For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"A field guide to Heidegger: Understanding ‘the question concerning technology’"

by Waddington, David I (2005)

Abstract

This essay serves as a guide for scholars, especially those in education, who want to gain a better understanding of Heidegger’s essay, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’. The paper has three sections: an interpretive summary, a critical commentary, and some remarks on Heidegger scholarship in education. Since Heidegger’s writing style is rather opaque, the interpretive summary serves as a map with which to navigate the essay. The critical commentary offers a careful analysis of some of the central concepts in the essay. These concepts, which include bringing-forth, challenging-forth, and gestell, are intriguing but problematic. The problems and possibilities of these ideas are analyzed, and an overall assessment of Heidegger’s ideas on technology is offered. In the final section, the work of several scholars in education is examined. Some of this work is excellent, but there is also a significant amount of confused and confusing scholarship

Key Passage

If one were to draw conclusions about Plato and Aristotle solely from Heidegger’s remarks in ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, one would think that craftsmanship was a central issue for both of these ancient thinkers. Furthermore, from the warm light in which Heidegger bathes the craftsman, one might also come to believe that Plato and Aristotle have a certain reverence for craftsmen and the process of craftsmanship. Plato and Aristotle’s attitudes toward craftsmanship, however, can (at best) be described as ambivalent. In the Politics, Aristotle remarks, ‘… no man can practice excellence who is living the life of a mechanic or laborer’ (1278a20). Craftsmen and craftsmanship receive a more favorable treatment in Plato, but Plato still makes the following unfriendly remark: If an offspring of [the guardians] should be found to have a mixture of iron or bronze, they must not pity him in any way, but give him the rank appropriate to his nature and drive him out to join the craftsmen and farmers. (415bc) Indeed, lyrical prose having to do with craftsmanship is scarce in Plato and Aristotle, but abundant in Heidegger. (p.570)

Keywords

Heidegger, Craftsmanship, Education, Technology, Skill, Environment

Themes

On Heidegger

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