Chapter 3 The Worldhood of the World

Section 14 A preliminary sense of the term 'world' (Welt)

Heidegger first gives us a negative characterization:

Neither approaches the 'phenomenon' of the world. Heidegger indicates that world in the sense of worldhood has a relation to Dasein that in some sense 'world' and 'Dasein' are bound together. Worldhood is to be seen as an existential structure of Dasein.

The preliminary discussion yields four senses of the word 'world' (Welt):

[Note on method 66/94: the phenomenal point of departure for uncovering the worldhood of the world will be that 'world' which lies closes to us--what Heidegger calls "das Umwelt" (that world which is 'around' us, the environment): a specific sense of the third definition.]

Section 15 The Being of the entities encountered in the umwelt (i.e., Zuhandenheit)

In our average everydayness what is closest to us is our environment (Umwelt) in which we are caught up in our concerns and activities.

Heidegger describes our predominant way of Being-in this world as involving a certain kind of dealing (Umgang) with the world.

We are caught up in our dealing with the world. This will form the starting point for our analysis: We shall investigate the sense of our dealing (Umgang) with entities within our environment (Umwelt) in order to uncover the Being of those entities encountered. Heidegger reminds us of this task in a note on method 67/96-97:

The question now becomes 'what is the Being of this pragmata'? This is the present task.

The clue for answering this question lies in our understanding 'tools' as equipment (Zeug), in our understanding "equipmentality."

Understanding the structure of equipment:

(3) Equipment is involved in references and assignments i.e., it is always involved in certain contexts: e.g., a pen is involved in the context of ink-wells, pads, a desk, lamp, being near a window etc.

Note that in our dealings with this equipmental totality our primary relation is one of use [using equipment 'in order to...']

And this provides the key for understanding the Being of entities in this context --

They (entities as tools) manifest themselves as ready-to-hand.

This is the primary ontological category that Heidegger ascribes to entities dealt with in the everyday world of our environment: Zuhandenheit (readiness-to-hand).


Heidegger notes that our peculiar manner in which we deal with these entities is circumspection (Umsicht) and with this he indicates that Dasein's active comportment to this categorical structure is one of circumspective concern (more of this later).


Heidegger then proceeds to look further into this way in which we deal with things ready-to-hand.

The Analysis deals with the notion of work.

A reflection on the sense of "work" fills out the notion of environment and the 'in order to...'

(1) The 'towards which' indicates the work to be produced e.g., a shoe, a shed, etc. This, in turn, points beyond the immediate work environment to the larger context of materials -- this, in turn, involves the 'wider' environment of animals (and those who raise them) and nature etc.


(2) the 'where of': the purpose of the work (e.g., the purpose of making a shoe, a traffic sign etc.)

This, in turn, points beyond the immediate work environment to the user of the product and its material -- whether it be one's own Dasein, or other Daseins, or the public world (a road sign, etc.). Again, these notions tend to expand and make clear the sense of the environment (Umwelt).

All of this goes to make up the Unwelt -- and in this is located our relation to entities which Heidegger has characterized as our dealings with things in circumspective concern --

And the Being (i.e., the ontological-categorical structure) of entities so involved is termed readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit).


But this has yet to become explicit: For when we are caught up in our dealings, e.g., in using a pen in order to (Um-zu) write a paper (Wozu) for the purpose of giving a lecture (Woaus), one is not aware of the ontological structures underlying this work --

Indeed, those structures must recede into the background if one is truly engaged in their work.

The problem then becomes: how can these structures become phenomenologically grasped?

How can the category of readiness-to-hand announce itself (i.e., show itself from itself) within phenomenal contents?

And, if this is to be involved in the notion of world, how does the world announce itself? (It is precisely to this self-showing that Heidegger turns his attention to in the upcoming sections.)

Select here for Sections 16, 17, and 18.

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Copyright: Robert Cavalier at
Department of Philosophy / Carnegie Mellon University