For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Between Technē and Technology: The Ambiguous Place of Equipment in Being and Time"

by Dreyfus, Hubert L (1984)

Abstract

Heidegger's occasional retrospective remarks on Being and Time are mostly limited to pointing out the way Being and Time is already on the way to overcoming metaphysics by reawakening concern with Being!, or to acknowledging Being and Time's transcendental neglect of the history of Being.' But one looks in vain through Heidegger's occasional references to his most celebrated work for an indication of how we are to fit Being and Time into the history of Being which later Heidegger elaborated. To what extent is Being and Time itself metaphysical? To what extent is it nihilistic? As a step toward answering these difficult questions, one might well begin by asking a more manageable question: To what extent is the account of the being of equipment in Being and Time a critique ofthe ontology of technology and to what extent is it a contribution to the development of a technological understanding of Being?

Key Passage

Heidegger, however, never works out a history of the being of equipment, so we will have to construct it from hints. The most important of these hints are Heidegger's discussion of the Greek notion of techne at the beginning of our history and his remark in "Science and Reflection" that, in the technological understanding of the being, subject and object no longer stand in a relation of representation but are both absorbed into a total systematic ordering. ("Both subject and object are sucked up as standing-reserve.") (QCT.173). It follows that opposing the Cartesian subject/object distinction in terms of an account of Dasein as a user of equipment becomes an ambiguous form of opposition, for it is no longer clear whether such an analysis offers a critique of technology in the form of a transcendental account of the pre-technological everyday understanding of equipment, or whether, under the guise of a transcendental account of everyday activity, such an analysis reflects a transition in the history of the way equipment is which prepares the way for technology. In other words, it is not clear whether Being and Time opposes technology or promotes it. The answer to this question can only be found in a detailed analysis of the phenomenology of equipment and worldhood offered in Being and Time. As we turn to Being and Time our IibrgrWwill be the hypothesis that the analysis of equipment in Being and Time is neither pre-technological nor fully technological, but rather, that Being and Time plays a transitional role in the history of the being of equipment. That, far from resisting the modern tendency to transform everything into standing-reserve, the understanding of the being of the readyto-hand in Being and Time leaves equipment available for the assault of technology, the way the Cartesian understanding of the being of the present-at-hand made nature available for the assault of scientific research. Thus, early Heidegger might be said to have a privileged place in the transition from techne to technology, which corresponds to Descartes' privileged place in the transition from theorea to modern science. (p.25)

Keywords

Heidegger, Dreyfus, Skill, Craft, Equipment, Workshop, Metaphysics, Nietzsche, Technology

Themes

On Heidegger, Dreyfus

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