For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Heidegger and the technology of further education"

by Standish, Paul (1997)


The new further education, characterised by managerialism, accounting systems and the packaging of learning, has brought about far-reaching changes for staff and students, changes that can broadly be understood in terms of technology. This paper seeks to gain a new perspective on this through a consideration of Heidegger?s exploration of techne and of the pathologies of technology. The various responses that Heidegger advocates in the face of technology are then related to possibilities of good practice in technical and further education. The discussion involves questions concerning work and language, especially as these arise in conditions of postmodernity.

Key Passage

Heidegger at times - in the notorious Rectoral Address of 1933, for example (Heidegger, 1985) - appears to share something of Junger's sense of the beauty of labour and service. Whatever the importance of these eulogies to the worker/soldier, however, it is clear that the part played by work and technology in his thought is more subtle and more complex. A starting point for the discussion of this is the question of techne, a concept that will lead us into aspects of the phenomenology of Being and Time.Superficially the account of techne in Aristotle seems appropriate to the nature of production in modern industry. Heidegger claims to find a different sense of techne in the early Greeks, however, and it may be that such an understanding is there in embryo in Aristotle. Thus the present discussion will work from this Heideggerian basis and not enter into the kinds of distinction that can be found within Aristotle's work, as detailed, for example, in Joseph Dunne's influential study (Dunne, 1993). In the light of this it is appropriate to distinguish three kinds of techne. In the first, techne functions as skilled working with things, and with hand tools; in this there is a shift in the centre of gravity from theoretical reason to practical know-how. In the second and third, in the technology of modern industry, we are in the world of endless products and consumerism. The second kind is characterised by factory production geared towards the satisfaction of needs, and the reduction of the human being to the labouring animal. In the third, production is controlled and shaped by cybernetics and hence is conceived increasingly in terms of systems theory. Needs satisfaction is here supplemented by the exploitative creation of desire, especially desires relating to the simulacra of experience and to the celebration of cybernetic systems themselves. This hastens the tendency towards the restriction of thought within the parameters of calculative rationality. Later development in cybernetics is symptomatic of a general movement towards the formalisation of languages such that they can be used (supposedly) as pure instrument. Heidegger suggests that logic then becomes `logistics'. (p.444)


Heidegger, Technology, Education, Techne, Pathology, Postmodernity


Technology, On Heidegger

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