112 I. 3
Being and Time

On the contrary, only by the circumspection with which one takes account of things in farming, is the south wind discovered in its Being.

But, one will protest, that which gets taken as a sign must first have become accessible in itself and been apprehended before the sign gets established. Certainly it must in any case be such that in some way we can come across it. The question simply remains as to how entities are discovered in this previous encountering, whether as mere Things which occur, or rather as equipment which has not been understood-as something ready-to-hand with which we have hitherto not known 'how to begin', and which has accordingly kept itself veiled from the purview of circumspection. And here again, when the equipmental characters of the ready-to-hand are still circumspectively undiscovered, they are not to be Interpreted as bare Thinghood presented for an apprehension of what is just present-at-hand and no more.

The Being-ready-to-hand of signs in our everyday dealings, and the conspicuousness which belongs to signs and which may be produced for various purposes and in various ways, do not merely serve to document the inconspicuousness constitutive for what is most closely ready-to-hand ; the sign itself gets its conspicuousness from the inconspicuousness of the equipmental totality, which is ready-to-hand and 'obvious' in its everydayness. The knot which one ties in a handkerchief [ der bekannte "Knopf im Taschentuch"] as a sign to mark something is an example of this. What such a sign is to indicate is always something with which one has to concern oneself in one's everyday circumspection. Such a sign can indicate many things, and things of the most various kinds. The wider the extent to which it can indicate, the narrower its intelligibility and its usefulness. Not only is it, for the most part, ready-to-hand as a sign only for the person who 'establishes' it, but it can even become inaccessible to him, so that another sign is needed if the first is to be used circumspectively at all. So when the knot cannot be used as a sign, it does not lose its sign-character, but it acquires the disturbing obtrusiveness of something most closely ready-to-hand.

One might be tempted to cite the abundant use of 'signs' in primitive Dasein, as in fetishism and magic, to illustrate the remarkable role which they play in everyday concern when it comes to our understanding of the world. Certainly the establishment of signs which underlies this way of using them is not performed with any theoretical aim or in the course of theoretical speculation. This way of using them always remains completely within a Being-in-the-world which is 'immediate'. But on closer inspection it becomes plain that to interpret fetishism and magic by taking our clue from the idea of signs in general, is not enough [82] to enable us to grasp the kind of 'Being-ready-to-hand' which belongs to entities encountered in the primitive world.