sábado, 6 de octubre de 2007

Even Smaller Gripe on Dreyfus.

In his analysis of Heidegger's account of spatiality, Dreyfus takes Heidegger as blurring the distinction between distance (physical, present-at-hand) and dis-tance (also translated as deseverance, with reference to Dasein's bringing into a circumspective region some ready-to-hand entity). This distinction is determinant for Heidegger's argument that the physical space of nature (extension) is derivative to Dasein's own circumspective spatiality in which entities are dealt with as equipment ready-to-hand. The passages which suggests the confusion for Dreyfus runs as follows:

""Dis-tancing" amounts to making the farness vanish- that is, making the remoteness of something disappear, bringing it near." [139, 105]

"[Dasein] cannot wander about within the current range of its dis-stances; it can never do more than change them" [143, 108]

For Dreyfus, this ammounts to a confusion between ontic distance which can change and ontological dis-stance which doesn't. If nearness and farness are criteria only proper to physical or ontic distance, which is derivative from Dasein's own regional dis-tance which is not measured in terms of nearness, then it follows dis-tancing cannot first operate by the closing of spatial magnitudes proper to physical distance. This way, Dreyfus interprets Heidegger as making a subjectivist turn: it seems that if dis-tancing operates by bringing near, we take Dasein's spatiality in terms of the individual's private commerce with entities. But since Heidegger's story rests on the basis that the public world precedes the individual, then this turn seems inconsistent with his theory. Because of this, Dreyfus claims that Heidegger should have said that one merely enters into a region in which certain entities are available publicly, in which they would be available for anyone if they stood there. This would be tantamount to saying dis-stancing is not prone to changes in magnitude, like ontic distance in relation to the individual, but publicly accessible in terms of appropriateness or innapropriateness.

But I take it that Heidegger's point is not that we can change dis-stancing in terms of changing the spatial magnitudes which lie before us in a particular region, but exactly the opposite. That is, since Dasein cannot merely move around a region with respect to the magnitudes of spatial distances to entities, all it can do is shift circumspective activity from dealing with one entity to another inside the nexus of equipment at hand. The blacksmith stops using the hammer and picks up the nails by naturally reacting to the demands of the situation, and not by calculating distance as measurements. Likewise, if at the moment of hammering, the kettle starts boiling, Dasein may shift from his present dis-stancing to another region in which different equipment is dealt with. All of these acts involve reacting to situations in an appropriate manner and not measuring distance in an ontic sense, as Dreyfus supposes. This is crucial since only if we accept that a region must include the two-sided relation of a comporting subject to an object, we can make the transition to claim Dasein's 'bringing near' is guilty of prioritizing individual spatiality. This objection was already made by Arisaka (1995) on the following terms:

"Dasein as dis-tance has its own "individual" space, radiating from it as it beings things "close". In this discussion he [Dryefus] treats the spatiality of individual Dasein as 'private' or 'subjective' space... However, the individuality of de-severance does not imply "private space" at all, that individuality is rather derived from the structure of the perspectival givenness of regions."

If this peculiar indvidiual space belonging to regions and circumspective comportment cannot be private, it must in a way already be public. This is our clue, since we can now justify Dasein's unique spatiality as being both (1) individual- in the sense that it is ontically correspondent to the comportments of an specific Dasein, and (2) public- in the sense that the circumspective comportments of Dasein in regions are never carried forth by a self-sufficient subject without already belonging to a world of public practices. If the regions wherein Dasein dwells and opens are of necessity constituted by a shared context of public practices, then we do not risk subjectivism in attributing existential spatiality to the Dasein in his regional dealings with entities.

One must always remember that the familiar world of practices in which Dasein regularly dwells is not that of an objective region in which entities are 'piled-up' and dealt with as objects. Circumspection doesn't deal with individual entities, but only within the nexus of an equipmental-whole. Arisaka thus rightfully acknowledges that the inconsistency Dreyfus reads into Heidegger can only obtain under the objectivist interpretation of regions.

