Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol. 37, No.

4, 2005

A Field Guide to Heidegger: Understanding ‘The Question Concerning Technology’
David A O 4 2005 Waddington 37Field UK September © riginal Philosophy Education Society of Australasia 0013-1857 Philosophy and Educational2005 of Ltd. EPAT I.Guide to Heidegger Theory Oxford, Article Blackwell Publishing,

D I. W
Stanford University

Abstract This essay serves as a guide for scholars, especially those in education, who want to gain a better understanding of Heidegger’s essay, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. The paper has three sections: an interpretive summary, a critical commentary, and some remarks on Heidegger scholarship in education. Since Heidegger’s writing style is rather opaque, the interpretive summary serves as a map with which to navigate the essay.The critical commentary offers a careful analysis of some of the central concepts in the essay. These concepts, which include bringing-forth, challenging-forth, and gestell, are intriguing but problematic. The problems and possibilities of these ideas are analyzed, and an overall assessment of Heidegger’s ideas on technology is offered. In the final section, the work of several scholars in education is examined. Some of this work is excellent, but there is also a significant amount of confused and confusing scholarship. Keywords: Heidegger, technology, environment, craft, education

It is a clear statement of the power of Heidegger’s thought that even among a group of people from a very different tradition [computer science] it has evoked stirrings—inklings of a new way of going about the business of technology. —Terry Winograd (Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University), Heidegger and the Design of Computer Systems, p. 108

Introduction Reading Heidegger is a lot like trying to navigate a ship through a dense fog. His language is sprinkled with German neologisms, and his lines of thought tend not to be laid out in a straightforward manner. However, despite these difficulties, philosophers of education have recently exhibited a heightened level of interest in Heidegger’s thought. They seem especially interested in a short piece by Heidegger entitled ‘The Question Concerning Technology’; in Michael Peters’ (2002) new
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Intuitively. It is important to appreciate both the strengths and the weaknesses of Heidegger’s thought. final. Part 1 An Interpretive Summary of ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ Most essays on technology focus primarily on practical issues surrounding the use of particular technologies. Although Heidegger’s ideas on technology have received plenty of accolades. but lack the patience and time to decode Heidegger’s Byzantine formulations. 9).568 David I. the primary role of this essay is to act as a field guide—to summarize. However. and efficient. The final section of the paper will be dedicated to the task of pointing out these errors. Heidegger names this process bringing-forth. Heidegger’s essay. ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ contains exciting ideas that may have important implications in both technology education and environmental education. Education. other authors have made significant errors in their interpretations of Heidegger. Many academics and educators would be interested in Heidegger’s ideas. criticize and interpret ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. 3. Heidegger comments. Heidegger (1977. However. Although some philosophers of education have written excellent articles about Heidegger’s philosophy of technology. Heidegger commences a discussion on ancient craftsmanship. formal. it focuses on the ways of thinking that lie behind technology. Waddington collection. 3) thinks that by coming to understand these ways of thinking. They let it come forth into presencing’ (1977. He suggests that the ancient craftsmanship involves the four Aristotelian causes: material. Notably. Thus. 2. although the craftsman has an important role in that she unites the four causes by considering each of them carefully. Providing access. and Modernity. which supposedly states that technology is simply a means to an end. so too must one understand Heidegger before trying to draw educational implications from his thought. Heidegger. eight of the eleven included essays refer to ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. Heidegger pioneered a new way of thinking about technology. p. they have (as yet) received very little criticism within the education literature. Academics working in technology education have also expressed an interest in this particular essay. Yet. Facilitating critical understanding. The first and second sections of my paper (the interpretive summary and the critical commentary) will address this need for access. each of the four causes is equally co-responsible for the particular craft-item that is produced. Some may think that is unnecessary to perform such a low-level task. Clearing up confusion. does not—instead. p. however. humans can enter into a ‘free relationship’ with technology. Appropriately enough. After dismissing the conventional account of technology. ‘The four ways of being responsible bring something into appearance. just as one must set the table before sitting down to a meal. bringing-forth is not merely a descriptive genus © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . there are several reasons why a field guide is important: 1. and the second section of my paper (the critical commentary) will assist in this. one might think that the efficient cause of a given craft-item (the craftsman) was the most significant of the four.

In ‘The Thing’. humans control the productive process. man must see the forest not as a display of the miracle of life. p. as one would think. they are easily ordered and arranged. Modern technology. But that which in the jug’s nature is its own is never brought about by its making. Production in the mode of challenging-forth reveals objects that have the status of standing-reserve. this is what he means when he writes. like diapers and cheap razors. Thinking in the mode of challenging-forth is very different from thinking in the mode of bringing-forth: when challenging-forth. 19). revealing/unconcealing in the mode of bringing-forth contains strong hints of Platonism. has its own particular mode of revealing. For the most part. is set upon to yield the maximum amount of ore with the minimum amount of effort. piled. ‘To be capable of transforming a forest into packaging for cheeseburgers. Heidegger’s answer to this motivational question is unconventional— instead of suggesting that the origins of this motivation are indigenous to human beings. ‘As the one who is challenged forth in this © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . rather. it was revealed or unconcealed. the wolves set upon the traveler and devoured him). and entrapped (nachstellen) (Harries 1994. humans are ordered (bestellen). and shipped.e. commanded (bestellen). p. 1972. (2) They are also disposable in the conventional sense. challenging things forth into standing-reserve is not a laudable activity. p. but as raw material. The jug is not a vessel because it was made. setting a system upon) and in a more rapacious sense (i. ‘a single leading-forth to which [each of the causes] is indebted’ (Lovitt. Essentially. however. Heidegger comments on the making of a jug. In bringing-forth. which Heidegger calls challenging-forth. pure and simple’ (1977. for example. Bringing-forth is the mode of revealing that corresponds to ancient craft. and thus it makes sense to wonder what drives human beings to think in this way. human beings were one important element among others in the productive process. 168) Clearly. Thus. p.A Field Guide to Heidegger 569 under which the four causes are subsumed—rather. (1971. The making … lets the jug come into its own. instead of the craft-item being created by the craftsman.e. the earth. Efficiency is an additional important element of thinking in the mode of challenging forth. 46). he postulates the existence of a phenomenon that ‘sets upon man to order the real as standing-reserve’ (1977. it is a unified process. Trees that once stood chaotically in the forest are now logs that can be easily counted. p. Heidegger calls this mysterious phenomenon enframing (Ge-stell in German). one sets upon the elements of a situation both in the sense of ordering (i. the jug had to be made because it is this holding vessel. Heidegger writes that bringing-forth ‘comes to pass only insofar as something concealed comes into unconcealment’ (1977. 11). 229). challenging-forth changes the way we see the world—as Michael Zimmerman pointedly remarks. p. Heidegger thinks that our default state is that of being trapped by Ge-stell. The word ‘Ge-stell’ gathers together several meanings of the -stellen family of German verbs: in Ge-stell. 79). they are endlessly replaceable/ interchangeable and have little value. Objects that have been made standing-reserve have been reduced to disposability in two different senses of the word: (1) They are disposable in the technical sense. in challenging-forth. weighed.

‘… no man can practice excellence who is living the life of a mechanic or laborer’ (1995. 60). by carefully considering the ways of thinking that lie behind technology. p. can (at best) be described as ambivalent. p. Part 2 Critical Commentary on ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ 2.1 Bringing-forth If one were to draw conclusions about Plato and Aristotle solely from Heidegger’s remarks in ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. 24. In the Politics. but give him the rank appropriate to his nature and drive him out to join the craftsmen and farmers. Sallis. 162). we can grasp the ‘saving power’. Furthermore. p. the Shepherds of Being. ‘Placed between these possibilities. man stands within the essential realm of [Ge-stell]. 1977. man is endangered from out of destining’ (1977. 1971. p. 415bc) Indeed. but abundant in Heidegger. We can realize that we. but we can also choose to reveal things in the mode of bringing-forth. one might also come to believe that Plato and Aristotle have a certain reverence for craftsmen and the process of craftsmanship. Heidegger comments. Thus. 2. we tend to reveal things in the mode of challenging-forth. 26). challenging-forth-to-standing-reserve. have a choice: we can bring-forth rather than challenge-forth. in turn. Aristotle remarks. Craftsmen and craftsmanship receive a more favorable treatment in Plato. Plato and Aristotle’s attitudes toward craftsmanship. one would think that craftsmanship was a central issue for both of these ancient thinkers. there are different ‘ordainings of destining’ for human beings. the first three sections will analyze. 25). According to Heidegger (1977. The final section of the analysis will synthesize the results of the first three analyses to create an overall evaluation of Heidegger’s account. p. p.570 David I. lyrical prose having to do with craftsmanship is scarce in Plato and Aristotle. but Plato still makes the following unfriendly remark: If an offspring of [the guardians] should be found to have a mixture of iron or bronze. © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . He can never take up a relationship to it only subsequently’ (1977. however.0 Introduction The following critical commentary will be organized in four sections. from the warm light in which Heidegger bathes the craftsman. and Ge-stell. they must not pity him in any way. Heidegger thinks that human beings have been granted the special role of ‘Shepherds of Being’—we have been granted the power to reveal the world in certain ways (Ballard. once we understand the thinking behind technology. 26). the puzzles and weaknesses surrounding three pivotal ideas in Heidegger’s essay: bringing-forth. Although the default destining is that of Ge-stell. 1971. However. it is possible to choose an alternate road. 1278a20). Waddington way. Trapped in Ge-stell. (1997. we become free to choose our fate—‘… we are already sojourning in the open space of destining’ (Heidegger.

there is some sort of Platonic pre-existence at work here—the jug. Heidegger’s notion of the co-responsibility of the four causes has some support in Aristotle. and the idea of revealing pre-existent objects is highly implausible. 195a23) Heidegger’s insistence on the non-primacy of the efficient cause. will be addressed in a later section. but neither do they provide much supporting evidence. However. the jug had to be made because it is this holding vessel. A more serious problem with the notion of bringing-forth concerns the idea of revealing/unconcealment. and while it can be created through the loving and careful process of bringing-forth. which has important implications for Heidegger’s philosophy. The making … lets the jug come into its own. and everyone who practices a craft is a poet. the primary source of the change or rest [is] … generally what makes of what is made …’ (1995. everything that is responsible for creating something out of nothing is a kind of poetry. ‘Again. Nehamas and Woodruff. p. Does this mean that these ideas should be thrown out? This essential question. its content (craftsmen as poets creating something out of nothing) and tone (romantic) offers some historical support for the notion of bringing-forth. The jug is a created object. finds less support: in Topics. (1997. rather. 194b30) Aristotle’s remarks on causation do not entirely rule out Heidegger’s somewhat romantic interpretation. 10). the notion of bringing-forth is probably largely Heidegger’s arbitrary creation. Yet. Although there is some evidence linking bringing-forth to Greek thinking. in advance. and so all the creations of every craft and profession are themselves a kind of poetry. (1971. this is not enough to authenticate the supposed historical status of bringing-forth.A Field Guide to Heidegger 571 Heidegger also claims that his account of the four causes is true to the spirit of Greek thought. who comments: ‘… the [causes other than the efficient cause] are causes in the sense of the end or the good of the rest …’ (1995. pre-exists as concealed and is revealed through the co-responsible action of the four causes. Perhaps one can see what Heidegger means here by recalling the ubiquitous stories of wood carvers who somehow know. 205b) Although this translation is significantly different from Heidegger’s. offer a different rendition of the same passage: After all. what shape a particular piece of wood ‘wants to be’. in their translation of the Symposium. p. is bringing-forth’ (1977. To sum up. apparently. however. Aristotle remarks. Heidegger’s strongest evidence in favor of bringing-forth consists of a quote from Symposium [what follows is Heidegger’s translation]: ‘Every occasion for whatever passes over and goes forward into presencing from that which is not presencing is poiesis. Recall Heidegger’s comment in ‘The Thing’: The jug is not a vessel because it was made. no amount of idiosyncratic accounts on the part of folk artists can reduce the implausibility of the idea of preexistence. But that which in the jug’s nature is its own is never brought about by its making. 168) Clearly. © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . the jug’s created status cannot be eclipsed. a far more likely conclusion is that the idea of bringing-forth had its primary origin in the mind of Martin Heidegger.

Tree ‘harvesters’ are a particularly unpleasant example of modern technology. Hydroelectric dams. it is a relatively clean form of energy generation. But does this not hold true for the old windmill as well? No.2 Challenging-forth and Standing-reserve Heidegger comments. they are left entirely to the wind’s blowing. The hydroelectric plant is not built into the Rhine River. older technologies cannot involve or facilitate this sort of thinking: The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging. p. critics of Heidegger are quick to point out that modern technology has improved our standard of living. I would unlock its food energy in the form of flour and hold it in reserve in my granary. To this end. Rather the river is dammed up into the power plant. have allowed power to be brought to the homes of many people around the world. a water power supplier. Apparently. (Heidegger 1977. as was the old wooden bridge that joined bank with bank for hundreds of years. What the river is now. thinking in the mode of challenging-forth is more dangerous and alluring now than at any other time in history. for example. Since modern technology enables challenging-forth to achieve extraordinary results. p. despite the fact that thinking in the mode of challenging-forth is not limited solely to the reign of modern technology. In order that we may even remotely © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . I would make sure that my windmill had enormous sails in order to maximize wind-catching efficiency. however. I could then maximize profit by selling the flour during the wintertime when the peasants were starving. which can liquidate a forest at ‘the highest level of productivity and efficiency’ using ‘extremely high levels of horsepower’ (Caterpillar 2003). The intuitive plausibility of the hypothetical miller suggests that Heidegger is wrong to think that challengingforth is a phenomenon unique to modern times. 14) Heidegger attributes this ‘incomparable difference’ to the ability of human beings to think in the mode of challenging forth—an ability which. But the windmill does not unlock energy from the air currents in order to store it. The forester of old with his horses and chains could not even conceive of machines like the Caterpillar tree ‘harvester’. which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such. Waddington 2. Heidegger. Although there are some environmental problems associated with hydroelectric dams. ‘It is said that modern technology is something incomparably different from all earlier technologies …’ (1977. is outraged by the building of a hydroelectric dam on the Rhine: In the context of the interlocking processes pertaining to the orderly disposition of electrical energy. he maintains. even the Rhine itself appears as something at our command. namely. Yet. Its sails do indeed turn in the wind. However. there is certainly a link between modern technology and challenging-forth. By processing the grain. thus improving their lives immensely. if I were an ambitious and avaricious miller living in the middle ages. 14) However. I might want to maximize flour production in my mill.572 David I. derives from out of the essence of the power station. only emerged recently.

one can see that there is a certain monstrousness about this kind of wholesale destruction. 16). It is still unclear. the river no longer stands on its own. Most of the countries of the world have signed agreements that grant that human beings possess a certain inviolable dignity. 1254a13) The person whose nature is subsumed under that of another has been reduced—reduced to slavery. although the same kind of destruction is not taking place in the context of the dam on the Rhine. If these assumptions are made. the river has also been reduced to slavery. he who is … not his own but another’s man. Yet. ‘The Rhine’ as dammed up into the power works. intuitively. 16) In order to solve this puzzle in Heidegger’s thinking. in Hölderlin’s hymn by that name. p. namely a water power supplier. and ‘The Rhine’ as uttered out of the art work. derives from out of the essence of the power station’ (1977. however. Heidegger comments. Subsumed under both the idea and the material fact of the hydroelectric dam. is by nature a slave …’ (1995. ‘What the river is now. Aristotle may enlighten us in this regard with his description of what it is for a human being not to stand on their own: ‘Hence we see what is the nature and office of a slave. (1977. The slave. It no longer stands on its own. how can Heidegger still deem the dam monstrous? In his polemic against the dam. The Rhine and the Columbia. Premise: All actions in which we compromise the standing-on-its-own of something are monstrous actions. Human beings. are © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . (1977. instead. No standing or dignity remain for the slave. let us clarify the terms of the problem with some assumptions: assume that the dam has improved the standard of living for many Germans and that no significant environmental damage has resulted from its construction and operation. Heidegger is using the following syllogism: Premise: The building of the Rhine dam has compromised the standing-on-its-own of the Rhine River. the Nile and the Yangtze—they were once the greatest and most holy of rivers. p. but are now merely the most useful of our slave-objects. regarded as slave.A Field Guide to Heidegger 573 consider the monstrousness that reigns here. however. ‘he’ or ‘she’ has been reduced to an ‘it’. Laboring under the material and conceptual mastery of the dam. it is merely a piece of property to be manipulated by the various gigantic states and corporations of the world. Implicitly. 16) Even the most rabid capitalists may become uneasy when forced to watch a tree ‘harvester’ in the process of liquidating a forest. is a mere piece of property that is disposable in both the technical and conventional senses of disposability described in the summary. what it means for something to stand on its own. Heidegger still asks us to ‘consider the monstrousness that reigns here’. let us ponder for a moment the contrast that speaks out of the two titles. p. he hates it because it reduces the river. Conclusion: The building of the Rhine dam is a monstrous action. Heidegger does not hate the dam because it physically damages the river. humans cannot be reduced to slavery and they must be treated with a measure of respect.

as one traces the course of this argument through the hierarchy of being—from animals all the way down to manufactured objects—dignity becomes increasingly attenuated. Heidegger would probably concur with this view. whatever is reduced to standingreserve is no longer an object because it has been completely subsumed under the material and conceptual reign of the subject. (1971. These glasses. Objects like the river lose their dignity by being subsumed under the material and conceptual command of objects like the dam. ‘Whatever stands by in the sense of standing-reserve no longer stands over against us as object’ (1977. we all agree that their dignity remains inviolable. 1994. another of Heidegger’s puzzling remarks begins to make sense: Meanwhile man … exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. Once that tree has been cut down and reduced to a technically and conventionally disposable log. it seems to have some kind of dignity. even the plastic soft-drink bottle possesses an extremely small amount of dignity. in a sense. In this way the impression comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct. p. Yet. for their part. One can expand the scope of this argument from animals to other living and non-living entities. 27) Heidegger feels that we should not underestimate the importance of the dignity of objects. One has to know how to take them. A kind of objectlessness results—the only significance these objects have is that they are the property of the subject. ‘The Thing’. We would not even consider consigning a witless Alzheimer’s patient to a cage in a research laboratory. 17). I would argue that dignity persists all the way down the hierarchy of being. a Sequoia in the forest stands on its own.574 David I. they speak to each other. whatever dignity it may once have had is lost. no soul. ( Jamme. Suppose it is true that all human beings possess a kind of inviolable dignity. p. But that also changes from day to day. as such. In light of this view. Heidegger remarks. In each case one can ask. they are always exchanging confidences. (1977. he was fascinated by the work of Cezanne. the next target for © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . flatter them. ‘Does their lack of property Z make entity X less worthy of dignity than entity Y?’ Admittedly. The notion of the dignity and standing of objects can help us understand Heidegger’s cryptic remark. which. Does their lack of reason make animals unworthy of dignity? Surely not: when humans lose their minds to Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore. 182) At one point. are under the complete control of human subjects. these plates. Waddington not the only entities in the world that seem to possess dignity. p. Heidegger expresses views that are similar to those of Cezanne. once the objectlessness of standing-reserve prevails. Animals differ from human beings only in the fact that they are not rational. these gentlemen. while discussing the reduction of objects to standing-reserve. and. p. For example. who thought that even inanimate objects had dignity: People think that a sugar bowl has no physiognomy. This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: It seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself [italics mine]. 140) In his essay.

However. The point of the story is as follows: if the Devil no longer suffices to explain bad events to schoolchildren. ‘While humanity cannot yet manufacture itself in factories. it is not clear how postulating the phenomenon of Ge-stell adds to the ideas that have already been adumbrated in the essay. Ge-stell is the dominant way in which Being is revealing itself to human beings right now. 201). p. p. 2.A Field Guide to Heidegger 575 reduction to material/conceptual slavery is other subjects—human beings. In coming to a proper understanding of the phenomenon of Ge-stell. 3. one must understand the relationship between Ge-stell and Heidegger’s notion of Being. One is puzzled as to why Heidegger introduces this phenomenon at all. rather it comes to us’ (1971. In order to deal with the first two problems. It is a significant challenge to understand what Heidegger means by Ge-stell. most of the class did not find this to be an adequate explanation. on a Grade 5 class trip. p. says Heidegger (1977. we must turn to a similar phenomenon that Heidegger outlines in Being and Time: the they. Naturally. p. Heidegger thinks of Being as energeia (Pöggeler. Heidegger remarks. puzzlement on the part of readers over Heidegger’s strange position can be palliated through an explanation of the nature of Ge-stell. in a sense. nor decisively through man’. in the use of information services such as the newspaper. 18). we can discern the beginnings of this trend in the talk of ‘human resources’.3 Ge-stell The phenomenon of Ge-stell is problematic for three reasons: 1. how can the more mature readers of Heidegger (1977. 54) Essentially. p. 2. 1996. but rather because of the inscrutable and mysterious powers of Being? Heidegger cannot be decisively extricated from this difficulty. Instead of accepting a conventional conception of Being as sort of inert underlying substance. In order to understand Ge-stell. p. Edward Ballard comments on this conception: ‘We do not come to thinking. Thus. he explained that the Devil had pulled him into the pool. After he was fished out. An example may bring to light some of the difficulties surrounding this conception: once. Being reveals itself to man in different ways. Being has a mind of its own—in different epochs. every other is like the next … In this inconspicuousness © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . As Michael Zimmerman ominously remarks. ‘In every phase of metaphysics there has been visible at any particular time a portion of a way that the destining of Being prepares as a path for itself …’ (1977. it is moving in that direction’ (1990. all of these problems must be addressed. 61). 208). Already. 24) possibly accept that Ge-stell happens ‘neither exclusively in man. a classmate of mine who could not swim fell into the pool. In ‘The Word of Nietzsche’. Heidegger comments: In utilizing public transportation. The non-human origin of the phenomenon of Ge-stell seems to entail serious difficulties.

As in the case of bringing-forth. one could gently pry the challenging-forth contact lenses away from the contractor’s eyes through a peaceful debate about the relative merits of bringing-forth and challenging-forth. Due to its many inadequacies. a significant dimension of technology goes unnoticed © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . for example. however. he extricates human beings from blame. I have uncovered a cornucopia of potential new problems. the they and Ge-stell are simply part of the way Things are going— the way Being is going. When Heidegger postulates a nonhuman origin for Ge-stell. The third problem that was posed at the beginning of this section—the question of how Ge-stell adds to the ideas that have already been introduced in Heidegger’s essay—must be answered very speculatively.576 David I. we always already see things through their eyes. an element (perhaps even the dominant element) of the contemporary they. However. the they is the consciousness (Heidegger thinks it is a false consciousness) of society. Neither the they nor Ge-stell are a plot by the government or the ruling classes. The dominant consciousness of society always already ensnares us into thinking in the mode of challenging-forth. of nonhuman origin. Ge-stell is. p. human beings are always already lost in the they. 119) In non-Heideggerian parlance. has not extricated the concept of Ge-stell from its difficulties—if anything. 2. No one is to blame for the they. Waddington and unascertainability. it is as if we have had special challenging-forth contact lenses permanently implanted in our eyes since birth. this crucial question will have to be deferred for the time being.4 The Overall Impact of ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ Most current articles on the value of technology are preoccupied with pieces of technology. essentially. and judge literature the way they see and judge. Simply by virtue of being in society. untouched and unseduced by this way of interpreting. the three problems I posed concerning Ge-stell have all been briefly addressed. 159). rather than responding to the logging contractor with hatred and blame. was ever confronted by the free land of a ‘world’ merely to look at what it encounters’ (1996. This treatment. see. The logging contractor cannot be blamed for using the Caterpillar tree ‘harvester’ to destroy the forest. it is important both to observe how particular technologies function in the world and to point out possible new directions for these technologies. Thus. At this point. those people who had extricated themselves from the destining of Ge-stell would realize that the only fruitful path is to educate the logging contractor. We enjoy ourselves and have fun the way they enjoy themselves. the question must be raised whether the notion of Ge-stell should be thrown out. By understanding this inevitability and this blamelessness. Heidegger remarks. we can see why it might be said that the they and Ge-stell are both. p. ‘It is not the case that a Da-sein. in a sense. it is simply an inevitable element of the structure of human existence. We read. These articles are valuable. Perhaps. the they unfolds its true dictatorship. (1996.

The great breakthrough of ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ is that it shifts the focus away from specific technologies and toward the modes of thinking that lie behind these technologies. p. If all living things and inanimate objects have a measure of dignity.’ insofar as we do not permit them to claim us exclusively and thus to warp. p. 1990. p. 71) (Schirmacher. systematic efforts must be made to free individuals from their ideological prison. Heidegger is trying to point out that challenging-forth into standingreserve is at work in both modern agriculture and the concentration camps. and. (1966. If human beings are gradually destroying the world (both in the conventional sense and in the Heideggerian sense of reduction to standing-reserve) through their entrapment in challenging-forth. this danger manifests itself: Agriculture is now a motorized food industry—in essence the same as the manufacture of corpses in the gas chambers and extermination campus. the spread of modern technology across the planet has prevented many people from dying of starvation. 233). Yet. the same as the manufacture of hydrogen bombs. within this breakthrough lies a danger: it is possible to focus on the thinking behind the technology to such an extent that meaningful distinctions in the world are obscured. the various entities that make up the world must be accorded more respect. p.A Field Guide to Heidegger 577 by most commentators: the way of thinking that lies behind the creation and use of technology. they might discover some exciting new pathways for their thinking. Rorty notes. (Ferry & Renaut. Heidegger’s account also has noteworthy implications for environmental ethics. 302) points out. Under Heidegger’s conception. he does not urge giving it up: We can say ‘yes’ to the unavoidable use of technological objects. however. p. In a remark that was originally a part of ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. the same as the blockading and starvation of nations. ‘Heidegger needed to see everything in our century other than its technologism as mere transitory appearance’ (1994. confuse. If more commentators on technology were able to wade through ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. as Rorty (1977. Clearly. Another significant failing of Heidegger’s philosophy of technology is that the benefits of technology are not acknowledged. © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . and finally lay waste to our essence. Redesigning certain aspects of the education system might serve to further this goal. while somehow apparently saying ‘no’ to them as well. but was later excised (Harries. 1994. to say that modern agriculture and the death camps are ‘in essence the same’ obviates meaningful empirical distinctions and trivializes the significance of the extermination camps. we conveniently say ‘yes’ to the modern technologies that make our lives so comfortable. and we can at the same time say ‘no. as well as some of Heidegger’s other writings. 25) In this remark. 54) This smacks of having one’s cake and eating it too. 1983. p. 36). The hydroelectric dam across the Rhine does improve people’s lives. despite the fact that Heidegger never acknowledges the benefits of technology. However.

are technical rather than ideological. which demonizes technology wholesale and indulges in groundless speculation by asserting that objects (even inanimate objects!) have some kind of mysterious dignity.578 David I. Rorty writes of Heidegger. but usefulness. And. For the most part. 1994. what a careful. I see the toolbox we have inherited from [Heidegger] as containing a very varied assortment. less coherent. it entails the ridiculous notion that inscrutable historical determinations of Being are somehow responsible for human actions. ‘Behold bringing-forth. Clearly. it appears that human beings are trapped in a mindset of destruction—a mindset that. Heidegger simply makes ex-cathedra pronouncements about these three ideas. If more people chose to think that living things and inanimate objects had a certain dignity. Most people would lean strongly in the direction of discarding the ideas. The best criterion with which to defend Heidegger is neither correspondence nor coherence. nostalgic notion that involves an impossibility (revealing from pre-existence) and has no grounding in historical fact. absolves the perpetrators of any responsibility for the destruction! In addition to the internal problems of the three notions. However. Imagine. none of the three key ideas is established through any systematic form of argument. they might be motivated to examine their own view of the world with a critical eye. If people decided to think in the mode of bringing-forth.’ and ‘Let there be the phenomenon of Ge-stell’. if people thought that the phenomenon of Ge-stell was a possibility. even if one makes the questionable decision to accept the criterion of coherence. Challenging-forth to standing-reserve—this is another arbitrary construction. Waddington The greatest difficulties with ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. In addition to being nearly incomprehensible. Heidegger’s theory of technology contains so many implausible notions that it is very difficult to defend it on a correspondence basis. and decided not to think in the mode of challenging-forth. our common-sense practice in situations like these is to discard ideas that do not adequately correspond to the world. Philosophers of a more post-modern bent might be inclined to defend Heidegger using the criterion of coherence. Ge-stell—this is the most preposterous idea of the three. 35) © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . we must face the recurrent question of whether Heidegger’s ideas should be discarded. constructed for various different purposes—an assortment in which only some items are still useful. Heidegger’s wandering formulations make other. Furthermore. p. but not particularly sympathetic. if one accepts the speculative connection between the they and Ge-stell. this criterion is highly suspect. Heidegger’s theory is not necessarily saved. for example. Since even the most insane religious fanatics can postulate a coherent system. however. Although I have interpreted ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ in such a way as to present Heidegger’s theory as coherent. much more beauty and happiness might be brought into the world. interpretations possible. he might as well be saying. paradoxically. analyst might say about each of Heidegger’s three key notions: Bringing-forth—this is an arbitrary. (Rorty. the destruction of the earth might begin to draw to a close.

‘Heidegger in the Hands-on Science and Technology Center’. this ontology of technology seems to bear some similarity with the platonic notion of the ideal form yet. consider Walton’s account of an exhibit at a science center: The exhibits found within such centers represent a special case or category of technological artifact which is designed and built with the © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . presumably. One suspects that these academics might be puzzled by discussions of ‘substance ontology’ and the ‘metaphysics of presence’. a significant distinction can be drawn between Heidegger’s ‘substance ontology’ and the traditional notion of the ‘metaphysics of presence’. By pointing out the shortcomings of these articles.A Field Guide to Heidegger 579 ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ is a toolbox containing three key tools: bringing-forth. In Republic. It can be spoken of in terms of the mode of truth that is the framework of possibilities which forms the essential nature of technology which is to be revealed and which gives technology its ontological sense. 4) pointed out. educational lie to the masses. however. they might serve to repair the damaged relationship between human beings and the world. 54) In these three sentences. has an audience composed mostly of academics working in technology education. contains harbingers of indoctrination—hints of the Platonic philosophical elite who tell the noble. Walton’s analyses are often somewhat confused—for example. (Walton. it is time for philosophers to stop apologizing for advocating the noble lie. ‘substance ontology’. for example. Part 3 Heidegger Scholarship in Education When one reads a piece of secondary literature. ‘platonic notion of the ideal form’. All of these tools are useful: indeed. he defines ‘ontic’ and ‘ontological’ earlier on). Unfortunately. we see the words / phrases ‘ontic’ ‘ontological’ (to give Walton credit. Superficially. and Walton is only on the second paragraph of his discussion of Heidegger! Walton’s article was published in the Journal of Technology Education. which. and ‘metaphysics of presence’. ‘mode of truth’. I hope to offer a justification for the preceding summary and critique. ‘technology’ is more than the artifacts and activities that form the ontic. ‘… if it is appropriate for anyone to use falsehoods for the good of the city … it is the rulers’ (1997. challenging-forth to standing-reserve. a great many lies are already told to the people by elites. some of the articles on Heidegger by scholars in education fall short in one or both of these areas. the following excerpt: This means that. 2000. Consider. Perhaps. as Guignon (1993. Plato writes. in Heidegger’s terms. and most of these lies are ignoble. and Ge-stell. I also aim to provide a helpful guide for those interested in further research in this area. p. used properly. Richard Walton’s. p. 398b) Some might allege that the preceding defense of Heidegger. is an example of an article with significant defects. on the grounds of usefulness. one hopes to find clear writing and accurate scholarship.

p. Heidegger uses the term gestell to describe this act of framing. Challenging-forth might be an appropriate description. positivist and Anglo-Saxon understandings of language and logic and a traditional overt antipathy to metaphysics. how we are to respond to it. Of course. Waddington specific aim of encouraging reflection upon its own essence. An exhibit which demonstrates chaotic motion reveals only a limited set of ideas relating to the nature of the world and in so doing it shows only one way in which technology can be used to frame this idea. which is a sort of meta-phenomenon beyond human control. it is not clear to me how a ‘mutual opening up’ is possible. Further to this point. the challenge is to become aware of that understanding and to extricate ourselves from it somehow. it doesn’t make sense to talk about approaching technology ‘without presuppositions’ or ‘before any decision is made as to what it is’. For to respond to it we must have grasped certain things about ourselves.580 David I. that it is neutral. Heidegger scholarship is significantly better within the philosophy of education community. about human being. … This involves an initial response to technology. before any decision is made as to what it is and. First. Marshall says that this ‘mutual opening up’ is ‘not a temporal response’. Second. logicist. This sort of confusion is representative of most of Walton’s essay. (2000. ‘Electronic Writing and the Wrapping of Language’: To have a free relationship with technology we cannot come to it with any presuppositions—for example. (Marshall. then. in most cases this is only true to a limited extent. given traditional philosophical. Heidegger would say that the decision has always already been made. The problem is not one of how to make the decision about technology. in a Heideggerian context. 144) There are two significant problems with this paragraph. Yet. We are already stuck in a particular understanding of technology. I still find it ‘difficult to understand’ what Marshall is saying in this particular paragraph. This is difficult to understand. But it does show that the idea can be framed. consider the following paragraph—an excerpt from James Marshall’s essay. for human being and technology are in mutual interrelationship. Although it is possible to understand Ge-stell as having some kind of agency. 54) I don’t think that Ge-stell. 2000. appropriately describes what is happening when a person constructs an exhibit about chaotic motion. but it is not clear that challenging-forth is necessarily at work during the construction of an exhibit like this. However. For example. This must be simultaneous and mutual opening up or recognition. so that we can ‘open’ ourselves to the essences of both human being and of technology. I fail to see how the essence of technology can really ‘open itself up’. I am deeply sympathetic to much of Heidegger’s account. What would it mean for a response to be ‘non-temporal’? I do not consider myself a positivist or a person with an ‘overt antipathy to metaphysics’— in fact. p. or what he called ‘enframing’. some analyses of Heidegger by members of the philosophy of education community contain occasional flaws. and not a temporal response. © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . which fails to give an adequate account of Heidegger.

But for Heidegger. but he does not explain this to the reader. (Gur-Ze’ev. there is something missing from all of their articles: rigorous. In a similar spirit. For example. Paul Standish. In sum. Gur-Ze’ev introduces the word ‘enframing’ without any comment. will be confused by this use of the word. in a discussion about how things are leveled down to standing-reserve. p. Gur-Ze’ev compounds this problem by misunderstanding enframing: obviously. p. (Bonnett. ‘Education in a Destitute Time’. Standish. 424). Bonnett makes the following remark: Clearly. he does not always explain Heidegger very well. 26) © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . 75) Again. Gur-Ze’ev fails to explain either ‘Ge-stell’. although Gur-Ze’ev appears to be quite knowledgeable about Heidegger. is a masterpiece. 1983. It springs from the very fact of situateness of human life. (Gur-Ze’ev. And what exactly does it mean that ‘framing’ has ‘deeper roots’ and is ‘not to be reduced to a specific historical situation’? Gur-Ze’ev might be making an important point about Being here. however. articles like Gur-Ze’ev’s highlight the need for a clear. Furthermore. First. Furthermore. Bert Lambeir. Thus. modern science and technology transform man himself into a standing-reserve.A Field Guide to Heidegger 581 Ilan Gur-Ze’ev’s article ‘Martin Heidegger. Bonnett’s article. Transcendence. systematic criticism of Heidegger. and this itself stands in need of further exploration and critical evaluation. framing has deeper roots and is not to be reduced to a specific historical situation. enframing (Ge-stell) is not a road to human freedom. ‘framing’. Heidegger here presents us with a critique of the traditional Western metaphysical conception of thinking of a most radical kind. 74) There are several problems with this remark. that there are many excellent essays written on Heidegger by philosophers of education. 2002. of life as something more than mere life. who have not already read Heidegger. or ‘enframing’ to the reader. p. and the Possibility of Counter-Education’ also raises some questions. devotes a paragraph to criticizing Heidegger’s nostalgia (1999. Some of Gur-Ze’ev’s other remarks suffer from similar difficulties: In modern Ge-stell. To give credit where it is due. in ‘Only Connect’. Enframing and unconcealment as roads to realizing human freedom are blocked in a manner that does not enable the human to acknowledge and challenge it. Indeed. However. it is difficult to understand what Gur-Ze’ev means when he says that enframing ‘springs from the very fact of situateness of human life’. in the human’s being framed in modernity as advanced by modern science and technology. 2002. of always living enframed. human situateness ensures the oblivion of the mission of the human. p. Gur-Ze’ev makes the following remark: Within this process. concise analysis of Heidegger’s philosophy of technology. since challenging-forth also involves a kind of unconcealment. despite the competence of these authors. unconcealment is also not necessarily a ‘road to realizing human freedom’. any readers of Gur-Ze’ev. In particular. There is no denying. and Michael Bonnett have all written insightful articles that I recommend highly.

