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Exegesis of Casey on Heidegger on Place - Step 1

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Exegesis of Casey on Heidegger on Place - Step 1

Mark Douglas

As is hopefully evident in the work I've been sharing around here, I'm working on my writing. I've been reading Zinsser's On Writing Well  and Becker's  Writing for Social Scientists.  Both books encourage writers to use everyday language. Becker especially calls out the tendency for scholars to use overly complicated terms and structures. For example, using "the ways in which" instead of "how" when somebody intends to convey how things happen. Considering all this, I'm going against their advice by calling what I'm aiming for in this post an "exegesis." Really, it's just a fancy word for interpretation. The difference is that is is more directly linked to the Greek language. 

In this post I will exegetically consider Casey's chapter on Heidegger in the book, The Fate of Place .

Casey takes seven steps after his preamble on the way to understanding Heidegger and place. Since this is a rough and ready tousle, I'll structure this in notes and key phrases from each of the steps:

Preamble: "Heidegger's way back to place is a middle way, a via media  between body and mind, both of which are set aside in order to concentrate on what happens between them" (pp. 243-244). This calls to mind the middle voice of phenomena as translated from the greek "phanestai". Phenomenology is the study of (-ology) "the totality of what lies in the light of day or can be brought to the light" (BT, p. 51). A phenomenon is "that which shows itself in itself " (BT, p. 51). When phenomena are doing their thing as being authentically what they are, to fully stand with them in the light of their existence we need to stand on common and middle ground. The execution of phenomena is given in the middle voice as neither active nor passive. To say that the phenomena are what show themselves in the middle voice suggests that showing oneself in the execution of being in the same light of the phenomena (literally shining things) is neither a matter of the being a subject basking in the light actively nor is it being a subject passively being given over to the light. It is a matter of Dasein and the world coming together in the realm of the phenomena. When Casey claims that Heidegger is interested in the execution of the middle ground between body and mind we should know that for Heidegger, phenomenology is the study of the middle ground of Dasein and other Dasein, places, and things. 

Casey hints at the path of the chapter by setting Heidegger on the course from the concept of meaning, through truth, and winding up at the concept of place. Watch that first step, it's a doozy.

1)  (244-256) Heidegger began his perspectives on place in Being and Time  (1962) where he described the structure of somebody's experience as "being-in-the-world". Somebody is not "in-the-world" in the sense of cereal being in the box. Being-in-the-world means inhabiting or dwelling in the world. Being-in-the-world is taking a role in the world and standing alongside all that exists in somebody's own existence. The tool-analysis of BT   factors into Heidegger's early consideration of place. Casey terms this the "practicality of place" (p. 246). This is place not in the fullness of embedded dwelling and not as mere cartesian coordination. This is "place-as-pragmatic" (p. 246). 

World is structured such that somebody understands it. Somebody understands the world as "a matrix of instrumental involvements structured by such pragmatic relations as the 'in-which,' the 'in-order-to,' and the supervalent 'for-the-sake-of-which' through which Dasein lets ready-to-hand entities be involved in a context of significance" (Casey, p. 247) . We then get a description of how somebody comes to know their way around in-the-world. This happens through "circumspective concern" (umsichtiges Besorgen ) and "directionality" (Ausrichtung ). "Circumspective concern takes account of what is happening in immediate environs of the ready-to-hand… while directionality provides orientation to what lies within this close arena" (Casey, p. 247). These are two features of Heidegger's early description of "closeness" (die Nahe ). Place as Platz is described in relation to gear. Gear takes place among the whole of place (Platzganzheit ) and the place that gear takes is not akin to the Cartesian coordination or geometric interpretation of space and place. Place as Platz plays a fundamental role in the orientation of the ready-to-hand.

