by Jeffrey Thayne and Ed Gantt, cross-posted from Latter-day Saint Philosopher
A number of philosophers (Martin Heidegger, Hubert Dreyfus, and others) argue that there are two basic “ways of being,” or modes in which we live-out our lives and make sense of the world: the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand. The first denotes our ongoing, active, purposeful, and engaged involvement in relationships and activities as we go about our daily life. The second identifies the more abstract, detached, reflective, or more “intellectual” or “theoretical” way in which we sometimes take up the world and our place in it.
The following example from Dreyfus may help to illustrate this distinction:
We hand the blind man a cane and ask him to tell us what properties it has. After hefting and feeling it, he tells us that it is light, smooth, about three feet long, and so on; it is occurrent for him. But when the man starts to manipulate the cane, he loses his awareness of the cane itself; he is aware only of the curb (or whatever object the cane touches) or, if all is going well, he is not even aware of that, but of his freedom to walk, or perhaps only what he is talking about with his friend.