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Heidegger – The Question Concerning Technology

The Question Concerning Technology

by Martin Heidegger

[Heidegger, Martin. 1977. “The Question Concerning Technology.” In The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, 3–35. Harper & Row.]

Points

Technology, to begin with, is not a thing, but rather a way of revealing truths.

  • “Modern technology too is a means to an end.” “We will master it. The will to mastery becomes all the more urgent the more technology threatens to slip from human control.” (pg 5)
  • There are four causes (ways of being responsible for something else) involved in tech’s means
    • causa materialis—the material, the stuff a thing is made from
    • causa formalis—the form, the material takes, the template
    • causa finalis—the intended end use, ritual, application, etc.
    • causa efficiens—who (or what) actual forms the material, the craftworker, miner, technician, etc.
      • All four causes work together to facilitate the technology’s occasioning (it’s coming onto being in its specific context)
      • Plato says: “every occasion for whatever passes over and goes forward into presencing from that which is not presencing is poiesis, is bringing-forth” (pg 10)
  • “Technology  is  a  mode  of  revealing.  Technology  comes  to presence  [West]  in the realm where revealing and unconcealment take place, where aletheia, truth, happens.” (pg 13)

So what’s the problem?

  • Modern technology is different because the type if revealing is different.
    • “What is modern technology? It too is a revealing. Only when we allow our attention to rest on this fundamental characteristic does that which is new in modern technology show itself to us.  [paragraph break ]  And yet the revealing that holds sway throughout modern technology does not unfold into a bringing-forth in the sense of poiesis. The  revealing that rules  in modern  technology  is a  chal­lenging  [Herausfordern], which puts to nature the unreasonable demand  that  it  supply  energy  that  can  be  extracted  and  stored as such.  [ … ]  The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining dis­trict, the soil as a mineral deposit.” (14)
  • This type of revealing is based on challenging. Whereas the old-school peasant “challenge the soil of the field” (15), new technologies demand that the materials in the earth (like coal) are always ready for use as “it is stockpiled; that is, it is on call, ready to deliver the sun’s warmth that is stored in it” (15)
    • H calls this standing-reserve
  • Since we do this, we tend to see the objects as only the resources contained in them, as an ordering revealing
    • in other words: “The unconcealment of the unconcealed has already come to pass whenever it calls man forth into the modes of revealing allotted to him. When man, in his way, from within unconcealment reveals that which  presences, he merely responds to the call of unconcealment even when he  contradicts it. Thus when man, investigating, observing, ensnares nature as an area of his own conceiving, he has already been claimed by a way of  revealing that challenges him to approach nature as  an  object  of research, until  even  the object disappears into the objectlessness  of standing-reserve” (19).
  • H calls this propensity in humans enframing.
    • “Enframing  means  the  gathering  together  of that  setting-upon which  sets  upon  man,  i.e.,  challenges  him  forth,  to  reveal  the real,  in  the  mode  of  ordering,  as  standing-reserve.  Enframing means  that way  of revealing  which  holds  sway  in  the  essence  of modern  technology  and  which  is  itself  nothing  technological” (20).
    • OR “the way in which the real reveals itself as standing-reserve” (23)
    • OR “Enframing  is  the  gathering  together  that  belongs  to  that setting-upon  which  sets  upon  man  and  puts  him  in  position  to reveal the real, in the  mode  of ordering,  as  standing-reserve” (24)
  • And Enframing is the essence of modern technology

DANGER!

  • Enframing creates a situation wherein humans see the world around around them as a “calculable complex of the effects of forces” (26). We see only resources standing-reserve but no objects in and of themselves.
  •  When we don;t see the objects as they are (in their truth), we fall for the illusion that humans are the only things around worth noting…
    • “as soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but does so, rather, exclusively as standing-reserve [ … ] he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve. Meanwhile man …  exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. [ … ] This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: It seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself” (26-27).
  • AND “the challenging Enframing not only conceals a former way of revealing, bringing-forth, but it conceals revealing itself and with it That wherein concealment, i.e., truth, comes to pass” (27)
  • “The rule of Enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could de denied him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth” (28).
    • (yeah, but wtf is ‘truth,’ H?)
  • And FINALLY— “The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be con­sumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve” (33).

All is not lost

  • “So long as we represent technology as an instrument we remain held fast in the will to master it. We press on past the essence of technology.  [ paragraph break ]  When, however, we ask how the instrumental comes to presence as a kind of causality, then we experience the coming to presence as the destining of a revealing” (32).
  • Techne also used to mean “art,” so maybe art will be the ultimate savior?
  • And who knows, maybe “the frenziedness of technology may entrench itself every­ where to such an extent that someday, throughout everything technological, the essence of technology may come to presence in the coming-to-pass of truth” (35).

