Tag Archives: things themselves

Alchemical Thoughts: Of Tales and Fires

In Plato’s seventh letter (341c), he says that what he pursues in his studies cannot be expressed in words, but emerges through sustained communion with “the thing itself” (to pragma auto) and “is brought to birth in the soul on a sudden, as light that is kindled by a leaping spark, and thereafter it nourishes itself.” There is always a call for a return to the thing itself. Contemplation feeds on an alimentary fire. Thinking is alchemy.  Continue reading


The Alluring Withdrawal of Things

The ready-to-hand is not grasped theoretically at all, nor is it itself the sort of thing that circumspection takes proximally as a circumspective theme.  The peculiarity of what is proximally ready-to-hand is that, in its readiness-to-hand, it must, as it were withdraw [zurückzuziehen] in order to be ready-to-hand quite authentically.  That with which our everyday dealings proximally dwell is not the tools themselves [die Werkzeuge].
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 99.

To put it another way, the real tool is not present, not in theory, not in practice.  Yet, in its withdrawal or retreat (Entzug) it exhibits a trait, a pull (Zug), which opens the space of an attraction (Bezug) whereby a relationship to the thing can be forged.  The thing is never present and never becomes present, never ever, but we relate to it indirectly through an alluring pull.  Oh, to release into the attraction that pulls you into the nearness of distance…

The withdrawn trait of the tools themselves extends to all things, not just to what is conventionally included in the category of tools.  A hammer, a hydroelectric dam, a bee, a theory, a human, and a Greek Temple all share the same tension between withdrawal and presence.  This isn’t to say that Heidegger is not encumbered by anthropocentrism.  His low estimation of animal worlds (poor in world, weltarm) and stone worlds (worldless, weltlos) is weighed down with quite a lot of anthropocentric baggage, his repudiation of humanism notwithstanding.  But that’s a different topic…


Panpsychism

Adam Robbert has posted a helpful overview of Steven Shaviro’s paper, “Consequences of Panpsychism,” a paper which I heard Shaviro deliver at Claremont in 2010. 

I’m somewhat sympathetic with panpsychism, but I don’t consider myself a panpsychist.  Of course, any “ism” has its problems, but I’m not just bothered by the “ism” in panpsychism.  It’s the “pan” that bothers me.  I would have similar reservations about pantheism or pan-anything. 

What’s wrong with the “pan” in panpsychism?  Everything!  It everythings things.  In contrast, attending to things themselves, I tend to resist the everythinging of things. 

No quality or thing should be panned.  It would be better if the “pan” in panpsychism meant that panpsychism would involve inquiry into the souls of dish pans, or what it’s like to be a baking pan.  Even better, in a more Latinate turn of phrase, panpsychism would describe the vibrant materiality of animate bread.