Heidegger and Technology



the consumption of all material including the raw material man is determined in a concealed way by the complete emptiness in which beings are suspended this emptiness has to be filled up by the unconditional possibility of production the production of everything but the emptiness of being can never be filled up by the fullness of beings especially when we don't experience it for what it is the only way to escape this emptiness is to endlessly order an arranged being so as to guarantee incessant aimless activity Wow let's repeat that the consumption of all materials including the raw material man is determined in a concealed way by the complete emptiness in which beings are suspended this emptiness has to be filled up by the unconditional possibility of production the production of everything but the emptiness of being can never be filled up by the fullness of beings especially when we don't experience it for what it is the only way to escape this emptiness is to endlessly order and arrange beings so as to guarantee incessant aimless activity you tell them Heidegger your stock may be going way down in this age of thoughtlessness you warned us about but you knew what was coming Thomas Sheehan joins me in the studio today to talk about Martin Heidegger who has a lot of airtime over the years on this program that's because in the opinion of your host as well as of my guest today Heidegger remains the most important philosopher of the 20th century despite his many character flaws and the exasperate importance –mess of his later writings now personally I would have said that Hannah Arendt is the most important philosopher of the 20th century but she insisted that she was never a philosopher and therefore I leave her out and besides she also came from the Heidegger matrix our show today is devoted to Martin Heidegger thinking about technology or more precisely to what he called the essence of technology or Tecna city Heidegger like to say the essence of technology is nothing technological but if the essence of technology is not technological what is it well not so fast first some more quotes from Heidegger in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel in 1961 Heidegger called all political movements of the 20th century including national socialism communism and democracy halfway measures why I quote because I do not see in them any actual confrontation with the world of technology in as much as behind them all according to my view stands the conception that technology in its essence is something that man holds within his own hands in my opinion this is not possible technology in its essence is something that man does not master by his own power Spiegel it is obvious that man is never a complete master of his tools witness the case of The Sorcerer's Apprentice but is it not a little too pessimistic to say we are not gaining mastery over this surely much greater tool that is modern technology Heidegger pessimism no in the area of the reflection that I am attempting pessimism and optimism are positions that don't go far enough but above all modern technician is no tool and has nothing at all to do with tools Spiegel why should we be so powerfully overwhelmed by technology that Heidegger I don't say we are overwhelmed by it I say that up to the present we have not found a way to respond to the essence of techni see Spiegel but someone might object very naively what must be mastered in this case everything is functioning more and more electric power companies are being built production is up in highly technologized parts of the earth people are well cared for we are living in a state of prosperity what really is lacking to us heidegger everything is functioning that is precisely what is terrifying that everything functions that the functioning propels everything more and more toward further functioning and that Tecna city increasingly dislodges man and uproot sand from the earth we do not need atomic bombs at all to uproot us the uprooting of man is already here all our relationships have become merely technical ones it is no longer upon an earth that man lives today I for one I'm not going to argue with Heidegger on that score my guest Tom Sheehan might want to later in our show but our first order of business today is to gain clarity about what Heidegger means by the essence of Technology and the place is thinking about technology occupies in his philosophy as a whole Tommaso welcome back to entitled opinions thank you rob we're going to devote most of our show or much of our show today to Heidegger seminal essay the question concerning technology because we both believe I gather that that essay occupies a very important place in heidecker's thinking as a whole so could I ask you to begin by sharing with us some of your thoughts about where and how this essay fits into Heidegger entire project I agree with you Heidegger's reflections on technology are the heart of his work they were also the shadow of his work and finally I think they show us the limit of what Heidegger can do the limit of his work his essay on technology is not a late afterthought even though it comes in the 50s and following it's not an application of his thought it's not some cultural aside it's the culmination of his thought the reason why he did philosophy at all and that's because the modern age of Technology in his view obscures the one and only topic that interested in from the beginning to the end of his philosophy it obscured it virtually obliterated the radical finitude that's the source of what he calls invasion or zine the meaningful presence of things to human being so in the question of technology the essay that you referenced it a while ago we have the summation I think of the import of all of his writings from Zion on site right up to his death in 1976 and by the same token we have the utter limitation of his philosophy what he was able to say and given his starting point what he couldn't say and I suggest that we cover both topics in this discussion because the question of technology si both summarises Heidegger and buries him it gives us Heidegger at the limits of his greatness and gives us the task that he refused to shoulder that in fact he could not shoulder all right well let's save the fireworks for part two for a bit later in the show and try to can you first think what what point in his career does he write this essay or deliver it as a talk well Heidegger had been thinking about technology certainly from the early 20s and then intensely during the 30s and 40s and he finally gave expression to that thought in the 1950s in the present case in the fall of 1953 in Munich where he delivered the lecture the question of technology the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts which was led by his friend Emil Praetorius called him out of retirement it was a retirement forced on him by the denazification process called him out of a retirement to address a conference on art in the technological age and Heidegger chose the title the question of technology that is as you said correctly the question not of technology so much as of the essence of technology this is a philosophy of technology well yeah certainly if if what Heidegger says in that there Spiegel interview that I reference quoted from earlier he he claimed that when he was giving the lecture course that subsequently was published as introduction to metaphysics in English and and he spoke about the the inner greatness of the National Socialist Movement he had that famous parenthesis which he said was its confrontation with planetary Tecna City so he was I think you're you're suggesting that he had been thinking about technology and technically at least since the early 30s do you agree I think since the early twenties early twenties you know it was his experience in World War one that was the real shock I think to him of what he would eventually call total mobilization with ant younger and the 1930s was a time when unfortunately he saw Nazism as a political effort to confront global technology and of course he was terribly wrong do you believe as I do at times when I read the later Heidegger in the 50s and even the question concerning technology but even more so later stuff that there is an implicit may Akula about having misplaced hopes that a political movement such as National Socialism could have actually confronted planetary Tecna City and in an effective and meaningful way and that he realized that perhaps no political movement would be up to such a task because not enough thinking