Friday, December 3, 2010

PL 77/10: Everyday practice

Filed under: 1bib — plinius @ 10:56 am

At Oslo University College, I participate in a post-master qualification program for librarians.

The work involves supervision of individual projects as well as a series of joint workshops. On Monday, we’ll have our second workshop this term. We are – as a group – editing a multimedial collection of digital documents aimed at teaching, training and project documentation.

The collection is not exactly a textbook, since the components are more loosely joined than is usual in the pedagogical sphere. But it will not be a simple compendium, either. Though the contributors may use threads of different colors and even diffent materials, we weave our texts on a common loom.

One of our tasks is to locate, read and pick powerful passages from relevant texts.  The quotations below deal with Heidegger and his understanding of practice.

Average, everyday practice

Heidegger does not ground his thinking in average, everyday concepts, but in average, everyday practice: in what people do, not in what they say they do.

This leads him to abandon our pervasive Cartesian way of thinking of human beings as subjects who represent objects to themselves. Rather than thinking of action as based on beliefs and desires, Heidegger describes what actually goes on in our everyday skillful coping with things and people and how we are socialized into a shared world. …

(L)ike Ludwig Wittgenstein, Heidegger finds that the only ground for the intelligibility of thought and action that we have or need is in the everyday practices themselves.

Dreyfus and Hall (1992), p. 2

A huge and growing wasteland

Heidegger’s interpretation of practice has had a profound impact on many of the most important thinkers of the late twentieth century, especially outside of academic philosophy and even outside of academia altogether. On the other hand, the secondary literature on Heidegger that tries to capture Heidegger’s powerful new insights by looking solely within his texts has been largely a huge and growing wasteland

Dreyfus and Hall (1992), p. 4

The quest for certainty

Plato and Aristotle built what Dewey called “the quest for certainty” into our sense of what thinking is for. They taught us that unless we can make the object of our inquiry evident – get it clear and distinct, directly present tro the eye of the mind, and get agreement about it from all those qualified to discuss it – we are falling short of our goal. …

As Heidegger says All metaphysics, including its opponent, positivism, speaks the language of Plato.

Each stage in the history of metaphysics / and in particular the Cartesian turn toward subjectivity, from exterior to interior objects of inquiry, has been an attempt to redescribe things so that this certainty might become possible. But, after many fits and starts, it has turned out that the only ting we can be certain of is what we want.

The only things that are really evident to us are our own desires.

Dreyfus and Hall (1992), p. 210

A sense of contingency

Heidegger would like to recapture a sense of what time was like before it fell under the spell of eternity, what we were like before we became obsessed by the need for an overarching context which would subsume and explain us / before we came to think of our relation to Being in terms of power. …

He would like to recapture a sense of contingency, of the fragility and riskiness of any human project / a sense which the ontotheological tradition has made it hard to attain. For that tradition tends to identify the contingent with the merely apparent.

Dreyfus and Hall (1992), p. 214

The force of words

The tradition has suggested that the patrticular words we use are unimportant. Ever since philosophy won its quarrel with poetry, it has been the thought that counts / the proposition, something which many sentences in many languages speak equally well.

Words are mere vehicles for something less fragile and transitory thanm marks and noises. Philosophers know that what matters is literal truth, not a choice of phonemes and certainly not metaphors. The literal lasts and empowers. The metaphorical / that which you can neither argue about nor justify, that for which you can find no uncontroversial paraphrase / is impotent.

In the end, the business of philosophy is to preserve the force of the most elemental words in which Dasein expresses itself.

Dreyfus and Hall (1992), p. 214

  • Hubert Dreyfus and Harrison Hall. Heidegger: A Critical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992. – 303 pp.
    • Hubert Dreyfus and Harrison Hall. Introduction. I Dreyfus and Hall (1992), p. 1-25
    • Richard Rorty. Heidegger, Contingency, and Pragmatism. I I Dreyfus and Hall (1992), p. 209-230

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