chapter  2
26 Pages

Beyond enframing

Heidegger and the question concerning technology

To date, Heidegger remains one of the most influential philosophers of technology. His understanding of how technology reconstitutes our relationship to the world in many ways informs the theory of constitutive abstraction I am working with in this book. Heidegger’s importance lies in recognising the role of technological mediation in shaping our modes of engagement with the world. For Heidegger, technology cannot simply be conceived as merely this or that machine or device, but must be examined through the way in which it works to enact an ontological shift. This recognition is essential as a means to developing a critical relation to technology. The alternative, to conceive of technology as merely neutral and therefore subservient to other value spheres, is to ignore the role that technology plays in reshaping our relations across the social realm. Any theory which seeks to engage with technology on the assumption that it is a mere tool to be manipulated for substantive ends, remains naive. As I have already argued in the introduction, such a position presumes to treat technology from a prior framework of understanding, thereby ignoring the reconstitutive capacity of technology. In sharp contrast to this position, Heidegger recognised that our understanding of the world is

radically altered in the age of technology. From Heidegger we can derive the important point that we need to comprehend thoroughly the new ontological framework that is enabled through technology before we can even begin to renegotiate our relationship with the world. Hence, simple calls for a responsible use of technology, or theories of technology which welcome its use when it ‘extends’ human capacities, remain limited because they ignore the reconstitutive capacity of technology to alter the conditions which grant significance to any action or value. Because he theorised technology precisely through its relation to questions of ontological framing, Heidegger provides a valuable starting point.