Irony so overwhelming I want to tweet about it with a #Heidegger hashtag:
A scientific study recently found empirical support for Heidegger's concept of zuhanden, which was discussed in the Being and Time podcast.* Wired Science covered the story last year, but the study itself is short enough that you can get through it during a lunch break. To quote the summary section of the paper:
Heidegger's phenomenology has been influential in the cognitive sciences, despite the fact that no attempts have been made to empirically confirm his insights. The experiments in this paper support Heidegger's description of the transition from readiness-to-hand to unreadiness-to-hand, a phenomenon that is key for his overall phenomenological philosophy. When humans are smoothly coping with entities ready-to-hand, they see through their tools to focus on the task they are using those tools to complete. When that coping is disrupted by a temporary malfunction, humans can no longer see through the malfunctioning tool and experience it as unready-to-hand. We demonstrated this transition by showing that when participants smoothly operate a mouse in a video game task, the body-tool performance displays the complex dynamics typical of an IDS [interaction-dominant dynamics]. Temporarily disrupting mouse behavior temporarily disrupted this IDS, at least at the body-tool boundary. We also showed that this disruption led to a reconfiguration of the participants' awareness of the situation by showing a shift in resources allocated to an additional cognitive task. This is closing in on Heidegger's transition from readiness-to-hand to unreadiness-to-hand. We take these experiments as progress toward justifying the influence that Heidegger's phenomenological philosophy has had on cognitive sciences and justifying the partly Heidegger-inspired claim that cognitive systems sometimes extend beyond the biological body.
Take that, positivists! I'm not capable of assessing the quality of the study, but it looks impressive enough. More interestingly, some smartipantzen undergrads over at CalTech cited the study as inspiration for their class project on web browser optimization. One of them now works at Google. So, the ideas of a notoriously anti-technological fascist philosopher may now be influencing new ways to improve web browsers. This may be the only justice history can offer!
*Note that Hubert Dreyfus has also applied Heideggerian concepts to analysis of high technology, but Dreyfus never attempted any empirical research of which I'm aware.