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Problem of Ontological Difference [431-433]

primarily and suitably accessible. A trivial example. If we observe a shoemaker's shop, we can indeed identify all sorts of extant things on hand. But which entities are there and how these entities are handy, in line with their inherent character, is unveiled for us only in dealing appropriately with equipment such as tools, leather, and shoes. Only one who understands is able to uncover by himself this environing world of the shoemaker's. We can of course receive instruction about the use of the equipment and the procedures involved; and on the basis of the understanding thus gained we are put in a position, as we say, to reproduce in thought the factical commerce with these things. But it is only in the tiniest spheres of the beings with which we are acquainted that we are so well versed as to have at our command the specific way of dealing with equipment which uncovers this equipment as such. The entire range of intraworldly beings accessible to us at any time is not suitably accessible to us in an equally original way. There are many things we merely know something about but do not know how to manage with them. They confront us as beings, to be sure, but as unfamiliar beings. Many beings, including even those already uncovered, have the character of unfamiliarity. This character is positively distinctive of beings as they first confront us. We cannot go into this in more detail, especially since this privative mode of uncoveredness of the extant can be comprehended ontologically only from the structure of primary familiarity. Basically, therefore, we must keep in mind the point that the usual approach in theory of knowledge, according to which a manifold of arbitrarily occurring things or objects is supposed to be homogeneously given to us, does not do justice to the primary facts and consequently makes the investigative approach of theory of knowledge artificial from the very start. Original familiarity with beings lies in dealing with them appropriately. This commerce constitutes itself with respect to its temporality in a retentive-expectant enpresenting of the equipmental contexture as such. It is first of all letting-function, as the antecedent understanding of functionality, which lets a being be understood as the being that it is, so that it is understood by looking to its being. To the being of this being there belong its inherent content, the specific whatness, and a way of being. The whatness of the beings confronting us every day is defined by their equipmental character. The way a being with this essential character, equipment, is, we call being-handy or handiness, which we distinguish from being extant, at hand. If a particular piece of equipment is not handy in the immediately environing world, not near enough to be handled, then this "not-handy" is in no way equivalent to mere non-being. Perhaps the equipment in question has been carried off or mislaid; we say that we cannot lay our hands on it, it is unavailable. The unavailable is only a mode of the handy. When we say that something has become unavailable, we do not normally mean that it has


Basic Problems of Phenomenology (GA 24) by Martin Heidegger