Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects

Open Court
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Tool-Being offers a new assessment of Martin Heidegger's famous tool-analysis, and with it, an audacious reappraisal of Heidegger's legacy to twenty-first-century philosophy.

Every reader of Being and Time is familiar with the opposition between readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit) and presence-at-hand (Vorhandenheit), but commentators usually follow Heidegger's wishes in giving this distinction a limited scope, as if it applied only to tools in a narrow sense. Graham Harman contests Heidegger's own interpretation of tool-being, arguing that the opposition between tool and broken tool is not merely a provisional stage in his philosophy, but rather its living core. The extended concept of tool-being developed here leads us not to a theory of human practical activity but to an ontology of objects themselves.

Tool-Being urges a fresh and concrete research into the secret contours of objects. Written in a lively and colorful style, it will be of great interest to anyone intrigued by Heidegger and anyone open to new trends in present-day philosophy.
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About the author

Graham Harman teaches philosophy at American University in Cairo.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Open Court
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Published on
Aug 31, 2011
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780812697735
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Metaphysics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Despite local and international efforts promoting sustainable development and design, little progress has been made in reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases and averting catastrophic climate change. In his wide-ranging study of architecture and cultural evolution, the author contends that, underlying the inertia is a general resistance to changing personal and social identities shaped by a technological culture and its energy-hungry products. The book traces the roots of that culture to the coevolution of Homo sapiens and technology, from the first use of tools as artificial extensions of the human body, to the motorised cities spreading around the world, whose uncontrolled effects are fast changing the planet, and latterly, the Internet, with its own radical impacts. Advancing a new concept of the meme, called the 'technical meme', as the primary agent of cognitive extension and technical embodiment, the author proposes a theory of the 'extended self' as a complex and diffuse outcome of that coevolution. Challenging conventional ideas of the self as a separate and autonomous being, the extended self, he argues, encompasses material and spatial as well as psychological and social elements, including the built environment and artifacts, and now reaches out into the virtual worlds of cyberspace. Drawing upon research into extended cognition and embodied minds from philosophy, psychology and the neurosciences, together with other relevant fields of knowledge, the book presents a new approach to environmental and cultural studies. Written in a clear and engaging manner, it will also appeal to the general reader searching for insights into the most pressing issues of our time.
Until quite recently, almost no philosophers trained in the continental tradition saw anything of value in realism. The situation in analytic philosophy was always different, but in continental philosophy realism was usually treated as a pseudo-problem. That is no longer the case.

In this provocative new book, two leading philosophers examine the remarkable rise of realism in the continental tradition. While exploring the similarities and differences in their own positions, they also consider the work of others and assess rival trends in contemporary philosophy. They begin by discussing the relation between realism and materialism, which DeLanda links closely but which Harman tries to separate. Part Two covers the many different meanings of realism, with the two authors working together to develop an expanded definition of the term. Part Three features a spirited exchange on the respective virtues and drawbacks of DeLanda's realism of attractors and singularities and Harman's object-oriented theory. Part Four shifts to the question of the knowability of the real, as the authors discuss whether scientific knowledge does full justice to reality. In Part Five, they shift the focus to space, time, and science more generally, and here Harman offers a defence of actor-network theory despite its obvious anti-realist elements.

Lively, accessible and engaging, this book is the best attempt so far to clarify the different paths for realism in continental philosophy. It will be of great value to students and scholars of continental philosophy and to anyone interested in the cutting-edge debates in philosophy and critical theory today.

What objects exist in the social world and how should we understand them? Is a specific Pizza Hut restaurant as real as the employees, tables, napkins and pizzas of which it is composed, and as real as the Pizza Hut corporation with its headquarters in Wichita, the United States, the planet Earth and the social and economic impact of the restaurant on the lives of its employees and customers?

In this book the founder of object-oriented philosophy develops his approach in order to shed light on the nature and status of objects in social life. While it is often assumed that an interest in objects amounts to a form of materialism, Harman rejects this view and develops instead an “immaterialist” method. By examining the work of leading contemporary thinkers such as Bruno Latour and Levi Bryant, he develops a forceful critique of ‘actor-network theory’. In an extended discussion of Leibniz’s famous example of the Dutch East India Company, Harman argues that this company qualifies for objecthood neither through ‘what it is’ or ‘what it does’, but through its irreducibility to either of these forms. The phases of its life, argues Harman, are not demarcated primarily by dramatic incidents but by moments of symbiosis, a term he draws from the biologist Lynn Margulis.

This book provides a key counterpoint to the now ubiquitous social theories of constant change, holistic networks, performative identities, and the construction of things by human practice. It will appeal to anyone interested in cutting-edge debates in philosophy and social and cultural theory.

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