107 I. 3
Being and Time

Being-in-the-world, according to our Interpretation hitherto, amounts to a non-thematic circumspective absorption in references or assignments constitutive for the readiness-to-hand of a totality of equipment. Any concern is already as it is, because of some familiarity with the world. In this familiarity Dasein can lose itself in what it encounters within-the-world and be fascinated with it. What is it that Dasein is familiar with? Why can the worldly character of what is within-the-world be lit up? The presence-at-hand1 of entities is thrust to the fore by the possible breaks in that referential totality in which circumspection 'operates'; how are we to get a closer understanding of this totality?

These questions are aimed at working out both the phenomenon and the problems of worldhood, and they call for an inquiry into the interconnections with which certain structures are built up. To answer them we must analyse these structures more concretely.

¶ 17. Reference and Signs

In our provisional Interpretation of that structure of Being which belongs to the ready-to-hand (to 'equipment'), the phenomenon of reference or assignment became visible; but we merely gave an indication of it, and in so sketchy a form that we at once stressed the necessity of uncovering it with regard to its ontological origin.2 It became plain, moreover, that assignments and referential totalities could in some sense become constitutive for worldhood itself. Hitherto we have seen the world lit up only in and for certain definite ways in which we concern ourselves environmentally with the ready-to-hand, and indeed it has been lit up only with the readiness-to-hand of that concern. So the further we proceed in understanding the Being of entities within-the-world, the broader and [77] firmer becomes the phenomenal basis on which the world-phenomenon may be laid bare.

We shall again take as our point of departure the Being of the ready-to-hand, but this time with the purpose of grasping the phenomenon of reference or assignment itself more precisely. We shall accordingly attempt an ontological analysis of a kind of equipment in which one may come across such 'references' in more senses than one. We come across 'equipment' in signs. The word "sign" designates many kinds of things: not only may it stand for different kinds of signs, but Being-a-sign-for can itself be formalized as a universal kind of relation, so that the sign-structure itself provides an ontological clue for 'characterizing' any entity whatsoever.

1 Here the older editions have 'Zuhandenheit' where the newer ones have 'Vorhandenheit'.

2 Cf. H. 68 above.

Being and Time (M&R) by Martin Heidegger