeing something present-at-hand doesn’t necessitate that an object ready-to-hand breaks, but that’s one way the shift could happen naturally. Similarly, we don’t actually become aware of sensory data until we strip the sensation of its value. Like when we get hurt, we usually see through that actual sensory perception to the end of making the hurt stop. It takes quite a bit of abstraction to see the sensation in a presence-at-hand sort of way. So the whole brokenness example is, I think, just one way the present-at-hand can be made available to us, and it’s chosen because, well, things break. When something breaks it requires no will or great theoretical gymnastics dependent on the history of philosophy to see something as present-at-hand.

      Thanks for reading! I was pleased to find that my post was ready to go up soon after your post which dealt with levels of ontology.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. After listening to the video and reading your post I have a little better idea of what Heidegger was getting at but not much than a little. Now, this does not have anything to do with your video (which I quite enjoyed) and post but rather with German philosophy as a whole. I have a problem with understanding many German philosophers, such as Hegel, Husserl and Habermas. I am aware that philosophy is a technical discipline, so I don’t expect it to be easy, but I’m wondering whether the problem is the inherent difficulty of the subject matter, the fact that the material is not designed to be simplified or simply the fact that the German philosophers were a verbose bunch without much substance.


    • I’d say they’re a verbose bunch, but there is substance somewhere under the pile—deep down at the bottom. I’d say the material could have been simplified…it’s just an unfortunate fact that they were by and large terrible writers, and each obscure in a unique way so that you have to learn how to navigate a whole new language before you can sort the wheat from the chaff.

      It’s understandable that most people think of this stuff as water that has been muddied in order to seem profound. I too like “clear and simple” as the truth, but I’ve found those “ah ha” moments worthwhile. (Especially with Kant and Husserl).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Re this and your comment on my https://shakemyheadhollow.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/subjectivity-and-the-limits-of-science/:

    I see science, I think, like Heidegger – that it is one abstraction of the world superimposed back onto the world as if it were the one and only real deal, and that its particular abstraction involves seeing the world as “objects” divorced from lived reality.

    But your husband’s fascinating lecture raises some fun tangents for me.

    If I’m not mistaking, Aldous Huxley argues in The Doors of Perception that consciousness evolved not to expand our apprehension of the world but to reduce it. Consciousness filters out all of the irrelevant stimuli so we can focus on the problem-at-hand and get something done.

    Or the visionary poet, Blake. The “mountain” of which your husband speaks is a construct of our sensory apparatus. Primordial consciousness for Blake is infinite, but the present cosmic age has narrowed our inlets of knowledge to the 5 windows of the 5 senses, and the mountain is a reflection of the 5 coordinates produced thereby. Blake exemplifies with “body” rather than “mountain”: “Man has no Body distinct from his Soul: for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.”

    What would Heidegger make of art? It too would seem by definition to be a chunk of reality stripped of its utilitarian function. Someone with an artistic temperament might argue that all of the things of real human value occur when the utilitarian function is stripped away. Love for love’s sake (rather than use value), friendship for friendship’s sake (instead of use value), art for art’s sake. Could we say that animals apprehend only readiness-to-hand but evolution into homo sapiens involves evolving a capacity to see objects as present-at-hand, as mere objects in their own right; hence, the possibility of science (viewing the world as “objective” stuff) … and of art and beauty.

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    • Interesting questions/thoughts.

      “Consciousness filters out all of the irrelevant stimuli so we can focus on the problem-at-hand and get something done.”

      I don’t think Heidegger talks about consciousness as a filter because that would imply that there’s something “out there” making an impression on my senses. On the other hand, he might not object to saying there are things in the foreground and things in the background. (I haven’t read enough Heidegger to confirm this. This actually sounds more like Husserl.)

      Some might say that getting the job done requires ignoring or filtering all the information that the Object itself is giving to our senses, but Heidegger’s saying we’ve got it backwards. Remember with Heidegger, we’re just getting rid of the Kantian noumenal realm.

      First comes “getting the job done.” The hammer, for example, is virtually invisible as an “object.” In this, I can’t help but feel Heidegger was onto something. In everyday life, if I’m honest with myself, I really don’t see things as objects, I just use them. (And then misplace them!) It’s only when something impedes our progress that we see “objects”—in the scientific sense, but also in an ordinary sense. Non-scientists also have an idea of the objective world, and this is pretty much common sense. For Heidegger, this common sense objectification comes naturally, inevitably. It’s just that we reverse the order of things (according to him) and assume that the objective comes first and gets ontological priority.

      It sounds like Blake is using the language of common sense dualism, but trying to get at something Heideggarian.

      What would Heidegger make of art? Another fascinating question. He wrote about art, but I haven’t read it. Based on what little I know of Heidegger, I’d say that the tool example is just a way of delineating presence-at-hand and readiness-to-hand, but I think he meant for those expressions to be broader. I highly doubt he’d view art as something present-at-hand, especially since we all know art is precisely not that. Imagine if someone were to view art scientifically, evaluating its worth based on paint quality or something. That would be really strange. The utilitarian function of readiness-to-hand is certainly there in the tool example, it’s just unfortunate that the tool example brings to mind mere utility and usefulness. But if we expand readiness-to-hand to include ‘meaning’, I think art would speak directly to the world he considers primordial.

      To put it more simply, I think artists would probably like Heidegger.

      A reason my husband talked about the mountain was because Heidegger apparently spent the rest of his days on a mountaintop writing poetry.

      Not sure what Heidegger has to say about animals. I wonder if they do view objects as “present-at-hand” from time to time. I have a dog, so I’ll do my anecdotal research. 🙂


      • Lots to think about. Thanks. One more note on Blake. I think he resonates nicely with Heidegger because my sentence from Blake basically says that dualism comes from a misunderstanding (dualism is an explicable illusion). I wonder if Heidegger’s mountaintop poetry had any echoes of Blake?


        • Perhaps at heart they’d agree, at least on the dualism as misunderstanding. Heidegger would probably make Blake change his language, because he was into doing that sort of thing. (He thought the way we use language perpetuated dualism.)

          I haven’t read any of Heidegger beyond Being and Time. I hear he gets progressively more incomprehensible, which is incomprehensible to me. (Being and Time is about as much as I can take.) I believe he got pretty mystical toward the end.

          Liked by 1 person

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