had been done about as you say the essence of technology all the all the thinking is about technology but not the essence of technology you'll never get a miracle out of Heidegger about his Nazi experiment and if anything the later writings on technology are his way of saying I was right I may have picked the wrong party but I certainly got the problem right which was global technology right now that's true and he's been rightly faulted for his refusal at least in an implicit and explicit way of doing a Mia culpa but if I when I read things like in the end of philosophy of the Oh overcoming metaphysics essay and he speaks about even leaders the need for leaders as part of the world of techni City because a leader is nothing but a kind of a necessary item in the technological network of things and so forth it sounds like he is confessing without doing so overtly that any hope that he had placed in a leader who could lead us out of what he called what he believed this darkness of the age of Technology was it was truly misplaced that's next H Heidegger they let me down the Nazis didn't choose me as their philosophical vision for the future no Heidegger continues to say he was right the Nazis just didn't see what he saw and so he lays that out for us in the essay that we're going to talk about today great just like Plato by the way in a certain ways analogous to Plato who thought that if you know the the King would have chosen him as a philosopher he could have you know brought about the kind of ideal Republic that then they had to retreat into the Platonic Academy and just this is where philosophy becomes here in a certain sense irrelevant to politics and history and so forth anyway we can tell that's something I would love to talk about later we will talk about that later so now that this essay is brief but it's very dense and we don't want to go through all the all the parts of it but what part of the essay would you like to focus on first well first of all maybe we can just say what the three parts of the essay are it's definitely a philosophy of technology one that goes quickly to what Heidegger calls the essence of technologies divided into three sections definition analysis and response to technology and the first section definition traces modern technology back to the Greek word for production techne the human ability to bring things to presence by making them technology for high degrees at bottom a way of revealing things in Greek it's a form of aleisea bringing things into intelligible availability that's the first section the second section if you will analysis specifies the kind of revealing that modern technology does unlike previous and unlike previous pre-modern technologies and he sees that as two things first of all these are his words it's a vocation of to man to unlock and store nature's energies for human youths and there you have his definition of modern technology a provocative relation to nature challenging it to yield storable usable energy which he calls best stunt and which we might translate as resources or inventory for commodification and the second part of his analysis is his assertion that the drive to do this comes not from us but from a supervenient concealed power of Revelation that forces us to order nature as nothing but commodity resources so that secret prevalent power called a diagnose is going to be the core of his analysis in the third section for all you Castel you get I this is what brings about Castel right okay we'll work that out yeah the third section which I call response pulls out the hope of an internalized overcoming of Technology by our becoming aware of and resonating with that a diagnosed with the concealed supervenient power of technology that has forced on us this way of relating to nature and he says that might give us other possibilities of revealing things especially in and through art that's the essay in its three parts in the nutshell so the middle section I think you call analysis you would you feel comfortable calling it a kind of phenomenological announcer or some some kind of phenomenological description that gets to the essence of the essence of Technology I would Rob I would call that the first part of the essay a phenomenological description and definition of technology like a lot of heidegger's work those who know this essay only in English in translation and therefore only in heidegger's coded language can be forgiven for not following his Teutonic obscurities about destiny and the like because the essay if cashed out correctly begins with what you're calling a phenomenological description but it's tie I think it stands in dire need of an interpretive translation which we can try to work out here between us today I think we can distinguish four moments in his treatment of technology and those four moments would be first this phenomenological description of technology that you referenced are you talking about modern technology modern water always always modern because the first section spends most of the time talking about the the four cause of aristotelian causes a fourfold causality and trying to redefine our whole notion of what causality is and that comes prior to his phenomenological description of modern technology and then the second is the analytic unpacking of that phenomenon third he looks for an a theology search for causation what brought all of this about and last he gives us his pro tryptic this exhortation about what we're going to do about technology I think four moves going on there for an ontological description analysis causation and then the agenda that he wants to pursue I think it'd be worth going through those steps but we can go through them as long as we keep our sight also on what we consider the importance of his analytic section about getting to the essence of modern technology and why our listeners should be interested in are going through all these moments of BSA because it actually at least I believe that this is a part of Heidegger's thinking that has the most amount of pertinence for the kind of hyper technological world that Heidegger himself could never have imagined but we nonetheless kind of live in so yes of course yes of course the important thing is that we have to know what we're in analyzing so we need to get this phenomenon of modern technology in front of us and there I think Heidegger falls down frankly but we can talk about that later he looks past machines he looks past software computers he goes beyond all of way calls the instrumental view of technology where it's a means to an end and focuses instead on technology as revelation a way that we relate to nature and when I say we man for your audience I needn't specify that I mean on purpose man not as the male of the species but there's human being man relates to nature in order to unlock its energies and store them for use in another formulation he says we command nature to our will and we produce commodities that I think is the core of his phenomenological description thin though it is although occasionally dresses it up of course with references to non technological views of nature the peasant versus mechanized agriculture or the wooden bridge over the Rhine versus the hydroelectric coal plant etc but that's as far as he's going to go in describing this phenomenon that were embedded in and situated in I think we have to call him out on that eventually then we move to what you're calling the analysis of that right well I I found it quite rereading the essay that the hydroelectric plant on the Rhine is his notion of this new absolutely almost demonic Neutrik technology whereas for us is still a second it's become a quaint sort of antiquated technology nevertheless even though he might be poor in his examples and he might not be bringing onto the table a bunch of other kinds of examples of technology I think that what he manages to do in that next section that you're referring to is it's the breakthrough and here's the catch in the analysis the second step if you will in heidecker's view this mode of revealing things today in modern technology is not of our doing ok hold on Tommy if you don't mind my interrupting because someone saw our listeners most of our listeners might not have read the essay or not written a long time this mode of revealing can sound completely elusive to some listeners but he points out that so for example if you're going into the fields in order to find oil or find minerals or something under the earth all of a sudden what had revealed itself as a field for cultivation now shows itself to