Benjamin D. Crowe on Heidegger's account of the metaphysical ground of modernity.
For Heidegger, macro-level cultural phenomena are symptoms of this underlying ground. What ties these together is the larger phenomena of meaninglessness. In an unpublished manuscript, "Die Geschichte des Seyns" (1938-1940), Heidegger argues that a general loss of meaning is characteristic of the modern age, a trend that he rather dramatically calls "devastation" or "desertification [Verwüstung]". In the late 1940s, he prefers the term "decrepitude [Verwahrlosing]". This term shows up in an address delivered in Bremen in 1949 called "Die Gefahr," "The Danger." Here, "decrepitude" means that things are torn away from "world," from a richer network of meaningfulness, and are instead substitutable, indifferent items in the technological ordering of reality. At its most extreme, this situation means that nothing has any intrinsic normative force to it any longer. In other words, the meaning and value of things is determined by their position in a system of preference-satisfaction. there are no longer any limits on human self-assertion, as Heidegger dramatically argues in "Die Geschichte des Seyns." "Annihilation" and "violence" become ends in themselves, and "criminality" on a colossal scale becomes a real possibility.