What is the meaning of obstinacy and un-ready-to-hand in this passage from "Being and Time"? I have a general knowledge of Heidegger’s philosophy, but I have problem understanding the meaning of those words. Can ‘ready-to-hand’ be taken most generally as ‘useful’?

I looked up for them but couldn’t find clear meanings. I would like to have the meaning of each in one sentence or two.

Heidegger does note that we encounter some things as useless in his discussion of the obstinacy of our concern in the face of disappointed expectations. A tool may not only break or go missing, but “the un-ready-to-hand can be encountered . . . as something un-ready-to-hand which is not missing at all . . . but which ‘stands in the way’ of our concern. That to which our concern refuses to turn, that for which it has ‘no time’, is something un-ready-to-hand in the manner of what does not belong here.”

  • in Being And Time, 1962 103/SZ p. 73
  • Two of his most basic neologisms, present-at-hand and ready-to-hand, are used to describe various attitudes toward things in the world. For Heidegger, such "attitudes" are prior to, i.e. more basic than, the various sciences of the individual items in the world. Science itself is an attitude, one that attempts a kind of neutral investigation...Heidegger outlines three manners of unreadiness-to-hand: Conspicuous, Obtrusive, Obstinate (when the entity is a hindrance to us in pursuing a project)... Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 23:01
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    the ready-to-hand only emerges from the prior attitude in which we care about what is going on and we see the hammer in a context or world of equipment that is handy or remote, and that is there "in order to" do something. In this sense the ready-to-hand is primordial compared to that of the present-at-hand...the way the present-at-hand... has come to dominate intellectual thought, especially since the Enlightenment. To understand the question of being one must be careful not to fall into this leveling off, or forgetfulness of being, that has come to assail Western thought since Socrates... Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 23:09
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    In short the obstinacy to ready-to-hand (Wittgenstein's meaning is use idiom) which is usually morphed to present-at-hand is the core argument for the dualists' cogito dogma, and per Heidegger it's also the hinge to counter it and argue for his nondual Dasein which is his core philosophy... Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 2:01
  • @DoubleKnot So, Is it a good idea to understand ‘ready-to-hand’ as ‘useful’?
    – Sasan
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 9:01
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    Yes as I've linked Wittgenstein's meaning is use idiom to Heidegger's ready-to-hand terminology while Heidegger's emphasis is the opposite unready-to-hand cases to demo one of his central Dasein thesis. Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 19:55

1 Answer 1


Heidegger uses "ready-to-hand" to refer to the kind-of-being that equipment has. It's more than just "useful". Structurally it offers us affordances. For eg, the hammer calls us to the action of hammering, the chair calls us to sit on it.

In this specific passage, Heidegger is introducing the idea of "un-ready-to-hand" entities with the "obstinate" mode of being.

"Un-ready-to-hand" is a kind of being for equipment that makes it feel less like equipment. It reveals that equipment has physical properties like size, shape, form, that we were not considering when we were just using it. It is the opposite of "ready-to-hand", it is making clear the complete lack of affordances. The three modes of being "un-ready-to-hand" are:

  1. Conspicuousness (when a piece of equipment is broken, we are frustrated with it and it doesn't seem like equipment)
  2. Obtrusiveness (when a piece of equipment is missing, we encounter it's absence with frustration)
  3. Obstinacy (when a piece of equipment is blocking our concern)

"Obstinate" is a kind of "un-ready-to-hand" for equipment that is stubbornly hurting our ability to act on what we are concerned with.

So, when you're trying to clean your room and you trip on your backpack. Or, when you're trying to watch a movie but the table is blocking your view. In these cases, the backpack and the table don't feel like equipment. They feel frustratingly useless, we have no time for them. We see their "present-at-hand" nature, the physical structure, the materials. We don't want to use them as equipment, we want to push them aside to do what we were doing.

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