the human viewer as a potential deposit for raw material minerals or so forth if you look at the Rhine River now as a power supply for water supply for four tricity now all of a sudden this phenomenon reveals itself in a way that is very different than how it revealed itself before so this connection between technology and revelation is something you give some examples for which I personally find quite compelling because it's true that if they serve a land surveyor goes into the country to find out how we can build some massive development of a hotel or something of that sort it's going to look at that land is going to reveal itself very differently than if an artist goes in there and tries to give an impressionistic rendition of the landscape so revelation is that not the consequence of but it's part of how something appears to you given either what use you want to make of it or you know what purpose you have in approaching in the first place that's an excellent filling out of the phenomenological description and then in the analysis enter the philosopher and here's his point this mode of reviewing things of having things present is not something that we do it has something to do with human decisions that have been taken over the last 200 years it's instead mysteriously visited upon us as our way of being in the 20th and 21st century goodbye human agency the essence of technology that which explains why were ultimately caught up in what you just described is given to us from beyond ourselves he calls this beyond the essence of technology calls it in German it's a gift Schick a dispensation to us of our current fate not something that we brought upon ourselves so the essence of technology is not of human doing that's the important pin that holds together his entire thesis then he goes into why that's the case that would be the causation the etiology of that and here we get to the real heart of the essay he's talking about a supervenient dispensing power that has thrust modern technology upon us and he says it's intrinsically hidden from us we can't hold out on it hold on not explain this Tom can I can I ask us a backtrack a little bit sure as it sounds like you want to skip over the whole the concept of castel which I think it would be useful for our listeners to unpack a little bit some of the main concepts that you went through very quickly they're like the best aunt and and and goosh tell that's what those are – and very important words can we at least flesh out what what he means by those things before we talk about how he in your view you know leaves us agents without agency right Heidegger's view of the history of philosophy or the history of Western culture is divided into what he calls epochs and these are frameworks of meaning you just describe two of them the land developer coming or the man looking for oil versus the peasant farmer cultivating the things these are two frameworks of meaning and the framework of meaning in which were operating today when things are given to us as commodities he calls in German – Stella which is probably a duty translated as framework but that's too vague it's an imposition upon nature that we make that's what guests Ellen would mean imposing ourselves upon nature to withdraw resources from it for our own use and the word for resources the way we treat things inside of the epoch of the castell or imposition it's called vish stunts and for me the best translation of that would be commodities things that we can use store inventories and use so that's the overarching view that touches on the two words that you mentioned Gish Stowe and the stunt and again he calls these dispensations that's another name for epochs of meaning because we did not produce them it was not our economy it was not our society I understand that that yeah that's there that's the last part the translation of bhishan debts as commodity is fine I like that the usual the translation in the standard English edition is standing reserved because there's something there that Heidegger insists on which is that it's not just for the purposes of consumption of immediate consumption that the the essence of modern technology which challenges or provokes the earth is something that we extract not in order to consume only but to put on in stockpiling for eventual use consumption your eventual consumption and then this consumption becomes the motivation for endless production and activity and that there's a way in which what the emptiness of being that I reference at the beginning of the talk that there's a way in which we with this ceaseless activity might be one of the motivating principles but regardless of that it's the idea of the putting things in a kind of stockpile for eventual consumer and that this is how things are revealed and but notice notice the the world out of which that position which correctly described comes it's an utter it's a view that's so utterly abstracted from and decontaminated by anything like a view of the economic mode in which he lived at the time he's in a transition from village culture to city culture which he doesn't like right and the name of that transition is the commodification of everything all right that was based on means to me in Adi abstracted concretize way and I agree and that's where even though I'm not a big fan of Adorno and Horkheimer and Adorno but in the dialectics of enlightenment they do a very good job of actually saying things very similar to what Heidegger says about technology about the endless commodification and consumption and then productivity and the reification of the earth and so forth the ghazal I think it might we might want to linger a little bit longer on the Gazelle because it's not I mean you say it's just imposing but it's more than imposing because it's the framing but it's the ordering and decide and the arranging and I would say that to update Heidegger we would today call it the programming everything now becoming data for organization and that this is where I think if there's something in this essay that still has pertinent to our understanding what's taking place in our technological world it it is in the imperative to this absolute totalized ordering of everything that comes within the purview of our you reference the dialectic of enlightenment the difference between and they are different we recognize that between the analysis and the a theology of Heidegger and the one hand and Adorno on the other would be the question of context historical context for Heidegger the cause of all of this is not what's happened in the last 200 400 years the cause of it all is that we have forgotten our Ignace that is a say our finitude has brought upon us the forgetfulness of our finitude without any references to the economic social political ideological history of the world in the last 400 years has brought us to this programming if you want to use that word but notice what he does he puts that causation entirely beyond our touch it's hidden to us it's intrinsically hidden and his whole history of being is a history of various epochs including castel in which we forgotten this dispensing power and if only we could wake up to that that's the last part of his essay is response if you will if only we could go inside of ourselves and it is an interior quietism go inside of ourselves and find revelation itself aleisea itself right and recognize the finitude that underlies that revelation we would have some chance at a better world at least the few as he said might be able to have a better world now that's miles away from dialectic of enlightenment because of its contextualization its historian and its view of the future but as you said earlier he is doing a philosophy of technology and perhaps we must require philosophers to contextualize historic eyes and become economic philosophers or social social sociologists as well as philosophers but that was not Heidegger's forte and he certainly is very cavalier about ignoring all the contextual eyes forces that created the phenomenon of modern technology which is that thing he is an Aristotelian should know above all others that where you begin with is the empirical situatedness that's where your discourse begins but he likes to quote Hilding in that famous ode the Rhine v duan thinks they're stupid ivan where and how you begin is where you're going to end up and Heidegger began with a village view of technology not a contemporary 20th century view of technology so I would argue that the the realm of his phenomenological field is so diminished precisely because of its D