For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Heidegger on Nature"

by Cooper, David E (2005)


The primary purpose of the paper is the broadly exegetical one of explaining and connecting Heidegger's many remarks, made in several different contexts of enquiry, on nature. The three main contexts are those of ontology, scientific methodology, and technology. After showing how Heidegger's central theses in these contexts are related to one another, I argue, in the final section, that his observations on scientific method are pivotal. Unless these are secured, his further claims about ontology and technology lose their essential support.

Key Passage

His account of technology in effect elaborates aspects of the claim made in Being and Time that nature is 'primordially' experienced as 'ready-to-hand' or 'equipmental' - the forest,  say, as potential timber. (The aspects, as indicated by that particular example, are those related to the more obviously 'economic' and utilitarian dimensions of 'equipment'.) For 'technology', in his sense, refers not to the use of tools and machinery in productive activity, or to applications of technical knowledge to such activity, but to a 'way of revealing' or 'rendering things manifest' - of experiencing and interpreting - the natural world which is paradigmatically manifested by technology in those familiar senses. In the technological way of revealing, specifically, the natural world is experienced or encountered as so much 'standing-reserve' - something 'on tap' for us, to be drawn on and from so as to serve our practical needs. Where such a way of revealing predominates, the results are, for example, that 'the earth ... reveals itself as a coal-mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit', and the river Rhine as a 'water-power supplier'. (p.345)


Technology, Science, Nature, Heidegger, Environment, Environmentalism


On Heidegger

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