An Argument about technology's purpose.

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"The German philosopher Martin Heidegger liked to use the metaphor of a gigantic petrol station to suggest how humanity has reduced the natural world to a resource to fuel its bottomless tank*.”

gas station
"Gas" 1940 by Edward Hopper (1882-1967).[a composite of filling stations seen as an honest rendition of the national scene.].

"Nature becomes a gigantic filling station, an energy source for modern technology and industry."


Heidegger and the problem of knowledge, Charles B. Guignon, p. 160, cites--

Discourse on Thinking -- "Gellasenheit." (Pfullingen: Neske,1959) p. 18.

Martin Heidegger, ¶ 1, p. 67, quoted in Coates, Nature, attributed to Ian G. Barbour, The Earth Might be Fair, p. 64.

Martin Heidegger, né le 26 septembre 1889 et mort le 26 mai 1976.

Primary document | dasein | Pro Heidegger | Anti Heidegger | Heidegger on Technology | An example


"Existence and Being"

A lecture by Martin Heidegger

"Descartes, writing to Picot, who translated the Principia Philosophiae into French, observed:

animation of a growing tree

"Thus the whole of philosophy is like a tree: the roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches that issue from the trunk are all the other sciences . . ."


"What the term 'being there' means throughout the treatise on Being and Time is indicated immediately (page 42) by its introductory key sentence: "The 'essence' of being there lies in its existence." [Das "Wesen" des Daseins liegt in seiner Existenz.]"

To be sure, in the language of metaphysics the word "existence" is a synonym of "being there": both refer to the reality of anything at all that is real, from God to a grain of sand. As long, therefore, as the quoted sentence is understood only superficially, the difficulty is merely transferred from one word to another, from 'being there' to 'existence.' In B.&T. the term 'existence' is used exclusively for the being of man. Once "existence" is understood rightly, the 'essence' of being there can be recalled: in its openness, Being itself manifests and conceals itself, yields itself and withdraws; at the same time, this truth of Being does not exhaust itself in being there, nor can it by any means simply be identified with it after the fashion of the metaphysical proposition: all objectivity is as such also subjectivity."

The being that exists is man. Man alone exists. Rocks are, but they do not exist. Trees are, but they do not exist. Horses are, but they do not exist. Angels are, but they do not exist. God is, but he does not exist. The proposition 'man alone exists' does not mean by any means that man alone is * real being while all other beings are unreal and mere appearances or human ideas. The proposition 'man exists' means: man is that being whose Being is distinguished by the open-standing standing-in in the 'unconcealedness' of Being, from Being, in Being. The existential nature of man is the reason why man can represent beings as such, and why he can be conscious of them. All consciousness presupposes ecstatically understood existence as the essentia of man - essentia meaning that as which man is present insofar as he is a man. But consciousness does not itself create the openness of beings, nor is it consciousness that makes it possible for man to stand open for beings. Whither and whence and in what free dimension could the intentionality of consciousness move, if instancy were not the essence of man in the first instance? What else could be the meaning if anybody has ever seriously thought about this of the word sein in the [German] words Bewusstsein ["consciousness"; literally: "being conscious"] and Selbstbewusstsein ["self-consciousness"] if it did not designate the existential nature of that which is in the mode of existence?

To be a self is admittedly one feature of the nature of that being which exists; but existence does not consist in being a self, nor can it be defined in such terms. We are faced with the fact that metaphysical thinking understands man's selfhood in terms of substance or - and at bottom this amounts to the same in terms of the subject. It is for this reason that the first way which leads away from metaphysics to the ecstatic existential nature of man must lead through the metaphysical conception of human selfhood (B.&T., §§63 and 64)."

"The question is: Why is there any being at all and not rather Nothing?

Suppose that we do not remain within metaphysics to ask metaphysically in the customary manner; suppose we recall the truth of Being out of the nature and the truth of metaphysics; then this might be asked as well: How did it come about that beings take precedence everywhere and lay claim to every "is" while that which is not a being is understood as Nothing, though it is Being itself, and remains forgotten?"

