For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Heidegger on gaining a free relation to technology"

by Dreyfus, Hubert L (1997)


In The Question Concerning Technology Heidegger describes his aim: ‘‘We shall be questioning concerning technology, and in so doing we should like to prepare a free relationship to it.’’ He wants to reveal the essence of technology in such a way that ‘‘in no way confines us to a stultified compulsion to push on blindly with technology or, what comes to the same thing, to rebel helplessly against it.’’1 Indeed, he claims that ‘‘When we once open ourselves expressly to the essence of technology, we find ourselves unexpectedly taken into a freeing claim.’’ We will need to explain essence, opening, and freeing before we can understand Heidegger here. But already Heidegger’s project should alert us to the fact that he is not announcing one more reactionary rebellion against technology, although many respectable philosophers, including Jurgen Habermas, take him to be doing just that; nor is he doing what progressive thinkers such as Habermas want him to do, proposing a way to get technology under control so that it can serve our rationally chosen ends.

Key Passage

The difficulty in locating just where Heidegger stands on technology is no accident. Heidegger has not always been clear about what distinguishes his approach from a romantic reaction to the domination of nature, and when he does finally arrive at a clear formulation of his own original view, it is so radical that everyone is tempted to translate it into conventional platitudes about the evils of technology. Thus Heidegger’s ontological concerns are mistakenly assimilated to humanistic worries about the devastation of nature. (p.25)


Heidegger, Dreyfus, Technology, Ontology, Materiality, Relationality, Socialisation



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