The World is "Ready to Hand"
I am very excited to announce that I am currently reading Peter Leithart’s most recent book Traces of the Trinity to review for Torrey Gazette. If you are a regular reader here at St. Anne’s Manor then you’ll know that I am a big fan of Peter Leithart and you will not be surprised to see his name pop up again. You might have further guessed that this will not be my last post on Traces of the Trinity between now and when I write a review in a couple week.
Thus far Traces has been a very unique read. In short the book is about perichoresis or “mutual indwelling.” The main premiss (as far as the first 20 pages are concerned) is that our world patterns the mutual indwelling of the Trinitarian God who made it in a myriad of ways we are usually not privy to.
Leithart points out one of the main reasons we miss the clear evidences of perichoresis in our daily habitation: Enlightenment thought; particularly Descartes.
Descartes treated humans as detached spectators of the outside world. But unless we are philosophers, we don’t have the luxury to be spectators. We don’t first look over the world as a set of objects and patterns to analyze and classify. We engage the world as a set of objects that already have particular meanings and uses for us. The philosopher Martin Heidegger put it this way: The world is not “present at hand,” waiting to be analyzed and thought about. It’s “ready to hand,” full of items that have their own shapes, purposes, uses, histories. (pg. 14)
We tend to believe that we can neatly separate ourselves (subject) off from the things outside of ourselves (object). But this is impossible unless we’ve been breathing Enlightenment thought in from our earliest years (which most of us have and even then it’s not possible). But if we take a second to examine the way that we actually inhabit the world we will find ourselves much more integrated with the “objects” around us than we previously realized.
As Heidegger pointed out, we are constantly being handed things that already have meanings and purposes apart from our interaction with them. Moreover, their meaning and purpose, many times, is intricately bound up with our vital engagement with them (air, water, food, etc.). We are more-fully immersed and integrated into this world than our Descartian thinking-habits would like to admit.
Food for thought.