contextualization as the Libra is wondering how far we want to go with the analysis the ideology and the response well then the question for you is if it is a village view of technology why do you agree that this essay is crucial to his entire thought and if it's if it's shortcomings are so severe does that mean his thought is worthless and you know what why are we spending any time talking about Heidegger thinking is there anything in this essay that you think is you know worth holding on to our trying to gain clarity about or should we just read the dialectics of enlightenment and be much better off for it think of Heidegger's work is unfolding in two steps and think of the capital letter T a crossbar at the top and a line down the early Heidegger went down he analyzed human existence right down to its foundations in mortality and finitude etc and he did amazing work I mean being in time is still the greatest philosophical work of the 20th century I think then he stepped back and he did the bar at the top of the tree the tea and tried to cash out what he had found in his existential analysis over what he calls a history of being so he starts with the pre-socratics he works us through the Greeks then through the medieval period up to modern times and Beyond right and offers us a story based on a reading of a handful of pre-socratic fragments very tendentious reading 12 philosophers that I can count of that count right and then ends up saying that's why we're stuck in technology I think that he shot himself in the foot he oversold his real achievement which was the deconstructive reading that is being in time by trying to cash it out over a history of philosophy you end up with a kind of mad Hegelian ISM where what philosophers think is actually what drove the world and that's when we come up with within heidegger's reading so I really would call into question Rory says that the whole import of Heidegger's philosophy lies in his history of philosophy and I think that's dead wrong the weakest part of his work I'm still trying to find out well I'd like you to say something to our listeners about those who may be all too happy and eager to write hydrograph not bother going to the effort to find out what he was what what his philosophy was dismissed him because of his political engagement with the Nazi Party and so forth and there I know a lot of people who would just love to hear Tom C and say we don't bother with it he's not worth it he just shot himself in the foot and he gives us hope you know narrative story which is based on tendentious readings of pre-socratic fragments and philosophy what why have you spent so much of your adult life coming to terms with this thinker and do you think that beyond being I mean beyond being in time in the early stuff that we should just write him up is that is that just to be thrown out of the corpus or are we going to be like Bert Dreyfus who in a certain way is actually very compelling he says he takes from Heidegger of what he needs and what he wants and he leaves all the rest aside and you could take the essay concerning technology leave aside the whole history of being that's part three and just fine I find in that middle section of you know about standing reserve and Gousha tell that that's all I need from it I don't need the dispensation of being – but is there anything after 1929 1930 that you find salvageable in his in his corpus that's a very good question what exactly is useable of Heidegger what is the future of Heidegger the Heidegger wave is crashed on the shore let's face it nobody talks being anymore except hiding areas I just came back from Heidegger conference where having painted themselves into a corner hi to Gary ins talked to nobody but themselves and have no discourse with anybody beyond pragmatist analysts you name it because those people have missed the boat in fact the other day a humanist on campus said to me and I think it goes to the heart of the Heidegger matter said quote the discourse of Nene is dead and I think he may be right in fact sometimes I fear he's right but if that's true then here comes Heidegger now the whole university is dead the humanities are dead because the one thing that human beings do is meaning at whatever level practical theoretical aesthetic or whatever and universities in the business of sorting out the kinds of me and then from Jane Austen to quantum mechanics for that matter and then providing a critique of that now Heidegger's real contribution is to has given us the means for writing up that critique for reading that even into the future however I don't think that his essay on technology is his best work just as I see why we can learn a lot about Aristotle about Conte and about his readings of Hegel and so on we learn a lot from Heidegger in the history of philosophy I do at least in the work spent my career doing that in effect what I think is wrong is the framework in which he puts that from the pre-socratics again a very tendentious reading of about seven fragments from the pre-socratics right that nobody agrees up to technology I think we ought to do is bracket that learn from how to give what we can and apply it to our modern situation but for that here's what we can also learn from him we need to critique Heidegger find out where the limits of his methodology were and then start from there and I have some things to say about that I'm sure you do as well what we can learn from the failure of the high daguerreian efforts in the saf technique on technology well we haven't talked about the failures of the essay yet because we've gone back and forth between reconstructing the central section and then jumping I find a little precipitously into the you know the dispensation discourse of it and to really fully appreciate the shortcomings of Heidegger I think one has to do injustice and where he you know where he has something worth you know worth listening to even in this essay because we chose this essay because we both agreed that it's a it's a crucial thing and it is corpus it my might be crucial because it's where he goes wrong hmm but I think that for us to point out the shortcomings we're going to have to maybe find out what in this essay actually exists independently of his his theory of the history of being because I find that I can skip that third section of this essay and still understand something about the essence of modern technology as he calls it and that it this essence of modern technology as he sees it I think has a future beyond Heidegger and which throws all sorts of light into the kind of world we live in the same way I would use by analogy you know Darwin comes up with a theory of evolution and of you know random variation without knowing anything about you know modern DNA and genetic rants but at which when discovered confirmed his theory about genetic variation and I think the kind of world of informational technology that dominates the gazelle that we're in practice that this is something that Heidegger spills about this central part of this essay can still provide some some true insight into so therefore is it necessary to buy into the whole story of the history of being in order to retrieve some really valuable insights from the essay there's two things going on there that's well said the real core of the essay if we want to get to the essence of technology is what I call his original sin story Heidegger asks us to appropriate add evolutionary vision of Western civilization and culture in which our overlooking our radical finitude code word arachnid since the Greeks explains why we're trapped in techno think today and I submit you that that has I think this is number one what he means by the essence of the essay and the essence of Technology and I submit that this narrative has about as much explanatory power as the Christian fable of original sin causing all of the woes of the world today what can we get out of this si or how could we help Heidegger rewrite the essay in a way that would speak to the 21st century I think that might be the challenge that our audience would would rise to and I think the first step is to begin with a not a lighting every other thick and interesting phenomenological description of technology in the name of that short definition that he gives us provocation to store bastante he says nothing at all about the difference between the steam engine and the transistor or between the cotton gin and the printed circuit I mean certainly yesterday we let philosophy get off with that little don't we have to ask that he flesh out the