Techne—”techne  is  the  name  not  only  for  the  activities  and  skills  of  the craftsman,  but  also  for  the  arts  of  the  mind  and  the  fine  arts. Techne  belongs  to  bringing-forth,  to  poiesis;  it  is  something poietic.    [paragraph break ] The other point that we should observe with  regard  to  techne is even more important.  From earliest times  until  Plato the word techne is linked with the word  episteme.  Both  words  are names for  knowing  in  the  widest  sense.  They  mean  to  be  entirely  at home  in  something,  to  understand  and  be  expert  in  it.”  [ … ]   “It is as revealing, and not as manufactur­ing, that techne is a bringing-forth.” (pg 13)

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Foucault—Technologies of the Self

Technologies of the Self

by Michel Foucault

[Foucault, Michel. 1988. Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. Edited by Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.]

I

  • “Max Weber posed the question: If one wants to behave rationally and regulate one’s action according to true principles, what part of one’s self should one renounce? What is the ascetic price of reason? To what kind of asceticism should one submit? […]
  • I posed the opposite question: How have certain kinds of interdictions required the price of certain kinds of knowledge about oneself? What must one know about oneself in order to be willing to renounce anything?” […]
  • “Thus I arrived at the hermeneutics of technologies of the self in pagan and early Christian practice” (17).

Four major types of “technologies” (truth games)

  1. technologies of production—manipulation of things
  2. technologies of sign systems—signs, symbols
  3. technologies of power—policing individuals, politics
  4. technologies of the self—transformative operations on bodies, thoughts, souls
    • tech of power + tech of self = domination
    • “This contact between the technologies of domination of others and those of the self I call governmentality” (19).

THE DEVELOPMENT OF TECHNOLOGIES OF THE SELF

“I wish to sketch out the development of the hermeneutics of the self in two different contexts which are historically contiguous:

  1. Greco-Roman philosophy in the first two centuries A.D. of the early Roman Empire and
  2. Christian spirituality and the monastic principles developed in the fourth and fifth centuries of the late Roman Empire” (19, bullets added).

epimelesthai sautou

  • to take care of yourself
    • the concern with self
    • to be concerned, to take care of yourself
  • “When one is asked “What is the most important moral principle in ancient philosophy?” the immediate answer is not “Take care of oneself” but the Delphic principle, gnothi sauton (“Know yourself”)” (19).
  • “In Greek and Roman texts, the injunction of having to know yourself was always associated with the other principle of having to take care of yourself” (20).
    • you have to deal with your self before you can know yourself (go to an oracle)

“To summarize: There has been an inversion between the hierarchy of the two principles of antiquity, “Take care of yourself” and “Know thyself.” In Greco-Roman culture knowledge of oneself appeared as the consequence of taking care of yourself. In the modern world, knowledge of oneself constitutes the fundamental principle” (22).

II

ALCIBIADES 

Analyzing care of the self in three aspects:

  1. “How is this question introduced into the dialogue? What are the reasons Alcibiades and Socrates are brought to the notion of taking care of one’s self? (23).
    • They make a pact-Alcibiades will submit to his lover, Socrates, not in a physical but in a spiritual sense. The intersection of political ambition and philosophical love is “taking care of oneself” (24).
      • I’m honestly not sure I get this leap
  2. “In that relationship, why should Alcibiades be concerned with himself, and why is Socrates concerned with that concern of Alcibiades?”
    • “Concern for self always refers to an active political and erotic state.”
      • Again, not sure
  3. “The rest of the text is devoted to an analysis of this notion of epimelesthai, “taking pains with oneself.” It is divided into two questions:
    1. What is this self of which one has to take care, and of what docs that care consist?” [para]
      1.  “First, what is the self? Self is a reflexive pronoun, and it has two meanings. Auto means “the same,” but it also conveys the notion of identity. The latter meaning shifts the question from “What is this self?” to “What is the plateau on which I shall find my identity?” […]
      2. ” When you take care of the body, you don’t take care of the self. The selfis not clothing, tools, or possessions. It is to be found in the principle which uses these tools, a principle not of the body but of the soul” […]
    2. “The second question is: How must we take care of this principle of activity, the soul? Of what does this care consist? One must know of what the soul consists.” […]
      1. “The effort of the soul to know itself is the principle on which just political action can be founded, and Alcibiades will be a good politician insofar as he contemplates his soul in the divine element” (25).
  • Plato’s text sets out eternal problems:
    1. “First, there is the problem of the relation between being occupied with oneself and political activity.” […]
    2. “Second, there is the problem of the relationship between being occupied with oneself and pedagogy.” […]
    3. “Third, there is the problem of the relationship between concern for oneself and the knowledge of oneself.” […]
    4. “Fourth, there is the problem of the relationship between the care of self and philosophical love, or the relation to a master” (26).
  • “This theme of taking care of oneself was not abstract advice but a widespread activity, a network of obligations and services to the soul” (26-27).
    • oral culture—Socrates letters
    • written culture—Augustin’s Confessions
      • also Marcus Aurelius’s letter to his lover, Fronto (about what he did that day)
    • The letter is the transcription of that examination of conscience. It stresses what you did, not what you thought. That is the difference between practice in the Hellenistic and imperial periods and later monastic practice. In Seneca too there are only deeds, not thoughts. But it does prefigure Christian confession” (30).

