Heidegger's Tool Analysis: Beyond the Ready-to-hand and Present-at-hand

Ashwin Jayanti
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

In this paper, I shall read Martin Heidegger's tool analysis as laid out in Part I, Section III of Being and Time through a perspective focused on the ontology of technical artefacts. For Heidegger, all equipment has the structure of 'in-order-to' which constitutes the 'assignment' or 'reference' of something as something. The crucial objective of Heidegger's phenomenological analysis is to uncover the ontological basis of the assignment through which an entity attains the Being of equipmnent. Heidegger's ontological notions of artefacts—in the name of equipment that is either ready-to-hand, present-at-hand, in-order-to, for-the-sake-of-which, or under breakdown, etc.—seems to imply a functionalism that takes artefacts to be exhausted by the functions assigned to them. It is however not clear as to how an equipment comes to be assigned as having a particular inorder-to structure. Moreover, when Heidegger notes that our primordial engagement with the world is constituted by familiarity with the assigned, referred-to, in-order-to structures of entities, he is implicitly assuming Dasein to be a consumer of technological artefacts. However, there exist other modes of engagement with artefacts whereby one uses an artefact not for its designed or assigned purpuse but for something entirely different than that assigned to by its in-order-to structure. This could also involve situations whereby a broken tool is not foregrounded as something present-at hand but is rather assigned as being ready-to-hand for another assignment. In this paper, therefore, I shall look into the different modes of engagement with technological artefacts implicit in Heidegger's tool-analysis and illustrate their implications for an ontology of technological artefacts. This shall pave the way toward a better understanding of our technologically textured life-world.