phenomenon in a way that would include all of the you don't have to be an economist sociologist or a politician but you do have to point out the economic social and political ramifications of this so that we'll know what kind of an essence were after with the essence of what are we after so I think Heidegger wants to decontaminate philosophy I think this is one of his problems keep history out of it real history because we've got this other meta history called Ashish de this dispensation of being right but you can't do philosophy without contamination if nothing else we've learned that from Derrida and I think Heidegger avoids that the antic ontological distinction so we can actually help him the essay does need helpin and we can actually give at the first stage a richer phenomenology of the modern technology than he does well can we why don't we do that I'm game for it because I I otherwise I think that we're better off you know with the dialectics of enlightenment what does the essay or what this is thinking about technology give us that we don't get from Adorno and Horkheimer or others Amin or others I mean I just use that as an example because there's a lot of sympathy in their views so right and if the answer is nothing then you know first of all we got to find out where we're situated the the Stoics used to say Seneca said about philosophy something that I think all humanists and philosophers should remember primo these are a day in de filo Safari first live live in a given situation then go about doing your philosophy and Heidegger rules to that that's an Aristotelian principle so where does this essay live would be our first thing and where do we live would be another question right we're talking to our mentioned the University and its peril today the humanities and their peril today part of the reason I suggest that why the humanities are in such difficulty today is that they have shot themselves in the foot by doing everything except talking to the real situation which their students live for example and that's a certain motive of economics a certain mode of sociology in politics and unless we are at least aware of that we haven't begun now I don't think this is the program in which we lay out that kind of phenomena but we can formally at least draw a picture of where we would want to start this discourse earlier you alluded or you mentioned techno thinking and noting that had an ominous ring to it and I presume that you your as work as worried as I am about techno thinking do you find that the essay concerning technology can teach us something about how we end up in techno thinking it can it can indeed and it's basically an Aristotelian point that when we narrow down the human relationship to the world to simply a productive one without considering contemplation without considering the arts etc we're really losing it big time I was just looking a moment ago for just some data on what's going on with with people who live by their computers I mean it turns out that we have thousands of tweet experiences a day if we're not droughts hundreds of tweet experiences a day that are really changing the way we think about things focusing our attention and so on that's something that we really should worry about as academics like but broader yet it's a challenge to me and I don't have the answer I want to know what has as humanity's simply become a job program for humanists it's a way of employing ourselves it's a way of having something to say publishing articles or what is it that we want to leave with our students what kind of questions what kind of critical stance do we want to leave with them I couldn't agree more I know I couldn't agree with that at and I would expect that you would agree with me that one of the purposes of vocations is to awaken thinking hmm but regardless of what direction it may take later and then what you know what the humanists may also want to be the shepherding of the direction of the thinking but to awaken thinking is a far more difficult task I find these days and it was when I began this profession a few decades ago and I think that technology has a lot to do with that Heidegger is a famous sentence that he uttered in 1952 which has in a sense haunted him since it was in a series of lectures that were published as what calls for thinking or something like that and his famous sentence was science doesn't think and of course I think he meant contemplate the origins of meaning contemplate a tightness and each science doesn't do that it does wonderful things but not that we'll leave that part to Heidegger but I think we'd be running down the sciences and the students that we have at Stanford if we didn't think that there was serious critical thinking going on in economics and sociology in the sciences and physics and all the STEM disciplines I think high daguerreian is in particular think that they owned thinking when what they're really talking about is a very high-level rarefied vision of the contemplation of the origin of being well the high daguerreian thinking when it's talking between themselves and reproducing the the language of the master that's not thinking in the way I try to practice it on this show of cordless of what topic is under discussion but what I would call the or I think even Heidegger might call it reflective thinking he doesn't use reflective my meditative thinking but that's not necessarily there isn't a certain kind of philosophical reflection that can be brought to bear on everything and it doesn't have to be on the origin of being and so it can be on the sciences on human behavior on the arts and computers and so forth see them that's maybe a limited I talked about we want to give high degrees due and one also recognizes limitations Heidegger's philosophy as a whole 102 volumes of the gazaam Taos Kaaba eventually Heidegger's philosophy is like Aristotle's philosophy Aristotle's metaphysics without an ethics without a politics without a rhetoric with Heidegger just never wanted to tell that's what I call his decontamination feelings right if Heidegger had given us something like the beginnings of a social theory we can get that of hiding areas like Jean Lagasse who begin to try to develop what MIT sign would mean in democracy etc we might have something to go on we might have the beginnings of an ethics but when Heidegger was asked specifically whether his philosophy could tolerate or lead to an ethics he quoted Heraclitus a thoughts on propyl diamond which means the ethos of man the place where man dwells is the mystery meaning that mystery of thinking so that's why for me Hannah Arendt is the real thinker of the 20th century because she she learned her philosophy from Heidegger and then went and did a different kind of a different kind of philosophy a different kind it's not even political philosophy but she takes the mid side she takes being in the world and gives it that concrete contextualization that I agree with you is hardly absent in the Heidegger corpus but sometimes I like to breathe that completely rarefied air every now and then of the high daguerreian decontaminated hmm I think I think that what we get we get the decontamination is the end of human agency and I agree Heidegger doesn't want to touch the question of human agency so we left out history real history we left our human agency we've left out a rich thick interesting sensorium of what technology is and what we end up with this is a saddest part I think of his whole philosophy is we end up with this interiorized quietism which basically gives up walks away and says we must cultivate some inner connection with revelation and it tells you and me not one thing not the least thread of how to relate to this technological world that we live in in the Zoli Khan seminars Heidegger interestingly says he says quote cells of resistance will be formed everywhere against technologies unchecked power they will keep reflection alive and will prepare the reversal for which that people will clamor when the general desolation becomes unbearable this is Solzhenitsyn this is this is not good philosophy yeah don't you think it that what you've pointed out as this decontaminated Heidegger this insistence on a decontamination has has to have something to do with the misadventures that he experienced with Nazism because in being in time it's a it seems like a very aggressive call to engagement too you know agency being responsible for your own death being responsible for your choices doing it authentically not in authentically and then also historicity is the you know