Heidegger's Thinking Through Technology
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.