"Existence and Being," Martin Heidegger, 1949

Primary document | dasein | Pro Heidegger | Anti Heidegger | Heidegger on Technology | An example


The Case of Martin Heidegger, Philosopher and Nazi

Part 1: The Record; By Alex Steiner, 3 April 2000

Documentary evidence exists that Heidegger expressed sympathy for the Nazis as early as 1932. Given his previous history, this should not come as a shock. Immediately following Hitler's seizure of power, Heidegger joined the Nazis. Heidegger was a dues-paying member of the NSDAP (the Nazi party) from 1933 to 1945. He became the rector of Freiburg University in April of 1933, three months after Hitler came to power. His infamous inaugural address was delivered on May 27, 1933. Heidegger apologists have claimed that this address represented an attempt to assert the autonomy of the university against the Nazis' effort to subordinate the sciences to their reactionary doctrines.

In fact, the address was a call to arms for the student body and the faculty to serve the new Nazi regime. It celebrates the Nazi ascendancy as “the march our people has begun into its future history.” Heidegger identifies the German nation with the Nazi state in prose that speaks of “the historical mission of the German Volk, a Volk that knows itself in its state.” There is even a reference to the fascist ideology of zoological determinism when Heidegger invokes “the power to preserve, in the deepest way, the strengths [of the Volk] which are rooted in soil and blood.”

On June 30, 1933 Heidegger gave a speech to the Heidelberg Student Association in which he gave his views on the role of the university in the new Nazi order. The following excerpt speaks for itself. It provides a glimpse of Heidegger's commitment to the Nazi ideals of blood, race and absolute subservience to the Führer.

“It [the university] must be integrated into the Volksgemeinschaft and be joined together with the state ...

“Up to now, research and teaching have been carried on at the universities as they were carried out for decades.... Research got out of hand and concealed its uncertainty behind the idea of international scientific and scholarly progress. Teaching that had become aimless hid behind examination requirements.

“A fierce battle must be fought against this situation in the National Socialist spirit, and this spirit cannot be allowed to be suffocated by humanizing, Christian ideas that suppress its unconditionality ...

“Danger comes not from work for the State. It comes only from indifference and resistance. For that reason, only true strength should have access to the right path, but not half heartedness ...

“University study must again become a risk, not a refuge for the cowardly. Whoever does not survive the battle, lies where he falls. The new courage must accustom itself to steadfastness, for the battle for the institutions where our leaders are educated will continue for a long time. It will be fought out of the strengths of the new Reich that Chancellor Hitler will bring to reality. A hard race with no thought of self must fight this battle, a race that lives from constant testing and that remains directed toward the goal to which it has committed itself. It is a battle to determine who shall be the teachers and leaders at the university.”[4]

"The record shows that after the war Heidegger never made a public or private repudiation of his support for Nazism. This was despite the fact that former friends, including Karl Jaspers and Herbert Marcuse, urged him to speak out, after the fact to be sure, against the many crimes perpetrated by the Nazi regime. Heidegger never did. He did however make a fleeting reference to the Holocaust in a lecture delivered on Dec. 1, 1949. Speaking about technology, he said:

“Agriculture is now a motorized food-industry—in essence, the same as the manufacturing of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps, the same as the blockade and starvation of the countryside, the same as the production of the hydrogen bombs.” [18]

"The most important postwar statement Heidegger made about his prewar political activity was in a 1966 interview with the magazine Der Spiegel. This interview was first published, at Heidegger's insistence, after his death in 1976. A great deal of the discussion centers on the question of technology and the threat that unconstrained technology poses to man. Heidegger says at one point:

“A decisive question for me today is: how can a political system accommodate itself to the technological age, and which political system would this be? I have no answer to this question. I am not convinced that it is democracy.”[19]

Having set up an ahistorical notion of technology as an absolute bane to the existence of mankind, Heidegger then explains how he conceived of the Nazi solution to this problem:

“ ... I see the task in thought to consist in general, within the limits allotted to thought, to achieve an adequate relationship to the essence of technology. National Socialism, to be sure, moved in this direction. But those people were far too limited in their thinking to acquire an explicit relationship to what is really happening today and has been underway for three centuries.”[20]


Primary document | dasein | Pro Heidegger | Anti Heidegger | Heidegger on Technology | An example

Interpretations of an author's words are called secondary sources, in that the author's words are primary.