becoming historical and choosing your thing and then he does act for better for worse and it's a disaster is when it becomes director of the Harvard University and and then the Nazi debacle and so forth and then I think he you know he had it he was traumatized and he was not going to go near history no he's not going to go near the notion of agency and I think that he had been you know profoundly defeated in that regard yep I mean there is a story no doubt apocryphal of a student coming out of his class saying using Heidegger's language I'm resolved I'm resolved but I don't know if it means I should read the pre-socratics or join the not-see party but resolved I am and this is wonderful work that he did I mean I think Heidegger is like the Feuerbach of Anto theology to go to a certain reading a four-bar here comes Hegel he's put together the Christian Greek synthesis of metaphysics right and it's all about this unfolding of a spirit it's almost a divine spirit and along comes feuerbach and in his principles of the philosophy the future says the whole purpose of modern philosophy is to turn theology into anthropology an interesting perspective right Heidegger comes along and says in a devolution of Anto theology as search for God as the basis of all being and reality etc and ire comes along and says let me rub your nose infinitude yeah but when he does that and he does it brilliantly I mean he also puts an end to a certain project and his project in effect is over by the time he leaves Marburg I will maintain I mean that's a pretty radical statement that's 1928 etc he'd done his work and after that he really has because he has no ethics he really has very little to say about what we're going to do from here on in and yet desperately that's what we need we need some sort of some sort of radical religion put a reflective thinking upon things which we're going to get by analyzing the economic the social the political the ideological order and that's where I want the humanities to exercise their power well we did a show just last week on Kafka and I quoted Hannah Arendt on Kafka saying that when governments turned into administration and when laws become arbitrary dictates then you have this Kafka's nightmarish world a that it's under-representation there in the work you now when we talk about governments becoming administration or when we talk about a university becoming this kind of ascendancy that administration is having in every sector of our cultural social and economic lies is something that I find that Heidegger it what you know opened up a path to thinking about how Tecna city is the the transmutation of things into a kind of hyper administrative what what he calls you know the endless ordering arranging and programming of everything and you're talking about the phase of the humanities and I know that you even have people dear to you who are who are worried and and and about online education and the way that there's it's not out of the realm of possibility that very shortly the university can become a place where you have students and administrators and the whole professor can can can gradually disappear be narrowed down because of this technology that makes it possible you know for one professor to service hundreds thousands hundreds of thousands of consumers mainly students you brought up two very interesting points when administration the other weeks as they are called massive open online courses and that kind of thing let me introduce something here that I think applies to both of those whatever we think of MOOCs and I have great reservations about MOOCs we have to look at the other side of the ledger and look at those students coming out of our universities with $200,000 X right mom and dad and they have paid and they've got two hundred thousand dollar debts here comes a solution that we may have great reservations about it says we can cut that in to a third at least you know by having you work at home and so on with all of the deleterious consequences that you referred to so I'm introducing economics into that discourse let me introduce that into the question of administration I think that the emphasis on administration maybe let me at least introduce a different perspective the nation-state is dead capital has want the globe is doesn't care what nation-states are from or whose taxing you its capital is elsewhere and I think we have to seriously consider that administration governance is not what's at stake I mean we've got the Republican Party doing its very best to roll back to twentieth century all the gains made in social democracy in the 20th century they would rather put on the chopping block unless we look at the as Heidegger did not this is the point I'm coming to as Heidegger did not let look at the economic situation oh I think we're blowing smoke there's a new you'll be interested in purchasing this for five hundred and ninety five dollars there's a new Heidegger concordance coming out that lists every word in heidegger's vocabulary from A to Z and the volume and page on which it is printed I am to have a copy of this and I was looking up the letter K in Heidegger's concordance and there is a entry for Kumpf home design the struggle over design next entry categorical categorical in between would have come the word capital is most which he has such an erotic real at reaction to never mentioned once in high degrees discourse right well it's certainly something that has to be taken into consideration and the hyper capitalism is imminently con you can conjugate it with his his whole philosophy of technology and in fact it's it's almost there without him ever mentioning it because it's it's endless consumption and the frenzy and it goes very well with what Mark said about capitalism is that which uproots every settled society in the world and it thrives on up rootedness and and rootlessness because by destabilizing the world it serves its own purposes so you would think that hagar would have embraced that kind of thing at now it's true he didn't do it and and we bemoan that yeah we even have a name now a nickname for the inevitability of this thing that he never talked about it's called Tina ti na there is no alternative that's the mantra of capital neoliberal capital the world give me an alternative and he's right in this regard that this juggernaut is moving without any real human agency we can trace it to is a generic human agency of profit but we're the ones that are losers for it I wish he had as you suggest conjugated his discourse on this with that analysis Solzhenitsyn saying if we could only go back to the Russian Orthodox Church we'd all be better off Heidegger saying if we could only remember our finitude we'd be better off well the the the only thing that I would add to that is that even if he did conjugate it brilliantly like no one could have imagined there would still remain this question of whether the profit motive is enough of an etiology for the essence of modern technology because I I think that in the sciences which you know I'm pro science I've done a lot of shows on science I think it adds to the miracle mystery and the miracle of things but there is a drive to an utter no ability of everything that falls within the scope of a scientific investigation and that drive is not so much to profit from it means people can take advantage corporations could take advantage of it but there is this other drive of the radical no ability of everything and that seems to be a compulsion that even science tests themselves and science as a whole does not master it does seem to be not it get kind of faded if you want to use that term all right this is the first sentence of Aristotle's metaphysics the human being by nature is this desire Oregon Thai and Greek to know however I maintain that's the proof of human Sinnott ood because we'll never get our hands around everything in the case the failure to conjugate the heidegger's analysis and and questions of economics gives a task for the future for sure and that's what the University might and should maybe turn its attention to here here there you go tomah's oh thanks for coming back on to entitle opinion speak to Joseph about Heidegger we've been speaking with Professor Thomas Sheehan from the Department of Religious Studies here authored endless articles and books on Heidegger so we will continue this again some time in the future because I get all sorts of emails you know for more Heidegger more Heidegger and I'm always happy to oblige that I'm Robert Harrison for entitled opinions thanks for listening

