Ge-Stell: The Essence of Technology
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A first step toward a clearer understanding of why Heidegger chooses the word Ge-Stell to describe the essence of technology is via the word itself. The German word Gestell used to be a common word. A Gestell is a stand or supporting framework used, for example, in workshops or on farms. Until the second half of the twentieth century “Gstell” in Southern German dialects was also used to refer to machines like a circular saw. Yet, this is not what Heidegger means by Ge-Stell. By hyphenating the word Heidegger in a sense frees the word from its immediate everyday meanings. The interruption of the hyphen lets us rest on the prefix and simultaneously brings to the fore the weight and meaning of the root verb stellen: Ge-Stell is then the gathering of all modes of stellen, of placing, putting, positioning, setting (up), producing, chasing, imitating. Note also that the perfect tense of stellen is gestellt. As an adjective gestellt can also mean affected and artificial. The notion of Ge-Stell is inspired by Eckhart’s Gestellnis, a translation of the Roman forma and the Greek μορφή. We always produce things according to preconceived forms, as Sheehan notes (cf. Sheehan 2010: 95). But Ge-Stell operates by homogenising and making uniform and in this way Ge-Stell eradicates ownness.
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