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.
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.

Heidegger Explained is a clear and thorough summary of the philosophy of Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). It gives a fascinating explanation of all stages of Heidegger’s life and career, and shows his entire philosophy to emerge from one simple but profound insight.

Many philosophers believe that Heidegger was the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. His influence has long been felt not just in philosophy, but also in such fields as art, architecture, and literary studies. Yet the great difficulty of Heidegger’s terminology has often scared away interested readers lacking an academic background in philosophy.

Author Graham Harman shows that Heidegger is actually one of the simplest and clearest of thinkers. All the diverse topics of his writings, and all the lengthy analyses he gives of past philosophers, boil down to a single powerful idea: being is not presence. In any human relation with the world, our thinking and even our acting do not fully exhaust the world. Something more always withdraws from our grasp. Neither being itself nor individual beings are ever fully “present-at-hand,” in Heidegger’s terminology.

This single insight allows Heidegger to revolutionize the phenomenology of his teacher Edmund Husserl. The method of Husserl was to focus entirely on how things present themselves to us as phenomena in consciousness. Heidegger understood that the things are always partly hidden from consciousness, living a secret life of their own. Human beings are not lucid scientific observers staring at the world and describing it, but instead are thrown into a world where light is always mixed with shadow.

For Heidegger, the entire history of philosophy has reduced being to some sort of presence, whether by defining it as atoms, consciousness, perfect forms, the will to power, or even God. In this way, past philosophers have all chosen one specific kind of privileged being to represent being itself. Yet this is impossible, since being always partly withdraws from any attempt to define it. For this reason, philosophy needs to make a new beginning, one that would be just as great as the first beginning in ancient Greece.

The book ends by shedding new light on Heidegger’s concept of the fourfold, which is so notoriously difficult that most commentators avoid it altogether.
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