33 Comments

  1. Brian Roberts said:

    What the fuck are you guys talking about?

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  2. Brand Gardner said:

    "the nation state is dead" spoken like a good Jesuit/CIA operative. Sheehan the deep state shill, of Stanford, CIA recruitment center number one.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  3. newyork1401 said:

    Amazing what cowards these academics are. Heidegger explains constantly in his work why he has no prescription for the political-historical and that his work on being presupposes this. They criticize Heidegger for the very thing his whole philosophy states it will not be possible to address but must go back to the beginnings. Being shapes the political – change being – change the political, not the other way.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  4. Mark Trumble said:

    Thank you

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  5. newyork1401 said:

    Heidegger continually criticizes historiography. It was his aim to point out the flaws in the act of being for future generations to redirect us and then to affect history in a positive way. None of the historical political movements have worked and are in fact destructive unless a new way of thinking about the world comes about. To criticize his non-political stance completely and even intentionally misunderstands his entire body of work. It is too bad that people who may be new to Heidegger are misdirected in this way by these academics.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  6. sophrosyne said:

    I think I see a paradox here in Heidegger’s view, but correct me if I am wrong.

    In developing technology, man is using science and nature as tools “ready-to-hand”. We are using the tools, like a hammer, to help us survive and thrive in an often hostile world. This is the primordial sense of being that Heidegger encourages us to return to in Being And Time.

    Here in this essay, however, he seems to be encouraging a present-at-hand approach to science and nature: to stop and examine the tools and try to see other ways of being able to see and use them. But this is the approach that he seems to discourage us from in his earlier writings.

    Is this really a contradiction and paradox, or am I misunderstanding this?

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  7. Guy Incognito said:

    Has to be liberal moral fagging wedged into every Heidegger talk. Listen, the liberal morality that says "don't be racist" is getting close to white Christian persecution. So basically fuck your morality.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  8. Jas Jay said:

    No. herbert marcuse is THE 20th century philosopher.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  9. Ali Bağcı said:

    stop bickering and tell us something that will enlighten us

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  10. spalje vina said:

    its not technics. its just capitalism.
    simple german peasant nazi sympathiser's vorldview that we all know what it brought to humanity. Even today . Trump is probably Heidgger's wet dream. He would vote for Trump. Heidegger in real life is voting for Trump and wearing MAGA cap.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  11. Connor Knapp said:

    Ok, what is up with this idiot's political views coming into the picture badmouthing the Republican party? This guy somehow thinks he is smarter than Heidegger too!

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  12. Jim Walker said:

    38: 40 Perhaps we need not a "history", but "genealogy" in the sense that Foucault used the term as a tool to flesh out the idea of "to store".

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  13. DatKrispyBoi said:

    I want to punch the interviewer right in his Being.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  14. Stuart Hicks said:

    What did he think of Pol Pot? Sounds like his kind of guy.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  15. john miller said:

    The first 40 seconds was great. It went quickly down hill from there no fault of the guest.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  16. Andreas Hofer said:

    There is no way around "quietism" as the guest rather derogatory states heideggers attitude! "humanity" has to stop its hectic integrating of every being in our monster economics, its turning over the soil of the whole earth to create monetary value out of everything! Indeed the only hope is a growing movement of humans which contemplate quietly our being and face the provocating Gestell to live again the Ereignis!

