Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Provocative Penguin on the augmentation of the world and Heidegger’s claim that the essence of technology is nothing technological.
This means that our technological activities are evocative of a particular orientation to the world. Using this claim one can link specific technological instruments to a non-technological factor that develops through history, such as our fascination with increasing speed. But just what is the central factor at the essence of our technologies?

Heidegger understood the present age as one that forces “the world [to] appear as a re-presentation for man.” Well before Heidegger’s pronouncement, Friedrich Nietzsche commented on the “metamorphosis of the world into man”. We strive to transform the nebulous complexity of the world into something that suits our will and reflects our own image. As such, Nietzsche wrote that “as a ‘rational’ being, [man] now places his behavior under the control of abstractions. He will no longer tolerate being carried away by sudden impressions, by intuitions. First he universalizes all these impressions into less colorful, cooler concepts, so that he can entrust the guidance of his life and conduct to them.”

Note that we did not always think of matter as a lifeless, neutral substance that exists for us to impose our will upon. Aristotle (and the ancients more generally) understood matter as connected to cosmic processes and as having a “desire” of its own. The modern meaning of the natural world produced a specific type of person, the subject, who stands over and against the world. There could be no modern subject without a particular understanding of the world, or object. In his “Age of the World Picture”, Heidegger explains that “as the world is transformed into picture… man [is transformed] into subiectum”. In other words, the Modern condition is marked by the humanization of the world.
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