For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Further Reflections on Heidegger, Technology, and the Everyday"

by Dreyfus, Hubert L; Spinosa, Charles (2003)


This article traces the trajectory of Heidegger's thinking about technology over the course of what is considered to be his early, middle, and late periods. Over the course of the years, Heidegger's concerns moved from somewhat conventional concerns over the consumerism technology entails, and the damage it causes to the environment, to the more complex position that technicity distorts human nature with an accompanying loss of meaning. The real danger, he said, is not the destruction of nature or culture, nor self-indulgent consumerism, but a new totalizing style of practices that would restrict our openness to people and things by driving out all other styles of practice that enable us to be receptive to realty.

Key Passage

In writing about technology, Heidegger formulates his goal as gaining a free relation to technology—away of living with technology that does not allow it to “warp, confuse, and lay waste our nature”. According to Heidegger, our nature is to be world disclosers. That is, by means of our equipment and coordinated practices, we human beings open coherent, distinct contexts or worlds in which we perceive, feel, act, and think. The Heidegger of Being and Time called a world an understanding of being and argued that such an understanding of being is what makes it possible for us to encounter people and things as kinds of beings. He considered his discovery of the ontological difference—the difference between the understanding of being and the beings that can show up given an understanding of being—his single great contribution to Western thought. Middle Heidegger (roughly from the 1930s to 1950) added that there have been a series of total understandings of being in the West. He distinguished roughly six epochs in our changing understanding of being. Technology stands at the end of this series of epochs. First, things, people, and gods were understood on the model of nature as physis (i.e., as springing forth on their own). Then, things, people, and so forth were dealt with as needing to be helped to come forth, so what made encountering anything possible was understood as poeisis, or nurturing. Poeisis was followed by an understanding of things as finished works (res) that stood on their own. Understanding everything as res led to the understanding of all beings as creatures produced by a creator God. This religious world gave way to the modern one in which everything was organized as objects to stand over against and satisfy the desires of autonomous and stable subjects. In 1950, Heidegger declared that we were entering a new and especially dangerous epoch in the history of being which he called the technological understanding of being. (p.339)


Heidegger. Technology, Dreyfus, Everyday Life, Culture, Consumerism, Environmentalism


Technology, On Heidegger

Links to Reference



How to contribute.