For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Aspects of Technicity in Heidegger's Early Philosophy: Rereading Aristotle's Techné and Hexis"

by Wolff, Ernst (2008)


The article aims to advance our understanding of what the early Heidegger had in mind when he spoke about technics. Taking GA 18, Grundbegriffe der aristotelischen Philosophie, as a guiding text, Heidegger's “destructive” reading of the two notions most directly associated with Aristotle's presentation of technics—τεχνη and εξις—will be examined, especially with reference to the portrayal of technics in the Nicomachean Ethics. It will be argued that Aristotle already exaggerated the distinction between virtue and skill and that, instead of insisting on their similarities (as will be argued to be desirable), Heidegger drove the two notions even further apart. This enabled him to form a warped picture of technical life, which he exploited as a counter image to develop an unrealistically non-technical notion of πρα;ξις, which Heidegger implicitly advocates.

Key Passage

Heidegger’s inability to see this closeness of the life of virtue and the technical life has important consequences for his perspective on the latter. Heidegger’s τεχνΐτης is at best an early beginner. This apprentice is not on course to learn difficult or complex tasks. It is a technician who thinks only about means and is not capable of adjusting means and ends mutually to one another. It is one that quickly grinds to a standstill if he/she runs out of instructions from the master as to how exactly something should be done in a certain context. Th ere is for this craftsman no tension between what would ideally be achieved and his/her capacity to bring it about; it is an ambitionless craftsman (or perhaps sometimes one that is naively ambitious). It is one who works by merely mechanically executing what he/she has been instructed to do. Style is, strangely enough, completely planned by this technician (or by his/her instructor). Th e only dexterity that he/she has acquired is to have internalized the prescription of how to do a task and to execute it automatically. Perhaps this image of technical life does not invalidate Heidegger’s criticism of the metaphysics of presence—this is however not my question. What is sure is that once technical life has been misconstrued in this way, it becomes conceivable to start thinking of characterizing in a general way the agent of everyday concern and occupation as ‘one’ or ‘they’ (das Man)—an easily replaceable worker, with no particular style, nor exceptional expertise; it becomes possible to consider this existence as being of such a nature that one lets oneself be drawn along in the concern for the world (Sichmitnehmenlassen von ihr [NB 19]), to the extent that one is all the time subjected to the tendency of Verfallen an . . . (the Verfallensgeneightheit of NB 19), which gradually hardens more and more in Heidegger’s reflection to a simple Verfallen, and hence the distinctive quasiethical undertones in the hermeneutics of facticity of salvaging Dasein from its Wegsein.  (p.353)


Philosophy Of Mind, Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Philosophy, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Aristotle, Heidegger, Technology, Technique


Technology, On Heidegger, On Aristotle

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