Winograd & Flores (Computers) – Uma ilustração do “ser-lançado” (Geworfenheit)

Many people encountering the work of Heidegger for the first time find it very difficult to comprehend. Abstract terms like ‘Dasein’ and ‘thrownness,’ for instance, are hard to relate to reality. This is the opposite of what Heidegger intends. His philosophy is based on a deep awareness of everyday life, He argues that the issues he discusses are difficult not because they are abstruse, but because they are concealed by their ‘ordinary everydayness.’ In order to give more of a sense of the importance of thrownness (which will play a large role in the second half of the book), it may be useful to consider a simple example that evokes experiences of thrownness for many readers.

Imagine that you are chairing a meeting of fifteen or so people, at which some important and controversial issue is to be decided: say, the decision to bring a new computer system into the organization, As the meeting goes on you must keep things going in a productive direction, deciding whom to call on, when to cut a speaker off, when to call for an end of discussion or a vote, and so forth. There are forcefully expressed differences of opinion, and if you don’t take a strong role the discussion will quickly deteriorate into a shouting match dominated by the loudest, who will keep repeating their own fixed positions in hopes of wearing everyone else down.

We can make a number of observations about your situation:

You cannot avoid acting. At every moment, you are in a position of authority, and your actions affect the situation, If you just sit there for a time, letting things go on in the direction they are going, that in itself constitutes an action, with effects that you may or may not want. You are ‘thrown’ into action independent of your will. You cannot step back and reflect on your actions. Anyone who has been in this kind of situation has afterwards felt “I should have said… “ or “I shouldn’t have let Joe get away with… “ In the need to respond immediately to what people say and do, it is impossible to take time to analyze things explicitly and choose the best course of action. In fact, if you stop to do so you will miss some of what is going on, and implicitly choose to let it go on without interruption. You are thrown on what people loosely call your ‘instincts,’ dealing with whatever comes up.

The effects of actions cannot be predicted. Even if you had time to reflect, it is impossible to know how your actions will affect other people. If you decide to cut someone off in order to get to another topic, the group may object to your heavy-handedness, that in itself becoming a topic of discussion, If you avoid calling on someone whose opinion you don’t like, you may find that he shouts it out, or that a friend feels compelled to take up his point of view. Of course this doesn’t imply that things are total chaos, but simply that you cannot count on careful rational planning to find steps that will achieve your goals. You must, as the idiom goes, ‘flow with the situation.’

You do not have a stable representation of the situation. In the post-mortem analysis, you will observe that there were significant patterns. “There were two factions, with the Smith group trying to oppose the computer via the strategy of keeping the discussion on costs and away from an analysis of what we are doing now, and the Wilson group trying to be sure that whether or not we got the computer, they would remain in control of the scheduling policies. Evans was the key, since he could go either way, and they brought up the training issue because that is his bailiwick and they knew he wouldn’t want the extra headaches.” In a sense you have a representation of the situation, with objects (e.g., the two factions) and properties (their goals, Evans’s lack of prior loyalty, etc.), but this was not the understanding you had to work with as it was developing. Pieces of it may have emerged as the meeting went on, but they were fragmentary, possibly contradictory, and may have been rejected for others as things continued.

Every representation is an interpretation. Even in the post-mortem, your description of what was going on is hardly an objective analysis of the kind that could be subjected to proof. Two people at the same meeting could well come away with very different interpretations Evans might say “Smith is competing with me for that promotion, and he wanted to bring up the training issue to point out that we’ve been having difficulty in our group lately.” There is no ultimate way to determine that any one interpretation is really right or wrong, and even the people whose behavior is in question may well not be in touch with their own deep motivations.

Language is action. Each time you speak you are doing something quite different from simply ‘stating a fact.’ If you say “First we have to address the issue of system development” or “Let’s have somebody on the other side talk,” you are not describing the situation but creating it. The existence of “the issue of system development” or “the other side” is an interpretation, and in mentioning it you bring your interpretation into the group discourse. Of’ course others can object “That isn’t really an issue-you’re confusing two things” or “We aren’t taking sides, everyone has his own opinion” But whether or not your characterization is taken for granted or taken as the basis for argument, you have created the objects and properties it describes by virtue of making the utterance.

Heidegger recognized that ordinary everyday life is like the situation we have been describing. Our interactions with other people and with the inanimate world we inhabit put us into a situation of thrownness, for which the metaphor of the meeting is much more apt than the metaphor of the objective detached scientist who makes observations, forms hypotheses, and consciously chooses a rational course of action.

WINOGRAD, T.; FLORES, F. Understanding Computers and Cognition. Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1987.