This brings us to region or area as Gegend;  "a region offers more than increased room. It provides the very condition of possibility for the implacement of the ready-to-hand" (Casey, p. 248). For Heidegger (BT, p. 136), "the 'whither' to which the totality of places for a context of equipment gets allotted, is the underlying condition which makes possible the belonging-somewhere of an equipmental totality as something that can be placed….Something like a region must first be discovered if there is to be any possibility of allotting or coming across places for a totality of equipment that is circumspectively at one's disposal." This means that the where-with-all context of the ready-to-hand whereby somebody has a knack for their craft is the basic structure for the implacement of gear in relation to somebody. Somebody needs the leeway granted by a region for the clearance of the interplay of, and familiarity with gear. The region opens the possibility space for the where-with-all of the equipmental totality. The equipmental totality takes place in the region and somebody circumspectively engages the placement of gear in their concernful dealings through inconspicuous familiarity. As Heidegger (BT, p. 136) puts it: "The regional orientation of the multiplicity of places belonging to the ready-to-hand goes to make up the roundness--'the round-about-us' (das Um-uns-herum)--of those entities which we encounter as closest environmentally." The withdrawal of gear in its readiness-to-hand placement and the involved role gear plays in somebody's concernful dealings of inconspicuous familiarity makes for a structural coupling between this involvement and wider scale readiness-to-hand of the region. Regions "always are ready-to-hand already in individual places" (BT, p. 137). Casey (pp. 248-249) concludes that despite the fact that "region is the broader and more encompassing term, a given region is available primarily through the places it harbors."

The relationship between region and place is indicative of the perennial equipoise Heidegger strives for between something specific (place) and something at all (region). Previously (and following Harman)  I've given this delicate balance as the axis of stance where in one direction (place) you have subsistence and in the other (region) there is consistence. Casey interprets this delicate balance of being-in-the-world. "The very idea of being/in-the-world already points to this balance: only Dasein can be somewhere, but where it is, is in the world . a world it has not created by its own efforts: a public, shared world. Yet Dasein does make a decisive difference in the way being-in-the-world comes to be shaped. Human beings are responsible for letting things be involved with each other in equipmental groupings, for construing the ready-to-hand in terms of signs that refer, and for understanding the basic 'significance' (Bedeutsamkeit ) possessed by an equipmental context. Yet, by the same token, (quoting Heidegger, BT, p. 145) "to free a totality of involvements is , equiprimordially, to let something be involved at a region ." "

Place is ontologically near in the sense that it tends to withdraw in the execution of somebody being in a place. "Place is not something we come across as something we are simply in ; it is what we precipitate by the conjoint action of directing and de-severing--thus something to which our direct intervention gives rise. There is no place without this intervention" (Casey, p. 250). Place subsists by somebody being involved there in co-constitution with the environs. 

Region consists at a greater scale. Using later Heidegger terms, region has much more gathering power as a thing. The readiness-to-hand founds itself through the involvements in place that are given by regionality. The involvmental capacity exceeds the coconstitutive force of a singular somebody at the regional scale. 

Places are essential to being-in-the-world in two ways. First "ready-to-hand things do not truly belong somewhere  until they have undergone the implacement that an individual Dasein's directionality and de-severence (Ent-ferung:  removal-of-distance) bring with then: places are essentially places-for-things" (Casey, p. 251). Second, places are the gathered locality that allow the appearance of a region. Places are indicative and evocative of the regions in which they are situated. 

Regions are also essential to being-in-the-world in two ways. First, regions form the mitwelt  or with-world as the publicly shared pregiven surrounding environment. Second, without the stage setting effect of regionality, places could not engender the where-with-all of somebody involved with the whole of the gear. Without regions there nowhere for "freeing entities for a totality of involvements" (BT, p. 145). "[P]laces and regions provide a practicable basis for the everyday demands and relations in which human beings are ineluctably entangled" (Casey, p. 251). Casey continues further in this step with discussions of spatiality, anxiety, dwelling, primordial discomfort, and more. For my purposes, we will leave the footfall of that step to more motivated readers. The themes may need revisiting if we get further into what it means for somebody to exist as their possibilities. Let's see...