File spoon-archives/heidegger.archive/heidegger_2001/heidegger.0105, message 33

Subject: Re: Tetranychid.
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 13:02:12 +0100

A quick glance at my watch - it's 4.20 pm on a warm, sunny afternoon.
I sit under the willow tree in my garden by the lakeside and as I lean
forward in my seat towards the water's edge the white swans swerve
expectantly towards the grassy verge then seeing no bread crusts in my open
hands turn abruptly and sail aloofly towards the moorhens and the shade of
the far bank.

I'm reading a scientific article that Jon Neivens posted to the AIT list and
I've printed it out  - it's called 'Can Science Explain Everything.'  It's a
good read like he said, and I settle back in my sunlounger and scan the
A tiny bright red spider-mite crawls slowly across the page, I recognise it
instantly as a tetranychid - a tiny web-spinning mite that attacks garden
plants and fruit trees. Without thinking about it - instinctively - my
finger stabs the page, and in an instant the insect becomes a bright
vermilion streak on the snowy white paper.  I should say what WAS the
insect, for the tiny arachnid that existed a few moments ago no longer
exists - or rather it is not extant in the form of existence that it enjoyed
antecedently, but has metamorphosed or has been transfigured by me into a
streak of rapidly decomposing biologic matter, a red comet of moisture and
tissue on the lily-white necropsic slide of paper on my clipboard.
The moist parts are already drying in the sun and being absorbed into the
paper - but is the insect still present?  My little boy sidles up along side
me and pushes his rabbit-doll in my face to kiss.
"Look! I say," pointing to the red blotch on the page, "Look! A spider."
"Pen." Says the child, "Daddy's pen."
It is obvious that Connor has taken the red trace to be the mark of a pen.
The debris of the insect remains on the page - the detritus is there present
in the sunlight in an altering mode of existence as the red turns slowly to
a dull brown.

What is existence, and how does it differ from presence?  The mite's
insectness is no more - it has changed its state of existence. Is it now a
'smearness' or perhaps a 'bloody-smearness,' or something else?
What about these 'nesses' and 'hood's and 'ships' they all mean a 'state or
condition, or an instance and instant of existential modality - having
membership of a collection or group, or having a quality or condition of
some state of existence.
Can we say that the accumulate of organic molecules and proteins and DNA
that comprises the smear of biologic material on the page represents
features of  'smearness' or qualities of 'bloodness' and what are these
stages of 'nesses' and 'hoods' and 'ships' that we go through as we pass
through life, and is not life itself an 'aliveness' or long term modality of
existence - the course of existence of an individual entity - the actions
and events that occur in 'living out' the existence of ones presence in the

Why is it so problematical to talk and think about existence?  Why do people
often become confused when thinking about the simple fact of existence on
the one hand, and of the activities, states and modes of existential
behaviour and experience on the other?  Why do some think that 'being' a
doctor or 'being' a gambler is existence itself and not merely an ephemeral
event or series of events that a given entity undergoes as part of its
presence in the cosmos as compared to its absence? Why do they think that
so-called  'Being' is existence?

"So," I whisper to myself, " then the insect is an insect no more - but just
a smear.
But at what stage in its death-by-crushing did it lose its insectness?  Was
the quality or condition of insecthood still retained as my finger-pressure
increased to a certain point?  At what stage in the compression process and
bodily disintegration did it lose its unique quality of existence?  Was it
as the soft carapace slit open spilling the red claret of its lifeblood onto
the page - at the moment of death - was the instant of death the nanosecond
when insectness departed?  Did it pass through a stage of dead insecthood
before the total destruction of its form signified its modal change to
oblivious smearhood?
Yes, the thing is dead.  And what is a thing? My dictionary tells me that a
thing is an entity that is not named specifically. But I have heard people
refer to insects as 'things.'
"I've got a thing in my hair!" she shrieks.
"I found this dog with the name-tag 'Rover' round its neck and I couldn't
get rid of it - the thing followed me all the way home."  It sounds a bit
disrespectful to the dog doesn't it?
"I met this woman in a bar last night and the thing agreed to meet me on
Thursday."  Not right is it?
I don't think that I would refer to a chimpanzee or the dead body of a
monkey as a thing, and it seems to me that the higher one ascends in the
hierarchy of entities the less comfortable one is in addressing things as
things, and when you reach the dizzy heights of the human phylum 'the word
'thing' is definitely out.
Is a dead human body a thing?
"My mothers body is on the bed - I found the thing on the kitchen floor when
I came home."  Not very nice is it?
In Heideggerian terms is a dead Dasein a thing?  Is a passed on 'Being'
still a 'Being'? If 'Beingness' quits with death it shows that 'Beingness'
and 'Deadness' and 'aliveness' are merely modalities of existence, for all
three are none-existent in the simple existence of a lifeless body and
cannot be found, for they are just words that the English language uses to
indicate states of existence. The live 'for-itself' is converted and reduced
to the status of a dead 'in-itself' and whilst it still exists it is
incapable of 'being' anything other than a rapidly decaying lump of flesh
which has many correspondences of modal change to that experienced by the
smear of vermilion on my page.

Heidegger and Sartre  speak of the 'Being' of a 'being' as it was some
proprietorial personal chattel - a sequential life-long block of presence
instead of the verb of the continuous present, which it actually is and in
which it is used to describe the many states and stages of an existential
For Heidegger the giving of a name 'Dasein' [being-there] to this
existential modal activity, means that  he thinks that he  can magically
gerundise 'being' into being a 'being' that can shoulder existence out of
the way and take over the stage of cosmic presence.
Sartre too attempts the same trick, but with more Gallic sensitivity, and
soon his 'for-itself' - his Parisian-sparrow - queue-jumps the 'I' and 'me'
chowline and permits the narrative of inter-entity interaction that the
logic of semantico-syntactical problematics had formerly blocked.

Jud Evans

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