III

“In my discussion of Plato’s Alcibiades, I have isolated three major themes:

  1. first, the relation between care for oneself and care for the political life;
  2. second, the relation between taking care of the self and defective education; and
  3. third, the relation between taking care of oneself and knowing oneself” (30, bullets added).
  • in the Imperial Period, end of dialogue—beginning of silent listening
  • For Plato—”themes of contemplation of self and self care are related dialectically through dialogue” […]
  • “in the imperial period we have the themes of, on one side, the obligation of listening to truth and, on the other side, of looking and listening to the self for the truth within” (32-33).
    • “For Seneca it isn’t a question of discovering truth in the subject but of remembering truth, recovering a truth which has been forgotten. […]
    • The subject constitutes the intersection between acts which have to be regulated and rules for what ought to be done. This is quite different from the Platonic conception and from the Christian conception of conscience” (34).

IV

STOIC TECHNIQUES OF SELF

  1. “letters to friends and disclosure of self;
  2. examination of self and conscience, including a review of what was done, of what should have been done, and comparison of the two.
  3. Now I want to consider the third Stoic technique, askesis, not a disclosure of the secret self but a remembering.”
    1. “For Plato, one must discover the truth that is within one. For the Stoics, truth is not in oneself but in the logoi, the teaching of the teachers. One memorizes what one has heard, converting the statements one hears into rules of conduct. The subjectivization of truth is the aim of these techniques” (34-35, bullets and bold added)
    2. we assimilate truth, we do not master it.
  • Melete (premeditatio mallorum)—imagining the worst case scenario and experiencing it (virtually!)
  • Gymnasia—making up a challenge to actually experience (abstinence, fasting, etc).

V

EARLY CHRISTIANITY

  • In transition form pagan to Christian belief, the church cooked up Illumination—the disclosure of the self.
  • exomologesis – recognition of fact – public recognition of faith
    • Penitance was at first a status – not an act or a ritual
    • “To prove suffering, to show shame, to make visible humility and exhibit modesty—these are the main features of punishment. Penitence in early Christianity is a way of life acted out at all times by accepting the obligation to disclose oneself” (42).
    • rub out sin and restore purity – show sinner as he is – revealing while rubbing out
    • how did early Christians explain this paradox to themselves:
      • medical: show one’s wounds in order to be cured
      • trinbunal: judgement – confession of faults
      • death: martyrdom, preference for death over abandonment of faith – refusal of the self – a break with one’s past identity, a new self.  revelation = destruction
  • “The difference between the Stoic and Christian traditions is that in the Stoic tradition examination of self, judgment, and discipline show the way to self-knowledge by superimposing truthabout self through memory, that is, by memorizing the rules. In exomologesis, the penitent superimposes truth about self by violent rupture and dissociation. It is important to emphasize that this exomologesis is not verbal. It is symbolic, ritual, and theatrical” (43).

VI

“During the fourth century we find a very different technology for the disclosure of the self, exagoreusis, much less famous than exomologesis but more important” (44).

  • “The well-developed and elaborated practice of the self-examination in monastic Christianity is different from the Senecan self-examination and […] must be understood from the point of view of two principles of Christian spirituality: obedience and contemplation” (44).
    • Obedience—”John Cassian repeats an old principle from the oriental tradition: “Everything the monk does without permission of his master constitutes a theft.” Here obedience is complete control of behavior by the master, not a final autonomous state. It is a sacrifice of the self, of the subject’s own will. This is the new technology of the self” (44-45, bold added)
    • Contemplation—considered the supreme good, with the goal of permanent contemplation of God. “Seneca had placed his stress on action. With Cassian the object is not past actions of the day; it’s the present thoughts. Since the monk must continuously turn his thoughts toward God, he must scrutinize the actual course of this thought” (45).
  • three analogies:
    1. mill—thoughts are like grains, sort the bad from good
    2. military—we must be officers ordering good soldiers to the right, bad to the left
    3. money—conscience is the money changer degree of purity, effigy, origin

BIG FINISH!

  • “In conclusion, in the Christianity of the first centuries, there are two main forms of disclosing self, of showing the truth about oneself. The first is exomologesis, or a dramatic expression of the situation of the penitent as sinner which makes manifest his status as sinner. The second is what was called in the spiritual literature exagoreusis. This is an analytical and continual verbalization of thoughts carried on in the relation of complete obedience to someone else. This relation is modeled on the renunciation of one’s own will and of one’s own self” [para]
  • “There is a great difference between exomologesis and exagoreusis; yet we have to underscore the fact that there is one important element in common: You cannot disclose without renouncing.”
  • “This theme of self-renunciation is very important. Throughout Christianity there is a correlation between disclosure of the self, dramatic or verbalized, and the renunciation of self. My hypothesis from looking at these two techniques is that it’s the second one, verbalization, which becomes the more important.  From the eighteenth century to the present, the techniques of verbalization have been reinserted in a different context by the so­ called human sciences in order to use them without renunciation of the self but to constitute, positively, a new self. To use these techniques without renouncing oneself constitutes a decisive break” (48-49).

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