In class last Tuesday, Jeff went back over how to use our own personal Cliffs Notes when writing our final papers. He showed Anna’s Cliffs Notes as an example of what good Cliffs Notes might look like. [Note on Cliff’s Notes – include the 1) author name and source, 2) specific quotations, 3) exact page numbers.).  Jeff commented that when he writes a paper with his Cliff Notes, it makes all the information really “present” when he writes.  I think we all knew what he meant be “present”, just by the way he said it, even though it is unusual use of the word. “Present” just feels like what it feels like when all the information’s right at your fingertips.

Which, of course, is what annoys me about Heidegger.

Heidegger has these concepts called ready-at-hand and present-at-hand. They refer to tool use.  At a high level, it’s enough to say that when things are proceeding smoothly with a tool they’re ready-at-hand, and, when things break down, they’re present-at-hand.  To repeat – ‘when things break down, they become “present.”’

Which is a bummer. Because in the English language “present” just feels the way it feels to have information right at your fingertips, ready to flow. But in the Heideggerian sense, that’s called “ready-at-hand.” And “present-at-hand” means (close to) the opposite.

Furthermore, it’s a particular bummer to me because and I use them in my paper on “hanging up the iPhone 4”, but I keep mixing them up.