Heidegger on Technology
This collection offers the first comprehensive and definitive account of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of technology. It does so through a detailed analysis of canonical texts and recently published primary sources on two crucial concepts in Heidegger’s later thought: Gelassenheit and Gestell. Gelassenheit, translated as ‘releasement’, and Gestell, often translated as ‘enframing’, stand as opposing ideas in Heidegger’s work whereby the meditative thinking of Gelassenheit counters the dangers of our technological framing of the world in Gestell. After opening with a scholarly overview of Heidegger’s philosophy of technology as a whole, this volume focuses on important Heideggerian critiques of science, technology, and modern industrialized society as well as Heidegger’s belief that transformations in our thought processes enable us to resist the restrictive domain of modern techno-scientific practice. Key themes discussed in this collection include: the history, development, and defining features of modern technology; the relationship between scientific theories and their technological instantiations; the nature of human agency and the essence of education in the age of technology; and the ethical, political, and environmental impact of our current techno-scientific customs. This volume also addresses the connection between Heidegger’s critique of technology and his involvement with the Nazis. Finally, and with contributions from a number of renowned Heidegger scholars, the original essays in this collection will be of great interest to students of Philosophy, Technology Studies, the History of Science, Critical Theory, Environmental Studies, Education, Sociology, and Political Theory.
We live in a world where technology reaches into every aspect of our lives. Technological devices are with us from the minute we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. We trade digital information with a host of individuals at a rate that was inconceivable just a generation ago. Contemporary health researchers and technology experts have begun to identify the symptoms of technology fatigue: a form of anxiety that results from always being available and from the need to constantly engage with our technology. Yet despite the impact technology has on our daily life, relatively little philosophical reflection has gone into explaining what draws us into technology’s embrace.
Beginning in the mid-1930s, Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) turned his attention to the framework in which technological devices are understood. Heidegger was one of the most important thinkers of the 20thcentury and his philosophy of technology is based on the relation between two key concepts: Gestell and Gelassenheit. Gestellis often translated as “enframing” or “positionality” and it indicates the way we frame, position, and ultimately reduce the world to resources for production and consumption. Specifically,Gestell refers to our tendency to make everything, including ourselves, a resource ready to be called on in the service of a technological system. According to Heidegger, reducing the world to readily available resources is dangerous because it undermines our creative engagement with reality, alienates us from ourselves and each other, and leads to the destruction of our habitat. The antidote to this condition is: Gelassenheit. Gelassenheitis translated as “releasement” or “equanimity” and it refers to a disposition that blocks us from imposing our will on things and thus opens us up to alternative ways of relating to reality. In short, Gestell and Gelassenheit stand as opposing ideas in Heidegger’s analysis of technology whereby the releasement characteristic of Gelassenheit counters the dangers of our technological framing of the world via Gestell.
Although there are several important books that address Gestelland Gelassenheit when discussing other themes in Heidegger’s work, this volume offers the first comprehensive and definitive account of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of technology. It does so by collecting essays from leading Heidegger scholars on key aspects of Heidegger’s thought on techno-science. Some of the central themes addressed in this collection include: the history, development, and defining features of modern technology; the relationship between scientific theories and their technological instantiations; the nature of human agency and the essence of education in the age of technology; and the ethical, political, and environmental impact of our current techno-scientific customs. Of course, presenting a complete account of a book’s content is beyond the scope of any introduction. However, in Section 1 we explain our scholarly aims and practical ambitions in putting together this volume. In Section 2, we describe the development of Heidegger’s philosophy of technology from his early phenomenological work to his later essays on the essence of technology. In Section 3, we offer a slightly more detailed account of Gestell and Gelassenheit. Finally, in Section 4 we provide a short summary of the seventeen essays collected here.
Martin Heidegger is arguably the most influential philosopher of the 20th Century. He was also a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party. Debate over the relation between Heidegger’s thought and his political engagement has raged since Heidegger officially joined the Nazis in 1933. However, the recent publication of Heidegger’s private notebooks offers scholars new and detailed insight into Heidegger’s intellectual development and political commitments in the interwar period. In this essay, I examine Heidegger’s involvement with the Nazis in light of the philosophical account of Western history (Seinsgeschichte) that Heidegger introduces in his 1927 edition of Being and Time, develops in his notebooks and other writings from the 1930s, and finalizes in his lectures on technology in the 1940s. Specifically, I start with a summary of Heidegger’s stated aim in Being and Time, namely, to “raise anew the question of the meaning of being” through a “phenomenological deconstruction of the history of ontology” (BT1/19, 39/63).I then demonstrate that Heidegger’s early enthusiasm for National Socialism was partially based on his belief that the Nazis represented a radical break from the Western tradition that begins with Greek metaphysics and culminates in the environmental degradation and human dislocation in our modern, technologically driven societies. From here, I show that Heidegger came to realize that, far from a break with Western history, National Socialism represented the apotheosis of modern technology. At this point, I also explain how Heidegger’s later critique of technology develops out of his disillusionment with the Nazis, and so amounts to an implicit and occasionally explicit critique of National Socialism. Finally, I object to Heidegger’s philosophical account of the Western tradition by pointing out that his focus on the general trends of history overlooks the concrete suffering of individual human beings, but then I illustrate how this criticism is addressed by one of Heidegger’s most influential students: Emmanuel Levinas.