Harman on Heidegger: ‘Buildings as Tool-Beings’



Architecture Exchange posterMuch of Graham Harman’s so-called ‘object-oriented philosophy’ takes up Martin Heidegger’s account of the nature of tools and equipment, as set out in the first part and first division of his major work Being and Time. The key problem I have with Harman’s reading of this account is the overly binary view of perception which I think misses out a key part of the process of using tools. Heidegger’s now famous example describes how a piece of equipment like a hammer can be approached in two distinct ways: We can either pick it up and use it, or we can contemplate it from a distance. When we pick up the hammer and use it, it becomes what Heidegger calls ‘ready-to-hand’, the hammer is ready to be put to work, assuming we know how to wield it. In the second case, what Heidegger calls ‘present-at-hand’, we simply stare at the…

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