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  17. bobo jepeny said:

    Inerpetations from fools is amusing…..gossip, hearsay. I cut out at 19:00.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  18. Joanna d'Arc said:

    Demonstrates lasting influence on contemporary social and political thought
    Summary: fullfills Marcuse's prophecy.
    Herbert Marcuse is one of the most
    influential thinkers of our time. Born in Berlin, Marcuse studied
    philosophy with Husserl and Heidegger at the Universities of Freiburg
    and Berlin. Marcuse's critical social theory ingeniously fuses
    phenomenology, Freudian thought and Marxist theory; and provides a solid
    ground for his reputation as the most crucial figure inspiring the
    social activism and New Left politics of the 1960s and 1970s. The
    largely unpublished work collected in this volume makes clear the
    continuing relevance of Marcuse's thought to contemporary issues. The
    texts published here, dealing with concerns during the period 1942-1951,
    exhibit penetrating critiques of technology and analyses of the ways
    that modern technology produces novel forms of society and culture with
    new modes of social control. The material collected in Technology, War and Facism
    provides exemplary attempts to link theory with practice, to develop
    ideas that can be used to grasp and transform existing social reality.
    Technology, War and Fascism
    is the first of six volumes of Herbert Marcuse's Collected Papers to be
    edited by Douglas Kellner. Each volume is a collection of previously
    un-published or uncollected essays, unfinished manuscripts and letters
    by one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  19. tom greenhalgh said:

    Not a bad talk.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  20. Charles Martel said:

    Heidegger doesn't touch human agency??? What is Dasein but human agency? What is the whole emphasis on authenticity but an emphasis on human agency?

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  21. Charles Martel said:

    At 39'45'', does Sheehan really equate the ontic/ontological difference with "contamination"?

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  22. Charles Martel said:

    I wholly agree with Sheehan's emphasis on the importance of meaning in Heidegger. But I don't understand why he says at one point that Heidegger's history of philosophy is his weakest work, then later (and rightly) lauds H's studies of Kant and others. His two books on Kant are astonishing rewrites that dub Kant an honorary phenomenologist!

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  23. Bolt Design Studio said:

    Thinking in language that is only suitable for a technical manual or contract.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  24. Bolt Design Studio said:

    Yanks always think that by dissecting they may gain the understanding.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  25. drapeblind said:

    The host spends way too much time rambling on about how Heidegger apologized for his Nazism. Sheehan is being polite and not shooting him down; let's not dwell on something that's not there in his work. Heideggerians are going to have to let that go. He made some huge mistakes, and made some huge contributions. But stop excusing Nazism for him.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  26. René Xhristoph said:

    To the significance of a philosopher's biography he said in 1924 at a lecture on Aristotle referring to what Plato says in "The Sophist" (Stephanus, 246d): "Bei der Persönlichkeit eines Philosophen hat nur das Interesse: Er wurde dann und dann geboren, er arbeitete und starb," which would translate as follows: "The only topic of interest in the life of a philosopher is the fact the he was born and worked and died." And the point is clear: it seems fair to look into the mind of the philosopher by examining what he says and thinks disregarding his circumstances of his political involvement – rather than to make prejudiced opinions FOR or AGAINST his philosophy without even having read and understood his thought.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  27. Tom said:

    Just like their other Heidegger interview, these two guys basically argued almost the entire time, barely making any progress, and then, at the end, they both lament that Heidegger did not come out as a communist… ugh.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  28. Andrew Bench said:

    The person being interviewed here did a really poor job. O.k., I get that you disagree with the fact that the "original sin" of metaphysics infects all aspects of modern life. Check. But, the interviewer makes a really good point (which you acknowledge) that there is something profoundly unsettling about what the "technological" way of life is doing to humans even if its cause isn't the original sin of metaphysics. And, Heidegger did certainly identify the fact that the technological world is unsettled and gave a pretty complete discussion about it. Perhaps, as you posit, Heidegger got the etiology wrong—which is fine—it happens—but he seems to be explain a real phenomena and if you want to take issue with his position, you need to address how he got the explanation of the phenomena wrong, or give your own explanation of what gives rise to phenomena. This whole hour long discussion was pretty boring and useless, and I typically love this channel.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  29. Soeren Rohmann said:

    Interviewer is pretentious and stupid.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  30. Esben Andreasen said:

    This is my inner voice when reading Heidegger:
    …What?…Wait….What?…..Huh?….Oh….No, wait – huh?

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  31. William Koscielniak said:

    Does the interviewer believe that in order to read a philosopher you have to worship everything they say? The guy being interviewed is trying to show where he thinks Heidegger went wrong, and it seems like the interviewer can't seem to handle it.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  32. Русский Бот said:

    41 minutes in and most of what I get is that the essay the interviewer was hoping the interviewee would show the profound and enduring insight of, the interviewee finds fault with at just about every turn. Exasperated, he asks whether our time would not be better spent forgetting it and turning elsewhere. And the interviewee drags out even this issue and won't let him off the hook! My solution: never ever invite this guy over for tea!

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  33. ᛒåᚱᛏ טייַך said:

    Im working on an essay on Heidegger and modern the technological world. Recent developments in the digital sphere certainly reason to start reading him again.. Though I think, eventually, we have to work with technology, appropriate it in a decentralized and democratic way, in order to jump of this train called global suicide by technology. We already are fully dependent on it, there are very few local agricultural or agroecological societies left in this world.. Anarcho-primitive ideals or longing for a lost past will serve no role in overcoming the crisis of the 21st century.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply

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