Friday, July 17, 2015
In the New Statesman, Josh Cohen reviews Laurence Scott's The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World.
Although Martin Heidegger is nowhere explicitly named in The Four-Dimensional Human (Scott may prefer not to invoke unrepentant Nazis, to which one can only say fair play), the book seems to follow the German philosopher’s critique, in his 1954 essay “Die Frage nach der Technik”, of the superficial conception of technology as the historical accretion of machines. Technology, Heidegger posits, is rather the mode through which humanity discloses its very Being; it is, he writes, “no mere means”, but “a way of revealing”.
Although he has plenty to say about the ways in which our various devices insinuate themselves into our bodily and psychic lives, Scott is much more interested in the digital world’s “ways of revealing” everyday experience than in hard technical analysis or airy futurological speculation. Relevant here is a more specific allusion to Heidegger discernible in the penultimate chapter title: “The Cabin in the Woods”. The romantic image gilding the cover (the remote chiaroscuro dwelling, crowned by a watermelon-pink Google location marker) evokes Heidegger’s hut in the Black Forest mountains. This is the site of true “dwelling” and an emblem of the patient task of thinking “Being as such” – for Heidegger, Being is something one does not “think about”, but simply “thinks” – shorn of its contingent social or psychological colourings.
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