One of Martin Heidegger’s key points in “The Question Concerning Technology” is that what lies in the essence of modern technology is a Gestell or standing-reserve. What he means by this is that what lies in modern technology is not only a means to an end, but a whole mode of existence, centered around a gathering, or an ordering of information in a set way. Where this leads for him is an understanding of nature as an object that can be examined, something from which you can distance yourself and make your object, your instrument, and in the end the slave over which you are master. He states that “The modern physical theory of nature prepares the way first not simply for technology but for the essence of modern technology” (Heidegger “Question” 10), that is this ordering and gathering of information from the point of objective observation. This is what he means when he says that behind technology lies an “enframing”: a whole mode of existence centered around ‘objectivity’ and exact calculative ends.
The question I would like to raise here is “What does this truly mean for us?” The issue here seems to be that we’ve lost the ability to think in terms other than instrumentality. Heidegger says as much in his piece “Memorial Address”, stating that modern technology has in essence reduced our ability to think meditatively, that is to step back and examine our situation and the truth behind elements in our life. He states that “The world now appears as an object open to the attacks of calculative thought…Nature becomes a gigantic gasoline station, an energy source for modern technology and industry” (Heidegger “Memorial” 50). This would say for me that technology’s ‘enframing’ has led to a kind of extractivism that views nature as simply a means to an end. It may be a stretch to say that it is all modern technology that is the problem, but it is fair to say (I think ) that it is the way of relating it creates that is at issue here.
Given all this, my questions are as follows:
1. Is there a way of reconciling our use of modern technology with a view of nature that isn’t merely calculative?”
2. Have we truly lost our capacity for what Heidegger calls “meditative thinking”? If so, how can we get it back? Or is it even necessary to?
Citation for “Memorial Address”:
Heidegger, Martin. “Memorial Address.” Discourse on Thinking. Trans. John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund. New York: Harper & Row, 1966. 43-57. Print.