Das Ding dingt

Recently I have been busy with things. What are “things”? Where do they come from?

A bottle? A piece of paper? A pen? A shoe?

A stone? A tree? Dead leaves?

Ideas? Screens? Words tipped on a smartphone?

Movements? Directions? 

Is time a thing?

Are algorithms things?

Some do think things “thing”. That is: to reflect upon things can be done only from their point of view. A thing calls forth a world in itself. Things cannot be reduced to other things.

Releasement – Gelassenheit. Another idea about things. How not to be obsessed, possessed by things.

“We can use technical devices, and yet with proper use also keep ourselves so free of them, that we may let go of them any time. We can use technical devices as they ought to be used, and also let them alone as something which does not affect our inner and real core. We can affirm the unavoidable use of technical devices, and also deny them the right to dominate us, and so to warp, confuse, and lay waste our nature” (Heidegger 1969, 54)

I like the idea of invisible things, of ready-to-hand things that withdraws when they are in use. For instance: this keyboard. While tipping on it, it disappears, it becomes words, and meaning, and pixels on a screen.

These things are a specific subset of things: they are tools, transparent like eyeglasses or a videocamera. They are not concerned with themselves, but with the world. Perceptual prosthetics of our bodies in the world. Mediators.


The initial quotation is from Heidegger, Being and Time, ¶ 15 “The Being of the entities encountered in the environment” whose original version in German is:

Ein Zeug “ist” strenggenommen nie. Zum Sein von Zeug gehört je immer ein Zeugganzes, darin es dieses Zeug sein kann, das es ist. Zeug ist wesenhaft „etwas, um zu…“. Die verschiedenen Weisen des „Um-zu“ wie Dienlichkeit, Beiträglichkeit, Verwendbarkeit, Handlichkeit konstituieren eine Zeugganzheit.

In der Struktur „Um-zu“ liegt eine Verweisung von etwas auf etwas.” (Heidegger 2007, 92)

The music played is:

Mascagni, P. (1992). Cavalleria Rusticana, Intermezzo [Recorded by Slovak Philharmonie Choir]. Naxos.


Heidegger, M. (1969). Discourse on thinking. Harper & Row.

Heidegger, M. (2007). Sein und Zeit (2., bearb. Aufl). Akad.-Verl.

Heidegger, M. (2013). Being and time (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans.; 35. reprint). Blackwell.

Latour, B. (1999). Pandora’s hope: essays on the reality of science studies. Harvard University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (2012). Phenomenology of perception (D. A. Landes, Trans.). Routledge.

Verbeek, P.-P. (2005). What things do: philosophical reflections on technology, agency, and design (R. P. Crease, Trans.; 2. printing). Pennsylvania State Univ. Press.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *