The question of technology in modern life, according to Heidegger, is not so much a matter of technology taking over life, but rather the kind of interaction between mankind and technology which we allow. After all, technology had no soul, no independent mind of its own by which it seeks to take over, and dominate modern life. Technology is, at its core, our servant, and should remain our servant. The issue for Heidegger is our relationship to technology, and how we allow technology to present itself, and influence modern life.
As with many philosophers, the issue is one of causality. How technology shapes and frames human life is a causal relationship. Heidegger does not see this relationship as one of control. Rather Heidegger uses the illustration of a silver communion chalice in order to describe his perspective on the causal relationship. Heidegger is an etymologist. He loves to pursue words and their original meanings in order to fully explain his own theories. Regarding the causality issue, He picks the chalice and insists that the silver communion chalice is the result of the materials it is made out of, (the Lyle) and the form which the material if shaped into (the eidos). Both the lyle and the eidos contribute to the item which we perceive and conceive of when we consider the communion chalice. The form and the material both contribute causally to the final item, the chalice.
In the same way, technology in the modern age has a form, and a material which are used to construct the technology. By keeping the form and function of the technology in perspective, we can understand that technology has the causal relationship over modern society which we give it, and no more. Although the communion chalice is a small item, one which exists in a small segment of social life, and does not overarch all of society like the technology which we have created, the relationship can still be kept in perspective. Therefore technology becomes a servant to modern man, rather than man becoming a servant to technology.
All distances in time and space are shrinking. Man now reaches overnight, by plane, places which formerly took weeks and months of travel. He now receives instant information, by radio, of events which he formerly learned about only years later, if at all."
In the opening passage of this lecture, Heidegger brings to attention the radical transformation of the way in which the world makes itself present to humans through technology. Humans have the capacity to manipulate their environment through unprecedented technological capabilities. As a result, the world itself becomes understood in and through modern science and technology. Now more than ever, media and mass communication make it possible to know the events and conditions of the world in such a manner that shapes and affects the way in which we understand our own concept of being.
Revolving around the question of being, Heidegger strives to show how any questioning into the essence of technology must step back from the scope of technology. In so doing, Heidegger shows how science and technology did not emerge from the ether, as some evolution of another being. Heidegger argues that the advent of science and technology happened in accordance with a particular way in which human being conceived them, and as human beings wanted to introduce technology into the society in order to facilitate their own lives. For Heidegger, the dominance of science and technology in modernity is based on the condition that human being is understood as a subject and controller over technology, not the other way around.
Heidegger also claims that the arrival of the world picture as we now understand and perceive it, mark the Western world's transition into modernity, and sets the scene for the infusion of science. Heidegger claims that "science is the theory of the real" in light of the transformation from the pre-modern conception of human existence to an understanding of human being as subject.
Technology, Science, and the Foundation of Modernity
Science is one way, and indeed one decisive way, in which all that is presents itself to us. Therefore we must say: The reality within which man of today moves and attempts to maintain himself is, with regard to its fundamental characteristics, determined on an increasing scale by and in conjunction with what we call Western European science."
Science seems to be everywhere, yet its nature is elusive. It is infused into our language and our ways of seeking truth. It carries with it an aura of certainty and impenetrable concretion, as scientific method provides a structure of verification and securing through which the modern world approaches the question of being. In politics, economics, and healthcare, science has replaced earlier methods of operation to establish itself as "the theory of the real"
Pure science is thought of as disinterested in life itself. Pure science is conceived upon as objective, and removed from the emotional influences of life. As disinterested, science is assumed to coolly describe the nature of the universe with objective precision. Research allocates information, from which conclusions are drawn in accordance to a set of rules, postulates, and theories. The success of the sway held by science lies in the contention that these rules are not invented by a group of individuals from their own perspective, but rather discovered in their predetermined validity. In this sense, science is simultaneously for no one person or group, yet it is for everyone to benefit from. Heidegger challenges the common perception of science as a system that is designed to make claims about reality. He insists that science is a kind of revelation of being within a specific historical context whose presuppositions sustain a specific, scientific world-view. Heidegger argues that at the dawn of science, humans already approached things in such a way that allowed science to take hold as a model through which truth becomes known.
Chronologically speaking, modern physical science begins in the seventeenth century; In contrast, machine-power technology develops only in the second half of the eighteenth century. But modern technology, which for chronological reckoning is the later, is, from the point-of-view of the essence holding sway within it, the historically earlier"
Technology when it began to become a part of the human lifestyle was viewed as the tools of human beings, or as "a means to an end" that is seemingly grounded in scientific methodology. Science, on the other hand, is perceived as the dominant framework of modernity, with technology as the application our outcome of science. Heidegger, however, does not accept this conclusion, and wants to question this priority in terms of the question of being. Rather than understanding science as the foundation from which a conception of being is transformed, Heidegger strives to see the emergence of science as a result of a certain way that man chose to guide his life. As such, technology is grasped as a way of being, a style of living, rather than a practical application of scientific achievements.
Science, nonetheless, extends from a conception of what is that grounds scientific methodology as the dominant way in which the modern subjects perceive themselves. Technology, therefore, is not a means to an end, but "a way of revealing" that enables science to become the framework that characterizes the modern epoch. The paradox of science and technology is that the extent to which science is employed to understand the world is itself not solely determined by those who live under the influence of scientific thought and progress. Beyond its practical application, science has had a deeper impact upon human existence in that in practice, science and technology exceed a characterization as a "tool." Human beings have lost the ability to determine the sway of science according to their own will. Rather, the extent to which science is used to describe the nature of being has become catalyzed by a deeper human desire. Hubert Dreyfus claims, "The drive to control everything is precisely what we do not control," and this deeper desire is what science and technology has brought to life.
Because of this deeper connection between objective rational thought and the deeper initiative of mankind to control his world, inquiring into the essence of science and technology is Heidegger's method for inquiring into the essence of modernity. Heidegger's investigation into the essence of science is a task that requires a type of questioning that does not already presuppose the very methodologies it seeks to put into question. As the nature of reality is determined more and more through the lens of science, Heidegger suggests that the essence of science cannot be grasped by science itself. "Physics as physics can make no assertions about physics. All the assertions of physics speak after the manner of physics."
Physics cannot speak about the methodology of physics; it can only follow a pre-established method of operation.
This is perhaps the most troubling facet of modernity. Modern life is unable to evaluate the effects of…