Ready-to-hand  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ready-to-hand (German: zuhanden, readiness-to-hand, handiness: Zuhandenheit) is a term used by Martin Heidegger.

In almost all cases we are involved in the world in an ordinary yet involved, way. We are usually doing things with a view to achieving something. Take for example, a hammer: it is ready-to-hand; we use it without theorizing. In fact, if we were to look at it as present-at-hand, we might easily make a mistake. Only when it breaks or something goes wrong might we see the hammer as present-at-hand, just lying there. Even then however, it may be not fully present-at-hand, as it is now showing itself as something to be repaired or disposed, and therefore a part of the totality of our involvements. In this case its Being may be seen as unreadiness-to-hand. Heidegger outlines three manners of unreadiness-to-hand: Conspicuous (damaged, eg. lamps wiring has broken), Obtrusive (a part is missing which is required for the entity to function eg. we find the bulb is missing), Obstinate (when the entity is a hindrance to us in pursuing a project, e.g. the lamp blocks my view of the computer screen).

Importantly, the present-at-hand only emerges from the prior attitude in which we care about what is going on and we see the hammer in a context or world of equipment that is handy or remote, and that is there "in order to" do something. In this sense the ready-to-hand is primordial compared to that of the present-at-hand. The term primordial here does not imply something Primitive, but rather refers to Heidegger's idea that Being can only be understood through what is everyday and "close" to us. Our everyday understanding of the world is necessarily essentially a part of any kind of scientific or theoretical studies of entities - the present-at-hand - might be. Only by studying our "average-everyday" understanding of the world, as it is expressed in the totality of our relationships to the ready-to-hand entities of the world, can we lay appropriate bases for specific scientific investigations into specific entities within the world.

For Heidegger in Being and Time this illustrates, in a very practical way, the way the present-at-hand, as a present in a "now" or a present eternally (as, for example, a scientific law or a Platonic Form), has come to dominate intellectual thought, especially since the Enlightenment. To understand the question of being one must be careful not to fall into this leveling off, or forgetfulness of being, that has come to assail Western thought since Socrates, see the metaphysics of presence.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ready-to-hand" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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