Heidegger. 3– 35. (1996) Being and Time. The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger (Cambridge. Rowman and Littlefield). (1977) The Question Concerning Technology. Harvesters. 1–42. Princeton University Press). © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . Barnes (ed. Heidegger and Modernity. (1990). Freund (trans. (1971) The Thing. J. 17:1. (1993) Introduction. pp.GetModelSummary?classid=406&langid=en&rgnid=NACD&view =html& prdname=580&prdid=580&familyid=463&subfamilyid=331&dsfFlag=0&subfamilyheader= Harvesters Ferry. choosing instead to focus on solving puzzles in his philosophy and pointing out its shortcomings. B. C. they simply chose to focus on examining the educational implications of Heidegger’s philosophy rather than examining its faults. (1971) Heidegger’s View and Evaluation of Nature and Natural Science. and the Possibility of Counter-Education. in: K. cmms.) (New York. (1977) The Word of Nietzsche. http://cmms. (1983). Duquesne University Press). Lovitt (trans. pp. Journal of Philosophy of Education. Harries & C. Holmes and Meier). Bonnett. in: J. Heidegger. M. Heidegger. Anderson and E. Bonnett.) (New York. in: The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. 225–245. M. Jamme (eds). Ballard. Hopefully. Cambridge University Press). Now that I have ‘set the table’. M.). Lovitt (trans. I suggested that this field guide would ‘set the table’ for further scholarship on Heidegger within the philosophy of education. M. SUNY Press). Technology. Caterpillar Equipment (28 April 2003). K. Gur-Ze’ev. Heidegger. in: C. Harper and Row). and Standish have not presented us with ‘further exploration’ and ‘critical evaluation’ of this kind. Martin Heidegger: Politics.) (New York. Indeed. Harper and Row). E.). Thought. 53–112.servlet. in: Poetry. Heidegger and the Path of Thinking (Pittsburgh.) (New Heidegger. Politics. (1994) Philosophy. in: M.) (Princeton. 21 – 33. Harries. Peters (ed. University of Chicago Press). Lambeir. Harper and Row). and Technology (New York. trans.dcs. & Renaut. 65 – 80. M. Education in a Destitute Time. as Bonnett’s comment points out. Transcendence. Sallis (ed. pp. pp. M. pp. Language. A. 37– 64. H. Waddington Unfortunately. J. Guignon.582 David I. Heidegger. this is a task that needs to be done. F. Harper and Row). I. readers of this field guide should make ready ‘the meal’ by conducting further investigations of the educational implications of Heidegger’s philosophy of technology. pp. W. this field guide will also serve as a tool with which scholars in education. 165 – 182. W. J. I have chosen the opposite path: I have not commented very much about the educational implications of Heidegger’s philosophy. References Aristotle (1995) The Complete Works of Aristotle. However. Art. A. (2002) Heidegger. can now pry open the treasure box of interesting ideas that is ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. pp. M. and Modernity (Lanham.). L. Guignon ( Hofstadter (trans. Education. (1966) Discourse on Thinking. Philip (trans.) (Chicago. They are in no way blameworthy for this. in: The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. who may have been scared off by Heidegger’s difficult prose. Stambaugh (Albany. B. pp. in the introduction.

Rowman and Littlefield). Listening. (1971) Toward the Movement of Reversal: Science. pp. pp. in: C. pp. Marshall. 139 – 153. R. Zimmerman. Heidegger. Jamme (eds). pp. pp. 12:1.). and Modernity (Lanham. Journal of Philosophy of Education. 280 – 305. Education. Hackett). Jamme (eds) Martin Heidegger: Politics. Lovitt. Feenberg & A. Heidegger and the Path of Thinking (Pittsburgh. 34–40. pp. Walton. J. 138 – 168. pp. J. 135 – 150. 103 – 122. pp. M. pp. politics. in: J. (1977) Beyond Humanism: Heidegger’s understanding of technology. pp. (1996) Does the Saving Power also grow? Heidegger’s last paths. and Technology (New York: Holmes and Meier). pp. Hanney (eds). T. 108 – 127. Heidegger. © 2005 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia . Martin Heidegger: Politics. in: A. (1977). C. (2000). 30:2. 12:3. (1999). M. 6:1. Holmes and Meier). W. Pöggeler.A Field Guide to Heidegger 583 Jamme. technology.). B. Art. Harries & C. 44–62. Peters (ed. R. and the language of homecoming. Sallis. Man and World. Heidegger in the Hands-On Science and Technology Center: Philosophical reflections on learning in informal settings. W. 74 – 83. Indiana University Press). Alber). Technology and the Politics of Knowledge (Bloomington.). (1990). Sallis (ed. 49– 60. 417 – 435. in: M. pp. (1995) Heidegger and the Design of Computer Systems. Overcoming the Tradition: Heidegger and Dewey. P. Review of Metaphysics. Lambeir. (2002) Comfortably Numb in the Digital Era: Man’s being as standing-reserve or dwelling silently. Duquesne University Press). Zimmerman. McCann (ed. J. (1994) Another Possible World. Rilke. Plato (1997) Complete Works. Journal of Technology Education. in: K. Schirmacher. Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology. and Technology (New York. Routledge). Rorty. 49:4. Art. Electronic Writing and the Wrapping of Language. (1994) The Loss of Things: Cezanne. O. Winograd. Educational Theory. Critical Heidegger (London. Only Connect: Computer literacy from Heidegger to cyberfeminism. 34:1. (1983) Technik und Gelassenheit (Freiburg. Standish.) (Indianapolis. and art (Bloomington. R. (2000). (1972) A Gesprach with Heidegger on Technology. Harries & C. in: K. Indiana University Press). Rorty. Cooper (ed. 206–226.

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