In Eureka Street, Paul Collins on tech in Laudato Si
Lurking the background, perhaps unconsciously, of Guardini and Pope Francis is German philosopher, Martin Heidegger’s 1955 essay The Question Concerning Technology. Guardini and Heidegger knew each other and were colleagues in Munich and Freiburg.
The essence of Heidegger’s environmental thought is rooted in his profound ambiguity about technology. For him the ecological crisis is the direct result of our technological culture which, in turn, we have inherited from our philosophical tradition. He defined technology in the broadest sense: it meant human interference by mechanistic force in the natural dynamics of the world for some perceived ‘good’ for humankind.
It was everything from stem cell manipulation to the use of chain-saws and bulldozers, to irrigation and hydroelectricity. The modern world is dominated by an opportunistic, ‘can-do’ mentality; if something can be done, it should be done. It needs no further ethical justification. Technology has created a cultural and intellectual Ge-stell, an ‘en-framing’ of reality that determines the way we think. And how we think, says Heidegger, is much more important than what we think.
This is precisely what Francis is saying. ‘The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable...It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same.’