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Thursday, August 10, 2006

My Computer and Heidegger's referential totality

I have been trying to make a laptop computer work now for a couple of days. The computer was on loan to a good friend for some months. I am sure I can get it to work again doing the usual things: reinstalling Windows, all my programs, etc. But lately I have noticed something different in my relationship with our now indispensable electronic friends. It has become an obssession of sorts trying to make this computer work again. In some ways, computers have become part of our humanity, our own definitions of what our limitations are within our being. These little electronic traps have become an extension of what Heidegger called the Dasein. Roughly, Dasein, Heidegger’s term for human being, is a being whose being is an issue for it. Dasein takes a stand on what it means to be a human being, or defines itself, through its coping with a world full of equipment. This equipment only makes sense in terms of other equipment, and this interdependent whole is known as a referential totality. Dasein copes with the referential totality for-the-sake of taking his stand on Being. Moreover, "These relationships [Dasein’s involvement with the referential totality] are bound up with one another as a primordial whole; they are what they are as this signifying in which Dasein gives itself beforehand its being-in-the-world as something to be understood." Could a Dasein exist today (2006) without this equipment? How would a world without indispensable equipment look like? What are the effects of the Dasein if it has too much equipment? There are several computers in my home. Between my wife's work desktop and her personal computers (two laptops), we also have two desktops and an additional laptop. How did we come to accumulate so many of them? Ultimately, I recognize my addiction to this referential totality but only inasmuch as I depend on this equipment for my writing, research and teaching preparation--which begs the question, Would I be able to do my work without my computers? A philosophical crux indeed.

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