Pro Heidegger:

"For him, the critical error made in so much of Western philosophy has been to erase the distinction between human beings and objects.

Heidegger did not believe that people could be treated like passive objects in any philosophical sense because unlike objects, only humans could raise the important questions about existence and human nature in the first place. Thus, humans must be approached as questioning, thinking beings — not as passive, remote, and impersonal things.

When we deal with impersonal things, we can better understand them by simply listing their key attributes — and this is generally quite sufficient. But humans don’t have static attributes that are central to their identities and which can be rattled off in a list. Instead, humans are ever engaged in a process of creating and understanding their attributes — a process which by its very nature defied easy comprehension from the outside. Only those immediately and intimately involved in it can comprehend it, and even then only from their own perspective.

Ultimately, this process is something dependent upon our willingness to make decisions and make commitments in our lives. We find ourselves “thrown into the world,” and here we must stay — but to create a life for ourselves we must also create ourselves, a continuous task that is never finished and that is always a consequence of the choices we must make every day.

In this, Heidegger was heavily dependent upon Husserl’s philosophy of phenomenology. Like Husserl, Heidegger took very seriously the original Greek meaning of the word “phenomenon,” which literally means “that which reveals itself.” For Heidegger, that which is uniquely human is also that which reveals itself in the ongoing process of choices, decisions, commitments, and being. Here, though, “being” is not simply passive existence; instead, it is the active engagement with the world — thus the German Dasein, or “being there,” sometimes translated as "presence." Because of this, Heidegger argued that for a person “being in the world” is not a matter of spatial and temporal location, but rather a mode of being — a way of living, not unlike “being in love” or “being in politics” is. The world is not an impersonal container of human beings like a glass is a container of water; rather, it is the field of human concern where we discover and develop our full potentials.

It’s a question of intimate relationships, understanding, questioning, and developing. We discover both our world and ourselves not through passive, abstract thought but through an active engagement between ourselves and that which we find at hand.”

Source: Augustine Cline

Primary document | dasein | Pro Heidegger | Anti Heidegger | Heidegger on Technology | An example

The author's words are primary, thus: commentary on an author's meaning are called secondary sources.


Technology and Ontology in Heidegger

This project is concerned with technology and the question concerning Being and reality in this epoch of technicity. It looks at one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, Martin Heidegger.

Heidegger, when he identifies technology as not instrumental and objectifying but ’something entirely new’, means that, along with objects, subjects are eliminated by this new mode of being. Post-modern technology is not the culmination of modern man controlling objects but a new stage in the understanding of being.

Heidegger does not unequivocally condemn technology; he believes that its increasing dominance might make it possible for humanity to return to its authentic task of the stewardship of being. He grounds his critique of modern technology in science. Moreover, it is the separation of science and technology in the Enlightenment which has alienated Being from being, what Heidegger suggests we can only recover by thinking - a thinking Being, or as I will suggest “hyper-being”.


Primary document | dasein | Pro Heidegger | Anti Heidegger | Heidegger on Technology | An example

Example of a technology

Heidegger describes the hydroelectric power station on the Rhine as his paradigm technological device because for him electricity is the paradigm technological stuff. He says:

"The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging-forth. That challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked, what is unlocked is transformed, what is transformed is stored up, what is stored up is, in turn, distributed, and what is distributed is switched about ever anew."

Edward Hopper, Office at night, 1940s.

Modern technology, Heidegger says, is "something completely different and therefore new." The goal of technology Heidegger tells us, is the more and more flexible and efficient ordering of resources, not as objects to satisfy our desires, but simply for the sake of ordering. He writes:

"Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. Whatever is ordered about in this way ... we call ... standing-reserve.... Whatever stands by in the sense of standing reserve no longer stands over against us as object."

Source: Thought Factory : July 23, 2004


Primary document | dasein | Pro Heidegger | Anti Heidegger | Heidegger on Technology | An example


Ralph Waldo Emerson's, Self Reliance:

"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."


Date: March 31, 2008–edited and revised December 4, 2011

Earth Encompassed