The crucial thing to notice is thus that Heidegger is not claiming that dis-tances change in terms of factual ontic distance between two entities (the subject and object). The 'bringing-near' Heidegger alludes to is not to be understood as the reduction of a given magnitude which could be measured in some way. Dis-tancing makes an entity available for use in circumspection, i.e. it is brought near to Dasein insofar as it becomes ready-at-hand. The remoteness closed by dis-tancing would therefore not be that of making an already given entity come closer to oneself, but to first and foremost make this entity available for circumspection by opening a region in concern, or by appropiately using this entity at the right time. In this sense, it is impossible to measure the dis-stances of availability of being in circumspection since one can do nothing but change the region of available entities and with it the availability of particular entities to Dasein.

Because you can’t simply go beyond a measured occurent distance in circumspection, one cannot go-beyond, overcome or withdraw from dis-stance, but only change the sphere of available entities which are far and near with respect to circumspection in some way.
In this sense, the two ways in which entities may be spatially understood with respect to dis-tance is in terms of (a) the nearness - that is to say the availability of an entity ready-at-hand, or (b) the presence of an entity in dealing with the present-at-hand. Heidegger confirms this by saying "Nearness and presence, not magnitude of separation, is what is essential." [140].

This amounts to saying that availability and presence precede any ontical determination of space in terms of physical distance. It doesn't amount to saying, as Dreyfus misreads him, that all dis-tancing must operate on the basis of presence, in the sense of the ontical presence-at-hand that would obtain from, say, an individual Dasein and his object of concern within a region. Heidegger's point is that the specific model or vocabulary used to express ontical distance is possible only from the being present-at-hand of some entity, which in turn supervenes on the availability or nearness of the entity into an equipmental-whole in circumspection.
So, when Dreyfus objects that to prioritize nearness and farness is to prioritize the spatiality of the individual Dasein, he mistakenly takes Heidegger as saying that nearness and farness are distanced in the sense of 'making-present'. Under such a reading, the objection naturally follows that the entities would be seen to stand against the Dasein, as particular objects. This would be in direct conflict with Heidegger's proposed priority of readiness-to-hand, in which for Dasein there are no objects which stand against it separated by some ontical distance.

But as we noted above, the prioritizing of nearness and presence is tantamount to the priority of the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand over the concrete categories of a particular system, such as physics or nature. As such, the priority is given to deny that any ontic measuring of distance could ever account for dis-tancing, and that the former supervenes ontologically on the latter. Nonetheless, the objection could be raised that if this 'tendency' towards presence or nearness is what somehow makes entities available for Dasein, one would need to pressupose these entities qua particulars are somehow there but unavailable before dis-tancing. And this would, again, seem to threaten the idea that what comes first are not objects, but the equipmental-whole of circumspection.

I take it that problem doesn't appear in Heidegger's position that the 'bringing near' or 'presencing' in which Dasein becomes involved with the ready-at-hand or the present-at-hand is not the mere cutting of a distance. If we just understand di-stancing within the framework of the opening of a region in circumspection then we do not risk the charges of subjectivism. We merely state that dis-tancing must proceed by first opening a region for circumpsection in which Dasein deals with equipment in terms of appropiateness for proximate purposes and which, if interrupted, would give an entity present-at-hand. That an ontical distance could thereby be determined in relation to this entity is perfectly admissible, since all we need to show is that the ontological priority lies not in the spatial measurement of nature, but on presence-at-hand more generally, and readiness-to-hand as even more primary:

"Circumspective concern decides as to the nearness and farness of what is primarily available environmentally. Whatever this concern deals with beforehand is what is nearest... That which is presumably "nearest" is by no means that which is at the smallest distance from us. It lies rather in that which is distanced to an average extent when we reach for it, grasp it, or look at it... When something is nearby, this means it is within the range of what is primarily available for circumspection." [141-142, 106-107]

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