Heidegger’s Path to the Essence of Technology

  • Johannes Achill Niederhauser


Heidegger’s path to naming the essence of technology as Ge-stell begins with his critique of subjectivism and metaphysics more broadly. According to Heidegger, metaphysics focuses on beings and then hypostatises the unique being of beings as definable beingness. By being I here mean to denote the way in which beings uniquely occur and are present. Take Heidegger’s example of positivism as the “crudest of all “metaphysical” modes of thought” (GA 65: 172/136). Despite its declared aim to leave metaphysics behind positivism in fact is highly metaphysical, for it determines the beingness of beings as sense data. Hence all beings are data perceived by the senses. Positivism does not ask what constitutes the thing in front of me as a meaningful phenomenon, but rather posits the beingness of beings as simply given. Moreover, positivism “surpasses … beings through the fundamental application of a homogenous “causality.”” (GA 65: 172/136) Take genetics as another example of a crude metaphysics. All organic lifeforms are assumed to have a genetic code as their more or less static beingness. According to this assumption all organic beings can be reduced to their genome. But the process does not stop here. By virtue of the power of positing the genetic information of organic beings is assumed to be manipulable at will. This hypothesis comes before mashing up and arbitrarily re-combining genes in order to produce a desired organism. In a note entitled Τέχνη und Technik from around 1940 Heidegger writes that technology is the “manipulation of “beings.”” (GA 76: 288) Technology’s “manipulation” is not accidental, “but is an assault on beings in the whole for the sake of preparing the self-assertion of the human being [qua rational and willing subject].” (GA 76: 288) This does not mean that Heidegger blames metaphysics for anything. Nor does he argue that metaphysics has caused technology necessarily. Rather, he sees the history of metaphysics as the failed responses to the dimension of concealment and withdrawal, i.e., to the full scope of Ereignis. Hence the first beginning is a history of withdrawal, more precisely, a withdrawal of concealment. As I have pointed out before, this withdrawal of the first beginning is, nevertheless, the fountain of the other beginning because once concealment comes into focus, once the other side becomes part of the play, paths open up towards different ways of being, i.e., ways of responding to being. While metaphysics is not to blame, there is still a certain encrustation that sets in as soon as Hegel finalises the dialectics of metaphysics. This encrustation is, however, what Heidegger sees as a possibility to think through the history of metaphysics again by focussing on what is at its limit: concealment, i.e., that which cannot be posited and positioned. That other side is known to mortals from their death.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Achill Niederhauser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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