enowning Sunday, April 22, 2007 Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht on changing distances.
The emergence of new political, economic, and cultural Centers outside Europe, beyond the traditionally unmarked Center in relation to which the rest of the world has been defined as Periphery, transforms the parameters of spatial perception. The other source of dramatic change on this level of experience is the vast range of new devices in transportation and communication, which are bringing far-flung points on the globe closer together. Martin Heidegger establishes an explicit relationship between the new technological possibilities for bridging distance and his own analysis, in Being and Time, of space as a frame-condition for human existence. Through one of those hyphenations which are characteristic of his style as a philosopher and writer, Heidegger turns Entfernung ("distance") into its opposite, Ent-fernung ("undoing of farness"). This wordplay leads Heidegger to the thesis--analogous to and derived from the priority of Zuhandenheit ("ready to hand") over Vorhandenheit ("present at hand")--that, from an existential point of view, closeness (the result of an undoing of farness) has priority over distance. This thesis, however, obliges Heidegger to acknowledge--not without hesitation--that the new technologies of speed and transmission may well converge with the existential priority of eliminating distance: "In Dasein there is an essential tendency toward closeness. All the ways in which we speed things up, as we are more or less compelled to do today, push us on toward the conquest of remoteness [Entferntheit]. With the 'radio', for example, Dasein has so expanded its everyday environment that it has accomplished a de-distancing [Ent-fernung] of the 'world'--a de-distancing whose implications for the meaning of Dasein cannot yet be visualized". Pp. 364-365 ¶ 3:24 PM 0 comments