File spoon-archives/heidegger.archive/heidegger_1998/heidegger.9804, message 79


Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 18:10:40 +0200
Subject: Re: Technology question


Cologne, 16 April 1998

Alex schrieb:
> What is TECHNOLOGY according to Heidegger? And what is the essence of
> technology ?

To understand (modern) technology (according or not according to Heidegger) one 
has to return to the Greek beginnings to see how _technae_ or _technê_ was 
thought philosophically. As always, the deepest originary metaphysical 
understanding of _technae_ is to be found in Aristotle in his _Metaphysics_. 
There it is characterized as _dynamis meta logou_ i.e. as a power that is guided 
by the _logos_. 

A _dynamis_ as a mode of being (and not as something ontic) is, as Aristotle 
says, an origin for a change or transformation in something else or insofar as 
it is something else. A _dynamis meta logou_ is such an origin for 
transformation which is guided by the foresight of the _logos_. In a fundamental 
sense _technae_ is thus know-how, knowledge, i.e. a way of disclosing beings, 
and that in such a way that they can be transformed. E.g. a doctor knows how to 
produce a transformation in a sick person (who may even be himself, but himself 
not _as_ doctor, but as patient; thus the “insofar as...” qualification above), 
for he or she is guided by a knowledge of how a healthy person is and how health 
in a person can be brought forth. 

Thus _technae_ as knowledge and know-how is a phenomenon of truth, i.e. of how 
beings as such are disclosed. Such disclosure of beings in advance is the 
precondition for being able to knowingly transform them. Thus technical activity 
(say of a carpenter) is guided by a knowing pre-view of what is to be brought 
forth e.g. a cupboard. The knowing pre-view is here the _logos_, and thus 
_technae_ is a power of transformation guided by know-how. 

This understanding of _technae_ is still with us in the modern age, but has been 
transformed, first of all by a metaphysical drafting of beings in their being 
that makes them amenable to mathematical understanding. Descartes, Newton, 
Leibniz, Galilei et al are the agents of this uncompromising mathematical 
drafting of nature (time, space, laws of motion, Cartesion co-ordinates, 
differential calculus for dealing with motion, etc.) which is the precondition 
for disclosing (uncovering, decrypting, unsheltering) nature to a mathematically 
based knowledge i.e. modern science. There is no difference of essence between 
modern science and technology.

In a general way, one could say that technology is a mode of truth, i.e. of 
disclosure, Entbergen, de-cryption, that serves as the basis for transforming 
beings (calling forth products). This applies to the entire metaphysical epoch. 
But in our own time, technology has assumed further traits, and this has to do 
with a transformation (Wandel) in the essencing of truth, i.e. in the way in 
which historically truth (the disclosure of beings in their being) holds sway. 
The knowledge of know-how, of knowing-how is now no longer simply a fore-sight 
that knows how to bring forth the intended pro-duct (literally: that which is 
led forth) into the open. The bringing forth now becomes a tearing forth, a 
_Herausfordern_ i.e. a challenging, or literally, a demanding-forth, an 
imperative demand that calls and tears beings into the open. 

Heidegger enunciates this essencing of truth, in which it is a matter of 
endlessly uncovering beings as a precondition for manipulating them, in terms of 
the _Gestell_ (set-up, frame-up, enframement). The _Gestell_ is a totalizing 
draft of the being of beings in which, in advance, everything that _is_ is only 
insofar as it is drawn into and integrated into the _Gestell’s_ perpetual 
movement of _stellen_. _Stellen_ is at first a very innocent German verb meaning 
“to place” or "to put". There is almost not limit to the prefixes with which 
_stellen_ can be combined to make new verbs with new meanings. Here are a few 
important examples:

herstellen = produce, manufacture; 
vorstellen = imagine, introduce, represent (in the imagination), conceive;
darstellen = represent (mimetically); 
bestellen = order; 
aufstellen = set up, erect;
erstellen = make up; 
anstellen = employ; etc. 

Heidegger (as usual proceeding against common usage) gathers all these different 
modes of _stellen_ or placing or setting-up into a unified word: Gestell 
(which in everyday language means "frame", "clotheshorse", etc.). Just 
as the _Gesetz_ (law) is a gathering together of what is posited (setzen, 
gesetzt; positive law as the collection of stipulations which are posited), the 
Gestell is the gathering together of all modes of setting(-up). 

One comes close to an essential meaning of _stellen_ in the simple sentences: 
“Der Lehrer stellte den Schueler.” “The teacher confronted the pupil (about some 
wrong-doing).” “Die Polizei stellte den Verdaechtigen.” “The police apprehended 
the suspect.” 

The holding sway of the set-up means that all beings, from the start (a priori), 
are set up and confronted with their belonging to the circular process of 
endless uncovering. Even, and especially, humans are drawn into the Gestell as 
_Angestellte_ of the Gestell. _Angestellte_ is also an innocent word meaning 
“employee”, or, more specifically, a “salaried employee”, but in the context of 
the Gestell, the Angestellte assumes a more sinister meaning as one who is set 
up within the total set-up as an agent of uncovering beings in pro-ducing them. 

The set-up is the final metaphysical draft and drafting of beings into their 
being in line with the total, imperative calling-forth of beings into the open.

There’s quite a lot more to say about the _Gestell_. Here just a couple of 
points: The _Bestellen_ (ordering) of the Gestell orders all beings into the 
open as component parts of the total _Bestand_ (standing reserve). The opening 
up (disclosure) of beings in their being, i.e. the way in which _alaetheia_ 
holds sway is without measure, and this measureless turns into circularity. 
There is no end of decrypting, and it becomes an end in itself and thus endless. 
Under the sway of the _Gestell_, frenetic decryption is upon us and appears as a 
self-evident necessity. It even seems that all this uncovering is being done for 
our own sakes, whereas in truth we are ourselves property of the set-up and are 
set up just as much as any other being. 

Michael
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